Author Archives: elizabethggf

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I feel Pretty, Oh So Pre-AAAAh It’s in my EYE!

I don’t wear make-up. When I was a baby, my mother made me be a clown for Halloween and when she washed the makeup away, I had a horrible rash. I guess I was allergic to the face paint and since then I have told people I am allergic to makeup. I wore some make-up in middle/school; but I didn’t wear it in college, I didn’t wear it when I was working in industry, and I don’t wear it now in grad school. My mother has never worn make-up, so never gave me instruction on how to apply it. The couple times friends have convinced me to let them put some on me, I thought I looked ridiculous. Twice in the last six months my hair gal has asked to “touch up” my make-up after she finished my hair. Either she thinks I need help, she can’t tell I’m not wearing any, or she gets a bonus if I buy makeup.

Do you hate me yet? Well prepare yourself. I think that makeup is a waste of my time. (Note, I didn’t say makeup is a waste of YOUR time). I think that most people I know who wear makeup look fine. When I meet people who love makeup and wear a lot I think the same thing I think when I meet a person who spends a lot of time making scrapbooks or watching Saw movies, “That is neat, I am glad you like that, and I would never do it.” It just isn’t for me. I hate the way it feels. I hate being afraid to touch my face and makeup seems to require putting a lot of stuff really close to my eye. (I don’t wear contacts because YOU SHOULD NOT PUT STUFF IN YOUR EYE!)

There are women I know that are successful and spend a lot of time on makeup and I think that they are amazing and I that am rather lazy. I do think that society forces women to focus on a lot of stuff before they can focus on stuff that men get to focus on right away and in a very real way this puts women at a disadvantage. Mitchell and Webb think so too. The biggest examples are the second shift and the pink economy. Requiring women to do something that doesn’t really add value to their lives and costs them money and time seems wrong.

Jezebel had an article about whether makeup is a choice. The author doesn’t think it is a choice. Many commenters replied with “I know, it’s not fair.” or “Sure it is a choice, I don’t wear makeup.” or “I love makeup!” A few months ago the president of our student section of Society of Women Engineers suggested that for one of our events we have a makeup tutorial. I said that in many industries makeup is a requirement for women and that we should not encourage that to be the case in engineering. She is a lovely girl who wears makeup and she looked at me like I was nuts.

I know that there is an opinion that makeup is a little like brushing your teeth but I would like to disagree. Teeth brushing, or some type of dental hygiene, is just that, hygiene. It is about cleanliness. Makeup, is the very opposite of that. It is stuff you literally have to wash off, with chemicals sometimes (near your EYES!).

Honestly, it is probably inevitable that makeup will become a requirement at some point in my life, either because it already is and my relative youth has just been giving me a pass or because we are on a societal march towards mandatory effort towards pretty for women. Or maybe it already is mandatory and I have lost jobs, friends, or relationships because of my laziness stubbornness. If, at anytime, a person takes me aside and says, in a concerned tone, “You would really look so much better with just a little bit of makeup,” I will respond (to someone I like) “Thanks but I just don’t like it;” or, to a non-makeup wearer, “So would you.” or, to a makeup wearer, “It doesn’t seem to be working for you.” Because, really, someone just called me ugly and, even if it is true, it is still rude.

So here is my plea to the pro-makeup people. Keep loving it, or stop, whatever you want. If someone asks for your help, give it to them like the tactful person you are. If you ever think “Wow, she could use some makeup!” keep that thought to yourself. If you encounter someone being judged for not wearing makeup, remember that appearance is not the same thing as hygiene and should not be the defining characteristic of a person’s skill, character or personality. And please, try not to get anything in your eyes, because I care about your eyes too.

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Re-post: The Gap and the Wall

During December and January, Geek Feminism is republishing some of our 2012 posts for the benefit of new and existing readers. This post originally appeared on April 1, 2012.

Last week APM’s radio program, Marketplace, did a story with Freakonomics about the patent gap between men and women. Women are responsible for only about 7.5% of patents in the US. That doesn’t surprise me. What is interesting about this story is that the presenter points to research that shows that when women compete with men they tend to perform worse (not just in comparison with men) than when they compete with women only. He casually recommends that companies like Google allow or encourage women to segregate themselves so that they can attain their full potential without being affected by the gender interaction.

Does this sound familiar? This is the case being made for sex segregated education. Women passionately defend girl’s schools and women’s colleges as safe and nurturing spaces for young women to learn and grow, and I am sure that they often are. My concern is, specifically, with engineering. To my knowledge, there is no women’s college in the US which grants a bachelor’s degree in engineering. I know that some women’s colleges cooperate with a neighboring university so that their students can attend engineering classes, but when women students attend classes at a coed school, they are no longer participating in a women only program. Women may perform better when they are segregated, but the truth is that the real world isn’t segregated and I don’t want it to be. Sooner or later men and women are going to have to work together. I would prefer we change the things that contribute to poor performance by women when working in the presence of men instead of removing all the men.

Do you think you would do better work if you could work in Lady-Land without the Male Gaze? If we are open to segregation why not also look at quotas? Both systems are interfering with “supposed” pure merit systems in an effort to even the playing field.

If you accept that the composition of the community affects the performance of the individual members and you are willing to change the composition of the community to allow some members to perform better then why not move the community to parity as opposed to segregation? Why not require that women need to make up a certain percentage of management and the workforce? I would like to see how women perform when they are represented equally at all levels of an organization.

SWE Helps to Fix the Grad Student Leak in the Pipeline (Reports from WE12 this week in Houston, TX)

This is my second post from the Society of Women Engineers National Conference, WE12, this week in Houston,TX. You can find my first (Lovefest over SWE) here.

I am a grad student. I have been a grad student for more than three years. I both love and hate it. I love that I have freedom to pursue things that interest me. I can set my own schedule. I have access to a student fitness center that would cost $50/month out in the “real world”. I love working with people who are enthusiastic about their careers. I love that students are willing to embrace new technology and techniques.

I hate that I have no expectation of rest or vacation whether I work 40 hours or 100 hours a week. No one cares. I have a master’s degree in engineering. If I worked in the “real world,” I would make at least $65,000 a year. I make quite a bit less than that. The casual, no consequences mentality of student life often frustrates me. Graduate school is sometimes isolating. You work alone; you may not be taking classes: and you feel constantly on the brink of failure. I am not the only grad student who feels this way. It is especially challenging for those of us who return to grad school from a career in industry. I worked in industry for two years and I miss the disposable income! I can’t even imagine being a PhD student with a spouse and/or children. From what I observed, it is exhausting. So people leave, women leave. Industry wants more women with Masters and PhDs and academia certainly wants more women faculty but first these women have to be grad students, tired, poor grad students.

The national organization of the Society of Women Engineers national organization recognizes that grad students are underserved. Today, in a discussion, this question emerged: How can SWE serve grad students alongside undergrads, who are not of a single demographic. A MS student who is studying at her undergrad institution may be perfectly content to attend a tailgating party with undergrads. A grad student in her 30’s, with children, may not care about the university’s football team and may not want to bring her kids to an event with alcohol. Both women are grad students and both may need the community available through SWE.

Another problem is funding. (Isn’t it always about money?). National SWE cannot recognize more than one SWE section at a single institution, meaning that a student section of SWE must serve all students. Universities and other sources of student organization funding may fund either graduate or undergraduate organizations, but not both. The national organization is beginning to realize that it may be important to allow grad student organizations some level of independence from the undergrad section.

Finally, how do we create a sustainable organization, one that will continue after key leaders move on? The answer seems simple: Before the leaders leave they must transition leadership to new people. That is easier said than done. On Thursday, I met another one of those dynamic women that I gushed about in my first post. Gwen is a grad student at a great school. She created the grad SWE organization at her university and she wants it to continue after she graduates. She is choosing to take on more responsibility in the regional and national organization and ask other people to work in the local organization.

So I ask you who are grad students: What have your experiences in grad school been? Do you feel connected to undergrads? What organizations do you value? How might SWE serve you more effectively? What might you do to encourage and support your sisters in graduate studies? How do you ensure something you worked on will survive when you graduate?

Interesting Links:

Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics from the American Association of University Women.

SWE’s Graduate Student Blog.

SWE Logo - 2010

SWE and Me (Reports from WE12 this week in Houston, TX)

This is the first of what I hope will be a three part post about the Society of Women Engineers.  This week I am in Houston, Texas for WE12, the SWE national conference.  This is the fourth national conference I have attended and I want to talk about why I love both the organization and the conference.

I originally intended for this post to be a history of the Society of Women Engineers but then I realized that I would basically be reiterating what I found at SWE History and at SWE Wikipedia Page .  So instead, I will write about my history with SWE. (You can find my first discussion of SWE at My Other SWE Post .)

SWE helped me get an internship and then help me get my first job after undergraduate studies.   But the biggest impact of SWE has been the people I have met.

I remember attending the SWE welcome picnic my freshmen year, 2002, at the University of Kansas.  I liked the idea of SWE,  but was did not find time, at first, to be involved.  I attended meetings, periodically, but  did little else.  At the beginning of my junior year, I happened to be at the meeting at which officers were elected.  I sat with a group of my friends who nominated me first for treasurer and then for fundraising chair.  I accepted because it felt nice to be wanted.  I served as in these positions for the next two years.   As fundraising chair, I was responsible for managing and recruiting volunteers for a football concession stand that we shared with two other organizations.  People hated volunteering because it was hard work and sometimes gross.  I didn’t enjoy the concession stand, but I came to love the SWE women.

President of the student section while I was working at the concession stand, was intelligent, driven and resilient.  The amount of work she could do in a day inspired me.  Cassandra would work, then work out, then reorganize her kitchen.  With organizations like SWE, a few people must put in the work.  She was that person.  She made things happen.

After graduation, I moved to Utah, where I had no friends or family.  I emailed the president of the local professional section of SWE.  She asked if I wanted to be an officer.  I also met, Marilyn who had taken a non typical path to her work as an engineer.  Marilyn is older than I am and she became my friend and mentor.

When I enrolled in graduate studies  at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, I found it difficult to relate to the undergraduate community.  I was old and cranky and liked to go to bed at 10:00 PM.  My new university had a very active SWE section and although I went to the events, I never felt like I belonged.  In 2010, I went to the SWE national conference in Miami.  Travel from Honolulu to Miami is hard.  When we arrived in Miami, I was exhausted, and, because of a  problem with our room, I was crabby, too.   Our section had reserved a room in advance and we had an extra bed.  Eva, from another university and arriving late, took the extra bed.  I woke up just long enough to be rude when Eva arrived at the room.  But she didn’t hold it against me.  The next morning, we found we had much in common.  Eva is funny, intelligent and a pitbull when it comes to getting things done.  The last year of my MS was difficult and, even though she lived in California and I was in Hawaii and even though we had only hung out for a few days in Miami, Eva became one of my best friends.  We still talk to each other about once a week and visit when we can.

I started PhD studies at Iowa State University in 2011. The SWE section there is huge and well run.  I was greeted at a special grad student table.  Bethany had completed her undergraduate studies at ISU and been very involved with SWE; but when she moved into the grad program she found that SWE was no longer meeting her needs.  So Bethany started the graduate committee.  There I have found a wonderful community of women engineering grad students who are willing to address the issue of gender in engineering.  This committee is the most productive group of which I have ever been a part and being a part of it has made me more productive.

I love SWE; it is an amazing organization that I have always been proud to be a part of, but the reason that I keep finding ways to be involved is because of the amazing ladies I have met there.  These women have become my friends but more than that they have become my mentors and inspiration in a field where I often feel alone.  The community that SWE provides has helped me more time than I can count to continue in my career in engineering.

Over the next few days I will be meeting new people, seeing old friends, and attending workshops discussing inclusion, grad school, career planning and some other interesting things.  I will be writing about SWE’s effort to attract  and retain women in STEM fields and why women engineering grad students have different needs than young professionals or undergrads.  If, by chance, you are also at WE12 this week and you want to meet up just say so in the comments!

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The Thickest Skin: Backlash to the Feminist Frequency Kickstarter

Recently Anita Sarkeesian (one of my tech savvy, feminist heroes) started a Kickstarter  for a new series of Feminist Frequency videos focusing on women and tropes in video games.  If you don’t know Feminist Frequency go here and watch every single one of her videos, I will wait.

Oh good you’re back!

A few days ago she posted her Kickstarter video on Youtube to help meet a new goal [Giant, Humoungus, Gargantuan Trigger Warning for comments].  Normally she disables comments if they get out of hand but I think she was making a point with this video.  Ms. Sarkeesian wrote about the harassment in a recent update to her backers:

The intimidation and harassment effort has included a torrent of misogyny and hate speech on my YouTube video, repeated vandalizing of the Wikipedia page about me, organized efforts to flag my YouTube videos as “terrorism”, as well as many threatening messages sent through Twitter, Facebook, Kickstarter, email and my own website. These messages and comments have included everything from the typical sandwich and kitchen “jokes” to threats of violence, death, sexual assault and rape. All that plus an organized attempt to report this project to Kickstarter and get it banned or defunded. Thankfully, Kickstarter has been incredibly supportive in helping me deal with the harassment on their service.

So this is not news to anyone, right?  We have long known that the gamer community harbors a unique and caustic group of trolls (see Fat Ugly or Slutty or recent linkspamed BBC article).  For the life of me I cannot get my head around this, they are mad, they have a lot of free time to spend attacking things like Feminist Frequency and it seems that the very sound of women’s voices is an invitation for verbal assault and any criticism of these types of behavior bring out a level of passion akin to Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech or the Declaration of Independence but with much poorer grammar and a lot more use of the word whore.

Okay, so that is all really depressing, but let’s look at the facts. Ms. Sarkeesian’s original goal was $6,000, she made that in under 24 hours!  Since then she has set and met three additional goals. At the time I started writing this post she had raised $31,173 from over 1,100 backers. Now, the Feminist Frequency Kickstarter has $32,654 and 1,250 (that’s right, since I started writing this post, this morning, the pledges increased by more than $1000 and 150 backers!).  In one week the Kickstarter will be funded afterwards Ms. Sarkeesian is going to make her series, probably buy a new computer, and continue to be an inspiration and a bit of a badass.  I’m going to mark that as a win.

UPDATE:  Right now the kickstarter is at $40,793 with 5 days to goal.  The most recent goal was $26,000.  Is it possible that people hate internet trolls that much?  I thinks so.

UPDATE UPDATE:  She is now at over $75,000, I kid you not.  The trolls are usually loud but I guess us quiet folks are deciding to speak up!

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The Gap and the Wall

Last week APM’s radio program, Marketplace, did a story with Freakonomics about the patent gap between men and women. Women are responsible for only about 7.5% of patents in the US. That doesn’t surprise me. What is interesting about this story is that the presenter points to research that shows that when women compete with men they tend to perform worse (not just in comparison with men) than when they compete with women only. He casually recommends that companies like Google allow or encourage women to segregate themselves so that they can attain their full potential without being affected by the gender interaction.

Does this sound familiar? This is the case being made for sex segregated education. Women passionately defend girl’s schools and women’s colleges as safe and nurturing spaces for young women to learn and grow, and I am sure that they often are. My concern is, specifically, with engineering. To my knowledge, there is no women’s college in the US which grants a bachelor’s degree in engineering. I know that some women’s colleges cooperate with a neighboring university so that their students can attend engineering classes, but when women students attend classes at a coed school, they are no longer participating in a women only program. Women may perform better when they are segregated, but the truth is that the real world isn’t segregated and I don’t want it to be. Sooner or later men and women are going to have to work together. I would prefer we change the things that contribute to poor performance by women when working in the presence of men instead of removing all the men.

Do you think you would do better work if you could work in Lady-Land without the Male Gaze? If we are open to segregation why not also look at quotas? Both systems are interfering with “supposed” pure merit systems in an effort to even the playing field.

If you accept that the composition of the community affects the performance of the individual members and you are willing to change the composition of the community to allow some members to perform better then why not move the community to parity as opposed to segregation? Why not require that women need to make up a certain percentage of management and the workforce? I would like to see how women perform when they are represented equally at all levels of an organization.

Privilege Denying Dude (Edman)

I feel like you are trying to tell me something

This is a guest post by Elizabeth Gregory, a PhD student in Aerospace Engineering at Iowa State University.

Have you ever been watching a movie/TV show or reading a book/magazine article and all of a sudden been confronted with a reminder that you (a lady) are not the target audience?

I had no television for a few years so, although I watched The Big Bang Theory when it first aired, I haven’t watched it in a long time. A few weeks ago I caught an episode and I was struck by this scene. HA HA! Women never go to comic book stores! Because they are girls! Hilarious! I always enjoyed the show because it reveled in geek culture, but this is what I hear from this scene:

Me: I like your show.

Them: That’s cool and everything, but it isn’t for you.

Me: It’s on TV, isn’t it for everyone? It’s not even on Cable.

Them: Well yeah, but it is for geeks.

Me: I’m a geek.

Them: We mean guy geeks. You know, real geeks.

About a year ago, I was reading Diary by Chuck Palahniuk. The narrator of the story is a woman. In one part, she describes having a catheter as something plastic stuck in your vagina. Here is the thing. I don’t pee from my vagina and I haven’t ever heard of a women that does and I certainly don’t consider my urethra as part of my vagina. Here is my imaginary conversation with Chuck Palahniuk.

Me: Do you really think women pee from their vaginas?

Him: Eeew. I don’t know what happens down there.

Me: This is basic human anatomy.

Him: No, it is women’s anatomy, not regular anatomy. I’m close, right? The pee definitely comes from that general location, right?

Me: What I don’t understand is how you didn’t have one editor read this and point out that this is anatomically wrong. Especially since, throughout the book, you describe in great detail other parts of the human body and their function. This seems be a fact checking error.

Him: I feel like most people are confused by lady parts. As previously stated, Eeew!

When I was a senior in Aerospace Engineering, we all took senior seminar. It was a 1 credit class (compared to a regular 3 credit class) in which the head of the department talked to us about interviews, jobs, life insurance, firing people, mortgages, and ethics. I remember he brought in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) code of ethics. Here is item 2.3 (emphasis mine):

The member will inform his employer or client if he is financially interested in any vendor or contractor, or in any invention, machines, or apparatus, which is involved in a project or work of his employer or client. The member will not allow such interest to affect his decision regarding services which he may be called upon to perform.

This document was approved in 1978, so it is old; but it hasn’t been changed. Here is an imaginary conversation with people who do not see that this is exclusionary.

Them: But HE is the generic pronoun, it includes women.

Me: Yeah, I know, that is why when the line for the ladies room is long, I use the men’s room. You know, because the word men really means both men and women.

The message is that I am not in the club. You know “the club” Silly me for thinking that liking geeky things makes me a geek, or being a women who enjoys Chuck Palahniuk novels means that he would consider that women actually read them, or that earning 2 degrees in Engineering and paying my membership dues to AIAA means that I am a member and the code of ethics should apply to me too. I am just a girl and I see now that the sloppily painted sign on the tree house does in fact say “No Girls Allowed”


This post was submitted via the Guest posts submission page, if you are interested in guest posting on Geek Feminism please contact us through that page.

Detail of small wooden model plane

Finding community for women in engineering

This is a guest post by Elizabeth Gregory, a PhD student in Aerospace Engineering at Iowa State University.

I was recently on a video conference call with three other young women, two lawyers and a biologist. The participants were located in Seoul, Miami, Orlando, and Ames. After concluding business, we just started chatting. Before long the topic landed on isolation. We were all feeling isolated, without a support system or friends near by.

After graduating from KU I moved to a suburb of Salt Lake City for a job. This job was exactly what I wanted to be doing. Yet, a few months before I graduated I started to get nervous. I was moving to a new place, that I had only visited once for the interview. I had no family and no friends there. The company wasn’t that big and, as far as I knew, I was the only new graduate hire. Some of my peers who went to work for large companies that hired many people right out of college were lumped into a “New Recruit” pool in which they made friends. I knew that wasn’t an option for me. There were a few young, single people like me at the company, but they were all men. I found out, after I had been working there for a year, that they had regular camping trips, but I was never invited.

I decided, before I moved, that I was going to become active in organizations with values that I could support. Society of Women Engineers (SWE) was a life-saver for me. We were a small group of women from many different backgrounds and of varying ages. We had social events and volunteering events. Mostly, these women were just my friends. In engineering academia, professional organizations are mostly about working on projects for competitions and publishing papers. SWE does hardly any of that. Men often see SWE as a joke or as a chance for free food. For many women in engineering, SWE is a support system. Whenever I have started in a new location, SWE has been there.

I am no longer surprised to be only woman in the room, but I am still bothered by this reality. This is my eighth year in college. I had only two women professors in engineering, the last taught in my sophomore year. This is the first time I have been at a school where there is, in my department, a woman faculty member. She isn’t in my specialization, but she is in the department. I have found many men who are my allies, kind guys who have become close friends, but SWE has given me friends, women, peers with experiences similar to my own.

The sense of isolation is not limited to women. Nearly every one of my friends, male and female, dealt with it after graduation. In school, classmates are often of the same generation, all of whom have arrived open to new friends. After school, the rules change. You meet people that you like, with whom you might like to spend time; but they have families and established friendships. SWE and similar organization offer a way to make connections with others without having the awkward conversation: “I would like to be your friend. Can we hang out sometime?”

Even here at Geek Feminism there seems to be people searching for community. We are coming together for a sense of shared experience. So I am giving some unsolicited advice, much like I did on that conference call. If you are feeling isolated, find an organization with a purpose you can support. Attend, volunteer, get involved.

This post was submitted via the Guest posts submission page, if you are interested in guest posting on Geek Feminism please contact us through that page.