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Free sexism consulting

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Asking for free sexism consulting is a common response to claims of sexism or concerns for women in a relatively organised group (like an event or a forum). The complainant is asked to volunteer to either give advice on what to do, or to actually implement this advice.

This can be a variety of silencing: don't complain unless you offer free sexism consulting.

Problems with free sexism consultingEdit

Given that sexism is hindering women's participation in geek communities in the first place, asking them to fix it as well limits their participation even further. So a woman gets to do geeking after she's spent time and energy dealing with the effects of the sexism on herself and after she's done her free sexism consulting. Result: not much geeking for that woman! (See Second shift.)

In the context of feminism, this also buys into the women taught us problems of placing women in the role of social educators and moral police. At exactly the same time, it often ignores existing work by women (such as this wiki) and asks new women to repeat it.

In addition, this expectation is imposed on all women geeks regardless of their actual inclination to be a feminist activist (at that time). See for example Unicorn Law.

Comparison with volunteer communities in generalEdit

"Why don't you volunteer?" is a common response in volunteer communities to any suggestion for change or improvement, and often necessary because in a volunteer community there usually isn't a shortage of ideas or problems to fix, there's a shortage of volunteers to do things, and generally speaking the person interested in an idea has the most energy for it.

However, not all requests of a community are alike. When a community is asked to improve its welcomingness to oppressed people, this cannot be accomplished by the oppressed members, because of the triple-whammy of being less respected in the first place, having less energy due to dealing with oppression, and wanting to actually be in the community (and geek out, in the case of geek communities). There's no time left for being in the community after free sexism (or social justice) consulting.

In addition, geek feminists argue that the safety of participants in the community ought to be the kind of core concern that even busy lead volunteers ought to assume responsibility for.

ResponsesEdit

Broadly targeted feminist education resources are often created to try and help with this problem. But it should be noted that it's largely women making these resources.

  • One of the purposes of this wiki is to be a resource for allies to educate themselves, rather than seek free sexism consulting from the nearest women.
  • One of the explicit purposes of the Ada Initiative is to create paid (by the community at large) feminist consultants for open tech and culture, so as to relieve the burden on women as free sexism consultants.
  • The Free feminist consulting form letter

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