Diversity Just Shelley People

Stand and Fight

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I received a BS in computer science, the first one within a specific sub-discipline (programming languages and compiler design) that was issued at the college I attended. I also received a BA in psychology — emphasis on industrial psychology. I took courses for both disciplines at the same time, usually having computer classes in the morning, psych classes in the afternoon.

One thing both fields required was that I take math, sometimes very advanced math, including graduate level statistics. I had little trouble in all my subjects, but my math grades were heavily erratic. For instance, I did fairly well with my first quarter of College Calculus, getting an A-. You can imagine the puzzlement of the head of the Math department when I almost failed my second quarter of Calculus, taken with a different teacher.

We had meetings on the topic. He was puzzled because my first teacher actually had an reputation for being a bit of a hard ass when it came to not cutting any slack to any students. So why did I do so well with him, when I didn’t with the second teacher who actually wasn’t as tough when it came to tests and requirements.

I wondered about that, myself. It wasn’t until later that I realized the big differences between the two teachers: interest in answering questions.

Mr. Knobel was a no nonsense teacher who was also extremely adept at explaining concepts. There literally was no such thing as a stupid question to this man. If you asked him anything, he would take the time to answer you, dispassionately and in detail. He wouldn’t stop answering until you could prove to him that you understood what he was saying. An incredibly patient man.

The second teacher, whose name I can’t remember, was passionately in love with math, and loved to talk with others who loved math just as passionately as he did. If you asked him a question he would quickly flip off an answer and then get frustrated if you didn’t catch what he was saying the first time. The only way to get the detail you wanted was to “weather” the frustration until you got the answer you needed.

I did very well with one, and almost failed with the other. I’m not stupid. I am capable of learning. I currently own several math books and have pursued math on my own, quietly, since college. I like math. So why did I almost fail with the second teacher?

Now, I bet your first reaction about now is that I’m going to start a long conversation about how the second teacher needed to change, to become more approachable, to learn to work with women differently and so on. Well, I’m not. You see, he wasn’t the one that needed to change — I was the one who needed to change.

Other students in that second teacher’s class also had the same problem I did. However, many of the male students would pursue the question regardless of the teacher’s frustration. They wouldn’t stop hitting at him with questions until they got the answers they needed.

As for me, I now know that everytime I hit the teacher’s frustration, his disappointment that I didn’t understand what he was saying, I backed off. I couldn’t face his disappointment, even though it really wasn’t personal. I couldn’t face his frustration, even though it really didn’t impact negatively on me.

Skip forward, modern day weblogging world:

Elaine posted a note about Opine Bovine at both her weblog and BlogSisters. She says:

Once upon a time, there was a clever young blogger whose address was She’s disappeared off the web as far as any of us know, and she disappeared purposely. She made herself disappear because, as she explained before she packed up her bags and blogs and moved on, that she was being cyberharrassed and didn’t know how to make it stop. It makes me so mad to think that all of that pain is following us here. Is there so safe place for women?

I also talked via email with Elise about the problems she had. I was aware of the harrassment she’s endured for a considerable time. However, I am also frustrated that she left. My first reaction was, and I posted this in a comment at Elaine’s:

I had discussions with Elise about this before she quit. I respect her quitting, but I wish she hadn’t. What I would rather have happened is her tell the world about it and enlist several techies to help her in dealing with it. Then she could have continued and we could have taught some asshole a lesson.

Isn’t the lesson we’re learning from this is to run rather than stand and fight?

Stand and fight.

My first impulse to some (not all, some) of the reaction to my postings this weekend about BlogSisters, and ultimately about sexism was to drop the subject as being too difficult a topic to cover. However, that’s an action that women have been taking since the dawn of time — when faced with disapproval, anger, disagreement, fall back, give up, compromise.

Kath was right when she said in my comments, “Sexism is NOT ‘percieved’ if you are on the receiving end.” She supports this statement by a posting that discusses this topic more detail. And her sentiment was echoed by Sharon in a comment when she says “What bothers me is when people say things like ‘this *perceived* gender bias’….perceived?? Like we make this shit up??”

Jeneane says in a posting at BlogSisters, “…I have noticed that the posts of women bloggers are often overlooked when it comes to linking and discussion in the greater world of blogging. And I think that’s wrong. We do have something to say.”

These are topics worth pursuing. This is a discussion worth having. And if you’re not interested in listening, then turn the channel because I’m just getting started.

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