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Re: "Girls and software"

On Tue, Feb 11, 2014 at 09:28:25AM +0100, Miriam Ruiz wrote:
> 2014-02-11 5:04 GMT+01:00 Martín Ferrari <tincho@debian.org>:
> > Even if the author seems to be looking for controversy, starting from
> > the title, I think there are many interesting points in this article:
> >
> > http://www.linuxjournal.com/content/girls-and-software
> I don't think the title is the problematic thing, she seems to
> actually be referring to girls. Regarding the contents of the article,
> it essentially is a rant against how her son is discriminated against
> in girl-oriented tech activities, and how she has never experienced
> any kind of discrimination in the hackers' word. Good for her. I know
> other women in that situation, that either have not experienced
> discrimination themselves, or that they don't give much importance to
> it ("If someone of any gender does something that violates my
> boundaries, I assume it was a misunderstanding"). Of course, it might
> have affected that she was already used to be discriminated against
> for other reasons, according to her story ("As a little girl from farm
> country who'd repeatedly been excluded from intellectual activities
> because she wasn't wealthy or urban or old enough to be wanted").
As a female who worked in post-grad research in Electrical Engineering and in
post-doc applied maths research, I have to say my experience has been
completely different - from machiavelian Research Directors to Research
Supervisors I experienced harassment and discrimination as did female
undergraduates while I was at one University.  I dealt with factors of
institutionalised discrimination in tutor groups and discussed them with the
HoD who would at least act on the points I raised.

Despite further work as a software engineer, my outlook on working in male
dominated professions has changed from being hopeful that it will change to
simply being completely wary of it.  I suspect my feminist view of life is my
attempt to balance that out.

That's despite that I started out when the Tandy personal computer had switches
and lights to code it and I and my then boyfriend built an Acorn Atom from kit
in the 1970s.  I wrote my first code (BASIC on a George III) when I was 16 and
used the Acorn variant heavily, recording onto tape.

> After talking about herself, and how she startet to be a hacker, she
> seems to agree with some of the more generally accepted thesis: That
> we need to involve young girls in technologyu if we want to have
> female hackers and technologists ("Twelve-year-old girls today don't
> generally get to have the experiences that I did. Parents are warned
> to keep kids off the computer..."). Of course, she is kind of
> despising the fact that many women (and men) come to technology when
> they are already grown up. That's some kind of agesim ("Young women
> don't magically become technologists at 22. Neither do young men.
> Hackers are born in childhood...").
I agree that it's good to introduce youngsters to technology at an early age to
find out if they have any interest or skill in it. 
> The she cries about how her son is discriminated against ("his school
> offered a robotics class for girls only. When my son asked why he
> couldn't join, it was explained to him [...]. My son came home very
> confused."), and goes on blaming us feminists ("Thanks so much,
> modern-day "feminism", for putting very unfeminist ideas in my son's
> head..."), as if it was us who invented discrimination. No comments on
> this, although I have my personal ideas on why some women have this
> point of view.
I don't like that the robotics class was for girls only - that's exclusively
educating one sector of the population.  But I also suspect there could be a
number of reasons for this; funding - was the funding directed only for girls;
lower level course - dumbed down course not actually teaching very much or
pushing attendees so it might not have been suitable for the 'more technically
adept' boys in the school.
I also don't like that she blames these things on feminists - I don't think
exclusion is the aim of most feminists.  They're simply on about being treated
with respect and equality which means that robotics class should have been open
to all and the boys who are more technically adept taught tolerance and how to
teach/help their less adept classmates.
> Still, she even accepts than even in her so gender-inclusive town
> ("There's another place in my life, besides my home, where the idea of
> technology being a "guy thing" is totally absent: my hometown"), there
> are some gender issues regarding technology and kids ("girls aren't
> being raised to hack any more in my hometown than they are anywhere
> else. When I talked to those fifth-grade math classes, the boys told
> me about fixing broken video game systems or rooting their phones. The
> girls didn't do projects--they talked about fashion or seeking
> popularity--not building things").
I don't know what to make of this town she lives in - on the one hand there's
no discrimination and on the other all the girls are only interested in fashion
and popularity.
> Afterwards, she complains about being pushed by non-programming women
> around her ("Sometimes I want to shout "you're not a programmer, what
> are you doing here?!" ") to be more feminine, and how she might not be
> a role model for many girls. The point of not being openly feminine is
> relevant, though, as it helps being accepted and respected by both
> males and other females in technological contexts, though I'm not
> gonna expand on it here.
Well, I leave it up to the individual how they dress and curate their own
appearance.  The fact is these people she complains of seem to be transfixed by
appearance and not ability, something feminists complain about and try to
address regularly.
> Oh, I also forgot to mention about the stereotypes she's including in
> her rant ("who'd have me passive-aggressively redcarding anyone who
> bothers me or feeling like every male is a threat", "hackers are
> generally kind of socially inept").
> I don't think her personal experience -or mine, or any particular one-
> should be taken as universal. I acknowledge that she probably has
> experienced what she's describing, and I'm glad that she's so happy.
> And that's the end of what I can see in her article that has some
> value for me. The problem of generalizing personal experiences is that
> you leave out of the equation all those who have had different ones,
> that's where objective data enter into account. And objective data,
> statistics, tells us that the hacker's world for girls is and was a
> very different thing that what she's describing in her article.
I agree with this - each of us has a unique experience of life.  I'm glad she
is so fuilfilled but, because she doesn't mention any work, excepting her
initiative where she bridges between technologists and educators via Debian Edu
and Edubuntu is mentioned in the tagline, I get the impression her focus has
been on raising the family rather than working.  I may be completely wrong of
course but that lifestyle and focus is far different to the work place -
whether a university, small company or large corporation.
> The last part is simply the standard rant about how we are
> discriminating males ("Do not punish the men simply for being here.
> "Male privilege" is a way to say "you are guilty because you don't
> have boobs, feel ashamed, even if you did nothing wrong""), doing
> artificial social engineering ("to drag grown women in chains to LUG
> meetings and attempt to brainwash them to make you more comfortable
> with the gender ratio"), and how we're scaring poor "good guys" with
> our intents ("it just makes good guys afraid to interact with women
> because they feel like they can't win").
Unfortunately, we all get bad experiences along with the good.  I don't see any
women being dragged down to any LUG in chains - leastways not the ones I've
been to.  But apart from that, there's little I can say about this kind of
> So, my general impression of the article is that the author is
> generally happy with the statu quo, that she doesn't think that there
> is a problem with the gender imbalance and that nothing should be done
> about it. That's okay, she's definitely free to think that, but some
> of us think opposite, that there is a problem. We might not have the
> recipe for solving it, I wish we had, but we know that we don't have
> from a perfect situation, unlike her ("I had a haven, a place where no
> one cared what I looked like, what my body was like or about any
> ephemera--they cared about what I could do--and this culture shift has
> robbed me of my haven"), and thatwe would like to do something to make
> it better.
I had a good time with technology until I hit the professional arena.  My
experiences still affect me today and kind of make me who I am.  But then, we
are all a mash-up of gender, early nurturing or the lack of it, life
experience and our own belief systems, attitudes and morals.
It's a shame she feels such a loss but can she re-create that environment
within her LUG and other endeavours?

Kind regards


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