I read AsherWolf’s post this morning about her treatment and the hacker community and it made my heart sink. I don’t even have the skills to join yet and well, for a moment, the whole thing lost its shine for me.
AsherWolf doesn’t put me off. Along with so many other women, she helps. Dr Sue Black, Rain Ashford, Dorothy Molloy, Selena Deckelmann, Melinda Seckington, Molly Sauter, ‘Femi Adesina, Colleen Lin, Vinoba Vinayagamoorthy, heck, if I could remember all the names I would list them, I might add them later, but they help. While I have been learning, they help me.
I don’t want to be different as a woman learning to code. I want to catch up with the other women (jeese I hope!) and talk with mixed genders about cool stuff.
I am also lucky enough to know a whole host of guys (ok, seriously too many to list, you can count yourself in if you ever encouraged me with efforts to code) who are not inclined to make sexist remarks or talk down to me. They help too.
Admittedly, with my water-wings on and my splashing around in the shallow end, I expect to be talked down to – I’m learning. But teaching people by beating them is not a good form of encouragement.
Each time I read something where another woman has more troubles with hacker communities, I struggle. I know that it’s not the whole group of people, but I don’t want to be a target. Especially while I still want to be enthusiastic and optimistic.
When I was small and knew a little BASIC, a little C+ (shutup, yes I am not that young) I read books about amazing hackers and their adventures (ok, mostly grey areas of the law and people who got caught). Their stories taught me that code is powerful, an enabler.
But there still seems to be a gap, it doesn’t seem to make you that powerful or enabled if you’re female and stuck facing another guy who thinks sexism is okay.
It happens in my industry and many others far too much. I’d like to think that people of either sex could be appreciated by the work they do. I know, a cynic with a soft, gooey core of naive optimism.
I am a long way from being at the level of the hacker heroes I read about as a girl. I’m probably too old now to catch up really.
Seeing this sort of thing puts a dent in my hope. I’ll still keep learning and maybe one day I’ll even make something useful too. But those cool hackers I read about as a teen were guys. Was I being too optimistic then too when I wanted to be a part of that?
Whatever the dents for now, I at least hope that girls starting to learn at school age are not put off. My mother’s generation put up with a pat on the ass, I’ve told people I would happily break their fingers for less and verbal harassment continues.
So to the questions. Can this be turned around? Why is hacker culture still an area where these problems are highlighted? Is the problem very big or is it that there are too few women in the mix and so there is more pressure?
I feel shy about learning when I see that some women get hassled along the lines of their gender. It’s not something I am willing to change about myself (I hear it’s really expensive too). Does learning more and getting better mean sexism stops? I’m not sure I think it does.