A brief summary of headlines from the last 24-ish hours, and what to do about it.

#tbh, I’m already exhausted.

It’s now Day 5, and reading through my Facebook, NYT, and other news feeds, there are too many ridiculous things happening to even feel as though I can address any one of them and be effective, let alone all the ones that anger me and chill me to my core.

Here’s a sampling of things from the roughly last 24 hours that we should all be anywhere from pretty to terribly concerned about. In some cases, I’ve included links to or suggestions for concrete actions: Continue reading

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Day 2, Day 3

On Day 2, we marched. (On Day 3, we called our Senator about Healthcare.)

It was huge, it was remarkably quiet, and it seemed honestly quite festive, like the social event of the season. Which, of course, was a little disturbing. I’m all for documenting on social media, but not everything needs to be a selfie opp, #amirite? Anyway, I also found the whiteness of the crowd, at least in Portland, a little discomfiting, but it’s always hard to know here how much of that is just due to the nature of the demographics of the state, or something else.

I also had another, perhaps more critical realization. It started while reading several posts from Facebook contacts, urging unity, compromise, understanding, etc., etc., with the other side of the aisle, with the racists, with the ethnocrats, with the white supremacists, with the America First-ers, basically, with Trump supporters, all the fluffy words we bill as integral parts of the human experience, assuming we like all humans the same. The warm-hearted liberal in me is all, “yes! unity! peace! understanding! compromise!”. But the cold-hearted progressive is all, “fuck them.” And I’m leaning cold. Frigid. Continue reading

I should have done this months ago.

This blog post — verbal barrage — manifesto — beginning of the end — has, as I’m sure in many of yours, been stirring in my mind for months. I should have done it then, but I was waiting for some moment, some trigger, which would tell me, this is it. This is the time. This is the time to stand up and fight. Why fight early? Why waste energy, or resources, or put myself at risk, if it wasn’t the time yet?

But it was the time, and I should have known better. Better late than never, though, right? Continue reading

We stand by: a Thanksgiving meditation

There has never been anything, nor will there ever be anything, which so frightens those in power as a great demographic shift among the powerless.

Because the powerless, when they see themselves in the powerful, can delude themselves into thinking they share in the power. After all, they have the same interests, the same concerns, the same ideology. But when the powerless look up and see something that looks so unfamiliar, they begin to feel restless. They clamor for change. They know that these strangers, who purport to speak for them, in no way have their best interests at heart. Ultimately, they threaten the powerful — not overtly (necessarily), but covertly. Not with conflict and protest, with guns and violence, but with that most subversive act of all. With their vote.
Continue reading

Girls like code, too

Contrary to popular belief, I am still alive.

Prologue: It is a little unsettling the extent to which I can retrospect through the last five years of my life on here.

I was reading the November 2014 issue of Wired today (I’m a little behind on my subscription) and I came across the follow “letter” to the editor in reaction to an earlier article about sexism in Silicon Valley:

Women in the US choose not to enter the programming profession. No one stops them. No one is discouraging them. When you give people the freedom to choose, sometimes their choices don’t allow every profession to skew to the same ratios as the general population. Short of forcing people into certain jobs, we’ll just have to deal with this. – JoeBob89*

This comment made me REALLY ANGRY.

Women in the US choose not to enter the programming profession.

Sure, some of them don’t. Also, some men don’t. But I am a woman in the US. I am choosing to enter the programming profession. I go to school with other women in the US who are choosing to enter the programming profession. Half of my programming-related classes to date have been taught by women. I have woman Facebook friends who are teaching themselves how to program. There are so many programs out there now the help get girls as young ages into programming. (Like this one, and this one.) Someone is funding these programs, which probably means that they can demonstrate some measures of success. This means that there are, and will be, women in the US who want to program.

No one stops them. No one is discouraging them.

Maybe not explicitly, not all the time. But look at this chart:

Percent of women obtaining bachelor’s degrees in given field. http://www.randalolson.com

If no one is discouraging women from computer science implicitly or explicitly, why is the percentage of women obtaining CS degrees decreasing at such a rapid rate over a span of time when other STEM fields — math, physical sciences, engineering — are increasing in their share of female degree recipients? At a time when women overall make up a higher percentage of students in higher education than men do? There is nothing inherently distasteful about computers to women. So why, when we are finding it (slightly) more welcoming in engineering and the “hard” sciences, would we flock en masse away from CS (as the chart shows in the 2000-2010 decline) if we’re not being somehow discouraged?

Further, a study cited in Slate recently confirmed unconscious bias against female math students at a young age. Granted, the study was conducted in Israel, but I would wager that the same phenomenon occurs here. So, girls not being discouraged? Try again, pal.

When you give people the freedom to choose, sometimes their choices don’t allow every profession to skew to the same ratios as the general population. Short of forcing people into certain jobs, we’ll just have to deal with this.

This is true. Which is why we might never see engineering at 50% female, or health professions at 50% male. And no, we shouldn’t force people into certain professions. But we certainly shouldn’t force them out of certain professions, either, whether intentionally or not.

I don’t know much about the culture of Silicon Valley, but I do know that what I’ve read would suggest that it is weighted heavily against women, and I do know that I am a woman, and we are discouraged (not all the time) — by the media, by our society, by our teachers, by our friends — from going into the sciences. This is something we DON’T have to deal with.

* JoeBob? Really? Bro.

I also just think I should add that women codebreakers were essential to the Allied war effort in World War II, and have otherwise been indispensable contributors to the development of computer science over the past century. Stop Rosalind Franklin-ing us.