I’ve been called a lot of things since my post started making the rounds—some kind, some decidedly not. And while I’ll admit that I spent a minute dwelling on claims that I am apparently neither intelligent nor hot, those comments aren’t the ones that, days later, I struggle to shake. The comments that still nag at me are the ones about bravery.
The thing is, I didn’t feel brave when I hit “publish.” As I say in the post, pointing out to my coworkers the times that men have said inappropriate things to me at tech events has had a purely positive and relatively uneventful result that tends to look something like this:
- They express some initial shock that this is something I experience
- They accept my experiences as valid (i.e. they believe me)
- They pay closer attention in the future, and notice when these things are happening
- They acknowledge and respond to future incidents
And that’s it! No one freaks out, there isn’t any fanfare, and we get back to work, all feeling a little better about the fact that by working together, we can make these negative encounters slightly less obnoxious moving forward. That’s about all there is to it.
So you can imagine my surprise when across Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, email, comments sections and in real life, folks started commending me for my bravery in calling out these inappropriate comments. Bravery? What’s brave about initiating the process I described above? What’s brave in simply pointing out inappropriate behavior? What’s brave about wanting to be treated with decency? That shouldn’t be a big deal, let alone brave or “explosive.”
That said, here are some comments I received as a direct result of choosing to publish that post:
This article comes off as whiny, immature and frankly unprofessional. I wouldn’t hire this woman to work for me if she had this sort of attitude
Jesus Christ Leah — you are a real insensitive bitch.
Delusional woman. Just wants attention, after a life of being a plane jane. Sad.
I don’t know about hot but certainly hired only because she is a woman so as not to come across as sexist, thinking otherwise makes you deluded.
All I can say is that this woman should be thankful that people are giving her the time of day. Her background really isn’t all that great and looks-wise she is about a 3 or maybe a 3.5 out of 10.
I know that I wouldn’t hire her and frankly, I don’t know many companies that really would — she seems like a whiny entitled bitch.
People like her should kill themselves.
So maybe I didn’t fully anticipate what I was getting into. But at first, these comments really excited me. They completely and utterly proved my point. In fact, the comments actually helped the post gain some traction—if not for the negativity and personal attacks, I’m not convinced the post would have even garnered half as much attention.
God this comment section is an absolute mess… https://t.co/xi1jwKikpt
— Nabeel. (@nabtweeter) October 13, 2015
— Rand Fishkin (@randfish) October 14, 2015
But the negative comments kept coming. And coming. And coming.
And then I started getting doxed.
And then people started asking me if I was worried about the impact this blog post would have on my career.
So perhaps I’ve just been working in a bubble—a bubble where my coworkers are disproportionately inclined to be understanding and supportive about these issues in an industry that clearly has work to do. That’s not to say that I didn’t receive dozens (hundreds?) of supportive messages in response to my post. But the fact that I did—that I received so many messages saying “yes! this is such a reality and you are so brave for speaking about it“—that validates the problem too, doesn’t it? Because standing up for yourself and asking to be treated fairly should not require bravery.
I’ve learned a lot of things this week (including “delete your high school Tumblr account before you go viral”), but if I could wrap it all up in one big takeaway, my impression is this: My stories of discrimination and harassment as a woman in tech are representative of a pervasive issue across this industry. In spite of that pervasiveness, we still hesitate to talk about it—because doing so can be really hard to do.
But if the overwhelmingly positive response I received is proof of anything (and make no mistake—though I’ve emphasized the trolls for the purposes of this post, the support far outshone the hate), it’s that people are ready to talk about this—and they need to. So many folks are eager to share their experiences, and so many more are ready to listen (and I received numerous stories—thank you so much to all the strong, brilliant women who shared them with me and who have overcome far greater obstacles than mine). I come away from this experience confident in this community’s goodness, and optimistic that we can and will do better.
It’s been an (admittedly unexpected) honor to be briefly amplified in this conversation—I won’t stop now if you won’t. Let’s be brave together.