It’s been a long year for women in tech. But for many of us it’s been a long decade, a long career—an entire lifetime, really, of dealing with the bullshit that comes from being a woman who dares touch any device more complicated than a vegetable peeler.
When you are a woman interacting with technology, you are always doing it wrong. You are using your iPhone wrong. You are using your Android wrong. You are using Windows/OSX/Linux all wrong. If I had a dollar for every time a man sat down to use my laptop and said something like, “Jesus Christ on a pogo stick! How do you even function like this?” I’d have enough money to buy a Barbie Dreamhouse and hack it full of Arduino.
(No, I haven’t upgraded to Yosemite yet. Get over it.)
It’s no wonder so many women will say that they’re “bad with technology.” They weren’t born that way; they were made that way, throughout their lives, by a series of people who told them — loudly, heatedly, aggressively — that they were doing it wrong. Learned helplessness is a natural response to adverse stimuli, and when you’re female even the smallest gesture towards technology – such as reaching for the remote control – is likely to bring a world of hurt down on your head.
So let’s try something new, shall we? Here at the holidays, while you’re visiting with friends & family & loved ones, don’t make any person, of any age or gender or OS preference, feel bad about how they use technology. Not one single one.
Even better: find an opportunity to tell a girl that she is awesome at technology, because she is hearing the opposite message every day from about 1,000 different places. Don’t make fun of her if she’s playing Kim Kardashian: Hollywood. Don’t bemoan the state of childhood or tell her she should be playing Minecraft or GoldieBlox instead. Give her support and allow her to develop confidence in her technology skills and choices, even if they’re not the ones you would have made.
Whatever you do, don’t tell her that she’s doing it wrong. We’ve had quite enough of that, thanks.