“If we are not speaking out, we are complicit. In that culture, in our culture, women’s experiences are denied, erased and invalidated.” ~ Crystal Beasley
A few years ago, I felt that familiar ache of what happens to women in the tech startup sector not only here, but in many cities. And for that matter, in a LOT of male-dominated industries. Let’s just say there are brogrammers everywhere.
And the tragedy is that there are a lot of men still tolerating it, and a lot of women who are too scared to speak up.
I wrote about this in a blog post after learning about a rape case from a former colleague and seeing how it was swept under the rug by most people in tech, men and women alike. The victim was being blamed and dragged through the mud after making her story public about a major tech investor who had raped her (a man who settled out of court in the civil case), and I was stunned by the quiet in the community. Disgusted by the men, especially his peers, for not calling him out on it, and embarrassed by the women who either refused to talk about it because they were more afraid of losing their jobs than standing up to this excuse of a man and his group of spoiled brat friends, one who even defended him in court and trashed the victim. Where was the roar of women AND men in this?
The biggest thing this situation did for me was to get me even louder about what I was seeing. To do a bit more homework on the companies who sought out my services, and to ensure that the players in this case were not involved – as managers, as board members, or as investors. And not just for the massive issue of rape, but overall their reputation as to how they treat people. I got even better at listening to my instincts, and not being afraid to say in no uncertain terms, this ain’t right and I’m going to tell you why.
And as the year continued, we saw more being revealed, as another major player in the Portland tech scene faced rape charges. This was no surprise to most, including the men I knew who hated him, and after my few interactions, it made perfect sense. He was known for being a sexist pig with a mean streak and a massive ego. His company for a while was the darling of the tech scene. And then this happened, and like clockwork, he showed he was even more of a creep than he was already seen as by so many.
And it makes me think of Bill Cosby. And Woody Allen. And Roman Polanski. And the many others who have gotten away with rape for years and years, because people believe what they see on a fictional screen and think that’s the real person. No matter how many accusations come up, huge name celebrities still want to work with them. Defend them. Call them “a genius”. Barf.
“We as a community are responsible for giving a damn.”
The above is another quote from the remarkable Crystal Beasley, who wrote this article about why she withdrew from an event where the aforementioned rapist has been welcomed as part of the event. She not only withdrew but she made it very very explicit as to why, with a reminder that we can NOT forget what has happened as this creep tries to reinvent himself with another company after he had to step down last year from the company he was heading.
Beasley touches upon the details of the case, the ethics and responsibilities of being a true leader and role model in today’s tech scene, and the role of all of us to stop shutting the fuck up. Would you keep your mouth shut if the victims were your close friends, sisters, mothers, et cetera?
Would you invalidate them with your silence?
Can you sleep knowing you’re working for someone who parties with one of those guys? Or are you just going to stick your head in the sand and do nothing?
The more wealthy and/or famous they are, the more they find ways to sh*t on their accusers and get their supporters to do the same. Kobe Bryant is dead and suddenly he's an infallible hero and not a rapist who used every dollar to trash his victim's reputation, those who call this out are somehow sacrilegious, as if he was some kind of a god. Aww hell no.
“Teach your sons and daughters that women are not objects and that men – just like women – must be held accountable. Maybe there will be assholes who will try to sabotage you and gossip about you but knowing YOU spoke up, YOU spoke publicly no matter how much the risk was that someone might try to burn you to the ground for calling them out? You become the great one. You are the hero and not the bystander who gives their silent acquiescence.” ~ Me