Work Life

Speaking up.

Six months ago, something happened to me that I kept quiet. Some of my best friends in the industry knew it was happening and tried to help as much as they could. I started writing a post back then about what happened, I got halfway through and found it too much. Coming back, maybe with a stronger disposition because of what happened with my Mum, I now want to share what occurred. It’s come to my attention that there’s a lot of females in this industry suppressing stuff that is happening to them, for fear of backlash or just wanting a quiet life. It also might answer some questions about another point. I’ll come to that later.

Here’s what I started to write back in August…

It’s with great sadness I have to speak up about something. I’m not sad myself, nor am I particularly hurt – but being scared into silence is not an option. The reason I’m sad is that the person involved with what I’m about to speak up about, could be a member of our community. Infact at the moment, everything is pointing to the fact they are. They are currently feeding off the suppression of this topic, so I’m writing publicly about it.

This week – someone decided to upload fake porn pictures of me to the internet – when I say fake I don’t mean my head stuck on someone’s body, but lookalikes or in some cases, just blonde girls with blue eyes and terrible taste in underwear. I digress. This is someone with far too much time on their hands and someone with a definite grudge. I’ve taught myself over the years to take the rough with the smooth and develop a thick skin, I’ve been free of online trouble for a while and rightly or wrongly, I was kind of expecting my run of luck to end. To say it caught me off guard, would be a lie, but to see how low someone would stoop, did. However, it’s amazing how resilient and detached you can be when you know you’ve been that boring your entire life that you’ve never taken nude pictures of yourself.

The interesting thing about what this individual did was show themselves as wanting to try and damage my professional integrity with blatant trolling. It all started a week ago from the date of writing this. I started to receive emails from creepy guys that eventually traced back to a site where various pictures had been posted to. The pictures were uploaded alongside my personal email address, (old) hometown and a screenshot of my Twitter account. There was also an open forum for comments at the bottom, which I’m sure you can imagine the type of things posted there.

This is where I stopped in August, and here is where I will continue on in my words now…

The timing of everything was carefully executed, they knew I was speaking at one of our industry’s best known conferences, ‘An Event Apart’ – they started to try and spam the feed ‘A Feed Apart’ on the day of my talk – they then tried, unsuccessfully, to post to the ‘An Event Apart’ Facebook feed during my talk, they setup a fake Twitter account and tried to at-reply my employers for that conference as well as high-profile twitter users I was associated with, to ensure they knew about the pictures and their existence.

If you were at ‘An Event Apart’ in Austin last year, you might remember Jeffrey jumping up on stage and giving one of the best, off-the-cuff speeches I’ve ever heard, purely because he had only been told seconds before what was likely to happen during my talk. He said (paraphrased) “The feed is prone to trolls and spam at the best of times, at any point today, if you see anything derogatory about any of our speakers, please ignore it, do not engage with them. The conference is about everyone in this room, not outside, let’s keep it that way”. At that point, I couldn’t believe it had even gone through my head to have a stiff upper lip and try and soldier on without them knowing what was happening behind the scenes. I felt ashamed; that I was almost letting them down by being a speaker and bringing all this hassle to their conference. During my talk, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t worried at what the hundreds of faces, lit up by glowing laptops, were seeing or reading about me or what might have slipped the net. A feeling I would never wish on my worst enemy. Jeffrey, Eric and the team handled it with such aplomb and such care towards me as well, I’ll be forever thankful.

We never found out who did it.

This brings me to my last point. There’s many questions around why there aren’t more females speaking in this industry. I can tell you why, they are scared. Everytime I jump on stage, I get comments, either about the way I look, or the fact that I’m the female, the token, the one they have to sit through in order for the males to come back on again. One conference, I even had a guy tweet something derogatory about me, not 30 seconds into my talk, only for me to bring up the point he had berated me for not bringing up, not a minute later – which caused him to have to apologise to my face after public backlash. I’ve had one guy come up to me in a bar and say (after explaining he didn’t like my talk)… “no offence, I just don’t relate to girls speaking about the industry at all, I learn better from guys”. I could write a book on inappropriate things that have been said to me at conferences about girls in the industry, so much so, it’s become a running joke with fellow speakers. I know other girls who could also chip in a fair few chapters but, underneath the humour sometimes found in these situations, lies a very real problem.

It’s no great secret that girls are a minority in this industry, you only have to look at the queues for the toilets at any conference, however, it’s forgotten that it’s not about female speakers, it’s about finding female speakers who have enough of a thick skin to want to stand up infront of an audience of twitter-trigger-happy males and public speak. That’s an entirely different kettle of fish. Then ontop – when you finally feel comfortable with speaking, you get put into a big black pot and tarnished with the label “same old face”. This happened to me on my third ever speaking engagement, third? I was tarnished as a “same old face”. Since then it’s become water off a ducks back – I’m not going to let a label stop me from developing and growing my speaking skills, I’m by no means perfect and still have a lot to learn. We should be encouraging anyone who shows an aptitude or love for sharing their knowledge with the community.

The wheels are in motion for something I hope will address this, I will share soon and hope you will all support me in this venture.

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  • Reply Darren Coxall February 4, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Congrats for standing up for yourself. I just wanted to add that I (and many others) are very grateful for what you do and it is disgraceful that an industry as young and quickly growing as ours suffers from sexism… It’s 2013 people! Women work, and specialise, and can be just as good/bad/better than then men at what they do.

  • Reply Laura Kalbag February 4, 2013 at 11:37 am

    It’s so completely horrible and your bravery is admirable. It’s women like you that inspire other women in the industry to keep trying and ignore the crap that’s going on around us. The fact that you haven’t given up is so encouraging. Thank you x

    • Reply Taotsu February 5, 2013 at 2:35 am

      I like to add that ignoring, while seemingly easy does not help getting rid of the problem.
      Speaking up and fighting, discussing and writing and trying to open eyes is the only way to go.

      (And to add it: I am a foreigner where I am living and we do live under scrutiny, being stared at daily often enough with disgrace, so I know the feeling and still feel its better to fight, then to ignore)

  • Reply Ahmed Salama February 4, 2013 at 11:46 am

    What about legal action? Can’t these people be exposed by a court of law? Keep your chin up… otherwise those scumbags win!

    • Reply Sarah February 4, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      There was no way to know which country the troll was operating from, therefore which country should be informed for legal help.

      • Reply Antonio Goncalves February 4, 2013 at 1:43 pm

        A (male) friend had a similar story. He managed to get information from Twitter but not from Facebook. That brings back the “no-right’s land” issue Internet has become. It’s easy to create accounts on behalf of other people and hurt them. We need to create a certain amount of worldwide rules in the Internet and find the right balance so it doesn’t become a too much controlled area.

        I’m sad to hear these kind of stories still happen. Congrats for speaking up, it needs a huge amount of courage. Courage you had, but some un-courageous people need to hide to hurt others. And keep on speaking at conferences please.

  • Reply Eduard February 4, 2013 at 11:47 am

    I admire you for your courage for standing up on a scene (I know that is difficult, at least for me it is), I admire you for speaking up. You now have another follower.

  • Reply Prisca February 4, 2013 at 11:49 am

    thank you for sharing your story, it’s quite sad to see how much of this is going on. There are idiots in every field—what a shame that our otherwise so sharing and caring community suffers from this. Those who feel the need to hassle others in such a horrible manner are quite pathetic and should always been seen as such.

    Very glad you are still going strong and not letting it interfere with what you want to do!
    All the best x

  • Reply Gemma Well Made February 4, 2013 at 11:54 am

    HI Laura,
    Well done for speaking up about this bullshit.
    I’ve been the token, it’s crap. I don’t think it will ever get easier. Hopefully though, your profile will encourage a new generation of women to stay in the industry and a new generation of boys to view them as completely normal.

  • Reply Chris Wharton February 4, 2013 at 11:55 am

    I can’t believe this kind of nonsense exists. Why is it always the morons that spoil it for you and the rest of us. I’ve been trolled once and it made me very very angry and no one knows who I am! I imagine you get trolled on a daily basis. Your response to this and other trolls is admirable. I do think we need some kind of troll database though, somewhere we can name and shame them (if they haven’t hidden their identity). On an aside, I really don’t see why gender is an issue these days either. Maybe I live in a blinkered or idealistic world, but why gender, colour or good looks or anything else should matter in regards to experts talking about their field of expertise is beyond me.

    Well done for carrying on regardless and let’s hope 2013 brings a better year for you.

  • Reply Eduardo Tello February 4, 2013 at 11:55 am

    You’re brave and awesome. You’re a rolemodel for any woman out there that wants to speak. They really should read this and do what they want, and learn to live without getting those troll comments under consideration.

  • Reply Rachel February 4, 2013 at 11:56 am

    I can’t believe that something so terrible happened to you like that – how some people think it is appropiate or right to mess with other’s lives who do so much good is disgusting.

    Thank you for writing publicly about this – like Laura said, it gives other women around the industry the strength to know that we can and should just try to fight through all the nonsense that’s around.

    Thank you so much for writing this. x

  • Reply Samantha Stocks February 4, 2013 at 11:59 am

    I think this kind of attitude in male-oriented industries is all too common. Having worked in very male dominated industries I’ve very often felt that many men just didn’t take me seriously, not by reputation, but on first meeting, judged purely by my gender and appearance. When I introduced myself to one guy, I literally had him raise his eyebrows and look me up and down sceptically, and he didn’t even bother to introduce himself. This kind of thing is hurtful and a real blow to confidence. I think at the time it would have been nice to have spoken to women who had similar experiences, sharing how they would have dealt with such a situation.

    I’ve often attended trade shows for broadcast, post production, and photography industries, and am always saddened by the amount of dolled up ‘booth babes’ on the exhibition stalls. I can’t help but feel that this just prolongs outdated attitudes to women in traditionally male industries…

    I could rant all day but I digress!

    It is easier to remain quiet and not rock the boat than to speak out, and I think you’re right to do so. These are issues that need to be addressed publicly. The more dialogue there is, the more progress can be made to help to quell such dated stereotypes and attitudes.

    Thanks for sharing your experience! :-)

    • Reply Samantha February 4, 2013 at 12:56 pm

      I should probably add that your situation is obviously more than just sexism – it’s harassment. I’m pretty sure that deliberately trying to damage someone’s career is a criminal offence. I sincerely hope you can find and prove who this person is.

  • Reply Lineke February 4, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Thanks for sharing this. It’s awefull that these things still exists. I guess that is why we still need organizations like Ada Initiative. Personally, I am a PHP developer involved in the PHPWomen usergroup that is trying to get more women involved in the community and as speakers. These kind of stories certainly don’t help in achieving that goal, but it shows why there are still so many female speakers.

    I wish you luck with your ideas and I am looking forward to reading about it.

    • Reply Lineke February 4, 2013 at 12:23 pm

      Ofcourse, I meant to say: so few female speakers

  • Reply Josephine Richmond February 4, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Wow, this is a terrible tale, and you’re very brave for telling it. Keep being awesome and my role model. Also, do you have a link to the pictures?

  • Reply John Locke February 4, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Thank you Sarah, for sharing this story. More people need to open their eyes to how women are treated both in the Web industry and in society. It’s extremely sad that anyone within the design community would have this level of professional jealousy, to try to defame a colleague in such a degrading manner.

    Keep speaking, I actually learn a lot from the amazing women in our industry. People are leaving a ton of insight and knowledge on the table by not learning from women within our field.

  • Reply Christina February 4, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    This is so horrible.

    Thank you so much for posting this, I appreciate it must have been very hard, but this is such an extreme example that needs highlighting.

    Everywhere I turn right now there is something demonstrating the sexism in our industry. There seems to be something new every week!

    I just don’t know, right now, whether to power through or change course.

  • Reply Steph Francis February 4, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    Sarah, I’m really glad you wrote about this in a public forum. I’ve been trying to convince myself over the past 7 years that there isn’t a problem with the lack of gender balance in this industry, but sadly I’ve come to realise I’m kidding myself.

    I really hope you get to the bottom of this. Please keep doing what you do.

  • Reply Xandor Schiefer February 4, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    Hi Sarah,

    Thank you for speaking out. I am appalled by the attitudes that pervade this industry.

    Although I’m sure you know this, not all men in this industry are like this.

    I myself enjoy reading articles and listening to talks about the web no matter who authored men (male, female, or perhaps even transgender), as long as the content is solid.

    I am glad to see more articles written by women and talks by women on the net, and I hope that your post will encourage them to stand tall in the face of adversity.

  • Reply Dorian February 4, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    This world is packed with jive cat’s who really have little to offer and way too much time on there hands.

    Some of us men are so confused and scared by the fact that women are where they are in our sociology. Developing themselves and moving away from the June Cleaver image that many of these dudes would love to still see as the sole role of women in our culture.

    I just hate the level of insecurity that exists amongst these anonymous squares. No guts whatsoever.

    You take care queen and I pray I get the opportunity to hear you speak at an AEA conference.


    • Reply Rose February 4, 2013 at 1:34 pm

      Think you’ve nailed it Dorian, these are scared weird little guys. Very ugly thing to do, hiding in anonymity.

      Eleanor Roosevelt has some good quotes about some of her experiences, not that this really helps:

      You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.


      Women who are willing to be leaders must stand out and be shot at.
      More and more they are going to do it and more and more they should do it.

      Sadly, this is still true.

  • Reply John Oxton February 4, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Sarah, thank you for sharing.

    Whilst it might be true that women are a minority in the industry I want to hope that the people who think it’s OK to do these things are more of a minority.

    As a majority, i.e. those of us who think it doesn’t matter a damn what gender you are, we can and should send out a strong message to these people that it’s not acceptable and we won’t tolerate it and we will take action against them.

    Where do I sign?

  • Reply Rachel King February 4, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    It is utterly shocking that things like this are happening in our industry. A casual glance would reveal that it’s male-dominated but what is not visible is that this can be accompanied by an undercurrent of such dark and damaging (and obviously insecure) sexist behaviour.

    As a woman fairly new to the web world, I hope for better in the future and openness about the situation is the only way we can tackle it, so thank you for your bravery in speaking out about it.

  • Reply Nick Toye February 4, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    It really shocks me that an industry like ours has these elements polluting it. I heard derogatory homosexual comments being made about a speaker at New Adventures this year, and I was appalled.

    I didn’t know who they were, and it was only afterwards that I thought that these guys should be named and shamed. No place for any of this anywhere in any industry, but certainly not one so steeped in innovation. This sickening and quite frankly neanderthal behaviour is just not on.

    Well done for having the courage to come out and say it, and I’m sure the majority good people in this industry will support you 100%.

  • Reply Jeremy Paris February 4, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    The first thing I ever saw about you was your work. I can’t remember anything about it except how clean and inviting the site was. I think someone else was tweeting about it being an example of what the industry should be driving for. I agreed and have been following your work since. You are an artist with a great writing style as well. there are lots of guys out there that have no problem admitting that genius can come from a woman. Keep doing what you are doing. There are lots of us that are learning from you regularly.

    • Reply Christina February 4, 2013 at 12:29 pm

      “there are lots of guys out there that have no problem admitting that genius can come from a woman”


      I’m not sure that came out how you intended.

  • Reply Caroline Smith February 4, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Laura took the words out of my mouth. Your completely inspirational and admirable. Speaking publicly about this will hopefully allow the community to rally around, change attitudes and the approach to female designers for the better.


  • Reply Kris Young February 4, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Anonymity and a warped sense of detachment from the real world seems to bring out the sociopath in these cowards. If they thought for one second that they could be held accountable for their actions things would die down very quickly.
    Regrettably, that’s never going to happen so hopefully posts like this will remind them that there is a real person on the receiving end of their vitriol no matter what form of ‘ism’ or ‘phobia’ it takes.

  • Reply Ret February 4, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    You did a great thing speaking out. Prejudice is such a deterrent to success if you let it be.

    Congratulations on all you have achieved thus far.

  • Reply Jason February 4, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    I think it’s truly disgusting that anyone would go to such great lengths to sabotage your speaking career and quite possibly your career as a whole by posting such despicable things.

    Unfortunately, some men have this notion that because your a successful attractive woman, you are a threat, or that your views and opinions should remain within the household. – Something as a society we should be far beyond.

    The few conferences I’ve been to, where you have been one of speakers have been incredibly interesting to listen to and I’ve walked away being better for hearing it.

    Keep it up and know that for the very few ‘trolls’ there are a huge amount of supporters and individuals who value your contributions.

    Keep it up. If your getting this reaction, just know your doing something right.

  • Reply Jon Gold February 4, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    I apologise for my gender/humanity; no one should have to put up with this :(

    • Reply Ryan Rushing February 4, 2013 at 1:23 pm

      Do not apologize on behalf of all men everywhere. We’re clearly not the same. The problem with sexism is grouping an entire gender together, applying the same thinking across the board. One person, or perhaps multiple individuals, horrendously acted out. Focusing on one’s sex is what got us here in the first place.

      I realize you also said humanity, but I wanted to state my peace about the “gender” part of your statement.

      • Reply LB June 10, 2013 at 5:04 pm

        All men should be ashamed of this, and should apologize. Sexism doesn’t come from speaking out about a gender-wide problem.

  • Reply kathryn February 4, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    sarah, how horrible. thank you for breaking the silence. and i’m really looking forward to hearing what you have up your sleeves, and if there’s any way i can help.

  • Reply Steve Lorek February 4, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    I’m ashamed that this has happened to you. Having worked with you only briefly, I know that your success is due to talent, hard work and a high level of professionalism. The person responsible will never be able to say the same of themselves.

    Please flag this up if it happens again, the more people looking into it the better chance this coward will be caught.

  • Reply Jenn February 4, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. I, too, have been through something similar to this, and I never know how to handle it. When I try to stand up for myself, it actually makes things worse. I admire you for your bravery, and by sharing your thoughts on the matter, you’ve inspired me to be strong and encourage the other women in my life to do the same. *hugs*

  • Reply Lilly Hnat February 4, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Hi Sarah,

    I find this so odd, horrible and disgusting, but odd! As a female in the web sphere, I have never yet come up against sexism. Or maybe I’m just blind and have become used to sexist comments that I dont notice them anymore?

    I’m starting to take a real interest in promoting and encouraging women to enter an industry that will provide economic growth and secure jobs for many years to come – we have as much right as males to share a part of that.

    Thank you for continuing to fight our corner!

  • Reply Simon Cox February 4, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Well done Sarah for speaking up. This is absolutley appauling. As an industry the rest of us need to out these infantiles – find them, let the police, thier employers and clients know exactly how they have behaved.

    You Sazzy are a brave star and you have a lot more friends than you will ever realise.

  • Reply Jane Copland February 4, 2013 at 12:19 pm

    Holy shit, Sarah, I am so sorry this happened to you. I commend you for your bravery in speaking about it and hope that voices like ours make a difference. The first battle is convincing people who don’t see these things happen (because the assholes who do them don’t *want* good people to know what they’re up to) that they DO happen and that they are not as isolated and uncommon as many would like to believe.

    Thank you for writing this.

  • Reply Craig Lockwood February 4, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    That is so horrible. I have become sickened and disappointed with our industry over the past few months hearing stories such as this. On a much lesser scale, I see unacceptable trolling every day on Twitter as conversations flit from one argument to the next – I don’t understand the motivation behind trolls.

    Regardless of sex, nobody deserves to be harassed/bullied/trolled for ANY reason. The web business can be a lonely place for the freelancer or small studio owner and those individuals who put themselves out there to help should be praised not ridiculed. I know of a number of people within the industry who have chosen to opt-out of community events/forums/discussions due to trolling. This has impacted them personally and financially whilst the ‘trolls’ seem to feed off the negative energy which they are pedalling.

    I’m not sure how this problem can be solved, but open and honest posts like this will help.

    Sarah: 1 – Troll: 0.

  • Reply Craig Smith February 4, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    I very rarely take or find the time to comment on blog posts – something I know I really should try better at. However, after reading this I just wanted to chip and commend you on how well you write about a subject that is without doubt up there amongst the toughest many people have to deal with in their entire career or indeed in their lives.

    Of course, it’s a situation that I’ll never be able to truly relate to, but nevertheless it’s fantastic to see you showcase human resilience.

    Also, it’s good to see that – whilst there is a handful of jealous angry individuals out there, as well as a deep rooted prejudice towards woman that needs to stop – that deep down there is are a lot of good people making up the design industry and it should be remembered that those are the people that really matter.

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Reply Andy Parker February 4, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    That is truly horrific. I know that you’re smart enough to not tar an entire industry 90% of which don’t go to conferences, read magazines, blogs or keep up with the times with the same brush.

    There are awful people but it’s important to remember they’re not just in this space.

  • Reply Johnathan Williamson February 4, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    Somewhere between Disgust and Rage.

    Well done Sarah.

  • Reply komiska February 4, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Thank you Sazzy, for speaking up!

    Of course, trolling comes in all colours,even I would consider myself a “troll”, when commenting on a blog about a subject I’m not educated enough to speak about,and asking dumb questions, with everyone else rolling their eyes …

    But this is serious harassment,and a misogynous one.
    Also, very cowardly .
    But even without obscuring , I believe misogyny is taking up a new upturn in the world generally, when you look at some speeches among those, whom one would consider educated, intelligent,grown-up individuals .

    Even with the laws against stalking and/or defamation, you have to go through this? Not to mention websites like

    I can imagine few people waving this off like a “first-world-problem”, or “the price of ‘fame’ “, but this is mobbing.

    There are legal steps one can undertake, because it is not only damaging to you, but also to the industry and any other woman in any other industry.
    A member of my family is a doctor, and a very angry ex-co-worker wrote a furious troll-post on her website about how dirty and unfriendly she was ( she’s an expert in her field and a cancer researcher).

    What happened to you is not trolling anymore. It is cyber-stalking. Illegal.Companies protect themselves against libel and defamation,so every single person should be able to as well.

    All the best!

  • Reply Hugo Fernandes February 4, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    Problem is: there’s bad people everywhere… And if we think that we’re saved because we live in a “creative” industry and everyone should be more… hmmm… open minded (?), well, I guess not.

    Sarah, stand proud and be happy. It’s all jealous ;)

  • Reply Simon Leedham February 4, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    Shocked and appalled to hear this Sarah and well done to you for publicly raising this issue here.

    I can’t quite believe that sexism is infiltrating our industry to such a degree and am, honestly, ashamed to be a man in instances like this. You are renowned for your work and should be free to work in this industry based on that alone, not your sex or preferences, or anything else for that matter. Quite simply astounded and speechless you have had to endure this.

    All I can say is keep doing what you are doing, ignore the minority that are obviously jealous of your status and creativity and, most importantly, keep posting and letting the world know how this affects people and how unbelievable this is to be happening in this age.

    Stay strong and keep working, you’re fab!

  • Reply Diane February 4, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story. One thing I feel it is VERY important for everyone to realize is that this is not a terribly unusual incident or limited to the web design industry or the conference circuit.

    I see people expressing shock on Twitter about it this a.m. and think to myself, really? You find that this type of behavior occurs surprising? It is much more common that people seem to realize, and perhaps that is part of the problem.

  • Reply Sofia February 4, 2013 at 12:37 pm

    Hi Sara,

    I complement you on your bravery to speak up on this topic. The people who do this are nothing but cowards.

    Keep up the good work and fight strong.

    “Who dares disturb the universe” *

  • Reply David Coveney February 4, 2013 at 12:38 pm

    Well – here’s the good news. Like taxes, this kind of stuff only becomes an issue once your profile has risen to a high enough level for the idiots to notice.

    What’s worth remembering is what any psychiatrist will tell you – about 20% of any population tends to be mentally unhealthy at any point in time. We all go through these periods. For some, they are looking at why they are failing, or struggling, or scared. It’s too painful to look at themselves, so they externalise their problems. We all know people like that, right?

    So what do trolls look for? They look for weak spots. And they poke around, hoping to get a hit. They want to hurt you. Being a woman gives them some targets. Being gay other targets. Being foreign… etc etc. I was a poor kid, unstable family, foreign (sort of, long story), and small… school was hell. I got to learn about trolling and why people do it at an early age. For a while I was the weird Spanish kid with an Irish name. By the time I moved to another school I’d learned enough to mimic accents that I sounded native. Then instead they’d pick on my Oxfam sourced clothes, tatty dress and so on. Didn’t matter… they’d get at me. The fact I was reasonably bright didn’t help either – some of the clever kids saw me as a threat to their number one status as well. They got to hate me too :-)

    I learned to ignore the trolls. They still make me angry. They’re just like kids in a bad school – they think they can get away with bullying, so they do. It’s not misogyny you’re seeing… it’s envy. Envy of people doing better than they are.

    I’ve only had to deal with a couple of online trolls but the ones that did I was able to scare off by identifying them through their carelessness online. They left me alone soon after.

    Thankfully the community is a relatively mature one – naming and shaming, as Nick says, can be quite productive today. But it might just bring other trolls out of the woodwork. And it’s stressful to deal with. So it’s better to continue not to give the trolls a rise. Simply ignore them. Laugh at their antics. Yes, they shopped you naked… but does that do you any harm to anybody who is half decent?

    Let’s look at it another way – decent people care not a jot for your past – faked or otherwise. They care about what you do today.

    God, that was a bit of a comment… sorry about that. But if one subject is likely to get me going off on one, it’s bullying, in all its forms!

  • Reply Tammie Lister February 4, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    I just wanted to say thank you for sharing this. I also thank you for being one of those that stands up and continues to despite this. It fills me with joy the amount of women speaking we have now in this industry compared to even a few years ago. It equally fills me with anger that things like this still happen.

    I’m very conscious that without women speaking we have no easily visible inspiration or role models for the next generation. Without a safe environment to speak up we’ll also have few women speaking. Everything we can do to give more in any minority brings a richer, fuller and better experience to our industry. Boundaries need to be drawn and if need be legal matters taken as sometimes enough is enough.

  • Reply George Paterson February 4, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    I recommend you seek legal representation and prosecute to the full extent of the law. This activity has been done with malice and intent to harm and must be confronted.

  • Reply Kevin Vance February 4, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    The professionalism and grace with which you handled that truly awful situation is inspirational. Thank you.

  • Reply Gary Finbow February 4, 2013 at 12:46 pm

    It is people like yourself that give me reason to inspired by the web and continue pushing myself and the people around me.

    Bullying, trolling and discrimination in this personal/attacking way is so unbelievably horrible and demoralising whenever it happens – I am so horrified that someone decided to choose you (or anyone for that matter) for this kind of unsolicited attack.

    I am glad that you have chosen to keep going, to keep fighting and to keep being yourself – I hope that you will always remember that the web loves you and what you do.

  • Reply Kimb Jones February 4, 2013 at 12:49 pm


    And to the douche that said: “no offence, I just don’t relate to girls speaking about the industry at all, I learn better from guys” – I just despair.

    It’s this sort of deeply embedded misogyny that harms our industry and society as a whole. You may as well wear a t-shirt to conferences proclaiming “females, your opinions are irrelevant”.

    I’m lucky to have worked in the NHS for many years and be surrounded by a mainly female workforce of empowered leaders, something our industry desperately needs. And NOT just for the sake of equality but to allow it to mature into a more complete form. The nature of the web/internet breaks down barriers of gender/race/age – let’s try and remember that.

    Don’t be disheartened by this Sarah, our industry needs people like you who put themselves out there. Continue to rally the troops.

    I have connected with quite a few inspirational female designers/developers/speakers/etc at events that I attend and organise and yes, for now, they are outnumbered and, yes, we do joke about “where are all the women at?” but it’s slowly changing thanks to people like yourself leading the way.

  • Reply Rachel Earley February 4, 2013 at 12:51 pm

    Sarah, what you’ve gone through is a disgrace. Please continue to stand tall in the face of it.

    Hopefully this blog post is the beginning of a proper movement, as an industry and community, to wipe out this kind of misogyny and bullying.

    I very much look forward to hearing you speak and attending one of your workshops very soon.

  • Reply James Rice February 4, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    Hi Sarah, thanks for sharing. You might be interested in this project which aims to raise the profile of women speakers in the technology and creative industries:

  • Reply Dave Hawes February 4, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    I am shocked by what happened. You are fighting the good fight and one that has to be one for the benifit of the whole industry.

    I would also like to see the law used to find and prosecute whoever did this as it was:

    1) Pre-mediated and co-ordinated
    2) A truly aweful think to do and is actually against the law

    It would send a clear message to people that think this is acceptable that it isn’t and society doesn’t think it is and that there are serious consequences for these types of actions.

    The perception of the Internet is maturing people are starting to realise that online actions are part of the real world, not just a ‘virtual world’. As such real life prosecutions for this type of behaviour should not seem out of place.

    Thank you for sharing your experience and I hope that it helps others keep strong in the face of this type of abuse and show those that think this behaviour is acceptable that it is definately not and make them reconsider their beliefs.

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