january, 2011

Sat, 15 Jan 2011 18:16:34 -0800

The last two days of this past week, I diverged slightly from my standard T-shirt-and-jeans work uniform. I tried on a floppy sweater Thursday morning, decided it wasn't quite long enough to wear with leggings and properly call an outfit, opted instead for a red drapey top with falling-off sequins (my in-between wardrobe -- between College Freshman and Night At The Opera, that is -- isn't very broad). Stared at my partial reflection in the darkened iMac screen that passes for a mirror in my room, decided I looked somewhat girly, dressed the whole thing down with a puffy vest, and went off to catch the shuttle. I can't help but wonder if today's A-line orange coat and earrings, yesterday's sequined shirt, aren't a reaction to a lot of thinking of late about the fact that I am, I somewhat easily forget, a woman.

I forget a lot of things, it turns out. The ping-pong players who dubiously regarded me and Trisha a year ago, wondering if we could actually be conducting a meeting in the room next to their game they were so reluctant to suspend; the guy who commented on my shirt in a way that wasn't at all about my shirt; the one who explained basic math on a whiteboard to me when I was simply trying to edit his design document -- I have, after initial outrage, filed all of them to /dev/null, the bit bucket my best mechanism for rising above it all.

It's not a productive strategy, perhaps. But being -- staying -- offended gets to be deleterious (all that cortisol in the brain starts to hurt after a while), and I've never been up for support groups. Never wanted the pure camaraderie, not in the way of Kate in Dublin, who came up to me my first week there a few years ago, introduced herself as the only female SRE in Europe, and did I want to have coffee? The simple fact of being a minority has never bothered me (the opposite, even, attention sponge that I am).

Let me be clear: I earn what the boys do. I outrank some of them. I call bullshit, set direction, lead projects. And no one snickers if I paint my nails pink while doing so. This is what my grandmother would have wanted for me, lawyer Lieutenant MacKay of the United States Marine Corps in the 1940s, who everyone assumed was the secretary.

But it seems that, despite several generations' worth of wrapping a towel around our fists and punching through the glass ceiling, we're still not "equal" in the way my primary-school teachers told me we were. If we are, why can't we hire more than 20% women in engineering (I don't even believe it's that high), more than 10% in SRE? If we are, why do men explain basic math to me, assume I'll fail when trying to go oncall? If we are, why have I apparently developed forgetfulness as a coping mechanism?

We're the daughters of second-wavers, almost those of the third-, so much so we that we consider ourselves post-. Shouldn't we have solved this by now?

Don't give me "strategies" to help me deal with this. Don't give me "productive outlets." Don't give the men around me "sensitivity training"; we all know that would go in one ear and out the other, mine included. Don't even give me tips on how to be assertive without being perceived as a harpy. No -- go big or go home, as Jinnah says: Find and address the underlying cause, but don't give me pap.

I've been to a lot of yoga this week; I've drunk a lot of whiskey. Recalled that my friends are pretty damn awesome. It's possible that, rather than going through vintage after vintage of single malt and experimenting with sequined shirts, I should be taking a more proactive tack. But -- and this is the crux of it -- how?

all this Šnori heikkinen, January 2011

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