It is the season to be spamming, fa-la-la-la… (23rd December, 2010)

2010 December 22

Notice: we currently use as a way of getting people to suggest links for these. The future of is currently a little unclear, but since they are saying that it will stay up and are currently trying to find a new corporate home for it, we will keep using it for now.

  • Trigger warnings: rape and rape apology. We’re not even trying to stay on top of the discussions about Julian Assange and rape allegations, but Sady at Tiger Beatdown was dismayed by Michael Moore’s support of him extending to publicly belittling the allegations, and thus started #MooreAndMe, a Twitter campaign to get his attention. Her commentary on the campaign starts here. Meg Thornton has an epic linkspam. Sady describes the end result so far here.
  • Virtual 3D world is very bright and tangible – but not pink!: The RapChick’s ‘pink accents’ did made me see red as it seems that pink plus the branding were the only design differences between the RapChick and the Rapman!… Seriously, I do applaud what BfB are doing but to truly democatise 3D printing (as BfB say they are doing), they have to also appeal to all rapidly expanding, underserved audiences. For non technical groups Rapman and RapChick kits are not the way to do this.
  • Sexual Harassment is Adult Bullying (and It’s Alive and Well): … it’s two days later and I’m still processing the incident. I am confident in my abilities, I am a quick learner, and I love to see others succeed. Rationally, I know these jerks were nothing. Emotionally, though, they shook me.
  • Anna Kreider has done some quantitative analysis of depictions of women in various gamer worlds and resources, such as D&D manuals.
  • A World of Warcraft story: This is a story about a goblin named Mida—Boss Mida <Her Tallness>, to be precise. Boss Mida is no ordinary NPC. Mida was born from a full-throttle player campaign of epic roleplaying enthusiasm
  • Kinect and the Disabled part 1 and part 2 [spam editor note: "the disabled" terminology here was the choice of AbleGamers]: The AbleGamers Foundation took the Kinect into our lab last week for some stress tests and to see if they followed up on any of the suggestions made at the accessibility Roundtable we attended earlier this year. We wanted to give you our impressions of the much-hyped device as it is now, as well as some insight and predictions to what it might look like in the future.
  • Share your or others entrepreneurial successes at Women 2.0’s Female Founder Successes of 2010.
  • Sheryl Sandberg’s TED talk: Why we have too few women leaders

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the geekfeminism tag on delicious or the #geekfeminism tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Wednesday Geek Woman: Rachel Carson

2010 December 22

This is a guest post by L. Minter. L. Minter is a feminist biology student and a blogger at Feminist Book Club.

Rachel Carson was born on a farm in Pennsylvania where she was an avid reader and had her first story published when she was eleven. She attended Pennsylvania College for Women (now known as Chatham University) where she started an english degree but later switched to biology. She continued her studies of Zoology and Genetics at Johns Hopkins University. She earned her Master’s degree and intended to obtain a doctorate’s but was forced to quit school due to family and financial situations.

She became the Junior Aquatic Biologist (and only the second women to be hired full time) at the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries. During this time she featured several articles in the Baltimore Sun and in 1941, published Under the Sea Wind, which received excellent reviews. She continued to publish articles for Sun Magazine and Nature. In 1950, she published The Sea Around Us, which became a bestseller and award-winning documentary. After the success of The Sea Around Us, she re-released Under the Sea Wind, which also became a bestseller.

It was also during this time that she became interested in DDT, a new pesticide that had undergone very few tests. Because of the success of her two bestselling books, she became a full time writer and published At the Edge of the Sea, which describes coastal ecosystems, particularly along the Atlantic.

Arguably, her most influential piece of work was the book Silent Spring, where she recounts the ecological horrors caused by the indiscriminate spraying of pesticides. Silent Spring was so moving and so successful (as well as controversial), that it led to the ban of DDT and is widely credited with sparking the environmental movement.

During her last year, although battling cancer, she gave many speeches at receptions and dinners held in her honor and received many awards for her lifetime achievements, including: The Audubon Medal from the National Audubon Society, the Cullum Medal from the American Geographical Society, and was inducted into the National Academy of Arts and Letters.

Her philosophies about the environment and how we treat it are not only still very relevant, but her work is still widely used and valuable in the science and environmental community.

Wikipedia: Rachel Carson

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Re-post: Metagaming: Casual vs Hardcore

2010 December 20
by Terri

In anticipation of a December/January slowdown, we’re reposting some older writing for the benefit of new (and nostalgic!) readers. This piece originally appeared on Nov 21, 2009.

I teach first year computer game development at my university, and one of the questions we sometimes use as a way to start some discussion within class is, “What is the difference between hardcore and casual gamers?”

Theory: “Hardcore gamers are the ones who spend hours and hours mastering a game.”

But my Mom spent hours and hours mastering Lemmings. She saved so many little green-haired dudes that those lemmings should have been building shrines to her as their hero. Is my mother a hardcore gamer?

Theory: “Hardcore gamers play games that require excellent hand eye coordination, like first person shooters”

World of Goo requires coordination. Slinging goo balls takes skill — ask any kid with an especially large booger attached to a finger and ready to flick. But I don’t hear many people saying that they’re hardcore because they got the Obsessive Completion Distinction (OCD) flags in World of Goo.

I had this great conversation with a student the other day. I asked him what he felt defined hardcore gamers:

Him: “Oh, people who play lots of different types of games”
Me: “Oh, I play a bunch of different genres.”
Him: “Yeah, but a hardcore gamer has to spend hours mastering them.”
Me: “Do you *know* how many hours I logged on WoW?”
Him: “But WoW isn’t a game for hardcore gamers…”

I find it fascinating that as we drill down further to the definition of a hardcore gamer, it feels a little like the core answer is “not you.”

I don’t really consider myself a hardcore gamer, so I’m hardly offended. Those hardcore folk are crazy go far beyond what is considered normal by most of society, after all. Maybe that’s my definition? I’m happy to play what I want. I pretty much consider it a win if people think of me as a gamer, ’cause that means they’re more likely to invite me to play new stuff with them.

But the question has made me think, is “hardcore gamer” one of those moving targets where women are just somehow not allowed to fit the definition?

Or maybe it doesn’t matter: Would you like to play a game?

Vi Hart’s Math class doodles

2010 December 19
by Terri

Despite the fact that I grew up to earn a degree in mathematics, I remember math classes in my elementary school as pretty much the dullest subject on earth. Which is probably one of the reasons I love Vi’s doodles so much. Experiencing mathematics through doodling while bored seems way more fun than paying attention did. Here’s a video of binary tree and fractal doodles:

Check out the other neat stuff (including more in the doodle series) at

Friendly conference update

2010 December 16

We announced a generic conference anti-harassment policy a couple of weeks ago. Since then several conferences have adopted anti-harassment policies, including 2011, FSF’s LibrePlanet 2011, and now all of Linux Foundation’s events have an official anti-harassment / discrimination policy. This includes 8 events in 2011 alone, including LinuxCon North America, LF End User Summit, and Kernel Summit.

Those of us who have attended Linux Foundation events will probably agree that their policy simply puts into writing what they were already doing. Other organizations which already have strong agreement on both standards of behavior and internal decision-making may be interested in adopting Linux Foundation’s simpler, streamlined policy. It is short enough to quote in its entirety here:

Linux Foundation events are working conferences intended for professional networking and collaboration in the Linux community. Attendees are expected to behave according to professional standards and in accordance with their employer’s policies on appropriate workplace behavior.

While at Linux Foundation events or related social networking opportunities, attendees should not engage in discriminatory or offensive speech or actions regarding gender, sexuality, race, or religion. Speakers should be especially aware of these concerns.

The Linux Foundation does not condone any statements by speakers contrary to these standards. The Linux Foundation reserves the right to deny entrance to any individual.

Please bring any concerns to to the immediate attention of Linux Foundation event staff, or contact Amanda McPherson, Vice President of Marketing at amanda (at) linuxfoundation (dot) org. We thank our attendees for their help in keeping Linux Foundation events professional, welcoming, and friendly.

(I helped write this policy as part of my pledge to help conferences adopt anti-harassment policies.)

Conferences that already had official harassment policies at the time of that announcement include OSDC and Ohio LinuxFest (one of the sources for the generic policy). LCA 2010 also deserves credit for including a clause on discrimination in its terms and conditions.

If your conference has an anti-harassment policy, let us know and we’ll blog about it on Geek Feminism! You can also add it to the list of conferences with an anti-harassment policy. If you are going to a conference that does not yet have an anti-harassment policy, and you would like to help change that, check out our list of conference organizer contact info.

Digital Sisterhood Radio

2010 December 16
by Liz Henry

Hello geekfeminists! Thursday, Dec. 16th, I’m going to be on a radio show on Feminism Online, hosted by Ananda Leeke as part of her month long Digital Sisterhood project. The show will air on Dec. 16, Digital Sisterhood Radio, from 9:00 pm EST to 10:00 pm EST on Take a look at the entire Digital Sisterhood project. It’s amazing and will surely lead you to find new bloggers to read and follow on Twitter.

Eight amazing fierce feminist panelists have confirmed their participation. They include:

1) Shireen Mitchell “the original Digital Sista”, Speaker, trainer, and thought igniter in media, tech, and politics – and


2) Stacey Milbern, Disability justice organizer, poet, and radical woman of color feminist blogger – and

Stacey Milbern and Alexis Pauline Gumbs photo

3) Veronica Arreola, Professional feminist, mom, writer, speaker, PhD student, and blogger – and

Veronica Arreola photo

4) Liz Henry, BlogHer web developer, geek feminist/sci-fi blogger, speaker, poet, and literary translator –,,, and

Yerba Buena

5) Mimi Schippers, Tulane University professor, blogger, and author of Rockin’ Out of the Box: Gender Maneuvering in Alternative Hard Rock – and

Mimi Schippers photo

6) Treva Lindsey, University of Missouri-Columbia professor and blogger, – and

Treva Lindsey photo

7) Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Feminist blogger –,, and

Alexis Gumbs


8) Brandann Ouyang Dan, Native American blogger, invisibly disabled, U.S. Navy Veteran, social justice activist, and contributing writer for FWD, Feminist with Disabilities –

Wednesday Geek Woman: Margaret Cavendish

2010 December 15

Wednesday Geek Woman submissions are open for one more day after this post appears. Submissions will open again in early January.

This is a guest post by Heliconia. Heliconia is a Canadian graduate student in evolutionary biology, an unabashed nerd, and a disliker of labels.

Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, was a 17th-Century British writer and natural philosopher. When the mere act of writing under one’s own name was considered unseemly for a woman, she published plays, essays, and poems aplenty that critiqued the philosophies of Aristotle, Hobbes, and Descartes. Her prose work “The portrait of a new world, called the Blazing World” is one of the earliest examples of what might be called science fiction.

She objected to the lack of education for women at the time and the consequent assumption that they could be neither authors nor philosophers. In fact, she used writing as a means of escaping the limitations placed on women’s role in society. Of inventing “The Blazing World”, she said, “[T]hough I have neither Power, Time nor Occasion, to be a great Conqueror, like Alexander, or Cesar; yet, rather than not be Mistress of a World, since Fortune and the Fates would give me none, I have made One of my own.”

Wikipedia: Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne

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Open Thread: Don’t ever wear artistic jewelry…

2010 December 15
by Melissa

Have any of you noticed the amount of fun geeky jewelery around at the moment? I for one have pink laptop earrings which I got from Claire’s in the US last month, HTML head tag earrings from Etsy, and today I picked up a pacman and ghost necklace pair from Diva in Australia.

Oh. And then there is my small army of robot necklaces.

Flickr / elkbuntu / creative commons attribution 2.o

Robots 1 “Lanky”, 3 “Pinky” and 4 “Brain” are from Diva in Australia. Robot 2 “Steamy” was from Bling in New Zealand last week. The 2, 3 and 4 should still be available, and in fact today I saw a ‘Best Friends’ version of Pinky, where he’s with an inversed black-with-pink-eyes friend.

I’m sure Colette would forgive me for this collection.

As this is an Open Thread, you’re welcome to post links to things you’ve found (…like moar robots for me?) and discuss issues other than geeky jewelry. It’s up to you!

The linkspam-industrial complex (15th December, 2010)

2010 December 14
  • Call For Participation: Spectral Amoebas – A Blog Carnival about Asexuality and the Autism Spectrum: We are asexual bloggers on the autistic spectrum who want to explore the intersection between autistic and asexual identities. The basis of this project is to have a conversation about our unique experiences being autistic and asexual without looking for a cause.
  • Hillary Clinton Is Asked What Designers She Wears Moments After Making Point About Sexism: because it would be terrible if she forgot for a moment how important it is to be aesthetically pleasing!
  • “Where have all the men gone? Oh yeah, they’re still here – Men hold 84.3% of Fortune 500 board seats.” Catalyst releases a study examining “women’s representation in corporate governance at the largest companies in the United States.”
  • Women in Technology, Western Australia (WITWA) has launched techtrails, an initiative aimed at supplementing the technology sector with new talent. The program operates as a school incursion to raise awareness about program operates as a school incursion to raise awareness about technology careers. WITWA is looking for presenters, volunteers and sponsorship.
  • Women scientists must speak out: [Women's choices] still cannot explain the near-total absence of women pundits. Sexism must be responsible too. Having both the inclination and the time to do media work myself, I have certainly found myself dropped for programmes and replaced by less-qualified men… Given this bias, I understand why many women might prefer not to get involved.
  • Blag Hag: Feminists’ selective science phobia (warning, substantial “those man-haters make us Good Feminists look bad” vibe in the comments). Evolutionary psychology gets a lot of flack from both inside and outside science. And to be honest, a lot of it is well deserved criticism – too much of evolutionary psychology is arm chair philosophizing and overly optimistic adaptationism, rather than hard data. But I still assert that’s no reason to write off the field as a whole… Unless it doesn’t mesh with your philosophy, of course.
  • IGN’s 2010 Gamer Girl Gift Guide recommends gifts to please men: … make sure to buy the gamer girl in your life a present that actually benefits you instead of her. She’ll love that.
  • (Trigger warnings: fictional rapes.) Rape in MY Anti-Tolkien?: Anti-Tolkien, I think, should be about upsetting the cis-white-male ghetto. It should be about subverting, breaking, and rejecting tropes that make this ghetto such a comfy cesspool to wallow in… It really shouldn’t be about women getting sexually assaulted and liquid brown hitting everything in sight.

You can suggest links for future linkspams in comments here, or by using the geekfeminism tag on delicious or the #geekfeminism tag on Twitter. Please note that we tend to stick to publishing recent links (from the last month or so).

Thanks to everyone who suggested links.

Letting down my entire gender

2010 December 12

Years ago, probably around when I started my master’s degree, I had a chat with a friend about grad school, and she was telling me about how she’d made the decision not to continue on for her PhD. She had a lot of good reasons that just made a lot of sense for her life and her family and her goals, but she mentioned that although she was sure it was the right choice for her, sometimes she felt like she was letting down her entire gender because so few women continue on to do a PhD.

I’m reminded of this because that’s a theme that’s come up in a few comments on my recent post about impostor syndrome.

Quill says,

I’m torn because there’s still time, I could go back to studying computer science. I do think female representation in STEM is Important and I hate myself for taking the “easy” option and leaving a hostile environment (rather than continuing to try to fix it)

Restructure says,

I felt really bad for dropping these courses, because it felt like I was letting down my entire gender, and by dropping the course, the male students’ stereotypes about women would be confirmed.

I wish I could say I’m immune to this, but when you’re one in a small minority (be it due to gender, race, sexual orientation, disability/ability, etc.) it’s hard to deny that it’s a factor. Guilt about not being able to do everything strikes everyone. Parents, teachers, pastors… probably even politicians. But I think it’s worse for those of us who are minorities in some way. You might be the only person “like you” your colleagues will ever see. You want to be a paragon of people like you. You want them all to come away with you as a shining counterexample the next time they hear someone say “$minority can’t do $foo.” It’s not just that you need them to be impressed by you, but that you’re representing your entire minority. There’s a world of difference between competing on a sports team and representing your country in the olympics. You want to do your best not only for you, but for everyone like you.

And that’s just the pressure you’re putting on yourself. Then there’s the requests for you to represent $people-like-you. “We need women for our co-ed sports team” or “we need you to advise the board on how we can better meet the needs of disabled folk” or “I need some dating advice and you’re the only woman I know…” or “we need you to talk about your experiences as an immigrant.” And you’re suited to the job, and maybe you want to help even, but you’ve got 30 of these requests and you barely have enough time to do your own job let alone all these other things.

Saying no is extra hard when you’re trying to be that paragon super-$minority and improve the world for $minorities worldwide. What if being on that committee resulted in them hiring more $people-like-you? What if your conference talk changed someone’s opinion of $people-like-you? What if you inspired more $people-like-you to do what you love? Are you cutting off these possibilities by saying no?

And then there’s the spotlight. You are one of few $people-like-you, so people notice what you do or don’t do. People can be more resentful when you say no because they don’t know who else to turn to, and they can’t understand why you might choose to turn down such a great opportunity because they haven’t got 10 of those on their desks for that day alone. You try to gripe about it to people, and they’re utterly unsympathetic, “Oh, my life is so hard, everyone pays attention to me. wah wah.”

So you feel guilty. For yourself, for other people. You feel like changing the world rests in your hands, and you let the world down because you had to say no. You had to quit. You had to hide. You were capable of doing it — that was not in question — but you didn’t want to and you’re worried people will think that was a sign of weakness. You chose not to. And you’re feeling guilty.

I wish I had some magical advice to deal with the paragon guilt, but sadly I don’t. But I have a few non-magical things I’ve found help me:

  • Practice saying no, and learn to say “Let me check my schedule and get back to you on that…” so you have time to think and make the best choice you can in a sometimes very hard situtation.
  • Seek out more $people-like-you. Maybe they’d be happy to do some of the things you can’t (e.g. there are women who’d be happy to speak who just don’t get asked as often). Maybe you just need someone who can empathise with your problems. Maybe they’ll know a better way to help.
  • Seek out allies who aren’t as much like you. They can help with some of those requests too, and it can’t hurt for them to understand the problems you face.
  • Remember sometimes the demands on $people-like-you are just going to exceed the resources because there are few of you. That’s not your fault.
  • Try not to let guilt stop you from making choices that make sense for you. You’re probably going to want to make some sacrifices for $people-like-you, but you can’t help anyone if you’re burned out, so try to find a balance.
  • Remind yourself of all the awesome stuff you have been able to do. Save thank you letters. Contemplate indirect impacts you might have had. Think about things you did well that weren’t related to being a minority at all, but are awesomeness that people might now associate with your minority.

So… what makes you feel like you’re letting down your entire gender/race/sexual-orientation, etc? What are your coping strategies? I think this sort of guilt is felt by lots of people, just magnified by being a minority, so feel free to provide links to advice and coping strategies that are more general.