Some female geeks use the discourse of increasing female representation in science, technology, engineering, and math (the “STEM” fields) as a proxy for addressing sexism in geek communities. Because countering sexism against women does not directly benefit men, some women reframe the issue of sexism by appealing to capitalist values. They argue that if women are better represented in STEM fields, it would lead to economic growth and technological innovation (and that this can be achieved through efforts to reduce gender bias).
However, this strategy backfires when male geeks interpret the movement to increase female representation in STEM fields as “social engineering”, i.e., feminists forcing women to do what we purportedly “dislike” (science, tech, engineering, and math). The subtext of this movement—which is that female geeks who love STEM topics have to endure sexism from male geeks or get out, and this is a Bad ThingTM that needs to be fixed—is lost entirely.
Observe this Digg comment on the Bias Called Persistent Hurdle for Women in Sciences submission:
Observe also this Hacker News comment on the report Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics:
Ironically, when some female geeks use the capitalist discourse of increasing female representation in STEM fields as a structural strategy for reducing sexism and improving our personal autonomy / right to pursue our career of choice, many male geeks misunderstand these efforts as being anti-choice. While direct condemnations of sexism within geek communities may be met with denial and defensiveness, at least such a strategy centres on benefitting female geeks instead of benefitting male geeks. Appealing to the capitalist discourse when one wants to discuss structural inequalities may reinforce social norms that value the majority and privileged over the minority and marginalized. In this case, appealing to the capitalist discourse would reinforce the idea that women are valuable only if men benefit from it, instead advancing the idea that women are valuable because we are people too.
- Environmental and social barriers restrict women in science, tech, engineering, and math. by Restructure!