Tag Archives: sexism

Group of male-type and female-type body symbols, 8 male, 2 female

Re-post: How To Exclude Women Without Really Trying

During December and January, Geek Feminism is republishing some of our 2012 posts for the benefit of new and existing readers. This post originally appeared on September 17, 2012.

An earlier version of this post appears on Tim’s blog.

Excluding by inclusion

This year’s “Future of Haskell” discussion, which traditionally ends the annual Haskell Symposium, stumbled into the question of gender equity, via the perennial question of how to increase the number of Haskell programmers. Many programmers (of all genders) find math intimidating and think that the Haskell programming language requires more mathematical skill than other popular languages. In the discussion, Doaitse Swierstra, a professor of computer science at the University of Utrecht, suggested that a good way to increase the number of Haskell programmers would be to recruit one woman for every man in the room. So far, so good: in fact, Prof. Swierstra showed creativity by introducing the problem of gender inequity at this point in the discussion. But then he went on to say that if this goal were achieved, it would make the meetings more “attractive”.

Speaking as someone who attended functional programming conferences for ten years, the field of programming language (PL) research in general is particularly male-dominated even by computer science standards. Also anecdotally, functional programming is an even more male-dominated sub-field within PL research. I would sometimes play a game during conference talks where I would count the number of men with long hair, and the number of women, in the room. There were always more long-haired men than women. I can’t know what someone’s gender is by looking at them (as I well know, since before 2007 most people who looked at me would have thought I counted as one of those women). Still, even with a very generous estimate as to how many people who appeared to be men may actually have been trans women or genderqueer people, the conferences would still have had a gender balance that doesn’t reflect the underlying population, or even the gender balance in computer science or software as a whole. Even the field of mathematics is less male-dominated than functional programming research, so the excuse that PL people are blameless and the numbers result from discouragement of girls learning math at the primary and secondary educational levels does not explain the imbalance.

Prof. Swierstra does get credit for recognizing that there is a problem. And I don’t doubt that by making the comments he made, he intended to encourage the inclusion of women, not exclusion. (You can listen to the relevant part of the discussion yourself—the link goes directly to 32:00 in the video. Apologizes in advance to those who are hard of hearing; I didn’t want to attempt a transcript beyond what I already paraphrased, since I wasn’t totally sure about all of it.)

Even so, Swierstra’s remark provides a great example of how it’s not the intent behind what you say that matters, but rather, the effect that your words have. By following a call for more women in the room with a comment about his opinion of women’s greater attractiveness relative to men, he completely undermined his own attempt to encourage equality, whether or not that was his intent. If you accidentally run a person over with your car, not having intended to hurt them doesn’t make them less dead. And if you make an objectifying comment that tells women their value at an academic conference is as decoration, not having intended to send that message doesn’t make those women feel any more welcome. (While accidental killings are punished less harshly than deliberate ones, the analogy stops holding at that point, since no one wants to punish people for accidentally making sexist comments, only to ask them to reflect and learn so they don’t make such comments in the future.)
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That’s no moon…it’s a linkspam! (27 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.

Game of Linkspam (20 November, 2012)

  • Not Getting It: Men, Women, and ‘Stalk Your Friends’ Apps | This Ain’t Livin’: “The gist of the argument is that it’s going to happen anyway and is already happening, so people shouldn’t object to it. Such statements betray an extreme lack of understanding about what it is like to live as a woman or someone read as a woman in this society.”
  • Outreach Program for Women internships | live.gnome.org: “This page contains the general information about the Outreach Program for Women internships, which are available with a number of Free and Open Source Software organizations from January 2 through April 2, 2013. Please read the information about the application process on this page first, and then see organizations’ pages for the project and mentor information.”
  • Newcomer experience and contributor behavior in FOSS communities – Survey: ”The goal of this research is to understand how a person’s experience as a newcomer to a Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) community influences that person’s behavior and contributions within that community. I am interested in hearing from people who are either technical or non-technical contributors, and who have had either positive or negative newcomer experiences.”
  • Gender in the Hidden Curriculum | Sociological Images: “Gender is an important element of the hidden curriculum. Schools reinforce larger cultural messages about gender, including the idea that gender is an essential characteristic for organizing social life.”
  • Nominate a Gift | UltraViolet: “Ever shopped for a gift for a young girl? It seems like the only options out there are super stereotypical little girl–all pink, princess-themed, and sparkly. There are great toys, books and movies out there–gifts that show powerful, healthy images of girls and women, but it can be really hard to find them. That’s why we’re asking UltraViolet members to help us put together the first ever UltraViolet Holiday Gift Guide: A 21st Century Guide to Non-sexist Holiday Shopping. Do you know of an empowering toy, game, DVD, book, or other gift to recommend for the guide? Submit it here.”
  • The academic jungle: ecosystem modelling reveals why women are driven out of research | Oikos – Wiley Online Library: A little old (June 2012), but it looks like we missed it when it was new. “Two key differences between men and women are the larger role that women play in childcare and house work in most families, and the narrower window for female fertility. Here we explore how these two factors affect research output by applying a common ecological model to research performance, incorporating part-time work and the duration of career prior to the onset of part-time work. … We use the model to provide insight into how women (and men) can pursue a career in academia while working part-time and devoting substantial time to their family…. We also identify how university leaders can enable part-time academics to flourish rather than flounder. ”
  • Am I right ladies | sailorswayze: Comic on being a girl who’s into comics
  • Responses to a sexist rant from Tony Harris
    • And then they came for the cosplayers… | The Beat: “The truth is at comic-cons I’ve seen plenty of men flapping around with their franks and beans hanging out of their tights. Does anyone question whether they are nerds or comics readers or have a pull list or are just trying to get their rocks off by showing their rocks off?”
    • Why, Tony Harris? | The Teresa Jusino Experience: “Suddenly you’re mind-readers and you know for a FACT that if a girl is hot (or even “quasi-hot”, whatever the fuck that means) she couldn’t POSSIBLY find you attractive, or like what you like, or think you’re a cool person, or want to be nice to you because she actually WANTS to be, not just because she wants attention. That shit, like, never happens. Because all hot people are shallow. Shallow is kind of defined by judging people based on appearances without looking deeper (not deep, hence shallow)….aren’t you being just a mite shallow RIGHT NOW, YOU HYPOCRITE?!”
    • An Open Letter to Tony “Effing” Harris: Cosplay Misconceptions and Misogyny |  NerdCaliber: “In fact the only people I have ever come in contact with who had NO idea about the character they were portraying and wearing skimpy little sexy outfits were professional models hired by corporations, as well as indie companies, to try and drive traffic to their sites and booths, and at least they are very up front about this. Much like you when you say “Sorry, while you Cos”Play” I’m actually at work. Thats my office,” well, so are they.”

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.

Live long and linkspam (16 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.

Linkspam: The Gathering (12 October, 2012)

  • Viewpoint: More women needed in technology | BBC: “Dr Gloria Moss, a gender marketing expert, confirms that when targeting women, having female input on the design team is crucial: “In design preference tests, I’ve always found extremely strong statistical evidence for ‘same-sex preference’. Men tend to prefer the designs that men produce, and women prefer the designs that women produce.””
  • E-mails Ignored, Meetings Denied: Bias at the Search Stage Limits Diversity | Knowledge @ Wharton: “Using an experiment that explored the treatment of prospective applicants to doctoral programs, they found that professors were significantly less likely to be responsive to communication from women or minority applicants — and that the level of unresponsiveness was greater within academic disciplines that tend to pay more, and at private institutions, where faculty salaries are higher on average.”
  • A primer on sexism in the tech industry | .net magazine: “Designer and developer Faruk Ateş, the man behind Modernizr, says that sexism is hurting our industry in more significant ways than most people realise. Here he explains what it’s all about and what we can do to address this issue.”
  • Busting a Cyberstalker: How Carla Franklin Fought Back | The Daily Beast: “After just a few casual dates with a guy, Carla Franklin faced six years of harassment, stalking, and cyberbullying. Now she’s suing him—in a new frontier of online crimes. Her story, as told to Abigail Pesta.”

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’m Commander Shepard, and this is the best linkspam on the Citadel (2 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.

Cookie of the Week*: dherman suggests playing the blog post, not the CV

Cookie of the Week* is an occasional series highlighting action in the geek community to fight sexism, in order to show that fighting sexism is possible and happening.

When a poster on Hacker News disliked a blog post of Hilary Mason’s and disparaged not only the contents of the post but also criticised her job title and her self-description, dherman replied:

[Disclaimer: I have decades of first-hand knowledge of Hilary's awesomeness, going back to when we were CS students together in college. So yeah, I'm defending my friend.]

I’d like to ask you to think twice before publicly questioning someone’s credentials like this. Whatever your intentions, picking on someone’s CV just because of a blog post you disagree with is not only rude, but it sends a message — particularly to women in tech — that if they speak publicly, if they offer up their opinion, they will be attacked not about the content of their point but about their competence to speak at all. I believe this kind of attack has real consequences on our field, and I would urge everyone to show everyone the respect they’d want for themselves.

(via Tim on Twitter)

Enjoy some Tetris cookies, dherman:

Tetris cookies
Tetris cookies by andremache

Does anyone else have any cookies to spare this week?

* Disclaimer: cookies may not be baked weekly!

Interactive Feminist bingo screenshot

Announcing the release of the Interactive Feminist Bingo Card

This is a guest post by Elizabeth Yalkut and Betsy Haibel. Elizabeth is a front-end developer and writer in New York City; she is a A Very Uncommon Cook. Betsy is a Rubyist who wishes that anarchist punks and open-source geeks talked to each other more. She can be found on the internet at a usually-silly tumblr and a usually-less-silly github account. Together, they are the Irregular Gentlewomen.

This post originally appeared on Elizabeth’s tumblr.

The Irregular Gentlewomen are proud to release version 1.0 of the Interactive Feminist Bingo Card! An open-source project (CC BY-NC-SA), the Interactive Feminist Bingo Card is meant to be an easy way for commenters in online feminist venues to identify sexist and misogynistic trolls, provide validation of a commenter’s judgement that a troll is genuinely trolling and not just clueless, and suggest responses to some of the remarks the troll has made.

Bingo cards are common in the geek feminist community; there are several existing ones linked in the Geek Feminism wiki, and Betsy & I relied on them heavily while creating the bingo card. We’ve both used those existing cards when participating in or reading passionate exchanges in feminist spaces, and felt the need for a card which collated the contents of many of the existing cards and made the game aspect of the card more true to life. (We’re not aware of any other interactive bingo cards in the social justice blogosphere; the cards we have encountered have all been either table-based or images, many of the latter very pretty.)

There are dozens of different squares in the many existing cards, which sometimes made it frustrating to play using one card — “That comment should get me bingo, but it’s not on the card!”

The color scheme is the “girly girl” palette from earlgrey at colorlovers, and the fonts are Emily’s Candy and Miss Fajardose; the names were a part of our decision-making process. We rejected at least one font because the name included a masculine reference. This bingo card is, in part, about embracing the female and the feminine and the feminist and not being ashamed of those things — so we looked for color schemes tagged “girly,” with lots of pink in them, we filtered through the display fonts at Google Fonts to find ones with girls’ names and curlicues and hearts over the i’s. But pink and swirly and all of those quote-unquote traditionally feminine qualities aren’t the only way of being feminine, much less being female, and certainly not the only way of being feminist (in fact, it can be argued that embracing the girly and feminine is a very specific kind of feminism, very third-wave feminism, which isn’t always accepted as feminism). We wanted to make sure to include some iconic feminist references, which is why, upon clicking a square, the text transforms into white-on-red with a black-and-white background — it’s meant to evoke the Barbara Kruger (your body is a battleground) photograph, which was designed as a poster for the massive pro-choice march that took place on April 9, 1989 in Washington, D.C. I would have loved to make that reference more explicit by using the actual face in the Kruger, or treating a stock image similarly, but we were concerned about copyright issues. Hence, the classic “female” symbol is the background of the “used” squares. (Yeah, we probably could have gotten away with a fair use argument, but that was just not the hill we wanted to die on.)

The animation is there for a few reasons: one, because this project was partially a lab space for us to push the boundaries of our code knowledge, and I haven’t gotten a chance to mess around with CSS animations and transitions and whatnot at work much; two, because animation on a web site, unless very discreet, is the kind of stuff that gets disparaged as the realm of amateurs*, the kind of thing you would have seen on a Geocities site, the sort of visual flourish which would only appeal to (and imagine this said in a tone of deep contempt) girls. Obviously, we regard this as bullshit. Animation is a key part of a lot of things that are not seen as girly — where, for example, would video games be without animation? So we wanted to juxtapose the very femininely-styled text, in a feminist context, against the kind of powerful effects which are either sneered at as unsubtle when it’s in a context coded as female or lauded as creative and daring when in a context coded as male. How well we succeeded, well, that’s for the audience to decide. The code is available on github, after all, and if you hate the animations, you can fork it and strip the CSS.

(Also, I really like the zoomy effect. VROOM VROOM FEMINISM.)

In general, we strongly encourage people to fork the project! One of our design goals was ensuring that the content-source files, particularly, would be easy to edit — hopefully, even easy to edit for the less technical. We hope that other people will add to our list of trollish comments & rebuttals, and perhaps even that our code can provide an engine for other anti-oppression bingo cards. (While we’d love to see, for example, anti-racist or anti-cissexist bingo cards, we felt that as white cis women from privileged economic backgrounds we would not be the right people to make them.)

Good luck never getting bingo, and if you have to, we hope the kitten video (oh, did we mention that if you win, you get a kitten video? Thanks to Skud and Emily for that idea.) helps balm your soul.

* See, for example, Vitaly Friedman’s article, in which he remarks, “designers of CSS-based websites tend to avoid extreme interactivity and instead use subtle, refined effects sparingly”. And yet Anthony Calzadilla‘s Spiderman animation, later linked in Friedman’s Smashing Magazine as an example of CSS3 animation, is about as in-your-face as it can get.

Group of male-type and female-type body symbols, 8 male, 2 female

How To Exclude Women Without Really Trying

An earlier version of this post appears on Tim’s blog.

Excluding by inclusion

This year’s “Future of Haskell” discussion, which traditionally ends the annual Haskell Symposium, stumbled into the question of gender equity, via the perennial question of how to increase the number of Haskell programmers. Many programmers (of all genders) find math intimidating and think that the Haskell programming language requires more mathematical skill than other popular languages. In the discussion, Doaitse Swierstra, a professor of computer science at the University of Utrecht, suggested that a good way to increase the number of Haskell programmers would be to recruit one woman for every man in the room. So far, so good: in fact, Prof. Swierstra showed creativity by introducing the problem of gender inequity at this point in the discussion. But then he went on to say that if this goal were achieved, it would make the meetings more “attractive”.

Speaking as someone who attended functional programming conferences for ten years, the field of programming language (PL) research in general is particularly male-dominated even by computer science standards. Also anecdotally, functional programming is an even more male-dominated sub-field within PL research. I would sometimes play a game during conference talks where I would count the number of men with long hair, and the number of women, in the room. There were always more long-haired men than women. I can’t know what someone’s gender is by looking at them (as I well know, since before 2007 most people who looked at me would have thought I counted as one of those women). Still, even with a very generous estimate as to how many people who appeared to be men may actually have been trans women or genderqueer people, the conferences would still have had a gender balance that doesn’t reflect the underlying population, or even the gender balance in computer science or software as a whole. Even the field of mathematics is less male-dominated than functional programming research, so the excuse that PL people are blameless and the numbers result from discouragement of girls learning math at the primary and secondary educational levels does not explain the imbalance.

Prof. Swierstra does get credit for recognizing that there is a problem. And I don’t doubt that by making the comments he made, he intended to encourage the inclusion of women, not exclusion. (You can listen to the relevant part of the discussion yourself—the link goes directly to 32:00 in the video. Apologizes in advance to those who are hard of hearing; I didn’t want to attempt a transcript beyond what I already paraphrased, since I wasn’t totally sure about all of it.)

Even so, Swierstra’s remark provides a great example of how it’s not the intent behind what you say that matters, but rather, the effect that your words have. By following a call for more women in the room with a comment about his opinion of women’s greater attractiveness relative to men, he completely undermined his own attempt to encourage equality, whether or not that was his intent. If you accidentally run a person over with your car, not having intended to hurt them doesn’t make them less dead. And if you make an objectifying comment that tells women their value at an academic conference is as decoration, not having intended to send that message doesn’t make those women feel any more welcome. (While accidental killings are punished less harshly than deliberate ones, the analogy stops holding at that point, since no one wants to punish people for accidentally making sexist comments, only to ask them to reflect and learn so they don’t make such comments in the future.)
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