Intersectional Types: a new mailing list for programming languages researchers and research-curious

This is a guest post by Chris Martens, a programming languages researcher who recently got her Ph.D. at Carnegie Mellon University; she research-blogs at

STEM academia falls behind the broader “women in tech” movements in several respects, most notably in the sense that we don’t have many spaces (i.e. backchannels) to discuss, organize, and seek advice in situations that are unique to academia, while still arising from the usual structural oppression systems. In recent years, the Lambda Ladies group for women in functional programming has been a great example of a group that serves this purpose for participation in industry and open source, which opened my eyes to what academia has been sorely missing.

Meanwhile, from where I stand within programming languages (PL) research, I am seeing more and more women showing up (though usually white, cis women), more trans people coming out, other queer people speaking up, and people of color (who sometimes inhabit several of those identities) struggling for a voice. While each of these groups and intersections faces their own challenges to integrating with a largely white/cishet/male academic community, I believe the time is ripe for us to organize and talk to each other about those challenges, to build a space of our own for social as well as research discussions.

As a starting point for our field, I started a mailing list back in May of this year, called Intersectional Types.

Currently, the mailing list traffic is very light (averaging less than one message per day), and thread topics have been things like approaching organizers of conferences about diversity issues, calls for participation and service on committees, dependently-typed programming, and favorite female role models.

In general, the list has the following purpose, as summarized at the above link:

In some ways, this list should be considered just another research list, such as the TYPES forum. This space can be used for research questions, literature guidance, starting collaborative efforts, introductions and updates to current research projects, open-ended philosophical questions about grand research visions, links to blog posts/papers, announcement of CFPs and job postings, announcements of achievements and breakthroughs.

In addition, this list is a response to a problem: that PL research communities have a really hard time attracting, retaining, and especially *valuing* people who are marginalized in society. This problem is in no way unique to PL, but the purpose of this list is to bring together folks with similar enough research interests that we can provide each other support that’s meaningful within the context of our specific field.

Some specific examples of activity we encourage, but don’t see on traditional research fora, are: requests for career mentorship and advice (especially along an academic career track); requests for feedback on papers and blog posts; giving (remote) practice talks; organizing local meetups and events; posting about mentorship programs, fellowships, summer schools, and other opportunities; venting about the ways our environments are unwelcoming and dysfunctional; and discussing how we ourselves can create more welcoming and supportive environments when we are in positions of leadership.

Other details, such as who’s welcome to join, moderator contact information, and the code of conduct, can be found on the list description page. In particular, we encourage new members who have some degree of experience with PL as a topic (e.g. a course or self-instruction) but may not work formally within the academic system, whether that’s a “not yet” situation or a “probably never” situation, especially if structural oppression systems influence that situation.

Finally, I want to add a call to other academic feminists to consider searching for and starting explicitly political backchannels like this one within your field. There may be more people out there who are like you, frustrated in the ways you are frustrated, or merely different in the ways that you are different. The first step toward change is often feeling less alone in wanting it.

Book Club: What should we read next?

Attention constant readers! It’s time to choose our next book!

Here are three candidates, two fiction novels and one research paper:

Cover of Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

Ann Leckie, Ancillary Mercy

will be published 6 October 2015; 368 pages

I’ve pre-ordered this final book in the Ancillaryverse trilogy and will be eager to talk about it with other geek feminists starting, probably, on October 7th. Protagonist Breq used to be a starship, connected instantly to multiple bodies, and hasn’t quite gotten used to being singly embodied. I think the first book in the trilogy, Ancillary Justice, integrated fist-punching-related adventure with flashbacks and thinky conversations and interstellar intrigue and music really well. It’s about power and institutions, about the lived difference between true mutual aid and imperialism, and about how to be loyal to imperfect institutions and imperfect people. And explosions.

Ancillary Sword, the middle book, shifted settings to concentrate on one spaceship near one station orbiting one planet, helping us compare societies that are functional, dysfunctional, and broken. Leckie compares othering, oppression, and possibilities for resistance across urban and plantation settings. And I utterly bawled at one character’s soliloquy on the way to her doom, and at tiny hopeful steps of mutual understanding and community empowerment. Also, again, explosions.

Here’s the first chapter of book three, and in case that’s not enough, here’s some fanfic based on books one and two.

The Ancillaryverse is scifi that argues with other scifi; you can see the Radchaai as Borg (ancillaries), or as Federation (per the “root beer” and Eddington/Maquis critiques from Deep Space Nine), and you can see Justice of Toren as literally the ship who sang (see the comments in Leckie’s post here, around the novels’ feminist lineage). I’m looking forward to seeing more of Leckie’s conversation with other speculative fiction, to more critiques, and more explosions.

Photo of Sherry Turkle

Sherry Turkle. Photo by jeanbaptisteparis, CC BY-SA 2.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Sherry Turkle and Seymour Papert, “Epistemological Pluralism and the Revaluation of the Concrete”

published 1991; about 31 pages

Sociologist, psychologist, and technology researcher Turkle authored this paper with constructionist education researcher Papert, and reading it gave me new language for thinking about me as a programmer:

Here we address sources of exclusion determined not by rules that keep women out, but by ways of thinking that make them reluctant to join in. Our central thesis is that equal access to even the most basic elements of computation requires an epistemological pluralism, accepting the validity of multiple ways of knowing and thinking….

“Hard thinking” has been used to define logical thinking. And logical thinking has been given a privileged status that can be challenged only by developing a respectful understanding of other styles where logic is seen as a powerful instrument of thought but not as the “law of thought.” In this view, “logic is on tap, not on top.”….

The negotiational and contextual element, which we call bricolage….

Our culture tends to equate soft with feminine and feminine with unscientific and undisciplined. Why use a term, soft, that may begin the discussion of difference with a devaluation? Because to refuse the word would be to accept the devaluation. Soft is a good word for a flexible and nonhierarchical style, open to the experience of a close connection with the object of study. Using it goes along with insisting on negotiation, relationship, and attachment as cognitive virtues….

I appreciated the case studies of programmers and their approaches and frustrations, the frameworks analyzed and suggested (e.g., relational and environmental), and the connections to other feminist researchers such as Carol Gilligan. If you feel like your approach to engineering makes you countercultural, you might like this piece too. Here’s a plain HTML version of the paper, and here’s a PDF of the paper as originally typeset and footnoted.

Cover of Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

Zen Cho, Sorcerer to the Crown

published 1 September 2015; 384 pages

Author Zen Cho’s speculative and historical fiction foregrounds the perspective of women of color, specifically the Malaysian diaspora; she has non-US-centric views on diversity which I find both disorienting and refreshing to read! You can read the first chapter of her first novel, Sorcerer to the Crown, for free online. It’s a fast-moving period fantasy with a bunch of women and people of color. The blurb:

Zacharias Wythe, England’s first African Sorcerer Royal, is contending with attempts to depose him, rumours that he murdered his predecessor, and an alarming decline in England’s magical stocks. But his troubles are multiplied when he encounters runaway orphan Prunella Gentleman, who has just stumbled upon English magic’s greatest discovery in centuries.

I’d love to discuss themes in this feminist Malaysian-British author’s work with other geek feminists. In her postcolonial historical romance novella The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo, her short story collection Spirits Abroad, and in Sorcerer to the Crown, Cho depicts adventurous, mercenary, or blasé women who use, disregard, or otherwise play with expectations of femininity. She illustrates how both mundane and magical institutions use gatekeeping to prop up their own status hierarchies, and how that affects people trying to make their way in. Intersectionality, diaspora and immigration, the culture of British education, and queer relationships also appear in Cho’s stories over and over.

if you read The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo then you might be forewarned of the kind of genre switchup Cho is doing — I definitely see Prunella Gentleman prefigured in Jade Yeo. I particularly like that, in Sorcerer to the Crown, Cho writes in a genre that often has kind of a slow tempo, and moves the speed up so there are more exciting plot developments per page, and adds more Wodehouse-y shenanigans and off-the-rails conversations, without ever sliding into unbelievable-silly-farce-romp or territory. And there’s a spoiler I badly want to talk about with other people of color!

Something else altogether

You tell me! Let’s try to wrap up voting by Wednesday October 7th.

GF classifieds (October, November, and December 2015)

This is another round of Geek feminism classifieds. If you’re looking to hire women, find some people to participate in your study, find female speakers, or just want some like-minded folk to join your open source project, this is the thread for you!

Here’s how it works:

  1. Geeky subjects only. We take a wide view of geekdom, but if your thing isn’t related to an obviously geeky topic, you’ll probably want to give a bit of background on why the readers of Geek Feminism would be interested.
  2. Explain what your project/event/thing is, or link to a webpage that provides clear, informative information about it. Ideally you’ll also explain why geek women might find it particularly awesome.
  3. Explain what you’re looking for. Even if it’s not a job ad, think of it like one: what is the activity/role in question, and what would it involve? What is the profile of people you’re looking for?
  4. GF has international readership, so please be sure to indicate the location if you’re advertising a job position, conference, or other thing where the location matters. Remember that city acronyms aren’t always known world-wide and lots of cities share names, so be as clear as possible! (That is, don’t say “SF[O]” or “NYC” or “Melb”, say “San Francisco, USA”, “New York City, USA” or “Melbourne, Australia”.) And if you can provide travel/relocation assistance, we’d love to know about it.
  5. Keep it legal. Most jurisdictions do not allow you to (eg.) advertise jobs for only people of a given gender. So don’t do that. If you are advertising for something that falls into this category, think of this as an opportunity to boost the signal to women who might be interested.
  6. If you’re asking for participants in a study, please note Mary’s helpful guide to soliciting research participation on the ‘net, especially the “bare minimum” section.
  7. Provide a way for people to contact you, such as your email address or a link to apply in the case of job advertisements. (The email addresses entered in the comment form here are not public, so readers won’t see them.)
  8. Keep an eye on comments here, in case people ask for clarification or more details. (You can subscribe to comments via email or RSS.)

If you’d like some more background/tips on how to reach out to women for your project/event/whatever, take a look at Recruiting women on the Geek Feminism Wiki.)

Good luck!

Why be happy when you could be linkspam? (29 September 2015)

  • Bingo and Beyond | hypatia dot ca: “I was the instigator of the bingo card at 2014’s Grace Hopper conference. For more on how to not have me make a bingo card making fun of you at some point in the future, skip to the resources at the end. But for a fun story, read on…”
  • Dreamforce’s ‘Women’s Innovation’ panel is why we should stop babying female CEOs | TNW News: “It’s alienating, in no uncertain terms, to have to sit through a panel designed to be about women in technology and instead have it derailed by the seemingly interminable myth that when we want to talk about being a woman in tech, what we’re really saying is that we want to talk about being wives and mothers with day jobs in the technology industry.”
  • Strong Female Characters are Rarely Strong and Barely Characters | The Mary Sue: : “You’ve met this character before. She has black hair with a colorful stripe, wears green or purple lipstick with chipped painted nails to match; she wears black leather clothing that’s cut a little short in place, designed to help her while she skateboards or rides a motorcycle; she has a series of skills which are “for boys” and has interests which are “for boys”. In the first act we meet her and she seems rude and dismissive, saying “whatever” and rolling her eyes. In the second act we are shown that she secretly has a feminine and caring side – almost universally in the process of learning that she secretly cares for the male protagonist, and is too insecure to admit it. In the third act she learns to reconcile her feelings for the protagonist with her tough-as-nails identity and uses some typically “for boys” skill – usually combat, but also often hacking or deductive science – to save the male protagonist… so that he can save the day.”
  • Cyber Violence Against Women And Girls: A World-Wide Wake-up Call | UN Women: [PDF] “As the Internet evolves and social media and networking tools increasingly become an intrinsic part of people’s lives around the globe, attitudes and norms that contribute to cyber VAWG (Violence Against Women and Girls) must be addressed with urgency. A collective global effort, led by the United Nations system, has put in place the pillars for a 21st century sustainable development paradigm. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) establishing the global development priorities for the next 15 years includes a goal on gender equality, which places women’s access to technology for their empowerment as one of the core indicators for progress. For this to be realized, all stakeholders must take accelerated actions to ensure a safer, more secure Internet for present and future generations – one without endemic VAWG.”
  • What can I do today to create a more inclusive community in CS? Guest Post from Cynthia Lee | Computing Education Blog: “The below list was created by Cynthia Lee for the workshop participants. I loved it and asked if I could offer it here as a guest post. I’m grateful that she agreed.”
  • Spotlight on a Young Scientist: Anika Cheerla | Google for Education: “While volunteering in a senior care facility, Anika was shocked to learn how many older adults suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. Her curiosity led her to learn more about diagnosis of this disease, and she found that without a standard test or method for diagnosis, most doctors rely on their own opinions. She decided to create a tool that quickly and accurately diagnosed Alzheimer’s and knew her brother, who loved science and coding, would be able to help her. By extracting image features from MRI scans, Anika built an interface for doctors to upload an image, enter some basic patient information and get a reliable Alzheimer’s diagnosis.”
  • My Black & STEM Playlist — Medium: “So part of my thrival story is music. As I told The Setup, the single most important piece of tech I own are my headphones. Today I’d like to share some of the music I always have available to me no matter where I am, going beyond some of the songs I shared with the CBC earlier this year. There’s plenty I left out, but for me this is the most memorable stuff.”

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, 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.

Joelle Fleurantin and her Erotic Haptic Device, part of the Patchworked Venus project.

Feminist tech demos: menstruation, harassment, an erotic wearable, and more

Joelle Fleurantin and her Erotic Haptic Device, part of the Patchworked Venus project.

Joelle Fleurantin and her Erotic Haptic Device, part of the Patchworked Venus project.

On Friday, I interviewed feminist technologists at a demo showcase in New York City. (Thanks to NYC Media Lab (a higher education-city government-industry partnership) for giving me a press pass to their 2015 annual summit.)

Patchworked Venus

Joelle Fleurantin presented Patchworked Venus, “A wearable exploring how computing has given birth to a new form of sexual intimacy”. See the embedded video below for a demo.

Patchworked Venus: Erotic Haptic Device Preview from Joelle F. on Vimeo.

Ms. Fleurantin, (MPS ’15, NYU ITP), discussed her design with me, explaining that instead of being a phallic accessory like a lot of other erotic devices, Patchworked Venus emphasizes other erogenous zones. Her artist’s statement asks:

How can an erotic device become a tool for body modification: an extension of the user rather than a facsimile of an external, imagined person? And what then becomes of this augmented wearer, specifically when her body is not raceless like those present in dominant representations of the cyborg?

Patchworked Venus explores these questions by casting an intimate experience within the context of dress as performance.

The garment, in contrast to conventional vibrators, is meant to be worn, and uses heat, compression, and touch on the wearer’s back, inner thighs, and nipples. A warm circuit provides heat over the breast, motors like those used for haptic response in mobile phones give the user a sensation of touch on the back and the inner thighs, and an inflatable jacket and hood literally embrace the wearer with a pneumatic actuating system, providing a pleasant feeling of compression and constriction. She “designed and milled breakout boards for use with the Adafruit Flora” (from her “About” page). Ms. Fleurantin also considered using soft robotics and lithography to give the wearer a sensation of breath on the skin, but decided against it since that approach would require a large, loud air compressor.

A close-up of some circuitry on the Patchworked Venus garment.

A close-up of some circuitry on the Patchworked Venus garment.

Check out her ten-minute thesis presentation for more on the Erotic Haptic Device and Patchworked Venus. In it, Ms. Fleurantin discusses her influences and process, including her upbringing as a black woman, learning from her mother how important self-presentation, grooming, and clothing were. I noted down some names and links from that presentation and from my conversation with her on Friday:

(I had previously known Ms. Fleurantin because of her work on user research for the Mozilla wiki; I’ll be curious to see her next project as well!)


I spoke with Lucy M. Bonner and tried out her immersive harassment simulator “Compliment”. Ms. Bonner (MFA Design and Technology ’16, Parsons the New School for Design) developed “Compliment,” a virtual reality experience using the Oculus Rift, and you can see a demo video on YouTube if you sign in.

From her artist’s statement:

Compliment is an immersive experience of street harassment designed and created for the Oculus Rift. It demonstrates the fact that harassment creates an atmosphere of intimidation and tension for women on a daily basis, that it is not ok, and that it is not a compliment. Compliment conveys the forceful intrusion and violation of space and attention that makes a woman feel vulnerable, angry, and silenced in order to raise awareness and effect change.

Ms. Bonner received much more street harassment when she moved from Houston to New York City, and used those catcalls she heard in real life to populate the set of harassing comments that simulated harassers say to the player. She appreciates how virtual reality lets her offer, say, a 6-foot-2-inches man a way to experience the world as a shorter, more vulnerable person. “Many of the harassers in the experience are much larger than the player, which creates part of the sense of danger and intrusion in confrontations.” Also: “Players are unable to respond, as in the real world with concern for safety, and are forced to constantly hear and dodge unwanted attention.”

I mentioned to Ms. Bonner a truism I’ve heard (via Adria Richards or Lukas Blakk, I believe) that men tend to use augmented reality experiences like Google Glass to more powerfully navigate the world, while women tend to use them to document their experience in the world. Ms. Bonner wouldn’t put “Compliment” in that latter category, and not just because VR and augmented reality are different approaches; she considers “Compliment” more outwardly focused, showing other people what her experience is like rather than concentrating on gathering proof of the experience itself. “Compliment” conveys, as she puts it, the “cumulative atmosphere of silencing and objectification”.

Joanna Chin and Bryan Collinsworth present d.Bot

Joanna Chin and Bryan Collinsworth present d.Bot


I spoke with Joanna Chin and Bryan Collinsworth about their quite different simulator, d.Bot. “Drawing from female experiences in online and offline dating, is a chatbot that simulates conversing with an unenlightened male.” Ms. Chin and Mr. Collinsworth (MFA in Design & Technology ’16, The New School) used JavaScript,, and Parse to develop d.Bot, and made it partially to test out a theory about a different approach to artificial intelligence than you often see. Rather than aiming for a predictive response, d.Bot is trying to stimulate a particular response in the human user. You can try it out at

A demo session with d.Bot

A demo session with d.Bot

Ms. Chin said that it’s been nice to be able to use things guys have said to her, and that hearing or seeing new annoying messages, she figures, it’s going into the pot. (This includes a comment a guy said to her during fair setup, just before I arrived.) You can also click the “Feed Me” button to add something a guy has said to you, if you’d like to add more quotes to the database.

Mr. Collinsworth hopes d.Bot will help men experience what women experience, both online and in the physical world; any one guy saying uncreative things doesn’t experience what it’s like to hear those same comments frequently and en masse. In that vein, he suggested that perhaps Tinder could show users an originality score as they type messages to other users, flagging likely boring messages and discouraging users from sending them.

Ms. Chin said that she’s seen other critique of boring or harassing men (street harassers and OKCupid and Tinder users) that’s more in a name-and-shame mode, and that she wonders whether a critique in the form of humor around originality and creativity would be more likely to change the player’s behavior, as opposed to dinging a user and saying “you’re a bad person”. For her and for other d.Bot users, the bot is also a fun way to vent — she said she’s seen women happy to finally have a chance to talk back to these messages in a safe, consequence-free sandbox.

I asked for her thoughts on feminist dating apps like Bumble, and we discussed the possibility that Bumble (in which women can and men cannot initiate conversation) is just moving the problem a little further down the road; instead of screening out men at the stage of initial online conversation, het women might find that they go on more dates with men who don’t interact well.


Monica Raffaelli presenting SHVRK

Monica Raffaelli presenting SHVRK

Monica Raffaelli presented “SHVRK”: “Surf the crimson wave with fewer fatalities”. Users can sign up to get text message alerts of their friends’ menstrual cycles. Below is her SHVRK v1.0 demo video.

Ms. Raffaelli (MS Integrated Digital Media ’16, NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering) and I spoke a little on Friday, and then she answered my questions on SHVRK, her influences, and her feminism via email:

There are apps for women to track women’s cycles, and there are apps for men to track what they don’t like about women’s cycles. The former often have pastel palettes, cute logos, and an emphasis on fertility and pregnancy. The latter have a handful of angry responses from the feminist community.

As long as bodily fluids and excretions are taboo, periods will be taboo. The app was never meant to change anybody’s views of leftover uterine lining. That said, the divisive nature of the current apps on the market doesn’t offer many people the opportunity to level the playing field. What we need is an app with an interface with universal appeal. We need an app that doesn’t perpetuate traditional stereotypes, but educates and facilitates. We need an app that makes the monthly inconvenience a little more convenient.

I’ve tried apps with features I didn’t need. I don’t need help getting pregnant, I don’t need to share my uterine woes with a community of empathetic blood sisters, and I don’t need cute puppies to guide me through reminders to hydrate. What I do need is an app that alerts my man to the state of my hormones. What about the men who don’t care about the difference between pads and tampons, ovulation versus menstruation, or what PMS really stands for? Well, I don’t blame them­­I’m not sure I would care for the details either if I didn’t go through it monthly.

The first steps were figuring out what would make a man WANT to use the same period app as a woman. My favorite answers were from the “make me a sandwich” types of guys. If this could get you laid, would you use the app? But of course.

Who is this app for? This is for women who like men, men who like women, and women who like women. This is for the monogamous and polyamorous. This is for the people with a sense of humor. This app is for those who say “I don’t trust anything that bleeds for a week and doesn’t die.” This is for anybody who has ever been cockblocked by a period.

“…why you made SHVRK (including your dissatisfactions with other services and apps)…”

My shark week isn’t a big deal. In fact, I usually forget about it, and that’s why I started to use the apps. These would give me a heads up, and I realized, you know who else could use these updates? My boyfriend. When the conversation comes up, he tries to either be understanding or a comedian. He cares, but he’ll never really get it. Why not give him just the information he needs without framing it in etiquette and small talk?

My research showed that there were tons of apps for men. They seemed to have exploded between 2008 and 2010, and most of them enraged the feminist community. Could it be possible to make one app that could appeal to those menstruating as well as those not menstruating?

“…what technologies you used to make it…”

The graphite pencil. Illustrator, After Effects, and the rest of the Adobe suite. Started playing around with a bit of this and that for the final product, from PHP to Swift… This is a lot of learning as I go.

“…what some next steps are…”

Step 1: iOS or Android? Step 2: Launch.

“…your feminism and the ways in which the project is feminist…”

Feminism can be a scary word. Every female in this society develops a relationship with it, and that makes it a weighty, frustrating, and complex matter. Feminism is a spectrum. We might avoid it all costs, or we embrace our own definition, or we embody someone else’s interpretation without realizing it. That’s about all I can say about ‘feminism’.

I want to bid farewell to man­bashing and figurative bra­burning. There are too many women in the world with no access to proper hygiene products and women who are cast out of their homes during that time of the month, but there are also too many man­bashers and bra­burners here fighting a fight that’s been fought here. What if we take another approach to understanding the difference between men and women in the little world of people with smartphones and access to clean running water?

In April, Leslee Udwin visited NYU for a special screening of her film ​India’s Daughter. There are two relevant memorable moments from that night. The first was when Leslee Udwin said she set out to answer ‘why men rape’. The second was when I asked if she had found her answer, and she responded that she expected the men she interviewed to be monsters. She expected them to be textbook psychopaths. What she found was that they were just humans like you and me. They were not ‘bad apples’ spoiling the barrel. The barrel was bad.

There are bad apple feminists the same way there are bad apple chauvinists. SHVRK is not about redefining ‘man’ or ‘woman’, but about leveling the playing field between unique individuals like you and me, ​so we don’t have to hear “Are you PMSing? Are you on your period?”

“…​and what or who some of your influences are.​”

Leslee Udwin is pretty amazing, but here I have to officially say Happenstance. Nothing goes up on a pedestal like happenstance. Letting the cards fall as they may is magical and always a little mysterious. Let it lead the way.

And more

I concentrated in this piece on discussing demos from the summit that particularly spoke to me on a feminist level, but I saw women technologists presenting many projects you might find interesting for other reasons. StackedUp uses AI for investigative reporting. NEW YOARK is an augmented reality mobile app that emphasizes the diversity of languages spoken in New York City. Bullet Pointe Lab designs and makes innovative clothes for ballet dancers, such as shorts with heating elements to help warm hips so they can open more fully. I saw multiple more clothing-related apps, natural language processing research, a tool to help you analyze your own social media activity, and a Twitter bot and collaborative storytelling and coding project telling the stories of people incarcerated at the Rikers Island correctional facility. On my way out the door, I spoke to one of the event staffers, a woman who’s working on, a project to use the web and stickers on milk cartons to raise awareness of missing Central American and Mexican migrants.

Thanks again to NYC Media Lab and to the innovators who spoke with me.

Battlestar Linkspam

  • Half of Australian universities sign up to SAGE gender-equity program | The Age (September 16): “More than half of the country’s universities and medical research institutions have signed up to the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) pilot, which rates organisations based on their gender equity policies and practices, rewarding them with gold, silver or bronze awards.”
  • What it’s like to be a woman working in science, and how to make it better | The Conversation (September 16): “This Wednesday saw the launch of the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) pilot program by the Australian Academy of Science (AAS) in partnership with the Academy of Technological Science and Engineering (ATSE). (…) The Conversation asked women in the sciences to reflect on their experiences working in the field and comment the significance of the SAGE initiative.”
  • Wanted: Fit, Fearless Scientist for Huge Underground Find | National Geographic (September 17): “Since the find was made public, Peixotto has been a bit irked at the focus on her tiny size instead of on her professional accomplishments. She has two master’s degree and is finishing a Ph.D. that focuses on community building among escaped slaves.”
  • Double Union — Double Union is moving and needs your help! (September 22): “After two awesome years of running our space in the Mission neighborhood, it’s time to find a new home. The building we’ve been renting space in was recently sold to new owners who are evicting all tenants to prepare for long-term renovation. “
  • What Happens When You Get Your Period In Space? | Shots (September 17): “I remember the engineers trying to decide how many tampons should fly on a one-week flight; they asked, ‘Is 100 the right number?’ – ‘No. That would not be the right number.’ So what does happen when you get your period in space?”
  • Review: In ‘Photograph 51,’ Nicole Kidman Is a Steely DNA Scientist | The New York Times (September 14): “When Nicole Kidman steps out of the shadows, breaking off from a wall of men, and onto the edge of the stage at the Noël Coward Theater, where Anna Ziegler’s “Photograph 51” opened here on Monday night, her eyes beam undiluted willpower. It is a gaze that both chills and warms, radiating and demanding trust in this singularly self-possessed presence. Ms. Kidman makes it clear that she is in charge here, and woe unto those of us who doubt it.”
  • Nourish Your Brains With This STEM News Roundup | Autostraddle (September 23): loads more links to excellent geekfeminist news
  • Why we need to stop car crash ‘women in tech’ panels and actually break the glass ceiling | The Sydney Morning Herald (September 21): “Yes, you heard right: Just a few minutes into a panel discussion Wojcicki was asked whether her children were of the same father.
    Missing from the panel was a discussion of Wojcocki’s accomplishments in physics at Stanford University, of history and literature at Harvard, her not one but two Masters – one in science of economics from the University of California, the other in business admin from UCLA Anderson School of Management. Also omitted from the event was her professional growth at Google from the Doodle department to heading up the departments that created AdWords, Adsense and Google Analytics, (you know, the stuff that makes Google money), before becoming CEO of YouTube.”
  • Meet a traveller: Mireya Mayor, primatologist and world explorer – Lonely Planet (September 10): “Dubbed the ‘female Indiana Jones’, Mireya Mayor is an adventurer and then some… Taking the career path less travelled – going from NFL cheerleader to anthropologist – Mayor’s love for exploration and conservation has led her to some of the most biodiverse places in the world.”
  • Feminisms in Digital Humanities | Digital Humanities Quarterly: Preview “In calling for a more sustained consideration of relationships between feminist theories and digital humanities, we were calling for engagements that helped enrich our sense of why feminisms mattered to DH, beyond simply getting more women in the rooms. In addition to issues of equity and access, at stake in the conception of this special issue were the ethics and commitments in digital humanities scholarship and teaching.”
  • NASA Chief Scientist Ellen Stofan Discusses Space Science, Her Career | World Science Festival : “In our Pioneers program, Stofan discussed the intertwined subjects of her planetary discoveries and career, which included an inspired but ultimately unsuccessful proposal for a sail-propelled probe that would explore the methane lakes of Saturn’s moon Titan. Yet Stofan’s career demonstrates that bumps in the road can be opportunities instead of obstacles.”
  • Two Seattle girls launched a balloon to the edge of space this weekend, and have the video to prove it | GeekWire (September 7): “On Saturday, a handmade craft rose 78,000 feet to capture the view from the edge of space. The craft, built by two Seattle youngsters, reached speeds of over 100 km/h on its journey over central Washington.”

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, 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 linkspam of Earthsea (22 September 2015)

  • Kate Beaton Talks Superheroes and Brontë Sisters | Vulture: “Beaton soldiers on, and this month, she’s releasing a new strip collection called Step Aside, Pops. It shows her moving into new territory, such as riffs on superhero comics… We caught up with Beaton to talk about giant robots, Tumblr arguments, and historical topics that are just too damn sad for comics.”
  • Outreachy Expands to People of Color Underrepresented in U.S. Tech | Software Freedom Conservancy: : “Outreachy’s expanded program will now include residents and nationals of the United States of any gender who are Black/African American, Hispanic/Latin@, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander.”
  • Coping Mechanisms and Unlearned Skills | Accidentally in Code: “One of the things I’ve been meditating on since escaping the tech industry is what skills do you not acquire when the main skills you are learning are how to cope in a bad situation? And do you have to unlearn them to go back?”
  • The (Final?) Cost of Ben Radford’s Libel Bullying: About $5K | Skepchick: : “I think there’s a huge public interest in understanding exactly why libel threats are so often successful at censoring speech. In my experience, it comes down to two reasons: the enormous potential cost (both financial and psychological) of going to court, and the slightly lower enormous actual cost (both financial and psychological) of what happens before you even get to a courtroom.”
  • Why the ‘Kitchen of the Future’ Always Fails Us | Eater: “Around the corner, in the kitchen, our lovely future wife is making dinner. She always seems to be making dinner. Because no matter how far in the future we imagine, in the kitchen, it is always the 1950’s, it is always dinnertime, and it is always the wife’s job to make it. Today’s homes of the future are full of incredible ideas and gizmos, but while designers seems happy to extrapolate far beyond what we can do today when it comes to battery life or touch screens, they can’t seem to wrap their minds around any changes happening culturally. In a future kitchen full of incredible technology, why can we still not imagine anything more interesting than a woman making dinner alone?”
  • How Gamergate’s earliest target came to empathize with her abusers | The Verge: “In the months since, Quinn — an indie game developer known best for her cult hit Depression Quest — has spent a lot of time investigating why people who have never met her have devoted so much energy to harassing her. The more she considered the problem, she says, the more she recognized herself in her attackers. And that gave her a new insight into why users of social platforms like Facebook and Twitter are so quick to pick up pitchforks when they perceive an injustice.”
  • Ellen Pao Can Still be a Feminist Hero | Elle: “Maybe somewhere there is a CEO who will really promote women and minorities rather than just talk about it, or a whistleblower who vows not to be chilled by it all. We already know there is discrimination—unless you believe that white men are just better than everyone else, which I don’t. Regardless of any minor victory Pao may have scored here, let’s not forget that it is in the context of conceding defeat. We still have a long, long way to go. Is this the end of the Ellen Pao saga? No—because it’s ours.”
  • Party Like It’s 1995: The Rise and Fall of the Girl Game | Autostraddle: “Once there was a whole movement that wished those same things. The girl game movement was a briefly lived golden era of pink-wrapped PC games made for, and marketed to, young girls… Game developers realized they were missing out on a share of the market, so they went pink and purple (those are the only colors girl children see, you know). Girls’ games were almost all available on CD-rom, based on the idea that girls did not own the consoles that were available in the late 90s.”
  • Kiera Wilmot arrest: Florida teenager reacts to Ahmed Mohamed story | Slate: “I spoke with Wilmot—now 19 and a sophomore at Florida Polytechnic University majoring in mechanical engineering—this morning about Mohamed’s predicament. She said that her first reaction was anger: “I honestly thought, ‘How could this happen to somebody else?’”

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, 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.

Finite State Linkspam (15 September 2015)

  • How female coders are shaping the future of fashion | DailyLife (September 10): “When Coco Rocha sashayed down the runway at ZAC by Zac Posen’s show at New York Fashion Week, she lit up the entire room – quite literally. Her black nylon mesh dress was embedded with over 500 programmable LED lights that had been coded by a team of teen girls.”
  • “Picture yourself as a stereotypical male” | MIT Admissions (September 3): “It is true that men score higher on spatial reasoning tests, though you might have caught on that there’s a little bit more to this picture (why would a female MIT student publicize stereotypes that actively work against her?).”
  • Everybody Hurts: Content for Kindness | Sara Wachter-Boettcher (September 10): “How can we take our users’ vulnerabilities, triggers, and touchy subjects into account when we don’t even know what they are? What would it mean to optimize not just for seamlessness, but for kindness?”
  • The Sims 4: My Nemesis – Character Creation | Rock, Paper, Shotgun (September 10): “I don’t want to go into huge personal detail but parts of depression and anxiety can incorporate body issues. I used to be (and at times still am) bad at assessing what I actually look like. (…) it had never occurred to me that it might affect character creation until I was asked outright how I could be so bad at making an avatar of myself and fine with creating one for a friend.”
  • Twitter Bias: We Listen When Men Talk Tech and Women Talk Diversity | Re/code (September 8): “I write quite a bit about women in technology. I’m also an enterprise startup CEO, a linguistics PhD and a fan of astronomy. I regularly tweet about all these things. One day a few months back, I had a hunch: My tweets about women in tech seemed to get significantly more engagement than the others.”
  • If you like Return Of The Jedi but hate the Ewoks, you understand feminist criticism | The A.V. Club (September 14): “The idea that a movie can be good despite its weaker elements is one of the most basic tenets of film criticism. Yet when it comes to dissecting films from a feminist viewpoint, we seem to have trouble keeping that in mind.”
  • Five Books About Inconvenient Women | (September 8): “Women aren’t often allowed to be unlikable—and that’s especially true for fictional women. (…) look at all the asshole geniuses and Byronic heroes lauded in fiction and adored by fans. But the common denominator among these assholes about whom so much ink is spilt, and to whom so much screentime is devoted, is that they’re invariably male.”

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, 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.

Even cowgirls spam the links (11 September 2015)

  • Silicon Valley’s 91-year-old designer | BBC News: “Imagine doing your dream job at the age of 91 – that’s what Barbara Knickerbocker-Beskind, a designer in Silicon Valley, is doing. She talks about her life long passion for inventing.”
  • The demo for the iPad Pro involved a man Photoshopping a woman’s face to make her smile more | Tech Insider: “Why is that a problem? A man telling a woman to smile or “smile more!” is highly and widely-regarded as a form of harassment, and a line many women find uncomfortable and inappropriate.”
  • OS4W: Open Source for Women: “Together we can make things better. OS4W aims to be a resource for connecting all women, including women of color and transgender women, to open source projects that are welcoming, inclusive, and appreciative of diversity in their contributors.”
  • The queer masculinity of stealth games | Offworld: “There’s a certain secret cartography to navigating the world as trans that imbues things with different pitfalls and possibilities, where I’m asked to see the world as a series of puzzles more than a place I get to live.”
  • Inclusion and Diversity at Slack | Several People Are Typing: “Our primary goal is to avoid becoming yet another place where underrepresented groups exit the technology industry. We don’t want to be a place where people give up on their ambitions. All kinds of people should be able to be successful at Slack. While much focus has been on the pipeline, we understand that increasing the diversity of applicants and new hires will not result in any significant change if people from underrepresented groups cannot thrive at the company. Workplace policies that foster inclusion are equally important.”
  • Ellen Pao Speaks: ‘I Am Now Moving On’ | Recode: “I have a request for all companies: Please don’t try to silence employees who raise discrimination and harassment concerns. Instead allow balanced and complete perspectives to come out publicly so we can all learn and improve. I and many others are eager to hear more stories being shared by women and minorities. I turned down offers to settle so I can keep telling mine. We need to keep telling our stories and educating people on how it can be that women and minorities form such a small fraction of our investor base, our tech workforce and our leadership.”
  • Insurance and Feelings | This is Hard: “I talk a lot about diversity, but I’m learning that without an environment that encourages being good humans, without leadership that champions empathy, kindness, communication, and compassion, all diversity efforts are for naught.”

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, 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: Anonymous girls score higher on math tests?

I’ve often heard people say that math is one of the few school subjects where marking isn’t subjective, but apparently not:

Beginning in 2002, the researchers studied three groups of Israeli students from sixth grade through the end of high school. The students were given two exams, one graded by outsiders who did not know their identities and another by teachers who knew their names.

In math, the girls outscored the boys in the exam graded anonymously, but the boys outscored the girls when graded by teachers who knew their names. The effect was not the same for tests on other subjects, like English and Hebrew. The researchers concluded that in math and science, the teachers overestimated the boys’ abilities and underestimated the girls’, and that this had long-term effects on students’ attitudes toward the subjects.

Full news article: “How Elementary School Teachers’ Biases Can Discourage Girls From Math and Science” C. Miller at

Original research paper: “On The Origins of Gender Human Capital Gaps: Short and Long Term Consequences of Teachers’ Stereotypical Biases” by V. Lavy and E. Sand.