Diversity Technology

Caltech: Glimmer and Glomming

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Susan Kitchens points out that the number of women in the freshmen class at Caltech has increased from 28.5 last year to 37 percent this year. That’s a significant rise, even though it doesn’t match other tech colleges (42 to 47 percent), or colleges in general (with 57 percent women).

Interesting how Caltech increased the enrollment of women:

Caltech officials said the school did not lower its admission standards, but did more actively and shrewdly recruit women this year.

For example, Caltech made its female applicants more aware that they could be physics majors but also study music and literature, said Rick Bischoff, director of undergraduate admissions.

“That’s not to say men are not interested in those issues,” but those seem to resonate more with women, Bischoff said.

In other words, Caltech made a specific decision to increase women’s participation, pursued such actively and was successful. In some circles hereabouts, the feelings seem to be that actively recruiting women as participants is equivalent to ‘lowering’ the overall quality of the participants.

Susan, and the article, both mention the concept of ‘glomming’, where groups of young men at Caltech will follow a young woman around, lie in wait for her, and sit staring at her.

Personally, everyone participating in this should be expelled from school. Such juvenile behavior belongs in Kindergarten, not college. Perhaps if these boys would be encouraged to take literature and music, they might act like well-rounded and healthy men.

The only issue I have with all of this is that I hope that bringing more women into Caltech isn’t seen as a way of making the educational experience better for the men–you know, more dates for the poor geeks. We do not exist to keep you guys from feeling lonely.

We don’t exist for you guys at all.

Diversity Technology

Number 9 Number 9 Number 9

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I wanted to welcome you all to this, the third annual Burningbird Bash of ETech! This year’s show promises to be the best ever, especially considering that O’Reilly has, after all these years, finally broken the 10% rule for percentage of presenters that are female!

Yes, indeedy, this year’s female participation is a whopping nine percent (9% or 0.09)! Nine percent! Why, I bet there’s more Windows users in the audience than women presenters!

I want to take a moment now to send out congratulations to Tim and the gang and say, “Job well done! You finally found the solution to the 10% problem!”

Okay, so this introduction to what has become my annual report on the lack of women at O’Reilly’s Emerging Technology conference is a little over the top. Every year, though, I and others say the same thing and nothing changes except this year things are worse instead of better. Once this fact hit me in the face, like a too-dead squid thrown by a fish monger, I had to scramble to find a bigger soap box and louder sound system. I even thought about hiring a troop of clowns to entertain the kiddies while we talk–but my heart just wasn’t in it because all I could see is that 9% rather than the 11% or, gosh, even 15% I had hoped to see.

So much of my discussion lately, though, has been on diversity that I almost decided to forgo this writing. However, where much of the previous discussion has been about diversity in weblogging, this is about diversity in technology–specifically, the lack of female representation at many of the technology events. Still, too much of anything is like eating a cake that’s 90% frosting: no matter how good it is, you’re going to get sick of it before you’re through.

I finally decided to go ahead anyway on this one writing, primarily because there are a few things different about the discussion this year. Now, I don’t know if the differences add to the discussion or to the noise, but since I like discussion and noise, here goes.

I submittaled a paper with a female origination

Whatever the representation of women at ETech, I can say I did my part. Unlike the conferences in the past, I submitted a proposal to ETech this year. Previously when I pointed out the lack of women presenters at the conference, one or more people would come back at me with, “Well, did you submit a proposal.” Now I can say, “Yes, I did”. It wasn’t accepted, but what’s more important is that I did try, I tried to be part of the solution. So, neener, neener, eat your wiener.

I found out in a post at David Weinberger’s that only 5% of the proposals were submitted by women. If we compare percentages, then, a larger percentage of women’s proposals were accepted than men. Now, how many men were invited to speak without proposals, invited to submit proposals, and leaving aside the fact that some of the committee members that decided on the proposals also spoke at the conference–whatever led to the event, a drop in women presenters this year is not a positive direction.

Danah Boyd also submitted a proposal this year, which, like mine, was also rejected. She wrote:

I was actually part of the 5% who applied to etech, only my application was rejected because it wasn’t emerging.

I don’t know if my submittal/submission/proposal was ‘emerging’ or not. It talked about semantic web and achieving critical mass with schemas, so there were all sorts of geeky terms present. But there was also poetry and words to the effect about bringing the semantic web to the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker. On reflection, now, this could have been a mistake.

I have a feeling, though, that the proposal lost out as soon as selection committee saw the title: I, Poet. Compared to “How to geek out your car”, poetry and semantics probably seemed less than interesting. But, as Ms. Boyd points out, there is interesting and then there’s interesting.

After a conversation last night, i wanted to clarify a few things. In conferences like SXSW and Etech, there’s no clear delineation of what is an acceptable topic or not (as opposed to say CHI). I mean – what is interactive or emerging? Additionally, the review panel consists of a very small number of people (all of who are pretty much guaranteed a slot). At CHI, there are hundreds and hundreds of blind reviewers. At SXSW and Etech, the metric is “interesting” – this is where we get ourselves into trouble. Interesting to whom? To the un-diverse review committee?

It wasn’t until I saw in comment in David Weinberger’s post on this issue that I knew who the committee was: Andrew “Bunnie” Huang, Clay Shirky, Cory Doctorow, Brian Jepson, and Marc Hedlund. No, “I, Poet”, a discussion on semantics and poetry wouldn’t have rung any bells here.

But would it have done so if the planning and selection committee were a little more diverse? Say, having one woman on the committee? Or perhaps some faces that weren’t so familiar? Would Danah Boyd’s proposal had been accepted if the committee were more diverse or had stronger ties to the social software industry? Hard to say, and that’s part of the problem, and the concern.

What makes this issue of diversity an even more pertinent one is that across the country, an event was held that did result in a much greater diversity than ETech: SxSW.

It burns so good

In David’s post, an interesting discussion about the lack of women at Etech arose in his comments, and are worth a read. Several were written by Liz Lawley, who also wrote about choosing to attend SxSW instead of Etech at Many-to-Many.

That’s another factor that sets this year’s discussion apart from previous years: the overlap between Etech and SxSW. More importantly, where Etech achieved only 9% participation, SxSW achieved significantly higher numbers.

Nancy White, who did such a great job liveblogging the sessions she attended, also tried to keep a head count of women in each. From what she and others have written, women made up anywhere from 25 to 50% of the participants at SxSW. That’s double to almost five times the numbers of ETech.

This level of participation at SxSW is important in relation to that of ETech for a couple of reasons. First, it shows that women are interested in participating in conferences related to their profession. Secondly, it also shows they’re willing to take the time and cover the expense.

One response that’s been raised time and again about the lack of women at O’Reilly conferences is that woman are less interested in attending conferences, or lack the financial means and/or time to do so. With SxSW and ETech happening virtually at the same time, we can compare the two, side by side, and see that this isn’t necessarily true. Women have the interest, and are willing to commit the time and resources following through on that interest. In fact, one reason there could have been a drop in women’s participation at ETech is because so many chose SxSW, instead. And the question then becomes: why?

Looking at both conferences more closely there some major logistical differences between the two. One is cost–SxSW’s fee is peanuts compared to O’Reilly’s normally quite expensive conference fees. The second is location–the central part of the country, even if it is south-central (well, if we must, south-by-southwest), is more accessible to more people than the California coast; cheaper to visit, too.

A third difference is when the conference was held. SxSW was over a weekend, while ETech was held during the work week. For women, who are usually the prime caregivers for children, it might be easier to arrange care on a weekend than a weekday.

However, I think the major difference was the players. Both conferences had names, though SxSW had more human-interaction and design names than ETech, which focuses more on ‘to the metal’ geeks. But there is more of an intimacy surrounding the players at SxSW than there is at ETech. Frankly, when I looked through the lists of Big Names at both get togethers, the SxSW Names were all people who struck me as being more approachable.

In fact, I think the same could be said of the entire SxSW conference — it encouraged participation, even from the audience. Lively discussions in the hallway aside, O’Reilly’s ETech conference is fairly passive. People sit in rows and listen to a speaker. People go to birds-of-a-feather sessions for interactivity, but these are an aside to the whole experience. Even the entertainment has an orchestrated aspect to the whole thing. Bluntly, ETech is very formal, very superior alpha-geek, somewhat passive, and even rather intimidating.

SxSW, on the other hand, is formed of beloved chaos, tenderly nutured in a solar vat consisting of an odd mix of creative anarchism and social responsibility. I don’t know whether one appeals more to all women more than the other, but I know that if I had my choice, after reading the reports from both conferences, I’d rather go to SxSW than ETech. And I consider myself a ‘to the metal’ geek.

That’s a key point, too, in this discussion. If there are many conferences and people can choose between them, why should we care if conferences such as ETech have only about 10% attendance, as compared to ones like SxSW? After all, these events are open, and nothing is stopping people from participating.

Shake that networking booty

We are living in a time when outsourcing IT companies are charging 3.00 US an hour for labor, and there are fewer and fewer IT jobs every year. It’s becoming tough to be a tech. No, change that: it is tough to be a tech.

One way to keep ahead in the tech industry now is through networking and contacts, and attending conferences is a big part of this. If I were to coldly and dispassionately sit down and choose between SxSW and ETech from this perspective, I would pick ETech. After all, it had folks from Yahoo, Google, IBM, Amazon, Nokia, and movers and shakers from most major IT companies. It’s also a closer match for my skills and experience.

So, then you’re saying: Okay, so what’s stopping you and other women from attending?

One major reason is no one wants to be the freak in the crowd; or worse, invisible. If you’ve never been the only woman in a room full of men (or the only black in a room full of white people), you may not understand how intimidating and uncomfortable you can be made to feel. Especially in technology, where women’s visibility is usually compromised anyway.

It’s hard to network if you just aren’t seen There was another comment in David’s weblog post that I think highlights this. In it, the commenter, Jo, wrote:

I spoke at etech the year previously. Meeting clay shirky after my talk, he made a couple of comments to the effect that “your guy” should look into something, “your guy” might find something interesting. I was too quietly stunned and post-talk-drunk to frame a better reply than “er, i do write my own software, you know.” As a female with a gender-neutral name, i am often assumed to be male by conference organisers, people online, etc. I’m quite used to being the only woman at BOFs, at user group meetings, etc. It’s hard to even notice it any more; it’s just the way i grew up as a geek. I always assumed it would slowly change. But if that’s the case, it’s not reflected on the public platform.

Every year when i see the Etech highlighted speakers’ list with speaker photos, i scroll down disconsolately for the inevitable token non-male face. The 9% don’t get much of a look-in.

O’Reilly’s organisers *are* in a position to “counteract the prevailing cultural forces” in Fred Brooks’ wonderful phrase. How much backlash, of a New-Labour-Women-Only-Parliamentary-Shortlist flavour, would that provoke from those who had been cut out by a defacto quota?

From the recent discussion on women in weblogging, we can answer Jo’s last question about quotas, openness, and what is the chance of folks being provoked into a backlash with a simple answer: a lot. When the status quo suits one group over another, we can’t expect to the former to willingly give it up in the interests of fairness.

People are resistant to change. People are even more resistant to change unless they see the problem impacting on them personally. People are especially resistant to change when the change means they have to give something up. Pigs refusing to leave a particularly fine pool of mud comes to mind.

If ETech is a success for O’Reilly, what is the impetus for the company to change? If the type of sessions and the opportunity to network is a success for the majority of its participants–and the majority of technologists in this country are still white, male, as reflected at ETech — what is the impetus to change? If even among women, some don’t see this situation as an issue, or only do so from a personal perspective, where is the force that could generate the impetus to change?

Why change? Because Etech will be better.

Where have all the semanticians gone, long time passing…

One thing I noticed about both SxSW and ETech is both conferences featured much on XHTML attributes and tags as the wave of the future in the semantic web, but very little representation from what has been the semantic web community for many years. Some–many?– might say this was a positive aspect to both conferences, but is it really so?

In the long run, I don’t think so. I’ve noticed that more of the activity and work related to the semantic web, outside of folksonomies that is, is happening in Europe or Canada rather than the United States. Is it that our country is so caught up in gizmos and gadgets and mini-macs and iPods and cheap and easy solutions and meme of the minutes that we no longer want to take the time and energy to understand the more in-depth and complex, and perhaps less flamboyant, aspects of technology? Are we becoming a nation of fad technologists?

In addition to technology diving into the shallow end of the pool, if you read down the list of presenters, you see, repeated again and again, the same company names: Yahoo, Google, Microsoft, Apple, IBM, Amazon, BBS, Wired, Nokia — all well known technology or media companies, many of whom are indugling in some fascinating advances in technology. Yet there seems to be fewer and fewer representations from smaller companies and independents–to the point where I’m surprised that O’Reilly is even bothering with submissions outside of a picked group of organizations.

Technology as it used in specific well-known companies can be interesting, but the problem with it is that much of the time what each company is doing is unique to that company; and the information can’t be extrapolated to other uses. Not everyone has the same system requirements as Google. Not everyone needs to own a dam.

And frankly, who is to say that how each company uses the technology is the best use of that technology? If you have enormous resources and funding, you can afford to spread out. Smaller companies may need to come up with innovative ways of doing the same thing for less. Yet if an employee of Google is presenting on web services and Jane Blow in off the street doing the same–who is going to be picked? This isn’t always in the best interests of the audience. Thanks to the Google’s fame, we know how it uses web services; I kind of want to hear what Jane Blow has to say. Maybe she has a new twist, and a new idea.

Not just the same companies keep showing up — the same people, too. I read in a weblog from one attendee (and my apologies for no permalink; I had read several and forgot where I saw this one), that when he arrived at the conference he looked around and noticed that it didn’t look all that much different than the year before, or at other events he’d attended in the last year. Same faces, same folks, same groups, and similar topics–the only change being the ‘it’ topic for the year, such as tags and gizmos this year (thanks to folksonomies and O’Reilly’s new gizmo magazine, Make).

Okay fine. Big companies, less depth, familiar faces. But what does all of this have to do with lack of women presenting?

Well, it all comes back to the lack of diversity.

O’Reilly tends to pick from a non-diverse pool of people when planning ETech, and this is reflected not only in the lack of female participation, but also in the fact that the conference is beginning to resemble more of a annual meeting of a club than a conference celebrating innovation. The sessions might be interesting or even entertaining, but they don’t necessarily challenge the attendee–how can they? So many of the attendees are no different than the people presenting.

This lack of challenge, and the resulting epiphanies and excitement that can result from same, shows in so many of the weblog entries about the conference. The sessions were interesting, the people enjoyed them, but no one came away jumping up and down with enthusiasm. Well, except for the Ruby on Rails photo. (For the best take on folksonomies at ETech, also see Sam’s wonderfully ironic posting.)

This, then, forms the impetus for O’Reilly to look more closely at how it manages its conferences, and to begin to diversify the community that both presents and attends: not just because it’s the ‘right’ thing to do; not just because it’s the ‘fair’ thing to do; but because it’s the smart thing to do.

Not unless O’Reilly wants ETech 2007 to look like Etech 2006 to look like Etech 2005 to look like…

number 9, number 9, number 9, …

Diversity Technology

Guys Don’t Link

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

The Better Bad News folk did a take on the AutoLink fooflah, which is worth a chuckle, though not necessarily a guffaw. However, what I found more interesting about the page is the *list of webloggers that the BBN folks referenced:

1. Opt Out Petition
2. Dan Gillmor
3.The Scoblizer

4. Dave Winer
5. Cory Doctorow
6. Time
7. Mark Jen
8. Steve Rubel
9. Kas Log
10. Tim Bray

with sonic support from Plastikman

Aside from the Time article, which is actually written by a woman, and the petition, all of the webloggers linked were men. Every single one.

This matched closely what I found at Doc Searls, in his post on AutoLink. He references the following bloggers:

Steve Gillmor
Tim Bray
Dave Winer
Dan Gillmor
Fred Von Lohmann
Craig Burton

ubermostrum at kuroshin

Again, all guys.

Point of fact, if you follow the thread of this discussion, you would see something like Dave linking to Cory who then links to Scoble who links to Dave who links to Tim who links to Steve who then links to Dave who links to Doc who follows through with a link to Dan, and so on. If you throw in the fact that the Google Guys are, well, guys, then we start to see a pattern here: men have a real thing for the hypertext link.

Well, huh. How about that. Not being a guy, I couldn’t understand this male obsession with the link, so I decided to call on an expert on gender roles about the issue: Lawrence Summers, Harvard’s current President.

“Larry,” I said. “What is is with guys and links?”

“Well Shelley, statistics–now, don’t worry, I won’t show you any actual values because being a women and all, we know that you can’t do more than count your ten fingers and toes–anyway, statistic show that guys are linked more than women, and link to each other more than they link to women. And when one guy links to another guy, a whole bunch of other guys come along and link them both, and then start linking to each other.”

“I’m aware of the behavior, Larry. But what causes it?”

He beamed at me, patted me on my head and chucked me under the chin. “Why honey, it’s because the male brain is wired for linking!”

I’ll have to admit, I was taken aback by Larry’s response. I mean, it didn’t make sense that a guy’s brain could better handling linking, especially since women also use the link.

“Larry, are you sure that linking isn’t a pattern based on cultural and social similarities, rather than gender-based differences in the brain? Guys are linked more because our current society and most cultures still see men as ‘authorities’, regardless of demonstrated capability?”

Larry just smiled, somewhat sadly and shook his head.

“All too often we think that guys are linked more than women because of social patterns, but that’s really not the case. Look, there are three reasons why men are linked more than women, and I’ll take them in the order of importance.”

He held up the index finger on his right hand. “The first reason men are linked more is based on interest and time. Women just aren’t interested in weblogging as much as the men, and don’t have the time for it, even if they are interested. You ask both men and women the question, ‘What’s more important: your families or your weblog?’ and I bet you’ll find that women, overall, will pick their families over their weblogs.”

He held up the middle finger on his right hand. “The second reason is aptitude — men and women’s brains are different, and men are more equipped to handle the complexities of the link, as compared to women.”

Larry then held up the third finger, almost indifferently and said, “And then there’s the social issues, but I don’t want to get into this because anything having to do with social issues means folks like me have to change, and we don’t want that.” He quickly lowered his third finger. “And I don’t want to get into time and interest, because I’m running out of time and the topic has little interest.”  And with that, he lowered the index finger, leaving only the middle finger raised.

“And that leads us back to men and women’s brains being different, and men being better equipped to handle linking.”

At that point, Larry noticed the stunned look on my face, my mouth opened in astonishment. He said, “Seriously, I think it’s important to focus this topic on the hard wired differences between men and women, virtually to the exclusion of any other discussion.”

“To take an example I discussed previously, when I gave weblogging tools to my twin little girls, and they are Daddy’s good little girls might I add, it wasn’t long after I showed them what a link was that they were calling them ‘Daddy links’, ‘Mommy links’, and ‘Baby links’. Leaving aside that all the television they watch features ads with little girls playing house and pretending to be mommies, how else can you explain this behavior other than the female brain perceives the link in a different way from the male brain?”

The conversation continued from that point, but I don’t remember much of it as my brain was in a red haze–I imagine that Larry would say it was because I am a woman and we were, after all, discussing links. Later that day, though, not feeling overly satisfied with his answers, I sought out the one fountain of wisdom I always returned to, again and again, whenever I was troubled about gender issues: Mags the bartender down at the Bushels of Beer Bar & Grill.

When I got there, business was slow and Mags was wiping down the counter. Her hair was steel gray, though strands of golden blonde appeared here and there–she always did miss a few when she colored. Peering out at me from behind thick, fake glasses, she smiled broadly, easily re-cutting the lines long creases into her cheeks. She was a lovely woman, though she spent a great deal of time trying to live this down.

“Shelley! What are you doing here on a fine afternoon! I thought you walked during this time of day?” she said, reaching under the counter at the same time to get the mixings for my usual margarita.

“Skip the drink today, Mags.” I said, heavily, as I plopped down on the stool. “What I want from you is advice, not booze.”

I then proceeded to tell her all about Google’s new AutoLink, and my own findings on men and links, and the conversation with Larry the Harvard President. She nodded from time to time, as if nothing I said was unexpected. When I was finished, she looked at me a moment and then did something she rarely did — come out from behind the counter to sit on the stool next to me.

“Shelley, I’m not surprised by anything you’re saying. But you might be surprised when I say that I sort of agree with your Harvard President — men do think differently about links than women.”

I was surprised, and showed it.

“Oh, I don’t mean that men and women’s brains are wired so differently that men are naturally more adept at linking then women. No, the difference between men and women lies in how men perceive links, not their ability to use them.”

She leaned closer to me, even though no one else was in the place.

“You see, guys see links as an extension of themselves. ”

Extensions of themselves? Extensions? Slowly, understanding dawned.

“You mean…”

“You always were a bright girl, mores the pity.” She said, winking at me. “You got it in one. To you and me, a link is just a link. To a guy, however, a link is something special, a part of himself. The most,um, important part of himself.”

Time for plain speaking. “Mags, are you telling me that guys equate links with their dicks?”

Mags just smiled, patted my hand one more time, and then got up and moved back behind the counter.

“Shelley, to a woman, a link is a way of connecting and being connected. To hearing and being heard. But not so for a guy. Guys see links as power, and therefore something precious, and to be protected. They hold on to their links as tightly, and as lovingly, as a thirsty drunk holds onto a bottle.”

At that moment I had a mental image, of a male weblogger I know, carefully adding a link to his post, bright, feral grin on his face, manic glaze to his eyes. But instead of typing into a keyboard he was…oh, that’s disgusting!

I shuddered, world twisted upside down. “Surely, Mags, not all guys think this way!”

Mags shook her head. “No, this attitude isn’t universal among men. There are many guys who see a link as nothing more than a way of inviting a conversation or passing along useful information. They link without regard to the consequences, and the most they hope for is that it might spark an interesting discussion.”

She stopped wiping the counter and leaned closer to me, lowering her voice. “The power-link guys have a word for men who link just to link,” she whispered. “They call them linkless.”

At that point, a couple of people entered the bar and Mags hurried off to do her job, leaving me to think on our extraordinary conversation. The more I thought on Mags words, though, the more I could see the truth in them. Much that has confused me about this environment is explained if one considers for a moment that some men think of links as some form of virtual penis.

For instance, ‘nofollow’ wouldn’t just be a misuse of HTML and a way for Google to solve the weblogger pest problem: it would be way of increasing the power of one’s link– literally a hypertext version of Viagra. As for Google, it becomes both the hand and the condom, enabling and protecting at the same time.

Sites such as Technorati become the internet version of a locker room, where the guys can hang around, comparing themselves to each other. Those that come up short look at their better endowed brothers with both envy and admiration; sucking up in order to increase their own stature.

When we women ask the power-linkers why they don’t link to us more, what we’re talking about is communication, and wanting a fair shot of being heard; but what the guys hear is a woman asking for a little link love. Hey lady, do you have what it takes? More important, are you willing to give what it takes?

Groupies and blogging babes, only, need apply.

And the phrases, “circle jerk” and “Google juice”, take on new depth and sudden meaning in light of this discovery.

I wandered home from the bar, in a daze of comprehension so strong, it literally staggered me. I thought back on what started this all: the AutoLink. Now, I could understand the concern: it was all about protecting the Link.

What I see is functionality that can only be used in one browser, in one operating system, and only when the weblog reader pushes a button; when pushed, the tool only autolinks a few items: addresses and ISBN numbers and a few other innocuous odds and ends. To me, this is no big thing, but to those who run afeard of this technology, if we treat this service indifferently, other tools will take this as a sign of easy compliance and do truly evil things with the link.

We could then have ‘neocon’ and ‘progressive’ linking toolbars, that automatically link words such as ‘patriot’ to either Michelle Malkin or Atrios if the reader pushes a button. Or syndication toolbars that convert the word “Atom” to a link to the RSS 2.0 specification. (Resulting in such fine combinations as: “RSS 2.0 and Eve” and “Water is made up of two RSS 2.0 of hydrogen and one RSS 2.o of oxygen.”)

Why, some toolbars might even link terms to Wikipedia entries, and modern civilization, as we know it, would collapse into tattered heaps of folksonomic trash.

But not all guys saw AutoLink as the damnation of all mankind. No, a few anarchists in the crowd are always looking for opportunities to rip open the constraints and just let it All Hang Loose.

Yes, so much is explained now. Where I saw AutoLink as a relatively uninteresting and innocuous innovation, to some guys it was a way of dropping their pants and swinging what they got, while to others, it was a big metal Zipper, just waiting to catch the unwary.

Just Shelley Technology

It was never about the guys

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Jonathon juxtaposed two quotes within a posting – a serious one from a woman questioning whether she would ever meet the man of her (overly perfect) dreams; and a rather humorous exchange between guys on IRC.

In response to a comment attached to the posting, Jonathon also stated:

An alternative reading of the (ironically) juxtaposed quotes might draw attention to the earnest self-centeredness of the woman compared to the easygoing self-deprecating humor of the men. Or to the failure of thirty years of feminist theory to effect a truly fundamental change in men’s thinking.

Leaving aside questions of earnest self-centeredness and self-deprecating humor based on choice of quotes, I wanted to focus on Jonathon’s statement about feminist theory effecting fundamental change in men’s thinking.

I’m not surprised that thirty years of feminist theory, or practice for that matter, haven’t instituted major changes in the male thought processes – feminism was never about changing men’s thinking. It was always about changing women’s thinking.

We can’t say to men, “Look, you have to change your evil ways and start treating us equally”, when we’re not willing to make changes ourselves. And we definitely can’t expect to have our cake and eat it, too.

For instance, do we as women see ourselves as nurturers first, and then as unique human beings? If we do, then we women haven’t achieved the growth and change we need to make. Women are far more interesting and capable then just being baby incubators and brood mares. As part of our complexity, we can be excellent mothers and wonderful mates, but that’s not the sum and total of what we are. Until we start respecting our own uniqueness and individuality, we can’t demand that men look beyond the stereotype we’re perpetuating.

We say that society puts women into a position and keeps us there, but if all women said “Enough of this bullshit”, society wouldn’t have a chance. If we women as a whole rejected the stereotypes, refused to compromise ourselves, didn’t play the “woman” game, change – real change – would occur. And it starts with us, not the guys. It was never about the guys.

Saying that change must start with men perpetuates male-centeredness and denies women any say in this change – yet again another, albeit extremely subtle, stereotype.

And as for humor….

IRC Quote 1834:
[09:50] Hey, anyone who knows Japanese, what does “kikurimu” mean?
[09:52] “I am a preteen with bouncing breasts.”
[09:53] There are probably three or four words for that.
[09:53] Sort of like the Eskimos having so many words for snow.

IRC Quote 6918:
I don’t like pamela anderson type breasts
Their remote controls are annoying and not well documented.

IRC Quote366
“Too few women on the internet?
There are lots of women on the internet,
only most of them are naked and in JPG-format.”