Dec 192012
 December 19, 2012  Posted by at 1:15 pm Not So Stupid Questions Tagged with: ,  Add comments

You might not read the whole blog post- it’s a lengthy one I know. So I’ll say the most important part right now.

If you EVER harass me you WILL be published on the blog, twitter, facebook and whatever media I have. I don’t back down, I don’t back of. And I’m sure my friends won’t either. And girl, if you have ANY problems with ANYBODY – please reach out to me. Now

A long day

It has been a long day. I just came back from the police station. I feel drained. Tired.

“What happens now?” I asked

“Nothing. If he makes a physical approach then we might have a case” The policeman said

I have a case and I’ll chase the person down. I already have a lot of information, and I don’t need the police to fight this. A part of my fight is making publicly all the details. I know some of you will be able to help, so contact me if you recognize the phone-numbers, the person or anything else.

Sitting in the car my mind drifted, my last year and a half as a developer spun in my head. It has been a crazy year and a half. Good and bad. But I’ve been quiet about the worst.
By no means do I consider myself a role model, a martyr, or a woman’s right ambassador. I didn’t want that role, it was a battle and I felt unprepared. I was closing my eyes, and my mouth. Being hit in the face with a “Nothing” after everything that has happened the last 17 months has changed that. How do you gain control over people?

You keep them scared and keep them quiet.

I’m not scared, and I am sure as hell not staying quiet.

How do you worst manage problems? You pretend they don’t exist
How do you control people? Keep them scared and keep them quiet

How do you control people? Keep them scared and keep them quiet

I was interviewed by the most known computer magazine in Sweden about my career change. The interview is short, two pictures and a video. As soon as the article is posted extremely offensive comments are posted as well (you can read some of the translate comments here, unfortunately many comments were already remove when I took the screen shot). Barely an hour in the comment feed is closed. Three hours in all offensive comments are deleted, my images removed, and the video removed on one article. The title of the article is changed not to indicate my gender.

And article about a strong woman that looks different that creates strong reactions from the male developer community is suddenly an article about a person captured by code (so it’s not an active choice), and everybody is cheering for her. A few weeks later the same newspaper writes an editorial about this, and how shame it is they had to close the comment feed, and how we need more women in CS. Nothing about removing my identity, and pretending the problem doesn’t exist.

But my blog has the evidence. Comments after comments not approved due to their vulgar language. Some have made it though, and you’ll find them here and there.
But my inbox has the evidence. Email after email with profane comments and suggestions.

Would you tell young girls to not tell? What message are we sending?

Would you tell young girls to not tell? What message are we sending?

I ignored – I ignore no more.

Cause you see, I even got myself two stalkers.


Let’s go back to in time. The say you should record all incidents. Time, place and what. Let’s have a look at some of mine, and don’t worry I’ll tell you everything about the police incidence. First things first. And it always starts so subtle. Is there really a problem?

EDIT (from Stupid Question 108: After Q107, what now Iris?)

The incidents I encountered were just a few, writing about everything would make for a rather long blog post so instead I chose a sample, and made sure that the ‘seriousness’ of the incidents varied- so more people could relate and also because I wanted to ask the question: where do we draw the line? I don’t know, but I want to know how others feel. Some of the incidents, taken out of context and standing alone, seem insignificant (and might even so be) – but when put together I wonder what the connection is and if they OK the next action and next incident. You can agree with all, parts of it, or none of it- but your options matter and I wanted to hear them. I might have gotten more than I bargained for…

Record all incidents

Record all incidents

During first UG I attend I get tagged on FB with a comment: look we have female developers. I win a T-Shirt for being the only woman there. Does not feel like an accomplishment, nor a compliment.

Not a big deal?

During the opening of a conference girls dressed as cheerleaders, called the Azure girls, sing about penises and drugs.

Still not a big deal?

Later that night a band sings about watching TV and wanking of, getting all the guys to sing along. The lead singer is wearing a T-Shirt saying dolphins are gay sharks.

Still not a big deal?

During the same conference, in the evening, male developers are placing bets if a guy will succeed or not to hit on me. While a guy runs up to me and rudely addresses me, his mates are cheering in the background. I leave in tears and I leave early.

Still not a big deal?

During a live rehearsal of my session ‘Stupid Questions and N00bs’ talking about how women in computer science was at 50% during the 80’s but has since declined I get a comment that since they were using punch cards it was a job even women could do.

Still not a big deal?

I’m approached during a conference by a young developer, he scans me from top to toe and says: What are YOU doing here, because obviously you are not a developer. The look on his face as he turns my name tag around and it has Speaker written in red on it, priceless.

Still not a big deal?

I’ve been getting inappropriate emails that are making me very uncomfortable, they are of private nature and subtle suggestive.
Still not a big deal? Here is my day today

The sms'es I got today

The sms'es I got today


08:30 am– My husband leaves for work. First time I don’t go with him- I got a few things to take care of at home before I head to work

08:35 am – Phone call from a number I don’t recognize. Breathing on the other end. Person hangs up after a 10 seconds. I get a weird feeling. I go to my computer to look up the number.

08:38 am – My phone plings. It’s an MMS with a video. The video is of a man masturbating, video is shot from the hipbone down to mid-thigh. It’s a white male, overweight, small chubby hands, no dirt under his nails and he is circumcised. He is aroused, breaths heavily, but has a problem with his erection. The video is recorded just a few minutes before it was sent.

08:42 am – SMS: “Are you kind of horny? Maybe craving a big hard cock..?” Text is in Swedish

08:43 am – SMS: “Or maybe just some arousing phonesex? With video call?” Text is in Swedish

09:03 am – I text back: “ Fuck of. I’m on my way to the police right now, with information from your phone carrier Telia and meta data from the video. I’m married, so the answer is no, and don’t you fucking think that you have the right to do this you fucking idiot. Do you really think you can be anonymous when you send a video through sms? As soon as I have your address the police will knock on your door and hand over an Idiot of The Year diploma to you. Congratulations. No you keep wanking of, but do it on your own. “

09:20 am – phone rings, a different number (turns out to be another phone carrier, Comviq). Following conversation takes place.

Him : “I want to fuck your pussy, I’m going to…” – he is making his voice hoarser and darker, breathing heavily but also sounding nervous
Me: “Look dude, if you want to talk to me you got to speak up. I can’t hear a shit because of the whole breathing thing you got going on”
He pauses. Complete silence for a few seconds. Then repeats what he said, word for word, louder. I can better hear his voice.
Me: “Really? You can’t talk louder? I’m telling you I really can’t hear what you are saying. Turn it up”
He repeats, loudly this time, sounds nervous as hell and not that aroused anymore. His voice cracks mid-sentence and he hangs up. He doesn’t call back.

Still not a big deal?

Wish I could say it was the first time. Wish I could say it usually doesn’t happen. But even a quick google will let you know that this is very common for female developers to experience. There is even a timeline where you can read about some documented incidents, and I think some of the things I’ve witnessed are even represented here. There is even a site where (I assume) female gamers can upload creepy comments in RE to playing, and the offensive nature of the comments is shocking, and scary.

Still not a big deal?

Still not a big deal?

Image borrowed from the site-!

What scares me even more, is the advice and response some of you have given me.

The advice and response I’ve been given that I dislike and disagree with:
Ignore it- most studies actually conclude that you should not ignore
Hide – rather impossible, and it also gives the impression that the problem does not exist
Take it- I should kind of blame myself for looking the way I look I had a comment or two say

And then the advice I Iike
Fight it – not take it, not hide, and not change who you are

My question to you, Still not a big deal?

  141 Responses to “Stupid Question 107: Shhh… Harassment. Not a problem? Strong content warning”

  1. The thing that annoys me most is that these idiots consider themselves intelligent, while in reality they’re not smarter than chimps. I apologize to the chimps.

  2. That sounds terrible. As a “newbie” programmer, hearing about this sort of attitude is very detracting. While I am (thankfully) surrounded by more decent and mature colleagues and classmates, it is unfortunate that a substantial part of the developer community thinks and acts this way.

  3. I suggest you add a link to this post on

    I considered doing it but thought it would be presumptuous of me to do so.

  4. Iris,

    It is actually quite scary how similar your story above is to the one that got me annoyed and frustrated enough to start Girl Geek Dinners. The sexism at events wasn’t quite as bizarre or obvious as what you have listed there but it is similar. I did have one guy get down on one knee in front of male friends and thank me for being at an event once. That was weird & bizarre.

    I have had a phone stalker after giving out my phone number on a business card. I did go to the police too and they tried taking the issue up with my phone contract provider but it turned out that the person in question was also with the same provider and spent more money with them so they refused to release the information to the police and that was all the police could do unless he did something more than phone stalking.

    In the end I threw out my old business cards, created new ones that only had my online contact details but no phone numbers. I left a space on the card where I could write on it my phone number if I trusted them or knew them already. I changed my phone number and the stalker disappeared. I did write about it online but no one really took much notice at the time. It caused a lot of worry and distress as it seemed like they knew me and were living somewhere nearby as well. I never did find out who it was.

    Whilst you shouldn’t have to change numbers and go to that extreme sometimes it is easier to disengage with people like that and move on with things. You are not alone in this issue and if you look at stats around men vs women and privacy information women not just in tech but in general are much more likely not to give out their home address, mobile or landline number than men. I suspect it is mainly due to personal safety. I don’t think we are likely to change that unless women are as physically strong as men.

    You aren’t alone and I hope that you feel that there is a space in the IT sector that doesn’t involve this type of behaviour. I’ve worked in the IT sector now since 2004 and it is changing for the better slowly but surely. Things that are happening that may surprise you men are supporting wanting to get more women into technology especially those who are fathers and they don’t necessarily even have to be technologists themselves. The UN are now looking at how to support women in ICT as are many governments. There are local groups where women who work in the IT sector get together and share their experiences, learn from one another and have social events, they have their own community within the sector.

    If you want to reach out and talk further just get in touch.

  5. I’m sorry you’re going through this. I know I’ll probably get a lashing for what I’m about to write, but it’s my opinion. I don’t see this as a gender issue. This is a humanity problem. Obviously, your gender is the vector of attack. But it’s about violence and power.

    In my opinion, there was no problem until your second “Still not a problem?” I would personally find the first couple examples offensive and would have more than likely left. (I’ve done so in similar circumstances.) But, I recognize that my sensibilities don’t govern others’ behavior — right or wrong. But, when that guy comes up to you and treats you like that, well that’s when that ends.

    Some of those things like the joke just need to be taken in stride. It may have been said in your presence to hurt you, but it could very well have just been a joke — whether right or wrong. Taken with everything else, it was just more to pile on. People like that don’t need a woman to make a joke about, they’ll find some target to make themselves feel better about themselves.

    Don’t take any of this as excusing any behavior. I’ve been the subject of bad behavior in the past. Let me tell you women are just as capable of crap like this. The difference is that like you I stood up for myself. I think you’re doing the right thing.

  6. I am so sorry for what you have been going through, and I am really lost for words when I read what has happened to you. Please do not give up, they do not deserve to win!

    I once read your blog post about how you started your programming career and basically rekindled my passion for my job, even though my work environment is toxic.
    Also your example will encourage others both male and female to speak out and take action against these kind of criminal behaviour.

    Thanks again for everything and please keep up the good work there are so many people who are inspired by it (including myself btw).

  7. I’m about a year late to this post but I really wanted to weigh in to show my support. I’m a very stereotypical developer: white, male, slightly overweight, etc. However, I’m not an introvert. I’m a very outspoken humanist and skeptic. Anyone who tells you to do anything other than fight it is completely ignorant and has no idea what it’s like to be harassed the way you have been.

    You don’t ignore or hide from stuff like this. That is the stupidest suggestion anyone could ever give you. Kudos for fighting oppression and double kudos for taking on the even greater challenge of fighting sexual harassment in the software industry.

  8. Well done Iris, for taking the time and having the guts to post this, you are right, it’s time to call it what it is every time it happens, it’s sexist, and it’s just as bad as racism or homophobia. One of my bosses once told me “I love having women working for me, they look nice, they work hard and they are dirt cheap….”

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



What is 15 + 11 ?
Please leave these two fields as-is:
IMPORTANT! To be able to proceed, you need to solve the following simple math (so we know that you are a human) :-)