[hackerspaces] Hackers, feminism, and bullying

rachel lyra hospodar rachelyra at gmail.com
Fri Jan 18 21:22:27 CET 2013

Many of you raise an important question that I don't think can be answered
singly - so what do we do? Because while there are a hundred strategies
that could be employed, that we should share, there is also a limit to what
we can share that way. Other community groups that may be more
gender-balanced, and worth reaching out to... a vague feeling that women
like things to be clean... classes that are targeted perhaps not even in
subject matter but in presentation style and in the ways they are
promoted... working on creating a welcoming space.  Treating the
conversation, and goal of integration, as important. People besides the
targeted group working towards the goal.

Why do I say there's a limit? because all those things might be important,
and help... but I think the best strategies will come from within the
hackerspaces themselves, fitting to their style & their potential
audiences.  As a hacker who did not come to hackerspaces with a feminist
agenda, but rather having developed one after finding a community based on
logic that allows its blind spots and emotions to perpetuate illogical
behavior.... all I want is to not have to explain what I am doing if I am
busy, to not have to spend my hacking time helping people develop stunted
social skills WRT talking to me, as if I was some sort of rare bird and/or
social experiment.  Women do edit themselves out of the technology scene,
but I believe its for two reasons... one is internalized belief that the
work is not for them. The other is dissatisfaction with the social norms.
Both can be addressed but my perhaps controversial stance is that those who
don't identify as women should focus on grokking the second of those,
understanding why it is the case before seeking to effect change.  Once you
understand, you can write this email instead of me, and maybe I can have
some time back from all this teaching to work on my interface project.

Maybe this seems like 'drama' to some. The same could be said for what is
happening with legal prosecution of hackers in the US. Drama. Booooring.
Unless it affects you.  then it's important enough to go to jail for, or to
die for.

It is difficult to even talk about gender/race/heteronormativity because as
soon as it comes up, people from the named dominant group panic, get
defensive, scold the complainers, claim that they are being
reverse-discriminated. (watch a group of white feminists talk about race if
you want to see women act this way, too) This might sound like an imprecise
and nonscientific statement but as a person better versed in welding than
in psychology I still need to be able to describe recurrent observed
behavioral phenomena.  This may be less interesting that stack overflows to
you. Honestly it is to me too. I would love to spend my time in the
hackerspace community....actually hacking....it's funny that 99% of the
interpersonal conflict I have helped to mediate at noisebridge has been
among men. It turns out emotional intelligence is valued in technology
communities...when the men have problems or need mentorship.

One thing that would make hackerspaces more welcoming to the groups that
are not showing up is visibly throwing in with them - despite the
discomfort or confusion, making inclusiveness a permanent priority.  There
is no magic bullet. You must actually decide to care about the issue in an
ongoing manner in order to make progress.

Uh, and genuinely seek to practice listening along with speaking.

On Jan 18, 2013 3:45 AM, "Bill French" <william.french at gmail.com> wrote:

> Greetings, again, from heavily armed, definition crazed, white, male,
> America!  "America: Why are we so dumb?"
>     /Rule #1: When a girl comes through the doors, do NOT try to find
>     her on social networking or dating sites!
>     /
> It's weird to me that this is the only piece of practical (right or wrong,
> it's practical to understand, if not implement) advice i've picked up in
> this conversation.  I really hope I didn't miss anything else.  As a white,
> male, 30ish person, president of a mostly male hackerspace (current list
> has us at 15% female), i recognize that the attitude of "please, just tell
> me what to do, so we can fix this!" is not very helpful, but short of going
> for a masters in women's studies, i'm not sure where the middle ground is.
>  I don't even know if Women's Studies would be the right thing to study.
>  Maybe it is even offensive to say that.  I don't know!  I think basically
> being called a clueless idiot who doesn't get it, especially based on
> factors of my birth beyond my control, is not the middle ground, either.  I
> hate to see such "teaching moments" get wasted.  I want to learn.  Who here
> wants to intentionally oppress women?
> I do know that I love my mother, my wife, and my sister (all different
> people, to be clear) and would not want them to ever feel uncomfortable or
> unwelcome *anywhere* by *anyone*.  But I don't know where to start to
> learn how to be better, how to help other be better, and make our space the
> best it can be, that is reasonably practical among everything else I need
> to do.  *I also want to hack.*
> ANYWAY, rule #1 bothers me, could rule #1 be changed somewhat:
> Rule #1: This space respects personal privacy.  All people entering this
> space have a reasonable expectation of privacy.  To that end, do not
> Google, Facebook, or otherwise search for anyone, their families, or their
> friends without explicitly asking them directly for permission, first.
>  Everyone is here for their own reasons.  If you want to know, ask them,
> wait for them to tell you, or mind your own fucking business.
> Thoughts?
> _______________________________________________
> Discuss mailing list
> Discuss at lists.hackerspaces.org
> http://lists.hackerspaces.org/mailman/listinfo/discuss
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