Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Linkspam of J. Alfred Prufrock (8th August, 2014)

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Madison Young, rape apologism, and HackerMoms

[Content warning: sexual assault, rape apologism, victim-blaming]

Madison Young describes herself as “a sex positive Tasmanian devil”; she’s been active in the feminist porn community for some time, and founded the Femina Potens art space in San Francisco. She’s also on the steering committee for Mothership HackerMoms, serving as their director of programming. Mothership HackerMoms describes themselves as “the first-ever women’s hackerspace in the world”.

Last week, a video resurfaced that Young, along with Billie Sweet, made after the filming of their movie “Heartland: a Woman’s POV”. “Heartland” was nominated for a Feminist Porn Award, but the clip (which appears to no longer be available online) probably wouldn’t win any feminist awards. In it, Young — an alum of Antioch College — discusses having sex with another student at Antioch while both women were drunk. She observes that this encounter violated Antioch’s much-misunderstood SOPP (Sexual Offense Prevention Policy), which requires people on campus to ensure that explicit consent is present before initiating a particular sex act. She goes on to deride the SOPP — this isn’t exactly an original sentiment, but what I think we’re meant to take away from the dialogue is that clearly, Madison Young couldn’t possibly be a rapist. And therefore, the SOPP — a policy that she violated by initiating a sex act with someone who was too intoxicated to consent — must be ridiculous, since what kind of policy would censure someone like her for having some innocent undergrad fun?

Young issued an apology for the video and for her initial — highly defensive — comments on Twitter when the video resurfaced. But as Kitty Stryker at Consent Culture does a great job of explaining in her post “Consent, Critique, & Feminist Porn: Madison Young’s Hard Lesson”, the apology itself is still very defensive. In it, Young does not demonstrate understanding of why it was wrong for her to indulge in victim-blaming rhetoric, both in the original video and in her comments about it in July 2014.

I find it especially worrisome that Young characterizes a code of conduct that simply seeks to affirm the need for sexual consent as “censorship”: “Although SOPP is an extreme policy around consent, that came out of the now defunct Antioch College, I do applaud its effort. Like many things that were generated from Antioch College it started with good intentions but went too far to extremes to be useful and effective in practice. There was an inherent policing at Antioch that bordered on censorship.” (n.b. Antioch College is not, in fact, defunct.)

Can a hackerspace be a safe space if one of its organizers is somebody who styles herself as a consent advocate while engaging in derailing and victim-blaming speech about sexual assault? If you are directly involved with HackerMoms, I encourage you to start that dialogue.

Guns, Germs, and Linkspam (5th August, 2014)

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Fermat’s Last Linkspam (3 August 2014)

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

A Song of Ice and Linkspam

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

To be or not to be, that is the linkspam (29 July 2014)

  • Dr who? Campaign to boost digital profile of Australia’s female scientists | The Age (July 29): “According to web information company Alexa, Wikipedia is the sixth-most popular website globally. Yet even Wikipedia admits to a systematic bias when it comes to women in science, describing the subject as ‘’woefully under-represented’’. Next month, the Australian Academy of Science plans to change that, hosting a Women of Science ‘’Wikibomb’’ event inspired by a similar call to arms by the Royal Society, London.”
  • This Is What Tech’s Ugly Gender Problem Really Looks Like | WIRED (July 28): “Shortly after Kathryn Tucker started RedRover, an app that showcases local events for kids, she pitched the idea to an angel investor at a New York tech event. But it didn’t go over well. When she finished her pitch, the investor said he didn’t invest in women.”
  • Checking Your Privilege: A How-To for Hard Things | Leslie Hawthorn at OSCON 2014 | Youtube (July 23): “The reason that systemic problems are so difficult and so insidious, is because when you are a participant in a system, when you are a user of a system and all of the defaults are configured to work for you out of the box, it never occurs to you that those defaults even exist.”
  • When Does a Woman Owe You Sex? Check This Chart | Identities.Mic (July 22): “Microsoft Excel took a turn for the explicit this week when the Internet learned the once-innocuous office tool was being used in a dispiriting new bro-trend: tracking the number of times their partners refuse sex. Yes, #sexspreadsheets are a thing, presumably because some men still believe that owning a penis entitles them to unlimited sexy times. [...] The many falsehoods propagated at every turn have driven us to put together a helpful chart that may help clear up any uncertainties regarding when women owe it to anyone to have sex”
  • “Females” in Open Source, by Amber Wu | Model View Culture (July 21): “Sexism is so deeply ingrained in tech’s unbalanced demographics that making a point of not being a misogynist is practically countercultural. Unseating those biases to the point where codes of conduct are normal and our spaces are widely safer will take huge forces of change. “
  • How can tech companies diversify their workforces? | Marketplace.org (July 24): “Twitter is the latest tech company to disclose statistics on the race and gender of its workforce, following Facebook, Yahoo, Google and LinkedIn. Like those companies, Twitter is falling short on diversity.”
  • Getting hired without getting burned: Sniffing for culture smells | Liz Abinante (July 24): “It is incredibly difficult to find a good place to work. With companies that fire women after they announce that they’re pregnant, intimidate women into leaving, hire people who think it’s ok to compare women to programming tools, and have abysmally low diversity numbers (although at 10% women in tech, I am no longer surprised by Twitter’s terrible block policy), it’s surprisingly easy to end up working in a toxic environment.”
  • The Mary Sue Exclusive Interview: Mike Mearls and Jeremy Crawford on Acknowledging Sexuality and Gender Diversity in D&D | The Mary Sue (July 24): “Mike Mearls and Jeremy Crawford, lead designers of the latest edition of Dungeons & Dragons, out in a staggered release all this summer and fall, talk about the mechanics of inclusive gaming, Gen Con diversity panels, realistic artwork, and the decision to “look at the wonderfully diverse group of people who play the game and say, ‘There’s a place for each of you at the game table’” with the system’s new suggestions for roleplaying gender and sexuality.”
  • Virginia E. Johnson, Scientist: Beyond “Masters of Sex” | The Toast (July 23): “The 2013 Showtime television show Masters of Sex introduced viewers to William H. Masters (1915–2001) and Virginia E. Johnson (1925–2013), two of the best-known American sex researchers of the twentieth century. [...] But the television show fails to address why and how she has become the person that she became, and why she chose to devote her life and career to sex research with a difficult and demanding man.”
  • Women and Minority Leaders Are Penalized For Fostering Diversity, Study Finds | Mashable (July 18): “Women and minorities don’t shy away from hiring their peers out of fear of the competitive threat they may pose, but rather out of fear of the retribution they may incur, new research suggests. The reason they are so reluctant to hire other women and ethnic minorities is because they are often penalized by their bosses for doing so, according to a study to be presented at next month’s annual meeting of the Academy of Management.”
  • Women in the Sciences Report Harassment and Assault | Julienne Rutherford at Huffington Post (July 24): “We, like many other scientists, had heard the stories, shared via email, on blogs, whispered in the corners of hotel conference rooms. Harrowing stories of sexual harassment and assault during one of the most important stages of professionalization in the sciences: fieldwork. [...] We set out to explore more deeply the pervasiveness of these experiences and the results we published in PLOS ONE on July 16, 2014 are a sobering wake-up call.”
  • Comic-Con’s dark side: Harassment amid the fantasy | The Washington Post (July 27): “Geeks for CONsent, founded by three women from Philadelphia, gathered nearly 2,600 signatures on an online petition supporting a formal anti-harassment policy at Comic-Con.”

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs. If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Let’s do the linkspam again (25 July 2014)

  • Why Captain America Should Stay Black Forever | E.Knight at Boxing With God (July 19): “Comic book fans born today should grow up knowing this is Captain America. There should be no doubt.  The idea that a black man could represent the ultimate patriot is only ironic if our society continues to insist that White is America’s default race.”
  • New Thor Will be a Woman! Five Other Heroines Who Have Taken Up a Man’s Title | Mey at Autostraddle (July 22): “Although there’s absolutely nothing wrong with feminizing a name, there is a lot of clout that comes with the name Thor. By not adding “She-,” “Lady” or “Ms.” to the name, they are saying that this character isn’t a sidekick or partner to Thor, they’re saying that she isn’t “inspired by” Thor, they’re saying she simply is Thor. [...] While Thor is the most high-profile example of this, it’s not the first. Here are some of my favorite examples of this happening before.”
  • How Big of a Problem is Harassment at Comic Conventions? Very Big. | Janelle Asselin at bitchmedia (July 22)[warning for discussion of harassment] “It’s not difficult to see why conventions can be rife with harassment. People in my survey report being harassed by fans, journalists, publishing employees, and comics creators, so there are issues at every level of the industry. Conventions involve cramming a lot of people into one space where ideally everyone gets to move around. This means there are a lot of brush-by maneuvers, awkward running into people, and a lot of general closeness. [...] This is the first time ever that SDCC has made a specific anti-harassment policy so prominent and offered a clear course of action for fans who are harassed.”
  • Killing the Messenger at Mozilla | Tim Chevalier at Model View Culture (July 21) (disclosure: Tim Chevalier contributes to geekfeminism.org): “In 2012, it was nearly taboo at Mozilla to question the individualist narrative: the story that says that Eich, like any other employee, could spend his paycheck in whatever manner he chose. In 2014, Mozillans had no choice but to engage with a more structural narrative: that it’s impossible to lead a diverse organization when you have openly and obdurately expressed animus towards members of a protected class. [...] If we take [the Mozilla leaders] at face value, they did not understand why anyone would think that queer people’s rights were relevant to an open-source software project — surely they must have been aware that LGBTQ people worked for them.”
  • WisCon…This is How You Fail | The Angry Black Woman (July 20): “Race, gender, and class have all been issues at various points for me at WisCon. Most incidents fall into microaggression territory, and as a personal philosophy I tend not to let those dissuade me from things I want to do. That is an eminently personal choice, and should not be construed as telling anyone else what to do or how to feel. If my friends stop going, then so will I.”
  • The Pay-for-Performance Myth | Eric Chemi and Ariana Giorgi at Bllomberg Business Week (July 22): “An analysis of compensation data publicly released by Equilar shows little correlation between CEO pay and company performance. Equilar ranked the salaries of 200 highly paid CEOs. When compared to metrics such as revenue, profitability, and stock return, the scattering of data looks pretty random, as though performance doesn’t matter. The comparison makes it look as if there is zero relationship between pay and performance.”
  • Coder livetweets sexist remarks allegedly made by IBM executives | Aja Romano at The Daily Dot (July 22): “Note to IBM executives: If you’re going to openly discuss why you think young women make bad hires in the tech industry, you might want to make sure you’re not having lunch next to a young mom who’s also a coder. [...] According to [Lyndsay] Kirkham, the executives listed off a number of women who are currently employed at IBM, all of whom apparently have kids, and listed the amount of time the women were expected to take off in the next few years for anticipated pregnancies.”
  • #iamdoingprogramming made me feel more alienated from the tech community | Christina Truong at Medium (July 21): “In the eight years that I’ve been in the tech industry, I’ve worked with one Black person that was in a tech role and a handful in non-tech roles (project managers) and that’s a damn shame. [...] Diversity doesn’t mean pushing those that are already there out of the group. It simply means making space for different kinds of people, different opinions and opening up the culture instead of spotlighting and finding the same kind of person over and over again. It’s about showing people that there are different ways to be successful in this industry. It’s about telling everyone’s story.”
  • Numbers are not enough: Why I will only attend conferences with explicitly enforceable Codes of Conduct and a commitment to accessibility | Jennie Rose Halperin (July 22): “I recently had a bad experience at a programming workshop where I was the only woman in attendance and eventually had to leave early out of concern for my safety. [...] What happened could have been prevented: each participant signed a “Code of Conduct” that was buried in the payment for the workshop, but there was no method of enforcement and nowhere to turn when issues arose.”

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

The Large Linkspam Collider (22 July 2014)

  •  how to recruit a diverse team | the evolving ultrasaurus: “There is no quick fix to diversity hiring. The easiest way to hire for diversity is to start with diversity — to start when you add the second person on your team — but if you reading this post, you likely have an imbalanced or homogeneous team. I’ve primarily written this for all-white or all-male teams in tech.”
  • The Problem With Science| Shakesville: “This doesn’t speak well of one of the industry’s leading publications. It also doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence (which, as I’ve already explained, I’m short on) that the folks making or breaking careers by deciding which papers are “sexy” enough to publish are going to have the professionalism to ground their decisions in something other than a creepy desire to excite their presumed readership of straight white cis guys.”
  • A handy template for online trolls: “It has come to my attention that you are [a person of color/woman/ LGBTQ/differently abled/immigrant] and you have posted an online essay suggesting that your situation in life is somehow challenging because of a circumstance relating to people who are not in your condition. As an Internet commenter, it is my mouse-driven duty to anonymously respond to your post. I’m not sure what would happen if I failed to do so, but I saw what happened when they stopped pushing the button in LOST so I will not take any chances.”
  • No More “Put A Skirt On It” | molly.is/saying: “Good news: the next time you draw a person or create a user avatar, you have an opportunity to fight the sexist patriarchal bullshit! Like many instances of patriarchy-smashing, it’s not actually that hard once you get the principles down. Here are 2 simple rules to keep you on track.”
  • Ninja Pizza Girl and The Thorny Tangle of Girlhood | Apple Cider Mage: “The crux of it is Jason Stark, the head of Disparity Games, relating precisely how and why Ninja Pizza Girl came to be. He talks about how the concept came straight from his childrens’ mouths but more importantly he  also describes the stumbles in his own assumptions about not only game design but also about his daughters’ growing vulnerability as they move into teen-hood and beyond. It was a bit of insight that I found intriguing, not so much as a gamer, but rather as a woman.”
  • Opinion: Selena Deckelmann on Portland tech’s gender divide | Portland Business Journal: “I was surprised and horrified to discover every woman in tech I knew had similar, and, disturbingly, far worse stories than mine. Many of these women, successful in tech and making good money, supported families and could not just quit and find another job in the small job market in Portland. Sure, they could move to another city — but with kids, spouses with jobs or in school, these decisions are rarely simple.”
  • Feminism and (Un)Hacking | Journal of Peer Production: CFP for articles on feminism and hacker/makerspaces: “With this special issue of the Journal of Peer Production, we hope to delve more deeply into these critiques to imagine new forms of feminist technical praxis that redefine these practices and/or open up new ones. How can we problematize hacking, tinkering, geeking and making through feminist theories and epistemologies? How do these practices, in fact, change when we begin to consider them through a feminist prism? Can we envision new horizons of practice and possibility through a feminist critique?”
  • San Fran tech types: what you need to know to move to Oakland | Live Work Oakland: “I’d like these young dudes coming to my town to actually see ALL the people coming up in tech in Oakland around me–the many Black, Latino, queer, female, and trans folks who, like all of us, show up in so many different ages, styles, and sizes, but who have a place, just like the white bros do. And  if these new folks coming into Oakland can’t see the folks who are already here, can’t change, I’d like them to just get the F* out of the way and take one of those corporate buses right back to where they came from .”
  • Meanwhile, in an alternate universe… | Infotropism: Read Skud’s take on what google+’s announcement re: pseudonyms SHOULD have been.
  • Canceling TRUCEConf | TRUCEConf: Trust, Respect, Unity, Compassion, and Equality: “I would say that it’s with a heavy heart that I am canceling this conference, if it weren’t for the sense of relief that comes with this announcement. I have struggled with this for long enough. The time has come to let it go.” (We covered TRUCEConf back in November 2013.)
  • “Pay a heavy price for it” | rosefox: “That’s the Frenkel story. He’s supposed to pay a price for getting what he wanted–the opportunity to harass a couple of women–but all he loses is four years of Wiscon. However, anyone who doesn’t want to be around harassers loses Wiscon forever.” (See also: the Chair of the Harassment Policy Committee responds to feedback about this decision, and more general thoughts on harassment at conferences from Publishers Weekly’s Genreville: What Conventions Are and Aren’t.)
  • Free Online Game Simulates Coming Out Experience | GLBT News: “The game is based on Case’s own coming out process, and it allows the player to choose a variety of conversational choices throughout the storyline. Characters remember what you have said, and they constantly refer back to choices that were made previously in the game. The games tagline is “a half-true game about half-truths.” The game has three endings, but like it promises at the very beginning, there are no easy or clean results. Everything is messy…just like the coming out process itself.”
  • Black Girls Hunger for Heroes, Too: A Black Feminist Conversation on Fantasy Fiction for Teens | Bitch Media: “What happens when two great black women fiction writers get together to talk about race in young adult literature? That’s exactly what happens in the conversation below, where  Zetta Elliott, a black feminist writer of poetry, plays, essays, novels, and stories for children, and award-winning Haitian-American speculative fiction writer Ibi Aanu Zoboi decided to discuss current young adult sci-fi. “

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on Pinboard, Delicious or Diigo; or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

It has been zero days since the last sexist incident in tech

[Content warning: sexual objectification.]

Obie Fernandez is the author of The Rails Way, the editor of Addison-Wesley’s Professional Ruby Series, and a co-founder and CTO of Javelin, a startup that builds “tools and services to help you change your world”.

Fernandez also, apparently, can’t talk about technology without reminding everybody that he has, on some occasion or another, had sex. Despite being a CTO, he also apparently doesn’t know that the Internet doesn’t have an erase button — which goes to show you that extremely poor judgment doesn’t stop you from getting copious VC funding for your company, if you’re male.


A screenshot of a tweet from Obie Fernandez, which he later deleted

Fernandez’s Twitter bio declares, “Author, Programmer, Dad”. Usually (certainly not always, I’m aware!) being a dad implies that you have had sex at least once. But it’s so important for Fernandez to remind us that he has had sex — with people of multiple ages — that he also has to inject tortured sexual analogies into what could have been a perfectly benign programming language flame war.

At 8:36 PM tonight (in my time zone, anyway, Fernandez tweeted, “still not sure exactly what I’m supposed to apologize for other than being a bit crass about 20-year old people.”

By 9:11 PM, Fernandez had evidently thought about it deeply and carefully enough to issue a retraction. I guess the “lean startup” approach is so powerful that its adherents can go from sneering at their critics (including a risible attempt to backjustify his sexism with an appeal to pansexuality — folks, we’ve been over that already) to heartfelt apology in less than 40 minutes. (I fear that his apology may not be entirely heartfelt, though, as he quickly moved on to declaring that he’s “not a sexist” and attempting to pay for his blunder by citing all the women he hires.)

Readers of this blog are aware that one asshat in tech would have little effect on his own, if he were indeed an isolated case. They are equally aware that Fernandez is no anomaly of asshaberdashery. I think the hapless Fernandez is providing us with a valuable lesson: the message to “not feed the trolls” is a dangerous one. While any given individual absolutely can and should disengage with trolls when necessary to protect their physical and mental health, engaging with them can have value. Judging from his Twitter avatar, Mr. Fernandez is at least 30 years old. That makes 30 years or more in which not a single person in his life has told him that the world generally does not need to know that he has done a sex. Perhaps his demeanor makes them afraid to challenge him. Perhaps they don’t think it’s worth the time. Who knows? But at one point in his life, one presumes that he was impressionable — one knows that he’s impressionable, since nobody acts like he does unless they get rewarded for it. Rewarded with laughs, with buddy-buddy slaps on the back from fellow bros, with congratulations on how delightfully politically incorrect he is, with 1.5 million dollars of venture capital money from the likes of Mark Suster, Eric Ries, and 500 Startups.

Back when I was first dabbling in Usenet in the mid-1990s, it was conventional wisdom that trolls were usually children sitting at a computer in their mothers’ basements. That, in other words, they had no real power other than the ability to rustle a few jimmies for a moment. It’s 2014 now, and some of those children have grown up and become technology executives — people with hiring and firing power, with a lot of control over a big part of the economy. If the adults in the room had spent a bit more time trying to socialize those children (because clearly, they weren’t getting it from their parents) and less time stating their troll-starving prowess, perhaps we would be able to attend a conference without hearing about some guy’s crotch.

Postscript: On Twitter, Matt Adereth pointed out this 2005 blog post from Fernandez:

I didn’t particularly like Ruby the first time I met her. I thought she was interesting, but a few months later (to my surprise) something changed. I started seeing her appealing qualities. My friends really spoke highly of Ruby, so we started spending time together. The love affair began in February 2005 and about a month later, things started getting pretty bad with my wife, Java. Even when I was doing Java, I couldn’t stop thinking of Ruby and how much better she is for me.

So it looks like Mr. Fernandez has been unnecessarily sexualizing technical discussions for fun and profit for quite some time. As Adereth observed, it also looks like Fernandez’s use of the “who said I was talking about women?” derailing tactic is entirely disingenuous.