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

Serendipity Seraph sseraph at me.com
Sat Oct 2 23:35:39 CEST 2010

On Oct 2, 2010, at 5:35 AM, Maria Droujkova wrote:

>  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."

True enough.  Though I think I see more blending of modes than when I was younger.  

> 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. 

Now that is interesting.  It makes sense but hadn't occurred to me.  I was beginning to think the grammar curriculum no longer existed among the young of both genders though.  I find it difficult to get full sentences in email out of anyone under 21.   :)

> 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.

Some of the best female hackers I know are more into hacks of various kinds in the pursuit of art and expression.  Not to over-generalize but there does seem to be more of that.  I am a really good software designer.  But when I tell a male co-worker that the system is just "prettier" that way (aesthetic sense) their heads spin around.  When "pretty" translates to better performance, more maintainable and easy to modify they have a bit more respect but still bristle at the word.  But for me aesthetics are a big piece of how I do what I do even if I have to translate it or rationalize it in other ways for a a lot of colleagues. 

- s

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