Author Archives: Annalee

About Annalee

Annalee is a web developer, science fiction writer, and general purpose geek. On Twitter she's @LeeFlower.

Words Aren’t Magic

So let’s talk about This Shit Right Here (that’s an archive.today link), in which technology consultant Jeff Reifman accuses Geek feminism blogger Leigh Honeywell and advice columnist Captain Awkward of harassment.

Last November, Reifman wrote a lengthy post about his relationship with an ex who eventually asked him to stop contacting her, then threatened to get a court order when he did not. He used her as an example to decry what he called ‘cutoff culture,’ and to suggest that women who want to cut exes out of their lives have an obligation to find some kind of ‘compromise’ to make sure their ex’s emotional needs are met.

Leigh and the Captain, both feminist activists, called him out. The Captain did so in this excellent post breaking down the entitlement and abuser-logic in his arguments. Leigh called him out on twitter. He wrote something in public; they challenged it in public.

Reifman then sent Leigh an email that prompted her to publicly and privately tell him never to contact her again.

So he wrote a blog post in which Leigh is very easy to identify to trash talk her for ‘harassing’ him, implying that it’s a a violation of Double Union’s Anti-Harassment Policy for her to call out his enormously-creepy behavior towards an ex who’d asked him to leave her alone (including publicly hashing out his relationship with said ex with roughly as much care for hiding her identity as he showed for hiding Leigh’s).
The Geek Feminism Code Of Conduct contains a section on things we specifically don’t consider harassment:

The Geek Feminism community prioritizes marginalized people’s safety over privileged people’s comfort. The Geek Feminism Anti-Abuse Team will not act on complaints regarding:

  • ‘Reverse’ -isms, including ‘reverse racism,’ ‘reverse sexism,’ and ‘cisphobia’ (because these things don’t exist)
  • Reasonable communication of boundaries, such as “leave me alone,” “go away,” or “I’m not discussing this with you.”
  • Refusal to explain or debate social justice concepts
  • Communicating in a ‘tone’ you don’t find congenial
  • Criticizing racist, sexist, cissexist, or otherwise oppressive behavior or assumptions

I wrote that section because people on an axis of privilege have a nasty tendency to appropriate social justice terminology (like privilege and harassment) and twist it around to serve their own point of view. They treat these words like magic incantations, as if it’s the words, rather than the argument, that convinces people.

Words are not magic incantations. They have meanings. Using a word without understanding its meaning just because you’ve seen other people successfully use it to convey a point is magical thinking.

Sometimes, the people who employ these words as magic incantations mistake other people’s refusal to engage for a victory–they must have successfully turned social justice sorcerers’ magic words against us, because we won’t argue with them anymore. Reifman himself engages in a version of this fallacy when he armchair-diagnoses his critics as ‘triggered’ rather than recognizing that their anger is a natural reaction to his demands for free emotional labor. The truth is more mundane: most of us are not interested in teaching reading comprehension to people whose comprehension is willfully limited to concepts that support their privilege.

This is the email that led Leigh to publicly tell Reifman to leave her alone:

From: Jeff Reifman
Date: Mon, May 12, 2014 at 11:03 PM
Subject: Responding to your tweets
To: Leigh Honeywell
Cc: [redacted mutual friend]

Hi Leigh, I don’t know if you remember meeting me – but I think we met
at Elysian, I’m actually close friends with [redacted mutual friend]. I saw your
tweets and your medium note and thought I would reach out.

I noticed that the comment policy on your blog asks that commenters be “
non-discriminatory, friendly, funny, or perspicacious” … I’m super
open to a discussion about this as long as comments are civil and
constructive. I would hope you would tweet as you wish others to
publicly comment on your blog.

Using the word shitbag … and repeated mentions of “fuck” both on
twitter and on medium doesn’t represent civil discussion very well.

the feedback I’ve received from the cutoff essay has been overall very
positive – but sometimes it triggers people … and I’ve now, only
twice, received attacks like this – you’re the second.

I’m open to talking about it – especially if you want to highlight
specifics … but I ask that you be civil and constructive …[sic]

Jeff Reifman

Translation: Tone argument, demand for free emotional labor and education, tone argument, tone argument, lurkers support me in email, tone argument.

You’ll notice that he CC’d a mutual friend of theirs. Then he went and wrote this follow-up post, using barely-pixelated avatars and so many direct quotes that Leigh and the Captain are laughably easy to identify. So for all his thinky thoughts about ‘shaming,’ he clearly has no problem with trying to shame people who call out his extremely inappropriate behavior.

Too bad he’s trying to do so with magic incantations.

Wednesday Geek Woman: Sofia Samatar, Author, Poet, and Editor

Sofia SamatarIn addition to being the poetry and nonfiction editor for the literary journal Interfictions, Sofia Samatar is the winner of this year’s John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

Her novel, A Stranger in Olondria, has gotten rave reviews. It won the Crawford Fantasy Award; it was a finalist for the Nebula Award and the Locus Award for Best First Novel; and it’s still a finalist for the British Fantasy Award and the World Fantasy Award. You can read an excerpt over on Tor.com.

Her short story “Selkie Stories Are For Losers” has been appearing on a lot of awards shortlists, too. It was a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, and the British Science Fiction Awards, and is still a finalist for the World Fantasy Awards. You can find links to more of her short fiction (and her poetry!) on her website.

The Hugo Awards!

It was a good year for women in Science Fiction and Fantasy at this year’s Hugo Awards, which were presented this evening in London, at the 2014 WorldCon.

Here are this year’s winners:

I’m thrilled that the Hugo Award for Best Novel went to Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice. Leckie has been sweeping the genre’s major awards this year for her compelling tale of vengeance and identity. Ancillary Justice does interesting things with gender, and deftly handles social issues from drug addiction to colonization–wrapping it all up in a richly-detailed galactic epic. I can’t recommend it enough.

She was nominated alongside Charles Stross for Neptune’s Brood, Mira Grant for ParasiteThe Wheel of Time, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, and Larry Correia’s Warbound, listed in order of votes received.

The award for Best Novella went to Charles Stross’s “Equoid.” It was nominated alongside Catherynne M. Valente’s Six-Gun Snow White, “Wakulla Springs,” by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages, Brad Torgersen’s “The Chaplain’s Legacy,” and Dan Wells’s The Butcher of Khardov.

Mary Robinette Kowal’s “The Lady Astronaut of Mars won the Hugo for Best Novelette. It’s available for free at Tor.com if you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, and it’s another one that I can’t recommend highly enough (full disclosure: I’ve been a student in two of Kowal’s writing courses and I think she’s a delightful human being).

“The Lady Astronaut of Mars” was nominated alongside Ted Chiang’s “The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling,” Aliette de Bodard’s “The Waiting Stars,” and Brad Torgersen’s “The Exchange Officers.” The voters decided not to award a fifth-place in the category, voting ‘No Award’ ahead of Theodore Beale’s “Opera Vita Aeterna.”

The award for Best Short Story went to The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere, by John Chu. Chu gave a touching acceptance speech, thanking the many people who have supported and encouraged him as he faced racism and heterosexism to pursue his writing career. His work was nominated alongside “Selkie Stories Are for Losers”, by Sofia Samatar, “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” by Rachel Swirsky, and “The Ink Readers of Doi Saket” by Thomas Olde Heuvelt.

We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative, by Kameron Hurley won the Hugo for Best Related Work. This is an excellent and well-deserving essay on the history of women in combat, challenging the common narrative that women can’t be heroes of genre fiction because it’s ahistorical. Definitely worth a read if you haven’t seen it yet.

It was nominated alongside Jeff VanderMeer and Jeremy Zerfoss’s Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative FictionWriting Excuses Season 8, by Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Mary Robinette Kowal, Howard Tayler, and Jordan Sanderson, Queers Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the LGBTQ Fans Who Love It, Edited by Sigrid Ellis and Michael Damian Thomas, and Speculative Fiction 2012: The Best Online Reviews, Essays and Commentary, by Justin Landon and Jared Shurin.

In the Best Graphic Story category, Randall Munroe won for xkcd: Time, a four-month-long comic that was updated at the rate of one frame an hour. He couldn’t make it to London to accept the award, so Cory Doctorow accepted on his behalf–wearing the cape and goggles in which he’s depicted as a character in xkcd.

Also nominated in the category: Saga, Vol 2, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples, Girl Genius, Volume 13: Agatha Heterodyne & The Sleeping City, by Phil and Kaja Foglio and Cheyenne Wright, “The Girl Who Loved Doctor Who,” by Paul Cornell and Jimmy Broxton, and The Meathouse Man, by George R. R. Martin and Raya Golden.

The award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form went to Gravity, written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón and directed by Alfonso Cuarón.

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form went to Game of Thrones: “The Rains of Castamere”, written by David Benioff and D.B. Weiss and directed by David Nutter.

Ellen Datlow took home the Hugo for Best Editor, Short Form. She was nominated alongside John Joseph Adams, Neil Clarke, Jonathan Strahan, and Sheila Williams.

In the Best Editor, Long Form category, the award went to Ginjer Buchanan, nominated alongside Sheila Gilbert, Liz Gorinsky, Lee Jarris, and Toni Weisskopf.

Julie Dillon won this year’s award for Best Professional Artist, nominated alongside Daniel Dos Santos, John Picacio, John Harris, Fiona Staples, and Galen Dara.

Lightspeed Magazine was this year’s winner for Best Semiprozine, nominated alongside Strange Horizons, Apex Magazine, Interzone, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

In the Best Fanzine category, the winner was A Dribble of Ink, nominated alongside The Book Smugglers, PornokitschJourney Planet, and Elitist Book Reviews.

The award for Best Fancast went to SF Signal Podcast, nominated alongside The Coode Street PodcastGalactic Suburbia PodcastTea and Jeopardy, The Skiffy and Fanty Show, Verity!, and The Writer and the Critic.

This year’s award for Best Fan Writer went to Kameron Hurley, author of insightful and incisive feminist commentary on the history and future of SFF as a genre and a community. She was nominated alongside Abigail Nussbaum, Foz Meadows, Liz Bourke, and Mark Oshiro.

The Best Fan Artist award went to Sarah Webb. Also nominated in the category:  Brad W. Foster, Mandie Manzano, Spring Schoenhuth, and Steve Stiles.

Worldcon also presents the  John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, which is not a Hugo, but is administered with the Hugos. This year’s winner was Sofia Samatar.

Samatar was nominated alongside Wesley Chu, Ramez Naam, Benjanun Sriduangkaew, and Max Gladstone. I’m thrilled to see Samatar go home with a Hugo, but I’m also pleased that fandom chose to recognize the talents of so many writers of color this year. If you haven’t checked out their work yet, it comes highly recommended. I’m personally really enjoying Samatar’s A Stranger In Olondria.

For more information on this year’s Hugo voting, check out the LonCon 3 site‘s detailed vote breakdown [PDF link].


I wrote previously about the attempt to stuff the ballot box for political reasons this year. I’m glad that fandom saw fit to reject this politicization of its biggest award, but since I’ve already seen folks trolling about ‘social justice warriors,’ this is your reminder that we have a strictly-enforced comment policy.

How will our Code of Conduct improve our harassment handling?

Warning for mentions of self-harm.

This is an edited version of an email I wrote to other Geek Feminism bloggers following adoption of the Geek Feminism Code of Conduct and during the drafting of Mary’s postmortem, in response to some concerns that we have not in fact improved anything over our previous ad hoc processes, particularly in cases where there are fears a harasser will threaten or commit self-harm in response to any consequences for their harassment.

Here are the differences I believe our Code of Conduct will make to handling harassment incidents in our community:

We’re removing harasser leverage.

Not strictly Code of Conduct, but code-adjacent: we’ve been working to eliminate single points of failure in our social and technical infrastructure, and are getting an established ethic in place of treating those as a problem both for logistical and for potential harassment/abuse reasons.

Our formal reporting process allows us to respond faster.

Previously, knowledge about the harasser had to work its way through back-channels. Relevant decision makers could go unaware of the situation for months, and the victim’s privacy was reliant the discretion of an expanding group of people.

Now, there is a clear reporting process that allows people with concerns to reach the people empowered to act on those concerns all at once, in confidence.

A Code of Conduct focuses the conversation on the specific incident in question.

Without a Code and anti-abuse team in place, any harassment situation is a conflict over what is and isn’t acceptable in the community. At least one person — the harasser — thinks what they’re doing is cool. Getting them to stop isn’t just about enforcing community standards — it’s also about establishing them.

With a Code in place, everyone has agreed ahead of time that these are the rules. Whether the harasser personally feels that it’s okay to — say — hug people without consent, they are bound by a harassment policy that forbids it. It takes the conflict out of the realm of values and concepts — “is it okay to hug people without consent?” — and into the realm of facts — “is this person hugging people without consent?”

A public Code of Conduct will help hold us accountable.

Another way that Codes of Conduct make communities safer is that public commitments help hold organizations accountable to their values. We have made a public commitment not to tolerate harassment, and to do whatever we need to do to prevent it — including removing people. That, again, takes the question away from general community values and into the specifics of the particular case in front of us.

None of us want someone to go hurt themselves, but none of us want harassers around, either. We’ve now publicly stated that the latter is our first priority in harassment cases. That moves the conversation from “is it okay to remove someone if they might hurt themselves?” to “is there any way to mitigate the risk that this person we have to remove might hurt themselves?”

That public commitment is also going to help inoculate us against second-guessing in other cases — like if we have to remove a beloved member of the community, or someone who we feel bad for because they are socially awkward, have no other support network, are going through a rough time, etc. I’m not saying it’s going to eliminate all difficulty or make us completely heartless to a person’s circumstances. But we’ve now put up our community’s reputation as collateral, which is going to provide a strong incentive to stick to our stated principles.

Our investigating process protects victims from the harasser and their friends.

Anyone who’s been part of a community that had to vote or consense on removing somebody knows that those discussions can flirt with community-wrecking disaster. If we didn’t have a process and I had to tell all the bloggers that, say, Liz was harassing me (she’s not, but if she was), fear of the ensuing drama would be a strong incentive against coming forward. I would be inclined to keep it to back-channels until I was confident I had enough support to get her removed and not get blamed for being mean to her/starting drama.

The anti-abuse team is empowered to keep my report in confidence and act on it — without me having to publicly name my harasser and potentially endure the whole community debating my safety in front of me (and my harasser).  That would make me feel more comfortable coming forward sooner.

There’s still a possibility that people might choose to leave the community over an anti-abuse decision, or debate it in their own spaces. But the decision will get made without a lengthy and potentially hurtful public discussion, and we’re not going to have it rehashed in GF spaces after the fact. Victims of harassment do not have to fear that their safety or integrity will be a subject of public discussion or debate within GF.

The Anti-Abuse Team can move faster than the community as a whole

Related to the above: the Anti-Abuse Team is going to be able to move faster because we’ve already explicitly been empowered to make the decision, and can do so without having to engage the entire community in a very difficult and probably painful discussion.

The new process protects those who have to interact with a harasser outside of GF.

If Alice has to work with Barb and Barb is expelled for harassment, whatever Alice’s personal opinions on the matter, she can honestly say that she wasn’t involved in the decision (if Alice is on the anti-abuse team, she can recuse herself from Barb’s case). If Barb holds it against Alice anyway, then the fact that a formal process was followed gives Alice a much more credible way to describe the problem if she chooses to take it up with her supervisor, or the leadership of another community.

It also takes Alice out of the conflict between Barb and Geek Feminism so that it’s not an interpersonal conflict between two employees/community members (which is likely to be perceived as the fault of both parties), but rather a conflict between Barb and a third party (Geek Feminism) that Barb is unprofessionally/inappropriately bringing into the workplace or into the other community.


 

At the end of the day, our process is only as good as the people who implement it, and it won’t solve everything. But it can make it easier and safer for victims to come forward, and improve the speed and quality of our responses. It will also help protect both victims and the community from some of the pain and ugliness that poor harassment handling can cause.

Quick Hit: the July/Aug Issue of F&SF is out!

I have a short story in this month’s issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.

The story’s called “Seven Things Cadet Blanchard Learned from the Trade Summit Incident,” and it’s my very first fiction sale.

What’s it about? Fart jokes. Version Control systems. Women being awesome. What’s not to love?

Guest-edited by C.C. Finlay, this was the first issue of F&SF to accept electronic submissions. Seven of its thirteen stories are by women. I’m honored to be in the company of quite a few other wonderful writers, including Andre Norton Award winner Alaya Dawn Johnson and Hugo winner Charlie Jane Anders.

You can snag a digital copy of your very own from Amazon, or pick up the paperback from your local library or bookstore.

Do you have a cool project you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below.

Announcing Our Code of Conduct

As of today, the Geek Feminism Community has a Code of Conduct banning harassing behavior in our community.

This Code of Conduct applies to all Geek Feminism spaces, including this blog, the Geek Feminism Wiki, and all other Geek Feminism sponsored spaces. As of today, everyone participating in Geek Feminism spaces is expected to comply with the new Code of Conduct.

You’ll find the Code of Conduct at this link, and also in the top bar, under “About.”

THE ANTI-ABUSE TEAM:

Violations of our Code of Conduct will be handled by our Anti-Abuse Team. This team is made up of people who are active in the various parts of the Geek Feminism Community, including the blog, wiki, and associated forums. Members of this team will serve staggered six-month terms before rotating off.

The current Anti-Abuse Team is Alex Bayley, Annalee Flower Horne, and Tim Chevalier. You can find contact information for us on our Report Abuse page.

QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS:

You’ve been promoting Codes of Conduct for years. Why didn’t you adopt one of your own sooner?

We dropped the ball in a big way here. We’ve known for at least two years that we needed a Code of Conduct internally. We’re sorry for the inexcusable delay. We are especially sorry to those who have been harassed within the Geek Feminism Community, and who had to fend for themselves in the face of that harassment because we had no system in place to protect them.

We’re working on a more detailed breakdown of what happened and what we and others can learn from this, but that’s a subject for a different post. It should be up within the week.

We’ve worked hard to design a code of conduct and complaint handling process that works well for social justice communities who interact mostly online, based on ideas in the Geek Feminism anti-harassment policy (which is designed for in-person events) and on advice we’ve received from GF Bloggers and advisors who run their own online communities.

We are releasing this Code of Conduct under a permissive license, so that other online communities can act more quickly than we did. Harassment occurs in online spaces as much, if not more, than at in-person events and we strongly encourage other communities to adopt a code of conduct too.

How is this different from the Comment Policy?

The comment policy is still in effect for the Geek Feminism blog. For a community as big as ours, a comment policy isn’t enough. For example, moderating comments is not an effective way to prevent a Geek Feminism blogger or wiki editor from harassing someone. Comments are not the only–or even the primary–way that folks within the Geek Feminism community talk to each other.

The new Code of Conduct provides a process by which we can handle and respond to reports of harassment in our community, regardless of who the harasser is and how they interact with Geek Feminism.

I [comment on Geek Feminism posts/edit the Geek Feminism wiki], but I’m not otherwise involved in Geek Feminism. Does this Code of Conduct apply to me?

Yes. While you’re in our spaces, our rules apply to you. However, blog moderators and wiki admins are already empowered to enforce standards of behavior in blog comments and on the wiki. The Anti-Abuse Team is unlikely to intervene in situations that moderators and wiki admins can handle on their own.

If you are being harassed in blog comments or on the wiki and the moderators or admins aren’t handling it (or if your harasser is a moderator or admin), we encourage you to report the situation to the Anti-Abuse Team.

I have a specific concern with part of the Code of Conduct.

Geek Feminism bloggers, wiki admins, and other members of our community have extensively reviewed and revised the Code of Conduct. We’re comfortable with it. If you have a serious concern about the Code of Conduct, and your concern is not addressed below under “Things We’re Not Debating,” you are welcome to let us know.

I’m pretty sure something I’m doing or have done in the past is banned under the Code of Conduct. Does everyone hate me?

You’re probably not alone, and it’s unlikely that everyone hates you, but that’s not the point. If you’re doing something that violates our Code of Conduct, stop immediately.

Please do not use any of our forums to process what you did, why you did it, and how you feel about it now. Please do not use any of our forums to try to get others to absolve you of what you did or to affirm your self-image as a good person in spite of your actions.

If you need help discerning whether something you did or are doing violates the Code of Conduct, or whether your continued presence in our community is appropriate, you should contact the Anti-Abuse Team.

THINGS WE’RE NOT DEBATING:

I hate the entire Code of Conduct, and/or I object to the concept of Codes of Conduct.

We’re not going to debate the merits of clear, specific Codes of Conduct. Geek Feminism has one. You can either accept it or leave.

I want to debate specific aspects of this Code of Conduct as an intellectual exercise, or to explain to you why ______ isn’t really harassment.

This Code of Conduct is not open for debate. Accept it or leave.

I’m not reading something that long.

Since you can’t read it at all without agreeing to a web browser’s End User License Agreement, we can assume you are capable of reading and understanding documents that are a lot longer and more technical than our Code of Conduct. Much like your browser’s EULA, our Code of Conduct is binding whether you read it or not.

Your section on complaints you won’t act on is [racist against white people/sexist against men/etc]. Why don’t you treat everyone equally?

Since you lack the reading comprehension to understand “we are not here to explain power differentials or other basic social justice concepts to you” the first time we said it, further discourse on this subject would be fruitless.


We encourage everyone who interacts with the Geek Feminism community–bloggers, commenters, wiki editors, admins, and our various friends and advisors–to familiarize yourselves with the new Code of Conduct. We know from experience that clear, specific Codes of Conduct make communities safer and more welcoming. We’re glad to have one in place for Geek Feminism.

Wednesday Geek Woman: Mikki Kendall, activist and author

Mikki Kendall, activist and author. Photo courtesy Mikki Kendall.

Mikki Kendall, activist and author. Photo courtesy Mikki Kendall.

Mikki Kendall is a writer, pop culture critic, editor and author.

In 2009, she started Verb Noire, a small press for genre fiction featuring characters that are people of color and/or LGBT. In 2011, her first story, “Copper For A Trickster,” appeared in Steam-Powered: Lesbian Steampunk Stories. She’s been a panelist at WisCon, Arisia, and Readercon,  and been a guest on the Nerdgasm Noire podcast.

As of last month, she has a new story out! Content warning for violence and sexual violence, but if you’re able to do so you should really check out If God Is Watching. It’s a gorgeously-written period fantasy about a young woman with an unusual power, and anything else I tell you about it would spoil its awesomeness so seriously just go read it.

Though she’s a talented fiction writer, she’s better known for her incisive cultural criticism on issues relating to race and gender. in August 2013, she started the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen hashtag–a home for honest criticism of the ways white feminism has failed at intersectionality and repeatedly thrown women of color under the bus. The tag picked up steam until it was globally trending.

Together with Jamie Nesbitt Golden, she started Hood Feminism, an intersectional blog about race, gender, and misogynoir (the toxic brand of explicitly anti-black misogyny). They’ve leveraged Twitter to keep that conversation going with hashtags like and .

Her non-fiction has appeared in The Guardian, Salon, NPR’s Code Switch, and XOJane, among other places. You can find her at Hood Feminism and on Twitter as @Karnythia.

A Week In The Life

[Content Warning: Intimate Partner Violence, workplace harassment, verbal abuse, sexism]

Folks who hang out around these parts are probably familiar with our Timeline Of Incidents, which documents sexist behavior in tech and other geek fields. While it’s a great resource, scrolling down through that hall of shame is a poor approximation for what it’s like being a woman having to deal with these incidents in real time.

It can be painful. Stressful. Scary. Difficult. Mostly, for me, it’s exhausting. And I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. I hang out with a lot of women in tech, and “this week is fired” has been a common refrain, these last few days.

We begin on Monday, with GitHub’s wholly inadequate response to Julie Ann Horvath’s harassment allegations. They claimed, in the face of her detailed, documented reports of ongoing harassment–harassment that she’d brought to the company’s attention more than once–that they had “no evidence…of a hostile work environment.”

When a woman says “X thing happened to me” and you say “I have no evidence that X happened,” you are calling her a liar. You’re saying her report of her own lived experience is not ‘evidence.’ Women hear that constantly–we are perpetually having our reports questioned, our behavior audited, our pain dismissed. So while this story is about what GitHub did to Horvath, Ellen Chisa is right to point out that GitHub’s reaction–and that of the tech community at large–is scary for many of us.

A lot of folks are saying Horvath is brave for speaking out. That’s true. What’s also true is that her bravery is being met with hostility, victim-blaming, verbal abuse, and threats of litigation. Speaking up about harassment in this industry is personally and professionally difficult. And when people harass and abuse those who do it, they’re sending a message to all of us. Watch your back. Shut your mouth. We will come for you.

Wednesday brought the news that RadiumOne CEO Gurbaksh Chahal pled guilty last week to a couple of misdemeanor domestic violence charges. He was originally facing more than 40 felonies for beating his girlfriend–this after prosecutors say he was caught on tape hitting her more than 117 times in half an hour.

He got three years probation and a few hours of community service. Valleywag reports that his company just started a lucrative partnership, anticipates raising $100mil from its IPO, and Chahal is still being promoted as a public speaker.

Geek Feminists are no strangers to the notion that the professional reputations of men in tech are valued more highly than the physical safety of women. We saw it when Michael Schwern was arrested on domestic violence charges. Geek Feminism co-signed an Ada Initiative statement declining to do any work with Schwern in the future, and dudes came out of the woodwork crowing about ‘witch hunts.’

Because in this industry, telling a dude we’re not going to stamp his ‘ally card’ is totally the same as getting together a mob to murder him.

Schwern has since filed a civil suit against his ex wife, Noirin Plunkett, for speaking out about his arrest. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak made an initial finding in the civil case this Tuesday. Plunkett asked folks for support to offset the considerable legal costs of fighting the suit.

Watch your back. Shut your mouth. We will come for you.

Friday. A day after dismissing and tone-policing Shanley Kane’s “What Can Men Do,” Stack Exchange co-founder Jeff Atwood appropriated her work, publishing a post of his own with the same title that parroted many of her points (with a healthy dose of wrongheaded and harmful misinformation sprinkled in). When called on it, he doubled down, refusing to acknowledge Kane and continuing to tone-police her.

Women in tech practically have to work on diversity issues. It’s a matter of survival, for us. An unpaid, under-appreciated second shift we’re all expected to work. This is far from the first time that a man with very little background in this work has swooped in to ‘correct’ those who know far more about it than he does, taking credit for their labor in the process. And the yahoos in Kane’s twitter mentions, abusing her for daring to call Atwood out, are singing a similar refrain:

Watch your back. Shut your mouth. We will come for you.

If that wasn’t enough for one day, word has also been spreading today of CodeBabes project, a website which offers beautiful women in various states of undress as ‘rewards’ to users taking coding tutorials. The website helpfully informs us that there are more important things to be offended about. To paraphrase Melissa McEwan, this is contempt, not offense.

I don’t know about the codebabes team, but I’m personally capable of holding several things in contempt at once.

As this week’s events should indicate, I’ve had a lot of practice.

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.

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