People I met at BlogHer; and the swag

Here is a giant bigass post with links to all the people I met at Blogher. It was often a blur of meeting people who recognized me because I am recognizable with the purple hair and all. But then I would forget their names unless they had badges on or I already knew them from long conversations from previous years. And then people who I sort of know or felt like I should know better than I actually remember knowing. And already it’s been a week since the conference, so I’ve forgotten what were at the time very cool connections. YOU KNOW HOW IT GOES. (Talking to someone 5 minutes secretly thinking omg who are you who are you i totally know who you are but your hair is different now until it clicks, thank god because I often can’t fess up that I don’t know.) Sometimes, I was smart, and made a note on the business card of what we talked about and what I intended to do as a result. “email to her Sondra’s info” or “damn this guy is pushy” or whatever.

What I really want is for all these fabulous geeky women to come to BarCampBlock in Palo Alto, August 18-19. Come! I’m helping to organize it! Sign up on the wiki, on upcoming.org, on the Facebook group, and/or on EventBrite. Also, I’d like to see them all again at She’s Geeky in October, — Oct 22-23 in Mountain View!

First and perhaps illogically the people I already know. My amazing roommates at the W, SJ of I, Asshole who I have known online since my first days of blogging. And her friend Shauny whose name I only knew peripherally from years of seeing it in SJ’s sidebar as her web host and I think blog-mother — Shauna who is like a rock of sanity and interestingness and I could just wait for the next hilarious sarcastic thing to come out of her mouth. And I love SJ’s business card: “Generous Lover + Writer + Dope Bitch / Super Jive at your Service”. This year, we refrained from the secret topless photos of last year, but I could not help down-blousing her a couple of times. Someday the world will be properly at her feet. She will be like Molly Ivins, except boozier and dirtier.

Blogher

Annalee Newitz from Techsploitation and I hung out a lot. We did at SXSWi as well. There’s a funny balance at conferences between hanging out with new people and hanging with people you already know who are from your hometown. You want to be around the people you already know, and connect up with them because you don’t see them enough. But on the other hand if you do that too much you never meet anyone new! And then I’ll go through a process of thinking “Oh well if I want to see Mary then I can just call her the hell up, why don’t I?” and vowing to call her when I get back home. But with Annalee, because we know each other so well, it’s like being in a warm bath. So when I get overwhelmed by conference or need to process it all with someone super safe, you will find me texting the shit out of Annalee with “Where r u” until we meet up and can hang out and relax. I was super happy she came to BlogHer, and so proud to hear her being smart and articulate as hell at the keynote with Esther Dyson and Rashmi Sinha. Anyway, it’s a long way since the days when she would go “Blogging? Why! Full of drama! Just be a professional journalist and get paid!” And she kicks so much ass! And so I was happy to see her see that BlogHer is one of those places you can be all the parts of yourself at once, asskicking, geeky, and human. I really liked what she said about BlogHer; I feel the same way, and this sums it right up.

There were tomboys, mommies, punks, tarts, ladies, bitches, nerds, and girls. There were professional women in suits and perfect hair, and grubby rockabilly gals in tattoos and tight dresses.

Because so many of us were there, we stopped being women and just became humans. This is an incredibly rare experience in the tech industry.

I have three different cards from Mur Lafferty. I am totally going to stick my tentacles into Mur’s brain. We could not talk for more than 30 seconds without shrieking “NO! I must see that! Send me the link!” I vote her Person I Most Want to Be New BFF With. I will let her ride my bike, and chop the hair off all my Barbies, and post in my group blogs, and and and. I will also buy a “Mur’s Bitch” tshirt and wear it with pride. I wish I had spent more time just following Mur around, and especially with laptops open and the links flying, but the hanging out we did do was so nice it felt like we had known each other forever.


Possibly the nicest down time at the conference, me, Annalee, Barb Dybwad, Mur (whose novel thing you can find at Heaven seasons 1, 2 and 3, Gina, Jason from Lulu.tv, Marshall, and then later SJ, Shauna, and Susie. Beer in the sink! Computers at hand (but no good wireless)! Pizza on the floor! Conversation flying! Screaming laughter!

Onwards!

I hung a bit with Beth Kanter, whose blogging I admire and who is just Fun. She laid a whole bunch of stuff on me at my request about blogging and wikis and nonprofits and in fact she has some enormous wiki squirrelled away that explains it ALL. I will link to that and write it up separately when I have spare brain cells. Amusingly… one of her Moo cards was a photo I took of her lying on the floor upskirting me at the FIRST BlogHer. Yes we are very very rowdy when you take 95% of the men away. Women’s tech conferences are like a huge frat party but with more giggling and craft projects and light flirting. Just as you always suspected, guys!

I talked a bit (never enough!) with Dave Coustan and I’m linking to him even if it is a link to his benign corporate overlords. He is “extraface” on twitter if you want his personal life. And surely some of you do!

I hung out with my homie and fellow Woolfcamper Jen Scharpen, who works now for BlogHer Ads and for BlogHer itself!

And ended up with a card for Beth Blecherman who I know from meeting the Silicon Valley Moms Blog folks! Jill Asher was at the conference too I think, but I don’t remember seeing her. OMG maybe she changed her hair and I *did* talk with her and she’s one of the people I should totally know and yet only have met in person twice. I also don’t know Beth super well, but always enjoy talking with her!

Deb Roby – I do not have her card on me, but know where to find her! We sat across each other at dinner one night at the W hotel and had a grand old time with the gossip.

Georgia Popplewell from Global Voices and Caribbean Free Radio, someone I’d like to know better, and didn’t get that heart to heart talk with, but at some point I know we’ll do that! Oh, she’s fantastic!

You see the problem with BlogHer. It is full of amazing people to the point to where your head explodes. If you love to talk with
smart, clueful geeks and writers, it’s like being a kid in a candy shop.

Laurie White of Laurie Writes. We talked at dinner at the W about education and community college teaching and social class. I was trying to recommend the book “A Framework for Understanding Poverty” by Ruby K. Payne to Laurie. This is my reminder to do that! Or maybe she’ll vanity-technorati and find this and will make a note of it. Also, you should all buy it and read it. It’s a very good explanation of social class and of its hidden rules, and ways to translate culturally between classes.

Karen from Trollbaby/Vodkarella was so much fun at sushi… We and Queen Tureaud aka Erin (whose blog name for her kid is, get this, Queen Peanut Punk as Fuck) and whose writing I also read with interest elsewhere, Anyway my point was we were eating sushi and drinking sake and joking massively about bi-curious mommyblogger dynamics. I know what you are thinking … when do these blogging chicks NOT talk about sex? I’m not sure but not when I’m around that’s for sure. Seriously though, Karen rocks, and I am still very appreciative of the great blog redesign she did for me!

Okay, that is the people I already knew reasonably well, or at least the ones whose cards are right in front of me.

More later of all the other people, but this post is already way too long.

Just one more thing.

SWAG! The best stuff I got at BlogHer was the bags, as usual. The glowing martini glass entertained me for a while. And the AOL memory stick was also nice and made me feel warm and fuzzy, but I left it in a geocache at breakfast yesterday. Tiny hand mirrors and a couple of magnets, also good, and they’ll stick around rather than being thrown away. So I am left with some stickers and flyers, and the main tote bag, and the awesome AOL body (?) laptop bag. I don’t know what AOL body means, and don’t care, but I think kindly of them in a general way now, instead of hating them for the litter of “free online access” CDs that infested the world some years back. The cocktail party food at the Childrens’ Museum party rocked. That stuff was delicious!

Someone’s missing out big time on the geeky-slogan tshirt selling opportunity, and the fact that everyone wants to mod up and decorate their laptops, and have a fancy unique laptop bag. I also agree with Lisa Williams that if they’re going to give us hand lotion, which I like perfectly well by the way, it should have LEDs in it. YES. Just throw some girly shit at us, like laptop bags that look like robotic parts with rivets, AND sparkles, or light up hand lotion with a control panel, or futuristic star trek salt and pepper shakers that also have GPS in them. Ipod cases, etc. We are GEEKS and like gadgets, and little thingies to decorate gadgets, and useful things to put things into, at BlogHer!

I wonder how many tiny cute laptops and iphones Apple would have sold if they had set up something at BlogHer? What do you think?

Tools, also. Tools and gadgets that are cute and portable. I am thinking of how Radio Shack had a table at Maker Faire, and was selling fabulous small toolkits for 10 bucks. I bought one for the trunk of my car. NOW when I am trapped in an earthquake on the highway I will not only have moldering powerbars and boxes of raisins and bandaids! I will also have a full set of wrenches!

Cars were a really good idea too at BlogHer 2006. I bought a car last year, and I hated the process with white hot blinding passion and I had to deal with slobbering sexist jerks at the car dealership.

I’ll write more later or tomorrow as this is part 1 of at least 3 posts on BlogHer. Part 2 will be the other people I met. Part 3 will be the panels I was on and that I went to! No wait. I need Part 4 for the Unconference in which I talked about wikis for like 6 hours. That’s it, peace, out.

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Women in Open Source

Women in Open Source – at SCALE in LA next weekend. Stormy Peters, Jean T. Anderson, Strata Chalup, Celeste Paul, Bdale Garbee, Randi Harper, and Dru Lavigne.

The Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) will host a Women in Open Source Event as part of their upcoming 2007 conference, SCALE 5x.

The focus of this event is on the women in the open source and free software communities. The goal of this event is to encourage women to use technology, open source and free software, and to explore the obstacles that women face in breaking into the technology industry. The Women in Open Source event will be held on February 9, 2007 at the Los Angeles Airport Westin Hotel.
Time

I’m so tempted to go…I could probably get a plane ticket and fly down there and back the same day. Or, Strata said she could put me up in her hotel room if going back and forth on the same day would be too exhausting.

Liveblogging from "She's Such a Geek" reading

I’m at Modern Times bookstore on Valencia in San Francisco & we’re all being extremely geeky. Passing around this strange blobby white musical toy with spikey shapes… Giggling about the perils of installing LaTeX on one’s Macbook… Me and Corie and Ellen and Cynthia decided that instead of the Geek Hierarchy we should create a Geek Matrix (keeping in mind that “matrix” means “womb”… and not-necessarily-hierarchical network) with different areas or spectra of grrl-geekitude. That way we can avoid feeling that physics trumps sf-geekery, or genetics kicks the ass of Dungeons and Dragons.

There’s a huge crowd – standing room only! Tonight a group of more science and tech oriented geeks will be reading from the book. Annalee talks about the germ of the idea for the book. She and Charlie were at a hacker conference in New York, Annalee was presenting with another woman on a panel, and were introduced by the MC as “the only 2 chicks at the conference.” She stood up and flipped the guy off. When he said it, Annalee had looked out at the audience and saw all the women in the audience get this look on their faces like “Oh, okaayyyy, we’ve heard that fucking joke before.” With that sort of statement the women who *are* there get erased. People aren’t expecting to see them and don’t hear their voices. Charlie was there in the audience… and from that experience we wanted to make the point that we’re here, we’ve been here for ages. And not to let people forget we’re here at the conference and are not the only 2 chicks.

Charlie: Seal Press asked us at the proposal stage to tell them how the other books in the genre did. You know, the books about women who are geeks and stuff? We went online and we searched. And we searched and searched and we searched. And we found like one book, Geek Girl, that sold like 2 copies, from 1992. The only book about female geeks… And we put out our call for submissions and were astonished at the response we got. It got blogged everywhere and people had been waiting a long time for this!

Annalee: Defining what we mean by “geek”. Technical, scientific, cultural arcana. Physicists, biologists, programmers, Harry Potter role playing games. Talking about the ways various areas are male-dominated and what it’s like to be a woman in that environment.

First reader: Kristin Abkemeier. Has a phd in experimental condensed matter physics. Radioactive Banana is her blog. And at sheessuchageek.com.

Kristin: How did I become a geek? Job security…. (Kristin reads her essay from the book.) Her mom tells her she’ll always have a job.. and how her own parents hadn’t encouraged her in science. Kristin loved reading and books and drawing – but was discouraged… Compared to this other kid, “wonder boy John”… And ended up testing into a 7th grade math.

[I must note that I begged my parents to take that same exam in the early 80s, because all the guys I competed with in math class for the top grades were taking it and got to go to a summer school – but my parents couldn’t figure out how I would get to the school, which was an hour away in downtown Houston.]


Next up! Ellen Spertus, Associate Prof of Computer Science at Mills College – & she also works at Google. She’s written for the Chronicle of Higher Education and Glamour…

Her original title for this article was “From Male-Identified Misogynist to Sexiest Geek Alive”. The best way to have status in her household & family was to disdain anything feminine and act like a male.

[God… me too. This is one of the essays from the book that I read just nodding and then shrieking ME TOO over and over!] Went to one of the first computer camps in 1981. The male/female ratio was 6 to 1. Ellen told an Infoworld reporter she was disappointed there weren’t more girls. And was misquoted by that reporter as saying she was disappointed there weren’t more boys.

[the whole audiences hisses and goes “wooooo” angrily.]

Jenn Shreve reads her article…. On growing up fundamentalist… was taught that evolution was evil and wrong… ATM cards and the mark of the beast… Then rejected all that. Took to the Internet immediately… sneered at poeple who couldn’t deal with Pine or HTML. And yet stayed in the Humanities… though I scored way higher on the math than on the verbal sections of the SAT….

*applause*

Corie Ralston – BS in physics from Berkeley and phd in biophysics. Works at Lawrence Berkeley Labs… IROSF, the Internet Review of Science Fiction, as well.

[ I swoon… I totally love Corie… ]

Corie: My unofficial title is “Beamline Scientist” – how cool is that. I’m one of only 3 beamline scientst out of 200. At first my job title was “beam boy.” I lobbied to be called “super duper beam chick” but it never caught on. The filming of The Incredible Hulk took place there.. The synchroton does not produce gamma radiation… but if it did, and you were exposed to it, you would die – not mutate! *everyone cracks up* I love working every day in a place that reminds people of comic books. How did I get to be there? It certainly wasn’t anything like becoming the mutant hero of a comic book. Physics teacher in high school… Reading Heinlein & Asimov etc. without really noticing how every female character in Heinlein books at some point become hysterical and have to be slapped around by the men. (About Asimov:) If you can imagine intergalactic space superhighways why can’t you imagine a female astronaut? (huge applause from audience) I dealt with this by identifying with the male characters.

[GOD… me too.]

Annalee then introduces Charlie Anders, author of the award-winning novel Choir Boy. Writing in McSweeney’s, Punk Planet, Wall Street Journal, Tikkun, etc. and is the publisher for Other magazine & runs Writers With Drinks. Which happens next month at the Makeout room Feb. 10.

Charlie: I’m a policy wonk…

[Kristen whispers to me that “we used to talk about wonks in the Clinton era. Nobody does anymore. Nobody THINKS anymore…”

I want to tell Kristen that that’s exactly what one of Charlie’s novels is about… Clinton-era wonks and their wonkitude. ]

Charlie: Minutae of health care field. Weird complicated things to learn. Managed care. Weird permutation, intricate structures that actually *mattered* to everyone. This was all about hard-charging guys chasing *hard* news. My pursuit of arcane policy issues distracted me from my socially assigned gender role as a male reporter. My gender discomfort finally spiked on the day my inner palace of wonkdom came crashing down…. “We don’t want any of this “what does it mean shit.” ” A bomb went off in my head… New job – my new boss liked wonkitude… Every day was like Christmas… My co-workers were used to me hopping around the office excited, “Wooo! I found a new crazy thing on page 900 of the Federal Register!!” Fast forward, I’m legally a woman, on hormones and with a drivers’ license that says F… ambition… to make a serious wonkish contribution to the world… feminism.. child care and faulty gender assumptions.

Charlie then introduces Annalee Newitz, science writer, contributing editor at Wired, Salon, Newscientist, Techsploitation syndicated column. Editor of other magazine.

Annalee: “When Diana Prince takes off her Glasses”
Geeks – bbses… Wiznet – chat rooms! On the BBS I had a gender-neutral handle, Shockwaverider. Everyone assumes I’m male and I don’t bother to correct them. Cracking… breaking copy protection. I get them to teach me about assembly language and
cracking mac software… phreaking… Linux… Linux Cabal. As a journalist… suddenly I realize I’m the only woman in the room full of journalists and one of them is asking me “how did you get him to *tell* you that…” I suddenly hear the implication in the reporter’s voice and respond… “I flirted with him that’s how…” Why didn’t I tell him the truth, I spent weeks hanging out… made Cthulhu jokes… I could have said, if you actually take the time to talk with people and get to know them, they talk with you. That’s my philosophy of reporting. A few weeks later I decide to write a biosci article using only female sources. Each source referred me to more amazing women… Fruit fly gemone searching tool…

[That’s my friend! Well, my ex… really… the fruit fly genome geek… *glow of pride* She’s such a geek!]

Woman from the Audience: Thank you for the book! We want a sequel at least on the web, we want more stories, we want to contribute!

Annalee & Charlie: Yes! Lovely! blog it! Stick it on the web!

Me: Tag it “shessuchageek”

Kristin: We could have a she’s such a geek blog carnival.

Guy from audience: What would you say the environment is today for 15-17 year old girls?

Annalee: The teenager from the book isn’t here tonight

Ellen Spertus: Yes it’s somehwat better… And at Mills… (I missed her answer)

Kristin: Larry Summers did women a real favor by being a jerk 2 years ago… in the 70s it was all “hey women can do anything!” and no acknowledgement that there are factors that affect women… women who say “i need a wife”… child care… atmosphere.. finally being discussed, thanks to larry summers.

Corie: Summers, ex-pres of Harvard … said that there are just fewer women at the super elite end of science… not putting in the 80 hours a week necessary to be tenured… and said there was no sexism in the field…

Annalee: and he said that women’s brains were different. He said this at a conference about women in science. It was what got him drummed out..

Ellen: That’s not the full story.. he had done many other offensive things and that was just the last straw.

Annalee: yes. and since then a lot of money has gone into studies…

[Liz’s note: Here is a great compilation of links and stories about the Summers controversy: Summers on Women in Science, from WISELI, the Women in Science & Engineering Institute at University of Wisconsin-Madison.]

Woman in audience: Is that just in the united states? Now, in other countries the situation is different.

Annalee: Not just, but it’s worse… and in the US it’s worse among white people; white women lag more behind white men… than women do [in other races/cultures/ethnicities]

Woman in audience: Women in India in sciences, engineering… it’s considered to be a ‘developing country” but things are much better there for women in science …

[Liz’s note: Here’s a link on women at IIT in India – and another with stats over several years]

guy in back: You can see it just going to Toys R Us…all the creativity and science is on one side of the story, vs. the other side which is all pink.

*murmur from audience*

Charlie: You can do a lot of creative things with dolls, you know!

Annalee: I’ve seen some amazing women hack on dolls…

Woman from audience: I teach science at a college… photos on the walls… 1890 to today. 1890 to 1940 is half women and half men. 1950s all men. 60s, 70s, 80s, few women – and now, about 1/3 women. WWII and backlash against women… men in the 50s… and the war.

Woman in audience: A comment on that in WWII they were using more women in science and research in RUssia – math and sci education for women but then the women went more into being educators…

Annalee: There’s some great studies of women in computing.. they were actually called “computers”… during the war in the U.S. and no one knew if ocmputers woudl become a big deal…

[Liz: here’s a ink from the IEEE Virtual MuseumWomen Computers in World War II.]

Jason: Do you feel like men’s attitudes have changed or gotten better?

Corie: Men now, male students, are more accepting of women…as fellow students and as their teachers and mentors… than they were when I was in school. They’re more okay with it.

Ellen: My mom was totally wrong that going into computer science would be a bad way to meet men. And now I talk to high school girls… and project photos of good looking comp sci guys … there’s this calendar…. of good looking computer geek guys… and I tell them, “he’s a good cook…”

OMG she just broke me… hahahah! [Which calendar? The Studmuffins of Science ones? Or is there a special computer geek one?]

Guy in audience: Computer geek culture, it’s all about being outsiders, alienation, outside mainstream, not jocks, etc. So why isn’t geek culture more of a clean slate in terms of gender?

[Liz: I could talk about that forever, and would really like to know.]

Annalee: Boys growing up as geeks, unfortunately being called fags, etc. Instead of creating cultures that were more friendly to women and the feminine, a lot of them reacted by creating an even more macho culture, especially in engineering and some of the sciences. There’s a lot of dick-measuring, jockeying. Even the language used in hacking, penetration testing, popping the cherry of the machine. It’s part of the slang. You fuck the ass of someone else’s computer. And of course computers are “boxes”… and we all know what a box is. The jocks picked on us and now we’re a macho enclave…. But that is changing. What’s missing is networking and these men have friends who are men, and if they did have friends who were women there would be better… we can build networks of friendship. Bridges…

Corie: If you’re male and a geek you’re important and smart. If you’re a woman it’s all about your value based on your looks. They don’t get the same sort of treatment in the outside world.

Barton: (from Mills) my perception of what is geek comes from th 50s science fiction and the production that came after that. what do you think about geek as a notion evolving. how is that changning in the future?

Jenn Shreve: the fact that I’m up here shows it’s changing; i’m not a physicist… I’m a writer. But i have a passion for these things and for tech… and that tech is more ubiquitous opens the door… it becomes more acceptable. Now everyone .. takes part in things that were narrow before… like chat rooms… so the definition is changing.

Woman in back: What exactly is a geek? I think of library science geeks…

Charlie: Were you here at the beginning? We defined what we thought geek was

Annalee: We loved the librarians, we had a whole contingent…we could have a whole book of librarian geeks. But it’s not really male dominated… we didn’t include it but we wanted to focus on the areas in culture where people would think of a guy when they think of somone in that area. Comic books, various sciences…

Loren: Back in the 80s I was a contractor. Most of the agencies i worked for were run by women and dominated by women. Best business to be in for women b/c it was the most flexible and had the best pay, flexible hours, for women to be in if they had children. But that isn’t true anymore.

Women in audience : I disagree, it’s a great field to be in to work from home and to make a lot o
f money if you have kids… as a programmer.

[Note: two other women in the audience came up to me after the reading and agreed that computer science was still the best thing for working at home as a professional and making money.]

Guy in audience: Please come to Google and talk to us about this and how to get this message out more broadly and maybe on a video on Youtube, or something like that. Girls in high school, get it to a broader audience, they would be inspired by it.

Charlie: That would rock! We have a video of another reading and can send you the link… and would love to come to Google.

Guy from audience: Are there any women you know who are into pro sports, except for baseball…

Charlie: Stanford women’s basketball rocks….

Jenn: Sports reporters… very macho culture… I was the only woman and that’s when I’d really feel that only woman int he room feeling.

Annalee: I’ve heard women talk about being a jock and a geek … various sports… prepared them for the endurance to say, program all night.

Charlie: In fact Jessica who was supposed to be here is a wrestler and when people question her geekitude she just beats them up.

Annalee: Yay, thanks for coming, go buy the book!

The guy behind me begs Ellen for a photo of her in her circuit board corset…

[Earlier, as I laced Ellen into her corset I thought of Violet Blue’s article “Web Celebs and My Rainbow-Flag Bikini – which I highly recommend –

A bit of my own geek story, about growing up a computer nerd, women’s networks, and helping out with tech stuff in disaster relief, was in Other magazine # 9 but isn’t in the book (for those of you who asked!) As I liveblogged this reading, taking photos and emailing them to Flickr, browsing on the spot to find links to add for the readers, and chatting in another window at the same time, and posting to Twitter… which is my normal level of blog-geek multitasking around friends, it was funny to field the questions of women around me who were not quite so bloggy or Web 2.0-ish (or “annoying and technopretentious”). At least I amused them!

One reaction I’ve heard a lot from women as I go around talking about the book and showing it off – is that many women who are geeks thought about submitting a story to it, but then kind of sighed and figured they weren’t geeky enough. I’ve heard women a hundred times geekier than I am say this, with geek street cred that would blow your mind. And then there’s an even more complex reaction as women realize that their disbelief in their own geek studliness is part of their own internalized misogyny, and they get angry (at themselves and at the rest of the world) and it’s a very hard thing to look at. The essays in the book are empowering, and make people very happy by letting them know they’re not alone in their geekitude, but some elements of the essays can also get people on a train of thought that is sad, anger-triggering, or difficult — The thing is, it’s a very productive difficulty. I felt the same reaction happening among readers to the Tiptree biography last year.

It was a great reading, the audience stuck around for ages, talking and full of positive energy, getting signatures and telling some of their own stories. I hope we can hear some of those, maybe on the She’s Such a Geek blog in interviews or guest posts!

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A girl can wield a mean soldering iron

When I was around 10 and 11 I was very into soldering irons, little electronic bits and pieces, and anything that made me feel nerdy and mad-scientist-y. I loved the smoky metal-hot smell of the solder and how scary it was… and making things that worked and were “real”. At first I just made different kinds of switches and circuits with tiny lightbulbs, and then advanced to collecting hydrogen in a test tube and lighting it on fire to make it pop. EXCITING! The coolest thing I ever learned about was electroplating. I copper plated every small metal object in our house, adding all sorts of weird stuff to the copper sulfate solution to see what effect it would have; my sister’s dollhouse toaster came out really well when I made a strong solution using tons of ketchup. And hello, what could be cooler than safety goggles and a voltmeter?

I had a point in here somewhere.

Erica Rios of Xicanista, a former instructor for Techbridge, passed on this job call for me to post:

Techbridge Program Manager

Want to make a difference in a girl’s future? Help change girls’
images of and experiences with technology and have an opportunity to work with a dynamic team of educators. Techbridge is an innovative program to inspire girls in technology, science and engineering. The program is hosted after school at elementary, middle, and high schools in Oakland, San Lorenzo, and at the California School for the Blind in Fremont. In these after-school programs, girls work on a variety of projects such as making solar LEGO cars, soldering, digital photography, and building robots. The girls also participate in field trips and meet with role models.

Under the supervision of the Program Director, the Techbridge Program Manager is responsible for supporting and supervising staff, coordinating and implementing our after-school programs, developing and piloting curricula, and leading professional development workshops for teachers, role models, and professional audiences. We are looking for an experienced and dynamic individual who has the ability to supervise a team of instructors, work with the Techbridge project director, and oversee the development of training and resources to teachers, professionals and partners.

It sounds like a GREAT job getting to be a nerd role model for techy girls. Write to techbridge@chabotspace.org if you’re interested in the job!

Now, part of my point was that I was extremely into the soldering and circuits and experiments, but I reached a point very quickly where I had nowhere further to go with it, and no where to go for information or leadership. Books from the library only went so far, and then information stopped. How to take it further? So — if you DO get involved with a program like this, or you know a young nerdlet, please try to find them mentors and books and extra information, to keep their interest going and feed their love of science and tech.

Women in tech – for younger women

I would like to say to all the young women who are computer geeks, or science geeks of any kind, that it’s more important than you can imagine to join up with other women.

I have been a feminist all my life, and yet somehow, when I was working in tech, I didn’t hook into women’s networks. I didn’t know about them, actually.

But you can join, or read:
Women-related Science/Technology email lists – resource page with a great list!
Systers (mailing list)
devchix.com (group blog)
Deeply Geeky (mailing list sparked from BlogHer
Linuxchix
misbehaving.net
Wikichix
WIT & WorldWIT
WISE Women in Science and Engineering (suckily, page last updated in 2003…)
BlogHer (group blog)
She’s Such a Geek (group blog)

And so many more —

I have joined a lot of these lists and I have to say, there are many days I read them and burst into tears. (In a good way.) Why? I’m not sure. What people describe is so close to my experiences, so well articulated and analyzed — and yet often from women who are so much more of studly geeks than me — and much older. It’s hearing the wisdom of people who I wish I could have learned from years ago. There are such great ideas, wonderful advice, balanced views, and very realistic.

I had a lot of conversation one on one with other women about the issues addressed in these forums, but it’s different for it to be public, and so wide-spread, and more political-feeling instead of personal cathartic hopeless storytelling — which was valuable and validating, but didn’t always help create change.

It would have changed my life drastically to have had this kind of support, resources, validation, etc. available to me when I was 25, or 20, or 15, or 10.

If you have a daughter, or a younger friend, and she is into science and math and computer stuff, please hook her up with this sort of resource if you possibly can, and with older mentors. It’s really really important! Please do it!

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Misogynist stereotypes on Valleywag

I don’t care what S. Littlefield is actually like; I don’t know her, and I’ve never met her. Also, I am not intrinsically fond of superwealthy society people. Who knew that “Gentry” magazine even existed! Not me! Gentry. Wow. Weird. Lifestyles of upper class philanthropists; really beyond my comprehension – they’re like aliens.

Anyway. Gossip is fun and I love to hear it. Dirty gossip is great. I would love to see Dirty Friendster with all the possible totally sophomoric sex gossip charts of who slept with whom and who just made out in the conference room.

That said, I think that Valleywag’s post on Littlefield deserves to be called out on its misogynist rhetoric about Ms. Littlefield. The article says she “used to go to tech conferences in search of husband material” and, worse:

She’d arrive on her own and return on someone’s private jet. She is absolutely gorgeous in person, but I don’t think it took people too long to figure out she was a gold-digger.

I’d like to look at what stereotypes this gossip plays into and what reactions it can possibly evoke.

Here, who a woman sleeps with or marries is used to throw her competence as a tech executive into question. It is strongly implied that she is not a real geek, or maybe has no “real” skills at all other than her looks. When an article like this gets written, it also by association casts aspersions on all women in tech. Would this article be written about a man, a senior executive? Would there be any equivalent way to devalue and slander and ridicule a man?

It’s very strange because while men are always whining about reverse sexism, and how everything should be genderblind and we should all just be human and be judged on our skills and not our gender… Then they whip out this sort of rhetoric and use it against women. The stereotypes are built in and waiting, ready to be used against any woman, from the most successful and visible to the least important. As women, none of us are immune to being objectified by exactly the sort of rhetoric used against Ms. Littlefield.

Notice the way that the quote above suggests that Ms. Littlefield habitually went to tech conferences alone and then left with different rich guys – and that she went to the conferences solely for the reason of wanting to pick up rich geek guys. And also implying that’s how she got her jobs – by being a jet-set slut.

Again, I’m no expert on the upper class. But don’t quite a lot of rich people work off their personal networks and backgrounds and friendships? The woman has an MBA from Harvard and she speaks five languages. What’s so odd about her getting a good executive job? Didn’t like 5 gazillion MBAs descend on Silicon Valley during the boom? Why shouldn’t one of them be a multilingual cosmopolitan Guatemalan beauty queen from Harvard?

But no… instead Valleywag points to Littlefield’s past achievements as a beauty pageant winner and the fact that she’s from Guatemala as something further to objectify and sexualize her. Then they make fun of a newspaper article quoted on her homepage that calls her a “Latina who defies stereotype.” (See Common stereotypes of Latinas for more explanation.) Hey, if you are a Latina who defies stereotype, and you’re a successful senior executive in high tech, and a VC person and a bigshot international philanthropist, why not be proud of it? Valleywag evokes a stereotype in response, and stuffs her right back into it.

Waaah! Women in tech are toooooo sexay! That sucks! It ruins our whole homosocial male bonding geek guy thing! Get them out! Or, quick, give Sandy a reverse makeover, a pair of glasses with electrical tape on the nosepiece, and some penny loafers!

Everyone needs to keep in mind that when women sleep with geek guys, it might just be because they like geek guys a lot. Sleeping with geek guys doesn’t invalidate one’s geek credentials. It’s not like they have to be *rich* geek guys and the women have to be brainless bimbos going after their money. Trust me, geek guys, you are often super cute all on your own. It’s the devastatingly sexy unhealthiness caused by hours of late night hacking, and how you get all passionate about open source, and the way that you probably got pushed around by those jock dudes in the locker room long ago. We love it. It gives you a mysterious aura, like consumptive bohemian poets from 1890 who smoked too much opium and thought they were in touch with the Divine. Heterosexual nerd chicks go for that kind of thing. It’s completely natural.

Anyway, Valleywag tries to preempt any criticism by saying they don’t really care, and they don’t think Littlefield is “evil”. Just mockable. Misogyny is automatically funny. Sexy women are automatically dumb golddiggers. We’re supposed to read that post and laugh and nod knowingly… as if we know the type. Do we really? Or do we know them from the idiotic stereotypes made up by and perpetuated in Hollywood movies?

It’s not uncommon for writers to evoke sexist and racist stereotypes for a cheap laugh. But not all of us are laughing when we read that stuff. Instead, we’re pissed off and alienated. Or we might respond by laughing at the writers for their cluelessness.

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Women of the Left Bank

I’m still thinking about Paris Was a Woman and at the moment am listening to Ed Sanders reading “Hail to the Rebel Cafe”. I know a lot of Latin American women were in Paris or visited in the teens and 1920s, and I’ll look through my notes to figure out who. All my biographical information on these writers is going into a wiki, which for now is private while I set up the structure and the skeleton, but will soon be public and editable by anyone.

I need to get a copy of Women of the Left Bank and add them too.

Here’s some of the people I can list as literary women in Paris from the documentary: Djuna Barnes, Jean Rhys, Sylvia Beach, Janet Flanner, Alice B. Toklas, Colette, Janet Flanner, painter Marie Laurencin Berenice Abbott, Gisele Freund, Djuna Barnes, Natalie Barney, Sylvia Beach, Adrienne Monnier, Gertrude Stein, Ada “Bricktop ” Smith , Josephine Baker, Renee Vivian, Romaine Brooks, Marie Bonaparte, Elizabeth Bowen, Victoria Ocampo, Vita Sackville-West, Virginia Woolf, Bryher.

We could also add:

* Gabriela Mistral
* Emilia Bernal
* Léonie Julieta Fournier (Nirene Jofre Oliú.)
* Comtesse de Noilles – Anna de Noailles

Of course, what about now? Where are we? Are we documenting this? I’d like to expand my women poets/writers wiki to right this minute and my own hometown. Why not document the moment and ourselves? Think of the riot grrl history that is already lost or slipping away. Let it be recorded on heaven’s unchangeable heart or at least the internets, failing heaven.

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A few feminist seeds scattered to the wind and you

The documentary Paris Was a Woman, about just a few of the women in Paris in the early 1900s and especially the 20s; writers, painters, poets. I especially liked the interviews with photographer Gisele Freund. The tension between Stein and Beach as Beach suddenly turned to throw her weight of attention, of critical attention and great-man-making, behind Joyce and people like Hemingway who she decided was a big fat genius before he had written a single stitch.

Rant mode…

Consider the poisonous sexism of Joyce and how the poison is worse when it is in an elaborate feast. Think for a minute about how good Ulysses is, and it’s damn good, and then about how he produced it while knowing SO many genius interesting articulate politically and artistically aware women and what women characters does he write? Not any who have a thought in their head – a dumb teenager who confusedly tolerates a masturbating creep on the beach and an illiterate slut taking a shit. I could slap him. (And also could slap every person who’s ever pointed out Molly Bloom to me as an example of a female character I could love in great literature. (and no I said no I won’t No) I can love the book and admire the talent but hate the dreadful vindictive poison — as well as the thing in Joyce and so many other writers of dicklit that makes them gather masses of mediocre sycophants to make themselves look better – unable to tolerate other actual geniuses. It is just that sort of person who is consecrated later in history as a “great” writer, unfortunately – something to keep in mind as a sour-grapes comfort as the most of us head straight to being Minor Poets. Think how irritated I am as I continue to digest Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red and the magma builds up in my fevered thoughts. Oh! The more beautiful and excellent the art, the worse the poison is and the madder as hell I get.

It was funny to be watching this movie with my partner who didn’t really know any of the writers or painters even the most famous ones. Joyce and Stein, their names, but not their work at all and he had never heard of Sylvia Beach. That puts it all in perspective, doesn’t it? I plotzed when he said “H.D.??? Who?”

To get the taste of all that out of your brain try downloading some of this:

Free mp3s of Adrienne Rich reading from Diving into the Wreck and other works – from the Pennsound archives. On the very long file, the 38 minute one, it sounded a little like Di Prima introducing her but then I decided it wasn’t and the accent was just a bit similar. It’s nice to have the huge file of the entire reading in my iTunes. I love hearing her inter-poem comments, nerdy little snippets about greek drama and patriarchy.

Oh, and if anyone happens to have some recordings of Di Prima’s early readings I’d love to have more of them. I have her doing a few of the Revolutionary Letters; they’re so flamingly fiercely beautiful!

Elisa speaking up about biological determinism. Very lovely!

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Liveblogging: Blogging Feminism panel, Barnard, NYC


blogging feminism flyer
Originally uploaded by Liz Henry.

Panelists: Jessica Valenti (feministing), Liza Sabater, (Culture Kitchen), Alice Marwick (Tiara), Lauren Spees, and Michelle Riblett (Hollaback), Gwendolyn Beetham (NCRW).

*****

Intro by Janet R. Jakobsen from the Center for Research on Women.

I just came yesterday from a 70s feminism event, the Veteran Feminists of America, a book release for Feminists Who Changed America about second-wave feminism. But this, blogs, is carrying on feminism in new generation in a new medium. Gwendoyn and Jessica are co-moderating and co-editing the Scholar & Feminist Online. We’re videotaping for that journal issue. The current issue is on women & sport. Full issue on blogging will be out in the spring.

Intro for Gwendolyn: She’s involved with the U.N. [task force on…?] and the Real Hot 100. Founding member of Younger Women’s task force, contributing editor for 3rd Wave Feminism Encyclopedia. And training institute for … in the Dominican Republic. Graduate of the London School of Economics and Political Science. And BA from Kenyon. “My gosh, you don’t look old enough to have done all that.” *laughter*

Jessica Valenti. Feministing, NARAL, MA from Rutgers, Legal Momentum, NOW, Planned Parenthood, Ms. Magazine. Co-founder of Real Hot 100. Contributing author to We don’t need another wave from Seal Press. (List of publications). Currently writing a book about younger women. Forthcoming from Seal Press.

Gwen: Thank you, thank you to Barnard and for being so supportive. Thanks for coming. Background: We propsed this idea to Barnard a year ago. At that time blogs were still edging their way into the mainstream. Today blogs are everywhere. all the major US news outlets have blogs. Also around the world. Where I’m doing my project on the UN the Sudanese govt used comments on a blog as an excuse to kick an envoy out…. Direct diplomacy. More liberal bloggers meant that blogs had jumped the shark. If even the UN is using blogs then we have a problem with using blogs for radical change,. Are blogs obsolete? Then what are we doing here? If you look at last week’s election results you can see blogs are alive and well. One thing that hasn’t changed a lot over the past year is the way that women are talked about in the blogosophere. The way that white males still get talked about most and dominate the political blogosophere. This is being examined in academia. Anyway, now over to Jessica, my co-moderator…

Jessica: We do everything together. It’s like we’re “heterosexual life partners”. Let’s hear brief intros from the other panelists.

Alice Marwick: Hi I’m Alice. I’m a phd at NYU, studying online communication… working in communications since 1995.

Liza Sabater – I publish Culture Kitchen and the Daily Gotham among other blogs. I’m an academic maroon, I ran away from phd program at NYU in neobaroque latin american literature.

Lauren Larken Spees, co-founder of Hollaback NYC. Also a found of Artistic Evolucion, non profit, social activism using art, technology, and bicycles. [Link?] Media arts. USC for undergrad in theater.

Michelle Riblett: I went to high school with Lauren.

Lauren: We were in boarding school together!

Michelle: BA from Barnard. Philosophy… worked in Rape Crisis center and anti-violence. Interested in feminist interpretations of disability, media studies, queer theory.

Jessica: A few words on why we wanted to do this panel and this issue. Why we think it’s important. Vibrant community of feminist blogs out there. While there’s an ongoing conversation online about feminist blogging, there hasn’t been much offline. We need to communicate that there’s a cohesive body of work. We wanted to make something available to academics and start a conversation between bloggers and academia and get the discourse doing. We have an amazing opoprtunity in front of us as feminists with blogs. How can we find those intersections where academia, feminsim, blogging come together?

Alice: Doing a broad survey of 2 things. academics and blogs; feminism and technology. I’m an academic who blogs, not a “blogger” . Why academics think blogs are interesting.
– they’re easy to analyze; they’re public.
– blogs tend to encourage values academics like interactivity: comments.
– egalitarian, anyone with internet access can blog
– resistance, ideology of resistance.
– academics do blog a lot. we love to hear ourselves talk.
– trend right now is to write huge paper then say “blogs are the answer”.

We study effects of media consolidation on news practices. Emphasis on advertiser friendly stories, etc. Gail Tuchman “multiplicity of voices principle”- free speech is not enough. Must have diverse voices in media. Blogs posited as solution. Also as a solution to political participation. Horserace vs. analysis of the issues; blogs allow grassroots discussion of issues in depth. Even if pts of view are minority viewpoints.

What are academics saying? – analyzing blogs as journalism. Warblogging. Studies claim that blogs are changing journalistic practice; changing democracy. Academics write about blogs changing academia. A way to get out of the ivory tower. Start discourse with regular people outside the academy. 2 year delay on academic papers before they get into journals where no one reads them anyway. 3rd thing is blogs and gender. Indiana study – women. Are blogs “democratic”? Public discourse about blogs is gendered male, white, heterosexual. privileged over activities that are gendered female. Blogs seen as authoritative, if male. Women’s blogs are given labels of gossipy, private, trivial, etc. Top political blogs written by men. Why? Because women don’t write about politics? Or because women’s plitical blogs are crappy? Neither is true. They found that men all link to each other and pay attention to each other and what is “good” is waht men say when men say it. [Is this referring to Herring & Scheidt paper…?]

2nd – 12 percent of world population is online. What happens when we posit this as a solution when people don’t have access. When people are worrying about sanitation etc. Class based. Public libraries, filtering software. Social tech inequality in itself. The original idea was sort of that minds would commune on this pure level, disembodiment hypothesis. This viewpoint resulted in the white male subject being seen as the norm. if you identified as not white male etc. then you were seen as “playing the race card”. Online stuff reproduces dominant cultu
re’s stereotypes. Female characters in games… where “fag” is the most common word thrown around as an insults. Quote from an article about “breast physics” and buttocks in gaming. *laughter* Power imbalance within tech industry. 30% of the workers are women but they are in marketing, proj management, but are not in decision making positions about features in a product. Enrollment in comp sci programs for women is dropping. Young girls to have access to tech. blogging is a good way for that.

We need structural change. We can’t depend on blogging. But we need more women in tech and comp sci. Media loves political women bloggers bc they fit the maninstream definition… But we need diversity without ghettoization. Mainstream bloggers focus on each other. and think that the women and the queers will just deal with everything else, so they don’t need to do it.

Nevertheless i think feminist blogging is very important. Networks of activists, writers, tech, has allowed me to inferace with other women in the industry. Validation of our politics when femism is left out of media. Blogs are today what zines were for me when i was a teenager. Women who are not corporate sponsored like ivillage or like barbie or fashion or chick lit or other consumer narratives of what it means to be a woman today. Important online to foster these feminist communities. Other communities can be very hostlie homophobic etc. Foster political changes. Thanks.

***

Lisa Sabater:

I have a different opinion about niche publishing. BLOGWAR!!! *laughter* It’s a good conversation. I’ve been in the business of being online for 10 years. When I left academia… my then boyfriend was experimenting with these things that ended up being net art. Movement of painters and sculptors who happened to have day jobs as software developers. They expermented with web browsers… in ways that looked like art. *sees a familiar face in the audience* Oh! Hi Margo! She’s part of the net art community! *waves* [Liz’s note: I think Liza is talking about Rhizome]

At the time you had to be very skilled in coding. for me it was waiting to see what would come for someone who was a writer like me to get online. Years later blogs came and there’s this thing called the blog revolution. I go from panel to panel talking about blogging. I’m trying to make a living blogging. Everyone talks about the blog revolution but no one can describe what it is. What is it about blogs that makes them revolutionary? I’ve been thinking about this for years.

Going back to one essay I read in a feminist lit course in NYU years ago. Las Tretas de debil. cfrom collection from collection called Tretas del debil by Josefina Ludmer. “The tricks of the weak”. Essay is about Sor juana Inez de la Cruz – who is the reason I call my blog culture kitchen btw. [Liz’s note: if you want to get what Liza is talking about, and you should, see “filosofĂ­as de cocina“.] Defense againt inquisition. Told to stop writing about poetry, philosophy and science. Essay is fantastic, it talks about rebellion and revolution in terms of spaces. Not a metaphor. Not a gesture. About creating spaces where science and technology and knowledge are NOT SUPPOSED TO HAPPEN. Inquisition, nunnery, vow of silence, still opportunity for her to think aobut philosophy, think about physics, science, and to really find powerful spaces, spaces of power. And so, Let me read this… feminist of the politics of the personal turned public. Power is not about a fixed dialectical opposition, strong vs. weak. Power is about making spaces for expressions. Letters, autobiographies, diaries. At least in Latin American literature. Blogs fit nicely into this space. Personal realities. Deleuze and Guattari – Kafka towards a minor literature. Through thinking about that, we can understand how power dynamics are subverted by blogs. What Deleuzeand Guattari say about “becoming minor”, in business speak on the web, it’s called niche blogging. A minor literature is political, collective, revolutionary, and even spatial. It takes away territory. It takes away ethniticy, reace, state, country. A minor literature goes further, there’s no subject, it’s not Liza the person who is writing Culture Kitchen. Liza is an archetype for people to relate to this person online. It takes the idea of me online being not just a subject but an archetype, It’s free to move around. There’s this freedom to move around and be outside my blog, my body, my country, my race, my ethnicity, and can travel through the net as ideas and conversations. This idea of minor lit escapes signification and representation. To me this is really important. People think of niche writing as this very specific small reflexive way of writing, I actually see it as something much more powerful, giving a voice to stories that have been suppressed. Blogging makes that possible, the structure of blogging makes that possible. Power realtionships are altered. Four things related to minor lit and Deleuze and Guattari: vernacular language, vehicular, referential, mythic language.

(Well, that was 10, 15 years ago, ha, I’m really old! )

With Web 2.0, the permalink came about. When you post… can we get a web page up? now b/c of permalinks there’s a map, this is not just a page. A web page nowadays is a whole map of relationships. It’s not just relating to itself, it’s relating outside itself. Media, big media, is about concentrating controlling the spreading of information, making it scares, impossible, for “the people” to take and participate in it. That’s what tv, broadcasting is about, radio. With blogging you can say i’m going to refer to this particular part of the page, put in an email and send it somewhere. Now there’s not just a space. There’s a vehicular media like email or rss. You can read a blog outside of itself, blasting it through “crackberries”, email, whatever. You can move a blog anywhere. Referential language – categories. It’s not just a category for you but it opens up the whole web to looking…, Multiplicity of identites. Not just a feminist blog, it’s a space where feminism expresses heatlh, sex, love, technology, politics, it expresses a whole myriad of different conversations with people who might not be interested in feminism at all. For an example one of my most hit posts, one of my writers wrote about forced pregnancy and celebrity porn. So people looking for celebrity porn came to feminism. The mythic language – memes. [Liza explains memes. I, the transcriber, rest my fingers.]

***

Lauren Spees: What Hollaback is. It’s a campaign that makes a space for women to take photos of street harrassment, encounters, and post those stories online. Boston Globe wrote and article and refused to publish the address of Hollaback Boston. As a matter of policy, Boston Globe does not publish links to sexually explicit content. *groans from audience*

Michele: i wrote back to them that unfortunately, sexual violent statements are not acceptable to the women who receive them on the street … [that’s what we’re fighting]. We asked for a copy of that policy. We love the exposure from the Globe but for them to refuse us an online link that was very critical. In online news if something isn’t cited as a link it virtually doesn’t exist. Defeated the purpose of exposing us to our potential audience. In contrast… a blog post on [??] generated thousands of hits for us.

Lauren: Big media is at a disadvantage compared to bloggers and their speed of response. [….?] when she took photo of subway masturbator… the
police didn’t answer but as soon as she put it on her blog, Daily News picked it up. [Which helped lead to Dan Hoyt’s arrest.] Blogs helping and becoming our major ally… cyber critical mass – media consolidation is a reality but we’re firing away at it. Hollaback offers a quick response.

Michelle: Blogging, photos captures the moment, anger, fear, reactions, in immediate way, not abstract and way later. It’s easier for me to identify with them, to recognize the daily infrigements on my body i may experience. Hollaback allows this experience to be interpreted as if they’d experienced it personally.

Lauren – It’s accessible, it’s free. Something that happened to me – i was at the speakout against sexual assault in Union Square. They introduced us as the most exciting feminsit activists around. At the time i didnt’ know i was a feminist OR an activist. Allows people to do the activity even if they don’t identify with the word.

Michelle: Women who don’t have anything in common other than having been harrassed can all post. They’re relating the experience as their own.

Michelle and Lauren read some posts from Hollaback:
Post about the “professional menu distribution associate for caribbean flavors restaurant”.

Then he pursued me down a few steps of the subway entrance getting really close to my face and leaning in,”Marry me!” I put down my bag and grabbed my cell phone, he protests, “No. Why are you taking my picture? Oh oh, I see you want my picture so that you can go home and wack off to it.”

Holla Herzegovina post. Video post. Vlog.
(firefox crashes.) Oops!

The “fuck your own ass” post of the guy on the train platform. Then, “i want to be your toilet paper“.

[I can’t remember which one said this, Lauren or Michelle, but, damn, it’s GOOD.]
What you might notice from the posts. When we read the posts, from our experiences, we cant help notice this seems so wrong. Hollaback doesn’t define for others what counts as street harrassment. The tone matters, the intention and translation matters. All the posts come together to show the slippery and icky stuff of gendered power relations. These interactions are not about sex. They are about using and wielding sex to express power.

***

Liza : You mentioned that the fastest way to get your story out there is to put it on a blog. The one complaint i have about that is it depends on how big your networks are. Who are the people i would trust with something i write online? it puts it into perspective you need other people.

Jessica – With feminist blogging we run into that a lot when you’re writing anything political, particularly feminists, you’re leaving yourself open, you’re going to get some really nasty comments. Anyone can come on. It’s a dangerous place to be and it’s a scary place to be for a lot of feminist bloggers. There’s been a lot of discussion about how to support each other. Trolls. Horrible stuff, like “fuck you you dyke bitch”, or whatever. And it helps for 20 other feminist bloggers to be like “oh yeah fuck you too go to hell” to them. Comment registration, etc. can also help, [but doesn’t stop it all].

2 Questions from a guy standing in the back:
– question [I missed the first question. I think something about editing/censoring.]
– Why blogs, why not just web sites or bulletin boards, whey are they so appealing, fashionable. Why not bulletin boards which are more interactive? Why blogs?

Michele – We state in our site we reserve the right to edit for clarity. We have statements about race and class on our site. Replacing sexism with racism or classism is not a proper way to hollaback. I am referring to historical stereotypes of men of lower socioectonomic status, men of color, as being stereotpyed as sexually violent. [It’s not useful and Hollaback doesn’t allow it and will edit it out of posts.]

Liza – Two tracks on my blog. Contributors and contributing editors – then other articles on sidebar. i sometimes move stuff to front page [for emphasis]. There’s different ways to read it.

Jessica – On feministing there’s no editing, there’s 6 contributors and they post what they want. it depends on the blog, though.

Alice – Web sites that were personal homepages required people to know some html. There was a technical barrier to entry that you had to teach yourself. i taught myself html when i was working as a secretary. Why journals, diaries, etc. online? Women journaling online since late 90s. But only once you got blogosophere gendered male that people pay attention to it. BUT also blogging tools became very easy to use, and that opened barriers.

Jessica – Comments section on blogs, interactive that way. Conversation. LIke a bulletin board. But what’s exciting about blogs is the immediacy. Blogs updated a lot. Blogs important for femininst activism, for example when the Bureau of Labor Statistics decided not to report on women [its Women Workers Data Series: more here] anymore and I blogged and months later i got an action report from NOW. If we had been working together we could have taken action quickly.

Woman in audience; I think alice said 12% of the world is online?

Alice: It’s a stat from a resesarcher, africa… [I missed the citation]

Woman in audience: Class analysis of blogging. Higher income white feminists? Are blogs contributing to that legacy? Are lower income people being involved in blogosphere

Jessica: Yeah.

Lauren: Anyone who owns a cellphone has a remote ip address. Anyone who owns a cellphone can blog.

Liza – i’m suspicious of stats that say 12% of people are online. People have crackberry. They pay 300 bucks for blackberry, high but less than paying 1000 bucks for a computer, and a landline. They’re online, but not counted. There ‘s a core group of colored bloggers, the digital ethnorati, we have higher incomes but we also have, we happen to be in these social-class-blended families. There’s a lot more people of color with access to the internet through cell phones and pdas. Recently I was at a conference with ESPN Mobile. The fastest growing segment of population was Latinos followed by Asians and African Americans. Digital divide – we have to stop thnking that way. We have to stop thinking of computers. You can read a blog on this (holds up phone). You can post.

Alice – You can post from your pda, i do it all the time

Liza – i don’t have the patience.

Alice – Big differentials between [styles, patterns of] access , asia, europe, north america. Internet cafes. Different patterns of usage. One person in a community has a computer and they charge other people to come use it.

Guy in front row – Alice you mentioned that very few top political blogs are written by women b/c of the men linking only to each other. Michelle Malkin, Pandagon, firedoglake. I mean, 2 years ago Pandagon didn’t have Amanda Marcotte on it! What changed?

Jessica: I bitched about it. Bitch enough and they throw you a link.

Liza: Shelley Powers is someone who is a must read… burningbird [
archives] is a must read for anyone interested in the hisotory of the blogsophere. Speaking from the margins to power. She nails it over the head what happenes with tech bloggers is just what happens with political bloggers. There was this ad, feminist pie wars, women on reality shows, ad on daily kos. Some women on daily kos got really offended. why do we have this ad on daily kos? Markos said with typical charm, you smelly hippies, sanctimonious women’s studies, have no place on this blog. It created a whole shitstorm. [Good explanation here with links to major feminist blogs discussing it.] At the time in this country we were getting ready, Katrina hadn’t happened yet btw. Right before Katrina. We already heard that Justices were coming down, Alito, Robertson. I wrote this post about why diversity is even an issue. He front paged it. [Liz: Is it this post on “no black bloggers”?] Of course he doesn’t talk to me anymore… After Katrina, after Supreme court… they know they need us. They need feminist bloggers. We wrote a manifesto as feminist bloggers against Robertson. [link?]

Jessica: that’s not to say we get the credit we deserve, still.

Liza: No. *laughter*

Jessica: Who does the nytimes talk about when they mention a blogger? The same 3 guys over and over. We did it ourselves – we linked to each other and supported each other. […] blogs revoulutionized feminist politics. Top male bloggers, aasking them dont you think it’s a problem, all the top bloggers are men. They said “No.” The conversation for them ends there.

Liza: Organizations encourage that. Working Assets has media training… they found someone to get this grant. Only 5 bloggers were going to be trained to go in front of media. Markos, Atrios, same people who appear as face of the blogosphere. Now Mary Scott Oconnor [of My Left Wing, a woman from firedoglake. No people of color. And this was done by Working Assets, not a right wing organization. That’s problematic. I feel that for the future of feminist blogs and future of progressive politics in the US it’s up to us to look at ways of organizing. There is power in actually having a flock or an aggregate of bloggers sharing resources, sharing access, and power. If we’re going to wait for someone to give it to us it’s not going to happen. The tech allows for coalescing, creating different power structures.

Jessica: We don’t want to recreate the same sexist racist homophobic paradigms in our new structures. At a conference -that panel – on the “power of the blog” – all white men. Sausagefest! and as soon as the mic came around to a woman (it was …. ] and said you’re talking about power but you’re sitting up there all men. And they said what do you want us to do, back off and not be on the panel and say no [to being on it]?

Liza : I’m on the board of BlogHer, an organization to raise the profiles of blogging women. Estroswarms around tech and political conferences. Get a whole bunch of women and drop them there.

Lauren: There’s one thing with the net and with the grassroots. You have to be both. Tou have to do more than online. Some of the most success we found getting mentioned in media have been from attending or creating different performative events. We did the idiotarod. *laughter* A crazy shopping cart event in NYC. We got our first media attention there. New York Metro Daily. She [who?) wrote an article. Talk to people. I volunteer at Bluestockings, a political bookstore, and [meet interesting feminists all the time there.]

Woman in audience: What are these political blogs – list some. You all seem to know each other. How? Who?

Jessica: You’ll have a huge blogroll on the issue of the magazine. If you go to our blogs and look at our blogrolls.

Liza – three categories of feminist blogs
– ones like Lauren and jill at feministe – they talk about feminsm
– activist blogs like Hollaback
– then people like me, in the middle – I dont write about feminism, i write about everything from a feminist perspective. it’s a praxis more than anything esle. Even if there’s a blogger who’s a lawyer, there’s law profs, photographers, artists, technologists, mommybloggers, they identify as feminists, transgender bloggers as well. And men btw, men who call themselves feminists . Alas a Blog. publisher is a guy. Barry Deutsche.

Audience question: What is it that… (i missed the question)

Lauren: I found a community. I didn’t realize – I didn’t know what I was missing and then I realize that all the different parts of myself fit into this way of activism and feminism.

Margo, in audience, the artist: What do you think about discussions in blogs, in their discussions, so public, the kind of language that’s emerging, the way of empowering each other, perhaps some of that content, has cultural difference, can you comment on that.

Alice – people are putting themselves out there. a lot of cultural anxiety around information aggregation. In 15 years you’re going to regret it, i’m so glad there was no internet when i was 13. Or people getting fired for their Myspace. The social practices have not caught up with the technology yet. Privacy is a big one. People are willing to provide a ton of personal information. sites asking what your income, your gender, sell your data. That really is a big concern. it’s a little too early to say what the overall cultural impact is going to be. i can’t speak to the linguistics aspect.

Liza – speaking with (Mark?) last night. Extended consciousness. No such thing as a separation between virtual and real. An extension of who we are. This flesh we carry. It should be treated as material. What you put there may have more of a life than you. Even if you take down your blog, do archives.org scrubs, the wayback machine, somebody in some place in the world might have a scrapbook copy of your site because they like it. Or, porn people scoop my site, because of my google ranking. So what you put online is the closest thing to immortality.

Lauren- My mom’s found all sorts of things about me online.

Liza – My own children. I made a distinct decison to not give away their privacy when they had no choice in the matter. I talk about Thing1 and Thing2 once in a while, and I put that we went to Puerto Rico and how they were pretending to be Coppertone […..] but I never identify them by name. Because they don’t have any choice in the matter.

Woman in audience – Definition of a blog? Different properties, having links, being updated multiple times per day? i’m a little bit fuzzy.

[Liz/transcriber: Okay, here I just *have* to leap in and say I would answer this question from this person simply by saying: a blog is a web page you control, that is structured so you can update it very easily with frequent posts, and many have features that make it easy for people to leave comments on what you post. )

Liza – A blog is a group of software that resides in a server and it’s, there’s three elements. The script that produces the web pages – could be written in anything form perl to php. The two main languages in which blogs are written. You have a database, you need a database in where you write is going to reside. Databases are software, they’re soft machines. The third element that mkes them different froma livejournal diary, is that you can pretty up your blog. You can design it and do CSS and the html. And th
at’s why it’s web 2.0. Because web 1.0 was all hard coded… on a page it might turn into 15, 20 printed pages… whereas a blog, it dynamically puts those things together.

Jessica: Liza’s a real geek, I wish I understood that stuff… but that’s not how I define it. When i define blogs I say it’s the immediacy, it’s the updated frequently. Comments section. i don’t think it’s really a blog if it doesn’t have comments. And a sense of community. Having a blogroll, linking to other bloggers, having online relationships. Not so much for the tech.

Lauren: it’s so easy, we could have sat here right now and made an awesome blog about this panel.

Liza – i’m from the first wave and i have to install it myself.!!

Thanks – applause –

talking gender – a long digressive juicy post


woolf camp
Originally uploaded by Liz Henry.

I was prepared to talk during the Bloggercon “Bridges” panel but not quite for Elisa’s question of “Are we ready for men to be allowed on BlogHer panels?” I didn’t even know where to start. I mean, “What? No! Are you kidding? Maybe after the patriarchy’s smashed…” And then kind of in frustration I said something like “What the heck. What man would want to, why would a guy want to come into one of the very few women’s spaces that is set up for women to talk and listen to each other and for women to figure out what it is that they want to do as women, and demand that women listen to them? WTF, men? ” Apparently that was shocking and controversial. Obviously, I am not a separatist. But I am a fuzzy separatist. That is to say, I believe strongly that where there are unequal power dynamics *overall in society* then it is quite valuable to have identity-based conversations – because different conversations happen when you do. Then, the people having that conversation get a sort of base of power, of validation, of figuring-out. You get somewhere new. I believe very strongly as well that you then need to communicate outside that focus group. thus the “bridges”.

This is a pretty complicated topic… I think sometimes it takes trying it to see the point of it, and to see what use it can be! Think of it as a thought experiment and as something that has to be both ongoing and temporary.

When you get a group of women with computers and blogs together, what do they talk about? What’s important to them? What do they know and not know and want to know, and how can they teach it to each other or figure it out? No one is going to figure that out while we are judging ourselves by what men think is good and important and significant.

So, back to Bloggercon. I said something else that I think annoyed and shocked a bunch of the guys in the room and probably some of the women as well — that it only takes one loud dude to make a roomful of women stop talking to each other. I want to give a couple of examples from Woolfcamp, an unconference about blogging and writing we had at Grace Davis’s house earlier this year. It was a lot of fun, it sparked tons of energy, and I learned a lot from organizing and attending it. It was around 25-30 women, some babies and kids, and maybe 5 men who braved the OMG Sparkly Ponies slumber party atmosphere that we deliberately cultivated to express our girl cootie pride.

Here’s the two incidents. At the start of one of the days of Woolfcamp we did a sort of “go around the room with a brief intro” session. It was quite touchy-feely. A lot of us were sitting on the floor and there was lots of heartfelt confession of vulnerability.

(Which I have to digress about. Women often communicate by the mutual offering of vulnerabilities and uncertainties. This can come off as annoying or bewildering self-deprecation, but in a group of women, it functions well. I say “I’m not sure about this idea, and gizmo theory, and I’m not an expert, and here’s the three mutually contradictory ways I feel about it, and here’s what I do know, and I wonder what my priorities are and what I’ll do.” Then you say “Me too, sort of, and I’ve always worried that I don’t know how to widgetize well enough.” And then we have established our mutual trust and non-arrogant stances, and begin the actual information exchange and work together towards confident steps to action. It is an approach to the process of conversation. The same conversation between women and men often goes like this: “I’m not sure about my gizmo theory abilities, and…” “I’m so sorry. That sucks. Maybe some day you’ll know what you’re doing. Here, let me tell you how to do it.” *guy now puts woman into the category of incompetent whiners* *woman gives up on actually having a productive conversation with guy*)

Caution: I am now going to pick on Marc Canter, and I really like and respect Marc, and I’m only picking on him because I know he can take it…

Okay so back to Woolfcamp. We’re all sitting around in a circle being girly hippies. People are stating why they’re at Woolfcamp, why they blog, what cool stuff they do, and also… a lot of insecurities and conflicted feelings. Then it comes to be Marc Canter’s turn… And it was absolutely like he was from another galaxy. He was up above most of us, up at the top of the room, physically dominating the situation. He talked extremely loudly, with a lot of speech patterns like “I’ll tell you exactly what the problem is…” And rambled about DRM and RSS to a roomful of women who mostly did not know what he was talking about and had no idea what his deal was. They’d never heard of him. I’d never heard of him, though I knew what he meant about DRM and I’ve heard that rant before. But what he was *actually saying*… the subtext of what he was saying… was “I have not listened to you. I don’t know who I am and why I’m here, and if I do, I’m not telling. I am an expert, and you are my students, and will listen, because I’m the person here who knows what’s really important. You are ignorant about Three Letter Acroynm, and if you were really geeks, you would know, and since you don’t, I’ll do you the huge favor of explaining it at length.” So, what happened? The room was horribly tense. A bunch of people just weren’t listening. A few women got up and left the room as unobtrusively as possible. I am an aggressive, assertive person and yet it took me a while to work up the mojo to bust through Marc’s wall of blustering. I had to get beyond being pissed off and transcend about five levels of meta-meta-meta to say something calm yet effective. I don’t for the life of me know what came out of my mouth, but it was smooth. It was polite. It shut Marc up in some magic way that saved face for him. We moved on. There was a giant collective sigh of relief. Later, in corners… in private… quite a few women came up to me to giggle about what had happened. “OMG it was like one thing was coming out of your mouth and it was all calm, but I could *see* the thought balloon over your head that said “SHUT THE FUCK UP.” Or… most telling – from a woman who does not identify herself as a feminist – and the thing that men most need to know about this story… “I was so angry at what was happening in the room that I didn’t know what to do or say, and so I went into the kitchen and started washing dishes because I was so pissed.” You know what, that happens all the time. Secession happens, because there is no way to get across what is messed up about a situtation and about the communication dynamics. It takes so much work to go across the differering perceptions of reality! I’m trying to do some of that work, by talking about this kind of thing.

I know that Marc makes an easy example, because he has a very strong personality and is very equal opportunity about who he pisses off. (And – another digression – I value that kind of person a lot, and it takes an asshole with a thick skin, like me, to say some of these things; i.e. it is our cluelessness or not-caring-what-other-people-will-thinkitude, and our not following the rules, that stirs shit up and makes a productive conversation happen.) But, Marc is just the obvious easy example, and this dynamic exists all the time in many situations, not just in the geek conference world.

– are you being an expert?
– are you lecturing?
– are you being loud, backing a woman into a corner, or towering over her physically?

If you are and
you’re not being paid to be a teacher, then you are probably making some chick so enraged that she would gnaw her own arm off rather than come to your conference… If you’re lucky then she will sleep with you just to make you shut up…

Okay, that was rude.. but half of you are laughing. ;-P

Please understand that I’m also saying this as a woman who grew up loving competition, harsh situations, games, boasting, winning, chest-beating, and showing off… I can get very much into that scene. I try to keep it out of my actual life in situations where it is not effective, and I don’t do it for my own ego, or I try not to. If there is a point, like winning a board game or making money, then hey, go for it. It does not make for productive brainstorming, user-developer sessions, teaching, product development, or interesting conversation… and it does not attract women in general to participate.

Okay, story two is actually more of the same. We were talking about “nifty techie bloggy tools”, discussion led by Sarah Dopp.

The deal is, in our roomful of kick-ass interesting blogging women, no one believed they were qualified enough to stand up and lead. We had to bully each other into doing it with a lot of petting and persuading and poking and jokes, a lot of encouragement. By the end of Woolfcamp, women were calling each other on self-deprecation… not letting each other put ourselves down… basic consciousness raising results which made me very happy. So, even Sarah, who among the craft bloggers, complete newbies, literary women, fat awareness activists, etc. stood out as a person who was actually a *programmer*… even Sarah had to have her arm twisted to lead the Nifty Techie Bloggy Tools session, even when she had prepared for it and had a handout. During the session she went through her handout and all of us in the room were cross-talking, were recommending things and confessing ignorance of other things… And part of what was good about what was happening was that we were all talking to each other, participating, and finding out that.. hey! I know something valuable to contribute, too, even though I didn’t know I did! Unfortunately.. then Chris Heuer, who I otherwise and at all other times love to death and who is a genius of unconferencing and encouraging participation, came in and… yes you guessed it. Stood in the doorway, weirdly yelling at all of us sitting on the floor about all the things he knows that we don’t know and how we *should* know them and how can we not have known them OMG! You could see the newbies in the room shrinking. And again, there was a panicky telepathy… what to do? The thing is… no one could deny that he knew more than we did, probably, about blogging tools. We would in theory like to know. But not quite at such uninterrupted length…. So, since no one could leave the room and since… well I confess, I was exhausted and could not get it up to derail him… What happened was that most people in the room stopped listening, and pointedly started quiet conversations with each other, like bad kids in class, even scribbling notes. And the IM-ing grew fierce. Sarah, who was leading, did not know how to make him shut up without … The thing is, it takes practice. It takes practice on both sides, on the shutter-upper, and the person being told to shut up. We need to be able to say, “You’re hijacking a good thing that was happening in this conversation, and now that will stop.” Without that being made a huge deal, or the focus of the conversation. And without having to then take care of the shutted-up person’s feelings. We also need to practice shutting up gracefully when asked. (I say, as the same person who kept talking about confrontation and anger to Mike Arrington who was moderating and trying to shut me up… )

It was so weird, because I have never before or since seen Chris do anything like that… and again, a bunch of women in the room had that “omg, that thing that happened! and he wouldn’t quit! and we weren’t sure what to do or say!” conversation afterwards. But they did not have it where Chris could hear it. Maybe Grace did, actually… and I meant to, but never got around to it. Everyone wanted to, I felt, but they would normally feel major barriers against doing it in front of everyone else, the thing to do would be to do it privately to his face, with much praise and consideration and ego-boosting: in other words it takes quite a lot of time and energy to get past basic defensiveness of “What! I’m not sexist!” No… in your mind you’re not… you are even so cool as to be at a feminist conference… and yet “how you are” intrinsically is not the issue, but instead, “how you just behaved not by your own perception but by the perception of *a majority of women who had established their own cultural norm*.

So, that is why I do not support men on panels at Blogher… Because we all need to develop more of those skills.

And because men who get to hear the conversations that develop when women are talking – they are lucky, and should value the opportunity to hear the conversation in the kitchen… when we are angry and can’t explain to them why in public, because it would be rude, and we’re washing the dishes instead… That is a really good opportunity for anyone. If you talk all the time you will not hear anything.