Saturday, October 10, 2009

The “F word”: The Uneasy Relationship Between Feminism and Technology

The following is a blog I posted on the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing blog found here.

In my experience, this session started a day early. You see, the day before this session I presented a BoF about support groups for women in STEM with my fellow executives of CU-WISE (Ottawa, Canada). My group presented in conjunction with MENTE (Mexico) and WICS (Vancouver, Canada). During the question period, someone asked a question I always dread to answer. It was about feminism and how it affects student groups. What surprised me next was that the first thing that one of my fellow executive members, Gail, did was pass the microphone to me. "Oh boy" I thought, and started getting nervous because I had so much to say and I didn't know where to start.

So here's my chance, but I'll keep it short. My notes on the session on the uneasy relationship between feminism and technology are included in the ghc wiki and in this blog I am including my personal perspectives.

Let me start with a definition of feminism. It is defined as "the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men". It is not defined as hating on men, trying to gain more power than men, or anything inventive anyone may think. So let's clear the air. Feminism is what gave you a better life: gave you the right to vote, protected you from sexual harassment, and gave you more equal pay. And women suffered and fought to give you those rights. This is how I see feminism. To me it is a gift that was given to me before I was born and it is my responsibility to appreciate it and to continue attaining those equal rights. By the way, when I say "equal" I don't mean the "same". Women and men are different, they're just not quite equal yet.

It looks like I've already written a lot so let me finish off with something I don't usually talk about because I'm so busy defending feminism. I would like to talk about what I think feminists can do to shed a brighter light on the "f word":
  1. Join a local support group like WISE, MENTE, and WICS. I don't know what I would do without my awesome support group here in Ottawa.
  2. When you are ready, pass it on. Recruit and mentor others. Make your voice heard. Make sure their voices are heard too. Don't judge other women, support them.
  3. Help men understand feminism. Men are part of the solution and we need their support too. Marry a supportive husband. Talk to you brother or father. I know I talk about feminism with my brother's friends who are all in their 20's and in engineering. Right now they're busy going to class, reading textbooks, and writing tests, but they'll be in much closer contact with us in the workplace.
  4. Consider the possibility of scrapping the word and adopting a new one. It is much too difficult to change how people perceive it and I would rather if we spent our energy somewhere else.
There it is folks. Those are my brief thoughts and I encourage you to share your thoughts and experiences on this blog. The room for this session was completely filled so I can imagine that there are a lot of women who would appreciate talking some more about it.