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.


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?!?

3 thoughts on “Ubuntu "Girlfriend Experiment" PHAIL

  1. You might be pleased to hear, Liz, I recently moderated a Blogging Basic panel and used “father/grandfather” as the ease-of-use example…with a completely straight face.

    You know what, no one batted an eye. Which perhaps indicates unfortunate ageism (as I’m sure Ronni Bennett would point out.)

  2. A recent New York Times article, “What Has Driven Women Out of Computer Science?”, may provide an explanation for your observation of the continued gendered view of technology comprehension. Since the origins of the study of computer science c. 1970, the rises and falls of entrances into cs programs has been shared equally between the sexes. However, from 1990 — when attention was brought to the existing gender gap — the number of women entering cs programs has essentially flat-lined while the number of entering men has grown and fallen with the late 1990s technology boom.

    The Times article lists several theories to explain this irregularity, though none provides a sufficient answer. The emergence of the male-gaming culture may have scared women from the cs field, but it did not scare women from gaming in general. I remember reading (though I can not seem to find the source) that the proportion of women engaged in on-line gaming is now greater than that of men. Assuming that particular game types appeal to one gender over another is the purvey of marketing. The attribution of “nerd” or “geek” to cs students may also have drew women away from the cs field, but the late ’90s technology boom amended those perceptions to include “wealth”. In addition, after several major science-fiction and fantasy films (e.g. the Matrix, and the Lord of the Rings) the perception of “geek” and “nerd” was amended to include “mainstream.” Women would not fear such titles as amended more than men.

    As such, there must be another explanation for the cs program gender gap. My personal supposition involves the modern cult of the so-called “technorati.” The application of technology is perceived as a closed study. Those not initiated into its secrets have little hope to understand them without the organized training the university provides. Enterprising individuals, inspired by existing luminaries in the field, can be driven to lean the discipline through individual study. However, there are few female cs “super stars” (none that I can name offhand anyway). The lack of gender-role models may influence that cs program gender gap. Women considering entering cs fields at universities may also be influenced by the lack of female cs role-models. It is likely that none of their professors would be women.

    From a cursory review, the modern gender gap in college computer science majors appears to me to be a product of the continuing gender imbalance of university faculty, emphasized particularly in the field of computer science.

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