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Invisibility

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Overview Edit

Due to the small numbers of women in geek communities, people sometimes over-generalise and say there are none. "How come there are no women?" is a common refrain, often answered by women who say "What about me?" When challenged, the person may defend their initial statement, either by attempting to narrow the field ("So chicks use Facebook, but that's not the real internet!") or by redefining what they meant as "women" ("But you're one of the guys, you're not one of those ... girly-girls!")

A related problem is that some participants angrily refute anyone who claims to be a woman, demand proof that someone is a woman, or become extremely excited about discovering women participants, assuming that they must be the only women geeks in existence. (See Exceptionalism.) These can be a form of Online harassment. Deliberate invisibility is one strategy used to combat online harassment.

Various rhetorical devices are often seen in geek writing and public speaking which set up women as the other or define women as !geeks and/or geeks as !women, making women who are also geeks effectively invisible.

Examples Edit

  • Gamer Whitney Butts describes how male World of Warcraft players became angry when she used voice chat, insisting that her voice must belong to the girlfriend of a male player. [1]
  • Press articles about LinuxChix, which has existed for ten years, frequently draw comments or even commentary from the authors themselves about how they have just now discovered that women use Linux and have a user group, for example, on Digg: Digg.com: LinuxChix.org - A linux community of WOMEN??
  • The frequent Where are the women bloggers? discussions.
  • One of Paul Graham's quoted startup founders in What Startups Are Really Like is quoted saying "It surprised me that being a startup founder does not get you more admiration from women", in a context that does not seem to anticipate an audience of anyone except men who would appreciate admiration from women; ie, a woman reader does not seem to have been anticipated for this article.
  • The self-reinforcing mostly-male community cycle: Someone lets it be known that she is a women in a mostly-male community. She becomes the focus of unwelcome and/or harassing romantic/sexual attention because there are so few women in that community. She may withdraw from the community, or the example of what happened to her may deter other women from revealing their gender or joining to start with. The community remains mostly male.

Responses Edit

  • Conference or event organisers can seek women speakers at Geek Speak Women, a site by Brenda Wallace.
  • XKCD: Pix Plz

See also Edit

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