Aggressive men and women who just take it.


Wanna see a reason why women still have no standing in this oh so male world? Then take a look at the video below and look out for “accepted behavior in a community” and try to imagine what kind of implication it has for group dynamics, the behavior against single members and especially against women.

Yes, this is a fun video about something different, but it is very very good example to the point I am making below.

Update 2007-09-15:

As several of the comments as well as mails seem to have missed the point of this post, I would like to stress:
I am aware that this is supposed to be funny (and fun is subjective, which is fine), an over the top display of behaviour of blog/digg commenters as if in a real life meeting. I was aware of this before I saw the video for the very first time – and even if not, it running on ‘colleage humor’ is a dead give away.

The following points are made in reference to the fact that this video – although it is about something different – did resonate with me in a very strange way and I finally found out about why. It also goes into the point that despite this is a joke video, this portraits in a quite realistic way how other women are still treated and how this kind of behaviour is defenetely not happening around me.

As this seems really to be tricky to understand: It is not about the video. Nor about me being (and I quote one email here) “too afraid and chicken when meeting other people” – clearly that person never met me.

This kind of behaviour as portrayed in the video does happen more or less subtle in todays world. It is the men’s job to stop doing it and the women’s job to help enlighten them, as well as from the men getting it.

I have seen this video popping up at several places, saw it two times up to a about a minute and gave up. Interestingly with a feeling of deep deep anger and rage in my stomach. Usually I am not that easy to bother, I am not that easy to boil up but this somehow made me wanna hit something.

Going through an older batch of feeds and seeing it on Crunchnotes again, I took notice in the subline of Mike (“This is pretty much how every comment stream on TechCrunch goes these days.”) and it made click in my head and I suddenly had a hunch.

Enduring to watch the full video and reading some of the comments it finally hit me WHY this annoyed the hell out of me. It is the way how the women in this video do not speak up against being treated this way. Not counting on the men there, because they obviously are a lost cause.

I was in anger because I could not make it stop. Wait, I? Yes, me. I would not sit back and just take it like that, neither directed at myself or to another women. I am confident enough to think that a look and or a short comment from me to one of such men actually would change the way he acts. Because he would be intimidated instead of him trying to intimidate me.

And just like an animal which is hunting, he would go for an easier target. Because this one is too complicated and fights back. Why I am so sure about that? Because coming to think of it, I have seen this kind of behavior. But not really more than once or twice, at least not around me.

Because in fact especially such guys are the easiest to be ‘put back in their place’ because Mama usually raised them well and they do react on enforcement like this. And they are not really confident at all or a leader – which is why they need this kind of behavior to ‘prove’ themselves to the group.

While I jokingly refer to the fact that I am Garfield rather than Nermal (»self-proclaimed “The world’s cutest kitten.”«) and it would be easier to be “little, cute, blond” instead of “big, sarcastic and brunette”, it is always stated by me with a sarcastic grin. It shows part of an envy for something I will never have, but basically I am quite satisfied with being the Garfield in this equation. (I might be tempted if a fairy comes up and would give me the offer, because Nermal actually is both Garfield and plays the game, but that is a different story.)

The reason why it made click when reading it on Crunchnotes was because of the women who wrote for TC for some short time and then quit due to the rough comments (please see olivers comment on that below). Because she was attacked. And obviously the community thought it was okay to have her attacked like that. I have not seen the comments, and but I imagine that this is exactly what has happened. Remember the Kathy Sierra incident with all the others included? Same deal. The only time when it ‘stopped’ was when she fought back.

Now, this video was an example of the “real world” in the sense that it portrait a real life meeting, while the story was about how blog comments would be / feel in a real meeting. Reacting in the real world is easier than on the net, as on the net you do have asynchronous communication and everybody with an equal access level. The only way I see this changing is actually to reinvent what we have in real life already: A system to show support, approval and disapproval. In case of a comment that would mean rating such a comment, to show how one feels about it to eliminate unwanted behaviour.

Of course this means unwanted behaviour by me and my peers, as we all have different preferences and surroundings. Something the net is not yet very good at solving, because there is usually only one bucket for everyone where votes are counted.

I wrote yesterday an unconnected piece on blognation where I talk about groups in this way a bit, and I like the term user base for reality so I bring it up here again:

One of the reasons of why I am so enthusiastic about blognation is simply the fact that it brings me in touch with a different reality. Or better: A reality with a bigger user base than the one I like to spend time in.

The reality I spend 100% of my time in has ME in it. Meaning everything is connected to me and as such I would – as mentioned above – not take such behaviour in my presence. But on the net I “have to take it” and the only thing I can do at the moment is writing about it. And hope people take notice and start thinking about it.

But this is just me. How do I reach people or let them now that this is something I feel should change? How do I make sure that others can walk in the umbrella of protection I am putting up? How can I help spread more of those umbrellas for the moment but in the long run make sure that this kind of acid rain stops? And no, by stopping I do not mean removing me from this beautiful space and leaving it.

I am asking that as a real question, because obviously, I already can walk in the acid rain without being hurt. Does everything pearl just right of me? Of course not, I am a human being like everybody else. But does it get to me to the point that I cave in and or stay away because I can’t take it? No way.

It is not easy being green. And may not be easy to be confident enough to speak up. But you know what? That is the only way things are going to change.

And while scary at first, this kind of investment pays off a million times. Because then speaking up like this here or do it in public in front of such people actually is not scary any more, but just speaking.

As there are still so few visible women speaking up in the community this means men have to speak up as well, even first and give an example. And please, not only when a blond damsel is in distress, but also in other cases – including for guys. ;)


27 Responses to “Aggressive men and women who just take it.”

  1. Nicole, my husband – who is a wonderful man and would never make such comments- , always wonders why women do not speak up for themselves, when these kinds of attacks occur but instead play along or just shut up. Those reactions will in turn not motivate “good” guys to stand up against this behavior.

  2. Mary Hodder says:

    The problem is, there are usually few women “in the room” for various reasons (how many women want to work in this sort of environment or participate in a comment forum or a Digg free for all, and how many women are in tech anyway?). Few. Then, how many at any given moment want to engage yet again in one of these interactions (they suck)? Fewer still. Then, how many, once a guy makes some really abusive comment toward them, or that is abusive generally in the group but with sexual innuendos? Fewer still.

    Basically, if you are always the one who speaks up, then you will always be remembered as the one who always talks about “women’s issues” and frankly, most women I know want to be known for their skillset, the company they founded or helped launch, their intelligence… etc. We just don’t want to be the “feminist” who always attacks back over this kind of thing.

    So the options are: 1. don’t do comments, don’t even read them, in places like Techcrunch or Valleywag or Digg, because they are almost always misoginist. 2. In work or conference situations, try to spread around the defense (tag team, with older men in the room who can tell those younger guys to stop and then have a different women each time pipe up about the effects on women in technology not feeling welcome to work or contribute there) and 3. work in a diverse tech company (most women I know will not work in an engineering team that’s otherwise all male, or for a company that only has a “marketing chick” because she will not help with these kinds of issues, and the behavior with 5% or less women in the office and a high percentage of young guys is going to tilt toward this sort of interaction at least sometimes).

    So, that’s why you don’t get a lot of women piping up at conferences or in comments or in office situations because frankly, there aren’t many women, there are a lot of young guys with poor social skills, and there are few who want to spend all their time on this. We have constructive work to do, and we try to get it done, and work on this as it seems right in a situation, and as we can get others to help teach some social skills and thought to the perpitrators.


  3. Mary Hodder says:

    Actually, I should say, the perception I’ve heard from women who aren’t the “marketing chick” is that she won’t help, not that in reality, that’s been true for me.

    Also, Nicole, one thing I would say about the video is that actually, I think it makes a very strong case in our favor, by demonstrating how awful this kind of behavior is. And how no one speaks up against it.

    I actually like the video a lot, because it’s hard to watch and get to the end and not think, how awful for everyone involved, how misogynist, how bigoted, how uninviting, how true on a lot of levels this is, as a comment about the tech community, comment communities on some blogs like Techcrunch, or some tech work environments I’ve visited.

  4. Liz Henry says:

    Karin, I do think that when women speak up, the consequences are high. Men are rewarded more for speaking up. Women are met with defensiveness and hostility – or as Mary mentions, their speaking up or standing up for themselves or for an idea might work in the short term, but they will be remembered later for being obnoxious, aggressive, or single-issue. There is a good post over at Feminist Philosophers about women and assertiveness – about the recent study of women asking for raises: .

  5. fp says:

    Antonia, at has an extract from Hobbes’ Leviathan that speaks to the conditions of anger, fear, courage, diffidence and what not (sorry, no permalink… just scroll down). Nicole’s Garfield allusions reminded me of Calvin and Hobbes, which got me thinking about Gaping Void and on and on…

    The challenges of speaking up and acting out are common to both/all genders. It’s just that this example drives straight to the mundane heart of immature male net and corporate sexism.

    (I wanted to get here first and shout “FIRST” in the comments, because I think that would be humorously ironic. Unfortunately I wasn’t even third.)

  6. Karin says:

    I agree with you all. Believe me. And I am not saying, that women are to blame for not standing up. But… men will not, if women don’t. That was my point.

  7. In my house, there were 4 boys and 1 girl. None of us were permitted to be domineering. My mother, my aunts, my grandmother would never tolerate disrespect based on gender – or race, or ability for that matter. My grandmother fought for the vote, alongside her was my grandfather. My sister is less militant but no less effective – her children all carry the same values. It all starts in the home…

  8. Notice how in this re-enactment of the typical, there was one important result that is also typical of these types common-if-exaggerated online non-exchanges: nothing was accomplished.

    As for whether or not the women should ‘stand up’ and say something in this video, they could have at least landed a Shelley Powers wallop.

    I thought it was funny. Plain and simple. Everyone looked like an ass neighing into an empty well, and that’s pretty much what we look like these days.


  9. jeneane says:

    Thanks for adding me, Nicole!! I appreciate it!

  10. oliver says:

    Nicole, the woman from TechCrunch was/is Natali Del Conte. For the record (and I know this because she talked with me about it and I was also a TechCrunch author at the time) she did not leave TechCrunch because she was victim of some rough remarks. She’s a professional journalist and has a thick enough skin that this wouldn’t drive her from her job.

    The truth is that she was given the chance to work with Adam Curry doing a regular Vid-cast called textra and it was a bigger and better opportunity for her. Arrington does not allow people to blog for anyone while blogging for him so he forced her into making a decision and she chose Textra.


  11. Nicole says:

    I have taken a step back from this posting for some time to digest it, which is why I have not answered on the comments before.

    @Mary about speaking up: I think that is why Girl Geek Dinners are working so well, because there is at least 50% women around and it seems to be more or less intimidating enough for guys to ‘behave’.

    @Liz thanks for the link, makes an interesting read.

    And @oliver really thanks for clarifying that. Sadly that was the part I did remember.

  12. Susan says:

    Talk about old fashioned feminism in your post. You do realize this is completely scripted and meant to be a humorous sketch. It’s people like you that read too deeply into something so meaningless that completely ruin it for the rest of us. Let me guess, are you a member of PETA as well, or maybe Green Peace? Give me a break!

  13. Nicole says:

    Susan, I am fully aware that this a) is scripted b) about something else as I am making the point of it.

    “Yes, this is a fun video about something different, but it is very very good example to the point I am making below.”

    I guess, I was not very successful in explaining that there was something about this video which annoyed the hell out of me without knowing why, only coming to the conclusion that it was what I described above.

    May I repeat? I did get it that it is scripted and a ‘joke’ before seeing it for the first time. And do get it is about something else.

    Obviously the transfer of “this is something I encountered and this is how it got me thinking about something else” is hard to follow.

  14. Susan says:

    If you belonged to or another popular message forum, you would see the video portrayed what occurs in threads to be precise. Just have a laugh! :)

  15. Nicole says:

    Susan, I have been on the net for over a decade, being involved in all kind of message boards – I know that this portraits it very correctly.

    It seems hard to make somebody like you understand that we are talking about different things here. I am neither saying this is not true nor that at some point I might find it equally funny to engage in such or even be part of that kind of bantering in such a board.

    As this is my blog I blog about things that got my attention, my interest and in this special case it is not about me having a laugh at a video but me having an irritating reaction to a video which is supposed to be funny and what that means to me.

    And no, this is not going to end with me “finally” agreeing that this was funny.

  16. A.T. says:

    Hope you won’t explode on this :) Another side of coin (shaped as joke, but every joke has only part of joke) When a guy talks dirty to a girl its sexual harassment, when a girl talks dirty to a guy its 3.99/min

  17. Nicole Simon says:

    Well, technically he calls and wants it that way *g*. Are they still at 3.99 at your place? I do not watch TV anymore so I can’t tell you how expensive that is now in Germany but it seems to me it is much cheaper over here. ;)

  18. A.T. says:

    touché :)

  19. Susan says:

    How do I unsubscribe from comment notifications?

  20. Nicole Simon says:

    Susan you should have a link at the end of the mail, but I will take you out manually.

  21. Maria says:

    I see a difference between women speaking up and secondly being exposed to such vulgar language and insults. I don’t find the insults funny at all. Seriously – I can’t think of how anybody would. Personally I’ve never experienced such an environment – online or off-line. It’s a shame the creators of this video had to lower their standards to such a low level because the intended key messages are actually very representative of issues facing communities and blogs.

  22. Ann says:

    I couldnt see the video, just hear it. Being blonde is not such an easy ride. We actually do hear these comments. More often though, life is more like the guy who isnt getting heard in the background. Also, the guys in big companies are savvy enough to save this kind of intimidation for ‘social’ events, where the banter is used to exclude from networking. At work, when you contribute, you get told to communicate better by “say nothing and nod and say uhuh” – real quote from my manager. The same guy who suggested at my also blonde colleague’s 21st drinks, that she should “snog all the guys”. This, at a well respected and generally better than most firm.
    Mary speaks the truth.

  23. Ann says:

    One other thing – it gets quite easy to learn to filter out this kind of stuff, cos you have to to get on. Which means it becomes quite easy to not hear it happening around too. And to actively avoid discussing it because the pain it induces gets in the way of proper thinking – not just the vulgar stuff, but the more subtle stuff too. Which I think is Nicole’s point maybe? Its too painful to notice it, and its hard to know how to get support for it. I havent tried it at work, but in my family I encouraged the rest of my family to just send my dad “to coventry” (silent treatment, ignore thim) when he indulged in bigotry and disparaging comments about anyone at all. He’s changed a lot. Trouble at work is, you can be HR’ed for ignoring someone – check your policy – these over protective ones are often a real bind, victimizing the victim. I do not like being turned into a victim by dangerous policies.
    OK, absolutely must change my train of thought now.

  24. Ann says:

    Aside – I quite enjoyed your suggesting you would take Susan out manually. ;-)

    The video for me would work better as a training aid on respect in the workplace. It really isnt funny. Why should we be expected to think it is?

  25. Nicole says:

    As said before, the video is to display what happens when blog comments would be a meeting. But I like the “send to coventry” thought. ;)

  26. rob says:

    Nicole Simon, you have too much time on your hands, this is a joke video, I wouldn’t waste my time critisising a joke video that degrades men. This is clearly a sign of your insecurity. Laugh and enjoy alittle life is too short.

  27. Janine says:

    Hey you all this is your home girl Janine just saying that she loves aggressive men in bed. Someone who could go for hours and still have LOVE for that thing inside my sexy ass skirt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!