My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

Relevant links:

Archive

publicly processing hurt

At misbehaving, some of our regular readers asked us to get a bit more personal, share some of the trials and tribulations of being a woman in tech. Translation: stop being so darn theoretical. I had true hesitations about this. First, it meant putting my own neuroses on display, highlighting situations that can be interpreted in a variety of different ways. But more importantly, it meant highlighting situations that involved people who could very likely read misbehaving.

Yesterday, i had an experience that reminded me that i’m a girl, not just a person. I decided to post it to misbehaving, complete with neuroses, comments off. I’m fully aware of all the different ways that it could be read; i’m fully aware that the men who responded think i should lighten up or deal with being the fairer sex. That’s NOT the point. The point is that no matter how hard i try to put my chin up in real life, these moments sting. I’ve spent my whole life being told that i shouldn’t be sensitive, shouldn’t take things personally. The reason to post this on to misbehaving is because these moments of sting are something that other people go through and don’t talk about because society is telling them to be more hegemonic. That doesn’t make them go away; we just bury them and pretend everything’s all right.

Don’t get me wrong: i’m not screamingly upset. Frankly, i was far more nervous and concerned about posting the damn thing than going through the situation. But i wanted to lay out the experience, the emotions for others to read and understand. Not because i had worried myself sick or magnified the situation out of proportion. It was a situation, it would pass, but maybe some good would come out of posting it for others to see. It is the raw emotions, the logic in our heads that bring us to a situation. We rarely make this visible. For those who don’t understand, the goal isn’t to give you fodder to attack. Instead, try understanding what life from my perspective might look like.

And then the unexpected happened. Bless his heart, the owner of said comment made a public apology. He didn’t need to own up to that statement, but he did. And he went on to offer his emotional reaction to my tinge of hurt. And he continued on to defend both me, my post and my sense of humor (ah, yes, public support is the quickest way to make me respect someone). So, i’m floored. And surprised. And terribly appreciative.

Taken out of context i must seem so strange

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

12 comments to publicly processing hurt

  • Ok, fair enough.

    I understand that things that shouldn’t hurt, annoy, upset etc. often do. And I also understand the people that tell you to ‘not take it personally’.

    However, my original comment still stands. The world would be a better place if people could lighten up, expose the stupid inequalities as just that; stupid.

    I read a piece by an undergrad feminist on an on-line webzine that I sponsor today. The piece was a critique of the invasiveness of porn, and began with the words: “Even though some misguided socially inept misfits might turn to pornography to satisfy their urges,” and went on from there. How many people do you figure were turned by her argument?

    Having said that, I intend to continue to sponsor their site, and assist them in any way that I can to make themselves heard.

    Oh, and lest I forget, you grouped me and my opinions as representing ‘the men’. We didn’t cover this at any of the meetings, so I can’t say I speak for all of them.

  • Foot-to-mouth

    apophenia: publicly processing hurt…

  • It was also sent to friends of friends, so I got it too, but I didn’t understand what the hell it meant — I figured I was missing some sort of context, although i guess I wasn’t really. Well, at least I guess now I know.

    The immediate criticism you got for admitting your emotional response probably indicates why most of us spend so much of our times pretending that things don’t bother us when they do.

  • Sexism, Social Software & the Blogospher

    A fascinating series of blog entries shows the promise and peril of Blogs as a medium in a male-dominated technocracy…[pointers to two of Dana Boyd’s blogs, and one to Christian Crumlish’s blog, as well as some commentary.]

  • Sexism, Social Software & the Blogospher

    A fascinating series of blog entries shows the promise and peril of social software and Blogs as a medium in a male-dominated technocracy…[pointers to two of Dana Boyd’s blogs, and one to Christian Crumlish’s blog, as well as some commentary.]

  • OK.

    As a thought excercise, take that situation, and switch the genders of all participants.

    Do you think that the situation would negative to a similar extent?

    I’m not challenging the validity of your feelings, or accusing you of anything at all here, but I am curious as to your opinion.

  • supersymmatry only takes you so far. i don’t understand why anyone would object to danah’s testifying to her own feelings. saying she is making too much of it is a way of saying that it doesn’t matter or isn’t important.

  • Scott Moore

    I honestly don’t know danah so if I come off with unwelcome comments, just let me know.

    I’ve witnessed others who have had danah’s reaction to being included as part of a joking comment. I’ve seen it online and offline where someone is surprised by the sudden attention of a group. It seems to heighten the sting and so, her hurt is genuine and deserves some acknowledgement. She’s not screamingly mad (but was observant) and the fellow who sent the message took a step back to see the situation from another point of view and learned from it.

    I see the issue as less about sexism than I do the consequences (of which sexism is one) of social networking systems that focus more on power laws, nodes and pictures than on people. There are a hundred little ways most of these systems encourage us to simplay manipulate little pictures on the screen. A joke sent to friends pierced the veil of the avatar and revealed the presence of a person.

  • People seem to take a lot of criticism when they offer up their honest emotional reaction to life’s stings. I think this is why so much of the nation is on Prozac – not because life often hurts, but because people get so much grief when they say life often hurts.

  • joe

    Here’s an idea… take a picture of you making the ugliest face possible and put it up… or put someone else’s picture up… I’m thinking about mooning the camera and putting that up… talk about ugly!

  • Jon

    A thought: your post was a combination of expression of feeling, and analysis. The expression of feeling was “I got this email with the joke, and felt hurt, and objectified.” You then went on to say how this person “wants me there so that i can improve the scenery of his home page” and made a few other statements/projections about what he must’ve been thinking and feeling.

    If I were said guy, I would’ve felt attacked by that. I probably would’ve gone on the defensive, and said “well, that wasn’t my intention; lighten up!” These sort of things easily escalate into a battle. I know you’ve experienced that sort of thing before.

    IMHO, I think *just* expressing how you feel or reacted to something doesn’t leave much room for argument or defensiveness. It’s just a statement of your experience, which you can take full responsibility for, and nobody can argue with. If making you feel like shit is something the other person cares about, they’ll probably take it to heart. If it’s not, then there’s probably nothing you can say that would sink in with them.

    (Note: I’m not saying analysis is bad. Just that sharing and analysis are two seperate things.)

    My $0.02. YMMV.

  • Sexism may have contributed to the comment, but it’s also partly fallout from Orkut trying to be simultaneously a business network, a bulletin board, and a dating service. Some people intentionally go to Orkut to meet MOTAS, and in a dating context the comment would not have been inappropriate the way it would be in the workplace.

    (It also could have been switched around genderwise, although given the overwhelming gender ratio in Orkut a straight woman or a gay man would have been unlikely to say something of the kind.)

    Not trying to discount your feelings, just making a peripheral comment.