or learn more

Women in tech

Oct 2, 2013

I don’t know much about this, but…

The learning process is something you can incite, literally incite, like a riot.

— Audre Lorde

…I can learn more.1 And so can you. 2


a microcosm of the problem

Helping 3

Roots of feminism and gender studies, types of feminism and feminist thought

  • A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft
  • Politics Of Reality by Marilyn Frye
  • Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center by Bell Hooks
  • Sexual Harassment of Working Women by Catharine MacKinnon
  • Women’s Lives, Men’s Laws by Catharine MacKinnon
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • Right-Wing Women by Andrea Dworkin
  • Intercourse by Andrea Dworkin
  • Against Our Will by Susan Brownmiller
  • Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde
  • Katha Pollitt (esp. Reasonable Creatures)
  • The Second Coming of Joan of Arc by Carolyn Gage
  • Three Guineas by Virginia Woolf
  • Speaking Freely by Julia Penelope
  • The War Against Women by Marilyn French
  • The Heart of Whiteness by Robert Jensen
  • Women, Race, & Class by Angela Davis
  • Feminist Revolution by Kathie Sarachild
  • United States of America: Maze of injustice: The failure to protect indigenous women from violence by Amnesty International

Suggestions welcomed in the comments.4


  1. My wife is a woman in tech and I try my best to listen and learn from her, but I can do better. 

  2. A huge thanks to Jen Myers for giving an eye-opening keynote at Strange Loop 2013, thus inspiring me to expand/complete this post. 

  3. It’s not enough to say that you’d like to help. There must be a proper context for helping and an active desire for your help. 

  4. I realize that exclusion in tech is not limited to matters of gender, but I chose to focus on it here because it hits close to home for me. I would love to learn more about exclusionary practices along racial, religious and class lines also. Please comment if you know some good sources worth exploring. 

11 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Linda

    Susan Brownmiller, Andrea Dworkin, Catherine MacKinnon, Marilyn French… Google “feminism is hate” to see why these are not the people you should be looking up to. Here’s some samples:

    “I want to see a man beaten to a bloody pulp with a high-heel shoved in his mouth, like an apple in the mouth of a pig.” — Andrea Dworkin

    “Rape is nothing more or less than a conscious process of intimidation by which all men keep all women in a state of fear” — Susan Brownmiller

    “In a patriarchal society, all heterosexual intercourse is rape because women, as a group, are not strong enough to give meaningful consent.” — Catherine MacKinnon

    “All men are rapists and that’s all they are” — Marilyn French

    Cue the “feminism is about equality” spiel, despite there being no case of feminists successfully campaigning to reverse a law or policy that favored women over men.

  2. a real person

    This holds true for all members of the human race. Quit discriminating.

  3. @Linda

    While the quotes that you list are definitely hard-hitting, I’m not sure that they’re useful in motivating me to avoid those authors. There is a lot of reading required, as shown in my list, and some of it is bound to be hard hitting and challenging. I doubt that the uncomfortableness provoked by of my reading will come anywhere close to the feelings felt by woman anywhere reading a random Reddit thread. That said, I’m trying to get a survey of the landscape in order to come to some semblance of an informed opinion.

  4. Sebastian Wittenkamp

    Nice post – I find it helpful also to mention that there are many more male allies out there than it may initially seem.

    I’ve been recommending “The Macho Paradox” by Jackson Katz to any and all who will listen. It’s a great book which does a good job outlining the issues without demonizing anybody. And, Jackson is a man (an ex-jock at that) and he brings a good perspective to the issues.

  5. Linda

    Well then, allow me to add one to your list: Women can’t hear what men don’t say, by Warren Farrell. This the guy whom feminists protest and boycott at the university of Toronto as a ‘rape apologist’, calling attendees scum to their faces:

    I love by the way that you just assume any woman anywhere would be made uncomfortable by a random reddit thread, unlike your stoic male self. The idea of women as fragile flowers with no agency is what modern feminists bank on. Otherwise people might realize nothing is holding women-as-a-group back but their own hypoagency and a belief they somehow deserve better than men just for showing up. And just like with the suffragettes, it is the white and wealthy entitled princesses who complain the loudest about oppression.

  6. Alix

    I feel sorry for women who buy into this BS.

  7. Andtrew

    Thanks for these links. I feel heartened that there is a groundswell of thoughtful advocacy for feminist issues in tech spreading in both programming and video gaming.

    One issue that I struggle with is gauging how widespread any particular attitude is across a population. Sometimes it can be a real shock to come across attitudes that you had wishfully imagined had passed away. Of course, there might be many others that I over estimate the prevalence of. I just don’t know.

    I really appreciate that you are making your position clear. I feel less alone in holding to the importance of progressing the inclusiveness of tech culture

  8. Sebastian Wittenkamp

    I hope anyone reading through Linda’s article will also take the time to read through Jackson Katz’ book.

    The term “women in tech” is actually quite misleading. A more appropriate name would be “men’s exclusion of women in tech”.

    This issue is thorny and it drives everyone up the wall who thought they had a comfortable perspective. What’s generally missing is a discussion of how men are given a description of what it means to be male that holds them back tremendously.

    There is rightfully a strong focus on how women have been held back historically and how society has kept them suppressed. What is spoken of much less often is how the same is done to men, and how many men really do sympathize with women, but are afraid to speak out.

    Here is Jackson’s perspective:

  9. bfe

    Also recommended – here’s a randomized double-blind study, “Science faculty’s subtle gender biases favor male students”:

    …and commentary with graphs of the results:

  10. Angry male ally of feminists

    Note that the commenter called “Linda” never tells you the sources of their “quotes”. Otherwise you’d laugh!

    I am male, and just did some uncompensated research. The time writing this rebuttal took me away from my family. I don’t even have time to edit it down for easy readability.

    • Dworkin’s alleged “bloody pulp” quote: Uttered by a fictional character in her novel “Ice and Fire.”

    But misogynists press on — isn’t that book autobiographical? Dworkin responded: “My fiction is not autobiography. I am not an exhibitionist. I do not show myself. I am not asking for forgiveness. I do not want to confess. But I have used everything I know – my life – to show what I believe must be shown so that it can be faced. The imperative at the heart of my writing – what must be done – comes directly from my life. But I do not show my life directly, in full view; nor even look at it while others watch.” [1]

    Catherine MacKinnon (demonized later on in Linda’s post) said of Dworkin, “Instead of being lionized and admired for her genius, instead of being able to earn a decent living as a writer, Andrea Dworkin was misrepresented and demonized. In the words of John Berger, she was ‘perhaps the most misrepresented writer in the Western world.’

    “Lies about her views on sexuality (that she believed intercourse was rape) and her political alliances (that she was in bed with the right) were published and republished without attempts at verification, corrective letters almost always refused. Where the physical appearance of male writers is regarded as irrelevant or cherished as a charming eccentricity, Andrea’s was reviled and mocked and turned into pornography. When she sued for libel, courts trivialized the pornographic lies as fantasy and dignified them as satire.” [2]

    • MacKinnon’s alleged “all heterosexual intercourse is rape” quote: Debunked by Snopes. [3]

    “MacKinnon never made the statement which has been attributed to her… MacKinnon claims the first reference to her alleged belief that all sex is hostile surfaced in the October 1986 issue of Playboy. According to MacKinnon, the statement (which had previously been attached to feminist Andrea Dworkin) was made up by the pornography industry in an attempt to undermine her credibility. It became inextricably linked with MacKinnon’s name after she began working with Dworkin in the early 1980s to write model anti-pornography laws.”

    “Dworkin has also disavowed the quote as a false statement circulated by her opponents. She has denied saying that ‘all sex is rape’ or ‘all men are rapists.’ When asked to explain her views on the topic, Dworkin replied: ‘Penetrative intercourse is, by its nature, violent. But I’m not saying that sex must be rape. What I think is that sex must not put women in a subordinate position. It must be reciprocal and not an act of aggression from a man looking only to satisfy himself. That’s my point.'”




  11. Mike

    I’m reminded of the Billy Connolly story about Celtic and Rangers fans – “we can never get along as they keep crapping in our shoes and we keep pissing in their Bovril”

Reply to “Women in tech”