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An Obstacle for Women in the IT Industry

It is becoming increasingly apparent that this post is not going to do any good, so I have deleted the content.

Sorry to the people who were offended.

I won’t be writing about such topics again.

48 comments to An Obstacle for Women in the IT Industry

  • You extrapolated this from only two log entries on that day. Your conclusion was “that women will miss opportunities” because they, as a body, will perceive a man talking to them as a come-on. Wow.

    it seems like something that needs to be improved

    Perhaps a protocol could be established whereby the male expert in question could, say, wear a badge which says “I AM NOT LOOKING TO HAVE SEXUAL INTERCOURSE WITH YOU, AT LEAST NOT RIGHT NOW” or such?

    – Chris

  • Lee

    Hmm. I think that could well be a personal issue for the women in question to deal with. I’ve certainly had women react very stupidly from time to time — not least, crossing roads and stopping until I’d gone past as if I was a rapist or something, just because I happened to be walking on the same street behind them!

    BUT… I think it’s also very much worth considering why the salesman got this reaction. Women often use looks and flirtation to sell products. Perhaps the guy was doing the same without realising it, or even deliberately and thinking it was OK. Products should NOT be offered using flattery or flirtation — they should be offered fairly and honestly, based on the product’s pros and cons.

  • Simon

    That guy said as a second sentence “I notice your cap is a bit dirty”. I had no idea what’s a “cap” before reading the post and I believe a few people would get confused when a stranger tells you it’s dirty.

  • Anders

    This is SO right. I tend to avoid talking to women i don’t know, just because of this. I really hate it. Why do they always assume I’m hitting on them – no I’m not, I’m being friendly. That’s different!

  • Giacomo

    This is not limited to professional settings. A couple of years ago I was in a car park and I noticed that a girl (20-25 years old, I think) some 5 m far had left her cell phone on the top of the car; I quickened my steps and tried to draw her attention, and all I received was a very impolite invitation to “leave her alone because she had a boy friend.”
    Well, I did it. I hope that the cell phone was new and expensive and that whoever found it spent all her credit.

  • Claudio

    Sorry to say, but that’s a pretty poor conclusion, the problem is in the mind of males that are afraid of talking with women. It’s just silly.

    My girlfriend attended a Ubuntu.hu conference a few years ago, when she was researching about FLOSS for her dissertation. She felt so bad when no one even sat close to her during the talks, and she made really few connections in that conference, because geeks were sooo afraid to talk to her.

    Women rejecting males will depend on the way they approach them, and it’s not something that’s gonna happen only in the IT conferences. It’s something that happens everywhere! In college, in parties, whatever! You just need to learn to live with that, otherwise *you* are the one who is isolating women from the IT environment.

  • rore

    “it seems like something that needs to be improved”

    I couldn’t agree more. Now what? Maybe tell lone guys not to start chatting up girls in the street, so that women won’t thing “unkown guy talking to me == guy that wants to get laid”.
    The few times someone I didn’t know talked to me in the street, it was either a quick “I’m sorry, do you know where is … ?”, either a long and non-interesting talk ending by “what are you doing tonight? Can I have your phone number?”
    Of course it must be a little different in a conference, but still, I’m not suprised that a few women warned you that they have a boyfriend.

    Now let’s look at the ads on your blog: “Beautiful, Sexy Babes – Meet Beautiful Single Women and View Sexy Pics & Profiles, Free!” (x2)
    This is the 1st time I’m happy that my adblocker is disabled, because those 2 ads make me laugh a lot. This is really the kind of ads that seem to claim that most men are sex-starved and that women better beware.

  • I dunno, I can see your point here, but it seems like quite a leap. Are we sure the that Thinkpad guy isn’t a total smarmasaurus? Maybe the women are just less comfortable being approached by some random person and carrying on what seems to be sales pitch with them? Sales pitches are annoying. I’ve been to a lot of conferences and whatnot and I don’t recall ever having a conversation with a woman where she reacted with what you call the “I’ve got a boyfriend” response. Maybe it’s because I’m married and I have the big ring on my finger?

    On the other hand, I know a lot of women who are hit on a lot, and it’s tiring for them, especially when one of the “better” examples of the male gender is being overly assertive. My wife gets cat-called often when she is out running, and it tends to put her in a foul mood for sometime afterwards. She finds it really demeaning and insulting. I’ve seen my sister approached in really foul ways as well. I can totally understand why women would be overly protective about trying avoid being chatted up.

    I think perhaps if your intentions are in fact not romantic, you need to get a thicker skin. If all the men who have non-romantic intentions just avoid talking to women, it’s going to make the problem worse, because the only people talking to them _will_ be the ones chatting them up!

  • This reminds me of the film “when harry met sally” which asked the question “can men and women only be friends”. It seem that there is not a general perception (maybe western) that men talking to women or vise versa can not be anything but sexual, its the default. Even protestations to the contrary are suspect. Then there is the funny issue of the thinkpad ‘nipple’ as some consider it and if that had anything to do with the reaction ;-) And don’t RC extrapolated from 2 log entries only. How do you get rid of this default perception? Its seem there is no general way, it has to be based upon the interaction between each man and women involved, a slow, non-scaling issue.

  • So let’s see. In an *airport* – the most stressy environment for most people outside of a divorce court – this poor Lenovo droid was told to go and bother people by telling them about the Exciting Features of a laptop *they’d already bought*, all for the gigantic reward of a new trackpoint cap?

    I’m with the women. I’d have told him to go jump in the nearest lake.

  • Chris claims that two data points is not enough.

    Anders provides a third personal data point.

    Giacomo provides a similar (though quite different) example of the same principle.

    No, what I said was that you extrapolated from two data points. I was pointing out that your scientific method was a little flawed, not that I believed that it’s rare for single male technical professionals to have unproductive interactions with their female counterparts.

    The problem is that for free software conferences a large part of the reason for attending is to have fun. It’s simply not fun to have women give the “I’ve got a BF” attitude.

    It is presumably also not fun to show up at a function with an extremely male-heavy sex bias and to constantly feel like one is having to excuse onesself from being chatted up.

    As I said, there could be some protocol for avoiding this, such as requiring all the single men (and lesbians, as you helpfully pointed out) to sign disclaimers or somesuch prior to engaging in conversation with anyone. I eagerly await suggestions on what form such a protocol should take.

    – Chris

  • Joe Buck

    It is possible that an attempt to communicate can be misinterpreted.

    It is also possible not to be bent out of shape by this.

  • Gazza

    I would say the women that thought the Lenovo guy was hitting on them need to get a life!

    Some people these days are just too bloody cissy and PC. Providing you approach in a non-threatening manner and communicate in a polite fashion then whats the problem?

    The obstacle for both men and women in this industry are their own “Prima Donna” attitudes. Why the heck can’t we look at each other as people rather than stereotypical sex objects…

  • Rachel

    As a woman in the sales biz. I can tell you from personal experience that MOST men you meet want to get in your pants. Perhaps it’s because we are dressed well and conduct ourselves well, whatever. The point is- give us a freaking break. If the woman in the slightest bit attractive, stupid men come out of the woodwork in these types of jobs to try their cheesy and awkward pick up lines. And as for the reason of writing this article- most women are excellent communicators, and respond well to “I am not trying to come on to you, but I see you are are using a thinkpad, and I work for “instert here” and am helping people with “insert product here” so may I talk to you about this?
    What did we all go to college for again?
    Professionalism 101

  • Daniel Reeders

    It only takes 1% of guys with minimal social skills – an extremely conservative estimate, in the IT industry – to make inappropriate social and sexual advances to every women in the room, before women learn it’s worthwhile to shut that kind of advance down as early as possible. If you find that offensive, well, maybe you need to learn how to socialise without seeming like a pervert.

  • Oh wow. In an airport? I barely make eye contact with four year olds at the airport. A person of EITHER gender making a sales pitch about ANYTHING is going to have me looking for the nearest security person..especially if they appear to be eyeing up my precious laptop.

    As for conferences: start with just the facts, please. Someone who wants to starts a conversation by asking my name or where I’m from is immediately asking for familiarity with me personally. (You wouldn’t do it in an IRC channel, so why do it in person?) I prefer it when people ask me about things that are related to the conference: what sessions have I been to, what sessions am I planning on going to, etc. When I’m asked about the conference it’s clear that my personal life is not of primary interest and it gives me explicit permission to launch into full geek mode.

    Also at conferences: if you see a woman sitting by herself at least go over and give a friendly hello. I can think of more than one conference that I ended up standing in the corner because everyone seemed to be in tight clusters talking with their backs to me.

    Give it a try at the next conference you go to. Let me know how it works out. :)

  • Alex

    Funny , in Eastern Europe is just the opposite.
    Because there is so much more women than men , the women complain that they get that sentence ! Couple of my female friends told me how they hated it.
    That a guy assumes that she wants him just because she is talking to them :) and try to hint that they have a wife or gf….

  • david

    I’ve noticed this trend in women in general, not just women in IT. I have been happily married for years, don’t flirt, and I still get this attitude from time to time. My current theory is that it is self-centeredness on the part of the women who exhibit this characteristic. How self centered do you have to be to go from “here’s a guy who is talking to me” to “he wants me”? It seems that there is a non-trivial percentage of women that immediately make that leap, no matter what the topic of conversation. Since I find such narcissism very off-putting, this generally disqualifies the women who exhibit it from further conversation. And, if the woman is young and dressed provocatively/attractively, the chance is very good that this attitude is going to come out. So they get avoided, not because they are intimidating (good theory, though, Claudio), but because history is shown that there is a very good chance that they are about to be obnoxious.

  • craig

    Lee, re: walking behind women on streets, esp. at night.

    i’ve always made a deliberate effort to cross the road and walk on the other side, or (*only* if it’s a well-lit area with lots of other people around) speed up to get ahead of women so that they can see me rather than worry about some unseen stranger behind them. alternatively, slow right down and make sure there’s at least 100 feet or so between me and them, and try to make some noise when walking so they know i’m not sneaking up on them and can hear roughly how far away i am. and, as soon as there’s an opportunity to do so without seeming like a threat, cross the road or move ahead of them.

    in any case, make a reasonable effort to not seem like a threat.

    i do this because i can imagine what it’d be like if i was a 5’3 or even 5’8 woman walking along a dark street aware that there was some 6’5″ stranger coming up behind me. it would freak me out. it would be an extremely unpleasant stressful time.

    and because it’s stressful to me to know that my mere presence behind someone may be unintentionally causing that kind of tension and fear.

    btw, i have to make an effort not to seem intimidating to men too (because most men are also a lot smaller than me). but the social rules are different for men, there’s different ways of achieving the same result.

    i guess that’s one of the reasons i’m a lot less restrained in email or other online fora – it’s one of the few “places” i can tell someone off without having them think i’m going to put them in hospital.

  • etbe

    http://reddit.com/r/programming/info/6887k/comments/

    This post is getting discussed heavily on Reddit, the above URL with commentary may interest people.

  • Jeff

    Data points? WTF? This is a social interaction issue not an exam problem. I’m a nerd and alpha geek but let’s be real here – nerd analysis like curve fitting rocket thrust data doesn’t apply.

    Being hit-on is biologically natural and unavoidable. Both the offended woman and offended-by-being-mistakenly-as-offensive man are *choosing* to allow the situations to control their emotions, thoughts and reactions rather *choosing* otherwise. Her reaction is emotion. Your reaction to being mistaken as offensive is emotional. Any idea to avoid women because they are “likely to do/say the same thing” is utterly, stupidly emotional. So stop it already.

    Both of the woman (in the IBM/Lenovo story and the conference story) lost out on an innocent but valuable opportunity but I’d put money on it that they probably treat most men like that in most other situations anyway. Their loss; and this probably isn’t the first or the last time. Why make their losses your emotional investment or burden? You’re not their fathers, brothers and apparently not boyfriends so why the investment?

    But worse: simply ignoring women at conferences because “they’re likely to be bitchy” is whiney and wimpy. Better would be to be prepared next time with a well-crafted, firm-but-good-humored come-back. You can even be equally nasty to match her mood.

    And guess what will happen? Funny thing is that you’re chances to get laid sudden go up even if that wasn’t your intention! Not a sure thing but that’s been my experience. Also consider that most women find new boyfriends *when they are currently with someone already* so the “I already have a boyfriend” means… what? Absolutely nothing at all.

    Just saying…there’s a method to this. So I used to be in sales also. One of the sales concepts they taught us (yes, true sales people get training – lots of it) was that when dealing with people one-to-one you can read their emotional commitment to/in the conversation and then gauge/act on what you are doing wrong and/or uncover hidden issues still need to be uncovered that prevents full commitment. In sales the goal is the “order” but it can be anything of any importance or triviality. The ladder includes the following from highest commitment to lowest:

    Confident
    Enthused
    Interested
    Reserved
    Neutral
    Competitive
    Hostile
    Fearful
    Troubled
    Indifferent

    As per my comment about challenging her with a snappy come-back, part of the reason it improves your chances of whatever is … why? Where is she (are shes?) on the ladder above? Hostile. Which is above what? Indifference, doubt and fear. So by even being hostile she is actually displaying an emotion commitment or investment in the situation. It’s probably not be a commitment to you personally but it’s some energy and any energy can be redirected with the right push. Being indifferent would actually be the worst! As would be pulling out the pepper spray (fear).

    Which is why you must have a come-back. The best one is one that matches the emotional tone of her response because it “aligns” and acknowledges her emotional state which is necessary for anyone (male or female) to actually listen to another alternate opinion. Aka respecting differences or opinions in the other party. Aka being “disarming”. Then you “raise” her up the ladder with some appropriate response or opinion and continue the momentum by “probing” with open-ended questions directed toward the goal of the conversation. (This is “PAR” [probe-align-raise] sales training, http://www.thepargroup.com)

    For example:

    Woman: “I already have a boyfriend!” (hostile)

    Man: “I can imagine an attractive woman like you would get
    hit-on a lot – it must be challenging” (alignment)

    “It’s not all about you but I can see why guys might
    hit on you a lot” (alignment – for bitchier situation)

    “But actually I was just wondering what you thought about microkernels?” (raise with probe)

    Woman: “Oh so you think microkernels are cool? Not! Linux success
    proves macrokernels are better” (competitive – you “raised” her)

    or

    “I don’t know anything about computers. I’m just here to meet my boyfriend. He’s supposed to be here soon” (fear – you “dropped” her)

    Man: “Linux is a good counter-example.” (alignment after raise)
    “But could Linux run better with a microkernel instead?” (raise)
    “What do you think?” (probe)

    or

    Man: “Computers can be complicated ” (alignment after drop)
    ” but Linux is easy partly because we’re a friendly
    bunch of people that help each other out.” (raise)
    “Do you use Linux yourself?” (probe – not open-ended though – find better)

    etc. etc.

    So if you ignore her hostile comment, and decide not to let it rile you emotionally, what are you doing on the ladder? You put out the message of indifference which is saying “I don’t value you (or your bitch comments) enough to even put out the effort to display “Fear, Doubt or Hostility”. You “out-cold” her cold response. In the grand scheme of things this is often the expedient response.

    If you do react with visible fear or doubt (You thinking: “Oh, I’m sorry I offended you. Oh, I’m so hurt you would think that. Maybe I was wrong?”) you displayed emotional commitment but it’s below hostility. You played a 3 of hearts to her 9 of clubs even after you saw her card. You’ve just told her that you invested too much and misplayed the hand, so she “topped” you emotionally and shown that she’s calling the shots. You’ve also just reinforced her bad behavior or shown that you’re a wimp who can be easily dealt with.

    After the first day of my sales class for this stuff the guys (and one gal) immediately realized the class needed a new name: “Bar Skill Training” rather than “Negotiative Sales Training” and we all went to a bar and were surprisingly successful. So yes, like all knowledge this can be used for good or for evil – the inanimate
    skill itself has no inherent morality, only the decisions of user of the skill determine the morality of its use. This also happens to be a form of diplomacy – so you can considering this knowledge for the salvation of humanity.

  • Some stupid jerk

    “Linux event being interested in chatting up women would be less than 45% even if we don’t count the single straight guys who refrain from hitting on women at conferences.”

    This assumes that men in couples don’t hit on women.

  • Paul

    I have to wonder about the guy’s outfit as well. If he was dressed in a dark blue suit, like the IBM salespeople used to wear in the Jurassic period, maybe he would’ve gotten a more positive response from women. In my experience, nothing screams “I want to be celibate” quite like a nerdly teeshirt does.

  • You should probably read “HOWTO Encourage Women in Linux” by Val Henson.

    http://www.valhenson.org/howto.html

    Includes:

    “Talk respectfully about all women, not just the women you’re attracted to, as well as all other kinds of humans of all ages and appearances. If you don’t do this, women will tend to assume that you will treat them as badly as the people you’re insulting and avoid you.”

  • craig

    jeff, that kind of formulaic manipulation of people is *precisely* why i have nothing to do with salespeople in my private life and as little to do with them in my public & professional life as possible.

  • Jacinta

    I have a dell laptop, and I use it at airports. If a man walked up to me while I was using it at an airport wearing a Dell t-shirt and tried to start up a conversation, a number of things might occur.

    If I was in a *really* good mood and didn’t care about what I was doing, I might close the laptop, and be open to a brief conversation with him.

    If I was in an okay mood I might smile at him, see what he wanted, and politely try to get him to go away.

    If I was in a bad mood I would probably frown at him and respond hostilely.

    None of these are because I’d be assuming that he wanted anything sexual. I don’t get hit on (by strangers) very often, but I do get stuck in conversations with people who don’t know how to read any of the polite body language cues that suggest they’re getting boring. Most men are stronger than me and probably could wrest my laptop from me if they tried (no, I haven’t seen anything like this happen at an airport). But most importantly, I really don’t like being interrupted from working by strangers for no important reason.

    It wouldn’t matter if he said he was from Dell (and should I believe him?) because I’d already have been interrupted. In fact my reactions are true for all sales people. If I’m sitting down in a lounge then I’ve already run the gauntlet of the Amex and charity people and I just want to be left in peace until my plane is boarding!

    I get the impression that the Ambassador suffers from a situational bias. He’s found a very small percentage of business travelers with Thinkpads are female, and some of them have been hostile. Let’s say it’s 30%, or one in three. A similar number (say 25%) of men probably also did not like to be interrupted and thus also acted hostilely. But he may have only seen 5-6 women and two of them were annoyed by his approach. On the other hand, he had many positive reactions amongst the men he talked to even though some took what he had to give but didn’t want to talk to him. Is he the kind of fellow to notice a woman’s refusal more than a man’s? We don’t know. We don’t know how many people he tried to interact with, we don’t know how many men weren’t interested… Further, men are unlikely to say either “I’ve got a boyfriend” or “I’ve got a girlfriend”. It’s much more permissible for a man to say (to a man) “I’m sorry I’ve got to get this finished”, than for a woman to say the same thing. As a woman, I’ve been schooled into being polite, and this includes not making people feel unwelcome – even if they are. I try to overcome this, but it’s hard work.

  • Carleton

    IT is populated by young single men who are, with lamentable frequency, socially awkward to the point of being utterly graceless around women. Many don’t have the experience or self-control to ignore the boobies and talk to the person. Women who spend enough time in this environment get fed up with clumsy chat-ups and all the disrespect that goes with.

    For a man to be non-threatening in this context — approaching women unsolicited and talking shop — he needs to come across as sexually nonthreatening as early as possible.

    I’m always bothered by how guarded many women are when I approach them professionally, but I understand their concern: I’m a dumpy geek and they don’t need the hassle when they’re just trying to live their lives and do their jobs. So if she seems uncomfortable around me, I touch my face with my left hand. She sees my wedding ring and gets at least a little less defensive. Then I can go about *my* job of discussing technical problems and solutions.

    Men are used to reading each other’s logo shirts or name tags, but the same eye motion, to a woman, equals “he’s staring at my chest.” I *never* read a woman’s shirt. I find it more respectful — as does she — to introduce myself and ask where she works. The little things can make a big difference. I have more positive and constructive professional contacts with my female peers than many other men in this industry, in part because I do my best to be courteous and respectful.

  • crystalsinger

    Wow. Let me get my head around this Bizarro-world premise…

    Women develop much-needed defensive reactions to random men walking up to them and starting a conversation – reactions developed precisely because 90% of ~all~ such interactions in their personal experience in ~all~ environments prove to actually be thinly-veiled attempts by said men to hit on them.

    And your problem is that the mean lady snubbed you? Oh boo hoo.

    Perhaps you think you’re ‘helping’ us by ‘explaining’ what the problem is and ‘suggesting’ how WE can fix it. But you’re really not being part of the solution here.

  • Pat

    I would never assume someone would be hitting on me if someone attempted a conversation but then I am old enough to be someone grandmother. Talk professional with women and keep your eyes from roving and you will be treated as a professional. Lee – I take offence to your comment “Women react very stupidly from time to time” Most female reactions come from male actions – think about it… It likely began with yout action, intented or not.

  • Jeff: thanks for a really informative post and link — that commitment ladder concept also mirrors what needs to be done in a piece of educational or persuasive writing.

  • sprezzatura

    Raise hand with wedding ring finger.

    “I can commit.”

  • Scott

    I think those who provide a poor experience at conferences to either sex need to be found and berated, obviously (or in extreme cases, asked to leave, as this /has/ happened in some groups). I’ve never had the issue of meeting people, even women, as peers while attending conferences. I think a lot of men end up forgetting that, yes, even though you did not meet one woman in college that does the crazy amount of code-fu and design work you’re doing — they do exist and you will meet them someday and want to pick their brains on a cool problem.

  • loki on the run

    This blog entry and discussion seems to be centered around the notion that males and females are indistinguishable WRT a number of interests and abilities.

    However, the fact is, participating in any technical activity takes skills, most particularly IQ, and there is ample evidence of the differing variances between males in females in that department.

    Note, I am not claiming that women are dumber than men, on average! I am claiming that there are more men than women at 3SDs and greater, both at the upper end of the distribution and the lower end of the distribution. Take a look at La Griffe du Lion’s article on Sex Differences In Mathematical Aptitude.

    Oh yeah, and spare a thought for all those males below about IQ 85 who women have no use for at all; surely they want some love as well even if they confuse it with sex.

  • […] by Chill on 10 Feb 2008 at 01:44 pm | Tagged as: Uncategorized I’ve run into this myself, but only in American women. When I am at a conference I am unlikely to start a conversation […]

  • I’ve just blogged about this. I don’t think Russell is meaning to be offensive, but he can be a little unclear with his communications. I’ve summarised some of the points of why this is a bit grubby and offensive to some men and women, and also ways we can try to create a better environment in FOSS.

    http://pipka.org/blog/2008/02/11/another-obstacle-for-women-in-the-it-industry/

  • Michael Terry

    That’s just a natural defense mechanism of women in general and has nothing do with with IT industry conferences or geeks or anything else. Do you realize how often attractive women get hit on by the time they’re, say, 22?[1] If telephone solicitors constantly called you, you’d probably be a bit standoffish to calls from strangers.

    Besides, women tell men they have boyfriends for lots of reasons. In many mens’ experience, this statement implies nothing about whether she’ll end up sleeping with him or not.

    [1] Ok, being an IT conference has some bearing in this situation: The bar for “attractive” is lower at an IT conference since demand and supply are out of whack.

  • “One interesting thing he noted is the reaction of women who seemed to think he was trying to chat them up. Their reaction was so negative that by the end of the day he was only promoting Thinkpads to men.”

    I guess he needs to suck it up and learn to deflect that kind of statement better. Having worked in this kind of sales environment, I’ve had “I’m not interested in Mormonism”, “I already have a mobile phone”, and yes, “I’m here with my partner/spouse” *from men.*

    Like Jeff says, there ways to move the conversation to the direction you want to take it. If he’s getting hostile responses from women he needs to look at his pitch and see if there’s something he’s doing wrong.

    But let’s also RTFA and see what’s what:

    “After approaching, she accepts TrackPoint caps, but looks visibly distraught. I’m pretty sure she thought I was trying to hit on her.”

    Pretty sure? Sounds like the perception problem is with this gent here. There are plenty of reasons why you wouldn’t want to be approached by some random stranger at the airport first thing in the morning, and being hit on is just one of several.

    And much later:

    “Have decided to stop attempting to be a TrackPoint ambassador to any female. They all give me a look like I’m a stalker.”

    Note he doesn’t point out that anyone has actually SAID to him that he’s acting like a stalker. Tickets on himself, perhaps? Or an easy target to which he can pin his lack of success?

  • Elspeth

    As a woman, who hangs around the open source software scene in Australia a lot, I feel I have some perspective on your post.

    I tend to try to be outgoing and friendly, and chalk up most creepiness (standing too close; looking at things other than my face; staring; suggestive remarks; etc) up to a total lack of social awareness, not conscious hitting-on. However, I have my limits. When I start getting followed around, photographed excessively (by people I don’t know), or have individuals just not leave me alone – then I get annoyed, and sometimes, a bit freaked out. For some reason, I just don’t like stalkerish behaviour, and for some reason (seemingly highly correlated with my gender) it happens to me often at events such as LCA, OSDC, and LUG meetings.

    After quite a few years of this, I have developed a level of protective colouration. It is rare (especially at conferences) that I will dare to go out of sight of people that I know well, and can trust to step in if necessary, if I’m in a gathering. I wear my wedding rings, and tend to display them while gesturing. I mention my husband often in conversation – not so much ‘I have a husband!’ but ‘about x, my husband’s said y, and I think z’.

    It’s sad that I have these habits – and even sadder that they have proven many times to be warranted. And really – those percentages which you put in your post are all very well, but one creepy stalker guy is enough to ruin any event. The majority of guys are just fine, and usually quite gentlemanly. But – it really only takes one. And that’s just for overt harassment – subtle gender distinctions are far more rampant, and unconscious in many cases – ‘So who are you here with?’ is not much of an improvement on ‘I have a boyfriend!’ behaviour.

    Finally, I’ve been approached by men who are quite firmly in a couple, also. Sad but true. Being single is only a rough guide to who’s likely to be on the hunt, as it were.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is that while you, personally, may not be the bad guy, any resemblance to being a bad guy results in the behaviour you describe, for which there are reasons. And that there only has to be one bad guy in any crowd. Not to say that the response you cite is an example of good behaviour, either. It sucks for both men and women at present – we can only hope for a future where the default state of men is not ‘scary’ and the default state of women is not ‘fearful’.

  • etbe

    Elspeth: It’s sad that you have had such bad experiences that you feel you need to hang around people you know for protection.

    Your description of how you mention your husband is perfectly acceptable and is unlikely to offend anyone. As with many social things, as long as everyone involved can pretend it’s something it isn’t then there is no problem.

  • GG

    Please someone start the commitment ladder common lisp classification project. What an immense help to humanity this would be.

  • Anders

    “I mention my husband often in conversation – not so much ‘I have a husband!’ but ‘about x, my husband’s said y, and I think z’.”

    That’s exactly how I try to talk to women, I try to mention my wife as early in the conversation as possible to avoid the “I got a boyfriend”-attitude. That helps a lot I think.

  • David

    And males think we want to be higher than them. Sad.

  • etbe

    http://jamespurser.com.au/blog/Possibly_Politically_Incorrect_T-shirts

    Interesting blog post. I wonder how many shirts he will sell.

  • Tricia

    This is ONE individual’s experience that is being used to predict EVERY woman’s behavior. How is that scientific and fair?

    I would stop for a linux button to replace the windows button, even if the guy was a sweaty devil, but that’s about it as far as button’s are concerned. I certainly don’t need some guy explaining my thinkpad features to me. Hello, it’s not that complicated.

  • Olly

    “7:38 a.m. – Young professional woman waiting at the gate. Due to professional dress and demeanor, appeared to work for a consulting company. After approaching, she accepts TrackPoint caps, but looks visibly distraught. I’m pretty sure she thought I was trying to hit on her.”

    A salesman with poor social skills.

    There are other reasons why someone could be distraught after you have talked to them and that could have nothing to do with you at all.

  • For real? And never speaking about it again?

    If I stopped doing something every time it gave someone the shits I would probably never get out of bed, and then I’d still be giving someone the shits.

  • etbe

    Raena: For real. I’ll speak about it, but not blog about it.

    I don’t mind an argument, but things have gone too far in regard to this issue.

    It’s not as if I’ve got a shortage of other topics to write about.