Mozilla Summit 2013: bugs, crafts, and fun

The Mozilla Summit in Toronto was a lot of fun. I met so many intense, idealistic, motivated open source contributors, it made me feel renewed energy for my own contribution.

On the first day I heard some of the keynotes but missed Mitchell Baker’s keynote on the Nature of Mozilla, which I’m going to watch today. People were talking about it through the rest of the conference, so I’m curious.

The talk I did was called Awesome Bugzilla Tricks and was a fairly short presentation of some tips for using Bugzilla.

As we went through these tips, the talk turned often into a good discussion of how people use these features of Bugzilla. We thought of a new way to implement Bugzilla tags to look more like browser bookmarks.

People talked about their own workflow as we went around the room describing what we do with! That is usually my favorite part of a workshop level technical discussion. It is like a series of sharing mini-demonstrations about actual working process, what we use and what we do and why. That is very illuminating. I realized in our discussion that I was talking with Kohei who made bzdeck, a tool that makes reading bug reports more like an email inbox. I had particularly wanted to meet him so was very happy he came to the talk and the discussion! 😀

Durng the talk I said something a little weird and abstract that was not in my slides, inspired by the discussion. Here it is…

As a literary critic I find it fascinating that it is a huge collection of textual information which we engage with as authors and readers. It is like the ultimate “difficult work”, like reading James Joyce except 900,000 times better and with a more interesting result. There is no way to make it easy to understand, even if you can make little pieces of it easier to use and learn, the underlying information and tasks are beautifully complex and demanding for anyone who engages with it, which means you can’t fail to learn something if you try.

Then, luckily, we went back to talking about practical things, features, dashboards, and workflow.

The other main activity I did at the Summit was to set up a big table with craft supplies. Based on an idea of Lukas Blakk’s, I set up beads, string, and charms shaped like ladybugs, dragonflies, bees, and beetles so that people could make necklaces, bracelets, and other wearable souvenirs. The beads had numbers and letters so that you could spell out the number of your favorite bug.

People did just that!

I loved seeing people think about what bug was their favorite or most important to them personally. Sometimes a first bug, or one that people were proud of fixing, or one with an important, complicated discussion. Several people told me that during the Summit, they looked up other people’s favorite bugs from the bug bracelets, and learned something interesting.

Bug 356038 was represented by number and by its Bugzilla alias, BCP47:


Rust and Github bug #5677, ‘Rustpkg “ready for use” metabug’ got some love:

Tim with Rust bracelet

Vu gave a shout out to bug 780076,

bug bracelets

And here is another bracelet featuring bug 808964,

Bug 808964 bracelet

For my own favorites I made three objects, one a wire necklace for bug 923590, “Pledge never to implement HTML5 DRM”, and a bracelet and a barette with my first patch because I was proud of submitting a patch. The EME or DRM issue was discussed very intensely on Sunday by many engineers. Feelings definitely ran high and people were determined to continue discussion. I was glad it got an official slot in the schedule for discussion and that there was widespread interest.

Favorite bug maker party

Bug 298619 was put onto a cell phone charm along with a blue and orange glass bead shaped like a beetle!


Many other people made Mozilla or MozReps necklaces, spelled out their names or their loved one’s names, with bug charms, or with wire, like this beautiful and creative copper wire creation:

copper wire necklace

And this Maker Party necklace!

Maker Party!

This resulted in “conference swag” was personal and made on the spot, worn and also given as presents! Many people commented that they felt soothed and comforted by hands-on activity in the middle of intense social interaction. I observed that people discussed what bugs or words to spell, how to design their objects, and what techniques to use, very collaboratively, so it was a nice physical representation of work and process.

Mozilla Summit crafts

After the first day, I left the craft station open 24 hours in the lounge, replenishing it with beads from West Queen Street on day 2 becasue we ran out of the letters Z and A, popular in spelling out “Bugzilla” and “Mozilla”. Of course this was because we were in Canada, where they use a lot of “eh”!

I would do this again at a conference, and now I know from experience what supplies are needed and which things are likely to be popular.

The other silly and fun part of the conference for me was wearing (and lending to people) the brainwave controlled robot fox ears! The looks on people’s faces, so priceless, as they realized the ears were really moving. Everyone who tried it laughed very hard!


robot ears

Thanks for a great and inspiring Summit, everybody!

Civic fictions at conferences

Because of the Amina and Paula Brooks controversies and my part in unraveling them, I spent the last few weeks talking with media and giving talks about online hoaxes, identity, sockpuppets, and astroturfing.

I did an impromptu lightning talk at Noisebridge‘s 5 Minutes of Fame, making my slides right there on the spot. That was a lot of fun — because of the informality of that crowd I was very frank and could have a (bitter) sense of humor about the whole thing.

At O’Reilly’s FooCamp, I gave the talk I had planned on How to Suppress Women’s Coding. But as the Amina story unfolded over the weekend of Foo Camp, I was talking with more and more people about what was going on and at some point actually had a bit of a nervous breakdown on Molly Holzschag and Willow Brugh because of the constant stress and uncertainty about how to proceed and what I was choosing to do. I added in a discussion session “Lesbian Sockpuppet Detective Story” to talk about online identities and think that it went fairly well. People had very good stories about how they detected and fought astroturfers and sockpuppets. Anyway, I could write a giant post for every conversation I had at FooCamp! And might do that — I have pages of notes.


Three things really stood out for me as themes of Foo Camp: Big (open) Data and Visualization; our collective imaginary picture of Oof Camp (the “bad guys” doing the opposite of Foo Camp, working to do things we would disapprove of or find deeply unethical) alongside an examination of what we do believe is right and “our” geek culture; and women in tech talking with each other in public about sexist patterns and strategies to deal with them, which isn’t new, but which seemed to me to be scaled up and comfortable beyond what I normally see at mixed-gender tech conferences. On the women in tech front I think Foo Camp and O’Reilly might be progressing, a sense I’ve had building slowly over the last few years. It seems glacial to me but still positive. In short, I didn’t feel tokenized, I felt respected and valuable, I made tons of great connections with women and men, there were lots and lots of women there kicking ass, I didn’t know all of them, and as an extra bonus, nothing creepy happened at all, at least to me. Huzzah!

Media Lab

After FooCamp, John Bracken gave me a last minute invite to the Knight Foundation/MIT Future of Civic Media conference. This was an absolutely fantastic conference. I loved the MIT Media Labs spaces and all the projects I heard about. Ethan Zuckerman led a panel called Civic Fictions, with Dan Sinker, me, and Andy Carvin. The audience questions and discussion went off in some fairly deep and interesting directions. Here’s a video of the panel with a link to a bare-bones summary. I’ll try to transcribe the entire thing soon.

Civic Fiction: MIT-Knight Civic Media Conference from Knight Foundation on Vimeo.

Dan Sinker talked about writing the @MayorEmanuel Twitter story: 40,000 words of satire in 2000 tweets. I later read the entire MayorEmanual saga which was hilarious & compelling. His analysis of identity and online media and history at the end of his talk blew me away which is part of why I want to transcribe the entire panel. Also, Dan absolutely rocks. We had a fun conversation about being unable to describe ourselves neatly or give any sort of elevator pitch to explain why we were interesting to the suits and … well you know.. the actually legitimate people. Dan has a long history of zine making as the founder of Punk Planet and has done countless fabulous things.

Ethan introduced the panel and told his own story of heading up Global Voices & having to determine whether people were “real” or not, including his doubts from years ago about the blogger Sleepless in Sudan and his relief at finally meeting her. I remember him bringing up Sleepless as an example of deep uncertainty in the discussion at my talk on online fictional personas at SXSWi in 2006.

I told some of the Amina/Paula story, my part in it, how I worked with other investigators, bloggers, and journalists to figure out and expose what was going on. In the discussion afterwards I was most happy with my answer to (I think) Waldo Jacquith‘s question about history and truth. I mentioned Songs of Bilitis partly because it’s the first thing that popped into my head. But it’s a good example of a historical literary hoax that was then actually used by lesbians as a name for the first lesbian rights organization in the U.S., the Daughters of Bilitis.

Andy Carvin then talked about his involvement with the Arab Spring and the Amina hoax in that context. When Amina was “kidnapped” by security police and her identity began to be questioned, all his Syrian contacts went silent for over a week. Andy’s thoughts were great to hear and I really enjoyed talking with him and respect his particular skills in Firehose Immersion.

At these sorts of talks we keep discussing ethics. Many people appear to *want* to do such projects, to tell compelling stories for a political purpose to mobilize particular audiences to have empathy & take action for marginalized people. Some people want to try it, or perhaps have already done it and want to hear that they didn’t do something wrong — or maybe just want to believe that something good came of the attention to bloggers in Syria that the Amina hoax brought. There is also a strong thread of “but… what about creativity and post modern identity?” running through the attempt to save something good out of all this.

It was a great conference and there was only one mildly ew-tastic drunk guy who I had to work to escape from (Larry, you gotta hold your liquor better, dude, and not talk about your junk like that to strange feminist ladies well-known for blogging everything.)

I came out of all these talks thinking that many more hoaxes and large-scale astroturfing situations are coming. Elections and political movements are going to be even more confusing. I think there is a field emerging for analysis of online identity, personas, authenticity, and so on — in fact perhaps an academic discipline which might best be part of journalism/new media schools. “Internet Sleuth” will become a profession that needs much better tools than we have now. As better “persona management” tools are built, we need better and easier to use tools to detect those personas — open source tools in the hands of everyone not just government and huge corporations.

I did think of a few great and inevitable ways that civic fictions could exist without being immediately offensive and appropriative. Here are two.

We could have fictional universe reporters intertwined with our own. Basically, crossover fanfic reporting in first person, crossing some media nexus of fiction, preferably a politically complicated one, with breaking news. Harry Potter, for example. If you had freaking Harry Potter, on location, or better yet several Potterverse characters reporting on breaking news, you would attract entirely new audiences to the news. It would provide ways in for young people to talk about politics and to think about politics in a context of stories they’ve thought a lot about. I mention Potterverse because it’s popular, but also because its story *is* politically complex as a story of child soldiers and armed resistance to dictatorship. Well, anyway, that could be horrible and disrespectful if done clumsily, but I think it *will happen* probably with TV show franchises.

We could have civic fictions that consciously and collaboratively explore a real situation. I thought of one for the town I live in, Redwood City. Redwood City has very strong ties with a specific town in southern Mexico, Aguililla. I’m not sure of the real numbers but I’ve read that 40% of the population of Aguillia has at some point lived in Redwood City in a migration, remittance, and return pattern that has lasted for at least 40 years. People could have *many* reasons for not wanting to tell their personal or family stories of migration and return. How interesting it would be to write a collaborative soap opera or epic stretching over time, twittering and blogging it in a network of friends and family (all fictionalized) perhaps bilingually in Spanish and English (or trilingually since not everyone in Michoacan has Spanish as their first language) to show some of the issues and drama in people’s lives — and perhaps to show the relations, friendships, and tensions between Aguillia emigrants and the other residents of Redwood City and Menlo Park. Good idea isn’t it? Maybe someone will take it and run — or do a similar project in their own home town. Keeping in mind firmly the principle of “Nothing about us without us“.

After I got back from Boston I said I’d do an Ignite talk for IgniteSF but then flaked at the last minute out of exhaustion.

Many people have asked me if I’m still investigating hoaxes and if I found more Fake Internet Lesbians. I did find a few including Becky Chandler the sassy libertarian post-modern feminist in short-shorts who wrote a book on how it’s great to spank your children, but other people have already debunked her and exposed her as a creepy porny p*d*phile spanking-fetishist dude, and looking at that whole case made me throw up my hands in complete disgust. Plus, I really had to get back to my real work projects.

I have to mention my employer’s awesomeness in all of this: As soon as the Amina thing started eating my life, I let my boss and co-workers know about it and BlogHer basically gave me permission to do all the media stuff, radio interviews, talk with reporters, go to the MIT conference, and continue the bloggy sleuthing I was doing and delay my Drupal development projects for a couple of weeks. They were very supportive! But now I am back in the saddle and mucking around with code again, which is VERY SOOTHING.

Coming up in August in San Diego at the BlogHer ’11 conference, which is basically 3000+ women who blog and are heavy social media users hanging out with their laptops, I’m going to be speaking on a panel called “Viral Explosion”, giving a Geek Bar workshop talk with Skye Kilaen on what to do if your blog is hacked or if you lose your data — basically on security and disaster recovery — and then one more talk on Internet Sleuthing on You Know What and You Know Who and the tools I used to track all of it (like Maltego, which I recommend you try), a private wiki, and good old index cards. I’ll post again about BlogHer ’11 and these talks and all the kick ass geekiness that happens at BlogHer conferences!

Dealing with Internet Drama in Feminist Discourse – SXSWi panel report

The Internet Drama in Feminist Discourse panel was led by Rachel (RMJ) from Deeply Problematic and Garland Grey from Tiger Beatdown.

woman with fist raised in woman's symbol

My notes are fairly sketchy. Many people in the room spoke up but I didn’t record everything and wasn’t sure of people’s names. The hashtag on Twitter was #femdrama, and from that tag I can see Natalia, caitlinrain, kaisersake, queenie_nyc, lzbellz. We went back and forth lot between talking about trolling or moderating obvious crap, vs. engaging in discourse between blogs as well as among commenters.

I talked a bunch in the middle of this panel, but forgot to mention that there is quite a lot about this topic and the idea of feminist “safe space” vs. Anonymous free speech in a book in 2009, The WisCon Chronicles: Carnival of Feminist SF. Section 3 of the book is all about Internet Drama, with contributions from Micole Sudberg, Cynthia Gonsalves, JJ Pionke, Hanne Blank, Vito Excalibur, my transcript of a panel called Can Internet Drama Change the World? with panelists Alexis Lothian, K. Tempest Bradford, Woodrow Hill, Julia Starkey, and K. Joyce Tsai. Debbie Notkin and I wrote a long essay about feminist culture class here, “Safe Space vs. LOLspace in the WisCon Trolling”. I think the participants push hard on the boundaries of what we expect from public discourse.

To start off the discussion, Rachel and Garland introduced themselves and mentioned their blogs and their experiences being suddenly embroiled in very intense and sometimes personal discussions online.

Rachel says drama can be useful and it can be possible to create drama for good or at least use it for good. Why would you start drama? What do we mean by it? How do you deal with people starting drama with you, in a responsible and ethical manner? How do you internally deal with the stress of it and take care of yourself while continuing on with your feminist activism?

Garland mentioned hashtag activism, like Tiger Beatdown’s #mooreandme campaign. He hopes we don’t start any new drama in this room today. If we mention recent feminist discourse online, great, but let’s not take sides on particular incidents. Rachel asks for our personal backgrounds or experience in this area.

A guy with big glasses talks a bit about a rock and roll bulletin board or mailing list he’s involved with and says drama arises over people deciding other people should be banned. Drama is splitting, divisive, and means people have to go off and make new forums.

Rachel responds that that’s how new communities formed. In answer to Rachel’s question about what drama means, I talked a bit about how the personal is political, we try to put feminisms into practice in daily life, we examine that in public discourse and it gets very intense.

Rachel talked about how criticism can be very personal and come in a barrage. It can carry the overwhelming message that we already get from society that our voices are worthless, it’s not worth continuing to put it out there. We have to separate the criticism we get that’s valid from that overwhelming societal message that we’re supposed to shut up.

Natalia talked about female leadership and the leaky pipeline. She was at a talk where Ruth Simmons was speaking; she was drained from being the token person speaking up, and Ruth said something about it being important for us to keep speaking up, because people who see us staying silent then think they’re not part of things either.

Garland talked about hostile actors, people who want to shut a conversation down or aren’t acting in good faith. Some people come in and are obvious name callers but it can also be stealthy, injecting ideas into a conversation that disintegrate it, undermine discourse, for example, the idea that “it’s just the the internet” and isn’t important. For instance Penny Arcade… (a bunch of people in the room laugh in response and talk about the dickwolves thing).

People talked about trolls and moderation and getting overwhelmed with comments. I mentioned and our comment policy. We also have filters for sensitive topics that bump comments right into moderation, like “too sensitive”.

The guy with glasses talked more about the women in Phish fandom board he’s part of. It was something like 90% women and 10% men. They started a women only forum. So excluding men was one option for improving the drama.

Teresa Van Deusen said it’s really bad when things immediately devolve into name calling. Someone talked about drama at SXSWi this year and how people in one context don’t think you might have other identities in the room. There is some poster about liking boobies and people don’t think about what that says. You can be a woman who likes women, and likes boobs, but still hates the ad and thinks it’s sexist.

Rachel talked about how drama is a really good way for some people to talk about intersectionality. People learn what language to use, how to quote people, how not to appropriate people’s words. At best it’s not a destructive cycle of anxiety where there’s drama. Someone else then talked about Amanda Marcotte whose work they admire, but she had given a speech that was appropriating things women of color had said, and then her response wasn’t good. We then talked about women of color and feminists of color being marginalized. Rachel mentioned that has plagued feminism since at least the 1800s, racism in feminism isn’t new with the Internet. Garland adds that we can screw up a lot faster now. There was some mention of intersectionality and privilege, cisgender, class, race, US-centrism, and other oppressions we fight as women.

Garland asked us to consider what we want from this discussion. What would make our day? Teresa responds that she already thinks the last 7 years or so of feminist discourse online has been amazing and beautiful.

Someone from Bitch Magazine says that when you’re feminist and blogging and unpaid and then get embroiled in drama it’s just difficult. There was more discussion of trolling, moderation, and swift banning. Rachel said that disallowing anonymous comments has been helpful for her to manage time. On her main blog she doesn’t get a ton of comments but when she writes for a bigger site the responses can be really bad. Emily May from Hollaback says at first they didn’t allow comments at all. Now they do. Michael from a small women’s college in Minnesota then talked about their online communities and I think Facebook, but my notes are incomplete.

Natalia talked about hashable and how mainstreaming feminist discourse can be important. She loves hashable and wanted to give constructive criticism of it.Their automated greeting is “Hi guys” which she criticised with the #languagematters tag. They responded fairly well, and then said “Well, it’s mostly not sexist”. Then they listened and changed the greeting to “hi there”. Rachel talked about discouraging and disallowing ablist language. Teresa said we need an app for that. The room buzzed a little about editing filters that would help alert us not to make common mistakes. It might be nice to have a WordPress plugin.

I talked some about how public discourse is documenting our consciousness raising. The riot grrrl movement isn’t well documented on the web. Maybe the web is going to make our history more obvious and accessible. Criticising other feminists is especially fraught because we are all vulnerable to the tools of misogyny, which can take us all down. Once the criticisms go mainstream, we all look bad, we’re catfighting, etc, but we have to do it and treat it as an important part of history. Very young girls are reading this stuff now, they get our history early, they are prepared. When I saw Style Rookie commenting around the feminist blogosphere it was great.

The band fan guy talked more but I did not get what he was trying to say. I totally wondered what his drama was though because he clearly had had at least one.

Someone else said please learn from feminism from past dramas. If criticized then think about it, think critically, don’t keep making the same mistake over and over, learn how to apologize, edit your posts.

Natalia: Women of color’s voices are silenced, people don’t htink about that by generalizing about this to be about white women, they’re not thinking of women of color. When we say how can we call people out in a constructive way, actually, what we need is not so much that as we need white people not to freak out when called out on their wording or on not including women of color.

There was a general “hear hear” throughout the room and a bunch of different women spoke up to say they agree.

I said some things about the tone argument and that anger isn’t a reason not to listen to someone and their point.

Someone else talked about giving way more validation and consideration to a harsh criticism when it came from a particular identity. Skye talked about that too but I missed the particular example. Garland says he can be rude and confrontational and that’s his personal style; if he feels like someone made a mistake and didn’t do it maliciously, he can be nicer, but intentions don’t matter in some ways.

An organizer from Girls Rock talked about watching teenage girls get harassed by boys, like on Facebook boys just going “girls suck” and the girls having to deal with that. How to help them in public spaces?

Rachel says, Think on how you will want to respond. What kinds of spaces are you creating? What do they have room for? What volume will there be?

People talk about when to stop engaging. What to do when people are asking over and over to be educated and you have to do feminism and racism 101 constantly. Dealing with derailing.

I said that we keep talking about intersectionality as our hotspot of feminist discourse rather than there being drama about any particular political position like abortion. As feminists talking in public we have to have a deflector shield of not listening to people telling us not to do it. Then it is all too easy misapply that shield to other feminists and allies and their critiques. We need not to dismiss criticism because it’s angry and there is a place for anger in public discourse between women and resolving it and working through it and anger doesn’t have to mean failure.

Someone talked about some Susan Faludi articles but I couldn’t hear…

Skye from Heroine Content talked about a post and comments from women of color about them being racist in their coverage of this action movie with jodie foster with a gun. She has a double standard of letting those comment through because she wants to hear those criticisms and also make them clear that they’re happening and what her response will be. (Rather than deleting a comment for being angry.) Rachel agrees and thinks it says it very well.

Someone else said we are not doing the oppression olympics with comparisons but feminism can lead people into anti racism.

Rachel says she feels it’s important to take criticism seriously when someone marginalized criticizes her privilege she looks at it straight away.

People talk about self care and it being stressful to be the person giving the criticisms . And it is important to take breaks, short or long, and look away, helpful to get away from situations for a while. Be with your friends.

Natalia talked about being uncomfortable with the analogy of stains on your record. We are human, it’s not a stain, it makes us more us, we all make mistakes and are growing.

Rachel: It’s still a mark, just because I messed up and now have grown, it doesn’t mean people have to start liking me again.

Natalia talks about the movie Switch and how she liked it a lot, then realized from online discussions that it was about violation and rape, and she felt like a bad feminist for liking the movie. She then held that self anger and disappointment, thought, let’s be with that, and how am I going to change and are we going to change? How can we become better? And not be reductive?

There was more discussion, but I don’t have the notes. The discussion successfully raised a lot of important points for people to think about, and I think established that many people in the room felt that drama, or at least heated discussion between feminists online, is important. There was some dwelling on how to react internally and in public as a person with privilege who is going to get criticized in public but also some good mention of the personal and political impact it takes on marginalized people to have to do the criticism so it was not all “tra la la learning experience”. I do think this discussion was harder to have in the environment of SXSWi than in a smaller and more feminism-focused conference, or at least harder to dive into the conversation intensely, in part because we didn’t know each other or who we were talking with other than the panelists. I would have wished for a brief introductions round for everyone in the room, but it was only a 1 hour panel so perhaps too short for that. I also would have gone for a bigger panel with more diversity among panelists. It made me really happy to get to hang out with Other Feminists on the Internet but in person!! I’m so glad we had this complicated conversation at SXSW and think it needs to keep happening. Thanks to Rachel, Garland, and all the other people in the room for showing up and kicking ass and taking inspiration from each other.

I feel I should point to existing discussions about feminism and online discourse but will need to do that in another post or later in a comment below. If anyone has suggestions or would like to point to a post round-up that already exists, please comment and link-drop!

Hovering around the edges of SXSW

Hello from Texas! I’m enjoying every second of driving around and talking and seeing things, post oaks, creeks, weird little sheds, retaining walls with junk and painted tiles cemented into them, I love south 1st and brightly painted mexican restaurants, I bought a bag of pastries to nosh on in our room, people were all walking around from party to party and show to show, Super Ranchito stores and odd warehouses that had blinky lights and something *going on*, an entire marching band dressed like bees, a girl in the back of a pedicab playing a tuba, infinite hipster nerds casually slopping back and forth from party to party down east 5th, just some general funkiness, grackles swooping and screeching all over the trees, all the orangey brick or limestone of the buildings, and the way there are lone stars or texas shapes on damn near everything!

Friday night I went out with Kris, who lived at 21st St. Co-op when I was first there in 1987 or so. She picked me up and took me to Bedpost Confessions, a fiction reading and sex-positive scene, with over a hundred people sitting there listening to the stories.

As we drove around I felt sad as the supersonic space simulator zoinking thing is no longer between Taos Co-op and Ken’s Donuts. It was a big metal i-beam. If you bonked it specially, it made the loveliest space noise. Alas, it’s gone!

The cab driver who took me to the car rental place told me about a time when he had cancer and had to panhandle on corners to raise $3000 to get cancer treatment at MD Anderson in Houston. He pointed out a location on Airport Blvd where he had bad luck. He ended up raising the money standing outside a Mexican grocery store on South 1st. In less than a month he’d raised the money. The cancer treatment saved him from having his arm amputated. He told a good story as we circled around through the neighborhood near the highway and 51st street. I wanted to tell him to tell that story to everyone, since it made me want to tip him high.

There was a 7 foot tall, very large dude in the car rental, getting a big old panel truck. I admired his amazing belt which was covered in big texas-shaped conchos with stars on them and looked well loved and cared for. He looked sheepish for a bit, hemming and hawing about “where he got the belt”. He put the conchos on himself with his tools, and 30 years ago, it was his horse’s saddle cinch. Wow, what a belt. I then felt AMAZINGLY happy driving off in the rental car. The powerrrrr!

It’s beautiful to have a car. Right now, I can walk a couple of blocks, but it hurts and is very exhausting. I can’t walk a couple of blocks, do something, and then walk back! While my wheelchair is great, the curb cuts are terrible in downtown Austin. Really terrible. The sidewalks are often made of bricks, interrupted by stairs and tree planters. The crowns of the roads – the bit where the road rises up in the center – are high, which means I have to go uphill twice every time I cross a street; once to get into the center of the roat, and a second time to get up the curb cut on the far side after I’ve gone downhill into the gutter. If not for the car I would feel a bit trapped here in the hotel. The downtown pedicabs seem like a great alternate option; I took one last night back to the hotel from Colorado and 4th with Danny holding my wheelchair in his lap. For a minute the pedicab cycler thought I meant to sit in the wheelchair and hang on behind his cab trailer. The look on his face was priceless.

On Friday I drove off the long way over the bridge that is east of I-35, on Pleasant Valley, to Skye’s house where we gossiped and worked super hard. It was really good to talk about all the things (work projects) where it’s so much easier to show each other directly and fix things right on the spot. It was productive!


We went to lunch aiming for El Mesón. It was closed at 2:30 though! So we ended up on South 1st. I had ceviche and bought some bags of pastries. Then… well, one of my totally stupid goals for this trip was to go to a store that has good Yelp reviews called New BROhemia which has vintage men’s shirts and especially guayaberas. I got a fabulous cream colored guayabera and another mexican shirt (not a guayabera but with a flower/vine pattern) that’s my dream shirt for being foppishly butch. You would have to see its delicate pattern of rosebuds. I couldn’t stop saying and thinking “New BROhemia” and then busting up laughing.

Danny and Tempest and I hung out for a while in the HIlton bar. We gossiped about writing and journalism and activism and Wikimedia Foundation and mobile phones and netbooks and politics and online things for hours. Just as Tempest hopped into a cab and we were leaving we saw Annalee and Charlie who were dragging us back to the bar for one more drink. But I had already decided to go take a bath and fall asleep. I didn’t put any talks this year but spoke at SXSWi in 2006, 2007, and 2009. I’m just along for the ride.

Yesterday I took it easy in the morning, then went with Tempest and Virginia to lunch in East Austin. Danny and I went to Pease Park for fossils, then to my old co-op to look around. I lived there for 5 years and love it dearly. Three people took us around on a tour, unlocking doors, explaining the current culture of the co-op and the subcultures of its different sub-buildings. There had been a party last night, so the common areas were trashed and smelled like beer. The kitchen and dining room were clean so I think it was just the aftermath of the party making things look a bit heinous! The computer room has been expanded into where the laundry used to be. The kitchen and pantries are re-organized, but startlingly the same even down to some of the same laminated signs from 20 years ago still up on the walls. I recall our kitchen manager from around 1988, Lillian, making the yellow laminated “Save Plates” sign that’s still up on the door of the kitchen. It’s very interesting to see how institutions and traditions evolve, what lasts and what changes.

One thing that was exactly the same about 21st St. Co-op; people gave me a tour in exactly the lovely way that we used to give tours to people 25 years ago. Happy to explain anything or unlock any door, with a sort of touching concern that you get the answers to your questions and the experience of the place that you wanted to get. There is also an openness about the place’s flaws and drawbacks. The guy who gave me a tour, whose name I forgot, and Marisa who very nicely took us to see the Rainbow Road mural in suite 1B, both invited us back to hang out and have a beer that evening, just stick around and hang out, or come back during the week for dinner. I notice the same culture of welcoming new people at Noisebridge, as strangers walk in, are shown around, and are invited to stay.

Last night after a rest in the afternoon I went to the Gawker/Gizmodo party. I stayed put in one place and talked with people up there on the outside patio of the Hangar Lounge. There was an elevator, hooray! People brought me lots of drinks with glowing ice cubes. I talked with Rebecca and some other people from the ACLU, with Eva and Julie from the EFF, with Annalee and Charlie, Gina Trapani, Turi from Demotix, Latoya from Racialicious, and tons of other people. I explained what BlogHer is a bunch of times, as usual at tech conferences; people still have the impression it’s a small non-profit!

Today I went to see HONK, which was like the best bits of a parade happening over and over. Over a dozen marching bands went down Cesar Chávez street. We ran into Adina and Sunir and Prentiss and David. The parade ended up at Pan American park, where the bands played one by one on stage. In between sets, people stood up from the lawn and started jamming spontaneously. Adina and I talked about wikis and wikimedia issues including ways citation and sourcing could be changed to work in a less elitist way.

Honk was so inspiring! While I wish I had an accordion or trombone or a trumpet and could play them, maybe a harmonica would be more realistic . . . very portable… lightweight . . . I could join a marching band playing the harmonica. Now I want Noisebridge to have its own half-human, half-robot marching band!

After the Honk parade we had lunch on South Congress, rested and worked a while at the hotel, and then I went back over to Travis Heights to my friend Marian’s house, looked at her books and talked with her and Reed and ate her delicious food. I know Marian from the ALTA literary translators’ conference. I gave her some tiny books from my small press (Burn This Press) including my translation of Mala piel. She gave me lots of book recs and copies of two of her translations – one of Oblomov (!) and the other, White on Black, a memoir by Ruben Gallego, a guy with cerebral palsy who grew up in Soviet state institutions.

After that, the Google/ACLU party where I met lots of great people. It was an 80s themed party. Just beforehand I had the idea to shave Cyndi Lauper checkerboard pattern in the side of my head with Danny’s beard trimmer. (It is easy enough to shave all of it off later.) Ran into Kaliya, Phoebe and some other Wikimedia people. We left pretty soon though. It was way too loud in there, and I couldn’t get upstairs. I felt like my ears were damaged for a couple of hours afterwards! Really loud!

We kept running into people in the street – Tassos, Schuyler, the new media people from London who used to be riot grrrls (and I’m sure still are) and the people from ITP/Singly, and Tara Hunt. We stopped by the League of Extraordinary Hackers event, which had gone past the hacking part and gotten to the part with screaming crowds surrounding an arena with lego robots, and as that was also too loud and crowded we lounged in the tail end of a steampunk room and then came home in an “uber pedicab”. I don’t know how anyone has the energy to go to the entire conference and go out afterwards and keep it up for the entire time of the film and music festival too! Or how anyone runs this huge sprawling complex of conferences!

BlogHer Community Keynote – Geeky!

Here’s my post for the BlogHer ’10 Community Keynote. I’m still backstage listening to the other great readings! What a rush to read for over 2000 amazing, writerly, geeky women! I’m all like OMG Double Rainbow It’s So Intense!

What Is Geek?

Today I was washing the flowered handkerchiefs my sister made me . When the hankies got wet in the sink I could feel all kinds of slimy mucus on there. I thought, what makes mucus do that? What’s going on, chemically? Is there a scale of measurement to describe snot’s ability to dry up and re-slime? Must look up viscosity!

Later that day I spent hours reading about soil science. That led me to giant government web sites, maps, explanations of whether the soil in my area was firm enough for tanks to cross, or soft enough for mass burials in pits. I absorbed the beautiful jargon of the taxonomy of soil.

Then I had this weird flash, like time travel, where I was mentally telling all this to this girl Susan I knew in middle school. I could see her very kind but skeptical smile. This imaginary Middle School Susan sighed and said I was SUCH a geek. She said I was “like a boy”.

Another moment popped into my head. At BlogHer 05, when Mena Trott from SixApart stood up and started babbling about knitting blogs. I kind of freaked out.

I was like, OMG, CNN is here! I thought you were going to represent, and be my computer programming coder rock star and instead….you’re talking about knitting! How embarrassing! We were finally getting noticed as women doing stuff on the web not just as blog writers but as deeply technical women and now… knitting?!!!

I tried to suspend my judgement, persuading myself, “Well, women DO knitting and, women talking to each other on the Internet is inherently good, so, I guess it’s good they find each other there and talk about what they like, which is this trivial, stereotypical, embarrassing, girly thing, it might as well be talking about Barbies and painting our nails.”

I could see Mena knew she was being misunderstood and that the media was going to mangle her message. As I thought about this over the years, I understood the dynamic of what was happening. I’m so sorry for my ignorance and my misogyny. I was SO WRONG.

Now I know that knitting a sock is this AMAZING thing — like building a suspension bridge, a feat of engineering, and is like code in that it is … code…. but made out of physical stuff…. Textile geeks have patterns that are code that convey technical information. They reverse engineer and re-invent marvellous things, knitting coral reefs and digestive systems and enormous protein molecules along with socks and sweaters. Now I’m a knitting groupie. I signed up on Ravelry just to swoon over the textile rock stars.

As I washed my snotty handkerchiefs I thought about boys in middle school. While my being a geek made me “like a boy”, being a geek, for boys, meant they were called girly or gay. Being weird meant that gender norms could be used against us. For geeks who were boys and then men, I think this influenced and still influences a defiant need to define geek as male. Geek macho insists on hetronormativity, defines girls as a thing apart, claiming geekiness for manhood.

I’m not a knitter. But I do have SOME skill with string. I can play cat’s cradle and make string figures. Like hand-clapping games and jumprope rhymes, string figures are passed from girl to girl over the years.

It strikes me we could learn something crucial, as geeky feminists, from the pattern of how young girls pass on this knowledge, and how that is presented as gendered knowledge – as something “girls know how to do”.

Single crochet is just making a loop with your fingers and thumb, tying the same sliding knot over and over. It teaches the skill of maintaining tension on a strand. It’s a useful skill to make a weak cord into a stronger, thicker one.

It’s what you pay attention to.
It’s a stance towards knowledge and doing.
It’s about communicating knowledge and process.

I learned everything I knew about string from other little girls. Though I didn’t realize it, that was my introduction into geek sisterhood. Teach your geekiness, and pass it on. It’s what girls know how to do.

(posted originally on Dreamwidth – this is the edited version to fit it in under 4 minutes)

OSCON fashion, Ignite, and beyond

I had a fabulous time at OSCON! In the spirit of my notes on the geek dress code, here’s an OSCON fashion report.

Glasses were definitely IN. Me and Mario G. spaced out for a long time wearing these Trip Glasses! Maybe that’s why we got into such deep conversation later in the corner of the Open Source Politics session.



Ingy döt Net models his 5 pairs of sunglasses. I’m not sure if this was a particular message about redundancy in code or if it was just one of those Ingy things.


Librarian Avenger Erica had the best shoes:


But seriously, OSCON. I had a good time and talked to a lot of smart interesting people. I hung out with Denise and Mark from Dreamwidth, with Skud, with my former co-workers from Socialtext – Casey, Ingy, and Lyssa – and with Oblomovka, Yoz, Greg Elin, and a super old school Perl monger named Dave, Emma Jane, Val. I appreciated everyone’s advice on consulting and on situations where one is expected to sort of provide the diversity. (Argh.) I went to all the expo hall booths talking with people and gathering up stickers to pass out at BlogHer’s Geek Lab later in the week. The only full sessions I went to were Akkana Peck’s Bug Fixing talk, which was really clear and good, and the open source politics panel.

Skud’s keynote Standing Out in the Crowd was great. I’m still kind of absorbing some of the reactions to it from O’Reilly Radar and from Linux World News. Women in any tech field, don your best armor before wading into those threads. My feeling is that it could have been a lot worse though and maybe we’ve reached a tipping point where enough people understand there’s some problems and have a clue what might be helpful. For me, one of the more depressing things that happens in this field is when women with about 100 times the status and skill level I have end up giving the (private) advice that while they agree with all this and still feel it, they think it is bad for one’s career to mention sexism or feminism ever. In this case, hurrah, that just didn’t happen (at least that I’m aware of.) However, I think it’s still the case that the vast majority of women I know in my field do feel the effects of misogyny and sexism and are often enraged by it in ways difficult to express. I would like to go further out on a limb here and say that the intersections of geek fandom culture and open source/tech people combined with the ongoing discussions of race, class, gender etc, like Racefail ’09 for example, have upped the level of awareness and of discourse and have really changed some people’s perspectives. Not that that translated into anyone in this discussion going “Hey, how about the rather low number of African American and Latino/a folks represented in open source at this conference and others in the U.S.?”


I enjoyed speaking at Ignite OSCON and hearing the amazing lightning talks.Selena Deckelmann‘s talk on the election in Nigeria was pretty great. As a Postgres expert she went to connect with a few IT guys in Nigeria who were scanning and analyzing the fingerprints on a large sample of ballots. Some huge percentage of them were duplicate fingerprints. After a long legal battle, Olusegun Mimiko was declared the legal winner of the election and the governor of Ondo state.

My own talk was a short version of the DIY for PWD talk I gave at ETech.

Here’s what I said, more or less:

Hi, I’m Liz Henry. Would you like a flying jetpack? I really, really would! To get them, we’re going to need to apply DIY and open source ideas & organization to hack accessibility – and the idea of disability.

My wheelchair is a machine, a tool to get my body from one place to another. I’d like for it to be easy — and possible — for me to fix and hack. Like a bike, or a car. It’s no more complex. I want root on my own mobility.

You can easily find information on how to fix a car. even though a car is like a giant polluting killing machine. There are books, tools, manuals available. The barriers to entry are low, so lots of people start car-fixing businesses.

You can find out how to fix a bike. There’s tons of information freely circulated to the public. There are 20 million bike riders in the US. There’s little independent bike shops everywhere. It’s an industry.

But how to fix a wheelchair. 55 million disabled people are NOT feeling lucky. It’s very hard to find information on how to fix a wheelchair. Or build one. How to sew your own seat back, build lightweight interchangeable parts. Nope!

Oddly, rather than being just a tool like a bike or a car, a wheelchair, walker, even a cane, is considered a MEDICAL DEVICE. Its invention, distribution, maintenance are under the control of powerful elites.

Why should you care? Well, because YOU will likely be disabled or have significant physical impairment for around 8 years of your life. That’s the average in industrialized countries. No amount of individual power changes the systemic problems disabled people face.

How can you avoid this fate? Dick Cheney, one of the most powerful people on the planet, threw out his back and ended up in the worst vehicle ever. 50 pounds of cold steel, it might as well be a wheelbarrow. You can’t get around in that. Bang, he’s lost his independent agency.

It’s not all about wheelchairs. As coders you might think about hand functionality, dexterity. People invent stuff to help with that. Most of that info’s in out of print books, and on a couple of personal blogs. Can vanish into the mist … like a geocities page…

Why should you care now? Until you need it, you don’t care. When you do need it, you’re busy. you’re poor. and you’re in pain. No telomere-fixing nanobot is going to save you from age and impairment. Impossible utopian nanobots are why we don’t HAVE jetpacks.

Why isn’t disability hacking more popular? Two big reasons. Attitude, and socio-economic factors. Bad attitudes are: Fear of mortality. Medical experts. Expectation of charity. Isolation. Lack of information sharing.

The second factor is systemic and socioeconomic. Your impaired body makes you disabled, so you fall under the control of the medical industrial complex. Your wheelchair repair manual or voice control hack might get you sued. Might violate copyright or a patent, might ruin someone’s profit.

At some point YOU will need assistive technology. And you will want to hack it. You’ll need a DIY attitude about access. You’ll really need open source information structures and communities. Big projects, and the ability to customize things.

Here’s some cool DIY hacks. Bicycle crutch holders made from PVC pipe. I can ride a bike, I just can’t walk too well. Soda bottle prosthetic arm: a bottle, a plaster cast, and a blowdryer: cheap but it works. Crutch pockets to help carry things when your hands are full.

Here’s a great project you could join. Tactile maps, a brilliant mashup for people with visual impairments. Email them an address, they print and snail mail you a raised print map. Software and hardware people are collaborating on this.

And another,, a brilliant collection of hacks with step by step instructions on building one-switch interfaces to electronic devices. Control with a finger or by puffs of air. Others: Whirlwind Wheelchair international, open prosthetics project.

People with disabilities need open source culture. But existing open source culture needs the physical inventiveness and software adaptations driven by necessity, made by people with disabilities. Everyone disabled has a cool hack or two. They *have* to. Pay attention to them.

In the future… Will you be a sad lonely person fumbling to epoxy tennis balls onto the feet of your totally World War II looking hospital walker ? The recipient of charity, pity, mass produced help, at the mercy of what elite “experts” think is good for you?

Or will you be hacking your burning man jetpack as part of a vibrant community that supports serendipity, free access to information, non hierarchical peer relationships, and a culture of invention?

What will our future be? A DIY approach to hacking ABILITY… will help everyone. We’ll invent cool shit! We’ll open sourceily collaborate our way out of nursing home prisons run by the evil medical industrial complex AND… the future will be awesome!


For a bit more burbling about OSCON and BlogHer ’09, see my post on From OSCON to BlogHer.

Geek Lab at BlogHer 09: Hold my hand please!

Can’t wait for BlogHer!

I’ll Be Geeking Out
I'll Be Geeking Out

Mostly I’ll be in the Geek Lab area, so look for me there and say hi!

Lately I’m having a little trouble with mobility even in my ultralight wheelchair, so I will be asking people for a push or a holding-hands tow, whenever I can! If you want to hold my hand, I’d be super happy! Just don’t pat me on the head or kick my tires.

Any time I’m loitering in the geek lab or the hallways, please feel free to ask me techie questions, about your blog setup, templates, code, web hosts, and so on. And, of course, about the ad network or BlogHer Publishing Network. I’ll be “on” as much as possible to be helpful to everyone at BlogHer 09! (Picture Lucy from Peanuts behind her advice booth: The coder is “in”.) Yes, I will get down and dirty and look at the back end of your blog, right now, if I possibly can! P.S. I really like chocolate.

Here’s my plan for BlogHer 09:


8am breakfast with Newbies
9 – 10 Welcome and icebreaker
10:30 Geek Lab! I will bounce between the CMS/Drupal session and the WordPress session.
11:45 Birds of a Feather lunch (which one! Feminist, LGBT, political)
1:15 Geek lab – probably the CSS or an advanced/CMS session – or just loitering
2:45 I will do a Geek Lab session on Dreamwidth, an open source project that forked the LiveJournal code. Want to become an open source developer working on a big project to make great social & blogging tools? Devs are mostly women and very welcoming to newbies.
4:15 Community Keynote (so good!)
ROOM SERVICE PARTY IN MY ROOM lying down exhausted. Are you a hermit? Do you need a rest? Come with me! This is where I weep gently in exhaustion before getting drinks.
6:30-8:30 Cocktail party
8:30 Sweeet & OUT loud – Queerosphere party at the Crimson Lounge in Hotel Sax
Then, more “room service party” for the Lizzard! ie, lying in bed in my room quietly communing with my beloved laptop!


8:30am Breakfast
10:45 Geek Lab – either the .htaccess stuff or loitering
12 noon – Lunch! BOF to be determined!
1:30 Geek Lab – definitely the PHP session. Yay phpwomen and oh, how I love function pages as a resource for learning. The examples and comments there are so good.

2:15 STUPID UNIX TRICKS or LOVE YOUR COMMAND LINE – I will give whirlwind tour of beginning Unix and then share some super useful tricks with awk and grep. Grep your log files!

3:00 NOT IN THE GEEK LAB – I’ll be in “Burning Questions about the BlogHer Publishing Network”. It’s my job!
5:00 Closing Keynote – Who We Will Become (I think this is where Eszter Hargittai is gonna talk and I’m totally her fangirl. Don’t miss it…)
6pm is another fabulous cocktail party which I’ll miss because… I’m going to…


The Windy City Rollers are playing on Saturday night, about a 10 minute cab ride away from the Sheraton Chicago, at 525 S Racine Avenue, doors open at 6pm, bout starts at 7pm. Buy a ticket and come with me and team member Ada Hatelace! I love how her team number is “1337”. Anyway, come and we’ll liveblog the roller derby!

Windy City Rollers links:

Facebook page

Derby Nerds!

Sunday: Brunch?? and I fly out from O’Hare at 1:30. See you!

Access Sex: panel at SexTech conference

The Access Sex panel on sex education, sexual health, and people with disabilities was just beautiful.

Panelists: Cory Silverberg (, Bethany Stevens (Morehouse School of Medicine), Liz Henry (BlogHer), Jen Cole (GimpGirl)

Cory Silverberg opened by asking some questions about who was in the audience. Our audience was full of public health workers and health/sex educators and providers.

Then Cory asked what people want from the panel. What do they need to know?
A: How to deal with school, staff, parents. They don’t think the kids are at risk. How to get education across? Special ed classes also have to educate to multiple levels at once.

We didn’t get a lot of other answers, but I felt like this was a great trick of moderation, a good way to start the panel; it helped me feel connected with the people we were speaking to.

Bethany, Jen, and I each talked for about 10 minutes each. Bethany spoke on models of disability, medical vs. sociopolitical. I spoke about disability and sex. Jen then talked about GimpGirl, a successful, long-lived online community for women with disabilities. We spent the rest of the hour and a half on audience questions and discussions. It was a very lively discussion!

We mentioned the guide for health care providers for disabled women a lot, and here is the link to it: Table Manners and Beyond: The Gynecological Exam for Women with Developmental Disabilities and Other Functional Limitations. Please read it!

Bethany’s lightning talk on disability politics

Bethany introduced herself. “My CV is big and throbbing. I released myself from the shackles of Power Point and recommend it to you.” Going to talk about different models of disability. Also, with some personal narrative, personal examples of what I mean about different theories. Speaking on an embodied level.

There are two models I want to outline. First, the medical model of disability. I recommend you move away from that. Don’t use it in your work. It posits that the problem of disability is on the individual rather than on society. Rather than addressing structural issues of oppression, architectural or social, look at as a social issue with social and political solutions. Medical model puts an onus on individual to normalize their bodies. It puts us in a constricting box of normalcy. The medical model leads us away from civil rights ideology. By pushing the idea of normalcy we create more problems than solutions.

Second, the social model – I want to create a model of the world I want to live in. Michael Oliver in Britain. The idea of impairment is separate from the idea of disability. Separating a functional issue or condition from the social ramifications of that imapirment. For example I have osteogenesis imperfecta or brittle bones. The embodiment of that is being deemed subhuman. That may seem like a dramatic statement, but it is true. We are treated inhumanely. Cory suggests we are the most under-served population for sexual health, education and rights.

Think about the social meanings of disability.

I encourage you in your work to denounce and deconstruct these concepts. It is the first step in creating this revolution of embodiment. By doing this in your work it is liberatory not just for people with disabilities but for all other people. 80% of people in the U.S. will deal with disability in their lives. We have increasing elderly populations. Create that revolution of consciousness starting with young people, teach them that embodiment exists on a spectrum. There is a mental health problem of losing ability.

1) We’re often treated as children. I am constantly, people bend down in my face and use baby talk, sing song voice, the disabled people in the crowd here are nodding, it’s egregious. I’m a lawyer, shut up and treat me like a human. As I’m aging and becoming more mature, I realize that’s maybe not the best response. This issue is a bad one.

2) We are perceived as dependent, always needing help, we’re helpless. These things intertwine. Example, when I’m sitting anywhere, recently I was sitting texting someone in front of a building and two people in a row stopped to ask if I needed help. I didn’t look helpless or perplexed non-verbally or make any eye contact. But, of course on the other hand, there is something beautiful about that we sometimes need help, we are interdependent. There is beauty in helping each other.

3) Sexuality: it is very pertinent. Pivotal to my life path. Disability and sex focus. The common notion that we are asexual and undesirable. This is a pervasive assumption in all aspects of culture. It is very politically disempowering. We need to be allies with queer people and people of color. This is a tool of oppression, sexuality; stigamatizing our sexuality is a form of dehumanization. It means we are regarded as nonhumans. This legitimizes all sorts of abuse, exclusion, and exploitation. PWD have at least a 2 times higher rate of experiencing sexual abuse than the non-disabled. For example many are abused by caregivers. You might have a choice. Have a care giver? Get a bath plus sexual abuse? Or, not have care, and turn our abuser in? The stereotype of asexuality exists. Sexual silence. It’s about anxiety-producing issues; disability and sexuality are both anxiety producing. Exclusion from media representation. Not including PWD in teaching materials. Public health intervention plans don’t include us. Think about culture beyond race and ethnicity. Beyond the glbtq axis.

Interweaving some of my narrative. As a young person I was born this way, nowhere was disability mentioned in any classroom space at all. No matter the subject. Maybe in the Holocaust’s history but not really. Certainly not in sex ed. The stereotype was that we were asexual and undesirable. I was using dialup internet so I was trying to find info on sexuality on the internet, when I was 16 or so. There is not a lot of information. Dr. Tepper, Sexual health network is inclusive, has disability info online. Practical methods. Cory has a sex shop in Canada: Come as you are, that has a disability section. How do you make sex toys accessible. Just mentioning this counters the stereotypes. Gaps have been filled a little bit. Have information about specifically disability and sex, but mention disability in everything – in basic sex ed.

Cory – There are sex toys that strap on to you and you don’t have to use your hands. We train our people to say, “This is so you don’t have to use your hands, if you don’t want to, or for people who can’t hold the sex toy.” If you say that to a non disabled customer they say, “What do you mean?” and it becomes an educational moment with just those three words “or who can’t”.

That’s a cheap revolution!

Three ideas how to include disabilities in your work. Have it represented, outreach to young people. Figure out where they are. Are they getting sex ed? What are their needs? Talk to stakeholders. We are providing you that space right now, you can ask us those questions. You can tailor your message in a way that’s competent and not offensive. In public health you can’t just tweak your program a tiny bit and not alienate the culture you’re trying to serve. As much as I hate the word “normal”, make people more comfortable with disability, make it normalized. Put in a wheelchair in your visu
al images.

Liz’s talk on sex, disability, and sex ed
Then, I gave my bit of the talk, which is basically outlined in these notes. Some bits of my talk are missing because I improvised and told stories. (“Whiskey, Vicodin, and hold me when I cry” was the money quote…) Some bits in my outline I didn’t go into in the talk.

Then, Jen Cole gave her part of the talk and described GimpGirl. She worked from a written speech which maybe she’ll put up on the site and if so, I’ll link to it. Here’s my notes on what she said, a bit shorter than my notes on Bethany’s talk.

Jen’s talk on GimpGirl

– We were young queer women with disabilities and started our group online 11 years ago. We met through the “do it” program at U of Washington, and all felt isolated. We’re not trained professionals. We’re just women with disabilities who care about our communities. No degrees or certifications. We make our community what we want it.

GimpGirl has meetings weekly, about a hodgepodge of topics: political advocacy, support group, staff meeting. We all come up with projects and start going on them.

– We generally have a smart sassy geeky spirit in common.

– We started on Serenity MOO, kind of like a MUD. We had email lists. Moved to LJ in 2003. It is easier to maintain than mailing lists. Young women, queer women, art and culture. We branched out into Second life, Facebook, and Twitter in 2008.

– 850 people, 265 members on LJ. From all over the world. This last year, we were donated a fourth of a SIM on 2nd life. 3d embodiment. Connecting people with disabilities to 2nd life. Second Life brought a huge wave of growth to our community. It brought opportunities we didn’t know we were going to go after. Started to bring in financial support. Professionals in a myriad of different fields wanted to be part of our community. Women, disability communities hooked up with us.

– Recently we tried bringing in partners of PWD to talk with us about sexuality and whatever comes up in relationships.

– Problem with Second life, it’s not very accessible to a large population. Some people can’t access, older computers, limited finances, blind, visual processing issues, we also have an IRC channel with a live relay that goes back and forth between 2nd life and IRC, so people with visual impairments can participate.

– Examples of what our community is about. Partners meeting. The next day the girls were like “how did it go!” and they were just super curious. We realized that they wanted to do a singles meeting about sexuality. That was cool to me as an organizer to see women do that.

– Our community isn’t about sexuality specifically. For 11 years, it comes up a lot in discussion and story telling. We have a lot of Q and A within our own community.

– specific and general information.

– accessible gynecologist list. Who people think is good and bad. Are their offices accessible? What parts are accessible and what parts aren’t? Are they treated like human beings? Can they get on the exam tables? This info is on our wiki at

We then went into audience comments and discussion.

q: panel idea great. I work for a hotline program in Massachusetts, sexual health, All info thru lenses of characters. Accurate information. How can we make sure community is well represented in all our characters? I was a PCA for a while, the woman I worked for had awful experience with exams, being lifted up, put on a table. ER with capabilites? How do we know where to send someone?

Bethany – first question. Going to the stakeholders. Reading books is great, you learn about the sexual politics of disability. Tom Shakespeare et al. But talking to people is good. It is your responsibility to be culturally competent in your area. Find a group. So it’s not based on stereotypes and uses contemporary language. That’s inclusive. For example, we’ve moved away from the word “handicapped”, so it would be a bad idea to use that word.

(Dr. Sandra Welder. Peg Nosick from Texas. Curriculum for health providers. CROWD: Center for Research on Women with Disabilities. )

Second life and IRC questions.

Information on safer sex practices for people with disabilities?

– not a lot out there. sexy harm reduction. Put on a condom with your mouth.
– Liz: this is a good subject for brainstorming.
– There is good information about safer sex for people with cognitive disabilities.

Resources on developmentally disabled.
Cory – there’s lots of stuff. This is the one area that has a ton of stuff out there.
(I agree, it was a topic easy to find material by googling!)
Terri Couwenhoven. Downs Syndrome is in the title of the book. Teaching Children with Downs Syndrome About Their Bodies, Boundaries, And Sexuality: A Guide For Parents And Professionals.)

The Ultimate Guide to Sex and Disability. Excellent guide! Cory started that project.

Technology. As a blogger – Is the blog medium effective for getting across a message?
Liz: Yes! Twitter and Facebook also. Blogs mean you can speak at length, and the information is persistent. And it is current. Personal voice. Story telling is effective. Age brackets – MySpace/Facebook, LJ, etc Look at the disability blog carnivals, and Ouch (BBC’s disability site and group blog).

Who’s google different topics.

50% of population with disabilities doesn’t have access to sex ed.

Title 10 clinics in California. We invested money into that, into access, and there still is not a large number of women being served. Where do we find women who need the services? how can I help facilitate the connection? We want women with disabilities to be on our advisory boards or boards of directors (but can’t find any)

A: Mailing lists. Blogs. Contact existing organizations. There are a lot. (Independent living centers too but I forgot to say that.)

A: Bethany adds (again) not to expect people with disabilities to work for you for free and be grateful for the opportunity.

Competencies – tragic stories, clinic with restroom wheelchair access, the contractor build a hallway too narrow to get to it.

People who might be on the board? The bay area is one of largest populations. So you should be able to find someone.
– berkeley disabled group. has a mailing list.
– Ed Roberts Campus groups
– Etc!!

Bethany – Working at Morehouse school of medicine. General advice to read about it first before they ask the questions.

Guy in hat. 2nd year medical student at ucsd in reproductive health. san diego. noticed that youth grow up, teen years, development and growing. It is a huge transition and growing. Doctors, children transition from seeing a pediatrician to adult medicine. Pediatricians are family focused. Adult medicine focuses on disease and a person. That change is really important, causes stress on a patient.

Bethany mentions Dr. mirian kaufman. transition care, sexuality and disability.

jen – this was what our non profit was about, transition between your family and family helping with things and transitioning to adulthood. you’re thrust out there into nothing. not a lot of support for how to transition. how to move out on your own? attendant care a
nd health care.

We talk about people’s fear of giving PWD responsibility over their own health care.

Parents, caregivers, that want to protect that person with disability from becoming an adult, from experiencing their sexuality. it’s a huge issue.

The guy in the hat continues talking a couple of times about transition. Introduce physician early in teenage years. He is kind of repeating himself.

Bethany: This question as it keeps going is irritating to me. We continue to be viewed by that medical lens. Sure it’s important. But doctors do not dominate my life. We all deal with a transition plan. There should be services that help us because we do have to engage with the medical profession. However, that’s the one field where i’m NOT excluded! They want me there! Everywhere else I need some support! Medical expertise is just one facet.

Q: Physical accessiblity. I never see anyone who is disabled. Emotionally accessible. And, how can it be a safe space?

A: think of the glbt community , queer youth, tendency that we bring youth into our center, but we need to go outside our center to where they are, we need to bring community to them.

A: something like putting up a rainbow, disabled symbol?

A: In trans health – service providers often think they have never seen a trans person. But they probably have.

A: In questionnaires at our clinic, we haven’t had anyone who identifies with that population, as disabled.

aud – I have disability but can hide it. If I’m asked I don’t check that box. I don’t want to be seen through that lens necessarily and set off whatever will happen when I check that box.

aud: – thanks for talking about desire and sexuality as positive rather than something dangerous to be controlled. A lot of the panels this conference have been sex negative.

Other guy – curious about second life. Embodiment. How can you be embodied? Do you have to be able bodied?

A: Yes and no. The range of body types is not that varied. But people built wheelchairs and animations and other mods. If you go around in the mainstream world of 2nd life people will ask you a lot of questions about why you are in a wheelchair and why you would choose to represent yourself that way. They can be harassing or hostile.

Bethany: Everybody can fuck! It doesn’t matter what your body can do. We can have sex in all sorts of fun ways. Sex machines! Assistive devices! Expand the idea of pleasure and sexuality.

Now, about being inspirational! I should inspire you to have sex. If I can do it? You can do it!

(End of Panel)

I would like to add that despite our comments during the panel that you might want to pay people with disabilities to consult rather than expecting them to jump at the opportunity to work for you for free, three people approached me and asked me to do free work after this panel. They mean well and I respect that they want to be inclusive. I was not harsh about this in person, but actually, I feel a bit harsh on the subject. Some lady making like 90K a year working in public health? If her institute can’t afford to pay a consultant she can pay me or someone else with disabilities out of her own pocket to help her learn to do her job. I have a full time job and a complicated family life and I’m editing a book and, like, 6 blogs. It is a bit like, when women point out that technical conferences don’t have child care and then the conference organizers ask them to do the child care. Hello, if I’m doing the child care (for free no less) I won’t be participating in the technical conference will I? Pay for it, folks. Don’t exploit people because to you they look like the most exploitable people around.

Thanks to Cory Silverberg and Jen Cole for inviting me onto this panel! I confess I was sort of suspicious of Cory at first but he turned out more and more awesome over email and then incredibly awesome in person, I was sorry not to get to spend more time with him (and Bethany who I now adore). Jen and her partner and I went out to dinner and had a nice time; it was great to finally meet Jen who I have known online for a couple of years. I have to say also, SexTech was not a huge conference, maybe 300 to 500 people? But at this conference, in one afternoon, I saw and spoke with at least 8 people who were wheelchair users. At SXSW which was something like 5,000 or maybe way more people, there were 4 people in wheelchairs (more than I saw last time, and it felt amazing to me, but look what Sex Tech can do – I would like to challenge SXSWi to increase its outreach and invite more PWD to its conference.)

Sex:Tech talk on Sex and Disability (Access Sex)

Here are my notes for a panel on Sex and Disability coming up this afternoon at Sex:Tech 2009 in San Francisco. It’s a conference for health workers and sex educators. I’ll post my report on the conference and the panel later this week, but here’s what I’d like to cover today.

What should you know about people with disabilities (PWD) as a health worker or sex educator?
– Don’t assume what people can or can’t do (or feel)
– Don’t assume what people need
– Avoid constantly medicalizing disabled people’s bodies or experiences
– Watch your gender/sexuality stereotypes
– ASK what people want or need
– OFFER resources
– CONNECT the person with other people with disabilities
– Follow up actively

Charity models of giving help to PWD often can be pitying, condescending, paternalistic. Offering the wrong kind of help.

Self determination is key!

Consider your own level of discomfort with disability. Educate yourself. Read some blogs that are by disabled people where they speak about their own experiences, unmediated. Don’t just read how-to-talk-to-disabled people booklets, though they can be useful. For example, the long-running Disability Blog Carnival run by the Disability Studies Dept. at Temple University has a special issue on sex and disability.

Kids, teenagers, adults all need access to sexual information and health care. Different disabilities: mobility issues, deaf, visual impairments, intellectual/learning disabled, autism, Downs

– developing sexuality, gender identity
– Kids with disabilities need access to the same sex ed their peers are getting
– Language to describe gender, genitals, puberty, sex
– Masturbation, appropriate privacy
– Safety and self-advocacy
– Kids with disabilities 4-10 times more likely to be sexually abused
– Put sex ed into a child’s IEP (Individual Education Plan)

– All of the above.
– Contraception, pregnancy, masturbation
– STD info and safer sex info
– GYN care
– Body image
– Relationships and dating
– Sexual satisfaction
– Self advocacy. Role playing workshops (anti-date rape, self defense)
– Privacy
– Independence and self determination
– Unsupervised time with peers
– Drug/drinking use likely good to discuss
– Internet access likely empowering. Privacy/net access info!
– Warn/educate about fetishists and devotees especially online
– Educate family, PCAs, carers

– All of the above!
– Independent living
– OB/GYN care. Accessible gyn care, offices, tables
– Discussion/support groups online or offline
– Sexual assists, mobility aids, sex toys, pillows, benches

How to have sex with a disabled person? Good question. Same as with anyone else but these issues may come up: difficulty communicating, limited mobility, fatigue, pain, or lack of sensation. Communication and consent are key. As with safer sex education, de-emphasize the importance of sponteneity. Verbal or non verbal subtleties of consent and desire.

Safe spaces online. They can be difficult to create and maintain. They shouldl be moderated to keep out fetishists if that is a goal, and to keep out hostile and mocking comments or posts. Registration is useful. Protect your users’ anonymity carefully!

Example – my difficulties with the wheelchair Flickr group. Fetishists intrude at least once a day though they are specifically discouraged. How to discuss sex online without being commodified and made non consensually into someone else’s porn?

A good quote from Laura Hershey from Crip Commentary:

The health rights, sexual rights, and reproductive rights of women with disabilities are part of two large, multifaceted movements: the disability-rights movement and the feminist movement. Both movements, at times, fail to recognize these as essential human rights issues. Both have yet to make disabled women’s access to health care, disabled women’s sexual self-determination, and disabled women’s reproductive freedoms high priorities on their agendas.

A few useful resources:

* Special Ed Law Blogs
* Crip Commentary by Laura Hershey
* Free downloadable booklets, very good, for kids and parents:
Growing Up, Sex and Relationships
* More than Ramps: A guide to improving health care quality and access for people with disabilities

SXSWi: Fighting online misogyny panel

Thank you!!! times a hundred to Nalo Hopkinson who just now took my rough live transcript and cleaned it up and emailed it back to me so I could post it. Thank you Nalo! You rock so hard.


That’s Not My Name: Beating Down Misogyny Online

Panelists: Cecily Walker (, Ann Friedman (Feministing), Amanda Marcotte (, Samhita Mukhopadhyay (Feministing)

Cecily Walker: How do you think that new media and Internet technology, new tools, feminists can use these new media tools? Boosting feminist activism?

Samhita Mukhopadhyay: All of us have a tremendous amount of expertise using online tech. women’s community, grass root organizing community, new tools, support work happening on the ground. Strategic media campaigns, budding networks, social media to support our justice-minded goals. We use tools, though, that tend to represent the same stuff we’re fighting; tools produced in environments highly volatile for feminist voices. 50/50 good, problematic. Opportunity, brought up new issues.

Amanda Marcotte: Promise of blogging world many years ago, we could divorce ourselves from identity and just be pure voices, as the online and offline world merged into one. But you can’t communicate about your ideas without bringing your identity along. Pluses and minuses.

Ann Friedman: Divorcing identity is not a useful way to do activism. we don’t actually want to live out whatever early Internet ideal enables us to not have an identity, that hampers our activist goals.

Cecily: I wasn’t finding many black female queer voices online, it was important to me to blog under my own identity. given our circumstances today, how important is it to you to blog under you own identity.?

Amanda: I started blogging under my own id without really thinking of it, it didn’t seem to be a big deal. in retrospect it was good and it sets a good example if you can. a lot of women who are afraid to , the more of us who can do it, the less threatening it is for others.

Samhita: when i started we were excited if we got comments on a post. then 2 years into it we started getting threats. you then realize the threats mostly don’t translate to real live experiences. I also think for women online it’s an important statement to make. you’ll notice a lot of men have a blog under their own name. women tend to be in group blogs or under a different sort of brand name. So it’s important for your future to use your real name.

Friedman: women in the political blog world as pseudonymous and I’m thinking of Digby. But it’s not always a great idea to blog under your own name. It’s fraught. There’s a certain amount of privilege and risk you assume. Not all of us even thought about it. we didn’t consider the implications. Concrete advantages, consider Digby, they didn’t know she was a woman, so they didn’t pigeonhole her. ‘This is just a women’s issue’, etc. We can try to keep a voice but transcend some of those boxes.

Cecily: What are some of the key repercussions of online threats that moved into offline space? Paint us a picture of what that looks like.

Amanda: Not the John Edwards campaign. *laughter* I started off on a smaller blogspot blog. Was invited to join Pandagon by Jesse Taylor. there weren’t many high traffic liberal blogs that had any women at all. I honestly think my entrance on to the a list was a profound thing for many of the male commenter, mind you right wing male commenters who felt this was a boys’ club. It turned ugly really fast. Publishing my address, telling people to show up at my house and do violent sexual things to me. Calling my work and trying to get me fired. Nobody in the liberal blogosphere that i turned to had any experience whatsoever with this kind of thing and they didn’t believe it at first. he’d experienced viciousness and racism from commenters but he’d never seen anything cruel and violent as was directed at me. We had free comments, we had to turn that off and turn on registration for comments. I don’t know how serious the threats are but i have to assume they’re pretty serious if they’ve found out where i worked and called my boss.

Ann – Feministing has an appointed FBI agent where we send our threats. It’s that bad. Political blogging … I’d say that, we don’t control the space for (tapped?) as much as we do on Feministing. so it’s a more sexist space and a less feminist space. undoubtedly in terms of the private mail we get, via Feministing, that’s way worse. we can control the comments but not the private email.

Samhita: some of the worst misogyny I’ve experienced is on other blogs. this isn’t about how we feel threatened but about how it affects the community. we’ve been chastised a lot for not moderating every comment and not providing a safe enough space online for our readers. it’s not about protecting our own identity and feeling threatened but about how it makes our community feel. if you’re someone who’s experienced violent misogyny in your life there’s a moment of violence and violation that happens that makes you feel unsafe. we have to be clear about creating boundaries so our community can feel safe.

Ann: there’s a chilling effect when one woman, one person of color or queer person , is a target, then others are deterred from speaking in quite so open a manner. so the power structure online, that mirrors the real world…

Amanda: listening to auto admit case, on NPR, it’s a case law blog targeted very randomly two law students, two women. one man posted something about one of the women who had turned him down to go on a date. another woman got looped in. it got to the point of stds, slept with everyone, posted photos of them in their daily life with lurid rape fantasies, I’m sitting behind her in class, she’s at the gym right now, The defenders of the auto admit blog were going on about free speech. Can’t you understand that women also have the right to free speech and if you’re using yours to silence her then you’re not for free speech?

Cecily – at the library. heavily gendered space, 90% female environment. if we contribute to the web sites, we have to use our full names, our names on badges, one unsafe thing about a library you are in a female controlled space, you are in a culture that is heavily invested in keeping your individual name safe, but now that’s not true. i have to get people to feel more comfortable posting on the Internet, but it’s not going well, people don’t feel safe doing that, we get crank calls, complaints, we try to showcase all political viewpoints. spaces you might not define as feminist, we’re feeling some heavy pushback from the staff. how are we going to roll this process out?

Cecily: why is it important to look at gender and how it plays out online?


Samhita: we want to keep this panel to what it means to be feminist online. But because of these highly volatile experiences we’ve had it…. we’ve had different experiences online, male blogers don’t have that same thing. there’s never been a question, when i say something a little controversial, it’s not about the issues, it’s about whether i should have said something in the first place, you internalize that belief you constantly have to prove yourself.
A lot of our readers have experienced sexual violence and want to share those stories but don’t feel that they can. You have to make a lot of different negotiations to feel comfortable in it

Ann – women’s writing, the dynamics. One thing i do for myself is go through everything i write and strip out all the i thinks and i believes. because I’m writing it duh it’s what i think. writing more authoritatively. if y
ou’re going to pick me apart for this i might as well say it right out. Or, you can add 50 million caveats and end up not saying anything and not offending anyone. the Internet constantly needs to be fed. the evolution of women’s writing online, if i look at things i wrote in 2004, that’s largely in response to being hardened by this sort of stuff.

Amanda: i tend to say things very authoritatively and that’s always been a very hard things for me and many men who have multi year grudges against me. I’ve got into the habit of qualifying and adding the i think in.

Ann: but that doesn’t stop it. that’s not going to stop you from getting slammed on some blog full of dudes who hate you already!

Amanda: when i taught writing i would circle them in girls’ writing and tell them to take it out. it was always girls.

Cecily: lessons you’ve learned?

Samhita: Uh, that I’m a masochist

Cecily: I think you might have to unbox that one for us? lol

Samhita: yeah I’ll “unpack” that. ha. The content of what I’m writing and who i am writing it, it’s twofold . at least once a month i want to throw in the towel

Cecily: what keeps you from doing it?

Samhita: masochism? ha ha. It’s telling me that the level of importance of what we’re doing, for every piece of hate mail i get i get something else from Idaho saying they’ve never read something about sexism and racism and it’s changed their life in some . It’s not just for my own voice but it’s part of a movement of online feminism that we’re a movement and moving forward. Online solutions and best practices and you have to not care any more. you have to divorce yourself from caring about what people say about you, you have to go “well, you have 1/4 the readership lol” not the most humble way to think about it, but hey it helps me feel better. plus if I’m pissing off people who i wouldn’t like in real life,

Ann: 6 of us who write on Feministing and we can all each other up and go “i know people say mean shit all the time but this one really got to me!” and we all know how it feels. sometimes you have to decide what is a good public fight to have, vs. “you just want to call me ugly and tell me to make you a sandwich” i know it sounds ridiculous but it is hard to tell the difference sometimes! we need help in figuring that out, when to engage and when not to. you can engage with people who just don’t get it. But Feministing is on our terms. we don’t like it, we can delete your comment. we can respond to just part of what you’re saying and ignore the rest. or we can have a full blown back and forth, having a community to help decide and talk about how to engage has been crucial

Amanda: the purpose is to shut you up and if they don’t get what they want, they stop trying to shut you up, the more I don’t go away, and don’t shut up, the less harassment i get. just go out there and write every day and eventually they will give up. it’s not working, it’s straight up behavioral science.

Cecily: these tools that help us to get our voices out there, also hurt us. social networking tools.

Samhita: Twitter is a very useful tool. Communities, we have different community that comments on our youtube videos, twitter is another micro group environment and you get to know people a different way. That’s very powerful. I’ve had friends on my twitter feed who in the blogging worlds we have knock down “your mama” fights but on twitter I’m like “Oh you do yoga? i do yoga toooo!” lol. It’s less serious, less formal, commenting on Feministing can feel very formal.

Cecily: using these tools to get people to organize around a specific activist event?

Ann: When someone is getting attacked elsewhere, get into comments and post in support. Supportive conversation in public. Positive, or smackdown.

Cecily: Basic survival tips: solutions. if you’ve felt threatened, what do you do?

Samhita: Do not feel bad about banning people.

Amanda: Don’t feel guilty about it, some people are not there to engage. they shouldn’t be there.

Ann: You determine the levels of your own engagement, that’s self preservation. Free speech, free speech, my rights! whatever! go start your own blog! you do have free speech. Shockingly, no one has registered the url,

Cecily: libraries are public spaces, oh wait we can’t suppress these voices. what kinds of tools, for someone in that situation where the people in charge don’t understand it’s a safety issue an a respect my own house issue.

Amanda: Some men are allies. make alliances with men who will back you up can be very powerful. atrios alone has been useful in getting people to shut up being nasty about me. he’ll write a post saying they’re morons and he’s a man so people respect him and they shut up. that helps a lot. who has power in your community that you don’t have? exploit it a little. exploit other people’s privilege.

Ann: comments on huff po are useless, they’re a free for all. when you’re writing for bigger spaces it’s not that meaningful or helpful, it’s not my community responding to me it’s just like, crazytown. just ignore it. At feministing, people who read us regularly and have been for a long time, Samhita has a word for people who are super engaged

Samhita: minions

Ann: No! not that one! *laughter* Our regular readers are quicker than we are and say no that’s bull or email us and say please moderate this crazy comment. that is unbelievably helpful.

Samhita: creating a community people are bought into, invested into keeping a certain way. that is one of the best practices which has kept us afloat. it is crucial

Cecily: being a librarian i can’t do anything without reading about it in some academic journal. Germany researchers, algorithm to measure level of sexism in a comment. they had men tell jokes to a computer set up to “think” like a woman. the level of harassment the computer notices, correlated with the level of harassment real women experience online. women who identify as feminists get more harassment. if a woman mentioned herself or posted a photo her level of attractiveness had nothing to do with it. automated sexism detector!

Amanda: what we need a machine to back us up now!

Amanda: registration is the most useful way to control your space. disemvoweller is useful, button for it. Also, give some of your attack dogs moderation power. delete a comment and replace it with videos of bunnies hopping around. it makes people happy to see bunnies. *everyone laughs*

Cecily: what’s crazy bait?

Samhita: writing about any part of popular culture people feel invested in, fraternities, video games, if you want to get a lot of traffic then piss off the gamers, just kidding Latoya! *laughter* Race and gender, intersection. people feel very personally offended. Gentrification.

Amanda: Biggies are rape and domestic violence. if you write about rape or domestic violence in any form that’s crazy bait. Abortion, gotten better than it used to be. But if anyone tells a personal experience, that gets nutbars who will make personal threats directly against the person who got the abortion if anything has a racial aspect watch out it’s going to get really ugly.

Ann: if you’re writing about The Presidential Race or The Economy in the abstract without a personal level, people aren’t pissed off. Gentrification, when you get at where people live, it gets to them . Lipstick. what you wear. what people have personal experience with. they feel authoritative about it.

Cecily: Takeaway?

Samhita: Don’t feel threatened. it’s not about you. there’s some crazy people out there, it’s about them. keep going. young women reading, young women’s voices. the potential is very great right now. don’t give up.

Amanda: You’re not alone, you have friends. When under atta
ck you can feel very alone. Feels hard, you don’t want to “play the victim” but reach out and ask for support. Own what’s happening and ask for other people to care. they will often step up more than you would think initially.

Ann: Yeah. community. public, on blog, private space to process, that’s what it all comes down to for me. And, vast quantities of self esteem. A reservoir to draw on. Especially if you’re doing video blogging

Amanda: If you can learn to feed off the hate like … like trolls…

Ann: Youtube comments about how ugly, or how attractive. they have the same tone! stepping back and realizing they’re crazy!

Audience questions:

Kimberly: Feminist web dev : twitter is where i get problems. i speak to my community via twitter including feminist issues and that’s where i get attacked and it carries over to the real world because i work with the guys who followed m on twitter. i get angry and it affects me at work. i i start to internalize all of it. when there is something that important, what would be your other tips, i don’t have community, i work with almost all men. who do i go to? I don’t have any support or anyone more powerful to turn to. I just shut down and then go away for a while.

Ann: there must be other feminist web developers. Reach out to them.

Kimberly: Someone pulls you aside and says, hey that post you made this morning on twitter linking to that feminist thing online, you’re about to go into a big meeting with some vice president…

Amanda: what’s wrong with men who need to see women fail like this? pity them.

I’m Elisa from Blogher. (*applause, cheers*) There is disdain for business women and moms and women of color, dismissed, conservative women bloggers treated badly in other space, the misogyny itself is the problem, we need to see it everywhere, we can’t allow it, wherever we allow it to fester, it will continue to grow.

Q: Misogyny mommy bloggers, they have a more accepted space. women are more accepted in the blogosphere in “women’s blogs” networks, food, moms, travel. when we try to venture into economy, science, web dev, that’s where we are told to sit down and shut up. how can we continue to cross over?

Samhita: There is something different about “women” and “feminist” you are in a space you’re not supposed to be in , a political space. to be a woman in one of those fields, you have to fight with some best practices.

Amanda: any women who feel confident to feel about politics please do so more. write about the economy and politics. other women need to see that behavior modelled. know you’ll get a lot of blowback. eventually it helps.

Q: tendency to email privately? or privately and hateful? how do you draw the line?

Ann: sometimes our commenters have already talked back, engaged, other times it has a derailing effect.

Amanda: 90% of it is public, they are performing for other people

Monday night: Feministing party at Beerland on Red River & 7th- 8th!