Tag Archives: ageism

When a link and a spam love each other very much (26 March 2014)

A couple of quick announcements to start us off:

  • applications to attend AdaCamp Portland (June 21–22, ally skills track June 23) are open
  • the call for submissions to another issue of Model View Culture is out: the Abuse issue. “This issue explores themes of harassment, microaggression, boundary violation, assault, discrimination and other forms of abuse in the tech community”.

Onto the spam you’re waiting for:

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.

Magical linkspam sparkles (26th May, 2011)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious, freelish.us or pinboard.in 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 careers for the older geek woman

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question.

Okay, I’m an older geek woman (turned 39 this year) who’s done some time on helldesk, and is currently studying for a BSc in Computer Science and Games Technology (double major). I started the degree because I’ve been applying for jobs pretty steadily, and I’ve been sent along to interviews on a fairly regular basis where I’m able to answer the questions, and I figure I come across as competent, but I never actually get the job, and neither do I hear back about why I didn’t get it. I’ve started to work on the default assumption that I’m disadvantaged in the IT market by being too female, too old, and suffering from “Not Pretty Enough” (I am not and never have been a pretty little thing; any attractiveness I have comes from my mind). I also have chronic depression, which means I really don’t want to be in a situation where I’m constantly attempting to push gravy uphill with a fork in regards to getting my abilities recognised.

Realistically, what would my career path options be?

Commenters, just a caution on this. A lot of people here work in IT, so a lot of people may want to comment. Great! But actual stories of non-traditional entry into IT are going to be much more useful than “well, I graduated at 22 and went into a graduate program, but here’s a theory I just came up with on the fly about what I’d probably try if I was in the questioner’s situation…” Did you yourself enter IT in your thirties or forties (or when older again), particularly as a woman or outsider? If not, have you seen someone else do it? If not, do you know of any studies or resources?

Also, please watch for privilege in your comments. Volunteering IT skills, participating in networking or common-interest groups, developing FLOSS and so on all take privilege of various kinds. If these are part of your recommendations or your own experience you can share them, but don’t imply anything like “well, if you really wanted to work in IT you’d…” or “well, if you were really passionate about IT you’d be…”

Update: please also indicate your geographical location(s) as precisely as you feel comfortable with. The IT job market varies a fair bit around the world and the questioner and other women in her position may want to weigh your advice according to conditions in their local area. (Special note to people in the US: shorthand for your cities like “SF”, “LA” and “NYC” are not always well understood outside the US.)

Girly geekdom for girls… only?

Several of the front page posters here are participating in discussions on the Python diversity email list, a list created by Python community member Aahz to discuss diversity problems in the Python programming language community. The initial aim of the list is creating a diversity statement like that of the Dreamwidth community.

Some of the more problematic discussions on the list come down to “this stuff is hard, and hard to talk about, and people get angry and defensive when things are hard.” I don’t want to discuss the tenor or direction of the discussions there in general in this post though, I want to talk about a specific incident. A poster to the list made reference to being “beaten up by a girl” (in a metaphorical sense, what had actually happened was off-list criticism from a woman, not physical violence). A 101 discussion followed, and while it was pretty clear to most people posting that the framing played right into the idea that being beaten by women, physically or in argument, is emasculating, it took a surprisingly long time until it was pointed out, originally by me, eventually also by Aahz in a separate thread, that “girls” is a problematic term. It seems this was a new idea even to some of the more pro-feminist posters.

Now despite the Python diversity list’s innocence, calling women “girls” even in conversations where men are just “men” is not a new problem. As I pointed out to someone on identi.ca, Wikipedia has a prominently placed discussion of how there are few neutral terms for women, especially more informal ones. And the geek feminism groups have run into it ourselves. We have LinuxChix and Girl Geek Dinners. One syllable terms make for snappy names and the “girl geek” alliteration has zing. Reclaiming problematic terminology has a long history, but one of the appeals is that it’s just plain fun, and it’s happened to some extent with the term “geek” as well.

But how much are we playing into the idea that geek feminism is for young women, that once first year CS is gender balanced we’re done here? I’ve seen concerning things. LinuxChix’s name has on occasion drawn young women who explicitly say they only want to interact with other young women. LinuxChix and Girl Geek meetups are often just as inconveniently timed and placed for primary carers as LUGs and gaming groups. When Julie Gibson interviewed me for Ada Lovelace day, she talked about how LinuxChix turned out not to be for her, she’s too far removed in time from having enough geek hours in her life to learn Linux. An older woman—in her late forties, perhaps, well outside the Australian LinuxChix demographic—at our LinuxChix miniconf in 2008 said that she’s careful to avoid becoming a “face” for women in IT: she thinks no teenage girl wants to grow up to be her. It reminded me of Lauredhel’s post at Hoyden About Town, Monica Dux thinks I’m bad for feminism’s image, about the trend to say it’s great to be a proud feminist, as long as you aren’t a marketing problem for the feminism brand. Is it only great to be a woman geek if you’re exactly what the guys on Slashdot are asking for, 18 and single and heterosexual and able to fix your own computers, thus making time for everyone’s two favourite leisure activities, gaming and sex? Of course not. But I’m worried that we’re talking about ourselves as though it is.

This is hard for me. I’m in my twenties. It’s a lot easier for me to think about what my fifteen year old girl geek self would have wanted from geek feminism than what the sixty year old woman I hope to be will want. But we should. What does geek feminism look like, for women who aren’t girls any more and don’t want to be?