1 April 2018
Two anonymous techies, one male, one female, speak about their experiences of sexism in tech, facilitated by Florence Bell
Woman: So I went to a workshop, the majority of people there were women and the leader kept on referring to techies as male which was frustrating. I know it’s a small thing but it does alienate you very quickly. Then at the end two of us were trying stuff out and every time the guy asked a question the workshop leader would explain it, but every time I asked a question he’d lean over and change it on the software for me rather than showing me how to do it.
Man: In one of my workshops the leader talked about: go and talk to your sound guy, or your video guy. And obviously it was very offhand, but it was gendered. And that assumption could then imply to people in the room that this is not for them.
Woman: Every photograph he had of people doing stuff was of guys. I think I’d rather not name the person individually, but it’s just something that technicians should be aware of. And then there was the show. Well, you submitted a lighting plan.
Woman: That was taken straight away. And then I submitted a sound plan that came back. We went to meet someone about it, and we spent an hour with him saying: what are you trying to achieve? And I was saying: I’m trying to achieve these speakers being in these places because I’m the sound designer, can I have these in these places please. Every decision was questioned to an inch of its life. There was the producer, me and you sat round a table, and he didn’t even look at the female producer, he looked at me and then looked at you for affirmation.
Man: Yeah, and obviously I’m not in charge of sound for the show. I’m in charge of the lights, I handed over my lighting plan, and it was: fantastic, we’ll do it. And then during this meeting questions about sound were directed towards me. That’s not my department. I just happened to be a man in the room.
Woman: It was really, really annoying. I presented a picture and said: can I have these please? And this man was going: ‘what are you trying to achieve, what are you trying to do?’ And I just wanted some speakers in certain places. I know what I’m doing. And I’m the sound designer for the show so unless it’s unfeasible and unsafe presumably you should just facilitate what we’re asking you to.
Man: We were literally mansplained what a speaker is.
Woman: At one point he said: is there a lot of low-frequency in your show? I just took a breath to think and he just started explaining it to me. I’m a sound designer, I know what a low frequency sound is, and I’m also a physicist. And then he did it again with high frequency. And then he came into our venue again because I wanted a speaker moved and I asked him to rotate a speaker. He said: oh you can’t do that, because of this reason, that reason. And all I needed him to do was turn it about 20 degrees. But it was questioned again and again and again.
Man: It felt very begrudging. His facilitation felt like it was out of being tired of arguing with you, rather than wanting to help. Whereas when I spoke to the person setting up my lighting, we had a conversation about my plan and I was invited to discuss what we were going to do, it was very open.
Woman: And you don’t want to think that it’s gendered. But that was the only conclusion I could come to. And then it happened again yesterday; we had just got in to the venue and the female set designer and me were sitting chatting to this guy, and I thought he was speaking down to us a bit; he was clasping his hands and explaining obvious things very carefully. Then he showed me my desk and said: the QLab machine is currently your seat, but we can find you a chair. And I go: oh, it’s fine, I’ve sat on worse. He did this horrific laugh, like you know what he was implying. I was absolutely fuming. As well, I went to a workshop about producing, and the leader asked us who had produced in Edinburgh. Me and two guys put our hands up. He looked and me and said ‘Aha’ and then turned around and spoke to the two guys in depth for about twenty minutes.
Man: For the show, we’ve got a female director, female producer, female sound designer, female set designer and a mixed cast and I feel like I’ve been listened to the most. My voice is not the biggest or the most important in the show and yet people seemed to be more willing to listen to me, to the point where the director has asked me to talk to people for her because things actually happened if I had those conversations instead of her.
Woman: We’re really proud that we got the show up today because every single bit has been a fight.
Man: What I’m quite smug about is all these decisions we’ve had to fight about have just worked. So we can sort of be happy in ourselves, going: yeah, we had to fight tooth and nail for them, but they were the right decision, you were wrong to dismiss us; look at our show. I don’t know how demeaning it was, but we had one of our venue staff go up to [Woman] and ask: did you create the sound design all by yourself? I was not asked the same question about the lighting design. I was just complimented.
Woman: I think the Technical department just needs to look at itself and ask: why do we have a vast majority of males? Why?
Photo credit: Aenne Pallasca