A post about client sexual harassment

I was sexually harassed by a client last night. The harassment itself was no big deal, just drunken, stupid sexual texts, multiple calls & videocalls I didn’t pick up. Unfortunately, this is not something new as a woman in tech – the usual “it just wasn’t like me” or “I don’t normally do this” might work for you – it’s really something most of us women are on the receiving end of multiple times a year. So, as a veteran of the techbro industry the harassment itself hasn’t really bothered me more than just some idiot I can block – I’d even rate it a boring 3/10 on the inventiveness scale. What has bothered me and that I want to write about is the knock on effects to my financial and emotional health. The fallout of such a situation that I’ve now been put in.


Having tried hard to give this person an “out” by trying to laugh it off at first in the first replies, and a few messages later tell them it was inappropriate and not to continue, they carried on until I blocked them hours later, including calling me after I stipulated I was with my family, having family time. This is a really horrible situation to be put in. You can knock me, I’m pretty strong, but start having a knock on effect to my family, and I get really angry and upset, really quickly. By the time I called the co-founder to get them to stop the other one (whilst blocking him) I was in tears, shaking. There goes Saturday night, and a decent night’s sleep. Thanks for that.


Now today, I get to spend the first Sunday I’ve had to myself in a long time, pondering the financial loss of a client I have consistently billed with, and spent a whole bunch of business and head space getting to learn and be a part of. A product I loved, a team I loved, a fellow co-founder I really enjoyed working with that I consider a good friend. All gone, thanks to one guys (so many other guys too) sense of entitlement. And I get to sit, worst of all, wondering how on Earth I now stop this guy from doing this to other women. That’s probably the bit I hate the most. Because it means drama, because it means bad vibes, and because he believes deep down he’s a good guy, and not douchebag in tech. He was just drunk! A quick apology email (“I’m not normally like this” – oh I’m sorry, did I inspire it then, it’s my fault, is it?) and we can just carry on being friends (dudes: friends don’t sexually harass each other, and *especially* men who are harassing women, and *ESPECIALLY* men who know the woman they’re harassing has specifically been through a lot of trauma in tech both personally and professionally when it comes to women being mistreated in the workplace) a quick apology and we can still work together (spoilers: we absolutely can’t if you’re still in the business as you represent a threat I wouldn’t subject either myself or any other women or people to).


So yeah. I don’t know where this goes, or what happens next. But I’m just so ANGRY that as a 41 year old woman, 23 years in this industry, OPENLY angry and publicly calling out this behaviour ALL MY CAREER online, in person, and in my business ALL THE TIME; and some guy *still* doesn’t see the knock on effect to me, my financial and mental health, from them deciding they want to tell me what they’d like to do to me sexually. I mean, if they still think I’m an acceptable target for this sort of thing, can you imagine what it’s like for people with less of a platform and desire to see creeps eradicated from tech? It’s a fucking nightmare, that’s what.


It’s not ok. It’s not “just drunk”, don’t give me that crap. I’ve been the drunkest of all the drunks, ask anyone who knew me in my twenties. And I am very highly sexed, so you really don’t get a pass on the whole “but men are highly sexed” bullshit I hear either. Again, anyone who knows me will be stood up saying “truth” right now. I would never, EVER have this behaviour, even when I’m about to pass out blind drunk/high/whatever no matter how much I fancy them or feel horny that night. Why? Because as a man (ok, so *this* man, but also LOTS of men) it’s an ingrained belief that you feel in some way allowed to treat me as a sexual object, regardless of my opinions or objections to that, or the trouble it will cause me in fallout thanks to your inappropriate behaviour.


It’s Not Ok. It’s Never Ok to sexually text women you work with. Or even just anyone, if that’s not the relationship you have both consented to.


If this story sounds like you and you’re a guy in tech reading this: get to therapy, stop drinking, and stop being in a position of power if you abuse it. If you don’t do these things, you deserve none of my time or friendship. You’re a predator, and you’re dangerous to the women you encounter – emotional, financially, physically – whether you understand that yet or not. Do the work, or GTFO.

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It’s ok to not be ok, you’re not alone

Having a rough mental health week this week and I know that’s ok.

I’ve been talking to a couple of other folks unable to complete new job interviews right now for the same reasons, and honestly – that’s totally relatable.

So I just wanted to pop this out into the ether that it’s ok to be finding things really hard right now. They are really hard, and this is a perfectly fine response to the world we currently find ourselves in.

If this resonates with you then know – and take a breath in to feel – I’m sending you love over the wires, and I hope that knowing others are feeling these things with you helps you feel less alone xoxox

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Central Lofts aka Central London Lofts

Firstly, check out the full reviews of Central Lofts. Or do I mean, Central London Lofts? Or was it, Anglian Construction? Sorry – the people behind this company has so many names it’s traded by and wound up I get mixed up sometimes. A bit like them, on site, and in communication – where they use their old company name. The one they’re not allowed to as it’s in liquidation. Have a look for Renatas Steponaitis on Companies House. That’s a mighty lot of liquidated companies you got there, fella.

So to see the real reviews on Trustpilot – scroll down a little, and LOOK AT ALL THE NEGATIVE REVIEWS! Central Lofts have taken down NINE ONE STAR reviews in 12 months. NINE! Luckily for you I have been saving the bad ones I find they managed not to pay to take down over the internet – https://www.dropbox.com/sh/0vzy802r9x67wv6/AAASTg7myVChqjm4F_wlu0iua?dl=0

What’s interesting is in their contract it says you cannot say anything bad about them on social media, or they will come after you legally and fine you £5,000. I did wonder why that was in there, but now it all makes sense. Clearly something they have to mitigate against a lot! Luckily their solicitors told me today they have terminated the contract with me, so I now get to tell you all about them. All over the internet.

So – thinking of working with these conmen? This is what you can expect when you work with this company. And I know this, as it has all happened to me first hand.

  • poor workmanship
  • incorrect plans
  • incorrect measurements
  • lies about qualifications
  • incorrect structural work
  • lack of communication
  • huge requests for money in advance
  • lack of any health and safety
  • bombing things off scaffolding with young babies nearby (within metres)
  • sending folks who should be self isolating onsite

Let’s start at the beginning, you will meet Huw Davies – also runs a company called Caddingtons so you might want to swerve that one also. A great salesperson, truly one of the best to be able to polish a turd like this company and get you to buy it – he’ll tell you anything you want to hear, and get you to sign. Ask him anything, he’ll answer you perfectly! But it’s all lies. Oh and then he “has nothing to do with the build” when you ask him why things he sold you are complete fabrications.

The architects the company promises? Lies. There are none, and have never been any at this company. If you’re lucky you’ll get the owner’s 25 year old son (Michael Gage) who’s at best a good trier at CAD. At worst, he will create plans that are factually incorrect, and cause structural problems to your existing property – as has happened to us. Don’t believe me? Call the ARB, and ask them if Central Lofts have ever had any registered architects in their company. They have not.

Good luck with a structural engineer also, there’s also none of those.

Your project manager – who is also handily your contracts manager, Renatas Steponaitis – good luck with him. He will never come on site, and will never answer your calls. He’s awesome at sending you invoices though. Apparently my “ACCOUNT IS ON HOLD” because I dared to ask why my steels are in the wrong place.

What about the promised quality? Yeah, no chance. Well, unless you don’t look too closely like the other reviews on here. The trick they use is to build so fast and so bad that it is all covered over and looking pretty before you even notice your steels are in the wrong place, you have no fire boards, and that they cut through all your roof membranes. Yep, all these and much, much more happened to me. Things you wouldn’t even know until a few years down the line when your lovely looking loft starts leaking, or you burn to death. Good luck with that.

So, what happens when you tell them they need to fulfil the contract as promised?

Well, let me tell you – they instruct solicitors to try and make you go away. They stop answering the phone at all themselves, or replying to any emails. Yep, I have a bunch of very silly letters now from their local legal folks which sound like they were written by a teenager. Perhaps David Gage the director has another son who he gets to pretend to be another legally protected trade.

Anyway, avoid. Total scammers and cowboys.

This will be removed, but I will be putting up every single day I can and in every place I can find because people like these should not be allowed to get away with what they do. It’s dangerous, it’s fraud, and it’s just down right nasty.

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Did I ever tell you about my £15,000 t-shirt?

Once upon a time I met a very smart, kind and fun creative man. It was via work – I was head hunting for a global company looking for a new Creative Director for them. It was a big role, with a big salary to boot. Headhunters like me are paid on a percentage commission based on the first year’s salary of a new employee we successfully introduce.

He sailed through the interviews, and everyone liked him. Six fairly intense interviews over many weeks, including a few videocalls across the globe. Finally all was done and dusted, and the very last stage was to go to the London Headquarters of the company to sign the contract for his new, dream job. We were all very excited after months of hard work finding the right person.

My guy was a keen motorbiker with a strong party ethic. A lot of fun to be round. Tall, dark, handsome – wicked laugh. The kind of guy you’ll find yourself at 3am doing shots with and roaring with laughter. My kind of people 🙂

On the fateful morning in question, he woke up, threw on a hoodie (on top of his t-shirt he pulled off the floordrobe) and set off on his bike to meet his new bosses and team for the final sign off.

As he walked through the open office fresh off his bike, he took off his helmet and hoodie. Underneath he was wearing a t-shirt he’d hastily thrown on not looking in the mirror until after his hoodie. Unfortunately for everyone involved it was a very trendy brand t-shirt from a high end skate board shop – called “sex“…

Walking through the open office, passing blocks of desks into the main meeting room, the die had been cast. In no way was it acceptable, or appropriate to wear a t-shirt that says “sex” on your contract signing day, or any day, in a professional setting (that’s not part of the sex trade etc).

I was contacted immediately by my client who (very kindly) explained what had happened, and that now the job offer was rescinded due to a clear lack of judgement. I shakily phoned my guy up wondering what the hell had happened, and he told me the story you read above. We remained (and remain) friends, and I asked if he would send me the t-shirt that cost me £15,000 so I could frame it as the most expensive item of clothing I ever owned. He was sweet enough to do so, and brought it along with him to the next party we were at together.

Today, a few years after the situation happened it finally got framed and now hangs in my bar.

He lost his dream job, they lost a great hire, I got a t-shirt worth £15k.

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Beware the narrative. Roll up for story time!

It’s a well known proven fact that humans interpret the world around them and their social circles with stories. Humans create narratives in order to make sense of data inputs and ensure the brain keeps the body ticking over, moving you towards your evolutionary goal of survival and procreation. There’s been countless books and studies on it – one of my favourites being The Self Illusion if you’re interested to read more.

So why beware the narrative? We all love a good story, don’t we?

Well, yes and no. Stories are great when we’re looking in, following the protagonist go about their adventures, solving mysteries, saving the day, or perhaps falling in and out of love. But when we’re in the story, and we’re not sure what role we’ve been cast (or even that we’ve been cast one at all!) – both by ourselves and by others, then it’s a bit harder to enjoy. Especially when the story doesn’t work out the way you wanted it to, the way it was supposed to. But it was always just that, it was always your story that you created. Sometimes they have happy endings, sometimes they don’t. Depends how your brain decides to process the data it’s been given, and how you chose to let it.

Every interaction you have in your life is part of both your own narrative, and that of the person (and community groups) you’re interacting with. In the smallest way on Twitter or a blog post for example, it could be with a tiny shared moment as they flick over your post and hit love (or don’t) and without even knowing it, for that fraction of your life you were part of theirs. It’s almost entirely inconsequential. But when you’re interacting on social media (or you know, anywhere – on and offline) and it’s a bit more than that – you’re creating social circles where you give and take information on a more ongoing basis, things start to get more involved.

The narrative you’re giving out may not even be one you realise you are – are you often posting things that are positive, negative, open, closed. Do you care about other’s feelings, or rather interact in a way that serves the self more? Do you promote happiness, desperation, emotional unavailability, neediness, love, excitement? Whatever you’re putting out there is building on the story of you in those who surround you. Your role in their narrative is built on the data you provide. Not providing any data? You probably don’t feature in too many narratives. That could be a good or bad thing, depending on your preference.

And what are the stories you build around others? You see their photos, their writing, their interactions. Do you see them as kind, needy, happy, sad, giving, loving, jealous, scary, angry etc – think about how that affects your interaction with them, based on all you have to go on (which is obviously the only evidence you have). Interesting to step back and consider that that might not be who they actually are, but just who they are in these moments in that platform, or place.

Then comes the narrative that I find the most fascinating of all. The narrative we weave around other people and what role they should play in our lives, based on the story we want to see play out at that given point of time in our lives. And that’s fluid – it moves and changes as we do, as does the role of the character we’ve cast on them. Those where the character matches the role given tend to work out well in our lives, and so long as they change as our casting does, tend to stick around. Those who were never cast correctly in the first place, or don’t turn out to play out the role you’ve deigned on them (whether you realise you did or not) tend to disappoint us, to some degree or further – and may find they cease to feature. They get written out, or worse, they get cast as a baddie. The more someone acts in a certain type of role the more ingrained it gets – hence things like “friendzoning” or “love of my life” or “bastard ex”. Iterative feedback loops that create stronger bonds in certain directions.

Fascinatingly the brain also post processes memories as stories too, sometimes with a slightly different filter than when you first experienced them – depending on your current state of mind vs the mind you had at the time. So you can’t trust a memory to be a true reflection of what once was. Also, brains (and eyes, interestingly) have another reality processing mechanism that allows them to infill gaps of data with what it expects to see/process. With online or distance relationships/interactions (time or physical) particularly this can lead to exaggerated pockets of feeling like people really get you. Your brain is basically infilling with what you’d like in the voids that don’t exist. Dangerous territory when forming any important emotional attachments.

So, yeah, beware the narrative – acknowledge that it’s there, and whether you like it or not (or think you do it or not!), you’re casting your own story right now and others are about you – who can you see are the heroes? Who is the big bad wolf? What role are you playing, and what role would you like to – are they the same? If not, make the changes in your life to get the role you want. It’s your movie, you be the star. And be mindful of others you cast in their roles: they may not be able to deliver what you expect of them. And maybe neither you nor they realise the role they’ve been cast as, and therefore why they’re failing. Perhaps the role you’re playing out – with or without realising it – isn’t one others want in their stories, which is why you feel like sometimes you don’t belong.

Just a thought.

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You’re my type

I hear a lot of other people talking about what their “type” is. Thin, fat, big bums, small boobs, flat stomachs, BBW, muscles, hair colour/style.. eyes. I’ve never gone in for physical attraction. I can see it, and understand it, but that isn’t what makes my type.

Let me tell you about my type.

My types are the people who make me smile, have a joy for life and having fun. They’re the ones who like to laugh, who live life to the full. They enjoy adventures, and stay inquisitive all their life. It’s those who have character, and individuality – those who aren’t afraid to stand up and be counted.

My types like to avoid drama, and instead communicate clearly, openly and without judgement.

My types are those of you who have faced adversity and had the strength and tenacity to overcome it, and let yourselves have happiness again. My types are those who don’t let their life be determined by the will of another, or “what has gone before”. The ones who follow their hearts and minds equally, even if it means it sometimes hurts – knowing and graciously accepting that is the price you pay for living your dreams and not giving in.

My types are the ones who are there for me even when I’m not just giving them something they desire. They’re the people who let me in, get to know them, and find out and enjoy my quirks too. And though they’re not afraid of their emotions and allowing them freely and openly, can manage them too. My types are the ones who care about my emotions as well, and treat them with respect and kindness.

My type are those who seek to better themselves on a daily basis, who won’t settle for mediocre. They’re willing to push themselves and their boundaries in pursuit of growth and personal evolution.

But most of all, my types are those who really care. The ones who don’t just say words but follow through with the actions to back it up, the ones who are there for others. The ones who remember the details, to ask how you are for no reason other than they care. They don’t run at the first sign of hard times within a friendship or relationship. You know the type, the ones where silence doesn’t feel awkward, but instead promotes comfort and deep peace.

My types are the ones who make you feel good to be you. All of you.

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What it feels like to Just Be Yourself.

BE YOURSELF! But just, not too much, ok?

Be creative! But.. just not with your clothes, or hair, or writing. It can be threatening, you know. Or make you deserving of unkind behaviour from others, why must you always be the troublemaker? You bring it on yourself.

Be proud of your body! But not when you look like that. No-one needs to share in that. And when you do look great, don’t show it off, that’s just posing.

Be queer! Good for you! But not too loudly, you’ll make people think you fancy everyone. All the time. Predator.

Be poly! Super brave and unusual. But could you just do that quietly without threatening  my (in-most-cases-false-or-broken)monogamy? Ta.

Be sex positive! Just not in my general direction, you massive perv. You’re not supposed to actually have or enjoy sex after 30, didn’t anyone tell you? Ugh.

Be open! But actually, wow, TMI. A little less, perhaps? Super unprofessional. You’re supposed to hide your private life. At least, the bits that aren’t on Instagram. No one needs to know the bits of you that makes them uncomfortable. It’s not our fault you don’t know which bits those are. Try harder.

Enjoy being a mum! But don’t talk about it too much. Or share. God, what’s wrong with you? Making everyone else feel uncomfortable for being spawnless, or bored with your genetic lifeboats.

Speak out about things that aren’t ok in society! But, please don’t count on people to stand with you. It’s great you do it, really it is, but why should they have to rock the boat? Your head looks better above the parapet, thanks. And anyway, if we all stay quiet there’s always Someone Like You ready to take this stuff on, it’s so much easier to just leave you to it.

Have opinions! Just, you know, not THOSE ones. And can you have them less strongly? thanks.

BE YOU! But can you just be a little more what the world finds comfortable? Thanks.

 

 

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How I use Twitter – OMG WHY DID YOU UNFOLLOW ME – a rough guide

Every so often, I unfollow lots of people and tighten my stream back to a bare minimum. I’ve always done this since I first started using Twitter – it serves me best as a platform where I only see those closest to me and then expand it out little by little over a few months then repeat the reduction and start again.

Every time I do this, I get a few messages from people, asking what they did wrong, or if I’m upset, or something similar.

I’ve never followed many people, I find the noise drowns out people I really want to hear from. As one of the first uptakers I’ve always used Twitter as a place where I talk to my friends. It’s never been about “growing my network” or having a personal brand. I think that’s why I’ve received comments in the past about my weird social media approach – it’s always almost TMI, and if I’m angry I share it. If I’m happy, I share it. If I’m sad, I share it. It’s a chat room of my good friends, but anyone is welcome to join in too. Some people from my Twitter have become my best friends both off and online. Others are people I know in real life that I like to keep up with. Others still, people whose opinions really matter to me, or from cultures and backgrounds I’d like to understand better. Some accounts I just follow because the content (often art) makes me feel happy when I log on to Twitter.

The main reason I’m writing this post though, is to explain that if I don’t follow you, or unfollow you for a bit, it doesn’t mean anything. You haven’t upset me, your content is great (you do you!) and you shouldn’t take it as a personal sleight. I just prefer to keep my stream stream-lined (!) and changeable.

“Can’t you just mute me/people so not to hurt feelings?!” I’ve had a few times in the past. Well, no. I don’t want to. I like unfollowing and re-following. I find mute is a bit of a lie. I don’t want people to THINK I’m following them and not joining in on their conversations or lives, but actually I’m not. Seems like an ego stroke that serves no-one. I’m annoyingly and often irritatingly transparent in who I am and how I live my life and what’s happening in my head, I don’t change that online. Also, whether I follow you on Twitter or not is zero indication of how much I like or dislike you. I once followed a group of Trump supporters for a week to try and understand their interactions and viewpoints. THAT WAS A HARD WEEK. But yeah, I didn’t like them. Following (or not) is no endorsement.

Lastly – I drop in on people’s streams a lot, even when I’m not following them, so don’t think because I’ve unfollowed I’m gone for good – and I often re-follow people, sometimes multiple times a year. I’m just making sure what I see when I log on to my feed is curated tightly to what noise I can handle at any one time.

You’re all amazing. Keep doing you. Don’t stress if someone on the internet follows or unfollows you. If you have a thing that tells you when people do, do yourself a favour and turn it off. *kisses*

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A Code of Conduct only means something if it’s enforced.

First of all, some very important context caveats, as I’m well aware a lot of your reading this won’t know me, or the conference.

  • I am quite easily triggered at the moment by misogyny in technology after my short tenure at Cloudflare earlier this year. They insta-fired me and flanked me off site (with no warning) a few days before my last cancer surgery in March this year, due to my being entirely unhappy about illegal interview questions and processes that prejudiced against women, and amongst other things happening there. I am sick to the back teeth of how women are treated for standing up to misogyny in this industry, and so I am bringing proceedings against them. This means I was triggered and reacted stronger than normal, I genuinely had a strong physical reaction (I have been shamed for shaking and crying, at the conference. I feel zero shame for having these emotions).
  • I’ve organised and run a conference myself. I know how hard and stressful it is, and understand the moving parts.
  • I love boobs. This is important. I also identify as queer/pansexual, and a bit of a perv – I adore bodies of all types and sizes and shapes, and all body parts. My point is: I am in no way a prude or in any way offended by the human body, as my tweets frequently show, BUT I WILL DEFEND the right of any human to feel comfortable and welcome in the technology industry (or in fact any profession) regardless of my own comfortableness with a pair of boobs on a tshirt – and this is the context of what I want you to understand. This was a professional event, where a man was wearing a tshirt of a naked, sexualised (that sexualised bit, also super important) woman. The messaging from this is deeply unpleasant on both how it frames the speaker and conference’s acceptance of women being there for the sexual pleasure of men. For women (and men, and enbies) who find sexualised imagery uncomfortable, and our upcoming youth who are watching up and how we conduct ourselves in our profession, this is terrible. This is why we have problems with diversity. This is why kids like mine (who both program, and excel in maths) take one look at tech and think, nah. I’d rather do something where I don’t have to feel uncomfortable. This is why I made a stand and left the talk.
  • Thinking Digital is an exceptionally good conference in Newcastle, that’s been run for 11 years, and apart from yesterday’s kerfuffle: seamlessly. I have nothing but respect for the team and Herb who founded and runs it. This is not a cry for pitchforks at them, and I’d prefer it if everyone kept their conversations kind and civil. Dealing with a crappy incident like yesterday is awful for everyone involved. What I’d like this post and experience to achieve is conferences thinking about whether they really mean their Code of Conduct and if so, what action they’d take if something like this happened at theirs.
  • I’ve been called out for being shameful for making this public, and not taking the speaker & event organisers to one side personally. Firstly, this is a public event that was being livecast, and photographed live. Therefore, the only way to deal with this is publicly. This was not an ok thing to happen in public. There are plenty of other people who would have felt very uncomfortable about this but didn’t have the voice for whatever personal reason to speak about it. I speak for them, I speak for those watching at home, I speak to raise awareness and I speak for my daughter’s generation who may find this content in future and wonder wtf. If I don’t speak out publicly, then it becomes normalised. It appears accepted. This is not acceptable. It is actually even harder than ever to speak out on this specific occasion because as I’ve said time and again on Twitter: I see Herb as a good friend, and wish him no ill at all and yet I know this will be an unpleasant situation for him. The easy and socially best thing to do would have been not to mention it at all. BUT, that wouldn’t help anything. Secondly, I did speak with both the speaker and the organiser personally, as well, at the time.

So, on with what happened. This, basically:

I was sat in the second row of the conference, and the speaker got up with a tshirt on that has a sexualised woman, with an open top, sat back on a bed with her breasts and nipples out looking rather provocative.

This made me feel very uncomfortable that this was happening on a conference stage (as I said before, boobs are fine, I have no problem with boobs, but in this context this is extremely inappropriate), and no-one was batting an eyelid. So I made a stand and left the talk. I also directly @’d the conference organiser and the hashtag on Twitter to make sure that the conference knew asap this was not ok in real time.

Other than my twitter feed blowing up with mostly super kind and supportive humans (thank you, this really helped me feel supported), nothing else happened. The talk continued, went over in fact, and then the break. No one from the conference approached me or him, either on or offline, so I decided I should leave as I was very upset and disappointed.

As I went to leave, the speaker was outside having a smoke, next to the exit. As I walked past him I let him know very calmly I’d found his tshirt inappropriate, I felt seeing as I’d called it in public it was the right thing to do in person as well, to attempt a conversation. At this stage it got immediately pretty nasty, without letting me finish even my first sentence the speaker very aggressively told me to “FUCK OFF” and his entourage joined in. My friend Dan was on a call about 15 metres away so I shouted at him to come over (I wasn’t sure if I was about to get duffed up, to be honest) and so he at least saw the tail end of the rebuttal.

Capture6

And at which point the speaker responded thusly (worth reading this linked to tweet thread) < — sadly this has now been removed because he’s ashamed of what he said. Happily, I have at least some screenshots. He blocked me immediately after my reply below:

By now, I’m feeling pretty shitty to be honest. Bear in mind as well, I’ve never once said I was offended.

  • I’m sad that the guy wore the shirt.
  • I’m sad that the conference organisers thought it was acceptable to wear on stage.
  • I’m sad that no-one else at the conference left the talk, or commented on it (props to Dan Hett who called it online though after seeing a live conference photo)
  • I’m sad that the speaker felt threatening behaviour was acceptable and appropriate.
  • I’m sad that when I then reported the incident of abuse to the organisers and team, there was no action taken – despite a code of conduct.

And lastly, I’m sad that although Herb made a very personal and heartfelt apology on stage, it was to me directly and used my name and Twitter handle. I understand this was done in the best intentions and for that I am touched and thankful, but that made me feel even more uncomfortable and very vulnerable. I was already in a state, so being called out and having people look for me in the audience was pretty terrifying. I felt extremely awkward, and the victim blaming started up shortly after on Twitter from other conference goers. I would rather the conference apologised for it’s behaviour and on behalf of its speaker to everyone because what happened was not acceptable. This isn’t about me – this is about our industry and the ability of those in power both on an off stages to shape how inclusive and welcoming we are.

I sense tested my thoughts on my 9 year old daughter this morning.

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If you want to see if I’m being overly sensitive, try this yourself on your own kids, or any children you know. Try it on most adults, even. And you’ll see.

In conclusion, I want people to come away with three things.

  1. If you are in a position of power either on or off stage it is your duty to make sure the messaging we send out about our community is one of inclusion, and respect for all.
  2. If someone lets you know your behaviour has been inappropriate, just take a breath and listen. You’re not being attacked, you’re being given the respect of someone who would like to help you be better. They could easily not tell you and people will just think you’re a wally.
  3. If you run a conference and have a Code of Conduct, it literally means nothing unless you are prepared to act on it in the moment when a situation happens. Make sure you have a run through pre-conference of exactly what should happen if there is an incident of someone being harassed or threatened. Doing nothing is not acceptable.

EDIT – update, 29th May 2018 – I noticed someone say something very unpleasant and personal to Paul on Twitter that made me really sad, today. This was never about attacking Paul as a human – just a point about what tshirts are acceptable on stage, and what to do when you need to deploy your code of conduct. I realise Paul’s part of that story: but we are all human and all can react in ways that aren’t becoming sometimes thanks to our own baggage and back stories. Anyway, long story short – I reached out and let him know that was never what I wanted to see happen to him, and he came back receptively and with lots of genuine apologies via personal message. We’ve shared stories about why each of us approached this how we did to better understand the other’s viewpoint and shared a virtual hug. 

Herb has now asked me to help him proof read and edit his post, which is a great step forward for collaborating and making sure this is dealt with as a joint force instead of at odds to each other, which I am very grateful for. I will do this tomorrow (30th May 2018).

A HAPPY ENDING. Huzzah.

<Jerry Springer final thoughts/>:

Change and open debate can be really painful (for all involved) but when the result is collaboration and new understanding it’s totally worth it. 

Thanks to everyone for all their support to me along the way with this.

 

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INTERNET! Let’s give someone a leg up!

Ok. I need a HUGE favour, one that will warm all our hearts and show that the internet is still amazing.

One of my best friends since I was 15, a guy called Olly, is one of the best model makers I’ve ever come across. After a crazy tough heart problem that required AWAKE open heart surgery every few years in his teens and stopped him going school after A levels, he managed to drag his sorry arse back to Uni in his twenties and self fund himself to do that art he’s amazing at (see portfolio below).

He has struggled to find a job in this area as they’re super hard to come by (especially if you don’t have a top University degree and most likely you’ve had a privileged background with connections), plus the usual “No experience, no job” thing. During the last decade he has worked in preschool childcare, supermarkets, kitchens, and been on benefits whilst looking for a break into model making. He has four lovely kids and a wife, and lives near Oxford. He is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. His heart is FAR from broken, I can guarantee you that.

He would LOVE a break, to do his passion (which he’s crazy good at) for a living. Can anyone help him/me out? It is my mission to get him a job this year that will lead on to epic things. He is brilliant, hard working, and deserves it so much. Please email either me thayer@thayerprime.com or Olly on ollyduffy@hotmail.com if you have any leads at all to give him a leg up.

We talk about diversity a lot: now’s your time to help someone who’s been socio-economically excluded all his life get a chance to be included in the workforce 🙂

His portfolio is here.

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