On Sunday, myself and a few friends went to the TEDx event in Oxford.
TEDx, for those who don’t know, are TED style events organised by interested parties. They happen all over the world, and are usually pretty popular. This one packed out the New Theatre in central Oxford, which is no mean feat.
The speakers spoke on a number of subjects; from neuroscience to artificial intelligence. Some speakers were inspiring, others were… confusing… but all were interesting.
Interestingly, the speaker that sparked the most conversation over lunch and after the event was probably Laura Bates from the Every day sexism project. The stories she relayed shocked us all; with the men in the audience seeing this as new, but with the women nodding along in bitter recognition.
Myself, I was aware of similar horrors through the various “Women in Technology” conversations I have had, where every single woman I spoke to could relay situations where an actual crime had been committed, but pretty much shrugged it off as something that “happens”. Still, it was still shocking, and through our discussions after it seems that there is a variation of the observer effect going on for the men in our group – that is, the very act of us being present, means that the acts won’t occur to the women around us.
A new trend that was highlighted in the talk, which I found interesting, is that now the abuse seems to be often couched in a joke (which is clearly not funny), but means that the perpetrator can play the victim when the woman objects. I’ve seen this a couple of times in tech circles, but it’s clearly a growing trend.
One thing I wish was covered in her talk (although, perhaps it’s a complex subject for 15 minutes), is what can we actually do to address this? Particularly, what can we as men do? This is clearly a massive problem, and I know we seem to be losing ground in the tech world, but it seems the equality cause is losing ground elsewhere as well.
Depressing stuff. How do we fix it?