Speaking out about stereotypes

I recently waded into a Facebook conversation where someone had equated those who code with the image of the nerdy, antisocial white male who couldn’t get a date (and may not want one or know what to do with one).  I had a moment where I thought about not saying anything.  It was, after all, a joke of sorts, and not meant to be serious.  But that’s the very reason why I had to weigh in.  My heart rate and blood pressure went up a bit, both in response to the conversation and in the fear I had about responding to it.

And that’s the thing.  Someone recently joked about Mr. Geeky being the reason for my success.  And that pissed me off because while yes, Mr. Geeky has been hugely supportive in so many ways, my accomplishments are my own.  And it’s not fair to me to insinuate, jokingly or not, that a woman can’t succeed on her own.  This is sadly not the first time someone has made that comment.  Because we’re in the same field, I get this comment every couple of years.  Think of the message that sends to my daughter.

These jokes may be offhand remarks, but they denigrate and exclude.  The comment about coders excludes women, excludes those who are gay, and it denigrates male coders just for starters. No one wins in that comment.  It pays to be vigilant, I think, because otherwise, these stereotypes continue to take hold, not just in the minds of those who deploy them, but also in the minds of those just hearing them, so young people start to make judgements about themselves and others, judgements that can have really negative effects on both individuals and society.

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