binary girl: the secret blog

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shh!

… and then I suddenly understood something about Shanley Kane.

July 21st, 2014 at 12:14

I’ve been a software engineer in the professional world for 19 years. I’ve had my share of experiences with other software engineers and managers, shared in both this blog and it’s former incarnation, which have clearly been based in abject sexism, but it has happily always felt like it has been the exception, never the rule.

Recently, my husband sent me this article, though, and I was suddenly filled with RAGE. It suddenly occurred to me on a very basic level just how rampant and deeply-held some of the behaviors we experience are, and how much I’ve normalized them as part of my long-term experience. I’ve changed in real, measurable ways, in terms of how I react to certain situations based on some of this; some of those ways I’m fine with (I’m very one-of-the-boys in terms of what I consider acceptable conversational topics, but that generally fits with my personality and is something that I think attracted my husband to me, besides my HUGE BRAIN OF AWESOME), but others honestly bother me (any time someone tries to help me in a way that I believe reflects on their opinion of my skill or how I can do my job will cause a knee-jerk “I CAN DO THIS, ASSHOLE” reaction; I have terrible impostor syndrome).

Anyway. That article, and my rage as a result, led to a really awful interaction with a guy I used to work… click to enjoy (for certain values of “enjoy”). But, in the midst of all of that, I suddenly had a stark realization about Shanley Kane, who always seemed to me as an extremist who didn’t accurately represent my experience and who, in fact, sometimes made it harder for me to do my job: she is that blind rage, and she is feeling it all the time in order to afford me the places where I can relax and exist and do my job in this environment without constantly seething about things that are so deeply-rooted that it will take generations to undo. What I saw as the things that make her dangerous to me personally (“guys will have reactions to me because they will think that I’m off-the-handle in the same way because we are both female engineers”) are actually important (“guys should check their reactions as being part of a deep-seated need for reflection and change” — because if people group us together because we are both female engineers, THAT IS THE PROBLEM RIGHT THERE). She is choosing to have this rage (as much as anyone can choose how they feel) because the only thing that will possibly have any affect here — if anything can have an affect — is constant pressure on people to see how their behavior is responsible at all levels for the current state that we’re in.

So… that was a weird paradigm shift for me — not about Shanley in specific, but in admitting to myself that my experiences count for something and I am not the only one having them. I’m not a special snowflake in this way, and knowing that … well, knowing that sucks, because I hate thinking about other people having the same ones.

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