September 29th, 2009

For the past month and a half, I’ve been working on putting together a free ruby on rails workshop for women. This event has generated a lot of excitement and already we’re nearing room capacity.

This evening, the announcement was sent out via the internal Harvard ABCD group list which emails all the techies working at Harvard. And I have to admit to being flabbergasted at the following responses sent to the entire ABCD community:

This is blatant sexual discrimination. Are women considered too fragile to learn technical subjects in the same group as men?

For whatever it’s worth I think XXXX is right.
Can you imagine the reaction if there was a technical conference for men only – and a women could only attend as the guest of a man?
There are far too many grants/scholarships/opportunities that are explicitly only open to women or minorities (I’m a minority and it still bothers me). A hypothesis of implicit discrimination against group A does not justify explicit discrimination against group B.

This women’s Ruby workshop exists for the same reason this men’s knitting retreat exists…). I have never heard a woman knitter complain about a men’s knitting class.

Well, to be fair, I think a male-only knitting group is just as bad an idea as the women-only RoR workshop ;-)

This was my response:

If anyone has concerns about this workshop, please email me directly as I am the coordinator.
But I feel that I must add that for those of you who don’t understand the need for this sort of workshop, you might want to read this keynote talk by Kirrily Robert.

A lot of people, still just don’t get it.  Folks don’t want to believe that there are still sexist jokes, pornographic presentations at conferences, harrassment, and all kinds of subtle discrimination going on in the tech community every day.  And the only way to combat it, is to encourage mixed gendered environments so that both sexes can learn from one another.

This workshop happens to be very male friendly.  At present, the women to men ratio is 2:1.  If you can’t find a mother, sister, daughter, friend or stranger to sign up with you for this class, then you have more problems than a one day programming course is gonna fix.

Entry Filed under: Personal,Ruby on Rails

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dawn Gabriel  |  September 30th, 2009 at 7:34 am

    Liana –

    I think you’ve misunderstood my response. I was making an analogy along the lines of the nail salon analogy in response to the men complaining. It’s very intimidating for a man to join a knitting circle, even when it’s not specifically gendered. This is the reason I never actually went to a python meetup, even though I joined the group ages ago.

    You’ve got a great idea for a workshop, and I hope you see a decent turnout. I apologise for not making my intent more clear.


  • 2. lianaleahy  |  September 30th, 2009 at 10:06 am

    Hi Dawn! Sorry, I actually understood what you meant… I simply included it so that the following response would be taken in context.

    Other than a couple of socially deficient dweebs, we’ve had an amazing response to this workshop. And I’ve heard it said that you aren’t doing something meaningful unless you piss off a few folks. :)

  • 3. Megan Lawler  |  September 30th, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    Never have i seen it so elegantly stated, “A hypothesis of implicit discrimination against group A does not justify explicit discrimination against group B.” My thoughts exactly.

    As long as we make the argument that we are delicate flowers that need special groups and meetups, and shy away from actually taking the reins- showing those in traditionally ‘male’ professions that we know our shit- we wont make it anywhere. Rise up, delicate flowers.

  • 4. A link roundup without a &hellip  |  October 1st, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    […] matter how “positive” and action-oriented your feminist deed is, there’s srsly always backlash.  […]

  • 5. Beth  |  October 2nd, 2009 at 9:08 am

    a hypothesis of implicit discrimination against group A *by* group B most certainly does justify explicit discrimination against group B. We aren’t delicate flowers, and when we organize things for ourselves that’s not the argument we’re making.

    Dismantling the patriarchy isn’t going to happen without men giving up some privileges and assumptions, including the one that they have a right to be included where ever they want to go.

  • 6. Ceci n’est pas une &hellip  |  October 4th, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    […] Leahy asks SRSLY? at claims of reverse sexism in regard to the women’s Rails workshops she’s […]

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