Tag Archives: activism

Quick hit: #ThisTweetCalledMyBack

Who gets to claim the title “activist”, and who quietly does the work that’s needed for activist movements to succeed while getting simultaneously derided and appropriated from?

A collective of, in their own words, “Black Women, AfroIndigenous and women of color” have issued a statement on how they’re being treated by white feminism, academia, the mainstream media, and the rest of the social-justice-industrial complex:

As an online collective of Black, AfroIndigenous, and NDN women, we have created an entire framework with which to understand gender violence and racial hierarchy in a global and U.S. context. In order to do this however, we have had to shake up a few existing narratives, just like K. Michelle and her infamous table rumble on Love & Hip Hop.

The response has been sometimes loving, but in most cases we’ve faced nothing but pushback in the form of trolls, stalking. We’ve, at separate turns, been stopped and detained crossing international borders and questioned about our work, been tailed and targeted by police, had our livelihoods threatened with calls to our job, been threatened with rape on Twitter itself, faced triggering PTSD, and trudged the physical burden of all of this abuse. This has all occurred while we see our work take wings and inform an entire movement. A movement that also refuses to make space for us while frequently joining in the naming of us as “Toxic Twitter.”

Read the statement from @tgirlinterruptd, @chiefelk, @bad_dominicana, @aurabogado, @so_treu, @blackamazon, @thetrudz, as well as #ThisTweetCalledMyBack on Twitter, for a critical perspective on the role of intersecting racism and sexism in how activist work is valued. If you’ve ever been dismissed as “just an Internet activist” or told to get off your computer and out in the streets, then you need to read this essay. If you’ve ever dismissed someone else as all talk, and no action, not like those real activists who are running big street protests, then you need to read this essay. And if both are true for you, then you need to read this essay.

Model View Culture banner

Model View Culture: where tech intersects with social and cultural lenses

If you’ve been following our linkspams recently, you’ve probably noticed the density of links to Model View Culture, an independent media platform covering technology, culture and diversity. MVC has brought us Frances Hocutt’s story of unwillingly leaning out of her science career. Suey Park’s defense of Twitter Feminism and Kate Losse’s exploration of sexualisation and gendered labour as a pervasive force in tech. They’ve also published no less than four Geek Feminism contributors: Ashe Dryden, Leigh Honeywell, Liz Henry and Tim Chevalier, with more to come! If you’re a linkspam lover, you might be following their Blameful Post Mortem (“Everything that’s wrong with the tech industry this week, and who’s to blame”), including the weekly Hacker News fail feature.

I’m excited to see MVC emerge as part of the geek activist landscape, it’s part of the huge changes since 2009, when here at geekfeminism.org we talked about being the site at the time that was willing to use the f-word (“feminist”, although “fuck” complies with our comments policy also) in geekdom. Now we’re part of a crowd.  And MVC is publishing amazing writing.

The founders of MVC are: Amelia Greenhall, product leader, data scientist and user experience designer/developer with extensive experience in feminist community organization and literary publishing; and Shanley Kane, cultural critic, organizer, writer and feminist with over five years of experience working in the technology industry across academic, startup and open source communities. I interviewed Amelia and Shanley about MVC, its publisher Feminist Tech Collective, and their place in geek diversity activism.

What is Model View Culture?

Amelia and Shanley: We are a media company focused on tech, culture and diversity. We publish online issues with original articles, critique, analysis, news, commentary and sometimes political cartoons. They come out every three weeks. In addition, we publish a Quarterly print edition, locally-printed books with new Model View Culture content that gets sent to subscribers four times a year. We’re also working on building a community events program — our next event is in San Francisco for the launch of our first Quarterly. We also want to develop a podcast where we interview technologists, and talk about current events, news and trends. We’ve been pretty busy since we launched two months ago, but that is coming soon.

How do you see MVC as complementing and adding to existing diversity-in-tech projects and activism?

We are just one of many such programs — we identify very strongly particularly with the Bay Area community of technologists focusing on issues around diversity and social justice. We are also increasingly making connections with complementary tech communities and projects around the world, which is very exciting.

Existing organizations and projects like Geek Feminism, Double Union and other feminist hackerspaces, DiversiTech, Lesbians Who Tech, Trans*H4CK, LOL Oakland Maker Space and many independent activists are doing critical work right now across many different axes. We think that a diversity of tactics and focus areas is essential — we need people working within corporate structures and outside of them; on specific communities and across broader groups; in online and in-person spaces. We strive to highlight much of this organization from a media perspective, and provide a platform for the type of thought, analysis and critique that is inherent in it.

What is unique about Model View Culture in terms of its approach?

Our specific focus on producing high quality, critical writing and analysis that comes directly from technologists, activists, artists and writers in the field is fairly unique in the space. From an editorial perspective, we concentrate largely on where tech intersects with various social and cultural lenses — i.e., how feminism relates to quantified self; how social media reflects power dynamics; the politics of digital spaces; the implications of access around hardware hacking; the role of culture in management, etc. Especially compared to mainstream media, we strive to be unique in providing tech coverage that is critical, that is socially and politically conscious, and that is invested in the health and progress of the community.

Does Feminist Technology Collective have any plans or ambitions beyond MVC that you can tell us about?

Right now, Model View Culture is our number one focus. However, we founded Feminist Technology Collective with the goal of building and funding community infrastructure for underserved communities in tech – both creators and consumers. We think there is a huge market – multiple markets – that aren’t being addressed by the mainstream technology industry. That’s a giant opportunity — social, technological and financial — for new kinds of businesses, including ours. So, we hope in the future to grow larger and create other products in those spaces.

What communities and perspectives are underrepresented in MVC at the moment and what plans do you have to include them?

Right now, Model View Culture is fairly focused on the United States tech industry, and it is also fairly Silicon Valley-centric. We are a very small company, so working in a certain context makes sense – we live and work in the Bay Area, but have had writers from many areas of the US as well as a few pieces by authors in Canada, France, and the UK. In the future, perhaps once we get to the point where we can add additional staff, we would love to have more coverage of events, trends, and critique from other areas of the world. As for other perspectives and communities, we always love to hear from our readers about what they would like to see more of and about!

What’s MVC’s biggest success to date?

Our third online issue was focused on the theme “Lean Out,” in response to the pervasive brand and ideology of “Lean In” within the tech industry. We had articles on choosing to quit STEM and how to support people who do leave, on the impact of Lean In on our relationships, on feminist quantified self, and other topics. It was our most successful issue to date – we think that the theme itself really resonated with a lot of people in a time of growing skepticism around the messages that dominant tech culture is telling us about workplace advancement and the progress of underrepresented and marginalized groups in the industry. For example, with over 56% of women in the field leaving the industry due to discrimination and other endemic issues, there’s a lot of questions about why we should be “leaning in” to corporations. We are also proud of the work that just came out in our Mythology issue — our authors really did an exceptional job critiquing myths, tropes and stereotypes within the industry. We learned a great deal from them and it seems the community is learning a lot from them as well!

How do you run Model View Culture from an editorial perspective?

Every few weeks, we announce a new issue theme. Often, we will proactively solicit work based on the theme from people we know are doing amazing things in tech; and we also accept submissions — anyone can email us an idea or pitch. If it’s a fit for us and we have space, it’s a great way to meet, work with and showcase the work of people we haven’t necessarily ever met before. This is important because tech is a huge community and there is no way to know everything that’s going on or that’s relevant. Most of our authors are not professional writers, which is also something unique about our publication. We love how it ends up being much more authentic and approachable than so much writing about tech, and we work closely with authors to help bring their work to fruition. It’s also a core value of our company that we pay our contributors. If people are interested, they are welcome to submit ideas to us.

Model View Culture’s latest online issue is Mythology. If you want to support Model View Culture and its writers and staff, subscription sales for 2014 are now open.

Group of male-type and female-type body symbols, 8 male, 2 female

Activist careers for those with a geek background

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question for our readers:

I’m a doctoral student in physics, currently writing my thesis and I’m going to be looking for a job come summer. The problem is that I’ve had a long, shitty, depressed time of grad school, and I don’t really want to keep doing physics, at least not right away – I got involved with trans* activism while I was transitioning and didn’t have a bathroom I felt like I could use, and since that I’ve also done safe space trainings, small-scale community organising, and successfully got the university to adopt a trans-inclusive student health plan.

At the moment I’d much rather continue my activism than get a postdoc or whatever, so my question is what sorts of jobs might be available to a geek activist with a doctorate in physics (rather than something more directly applicable), or where should I even start looking?

So, what I did here (or rather, what Valerie Aurora started and we did) was found an entire non-profit from scratch to employ our geek selves as feminist activists. Possibly that wasn’t what you wanted to hear though, it’s not the easy way to a career in activism. If there is one? Can anyone shed light on this that doesn’t involve applying for tax exempt status in the United States?

Advocacy project for women in open technology and culture: The Ada Initiative

Today, Valerie Aurora and I launched the Ada Initiative, a new non-profit organization dedicated to increasing participation of women in open technology and culture, which includes open source software, Wikipedia and other open data, and open social media.

Valerie and I have 10 years experience in open source software, open social media, and women in computing activism with groups like Geek Feminism, Systers, and LinuxChix. The Ada Initiative is focused on helping women get careers in open technology through recruitment and training programs for women, education for community members who want to help women, and working with corporations and projects to improve their outreach to women.

Get involved

If you’d like to get involved, check out our contact page. If you’re really excited, write a blog post about us. We’re on Twitter and Facebook too.

Project ideas

If you have project ideas for the Ada Initiative, especially the kind of work that iis difficult for volunteer groups to do (that is, intensive and/or lengthy), we would be happy to hear them. You could raise them in comments here, or contact us.

Donating and funding

We are not yet accepting donations, but if you are interested in helping fund the Ada Initiative or putting us in touch with potential donors, please contact us.

We’d like to stress though that we do not think that women, inside or outside open technology and culture should fund the bulk of the Ada Initiative’s work; that is the job of projects and companies that make money from their work. If you are enthusiastic about the project and want to help with startup costs you will welcome to donate, but we do not expect you to, particularly if it would be in any way a financial burden.

Relationship with Geek Feminism

While both of the co-founders of the Ada Initiative write for the Geek Feminism blog, the Ada Initiative and the Geek Feminism project are not the same thing. The Geek Feminism blog, wiki and community comments on, critiques and builds geekdom as a whole and is far from limited to open technology and culture. The Geek Feminism blog is independent from the Ada Initiative and will remain so. Valerie and I will continue to write for the blog on various subjects outside of any work we do for the Ada Initiative.

A linkspam of startling elegance (31st December, 2010)

  • Activist burnout: Dan Choi, an activist working to end DADT (Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, US miliitary policy against openly lesbian, gay or bi people serving), made his burnout and hospitalisation public: I did not initially want to publicize this but I now realize it is critical for our community to know several things: veterans gay or straight carry human burdens, Activists share similar burdens, no activist should be portrayed as super human…
  • Jess on Slacktivist Uprising: There is more than one job, and more than one tool. Many oppressed groups, including women, still face bias that’s engendered in (or at least not counteracted by) the law. But law is at least starting to catch up to justice, while social discourse, including among progressives, lags behind… For the finishing work — for lifting tenacious ugliness to the light, for uncovering the frameworks of privilege, for crafting a progressive movement that truly values everyone it represents – we need different tools.
  • Siobhan Quinn lists 60 women she knows who work in engineering, product management, design and executive roles.
  • Geraldine Doyle, Inspiration for Famous ‘We Can Do It’ Poster, Dies: Geraldine Doyle of Lansing, whose face became the inspiration behind the iconic World War II image of Rosie the Riveter, has died, according to her family.
  • Record Set for World’s Youngest Chess Champion: Hou Yifan, a 16-year-old chess player from China, became the youngest world chess champion on Friday, toppling a record held since 1978… Ms. Hou had an earlier shot at the women’s world title in 2008, when she was 14, but lost in the championship match to Alexandra Kosteniuk of Russia. She said that Ms. Kosteniuk had simply been too good at the time.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the geekfeminism tag on delicious 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.

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.

Linkspamming from the mountaintops (29th November, 2010)

  • A Very Special Episode of Grey Areas: Privilege Denying Dude Edition: In social justice, not all tactics that are divisive are effective, but all tactics that are effective are divisive. That doesn’t mean we should set our phasers to divide, but when a tactic is labeled as divisive or radical, there is a chance it might be one worth considering.
  • HTML pseudocode cross-stitch for geek feminist gift-giving.
  • 15-minute writing exercise closes the gender gap in university-level physics: Think about the things that are important to you. Perhaps you care about creativity, family relationships, your career, or having a sense of humour. Pick two or three of these values and write a few sentences about why they are important to you… This simple writing exercise may not seem like anything ground-breaking, but its effects speak for themselves.
  • Disalienation: Why Gender is a Text Field on Diaspora: Sarah Mei writes The “gender” field in a person’s profile was originally a dropdown menu, with three choices: blank, male, and female. My change made it an optional text field that was blank to start. A wide open frontier! Enter anything you want.
  • Grandma’s Superhero Therapy (18 photos) – My Modern Metropolis: GO SUPER MAMIKA!!!!! A few years ago, French photographer Sacha Goldberger found his 91-year-old Hungarian grandmother Frederika feeling lonely and depressed. To cheer her up, he suggested that they shoot a series of outrageous photographs in unusual costumes, poses, and locations.
  • New-ish site you might want to check out: Ars Marginal: So much of the arts and entertainment we get exposed to is by and for straight White guys*. We figured it’s time for us to talk about what we get out of it. Because, frankly, we’re tired of that shit. Ars Marginal flips the script and looks at movies, TV shows, comic books, and games from our point of view.
  • Context. Or, no you don’t get to apply your Internet niche knowledge to me doing my job. :>: yes, using a swastika in your gaming profile is going to get you banned, internet contrarian.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the geekfeminism tag on delicious 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.

Geek Feminism and Mideast Youth

Guest Post by Esra’a from Bahrain. She enjoys hardcore acoustic noise-terror music, and is fortunate enough to be a TED Global Fellow, Echoing Green Fellow, and on the Advisory Board for the European Summit for Global Transformation and the Meta-Activism Project. She gave a keynote at BlogHer about the group blog and about kicking ass and free speech in general.

I’m the geek who founded Mideast Youth. I have been aggressively expanding it with my friends for the past 4 years and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life.

Mideast Youth is first and foremost a group blog shared by a growing number of young activists and bloggers in the Middle East and North Africa who want to be heard on a variety of different topics, from religion to free speech to politics to gay rights (and more.) Aside from that, we run a network of about 15 sites that deal with: Baha’i human rights, Kurdish human rights, migrant worker rights, underground activist musicians, free speech for bloggers, and a few other campaigns that deal with free speech and minority rights.

Mideast Youth currently operates in English, Arabic and Farsi, featuring podcasts in these languages as well.

We’re all volunteers – and the core Mideast Youth team consists of about 5 people (Me from Bahrain, Fatima from Saudi Arabia, Ali from Iran, Ahmed from Egypt and the 5th person is a frequently rotating team of other volunteers who help with design, development and video editing.)

We love running our projects and making people aware of things that not many people talk about – but most of all, we love helping others set up their own projects, which we design and host for them, for free:

http://www.mideastyouth.com/services

Our latest project is CrowdVoice.org, which is a user-powered service that tracks voices of protest from around the world by crowdsourcing information. This site rocks. We believe you might think so too, once you look at it.

As you can see, we are an active bunch, but we need your help to continue. Some bird told me that geeks enjoy helping other geeks out. That is a lie actually (birds don’t talk.) But I want to believe it’s true.

If you support our community, our mission, and believe in it as much as we do, your help would be highly appreciated.