Tag Archives: bad behaviour

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

elevator

Sexual harassment discussion in the atheist and skeptical communities

Warning for quoted misogyny, Islamophobia and descriptions of violence against women and harassment, not to mention Oppression Olympics.

On June 20, Rebecca Watson of Skepchick posted a video discussing a panel she spoke on at the World Atheist Convention in early June. Here’s an excerpt of the relevant segment:

And I was on a panel with AronRa and Richard Dawkins [which] was on ‘communicating atheism.’ They sort of left it open for us to talk about whatever we wanted, really, within that realm. I was going to talk about blogging and podcasting, but, um, a few hours prior to that panel, there was another panel on women atheist activists… I don’t assume that every woman will have the same experience that I’ve had, but I think it’s worthwhile to publicize the fact that some women will go through this, and, um, that way we can warn women, ahead of time, as to what they might expect, give them the tools they need to fight back, and also give them the support structure they need to, uh, to keep going in the face of blatant misogyny…

So, thank you to everyone who was at that conference who, uh, engaged in those discussions outside of that panel, um, you were all fantastic; I loved talking to you guys—um, all of you except for the one man who, um, didn’t really grasp, I think, what I was saying on the panel…? Because, um, at the bar later that night—actually, at four in the morning—um, we were at the hotel bar, 4am, I said, you know, “I’ve had enough, guys, I’m exhausted, going to bed,” uh, so I walked to the elevator, and a man got on the elevator with me, and said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting, and I would like to talk more; would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?”…

I’ll just sort of lay it out that I was a single woman, you know, in a foreign country, at 4am, in a hotel elevator with you, just you, and—don’t invite me back to your hotel room, right after I’ve finished talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner.

This excerpt is from Melissa McEwan’s full transcript of the relevant section of the audio, which is available at Shakesville. There’s more interesting stuff in the full transcript, including an example of the kind of dynamic where an individual woman who hasn’t experienced sexism denies it exists at all. But Watson’s criticism of the man who sexually approached her in the elevator has let to the Internet exploding, predictably enough. Especially when Richard Dawkins commented, most unsympathetically.

Here’s the setup:

  • PZ Myers, Always name names! [beware comments]: It’s not enough. Maybe we should also recognize that applying unwanted pressure, no matter how politely phrased, is inappropriate behavior.
  • Richard Dawkins, comment on “Always name names!”: Dear Muslima… Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with… Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee… And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.
  • Richard Dawkins, comment on “Always name names!”: Rebecca’s feeling that the man’s proposition was ‘creepy’ was her own interpretation of his behaviour, presumably not his. She was probably offended to about the same extent as I am offended if a man gets into an elevator with me chewing gum. But he does me no physical damage and I simply grin and bear it until either I or he gets out of the elevator. It would be different if he physically attacked me.
  • PZ Myers, Twitter: For those curious, confirmed: those comments were from Richard.

Commentary (warning: some of these links contain extensive discussion of rape, including news coverage): Continue reading

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

Have a nice cup of hot linkspam (2nd July, 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.

Linkspam isn’t saying no… (13th June, 2011)

  • Talk on June 15 at Melbourne University: Dr Cathy Foley, 100 years later: has anything changed for women in science?: This talk will look at what is the status of women in science in Australia, report on the Women in Science and Engineering summit held in Parliament House in April this year. I will then reflect on ways to enhance careers for women in science and the need not only for equity but also for improved productivity and innovation by capturing the full human potential in Australia.
  • Why are more women not speaking at technical conferences? Insights from the WiT discussion at CodeStock: Jennifer Marsman discusses the points raised in her panel, with some suggested solutions.
  • The Australian talks about online harassment of (female) journalists, which will sound familiar to many other women online: [Trigger warning: online harassment/bullying] War of the Words

    And therein lies the Catch-22 for women in the cyber-firing line. On the one hand, they believe it is essential to expose the level of abuse and misogyny that has flourished on the largely unregulated new media. On the other, they fear the only effect that would have is to discourage women from participating in public debates.

  • Forever 21 Pulls “I’m Too Pretty To Do Math” Magnet From Online Store: Our submitter writes: OK, it’s not just bad that this was made in the first place. But around the article? Let’s see, You might like: The Top 10 Lies Women Tell Men; 12 Stars Posing Naked With Super Random Props; and the poll of important information: Does Flirting Over Facebook & Twitter Count As Cheating?; Please Just Kill Me NOW.
  • Becky Stern has crafted TV-B-Gone (a universal remote for switching off TVs) into a jacket for subtlety: TV-B-Gone jacket (via BoingBoing).
  • [Trigger warning: very frank anti-rape campaign] Don’t be that guy: a surprisingly refreshing anti-rape campaign targeting men is now making its way to other Canadian cities.

    Typically, sexual assault awareness campaigns target potential victims by urging women to restrict their behavior. Research is telling us that targeting the behavior of victims is not only ineffective, but also contributes to how much they blame themselves after the assault. That’s why our campaign is targeting potential offenders – they are the ones responsible for the assault and responsible for stopping it. By addressing alcohol-facilitated sexual assault without victim-blaming, we intend to mark Edmonton on the map as a model for other cities.

  • Androcentrism: It’s Okay to Be a Boy, but Being a Girl…: androcentrism… a new kind of sexism, one that replaces the favoring of men over women with the favoring of masculinity over femininity.
  • Researcher reveals how “Computer Geeks” replaced “Computer Girls”, an account of a talk by Nathan Ensmenger. (Don’t forget Jennifer Light, when namechecking people to quote on this!)
  • Rebecca Koeser of Emory University, won a prize in the DevCSI challenge at Open Repositories 2011 for her use of Microsoft Pivot as a repository-visualization tool. Here’s a picture of Koeser accepting her prize.
  • Women Atop Their Fields Discuss the Scientific Life: Elena Aprile, Joy Hirsch, Mary-Claire King and Tal Rabin talk about their scientific work and life.
  • How Not To Be An Asshole: A Guide For Men: Chris Clarke re-posts this in ‘honour’ of Tammy Camp’s harassment experience

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.

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.

I’m too pretty to put up with this nonsense

Jen from epbot (and Cake Wrecks fame) has a post up about this t-shirt

I'm too pretty to do math (t-shirt)

I'm too pretty to do math (t-shirt)

As a woman with a math degree, I know a whole lot more about math than the company making the shirt, and I can tell you right now that if prettiness has any correlation with math ability, it’s probably not the stereotype you’re expecting. (The research I linked there is a whole other kettle of fish, but it was too funny not to use in context! Edit: see comments for why you shouldn’t take that research seriously.)

The company is already known for copyright infringement, which makes me wonder if they ripped this design off from someone else who wants to reinforce ignorant stereotypes. I weep for the world, although there’s some consolation that at least this rag is on clearance so maybe no one was willing to buy it ever.

Jen has some suggestions of better mathy shirts on Epbot: Too Pretty To Do Math?!. So in the spirit of sharing neat mathematical designs, here’s the necklace I’ve been coveting… a beautiful honeycomb design that doubles as a hex wrench from Blend Creations, a company run by fellow geek woman Vivian Cheng who I got to meet at a Girl Geek Dinner once. How cool is that?

Honeycomb Necklace from Blend Creations

Honeycomb Necklace from Blend Creations

Infinitely better than that ignorant t-shirt. Share your own math-positive stuff in the comments!

Linkspamming the night away (11th May, 2011)

  • May 13 in Boston: A project-driven introduction to Python for women and their friends (unfortunately now gone to “waiting list only” status).
  • An open letter to the Australian SF community: However, the venue staging was awful, in terms of its accessibility. High, and only accessible by temporary stairs, the stage was off-limits to anyone in a wheelchair, anyone in an electric scooter and anyone with a significant mobility impairment… This should not be acceptable to us as a community in the twenty-first century.
  • How To Encourage More Brown Women To Launch Tech Startups I realized that simply asking, “Are you going?” is enough to make a difference in someone’s awareness.
  • As benno37 says: Tip to open source developers: don’t name your library after a sexist/offensive/illegal activity. I’m looking at you upskirt! Seriously, wtf. (So that not everyone has to google for the term, upskirt is a library to parse the Markdown syntax for webpages. The Wikipedia page for Markdown has loads of alternative implementations to choose from.)
  • Confessions of a Fairy Tale Addict: Because it is a lifestyle choice, to write fairy tale books. Make no mistake. I mean, in our culture, the phrase fairy tale practically means: trite, lightweight, and fluffy. You know, girl stuff.
  • There’s a long series of interviews conducted in 2010/2011 with women working in planetary science. See for example Natalie Batalha (From postdoc to Deputy Project Scientist on Kepler), Amy Jurewicz (Stardust, Genesis, and SCIM) and for that matter Emily Lakdawalla (It is NOT failure to leave academia).

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.

You only linkspam because you haven’t met a decent man yet (17th April, 2011)

  • Counting Colored Cash: there’s plenty of successful media with central characters of color, there’s plenty of whitewashed/all-white media that flops. So why the myth that all-white/whitewashing is just good business?
  • Trigger warning Resistance Is Useful: An Essay: We’re going to talk about geek culture, about misogyny, about rape culture and rape apologism… We’re going to talk about my experience of this in a small Australian city
  • Trigger warning Keycon: I posted a few months ago about starting the Back-Up Project at Keycon, and was looking for suggestions on panels. I was asked to talk to both women and men and get a general idea of what the situation was at Keycon, and how safe it was for women. The results were absolutely horrifying. I couldn’t find a single woman who hadn’t been followed, groped, or harassed… Looks like Keycon doesn’t care about preventing the assault of women OR children.
  • Marginalization Is Not a Monolith See, this is why sometimes criticism and fannishness should be kept apart… You defend your object of fannishness to the death… but when your fannishness edges into shutting other people down, it’s no longer okay.
  • Photography and Sexism in the Skeptical Movement: Unless Mr Dunning has reversed the image on the flip side of his single, with the young woman in a tux and himself completely naked and on his knees serving her, than I do not see how this photograph can do anything but send the message than his view is that women are of a lesser value and merely objects to be used in skepticism.

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

Scott Adams discussion thread

Apparently the Internet noticed today that Scott Adams (creator of Dilbert) had posted a dubious post about men’s rights and then deleted it.

In anticipation of my inbox being filled overnight with people asking about it, I’m just going to post this discussion thread here and you can all get started on your own while I continue in my plan to curl up with a book and stay off the Internet for a while.

If you want some commentary, there’s an article up on Comics Alliance entitled, ‘Dilbert’ Creator Scott Adams Compares Women Asking for Equal Pay to Children Demanding Candy, which probably gives you some idea of what this is all about.

Edit: Scott Adams posted that his intent was to troll men’s rights activists and he’s proud of his success at doing so. Ooh, the high school drama of it all!

“How could they not have known?!”

[Trigger Warning: this post discusses trolling behaviour. Many links contain screenshots of threats, insults, sexual harassment and general profanity.]

From the Frag Dolls blog:

Less than a month ago, FatUglyorSlutty.com was just a twinkle in our #fragdolls IRC. [...] The concept seemed simple enough. They wanted to make an easy image+caption blog dedicated to publicizing (and laughing at) the hilarious/disturbing messages that many female gamers receive while playing online games. The attention their site has gotten in the past week (including a front page on reddit.com, a feature on Kotaku, numerous blogs mentions, and hefty comment threads) proves that they created something more. Gaming culture at large is taking note, expressing appropriate shock and dismay. But I, in turn, am shocked by their reactions. I am fundamentally surprised that this is news. I keep asking myself “How could they not have known?!”

I first hit that question many years ago as a teenager on IRC. One of my male friends logged in on his mother’s account, and was horrified to discover the messages that “Sheila” was getting from complete strangers and mentioned so on our channel. The women of the channel shrugged: it was always like that for us. The men were horrified to know that under the surface, we’d been quietly ignoring pick up lines and harassment and just not mentioning it all this time. It’s not like we were intentionally hiding it, it’s more that it happened so often that it wasn’t worth mentioning.

I’ve been asking people “how could you not know?” a lot lately, too. I was sharing some of the choice comments I’d gotten on a recent geek feminism post at work, and my coworkers were totally appalled even though we were laughing over how appalling it was. They were horrified to hear that I still get this stuff fairly frequently while gaming, when writing online, while maintaining mailing lists or writing code. I’ve long since learned that it’s much more fun to treat them as hilarious and share them around for mockery, so that’s what we did, but I didn’t expect it to be such an educational moment for them.

Courtney Stanton took this to a new level when she gave an ignite talk about visualizing her troll data. Some of her insights are quite interesting. For example, 67% of comments were replies to other comments, but only 17% of troll comments were replies to others. And many people here who bemoan our commenting policies might be interested in one of her conclusions:

And so I have found that simultaneously allowing dissent while denying trolls an audience has led to more engagement. I’ve had multiple commenters say that they are not commenting anymore and in 24 hours they are back and generating more comments for people to respond to.

So stopping trolls (but not dissent) leads to some great discussion, but removing the troll commentary means that people don’t realise what’s going on under the surface, be it in games or in online discourse or wikipedia.

Geek Feminism isn’t a stranger to the “How could they not have known?!” problem: consider the Timeline of Incidents on the wiki. Mary blogged about why we document and one non-trivial reason is that people just aren’t aware, and don’t want to recognize this as a common occurrence without evidence. (Note that I can think of one recent debacle that isn’t yet on that timeline, if anyone’s got an itch to do some wiki editing…)

I expect it’s hard for someone not in the thick of things to know what’s going on. My coworkers don’t get the same comments I do, my male gamer buddies don’t have people freaking out or getting, er, excited when they speak on voice chat, my pure white friends don’t get told to go back to their home country (it’s this one, thanks) and we tend edit all the intentionally hurtful stuff we can out of our public environments so as not to give the hurtful folk the satisfaction of public attention but at the same time we render the problem invisible to outsiders. And then when we do talk about it, we’re met at first with incredulity because, well, how could they have known?

Despite the fact that women are much more visible in many geeky communities, there still seems to be an undercurrent of hatred from a small but loud segment of population. I wish I could suggest a solution that doesn’t winding up with just a set of variations on the unicorn law where it’s always up to women in the communities to bring this stuff up (and face the backlash from people who didn’t know and don’t want to believe). Perhaps the better question here is what advice can we suggest for potential allies who’ve just gotten broadsided by this and really could not have known? How can allies be better prepared for problems when they occur, and more aware of the undercurrents before something happens?

I’ll leave these as “ask a geek feminist” style questions for our commenters.