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

Yves Quemener quemener.yves at free.fr
Sun Oct 3 01:34:39 CEST 2010

On 10/02/2010 02:35 PM, Maria Droujkova wrote:

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

Could you point at a practical example of lack of welcome that applies to
some hackerspaces that were biased against women specifically ? I am not
arguing that there are statistically significant differences between men
and women behaviors, I am arguing that the gender imbalance in hackerspaces
come from stereotypes that exist outside of them.

> 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.

That's good. Seriously, I am really grateful that some people pay attention
to the way education tend to propagate gender stereotypes and try to find
way to compensate for them. I am not shocked that in order to do that, it
may be important to pay attention to the gender of students.

The thing is (in my humble opinion) that hackerspaces do not have the same
mission as schools in that regard. HS are supposed to offer mature people
tools to hack in an atmosphere of tolerance and sharing. Come solder, come
program, come sew, come sculpt. You won't be mocked (actually, from what I
read on the ML, when someone mentioned sewing in the tmplab, a workshop was
asked because many people perceived this skill as very useful). But please
bring your skills, don't wait for others to propose them. That's what that
it is about.

> 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.

WoW is a commercial game. They need to have the biggest marketshare
possible. I don't see why hackerspaces should aim at a balance ratio of
genders. They are places to hack, learn, share. Opened to any gender, and
usually full of really open-minded people. What more to ask for ?


More information about the Discuss mailing list