A couple of impressions leapt out at me from the Norwescon 38 panel photos posted on Facebook on Friday. It’s only a small number of photos – eight pictures, representing seven panels. One of those panels was one of my nwcMUSIC panels; “What the Frak is Filk?” if I remember correctly.

First, let’s get one big thing said up front; I don’t want to make undue guesses about race, but at least in photos, this looks like Mighty Whitey Incorporated. That’s a problem.

But also, let’s talk about this:

        men          women      recognisably gender-variant
         1             0                   0
         3             1                   0
         5             0                   0
         3             0                   0
         2             2                   0 **
         1             2                   0
         0             1                   0
        15             6                   0

**: One of mine; I actively work to gender-balance nwcMUSIC panels.

Now, I work this con. I’ve worked it for years. I know the last couple of heads of programming. I know they’re trying not to do this – moreover, they’re trying specifically not to do this. And Programming Head has told me that the list of attending pros and performers actually is roughly equal. So in reality: they aren’t doing this.

And yet, despite all those facts, here are the numbers we see represented in these photos:

Excluding single-person panels (one reading, one workshop):
          Male panelists: 14
          Female panelists: 5
          Women are 26.3% of panelists.

Including single-person panels:
          Male panelists: 15
          Female panelists: 6
          Women are 28.6% of panelists

Multiperson panels, majority male: 3
Multiperson panels, majority women: 1
Panels gender-balanced: 1
          Women are a majority in 20% of panels;
          Men are a majority in 60%.

In majority-female panels, 33% of panelists are men.
In majority-male panels, 8% of panelists are women.

Excluding single-person presentations/workshops:
          Panels without men: 0
          Panels without women: 2

Including single-person:
          Panels without men: 1
          Panels without women: 3

Sure, it’s a small number of photos, of a small number of panels. But it’s what’s posted. It’s what’s online right now.

And remember all those things I’ve talked about, how 17% women is representationally balanced and 33% women is seen as kind of being ‘mostly women’? Well…

Again, and I really want to stress this, these are not representative. But that’s kind of the point: they aren’t representative, but you can’t tell that from the photos. The reality doesn’t show up here.

What does show up here are the choices made about which panels to photograph and which photographs to post. From a record-of-events standpoint, a perceived history standpoint, those choices override the reality.

And that’s called erasure. Not in a big way; in a very small way, in fact. A grain of sand, striking a mural on a wall. But one grain of oh so many.

I do not believe or even suspect for a second that the photographers or the social media group did this shifting on purpose. I truly, genuinely, do not. Do not go after them.

But the numbers say that it happened nonetheless. I didn’t go looking for it; it leapt out at me, and then I did the numbers to see whether I was making it up. I wasn’t. And so it proceeds.

This comes in a context. I was just reading about studies showing that two and three year old children play with gender-assigned toys when adults are around, but that they play freely across toy gender boundaries when they think adults aren’t watching.

That’s how ingrained this is, that’s how deep it runs, and how early. Two-year-olds get it. You don’t need conscious sexism, or even adult- or teen-acquired sexism. It’s taught so early that the erasure is unconscious and automatic.

But still taught. Not instinctive, as the shift in playing habits shows. Taught. And learned.