Taxis who refuse wheelchairs

I enjoy coming to Portland and taking the awesomely accessible train from PDX airport to downtown, but I got in a little late for my conference dinner, so, figuring it would save time, I headed to the taxi dispatch line to get a cab. I was traveling by myself, with my manual Quickie Ti wheelchair and a backpack.

The taxis were about halfway up to the first taxi position, and the dispatcher motioned for me to get into the first one in line, a Union Cab. The driver shook his head at her, then at me as I asked him to open the trunk of the taxi. “I just need you to open the trunk, the wheelchair folds up and I will put it in.” He refused to take me as a passenger. The dispatcher was angry with him, but he ignored her and pulled up a few more feet, taking another passenger who arrived at the stand after me.

The second driver in line was in a Green Cab. He had a big white bushy beard and was wearing sunglasses and a large black floppy hat. He looked right into my eyes, shook his head, and waved his hand dismissively as I asked him to open the trunk of the taxi. The dispatcher also was unable to persuade him to open his doors or trunk. That guy pulled up and let someone else and their luggage into his cab.

The third driver was outraged at what he had just seen. He got out of the taxi, and helped me put my backpack into his trunk. I took apart my chair, which has quick release wheels like some bicycles, and folded down the seat back for us both to put the pieces into the trunk of the taxi. This driver asked the dispatcher from the airport taxi stand to report the first two drivers. I said that I would write down their information and report them. I got the cab companies and numbers, but not the license plates. As we pulled out of the airport, we actually caught up with the two cabs that had refused to take me as a passenger, so I was able to double check their cab numbers.

The nice driver was from Broadway Cab. He pointed out the phone number for the City of Portland complaint line, and was very supportive and helpful. He said that to his knowledge, the first two drivers have done this in the past because they think that wheelchairs will take too much time to deal with. Talking with him was so heartening, a good reminder that there are plain old decent human beings around who will treat me like a fellow person although we are strangers.

From my conversations with other cab drivers and bus drivers, there are other assumptions that they tend to make about wheelchair users or people who have a visible disability. Drivers may be angry at me before I even get into a cab or bus, because they are afraid I will take up their time, be unable to get in or out of the cab, may somehow injure myself and sue them, or whatever. If I try to hail a cab on the street, it usually doesn’t work. I have to ask someone else, even a total stranger, to hail the cab while I hide out of sight. This is part of why services like Uber and Lyft work well for me, while I’m lucky enough to be able to afford to use them. I can leave my house with my manual wheelchair, travel, and be confident that I won’t get stranded by bigotry.

As it was, I only had wait a few minutes for a nicer cab driver, and things turned out fine. However, I do get angry about cab drivers who won’t stop for me. The prejudice that I get isn’t going to get any easier for me as I get older, so I try to take the time now, while I have the energy (and the privilege) to report discriminatory behavior.

I just reported them through the City of Portland’s online complaint form and to the cab companies. The city emailed me back immediately to apologize and to let me know they were addressing the complaints. Both Green and Union took my phone complaint and said they would investigate and likely reprimand the drivers.

Since I benefit daily from the activism of people who hard core chained themselves to buses in the dead of winter in the 70s and 80s, I figure I can spare an hour to try to make sure that current ADA law is enforced. I also think of places like New York City where activists are fighting hard to get the city to make all taxis accessible to more wheelchair users.

The Superfest Dissie Awards

I had a great time last night at the Dissie Awards, part of Superfest, a very long running disability community film festival! Lawrence Carter-Long MCed and presented 3 or 4 short clips for each category like Worst Portrayal of a Disabled Person by Non-Disabled Actor and The Worst Disabled Villain. It was nice to see a bunch of local community leaders get on stage to accept the awards — some of the fake acceptance speeches were hilarious! Audio Eyes did an outstanding job of funny, sarcastic description that felt like watching Rifftrax or Mystery Science Theater 3000 rather than a boring documentary narration. Would listen again. It was great.

Dissie acceptance speech

My favorite was definitely the “So Sweet” which was about cute little white girls sweetly helping disabled people so I got to give several hearty rounds of booing to Heidi and Pollyanna (who along with Katy from What Katy Did, take up way too much of my brain with their angel in the house internalized ableism).

The event started off with a cocktail hour which I missed and then Lawrence opened up with a charismatic speech about how we would discern, disrupt, display, and discover as we Dissed.

Lawrence MC-ing

I can’t remember all the nominations but I did tweet most of the award winners for posterity. The Worst Performance of Disability by a Non-disabled Actor Dissie went to the guy playing the blind old man in Young Frankenstein. Prof. Georgiana Kleege accepted the award. In the world of Young Frankenstein, apparently blind people cannot get anyone at all to come over and share their soup. So sad! It was lovely to feel the audience reaction all around me as we cheered and booed how bad all the performances were as they played off stereotypes and made disabled people the butt of humor. It was often a hard call which movie to boo the loudest for as the judges watched and listened to the crowd, because the spectrum of Hollywood badness was so vast!

Shirley Temple in Heidi as she teaches Klara how to walk and then ends up being more important to Klara’s family than she is, won out over Pollyanna. It was a very hard call for me. Was it worse for Heidi to be telling Klara she could walk if she just tried hard enough? Or worse that Pollyanna told her sick neighbor lady, the one disabled person in town, that she wouldn’t die if she wanted enough to live, and then stormed out in a huge ragequit? The deciding factor for me was that it was extra, extra horrible for Klara’s dad not to love her until she could walk! Christina Mills from the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers accepted the award pointedly remarking that ther are great organizations like California Youth Leadership Forum where Klara could hang out instead of being with that poisonous little brat Heidi.

Crowd for the Dissies

Joshua Miele then took the stage to accept the award for Worst Miracle for the actor playing the paralyzed guy in Monkey Shines. I think it was voted up because the movie’s badness outshone the actor’s bad portrayal! Personally I was rooting for Forrest Gump and the moment where his leg braces exploded off his legs as he ran like a world class athlete. But hey, we’re taking this super seriously, can you tell? Josh invited his alterego, or friend, Manny Zannasshole, to give a speech about his sensitive directing and producing of this miracle moment inspired by his knowledge of “the differently crippled, or whatever you people are called these days, people with crippledness” provoking a giant laugh from many of us in the audience.

Most Tragic was a painfully stupid display as we saw Clint Eastwood feel the terrible pain of the actor in Million Dollar Baby asking him to put her down like her family’s old dog because she could never be on TV again. Wow! It had to win for being most actually horrible and harmful to people’s lives. For me it is a matter of people telling me to my face that they think it is better to be dead than like me, that they would kill themselves, etc. But for many of us it is directly a life and death matter that threatens our survival as nurses caretakers or even family members decide to express their mercy or support a person’s suicidal thoughts instead of getting them help or fighting to change their situation and society at large. So Million Dollar Baby just had to win. Victor Pineda took the stage for the award and was super badass and funny as he told Clint Eastwood he might be better off dead than that ignorant and Hilary Swank’s character in the movie could totally have better friends if he would get out of her life. I’m paraphrasing but that was the gist of it.

Dr. Strangelove then beat out Mr. Glass from Unbreakable for Worst Villian. There are SO MANY. Strangelove has to win for popularity and for the thing that most people want to joke about when they want to joke about your wheelchair. But Mr. Glass was more truly the winner for his villainy being based on his internal bitterness over being disabled! Reverend Scott (?) went up on stage to take the award with his one black glove! You would almost think he had expected Dr. Strangelove to win. . . do I smell a fixed contest here?

Accepting the Worst Villain Dissie for Peter Sellers

The Crips Gone Wild category for buffoonish portrayals of disabled people causing havoc (AS WE DO) gave us clips from Other Sister, Radio, and Blind Dating. They were all horrible. Blind Dating with a very extended scene of the guy trying to fake that he wasn’t blind on a date in a restaurant. Comedy gold!??? Aaaaagh! Then the last category was “Hey, Only We Can Laugh At That” for truly bad comedy that is “Satirization without representation”. They were all awful and I have forgotten which one won because by that time it was quite late and I was tired.

My teenage son came with me to the Dissies. He enjoyed it a lot. He laughed his head off and I was happy to share some good political awareness and humor with him. He gets enough of it from me day to day just doing things like riding the bus. How nice that he knows it isn’t just me making my usual sarcastic muttering comments. He will grow up knowing quite a lot and being a good ally for others, as well as having gotten all the awesome wheelchair and scooter rides possible.

I hope this event happens again! Thanks to the Longmore Institute and the SF Lighthouse for sponsoring Superfest! I hope I can come out to more events and meet people — I often feel totally disconnected from whatever Bay Area disability activist communities are out there as I flounce around in my own little world. I have the community feeling and solidarity online but not in person and hope to connect more in the future. Anyway, if this happens next year I will wear a sparkley tuxedo and do it up in real movie award style !!

Noisebridge! Best thing ever!

On April 2nd and 3rd I am going to spend several hours teaching at least 70 high school physics students how to solder and some alluring information about contributing to open source software!

They are doing a project to design and build a solar home. If you know anything about electronics or solar energy cells please join us a do some teaching!

rowan learning to solder

I spent $250 of my own money to buy a crapload of little LED kits so they can have a conveniently teachable soldering project – that is how much I love Noisebridge, and geeky things, and teaching, and non hierarchical anarchist/mutualist community spaces!

I am thinking of the Hackability group that meets at Noisebridge to fix and mod their wheelchairs and mobility scooters! We take over a classroom, gank all the workshop tools, and get on the floor where none of us think it is weird that we scoot and crawl and roll across the floor to pick up a screwdriver just out of reach, laughing at all this solidarity! We bravely dismantle our cyborg leg-wheels and bolt them on again covered with LED lights, jazzed up with arduinos to measure battery voltage, then roll on out into the town!

potentiometer and its lever

And the fierce, fun feminist hacker hive that is a chaotic unstructured network of strength and curiosity and information sharing, that stretches from Noisebridge to sudo room and LOLSpace, and beyond!

Claudia

We need more paying affiliate members — we need you! We need your cold, hard bitcoins or your cash!

I am thinking of all the people I’ve given tours to who come in from out of town and are all starry-eyed and inspired, who meet people and go to Python and Ruby and web dev and Linux classes and eat the strange productions from the Vegan Hackers, the laptops that people at Noisebridge fix and give away, the cameraderie I always find there and the fabulous energy of young people just moving to San Francisco to do a startup or find some kind of freedom or empowerment and hope to find at least part of it at this weird ever changing junkyard coffeehouse-feeling co-op workshop. We made this place that isn’t anything like any other place and it can also be YOURS. Meddle in it!f

surface mount soldering

SUBSCRIBE to support Noisebridge’s rent, its freely provided wifi, its bins of electronics parts that anyone can rummage through and pillage, its beautiful giant robot, its classrooms and electricity, its ADA-compliant bathroom custom built specially by Noisebridge folk, its elevator, its devotion to support accessibility for all, all its copies of keys that I and others have distributed as Keys to the City, the library of excellent technical books, well used and loved and read!

Hacker moms visiting Noisebridge

Our rent went up this year, and our people’s job security and income went down. It’s exactly at that point, when the economy is hard on us all, that we need collectives and co-ops and hackerspaces. We have to band together in the best ways we can come up with.

me and maria zaghi at noisebridge

People visit Noisebridge and like it so much that they move to the Bay Area. They come to Noisebridge for education, to find peers and mentors, to teach, and sometimes to find as close as they can get to home and family when they are hackers down on their luck.

Noisebridge - looking west

They come to speak in public for the first time at 5 minutes of fame. They sound a little odd and then they turn out to be geniuses. They drudge to clean the floors and toilets and scrub the kitchen and buy toilet paper, doing the unglamorous physical domestic labor of maintaining this place that’s used heavily 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

noisebridge

We do good work together as best we can. We give a lot to our community! We give access, tools, skills, time, belief, trust, fantastic spectacles, beauty and humor and art. With a sense of wonder and playfulness people walk in and look around – I see it on their faces – like they have just had a million new ideas churn around in their heads – So many possibilities and they know they can be part of it.

Noisebridge table

circuit hacking monday

And we need widespread, ongoing support.

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If you can spare any, we need your exclamation points as I have used most of them in this post!!

Noisebridge tea cart

Hurricane relief: Do something!

Aleja and I met online through GimpGirl years ago. I got to know Nick as well; we chat often about space exploration, writing, and comics. We have mutual friends like Jen Cole and Ron Sidell. We met in person in New York finally! Both at the BlogHer conference and then over Thanksgiving while I was in town for the Committee to Protect Journalists fundraiser.

aleja & me

nick working on his webcomic

On Monday I was asking Aleja and Nick if they had anyone with them. Akemi had come over to stay with them through the hurricane but they did not expect at all to lose power and water. I was on vacation in Mexico. My electric mobility scooter had broken, so I had limited ability to go places and was spending a lot of time online following the news and writing to friends.

From my work during and after Hurricane Katrina I know how fast situations can deteriorate and how important logistics are. Simply having people on the spot is amazingly useful. Once they are there, they can see what needs doing. I offered to reach out on my social networks to see if anyone near them might be able to come over and help out. At that point I began to realize the complexity of what support they might need, as well as many of the pressures against asking for help.

Personally, I have a ton of support and resources, yet it only takes a little change in my circumstances to unbalance the whole house of cards. When my needs change, or become more visible, other people sometimes then begin to treat me like I’ve crossed a line into complete loss of control of what happens. I didn’t want that to happen to Nick, as it so often does, and for him with life threatening consequences. And for Aleja who I love dearly I could picture how outsiders would not be able to see the level of work she does and how necessary it is. We value our independence, including our ability to plan and ask for help. But for me personally that comes with a confusing mix of pride and shame, fear and anger, for the times things don’t go as I had planned and predicted. I struggle with this. People are very, very disrespectful and I don’t like to be dehumanized. But to get along and survive, sometimes we have to just eat disrespect. For Nick and Aleja, crossing that line could mean someone would try to force Nick to evacuate without real infrastructure in place to support them and his health care, and his breathing. (And in fact, that just happened. TWICE.) Being evac-ed could kill him, but even if it didn’t, would it result in some bureaucrat or social worker deciding he should be incarcerated — forced into an institution? Would it disrupt their lives to the point where Nick and Aleja wouldn’t be able to come home together? (They already can’t get married.) When I’m casually dehumanized I lose a little dignity and I get mad. When Nick is, his life is on the line. William Peace describes the dangers of the medical model of disability very well in his blog Bad Cripple, which I recommend highly.

In this photo Aleja and I express our feelings about oppression and ableism by flipping them off with a smile:

aleja and liz express their feelings

Anyway, I worried that I was pressuring Aleja to consent to my sending in some stranger (though a friend of a friend) into their home whether to help with personal care or just to bring them food and water or try and find a way to get power to Nick’s breathing equipment. As soon as they said it was okay, I put out a call. It propagated quickly. Suddenly thousands of people were twittering to me or messaging me on Facebook. I was frantically trying to apologize to Aleja over IM for embarrassing them since my twittered request for help went way out of control. Over the next few hours it became apparent that a support network would have to mobilize. And it did! Three out of the thousands were able to offer practical help rather than just saying “Call 911! Call FEMA” (yeah right!!!), and they joined what was quickly organizing to be a team effort from people who hadn’t known each other before. I was glued to my computer talking with people, gathering information from many sources and redistributing it to others, trying to spare Alejandra’s and others’ limited cell phone batteries. Len Burns became my point of contact with Aleja. They needed sterile water, rides for their nursing/PCA staff because the subway was not running, cash for all sorts of things, drinking water, batteries for flashlights, and many more things that had to be brought up and down 12 flights of stairs. Leslie Freeman was the first to get there, I think, other than Akemi. They are both beyond awesome! My friend Lauren who is a journalist and feminist activist also made it there.

Then I began following Crystal and Sandi Yu’s epic road trip in the middle of the night driving from Boston to New York City, stopping at every Walmart, AutoZone, and truck stop on the way to get supplies. When I realized Crystal is also a wheelchair user and that she and Sandi had barely met, I was cheering them on so hard and felt a deep happiness to find these kindred spirits doing something I could at least support from a distance. I donated quickly over PayPal and Crystal was able to use the money right away with a PayPal debit card. Meanwhile, Amalle was coordinating an ever growing Google Doc of information about how to help and exactly what to do. There was a schedule of people volunteering for shifts and to drive Nick’s nurses back and forth from home to work.

Crystal and others also began, at some point, getting money from Portlight — where I am also now donating! Carrie Ann Lucas connected the group to Portlight. I really like getting cash directly to people in a crisis and to “unofficial first responders”, as I will never forget the amazingness of handing wads of 20 dollar bills (given to me by strangers who read my blog) directly into the hands of evacuees in the Houston Astrodome so they could get to their families, buy diapers and gas, and get the heck out of that refugee camp. Aside from the help…. they were fueled by trust. No fuss, no forms, no proving things to people behind desks, just direct practical help.

I love Crystal’s quick and detailed writeup of the history of how she became involved and what she and Sandi did, from Crystal’s blog LittleFreeRadical: UnconVENTional Aid: Helping Nick Dupree, Social Networking Style. I would love to hear the stories of others like Leslie and Amalle and Akemi who are doing so much as well as what this has been like for Aleja and Nick. It is important not to lose our history.

On Wednesday I started doing research on legal issues for Len Burns, to see what options existed for protecting Nick against other people’s non-helpful 911 calls on him, and discussed battery tech and power inverters with other people active in the efforts. At some point Tuesday or Wednesday I Facebook-friended and began talking with Leslie and then Crystal and others working to help; I could see their comments on Aleja and Nick’s and Len’s posts. Now I’m happy to know them and can tell we have a lot in common — our willingness to jump into a situation and improvise, for one! And I understood Bethany Stephens‘ use of the word “cripfam” a bit more deeply because I felt that recognition of friends who will go all out, who know what “solidarity” means…

Meanwhile this happened: Invalid New Yorker’s Pals Keep Life Saving Gear Running. While I can see the effort this reporter made to be helpful, the disrespectful language and the way the story frames Nick and Aleja both made me furious and sick to my stomach. The reporter couldn’t even be bothered to get a quote from Nick but described his very act of speaking as “burbling” etc, in ways that are classically dehumanizing… as non-speech, as non-human, as alien other. I can see reporters will think this an interesting story — and it is, but not like this, not this easy win at Disability Reporting Bingo. Most of the people helping here are also people with disabilities, for example. There are stories to tell about technology, the Internet, hardware, proprietary medical tech, the connections to OccupyWallStreet and activism, and many other complexities. I wrote to the reporter and his editor, and commented (mildly, for me, and without swearing) on the story.

My main usefulness has been to bring attention to the situation and get others involved. People pay attention to my thoughts on this because of my history of public speaking, and blogging; my involvement with hackerspaces, DIY technology, and activism; and because I did some useful on-the-spot work for Hurricane Katrina relief. I also was able to donate money directly to Crystal and to Portlight. Please pitch in if you can, to share resources and skills, because the situation over the East Coast and NYC in general is still deteriorating as gasoline and supplies run out across the area.

Here’s how to help right now: Lending a Hand

Big organizations like FEMA and the Red Cross do useful work, but usually not at this stage of chaos on this individual level. A week and a half from now they’ll be in charge whether they’re effective or not, but right now it’s anarchy, so we have a chance to be the most useful with direct action. Just go…right now while it’s crucial… go to wherever the problem is, LISTEN TO PEOPLE… and pitch in. Don’t just donate some old clothes or cans of food as if you can dump your trash on other people and it will magically make them middle class and give them all the infrastructure of your massive privilege! Go to gather information, find out what is needed, improvise, and DO SOME WORK.

Support a geek feminist nonprofit!

I’m donating — at the $15/month level — to support The Ada Initiative, a small non-profit that’s tackling sexism in open tech and open culture. Over the last few years we’ve seen women stand up to assert that sexism and gender bias exists. It affects us directly and indirectly. It harms our lives. It makes it harder for us to contribute to projects that further our ideals. We believe passionately, some of us, in FOSS, in collaboration and sharing, building tools that empower people, opening information access for all to use and build upon. We want to participate fully in that culture.

One of the first steps to increase women’s participation is naming the problems of bias, misogyny, sexism, and harassment. That’s absolutely crucial! We continue to do that, in parallel with many other efforts. To many people, calling out problems looks like complaining. Why are we just whining about sexism? Why don’t we “do something”? The Ada Initiative is an earnest — and effective — way of doing something. If you’ve ever felt impatient with people’s complaints about sexism, here’s an opportunity for you to put your money on the line, to support a force for positive change.

How can we change things? What about constructive actions? What positive steps can we take? The Ada Initiative takes on the task of improving women’s participation in FOSS conferences and events, and in other public arenas for speech. Valeria Aurora and Mary Gardiner, and the rest of us, are working to build spaces for women to participate in public discourse.

Harassment often keeps women out of that public sphere, or drives them away. The Ada Initiative is working with a large number of tech conferences and other events to take a definite stand against harassment. But we also work to strengthen women’s participation in other ways. Here are some of the other things The Ada Initiave does:

Created AdaCamp conference: Held two AdaCamps, a wildly popular unconference for women and advocates of women in open tech/culture.
Made conferences safer for women: Wrote and encouraged adoption of policies preventing harassment of women, now in use by hundreds of conferences and organizations in open tech/culture as well as science fiction conventions, fan conventions, computer game conferences, and skeptic/atheist conferences.
Reached thousands of people through speaking: Spoke about increasing diversity and welcoming women at several conferences, including co-founder Mary Gardiner’s keynote at Wikimania 2012. We also helped many of our advisors and supporters develop keynote speeches on diversity, including Sumana Harihareswara’s OSBridge 2012 keynote, Sarah Stierch’s Wikimedia Academy 2012 keynote, Alex “Skud” Bayley’s GUADEC 2012 keynote, and Michael Schwern’s YAPC 2012 keynote.
Created a non-profit charity: Created a charitable non-profit organization from scratch, including acquiring tax-exempt status in the United States, a non-trivial task.
Advised organizations on supporting women: Provided free consulting to several organizations on high-profile incidents of sexism, improving recruitment and retention of women in open tech/culture jobs, and creating a friendlier environment for women.
Taught hands-on workshops: Wrote and taught four free workshops teaching practical skills to men wanting to help women and trans people in open/tech culture.
Conducted surveys and research: We ran several surveys, including a survey of over 2800 people about attitudes towards women in open tech/culture.

Future work by The Ada Initiative will include more workshops for women, on contributing to open source projects, on fighting imposter syndrome, and on designing and running good gender diversity programs, as well as their usual work with conferences.

Here’s another thing I absolutely LOVE about The Ada Initiative. It’s about adult women in this field. I love that it’s not dismissing those of us who are already here, who are already participating. Support us who are going to conferences and speaking at events, submitting patches and writing the code! Helping us, helping us not burn out or quit in disgust because the bad things never change. Rather than writing off the women already HERE, and trying to recruit a new crop of fresh faced teenagers and recent graduates, The Ada Initiative is fighting to patch the “leaky pipeline”‘s leaks.

Women’s work fighting sexism is important. It’s especially important when it’s about supporting other women, pulling together for constructive action. I’m a supporting donor to The Ada Initiative because I want Val and Mary to get paid for doing that work, because they’re GREAT at it.

Feminism and tech/Internet activism are a big part of my life. I’ve been part of LinuxChix, Systers, DevChix, phpWomen, Drupalchix, and am peripherally involved in so many other efforts by women in specific F/LOSS communities to organize and support each other. They’re all doing great work in many dimensions. Of course, I work at BlogHer, which supports women’s participation in public discourse in blogging and social media. And I’m proud to be part of Geek Feminism the blog and wiki, which has developed into a highly organized and effective group, doing consistent work. The Ada Initiative has ties to many of these communities, and intersects with them. As a feminist FOSS non profit it can give help coordinated across many projects and communities. We have the chance to make a lasting institution for our support.

Please join The Ada Initiative, and donate anything you can afford — but I’m hoping here that you all will join at the $15/month or $30/month level! This, along with my monthly donation to Noisebridge will be my main donation effort for 2012 and 2013. I hope you join me! (And the fabulous rockstars who are TAI’s Directors and Advisors!) Donate, and … I’ll see you at AdaCamp 2013!

adacamp_2012_melbourne

Feminist Hackerhive meetups

We’ve had a few more anarchafeminist hackerhive meetups over the last month and each one has been different, with a different group of people showing up and wanting to talk about their ideas and projects. Mostly, we just hang out in a mellow way and sometimes people bring cupcakes or other food to share. There is a fair amount of discussion of Misogynist Shit that Happens on the net or in various geek communities along with strategies for dealing with them and what I would call general feminist consciousness raising. We are all getting to know each other. People like the stickers!

This is also happening in Noisebridge mostly in a very public setting so nothing super private, secret, or anonymous is happening during these meetings. It is not particularly a “safe space”. Far from it since we have people occasionally intrude, we don’t have any standards for behavior or speech internally in the “group”, and also, I warn people not to use the open wifi at Noisebridge without a VPN. But about the meetings, I figure that people can get to know each other here and if anyone wants to do something with more secrecy they have that opportunity to do so in an autonomous working group.

Here’s a few of the subjects we’ve talked about over the last few weeks, as short notes since I am so far behind in blogging about the meetups.

Resisting gender binaries in software/web tool development. Wikipedia and the Teahouse project. The Ada Initiative. I reported on stuff that happened at GeekGirlCon and we talked a bunch about the skepchick and feminist frequency clusters of activity. Linux installfests. IRC cloaking. Using Bitlbee. Livestreaming technology for use at Occupy. Tracing identities from IP numbers and other information. Gradual ongoing skillsharing amongst the Hive. Grassroots skillsharing and activism. Our own histories of going into programming, web dev, computer science, and involvement with open source stuff, some of us not programmers but are “very sophisticated end users” who are often in a role of being the most technical person in the room.

Awareness of gender and misogyny is important in predicting the attack surface/threat model for an action online. Who is it going to piss off?

Local safety alerts (discussion of that email from SFWAR last year about someone killing women in the Mission; its veracity; what kinds of alert are useful or not). Divides within Occupy movements in SF and Oakland; people on mailing lists, with smart phones, were not the people on the street suffering the violence, or without much of an intersection. Description of a women’s urgent action committee who ran public vigils for years every time a woman was killed by her partner. What happens in activist groups leading up to everyone from anti-oppression groups quitting or from marginalized people quitting the group, with examples of racism and sexism.

Creating something like an activist tools package and hosting system. Cloud-based servers, important in organizing to figure out who has the passwords, tools that can handle different accounts/logins, set that up from the beginning. Everyone can post vs. gated/moderated vs. individually owned.

My app idea in response to Circle of Six: how about an app called Wingmen Don’t Rape or something like that, distributed on college campuses, for men so that they can monitor each other to make sure they’re still not raping anyone. It would have a few simple buttons where you remind your buddies not to have sex with anyone who is unconscious or too drunk to consent or if they’re too drunk themselves to have good judgement. They could send each other anti-raping tips and then report periodically throughout the evening “Still haven’t raped anyone yet!” It would be great to raise awareness! Well, seriously it would just attract outrage, but it would be funny as hell and would make a point. I get so pissed off at all the “don’t get raped” apps people make! Why not a few “don’t rape anyone” social pressure educational apps?

Some of us don’t usually identify as feminist, have problems with that framework, and yet kind of see the point of feminist actions or want to work with other women or are just sick of facing sexist behavior alone.

Feminist hacker ethics should consider access issues to tech tools and the number of voices being heard within a movement. It needs to consider the dynamic where the assets, computers/accounts/hosting/servers are owned by men, while the work is being done day to day by women who don’t step up to take the credit for the work for many reasons.

Class differences seen in activism where just showing people they can SMS to Twitter on their own phones is powerful, or showing them how to post to wordpress.org or blogger.com for the first time. Someone who uses email may not have the framing to get how to talk “on the Internet”. This is important for women having a public voice.

Someone brought a game boy controlled sewing machine and donated it to Noisebridge. Interest all around! Someone else let us know that conductive velcro exists. Some frilly pink fabric was also passed around and greeted with terror, horror, anti-pink feelings, and from some, enthusiastic glee. Devolution into discussion of My Little Pony and the whole brony thing.

Phone access codes to Noisebridge.

Pystar, Railsbridge projects discussed with enthusiasm!

Yelp for doctor reviews. Situations trans people face where collecting that information attracts trolls, attacks, is difficult to maintain and keep as well as to host. Needs to be distributed/federated, with really good revision history and author info while preserving anonymity. admins shouldn’t have too much power. LIke an open source review engine that preserves accountability. Syncing between different instances will be important. What about using github as the back end. Crawl existing lists to pre-populate. New entry creation should be treated differently than reviews of existing care providers.

Feminist Hackers github group. We can contribute these project ideas. Just mkae the readme describing the project and check it in. Maybe we can help each other and recruit contributors for the ideas we’ve been discussing.

Namethatrapist.com gets a little discussion at each meeting. Everyone has a different idea of what it would be, and how to do it, and what the risks would be.

General love for markdown. Writing a guide to hardening one’s security.

Service for storing/sharing block lists, for use by individual bloggers/social media users/feminist group blogs etc, with an API. Exporting block lists. Agitating for data liberation from various companies to be able to export those lists.

Talkbackbot discussed again. Poortego (a Maltego imitation on github). Maker Pipeline project to match people’s skills and projects. Desire to have a 3js and D3 library workshop. Teaching (white hat) hacking to kids. Complaints and lulz over things made for women that are pink or flowered. Flowered crap at REI. Bic For Her pen reviews were very funny.

Automated hate mail doxxer tool. What about using spamassassin for hate speech? Individually customizable/trainable over time. Hateassassin! Crowdsourcing the job of looking at your blog comments/moderating (for people with an urgent situation who ahve just been slashdotted or something) Countergriefer project: tool to use panopticlick… and then republish their shit with that information for a block list or doxxing.

Persona management software.

Shit Reddit Says, Tumblr activism going on.

Discussion of name change laws in California and other states. IN some states you must register the name change in public which forever and googleably associates your old name with your new name. Not good when you are trying to evade stalkers.

Matt Honan’s situation with his amazon & apple accounts socially engineered and then his ipad, phone, and computer info deleted remotely. Very interesting story.

Description of the stuff Anita and Jonathan told me and Kellie from EFF about what it is like to face a long term ongoing series of attacks and raids on herself and her accounts everywhere and her family and friends. What help could a larger hackerhive provide? This would be the emergency response team. What resources exist to help people in this situation?

Funny ideas about challenge coins and medals for the (entirely hypothetical) Feminist Emergency Response Team (FERT) and the Feminist Cyberdefense Strike Force.

More ideas for crypto parties.

We hope that people elsewhere will declare themselves feminist hackers and will meet up and post their ideas.

Also, say hi on freenode; some of us are there hanging out on #geekfeminism and on #feminism as well. This geekfeminism channel *isn’t* the moderated one run by the gf bloggers and friends though there is some intersection.

If you want to join the mailing list, you can do it here, but it is a private list so if you don’t already know me please email me separately to let me know a bit about yourself and why you would like to join. We would like for now to keep it to people who have at some point identified as significantly non-male.

Data journalism and Media Lab fun

In June (catching up with posts here!) I went to the MIT Knight Foundation Civic Media conference to talk about data journalism and hang out with other free speech minded, politically active, wordy nerds. The tour of the MIT Media Labs was great and super inspiring. I especially loved the high low tech lab run by Leah Buchley, the materials hacking Mediated Matter lab with tons of 3d printing materials projects, and the Fluid Interfaces and Tangible Media labs. I talked with people from Document Cloud, Investigative Reporters and Editors, and the Center for Investigative Reporting as well as lots of great people from the Ford and Knight Foundations.

IMG_1530

Other stuff from my scattered notes: Irene Ros’s talk. Storyfying a company CTO’s responses to reports of sexist internet behavior in the javascript community. Data visualization is helpful to explain and show gendered bias in how women are described in the news. The squoot incident. I note to myself to tell Irene about the Joanna Russ antipatterns to detect and categorize misogyny.

IMG_1504

Someone advised me to get in touch with T Mills Kelly to talk about our work on internet hoaxes. While it looks like we work on different kinds of “hoaxes” or fictional information on the net, I’d like to take a closer look at their work.

Notes on journalist’s responsibility to the people in the story, on action in human rights communities and emerging communities online, and what journalistic ethics are regarding consent in a story or for a story. Different communities have different expectations for ethical behavior and consent around identity, identifying a source.

One of the nicest conversations I had was with Sasha Costanza-Chock who demoed VozMob for me and let me sign up to try and to test their platform, which was in beta. They wrote a Drupal module which enables people to blog very easily from feature phones — i.e. if you can’t afford a smartphone, you can still take a photo, make a slideshow, or send an SMS message directly to post on a blog. They pioneered a project here at Vozmob.net:

Mobile Voices (VozMob) is a platform for immigrant and/or low-wage workers in Los Angeles to create stories about their lives and communities directly from cell phones. VozMob appropriates technology to create power in our communities and achieve greater participation in the digital public sphere.

It looks like a very carefully set up project done in collaboration with existing organizations and communities. Their structure and guide for participation and affiliation is especially great. There is a Drupal project for the Vozmob module where development is ongoing.

Even better: the vozmob project and module evolved into a launch of a hosted platform, vojo.co. Groups or individuals can set up a vojo account to blog by voice message, or text or photos sent over SMS, or to blast to a group’s members by SMS. It looks like a great tool for activists or for any group whose constituents have phones but not feature phones. This is something that would have been (and will be) very useful for people from the Occupy movement!

vozmob logo

My own ideas that I wanted to convey to people at the conference were largely around journalism and sourcing about events that *happen on the Internet*. Data journalists often deal with large stacks of paper or PDFs that need storage, access control, and annotation as well as with plain old huge data sets. We think of events as happening in “real life” and about stuff on the net as being part of the “coverage”. But what about when the stuff on the net is the event — an Internet drama, a suddenly exploding Twitter hashtag, a political idea or a video gone viral? The stuff “happening” is happening textually or in media – it is already mediated. To write about it well, we need to source it and to source it we need ways to capture and archive it, especially as these happenings can be ephemeral; accounts or comments can be deleted. I see this as an opportunity to create tools to turn on “hotspots” of activity – for example on a controversial blog or a cluster of blogs or associated social media accounts – and record the activity happening so that sourcing of coverage about a controversy can be transparent. This might be a private, semi-private, or a site that functions as public storage like the Internet Archive. While this makes me feel as if I am re-inventing the idea of an annotatable “shadow web”, it might have more of a practical use and might be more possible with the increasing cheapness of data storage.

Well, it was a great trip to Boston, and I really appreciate getting the opportunity to participate and meet so many smart, motivated, creative people in tech and journalism.

Anarchafeminist Hackerhive meetup

About 8 people came to our first Anarchafeminist Hackerhive meetup. We sat in the Noisebridge library, read a couple of things out loud, introduced ourselves, talked about ideas for action and activism, and ate tacos. And plums from someone’s tree. A couple of women walked by and we laughed at their doubletake at the sight of so many women sitting together and having fun at Noisebridge. They joined us!

hackerhive logo

Stuff we discussed included Occupy SF and Oakland, laurenriot leaving #OO because of misogyny, general politics, the feeling of “waking up” to see misogyny and realizing it is part of alienation, the Talkbackbot and how its author got a new job, Feminist Frequency and the backlash from that and responses to the backlash, forking Mikeeusa‘s code, the EFF Surveillance Self-Defence Project, the Ada Initiative and codes of conduct and what to call them (“friendly” something… I can’t remember), and then various war stories from open source projects. We talked about the word “hacker” and people’s gender assumptions. Some people felt it was reclaimable from male domination and others thought “maker” was better or we need better words.

We talked about a browser plugin, a distributed tagging system so we could basically bookmark douchey behavior; hover over someone’s twitter handle and see a tooltip that says “8 of your friends tagged DudeBro as a creeper based on X, Y, and Z” with links to the citations and/or screencaps. Rather than marking a person based on hearsay it would point out public bad behavior, racist or sexist statements etc, that people can look at and judge for themselves (and engage that person in dialogue if they want to.) Someone suggested starting, as with lots of what happens on Tumblr, with a tagging system so people can point out dumbassery conveniently.

A guy came by and offered us really nice cupcakes and cucumber sandwiches.

We talked about the class implications in Hollaback, and the differences between street harassment (and who reports it and against whom) and harassment by people you know who you have to get along with and yet find some way to make them quit it.

I mentioned Homicide Watch as a great project (but one that is pretty much a full time job). A bit of speculation on what we might look for in leaked information that is already out in the world. It was a nice meeting and great to have some laughs and meet people.

More people want to come for next week and we will probably start going through the Surveillance Self-Defense Project and do some keysigning. Everyone at the meeting seemed interested in improving their ability to act on the net with more anonymity and privacy. There are 15 people on the list now, so next week’s meeting should be fun — and then we can segue to Circuit Hacking Monday if everyone’s up for it. I am ordering extra MintyBoost kits.

The green hive artwork is by Zeph Fishlyn. I had a really amazing meeting with Zeph to talk about the “hive” and what kind of art might fit. Sadly if you google “feminist hacker” or things like “woman with laptop” or anything like that you get horrible stock photos of women in business suits having Feelings Alone with Salad (except with a laptop). And I am so over the feminist fighting fist no matter how classic, and the less we see rosie the riveter the better imho. I cannot even find Oracle with her laptop and the Birds of Prey around her in a format that would be handy (plus she is proprietary anyway.) We need new images and metaphors, myths, banners and tshirts and cool shit.

On bus lifts and complaint forms

Now that I am using a mobility scooter and can’t drive, I ride a MUNI bus about 4 times a day in San Francisco. Most of the time I get on the bus and everything’s fine. A non-trivial amount of hte time, there is some hitch to accessible MUNI travel and either I cope with that gracefully or I get quite angry.

Most of the time in the last few months I get too discombobulated to document the incident. But I’m resolving to do so consistently from now on not for my own desire to vent but as a political act that might benefit many people and might help us act together to improve things.

When I talk about, or twitter or blog about access difficulties on the bus, people tell me “well you should report it”. I found that reporting it is quite complicated. Also, while dealing with mobility issues and a lot of pain and all the demands of my daily life, even on medical leave from work, it’s been daunting to consider this.

I would like to describe some of the aspects of MUNI transit with a wheelchair and to take a good look at the process of making an official complaint. The complaint process is fairly clunky and off-putting. I’m thinking about how to improve that process and make it productive and useful. Meanwhile, I’ll make a policy for myself of not only going through the formal complaint process, but also twittering the bus number and situation. For my own data tracking, I will take a photo of each bus I ride, with the bus number, uploading it to Flickr. I’ll then take notes on access in a paper notebook. For each Flickr photo I will type up my access notes, and tag the photo with #accessMUNI, the bus number, approximate time of day, details of the experience, and #fail or #win. That will give me some data to work with personally.

I wonder how many lifts break on MUNI in a day, in a month? How many complaints about bus access are there? Is that or should it be public information? Could I build a work-around, an end run, basically an alternate complaint system that has intake from paper forms (mailed to me personally), text messages, and a phone app? Or a simpler web form for complaints?

Here is how a smooth bus-boarding goes:

* The driver sees me and immediately tells the apparently able bodied people on the bus and the people waiting for the bus to use the back doors. The driver extends the lift.
* I get on the lift and it brings me up onto the bus
* The driver or other passengers flip up some seats to make room for me and the chair
* I settle in and we’re good to go (meanwhile, everyone else has gotten on or off.)

Keep in mind the wheelchair seating areas, two on most buses, are midway back in the bus, so to get on or off, I have to go past three to 5 inward-facing seats which might be full of people, some of them with shopping carts, strollers, walkers, and suitcases.

bus-diagram.jpg

In a bad situation, here is what can happen:

* The driver does not know how to operate the lift.
* The driver tries to extend the lift, but it doesn’t work.
* The driver claims the lift is broken.
* The driver says the bus is too crowded and won’t let me on.
* The driver lets all the other people get on the bus through the front door, filling up the seats, then extends the ramp, but now the bus is so full it is very hard to get to the wheelchair seating. People have to get up or move or stand on the seats to let me pass. The people on the bus sometimes get angry and impatient at the fuss and delay.
* The driver does not stop for me at all.
* There are already two wheelchairs on the bus, so the driver won’t let me on.
* Driver has not pulled up to the curb in a place where I can get on or off, and then has to reposition the bus to extend the lift.
* The lift breaks in such a way that the bus can’t move because the doors won’t close.
* I get on the bus but the lift won’t work again to let me off.
* The lockdown clamps either don’t work at all, or lock in a wheelchair’s wheels and won’t release. (I don’t use the locks anymore so I won’t go into this.)
* There is no button for me to push to indicate I want to get off the bus and need the lift, so I have to shout to the driver or get other passengers to let the driver know. (This doesn’t always work: I can miss the stop, or it can mean the driver yells at me.)
* Many other bugs in the system that I haven’t thought to list.

As a more minor complaint I have noticed that all drivers get me to come onto the lift, then lock the front flap upwards so I can’t get off again. Then the driver will sometimes get up to clear passengers from the wheelchair seating area and flip up the seats to make room. In that situation I am sometimes sitting in the rain waiting. I always wonder why the driver doesn’t move the lift to bring me onto the bus, and out of the cold and rain, first? Don’t they think? But, whatever, at least I’m on the bus eventually.

Another detail that would improve courtesy is that when the drivers (correctly) ask people waiting to get on or off to use the back door, and they begin to extend the lift, they almost always overlook obviously elderly and disabled people using canes or simply very frail. It would be much more in keeping with the spirit of things if the driver would encourage these folks to get on the bus through the front door, then deal with the lift and wheelchairs. I often tell the driver, “I’m sitting down — that lady isn’t! Does she need the bus to kneel, first?” But it usually doesn’t work and the driver continues yelling in some elderly person’s face for them to “use the back door”.

I wonder about the training the drivers go through. Most of them can competently operate a lift and are resigned to helping get wheelchair users on and off the bus. A very few are kind and treat disabled people with human decency as a matter of course. I see them deal with difficult people and situations gracefully. It might improve things in general if the drivers had some basic consciousness raising about people with disabilities. Drivers may assume a wheelchair user is paralyzed (they often assume this for me, yet I can walk ) They shout, or condescend, or pat me, or bring in a lot of assumptions to our interaction, and then I see them repeat that pattern with other disabled people who get on the bus. You can’t make people be nice and I don’t need my ass kissed because I’m disabled, but maybe some of that bad attitude feeds into the access problems that I see happen, especially with drivers who regard us as an inconvenience and want to use any excuse to pass us up and who seem to want to make us feel it.

When a lift is broken and a bus passes me up, I always wonder what happens. Does that driver just continue on for the rest of the shift, passing up an unknown number of people who needed a lift? Do they report the broken lift right away? What happens?

Here is a #49 bus, number 8195, that passed me up yesterday at Van Ness and 26th, claiming a broken lift:

49 bus with broken lift

So, moving onward to the complaint process and the forms online. Basically this is the bug reporting system. San Francisco uses the 311 system. Here is the 311 page that leads to the complaint form. People with compliments or complaints can use the web forms, or can call 311 or a full phone number to give feedback. There is a link to an accessible form, but it isn’t really an accessible form, it’s instructions to call the 311 number if you can’t use the web form.

Here is screen one of the complaint form. It asks for an email address and a repeated email address confirmation. You have the option to skip this step.

MUNI complaint screen 1

Then I get a screen that either adds my address to the 311 database, or tells me it’s already in there. It tells me to call 911 in a real emergency and gives me a disclaimer about privacy. There are Back and Next buttons.

MUNI complaint screen 2

Screen 3 is a beauty. It’s 26 fields, 8 of them required.

SF MUNI complaint screen 3
Here are their fields. Required fields are marked with an asterisk. Just for fun, I bold faced the options that I need to complain about most often.

1. First Name
2. Last Name
3. Primary phone
4. Alternate phone
5. *Email address (never remembered from one session to the next; no login possible)
6. Address
7. City
8. State
9. Zip code
*10. Request category — a dropdown menu with these options:
a. Conduct – Discourteous/Insensitive/Inappropriate Conduct
b. Conduct – Inattentiveness/Negligence
c. Conduct – Unsafe Operation
d. Services – Criminal Activity
e. Services – Service Delivery / Facilities
f. Services – Service Planning
g. Services – Miscellaneous

11. *Request type. This dropdown changes depending on which Request Category was selected in field 10.
a1: 301 Discourtesy to Customer
a2: 302 Altercation: Employee/Customer
a3: 303 Fare/Transfer/POP Dispute
a4: 304 Mishandling Funds/Transfers
a5: Refused Vehicle as Terminal Shelter
a6: General Unprofessional Conduct/Appearance

b1: 201 Pass Up/Did Not Wait for Transferee
b2: 202 Ignored Stop Request
b3: 203 No EN Route Announcements
b4: 204 Inadequate/No Delay Announcements
b5: 205 Offroute/Did Not Complete Route
b6: 206 Not Adhering to Schedule
b7: 207 Refused to Kneel Bus/Lower Steps
b8: 208 Did Not Ask Priority Seats to be Vacated
b9: 209 Did Not Pull to Curb
b10: 210 Refused to Accomodate Service Animal
b11: 211 Unauthorized Stop/Delay
b12: 212 Did not Enforce Rules/Contact Authorities
b13: 213 General Distraction from Duty

c1: 101 Running Red Light/Stop Sign
c2: 102 Speeding
c3: 103 Allegedly Under Influence of Drugs/Alcohol
c4: 104 Using Mobile Phone or Radio
c5: 105 Eating/Drinking/Smoking
c6: 106 Collision
c7: 107 Fall Boarding/On Board Alighting – Injury
c8: 108 General Careless Operation

d1: 501 Altercation: Miscellaneous
d2: 502 Larceny/Theft
d3: 503 Fare Evasion/Transfer Abuse
d4: 504 Disorderly Conduct/Disturbance

e1: 601 Delay/No-Show
e2: 602 Bunching
e3: 603 Switchback
e4: 604 Vehicle Appearance
e5: 605 Vehicle Maintenance/Noise
e6: 606 Lift/Bike Rack/Securements Defective
e7: 607 Track/ATCS Maintenance
e8: 608 Station/Stop Appearance/Maintenance
e9: 609 Elevator/Escalator Maintenance
e10: 610 Fare Collection Equipment
e11: 611 Signs, Maps, and Auto-Announcements

f1: 701 Insufficient Frequency
f2: 702 Lines/Routes: Current and Proposed
f3: 703 Stop Changes
f4: 704 Shelter Requests

g1: 801 NextMuni/Technology
g2: 802 Advertising/Marketing
g3: 803 Personal Property Damage
g4: 804 Fare Media Issues
g5: Muni Rules and Regulations

12: Expected Response Time (7 days)
13: checkbox for Disclaimer
14: * Vehicle number
15: Employee ID
16: Employee physical description
17: * Line/Route (Dropdown of all the routes)
18, 19, 20: Date, Time, am/pm
21: Location
22: * Cross Street
23: * Details
24: Do you want a response letter?
25: Was this an ADA violation?
26: If it was an ADA violation, do you want a hearing?
(If “Yes” is selected, and the operator is identified, a telephone or in-person hearing will be scheduled to address the issue)

Sometimes the form returns an error message!

muni complaint form error page

When it works, I get a confirmation screen with an option to go back or to confirm the info.

After confirmation I get an issue tracking number, and if I’ve given my email, an email with all the information I submitted plus the tracking number. So, if a person goes through all these screens successfully, the tracking system seems pretty decent.

My main criticism of the form is that it requires the user to decide on a taxonomy for their complaint. The complaint must fit into one of the dropdown menu options, but the possible options are shown only after the user decides what category it should be in. The complaintant should see all the options and should have a clear “miscellaneous/not included in these options” possibility from the start. THey shouldn’t have to put the complaint into a category at all. The computer can assign a category for it based on the user’s choice from a single dropdown. Uncategorizable complaints, or complaints from people not patient enough to read through the dropdown options, should be accepted too, because they are potentially useful data points. I don’t care if someone just wants to say “Fuck You MUNI” — that is not super constructive, and yet it still gives useful information in that someone was dissatisfied.

The MUNI complaint form appears to be designed with an official bus inspector in mind as the “complaintant”.

I have never seen a bus driver put the restraint system on for a wheelchair user, by the way, though some drivers have tried to get me to lock myself in with the wheel clamps. I’ve actually only seen one guy in a cheap E&J chair with no working brakes use the wheel clamps and never seen *anyone* use the belt system. It is unrealistic and not very workable. I’m sure someone out there uses it and likes it, though.

The “compliment” form is much simpler than the complaint form.

I can picture many other ways to collect this data. Maybe by building a system to take simplified complaints by text message from a feature phone (like Krys Freeman’s Bettastop prototype), or from a phone call. Paper complaints should also be possible, maybe by postcard. Complaints should be collected to figure out where problems may be clustering.

There could be a variety of useful smartphone apps as well. Though how many other disabled people on the bus do I ever seen with an iPhone? Take a wild guess. None! (That number will grow as GenX ages.) Accessibility problems should be reported via smartphone by able bodied people routinely, rather than that issue being left to the people with the least energy and resources.

It is hard to know what details you will need in making a complaint. Bus number, time of day, route number, location of the issue are the main details. I could make preprinted notepad forms and distribute them to other people on the bus, asking them to collect data.

I could see what my experimental data collection on Flickr leads to and if I can get anyone else to do the same and use the same hashtags.

And I could certainly go to one of the MUNI accessibility committee meetings to see what they talk about. Mainly at this point I’d like to know what happens with the data collected and how I can obtain it. Do particular lines have more wheelchair users, or more lift breakdowns? Particular times of day? What could be done about that?

Ideally, lift breakage or other issues would be reported in as close to realtime as possible, and hooked into a great open source system like QuickMuni? What about an app that knows what bus I’m on already, and for which I can just hit a few buttons to give simple feedback?

The thing that pisses me off most of all is trying to ride the bus during a busy time. Drivers then sometimes let 20 other people get on the bus first through the front doors. Good drivers tell everyone to board from the back door, and lower the lift immediately. Bad drivers delay everyone if they let the able bodied people go in the front, then don’t get them to move back, and then the driver refuses to let me on the bus. Leaving me in the dust is just the logical, reasonable thing to do in those driver’s minds. I had one driver on the 24 line yell at me for not *thanking him* for explaining why he wouldn’t let me on the bus. You can imagine my incandescent rage as I am deemed inconvenient and it is as if I have no right to take up space, while every other person, their shopping bags, strollers, and so on are given as much convenience as they could wish. It is for those moments that I’m going to take a photo of every bus I attempt to board, even before there is a problem.

Feminist Hacker News

At a couple of conferences lately, Hackmeet and She’s Geeky, as well as at the feminist science fiction convention WisCon, I hosted a discussion of feminist hackers and feminist hacking. I wanted to put the idea out into the world and see what other women had to say about it. Though women are involved with Anonymous and other instances of hacker activism, they aren’t part of the story, of the myth of the hacker. If there were a particularly feminist or womanist Anonymous, women working together, what would they be doing? What or who would their targets be? What social justice or mischief making aims would they have? What would our griefing and trolling look like or what does it currently look like? What do hacker feminists do for lulz? What would Hacker Hothead Paisan do? How would our intersectionalities play out? What would a womanist or black women’s perspectives bring, Latina, or First Nations? What would our sisters of the Arab Spring do in their activism if they were to work together and independently as hackers? Would any of this be any different from what’s already happening, or pretty much the same? Simply asking those questions seemed to give people food for thought.

Here are some ideas that came up during these discussions.

feh-muh-nist.jpg

– Stuff that’s legal. Comb through existing leaks and data dumps. Highlight and expose info of particular interest to women.

– We can be in it for the lulz. We aren’t always noble social justice peace-warriors engaged in civil discourse. We are also genius tricksters, unruly angry mobs of trolls. Civil discourse can be good in some areas but can work against us and in support of oppression. Some of us like hackery mischief. The genius archetype is also a trickster, a prankster; we are rockstars and geniuses and badass.

hothead paisan.jpg

– Work with people who want to leak corporate HR data, salary info, sexual harassment data. Like the list of sexist or harassing managers that allegedly circulates among women at IBM through their backchannels.

– Essentially, NameYourRapist.com. Name and shame the perps of anything from sexist comments to harassment and sexual assault. This led to talk of various complicated reputation and voting systems. No one can report these things in public or in private without obviously identifying themselves and getting huge backlash which hurts them more than the accusation hurt the perp. This was a fertile topic of discussion. It leads to extremes of nostril flaring determination and pearl clutching oh-no-what-about-the-menz ethical worries every time I’ve brought it up in public or private. The one thing we could all agree on was that it would need to be hosted somewhere really great in order to deal with the horrendous backlash.

– Hollaback as an example of name (photographic image) and shame. This has particular power dynamics.

– Fan_wank and anon meme style communities, mostly women, definitely in it for the lulz.

– We want actually feminist reddit and stack overflow type of stuff that isn’t fucking taken over by MRAs or mansplaining douchebags.

– The example of the Being Human photographer, the woman from Senegal, and the Orthodox Jewish man. The hollaback was taken down, but feminist blogs, tumbler reblogs, documented the incident and the fallout.

– The example of geekfeminism forking MikeeUSA’s code and putting pink glitter ponies all over it to make fun of him. What other code should we be forking and how?

– Some of the stuff Tiger Beatdown has done, Sady Doyle being awesome with the twitter hashtags, Michael Moore callout, #reasonstobeatyourgirlfriend callouts. Find douchey behavior, document it, then profile the perps and mock the shit out of them. One advantage of doing this is you don’t have to particularly prove something happened since you can source it, it happened in public on the Internet. Though some mentioned the importance of documenting, screencaps, Internet Archive, Google Cache, in case the douchey source is deleted.

– Testimonial. Coming out narratives. For example, there was a campaign among bloggers and social media users in Argentina, where it’s illegal to have an abortion, to put up “I’ve had an abortion” badges or posts.

– Ethical hacking vs. unethical. Feminist white hat, feminist black hat actions. What would our ethical spectrum look like?

– Concerns over the powerful, effective humor of Anon style actions and whether that can bleed over into bullying, harassment which disproportionately affects women or uses misogyny to denigrate people.

– For fuck’s sake at least edit Wikipedia more often and put more notable (to us!) women in there.

– We can perpetrate drama in particular ways that create guerrilla theater online.

– Shit Manarchists Say videos are pretty funny. Could go much further with this sort of thing.

– Games that teach people what it is like to experience oppression. We need more things like that.

– Simply documenting things that happen is powerful. The geekfeminism wiki Timeline of Incidents mentioned often in these discussions as an inspiration and model to follow. It provides continuity, and gives us a history.

– We need backchannel support for whatever we do in public. IRC, pirate/etherpad, are useful.

– Tools for security and privacy as well as for information gathering. Peer support and education to improve our skills.

– (Reading aloud of the main points of the Hacker Ethic) This is an attempt to outline a hacker ethic, which is awesome. But a strong part of actual hacker culture is violence, putting each other down, boasting, making people prove themselves, obnoxiousness, rape culture. You can’t even talk about hacking for a minute without someone going on about ass rape. It keeps us out, and it’s meant to keep us out. We can trash talk and escalate obscenity forever but we don’t necessarily want to become that person. It affects you and it’s not good. If we don’t want to be part of that we have to build something else.

– Riot Grrrl comes up a lot in these discussions, and not just because I was dragging it in. Yay!

– We will write some feminist hacker manifestos.

At WisCon I was part of a somewhat different though oddly convergent discussion about feminism and F/LOSS culture. It was so far beyond the usual unicorn talk that you may not even be able to imagine it. Instead of explaining how we are Women in Tech or Women in Open Source or how to improve gender ratios on open source projects we were just a bunch of women developers talking about our working lives, experiences, and ambitions. Everyone at the discussion was already quite educated so no explanations were necessary. I’ll be looking for for notes from this (mine or someone else’s) to post in more detail. But our basic topic was: F/LOSS and feminism, at least the sorts of feminisms we all meant in that room, share so many important ideals, processes, and methodologies, which is part of what makes us so passionate about F/LOSS; and that seems so obvious to us but isn’t to everyone; how can we bring out this point and bring them together?

I proposed this discussion as a workshop event for 28C3 in Berlin and then heard a very interesting story. Apparently the idea was quite controversial among the conference organizers, with some people pulling for it hard, and others rejecting it because “We don’t have those problems here” and “We have solved the problem of sexism in Germany, in Europe, not like in America” and “Hackers don’t see women or men”. Also that it would be “too divisive” and cause problems at the conference. And, amazingly that there would not be enough interest. I heard from other women (mostly) that the 28C3 culture was a very difficult place to talk about gender and it never got much past the stage of barely being able to assert that as women we might have different experiences than men and that sexism does exist, but even “sexism does exist” was heartily challenged. I then got a (friendly) warning from someone involved with the conference that if against all odds I did go to 28C3 and run this discussion, the backlash on me personally would be very intense and beyond anything I could imagine. Yes, right, that really makes me want to spend a couple of thousand dollars flying to Berlin in the dead of winter with a wheelchair. But I awaited the official response with interest. It was a form letter that the conference was too full to take my proposal, they just had too many proposals that year. Highlarious! I thought it was a shame, because, since it was not particularly my community other than the people who are part of Noisebridge, I could go in guns blazing and make the European feminists look like total moderates. Then a friend of mine offered to give up his keynote speaking slot to me so I could surprise-feminism-bomb the conference. I declined with thanks, touched at his offer.

I had another great conversation privately at WisCon with Elise Matthesen who listened to my elevator pitch of this topic in the Great Dane pub and in response told me a story, which of course is a very WisCon and very feminist thing to do. I don’t remember many of the exact details or people’s names, but the story was about one of the WAMM sort of groups in the 70s or 80s doing direct action chaining themselves to some fence or gate of some munitions company. One of the women in the group was the wife of a local high ranking police or military officer. Before the actions they would do a guided meditation where the facilitator would ask everyone to consider in themselves, could they imagine in their hearts being the head of that munitions factory and waking up that morning and part of himself not wanting to make nuclear warheads that day? Could they imagine him responding positively and openly to the protest, and listening to their concerns? If they couldn’t imagine that and really feel it, they should not come to participate in the direct action that day. Setting aside that space, asking that question, and asking everyone to consider it, made the way the protests went quite different from how they might have gone otherwise. The cops would come and people would cut off the chains from the protestors to drag them away but they were gentle and would do it as a sort of routine, as something that was accepted as part of the action. They were doing their jobs. They would drag people to the vans and bring them coffee and donuts. I can’t tell the story as powerfully as Elise told it, but it was exactly the kind of response I have been figuring I would hear. Some of the difference in hacker ethic between Anon and Womanist Anon or Fem Anon might be an almost internal approach, a different position or posture in relation to the world.

It should be totally clear this is merely an interesting thought experiment and I am not advocating doing anything illegal.

And by the way, for the nicer kind of hacking as in just being a kick ass developer, you might want to take a look at Hacker School!