Author Archives: lizhenry

About lizhenry

Poet, translator, hacker, activist http://bookmaniac.org

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

Digital Sisterhood Radio

Hello geekfeminists! Thursday, Dec. 16th, I’m going to be on a radio show on Feminism Online, hosted by Ananda Leeke as part of her month long Digital Sisterhood project. The show will air on Dec. 16, Digital Sisterhood Radio, from 9:00 pm EST to 10:00 pm EST on Talkshoe.com: http://www.talkshoe.com/tc/42015. Take a look at the entire Digital Sisterhood project. It’s amazing and will surely lead you to find new bloggers to read and follow on Twitter.

Eight amazing fierce feminist panelists have confirmed their participation. They include:

1) Shireen Mitchell “the original Digital Sista”, Speaker, trainer, and thought igniter in media, tech, and politics – www.shireenmitchell.com and http://twitter.com/digitalsista.

Shireen

2) Stacey Milbern, Disability justice organizer, poet, and radical woman of color feminist blogger – http://blog.cripchick.com and http://twitter.com/cripchick.

Stacey Milbern and Alexis Pauline Gumbs photo

3) Veronica Arreola, Professional feminist, mom, writer, speaker, PhD student, and blogger – http://www.vivalafeminista.com and http://twitter.com/veronicaeye.

Veronica Arreola photo

4) Liz Henry, BlogHer web developer, geek feminist/sci-fi blogger, speaker, poet, and literary translator – http://twitter.com/lizhenry, http://bookmaniac.org, http://geekfeminism.org, and http://feministsf.org.

Yerba Buena

5) Mimi Schippers, Tulane University professor, blogger, and author of Rockin’ Out of the Box: Gender Maneuvering in Alternative Hard Rock – http://tulane.edu/liberal-arts/sociology/schipper-profile.cfm and http://www.marxindrag.com.

Mimi Schippers photo

6) Treva Lindsey, University of Missouri-Columbia professor and blogger, – http://twitter.com/divafeminist and http://www.thedivafeminist.blogspot.com.

Treva Lindsey photo

7) Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Feminist blogger – www.blackfeministmind.wordpress.com, www.blackfeminismlives.tumblr.com, and www.twitter.com/alexispauline.

Alexis Gumbs

and,

8) Brandann Ouyang Dan, Native American blogger, invisibly disabled, U.S. Navy Veteran, social justice activist, and contributing writer for FWD, Feminist with Disabilities – http://disabledfeminists.com.

Linux.conf.au, Part 2

Part 2 of linux.conf.au, in which I at least mention most of the talks I went to, occasionally link out; contains a brain dump of my thoughts on the conference, its organization, the social engineering of arduino hacking, and the unicorns of dooom!

Slides are going up on all the talks on the linux.conf.au wiki, if you want to look at what the talks were like. Every talk I went to was good and worth it. Also, by looking at the slides, you’ll get an idea of what you might like to propose for a talk next year and whether you’d fit into this conference. (Yes.)
Continue reading

Picspam from linux.conf.au

The narratives will come. Tomorrow, gentle readers. Till then, a picspam:

Angie Byron playing with Sridhar’s OLPC at the networking event at the Opera House.

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Angela’s picture!

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New Zealand Wool, maybe with some possum in it:

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Jamie’s “Friends Help Friends With Linux” shirt:
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My Mac talks to an Aiko/Arduino/Pebble thing:

aiko says hi!

Nic’s beer cozy mod, for a camera holder on wheelchair:

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Nancy who gave the genderchanger/etc talk:

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Girl Geek Dinner:

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Miskatonic U. Alumn, with small Ada:

miskatonic
We have the same hackerspace tshirt so we must be almost related:

noisebridge tshirts

Susanne Ruthven and Andrew Ruthven and kids, conference organizers:

Linux.conf.au organizers

We are invited to do the Ka Mate Haka:

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Last but not least, the Linuxchix Gentlemen’s Auxiliary:

Linuxchix Gentlemen's Auxiliary

Linux.conf.nz and DrupalSouth

Thanks to lots of people who encouraged me to submit talks and apply for money, and thanks to the sponsorship from linux.conf.nz and Google, I went to two conferences in New Zealand last week. For a week and a half I hung out with linuxchix, people from #geekfeminism, and Drupal folks. It was GREAT. I met a zillion people, gave three talks, and learned a lot.

Kelly picked me up from the airport on Saturday. The next day she and Daniel drove me and some friends all over the south end of the island. Sunday, I sneaked away from the welcome sessions and “how to give a talk” tutorials to visit the Karori Wildlife Sanctuary, where I saw a lot of wet birds, fern trees, and a tuatara. There was also a historical display with an excerpt from the Diary of Laura Fitchett, an early British settler. It went like this: “Wet today. Still wet. Very wet. Could not dry the clothes. Too wet for laundry. Rained again.” Kind of like most of my visit to Wellington!

wellington blogger

On Monday, we had the Haecksen/Linuxchix mini-conference. Lana Brindley did a great writeup of it. I especially enjoyed Sara Falamaki’s “Happy Hackers, Happy Code” talk even though it made me cry a little bit to think that things might be so nice. Sara outlined some specific advice for good tools and processes for version control, knowledge management, task tracking, build system, testing systems, and development itself, and going for goals like code that improves by shrinking in size, while she threw candy with a wicked overhand at us for participation. Suggestions for great tools from the audience: Valgrind, whiteboards and markers, printf, virtualization, backups, bugzilla summary reports, google docs, RT, your mouth, nice commit messages, Firebug and Web Developer, good sys admins, and pastebin.

Lana and Sara at lunch: Lana and Sara

I gave my talk “Code of Our Own” which was really Advanced Feminist Solidarity Theory for Coders. We have named the problem, documented it a lot, and we have lots of “Women in Thingie” groups with overlapping memberships. We have some efforts at classes and mentoring. That’s great. What now? What do we need? What helps and what might be helpful to try? My thoughts here are mostly: let’s code together. In meetups, friendships, miniconferences, unconferences or open space, and so on.

My favorite bit is where I said how teaching programming to 11 year old girls is awesome but it’s not helping us, the ones doing the coding now and dripping out of the leaky pipeline, and when I report problems I face and then a bunch of guys go “Oh, well, I know the answer, let’s go teach some 11 year old girls” there’s no way I can argue with their awesome altruism because they’re doing a good thing, but they might as well have said “Sucks to be you, bitter old hag, we’ll just start over then with some tabula rasa infants.” Good luck with that; sounds like a recipe for repeating the same conversation for the next 30 years. It was nice to say a few outrageous crude things while then slipping back into constructive, positive, niceness and yet during both the mean-ass and the pollyanna moments, seeing so many women’s faces around the room nodding, smiling, and cracking up. So, the slides give you a feel for what I talked about, but if you want the full talk with all the jokes and asides and digressions, there is a Code of Our Own video on the Internet Archive which you can download. There will be videos of all the talks very soon from LCA.

Joh Clarke’s talk on security was hilarious and scary. Her point was that the sky has already fallen and you can’t assume anything is secure and we need to face that, somehow, without having the Howard Hughes learns about Germ Theory reaction. She managed to be scary, reassuring, and devastatingly wry all at once, with pictures of her cat breaking into various boxes.

Afterwards a bunch of us went to the Catalyst office where Joh works and worked on moving the geekspeakr.com site to a new server. Emma Jane, who is a freelancer and author of Front End Drupal, awesomely outlined all the things we would need to do on a whiteboard. It was great. She broke it down into a lot of steps so that lots of people could contribute and this also clarified everything to be done.

to do list for geekspeakr move

Emma Jane is also the person who knit the famous Drupal Socks.

Emma Jane's Drupal Socks

It struck me that there were an awful lot of steps to do this seemingly simple thing (as usual) and each step required a set of esoteric and non-obvious background knowledge. We needed sys admins. We had them! We needed people to fuck around on the command line installing and configuring things and moving things around into version control and making it work. (That was me and Angie, and it’s my particular skill.) We needed front end people to scoot blocks around and write themes! And people to document what we did! And we needed people to buy beer and do QA and do all the other things which I didn’t notice happening because I was installing and configuring. Yay!

Here are a bunch of us poking away at the server!

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We got pretty far, but didn’t finish upgrading or theming. I’m probably going to go do the upgrade. Janis (who is usually a gcc hacker and who explained allpairs and Delta to me; they help her debug) did some QA on the site the next day. I was happy to be sharing a keyboard with Angie Byron who is a kick ass Drupal core developer.

Elky, Cat, Joh, and the Linuxchix Gentlemen’s Auxiliary were there doing stuff too! I ended up feeling like I would happily work with any of them, any time. They’re sensible! Smart! Nice! They get things done.

Here we are feeling tired and happy!

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It was like Christmas – I hung out with kick ass open source people all day long, heard great talks, gave a talk and asked for more coding and development with other women, and then got to do that very thing with people I greatly admire!

I felt inspired to FOR SURE make it to the CodeChix meetup next time it happens in the SF Bay Area.

So, I have a lot more to say and will have to post several more times about linux.conf.au and about DrupalSouth. Stay tuned!

And a final thought about the joy of coding with others:

To be of use
by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Interview with Indymedia sys admin Kristina Clair

Yesterday the EFF reported on a “secret” subpoena served by the U.S. government on Kristina Clair, the sysadmin for the independent news site indymedia.us. The subpoena demanded information on all IP traffic for the site. It also demanded that Clair keep the request secret.

With free legal help from the EFF, the subpoena was dropped and the secrecy order abandoned. Take a look at this long report by an EFF Senior Staff Attorney, which goes into fascinating detail.

Kristina Clair with handknitted scarf

Kristina Clair with handknitted scarf

Right on Kristina, for not keeping logs of IP addresses in the first place, and for standing up for First Amendment rights. It seems well in keeping with The System Administrators’ Code of Ethics as well as with the EFF’s Best Practices for Online Service Providers.

I thought geekfeminism readers might be interested in more of Kristina’s story, so I asked her a few questions over email.

Here’s the interview!

Liz: When you got the subpoena, how and when did you decide to contact the EFF? Did you talk it over first with others? What was it like to call the EFF and ask for their help?

Kristina: Actually, someone who helps admin the server asked a general question on an Indymedia mailing list, and they recommended the EFF for Indymedia-related legal questions.

I was definitely completely clueless about any legal processes, so it was a bit nerve-wracking to talk to them and say, ‘Hey I got this thing and I have no idea what to do about it’. But they were completely helpful from the beginning and made me feel comfortable right away.

Liz: As a sys admin, how did you decide *not* to keep IP logs?

Kristina: It’s standard imc policy. It’s standard policy for anyone that wants to keep their visitors’ information private.

Liz: Is there any use of IPs of your sites’ visitors that the site owners or you might find useful? In other words, what factors might make you want to keep IPs?

Kristina: I can only speak for myself – I’ve found IP addresses to be useful for debugging. Sometimes the only way I’ve been able to track down an error in Apache’s error log and tie it to a page visit by the IP. I’ve also used IPs to track down hacker behavior on servers, but that’s not always reliable because hackers often connect from several places.

I think generally IP addresses are used for statistical data – the country, mainly. But I think if you really wanted that data but didn’t want to store IP addresses you could find a way to do it.

Liz: Is your work for Indymedia volunteer? Do you do similar work for other organizations? Personally, I tend to do a bunch of back end support work for nonprofits and organizations that I like. Do you have any advice for other volunteer sys admins and web hosts?

Kristina: Yes, Indymedia work is volunteer. I also do some volunteer work for riseup.

I tend to not do too much support for other organizations because my skillset is not desktop-oriented, and that’s generally what they need. I’m completely useless setting up a windows network or setting up a printer or things like that!

The common advice for volunteer work is to have good boundaries with it so that it doesn’t burn you out.

Liz: What are your thoughts in general about free speech, privacy, technology, activism and so on?

Kristina: I’ve been thinking a lot lately about personal information and privacy. There is one train of thought I’ve been interested in for the last several months which is more personal than activist: before computers and emails and blogs, people commonly wrote letters and kept written journals. These things were not things that are necessarily accessible to anyone except those who had physical access. They were private. when that person died,they would go to a family member, probably. Now, these types of things are often not even things that we own ourselves. Most people have email or blogs hosted on someone else’s server, and while they can still access that information, it’s not quite the same as having it physically on paper. That’s a huge history of personal communication that is sitting on a hard drive somewhere, connected to the Internet.

There is something to this that I haven’t quite been able to articulate,but that’s where my interest has been lately in regards to technology and privacy.

I guess where it starts to matter is that, at least in my mind, there is some degree to which all of this information is public, regardless of what information someone wants to be public — obviously people want their blogs public! Privacy is really hard to think about and protect when non-privacy is so convenient. It’s important to me to help provide alternatives for people who want to use the Internet but are concerned about privacy.

Finally, doing all of this in a way that supports freedom of information and open source keeps things really interesting.

In the past, in the activist realm I’ve done a lot more work having to do with accessibility, particularly in regards to gender in IT.I’ve done a lot of work with the genderchangers (genderchangers.org) and the eclectic tech carnival, which are both based in Europe. Both groups focus on technology education for women.there is also a project which I helped create called systerserver, which is a Linux server administered by women for the purposes of learning. Due to some hardware troubles, this project has been moving forward slowly lately.

Liz: It looks like you’re part of LinuxChix and other local Philadelphia computing organizations. Can you tell us a bit about your involvement with them and what the Linux/FLOSS scene is like in Philly?

I haven’t been actively involved in LinuxChix for quite some time, actually. I’ve been a bit of a lone wolf here – all of my collaborators and coworkers live elsewhere.

Liz: Have you experienced any particular sexism or solidarity in your field?

Yes, lots and lots of sexism. My favorite examples of this are when I’ve received emails that begin with “Dear Sir,” in reply to an email that I’ve sent and signed with my name.

I’ve been lucky to have a lot of positive experiences with men in the field, however. The person who taught me Perl is male, and I’m currently doing some work with the riseup collective whose members are extremely aware of gender issues in the field and take active steps to discourage it.

Liz: Can you tell me a bit about yourself, personal history or interests, what kind of work you do, and so on?

I’ve been working in web hosting for about 10 years, mostly programming Perl and administering linux servers. Recently I’ve been working with ruby and ruby on rails on the crabgrass project.

I’m protective of my time and spend as little time as possible in front of a computer, though! I have balanced it out by extremely physically-oriented activities like cooking, knitting, sewing, and yoga.

Liz: What are your favorite Linux distros?

I like CentOS and Debian for servers, and I use Ubuntu for a desktop (I really like Ubuntu 9.10).

Thanks to Kristina for the interview!

Keiko Fukuda: Be Strong, Be Gentle, Be Beautiful

Keiko Fukuda is a judo teacher in San Francisco who recently attained a high rank in the art, the 9th dan. In the documentary she explains how for 30 years she was kept at an artificially low ranking because she was female. Today she has rank and respect and is still teaching at age 96. Flying Carp Productions is making a documentary film about her life. They still need donations to help finish the film!

Thanks to fightingwords for the link!

The Happiness Hat

Behold Lauren McCarthy’s amazing Happiness Hat. It’s knitted hat that digs a spike into the back of your head when it senses that you’re not smiling.

happiness hat from Lauren McCarthy on Vimeo.

It’s amazingly creepy and perturbing. I was reminded of how women in particular are often expected to smile or look actively happy. But further than that, a sort of relentless pressure for self-improvement. McCarthy’s video of the Happiness Hat didn’t make me think, “Oh, if I smile more I might be happier”. Instead it reminded me of the concept of hegemony as “the gun inside your head”. Police your thoughts… or else your conscience will prick you – along with the scary hat spike!

Lauren McCarthy has made a lot of other cool stuff. Take a look. From her bio: “Her work explores the structures and systems of social interactions, identity, and self-representation. She is interested in the slightly uncomfortable moments when patterns are shifted, expectations are broken, and participants become aware of the system. Her work takes any form necessary: video, performance, software, internet art, interactive objects and environments, and media installations.”

Isn’t that “Le WIN”?

Happy Birthday Ursula K. Le Guin!

Today in Le Guin’s honor, people are blogging birthday wishes to her and discussing her work.

Glitter Words

Here’s a starting point for today’s wishes and thoughts for her:

* Happy Birthday from Feminist SF: The Blog
* Happy Birthday from Aqueduct Press!
* Happy Birthday from Finding Dulcinea
* Happy Birthday from the SFWA
* Interview with Guernica magazine (not a birthday tribute, but good)

From the interview with Guernica, on writing as a woman and on feminism:

There wasn’t any aha! moment about feminism for me. I just kept reading stuff and thinking. My mind works slowly and obscurely, and I mostly find out what I’m doing by looking at what I’m doing or have done. Mostly I don’t even do that. But when what I do isn’t getting done very well, when it seems to be stuck or going wrong, that induces me to look at it. ‘What am I doing? Why isn’t it behaving?’ This happened in the middle of The Eye of the Heron, when Lev insisted on getting himself killed in the middle of the story, leaving my book without a hero, and me wondering what the hell? It took a good deal of backing up and pondering over what I had written to realize that Luz had been the hero all along, that Luz was the one who would lead her people into the wilderness. I can identify that as the moment when I consciously shifted from a male protagonist to a female protagonist, when the male was marginalized and the woman became the center.


Photo: Geeks at WisCon beaming with happiness after singing a song to Ursula in her honor.
"we sang our song to ursula!!!"

Please add more links and birthday wishes in comments!

Alongside the great storytelling and stimulating ideas in her fiction, the breadth and depth of the body of her work is inspiring. Her creative work spans many years and many literary forms. She’s a translator, a teacher, a scholar and intellectual, respected all over the world.

Books by Ursula K. Le Guin

What is your favorite of her books?

What has Le Guin’s work meant to you over the course of your life?

Was she, or was her work, a touchstone for you as a geek feminist?