Feminism in Web 2.0: Cattiness gets me down.

(part of a series on feminism in tech, in web2.0 world)

On Friday, I witnessed some intense, intense cattiness. On Saturday, I was part of a great event – co-teaching Ruby on Rails to 80 some odd men and women who wanted to learn. It was truly touching, the companies and organizations that extended real resources- cash, venue, teachers- to encouraging people to learn this rapid development tool.

I believe I can safely say I’m a Silicon Valley veteran, and I’ve seen this cycle repeat itself in the community:
– person sticks out
– person is put up to unfair tests
– person is dragged through mire
– rinse, repeat

It’s probably just the human condition that we crave drama and love to humiliate people. If all women knew the odds that we were up against in these circles, they probably wouldn’t be party to this cycle.

The incident on Friday: colleague from way back says something snarky about a new up and comer, storms out of her talk. Her opinion wasn’t new to me, I’d heard other people say same snarky things. I decided to make my own judgment, talked to new-up-and-comer, had a great conversation, ruled out hearsay.

My career in technology has been littered with these kinds of incidents. The first woman on my college’s network. My username got hacked and changed to “1-800-hot-sex” (funny!). The first time posting to BSD list. Talking at MacWorld, publishing in journals, on and on. We’re so nice to newcomers. Really.

You could argue that “friend” was holding up and comer up to the standards of the industry. No special treatment, and all that. Thing is, “friend” wasn’t even using her own judgment. She doesn’t program and was lifting her husband’s. She even said, “My husband thinks…”

I also ascribe it to the fact that being a woman in a male-dominated field is going to make some people uncomfortable. That is part of the cycle described above. Wow, there’s a woman on this network. I have to throw a stone at her (or annoy her, needle, her let her know I notice somehow). My plea: women, can we not do that to each other.