Hey ladies, my mind is up here.
By Backpacking Dad on July 27, 2009
I stood at the back of the "Vaginally Challlenged Bloggers" session red in the face from embarassment on at least three separate occasions.
Matt, Jim, and Adam made good use of my presence in the back to create some comedy, trading on a perception shared by a few there that I was a "hot" guy. So "hot" in fact, that it didn't matter what my blog was like: I'm hot, so I'll get attention.
Britt, moderating, asked me if that kind of joke, reference, or assumption bothered me and I, after blushing again, responded "No, not from these guys."
And really, it didn't bother me from anyone. Not me. But I think it ought to have and that does bother me.
I look back on my interactions with people at the conference, with women at the conference, and I think "Have I done something wrong in letting my vanity close my mouth when I see objectification happening in a setting where the power relations are so imbalanced?" I certainly have a problem with men at other conferences who sexualize the structure of conversation and professional interaction. And I have a problem with that same kind of structuring happening at BlogHer, an environment that I presume is meant in part to free women from the subterranean anxiety that a sexual remark will be presented and they will be tested in their tolerance of it.
But I didn't say a single word about the "you're hot" remarks that were tossed at me, casually. I ate that stuff up. My shoulders broadened and my back straightened and I could feel my arms twitching to go around lifting things in front of people.
Maybe I didn't say anything about it because many of the comments were said lovingly or comically by friends, and if they didn't bother me coming from those people then maybe they shouldn't bother me coming from anyone else. And maybe I didn't say anything because even though it was exactly the kind of behaviour that should be minimized or eliminated in the hybridized professional-social setting that blogging conferences are, I wasn't personally made to feel marginalized or threatened. On the contrary I felt very welcomed.
I wonder how much of that has to do with gender and how much it has to do with me: I'm confident enough to be the only person standing in the back of a room, an obvious target, just so I can hear what is being said on stage; that confidence is a bit of a shield from the emotional impact of being objectified. But men too might just normally respond differently to objectification than women: maybe we take it good-naturedly, trusting women not to do anything threatening in the aftermath of comments; women might have no such trust about men making similar comments.
I suppose my point here is that although I wasn't bothered by it, that I reveled in it to a large extent, I think I should have been upset. I should have said, at some point, cleverly, but gently:
"Hey ladies: my mind is up here."
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