[hackerspaces] An interesting point of view : "On Feminism and Microcontrollers"

Maria Droujkova droujkova at gmail.com
Sat Oct 2 14:35:46 CEST 2010

 Lack of welcome takes different forms. For example, some books are read by
different genders disproportionally, because of words in them.

On Sat, Oct 2, 2010 at 6:27 AM, Yves Quemener <quemener.yves at free.fr> wrote:

> >
> Honestly, I am tired of this sexist crap...

Some types of conversations may feel repelling to either gender, because men
and women talk differently. You can see it at mixed parties, when they
separate. There are general conversation styles, and then there are separate
ones, "girl talk" and "boy talk."

I used to hang out with physics and math Olympiad crowds and then math
students, mostly male, when I was young. There were a lot of subtle examples
of differences of this sort - discourse, body language, spatial behavior,
intellectual behavior, humor and so on.

Now I organize math groups for kids and for grown-ups. My kid groups are
homeschoolers, who can choose what classes to take, so you can see some of
those free choice behaviors. I can design a class that will predominantly
attract either gender, or a class that attracts both. I can also design a
class that either gender will perceive as unwelcoming. And this will have
very little to do with actual math content. For example, requiring writing
or text chat of 8-12 year olds, especially if you pay any attention to style
and grammar, will powerfully and disproportionately repel boys. Timed
competitive problem solving will disproportionally repel girls.

There are a lot of observations about these effects in free choice
situations, hacker spaces included. An example that has a lot of data is
World of Warcraft, where designers went out of their ways to welcome both
genders. This works for older people: there are about the same number of men
and women playing, once the player age is past 30 or so. However, female
youths between 15 and 20 are a tiny minority compared to males that age. The
ratio gradually changes toward 30. There are systemic social factors in-game
that cause this to happen, and these factors are quite complex.

> Sure, there are less girls in hackerspace because it is perceived as a
> boy's hobby. I personally think that this is wrong and that just shows a
> prejudice existing in the society as a whole. To change that, what we need
> is more female security experts, more female hardware hackers, more female
> robot makers but we don't need to make a new segregation between men's
> hacks and women's hacks, that would be just admitting defeat.

I fully agree with the first part of it. If women take key positions a
community, they change the atmosphere. Hackerspaces that have female
organizers, like our new Durham, NC space, don't seem to have segregation
issues. It may take some segregation for this to happen, initially, if an
established hackerspace is already segregated. For example, to invite women,
you may need to invite several of them at once to form a micro-community of
support within the space. This way, they will feel comfortable even before
the atmosphere changes enough and this segregated support is not needed

Maria Droujkova

Make math your own, to make your own math.
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