dotGo 2016: It’s A Man’s World

NB If you want a nice, polite writeup of this conference, go here.

Q: What do you call a quaint old building with two toilets women are allowed to use?

A: My house.

Yes, for the second year running, dotGo conference organisers in Paris have taken away the women’s toilets, given them over to male attendees, and expected all of the women to share a single solitary handicap accessible toilet.

In 2015, my first visit to this newish conference, I was on crutches and couldn’t even GET to the accessible toilet at a peak time when I needed to because there was a lengthy queue of women waiting. I dragged myself up the stairs to find out to my utter horror that the femmes had been taken away and every man in the area told me to go downstairs. Elliott Stoneham, bless him, felt required to intervene. I felt humiliated, though.

This mind blowing example of hugely impractical and insensitive organisational efficiency owes its genesis, apparently, to a less than successful attempt to have gender neutral toilets in 2014. “Someone cried” I was told by an organiser at the end of that day in 2015, hours after I myself had been nearly reduced to tears. I don’t remember getting an apology.

Instead of iterating on the problem they had in 2014 in order to improve things for everyone, the organisers cleverly took a fairly hard line which punished all women whilst rewarding the men for being in the majority. Yay.

When I protested about losing the ladies room altogether last year, the conference staff decided that the best way to deal with my concerns was to get the facilities staff to REMOVE THE FEMMES SIGN. Wow, that wasn’t the slightest bit rage inducing. Nice work. This year, they were well prepared ahead of time and removed the normal signage before we arrived.

In my entire lengthy tech career, I have never seen anything like this. The nearest example I can think of is a group of feminists who temporarily barricaded a main women’s toilet block at FOSDEM in Brussels a couple of years ago. I encouraged them to move the hell out of the way and shot laser beams out of my eyes at the first one who tried to explain to me about the awful oppression we face. Yet that wasn’t so bad. FOSDEM is a free event with plenty of scope for politics. It’s fantastic. It also has a lot of toilets on site, unlike Théâtre de Paris. Furthermore, I paid to attend dotGo, and I didn’t get any discount for 2nd class toilet facilities compared to the penis-bearing population.

Additionally, to gild last year’s toilet debacle, a dotConferences staff member quite rudely scolded me first thing in the morning this year for having had the temerity to have been unhappy the year before. I informed her that I planned to use the “hommes” (formerly known as “femmes”) when it suited me. She tried to get me to feel sorry for her because people at conferences complain about things. As it happens, I was far too busy girding myself for the inevitable geeksplaining regarding where the girls were supposed to be.

Fair play to the chaps this year, only one of you tried to tell me where to pee. Sorry/notsorry that I was incredibly ungracious when I finally deigned to respond. Last year, as previously mentioned, quite a few of you did this the one time I had to use the gents/ladies and I am afraid that words cannot accurately express how very unhappy that made me.

So, next year. Have fun everyone. The talks were pretty good in 2015 and 2016, but dotGo will need to reanimate and feature Dennis Ritchie in order to tempt me into coming back. You should probably stop dragging the little bar table and chairs back and forth after each talk as well.

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