back to article IT blokes: would you say that lewd comment to a man? Then don't say it to a woman

It’s not news that, being a male dominated industry, women face a lot of challenges working in IT. We have to overcome sexism, stereotypes and sometimes outright harassment. I am no stranger to tech shows, particularly the mega events that draw thousands of men from all over the world, and know first-hand what it can be like …

What about a man in a female dominated environment

I've known a few women who worked in a primarily female dominated environment and the tales they told me of the innuendo they threw at the odd male would shock many. In any environment what ever group dominates will always pick on the weak or odd one out. If it's male dominated IT, women will be picked on. In a female dominated production line in textiles, the male will be picked on. In manual workforce with low education requirements, the brainy one will be picked on. In an environment full of scientists, the low paid techs will be picked on. Not nice in any environment, but if you think that you can get rid of it easily you don't know human psychology.

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Stop

What about it?

How about "Don't do that either". Does any more really need to be said.

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Re: What about a man in a female dominated environment

Yes, this. And I'm female. It's no more acceptable when women behave like assholes to men than vice versa, and I'm increasingly embarrassed by members of my gender who try to defend this kind of double standard.

In fact, that's exactly what the title of this article points out: you don't treat another human being any differently simply because of their gender. You don't make offensive, unprofessional, inappropriate, or abusive comments to anyone. Perioed.

Sadly, I am seeing not only more male-bashing in the workplace by women....I'm seeing more women treating other women like dirt, as if success in the corporate world requires one to be hard-nosed to the point of rudeness or out-and-out abuse.

I've alway been perplexed and depressed by women and men who treat the opposite sex as if they were non or lesser human beings. Thank heavens, it really is a minority of people who do this, but it's frightening that society manages to go on perpetuating stereotypes so obliviously.

And last: there is unfortunately some truth in what a few commenters have asked. In my experience, this actually is more common with American males. There is nothing to be said in their defense, however, American television constantly portrays workplaces and social situations - in both fictional and "reality" shows - where exactly this sort of outrageous behavior occurs on a regular basis, and is often encouraged. This applies to males and females alike, as characters of both genders are too often really objectionable, nasty people.

When enough viewers allow themselves to be bombarded daily by horrible examples, the poison will inevitably begin to affect at least some of them.

I've actually seen one colleague begin behaving increasingly badly while he was hooked on a particular reality show. When several of us sat him down one day to ask him if he was OK - thinking something might be wrong - he was genuinely shocked at some of the examples of his own behavior we relayed to him.

I agree wholeheartedly with the article and many other commenters: that kind of behavior is totally beyond acceptable. Had I experienced it, I would, yes, have walked right over to the company's booth, and relayed the experience to them, word for word, then asked for the President/CEO's name and address so I could send a follow-up letter.

Great article, thanks!

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Re: What about a man in a female dominated environment

@The Axe,

I don't think that it's the dominant group will 'pick on' the weaker group so much as that, when one group - of whatever stripe* - is dominant, some percentage of the members of that group will act without due consideration for the feelings of those in the less-powerful group, which can manifest as a lack of respect for them as well as other, less subtle, behaviours.

Thus, in a male-dominated environment, it is not uncommon that some of the males will behave in ways that, while acceptable to other males, might not be acceptable to the females. The exact same mechanic operates in the reverse situation.

All I am saying is that I wouldn't classify it as 'picking-on' people, though that can be one of the end results. The core problem is that the people in the dominant group are not considering the wants and needs of the less-powerful group or, if they are considering them, they rate then as a lower importance than the wants and needs of the dominant group.

* - Not just male/female but in religious or ethnic as well as socio-economic groupings. The 'dominant' and 'weaker' groups also are not necessarily defined by just the number of members.

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Re: What about a man in a female dominated environment

Yep, it is usually more nuanced than I put in my first comment.

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Re: What about a man in a female dominated environment

>>" some percentage of the members of that group will act without due consideration for the feelings of those in the less-powerful group, which can manifest as a lack of respect for them as well as other, less subtle, behaviours."

Primarily, in my experience, it is the low-status members of the group that are behind such behaviour as well. They're near the bottom of their feeding order and the only ones they can pick on are the outsiders. Pretty pathetic.

Of course you get lecherous senior people too, but that's a different motivation I think. A lot of the bottom feeders are just out to be mean because they lack respect from others.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: What about a man in a female dominated environment

As a 17 year old I had a job for a short while in a card (birthday, anniversary, valentine etc...) making factory. The few other men that worked there were forklift drivers & warehouse staff.

I worked on the production line though which was roughly 30 - 40 women, a couple of them were teenagers, most were around 30 - 50 (ish) and me.

I think I spent every second of every shift totally red with embarrassment. I was the subject of constant lewd comments (the dirtiest sort of language I have only ever heard in porn) and laughter directed at me, but even when they weren't talking, almost all of them would sing these amazingly dirty songs, all derogatory to men. I have no idea where they got them. It perhaps there is some secret folk genre of working women songs or something? Maybe there is a book you can buy?

Even the female supervisor would threaten to spank me (don't worry she never actually did) in front of everyone if I was behind on my quota. At which all the women would bay and jeer.

Interestingly the ones that didn't get involved in any of it were the two teenage girls my own age. They were very supportive, but not demonstratively in front of the others.

It was excruciatingly embarrassing, and I certainly never looked forward to going to work, but I didn't come to any harm. To be honest it was a lot scarier working in all male factory environments, which I did a few times afterwards.

Fortunately it was a temporary job and I only had to endure it for two months.

That was all thirty years ago.

The article was good & well balanced though. Those guys are arseholes

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Anonymous Coward

Wait - Did some guy named Colon Camper just pick on someone's name?

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Men AND women

Most of the people I've worked with in IT, both men and women, really have to clue how to spell "discretion". Thinking before they speaking seems to be considered a weakness.

As Alastair Dabbs put it in an article from 2 weeks ago:

"With this comes the realisation that IT people are like couch-potato sports fans: no matter what the pros are doing, they are absolutely convinced that they could do it better and aren’t shy in letting everyone else know. "

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Re: Men AND women

"Thinking before they speaking seems to be considered a weakness."

I think a lot of it is the kind of environment you work in. If you work IT in an investment bank, I'm sure a lot of the arrogant asshole banker culture rubs off on people. If you work for a startup, well, that's where the brogrammer meme came from. If you work for a more traditional employer, you still might wind up in a department full of stereotypical basement dwellers.

That said, any of the stuff in this article would have probably gotten the offenders fired for fear of an harassment suit if it occurred in the workplace. Interesting how conferences are considered out-of-office when they're really not.

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Facepalm

Re: Men AND women

Damn distractions.

"...no clue..."

My bad.

Oh crap. Saw another typo.

------------------------------------------------------------------>> me on this post. did not sleep well last night and my local weather temps are setting records this week.

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Re: Men AND women

> If you work IT in an investment bank, I'm sure a lot of the arrogant asshole banker culture rubs off on people.

I've worked IT in lots of different types of corporate environments, and have to say that investment banking has consistently been the one with the least amount of the attitude described in this article. In my experience, the treating-women-as-sex-objects attitude comes from the Net and from gaming (any woman who plays online multiplayer games can tell you how routine it is for the other players to tell her they're going to rape her), and both these things become more prevalent in workplaces with a lot of downtime, such as some IT support departments which have enough staff to handle major disasters but where major disasters don't happen most days.

I can't be bothered getting into theories as to why so many of the geeks who spent their school years being downtrodden and bullied and having zero success with women have turned into such mysogynists, but, frankly, who cares? I was one of them, and I don't do it.

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This is why people treat IT like a bunch of kids.

Obviously, not everyone acts like this. But the ones who do really set a bad precedent for those who wouldn't even think about it.

I think one of the things to remember about conferences is that everyone who isn't an attendee or a technical presenter is connected with sales in some way. Salesmen can be some of the sleaziest people in the world...I've worked with a bunch that fit the descriptions in the article. Conferences used to be the only way a company could advertise their new products with reasonable success, so they deploy their best salesmen to try to reel in unsuspecting attendees. And while it's not 100% accurate, the best salesmen also tend to be the most likely to engage in behavior like this. Think about it -- an introverted techie isn't going to be attracted to a sales career. The entire job is acting like your mark is your best buddy in the entire world, and doing anything it takes to get them to buy something from you. Ex-fraternity guys make good salespeople because of that outgoing personality. Unfortunately, "outgoing" can often end up "offensive" given the wrong set of circumstances.

I'm a guy and wouldn't even think about engaging in some of what the author describes. It is surprising that a "professional" conference turns out like this. Something tells me physicians' conferences or scientific symposia don't have nearly the same problems.

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Re: This is why people treat IT like a bunch of kids.

This is EXACTLY why.

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Re: This is why people treat IT like a bunch of kids.

@Erik - "Something tells me physicians' conferences or scientific symposia don't have nearly the same problems."

I take it you don't hang out with any Doctors then....

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Re-enforced Learning

It is surprising just how effective a swift kick in the goolies can elicit a rapid change in behaviour, pain associated with having done something wrong is one of nature's oldest reinforced learning tricks, it's why mothers in the animal world nip their young when they are being naughty.

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Re: Re-enforced Learning

The trouble is, we've reached the point where something like that can have the opposite effect. Ever hear a guy like that respond, "Ooh, you like to play rough, don't you?" and be turned on?

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A sad state of affairs

I don't care how drunk you are you treat people with respect. Drunk is not an excuse. When I was in college I could drink everyone I knew under the table and would still hold the door for a lady (and for balance too by that point, but I digress) and tell her to call me when we were both sober. If I can keep my manners about me when I'm piss drunk I find it hard to give anyone else a pass just because they're drunk.

I'll say it like I always say it when I see these sorts of stories: Guys, grow up. There's just no excuse for that sort of behavior. If you have that much trouble controlling your libido then you probably shouldn't be allowed in public.

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As a male, I find it highly depressing that other males feel its OK to act this way. Or even want to.

I'm guessing from my own long time experience as a geek in the industry that you're either overdramatising this A WHOLE LOT, or you are VERY attractive. If its the former, shame on you.

Assuming then its the latter, you're probably also used to being approached innaropriately by men in every situation, not just at geeky trade shows or whatever, so again shame on you for singling geeks out for public discreditation when in fact its more than likely that geeks aren't really any worse than anyone else.

If indeed you are very attractive, You proably think its tough being you, but I can guarantee it actually has more upsides than downsides. You know, all the extra help and consideration you get from guys when you want/need it? Or the fact that going out for an evening doesn't necessarily mean you need to drive, buy tickets, food, drinks or even take any money? You probably just think they're just "being nice" and would do that for anyone, even other guys, right?

The reality is that society is unfortunately still such that guys are the ones who are expected to work hard and put ourselves, our hearts and the fruits of our hard work out there to find/establish relationships, as most women who normally claim they want equality still conveniently rationalise ways that equality stops at having to actually pay their own way, especially on dates, or even just asking guys out. So, until that gets fixed by equality-driven women actually stepping up and taking on a truly equal role, your gender, especially the more attractive ones, are going to have to deal with all the down sides of (admittedly sometimes clumsily implemented) approaches and all the other benefits you actually get.

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Anonymous Coward

@JustNiz

We've heard all that "it's your fault for being a woman who doesn't look like a pig" stuff before.

"The reality is that " it's bollocks. Offensive bollocks. You've put up a load of ancient stereotypes to "justify" the behaviour of some pretty unpleasant men.

If you aren't meeting the many egalitarian feminists out there, there might be a reason. Perhaps you should find out what it is?

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@JustNiz

Next you'll be saying that women are asking to be raped because they are wearing high heels & short skirts (sigh).

Sexual harassment cannot be dismissed as "clumsily implemented" approaches! It is highly offensive, illegal in some cases, and often frightening for the victim. We aren't just talking about men who think "how about it then?" after a few drinks is a good chat up line, we're talking about obscene and crude comments to total strangers and in many cases physical assault - yes groping the body of a stranger does class as assault.

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OK, female here again: If I could I'd downvote this particular portion repeatedly:

"I'm guessing from my own long time experience as a geek in the industry that you're either overdramatising this A WHOLE LOT, or you are VERY attractive. If its the former, shame on you."

What a, sad, misogynistic statement.

HOWEVER: I'm going to support you on one thing, and one thing only: Yes, oh yes, there are WAY too many women out there who still think it's the guy's responsibility to ask them out, pay for dinner, etc. Who are mentally stuck in some childish, fantasy world of handsome princes and poor princesses who need to be rescued and taken care of ever after.

If those same women demand "equality" at the same time they demand Prince Charming, they should be called out for the hypocrites they are.

But that's it. Because, as to the rest of your commment, you can't know too many women if you think MOST of those demanding equality are unwilling to "step up" and take a truly equal role.

I pay my own way. Even 30 years ago, I asked guys out to dinner, or some other event, took the initiative. Often, because I invited them, I told them it was my treat, and picked up the check.

Like everyone else, I've gotten rejected and shot down sometimes. But I frankly don't know too many women who would hesitate to ask a guy out, and I can't even remember the last time I met another woman who thought it was the man's responsibility to "find/establish" a relationship.

Your comment may speak to your own personal experiences and disappointments...but it doesn't recognize the larger reality of modern life as a whole.

The author got it right, sadly. Every woman I know has heard some comment like that in her life, most multiple times, in work and social situations. We just don't tend to share the stories publicly because, I'll admit, we don't want to open ourselves up to more nastiness.

But the author has the courage I lacked. She thought it was important enough, she knowingly made herself a target for the kind of cheap shot you just took.

So, no, not shame on her. Shame on YOU.

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Just take their picture and send it to the company with a short description of the incident, anonymously if possible. Not asking for any action, just letting the management know what happened.

If reporting becomes common the problem will solve itself eventually, a few disciplinary actions will be taken and companies will create policies.

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Anonymous Coward

I would think you'd need a plan for further action, in case the company takes it differently from you: ignoring it or worse.

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ask for them business cards

Then a polite email to their HR dept & the various heads (CIO/CTO/COO etc) as to why you will never do business with their company due to the ignorance of their staff

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You'll Get The Respect You Deserve

The problem with the issues covered in articles like this is that they always come from someone who has already been run over. Yes, there are some real asses out there, but bitching about that is like bitching about the position of Sol relative to Uranus: Completely pointless.

If you're not getting the respect you believe you deserve then that needs to be dealt with internally, inside your head, using whatever mechanisms you use to define yourself. The question that needs answering is how people knew they could run over you. You get that answered and the rest sorts itself out automatically.

If you don't think you're broadcasting weakness, but you're still getting run over, then your concept of strength is faulty. That's got fuck all to do with ones reproductive system, that fact is the same in all Humans. It's easy to see the poor attempts people make to increase their own valuations of themselves. Guys tend to do it with attitude, booze and flash, womenfolk tend to do it with bitchy attitudes and sluttiness. But those things amount to a person plotting to fool themselves without being noticed by themselves, and if that works then the problem is far, far deeper than self respect issues.

Make no mistake about it, this is 100% an issue of self respect, or lack thereof. Lack of self respect is a tangible thing and people are drawn to it. It's Human nature to assert oneself over the weaker Humans and everybody does it. There are no exceptions. So why are you coming off as the weak person? It sure as fuck isn't any of your lady parts, because at the table right next to you some guy is getting run over because he is being perceived as weak. Women tend to put too much emphasis on the value of their fun bits, and it blinds them to the truth of the matter. That truth being you are presenting yourself as the easiest to dominate.

What's worse, is that a conference/tradeshow in any industry is packed to overflowing with people highly adept at recognizing weakness and pouncing on it. You've got public facing operations people, you've got Salesdroids and marketing types as well as professional management at nearly all levels and their livelihoods depend on knowing how to identify their targets and knowing how to get to them before they've even spoken. Those people aren't trained social anthropologists, those people are natural born predators. They can't help it, but you can stop them. Hell, you'll know you're doing it right because they won't even start. They'll know, innately, to look for easier prey.

I can't give you instructions on how to do it, but commanding respect (not demanding it) is something that comes from inside you. It is just as palatable as weakness and requires no show of strength or display of power (well, maybe a few displays, early on, but word spreads quickly among the weak).

I'll finish with this. You can't, really, control the behavior of others. You can manage it, to some degree, but truly control it? Never. You can control your behavior though, so start there and start by respecting yourself. Which you clearly don't. Plenty of others aren't going to respect you either, and why should they if you don't respect yourself.

That's a general truism, and doubly so as a professional. As a professional one of the easiest was to work people is to identify the weak one and feign respect so as to manipulate them into whatever it is you need them to do. That's not being cynical, that's being still mostly sane after playing this game, successfully, for quite some time. Bullshit self respect tactics always fail, and the fallout is always worse, and more embarrassing, that it has to be. Be you. Be proud of who you are and unwavering in your belief in yourself. That's the only way you're going to get what you want out of your career, and your life in general.

Ending here, promise. You seem to be making the same mistake as so very many others with your idea of what constitutes professional behavior. Here's a hard won nugget for you to stick in your shoes (so as not to forget it). The further you go in your career the more important a robust, and true, level of self respect becomes. That corner office is a bastion of bent ethics and broken moral compasses. You will be absolutely destroyed, to the very core of your soul and being, by the people who work in those offices if you don't believe in yourself absolutely and unwaveringly. It won't be anything personal, but the entirety of getting that corner office and obscene salary is based on your success rate in battles of will disguised as respect with some platitudes on top and the first one to blink loses. I used to take everything from the loser, but I've mellowed. Some won't though, and tits or no tits, they will put your severed head on a pike by the gate as a warning.

Practice with the drunk asshats at the conferences and you'll know you're heading in the right direction when you can yuck it up with the drunken Proles, but nary a single one would even consider uttering an untoward comment, much less lay a hand on you. Wordlessly commanding respect from drunken predators through projection of sheer, indomitable will is a good entry level test for those who have lofty professional goals. Junior Executives and Clients come after that. It's a long road ahead of you, you don't believe in yourself, but you should, even though it will be difficult. Work on it and get back to us after the VMware event a year from now.

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Re: You'll Get The Respect You Deserve

"Don Jefe",

Based on your comment, I suspect you get little respect, because you sure as stit don't deserve any.

What you've done is turn the tables on the victims: don't want to be raped? Learn self defense and carry a machine pistol! Woot! Simples!

That is pretty vile.

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Re: You'll Get The Respect You Deserve

Just when I nearly convinced myself, it can't be that nasty, I read this reaction and omg (this is one of the few times you can use omg), it IS ! ! !

Thanks Don Jefe, we needed that look in the mirror. Not a pleasant sight though.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: You'll Get The Respect You Deserve

DJ, I see where you're coming from and understand your point.

However, you are completely wrong on this one.

The reason you are wrong is that you have focused solely on the behavioural and psychological aspects of interpersonal interactions, and have totally missed the cultural aspect which in this as in many other instances, has a very strong bearing.

From your posts here you seem like an intelligent and learned man, so I won't offend you by going into more detail than that.

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Re: You'll Get The Respect You Deserve

"If you're not getting the respect you believe you deserve then that needs to be dealt with internally, inside your head"

"this is 100% an issue of self respect, or lack thereof."

"you coming off as the weak person"

"you are presenting yourself as the easiest to dominate"

"start by respecting yourself. Which you clearly don't. "

" tits or no tits, they will put your severed head on a pike by the gate as a warning"

You forgot to finish by saying that it's a woman's own fault if she gets raped. That's what you're building to. Quite clearly, you believe that to be the case. I doubt you'll say it that clearly, and you might even deny it, but secretly, deep inside, you really believe it's true.

Which conferences will you be going to?

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Re: You'll Get The Respect You Deserve

Wow, you should go and work in a country where people are starving, obviously you couldn't feed them but you could sure convince them that feeling bad about it was heir own fault.

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Re: You'll Get The Respect You Deserve

No, you completely miss the point. Raping people is an entirely different thing and even making the comparison is outrageously childish as well as indicative of the fact you aren't ready for commenting on the issue.

In a professional capacity ones will, as projected in their confidence and demeanor, is the only thing you have that might trump anything else in the room. Somebody is always going to have more money, more power, more everything than you, that simply can't be avoided. But will and self respect neutralize all that other stuff, if you actually have will and self respect.

It never ceases to amaze me that so many adults have no idea how the world around them works. They get sidetracked and think it takes money or special connections or fame or other such nonsense to get respect. That's just bullshit coming from people with, at best, no self respect and at worst absolutely no idea of what respect actually is. Which makes a lot of sense. If they knew what respect actual was they would have some for themselves. How can you possibly respect others if you don't know what respect is?

The answer is you can't. There's always a respect fire brigade running around to come claiming to be protecting the respect of others, but the fact of the matter is they're most often seeking their own self respect by pandering to the public. The opinions of others goes right up there with arrogance, boozing and sluttiness as a facade of self respect.

Long before I was anybody there was approximately zero chance of someone not respecting me. They fucking knew better. Even then I didn't have to say anything nor did I have a reputation for violence or confrontation. People know how to behave, even if they are extremely drunk, and they are going to behave in a manner befitting the most willful person involved in the situation. If that person turns out to be the kind of jackass to say inappropriate things and/or get grabby then you really shouldn't expect much.

The trick then, is to be the most willful. You don't even have to deal with the bullshit behavior of others. They're not going to fuck with you. You should be able to walk right into the center of the rudest, most disrespectful group of people you can find and have them instantly treating you as you deserve without saying a fucking word. If they don't do that then you're going to need a mirror to see the problem.

Christ, take my wife for example. Outside of her field the only people who know her know her as my wife, not who she is. People who have no idea who she is still give her tremendous respect. She's super tiny, extremely bashful and has such a small voice that she's hard to hear in the car, and she doesn't get harassed. If she does choose to speak people automatically stop talking. Nobody would even carry on a conversation of which the subject matter might embarrass her, even if they are complete strangers. Why do you think that is? Why would strangers alter their behavior just because she shows up? If you need a hint, it sure as fuck isn't because she's threatening.

If you don't understand all this then I feel sorry for you. You'll obviously have lost so many opportunities simply because you've got no presence. That's sad.

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Re: You'll Get The Respect You Deserve

Good grief, did you really write these things? Were you sober?

"If you're not getting the respect you believe you deserve then that needs to be dealt with internally, inside your head"

"this is 100% an issue of self respect, or lack thereof."

"you coming off as the weak person"

"you are presenting yourself as the easiest to dominate"

"start by respecting yourself. Which you clearly don't. "

LOL. No. Stop blaming the victim. It's the oldest trick in the book. It's what criminals and abusers always do. "It's his fault I'm in jail, because he called the cops." "I had to shoot him; he wouldn't give me his money like I told him too."

Your comment does, however, beautifully exemplify the real problem: those in the wrong trying to justify their behavior by any means possible.

Well, it doesn't matter how clever a justification they construct. They're still in the wrong. And you, sir, may be an intelligent man, but you mindlessly parrot the language of abuse.

Those of us with genuine self respect recognize it for what it is: one more assault, one more little sadist enjoying the hell out of making people upset or angry, then trying to claim it's the target who is too thin-skinned. One of those who defends or, possibly, even gets off on hurting others, especially the part where you try to bully them into taking the blame.

Because what you wrote is about the same as saying, "So he got pissed off and broke your nose. So what? If you can't deal with belligerent drunks, find another job."

Too funny. Thankfully, truly intelligent people in that situation take the intelligent route: We file charges for assault, let the experts deal with it, and get on with things.

We know who is at fault. And it isn't us.

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Re: You'll Get The Respect You Deserve

@Don Jefe

"If you don't think you're broadcasting weakness, but you're still getting run over, then your concept of strength is faulty."

And here I was thinking that the whole point of civilisation was to rid ourselves of the idea that 'might makes right', which is what your whole post is saying - that you only deserve respect if you earn it.

Human rights is saying that just as a person, you have an innate right to be respected - to not be trodden on or debased or abused just because you can't defend yourself (however that might be). Saying that "that's the way the world works" may well be true but carries the message that you can't change the world so you must change yourself to fit it.

In some ways, that is honest, sound, advice. In other ways, it is perpetuating the problem that needs to be fixed.

Don, you are constantly saying that you need to go out and take what you want (for want of a more succinct way to put it) and that it is a hallmark of successful people that they don't make excuses and go out and rely on themselves to achieve their goals.

It is also, sadly, a hallmark of successful people that they seldom realise just how many factors outside their control went into that success. And no, I am not talking about being born into money (though that can obviously help). The makeup of who we are can be attributed to a large degree to our upbringing and any attempt to explain how someone 'succeeded' that ignores that aspect is bound to miss many of the factors.

So you commanded respect long before you were successful? Great. How did you learn to do that when others haven't? When you say that you are the most willful person in the room, the unavoidable implication is that EVERYONE ELSE in that room has not learned the skill you have.

So how did you get to that point?

How many times have we seen an interview with someone successful and they have recounted the story of how they started with nothing and so were determined to build a better life for themselves. That's a great human story. But there are plenty of people born with nothing who do not become multi-millionaires so no direct causality there. What then is the difference between someone who starts with nothing and gets everything and someone who starts with nothing and doesn't get that much further?

Is it something innate? If so, you can hardly blame any given person for not possessing whatever quality it is. Or is it something learned? If so, what were the circumstances that taught the lesson or provided the correct impetus to act a particular way? And can you blame someone else for not being subject to those same circumstances?

It's a very deep subject - why people have the personalities they do - and the answer is very likely that we are a complex mixture of genetics, upbringing and luck. It has been explored enough times in fiction where in some kind of parallel universe/alternate reality, one small change can end up leading us down vastly different paths. A chance meeting that did or did not happen, a missed phone call, the tragic death of a friend, an influential teacher in school, a compassionate or absent or abusive parent.

The list of things that might tip us one way or another is endless and to attempt to distill that into "[it] is something that comes from inside you" in unhelpful. You say that you have to believe in yourself. True enough - that is a key skill. But how does one start believing in oneself? Is it something you can just wake up and choose to do? Many people have tried to believe in themselves and failed so what is the secret? What allows one person to believe in themselves in the face of anything, where another becomes dismayed with setbacks? Superficially they might be in the same circumstance now but what in the past instilled in the 'successful' person the qualites that would lead them to refuse to be deterred and instead redouble their efforts?

Your post, whatever else its merits or otherwise, is akin to saying that the way to get more will power is to have the will power to go out be more willful. In other words, it's circular logic or a tautology: you will have respect when you command respect. Great, except the only way to judge whether someone 'commands respect' or not is to see if that person receives it.

The whole concept of the 'self-made-man' implies that anyone can succeed despite their start in life. This is an attractive proposition and a cursory look at various 'successful' people would confirm that they come from rich and poor, educated and uneducated, good homes and bad homes, etc...

The further implication is that whatever the circumstances you come from, there is some resource that any person can draw upon that will, once properly harnessed, allow them to reach their goals and succeed. What is never explained, however, is where this resource comes from and how to access it. It is just assumed to be there for everyone and so anyone not making something of themselves must be lazy or too busy blaming other people for their failures.

Maybe they are but the deeper question is why do those people blame others? What personality trait prompts that response rather than the more helpful 'pick yourself up and go again'?

So, circling back to respect, I might not respect someone's views or opinions on a topic until they have proven their knowledge of it but I do respect someone's right to live relatively unmolested unless they prove otherwise. Your post is nothing more than the denial of that right - saying that, as a human, you have no innate right to be respected but must instead prove that you should be respected first.

With great respect, bullshit.

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Re: You'll Get The Respect You Deserve

Don Jefe: I nearly always agree with your posts. This is the first time I recall outright rejecting what you say. I am very confident. Hassle still happens. Some people see "woman" and that is enough for them - confidence of the woman makes no difference to them. Believe me, most women have PLENTY of practice at what you describe. Doesn't stop this happening. Quite honestly, your lack of experience of being in this situation has led you to error - what you have deduced to be the case is not matched by reality.

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Re: You'll Get The Respect You Deserve

h4rm0ny,

I usually agree with your posts, so can't for the life of me think why you'd usually agree with Don Jefe but disagree with him on this occasion. This post of his is a simple rewording of what he always says, with "Not being harrassed" substituted for his usual "Having oodles and oodles of money and being terribly successful and important".

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How about

Don't make stale Lindsay Lohan jokes over and over and over again.

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Re: How about

Those Paris Hilton digs were never funny either

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Re: How about

Why, because women are precious porcelain dolls and it's not gentlemanly to make running jokes about the thick ones?

Should we stop making "series of tubes" jokes about stupid men because it's misandrist?

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I'm very sad

I'm very sad that this article was written this side of 2010, or even this side of 2000.

I've worked with many very talented female engineer colleagues and would feel very angry if they were alienated from the team or company by the stupidity of someone's drunken/sexist behaviours.

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I read the headline and thought, oh gawd, what PC crap is this going to be (no pun on PC) and then read the article and you're totally right, this is disgraceful behaviour. I think you might have met some of my workmates.

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Some people are dicks

> so as he could shove a photo of a penis in front of my face

It even says so on their business cards

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"We have to overcome sexism, stereotypes . . ."

With the disclaimer that sexual harassment is not excusable, the take away from this article, beyond the obvious, is that males in IT are particularly sexist/creepy/touchy/inappropriate.

Males in IT already have to overcome the stereotypes of being vindictive and petty at work and awkward and socially-inept outside of it - of being little 'Napoleons' or 'Nazis', ruling our little empire and deriding all those we consider beneath us professionally to make up for being so low on the pecking order socially. We have bad dress sense and nerdy humour (often combined) and are scruffy and spend our free time reading sci-fi/fantasy novels, dressing up like elves/mutants/knights and reinstalling overnight builds of linux distributions while playing online games in dark rooms littered with cola cans.

So why not add "sexist" to the mix? We're all indifferent to criticism and don't pay attention to what other people think so another stereotype won't make much difference.

Now, the author is simply speaking from her own experience but one can't help feeling she is, herself, applying this stereotype to men in the IT industry.

After all, if her point was that all similar groupings - where there is a massive imbalance between men and women (in EITHER direction) - are subject to a percentage of individuals in the dominant group behaving without due consideration or respect for the minority group, then I think we could all agree that this is lamentably typical but would have to question why IT comes up for special note.

Again, the author is speaking from personal experience so I am not in any way doubting those experiences. Of course not.

However, negative experiences and proximity to them (whether they happen personally or to close friends/family) tend to have a far stronger effect than positive or neutral ones. Just think, after all, how many thousands of male IT workers were utterly decent? How many bad eggs does it take to warrant singling out one industry as abnormally populated with 'asses'?

The author does make a point that her experiences have been positive "for the most part". But I am not sure how to take that statement. Why then the article? In some ways, this statement has the ring of "some of my best friends are Muslims . . ." in that the author is making a negative generalisation about a group of people but disclaiming that with a fairly hollow throw-away line.

I suppose the headline: "Vast majority of IT bods are decent, normal folks who treat others with respect and civility" isn't really a very interesting one.

We know that some people are jerks. It's sad but true. We also know that some otherwise agreeable people become less some under the influence of alcohol. We also know that some people are IT workers. So guess what? Some IT workers turn into jerks when they've had a few drinks and some wake up as jerks. Is it the author's contention that IT is disproportionately populated with such people?

She certainly implies that it is a male phenomenon. If so, the higher the proportion of men in an industry or profession, the higher the proportion of such people. What that means is that, should our assertion prove correct, there is nothing specifically in IT that engenders this behavior and jerks are not not overrepresented in this profession.

"I make it a habit of going to conference parties with a group of men that I trust because I don’t want to go alone to a party full of inebriated, touchy-feely male strangers."

I believe that to be a fine strategy but hardly specific to IT. If you were in sales or recruitment (maybe you have been) then you would see similar same behavior. Hell, I've been volunteered for that service when some friends go out to clubs.

I would also ask the author to consider her headline:

"IT blokes: would you say that LEWD comment to a man? Then don't say it to a woman."

First, I very much have heard a male IT worker say that a technical presentation has aroused him. It's a rather crude way to convey excitement but there it is. I get it that it's not the same thing as telling a woman she is giving you a 'hard on' by talking tech but that is just a crude way of conveying the message that what is enticing is not your looks but your knowledge.

And anyway, are we to condemn flirting? Yes it can be unwelcome and yes, again, the example given was particularly unsubtle and confronting but I met a previous partner through an industry event and my parents met at a (non-IT) conference. I would not be here if they hadn't flirted* (inappropriately for all I know) at just such an event as you are describing. Likewise a cousin of mine and a friend, who met their partners after flirting at an 'after-party'. (One in insurance, another in events.)

Leaving that aside and getting back to the title of the article, I would ask the author if she would make similar generalisations about, say, a racial/ethnic/religious group? If not, then don't make it about an industry and don't make it about a gender group.

You're also making the serious mistake of lumping non-heterosexual IT males in here. And no, I am not being facetious. Actually, you're also making the mistake of thinking that everyone at an IT event is in 'IT'. Many of them - depending on the event - are in sales or are managers. Indeed, one reason I attend fewer events than I used to is that I found the technical content just wasn't there and very few presenters could answer direct, to-the-point, technical questions.

* - Talking about "creepy" guys eying you, one thing I have found is that the creepiness of someone ogling a woman tends to be inversely proportional the the attractiveness of the one doing the ogling.

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In fairness....

The title was probably not written by the author, particularly the IT blokes part, which is pure Reg. And the article clearly speaks to such behavior being unacceptable in any industry.

But:

1) There is an IT angle here, as required on the Reg...we're presumably smart enough to recognize the author isn't saying the problem is confined to IT.

2) IT is still overwhelmingly male-dominated. I'm not complaining. It's simply a statistic.

3) A "minority" - including a situational minority such as 10 women at a 100-person event - is statistically more likely to have an unpleasant encounter with a majority member than vice versa.

4) Those who engage in inappropriate behavior usually attempt to hide the behavior. The obvious attempt at secrecy is part of the creep factor.

5) Your last paragraph is scarily ignorant. Being "ogled" (which is NOT what the writer described, by the way) is not automatically pleasant simply because the ogler is physically "attractive".

Any more than being robbed at gunpoint by a really, really beautiful woman gets you your money back...

Any more than being shot by an incredibly attractive murderer makes you any less dead.

It's not just women, by the way: I've heard male colleagues make similar complaints over the years: attractive women at business events acting like the herd of males is theirs to hunt; presuming intimacy, making sexual comments; touching them constantly while talking to them; standing too close, or obviously showing off their tits. They talked to me about it, because it made them uncomfortable and creeped out too.

"Handsome is as handsome does." As true today as it ever was.

Forcing something unwanted on another human being is the problem we are describing here. No one gives a damn if the one doing the forcing is a fashion model or Gollum. It's creepy, repulsive, and nauseating. That it's also unprofessional is just one more nail in the coffin.

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Re: In fairness....

Scarily ignorant? Harsh.

I accept your criticism and it was probably worded inelegantly. Regardless, your counter argument is specious.

I sincerely hope I shall never be robbed and, it should go without saying, I certainly would very much prefer not to be murdered, should I be able to avoid it at all.

I do not, however, share a similar aversion to being flirted with. Maybe you, personally, hate being flirted with. Ever. That's fine - I am not telling you (or the author) that you have to react the way I do or enjoy the things I do. I would wager, however, that most adults flirt and enjoy being flirted with. That some of that flirting is misplaced, inappropriate, unwelcome, or 'creepy' is unfortunate but unavoidable.

Perhaps I am out-of-touch (I'm really not that old . . .) but these events are very much social situations. There is little in them that can't be learned through reading press releases or news/blog sites or white papers. One of the main reasons to go is to 'network' or, if you are less concerned with that, simply to meet people who are of common interests and to 'talk shop'. That is why alcohol is served - it's understood that it is a social event.

Of course, none of that makes it acceptable to be crude and disrespectful to others - you are at a social event with strangers and should behave as such, which is to say to be friendly, be yourself and act with courtesy and decency.

Based on your reply, perhaps we have a difference in our wording. When I said 'ogling', I was referring to the author's phrase: "creepily stare at me head-to-toe", not about touching someone or showing pictures of genitalia or telling people they are turned-on, which I agree is "It's creepy, repulsive, and nauseating", or at least it can be - I don't presume to dictate how others must respond but I'd rather not be subject to that behavior either.

I was picking up on the wording (perhaps I shouldn't have) that having your appearance appraised is creepy. Perhaps to some people it is - all the time and without exception. Fair enough. To many people, though, being appreciated for your looks can be flattering. It tends to cross into being classified as creepy when it is unwelcome and - as a generalisation (and I freely admit it is no more than that) - the more attractive the person doing the looking, the more welcome the look is.

I have seen it myself. I dare say we all have. I had a partner whose best friend was a rather attractive young lady. My partner served as support and so I was often along for the ride. My experience is subjective and relatively limited but to presume that people don't view flirting from attractive people more favourably than flirting from unattractive people for the sake of making a point is a bit silly.

I agree that "forcing something unwanted on another human being is the problem" but I was not describing anyone forcing anything on anyone else. The footnote I wrote (it was not worth elevating above that) said nothing of the sort.

To compare being looked at or flirted with to being murdered - as both equally unmitigated by the attractiveness of the other person - is ridiculous in the extreme

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Don't bother being polite in response

Unacceptable men have nothing to loose by behaving different to the norm, their only chance is to try something different, given that they've got zero chance anyway. Because (a) being polite is what all the other blokes are doing, and (b) women at conference are not there to form a social releationship.

It follows that any kind of personal response (other than submission) is irrelevant: they still aren't any worse off than they were before.

If you want to have an effect on this kind of behaviour, you have to change the equation. Name names. Get somebody fired.

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Anonymous Coward

Well I agree it's wrong. I think it's a bit harsh for people to be saying that these guys need to be fired when clearly they just don't know how to pick up "some" women. Like another guy said here, what works for one does not work for another, but it would be wrong to presume that some women don't like dirty talk (even office women) or don't do sexual activity in the workplace. There are many office flings and affairs going on and I assure you they didn't all start out when after the working day had ended. It would be wrong to presume that all women would not respond positively to it.

Sure they are asses in my estimation but I'd have to admit if some particularly hot women wanted to drape themselves all over me in that fashion I'm sure every once in a while I'd be tempted, though not most of the time since I'd probably want to factor classiness into the picture. But not always...

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" I think it's a bit harsh for people to be saying that these guys need to be fired when clearly they just don't know how to pick up "some" women."

These guys haven't just been clumsy in how they flirt, in some cases they have committed an offence (assault) while representing their company. That tends to be an instant dismissal offence in any company, and they are lucky not to have the police called and criminal charges laid.

I'm not a prissy prudish woman, I have been known to flirt in the office, I can out-swear half the men I know, and I fully accept that different people have different tolerance levels for this kind of thing. So what I and the vast majority of people do is start from the basis that everyone else IS someone who will take offence, then very slowly test the water to see what the tolerance levels are there. What I don't do is walk straight into a new environment & start swearing & making suggestive comments on day 1.

These men have crossed a line in both socially acceptable behaviour and the law.

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As a man I never cease to be appalled at how men behave toward women. How did any of these dudes think this kind of thing is okay?

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Sceptical.

I, like a number of people that have put a comment on here, have never seen this kind of behaviour at a conference or, in fact, anywhere else in the IT industry. What kind of conferences is she attending?! The only way I can imagine a normal IT person acting even remotely like this is if they were totally smashed, but who drinks like that at a conference (or workplace?)

I know plenty of men that can be idiots. However, blurting "I've got a hard on" to a random woman in a semi-professional environment. Sorry, I'm sceptical.

Of course, I've only working the UK so maybe things are a bit different elsewhere, where men don't have a sense of decency or self-control?

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