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July 23, 2014 4:44 PM   Subscribe

Why Silicon Valley Needs The Coder Grrrls Of Double Union, The Feminist Hacker Space
The lack of women in the tech world isn't just a pipeline problem--it's one of rampant sexism. Enter the haven of Double Union.
Like many area hacker spaces, Double Union offers a place for people to use and learn technical skills, charging a sliding scale fee between $10 and $50 a month. What differentiates DU from the dozen or so other Bay Area hacker spaces is that it exists specifically and exclusively for people who identify as both women and feminists. (That includes trans women. "Not all women have uteri, or xx chromosomes," reads the DU website.) Double Union wants to provide a safe place for women to try things--and potentially fail--and then dust themselves off and try again, no judgment.

"It was hilariously radical just to make it," Greenhall says of Double Union. "To have a space for women, and to have a space that you know, wasn't like the Lean In style--just explicitly saying it was a feminist space."
posted by Lexica (83 comments total) 65 users marked this as a favorite

 
If anyone from mefi has questions, I'm a DU member and happy to try to answer them!
posted by hypatiadotca at 4:59 PM on July 23 [38 favorites]


This place sounds amazing. Apparently they just closed applications on Monday. I so want to join.
posted by bleep at 5:10 PM on July 23 [1 favorite]


How is it not Lean In-style? What does that mean?
posted by koavf at 5:23 PM on July 23 [1 favorite]


From the article:

Unlike Sheryl Sandberg's brand of feminism, which puts the responsibility on women to lean in, the Double Unioneers take a structural approach. It's the system that needs fixing, not women.
posted by rtha at 5:35 PM on July 23 [19 favorites]


That seems a radical misinterpretation of Sandberg's argument.
posted by 256 at 5:37 PM on July 23 [8 favorites]


"I'm tired of the, 'We need more women in tech' thing," one DU member told me. "How about we stop treating the ones that are here terribly?"

QFT.
posted by benzenedream at 5:42 PM on July 23 [34 favorites]


Let's say it is. Does that make this kind of hacker space wrong or in other ways a bad idea? Does it negate the need they may fill, or make the niche they fill irrelevant?
posted by rtha at 5:43 PM on July 23 [4 favorites]


Let's say it is. Does that make this kind of hacker space wrong or in other ways a bad idea? Does it negate the need they may fill, or make the niche they fill irrelevant?

Of course not. I can only assume that the comment that said this was promptly deleted.
posted by Kwine at 5:54 PM on July 23 [2 favorites]


This is great! I hope they end up fostering as diverse a group of feminist hacker/makers as there must be in the world.
posted by gingerest at 5:58 PM on July 23 [1 favorite]


Of course not. I can only assume that the comment that said this was promptly deleted.

No, it was in response to this. Because I don't really see the point in arguing about whether or not the founders of this (or any other) explicitly feminist and women-only hacker space get Sanderberg's argument exactly right. Because if they don't, so what? They are still doing a very cool and difficult thing, making a literal space and offering actual opportunities to people who might otherwise skip it because boyzone.
posted by rtha at 6:00 PM on July 23 [15 favorites]


[T]he Double Unioneers take a structural approach. It's the system that needs fixing, not women.

"Leaning in" is about taking a structural approach and fixing the system -- at home. Double Union does the same for the system at work and in the public sphere. We need both kinds of feminism.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 6:04 PM on July 23 [3 favorites]


rtha, I'm totally on board with DU's efforts and I'm particularly impressed at their trans-friendly policy! That is something feminism definitely needs more of.

I was going to accuse the article of mis-framing Sandberg's arguments, not DU itself (nothing wrong with saying you're just about teaching women to make cool shit rather than setting yourself up as career counselors for would-be high power women in tech), but then I got to their Lean In commentary bit. There is plenty of criticism to be lodged at Sandberg's book and philosophy, but to pretend she doesn't acknowledge the limited demographic to which her advice appeals, or the fact that she acknowledges the fuckeduppery of The System and scopes her book to "what women can do to work within it (AND WHAT MEN CAN DO TO MITIGATE IT) while also beginning to effect the change that needs to happen," is doing the book a disservice. Plenty of people outside feminism are attacking us; misrepresentation of others' good-faith efforts isn't helpful. But of course they're entitled to take that stand, so whatevs. But as it seems to be a fairly small part of their very excellent philosophy, I do wish the article hadn't focused on things like this so much as the actual hackerspace activities, even though I know Lean In criticism, particularly from feminists, attracts lots of excitement. You can do better, Fast Company.

I wish DU all the best of luck. It sounds awesome. And fuck pretty much all of the article's comments.
posted by olinerd at 6:05 PM on July 23 [3 favorites]


Hey, this sounds great! What is the guy/gal ratio like at DU?
posted by oceanjesse at 6:07 PM on July 23


As a white male living in Silicon Valley, this is rocking, and these people are rocking, and they should rock on with their bad selves. I love it.

A part of me wants to go visit just to experience the fact of being the minority, which is so rare out here. Of course, I also don't want to just play the tourist.
posted by Inkoate at 6:09 PM on July 23 [2 favorites]


Hey, this sounds great! What is the guy/gal ratio like at DU?

I.... I can't tell if I should have a [HAMBURGER] with this or not?
posted by olinerd at 6:09 PM on July 23 [16 favorites]


The focus of Lean In is individual women, and the message is "encouraging women to pursue their ambitions, and changing the conversation from what we can’t do to what we can do." That is not structural change.

Also, don't blame Fast Company - if you RTA, DU has a copy of Lean In that DUers are encouraged to annotate. The critique originates there and is explicit to the text.
posted by gingerest at 6:09 PM on July 23 [15 favorites]


Also, don't blame Fast Company - if you RTA, DU has a copy of Lean In that DUers are encouraged to annotate. The critique originates there and is explicit to the text.

Right, if you read my comment you'll note that I was going to only blame Fast Company (just from reading the pullquote and the first couple of article paragraphs) until I noticed the annotated Lean In copy. That said, they also apparently have zines about vaginas and other things that presumably only take up a small amount of mental processing power relative to the overall goal of getting more women comfortable with making and hacking, as I assume annotating Lean In does, and I was unhappy with Fast Company focusing on the Lean In bit versus a lot of the other good material in the article that I would have thought warranted more priority.
posted by olinerd at 6:13 PM on July 23


It would be nice if we could talk about DU instead of Sandberg's thing.

I wish we had a similar organization in this area - I'd love to learn without having to deal with shade because of my gender.
posted by winna at 6:18 PM on July 23 [14 favorites]


In Seattle, there's Seattle Attic, which is also awesome.
posted by dorque at 6:23 PM on July 23 [2 favorites]


No, it was in response to this. Because I don't really see the point in arguing about whether or not the founders of this (or any other) explicitly feminist and women-only hacker space get Sanderberg's argument exactly right. Because if they don't, so what?

Because any woman who thought Lean In was brave or inspiring or useful probably isn't going to be welcome there? I haven't read Lean In and I'm not a woman and this will be my last comment in the thread. But I hope that others who have more expertise or skin in the game will continue the conversation, without the insinuation hanging in the air that expressing "Lean In isn't really about what they think it's about" implies that one also thinks that this hacker space is a bad idea or wrong.
posted by Kwine at 6:27 PM on July 23 [2 favorites]


Reading through the comments on that article, one person is referencing the article written by one of the female pioneers. I'd read that article before, but I don't have much experience with forums and other conversations about women in tech. Can someone elucidate me? Are these places often shunning people and being misandrist, or are people just playing up those radical organizations that stick out (probably both)?

Personal experience would be nice. I'm considering suggesting to a coworker that she visit Double Union.
posted by halifix at 6:31 PM on July 23


I don't think the Lean In discussion is a derail. From the fact that DU is centering some of their philosophy around pushing back against Lean In, I think it's important. I'm not in a position to speak for DU, or even to guess at their points about it, not least because I haven't read the book, either (just quotations and Sandberg interviews and the mission statement at LeanIn.Org.) But I think the focus of the article is accurate and I don't think it's a problem that we're discussing it.

I also seriously doubt that a woman who found Lean In helpful would be unwelcome at DU. They seem like a bunch who are bending over backwards to be welcoming to a diversity of women.
posted by gingerest at 6:33 PM on July 23 [3 favorites]


I've read Lean In and thought that it had some problems but was, in general, quite good and very intellectually honest.

I also think the Double Union space is a fantastic idea and an incredible accomplishment. For them to burn Sheryl Sandberg in effigy though seems extremely counterproductive and exclusionary towards the many women who do identify with that brand of feminism (and may well also be interested in, and in need of, a space like Double Union's).

And regardless of whether they agree with her or not, it would be great not to mischaracterize her point so badly. Though that last sin might be on Fast Company.
posted by 256 at 6:37 PM on July 23 [1 favorite]


[DU] has an "honest" jobs fair planned, where people will talk candidly about their employers.

Oh man, now that is a fantastic idea. What a great way to encourage people to extend the solidarity that we too often only show our friends to a broader group of workers. That is really cool.
posted by enn at 6:47 PM on July 23 [6 favorites]


Previously, ask.metafilter.com helped name the DC area feminist hackerspace, Spanning Tree.

At NYC Resistor we want to be welcoming to everyone and actively try to maintain gender balance in our membership, but we know we're not perfect. I'm glad to see more hackerspaces opening everywhere!
posted by autopilot at 6:52 PM on July 23 [7 favorites]


Because any woman who thought Lean In was brave or inspiring or useful probably isn't going to be welcome there?

Lean In-friendly they are pretty explicitly not, and that's clear from their application process. They're not hiding the fact that this is not a space for All Women or All Feminists.
posted by rtha at 6:58 PM on July 23 [1 favorite]


I mean, I saw a bunch of comments in the article about "discrimination against men", and I was wondering if that wasn't the case, like if there are actually feminist men that go to this place and are cool and are included.
posted by oceanjesse at 7:05 PM on July 23


@winna: as others have mentioned, there's Spanning Tree in DC and the Seattle Attic. I also know of folks discussing feminist spaces in Montreal, Chicago, and Atlanta. Send me a memail if any of those are where you are :)

In San Francisco there are also the fine folks at http://nortonimperiallabs.org/ who have had extensive discussions about how to make their space more inclusive. I've been recommending them to folks who don't meet the DU criteria of female+feminist; they are a good bunch of folks trying to build something nice.

As for the whole Lean In thing, I'd point folks at bell hooks' critique "dig deep" as a starting point. Our "annotated" copy is one of my favourite features of the space. It's even signed by Sandberg herself!
posted by hypatiadotca at 7:07 PM on July 23 [21 favorites]


@oceanjesse: men are welcome as guests of members, and our events often have male attendees, but membership is only open to people who identify as women in a way that is meaningful to them.
posted by hypatiadotca at 7:08 PM on July 23 [8 favorites]


hypatiadotca, thanks for being here and answering questions!
posted by olinerd at 7:11 PM on July 23


Oh hey, I'm a Double Union member too! I love how this article's photographer found a way to make the space look ultra-dramatically lit. It's much friendlier-looking in real life.

One note about Norton Imperial Labs is that they don't have a physical space yet - they're still working on organizing that part.
posted by dreamyshade at 7:22 PM on July 23 [5 favorites]


Spanning Tree has to be a troll, right? Feminist hacker space which only a blurb about knitting.
posted by rr at 7:44 PM on July 23 [1 favorite]


Oh - I had read the article a few days ago, but hadn't checked out the pictures until now - that does look like a nice space. Sweet!
posted by rmd1023 at 7:48 PM on July 23


rr, knitting closely resembles programming in important ways. If you've never given it a shot you might find it interesting. It's not weird at all for that to be one of their events, since it's a welcoming and low-resource class to offer.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:55 PM on July 23 [2 favorites]


Knitting as programming
posted by cadge at 7:59 PM on July 23 [5 favorites]


mechanization of knitting and other fiber crafts like weaving is what drove the industrial revolution. Jaquard looms were sort of the first punchcard computers.

And their "about" section doesn't say, but I certainly hope that the name "Spanning Tree" comes from the spanning tree protocol which makes local area networks work and which was developed by a woman.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:00 PM on July 23 [13 favorites]


I'll also note that Spanning Tree describes themselves as a is a hacker/maker space. That means people can go there to make things (such as knitting) that are not just computer programs. rr also missed that they had a table at a Science and Engineering fair and also did fun things at a Maker Faire, like 3D printed jewelry. (Though maybe that, too, falls in the trap of being too "feminine" to be legitimate?)

A lot of the people at the Seattle Attic (my local feminist makerspace) are into fiber crafts, too. I think a bunch of it comes from already doing tech-related work all day and wanting to do a more physically creative hobby in their spare time. I've been learning sewing over the past eight months
and the physical aspect has been really rewarding.

I prefer using makerspace to describe the Attic over hackerspace so I don't have to worry about it being deemed "hackerly" enough.
posted by foxfirefey at 8:21 PM on July 23 [4 favorites]


A few years ago, I would have thought the whole idea silly, because it was unnecessary... now I know better. I wish them all the best of luck.

On the flip side, now that I'm more enlightened... I try to make my hacking activities more inclusive, and watch out for bad actors.

Any organization excludes people, it is my opinion that it is far better to be up front about it, and exclude bad people explicitly.
posted by MikeWarot at 8:22 PM on July 23 [1 favorite]


Oh, hey, I was just reading about DU the other day via the Deleted a Threads blog. I even thought about putting it in an FPP I am working on if it didn't get reposted

I ultimately decided not to because I wanted to know more about DU first. This article gave me reservations about the place. Since I am just going by what the writer chose to put in, though, I'd really like to get some opinions from the women here who are actually members and know what DU is like from the inside out.

In the article, there's a mention about a Creep Book and about DU members taking part in and encouraging doxxing. I get why guys identified as creeps would not be allowed in Double Union, even as guests at functions, because women would be made to feel uncomfortable in spaces which should feel safe.

But I am just NOT a big fan of doxxing. Any DUers want to go into how/why that's an accepted practice there?
posted by misha at 8:34 PM on July 23 [2 favorites]


It looks like the feminist hacker/maker space in Portland, Flux, is closing right now due to lack of funds.
posted by Nerro at 8:52 PM on July 23


@misha: one of our members actually wrote up a piece in Model View Culture about doxing as feminist self-defense. A lot of what we do is develop our own recon skills for self-defense. We mainly document things privately; it's not about pastebinning someone's SSN, it's about more about knowing how to use public records to look up past DV and rape charges, or notice patterns of abusiveness in online interactions.

@nerro: I've heard that as well :(
posted by hypatiadotca at 9:05 PM on July 23 [13 favorites]


This is awesome! (Although I do love "Be Excellent To Each Other" as a good golden rule).


Re math knitting I can't resist sharing some of this stuff from UVIC:

A uvic PhD student, Veronika Irvine, is looking at computer science, mathematics and lace! (radio interview). Also Math and fiber arts exhibit that includes Veronika Irvine's bobbin lace.


A different math PhD student told me that upon completing her MA she knitted the formula she worked on into a hat for her supervisor.

I can only claim I dreamed of quilting my data into the dress I wore to my defense, because the truth is I ran out of time. Sigh.
posted by chapps at 11:05 PM on July 23 [2 favorites]


@hypatia.ca: Thanks for the link to the bell hooks critique of Lean In. Brilliant. Definitely relevant.
posted by Anitanola at 11:16 PM on July 23


"Not all women have uteri, or xx chromosomes,"

I really like this kind of inclusive formulation (as compared to trying to delineate who is a "real" woman or man).

There are good parts to Lean In, and it looks like they are using those while also taking a more structural approach, so good for them. I'm not a woman or a programmer, so I'm miles from the target audience, but this has good things written all over it.

But I am just NOT a big fan of doxxing. Any DUers want to go into how/why that's an accepted practice there?

Obviously I'm not a member, but I'd say if you are a shit you deserve to be named publicly. That applies if you are a corrupt banker or a sexist sack of shit, either way the best cure is sunlight. I'll let the people involved decide the exact parameters, but bad behavior has been supported with silence for too long. Naming names takes incredible bravery and I don't see a downside except to the people who are doing bad things.
posted by Dip Flash at 11:31 PM on July 23 [1 favorite]


This is great. You go.

I'm especially a fan of the books in that picture, an excellent selection of high power nerd, there.
posted by poe at 12:02 AM on July 24


Naming names takes incredible bravery and I don't see a downside except to the people who are doing bad things.

I think the problem in this approach is that people define 'bad things' differently, and doxxing can often encourage harassment or worse. I'm not saying that's the purpose or impact of doxxing in this context. And I certainly think that people's actions should be publisized when they need to be (are problematic, etc), but the traditional use of the word 'doxxing' involves private information (phone numbers, addresses, SS numbers, etc) that does nothing to 'shine light' on problematic behaviors, but instead enables other problematic behavior (harassment of various sorts).

/doxxing derail.
posted by el io at 12:26 AM on July 24 [4 favorites]


OH! also! If you are part of a hacker space of any kind, you should hang around the oreilly booth at the end of the conference. They have a policy against shipping books home and will give them to hacker spaces.
posted by poe at 12:36 AM on July 24 [2 favorites]


Ideally, all hacker spaces would lean toward "feminist" depending on the make up of the space, but what can you do.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:49 AM on July 24


Just to answer some of the questions about Spanning Tree - yes, we named ourselves for the networking protocol invented by Radia Perlman (who is also from the region).

We're still getting on our feet - just became incorporated and can finally accept donations though it'll be a while before we get a 501C3 designation. We don't have a space yet and only had our first class recently (hence the knitting). No, that isn't trolling - we're interested in making AND hacking and we thought that a class that doesn't need a ton of complex materials would be a good place to start. At the DC Mini Maker Faire I brought my EggBot to display as part of our table, and also had my knitting projects with me.

We're looking to places like DoubleUnion and Seattle Attic for examples of how we can model our membership process.
posted by brilliantine at 7:06 AM on July 24 [5 favorites]


You guys on the West Coast have all the cool stuff. :-( I would so be hanging out at this place if I lived out there.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 7:09 AM on July 24 [1 favorite]


@brilliantine congrats on your incorporation! We've been really happy with Independent Arts and Media as our 501c3 fiscal sponsor while we also wait for our 501c3 to come through, for what it's worth.
posted by hypatiadotca at 8:14 AM on July 24


I would be very curious to know what the actual practices of "doxxing" at DU are, and if that particular terminology is something that is internally used or if it's a buzzword that FastCompany threw in because it sounded cool. "Doxxing" as we commonly use it on the internet tends to be a targeted and malicious harassment and intimidation strategy. It's usually about scaring someone into submission by publicly demonstrating that that person's physical safety can be called into question at any given point. You see it a lot in the particular brands of abuse hurled at visible women on the internet, usually from behind pseudonyms (because they themselves don't want to be exposed).

From the little I know of the women who run DU (some of whom I've been following on Twitter for quite a while), I would be very surprised if the investigating committee is publishing the name/SS/address/personal information on the internet as a show of intimidation. It sounds like, although obviously I don't know and would love to have hypatiadotca confirm this, that it's more about someone saying "hey that person was a super creep to me" and knowing that there's a team behind you who will track down who that person is, so that other women can be warned about collaborating with person or getting involved in an organization that may have a toxic leadership.

That is a very very different matter from the kind of doxxing that is verboten on Metafilter, and it does it a disservice to use the same name for two very different dynamics.

We've discussed before how oftentimes all the women in a given social group know who "the creep" is - someone with a pattern of ignoring boundaries, harassment, preying and outright assaulting, but who gets a pass for being such a lovable rascal. Such is the nature of our culture that the creep rarely gets ejected from a social group for being a creep, and women who try to speak up instead face backlash and social ostracism for rocking the boat or not playing nice or whatever you want to call it, so there's often a backchannel of information being surreptitiously passed around in solidarity. It's often imperfect, of course; I've known so many situations where someone becomes the victim of harassment or worse, and the others in the social group going "...oh, I thought you knew". So I just see this as an institutionalized version of that, especially given that women who call out powerful men in tech are still very strongly penalized personally and professionally, and maybe this will do a better job of making sure everyone has access to the crucial information. In other words: hurray.
posted by Phire at 8:17 AM on July 24 [14 favorites]


Sexist physicst Richard Feynman on math and knitting:

"I listened to a conversation between two girls, and one was explaining that if you want to make a straight line, you see, you go over a certain number to the right for each row you go up--that is, if you go over each time the same amount when you go up a row, you make a straight line--a deep principle of analytic geometry! It went on. I was rather amazed. I didn't realize the female mind was capable of understanding analytic geometry.

She went on and said, "Suppose you have another line coming in from the other side, and you want to figure out where they are going to intersect. Suppose on one line you go over two to the right for every one you go up, and the other line goes over three to the right for every one that it goes up, and they start twenty steps apart," etc.--I was flabbergasted. She figured out where the intersection was. It turned out that one girl was explaining to the other how to knit argyle socks. I, therefore, did learn a lesson: The female mind is capable of understanding analytic geometry. Those people who have for years been insisting (in the face of all obvious evidence to the contrary) that the male and female are equally capable of rational thought may have something. The difficulty may just be that we have never yet discovered a way to communicate with the female mind. If it is done in the right way, you may be able to get something out of it."

(Published in one of his books, but I found it for quoting purposes at http://www.fotuva.org/feynman/what_is_science.html)
posted by OnceUponATime at 8:18 AM on July 24 [4 favorites]


I'm a female web developer and right now I'm trying and failing to find work in a women's-only feminist space. To me personally, the only way to break out of brogrammer tech culture is to remove myself from it completely: to find work among exclusively female developers and managers, funded by female investors. Feminist tech separatism? I'd love to see the trajectory of my career when my gender's no longer a factor.
posted by theraflu at 8:35 AM on July 24 [3 favorites]


@Phire: I addressed this upthread.

Some further posts from the one time we did choose to name someone publicly: hackerspaces with borders, how not to support women in tech. In the latter post, I was the one whose boss the creeper in question emailed. It's also worth pointing out that what a lot of people reacted to in the naming post was the perceived lack of severity in the reports; I'll just point out that we had another dozen+ reports, the details of which folks weren't comfortable with going public about, often because the creeper held a position of power over them.

I definitely hear you on the traditional use of the word doxxing. We are not doing this to intimidate. We are doing it to protect ourselves and our community.
posted by hypatiadotca at 8:51 AM on July 24 [4 favorites]


Thanks! I saw the link to Liz's article in MVC (which I'm reading now) but somehow missed the second half of that paragraph. Reading comprehension, etc.
posted by Phire at 9:03 AM on July 24 [1 favorite]


Thanks, hypatiadotca!

Sounds like doxxing was not at all the right word for the reporter to use there, because it's a very loaded term.

I'm glad places like Double Union and Spanning Tree exist. I wish we had more cool stuff like this down South.
posted by misha at 9:31 AM on July 24 [1 favorite]


Ugh. Have just read the links you provided, hypatiadotca.

I respect what you've said about the other reports and them not being made available publicly, and the decision to ban this person from DU. DU is a privately-owned safe space for women. They do not need to prove their case to decide they don't want someone attending their events. I think we have seen far too many cases of harassers being treated with kid gloves; better to err on the side of caution in this case, before actionable harassment has taken place.

That being said, the chain of emails linked as validation for publicly naming this person made me, personally, very uncomfortable. I have to say I agree with the men and women who commented in that thread criticizing that decision. What impressed me most were the comments of those women who have worked with him who support him and feel like he is feminist ally.

I might expect to still see that support, but only from men, if he were a creeper towards women. But rarely when someone is being creepy will you see other women coming forward to vouch for them in this way. Usually, we would expect more women coming forward to do just the opposite.
posted by misha at 10:11 AM on July 24 [1 favorite]


misha: his specific pattern is sucking up to women who he doesn't have power over, and creeping on some of the women who he does. He's a (volunteer) mentor at a (for-profit) coding school which only teaches women, which was about to start a new class. They'd received reports about his behavior and done nothing. If that post allowed one student to be like "hey this behavior is fucked up, and I'm not imagining things because others are feeling it too," then it was worth the heat we took for it.

Confronting harassers publicly is hella difficult. In my experience, basically no level of misbehavior will stop people from being like "omg public shaming." I've seen people go "omg public shaming" when folks have linked to public records of a violent criminal arrest.

There's a paradox, also: if the behavior is so not a big deal, it should be fine to talk about in public, no? Otherwise, what's the big deal? I'm not talking about "if you have nothing to hide, what are you afraid of" type arguments, I'm talking about actually describing specific behaviors, as we did with the DU post.
posted by hypatiadotca at 10:24 AM on July 24 [9 favorites]


misha: I'll also note that there is a widespread pattern of "allies" actually being abusive. Some examples:

The mayor of San Diego went to military sexual trauma events and harassed attendees.

This asshole.

Jeff Atwood.

All of these people certainly had their supporters too. Abusers are smart; they know to pick victims people won't believe. In situations like this, my litmus test is: who am I being sympathetic to? And remembering to side with the targets. Here, you're putting one guy's feelings ahead of over a dozen women he's made significantly uncomfortable. I'm pretty ok with making him uncomfortable, and you too.
posted by hypatiadotca at 10:31 AM on July 24 [8 favorites]


And former Tor editor James Frankel, as discussed in the blue last year. I forget now if it was that specific thread or another related one in which there was much discussion about the degree of behind-the-scenes warning that women give to each other about who's a creep, who to avoid being alone with, and other patterns of bad behavior - how very many of these guys are known to be Those Guys but how rarely anyone does anything about it (geek social fallacy #somethingIforget).
posted by rtha at 10:58 AM on July 24


I think Hacker School's approach (attendance for males is free, women get a large cost-of-living scholarship, and women are of higher priority for acceptance than men) is better for the tech community in general than creating a girls-only hackerspace/incubator.

Given, Hacker School not a hackerspace in the same sense but it's addressing the same problem, and it helps its male alumni become aware of the problems in tech as well as empowering women to enter the field and be ready to fight the misogynism alongside their male alumni, and isn't exclusionary. Not to mention that the mixture of the genders helps to keep Hacker School from becoming an echo chamber for one view.

I also think it's counter-productive (though this is the editor's fault most likely) to call them "Grrrls"... am I the only one who would be offended by that (if I was a girl in a male-dominated field)? If I was a female programmer, I'd just want to be known as a programmer.. not a grrrl programmer, the same way I get irritated by anyone who refers to "brogrammers".

(disclaimer: I'm a male alum of Hacker School (but I don't necessarily represent the views of the organization))
posted by unknownmosquito at 11:26 AM on July 24 [1 favorite]


I think there are many ways to improve the climate of the tech community and lower barriers to entry for women and other underrepresented groups. I think have some [group]-only spaces is one of those ways.
posted by rtha at 12:09 PM on July 24 [6 favorites]


Whoops, post instead of preview.

I think this because I think that founders of groups like this don't have to solve the "How can we make things better in the tech community?" if they'd rather work on solving "How can we make a welcoming space for people who want to be more involved in the tech community but have felt marginalized or unwelcome in other spaces?"
posted by rtha at 12:13 PM on July 24 [4 favorites]


grrrls has a pretty specific history to the riot grrrl punk/zine/etc movement. there might be some people who don't know that history, but it's a pretty apt place to pull from when talking about hacker/maker spaces and their diy aesthetic and how that intersects with women creating their own spaces.

hacker school sounds cool. i don't really understand you positioning it as an either or thing. both things can exist and serve complimentary, but slightly different, needs.
posted by nadawi at 1:22 PM on July 24 [3 favorites]


unknownmosquito / nadawi: one of our cofounders was actually directly involved in the 90s riot grrl movement, so it's more apt than the average usage :)

and hacker school for the win! I'm actually going to be a resident there in september, teaching security skillz and working on security tools. sooooooo excited.
posted by hypatiadotca at 2:01 PM on July 24 [5 favorites]


:) that makes sense and i'm glad to hear it. riot grrrls did a lot to save me in my late teens/early 20s.
posted by nadawi at 2:08 PM on July 24 [3 favorites]


Double Union on Marketplace today.
posted by rtha at 5:20 PM on July 24


Double Union, making all my public radio dreams come true ^____^
posted by hypatiadotca at 5:31 PM on July 24


I was rather amazed. I didn't realize the female mind was capable of understanding analytic geometry.

Oh FFS. Surely you're joking, Mr. Feynman!
posted by jcreigh at 6:04 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]


The charming side of Richard helped people forgive him for his uncharming characteristics. For example, in many ways Richard was a sexist. Whenever it came time for his daily bowl of soup he would look around for the nearest "girl" and ask if she would fetch it to him. It did not matter if she was the cook, an engineer, or the president of the company. I once asked a female engineer who had just been a victim of this if it bothered her. "Yes, it really annoys me," she said. "On the other hand, he is the only one who ever explained quantum mechanics to me as if I could understand it." That was the essence of Richard's charm. (source)
posted by d. z. wang at 6:49 PM on July 24


So, about Double Union! I'm also part of it! Some of the fun stuff happening is listed here in our events blog. Have a look. Take things apart night! Zine workshops! Paper circuits with that weird muscle fiber stuff! Tons of coding and open source stuff! Sewing! Introductions to IRC! CNC machine and 3d printer. Creation of feminist propaganda! We're hosting for LitCrawl. We have lots of writers and artists, coders and crafty people. There's also a lot of fun in planning and building out the physical space, the technical infrastructure, and creating systems that we hope will live and grow past any particular person's interest. Here is a photo set showing some of the buildout over the last year!

The other thing I want to say here is that the demand for this sort of thing looks quite high. Higher than we can handle. We had applications open last winter for a couple of months and got something like 120 members, and had to close applications. We re-opened for new members a couple of weeks ago, got 100 applications in those two weeks, and had to close again for a bit to add everyone and do things like run orientations and pass out key codes. There's a really good opportunity here that I hope gets filled by more self-organizing nonprofits and cooperatives.

Re: Lean In; barely anyone from DU has spent more than 2 minutes thinking about it at all, while scribbling on it with sharpie and giggling while drilling holes in the book and so on. Have a little sense of humor/irreverence, y'all. Not everything feminist has to be a giant thoughtful stick-up-the-ass critique.

Re: doxxing; you can read my feminist investigation article in MVC. Yes we know the difference between malicious hackery doxxing and, well, research -- but common usage has blurred considerably, much like with "hacker".
posted by geeklizzard at 9:11 PM on July 24 [6 favorites]


unknownmosquito: "women are of higher priority for acceptance than men" This is false. Hacker School does not use gender as a criterion when making admission decisions.

I'm a Hacker School alumna and I love Hacker School. I'm a feminist who would love to co-found a feminist community workshop in my neighborhood, like Seattle Attic or Double Union or Spanning Tree. There's room for a variety of tidepools of various depths and temperatures and permeability levels along the edges of the ocean.
posted by brainwane at 11:51 AM on July 25 [2 favorites]


I'm not a woman, but I am in tech, and lucky enough to be sheltered in a remarkably diverse workplace. The culture in much of the tech industry is gag worthy.

I'm a female web developer and right now I'm trying and failing to find work in a women's-only feminist space. To me personally, the only way to break out of brogrammer tech culture is to remove myself from it completely: to find work among exclusively female developers and managers, funded by female investors. Feminist tech separatism? I'd love to see the trajectory of my career when my gender's no longer a factor.
posted by theraflu at 8:35 AM on July 24 [3 favorites +] [!]


Nothing could be better for tech than to have people like this turn the entire industry on its head, and build something fresh and wonderful in its place.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:52 AM on July 25 [1 favorite]


Double Union, "good fit", and smoke screens
posted by metaquarry at 1:58 PM on July 25 [4 favorites]


That's a good piece, and nailed something that I couldn't quite identify when I read about their application process - it reminded me of why I quit the sorority I had joined in college when they decided to go from being unaffiliated to hooking up with a national, and our rush process changed to something that was opaque and weird. Hmmm.
posted by rtha at 3:49 PM on July 25


metaquarry, good points there; we will be making some updates to try and improve our descriptions of the membership process and of our structure.
posted by geeklizzard at 4:41 PM on July 25 [3 favorites]


I see Double Union has blogged about improving their page about their membership process, and notes that the "Double Union, 'good fit', and smoke screens" blog post brought the need for an update to their attention. I'm not a DU member and hadn't looked at that page before, but it looks pretty good to me.
posted by brainwane at 7:30 PM on August 1 [2 favorites]


I think Hacker School's approach (attendance for males is free, women get a large cost-of-living scholarship, and women are of higher priority for acceptance than men) is better for the tech community in general than creating a girls-only hackerspace/incubator.

I swear to god, every time women do something remotely pioneering, we are told by some guy that we're doing it wrong, or that we could be doing it better, simply because it doesn't meet his standards of how things ought to be. Enough already.

You *think* the other approach is better, but how would you even *know*? There are so few women-centered tech collectives, there's not even enough data or evidence for you to draw from to be making such a claim. Frankly, it's presumptive and rude.
posted by nacho fries at 1:11 AM on August 7 [2 favorites]


That's a really uncharitable reading of someone simply stating an opinion, nacho_fries.
posted by misha at 5:49 AM on August 8


In a context (i.e. life) where women are always being told that we're doing it wrong or are not solving the *correct* problem in the *correct* way, I don't think it's bad faith to express disappointment and/or irritation with yet another opinion like that.
posted by rtha at 6:55 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]


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posted by taz at 3:08 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]


Whoa, why did no one tell me about this thread? I'm laughably late, party's almost over, beer is definitely gone.

I'm a woman (mostly), and I'm the chairperson for our local hackerspace, we have female participants but it's a small minority... and we would really love to be more diverse. But so many women visit us, dig all the cool stuff we have (3Dprinters, sewing machines, tools for wood- and metalworking, computer museum, laser cutters and so on) and then say 'This is great, my husband/male friend/nephew/son/male neighbour would love this!'

I wish I knew what we could do to make these women say 'This is great, I love this, can I join in?' At least I'm doing my part by being visible, so women know that it's not an all-male space.

I certainly see the good sides of a women-only hacker/makerspace. I would join such a space if it existed in my world.
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:09 AM on August 20 [2 favorites]


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