Tag Archives: privilege

White, male startup companies get funding for being white and male.

This post was originally published at Restructure!

When top technology venture capitalist John Doerr decides which startup company to invest in, he consciously and deliberately chooses white males over women and racial minorities:

“That correlates more with any other success factor that I’ve seen in the world’s greatest entrepreneurs. If you look at Bezos, or [Netscape Communications Corp. founder Marc] Andreessen, [Yahoo Inc. co-founder] David Filo, the founders of Google, they all seem to be white, male, nerds who’ve dropped out of Harvard or Stanford and they absolutely have no social life. So when I see that pattern coming in — which was true of Google — it was very easy to decide to invest.”

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Drupal Voices 100: Jack Aponte on Diversity, Power and Privilege in Open Source Communities

Neville Park is a queer mixie nerd in Toronto. This post originally appeared at Wild Unicorn Herd.

An interview with Palante Tech‘s Jack Aponte (a. k. a. Angry Brown Butch) on, well, diversity in Drupal.

Background: Drupal is a kind of CMS (content management system); it’s a particularly powerful and versatile platform for building and managing websites. It is free and open source, which means that you don’t have to pay to use it, and anyone can help work on it. There’s a very large and international community of people who use and work on Drupal, and like the wider tech community, it’s dominated by white straight cis men. Open Source people, and Drupal people in particular, pride themselves on having a “doacracy”—a community that values getting stuff done above traditional authority. This could create a beginner-friendly, non-hierarchical environment of subversion and experimentation. In practice we just have white straight cis men getting SUPER DEFENSIVE at the suggestion that maybe they got where they are not only by the sweat of their brow, and shouting down any mention of patriarchy, racism, or any other systemic oppression when people run the numbers and get to wondering why there’s so little minority representation in Open Source.

There is a nice summary of the podcast at the link, and my transcript is below the fold. I’ve added links to give context to some of the references Jack and the interviewer make.

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I blame the Patriarchy for my technical incompetence.

This is cross-posted at Restructure!

I demonstrated an aptitude for computers when I was a young girl, but I didn’t have home Internet access until I graduated from high school. I blame the Patriarchy, partly.

By the time I was in high school, I was usually the only person in my classes who didn’t have any Internet access, while most of my peers had high-speed access. When my peers communicated with each other through e-mail and chat, I was shut out of the social conversation and didn’t understand the “technical” terms they were using. I understood the creative potential of being able to communicate with computer users all over the world. I knew that Internet access would allow me to communicate with others without my social anxiety getting in the way. However, my father was hard-set against the idea of “the Internet”.

For five years, I was part of a persistent family campaign to convince my father that we should get Internet access. He thought that the Internet was a software program that was just a “fad” and would go out of style. Back then, the mainstream media was even more confused than now about what “the Internet” was. The news sensationalized stories about online predators luring young girls through “the Internet” to rape them. The implied moral of these news stories was that the Internet was dangerous and full of sexual predators.

My father did not work in an office then, so he heard more about “the Internet” through his coworkers. One male coworker basically explained to my father that The Internet Is For Porn. My father came home and told us that he was never going to let us have Internet access, because girls especially should be protected from exposure to pornography.

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Respond in style: Wear *these* shirts

[Trigger Warning: Links marked with [TW] discuss rape apologia]

[TW]Kirby Bits has thrown down the gauntlet (the one with the middle finger extended) in response to Penny Arcade profiteering via merchandise from the “Dickwolves” incident:

Which brings me to another point – where, except at PAX/PAX East, could you even wear this shirt?  Do you really want to see the kind of looks people will shoot you when their kids are asking, “What’s a dickwolf?” in the middle of the supermarket?

[...]

So, to honor those imaginary victims of imaginary rape by a mythological creature whose every limb is an erect phallus, I came up with this idea, gloriously realized by an Anonymous Graphic Design Genius:

The Dickwolves Survivors Guild.

The shirt price is $1 over the actual cost.  All of those dollars are being donated to RAINN.  Thanks to the class acts at Penny Arcade for inspiring me and my Anonymous Graphic Design Genius friend to make this and use the profit to help make the world a better place.

From the Kirby Bits comments:

I love this idea, and I love the idea of actually doing something worthwhile with the money. Keep it up! I’d really like to see people wearing *these* shirts at PAX.

This is awesome – I hope these shirts are a wall of gold at PAX!

To steal a [TW]quote from Melissa McEwan of Shakesville because she puts it awesomely (trigger warning mine):

Here’s how teaspoons work: Kirby Bits, with the help of an Anonymous Graphic Design Genius, is [TW]selling a Dickwolves Survivors Guild t-shirt, all of the profits for which will be donated to RAINN, the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. If you would like to donate directly to RAINN, go here.


Things I don’t have to linkspam about today (20th October, 2010)

Say hello to Ms Spam-Spam! We’ve put in a special account for linkspams to make it more clear that linkspams are a group effort here. All the old linkspams are now listed with this account too.

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.

Know when to walk away, know when to run

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question for our commenters. This is the last post that will appear for this round.

Let’s say you are a part of a community site of geeks. In my case: gaming. The site is great except for the sexism: it’s a community of mostly guys who generally seem unaware of their privilege as (generally) educated, white males.

Do you stick it out and try to educate, be a different voice? Play along to get along? Leave?

What has been your experience? What do you do and when?

Restore meritocracy in CS using an obscure functional language.

Students who did not have the privilege of hacking since they were young are at a disadvantage in Computer Science (CS). However, CS departments can teach introductory programming using an obscure functional programming language to limit the young hackers’ advantage. Most students with prior coding experience learned a procedural programming paradigm, so forcing all students to struggle with learning a new, functional language helps restore meritocracy.

In the blog comments, Kite recounts hir experience with an intro CS course:

While I think my course was pretty sucky, one good thing it did was to knock the wind out of the sails of those guys who’d been programming for ages – by starting us on an obscure functional programming language called Miranda (oh did it ever raise a whole lotta grumbles from the boasters). Only after that did we do procedural stuff like C, and then onto C++. Mind you, the whole course seemed determined to be as academic and un-real-world as possible, so C++ was probably the most career-relevant thing we got out of it! [...]

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Is there honour among linkspammers? (4th August, 2010)

  • “CAUSE I’M NERDCORE LIKE THAT: Toward a Subversive Geek Identity: In the meantime, subversive nerd subcultures form communities and alliances, fostering a collective cultural cross-fertilization that is strengthened by our multiple intelligences and identities.
  • reaction rant: First of all, it can’t be simultaneously true that women and men are equally suited to technology jobs and also that women have specific immutable characteristics that need to be catered to. Sure it can. Some characteristics that may need accommodations are not related to one’s actual skill in programming. But more to the point, some of those common gendered characteristics are in no way immutable; they’re cultural.
  • Soil change for our larva: women and wiggly things that live in dirt make for an exciting day.
  • The FSF reminds me of PETA sometimes: deborah is angry at a thread in which Richard Stallman advocates compromising accessibility in favour of Free Software.
  • Woman in technology: Stubbornella responds to criticisms of grants for women: I resent the notion that women are inferior and that is why they are getting grants. Google is correcting for women being less likely to stand up and say “me, me, me!”, not for their technical skills or development prowess.
  • How privileged is a geek girl, anyway?: Deirdra Kiai reflects on her privileged access to computer skills: I suppose that when I remarked that making games isn’t really that hard, what I really ought to have said was that making games shouldn’t be so hard. I need to be helping to create a world where anyone can have access to a computer at an early age…

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.

If you were hacking since age 8, it means you were privileged.

This post was originally published at Restructure!

Often, computer geeks who started programming at a young age brag about it, as it is a source of geeky prestige. However, most computer geeks are oblivious to the fact that your parents being able to afford a computer back in the 1980s is a product of class privilege, not your innate geekiness. Additionally, the child’s gender affects how much the parents are willing to financially invest in the child’s computer education. If parents in the 1980s think that it is unlikely their eight-year-old daughter will have a career in technology, then purchasing a computer may seem like a frivolous expense.

Because of systemic racism, class differences correlate with racial demographics. In the Racialicious post Gaming Masculinity, Latoya quotes a researcher’s exchange with an African American male computer science (CS) undergraduate:

“Me and some of my black friends were talking about the other guys in CS. Some of them have been programming since they were eight. We can’t compete with that. Now, the only thing that I have been doing since I was eight is playing basketball. I would own them on the court. I mean it wouldn’t be fair, they would just stand there and I would dominate. It is sort of like that in CS.”
— Undergraduate CS Major

Those “other guys” in CS are those white, male geeks who brag in CS newsgroups about hacking away at their Commodore 64s as young children, where successive posters reveal younger and younger ages in order to trump the previous poster. This disgusting flaunting of privilege completely demoralizes those of us who gained computer access only recently. However, CS departments—which tend to be dominated by even more privileged computer geeks of an earlier era when computers were even rarer—also assume that early computer adoption is a meritocratic measure of innate interest and ability.

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Ask a geek feminist: But I don’t feel oppressed

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question.

This question may seem very 101 but I have yet been able to find or formulate a good response to a comment I recently received from another young woman and I was hoping someone could help me out?

I was talking about power dynamics between men and women and the respondent came back with “Western women aren’t oppressed. I don’t feel oppressed. We are able to vote.. etc etc.” and I was just flabbergasted and didn’t know how to respond. I suspect a lot of this was her personal response to acknowledging oppression making her seem weak or whiny. Although I could be wrong and she may really believe this and think it cancels out the feelings of any Western women who does acknowledge our ongoing oppression. Help?

It can be disorienting to be faced with this stance by someone who is a member of a class of people, and feels that they represent that class. You may disagree strongly with their position, and have very good reasons for it which you want to express. But you hesitate.

It could be that the situation is already tense and you don’t want to make things worse. Maybe you don’t know each other very well, and you’re not sure whether it’s a good idea to open this particular can of worms with them. Or, perhaps, you just don’t have the right words.

Finally, a Feminism 101 blog has a FAQ with a pretty good answer, which calls out the misconceptions underlying the question:

1. Even if women in your part of the world do have legal equality, what about women elsewhere? Feminists who fight for the rights of other women to have what they already have are justified in doing so.

2. Simple, basic legal equality regarding the right to own property, sign contracts or vote does not always translate into social equality in work, the community or the home.

(emphasis added. thanks to Mary for the reference)

However, the matter of how to respond to the person is perhaps more important than having an answer. Ideally, you’d like to engage with this person, and enter into a dialog where you can both learn something. Your mileage may vary, but I find that counterargument and psychoanalysis don’t always set us on that path.

Here’s what I try to do:

  • Validate their first-hand experience. Regardless of whether they represent a class, they are telling you something about their lived experience, and that is a subject on which they are an authority. Respect that, and acknowledge what they are telling you about themselves. You never know, and they may have been very fortunate. They are almost certainly fortunate compared to many other people, and recognizing that good fortune can be a sign of genuine humility. So, give them the benefit of the doubt.
  • Integrate their position into a broader perspective. Other people (including you) have a different view: how can we reconcile that? If you don’t know, invite them to explore the question with you. What would have to be true in order for both views to be valid?
  • Explore their point of view. Now that you have some shared perspective, dig a little deeper and try to understand why they feel they way they do. How do their past and present experiences, their beliefs, and their personality influence their opinion? What can you learn from them?

How about you, readers? Tell us in the comments how you respond to this type of situation.