Geek Feminism

I’m curious about what kind of work has been done on geek feminism. This is what I have found so far. This is a work in progress, so please send me any suggestions you have for things I have missed!

Books

(See below for books that aren’t critically engaging with the topic, such as memoirs, handbooks, and novels.)

Cherny, Lynn, and Elizabeth R. Weise. Wired Women: Gender and New Realities in Cyberspace. Seattle: Seal Press, 1996.

Inness, Sherrie A. Geek Chic: Smart Women in Popular Culture. New York, N.Y: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.

Lavigne, Carlen. Cyberpunk Women, Feminism and Science Fiction: A Critical Study. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2013.

Newitz, Annalee, and Charlie Anders. She’s Such a Geek!: Women Write About Science, Technology & Other Nerdy Stuff. Emeryville, CA: Seal Press, 2006.

Simon, Leslie. Geek Girls Unite: How Fangirls, Bookworms, Indie Chicks, and Other Misfits Are Taking Over the World. New York: It Books, 2011.

Thorpe-Moscon, Jennifer. How Geek Girls Will Rule the World. Self-published. 2013.

Articles

Bucholtz, Mary. 2002. “Geek feminism,” In: Sarah Benor, Mary Rose, Devyani Sharma, Julie Sweetland, and Qing Zhang (editors). Gendered practices in language, Stanford, Calif.: Center for the Study of Language and Information (CSLI).

Dunbar–Hester, Christina. 2008. “Geeks, meta–geeks, and gender trouble: Activism, identity, and low–power FM radio,” Social Studies of Science, volume 38, number 2, pp. 201–232.

Hall, Kira (1996). Cyberfeminism. In Susan Herring (ed.), Computer-mediated Communication: Linguistic, Social, and Cross-cultural Perspectives. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. 147-170.

Haraway, Donna. “A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology & Socialist Feminism in the 1980s.” Socialist Review, no. 80 (1985): 65-108.

Herring, Susan C. 1999. “The rhetorical dynamics of gender harassment on–line,” Information Society, volume 15, number 3, pp. 151–167.

Quart, Alissa. “When Geeks Attack.” MarieClaire.com, May 17, 2013
What happens when you tick off a computer programmer? Alissa Quart reports on the tech industry’s outrageous, shameless, and totally out-of-control bad-boy “brogrammers.”

Reagle, Joseph. “‘Free as in Sexist?’ Free Culture and the Gender Gap.” First Monday 18 (1) 7 January 2013.

Abstract: Despite the values of freedom and openness, the free culture movement’s gender balance is as skewed (or more so) as that of the computing culture from which it arose. Based on the collection and analysis of discourse on gender and sexism within this movement over a six–year period. I suggest three possible causes: (a) some geek identities can be narrow and unappealing; (b) open communities are especially susceptible to difficult people; and, (c) the ideas of freedom and openness can be used to dismiss concerns and rationalize the gender gap as a matter of preference and choice.

Internet/Blogs/Tumblrs

Blog Post: “Cosplay Activism Fatigue” by Chaka Cumberbatch (April 30, 2013)

Blog post: “Why I’m Not a Geek Feminist” by Rikki Endsley

Blog post: “The Darkside of Geek Feminism” by Nice Girls Like Sex Too

Blog post: “Sexism, Misogyny & Misandry in Geek Cultures” on Geek Studies

Blog post: “Feminist Hackerspaces as Safer Spaces?” By Sophie Toupin, 04/24/2013

Abstract: In this article, I propose the concept of safer spaces as a way to understand feminist hackerspaces. To do this, I focus on the creation of spaces that are based on the assumption that shared common values, whether explicit through a community agreement and/or implicit through a common experience, enable group members to flourish and empower themselves. I follow an intersectional feminist standpoint as 1) an epistemological tool that connects those who experience interlocking oppressions at the crossroads of their gender, race, class, citizenship, sexuality and other identities; and 2) as a commitment to radical inclusivity. Using such a framework helps bring to the fore latent notions of privileges, oppressions and latent discrimination explain why so few women and queer invest and participate in hackerspaces. Creating spaces within hackerspaces on the basis of the fluid concept of gender and other axes of inequalities is not only strategic, but also a constitutive element of feminist hackerspaces.

BlackFemaleCoders

“We’re out there. We may not see each other in our computer science courses or in our offices at work or while roaming around technology conferences — but we know we’re out there. Here is where we find each other.”

Black Girl Nerds

“Black Girl Nerds is a place for women of color with various eccentricities to express themselves freely and embrace who they are. This is not a site exclusively for Black women. It’s for ALL women who are just as nerdy as we are. I named this site Black Girl Nerds because the concept of Black women as geeky-dorky beings is somewhat of an anomaly. It’s against the order of things in the “Black Girl” world. We represent a wide array of diverse women who embrace all cultures and refuse to conform to the status quo. If you prefer to cozy up to a book on a Friday night or listen music that stimulates your spirit rather than your hips, then perhaps this is the place for you. If its not that’s okay too…we still love you anyway ;)”

The Cosplay Feminist

“This blog will be about cosplay, but it will also be a space to discuss anything at the intersection of feminism and geek culture or fandom. I will occasionally address geek media, but I’m more concerned here with fan practices and fan communities. I love and hate fandom; it’s a place I feel both utterly at home and utterly unwelcome. This will not be an entirely positive space, and I think criticism is a vital part of being a fan and being a part of a community.”

Feminist Frequency

“Anita Sarkeesian is a media critic and the creator of Feminist Frequency, a video webseries that explores the representations of women in pop culture narratives. Her work focuses on deconstructing the stereotypes and tropes associated with women in popular culture as well as highlighting issues surrounding the targeted harassment of women in online and gaming spaces.”

Geek Feminism

This features a timeline of sexist incidents, a feminism 101, features on geek feminists, and all kinds of support for allies and geek feminism communities.

Geek Feminism Blog

“The Geek Feminism blog exists to support, encourage, and discuss issues facing women in geek communities, including science and technology, gaming, SF fandom, and more. (Yes, we take a broad view of geekdom.)”
I especially enjoy their “Cookie of the Week”–“an occasional series highlighting action in the geek community to fight sexism, in order to show that fighting sexism is possible and happening.”

Girls Read Comics (And They’re Pissed)

This is an archived blog by Karen Healey, a female feminist reading (mostly) superhero comics. This column contains her opinions, not those of every woman, feminist or comics reader.

Ink-StainedAmazon Blog

Feminist pop culture critic, nerd, and author of Ink-Stained Amazons and Cinematic Warriors: Superwomen in Modern Mythology.

The Mary Sue

A Guide to Girl Geek Culture.

A Nerdy Girl Talking about Geeky Things

“My name is Jessica Mills. I’m an actress/writer/web series creator. Unabashed geek.”

Nerdy Feminist

“This blog is mostly written and managed by A. Lynn, a nerdy feminist, cinephile, and nonprofit professional originally from Indianapolis, IN. She now lives in Texas’ liberal oasis, Austin, and thinks a lot of deep thoughts about pop culture, politics, life, and nail polish.”

Persephone Magazine

“Persephone Magazine is a daily blog focused on topics of interest for modern, intelligent, clever women. We strive to give a voice to more women from a variety of backgrounds and with diverse interests. We feature articles not only from our talented staff of writers but from our incredible readership, as well; readers who give voice to their opinions and viewpoints out of a desire to educate, entertain, or engage with our community. We encourage thoughtful discussion and respectful debate. We are an environment that welcomes all perspectives that come from a place of respect and consideration for fellow community members.”

Self Rescuing Princess Society

“The SRPS is for those who realize that no knight in shining armor is going to save us. Instead, we straighten our tiaras, roll up our velvet sleeves, exchange glass slippers for heavy duty hiking boots and get down to the business of kicking ass.”

Actions & Incidents

This is going to be a little repetitive of Geek Feminism’s timeline of sexist incidents, but here are some of the notable events that I am tracking:

  • PAX continues to alienate people. Shoshana Kessock does a great job of explaining the issues and incidents of the past several years in this open letter to PAX explaining why she will no longer attend.
  • The Penny Arcade eXpo (PAX) Australia is offering a panel called “Why So Serious?” to explore the question of whether criticism of video games has “gone too far.” This is possibly a useful question to explore, as long as the answer is “no” (since it would be an opportunity to explore why this criticism is necessary), but since the original description claimed that “any titillation gets called out as sexist or misogynistic and involve any antagonist race other than Anglo-Saxons and you’re a racist,” many people rightfully raised loud and angry concerns about the panel. This panel is planned for 7/20/13.
  • The above event, as well as many other troubling episodes with PAX led the Fullbright Company to decide not to participate in the event. They posted an explanation on their website here.
  • Dad hacks “Donkey Kong” so his daughter can play a version in which the damsel saves the day.
    Ian Sherr. “Fans Take Videogame Damsels Out of Distress, Put Them in Charge.” The Wall Street Journal, July 3, 2013.
  • Teen girl superhero squad called the Craftastics: Agents for Social Change forms in Winnipeg, Canada, to fight bullying, racism, and other problems they see in their world. Read more at BitchMedia.
  • Saturday, June 8, 2013: “The Australian kids cartoon SheZow will debut this Saturday here in the United States on The Hub (formerly Discovery Kids). It features a 12-year-old boy who finds a magic ring that transforms him into a legendary crime-fighting superhero, SheZow, who happens to be a girl.” (From http://thinkprogress.org)
  • The Hawkeye Initiative
    “Created in December of 2012, The Hawkeye Initiative uses Clint Barton as well as other male comic characters to illustrate how contorted and hyper-sexualized women are commonly drawn in comics.”
  • Project: CONsent: The Importance of Treating Cosplayers with Respect
    A project inspired by the #Ineedfeminismbecause tumblr to address the objectification of women cosplayers at cons.
  • In summer 2012 feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian Tropes vs Women in Video Games Kickstarter sparked a huge burst of sexist online harassment aimed at Sarkeesian. She documented the harassment in blog posts such as Image Based Harassment and Visual Misogyny, Harassment, Misogyny and Silencing on YouTube, and in this TEDxWomen Talk on online harassment:
  • Creation of Creeper Cards
  • Blog post: “Geek Feminism – Why We’re Complaining” by Christina X. Li
    This is a post about the #1ReasonWhy movement, which had sparked this panel at the 2013 Game Developers Conference: “Inspired by the #1ReasonWhy and #1ReasonToBe hashtag discussion, join us for a rapid, fun microtalk-style celebration and exploration of what it means to be a woman in games. Each panelist will share her experience, its highs and lows, and explore a vision for a future industry that is inclusive for all. Panelists include Brenda Romero (Game Designer in Residence, University of California at Santa Cruz), Robin Hunicke (Co-Founder, Funomena!), Leigh Alexander (Editor at Large, Gamasutra), Elizabeth Sampat (Game Designer, Storm 8), Kim McAuliffe (Microsoft Studios) and Mattie Brice (MA Student, Creative Writing, San Francisco State University).”
  • Cumberbatch, Chaka. 2013. “I’m a Black Female Cosplayer and Some People Hate It.” XOJane. 2.4.13.
  • Patrick Stewart on Domestic ViolenceThink Progress discusses this video, and offers: “To have Stewart define masculinity as solidarity with women strikes me as a useful thing in the geek community, though I think it’s definitely worth talking about concrete action that respects women’s agency, rather than setting up domestic violence survivors as simply another version of the Damsel In Distress.”
  • The Debate Over the Existence of “Fake Geek Girls.”
    This came to the forefront with the publication of “Dear Fake Geek Girls: Please Go Away” on Forbes.com. This is an interesting response to it by Leigh Alexander.

Organizations

The Ada Initiative: Supporting women in open technology and culture

“The Ada Initiative is a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing the participation and status of women in open technology and culture. Open tech/culture includes areas like open source software, Wikipedia, and open data, the technologies behind Google, Facebook, and the Internet as a whole. These communities are changing the future of global society, yet women make up only 2% of the open source community and 10% of Wikipedia editors. If we want that society to be socially just and to serve the interests of all people, women must be involved in its creation and organization.”

GeekGirlCon

A con for and a celebration of the female geek.

She’s Geeky unConference

This is more of an organized gathering, rather than an origanization. It’s purpose is to provide women in tech with spaces to meet, gather, share.

Race and Nerdiness

I’m making this a separate category because this merits more thought. Do the terms nerd and geek carry the unmarked racial assumption of whiteness as well as an assumed maleness? Mary Bucholtz seems to argue that because so much of youth culture is (has traditionally been) appropriated from African-American culture, that for white kids, coolness is performing a deracialized blackness. Is being a black nerd (or blerd) so unusual that it occupies a similar conceptual space as white trash in that the racial category must be marked because it is conceptualy so outside of hegemonic assumptions about racial idnetities? Is nerd another way of saying too white?

Bucholtz, Mary (2001). “The Whiteness of Nerds: Superstandard English and Racial Markedness.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 11(1):84–100.

Cumberbatch, Chaka. 2013. “I’m a Black Female Cosplayer and Some People Hate It.” XOJane. 2.4.13.

BlackFemaleCoders

“We’re out there. We may not see each other in our computer science courses or in our offices at work or while roaming around technology conferences — but we know we’re out there. Here is where we find each other.”

Black Girl Nerds

“Black Girl Nerds is a place for women of color with various eccentricities to express themselves freely and embrace who they are. This is not a site exclusively for Black women. It’s for ALL women who are just as nerdy as we are. I named this site Black Girl Nerds because the concept of Black women as geeky-dorky beings is somewhat of an anomaly. It’s against the order of things in the “Black Girl” world. We represent a wide array of diverse women who embrace all cultures and refuse to conform to the status quo. If you prefer to cozy up to a book on a Friday night or listen music that stimulates your spirit rather than your hips, then perhaps this is the place for you. If its not that’s okay too…we still love you anyway 😉 “

Geek Girls in Popular Culture

Angelina Jolie’s character Kate Libby (or Acid Burn) in 1995’s Hackers. This is an interesting depiction of a geek girl because she is cool, beautiful, comfortable with herself, and wealthy. This is in huge contrast to Sandra Bullock’s character Angela Bennett in the Net from that same year. Bennett is socially isolated with poor hygiene.

Astrid Farnsworth (Jasika Nicole) on Fringe. I feel like this show completely blew it with this character. She is an FBI agent relegated to baby-sitter/assistant to Walter Bishop who seems to be able to do a freakishly broad range of things with a concomitant knowledge of stuff. According to FringeWiki, she is something of a computer/mechanical genius, who has undergrad degrees in Music and Linguistics and a minor in Computer Science. She also studied cryptology, which comes in handy sometimes. The Other Astrid seems to be mildly autistic, and is a field agent rather than an assistant. See “Fringe and Astrid as a Disposable Mammy” for a critique of Astrid’s character as a house servant. I include her here because I suspect she would be a geek girl if they had ever bothered to develop her character, which points to some troubling racial issues in the show. I mean really, Walter couldn’t remember her name?

Other Books

Novels

Geek Girl by Cindy C. Bennett (2011)
MG novel. Cool girl tries to make a geek into a bad boy, but ends up getting converted into a geek instead.

Geek Girl Series by Gina Lamm
Adult romance novels.

The Geek Girl Mysteries by Julie Anne Lindsey (2015-16)
Adult mystery series.

Mancusi, Mari. Gamer Girl. Dutton Children’s Books. 2010.
MG novel.

Lexi Carmichael Mysteries by Julie Moffett (2010-)
Mystery-solving techie for the NSA.

Rowell, Rainbow. Fangirl. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2013.
MG/YA novel

Geek Girl Series by Holly Smale (2013-16)
MG (Middle-Grade) novel. Geek girl becomes professional model.

The Geek Girl’s Guide to Cheerleading by Charity Tahmaseb and Darcy Vance (2009)
MG/YA novel

Handbooks

Maggs, Sam. The Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy: A Handbook for Geek Girls. Philadelphia: Quirk, 2015.

Segal, Stephan H. and Lupescu, Valya Dudycz. Geek Parenting: What Joffrey, Jor-El, Maleficent, and the McFlys Teach Us about Raising a Family. Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2016.

Tynan-Wood, Christina. How to Be a Geek Goddess: Practical Advice for Using Computers with Smarts and Style. San Francisco: No Starch, 2009.

Other

Nicholson, Hope. The Secret Loves of Geek Girls. Toronto, ON: Bedside, 2015.
Nonfiction anthology.

Hurley, Kameron. The Geek Feminist Revolution. New York: Tor, 2016.
Essays by Hugo Award winning author.

Hitchcock, Katherine. Atypical Girl Geek: A Memoir. Volant Press, 2015.

Day, Felicia. You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir. New York: Touchstone, 2015.

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