Tag Archives: science

When a link and a spam love each other very much (26 March 2014)

A couple of quick announcements to start us off:

  • applications to attend AdaCamp Portland (June 21–22, ally skills track June 23) are open
  • the call for submissions to another issue of Model View Culture is out: the Abuse issue. “This issue explores themes of harassment, microaggression, boundary violation, assault, discrimination and other forms of abuse in the tech community”.

Onto the spam you’re waiting for:

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.

Sexist or Insensitive? Either way – It’s just lazy, and it is keeping women from taking part.

This post is by a guest blogger who wishes to remain anonymous.

I recently received an invitation to attend a guest lecture in my research institute entitled: “Tits struggling to keep up (with climate change)”. Is this funny? Is it a clever pun? Is it sexist? Is it insensitive?

I have seen many cases of scientists trying to make their topics more inviting with a ‘sexy’ title to a paper or talk, and, if followed through properly, it can be a very effective way of engaging an audience who might otherwise be bored by the topic. This example, however, does not qualify in my mind as an effective tool for communication. Instead, I would say that this is exactly the kind of lazy title-tweaking that makes up some of the subtle sexism that continues to pervade the higher education research environment.

I call this lazy for two reasons: first, because it cashes in on the sexist structures which are widespread in our society, and the assumption that simply linking an idea to female sexual organs will be enough to make it interesting to the masses; second, because in order for a ‘sexy’ title to be truly effective, it needs to be placed in the context of a larger theme within the paper or talk, which will continue to highlight the ‘fun’ side of the research while presenting the relevant data. I hardly think that the presentation is peppered with pictures of the breasts of aging women instead of birds.

Recently it was mentioned to me by (male) senior members of staff that the institute is trying to encourage women to enter and remain in research. So, a female colleague and I discussed the sexist/insensitive attitude of the title and decided to comment. The institute’s response? “There is no pun.”

Now, I find this hard to believe, considering the construction of the sentence. If there were no pun, the use of parenthesis would be unnecessary. However, it is just barely possible that the scientist in question has a poor understanding of parenthetical usage. It is also possible that the title was meant as a joke, which we were meant to find mildly amusing, and enticing enough to attend the lecture.

In the end, it doesn’t matter; whether the title was meant as an ‘inoffensive’ joke, or was simply insensitive, these are the small pin-pricks that jab at female scientists on a daily basis. To be reminded that your worth as a human being, in a societal context, is still largely based on your appearance and adherence to strict sexual and social norms, despite your ground-breaking research, and to have this happen while you are at work, and to be expected to laugh at this reminder, rather than mention how unwelcome it is, is not acceptable. It is this laziness and this insensitivity that subtly reminds women of ‘their place’ in even the most prestigious labs and universities.

Auld Lang Linkspam (1 January 2013)

  • Game Changer: “In the virtual world, there is a clear, aggressively policed distinction dictating the boundaries of both cyberspace and its social practices. In online gaming spaces in particular, this distinction is similar to the difference between “play” and “nonplay.” As child psychologists have long recognized, the act of saying “this is play” makes the real seem unreal, and thus malleable and less threatening. It allows for experimentation and learning, as well as simply finding out who you are. But in online gaming spaces, when combined with a culture of zero accountability and prejudice, it becomes a way of denying the impact of one’s words and actions—putting no limit on how nasty they can be.”
  • I’ve been programming since I was 7: “I’ve told stories like the above to many of my programming colleagues. Often they trigger similar yarns, involving equally or even more antiquated technology. Us programmers love bragging the development tales of our youth!… In reality though, we’re not as talented as we think. When we tell a story like that, what we’re actually indicating is we were incredibly privileged.”
  • Rita Levi Montalcini: “Yesterday, at the age of 103, Rita Levi-Montalcini died the longest lived Nobel Prize Winner in history, the tenth woman to be elected to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the co-discoverer of nerve growth factor, and a woman who refused to let her father’s ideas about gender or a state’s ideas about race keep her from doing some pretty great science.”
  • Links debunking the pseudoscience of alpha status and social dominance: “In summary, dealing with the science of how what we understand about various hierarchies in different animal species, including our own, debunks the simplistic self-help alpha/beta mythology which originated from a study of captive wolves in zoos (which the original scientists have long since repudiated as not having adequately considered the pathologies of non-related subjects in captivity versus the norms of family groups in the wild).”
  • My bustle’s stuck!: Women vs. Victorian values in ‘The Snowmen’: “Part of the point of putting the Doctor in, say, a Fifties pencil skirt is to visually demonstrate that she would be ill-equipped to, as the Ninth Doctor said to Rose and then immediately demonstrated, run for her life. People wear what society expects them to wear, and if your society sticks you in a corset and bustle, then your society has assigned you the role of “monster food”, not “hero”.”
  • Dear Hacker Community – We Need To Talk.: “I know a lot the community doesn’t want to talk about this stuff. I know I didn’t personally try to build a bridge between wannabe-crypto-users and hackers so I could deal with shitful sexism, misogyny and down-right crappy behavior. I know most people would rather just delete a sexist webpage or image, apologize for the offensive comment, or shitty behavior and move on. Again. But things aren’t changing for the better. And pasting anti-harassment rules on conference wikis doesn’t seem to be making a dent in obviously unacceptable behavior of some arseholes.”
  • But honestly: “The one thing, however, that’s been on my mind for a while now is what Moss-Kanter refers to as “fear of retaliation”. This is something I’m always aware of, and I try my best to keep in the background. I’ve spent countless meetings biting my tongue and trying not to stand out. Unfortunately, one of my less charming traits (or maybe my most charming trait) is that I say what I think. I’ve been in teams where I’ve not been noticed, yet pulled quite a bit of weight. Occasionally, I’ve cleaned up after klutzes who couldn’t do their jobs. But I try not to call attention to this, or to myself. Because, as Moss-Kanter says, there’s a problem with double standards. On the one hand, I should be more aggressive (I’ve been told, many times). And on the other hand, I get sighs, eye-rolling, etc when I am more aggressive and try to solve problems. In short: I’ve felt like a problem for trying to solve problems.”

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.

I have no mouth and I must linkspam (18 December 2012)

  • On Software Startup Culture: “So how do startups come to be even more white and male than even the general software industry? And should they be as celebrated and glorified as they are in software culture? I can only speak of my experience as a white trans woman working for a small ~6 employee startup but for me it comes down to risk and the way privilege mitigates those risks.”
  • The Woman Charged With Making Windows 8 Succeed: “As the head of Windows product development at Microsoft, Julie Larson-Green is responsible for a piece of software used by some 1.3 billion people worldwide. She’s also the person leading the campaign to introduce as many of those people as possible to Windows 8, the dramatic redesign of the iconic operating system that must succeed if Microsoft is to keep pace with a computing industry now shaped more by phones and tablets than desktop PCs… An expert in technical design, she also led the introduction of the novel, much copied “ribbon” interface for Microsoft Office, widely acknowledged as a major improvement in usability.”
  • Sexual and Gender Diversity in Physics: Discussion of a session on gender and sexuality issues at the American Physical Society March Meeting.
  • Tide of history must change to swim with Nobel penguins: “The locals call it Penguin Mountain. Each year, on December 10, on the anniversary of Alfred Nobel’s death, residents of Stockholm witness the awarding of the world’s most prestigious prizes in physics, chemistry, physiology, medicine, literature and economics to rows of men in tuxedos. Rows of grave looking, exceptionally clever men in penguin suits. It’s a sobering, thrilling spectacle. But since 1901, only 44 of all 861 Nobel prizes have been given to women.”
  • NASA Johnson Style (Gangnam Style Parody) – YouTube: Replaced “sexy lady” with “Science daily ” and “It’s amazing”. Hilarious and catchy.

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.

Elementary my dear linkspam (26 October, 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.

I used to be an adventurer like you until I took a linkspam to the knee (23 October, 2012)

  • Engendering Change | Atomic MPC: “Katie Williams looks at how gamers and game developers are tackling sexism, and how some of us are just making things worse…”
  • Meaningful Adventure | Share Your Story: A game design project that “seeks to raise awareness of the positive and negative treatment women face in the gaming community by building a digital game. We are seeking help from both men and women to get a better grasp on what real women experience while playing games.” Looking for you to share your stories. “Within one or two weeks, the anonymized, edited collection will be posted on the project website at meaningfuladventure.wordpress.com.”
  • ‘As a woman’: Misconceptions in the diversity discussion | Gamasutra: “Our panel’s now available to view for all those who have a GDC Vault pass — and meanwhile, I’ve aimed to crystallize and illuminate some common misconceptions about diversity issues in games that we joked about.”
  • A Factory for Scientific Heroines at the Royal Society of London | Huffington Post: The doyenne of British psychology, Professor Uta Frith DBE, has written an article for the Huffington Post calling for more recognition of female scientists. She says that one way to do this is through creating and editing Wikipedia entries about inspiring female scientists past and present, and the Royal Society (of which Frith is a Fellow) has begun an edit-athon to do just that. One example of a glaring omission on Wikipedia at present, mentioned by Frith, is the lack of an entry for cognitive neuroscientist Eleanor Maguire of UCL, despite how hugely influential her work has been. Frith also has a related article in the Daily Telegraph, Shining a light on our science heroines.
  • Gender and Swag | MISinformation: “Each year when the Grace Hopper Conference happens, there is the inevitable discussion about the swag (the freebies in registration packets) given out. I have to confess that the first year I heard that companies gave out nail polish and “girlie” things, I was totally offended, but that was before I attended Grace Hopper. After attending, my whole attitude changed. Engaging in this year’s debate made me stop and think a bit more about the phenomenon.”
  • The point of calling out bad behavior. | Adventures in Ethics and Science: “And, I’ll level with you: while, in an ideal world, one would want the perpetrator of sexist behavior to Learn and Grow and Repent and make Sincere Apologies, I don’t especially care if someone is still sexist in his heart as long as his behavior changes. It’s the interactions with other people that make the climate that other people have to deal with. Once that part is fixed, we can talk strategy for saving souls.”
  • Two GF related projects with Kickstarters:
    • Articulate: “Articulate aims to raise the profile of women speakers in the technology and the creative industries by offering public speaking training, developing partnerships with event programmers, and giving better access to talented female speakers.” (Kickstarter coming later in October)
    • Mothership HackerMoms | Projects. Friends. Inspiration. With Childcare.: “We are a new kind of playground and workspace for creative mothers. Fun to us is not mani-pedis at the mall, but making, breaking, learning and hacking our bright ideas. These creations are our children, too, and deserve a chance at life. Our mission is to give mothers the time and space to explore DIY craft and design, hacker/maker culture, entrepreneurship, and all manner of creative expression – with childcare.”
  • Two GF related Tumblrs:
    • Academic Men Explain Things to Me | Tumblr: “Are you a female academic, researcher, or graduate student? Has a man tried to explain your field or topic to you, on the assumption that he must inevitably know more about it than you do? Share your experiences as a mansplainee here.”
    • Gender and Science: Gender and Science Tumblr: photos of and quotes from female scientists.

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.

By your powers combined, I am Captain Linkspam! (21 September, 2012)

  • Scientists, Your Gender Bias Is Showing: “To test scientist’s reactions to men and women with precisely equal qualifications, the researchers did a randomized double-blind study in which academic scientists were given application materials from a student applying for a lab manager position. The substance of the applications were all identical, but sometimes a male name was attached, and sometimes a female name. Results: female applicants were rated lower than men on the measured scales of competence, hireability, and mentoring (whether the scientist would be willing to mentor this student). Both male and female scientists rated the female applicants lower.”
  • Beating the Odds – How We got 25% Women Speakers for JSConf EU 2012: “We received 234 total talk submissions by 180 unique submitters. 162 (90%) men, 18 (10%) women. We invited 35 women to submit to the CFP, of these 13 ended up submitting one or more proposals, 5 women submitted on their own. The 40 speakers we selected for the weekend are the top 40 anonymously ranked of all proposals.The final tally:
    • 40 speaking slots (100%)
    • 30 men speaking (75%)
    • 10 women speaking (25%)”
  • World Con and accessibility (or lack thereof) | sasha_feather: “Karen Moore recently went to WorldCon and was struck by the difference in the lack of accessibility there vs. at WisCon. She wrote us a letter to say so, and gave me permission to quote her letter in my blog. Excerpts from her letter follow”
  • Things To Do When The Internet Makes You Enraged | Skepchick: “I’ve been struggling recently, trying to find the best way to handle the ongoing barrage of anger and hate that has been directed at various people in the [feminist/atheist/skeptic] community….So I thought I’d put together some things that you and others can do to make a difference in this community to build it up and strengthen the foundations”
  • Wikimania 2012: Opening Plenary with subtitles | Amara: Mary Gardiner’s “Fostering diversity” Wikimania keynote, begins at 11:44
  • WitsOn, an online mentorship event/program, has been getting some attention with their recent press release and a New York Times article . College students can sign up to participate at https://piazza.com/witson.

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.

How Science-Geek Culture Discourages Female Science-Geeks

The majority of commenters agreed that women could not excel in math, due to biology and evolution. In Slashdot Science, the commenters were mostly grown men with science degrees. I was a nineteen-year-old girl with only a high school diploma and a love of science. They were more educated than me, and I wanted to learn from them.

Whenever I encountered a Slashdot article about science and gender, I read the comments, trying to learn more about myself. I felt sick to my stomach each time. I used mental gymnastics to reconcile my love of science with science-credentialed, male elders proclaiming with certainty that female brains were unfit for math and science. They were the experts, after all. I was only a young, female science student.

Math and science are hard. I worried that when I found something challenging in math or science, it was because I was a girl and lacked the mental machinery to understand it. (I thought of myself as a “girl”, because I was still technically a teenager.) I accepted evolution. Many times, I had panick attacks over the possibility that I had innate, hard-wired mental limitations. Before graduating with a science degree, I was unproven. There was no proof that I could be a science person, but I already saw mountains of scientific evidence suggesting that I could not be a science person. Unproven male geeks don’t struggle with science research telling them that they can’t do science when they start to try.

Only after I graduated with a science degree did I feel I had the authority to challenge Slashdotters. Only after I graduated did I feel like a real adult. After I graduated, I was livid, knowing that Slashdot commenters were merely conjecturing casually about my mental limitations, unwittingly crushing the self-esteem of my younger geek self.

Sexism on the Internet—especially discussion websites about science, computers, and math—are like guided missiles targeting and damaging the self-esteem of young female geeks. Female geeks are most likely to see male geeks discuss our alleged mental inferiority in math and science. Non-geek women are unlikely to see these comments, because they are not the ones reading Slashdot, Digg, reddit, Hacker News, techcrunch, or Ars Technica.

For many male geeks, conjecturing about women’s mental and career potential is just an intellectual exercise, and stating personal and scientific hypotheses about women as if they are scientific facts is harmless. For us, it is personal and disturbing.

Lego for Girls used to build a spaceship All rights reserved by Nannan Z.

Nurturing a girl scientist

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question for our readers:

I’m a English-major Geek. You probably knew a dozen or two like me in college. You want conversations on Shakespeare, grammar, early science fiction, or a Fruedian analysis of The Hobbit, I’m your woman. I’m not science or math-phobic, I’m really not. But for the past twenty years, I’ve been getting most of my science from NOVA, science fiction novels, and pizza-and-beer lectures from friends. (I get my math from Vi Hart videos.)

My spouse is similarly situated.

Now, we have a precocious daughter who is exceptionally science-y. Has been since she became fascinated with early hominid evolution when she was three. She once interpreted a Science Museum docent to explain, patiently, that the skeleton he was showing was Homo ergaster, not a Neanderthal. In fact, it was Turkana Boy. She was four and she was right. (He’d grabbed the wrong photo.)

I’ve been scrambling ever since I figured out that I’ve likely got a scientist on my hands. Turns out that Women in Science is THING! (I knew that before but it wasn’t really immediately relevant to my life until that moment.) So I’ve done what I can: she watches NOVA and ViHart with me, I read the Scientific America blog, we practically live at the local Science Museum and Natural History Museums. I try to explain the science of what I’m doing at any moment, as well as I understand it.

I even discovered that most of the scientists doing studies in pediatric brain development are women. So I’ve signed her up for every “brain study” in the city so she can see female scientists at work. (At age 6, she’s had about a dozen MRIs.)

But I feel like, as an English Major Geek, I should be doing something more. Or different. Thoughts? Suggestions? Resources?

What do you think?

Open Thread: Science Nation Army

Using real footage and sounds from a working science lab, the Inside Knowledge team have reconstructed the White Stripes song Seven Nation Army from scratch. Here’s the video:

This is an open thread, for general discussion of any topic as long as you adhere to our commenting policy. Feel free to suggest links, ask questions, share videos, comment on older stories whose individual comment threads are closed, or anything else that tickles your fancy.