Tag Archives: Tech industry

The social lot of women might be treated with scientific linkspam (29 April 2014)

This linkspam is sadly a special edition; it’s all “terrible week in tech” links. We know there’s more to geekdom, look out for less-tech-still-geek linkspam tomorrow.

It seems more than justified to conclude with the opening of Model View Culture‘s Abuse issue (coming out over the next few days):

  • Abuse as DDoS | Julie Pagano: “DDoS attacks are abuse of computer systems until they slow down, stop working, and often eventually fail. Abuse of human beings has a similar impact. People dealing with abuse stop being their best, stop working, and eventually fail.”

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.

A Week In The Life

[Content Warning: Intimate Partner Violence, workplace harassment, verbal abuse, sexism]

Folks who hang out around these parts are probably familiar with our Timeline Of Incidents, which documents sexist behavior in tech and other geek fields. While it’s a great resource, scrolling down through that hall of shame is a poor approximation for what it’s like being a woman having to deal with these incidents in real time.

It can be painful. Stressful. Scary. Difficult. Mostly, for me, it’s exhausting. And I know I’m not the only one who feels that way. I hang out with a lot of women in tech, and “this week is fired” has been a common refrain, these last few days.

We begin on Monday, with GitHub’s wholly inadequate response to Julie Ann Horvath’s harassment allegations. They claimed, in the face of her detailed, documented reports of ongoing harassment–harassment that she’d brought to the company’s attention more than once–that they had “no evidence…of a hostile work environment.”

When a woman says “X thing happened to me” and you say “I have no evidence that X happened,” you are calling her a liar. You’re saying her report of her own lived experience is not ‘evidence.’ Women hear that constantly–we are perpetually having our reports questioned, our behavior audited, our pain dismissed. So while this story is about what GitHub did to Horvath, Ellen Chisa is right to point out that GitHub’s reaction–and that of the tech community at large–is scary for many of us.

A lot of folks are saying Horvath is brave for speaking out. That’s true. What’s also true is that her bravery is being met with hostility, victim-blaming, verbal abuse, and threats of litigation. Speaking up about harassment in this industry is personally and professionally difficult. And when people harass and abuse those who do it, they’re sending a message to all of us. Watch your back. Shut your mouth. We will come for you.

Wednesday brought the news that RadiumOne CEO Gurbaksh Chahal pled guilty last week to a couple of misdemeanor domestic violence charges. He was originally facing more than 40 felonies for beating his girlfriend–this after prosecutors say he was caught on tape hitting her more than 117 times in half an hour.

He got three years probation and a few hours of community service. Valleywag reports that his company just started a lucrative partnership, anticipates raising $100mil from its IPO, and Chahal is still being promoted as a public speaker.

Geek Feminists are no strangers to the notion that the professional reputations of men in tech are valued more highly than the physical safety of women. We saw it when Michael Schwern was arrested on domestic violence charges. Geek Feminism co-signed an Ada Initiative statement declining to do any work with Schwern in the future, and dudes came out of the woodwork crowing about ‘witch hunts.’

Because in this industry, telling a dude we’re not going to stamp his ‘ally card’ is totally the same as getting together a mob to murder him.

Schwern has since filed a civil suit against his ex wife, Noirin Plunkett, for speaking out about his arrest. Magistrate Judge Paul Papak made an initial finding in the civil case this Tuesday. Plunkett asked folks for support to offset the considerable legal costs of fighting the suit.

Watch your back. Shut your mouth. We will come for you.

Friday. A day after dismissing and tone-policing Shanley Kane’s “What Can Men Do,” Stack Exchange co-founder Jeff Atwood appropriated her work, publishing a post of his own with the same title that parroted many of her points (with a healthy dose of wrongheaded and harmful misinformation sprinkled in). When called on it, he doubled down, refusing to acknowledge Kane and continuing to tone-police her.

Women in tech practically have to work on diversity issues. It’s a matter of survival, for us. An unpaid, under-appreciated second shift we’re all expected to work. This is far from the first time that a man with very little background in this work has swooped in to ‘correct’ those who know far more about it than he does, taking credit for their labor in the process. And the yahoos in Kane’s twitter mentions, abusing her for daring to call Atwood out, are singing a similar refrain:

Watch your back. Shut your mouth. We will come for you.

If that wasn’t enough for one day, word has also been spreading today of CodeBabes project, a website which offers beautiful women in various states of undress as ‘rewards’ to users taking coding tutorials. The website helpfully informs us that there are more important things to be offended about. To paraphrase Melissa McEwan, this is contempt, not offense.

I don’t know about the codebabes team, but I’m personally capable of holding several things in contempt at once.

As this week’s events should indicate, I’ve had a lot of practice.

Take arms against a sea of links, and by spamming, end them (18 April 2014)

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.

The effect of linkspam on man-in-the-moon marigolds (29 March 2014)

Events, fundraisers and such:

Spam!

  • Dinner plans for all: How conference organizers can make newcomers feel welcome | Becky Yoose at The Ada Initiative (March 24): “Take a small group of conference attendees (mix of new and veteran attendees), add a restaurant of their choosing, throw in some planning, and you get a conference social activity that provides a safer, informal environment that anyone can participate in.”
  • Heroines of Cinema: Why Don’t More Women Make Movies? | Matthew Hammett Knott interviews Marian Evans at Indiewire (March 24): a must-read for anyone who wants to understand why we don’t see more women on-screen and behind the camera in our favorite films and what we can do about it
  • ‘Making games is easy. Belonging is hard': #1ReasonToBe at GDC | Alex Wawro at Gamasutra (March 20): “[Leigh] Alexander says some members of the industry still feel less wanted, less welcome, and less safe than others because of who they are or how they identify themselves.”
  • Wonder Woman writer and artist Phil Jiminez talls to Joseph Phillip Illidge at Comic Book  Resources, Part 1 (March 21) and Part 2 (March 23): “I’ve mentioned in other works that I believe Diana is the ultimate ‘queer’ character — meaning ‘queer’ in its broadest sense — defiantly anti-assimilationist, anti-establishment, boundary breaking. Looking back at the early works of the 1940s, sifting through all the weird stories and strange characters, you can find a pretty progressive character with some pretty thought provoking ideas about sex, sex roles, power, men and women, feminine power, loving submission, sublimating anger, dominance in sexual roles, role playing and the like.”
  • Warning: domestic violence Spyware’s role in domestic violence | Rachel Olding at The Age (March 22): “In a Victorian study last year, 97 per cent of domestic violence workers reported that perpetrators were using mobile technologies to monitor and harass women in domestic situations.” [The study in question seems to be Delanie Woodlock (2013), Technology-facilitated Stalking: Findings and Recommendations from the SmartSafe Project, MSM can't start linking/citing their sources soon enough for this spammer!]
  • Impostoritis: a lifelong, but treatable, condition | Maria Klawe at Slate (March 24)  “I’ve been the first woman to hold my position—head of computer science and dean of science at the University of British Columbia, dean of engineering at Princeton, and now president of Harvey Mudd College. As my career progressed, so did the intensity of my feelings of failure.”
  • The Aquanaut | Megan Garber at The Atlantic (March 13): “The first thing you should know about Sylvia Earle is that she has a LEGO figurine modeled after her. One that has little yellow flippers instead of little yellow feet. “
  • Condolences, You’re Hired! | Bryce Covert at Slate (March 25): “Evidence suggests that women are more likely to get promoted into leadership during particularly dicey times; then, when fortunes go south, the men who helped them get there scatter and the women are left holding the bag. This phenomenon is… known as the glass cliff
  • Mistakes we’ve made | Nicholas Bergson-Shilcock at Hacker School Blog (March 25): Bergson-Shilcock describes ways Hacker School inadvertently deterred or misjudged female candidates and what they’re doing to improve.
  • A few comments on Brendan Eich’s hiring as Mozilla CEO, and his political donations to anti-marriage equality campaigns and candidates:
    • Against Tolerance (March 24) and I know it’s not raining (March 28), both by Tim Chevalier at Dreamwidth: “Apologizing for past wrongs doesn’t undo the past, but it does help rebuild trust and provide assurance that further abuse (or at least not the same kind!) won’t occur in the future. We’ve seen none of that — only tone policing and attempts at creating diversions. The message I take away from reading Brendan’s blog posts is ‘I’ll still try to destroy your family, but I won’t be rude to you to your face. Keep writing code for me!'”
    • Civil rights and CEOs | Alex Bromfield at Medium (March 25): “Eich asks people to put aside this issue because it is unrelated to the work that Mozilla does, but it is related, especially when the chief of HR reports to him.”

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.

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.

Quick hit: when non-macho guys are on top of the heap

There’s a discussion around the journalism startups that well-known journalists are involved in, and the extent to which they are yet another set of startups full of white men. (Basically, yes.) Emily Bell wrote Journalism startups aren’t a revolution if they’re filled with all these white men.

I thought readers here would especially enjoy Zeynep Tufekci’s contribution, No, Nate, brogrammers may not be macho, but that’s not all there is to it. An excerpt:

Many tech guys, many young and recently ascendant, think something along these lines: “Wait, we’re not the jocks. We aren’t the people who were jerks. We never pushed anyone into a locker and smashed their face. We’re the people who got teased for being brainy, for not being macho, the ones who never got a look from the popular girls (or boys), the ones who were bullied for our interests in science and math, and… what’s wrong with Dungeons & Dragons, anyway?”

In other words, as Silver puts it, “We’re outsiders, basically.”[…]

[L]ife’s not just high school, and there is not one kind of hierarchy. What happens when formerly excluded groups gain more power, like techies? They don’t just let go of their old forms of cultural capital. Yet they may be blind to how their old ways of identifying and accepting each other are exclusionary to others. They still interpret the world through their sense of status when they were “basically, outsiders.”

Most tech people don’t think of it this way, but the fact that most of them wear jeans all the time is just another example of cultural capital, an arbitrary marker that’s valued in their habitus, both to delineate it and to preserve it. Jeans are arbitrary, as arbitrary as ties[…]

How does that relate to the Silver’s charged defense that his team could not be “bro-y” people? Simple: among the mostly male, smart, geeky groups that most programmers and technical people come from, there is a way of existing that is, yes, often fairly exclusionary to women but not in ways that Silver and his friends recognize as male privilege.

Tufekci’s whole piece is at Medium, come for the Bourdieu, stay for the Dr Seuss!

The linkspam is a harsh mistress (19 March 2014)

Super spam today folks!

Kicking off with our traditional can of miscellaneous linkspam:

The Mythology edition of Model View Culture is out, and its entire table of contents is of interest! This spammer couldn’t trim it down!

Look out for an interview with Model View Culture founders Amelia Greenhall and Shanley Kane on Geek Feminism tomorrow!

And finally, Julie Ann Horvath left Github, describing harassment and other inappropriate workplace behaviour. Some coverage and responses include:

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.

Message In A Linkspam (28 December 2013)

  •  Gender-based Citation Disparities | Abby Olena, The Scientist (12 Dec 2013): “Researchers have looked at citations across disciplines by gender and demonstrated that female scientists publish less and receive fewer citations than their male counterparts around the world. The analysis was published as a comment in Nature this week (December 11).”
  • The tech industry’s woman problem: Statistics show it’s worse than you think | Lauren Bacon, QUARTZ (7 Nov 2013): “One of the most frustrating things about the tech industry’s woman problem is the paucity of reliable data on the number of women working in technical roles. Now, thanks to a public Google spreadsheet created by Tracy Chou, a software engineer at Pinterest, we have data on how many women engineers work at 84 different tech companies. [...] The numbers, while preliminary, are revealing: tech companies employ an average of 12.33% women engineers.”
  • RobotsConf: The Future of Tech Events | Voodoo Tiki God (13 Dec 2013): “Most conference organizers complain that getting a single non-male speaker is “impossible”, especially for a first time event, but with RobotsConf I can confidently say that it is not impossible and to be honest not even that hard. We derived our speaker list through an open call for makers followed by a blind selection process and it was admittedly accidental that we came to the ratio we did.”
  • Paul Graham Says Women “Haven’t Been Hacking For the Past 10 Years” | Nitasha Tiku, VALLEYWAG (27 Dec 2013): “On display in an interview with Y Combinator cofounder Paul Graham is the clearest picture of Silicon Valley’s unacknowledged sexism to ever find its way in print. [...] Given a chance to defend himself and Y Combinator – an accelerator often credited alongside Stanford as a gravitational force in the startup ecosystem – Graham instead exposed hidden assumptions about women and technology shared by Silicon Valley’s priesthood.”
  • How a Developer Learned Not to Be Racist and Sexist | Epicodus (12 Dec 2013): “I’m a developer. A few years ago, I moved to a new city and met some new friends who talked about racism and sexism more than I had ever thought about before. At first I was uncomfortable and didn’t like a lot what they were saying – and I definitely didn’t like when they told me something I said was racist or sexist. Then I remembered that I’m a developer, and I’m good at figuring out unfamiliar systems.”

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.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.

More TRUCEConf

This is a guest post by Meagan Waller. Meagan Waller is a Ruby developer and resident apprentice at 8th Light. She tweets at @meaganewaller and blogs at Meaganwaller.com

TRUCEConf is a two-day conference with the purpose of setting aside differences and creating an inclusive and open place where we can put an end to the gender war in tech. TRUCE stands for trust, respect, unity, compassion, and equality, which are elements to a healthy community.

http://truceconf.com/

I really don’t doubt that the Truceconf organisers have good intentions, however I think that when you think of feminism in tech as a war between the genders you’re missing the point. It’s not a war, and it’s not right to pit the two sides against each other like there is an equal playing field and like we can just talk it out.

Frankly, I’m insulted by the conference. The organizers need to reconsider: whether that is changing the scope of project, bringing on people who actually have experience and education in dealing with this, and can we please talk about how the people who are most educated on this are saying this is terrible, and the majority of the people who are on board with this are male. I don’t ever want my activism to make my oppressors comfortable, and I’m not sorry about that. And like I said, I’m sure Elizabeth and the organizers have good intentions, I have no doubt that they do, but this screams “White-Lean-In-Feminism” that caters to the patriarchy instead of dismantling it, it’s “fuck you, I got mine” feminism, and it’s toxic and harmful. However, good intentions don’t always yield positive results, as we’ve seen.

Starting with the Tone Arguments and the way TruceConf’s message statement, and their writing on their page seems to trivialize the importance of this. They continue talk about anger and how we’re striving to have conversations without anger, and even how dangerous anger is. Justified anger isn’t dangerous, and yes, it makes people uncomfortable, it makes people aware of their privilege and it’s hard, but ignoring that and even saying it’s bad is just the straw man angry feminist argument that gets thrown in our faces, and it’s so frustrating. Criticizing people who are working for equality, who get angry sometimes, how can you look around and not be angry? I’m pissed off constantly, I am tired and fed up of being kicked when I’m already down and being told I’m lucky for the experience. This is tone argument derailing 101, and it distracts from the real issue, it really does.

TruceConf, however good intentioned it is, trivializes and dismisses the work that’s been done, it’s insulting to me because they think I’ve failed because of how I’ve gone about it. As if no one has ever thought of just being nice, as if we could just talk this out and everything would be okay. If it wasn’t for Ashe Dryden and Julie Pagano’s and many other of the influential feminists in the tech world I would’ve never became a feminist. I felt uncomfortable by their anger, and I remember even unfollowing both of them within a week when I first started following them because of all my unexamined white privilege, but I’m fundamentally changed now, and anger, real justified anger, did that.

When we set this up like it’s a war, we are missing the entire point. That’s a false equivalence, a space with abusive victims and abusers and abuse apologists, and a space with rapist apologist, and rape victims, and maybe even rapists, does not make for a safe space. To say that those who speak out against oppression, and rapists, and abusive have equal platforms, and should have an equal voice in the discussion as those who work to perpetuate and do the harassing, and abusing, and raping is wrong. Plain and simple. How can you say that speaking out against abuse is the same as abusing? How can you say they should have an equal voice in that discussion.

There is no way that will go okay. I am SCARED for this to happen, I am scared for this to become a thing. I am scared that the organizers won’t listen to the feedback from those who actively work to dismantle the current structure. This isn’t a war between two equal, consenting sides, this is about the systematic oppression of women, PoC, LGBTQIA folks, disabled, and all the intersections that exist in those realms. Why would the people with privilege sit down and talk it out, and just agree to give up their privilege? The culture is purely invested in maintaining the status quo, and this conference doesn’t break any barriers, it doesn’t do anything groundbreaking, or anything that society doesn’t already do. This conference caters to the status quo, this conference is something the patriarchy can (and has) gotten behind.

When we don’t acknowledge this systematic and institutionalized imbalance we are just a cog in the machine. The idea of a truce isn’t realistic, as awesome as that could be. The only way to rid tech of sexism, racism, ageism, ableism is to dismantle the system that’s stacked against equality.

On TRUCEConf

This is a guest post by Jacob Kaplan-Moss. Jacob is the co-BDFL of Django and Director of Security at Heroku. Jacob helped create Django while working at the Lawrence Journal-World, a family owned newspaper in Lawrence, KS. He lives outside of Lawrence and spends his weekends playing at being a farmer.

This post originally appeared on Jacob’s blog.

Friday brought news of TRUCEConf.

It’s a terrible, dangerous and insulting idea. The organizers should reconsider, either canceling the event or changing its scope and mission radically. I have no doubts that the organizers have good intentions, but good intention don’t always yield positive results. As is, TRUCEConf’s very existence runs counter to the vision of equality in tech.

Tone arguments and trivialization

It’s hard to read the verbiage on TRUCEConf‘s home page as anything other than an extended tone argument. The page continually talks “anger”: citing the need for “discussions without… anger”, or the danger of continuing “on the path of anger”.

It’s hard to read this as anything other than buying into the myth of the “angry feminist”, criticizing people working for equality who have the temerity to occasionally get angry. This is a classic tone argument at its best: distracting from the actual issue at hand by focusing on the tone.

Here’s the thing, though: as Melissa McEwan points out, “to a subjugated person… anger is perfectly rational.” Indeed, “how can you look at a cultural landscape of institutionalized inequality and not be angry… because you know that the opposite of anger, for a progressive, is complacence.”

TRUCEConf, on the very face of it, trivializes and dismisses the work that’s already been done, implying that the reason it failed is because it was somehow done wrong. That’s incredibly insulting to everyone who’s been working on this problem.

What exactly are “both sides”?

TRUCEConf continually mentions “both sides”. What exactly are these two sides? (Spoiler alert: they don’t exist.)

Men and women?

Maybe they mean “men” and “women”? If so:

  • It ignores the fact that some men are as uncomfortable with the status quo, as well as the sad truth that some women have a deep investment in keeping the system in place.
  • This buys into the myth of the gender binary, sweeping trans*, gender questioning, and gender nonconforming people under the rug.
  • Indeed, it implies that the only problems facing tech is sexism, when in fact our community is also racist, ableist, ageist, etc. etc. etc.

All of this comes down to a lack of understanding of intersectionalism – the way different forms of oppression interlock and interrelate. There’s not “two sides”; there’s a deep and complex interlocking set of oppressions. Put succinctly:

When you enter a feminist space and you are only concerned with sexism, you are missing the full story. It’s like listening to music but only hearing the melody…without the harmony, percussion, and bass line, you aren’t actually hearing the song.

(From Intersectionalism 101. Read the rest of it, please!)

Sexists” and “non-sexists”?

OK, maybe they don’t mean “men” and “women”; maybe they mean “sexists” and “non-sexists”?

If so, that’s even worse. We’re not talking about two equal groups here; one “side” is comprised of harassers, abusers, and rapists. Take a moment to peruse the history of sexist incidents in tech. Is TRUCEConf seriously suggesting that we invite people from “both sides” of those events?

Do they really believe that the solution is to invite abusers and their victims to “work together in an open environment to solve our problems collaboratively”?

Both sides” implies false equivalence

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what these supposed “two sides” are. The very
discussion of these “two sides” sets up a damaging an untrue false equivalence
between bullies, abusers and rapists on one “side” and people speaking out
against harassment on the other.

This implies that speaking out about abuse is somehow equivalent to abuse itself.

It’s hard even to articulate how insulting and damaging this sort of false equivalence is.

This is an appropriation of the language of oppression by the oppressing class. Having your privilege challenged isn’t bullying. Saying that is the worst kind of privilege. If the worst thing that’s happened to you is having someone on Twitter call you sexist, well, you’ve lived a pretty incredibly lucky life so far, don’t you think?

This isn’t a war

Fundamentally, TRUCEConf fails because this isn’t a “war.” A “war” implies some sort of struggle, with equivalent atrocities on both sides. When it comes to our tech industry, nothing could be further from the truth.

This isn’t a “war” between equals; it’s the systematic oppression of women, people of color, LGBT folk, and other minorities. The people with privilege are not going to just sit down, talk it out, and suddenly agree to give up that privilege; there’s a massive culture deeply invested in maintaining the status quo.

Refusing to acknowledge this systemic imbalance implicitly endorses it. The concept of a “truce” is laughable; the only solution is to dismantle the system that’s so stacked against equality.