What can I do about Mr Creep?

To clarify: the title question is absolutely not a “/shrugs/ what can I do?” shirking of responsibility. It is a sincere, open request for guidance. Because I’m worried.

I worry that I won’t be able to accurately put across what I want to say, and that these words will hurt instead of help.

I worry that these sorts of abuses happen every day, which they pretty obviously do.

I worry that inattentional blindness means I don’t even register or recognise them when they do.

I worry about the effect incidents like this have on the women in my life, professional and personal, all of whom I hold in the highest regard.

Most of all, I worry that it’s me.

To be clear, I’m not worried for me, but that the problem is me. I am worried that I might be making the lives of the women I work with even the tiniest bit worse.

I consider myself a feminist. I worry a lot that I’m a crappy feminist, and actually make things worse while thinking I’m helping. I want to support the women around me as best I can, and better than I do.

If any of these concerns feel familiar to you, dear male reader, then I hope that that means we’re at least aware that we might be at fault. If so, it is our responsibility to awaken and improve that awareness in others, while we continue to work on ourselves.

I am resolved to do better and I want help to be better. You deserve it.

5 thoughts on “What can I do about Mr Creep?”

  1. Sadly, there are sexual predators in all walks of life, and there’s no reason why testing should be any different.

    “Mr Creep” seems a particularly egregious example, using his position – or possibly worse, posing – as a conference organiser for his own “pleasures”. I can understand why Cassandra chose not to ‘name and shame’; but if his real name were to spread, even only by word of mouth, then we could each be aware of any conferences this person really is organising and boycott them. Especially if they were sponsored from the wider industry – sponsors do not take kindly to reputational damage (though any such boycott would need to be advised to said sponsors). (And of course, this assumes that the perpetrator really is a conference organiser, and not a serial fantasist.)

    As to the question of how we can each change to stop this from happening, the only answer I know of is personal education and a continual questioning of our own actions. In a different life, I was closely involved in the workplace equalities issue for more than twenty years, and even then there were occasions when I tripped myself up through carelessness or unthinkingness.

    It’s about constant re-evaluation of the things we say and do, and a determination to learn from our mistakes (which we hope will not be too appalling). In our professional lives, we are used to the idea of continual learning; our personal lives should be no different. And if you hear anyone say “Why should I constantly monitor myself for what I say?”, then the answer is “Because that’s how you improve yourself as a human being, and if you can’t do that, then you need to go away and rethink your life”. And anyone who can’t or won’t do that will find themselves increasingly frozen out of professional and ultimately social life. And they will only have themselves to blame (though they probably won’t).

    For the rest of us, the answer is to lead by example.

    1. Thanks, Robert.
      Self-awareness, self-regulation, and a drive for continuous self-improvement. while trying not to fuck up too bad along the way.
      The rub is; how do we awaken that self-awareness in others? I guess we have to call them on it, probably privately initially, but getting more public and strident if it continues.
      For my part, I need to do more than the typically British “look annoyed and tut” because, as a tester, I do that most of the time anyway.

      1. I was twenty years a senior trade union representative in a (small) Government department (as well as holding down my testing role); so there were equalities initiatives that started with the union (and the union worked hard to make sure that all its activities were safe spaces) and slowly spread into the employer’s list of things to do.

        I particularly remember that our section of the union was holding a training course to encourage minority groups to get involved in the union (especially attending and participating in the annual conference) and I went around trying to drum up some support and participants for this. One colleague challenged me: “Why is the union promoting this?” I replied “If you were to go to Conference, you’d see that there’s no shortage of delegates who look like you and me – middle aged white males. Look around you – are middle aged white males the only people working here?” Of course, the answer was no and the point was made and understood.

        It’s easier when there is an organisation that takes up the baton on equality issues, such as a union; in so many workplaces, especially within IT, this level of support and organisation isn’t present, and that’s a shame.

  2. “Looking annoyed and tutting as a testing strategy”. There’s a title for a presentation if you could only think how to make it work!

  3. “Most of all, I worry that it’s me.”

    Becoming overly worried that you are the problem doesn’t actually help those who are suffering. Rather, it makes the problem about you and not the people you should be thinking about.

    While it’s important that a lot of soul searching takes place, and we must strive to ensure we’re not fostering an unsafe environment for our colleagues and friends, we must also ensure we don’t introduce ourselves as an unnecessary extra variable.

    Be vigilant, yes. But don’t assume that just because you don’t know what to do that you are in some way negatively contributing to the problem.

    As with most problems without an obvious solution, an open dialog is the way to go. If you’re unsure of what you can be doing better, ask someone who you trust might have more insight than you currently have. It might that there’s nothing, and your genial manner and sunny disposition are all the support that is needed.

    But it might be that you end up, through your senior position and open approach to the issue (this blog being one way in which you’ve demonstrated that openness), becoming a trusted champion of safe workplaces for all.

    Two extremes of the spectrum there to be sure, but something to think about all the same.

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