Open thread: never say “fake geek” again!

This article originally appeared on Geek Feminism.

Hello again! Hopefully everyone is enjoying our newly working blog (no one is seeing regular 503 errors right? RIGHT? no seriously, let us know if you are). We’re celebrating with an open thread for comments on any subject fitting our policy!

Feature item for this open thread is Nothing to Prove (subtitled version available in Amara) by geek sister musicians The Doubleclicks. The band talk about the song and video on their blog. Additional images can be submitted on geekgirlvideo.tumblr.com. Transcript at the bottom of this post.

(
{“video_url”: “http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4Rjy5yW1gQ”}
)

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About open threads: open threads are for comments on any subject at all, including past posts, things we haven’t posted on, what you’ve been thinking or doing, etc as long as it follows our comment policy. We’re always looking for fluffy, fun, silly, cute or beautiful open thread starters, please post links to Pinboard with the “gffun” tag.

Partial transcription of video:

Transcriber’s note: the video clip consists of many short videos of a geek or sometimes two geeks holding up a sign to the camera. for time reasons, I am only transcribing the signs, not giving a description of people’s appearance or their surroundings, other than noting geeks who appear to me to be men. I’m aware that several of them are geek celebrities, but I haven’t looked them up. Signs are in square braces.

[Opening credits: “Nothing to Prove”, a music video by the Doubleclicks.]

I entered this scene through rejection and honesty

[Two people: Hi there! We are geek girls.]
[I started playing DnD in 6th grade. I never stopped.]

Nerds weren’t mean, they were weird and that worked for me

[I learned to read with comic books.]
[I’ve been a gamer since before I can remember.]

After 10 years of teasing when social skills failed me

[I grew my hair out / so I could dress up as Princess Leia.]

Dungeons & Dragons cured all that ailed me

[I played Myst when it was released. I was 11. It was the GREATEST DAY OF MY LIFE!]

We read books, we played games, we made art, we watched Lost

[My Transformers played with my Cabbage Patch Kids.]
[I received my first console when I was nine years old.]

We said things like “D20”, “shipping” and “Mana cost”

[My regular Saturday night “date” was the 5th doctor.]
[Comics taught me women can be beautiful & powerful.]

It felt good to be myself, not being mocked

[Founder and president of my high school Star Trek fan club.]
[I spend HUNDREDS of hours on cosplay.]

Still self-conscious, though, we whispered things about jocks

[Adult and child: I’m raising the next generation of Geek Girls!]
[Accounting associate by day, Elf Ranger by night.]

But one day, you grow up, come into your own

[I was obsessed with Star Trek: The Next Generation and had a super huge crush on Jonathan Frakes. / Now we’re friends. It’s weird.]

Now geek’s not rejection – it’s a label I own

[I write code for particle accelerators.]
[I’m in ur HOUSE OF IDEAS writin ur COMICS.]

Then ignorant haters come to prove me wrong

[Two people: being a geek girl is really awesome / … except when it isn’t.]

Tell me I’m not nerdy enough to belong

[I love video games but BOYS tell me I’m not a REAL GAMER.]

I’ve got nothing to prove

[That look of surprise when I talk about Star Trek? It gets old.]

I’ve got nothing to prove

[Why are you surprised I want to be an ASTRONAUT when I grow up?]

I’ve got nothing to prove

[I’m a SCIENTIST not a secretary.]

(rising music)

[I own a comic + game shop but people just assume I’m humoring my geek husband.]

Fake Geek Girl test – that’s a funny one, go ahead

[People say I only play video games because of my boyfriend but I owned over 200 games before I even met him!]

How many comic books are there I haven’t read?

[I work at a comic book store. Male customers tend to ignore me completely or ask if there is a man around to help them.]

I know it feels good to have a contest you win

[Being ASIAN and a GEEK doesn’t mean I have to like ANIME.]

It would feel even better if I wanted in

[I was told I traded my cleavage for free comics.]

So women aren’t geeks, so is that your conclusion?

[I have to use a gender-neutral pen-name just to be respected.]

That this is some secret club based on exclusion?

[I was told I “sound smart for a girl in a pink skirt.”]

12-year-old dorks would say you’re being selfish

[A con vendor told me that the smaller dice sets were for women to wear and show off (accessories). The regular ones were for men to, you know, play games with.]

And then they’d go write in their journals in Elvish

[Two people: Here’s a message for the haters, elitists and bullies / from us, the geek girls and our friends]

I’ve got nothing to prove

[Man: No one gets to tell you how to be a geek.]

I’ve got nothing to prove

[Man: If someone has to pass a test to hang out with you / YOU’RE the problem. ]

I’ve got nothing to prove

[You think I do this for your approval? Mwa ha ha. / Get over yourself.]

(instrumental)

[Man: There are no fake geeks / … only real jerks.]
[Who died and made you Batman?! Wait. Was it your parents? / In that case I’m very sorry. / Never mind.]
[I don’t need you to tell me how much I like anything.]
[We’ve both been ridiculed for our hobbies. Be supportive. We’re on the same side.]

I’ve got cred but honestly, I shouldn’t need it

[I don’t need to go to a con to be a geek. I am & I haven’t.]

This world needs all kinds of folks to complete it

[Please don’t let my gender turn you into an elitist. We love the same things for the same reasons.]

You’ve got gamers, and artists and comic subscribers

[Don’t tell my daughters that Lego, Robots and Superheroes are for boys.]

Cosplayers, crafters and fan-fiction writers

[Geek equality equals geekuality now!]

You can stop – never say “fake geek” again

[I was a geek before I saw a cult film or played a game. I don’t need your approval in the end.]

Our club needs no bouncers – all who want in get in

[Be respectful and I won’t eat you.]

But go ahead, if you want, to own that role fully

[Men: Staring ≠ respecting. Men are women too!]

I ain’t got nothing to prove to a bully!

[I’m a geek and I’m awesome. / And I don’t need your permission.]

(instrumental)

[DON’T PANIC.]
[Man: Don’t be a dick.]
[I’m older than ‘your Mom’ and I still love MMORPGs!]
[I’m a geek. / Search your heart. You know it to be true.]
[I founded a camp to teach girls how to program.]
[I am a cardboard-flipping card gamer.]
[You can’t take the geek from me.]
[Buuugs!]

I’ve got nothing to prove

[I’m a geek!]
[I am a geek! (and I am good at sports)]
[I’m a geek!]
[I’m a geek]

I’ve got nothing to prove

[I’m a geek!]
[I am a RPG nerd!]
[I am a geek!]
[I’m a geek ♥]

I’ve got nothing to prove

[I’m a geek]
[Man: I will do anything for $5]
[I am a costume geek!]

(instrumental)

[I cosplay for attention. LOL NOT.]
[I’m me. NERD.]
[I’m a geek!]
[I’m a fraking NERD!]
[I’m a cosplayer.]
[(sign held off-screen)]
[I’m a NERD.]
[I am a geek grrl!]
[I am a geek]
[I’m a geek!]
[I am a GEEK]
[I am a GEEK!]
[I am a tabletop geek girl!]
[I’m a / Browncoat / Comic book collator / Convention panelist / Tabletop gamer / Fanfic writer / Geek]
[I solved the [Rubik’s] cube in 36 seconds on TV 30 years ago. Now I publish the card game Fluxx.]
[I just knew that one day Star Trek would be cool. Take that EVERYONE from junior high!]
[I turned nerd watching the 90s Xmen with my Dad.]
[Child and adult,: I am a geek girl in training. I love the Science Channel. / I am a scifi/fantasy book, gadget, games (before kids), science and technology, artsy fartsy geek. aka a general all-purpose geek girl.]
[Trek-obsessed cosplaying grammarian librarian.]
[I got my husband into GAMING.]
[I am a geek!]
[It’s not easy. But I’m a geek.]
[I crochet my own Elder Gods!]
[I have been playing video games for almost 28 years!]
[Two people: Geek friends = great friends!]
[When I ran a two-week line up for the first Star Wars prequel, my homeroom teacher called me an EMBARRASSMENT and said I was ruining my school’s reputation.]
[My Mom let me read her copy of The Jedi Academy trilogy when I was 10!]
[I was born making Vulcan hands.]
[I often contemplate the merits of a Hogwards education.]
[I got my PhD in electrical engineering with a research focus in computational neuroscience.]
[I am a Wizard, Jedi, Scooby, Xman, Baker Street Irregular, Companion, Brownvoat, Starfleet Officer, Dread Pirate, Walker, Wizard, Geek.]
[Ich bin ein Aussenseitern.]
[I’m geeky enough for me.]
[I teach robotics to kids, make my own cosplays, and I work as a professional NPC at my local comic book store. (And I watch lots of geek TV shows.)]
[I was the one who introduced my fiancé to D&D. To me he is the newbie.]
[I was BORN pulling things apart & putting them back together. Now I do science on a boat. #geekforlife]
[Write fanfiction. Do cute and sexy cosplay. BE YOURSELF. Do what you want.]
[Adult and child: I can be a ballerina AND kill cylons! / Why are you surprised I want to be an ASTRONAUT when I grow up?]
[When I was six my family brought me to PAX. I loved it!]
[I said I liked Illusion of Gaia. He asked me how many red jewels the game contained.]
[Chem teacher told me I would never make a good SCIENTIST. I start my PhD in biology in September.]
[Don’t worry if you haven’t read, watched and played everything, given time you will explore!]
[In high school and university guys were shocked that I played video games and read sci-fi/fantasy books.]
[I am a geek! YAY!]

Haters are gonna hate!

[Two people: Geek girls are awesome and we are not going away! / Deal with it.]

(credits roll)

Transcript notes: subtitling used the Amara tool, lyrics are available in the Youtube description for the video. In order to capture the signs towards the end that are only displayed for two frames, I downloaded the video with youtube-dl and stepped through it frame-by-frame using Totem and Máirín Duffy’s instructions for frame stepping.

Open thread: technical difficulties

This article originally appeared on Geek Feminism.

You may have noticed that Geek Feminism has been regularly down this month displaying errors about “503 Service Unavailable”. We sure have. We’re working with our host to try and resolve the issue; hopefully we’re on our way. We wanted to let you know that we have noticed.

Chewed up network cable by Jeremiah Ro, CC BY-SA
by Jeremiah Ro, CC BY-SA

While we’re here, if you’re interested in following our new posts on Twitter, we’ve unfortunately lost access to our former Twitter handle @geekfeminism: you can now follow @GeekFeminismOrg.

Finally, this is itself an open thread for comments on any subject fitting our policy!

About open threads: open threads are for comments on any subject at all, including past posts, things we haven’t posted on, what you’ve been thinking or doing, etc as long as it follows our comment policy. We’re always looking for fluffy, fun, silly, cute or beautiful open thread starters, please post links to Pinboard or Delicious with the “gffun” tag.

Discussion starter: Reddit, Predditor, and outing bad behaviour

This article originally appeared on Geek Feminism.

So there’s Reddit. For the Reddit abstainers like me (I’m also not on Tumblr or Facebook, I’ll move on and set up neo-Luddite Feminism Blog any day now), a quick intro: discussion forum, encouraging the creation of Reddit subforums (subreddits) around any topic you can think of. Hugely popular: the mainstream press tends to cite Barack Obama’s Ask Me Anything thread as proof.

Reddit is strongly committed to what their users call freedom of speech, but that isn’t a very specific term on the Internet: it can mean anything from “I believe governments should not restrict expression” to “I believe that never deleting comments* from a forum improves the quality of discussion” to “I believe that never deleting comments from a forum is the only ethically correct way to run a forum.” (Or the disingenuous version: “I believe that I personally should be able to say what I want in any forum.”)

In Reddit’s case, freedom of speech basically amounts to “we believe that any user should be able to create a subreddit and moderate it how they and fellow moderators choose.” They host, for example, hate speech subreddits. They also until recently hosted r/CreepShots, a subreddit for sharing non-consensual photos of girls and women (up-skirting and such).

Over the last week, there’s been several eruptions around Reddit. Recently, Samantha** set up Predditors, which posts publicly available information about contributors to r/CreepShots, gathered from other sites linked to their Reddit pseudonym. It’s up and down: right now the first entry lists the full name, date of birth, employer, marital status and several photographs of one Eric Gore, Reddit username “ocbaud”, who submitted covert shots of women taken in his workplace. Jezebel posted about Predditors on October 10: How to Shut Down Reddit’s CreepShots Once and for All: Name Names. Predditors was temporarily closed by Tumblr shortly after, although at time of writing it is back with two profiles of Reddit users.

“Reddit’s defense of [CreepShots] is that it’s ‘technically legal,’ [Samantha**] explained. (The subreddit’s bio mansplains it well: “When you are in public, you do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. We kindly ask women to respect our right to admire your bodies and stop complaining.” You can also click here for information on how little Reddit’s administrators seem to care about policing the subreddit.) “So I’m doing something that’s technically legal, but will result in consequences for their actions. These fuckers think they can get away with it scot free, which is one of the reasons why sexual violence is so prevalent around the world.”

In addition, on October 12, Gawker published Adrian Chen’s Unmasking Reddit’s Violentacrez, The Biggest Troll on the Web, identifying Reddit user Violentacrez, a moderator of r/CreepShots and several other subreddits hosting racist, misogynist and/or sexually abusive content, as Michael Brutsch, a computer programmer in Texas. Brutsch apparently moderated most of the subreddits out of a commitment to a “I believe that never deleting forums from Reddit is the only ethically correct way to run Reddit” version of free speech, but was more personally interested in r/CreepShots, regularly contributed content. Chen also describes a reasonably close working relationship between Reddit staff and Brutsch, who was active in training other moderators, and in identifying illegal content so that Reddit could remove it (that they don’t want to host).

It’s not yet clear how things will go from here: will Predditors survive, will Samantha** survive burnout, will creep shots remnants pop up all over the web like zombies? (The last is already happening***.)

Some of Geek Feminism’s authors have had a backchannel discussion over the last year or so about various Database of Harassers proposals. The proposal there is for documentation of in-person harassment incidents, for people who would rather not make their harassment accusations public in a blog entry or etc for the usual reasons We’ve taken a pretty skeptical view of the likely success of such a project. What do you think? Does the success of the wiki’s own incidents listing (which relies on third party public reports) or Predditors change your opinion?

* No one seems to believe this about spam.

** The pseudonym that was used in the Jezebel article.

*** Link is to a Jezebel article, not directly to a creep shots site.

Harassment report at your conference: what do you do???

This article was written by me and originally published on the Ada Initiative’s website. It is republished here according to the terms of its Creative Commons licence.

The Ada Initiative’s anti-harassment work and other anti-harassment initiatives have resulted in many conferences adopting anti-harassment policies.

The Ada Initiative are not enforcers of individual conferences’ policies: this is the responsibility of conference staff, and conferences do not usually inform us of reports, nor do we expect them to. Harassment within a community is that community’s responsibility. However, in some cases when Ada Initiative staff have attended a conference, we have been asked to advise conference staff on responses. We’ve learned several useful techniques for making sure that the conference follows through quickly on its commitment to anti-harassment. We’ve drawn our experiences together into a wiki page: Responding to harassment reports.

Our first tip is, of course, to have a policy. Harassment incidents at geek conferences — including open technology and culture conferences — are widespread. If harassment is reported at your conference and you do not have a policy, it is difficult to reach consensus among conference staff that harassment is not welcome, let alone that you should respond to it, or about how you should respond. The result is that people who are worried about harassment, or who have experienced it at your event or other events, will not feel or be safe at your event. Your policy should be in place before your conference. The Ada Initiative and Geek Feminism volunteers have prepared substantial resources on how to put a policy in place.

You should also pre-prepare some emergency contacts, for incidents that you can’t handle. Conference volunteers and staff are rarely able to solely respond to and properly help with physical safety threats, illness or people in crisis. We suggest preparing a handout with contacts for emergency services, venue security, local medical and mental health facilities and crisis hotlines for mental illness, sexual assault, and physical violence. Make this info available in your conference materials so that attendees do not have to come to you, but have copies to hand in case they do.

Having a staff member whose key responsibility is to assist attendees in difficulty (rather than routine conference chores) can assist in a fast response, see the Duty officer wiki page.

Unfortunately, having a policy does not mean harassment won’t occur at your event. Once an incident is reported, you need to respond rapidly to reports. As the wiki page discusses in more detail you should:

  1. get a written report where possible, or have the staff member who received it write down what they were told
  2. have a staff member collate these reports in case of multiple incidents of harassment by one person, so that you can respond to the pattern rather than one instance
  3. have a staff member discuss the incident with the alleged harasser
  4. convene a meeting as soon as reasonably practical to decide on a response
  5. decide on a response and communicate it to the complainant and the harasser as soon as possible
  6. provide the harasser with an avenue of appeal if one is available but insist that they abide by any sanctions in the meantime
  7. communicate the incident and response briefly to the community, either attending the conference or reading your blog etc, to allow them to see that the policy is enforced
  8. remind the attendees and community where the policy is found and invite them to review it

We welcome additional improvements to our detailed guide on how to respond to harassment reports. If you would like to discuss the suggestions, please do so on the wiki’s talk page.

Creative Commons License
Harassment report at your conference: what do you do???
by the Ada Initiative is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://adainitiative.org/2012/10/04/harassment-report-at-your-conference-what-do-you-do/.

I take it we aren’t cute enough for you?

This article originally appeared on Geek Feminism.

A few times within the lifetime of this blog, there’s been a major emergency in geekdom: a geek girl has needed a confidence boost.

I hear you cough. Someone just said “geek girl” on Geek Feminism, the home of “ahem, geek women, THANK YOU”?

No really, I mean it, a geek girl. A prepubescent girl has been bullied or heard some gender essentialist crap, and a call to arms goes out. The best known is probably Katie Goldman, the then seven year old whose mother wrote in November 2010 that Katie was being bullied for liking Star Wars, a boy thing:

But a week ago, as we were packing her lunch, Katie said, “My Star Wars water bottle is too small.  It doesn’t hold enough water.  Can I take a different one?”  She searched through the cupboard until she found a pink water bottle and said, “I’ll bring this.”

I was perplexed.  “Katie, that water bottle is no bigger than your Star Wars one.  I think it is actually smaller.”

“It’s fine, I’ll just take it,” she insisted.

I kept pushing the issue, because it didn’t make sense to me.  Suddenly, Katie burst into tears.

She wailed, “The first grade boys are teasing me at lunch because I have a Star Wars water bottle.  They say it’s only for boys.  Every day they make fun of me for drinking out of it.  I want them to stop, so I’ll just bring a pink water bottle.”

Katie’s story went viral including at the official Star Wars blog and a year later CNN reported that at GeekGirlCon when a brigade of Storm Troopers formed an honor guard for Katie, and that there’s an annual Wear Star Wars day as a result.

We had our own smaller burst of geek support on the Geek Feminism blog in May this year, for five year old Maya, who was turning away from her love of cars and robots. 170 comments were left on our blog for Maya, second only to Open Letter to Mark Shuttleworth (200 comments) in our history. In addition, it wasn’t an especially difficult thread to moderate as I recall: a few trolls showed up to tell Maya goodness knows what (sudo make me a sandwich LOL?) but in general people left warm, honest, open stories of their geek life for Maya.

Here’s something I was struck by: when I tweeted about Maya’s post, back in May, I saw replies from men saying that they were crying (with joy, I assume!) about the response to Maya. I have to say I do NOT see a lot of admitted crying about other posts on our blog, no matter how positive or inspirational. (People love the existence of the Wednesday Geek Women posts, but they are consistently our least read and commented on posts.) Or crying about stories that are negative and horrifying either.

It’s going to be hard to stand by a statement that I don’t begrudge Katie and Maya their outpouring of support, but: I don’t begrudge Katie and Maya their outpouring of support. I don’t think they should have less of it.

… but I think geek women and other bullied or oppressed geeks should have more.

Thus I do want to ask why girls? Why do we not have 170 comments on our blog reaching out to women who are frustrated with geekdom? I want to get this out in the open: people love to support geek girls, they are considerably more ambivalent about supporting geek women.

I’ve compared harassment of adults with bullying of children before: they have a lot in common. What they don’t seem to have in common is a universal condemnation from geekdom: bullying children? Totally evil*. Harassing adults? Eh… evil, except you know, he’s such a great guy, and he hasn’t got laid in a while, and (trigger warning for rapist enabling) he does have the best gaming table, so what are you gonna do, huh?

There are a number of reasons, I know, even aside from the (provocative!) title of the blog post. Some of them are more sympathetic than others:

  • Talking to adults about overcoming difficulties is harder. There can’t always be as much optimism or tales of It Gets Better. For some adults, that’s bullshit. (It’s not always true for children either and telling children this can be a disservice too, but it is more culturally comfortable.)
  • Adults are often angry when they’ve been mistreated. In this case, feminists are often angry. It’s harder to engage with angry people. They (we) are less appealing. We may not be grateful for your thoughts. Sometimes we pick them apart publicly if we don’t like them enough. And call you mean names.
  • When a child is bullied by another child, the bad guy is reassuringly definitely not you.
  • Children don’t talk back, or can’t. If an adult says that It Gets Better, the appropriate role for the child is to smile and look grateful. (This is also true of women when listening to men, but generally somewhat less so.)
  • Many of us are more familiar with the experience of being a bullied child than being a harassed or oppressed adult, and can be empathetic more easily.
  • We really really want to believe that things will be basically OK for Katie and Maya, even if they haven’t been for us and people we love.

There’s no easy answer. Many of us are very deeply invested in It Gets Better rhetoric, because the alternative is sure pretty sucky. But at the same time, if you’re doing one thing to stop gendered bullying this year, say, leaving the 170th supportive comment for a five year old girl, while kind, was probably not the single best use of your one thing. Join the fight. Make it better yourself. And, since you aren’t in fact limited to one thing, leave kind or supportive or co-signed righteously angry comments too, while you’re at it, and not only for children.

* At least, in the context of these discussions. I am far from believing that geeks are universally actively working to save children from bullying, nor that they are incapable of perpetrating child abuse.

When your misdeeds are archived

This article originally appeared on Geek Feminism.

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question for our readers. It’s the last for this round.

This one is actually from me, it’s related to some questions I’ve been asked by various people who will remain anonymous (and who didn’t formally write to Ask a Geek Feminist). I have my own thoughts on this, and I also think it can vary (helpful!)

What do you think people and groups should do about sexism in their “archives”? By this, I mean for example, older stuff on their blog, or Facebook postings from years ago, or similar? A lot of people have sexism in their past, varying from “I used to be a pretty committed sexist actually” to “um, I didn’t really think about it, and I wanted to fit in, and I went through a ‘Your Mom’ phase for a while there”. Things you do on the Internet are pretty long-lived now, and your sexism sticks to your name while it remains visible.

Assuming someone or someones have control of their content, and they have sexism they don’t like in there, and they have reason to think it’s going to hurt someone. Should they remove the content? Should they edit it with warnings and apologies?

Have you seen this in a real situation? What did they do? How did it work for them and for women near them/involved in their community?

At least for systemic stuff, I tend to be on the ‘edit’ side of the fence. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. even if you’ve totally changed and are ashamed and sorry, being a reformed sexist is something that may make people, women in particular, cautious about you. Living with that is part of the deal. You don’t get to get access to Has Always Been The Best Person Ever cred because you weren’t.
  2. it also serves as a guide to How To Do It, for other reforming sexists (or How Not To Do It, if you apologise but don’t actually change)

And while writing an apology that is short and not self-serving is a challenge, but that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t try.

On the other hand, I, in general, do wish that much informal discussion on the Internet yellowed and started to curl at the edges and be difficult to read as time passed, sometimes. I realise that the invention of writing was some considerable time ago now, but even so, having to stand by your casual thoughts for years is a big ask. I can’t see that one should make a special effort to preserve evidence of one’s sexism if that same set of archives is going to disappear in its entirety.

Come to AdaCamp DC, July 10–11

From the Ada Initiative blog:

Applications now open for AdaCamp DC

Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. by Bernt Rostad, CC-Attribution
© Bernt Rostad, CC Attribution

Applications for AdaCamp DC are now open – apply now!

AdaCamp DC will be July 10 – 11, 2012, in Washington DC, co-located with Wikimania 2012. We are likely to have more applications than available slots, so apply now to have the best chance of attending. Applications close June 15 (May 11 for those requesting travel assistance).

Who should apply

AdaCamp DC will bring together a wide variety of people from open technology and culture, all of whom are working to support women in open tech/culture. We’re looking for people who:

  • Participate in open technology and culture: any field involving open/grassroots/community participation and sharing the results of your work for free: open data, open source software, wikis, open government, open libraries, remix/fan culture, open video, and more
  • Can share information about women’s experiences in that field, including talking about women’s achievements and the challenges they face
  • Want to work together and share strategies to support and promote women in the field
  • Share the Ada Initiative’s feminist approach to supporting and promoting women in open technology and culture
  • Are young and old; students, professionals and hobbyists; from a diverse range of backgrounds; and reflect the breadth of the open technology and culture field

AdaCamp is open to people of all genders. However, since AdaCamp and the Ada Initiative exist to support and promote women in open technology and culture, prospective attendees who are not themselves women will need to demonstrate a high level of prior engagement and experience with the issues faced by women in those fields in order to be invited.

Find out more about AdaCamp DC at the event webpage.

Sponsors

The Ada Initiative thanks our generous AdaCamp sponsors for making this event possible. Our current sponsors are the Linux Foundation, Intel, Facebook, Red Hat, Collabora, and GitHub.

Interested in becoming an AdaCamp sponsor? Email us at sponsors@adainitiative.org and we will send you more information on the benefits of sponsorship.

Writing violence against a woman

This article originally appeared on Geek Feminism.

This is an Ask a Geek Feminist question for our readers:

I am male who wants to write a novel about a female superhero. Since this is a superhero novel there will be violence and at some point my hero will have to lose a fight (though of course she wins in the end).

I am wondering how I should write the scene where the supervillain beats the crap out out of my female hero. Should I just write as if she were a male? Or do I need to take precautions so I don’t end up glorifying violence against women?

A quick thought on this one: there’s no “just” in “write as if she were a male”. A big part of the problem is that this is pretty rare, hence the Women in Refrigerators trope and similar critiques. Your own knowledge that she’s a woman will influence you to write violence specific to her gender and to cultural tropes about male-on-female violence.

So, I think you’ve set up a bit of a false dilemma between “write what comes naturally and it will be just like as if she was a man getting beat up” or “go out of my way to de-glorify the violence against her”. Another thing you need to be careful of is “write what comes naturally and spew your cultural uglies about women and their bodies and violence against them all over the page completely unawares.”

Second thought: you don’t want to “write as if she were a male”, in any case, because she isn’t. You want to write as if she was a person. Your current thinking on this seems to be edging towards “men are the pattern for people, women are special unique cases of people” which is a little concerning for your characterisation of a woman!

Do you have a writing group who review each other’s drafts? Does this group contain women? Obviously the women in your writing group should be reviewing all the work that your male peers do, not just “hey, I have a woman-centric bit here, so now you’re the expert, but I’ll ask John about the rest of my writing.” But you could ask the group in general for feedback on this and since you can show them the actual draft, they may have more specific thoughts.

You could perhaps get some of the way with playing around with reading and writing drafts of your violence scenes gender-switched and with more ambiguous pronouns in order to try and keep the uglies out of it, but I think this is where we need some fiction writers to step in. What think you?

An appeal for the Ada Initiative

When I was 15 I went on the web for the first time. A boy in my computing class went to Yahoo!, typed in “girls” and spent some time showing me porn.

Photograph of Mary Gardiner

I’ve programmed since I was a kid. I’ve loved the idea of open technology since I read a curious article in the 1990s about people all over the world, fixing complex bugs in an operating system that a university student had named after himself.

But every so often, I’m reminded how my Internet experience began. Women friends haven’t been safe on mailing lists, they haven’t been safe on Wikipedia’s talk pages, and they haven’t been safe at conferences. And even when they are safe, sometimes they’re lonely: estimates of women’s participation in open source run to about 2%, and as Wikipedia editors at 9%.

Thus, I’ve been a volunteer creating communities by and for women in open source since 2000. It’s been the equivalent of an unpaid part-time job for several of those years. But a year ago, Valerie Aurora became more ambitious, and proposed that since we were doing real work, we should do it as our real job. Together we created the Ada Initiative, a non-profit supporting women in open technology and culture. We rely on your support for our work:

Donate now!

Within a year we’ve organised our first AdaCamp, surveyed thousands of people about their perspective on women in open technology and culture, wrote and encouraged adoption of an anti-harassment policy by over 30 conferences and organizations in open tech/culture, and much more.

To continue our work in 2012, we need your help! Please donate to the Ada Initiative, and contribute to our planned work, including future AdaCamps, methodologically rigorous research into women in open source, and training for women contributors to open tech/culture projects and their allies.

Donate now: we can’t do it without you!

Online harassment as a daily hazard: when trolls feed themselves

This article originally appeared on Geek Feminism.

Trigger warning for discussion of and graphic examples of threatening online harassment.

Seen s.e. smith’s post on blogging and harassment yet? You’re about to see it everywhere (on the social justice blogs) because it’s very powerful and true:

by the time I’d clocked around 20 threats, and was up to around 30 readers, I’d learned the art of triage. The quick skim to find out if there was any actually personal threatening information, like identifying details, or if it was just your garden variety threat with no teeth behind it. I kept them all in a little file in case I needed them later, and forwarded the worst to the police department, not in the belief they would actually do anything, but in the hopes that information would be there, somewhere, in case it was needed someday.

“I hope you get raped to death with a gorsebush,” one email memorably began. I gave the letter writer some style points for creativity, but quickly deducted them when I noted he’d sent it from his work email, at a progressive organisation. I helpfully forwarded it to his supervisor, since I thought she might be interested to know what he was doing on company time. “Thanks,” she wrote back, and I didn’t hear anything more about it. Several months later I attended a gala event the organisation was participating in and watched him sitting there on stage, confident and smug”¦

I was careful in all the ways they tell you to be, to make it difficult to find my house, for example, and most of the rape threats, and the death threats, the casual verbal abuse from people who disagreed with my stances on subjects like rape being bad and abortion being a personal matter, weren’t really that threatening in that they didn’t pose a personal danger to me, and I was rarely concerned for my safety. That wasn’t the point, though, which is what I told a friend when she got her first rape threat and called me, sobbing. I wished she’d been spared that particular blogging rite of passage, but unfortunately she hadn’t been.

“They want you to shut up,” I explained. “That’s the point of a rape threat. They want to silence you. They want you to shrink down very small inside a box where you think they can’t find you.”

And it works. I see it happening all the time; blogs go dark, or disappear entirely, or stop covering certain subjects. People hop pseudonyms and addresses, trusting that regular readers can find and follow them, trying to stay one step ahead. Very few people openly discuss it because they feel like it’s feeding the trolls, giving them the attention they want. Some prominent bloggers and members of the tech community have been bold enough; Kathy Sierra, for example, spoke out about the threats that made her afraid to leave her own home. She’s not the only blogger who’s been presented not just with vicious, hateful verbal abuse, but very real evidence that people want to physically hurt her, a double-edged silencing tactic, a sustained campaign of terrorism that is, often, highly effective.

[That is a relatively short excerpt, read the whole thing.]

I think it’s time to take a look at the reflexive “don’t feed the trolls” advice, frankly.

It was developed, I think, for Usenet (at least, the earliest known usage of the term ‘troll’ in this sense is from alt.folklore.urban in 1992, which suggests that that formulation probably originates similarly), and was adopted by email lists and blogs in due course. I’ve always been suspicious of it in the case of forums like email lists where messages can’t be recalled: some people implement it as just leaving the troll to continue sending messages into the void – except that it’s not a void. Experienced people may have blocked the troll, inexperienced people are there to be frightened either specifically by the troll or by the apparent unremarkableness of the troll’s behaviour. (This is one of the reasons I am less and less on-board with the free software community’s continued preference for public mailing lists. I like my email client a lot too, but I like spaces where harassment can be removed quickly from all reader’s view more.)

There’s certainly some wisdom in “don’t feed the trolls”. Consider for example Gavin de Becker’s advice in The Gift of Fear: if you, say, return harassing phone calls on the 50th time, you’ve only taught your harasser that they need to call 50 times to get a response. They need to learn that they cannot reach you, that there is nothing they can do to make you reply to them.

So far it seems sensible, but what it doesn’t account for is having multiple harassers, who either may not be aware of each other or who may be actively encouraging each other and coordinating attacks (via hate blogs or forums or the more wildcard ‘lulz’ variants thereof). It’s not so clear there that en masse silence is a useful strategy, it varies by case, and the off-hand use of the “everyone knows that you don’t feed the trolls!” wisdom that was (arguably) effective in the case of lone trolls is in effect a message to people being targeted for harassment by a coordinated group, or who have a number of individual harassers, that no one gives a shit. Don’t talk about it, we don’t care about your problems.

It also means that we are continually surprised by the size and scope of the problem. Death threats? With your address attached? Weekly? This is a problem not only because of the continuing coziness of the “yeah right, never happens to me” crowd, but because we often aren’t sharing information among targets.

It’s not just you.

It’s not just you.

Every single time, there is someone who has been hurt by thinking it’s just them.

I by no means advocate compulsory reporting of harassment, in fact I am very strongly committed to empowering survivors by allowing them a coercion-free space to do whatever the hell they please in terms of reporting or not. But “don’t feed the trolls” isn’t any more coercion-free than “stop hir hurting someone else! report now!” The coercion is this: thirty years of Internet are saying keep this to yourself, damn you (stop hir hurting someone else)!

Thirty years of Internet, per above, don’t have the whole story.

This scale of harassment of bloggers also brings us into a realm where people without the financial resources of celebrities to, eg, pay Gavin de Becker’s people to read their mail for them and alert them only to genuine immediate threats, have to deal with the same scale of harassment. This isn’t totally new to the Internet (being, eg, the family member of someone who has either committed or been the victim of a well-publicised unusual crime, has long attracted the same kind of attacks) but it is hard enough for rich powerful people to protect themselves mentally and physically from this level of hostile attention, let alone people with the typical resources of a social justice blogger (generally relatively privileged yes, able to afford state-of-the-art personal security, no).

On that, I’m honestly not sure what to do except that it scares me. There appears to be no known effective defence against sufficiently many motivated harassers. There doesn’t even appear to be a lot of giving a toss about it.

Update: Hey folks, on reflection I realise that my last paragraph kind of invites advice, but it’s probably safe to assume that if you’ve thought of doing X in response to trolls that so have people like s.e. smith, and either X is in their arsenal, it doesn’t work, or it isn’t reasonably possible for them (that is the cost-benefit trade-offs don’t favour it).

Responses from people with unusual expertise on personal security or on community management and similar areas giving facts advice or facts might be useful, but if your expertise is “average experienced netizen” please step back and give people affected a chance to talk.