[hackerspaces] Hackers, feminism, and bullying
kevin.mitnick at outlook.com
Fri Jan 18 06:45:54 CET 2013
In the recent discussion thread entitled "Women in Makerspaces", I was disturbed to see what I perceive as bullying by the feminist side when really this sort of behavior should be strongly discouraged on all sides.
However, this sort of action isn't just limited to those of the likes on this mailing list, but appears to be broad across the feminist circles and it isn't necessarily aimed at "white cismales" who embody "heteronormatively", but rather those who otherwise would be considered their own sistren.
I've had friends who have made an attempt suggest alternatives to approaching the unfortunate problem facing women in the technology and sciences industries only to find themselves shunned or spoken down to in a manner where it is effectively bullying. None of us here who are reading this message would state that bullying is right and it is really a poison that we don't need, but unfortunately the forces within the geek feminism movement seem to dictate that there is only one path to "enlightenment". Going back to said friends--do you know what the worst part about them being shut down? They were women too and in one instance was a transgendered person.
And this behavior is not limited to that of this mailing list or just individuals themselves, but to entire organizations. Take for example the Ada Initiative, which refers to itself as "dedicated to increasing the participation and status of women in open technology and culture". The idea in its mission statement are something we can all agree on, as all it does is talk about women and how awesome they are and can be--which is 100% correct.
However, the group itself does not make any attempts to bridge the divide that exists between genders and as a result suffers a problem where men are regrettably alienated and consequently lessen the desire to be involved with the movement either due to fear of saying something that would be incorrect in the eyes of their fellow members or simply because they're given the vibe of being un-welcomed. For these groups to be successful, it has to be welcoming to men and so comes in the "being nice" comment from the previous thread. "Being nice" goes a long way but I would refuse to work with anyone who decides that being militant is the only solution.
(Note: I will point out that the Ada Initiative does embrace those who are transgendered. I am holding them up as an example because they demonstrate quite well the problem that we have here.)
The Ada Initiative does not play by "being nice" and excludes men out of the equation in its organization, its events, and in its own write-ups on its website--yet it happily will take donations from them. It also serves to dictate how conferences and events that are not organized by anyone allied with them should operate and shuns any that do not conform to their "rules".
For example, take this post from the Ada Initiative website:http://adainitiative.org/2013/01/take-the-pledge-dont-serve-on-all-male-panels/
And here's the lack of thinking quote:>Another way to help change the ratio is for people of any gender to make a rule to not speak at conferences with less than a certain percentage of women speakers: depending on the field, perhaps 10%, or 25% – we know one speaker with a 35% rule.
This suggestion is quite short-sighted for a number of reasons including but not limited to:- It prevents women from speaking should the conference should there be a handful of qualified women to speak.- It implies that all conference organizers who fail to achieve these levels are sexist regardless of their genders.- Women may be unable to enter the field due to a lack of role models who are making their faces present.- It may discourage women from speaking at conferences all together should it fail to achieve this requested 'balance'.
There's a lot more than this of course and I would like to hear what others have to think about the Ada Initiative's beliefs, but it is in my eyes quite the bully tactic and hypocritical as if you visit another write-up on their site you'll see that they're willing to exclude genders in the process.
Case in point is this call for papers for an event in New Jersey called "Celebrating the Achievements and Legacies of Ada Lovelace":http://adainitiative.org/2013/01/call-for-papers-celebrating-the-achievements-and-legacies-of-ada-lovelace/
And the line in question:
>This conference will coincide with the week celebrating Ada Lovelace Day, a global event for women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).
Note the use of "for women", but no reference to "allies" or "those who identify as women" anywhere. If I were to write something like "this conference will coincide with the week celebrating Nikola Tesla Day, a global event for men in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics" it would sound preposterous (note: said day is July 10th) and would get many up in arms over the use of "for men".
Feminists overall have made demands for changes in language (such as replacing the use of "man" with "person") and yet in this case overlook the fact that Ada Lovelace is a role model for all genders to look up to. The only thing I will contend with Tesla being superior to Lovelace is that he never had any interpersonal relationships with anyone and took up a life of celibacy so in a sense he was gender-less for all intents and purposes.
Should women stall their career should a conference that may or may not push it higher fails to achieve this quota? I'd rather see a single woman out of a few dozen talks speak than no women at all, and for that the Ada Initiative's suggestion is shortsighted. This notion of a conference quota punishes women more than anything else as the only alternative here is to simply cancel the conference should nobody step up or not have women speak at all. That would be beyond absurd right?
Going back to the subject of this e-mail, the one thing I haven't brought up is identity--many of us in this mailing list choose to identify ourselves is that of a "hacker". The word "hacker" is historically a gender-less one and takes on multiple meanings. In none of these meanings do we find it being associated with a specific gender, but it does focus on an individual who happens to be intelligent. Intelligence is gender-less and in a lot of ways neutral to what it refers to, but we can all agree that this intelligence will allow us to all regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or profession to come up with a solution to this problem of "women in X". It's not going to be a solution that can be enforced using bully tactics, but rather one that will take time and cooperation.
This is why I feel that "being nice" goes a long way because you're going to alienate those who are actually trying to make a difference by not being so. Groups like the Ada Initiative need to exist, but they also need to ensure that they're not bullying anyone regardless of gender in the process. They need to include everyone in the equation regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, profession, and skill level because there is one thing that binds us all: we're human beings. As you're reading this, you cannot judge my race, gender, background, or how I even look. My name is all you have an even then it could be a fallacy, no?
"Being nice" also means not being passive aggressive either. For example, the colored cards given out at conferences rewards good behavior. This is an absurd idea because we shouldn't be rewarding anyone for doing what should already be considered right. If I were someone who received a green-colored card, I'd refuse to accept it on the basis that it's more an insult to me than anything else. Let's work on a better solution than this okay?
For those who are wondering who I am, my name may or may not have been at one point "Kevin" but I am someone who works closely with the LGBT community and is well know by some of those involved with the aforementioned group. Let's give each other an olive branch rather than try and push each other out, okay?
Kevin Mitnick(May or may not be the Kevin you think I am)
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