38 thoughts on “Geeks and non-geeks

    1. Jayn

      Agreed. Also, most of the geeks I know have this…thing…about different types of weapons, including whips. Maybe especially whips.

  1. Jack

    Thanks for writing this post and for the good quick fix tip. I’ve been internally grumbling about this since I got the box on Saturday. I will apply the recommended patch posthaste!

  2. Catrina

    Thanks for posting this, Liz! I like the patch idea. . . but I wonder how many of these problematic decks of cards were distributed. S-I-G-H. Luckily, you’ve at least shed light on the situation. It was nice meeting you at the #drupalchix lunch tweetup. Thanks for the post, and keep up the good work! -@catrinachaos

  3. Matts Hildén

    A few words about the back side of the package. At a glance, one might think that the guy in the t-shirt, glasses and spiky hair is a geek. To some extent I suppose he really is a Drupal geek. On the other hand he is a very popular Drupal Rockstar. The woman to the left does not really look like a classic geek, but, actually, she is. I personally know her, she is a performer in a Swedish retro Burlesque troupe and in this context, she is a real Burlesque geek. Maybe it sounds strange, but in Sweden you can combine Burlesqusque dancing, a regular job, being a good mother and feminism. I can’t say if it’s because Swedes in general are open-minded, tolerant, liberated or a combination of all three. This troupe, Knicker Kittens Burlesque Revue, really is a politically conscious organization. They even performed at the Nobel Prize ceremonies in Stockholm 2008. Of course, we at NodeOne would never make anyone play this game against their own will.

    1. Liz Henry

      Hi Matts, thanks for your reply! Actually, it made me laugh really hard at how far you miss the point.

      You have made some points that set up a “straw feminist” arguments that I would never make. I would not challenge the woman in the photo’s potential geekiness or political agency in terms of her decision to do burlesque dancing plus do all the other things she undoubtedly do with her life. I think there is also a fair bit of awareness that there is room in society for playing with performative aspects of sexuality, gender, and so on, as it sounds like the Knicker Kittens (great name!) do. You dwell on that point — but it is not the point. Don’t be acting all superiorly Swedish and utopian and like you’re talking to some humorless sex-negative feminists here. No it does not sound “strange” that a woman can be a stripper and a good mother and have other jobs. Why would you assume that I, or we at geek feminism, would find that strange? It is misdirection on your part.

      With this image and text, you are playing with misogynist stereotypes. No matter how politically conscious and “liberated” (aka “privileged”) an individual is, the base of the joke here is that geeks are men and that women are a commodity. Commoditization of the category of person I’m in, in my professional environment, is very unwelcome.

      You may have, in your utopian enclave over there on your side of the pond, somehow missed the past gajillion years of women in computing being royally pissed off over things like strippers at a hack day, guys showing slides of pornified women during talks about code, and so on. Here is a little list we have been compiling: Timeline of incidents . It is about context.

      At our linuxchix lunch yesterday, a lot of women expressed outrage and disappointment – I would say almost despair — at the sexist imagery and thinking represented by that imagery.

      It was so completely unnecessary.

      You then end up your condescending non-apology by falling back on the defense that “no one is forcing us to play it”. If we don’t like the packaging of the card game, we can just not play it or not pick one up. Also not the point. You made it and distributed it through a lot of different Drupal shops who had booths at the conference who didn’t notice the sexist packaging and who are probably embarrassed by it now. I can’t un-see it or ignore it, and I don’t have the luxury of ignoring *the mindset behind it* which damages every aspect of my life personally and professionally, because misogyny is *harmful*.

      What I can do is point it out — calling it out lets you and people like you know that it’s unacceptable and unwelcome in our community. I can also suggest and apply a patch. In this case, the patch is providing a graphic that does not use “humor” to exclude women from the category of people who are naturally expected to be geeks at a Drupal conference.

      1. Matts Hildén

        Unfortunately, I can’t be in SF and meet you due to the ash cloud. I am sorry if I offended you in any way. Please send my apologies to anyone you meet that feels offended, excluded or outraged etc. If I made you or anyone else laugh, that’s OK with me. The game is actually about building awesome Drupal websites. The idea of a fun (maybe not everyone think playing cards is fun, sure) card game was to explain to people who are not familiar with the wonderful world of Drupal a little about how Drupal, modules and community cooperation works. Or at least give them a hint. In the end, it’s just a free giveaway card game. People from all over are mailing us to get more copies, for themselves and as gifts. I am almost sure they are not sexists, and I doubt that they would become sexists from a deck of cards. I can guarantee you that there is no hidden “sexist agenda” behind this game. But, on the other hand, maybe you’re right! Please, feel free to suggest a graphic that does not offend you, we just might replace the “humorous”graphic with your artwork on the package to the next batch that we print!

        1. Liz Henry

          I like the idea of inviting people to suggest some alternate art for the card game’s box! More later, I am in the middle of a talk! Cheers, Liz

        2. Lampdevil

          Dude.. there doesn’t HAVE to be a “hidden sexist agenda” behind the image on the card. I doubt very much that there are a bunch of Drupal folk huddled in a dark room, rubbing their hands together with wicked sexist glee. It’s the fact that something like this was put on the card and it was thought of as all in good fun, ha ha, that is irritating. Ignorance of how an action could be interpreted doesn’t make the action itself harmless.

          Traditionally, women in burlesque gear aren’t considered geeky. The card indicated “non-geeks”. The underlying joke may have been “Hey these are both geeks, har har” but that’s more of a secret easter egg thing. The prevailing message is both “women aren’t geeks” and “this product will help me get with women”, both messages which assume that the person holding the card deck are male.

          These cards won’t suddenly “Make someone sexist”, as though they emit terrible Sexism-Causing Gamma Rays. But they illustrate a sexist attitude, and prop up a subtle belief that a lot of people hold. Sexism isn’t just stomping around going “women suck”, it’s the subtle things that folk in priviledged places don’t always get to see.

          I don’t even know if I have the capacity to explain this any better, but I’ve gotta give it a stab. The point is being missed.

      2. Drupal Lover

        You totally missed the point and made a hen of a feather! It’s a two-headed arrow – they’re both non-geeks!

        The geek is the person holding the game in her or his hand!

        Who else would be interested in a card game about something as geeky as Drupal but an actual geek? By playing this game, you as a geek, have a chance to share the goodness of Drupal with your non-geek friends, be they Burlesque dancers or just guys who like flexing their biceps!

        Now stop judging Matts or what was done with only good intent. I have no doubts Matts is a wonderful open and caring person, and enjoy the game, and take up on his excellent invitation to contribute and send him some patches!

      3. walkerby43

        utopianism? i did some googling and it’s not a totally inaccurate noun to use about sweden when it comes to these issues:


        matt’s reasoning may not match yours but he lives in a country that’s come way longer than the US when it comes to gender inequalities and it’s likely much due a culture and attitude that is different from yours, so you’d do right to consider that before you judge his actions

        1. Adam Nybäck

          Actually, we (the Swedes) are still very far from gender equality. Maybe we are ahead of many other countries, but we still have a long way to go. In a 5-star ranking we could possibly get 3.5 while most other countries range from 1 to 3. And I think we still have a lot to learn from other countries, including the US.

      4. Greg

        You may have, in your utopian enclave over there on your side of the pond, somehow missed the past gajillion years of women in computing being royally pissed off over things like strippers at a hack day, guys showing slides of pornified women during talks about code, and so on.

        Actually, I think we may have missed that. I’ve (only, I guess, compared with some folk) been in the IT industry a little over 10 years now, and always worked “across the pond” in Europe. I can honestly say I have *NEVER* worked in a place where that sort of behaviour would be even remotely acceptable. Seriously. Hiring strippers at a work-related event? Showing a pornographic image in the slides for a talk? Sackable offences, no question. I can’t imagine pulling a stunt like that and keeping my job, even if I wanted to, which I wouldn’t (he hastens to add).

        As a result I genuinely do struggle to imagine an organisation where such behaviour actually occurs. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t doubt you, I’m just saying that’s not how it is here in Europe. It might have been once, I wouldn’t know, but waaaay before my time if it was.

        Ps – I totally agree with the sentiment, just thought I’d make the point that maybe things are far worse in the US than they are in Europe, as far as sexism is concerned. Perhaps that makes the reaction stronger too? Or perhaps sexism in Europe is just as prevalent but more subtle. Is that maybe even worse? Who knows? I certainly don’t. Just thinking out loud. I need to shut up now… ;-)

        1. Greg

          Ok, sure, there are going to be *some* incidents. But, totally unacceptable as they are, I was specifically referring to sexist behaviour in the workplace being totally unacceptable in Europe, in my experience at least. That was my point and none of those examples are relevant to my point (Japanese corporation selecting questionable “art”, some stupid advertisements by some people who think sex is the only way to sell things to boys, a couple of individual sickos and a childish T-shirt design).

        2. Liz Henry

          Greg, it’s good to hear that your experience has been that sexist behavior is unacceptable in the workplace! That’s really heartening!

        3. Danny O'Brien

          Speaking as someone who *has* worked on both sides of the pond (albeit only in the UK + US), there’s plenty of sexism on both sides, but I think it’s true that people are more capable of seeing it outside of their own context. For instance, as a Brit in the UK I’d be quick to recognise the discrepancy of pole-dancers, but would be nonplussed if someone reacted strongly to a continuous stream of “amusing” jokes about someone’s gender in the workplace, despite this being actually pretty oppressive for anyone having to deal with it.

          On the other hand, people from other cultures spot that pretty quickly, as well as the fact that anyone complaining about it will be dismissed as being “humourless” in the UK context. A lot of executive women will tell you (privately) that they perceive the UK as being particularly sexist (sorry that’s just anecdata, but I note it because I was surprised myself until I started looking a bit more as an outsider).

          The truth is that it took me a while to realise that a lot of fairly serious misbehaviour in British cultural contexts is concealed behind making it “a bit of fun”. Also note that because being a sexist is described as an identity, rather than a behaviour, and an othered one at that, it’s really easy to just think it’s something that other people do, and leave it at that. You’ve basically completed one of the classic bingo-card behaviours by going, “oh yeah, sexism, that’s what those $OTHERPEOPLE do” and then when presented with examples closer to home, gone “oh that, that’s not important/a few extreme cases/a one-off”. If you came into this conversation assuming that there’s no sexism in your local industry, and then have examples given, what does that mean? Does it mean that the more examples people give, the more you will have to find reasons to exclude them as special cases? Or does it mean that there’s actually some filter going on that stopped you from seeing the sexism beforehand, and now that you’re paying attention, maybe you’ll see more?

    1. Liz Henry

      Hi Thomas, nice to hear from you, and thanks for your very nice response. Also, I thought the idea of a card game was cool! Cheers!

  4. Adam Nybäck

    Yes, this is obviously a case of “ignorance of how an action could be interpreted”.

    The question is: why isn’t the image interpreted as “non-geeks are women and men are a commodity”? (actually, I don’t understand why people would use the word “commodity” in an interpretation of this image, but that’s just my ignorance i guess).

    I watched this image together with my female geek flat mate and we both came to the conclusion that the base of the joke is not about male/female. The base of the joke is that geeks are ugly and that non-geeks are sexy. Well, that’s not funny, but the idea that a Drupal card game could connect ugly people with sexy people… that’s quite hilarious.

    If the image would show an image of an ugly woman and a sexy man, would that make a difference? Would men express outrage, disappointment and despair? How would women interpret it?

    Still, the fact that these cards were distributed at DrupalCon is ignorant and I do appreciate the apology from NodeOne http://nodeone.se/blogg/thomas-barregren/sexism-on-the-package-design-of-drupal-the-card-game.

    However, I’m more upset by Liz Henry putting this card game in the same category as the “Custer’s Revenge (rape simulation game)”. That’s just insulting… both to NodeOne and to Cluster’s Revenge. Actually, i guess that’s one more case of “ignorance of how an action could be interpreted”.

    (Note, I’m not saying that Dries is ugly nor that the woman is sexy. It’s just my subjective relative comparison of the ugliness and sexiness of the two pictures in the image)

    I apologise if anyone find this comment offensive, ignorant or just plain stupid.

    1. Liz Henry

      It took me a while to figure out how the heck Custer’s Revenge factored into this, and then i realized it was linked from the “Incidents” page. I don’t think anyone would seriously compare a slightly ponderous “women aren’t *real* geeks” subtext with that game. They’re just listed in a page that’s a list of “stuff a bunch of us remember as being sexist and annoying”.

      I think you might be trying to make a point in there about geeks in general being damaged by the idea that they’re not sexy. I wrote a post somewhere about that, definitely an idea worth exploring.

      1. Adam Nybäck

        Thanks for the explanation Liz. However, it still hurts me to see NodeOne in that list and I hope you can change the page to make it more obvious that the card game is not in the same category as Custer’s Revenge.

        “I think you might be trying to make a point in there about geeks in general being damaged by the idea that they’re not sexy.”

        No, I did not try to make such a point. I don’t think that geeks are being damaged by that idea. Geeks are smart enough to use such ideas to their own advantage.

  5. R. Aclef

    I agree that regarding women as a commodity can be a troubling issue and is part of the larger problem of viewing any person or people as a commodity.

    However despite the bikini adorning the female character, it is not immediately apparent who or what is the commodity here; in fact, the riding crop the female character is wielding hints at an underlying symbolism which subverts our received notions of geeks, sexual dominance & commodification.

    Furthermore I am troubled by the knee-jerk liberalist reactions of both Liz’s arguably antiquated notion of feminism and nodeone’s rush to mea culpa. I’d suggest Liz re-read some of Camile Paglia’s explanations of how this sort of faux outrage undermines the position of women, while living in denial of the role of sexuality in power, and power in sexuality.

    Liz completely misses the joke here, which is that sexuality is the missing dimension in a geek, which is suprising given the copious references on the Internet to this, eg. programmers depicted as remaining virgins, etc.

    Instead of rushing to apologise, presumably so as not to alienate the consider gender-queer following Drupal has attracted, Nodeone should have encouraged discussion, and realise there is another side to the story here.

    1. Liz Henry

      Hi R. Aclef, I don’t actually miss the point about geeks being non-sexy or about the riding crop as a symbol of women’s sexual power, but would like to counter-suggest some reading for you – the book What Are We Fighting For and the booklet “Magic Mommas, Trembling Sisters, Puritans and Perverts” by Joanna Russ for a more complicated view of the Lesbian Sex Wars, of which I am, frankly, a riding-crop-wielding, Knicker-Kitten-esque, veteran.

      p.s. Gender queer Drupalistas 4 evah!!!!

      p.p.s. LOL WHUT?!

      1. R. Aclef

        re: p.s. Yep. 4 evah & evah!!!!

        The considerable trans community supporting Drupal and being supported in return is such a great aspect it fills me with great joy and hope :))))))))

        Will check out Russ’ booklet, thanks, you rock.

  6. Adam Nybäck

    Sorry for cross posting, but I really need help here.

    I understand that some people find this image disturbing. However, I don’t understand the “commodity” part. How can anyone look at that image and come to the conclusion that the woman is a commodity while the man is not a commodity?

    1. Zoe Higgins

      I think – and this could be an entirely wrong interpretation – that the reason the woman is viewed as a commodity is that the holder of the cards is assumed to be a heterosexual male. The advertising implies that by buying the cards the holder (who is identified with the male ‘geek’ illustration) is buying potential contact with the female ‘non-geek’.

      This has caused outrage for at least two reasons:

      a) The actual user of the cards – the ‘geek’ – is assumed to be male, excluding female geeks who might use the product.

      b) By buying the cards the illustration implies that the male user is buying contact with attractive females, which creates an imbalance of power by turning these females into passive, marketable commodities.

      Hope that made sense and wasn’t too dense or longwinded. :)

      1. Adam Nybäck

        Thanks Zoe. That makes a lot of sense.

        I’m sure that NodeOne didn’t assume that the holders would be only heterosexual males, but I fully understand that it can be interpreted that way.

        My own interpretation would be that they first picked the “geeky” looking picture of Dries and then tried to find a picture representing “not Dries”. The picture of Dries looks like a nerdy male, so one possible opposite would be a sexy female. That’s where the problem starts…

        Looks like you wrote the comment on April 22, but it wasn’t published until today, April 30. Strange.

      1. Adam Nybäck

        Not really. However, I would be more interested in a response from Liz. She seems to know a lot about these issues and I’m sure she can explain it in a way that even I can understand.

  7. Adam Nybäck

    Ok, I give up. I have read the links and no one owes me an explanation. I just said it would be interesting. Let me instead explain what I see in the image. If you’re not interested you can stop reading now.

    There are two persons in the image. One looks like a man and one looks like a woman. One looks more similar to some of the geeks I have met and one looks more similar to some of the non-geeks I have met. One is sexier than the other. I don’t know any of them but I assume that they both have great personalities.

    They are not commodities. They don’t deserve to be called commodities. That would just be insulting.

    That said, I still think the image is inappropriate and I’m not trying to defend it in any way. I’ve tried to come up with alternative pictures to be placed to the left and right of the text, but the only solution I find is to just remove the pictures (possibly the text too). Any attempt to visualize geeks and non-geeks will fail, since the definition of the word geek does not include any visual attributes (at least not in my definition). There are also many definitions of “geek” which makes it even more complicated. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geek

    Maybe that’s enough for now. Please let me know if you want me to further explain why I don’t think the image is a case of commoditization of women. By the way, I do think that commoditization of women (and men) is a bad thing. I’m not trying to defend such behavior.

  8. Bill Fitzgerald

    Just coming onto this thread now. I was actually at DrupalCon, and somehow managed to miss this entirely.

    After reading through these comments, I have a lot of thoughts, but really, more than anything else, I want to commend Liz for the way she brought this up, and shepherded the conversation. I’m both amazed and annoyed at the sexist attitudes that are espoused, both by the original card game, and by some of the comments here.

    Liz – you did a great job keeping the thread focused. I have bookmarked this thread; it shows an example of one facet of what sexism looks like, and of one effective method of addressing it.



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