Friday, October 10, 2014

Weekend Links: The I Already Miss Seriouspony Edition

Let's start with the happy news, shall we? The first two reviews of Petunia, the Girl Who Was NOT a Princess are in, and they are good. Read more at  Today Wendy and It's a Jumble.

You can pre-order the book if you are so inclined.

This week, I tried out Facebook ads for Navigating the Path to Industry. It was an interesting experiment, but worth it only in the sense that I found the data about which versions of my ad people clicked on fascinating. I may write more about this at some point, but I will be looking at other ways to market the book. The Facebook ads were simply not cost-effective.

I love Atul Gawande's writing, and his book on mortality is looking like a must read. Here he is in the NY Times writing about handling the end of life.

I also love Roxane Gay's writing. Here she is writing about the price of Black ambition.

If you have not read Kathy Sierra's eloquent explanation of why she shut down her Seriouspony twitter account and went offline again, read it now. (That link goes to Wired's repost. It is identical to her original post, which she has said she may take down later.) 

Sierra's post is very important, because it clearly explains what so many women in tech and online fear: that success and visibility will bring harassment and threats, aimed not just at us but at our families. Look back at the prominent stories, and see what actions unleashed the fury: saying that it is OK to moderate blog comments (Kathy Sierra). Making videos that critique video games (Anita Sarkeesian). Tweeting about a juvenile and offensive joke (Adria Richards). Having made some games and then having the misfortune to have dated and then broken up with a vindictive asshole (Zoe Quinn).  

And yet, I keep reading men in tech say "it's complicated." No, it isn't. There should be nothing complicated about looking at what has happened to these women and saying it is wrong, and should not be tolerated. Threats are not an acceptable response to someone saying something you disagree with. Papering the internet with false stories about someone and her children is not an acceptable response to anything.

I remain frustrated by how so many people refuse to acknowledge what a chilling effect these cases and have on other women. I have known for as long as I have been active online that for me, success in this space brings with it the risk of harassment and threats that it just doesn't bring to my male counterparts. And yet, being online has also brought me wonderful opportunities, and in a very real way has made my recent career change possible. Beyond that, I have learned and grown from things I've read online and found via social media. I do not want to leave the internet.

I think that my particular interests are such that I am unlikely to find myself targeted, but the sad reality is that none of us is really safe. And I haven't reached what Sierra terms "the Koolaid point." It is impossible to predict what will happen if I ever do, but the evidence from other women's experience indicates that it will not be a uniformly good thing. This is the world that the tech guys have built, and I think that the fact that they are so overwhelmingly guys has a lot to do with why it has ended up this way. They simply do not understand the world in the same way that women do, because they do not move through the world with the same undercurrent of threat that women do. In some ways, the tech world is just a reflection of the misogyny in the rest of the world. It is not their fault that there are misogynistic jerks out there. But by refusing to take steps to limit the misogyny on the platforms they've built, they perpetuate and amplify it, and for that they are responsible. 

Kathy Sierra was able to separate her anger at how the man who attacked her behaved towards her from her assessment of his other activities. Why can't other people do the same? That's the minimum that I want to see: prominent men in technology straight-forwardly stating that the harassment and doxxing and threats are wrong, no matter what the women who are on the receiving end said or did, and no matter what other possibly laudable things the people (usually men) on the other end have done. This should not be hard, and yet apparently it is. I have been watching for those straightforward condemnations over the past few days, and have not seen as many as I would have hoped.

And then Julie Pagano, another prominent woman in technology, announced she has also decided to go offline.

The need to protect my own sanity and ability to persist in the work I want to do is why I disengage from the effort to improve the science and tech world from time to time. I cannot stop working on this altogether because I very much want to make this a safer, better world for my daughters and all the girls in their generation. But I have to preserve my ability to work and enjoy my life first and foremost. I am sad we are losing the online voices of Kathy Sierra and Julie Pagano, but I completely understand why they needed to go.

Michelle Goldberg writes in The Nation about what we might do to fix things. I love the title: There Is No Constitutional Right to Harass Women Online,because it calls out how people who refuse to condemn these attacks often hide behind "free speech." If you want to go on a rather depressing deep-dive into the subject,  Catherine Buni and Soraya Chemaly's article in the Atlantic is very good.

If you are a man who wants to starting working to make science and tech more welcoming to women, here's a list of things you can do.

I don't know why we're surprised that law enforcement isn't much help in handling online threats, when they apparently think it is OK to impersonate an actual real woman online, without her knowledge or consent.

I like to keep quotes around that help me through difficult times, or remind me what I think is important. Or just make me laugh. The quote I picked for Tungsten Hippo this week is a good one, particularly for a week like this.

This story about a boy who got to see the northern lights before he goes blind made me cry, but in a good way.

And now for the happy ending:

Over on Crappy Things I Made to Stop the Whining, I shared some recent improvements to two of our toy cars.

Speaking of tumblrs, the Worst Cats tumblr was pretty funny, but the existence of a  Worst Hippos tumblr makes it even better.

And speaking of animals, AWWWWW:

1 comment:

  1. Re Sierra -- Internet is a freakin' terrifying place.
    There are way too many sociopaths with internet access around.
    That piece she wrote was excellent.


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