Tag Archives: apologies

Wall of Spam, by freezelight on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Eredar Lord of the Burning Linkspam (28 August 2012)

  • What I Learned At Facebook’s Girl Geek Dinner: “Is timing everything? You can’t rush time… Everyone will create a unique arc or trajectory in life. As Sheryl Sandberg says today’s careers are jungle gyms. Your life will not go up and to the right in a straight line or trajectory. Remember it’s the journey that counts – keep learning, keep producing, keep shipping.”
  • Men of Silicon Valley: We’re sexist, we just don’t know it. “Women are a big market, maybe the biggest, and women founders and engineers bring a unique and needed perspective to female-specific pain points. We need them involved, but any women in the audience for the pitch listening to the juvenile wisecracks probably felt discouraged from doing something like this. Why would they want to put so much effort into starting a company if that’s what they would have to endure in front of hundreds of people every time they want to promote their business? To put it in user experience terms, some men in the room were adding unnecessary and unfair friction for women founders.”
  • Guild Wars 2 and the misogynistic bad guys: “If you dig into the lore, you’ll find they have pretty similar rationales for the exclusion of women. In both cases, there was a woman hundreds of years ago who stood up to them, and they decided to generalise from that woman to all women, decide that women can’t be trusted, and ostracise them thereafter. I want to say that this is just cartoon supervillainy, with the evil turned up to 11. I want to say that it’s as if they revealed that these factions stand for punching kittens and pouring toxic waste in duck ponds. I want to say that, but I can’t, because that kind of ridiculous exclusion of women is too prevalent, still, in real life.”
  • How to Criticize Women in Technology: “If you want to deliver a cogent, non-sexist criticism to a woman in a non-traditional field that doesn’t reinforce nasty cultural norms, (which we need as much as the next person) you have to take the rhetorical tool of patronizing them out of the tool kit. Speak respectfully and recognize their achievements in public. It’s not too much to ask.”
  • Let’s Discuss Apologies: “Oh no! Suddenly your social media feeds and inbox are full of irate people peppering you with accusations of being insensitive, a bigot, all because you used a sexist/racist/homophobic/transphobic/etc. word, image, or phrase. What do you do?! Fret not, I will go through a list of actions you should take and avoid.”

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

A photograph of luridly lit bookshelves surrounding a table and chairs

When your misdeeds are archived

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question for our readers. It’s the last for this round.

This one is actually from me, it’s related to some questions I’ve been asked by various people who will remain anonymous (and who didn’t formally write to Ask a Geek Feminist). I have my own thoughts on this, and I also think it can vary (helpful!)

What do you think people and groups should do about sexism in their “archives”? By this, I mean for example, older stuff on their blog, or Facebook postings from years ago, or similar? A lot of people have sexism in their past, varying from “I used to be a pretty committed sexist actually” to “um, I didn’t really think about it, and I wanted to fit in, and I went through a ‘Your Mom’ phase for a while there”. Things you do on the Internet are pretty long-lived now, and your sexism sticks to your name while it remains visible.

Assuming someone or someones have control of their content, and they have sexism they don’t like in there, and they have reason to think it’s going to hurt someone. Should they remove the content? Should they edit it with warnings and apologies?

Have you seen this in a real situation? What did they do? How did it work for them and for women near them/involved in their community?

At least for systemic stuff, I tend to be on the ‘edit’ side of the fence. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. even if you’ve totally changed and are ashamed and sorry, being a reformed sexist is something that may make people, women in particular, cautious about you. Living with that is part of the deal. You don’t get to get access to Has Always Been The Best Person Ever cred because you weren’t.
  2. it also serves as a guide to How To Do It, for other reforming sexists (or How Not To Do It, if you apologise but don’t actually change)

And while writing an apology that is short and not self-serving is a challenge, but that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t try.

On the other hand, I, in general, do wish that much informal discussion on the Internet yellowed and started to curl at the edges and be difficult to read as time passed, sometimes. I realise that the invention of writing was some considerable time ago now, but even so, having to stand by your casual thoughts for years is a big ask. I can’t see that one should make a special effort to preserve evidence of one’s sexism if that same set of archives is going to disappear in its entirety.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip Cookie (by terriko)

Cookie of the week*: the IEEE knows how to apologize

Cookie of the Week* is an occasional series highlighting action in the geek community to fight sexism, in order to show that fighting sexism is possible and happening.

This week’s winner is the IEEE, for their excellent apology after an editorial gaffe. Within hours of getting the notice that a dubiously-named article had gone up on the IEEE Spectrum site, subscribers received the following email from editor in chief Susan Hassler:

Please accept our sincere apologies for the headline in today’s Tech Alert: “With the Arduino, Now Even Your Mom Can Program.” The actual title of the article is “The Making of Arduino.”

I’m an IEEE member, and a mom, and the headline was inexcusable, a lazy, sexist cliché that should have never seen the light of day. Today we are instituting an additional headline review process that will apply to all future Tech Alerts so that such insipid and offensive headlines never find their way into your in-box.

Spectrum’s insistence on editorial excellence applies to all its products, including e-mail alerts. Thank you for bringing this error to our attention. If you have any additional comments or recommendations, do not hesitate to contact me or other members of the editorial staff.

Apologies are surprisingly difficult for people to get right. We suggest three properties for a good apology:

  • Recognise that someone was hurt, and in what particular way they were hurt
  • Accept responsibility for it, whether intended or not
  • Promise to avoid doing it again, or at least to work on it

And the IEEE not only did all of these perfectly, they also responded quickly, clearly, and with a defined plan to avoid mistakes in the future. We all make mistakes, but we can aspire to handle them as gracefully as the IEEE has this week.

So, here’s that cookie:

Does anyone else have any cookies to spare this week?

* Disclaimer: cookies may not be baked weekly! This offer does not commit Geek Feminism, its bloggers, affiliates, sponsors, commenters or fans to a posting schedule.

Shuttleworth apologises for last year’s comments at LinuxCon

Remember how last September in a keynote speech at LinuxCon, Mark Shuttleworth (Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator For Life of the Ubuntu Linux project) made a series of comments including one about how “us guys” in the Linux community have trouble “explaining to girls what we actually do”? At the time, I posted an open letter to Mark, saying,

I’d like to invite you to think about the message you’re sending to women in the Linux community, and, if you didn’t mean to convey the message that we’re technical illiterates and hard to educate, consider apologising publicly.

There’s a followup post with more information, and in November last year Shuttleworth responded in comment on another post on the subject. However, he did not apologise at that time.

So, I’m glad to be able to report that the other day, in the comment thread on a post about “tribalism” on his own blog, he offered an apology after prompting by Máirín Duffy and Carla Schroder:

I apologize unreservedly to all offended by my poor choice of language on that or other occasions.

Better late than never! I know that several Ubuntu women I’ve spoken to are pleased and relieved that Shuttleworth finally apologised, even if it’s not a textbook apology. So, thank you, Mark. I hope you’ll continue listening to the women in your community, and think about the effects of your words in future.

Feminists do things wrong

We are essentially a social commentary blog. We tend to grab relevant somethings that pass through our individual radar and put them up for discussion. As part of this, I noticed and wrote a quick hit critique of the character profiles listed for an indy game called “Puzzlebots” last Wednesday.

I’ve since had several personally addressed emails from people involved with Puzzlebots, including the game designer, assuring me that the game is not as bad as the product pages sounded to me. I still have not played the game nor spoken to anyone who has, but I hence publicly apologise to the team for analyzing the game without first playing it.

This apology does not, as much as I wish it could, negate the issues I had with the marketing of the game as they were on Wednesday. In my opinion, the marketing text is utterly irrelevant to how the game actually plays since it is supposed to convince me that I want to play it. The marketing is why I wrote the post.

Before I go further, I acknowledge that some of the text that this post now is discussing has changed, but it remains that the grievances I held with the text as it was last Wednesday are real issues that do genuinely deter me personally from choosing to play games.

As I described in an email later last week to Erin, the designer of the game, the primary issue I have with the marketing of the game is how the women characters are described. Women characters are 2 of the 6 humans in the game, which I really like; it is terrific that it is more than a token woman. My joy at this is however destroyed at reading that both women is either the recipient of or holds desire for “The Straight Man’s Gaze“, and that these are features of her character which take up half of her description.

This echos the expectation that an unfortunate number (and vocal minority) of men within the geek communities I frequent (or frequently hear tales of) hold. That expectation is that women partake in the geeky community either because they are looking for husbands” (desire the gaze) or to “make the community sexy” (are decoration to be gazed upon).

And that’s what hurts. We have this game that at a glance looks really awesome. Multiple woman roboteers! Sweet! That means it could really easily pass the bechdel test; it has two actual women who have actually made robots! And… they are given poor descriptions focussing on a man’s desires within a game which had (at the time of posting the quick hit, not any more) a story that posited the question: “Will Zander win the affections of the pretty new scientist?”, and the buzz was killed.

Here is the thing; all the bloggers here at Geek Feminism do actually understand that getting called out on shit really does suck. It is even suckier when you think you are already doing the right thing. The puzzlebots team have done the right thing by avoiding tokenism, and kudos to them for that. But in the same breath they have used typical stereotypedstrong female character” archetypes and scenarios that (unintentionally?) markets the game to heterosexual men.

See, that’s how easy it is to do or say sexist (or other *ist) things; Even a self-identified feminist game designer such as Erin is plenty capable of using tried and triumphed typical archetypes. It certainly does not make her a failure as a gamer or a feminist. However, at some point there really does need to be (at minimum) a recognition that just because the scenarios are common throughout various mediums, it doesn’t change how much repeating them impacts on the perceptions of women’s roles in geeklands and especially in STEM based fields.

The members of the Geek Feminism blog community call each other out all the time for anything ranging from classism to actual real genuine sexism itself. We call each other out because we fuck up too, and when we fuck up we accept it. We accept our fuck ups and learn from them because we realize that Feminism, it turns out, is really quite hard.

Feminism is so deity forsaken hard, and if it was not so hard, then it would be so over already. But no matter how easy it is for even us to fall for the trappings of the internalized sexism each and every single one of us has, letting something you notice pass by is still tacit support for that stance, and not calling that shit out because it is probably a genuine mistake sucks even more in the long run. For everyone.

Commenting note: We have a comment policy here which means we will delete comments which are anti-feminist, abusive, or otherwise inappropriate at our sole discretion. Now you know.

No business like linkspam business (21st October, 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.

Write linkspam on it (26th September, 2009)

Update (by Mary, 28 Sep): misskinx told us in comments that the workshop on dating violence is not a Carleton University event, it’s organised by the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women (OCTEVAW) and the Sexual Assault Network (SAN).