How Much Of Our Children’s Narratives Should We Share Online?

Social networks abound with the intimate details of our lives. Family photos, vacation plans, concerns and celebrations – all of it becomes part of our ongoing online identities. It’s one thing when you’re posting about yourself, but what about when you post about your kids?

As I browse various social networks, I’ve come to realize that people are just plain sharing too much stuff. I cringe when I see baby pictures because I know pedophiles steal them. I wince when a friend posts “Greetings from vacation!” because I know burglars use the same social networks to find empty homes to rob. I want to scream when people say, “I only friend people I know” or “I use the same password on Facebook and Twitter” because I know cybercriminals create fake profiles and hijack real ones.

My question is this: How much of our children’s narratives should we share online?

I find myself coming down hard on this issue, as a writer and as an adult adoptee and advocate for adoptee rights. I believe the narratives of minors should be not be shared, or should only be shared minimally, until the minor is of an age to make his or her own decisions. I’ve spoken on my adoptee rights blog 73adoptee about the question of who controls adoptee narratives (here and here, for example). Many adoptive parents and prospective adopters blog intimate details about an adoptee’s origins before that adoptee even has a chance to know for themselves! I know how I’d feel if the personal details of my origins had been spread around in public before I was old enough to voice my opinion. It’s up to me to decide what to share of my story, and how much, and when. (It’s also up to me to decide what I should know about my adoption instead of having agencies or governmental bureaucracies deciding for me, as eloquently described by my friend Amanda over at Declassified Adoptee.)

We can also see this in the furor over Liza Long (the “Anarchist Soccer Mom”) and the intimate details she shared about her son in the wake of the school shooting in Connecticut. Some have lauded her efforts to improve mental health, while others have chastized her for oversharing her son’s story. I have to say I’m leaning toward the latter. How would you like it if you were in that kid’s shoes – unable to share your version of your own story? How would you like it if your parents were telling the universe about your academic problems or physical ailments or mental health?

When you talk about your children online, you’re not making private comments to your Aunt Martha over tea in her parlor. This is the Internet. It is global, and it is permanent. What happens when that child becomes an adult and wants a say over how his or her narrative has been shared? How can they reclaim their narratives later on? Will Facebook take down the posts? Will Twitter and Blogger and Instagram delete that information? Will all the engines that have archived the data also delete that information? The backup tapes? The locally cached copies?

I think we all know the answer to that.

Such information can also be used for cyberbullying. Let’s say you’ve got a kid whose parent posted about a bitter divorce. Don’t you think, when that child is a teen, that other teens might try to dig up as much dirt about them as possible? How is that going to make the kid feel? How would YOU feel knowing the information you shared was later used against your own child?

As an IT expert, my advice to parents has always been: Share minimally. Don’t post family photos on social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – not even with the privacy controls locked down. I don’t care how convenient it is or how many of your friends are doing it. Those privacy controls never stay locked down. Bugs are found or hacks occur or switches get flipped and you suddenly discover that your precious five-year-old’s face has been Photoshopped onto raunchy material and spread around the underbelly of the Internet.

I try not to blog about my kids except in a generic way. I occasionally describe events, like our family Doctor Who cosplay for Halloween, but I don’t share their names or personal narratives. I ask questions, as any parent does. Sometimes I do it on the Internet. But I strive not to badmouth my kids or speak publicly about private information. No, not even in private chat. No, not even in email. It’s basic common sense.

Kids may not be adults, but they are still people, and when they become adults they have to deal with the repercussions of the decisions made for them. So do your kids a favor. You’re the caretaker of their information, not the owner. Safeguard it until they are able to take care of it themselves.

What do you think about the sharing of childrens’ information online?

(Comments welcome but moderated against spambots. And if you’re only here to argue with me over adoptee rights, don’t bother – go over to 73adoptee or other blogs like Declassified Adoptee and Musings Of The Lame and First Mother Forum to learn about the adoption reform movement.)

Image courtesy of pat138241 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Fake Geek Girls? You Think Women WANT This Job?

Apparently the science fiction community is being flooded – FLOODED, I TELL YOU – by fake geek girls: women with insufficient geek cred who are only pretending to be geeks for the attention.

Say what? Being a female geek is a tough job thanks to the cretins who are put out that female geeks won’t, well, put out. Do you really think it’s likely that women are going to volunteer for this?

Do you think women are lining up waiting for their big chance to struggle with an uphill career? Face sexual harassment at cons? Get stalked online? Be treated like a maidservant or a cuddlebunny or an NPC instead of a peer of equal knowledge and experience?

Women aren’t supposed to be able to fix computers or name all 79 original episodes of Star Trek. It goes against the natural order of geekdom. The genre that prides itself in being “strange and unusual” thinks it’s too strange and unusual to include women.

What’s interesting is how certain levels of female geekdom, over time, have become reluctantly tolerated. I can remember when being a female Doctor Who fan was considered weird. Today, girls are allowed to be Whovians because it’s assumed they’re only doing so to watch David Tennant’s rear. (Clearly ridiculous. We’re ALL in it to watch David Tennant’s rear. Matt Smith’s, too.)

Similarly, girls are permitted to like comic books, but only if they emit the pre-requisite cooing over Loki and dress in provocative superhero cosplay for the benefit of the men around them.

As a geek woman, I like what I like and it just so happens that most of it is geeky. I didn’t start reading Hitchhiker’s Guide so I could impress my boyfriend. I haven’t spent 20+ years in technology because Windows is soooo cute when it crashes.

The idea that women would willingly subject themselves to the misogynistic crap that comes standard with female geekdom seems unlikely at best. Somehow I can’t picture a woman secretly fine-tuning her knowledge of python or Cerebus just so she can bask in the attention. Because the attention she’s likely to get is going to be negative – “You can’t like that, it’s for GUYS!”

Most female geeks I’ve met don’t want male geeks to know the extent of their geekdom. They hide it, because once people find out you’re a female geek, you’re never good enough.

Like when a male geek finds out that you, a female geek, like something he likes. Then you get subjected to the big interrogation – Which episode did this happen in? Who guest starred in season 2? How many spaceships are in the background in such-and-such scene? You have to prove that you REALLY know your geek in order to be accepted as a geek, and even then you’re never truly accepted.

It’s the same in IT. Women in technology are constantly having to prove we know our stuff even better than the men do. Yet we still have to put up with the doubt expressed by those around us: Why are you here? What makes you think you belong?

Geekdom is the love of something you’ve found, the adoration that makes you cry out to everyone around you, “YES! This is an AWESOME THING and you must experience it!” Why is that okay for men and not for women? And why are female geeks so threatening that some feel the need to invent the idea of “fake geek girls” so that any women who claim geekdom can be readily dismissed as Not Geek Enough?

Here are some blogs from people who are talking about fake geek girl syndrome and what it represents. Food for thought.

What do you think of the fake geek girl phenomenon?

image via I Can Haz Cheezburger

Avengers Vs. Adoptees: Is This What The Science Fiction Community Has Become?

Yes, the Avengers adoption “joke” controversy continues. I’m sure many people would be delighted if those of us who were offended would shut up already. Unfortunately, weeks later we’re still fielding the same sort of inflammatory remarks and personal attacks I mentioned before. Plus, there is something that is still bothering me about the whole thing. For those who haven’t seen the movie, the infamous scene in question is on YouTube in all its glory.

In my post An Angry Adoptee Fangirl Responds To Avengers Adoption “Joke”, I wrote:

Quite frankly I am ashamed at the sf fan community. I thought we were the genre that welcomes “cripples, bastards, and broken things.”

And I am still ashamed.

I remember the first time I met someone who loved science fiction as much as I did. I’ll call her Mary. She and I became fast friends, united in our love of all things Star Trek. This was back in the 1980s, so no TNG or DS9, just good old fashioned classic Trek. We analyzed the episodes together. We went to the movies on opening night. We went to conventions. We were total Trekkers.

My friend Mary was visually impaired — legally blind. And science fiction was one of the few outlets where that didn’t matter.

I saw how she was treated elsewhere. In school the kids made fun of “the girl with the funny eyes”. In public people snickered or looked away. Or, worse, they tried to “help”. Mary was perfectly capable of getting around by herself but people would grab her arm to assist. They thought she was less intelligent because she couldn’t see. If we were out somewhere, people would often ask me questions to ask her, such as, “Does your friend need an extra napkin?”

But when we went to cons there were all sorts of people, many of whom were “different” in some way. Some, like Mary, had physical disabilities. Others, like me, were otherwise deemed “different” by our society — Tyrion’s “cripples, bastards, and broken things.” My adopted status had always set me apart but here, in this one place, that didn’t matter. We could be sitting around a table: a bastard, a blind girl, a guy in a wheelchair, a transgendered woman — and the only thing that mattered was whether you were into Star Trek or Doctor Who or both. (And if the dealer’s room was going to be open late.)

Did things suddenly change while I wasn’t looking? Are we, the community of fandom, so caught up in ourselves now that science fiction is “popular” that we are driving away the very people who have been the lifeblood of the genre?

Because I was APPALLED at the reaction of Avengers fans to the notion that the “He’s adopted” joke was offensive. And, bear in mind, this is based on hundreds of comments just on my blog alone. Others received similar responses.

“This is why the world hates adopted people.”

“No wonder your mother gave you up.”

“You’re a fucking bitch!”

“Avengers was the best superhero movie ever. How dare you try to ruin it!”

“You have no right to call yourself a Marvel fan.”

… and so forth. If you’d like a full dose of the vitriol, read my previous post: An Angry Adoptee Fangirl Responds To Avengers Adoption “Joke”.

Many fans wrote to criticize me on the basis of Thor and Loki’s relationship in the comics. This isn’t about Marvel continuity. It’s not even about comics, or science fiction. It’s about one stupid line in a popular movie that was highly offensive to the minority group to which it referred, and the real-world effects it had on real people — who are also your fellow science fiction fans.

What shocked me the most was the apparent inability of most fans to put themselves in our shoes. I guess I missed the memo that said bastards aren’t allowed in the geek club anymore. Which is funny, considering how much everybody adores Jon Snow in Game of Thrones. If you consider him an admirable protagonist, yet thought the Avengers joke was funny, I’d like to ask what you think it’s like to be a real bastard. Because it’s pretty much like being sent to the Wall.

We adoptees are used to having our viewpoints ignored or negated. Amid all those hundreds of nastygrams, shall I tell you two of the few nice comments I received?

“Thank you. Because I’m a fangirl too, and I was totally hurt too.”

“I could have typed this with my own tearstained fingers. Thanks.”

And that’s why I wrote it. Because I knew, from the fact that the joke was in there to begin with, that fandom was not going to be there for us this time.

One of the most recent entries into the Avengers adoption controversy is this post from Psychology Today, which attempts to address adoptee discrimination… until it doesn’t. Like every other conversation it degenerated into a shouting match in which the adult adoptees and first (“birth”) parents were told to shut up and go away because we don’t know what we’re talking about.

As I commented on the post:

The original author’s comment says it all:

“This particular blog post was aimed more at the experiences of adoptive parents than adopted individuals themselves because of the fact that my research (which I cite in the post) has focused primarily on the experiences of adoptive parents.”

You cannot assess adoption in a vacuum. To study adoption with an exclusive focus on adoptive parents negates the experiences of the first parents and adoptees who are just as vital, if not more so, to the process. And it exacerbates the emphasis on adoptive parents and adoption professionals in the adoption constellation or pentagon or whatever you want to call it. Adoptees and first parents are relegated, once again, to the background.

So we’re useless, unless we speak out, then we should shut up and let the professionals handle it. Aaaand… round we come full circle to the discrimination in Avengers and the irate comments directed at those who had the temerity to express their outrage.

Yup. Adoptee discrimination, alive and well.

I would have thought the science fiction fans would be all over that like Replicators on an Asgard mothership. (No, the other Asgard.) But instead, adult adoptees and others who spoke out suddenly became prime targets. Why? Because we dared to criticize a blockbuster superhero movie that everybody (including most of us) loved? Because that movie took a moment to stab open a wound that will never heal, and we complained about it?

The science fiction community I used to know would rally around this sort of thing. These are the people who would welcome the bastards and blind girls without a second thought. Or, used to. So much for infinite diversity in infinite combinations.

I don’t think this intolerance is widespread. I feel more welcome as a female geek today than I used to in the 1980s. But, after this, I’m not sure I feel welcome as an adult adoptee. And that saddens me, because where are all the weird people going to go?

I guess Marvel fans are too busy celebrating Northstar’s gay marriage to notice the bastards being kicked around on their doorsteps. Ironic, that. (And, yes, I’ve read my copy of Astonishing X-Men #50. I picked it up from my local comics store just like the rest of the comics I buy.)

I call upon you, science fiction fans. Stand up for the cripples, bastards, and broken things in our world. Isn’t that why we’re all here, because we want a better future? How are we going to achieve that if we can’t even manage it amongst ourselves?

Women In Technology: Dell’s Gaffe And The Geek Girl Struggle

What if you went to a corporate event and the emcee said the following?

“[Your industry] is one of the last frontiers that manages to keep women out… There are hardly any girls here today, and I’m happy to see that – why are any of you here in the first place?”

This is an actual quote from the ravings of Danish commentator Mads Christensen, who was hired by Dell as moderator and MC for an international conference in Copenhagen. Read this first-hand report from a woman in the audience and feel your blood pressure rise.

This isn’t the first time Dell has fallen afoul of females. Several years ago I blogged about their atrocious and short-lived Della ad campaign:

 ”“Della,” as it’s called, shows us ladies how we can use color-coordinated computers to check the weather, generate our grocery lists, and stay up on the latest fashion news. This advertising is more 1950s than 21st century.”

Dell has apologized for this most recent incident, just as it apologized for Della. It’s hard to believe we’re still being subjected to this, but as a women who has been in technology for over 20 years, I can offer my real-world experiences.

Imagine going to a computer store to pick up equipment for a customer. A sales droid with a tenth of your experience tries to talk you into hardware that won’t do what you need. You call tech support about an Internet problem and have to shout your way through four people to find someone with a clue. That person treats you like you’re in preschool, because obviously it’s impossible for female vocal chords to utter the phrase “configure the router in bridged mode” or we’ll turn into quivering wrecks sobbing for a man to fix it.

I’ll try to remember that, the next time I’m elbow-deep in the guts of a server.

My favorite story goes back to the days when I was a tech support supervisor for Large Organization That Shall Remain Nameless. A gentleman had just been hired for a prominent, if not executive, position. His email wasn’t working. He called the help desk. Since I’m a supervisor who likes working in the trenches, I happened to be the one who went to his office.

His first reaction upon seeing me was, “I want a tech support person.” I told him I was a tech support person. He demanded the help desk supervisor. I told him I was the help desk supervisor. He said he wasn’t letting a woman touch his computer. I told him he was welcome to call the help desk when he was ready to have it fixed, and left him fuming about “girls trying to do a man’s job”.

He lasted about two days before he gave up and called. I returned to his office with a smile plastered on my face and fixed his email. It took a total of five minutes. As I was leaving he muttered, “I could have done it myself.”

Welcome to the world of women in technology.

Look at all the tech ads this past Mother’s Day. For some reason, we rarely market technology to moms outside of Mother’s Day. And when we do, the gadgets are colorful and practical… with half the technical capabilities of the version marketed to men. You know what I want next Mother’s Day? A Gigabit Ethernet switch, just to prove the point.

As this latest insult from Dell hit the news, a new survey shows the number of women in senior tech positions is down for the second year in a row. 30% of the companies surveyed said they have no women in senior tech positions. And let’s talk about the “brogrammer” culture as reported by CNN:

At one of the world’s biggest gatherings of Web culture, a 28-year-old executive talks about landing a tech job by sending a CEO “bikini shots” from a “nudie calendar” he created.

On campus at Stanford University, a hot startup attracts recruits with a poster asking if they want to ‘bro down and crush some code.’”

And the world’s largest Internet registration company entices Web entrepreneurs with a Super Bowl ad in which two female celebrities paint its logo onto the body of an apparently naked model.

In March, daily deals aggregator Squoot advertised a Boston hackathon that promised (along with massages, access to a gym and “kick-ass cupcakes”) this tidbit: “Need another beer? Let one of our friendly (female) event staff get that for you.” The site has apologized.

This is why girls don’t want to be geeks. Imagine Career Day in high school. What am I supposed to tell them, that if they actually manage to score an IT job in this economy, their destiny is to suffer obnoxious users, sexist remarks, and a corporate culture that considers them eye candy?

Looking back on my own career, I can say that my decision to become a freelancer was based in part on this. Career IT is a hard road for a woman. Once family matters come up, your choice is Supermom or sidelines. I find that when people are paying for a consultant they tend to be more respectful. Of course, I’ve also lost gigs because I’m female. Some people just can’t wrap their heads around the idea of a woman fixing a computer.

I remember one nice elderly man. He hired me to fix his home computer because the techs from Nationally Well-Known Store screwed it up. I discovered they’d sold him new memory but not seated it properly (how hard is it to push a SIMM into a slot?). They also sold him anti-spyware but didn’t fully disinfect his computer. After an hour he looked at me and said, “You’re a smarter gal than any of the boys who touched this computer.”

A lot of women are, but not all of us will get the chance to prove ourselves. Here’s my message to today’s geek girls: Be yourself, and don’t put up with discrimination. If you have to you can wear this T-shirt from ThinkGeek. Helps to cut down on the smart remarks.

Top Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m A Mom. I’m A Blogger. I Am NOT A “Mommy Blogger.”

I saw a tweet recently that set me off like an explosion on MythBusters:

“New Job: Hiring Mommy Bloggers”

It’s not the first time I’ve seen the phrase. The term “mommy blogger” is common – and offensive.

Like “work-at-home mom,” the phrase “mommy blogger” makes all women bloggers sound like part-timers who are only knowledgeable about mom-related things like organic baby food. As it happens I am knowledgeable about organic baby food, having made my own when my kids were little. But that doesn’t mean it’s all I know, nor that my brain suddenly got scooped out of my head the moment my kids were born.

“Mommy blogger” implies that you’re not a paid professional, or if you are paid it’s in diapers and coupons. It’s the 21st Century version of Tupperware. People see it as something for housewives to do to earn a little extra spending money while their husbands have real careers. It’s not a real job, it’s moonlighting.

Except this IS the 21st Century, and plenty of women are earning their livings online: bloggers, freelancers, web designers, programmers. Yes, there are female programmers, and we don’t call them “mommy programmers” regardless of parturition status. These women are capable and highly skilled. To dismiss them as “mommy” anything diminishes them as professionals.

(And while we’re at it, all those women selling Tupperware and Pampered Chef and scented candles? I’ve met plenty of them and guess what? They’re professional about their jobs, too.)

I’m a writer and IT specialist. One of my blogs is about technology and social media. Another one, this one, is about writing fantasy and science fiction. Not exactly topics that come to mind when using the term “mommy blogger,” yet my decades of professional experience are dismissed by those two little words merely because I happen to be Blogging While Female.

As far as I’m concerned, even if you’re literally blogging about being a mom, you’re still not a “mommy blogger” because of the negative connotations. Some have embraced the term “mommy blogger” in an attempt to redefine it in a positive way. I’m familiar with that, because my other other blog is about adoption. No, not adopting children, BEING adopted, as in adult adoptee. We bastards know a thing or two about redefining offensive terms. Nevertheless, I can’t find it within myself to embrace “mommy blogger.” It stirs memory of every hardship I’ve ever had as a female in a predominantly male industry. In short, it makes me go all Captain Janeway. And we know what happens when you go all Captain Janeway (if you don’t, ask the Borg Queen).

The problem is painfully obvious if you visit freelance job sites, especially those advertising to “Work At Home MOMS!” The jobs are lousy and the pay is slim if any. I’ve seen tons of writing gigs where you’re asked to write your fingers off for pennies a word and “promotion on our site.” Of course these sites are happy to con both men and women; getting ripped off is not exclusive. Even so, the advertising seems disproportionally targeted toward women, moms in particular.

And we don’t see the reverse assumption towards men. Men blog. Women are “mommy bloggers.” Men go to freelance job boards. Women go to boards for Work At Home MOMS! You can’t just be a blogger or a freelancer who happens to be female. Is it any wonder we are often paid less for the same jobs?

As a female person of the professional blogging persuasion, I’m offended. What do you think? Does the term “mommy blogger” offend you? Why or why not?

 

Where To Find Me: Blogs And Twitter

I’m a freelance writer and IT specialist with a passion for science fiction and fantasy. Here on my personal blog I talk about the latter, but I also run two other blogs, one about computers and one about adoption. Here’s how to keep it all straight when looking for me online.

Triona’s Tech Tips
Blog: www.guidryconsulting.com/techtips
Web site: www.guidryconsulting.com
Twitter: @trionaguidry
My professional blog is for people seeking computer help. I offer tech support tips, security advice, and help with blogs and social media. Tech Tips grew out of my consulting business, as a way for me to provide timely information to my customers about computer news and security. Anyone is free to subscribe by email.

living in a fantasy world
Blog: www.trionaguidry.com/blog
Twitter: @trionaguidry
My personal blog is for anyone who, like me, is addicted to fantasy and science fiction. I talk about geeky stuff and seek advice from fellow writers in the genre. If you like swords and time travel, stop by and say hello.

73adoptee
Blog: www.73adoptee.com
Twitter: @73adoptee
My adoption blog. Mostly for members of the adoption community, though guests are welcome (open minds preferred). Here I speak as an adult adoptee about the issues facing us today including stereotypes, bias, and the restoration of our identities and civil rights.

If you’re interested you can also contact me via LinkedIn and Facebook:

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/trionaguidry
Facebook: www.facebook.com/trionaguidry