Reader Request Week 2013 #9: Women and Geekdom

In e-mail, Brian asks:

Women in Geekdom. Why is this all exploding now? Where is it going?

I am assuming Brian means women in geek-related fields taking a stand against the both latent and overt sexism in those fields and having to deal with outsized, histrionic freakouts some geek dudes are having about it in response.

What’s happening? To explain, let me go to one of my favorite little bits in the film The American President, which I think these days is best known as writer Aaron Sorkin’s rough draft of The West Wing. The scene has President Andrew Shepherd navigating his way through a Christmas party at the White House and coming across a florid, very concerned man in a green jacket:

INT. RESIDENCE - NIGHT

	An informal Christmas party is underway with maybe 20 GUESTS,
	some of them familiar faces.

	SHEPHERD and a GREEN-BLAZERED MAN

				GREEN BLAZERED MAN (GILL)
		Mr. President, militant women are out
		to destroy college football in this
		country.

				SHEPHERD
		Is that a fact?

				GREEN BLAZERED MAN (GILL)
		Have you been following this
		situation down in Atlanta? These
		women want parity for girls'
		softball, field hockey, volleyball...

				SHEPHERD
		If I'm not mistaken, Gill, I think
		the courts ruled on Title 9 about 20
		years ago.

				GREEN BLAZERED MAN (GILL)
		Yes sir, but now I'm saying these
		women want that law enforced.

				SHEPHERD
		Well, it's a world gone mad, Gill.

Right now geekdom is positively stacked with Green Blazered Men, who are shocked and concerned that women in geekdom are suddenly not just satisfied with the idea that they have equal standing, opportunity and engagement in the geek world — they are actually pushing for it to happen, and pushing back against the men who are resisting that, whether that resistance is passive, aggressive or passive-aggressive. Or to put it another way, more and more women in the geek world seem to be done with the idea they need to just put up with this shit anymore, and it’s making the men who have been dishing out the shit — whether they knew they were dishing it out or not — a little defensive. And when Green Blazered Men feel defensive, they sometimes also get sort of angry.

Which doesn’t precisely answer the question of why now? Well, the best answer for this I can come up with is that it’s the second decade of the twenty-first century, isn’t it? If I were a woman geek being asked to put up with a whole bunch of sexist bullshit in my community, and pretend it wasn’t happening and that this is what actual equality in my community looked like, I would hope that my response would be to say, loudly and publicly, “you’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” So that there are women who are actually saying this, loudly and publicly, doesn’t surprise me and is also something I support.

And of course those women are catching hell for it. Many male geeks (it seems to me) are unaware of their casual sexism and/or have uncritically bought in to how things have always been in the culture, because why wouldn’t they? It’s a nice set-up for them (and by them I should note I mean us, because, hi, I’m a male geek). I think people are inherently conservative about social structures that favor them, because a) duh, and b) most people assume their own life experience is similar to other people’s even when they’re told otherwise and are given specific examples. When they’re confronted with this ignorance, they feel defensive and feel like the real problem is the person who is complaining, because they themselves are not bad people, therefore the person making them feel bad must be.

Add this to the fact that a lot of male geeks are also emotionally immature and/or seeking status with other male geeks — male geekdom is extraordinarily status sensitive, which is a subject worthy of its own separate discussion — and it’s not surprising that an immediate reaction by so many male geeks to women pushing back is HULK SMASH. The Internet obviously facilitates this sort of thing by allowing for anonymity and gatherings of like-minded folks who offer a comforting bubble of “my thinking is how everyone thinks.” So it’s easy for hordes of anonymous male geeks to strike out at women — who often do not have the same sort of anonymity when they complain publicly about the sexism of the geek world, and who indeed have a target painted on them as soon as they open their mouths.

This is not to paint every male geek with the same brush. There are plenty of male geeks who are also fed up with the sexism of geekdom; there are others who show their ass with a bout of public sexism — intentional or otherwise — who then actually pay attention to what women and others are telling them about that sexism and try to do better (there’s often a difficult “but I’m not a sexist!” protest phase to this, followed by a 101-level discussion of sexism, which is its own issue. Lots of smart, clever people don’t like to think they need entry-level enlightenment.).

Also, sexism in the male geek world does exist on a sliding scale, from jackassed geek bros who loathe and fear women and everything about them that they cannot penetrate at the top, to the dude who for no particularly good reason suspects women aren’t good at FPS games but is otherwise fine with women geeks at the bottom. Some of these dudes will find it easier to let go of their sexism than others.

And with that said, the final reason I think this is all exploding now is because I think the acceptance of overt and covert sexism in geekdom is on its way out — not as a feature (it will always be there, because some people are just fucking sexist assholes, and also, geeks) but as a dominant aspect of the field. A useful example of this I can offer is what happened in the first decade of the twenty-first century, when a ton of US states suddenly passed laws and state constitutional amendments banning recognition of same-sex marriage. It happened because a bunch of people who were abjectly terrified that gays and lesbians would have equal access to the rights and privileges of marriage were able to leverage the latent and often unexamined homophobia of a bunch of other people into terrible, bigoted, hateful laws.

Why then? Because Massachusetts allowed same sex marriage, and because gays and lesbians as a class had begun saying “enough of this shit,” when it came to being denied the right to marry, and it just plain freaked out a bunch of people who didn’t understand why gays and lesbians couldn’t be happy knowing they could get married, just as long as it was to someone of the opposite sex (no, really. This was an argument for a while). And then the more organized members of the freaked-out brigade looked at the demographics of gay acceptance and realized the clock was ticking.

They were right. Here in 2013 a more than bare majority of Americans approve of same sex marriage, marriage equality is the law in several states, and the percentages are going up in both cases. There will be places and people who will need to be dragged into the world of marriage equality kicking and screaming, but it’s a question of when, not if, at this point. Too many people, gay and straight, have decided this is a thing that will be.

And so with the geek world. Women geeks are largely done with letting this sexist shit go uncommented upon, a growing number of men geeks are siding with them, and that number is going to continue to grow. Women geeks certainly aren’t going to shut up now — too many of them are all in on this. Good for them.

But, yeah, sexism in geekdom is a thing, is still a thing, and will continue to be a thing for a while. Not every male geek is going to just willingly unload his sexism. Whether they want to admit it or not — whether they consciously know it or not — they see it as having value; something that offers status and an exclusive identity. They like their green blazer.

200 thoughts on “Reader Request Week 2013 #9: Women and Geekdom

  1. Note: I’m expecting some cluelessness on this comment thread, because it’s about geeks and it’s about women, and the two combined often mean people intentionally or otherwise showing their asses in the comment thread. Also, it’s Saturday, which means I don’t want to be chained to my computer all day babysitting people being obnoxious and/or clueless. So:

    1. The obvious troll comments I’m likely to simply expunge without a clever comment explaining why I am expunging them. You don’t deserve a clever dismissal at this point.

    2. Comments responding to obvious trolls will likely also be expunged, because damn it you should know better by now.

    3. Comments that try to make the conversation about Women Can Be Horrible And Sexist Too will also probably be expunged because one, that’s not the topic under discussion, and two, Jesus Christ can you please not be such a pain in my ass today, you almost certainly (cluelessly or otherwise) sexist man, you.

    Basically: Don’t be clueless, and don’t piss me off, I’m not going to bother being nice today.

  2. Utterly brilliant. This 53 year old female geek wishes you lived in Massachusetts so she could shake your hand and thank you in person.

    One thing you may not know: right wingers STILL use the “gays are free to marry a member of the opposite sex” argument as justification for their bigotry. Unbelievable but true.

  3. As a footnote: Facebook disproved the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory some time ago. Anonymity is not a necessary component to make an ordinary person a fuckwad; however, lack of consequences is.

    Which is why geeks who want geekdom to be more accomodating try and make establishing those consequences everyone’s business; if you’re not helping us establish social consequences for being horrible, you’re not helping. Just, you know, care? That’s all we ask.

  4. I’m still convinced that until people progress past using their personal opinion as a yardstick for measuring reality, we’ll never see reasonable behavior from homo sapiens. On my cynical days I wonder if that “I define my reality” clause isn’t hardwired in.
    Maybe I’ll just lobby for people to observe Wheaton’s Law. It’s nice and to the point.

  5. I recently saw a post on tumblr which involved a screenshot of a tweet (ahh, social media within social media). Woman wearing a bioshock: infinite t-shirt, gets told she probably never played it. So she tells the guy how it ends.

    Diane Duane responded with the story of the time this happened to her with Privateer II, except that of course in this case, her rebuttal isn’t so much that she played it as that she *wrote* the story for it — and was able to prove this.

    I would point out that it’s not just women. There’s been plenty of drama involving other sorts of exclusions, such as the minor fluff about the Orycon convention having a panel about autism which carefully did not include any autistic participants. This last time around, it was “cancelled” in a way which involved the panelists showing up and acting as though there was a panel, and the con board minutes reveal that they dismissed the complaints as “one or two people”. Note that I personally know upwards of five people who have gone to conventions in the past and complained about this behavior…

    I think the particularly pernicious part is that a lot of people simply don’t recognize that some of the ways people treat women at conventions and in other aspects of geekdom could be considered a problem. I still meet people, even occasional female people, who insist that it is ridiculous to be unhappy about “compliments”. No matter how many there are. No matter how often you’ve had failure to be all excited about receiving them in a way that makes you sexually available result in immediate hostility.

    Whole thing depresses me. I always like to think that sci-fi geeks in particular ought to be super enthusiastic about inclusion, because if people are different enough from you to make you uncomfortable, think what you could *learn* from them. Oddly, this view is less universal than I had expected.

  6. Amusing that you should use the green jacket as a symbol on the weekend of the Masters (was that intentional?) Even Augusta has had to bow to reality and admit women. Another bastion of sexism falls.

  7. I also like the Green Jacket used as a symbol for those who have sexist thinking. Nice shortcut, even if it came from the script.

  8. ::2. Comments responding to obvious trolls will likely also be expunged, because damn it you should know better by now. ::

    Awww – dammit, Scalzi, must you take away all our fun playing Whack-A-Troll…?

  9. I’m not going to get on my soapbox, you’ve pretty much covered it, Scalzi. I will say this – I greatly dislike when someone recruits a member of the group he or she is actively trying to oppress to do their dirty work for them. And it happens because the oppressor will then turn to the oppressed and say, “See? One of your own says that it’s not THAT big a deal. What’s the matter with YOU?” Makes me want to throat punch people. I have seen that dynamic play out in several groups, and every time it has, it’s ended in a lecture (usually from me), and me deciding that maybe this group is not for me.

  10. Thank you for writing this. It’s funny how often this particular viewpoint keeps coming up – the idea that the greater visibility and louder voices of women in geek culture must mean that suddenly there are more women in geek culture and geek spaces. A group of women and I are doing a panel at the Chicago Comics & Entertainment Expo later this month about the fake geek girl idiocy and sexism and during a podcast interview about the panel, we got asked a similar question: What was the cause of there being more women in geek spaces now? One of the panelists nearly jumped out of her seat when she answered (for all of us): “BUT WE’VE ALWAYS BEEN HERE!”

    It’s not like geeky and nerdy women have suddenly popped into existence out of thing air. Women have been participating in geek spaces and activities and been a fairly major (if unacknowledged) driving force in fandom for decades. Yes, there are people who come to call themselves geeks and nerds and start participating in geeky things and events later in life because they’re newly-discovering that they actually like nerdy and geeky things. But how many women were there who were already nerds and geeks but who didn’t go to cons or comic book stores or gaming events because *they simply didn’t feel welcome* or didn’t think of themselves as nerds or geeks despite their inclinations because they were told “You like Green Lantern but you don’t know EVERYTHING about Green Lantern, so you’re not really into it,” or “You only like playing Mario Kart but not Bioshock? You’re not REALLY a gamer”? How many women were in those spaces but didn’t speak up because they didn’t feel like they fit in anywhere else and the risk of being kicked out for being “too girly” or “too sensitive” or “that uptight b****”?

    The difference between then and now isn’t about how many women there are in geek spaces – it’s how many women in geek spaces aren’t staying quiet anymore.

    @Seebs

    “I would point out that it’s not just women. There’s been plenty of drama involving other sorts of exclusions, such as the minor fluff about the Orycon convention having a panel about autism which carefully did not include any autistic participants.”

    Absolutely – the support women speaking out against exclusion in geek spaces should extend to other marginalized groups. There are lots of intersecting groups and issues that (ideally) make for allies.

    “I always like to think that sci-fi geeks in particular ought to be super enthusiastic about inclusion, because if people are different enough from you to make you uncomfortable, think what you could *learn* from them. Oddly, this view is less universal than I had expected.”

    The amount of gate-keeping that’s reared it’s ugly head in geek culture has been extremely disappointing.

  11. One of the “less invalid” complaints I hear from male geeks is that women are ruining geek culture by expecting “special treatment.” They argue that they insult everyone using sexist slurs, are are generally abusive to one another, and now here are all these women who expect to be treated differently? Why should geek culture change for them? Which, I mean… it has a certain internal logic and lack of self-awareness that is sort of impressive.

    But if your defense of yourself and your friends is “we’re not really specifically sexist, we’re actually just generally nasty, horrible human beings” then I’m not sure how you expect not to be shunned and excluded in the long term.

  12. I think the comparison to the same-sex marriage debate is brilliant. These systems (male geek sexism, anti-same-sex marriage, etc) are on the precipice of their respective existence. The cacophony of resistance to these coming changes is just the squeal of metal as the last beam bends past the breaking point.

  13. Not to get on the women can be horrible bandwagon, but I think part of this movement is that female geeks are also jumping on the tolerance train. For a long time, I feel like we first and second wave female geeks were part of the problem. Like, “If you aren’t tough enough to put up with the sexism, get back in the kitchen!” I know I felt that way for a long time.

    It’s only in the last few years that my viewpoint has changed. I found myself outnumbered by female geeks who do Star Wars crafts or spend endless hours creating lovely costumes or make jewelry inspired by book characters. Those women tend to share and encourage and foster community. At first I was like, “WTF?” but now I respect and admire them. They made their own space in geekdom and welcome others with open arms.

    I’m not a part of that crowd; I’d rather build a PC than create a Tardis ornament and so we often have little in common. I am supportive of their community, though, and I hover around the edges. I’ve bought their jewelry and I retweet their crafty goodness. I learned from them that we should be embracing new blood and their ideas, instead of trying to keep the status quo, because, frankly, the status quo sucked.

  14. “Well, it’s a world gone mad, Gill.”

    Lines like that are the reason I’ll watch just about anything Aaron Sorkin writes. I’m one of the 14 people who saw all of the episodes of Studio 60.

    And as for women demanding equality in the geek world, well, sure, of course.

  15. Eridani:

    I would say that you are “crafting” even if it is crafting a PC. Each requires its’ own skills and knowledge. A well-put-together PC is just as lovely a thing as the Tardis jewelry (and have you SEEN some of the casemods people do for PCs?).

    Scalzi:

    I think that this exists in ANY fandom to be honest. When the Sherlock Holmes “fandom” got started (please excuse stuffed shirts insisting the Baker Street Irregulars is a “literary society”), it was all men. Then, eventually, with alot of work on some very courageous women’s parts, we got the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes dinner held in parallel with the huge BSI do in New York. Now, women can be inducted.

    The Baker Street Babes podcast is in the vanguard today for women in the Sherlockian fandom. These women are huge fans of all the media incarnations of Sherlock Holmes, from the Canon stories through Basil of Baker Street in the Great Mouse Detective to Rathbone to Cumberbatch and beyond. Yet, they still catch crap as “not good enough” or “not knowing enough” because a) they embrace many of the other medias and b) some of the very same sexist attitudes I’m seeing you discuss here..The fandom is going through its growing pains and it IS getting better…

    What gets me is you’d think men would find it a COMPLIMENT that we’re enjoying and getting into some of these, up until not quite a few years ago, bastions of maleness. I don’t get why my liking something some guy likes is a threat. If anything, it gives us a base of common interest to talk about…

    Can anyone explain to me why my femaleness and enjoying comic books, action movies, and Sherlock Holmes is such a threat? Because that is the only thing I can fathom would cause such crazy behaviour from otherwise reasonable humans….

  16. Well said.

    @Geek Melange
    “BUT WE’VE ALWAYS BEEN HERE!”
    So very true. My mom, who’s almost 70, is a huge Star Trek (TOS) fan and at least half the sci-fi and fantasy books I grew up reading are hers. She also ran the first D&D game I played in.

  17. The sad thing is that women basically invented the SF media convention, and now male geeks who don’t know the history are acting like we’ve just discovered them, and are interlopers on male geek territory. Umm, no.

  18. This is one of the many many reasons why I love your blog, and your writing. This is a beautiful summation of the situation. (Now if only the Powers That Be at Marvel and DC would pay attention…)

  19. Thank you. I was quoted in an article about women and sexism in technology. The comments were numerous and hateful. While they attempted to say that I was a moron who should be happy to have a job, they clearly made the case that yes, there is sexism in technology. So thank you for this article, and an even greater thank you for comments that seem to be written by human beings.

  20. To the “why now” part, I think some of it is due to the ease of communicating things broadly. Even a decade ago most people couldn’t share their thoughts and experiences so easily. There was no Facebook. Blogs? yes, but awareness of them was low among the general population. Twitter? Not 10 years ago.

    Since then, we’ve seen explosive growth in tools that let people post their thoughts and experiences and tools that let the readers of those thoughts and experiences share them. Now, some individuals have follower counts in the hundreds of thousands or even millions on Twitter. Even people with just a bit of fame like John have tens of thousands of people following him on Twitter and here. All of this amplifies voices that were previously somewhat marginalized. Then we have a plethora of new media sites – Daily Beast, Jezebel, etc – that are somewhere between mainstream media and personal blogs. Finally, we have some more clueful mainstream reporters who look at all of this and bring it to an even wider audience (CNN, NYT, The Guardian).

    Finally, geek culture is a thing now. From Big Bang Theory to the massive increase in SD Comicon as a platform to web series like The Guild, things geek are getting more attention. That means that the dysfunctional parts of the community are also being exposed.

  21. Delilah:

    I mentioned it briefly on Twitter. I think he knows he made a mess and is working on it; his apology post was a start (I know some folks have issues with it) and I suspect he realizes this is going to be a learning process for him. I am optimistic he will learn.

    RickG17:

    I do think the ease of communication matters, yes, although that works both positively and negatively.

  22. I had the entire idea that women don’t belong in the geek world shattered for me when I was given the three volume set of Elizabeth Moon’s “Deed of Paksenarrion” for Christmas when I was 13 or 14.

    I reread just about every year; not because I need the reminder that women can write engaging and wondrous world-building fantasy, but because it is one of my very favorite pieces of fantasy, military or otherwise.

    Does it help that Moon was a Marine 2LT? Yup. Makes her picture of barracks life ring with authenticity. Does it help that she’s female…yeah, honestly, I’m leery of male writers picking a female protagonist. it’s not a rule, some do just fine; and my reason isn’t sexist, it’s biological.

    To use a somewhat extreme example, my wife has described labor to me several times, and I’m pretty sure I still have the same idea of what it’s really like that she has when I described getting shot–none at all.

    For the record, if you read the last story in Moon’s anthology “Phases”, you might agree with me that the concept of “write your own gender” doesn’t necessarily go both ways…

    My direct response to John’s post is “Let geekery increase!”

  23. I see this from the perspective of a pro writer, since sf/f is my job, not my hobby (I have other hobbies). And, to be candid, I’m never disappointed or surprised by sexism in sf/f pro culture, because I expect it.

    I grew up among sf/f writers and sf/f books and publications, and that all had a lot to do with why I started my career by writing romance rather than sf/f. As a reader, throughout my youth sf/f struck me as a “guy” genre, where it was too hard to find books with credible women characters, let alone women protagonists. (Don’t bother naming the exceptions. I’m not talking about the exceptions, I’m talking about the genre as a whole; as a whole, I found it a “guy fiction” genre.)

    One of the reasons I started my career by writing romance novels and had no interest in sf/f was that I figured trying to break into publishing and find a career foothold was hard enough without ALSO doing it in a genre where my gender was a drawback, a commercial drag on my potential.

    Eventually, after selling 13 romance novels, I did switch to writing fantasy. (This was due to a sudden confluence of various business and craft factors, rather than the result of a longterm plan.) And the publisher’s officlal, written “Marketing Strategy” on the promo materials for my first fantasy novel was: “The author is female in a traditionally male genre.” And that was only 15 years ago (1998). (I also certainly noticed a difference in how I was treated in business matters in sf/f compared to how I’d been treated as a romance writer–a field where the vast majority of writers and publishing professionals were/are women. When I’d have a complaint as a romance writer, my romance editors would discuss with with me in a businesslike manner. When I had a complaint as a fantasy writer, though, my male sf/f agent would tell me I didn’t understand business, my male sf/f editor would say, “Come on, Laura. Be nice,” and my male sf/f publisher would address me with open exasperation as, “young lady” [I was a professional in my 30s].)

    Predictably, whenever I have spoken about sexism in sf/f, male writers (particularly -older- male writers) immediately contradict me, refute and deny what I say, and insist I’m wrong. That hasn’t changed; I’m seeing many examples lately of numerous women pros in sf/f talking about sexism, and they get the same reaction–over and over (and, yep, they particularly get it from older males).

    Circumstances have changed must faster than attitudes in sf/f, and that’s a common phenomenon everywhere. There are more women writers now in sf/f than there were when I was young. There are more women writers in sf/f now than there were only 15 years ago, when I was billed as “female in a traditionally male genre.” Women are a MUCH bigger commercial force in sf/f than they used to be (ex. look at how much of the genre’s sales these days are driven by female-protagonist novels written by women and read by a large female readership–this is a huge sea-change from the sf/f genre of 20 years ago).

    So from my perspective and in my experience, circumstances have changed a LOT in sf/f within a generation. But attitudes have not caught up. Among the older generation, they probably just won’t–but that’s a demographic that defines the past rather than the future.

  24. Certain male geeks complain that there aren’t enough wimminfolk who like what they like, then turn around and act like the He-Man Women-Haters Club when some women actually turn out to be enthusiastic fans as well. You can’t have it both ways, folks.

  25. I love the story about spoilering BioShock Infinite. I’ve been spreading that ever since I heard it.

    A LOT of the arguments I’ve heard (second hand, since I’m not really a gamer) is of the form “but we’ve always been pigs, and now these [stupid adjective] [offensive sexist noun, plural] are coming in and wanting us to stop being pigs!” Well, tough noogies, you stupid pig. And “it’s one of the few places where men [i.e. pigs] could just be men [i.e. pig losers] without worrying about being Politically Correct [i.e. not bigoted stupid pigs]!” Well, yeah, there shouldn’t be ANY place you can be safe being a bigot, you loser. And there never should have been. So it’s finally being cleaned up; stop whining.

    Do you get the feeling I don’t have a lot of patience for these guys?

    And ellid is right; the argument that gay people have just as much right to marry as anyone else, they just have to marry people of the opposite sex, is still trotted out from time to time. See, that’s not discrimination. I suspect a few of these people may still be serious, if they live in an area where there are, for example, no Jews at all (that is, a backward small town); I use that example because the argument is parallel to saying there’s no discrimination (in free exercise of religion) against Jews as long as they’re allowed to go to a good Baptist church like anyone else.

  26. Thanks for this post. I have many female friends who are sick of being asked “tits or gtfo” and I bet they’re happy it won’t be so common in the future.

  27. You know what the hilarious thing is. This is exact same situation, with the exact same arguments against women somehow “spoiling it for men” happened 25 years ago in my country when Gentleman’s Clubs and Gentleman’s Golfing Associations were forced to admit female members. It might have involved more monocles, single malts, and cigar smoke and a slightly more upper class vocabulary, but it was the exact same childishness otherwise.

  28. @Faith Wallis:
    I cannot explain why women geeks seem like a threat to male geeks – I simply don’t have enough data. But anecdotal evidence suggests:
    1. As John mentioned, some people are just sexist assholes who also happen to be Geeks. They are usually the overtly sexist blokes.
    2. Also, (male) Geeks often tend to be “big little boys” emotionally and do not grow out of the juvenile mistrust of girls. As a result, they are often hostile towards the girls that dare to enter their side of the playground.
    With the resultant oft-quoted attitude of “you can be part of our team as long as you’re one of the guys”, geekdom perhaps remains one of the last bastions of sexism with at least a smattering of responsibility.

  29. @Xopher Halftongue “Do you get the feeling I don’t have a lot of patience for these guys?”

    I’d offer to share some of mine if I had any to spare, but “patience” in this topic is at an all-time premium these days. Sigh.

    I’m always confused as to how the logic of that argument isn’t self-evident:
    “Oh great – now that all these [fill in the blank minority group] are here, we have to stop being careless sexist/ableist/racist/homophobic pigs and actually start thinking about how we’re acting/speaking in case we might hurt anyone.”
    “Um… that’s bad why?”
    “[insert basic rant about free speech, PC culture, it's always been this way] which roughly translated = “I don’t wanna because it’s WORK!”

  30. Really I find this bizarre. Gaming is a social activity, and as a heteronormative male, I’ve always liked having women included in social activities. And it only takes about two seconds to reason through that anyone excluded from a competitive activity is the de facto winner.

  31. Being female, an engineer (two degrees actually /) and a geek (big time), and oh being a baby boomer, I have had to deal with this all my life. In college (’74 – ’78) one of my math professors told me, in front of the entire class, to go back to a kitchen and have babies. Having 30+ students as witnesses certainly help me resolve that issue. Then I was one of the first women to be pledged and sworn into Theta Tau National Engineering Fraternity; with the support of the chapter we filed a lawsuit against the national organization since the only requirement was to be an engineer student not gender but THEY seemed to think so. After college one of my bosses wanted “the engineers” to take the department secretary out for National Secretary Day yet, somehow asked me to stay behind and ‘man’ the phone – Of course I did not.

    Currently I am the only female developer (I am a Sr. Lead) on a team of 25+ and trust me, they don’t pull any sexist crap on me – they don’t dare because when it comes to geeky and technical stuff I can talk them all under the table. I am fortunate that WE treat each other as equals because what goes around comes around.

    So thank you for this post.

  32. I’ve been out of con-going fandom a long long time, and when I did go, 20 years ago in the UK, it was definitely male dominated in attendee %age, certainly in age groups above my peers – however even back then there were a significant number of female authors who attended, both as fans and as guests. I went to a lot of cons with a friend who is a woman, and never really noticed much in the way of sexist attitudes to her. Probably partly because I was young and clueless (as opposed to old and clueless), and maybe people assumed we were together so didn’t try to hit on her? Also maybe because she looks like Death in Sandman, so maybe people were scared ;) Anyway, I have been to a couple of US cons relatively recently, and the gender mix is definitely more equal now – the biggest difference in the con program was the much heavier emphasis on media, which in the UK, 20 years ago, wasn’t that large. Even though anime and films were shown at some of the bigger cons back then.

    So I don’t know what is bringing out the green jackets – a significant number of con-runners were women back in my day, so I don’t know why anyone would think they weren’t as passionate about “geek stuff” as the guys.

  33. “… bunch of people who didn’t understand why gays and lesbians couldn’t be happy knowing they could get married, just as long as it was to someone of the opposite sex (no, really. This was an argument for a while).”

    I *still* run into that, as recently as about a month ago. And it’s inevitably put forward as if it’s a brilliant legal argument. Now, I’m aware that some very stupid-sounding things can be brilliant in a legal context, but this isn’t one of them. It’s just as stupid in a legal context as it is in a human context.

  34. And also, I think our host is unfortunately way too sanguine about the prospect of gay marriage ever being accepted in certain areas of the country. Although clearly not the same thing, but with similar battlegrounds and constituencies, Roe vs Wade was 40 years ago and pro-choice is getting hammered out of existence in large areas of the US, and will continue to be eliminated for the foreseeable future. I feel abortion will be technically legal but impossible to obtain, or completely banned (see fetal heartbeat laws and life begins at conception laws) in 30-35 of the states by the end of the decade. If it makes it to the Supreme Court again, with the current composition, Roe vs Wade is done.

    So even when marriage equality becomes law at the federal level, the battle will continue for decades to come at the state level, and at least half the states will still not implement it or come up with some weasel way to not recognize unions.

  35. @Seebs: :: I always like to think that sci-fi geeks in particular ought to be super enthusiastic about inclusion, because if people are different enough from you to make you uncomfortable, think what you could *learn* from them::

    I think you’re missing the mob mentality aspect of geekdom, Seebs. This came up in a panel about “fake geekgirls” I was on at Ad Astra, which went far beyond that initial topic to a discussion of feminism in fandom.

    To indulge in a few stereotypes of my own, geeks as a group are socially awkward, largely Straight White Males who feel persecuted just about everyplace but in fandom – it’s their sanctuary from people who make fun of them (which includes girls). So having girls invade their sanctuary (which is how they see it) scares them – and like Yoda said, that leads to anger which leads to hate which leads to…. hmmm ::shakes head::

  36. @bearpaw and others – that has got to be the most stupid thing I’ve ever heard. it took me six times reading it in a thread to even believe people could be that stupid and still breath…

  37. Thank you so much for addressing this “Why now?” question. I get this one a lot, and the only answer I’ve ever been able to come up with is “why not now? You mean I should WAIT to be excluded and stepped on some more?” I am so done putting up with this sexism, especially in geekdom.

    Entirely related: since it appears you’ll be at C2E2, please consider checking out our panel on the topic–entitled “Exorcising the Spectre of the Fake Geek Girl.” We’ll be discussing all this on Sunday April 28 at 12:15. http://c2e213.mapyourshow.com/5_0/sessions/sessiondetails.cfm?ScheduledSessionID=18A9CC

  38. @pinky – OK, that’s on a par with gays being free to marry someone of the opposite sex. I need to redefine my definition of unbelievable stupidity downwards.

    Is that quote from on-line gaming comments or face to face? It’s moronic in any situation. If I said that to, well, pretty much any woman I’ve ever met, I’d expect to get punched. I wouldn’t even try it (jokingly) with my wife!

  39. Chris, I think the pattern of Roe v Wade is an unlikely parallel. There’s no perceived conflict of rights for marriage equality. The more likely parallel IMO is Loving v Virginia, which no one is fighting at all these days. Interracial marriage is legal in every state, and much as it was fought for a long time, the battle is over and it’s unlikely ever to come up again. This despite the fact that there are still plenty of racist bigots around.

  40. You’re right, the ingrained sexism doesn’t stop. It’s pervasive. Over at Badass Digest, there was a big discussion recently about these new Marvel t-shirts. The boy t-shirt said: Be a hero. The girl t-shirt said: I need a hero.

    That’s crazy.

    The good part about Badass is that it’s strongly anti-that kind of shit, so it’s a good geek place, like here. I’m always glad to see you lay things like this out for folks in a succinct and clear manner. While I know there’s a certain (and way too large) percentage of assholes out there, I believe most geeks often just don’t know that they don’t know shit and sometimes they have to be shown why the way they’re acting is wrong. Keep up the good work.

  41. @ Chris: “So even when marriage equality becomes law at the federal level, the battle will continue for decades to come at the state level, and at least half the states will still not implement it or come up with some weasel way to not recognize unions.”

    Indeed. I just read an article this afternoon about students in a Georgia town trying to end the traditiona of segregated proms. The hook is that the governor of Georgia is unwilling to endorse this (though various other politicians have).

    I mean… it’s 2013, and there are still SEGRAGATED SCHOOL PROMS??? Seriously? Brown v the BoE was more than 50 years ago!

  42. (P.S. Not seeking to detail the discussion into discussing segregation and race. Just pointing out that old attitudes–and thereby egregious old customs–hang on a LONG time. I always think if you changed the sexist “joke” or “comment” to a racial one, THEN people would see the problem. But after reading that article today… no, maybe they still wouldn’t. Egad.)

  43. When I was the youngest female Chief Software Engineer at DEC on Rt 128 in Boston in 1982, I adopted protective coloration. I wore a standard uniform when I could of black jeans, “shit kicker” boots, a black jeans or leather jacket depending on the season, t-shirt du jour, and a Greek fisherman’s cap which became something of a personal trademark. (Later, people would pop into hallways at MIT and call out, “You must be Shava! I have a VAX problem!” who had never seen me in person and haul me into their offices.)

    The purpose of this — my original background being in cultural anthro before I got sucked into computer engineering — was to present as a baby dyke. It scared the straight guys who weren’t attracted to me, and made the ones who were feel they didn’t have to stammer and feel like they didn’t know what to say. As a woman of central Asian descent at 23 years old, I looked like a teenager to most Caucasian men — so imagine a 16 year old with DD tits, sort of the anime ideal. Men generally believe brain power goes down with tit size. Happily, I am a red head, so my skin is pale, or I’d have dropped another 20-40 IQ with olive-y skin on top of the bust size impairment.

    But posing as a femmy dyke saved me from a lot of grief in the workplace. It let me stand up to older guys and let me be buds with younger colleagues. Most people think of gay girls as getting a lot of flak but in my case, I adopted that as a false role to get by because as a straight girl, I never would have made it. (It probably confused the hell out of some of these guys that I was dating/living with/marrying guys during all these years of projecting tom-boy-to-dyke as a persona…).

    I truly believe that the current rash of fake-geek-girl is that today’s geek girls want it all. They want the right to be geeks…and girls. They don’t want to have to hide, like I did — and a lot of other girls. Or make the choice, as other girls did, of saying “Math is hard, let’s go shopping!” and leaving their innate talents in math and science by the wayside because the social consequences of nerd- and geek-dom were too harsh.

    The women who are taking flak as fake geek girls are the ones who are proudly embracing the feminine, the intellectual, and fannish/geek culture — and saying you can do all of those at once.

    God(dess) bless them.

    I wish I felt I could have carried it off and not gotten, as a co-worker did, spread-eagled on the hood of a car, at a Christmas party by a bunch of drunk rowdies. Or all the other horror stories I could tell you about women who violated various workplace social norms in less cautious and deliberate ways than I did, in my generation.

    These women are the feminist pioneers and torchbearers of my generation, and ffs, I salute them. I favorited that tweet from the woman in SF who spoiled Bioshock Infinite on the latte sucking idiot in line with her and prayed he was just a few hours into the game and got spoiled hard. And I am usually not a spiteful woman, but he is just the sort of guy who plagued my entire career, 40ish years of it now.

    I have known more good men in huge proportion than jerks. Because of my interests perhaps more of my friends are men than women. But there are a proportion of men who think they are the norm who other men are often reluctant to correct or confront when they tear women down, and they work hard to keep women down to elevate their own weak egos and poor skillz.

    If you can’t stand the heat boys…

  44. @Bob I’ve also seen all the episodes of Studio 60–several times :-) However, I do wish Sorkin would stop confusing stalking behavior with romance. He did it in Sports Night, West Wing and Studio 60.

  45. it just plain freaked out a bunch of people who didn’t understand why gays and lesbians couldn’t be happy knowing they could get married, just as long as it was to someone of the opposite sex (no, really. This was an argument for a while).

    An argument with precedent, but not a hopeful one for those making it.

    “We have rejected the proposition that the debates in the Thirty-ninth Congress or in the state legislatures which ratified the Fourteenth Amendment supported the theory advanced by the State, that the requirement of equal protection of the laws is satisfied by penal laws defining offenses based on racial classifications so long as white and Negro participants in the offense were similarly punished. McLaughlin v. Florida, 379 U.S. 184 (1964).” – Loving v Virginia

  46. I think the internet is playing a large part in this.

    It is dramatically easier for people to encounter the arguments via the internet than it would have been when they were living in a small town in the middle of a horribly sexist area. Much easier to discover that there are people out there who _don’t_ have to live the way you do. And much easier to get the emotional support you need to make a stand.

  47. There are not enough ladies in geek culture yet. I would like to thank every lady that over my 40 plus years in fandom has provided me with interesting conversations, insights and knowledge and friendship.

  48. @Seebs: “I still meet people, even occasional female people…” and @andrewducker: “Much easier to discover that there are people out there who _don’t_ have to live the way you do.”

    Yes. From my own experience, it’s similar to growing up with at least a mild amount of neglect and abuse — until you have a good chance (or several) to see otherwise, you think it’s just normal, and/or your own fault. I only recently started to be able to SEE the (slightly) more subtle forms of sexism. Actually, I think the Lowest Difficulty Setting post and associated links were a big part of that.

    On the comic books industry, a friend of a friend posted something about a year and a half ago that I thought was simply brilliant: http://themasksblog.blogspot.com/2011/10/dc-comics-too-dumb-to-live.html. “I was smarter than this when I was fourteen years old. Don’t try to tell me a fourteen-year-old girl can crank out better stories than an entire industry full of people who’ve spent decades honing their storytelling skills.” “Now, I’m perfectly happy to take your money and run. If you don’t want to go after this big, hungry market, I’ll merrily pursue it in your place, and reap the rewards. I expect to spend some time building up word of mouth on Masks, because I don’t have a big media conglomerate’s marketing department on my side, but it’s not rocket science.”

    As I tweeted a little while back, the only “fake geek girl” I know is my baby. She’s never even watched a single episode of Firefly, and yet she dares to wear a Jayne hat! The nerve!

  49. ” male geekdom is extraordinarily status sensitive, which is a subject worthy of its own separate discussion”

    Okay, I admit that I am often extraordinarily clueless about social things, but…there is status in geekdom? I mean, that beyond being a creator of things that geeks get fannish about? I mean, what are these people holding on to? Being an omega geek just doesn’t seem like something to be all that protective about.

    But then again, I guess I don’t actually know anyone with status in the geek world, personally. I know a lot of people who know people, but that really isn’t the same thing, now is it?

  50. Add this to the fact that a lot of male geeks are also emotionally immature and/or seeking status with other male geeks — male geekdom is extraordinarily status sensitive, which is a subject worthy of its own separate discussion — and it’s not surprising that an immediate reaction by so many male geeks to women pushing back is HULK SMASH.

    My favorite all-time solution to this was Maria Klawe’s, the president of Harvey Mudd College. When she became president in 2006 she was dismayed, but not surprised, that there were so few female computer science majors. She studied the problem and realized that it was cultural: the kids who became computer science majors tended to be the computer geeks in high school who were overwhelmingly male and treated girls well, in the way young teenage boys often do, with a large level of cluelessness. This culture carried forward into college, turning female college students off. Klawe’s solution was to make computer science a required course for everyone. There were two tracks: one for those with computing experience and one for those without. For those without, the course focused on computational approaches to solving problems across science. The result: women realized they liked computing, and the number of female CS majors has grown significantly.

    Klawe gave women a cultural alternative. A grown up one. She figured out what Green Jackets need to learn: loving something does not require you to buy into a model of fandom that treats others cluelessly.

  51. Thanks for creating a space for reasoned discussion of this topic, Mr. Scalzi. Unexpectedly timely. These conversations can turn weird fast.

    GeekMalange points out one feature: I’ve always been into things coded as “geek culture” but I don’t go to geek gatherings. My experiences in high school taught me to enjoy my books and media by myself or with my own circle of friends because interactive activities were full of creeps. I will participate in “safe spaces” on the Internet but why should I put myself intentionally in a supposed to be recreational situation where I have to put up with BS and hostility, all in my spare time? That is a thought I have been contemplating this weekend. I don’t go to conferences or in-person geek gatherings, so I only see the Internet side of this discussion. And on the Internet I try to chose my spots carefully, but still run into nasty surprises.

    And Shava – that is quite a story. I am not in a computer related field. Im glad for the women pioneers, but your story got me wondering how much sexism stopped me from even considering that road. When I was a high school student in the early 80′s, my first job interview was for a computer-related gopher job. The white middle aged guy expressed extreme scepticism that I could “carry around a box of paper” and passed over my hefty Irish peasant self for a much more slight guy. I was struck by the guy NOT even asking me about my computer skills (which would have been a totally fair way to make the decision) but instead eliminating me from even having that conversation because I was a girl. I ultimately chose a field with lots of women mentors. But women shouldn’t have to avoid conferences and whole fields of work and study and play due to sexist jerks. And that avoidance happens in lots of subtle ways.

    conversation about “geek culture” clumps together a whole lot of work situations for authors and scientist and tech workers with those of us who are not professionals but are instead looking at the recreational side of so-called geek culture. Lots of very diverse situations. But respect should be present in all of them.

  52. I think “extra work” does about sum up the situation. As the geek demographics have changed and more and more of the money supporting geekdom and its accoutrements comes from women’s bank accounts, it stands to reason that related industries’ financial situations turn more and more upon the choices women make. That means that general female disapproval means less cash. Who wouldn’t be upset to see the paycheck reduced, and who wouldn’t react (at least initially) against that, when the alternative is to reshape everything you’re doing? (Argh! More work!)
    But there’s a larger problem here than simply whether or not what women see as good is going to be the new norm, and it is that for years fans of sci-fi, anime, gaming, whatever have had it demonstrated to them that sex (represented by the female form, as the assumption has generally been that the fan is male and straight) is used to gloss over a product’s supposed shortcomings. That is not to say that sex has no place in good art; of course it does. Too often, though, it is also used to distract the consumer from workmanship that is not as perfect in other respects as it could be. In my teen years I learned, subconsciously, that the more skin displayed on the cover of a book, the less likely the story and the writing were to be good or even palatable. As a general trend, a tendency to even soft porn was a direct message from the publisher that the art couldn’t be trusted on its own and that even the seller felt a distraction was needed to cover up the work’s shortcomings.
    Now here’s a whole subsection of the fan world saying, “Nope, you’re not getting away with that anymore!” Here is a group largely immune to the charms of women’s bodies (we do own mirrors, so–BORing, been there, seen that, daily!), a group refusing to look away from the magician’s hands or buy into the trick and instead demanding more of the essence of whatever the product is. Selling-it-with-sex is such a fallback position, how could a demand for its removal not be a threat to producers, even those who until now were confident in their wares without it? And for those many fans who, til now, have spent their lives casually and utterly without malicious intent enjoying such products as they have traditionally been presented, how is it not threatening to be suddenly called out? (I leave the question of complete twits out of this; they’re a whole different kettle of stinking fish.)
    So: of course a to-do. It’s been coming since the moment women leaped into the job force and began writing their own checks, and it’s high time to get it all straight.

  53. 1: We can reliably expect that people with autism-spectrum conditions will have a harder time than neurotypicals seeing the problems with the various bigotries, stereotypes, and exclusions because the mental skills and attributes you need to see past them — the ability to see the world in continua rather than categories and the ability to see the problems thatanother person encounters — are exactly the things that people with autism-spectrum conditions are bad at.

    Harder. Not impossible. [and, plus, autism-spectrum is itself a point on a continuty rather than a classification...] But still.

    2: The populations involved in SFF geekery — like most niche hobbies, and the why here is not something I claim to understand — have a weighting that’s more towards the more-strongly-affected end than the population as a whole.

  54. Things like this make me retreat to my mantra: “We are getting better. Slowly, but we are getting better.”

    My father is a rabid racist who still complains that when he was a little boy he couldn’t sit in the back of the bus because “that’s where all the *censored* were”. And his father was even worse. But my brother took a woman of another race to his senior prom and my father kept his mouth shut. And when my cousin came out as gay, Dad didn’t stop talking to him. Things got better; Dad discovered that maybe skin color and the sex of your husband weren’t that important.

    An analogous thing is going on in fandom. Slowly we are shifting from the days of Put Another Log On The Fire to I Am Woman. (Yes, that means that a group devoted to the future is a mere four decades or so behind the times. This surprises you?) And the boys of fandom who are most opposed to looking at women as their equals are also the ones who are least likely to be emulated; in effect, they are pushing themselves out of fandom, just as the idiots blocking the doors in Little Rock soon found themselves to be the ones locked out.

    Speaking as a greedy sort, I like that women, especially women who are smarter and stronger and better than I am, are becoming a force to be reckoned with in fandom. They bring good things to fandom, like new ideas and new ways to communicate those ideas and best of all, they force me to become better if I want to measure up to the standard that they set. And so all of fandom gets better. Slowly, but it gets better.

  55. I watched this crap happen in geek culture in the 80s and 90s with increasing impatience and decreasing tolerance. Women my age (born in the 60s) were supposed to be post-feminist and not care about gender differences anymore, (and deal quietly with the fact that they were still discriminated against, still paid less for the same jobs and promoted far less often) while men of all ages could pretend things had changed but still be sexist assholes when they felt like it. (I’ve had male colleagues in tech industry jobs tell me “Hey, it’s okay for me to say things like that because I’m not sexist!” I’m not kidding.)

    Then I saw it all happening over again to my nieces and my sons’ friends as they grew up to be geeks.

    No. Just no. Not anymore.

    These are the women who will design the next generation of innovations, who will pry the next 50 years worth of secrets out of the universe, who will run the world, our country and its economy. And we think it’s okay to treat them like what they think doesn’t matter? Like they can be attacked for speaking up? Like threats of violence against them for disagreeing with us are okay?

    Just no. It brings me joy to see young women fighting back against this and I’m happy to support them, because it’s gone on too goddamn long.

  56. “Okay, I admit that I am often extraordinarily clueless about social things, but…there is status in geekdom?”

    Yes, but in a strange way. You get status for being both geekier than your fellow geeks (knowing more, reading more, collecting more, hacking more, etc.) but also for being less geeky than your fellow geek.

    It’s a tenuous balancing act.

  57. Shava– I know of you from back in the DEC days as well. 1980 until the Compaq implosion. I worked on and off for Ken for almost 25 years.

    I loved your story. But then I remember that many of us at DEC know that you did not simply “present” as a baby dyke. There was quite a bit more to it than that. Abby Ettle, for example, and I were close friends. And I know for a photographic (which says something, in the age before digital camera’s – most naughty photos had to be hand developed in a personal darkroom) fact that she was one of your many conquests that came from the feminine side of the aisle.

    “Girl” geeks are probably exploding because economic pressures have created, for the first time, significant downward job pressure in the sector. And men want who they perceive to be the weakest links gone first.

    The whole Adia business just references what male managers already think: that inviting a large number of women into technology simply slows down projects, invites infighting, invites pettiness, and leads to a lack of positive group dynamics. Alpha geek men don’t want to work with their moms, and they don’t want to work with their wives. The best alpha geeks can vote with their labor. And they do. The leave projects with too much female interference. And managers know this. This creates a cost pressure – it will cost a lot more to have a balanced male/female staff for most projects. And this is a problem.

    Anecdotes of women contributing to great software/computer engineering projects are only that. There are very many projects where the handful of geek women played supporting roles – in creative, in HR, in accounting, in story design, in marketing. There are perhaps a handful of well known projects where a woman carried her equal weight in a technical engineering role. There are even fewer projects where that weight was not offset but incidental problems.

    At this point in my life, I couldn’t care less about the reasons. I am perfectly happy to hire and bring women into projects to the extent that function as male equivalents. However, I have seen far too many projects fail, and far to many projects not deliver to potential because of the Adia’s of the world. I would put it this way. I don’t about your family life. I don’t care about your cycle. I don’t care what the bitch next to you said. I don’t care that your code didn’t get integrated into main, I don’t care that you got made fun of because of a mistake you made. I don’t care that you are pregnant. I don’t care that you have to lactate. I don’t care that your feet are swollen, that you need to leave early for soccer practice. I don’t care that your boyfriend/husband is an asshole. I don’t care that the car sales person look at your tits. I don’t care that you don’t like the wallpaper, calendar, sounds, color scheme, or websites that a co-workers is looking at. I don’t care that you don’t like the music on his headphones. I don’t care that you co-ordinate the office birthday parties. I don’t care that no one invites you to lunch. I don’t care that a co-worker fucked you and didn’t call. I don’t care that he made you sleep in the wetspot. I don’t care that you don’t appreciate how a female co-worker dresses, or shows her ass, or lets men oggle her boobs. I don’t care about your vagina. I don’t care that you think the API is stupid. I don’t care that you think the schedule is too rigid. I don’t care that you don’t like that you have to write accurate documentation. I don’t care that you think I demand perfection before accepting code. I don’t care that you think my requirements aren’t realistic. I don’t care you don’t like management style. *In fact, I don’t care about you as a person.*

    All I care about is what you produce. The compiler doesn’t lie.

  58. I think you’ll find that actual autistic people — who are themselves the victims of bigotry, stereotyping (as you’ve demonstrated), and exclusion — might take issue with your assessment.

    Also? Autistic women, POC, queer and trans people? Exist.

  59. * Wild applause interspersed with raucous whistles * Thanks, John, for saying what needed saying better than many of us (certainly me) could have. I think so many people “don’t like to think they need entry-level enlightenment” because they’ve heard the zen stories about how enlightenment came when the master knocked his student into the dung pile. Too bad, sometimes coming up covered crap is an important lesson.

  60. I think SMBC says what I want to say far better than I could hope to. http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2939#comic

    @acebauer, I LOVE your story. That should serve as inspiring model for conflict resolution and problem solving in general. Klawe’s solution turns a situation that’s could be viewed in a destructive, zero sum way, and turns it into positive sum, a win for everyone. It is inclusive, open to everyone, and yet addresses a problem that predominantly affects a subset of the students.

  61. I’ve been attending conventions for nearly 30 years, and I’ve put up with a lot of shit over the years. I think we as women were willing to overlook a lot of sexist BS because we loved the community and figured that it was just something we had to deal with to participate. It’s still going on – I was one of the two women who stepped up to run Chicon logistics after the sudden death of the department head 10 days before opening, the amount of ‘mansplaining’ we got was pretty unreal.

    But that doesn’t have to be this way. Younger women are now calling the community on that shit and they are totally right to do so. Reading some of what they had to say really made me examine my actions and I said “You know what, that’s BS. I want to change that. I want my fandoms to be the kind of place where everyone gets to play, and am willing to step up and speak out if that’s what it takes.” As a costumer I’m working with the Cosplay/=Consent movement, and am also planning to expand the Backup Ribbon Project. I am delighted to see conventions coming out with direct anti-harassment policies and procedures.

    Because NO ONE gets to tell me how to fan!

  62. @Collin Street: Please tell me that you’re not attempting to blame this kind of crap behavior on autism? Yes, a certain number of fans/geeks are on that spectrum…but c’mon.

    We’re seeing the same sort of idiocy from NBA fans who are soiling themselves at the thought that a pro basketball team might draft a woman. Are all of those ASD as well, or are they mostly just dickheads in green jackets?

    Speaking of which…

    @DP_DEC: The basic fact that Shava used her (presumably) real name, and you did not, is a big honkin’ indicator as to whose opinion I’m likely to give more weight to. The basic fact that you seem to like identifying as an “alpha” is a big honkin’ indicator as to where you’re coming from.

    On the one hand…there’s a tiny grain of accuracy in your spiel. I’m a supervising engineer, in a field where a major mistake can get you or someone else killed. Messily, in some cases. I have absolutely no problem with holding men and women in the same job to the same professional standards. But on the other, you basically just coughed up every shitty stereotype about women to prove how “dedicated” you are to that kind of professionalism. I could rewrite your entire rant with the gender switched, and it would mostly read the same with minor variations of “your team lost” vs. “you’re lactating”. (And the ‘compiler’ line is especially ironic, given that some of the earliest compiler programs were written by one RADM Grace Hopper USN.)

    Being male, I thank god I don’t work for, with, or over you. (Being gay as well, I probably better light a second candle just for lagniappe.)

    @Laura Resnick and others: To pirate from Dan Savage, “it gets better”. I don’t belittle the crap you’ve put up with, but do consider: My mother (UCLA 1958) was a rocket engineer. Her second employer was Lockheed. Her first job after hiring was to entirely redesign the fueling system for the Atlas/Agena rocket program. She was not allowed to observe or supervise any of the work to put that design into practice, because women weren’t allowed on the pad in 1960. Shortly after that issue, her employer instituted a policy that married couples couldn’t work in the same division, which bounced her over to tracking & control systems (allowing Dad to continue in his specialty, guidance.) She did quite well in the circumstances (including being the drop officer for the first successful Corona recovery) – but hit the glass ceiling hard and fast, and somewhere around 1966 said “Fuck it” (after one too many times of being detailed to hide her alcoholic boss in the photo darkroom when the Air Force brass were around), and quit to run the family ranch and have a couple of kids.

    She deserved better. You still deserved better. And maybe one of these days we’ll get over this shit.

  63. @Collin Nice example of stereotyping there. I don’t think autism has anything to do with it, and people blaming sexism and stereotyping on ASD is just giving people an out for their improper behavior. It’s not as if people with ASD can’t be taught that certain behaviors/attitudes or wrong, or that they are so lacking in affective empathy to realize that being bigoted and discriminatory is wrong. People with ASD have problems with perceptive empathy, not affective empathy. We are capable of understanding (especially once pointed out to us) that some things are harmful to others and should not be done. For the record, I have Asperger’s, and am female, and queer, and have been discriminated against for many reasons including those categories and even if I hadn’t been, -I would still know that bigotry and discriminating were wrong-. Comments like this make people write off people with ASD as uncaring assholes when it’s not true at all.

    @sojournerstrange Exactly. Intersectionality is a thing, and the more people recognize it, the better.
    There should be safe spaces for everyone.

  64. @cuckooschild: A close friend (and sometime lover) of mine was found to meet the criteria for Asperger’s/ASD some years ago. His mantra since then has been “It’s a diagnosis. It’s not an excuse.”

  65. I love that movie. My favorite quote seems oddly appropriate here:
    “You fight the fights you can win.”
    “You fight the fights that need fighting!”

    Today I fought what I assumed would be a losing battle over sexism and male privilege with a good friend. I didn’t change his mind, but at the end, he was actually listening and thinking about what I was saying. It’s not a win, but it’s closer than I would ever have thought possible. Maybe that’s the lesson for me? You fight the fights that need fighting because maybe later, someone else can push it through to a win.

  66. @Don Hilliard Exactly. My mantra is just the same. There are some things that ASD makes it harder for me to do, and sometimes I need accommodations. But it’s never an excuse for behavior one knows is bad, and the persistence of stereotypes like that just make it harder for people with ASD to find jobs/friends/etc because people will assume they’re uncaring assholes and well, who wants to work with one of those? (another reason I don’t disclose until after I’ve gotten a job).

  67. I have a theory that neurotypical men in geek spaces like to blame the sexism and harassment women experience on the ASD spectrum because it lets them off the hook. If it’s those guys over there who have the diagnosis who are causing all the problems that women are complaining about, then it can’t be them, their attitudes, their comments, their turning a blind eye, their laughing at the jokes.

    It’s just a theory, but I do have to say that as far as I know, that old “it’s not actually sexism, it’s just the high proportion of geek men on the spectrum that cause all this ruckus” theory is always presented by a man who does not see himself as being on the spectrum. In other words, it’s a way to distance himself from any responsibility for any of what women complain about, while pressuring women to accept being treated badly because of course guys on the spectrum cannot help being assholes.

    Here’s a giant clue stick: the “A” in ASD does not stand for “asshole”.

  68. @sorcharei: Ding ding ding! Being something of a geek myself (and having been involved with a similar geek diagnosed with AS, as previously noted), I got curious and took several of the better online diagnostic screens for such. Result? I am about as neurotypical as they come; I just happen to like weird stuff and am not as well-socialized to the current American norm.

    (Neither of which bothers me. The weird stuff is cool and the current American norm all too often gives me hives…and frankly, it’s one of the reasons we’re having this discussion in the first place.)

  69. I’m especially grateful for the anecdotes and insights that Shava Nerad and Laura Resnick shared. I’m a geeky woman of color in tech and it would be nice to have, like, a month without a reminder that my communities’ immune systems seem to have coded me as a foreign invader.

  70. DP_Dec’s post is a perfect example of why so very many women give up and go into non-STEM fields.

  71. @Shava Nerad, Friendly word of advise. Not all lesbian Women may be comfortable with you using the term Dyke. In the interest of full disclosure I’m hardly qualified to make that call being a bi dude. I do, however, have some friends who tell me some would not take kindly to that, particularly older people.

  72. @Sumana – I sometimes think that children of the early ’70s like me failed – and/or were unintentionally lied to – in one respect.

    We were taught – by media and, in the best cases, our parents – that everyone should be equal regardless of race, gender, geekiness etc (which IMO is absolutely true.) Where we screwed up, especially in cases like mine where we grew up in a small and generally homogenously white/straight/’normal’ community, was that we innocently assumed that because we had been shown that this was the way things should be, that this is the way things were.

    Didn’t work that way, sadly. But some of us are still trying.

  73. @Marcy: “As I tweeted a little while back, the only “fake geek girl” I know is my baby. She’s never even watched a single episode of Firefly, and yet she dares to wear a Jayne hat! The nerve!”

    Baby crawls across the carpet in a hat like that, people know she’s not afraid of anything!

  74. My girl can *nearly* out-Star Trek me, and can definitely out-Doctor Who me. That’s part of the reason I’m so in love with her. Strangely, her love science fiction is limited to TV & films, but that’s OK.
    I don’t want to lend my books to her anyway. She break the spines on the books that she reads.

  75. @Bob: :D Damn straight!

    Though, I hear she probably only wears it to get attention from other babies at cons. She thinks she’s so cute, but she’s only con cute! Apparently.

  76. @Don Hillard–
    I understand about posting real identities. I am working on correcting that. There doesn’t appear to be anyway to go back and edit it, but for reference, my actual name is Donatello Di’Petro.

    Regarding this:
    >But on the other, you basically just coughed up every shitty stereotype about women to prove how
    > “dedicated” you are to that kind of professionalism. I could rewrite your entire rant with the gender
    > switched, and it would mostly read the same with minor variations of “your team lost” vs. “you’re
    > lactating”.

    Would it read the same? Do you routinely have your best engineers come by and complain to you about things that are not job related? About co-workers, in petty and generally work in-appropriate ways? Do your male employees tend to get into bitter, angry, verbal spats over insignificant issues, and require you to spend resources working around personality problems? You say you have no problem holding men and women to the same professional standards, but what about the same personal standards?

    I’ve hired, over the last 20 years, hundreds of women software engineers and electrical engineers, for projects large and small. There are clearly very many, numerically speaking, women who don’t have to demand respect. They simply have it, because they’ve earned it.

    But for every one I’ve hired, there are 10 that I’ve passed on. Not because they are bad people, but because they, essentially “demand” respect. The fact that you demand it is pretty much the best sign you don’t deserve it. On some projects, I don’t need the best. I can get by with a mediocre team. People who are all solid ‘B’ players. These are typically government contracts, or industries related to government. I am going to make my profit margin, guaranteed, every-time. It’s cost plus. Heck, I even make more money just for hiring a few extra women. If the project slips three months I earn three months more profit. If it slips six months, even better.

    But when I have a tough project, a project that’s not a guaranteed win, you know what? Those are the ones where I have to have a team of alpha geeks. It doesn’t take many times getting burned to learn that in this case, I have to be extra wary of hiring women.

    Several years back I got burned hard by taking a risk on a female engineer. Three months into the project, she gets married rather suddenly. Not a big deal. I usually don’t even get told when a male on a team gets married. Five months into the project she sends me an email telling me she’ll be on maternity leave when the project is supposed to be launching. Beyond quite a bit of time away from the project for various pregnancy related appointments and due to issues not her fault, she had to go onto bed rest three months before her due date. Do you think she pulled her weight on this project? When her next project manager called for a recommendation, was I the asshole for saying she let her team down on a critical project? That she was unreliable? That she let her personal life compromise the quality of her work? I don’t think so. It was true. Was any of things “her fault”, like, she intended for them to happen? No, they were not “her fault”. But you can’t lie to the compiler.

    I have the utmost respect for Rear Adm. Hopper. But your comment wins the award for the least appropriate use of ironic of the day. For one, she was a pioneer, but like all trailblazers, her work today doesn’t hold up. Her work with FLOW-MATIC, and later COBOL, are not what you probably think of them as. I worked at DEC until the company failed, and for the last years of her life, she was a sort of dean emeritus of the company. People who want to point to her as some sort of marvel are misplaced. As she would tell anyone, a large part of her success was not related to her skills as an engineer, but rather, her skills as a theoretical thinker, and as a manager. Her role, for example, with the Navy for the longest part of her career was not revolutionary, but rather, in standardizing and simplfying the divergent languages and platforms, and reigning in the variations of COBOL that spread like wildfire throughout the armed forces (but especially the Navy). Her work with the compiler, revolutionary as it was, has been discarded. Her central thesis – her lifes work – that programming tools and languages should use the language of business failed. Her compiler projects took the view that there should only be one pre-compilation phase. However, ever modern compiler (and even COBOL ones) now follow a model eschewed by her competition, namely that you must have a lexical analysis step, and a parsing step.

    Of course, none of that is to be held against her. Trailblazers are the ones with arrows in the back. The point is, that the comment is not ironic, and your use of ironic to describe it was completely stupid. The point that I refer to – that women can complain about not getting the respect they demand in the field – is belied by the fact that the only judge of what respect you deserve is the compiler. And no matter how much you try to demand respect from the compiler, it doesn’t a give shit about you.

  77. > DP_Dec’s post is a perfect example of why so very many women give up and go into non-STEM
    > fields.

    Yes, women who can’t hack a hard work place should get out of STEM. There is a very low tolerance for the type of problems that too often follow women in the workplace in STEM fields. To the degree that stereotypes make it difficult for women who can hack it to succeed, we should rectify that. Otherwise, women who can’t make it can hear the same lecture I give men who can’t make it. Just because you failed at being a successful software engineer doesn’t mean you are a bad person.

  78. I work in a small electronics firm in the heart of Silicon Valley. As such, you might think the company would exhibit the most unbiased attitudes towards all kinds of deviations from the ‘norm’ (whatever that is or whoever defined it). Unfortunately, not true. All the current executives are male (even though the company was founded by two men and a woman, who held almost every post in the company until she retired), and at the moment we have only one female engineer. She so happens to be the best software programmer we have (my opinion), but she is frequently required to put up with doing scut work, is not paid as much as her cohorts, and, with current attitudes, would never be offered a management position, though she’s obviously capable of it. Which, unfortunately, merely shows that there are still far too many male geeks who still won’t admit women into their little world on an equal basis.

  79. “As I tweeted a little while back, the only “fake geek girl” I know is my baby. She’s never even watched a single episode of Firefly, and yet she dares to wear a Jayne hat! The nerve!”

    Jayne, the openly anti-women, misogynist unenlightened male on the show.

    Go back and watch the series again. It won’t take you long. Every place that Mal does the thing that a proper feminist man does, reverse it, and instead have Mal do the unproper caveman thing. When Christina Hendricks attempts to seduce him, he would just shoot her, and dump her corpse into space. When Atherton wants to duel, he’d just go Indy Jones and shoot the guy.

    As a plot device, Mal being a gentlemen works in a way. But on the other hand, it’s the source of most of the tension in the show.

  80. OK, not even going to get into the sexist blather here. But this doesn’t even make sense:

    As a plot device, Mal being a gentlemen works in a way. But on the other hand, it’s the source of most of the tension in the show.

    What do you mean, “on the other hand”? Those are the same thing. Plot devices are (among other things) sources of tension. That’s how plots work. You create tension, and then you resolve it, and what goes between is the plot arc.

    You really wouldn’t be able to hack it as a writer of fiction, would you?

  81. @DP-DEC: Duh. I never said I’d be friends with him in real life. But I’m fine with his existence in a story — he’s obviously not written to be a role model, and he’s funny. Oh, is there a rule that I can’t have paraphernalia related to characters I don’t want to emulate? Sorry, I wasn’t aware.

    Thank you SO MUCH for explaining one of my favorite shows to me. Helpful.

  82. @Donatello –

    Would it read the same? Do you routinely have your best engineers come by and complain to you about things that are not job related? About co-workers, in petty and generally work in-appropriate ways? Do your male employees tend to get into bitter, angry, verbal spats over insignificant issues, and require you to spend resources working around personality problems? You say you have no problem holding men and women to the same professional standards, but what about the same personal standards?

    In order: Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. It’s real life, pally. Men can be just a big a pain in the ass as women, and mostly in the same manner.

    On the job, the personal IS the professional. You can do what you like in your off hours (within the law and common decency), but when you clock in you had better be a decent human being or GTFO.

    Frankly, your questions remind me no little of a ship’s captain I worked with some time ago. Highly competent and not a bad guy, but with enough prejudices that a problem crewmember wasn’t seen as “that asshole” but as “that Black asshole.” He had the same issues with women. And ultimately, that (combined with his temper) got him sacked. Deservedly.

    Learn.

  83. Xopher, I think *maybe* what he’s trying to say is that it works as fiction, but on the other hand, in real life being a gentleman or a feminist will only get you into trouble. Kind of like how being a woman will make you bothersome.

  84. Marcy, he said tension in the show, not tension in the ship (or shop). If that’s what he meant, he sure expressed it poorly. As I said, he wouldn’t be able to hack it as a writer. :-)

  85. DP_DEC @12:20: I’ve held off entering this conversation because I honestly don’t believe I have all much to contribute, but your anecdote about the pregnant engineer who let you down has me slightly croggled. You mean that none of the many male engineers you’ve hired has ever needed time off to take care of a spouse enduring a difficult pregnancy, or a seriously ill child, or any kind of unexpected personal disaster or responsibility that took precedence over their working lives? Whether they were married or not, had children or not, had families or not, was irrelevant? I don’t know, Donatello–sounds to me like you don’t work with “male alpha geeks” but with borderline sociopaths . . . or at least people who A) have no personal lives or families to speak of and never will, or B) have somehow managed to convinced their families that they are never to be relied on for anything, and that that’s okay. Either situation seems kind of sad, in my opinion.

  86. Xopher, agreed. :)

    You know, he kind of reminds me of someone my sister’s worked with at Intel. Carefully explained to her how to do something she excels at, and then proceeded to make several mistakes in that area himself.

    Mary Frances: That, and they never get any extended illnesses themselves.

  87. @HelenS, I was about to say the same thing about Mr. Di’Petro. (Good job for him, as his comments regarding his aversion to hiring women due to their possibility of having inconvenient pregnancies could make a plaintiff’s attorney a killing in a Civil Rights Act/ADA/Pregnancy Discrimination Act suit.)

  88. Or, Mary Frances, they’re just too afraid to tell him or ask for anything because he’s a complete workplace tyrant…and when they have those kinds of issues they just quit. Good way to lose good people.

  89. Marcy @ 1:24: Good catch. I think I was including that under “personal disaster,” but it is a different situation and should be spelled out. Of course, there are employers who believe that the woman who has a difficult pregnancy and the man who has a heart bypass are equally worthless employees . . . but that didn’t seem to be case in the DP_DEC’s anecdote. It was more than the second possibility just–never happened. Was never acknowledged as possible. Which, as I said, I kind of croggled at.

  90. Mary Frances, thanks, yeah, me too. (The croggling, I mean.) Especially since I had my own semi-difficult pregnancy last year. Not so much with mine, but sometimes those threaten the life of the mother as well as the baby. But trying not to die, or at the least to keep her child from dying, well, that’s letting “her personal life compromise the quality of her work.” Can’t have that. I was sort of trying to ignore it, but… yeah.

  91. I have to agree with Shava- there’s always been girls “in the club”, so to speak, but in the past the majority of them camouflaged themselves by being tomboys or Goth or punk, et cetera, and now it’s more acceptable in the mainstream to have geekier interests so those girls are coming out of the woodwork while others are caring less about the perception that they aren’t geeky enough.

    Personal anecdote: I showed up to a con once in an outfit that was steampunk inspired but still could pass for everyday streetwear and was stopped by a guy in the main room who asked, “What are you doing here? You’re hot!” I stammered something about liking it and scurried away, but I think it’s pretty typical of the sexist geek mindset- if you’re a girl in the community, you should either be pretty subdued or a misfit (not that I think that dressing differently makes you a misfit, but it can give off that perception) or there’s no reason for you to be there.

    Donatello- I can’t even. Everything that spews out of your mouth is repulsive.

  92. *Looks at everything DP_DEC’s written*

    Yeah. I can’t imagine why so many women have been discouraged from pursuing a career in STEM fields and if they tried, found themselves pushed out, because that’s a totally welcoming and supportive attitude. On the other hand, thanks for providing some stellar examples of the sort of mentality that has caused many women to leave or avoid careers in STEM all together.

    “Do your male employees tend to get into bitter, angry, verbal spats over insignificant issues, and require you to spend resources working around personality problems?”

    I haven’t met any males who *haven’t* at one point or another gotten into bitter, angry, verbal spats over *what seemed to me to be* insignificant issues (the trick being that just because *I* see them that way, it doesn’t mean that they necessarily are) that end up causing troublesome personality conflicts, in both professional AND personal settings. This isn’t a character issue with just women. That’s some real gender essentialist assumptions about people’s behaviors and motivations you’ve got going on, there.

  93. > slightly croggled. You mean that none of the many male engineers you’ve hired has ever needed
    > time off to take care of a spouse enduring a difficult pregnancy, or a seriously ill child, or any kind
    > of unexpected personal disaster or responsibility that took precedence over their working lives?
    >Whether they were married or not, had children or not, had families or not, was irrelevant? I don’t
    > know, Donatello–sounds to me like you don’t work with “male alpha geeks” but with borderline
    > sociopaths . . . or at least people who A) have no personal lives or families to speak of and never
    > will, or B) have somehow managed to convinced their families that they are never to be relied on
    > for anything, and that that’s okay. Either situation seems kind of sad, in my opinion.

    I just think you don’t have any experience with working on projects that are very important. Or, at least, have high stakes. This is where a lot of people’s perceptions of how the world works, and how it really works, break down.

    People think of things like Google, and Apple, and all that as places with lots of engineers working around the clock. And yes, they are right. But, in the bigger sense, nothing Google or Apple is working on is “important”. Like, important to life and safety. Or to property. The most we are talking about, in terms of stakes, is the health of the company.

    Two short examples. At Apple, when a version of the iphone was released with a bad antenna design, the manager who pushed that through was fired. Whatever you think about that, it was accountability. And that’s just for a phone. The worst case is people get angry at Apple, and they don’t sell that many phones. Worst worst worst case scenario, Apple goes into bankruptcy, is liquidated, and a lot of people lose their jobs.

    The other side of STEM are jobs that are really important. I put together a team that worked for the US Geographical Survey (USGS). We were sub-contracted to build a working computer model of pressure build-up resulting from the failure of Underwater Well-Head SG57, also know as the Deepwater Horizon well. The results would be used to determine what effect stacking the well-hole with heavier than water materials would be, and whether the pressure would cause side-fissures. The livelihoods of a lot of people, plus the lives of a lot of people were deeply integrated into the quality of our work.

    For every person doing community outreach at companies like SendGrid, there are many more doing real world work that is very high stakes.

    So, back on topic. Not one person on my team of 9 engineers took 1 minute of time off during our emergency project. Not one person left early. Not one person did anything less than 100%. No one complained, no one asked. The job was what the job was, and the expectation that was met was that this project is very important. Important enough that for the lead engineer, we hired him away from another project and indemnified him against damages sought by this then employer.

    To directly answer your question, if any of the people I hire for important projects takes off unscheduled time for unexpected events, regardless of the reason, they are by definition unreliable. That’s not my rule. That’s the definition of the word. I have had people flake out on projects, and relationships, and I simply fire them, and replace them. It doesn’t make them a bad person, it just means, they failed a commitment.

    @Marcy- I would never fault a women for doing anything – anything – necessary for her health or the health of an unborn child. When you do so, however, be aware, that you are making a choice. It’s not a choice I fault you for. It’s not a choice that makes you a bad person. Actually, it’s a choice that makes you a good person. And, furthermore, I understand the choice, and I would most certainly make the same choice in the opposite position.

    You need to be aware, however, that your choice has an impact on your co-workers. And it’s probably negative. They totally understand, but it doesn’t change the fact that you’ve let them down. Your personal decision has had a negative impact on other people, who now must work harder because of you.

    The basic reality of life is that you must live with the consequences of your choices. As a manager, I can’t change the physics of the world. But also realize that my job is to prevent your choices from impacting the workings of a project. And sometimes that sounds mean.

  94. @Formerly The Pint – I understand this is hard to hear. A lot of people think managers and principals are there to be supportive and foster you. And sometimes that may be the case. But mostly, we don’t care. I don’t care about you, as a person. I care about you as a factor. A factor in achieving success.

    And that may be why this is shocking to hear. And it may be why a lot of women haven’t succeeded in STEM fields. Certainly some have, but it’s not a big number. It’s relatively rare to find a totally male environment, but in most cases, for successful teams, it’s small numbers of female engineers (again, setting aside non-engineering roles).

    The intimation in your comment is that somehow, asking what I ask of engineers is not acceptable. Asking that you work in harmony, intensely, with your co-workers, that you deliver, that you will be accountable to deliver, that you be 100% reliable, and that you successfully separate your personal life from your work life is somehow unfair to women. Why would that be? It is a high standard, one that most men can’t meet. I couldn’t care less that even fewer women (about 10 times fewer, on average) can meet it.

    One of the surest signs that a candidate or contracted hired engineer isn’t going to work, in my experience, is that the candidates makes a point to emphasize credentials. It’s like clockwork. This degree program. This college. This previous employer. I don’t know how else to explain it. No one cares. Some of the best engineers I have came in with no credentials. At all.

    I sort of laugh at the advice in recent articles relating to Sheryl Sandberg. The idea that you are going to somehow inspire women to change reality is sort of juvenile. The stat about women leaving money on the table is all you need to know. If any given women is too whatever to simply ask for money she has earned, then what good is a book. It’s cash money. Cash money. Sitting, and all you have to do is ask. As a manager, I have negotiated with really great valuable engineers. I can tell immediately if I am dealing with a mental child, or an adult. Within the opening round, I know. And the other party knows. We both want to come to deal, but it has to be right. We both have other options. Sometimes we come to terms, sometimes we don’t. But it never takes long. Negotiating with most women also never takes long, but for different reasons. I can count the number of times my first offer has been rejected by a female candidate on one hand. I’m supposed to feel bad for not paying the female candidate more? Of course she makes less – she’s inferior to a similarly qualified man for the simple reason that she would work for less than she’s worth for fear of asking for more. Two people with similar qualifications, both suited to the job. One person is willing to work for 25% less than the other. Whose fault is that?

  95. @lexcgirl “I have to agree with Shava- there’s always been girls “in the club”, so to speak, but in the past the majority of them camouflaged themselves by being tomboys or Goth or punk, et cetera, and now it’s more acceptable in the mainstream to have geekier interests so those girls are coming out of the woodwork while others are caring less about the perception that they aren’t geeky enough.”

    I know a lot of geek girls who weren’t comfortable with performing stereotypical forms of femininity (much less knew how to) but have learned how to embrace more traditionally feminine aspects and accessories into our forms of expression and identities, which is further blurring what people used to view as the very specific mold that a girl had to fit to be considered “geek.”

    Growing up, I gravitated more toward sports, comic books, literature and science than things like boy bands, fashion or make up. Lucky for me, I hit on adolescence during the grunge age, but into my 20s I still wasn’t comfortable wearing more than t-shirts and jeans and rarely bothered with make up or hair. And part of that was due to feeling that if I was “too girly,” I wouldn’t be considered geeky or nerdy “enough” to be allowed into geek spaces or taken seriously by other nerds or geeks. And that was pretty much the only social crowd/space that I felt comfortable in, so I did what I had to in order to fit.

    It took me a long time but in my late 20s into my 30s, I’ve learned how to accept the fact that I do, in fact, enjoy “being girly” in some aspects and there’s nothing wrong with that, nor does it mean that I can’t enjoy watching both Project Runway AND Community. I actually don’t care at all about whether or not some other geek thinks I’m not the “right kind of girl” to be a geek – their opinion about my identity won’t change it, and I certainly won’t be quiet about it if they try to take that away and/or tell me I don’t belong in geek spaces.

  96. @lexgirl–

    > doing here? You’re hot!” I stammered something about liking it and scurried away, but I think it’s
    > pretty typical of the sexist geek mindset- if you’re a girl in the community, you should either be
    > pretty subdued or a misfit (not that I think that dressing differently makes you a misfit, but it can
    > give off that perception) or there’s no reason for you to be there.

    This has nothing to do with sexism, geeks, or anything. You proved that guy 100% right. He thought you didn’t belong, and you proved him right. When he said something you didn’t like, you went to pieces. You couldn’t produce a sentence, you couldn’t respond, and you avoided confrontation.

    Notwithstanding the guy was a douche bag, you failed a huge test. You thought that by showing up in something outside of the stereotype you would distinguish yourself, but instead, you confirmed the stereotype – that women are weak and adverse to direct confrontation. And worse, this wasn’t even a co-worker, it was essentially a social setting.

    Consider this. Let’s say I was going to hire you. And I told you that every Friday, for four hours, we were going to do code review. And only code that passed code review was going to be integrated into the main source tree. And that code review was public and mandatory, and that your work would be mercilessly critiqued, and held to a very high standard. That any problems that were discovered would be expected to fixed by Monday morning at 9AM, no matter what your personal life was. And that, chances are, if your output for the week was rejected more than a few times, you would be seen as low-value by the group, and I would probably fire you shortly thereafter.

    Let’s say all that happened. And also let’s say I knew your little personal anecdote. Based on all that, would I be smart to hire you? Why?

  97. Notwithstanding the guy was a douche bag, you failed a huge test.

    Dude, YOU’RE the one that’s failing. And keep on failing.

    You seem to think you’re an expert. And you’re oblivious to the fact you’re not.

  98. @MF-

    I would like to respond to one more thing:

    > man who has a heart bypass are equally worthless employees . . . but that didn’t seem to be case
    > in the DP_DEC’s anecdote. It was more than the second possibility just–never happened. Was
    > never acknowledged as possible.

    This should go without saying. If the same situation presented, but it was a man who turned up with a heart problem, he would be equally worthless. Perhaps more-so. Because it’s pretty likely that the guy needing the heart bypass had an idea his heart was in bad shape and might need work before he accepted the responsibility. At least with a pregnancy we can hold out hope that the female engineer didn’t accept the job intending to become pregnant.

    It’s almost hard to believe this causes you to croggle. It’s nice to imagine your employers will always value you as a person, more than an employee. The fact that some of most demanding don’t shouldn’t be a surprise.

  99. @gwangung:

    How so? I am not the one who stammered out a nonsensical response and ran away. Every job of consequence is going to involve coming into contact with douchebags. Imagine yourself as an employer. Why would you want to hire a person who can’t deal with douchebags? Why would anyone want to hire someone who can’t deal with an adverse situation in any meaningful way.

  100. @DP_DEC

    “This has nothing to do with sexism, geeks, or anything. You proved that guy 100% right. He thought you didn’t belong, and you proved him right. When he said something you didn’t like, you went to pieces. You couldn’t produce a sentence, you couldn’t respond, and you avoided confrontation.

    Notwithstanding the guy was a douche bag, you failed a huge test. You thought that by showing up in something outside of the stereotype you would distinguish yourself, but instead, you confirmed the stereotype – that women are weak and adverse to direct confrontation. And worse, this wasn’t even a co-worker, it was essentially a social setting.”

    It is not *lexcgirl’s* responsibility to base her behavior as if she is a representative of ALL WOMEN EVERYWHERE. Nor is she the one who deserves being criticized for her behavior in this story because she wasn’t the one being a sexist harassing douchebag – so quit with the “you didn’t stand up for will now deserve to have things like this happen to you because you’ve demonstrated that you’re weak and an easy target. The only one deserving criticism is the sexist douchebag for *being a sexist douchebag.* What you’re doing is victim-blaming. Stop.

    You have no idea at all what it’s like to be a woman and how often we’re on the receiving end of this kind of bullshit. This happens to ALL OF US, regardless of whether we’re the direct confrontation types or not. And there’s a good reason that women have learned, consciously or not, to be adverse to direct confrontation – a lot of the time, direct confrontation can earn you anything from having slurs and threats yelled at you to outright physical threats. There are damn good reasons that women aren’t always confrontational or assertive in these situations and the fact that you think it’s that easy is because you have the privilege of not having had to worry about the adverse consequences direct confrontation can get you.

    And using the fact that a person was scared or stunned because she was felt uncomfortable when someone made unwanted and unasked for sexual advances against her when deciding whether or no she’d make a good employee? Are you serious??

  101. > It is not *lexcgirl’s* responsibility to base her behavior as if she is a representative of ALL WOMEN
    > EVERYWHERE.
    100% agreed. I am confining my statements only to lexcgirls, and those people, male or female, who would act in the same way. I do not expect any person to represent anyone else. That’s not fair, and it’s frankly just not a smart way to go through life. I can understand how my comments would tend to be viewed normatively, and I reject that characterization.

    > Nor is she the one who deserves being criticized for her behavior in this story because she wasn’t
    > the one being a sexist harassing douchebag – so quit with the “you didn’t stand up for will now
    Of course she can and should be criticized. But let me say again. What she did isn’t “wrong” or “right”. It’s demonstrative. She could have handled the matter with strength, or weakness. And she elected weakness.

    > deserve to have things like this happen to you because you’ve demonstrated that you’re weak and
    > an easy target. The only one deserving criticism is the sexist douchebag for *being a sexist
    > douchebag.* What you’re doing is victim-blaming. Stop.
    No. This is really juvenile. When you are treated poorly the world doesn’t stop. Your status as a victim doesn’t stop the world. You can’t make the aggressor disappear. I blame the victim for dealing with adversity poorly. She demonstrated weakness for no reason. It is a demonstration that she is weak. Literally any other reaction would be stronger than what she did. Even ignoring the douchebag would be better. Being the victim of poor treatment doesn’t end your accountability.

    > You have no idea at all what it’s like to be a woman and how often we’re on the receiving end of
    > this kind of bullshit. This happens to ALL OF US, regardless of whether we’re the direct
    > confrontation types or not.
    So what? I mean really, so what. You get treated badly, a lot. I hope you convince men to not be douchebags.

    > And there’s a good reason that women have learned, consciously or not, to be adverse to direct
    > confrontation – a lot of the time, direct confrontation can earn you anything from having slurs and
    > threats yelled at you to outright physical threats.
    Look, if you are in a social or work situation and feel threatened physically, fine. Do whatever you need to escape the situation. You know full well that’s not whats at stake here. This is your embellishment to justify her reaction, ex post facto.

    > There are damn good reasons that women aren’t always confrontational or assertive in these
    > situations and the fact that you think it’s that easy is because you have the privilege of not
    > having had to worry about the adverse consequences direct confrontation can get you.
    Who said anything about easy? I am not passing personal judgement on anyone. I telling you, that if you fail to assert yourself you are a less valuable as an employee. End of story. I don’t care about your reasons, your excuses, or your justifications. I don’t care that it’s some else’s fault, and I don’t care that it’s society that made you that way. You are less valuable. It’s not my fault, and I am not going to compromise.

    > And using the fact that a person was scared or stunned because she was felt uncomfortable
    > when someone made unwanted and unasked for sexual advances against her when deciding
    > whether or no she’d make a good employee? Are you serious??
    Yes, 100%. She couldn’t handle herself in a benign social situation. All of the sudden it was some sort of serious situation that she retreated because she felt physically scared. I mean, honestly, why would anyone want to hire someone who would react this way? In what situation would this reaction make you a more valuable employee?

    This is the bottom line. You either have characteristics that make you a better potential employee, or a worse one. This is a big one in the worse column.

  102. @DP_DEC:

    1. The number of women on the way of becoming a mother is the same as the number of men on the way of becoming a father (leaving aside assisted fertilisation and things like that). If my wife / girlfriend had a complicated pregnancy, I wouldn’t think twice before taking a long leave. If your employees think otherwise, I question your judgment in hiring as sociopaths usually don’t make good co-workers.

    2. Similarly, if you expect your team to attend a code review every Friday and correct all problems by Monday morning, the only people who’ll NEVER have a problem with that will be those with no social life whatsoever, or perhaps sociopaths.

    Dude, your posts boil down to the fact that like weird sociopaths in your team and women are less likely to be such.

    Also, before you ask, I have worked in a few high-stakes projects and have never faced the issues that you seem to have faced everywhere. As you sure it’s them and not, you know, YOU?

  103. > regarding his aversion to hiring women due to their possibility of having inconvenient pregnancies
    > could make a plaintiff’s attorney a killing in a Civil Rights Act/ADA/Pregnancy Discrimination Act
    > suit.)

    I’ve run into this general category of problem and always prevailed. For three reasons:

    1. I would not take an adverse employment decision based pregnancy/etc. I have fired women who are pregnant for cause, and been challenged, and won. And handily. People who are uninformed presume that you can just do whatever you want if you are pregnant, in relation to your job. It’s not true. I had an employee who made a commitment to do a project, and she told me part of the way in she would miss 2/3′s of assignment due to a pregnancy and maternity leave. Fired on the spot, and I the EEOC sided with my firm for the action. You have to live with the consequences of your actions. You getting pregnant is not my problem.

    2. I am scrupulously fair. I fired a women once for not showing up for an important internal presentation for a sick child. She’s not a bad person for missing the presentation, but she let the team down. Termination. When challenged I simply gave her employment attorney a summary of employment records showing numerous and consistent enforcement of the same policy against men. Miss a mandatory work event, and you are terminated.

    3. I believe in and support a fair work life balance. We are not talking about people dealing with a demanding job for low wages. We are talking about highly paid STEM professionals. All of them six figures compensation packages. This is what women want, right, a shot into the upper-ranks of the professional world? Well, these are the conditions. It’s difficult, and not because of me, or management, but because the work is difficult. It’s highly complex, technical, and demanding. You don’t have a lot of wiggle room. The product has to perform. I support work life balance and go way above the legal requirements – not because I want to, but because that’s what the people I need to get the job done demand, and can receive, in exchange for their work. I am sure John would backup the statement that his publisher doesn’t pay him one red cent more than he has to. They’re not sending him bonus payments and money that he didn’t negotiate for, and win, in contract talks. They aren’t cutting him into extra profits and royalties just because. Whatever he’s got, he won, through his effort. But it’s only going to continue so long as he delivers. And so long as delivers, he can get what he wants to the extent it’s worth it for the publishers.

    At the same time as all of that, I expect people to be accountable for their choices. At this level, it’s not unusual for engineers to work a portion of the year under contract, and then take a portion of the year off to decompress after the project is over. That’s pretty well expected. If the project goes well and all contingencies have been paid out, it’s often a few months of time they can sort of float before picking up a new project. I had an engineer once who instead of doing the normal thing, immediately signed onto another project I had going on. I found after that he tailgated into new projects for each of the last 4 big projects. For some folks, especially the young ones without a lot of obligations, this is normal. For some folks, they try to plan their workload to have summers off, or the holidays, or whatever. Well, part of the way through this new project, the guy suffered sharp performance declines. It was obvious the guy was burnt out. Years of working without break had taken a toll. Am I bad guy for replacing him?

  104. > girlfriend had a complicated pregnancy, I wouldn’t think twice before taking a long leave. If your
    > employees think otherwise, I question your judgment in hiring as sociopaths usually don’t make
    > good co-workers.

    I agree 100%. Just don’t be mad at me when you get a bad recommendation. Your choice. But you are accountable for your choices. It is not sociopathic to ask your employees to follow through with their commitments. And to hold them accountable when they fail. Just because it’s not “your fault”, doesn’t mean that you are a good employee.

    > 2. Similarly, if you expect your team to attend a code review every Friday and correct all problems
    > by Monday morning, the only people who’ll NEVER have a problem with that will be those with no
    > social life whatsoever, or perhaps sociopaths.

    Guess what, I expect the work to be right the first time. Weekend grace period is just that – a chance to correct your failure before it affects the team. I expect people who want to have a weekend social life to get it right the first time. And mostly, they do. You some how think that making people accountable for their poor performance creates sociopaths. In fact, I suspect strongly you don’t know what a sociopath is. Regardless, this is what is expected across the industry. It’s not new. You think Steve Jobs, before he died, suffered fools? You think he gave a whole weekend to correct mistakes?

    Just because a lot of women can’t meet these standards (and granted, the vast majority of men can’t either) doesn’t make it wrong. In fact, right or wrong doesn’t enter into it. It just is. A lot of jobs are hard. You really don’t think people make six-figure salaries without breaking a sweat, do you?

  105. I’m more entertained by this response than anything. I’m weak because, what, I didn’t cuss someone out or chew him out because he came onto me? Whatever. Yeah, I was more stunned than anything. And frankly, I put that I “scurried away” because that’s the way it sounded good to me when I was writing it. It’s not my responsibility to chew him out or scold him because you can’t change or teach assholes. I’m not particularly worried about your opinion of me or of what you think of my work abilities. I am curious, however, as to what your response would have been, had you not been expecting that question.

    Although I will say this: if I’m being threatened in a work situation in your company, then your company is probably not someplace I’d ever want to work. Sounds to me like you run a pretty shoddy company. I also doubt that you look for assertive employees with the impression you’re giving off here.

    And I wasn’t trying to pass any sort of test by showing up “out of the norm”. It wasn’t actually something I’d thought about- I saw that there were some things I wanted to see and showed up. I’m not trying to change the world here.

  106. [Deleted because it is not on topic. Posting something that's off topic and then saying that if it's deleted it's because of liberal cowardice is the first refuge of an idiot who didn't read the comment policy - JS]

  107. I think this thread has been somewhat derailed by the conversation of DP_DEC’s hiring philosophy, so let’s close up that line of discussion, please.

  108. The question “why now?” is part of the problem. It shows that female geeks were almost invisible and often unaccepted in this fields – or if they were visible, everybody thought they were just an attachement of their boyfriends.
    I’m now 27 years old, and played my first DnD Game with 13. My favorite TV Shows were He-Man, Batman, Thundercats and Saberrider. But after that first Game, there was no one who would play with me. I was the only (not just the only female, but the only) “geek” in my year and the only one I knew for a long time. I kept all this stuff to myself, read tons of Fantasy Books alone in my room, or played SNES with Zelda, Terranigma, Super Street Fighter and Secret of Mana, while in the school I was the weirdo to everyone – even to my teachers. My Math Teacher even placed a big berg crystal on her desk, because she had the feeling that I had “bad vibes” and that I would disturb the class (yes, that’s a real story.).

    I was very lucky to find other geeks a few years later – and I was even luckier that they were thrilled that I played Pen&Paper Games (even longer as they did), Computer Games and liked all this stuff. We watched Babylon 5 together, did LAN Parties, and from one of them (my first Gamemaster, a Genius and also gay) I got my first “Song of Ice and Fire” Book. That was 1999, I was fifteen.
    After that I just did what I liked. I did become a very good Gamemaster, and my friends tell me to this day, that I’m the best of them.

    But than I meet other geeks. I met them when I was in my education as an IT-Specialist (I was the only woman in class, and it was a knockdown – teachers ignored me and said I should leave this field of work becaus it is not for women), but it was a hard wakeup. None of the other students took me seriously. They just smirked when I got something to say that was related to our field of study, and they smirked also when I “appeared” to know something geek related.
    Later, I just got secretary jobs and got degraded with “make me food/make me coffee” from my bosses, and even from co-workers from the same departement, with the same job description than me. Nobody wanted me as an IT Expert, even If I had better grades than most of the other students.

    I left Computer Sciences, because it was toxic and hostile to me – I surely didn’t learn all this IT stuff to be a simple secretary or office clerk. It took me some years to find my way back, struggling to become a gamedesigner, struggling with my own gender, struggling with geekdom itself. Because except for the first time when I was fifteen, except for my first group of geeky friends, I never met a male geek that took me serious (except my husband), I was just eyecandy or a fakegeekgirl. I was constantly reminded that I don’t belong to this group, because I “didn’t experienced how it feels to be an outcast, to be the weirdo in class or in school”.
    They said I wouldn’t know how it feels to be treated this way.
    They said I’m just a follower who thinks Big Bang Theory is cool.

    And I’m not the only one. There are so many women out there that experienced something like this, and so many of the male gamers still have the nerve to say that Girls are not present in Geekdom because they can’t stand the “stigma” (yeah, such a big stigma to be a geek these days, terrible), and all Girls that ARE in Geekdom are fakes anyway.

    You want real stigma?
    Try being a woman.

  109. As a convention is meant to be place for fun, entertainment, and the creation of social identity via the group purchase and consumption of similar nonessential products and media, not life or death struggle, “failure” of social “tests” of toughness and “proof” of ability to “hack it” is possibly the most ludicrous, self important , irrelevant and arbitrarily set up pack of faux criteria I have ever had the pleasure of cracking up laughing at. And laughter is good for the soul, so that’s a nice start for today.

  110. “…male geekdom is extraordinarily status sensitive, which is a subject worthy of its own separate discussion…”

    Any chance of us seeing this discussion from you in a future post? Because this comment really intrigues me.

  111. I once worked for a mental health clinic that fired a woman while she was on medical leave for the cancer that killed her less than six weeks later. It was the worst thing I’d personally heard of in a workplace, and quit soon after.

    Then I read the post where a manager referred to a former subordinate as “unreliable” because of a medical condition that she had no control over, and I changed my mind.

  112. I know I’ve said this before on this site, but crap like this is why I don’t want to publicly admit to my geekdom. If this sort of attitude is what people get when they go to conventions, or interact with other geeks in public, why would anybody do it, male or female? I’ve always found consuming geek culture to be a pretty private experience…I watch TV and movies on my own, I read books on my own, I play games mostly on my own. I’ll talk about geek stuff with my wife or a few close friends, but strangers? No thanks.

  113. Oops, didn’t see the request to stop the hiring philosophy. Apologies, and feel free to delete.

  114. “Any chance of us seeing this discussion from you in a future post? Because this comment really intrigues me.” John, read the thread, and you’ll see some posturing over status. It’s right here. Granted, Scalzi’s take on it could be really interesting.

  115. I’ll admit to being pissed at DP_DEC on many levels. Not that my ire matters to him, I’m sure, since I’m a girl and I work in education. Where, by the way, I see that MANY males do, in fact, have personality conflicts with others that make them hard to work with. It’s a human thing, not a gender thing. The common thread I see between DP’s comments on women working in the STEM fields and women in fandom is that, to him, everything is a high-stakes test. There are some pretty big risks to working for DP. People with almost anything going on in their lives would be (and probably are) well-advised to work for someone else. Unfortunately, he also applies some of the crappy elements of his management style to casual interpersonal relationships. Feeling flustered in a social situation means that you have Failed A Test. Don’t want to deal with overly personal remarks from people you don’t know? Fail.

    People don’t go to cons to run a gauntlet of high stakes tests that proves their worth. As cons get crowded, I can see why some long-term, die-hard fans might feel that way. I think the over-crowding of certain con venues over the past ten years may be contributing to the idea that some fans are more worthy than others, and may play a role in the idea that fans who are not sufficiently fan-ish do not deserve space in conventions because they crowd out the true believers. When there was plenty of empty space in the convention center in San Diego, fans were totally welcoming. Now that you have to bring your own oxygen tank to the convention floor (and smaller local cons are selling out because people can’t go to San Diego) fans are more likely to be territorial and to feel like the herd needs culling. One way to carry out that culling is to be a sexist asshat.

  116. One last comment on DP_DEC’s informal hiring interview for lexcgirl-
    People are able to handle different stressful situations at different levels; being able to handle an angry customer doesn’t immediately translate into being able to run into a burning building, being able to handle a hostage crisis doesn’t mean you’re good at handling a messy break-up. More to the point, being able to handle sexist jerks isn’t the same as handling a high pressure work environment–unless the reason it’s a high pressure work environment is because it’s being run by a sexist jerk.

    I’m not saying that you are, DP_DEC, but you bear an uncanny resemblance to my mom’s supervisor when she was a wee software engineer. He grumbled when work equality policies forced him to hire women, or when people took time off work for jury duty or kidney failure. When he got colon cancer, I’m not sure he got any, “Get well soon!” cards at all. You treat people like numbers first, people second, that’s how they’ll treat you right back.

    Secondly, I think it’s worth pointing out that it’s not just men who struggle with sexist stereotypes. While I was working tech support, I had two lady callers who took time to tell me that they were worried when they heard a girl answer the phone that I wouldn’t have the technical prowess to fix their problem, but then I rocked their socks off.

    Currently, I work as a hospital operator and part of team’s duties are codes – from calling a life-saving code blue team to being a communications hub for a major event like a shooter or fire in the hospital, as well as more routine calls for patients and doctors. People’s lives are on the line for me doing my job right–and that has absolutely nothing to do with how I handle a unwanted advance.

  117. I would say that you are probably right about most of us male geeks. I’m sure that I’ve done and said things that piss women off immensely. One of the activities I practice is kendo, Japanese fencing, and there, you don’t wear a colored belt to designate your rank, you have plenty of protective equipment on, especially a mask that hides your face for the most part. When I am facing a woman on the dojo floor, she is no different than the men, she has a sword, she’s trying to “kill” (score points) me, and unless I treat her the same as I would a man, it’s an insult to her, because I am not giving her the respect that is due to anyone on the dojo floor. It means that I do my best against her, and that if she wins, that I graciously accept my fate, and congratulate her on her accomplishments, and wish for her to continue to improve. Now, that’s an artificial atmosphere, you can say, because once you step outside the dojo, all bets are off. Not necessarily so, since much of what we do in the dojo carries on in our daily lives.
    I was at ChiCon7 last year, and one of the rooms was devoted to filk. I had brought my guitar for two reasons, to keep practicing, and to join in the filk. When I walked in the room (for the second time) with my guitar, there were 3 other men, and probably 5 or 6 women (the memory fades). I recall that one of the men was a total jerk to me, simply because he felt he could be. Maybe he’s a big shot back in his hometown in Colorado, playing the bar scenes, etc., and is probably good at what he does. That doesn’t mean he has to belittle other men in front of the women to show his superiority. I played one song, got criticized for it, and decided that I had had enough of this jerk, and put it away. I stayed for another 10 minutes, and then walked out. I have decided that the filk crowd, or at least that particular person in a filk crowd, is not for me. Sexism isn’t just men toward women, it can be women to men, women to women, and men to men. Just like racism……
    John, this isn’t meant to make anyone a bad guy, perhaps I was wrong in my perception, but I did happen to ask one of the women who was there, and she agree with me. Okay, nuff said.
    Sure wish I could shake your hand, we’re not that far apart, I’m in Sidney……have a great day.

  118. I think the “why now?” is simply “the internet.”

    Racism, sexism, homophobia, and every other form of discrimination operates first and foremost on the target being isolated with the result of that isolation making the target feel alone, outnumbered, no one to turn to, etc, to discourage the target from standing up to the discrimination.

    The internet has allowed these isolated individuals to find other people similarly targeted, compare notes, and discover that they aren’t alone, that it isn’t just them, that they have allies who aren’t in the targeted group, and that together they have a voice for change.

  119. As far as the internet/ease of spread of information: meeting/getting to know feminist geeks online was definitely one of the main factors that shifted me from your typical anti-feminist woman to where I am now (which, for anyone who doesn’t hang around Scalzi’s comments a lot, was a nearly 180 degree turn). Mainstream academic feminism was off-putting and inaccessible to me. I disliked everything about being expected to pay my dues in a self-serving, passive-aggressive power structure where others thought they could dictate my lived experiences to me.

    But while older methods of publication and organization lent themselves to that top-down structure, the various third waves of feminism tend to be much more bottom-up–the internet makes it a lot easier to align ourselves with those who share our concerns and struggles, in forums where we can’t be told to be quiet and respect our (racist, classist, ableist, cissexist, gender-essentialist) elders.

    Geek culture has gone through a similar shift. Conventions used to be the primary gathering space of the geek community. There were print zines, sure–but even those were mostly distributed to and through convention communities. Now, there’s significantly less overhead when it comes to getting geeks together, which makes it much easier for geeks with common interests to find each other without a lot of organizational heavy lifting.

    Combine those two consequences of the digital age, and the result is that geek women have a much easier time finding and building forums where their voices can be heard.

    If geek sexism is a dam, the cracks have been appearing for a long time. It’s just that they’re now big enough that people are seeing the water level rise, and numerous enough that patches are no longer effective. The internet in this metaphor is the heavy rains that swelled the reservoir, accelerating the rate at which the dam’s coming down.

  120. @ Countermassive: “The question “why now?” is part of the problem. It shows that female geeks were almost invisible and often unaccepted in this fields – or if they were visible, everybody thought they were just an attachement of their boyfriends.”

    Personal experience: I didn’t even realize this was a thing until two things happened: 1) I started dating a nerdy boyfriend (who I eventually married) and 2) I stopped “trying” to look like what I thought a stereotypical geek should look like to show right off that I was “one of the gang” when going to geek/nerd events and spaces. And here’s the thing – because I never really had a lot of negative gate-keeping experiences where I was treated by my immediate nerd circle as “less than” because I’m female, I got more confident in playing with more culturally feminine forms of expression (make up, clothing). So imagine my surprise when the first time I went to a nerd meet up with my boyfriend at a bar and I wasn’t dressed “like a nerd” (no fandom t-shirt, had done my hair, wore a little make up and a cute sundress), the attitude I got was that I was there just because my boyfriend was and waitaminute, you mean you know who the X-Men are and it’s not just from the movies? You can’t really be into this stuff because you like it – it must be because your boyfriend taught you (at which point he’d usually roll his eyes and mention how all the action figures and movie posters in our home belonged to me, not him).

    It was really discouraging to realize that suddenly because I wasn’t 1) single and 2) presented as “more feminine” those were reasons to dismiss me as invisible or “not one of us, obviously” unless I flatly out-nerded everyone I talked to in order to prove my nerd cred. Having these experiences are definitely a huge factor in what brought me around to realizing that it’s silly to judge other women on whether they’re “fake” geeks or not just because they might be prettier than me or present as more feminine (hai internalized sexism) – anyone should get to take part in geek culture and be a geek in any way that they want.

  121. I have played WOW for a number of years. I have been happiest in guilds/raids where there was less bigotry and sexism. It is funny watching the bigots react poorly when they are ejected for crass behavior.

    Blizzard needs to invest more in killing the trolls and bigots like they did in the old days.
    Reporting stats on the number of accounts which are perm-banned for different types of behavior would be a nice start. Public disclosure is where it is all at.

  122. Thanks for bringing this up again John! You are my favorite Gamma Rabbit!

    I am just another 80′s geek girl who was tolerated due to my tomboy appearance and I put up with the sexist crap because I sure didn’t fit in anywhere else. Once I went to college, found real friends and developed as a female; I left the geek groups behind. I still read comics, loved science, watched geek shows and movies and kept collecting. I just didn’t feel like I wanted to be treated as a second class person for any reason. I didn’t attend Con’s, or show off my geek side to anyone outside of my friends. Then as a desperately bored stay at home mom, I joined a geek book club. It was amazing! Geekdom in the era of the internet was soo much better. I got more involved and the community is amazing. I finally found my tribe. However, there is still the low level sexist crap to deal with. So to all those whiny brats who think that “fake geek girls” are ruining “their” club…grow up! (I edited the language in honor of the mallet). This sexist era is dying and it is about time.

    Oh, and kudos to all the girl geeks who stood up for themselves and pushed the envelope. You are all my heroes.

  123. @GeekMelange
    It was very similar for me when I got together with my now-husband. I don’t dress really geeky, because I never felt the need to show that I’m a geek, or a roleplayer. But when we met new people, they always thought my husband teached me this stuff – and the worst:
    Even if he or I telled them that I’m interested in this stuff on my own, they a) just didn’t believe me or b) belittled me anyway.

    As for today, I’m done with geekdom. I don’t refer to myself as geek anymore, don’t visit conventions, don’t talk in forums. I formed a habit of arrogance when I met other geeks that try to belittle me. I’m saying straight to their faces that I’m simply better than them, and they can stuff their cute litte dungeon adventures to their a**** – because MC-Epic-Storytelling is in da house.

  124. GeekMelange: I went to a nerd meet up … and I wasn’t dressed “like a nerd” (no fandom t-shirt, had done my hair, wore a little make up and a cute sundress), the attitude I got was that I was there just because my boyfriend was

    There is a class of straight male nerd who thinks “nerd” is defined as “ugly”. They appear to want to define the class “nerd” to mean “ugly” because some “pretty” cheerleader rejected them or some “handsome” jock picked on them*. And the ugly==nerd person made the mistake of categorizign the problem based on surface appearances (pretty/handsome) rather than matters of principles (they’re shallow, cruel. They’re brutes. whatever)

    (*) or if they’re a ugly==nerd straight female, its because some “pretty” cheerleader picked on or ostracized them and some “handsome” jock rejected or ignored them. Permute for all variations.

    Invariably, the person created the definition of nerd==ugly to (1) separate themselves, disassociate their feelings, from the person who hurt them and then (2) define themselves as members of a category that is intrinsically better than their tormenters.

    So when a pretty woman or handsome man enters the group they’ve reserved for the nerd==ugly==better-than-everyone-else, they bristle because it challenges (2) being better than that other group and (1) reintroduces them to the feelings of hurt they disassociated.

    It’s shallow and petty and they deserve to be called on it.

  125. If women are out there demanding their geek rights and a fair share of geekdom, I’m completely and utterly for it. Do you know how scary it can be hanging out with a bunch of geek guys? I know, I’m one. I’d be there hanging out and a thought would hit me: I really need to go where normal people and things happen. Like maybe hang out at the zoo for a day. Just to get my bearings. Maybe, if there had been geeky women in these groups, I’d have gone to the zoo less? Does that sound right? Thank god I’m married now. On the other hand, my wife is most definitely not a geek, but I don’t hold that against her.

  126. I’m a Millenial who never knew fandom before the Internet–and to me, “fandom” usually actually means the specific strain of it that formed around media conventions, fanfic, fanart, and similar. I’ve always known a “fandom” that was hugely, predominantly queer women. The board of our biggest association (the OTW), my favourite writers, the people I geek out with, and the attendees at the conventions I go to are very nearly all women. And this section of fandom has been around since the 60s or 70s.

    It’s seemed like there aren’t that many women in geekdom because massive numbers of women who were chased away from science fiction clubs and sci fi cons went away and made their own. But because we’re fangirls or “perverts”, we’re not “real” fans.

  127. And ellid is right; the argument that gay people have just as much right to marry as anyone else, they just have to marry people of the opposite sex, is still trotted out from time to time. See, that’s not discrimination.

    You: So it would be OK to make it illegal for a black person to marry a white person? After all, they can still marry people of their own race, and the law applies to everyone, not just one race.

    Bigot: But but THAT’S DIFFERENT *sputterflail*

    (Spoiler: the ‘but it hurts everybody so it’s not discrimination at all *micdrop*’ argument was, explictly, made by the state of Virginia in Loving v. Virginia, in its attempts to justify its laws making interracial marriage a crime. Didn’t work then either.)

    @sorcharei: I think the “oh, it’s ASD” is just the newest iteration of “oh, it’s testosterone”. You know; we have to tolerate and understand when men behave badly because the poor things just can’t help it, it’s their biology. Though the it’s-autism argument also has a big, ugly dollop of ableism oozing off the top, and doesn’t seem to consider that some of the ‘intuitive social behavior’ people on the spectrum have trouble absorbing might, say, include sexism.

    Re ‘geek status’, The Onion is, as ever, helpful.

  128. staranise:
    Part of me mourns that I grew up in an era where women never figured much among the geeks (70s and 80s). That would have been the best. Women bring a different perspective from men that, for me, is refreshing. I used to work the night shift at a Tower Books store in Seattle (Mercer/Queen Anne) and I was the only guy among a group of 4-5 women. Really opened my eyes to seeing things more inclusively.

  129. @Countermassive: “As for today, I’m done with geekdom. I don’t refer to myself as geek anymore, don’t visit conventions, don’t talk in forums. I formed a habit of arrogance when I met other geeks that try to belittle me. I’m saying straight to their faces that I’m simply better than them, and they can stuff their cute litte dungeon adventures to their a**** – because MC-Epic-Storytelling is in da house.”

    I totally understand why, but that does make me sad. I love being a geek – the friends and relationships that I have were primarily formed around shared geek loves and it’s a part of who I am that I enjoy immensely. I’ve been lucky to find (and help to carve out) geek spaces where geeks of all stripes can feel safe and included. It has gotten better in a lot of ways. “Cosplay =/= consent” campaigns have gained a lot of traction and support. I wish I’d known years ago that you don’t necessarily need to be a “Name in Fandom” to run panels at conventions (although maybe even if I had, I wouldn’t have had the confidence I do now to try) because that’s turned out to be a fantastic way to facilitate the sort of conversations necessary to making geek culture more inclusive. With the nerd group that I’m an organizer for, we make it a priority to promote the inclusive model of geek culture and keep our discussion spaces safe and respectful – and we’re not the only group taking this tack. So if maybe someday you decide you want to attend a convention, a local meet up or a discussion forum, I hope you find groups and spaces that are more encouraging than they used to be.

    I used to take the same approach – the “Oh, you think you’re going to school ME on nerd trivia?” and then proceed to whip out the factoid hammer. These days – it might be due to being older and cranky (as if 35 is old), but I don’t even bother because there is no reason I should have to justify my calling myself a geek other than “because I want to” or being in a geek space other than “because I want to be here.” And if they don’t like it? Too bad, because I’m a geek and I’m not leaving. Plus – man, it takes a lot of time and effort to stay up on ALL THE NERD THINGS. It turns being a geek from an enjoyable hobby you do because you love it to studying for a dreaded final exam you have no choice for – screw that. I’m just going to pay attention to the things I like and not worry about memorizing everything like I’m about to defend my dissertation.

  130. I speak as one who has always felt like an outcast. Among girls I wasn’t into what they liked, among guys I was a girl who didn’t fit. (Though there were some guys who would be happy to chat everything from Voltron to Dungeons and Dragons etc. Far more than girls.)
    I agree the internet is a truly empowering thing in helping the girl geeks of the sci fi world. No matter where we live, we no longer have to feel alone. A little internet browsing and you can find tons of like minded individuals. Even if one doesn’t know many (or even any) in person, one knows they are out there and it is enough!

    So for all the guys out there who don’t want to come into the 21st century and realize woman aren’t the weak flowers of the fairy tales, look out. The Princess Leia’s, Captain Janeways, and Samantha Carters are into the crusade. And they won’t stop until they can just enjoy fandoms in peace.

  131. @GeekMelange:
    Thanks for the kind words, but I don’t feel sorry for myself because I took a big step away from common geekdom.
    I even don’t know if I would want to call myself geek if it would be easier for me (and I doubt it will in the future – I’m not only a woman, I’m queer, I’m a feminist and an atheist). It just seems to be such an “in” thing too, and half of the geeks I know (male and female) are constantly worried if the world around them really noticed that they are geeks. It’s like the stamp on your handback from this cool club, and you don’t wash it of, so that everyone can see where you have been the last night.

    And then there is all the fuss about status, the sexism, the intolerance towards queers – it’s depressing, and if I would visit a convention again, I want it to be fun.
    Maybe, in twenty years or so, it’s not such a pain in the ass to visit a convention.

  132. @ Greg: “There is a class of straight male nerd who thinks “nerd” is defined as “ugly”. ”

    That’s partially an issue (and oh boy, does that viewpoint make me sad because if you equate being “nerdy” with being “ugly” and/or “outcast” and you think of yourself as a nerd, that sounds like a hell of a lonely and self-hating place to be). But I also think a lot of it has to do with there’s a particular class of nerd (gender notwithstanding) that tends to equate “nerd” with “not feminine” as well. That attitude I got about how I was probably just there because my male partner was came from both men and women, unfortunately. There’s still a strong sense that nerd spaces are primarily (straight cis) male ones and if you don’t orient yourself to that norm, you’re not welcome (or going to be in for a lot of “prove you belong here” crap). Like I’ve said, it’s an attitude I never realized how deeply I’d internalized until a few years ago and it’s been one hell of an eye-opener how entrenched those attitudes can be. It’s a difficult thing to face in yourself, but I’m definitely glad I’m working on it.

  133. @ Countermassive – I hear what you’re saying. I have some queer friends who have expressed similar sentiments. I’m also a feminist and an atheist, but as a straight cisgendered woman, it’s been a learning curve understanding the spaces and things that I love haven’t had a particularly rosy history in how they treat people who aren’t straight or cisgendered, and knowing how to recognize when that happens and not let it slide by unnoticed.

  134. @GeekMelange: “What was the cause of there being more women in geek spaces now? One of the panelists nearly jumped out of her seat when she answered (for all of us): ‘BUT WE’VE ALWAYS BEEN HERE!’ ”

    This is an example of a well-known issue which I’ve taken to calling “the 15% phenomenon”. Several studies of student-teacher interactions over the course of a couple of decades revealed that in the average mixed-gender classroom, if female students contributed more than 15% of the class discussion, they were perceived as “dominating the conversation”. Similarly, if the teacher called on female students more than 15% of the time, he/she was perceived as strongly discriminating AGAINST the male students.

    It doesn’t just happen with gender issues, either. I’ve been in online communities where a moderately-common question from new participants was “Is EVERYONE here pagan?” or “Aren’t there any CHRISTIANS here?” — despite the fact that a number of regular participants were in fact Christian and didn’t hesitate to say things which reflected this. But the thing was that there *were* people in the conversations (probably about 15-20% IIRC) who were openly pagan, which is something not encountered in large sections of American culture. So seeing *any* pagans felt, to these new people, like seeing HUGE SWARMS of pagans, swamping out everything else.

  135. Reblogged this on everydayfangirl and commented:
    Thanks John for answering this question in a positive light for us geek girls who are trying to shatter the stereotypes, especially the negative ones. It is why this is The Year of the Fangirl #YOTFG and I wish more of the fanboys thought like you did. Hopefully, this post will help explain why we are making so much noise!

  136. Hi John,

    Thanks for a great post and I hope you did not me re-blogging it on my blog. I just have to say that in my case, I was there all the time. I loved Star Wars, Star Trek, Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Romance novels all equally! However, I did not feel comfortable in the culture. It was only when I started attending ANIME cons that I started to feel more comfortable with my fandom. Once I started to feel comfortable with my anime fandom, then the rest followed. My goal in starting a blog was to show my fandom and to help others, who are like me, feel comfortable from the first. I would hate for them to wait as long as I did to show their love of any of the geek fandoms!

  137. Oh this one is handy. I’m going to save quotes from it next time I’m in a discussion here at your blog with a guy dumping a half-conscious load of sexism and then ranting that he’s not a sexist, he doesn’t like my tone, I am personally insulting him and misrepresenting everything he says, I must be an oversensitive trauma victim and I, a female, know nothing about sexism but his female friend said he was okay, so there. :)

    The “sudden” explosion of girls have cooties and will hurt us notion is largely economically driven. It’s a backlash to not women being visible, but women being successful in the field in larger numbers as the field itself is larger. The mythology is that in the past of fandom, women were either not there, were there because no one thought they were hot, or were there as girlfriends and minor contributors who should defer to men. It’s the same genesis as the myth that SFFH, rather than being the major commercial entertainment influence on our culture for the past sixty years or more, is actually an outcast fortress on an island out of the mainstream, ignored and disdained. These myths have roots in some people’s personal experiences, so they are hard to give up when reality intrudes on them. To shore up the myth, what disrupts the myth is declared a sudden change with dire consequences.

    In the early oughts, for instance, there was a cluster of contemporary fantasy writers who became bestsellers around the same time, along with some older, established bestselling writers, and only a few of them happened to be male. This then parlayed into the invasion of female fantasy writers, who were going to mess everything up, as if they didn’t already exist in the hundreds. The success of female geek entrepreneurs like Felicia Day, game designers, comic book writers, Internet video channel and other net business artists, female YA SFF writers with Hollywood interest as well, female led and even produced SFFH t.v. shows and films, etc., in larger numbers as entertainment culture has greatly expanded with SFFH as its best engine, all mean the myths of geekdom don’t hold up.

    And so these people — male and female as well sometimes — are fighting a serious rear-guard action to hold on to their skewed notions of history and fandom. So we get a backlash that women are newcomers, women are feminizing everything, women having been successful in SFFH must be there only for the success and not the love, women make us have impure thoughts, and most importantly, women are taking over and need to be controlled and only allowed to do anything if it’s approved and tested by men. In other words, pretty much normal culture. It is a transitional stage, heightened by the Net being the ultimate all inclusion zone that echoes back every thought. It is the ultimate myth — that we can control culture and wishing makes it so, or better yet, threats. Basically, if you’re sad that women are involved in fandom — or games, computer engineering, etc. — that’s your own personal issue, not a crisis we really should have to worry about. And if you’re in power and trying to block the women out, you know how the sappers used to tunnel under the fortress walls in a siege? Well if you want to make it a siege, women are the sappers, tough luck. Sometimes they are the pregnant sappers. Sometimes they are the extremely dangerous costumed sixteen-year-olds.

  138. I’ve just spoken to a male person who personally knew both Shava and He Who We’re No Longer Mentioning back in the day, and I give the Whateverites one guess as to which he thought was the clueless asshole, and which was the better programmer.

  139. Why now? Critical mass of women with access to gatekeeper-free media.

    Once upon a time, the NYT could publish an article that stared with the flat assertion that men invented the internet in the happy knowledge that any contradictions would have to be sent through the mail, and then survive the editorial process at the NYT letters page (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/03/technology/lawsuit-against-kleiner-perkins-is-shaking-silicon-valley.html?_r=0). Nowadays, they publish a sexist counterfactual like that, and within the day, people are blogging and tweeting about exactly how full of crap they are (http://boingboing.net/2012/06/03/nyt-men-invented-the-inter.html, http://www.reclusiveleftist.com/2012/06/05/patriarchy-in-action-the-new-york-times-rewrites-history/, among many).

    Once upon a time, a man could harass or assault a woman at a convention and know that she had effectively no recourse, other than to stop coming to conventions. Nowadays, Florian Liebert assaults a woman, and his name is in her con report, along with exactly what he did (http://blog.nerdchic.net/archives/418/). Rene Walling harasses a woman, and his name is in her con report, along with exactly what he did (http://glvalentine.livejournal.com/341417.html).

    Once upon a time, media personalities like Michael Moore and Keith Olbermann could talk inaccurately and dismissively on air about the rape charges pending against a man they admire and expect no consequences whatsoever. Nowadays, Sady Doyle and Jaclyn Friedman can whip up a 24/7 twitter assault that tweets and re-tweets accurate information until Moore, at least, issues a retraction (http://tigerbeatdown.com/2010/12/15/mooreandme-on-dude-progressives-rape-apologism-and-the-little-guy/ through http://tigerbeatdown.com/2010/12/22/mooreandme-and-then-he-came-down/)

    Savannah Dietrich, outraged that she might do more time for naming the boys who raped her than they’d do for the rape, can tweet the rapists’ names and dare the judge who issued the gag order to put her in jail.

    Alexandria Goddard can collect screen shots of teenagers live-tweeting a rape and post them on her blog, and keep making a stink until someone puts the Steubenville rapists in jail.

    This is only possible because there are no gatekeepers on livejournal and blogger and twitter. There are no officials murmuring in these women’s ears that it would be better for everyone if they keep this in-house, keep quiet, don’t make waves. There is no editor, horrified that a man’s reputation might be smirched, to strike out the man’s name. There is no one who can disappear the events, the reality.

    Standing up is hardly risk-free for the women – ask Adria Richards – but nowadays, it’s at least *possible*.

  140. Bob – Apparently at least three of the “14 people who saw all the episodes of Studio 60″ are here. (And I’ve also seen all of Sports Night, though only a bit of the West Wing. And Wag the Dog, though of course in the real world the sex scandal was used to cover up the War in Albania instead of the other way around, because fiction is supposed to make sense.)

  141. I’m another of the STEM women who dressed to decoy in the 1980s. We really were always here; I had female bosses hitting retirement age.

  142. @fuzznose: No. Of course not. It means the same thing it means anywhere else with lots of comments. If people disagreed with you, it wasn’t strongly enough (at least compared with others) to bother with. If they agreed, they didn’t feel a compelling need to say so.

  143. Countermassive – I don’t know where you went to school, or how they created a time-warp to grab a professor from one of the dumber parts of the 20th century, but you’re young enough to be my kid with a few years to spare, and had one of my computer science professors said that kind of thing when I was in school, they would have been spanked for it. Probably not as hard as they’d have deserved, because it was the engineering school, not arts&sciences, and still only the 70s, but they’d also have gotten flack from the male students who certainly wouldn’t want fewer women in their classes. (I’m not denying your experience, I’m just being appalled, and a bit surprised because at least some years since my time CS classes have been majority female.)

    My wife wouldn’t join the Society of Women Engineers, because she viewed the concept as demeaning women and engineering, and her grandmother had been dissed for being a “woman lawyer” (and later “woman judge”, and it was back in the days that you could take the bar exam based on self-study, since law schools didn’t let in women.)

    I can’t really comment on your D&D experience, because the one time I played, my first-level fighter was eaten by baboons and didn’t survive the afternoon, but a WOW-playing friend of mine did have fun breaking teenage boys’ heads by informing them that the person who’d killed them was a 50-year-old woman and that they’d have to get a lot better if they wanted to join one of her raids.

  144. GeekMelange: But I also think a lot of it has to do with there’s a particular class of nerd (gender notwithstanding) that tends to equate “nerd” with “not feminine” as well.

    But the stereotypical idea of “feminine” boils down into certain kinds of specifics. I’d say it first and foremost it means “beautiful” or “attractive”. A woman who dresses as a “tomboy” isn’t usually perceived as fitting the “feminine” stereotype. So, however one reaches the conclusion, I think it’s not uncommon for some nerds to define nerd-dom as “not good looking”.

    ANother stereotypical idea associated with “feminine” is a high capacity for relationship skills. And nerds are stereotypically represented as having zero or possibly negative relationship skills (negative as in, they make things worse when they open their mouths). It is not uncommon for the stereotypical/positive notion of feminine to have a generally positive concept for strong relationship skills. But it’s also rather common for nerds to view an emphasis on relationships as a negative thing, and they often times convert the positive relationship skills into a negative of some sort (gossippy, back stabbing, soap opera, cliquish, and tribal).

    I don’t think it starts out as being “anti-feminine” so much as it starts out with the nerd being not fitting the stereotypical notion of “attractive”, and the nerd being socially mal-adapted. The ideal they’re held up to is the cheerleaders and jocks who are “attractive” and “social”, a yardstick against which they fail to measure up. So they attempt to redefine the measures for “winning” so that they are the better group. Not fitting the social stereotype for attractiveness is turned around and the good looking people are redefined as shallow/superfluous and vain and the nerds become anti-beauty-hipsters who “don’t waste their time” trying to look attractive.

    When a good looking woman or a good looking guy try to enter nerd-dom, especially if the woman is cheerleader attractive or the man is jock-physically fit, I think the first level of resistance is simply the anti-beauty-hipster of nerddom kicking in. Not anti-feminine, because if the guy looks like a weightlifter, works out a lot, is totally ripped, he’ll probably get people wondering if he’s a “legit” geek (though the nerds might be too afraid to challenge him for fear of a flashback to highschool and getting a wedgie from a jock).

    I think the same goes for nerds dismissing stuff like sewing costumes and whatnot as insufficient for entry into their version of nerddom. Not because its a “girl” thing, but because it’s focused on looks, and some nerds are really anti-beauty-hipsters more than they are pro-geek anything.

    The relationship stuff is definitely associated with the feminine stereotype. ANd rejecting that is rejecting a part of what is commonly seen as a feminine strength. But I don’t think that’s really rejecting “feminine”, so much as its attempting to reject and redefine something that nerds are stereotypically absolutely no good at, so that its no longer a ruler to measure up to, but rather a negative to be held against you if you have good social skills.

    In the end, it rejects beauty and relationship, so that could be seen as rejecting the feminine form. I guess its just that I see that as the outcome, but I see the underlying cause as slightly different.

  145. I hope that responding to DP_DEC in a way that’s relevant to the topic of Sexism Expressed In Response To Female Interlopers (in geekdom generally, but in other places as well) will mean a less Mallet-worthy post – but as always I respect our host’s decision on that matter.

    In any case, this isn’t about DP_DEC’s hiring decisions. I didn’t manage to read that far – I read only this:

    Shava– I know of you from back in the DEC days as well. 1980 until the Compaq implosion. I worked on and off for Ken for almost 25 years.

    I loved your story. But then I remember that many of us at DEC know that you did not simply “present” as a baby dyke. There was quite a bit more to it than that. Abby Ettle, for example, and I were close friends. And I know for a photographic (which says something, in the age before digital camera’s – most naughty photos had to be hand developed in a personal darkroom) fact that she was one of your many conquests that came from the feminine side of the aisle.

    That was where my jaw dropped and I simply stopped reading anything with his handle attached.

    See, Shava didn’t mention her actual sexuality one way or another. She just related her personal strategy of coping with sexism in her workplace. But then DP_DEC comes along and responds by basically saying, “You’re not as anonymous as you think here; I know who you are, and I know what you’re not telling everyone.” Then he creepily insinuated that there were photographs he could reveal to prove his point.

    Basically, he’s attempting to count coup on Shava by, to his mind, outing her.

    It’s a textbook example of how sexists try to steal power back from us when they think we’ve acquired too much of it. It happens in geek fields, it happens in tech fields, it happens everywhere that men aren’t happy with women showing up and being respected.

    A similar dynamic was at work when I enthused to my friend in college about the self-defense course I was taking, and how no one had ever taught me to throw a punch before and it felt great to learn something I never even realized I could learn. His roommate walked in while we were talking and, overhearing this, fell over himself to grab his karate black belt certificate to shove in my face. The subtext was clear to me: “You think you’ve learned how to defend yourself? I could still take you.”

    Or, more generally: “You think you’ve achieved some sort of power in this world? I can still exercise power over you.” The intent is clear, regardless of how true the revelation, or how much or little the woman would actually care about the revelation if true. The intent is the main thing: We get too big for our britches, and the misogynist asshole has to remind us that he has the ability (or thinks he has) to put us in our place.

    So thanks, DP_DEC, for illustrating this particular strategy in the Misogynist Asshole’s Playbook. It’s useful to see it in the wild.

  146. Nicole: That was where my jaw dropped and I simply stopped reading anything with his handle attached.

    I didn’t actually notice that the first time, mostly because I didn’t feel like reading DP_DEC’s blather in detail. But you’re absolutely right; that’s an appalling and offensive paragraph.

    Can’t disagree with your policy wrt him, either.

  147. @Bill Stewart:
    Yes, I know – it sounds ridiculus. If It tell about my time in IT Sciences or the time in school (were teachers tried to erase my ‘bad vibes’ with berg crystals and telled me to sit in the last row in the classroom) they think I lived in a isolated mountain village. But all this happend in Munich/München, one of the biggest cities here in germany.

    And except for this Teacher who told me that Computer Sciences isn’t for women (no, he wasn’t old – he was in his 40s max), non of the boys in my class did anything like this – not directly. It was more like tons of microagressions, tons of small things they said and did. I don’t even think the boys were aware that they effectively crowded me out.
    Sure, they often said: “Oh maaaan, why are you the only girl in class?” – but never because they thought women could contribute something valuable in this field of study, but because they would look on some pretty faces, flirt and find a girlfriend. Because you know, it’s cute when they know a little something about computers (but of course they’re not really experts).

  148. Lee says: “This is an example of a well-known issue which I’ve taken to calling “the 15% phenomenon”.”

    HA! That’s very interesting in light of something I read on ReelGirl recently — apparently about 16 percent of characters on mainstream media are female. And about 16 percent of C-level executives are female.

    ReelGirl posits that we’ve grown used to seeing 16 percent presence of females as “normal” because of the media. I hadn’t’ realized that there were studies corroborating this in classes. Do you have a citation? I can go Google Fishing for it later if you don’t.

  149. Great article! I saw so much of this on social media sites last year. I’m going to my first convention this year and I was hesitant to go after the awful treatment of some women last year. I’m determined to be optimistic, but I’m going to be ticked off if my first convention experience is ruined due to sexist attitudes.

  150. @ Nicole: “A similar dynamic was at work when I enthused to my friend in college about the self-defense course I was taking, and how no one had ever taught me to throw a punch before and it felt great to learn something I never even realized I could learn. His roommate walked in while we were talking and, overhearing this, fell over himself to grab his karate black belt certificate to shove in my face. The subtext was clear to me: “You think you’ve learned how to defend yourself? I could still take you.”… The intent is the main thing: We get too big for our britches, and the misogynist asshole has to remind us that he has the ability (or thinks he has) to put us in our place.”

    That’s almost exactly what it’s like when you’re a nerd or geek girl who shows up and is excited about sharing what you know about a fandom – X-Men, Doctor Who, Star Trek, take your pick really. The second you demonstrate that you have any level of knowledge and that you’re *happy* about it – or heavens forbid, that you’ve just learned something NEW? In about .5 seconds, you’ll have some other nerd (very likely a guy) overhear you and faster than the Flash will whip out the “You think you know XYZ fandom? (or You didn’t know this about [insert fandom]??) You didn’t mention ABC which I know ALL about so LAWYERED!” I usually thought if it as putting up a higher standards of proving nerd cred based on gender, but the misogynistic “putting women in their place” spin is one that I hadn’t thought about. The former is about raising the bar higher, the latter is about smacking someone down – it’s not quite the same thing, but it totally fits and has the same purpose.

    @ Lee – yes, I’ve read that 15% study before too. Thanks for reminding me of it. I’m sure the question about “Why are geek women more visible/more vocal in geek culture?” question is going to come up at the Q&A part of our panel in 2 weeks, so having that to reference will be extremely useful!

    @ Greg – I think we mostly agree and are just splitting hairs and taking slightly different tacks to come to similar conclusions. The “nerdy” = “not feminine” is a slightly different issue from “nerdy” = “not attractive” but they get tangled up a lot with each other. While there is a definite strain of nerds and geeks looking at stereotypically attractive and popular people who wouldn’t trigger “nerd/geek” radar on first glance (like “jocks” or “cheerleader” types) with resentment because they call themselves geeks (there was a piece in Redeye Chicago last week where the writer was snarking over “hunky NFL punter Chris Kluwe” calling himself nerd for playing video games and Vin Diesel for saying he loved D&D, as if their celebrity status made their claims of nerdom suspect – and yet the picture that the newspaper chose to run with the piece was of Zoe Deschanel), the majority of the backlash has been very gendered. For all the “fake geek girls are ruining geek culture!!” rants we got last summer (and beyond, they’ve been around for ages, it’s just that last summer was when they vomited up en masse), there’s been correspondingly very little pearl-clutching about “fake geek boys” doing the same and from the little I’ve read of that, almost none of the hand-wringing over fake geek boys has anything to do with their level of sexual attractiveness. Which I think has a lot to do with the fact that ultimately, “fake nerd boys” are going to get a lot less attention than “fake nerd girls” because of the underlying assumption that *boys belong in geek culture while girls (especially “girly girls”) are intruding* ie “nerdy = not feminine.”

  151. I’m a 60 something, geeky type. Raised on sci-fi, watched STTOS when it first appeared on tv, dad was an engineer etc. I was almost barred from taking Physics in my final year of high school because a prerequisite was third year Electronics, which I couldn’t take because it was a ‘shop’ subject and I was a girl. Girls do cooking and sewing, not woodworking or electronics. Yet during the physics classes, even though only 2 girls stuck out the program to the end of the school year, we were never treated as anything other than another classmate. Many of us collaborated in study breaks to assist each other to pass the next test.

    The environment was not especially competitive. We all wanted to do well, but were more interested in seeing everyone pass than stepping on anyone else to look better.

    Out in the ‘real world’ I met more competition. The idea seemed to be that competition was healthier for the workplace than a zero sum working environment where everyone could win. That has never sat right with me.

  152. @GeekMelange “The second you demonstrate that you have any level of knowledge and that you’re *happy* about it – or heavens forbid, that you’ve just learned something NEW? In about .5 seconds, you’ll have some other nerd (very likely a guy) overhear you and faster than the Flash will whip out the “You think you know XYZ fandom? (or You didn’t know this about [insert fandom]??) You didn’t mention ABC which I know ALL about so LAWYERED!””

    I don’t know if this is going too far in mentioning DP_DEC or not, it isn’t about hiring decisions either, but as Nicole said, I’ll respect our host’s decision. Anyway, I think DP_DEC provided a clumsy example of that, when I mentioned Firefly, and a baby Jayne hat, of all things. Whedon’s shows have always had plenty of female fans, but apparently he still found this threatening somehow and wanted to “school” me. I think. I mean, he wasn’t at all clear, but I was certainly getting a “putting you in your place” vibe. Especially since I wasn’t addressing him at all.

  153. @Seebs

    Diane Duane responded with the story of the time this happened to her with Privateer II, except that of course in this case, her rebuttal isn’t so much that she played it as that she *wrote* the story for it — and was able to prove this.

    Dude. Do you have a source on that? (I believe you; it’s just an awesome story and I want to know more about it.)

  154. GeekMelange, I think we’re describing the same behavior, which is objective, and we’re noodling around in the mindset that would explain it, which is subjective, and much more prone to interpretation. I wasn’t arguing against you so much as geeking out a bit about the psychology of the behavior with you because you hinted at some psychological explanations.

    Vin Diesel for saying he loved D&D

    from the little I’ve read of that, almost none of the hand-wringing over fake geek boys has anything to do with their level of sexual attractiveness

    I’d say that’s because the in-the-club-or-out-of-the-club measure for the hand wringing goes straight back to high school level stereotypes of who were the anti-nerds, which is cheerleaders and jocks. female -> Cheerleaders -> sexual attractiveness. male -> Jocks -> macho, muscular, athletic, strong.

    Vin Diesel didn’t have his geek cred challenged because he’s sexually attractive/cheerleader type, but because he perfectly fits the stereotypical look of a jock.

    But, Vin Diesel isn’t going to have anyone challenge his geek cred face-to-face, because jesus christ, look at the guy, he looks like a brick. And one thing common to all these hand-wringers is they’re essentially cowards.

    the underlying assumption that *boys belong in geek culture while girls (especially “girly girls”) are intruding* ie “nerdy = not feminine.”

    In the end, the behavior is the same, some nerds challenge others their legitimacy for entry into the nerd/geek club. The challenge comes from some definition of nerd/geek that has nothing to do with the generally accepted definition of nerd/geek, which is to know some topic really well. A person can be a geek because they know a lot about programming computers, or becaues they know a lot about Green Lantern. The challengers are usign a different definition that involves some stereotype.

    And I think we’re pointing to different stereotypes as possibly being the cause. But, in the end, the behavior is the same, someone appoints themselves “guardian” of geekdom to exclude someone who doesn’t meet his/her definition of geek, and that’s where the problem lives.

  155. Nicole, I noticed that as well and figured John was going to mallet that paragraph as both overly personal and creepy, so I didn’t comment on it.

  156. @ Greg – agreed, it’s an easy thing to geek out over. The crappy thing is how all those forms of gate-keeping end up intersecting and making experiences in geek spaces uncomfortable for a lot of people and that’s just unacceptable.

  157. Nicole: “You’re not as anonymous as you think here;

    I thought it was more along the lines of “You’re a lesbian and that’s just wrong!” indicating fairly blatant homophobia.

    He lost his geek cred at “The compiler doesn’t lie.” Sure they do. Do some software in a failsafe design and a lot of the work will be verifying the compiler. Because they’re full of bugs. i.e. they lie.

  158. @Stephen Dunscombe It’s on her Tumblr (username is dduane) about 3 days ago ( 7 pages back, checking just now at 1pm CST) it’s tagged “gaming”, so you can search for that on her blog and find it. Her blog’s worth a follow on there, imho.

  159. I was introduced to SF by my mother, who liked people like Vance and Bradbury, and did not take well to 1970s feminist SF about nurturing clans who love horses, so I didn’t come to that until later in my teens. I have encountered remarkably little sexism at cons, but I have friends who suggest that this is partly because (apart from a couple of conventions in my late teens) my main convention experience has been as a pro writer. Several women friends who have got publishing deals have noticed the sudden shift from ‘fair game’ to ‘writer whom I might want to talk to.’ Not very whelming behaviour.

    Recently, I’ve mainly been on the end of quite a lot of mansplaining, telling me how I should comport myself as a feminist, and what sort of SF I should prefer. I get this from a few women as well, but the main offenders recently have been male. The wave of irony was at one point so great that it threatened to leave a tide mark high on the walls, but the household beat it back with the power of sarcasm. All of this has been online. Strangely, they tend to shut up when I meet them in person.

  160. I think the feminine aspect may be largely an excuse, the way a bully who openly reads comics and plays video games will go after a victim by attacking his apparent love of comics and video games — both perfectly mainstream, widely spread interests. Women who are not dressed femininely, etc., report the same sort of harassment about their bonafides and right to be there as a female in a skirt, and this has gone on over the decades. But the dress (or costume) gives a perceived vulnerability that can be used to try to make the woman feel uncomfortable and embarrassed by painting her as sexual and therefore not knowledgeable and a bad person. It’s the thing they perceive as the woman’s Achilles’ heel and so they try that in addition to the standard claim that a woman is an angry, arrogant bitch.

    The majority of geeks have romantic interactions, decent hygiene, do not live in their parents’ basements and are not socially awkward. Conflating the small percentage who do fit that profile with the wider world of geekdom I think just tries to create a hall pass of behavior (and relates to that 15% phenomena.) That’s one of the reasons women haven’t been seen as visible even if they do the bulk of work organizing the cons — it doesn’t fit the insisted on profile which is of the awkward male outcast. The majority of the attacks lately on costumed female geeks, actresses in SFFH at cons, models doing their jobs, female authors, etc. come from men who are married, have kids and often long established careers. We can’t just say that they are awkward nerds freaking out over the presence of women, because they are not. We can’t even say a lot of the time that they are mouth breathing jerks, because they are often perfectly nice guys who are supportive of women — as long as the women act in the way that they approve of and can control. And that’s because they’ve been taught socially to expect that, and that women should simply accept being spoken to about not towing that line without complaint. The nicest guys can be totally surprised that women don’t follow the script, and then lash out, trying to prove they have the superior knowledge position or better right, by shaming rants, gender slurs, mansplaining, “jokes,” geek purity tests, aggressive flirting, appointing themselves speaker for the geeks or defender of the socially awkward, etc.

    I am not really worried that much about the socially awkward, as long as they aren’t sexually assaulting, which they often aren’t. I’m focused on the forty year old author, comics artist or game designer and related fans who has a family, writes a lot about the field and should fricking know better, should have progressed, should be able to have a conversation on the topic without insisting that they dominate and control it and without listening, and shouldn’t be talking about young women in a way that would shock them if someone else said it about their own daughter. Wake them up and the rest will follow. But it’s like using drops of water to shape stone. It can be very hard to get guys to understand that women are not just a supporting player in their play. It can sometimes be hard to get women, to get women activists even, to understand that too.

    ynysprydain; “Recently, I’ve mainly been on the end of quite a lot of mansplaining, telling me how I should comport myself as a feminist,” — Case in point; always kind of fascinating. At least they’ve moved from baby-making house servant to feminist in their efforts.

  161. I read a bunch of fantastic stories from women in this thread. So here is mine.

    I’m a 28 year old woman and I spent half my life dressing as a boy so I could fit with the nerds. Even when they pretended I wasn’t talking. Even when they said “PC gaming is lame” and discounted my opinion. Even when they harassed me with their “chivalry” (oh, those knights in white horses that just couldn’t let me take a bus home and would berate me for wanting to get the hell away from them).
    I wore no makeup and only extremely conservative clothes, but they called me a tease. I had kissed a single boy in my life, yet I was called a slut.

    So I got fed up with it and became a very angry, very feminine (skirts, lipgloss and all) nerd. And I forced them to deal with me. It was interesting seeing who would run away when I asked why exactly he though gaming with girls was worse (“We don’t fell comfortable”, he said. “Speak for yourself”, my friends said), or who would be surprised to the The Girl speak up (“I never thought a woman could be so interested in kung fu movies.” “Well, we have to do something while the nail polisher dries.”)

    Of course, thinking back to my raging teens I understand I was probably quite annoying. But I can assure you, those guys deserved a little shake-up. Also, I’m happy to say that I got a lot less angry (mantis kung fu helped a lot) and found much better friends since then. People that don’t find it necessary to run a quiz when I mention my love for SF, RPGs or comics. Life’s much better when you can have a real conversation.

    I still haven’t got the hang to makeup, though.

    So, yeah, I think female geeks are “coming out” because there’s a limit to the amount of asshollery you can take in your life before you snap and decide you’ll be Their Worse Nightmare. There’s something to be said about the fact that we’re in the 21st century and there’s still men that get surprised when you look at them in the eyes and say “No.”.

  162. My protective camo at cons has become a suit.

    It helps that I’m over thirty, I expect, but dear god, it was like black magic. Once I started wearing suits I was An Authority Figure. No sexual advances. No let-me-out-geek-you. Much less general weird behavior. Cut down on standing in front of the table, staring, with creepy smile by 200%. The only people who would give me crap at all were the much smaller percentage that were used to dealing with people in suits, and while there are a fair number of those, they tend to be a minority at most conventions I attend.

    I don’t much like that I need it, but damn if it wasn’t the best thing ever. (Mind you, I am occasionally mistaken for hotel staff…)

  163. @UrsulaV: This one might be, just a bit, gender-neutral. When I attended my first SF/Comics convention in years (circa 1998, aged <30), I turned up in clean jeans, an open-collared shirt, a slightly elderly and unbuttoned black blazer I'd bought at the PX a decade earlier, and decently-shined boots, and with a ticket I'd bought at the local comics shop.

    I accidentally went in the wrong door of the convention center. (I'd been there a couple of times before on my daytime job, and automatically went to the staff/crew entrance I'd used before.) Four different con staff shepherded me to the Pro admissions booth.

    My personal demon suggested trying to brazen it out, but I chickened and quietly asked the way to the General Admission line – where I spent the next 45 minutes behind two fat and not-recently-bathed guys in ancient Star Wars t-shirts.

    If this ever happens again, the demon may well take over and I'll see if I can pull it off…

  164. Why is it all exploding now? Allow me:
    There are thousands of computer science jobs going wanting and not enough people to fill them, and yet when women to go apply for the job, they are turned away.
    That’s why.

  165. @s0receress0 – Not untrue, but are we now defining “geek” as “computer specialist”? Personally, throughout this conversation, I’ve been defining it as “intelligent person with unusual technological interests.”

    (I know the late Molly Ivins once noted that nothing kills a good argument faster than “Wait, let’s define our terms” – but what exactly are y’all calling a geek?)

  166. I’m against any sort of collective labelling. We trap ourselves into inequalities, real or perceived, when we group any set of people together. I think part of the anti-woman mentality among some geeks is that they feel scorned by women in mainstream life. Once a corner of life dominated by males (I don’t say men, as we tend to act more like boys), they feel like if equality is achieved they will again end up on the bottom of the pile.

    To put it another way, some slave owners respected Black people and supported the anti-slavery movement. However, those most likely to be personally adversely affected by the end of slavery (generally, poor, white Southerners) were more likely to be overtly racist.

    I wonder if we could establish a service that would tie real world consequences (ie a slap upside the head) to online actions? Like a “Douche Most Wanted” list where people could donate towards someone getting their comeuppance.

  167. at DP_
    “Consider this. Let’s say I was going to hire you. And I told you that every Friday, for four hours, we were going to do code review. And only code that passed code review was going to be integrated into the main source tree. And that code review was public and mandatory, and that your work would be mercilessly critiqued, and held to a very high standard. That any problems that were discovered would be expected to fixed by Monday morning at 9AM, no matter what your personal life was. And that, chances are, if your output for the week was rejected more than a few times, you would be seen as low-value by the group, and I would probably fire you shortly thereafter.

    Let’s say all that happened. And also let’s say I knew your little personal anecdote. Based on all that, would I be smart to hire you? Why?”

    Let’s say that someone can fiercely defend their code. They also get scared when someone yells “GIRL COOTIES” becase the last person who did that followed up with fists. The other six people who yelled “HOT GIRL” followed up with physical intimidation. This person (hi, women are people) knows that programmers in the conference rules will stay at their place and not leap across the table to enforce their code with fists.

    This person writes great code and it goes into the core. You lose.

  168. @mythago: I think the “oh, it’s ASD” is just the newest iteration of “oh, it’s testosterone”. You know; we have to tolerate and understand when men behave badly because the poor things just can’t help it, it’s their biology.

    Wait, wait. When women have ‘problems’ because of their hooorrrrrrmones, and their lady-bits are acting up, that’s a women’s problem they should deal with themselves. Manly men should not have to deal with it. But once upon a time it was men with hoooooorrrrrrrrrmones, and that’s (drumroll, please) a women’s problem they should deal with themselves. Manly men should not have to deal with it.

    I’m sorry, I got whiplash trying to see both argumetns at once.

  169. @sylvia: I think mythago was being ironic. But you did remind me of the late Molly Ivins’ classic zinger re the anti-feminist Camille Paglia: “I will agree with Paglia on one point. If a man behaved as she does, we’d call him an a**hole. If a woman does it, too many people will say ‘Oh, poor dear, it must be PMS.’ Therefore, in the spirit of true feminism, let me say of Paglia…sheesh, what an a**hole.”

  170. Just wanted to say, Nicole, thanks for pointing out and expounding on that appalling post segment. I think my jaw actually dropped when I read that initial comment of his, and I was amazed it hadn’t generated that response before. (I was reading comments offline several days later and couldn’t address it myself — but wouldn’t have said it nearly as cogently and thoroughly as you did anyway.) I mean, everything about the guy’s posts was appalling, but that opener was just, as John might say, really special.

  171. Nicole, THANK YOU. I hope you saw my comment from someone who knew both parties. Creeeepy, and makes one consider restraining orders.

    @Don, Molly was the greatest. I, too, support calling jerks a-holes. Everyone’s got one, everyone can be one, it’s non-gendered.

  172. @Robin: I hesitate to say it, but I caught it first pass – but didn’t comment on it, because I don’t like the ‘white knight’ tag, being a guy. Mea culpa, perhaps…but these days I’m not precisely sure where I stand.

  173. UrsulaV

    The suit thing is weird but it works; I like to think of it as an exceptionally efficient form of armour. The tailoured coat dress is also effective but less easily acquired; everywhere sells suits.

    Nicole

    His black belt certificate? Well, he certainly seems not to have grasped the philosophical underpinning of his art. Admittedly, in my view it’s not much of an art since it seems to cripple its’ practioners more than the people on the receiving end, but I’m pretty sure his teachers would have explained to him that the black belt is where you start learning the art itself.

    And attempting to scare someone by brandishing a certificate most certainly brings the art into disrepute, and in some schools would result in the speedy withdrawal of the black belt. Thus, the roomie must have been so scared by you that he did something which could result in the withdrawal of his prized trophy.

    I think that we are so aware of our real vulnerability to violence that sometimes we don’t recognise that we scare the shit out of people; it appears that a woman with a functioning brain can be downright terrifying to a section of the population. Unfortunately that section seems to include quite a lot of geeks but we seem to have reached a tipping point; with any luck it will tip soon…

  174. Stevie: “I think that we are so aware of our real vulnerability to violence that sometimes we don’t recognise that we scare the shit out of people”

    Reminds me of the first time I realized that I, a quiet introvert, could actually intimidate extroverts, who “don’t know what [I'm] thinking.” Completely baffled me at first. I guess it’s yet another fear of the “Other.”

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