Tag Archives: names

Interview: Authors of the paper “Women’s Representation in Mathematics Subfields”

Right now, you can read a preliminary draft of a paper analyzing women’s representation in subfields of mathematics. The abstract:

We use data from papers posted to the Mathematics section of the arXiv to explore the representation of women in mathematics research. We show that women are under-represented as authors of mathematics papers on the arXiv, even in comparison to the proportion of women who hold full-time positions in mathematics departments. However, some subfields have much greater participation than others.

The authors, Dr. Abra Brisbin and Dr. Ursula Whitcher, are both scientists at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire. I interviewed Dr. Whitcher about their methodology, findings, and further hypotheses, and about the additional burden of doing diversity work in the sciences.

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My linkspam brings all the boys to the yard (30 April 2014)

  • In memoriam: Wikimedia remembers two women who contributed hugely to Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects: Adrianne Wadewitz (died April 8, see also New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and the memorial edit-a-thon in Los Angeles in May) and Cynthia Ashley-Nelson (died April 11)
  • Audrey Tang spoke to TEDxTaipei on Programming Languages and RailsGirls Taiwan (程式語言與軌道女孩) on April 27. Slides (primarily in Chinese) and an English language translation of the transcript are up.
  • The Anti-Nerd: Fear of a Black Time Traveler | Rafael Martinez at Black Girl Nerds (April 16): “It is something I have noticed. A lack of us being in the Time Traveling profession. I then Googled ‘Black time travelers’ and closest I got was, I kid you not–black traveling shoes.”
  • Dealing with name changes in publication records for scientists | Savannah at lgbt+physicists+blog (April 21): “The basic idea here is that if one is assigned, for example, a female-typical name such as Robyn O’Troodle at birth, then publishes several papers under this name before transitioning to Jonathon O’Troodle, this would result in a jump from a female-typical name to a male-typical name that might appear awkward (or simply distracting) on one’s publication record.”
  • Lady She-Woman: Female Superheroes, Codenames and Identity | Andrew Wheeler at Comics Alliance (April 23): “Identity is central to superhero fiction. It’s a genre that gives us heroes; big, broad, iconic modern gods that lift us up out of the uncertainties of our own lives to a place where who you are and what you stand for is known… For a lot of female heroes, owning a superhero identity presents an almost insurmountable challenge. A significant number of DC’s female heroes are based on other heroes, from Batgirl, Supergirl and Wonder Girl through Stargirl, Mary Marvel and Ravager.”
  • Sex, Sexy & Sexism | Storify (April 24): a PAX East 2014 panel on fixing gender inequality in gaming. Featuring Susan Arendt, Brianna Wu, Tifa Robles, and Duane de Four, moderated by Ken Gagne
  • No, I Don’t Work for Free | Julie Pagano (April 26): “Asking someone to come do professional work for your for-profit company for free is incredibly problematic. I would argue in many cases it is downright exploitative. I doubt they’d have asked me to come code for them for a few hours for free. They’d recognize how unacceptable that is. Why is it that other work is seen as valuable enough to ask for, but not valuable enough to pay for?”
  • Dragon Age Goes Gender-Neutral! | Brad Baron at Gay Gamer (April 23): “Dragon Age: Inquisition… due out this fall, features a figure on its cover that could be any gender. The best part — the character’s gender is totally irrelevant!”

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: “Microsoft’s ‘Chuck Norris'” thinks trans people are liars

In a blog post from last December on the Microsoft Developer Network web site, Raymond Chen (described on another Microsoft site as “Microsoft’s Chuck Norris”) accuses people who change their names on their birth certificates of “lying”. (Content warning: cissexism and inquiry-resistant dialogue, particularly in the comments section.)

It’d be like asking the church to go update its registry to change your birth name. “Yes, I know that I was born with the name Amélie Bernadette, but please change your files so it says that I was born with the name Chloë Dominique. Thanks.”

The church isn’t going to do that because that would now be lying. You were born with the name Amélie Bernadette. You are welcome to change your name to Chloë Dominique, but that doesn’t change the fact that you were born with the name Amélie Bernadette.

First, in my country, the US, churches aren’t responsible for keeping track of vital records — state governments are.

Second, infants are not born with names; adults (usually their parents) assign them names. If I have a baby today and name hir “Dale”, my act of naming is not a logical proposition that can be true or false. The baby was not born “Dale”; I would be assigning that name to hir. It’s a speech act — it has effects in the world. As we know in the world of programming languages, we can’t apply the same reasoning to programs (or speech acts) that mutate state as we can to purely functional programs (or assertions of truth and falsity).

Third, calling people who amend their birth certificates “liars” disregards the very real burden of administrative confusion that people like me who have different forms of identification bearing different names deal with. This confusion steals time that we could be using to do productive things. Having a consistent name on all of one’s papers makes life easier. It’s easy for people whose lives have always been easy in this regard (which is to say, cis men who don’t face any need to change their names, aren’t expected to marry and take their spouse’s surname, and so on) to sneer at people who lack the privilege of having a single name that others recognize. That denial of one’s own privilege doesn’t change the truth, though, which is that social structures make it difficult to go through life with identification that carries a name that isn’t appropriate for you.

Fourth, I think we would all agree that it’s okay for people to amend their birth certificates to correct errors (for example, if your birth certificate says you were born on January 1, 1980 when it was actually January 1, 1979). Usually, it’s assumed that these errors are administrative. But giving a masculine-coded name to a girl, or a feminine-coded name to a boy, is effectively an error on the parents’ part. So why treat parental errors differently from bureaucratic ones?

Fifth, one can imagine a response to the third and fourth points saying: “I recognize incorrect birth certificates might be inconvenient, but it’s important for birth certificates to reflect the first name that a person was assigned and the first sex that a person was assigned. That’s more important to me than convenience.” Belief in and faith in the concept of an error-free historical record is a privilege. (And anyway, what historical record was ever free from errors? People make records.) The privilege here is the freedom to believe in an abstraction (that is, a certain construct of historical accuracy) so strongly that you put the ostensible purity of that abstraction ahead of the needs of real, living, breathing humans. Some of us don’t have the luxury of sacrificing our dignity and respect for the sake of an abstraction — we’re just trying to survive.

When you call people who amend their birth certificates “liars”, you’re calling those of us who are transsexual, transgender, and/or genderqueer liars, since we are a large percentage of people who need to amend their birth certificates (for reasons other than recording errors). And what you’re really doing when you say that is saying that cis people (people who were assigned the right sex at birth) are more honest and trustworthy than trans people — that the acts of naming that we perform on ourselves are somehow less true than the acts of naming that cis people perform on us without our consent. Thus, what you’re really doing is asserting power, but pretending you’re making a logically true or false statement.

While Chen doesn’t use the example of changing one’s sex marker to illustrate his point, the same reasoning applies, since a sex or gender marker is just another kind of name (one that happens to be shared by many people — but so are the names “John” and “Jane”). Like a person’s name, their sex is assigned; the difference is that no one has an inherent sense of what their name is, but many of us do have an inherent sense of what our sex is. Most people are assigned the correct sex at birth, and never need to think about it again — but sometimes, as with the people who assumed I was a baby girl when I was born, people make a mistake.

Why am I writing about this here? Because it illustrates the kinds of microaggressions that those of us who aren’t cissexual, heterosexual men have to endure every day when working in the tech industry. We can’t even read an innocent-looking technical blog post without being unexpectedly told that our lives are lies.

Thanks to Sumana and Liz for their comments!

Edited to add: I’ll be deleting any comments concerning Chen’s intent. If you’re inclined to make such a comment, consider how you would feel if you were told that somebody didn’t mean to dehumanize you — you just weren’t important enough for them to even bother to think about the effect of their speech on you.

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

More horrible than your worst linkspam (18th July, 2011)

  • Black and WTF: photographs of suffragettes. In 1912, Scotland Yard detectives bought their first camera to covertly photograph suffragettes.
  • A bit of an oldie, but relevant to our recent Google+ discussions: Falsehoods Programmers Believe About Names: So, as a public service, I’m going to list assumptions your systems probably make about names. All of these assumptions are wrong. Try to make less of them next time you write a system which touches names.
  • Great 101 comment from karenm77 about why it was creepy to proposition Rebecca Watson at 4am in an elevator. (Via tigtog.) Yeah, in case you missed it.
  • Sheryl Sandberg & Male-Dominated Silicon Valley: an interview with Facebook’s COO. You can’t come [into space], [Sandberg’s son] said. I’ve already invited my sister, and there’s only one girl in space. At first, Sandberg laughed. And then it dawned on her that there is only one woman in these movies.
  • Debunking the Top 5 Myths About Lady Scientists: So, people of the universe, when I tell you that I am a scientist, the only conclusion you should draw is that I like science.  Not what I look like or how I dress.  Not what I like to do in my free time.  Not how I interact with other people.  And real world, get used to me because I am your average scientist and I am not at all who you try to say I am.
  • A linkspam of a linkspam: Meanwhile, Back in SFland: While I was off enjoying the company of several thousand women (and an increasing number of men, as Sharon Sala graciously noted while accepting her lifetime achievement award) in Romanceland, the gender wars seem to have broken out in SFland again.
  • You can’t fight sexism with sexism: So, please, before you write about getting women into the game industry, first check and make sure that you’re not perpetuating the very attitudes you’re arguing against before you publish.
  • Are the Open Data Warriors Fighting for Robin Hood or the Sheriff?: Some Reflections on OKCon 2011 and the Emerging Data Divide: Cogent criticism of the demographics of the open-data movement.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the “geekfeminism” tag on delicious, freelish.us or pinboard.in or the “#geekfeminism” tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Open Thread: A rose by any other…

Today’s Open Thread is hosted by the newly named baby elephant from Taronga Zoo:

Pathi Harn, the miracle elephant

A tiny baby elephant is hiding under his mother's belly as they frolic in water. His trunk is raised and his mouth open in a cheery expression akin to "IT'S GOOD TO BE ALIVE :D !!1!"

Minister for Climate Change and the Environment, Frank Sartor, today announced that Taronga’s new elephant calf will be named Pathi Harn (pronounced ‘par tea harn’).

“The people of NSW and zoo keepers have chosen Pathi Harn – the Thai word for miracle – as the new name for Mr Shuffles,” Mr Sartor said.

The little darling has been called a miracle since his birth, as zoo vets had given up hope that he would be born alive after they ceased to detect signs of life.

Anyway, during an IRC conversation earlier today Mary noted that we really don’t have a name for our beloved commenters:

<mary> You know, geekfeminism.org doesn’t have a name for our commenters.
<mary> I mean, like Twisty‘s Blamers, or Shakesville‘s Shakers.

We figure, what the heck, why not let you name yourselves. In a similar fashion to how the adorable bundle of ubercute above was named, we’ll take ideas and poll the suggestions we like most in a future thread.

So, Open Threaders: What do you, our geekfeminist.org community, wish to be nicknamed?