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. In fact 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 women 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 women 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 women in the industry, so much so, it’s become a running joke with fellow speakers. I know other women 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 women 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.