Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Answering Anonymous

My last post was about the local Microsoft campus and their Tech Camp for young girls. I thought (and still think) this rocks hardcore.

Then I got an interesting comment from an 'anonymous' who said:

I hope they have a similar program for males! That's true equality. However, maybe males are inherently more interested in computer technology and gadgets. I know my girlfriend can't tell the difference between hi-definition tv and regular old tv.

That comment reminded me of this cartoon:

Same principle at work with Anonymous. My girlfriend doesn't understand high tech TV, therefore women in general don't understand/care. We'll come back to that later...

I think it's important to address comments like this one, which claim that whenever girls are offered an opportunity, it's somehow "reverse sexism" on young boys.

I think you'll find that's not the case. It took me two seconds on google to get a hit on an article that explained more about Microsoft tech camps. And here's what I learned :

Over 10,000 students -- boys and girls -- have taken advantage of these technology classes over the past few years. This high-tech camp focuses on girls, Dopps says, because there is a general lack of interest from women to pursue careers in high tech. (emphasis mine)

Okay, you may ask how they know that there is a lack of interest? They've seen it.

"In general, at any IT event, there is a higher percentage of boys that attend than girls," Dopps says.... "This is a way for them to be around other girls who are interested in technology and to hear from women who made careers in technology, and this will help them understand what their opportunities are and get answers to questions that they might have -- such as what steps they should take next."

Of course, when young women see that technology and science are for girls too (and hey look, here's a bunch of them that currently work in the field and enjoy it) -then yes, more girls will gain confidence in their ability and pursue a dream outside the box.

I think our generation of American women have enjoyed more freedoms and opportunities than any generation of mothers and grandmothers before us. We have legal birth control and more job opportunities and legal protections than ever before. However, there are still serious barriers.

Not enough women run for political office. Not enough women pursue their dreams in science and technology and yes we can credit some of that to sexism . There are people who believe it goes against women's nature to be interested in those male-dominated fields. There are even people who believe women aren't smart enough. So many young girls grow up playing with the Rose Petal Cottage instead of a children's chemistry set (when have you EVER seen that marketed towards girls?). We need things like Girls Tech Camp to encourage the bright minds of young girls who previously thought, (even subconsciously) that "that stuff isn't for me."

Girls consistently rate themselves lower than boys on computer ability and have less positive attitudes toward computers, according to a 1998 American Institutes for Research study, "Gender Gaps: Where Schools Still Fail Our Children. And women earn only 18 percent of doctorates awarded in computer science in the United States, according to a 1999 report in The New York Times.

So there you have it, Anonymous... maybe your girlfriend never felt particularly welcome in a tech atmosphere. Or maybe like me, it's just not her bag. But I can tell you one thing, her lack of reverence for your high-def TV has absolutely nothing to do with her woman-parts. Just sayin.


The Red Queen said...

I had this conversation with a friend the other day. My ex used to think he was an audio visual genius. He was perpetually messing with the mountains of cables and connectors to hook the tv up to the cable up to the stereo, etc.

Every time he touched it, he broke it. Every time. At first I tried pointing out to him how it was broken. He hated that. Threw tantrums cause what could I possibly know?

I eventually gave up and just went around fixing things behind his back. Of course this just re-affirmed his idea that he was a genius, cause stuff started to work.

I work in the same tech industry as my younger brother. I make one tenth of what he does. I am not scared of technology. I pull my own computer apart and put it back together pretty often. It's called the frankenputer for a reason.

These camps are awesome for girls because it undoes some of the "What could you possibly know?" prejudice that gets thrown at us all the freakin time.

Tobes said...

I'm jealous, Red Queen. I am a computer-phobe. I'm still proud of myself for figuring out how to adopt Alice the penguin. I wish I knew how to spruce up my blog!

That soooo sucks about your pay compared to your brothers. yet another reason girls stear clear of the field. They know they'll get screwed over.

The Red Queen said...

Tobes- the fist thing I learned about computers is don't be afraid to make a mistake. It can always be fixed.

I know nothing about the css that blogs are built on-, i just googled around until i found things that I liked and copied them. Help forums are your friend!

ouyangdan said...

I went to a conference in sixth grade calle Girls are SMART (Science, Math, And Related Technologies) which spent the whole day showing us how to use state of the art equipment. I got to use ultrasound equipment, it was pretty fun.

As much as we want to say that exclusively girl spaces aren't what we are striving for, they are necessary in order to get there. To say we shouldn't offer these things to girls and not to boys is to assume that the playing field is already level, which is some troll wet dream i am sure. Until the playing field is level we need these girls only spaces. It's not like the secret club in Calvin and Hobbes (G.R.O.S.S), we are not excluding yucky boys to be mean or avoid their cooties, we are trying to get girls to a level where it is perceived that boys already are. Boys are encouraged in these fields, and girls are getting there.

PS, I asked you to be my friend on Facebook. I use my real name, so that is me w/ the goofy picture.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post. I am happy to see Microsoft working in this way!

There are other organizations around the country doing similar work. I was on the board of an one in Austin, TX for a long time. I think you would really like what they do

Encouraging middle school aged girls in math, science and technology. They do incredible stuff.

Also, I noticed that the "Take Your Daughter To Work Day" continued to be circumvented to bring boys "because it wasn't fair to them" same story, different day.


Anonymous said...

Tobes, the fact is you don't know for certain whether the majority of females simply don't like technology because of their biology. That's something that will have to be discovered through science. Second, my statement about my girlfriend not being able to tell the difference between hi-def and regular tv was simply one example that falls in line with the major conclusions about females. They simply don't like or are uninterested gadgets and tech. Recent research has shown that women become more interested in cell phone tech when it becomes simpler. It's not the same for guys. The question is, "why are women uninterested in gadgets and tech?" A) It could be biology. B) It could be learned. The problem with your conclusion is that it is unsupported. Finally, microsoft is simply promoting its own form of social engineering by creating girl tech camps. It wants to lessen the technical imbalance between the sexes. Why? who knows! Maybe they can pay them less if, someday, they work for Microsoft. Hopefully, boys aren't being denied into these camps just because girls want to be accepted. The criteria for selection should be knowledge, skill and interest.

The Red Queen said...

Hey anonymous- biological determinism is a crap science.

I'm all sorts of techy. I hunt down new apps for my phone that turn it into an ebook reader and programs that let me use it to check emails for free. I designed my own blog by finding what kind of apps I wanted and trudging through help files and forums when the inevitable bugs appear. I tear my computer apart and put it back together when things go wrong or I want to make is snazzier.

And I am totes a girl. A girly girl even, complete with lipstick and high heels.

What I don't like about technology is the misogynist boys who populate it. When i want to figure out why a certain app will work in firefox or safari, but not IE- I just want an answer. I don't want to hear either "show us your tits" or "Why don't you get a boyfriend to fix that for you". That is why girls avoid technology. It's not fear of the complicated - it's disgust over the asswipes.

Anonymous said...

"Hey anonymous- biological determinism is a crap science."

It's not. At all. But being a super techy girly girl with lip gloss that hates ass wipes makes you such an authority on the matter, that I won't even ask for your literature to back it up!

"I don't want to hear either "show us your tits" or "Why don't you get a boyfriend to fix that for you"."

Um, clearly asking in the wrong places. I've never seen such disrespect if you're actually looking in a reputable location. But then, you didn't really think to include a link. BUT GOOD POINT!

"What I don't like about technology is the misogynist boys who populate it."

What I don't like about Iraq is that they are all a bunch of brown-bodied radicals. Wait, you mean such generalizations are typically flawed? WHOOPS.

"It's not fear of the complicated."

Really... so when NBC does those surveys, when girls answer that they aren't interested blackberries because they 'are too complicated', they must have meant 'only asshole boys use those things.'

Flawless. Another victory for the red jester.

Adrienne said...

I dropped shop in high school because guys were being jerks to me. At the time i thought, "I don't need this. This is just an elective. I'll pick a different one."

Now, I don't know how to fix anything (which I may have learned if I had completed shop), and when i take things to be fixed (like my car or computer) I get the whole, "Oh she's a girl, run up the price, talk about parts she doesn't know, make it seem like it's a huge problem."

I once had a guy at Jiffy Lube try to fix something on my car that didn't exist. Seriously. The part he was claiming needed to be replaced on my Grand Am only exists on trucks.


The Red Queen said...

Anon- the crap you are spewing about "the fact is you don't know for certain whether the majority of females simply don't like technology because of their biology." That's biological determinism. Oh look- here's a definition for you. Wait- here's another one. Now I'm gonna quote from it and it has some big words, so you might want to get out your dictionary.

Biological determinism stems from what is essentially a fundamental misunderstanding of the relationship between genes and organisms: biological determinists assume that the environment is not at all important in the determination of appearance, behavior, and functionality.

In other words- biological determinism is a crap science used by racists and sexists to excuse their racism and sexism.

The Red Queen said...

And Adrienne- I got tired of the same kind of treatment by mechanics. I found one that I liked and that was willing to explain to me in minute detail what the problem was and how it could be fixed. He let me learn a lot from him. He got a lot of business and I got a toyota corolla that went way over 200k miles before the engine finally blew up.

Because of him, I have been able to successfully argue with other mechanics and not get cheated. Find a mechanic you trust that doesn't treat you like a dumb girl. Best money saver ever.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, it's really a shame. Back in engineering school, there were far too many of us ladies who failed our exams because picking out the HD television out of a crowd of televisions is worth 15 points on the final.

Tobes said...

I like you guys so much. When I run out of energy to deal with these people-- there you are. Bringing the wisdom.


The Storytelling Girl said...


Ever work in cell phone tech? I have!

The technology doesn't get simpler, it gets more complicated. That's why you can use your phone to send an email, or google your best mate.

And by far, the majority of people I used to counsel when they had to upgrade to a new phone because theirs had become obsolete were middle aged men.

PS. Don't complain about lack of citation if you're not willing to bring your own.

The Red Queen said...

Hey Storyteller Girl!

One of my good friends and former co-workers (so he knows exactly what my skill set and experience is) got a very high paying job in cell phone tech. When I asked him about openings he said "Oh you could totally do it, but the massive cockswagger. I've seen what they do to women there. I wouldn't recommend applying. It's like a hellhole of poor hygiene and misogyny"

Anonymous said...


The double standards around here are unbelievable.

Tobes said...

Let the records show that "cockswagger" was not thrown around by this blog author - but by another commenter.

My comment censoring kicks in when there is no POINT to a comment simply vile language or threats.

Person who used 'cockswagger' did have a valid point to make and wasn't being threatening so I published the post.

Anonymous said...

"Person who used 'cockswagger' did have a valid point to make and wasn't being threatening so I published the post."

I'm really really not seeing the point, unless of course it was that this person's friend has a very poor opinion of his employer. It's 100% hearsay. So how is that a valid point?

Bianca Reagan said...

I know my girlfriend can't tell the difference between hi-definition tv and regular old tv.

I had someone make this same argument to convince me that there aren't any young women using the internet, because his live-in girlfriend and her friends didn't use it that often. This was after I had finished telling him about my blog and the book and my blog/MySpace friends and my continued new media plans for the future. And still, this otherwise knowledgeable, university-educated young man--who had neither a blog nor a MySpace page himself--insisted to my face that young women aren't online.

The Red Queen said...

Being that I was quoting a DUDE, who was describing a work environment that is unfriendly to women- cockswagger was both appropriate and a direct quote.

Anon- you're starting to sound like an MRA with your denial of sexism and fake offense.

And hearsay is a legal term. This is not a court of law. Most everything you do in life involves hearsay. When your boss tells you the "client A says he's unhappy" do you scream "That's hearsay! You can't use it" to your boss?

No- really. Then suck it up. You don't get to change the rules of conversation because the conversation keeps proving you wrong.

The Red Queen said...

ps Tobes- I linked you at the feminism 101 blog. Hope you don't mind.

Tobes said...

I soooo don't mind. I'm very flattered :)

Please don't leave. I run out of energy to deal with these people. And you do it sooo well.

observer said...

Thank you for this post. Just the other night I was told by my boyfriend that his female students were failing physics because females are less logically minded. I can't deny that all five of his female students are in fact, doing appallingly badly, but I can't abide being told something so abhorent such as "it's because they're girls" by someone I love.

The Red Queen said...

Oh Tobes-It's much more fun arguing with your sexist than dealing with my stalker. Of course I'll stick around.

And what level of proof do you think dude will accept? So far first person experience is out- as he's ignored the expereince of every girl who's posted here. Scientific citations are out, he's ignored those too. And now quotes from actual people with actual penises are out cause they are hearsay.

I don't know that there is any further way to prove it to him. So I don't think he's really interested in a real solution, I think he's just an MRA with a chip on his shoulder.

Anonymous said...

Crikey red jester, you are convoluting this argument to the point of non-recognition. I guess I have no choice but to respond point by point.

"So far first person experience is out- as he's ignored the expereince[sic] of every girl who's posted here."

I haven't ignored your experiences. But I did say that maybe the experiences you state are exaggerating a case. For instance, the jibe about how you receive nothing but sexism in forums where you're looking for technical tips, well maybe it HAS happened, but I doubt it's happened in any reputable location (at least in notable frequency). I frequent those parts of the internet, and I have never...ever... seen that kind of behavior. Sure. But that's a different animal altogether. So when you say the field is filled with sexists and misogynists... I mean, come on.

"Scientific citations are out, he's ignored those too."

This really bothers me, because the links you included were merely definitions of scientific determinism. Despite what you may think, is NOT a website you can quote scientifically. Good grief, it's not even a scientific journal that any biologist would reference. literally just provides a definition of the term. So whether your beliefs of Biological Determinism are correct, your argument is what is fundamentally flawed. It is a disputed science, but it has not been disproven, and it would not be a hot-button issue if it was so easily dismissed.

"And now quotes from actual people with actual penises are out cause they are hearsay."

I have a hard to beginning with this one. For starters, what if I came around here using terms offensive to women, even in quote form? I wouldn't care in the least, except that there wasn't much of a point in you saying it. Tobes claims you were making a valid point... but what was it? That your friend thinks his employer is sexist? Okay... that's completely grapevine talk, so who cares? Why would you guys take it and apply it to serious conversation. What is the point? Hearsay can be used in a legal sense... but for crying out loud, a lot of words can. Does that mean they don't have meaning in discussion?

"You don't get to change the rules of conversation because the conversation keeps proving you wrong."

This is a bizarre sentence, because you were the one that just said using the term "hearsay" was taboo. I'm not changing the rules, you are. And you're not proving anything, neither is the conversation.

"I don't know that there is any further way to prove it to him."

Come now, let's be grown up about this. It's lively debate, this isn't science. Nobody is going to be swayed on either side, I think we both know that :)

"So I don't think he's really interested in a real solution, I think he's just an MRA with a chip on his shoulder."

What is the solution you offer? And for what? I'm very much for women in technology. I'm also for men in technology. Are these camps a bad idea? No. Should they be offered to men exclusively too? Absolutely. I don't even know what you mean by calling me a Magnetic Resonance Angiogram, but I imagine it's something I should take exception to, because YOU are the one with the chipped shoulder.

This isn't a debate. This is a circus.

Tobes said...


MRA = men's right activist = someone who takes exception when women are offered so called "special privileges" like their own computer camp.

This tag seems to fit you well.

You are not here to debate; you are here to throw out women's real experiences.

Just because you haven't seen sexism does NOT mean it doesn't exist. Especially silly because so many women will tell you that male dominated fields are full of sexism. Not only women will tell you but STUDIES will tell you.

A report came out recently that women in the US army were more likely to be raped by a soldier than killed by enemy fire. Not all soldiers are rapists (OBVIOUSLY). Not all soldiers will experience rape. Not all women soldiers will feel threatened. But does that mean this isn’t a real problem? NO.

You keep throwing out all that we bring up and then demanding we prove the existence of sexism. We don't need to do this. Sexism is at work in 2008 -- PERIOD. Arguing otherwise is like arguing the grass is blue.

Microsoft started this camp after studies showed that young women responded in surveys that they felt they didn't belong or couldn’t work with technology. So camps like this one are created to specifically show women – yes you can do it, and you can do it well.

Why you are trying to come here and prove some sideline point that sexism doesn’t exist or somehow these few camps created for these specific purposes are a threat to male equality --- well it’s just bizarre. Take the chip off the shoulder already.

I am ASTOUNDED that you don’t see the irony in a man saying to women, “But I don’t see any sexism!!!!” Would you argue with black people that “I don’t see racism ergo it doesn’t exist?” I sincerely hope not.

It’s easy to ignore that which doesn’t affect you. You are particularly good at it because no matter what example we throw at you (personal, study or article), you brush it off as not real because it didn’t affect YOU or the people YOU know or the places YOU visit.

That is the very self-centered and childish way of viewing the world. There are people living lives outside of your bubble and their experiences still count.

My most recent post has a webcast—listen to it – in it a female tech writer about the constant harassment she faces simply for being a woman in that field. Are you going to try and tell her that it doesn’t exist either????

PS: Her name is Red Queen. Get it right or get banned.

The Red Queen said...

Some Links for Mr. Anonymous

On Biological Determinism

On feminists looking for stuff to get mad about. It applies here because you keep refusing to see what is right in front of you

And an MRA explainer, sorry there are no links to groups for you to join.

Now this last one is a long series examining the gender gap in academia. It does both science and engineering as well as humanities, law and medicine. While it doesn't explain why women have it worse in all these fields- the numbers are undeniable.

If you really are interested in a debate- then you should come prepared with an argument other than "I don't believe it". That is the oldest, sorriest argument used by sexists and racists and homophobes and abelists. But it doesn't work here. We're on to it.

The Red Queen said...

one more link

63% of women in tech work experience sexual harassment.

slythwolf said...

I am extremely late to this party but here's a thought--not being able to tell the difference between regular and high-definition TV probably has less to do with one's genitalia than it does with one's eyesight.

Brigit said...

"In other words- biological determinism is a crap science used by racists and sexists to excuse their racism and sexism."

Agreed. I'll also add that this pseudo-scientific bullshit is only spouted by people that know jack about biology. More specifically, jack about the epigenetic changes in gene expression that change function and activity in different brain regions.

The environment in which we are and the experiences that we go through trigger signaling changes that end up adding or changing markers in the outside of our genes. These markers either enhance or impede transcription of the genes, and thus change the amount of protein product produced in different cell types.
Some conditions that can be linked to these changes nowadays are schizophrenia (in which a protein that helps shape connections between neurons is affected), PTSD, and some types of depression.

We have several biological mechanisms of this nature, and on top of that all that goes on inside us has a stochastic nature.

So yes, research has shown that biological determinism is pure bullshit only spouted by the ignorant.
- A neuropharmacologist's perspective