Tag Archives: language

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.

Quick hit: The enemy is not MEN. The enemy are a-holes.

Gina Minks responds to a post on our linkspam:

I read this post (via the Geek Feminism Blog) and I just have to respond. The post is titled “Why women in tech need to stop whining and start to nurture our own”. I think the gist of the post is that women need to encourage other women to be techies. I can agree with that. What I can’t agree with is the language she uses to address women who speak out when they have experienced discrimination (and yes Margaret, women still face discrimination in the workplace).

So she tells us a story about discrimination she experienced…

I figured this would be an easy call. I had all the facts, all the symptoms. I needed the tech support person to gather the info and dispatch the part. Of course, tech support people make you go through some troubleshooting on the phone with them – only fair they shouldn’t send out parts unless something is broken.

Here is where it got weird. The guy on the phone asked me: “Let me ask you something – do you like to bake?”. It took me aback, but I played along. I needed the part…I figured he was making small talk till a screen he needed came up. So I said “yeah…..”. And he goes, in a very belittling voice: “Ok well this is going to easy, just like baking a cake. Inside the server is all of the different ingredients, and we are going to mix them all up and have a nice cake!”.

And then draws a pretty clear conclusion:

the enemy is not “MEN”. The enemy are a-holes. This support guy was a total a-hole. The guys I worked with back then were not a-holes. When I told them what happened, yeah they laughed their butts off. The term “then you bake a cake” became part of our culture when someone couldn’t figure things out.

Read the rest here about her thoughts on calling people “whiners” and how that makes it harder to respond well when things go wrong.

She Geek: Women and Self-Labeling in Online Geek Communities

Courtney is an MA student studying Victorian science fiction at Texas A&M University. She blogs about feminism, geekery, and academia at From Austin to A&M.

This post originally appeared at From Austin to A&M.

My intent in this project was to examine the labeling of female-oriented geek spaces on the internet. What I found was that self-labeling of geek women often defeats the potentially subversive act of creating a female-oriented geek community.

I would argue that the mere creation or and participation in geek communities labeled “for women” are aggressive acts towards male-dominated geek culture. One of the reasons we can see these communities as a challenge to mainstream geek culture is the still-prevailing myth of internet neutrality.

This myth argues that since we are “disembodied” on the internet, everyone begins on equal ground.

Bodies don’t matter in cyberspace. This is not how it works in real life, however, particularly in geek spaces. It is true that until you mark yourself as Other than the privileged class—male, heterosexual, cisgendered, abled, middle-class, and white—you will be assumed to be those things. However, this will not protect you from hate speech or sexist, racist, and homophobic “jokes,” since geek communities often engage in these forms of discourse. Even objecting to these discursive acts, without revealing the state of one’s own body, will immediately mark you as Other, and leave you vulnerable to harassment and denigration. By labeling their spaces as for women, female geeks challenge the neutrality myth, by making their female bodies conspicuous and by demonstrating a need for safe cyberspaces for women.

In a study of the language of male gamers playing within a Quake server, Natasha Christensen claims that

Even though the world of cyberspace allows for the possibility that gender can be transformed, men in Jeff’s Quake Server continue to relate to each other in ways which support male dominance and heterosexual male superiority. [...] In the bodiless realm of cyberspace, it is fascinating to note that men who are able to create an alternate world where masculinity is defined differently do not take this opportunity. Instead, real life is mimicked not only by taking on the physical attributes of strength, but also by using ways of talk that emphasize aggression and sexual dominance.

[…]

Therefore, in the same way that sports and war help to perpetuate the concept of male dominance through physical strength, the Quake server also promotes the idea of success through aggression and violence. [...] Sports and war games became a way for white middle class men to fight their fears of social feminization. At the turn of this century, online computer games are being used in the same manner. Computer geeks who are especially vulnerable to the accusations of being less than manly are able both through the actions and discourse on Quake to demonstrate the qualities required of hegemonic masculinity. Emphasis is placed on the strength of the masculine body while discourse sets the players apart from anything that is feminine.

The same patriarchal standards that put women at a disadvantage also disadvantage computer and other geeks. Often, geeks cite an experience of growing up with bullying and teasing, precisely because they do not live up to hegemonic masculinity. Instead of using cyberspace to fight against hegemonic masculinity, however, geek men often use it to buttress those standards and fulfill them discursively instead of physically. This is precisely why geek women find online geek spaces—necessarily discursive spaces—to be so unwelcoming and hostile. And it is through alternative discourse, whether blogging or forum writing or fanfiction, that women challenge this culture of hypermasculinity.

Continue reading

Dear Geekdoms: We’re not your decoration

There’s a trend in geekdoms whereby after some visibility-enhancing event or incident some dudes notice that there are women participating in their geekdom (liek omg rly?!). With best intents and all, these dudes go off and verbalise how awesome it is that these women are choosing the geekdom.

Because, they say, women’s presence makes the geekdom sexy.

Saying that women’s presence in the geekdom community rather than the women’s actual quantitative and qualitative contributions are the influence that results in this increase in attribute is not only awkward, but effectively invalidates the actual achievements that the women have worked so hard for. “Her design skills make the product gorgeous” is far more appropriate than “She makes the product gorgeous!”

By saying that women make your geekdom be more something, you are framing the mere proximity of women as a feature of the completely unrelated topic around which the geekdom at large congregates. This would be merely awkward if it was, say, something like “It makes my geekdom that much more balanced!” Or any other attribute that is not typically dependent on the subject’s (in this application of phrase, women’s) appearance.

However, by saying that women’s presence is a feature using words that are etymologically and by modern popular use aligned almost exclusively if not totally so with visual appeasement such as “sexier”, and other words that you would otherwise reserve for rating a prospective mate to your drinking buddies in a pub, you make it sound like you’re looking for one.

This isn’t an obscure invented language construct just for the sake of annoying people. This is how language works. When you apply an attribute to a subject, such as “women’s presence”, you’re applying the attribute to the women’s bodily presence. If you apply the attribute to the work of the women, then you’re applying the attribute to the work and crediting it to the women. It is a big freaking difference.

If a woman gets irked at you implying that her bodily presence is making something otherwise unrelated to her appearance “sexy”, rather than more accurately crediting a tangible enhancement to her actual work, then for the love of rainbows and bunnies don’t tell her off for not appreciating it. Learn how to compliment her properly.

If you’re treating someone’s presence as a visually appealing enhancement, you’re treating them as decoration. It’s that simple. Women are not decoration for your geekdom.

Linkspam hangover (4th January, 2010)

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.