a geek, but…

September 30 | 2012

not a feminist geek | design by pxlgirl

As Wikipedia states:

“A feminist is an advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women. (…)”

And…

“The word geek is a slang term for odd or non-mainstream people, with different connotations ranging from a computer expert or enthusiast to a person heavily interested in a hobby, with a general pejorative meaning of  a peculiar or otherwise dislikable person, especially one who is perceived to be overly intellectual. (…)”

As a matter of fact, women still have a long way to go when it comes to equality to men. One of the unconquered fields for women is computers and technology in general. Many girls either do not develop an interest in such subjects, or if they do, they usually aren’t well supported to develop their knowledge and skills. It’s too often being referred as a “man’s world”, where girls are being indoctrinated for not having any chance to participate or compete. Those few who did join the club, seemed to have adopted male gender roles and behaviors, so they (in their minds) could fit in and try to bring in more fellow girl onboard.

As ambitious and positive this might sound, there is a dark side to this that is almost invisible to the outside world and even the tech communities. The self-proclaimed female protagonists in the tech world have set up their own agenda that would speak for themselves, but most importantly, for other women as well. One of their biggest enemies is femininity, for being “sexualizing” and supporting gender roles that were set by men and seen as evil. Ironically, if a woman joins but doesn’t match the “geek feminist” standards, will be criticized or even excluded – not by other men, but by other women.

During my yearlong experience in the open source community, I have also faced these kind of issues, less about my outer appearance, but mostly regarding my graphical works. As most projects are being maintained by larger groups of people, each piece of work would undergo some discussions before decisions are being made and put to practice. Assuming the process progresses in a constructive and civil way, the decision-making can’t always be predicted, so a rejection has its reasons and should not be taken personally. However, in practice things got often out of hand when the self-proclaimed feminists (both male and female) raise their voices, as soon as they spot a piece of work labeling it as “sexist” or “offensive”. Unfortunately, the discussion is far from civilized and constructive, both sides attack each other personally and while all this is being carried out on public mailing lists, the rest of the world can watch and “enjoy” the mud slinging.

Apart from the fact that such behaviors don’t shine a bright light on the given projects itself, it also isn’t very welcoming for women to join at all. One might hope that things have improved over the years, but unfortunately that’s not the case. Even though a new generation of feminine looking tech women attempt to rock the boat, they have to face double discrimination and fight against false accusations they get from those who were supposed to be friends (women), and their would-be enemies (men). Two geeky ladies have written their personal stories regarding this matter:.

What’s the moral of the story? Simple. Any woman, man, dog, cat or whatever creature should be able to gain, express, and share their knowledge, sharpen their skills and expand their horizon regardless of who they are, what they do or what they are wearing. Women aren’t any better or worse than men, they are simply different, which isn’t a bad thing at all. Therefore, I’m not a feminist geek because I don’t want anybody (even women) to dictate how I need to behave or what to wear. True knowledge and expertise is always going to win against any assumed gender role.

On a side note: I confess that I love pink, glitter, fairies, cute animals and my terminal is pastel purple with a lime green cursor.

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