Misogyny and the hackers scene

Why this?

For some times now, I read and heard a lot on the sexual identity topic and, in particular, related to the hacker’s scene. A lot of people wrote things like this [FR] on one hand, and I hear a lot of bad stuff happening to people related to their sexual identity (sexual identity based discrimination, sexual harassment/aggression, false accusation of rape, true accusation of rape, and so on).

It’s makes me at least uncomfortable, and in some case, it makes me angry because I always saw the hackers community (whatever it means) as a collection of social experiments and as try to build a different world, call me idealist if you want.

Oh, and if you think that, because of my sexual identity not being female, I cannot talk about it, well shut up and read.

And yes, this is a rewrite of my initial post, because my ideas are too chaotic to make a good post at the first time.

The use of sexual identity

The only use of sexual identity I can find, i.e. situations where the sexual identity is a necessary information, are all related to sex. The only occasions when you need to know if someone is a girl, is when you’re attracted by girls and want to get laid (or to have a romantic story, kinky sex, whatever, not really my point).

It then means that, if you use part of your signal to deliver me this information, you’re expecting me to take it into account, in the specific case of sexual identity, it means that you want me to consider you as sexually available.

In the beginning there were the cyberspaces

In the cyberspace, nobody knows that you’re a dog

The cyberspace is a space of pure information, your identity is the amount of data you emitted and, as the internets were mainly based on text in the early days, nobody could know what you looked like. You could be a boy pretending to be a girl who thought she was a cat.

It’s still true in most of the cyberspaces where you do not have to choose a sexual identity or use meatspace data to define yourself.

So, in the cyberspaces, you can perfectly live without knowing the sexual identity of anyone you’re talking to, unless you want sex, in this case you have to publish your sexual identity online.

Wait, cyberspaceS?

Yes, there’s different cyberspaces. There are social one, where people hangs out juts to be with people, try to mate, set-up a social event or just act weird in group which share a lot of self-referenced non-sens humor that nobody can get if they’re not part of the group.

And there’s spaces where people share technical details, try to find some solution to a problem they have, where a lot of stuff is done. Those are the cyberspaces where hackers do things.

There’s also cyberspaces reserved to bots, or to tentikles monsters. There’s a lot of dirty back alley to, but that’s how cyberspaces are.

Girls don’t code

As well as boys. Girl and boy (and queer or else) are sexual identities. Sexual identities have sex not code. I’m totally aware that a sexual identity is a big part of a self, but it’s not the part that will code.

The part that code is the hacker part of self. It is unrelated to the gender, sexual identity or orientation of the person. When a person come online and they say: ‘Hey, I’m a girl, I want to learn python’, they will be answered by ‘Girls don’t code’ (at best).

So, is it a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy? Well, yes and no. In a technical context, in the case you wanna learn things, your sexual identity is irrelevant. It’s of no use. If you use it to obtain help, it means that you think the fact that you’re different will makes people answering favorably to you because of this difference. You use your sexual identity to obtain what you want? Do not complain because people see you as a pair of boobs then.

We’re defined by what we’re doing

Another big topic among the hackers’ communities is the doocracy. We are interacting with each other depending on what those people are doing, or thinking, not depending on appearance.

Our wealth is based on our knowledge and skills, and we try to share them a lot, not on things you can buy. Most of the physical discriminations someone has to deal with in the meatspace just do not exist on the cyberspaces as long as you’re not using it to define your identity.

In the cyberspaces we have a unique opportunity to ignore all the discriminations based on nationality, gender, sexual identity and orientation, colour or handicap. Each time someone is defining itself on physical criteria, they require a lot of work to everyone not to injure them. For the one who cares about not injuring people at least at least.

We’re not online for social reasons. Most of us are online because it’s an easy way to share technical point of view with someone on the other side of the earth. If we wanted to get laid, we will be in other cyberspaces, but it’s not our goal. When a girl comes here telling ‘Hey, look I’m a girl’, we mostly see ‘hey, look: boobs’ because that’s how she wanted to be considered (else she wouldn’t have told us she’s a girl).

Here be trolls.

About the ‘jokes’ online, and the sexist memes that emerge from the cyberspaces. Most of them come from /b/ and there’s a rule for that. The number 1 rule of the internet. Don’t talk about /b/. Also, you’re not forced to go there.

And those memes are not the problem. Humor can and will offend people, especially humor based on the identity of someone. And yes, I can perfectly understand the fact that some jokes are not funny for everyone and will offend people.

A lot of topics can offend people. I could, for instance, being offended by the fact you see me only as a boy who can’t get laid, or the too smart with big glasses one, or the regular weirdos of the group, or the IT guy that will fix all the torture your electronic stuff endure by just living with you. And you could be offended because I just see you as a pair of boobs because you told me you’re a girl.

But I do not see a reason to censor a speech. Even a heinous one. And I think that everyone should have a way to express their opinion without getting bashed for that. And last, you should not feed the troll because that’s how trolls live.

Yes, there are sexists trolls, there are also racists ones, antisemitic ones or BSDist ones (the worst kind if you want my opinion). It is the worst part of the cyberspace, it’s the part nobody is proud of, but it’s a necessary part. As soon as this part disappear, it will mean that we’ve undergone some serious self-censorship for a so-called greater good. You want to fight in the troll area, so be it, be warned you will get hurt.

But we’re made of meat

And this is the problem. Your body carries a lot of information. When I’ll see you, before knowing your name, I’ll know your gender, your size, your skin color, your weight, your attractiveness and so on.

All those informations we’re not using in most of our interaction (because I spend more time talking to people in the cyberspaces than talking to people in the meatspace) are mandatory, a bit like on Facebook. And you cannot fake them, unlike on Facebook.

The other problem of the meatspace is that it does not provide filter, ignore functionality, or quit button. You’re forced to interact with people, and not replying to someone is considered as rude. So, rules differs a lot and we sometimes tend to forget that.

When we meet people we already know from a cyberspace, it can become extremely awkward, but most of the time we are able to cope with it. And, due to pseudonym, we can even meet in the meatspace without making the link to pseudo (and it happens a lot). So, problems occurs mainly with people we do not know yet.

Outsiders running away scared to death because they have been hurt is a bad thing. It’s either because the outsiders just panicked because they didn’t understand what were the problematics and the social rules, either because the insiders were mean and forgot they can’t be ignored.

Is there an RFC for that?

I think we are aware of this situation. And it’s not that easy to fix thing, especially when both sides do not share the same set of rules. Feminists tends to define themselves as girls while we defines ourselves as hackers. It’s kind of expectable since their fight is the equality of the people whatever their sexual identities are, while our is the gathering and sharing of all the knowledge needed to understand the world.

As soon as there’s a difference, there’s discrimination. Girls complain about us being sexists, they should see how we deal with the ones that are on Windows. The main problem is probably that a lot of us do not care about these problematics. It’s not a problem, it’s how it works in a doocracy. Not everyone is thinking of a way to get rid of the root in DNS, or to find a new dynamic meshing protocol, the people interested in those problematics are working on it, and when they’ll reach an achievement, they will do a nice talk at a conference or publish their work silently somewhere.

The sexist problem is just another topic. There’s a lot of people thinking about it and it begins to reach some visibility. We are aware of the concern and we are aware that this is not solvable by a RFC.

Problems officer?

We are a bit rough around the edge. And so we can get rude without necessarily noticing it. It’s more related to a latent misanthropy than a latent misogyny. When we are in hackerspaces, we’re not here mainly for the social call, so people coming and saying ‘Hey, hello, I’m Luke’ and nothing more are annoying.

Another thing I do not like is positive discrimination. I won’t do a special effort to be kind with girls in specific. I try to be equal with everyone (and yes, it means being an asshole with everyone).

I think there’s also a small proportion of us, that are socially inept. They do not get, or do not want to get, the social conventions. I still think they are not the biggest part of us, but they are the part that suits the cliché everyone have about hackers. Remove the cliché of the balance, and you’ll see there is a lot of interesting people that will talk to you about a lot of different topics.

But you have to admit that, even in social conventions considered as normal by most of people, invading the information space of someone with topic that do not interest them is rude. This is perfectly OK for me. You’re not interested in the crafting of a quadocpter, tells me, I’ll stop bothering you with that. If you come at me and talk of subject that do not interest me, I’ll tell you, you just have to deal with it, it’s not because I do not like what you are, it’s just because the topic you want to discuss about are of no interest to me.

And then it gets physical

This is the problem. We are far from perfect. Some of us tend to consider themselves as a hero and world savior. Some of us are real sociopath that do not mind to crush people as long as they have what they want. But those people are everywhere, not only in our places.

When it gets physical, when someone is trying to crush a person, by harassment, by bullying or by explicit sexual assault we must intervene. I think the way the hackers’ chaotic world works grant us the possibility to try to fix that.

I have no idea for that. But I think that not trying to get the rules of the social games you want to play is a problem we can’t fix. You want to interact with hackers? Be one. Then if you still have problems, speak about them publicly, document the cases, find a way to work around the issue, be in charge of it. We can’t provide solutions since we are the problems it seems.

This post can be seen like excuses for some. Well, I try to understand how those things works and I’m mostly lucky, I’ve undergone few discriminations those last ten years (and the few I get was mainly because I act like a weirdo on purpose) and I may not be legitimate.

Off topic

I did not speak about the porn, or the fact that few girls are going into tech school, because they are excuses and symptoms, not causes. I did not use the my-childhood-was-a-hell-so-let’s-avenge-ourselves excuse neither, because you can then justify everything. I’d try to explain how I see the problem from my side, to understand what are the root causes.

I still think it’s a peripheral problem (not a small one), but focusing it on the sexual identity problem is, in my mind, wrong. We should not discriminate. Point.


Some patching has been made do to mathieui, thanks for that This is the second rewrite of this post, and a some people (ping quota_atypique and Intruse) shared their insigth about it. That was helpfull, thanks for that