Tag Archives: allies

Playing the linkspam card (4th June, 2011)

  • Why White Men Should Refuse to Be on Panels of All White Men: If white, male elites started saying, I will not participate in your panel, event, or article if it is all about white men, chances are these panels and articles would quickly dry up—or become more diverse.
  • Not Exactly Avatar Secrets: A Critique of Ramona Pringle’s Research: Ramona Pringle does “research” into people finding love in online games. Flavor Text is not impressed: I think the main issue I take with this – and you addressed it earlier on Twitter – is that the whole thing just smacks of “gamers are human beings, too!” as if this is somehow news. The sky is blue! Fire still hot! Gamers capable of social interaction and forming meaningful relationships!
  • While we’re talking about Flickr groups (This is what a computer scientist looks like is now at 55 photos and counting), photogs here might like to contribute to the New Feminine group, for a diverse range of images of women that show femininity as other than submissive and sexualised.
  • Deconstructing Pointy-Eared White Supremacists: What do we know about elves? They are, generally, portrayed as the ideal: more magical, more beautiful, more in tune with nature. They are older than you but almost immortal… Elves are also very, very white.
  • A Bright Idea – Hack a Day: Our submitter writes: Woman comes up with nifty idea. Site reports about her. Comments filled with the usual She’s hot; and all important Why doesn’t she have a degree?
  • RIP Rosalyn S. Yalow, 89, Nobel winning medical physicist: Dr. Yalow, a product of New York City schools and the daughter of parents who never finished high school, graduated magna cum laude from Hunter College in New York at the age of 19 and was the college’s first physics major. Yet she struggled to be accepted for graduate studies. In one instance, a skeptical Midwestern university wrote: She is from New York. She is Jewish. She is a woman.
  • From 2008 (hey, it’s recent in academic terms…) Budden et al Double-blind review favours increased representation of female authors, Trends in Ecology & Evolution: in 2001, double-blind review was introduced by the journal Behavioral Ecology. Following this policy change, there was a significant increase in female first-authored papers, a pattern not observed in a very similar journal that provides reviewers with author information
  • Tropebusting: Matriarchies in Gaming and Sci-Fi/Fantasy: The most prevalent of these tropes is that Matriarchies are Evil, like really, really super-duper EVIL. (Also, hey, bonus elves…)

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.

“But what could I have said/done?”

[Trigger warning for use of rape as an analogy for display of dominance]

This is a discussion I just saw in a project/support channel on an IRC server I frequent. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for me to stumble on similar in my travels.

I’m the “elky” in the excerpt, all other identifying factors have been excluded for the purposes of focusing on the event.

* joiner (~joiner@XXXX) has joined #projectchannel
<_douchecanoe> show your professionalism and just proof them wrong
* pingout has quit (Ping timeout: 276 seconds)
<_douchecanoe> write an article that rapes their article
* latecomer (~latecomer@XXXX) has joined #projectchannel
<_douchecanoe> bystander
<joiner> here I am joining #projectchannel and the first thing that strikes me is rape
<_douchecanoe> http://<insert a link to an article here>
<talkingtodouche> why on earth would I want to write an article for them?
<bystander> does it output an .xml file?
<elky> joiner, :(
<_douchecanoe> joiner at least you know that you’re in the right place
<_douchecanoe> talkingtodouche not for them
<bystander> for epeen
<elky> … for being…? worst thing to say.

What happened after this? Business as usual for most of the channel occupants. No apologies. Nothing. Infuriating.

Now, I don’t know “joiner”*. For all I know ze is not a survivor. For all I know joiner is an ally and this is how ze is responding. But for all I know zir comment is a genuine display of anguish and ze needs acknowledgement. Personally I prefer to not risk that the last is true.

What did I do? In the channel, I asked “joiner” if they had come in to address a need before being rudely sidelined, and when they replied happily they were compiling, I joked by exclaiming “swordfight!” and let them know I was making sure they were OK hence letting them know I am approachable.

What would you have done?

(* Not real nick. None of the nicks in the log are the real nick involved, except for my own.)

Comment note: I’m not looking for cookies, they are off-topic for this thread. Please focus discussion on how you may have approached the situation, or, if you are a marginalised person, how you personally would appreciate someone responding in a similar situation.

The Importance of Allies

Deb Nicholson is a geeky gal who is motivated by the intersection of technology and social justice. She spends her time working freelance with the Caucus to Increase Women’s Participation in Free Software and pursuing a CS degree in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This has been cross-posted from her blog.

Ever since I started working towards the goal of increasing the number of women participating in the free software community, I’ve had men say some variation of the following to me, “I didn’t know it was this bad. Is there anything I can do?” The answer is yes!

There is a great potential for change. I think the gropers and insulters are the exception and not the rule. Unless 30 obnoxious men are changing their appearance and flying all over the globe to be “that guy” at dozens of linuxfests and free software gatherings every year, their numbers are still significant. If you believe my conspiracy scenario, then you may as well go all the way and imagine them to be trained and funded by Microsoft on a secret island in the remote Pacific. (Also, I have a work-at-home situation that starts with you mailing me a large check that I’d love to discuss with you.) But seriously, the dearth of opposing voices is what allows this small group to disproportionately set the tone at free software events. The bad actors are not the majority. Silence on this issue serves the status quo.

When thinking about change, I’ve always found Ursula LeGuin’s story, “The Ones who Walked Away from Omelas” inspiring. This example is from fiction and so naturally the choice to pipe down or walk away from a society that oppresses even one of its members is drawn in very broad strokes. LeGuin has essentially written a parable. If you as a conference goer find out that an event’s success rests upon the tears and ostracization of a small number of people, then walk away. Don’t attend that event again. Let me be a little more explicit. Say the keynote speaker is disrespectful to women and sets an inappropriate sexual tone for the conference. The conference organizers don’t feel that they can tell someone famous and important to either stay professional and respect all attendees or stop speaking without damaging the status of their event. The women at this conference no longer feel welcome. If you think those are the wrong priorities then you have two options, speak up or walk away.

Find yourself another event or project that values the inclusion of all its members over the egos of a few bad actors. Get involved where they’re doing it right! Or say something when your “mostly OK” community missteps. A simple, “Hey, that’s out of line” or “We really don’t need to use that kind of example” can go a long way. Sometimes you may find yourself in a smaller group and a quick, “That was really inappropriate” may be in order. What if you aren’t quick in the moment? After someone’s been offensive you might say to the offended party, “I’m sorry that guy was a jerk to you. If you want to report him, I’m happy to go with you to find a staff person.” Of course, this last example is going to be the most effective at an event that already has an anti-harassment policy in place.

Allies are extremely important. There aren’t that many women here yet. So, in order to be successful at changing the tone in the free software community, we need your help. The thing you can do today is to write to a conference you’re thinking about attending in the next year and politely ask if they would adopt an anti-harassment policy like this one. A policy may seem like a small step, but its adoption empowers the organizers to stop offensive behavior and to kick out repeat offenders. It also goes a long way towards broadcasting to potential attendees what sort of treatment they can expect and what won’t be tolerated. I hope that you’ll choose to speak up when you feel you can affect behavior and walk away when you feel the situation is irredeemable. Thanks to all of you who already do!

The links are strong with this one (4th December, 2010)

  • Valerie’s Conference anti-harassment policy is under discussion at LWN and Hacker News (‘ware: both sites well known for faily comments, although as of writing LWN is doing mostly OK). LWN’s article will be de-paywalled in a few days, before that, go via Valerie’s free link.
  • The Mistress of the Lash Wears Chains: I began to wonder just what drove the [game design] obsession with these matriarchies. I then realised that this was the flip side of “male fantasy’- which is “male nightmare.’
  • The Importance of Allies: Ever since I started working towards the goal of increasing the number of women participating in the free software community, I’ve had men say some variation of the following to me, I didn’t know it was this bad. Is there anything I can do? The answer is yes!
  • A series of questions in photographic form. This ongoing body of work explores the power dynamics inherent in the questions asked of transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, and gender-variant people.
  • Reinventing the Outreach Program Wheel: Why, oh why do I have to be hatin’ on the good works that SciCheer wants to do for the young girls of our nation?
  • Becoming Einstein’s cousin: profile on Cathy Foley, an international expert in superconductivity, the first woman to become president of the Australian Institute of Physics, and president of Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies.
  • Wake up, LOPSA members., or, Sexism in LOPSA, part 3
  • Women in Web Development: Do The Numbers Really Matter?: The failure isn’t the industry or its hiring practices. It’s in education, summer camps, parenting, and all the other places young girls could be coming into contact with coding, development and engineering but aren’t.
  • Gertrude Rothschild, Dies at 83: Important geek engineer who improved LED displays; defended her inventions against patent infringement. (In contradistinction to copyright infringement, which poorly serves IP interests in 3D objects and processes).
  • Finally, a quick thought from @heathermg: … the head of NASA Astrobiology AND the lead researcher who discovered this lifeform are both women.

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.

Beginning a feminist journey

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question. (See the status of this project, also.)

I am a girl geek in a relationship with a guy geek, and this guy geek was raised by his mom and his aunt to hate men and hate himself for being a man. In puberty he rejected that and swung a bit in the opposite direction, and now he’s in a place where he believes in the equality of the sexes but he has internalized stereotypes and vitriolic messages about both sexes. He recognizes that and he wants me to help him learn about feminism. Well, that’s great! But I haven’t got the foggiest where to start. We tried reading the Feminism 101 sites together, but it’s too unstructured. Do you know of anyplace else I could find an approach to teaching feminism to men, specifically, or have any advice for helping him confront the internalized hated?

I’ll be interested in the Hive’s thoughts too, but to be honest I’m not sure you can provide structure in this quest, ultimately. It’s a big messy pile of issues, and one person’s structured look at it will be another person’s incoherent mystery.

I wanted to post this after the linkspam put up the lists to the latest round of self-education posts, because he needs to accept responsibility for his own education. If he’s not willing to do a lot of listening and doubting and struggling to understand and looking back at his six-months-ago self and being embarrassed at his lack of clue, you can’t make him and we can’t make him.

Let me talk about myself for a bit. I’m very privileged, and I’ve spent a few years now reading about intersectionality issues and oppressions other than patriarchal ones. I don’t get an ally cookie and reading the social justice blogosphere is far and away not the only thing an ally can or should do. But here’s what’s worked for me:

  • reading a lot of things, mostly in my case blogs, with stories in them about oppression playing out in people’s lives;
  • thinking privileged things like “surely that’s an exaggeration” “but I’m not like that” “but my friends aren’t like that” “but I’ve never heard of anything like that” “I think your point would be better made if you…” and so on;
  • (at least sometimes) noticing myself thinking those things and keeping them inside my own head; and
  • (sometimes) noticing oppression that isn’t happening to me personally and thinking “that’s fucked up” and (sometimes) analysing, criticising, or trying to end it.

Not a direct answer to your question, but perhaps your partner does need to ask himself what it is he needs structured for him and why.

For others, were there any resources that provided you with some structure to your early feminist or anti-oppression thinking, even if they later turned out to be incomplete or problematic in and of themselves? If you’re a male feminist/feminist ally, how did you start out learning and what are you learning at the moment?

Note: discussions of what one can do to learn about or further social justice can themselves end up ableist and classist among other things. There are many types of activism and the types that can be done or are preferred by conventionally educated abled folk with leisure time aren’t the only kind. Be careful with your ‘must’s.

Good girls don’t linkspam (3rd May, 2010)

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism†to bring them to our attention. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.

Being an ally in the workplace

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question for our commenters.

What interventions do you recommend pro-feminist male geeks make in their workplaces? If you could get the guy geeks on your side to agitate for the cause and to provoke change, on what specific issues do you think they should focus? How could they best lend support?

I ask because I get this question a lot from decent guys who aren’t sure what to do. Feel free to list things they should read and areas about which they should inform themselves.

Being an ally to a “OMG hot girl!1!!!!”

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question for our commenters.

This questioner asked us not to quote the exact context, but was involved in one of those scenarios where a woman got involved in a technical discussion with a man and he very quickly diverted into a “by the way, hot geek girl whoa, will you marry me???!?” tangent. (Incidentally, if you’ve done this recently and you’re sure we’re talking about you… sadly we probably aren’t as it happens all the time.) The questioner writes:

I felt I should say something, but didn’t really know what… So, what would you have hoped I’d say when involved in something like that?

What do you think a man should say if he disapproves of this kind of thing, and it’s a fast-paced discussion (IRC, chat, Twitter, Facebook, emails flying around, that kind of thing)?

A linkspam stole my baby! (November 6th, 2009)

If you have links of interest, please share them in comments here, or if you’re a delicious user, tag them “geekfeminism†to bring them to our attention. Thanks to everyone who suggested links in comments and on delicious.

“We’ve got your back.”

That’s what we like to hear. And since our PSA last week about MikeeUSA, we’ve been really pleased to see people coming out of the woodwork to say, in effect, “OMGWTF!” and “NOT COOL.”

It’s funny… when I wrote that post, I was cringing in anticipation. After the last couple of contentious things I’d written, I was sure that I was going to get a flood of posts telling me how I was over-reacting, how raising these issues was harming the open source community, or that I should focus on the positive. I hit “post” with some trepidation, then left the office almost shaking.

I kept checking the comments throughout the evening, and even woke up in the middle of the night expecting a storm of invective. And there wasn’t one. Around twelve hours after the post, I cautiously said on IRC, “maybe there won’t be a backlash this time,” and then wanted to retract the words in case it was some kind of jinx.

Instead, what we got was support. Twitter and Identi.ca were buzzing with retweets/redents of people spreading the PSA, and the comments here on GF — even from people who said they usually disagreed with feminist goals — were 100% supportive. You know how we have a comment policy here that says we will delete stuff that’s blatantly anti-feminist? Well, this was the first contentious post we’ve ever had where we didn’t delete a single comment.

So, thanks. It’s good to know that there are some things just so vile that nobody in our community will tolerate them. It’s good to know that we can visit almost any open source blog this week without having to be confronted by Mikee’s hateful comments, because they’ve been sent to the bit bucket. And it’s good to know that at least some of the women (and men) who were targetted by Mikee’s hate speech over the last week or so knew how to handle it, and knew they weren’t alone, because we got the word out.

Thanks for having our backs.

But let’s stop for a moment and think about why that’s such a big deal. It’s a big deal because it’s unusual. Most of the time, backlash, not support, is the strongest response.

Next time round, I’d like to ask everyone to remember that every little incident in our community occurs in a context of institutionalised sexism that ranges from the odd thoughtless joke to… well, to Mikee and beyond. And it’s the little things, repeated over and over and excused just as often, that serve to reinforce the feeling that we don’t quite belong, and that the majority of the community might not back us up, might even attack us, if the shit hits the fan.

Please don’t let this happen.

We need to know you’ve got our backs. Even for the little stuff. Even when it’s a community leader. Even when you aren’t quite sure why it’s a big deal. Especially those times. Because it’s the security of knowing that someone’s got our backs that lets us speak about the big stuff without shame or fear. And it’s only that security that lets us feel safe to give all our energy and focus to what we came here for in the first place: free and open source software.