Techies You Decide! You’re either a Feminist or a Misogynist

I got caught up reading Margaret Robertson’s great post today, In Which I don’t try to write like a man. She describes how she has self-censored herself. How she has tried to frequently go out of her way to de-gender herself in her writing on games.

Here is a particularly good quote:

It’s taken me a while to recognise that a big part of why I don’t post things like this is because I’m *scared*. Actually scared. Actually worried that I’ll terminally undermine my credibility. And that’s because the degree of abuse you can attract is of a different order from the generality of internet rough-and-tumble

This depressed me. This feeling of depression took me back to reading Skud’s post, On being Harassed. (Seriously, if you haven’t read Skud’s post go read it now, and some of the links.)

See, I work on open source, but I work on it in libraries and the digital humanities. I also do things with games, but it’s humanities research. In both cases, I end up spending my time on the web hanging with feminists like myself. In general, I think folks in the digital humanities respond rather well to issues around gender and technology. For example, I think the What Do Girl’s Dig conversation that Bethany kicked off was really productive. Heck, it became a book chapter. With that said, we are working on it. I think DH folks do a rather good job in realizing that conversations about technology come pre-loaded with gender problems.

If you read Robertson’s post, and the comments, and Skud’s post I think this becomes rather self-evident. You are either a expressed feminist or you are a witting or un-witting misogynist. I just wanted to make where I stand clear, and invite anyone else who wants to make this clear to say so as well.

Mysogony or Feminism: The Choice is Yours

But I’m an equalist!!!!111!! No, you’re not. If you are an equalist you are a feminist. The situation is as follows. Society is normative. Society is anti-feminist. That is just how power works. You can choose to recognize this. If you do, the result is that you need to think very carefully about what you are going to do to try to help make sure that your actions don’t further exacerbate the problem. Otherwise you can accept that you are an unwitting accomplice in perpetuating the status quo. Seriously, go read about some of the psychological research on stereotype threat. (For those unaware of stereotype threat research, the gist is that you can quantify the effects of gender and race stereotypes effects on academic achievement on tests.)

This is Not Novel But It Needs to be Restated

The purpose of this post is not to make a new or novel point. I make no claim to be breaking new ground. I just think we need more people in tech, more men in particular, who will explicitly and unambitious state that they are feminists. There are plenty of people out there waiting to shout women down and the more people willing to clearly state that this is a problem the better we will all be.

This is not a women’s issue. I want to live in a more just society. That is why I am a feminist. If you want to live in a more just society then you’re a feminist too. It upsets me when I am reminded of just how unkind and abrasive the web, technology and gaming communities are to women. I feel rather strongly that the world needs more people in technology, men in particular, who are willing to clearly state that they are feminists. To me that means being someone who is willing to think through and second guess my own actions. It also means that I consciously try to advocate on behalf of women in technology.

So, which side are you on? Remember, you get to choose, but choosing not to choose is also choosing a side.

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6 Responses to Techies You Decide! You’re either a Feminist or a Misogynist

  1. Thanks for this post. I spent a few hours reading the links; then I donated to the Ada Initiative.

  2. Ted says:

    Nice post. Being naive of this topic & male, I don’t know how much I can add. But within the reddit comments and related discussions two general reactions seemed to be evident.

    1.) This cannot stand. Sexism is sexism, and must be fought and “called out” in every instance.

    2.) There’s not much you can do about it. People who really believe it won’t change, and the other folks who use that rhetoric are simply trolls, willing to do anything for attention. (This exchange seems as an example as any.)

    Which leaves me with this question: do the sexist commenters know that their speech is inappropriate, wrong and hurtful? (good luck convincing true believers of the last two). I think it’s pretty hard to argue that they don’t. If this is the case, does pointing out their depravity make an impact? They know it’s wrong, but that apparently hasn’t dissuaded them from the behavior.

    Or more pointedly, do they realize that there is another human on the other end of the internet? I think this is the quality most often lacking in those commenters. It’s much easier to see the LCD in front of you than the person a few routers away.

    So what’s the plan of action? Ignoring it is easier and more comfortable. There’s a certain inevitability to anonymous people being abrasive that makes sweeping it under the rug appealing. In some cases, fighting it with blogs and comments only gives the trolls the attention they crave, and reinforces their belief in sexism’s ability to provoke a response.

    On the other hand, what if the sexists really don’t know how unacceptable their speech is? Challenging their BS could set them straight. Depending on how many dyed-in-the-wool sexists vs. trolls vs. unconscious misogynists one believes exists, this could be pretty effective or a total flop. It’ll take energy, time, and determination (and could cost even more, as Skud’s experience shows) but it could also make a difference. And if no one fights, how can anyone expect positive change?

    I ask as a newb, a dunderhead and a plebe, what’s one to do? What is the best way to reduce the sum total of sexism in the little corner of the internet I experience? Don’t feed the trolls, shun them, and hope the sexists have a sudden flash of empathy? Or fight them on the forums, fight them on the comments, the blogs and the streets… and pray we convert it though while coming out unscathed?

    Or better yet, is there a third (or forth, fifth, etc.) option I’ve yet to consider?

    • Ted says:

      Curse these fat fingers. Two typos mar my comment.

      *(This exchange seems as good an example as any.)

      &

      *…and pray we convert them while coming out unscathed?

  3. tjowens says:

    These are really great questions Ted and I don’t pretend to have necessarly good answers. Here are a few quick thoughts.

    1. More Awareness: I think there are some folks, guys in particular, that just have no idea how rough the web can be for women. I think the more people know about this the more likely they are to a) second guess their own actions and b) intervene.

    2. Calling People Out: Trolls are loud and they will come back in force, but if all someone hears are trolls it strongly works to reinforce the baggage that is out there. I think it is important for more people to stand behind and voice their concerns in all contexts as a feminist.

    Beyond this, I can say that following and supporting conversations, on blogs like Geek Feminism , and participating in things like are also a good first steps.

  4. Fran says:

    Definitely a feminist. And very glad to see a post about the need for more male feminists! Having said that, the amount of female anti-feminists also worries me. Your comment about more awareness is valid not only for the online harrassment issue, but also for informing people what feminism really is.

  5. Pvblivs says:

    I don’t know whether the article is sincere or not. But I am not a feminist BECAUSE I am an equalist. Feminists do not support equality. Feminism is about female supremacy. And society is very pro-feminist. Don’t see it? Most violence is against men, but society is only concerned about the violence against women, hence the VAWA. There are women-only hotels, women-only gyms, women-only rail cars. But hear the howls of protest if anyone dares identify a space as “men-only.” Women serve less time in prison when convicted of the same crimes as their male counterparts. Divorce court is heavily slanted in favor of women, often requiring a man to work double-shifts to pay for children he is not allowed to see.

    Feminism is sexism and anyone who calls herself a feminist should be called out on her sexism.

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