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Saturday, March 12, 2016

DiTHBINAD

Screenshot from Firewatch
Feminist Frequency has begun producing a newsletter called FREQ, and their first edition is an interview with Jane Ng. Ng is a 3D environmental artist who most recently worked on Firewatch, which looks like an amazing game. You can read the interview with her here.

My favorite part about the interview, aside from learning that Ng originally started out studying theater and compares environmental design to scenic design (long ago, I studied theatrical scenic design myself), is this:
 I think games that are trying to appeal to young men can have kind of a macho thing going on, and it can create this culture where even the development team is kind of bro-y. A lot of it is determined by leadership. But with [the game] Spore we had Lucy [Bradshaw, executive producer of Spore] and she wanted the game to appeal to everyone, so the team didn't have that attitude at all. There were women everywhere. I don't think I had a single "did that happen because I'm not a dude" moment the entire time I was there. It was just about the work.
"Did that happen because I'm not a dude" is a great turn of phrase.  It's a question that all kinds of women ask themselves when they suspect that they've encountered sexist attitudes in the workplace, because-- contrary to popular belief-- sexism in the workplace does not generally take the form of a co-worker or boss announcing "You're a woman, and therefore I think less of you."

Rather, it can be an environment in which women are treated differently, taken less seriously.  They might be outright harassed, but far more often they might be treated as if their views are less important. They might be interrupted or talked over. They might not be consulted on something they know about, in favor of a male co-worker who has less mastery of the subject.

When things like this happen, that woman's first thought is likely to be "Did that happen because I'm not a dude?" She will ask herself this, and then maybe ask a co-worker who she trusts. The co-worker will hopefully commiserate, but even if so, there's really not much the woman can do about this subtle sexism, especially if it comes from above.

So I can imagine what a tremendous relief it must've been for Ng to be in a working environment where she didn't get that DiTHBINAD feeling; an unexpected relief because of the male-dominated industry in which she works.

I suppose a general term for behaviors that stir that DiTHBINAD feeling would be "microaggressions," but I like the specificity of DiTHBINAD. If a woman in a male-dominated industry says that in a certain working environment she doesn't get that feeling, we should sit up and take notice-- that team, that department, maybe even that company as a whole, is doing something right. They should be recognized for that.

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