Damn the Man, Save the Linkspam! (28 September 2014)

  • You don’t know what you don’t know: How our unconscious minds undermine the workplace | Official Google Blog (September 25): Google runs research and analytics to try and combat unconscious bias that excludes minorities. “we need to help people identify and understand their biases so that they can start to combat them. So we developed a workshop, Unconscious Bias @ Work, in which more than 26,000 Googlers have taken part. And it’s made an impact: Participants were significantly more aware, had greater understanding, and were more motivated to overcome bias.”
  • Building a better and more diverse community | Blog – Hacker School (September 25): “The short: We now have need-based living expense grants for black and non-white Latino/a and Hispanic people, as well as people from many other groups traditionally underrepresented in programming. Etsy, Juniper, Perka, Stripe, Betaworks, and Fog Creek have partnered with us to fund the grants, and help make the demographics of Hacker School better reflect those of the US. Hacker School remains free for everyone.”
  • Science Has A Thomas Jefferson Problem… | Isis the Scientist… (September 19): “A large portion of the attacks against scientists are perpetrated by someone the victim knew, but many women in general know their attackers. So, at the crux of the stunning and shocking and eye opening is something that I find more insidious – it is the belief that science is somehow different than society at large.”
  • Read The Nasty Comments Women In Science Deal With Daily | The Huffington Post (September 25): [CW: Sexist and harassing language] “Curious to learn more about sexism in science, HuffPost Science reached out to women on the secret-sharing app Whisper. We asked whether anyone had ever said or done anything to discourage their interest in science–and, as you can see below, we were flooded with responses.”
  • Book Challenges Suppress Diversity | Diversity in YA (September 18): “It’s clear to me that books that fall outside the white, straight, abled mainstream are challenged more often than books that do not destabilize the status quo.”
  • Technology Isn’t Designed to Fit Women | Motherboard (September 12): “In some cases, making devices smaller necessarily requires waiting for further technological advancements; just think of how smartphones shrunk through the years as the tech was refined (before phablets took them in the other direction). But especially when it comes to devices that are implanted in the body, this has a disproportionate impact on people of smaller stature—which means women are more likely to be left behind.”
  • Building a Better Breast Pump | The Atlantic (September 25): “Until women have better support for breast-feeding, whether that manifests as paid maternity leave, safe and convenient places for pumping, or better access to lactation specialists, breast pumps aren’t likely to go the way of the Fitbit.”
  • Hope-less at Hope X | missbananabiker.com (September 18): “What Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras made possible, a couple of knuckleheads made impossible. The courage that Snowden has shown, the determination Poitras has shown, the persistence Greenwald has displayed — all these things made it possible for a woman who mostly doesn’t leave the house to … well, leave the house. I thought, for the first time in years, maybe this is a fight I should be fighting alongside the others.”
  • Goodbye, Ello: Privacy, Safety, and Why Ello Makes Me More Vulnerable to My Abusers and Harassers | Not Your Ex/Rotic (September 23): “Because the people I most want to avoid know my aliases. They are friends with people I know on Ello. They might already be on Ello (I’d be surprised if they weren’t) and are totally open to following me, reading me, tagging me, commenting on my posts. Hell, they can even find me through our mutual friends – any mutual activity pops up on their Friends feed.And, by the way Ello is currently set up, there is nothing I can do about it.”
  • The Victim, The Comforter, The Guy’s Girl… | Matter | Medium (September 23): “I’ve come to notice more and more how working within the particular masculine sexism of the tech industry has nudged the way I present myself, just a little. I’ve noticed how, very slowly, I’ve started to acquiesce into playing roles that get assigned to me. I’ve noticed how I disappear behind these masks.”
  • Apple Promised an Expansive Health App So Why Can’t I Track Menstruation? | The Verge (September 25): “Apple’s HealthKit can help you keep track of your blood alcohol content. If you’re still growing, it’ll track your height. And if you have an inhaler, it’ll help you track how often you use it. You can even use it to input your sodium intake, because “with Health, you can monitor all of your metrics that you’re most interested in,” said Apple Software executive Craig Federighi back in June. And yet, of all the crazy stuff you can do with the Health app, Apple somehow managed to omit a woman’s menstrual cycle.”
  • Why can’t you track periods in Apple’s Health app? | ntlk’s blog (September 26): “So why isn’t cycle tracking present in the Health app? I don’t know, but the only valid reason I can think of is that it didn’t occur to anyone to include it.”

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Quick hit: “I’ll fight them as an engineer”

Thanks to a backchannel comment earlier, I had the thought that Peggy Seeger wrote a way better version of Lean In back in 1970, when Sheryl Sandberg was a baby. For those who didn’t spend their teen years listening to seventies folk music when all their peers were listening to rock and/or roll, here’s her song “I’m Gonna Be an Engineer”, with a bonus animation by Ken Wong:

Excerpt:

Oh, but now the times are harder and me Jimmy’s got the sack;
I went down to Vicker’s, they were glad to have me back.
But I’m a third-class citizen, my wages tell me that
But I’m a first-class engineer!

The boss he says “We pay you as a lady,
You only got the job because I can’t afford a man,
With you I keep the profits high as may be,
You’re just a cheaper pair of hands.”

Well, I listened to my mother and I joined a typing pool
Listened to my lover and I put him through his school
If I listen to the boss, I’m just a bloody fool
And an underpaid engineer
I been a sucker ever since I was a baby
As a daughter, as a mother, as a lover, as a dear
But I’ll fight them as a woman, not a lady
I’ll fight them as an engineer!

44 years later, Australian businessperson Evan Thornley — who was six years old when Seeger wrote “I’m Gonna Be an Engineer” — presented a slide at a startup conference that said: “Women: like men, only cheaper.”

The same week, Ashe Dryden wrote:

In a world where a business’s bottom-line comes before anything else, industries profit from the unequal treatment of their employees. Marginalized people often have to go above and beyond the work being done by their more privileged coworkers to receive the same recognition. The problem is readily apparent for women of color, who make between 10 and 53% less than their white male counterparts. The situation is such that compensating people equally is seen as a radical act. In maintaining an undervalued workforce, businesses create even more profit.

(Emphasis author’s.)

Thanks to Maco for reminding me both that the song exists and of how timely it is almost half a century later. There’s some good news, though: Peggy Seeger is alive and well, and still performing and releasing music. She turns 80 years old next year and according to her Twitter bio, she’s openly bi and poly. (Footnote: happy Bisexual Awareness Week! Yes, we get a whole week now.)

Linkspams and Chocolate Milk (23 September 2014)

  • Official #teamharpy Statement on the case of Joseph Hawley Murphy vs. nina de jesus and Lisa Rabey | Team Harpy: [CW: retaliation against whistleblowers, sexual harassment] “We both also believe that women calling out harmful the behaviour of men is an act of free speech and of resistance to a culture that regularly reduces our bodies to sexual objects existing only to serve men. We have decided to fight this lawsuit, at great financial and emotional cost to ourselves, because we believe that all victims of sexual harassment should be supported and believed.” “Team Harpy” have also posted about Round 1 of fundraising efforts, for those who would like to offer support.
  • Privilege | Robot Hugs: Short comic explaining privilege, and how to manage it responsibly.
  • You Asked: Why aren’t more companies putting their weight behind diversity initiatives? | ashe dryden: “Industry-wide change isn’t coming from within companies but, increasingly, from people who are able to operate outside them where the risk of being harassed, fired, or pushed out of the industry all together seems lower. When we’re seeing companies actively punish marginalized people for speaking up, we have to question their mission statements proclaiming a commitment to diversity.”
  • What We Talk About When We Talk About What We Talk About When We Talk About Making | Quiet Babylon: “We too can access the tools of publishing and the means of production and find success as independents. We too can be small scale Tims Cook. Some of us who make the attempt will be made rich and some of us will be driven from our homes and some of us will putter along comfortably and all of us will have made our bed upon a great deal of human and environmental suffering.”
  • How to Detoxify the Web | The Kernel: [CW: discussion of abusive language / behavior] “A lot has changed in the world and online, but being 14 still sucks. Plenty of times, just being human sucks. Without someone to talk to or to help you figure out which end is up, it’s easy to push it down—like a man, right?—or fall for advice that doesn’t have your best interest at heart. Those readers still message me sometimes to tell me the impact my advice columns had on their lives. As much as I’d like to think it was because of my fantastic writing, I know it’s because of the community we created together.”
  • Geeks have become their own worst enemies | The Washington Post: “The essence of confidence is the ability to handle critiques and the existence of challengers with grace and security in your own position. If what deBoer is describing is a permanent state, though, then a certain subset of angry geeks will prove themselves to be exactly what the once-dominant culture said they were all along: myopic and insecure. The hysterical reactions to criticism and challenge do far more damage to the proposition that geek culture contains rich forms, stories and communities worth taking seriously than any critic ever could.”
  • GaymerX2: Internetting While Female | YouTube: Video: “Carolyn Petit, Katherine Cross, and Anita Sarkeesian discuss their experiences ‘Internetting While Female’ at GaymerX2 2014.”
  • Dear DC Comics, This Is Why You Shouldn’t Leave Creative Little Girls Behind | The Mary Sue: “Maybe statistically it’s more likely to be four boys playing, and they want to cater to that. But if so, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you market only to boys, don’t be surprised boys are your only market. And don’t be surprised if the boys with sisters and female friends end up playing something else entirely.”

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Who moved my linkspam? (22 September 2014)

  • “You Cannot Be Mommy”: A Female Cook on Ratatouille | Rebecca Lynde-Scott at The Toast (Sept 15): “Notice that, while her position is never specified, she’s low enough on the totem pole that she’s given the job of training the despised plongeur (“garbage boy” in the film, actually dishwasher), a job only given to the person occupying the station the new person is moving into, so she’s pretty damn low. [...] Linguini announced his and Colette’s relationship to the press, “Inspiration has many names. Mine is named Colette.” That moment in the movie is supposed to be about how he’s betraying Remy by not being honest, but he’s betraying Colette nearly as much just by these two sentences. In eight words, he demotes her from competent cook on the way up to artist’s muse. As the former, she could keep working her way up. As the latter, she might never get another job in a really good kitchen again, if she and Linguini break up. That gets ignored, of course, shellacked over with Remy’s story, some sharp remarks, and that trademarked Disney happy-ever-after.”
  • [warning for discussion of harassment] Pushing Women and People of Color Out of Science Before We Go In | Jennifer Selvidge at Huffington Post (Sept 18): “The misogyny and racism I experienced and saw at MIT became more and more concerning [...] I know that even with close to straight As, I am still unwelcome in my scientific community and unwelcome as an engineer. I will be competing with white men with lower GPAs and less research experience who will likely be chosen over me, as professors on graduate committees. After all, some of those very same graduate school committee members probably remember fondly “the days when men were engineers and women were flight attendants.” The problems in STEM are the people in STEM. I shouldn’t have to play catch up, when I am already ahead.”
  • New FOSS Outreach Program internships for female technical contributors | Quim Gil at Wikimedia (Sept 18): “The Free and Open Source Software Outreach Program for Women offers paid internships to developers and other technical contributors working on projects together with free software organizations. [...] The application period starts on September 22nd and ends one month later on October 22nd.”
  • [warning for police brutality] Police killed a black man dressed up like an anime character |  Aja Romano at The Daily Dot (Sept 16): “For the second time in two months, a black man has been shot and killed by police officers while holding a toy weapon. The Utah police fatally shot 22-year-old Darrien Hunt on Wednesday.”
  • Participate in a Survey About Gender Diversity in Video Games | Carly Smith at The Escapist (Sept 16): “Student researcher Jennifer Allaway is examining the relationship between players’ desires for diversity and game developers’ understanding of that desire, among many other topics, for a GDC 2015 talk.” There are separate surveys for developers and consumers.”
  • [warning for discussion of sexual harassment] Misogyny and the Atheist Movement | Comment by Hold your seahorses at Metafilter (Sept 15): “The article makes a passing mention of new “rules” for the “gender dynamic” and I think there’s actually something to that, as far as the reason why at least a subset of men get extravagantly, sometimes violently, upset and retaliatory when they run up against, or see someone run up against, those “rules”. Because yes. Absolutely, the rules are changing about what you “can” and “can’t” do with/to women (at cons, in public, online, in general). But the people getting upset about this tend to misunderstand what the idea of “the rules are changing” means. The “rules” – that set of norms that determined where you could and couldn’t acceptably transgress with someone – used to be much more liberal from the male perspective. [...] That sense of assurance, of insulation from consequences, is what’s been increasingly yoinked away from men as it becomes less and less acceptable to do these things.”
  • Time to Raise the Profile of Women and Minorities in Science | Brian Welle and Megan Smith at Scientific American (Sept 16): “over the past few years, we discovered some pretty ugly news about our beloved Google Doodles. We had been making these embellishments to the corporate logo on our home page, often in honor of specific people on their birthdays, ever since the company was founded in 1998. For the first seven years, we celebrated exactly zero women. We had not noticed the imbalance.”
  • why many women of colour within the so-called ‘Western countries’ and those outside are very alienated with the [mainstream] feminism | lesetoilesnoires at tumblr (Sept 20): “The idea that to show a White young woman in the West why and how she needs feminism, or why and how she has benefited from feminism, you have to appeal to the ‘tragic plight’ of Women of Colour ‘elsewhere’, turn these Women of Colour into caricatures of victimhood while contrasting it with White, middle-class women as ‘empowered subjects’, is simply condescending in the best case and outright racist in the worst case.”
  • Albert Einstein, Anti-Racist Activist | s.e. smith at this ain’t livin’ (Sept 22): “It is perhaps not surprising that Einstein’s contributions to anti-racism were erased at the time. It was easy to focus on the media-friendly physicist who amazed people with his mind, and to quietly skate around details of his personal life. His work can’t have made contemporary media comfortable, either, as he was unafraid when it came to specifically confronting white complicity and talking about what whites needed to do.”

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

There Can Be Only Linkspam (19 September 2014)

  • on being a woman and a war historian | armsandthemedicalman: “As I say, we all bring our own histories, including our subjective constructions of gender, to our historical practice. Which is why it is important not only that we note and acknowledge that women have written and are writing the history of the First World War, but also that we don’t categorise their writing simply as a category of ‘other’. How I embed this in my own practice as a woman writing the history of the First World War is something I am still working on and probably will be for the rest of my professional life.”
  • Steampunk without POC is so 1899 | K. Tempest Bradford: “While I do really want to see this succeed, it would be ridiculous to make a steampunk film with only white characters. There’s no justifiable reason for this cast not to be racially diverse.”
  • Racial discrimination & resignation of Dr. Misee Harris – An Open Letter to media | Black Girl Nerds: Forced out of her job because of her (private!) social media posts. “Dr. Misee Harris wants to go public with this unfortunate story of racial discrimination in the workplace because it has been her mission to empower black women, many of whom, when subjected to this kind of discrimination do not have the financial freedom to leave with dignity the way Dr. Harris chose to.”
  • MacArthur Awards Go to 21 Diverse Fellows | NYTimes.com: Alison Bechdel is among the winners. “Several of the new fellows are combating pressing social problems, including violence against women and racial bias.”
  • 5 Things I Learned as the Internet’s Most Hated Person | Cracked.com: [CW: article illustratively quotes violent threats and misogynistic slurs] “Do you know how weird it is to see an actor from a show you love repost conspiracy videos about how your sex life is somehow ruining video games? Pretty goddamned weird, it turns out.”
  • The Greatest Black Women In Superhero Comics (Who Aren’t Storm) | io9: “Whenever anybody asks about black women in comics, the immediate response is to bring up Storm. But Storm isn’t the only black woman to rock superpowers and a costume. Here are 20 other black female characters in superhero comics who deserve more love and attention.”
  • Smartphones Are Used To Stalk, Control Domestic Abuse Victims | All Tech Considered : NPR: [CW: domestic violence, abuse] “But there’s another kind of privacy concern that is a lot more intimate. You could call it Little Brother, though it’s really more like husbands and wives, lovers and exes who secretly watch their partners — from a distance. They are cyberstalking — using digital tools that are a lot cheaper than hiring a private detective. NPR investigated these tools, also known as spyware, and spoke with domestic violence counselors and survivors around the country. We found that cyberstalking is now a standard part of domestic abuse in the U.S.”
  • Guest post by Kameron Hurley: Why I Stopped Writing About White People | Far Beyond Reality: “There will always be people calling my decision political, of course, without asking themselves about the political decision made by those who have written in unrealistically white worlds their whole lives. What could be more political than a legal, political, and social system that seeks to erase the majority of the world’s population and pretend a minority population – white people make up just 20% of the world’s population – owned the past, and will own the future?”
  • Why It’s Time To Put A Stop To Feminist ‘Infighting’ Accusations | Ravishly: “Feminism is only effective when it is self-critical. When marginalized voices are shut out, you create an environment where dissent is disallowed, which puts holes in our visibility and presence. Inclusion of marginalized women is not optional. With them/us, feminism remains as pockets of isolated consent, a lot of sound of fury signifying nothing. That is what actual divisiveness looks like.”
  • Grin and Bear It?: On Staying in the Picture | Camille E. Acey: “As a black woman in free software/free culture (what I guess could be called a Double Unicorn?), I find that I am often The Only One In The Room and — as one can imagine — there is a certain amount of discomfort/unwanted attention that comes with that. So when it comes to pictures, if the group is truly progressive/diverse or has it’s heart t in the right place and seems to be making strides towards inclusiveness then I am mostly fine for my image to be used to signal to the world that ‘Hey, this is an inclusive bunch’ and further to signal to other black women like me ‘Come on in, the water is warm (or at least not icy cold!)’. However, if the group is less than hospitable and/or does not seem like something I’d want anyone I care about putting time into to, then I do my best to dodge the lens. And so time and time again in different meetups and gatherings, at work and at play,  I’ve literally had to take a moment to determine whether I should ‘Give a grin or get going’.”
  • Tech’s Wakeup Call From Your Trans Coworker | The Bold Italic – San Francisco: [cw: transphobic slurs, discrimination of trans and genderqueer individuals] “A friend of mine who identifies as genderqueer told me about how they had to explain to their own HR department that outing someone without their permission is wrong. If you can’t rely on your HR department, where they’re supposed to know this stuff, then who can you rely on?

    This lack of knowledge about how to properly handle trans issues exists industry-wide. On top of it all, there is an immense pressure to believe that these problems don’t matter, shouldn’t be discussed, or that they don’t exist at all. If we don’t fit in to ‘the culture,’ in tech, we get iced out silently and forcefully.”

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

It’s Dangerous To Go Alone–I’m So Glad I Don’t Have To!

When Jim C Hines read the Code of Conduct during the opening ceremonies of this year’s North American Science Fiction Convention, I nearly stood up and cheered. I was so, so grateful to Con Chair Tammy Coxen and safety officer Jesi Pershing–and to Tom Smith and Jim, the Masters of Ceremony–for working to make DetConOne a safe and welcoming environment.

Mary Gardiner and Val Aurora of the Ada Initiative

I was also grateful to the Ada Initiative, who wrote the template anti-harassment policy in effect at the conference. The Ada Initiative is dedicated to increasing the participation of women in open technology and culture–including fan culture. One of their biggest victories has been drastically increasing the adoption of strong, clear, specific anti-harassment policies at conventions. I’m a proud supporter of the Ada Initiative and a member of their Advisory Board. Will you join me in supporting their vital work?

Donate now

Authors Mary Robinette Kowal and N.K. Jemisin–both tireless advocates for safety and diversity in Science Fiction–are supporting the Ada Initiative’s annual fundraiser this year.

Mary Robinette Kowal

The first time I saw Mary Robinette Kowal fight harassment was at a science fiction convention where a guy had just made a gross comment about a cosplayer in front of a packed room. While I was still trying to process what the guy had said, Mary fixed him with the most withering “what on earth just came out of your mouth” stare I have ever seen. The guy literally winced. Then he apologized–and for the rest of the night, he watched his mouth.

I remember thinking that I wished she’d been around when I was a thirteen-year-old cosplayer, getting propositioned for sex in the middle of the dealers’ room. Back then, harassment was so endemic to the Science Fiction community that I thought it was just the price of admission. No one else seemed to mind grown men following me around making gross comments, photographing me without permission, or inviting me to ‘private’ room parties, so I assumed it was a norm I had to adjust to.

I’m grateful for the progress the science fiction community has made since then. If science fiction fandom still looked–and acted–like it did back when I was that awkward thirteen-year-old girl, I’m pretty sure my aspirations of becoming a science fiction writer would be gathering dust on a shelf next to my old convention programs. Now a young professional breaking into the industry, I benefit enormously from the work the Ada Initiative, Mary Robinette, N.K. Jemisin, and others have put into making fandom a safer and more welcoming place.

I strongly recommend the Ada Initiative’s detailed timeline of the anti-harassment movement in science fiction. Part of feminist advocacy is giving credit where it is due, and the Ada Initiative’s timeline documents much of the hard work–and hard workers–behind making fandom a safer and more welcoming space.

NK Jemisin

I’m especially grateful to the writers and fans of color, including NK Jemisin (who’s fantastic Guest of Honor speech from this year’s Wiscon should pretty much be required reading), whose hard work and perseverance in the face of cluelessness, blatant racism, and ongoing threats and harassment has finally begun to change the discourse around race in fandom.

We still have a long way to go before organized fandom truly reflects the vibrance and diversity of the fan community. While this work will never get done without hundreds of volunteers carrying the banner, leaving the fight for diversity exclusively to volunteers is an unfair burden–a ‘second shift’ that falls disproportionately on women and marginalized fans. That’s why I’m proud to support the Ada Initiative, which pays advocates a fair wage to do this vitally important work.

Will you join me?

Growstuff: food gardening, open data and extreme programming the geek feminism way

In 2012, Geek Feminism founder Alex Skud Bayley founded Growstuff, a website and multi-purpose database for food-growers to track what they have planted and harvested and connect with other growers in their local area. Growstuff is now two years old and has launched a crowdfunding campaign to fund API development, which will help outside developers of tools like a harvesting calculator to show you how much money you save by growing food or emailed planting tips and reminders based on your location and climate.

Skud uses open source software and related technologies to effect social and environmental change. She lives in Ballarat, Victoria, where she works on a variety of open tech projects for social justice and sustainability. Skud and I have talked in the past about how Growstuff is among the projects that Geek Feminism contributors have built on principles we brought to and out of Geek Feminism, and I’m kicking off the second week of Growstuff’s fundraiser by asking her more about this.

Q. Which communities is Growstuff modelled on, and what principles has it inherited from them? In particular, how have Geek Feminism and other social justice communities and your work within them influenced Growstuff?

Growstuff open data campaign

Skud: When I started Growstuff, I’d been running Geek Feminism for about 3–4 years, and involved in a few other “women in open source” groups before that. This had led me to watch really closely as different open source communities worked on how to be welcoming and supportive, and to attract participants from different backgrounds and demographics. One thing I saw was that projects founded by women attracted women — no big surprise there I suppose! And, unsurprisingly, Growstuff has attracted a lot of women as developers: roughly half of the 40ish people who’ve made code contributions have been women, and we have lots who’ve volunteered for things like testing and data wrangling as well.

Initially we modeled Growstuff quite heavily on Dreamwidth, which has a majority of women. (Dreamwidth was one of the projects I focused on in my 2009 OSCON keynote, Standing Out in the Crowd.) I also took inspiration from the Agile software development movement.

Extreme Programming, which is the variant of Agile I grew up on, had a lot to say about having real conversations with people involved in the project, working at a sustainable pace, and using introspection to think about the process. I think some of the more recent versions of agile (like Scrum) have made it more business-friendly and, dare I say, macho. But to me, developing software the agile way is about working on the things that are most important, and about honouring each participant’s expertise and their time and energy they bring to the project. So Growstuff has a policy of working closely with our members, getting them involved in the project, and in some ways blurring the lines between tech/non-tech roles. Our choice not to use the term “users” is part of this; we use “members” instead because we feel like “users” distances the people who use Growstuff from the people building the code, and treats them more as consumers rather than collaborators.

Agile development methodologies are probably not what you were thinking about when you asked about social justice movements, but to me, my feminism and the way I work on projects are closely connected. I certainly find agile development (which I do with clients as well as on Growstuff) to be a more egalitarian way of working together than traditional/non-agile approaches.

Q. Your crowdfunding campaign will pay a developer, Frances Hocutt, to work on Growstuff’s API? Why is Growstuff moving towards a paid development model, at least in this case?

Growstuff's Lettuce crop page

Screenshot of Growstuff’s page for the Lettuce crop.

So far, Growstuff’s been built by volunteers. My work on other projects (mostly doing tech contracting for sustainability non-profits) has funded my work on Growstuff, and other volunteers have generally been funded by their own day jobs. Unfortunately, requiring people to volunteer their time not only means you’re relying on their rather variable availability, but those who are likely to have the most availability are generally relatively privileged. That means that the contributor pool will be demographically tilted towards those who happen to be the most affluent and time-rich. In the feminist tech community, we’ve been talking for a while now about labor issues in open source: Ashe Dryden’s The Ethics of Unpaid Labor and the OSS Community is important reading on the subject.

As a matter of principle, I want to be able to pay people to work on Growstuff. Maybe not all people all the time — it’s still an open source project, and our volunteer community is important to us — but I want our contributors to know that they’re not expected to go to extraordinary lengths without remuneration. That includes myself! I guess like many women I find it hard to ask for money for my own work, especially work for a “social good” that is so often undervalued and unpaid. It’s easier for me to ask for money on other people’s behalf.

Frances is exactly the sort of developer I want to work with on Growstuff. She’s come from a career in organic chemistry and switched to open tech. I got to know her through her co-founding Seattle Attic (a feminist hackerspace in Seattle, Washington), and through her Outreach Program for Women internship at the Wikimedia Foundation. By the time I met her I already knew she was a developer with a strong interest in community and collaborative projects, with the right combination of high level thinking, code, documentation and outreach. Her work developing “gold standards” for Wikimedia’s APIs (including the Wikidata API) seemed like a perfect lead-in to working on improving Growstuff’s APIs and helping people build things with them. When I heard she was looking for a short-term contract, I jumped at the chance to see if we could raise the money to pay her to work on Growstuff for a bit.

What principles and techniques could other software projects adopt from Growstuff? And how does Growstuff fit in — or rather, not fit in — to the current venture funded hypergrowth model of software companies?

We’re still trying to figure that out. Growstuff is structured as a sort of hybrid business/social enterprise: the website’s direct expenses are funded by memberships, while my work as Growstuff’s lead developer and organiser is funded indirectly by consulting on other projects. We don’t have any outside investment though we have received a couple of small grants and some support from a government startup program. We’re not seeking traditional VC investment, which makes us rather at odds with most of the “startup scene”, but I would much rather that Growstuff as a whole were funded by the community it serves, than by an external party or parties (investors, advertisers, etc) whose goals and values might be at odds with ours.

The bigger-picture answer, I guess, is that 21st century western-style capitalism increases inequality. The rich get phenomenally richer, and the rest of us get screwed over. If someone offered me the chance to get super rich off Growstuff at the expense of our members and community, I sincerely hope that I’d be able to resist that temptation. Though to be honest, I think Growstuff’s insistence on copyleft licensing and other choices we made early on (such as not to serve ads) mean that nobody’s likely to make that offer anyway. I’ve intentionally set Growstuff up to be more cooperative than capitalist. The trick is to figure out how to fairly support our workers under that model.

I think it depends a lot on our members: people are used to getting online services “for free” in return for their personal information and marketing data, which is used to make a handful of people very rich indeed. Are they going to be willing to resist that easy, attractive evil and become more equal partners in supporting and developing an online service for their/our mutual good? That’s what we still have to find out.

How is food gardening a part of your feminism? (Or feminism part of your food gardening?)

Photograph of Skud wearing a sunhat

Growstuff and Geek Feminism founder Alex Skud Bayley in her garden

I think the connection, for me, is through the idea of DIY — doing it yourself. My feminism is closely tied to my dubiousness about our current capitalist system. As I said, a system that concentrates wealth in a small segment of the population increases inequality. As businesses get bigger, our choices are fewer. I think growing your own food, even in a small way, is an important area of resistance: every pot of herbs on your windowsill means one less thing you buy from a giant supermarket chain. Incidentally, I feel the same way about building our own software and online communities! And I think that those who are least well served by the mainstream capitalist system — women, for instance, who are constantly bombarded by really screwed up messages about what we eat and how we feed our families, trying to sell us highly processed foods that ultimately benefit the companies that design and package them far more than they benefit us — have the most to gain from this.

How can Geek Feminism readers contribute to or support Growstuff?

Well, of course we have the crowdfunding campaign going on at present, to support Frances and myself as we work on Growstuff’s open API.

We’re always looking for people to join our community as contributors: testers, data mavens, coders, designers, writers, and more. Even just diving in to our discussions and weighing in on some of the ideas there helps us a lot — we’re always keen to hear from food-growers (including aspiring/potential ones) about what they’re looking for in Growstuff and how we can improve, or from people who’d like to use our data, to discuss what they have in mind and how we can support them.

Apart from that, just help us spread the word :)

More about Growstuff

You can learn more about Growstuff and its philosophy in the pitch video for the crowdfunding campaign (audio transcript follows):

Hi, I’m Alex Bayley. I write software and I grow vegetables in my backyard. I founded Growstuff in 2012.

More and more people are taking up veggie gardening all over the developed world, especially in cities. That means millions of new gardeners trying to eat and live more sustainably. People are growing food in their backyards, on balconies and in community gardens.

I started to grow my own food because I want to know where it comes from and that it hasn’t been grown with environmentally damaging fertilisers and pesticides. Like a lot of people these days, I worry about food that’s not local. The costs of transportation and the waste from overpackaged food are huge. I think it’s important that we have alternatives to the big supermarkets. And of course homegrown food just tastes so much better and it’s so much better for you.

Like most gardeners, I’m always searching online for information. Most of the growing advice I find isn’t suitable for my climate. I need local information, not something from halfway around the world.

Growstuff started when I met a guy called Federico from Mexico. He’s also a software developer and a permaculturist and he has trouble finding growing information for his local area. So he asked me if I knew of any open databases that had planting information about where to plant any kind of crop anywhere in the world.

We looked around and we couldn’t find anything. Some governments release open data, but it’s usually aimed at big farms. The stuff aimed at home gardeners was usually either just for one region or else the websites had really restrictive rules about what you could use the data for.

I’m a software developer so when I look at data I want to build things. If that data’s locked up where no one can use it that stifles innovation. Growstuff crowdsources information from veggie gardeners around the world. We gather data on what they plant, when and where they plant it, and how to grow it. We use this information to provide local planting advice back to our members and anyone who visits our site.

Growstuff is 100% open source and our data is also open. You can download it straight from our website and use it for any purpose, even commercially. But we want more people to use our data. We’re raising funds to improve our API which lets third party developers use Growstuff to build apps, mashups, tools, or to do research.

With your help, we’ll be creating a new version of our API with more features, building demos, and running workshops for developers. I’ve been working with open data since about 2007 and I think making food growing information freely available is one of the most important things we can do.

Whether you’re a gardener or a software developer or you just care about sustainable food please support Growstuff’s crowdfunding campaign.

Disclosures: in addition to working with Skud on the Geek Feminism project, I’ve worked with her when she was an advisor to the Ada Initiative, an AdaCamp staffer, and in several other capacities over many years.

Jonathan Strange and Mr Linkspam (16 September 2014)

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Verifiability, truth, and hearsay: feminist point of view on the Geek Feminism wiki

The following quasi-anonymous comment was received and acknowledged on the Geek Feminism Wiki’s article about the Gittip crisis.

If I understand the editing policies here (I just read them), lies or heresay [sic] can be printed as fact, because you don’t take an NPOV, you take a feminist point of view. That implies that feminism involves lies or hearsay otherwise you would recognize that incorrect information (whether it supports a feminist viewpoint or not) doesn’t belong in an article of any merit.

“NPOV” stands for “neutral point of view”, a notion that Wikipedia editors take as a governing principle. NPOV is useful in some contexts, but also can be abused to camouflage specific ideologies — especially those that happen to dominate discourse in a particular place and time. Like “meritocracy“, NPOV is an abstraction that may or may not be realizable, but in practice often serves as neutral clothing for the decidedly non-neutral opinions of those who power structures currently happen to serve.

The inimitable Rick Scott took the time to craft a patient reply, which I’m reproducing in its entirety here (with Rick’s permission) because it deserves to reach a broader audience. I think it’s a good companion to Skud’s “Feminist Point of View” talk from July. It also serves as an illustration in a specific case of the general points we make in the Geek Feminism wiki editorial guidelines.

The remainder of this post is Rick’s words, not mine.


You have read the editorial guidelines (for which I thank you), but not understood them. Perhaps I can clarify.

NPOV properly applies to opinions and analysis, not facts. We convey the facts as accurately as we can ascertain them—there’s no such thing as “feminist facts” and “non-feminist facts”.

Having gained our best understanding of the facts at hand, we analyse and interpret those facts from a feminist perspective—one which is informed by the substantial research, scholarship, and critique that the field encompasses. For instance, if a woman is harassed by a male colleague, her supervisor may deny that sexism played a role, explaining the incident in other ways: “He’s just a jerk”; “He’s not good with people”; “Are you sure you aren’t imagining it”, etc. A feminist perspective, however, draws on the considerable research documenting gendered patterns of harassment in the workplace, and points out that this incident is likely part of the larger pattern—that the woman’s gender probably played a significant role in how her colleague elected to treat her.

What you actually take issue with is our approach to matters addressed by Wikipedia’s two other core content policies, namely Verifiability and No Original Research. Our editorial guidelines, which you so kindly read, state (emphasis added):

While citations are preferred wherever possible, we do not require them. Much of our wiki is primary source material, sometimes added anonymously in order to avoid backlash against the whistleblower. Original research is welcome.

To take but one example, harassment and abuse often occur in ways which leave no artifact save the accounts of those involved. Turning our back on these accounts would eliminate our ability to document what happened and undermine our work. Moreover, in the face of a society which tries to silence marginalized people and casts them as liars when they talk about their actual lives, we push back against this erasure by respecting their integrity, taking them at their word, and treating the facts, as they describe them, as facts. This may offend some people’s utopian notions of epistemological purity, but in a world where speaking truth while female can invite significant retribution, this is what we have.

On the topics of truth, fact, whom we presume to be telling the truth, and whom we presume to be lying, you may find some of the articles linked from the Innocent until proven guilty page to be illuminating: specifically, Christie Koehler’s post on Community Safety, and Jill Filipovic’s article The ethics of outing your rapist.

Finally, and separately from all of the generalities above: I can affirm that the information described as “heresay” (sic) comes from an impeccable source, and so am content to leave the description of events as they are. Since nobody has deigned to present any evidence to the contrary, I consider the matter closed. — RickScott, 18:01, September 4, 2014 (UTC)

Wuthering Linkspams (14 September 2014)

  • [warning for discussion of violence, rape threats, suicide] They Are Not Trolls. They Are Men. | Rosie at Make Me a Sammich (Sept 9): “By calling these people “trolls,” we are basically letting them off the hook. It’s a lot like the “boys will be boys” mentality that helps to keep rape culture thriving, but it’s also different, because boys are expected to be human. By calling these people “trolls,” we relegate them to non-human status, and we make it clear that we don’t expect them to live up to the same behavioral standards as human beings.”
  • Researcher loses job at NSF after government questions her role as 1980s activist | Jeffrey Mervis at ScienceInsider (Sept 10): “In August 2013 she took a leave from Union College to join the National Science Foundation (NSF) as a program director in its Division of Undergraduate Education. And that’s when her 3-decade-old foray into political activism came back to haunt her. [...] Barr was grilled for 4.5 hours about her knowledge of three organizations [Women's Committee Against Genocide, the New Movement in Solidarity with Puerto Rican Independence, May 19 Communist Organization] and several individuals with ties to them, including the persons who tried to rob the Brink’s truck [in 1981 near Nyack, New York].”
  • [warning for discussion of sexual harassment] After the Shermer Article: What Do You Decide? | Stephanie Zvan at FreeThoughtBlogs (Sept 11): “This news story contains accounts of three women, named and well-known in skeptic and atheist circles, who say that Michael Shermer engaged in sexual behavior aimed at them without their consent. How many incidents of that sort are you willing to put your reputation behind? That’s what you do when you continue to employ Shermer, entwine your name and reputation with his. If now is not the point when you feel having that name and behavior associated with yours is bad for you, when does that happen?”
  • 17 Rare Images Tell the Real Story of Women in Tech | Michael McCutcheon at Mic (Sept 9): “Tech isn’t a male dominated field, in many respects. Women are responsible for some of the core innovations that drive the Internet today. It’s increasingly important to remember as we read the disquieting stats about the industry. Diversity seeds creativity and it’s possible that women approach the development of tech in slightly different ways that, when combined with others’, helps produce a more powerful Internet. It’s why having more women in tech, and recognizing and celebrating their accomplishments that began over a century ago and continue today, is vital to producing a more powerful future.”
  • [potentially NSFW content] Breasts without Photoshop violate community standards | Sam B at Fit Is a Feminist Issue (Sept 11): “We were banned from Facebook, sent to the virtual time out chair in the corner, for 24 hours. I was also forced to scroll through pages of rules about content and about community standards and then tick boxes promising my photos didn’t contain nudity. Mostly tedious. But I confess I’m a bit riled about what got me banned: ‘Bare Reality: 100 women and their breasts’ A hundred women have bared their breasts and their souls as part of a project to further understanding of how women really feel about their breasts, and how they really look.”
  • Women’s education in Hogwarts (before the first wizarding war) | The Postmodern Potter Compendium (Aug 6): “Question: What are your thoughts on the education of women in the wizarding world? Authorial assumption: Possibly antiquated, similar in nature to education of non-magical British women in the 1800s or so – most conservative people with the least contact with muggle world did not develop that much when women are concerned – given that the wizarding world separated from the muggle world in 1689-1693.”
  • Mother Gothel’s design makes me uncomfortable | Not Your Ex/Rotic (Sept 10): “Her dark, thick, curly hair, her sharp nose, and the way her features are generally perceived as more “ethnic” in comparison to all the other human characters in Tangled – it all reminds me of an archetype for Jewish women”
  • [potentially NSFW content] 23 Female Cartoonists On Drawing Their Bodies | Kristen Radtke at Buzzfeed (Aug 12): [illustrations] “So what happens when women draw their own bodies in a medium that has represented them so poorly? While graphic books published by men each year still outnumber those by women, the exclusionary landscape of American comics has been called into question. From blockbuster successes like Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, to rising indie artists and vibrant online communities, female cartoonists are producing some of the most exciting work in the genre.”

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.