My second shift

I just read this post by seperis, i miss ship wars like so much, and I had to stop, blink, say “YEAH!” out loud, then IM it to yatima and Sumana.

I want to say this–I don’t know where I am getting the time to do this. I just don’t. This is worse than a twenty-four credit hour semester, because it never fucking ends, it’s every semester and I don’t even get to graduate and no one gives me a class schedule, it just shows up suddenly and I’m in for a sixteen week course where I have to guess at the reading material and sometimes, I’m not even sure what I’m studying. There are many things I’ve learned in fandom that I appreciate, but I have to draw a line somewhere, and I have no idea where, because on top of spending time researching things that are actually important to me as a human being, and writing, and enjoying fannish meta, and chatting with friends, and I don’t know, actually interacting with my source text, I have to figure out now if some researchers are using my people as fodder for a exploitative book.

I checked my timesheet–apparently I am creating hours from air for this, because the day is still twenty-four hours long, but my fannish life is taking thirty-six all on its own, and I still haven’t finished reading History of the Jewish State or found my copy of What If for creative writing, and there’s a small but growing pile of books at the foot of my bed that I have yet to get to and I’m two hundred behind on my flist. I mean, this isn’t bad time management here; my time management is a damn miracle. It is creating time from a vortex of not-time.

She’s talking about SurveyFail, but for me it’s been geek feminism (small g, small f). Ever since OSCON (or a bit before) I’ve had this enormous, amorphous thing eating my life. I get emails. People point me at articles. People ask me to opine on all kinds of stuff. And it’s important, so I try to find time to do it, and to do it thoughtfully and with understanding.

But god DAMN it, my life’s work so far has been ones and zeroes. I never studied gender theory, or sociology, or politics, or any of that. I’m playing catch-up. The only way I’m staying even remotely ahead of the game is to wikify anything I learn so I don’t have to look it up twice.

That LWN thread with Bruce Perens? That ate a day of my life. A whole day. I talked to some of the other women involved afterwards, and I’m not the only one. Between the anger and frustration, the difficulty of following the damn thread without a comments RSS feed, and having to express ourselves clearly and provide supporting documentation (over and over and over again), we lost perhaps hundreds of woman-hours that could otherwise have been spent, oh, I dunno, WRITING SOME DAMN SOFTWARE.

This? This is my second shift.

30 thoughts on “My second shift

  1. Mary

    I didn’t compare it explicitly to the second shift, but I made some similar notes at

    It is also, for me at least, extremely stressful, because it feels like high stakes conflict. (If I get it wrong, feminists might hold it against me, and whatever I do anti-feminists will hold against me.) It’s not clear to me how to prioritise either. I’ve heard various thoughts, people preferring to work on building women up rather than critiquing the patriarchy is a big one. But at the same time, leaving geeky places to fester and bubble their sexism up…

      1. Skud Post author

        It’s not actually that I find it boring. I mean, some parts are, but mostly I find it kind of fascinating. It’s just… I already *had* a bunch of fascinating things to fill my brain with, and did I really need to get sucked into another?

      2. Mary

        It’s not actually that I find it boring. I mean, some parts are

        For me, it’s mostly things like the LWN thread that are boring.

      3. Skud Post author

        Hmmm. I found it boring right up until the point it started making me gut-wrenchingly angry.

  2. Asad

    While being an enthusiastic SF reader and viewer, I have no truck with fanfic, but this whole thing has been an enormous timesuck and I admit I have spent most of my spare time reading every linkspam link + comments on this issue. To no avail as I appear to be a minority of one and am left with an unscratchable itch.

    1. Skud Post author

      Asad, for you it’s a timesuck and an unscratchable itch. For us it’s shit that affects our lives, and an incredibly difficult choice: to either let it slide and put up with a status quo that treats us as lesser-than, or to wear ourselves out and risk real-world consequences fighting it.

      Excuse me if I don’t feel your pain.

      1. Asad

        Er, I wasn’t asking for pity, and I suspect that by writing in this thread rather than the previous I may have given that impression. I was reacting to your quote of seperis when I put it here.

        I also was not dismissing the importance of the issue in either case; “timesuck” was meant ironically, which is not always conveyed well in print. I had also read previously the LWN thread in detail and I think that SurveyFail and the LWN thread touch on issues of great importance to many people.

  3. Elizabeth Yalkut

    THIS. There has got to be a way I can do the things I care about deeply (OTW, Dreamwidth, media fandom participation, whatever) and talk about them in a theoretical and political context, but right now, the only way I can see to make that happen is to have no other work. And this stuff was supposed to be a hobby!

    1. Cesy

      Yes. I want to do Dreamwidth coding, and get involved in the wider open source community, and write fic, and see my friends, and it would be really nice if I had enough free time to help out with coding on AO3, as well as volunteering with some other charity stuff back home, but it’s just not going to happen – finding enough time and energy to cook properly instead of just grabbing a ready meal every evening is hard enough.

  4. Under the Goggles

    Hey, just want to say that I’ve really been enjoying your blog. :-)

    Have read through some of the Perens comments – I’m amazed by how much patience you had with him. Have you ever seen this site? – it saves me a lot of time during those kinds of conversations.

    I’ve tried to keep up geek feminism blog before I ever read yours, but real life kept getting in the way, like you say, a second shift. I am going to try harder with mine though – you’ve inspired me!

  5. Jokerine

    May I just repeat this for emphasis: For us it’s shit that affects our lives, and an incredibly difficult choice: to either let it slide and put up with a status quo that treats us as lesser-than, or to wear ourselves out and risk real-world consequences fighting it.

    This is really important, but oh how it drains, these endless discussions about the basics of feminism, language, marginalisation etc.

    1. Seperis

      It affects our lives, and also, how fandom is seen, represented, and the culture in it. Not keeping up isn’t just a matter of not participating in this particular thing–non-participation will bite you later if Thing A in November is related to Thing B in January and you have no idea where it came from or what’s going on or for that matter, why it’s happening, because you missed Thing A altogether.

      And yes, it’s exhausting; I love meta, but the people I’m debating with most of the time are often either specialists, graduate, or post-graduate. I have a day or maybe two to work out what they’re talking about, where I can read about it, and create a cognizant argument with the correct vocabulary for or against.

      I don’t grudge academics their fun, but I admit, I have recently opened up a post with three to five separate references to articles and books to explain their position on X and really kind of wanted to cry. I don’t think there’s deliberate exclusion of non-academia going on; it’s a de facto exclusion when following along takes that much work. I don’t see a solution to the problem, but I see a future problem in de facto exclusion of non-academics who don’t have the time to read up on X or are terrifed by the vocabulary or the start value of the conversation.

      1. Yatima

        “…non-participation will bite you later if Thing A in November is related to Thing B in January and you have no idea where it came from or what’s going on or for that matter, why it’s happening, because you missed Thing A altogether.”

        Yes. This. I don’t find it boring, at all; I find it engrossing, and I want to stand up for women and minorities and speak truth to power and remain au courant. But I have a job, and two children, and a body that needs to be taken out and exercised, and in the time it takes to finish my taiji class and get my kids in the bath the link roundup may have doubled in size. I am indebted to everyone who prepares summaries of the various *FAILS, but where do they find the time?

  6. Catherine Devlin

    I know what you mean. I actually fear that feeling like we have to spend time being diversity advocates will translate into less time making contributions of code (docs, etc.) and worsen what we’re trying to fix.

    1. vaurora

      I know with absolute certainty that being an advocate for women in computing takes up time I’d be spending on writing code, etc. I “retired” from LinuxChix about the same time I started consulting by hour and learned the value of my time the hard way.

      1. Mackenzie

        Were you already 1337 when you got into FOSS or did you start out noobishly and use FOSS to gain experience and hone your skills? For me, the lack of skills means I find it easier to contribute in um…less hardcore ways. The time it’d take to learn what I’d need to learn to fix uh…high power consumption on my laptop (probably touching a dozen kernel modules)…is just so enormous that I leave it for the “experts” (people like mjg59 who know this ACPI stuff) and work on translations (not anymore, I forgot the languages I was translating!) or small UI tweaks. Even the teeny tiny bit I’ve learned about audio (maybe 2% of what’s needed to really truly fix a FUBAR sound driver or to write a new quirk) took months to grasp.

      2. Skud Post author

        Was that directed at Catherine? I’m going to reply anyway :) I find that most of my contributions code-wise aren’t to Linux or even to desktop apps, but to web apps or developer libraries and tools, which tend to be written in higher level languages. Perl is my main language, but I can do minor stuff in PHP, Python, or Ruby if necessary. I couldn’t hope to fix high power consumption on my laptop, but I can hope to eg. improve parts of Dreamwidth or write a useful CPAN module or a WordPress plugin. In my experience, high level languages tend to have communities that are easier to get into as a newbie programmer, too; there are more often beginner forums/mailing lists/etc aimed at programmers.

  7. Bene

    Exactly. I’ve overstretched my limits as well, and find it so hard to pick and choose what I can get involved in more than peripherally–dabble in many things, commit to none, really. I have fairly limited energy levels as is, thanks to necessary medication, and that adds to the problem.

  8. Erika

    Yes, this is definitely why I don’t tend to get involved in this sort of thing. It’s too much time and energy.

    Here’s a generalized example of how these things typically work:
    Geek sexist: “Women don’t get involved in this field because they’re not interested and besides they suck at it.”
    Geek woman: “Wait, I’m interested.”
    Geek sexist (skeptical): “Hm. You probably suck at it.”
    Geek woman: **presents compelling evidence for the nth time that she does not suck at it**
    Geek sexist (implied): “Hm. Well, the exception proves the rule. You must be some sort of freak. : Maybe you’re not really a woman. Real women have purse collections, like my wife.”
    Geek sexist proceeds to loudly not-sexually-harrass geek woman (“I would say X, but that would be sexual harrassment”) on a daily basis.
    *** years later, after geek woman has long gone to a happier land of single offices and woman managers ***
    Geek sexist: “Why aren’t there any technical women around here?”
    Geek woman: “Women feel uncomfortable in your group in particular, and in your field in general.”
    Geek sexist: “Nonsense. Everyone knows that women are not interested in technology, and besides, they suck at it.”
    Geek woman: **gnashes teeth**

  9. Dorothea Salo

    Sigh. Yes. I hear you. I have been there. Right now I’m in the “oh, $DEITY, do I really want to get dragged back into this? after what happened the last $MANY times?” place.

    It’s not only the timesink. It’s the consequences to mental and even physical well-being.

    I thank each and every one of the Geek Feminism bloggers for their time and trouble.

  10. Nathaniel Smith

    Oh, geez, I lost most of a week to that thread. (Good thing my advisor was out of town!) This stuff takes forever and then at the end of it my brain feels like a squished noodle. And still I’ve only put in a fraction of the work some of you all have…

    Thanks for sticking in there.

    1. Skud Post author

      No no, thank YOU for diving in and spending so much time on it. You would not believe the number of people who have been saying “Who is this njs person?” and wanting to thank you properly. So, I for one am delighted to see you here on GF and I hope you’ll stick around. It’s a bit saner here, I hope :)

      1. Nathaniel Smith

        No thanks necessary, but you’re welcome! I just posted a bit more context on my (minimally updated) blog.

        I do plan to stick around, though I am semi-lousy at tracking RSS feeds. In LWN’s defense, it is mostly pretty sane, containing actual journalism (!) and commentators who often have actual expertise (!); also, one of the two site founders was female, and one of the 3(?) current editors is as well. But Jon takes a light hand on the moderation (that journalistic neutrality thing, I think), and sometimes… yeah. This place has some advantages.

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