[hackerspaces] hackerspace demographics

Matt Joyce matt at nycresistor.com
Thu Jan 17 00:52:50 CET 2013

On Wed, Jan 16, 2013 at 3:41 PM, Lisha Sterling <lishevita at gmail.com> wrote:
> Sorry for the delay in response from me directly. Yesterday I was in transit
> and, while I was able to read the emails on my phone at the Newark airport,
> I didn't feel like writing a response on the phone.
> I'd like to say thank you to Michel Gallant for making me laugh out loud and
> hoot, "You tell 'em" in the food court at the airport. :)

I don't think you should be promoting juvenile language and the
projection of the very thing you are trying to combat.  While it's
easy to indulge in a revenge fantasy, commentary such as this debases
every salient point you may have and erodes your own platform for
contribution.  Also it can be offensive to some.

> Matt, yes, this may have come off as annoying to you, but I hope that you'll
> understand that some piece of Michel's response hit the spot. One of the
> reasons that women get sick of dealing with the issues of "feminism" and
> "inclusion of women" is that we explain what the problem is and then have to
> re-explain along with thorough defenses for each position we have taken.
> Your response to me put me in exactly that situation.

That by the way is not something that annoys just women.  It annoys
all of us.  But it is also a necessary thing if you intend to discuss
an issue and attempt to address it.  Suck as it may be, I think it's
probably worth suffering through.  Heck I suffered through the
juvenile remarks, because I thought this conversation had some real
merit.  I have been very pleased with the full discussion we've had as
a result.  I hope you take the time to read the full thread if you
haven't already.

> Sam Ley gave as good an answer to your questions as I could probably put
> forward myself when he said,
> "Regarding shared interests: Hackerspaces, almost by definition, have very
> wide interest levels, and theoretically, new interests among active members
> is taken as an opportunity to learn something new, not an "outside" activity
> to be scorned. Knitting is a form of making that is very practical and
> interesting, involves math and patterns, and is connected to a long history
> of craftsmanship. If you didn't already know that the hobby is mostly women,
> you'd assume that most hackerspace types would be interested in learning how
> to do it, in the same way they happily take up microcontrollers, bicycles,
> etc. Why would a group that tends to think of an opportunity to learn a new
> making skill as a good thing all of a sudden think it was a bad thing?"

I believe I've responded to that point in detail.  My last email on
this thread I believe is highly relevant to rebuking that argument at
least in part.  I recommend reading it if you have not already.

> The only thing that I can add to that is to say that I did state in my
> original story that the knitting club had been a sort of gateway drug for a
> number of women to get involved with the hackerspace beyond just the
> knitting and that the bad blood around the issue of knitting not being "real
> hacking" and other such derogatory statements led to those same women
> *leaving* the hackerspace. (Luckily, at least some of them left *that*
> hackerspace, but not the community as a whole, as I also stated in my
> previous email.)

Not being there it's hard for me to get a feel for the event.  But, in
general I have no real problem with a space excluding a group of
people because their core values don't match up.  I'd love to discuss
that further with the list.

> Interestingly, I watched the Queer Geeks Panel at CCCongress from 2011
> yesterday which touched on many of the same issues. There was even a
> specific reference to how sometimes exclusion comes in the form of spaces
> declaring that some forms of hacking/making aren't "real hacking" because
> only woodwork and soldering and software are real hacking. The conversation
> is well worth a watch or listen if you haven't checked it out already.
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K6c9Eg_IA9w

I might view it later as time allows.  I'll let you know what I think
If / when I do.

In general I think people tend to oversimplify complex issues and that
does no one any good.


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