Tag Archives: geek feminism wiki

GF classifieds: wiki edition

This will probably be another very occasional series.

As you know, we have a wiki as well as a blog (in fact the wiki is more than a year older than the blog), and it only has a few (3 to 5 at any given time) regular editors. There’s also a lot of attention paid to the Incidents relative to the rest of the wiki. That’s not a bad thing, but the rest of the wiki could use some love too.

Hence, every so often we’ll point out areas of the wiki you could help out with. At any given time, this list will be hugely incomplete, so you can also go over there and do what suits you.

If you need a hand, drop in on the Community portal and ask for help.

Getting articles ready for feature article status! Getting a featured article on our wiki is nothing like the arduous Wikipedia process: we simply want articles about a geek woman or group of geek women doing awesome stuff! They should be several paragraphs long, in the correct categories, and have a picture. Fixing up our proposed feature articles to bring them up to scratch would be a good task if you know your way around Mediawiki wikis a bit.

Improving our coverage of the Science field! You can see the base article: it covers all of science in about a screenful of content. Obviously that could be massively expanded in several directions: into the subfields, expanding the writeup of the issues, and documenting sexist incidents in science more fully.

Groups and events for younger women! There are lots and lots of outreach programs for younger geeks, and some autonomous groups run by teenagers for teenagers. But we don’t have a lot of coverage of them on the wiki. I just started categories today for Young women’s organizations and Young women’s events. Please add to them! (Click ‘Add a Page’ to add a new page to the wiki and start writing! If you don’t know wikis yet, someone will add the right categories for you, so don’t worry about that.)

GF wiki editors or readers, what would you like to see more work on?

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!

Names, glorious names

Some time back, I wrote:

We [on the LinuxChix lists] also had a long-standing problem articulating what it was that led to the extreme gender imbalance in Free Software development and many of its user communities… There was sexism in computing and in Free Software… probably? Some women had stories, some women didn’t.

Now we have our long list of incidents, but I want to highlight another list which I’m happier about, our list of women in FLOSS. Back in the olden days, say 1999 or 2000 or so, LinuxChix tried to make a similar list. The Wayback Machine tells us it got to ten names, and I recall a significant amount of head scratching going into that. Now we have a list of women that is no doubt badly incomplete, probably uncompletable, but nevertheless something like ten times the length.

Today, instead of scratching our heads about what women could possibly deliver a keynote presentation at a technical conference, we started listing women who have done so, and I suspect that list too is fated to remain drastically incomplete no matter how actively it is updated. This is an inexpressibly happy thing for me: too many women to name! Thank you geek feminist flowering of 2008/2009!

Are there recent sources of geek feminist inspiration the Internet has tossed your way? Any treasure troves of women doing things you hadn’t heard about before? (Recall, we define geekdom broadly here, there’s no need to limit yourself to tech.) Who are you a mad fan of right now?

Why we document

A comment over on the Geek Feminism wiki asked whether we aren’t damaging the community by documenting sexism. I don’t want to get too 101 on our fine blog, but I do want to talk about why I consider our pretty long list of sexist incidents in geekdom a success.

My first geek feminist forum, and still the one I participated longest in and therefore in many ways most influential on me, was LinuxChix. Things I learned over there included the reasons why having men dominate conversations can be anti-feminist, via the discussion around the document now available as behaviour in technical forums, which was originally a response by Valerie Aurora to a problem where the LinuxChix techtalk list was seeing fewer and fewer posts by women and was generally perceived as scary and hardcore.

We also had a long-standing problem articulating what it was that led to the extreme gender imbalance in Free Software development and many of its user communities. I can’t speak for the community, but what I remember feeling about those discussions was a major unease. There was sexism in computing and in Free Software… probably? Some women had stories, some women didn’t. There was social, peer and societal pressure on young women considering science and technical careers or even on developing those skills… probably? Again, some women had stories, some didn’t.

Had you asked me in 2003 for troublesome incidents in Free Software—are we doing anything wrong, or is this a problem we’ve inherited from other people who did things wrong, or is this just a thing about women, that they don’t like to be too nerdy in their spare time?—I don’t know that I would have been able to give you examples of anyone doing anything much wrong. A few unfortunate comments about cooking and babies at LUGs, perhaps. Things started to change my awareness slowly. Valerie’s 2002 HOWTO Encourage Women in Linux dug up some incidents at LUGs. In 2005 LinuxChix itself got some attention from (trigger warning) the troll Skud posted about. I was personally present at a sexualised presentation, the Acme::Playmate presentation at the Open Source Developers Conference in 2006. And in 2007, very soon after I had seen Kathy Sierra keynote linux.conf.au 2007, she was scared out of her work writing about technology by (trigger warning) online harrassment and for the first time, I personally saw the Internet explode over the issue of active, virulent sexism against women in technology.

I do not in fact find writing the wiki documentation of incidents in geekdom very satisfying. The comment linked at the beginning of the post compared the descriptions to a rope tying geekdom to the past. Sometimes being known as a wiki editor and pursued around IRC with endless links to yet another anonymous commenter or well-known developer advising women to shut up and take it and write some damned code anyway is like a rope tying me to the bottom of the ocean.

But what makes it worth it for me is that when people are scratching their heads over why women would avoid such a revolutionarily free environment like Free Software development, did maybe something bad actually happen, that women have answers. It’s not the only answer, there’s still all that social, peer and societal pressure, the shorter leisure hours, and so on, after all. And there’s no level of harrassment or cruelty that won’t find someone, plenty of someones, prepared to immediately argue that it’s really no big deal, what are you doing here, giving up? Letting them win? But now if when I’m asked about whether geek women have problems and why there aren’t more of us, I’m not left fumbling to explain it even to myself.

I don’t know what the Mary of 1999 (my watershed geek year wasn’t 1998, in fact) would have done if she’d come across that page in more or less the condition the wiki comment described, “the girl entering the community without any predispositions”, the woman vulnerable to being misled into thinking that geekdom is full of scoundrels (or, we might argue, not entirely misled). Maybe she would have run, I can’t say for sure that she wouldn’t have. But what woman is without baggage? In 1999 as a teenage girl with hair flowing down to my waist (I tell you what, short hair has cut my street harrassment down nearly as much as it cut my grooming routine down) I walked down the street to the steady beat of rape threats from passing vehicles. At least I would have found that geek women were talking about it and had got together and got each other’s back.