#libtechgender: my world and hers

So I’m quoted in this truly excellent post over on Across Divided Networks by Andromeda Yelton (a pretty apt blog title, given the content of the post). As she notes, we were discussing this post on unpaid labor and open source software, which isn’t so much about that as it is the myth of meritocracy and the gender bias of open source.

I appreciate that she considers me a feminist, and it is very true that I work hard to listen and be aware of gender issues in librarianship and academia. One of my wife’s specialties is gender issues in Latin American literature, and we’ve spent much of our lives together talking about gender issues and feminist and queer literature. I have, all too often, been in a position of running interference for a female friend at a conference when an asshole didn’t take the hint that she wasn’t interested in talking/interacting/being the same space. It’s hard to even write that, since it has the capacity to come across as “oh look, the white academic technology guy to the rescue”…I assure you, that’s not the point. My point is that even with all this, even with years, decades of being aware and watchful and trying desperately to understand and affect the world to make it better for my friends and colleagues…I still didn’t realize. And that scares me, badly.

It scares me because, while I’ve self-identified as a feminist for decades, and tried to ensure that my actions reflected this, it wasn’t until 6 years ago that I got a dose of reality that shakes me daily.

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It’s trite, but having a daughter changed everything. It changed how I looked at things, moved my attentions from “concerns about equals” (eg, my friends and colleagues) to trying to figure out how to reshape the world that revolves around someone who cannot affect it herself. Eliza is still a child, and while she’s pretty sure that she’s Very Grown Up by now, I know that the world is out there, waiting to push against her delight at technology. That there are boys who even now are in her class that tell her girls don’t build robots and I want to find a way to change that future. It wasn’t until Eliza that I realized that this particular fight wasn’t for the people I know, it’s not for my friends, much as I love all of you. It’s for her.

And that’s why I was so upset at not seeing. Because if it’s true, and that there are gaps in the world that are paradigm-chasms, that I can’t see across because I don’t have the right tools or because I don’t stand in the right place, then I don’t know if I’m seeing the things I need to change for her…if I’m helping to make the world a place that she can inhabit without fear. And all I can do is keep listening, and keep watching, and try like hell to support those that ARE capable of seeing and doing and changing, and I have to hope that it’s enough.

So please don’t give up, Andromeda and Rosy and Bess and Rachel and Jenica and Sarah and Cindi and Becky and Boyhun and Dorothea and all of the other incredible people who can see, and hear, and are fighting, fighting. Thank you, from me, but mostly for Eliza.

6 thoughts on “#libtechgender: my world and hers

  1. Yes. It is absolutely about her. It’s about all of our daughters, and our sons, too. For me, this is a fighting that is as much about my Robert as it is about my Claire. At this point, my own situation and that of my colleagues is one thing… It can certainly improve, but on a practical level it’s more about having a good collegial support system and a bunch of effective coping mechanisms. For our kids, maybe some real change is possible. And making this a priority for our sons, making sure that this is something that matters to them, is an important part of the solution.

  2. It’s not trite. I consider raising my daughters to be the most important thing I will do during my entire lifetime.

    I was in Target today and browsed toys looking for something Miss 8 mentioned for her Christmas list. After seeing the pink shelves for the boys and the blue shelves for the girls, I walked out. I also tweeted @ them and posted a comment on 4sq. (games were green, and toys for the toddler set were yellow…)

    We all have to speak up, speak out, about the issues that divide us.

    Thank you for this.

    PS the link to my twitter feed is broken. ;)

  3. Ok, I’ll grant that I’m 6 months pregnant and a little emotionally wacky, but you just made me cry.

    I know the gender of this baby I’m carrying, and I’ve thought a lot about what I think about that. Without saying more than I want to before the baby’s born, I came to a very firm conclusion in my own mind: I would *prefer* to raise a son to be a good ally in changing this world for women, than raise a daughter to survive it.

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