Welcome to the weekly underrepresented in tech vlog with Michelle Frechette and Allie Nimmons.
Underrepresented in Tech is a free database built with the goal of helping people find new opportunities in WordPress and tech overall. Let’s dive in with this week’s blog.
Allie: Hi, Michelle, how are you?
[00:00:18] Michelle: [00:00:18] Allie, how are you?
[00:00:21] Allie: [00:00:21] I’m good. But I’m also kind of angry, um, which is perfect because we definitely wanted this blog to be super organic. Super like kind of reactive, I think to things that are happening out in the WordPress world that we can talk about. And I actually have the perfect topic for conversation today.
[00:00:43] Michelle: [00:00:43] Before you do again, let me also just kind of put my 2 cents in that when we talk about wanting to be reactive to things that are happening, we don’t just want to react because we get angry about something. We’re reacting on behalf of entire communities, because your anger and… I want to say it’s absolutely rightly placed anger. So it’s not a trope. You are not the angry black woman. I want to be the person to say that because you are not a trope, you were actually voicing what several people have also said to me privately.
Before we get into that. When we talk about things that we’re angry about, we’re angry on behalf of communities. We are not just angry because Michelle got her toes stepped on, or Allie got told off by somebody or vice versa or whatever. I just kinda want to put that out there in advance of that, because it’s not anything any one person says necessarily. I just wanted to frame it before I let you run loose.
[00:01:44] Allie: [00:01:44] No, thank you for doing that. And it actually brought to mind also, when I say that I’m angry, I’m angry at a situation. I’m angry at a system. I’m angry at a circumstance of events. I’m not particularly angry at like one individual person or one individual brand.
[00:02:01] Like I’m just angry in general. And so nothing I am about to say is meant to attack or demean any one person or individual or company or brand or anything like that, I’m not going after anyone in particular, but this, this, what I’m about to say came from something that happened yesterday.
What made Allie so angry?
[00:02:22] So basically, on Twitter, as I am known to do, I complained about a podcast that recently started, um, that I definitely think had a fantastic opportunity to bring on a diverse host. Not guest. Right? I feel like people in the course of having these conversations, particularly about podcasts, people also often replace when I say hosts, they will say guests, which is a whole other issue.
[00:03:00] But this podcast had a great opportunity to bring on a diverse host or a diverse co-host and really lead in the WordPress fight for diversity, which I believe a lot of people, not just us, are fighting for. I don’t ever want to paint it like you and I are the only people that care because we absolutely are not. I know that other people care.
So it just seemed like such a perfect opportunity to say… wow, we have this potentially huge WordPress podcast. Let’s make the people who are hosting the conversation reflective of the WordPress community. And that completely didn’t happen. And I was just bummed.
[00:03:43] I was irritated. I was disappointed. And the response that I got a missed the mark, because a lot of people started replying to that assuming I wanted that position, which I absolutely do not. And I got a lot of… Well, you should start your own podcast! Or…. isn’t starting a podcast so easy and you could just do it yourself?
[00:04:11] That response really ticked me off and I’ve, I’ve heard this before, right? Where an underrepresented person or a marginalized person has lamented the fact that room is not created at the table for us, by people who claimed that they want to create room at the table. And then someone else goes, well, you should just go make your own.
Why is this reaction hurtful?
[00:04:43] They said that about water fountains. They said that about schools. They said that about housing in this country. Go off and have your own version. You don’t belong with us. That’s what I hear when people tell me that and it like makes me want to cry.
I’m not saying that any of the people who have said those things to me are racist. In my mind being a racist and having prejudices, having internalized racism are two very different things. That is internalized racism. That is the idea that if you consider yourself a marginalized person, you are responsible for creating any opportunities that you want. Whereas if you are not a marginalized person, it is very common and expected for those opportunities to just be given to you by your buddies, by your friends, by other people that look like you.
[00:05:41] That just really, really upsets me because we literally went out and created a tool so that podcast producers could say, Hey, I want a couple of diverse people to host this podcast. And we did the legwork to make a whole list of people for them. Right. And then they went and they found somebody who already had a podcast.
[00:06:08] So again, I’m not angry at this podcast. I’m not angry at the host of this podcast. I think that guy’s a pretty cool guy. It’s not his fault. You know, you get offered a great opportunity. You take it. I don’t begrudge you that. But it makes me upset that we, as a community will say one thing and then do another. We’ll ask, well, how can I help? How can I support you? But we’re not proactively thinking about, well, I’m about to do this thing. I wonder if there’s a way. You know, so I already feel better just kind of venting about that, but I was really irritated about that yesterday. I was just really irritated about it. And today I woke up and I was still irritated about it.
[00:06:52]Michelle, what do you think you feel about that? Because I know our experiences have been different, but. I feel like there’s typically some overlap.
Michelle’s take on the issue
[00:07:04] Michelle: [00:07:04] Well, I want to address one of the comments that you got: Hey, it’s free to start your own podcast.
[00:07:10] Technically you can make a podcast for free. Technically that is a true statement. However, embedded in that statement is privilege that the person making that statement had no idea they had. So the first thing about privilege is you have to know you have it.
[00:07:31] And so many people that just have such blinders on, but they don’t realize that certain things carry privilege. Right. So, yes, I understand that maybe that I’m in a job that has money, because I have privilege. People generally can acknowledge that. But the idea of starting an endeavor just because it could technically be free…
[00:07:49] Yes. Could I do it with just the microphone on my computer? Yes. Can I use a free software, like Audacity? Yes. Can I build my own website? Yes. Can I disseminate a podcast for free? Yes.
Now, can you do those things well for free? No, you really need to invest in good equipment to have a successful podcast.
[00:08:12] You know, I started my podcast almost two years ago. Now you were my first guest, by the way, talk about being diverse. I pat myself on the back, not even knowing I was doing it.
[00:08:25] Allie: [00:08:25] You’re a good person and you try anyway.
[00:08:28] Michelle: [00:08:28] I don’t know about that. You know, I do now of course have wider eyes and I make sure that things that I do, I’m inclusive of all people, but anyway, that’s another story. The thing is it isn’t free in the sense that if you want to do it well, you need to recognize that number one, you need to be able to purchase good equipment. And that means that yes, there’s money involved.
[00:08:51] Um, can you get a decent microphone for $35? Yes. Could you get a better microphone for $250? Absolutely. Can I use free software for doing audio? Yes. And actually for my podcast, I do, I use Audacity. It’s free. It works well. If I want to do video, can I do that for free? Not as easily, right. I pay for a subscription to do video editing.
To be able to put it up on YouTube is YouTube free. Yeah, absolutely. Is it free to host a website to put all the information on. Nope. It’s not. Could I maybe get some sponsors? Well, isn’t that a good question because yes, maybe you could, but guess what? That is also entails connections and entails time.
All of this, and this is my biggest point.
The biggest investment in having a podcast is investing time
Michelle: Time absolutely is a privileged concept. The fact that somebody needs to step up. If when I started my podcast, I was a single woman who had already raised her kids. I was no longer married. I was out on my own. I had time to invest in whatever I wanted to.
[00:10:02] To assume that any person who is underrepresented has that privilege is a humongous assumption. Let’s talk about people in the abstract. Let’s say that there is you know, a 30 year old black woman who has kids and a husband who wants to start a podcast, guess what? She doesn’t have the time to invest because now she needs to choose is she’s going to do her job and raise her kids or have a podcast and raise her kids and attend her household. I was privileged in the fact that I was of an age where I didn’t have to make those decisions. I could have a full-time job and invest my free time in doing a podcast. Not everybody has free time to do that.
[00:10:45] That is a huge privilege that we have to acknowledge when we’re talking about this kind of thing. Assuming that people have the connections to be successful in that is another huge privilege. When I started my podcast, I was already kind of established. I’m acknowledging that my podcast has completely made me way more – I hate the word popular, but, um, known, I guess is a better word in the WordPress community.
You know, there are people all over the world who want to be on my podcast because they’ve heard of my podcast. It grew, but it didn’t grow from some woman who nobody knew. It grew from a woman who had already invested a lot of time and energy, not only into the WordPress community, but also worked for a business that had a lot of, um, cache in the community as well.
[00:11:30] And I acknowledged that the only reason, one of the only reasons, yes, I’m a good person. I’m not asking for people to pat me on the back and say, no, Michelle, you’re awesome. No, but I noticed that I got started because I had those connections already in place. So to say to somebody, you know, you could just do it on your own.
[00:11:47] Absolutely not. It’s not as easy as you might think it is.
[00:11:51] Allie: [00:11:51] And there is so much in there that is absolutely correct. And the thing that I just keep going back to is the time, right? The fact that marginalized people are typically paid less in their jobs and, or have lower paying jobs. So they need to work a certain percentage more or harder in order to keep up.
[00:12:13] The fact that marginalized people at least should be taking more time for self care. I mean, every Asian American in our country right now is hurting so badly. You’re going to tell them, no, you should be working, you know, 60 hours a week to. Accomplish, whatever this project is and not think about things that an unmarginalized person doesn’t particularly have to worry about most of the time.
And so you’re right. It’s just the assumption that… Oh, well, it’s it’s, it would be as easy for you as it would be for me is completely untrue. And especially in an instance like this one, particularly where it’s not just about starting a podcast, it’s about the idea that if we have a position at a very popular WordPress brand available.
How can we do better?
[00:13:16] We should be thinking about using that position intelligently and inclusively. I mean their first guest was a diverse individual, a marginalized person, also a very, very powerful person in this community. So kind of balances out, you know? I don’t know what the exact solution is.
[00:13:40] I just feel irritated about this. If they had offered it to me, I probably wouldn’t have taken it because that’s just not what I want to do right now, but there are so many other amazing people that I could think of. read something on Twitter the other day that was like adding white women to your team isn’t diversity. I disagree with that. To me diversity is as many different types of people as humanly possible. So to have co-hosts on a podcast, one being a straight white man, one being a gay black, disabled elders woman, like, you know, checking every box you possibly could. Right. That to me is still a diverse group of people.
[00:14:30] You have two people with very different life experiences, very different perspectives. Who look, sound and think differently. That to me is still diversity. It’s just a matter of being intentional about that and thinking ahead and thinking like, okay, well, how many voices are we having at this table?
[00:14:50] One. The one voice that’s at every other single table. Right. And does it really accomplish very much.
The difference between what we say and what we do
[00:14:57] Michelle: [00:14:57] Now before people come at us and comment about things like, well, you don’t have any men represented on your vlog. Okay. Let me adjust a couple of things about that. First of all, our website is about all of those underrepresented groups. You do not come to our website, search it and not find white men because there are white men on our database and we’ve acknowledged it.
[00:15:14] And I’ve said it publicly because I want people to understand that we don’t disclose what makes somebody underrepresented on our database. So you could be neuro neurodivergent. You can be, uh, you know, gay, you can be trans, you can be any of those things that make you underrepresented in our community.
[00:15:31] And the reason that we don’t have any white men or men on our vlog is because we are the people who started it. This is our project. We didn’t hire this out to somebody and then look for other voices. And that’s not to say that in the future, we might not bring out a guest. Cause we haven’t talked that far ahead yet.
[00:15:51] We’re only in our second week and we’re still covering some pretty big topics just between the two of us. So I just kind of wanted to put that out there because I know there are people out there who are already attacking us. We’ve already dealt with it more than once, just because we’re trying to help underprivileged -not, I don’t want to say underprivileged.
[00:16:06] I mean, there is underprivilege in the fact that they are underrepresented folks.
[00:16:13] Allie: [00:16:13] And the idea that our whole branded project is about shining a light particularly on those who are underrepresented. If you’re launching a giant WordPress podcast, that’s not the point of that. The point of that is to be representative of the WordPress community and make all of those voices heard.
[00:16:30] So there’s two different points here. If we started this blog to represent the WordPress community, Then, yeah, we’d probably have straight white man here because that’s kind of the overwhelming voice in our community, but it’s about two completely different purposes.
[00:16:47] Michelle: [00:16:47] And something else I want to say is, you know, I’m a 52 year old white woman. You are, I’m not going to suppose your age, but you’re much younger than I am. You’re my daughter’s age, actually, I think right around there. And so we are absolutely looking at different parts of the community just within the two of us, for sure. But do we agree on everything, Allie? Do you and I have absolute agreement on everything?
[00:17:09] No. Right. I mean, we absolutely agree on a lot of things. Otherwise we wouldn’t be able to work together as well as we do. Sometimes it sounds like we’re all just like, raising the sunshine between us kind of thing. But that’s not to say that we haven’t agreed on things in the past and we have great discussions about it and, and come to understandings and compromise what we do.
[00:17:30] And we don’t have that often that we have that we disagree, but we absolutely are not the same person with the same head thinking the same direction all the time.
[00:17:41] Allie: [00:17:41] Absolutely. Yeah. I know whenever if we ever do disagree on something… We we’ve never had like an argument or fight or anything like that. It’s always massively respectful and just like, okay, cool. Let’s figure out a way to make it work.
[00:17:56] Michelle: [00:17:56] Yeah, exactly. Or I hadn’t thought about it from that perspective before.
[00:17:59] Tell me more.
[00:17:59] Allie: [00:17:59] Yeah, exactly.
[00:18:01] Michelle: [00:18:01] And that’s what grownups do. It turns out that that’s how grownups talk to each other.
[00:18:03] Allie: [00:18:03] Oh my gosh. Can you believe? I know I learned something new today. I remember, people would say to me, like, how do you keep having these conversations with people? Like, isn’t it exhausting? Yeah. It’s exhausting. But if somebody asks me a question out of genuinely wanting to know and, and asking me things because they want to be better then yeah. I’ll make time for that. But like, I don’t have time for people who are mean and nasty you about it, you know?
What’s coming next week?
[00:18:36] Michelle: [00:18:36] Exactly agreed. A hundred percent. Well, we’ve probably got over our set time limit of 20 minutes per week, but that’s okay. Some topics just require a little more conversation.
We haven’t even discussed this yet, but I’m going to put this out there. Next week I want to talk about our logo. And I want to talk about representation and what’s happened with our logo cause people might’ve noticed our logo has changed.
ust a quick insight into that. It’s we got a cease and desist letter about using what’s called, you know, a close tag. I think that there’s space to be able to talk about how certain things that are not accessible to people, just because somebody thought they could trademark something.
[00:19:21] So, yeah, anyway I appreciate all of your insights and I love when you get angry about things that are just and right to be angry about. So I’m on your side girl.
[00:19:34] Allie: [00:19:34] Thank you for giving me this platform to rant about it and to kind of like talk about it in more than just – what is it? A hundred and whatever the heck characters. Yeah, it gets lost so often on Twitter. Anyway, it was awesome to talk to you, Michelle, as always.
[00:19:51] Allie: [00:19:51] I’ll see you and everyone else next week!