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.

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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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On Optimism

I love FutureCrunch, I get in in my inbox and it always fills me with hope. In a recent edition they posted the below, about optimism, and I realised how much I could benefit from these ways of thinking myself so wanted to share this here from their newsletter both as a aide memoir and to share with a wider audience. It is wonderful writing.

“One of the best ideas we came across over the holidays was taking one word, and making it your mantra for the year. As we all know, New Year’s resolutions aren’t very effective (don’t worry it’s not just you, the science suggests it’s impossible for most people).

Having one word is better. It can act as a touchstone for many areas in your life, whether it’s health, relationships, or work, and you can adapt it to circumstances as they change around you.

Our word for 2018 is easy.

Optimism.

We’ll try to explain.

The default attitude for many people who think of themselves as smart, engaged and widely read is cynicism. In a world beset by climate change, environmental degradation, forced migration, political extremism, toxic masculinity, human rights violations, and economic inequality, it seems like the only sane reaction. Especially when the scale of the challenges we face seems to be matched only by the ineptitude of our political leaders. To the well informed cynic, it’s obvious that the human race is utterly incapable of getting its shit together.

You know who else thinks like that? Emo teenagers. They naturally default to cynicism because it’s safe. The world is an uncertain, mean place filled with stupid authority figures and meat heads. Far easier to retreat to your room, cry softly onto your copy of Nietzche, write some dark poetry and wallow in the endless night of the human soul.

However, as anyone who’s gone back and read their teenage poetry knows, teenagers aren’t wise. They don’t really understand what’s going on. They haven’t had enough experience. Their decision to adopt an attitude of cynicism may like feel like an act of rebellion, a way of reclaiming agency in a world that has obviously gone mad. In reality, it’s a decision based on fear, uncertainty and inexperience.

As an adult, you’ve got no excuse. Cynicism is lazy, it’s the easy way out. If you only expect the worst from society, you never have to worry about being wrong, or disappointed. And if you stay cynical for long enough, it leads to what Steven Pinker calls corrosive pessimism. If everything is awful, and politicians are always liars, and business leaders are always greedy, and we’re all on a collision course with a climate change time bomb, then what’s the point in trying to do anything about it?

This kind of attitude is bad enough when it happens on an individual level, but at the societal level it’s toxic. In a time where action is paramount, cynicism creates a paralysing effect. It causes predatory delay, which is effectively the same as losing. It concedes the fight to those whose power and wealth is tied to planetary destruction and the misery of others.

So here’s our idea.

In 2018, how about cultivating an attitude of optimism? Not as a judgement, or a reaction to the world around you, but as a choice, by which you navigate and affect the world around you. In our own experience, the personal benefits of waking up every day and deliberately making that choice are profound.

It’s not just a personal project, it’s a political one too.

We’re not talking about naive optimism, the kind that recycles, sings Kumbaya, grows organic veggies in the backyard and hopes Elon Musk is going to fix all of our problems.

We’re talking about a compassionate optimism, one that bears witness to the terrible things that are happening on our watch, and doesn’t shy away from the pain.

It’s a courageous optimism, one that admits the profound difficulty of the tasks that lie before us, and even the possibility of total failure.

It’s an intelligent optimism, informed by incredible advances in science and technology, and inspired by stories of human progress and environmental stewardship.

It’s a practical optimism, which takes a long, hard look at everything that’s going on around us and says, “we can do better than this.”

Most importantly, it’s a collective optimism, one that recognises that progress doesn’t happen by magic, but is the result of sustained, committed efforts by millions of people over decades, who keep on showing up and insisting that it’s possible to create a vibrant, life sustaining global society that works for everyone.

Try it out – make optimism your filter bubble in 2018, and see how it goes. We’ll be right here with you, trying (and failing) to be funny, dredging up questionable content from every corner of the interwebz, and giving you plenty of fuel along the way. “

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Taking my ego out of running

As most of you dear readers will know, I have a bit of a running habit. It started a few years ago, and last year led to me running London Marathon. You can read about how and why I got into running here.

Running is an interesting hobby to have when it comes to social media. It’s followers are such fanatics, it’s brilliant. Strava, runfies, Facebook, Twitter – any time you run there’s always a ton of people in the running community who think it’s ace. And it’s prolific. I mean, I’ve worked out all my life and I’ve never had props like I do for running for my weekly pilates, swimming or weight lifting! Even when I was a competitive windsurfer and martial artist, no one cared, and I WON TROPHIES DAMMIT haha.

On one hand, this huge social push and acknowledgement for this particular sport is amazing. It got me out the house for the first year when my moral was low and I couldn’t even. It helped me round the marathon, and through the crazy 4 months of training in the snow and rain. It’s helped me up hills, and through mud, and hangovers 😉 BUT! It is also a little dangerous. I’m someone who (like a lot of other people) thrives on attention, competition and wanting to do my best, and get better. I enjoy being inspiration to others to get fit, and have been told on a few occasions that I’ve been someone’s catalyst to starting training.

This has often meant pushing myself more than I should, for the sake of ego. “You only ever race against yourself” is something that gets said a lot in running, but I have frequently found myself training harder to get my times anywhere near those in my stream who are almost all faster and “better” runners than me. And when you meet a fellow runner it’s often a topic of conversation on times. I’ve always felt pretty embarrassed by mine. I’m surrounded by amazing runners in my social feeds, so my poxy times (27 5k, 55 10k, 2hr15 half, 5hr mara) seem pretty useless. So I pushed ever harder and faster both in speed and distance in the hope to be accepted as a “real” runner.

A couple of things went wrong with this approach. Firstly, I really knackered my knee during marathon training. It was ludicrously painful and ended up with me doing the tail end of my training and the actual marathon on anti-inflammatory painkillers, as well as the psychological terror that my knee might go “bonk” on the run and I wouldn’t be able to even walk-finish. Thankfully it didn’t, and I completed the marathon with a big smile (you can watch the Vlog I did whilst running it here). It’s been fine ever since, interestingly and thankfully. Probably because I do a lot of cross training now.

Secondly, and perhaps more worryingly, I noticed whilst comparing myself to others on Strava (yep, a fairly frequent thing to work out why I wasn’t getting faster.. sigh..) that my heart was going at a really high rate. On average, 180bpm for the whole time I was running, even if that was for hours. I’m 37, so using the usual 220-37 that’s actually my (generic) max heart rate, and 80% which is considered safe for distance training is around 145-150.  So I ended up under a cardiologist recently to find out what was going on. Numerous tests (various types of ECG, an echo-cardiogram, running data etc) pointed that my heart itself is fine and not doing anything it shouldn’t, I was just running at a level that was too hard, too long and too fast for my physiological make up. Also may be why I’ve never got faster: I’ve always trained at a level that’s been too stressful to my system by pushing myself as hard as I can most runs.

Here’s an interesting end of a 10k just before the marathon last year – when I would be at my fittest. 187 HR!! With an average of 174 for an hour…

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So, I’ve decided it’s time to take my ego out of running.

I’m listening to the advice the cardiologist is giving me, and running with a heart rate of no more than 165, but ideally 150-160. I find 160 a really comfortable rate to run at, it’s made running so much nicer this last couple of weeks. But, it is *really* hard to watch my times slip back quite a big way, and watch friends power on faster with their lovely slow heart rates.

It will mean I can’t run with people like I used to: I won’t be able to keep up without causing some heart mischief. But that’s ok – it means I can get back to just enjoying running without the pressure on myself. In a lot of ways it feels like a nice psychological return to the first year of running where just lacing up felt like an achievement. Where a 5k made me feel like the Goddess of Running, and where I didn’t beat myself up most weeks for not getting my name down for an ultra.. I never compared myself to others at the start. I was just impressed at myself for getting out the door.

I’m slow. Sometimes I run short distances, and sometimes I run far. I love it all.

I’ll never be the fastest or the longest, but I am one of the happiest when I’m out there. Meandering runs with no purpose than the joy or running and keeping fit and healthy are for me, the best runs there are.

I’ve also since found out that actually training at the right heart rate for you can reap some excellent rewards in running faster with a lower heart rate once you’ve given your body the time to adjust. So you never know, maybe one day my times might “get better” again. I’m not going to worry if they don’t, though.

So if you ever fancy a long, slow run with someone who stops frequently and walks up the hills, I’m your woman. I’m learning to be ok with that, now.

 

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Vlog of the London Marathon, 2016

Want to know what it feels like to run a marathon? I took some very short videos documenting my way round on Periscope so that I could tap into friends and family support. They’re here unedited and in order. There are some swears in the last one, just one F bomb I think.

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