Sexism and misogyny isn't something that happens to "other people". I don't know one woman whose life hasn't been affected by it; I don't know a single woman who hasn't changed their behavior or the situations they put themselves in because of it. I don't know anyone that hasn't been friends, partners, or family members with a woman that hasn't worried for her or seen the way her life gets turned upside down by the way society treats her. These aren't "women's issues", they are societal issues.
I've had a male coworker threaten to come to my house because I didn't want to discuss a work issue with him while he was angry. Because he attended most tech events in the city I lived in, I stopped attending them - even the ones I was involved organizing.
A guy at a tech conference asked me where he could get in line to have sex with me.
I reported coworkers for sexist and homophobic language directed at me only for my boss to not only tell me it "wasn't that big of a deal", and then go out of his way to tell the person who said those things to me, creating a very unsafe work atmosphere.
I've dealt with violent, abusive, and otherwise aggressive behavior from men my entire life, up to and including rape, from men who were supposed to be friends, friends-of-friends, significant others, and family. I've had boyfriends slowly separate me from my friends and family, family members paint me as a terrible person to other family to discredit my claims of abuse by them, and friends take advantage of my trust in horrific ways. Going to the police about serious incidents has resulted in nothing.
I stopped drinking because my fear of not being able to protect myself at all times was greater than my want to go out and have fun with friends.
I have actively told potential partners that I won't date people that I feel like I wouldn't be able to physically defend myself from, knowing in the back of my head that I've allowed men less strong than me to threaten me with violence.
I've changed my entire dating philosophy because I feel safer with people I've known for a longer period of time, even though women are over three times more likely to be sexually assaulted, raped, abused, or murdered by men close to them than they are strangers.
I worry daily that people are going to think I'm a bitch for speaking up in my own defense or the women around me. I worry how it hurts my public image and opportunities. I'm tired of feeling like I have to be fighting this 24/7 so we don't lose ground.
And these are just the standout things that I could think of off the top of my head. This doesn't count the endless casual sexism, street harassment, or verbal abuse from absolute strangers just for being a woman that dares exist in the same space.
So when you analogize things to rape or domestic violence, dismiss a woman as being less skilled or incapable of being as good as a man, joke about sexism and misogyny, or do sexist and misogynistic things, you're telling the people around you that this is not only acceptable behavior, but a part of our culture that we aren't ashamed of. You're giving that kind of behavior a place to exist in our society while pushing women out.
Most of all, when you see this kind of behavior and you say or do nothing about it, you're signalling to the women who trust you that they are not worth protecting, that their ability to feel like they belong in a community is less important than whether someone thinks you're being a jerk. You're saying to them that you don't care or that you've given up caring. Women don't have the luxury of giving up.
I'm tired of people claiming they stand for equality or labeling themselves feminists and then actively saying or doing sexist/misogynistic things, expecting to not be called out on it. Your commiserating with our plight is not enough. We need your voice to back us up, to stop allowing people to treat us like this. We need you standing up for us when people treat us differently at work because we're women while we're too afraid to speak up for fear of losing our jobs or being seen as "disagreeable".
I'm tired of letting my anger over feeling betrayed by a community I'm supposed to feel a part of overwhelm me to the point of tears. I'm over society telling me to keep fighting for my right to earn 77% of what a man does, or for women of color earning as little as 44% of what a white man does. I'm over being told that our health care should cost more than the men who earn more money as a group than we do. I'm tired of being scared walking alone even in broad daylight.
My story isn't unique; every woman I know has a story like this.
For my male friends that speak up about these things and actively work to make the world a better place, you have my eternal gratitude. <3
I've disabled comments on this post for obvious reasons, but feel free to reply to me on Twitter.
I am not compensated for my writing
Consider supporting me via gittip. Your support helps me continue to write, speak at conferences on these subjects, and create more projects which further diversity in tech.