Finally a statement I can agree with, I am not a Geek Feminist

Finally a statement I can agree with, I am not a Geek Feminist

I have to say I’ve been really happy to see more and more statements with similar expressions that Nixie in her video Riki  Leslie  and others have expressed over the last few days. they are not Geek Feminists! Honestly in the past I’ve had to walk away from such groups of women/men where I didn’t feel welcomed as I didn’t agree with their statements. I’m sorry I just don’t.

Honestly, I do consider myself a Geek, I’ve studied computers at college, worked in tech jobs most of my life, yes I’m not a developer or a sys admin, but that doesn’t make me less geeky to all those people who look down their noses.  I surround myself by Geeky toys, events and people and love every bit of it. I love to go to Geeky events and have happily travelled this way attending events, speaking at then, and organising them.  Yes I fully admit to not always knowing what is being discussed but then again, neither does everyone! I’ll always put myself  out there and try and to learn what’s going on and what’s new. I love new technology!

I truly am sorry to hear about women who have experience shite at events from men and now women on top of it all, it’s inexcusable it really is but I also don’t want to spend the next event discussing and rehashing the experience over and over and over….It’s not what I came for.  I’ve been rather fortunate really I’ve never experienced any of the shite Nixie or others have blogged about at events and it’s frustrating this kinda thing is still happening in 2012.  I would like to find said bloke and sit him down and explain to him how much of a pig he really and also how it can effect the attendance of a conference.

I’ve been going to FOSDEM for the last 5 years and never once experience any issue, hassle, or quiet frankly any comment from anyone. To me this is a normal experience.  There have been at times the odd numptalot who’s put a idiotic image on a slide, has been chastised in their talk and it’s been removed, it’s just not tolerated, and again to me this is a good example of how people deal with people who are being out of line in a conference.  Zero tolerance.

Again, anyone who knows me, knows I speak my mind, and knows exactly where I stand on this topic, but I’ve never blogged about it before as I know to disagree with people it’s seen as undermining the issue. It’s not really, I just don’t want to get drawn into the debate again over and over again. I find circular conversations irritating and boring!

Seeing the others speak out and also the outrage from the open source community has put things into perspective, one needs to speak out and stand up for oneself and happy say (if they want) they are not Geek Feminists! I’ve watched Nikies video and it just made me rather sad,  she really looked upset and down, and I fully admit to not watching her other videos the whole time as I find the over enthusiastic AWESOME and eagerness to be a bit too much at times, HOWEVER, she does bring people to the community, she does have a following and she does get people interested in things, so I won’t knock her! Even recently on the Ubuntu-UK mailing list someone decided to take a pot shot about the way she dresses, I replied as honestly it’s no ones business how people dress, have we really nothing better to be doing!

To Nixi, Riki and all the others, come to FOSDEM, please! Please don’t think all geek events are the same and hopefully you will have a better experience there!

11 Responses »

  1. “I truly am sorry to hear about women who have experience shite at events from men”
    NiceGirl’s post was about women putting her down :/

  2. Now, I don’t consider myself more of a “geek feminist” than I consider myself a “steak feminist” (yet I thoroughly enjoy both geekery and a rare steak!).

    That said, I don’t tend to label myself a feminist (in the FOSS world or elsewhere) — but one of the things I always considered FOSS and feminism to have in common was the freedom to choose — be that to choose whether to write code in vim or in emacs or be that to choose to dress in clothes that you feel comfortable in.

    I think it sad and daft that people are berated for their choices, be that by fellow women or by men, and I hope that people don’t end up being put off the idea of participating in the community and attending events.

    Wear what you want, run whatever operating system you wish, use whatever editor you fancy and be yourself. There is plenty of lovely, welcoming people in the community — don’t let the odd dimwit put you off!

  3. Laura, thanks for that article. I wasn’t aware of that discussion, and it was really worth reading the different points of view. I also agree with much of what you wrote, but I am afraid it’s not that simple. The road towards gender equality is a slippery slope.

    There have been at times the odd numptalot who’s put a idiotic image on a slide, has been chastised in their talk and it’s been removed, it’s just not tolerated, and again to me this is a good example of how people deal with people who are being out of line in a conference. Zero tolerance.

    So what might such an idiotic image be? A wallpaper of a half-naked woman with a wonderbra? I am sure this is a quite common example for geek sexism, and something that might give women a hard time really feeling welcome at such events. So what’s your “zero tolerance” reaction? Go tell him that this is not appropriate and that he should choose a different wallpaper.

    The next minute, you run into a woman wearing a short skirt, a blouse with a plunging neckline and a wonderbra. Since you just had that fight about the wallpaper, you think to yourself, “So why does she just have to run around like a living version of that wallpaper? That undermines my whole argument”, and maybe you say something similar to her.

    Now she feels offended, more by your comment than she had felt by the wallpaper of that toad. She replies that she thought feminism was about choice, about wearing what you want and being who you are. You have to agree and apologize. Now the guy with the wallpaper will wonder why you “zero tolerated” his picture, and if he isn’t free to put onto his desktop whatever he wants.

    Now in the end you blame it on geek feminism, and come to the conclusion that these pigheaded feminists are the one who cause the problems. But then you deny that there is a real issue with sexism, and that the wallpaper of that guy was offensive, and that it still is important that people go and point that out.

    This is why I think it is not right to just blame the feminists. You don’t have to agree with all of their opinions, and one can argue about their methods. You might well complain about a small clique claiming to speak for all women. But in the end, I think it is important to state that at least we share the goal: We don’t want people to be judged based on their sex, and we want people of each gender to feel welcome in our community. And we have that in common with the Geek Feminists.

  4. Like Bruce quoted me as saying in his article:
    Policing what a woman chooses to wear is not feminist. So apparently you’re saying the feminist thing by saying she should be allowed to wear whatever she wants. Oh, irony.

  5. I’ve had *very few* ‘bad’ experiences over the years, which is why I waited so long to even write about this topic. Bad experiences tend to get tons of attention, whereas good, positive ones often get overlooked or never mentioned at all. I did want to validate what Nice Girl brought up, though, because the feedback we get from people who are new to — or just wading into — IT is incredibly valuable as we work toward making the open source (and tech in general) communities more inviting and diverse. The response Nice Girl has received from people within the community makes it clear that her experience and feelings aren’t unique, and efforts to help women in IT have the potential to backfire.

  6. It’s interesting that a spate of these posts have come along at once. I wonder if it indicates that the general attitude and reach of the FLOSS community and events has become more mainstream than we might realise.

    My guess would be that the more militant approach to feminism used to be necessary, before there was a sense of community or codes of conduct to govern behaviour. Hopefully as FLOSS has become more mainstream, there is less need to operate defensively. Perhaps those who advocated that approach have not yet adjusted to the new community. Or perhaps there is a community that has very different experiences from you and I.

  7. So what might such an idiotic image be?

    @Frederik: The first example that comes to mind for me, which isn’t exactly recent, but stuck in my head was the infamous “CouchDB: Perform like a pr0n star” talk from ’09.

    None of this is really a matter of feminism, or sexism, or any -ism really, so much as a matter of people not being assholes to one another. The person might be being an asshole because of some deep-seated misogyny, or due to some misguided belief that dressing a particular way somehow devalues women, but when it it comes down to it, it’s about not being an asshole to other people and instead valuing them for what they can contribute rather than how they appear.

    The next minute, you run into a woman wearing a short skirt, a blouse with a plunging neckline and a wonderbra. Since you just had that fight about the wallpaper, you think to yourself, “So why does she just have to run around like a living version of that wallpaper? That undermines my whole argument”, and maybe you say something similar to her.

    I’m not sure exactly *how* it would necessarily undermine the argument. Was she the one giving out to hypothetical you for the image? If not, thing’s been undermined.

    Also, keep in mind context: a image of a scantly clad woman isn’t necessarily offensive if used within the right context. The wrong context can make the very same image offensive. I’m guessing that what Laura’s referring to as zero tolerance for is for this latter kind of usage.

    I don’t think Laura’s shifting blame onto “geek feminists” so much as onto people exercising misguided zeal for something. You’re committing a hasty generalisation: I know Laura, and what she’s annoyed by is people being assholes in the name of Geek Feminism.

    The same thing crops up in any kind of movement. Consider vegans. Most vegans are lovely people neither the desire to consume animal products nor the desire to shove their personal morality when it comes to such things down the throats of omnivores like me; but there are enough assholes who turn it into a moral crusade that they get a bad name.

    Or consider smokers. As a non-smoker, I’ve no problem with people smoking. Sure, I’m not a fan of the smell, but what a person does with their own lungs is their own business. However, if that person is blowing smoke in my face, that’s when their being an asshole, not least because it’s an invasion of my space, but also because it messes with the chronic lung problems I’ve had since I was a kid, and that kind of behaviour gives smokers a bad name.

    So there you go. It’s about whether or not the individuals in question are being assholes to others.

  8. @Keith: Thanks for your comment. I really agree with most of it. I did not want to say that a woman wearing revealing cloths is anti-feminist, I just wanted to make a hypothetical example of how difficult drawing the line can be with this subject.

    Unfortunately I don’t know Laura personally. So I could only react to what she wrote. And as I wrote, I fully agree with the general point she’s making. To me, the title seemed to express a “me vs. the feminists” stance. And I know that many think that feminism was a historically necessary phenomenon that has done its duty and does more harm than good today. Yes, there are asshole feminists, and one has every right to criticize them. But women in Germany have a harder time in leading positions than in Pakistan, so there still seems to be a lot to do for feminism.

    I don’t have any simple solutions. And not everything said or done in the name of feminism is right. I just think we should keep up the debate.

  9. The sex-positive/sex-negative issue definitely has split feminism. Before feminism completely attaches to FLOSS culture this issue should be patched from within itself or else we’ll see a lot more problems like NiceGirl’s OSCON.
    Great read though :D

  10. When a man degrades a woman because she is a woman, then he degrades me because I am a man. That’s not feminism. But in the free software community, if you degrade others, then you are actively making it more difficult for them to help you achieve your own goals. By my logic, this means that the act of degrading others based on race, sexuality, gender, age, &c is very similar to proudly announcing that you’re not all that bright. On the internet, we have room for all kinds of numbnuts, but when we meet in person, idiots should be politely escorted to the nearest airlock – not because of their racism or sexism, but because of their stupidity.

    Yes, I too am a geek. Remember when La Forge saved a planet of perfectly engineered people because he himself was born blind? Diversity is the biggest strength we have in free software. It’s not about tolerance or feminism, but good old-fashioned intelligence. Some people are born stupid and it’s not their fault. Actually, they too are valuable to us, because they are the ones who can tell if our software really is user friendly or if it’s just we who are too smart to realize it’s not. But when people act stupid despite their intelligence, we need to tell them.

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