Tag Archives: Bechdel

NAND and NOR gate sketch, coincidentally in the shape of a heart

Hacker School Gets an A on the Bechdel Test

NAND and NOR gate sketch, coincidentally in the shape of a heart

NAND and NOR gate sketch, coincidentally in the shape of a heart – by me this week

cross-posted from Cogito, Ergo Sumana

When part of the joy of a place is that gender doesn’t matter, it’s hard to write about that joy, because calling attention to gender is the opposite of that. I want to illustrate this facet of my Hacker School experience: mostly, Hacker Schoolers of all genders talk about mostly the same things. And we talk about them in all gender combinations — including, just by chance, among women.

The “Bechdel Test” asks whether a work of fiction includes at least two women with names who talk to each other about something other than a man. Thus in my blog I have an occasional series listing topics I’ve discussed with other women. My life passes the Bechdel Test! ;-)

So here is an list of some things I’ve discussed with Hacker School women. (About half the facilitators, cofounders, participants, and residents are women.)

Some Things Hacker School Women Talk About

  • why LVars and set operations relate to current work in distributed systems
  • The Kids Are All Right
  • IRC etiquette, and when to use IRC instead of a mailing list, videocall or wiki
  • troubleshooting git-review
  • the Haiku operating system’s key features (many of them similar to BeOS)
  • refactoring a function a guy wrote so it doesn’t do everything in main() (technically breaks Bechdel?)
  • whether to work at a nonprofit or for-profit
  • where is that maple syrup smell coming from? (answer: someone was making oatmeal)
  • our GitHub report cards
  • how to use machine learning techniques to train a Markov chain to generate funnier sentences
  • how the hell Makefiles work
  • what the hell a cuticle is
  • binary search and Huffman coding
  • saving time with useful Python standard library modules (string, time, os, etc.) and packages, e.g., requests
  • Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind
  • where pip gets its info (PyPI)
  • the Pythonic convention for reading from a file, with open('file','r') as f, and the fact that it’s a context manager
  • when and how to use list comprehensions and dictionary comprehensions, generators and decorators, ord and chr
  • why we use pass for stub functions or classes instead of return
  • birth control amortization
  • how you would override Python’s default behavior to raise an exception when slicing a list with a negative int
  • how to write a hill-climbing algorithm and why
  • G.K. Chesterton’s use of the mystery genre
  • what the #! (hashbang) line at the beginning of a script actually does
  • song currently stuck in one’s head (“Gettin’ Jiggy Wid’ It”) and confusing “Wild Wild West” with “Back To The Future III”
  • what it takes to work remotely
  • security issues inherent in creating a sandboxed version of an interactive Python interpreter
  • who put this post-it note on the fridge saying “No Java on Monday”? When? Did the author mean the beverage or the language? Was it descriptive or imperative? Why did they never take it down?
  • an awesome 1982 Bell Labs video about UNIX featuring Lorinda Cherry

I could make this list probably ten times longer. My point is, if you don’t care about gender, Hacker School is awesome. If you’re irritated by the tech industry’s usual gender crap, Hacker School is blissfully free of it and you can — if you want — turn into someone who doesn’t care about gender for three months.*

You can apply now for the next batch — apply by Saturday night, December 14th.

* an oversimplification! But you get what I mean.

1. Linkspam 2. Linkspam 3. ??? 4. Profit (12 November 2013)

  • 13-year-old Amy Mather on how she started coding with the Raspberry Pi | Wired Technology: [Video] “Watch Clive Beale and 13-year-old Amy Mather discuss how they took an established concept and edited it to reflect their own original ideas. Mather is a computer programmer who has become famous in the Raspberry Pi community for being a passionate advocate for coding using the tiny computer.”
  • The Ethics of Mob Justice | In These Times: [Warning for discussion of harassment] “Thanks to the Internet, and its capabilities for raining Hell down on strangers, every one of us is being forced to decide how our morals about refraining from offensive behavior and causing harm extend to cover people who are offensive and even harmful.”
  • From the Linux Australia Debate: The Experience of Women in Information Technology | Lev Lafayette: “In an environment where women, from a young age, face constant denigration for even having the temerity to engage in the profession of information technology, where their presence is mocked, their opinions devalued, etc., it is not surprising that one result among the bold and the few that survive this screening process, that they want to create groups, internships, and so forth to help provide a supportive environment against very difficult odds. Some may complain against such exclusiveness on principle; and it is quickly acknowledged to be a fine principle. If this is the case, then perhaps review such groups having a required experience for application. That is, a certain internship it is not reserved for a woman because they are a woman, but because they have experience as a woman in this social environment.”
  • Why Pinterest Is Seriously Valuable (and What It’s Teaching Men in Power) | Medium: “Pinterest isn’t for everyone. But I think it bears noting that it’s overwhelmingly men who make this comment about Pinterest: “I don’t get the appeal.” Sure, I’ve made that comment about a hundred apps that have gone on to acquire absolutely huge user bases — mostly men in roughly the same demographics as the apps’ creators. But what I don’t do is dismiss the app’s ability to find a market. I simply acknowledge that I’m not their target market.”
  • Introduction: Science Fiction and the Feminist Present | ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media & Technology: “Feminist science fiction, in the collective analysis of the writers gathered here, proves to be a diverse and amorphous category in which real and imagined science and technology bleed into one another. The essays call attention to the ways in which fictions and realities of scientific speculation shape how we experience the nexus of gender, new media, and technology––from the gendered history of physics to the migration of brain-scanning technology out of laboratories and into the world, from imagined visions of reproductive technologies to sentient robots to the social consequences of cataclysmic change in urban landscapes.”
  • Testy | Alison Bechdel: ” [...] at one school I visited recently, someone pointed out that the Test is really just a boiled down version of Chapter 5 of A Room of One’s Own, the “Chloe liked Olivia” chapter. I was so relieved to have someone make that connection. I am pretty certain that my friend Liz Wallace, from whom I stole the idea in 1985, stole it herself from Virginia Woolf. Who wrote about it in 1926.”

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