if you steal a purse and someone fines you the amount you stole to give back, thats not unfair– thats getting someone who created a problem to fix a problem.
if however, someone else steals a purse and fines you the same amount because you look like the thief, or have traits in common, that probably is unfair.
i have no problem with hackathons aimed towards girls. make them as slanted towards girls as you like, there are certainly enough of them slanted towards boys (personally, im just looking for things slanted towards the kind of computer stuff i do.)
i occasionally have the pleasure of teaching people about computers. despite the issue of people self-identifying (or being told) that theyre “not computer people” usually by the age of 10– its more females than males who show interest in what i offer in terms of classes. i havent guessed why this is yet, but (as a male) i suspect its pride. on average, guys will still talk to me about the stuff, but girls are more likely to actually sit down and try it– or ask to– i have yet to refuse.
im always sad when theres a girls-only hackathon or computer event. there werent enough of these when i was a kid, and im always eager to participate in computer events. some are open to adults, but many are just for girls, or women.
im not “rhetorically disappointed” about this. im not sad about it to make a point, im genuinely disappointed, every time. there are some people who think i shouldnt be– after all, women have many times been cut out of opportunities to participate. ironic, when a lot of this computer stuff was considered “womens work” at one point or another.
but all the way back to the pioneering days of computing, from howard aiken and grace hopper to charles babbage and ada lovelace, computing has not been for one gender only. it is unnatural to make computing single-gendered; it is definitely a love we can share regardless of other differences.
when you add girls-only computing to boys-only computing, it doesnt make anything fair. i dont offer any boys-only computing events, and neither should anyone else. i dont think its a bad thing if you have a girls-only activity like girl scouting or a girls-only school with computers in it, but girls-only computer events just add to the unfairness. they dont subtract (or stop) the unfairness to girls, they simply create a slightly newer, slightly different kind of unfairness.
i dont think there needs to be an end to these events. i dont think there should be so many. if the goal is to have more fairness, then they should really have more events that are designed to be fair– not events that are designed to counterweight unfairness, which isnt ever going to work. believe it or not, the fact that girls are discriminated against too doesnt make me feel good about missing out on these events at all.
im still not sure what im supposed to do about this– if i complain, people seem to think im crazy for wanting to be included. but if i protest, they would probably just tell me to fix the problem so they dont have to counter it. but i already encourage everyone to participate in whatever activities i offer regardless of gender, and i already have more females than males show interest in them.
i do know this– when you think something is unfair, you should keep telling people why you think its unfair until enough people agree with you. if it doesnt work in one generation, you just keep trying.
i really like computer events. theyre one of my favorite things. im automatically (and explicitly) disqualified from so many. i think theres soft disqualification, which is hard to fight– and hard disqualification, which is easy to get away with if you say “well this is to balance soft discrimination.” i think the practical outcome of more, more-inclusive events would be… a better demonstration of inclusion, a more reasonable and complete argument against gender discrimination, and less resentment all around.
but i dont think that will decrease the amount of “zero male” computer events. how many computer events outright bar women, outside of boys schools and boy scouts? because the only level of inclusion im looking for is “youre allowed to join the event. we cant promise its tailored to your likes.” most computer events had that already. all “metaphorical signs on the door” aside, there was no sign on the door that said “men only.” you were not shown out simply for being female.
all im asking is for the same level of welcome. by all means, give me weird looks or have women twice my size sit by me and tell me im not smart enough to be there– perhaps i will leave. but at least i will have the choice to go there in the first place, let alone stay. maybe id have to prove myself or become “one of the girls” before i really felt welcome there. thats definitely not ideal, but it would be a lot better than what it is now.
here is a childhood friend, who i believe now has a son of her own. (if youre reading this c., im so happy for you– he is as beautiful as his mother!) we had the same model of ibm computer in the mid-80s; as did my sister.
and here is a girl (only hands shown) who i gave a computer to; the grand-niece of a woman i was dating. the computer included debian 7, and fig– shown in the picture is either libreoffice or openoffice. i wanted her to be able to learn more about computers– i want everyone to be able to. for the record, the first two things that really got me into computers? basic, and a simple paint program– but not in that order.
- this article is in the public domain, except for the pictures (which belong to the photographers that took them.)