I’d never cut it as a “geek feminist”. There are just too many rules I might want to break.
Besides, some people only consider me to be a woman “near tech” instead of a woman “in tech”. Apparently I’m a Carrie Bradshaw because I write about tech, which is probably why I’ve kept mostly silent on the topic of “geek feminism”.
The problem is that there are some really nice women and girls who are getting hurt by some members of a movement that is meant to be helpful.
Today a Nice Girl wrote about the dark side of geek feminism, and unfortunately, I’m all too familiar with what she described. She wrote, “I was criticized to my face for wearing low necklines and skirts of a short-yet-modest length, and told that I was ‘sexualizing‘ the conference through my attire. I was lambasted for my honest answer (‘I’m here with my boyfriend.’) when I was asked about my reasoning for attending, and even told that I should lie about why I was attending OSCON instead of ‘undermining’ the feminist community. I started the conference last year with an eagerness to learn more about open source software, and I left the conference feeling unsure about whether or not I wanted to attend again in 2012.”
She was criticized by other women, which isn’t the best way to attract someone to open source.
Ladies, wouldn’t we run to her defense if she’d been belittled by a member of the opposite sex? On one hand, we say we want diversity, but on the other, we want to dictate how someone “should” be?
Have we successfully busted down the doors to the Boy’s Club only to hit a Girl’s Clique brick wall?
A few years ago I had a bit of a run in with a self-proclaimed geek feminist at a vendor-sponsored OSCON party. (I’m not picking on OSCON here, because this incident could have happened at any event.) I was chastised for changing my name when I got married. I thought that “feminism” gave me choices. I thought I had the choice to pursue my career after I chose to have a baby, and the choice about whether to change my name when I chose to get married. Believe me, if I have any regrets about my marriage — and its recent crash and burn — it’s not the name change.
At another event, LinuxCon 2010, I got into a rather heated debate with a male “geek feminist” about an “offensive” incident that did not offend me. My argument was somewhere along the lines of, “You know what offends me? People telling me what should offend me.” You’re offended that I’m not offended? Well, that’s offensive.
It pains me to admit this, but percentage-wise, women have been more likely to criticize me in this field than men have been. But that’s not to say that women in IT aren’t friendly or encouraging, because the vast majority of them are. And, although the vast majority of the men I’ve encountered over the course of my career have been fabulous and fun and encouraging, there have been a few toads along the way.
Let’s remember that we’re dealing with individuals, people.
The problem with labels, like “geek feminism”, is that they come with a bunch of rules. I don’t want to follow all these rules. Look over the list of role models and heroes we have in IT — aren’t most of them actually rule breakers?
I don’t want to represent all women in IT, or any other group. I’m a mother, but I doubt anyone wants me to be the poster mom for what other mothers should be. And I’m a runner, but anyone who’s ever run a marathon in under 5 hours doesn’t want me to be the face of this competitive sport. Hey, this girl’s built for comfort, not speed. (Do you see what I did there? I called myself a “girl”, which might not be very feminist of me, but I can call myself that if I want to, right?)
I understand that the idea behind “geek feminism” is good and intended to break down barriers for women in IT. But please consider which barriers are being built as the old ones start to fall.