Where are all the linkspams? (14th March, 2011)

  • Betsy Leondar-Wright and ana australiana write about the impenetrability of middle-class activism to working class people, and about how the sidelining of middle-class subcultures isn’t equivalent to systemic oppression: It’s not “them” — it’s us!, Equivalences.
  • “Very rarely do stories of women and technology vary in tone from the gender gap theme. Where are the women? Well, heck, we’ve been here all along – something we’ve recently pointed out in our Valentine’s Day piece about ENIAC.Writes Amber Bouman in MaximumPC for Women’s History Month.
  • sqbr is interested in user stories about the use of image descriptions on Tumblr. my arguments have all been about hypothetical users and it would be useful to have some evidence against the “but noone who needs descriptions would use a visual medium like tumblr” argument. There’s lots of feedback in comments.
  • s.e. smith: Why I’m Leaving Feminism: So many disabled people, nonwhite people, transgender people, people of colour, poor people, adamantly refuse to identify with feminism in its current incarnation in the United States… The model of feminism we see is one where oppression perpetrated in the name of “activism’ is acceptable, where casual ableism, racism, classism, transphobia run so deep that many of us don’t even bother to point it out anymore.
  • A bit of history: Carl Sagan’s appeal to the Explorers Club to admit women.
  • Gender Differences and Casual Sex: The New Research: Women’s reluctance comparative to men to accept the [offer] wasn’t really a reluctance to have casual sex, but rather a response to a different offer than the men got — the didn’t think the men would be as much fun.
  • Heidi Grant Halvorson on the difficulties of high achieving girls: What makes smart girls more vulnerable and less confident when they should be the most confident kids in the room? At the 5th grade level, girls routinely outperform boys in every subject, including math and science.
  • Gaming industry finally recognizes the work of a pioneer: It was back in the mid-1970s that [Jerry] Lawson developed the first video game console system, breaking ground in more ways than one. You see, Lawson, 70, is black. And while we often try to pretend that's neither here nor there, the truth is it is here — and it was even more-so there, when Lawson arrived in the valley in 1968.
  • Inoculation Against Stereotype: …choice isn’t as simple as people think. People assume that these choices are free choices, based on talent and interest and motivation, Dasgupta said. …Even talented people may not choose math or science not because they don’t like it or are not good at it, but because they feel that they don’t belong.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the geekfeminism tag on delicious or the #geekfeminism tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

15 thoughts on “Where are all the linkspams? (14th March, 2011)

  1. AMM

    Responding (or rather free associating?) to the “Why I’m Leaving Feminism” article:

    I’m also someone who doesn’t identify himself as a “feminist.” Actually, don’t feel all that comfortable with any of the Progressive causes or groups that I have seen, even though I strongly agree with many of their ideas and aims.

    What I keep running into is that you find a group that is for some cause — let’s say Feminism — but then you find that there’s a whole lot of beliefs and assumptions that are bundled with that cause (some of them related to feminism, some not really), and if you dare to question any of them, suddenly you’re on the outside. If you’re lucky, you’re just seen as a clueless newbie. If you’re not, you’re seen as Teh Enemy. Even long-term members of the group can get treated pretty shabbily if they fail to toe the line.

    This ends up excluding not just me (maybe no loss, since I’m a lousy team player), but anyone who isn’t part of the group’s ideological country club. And then they wonder why so many of the people who they are supposedly fighting for aren’t joining them.

  2. Litda

    |s.e. smith: Why I’m Leaving Feminism” article hit me in so many place’s it hurts.

    AMM couldn’t have said it better.

  3. Elizabeth G.

    I know it is frustrating to not be able to get everyone to rally around your (very valid) issues but how exactly do we never say ” Your issues are not important right now but we will get to them eventually.’ unless we just make a giant list of all the issues in order of importance. If we did, surely 90% of the issues discussed on Geek feminism would come after S.E. Smith’s, yes? Surely rape-of-people-in-institutions comes before not-enough-women-in-open-source-communities. Are we the ones that are telling zir to sit down? I understand exactly where ze is coming from. If you tell me I can’t focus on the issues that are important to me I would take my issues and go home too.

    1. lauredhel

      Elizabeth G: One of the big problems with the way “we’ll get to your issues eventually” plays out in practice is that it involves actively marginalising certain categories of people from the world, including excluding them from feminist discourse and activism.

      One particularly close-to-home example for feminism is who exactly gets to participate in RL feminist activism: organising meetings that are inaccessible to people with disabilities, events that exclude mothers and children, marches that exclude trans women or women with disabilities who need a (male) carer with them, and so on.

      Another example area is in who gets to define what “pro-choice” is and how we talk about it: when many people (at the particularly sharp end of the intersections) are fighting for the right to have children and to parent in a safe and supported way, having “pro-choice” rhetoric focus almost exclusively on the right to abort, to the point of yelling at and insulting and dismissing people who take a more holistic view of choice, is exclusionary – and unnecessarily and gratuitously so. Maybe you’ve missed these conversations, but in mainstream and popular Feminist forums, people repeatedly talk about how eugenics has a point, and about how irresponsible it is to have a baby if you’re poor and/or disabled, and about how it’s cruel to birth a child with a disability, and about how mandatory sterilisation doesn’t exist anymore (and if it does, it’s fully justified), and about how disabled children don’t have “real” lives not like real actual people, and about what bad mothers certain WOC bloggers are, and so on and so forth ad screamiam.

      Saying that the issues of disabled and trans and queer and poor women and people should wait while Feminism gets on with the important business [of taking care of rich white able-bodied cis women] is a giant slap in the face, and one that ensures that Brand Feminism will continue to only involve and support a very limited and privileged group of humans.

      To me, s.e. very clearly isn’t talking about a particularly blog with a particular niche focusing on that niche. This is much, much bigger than that.

    2. Jen

      I identify as a feminist but I completely respect the fact that some people reject that label. I entered into activism through eco, anti-capitalist and anti-war groups, so I’m very familiar with being told that feminist issues are unimportant, are a waste of the group’s time, or (my personal favourite): are ‘personal not political’. I got to a point where I don’t feel like anti-capitalist groups address my most important issues, but I also cringe whenever I hear feminists talking about how we need more women CEO’s, since I have a real problem with the inequalities in our class-divided society: I can’t really say I want more women to be in the ultra-priviledged minority when I don’t think there should BE an ultra-priviledged minority. I don’t know what the solution is, but one thing I do know is that any time I find myself in space where I have to keep my opinions to myself in order to avoid being dismissed or laughed at, then it’s time to leave.

      1. not important

        That’s a prime example of why I lurk this site religiously (as well as several other feminist blogs and news sites) but refuse to identify as a feminist. There are just too many issues that the movement seems to address in ways that only fix the problem for some people. One of the triumphs IMHO of the civil rights movement is that at its beginnings it took meticulous care to include EVERYBODY who identified with its cause. Yes like all activists groups there were (and are) radicals and spin – offs who took a more secularized, exclusionary, or some times even radical militant approach, but I think most people who identify with the movement still feel confidant in calling themselves “civil rights supporters” without feeling like they have to publicly identify with the concepts they DON’T agree with or are convinced the proposed common fix is not one they support.

        This is an example I pray the new wave of feminism adopts.

    3. Mary

      If we did, surely 90% of the issues discussed on Geek feminism would come after S.E. Smith’s, yes?

      I can’t speak for s.e. smith. (And I do identify as feminist.) However, some sentiments I’ve seen expressed in feminist discussions (self-identified as such) include not just things like this site is for discussion of issues affecting women in geek communities but things more like activism for different oppressed groups are in competition and the extent that you advocate for any group that is not women hinders feminism. That is, I’ve seen that said baldly, as well as implied in things like lauredhel cited.

      More broadly, and to stick to this site as an example, it’s true that we do not talk much about prison rape here. But, we wouldn’t tell someone who chose to be an anti-prison rape activist for some or all of their available time that they were hurting geek feminism by not choosing to spend that time writing comments here instead. And if we said something jerky about prison rape (which is often joked about), we would I hope feel horribly embarrassed and apologise profusely and understand that we’d done something terrible that harmed oppressed people. And while we might not talk about that issue often, we recognise that it is an issue that affects oppressed people, including women and including activists in the geek space (Bradley Manning, for example, has been deprived of all clothing in the military prison housing him, for days at a time) and not automatically write it off as totally and universally never a geek feminist issue.

      All this sounds rather obvious when I write it hopefully, but the problems of (a) insisting that different anti-oppression activisms are in competition with each other (b) insisting that feminists never be criticised for racism or ableism or homophobia or transphobia or dumping on other oppressed groups are pretty widespread. I read in similar spaces (and less widely I think) than Lauredhel, so mostly examples I cite would be similar to hers.

      1. Elizabeth G.

        We don’t tell people that prison rape isn’t important. But like you said we don’t do a lot to combat it either. Is our inaction what is “telling” people that it isn’t important? By not spending time on the subject are we telling victims of prison rape that they are less than human and less important than our problems and struggles? I believe that s.e. smith was explicitly pointing out the inaction on these issues as one of the reason that ze was no longer identifying with the label.

        1. Mary

          Is our inaction what is “telling” people that it isn’t important? By not spending time on the subject are we telling victims of prison rape that they are less than human and less important than our problems and struggles?

          I think these are getting into questions that only s.e. smith or other individuals who are not-feminist-identified anti-oppression activists, or prisoners, or activists for prisoners’ human rights, could answer for themselves. I imagine their answers would differ. But my reading of ou is less that the existence of a site like this which is focussed on women and geekdom is the problem, but if people showed up and said “hey, geekdom and your approach to it has the following problems for women with intersecting oppressions: ….” and we told them that their issues were a distraction from the main game, that would be part of the problem.

          At the moment I am treating this as a case of “if it’s not about you it’s not about you.” The specific example s.e. smith writes about is reproductive choice issues and the current discussions around them. (I was the person who included it in the linkspam, by the way, but not to argue that Geek Feminism or geek feminism is a specific problem but that as feminists this is something we benefit from knowing about.)

  4. AMM

    I’m less put off by the “we’ll get to your issues eventually” response than others here, partly because I do have a lot of privilege, but also because there is a certain amount of validity to it: if you have only so many resources, you have to focus on some to the exclusion of others.

    On the other hand, s. e. smith doesn’t have to be happy with any group’s choice of what to focus on, and if zie feels that zir concerns are being ignored, zie is quite right to vote with zir feet and blog about zir dissatisfaction. In the long run, any group that wants to avoid having too many people pass them by has to adjust its priorities so that most of its consituency feels that it is fighting for what is important to them. (I gather that this is an issue with a number of mainstream feminist organizations right now.) But this adjustment of priorities is necessarily a matter of negotiation and compromise and the result will necessarily give nobody as much as they wanted.

    For some reason, I keep thinking of what I once heard Senator Barney Frank say: that maybe the most important skill in government and politics is the ability to work effectively with people you can’t stand.

    1. Danielle

      It would be lovely if Senator Frank embodied that so much as he claims. He has repeatedly made it clear that he will not with some groups, such as trans people. I can say it’s quite interesting to hear him hailed as such a great ally of trans people while then reading how he invoked very transphobic arguments.

      “We’ll get to your issues eventually” is frequently a way to completely avoid doing so, as has been repeatedly demonstrated on the ENDA/GINDA fronts across the US, and even as a method by which a failure to fully support those issues is justified, as is currently happening in Maryland with GINDA – ten years later they came back for trans people, but even then the organizations that championed the LGB-only ENDA are refusing to fight for the same rights (the proposed GINDA does not include public accommodations language and the organizations supporting this version specifically asked legislative sponsors to not include it.) The result so often is silencing and exclusion of affected people, which I have observed even in the last few days.

      I have my own difficult relationship with feminism for a variety of reasons, particularly that I often find myself having to choose between the different sides of the intersection where I exist as a lesbian trans woman.,

      1. AMM

        Maybe it’s time to put the phrase “We’ll get to your issues eventually” into a glossary. It’s a polite way of saying, “we support you in principle, but your issues are not important enough to us for us to drop what we’re doing to work on them.” Sort of like “we really must get together.”

        I don’t think that that is such an awful thing, although I wish people would be more honest and up-front about it. No person or group can be all things to all people, and if this or that group isn’t working for the issues that you think are important, you need to look around for people and groups that do. What’s more, if there’s more than one issue that’s important to you, you may need to work with group A on issue X and group B on issue Y.

        As for Senator Frank: I think he embodies the willingness to work with other people for what he is pushing for. That probably doesn’t include everything you wish he would work for, but that doesn’t make him a hypocrite. The lesson you need to take from the quote is that if you want, say, Senator Frank to support your cause, don’t expect him to do so just because it’s a good cause. Work with him and show him how supporting your cause will help him get what he wants (for example, getting re-elected :-) ) You don’t have to love and admire him, as long as you think you can get him to do something you want.

        A lot of people on the Left expect people to do things they think are right just because it’s the Right Thing(tm). That’s not what happens. African-Americans got civil rights because they were willing to fight (and sometimes die) to get it and to practice the art of the possible in good times and bad, not because the white population of the US suddenly decided to Do The Right Thing.

        Whether you choose to call what you do feminism is up to you. The word isn’t trademarked, so anybody who wants to call him- or herself “feminist” can do so, even Sarah Palin (or, for all I know, Phyllis Schafly.)

        1. lauredhel

          AMM: Read my reply to Elizabeth G above, the one starting “One of the big problems with the way “we’ll get to your issues eventually” plays out in practice is that it involves actively marginalising certain categories of people from the world, including excluding them from feminist discourse and activism.”. This isn’t a pointless whinge about particular groups focusing on their particular missions; it’s about privleged people actively marginalising and excluding people who are already marginalised from those missions.

        2. Danielle

          I second lauredhel. It frequently means, “we will never deal with it but we refuse to admit it.”

          I am not that politically naive. We’ve done that with Frank. He’s agreed, even been the sponsor of legislation we want, then proceeded to make the statements that ensured it could not pass. Through this he has made it clear that he will be agreeable only for infiltration purposes. I have never expected that anyone will do anything because they are right, in fact I long ago realized that they will even go as far as to intentionally take actions that are not in their own self-interest (even harming themselves) in order to mount opposition to others.

          It isn’t just the name, it’s who are the ones so revered by those who claim the word. Many of those; some of its foundations are by people who would happily see women such as myself dead.

  5. moose

    The “Why I’m Leaving Feminism” made me feel better about pushing for full diversity at the conference I work with. Having women – in – computing events is important, and I don’t mean to look down on them.

    But I despise the “my *ism is worse than your *ism* olympics which keep popping up. I’m bio-female, genderqueer, fat, and disabled and no one of those is any easier or worse than the other. When it comes to “mainstream America” they all can suck.

    At the time I pushed for the change from Women in Computing to Diversity in Computing I started thinking I was doing the right thing when a man told me, “This is stupid, there are plenty of non-white and disabled people at the event, but not enough women.” That article makes me feel even more that it’s the right thing.

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