women's voices

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Yesterday before I left for ALA in Toronto, I went to the awards ceremony at my kids' elementary school. I stood in the "cafetorium" (the combined cafeteria and auditorium) watching smiling kids go up to collect their reading certificates, safety patrols standing to be recognized, and my son Lane receiving a prize for his "honorable mention" in the Toshiba Exploravision contest.

As I looked around the room at the happy children, proud parents, and last-day-of-school-relaxed teachers, I blinked back tears of gratitude. I take the safe, comfortable world that my family and I live in so much for granted on a day-to-day basis. It's seldom that I can step outside of that world and see it as the privilege and gift that it is.

That's true for all of us, I think. There are certain privileges that most of the people reading this post have grown up with, and over time we become blind to how lucky we are. Often when we encounter people who don't have what we have (intelligence, education, enough money to survive on) it makes us uncomfortable or angry. "It must be your own fault," we think, "because if I could do it, you could do it. You just need to try harder."

But what the privileged often don't understand is how much the deck is stacked in their favor. Money, is an obvious example. Sure, a kid with limited financial resources can go to college. But s/he has to work a lot harder to get there--just the application process alone for financial aid is a daunting process. And once they're there, they're the ones holding down two or more part-time jobs, constantly doing calculations in their head as to whether they can afford that book--or that beer. It change the entire experience by adding a layer of stress that financially well-off students never have to deal with.

Beyond the obvious factors like money, however, are the more insidious privileges. For example, the privilege of being in the majority. Of never feeling like you're being expected to speak "for your group," of never feeling as though everything you do is being scrutinized more carefully because you stand out, you're different. To be able to be anonymous, or to know--without having to analyze it--that you're accepted in a community.

Every time someone like Shelley, or me, posts about our frustrations with trying to participate in white-male-dominated technical contexts, a whole bunch of white males immediately point out to us that of course it's not about gender. Of course women are treated exactly the same as men in this brave new gender-blind internet world. And if they aren't, it's clearly their own fault. They aren't trying hard enough to get along, they're not "team players," they don't "play well with others."

Along those lines, I fully expect that 90% of the comments I get to this post will come from white men, most of whom will want to tell me just how hard they had it, how their dominant status never bought them anything, how women and men face the same challenges, the same problems, yada yada yada. I'm not accusing those men of lies or hypocrisy. I believe that many of them are genuinely committed to gender equality, and that they believe that they're "gender blind" in their interactions with others. But like me taking my safe, suburban school for granted, they're taking their male-dominated work environments for granted.

Don't agree? Before you argue with me, I highly recommend reading Peggy McIntosh's essay "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack." Here's an excerpt:

To redesign social systems we need first to acknowledge their colossal unseen dimensions. The silences and denials surrounding privilege are the key political tool here. They keep the thinking about equality or equity incomplete, protecting unearned advantage and conferred dominance by making these taboo subjects. Most talk by whites about equal opportunity seems to be now to be about equal opportunity to try to get into a position of dominance while denying that systems of dominance exist. It seems to me that obliviousness about white advantage, like obliviousness about male advantage, is kept strongly inculturated in the United States so as to maintain the myth of meritocracy, the myth that democratic choice is equally available to all. Keeping most people unaware that freedom of confident action is there for just a small number of people props up those in power, and serves to keep power in the hands of the same groups that have most of it already.

I spend a lot of time watching the conversations that are taking place these days in weblogging, social software, and other technology contexts. Yes, there are a few women involved in the conferences and meetings. But their voices aren't the ones we usually hear about from the men. To be heard--to really be heard--a woman has to break the rules. She has to be outrageous. Halley does it by throwing in a little sex. Shelley does it by throwing in a little ass-kicking. Only when they do this do people stop and really pay attention.

Yes, sometimes Halley's heavy emphasis on sexuality makes me uncomfortable. Yes, sometimes Shelley can be prickly and difficult. But I cannot overstate my admiration for both of these women...for their willingness to break rules, to take big chances, to shout out loud enough to be heard. That's exhausting work. Risky, too...because, as Shelley in particular has found on numerous occasions, when you break the rules, you make people feel uncomfortable. And when they feel uncomfortable, most of them will push you away and/or shut you out.

So what's a woman to do? Play by the rules, and hope that she'll stumble into a place at the table with the guys? Make some noise to get noticed, and hope that she won't be blacklisted in the process?

I'm particularly interested in hearing from women with strong voices out there in the technology landscape. I know there are a few of you out there. (Not nearly enough of you, but a few.) What worked for you? What do you wish you'd known earlier? What do you think women should be doing to start getting their voices heard more clearly in technical discussions?

8 TrackBacks

gender musings from woolgathering... on June 21, 2003 6:06 PM

Liz Lawley at mamamusings has some good and thoughtful things to say about invisible privilege, gender, and the field of computer science. And I guess I'm in that field now, though I got here sideways, by way of writing, art,... Read More

A lot of the ideas floating around on the Web bother me. OK, all together now: this is news? But in the last few days, I've read about several things that have really gotten under my skin, and in generally the same way. Most of the posts have the typi Read More

Pics, Stuff from Burningbird on June 23, 2003 1:38 AM

I spent most of the weekend on the server, but also some time on the essay "Internet for Poets: DNS -- what's in a name". I must finish this tomorrow because the thing is beginning to look like a book. It's been fun, though. And far less challenging th... Read More

Contributions from Caveat Lector on June 23, 2003 10:15 AM

Liz wants to know about women who have made technical contributions, how they did it, how they made it work. I probably fit into this group, if only on the fringes: two years of work on a content spec for electronic books, based on favorite techie toys... Read More

Men are encouraged to dominate conversation without even thinking about it, says Dan Spalding, who has another suggestion: shut up already. Elizabeth Lane Lawley makes a similar point, and asks women with strong voices, "What do you think women should ... Read More

Reading a couple of posts from Liz Lawley on gender and communication -- the second of which points to an essay by Dan Spalding aimed at "other men in the movement" and designed to help men "act better in meetings"... Read More

privilege from zephoria on June 25, 2003 3:03 AM

I remember asking one of my students why he didn't ask questions. He told me that every time he thought... Read More

Listening to women from Radio Free Blogistan on July 30, 2005 4:01 PM

Today has been a good exercise in trying to shut up and listen, although I have slipped from time to time and shouted or out or insisted on being heard. Still, for the most part today I've been listening and learning. This has to be the best blog confe... Read More

30 Comments

The one thing I dislike about woman going off about unequality is the unwelcomed feeling I get when I even think about what they're trying to discuss. I feel like because I have a penis I'm not allowed to partake in a discussion revolving around their disadvantages, and that's why I tend to stay away from people like Shelley.

I also think you tend to group all men when you shouldn't make such a sweeping generalization. Not everyone takes for granted their position as a male, some take full advantage of it. I realize women don't have as much of an advantage simply because of societal views, and the effort your making is awesome. I think your NSF grant will help shine some light on the IT world and women.

But, Liz, I can't help the shut-out feeling, the hints at segregation, that women eminate when they talk about their disadvantages. I feel like they're creating a rift and a line between themselves and others when time might let the pre-existing divide blur. However, history has proven that time cannot erase such separations completely, and that activity and communication like this is much more efficient.

So, whether or not I'm helping to fill your quota of "white-men who are oblivious to their male advantage", I don't know. But that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Hmmmm. "Women going off" on topics. "People like Shelley." And these would be helpful comments exactly _how_? Think about how dismissive that language is. Is that the tone you really want to set when entering into a dialog?

You're right to feel shut out of the discussion. I intentionally shut you out--or tried to. None of us has an inalienable right to participate in every conversation. For example, I know perfectly well that I'm in no position to tell a black friend how I think they ought to deal with racism. Or to tell a disabled friend how I think they ought to respond to social problems they encounter. It would be presumptuous of me to think that I could understand their experiences.

What I can do, however, is _listen_ to them, and try to understand their perspectives. And I can try to keep their comments and feelings in mind on a day to day basis. I don't have to agree with them. That's not the point. But I have to learn to _hear_ them. To recognize how they see the world they live in. And to think about what I can do differently to change that world if it's not one I'm comfortable being a part of.

You intentionally shut people out of a discussion on a publicly available blog? You feel like reverse discrimination is the answer? I'm not sure I grasp the concept of purposefully shutting people out. If we ignore them long enough, segregate ourselves from them for a long enough period of time, maybe they'll come to their sense? Still not getting it.

I'm not trying to understand your experiences at all. But you, on the other hand, are trying to understand the vantage point of a man, when you definitely are not. You're being presumptuous in assuming that we take what we have for granted. It really bugs me how people can speak vehemently for themselves and for a topic that they're passionate about and do the exact thing they're talking about not doing while they're talking about it.

It makes absolutely no sense. It's a fact - based on studies of women - that women have less opportunities than men. That's fine, I'll accept that and listen while you try to bolster women in the technological field. But I'm not going to be a part of something or support a "movement" or study where you show your point by blatantly disgregarding other's participation. I respect you Liz, I do, and whether this affects you or not, I just don't feel strongly about an eye-for-an-eye retaliation.

Okay, let's take this to a simpler level.

Suppose I say in a class that has a mix of students "I'd really like to hear what the freshman students think about X." And immediately one of the upperclassmen starts telling me what he or she thinks. I tell them that I really don't want to hear the upperclassman perspective is right now, I want to hear from the freshman.

Should the upperclassmen get angry because they aren't allowed, in an open classroom, to respond to my question? Am I being unfair by "shutting them out" because I asked them not to respond to *one question*??

Let's try another one. I'm at a conference, and the speaker on the podium says "I'd like to hear from the government documents librarians in the audience on this topic." I'm not one, but I stand up and take the microphone, and proceed to tell the speaker that I think they're rude to deliberately exclude all the other librarians who are legitimately at the conference from the discussion.

The fact that this blog is "publicly accessible" does not mean that everyone is free to say whatever they want, whenever they want. Joi Ito has talked about his online venues--blog, wiki, IRC--as being like his living room. He graciously opens it up to people, but he expects them to behave appropriately.

That's what I'm asking of you. Take a break from talking, and _listen_. The only way new voices can emerge is if they can get a word in edgewise. That's a whole lot less likely to happen if the discourse begins with lines like "women going off about inequality."

But it's not just one question, Liz. It's the whole topic, the whole theory of women in technology that men are being shut out from. It's the generalization and grouping that irks me. I'll stop responding after this because it's not what you want, but all I am trying to say is I'm not sure secluding a certain sect is the answer to this issue. I've said it before, I'm all for topics about this and I'm all for women in the industry. Granted, that'll mean less job opportunities, but so be it.

Or maybe I'm still struggling to grasp the concept of advantages in terms of people not getting/getting things when they do/don't deserve them. Isn't there some inclusionary way to get this done? Wouldn't getting men to spread the word help to make "our side" realize just that much faster? It seems like the only way to get things done is the route you're taking, and there's got to be an easier way on both ends.

I'm not trying to shut you out of "the whole topic." Just this *one post*. Shhhhhh. :)

Thanks for begining the conversation again, Liz. I like to read what you have to say, and look forward to reading people's responses.

A useful and accessible book on majority/minority cultures is "Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?" by Beverly Tatum. It helps someone in a majority group (any majority group) see why members of a minority group might want to spend some time talking things over within their own community.

As women in male-dominated fields and institutions, we have some issues and experiences in common. but until we speak about them we may think we are alone. We are socialized not to whine... but until we get the nerve to speak up, nothing changes. Hearing other voices who speak in our register is encouraging and helpful. So, thanks.

Thanks for that book Liz P, I'll check it out. I could use a dose of understanding in this situation, I think.

Women are where they are due to their inferiority, not because of some imagined discrimination. It would be different if women were people.

Brendyn: I recommended Virginia Valian's _Why So Slow?_ for some insight into the prevalence of unconscious gender bias. I also recommend _The Gender Knot_ by Allan Johnson. Kim Allen has a great review of the latter on her site at: http://www.mindspring.com/~kimall/Reviews/genknot.html

Liz, this is an interesting post - interesting particularly because you've touched upon a very basic issue that women in my country have had to deal with for centuries, and still face. Interesting too, because things are changing, very very slowly, but changing they are. And there's conflict and chaos as a result.

In TA (Transactional Analysis - gosh you made me think of this after such a long time :)) terms - here, women are seeking more Adult-Adult transactions with men - Traditionally, anytime this happened, the man's response has been from the Critical Parent mode - 'slam down on them' - today you often see them reacting as children sulking and throwing tantrums.

An observation from the Indian Blogosphere - many of the really good blogs (and apart from content, these reflect a high degree of tech sophistication) are by Indian women.

Small steps, baby steps - chaotic and complex - yet a NEW WORLD is born. And interestingly, 'tech' is accelerating this evolution !

What's a woman to do? This is a question we all struggle with, at least at first, till we find our place. If we do.

I've been developing software for the past ten years or so. Is it different as woman? Not when it's just me and the code, but developing software is social, and we all work with a group of people who are mostly men. It was unbelievably hard, before I gained confidence and experience. I'd find myself talking to a jerk and fear that would be the norm. At first glance I'd be mistaken for someone in marketing, and I would wonder what kind of freak show I'd chosen as a profession.

If I didn't love the work, I wouldn't still be here. What worked for me? I sought out tehnical woman at every opportunity. I recruited other women to work on my team, so I wouldn't feel so all alone. I found technical men who could be mentors. My standard question while interviewing used to be "why aren't there more women engineers here?" There are many good and many bad ways to answer that question.

Eventually I found myself able to pick my jobs and only work with great engineers who are also great people. Recently I joined a small engineering team that is all men except for me. If they weren't so awesome, it might be more of an issue. It helps that there are a lot of other woman at the company, even though they aren't in engineering. It also helps that I have developed a strong network of colleagues over the years that is gender-balanced.

It is refreshing to read a woman's voice. It's unusual in the techno-blogosphere.

I have been using Peggy's "Unpacking" article since I arrived at RIT. I distributed it to a number of faculty. Not sure if it is used, but I continue to use it in my classes to demonstrate inequalities in our safe little world.

I also point out experiences which demonstrate that women making forays into non-traditional areas lend a wonderful new perspective. For example, women involved on design teams consider PEOPLE in general, not just the 'average' user. Cars/vans are a great example. When female engineers became involved, suddenly automotive manufacturers realized that ,"WOW, not EVERYONE has the same leg length or head -seat height." DUH. While a minor citation, a significant indicator of the female ability/burden to consider all and not just one.

Don't want a flame war about the superiority of one gender over another. Just want to point out that every person can bring a different perspective. (Sometimes we lose sight of that in our quest for the quick answer, in these days of instant gratification.)

Maybe I'm just sensitive about your writing after I was dismissed so flagrantly a few posts back. That time it was for my personal beliefs; here I'm being dismissed because my race and gener (white male) perspective have no baring on the issue.

Ya know, instead of writing that whole paragraph that begins"Along those lines, I fully expect that 90% of the comments I get to this post will come from white men..." you could have simply asked for men to politely step this one out. If so, I would have had no problem doing so. Instead, the dismissive language that you used prompts a comment.

Not only are you dismissing out-of-hand any other issues of discrimination and the work that has been done over the years to overcome it (tangentially on topic) but you've also potentially alienated possible allies to help your cause -- not because you don't want their opinions but because of the way in which told us why our participation here is invalid and unwanted.

While I do respect your opinons and goals, I am having problems with how you're expressing them.

This is your living room? Fine.

Don't worry. I'll get the door behind me.

...

I'm a woman, a working woman, not in the tech field, but I've supported myself all my life. (And I'm old now *grin*). I'm with Brendyn on this....I don't understand the rationale for doing unto others as they've done unto you. Doesn't make for much openness.

I think, though, if we're going to lump folks in categories, you have to add an additional lump to the white men category. The white men under 40 have a WHOLE different view of women than the white men over 40. (Arbitrary number, but it works with the men I know.) So let's not alienate our younger champions.

Liz,

Just dropped in for the tupperware. Where is the party. I sure don't want to be left in the living room with the men talking to the men. "Momamusings," yes, but when moma scolds, all I can say is "Yes, M'am." Social software is such an important topic, and you are so sensitive as a human being and as woman to the nuances of children, husband, backyard, schools, teaching, the arts, you will someday dominate the likes of Ito, Weinberger, Searl, Rheingold. You have a gift for the social, and a human warmth they just don't radiate. So, moma, don't scold. Just withdraw your attention from those who act like jerks. That would be punishment enough. The conversation about social software needs a humane center, male or female, may I nominate you?

" ... Along those lines, I fully expect that 90% of the comments I get to this post will come from white men... a whole bunch of white males immediately point out to us that of course it�s not about gender ... "

Message understood, we'll move to the back of the bus.

I find it interesting that 'people like Shelley' are told that they ought to be better at getting along and 'people like Liz' are told that they can't ask someone to listen for a minute, and yet, 'people like women' must be imagining any issues that they find in tech-related fields.

Liz, your reflections are interesting ones. I haven't made much impact in tech fields (in what I think is the way that you mean), but here's my experience: I do support and I'm pretty good at it though I don't particularly like it and I carve out space in my job to research and experiment with things like weblogs and the impact of technology on people because I'm very interested in that. And I 'get' to do it because no one around here is terribly interested in any of it yet.

I have struggled a _lot_ in my career with invisibility (oh yeah, we forgot _you_ were interested in this kind of thing; aren't you kind of busy already; is this part of your job--got that one a month ago), and am doing so again at a time when I thought I wouldn't, quite frankly have to any more. It's not only (as I'm sure you know, Liz) about how we're treated at the table. Sometimes it's about being invited to the table or even knowing that the table exists...

I've been there in the minority, as a (relatively) poor student at a college full of rich ones and then in my first job as a Jew living in an area where there where were very few of us, so I know what that feels like. My undergrad degree is in mechanical engineering though I've mostly worked in software, and I've had technical jobs in aerospace, petrochem, and "web solutions", for the 14 years since college. Can't say if I've really made any "contributions", but otherwise I think I'm qualified to answer. I'm very used to being th eonly woman in the room. So far I've encountered overt gender-based prejudice exactly once from a co-worker in those 14 years. (I know, that's not your point.) I have certainly sometimes had a harder time making my voice heard than my male colleagues have, and I have certainly been "forgotten" more than once. Honestly, I think being small has nearly as much to do with it as being female. Still, as long as it's based on unconscious reactions or on ignorance, rather than on malice, I can deal with it. I keep talking until I'm heard; I show what I can do technically; if someone forgets about me, I say, "Should I have been at that meeting? Can you invite me to the next one?" Most technical companies I've worked for have had women in high positions -- none yet have had a woman president but they've had women as VPs. In my current site, the highest level of local management is all male -- but the majority of managers one level down, poised to step up, are female. (And there are some women *above* the local male directors.) They're not at gender parity or anywhere close, but they're trying, and the stream is beginning to wear through the rock.

"None of us has an inalienable right to participate in every conversation. For example, I know perfectly well that I�m in no position to tell a black friend how I think they ought to deal with racism. Or to tell a disabled friend how I think they ought to respond to social problems they encounter. It would be presumptuous of me to think that I could understand their experiences."

This is a pretty, well, silly generalization. If a black friend's perspectives on how to deal with racism, or a disabled friend's perspectives on how to respond to social problems were themselves (let's say) morally reprehensible, it wouldn't be presumptuous at all to consider oneself in a position to voice an opinion.

Whites aren't restricted to "white" issues anymore than blacks are restricted to "black" issues. Or, for that matter, any more than men are restricted to "male" issues.

That said, I do understand the point intended by the generalization, but generalizations are nasty things that don't tend to advance the overall context of productive understandings of things. Shorthand is too often misunderstood.

OK, question for liz or anyone else... is there any reason to be hopeful about this?

When I try to take a Big Picture look at things, the kind of social upheaval neccesary to undo all the subconcious bias (gender, race, class, whatever) seems unlikely to ever really happen.

Sorry if I'm depressing anyone...

Ross:

Your choice is social change or social upheaval. One of the two will happen.

I've been thinking about this quite alot since this post went up, interesting things. I guess what I'm doing is technical (web design, that sort of thing) or at least it has technical aspects. The thing I've been thinking about is how my own biases held me back for a long time- I thought that I "wasn't a computer kind of person" and that computers were "uncreative" etc. I actively avoided them. But then I was introduced to an animation programme and realised that computers are just another tool. I still
think of myself as non-technical but I try to stop myself from running to the nearest male computer dude when something goes wrong and often am able to sort the problem out. I'm learning to get used to the idea that while I might not be able to pull a computer apart and reassemble it in 2.5 minutes (and don't really want to) I have other skills that I can bring to the field.

Thanks for an interesting posting, Liz.

Thanks, Liz, just for saying this: as a young woman entering the field and trying to find my own voice, it's always reassuring to hear that these problems aren't all in my head. (Which is the biggest obstacle to change, I think - the persistent myth that we're 100% there now in this oh-so-enlightened age!)

I've heard the comments here about 'voice', and I think in some ways that's the point and the issue Liz tried to raise -- when women talk within technical arenas the volume of their/our voice diminishes, the more technical the discussion. It gets to a certain point and you feel you have to, must shout all the time, just to be heard. And you find yourself getting angry/hurt because you feel invisible.

It's true that it may feel uncomfortable to some that they were seemingly excluded from this conversation; but what about being excluded from the groups involved with the work you care for? Not because the people are mean, or are trying to suppress the little woman -- only a few feel threatened by women. It's because the field is so dominated by men, that it can be literally uncomfortable just trying to talk, because you don't quite know how. You literally feel like odd 'man' out.

You feel invisible, because the communication is occurring in a wavelength you can't hear.

I work in what is called 'hard core' technology, cutting edge, bleeding edge, what have you. Back end stuff, no front end, no graphics, none of this. It is a part of technology that traditionally has few women in it. You don't need to look further than the open weblogging effort going on through Sam Ruby's wiki to see this.

And where I'm at, when I see another woman, I want to reach out, and connect -- another person who speaks in the same language as me. Sometimes they grab back, but many times they push away, because they fought to find a fit in this environment, and do not want someone hanging around that reminds them of their precarious position.

And sometimes I'm that woman.

So I want to raise people's awareness of this, and hope to open doors and encourage more women, and also encourage men to listen to themselves sometimes, and how they interact with each other much less women in these circles. But then this is labeled 'stop energy'. Or I'm told I'm whining. Or that I'm 'prickly and difficult', which after 20 years of trying, I probably am.

The worst, though, is when you're invisible, ignored, and not heard.

I don't think Liz was trying to exclude men in this conversation. I think she was just trying to open the door to both men and women, but asking men to be quiet -- just one moment. And hear what we women have to say, what our concerns are.

Liz, I hope this doesn't cause problems here. But you asked and I'm telling you what I feel, what I perceive, and what I know about my experiences.

Shelley wrote:

"It�s true that it may feel uncomfortable to some that they were seemingly excluded from this conversation; but what about being excluded from the groups involved with the work you care for? Not because the people are mean, or are trying to suppress the little woman � only a few feel threatened by women. It�s because the field is so dominated by men, that it can be literally uncomfortable just trying to talk, because you don�t quite know how. You literally feel like odd �man� out."

This is exactly how I feel as a stay-at-home dad. I volunteer at school - hell I was a room mother for two classes this year. But all the conversations about school volunteerism and the like are lead by women, for women. I am definitely the "odd man out". I feel as if I am not taken seriously in the room mother arena - that I am just "trying to make a statement" in a woman's world. I see the looks - "What is HE doing here? Does he think he can ACTUALLY do this work? This is a woman's work, not a man's.

The women, though not mean people, are so exclusive. For three years now I have tried to fit in with the PTA and school volunteer crowd. I feel that I am tolerated, but not much more. Even the literature they give out to room "mothers" uses only the feminine pronouns and refers to our "husbands" instead of our spouses.

How long will this continue? From the replies to Liz's blog it would seem that woman are SOOOOO sensitive to this issue, but NOOOO. they are only sensitive as far as it concerns their personal agenda. When a man suffers the same discrimation at the hands of women they could care less. "He deserves it". "It is about time for the payback". That is what I bet you I will hear.

Maybe if women were more sensitive to the issue they complain being victims of there would be less of the issues about which to be a victim.

My point? We hear a lot of shit about how guilty men are of this and it turns out that women are just as guilty when given the opportunity. Yell "Payback" if you like - it doesn't let you off the hook.

Just the other day I watched a show about ants (Edward O. Wilson is a personal hero). There was a species of ants that would attack and kill any members of its own species if they were from a different colony. They way they determine if the ant is from their colony or not is by smell slone. They will kill their own kind because they don't SMELL right.

Is no one else but me getting the message of the role that hundreds of thousands of years of genetic imprinting is playing here?

Do you think men WANT to discriminate against women? Whites againt blacks (in the US) or blacks against whites (in Africa). It is not a conscious decision, believe me.

It is, however, a conscious decision to overcome genetic programming (where information is encoded in your genes that anyone not like you is probably a danger to you and even if they are not be wary and treat them that way at least in the beginning).

The biggest problen we have today is that there are probably only a dozen or so TRULY conscious people on the Earth right now (no, I do not lay claim to being one of them).

If women want to be taken seriously about having their voices heard by men, they need to let up n the room "Fathers". Get it??????

I can't tell you how many times I have had this argument with men friends and men in my life. Because I am a feminist, because I speak of privilege and the differences in our culture between life for women and life for men, men often feel "shut out" and "threatened" by the conversation. I am the last person to treat a man like an automatic enemy. But for some reason, men often have a very fragile ego...the good guys, the ones who profess to want equality, are often the worst, reacting either as sniffling children, broken hearted that they can't be the center of the revolution for once, or as self-righteous crusaders counting down on their fingers all the great things they have done for women's rights. Anything, in short, to bring them back into the center of attention. And isn't that, after all, the whole problem?

Learn to share.

Got to your page via speakup and I decided to quote portions of your comments on netdiver which is a new media culture magazine.

Cheers,
.carole guevin ...editor

...new media culture_magazine + design portal + http://netdiver.net
..PURe {{{ communication design }}} + http://pixeltable.com

Liz, I have a few questions for you, in response to the following quote: "I take the safe, comfortable world that my family and I live in so much for granted on a day-to-day basis. It�s seldom that I can step outside of that world and see it as the privilege and gift that it is."

What is a 'safe' world? Is it a white world? Is it a world without poor people? A world where everyone has computers? Where people work full time? A world which is primarily english speaking? Where there are no goths, punks, gangstas or queers? Where people drive cars? A world without metal detectors at their kids school?

You admit that it is a world in the suburbs, and not in a ghetto, a barrio or a reservation. I presume you would not consider these spaces safe.

I guess what I'm getting at is that for a financially secure white woman to jump on the tech world for being sexist while remaining in her 'safe' bubble misses so many parallel (and often simultaneous) types of discrimination based on race, class, ethnicity, religion, ability, sexuality etc.

Female first thinking (as in gender is the number one form of discrimination for women) was the flawed premise of second wave feminism that alienated women who weren't white and english speaking, who were poor, who were immigrants or indigenous, who were butch, who were elderly, who were disabled, and so forth.

If we're ever going to have equality, we have to start by realizing the position of the most marginalised and working from there. This won't happen in the tech world unless there are some fundamental changes, cause for the moment, poor people just don't turn a profit (and that's just for starters).

One more question. I'm a young, middle class white woman. Does this mean that I shouldn't address racism, ageism or classism?

Thanks.

Dawn, by a "safe" world, I mean quite literally one where my family and I have very few concerns about personal safety and security. That doesn't mean that one couldn't be or feel safe in other contexts...just that it's a luxury that I know many people don't have. I wasn't thinking just about US disparities (ghetto, barrio, etc), but also about international disparities--what it must be like, for example, to raise a family in a war zone, or in a country where basic health care isn't easily available. The fact that I can take it for granted that it's safe for my kids to play in the back yard, or take the bus to school, frees me to put my mental energy elsewhere.

I'm not saying there aren't parallel--and in many cases, much more damaging--types of "isms" out there. That doesn't mean this "ism" shouldn't be discussed.

It also doesn't mean that other "isms" shouldn't be acknowledged, discussed, and addressed. It's not a zero-sum game. I'm just choosing to focus attention in an environment where I think I can make a tangible difference.

 

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This page contains a single entry by Liz Lawley published on June 21, 2003 4:30 PM.

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