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I Too Have a Man’s Name

This morning, the webcomic ‘The Trenches’ posted a story about the gaming industry. This is normal. With every new comic, they always post a little story or two. Today, though, the story was achingly familiar to me.

In A Name by any other Gender, the female programmer with a man’s first name experienced a horrible case of misogyny when “Apparently having a “female” in the “all male company” would be bad for policy and productivity.”

Many of my friends have expressed doubt that this could happen, or that it could be legal. Many of my female friends just shook their heads and said ‘Yeah, I’ve been there.’

This still happens, and it’s not okay. It happened to me in a painful way in 2010, when I hit Microsoft’s Invisible Misogyny Wall. I didn’t spell it out in that post, but essentially I’d been ignored in a meeting where I was the subject matter expert. They thought ‘Mike’ was someone else, and talked to him for about 20 minutes, before he turned to me and said “Actually, Mika is the expert here…” I remember the look on their faces. Three men all looked at me like I was a Martian. How could I be an expert. I was a girl.

To my credit, I didn’t tell them what I was thinking, but simply explained the situation as it was, where we wanted to go, and the paths I’d found to get us there. We were moving from an old, crappy, system, to a nice, sexy, new one. I’d spent hours researching how people did it, tested on a small scale, and came up with a way to do it and preserve all our history. The Microsoft Plan was to move everything over and start fresh. People didn’t like that.

Microsoft insisted my way would never work, and in the end my proposed project was dismissed.

That was two years ago. At this moment, we aren’t even at 10% for people to move to the new system, and they’re still trying to figure out how to preserve history while moving the data. Yesterday they were arguing that using the open source code was the only way to do it. That code was the method I’d found two years ago. And they still don’t want to use it, because it’s open source.

Do I know for sure it was because I’m a woman? No. No one said ‘You’re a woman, you don’t know what you’re talking about.’ In fact, it’s impossible to tell if it’s me reading too much into it or not. Discrimination is a funny thing, and it gets caught up in your head in weird ways. Once you’ve been discriminated against, it invades your thinking. It’s just like how you know you’re going to be given the fish-eye from certain people when you bring up your religion or sexuality, you get a gut feeling when someone gives you a funny look for having ovaries.

The worst part about is, it’s nearly impossible to understand what it is until you have it happen to you. I can’t understand what it’s like to be discriminated against for being black or asian, but I’ve been discriminated against for being white more than once. I can extrapolate, but I can’t really understand. In the same way, my male friends just don’t get it, and that’s okay. As long as they look at me as a whole person, and not just a woman, I really think it’s fine. It’s when I meet a guy who stares at my boobs, or who won’t talk to me because my shirt shows cleavage, that I have a problem. Sometimes I want to look pretty for me, and that’s all it is.

But I will always and forever be judged by being a woman. I will be benchmarked against other women, and I will be blamed or punished for them as well.

I suppose that’s a great deal of why I love volunteering online. I could be a duck, and all anyone cares is that the Half-Elf Support Rogue bailed them out and they are functioning again. It’s rewarding to remove your hang-ups from a situation and get to communicate as people. It feels safer, and it feels like I’m valued. Take from that what you will.

My name means Mike, by the way. Just adds to the confusion.