I went to San Franciso a month ago this Friday, for the final stages of planning the Ada Initiative’s shutdown. The first morning I woke up there to the news of Nóirín’s death. I wrote “Nóirín was also one of the strongest and bravest people [I] will ever have the privilege of knowing” that same morning and that’s everything I want to say.
So, the only thing about that trip that makes sense to tell is some images.
Staying in the Mission and being in the sun in the streets full of trees and brightly painted houses finally made San Francisco make sense to me. As was probably inevitable, coming from another beautiful city full of gentrifiers.
Long weekday evenings in the dusk at Dolores Park, watching the fog from a distance. Seeing a rainbow.
Mad Max: Fury Road which I had never expected to see, much less like, even though I had heard about it from feminists more than action fans. (Or maybe they were both!)
But instead of rushing into Furiosa’s cab like everyone else I know, I developed an obsession with Pitch Perfect instead and walked up and down Valencia for hours in the middle of the night listening to its soundtrack.
Eating berries. And paté on apple slices.
My family sending me so much Lindt chocolate in San Francisco that I still have about ⅓ of it now. But I ate all the peanut butter balls before I left.
Broken choppy video chat images of V and A smiling at me.
Cutting down my SIM card from my broken phone with scissors rather than waiting another day to call home.
Walking on a hillside in the hot sun near Muir Woods, in a country where pines are supposed to be and eucalypts are pests.
The purple windows of the 787 that brought me home.
I’m proud of all the work we talked about in the announcement, but a few things of mine over the years in particular that I enjoyed doing a lot and that I hope will have a continuing impact:
AdaCamp. AdaCamp Melbourne was my idea, and was, for me, something of a followup to the LinuxChix/Haecksen miniconfs I founded in 2007, but, as we had done with the Ada Initiative, decoupled from the Linux community specifically, and explicitly feminist and incorporating what I’d learned from organizing earlier women’s events and meetups. It grew into much more over time, incorporating ideas from other events like quiet rooms and inclusive catering, and solving problems that plagued the events that all of the Ada Initiative staff and AdaCamp staff had been to over the years.
The guide to responding to harassment reports as an event organizer. This was based on a email I wrote to a conference organizer who was wondering what one actually does when a harassment report comes in, which, as I tend to do with my best emails, I later edited to put on the web. The wiki text has been somewhat edited and expanded of course, but is substantially similar to my initial version. It formed the basis of the enforcement manual that PyCon developed.
The AdaCamp Toolkit. I wrote more than half of this in the month between closing the AdaCamp program and launching the Toolkit, and edited the remainder from material developed internally. Not since the Geek Feminism wiki have I had so much (rather intense) fun emptying the contents of my head onto a website.
I also did a great deal of the behind the scenes project management and technical work (web work, systems administration, payments processing setup) throughout the life of the organization, and internally my documents are the core of our institutional knowledge. (I am hoping to edit a few of the fundraising documents for publication this month.) Valerie’s life will never be the same again now that everything goes in a spreadsheet. I am hoping I can offer my project management skills to another organization soon.
Thank you to Valerie Aurora, my friend and co-founder, without whom the Ada Initiative could never have existed in the first place, would never have had the vision or the conviction to do 95% of what it did, and who made a very unlikely and very lucky gamble on me as a co-founder four and a half years ago. I’m in San Francisco right now, my last trip for the Ada Initiative, so that we could do this last thing together and go out leaving as much for the community to use as possible.
Thank you to the many many people who worked and volunteered for us over the last four and a half years, who came to our events, who donated, and who advocated for, amplified, and improved our work.
As for what’s up next, I’ll be at the Ada Initiative for another couple of months. During that time, if this sentence of our shutdown notice was of interest, let’s talk:
Mary will be looking for a new position based in Sydney, Australia, working in a leadership role with the right organization.
I’ve lived in Sydney for sixteen years and I am living in the tenth residence I’ve had in Sydney. So I have a lot of experience of moving houses, and a lot of experience of drowning under a deluge of mail directed to the previous residents of my current home, sometimes several “generations” of them.
You’re not supposed to open or throw out other people’s mail, you’re supposed to mark it “return to sender, no longer at this address” and put it back in a post box. And doing this does — eventually — help as slowly the banks, governments, ex-lovers and debt collectors sending mail to the previous residents get the picture.
But it’s also a total pain in the neck. At the best of times, writing “return to sender, no longer at this address” exceeds my weekly pen output quota, and that’s before you get to trying to write on shrink-wrapped mail and other such things.
We survived our second school holidays; suddenly V is halfway through his first year of school. And by “survived” I mean “he spent 5 days a week at vacation care rather than 5 days a week at school”. The big impact on my life was needing to walk into the school grounds in order to sign him in in the mornings, required by vacation care and not by school proper. The vacation care centre is even on the school grounds so really the change was minimal, other than that he got to go on excursions most days. The school ought to have a word with them, because they can’t compete with Luna Park.
We spent the middle weekend with my parents, which was fairly par for the course. Take a toddler away for the weekend; they will defy all your ecstatic descriptions of their lovely personality and spend a substantial amount of every day being a grump.
We made it there for a snowfall last year, but missed it by a week this year, with it falling this most recent weekend instead. I’m not sorry, considering that the roads were closed for much of a day. Apparently Sydney has had its coldest day in five years or something of the kind, after an extremely mild start to winter, but we haven’t noticed because we no longer live in Sydney’s coldest and darkest house. It’s quite delightful to be inside the house and yet sometimes have sun on us. What is this revolution in construction?
We’re still reconciling ourselves to our new suburb. Honestly, this will probably be the work of a year or so. So far my list of ways that it clearly wins is quite short, but growing. Our house is (a lot) nicer. The public transport is better, even if it is buses (buses that shoot straight over the Anzac Bridge like lightning aren’t really what normally bothers me in buses). And a touch of the truly sublime: watching two winter sunsets and counting from the Iron Cove bridge. Even V throwing an epic tantrum about not wanting to walk fails to spoil the memory of the first one. At this time of year the sun sets over the ridge in Drummoyne; I’m looking forward to it coming a bit further south over the water.
Both kids are doing swimming lessons for six weeks, which means that we can swim on Saturdays. Again, that ended up being surprisingly nice, because it’s an outdoor pool so we can swim in the sun, and then there’s a west-facing glassed-in cafe to warm up in afterwards. Andrew’s picking up an after-work yoga class, perhaps I’ll pick something local too. I should be ecstatic about the cycle paths around here, first I need to overcome a whole lot of inertia to do with wrestling my bike out from under a pile of bikes and so on. I like cycling routes I already know, I think, which obviously fails after a move. But being able to cycle over the bridges will be great once I work up the nerve.
Meanwhile, Andrew and I went back in time on Friday night. We had dinner with friends at Harajuku Gyoza. That wasn’t the step back in time; precisely, although it’s been a long time since I’ve eaten in Kings Cross. We’ve never been to Harajuku Gyoza, and I don’t think I’d go to a place where the big appeal is that they yell at you when pouring sake. Probably more fun with more sake, admittedly. No, our step back in time was deciding to walk home. It was just over seven kilometres and took around an hour and a half. To complete the return to our twenty year old selves, we did it without referring to a phone or a map. Not exactly a challenge in a city we’ve lived in for half our lives, but definitely a flashback. I don’t even go outdoors much after dark now, since the kids go to bed soon after sunset, so I was even able to discover the basic joys of it simply being dark out there. I’ve never lived east of the city, but I think that’s really where the heart of it is. I’ve never lived east of the city, but I think that’s really where the heart of it is.We walked out of our way up through Woolloomooloo and through the Domain and admired the sudden onset of skyscrapers looming over the park and cut through the hospital with its odd fluorescent fountain and puzzled at the small pine grove off the Anzac Bridge.
founding and for a long time running the Ask a Geek Feminist, Wednesday Geek Woman and Cookie of the Week series
doing a linkspam post by myself multiple times a week for about a year
recruiting the initial team of Linkspammers and setting up their manual, mailing list and of course, the script that supports them
recruiting several other bloggers, including Tim, Restructure! and Courtney S
a bunch of sysadmin of the self-hosted WordPress install (it’s now hosted on WordPress.com)
My leaving the blog is delayed news. I initially told the co-bloggers I was leaving close to a year ago now (mid-August, if I’d waited much longer on writing this I could have posted on the one year anniversary), because my output had dried up. I feel in large part that what happened was that I spent about ten years in geekdom (1999–2009) accumulating about three years of material for the blog, and then I ran out of things to write about there. I also have two more children and one more business than I had when I was first writing for it, and, very crucially, one less unfinished PhD to avoid. But I had a handover todo list to plod my way through, and Spam All the Links was the last item on it!
I remain involved in Geek Feminism as an administrator on the Geek Feminism wiki, on which I had about 25% of total edits last I looked, although the same sense of being a dry well is there too.
The blog was obviously hugely important for me, both as an outlet for that ten years of pent up opinionating and, to my surprise, because I ended up moving into the space professionally. I’m glad I did it.
Today, I would say these are my five favourite posts I made to the blog:
Terri mention[ed] that she had resisted at times working on things perceived as ‘girl stuff’. In Free Software this includes but is not limited to documentation, usability research, community management and (somewhat unusually for wider society) sometimes management in general. The audience immediately hit on it, and it swirled around me all week.
I do not in fact find writing the wiki documentation of incidents in geekdom very satisfying. The comment linked at the beginning of the post compared the descriptions to a rope tying geekdom to the past. Sometimes being known as a wiki editor and pursued around IRC with endless links to yet another anonymous commenter or well-known developer advising women to shut up and take it and write some damned code anyway is like a rope tying me to the bottom of the ocean.
But what makes it worth it for me is that when people are scratching their heads over why women would avoid such a revolutionarily free environment like Free Software development, did maybe something bad actually happen, that women have answers.
(I’d be very interested in other people’s takes on this in 2015, which is a very different landscape in terms of the visibility of geek sexism than 2009 was.)
This is the kind of advice given by people who don’t actually want to help. Or perhaps don’t know how they can. It’s like if you’re a parent of a bullying victim, and you find yourself repeating “ignore it”, “fight back with fists” or whatever fairly useless advice you yourself were once on the receiving end of. It’s expressing at best helplessness, and at worst victim-blaming. It’s personalising a cultural problem.
You are not helpless in the face of harassment. Call for policies, implement policies, call out harassment when you overhear it, or report it. Stand with people who discuss their experiences publicly.
Let’s recap really quickly: wanting to and being able to use your legal name everywhere is associated with privilege. Non-exhaustive list of reasons you might not want to use it on social networks: everyone knows you by a nickname; you want everyone to know you by a nickname; you’re experimenting with changing some aspect of your identity online before you do it elsewhere; online circles are the only place it’s safe to express some aspect of your identity, ever; your legal name marks you as a member of a group disproportionately targeted for harassment; you want to say things or make connections that you don’t want to share with colleagues, family or bosses; you hate your legal name because it is shared with an abusive family member; your legal name doesn’t match your gender identity; you want to participate in a social network as a fictional character; the mere thought of your stalker seeing even your locked down profile makes you sick; you want to create a special-purpose account; you’re an activist wanting to share information but will be in danger if identified; your legal name is imposed by a legal system that doesn’t match your culture… you know, stuff that only affects a really teeny minority numerically, and only a little bit, you know?
But I’m mostly listing it here because I always have fun with the design of my bingo cards. (This was my first time, Sexist joke bingo is better looking.)
… why girls? Why do we not have 170 comments on our blog reaching out to women who are frustrated with geekdom? I want to get this out in the open: people love to support geek girls, they are considerably more ambivalent about supporting geek women.
Thanks to my many co-bloggers over the five years I was a varyingly active blogger at Geek Feminism. I may be done, at least for a time and perhaps in that format, but here’s to a new generation of geek feminist writers joining the exisitng one!
Image credit: Cheers! by Susanne Nilsson, Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike. The version used in this post was cropped and colour adjusted by Mary.