Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Male Geek Feminist Ally Privilege Checklist: Or a Different Kind of Ada Lovelace Day Post

It's Ada Lovelace Day and I thought I would write a post about my favourite computer scientist, who is my wife, Judith Underwood. But I changed my mind.

One of the things that changed my mind was reading this post, in which some man - quite incredibly in my view - suggests that a male, who acted totally inappropriately to a woman and who has since admitted it, should not be named.   There's a LOT of backstory to that, but apart the two things that struck me about this post was the combination of (1) saying that it's wrong to warn woman of facts about a man who sexually harrassed a woman, and (2) the writing of the post as anguished crie-de-couer about this poor sensitive soul's (who was neither the victim nor the harrasser) agonising about how rude to be about the sexually harrassed woman, and whether to do it in public or not.  I didn't change my mind because I don't understand where this guy is coming from - I do.  I changed my mind because I am starting to understand how this would make women feel who read about it.

Recently I've written a couple of posts about gender equality and sexism in tech and computing:
The Petrie Multiplier and The Computer Scientist and the Cleaner.  These have been very well received and I've been really gratified by the response.

Some of the reaction has been wonderful: for example a facebook friend of a friend saying I should have a t-shirt saying "This is what a feminist looks like" was lovely.  Just like a tweet saying there should be a Geek Feminism Wiki page about the Petrie Multiplier.

Worst moment?  Seeing my 13 year old daughter read the seven links about recent sexism events at the start of The Petrie Multiplier and knowing that I shouldn't stop her.

Ten days ago I didn't know about the concept of a feminist ally, and very little about the notion of privilege in the  context of sexism.  I know a bit more, so here are a selected few of the privileges of being a geek feminist ally.  Selected because they are the few I've realised over the last week or so.
  • You discover more about women geek friend's experiences by them telling you for the first time in your life... instead of having lived them
  • People are interested instead of dismissive that you think gender equality is important 
  • When you get thousands of pageviews and hundred of tweets about your gender equality post, nobody calls you a bitch 
  • If you get depressed reading about sexism towards geek women, you can stop reading... and not get groped on the train home 
And I'm going to finish with an Ada Lovelace Day themed bullet point:
  • If you didn't have a computer scientist heroine early in your career, you didn't notice at the time
So Happy Ada Lovelace Day.

But a p.s.: please do look at my only previous Ada Lovelace Day post about my mother.

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