Today's small political actions

Today I am reaching out to my friends through chat and email, both hackerspaces I’m connected with (Noisebridge and Double Union), our various women in tech organizations, and in person. I woke up this morning (from my grief and disassociation last night) with staunch, fierce determination full of energy and fire and ideas.

I read through the President-Elect’s 100 day plan. Have a look. It’s quite scary. For instance how many people do you know who have health care through the Affordable Care Act, or who have it through their marriages to same sex partners — here we have a direct threat to their family health. Also deeply on my mind – what will happen with Sanctuary cities?

My friend hazelbroom and I met for coffee and discussed our lives, what we do to support others, what support we need, what we can change, what structurally we might be able to affect. A lot of my ideas are around mutual aid networks. How can we create them and make them sustainable? But here is a brief outline: better self care, mutual support for activists, support for others in our communities and beyond, political engagement with whatever politicians represent us. We try to move beyond a charity model and it is often not greatly successful.

For me, I have good mutual support with several friends for example I am around to help out if a friend is down on their luck and needs help with a medical bill, or getting a ride, or groceries during an illness, or wrapping your mind around a complicated legal or bureaucratic situation — and many friends have helped and visited me when I’ve been in difficulties. In those situations, boundaries are hard to negotiate and maintain – hard to even articulate. Learning to have that kind of conversation is likely part of the work we need to do. Hazelbroom pointed out that as queer folks we have more practice than many others with that kind of “chosen family” bond. Those bonds are something more like quasi-cousins, loose partnerships for emotional and economic support. I have many ideas here, and will be writing about them over the coming days and weeks.

Our first practical action was to leave the cafe and go a few blocks down the street to the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center. We signed up as volunteers and got some information from them and talked to Executive Director Gina Dacus, who super nicely took the time to give us an outline of what the BHNC does. I knew already they provide a lot of the low income housing support of our neighborhood and there is some sort of senior center. I found to my happy surprise that the senior services and classes are “senior and disabled” which means : Free senior/arthritis tai chi classes for me just a few blocks away, JUST what I need and have been wishing for!

We described some of our skills for Gina (Hazelbroom: she is an RN, so can give flu shots and that sort of thing! Me: some thoughts on helping with informational discussions of wheelchairs and scooters.) I am donating to the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center right now, online. Our next step is to pull in our local friends and neighbors (including all our energetic, healthy teenage children) to show up to the community engagement meeting, and listen to see if we get any immediate ideas where we might be needed and we can be helpful.

Another next step, I am donating immediately to CARECEN SF, picked a bit randomly out of a list of community organizations in my neighborhood of Bernal Heights-Mission.

colorful mural at 26th and mission

What we'll do

One thing that was starting to dawn on me: we would see a wave of women speaking up, more than ever, which would change things in ways we couldn’t predict. The heartfelt stories suddenly popping up on “Pantsuit Nation” felt like early blogging days over again but expanded further out to a new group. Stories of past abuse or injustice, large or small incidents as women thought about their lives, their mothers and grandmothers and daughters. Despite the ways the political status quo supports already privileged white women I started to feel that a little bit more of a cultural shift was about to happen in this country with Clinton’s election. I really love diaries and the history of women’s writing. In this context for me it is touching and sad to see how difficult it is for women even now to participate in public intellectual life. So often the pattern is that women of color blaze the trail and fall hard under attack while a lot of white women professionalize up and get a dribble of token jobs.

My hope is that we will fight harder against that process and women will keep on writing and being outspoken – not in the way it might have unfolded, but as a point of resistance and awakening under whatever is about to happen (which I dread.)

Even the most privileged women don’t manage to tell their stories or truth in public (or mobilize and organize, which is what comes next) maybe in some cases because they have a fair amount to lose and are invested in the status quo. Beyond that personal investment and co-optatation we should also be aware that culture and politics can change quickly. We can’t know what aspects of our life will condemn us in the future (for example, being a landlord in some political climates has meant heavy political oppression for generations.) Early blogging or any frank public writing leaves us even more vulnerable on a political level than we might fear in our personal lives or from being trolled online.

Also I thought that Samantha Bee thing about Clinton’s life clamping down on herself and trying to mold herself into what was required by The Patriarchy was the most depressing thing ever and I felt glad I have at least some remnant of punk rock in my soul. Man that was awful. Nope nope nope. She took a pragmatic road but what a road to hell. Glad I am not a politician right now.

This is just to say that this can be a point of resistance. Maybe that is comforting – kind of like, well, So what. Keep on being out there if that’s a way you want to risk yourself. It can be small and personal but it has a real world effect. Maybe the women who began to open up in that “private” Facebook group will find ways to keep on doing something like that. I respect the ways that people find to keep themselves and their families safe. But it’s also important that we keep speaking up as much as possible. For myself I’m thinking that I stand by my own years of public writing and always will. Everyone please blog harder and poet harder, if that’s what you do.

Make hackerspaces better – support Ada initiative

Hello! I love hackerspaces! And I’m asking hackerspaces around the world to donate to the Ada Initiative in support of making hackerspaces welcoming and safe places for women. My goal is to raise $4096 and if we do, I’ll match the first $1028 donated. **UPDATE** extending the deadline to next Friday, Oct. 3.

Adacamp liz and heidi in tiara

My home base is Double Union, a feminist hackerspace in San Francisco and it’s going strong. It has lively events every week and over 150 members.

A group of us at AdaCamp SF last year decided we could start a maker and hacker space for women. AdaCamp SF is an unconference run by the Ada Initiative for feminist women in open tech and culture. There were so many of us all together at once. So powerful feeling! With months of hard work, it happened — we opened Double Union.

We get to hack there without sexist bullshit or constantly fending off creepy dudes!

The thing is, I believe that any hackerspace can potentially be that way. You, too, could have a hackerspace where many women feel comfortable, welcome, valued, in their creative, coding, and entrepreneurial and activist endeavors, in a space full of allies and comrades of all genders. This can’t happen overnight. It will take work and education and above all, listening to women, not just the few women who have stuck around, but also the ones who left because they were uncomfortable.

I want to persuade hacker and maker spaces around the world that they are missing out on infinite potential. Hackerspaces.org has some good advice on adding anti-harassment policies to the design patterns for running a space. This is exactly the sort of work that Ada Initiative is good at; their Example anti-harassment policy has been used as a template by many events and organizations.

I’d like to challenge all hackerspace members to do two things in support of my campaign:

* Donate to Ada Initiative! I will match up to $1028 donated when we reach the $4096 goal!

* Add your anti-harassment policy to your organization’s page at hackerspace.org, and link to it from the list on the Geek Feminism wiki. (And if your space doesn’t have a code of conduct or policy, start the ball rolling to implement one!)

I love Double Union. We have set aside a permanent physical space, equipment, organization, and time that is focused on making and creating things together. We have the keys in our hands and the tools to do whatever we like in a safe, supportive environment free from harassment. We agreed to a basic code of conduct and some assumptions we share about behavior in the space, which helps establish trust for us to share knowledge, time, and tools. We try to follow Community anti-harassment standards. We have members who are also part of, or supporters of, Noisebridge, sudo room, LOLspace, Mothership Hackermoms, Ace Monster Toys, and other San Francsico Bay Area spaces.

Double union shopbot

We’re having writers’ groups, book groups, readings, zine workshops, open source software coding, cryptography meetups, circuit hacking, making stuff with our CNC routers, 3D printer, vinyl cutter, drawing and art supplies, and sewing machines — in short, doing whatever we like and learning a lot from each others’ expertise. We celebrate other women’s work and cultural diversity. Our hackerspace is against putting others down for what they do or don’t know. Once we don’t have to fight to prove we are ‘hacker enough’, great things happen.

Double Union’s founding group had the vision to make this space happen because of the pioneering work of the Ada Initiative. Ada Initiative’s demands for policy changes for events and companies, its fierce uncompromising voice, and especially its empowering and inspiring events, are having a good and useful effect to shift our culture.

More AdaCamps, like the ones this year in Berlin, Bangalore, and Portland, will help improve women’s participation in hackerspaces. With your donation, we could potentially host MORE of these fabulous unconferences for women in open tech and culture.

Please join me in donating to Ada Initiative so they can keep on being a positive force for change in the world!

Liz and Cristin smiling at DU


Geek Girl Con, Saturday!

I’m at GeekGirlCon today!!! It’s awesome! 3rd year in a row!

I spent yesterday in The Attic, Seattle’s feminist community workshop/hacker/maker space. The Attic’s booth here at GeekGirlCon is representing the space’s combination of fiber, art, tech, robots, geekiness, hacking, and making things very beautifully and there are tshirts and stickers! That’s where I’ll be on Sunday morning and part of the afternoon, orbiting between the games area, the Art Alley, and The Attic’s table.

the_attic_seattle.jpg

Here are some quick shout outs to people I talked with today and cool stuff I saw.

Heroes & Inspirations who make jewelry and art. Their new Ladies of Science series is great. There’s a Heroes and Inspirations Ladies of Science Kickstarter! I’m definitely backing this project and want several of the wearable tributes to admirable scientists!
Stasia Burrington who has a print (and tshirt) of a woman in a pile of cats and another that I love that is kind of the same concept with books. As I look through her etsy shop I want to buy a zillion prints… her work is so charming!
Bhaloidam, an interesting board game that is a storytelling RPG.
BigBrainedSuperheroes Club, a STEAM education organization!
Monkey Minion Press who have very beautifully done posters with SF retro WWII themes, often somewhat creepy.
ReelGrrls who are working with young women to teach video production skills and to support their work as film makers.
Women’s Funding Alliance which is a big philanthropic collective.

I got to talk a bit with Tempest who was on the panel “Changing Culture in Mainstream and Alternative Spaces” which I thought of as the “safer spaces” strategy panel. The panel was good. I also met up with Sigrid Ellis who I know from WisCon and who is now editing Apex Magazine. In a totally lucky random encounter I ended up talking intensely with Elsa S. Henry from Feminist Sonar and went to her Disabled Geeks panel which was not in the schedule booklet but which was well attended. Here are my notes on the panel! They’re a bit rough and were basically liveblogging that I have not fully edited.

Elsa and Stevi Costa are speaking on the Disabled Geeks panel. Elsa’s talking about comics and characters with disabilities. Disability is used as a narrative crutch. The words “inspiration porn” are also being tossed out there . . . for those of us who might be hate-watching things like Glee or watching Push Girls. (Audience LOL, ruefully). Disability is too often used as a metaphor for overcoming obstacles. It’s rare to have a character born with a disability who did not get bitten by a radioactive spider but has been how they are since birth.

Discussion of the Glee character who is a wheelchair user who is played by a non-disabled character. Elsa describes the horrible scene where he gets up out of the wheelchair and dances, which many people felt was a huge problem, since you don’t have to miraculously get out of your wheelchair in order to dance. You can dance while using your wheelchair or while you have whatever other impairment you happen to have in your life. Your dreams may be things that you can actually fucking do. Etc. An audience member describes her teeth grinding as the pretty girl gets to walk across the room getting out of her chair in some other episode. As if, aww, the other guy is the loser in the chair. There is also an Xmas episode where the guy wishes he could walk. Critique of the “walking” exoskeleton thingies. My personal reaction is that I am kind of glad I have never watched this show.

“Yay, accepting our cyborg bodies and then we become your OVERLORD.” *audience cheer*

Something something crip sex. (I had lost the thread, but start paying attention at these words…) “How did that feel to you?” “I dunno”. It was amazing but it just can’t make up for that dancing episode. Another episode where bullies take a blind person’s cane away. That was a painful moment for Elsa since people have done that to her deciding that she doesn’t need her cane so that they can bully her. Invisible disabilities represented, for once the character with Downs Syndrome is played by an actor with Downs. Great character usually but the school shooter episode was incredibly bad. Inconsistent with the character, makes it look like PWD have no future after the insitutional support of childhood and youth. Yes there is fear but they blew it out of proportion and people said online “I wonder if that’s going to happen at my school”. It represented disabled people as violent when actually we are often the targets of violence.

How about Oracle. (I cheer). Elsa loved Oracle, a great superhero with disabilities. And then they took her away. Oh, you’re disabled, you’re like one of the X-Men. No actually I’m not. And Oracle was a woman with an actual disablity who lived with her physical impairments.

In contrast in the Daredevil movie, she lasted 2 minutes, the movie was too much. “My nickname is snarkbat, I use snark to echolocate.” Why doesn’t he use the cane while he’s in the costume!? I’d like to see a superhero who uses a cane. So I had someone make me one. People with disabilities should be able to cosplay anything they want. My blind cataracted eye is not a special effects contact! Please do not ask me where I bought my own eyeball. Then I will tell you I bought it at Rubella and you will feel like a jerk. I’m playing Odin today. (Elsa holds up her cape with a raven (Munin) attached to the shoulder.) (I asked her earlier if it was Hugin or Munin) People ask Hey where’d you get that awesome contact, they assume you couldn’t be disabled so you become strangely invisitble again. Elsa asks for abled bodied people to not cosplay disability. It makes many of us really frustrated. We need to be recognized and read as people with disabilities. If you are playing disabled with your pirate eyepatch you are making the world worse for people who actually need to wear one. The fictionalizing means the people aren’t reading us as real.

Why would you go to all the trouble of finding visually impaired young women to play helen keller but as the understudy for the not-visually-impaired main actress who got cast for the role. There could be the name recognition if you start casting us in the roles.

Cons and accessible space. Getting trampled and pushed around in crowds. This con is good. People are educated to the point where they are not pushing into people in wheelchairs, people with white canes. This con has an introvert alley so people can go have some quiet space. We have a wheelchair lift here at the stage. (though . . . no one on stage who is a wheelchair user. . . .) Stevi asks Elsa when she goes to larger cons that don’t have any focus on inclusivity do you feel that you become invisible? Geek culture is not as inclusive as it is supposed to be. That is why Elsa does not like to go to cons. She doesn’t like feeling invisible and being trampled. She lives in NYC and is used to that environment but to come into a safer space where it’s “our people” it would be nice not to be run over. (I so strongly agree!! This feeling only grows in me that we have to insist on respect from our communities.)

Audience question about therapy dogs and fakers. Yeah Hmmmmm. Panel handles this question with perhaps too much patience. OK I popped up and asked the asker if she has a special need to police whether people are really disabled or not or a concern over being allergic to dogs or dog phobic so it becomes an issue for her or people around her. Come on. Is this the moment?

Elsa talks about how she wears glasses and can see partially. People go Hey are you really blind? Yes. they don’t give white canes out like candy and I really need it. People come up to me at cocktail parties and ask me how many fingers they are holding up. People just take my cane because they are curious. It’s not okay to just investigate my disability. Peeople with disabilities are not public property. We are human beings. TELL IT. Stevi adds that we narrativize it to where the story is that you have gone from being able-bodies to disabled and that is the dominant story.

Aud comment about being happy to be talking about people who were born with disabilities and glad we’re having this panel. She wants to talk about more pop culture and the show Covert Affairs. The character who is super sexy and confident. He is not really blind but the attempt to make a positive character is awesome and rare so props to them for trying. Elsa says she will have to watch it. She is the only blind burlesque performer she knows about. How does she know she’s being attractive? Well, she practices a lot and asks her friends if she looks good in her costumes.

Aud comment about the school shooting story. She wants to know recs for characters where their disability is not the issue.

Elsa recommends Switched at Birth it is sort of ridiculous and has some sort of weird republican thing going on, but they have an entire episode done in ASL where the characters are all teenage girls.

Stevi likes the Michael J Fox show because they address the inspiration porn question head on, in episode one and then they move on and he is just a character who happens to have Parkinson’s and that isn’t what it’s about. The first episode includes some epic crip humor. Then it becomes a normal family sitcom which includes a character with a chronic condition.

Another rec from the audience, the forensic doctor on CSI. He plays guitar, he happens to have one leg, he is awesome.

Back to superheroes with disability. The character Hawkeye lost 80% of his hearing. it became part of his character but then of course then in 2000s he got reset.

Can we stop resetting the disabled characters? OMG.

Fanfic writers cherrypicked that one detail and wrote after the Avengers movies how he had hearing loss. A lot of it was great but there was also a lot of problematic aspects where people wrote it as inspiration porn where he overcomes his hearing loss etc.

Breaking Bad and a character where a disabled actor applied for a character who was written as able bodied and he is a great actor, they just put it into his character, they didn’t reject him from the role, it was just like the color of a person’s hair or whatever.

Cosplay and able bodied people and disabled people What if there is an able bodied people who really likes Oracle and wants to cosplay Oracle. What if there’s a person in the wheelchair who wants to cosplay Supergirl. What then.

Elsa says people in wheelchairs can cosplay whoever they want. But if you are able bodied and want to cosplay Oracle just dont use a wheelchair. If you dont need it please don’t use it. Do not put on cripface. Geordi’s visor is fiction, it is not a real device so it isn’t going to be mixed up with reality. Stevi thinks it is possible to use an assistive device in cosplay in a way that is respectful, but it is tricky. Elsa wants people who are not disabled not to be read as disabled.

(Personally I have some complicated feelings around this and I don’t like the idea that people think they can just play disability. What the hell, isn’t there enough to play with? And, it is even more complicated because of actual discrimination and also I would add in fetishists as an issue. I don’t like the idea that, as with actors, Non disabled people get attention and fame from pretending to be us and perhaps “doing it better”. They get rewarded for performing “disability” in ways that are more acceptable to mainstream culture than the actual lives and being in the world of those of us who are disabled. How can this not fail to be offensive and have the fake cripple come off as perky or happier or reacting in some way that gets props from people who want everything to be okay. My first reaction is that it makes me instantly angry. I let people ride my scooter and manual chair to experience it as fun and not unimaginable. But I hate the idea that people would pretend they are disabled as their costume. )

Elsa talking about her current work writing a game module for ghost hunting blind people, warriors of midgaard, for role playing games. I know how to do and represent this thing. Pay me to do it. Rather than thinking you know it all and faking it.

Orange is the New Black, best humor moment with wheelchair, Scared Straight group goes to the prison and one of the prisoners goes you think you’re really tough . . . She is the most bad ass, I will shank you so hard character.

The panel wraps up. I did not count the attendees but would estimate 30-40 people as I think back on how full the room was.

YAY, great panel!

Weekend of random activities

Looking back over this weekend it seems so quiet and low-key yet packed full of action on another level. I stayed at home after a very active week.

Tuesday was our Double Union Tea and Lightning Talks at the Mozilla community room. Over 60 people showed up. We had about 10 talks. The food was all devoured (next time I know to ask for more of it.) People all seemed super happy to be there and I had a great time MC-ing with Amelia! Wednesday I took half the day off and road tripped with Len and Rose up to Novato to see our friend Ron from Ophoenix who I love and admire. He is cool, mathy, wise, funny, good hacker, and a great activist. Ron is one of the people I co-exist with on ambient IM. I likewhen people are kind and compassionate yet can have a sharp edge; we seem to share that. Driving to Novato for me and Len is actually a road trip since neither of us drive. We hung out and just rambled nerdily all afternoon long. It was fabulous! It was also the first time I’d met Len in person and I want to go hang out with him in Santa Cruz. Especially as he described how he bakes bread all the time.

Thursday I spent an intense evening at the Pioneer Awards with Danny. Still extremely sad about Aaron; it seems surreal that he is gone. (Whatever I feel is nothing to Taren’s and to Danny’s daughter who was close to Aaron for years; but I’m still really stunned.) I developed an instant activists’ crush on Laura Poitras for being the sort of modest documentarian and doing things that are of use. It was good to hear what she had to say and see her huge grin on the screen! I had a brief but good conversation with Jamie Love and I wonder if I can kick the WEEE repair manual access idea to them. I have so much admiration for what they did with WIPO! Hugged and talked with a lot of other people there who I really love to see and don’t get to see enough.

It feels like cheating my blog to sum up the week this way. But oddly… or not… I want to dwell on my more private, homebody, intellectual life.

Friday I came down with a cold, maybe not surprising after all that running around and working on top of it. I usually don’t leave the house two days in a row even to go up the street to the corner store.

So this weekend I nursed my cold, drank a bunch of nyquil and took naps, flung kleenexes around (till saturday afternoon when i cleaned up) but also did a lot of reading. I ripped through a few more books I’m reading for the 2011 Carl Brandon Awards (the award is a little bit behind and doing 2 years simultaneously to catch up.) It is a joy to be on book award reading juries, not just to have a giant stream of books coming at me, but to have so many *new* books I can recommend to people! And I can’t wait to have some discussions and hear what the other jurors think. All of which we will be doing scarily soon.

I also read Looking for Transwonderland by Noo Saro-Wiwa and enjoyed it, though I gave it the side eye a few times I am also a fan of order with liveliness, showers, reliable electricity, people not bugging me about religion, museums, ecology, and less corruption in government so I don’t have much of a place to eye from. I did a fair amount of looking things up on Wikipedia and found a good candidate for developing a new article — on the Esie soapstone sculptures. Here is a museum for the GLAM wikipedia project! The stuff about Susanne Wenger mystical white lady priestess of Oshun also sent me on a wide eyed rampage of horror and wonderment as I fell deeply down yet another internet rathole. O M G. Talked in the language of the trees, yeah…. ok….. Then to adopt 12 local kids and deliberately raise them illiterate? I can’t even!!!!!!

Meanwhile this was going down in our communities: https://twitter.com/ashedryden/status/381465338443202560 and that’s all I want to say about that in public though the private conversations have been going on all weekend. A whole bunch of us can’t talk about it, but had to at least mention it. Ashe wrote a good post: http://ashedryden.com/blog/we-deserve-better-than-this Yes. That is the place we are coming from. You know nothing, Jon Snow. http://twitter.com/shanley also laid down the knowledge and righteous anger.

Other things, I tended my little garden of potted plants, cooked chicken-corn-pasilla pepper soup and curtido, grocery shopped, spent most of Saturday and Sunday with my sister and her 6 year old son. Laura worked on fabrics for her NASA planetary map dresses. Jack played Plants vs. Zombies 2 and other games. We played King of the Beasts with him (a great quick card/board game) and later when Laura went to a meeting Jack and I played a longer cooperative board game called Castle Panic. He was the Master Slayer (fortunately). I read Danny’s emails and twitters from the xoxo conference in Portland and thought fondly of people there.

At some point late Saturday night I went searching for a quote I was thinking of earlier in the week, by June Arnold who has been on my mind lately because The Cook and the Carpenter is so relevant to my life what with the hackerspaces and all. Realized June Arnold does not have a Wikipedia page. Oh!!!!! Like a stab in the heart. Most feminist press stuff is just missing from there. This would be a nice thing I could do, gradually and I certainly have or can scare up some decent source material. I found the quote which is from the 2nd issue of Sinister Wisdom.

I think the novel — art, the presentation of women in purity (also I would include poetry, short stories) — will lead to, or is, revolution. I’m not talking about an alternate culture at all, where we leave the politics to the men. Women’s art is politics, the means to change women’s minds. And the women’s presses are not alternate either but are the mainstream and the thrust of the revolution. And there’s no tenure in the revolution.

That panel of her, Sandy Boucher, Susan Griffin, Melanie Kay and Judith McDaniel was pretty great. I read it over again and was especially happy just holding Melanie’s thoughts about Wittig, Russ, and Arnold in my mind. I realized I have not read Flying by Kate Millet and probably should. Well, I felt happy to connect a bit with this strain of thought. I thought Amelia and others would like the art is politics quote.

Today I read halfway through Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disabliity in American Culture and Literature by Rosemarie Garland Thomson. I got cold-emailed by Rosemarie a while back (I get awesome, awesome, emails at random, every week a few more, more than I can handle) and we finally met up at Noisebridge. I felt a weird Instant ability to partially mind meld, or, trust, or, as some people would put it boringly, I made a new friend! In like an hour hanging out we had gone pretty deep into hand waving and assuming the other person knew what we meant (and we did.) I am greatly enjoying the book. It is nicely built academic literary and cultural criticism, flows well.

Here are some bits I specially dog-eared: I did NOT know this about Aristotle. from Generation of Animals . . . “Anyone who does not take after his parents… is really in a way a monstrosity, since in these cases Nature has in a way strayed from the generic type. The first beginning of this deviation is when a female is formed instead of a male. ” Being born female is to be born disabled. “The female is as it were a deformed male…” Then on into stigma theory which we now less bludgeon-ish-ly refer to as being marked and unmarked. OK. Onwards.

Motherfucking Emerson. (I always like to think of earnest Louisa May Alcott characters falling in love over discussions of Emerson. ) Emerson goes on about conservatives and how they are “effeminated by nature, born halt and blind.” They are also like invalids. He lines up men (who are awesome and ethical citizens) opposed to children and disabled people (and women since I doubt he means “humans”) This sentence of Rosemarie’s wrapped it up nicely for me, “Emerson’s juxtaposition of an unrestricted cultural self with a muted other thwarted by physical limits exposes the problem of the body within the ideology of liberal individualism.” OK, maybe you had to be there. IT made me happy. I’m not typing out pages and pages of this and I want to press onwards. Deep into the next section I felt she was laying out out a lot of good knowledge about ways that racism and US-ian concepts of white and black (or non-white) are entangled with gender and disability. good stuff here.

Then like a full on body slam I hit the chapter “Benevolent Maternalism and the Disabled Woman in Stowe, Davis, and Phelps”. (Which god knows I will scavenge off Project Gutenberg and read this week, but I get the idea from her descriptions). Again blackness and disabilty and gender entwine. Check this out. Here is where I get my typing fingers out and smear on the arthritis knuckle cream.

As Stowe deplores slavery’s inhumane separation of families, as Davis reveals the iron mill’s callous victimization of workers, and as Phelps censures the textile industry’s abuse of mill girls, each writer highlights nondisabled heroines or narrators who prevail or even triumph. Their disabled sisters, however, stay on the narrative margins, degraded by oppressive institutions and ultimately sacrified to the social problems the novels assail. . . . While the various maternal benefactresses radiate a transcendent virtue, agency, and power, the disabled women become increasingly subjugated, despairing, and impotent.

Crushed by capitalism’s laissez-faire morality, Prue, Hagar, Deb, and Catty are icons of vulnerability who help generate a rhetoric of sympathy and scandal meant to propel readers from complacency to convictions. Despite their secondary or even minor parts in the actual narratives these disabled women fulfill major rhetorical roles by arousing the sympathetic indignation that activates benevolent maternalism. This impulse was the springboard from which white, middle class women could launch themselves into a prestigious, more influential public role that captured some of the elements of liberal selfhood. . . . . At the same time, however, these novels diminish the very figures for whom they plead by casting them outside the exclusive program of feminine liberal selfhood the narratives map. (emphasis mine)

I had to pause and let that resonate for a bit. Damn! SO TRUE. SO STILL TRUE. I mean in real life not in a novel.

Make me want to go read Arrogant Beggar by Anzia Yezierska all over again like a sort of brain-wash, just thinking what that mill girl novel is going to be like.

So, also, I spent some pleasant hours participating in CSAW Capture the Flag with Seattle Attic’s team. I would love to make it pan-feminist-hackerspace (as it more or less was with me and some others in it). It was super fun, I love puzzles, and felt stimulating! The team was 303rd out of 1300 entrants. Would do this again. I feel the impulse to go over all the puzzles to learn things.

I also fooled around putting the Hubble Deep Field onto online fabric designer stores (I am getting a swatch from Spoonflower and one from ArtofWhere, to compare) so that I can make space pillowcases for my friend Ron. (And maybe for me and everyone I know?) I did not color correct, figuring, try a swatch, if it is good enough, I don’t have to learn how. If it isn’t then it seems learnable. I would also like this nail polish as it is the best space toenail possibility I’ve seen yet!

Then I thought a little bit about RAID arrays and MPD and setting up a feminist media server and book scanner at the new hackerspace.

I thought of my friend Timmi and wished to convey all this to her and thought of writing her a giant letter but instead it is a blog post for anyone and everyone. I will write her a giant letter too at some other point.

I riffled through this feminist online library and thought about what I could do with a hopefully ethical as possible but not quite so limited by copyright law approach to documenting our history.

I had a nice conversation with Skud about Growstuff and development processes. Thought a bit about collective authorship, patterns and antipatterns. It would be neat to take Selena’s git story flash cards and make them into different orders for patterns and antipatterns like we were talking about.

I thought a bit more about sassaman but wanted to write this post instead of working on it.

Bedtime now! “There are some days when I think i’m going to die from an overdose of satisfaction.” Amelia mentioned this quote. We seem similar in temperament. I also write little quotes in the front of my notebooks! And I feel this way. Though I was unsettled, upset, in my usual level of pain (though, enbrel rush on Saturday, yay) and had a cold much of the weekend, I feel so grateful for my inner intellectual life and for all the fantastic people I have to talk with more or less any time. What amazing luck. Hypatia says it is funny that I describe mindfulness as “being smug”. I think of mindfullness as involving more meditation-like sitting still, which I’m incapable of without morphine. Some days I work, eat, clean up, hug everyone, read a little escapist fiction and go to bed. Those are good days even if I end up in tears (from pain usually). Danny and I have great conversations, I feel understood and he always has some new thought or source of interesting knowledge like a fabulous fountain of ideas. More than half of my days I think are like this last week and weekend, flitting from idea to idea, happy to be a dilettante, so happy to read quickly, and sure from past experience that my efforts will combine to make something good, a book, a group, a conversation or a chain of ideas that people remember and value, so that I feel like my time and effort doesn’t just slip away. (At best I accept and believe this; at worst I beat myself up for not being productive enough.)

I hug you all and leave you with this calming manatee. We can’t fix things quickly. What we have done and built, especially our friendships, social ties, and institutions, stand and have affected things. What we’re going to do will make change as well. It is happening, trust it and be comforted.

Calming manatee progress

Feminist hacker lounge at PyCon

PyCon gave non-profit booth space to The Ada Initiative and Mozilla for our Feminist Hacker Lounge and it turned out just awesome. Though it was only a 10×10 booth space lined with beanbags we met and hung out with lots of fantastic people. Lukas, Val, Mary and I roamed the exhibit halls, went to talks, and handed out stickers. We were right next to the PyLadies booth, across from CodeChix, and diagonally across from Women Who Code. So that made for good synergy. We also sent emissaries across the exhibit hall to trade stickers with the Lady Coders.

ada init booth

In the afternoon on Friday we had some larger discussions but mostly people just wanted to talk with each other in small groups. One of the things people said most often was how welcoming various Python communities had been to them and how comfortable they felt. That was great to hear.

We talked about hackerspaces and projects like Planeteria and whatever we have going in github and our jobs. We talked about stuff we want to do at AdaCamp in June. And Lukas and I got into some weird installer problems in trying to deploy bz-tools with stackato on paas.allizom.org. We told some horror stories and a lot of jokes. I painted my nails “VT100” green with “Tux” black stripes. At one point I watched two math nerds realize they shared a “pure math” background and saw them both get ecstatic expressions on their faces, scream, and hug… And obviously we all spent a lot of time just staring at our laptops while lying there on the floor.

ada initiative

One thing I talked about to people…. brainstorming ideas for a project that I thought of when I read harthur’s post after some code of hers got harshly criticized. (She has a followup post: Open Source Rocks which is also very good.) As I was thinking about students looking for open source projects to contribute too, I wondered if we could offer github projects owned by women to women — in a similar way to how Code Triage works. You could add your repo to the tool and then other women might browse through by language or in some other way, find it, and pick it to contribute to (perhaps getting a periodic email invitation with a bug to fix.)

This would be easier and slicker than many “mentoring”, even peer mentoring, match-up tools I have seen over the years.

(The obvious problem, of course, is that adding your repo to this tool may just get you threats, rude propostions, and nasty hate mail. But so does everything else that identifies us as female — and that just can’t stop us.)

I also spent some time talking with a very nice guy about his teenage daughter’s ventures into hackerdom. She has been doing electronics and robotics projects since she was in preschool. He recommended this amazing looking camp for gifted math students to girls and young women looking for their peers. They are Epsilon Camp for age 8 – 11, Math Path for middle school students, and Math Camp for high school.

It was great to be at PyCon and meet so many amazing people! I really appreciated that the PyCon organizers gave us some free passes which we gave out to some Feminist HackerHive women who would not otherwise have been able to go. Yay PyCon! And much thanks to Mozilla for providing the beanbags and portable whiteboard.

feminist hacker lounge

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

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.

Nixon in China: That is your cue!

Last night I saw the opera Nixon in China and was blown away completely by its complexity and beauty and most especially for how it spoke to me as a feminist. I adore Alice Goodman‘s libretto and like to picture her fervent research and immersion process! I took notes in my lap. Her poetry is fucking awesome. It’s subtle even when she’s basically punching you in the face. Also… in general, the staging from the San Francisco Opera was gorgeous! I could go see it again and be very happy! Read on for a synopsis. Buried somewhere in there will be my reaction to Jiang Qing’s part!

The opera opens with a group of grey-coated cadres waiting for Nixon’s plane to arrive. The plane is projected on screen through mist. As the group sings The Three Main Rules of Discipline and The Eight Points of Attention, gauzy curtains lift and the mist blows away; the people become more clear, strongly declaiming “The people are the heroes now”. It was very moving. A staircase rolls up, Nixon emerges, and there is a scene of rather dull greetings and handshakes prolonged for the crew of a giant old fashioned TV camera which is wheeled around during many scene (and which I loved as a reminder of the events’ conscious political theater). Everyone goes away. Pat Nixon is doing an awesome job of faculty-wifing in her bright red dress. (Her outfits were to die for the whole time…) Did she really wear red? I want to know! It is so significant! Nixon, in “News! News!” imagines his ideal audience, his patriotic vision of small town wholesome America doing stuff while the TV shows his actions on all channels and the blue glow pours out from the curtains to the lawns and streets beyond. He recaps his important handshakes, singing passionately about history and mystery.

News has a kind of mystery;
When I shook hands with Chou En-lai
On this bare field outside Peking
Just now, the whole world was listening.

Then he utterly freaks out, bad-tripping with the brilliant “The rats begin to chew the sheets!” bit where surly, scruffy reporters give him bad press. Oh noes! Nixon! Don’t get all paranoid now! The rats song is extremely catchy.

The scene changes to Mao’s living room where he is attended by a bunch of people, three secretaries who take notes on (& echo) his every word, and Zhou En-Lai. Kissinger and Nixon come in. Nixon totally fails to understand any of the cryptic things Mao says but tries to clumsily work in some references to Chinese culture and history. There is a brief interlude where Pat and Dick are in maybe her dressing room getting ready for the upcoming banquet. She gets in a lot of “yes, dear” but also her theme of “more snow before the spring” begins to develop. Then a fabulous operatic drinking song sequence set at a dull state banquet. There is a good interplay between Nixon and Pat as he sings “I was wrong” and she does a smug little 50’s wifely chortle. I loved the waiters coming in and out (and often stopping to listen to the speeches) and the use of the airplane jetway (modified) for the ridiculously tall podium. The scene and act end with people dancing on the tables. Gambei!! Cheers!!! I love a jolly drinking scene! I wished my son were there to see the choreography of the crowd!

In Act II Pat Nixon gets a lot of further development. She tours Beijing — gets a glass elephant, pets a pig, admires children at play. “It’s Christmas every day!”, she sings, and I thought “A lot of women got ECT trying to achieve your ideal womanhood, and failed”. Pat then happily suggests a picnic in a beautiful park. That last bit was one of my favorite moments of the opera as Pat admires the park (maybe meant to be the Summer Palace?) and the cadres with her fall silent. They react quite badly to her burbling; they describe the oppression that created that beauty. When they see this aesthetic landscape they see graves, starvation, torment. “It’s almost like you knew them” Pat falters. She doesn’t get it. She is sincere but terribly innocent & clueless. She doesn’t understand why they want to dwell on negative things, why they are harsh, upset, angry; why they are so steely. She doesn’t understand why their revolution needs defending, and that they are still in a war and for many good reasons. This scene had me wanting to stand up and cheer.

Pat Nixon sings a long solo aria about how this visit is prophetic. Or maybe it was the snow falling and then clearing. I loved this solo and thought the singer was amazing. A projection of her face was superimposed on a backdrop of waving U.S. flags; I was so grateful to be able to see the details of her perfect acting & emotion. I felt inspired with real respect for the real-world Pat Nixon and her wisdom, insight, delicacy.

Then we cut to a staged performance of Jiang Qing’s version of The Red Detachment of Women. I love that this opera shows her as fierce and uncompromising, shows her attraction rather than simplifying her as a villain. Anyway, we get this completely amazing Hating Tyranny ballet interlude in which a young beautiful peasant girl is being raped and beaten to death by tyrants and foreign oppressors. Very movingly danced. Suddenly Kissinger leaps up from the on-stage audience of diplomats and becomes one of the characters who is raping and whipping the girl (Ching-hua). Now while I am not sure what is going on there I liked that it was blurring the line of art and spectacle with participation in oppression and that the lines of real and play broke down. (Meanwhile I was having other meta-ish thoughts about how many stories I have read in which the real action took place during an opera but in the boxes of the important people… above our heads.) I thought during the first part of the ballet, of the ways in which revolutions including mine want to make art about the experience of oppression from the oppressed’s point of view. And how that is sneered at aesthetically by the dominant culture.

Then, from the stage-audience, Pat Nixon freaks out and tries to save Ching-hua, held back by Nixon. Oh, tender white woman’s tears! Then there was a point where the soldier guy ballet-marches up all sprightly and fresh to save her. I kept thinking, and then fiercely muttering, “Give her the gun. GIVE HER THE GUN. He’s NOT GOING TO GIVE HER THE GUN. Oh my god. FUCK. TAKE THE GUN” knowing that in these things I always mutter that — and she never gets the gun! Instead they dance a romantic little duet which made me want to spit in frustration! Oh! Take the gun, sister! Though I do love the happy-wheelbarrows-rah-rah elements in this bit and others.

Then this, Ching-hua’s song though i think it was sung by a chorus. I scribbled down the bit about the silent gun warms in my hand salving the wound made by man, and looked it up, so here:

It seems so strange
To take revenge
After so long
To find the wrong
Can be undone.
The silent gun
Warms in my hand
Salving the wound
Made by the men
It will gun down
All in good time
I shall kill them
Yes, every one
Revenge is mine.

Yeah!!! You can imagine that gave me shivers.

Now at this point my memory is jumbled as there was a scene of Jiang pressing the gun on Ching-hua (who is hanging out with the new crop of foreign oppressors now) and screaming THAT IS YOUR CUE, looking disappointed Ching-hua does not shoot. She is singing “THAT IS YOUR CUE!” to Ching-hua in frustration. I can’t remember if Jiang or Ching-hua finally shot the cringing rapist foreign oppressor (Kissinger in Mandarin costume). As I looked it up from previous stagings, they seemed quite different from what I remember! I think the San Francisco director did something very interesting! I’d like to see it again or in video. But for me it was amazing either way. Jiang stomping and strutting around so bravely and fiercely! Popping up in her handsome tailored suit like a projection from my own News! News! images of myself that I carry! I raise the weak above the strong! Okay, so, someone shot the rapist and then the Cultural Revolution was ballet danced while Jiang shakes her fist at the world and screams THE BOOK THE BOOK THE BOOK and I thought grim terrible self criticisms of my love of texts and the pitfalls of vengeance and power. (Muttering meanwhile, “Goddammit… fuck this… fuck The Book… Write my own fucking book…. “) Let me be a grain of sand! Every girl is a riot grrrl! Kill rock stars! Either way, it is a criticism of personal vengeance, which is so relevant to criticisms of Jiang… I would also like to say that when Jiang gave her the gun, I noticed a woman in front of me a few rows who had funny colored hair and was with someone my age with dreadlocks, cheered out loud and Danny says I did too. At the opera’s end the singer who played Jiang got a huge cheer from the women in the audience – it was very markedly us cheering her… Which was interesting.

I am the wife of Mao Tse-tung Who raised the weak above the strong When I appear the people hang
Upon my words, and for his sake
Whose wreaths are heavy round my neck
I speak according to the book.
When did the Chinese people last
Expose its daughters? At the breast
Of history I sucked and pissed,
Thoughtless and heartless, red and blind,
I cut my teeth upon the land
And when I walked my feet were bound
On revolution. Let me be
A grain of sand in heaven’s eye
and I shall taste eternal joy.

Food for thought there. I will continue thinking about what Alice Goodman meant in Jiang’s aria. I get that Jiang’s defense of herself at trial was that she was Mao’s dog executing his orders (or his book) But I think Goodman means more in a sort of simulteneity of ways Jiang may have seen herself and her works. As the opera is about a brief event, but stretches backwards and forwards in time and history and the future over an holistic geography; and also how its characters speak about particular things but with the librettist’s knowledge that the audience is listening in a particular way with their own knowledge — I think that much of this is about gender and women as well as Vietnam. That is to say that is what Goodman projects to be in the mind of the audience’s viewing. We don’t have to hear “Vietnam” (though we do, once) to know it is simmering in the audience’s mind as the characters sing about war and peace, as Nixon reminisces about his wartime near-death experiences and ecstasies. Best time of his life, war, but not the best time of the war right then or the war scarred listeners when the opera was written (and not in our minds either today.) Similiarly, Goodman is speaking through Pat Nixon and Jiang to the women in the audience in a way I rarely experience in any performed artwork. It was as if the opera passed the Bechdel test on some meta level. I found that satisfying yet tantalizing. Obviously the Bechdel-test-passing fanfic scene between Pat and Jiang with the secretaries in chorus still needs to be written.

I cannot remember where in the sequence of the opera there was the “burn the books” scene but it was when Nixon says (so awkwardly! so embarrassing!) “Confucius!” and Mao is like “NO!!!” and giant scrolls come down from the ceiling. We get a Koyanisqatsii sort of projectsion of bustling cityscape with neon and traffic projected onto those now-veiled scrolls which become skyscrapers as Mao speaks. I wished he (Mao) could see the present. I have also left out how much I enjoyed Nixon’s singing loudly and jovially about telecommunications satellites! That was beautiful.

About the music, I’m not the world’s biggest music critic, but I like it. A lot of bits remind me of Phillip Glass. Some of the songs are melodic and singable and catchy, while some wander around in the way opera dialogue often does. I had many moments of awe and wonder, thinking not only “this is what poetry is *for*” but also being in awe that what I was hearing was made of human voices. Truly amazing. I love the long contemplative arc of opera and the long thoughts I have during it.

During the third act the two couples reminisce about the trip and their lives in general. Pat gets in a lot more wifely Stepford agreements to Nixon’s rambling about the war with barbed intelligence behind it but some ambiguous bits on how when she read his letters she was doing her hair or cooking some chicken. I interpreted that as part commentary on her bougie-ness but partly her own frustration or criticism of being relegated to that realm of life, the domestic “trivialities” she rejects in Act Two, reading Dick’s letters from the Pacific Theatre. She seems touchingly aware of his PTSD, his being damaged by the war, in a way he isn’t able to know or articulate. Mao and Jiang talk over their lives interspersed with Pat and Dick, with the stage a pastiche of the events and scenes of the opera and their Chinese and U.S. landscapes, memory and present — present as in 1972 but I am pretty sure some of the projected scenes were of times afterward. Mao is tired. Jiang is still jumping around fiercely full of energy and sureness. He thinks the revolution is over and was for boys. (Boys!!) Jiang is like, “No! The revolution will not end!” Or maybe “must not end”. Both the Nixons’ and Mao and JIang’s interchanges are of failed communication. They completely fail to hear each other across gender, just as Mao and Nixon missed communication — and yet in both those situations, something happened and some relationship is possible.

Chou En-lai gets a great pensive monologue at the end. He has been stalking gravely about the stage during all the more florid action of the opera, thoughtful and alert. Now he emerges and steps forward as the future. He is the one who now will frame events. He frets and is a bit neurotic in a good way. How much of what we did was good? (A good companion question to the classic one of “What is to be done?” By having Chou ask this question for this visit as well as for all the events before and after it — we meaning all the characters in the play — Goodman is carefully asserting that SOME of what was done was good, is not buying into a total rejection of either the U.S.’s actions, China’s in general, or the Cultural Revolution. I appreciate that complexity.

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!