Geek feminism as opposed to mainstream feminism?

I broke my own Ask a Geek Feminist rules, and held back a question from the first round until I had time to dig up a few more references. I’m still not happy with it, but have run out of editing ideas, so time to throw it open. Here’s the question (I’ve added the links to it myself):

Note that throughout this post “geek feminism” is used fairly broadly: I don’t only mean “this site and its readers”, I mean spaces with a feminist focus on geekdom in general.

There’s lots of feminism online that, aside from being online, isn’t particularly geeky. Or at least, isn’t tech/science/math-geek geeky. What do you think they’re missing? What issues are the big names like feministing or feministe or pandagon completely missing because of their non-geeky nature?

I remember when the whole Kathy Sierra death-threat news erupted on non-geek feminist blogs, there were a few comments specifically from self-identified geek feminists that carried the sense of “screw you, mainstream feminism, for just noticing us now and acting all shocked. We have to put up with all sorts of shit in geek spaces all the freakin’ time, and this – while awful – is just about typical.”

So… is this still where you see non-geek feminism as being? Does that sentiment reflect your present or past views of the non-geek feminism communities?

I’ve wanted for a long time to write about “why geek feminism” and I’m using this question as something of a jumping off point. We have commenters who read widely in the femiblogosphere (I only read a couple of sites, and tend to focus on the intersectional ones) and I am hoping they can more directly answer the question about what the big names there are missing.

Geek feminism, like feminism in other subcultures or feminism concentrating on intersections, draws on a set of experiences that geek women have. Some cautions about what I’m going to say here:

  • I’m not claiming any one of these issues, or even the sum of them, are limited to geek women; and
  • I’m not claiming that if these aren’t true for you, you can’t identify as a geek woman, or a geek feminist. Some of them are true for me, some aren’t.

Women as numerical minority.

One of the most major geek women experiences is that of being in a numerical minority. It’s not universal, there are many geekdoms that are majority women (many media fandoms, for example), and not coincidentally these are sometimes viewed from the outside as not very geeky. But many geek women find that their hobbies and careers place them in highly male-dominated spaces.

This means various experiences are common among geek women:

  • hearing how some men talk disparaging about women (especially about women as sexual and romantic partners) when they’re in a space where they feel like they have enough allies;
  • being used to being thought of as a woman first, and everything else a distant second; and
  • having experiences that are now thought of as “old fashioned” sexism, such as being spoken to slowly or with lots of kind references to cooking and babies, being asked by a customer if they can talk to “the technical guy now please”, being assumed to be at a geek event to accompany a husband, being asked to make the coffee or take notes, being treated as the “nanny” figure who won’t approve of drinking or swearing.

One converse about women as a numerical minority is that women in some geek professions are to some extent beneficiaries of the gender pay gap. I’ve seen a figure given a lot which suggests that women computer programmers earn about 90% of the male salary as opposed to the general norm which is more like 70%. One piece of analysis confirming this trend in IT careers at least in the United States is Daniel H. Weinberg (2004) Evidence From Census 2000 About Earnings by Detailed Occupation for Men and Women, which gives the following pay ratios:

  • Computer software engineers: 83.3%
  • Computer programmers: 89.3%
  • Computer scientists and systems analysts : 84.5%

These figures certainly aren’t unique to IT: nuclear and aeronautical engineering are listed in the top 20 most equal fields for pay, health workers feature prominently, and fields with highly standard pay scales such as postal work do too.

So women may benefit financially in some geeky fields. That said, one or two geek women have privately said to me that they are sometimes made to feel uncomfortable talking about geek feminism in some non-geek feminist spaces because if they say they work in a highly paid profession they are therefore assumed to have the least problems of any woman. Some geek women certainly have lots of privilege due to their salary, but their workplaces are not free of sexism for it, sometimes rather the reverse.

For some geek women, their strongest experiences of victimisation may be as a geek.

This is broadly going to be more true if the geek woman is otherwise privileged. To take myself as an example: I was sexually harassed and assaulted as a child and teen. I was also bullied and made an outsider for being a geek (essentially, “square” was the term used at my high school, I know it usually means rule abiding or adult-pleasing, but it mostly meant academically high achieving at my school) and it was the latter that was the focus of my teenage miseries. As an adult woman, harassment and oppression as a woman has magnified in size, partly due to not doing a lot of non-geek socialising but also because the oppression of women has become more visible to me as a feminist.

There’s a persistent reaction to this that seriously misreads it, as though up until becoming aware of this stuff I was happier, so that I would have been happier about my experiences of sexual harassment and assault if they’d never become politicised for me. I don’t agree: feminism is not always entirely pleasant of course, but dragging stuff into the open is one way for me to push back against the conditioning that that sort of thing is just part of being a woman.

But some geek women have a different relationship with feminism when their strongest social outsider experiences are related to a different part of their identity (as many other women do when oppressed on another axis).

Geeks believe themselves highly rational and independent of social influence.

Perhaps the FLOSSPOLS D16 report put this best (it was a report into gender in FLOSS, hence that specific terminology):

F/LOSS participants, as in most scientific cultures, view technology as an autonomous field, separate from people. This means that anything they interpret as ‘social’ is easily dismissed as ‘artificial’ social conditioning. Because this ‘conditioning’ is considered more or less arbitrary, in their view it is supposed to be easily cast aside by individuals choosing to ignore it… As a result participants largely do not believe that gender has anything to do with their own individual actions.

So it’s common for geeks, although hardly unique to them, to analyse sexism in terms of I’m too smart for that or I was victimised [as a geek], and am therefore intimately acquainted with how bad it is and now incapable of perpetrating or benefiting from oppression of others. But it’s part of the systemic geek feminist experience, to believe ourselves and others or at least other geeks as rational actors. Geeks then divide into believing themselves not sexist, or as rational sexists (studies show that… or but it’s to my reproductive advantage to indiscriminately sexually approach women, the end.).

This applies to geek women’s view of the world too, and means that many geek women come to feminism with some distrust of any analysis that gives social conditioning real power, and that if and when we do decide that it has it, we have to talk to a lot of people who don’t believe it.

Geek ciswomen may have struggled with aspects of their womanhood in light of their geekhood.

I’m making this point about cis experiences because all of the self-reporting I know of on this subject is by ciswomen, and I don’t want to imply that cis people’s experence of, essentially, being annoyed with their gender identity can be equated with the experiences or oppression of trans or genderqueer people. Trans and genderqueer people, if you’d like to discuss whether identifying as a geek influenced your relationship with your gender identity in comments, please do, or if you’d like a new thread opened up, I’ll get on it. (Special note to cismen: I realise that geek cismen have also often been victimised as less masculine and conforming men, but this thread isn’t about your experiences. See Restructure!’s recent post for why.)

Geek ciswomen often have a slightly complicated relationship with what it means to be a woman. It’s not an uncommon experience for us to have felt more comfortable socially with geek men than with non-geek women, and to have largely been friends with geek men at times. This is particularly true for many geek ciswomen when we are teenagers. It’s fairly common for geek ciswomen to remember a period of being actively misogynist, along the lines of: “I can see why men find women so bad, 99% of women are indeed trivial and annoying” or “I get treated in a sexist way, and it’s the fault of other women, for inviting sexist behaviour.” Ellen Spertus talked about this in an interview (note, I can’t tell how she is using the term male-identified for sure, but it seems to mean something like sympathised with men and their complaints about women rather than was a man):

… I was pretty male-identified and was somewhat misogynistic. Specifically, I thought that technical fields required more intelligence and effort than non-technical fields and that women’s underrepresentation meant that they were stupid and/or lazy. I no longer feel this way.

Geek ciswomen may also have been taught misogyny, along these lines: these are my people, my clever geek friends who welcome me! If they hate women, there’s must be a reason for it, something the women did!

It’s also common for geek women to have bought into geek hierarchies: we’ve talked about that several times on this blog in fact (Girl stuff in Free Software, Metagaming: Casual vs Hardcore, Women and geek prestige) and avoided things they thought were for women and therefore easy, boring, or at least likely full of female modes of socialising which geek ciswomen feel victimised by.

So geek ciswomen may come to feminism late and reluctantly. It’s an identity that very clearly sets a geek feminist apart from most geeks, and sometimes one’s current or former dear friends.

Geek feminists often feel like feminist newbies

Geek feminists often have come to feminism in their adult life, sometimes via immersion into the deep end of feminist theory via, eg, fandom discussions with academics. This has good points, of course, if it results in a humble approach to women’s lived experiences and to providing All The Answers. But it can also mean a feeling that the tools of feminism are best wielded left to The Experts with women’s studies majors, or an activist CV, etc.

There is an experience I’m not capturing here that perhaps someone wants to comment on: only realising that you’re geeky in adult life, due to applying a geek approach to something the stereotypical (computing, science) geeks don’t recognise as geeky. It can be hard to criticise geekdom when you, or other geeks, don’t feel that your geek nature is accepted.

Geek feminists are invested in geekdom

This is important. Geek feminists see ourselves (I think) as either wanting to improve existing geekdoms by acknowledging how oppression is perpetrated inside geekdom and trying to teaspoon it out, or to build new improved ones, or both. Geek communities and geek interests simply don’t appear “that important” to many people, feminists included. (See also Moff’s Law.) It is important by definition to geek feminists.

Of course the Internet and social justice activism are big places, and not everyone has to be active on the subject of geek feminism. But we are.


Mustn’t miss this one, although it holds for most writers and commenters at other feminist blogs too. The issues we talk about are real and should be talked about. But they are issues affecting privileged women, who are largely highly educated, employed in safe conditions with a reasonable salary, and have leisure time, among other things. As noted above some geek women are perceived by some feminists as being close to too privileged to have problems.

Geek feminists in feminist communities?

What are your thoughts, commenters? Have other feminist spaces been unsatisfactory when it comes to geekdom and its issues? What could geek feminism learn from other anti-oppression spaces?

65 thoughts on “Geek feminism as opposed to mainstream feminism?

  1. Restructure!

    I find that mainstream feminism happens to be anti-science (and therefore anger-inducing), but I do not perceive the anti-science sentiment as inherent to feminism or women. Instead, I perceive it to be coming from “those social sciences majors” who are often feminists and hostile to science. Mainstream feminism is also U.S.-centric to me (I’m Canadian), so I also think it may be related to the general anti-intellectualism in U.S. culture, or the relatively poor science education in the U.S. (according to the 2006 PISA, the U.S. ranks #21 in science literacy, while Canada and Australia rank #2 and #5, respectively).

    I stopped reading mainstream feminist blogs a long time ago, because they are not aware of geek feminism issues, because of the anti-science sentiment, and because of their white privilege and racism.

    1. Dorothea Salo

      Hm. I think I’ve seen that too, but something I also see that I think is pretty salutary is an awareness that science, too, suffers from human biases. E.g. feminist critique of obesity fearmongering, feminist critique of misogynist strains of evolutionary psychology.

      I experience those as not so much anti-science as anti-bad-science.

    2. Helen Huntingdon

      I hadn’t picked up on the anti-science elements until I read the “science week” threads at IBTP. Was I ever surprised.

      The USA-centric issue is a biggie. I think it’s costing us a lot of valuable insight.

    3. takingitoutside

      This is one of the reasons I mostly stopped reading Feministing. I seem to recall the trigger was a post on anti-vaxers that basically equated a couple of “my kid was vaccinated and also got sick, so one must cause the other” anecdotes with actual scientific studies, though I could be mis-remembering. Whatever it was about, it was straight-up anti-science nonsense. I follow websites for news and information, not dis-information.

      1. Helen Huntingdon

        The lack of public understanding of transmission of epidemics and the basic mechanics of herd immunity scares the willies out of me.

        “H1N1 turned out to be not such a big deal after all. What silly drama.” Uh, no, it turned out so far in the USA not to be as bad as feared because the precautions worked. Handwashing is incredibly powerful if you get enough people doing it. Strict quarantine is too.

        “Thousands of people die every year from seasonal flu anyway. So what’s the big?” Yes, they do, and it’s horrible. It’s even worse when you realize how many of them would survive if everyone got seasonal flu shots every year.

        “I generally don’t catch the seasonal flu, so I don’t need a shot.” Great, so you’ll risk being an asymptomatic carrier because only other people’s babies might die, or those boring old people.

        1. Kim Curry

          The one I really don’t understand is the resistance to Polio. They’ll quote statistics to me about how rare it is to encounter it… and then argue that they should be able to claim exemption to vaccinations to go visit areas where polio is still endemic.

          I also think anti-vaxxers don’t want to think about the fact that viruses and bacteria continue to evolve, sometimes quickly.

          So what are your takes on varicella? That’s the only one I’ve held off on my toddler getting.

          [~ Request from Mary: Please move general discussion of vaccination to the open thread. It is a big topic and I’d prefer not to derail this post. Further discussion on this thread will be deleted. ~]

        2. Helen Huntingdon

          I had an attack of shingles a couple of years back. I can’t even describe the pain, and there was potential for permanent nerve damage to my right arm, which luckily didn’t happen. I never really thought about issues of disfigurement, because that seemed so trivial compared to the rest of it.

          Anything you can do to protect your child from even the chance of that is a good idea in my book. I was lucky. It could easily have killed me.

          [~ Request from Mary: Please move general discussion of vaccination to the open thread. Further discussion on this thread will be deleted. ~]

        3. Mike Crichton

          how many of them would survive if everyone got seasonal flu shots every year.

          A lot of the people who die of flu _can’t_ get the shot, because they’re immonocompromised. They depend entirely on herd immunity. Which I guess means they’d be safe if everyone _else_ got the shot.

          [~ Request from Mary: Please move general discussion of vaccination to the open thread. Further discussion on this thread will be deleted. ~]

        4. Helen Huntingdon

          Exactly my point.

          [~ Request from Mary: Please move general discussion of vaccination to the open thread. Further discussion on this thread will be deleted. ~]

  2. Sushi

    I’ve had similar experiences in my mainstream feminism encounters. The experience began with a women’s studies course at a US women’s college and was the only student to bring up concerns relevant to geek feminists. The rest of the class didn’t see the relevance in such issues in a feminist context, and I was left to wonder what part of feminism I just wasn’t getting.

    Geek women live in a geek world. Someone who doesn’t live in the geek world may not see why, say, the underrepresentation of women in computing is important, but a geek feminist who lives in that world knows all about it. This gap between the two worlds of feminism means that when a story relevant to the interests of geek feminists makes the rounds of mainstream feminist groups, the mainstream groups may not realize that these issues are ongoing. Those experiences don’t translate as well to a mainstream feminist who may not know (or be aware, but not be active in the geek arena), and relating may require crossing the singularity of science*, which is hard to do in a society so resistant to science or intelligence in general.

    *May or may not be science

    1. Jayn

      “Geek women live in a geek world.”

      This pretty much says it all for me. I’m far from the geekiest woman around, but reading the experiences of women here ties to my own life far more than what I read at other blogs. Sure, as a woman I can identify with what those women are saying, but it’s not as immediate to me as, say, a post about the whole ‘there are no girlz on teh intrawebs’ thing (which pisses me off to no end–I’m female and I refuse to hide it).

      For me, geek is normal. I’ve spent my whole life surrounded by people who identify as geeks in some form or another (usually computer/gamer or anime geeks). I can learn from the experiences related at mainstream feminist sites, but I can’t apply what I’ve learned because it’s more or less irrelevant to my own life and experiences. It makes me hesitant to say anything, because while I can re-relate what I’ve learned, it’s not really coming from me. And I really, really hate being somewhere where I don’t feel I can contribute.

  3. Amelia Dangerzone

    I feel, as a trans woman, that while my identity hasn’t been influenced by my geekhood, it complicates things a lot, because I really, really don’t want to use the common method of pretending to be a guy online to escape being the target of things like “lol ur not real, womenz don’t internet!”. Doing that is just unrelenting in how bad it makes me feel. I was reading a lot of the threads on wow_ladies about the RealID fail, and reconnecting with all the horrible things that can happen in online games. It’s just sort of like, oh right, this is why I don’t play online games with people who aren’t my friends ever. This is why I never become a part of any MMO communities. I just literally don’t have the ability to use the most common way to deal with that sort of stuff.

    I still remember a brand new community that I was thinking of joining, and I signed up to their forums with my (then) typical internet pseudonym (which is gendered.) And I was just thinking about posting my first post soon, and I see a thread about if there were any women there, and after five posts it was settled. “Lol, guess it’s just us guys then.”

    I never posted once. Bleh. I guess I’m glad it turned out to be a really uninteresting place anyways.

  4. berlinerin

    “Geek ciswomen may have struggled with aspects of their womanhood in light of their geekhood.”

    I think by starting with the presumption that there are (or may be) differences based on cis/trans self-reporting—or the apparent lack of the latter, you might be artificially creating a division based on a somewhat spurious premise.

    That is to say, the traditional expectations of a trans woman to conform to gender stereotypes are often far more proscriptive, for example denying trans-specific medical treatment based on sexuality, wherein the trans woman professing a desire for hetero marriage, babies and so on is acceptable, but the same woman being lesbian and wanting to work in a non-traditional field is not. (And we’ll ignore for the moment the lingering anti-trans feminism of the rad-fem-les-sep movement.) The same is equally applicable for trans men.

    It might be better to start with points of congruency, or removed the arbitrary division and pondered the question as a more general one, therein raising the question of how there might be specific differences based on gender or presentation.

    (Oh, and the word cis- always smacks of essentialism and othering, but that’s probably just me.)

    1. Mary Post author

      It might be better to start with points of congruency, or removed the arbitrary division and pondered the question as a more general one

      It would be, but I’m not the best person to say something true or convincing on the general question. What I was mainly trying to avoid while talking about sometime-misogynist geek women was accidentally adding my argument to the occasional feminist presumption that trans men are ‘actually’ misogynist women, or, for that matter, the societal presumption that gender nonconformist women are necessarily trans men. There would be better ways to do that (such as having a lot more text) than how I did it.

      1. Restructure!

        A little bit of an aside but not really – In earlier drafts of my “Male geeks reclaim masculinity at the expense of female geeks” post on my blog, I had the word “cis” and kept moving it around as “most cis male geeks”, “most (cis) male geeks”, “most male geeks (usually cis)”, etc. However, I eventually took it out, because having it there could have suggested weird readings, such as that trans male geeks do not reclaim masculinity or redefine what it is to be a man, or that a trans man’s geek identity is not masculine. In the end, I hoped the qualifiers “most” and “typical” implicitly covered the usually-cis-ness.

        A weird unintended reading of your post could be, “Geek trans women have not struggled with aspects of their womanhood in light of their geekhood,” which is weird in that same way.

        I’m still figuring out how to write about gender, but I think just adding the word “cis” all the time is probably inadequate and can have unintended consequences …

        1. Mary Post author

          Right. It’s hard for me to work out how to talk about misogyny without limiting it to the misogyny of cis folks, because being trans is too often conflated with being misogynist (in the case of trans men) or essentialist (in the case of trans women).

  5. thewhatifgirl

    This just makes me think of all the times that I’ve read someone on blogs like Feministing say that there is something wrong with/anti-feminist about a woman if she says she prefers male company. I haven’t been able to be friends with women until recently because most women just aren’t interested in the things that I am and think I’m really damn weird for it. Part of that was, indeed, my misogynist attitude, I won’t deny that, but part of it is also that a lot of my interests are simply shared more by men than women. And part of it is that I finally actively decided to pursue some “feminine” interests, in order to attempt to break down my idea that “women’s work” is inherently inferior. But I still feel uncomfortable around women a lot more often because there are still a lot of things that we DON’T have in common; for instance, when a woman starts talking about makeup, I don’t really care and just can’t relate. It really bothers me that I am living my life in the most feminist way I know how while still being myself, but still get criticized by strangers for it.

    1. ahimsa

      thewhatifgirl wrote: “most women just aren’t interested in the things that I am and think I’m really damn weird for it. ” … “for instance, when a woman starts talking about makeup, I don’t really care and just can’t relate. ”

      Really? That conversation has *never* come up with any of my women friends! I’m sorry you’ve had such a hard time finding women with similar interests. I don’t know whether you’ve been unlucky, or I’ve been lucky, but my experience doesn’t match yours at all.

      Most of my women friends don’t wear any makeup at all and don’t care much about fashion, either. Several of these women friends are fellow geeks, yes, but most of my women friends are not. To give an example, one friend is an Art History major and often asks me for computer advice. None of these women have shown any interest (at least, not around me) in cosmetics and fashion. My sister likes these topics but somehow none of my friends are into it at all. My friends and I talk about all kinds of things – books, movies, politics, pets, health, latest news – but makeup? Nope.

      Maybe it’s a generational thing? I’m probably older than you are and most of my friends, both male and female, are probably somewhere between 40-60 (with several exceptions, both younger and older).

      Or maybe it is geographical? Folks are pretty casual and laid back here in the Pacific Northwest (USA).

      My point is that it’s certainly possible to find women friends who share more of your interests. There’s never a completely perfect match, of course – I have some friends where I dare not mention politics because we are complete opposites!

      Anyway, I hope you have better luck in the future.

  6. Skud

    In re: the experiences of cis/trans women… berlinerin, above, has talked a bit about transwomen, but another thing that I think is interesting in geek feminism is that, because geek women have an option of being “one of the boys”, to dress in a masculine style, to communicate in a masculine fashion, to take interest in things that are traditionally coded masculine, and to be assumed male unless proven otherwise, geek communities do offer a certain amount of safe space for non-gender-conforming women and genderqueer people who were female-assigned at birth (faab) t0 explore and express their gender identities. (This is also true, to some degree, wrt sexual minorities: bi/lesbian/queer/asexual/kinky/non-monogamous women are common in geekdom, and geekdom offers some opportunities for learning about and exploring sexual identity that aren’t as available elsewhere: for me, it was Usenet in the early 90s.)

    There’s actually a weird split in gender expectation in geekdom, I think — on the one hand you have the sort of hyper-sexualised and sexy images of women found in computer games, comic books, etc, and geek-identified women who perform along those lines (through cosplay etc) are certainly popular among geek men. On the other hand, you have a large group of geek women who do not conform to mainstream standards of appearance (who wear masculine-coded clothes or no makeup or have simple hairstyles or are fat), and who are probably more accepted for that in their geek communities than they are outside of geek communities.

  7. Kim Curry


    I’d been blogging for more than a year without encountering other people. It was when I got on Twitter, and more specifically when I started following a classmate and former colleague, that I started finding the feminist Tweeters and then the feminist bloggers.

    Over the years I have come to realize that my two years at an all-women’s high school were critical to my ability to stick with engineering. I know I frequently read about, and I think I might even have been explicitly taught about, the biases against women in math education… The literature on which shows is generally a successful way of raising women’s scores on math tests.

    Two other items I would add in:

    Related to the comment on “Privilege”. Many geek professionals do earn a good income. This does NOT necessarily mean they are accustomed to it, and may even struggle sometimes with the additional expectations (dharma) involved with being in the middle- to upper-class.

    Selling Out:
    I work on contract to the U.S. government. I have worked on military projects before, and if that’s what it takes to support my family/stay employed in my profession until things cycle back around, I will do so again. I am relatively pacifistic, but having grown up in the service, I simply cannot agree with much of the anti-military rhetoric that sometimes occurs in feminist circles.

  8. Meg Thornton

    I didn’t realise I was a geek until I was in my late twenties. Yes, I was interested in computers, and I liked computer games, and yes, I taught myself a bit of programming in BASIC back when my parents bought their first computer (the Christmas before I turned 18, and it was ostensibly my brother’s anyway, even though I was the one who actually used it most), but I didn’t see myself as a geek. After all, first up I was a girl, second up I was studying social science, and thirdly, didn’t other people do this sort of thing anyway? I didn’t actually start to identify as a geek until my current partner identified me as one in the first place, and handed me a copy of “The Hacker’s Dictionary” to read. I worked my way through that, understood a fair amount of it and grokked a lot of the rest from context, and he basically said “see?” … and that was apparently that.

    These days, I still tend to identify more as a “geek in mindset” than an actual geek, per se. I can program, and I do well with programming. I have a strong tendency toward intellectual pursuits, and I can do anything I put my mind to. I’m okay with mathematics, and I like the sciences, but I spent most of my previous university time studying social science, so I bring that perspective to things as well. I’m now studying computer science at university level, but again, I’m not the same type of geek as most of the guys there – I have different reasons for what I’m doing, and for why I’m doing it. I game, but I don’t game to win (I game to explore and play). I program, but I don’t want to spend huge amounts of time re-inventing a wheel someone else has already made before (so my output is pretty minor on personal projects). I blog, but only when I want to. I find myself frustrated with the way our culture is becoming so very gender-stratified these days – I’d love to be able to find a gaming magazine which didn’t assume I wanted to fuck women (I’m het-identified female, thanks) or an embroidery pattern based on something like the Demotivators (rather than the cutesy-pretty positive thinking stuff which is par for the course).

    I suppose I still just tend to identify as a “weirdo”. But hey, it’s me and Gonzo in this category, and Gonzo’s okay.

    1. thewhatifgirl

      I just have to say: hell yes to the cutesy embroidering stuff! I’ve always wanted to take up embroidery (I impulse buy anything embroidered anyway, might as well learn to do it myself!) but always been repulsed by the subject matter that is available. Come to think of it, though, I bet you could find something like that on Etsy (, in case you aren’t aware of it).

      1. gin

        I’ve seen so much subversive/swearing embroidery and embroidery based on computer games or pop culture … there’s so, so much embroidery like that I’m actually getting tired of it. I suggest Google. Or searching

        I was a languages major. I started reading feminism in high school: Mum was/is a feminist. Most of my (male) friends are nerds/working in IT but I’ve never considered myself a geek, not in comparison to them. I’m just a woman not much interested in “girly” stuff … even then, I’m starting to appreciate the complexity in some traditionally feminine (therefore belittled as frivolous) things as I grow older.

        I’ve almost always worked in heavily male dominated industries & I’m now studying computing. Yet I can’t identify with much of this article, I’ve never seen a real division between feminists & geek feminists (but obviously there is one, I just never saw it before).

    2. spz

      If decorative will do, running a few cycles of Game of Life with variations on the parameters and a symmetrical seed gives stitchable patterns.

  9. Brenda

    i have encountered dismissal of the gender pay gap, by a feminist group – their argument was that, because I and my colleagues are in a traditional male/man’s job, and also reasonably well paid, that the pay gap is not a feminist issue — they argued that the gap between different occupations (women’s work versus men’s work) is the only issue. I was called an honourary man and my work to close that gap as not helpful to women. I likely was derailing their important conversation, but I certainly was not welcome to discuss the pay gap between men and women who do the same job, when that job is a job previously thought of as man’s work.

  10. Pewter

    I’ve jsut read this and I adore it. I definitely identify with the idea of feeling like a feminist newbie, and the implications of my choices to have many interests that are strongly dominated by the cis male point of view. Much of what I’ve learned about -isms in general has happened through my involvement in techy/gaming groups for women and I’m only just learning to approach these sorts of topics.

    The recently hubbub over Real ID over at World of Warcraft, and Starcraft2 really galavanised my personal feelings about making spaces that women want to participate in, and matters of personal safety as they apply to marginalised groups and not the majority.

    1. Helen Huntingdon

      Me too. A great list, with impressively thought-out descriptions.

  11. Helen Huntingdon

    Related to, and perhaps merely a restatement of ideas in the original post, is Exceptional Woman Syndrome, where you wind up believing there is little to no sexism in your incredibly male-dominated field because you personally are managing just fine.

    I used to fall for that one, since everyone around me reinforced that pretty heavily.

    It took me a while to realize that a necessary condition to a lack of sexism is when mediocre women are treated the same as mediocre men.

    1. Mary Post author

      It’s actually not something I thought of explicitly while writing the post, although I’ve certainly seen it in action. (It might be related to mdz’s July 4 Ask a GF post too.) And it’s definitely a nasty trap, because if you question it you are seen to have suddenly switched allegiances from your friends and colleagues (who are naturally extraordinarily talented and worthy to a one) to a bunch of women who can’t make the grade.

      1. Helen Huntingdon

        Well put. Have you ever run across the one where they hedge around or come right out and say that “qualified” men are getting turned away to give jobs/university places to women? I’ve noticed it’s a real pisser when I laugh and say if the men couldn’t compete without excluding half the competition, they’re clearly not qualified.

      2. Restructure!

        I don’t like the implication that women who experience sexism are mediocre. Here’s an example of sexism that I have experienced:

        After meeting a guy within a tech workshop, the guy (who was supposed to be my peer) started mansplaining to me and introducing the mechanical/electronic components we will be working with, assuming that I haven’t worked with these parts already in a previous job. (Note that people who were in the class would have technical proficiency to be there, but I was the only woman out of about 10 people.) I immediately started rolling my eyes and looking bored and away, but my reaction somehow prompted him to speak louder, more animated, and more macho, as if trying to get my attention and impress me with his manly technical knowledge. (Later I realized that if my eyes glaze over from boredom at a man explaining something technical I already know, because of my gender, my reaction may be interpreted as “women are not interested in talking about tech”.)

        When we got to doing the activities, he quickly realized that I knew what I was doing, but I still perceived what happened earlier as an instance of sexism. I also refuse to state my credentials or background up front when the men are not required to do so to be taken seriously.

        Later, the male supervisor, who I have chatted with other contexts and who is concerned about gender imbalance, asked me if the man he assigned me to worked with was OK. However, he asked while the other men (my peers) were in the room and within earshot, and where the guy I worked with could walk in any moment. So I lied, and said unenthusiastically and reluctantly, “… yeah,” and the supervisor smiled and took what I said at face value. (Note that I already felt Othered on the first day, and I wanted to make a good first impression to my male peers who I would continue to interact with in the future.)

        I think geeks tend to assume that their skills and technical background are transparent to other people, but it doesn’t work like that at all. I’m wondering if female geeks who don’t experience sexism state their credentials up front or are in a situation where everyone’s credentials are known somehow.

        1. Helen Huntingdon

          Where is the implication that women who experience sexism are mediocre? I guess I could kind of see how you could twist it around to maybe get that out of it sort of if you read in the strawman that non-mediocre women are somehow magically not experiencing sexism (completely different from not perceiving sexism when rewarded heavily for not perceiving it), but I have no idea why you would go there.

          This is a well-known problem: Sexists love having a brilliant token woman around, because they can then say that the lack of other women means those women are not qualified. Meanwhile you don’t have to be a brilliant super-genius to get a job if you’re a man.

        2. Mary

          I definitely didn’t intend to imply that women who experience sexism are mediocre, sorry.

          What I intended to talk about was how the geek assumption of meritocracy, which geek women often have internalised, tends to make geeks assume that the best and brightest are already among them and that the mediocre are left out. If any geek, especially geek women, becomes a feminist and begins to agitate on behalf of women who are excluded by sexism, the non-feminist geeks perceive a switch of allegiance from themselves, self-regarded as the best and brightest by the meriocratic belief, to the excluded, who they regard as mediocre. “a bunch of women who can’t make the grade” is intended as a parody of their opinion of non-geek or former geek women, not as my opinion of non-geek or former geek women.

          Sorry again for lack of clarity there.

        3. Restructure!

          Thanks for the clarification. I didn’t pick up on the sarcasm of your comment the first time, as I was reading it very literally.

  12. Violet

    Hi, I’m a relative newcomer to this blog, but since you specifically asked for comments from people like me, here goes…

    I am a transitioning, trans female spectrum genderqueer geek (a mouthful, I know). And holy crap have I “struggled with aspects of… womanhood in light of [my] geekhood.” In some similar ways to the ones this post describes, and some different ones.

    First of all, the geek community has acted in a way as a gender refuge for me, to some extent. While misogyny in geek communities is certainly present (and pernicious), at least in my chosen geek communities expressions of non-normative gender have been a good bit more tolerated than in most sections of more mainstream culture. There is less difference between the norms for women and the norms for men. And geek women socialize with geek men. (I have been lucky to find geek social groups that are relatively gender-balanced). All this is pretty freeing for a trans and genderqueer person when compared to (at least my perception of) mainstream culture. I have been known to give my gender as “geek”.

    Secondly, there’s the whole mess around what’s considered “girl stuff” and the hierarchy of hardcore. The choices I face there are no less fraught than for cis women — perhaps more. Because not only do I have the whole double-bind described in the girl-stuff article here, I also get the double bind that anything “masculine” I do undercuts my own personal gender identity to some people (those people are wrong, but there it is), and anything “feminine” I do is extra-likely to trigger “you’re just reinscribing traditional gender roles, you oppressor” reactions. And all of these reactions, I have (at least in the past) internalized to some extent.

    If I hadn’t gone to a high school and college where there were geeks of more than one gender into “hardcore” things as role models, I think I would be a lot worse-off. As it was, I was able to start ditching the idea that certain activities were inherently more masculine or feminine relatively early.

    1. Mary Post author

      I hope this doesn’t sound too pat, but… thanks for sharing your experiences. And welcome to the blog! I wonder if in light of my post and Restructure!’s one if we’re due for a discussion of ways in which geekdom has positively contributed to one’s feminism or gender politics or similar.

    2. Helen Huntingdon

      That’s a good point about the extra double-bind. Thank you.

      I’m het and very cis-female-looking, so this is just what I saw from a non-really-understanding perspective, but I once worked with someone who transitioned MTF in an academic computing research lab. Almost no one knew before she arrived one day dressed as a woman and we noticed her name had been changed on paperwork. All the geeks I saw responding to her new appearance did so in the same way, surprised overlayed by an attempt at non-reaction, followed by pretty much attempting to dismiss it as her business and we’re here to code, so who cares.

      The guys did tell me in rather wild-eyed fashions when alone with me that they were really weirded out, but it was clear that they thought the approach of “your business is your business and I shouldn’t care” was how they *should* be, so they did their best to act that way.

      I have no idea if that’s better or worse than how other groups have reacted. That’s just what I saw in that group. I also don’t know if there was more to it than what I saw. Since I treated it as no biggie whatsoever, it may be the guys just acted the way I saw in front of me.

    3. Alyson

      I hear you very much on internalising stuff about what women are and aren’t “supposed” to like. I’m a trans woman who transitioned ten or so years ago, and I still have to fight the thought that I shouldn’t express my interests in gaming or technology because that’s something that could out me. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t been outed against my will for almost a decade, or that I’m thoroughly in control of my gender presentation; my instincts on this subject are always to stay quiet, or act like I don’t know what I’m talking about. I hate this particularly because I don’t have any truck whatsoever in the notion that some interests or activities are innately gendered; I’m second-guessing people’s reactions and I loathe it.

      I’m a week late to this post and need to check my RSS reader more often :)

  13. christine

    The number of times I’ve seen the women in computing group at a university try to recruit new members by shouting to the world “Computer Science isn’t just Geeks!”…. I’ve always endured much more hatred and discrimination from women, due to my geekhood, than from men due to my gender.

    In fact, I know things in the corporate world can be different, but at the university level… being a woman in computing usually means special treatment. It’s easier to get professors to listen to you, to find people who want to work with you, much easier to by accepted by your colleagues, harder to get thrown out if you’re under-performing… and somehow, although it would pretty much be justified, I’ve never heard anyone claim “Oh she only got here because she’s a girl, she’s not actually any good”. Instead, if you’re equivalently capable as a particular guy, people will treat you like you’re better than him. I’ve watched this happen with faculty, grad students, and a lot with the undergrad majors. I mean, this isn’t *optimal*, true equality would be much more comfortable. But it’s hardly burdensome.

    1. Helen Huntingdon

      Interesting — are you speaking of undergrad classes, grad classes, grad research, or experience as a professor?

      That’s not remotely close to the experience of any of the women in CS at my university that I’ve spoken to, nor is it anything like my experience when I’ve taken CS classes. I don’t doubt it’s an accurate description of what you’re seeing, but it sounds like the environment of one particular place, not CS departments in general.

      I am so with you on how the women’s groups can be alienating — I checked out the one at my school, and their office was covered in pink flowered shit. I walked right back out and never returned.

  14. Leo

    I am a transgendered person who was born female (and still looks female due to not taking testosterone yet and a refusal to do surgery so I am often mistaken for a tomboy), and I identify as a geek/nerd. I am studying math and physics at an undergraduate level currently, but I do plan on working toward a doctorate.

    I feel that the geek culture (at least in my area) has embraced me. I have only met one female in my field (and she happens to be my research professor), but it seems that no one has drawn attention to my biological sex or treated me any differently because of it. My gender variance, though, has drawn some attention. It is not every day that one meets a transgendered person, particularly one as weird as me (long dreadlocks, heavy metal, geekdom, SCA, still short and petite), so I get asked a lot of questions. But never has anyone been overtly hostile to me.

    Most geeks I have talked to (male, female, both, and neither) have surprisingly liberal attitudes toward females and gender-variant people. Most geeks do not think female or trans people have a disadvantage in math or scientific fields, except through socialization. Also, most female geeks in my area report not being harassed by male geeks ( it is the same here, although non-geeks in my area have sexually harassed and assaulted me because I look female and harassed me for my trans status).

    So, while I do know the geek community has its problems with sexism that need to be worked at, I feel that these problems are going away because of the education feminists have been providing. Most every geek I know is open to feminist ideas. So, perhaps it is because we are young, or all oppressed groups, or because we are in a more liberal area, but I feel that being in the geek or physics/math community is a safe haven. I am not judged. I am not treated as a sexual object or a freak.

    But this could just be the geeks I know. I cant generalize for every geek scene.


    1. Skud

      There are definitely reports to the contrary. FLOSSPOLS, for example (a major survey of the free/libre/open source software community) found that 80% of women in FLOSS had experienced or noticed sexism, while only 20% of men had noticed it. I’m glad you’ve managed to escape most of it, and have a great circle of friends, but it’s far from universal, alas.

  15. Kite

    WOW thanks for the article. And I have exactly seen what Helen calls Exceptional Woman Syndrome amongst geek women. I got into feminism before I got into contact with geeks (thanks sci fi novel The Handmaid’s Tale!), and unfortunately, it meant that I couldn’t just put up with that “I am a special type of woman who is just one of the boys, other women are boring bimbos”. My father used to do that to me too. But I couldn’t relate to non-geek women either, and subtle or non-subtle male sexism drove me bonkers, am a lesbian so was not motivated to get close to men to go out with them, and already being impaired in the socialisation department, and having a lot of bullying fallout, I didn’t end up with many friends. I gravitated more towards non-geek feminists, me being the only geek feminist I knew, plus that’s where the lesbians (sex) was.

    Flash back to a fight in the Women’s Department Office. I’m white. Another woman, who is not, with her white gf close by, is literally spitting in my face about my privilege, even your accent, the way! you! speak! I’m close to tears, and trying to explain that that’s the Engineering Department accent, we all speak like that there. You know, sort of an ironic British accent, kind of fast and quirky, I can spot a geek a mile off if they speak like that. But she and all her bloody friends were knee deep in humanities subjects, specifically Women’s studies, and I think my unusual personality and presentation was singled out as being like privilege, because it seemed like male culture???

    Oh yes, and moving into a feminist house, and having other women, my friends, threatened by my “acting like a man” behaviour to the point where it was determined that I Was The Problem. Industrial/electronic music, political snark, power tools wielding, enthusiastic discussion of arcane scientific topics, refusal to engage in New Age woo, and full of random knowledge, apparently this meant I was full of negative, male, intimidating, energy.

    Thank god I have met much more sane and mature feminist women since.

    And GOD yes, the suspicion that so many geeky women have for the complexities of gender socialisation, and the belief that we can overcome our conditioning *just like that*, because we are all really individuals only superficially influenced by others, and Intelligence Will Overcome Everything, drives me insane, it’s not borne out by observation.

    Thankyou to the person who suggested how to get good patterns from Game of Life, I have been meaning to make a screenprint for skirts for ages out of that. I love abstract maths patterns contrasting with the softness of textiles.

    I really need to read this website more.

    1. Helen Huntingdon

      Your comment made me realize something I had never put into words before — Exceptional Woman Syndrome comes in more than one variety or has more than one aspect.

      There’s the “you’re so smart” kind, which I got a lot of in certain times and places (which made a nice change from my father’s relentless hours-long discourses on how women just didn’t have the brain functions for higher mathematics. The fact that I clearly out-perform him, his son, and every man in the history of our huge extended family at mathematics had no impact whatsoever).

      There’s also the “natural personality” kind. I was willing to accept the idea that I was so inherently geeky in some ways that it would out no matter what. That idea made a useful comment when facing someone flailing a bit over my extremely cis-feminine appearance juxtaposed with a lot of behavior coded as “male”. (For some reason a woman in a dress who dives under a car without hesitation to fix something really startles people.) But I stopped saying that when I realized that some men were taking it mean they didn’t have to worry about subtle exclusionary behavior, because women sufficiently geeky enough would show up anyway.

      I can really empathize with those who are saying gender presentation is problematic. I’ve run into women who get mad at me for how I dress — I’m a lazy-ass slob who hates clothes that restrict movement in any way. I discovered in high school that once my hips developed, my uniform offered more freedom of movement than any jeans, so I just kept wearing skirts, though I prefer ones that come to my ankles. My bone structure seems to be cast as ultra-feminine anyway, so if you add the clothes to that, well, I hear “you look too feminine to be an engineer” a lot. And as I said, I’ve run into some geek women who make snotty comments about my clothes — evidently I’m supposed to wear jeans and I’m wrong if I don’t. Or something.

      Like Kite, I’ve run into non-geek women who act as though I am somehow “wrong” for too much behavior they think is masculine. “You behave more like an uncle than an aunt.” Um, okay. The shocked looks I got the first time I was handed a hot glue gun were funny — I had never seen one before. “Huh, it doesn’t look anything like a soldering iron. How long does it need to heat up and how much glue is enough?” My lack of knowledge of so basic a womanly tool then had to be Discussed. Careful disapproval was made clear to the children present — can’t be having little girls thinking that I’m an acceptable example. I beamed at the children and told them power tools are much more fun.

    2. Restructure!

      Flash back to a fight in the Women’s Department Office. I’m white. Another woman, who is not, with her white gf close by, is literally spitting in my face about my privilege, even your accent, the way! you! speak! I’m close to tears, and trying to explain that that’s the Engineering Department accent, we all speak like that there. You know, sort of an ironic British accent, kind of fast and quirky, I can spot a geek a mile off if they speak like that. But she and all her bloody friends were knee deep in humanities subjects, specifically Women’s studies, and I think my unusual personality and presentation was singled out as being like privilege, because it seemed like male culture???

      Were they saying that you had white privilege, or male privilege?

      1. Helen Huntingdon

        Good question — there may have been something of a knot of privilege they were trying to get at — white, male, class. Sounding like an engineer can carry class privilege.

        I’m sorry it got so tense, whatever it was. We all have to make some compromises to survive under a patriarchy, and it can be easy to forget that the best compromises for me might not be the best compromises for you.

    3. Burn

      Kite- I vaguely recognize some of my own experiences from your stories. For me, it was a huge shocker moving back to my bastion-of-liberalism home city to go to graduate school, after going to a male-dominated engineering school as an undergraduate–one that, while I was nearly always outnumbered by men, let me forge some great friendships with other geeky women, since nearly everyone there was a geek.

      Some of the most surreal conversations I have had since coming to graduate school have been in a science education discussion group I was part of, that had 8 women and 2 men. 2 of us were physical scientists and the other 8 were biologists. The biology department, much like the university as a whole, is about 70% women. The physical sciences, engineering, math, and CS majors are <50% women and are not in the same buildings as biology. Apparently this leads to some cluelessness about each others' departmental cultures. In any case, every time the subject of gender came up, several of the women who were biologists acted a little incredulous that it would be an issue in other departments, because it had never been an issue for them. I mentioned that this was possibly due to a more even ratio in life sciences and got brushed off. It was officially Not a Problem Anymore, compared to racial and/or ethnic diversity, according to this group of white women. (And yeah, there are definitely a lot of problems with science education and class and race too…for sure, I agreed, but that didn't mean that we had to treat discussion time like a scarcity and never discuss gender issues ever.) The more frequently I was brushed off when this came up, the more unwelcome I felt when I would bring up anything related to physical sciences. I got accused of being overly assertive or dominating in the way I talked in discussions, even though I would sit there taking a tally of who was talking most, and it wasn't me, although I did try to temper how I talked. (Someone kind of implied that being assertive or aggressive, or arguing too much, was using patriarchal tools. Kind of ironic, since they were excusing the status quo.)

      Luckily, things changed when I got most of the other people to attend a talk by Avi Ben-Zeev, who is a psychologist who studies the Stereotype Threat specifically as it relates to women and math. Pretty much all the women in the math department turned up for that, and a number of pretty horrific anecdotes came out about blatant sexism in the math department. (Women in the math lounge working together were accused of being part of a "lesbian mafia".) After that, my colleagues didn't question gender issues that I and my astronomy counterpart would bring up.

      I don't think that being assertive is anti-feminist, but I've noticed that geek women who spend time in male-dominated environments adopt a particular style of assertiveness, either to be part of the group or as a defense mechanism, and it sometimes becomes an issue when talking with women who are part of another feminist tradition. I have a really hard time talking to women's studies majors and sociologists in person. I've gotten over my issue with this particular group of biologists since I realized that they were sensitive about not being considered a real science by some blowhard physical scientists with a superiority complex. Having defended my own field (geology) to those types, I had to make it clear that when I was talking about possible differences in the experiences of biologists and physical scientists, it wasn't that I thought they were inferior, just that their experience of being amongst a group of at least 50% women wasn't universal.

      Hew. That came out much longer than I expected it to, and much rantier. :/

  16. Kite

    Do I have male privilege if I sound butch?

    Yeah, I think the class thing was something in her dislike, but the point was that this was a uni with a very high percentage of white, private school students, and the accents were generally fairly posh, including the white gf who was Women’s Officer. I think I was some sort of weird scapegoat for her (she did come from a working class background, though was a Senate candidate for the Greens, and was the poster child for all the guilty privileged students), because she didn’t LIKE how different I was from the rest of the clones in that very very weird rad fem separatist lesbian Salem type year (I had to stick around cos I had been thrust into the role of Queer Officer – desperate to meet a gf, it worked! – so I was a real thorn in their side). I didn’t believe in lesbian parthonogenesis, or all nurture no nature, or lesbianism being only about resisting attraction to evil men, or condoms being banned from the Women’s Room, or trans people being undercover misogynists or whatever other scary ideas they were telling the clan they had to believe in that week. And so I sounded like the scientists, the white men, the powerful ones, I guess. (Even though being a comp sci student had its own set of terrors for a socially awkward woman in a sea of quite often sexist men.) Anyway, a few years later I saw her after the nasty fallout that inevitably occured between people in that group (she hit the white gf or something, I only got shoved, there was pizza throwing by the group at some other scapegoat, “public shaming”, horrible stuff), and she was very friendly when we met, so that was an apology for that year’s craziness I guess. I don’t know. It was a crash course in confronting my race and class privileges, that year, despite all the stupid stuff. But in regards to being a geek I was shamed for not being a women’s studies major, for doing what the men do instead, for refuting their space cadet theories with science. Can’t believe I let history repeat itself with moving into a separatist house. Anyway, I don’t mean to make a big deal out of it, just thought I’d try to explain further.

    1. Helen Huntingdon

      Thanks for telling your story — undoubtedly someone will see it who experienced something similar, and feel less alone.

      I guess it’s easy to forget that a false perception of scarcity is one of the patriarchial myths we fight — it can be easy to slip into “if this other group gains, I must lose”.

      I must say you and the others here seem much more polite than I would probably be when it comes to feminism=woo, science=patriarchy. I would probably come out with something like, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME? RELIGION IS THE ULTIMATE TOOL OF THE PATRIARCHY,” and refuse to respond to anything further with anything but helpless laughter.

      1. Kite

        Ugh yeah, I’ve had to be quite the diplomat in order to find partners/friends amongst the neurotypical, that’ s what shat me off a lot really, I was so accommodating of their “natural” views a lot of the time (oh, the Goddess!). I think a lot of how they were thinking and what they were liking was classic feminine socialisation, despite the radical gloss. I’d like to think I’m ruder these days, although I am a complete hippy so all that new age stuff is everpresent. 8-)

      2. Kite

        Oh and sorry for all these replies. YES! The false scarcity! That’s something I’ve so seen! That’s a great way of crystallising what’s going on, going to go observe more of it now. It’s binary thinking, I guess. Still unable to accommodate actual non-hierarchical diversity, just inverting the kyriarchy instead in this case.

    2. Kite

      Woops, didn’t realise there was a reply button, sorry for breaking the nest before. I just remembered a conversation with separatist house friends before things went weird, where one of them pointed out that my science brain, my ability to do logic/maths stuff, did carry more privilege than them with their um, more feminine minds. Which in many ways is true, for certain values of privilege. They had Arts and Law degrees themselves. But when they finally started to resent me, being told I “triggered” someone for resembling their dad in what was meant to be a male-free space, including wearing masculine clothes and using drills and circular saws a lot, and “taking up space”, and therefore I should move out, was… strange. I think it would have been easier to be more feminine back then, with women, and with geek men (I never got the sense that I would be taken *less* seriously in a skirt). Anyway, I ID as femme these days, though I’m disabled and can’t work in IT any more. And have time to type long replies.

    3. Restructure!

      It sounds like white privilege and class privilege were part of the privilege they were talking about, especially since she was talking about “your accent” and “the way you speak”. In that case, a white woman being close to tears because her white privilege is being called out reminds me of White Women’s Tears, except instead of racism, what is being called out is white privilege.

      1. Helen Huntingdon

        Thanks for the link! I clicked its links then its links and the goodies just keep coming.

      2. Kite

        I getcha. I wasn’t actually being called out by her for being racist. I’d take that on the chin in retrospect, you know? The argument started because she had a problem with the word Queer (me being the Queer Officer), as it erased women in her separatist lesbian view, I was too male-identified. Then it devolved into her attacking the way I spoke, which was geeky and used geeky Whedon-like words, and sounds male I suppose (as opposed to the arcane feminist academic-speak she and all her mates used to intimidate the uninitiated).

        I can see she was pissed off at my class and race, the advantages I’d had. Almost every single other person in that damn bottle-drama collective was a middle-class white woman, so why didn’t she have a go at them? And fuck her for shoving me, I know she’s pissed off at the kyriarchy, but jeez, I’d just had the same thing from a right-wing fuckhead male student politician a few days before, and it was pretty trigger-y from what my father used to do, you know? So fuck that. Fuck. That. Shit. (Identifying as queer was racist too, okay, I see there’s connections, what with her saying Foucault was a white male, but I refuse to stop id’ing as queer, given how much bloody trauma & violence it cost me to admit it to the world, even as I try to be more aware, you know?). I’m no one’s gratuitous punching bag, because I’m conveniently different from the rest of the collective, like it was a playground again.

        That was ten years ago, and I’ve searched and searched myself since, trying to work out what the hell went on, and the limits to what I might be seeing or not seeing with my privilege-goggles. What might I not have seen, what might I have done? In the end I think it was mainly a convenient scapegoating/bullying over other internal-politics-power-struggle issues to me (who controls the lesbians, Women’s or Queer Department?), but of course fueled by privilege/identity differences. That happens.

        That confrontation had one “positive” for me, and that’s to try to become a lot more aware of my identity privileges, which is a life-long process, so, hey. But jeez, reading over this, I still hold anger, which I’ll have to let go; these events are so linked into me getting CFS.

    1. Mary Post author

      Thanks for the overall US figure. I’d prefer to have good figures for industrialised countries overall (I am not based in the US myself), and for many STEM jobs in industrialised countries, but that’s more research than I am willing to do for this blog post at this time.

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