Shit, that happens to me all the time too. And I’m a white dude.
Abel Cohen

This is not a lie

There’s just more to the story

Took me a minute, but I’d like to respond to this comment.

It has merit. It absolutely does have merit. The thing is, female technical professionals are such a small group, and this isn’t the only thing that’s problematic. In many ways it depends a lot on the tone of the ‘splainin’ — if the tone is a helpful one — it isn’t necessarily a bias driving the behavior.

Sometimes, there is a bias, but one which has little or nothing to do with gender and more to do with how the ‘splainer sees themselves relative to you. And that’s the rub. If my words carried equal weight, the ‘splainer would have heard me when I said the puzzle was solved, I know what piece I’m missing, can you please provide the piece I need or point me in the direction of where I might find it.

Opting to ignore my words and get to ‘splainin’ IS about dominance. Regardless of the ‘reason’ the result is the same. Dominance over another — the ‘splainer feels they are dominant in knowledge over you.

Not an exclusively male trait!

In fact, women attempt to dominate others all the time, just in more subtle, and sometimes more insidious ways — passive aggression is attributed to women, but men have this tendency too when they are uncomfortable with their own feelings or the expression of them.

In any case, how the receiver of the message feels upon delivery is important. Intent, motive and the goings on internally for the sender cannot be seen by the receiver. This is why it matters that I FEEL the ‘splainin is sexist — whether that’s the reason or intent of the dominating behavior or not.

I cannot observe intent.

I think we have to get real honest and admit that we don’t always consider our audience in advance of our communication. I think we have to know that if the goal is to make the receiver of our messages feel good or to help them learn, we have to focus less on ourselves while we formulate and deliver the message.

We need to understand what they know already before we can teach them anything. We need to get a baseline so we can understand if we were successful or not.

It does depend on the goal. The goal is also motive (kinda, in a sideways fashion). And if the receiver of the message feels dominated, controlled or otherwise put down, it can only mean one of a some things:

  1. Message sender’s goal was to demonstrate ‘power over,’ ‘knowledge over,’ or establish some other kind of hierarchy
  2. Message sender’s goal was to make themselves feel good or show off in some way
  3. Message sender is oblivious to own goals
  4. Message sender was thoughtful and the intent was clean, but the sender failed to understand their receiver’s needs before communicating

In any case, the moment the receiver has the message, the ball is in their court to translate it.

Humans are not computers.

Humans translate messages based on a massive list of factors. Factors that are COMPLETELY SEPARATE & UNIQUE TO THEM. These factors include, their own personal experience, current emotional state, past hurts, past experiences with the sender, past messages someone else gave them about the sender, among other things.

The message isn’t about the sender anymore by the time it gets to the receiver. Now it’s about the receiver.

UNLESS! The receiver understands prior to receiving that the message is NOT about them. And even if they know that, sometimes they still cannot prevent themselves from translating it that way.

The results are a circular strange loop of translations

— colliding messages dying on impact like two nodes firing at once on baseband without TDM —

All of which could be avoided with a little work, sharing, mutual respect for right of way and taking turns. My node fired first, it was my turn. My right of way was ignored. My message that I already get it was not received and what I got back made me feel unseen, like I died on the wire.

I am a female in tech. I am fucking good at learning. I am smart and capable and have a crisp, clear voice. I earn respect and give it freely. What I would like is to be seen for who I am.

— Completely —

While I recently had someone tell me that they just “see co-worker” and don’t see gender. And, I had to correct that because I’m not agreeing to the crazy I would have to be to ignore the fact that I’m a woman; despite that well intended momentary lunacy, for the most part lately…

…my wish above has been granted, daily, by the men with whom I work. I have been acknowledged and spoken to directly about the crisis we are facing with our lack of true diversity in the industry. Sadness was expressed by these brilliant men as they acknowledged how lacking diversity kills our art, murders our innovation and exposes our weak points to those who might harm us.

For the first time in my career, I feel the tide turning. I do not want to discourage my female counterparts. There are great men in industry, they are sometimes difficult to find, but they do exist. We just have to have radical acceptance for ourselves and for them. Because we are in technology, which means, we must embrace the deeper meaning of our chosen profession which is that

— we are always changing and we cannot take breaks from learning —

With respect,

-Cyborg 🌺