Are we only what we reflect?

Posted by Gina Rosenthal in women in tech | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yesterday I was able to see Sherman Alexie read and speak at the Texas Book Festival. And he was as awesome as I thought he would be! Anyone  who is concerned about the reality of who we are vs what we are forced to become, and who has the sort of sense of humor who would make a Star Wars reference/joke and when the audience didn’t get it call them elitist bastards is my kind of guy!

He talked about how we (as individuals) become who we are. How much of it is who we *are* vs  how much of it is who we are told to be? Of course he was talking about Indians – and about how people “act”  when they are in public. How much is who you are, and how much is your own reflection of how we’ve been influenced by colonization?

And colonization has impacted everyone. And the power structure still exists…. some people call it the “good ole boy network”, some call it the patriarchy. This is so important to the women in tech issue – how much of how we act and react is because of how we’ve been conditioned to act? Wearing heels to conferences, speaking up, accepting being sexually harassed, being one of the boys? Being “pretty”, “not confrontational”, all the things so that we can be acceptable to all the boys?

I think as I passed my last birthday, and realizing that a new group of young women are experiencing the same controlling bullshit I went through, I’ve been forced to really reflect and start to crystallize my thoughts on this. I’m biologically old enough to be a grandmother (thanks kids for not making that happen yet though!). I’ve lived an interesting life, I’ve grown my skills and have held on to my sanity despite the hierarchy. But I wonder – have I fallen in to the trap I swore I never would…trying to hold on to my youth? Have I fallen for the cultural reinforcement that I have to be pretty, and hold my tongue, and be a sweet little woman who supports everything the boys do? Like the song says y’all hide that crazy and start actin like a lady…

Powder your nose, paint your toes
Line your lips and keep ’em closed
Cross your legs, dot your eyes
And never let ’em see you cry

Why has it taken me this long to realize the “don’t speak up”, “why are you so angry?”, “you’d be so pretty if you [lost weight | weren’t so angry | wore makeup | did your nails]” are all control mechanisms to keep me in check?

I was talking with my mama about this, and teasing her because she (literally) tried to beat my stubborn, questioning, out-spoken nature out of me, and it obviously just didn’t work. And she cried (usually she just brushes it off and says “you turned out ok”) and told me she prays and prays that to be forgiven for that, and that she did it because that’s what she thought she was supposed to do. Because my grandparents did it to her. She told me she can remember being so mad, but sitting still and swallowing her feelings and ideas. And herself.

My beautiful, sweet, smart, techie mama. That broke my heart.

And I was suddenly very thankful my daddy is just as stubborn, so I got a double dose of it.

Point being – creating quiet, compliant children trains them to grow up and to do as they are told, so that they can become the resources that are required to support this colonialistic society.  It teaches little girls to become the mamas that will provide you with more trained resources. It teaches little boys and little girls that you don’t get angry, you don’t speak up. You just keep the peace so all the resources get what they need to feel appropriately satisfied so they will continue to feed the system (feel the need for an <eyeroll> here).

I’m done being quiet. I’m tired of trying to live up to a reflection of a society that is unfair and sick.

I know that scares some of you…but I’m done being controlled. I’ve made so many mistakes trying to live up to what the patriarchy demands, trying to fit in. I’ve wasted so much time, and hurt so many people. I’m sorry for that, from the bottom of my heart.

I know I’m pretty and smart, but that’s not what I care about. I also do not give a damn if you agree with what I know about myself. 🙂 I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get shit done….whether its on my job, with my family, or with this ridiculous issue of women in tech.

Who’s with me?


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