Just Another Girl
Unsurprisingly, I’m a woman. A quirky one, with a funny life story, but a woman nonetheless. Some weeks ago some things happened, which I sort of quickly vent off on Mastodon, but… I’ve been waiting for some time to pass before writing a proper piece on it… I want this to be fair and also productive, you know?
The fact is that I obviously get DMs from guys. Apparently I’m attractive, hooray… although I’m into girls… exclusively into them, aka a plain ol' boring lesbian. But hey, I’m not advertising my sexual orientation anywhere on my social profiles, and I barely speak about LGBTQ topics. I mean, to me that’s a private thing and, well, I can’t blame a man who finds me likeable and tries his luck by sending me a DM, not knowing this fact about me… and I know that writing this paragraph won’t help either, because who knows how deep this post will be buried under oh so many posts in just a couple of months. Most people, when they get to know you online, just read your most recent stuff… So I’d never assume that this post “settles it” publicly and allows me to assume everyone “is in the know” and act upon that assumption…
Such a thing would be totally unfair.
But again, I don’t blame any guy for hitting on me if he isn’t aware that I’m gay. It happens to me somewhat frequently in the offline world, as well. That’s not the issue at all. If the interaction becomes more than just randomly meeting him and never ever seeing him again, I just politely explain and that’s it.
I totally get becoming attracted or… let’s maybe put it in a lighter way… getting your attention drawn to someone who ends up having a sexual orientation that is incompatible with yours. I mean, how many times I’ve found myself by ignorance or innocent mistake liking straight girls who would obviously not be into me?
If he knew beforehand, though… that’d be a totally different story, but I also must say I’m not aware that ever happened to me.
My issue is with lack of playfulness, bruttish behavior, inelegant attempts to draw my attention, deception. Unfortunately, this is way too common to my taste in male-dominated communities… and I’m not inserting online there for a reason. I’ll talk some day about the salsa community, but today let’s focus on the FOSS online stuff I’ve had to handle.
First I must fully disclose that I’ve not been a victim of any sexual harrassment of any kind in the FOSS community so far. The DMs and other interactions I will be referring to don’t fall, to my understanding, into that category. They were uncomfortable, but no harrassment. There were no nasty pics, no sexual content… if you came in here for that kind of stuff, I’m sorry to tell you that you’re out of luck.
The main issue is context. I’m not a FOSS celebrity at all, but I’m active, I’m sort of known? And I also post some personal things on Mastodon occasionally, but I never get into details. The thing is, and this comes from a pattern I’ve seen in some DMs, that some people think they know me well from those publications or even this blog.
I’m fairly open, willing to share some personal stuff, but I promise you, I post online less than 25% of what’s happening in my life. So when I get some messages like “I can see you’re a special girl,” it just feels like when people think they really know the artists or stars they’re fans of. No, you don’t… You just know a very shallow portion of me.
My selfies? They’re just because I feel like posting them. If I feel cute and have the time to take one… and just feel posting one, I’ll just do it. There’s no actual reason behind them. I also post selfies on my private Instagram account (which I only use with real life friends)… and sometimes they’re the same, sometimes they’re not… Again, there’s no plan, no message, no nothing, but me feeling cute.
Sending anyone a personal DM just because you think you know someone only from their online activity is invasive precisely because… OK, I’ll try not to get too PhD in Linguistics-mode here… because of the total lack of a real common ground. It feels like you’re trying forcefully to get into my life… and moreover… with a totally vague image of how my life might be.
On the contrary, if someone DMs me about some FOSS or programming topic… the common ground is there. There’s some real communication going on, so… why I would grow defensive? And some of those interactions have developed into friendships!
No, please, this doesn’t mean you should try to flirt with me opening with some comment on the endianness of some CPU architecture, OK? Just kidding… Maybe you should? 😜
There has been deception, though. Some people outrageously lie about who they are or want… But lies only get you so far, honestly… It’s not that I’m some sort of telepath or empath who knows the intentions of people online… But experience has taught me to learn how to ask questions if I feel anything isn’t right.
I do wanna add, though, that you won’t ever find me in the “All cishet men are evil!!” camp. Nope. In my life, both offline and online, I must say that most men are nice. There are gender differences that sometimes get in the way, yes… and make me wanna punch my best male friends in the face… Truth is… that makes life more fun and is the perfect moment to make some silly joke on the expense of men and leave it there… and of course you guys are going to joke about us women… If it’s for fun, I love it!
The rotten apples are always a noisy, obnoxious minority… but a minority in the end.
There’s another thing that also happens, frequently. It’s not that much related to the above, but I feel it might be worth noting.
Sometimes I can feel the passive-aggressiveness from very insecure, usually very incompetent guys when they see any girl (not just me) being more knowledgeable than them in CompSci stuff. I mean, it’s not our fault if you’re a horribly ignorant sysadmin or coder. This is a cliché, I know; It happens a lot, though.
The bad thing is that it has led me to self-censoring myself sometimes… even knowing I’m totally right about what I’d say… But that sort of engagement quickly becomes tiring. There’s a variant of this, which is the false pat on the shoulder and me being told: “Hey, yeah, good girl… you’re so smart!,” but then they keep publishing totally misguided stuff on their blogs or social media that sometimes is even harmful… or plainly technically wrong. I mostly not even engage with people like that anymore… but maybe I should call them out, shouldn’t I? Is it worth though? It is disheartening, that’s for sure… and sometimes it did make me feel like I shouldn’t belong in the FOSS community… I even had to work this out with a therapist some 6-ish months ago, you know?
Not sure what the morale of this post is? Is there one? Maybe it’s just a small window to an emotional reality that is totally uncommon to be talked about on FOSS circles. But in summary, I guess the morale is… I’m just another girl, happy to be part of this, so… let’s all (me included) be nice to each other, OK?