Tag Archives: history

Feminist Point of View – my slides from Open Source Bridge

A couple of weeks ago I gave a talk at Open Source Bridge entitled Feminist Point of View: A Geek Feminist Retrospective. The presentation was a review of the 6 years of the Geek Feminism wiki and blog, and the lessons we’ve learned from doing this.

I said I’d post the slides here on the blog, so — with apologies for the delay, mostly due to travel and jetlag and all that stuff — here they are.

Thanks to all the GF contributors who contributed to the talk, and to all those who came along.

Dogs And Cats Linkspamming Together (16 Aug 2013)

  • Resource-building: Anti-Oppressive Collective Witchy Woo | Not Your Ex/Rotic: “There have been various discussions on multiple Facebook groups about a lack of resources on magick, witchcraft, and woo that weren’t plagued with problems – transmisogyny, racism, cultural appropriation, and so on. Some people have expressed interest in putting together a resource, such as a zine or a website, that will provide the witchy woo needs we asked for. Here’s a Facebook group to hash out ideas, post your writings, and put things together! Feel free to invite people with similar goals and resources here.”
  • The Feminism of Hayao Miyazaki and Spirited Away | bitchmedia: “the flowing narrative structure of Miyazaki’s films allow for a lot of flexibility in the roles played by heroes and villains. Most of the time, the hero or heroine’s journey does not center on the need to violently defeat an ultimate villain. [...] Miyazaki’s ladies in general demonstrate more strength and complex personalities than American heroines (especially princesses) tend to. Characters Princess Mononoke and Nausicaa both actively fight to defend their homes, using both weapons and kindness.”
  • Women and Men Both Ask for Flex Time at Work. Guess Who Gets It? | Slate: “Two professional workers, one male and one female, and two hourly employees, one male and one female, walk into an office. All four want to ask their boss for a flexible schedule, either to advance their job- or career-related skills or to attend to family responsibilities. Both women expect the boss to approve their request, while the men think they’re unlikely to get approval. All four ask, and their managers award flexible schedules to both men but neither women. This scenario is true-to-life, according to a new study published in the Journal of Social Issues. Bosses favor men over women when employees request flextime.”
  • Everyone Should Want to Be A Hufflepuff, Or, Stop the Hogwarts House-Hate | Tor.Com : “While Slytherin and Hufflepuff both have their share of intensely dedicated fans, it’s no secret that among the general Potter-reading population, most would prefer to be a Gryffindor or a Ravenclaw. Why? Do people prefer lions and ravens? Red and blue? Or is it something a little less obvious… perhaps something to do with the attributes awarded to each house, and the values we place on them as a culture?”
  • Why Do We Have More Female Scholars, But Few Public Intellectuals? | bitchmedia: “The academics listed in the opening graf (Dr. Brittney Cooper, Joan Morgan, Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry, Dr. Tanisha Ford, Dr. Treva Lindsey and Dr. Kaila Story) exchange ideas freely through blogs and social media platforms, but are we undervaluing the importance of their intellect by culturally offering their male counterparts larger platforms and opportunities?”
  • Go Back in Time with GE and See Some of the Awesome Ladies Responsible for Today’s Tech | The Mary Sue: “This is Katharine Burr Blodgett, the first woman to get a PhD in physics from Cambridge in addition to being the first woman scientist to join the GE Research Laboratory. She’s known widely as the inventor of “invisible glass.” “But most glass is invisible anyway,” I hear you say. “It’s glass.” Well you can back that assumption right up, because KBB here figured out how to make glass mostly non-reflective and therefore, yes, nearly invisible.”
  • [Trigger warning: discussion of sexual assault]  Five ways that “staying safe” costs women | Salon: “All of this is why going to the bathroom together isn’t just a fun girly thing that women do. The reality is that moving in packs, taking more time, spending more money, seeming less adventurous, isn’t a luxury. It’s a tax.”
  • History of Feminism: “60 seconds with…” | History of Feminism Network: “60 seconds worth of informal introduction to our favourite historians of feminism and feminist historians. New interviews will be added regularly; do get in touch if you have a suggestion or want to be interviewed!”
  • Mark Millar and Todd McFarlane: Ladies, Comics Aren’t For You | Observation Deck: “we saw McFarlane, Len Wein and Conway on the panel promoting PBS’ documentary “Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle,” in which McFarlane and Conway enjoyed stroking each others’ egos by arguing that creators don’t really have control over how comics portray women, because, history. Since all of this debate is understandably pressing on my ladybrain, I find it easier to bullet point this pile of self-indulgence. So let’s take a look at why, exactly, comics just aren’t for women, and their portrayal in comics just doesn’t matter.”

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.

A fisherman of the inland linkspam (14 May 2013)

  • Sometimes I Feel Like I am a Fake Geek Girl: “I know that I’m not really faking anything as I’m pretty up front with the holes in my experience, but sometimes I feel that I shouldn’t even call myself a geek because I’m missing so much ‘critical geekdom’. It feels like geek culture is a competitive and not-inclusive space with invisible hierarchies.”
  • How to draw sexy without being sexist: “‘Sex appeal ONLY comes into play when the characters PERSONALITY dictates that as a factor,’ says Anka. ‘The CHARACTER must be first and foremost the inspiration and guideline for all the decisions made when trying to design the clothing.'”
  • The Great Debate: Comic about the misguided idea that disabling youtube comments to forestall harassment is censorship.
  • ‘Brave’ creator blasts Disney for ‘blatant sexism’ in princess makeover – Marin Independent Journal: “Disney crowned Merida its 11th princess on Saturday, but ignited a firestorm of protest with a corporate makeover of Chapman’s original rendering of the character, giving her a Barbie doll waist, sultry eyes and transforming her wild red locks into glamorous flowing tresses. The new image takes away Merida’s trusty bow and arrow, a symbol of her strength and independence, and turns her from a girl to a young woman dressed in an off-the-shoulder version of the provocative, glitzy gown she hated in the movie.”
  • The Latest on the Women in SFF Debate: Roundup of links about the recent debate on recognition for female authors of sci-fi/fantasy.
  • Using Python to see how the NY Times writes about men and women: “If your knowledge of men’s and women’s roles in society came just from reading last week’s New York Times, you would think that men play sports and run the government. Women do feminine and domestic things. To be honest, I was a little shocked at how stereotypical the words used in the women subject sentences were.”
  • Queer in STEM: “A national survey of sexual diversity in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”
  • This 17-Year-Old Coder Is Saving Twitter From TV Spoilers: “Jennie Lamere, a 17-year-old girl, invented the software last month—and won the grand prize at a national coding competition where Lamere was the only female who presented a project, and the only developer to work alone.”
  • A Woman’s Place: “Now, almost 50 years after the birth of an all-female technology company with radically modern working practices, it seems remarkable that the same industry is still fumbling with the issue of gender equality.”

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

Rocky Horror Linkspam Show (6 November, 2012)

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

Chainmail (European 4 in 1 pattern)

The Linkspam Mystique (15th June, 2012)

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

4962177_08586bfca8_o

Leslie Harpold

She was a great humanizing influence upon the early Web and one of its ultra-connected nodes. She was a very good designer and a better writer, but her greatest contribution was to embody the fact that if the Web is not about people, it is not about anything. I have not the heart to retell the stories of her many sorrows and unbearably early death, five years ago today.

 

Leslie is, in any case, the sort of discovery you should make for yourself. Her domains haven’t been maintained but there are precious copies. You might start with her proto-blog Hoopla, archived at the Library of Congress:

So when i talk about my day, my latest artistic obsession, launch into my five minutes on retinol vs. fruit acids, or pause trying to think up the next topic for our conversation, I am really saying the same thing over and over again: I love you, I love you, I love you.

There’s more in the Wayback Machine, although it’s not in great shape.

Of one of her best-loved projects, almost nothing remains. Every year Leslie built an online advent calendar, full of reader-contributed stories, links and Easter eggs. As chance would have it, she published a story of mine on December 5, 2006, and a story by a mutual friend of ours on December 6. We simultaneously realized we had a significant number of BFFs in common and exchanged thrilled emails. I remember walking to work one sunny December morning full of happiness and the prospect of getting to know a whole new person.

Leslie never updated the calendar again. She is much missed.

 

Photograph of Branca Edmée Marques

Wednesday Geek Woman: Branca Edmée Marques, Portuguese scientist, and collaborator with Marie Curie

This is a guest post by Jennifer. Jennifer is a feminist and actuary who is travelling the world with her family and profiling notable women of history on her blog.

This entry is cross-posted from Jennifer’s blog.

Submissions are currently open for Wednesday Geek Woman posts.

Photograph of Branca Edmée MarquesBranca Edmée Marques was a Portuguese scientist, who studied and worked with Marie Curie. She was born in Lisbon in 1899, and studied chemistry at the University of Lisbon. In 1925 after completing her degree, she was invited to be an Assistant by the Chemistry Professor. He was concerned about whether she would maintain discipline in her classes, being female, but she must have succeeded as in 1930 she was awarded a scholarship to study with Marie Curie at the Sorbonne, in Paris.

Marie Curie was by then very famous, having won two Nobel Prizes. Curie liked her work so much that she gave her one of her most interesting research projects to do, and wrote a letter to the Portuguese government asking them to renew her research grant.

Unfortunately the combination of Marques being a woman, and the Portuguese government being in a state of flux (transforming from military to civilian dictatorship) meant that her grant wasn’t renewed. Curie managed to finagle a continuing scholarship for her anyway, and her doctorate on “new research on the fragmentation of barium salts” was awarded with the highest possible rating of tres honorable. In 1936, the Portuguese Universities recognized the degree, and awarded her an equivalent doctorate.

On returning home, however, she was unable to get an appropriate post at University. This, from all my sources, does appear to be fairly simple sexism, even if the lack of financial support in France might not have been. Instead, she lectured and started up the Laboratory of Radiochemistry and only in 1942 was she awarded the title of First Assistant, which meant that the University was recognizing her contribution more significantly.

Photograph of Branca Edmée Marques
She continued to lecture and work towards building up a new department, which eventually became the Department of Radiochemistry and Nuclear Chemistry. She published regularly throughout her professional life, researching many aspects of peaceful application of nuclear technology. In 1966, her contributions were finally recognized with a full professorship at the University of Lisbon.

She died in 1986, at the age of 87.

This post is based on Portuguese language sources (linked below) so anyone who can read the original Portuguese, please feel free to comment if my interpretations were wrong!

Marcas das ciências e das técnicas: Professora Branca Edmée Marques
A ciência em Portugal: Branca Edmée Marques
Maxima: Sancha Sanches

Painting of a horse in Lascaux Cave

Wednesday Geek Woman: Annette Laming-Emperaire, archaeologist

Submissions are currently open for Wednesday Geek Woman posts.

Born in 1917, Annette Laming-Emperaire was a graduate student at the Sorbonne when she began to study Paleolithic cave paintings (like this one from Lascaux.)

Although during her life her brilliance was always apparent, her great originality seems to have burst into being like a fire. La signification turned out to be that most rare beast, a graduate thesis that changed an entire discipline.

All quotes are from The Cave Painters: Probing the Mysteries of the World’s First Artists, by Gregory Curtis.

In this thesis, which became a 1962 book, Laming-Emperaire summarized the discovery of Paleolithic art and the methods proposed so far for dating it. Then she looked at various interpretations of the art that scholars had suggested over the years: that the paintings evoked hunting magic; that they were fertility symbols; that they represented the totems of tribes.

Then she dismissed it all.

All of this, the whole body of work dedicated to explaining cave art, sixty years of consistent effort by many brilliant minds, she sweeps aside.

For Laming-Emperaire, all the research that had come before her – all of it – was fatally flawed because it depended on ethnography…. Laming-Emperaire said researchers “indiscriminately invoke facts from some societies that, by their social, religious or economic structure, can be very different from prehistoric societies – about which we know practically nothing in any case – and that are often very different among themselves.”

Painting of a horse in Lascaux Cave

For the time of writing, Laming-Emperaire was making a distinctly 21st century point. She had harsh words for her predecessor, the abbé Breuil, who in his discussion of masks in the paintings had invoked Paleo-Siberians, the Inuit peoples, Native Americans from North and South America, the bushmen of South Africa and Australian tribes in turn – conveniently glossing over the fact that in each of these societies, the masks mean different things. The bushmen use them for hunting; the Native Americans use them for sacred dances and the Australian Aboriginal people use them to represent gods and ancestors. Different cultures are different from one another. Breuil’s argument tells us nothing whatever about the Paleolithic painters.

Laming-Emperaire went further. Such comparisons, she said, are inherently arbitrary. An archaeologist forms a hypothesis about an artifact, then trawls the monographs of ethnology for evidence that supports his view. Confirmation bias might as well be built into the process.

What, then, are our options? If we can’t use arguments from existing cultures to shed light on cave paintings, how else might we bring the Paleolithic painters back to life? As Laming-Emperaire saw it, our options exist on a spectrum between rigorous empiricism – exact and objective enumeration of places, shapes and sizes – and prehistorical fiction – just making stuff up. The discipline, she said, had been oscillating between these poles: “sclerotic rigor on one side, a lively but unreliable creation on the other.” In the rest of La signification, she tried to show another way forward.

We can know only three things (she argued) about a prehistoric artifact: how it was made; any signs of use; and where it was found. The methods of painting cave art are interesting, but they don’t shed much light on what the paintings mean. Nor is it helpful to look for signs of use, since in the vast majority of cases there simply aren’t any.

What she proposed, instead, was to look at where the paintings are. Instead of allowing our preconceptions and prejudices to blind us, Laming-Emperaire called us to pay attention to what is in front of our eyes. She drew diagrams of the cave walls illustrating what species were represented and which way they faced. By carefully inventorying each scene, she began to identify paintings that might represent the same scene: a bison in a trap, surrounded by horses; a man threatened by a bison.

If she is right, these scenes are the oldest messages in human history, communicating across tens of millennia. And this hypothesis is based not upon idle speculation, but upon rigorous scholarship. Not surprisingly, Laming-Emperaire’s own legacy changed archeology, and her influence endures.

This audacious graduate student is saying it’s time to leave the thinking and the methods of the past behind and march in the manner she prescribes into the future.

And, broadly speaking, that is exactly what happened. The goals and expectations are rather different, and the techniques, particularly those using computer graphics, are more sophisticated, but detailed inventories and comparisons like those she first suggested remain at the heart of the study of Paleolithic art.

Wikipedia: Annette Laming-Emperaire

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

Remorseless husband-stealing no-good linkspams (15th August, 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.

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

Sugar and spice, and everything linkspam (31st July, 2011)

  • 18 year old German woman Lisa Sauermann has just won the International Mathematics Olympiad (contested between talented high school students) with a perfect score of 42. This is Sauermann’s fifth medal, four of them gold and one silver, the best series of performances ever. (Some sources say she’s the first recipient of four golds, there have actually been two others.)
  • BU Today reviews Project Artmesis, a five week summer computing program for high school girls that has just wound up.
  • Please Sir, I Want Some More: LGBTQs need more and deserve more. We need escapism just like our cis straight brothers and sisters. We need to be portrayed in roles we wouldn’t be expected to be in. (See comments for why this link was removed.) (For that matter, new to this linkspammer: the Gay YA site where this appeared.)
  • Help Us Find These 1970s AT&T Engineers: In this 1975 AT&T film, five female AT&T engineers are profiled. The film starts with male attitudes towards women working as engineers. There are no surprises there… What’s most interesting, though, is that AT&T apparently cannot locate any of these five — they (and I) would like to ask followup questions and learn how things have changed since 1975.
  • Open Source Community, Simplified: The Bugzilla community’s secrets. Not specifically feminist advice, but advice that will help create a woman-friendly coding space.
  • Erase me: And, basically, it comes down to authors wanting either something exotic or inclusion cookies without putting in any real effort or respect into their characters or having any awareness of the tropes and stereotypes they are tapping into… So I’ve finally come down on saying – stop. Erase me. No, really. I’d much rather be erased than tokenised or stereotyped.
  • Girls Go Geek… Again! and Normalizing Female Computer Programmers in the ’60s: This article appeared in a 1967 issue of Cosmopolitan and quotes computer scientist Dr. Grace Hopper, a pioneer in the field, discussing why programming is a perfect fit for women — by drawing partly on gender stereotypes by assuming women are naturals at programming because they’re patient and pay attention to details…

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.