Before it was the last bastion of male domination, computer programing was women’s work.
“Free blowjobs for hackers.”
“I could really get my hands on those machines….”
“You can help us with the art!”
“Don’t worry your pretty little head about it!”
I got an email earlier today inviting me to Naked Girls Reading, an event where naked women will read science fiction on a stage to an audience. I tried really hard to think that sounds like fun. I like science fiction, I like story time, and I like going to social events with the person who sent this to me…but this just didn’t sit well. Finally it dawned on me…Naked Girls Reading makes women an accessory in the geek world – clearly and firmly removing them from the category of core consumer, and placing them in that of perk.
Technology is a strange place to be female. On the one hand women in STEM careers make $0.86 to the man’s dollar…not perfect but better than the national average of $0.77, and I’ve heard a number as high as $0.94 for computing technology in specific. On the other hand, it’s clearly a male dominated field. The numbers are so stacked against women that tech companies start looking like the boy’s locker room, and as I learned in my post-grad-school job search, I am the diversity. The tech sector behaves as though women in its ranks are a new addition – “You are the last bastion in IT, boys. Hiss it through your teeth. Shut up, b****.” [Christensen, at Dell's summit in Copenhagen] – this is blatantly untrue. We can all talk a good game about Ada Lovelace, but thinking about the start of computing as we know it, I’m more into Betty Jennings, Betty Snyder, Fran Bilas, Kay McNulty, Marlyn Wescoff, and Ruth Lichterman [these ladies did the bulk of programing on ENIAC, btw]. Before it was the last bastion of male domination, computer programing was women’s work. More alarming is the fact that the gender gap in computer science is actually becoming greater over time even as women overtake men in college degrees overall.
KC, maker of the awesome Defcon creeper cards puts it bluntly: Defcon is hell for women. She’s right, every year I consider going to Defcon, look over all the awesome social hacking that will be talked about, get offers of crash space and travel buddies, and ultimate decide it’s not worth it because everything I have ever heard about DefCon has made it abundantly clear that this is a drunken, dick waving, boys club.
What could possibly make it ok for someone to walk up to Maymay at a SF hacker space and ask about free blowjobs? In 2012? How the hell does something like the Open Source Boob Project take hold, even briefly? This sounds like a racy episode of Mad Men, not something that would happening 2012.
Naked Girls Reading is trying to be funny – genre porn for the slightly socially awkward, maybe even a safe sexy thing for women to attend, but ultimately it perpetuates the myth that a geek woman is a mythical creature never found in nature. It positions science fiction as intended for men and it positions women as treats and sexual objects. Maybe our ongoing acceptance of these assumptions is what creates a female-hostile environment as maymay describes in his open letter to HOPE9 organizers.
I do love science fiction, I just wish it was as easy to get naked boys to read it to me as it apparently is to get naked girls to do it…