There’s a thing I’ve been meaning to write about but I keep stopping myself because I feel bad writing about it. (Remind me some day to talk about being raised Catholic and how many days end with feeling guilty/bad about something).
A while back, I was at a game conference giving a talk about Kickstarter. There were many talks throughout the day, and many people speaking. Like many tech/games conferences, there weren’t many women speaking, but there were a few (myself included). So nothing out of the ordinary.
My boyfriend is a developer and sometimes comes to conferences with me. After I’d given my talk, we were hanging out together during one of the breaks and ended up chatting with a few other attendees. They pulled out their business cards, as people are apt to do at conferences, and handed them right over to my boyfriend. He embarrassedly told them it wasn’t him that works at Kickstarter.
It was such a small, stupid little thing, but that moment burned. In that moment I felt like everything I’d ever accomplished had just vanished. Poof. I was just the girlfriend of the guy at the conference.
So I came home from the conference and silently filed it away in my brain. I added it to the list of moments during events where people awkwardly reorient themselves to adjust to the news that I actually work for Kickstarter. Actually!
I thought about the times at conventions when people have walked straight up to me while I’m standing at a table labeled “Kickstarter” and asked where they can find a representative of Kickstarter.
I thought about all the times in hiring interviews where candidates have directed their responses to my male colleagues, even when I was the one who had asked them a question.
And I thought about how after all these incidents, I felt bad. Bad about myself for not being more assertive or “owning” my position. Bad because clearly there was something I was doing wrong that led people to believe I couldn’t possibly be someone in a position of leadership. And I felt bad for the people who innocently handed their business cards to my boyfriend, because I didn’t want them to feel embarrassed.
What’s dangerous about these moments is that once you add them all together it becomes not occasional bumps in an otherwise smooth sea. It becomes the sea itself.
Yesterday I read about someone else’s experiences, someone I don’t know, but someone I immediately identified with. Her honesty and especially her admission to feeling lonely, resentful, and isolated resonated deeply. You should read it.
Reading about her experiences reminded me that I’ve had a version of this post sitting in drafts for over a year. And that I haven’t wanted to write it because it reminds me of the things in the background, the things just below the surface that contradict my worldview and my sense of self. Things that are hard to talk about because I don’t want people to think I’m ungrateful, or complaining, or being a downer.
So this is me, finally writing a version of this post. Because fuck it, we should be talking about this stuff.