Wednesday Geek Woman: Melba Roy Mouton

Melba Roy Mouton, standing with computing equipment at Goddard Space Flight Center.

Melba Roy Mouton, NASA mathematician, at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Image courtesy NASA, 1960.

Melba Roy Mouton graduated from Howard University in 1950 with a Master’s in Mathematics. By 1960, she was working for NASA, where she headed up a team of mathematicians who tracked Echo satellites in Earth’s orbit.

During her time at NASA, she served as head of the Data Systems Division’s Advanced Orbital Programming Branch, Head of the Mission and Trajectory Analysis Division’s Program Systems Branch, and Assistant Chief of Research Programmes, Trajectory and Geodynamics Division. She received an Exceptional Performance Award and NASA’s Apollo Achievement Award.

She retired in 1973, and passed away in 1990, at the age of 61.

Over on Vintage Black Glamour, Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, an astrophysicist who did a post-doc at NASA, describes Mouton’s work:

[W]hen we launch satellites into orbit, there are a lot of things to keep track of. We have to ensure that gravitational pull from other bodies, such as other satellites, the moon, etc. don’t perturb and destabilize the orbit. These are extremely hard calculations to do even today, even with a machine-computer. So, what she did was extremely intense, difficult work. The goal of the work, in addition to ensuring satellites remained in a stable orbit, was to know where everything was at all times. So they had to be able to calculate with a high level of accuracy.

Sources:

The Hugo Ballot is Out!

The finalists for the 2014 Hugo Awards were announced over the weekend, and gee golly are there some exciting works on that slate. I’m especially excited to see Mary Robinette Kowal’s “The Lady Astronaut Of Mars” on the ballot (it was denied a place on last year’s ballot because it originally appeared as an Audiobook). It’s sharing the novelette category with Aliette de Bodard’s “The Waiting Stars,” which I’ve not read yet but am looking forward to checking out.

Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, which is up for Best Novel, has been making a lot of shortlists this year, including the Hugo, Nebula, and Clarke awards. I’m also glad to see Sofia Samatar’s “Selkie Stories Are For Losers” up for the short story Hugo–it’s definitely worth a read if you haven’t seen it yet (Samatar is also in her second year of eligibility for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer).

And I’m excited that my fellow Writing On The Fast Track alum and all-around good guy Mike Underwood is up for Best Fancast for The Skiffy and Fanty Show. The team behind it includes several other wonderful people, including authors and diversity advocates Julia Rios and Stina Leicht.

If you’re interested in checking out these and the other wonderful & deserving works on this year’s ballot and voting for this year’s Hugo awards, supporting memberships to this year’s WorldCon are available for 40$US. In addition to voting rights, supporting Members get a copy of the Hugo Voter Packet, which contains digital editions of most of the works on the ballot. This works out to a pretty great bargain if you’re excited about even a few of the nominated works–plus you get to vote on this year’s Hugos.

You may notice that there are a few surprising names on this year’s ballot. Theodore Beale (aka Vox Day, a writer whose hate speech got him drummed out of the SFWA last year) and Larry Correia encouraged their fans to nominate a particular ‘slate’ that included several vocal conservatives. Some of their fans have since been heard crowing about how they’ve succeeded in making some kind of political point by getting these folks on the ballot.

It’s unfortunate that they’ve chosen to politicize the Hugo awards in this way. But I would remind folks that are thinking about buying a membership that the Hugo Awards use “Instant Runoff Voting,” a system which allows voters to rank the candidates in each category. The system allows people to rank “No Award” higher than any or all candidates on the ballot. Indeed, in 1987, that very thing happened in the novel category: No Award came in ahead of L. Ron Hubbard’s Black Genesis.


Since invoking Beale’s name tends to cause some of the cesspools of the internet to backflow into the tubes, this is your reminder that we have a strictly-enforced comment policy. So if you’re here from Beale’s fan club: run along. Your comment will go straight to moderation and no one will see it.  There are plenty of places online where you can contribute to a net reduction in the worth and dignity of humanity. This is not one of them.

Go Ahead. Spam My Link. (22 April 2014)

  • Fake Geek Guys: A Message to Men About Sexual Harassment | Andy Khouri at ComicsAlliance (April 16): “”I think this woman is wrong about something on the Internet. Clearly my best course of action is to threaten her with rape.” [..] Men are the cure — but we are the cancer too. It is wholly and rightfully and crucially up to men in this society and especially in this subculture to speak out and watch out. To end the cycle of bullying, harassment and violence. To recognize the grotesque irony of degrading women over matters of heroic fictions whose lessons about fairness and decency we’ve supposedly been studying since we were just little boys, and to start putting those ideas into practice as grown-ass men.”
  • To the point of collapse, and beyond | Maria at Crooked Timber (April 8): “Collapse from nervous exhaustion and working too hard [...] somewhere in the late twentieth century we forgot about all this. With antibiotics and behaviourism and god knows what else, the mind body connection got disjointed. People stopped having a good excuse to say they were spent. When burnout and chronic fatigue were ‘discovered’ in the 1980s, the popular view was – and still is, for the most part – incredulity and a sense that people whose bodies had suddenly and seemingly inexplicably forgotten how to be well were somehow faking it. Or asking for it. [...] When something stops having a name, it gets harder to track and compare across generations. Nowadays, it seems easier to categorise fatigue or burnout as depression, as if it’s somehow anomalous and not something entirely to be expected.”
  • ‘Why can’t you just deal with it?’ ‘It’s a compliment!’ | s.e. smith at meloukhia (April 21): “Is it a compliment when a complete stranger says ‘hey, nice shoes!’? Yes, it is – I occasionally compliment fine shoes myself. Is it a compliment when a stranger says ‘nice ass!’? Well… not so much. Because one comment is about an accessory, an item someone deliberately chose as part of her presentation, something she can take on and off. She may have chosen to wear those shoes just for herself, with no one else in mind, but she might still appreciate hearing that someone thinks they’re excellent shoes. But her ass, well, that’s a different story. That’s not something that she can take on and take off. Now, she may have worked quite hard on her butt, and she could be stoked that someone thinks it looks good, but that’s an individual thing, not something generic to all women. The tone and delivery of a compliment about her butt might make a big impression in her perception of it. The fact of the matter is that a comment like ‘nice ass’ feels crude and unpleasant and threatening, because extended from ‘nice ass’ is something slimy and threatening and gross, something sinister.”
  • Pink Weights? (Guest Post) | Fit, Feminist, and (almost) Fifty (April 19): A little outside the usual topics, however, it is a feminist viewpoint on what can be a geeky topic. “I have a mild uterine prolapse, which is like a mild hernia with less reliable surgical options. This condition is quite common, but not talked about very much, perhaps because it involves female bits, or perhaps because it isn’t life threatening. It certainly was news to me. [...] It turns out that despite my level of fitness, I hadn’t been exercising properly. I did not know what “activate your core before lifting” actually meant. I thought it meant bracing your abdominal and back muscles. But that’s not enough, and bracing could actually be doing more harm than good.”
  • Look In the Mirror: Confronting the Contradictions of LGBT Organizations and Our “Leadership” | Christian Emmanuel Castaing at Black Girl Dangerous (April 17): “How dare you or your mission statement proclaim to speak for marginalized communities when, in actuality, you’re developing your career and using your personal definitions of “sex positivity,” “social justice,” and “human rights” to SPEAK OVER the needs of those you claim to speak for? How dare you call yourself an activist when you capitalize on unearned privileges to state “It Gets Better,” while reinforcing a system of “Us” and “Them”? How dare you capitalize on a movement, take the most space, and use the most resources to satisfy your desires over the needs of others? The contradictions in our organizations and within any leader are vast. Keeping a movement that has turned its back on its least protected members demands that we reclaim the movement and hold it responsible. Our leadership cannot avoid being held responsible for unethical behavior, and we should not be afraid to hold them accountable.”

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.

Take arms against a sea of links, and by spamming, end them (18 April 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.

Geekfeminism.org statement on rape allegations and transmisogyny

This morning as I was about to get on a plane back from a conference I found out that Dana McCallum, aka Dana L. Contreras, a software engineer at Twitter as well as a feminist activist, was arrested in late January and charged with several felonies including rape, false imprisonment, and domestic violence. Some details of the charges are described on SFgate: SF Women’s Rights Advocate Accused of Raping Wife.

Many of us associated with geekfeminism.org and its sister organizations would like to make a statement in response.

This is horrifying and came as a shock to many of us in feminist communities, as McCallum has been a fellow feminist activist for some time. The bloggers at geekfeminism.org would like to express our empathy and support for the victim/survivor and her family.

Another aspect of this case is that the media coverage of the rape and assault charges are almost universally misogynist and transphobic both in their perpetuation of rape culture (for one, by providing an uncritical platform for McCallum’s lawyer) and in their misgendering and obsessive focus on McCallum’s gender identity and history.  Some radical feminist activists (and their many obvious sockpuppets) have also been writing hateful “trans panic” or TERF articles and tweets. We strongly repudiate such responses.

Rape is a horrible violent crime no matter who the rapist is.

The National Center for Transgender Equality director Mara Keisling says on a comment on a post by Nitasha Tiku,

“Rape is a horrific crime. Sexual violence is never okay. But this isn’t a transgender story. We can’t speak to the specifics of this case but sexual assault knows no gender. That’s why the FBI recently revised their definition of rape. As this case gains more attention, we must avoid using it as a reason to misrepresent transgender people.”

For anyone who has experienced abuse or sexual assault, it can be helpful to turn to local or broader resources. Here is a list of trans-friendly and inclusive rape survivor organizations and resources.  In San Francisco,  San Francisco Women Against Rape is a good resource;  WOMAN Inc, the Cooperative Restraining Order Clinic, and GLIDE also provide many resources for people in the SF Bay Area who have experienced domestic violence. Please don’t go through this on your own; reach out to people around you — you’re not alone.

- Liz Henry

cosigned:

Leigh Honeywell

Valerie Aurora

Brenda Wallace

Tim Chevalier

Annalee Flower Horne

Beth Flanagan

That’s not a Linkspam. THIS is a Linkspam (15 April 2014)

  • So You’ve Got Yourself a Policy. Now What? | Stephanie Zvan at Freethough Blogs (April 10): “We know from situations in which they’ve failed that “zero-tolerance” policies, policies in which any act that is deemed to be unacceptable results in expulsion and exclusion, don’t work well. They fail in three main ways. People who are against harassment policies in general are quick to point out that they leave no room for honest mistakes. They are correct when talking about zero-tolerance policies, even if they make the same criticism about all policies.”
  • What’s Missing from Journalists’ Tactic of Snagging Stories from Twitter? Respect. | Tina Vasquez at bitchmedia (March 21): “Christine Fox does not consider herself a social justice advocate. On March 12, Fox’s timeline took a decidedly different turn. That night, to illustrate that there is no correlation between clothing and sexual assault, Fox asked her more than 12,000 followers to share what they were wearing when they were sexually assaulted. It was the first time Fox facilitated a conversation on this scale and it was also the first time she publicly shared her story as an assault survivor. She walked away from her computer that night feeling positive about what took place—and many tweeted to thank her, saying that through the tears, the discussion felt healing. But the next morning, Fox felt her hands go shaky. She felt nauseous and sweaty. She’d later learn from followers on Twitter that after reading through hundreds of tweets about assault, she had likely “triggered” herself, a term she was relatively unfamiliar with. Still, she knew something powerful had happened and she was proud to have sparked it. And then BuzzFeed came along and fucked everything up.”
  • My Cane is Not A Costume – Convention Exclusions and Ways to Think About Oppression at Cons | Derek Newman-Stille at Speculating Canada (April 7): “On a regular basis at speculative and other fan conventions, I get knocked around, shoved, pushed out of the way. People assume that because I am using a cane, I am taking up more than my fair space, after all, I have THREE whole legs on the ground (two legs and a cane). I hope this is because they assume that my cane is the equivalent to their lightsaber, a performative piece, a part of a costume… That is my hope. However, I have seen issues of systemic ableism at cons.”
  • Why are People Perennially Surprised By Internet Misogyny? | s.e. smith at meloukhia.net (April 14): “I have a confession: I was tempted to cut and paste this piece, since I’m pretty sure I’ve written it before. I realized that my desire to cut and paste was kind of an indicator of how endlessly circular this topic is, though. [...] I really don’t know how many times people need to say this before the message will sink through: the internet is a dangerous place for women. It’s especially dangerous for women living at the intersections of multiple marginalisations.”
  • Collecting Inspiration with Supersisters | Liz Zanis at The Metropolitan Museum of Art (April 3): “Published in 1979, the Supersisters trading cards were a playful, informative, and accessible way to spread feminism to younger audiences. The series was inspired by Lois Rich’s daughter, an eight-year-old baseball-card collector, who asked why there weren’t any pictures of girls on the cards. With a grant from the New York State Education Department, Lois Rich and her sister, Barbara Egerman, contacted five hundred women of achievement and created cards of the first seventy-two to respond.”

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 PinboardDelicious 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.

Frankly, my dear, I don’t link a spam (11 April 2014)

  • Women do not apply to ‘male-sounding’ job postings | Klaus Becker at Technische Universität München (April 3): “If the advertisement described a large number of traits associated with men, the women found it less appealing and were less inclined to apply. Such traits include ‘assertive’, ‘independent’, ‘aggressive’ and ‘analytical’. Women found words like ‘dedicated’, ‘responsible’, ‘conscientious’ and ‘sociable’ more appealing. For male test subjects, on the other hand, the wording of the job advertisement made no difference.” (Citations follow the press release.)
  • Is the Oculus Rift sexist? (plus response to criticism) | danah boyd at apophenia (April 3): “[M]ilitary researchers had noticed that women seemed to get sick at higher rates in simulators than men. While they seemed to be able to eventually adjust to the simulator, they would then get sick again when switching back into reality. Being an activist and a troublemaker, I walked straight into the office of the head CAVE researcher and declared the CAVE sexist.” Warning: as discussed at the end of the piece, boyd uses some language that trans people have criticised, explaining it as the language of her trans informants.
  • Introducing ‘Sexism Ed’ | Kelly J. Baker at Chronicle Vitae (April 2): “But look: We could lean in until our backs were permanently bent forward and still face discrimination, bias, harassment, and more recently, rescinded job offers… I’ll be writing an occasional column—I’ll call it Sexism Ed—as a way to continue the conversation on sexism and gender discrimination in higher ed.”
  • Creepshots: Microsoft discovers an on-campus peeping tom | Nate Anderson at Ars Technica (April 5): “The Muvi camera [found by a Microsoft vendor employee] contained ‘upskirt’ video footage of women climbing stairs or escalators—or sometimes just standing in checkout lines—and some of it had been shot on Microsoft’s campus.”

Lots of goodness in Model View Culture‘s Funding issue, including:

Check out the whole issue!

The joy of linkspam (8 April 2014)

Bonus Game Jam Walkout Section

  • Game Jam Walkout | The Mary Sue (April 2): “GAME_JAM was supposed to be a YouTube-based webseries, a reality show about four teams of game developers competing to win prizes and promote their careers. According to many of the folks involved, it was hamstrung by terrible contracts, mismanaged sponsorship, and a director who sought every opportunity to fabricate conflict against the will of participants, and a general misunderstanding of what game development actually involved. But the thing that united the sixteen contestants into walking off the show was when it attempted to get them to impugn the place of women in coding and game making.”
  • How The Most Expensive Game Jam In History Crashed And Burned In A Single Day | Indie Statik (March 31): “Two of the other teams have women on them. Do you think they’re at a disadvantage?” Silence. It was like the wind was sucked out of the room behind the barrier
  • Let’s talk about accountability | msminotaur (March 31): Account from one of the women involved.
  • Unreality | Zoe Quinn: “My feelings after being on and subsequently walking off a reality show about game jams”

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 PinboardDelicious 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: What Open Source Means to Me

Nick Desaulniers is collecting brief statements from people who do open-source about what it means to them, as a text file extended via Github pull requests. You can add your own by forking the repository and submitting a pull request. I’d love to see more additions from people in communities that are marginalized in open-source development (and in tech generally).