Monthly Archives: July 2011

Privilege Denying Dude (Edman)

Male Programmer Privilege Checklist – now on the Geek Feminism Wiki

Over on the open thread, Tim Chevalier asked us to share this with you:

I’ve just moved over the Male Programmer Privilege Checklist, which I previously maintained, to the Geek Feminism wiki, so that, well, everyone can maintain it :-)

I’d like to see some editing action going on, since there are definitely places where the writing could be improved and made more consistent, and where more links could be added. As well as, of course, adding more entries (most of the existing list is based on either specific experiences that contributors to the list have had, or on incidents that are documented with URLs).

In general it hasn’t seemed to me like the geek feminism wiki has been a major vandalism target, but I’m slightly worried that the privilege checklist will attract vandalism, since there are definitely people who are unhappy about its existence and some of them have emailed me in the past. I plan to keep watching it regularly, though. And, I hope that the increased ease of adding new content will outweigh the potential risks of vandalism from people who don’t like to see privilege being discussed in public.

Thanks, Tim!

Wall of Spam, by freezelight on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Sugar and spice, and everything linkspam (31st July, 2011)

  • 18 year old German woman Lisa Sauermann has just won the International Mathematics Olympiad (contested between talented high school students) with a perfect score of 42. This is Sauermann’s fifth medal, four of them gold and one silver, the best series of performances ever. (Some sources say she’s the first recipient of four golds, there have actually been two others.)
  • BU Today reviews Project Artmesis, a five week summer computing program for high school girls that has just wound up.
  • Please Sir, I Want Some More: LGBTQs need more and deserve more. We need escapism just like our cis straight brothers and sisters. We need to be portrayed in roles we wouldn’t be expected to be in. (See comments for why this link was removed.) (For that matter, new to this linkspammer: the Gay YA site where this appeared.)
  • Help Us Find These 1970s AT&T Engineers: In this 1975 AT&T film, five female AT&T engineers are profiled. The film starts with male attitudes towards women working as engineers. There are no surprises there… What’s most interesting, though, is that AT&T apparently cannot locate any of these five — they (and I) would like to ask followup questions and learn how things have changed since 1975.
  • Open Source Community, Simplified: The Bugzilla community’s secrets. Not specifically feminist advice, but advice that will help create a woman-friendly coding space.
  • Erase me: And, basically, it comes down to authors wanting either something exotic or inclusion cookies without putting in any real effort or respect into their characters or having any awareness of the tropes and stereotypes they are tapping into… So I’ve finally come down on saying – stop. Erase me. No, really. I’d much rather be erased than tokenised or stereotyped.
  • Girls Go Geek… Again! and Normalizing Female Computer Programmers in the ’60s: This article appeared in a 1967 issue of Cosmopolitan and quotes computer scientist Dr. Grace Hopper, a pioneer in the field, discussing why programming is a perfect fit for women — by drawing partly on gender stereotypes by assuming women are naturals at programming because they’re patient and pay attention to details…

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious, or 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.

Einstein, Patrick and Tesla

Open thread: Men with pets

For today’s open thread, I want to share two sites and both of which are pretty much exactly what it says on the tin:

Einstein, Patrick and Tesla  via Cute Boys With Dogs

Einstein, Patrick and Tesla via Cute Boys With Dogs

Dave Salmoni, a large predator expert, with a lion, via  Cute Boys With Cats

Dave Salmoni, a large predator expert, with a lion, via Cute Boys With Cats

And if you prefer to know more about your babes and baby animals, you can try, which is not updating but still contains cute pictures. Need more snark with your pictures? Maybe try Cute With Chris’s men with pets category.

We have open threads not just to look at boys and or pets or allow you to rant about my repeated invocation of the feminist cat-lover stereotype, but also so that people can comment on older posts (comments close automatically after two weeks), get in touch with us, or discuss anything else that falls within our comment guidelines. Don’t apologize for being off topic here: there is no required topic, you don’t need to blab about pet products & supplies! (But if you feel really guilty about it, you can link some cute puppy pictures. I won’t complain.)

In an act of supreme self-sacrifice, I paged through a lot of cute pets and boys to bring you some samples, so there’s a few more pictures below the cut:

Continue reading 2007 speaker panel grouped on stage

Conference speakers: Support anti-harassment policies in your speaker proposals

The 2012 proposal deadline is in a few hours, which gives you plenty of time to cut and paste the following into your speaker proposal:

I believe conferences should provide a safe, harassment-free environment for everyone. I ask $CONFERENCE to officially adopt and enforce a code of conduct or policy for attendee behavior that specifically forbids known problem behaviors such as pornography in public spaces, sexual harassment, and bullying.

If $CONFERENCE does not have a policy in place by the speaker notification deadline, I must regretfully decline any invitation to speak.

For more information, see:

Conferences value their speakers’ opinions greatly and listen when they speak. Donna Benjamin showed this when she organized a demonstration of support for a code of conduct at OSCON 2011; at least nine speakers in favor of the proposal edited their official OSCON speaker biographies to include a statement of support.

Wall of Spam, by freezelight on Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Flying by the seat of my linkspam (29th July, 2011)

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious, or 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.

Photograph of Charlie McCord, with her reflection

Wednesday Geek Woman: Charlie McCord, student of biomechanics and fish feeding

This is a guest post by Maya. This entry originally appeared at the Project Exploration blog.

Charlie McCord is a PhD candidate in biology at the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on biomechanics in fish feeding and the morphology of fish jaws. She works in the Field Museum’s Biodiversity Synthesis Center.

Photograph of Charlie McCord, with her reflection

Charlie McCord © C. McCord, used with permission

Charlie grew up in Ojai, California. As a child, Charlie says she was “a bit of a tomboy” who loved being outside. She was always interested in science, but she initially leaned more towards writing and the performing arts. She credits her high school AP Physics teacher with inspiring her by emphasizing the creativity inherent in science.

After graduating from high school, Charlie went to UCLA to study ecology, behavior, and evolutionary biology. It was a big change for her; the university was almost eight times larger than her entire hometown. Getting involved with community service projects such as peer counseling and mentoring helped her “gain the confidence I needed to succeed.”

Charlie is currently studying organismal biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago. She has completed her master’s degree and is now a PhD candidate. Her research focus is primarily biomechanics, and she studies “the evolution of jaw form and function in triggerfishes and filefish.” Spending time with the collections of the Field Musem allows her to study the morphology of a broad range of fish jaws. Charlie works closely with the Field Museum, and as part of their “ongoing effort to better understand the biodiversity of life,” she has had the opportunity to travel with museum staff on several specimen collecting missions. “I’ve become quite the experienced SCUBA diver and spear fisherwoman!” she says.

Charlie finds the independence of doctoral research both challenging and rewarding. “You are coming up with experiments and questions that no one has ever done before, which can be very frustrating,” she says. She describes her committee of advisors as “wonderful,” but adds that “at the end of the day, what work I put in parallels how much data I can produce and how quickly my research progresses. This aspect is also the most rewarding, though. I know that whatever results I find are my own; it was the combined effort of the experiments I designed and the data I analyzed that produced them.”

Travel is another part of work that Charlie enjoys. In addition to going on expeditions with the Field Museum, she is spending the summer in Taipei, Taiwan as part of her National Science Foundation East Asia and Pacific Island Summer Institute Fellowship. Charlie was one of around 200 American students to receive the fellowship, and she says she feels very honored. While abroad, she is working on a project of her choice at the Academia Sinica.

Charlie also likes sharing science with young people. She has been working with Sisters4Science for three years and appreciates the variety of science subjects covered. “I don’t think I’ve given the same program twice since starting!” she says. Charlie has also worked with the Junior Paleontologist program and IGERT Explorers. She enjoys the opportunity to introduce her research to high school and middle school students in ways they can relate to. But the students aren’t the only ones learning. “I’ve also tackled various subjects that are not my expertise,” Charlie explains. “Learning new things to a degree that I can teach them is good practice for me.”

Asked what she’d say to an aspiring scientist, Charlie had this advice:

“Ask questions and be observant! Ther are so many exciting fields in science and SO so many unanswered questions that need fresh, young minds to ponder them. When you start thinking scientifically, it fundamentally changes the way you perceive the world around you. I think this is especially true for biomechanists and functional morphologists. You see the way things move, the way they interact with other organisms and their surroundings, and it is truly inspiring. You want to know how and why animals do what they do, and these fields give you the tools to be able to figure it out.”

Charlie is still putting together her website, but you can read about the lab she works in at

Creative Commons License
This post is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Feminist license plates, by Liz Henry CC BY-SA 2.0

They’re trying hard, or they’re angry: talking about feminism, outreach and gender equality

These are Ask a Geek Feminist questions for our readers.

They’re not the same question, but I put them together because they’re related. If you want to distinguish them in comments, call them Q1 and Q2.

Q1 is a question about what to do when an individual or group is trying hard to be gender-inclusive, you want to make some smaller suggestions but don’t want them to respond with “well, that was all a waste of time then, we may as well not bother if we try and then get criticised!”

Around me, i see a number of people concerned about including more women in their geeky meetings, or in the geek crowd at large. Each time i see an effort in that sense, and maybe because i have been reading this blog for so long, i notice little things that make me say “it would have been good, only if…”

One example is my hackerspace. In the attempt of organizing a more women-friendly event, someone posted a link to a blog post. In the blog post, i found sensible things, as well as links to yours and linux’s wikis on how to make your geek event more women friendly. Among the recommendations, i found the idea to “Emphasise non-coding” because “It is more likely that women have studied or have experience in design or other non-coding skill sets.” And i felt that something was wrong with that. Is it just me being picky? Should i say something to the group about that (along the lines of “the post is great but… the bit about women not coding doesn’t seem to make sense to me”) or should i just let it go, because i’m obviously not an expert, and it will probably work and attract more women to follow those guidelines. And i’m just being picky and negative when thinking those negative details.

Another example. I have a friend who is always saying that there should be more women in computers/hacking communities. He is a very interesting guy, and we share common interests, but i can’t help to feel like an “exception” as a female geek when talking to him. He is the kind to always do the reverse of points 3.9, 3.13, 3.14 in Don’t complain about the lack of women in computing. And i don’t know how to explain well that to him, since all conversations about “theories” end up in him saying “i’m too tired to think that much” (or something along those lines)… So how important is it that i try to express myself on such details? Is it worth it? Should i just spare my time and try to act more (code/hack…)? Those are not “acts against women” per se, no sexist jokes, no aggression… and I’m not sure what would benefit more in the end…

Q2 is trying to have discussions with a more actively hostile party, someone who doesn’t want to discuss feminism within its own framework at all:

A good friend of mine (white male) is usually a very good, attentive discussion partner. But he has a tendency to shut down completely on a conversation when I start using what he terms “victim’s rhetoric”. As far as I understand his term, he means that minorities (LGBT people, feminists) are prone to ‘complaining’ without offering constructive suggestions for change. I try to explain that I’m not complaining when I’m trying to throw light on the ways in which kyriarchy affects mine and other women’s lives, for example in the pervasive media stereotypes. I feel like he derails the conversation by asking me to present him with ‘solutions’ rather than ‘complaints’. Are my feelings unjustified? How do I come back once he’s played the “rhetoric” card?

“Real”/legal name communities behave better: where’s the evidence?

This is something I asked in comments here the other day:

So I think at this point we ideally would turn to research: how do people perceive the quality of communities on the real name required/encouraged/discouraged/forbidden axis and is this perception linked with or overwhelmed by their minority/exceptional/marginalised status in that community? Because it’s fairly clear by now that many people who personally have better perceived experiences with real names will universalise based on their own experience, and possibly people who prefer pseudonyms likewise (although pro-pseuds-allowed people don’t to me seem to turn it into pro-no-real-names-allowed as much).

Suw Charman makes a similar point:

I’d like to see the evidence that using real names changes people’s behaviour that much. Whenever I’ve been trolled/stalked online, it’s been by people using their real name. Dicks will, sadly, be dicks whether pseudonymously or eponymously. Whenever I bring this point up, people always point to 4Chan as an example of the sort of negative place that springs up when people are pseudonymous or anonymous. But 4Chan is a small corner of the web, and they are vastly outnumbered by all the pseudonymous people elsewhere that act perfectly nicely.

The ‘anonymity/pseudonymity = trollish behaviour’ meme has been doing the rounds for years, but it’s just not that simple. And it’s especially not that simple when the easy way to get round it is to use a pseudonym that looks ‘normal’ to Western eyes.

Are people aware of better-than-anecdotal evidence in either direction, that there’s a connection between permitted or encouraged pseudonymity and a decrease in civility or an increase in harassment? Or the other way around?

Note: when I say “better than anecdotal” I mean better than anecdotal. Comments along the lines of “well I don’t think I know of any evidence, but I have this anecdote/opinion that I really want to share” will be summarily deleted or possibly replaced with pictures of cranky cats.

Note 2: let me be even clearer (in response to stuff in moderation). What I want is data. Maybe not superb quality data, maybe self-selected or limited demographic or small sample or similar (obviously the better the quality of the data and the analysis the more convincing the research), but “my experience as a forum moderator” and “my friends’ experience online” is anecdote. I don’t have something against anecdotes in general—they are crucial in understanding lived experience—but in this thread I am asking for research.

(Tangent: I am hopeless at starting memes, but my G+ Share this if you’ve been harassed online by someone(s) using their legal name prominently in their email headers/profile/etc. is the second most successful ever, with 32 reshares.)

O'Reilly OSCON open source convention

Getting ready for OSCON, code of conduct and cultural change

This is a guest post by Selena. It is cross-posted from her blog.

I totally should be working on my talks right now, but instead I’ve been talking with people about the lack of a code of conduct for OSCON.

I’ve written before about cultural resistance, and how I think it fits in with changes that must happen in technical communities when we invite more women in.

One of those changes is making it clear that women (and other minorities) are not just tolerated in public spaces, but that they are explicitly wanted there.

O'Reilly OSCON open source convention

I think OSCON has made great strides in that direction by changing their marketing materials to include the faces of women. Sarah Novotny, co-chair of OSCON, travelled extensively to invite women face-to-face to submit talks. There are many women speaking at OSCON this year.

OSCON put the time and energy into creating a sense that women were already attending (which they are), and that they wanted more.

So, why all the fuss about having a code of conduct? Well, this community is changing.

What people think of as “summer camp for geeks” is this year a gathering that by definition includes people who haven’t previously been part of the OSCON community. When a community (which OSCON definitely is) sets out to change the gender percentages, it needs to be clear that the women are being invited to join and shape the culture, not just show up to be tourists of the existing culture.

The leadership of the conference needs to establish with existing attendees that the cultural change is wanted. The fact is, OSCON is a for-profit enterprise, with a business driving the event. Grassroots activism is helpful in encouraging change, but ultimately, the owners of the brand need to make a statement in addition to the marketing.

I applaud Jono Bacon for his creation of an anti-harassment policy for the Community Leadership Summit. I also am heartened at O’Reilly’s recent tweet that they are following this conversation.

I don’t think that codes of conduct are the perfect solution. But how else do we communicate to everyone participating that the change is happening, and that they need to accommodate new members *who are very different from them* during a period of cultural adjustment? That’s not a rhetorical question — I am genuinely interested in answers to this question.

I’ve updated my profile to state that I am pro-code-of-conduct, and included a link to anti-harassment resources, which I think should be part of an overall code of conduct. Donna put up a wikipage with easy to cut-n-paste additions for OSCON speaker profiles. If you agree that a code of conduct is a positive direction, please join us!

Editor’s note: Since Selena’s post was written, OSCON has agreed that a code of conduct is important. You can read Tim O’Reilly’s post on the subject here: Sexual Harassment at Technical Conferences: A Big No-No. However, I thought Selena’s temporary work-around for the problem is something others might like to have in mind for future events.

Angry noms

I just spotted a picture of angry bird cupcakes drift past in my Google+ stream. Unfortunately when I clicked on it, it reported the site was over quota. Oh well.

So I hopped over to flickr and found you some.

8 cupcakes in an assortment of coloured silicone cups with white icing and green or blue sprinkles. Each cupcake has a fondant ball shaped like an angry bird or green pig atop it. There is one pig with bruises and the mustached pig. They are surrounded by the single big blue angry bird, a bundle of 3 little blue angry birds, the white bomber bird, the black bomb bird, the yellow torpedo bird and the red bird.

If you feel like geeking out in the kitchen, there’s even an award winning tutorial. There’s also a few other gamer entries on the instructables competition results page.