If tech discussion was really about tech, it wouldn’t be sexist.

Cross-posted at Geek Feminism

There is sexism in tech culture. However, I continue to love tech, because I think of the sexism as a separate, unnecessary appendage to pure tech. I cannot think of sexism as intrinsic to or inevitable in tech, because then I would be either self-hating, or I would have to give up my love for technology. Maybe my personal ontology is compartmentalized thinking in order to survive as a woman in tech, but I think it’s also true.

Some people argue that for tech to “attract” women, the culture needs to be broadened to include humanistic aspects. However, this proposal may derive from the implicit sexist assumption that men really are better at tech, and women really are better at the humanities.

Actually, what I hate most about tech news sites is that when I go there for technology news, there are off-topic comments about love and relationships. It’s typically men discussing being single; having trouble with women; being Nice GuysTM; giving advice about what women really want; talking about how women have it easier; bragging about how even their grandmother/mother/wife can use technology X; and other sexist generalizations about women. In other words, the idea that pure tech scares away women, that tech culture is currently free of human influence, is a product of male privilege and the inability to recognize that the state of being male is not the state of being neutral.

By pointing this out, of course, I too am talking about social issues surrounding tech instead of pure tech. There is nothing wrong with that. It’s just that I think of technology as fun, and I don’t want to be reminded about how I am oppressed 100% of the time, or whenever I try to immerse myself in geekery to escape from life’s troubles. I wish there was a general tech news site that is just about tech, not tech bundled with sexism. Hacker News is not this. Ars Technica is not this. Reddit subreddits are not this. Slashdot is not this. Digg is not this.

More women than men discuss sexism, and it is not because we find the topic more fun, entertaining, or enjoyable than men. It is because sexism gets in the way of our freedom. I blog about sexism in geek culture not because it’s my passion, but because it gets in the way of my passions. My struggle against my marginalization is not my hobby.

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14 Responses to “If tech discussion was really about tech, it wouldn’t be sexist.”

  1. If tech discussion was really about tech, it wouldn’t be sexist. | Geek Feminism Blog Says:

    […] Cross-posted at Restructure! […]

  2. Blake Says:

    As a man in tech, who is often trying to encourage women to take more active roles, I must say that while there are many who are willing to talk about the sexism/ make privilege/ etc in this field, its hard to get beyond that and actually get my friends to take a math class, or learn a programming language, or do some engineering. I understand that the barriers exist, but until people are willing to break them down, they will continue and likely grow.

  3. Restructure! Says:

    But have you tried talking to men and calling out sexism? As a woman in tech, I would prefer it if men in tech cared more and made the culture less sexist, rather than try to encourage non-tech women into the field.

  4. Blake Says:

    When I was in grad school, I was pretty much surrounded by women, so this was almost always the conversation. Now, I’m in the field, so thee conversation has changed. Now, I’m in the uncomfortable situation of listening to war stories about how evil/ stupid/ illogical women are. When these conversations come up, I try to balance then, bit what do I know about a woman’s perspective on dating? The conversations come about from a bunch if hiss working late. When there are women present, there guys can easily get schooled. When they’re not, the loudmouths think they’re right because I’m outnumbered.

  5. Restructure! Says:

    But your grad school program was not in a STEM field. Women outside of STEM talking about sexism in STEM is not the same thing as women in STEM talking about sexism in STEM. The women outside of STEM talking on behalf of women in STEM get a lot of things wrong.

  6. Blake Says:

    “The conversations come about from a bunch if hiss working late”

    That should be “a bunch of guys working late”

    swype needs a grammar check.

  7. Blake Says:

    Nah, my graduate work was in stem fields. I always got frustrated because the conversation from people not in stem was always that “we need more women in math” or more minorities in math, but the ones who are making this argument are the same one who didn’t major in steen fields, or do stem work.

    I’m ask for showing the altruistic/ beautiful side of stem. One major problem with our current system is that people say “I hate math” or “I hate engineering” without ever even knowing what they are. At the same time, people today are creating web pages, blogs, etc today, whereas 10 years ago, that was a techie thing to do. I encourage everyone I meet to learn as much tech and math stuff as possible because of the general fear that the outside world normally has of these areas.

  8. Links: Make It Easy On Yourself | Shani O. Hilton Says:

    […] real, real talk from Restructure about sexism, tech, and why women in tech talk about sexism. Read it; it’s too good to pass […]

  9. Jayn Says:

    “talking about how women have it easier; bragging about how even their grandmother/mother/wife can use technology X;”

    This caught my eye mainly because I can see myself saying similar things. Not because I think women are inherently worse at tech things, but because that split exists between my parents. My father is a technician by trade, while my mother has trouble figuring out a simple mp3 player. I know plenty of women who are tech capable, but when I think of people are are bad at tech, Mom is the first person to come to mind.

  10. Robin Says:

    Do construction, industrial, and mechanical/electrical service trades count as STEM (considering there’s a lot of engineering and math involved with construction and mechanical service trades)? If so, I 100% add my voice to yours on this. I’m a tradeswoman in a trade that’s 97% male-dominated (in my province, not sure about statistics elsewhere although they’d probably be very similar anywhere in North America), and it feels like the normal sexism of North American culture becomes even more magnified when added to tech or trades*. And male allies against sexism in tech seem to be about as rare as they are in the trades.

    As a related question – do you (or other women in tech or trades who are reading this) ever find yourself in a situation where you’re with a lot of techies/tradesmen, and you have to laugh shit off rather than calling them on their casual sexism and educating them? I find myself in that situation sometimes, and it’s frustrating. They’ll make a misogynistic joke or comment in a group, and my available responses are either to call them on it and attempt to educate, or to respond with an misandrist insult to put them in their place. I know if I try to educate they’re not going to listen, and they’re going to start disliking me. If I show that I can roll with the punches and give as good as I get, then they have more respect for that. So often I find myself taking the latter road, but then I’ve lowered myself (or feel like I’ve lowered myself) to their level. Is this an issue you have to deal with? What do you do?

    * When using “trades” as a shorthand, I’m referring only to construction, industrial, and electrical/mechanical service trades. Obviously there’s some trades – hairdressing, for example, or baking – that are female-dominated or have a significant female presence, and the dynamics there would be different.

  11. Restructure! Says:

    Robin,

    I don’t know if they count as STEM, but I think “STEM” is poorly defined and is really a loose collection of fields that have little to do with each other. Anyway, of course your story counts, as I think it’s all part of the same thing.

    Honestly, I don’t really challenge sexism that much when my career is on the line, and I feel bad about it, because I feel like I’m lowering myself to their level. I’m still struggling with the ethics of it, because I know that part of the reason I don’t really resist is the power imbalance, and I ultimately need money to survive. It’s easier to blog using a pseudonym. Maybe it’s more efficient this way, because I probably reach more people without putting myself at risk.

    What do I do? I blog using a pseudonym.

  12. Robin Says:

    It actually makes me feel better to know that you make the same compromises, and struggle with the ethics as well. It’s always nice to feel less alone in these things, although it sucks that we have to deal with this at all. :/

    Robin is my real name, but there’s a million Robins out there, so it’s functionally the same as a pseudonym.

  13. Morning Quickies Tuesday 2/22/2011 Says:

    […] Over Restructure has an interesting opinion post on how the male dominated geek culture may make discussing tech much harder.  Check it out here. […]

  14. links for 2011-02-24 « Embololalia Says:

    […] If tech discussion was really about tech, it wouldn’t be sexist. Actually, what I hate most about tech news sites is that when I go there for technology news, there are off-topic comments about love and relationships. It’s typically men discussing being single; having trouble with women; being Nice GuysTM; giving advice about what women really want; talking about how women have it easier; bragging about how even their grandmother/mother/wife can use technology X; and other sexist generalizations about women. In other words, the idea that pure tech scares away women, that tech culture is currently free of human influence, is a product of male privilege and the inability to recognize that the state of being male is not the state of being neutral. (tags: blogging geek.culture technology gender) […]


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