Translation: Feminismo, by Alfredo Arteaga

This poem is by the Argentinian writer Alfredo Arteaga and was published in 1917 in Antología Contemporánea de poetas argentinos. It is guaranteed to annoy. I stuck it in my anthology of women poets, in Appendix B. This is what our poetisas had to deal with — damning praise, the gist of which is, “Shut up, look pretty, quit writing poetry!”

Don’t be fooled; it is not a feminist poem. It’s a critique of the feminists of 1917, who were fighting for rights, for education, for the vote, and to be taken seriously as writers. It’s a great example of how feminization can be used by patriarchy to infantalize and silence women, to deny them agency.


Feminismo


Porque es vuestro, mujeres, el encanto
que ilumina y perfuma la existencia;
porque vertéis amor–eterna esencia
de toda la alegría y todo el llanto;
porque, al pasar vosotras, los más nobles
y fuertes corazones se estremecen
y juncos, tiemblan los que fueron robles;
porque gemas y flores nos parecen
creadas sólo para vuestro lujo;
porque no hay en el mundo quien ejerza
función sagrada o soberano imperio,
sin estar sometido a vuestro influjo;
porque dáis, aunque débiles, la fuerza
que penetra al abismo del misterio
y sube del ensueño hasta la cumbre;
porque la irradiación de vuestra gracia
a todas las tinieblas presta lumbre,
y nos brindáis un bálsamo divino
para cerrar heridas del destino;
porque formáis la excelsa aristocracia
de virtud, de bondad y de belleza,
a la que sólo el vil infiere agravios;
porque sóis la suprema fortaleza
(que dijo Salomón en sus Proverbios)
ante la cual se humillan los soberbios;
porque son siempre necios los más sabios,
si en vuestra copa no han bebido un día
la ignorante, esencial sabiduria;
porque es vuestra la luz de las leyendas,
el alma musical de los cantares
y el fecundo calor de los hogares;
porque recibe Dios nuestras ofrendas
con agrado mayor, si vuestras manos
o labios la elevan; porque el cielo
os desterró para adornar la tierra
y aquí extender de la ilusión el velo;
en fin, porque, entre títulos humanos,
os pertenece el título que encierra
toda la majestad y la dulzura –
ese nombre de madre–¡oh bellos seres
que derramáis primaveral frescura
en los tiempos más foscos de la historia
y que santificáis nuestros placeres,
contentaos por siempre con la gloria
y con la suavidad de ser mujeres!




Feminism


Because it's yours, women, the enchantment
that illuminates & perfumes existence;
because you shed love–eternal essence
of all happiness and all sorrow;
because, on meeting you, the noblest,
strongest hearts tremble
and oaks turn to shivering reeds;
because to us you seem to be gems and flowers
created only for our luxury and enjoyment;
because there isn't anything in the world that exercises
sacred function or imperial sovereignity
without being submitted to your influence;
because, though weak, you give strength
that penetrates the abyss of mystery
and you mount in dreams to the summits of mountains . . .
Because the radiation of your grace
brings hunger to all that’s dark and and hidden
and you bring us a divine balm
to heal the wounds of fate:
because you form the highest aristocracy
of virtue, of kindness, and of beauty
to which only the evil give offense;
because you are the supreme fortitude
(just as Solomon said in Proverbs)
before which soveriegns make themselves humble;
because even the wise are most foolish
if they never drink, from your cup,
your naive, essential wisdom:
because it's yours, the light of legends,
the musical soul of the singers
and the fertile heat of the hearths;
because God hears your prayers
with greater amiability if your hands
or lips lift them to heaven;
because heaven exiled you to adorn the earth
and extends here the veil of illusion;
in fin, because, among human titles
you have the title that encompasses
all majesty and sweetness,
this name of mother–oh lovely beings
that spill over with primeval freshness
in the greatest focal points of history;
you who sanctify our pleasures,
content yourselves for always with the glory
and the softness of being women!
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When disaster relief becomes a police state dragnet

I don’t have time to be a serious investigative journalist, so here’s a little rant.

I noticed in Katrina relief work that Homeland Security was swooping down on even small shelters and on people aggregating peoplefinding data. They took the data and warned people to silence. They started doing criminal checks, looking for people on their watchlists, but right down to the level of people who might have violated parole or be wanted for various crimes. Is this legal? Is it constitutional? As far as I know, they just seized that data. The people signing into an emergency shelter in some tiny church, or community center, or high school, didn’t sign up to be picked over by the Feds.

They tried with Gustav to “wristband” and register people for evacuation. They did it for some of Hurricane Ike. Is anyone realizing what this means? Disaster hits, citizens who are particularly powerless become the target of random criminal investigation. And if you have a criminal record? What then? They going to “evacuate” you to a “special shelter”?

Not that Galveston even bothered to evacuate the people in its city lockup, people awaiting a hearing and not even convicted of a crime.

I expect the registering, wristbanding, and electronic tracking process will become more efficient over the next few years.

I wonder what people were told? You have to register and show your ID, or we won’t let you on the bus out of town?

Oh, here we go, a little bit of the plan, that I’m sure didn’t get implemented all that well, because of course FEMA and emergency management officials were thinking about how to save and feed and shelter people, not how to treat poor people like automatic criminals?

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/5380868.html>http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/5380868.html

What the state is doing, is perfectly legal, according to at least one expert.

“Since it’s a government record they’re checking you against, there is not the same invasion of privacy concerns that may come up in other contexts,” said professor Charles Rhodes, who teaches constitutional law at South Texas College of Law. “I think the need for it would outweigh any privacy concerns. This is a public safety issue”

Rhodes’ only reservation would be the system itself, whether it’s set up to handle, perhaps, a false match indicating someone had a criminal record when they did not. He also wants to know how smoothly such checks could be processed.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how this is implemented in the time of an emergency,” Rhodes said.

They take the exact tactic I would expect. They claim they have to “wristband” and register and track everyone, centrally, and check everyone on a government criminal-record database, in order… get this… to protect special needs citizens from sex offenders. Is that really the motivation here? If the government gave a flying fuck about protecting people with special needs from sex offenders, there are far more effective things they could be doing than violating the civil rights of people evacuating from a hurricane.

Earlier this month, it was announced AT&T Inc. has contracted with the Texas Governor’s Division of Emergency Management to provide electronic wristbands for those residents wanting them, before they board an evacuation bus.

The wristbands would be scanned by emergency management officials and the person’s name would be added to a bus boarding log. That person’s name and their bus information would be sent wirelessly to the University of Texas Center for Space Research data center.

….
….

The decision to wear a wristband is purely voluntary. But anyone who boards an evacuation bus will have to provide a name. There will be no requirement to show an identification card, such as a driver’s license, but officials may ask those boarding for an ID.

Oh sure. It’s totally voluntary to wear an electronic wristband, but who is going to tell you that? And who is going to ask, in the face of disaster?

No requirement to show ID. But the cop who decides if you get on the bus or not can ASK YOU FOR ID. They don’t have to tell you it’s not required.

How about if you’re an immigrant and your immigration status is in question? Are you going to evacuate under these conditions? Or take your chances? What other databases are the authorities running the names against? Where will they stop? Who will stop them?

Don’t make any mistake about this, disaster might strike a whole city, but it is primarily the rich and middle class people who have the resources and social resources to get out of town and go stay with friends or in a motel. What the government is doing here is part of the immense disrespect and violation of human rights of working class people, people living in poverty, and immigrants. They might as well just go through whole neighborhoods of people who have less money and stop people at random to do criminal checks on them. OH WAIT … that already happens.

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Excite@Home bankruptcy trainwreck continues in slow motion

I cannot believe that I’m still getting legal notices about the Excite@Home bankruptcy and the pay they still owe me from October 2001. For real? Seven years of an utter waste of time and resources. How many lawyers are frittering away their lives and raking in the dough on this bullshit? They gave me most of my money long ago, from when they bounced all our last paychecks.

It stirs up my ire to get these snail mails, sometimes big fat packets of totally pointless legal documents. Some freaking genius should have made a webpage about a million years ago, for creditors (like me) to keep an email contact updated and they’d be able to pay us all that much more in saved postage costs.

Mostly though, I remember surviving the rounds of layoffs, reading Fucked Company every day along with all my co-workers, while then enduring the incredibly wankery company-wide pizza and beer meetings in the “garage” with endless power point slide shows about how great we were doing, that were obvious lies.

And the way they’d do some weird NASCAR event and whoop it up as if that was going to solve all our problems because it was cool.

The one satisfying thing was when they axed a couple of buildings after one brutal layoff, I took a whole lot of the office stuff and furniture they were throwing away and hauled it in my truck to donate it to the nearest elementary school, where second grade teachers fought like tigers over staplers and pairs of scissors. Where is the justice. They were desperate for petty office supplies while five blocks away a bunch of us basically wasted oxygen reading Fucked Company, downloading shit from Napster, and sighing bitterly as we waited for the axe to fall. *

There were some nice people at Excite (aka WebCrawler) that I worked with, but man, that company was so clearly going down. It was sad.

Anyway, everyone keep in mind if you need to get riled up, that there’s a bunch of really rich bankruptcy lawyers sailing their yachts around and enjoying their home movie theaters, still reaping the rich rewards of the dot-com crash.

* Note to future employers, actually I am a super hard worker until everyone around me has been laid off and doom is in the air.

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Ubuntu "Girlfriend Experiment" PHAIL

Ugh… I really get pissed at the basic idea of “we can see how usable Ubuntu is by testing it on our girlfriends.” Assumption: “We” are male; “our” girlfriends are ignorant of technical matters. And are stupid. Femininity here is equated with non-technical status. This is not only untrue, it is a really poisonous idea to spread.

http://contentconsumer.com/2008/04/27/is-ubuntu-useable-enough-for-my-girlfriend/

First task: Tell me what the capital of Bosnia is. Second task: watch a video on YouTube Third task: Download a Spice Girls album.

Uhhh WTF with the Spice Girls? Care to infantalize women’s use on the internet any more?

How about finding some RECIPES too?

All of this just yanks my chain big time, like when people say in talks and demos, “It’s so easy, my MOM can do it.” (And then everyone in the audience laughs knowingly.) Like moms are the dumbest people ever. My pet peeve at technical conferences. I am a mom!

I am also a girlfriend!

I am also technically competent and don’t enjoy condescension!

Test Linux on your ignorant dad, next time, or your poker buddy. Be sure to have him download crap about the Backstreet Boys and other overly gendered BS.

Hundreds of women on the linuxchix mailing list are rolling their eyes in unison.

WAIT I’m so confused, maybe if they made the Ubuntu background pink?!?

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Caltrans evades legal responsibility for sidewalk ramps

Ah, California. Sometimes you come through with your sidewalk accessibility, your ramps and ADA compliance, and sometimes you just don’t. I opened up my issue of New Mobility magazine this morning over coffee to find a brief and horrifying news snippet. Caltrans is fighting the ADA. “CDR and other disability groups filed suit in 2006 demanding Caltrans meet obligations to provide accessible walkways and curb cuts.” Read more about it here: CDR vs. Caltrans. Here’s part of the horrifying bit, a quote from CDR president Laura Williams: “We are very concerned that they are going to use this as a challenge to the ADA itself, which then affects everyone nationwide, if they should prevail.”

Your tax dollars at work, as Caltrans wastes your money you paid to create great public transit, on legal battles to screw us disabled people who are ALSO TAXPAYERS.

In my own small town here on the SF Peninsula, it took me months just to get an answer about who was responsible for a stretch of sidewalk. And in part, that delay was because people tried to tell me that the county, city, or Caltrans might be responsible for my sidewalk corner. No one knew and there was no way to find out.

Here is at least one thing that cries out for a quick technological fix. Someone make a Google maps mashup that demarcates who is responsible for which bit of sidewalk and crosswalk. How hard could it be? Does Caltrans have the information available digitally? If so, they should make it available online. Here is the Caltrans site map. Can you find coherent information about ADA compliance, sidewalks, curb cuts, and crosswalks? Can you figure out how to find which sidewalks Caltrans “owns”? Can you figure out how to complain? I couldn’t.

Caltrans controls around 2,500 miles of sidewalk. They can’t fix them all at once, there isn’t the money or time. They haven’t surveyed their walks for ADA compliance, and they’ve had many years to do that work. But, worst of all, considering the practical realities, they don’t even provide a way for their users to report ADA problems, and they won’t take responsibility for their sidewalks.

It burns me up.

I am a happy and proud member of the super-awesome Flickr group !Rock That Disability! This morning’s realization that my own state, California, center of much disability rights activist history, is with my tax money funding a fight against the Americans with Disabilities Act. The very ADA that Barack Obama would like to support and extend; a politician who cares about the human rights of people with disabilities. I will be writing some emails to politicians this morning, notably my representative and Governor Schwarzenegger. But, I also created the Flickr group Inaccessible!. Here is its description:

A blog for photos of inaccessible places and spaces. Ever been frustrated at lack of wheelchair access, insane potholes in the sidewalk, stairs, badly configured bathrooms too small for wheelchairs, badly placed handrails, elevator buttons too high for you to reach? Snap a photo, label the place as clearly as possible, and explain why it is a barrier.

My hope is that this group will be useful to building owners and people who want to make their environment more accessible. It also helps those of us with disabilities to express our frustration and to record daily encounters with barriers to access. Documenting the problems may also help us to follow through and try to get those problems fixed by the people responsible for them.

I populated the group with a few photos I happened to have tagged already in my photo archive. Because sometimes when I’m facing a giant flight of stairs, a huge hill, a bathroom I can’t get into, or a museum where I can’t go with my kid to the exhibits, I snap a photo. Maybe 1 time out of 100 I bother to do this. But what if we all did it, every time, and built up evidence? If I document and label all the worst intersections, broken sidewalks, and so on?

I would love to see something good come of this outrage, something like Fixmystreet.com. I consider my own time and energy and expertise. I have done a gazillion BarCamps. What about an AccessCamp, for some web 2.0 love for disability rights activism?

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Annoyingly sexist framing of Google VP Marissa Mayer


Photo
Originally uploaded by thisgirlangie

As an inoculation to what I am about to expose you to, here is an awesome photo of some ubergeeks from the Google-sponsored Geek Girl Dinner organized by Angie Chang from Woman 2.0. From left: Sumaya Kazi (Sun Microsystems & The Cultural Connect), Katherine Barr (Mohr Davidow Ventures), Irene Au (Google), Rashmi Sinha (SlideShare), Angie Chang (Women 2.0)

By some quirk of fate, a copy of San Francisco Magazine arrived at my house today. If you’ve noticed this vapid glossy magazine for aspiring Not-LA and Not-NYC socialites, you will know why I was automatically tossing it in the trash. But there on the cover were the words “Google’s geek goddess”, and I had to look, knowing how annoyed I was about to become.

Oh, it was so much worse than I imagined!

According to SF Magazine writer Julian Guthrie, Google’s employee #20 and first female engineer Marissa Mayer is “not what you expect.”

What the hell do you expect? Who is “you”? Some drooling dinosaurish idiot who not only thinks the important thing about women is a mix of prettiness, girliness to the point of infantilization, sexiness, etc but who also thinks that “we” the readers of the article would expect a gazillionaire engineer-turned-corporate-executive to be some kind of Hollywood Geek Girl stereotype with unkempt hair who needs to take off her glasses and stop being obsessed with computers to become pretty.

Soooo how are we framing the opposite of what “we” expect? Mayer “looks Grace Kelly gorgeous, a tall, blue-eyed beauty with blond hair pulled back from her fresh face. She is much livelier than you might imagine, and her clothes are anything but humdrum.” This assumes “our” default expectations to be the opposite; female software engineers as humdrum, boring, un-lively, certainly not beautiful and maybe not blond.

You can see two assumptions set up here:
* Women who like computers are ugly.
* It fucking matters.

You know why it does matter? It matters because sexist and misogynist assumptions do still have a lot of power in our society. And we need to change that, by pointing out that misogyny and sexism are stupid, wrong, and undermine social trust and gender relations.

The article descends further into idiocy, still on page 1 of framing Mayer as a person and as a professional, by quoting some Valleywag posts calling her a social climber, implying that she got her job or position by dating Larry Page, and “using her looks”.

Guthrie quotes a Valleywag editor saying, “Marissa is surprisingly pretty in person. That in itself is a rarity in Silicon Valley, and you’d have to be naive to think that doesn’t color people’s views of her.” Great. This is a rhetorical strategy common to misogynist bullshitters: undermine a woman’s achievements by claiming her main “achievement” is being pretty, or worse, implying she used her sexuality to get a little dollop of fake power and status from someone Actually Powerful who deserved it. When powerful smart men are friends with other powerful smart men, those personal relationships aren’t framed as devaluing their talents and skills. But as soon as a woman has a personal relationship with a man, the power imbalance is assumed to be there along with a host of other assumptions about sexuality, the stereotype of a woman sleeping or flirting her way to her status. It’s tokenizing; it’s like suggesting women are only in tech because of Affirmative Action By Boyfriend. In other words, we are not “allowed” by history to have our own status. We only have status by proxy as given to us by men who have sexual access to us, real or implied sexual access.

I’ll list through a few more of the sexualized and sexist terms used to describe Mayer. Her “throaty laugh”, how she’s “the only blonde in a room packed with mostly dark-haired young guys”, she “acts goofy and girly”, has a “ballerina posture”. There’s a weird setup where Mayer is described as a geeky robot, “mechanical”, precise, unsexed, but then that unsexed-geek-girl stereotype is defused by her “personal passions” and “coming-out party of sorts for a new kind of Silicon Valley star.” That hypothetical ghost of a robotic passionless scruffy geek is contrasted with the girly, giggly, sexy, cupcake-baking, fashion-loving, non-threatening woman who sometimes shops for purses.

“Mayer is fiercely competitive. She wants to make the best cupcake, wear the prettiest dress, have the coolest penthouse.”

SIGH.

I think we can all enjoy cupcakes and fashion without being freaking defined by it. I’m not objecting to anyone’s hobbies of geektastic cupcakes, knitting, wearing pretty skirts made for super rich people, or whatever. I’m not objecting to femminess and the deliberate, or just automatic because that’s how we are, geeking up of things that are supposedly traditionally feminine.


me & Liza Sabater at SXSWi, photo by Rachel Kramer Bussel

BUT. The implication in articles like this is that women NEED a specially feminized presentation of self in order to prove that it’s okay for women to like computers. That’s completely stupid!

There is another problem in this article, and in the general pattern of media attention on powerful women in male-dominated fields. It’s isolation and tokenizing. An article will frame the tech world as if there is only one important woman. She is always presented as the Lone Woman in the midst of techie guys. Tokenizing! Context is important. And my own context, as a woman in this field, is that it’s full of heroic efforts of women in computing to make professional and personal connections with each other. Consider Mayer in contexts with other women:

* Webguild
* Grace Hopper Celebration 2006
* Blogher Business

Those images, for me, are much more powerful and meaningful than the one Guthrie paints of the Lone Blonde Chick at the party full of men. Journalists should not “disappear” women in tech by canonizing one saint who they love and hate, praise, objectify, and revile. There are a lot of us here!

To be overly generous, I would like to mention that after the first 3+ pages of utter crap, Guthrie did write a good, interesting, middle section to the article, which straightforwardly describes Mayer’s background in computer science, her interviews at Google, and her early work experience there, including the sort of oh so wacky “Nudist on the Late Shift” geek-culture stories about Wacky Startups that we can’t really avoid and that I do still enjoy hearing about and living in the midst of. So I’m not slamming Guthrie’s basic competence as a journalist and writer, and the article is not all fluff; it’s way less fluffy than you’d expect from SF magazine, that society rag for the more droolingly idiotic of the rich and famous.) Then we hit some more stuff about being a party hostess and cupcake making, Mayer’s childhood doll collection and background in “precision dance team” which must be a lot like what in Texas was called “drill team” and meant cheerleaders doing dance; and more bilge about underneath her Geekitude and corporate executiveness Mayer is “still that geeky super-normal enthusiastic girl”. What? I’m still trying to decode what “geeky super-normal enthusiastic girl” means. The effect to me is of deliberate girlifying of a brilliant, competent, powerful adult, in other words infantilizing them in order to make them less threateningly powerful-seeming.

I can’t even dignify the paragraph about Mayer’s dating life with a quote; it was just dumb. FFS.

But the end! The end was the worst! “Does Mayer ever see herself going completely low-tech and focusing (professionally or otherwise) on art, entertaining, baking, or fashion? ” You know, what would have to be wrong in an interviewer’s head for them to ask that question? What the hell? Why would anyone ask that question of one of the most powerful engineers at an extremely successful company, a person with a couple of degrees in computer science and many years of experience in the industry? “Oh… just wondering… have you ever thought of forgetting about this lil’ ol’ computer thing and sticking to cupcakes?”

I can”t wait to hear what my colleagues on Systers, BlogHer, and Linuxchix have to say here. I was also thinking that as a response we could add some good detail to Marissa Mayer’s Wikipedia page.

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Apple store sued over ADA issues

Wow, I wonder why sue Apple in particular? Because most of these same things have happened to me in … well… pretty much every single store or public place I’ve been in.

ON the other hand I was unusually ticked off at the Apple Store in Palo Alto a few weeks ago. A “genius” was trying to fix my computer and I was insisting on trying to watch (as, if not using a wheelchair, I would normally do.) Another employee came by and told him he could pull out a little stand from the side of the counter. He complained.. .and they argued about it in front of me without talking to me. She showed him how to pull out the counter, and I started helping her do it and set it up. The dude acted put out. Then, at some point, he needed to plug into an ethernet cable because part of the problem was that my wireless software wasn’t working. And he couldn’t manage to find a cable long enough to reach to the little pull-out desk extension that I could see from my wheelchair. So we fought about that for a while, I went behind the counter and craned my neck and was rudely kicked out by a manager who said it was against store policy. When I tried during the *next* problem to come up that day to get him to pull the wheelchair accessible desk out again, he refused because it was inconvenient for him and blocked the way.

I am routinely in elevators with inaccessible buttons, or have to put up with someone else’s humiliating fussing over their wires or chairs or boxes stacked in a hallway to the bathroom… and so is every other disabled person I’ve ever talked with.

This bit made me laugh, “they were unable to reach products or service desks at the retail shop”. This is also true nearly everywhere. I accept that part and will just ask for help if I need it.

This part made me happy:

“The women said they are more interested in changing the store to better accommodate their disabilities than punishing the Cupertino-based company”

Well, yeah. And sometimes you have to push it, and sue, or bring down the law in any way possible, or change doesn’t happen. That’s how we got the ADA and equal-access laws in the first place.

Politely talking to a manager doesn’t always work. Picketing doesn’t either. Using the law might. It is legitimate activism.

So I respect their lawsuit and wish them luck.

But wait. Read the comments on the article. Check this one out:

“First, it seems unlikely that a company as astute as Apple typically is would miss something this important. They do have blinders, but not usually like that. ” That’s so annoying. Oh, well, it’s impossible to imagine that some poor yobs in a retail store, even a nice new fancy one downtown for a slick computer company, might be rude and discriminatory. Or that there are flaws in the ADA compliance in the building or the store setup, such as the wheelchair buttons or inevitable boxes in the hallway to the bathroom.

Bah. Screw them… no, sue them. Until they shape up. The disabled protesters who occupied the SF Federal Building 20 years ago didn’t do it just for fun… they did it so we can use the law to change things.

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"Community" needs women, badly!

Sometimes you just have to laugh. Apparently this conference, “Community Next“, has been missing all the years of discussion in blogging and tech communities about gender diversity. Maybe it’s too technical of a conference and women tend to go for the more “soft” skills like communities and social engineering and marketing? Oh wait, that’s what the conference is about. Um! Maybe there aren’t any women in tech who do community work? Or who know anything about viral marketing and web 2.0? Maybe they’re not famous and notable enough, or don’t know how to speak? Golly. Where are the women!?

Seriously, I looked at this speaker list and conference description and started laughing really hard. So many nice guys that I like and respect, but here, they dropped the ball.

Again.

Maybe danah was rly rly busy so they just didn’t know who else there was to ask!

Or maybe if they put some pink in that web site design and a link to shopping, some of the wimminz might show up. (/sarcasm)

If there aren’t women talking, I get turned right off of going.

On the other hand, some of those guys are kind of hot. Maybe they will wear their best really tight witty Threadless tshirts and make it worth my while to show up. Hawt!

(/really ending sarcasm now)

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Pissed off cyborg in your face


New!
Originally uploaded by cdent

If this round of wheelchair use keeps for for much longer, then finally everyone in the known universe will have gone through their awkward reactions and I can stop having the most annoying boring conversation ever.

Here is something I wrote for WisCon. If only I could have forced all 1037 people there to read it.

A quick lesson in wheelchair manners:

1) Please ask before touching!
2) That goes for pushing the chair especially.
3) My lap is not your shelf.
4) I’ll ask if I need direct help.
5) “Would you like help” is fine, good manners; “Here let me do that for you” while doing it already — is not. I value my abilities.
6) Walking beside me is nicer than walking behind me; then I can see you.
7) Coming down to my level for conversation is extra polite, thanks! Looming over me especially from behind… not so much.
8) Think of the chair as an extension of my body or personal space, treat it as such.
9) Thanks for unblocking my path so I don’t get trapped, much appreciated. Move your backpack out of the aisle.
10) Really, please don’t move the chair! I wouldn’t pick you up and move you, would I?
11) Please don’t bump it either, it’s annoying and often it hurts me.
12) Let’s talk about science fiction and feminism instead of wheelchairs and disability and pain, once we get past introductory chit chat.
13) No I don’t really want to listen to your process your feelings and fears about disability unless we’re already friends.
14) No I don’t want your medical advice unless I ask for it.
15) If I ran over your toes, my bad, I’m so sorry
16) I’m not here to satisfy the whims of your curiosity. Why do you need to know? Why do you want to know? Could you possibly put off finding out till you know me better?

Clip and save!

Because that was the polite part. Here is the rude angry in your face part:

What ‘s wrong with you? Why are you in the chair? Oh my god WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU? Is this temporary? Is this permanent? Did you break your leg? Did you go to the doctor? Did you get an MRI? What exactly is wrong? You sure get around well, how did you learn? When will you be out of the chair? Are you sure? I’m so sorry! Are you in pain? Are you going to die? You sure look comfortable. Wow lucky you, you get to sit down while we’re all standing in line. OMG are you OKAY?

(Answers: Nothing, what the hell is wrong with YOU? So that I can get around. I was born and then grew up, what happened to you? I don’t know. I don’t know. No, but I can tell you really really really want me to have broken my leg. What do you think, do you think I went to a doctor, but that’s not what you’re asking, you’re asking what my prognosis is. Do you want to help diagnose me? I don’t know but I have some possibilities which we could discuss exhaustively OR we could have some other more interesting conversation. I learned last time I was crippled which was around 93-98 with varying degrees of disability, oh that surprises you, check your assumptions at the door; oh by the way you seem to get around really well for someone with their head up their own ass. I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m sorry too, for your mama for raising someone so rude and boring, I’d rather be crippled than be a drip like you. Yes I am quite likely in a considerable amount of pain, and you know what, I also was in varying degrees of physical pain when you saw me walking around, why must you bring it up? Yes I’m going to die and so are we all and so are you, especially, about 5 seconds from now. If you want to try being as comfortable as I am I can beat you up right now and stab some daggers into your back. Uh yeah lucky me I have run out of sarcasm to even throw at this one, o falsely jocular person. Yeah, are YOU okay?

Hey you know what, world? Let’s have a conversation about your painful struggle with your own hemorrhoids. Because apparently your head is up your ass. That must be really painful for you and I really admire how you deal with the challenge!

Every time I go out in public in a crowd I get totally fed up. I’m really sick of being the crippled girl. It was a relief last night to scoot over to the couch for a bit and have the pressure off me, the pressure of being looked at and stuck in that box in people’s minds.

You can see their faces as they think “Wow… that could happen to me.”

Pain is annoying and tiring and distracting, and I have very much valued the times it goes away (rare) and that it doesn’t interfere with physical function too much. However, it is not new. It is also not the end of the world.

Limited mobility is annoying and distracting and inconvenient and sometimes isolating or frustrating but you know what… the worst part of it for me so far is the way it makes people act like dumbasses.

I’m off to write a really dumb Mary Sue-ish science fiction story where everyone slathers pity on the people who can’t interface with the cyborg telepathic alien hovercraft symbionts and are doomed to dreary, unassisted, bipedal motion.

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(Not so) fascinating, Captain

Wifi was spotty at the Web 2.0 conference, but I enjoyed meeting people and listening to talks in the Web2open part of town. My coworkers Luke and Kirsten and I gave an off the cuff demo and talk about wikis, blikis, and various ways of looking at wiki content. I came away thinking further about measures of wiki health, tightness, outward or inward-lookingness, and the idea of a wiki having periods of growth or pruning.

I caught part of Rashmi Sinha’s talk, “Massively Multiplayer Object Sharing” and am hoping to hear more on the same themes of designing for large systems. It’s such a pleasure, because I have been thinking and talking for a while now in an amateur way about having many different metrics and algorithms to rank and measure value – in order to counter some of the flaws of complete democracy. I just talk about it, while people like Rashmi and Mary Hodder actually put these ideas into practice!

The only other talk I caught was part of the “Invincibelle” demo. While it is a lovely idea and I’m all for it, I was somewhat turned off by the line “After all, women love shopping…” Yeah okay, er… Did I really just hear that! But I’ll put that aside. Invincibelle has some great interviews with interesting women working in tech. It is a great idea but I have some (I hope constructive) critiques to offer. The site needs good navigation and stronger linking between people. Why not make this an actual social network site? So far, it’s just a custom-built blog with good interviews, a forum, and an rss feed of some job postings. Another thing that could be improved – how about adding some links to the women featured and their web presence? They have companies, blogs, contact info, presumably – but I can’t find that in the interviews. Why not make a nice sidebar with feeds from all the featured women’s blogs? Then their voices would be heard even further! Scalability is another concern. I would love for this site to grow. But when it grows what will it look like… where is a coherent directory of the people of this network – for example I would like to be able to click on profession titles and read about all the chemists or physicists or programmers and perhaps also by country, as I imagine people from particular countries might like to find each other. Maybe those features will get added and the site will move a little further into the “2.0” philosophy. I could say the same (a critique, with suggestions, and with love) for sites like el Salón de Belleza which has similarly inspiring portraits and profiles and interviews with amazing women (thought not focused on tech.)

Meanwhile, in a galaxy far far away, across the Expo hall, someone from this company was asking the audience for its demo, “should we search in our social software for swimsuit issue models, or victoria’s secret?” Apparently a segment of the audience indicated its preference for lingerie soft porn over bathing suit soft porn. Some women walked out. Maybe some men did too – I hope so. The subtext is not subtle to me. Who did the speakers think they were talking to?

In the context of all the years of discussion about “how to get more women at tech conferences”, this was an amazingly ignorant thing to do in a professional talk. I like many of the comments from my fellow geek and techy women in the comments here, for example, the calmly and neatly expressed simple statement by Nicole:

As an engineer and woman who uses the internet daily for work and personal I am still blown away by these ridiculous portrayals of women as objects in tech ad campaigns.

Some more on this, a quick roundup:

Ah! Here’s the women of Web 2.0!

Men (and a few women) of Web 2.0. This is so odd; it’s a photo of the crowd for a keynote, and the crowd is overwhelmingly male.

Meanwhile, Christine Herron posts about the gender ratio at the conference. This year, women made up 18% of the conference attendees.

I was on the Web2open side of the conference all of Tuesday, there were a ton of women, I didn’t feel outnumbered or out of place, and quite a lot of the speakers and presenters were women; in fact, more than half. I have a few thoughts on why this should be so. One is that women might be more likely than men to not be able to afford to go to the main conference if the fee was not paid for by their company. On that note — info I can’t source at the moment but that I’ve often read — women in companies don’t push to be sent to conferences while men do, because of self-judgements of level of expertise (Eszter Hargittai has some good research data on self-perceptions of competence and expertise in tech, though). Another crucial element that helped the gender ratio at Web2open; Tara Hunt actively recruited – repeatedly – women in online forums, in public and private, to participate, and pointed out the other women who were coming. That level of active outreach is very important and is part of why SXSWi had such success in increasing participation by women in the industry.

And back to the annoying lingerie model issue: I’d like to point out that O’Reilly’s screenshots were interesting and demonstrate the cleverness and interest of the product in the exact way that the demo didn’t. Doing a beavis and butthead style sniggering soft core porno “women as consumable objects” search only revealed what will end up being the ugly side of identity aggregation and search sites; using the web creepily to stalk & harass women. When this happens it won’t be the fault of the software or of the internet, it’ll be a mirror that exposes what goes on at all levels of society.

One more post, from SFWoW:

unbelievable that MCPs are still willing to show their stripes in SF these days; but there is no accounting for cluelessness among the supposed-Digerati.

Yeah there is some anger out there. And as anyone with half a brain should know by now, it is unsafe professionally for women in the field to indicate (even very calmly) that they are annoyed (even very mildly) by sexism.

I think some of the anger comes from our (speaking for women in tech) high expectations. We want to believe y’all utopian-thinking techie web 2.0 dudes are somewhat enlightened and we want to believe you see us as human beings. It is disappointing when those wishes and beliefs are proved wrong – over and over. I look forward to hearing more men say “actually that’s not funny” to each other. I don’t want to become the enforcer. The point is not for guys to watch what they say in front of women like me. That will only result in even less real communication. The point is to accept the criticism, to wipe the big green embarrassing booger of sexism or racism from your nose and say “oops sorry about that” and then move on from there. (YES please click on that link and read it – and then look at the defensive reactions every time women speak up and point out misogyny – for example what do men do but deny, claim they meant well, accuse women of being “too sensitive”, and then find women to defend them and testify how non-sexist they are. The point is not that you “Are” the point is how you BEHAVED just now, which in this case, was dumb and sexist.)

How many times do we have to say it? Talk about our work and contributions, not about our looks. Link up to and highlight women’s thoughts and writings, respond to the substance, rather than just going “har har har, beavis, of course we want women at our conferences (so we can hit on them).”

I would like to close by mentioning, for any geeky women reading this, systers and the Anita Borg Institute once again. They rock, there is no nonsense about nail polish or whatever, it is just a very practical network and resource for women in tech.

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