Combating Sexism in Tech With Honesty: The Impact of Upload’s Silence

from Medium

I was the Creative Producer at Upload until most of the Upload San Francisco staff and I quit after a sexual harassment lawsuit was filed against its founders. We used to love Upload for its reach and ambition, but our trust in the company has faltered since our departure. These are my thoughts on bro culture in tech and the impact of Upload’s silence.

Upload jump-started my career and made me feel welcome when I moved to San Francisco by myself. Will and Taylor treated me extremely well, and I once viewed them as both my mentors and friends. That’s why this whole ordeal shatters me. I’m so saddened by the fact that not everyone felt as welcome as I did. It makes me second guess how much I let slide under my nose in the name of trying to please other men. And it sucks to watch the men I used to look up to slide into a reality that I can’t endorse.

I’ve been trying to organize my thoughts on this situation for months, but when I tried to write things down, I ended up with a mishmash of multiple drafts until I had about 15 pages of repetitive gibberish that I was too nervous to share. I was about ready to let this go and move on, as I had done so many times this summer, when the sound of my doubts rang one last time. That’s when I realized I was fighting myself.

“If I speak up, will men I respect still do the things I’m trying to speak up against? Will those men think less of me? Will they stop wanting to hang out with me? Am I taking things too far?”

“Well shit,” I thought, as I leaned back in my chair. Here I was, trying to support gender equality, and yet all I could think about was censoring my words to solely protect the feelings of men. I was subconsciously prioritizing men over women, and that scared the shit out of me. But arriving at these realizations should be celebrated; it became another opportunity for me to acknowledge my faults and actively reprogram the parts of my mind that are still littered by casual sexism. So screw it, here’s what I have to say.

More here.

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  1. I think it is admirable that a man came to speak of this topic and bring it to discussion. So far in my personal experience, I have seen women more passionate about this topic, but now reading this, I am more comfortable because I feel that there are men out there who understand that this isn’t a simple topic to be brushed under the rug. Sexism is serious – in the workplace or outside, because a person carries it with them wherever they go. What may start as a joke among men can become something more, because like the article stats, in a professional place, they get distracted, and look at each other discreetly, confirming their suspicions on the “locker room” talk.
    It is important for people to take responsibility of their words as well as actions, because this is the first step forward. Men in power think that they can make crude comments about their female coworkers and laugh it off, saying it is simply a joke, but it’s not. It has become a norm for men to socialize and degrade women and objectify them in private, which eventually leads them to do it in public. This becomes sort of an initiation process, if a man can laugh off a sexual comment about a women, he’s considered a ‘cool’ person, he’s a bro and he’s a part of the squad. But if he doesn’t, and instead voices his opinions, he’s weird, and blocked off.
    I found it interesting how the author of this article was concerned with what other men would think of his article, his self-consciousness is not surprising however, because he is commenting about the crude behavior performed by men in his own work place. It’s understandable, because if I were speaking up about female behavior, I would be self-conscious as well about what my female friends would think, and their opinions on it.
    It is admirable that this author spoke up about the issues going on, and he even went to the extent to quit his job, making a point that this type of behavior is not accepting. This type of behavior needs to be put an end to.

  2. Sexuality in the workplace is a topic that is generally known but often disregarded. The ethical perception of this type of conduct is somewhat acceptable to the male community, while a fraction of the female community who hasn’t been exposed to such behavior are in a state of oblivion. Crude and obscene conduct such as commenting on a woman’s private areas or physical advances on a fellow employee has become more of a stigma on the corporate platform. For the past half a century, women have been fighting for the same rights of their male counterparts. while within the last few years, male to female wages and benefits have become more of the topic of discussion when it comes to women’s rights. The practices of objectifying women in the workplace should be treated relatively among women’s rights in America. The objectification of females on the job is an issue that needs to be regulated by either state or federal legislation.
    When executives of corporations are involved in such behavior, subordinates observe and feel as though those actions are tolerable by employers. Holding all parties involved responsible for their words and actions, even without the female presence, will strengthen the corporate integrity of the business and its entities. However, this is not simply a case of social misjudgment, this is an issue that society as a whole has to adopt. The objectification of women branches out to schools and they are some cases of social misconduct in our government agencies and higher education institutions that need to be addressed and revamp our nation’s view on the female sex.

  3. This article intrigued me because it was from the opposite view than I initially assumed that the article would be from, a man. A survey found that 81% of women have experienced sexual harassment in their lifetime, and 43% of men, in the workplace, this boils down to about 1 in 7 men. The author of this article, Danny Bittman, experienced the sexual harassment occurring in front of him during the three months he worked at VR media company, Upload. I found his thoughts and realizations interesting throughout the article, he states that he “was subconsciously prioritizing men over women, and that scared the [explicative] out of [him]”, he also mentioned that he was “censoring [his] words to solely protect the feelings of men”. Bittman saw the harassment occurring daily in the workplace, by men of power and high esteem, he didn’t know how to tell them what they were doing was wrong on many accounts. He mentions that he worried about losing respect and the possible sacrifice of the social aspect of his relationships with these co-workers. As mentioned in the article, men tend to partake and go along with “locker room talk” as a way to get other men to respect and accept them. For example, if a higher up made an inappropriate comment about a female in the office, a new employee would most likely agree just to help establish the rapport, it is unlikely they would challenge the higher ups statement. That reaction essentially rewards bad behavior and enables that employee to continue to make comments, which makes the bad behavior acceptable because no one is willing to speak up about it for the sake of social acceptance. Soon it becomes a social norm and men will subconsciously have these thoughts and comments because it has never been shown to them as a bad thing.

    At the end of the article Bittman discusses a need for standards regarding accountability, and I also believe that is necessary to implement especially in the case of sexual harassment in the workplace. In the past year there has been a substantial movement towards more acknowledgement of these issues with the “Me Too” movement and many cases on a celebrity level that have been brought to light. While that seems like it would have little impact on the numerous occurrences of sexual harassment in workplaces daily, it has shown the large-scale consequences if an employee is caught. Sexual harassment is protected in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and is prevalent in all workplaces and in daily life. It states that discrimination based on sex and other factors is prohibited as well as retaliation because of discrimination. Although this law has been enacted, the number of sexual harassment cases in the workplaces still continues to exist. I believe that as more victims come forward and more cases become public, it will give others the confidence to stand up against harassers for the betterment of the work environment and culture, to increase productivity and maintain a positive environment to cultivate growth

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