Tag Archives: genderqueer

Safety requires avoiding unnecessary linkspam (10 June 2014)

  • Psychologists find that entitlement predicts sexism, in both men and women | Case Western University (June 4): “The researchers found that, for men, entitlement was associated with hostile views of women. Entitled men were more likely to endorse views of women as manipulative, deceptive, and untrustworthy—attitudes, which past research has shown are predictors of violence toward women.” (Original study is paywalled: Grubbs, Exline and Twenge, 2014. Psychological entitlement and ambivalent sexism: understanding the role of entitlement in predicting two forms of sexism, Sex Roles, 70(5-6):209-220, doi:10.1007/s11199-014-0360-1)
  • The Fanciest Genderqueer You’ll Ever Meet | H. Kapp-Klote at The Toast (June 5): “This is part of a narrative of queerness as linked exclusively to oppression. The popular narrative of both sexual and gender nonconformity is based on norms of rigid, compulsive sacrifice: ‘born this way,’ ‘I can’t change,’ or ‘trapped in the closet.’ Even as we celebrate gender and sexual diversity, we demand proof that deviation is compulsive, uncontrollable, and that one has suffered innumerable tribulations as consequence.”
  • Changing the Face of Women in Anime: The Importance of Ugliness | Morgana Santilli at The Mary Sue (June 6): “I am grateful for the beautiful women in media who are strong and smart and complex but I am also grateful for female characters who don’t need beauty to have strength and smarts and complexity. There are many things more important than beauty, and Senritsu is one example of paving the way toward real diversity in the representation of women in media.”
  • On Self Care and Why I Limit the Time I Spend With Dominant Culture Groups | Kronda Adair at Life as I Know It (June 6): “I really don’t care if the other person ends up liking me, joining my cause, or if their feelings are hurt because they said something they shouldn’t have and got called out. I have zero room in my person circle for white people who think ‘reverse racism’ is a thing, for men who think ‘reverse sexism’ is a thing or anyone else who hasn’t gotten past the 101 level in issues of power and privilege. It’s too exhausting and harmful to my well being.”
  • On Fighting for Marginalized People in Tech | Julie Pagano (June 8): “Let’s get this out of the way first. There is no ONE TRUE WAY to fight for marginalized people in tech. This isn’t a religion. Nobody is in charge. There are no gods or prophets providing us with a golden path that will surely lead us all to a safe and better future for diversity in tech.”
  • Ice Ice Baby: Are Librarian Stereotypes Freezing Us out of Instruction? | Nicole Pagowsky and Erica DeFrain at In the Library with the Lead Pipe (June 3): The role of service provider being of a lower status ties in to the feminized profession of librarianship: “Why do librarians struggle so much with instruction?… In this article, we look at theories of impression formation, the historical feminization of librarianship, and suggestions for next steps that we should take in order to take charge of our image and our instruction.”
  • Yes, All Geek Men | Shawn Taylor at thenerdsofcolor (June 5): “It is about time that we geek/nerd men step up to and embody the promise SF presents to us. It is about time we stop only reading about fighting crime or defending others and start doing so.”
  • A History of Women in Animation: Mothers of a Medium | Carrie Tupper at The Mary Sue (June 4): “The lack of notable female animation professionals within history only reinforces this assumption that it is ‘boys club’ industry. As a result, the names of women who have moved the industry forward have faded. This is my attempt to bring them back into the spotlight.”
  • 10 Simple Words Every Girl Should Learn | Soraya Chemaly at Role Reboot (May 5): “Men interrupt women, speak over them, and discount their contributions to a discussion with surprising regularity. Here’s how women should respond.”
  • Loud Bossy Feminists | Amy Stephen (May 23): “I can see, now, that I suffered badly from the ‘Fuck you, I got mine.’ attitude, so I’m leaving it here today. It should be easier for women and other underrepresented populations in our field. There should be more of us in leadership positions in our open source projects. It should not be unusual to see a woman as a developer on a big community based open source projects. And trust me when I tell you, being patient and nice doesn’t work.”

We link to a variety of sources, some of which are personal blogs.  If you visit other sites linked herein, we ask that you respect the commenting policy and individual culture of those sites.

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

When who you are is off-topic

During Open Source Bridge last month, I went to a talk by Brandon Harris about the Wikipedia community. The focus of the talk was going to be on reasons why the number of people contributing to Wikipedia is declining. During the talk, I was reminded of why I don’t participate in Wikipedia anymore.

There’s a Geek Feminism Wiki page about what happened when I was nominated to be a Wikipedia admin in 2006. Until now, I haven’t mentioned in public that Catamorphism is me (though it’s easy enough to guess, since I still use that username on some other sites, and it’s also part of my primary email address).

In short, though, I’d been contributing frequently to Wikipedia a little less than a year at the time. Someone noticed my work and nominated me to be an administrator on the site. Admins have the power to use rollback (reverting an unhelpful edit with one click), as well as a few other rights and responsibilities. As is the usual process, a page — called an RfA (request for adminship) — was put up where people could either vote for, or against, me being an admin.

For a while, I was receiving almost all “Yes” votes. Then, somebody who apparently had an axe to grind made the claim, as part of their “No” vote, that I “made every discussion about [my] gender”. This person never substantiated their claim. As far as I can gather, it was based on the fact that during one talk page discussion, I asked somebody to use the pronouns I preferred at the time (they/them/their) when referring to me. After that point, I started receiving primarily “No” votes, and those people who gave reasons for their votes mainly said that they thought I would be a bad administrator because I would continue to make every discussion about my gender.

One of the primary values of Wikipedia is supposed to be substantiating every factual claim with a citation to a reliable source. None of the “no” voters asked for citations before deciding that the original claim — that I derailed every discussion to make it about my gender — was correct. They just believed the person who originally made the claim. I can only gather from this the “citation needed” label gets applied selectively on Wikipedia, and that unsourced claims that jibe with the existing beliefs of editors are less likely to be challenged.

Bizarrely, part of the RfA discussion devolved into various people debating what my “real” gender was. At the time I identified as genderqueer, but they were convinced that I must have some “true” gender that was different from that. Based solely on this picture of me, which I displayed on my Wikipedia user page at the time, some parties were vehemently convinced that I must “really” be male, while others were just as convinced that I must “really” be female. The picture was taken when I was 24 years old, before I started supplementing exogenous testosterone. I found it amusing that some people were absolutely convinced that they were looking at a man, when the only thing that made me a man at the time was invisible (and in fact, that’s still true, since the only thing that makes any of us the sexes we are is invisible — inside our heads). It illustrates the constructed nature of the sex binary. But I digress.

The RfA took an even weirder turn when the person who’d originally nominated me — a man using the handle of “Erik the Rude”, changed his vote from “yes” to “no” and announced he’d only nominated me to humiliate me, because he hated “bulldykes”. What follows was one of the only occasions when I’ve experienced serious harassment online because of my gender. A user of the hate site called Encyclopedia Dramatica (now rebranded as the warmer, friendlier site “Oh, Internet”) created an article about me that was solely based on the transphobic comments I received during my RfA. Because its title was my username — Catamorphism — and because Encyclopedia Dramatica had high page-rank at the time, the attack page was one of the first hits when someone searched for my username. “Catamorphism” is a technical term used in my field, so chances were good that potential colleagues or employers — just looking for information on a technical term used in the narrow professional field I work in — they would find a page with a picture of me and someone calling me a “bulldyke”. There’s nothing wrong with being a bulldyke, but it’s not a term that describes or ever has described me; if people are going to hate me, I’d prefer they hate me for who I am rather than what I’m not.

In the end, the “no” votes outweighed the “yes” votes — and again, I emphasize that the only real concern raised by the “no” voters was the unsubstantiated claim that I derailed unrelated discussions to talk about my gender — and I was denied adminship. I decided I didn’t particularly want to expend effort to contribute to a site that would have welcomed me as an admin if I was a binary-gendered person. I didn’t want to work with people who called it “disruption” to request that others use my preferred pronouns to refer to me, but didn’t consider it rude to misgender somebody. So I stopped editing.

Although I created a new account eventually and I still edit once in a while, I avoid editing that is potentially factually contentious. I just don’t have the energy to argue with aggressive people anymore. What’s more, I don’t have the energy to explain, over and over, that cissexual and heterosexual people’s points of view are not automatically more neutral and objective than the points of view of trans and queer people. I used to believe in the concept of “NPOV” (neutral point of view) that is one of the governing principles of Wikipedia, but I don’t anymore. The old saying is that history is written by the winners. Likewise, in practice, a neutral point of view seems to mean the particular point of view of whatever political groups have the biggest cognitive and emotional weapons. As a concrete example, I repeatedly ran into resistance and even ridicule when editing articles about trans people that used the phrasing “was born female” or “was born male”, to use the phrasing “was assigned female at birth” or “was assigned male at birth” instead. While the latter phrasing makes fewer assumptions, editors insisted that it was “POV” to say that people are assigned a sex at birth, but “neutral” to say that someone who may never have affirmed himself as female was born female. I can’t conceive of “NPOV” as being anything but a tool of domination anymore. Rather than striving for neutrality (which doesn’t exist), I would rather strive to mark opinions as opinions and provide citations for facts. I think it’s easier to distort the truth in an atmosphere of false neutrality than it is to do the same in an environment where it’s the norm to acknowledge your biases and the social position from which you speak.

Because of my experience, I found it hard to listen to the Q&A section of the talk, because what seemed missing to me was an acknowledgment of the fundamental brokenness that resulted in a group of cis people deciding to exclude me from volunteering in a certain role solely because I asserted myself as genderqueer. On the whole, though, I appreciated the non-technical talks I went to at Open Source Bridge because the presence of those talks made the conference feel like a place where nothing was off-topic.

When I first started reading Usenet newsgroups in 1995, one thing that was drilled into me by all the documentation I read was that you had to be on-topic. If you posted an off-topic post, you were wasting hundreds or thousands’ of people’s time, which was the worst thing you could do. Over time, I’ve come to enjoy online fora better when they’re community-based rather than topic-based. In 2006, though, being rejected as an admin felt like such a slap in the face largely because of the shame of being off-topic. Though it was baseless, I was being accused of bringing up something that wasn’t relevant, and of course, as someone who wasn’t unambiguously recognized as a white cis man, I wasn’t allowed to decide what was relevant; other people got that privilege.

I guess that’s why it was so gut-wrenching for me to be voted down. Later on, I experienced retaliation for reporting harassment that forced me to leave the graduate program I was in, and at the job I went to next, was threatened because I spoke out in favor of having a code of conduct that reflected awareness of power dynamics. Despite not putting my education or job in jeopardy, the Wikipedia incident was more painful for me than my experiences at either Portland State or Mozilla, because of the shame of being off-topic, and perhaps also because of the misunderstandings that lay at the heart of the RfA discussion. I was never heard in the Wikipedia discussion, and any attempts to make myself heard just elicited more refusal to listen.

I no longer seek out places where I’m required to stay on-topic, though, because I want to be my entire self wherever I am, as much as I can. Staying on-topic feels like having to leave part of myself at the door — whatever parts of myself the group I’m in doesn’t like very much. As Audre Lorde said, “There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not live single-issue lives.” I appreciated Open Source Bridge because it felt like a broader acknowledgment that even programmers don’t live single-issue lives. At the conference, I went to talks on impostor syndrome, empathy, labor ethics, depression, and other topics that weren’t just about how to do thing X with software package Y. It made me feel like caring about the human side of computing didn’t make me a less qualified software professional, and like all of a sudden, it was the norm to have and acknowledge feelings rather than something that made me marginal. There were other little things about the conference that made me feel like I was the norm for once, too, like the all-vegetarian and mostly-vegan food at breakfast and lunch, and the “Intersectional Feminism Fuck Yeah!” stickers on the swag table. Going to the conference brought back a little bit of what my experience with Wikipedia erased: belief that there is a place for me in open-source culture and that what I have to contribute will be better because of — not worse because of — the ways in which I’ve experienced marginalization.

The links are strong with this one (4th December, 2010)

  • Valerie’s Conference anti-harassment policy is under discussion at LWN and Hacker News (‘ware: both sites well known for faily comments, although as of writing LWN is doing mostly OK). LWN’s article will be de-paywalled in a few days, before that, go via Valerie’s free link.
  • The Mistress of the Lash Wears Chains: I began to wonder just what drove the [game design] obsession with these matriarchies. I then realised that this was the flip side of “male fantasy’- which is “male nightmare.’
  • The Importance of Allies: Ever since I started working towards the goal of increasing the number of women participating in the free software community, I’ve had men say some variation of the following to me, I didn’t know it was this bad. Is there anything I can do? The answer is yes!
  • A series of questions in photographic form. This ongoing body of work explores the power dynamics inherent in the questions asked of transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, and gender-variant people.
  • Reinventing the Outreach Program Wheel: Why, oh why do I have to be hatin’ on the good works that SciCheer wants to do for the young girls of our nation?
  • Becoming Einstein’s cousin: profile on Cathy Foley, an international expert in superconductivity, the first woman to become president of the Australian Institute of Physics, and president of Federation of Australian Scientific and Technological Societies.
  • Wake up, LOPSA members., or, Sexism in LOPSA, part 3
  • Women in Web Development: Do The Numbers Really Matter?: The failure isn’t the industry or its hiring practices. It’s in education, summer camps, parenting, and all the other places young girls could be coming into contact with coding, development and engineering but aren’t.
  • Gertrude Rothschild, Dies at 83: Important geek engineer who improved LED displays; defended her inventions against patent infringement. (In contradistinction to copyright infringement, which poorly serves IP interests in 3D objects and processes).
  • Finally, a quick thought from @heathermg: … the head of NASA Astrobiology AND the lead researcher who discovered this lifeform are both women.

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

We’ll be post-linkspam in the post-patriarchy (26th October, 2010)

  • Melbourne, Australia: Go Girl Go for IT 2010: A free IT careers showcase for Secondary School Girls Years 8-11, Deakin University, Burwood, 27th and 28th October.
  • Trigger warning for violent crime against women: Russell Williams and the media assault on gender queer identity.
  • The 99: the Islamic superheroes getting into bed with Batman: DC Comics’ Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman are joining forces with Islamic-inspired superheroes The 99 this week. Carole Cadwalladr meets their creator, Dr Naif al-Mutawa
  • Is affirmative action for men the answer to enrolment woes?: Basing admissions mostly on marks, it seemed, had contributed to the decline of men's numbers in medical schools. Dr. Reiter, who was new to the position, decided the school should put less emphasis on marks and broaden its requirements, which eventually it did. The proportion of men has since slightly increased.
  • The Fantasy of Girl World: Lady Nerds and Utopias: When we see the word “nerd,” we don’t think of women. We almost can’t… And yet! The girl nerds, they exist! And they tell their own stories… One of the oldest stories is the one where dudes don’t run things. Or, you know, exist. (This is by Sady Doyle, who reclaimss ‘girl’ and ‘lady’. And possibly ‘nerd’?) And dude-free utopias, it turns out, have plenty of social justice problems. Footnotes to the essay are over at Tiger Beatdown.
  • Regardless of what Sady Doyle thinks, Flowtown and Threadless would like to remind you that nerds are men, dontcha know? Mostly young, mostly white, definitely men.
  • Metroid: Other M – The Elephant in the Room: Fantastic breakdown of the romanticized abusive relationship that is central to Other M’s plot and gameplay.

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.