This week was Hell Week for analysts, otherwise known as Meet All The People, Inspect All The Things, otherwise known as the RSA Conference. Everything was going as expected: I made it through all the speaking engagements (at least one a day this time), spent a little time on the expo floor making a video with the awesome @j4vv4d, did the press interviews, and kissed all the hands and shook all the babies in 30-minute meeting slots.
I was heading over to the Security Bloggers' Meetup, wearing some really spectacular (if you'll pardon the pun) blinking-LED sunglasses that Javvad had given me, and I decided to leave them on for the short walk across the street to Jillian's; I figured they would look good in the dark bar.
All of a sudden, some male conference-goer walks by me, and in passing, he tells me, "There's a switch on the earpiece of the glasses, probably on the right, and you can turn them off that way so they won't run down the battery."
WTaF. Is this guy really mansplaining to me HOW TO OPERATE MY OWN SUNGLASSES?
Yes. Yes, he was.
Now, this is only the most harmless of micro-aggressions compared to what other women go through ("I want to talk to an engineer, not a booth lady"), but what most people don't understand is why we don't take people's heads off at the time. It's simple: you're so stunned, you don't think of the right words until much later. Imagine someone comes up to you out of the blue and says, "Hey buddy, you're wearing socks, we're going to have to ask you to leave." Completely on automatic, you might say, "Oh, okay, sorry about that," and start moving before the rest of your brain finishes processing the "What?" And many of us are trained to be polite first and foremost, so it's a reflex that has to be overcome.
So I said to the guy, "THANK YOU FOR EXPLAINING THAT TO ME. I WOULD NEVER HAVE FIGURED IT OUT BY MYSELF." (Blogger doesn't have a sarcasm font, but imagine my saying it in one.) And now I'm sure that this Derpasaurus Rex took that completely seriously and thought I was really thanking him. So I should have done better, but it did take a few more minutes for the incredulity to drain away, and then it was too late.
What causes this level of pea-brained sexism to happen? I don't normally encounter it, or at least not so that I'd notice. I'm neither young nor pretty, but I was wearing a skirt at the time, which I don't normally do. What thought process goes on to make someone decide that a middle-aged mother of two, minding her own business, urgently needs sunglasses instructions?
The best I can come up with is this: the guy was truly bothered by the sight of someone wearing blinking sunglasses (on top of the head) in daylight.
"That's wasteful. Oh, it's a woman. She must not know how to turn them off."
And it would never have occurred to him to go through the same thought process if it had been a man. He would have assumed the man had a good reason for leaving them turned on, and it might still have bothered him in some Derpy Engineer Syndrome fashion, but he would have let it go.
Anyway, that was the one surreal moment from the conference this week. I think I'll put away the skirt for next year.