Did you face sexism, racism or homophobia at an FRC event this year? SHARE YOUR STORY!

I owe everyone on this thread, and especially Dee, an apology. Threads like this are critical to how we progress as a community, it is heartbreaking to hear these stories and they show how much further we still need to come. I can only imagine how hard it was to share, but those that have should be thanked for doing so. We all need to be more aware of the issues around us. I made my entire team read through this thread as it is important for them all to see first from other perspectives and to start to recognize bias, microaggressions, sexism, and homophobia that go on around them.
This morning I meant to click the heart emoji to support the original post, but I must have inadvertently clicked the laughing emoji. I am really sorry about this. While not my intention in any way, this action made light of the very brave the author did in posting. I hope it has not discouraged others from sharing. I have tried to remove it, but CD won’t permit the removal of reactions. I would like to thank all everyone who has posted their stories and I hope we can grow as a community to help support others.
Jon

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While not directed at myself, I unfortunately witnessed and intervened in situations that fit each of these definitions.

In both the situations related to racism and sexism I don’t believe either was intentional. With regard to the racism one a quick conversation with the offenders lead to a sincere and immediate apology. None of the individuals involved were on my team and I just happened to hear the comments as I was checking out various robots in the pits.

The sexism situation was also not an intentional thing, as I believe the majority of such are not. But it was very apparent a female speaker wanted to be heard and were being talked over. Loud environment, lots of people doing many things all at once. It was the eye roll that caught my attention, you know the one that says “is this really happening right now?” My solution was to get her attention and say “you have something to say and I really want to hear it.” This stopped the other conversations and everyone listened to her. She found me after the event to say thanks for standing up for her and giving her the floor. I let her know I didn’t need thanks for simply being human and paying attention and it was as much her floor as anyone else and I truly appreciated her input.

Unfortunately I also witnessed homophobia complete with vandalism. Nothing accidental or unintentional about this one. My hope is we acted quickly enough and strictly enough in dealing with this situation to minimize the fear and damage the act caused. It is also my hope that we can get through to the perpetrator that such actions have no place in life, let alone at and FRC event. Only time will tell on this one, but the bright side a new bond was formed with a team and their members learned of some new “safe” adults to come to if they need shelter from a storm.

It pains me to hear stories such as those posted here as it just shows how much further we have to go in accepting each other.

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Remark made by an official when I asked where the bathrooms were, that was to the effect of “the bathrooms for females are to the left”
A team that seemed more interested in misgendering people while scouting than actually doing any scouting, (Despite wearing pronoun pins/correcting them) you could tell it was deliberate and many others had similar experiences with them being hostile.
Did hear secondhand about a team’s safety captain harassing/bothering/being creepy towards a friend on another team.

But otherwise, my experience at events has been very positive and welcoming.

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Hello all! Katie with her Mod Hat on!

The bathrooms at GRB conversation has been moved to it’s own thread.

Also a quick apology: ABL5970’s post was moved to the new thread incorrectly. It has been moved back to this thread but is no longer in chronological order.

As always, feel free to ping the mods or myself with any modding issues or requests.

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Thank you for the insightful recommendation, definitely will read it!

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There are a lot of heartbreaking stories to hear in this thread, so I needed to take a few days to emotionally process all of it. As a teacher, I am always very transparent about how I process difficult emotions as I know I am always modeling behaviors for my students. Discussions like these bring up all sorts of tough emotions, and it is important we take the time to work through them. I spent some time this weekend singing, took a nice bubble bath, did some spring cleaning, took my kitties out for a walk (yes I take my cats on walks) and played on my Switch (I beat Yoshi’s Crafted World lets gooooooooo) to take care of myself and give myself space to process my feelings. What self care techniques do you all use? We all know avoidant coping or bottling them up does not work, and FRC/STEM can bring up some very tough feelings!

Now that I have taken some time to process, I have some thoughts on how we can move forward and be better as a whole. I would welcome additional feedback from the community - the best solutions are formed from diverse groups with varying lived experiences.

POINT 1: Being ignored and dismissed by males is a real problem in this program, experienced by a lot of female-identifying and non-binary folks.

It is apparent that being ignored/dismissed is one of the most common things to happen to female-identifying and non-binary folks. It seems small, and I know in the moment I have convinced myself it is all in my head or I am just being paranoid. Clearly, that is the not the case. We all experience it and we all hurt deeply from it. It causes us to doubt ourselves even more than we already do. We need more allies who advocate for us, who are thinking about us and looking out for us. Me barging past a group of guys to force myself into a conversation is not the solution. I would just be called “bossy” or once I barge past will continue to be ignored. We need others to notice we are being excluded/ignored and actively change their behavior to be more inclusive. Reflect on your intention versus your impact. You may not intend to exclude others from a conversation, but that very well may be the impact you are having.

Example: A strategy discussion is happening outside the pit; you notice female members of the drive team are on the outside of the huddle and not actively participating. DO NOT blame it on the kid being lazy, unfit for FRC, not good enough at standing up for themselves. You may not understand the level of anxiety and imposter syndrome they are facing. It is not their lack of knowledge or understanding or ability holding them back - it is the situation they are in. Instead, pause the conversation, say “hey, let’s make sure everyone is included here, can we expand our huddle a bit?” Maybe even ask the kids who are being shy, “what do you think about this strategy?” This is a technique I use all the times to help kids gain confidence and get past any STEM anxiety they have.

One of our mentors at Champs did an amazing job at this with our elims alliance. He prefaced the strategy talk saying that everyone here is an equal and contributing member of our alliance, no matter what, and everyone should feel welcome to share their thoughts and ideas. By setting this alliance culture early, we really did set the stage for success. We worked together so well, even coming from very different teams with lived backgrounds and experiences! I attribute making it out of quarters very much in part to the awesome alliance culture we formed. With all the stress elims brings, the last thing we all needed was yelling and chaos as we prepped for matches.

POINT 2: Many of us underplay how bad it really is for fear of being labeled into the “man hater” category

I have received plenty a DM letting me know that I am racist/sexist against white men for starting threads like this, but I can assure you it is impossible to be racist against white people, so please refrain from sending me these. If you need some education on the topic of the myth of white racism, please give this a read:
https://www.aclrc.com/myth-of-reverse-racism

It is endlessly frustrating that anytime we try to set aside space for folks other than men, it always comes back to them somehow. This is a really toxic pattern that we need to stop. Give marginalized groups their space. Do not bring it back to white men being treated unfairly. This is truly not about them as the freedoms/treatment of white men have never been at risk in this program, or really ever in history. Decentralizing the ego is essential. Do not get defensive. This is not about your feelings. This is about how a patriarchal and systemically racist society created these dynamics, and the work we need to do to break it down. Yes, we know you personally did not create the patriarchy, but you could be doing things that perpetuate the dynamics of it. It is not easy to do all of this. In fact I would argue this is far more challenging than building FRC robots.

It may suck to sit with your feelings and realize you are doing things inadvertently that are hurting others. You may need to seriously change the way you act in certain situations. You may need to challenge beliefs you have held your whole life. You may feel crappy about yourself. That does not mean you are a bad person. The only thing that would make you a bad person is knowing you are doing harmful things and not changing your behavior.

Talk to those who are different than you. Do you find you mainly only talk to one gender? One race? One sexuality? Expand your circles and put on your listening cap. Learn from those who are different than you. Hear their stories. Put yourself in a growth mindset.

POINT 3: " Silence in the face of injustice is complicity with the oppressor . – Ginetta Sagan

If you have the privilege of not having to worry about this issues, and find yourself saying things such as “I don’t do drama,” or “I am just here to build robots and not do any of this feelings/culture stuff,” you need to check your privilege. Some of us do not have the luxury of ignoring this and have to live it day in and day out.

It is time for us all to break the silence, and stand up for what is right, no matter how scary it is. I think this thread showed us there are real issues in this program that need to be addressed. If you stay silent, you are contributing to the problem just as much as if you were being outrightly sexist, racist, homophobic and/or transphobic.

Lastly, I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for everyone who shared their stories. It was so brave of each and every one of you, and I think some very positive and real change is going to come from this. You are all heroes and I am honored to be in this community with you. If you dm’ed me and I have not replied yet I promise I will soon! I was truly overwhelmed by the support and I appreciate you all so much.

On a final positive note, I have had amazing talks with many men in this program following this thread. They want to learn and grow, and are actively trying so hard. We appreciate you more than you know. Some of those who contributed to the actions I outlined in the OP above were able to recognize what they did, apologize, reflect on it, grow from it, and that is all we can ask for. Thank you for being committed to this very difficult work, that will ultimately make this program better for all of our students.

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Dee,
Thanks for this topic. This was my first year of being a FIRST mentor, but I have been in leadership in a STEM role for over 20 years. I have thought A LOT about this topic for many years and have many of my own experiences with sexism (I’m not qualified to speak to racism, homophobia or transphobia, though I’m guessing similar-ish things happen there, as others have explained).

One of the things I’d like to gently suggest on this topic is that all of us “change the room” when we walk into it. So, my white male colleagues, if you don’t observe sexism or harassment occurring, it’s true that you may just not be noticing. However, it is also true that it may not be happening while you are in the situation because - if you are a good-willed person who is helping ensure an inclusive environment - your presence changes what is happening to others around you for the better!

I learned this a few years ago when my husband came with me to a tech conference. Since anyone who didn’t know us would have assumed he was a colleague - not a partner - he got to see what I experience at tech conferences when he isn’t around. He was shocked. Though he believed the stories I’d told him, he never got to see the situations happen because they don’t happen when he is in the room. And also, generally people don’t behave that way when he’s around because he wouldn’t be cool with it and people who are sexist, etc., often have a “sixth sense” of who might not be okay with their offensive behavior and who would not care.

Bringing this back to FRC, so many of the folks at events, volunteering, mentoring, etc, are doing an amazing job being inclusive. AND - at the same time - 100% yes, there is a “boys’ club” feel at times where women are generally not expected to have the same level of competence as men. Both of those things are true. And the third thing that is true is that sexism, etc., can be absolutely experienced by people around you and you may not see it, hear it, or know about it. Also, as girls and women we are already dreading it, so those situations do make us feel really lousy and out of place when they happen.

I hope this helps some of you process this set of conflicting information and consider just how complex this issue is.

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I’ve brought this article up on here in the past, but thought it was worth bringing back up, for a slightly different perspective from one of my former students.

In reading it again, I think they important thing for us to all take away is to examine our internal stereotypes and assumptions, and to give everyone a chance. As an inspector / LRI, I know I try to do that, to make no assumptions when I walk into a team’s pit and let the team themselves tell me who I should be addressing - but it’s not always that easy, as it’s usually the guys who put themselves forward, while the girls hang back a little more (generally speaking - I’ve certainly interacted with some confident young women on teams!). I know it’s incredibly difficult for a young women to be assertive in this environment - they risk sexist labels and attitudes being thrown at them if they do, and I hate that.

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I read this thread early Friday morning, and I have to say it has been disturbing, eye-opening, upsetting, encouraging and incredibly thought provoking.

I volunteered at 4 events this year, and I can thankfully say that I did not witness any bad behavior at any of them. Now, I tend to keep to myself, sit ringside watching robots after inspections are done, and generally try to be available for whoever may need what at the time.

I want to put out there that if anyone ever needs assistance at any of the events I volunteer at, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Being a large, bald, white guy, I may not appear as approachable, but I am. And I am willing to help you, and if I can’t help, I will help you find someone that will be able to help.

As a RI, I do try my best to make sure to include as many of the students that are assisting, observing and watching as I can. Threads like this make me aware that I need to continue to try to as inclusive as I can possibly be.

I literally thought about this thread all weekend and how much it disturbs me to no end the way we humans treat each other. Unfortunately, the ones that really should be reading this thread, probably aren’t, but on the plus side, it will make me be more aware of what’s happening around me, both at FRC events, and life in general. Thank you to all of you that have shared your stories.

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Reading peoples experience on sexism, racism, transphobia, homophobia makes me frustrated and sad. I thought FIRST was about getting people to be in STEM and have a fun journey and making it a memory out if it. This should be talked about in the future and at competition next season. There should be like a talk before events starts about this topic and how it has a zero tolerance policy. Also there’s a saying, “If you see something, say something”.

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Belated realization from an RI reading RI posts — is this in our training? This should be in our training. (DEI of ensuring we verbally and nonverbally include everyone interested in inspections when in a pit, regardless of appearances or assertiveness.) @ChuckDickerson @Al_Skierkiewicz

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4 posts were split to a new topic: Etymology of Racism

FIRST should provide training for RIs. It shouldn’t be just down to local LRIs to organize.

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Agreed, the two folks I tagged are indeed the chief RIs of FIRST and that is indeed the training level I’m referring to.

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Right. I’m aware of that. I’m just surprised to see you talk about what’s in the RI training when there is literally no FIRST RI training beyond “read the game manual and take an open-book test”.

Ah, that’s what you meant — I agree and have advocated repeatedly for universal direct-to-RI and even direct-to-team inspection training, but I was mostly just speaking in relation to adding it to the content we’ve been discussing with the CRIs this season without getting into the conversation about dissemination again.

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2 posts were merged into an existing topic: Etymology of “Racism”

For starts, may I apologize up front if I have been inappropriate with anyone, student or mentor, at any robot function. It is certainly not my intent. Chuck and I wish to lead by example and make our interaction an inspiration to pass along to everyone we have contact with. There are documents for all volunteers including Robot Inspectors on the FRC website. We need to update that doc as it was last reviewed pre-covid. I would provide the link to that doc but currently the FIRST website is under maintenance. It does restate the training we give to LRIs and I can assure you that this training did include diversity training this year. We do wish to make our combined experience better and would welcome any feedback that you feel we should know about to help formulate future training. You can contact me at [email protected]. Your identification will be held in confidence but the feedback will be shared to help us improve inspections for all.
I would also restate our need to have more female inspectors as that will help inspire more students in the pit who are present during inspections. If we are to inspire youth, that should not be limited by gender or gender identity.

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Before this post gets split out of this thread for its first half, I want to highlight this - the president of FIN straight up lied about the bathroom situation at events in order to save face at an event. While I understand that plans can change, and a district president may be unable to control what every venue’s situation is like, it’s disappointing and disturbing to see district leadership make empty promises instead of actually standing up for their students.

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I served as the strategy person on the drive team this year and there were many times when male both student and mentor coaches would basically ignore me during strategy meetups. I would say I’m a loud person who in a sense made sure that my voice was heard when this happened, but I know that other girls may not be able to do the same. I’m actually one of the FIRST Ladies Directors and while I was out during both champs and regionals promoting our events/encouraging teams to join our initiatives, I got a lot of responses such as “I’ll talk to the girls on our team” or would in a sense get chuckled at because I asked someone who was not a female about the initiative. FIRST Ladies’ main mission is to hopefully have a FIRST environment where girls are comfortable and if you want to bring more girls onto your team or simply want to join our network and connect with other teams who believe in the same goal, definitely DM me and I can set something up! Our website is also ladiesinfirst.com

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