Author Archives: terriko

About terriko

Terri has a PhD in horribleness, assuming we can all agree that web security is kind of horrible. She stopped working on skynet (err, automated program repair and AI) before robots from the future came to kill her and got a job in open source, which at least sounds safer. Now, she gets paid to break things and tell people they're wrong, and maybe help fix things so that people won't agree so readily with the first sentence of this bio in the future. Terri writes/tweets under the name terriko, enjoys making things and mentoring others and has a plain ol' home page at

Quick hit: “A quantitative analysis of gender bias in quantitative biology meetings”

Plenty of us have scanned down the list of speakers at a conference and wondered why there appeared to be so few women, but when Jonathan Eisen saw the numbers at Q-BIO, he started by taking note: “Q-Bio conference in Hawaii, bring your surfboard & your Y chromosome b/c they don’t take a XX” [1]:

That is a 25:1 ratio. Pathetic. Embarrassing. The sponsors – UC San Diego’s Division of Biological Sciences and BioCircuits Institute, San Diego Center for Systems Biology, the University of Hawaii and the Office of Naval Research – should all be ashamed.

He notes in a previous post that the ratio of men and women in biology is close to 1:1, so a ratio so far off that suggests something could use some work. But for Q-BIO, he’s taken it a step further and submitted a very appropriate abstract.

UPDATE – I have now submitted an abstract to the meeting. The abstract I submitted is available here and posted below

The probability of having one out of twenty six participants at a scientific meeting be female
A quantitative analysis of gender bias in quantitative biology meetings
Jonathan A. Eisen
University of California, Davis

(Note – new title suggested by John Hogenesch)

The title alone made me laugh. You can read the full abstract at his blog, including equations and graphs!

[1] See Tim’s comment below

What do female weightlifters and female geeks have in common?

You might not think weightlifters and geeks have a huge overlap or much in common, but it turns out that because we both are interested in traditionally non-feminine things, we’re subject to the same ridiculous “OMG, you should stop what you’re doing or people won’t find you attractive!” comments from people who should mind their own businesses.

Weightlifter Zoe Smith writes a great little piece addressing some naysayers that I think will resonate with many readers here: Thanks (but no thanks…):

As Hannah pointed out earlier, we don’t lift weights in order to look hot, especially for the likes of men like that. What makes them think that we even WANT them to find us attractive? If you do, thanks very much, we’re flattered. But if you don’t, why do you really need to voice this opinion in the first place, and what makes you think we actually give a toss that you, personally, do not find us attractive? What do you want us to do? Shall we stop weightlifting, amend our diet in order to completely get rid of our ‘manly’ muscles, and become housewives in the sheer hope that one day you will look more favourably upon us and we might actually have a shot with you?! Cause you are clearly the kindest, most attractive type of man to grace the earth with your presence.

Oh but wait, you aren’t. This may be shocking to you, but we actually would rather be attractive to people who aren’t closed-minded and ignorant. Crazy, eh?! We, as any women with an ounce of self-confidence would, prefer our men to be confident enough in themselves to not feel emasculated by the fact that we aren’t weak and feeble.

Next time I need an example of a strong woman, I’m going to think of Zoe Smith!

(Note: Sorry, this was put together before the olympics and then not scheduled to go up for some reason, so it’s a bit past topical but I thought folk might enjoy the quote even if it is late.)

Failing at Geek Feminism

Now this post is just depressing:

I attended OSCON for the first time last year, and had some experiences that almost completely turned me off of the idea of attending this year. I was criticized to my face for wearing low necklines and skirts of a short-yet-modest length, and told that I was “sexualizing” the conference through my attire. I was lambasted for my honest answer (“I’m here with my boyfriend.”) when I was asked about my reasoning for attending, and even told that I should lie about why I was attending OSCON instead of “undermining” the feminist community. I started the conference last year with an eagerness to learn more about open source software, and I left the conference feeling unsure about whether or not I wanted to attend again in 2012.

As is this follow up:

I’d never cut it as a “geek feminist”. There are just too many rules I might want to break.

Besides, some people only consider me to be a woman “near tech” instead of a woman “in tech”. Apparently I’m a Carrie Bradshaw because I write about tech, which is probably why I’ve kept mostly silent on the topic of “geek feminism”.

The problem is that there are some really nice women and girls who are getting hurt by some members of a movement that is meant to be helpful.

Neither of these are my experiences, but I can definitely imagine this happening, and it really irritates me that it’s happening under this banner. Like anyone needs any more reasons to feel impostor syndrome.

I’ve been meaning to put together a post ways to let other people enjoy stuff that’s problematic and not being a jerky social justice warrior… but this is much worse than what I’d been seeing. Go read both posts: The Dark Side of Geek Feminism and Why I’m not a “Geek Feminist”.

If you’re doing this, cut it out.

If you see someone doing this, ask them to cut it out.

The idea with geek feminism here was to support women with geeky interests. Going out of your way to judge and bother other women doesn’t really help anyone, and certainly isn’t going to help interest anyone in further geekery. Fundamentally, you’re being as bad as the jerk who goes around declaring that some geek women aren’t geeky, and no one needs more of those dudes of any stripe. Calling people out has its place, but it’s not in the face of people who just aren’t geeky enough for thou. There’s a difference between hoping to see better representation of women at different levels of geekery on panels and in high profile spaces and just being a dick to attendees. Watch that you don’t cross that line.

Updates August 1–2: roundup of discussion [by Mary]

Note that some of these links may be triggery or upsetting, especially the Reddit threads. Additional discussion includes:

Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing - Baltimore 2012 poster

Last day for Early Bird registration for the Grace Hopper Celebration

Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing - Baltimore 2012 poster

Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing – Baltimore 2012 poster

Today is the last day for early bird pricing for the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing! It’s not the last day to sign up, but since tickets often sell out, it’s a good idea to get them ASAP anyhow!

This is a large conference filled with technical women, great science, and great fun. It’s a really different experience, going to a technical conference where the vast majority of attendees and speakers are female, and I’ve found that the quality of the talks is often a cut above the other conferences I attend because so many people here really care about communicating their research and their ideas to others. There’s lots of technical tracks, student and educator tracks, as well as career building opportunities and a great job fair where you just know the employers you meet are serious about hiring technical women!

I reminisced here about how I first decided to attend GHC, and this year I’ll be attending for my 4th straight year!

One of the cool things I’m doing this year is that I’ve joined the committee for our Open Source Day Hackathon. I’m going to be mentoring people working on infrastructure for Systers, a large online community for technical women, but there are a whole lot of really fascinating projects running that day. All of them are related to doing social good in the world, and we’re looking for technical help. There will be lots of knowledgeable helpers on hand, so it’s a great day to come out and try your hand at a new project or do your first hackathon! You can get more information about the organizations and sign up for open source day here. We had a lot of fun last year, and I’m looking forwards to this year!

So register for Grace Hopper then register for open source day and I’ll see you there!

Time Ladies: All 11 Doctors from Dr. Who, represented as women. Picture by Gladys @

Time Ladies: Adorable Gender-swapped Doctor Who

So. Darned. Cute.

Time Ladies: first 6 Doctors from Doctor who, represented as women by Gladys @

Time Ladies: Last 5 Doctors from Dr. Who, represented as women.  Picture by Gladys @

Time Ladies: Doctors from Dr. Who, represented as women. Picture by Gladys @

Picture via Gladys, whose artwork just took up some of my afternoon and I don’t mind a bit!

I should probably compile a post with some of the excellent gender swaps I’ve seen lately, but I know if I wait I might forget, and this is too cute risk forgetting.

So in preparation for a potential future post full of pictures… what’s the cutest gender swap you’ve seen lately?


Open thread: A video for the sexist gamer dudes

The line around 3:14 made me laugh, so I’m embedding this video right here:

The Border House blog has a transcript, if you are so inclined.

This is intended as an open thread, where you can talk not only about sexist gamer dudes “who still think that sandwich joke is funny” but also any older stories for which the comments are now closed, or you can bring up new stuff you think we should know about.


Two feminist comics: fighting for rights is awesome, throwing a fit over feminist frequency’s videos is not

For your viewing pleasure, here’s snippets of a couple of comics that were making the rounds:

Kate or Die! distills an argument that we’ve had a thousand times:

That’s just a single panel of a longer piece. View the rest here.

And Catiemonster summarizes what’s been going on over at Feminist Frequency:

And there’s more! With chainsaws! View the rest here.

Grace Hopper: Sorry I missed that. I was busy inventing the compiler.

Quick hit: WHO invented the internet?

I’m betting there’s some of you who’ll want to discuss this awful article that starts by claiming that MEN invented the internet. But rather than quote the irritating original article in this post, I’m going to quote part of this rebuttal from Xeni Jardin:

You guys, ladies suck at technology and the New York Times is ON IT.

Radia “Mother of the Internet” Perlman and the ghosts of RADM Grace Hopper, Ada Lovelace and every woman who worked in technology for the past 150 years frown upon you, sir. Women may have been invisible, but the work we did laid the groundwork for more visible advancements now credited to more famous men.

“Men are credited with inventing the internet.” There. Fixed it for you.

I ragequit this article like, 10 times, and couldn’t get past that awful opening line.

Read the rest of the rebuttal on BoingBoing, or read the original article.

So, uh, yeah. Here’s a post so you can have a comment thread on the topic that is moderated by feminists.

I AM FEMALE. Fe=Iron, Male=Man. Therefore, I AM IRONMAN.

Open Thread: I AM IRONMAN

I AM FEMALE.  Fe=Iron, Male=Man.  Therefore, I AM IRONMAN.

Text reads: I AM FEMALE. Fe=Iron, Male=Man. Therefore, I AM IRONMAN.

In honour of the superhero movie season starting up, I give you this image that’s been making the rounds.

This is an open thread, where you can feel free to talk about superheroes, hollywood interpretations thereof, older stories, share extra links, or anything else that’s on your mind.

Quick hit: Top Girl, Rock Bottom

I’ve played some pretty terrible video games, but this sounds like it may be a candidate for the worst game ever:

And that’s when it hits me, the one brilliant thing about this game: there is something in it for everyone. Everyone who plays it would find something in it that they hate.

Feminists would hate it. “Men’s Rights Activists” would hate it. Parents already hate it. Left-wingers would hate the consumerism and the objectification of women; right-wingers would hate the sexualization of young girls. Economists, as I’ve said above, would be baffled. Grammar enthusiasts would be appalled at its many punctuation and spelling errors. Models would hate that it makes modeling look easier and less cutthroat than it is. Fashion designers and artists would hate it for all the mismatched, misguided styling choices. My father would hate this game and Caryl Churchill would hate this game. Israelis and Palestinians would hate this game. We would all be united by our hatred of this, the most useless, uninteresting, universally offensive game known to humanity.

Read the rest of Mara Wilson’s detailed and funny review here: Top Girl: The Game for Everyone!