Supporting The Ada Initiative, and making more room

People ask me all the time what they can do to help change our culture. How to get more women in F/LOSS, in tech, get more women coding and working with us? I have a suggestion! Please donate to The Ada Initiative! I realy believe that it’s helping, and wil continue to help!

Personally I donate monthly to The Ada Initiative as well as participating on its advisory board. Over the past couple of years I’ve benefitted directly from The Ada Initiative as I see conference after conference put anti-harassment policies into place, which TAI has worked hard to facilitate.

Earlier this summer I had an amazing experience at AdaCamp in San Francisco. The Melbourne and DC AdaCamps bore fruit too, as they connected so many women in open tech and culture with the communities I’m already part of, and made us visible to each other.

The synergy from the feminist hackerspace discussions at AdaCamp SF led to the first meeting for a new feminist hacker and maker space in San Francisco. After a whole weekend of talking at AdaCamp, it was like we couldn’t stop! I ended up with a dozen or so fierce activist women in my living room describing their vision for how we could make actual physical room for our projects and ourselves, a space we would invent, define, and maintain. It was really a dream come true.

As an long-time feminist activist, I have felt tremendous relief from the amount of peer support I’ve gained from working with The Ada Initiative. The people who are part of TAI have a tremendously sophisticated view of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, and what we need to make it happen. I deeply appreciate the professional commitment of everyone at TAI and everyone I met at AdaCamp! That’s part of why I’m posting to ask you to donate. It’s important to make support for women in free and open source tech and culture truly part of our infrastructure. We can do that by funding that work! Here’s some ways to donate!

Donate now tai

Related posts:

Access Sex: panel at SexTech conference

The Access Sex panel on sex education, sexual health, and people with disabilities was just beautiful.

Panelists: Cory Silverberg (http://sexuality.about.com/mbiopage.htm), Bethany Stevens (Morehouse School of Medicine), Liz Henry (BlogHer), Jen Cole (GimpGirl)

Cory Silverberg opened by asking some questions about who was in the audience. Our audience was full of public health workers and health/sex educators and providers.

Then Cory asked what people want from the panel. What do they need to know?
A: How to deal with school, staff, parents. They don’t think the kids are at risk. How to get education across? Special ed classes also have to educate to multiple levels at once.

We didn’t get a lot of other answers, but I felt like this was a great trick of moderation, a good way to start the panel; it helped me feel connected with the people we were speaking to.

Bethany, Jen, and I each talked for about 10 minutes each. Bethany spoke on models of disability, medical vs. sociopolitical. I spoke about disability and sex. Jen then talked about GimpGirl, a successful, long-lived online community for women with disabilities. We spent the rest of the hour and a half on audience questions and discussions. It was a very lively discussion!

We mentioned the guide for health care providers for disabled women a lot, and here is the link to it: Table Manners and Beyond: The Gynecological Exam for Women with Developmental Disabilities and Other Functional Limitations. Please read it!

Bethany’s lightning talk on disability politics

Bethany introduced herself. “My CV is big and throbbing. I released myself from the shackles of Power Point and recommend it to you.” Going to talk about different models of disability. Also, with some personal narrative, personal examples of what I mean about different theories. Speaking on an embodied level.

There are two models I want to outline. First, the medical model of disability. I recommend you move away from that. Don’t use it in your work. It posits that the problem of disability is on the individual rather than on society. Rather than addressing structural issues of oppression, architectural or social, look at as a social issue with social and political solutions. Medical model puts an onus on individual to normalize their bodies. It puts us in a constricting box of normalcy. The medical model leads us away from civil rights ideology. By pushing the idea of normalcy we create more problems than solutions.

Second, the social model – I want to create a model of the world I want to live in. Michael Oliver in Britain. The idea of impairment is separate from the idea of disability. Separating a functional issue or condition from the social ramifications of that imapirment. For example I have osteogenesis imperfecta or brittle bones. The embodiment of that is being deemed subhuman. That may seem like a dramatic statement, but it is true. We are treated inhumanely. Cory suggests we are the most under-served population for sexual health, education and rights.

Think about the social meanings of disability.

I encourage you in your work to denounce and deconstruct these concepts. It is the first step in creating this revolution of embodiment. By doing this in your work it is liberatory not just for people with disabilities but for all other people. 80% of people in the U.S. will deal with disability in their lives. We have increasing elderly populations. Create that revolution of consciousness starting with young people, teach them that embodiment exists on a spectrum. There is a mental health problem of losing ability.

1) We’re often treated as children. I am constantly, people bend down in my face and use baby talk, sing song voice, the disabled people in the crowd here are nodding, it’s egregious. I’m a lawyer, shut up and treat me like a human. As I’m aging and becoming more mature, I realize that’s maybe not the best response. This issue is a bad one.

2) We are perceived as dependent, always needing help, we’re helpless. These things intertwine. Example, when I’m sitting anywhere, recently I was sitting texting someone in front of a building and two people in a row stopped to ask if I needed help. I didn’t look helpless or perplexed non-verbally or make any eye contact. But, of course on the other hand, there is something beautiful about that we sometimes need help, we are interdependent. There is beauty in helping each other.

3) Sexuality: it is very pertinent. Pivotal to my life path. Disability and sex focus. The common notion that we are asexual and undesirable. This is a pervasive assumption in all aspects of culture. It is very politically disempowering. We need to be allies with queer people and people of color. This is a tool of oppression, sexuality; stigamatizing our sexuality is a form of dehumanization. It means we are regarded as nonhumans. This legitimizes all sorts of abuse, exclusion, and exploitation. PWD have at least a 2 times higher rate of experiencing sexual abuse than the non-disabled. For example many are abused by caregivers. You might have a choice. Have a care giver? Get a bath plus sexual abuse? Or, not have care, and turn our abuser in? The stereotype of asexuality exists. Sexual silence. It’s about anxiety-producing issues; disability and sexuality are both anxiety producing. Exclusion from media representation. Not including PWD in teaching materials. Public health intervention plans don’t include us. Think about culture beyond race and ethnicity. Beyond the glbtq axis.

Interweaving some of my narrative. As a young person I was born this way, nowhere was disability mentioned in any classroom space at all. No matter the subject. Maybe in the Holocaust’s history but not really. Certainly not in sex ed. The stereotype was that we were asexual and undesirable. I was using dialup internet so I was trying to find info on sexuality on the internet, when I was 16 or so. There is not a lot of information. Dr. Tepper, Sexual health network is inclusive, has disability info online. Practical methods. Cory has a sex shop in Canada: Come as you are, that has a disability section. How do you make sex toys accessible. Just mentioning this counters the stereotypes. Gaps have been filled a little bit. Have information about specifically disability and sex, but mention disability in everything – in basic sex ed.

Cory – There are sex toys that strap on to you and you don’t have to use your hands. We train our people to say, “This is so you don’t have to use your hands, if you don’t want to, or for people who can’t hold the sex toy.” If you say that to a non disabled customer they say, “What do you mean?” and it becomes an educational moment with just those three words “or who can’t”.

That’s a cheap revolution!

Three ideas how to include disabilities in your work. Have it represented, outreach to young people. Figure out where they are. Are they getting sex ed? What are their needs? Talk to stakeholders. We are providing you that space right now, you can ask us those questions. You can tailor your message in a way that’s competent and not offensive. In public health you can’t just tweak your program a tiny bit and not alienate the culture you’re trying to serve. As much as I hate the word “normal”, make people more comfortable with disability, make it normalized. Put in a wheelchair in your visual images.

Liz’s talk on sex, disability, and sex ed
Then, I gave my bit of the talk, which is basically outlined in these notes. Some bits of my talk are missing because I improvised and told stories. (“Whiskey, Vicodin, and hold me when I cry” was the money quote…) Some bits in my outline I didn’t go into in the talk.

Then, Jen Cole gave her part of the talk and described GimpGirl. She worked from a written speech which maybe she’ll put up on the site and if so, I’ll link to it. Here’s my notes on what she said, a bit shorter than my notes on Bethany’s talk.

Jen’s talk on GimpGirl

– We were young queer women with disabilities and started our group online 11 years ago. We met through the “do it” program at U of Washington, and all felt isolated. We’re not trained professionals. We’re just women with disabilities who care about our communities. No degrees or certifications. We make our community what we want it.

GimpGirl has meetings weekly, about a hodgepodge of topics: political advocacy, support group, staff meeting. We all come up with projects and start going on them.

– We generally have a smart sassy geeky spirit in common.

– We started on Serenity MOO, kind of like a MUD. We had email lists. Moved to LJ in 2003. It is easier to maintain than mailing lists. Young women, queer women, art and culture. We branched out into Second life, Facebook, and Twitter in 2008.

– 850 people, 265 members on LJ. From all over the world. This last year, we were donated a fourth of a SIM on 2nd life. 3d embodiment. Connecting people with disabilities to 2nd life. Second Life brought a huge wave of growth to our community. It brought opportunities we didn’t know we were going to go after. Started to bring in financial support. Professionals in a myriad of different fields wanted to be part of our community. Women, disability communities hooked up with us.

– Recently we tried bringing in partners of PWD to talk with us about sexuality and whatever comes up in relationships.

– Problem with Second life, it’s not very accessible to a large population. Some people can’t access, older computers, limited finances, blind, visual processing issues, we also have an IRC channel with a live relay that goes back and forth between 2nd life and IRC, so people with visual impairments can participate.

– Examples of what our community is about. Partners meeting. The next day the girls were like “how did it go!” and they were just super curious. We realized that they wanted to do a singles meeting about sexuality. That was cool to me as an organizer to see women do that.

– Our community isn’t about sexuality specifically. For 11 years, it comes up a lot in discussion and story telling. We have a lot of Q and A within our own community.

– specific and general information.

– accessible gynecologist list. Who people think is good and bad. Are their offices accessible? What parts are accessible and what parts aren’t? Are they treated like human beings? Can they get on the exam tables? This info is on our wiki at gimpgirl.com.

We then went into audience comments and discussion.

q: panel idea great. I work for a hotline program in Massachusetts, sexual health, mariatalks.com All info thru lenses of characters. Accurate information. How can we make sure community is well represented in all our characters? I was a PCA for a while, the woman I worked for had awful experience with exams, being lifted up, put on a table. ER with capabilites? How do we know where to send someone?

Bethany – first question. Going to the stakeholders. Reading books is great, you learn about the sexual politics of disability. Tom Shakespeare et al. But talking to people is good. It is your responsibility to be culturally competent in your area. Find a group. So it’s not based on stereotypes and uses contemporary language. That’s inclusive. For example, we’ve moved away from the word “handicapped”, so it would be a bad idea to use that word.

(Dr. Sandra Welder. Peg Nosick from Texas. Curriculum for health providers. CROWD: Center for Research on Women with Disabilities. )

Second life and IRC questions.

Information on safer sex practices for people with disabilities?

– not a lot out there. sexy harm reduction. Put on a condom with your mouth.
– Liz: this is a good subject for brainstorming.
– There is good information about safer sex for people with cognitive disabilities.

Resources on developmentally disabled.
Cory – there’s lots of stuff. This is the one area that has a ton of stuff out there.
(I agree, it was a topic easy to find material by googling!)
Terri Couwenhoven. Downs Syndrome is in the title of the book. Teaching Children with Downs Syndrome About Their Bodies, Boundaries, And Sexuality: A Guide For Parents And Professionals.)

The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability. Excellent guide! Cory started that project.

Technology. As a blogger – Is the blog medium effective for getting across a message?
Liz: Yes! Twitter and Facebook also. Blogs mean you can speak at length, and the information is persistent. And it is current. Personal voice. Story telling is effective. Age brackets – MySpace/Facebook, LJ, etc Look at the disability blog carnivals, and Ouch (BBC’s disability site and group blog).

Who’s talking.com google different topics.

50% of population with disabilities doesn’t have access to sex ed.

Title 10 clinics in California. We invested money into that, into access, and there still is not a large number of women being served. Where do we find women who need the services? how can I help facilitate the connection? We want women with disabilities to be on our advisory boards or boards of directors (but can’t find any)

A: Mailing lists. Blogs. Contact existing organizations. There are a lot. (Independent living centers too but I forgot to say that.)

A: Bethany adds (again) not to expect people with disabilities to work for you for free and be grateful for the opportunity.

Competencies – tragic stories, clinic with restroom wheelchair access, the contractor build a hallway too narrow to get to it.

People who might be on the board? The bay area is one of largest populations. So you should be able to find someone.
– berkeley disabled group. has a mailing list.
– D-WILD
– Ed Roberts Campus groups
– Etc!!

Bethany – Working at Morehouse school of medicine. General advice to read about it first before they ask the questions.

sexualhealth.com

Guy in hat. 2nd year medical student at ucsd in reproductive health. san diego. noticed that youth grow up, teen years, development and growing. It is a huge transition and growing. Doctors, children transition from seeing a pediatrician to adult medicine. Pediatricians are family focused. Adult medicine focuses on disease and a person. That change is really important, causes stress on a patient.

Bethany mentions Dr. mirian kaufman. transition care, sexuality and disability.

jen – this was what our non profit was about, transition between your family and family helping with things and transitioning to adulthood. you’re thrust out there into nothing. not a lot of support for how to transition. how to move out on your own? attendant care and health care.

We talk about people’s fear of giving PWD responsibility over their own health care.

Parents, caregivers, that want to protect that person with disability from becoming an adult, from experiencing their sexuality. it’s a huge issue.

The guy in the hat continues talking a couple of times about transition. Introduce physician early in teenage years. He is kind of repeating himself.

Bethany: This question as it keeps going is irritating to me. We continue to be viewed by that medical lens. Sure it’s important. But doctors do not dominate my life. We all deal with a transition plan. There should be services that help us because we do have to engage with the medical profession. However, that’s the one field where i’m NOT excluded! They want me there! Everywhere else I need some support! Medical expertise is just one facet.

Q: Physical accessiblity. I never see anyone who is disabled. Emotionally accessible. And, how can it be a safe space?

A: think of the glbt community , queer youth, tendency that we bring youth into our center, but we need to go outside our center to where they are, we need to bring community to them.

A: something like putting up a rainbow, disabled symbol?

A: In trans health – service providers often think they have never seen a trans person. But they probably have.

A: In questionnaires at our clinic, we haven’t had anyone who identifies with that population, as disabled.

aud – I have disability but can hide it. If I’m asked I don’t check that box. I don’t want to be seen through that lens necessarily and set off whatever will happen when I check that box.

aud: – thanks for talking about desire and sexuality as positive rather than something dangerous to be controlled. A lot of the panels this conference have been sex negative.

Other guy – curious about second life. Embodiment. How can you be embodied? Do you have to be able bodied?

A: Yes and no. The range of body types is not that varied. But people built wheelchairs and animations and other mods. If you go around in the mainstream world of 2nd life people will ask you a lot of questions about why you are in a wheelchair and why you would choose to represent yourself that way. They can be harassing or hostile.

Bethany: Everybody can fuck! It doesn’t matter what your body can do. We can have sex in all sorts of fun ways. Sex machines! Assistive devices! Expand the idea of pleasure and sexuality.

Now, about being inspirational! I should inspire you to have sex. If I can do it? You can do it!

(End of Panel)

I would like to add that despite our comments during the panel that you might want to pay people with disabilities to consult rather than expecting them to jump at the opportunity to work for you for free, three people approached me and asked me to do free work after this panel. They mean well and I respect that they want to be inclusive. I was not harsh about this in person, but actually, I feel a bit harsh on the subject. Some lady making like 90K a year working in public health? If her institute can’t afford to pay a consultant she can pay me or someone else with disabilities out of her own pocket to help her learn to do her job. I have a full time job and a complicated family life and I’m editing a book and, like, 6 blogs. It is a bit like, when women point out that technical conferences don’t have child care and then the conference organizers ask them to do the child care. Hello, if I’m doing the child care (for free no less) I won’t be participating in the technical conference will I? Pay for it, folks. Don’t exploit people because to you they look like the most exploitable people around.

Thanks to Cory Silverberg and Jen Cole for inviting me onto this panel! I confess I was sort of suspicious of Cory at first but he turned out more and more awesome over email and then incredibly awesome in person, I was sorry not to get to spend more time with him (and Bethany who I now adore). Jen and her partner and I went out to dinner and had a nice time; it was great to finally meet Jen who I have known online for a couple of years. I have to say also, SexTech was not a huge conference, maybe 300 to 500 people? But at this conference, in one afternoon, I saw and spoke with at least 8 people who were wheelchair users. At SXSW which was something like 5,000 or maybe way more people, there were 4 people in wheelchairs (more than I saw last time, and it felt amazing to me, but look what Sex Tech can do – I would like to challenge SXSWi to increase its outreach and invite more PWD to its conference.)

Related posts:

Ada Lovelace Day

I felt a little wistful as I thought over who to write about. I wished for a clear mentor or hero who I would have known about from childhood onward. Not many of us had that kind of computer science hero or even a childhood or teenage computer geek peer.

I admire the many women I know (or know of) who start organizations to give community and support to women programmers and geeks. People I admire from afar in Linuxchix: Val Anita Aurora for her excellent writing, Akkana Peck because I’m always stealing bits of her .bashrc file and I admire how she posts useful tidbits like that, Sulamita Garcia, Miriam Ruiz for being a developer also outspoken about sexism and misogyny. Desi from Devchix who not only is a leader in a great organization for women but who is such a good evangelist and teacher for Ruby on Rails (almost enough to tempt me away from Python and php). Angela Byron aka webchick who is so helpful and a great teacher for being involved with Drupal, too. All the women on linuxchix, ubuntuwomen, phpwomen, devchix, and Systers: you are my heroes!

Of developers I know, well, I don’t know that many. My co-worker Kirsten aka Perlgoddess, Kaity aka ubergeekchick (uberchicgeekchick on github) who writes and podcasts so thoughtfully about development and creativity, and skud aka Kirrily Robert who is a developer, a great blogger and good friend. My co-workers at BlogHer, Julie Douglas who taught herself php and Drupal, and Skye Kilaen who works with me on blog templates and problems (can debug a legacy Moveable Type template like nobody’s business!) and who runs All Access Blogging, which gives detailed step by step information on how to make various blogging platforms accessible to people with visual impairments. And my sister Laura, who as well as being a hilarious and fierce personal blogger who can express any emotion simply from inflecting the word “dude”, inspired me through sharing her 10 years of professional experience as a web developer in SEO, and by having more O’Reilly books about HTML, CSS, Java, and Javascript than I do, enough to make California slide off into the sea, and tackling the ever-shifting landscape of web dev head on no matter how much it makes a person just want to scream. And last but not least my fellow conspirator and BFF, Laura Quilter, whose expertise I depend on, running the back end of feministsf.org server, blog, mailing lists, and wikis.

Of other techy women I have worked with I would like to say a few things about women who either worked or learned from me. I look up to them too. Jasmine Davila, Olivia Given, Lark Baum all worked with me at the University of Chicago Lab Schools, doing web stuff, tech support on about 400 classroom and office Macs, twiddling with the servers, installing the physical wiring in tiny basement network closets and crawling through the ceilings wearing our headlamps, Flukes, and walkie talkies. They were so awesome. We all learned it on the fly, without any big attitude that we had to have a big attitude. We were not always pretending omniscience in a field where the range of things to know changes daily. We approached what we had to do as stuff to learn. That still inspires me a lot! I include in this category my mom, Karen Henry, who began asking me questions about the Internet in about 1994 and who ended up teaching classes on email, gopher, databases, and the early Web as a business and science reference librarian at the Houston Public Library.

Obviously I love and admire social media leaders and thinkers like Tara Hunt, all the women of She’s Geeky and BlogHer, but there are too many to list! All my co-workers, the bloggers on our site and in our network, all the social media experts and technophiles, I am honored to get to be part of these networks of thousands of women. And to all the relentlessly intelligent bloggers I know from blogging, feminism, and science fiction fandom like Tempest, Jen Cole and Aleja Ospina, Karen Healy (Girls Read Comics) and Robyn Fleming (Cerise and The Iris Gaming Network), Strata Chalup, SJ from I, Asshole, Sarah Dopp, and Debbie Notkin, thank you for putting your words out there.

For anyone who has ever sat down with me to hack on some code or who has made any sort of public technical blog post with code in it, I feel a deep sense of sisterhood and am very, very happy to know you. It is both sad and inspiring but every woman I have ever spoken to in person about coding, even the people I think of as light years ahead of me in knowledge and experience, has expressed feeling like they are not hackery enough to really “count”. As if in every thing we do has we have to prove our perfect technical competence for the honor of all womanhood. I try to fight this feeling in myself. Let’s keep fighting it and put more of our work out there even if it’s not “good enough” or done. And let’s keep supporting each other’s work and using peer mentoring and pair programming as much as we can!

(post for Ada Lovelace Day pledge organized by Suw Charman. Thanks Suw!)

Related posts:

Talking at ETech this Thursday: DIY for People with Disabilities

I’m going to be speaking at ETech in a couple of days about technology, culture, and disability/access invention. I’m all fizzy with enthusiasm and can’t wait to give the talk and see what people about afterwards!


ETech Conference 2009

If you’re curious, Here’s the talk description, and I’ll put slides up on Thursday or Friday.

Wheelchairs aren’t any more complicated than bicycles, but they cost a ridiculous amount of money. They shouldn’t. Neither should other simple accessibility and mobility equipment. In the U.S., people with disabilities who need adaptive devices depend on donations, charitable agencies, insurance, and a corrupt multi-billion dollar industry that profits from limiting access to information.

With a cultural shift to a hardware DIY movement and the spread of open source hardware designs, millions of people could have global access to equipment design, so that people with disabilities, their families, and their allies can build equipment themselves, and have the information they need to maintain and repair their own stuff.

Since we can’t all do it ourselves or weld our own chairs, we also should encourage a different mindset for the industry. You can’t stand up all day at your desk, but you don’t need a doctor to prescribe you a $6000 office chair. A consumer model rather than a medical and charity model for mobility aids would treat wheelchairs simply as things that we use to help us get around, like cars, bikes, or strollers.

Small assistive devices such as reacher/grabbers, page turners and book holders, grip extenders, can be made with bits of rubber tubing, PVC pipe, and tools as simple as box cutters and duct tape. Rather than obsess over impossible levels of healthiness and longevity, we need to change people’s expectations of how they will deal with changing physical limitations. Popularizing simple designs, and a DIY attitude for mobility and accessibility gear, will encourage a culture of invention that will be especially helpful to people as they age.

This will be my first O’Reilly conference. No, wait, it won’t, I went to a huge impersonal scary Perl conference in about 1998, as a somewhat lonely programmer and the founder of Orange County Perl Mongers. But that’s another story. What I want to say here is, I really liked the O’Reilly conference registration site. It let me make my own profile and control it, rather than emailing a bio and info 12 months ahead of time. It lets me see all the other speakers and attendees, which is hugely important for me so that I can picture where I’m going to, how comfortable or hostile an environment it will be, whether I know *anyone* else there, how my talk will fit in with other talks, and so on; it helps to emphasize that people are the map. There are even social network features so that I am coming into the conference “friended” with a bunch of people and able to message back and forth with them. It is all very slick and very useful to me.

A conference is a social event. It makes sense to build social media around it.

Related posts:

SCALE conference: Women in Open Source

I heard about this conference, the Southern California Linux Expo, only because they have a Women in Open Source track. It showed up on my Google Alerts and on several of my mailing lists. Here’s their call for proposals to give talks.

Since I’ve never been to the conference I wondered what kind of talks they’ve had in the past. How can I know what to propose, otherwise? Or if what I might talk about would be useful (or hard core enough) to their participants?

I went looking to see what the past Women in Open Source tracks were like. Here’s the schedule for SCALE 2008, with links to the talks and participants. I would have gone to the Education panel, the long spam-fighting talk, community manager talk, open source mentoring talk, Building Websites with Drupal, and the women in open source panel discussion. The 2008 BOF schedule was posted too. I might have liked the EC2 and the MySQL groups! In 2007, there was a Women in Open Source mini-conference or track.

It is not so much that the topics are different in the years before there was a Women in Open sorce focus, but the fact they have bothered to take steps to show women’s participation makes me feel much more certain the conference will be interesting and I won’t feel out of place.

It’s nice to see someone doing it right.

If you miss OSCON because you’ll be at BlogHer in July, this looks like a good conference to go to!

Related posts:

HP Magic Giveaway entries so far

Here’s a sampling of the entries I’ve gotten, two days into the HP Magic Giveaway contest:

A bunch of folks commented on a review of the G1 Android phone. I am still wondering why there isn’t a pedometer app! But there are lots of other ones I asked for, like a simple compass and a geocaching app.

On that post, briguy992 wants me to be happy that the Android system’s background is fabulous. Most of the time yes, I agree. But when I’ve tried to kill a process I can’t! Despite how cool the G1 is, it’s not some kind of miracle device that manages its memory perfectly, or never crashes. In fact I have to restart it fairly often.
So I don’t agree with briguy992 that what I should do is “ignore that feeling it’s not ‘closed’ “. Actually, I think that’s very condescending advice! It is not like I’m just having a superstitious “feeling” like someone who can’t deal with having multiple tabs open. It’s that I’d like to be able to control my computer. Wouldn’t you rather have root on your G1 so you could screw it up thoroughly? 😉 Or go looking for some kind of kill program or task manager?

While I was looking for something like this, I did find out that holding down the home key for 5 seconds shows the 6 most recent open apps. I have a terminal window, I can type ps -x, therefore, I should be able to type kill -9 and have it work! But no. I’d also like the apps written with the option to close them! So, briguy992’s comment made me think, but also totally annoyed me, so in the spirit of this blog, I have to give him hell. That’s just how I roll!

A bunch of people commented on my long complaint about how mad I get in airports while travelling with a wheelchair. Disabled or not, lots of folks notice the dehumanizing treatment that goes along with air travel. Of course it is not just air travel or airports; it’s any big institution whose power goes unchecked by the people it (in theory) serves.

* S. Bear Bergman started a whole different conversation from thinking about diversity training issues. He asked his readers to undergo the cruel discipline of Twitter (or, to enter 140 character thoughts into a form on LJ) some short, crucial concepts on being trans. A bunch of people, including Kate Bornstein, responded! Now, that’s a cool sparky cascading result to this contest!

* Amanda’s comment about her brother being treated like a pre-schooler in a social group for people with disabilities was touching and made me boiling mad. That is the treatment most older people get in nursing homes and assisted living and it’s what a lot of people with disabilities get too. Hello to Amanda’s brother, and I wonder what he would say to what I wrote?

There is a very long interesting comment with good links, by Digital, over on “Highly trained girl-monkey sys admin bait“. She points out that it takes strong communities to make a climate where our stories win out over the acceptance of sexist ones, and links to the Anita Borg Institute. Well, I have to agree. I’ve been part of the Systers email list for years and am very happy to work for BlogHer, which was just honored with the Anita Borg Social Impact Award!

I look forward to more amazing comments! To everyone I haven’t yet mentioned… I’m reading your comments and blog posts, too! Thanks for your comments and thanks for reading.

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In Celebration of Bitchitude

Hat tip to Jo Freeman, aka Joreen, who in the 70s wrote The Bitch Manifesto. I love this manifesto, and reprinted it in the 90s as a xerox booklet which I sent out over the riot grrl zine network. Later I read Jo Freeman’s more academic writing and found her to be an academic writer I could admire wholeheartedly; she’s right up there with Joanna Russ and Dale Spender. Her books on politics and the history of feminism are incredibly great. I recommend her newest book, We Will Be Heard: Women’s Struggles for Political Power in the United States if you are feeling politically inspired by the elections and want to keep your momentum going. On her website, you can read the full text of many of Jo Freeman’s articles on women, feminism, law, and politics. I talk about this sort of thing a lot: The Sexual Politics of Interpersonal Behavior; it is so nice to read it written up formally and coherently. Take a look!

I greatly respect that Freeman acknowledges her pseudonymous younger self, and her fierce & harsh manifesto, and doesn’t keep that side of her life in the closet.

Jo Freeman

The Bitch Manifesto still inspires me. Here’s part of its beginning:

Bitches have some or all of the following characteristics.

1) Personality. Bitches are aggressive, assertive, domineering, overbearing, strong-minded, spiteful, hostile, direct, blunt, candid, obnoxious, thick-skinned, hard-headed, vicious, dogmatic, competent, competitive, pushy, loud-mouthed, independent, stubborn, demanding, manipulative, egoistic, driven, achieving, overwhelming, threatening, scary, ambitious, tough, brassy, masculine, boisterous, and turbulent. Among other things. A Bitch occupies a lot of psychological space. You always know she is around. A Bitch takes shit from no one. You may not like her, but you cannot ignore her.

2) Physical. Bitches are big, tall, strong, large, loud, brash, harsh, awkward, clumsy, sprawling, strident, ugly. Bitches move their bodies freely rather than restrain, refine and confine their motions in the proper feminine manner. They clomp up stairs, stride when they walk and don’t worry about where they put their legs when they sit. They have loud voices and often use them. Bitches are not pretty.

3) Orientation. Bitches seek their identity strictly thru themselves and what they do. They are subjects, not objects. They may have a relationship with a person or organization, but they never marry anyone or anything; man, mansion, or movement. Thus Bitches prefer to plan their own lives rather than live from day to day, action to action, or person to person. They are independent cusses and believe they are capable of doing anything they damn well want to. If something gets in their way; well, that’s why they become Bitches. If they are professionally inclined, they will seek careers and have no fear of competing with anyone. If not professionally inclined, they still seek self-expression and self-actualization. Whatever they do, they want an active role and are frequently perceived as domineering. Often they do dominate other people when roles are not available to them which more creatively sublimate their energies and utilize their capabilities. More often they are accused of domineering when doing what would be considered natural by a man.

It’s nice to read this, to remember & honor my own bitchy moments for what they often are: strength. I think it’s good for all of us to honor our bitchiest sisters. Go ahead and think of the most annoying bitch you know. Measure her up to Freeman’s manifesto and consider what in her is admirable and powerful. It’s a good thing to keep in mind when you might be tempted to tear someone down. There’s nothing wrong with being a nice person; I strive for it myself — and still, for me, Bitchy is Beautiful and Bitchy is Powerful.

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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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Every day is Men’s Day

At BlogHer, when Jocelyn Harmon from Marketing for Nonprofits stood up during the keynote panel to ask Carol Jenkins how we can make stories, and news, and politics, more complicated around race, gender, and class, there were women cheering all over the room.

BlogHer DC BlogHer DC

Now, we didn’t get deep into that subject but I also didn’t hear what usually happens when you say that in a room full of white folks, which is someone stands up and goes “But shouldn’t we all just be colorblind? I don’t see race.” (If you are thinking “what’s wrong with that?” you can start at Angry Black Woman’s post, Things you need to understand #5: Color Blindness.) So I was really, really happy that at BlogHer, we could raise the issue without an immediate defensive racist backlash. Instead a somewhat diverse room full of women *listened* to two women of color talk with each other about the difficulties of everyday racism in media. About not wanting to have to choose a side, or choose an identity. That was a good moment!

Then at the cocktail party I was sitting across from this dude. And hey, it’s a cocktail party and we’re all drinking Cosmos and talking smack. I believe I was outlining a new world order in which we would all get to take turns having sex with Jon Stewart. (Would he satirize the sex during the sex? Or wait till after?) But we were also talking about the rise of mom blogging, the way we love it that people mix up their “topics” and blog about their lives and eclectic interests AND politics. That in the mainstream media story, you are a soccer mom or whatever, and that’s that. But in our world in the blogosphere, we know, more and more, that we have many roles in life. We’re moms or daughters or sisters or knitters or we love to shop for shoes or talk about marketing, but we ALSO have valid political opinions. We are black or white or Latina or Jewish or multiracial, AND we are women, AND we have all these interests and roles and jobs and experiences. In our world, we acknowledge the multifacted nature of ourselves and of all the people we might meet. For me, I don’t even sit across from another middle aged lady on the bus without assuming they have a complicated identity. Sometimes I like to imagine the blog-identity, the internal world and speaking voice, of all the people but especially the women, around me in daily life.

In this middle of this conversation, our intrepid BlogHim, one of the 5 guys at a conference of 300 women, got me all prickled up. He wanted to question the mere fact of having a BlogHer conference, a tech conference meant for women. He warned us he was about to be non-politically correct, in other words, he wanted to try to piss us off. “So, ladies, what about the men? And what about the white men? What I’m saying here is that I can’t be hiring someone and say to my managers, “I really want to hire this white man because he brings a unique and diverse perspective to our product group.” I can’t say that. And that’s just not fair.” There was a sort of pause around the table as we all assessed our level of ability to Deal with this asshattery in the moment, pushing our Cosmotinis out of mind and whipping up some serious coherence, without causing a Scene. I understood that the guy was just trying to get a rise. He was trolling us. And he was doing it with a layer of faux irony and friendliness, so getting mad in response was socially difficult. Yet it was such a stunning example of male privilege and white privilege that I can’t let it pass.

So, I told Mr. What-About-The-Menz a brief story. Here it is.

When I was a kid, about 10 or 11 probably, I remember asking my mom, “There’s Mothers’ Day, and Fathers’ Day, and even Grandparents’ Day. How come there’s no Kids’ Day? It’s not fair!” My mom shot me a really dirty go-to-hell-you-idiot look and went, “EVERY DAY IS KIDS’ DAY.”

Here is the bit of the story I didn’t mention:

I remember suddenly getting what my mom meant, and thinking about everything she did for me and my sister, and how her life basically revolved around listening to us, playing with us, taking care of us, feeding us, supporting us and planning for our future, getting us to school, taking us to the library and piano lessons; our comfort and well-being. A hot flush of shame came over me as I thought about how all the things that were done for me, I was not really appreciating, but took for granted. Like, that wasn’t enough? I want a tiara and a pony too on top of it? Ouch. My mom’s moment of sarcasm and snark was a good educational moment for me. I GOT IT.

I think that telling the first part of that story was an okay response. It quickly made my point which is that he is blind to his everyday white male privilege.

And as described very well in the article I linked to above on male privilege — the instant that men are not the center of attention and the norm, they feel like it’s an *attack*.

The other thing I did was not look at the guy. I continued with all my body language to focus on my sister bloggers at the table. And that helped us to shift the conversation off of the guy, and back onto what we wanted to talk about. Doing this was a conscious effort. I recommend it highly for those moments when your conversation with a group of women is hijacked by a braying jackass who assumes that women owe him every second of their respect and attention. Pay attention to the women. Pay attention to the women in the microcosm of conversation, and in the bigger picture of the blogosphere.

Then, a bunch of us told the guy that he was really lucky to be in a context where he got to experience not being the default normal. He gets to hear conversations and interactions he wouldn’t hear otherwise. What do techy, writerly, blogging women talk about when they’re framing the conversation themselves and not being told what’s important by an array of expert men? What’s it like to be at a tech conference where you’re one of 5 of your gender there, and it’s very noticeable? That’s a rare experience for guys in social media. A bunch of us said that. With a helpful smile.

In short, a table full of women told him, very politely and obliquely, to shut up and listen. If only for one day. I don’t think he got it.

As is so often true, I saw a bunch of women soft-pedal their responses to a guy. And then immediately afterwards (and in fact a day later over IM with others) they all went “OMG, what a jackass.” Again, I felt sorry for guys who are that way, because they don’t have any reality check. I’m calling out the behavior, and point it out, not to be mean to this one dude. In fact, I give him credit for coming to a women’s conference and giving it a shot. I don’t expect him to learn and process every bit of it at once. On the other hand, I can’t let those kinds of statement pass without a mention.

I had no wish to get into a giant discussion of the idea of affirmative action at that moment. But I could do it on this blog.

What would you have said to him “in the moment”? What would you say now, online, with time to think it over and express yourself clearly, to a guy who described his wish to hire white men for their diverse perspective?

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Who are we women bloggers?

We know where we are. But who are we? What are we as a group? Are we a thing? Are we a group?

This might sound weird from a feminist anarchist geek. But I had an epiphany at work during a marketing meeting.

Gina, our head of sales, was trying to describe to the rest of us what it’s like to explain blogging to Fortune 500 company ad executives. They’re used to putting people in demographics, and defining types of people who they recognize as categories. There are understandable archetypes like “soccer mom”. There are “communities”. The companies know that things can be viral and that online advertising is the way to go and that blogs are cool. But how to explain what we are? Who we are? Why we’re powerful? Why we’re not a fad?

Digression: At the first couple of BlogHer conferences I was not convinced that the conference sponsorships were a good idea. They didn’t sway me. I felt marketed-to in a way that wasn’t quite comfortable, or that felt slightly off. I wondered why it wasn’t like other tech conferences, other blogging conferences. Why because we were women, didn’t more big tech advertisers or companies come to us and sponsor us? Where were Apple and Microsoft trying to sell us laptops or giving us cool schwag – after all, we were hard core bloggers and geeks enough to go to a blogging conference.

And yet, the conference was fabulous, and I felt that even the companies who didn’t get it, I had some respect for them just for showing up and putting up some cash. Maybe we were an experiment. They were trying to get in on this rumored wave of online stuff even if they didn’t know how. This year, things were different. There were insane levels of corporate sponsorship, but the way it was done mostly didn’t feel odd or wrong or presumptive that all women were a certain way. It felt like they were *getting it*. I didn’t feel alienated. I was charmed. While it was strange to be having a KY sponsored party in Macy’s lingerie department while drinking chocolate vodka and eating cookies, there was no way not to be charmed by the strangeness and by the free 1GB flash drives. Rather than showering us with glossy, expensive brochures we would just throw away, they put their product ads on flash drives that we’d find useful. That gave me a warmer feeling than the cayenne in the hot chocolate vodka. (Despite the perturbing heteronormativity of the lube’s his and her packaging, which gossip I will repeat that hippietastically we had asked them to offset with equal amounts of her and her packaging but the ball got dropped somewhere.) It was smart marketing to women who love their computers – whose computers are important parts of their lives. Same with the clever presence of PBS Kids. They gave out stuff that you’d actually want to give to your kid – again with the flash drives, this time as bracelets. Mood rings. Stickers. Comic books. And even if you didn’t have a kid, you were a kid once, and might like to see Grover and Grover’s puppeteer in person in the studio that PBS set up inside our conference. iRobot had demos and a raffle for Roombas, and also sponsored a latte cart. How civilized is that — don’t just market to me: make me *like you*. Free lattes at a place that I was fairly desperate for nicer-than-hotel-coffee was smart.

That’s very different from the old wave of internet advertising and marketing, the clumsy approaches that feel like this: We guess who you are, without listening. Then we tell you why you’re interested in this thing. Then we beg you to blog about it. Then we measure our success by click-throughs.

Think of radio advertisements. A sponsor takes a ball game, something that people want to have. And says, “Hey. We’re cool like this. We love baseball. We make Blahdeblah Product. We’re helping it be so that you get to hear this baseball game on the radio.” Internet ads need to be more like that. Radio advertisers didn’t have little implants in our brains that gave them precise metrics of whether we *that second* turned our eyeballs to look at a Blahdeblah Product. Instead, they banked on our experential happiness, our participation and investment in the ball game. We’d have a good feeling about the game and our enjoyment, and associate them with it, like a friend. Instead, bad net marketing grabs your head, forces it into a vise clamp and makes you look away from the game and at them while you fill out their survey. It’s intrusive and untrusting, essentially unfriendly.

What I realized during our meeting: we aren’t a consumer demographic. We aren’t the metrics. We aren’t defined by what we consume in the mental model of 20th century markets. We’re cultural producers. Through our blogs, we have open, mass access to the means of production. We’re unmediated and unfiltered, if we want to be. We’re also banding together to control how we’re mediating and filtering. A big medical company might try to hire writers to tell their “true stories” of being moms with cancer. But they would never hit the grass roots authenticity of Motherswithcancer.wordpress.com. I can read that site and completely trust that it’s not the zombie brainchild of Big Pharma. I read BlogHer and trust that, while it’s got ads on it and (now) big corporate sponsors, it’s not a department store mannequin’s version of “what women want”. It’s what women actually got together and said they wanted to do. It’s not a marketing category.

We are something new, a category not quite defined but still coalescing, something like Bluestockings or the French revolutionary feminists who ran their own newspapers in the 1830s. But unlike those tightly knit salons of intellectuals, we are a mass movement, a populist movement, with plenty of muscle and — collectively — economic power. We are not quite like what some people are trying to define us as:

* “the Association of University Women, who also shop”
* “the white 30-something soccer moms who write cutesily about only diapers”
* “men with boobs and social skills, who influence their network of friends”
* “sort of like journalists, but with no self esteem and you don’t have to pay them”
* “computer geeks lite, who want a pink iPhone” (okay, maybe that one)

Or whateverall they seemed to think we were.

What we are: a mass social movement of women who are moving into the public sphere. We are not depending on authority to tell us what or who we are. If we don’t fit into a demographic or a marketing category, that doesn’t mean we don’t get a public voice. We are redefining “what women are” in our society and the shifting marketing and ad markets are evidence that our redefinition is being heard. Publishers can say “Your story is too harsh. It’ll alienate readers. Change it. Your main character can’t be a black woman. Write about something else. That story about your special needs child is too depressing. ” Sure, they can say it – and they do. We tell those stories anyway and find they are deeply wanted and needed by other women.

We’re more like the women of the 1800s who started to be able to make a living from their writing. (Though men generated an enormous backlash against them and trivialized their work as being from a pack of scribbling women… babblers and amateurs who appeal to the crude taste of the masses and are not Literary Enough (for… what exactly?).) Have we hit critical mass, finally, with blogging? Can we end run capitalist patriarchy? Are we successfully changing it as it co-opts us?

Older feminists are standing back in a mildly skeptical way. Oh yes, we’ve heard this before, now is really the moment when we can all tell our stories, across class and race and gender and all barriers, and our histories won’t be lost. Right. We’ve never heard *that* one before. I really believe it’s true this time. We have to fight to keep it true, and to keep control and power in the hands of regular people, accessible to everyone. Keep that access to the means of production, cultural production, out there, and keep spreading it.

And by that I mean things as simple as: fight your local library not to block MySpace from their public access computers.

I also felt this deeply at the Global Voices Summit in Budapest. The technology is to the point where mobile phone are ubiquitous in developing countries. A protest happens a country’s mainstream media can’t cover it because of censorship or a threatening political environment, and yet videos go up on YouTube. Fighting for universal access to a decentralized Internet is crucial to our future, and all areas of this fight need to tie together and be allies.

So who are we and what are we? Women who are speaking, who are consumers who talk, sort of like journalists, sort of like authors; we are conscious, individually and, more and more, collectively, of our power to speak and be seen in the world of public discourse. We have jobs and we’re in public, we’re out of the domestic sphere, but our thoughts, the way we’re framed in public conversations, in the media, isn’t yet all the way out of the domestic sphere. My point is that we are no longer containable by old style media. We aren’t an elite of “influencers” to be courted and co-opted. We’re journalists who write about who we are, not what we’re told to write, like a million mommy-blogging Hunter S. Thompsons writing The Curse of Lono instead of their assigned sports article.

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