Tag Archives: ask a geek feminist

Feminist license plates, by Liz Henry CC BY-SA 2.0

When you are faced with the disgusting and contemptible

Trigger warning for rape culture rhetoric, and use of rape language as a joke.

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

What would a geek feminist do about this sign, which was posted all over the walls at a conference I went to this spring?

[From Mary: trigger warning for linked image, a description follows at the bottom of the post.] http://imgur.com/krkwG

I wasn’t sure what to do, and I’d like to hear what other feminists would suggest. I have no idea who posted the sign, or why. The conference did not have a sexual harassment policy. I felt that the sign was inappropriate but I wasn’t confident that I could convince other people of that — since the sign technically wasn’t about raping humans, and since one of the core values of this community was freedom of speech. Yet I still felt that the sign could hurt people — not just people at the conference but also the conference center staff.

Continue reading

Feminist license plates, by Liz Henry CC BY-SA 2.0

Geeky books for under 10s

This is a guest post by Katie Zenke. Katie has been writing about children’s books for almost ten years and occasionally writes about them in various places online. She even has a blog that she sometimes updates at Pixiepalace.com. For several years she also worked in (and was the lead of for part of that time) the childrens and teen departments of one of the largest bookstores in the midwest. One of these days she plans to officially work in the book world again.

Katie is lending her expertise to answer this Ask a Geek Feminist question:

Is there a good series of books for tech-loving less than 10yo kids that isn’t sexist?

The Zac Power series seems OK for what it is, apart from the fact that they have an unreasonable division of good characters being male and bad characters being female.
The main good characters are Zac and his brother Leon, while Caz and her sister Leoni are two of the main bad characters.

Another problem is that those books have a lot of anti-nerd propaganda, which has got to be bad for kids who are destined to be called nerds in high school.

Is there a geeky modern Enid Blyton out there?

It is sadly true that finding good books for kids that are feminist is far more difficult than it should be, however they absolutely do exist. I wanted to highlight some of the great books that we can share with kids that do have feminist themes and content.

The list is roughly organized by age, but keep in mind that kids are all different and one ten-year-old might be reading early chapter books while another is totally ready for the more dense novels to be found in the middle-school and high school lists. Kids also have their own individual interests and preferences (even little kids), so just as you might buy a mystery for your mom but never for your girlfriend, make sure the kid you’re getting the book for likes the topic or genre first! Continue reading

Feminist license plates, by Liz Henry CC BY-SA 2.0

Diversity: uses thereof

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

Outside of being a measurement for the presence of oppression, why is diversity a good thing?

In a post several weeks ago a geek feminist made reference to the ideology that companies (particularly in STEM fields) these days feel a bit “embarrassed” by the lack of diversity in their labs, and that by attempting to correct the problem for reasons of not being embarrassed they proved them selves not to “get it” when it came to WHY diversity is something they should strive for. Upon reading this it dawned on me, why IS diversity a good thing?

Obviously the measure of diversity is a good marker for the amount of discouragement marginalized people may be experiencing in particular fields, since there are reasons other than direct oppression involved when a person chooses a career path (i.e. women are encouraged to play with dolls and not soldering irons, black kids are encouraged to play football and basketball and not chess, etc). But it has recently appear to me that other than as a level of measurement, I have NO idea why diversity is by default and in and of itself, a “good thing”.

Is there ever a situation where the stats simply express a tendency devoid of enculturation? (do most boys just not want to be interior decorators? Do most girls not want to be physicists?). I fully acknowledge that obviously women among other “minority” groups have been bared from participating in such endeavors and as such have historically had their interests “shaped” away from what was considered “men’s work”, but I am very curious, should we be trying to “enforce” rather than “enable” equal gender representation for reasons outside of removing oppression?

I’m not certain, but the reference to the post “several weeks ago” (this question dates from early June) may be a reference to my post When your advertising is more diverse than you are, in which I wrote:

For that matter, what do you want diversity for? For all that I and other people who write here really want diversity to be a concern for geekdom, I think having it as solely a checklist thing is a disservice to the people who will comprise the diversity. What are you offering those people? What are they offering you? Is it all one way? Is this about avoiding negative publicity or something more?

Feminist license plates, by Liz Henry CC BY-SA 2.0

Newbie coding puzzles and problems

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

I am a relative newbie in the world of coding. I took two semesters of intro to programming with Java this past school year and I’ve been to a few python workshops. All in all, I’ve only been building programs for about eight months. I was wondering whether there are some good sources of newbie-friendly project ideas out there that will keep me going over the summer so that I don’t lose all my skills before my fall data structures class.

I have had Project Euler recommended to me in this capacity, but I don’t take the amount of delight in mathematics that the person who recommended the site to me does. Are there others that are a bit more down to earth?

This question seems to be seeking less ongoing projects, and more a source of short exercises and puzzles. Anyone got anything? I only know of Top Coder but it’s not newbie-focussed and from what I know of it it’s also rather focussed on mathematical puzzles.

Feminist license plates, by Liz Henry CC BY-SA 2.0

You’re a girl! Now, a quick quiz on HTTP…

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

How do you react when people (generally older men) treat us (young women in tech/engineering) as show dogs? I’ve had a number of people give me an off-topic pop quiz when they were there for my technical expertise. Sure, when they come to my place of work they are probably expecting to be served by someone older and are surprised by me, but that’s no excuse for quizzing me on whether I know what http stands for when I’m trying to make sure they can get to the specific web page they need to after they leave my office. In the past, I’ve smiled and answered their question, because my reflex on being asked a question is to answer it. However I can’t imagine they’d take my refusal to perform as anything other than admitting I don’t know the answer (not that I need to for my job, but I don’t really need to appear unintelligent in front of potentially prejudiced clients), and I can’t be too rude at work.

Ask a Geek Feminist, round 5

Welcome to round 5 of Ask a Geek Feminist! How it works:

  • if you’ve got a question you think a geek feminist could answer, post a comment in reply to this post. (Comments will not be publicly visible.)
  • about a week from now I’ll distribute questions to my co-bloggers and they can make a post with an answer to a question as they like
  • about a week after that I’ll choose some of the remaining questions and open them up to our commenters

Your question, if it appears in a post, will be quoted (possibly edited for length) but not attributed to you, unless you ask us to attribute it. Since we’re not making them publicly visible, questions can be about anything you like; however obviously if you stray too far from our comment policy the chances of ever seeing an answer are pretty slim. Check out previous posts answering questions to see how this worked before.

Questions do not have to be about feminism or or obviously feminist topics: they could be about geeky interests including pop culture, about careers, about social life and so on. Given the name of this blog though, feminism might appear in the answer…

If you have a 101 (introductory) questions about feminism we suggest that:

  • you’ve looked over Finally Feminism 101′s FAQs and the Geek Feminism wiki’s 101 page to see if you can get an answer there first; and
  • you explain why you want a geek feminist, in particular, to answer this question. Do you think there’s a particular geek slant on this we might have or that our readers might like to discuss? The series is intended to produce interesting things for our community to think about and talk about, as well as an answer for the questioner.

If your question boils down to “why are there so few women in science/computer science/mathematics/engineering/physics, and what should we do?”, we’re unlikely to answer, please see this list of resources to turn to.

Questions will be accepted until comments on this post close in about a fortnight. (I don’t want to accept them constantly, because of the work of anonymising them.) If you miss out and find comments have already closed, another round will run within about six months… You can also ask questions non-anonymously in Open threads, although they may not be promoted to the front page.

Ask a Geek Feminist: multidisciplinary-focussed computer science courses

This is a question that was posed to the Ada Initiative. It’s a bit out of scope for us right now (we’re focussed on fundraising), so I told Robin Whitney, who posed it, that I’d post it here (she gave permission to use her name). Conversion to computing careers and interest in multidisciplinary approaches to computing are fairly common here, so I think Robin won’t be the only person interested in the answers.

Robin is in the US, but since we’re a global site, feel free to point at non-US educational programs of a similar nature, in case other people might be interested. Either way, please make a note of the geographic location of any program you point to, so that your answers are more useful for everyone.

Robin writes:

I am a 26 year old female BBA graduate experiencing a complete end-pass in search of the right graduate program–(or 2nd bachelor’s program.)

When attending college, I founded and led the first undergraduate copyright law organization, which ignited a passion for all things creative commons, open source, fair use, and development based on what preceded (“Standing on the shoulders of giants”, etc etc.) We had moderate success with acclaim from the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet Society, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the Future of Music Coalition, while assisting the student body and community with free intellectual property consulting, moot court case recreation, infringement seminars, and more experimental programs involving music sampling, derivative art installation, and circuit tweaking.

I have a very strong interest in developing skills in programming, have confronted fears in linux and ubuntu, yet I ultimately want to work with causes like yours, eliminating the gender gap in technology while invoking arts and culture. The only problem is that I do not have a computer science background, and I am not sure if I should start over again with another bachelors, or if there is an interdisciplinary masters program geared toward women while combining CS with non profits, arts, anthro, etc.

I am very curious if you have any ideas or have caught wind of any good academic opportunities for someone like me.

When your advertising is more diverse than you are

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question:

When choosing pictures for a conference website from the event held the previous year we have specifically looked for photos that happen to include women, to the extent that they are disproportionately represented compared to the actual attendee breakdown, with the specific objective of making the event seeming more diverse than it is, so that we actually get a more diverse set of attendees for the next one. This seems OK to me, would be interested in what others think.

A related point is where there is a group photo of everyone at an event, I would kind of encourage women in attendance to take part because avoiding group photos creates a negative feedback loop.

What do people think? I’m not sure. The kind of questions I’d ask before even beginning to answer this are along the lines of the following:

Is this the only/main diversity scheme for this conference? (I didn’t edit the question, so this is all the information provided.) For that matter, what do you want diversity for? For all that I and other people who write here really want diversity to be a concern for geekdom, I think having it as solely a checklist thing is a disservice to the people who will comprise the diversity. What are you offering those people? What are they offering you? Is it all one way? Is this about avoiding negative publicity or something more?

After that, are you behaving like a more diverse/diversity-friendly conference in ways other than your advertising? See Women-friendly events on the wiki for some ideas.

Finally, I am not a lawyer, but in some circumstances in some jurisdictions you may want a model release for this use of people’s images.

Ask a Geek Feminist, photography/recording round

Welcome to a special round of Ask a Geek Feminist! There are a few photographers/recorders or event organisers who want to ask us questions about their policies or practices, and don’t feel their questions fit the existing threads.

So:

  • if you’ve got a question about practising photography/recording at geek events, displaying photos of same, or about how your policy is perceived, ask a question in comments here. (Comments will not be publicly visible.)
  • in a few days I’ll begin opening questions up to our commenters in one or more posts

Please keep questions to two paragraphs at most. If you’re asking about a specific policy or specific recording please provide a link where possible. Your question, if it appears in a post, will be quoted (possibly edited for length) but not attributed to you, unless you ask us to attribute it.

Questions will be accepted until comments on this post close in about a fortnight. If you miss out and find comments have already closed, you can also ask questions non-anonymously in Open threads, although they may not be promoted to the front page.

Career change to programming

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question for our commenters. This is the last post from round 4. Round 5 will run in the second half of 2011.

I have a 24 year old niece who is currently working as a fashion designer but is thinking about changing careers and getting a Computer Science degree. After two years in her job she has discovered that she doesn’t fit in very well with the culture or with her co-workers. She does really well with the graphic design programs (while all her co-workers are computer phobic), and she took some programming classes back in high school, so I think she can do it.

Since I’m an old geek feminist myself I’d like to encourage her in whatever way I can. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to work for more than 10 years due to health issues so my knowledge of what skills are needed, and what job opportunities exist out there, is pretty outdated. My question is this (and I hope it can be phrased in a way that provides general help for anyone in this situation, not just my niece) -

Any advice on how to make this career change easier? She’s looking at going back to get a master’s in computer science (she would have to take a lot of basic math/science first) but I’d love to hear other suggestions. Are there informal venues where she could learn? Conferences or clubs or something like that? What are the best online places where newbies can hang out and learn? What programming projects could a beginner work on to get some hands-on experience that would make them more employable? What would help to give her confidence in her ability?

For example, back when I got my own degree (1978–1982), I worked at several different programming jobs on campus, mostly to pay my way through school, but it turned out that the work experience was invaluable when I started looking for a full-time job. Is this type of thing still relevant or is it hopelessly old fashioned?