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Sep 26, 2023Liked by Rachel Katz

Fascinating read (and very well written). My first-principles take on behaviorial dynamics and why this cycle perpetuates:

1. Men that are successful develop strong egos, attributing their success to their talents - they establish the idea that they are 'special'.

2. They continue to invest in work and tie up their self identity with work.

3. They neglect their relationships and overtime these devolve. This creates further investment in time at work, intimate withdrawl from the relationship as it is harmful to the ego to not feel 'special'. There is a deep fear that actually stems in their psyche.

4. When they meet a thoughtful / attractive women that they feel drawn to her as a way of being made whole, a panacea for their damaged psyche - i.e. If the woman shows interest in me then I am whole.

5. They neglect that the journey to be whole is one that has to be taken internally. That relationships are work.

This all comes from a place of weakness. There are also plenty of men that are successful professionally and prioritize personal/family success who would never act this way. Its unfortunate that many men (and frankly, women too) in Silicon Valley don't have a sense of self-worth past their external success. For me, it's one of the most alientating things about living here.

My POV is that a lot of it has to do with being raised in a way that love is given for good academic performance and taken away when that doesn't happen.

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I can intimately relate to every word of this. All the men who talked to my male co-founder while casting surreptitious glances at my legs or chest. The donor who told my male co-founder, in front of me, that it was a good strategy to bring along a "pretty girl in a skirt." The man who positioned himself as a donor but really just wanted to get me drunk off martinis. The all-male Board who refused let me hand off my duties as Secretary because they were above taking notes.

"Slow shrinking" is such a brilliant way to put it. From one formerly optimistic Brown grad to another, thank you!

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To be honest, Rae, reading this is emotionally painful so much I identify with it. (Were these scenes in a movie, I would probably roll my eyes too.) At the time, I convinced myself these kinds of interactions ware validating. My femaleness is my secret weapon. Surely I can just learn to walk that fine line, right? I'm so lucky -- to be seen, to land these meetings so effortlessly. The man who almost led my seed round was also trying to sleep with me; I have such vivid memories of sleeping on that ethical quandary and cognitive dissonance. Do I admit to our follow-on female investor that's the case? If he puts down the money, does it matter? If I don't actually sleep with him, and he feels tricked, that's on him, right? Does that make me a bad person? He is actually interested in my start-up idea too, right?

I also have a vivid memory, as a recent college grad doing biz dev, of my male manager doubting me whenever I would land a meeting: "why did this founder want to talk to you, and not me? Are you sure his intentions aren't romantic or does he actually want to discuss business?"

I've never lived and worked in an environment that made me so doubt my self-worth. It's taken me years to recover.

Anyway, you're a beautiful writer. Thank you (I think!) for putting this into words.

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Sep 26, 2023Liked by Rachel Katz

I loved your essay and found the ending so poignant. You asked how we have coped with being objectified in professional settings and this is what I did, or, rather, did not do. I did not become a fraction of myself. I gained so much weight (80 lbs, in my unhappiness) that I became a multiple of myself, at once taking up more space, holding my ground, finding my voice, and invisible as I got older and became disabled and disappeared completely into irrelevance. While the weight gain was likely a side effect of medication I began taking if not just a by-product of chronic stress, and did not lead to men investing in my career success, it did help in the long run: I regained my self- esteem about everything but my attractiveness and sexual desirability.

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> By year three, there is anxiety that rises whenever I meet a man who tells me that my startup is interesting

This struck me the most. All the things that happened, every unfortunate encounter, has led to an anticipation of more. We tend to think of these incidences as isolated affairs but they compound on each encounter and leave such a lasting impression on your future actions.

Thank you for a powerful essay and sorry you had the experiences that allowed you to write it.

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I totally relate, having worked in the blockchain industry for so long... was once told, "let me buy you something... pick anything you want" followed by, "I tell my wife everything, we're good like that..." 😩

The question that lingers and the dance that's difficult as you acknowledge is dialogue without offending the other... I've been wondering, seriously, if studying comedic forms of communication might be a solution...

Thank you for sharing so many examples - you're definitely not alone in these experience

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Sep 26, 2023Liked by Rachel Katz

The time I got hit on on a plane not once, but twice, the time I was told, how to dress at work by men, the time I was told to wear more dresses and skirts rather than pants suits, the time I almost gave into all of it, the time I did, oh, how women can band together and write novels about this stuff. You laid it out perfectly.

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founding

I'm sorry these men felt entitled to take advantage of their position to make you feel less than.

We're really not all like that, but in any case, I apologize on behalf of the male species.

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Rae, I’m glad you wrote this excellent essay. Thank you! Also, a big thank you to the people in the comments who shared their stories.

I don’t think your experience is unique to tech, but since my day job is ghostwriting thought leadership for tech executives I thought I might weigh in here.

You did a great job of capturing the personal toll this kind of disgusting behavior takes. I think it’s pretty obvious, based on the comments here and the experiences of the me too movement more broadly, that this toxic shit scales and that far too many people have experienced what you’ve experienced, and sadly, far worse.

But one line in this piece really jumped out at me. It was the comment about liking female founders because they know when to step aside. For me, that comment spoke volumes. I’ve written for hundreds of tech executives, but I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve written for a woman. I’m sure that says a lot about why these kinds of problems persist, but it also says a lot about the kinds of business ideas that ultimately make it to market. So in addition to the awfulness of the personal toll on you, there’s also a very high price for society to pay in terms of the kinds of products and services that are available to us. Not every company is going to save the world, or even change it, but hearing your story made me wonder what the world might like if fewer female founders stepped aside--or weren’t pushed aside, undermined, diminished, or held to ridiculous double standards?

Food for thought. Again, thank you for writing this!

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Sep 26, 2023Liked by Rachel Katz

I'm nonbinary but was raised as a girl...the chipping away of myself over the years felt just like this. People wonder why I apologize so much but it's a very hard thing to undo when you've been made to feel small...

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I won’t bother listing all the ways men have hacked away at my sense of self and self worth. What I did about it; this spring, instead of letting it slide, I filed a formal complaint of sexual misconduct with the College of Psychologists against the psychologist treating me for anxiety and depression. I am amazed what that has done to improve my sense of self worth and my sense of agency. Initially it felt scary to have done it but the response from the College to date has been incredibly supportive of me in its investigation. I am feeling much more empowered and am now working with a great (female) psychologist.

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So so many times working in the arts. It’s exhausting. You put it SO well. When I was younger I didn’t want to believe it was happening which meant I went further into the tunnel of bad situations: This is a great gift of being older. It doesn’t happen in the same way. There’s a greater sense of equality that I myself carry - and of course men pick on younger women generally. Youth is a magnet no matter what you do. It’s dreadful. I want to support everyone who is going through this in a grand collective gesture. Good on you for writing about it and so well. What I can say is, my Gen Z sons totally get it and are quite outspoken on subjects like these.

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Sep 26, 2023Liked by Rachel Katz

Yes, I have experienced this. It was called marriage. And now it is over.

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Sep 27, 2023·edited Sep 27, 2023Liked by Rachel Katz

Thank you for sharing your story with us Rae! The more we talk about it, the more women know they are not alone. I was gritting my teeth the whole time I read your story for you, myself, and all the women who have unfortunately experienced this atrocious treatment in their lifetime.

I once had a boss who kept hugging me at work until I finally had the nerve to ask him to stop and he did, but it took me awhile as a 20 something back then to muster up the courage to speak up for myself at the beginning of my career. As a result of that experience, it put me on guard about men in the workplace and in general. Thank you for being you, Rae! Keep shining your beacon of light and truth in the world with your writing!

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I've been eagerly awaiting this one Rae.

While my slow shrinking came about from different kind of 'unrelenting hacking' the outcome was the same. My self-worth was gone. I had no idea who I was anymore. It's been over two years of trying to come out of that demoralizing fog. I've blocked out so many of the different events because my brain just can't go there. Partly because there was no one big 'main event' it makes it easier to just sweep it away, ignore, forget, dissociate. Until 5 years worth of daily indignities piles up on your inner psyche and your body and brain breaks.

Thanks for sharing you're experience.

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So true. So many stories. I feel like you've triggered some bit of PTSD in me.

I don't wear skirts at work any more. I don't go to "mixers" or events that involve drinking, so matter how much they'll help my career. Oh gawd do I ever avoid tech bros.

And then my daughter, when she was 10-ish, said that when she grows up, she wants to do whatever is the exact opposite of my job.

What demented vision of success teaches us that this is ok, that we need to be polite and complacent?

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