First, I'd like to talk about my experience last weekend at Spiel in Essen. Spiel is the largest board game convention in the world and I've done a recap of how it was for my company on Angry Hamster Publishing's Blog. However, I thought I'd talk about how the experience was for me personally at the con.
Namely, because I had a pseudo-crisis of faith (in myself) there. Let me explain. The first day the con was open I met a blogger who offered to review WFS for me. Two days later he stopped by the booth at the same time a distributor was there and both got into a joking argument about how they wanted to take me on a date. First it was just a joke, we all laughed, and I attempted to steer the conversation back to business. Then, it started to get uncomfortable as they 'fought' about who would get to date me first, who saw me first, and who had a claim on me. This only went on for around five minutes, but by the end of the conversation, of which I was talked over and felt unable to speak, I felt very uncomfortable.
Once they walked away my partner, who was also there at the time, was livid. He asked me if he should have said more, having been able to interject a few times and say I was in a relationship, but I told him no. Mainly, because in these situations I want to be able to speak for myself, have my own voice, and people should be able to get the message that I do not want to date them, even if I do not have a partner. But then why didn't I speak up? I know these guys probably meant it as a compliment and didn't realize what they were doing. I honestly feel no (normal) person sets out to make someone else feel like crap. But does that make it okay?
The next morning I was free from running the booth with my girlfriend Floor. So we sat down at a quiet place at the con with our coffees and had a lighthearted *coughs* conversation on feminism... Cause that is what you want to do at 8am before you have a whole day of selling things to people :P. She was pretty much as bothered as I was when I told her and it always feels good to talk to Floor cause she has such a level head about things.
The main questions we asked ourselves were - Were we over reacting? How do you maneuver out of a situation like that while remaining professional? Should we just let it go?
The last question was easy - yes, I should let it go. For the only reason, that while I should address things that bother me, it's better for my own mental health not dwell on them. I have way too many things to do than worry about two guys that made me uncomfortable, honestly it isn't worth my time.
However, the other two questions were more difficult. I don't blog about it, I rarely tell my partner about it, but stuff like this happens all the time. It happens to women all the time. My natural response is to smile and ignore. That is what I have been trained to do from an early age, but is it right? Any of my friends will tell you I can go into a feminist monologue for hours if I am allowed, but that is with people I love who I enjoy engaging in conversation with, where I feel safe and happy to debate. But what about in public? Don't I owe it to women everywhere to speak up when I see something is wrong? My higher brain says yes, you do Liz. This wasn't even that bad, it could be worse, and as a woman it's your job to speak up and make sure this doesn't happen to someone else.
And there she is, the woman in my brain telling me I am a bad woman. However, this voice is coupled with the fact that I was at the con in a professional capacity. One of the men who engaged in the debate was a distributor who could get my book to a lot of people and another was a blogger who had my book and was going to review it. So, how can I say something that will not offend either of them, but still make them stop? Should I even be worried about offending them?
An idea I had at the time was to say something pithy/witty to make them stop. It'd be funny, we'd all laugh, and the who situation would be done. I had tried it a few times and half way through my sentence I was talked over. I could have kept talking, but that would just be awkward. So, what's a girl to do?
Floor and I mused for half an hour or so, drank our coffee, and then went about our day. The conclusion was - damned if you do, damned if you don't, next time I am really going to say something (while in my heart of hearts fearing I am not going to).
I don't really have any answers in this blog post, but I hope by sharing my experience it helps is some way.
I can say, as a person who experiences these things, it sucks. We are taught to laugh, smile, and most importantly to minimize. When things like this happen, it is a compliment or a joke and something we shouldn't take seriously. However, when it happen frequently, which it does, slowly it starts to wear at your self worth. It wears down you as a person, scrapes away at your sense of who you are, and makes you feel like a thing rather than a person. For me this isn't a dramatic feeling, despite my flowery description, but for others it can be and it can me much worse.
Gwen, sing me out...