Tag Archives: facebook

“The Social Network” discussion thread

On the previous post, I led with an intro about The Social Network:

I feel odd blogging about a movie I haven’t seen, I want to get that out of the way. But a lot of women I trust are telling me that the movie The Social Network (a dramatisation of the founding of Facebook, script by Aaron Sorkin and direction by David Fincher) is infuriatingly sexist. Men made Facebook entirely, apparently, and women granted them sexual favours for it. As is the natural order! (See the Melissa Silverstein and Laurie Penny links in our last spam for this.)

I went on to make a more general point about geek history. But I figure a lot of people may want to talk about the movie itself. Here’s a discussion thread for you. Have you seen it? Were you bothered? Are you intending to see it or boycotting it? Have you seen additional feminist critique of it?

If it’s really good, men made it

I feel odd blogging about a movie I haven’t seen, I want to get that out of the way. But a lot of women I trust are telling me that the movie The Social Network (a dramatisation of the founding of Facebook, script by Aaron Sorkin and direction by David Fincher) is infuriatingly sexist. Men made Facebook entirely, apparently, and women granted them sexual favours for it. As is the natural order! (See the Melissa Silverstein and Laurie Penny links in our last spam for this.)

(If you want to discuss The Social Network in particular, rather than the rest of this post, which is about geek women’s invisibility in general, I’ve set up a discussion thread for the movie.)

The erasure of women geeks from geek history is going to continue and snowball, most likely, because here are some of the factors that play into it:

  1. what geeks do is hard! you can tell, because women don’t do it!
  2. you might have heard geeks are not that high up the masculine status chart! you are wrong! because there’s no women doing it and that makes it Man Stuff! which is hard, see 1! (also wot Restructure! said)
  3. s things become important in retrospect, they become men’s work.

On that last point, there was a related discussion in Australia last year about the recent history of rock music. Triple J, a youth music radio station which is part of the government funded ABC network, ran a “Hottest 100 of All Time” poll for songs its listeners like best. Triple J’s airplay is generally “alternative” and in the late 1990s (when I listened most) featured women artists such as PJ Harvey, Courtney Love of Hole, Shirley Manson of Garbage, Liz Phair and Veruca Salt.

There was some leadup criticism about the voting website:

Divided into decades, starting with the 1960s, each page shows between 9 and 15 album covers, with an accompanying note about musicians or bands that influenced the direction of rock and pop. The section on the 60s mentions the Supremes as one of the groups on the Stax/Motown label, and Janis Joplin as appearing at the Monterey Pop Festival. Then the 2000s section mentions the White Stripes. NO other female artists or groups that include women are mentioned.

And although the website was merely a memory jogger and did not restrict listener voting, it turned out it was a harbringer of what the listeners voted for. The top 100 songs contained two female vocalists, both appearing in one-offs as vocalists with Massive Attack (with songwriting credits). There were also five bands with female members. This became a big deal: Triple J was quick to defend itself by noting that it was a listener poll. One of the most interesting pieces of commentary went to air on Triple J’s own coverage, from Catherine Strong, whose PhD research was into changing memories of music (thanks to Lauredhel for this transcript):

Catherine Strong: “What happened with grunge – it’s very interesting, that in the early 1990s, grunge was seen as being a very female-friendly type of music. There were lots of women involved in the grunge. So you had bands like Hole, and L7, and Babes in Toyland. There was also the associated riot grrl movement that was happening at the same time, so bands like Bikini Kill and Heavens to Betsy. At the time, these bands were quite successful: commercially successful, and they were critically acclaimed, they were talked about as being fantastic. There was a lot of celebration in the press of “Women in Rock”, “Isn’t it fantastic to see women in rock?” But then if you look at the media coverage over time, when people talk about grunge over time, the women don’t get talked about anymore. So on the tenth anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death for instance, there were lots of magazines that came out talking about “Let’s look back at grunge”, “what was important about grunge”, “why was grunge such a great thing?”, and the women are hardly mentioned at all. So again you can see the public record leaves the women out – they just disappear, they fall out over time, as people write about it, and think about it looking back.

And the thing in rock that I think is particularly interesting, is that periodically, women are rediscovered. So every five years or so you’ll find that there’s something that will turn up in the media saying “Hey, it’s great! Women are making inroads into rock for the first time!”, when it’s not the first time. So every time those stories come up, I think we as a society, or people who like rock, feel as though progress is being made; but what’s actually happened is we’re just going round and round in circles. Women are being discovered, then they’re being forgotten, then they’re being discovered again, and they’re being forgotten again, and it’s just going round and round like that.”

And here it is, happening with geek history. To avoid one obvious strawman: no, I am not claiming that there was a woman who was more important to the story of Facebook than Mark Zuckerberg! I’m claiming that the movie is part of this pattern in geek history:

  1. when we look back on geek history, things women worked on, and women who were involved in men’s projects will slowly vanish from the story as part of a pattern of making what geeks do important and hard and real
  2. there will continue to be active resistance to women being visible as geeks because the presence of women takes away status points in the masculinity hierarchy and/or that geekdom is a men’s space for men who don’t want to be around women (I keep meaning to find the explicit comments I’ve seen on LWN to this effect, if the lazyweb helps I won’t object)
  3. perhaps most worryingly of all, every few years there will be a brief spotlight on women geeks, everyone will conclude “hooray they’re/we’re here, we’ve been seen, this is the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning of the battle, thank goodness for that” and then a few years later we’ll do it all again (see an example of “but women geeks are new” here).

What do you think? How many rounds of the geek women visibility battle have you been present for? (I’ve been around for at least two major ones, I think.)

Placing linkspam on pedestals (5th October, 2010)

  • The Haecken miniconf at linux.conf.au (January in Brisbane, Australia) has extended their Call for Papers until October 22.
  • Sir, Can You Help Me With This?: a transman comments on becoming a goto guy: This is not the first time I’ve been singled out since transitioning. It even happens with people who knew me before and after the physical changes began to take effect. As a young woman, coworkers and friends never asked for my advice on anything mechanical or technology-related.
  • Gabriella Coleman has given The Atlantic an overview of her undergraduate course on The Anthropology of Hackers
  • A million starfish stranded, I’ll throw back what I can: Annie on Kotaku: I am a woman who games. I am one of millions. I enjoy gaming. I am not asking for it by being bold enough to play games online and interact with other human beings. I do not deserve to be treated this way.
  • Melissa Silverstein reviews The Social Network, a movie based upon the story of the early days of Facebook. She enjoyed it as a movie, but …as a woman and a feminist, the film illuminates another instance of just how superfluous women are.. Laurie Penny also has a review: Woman-hating is the background noise of this story. Aaron Sorkin’s dazzlingly scripted showdown between awkward, ambitious young men desperate for wealth and respect phrases women and girls as glorified sexual extras, lovely assistants in the grand trick whose reveal is the future of human business and communication.
  • Antipodean feminist reading up at the 29th Down Under Feminists Carnival (sadly, the worldwide Feminist Carnival seems to be inactive now).

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.

Facebook’s new privacy discussion thread

We had a series of posts a few weeks ago about Facebook’s failings in the realm of user privacy.

Our posts (and your trackbacks and retweets) were but a few in a sea of outspoken discontent. It doesn’t matter how small our contribution was because you and I, dear reader, played a role in the protests. We protested, we stated our boundaries and guess what; they listened!

The result of this is that Facebook are currently rolling out new privacy settings. That means that you should review them to see that they are doing what you want them to be doing.

My account has not been updated yet so I really can’t discuss it much, however some of your accounts will have been reached by the rollout so far. Given that we discussed the badness so much, it’s only fair that we now give you a place to discuss the new changes and collaborate and discover the new settings.

The EFF has stayed true to form and they have already pulled together an article, complete with a video tour. Further links and discussion of the settings in  infinitesimal detail are most welcome.

Commenting note: I will not be allowing comments that try to persuade people to delete their Facebook accounts. People who still have them, have them because they want or in many cases need them. It is their decision, and it is theirs alone. Please respect that.

Followup: Locking down your Facebook

As Mary stated in response to my last post, flouncing on Facebook isn’t necessarily an ideal option for some of us as much as we may wish to.

If you choose to stay with Facebook (and it is entirely your choice), there are various things you can do to mitigate the effect of the privacy erosion. One of these things is locking down your profile. We all have different tolerances and needs, so do what you need to do to make yourself comfortable.

I’m throwing out this excellent guide for those who are confuzzled on the whole locking down process. It shows you in a series of screenshots a good number of the steps you can take.

Note, however, that due to the very nature of these posts, the abovementioned guide may cease to be accurate at some arbitrary point in time determined only by Zuckerberg’s whim. It is also worth checking regularly that your choices have not been overridden.

If you have comprehensive howto links that might add to this, explain it in a different way that others may understand better, or cater to a different social networking service altogether, please add them in the comments.

Note: Please take care not to be too ‘splainy here; howtos of your own should be posted to your own blog and linked instead. Any blamey comments (if it starts out akin to “well, I just don’t…” or “what do you expect…”, you’re being blamey) will be bitbucketed. With prejudice.