Sep. 20th, 2009

terriko: (Default)
Originally written for Geek Feminism. I'm not sure why I didn't crosspost it earlier.

There's an argument that comes up a lot in (geek) feminism discussions:

This isn't a problem with $community, it's a problem with society

This is used to explain everything from distasteful jokes to someone's inability to spell, but especially it's used to "explain" why there aren't more women in the community or why they have crummy experiences when they do participate. And it raises the question:

Why can't geek communities be better than society as a whole?

If you reported a software bug and the developers said, "we don't believe you. Or the other 50 people who reported this bug," you'd be annoyed, along with 50 other people. If they said "it's someone else's problem, XYZ software/hardware sucks" you'd be pretty unsatisfied, even if it was true.

What you want to hear is "thanks for reporting that! I'll get it fixed right away." And you still feel like they care if they say "well, that's because XYZ software/hardware sucks, but we can do this workaround..."

Geek communities are full of smart, inventive people who produce everything from free software to fan fiction. I think we can probably do better than putting an SEP field around issues.

In academia, Hard Problems are the ones that are worthy of further study, research, and discussion. In geekdom, we like to eat impossible for lunch. So stop shuffling your feet and waiting for the "there aren't many women participating" bug to be fixed upstream. We might need some clever social hackers to find us good workarounds, but know what? We've got just the sort of talent in our communities that might manage it. If people could only admit to themselves that it's not someone else's problem.

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terriko

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