I’m getting ready to travel to America for YAPC::NA.  I took a quick look at the schedule and it’s possible that I am the only female speaker.  This morning I have mixed feelings about that.  I spoke at last year’s conference.  Whilst attending the speaker’s dinner I was asked “whose wife are you?”.  It never occurred to the person speaking to me that I was  there because I was a speaker.  And that’s not the first time that had happened at a technical conference.

I expected to become more comfortable the more of these conferences I attended.  But that doesn’t seem to be happening.  Last year I had one too many strange things said to me.  I ended up feeling isolated and different from the other attendees.  I became wary of the hundreds of men who surrounded me wondering when the next one would say something crude.  When I complained to some male friends I got asked if I couldn’t take a joke.  And you know what?  Sometimes I can’t take a joke.  Sometimes I don’t want people to draw attention to my sex and sometimes I get defensive and upset.

This is not something I like.  I don’t like that one man making an inappropriate comment about me paying him for sex can spoil an entire conference dinner.  I know he was only joking but unfortunately that’s the comment that sticks with me, not the hundreds of other perfectly acceptable comments that were made on the same night.  I know he meant no harm but suddenly I am aware that it’s only me that he’s speaking to like that; he certainly isn’t suggesting similar things to the men.

It’s hard to be one of ten women in a room with three hundred men.  I  can do it but I’m not surprised that many others don’t even try.

2 Responses to “Insecurities”

  1. Jessica Marie Says:

    It’s absurd that we still have to deal with that kind of sexism in 2009. I’m sorry.

  2. Christine Hunter Says:

    HI Karen, Unfortunatley some men think that is all we are useful for. I would of like to have been there to have ssen his face when you gave him your reply.
    I don’t think that was a joke either but then again men always want what they can’t have. You should take it as a compliment your an amazing women.