[hackerspaces] Hackers, feminism, and bullying

Matt Joyce matt at nycresistor.com
Fri Jan 18 22:10:47 CET 2013

"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. "

That is what we like to call an assumption.  As a primary source
viewpoint on being the proverbial "dominant group", I can assure you
when reading some of the emails I have responded to in a sometimes
unpopular fashion, I have never done so because of... panic,
defensiveness, or with a desire to scold.  As to the claim of "reverse
discrimination".  I would claim that I've never been reverse
discriminated upon in my life.

Do I Panic?  The only thing that makes me panic is being faced with my
own mortality.  I find your opinions interesting.  I find you
suggestions to be exciting to my sense of curiousity and my thirst for
knowledge.  And I see your different viewpoints as an opportunity for
us to learn from each other.  That is about as far from panic as could
be the case.

Am I defensive?  No, but I am conservative and a moderate.  I prefer
people think before acting.  I prefer people separate themselves from
their emotions and address issues with well reasoned logic.  I prefer
a pursuit of truth and engineering built on proven methodologies
rather than blind conjecture.  However, I acknowledge when breaching
new territory often times fortune favors the bold.

Do I scold complainers?  No, but I am annoyed by them.  Complaints are
fundamentally worthless.  It's like in IT.  When someone complains
about something you can't fix that.  You need a bug report, with a
reproduceable state.  You need logs.  You need metrics.  You need
numbers, reproduceability, and a test case to satisfy.  Complaints
help no one.  If you care that much, put together the data that will
allow people to isolate, define, and address the issue or issues.  Oh
wait... I guess I do scold complainers.  But you deserve it.  Learn to
express yourself better.

Have I claimed reverse discrimination?  No.  I don't discriminate
against anyone but Gingers.  And mostly they love me.  In fact in some
households my photo hangs just below Ron Howard's rusty visage.
However, I have suffered from discrimination among feminists because
of my gender, and my skin color.  As I have suffered discrimination in
europe for being an American.  Discrimination in Brazil for being a
"rich American".  Discrimination for being from Brooklyn, or for not
liking baseball, or for simply failing to dress the same as others.
There's nothing reverse about any of that.  There are bad people in
every group of the world.  There are feminists with the extremist
mentality of KKK members.  They walk this earth and they are a
disgrace to all people, and male or female.  And wherever you
encounter extremists, no matter their beliefs you will find
discrimination, closed mindedness, and hostility.

That is my rebuke of your supposition.  You tell me I do not
understand the woes of the "minority".  Well, you do not understand my
position either.  That is why dialogue is important.

Ironically males are a population minority.  To which you respond, we
have wealth and power etc.  This is why numbers are important.
Reproduceable results are important.  We need to set constraints and
find values before we can begin to address the issues.  And sure there
are plenty of numbers out there in the world.  But there aren't many
on hackerspaces.  The early threads began to address that.  There is a
request for data by a grad student on this list as well beginning that
work.  There is the demographic that is done yearly by that lovely
person in the netherlands.

There's a lot of discussion to be had if we use the tools we have to
communicate without misunderstandings.  Without the jaded view of our
own perspective.


On Fri, Jan 18, 2013 at 12:22 PM, rachel lyra hospodar
<rachelyra at gmail.com> wrote:
> 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.
> R.
> 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?
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