Women In Tech: Microsoft Is Just For Men, Plus Girls In Short Skirts FOR SCIENCE!

After the fallout from Dell’s misogynistic gaffe at a recent conference, you would think people would have figured out that alienating women in technology is a Bad Idea. But you would be so very wrong.

First we have Microsoft’s decision to join Dell in the 19th Century. A presentation in Norway on Windows Azure included the “Azure Girls” in a fabulous dance number while music blares: “I’ve got the skills to impress / I’m a computer genius / The words ‘Micro’ and ‘Soft’ don’t apply to my penis.”

Seriously, boys? I first heard that joke in third grade, and that’s where it should have stayed.

(The lyrics on the screen flashed “or vagina” as the lyrics were sung, which neither makes sense nor mitigates the offense – although it’s a good thing the conference took place in Norway because THAT sort of language would NEVER be allowed in places like Michigan.)

Is this how Microsoft wishes to advertise itself? Well then, as a woman in technology, I have some constructive criticism for them. Let’s consider the uproar over forcing people into Windows 8′s annoying Metro interface. Let’s consider the lackadaisical response to the Surface tablet announcement. Let’s discuss the Microsoft malaise that has entered the general consciousness.

Instead of coming up with penis jokes, I suggest they focus on business.

If that’s not enough misogynistic mayhem for you, there’s the EU’s ad campaign for teenage girls: “Science It’s A Girl Thing!” Because all girls like lipstick, so the way to get them to like science is to add more lipstick. And I always wear my stilettos when I’m in the server room.

Why is it that anything marketed toward females has to be cute, pink, fuzzy, and dumbed down? This ad campaign only reinforces the notion that to succeed a girl must have a supermodel figure, wear the latest fashions, and hide her intelligence.

To deliver a response, I would like to get together a diplomatic team consisting of Dr. Samantha Carter, Captain Kathryn Janeway, Dr. Moira MacTaggart, and Dr. Liz Shaw (the original, thank you). No short skirts here, but a hell of a lot more brain cells than the people who came up with these ideas.

Why do these incidents continue? Because the women who manage to pursue careers in science and technology are not permitted to sit at the table when decisions are made. I’ll bet there were few females present, if any, when Dell decided on an offensive emcee for their Copenhagen conference, when Microsoft developed the idea of “Azure Girls”, when the EU wrote the campaign for “Science It’s A Girl Thing”.

And that’s the crux of the problem. You can’t get women involved unless you get women involved.

Until women are accepted as equals in fields like technology and science, until they have a say in what happens in the boardroom, the glass ceiling will remain firmly affixed and girls of the future will be expected to find the right shade of lipstick to go with their Bunsen burners.

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?

Life During Fandom

I swear, I was only thinking about my geeky plans for the weekend. Then one line of this popped into my head and I had to do the whole thing.

And I’m sorry. I’m really very, very sorry.

Life During Fandom

(with apologies to Talking Heads and the rest of the universe)

Heard of a con that is loaded with guest stars
Pack up your dice and let’s go
Heard of a bookstore out by the highway,
A place the muggles don’t know
The sound of Stargates off in the distance,
I’ve got a D.H.D. now
Lived in a TARDIS, lived on Darkover,
I’ve lived all over Known Space

This ain’t no starship, this ain’t no dungeon,
this ain’t no fooling around
No time for Tolkien or timey-wimey
I ain’t got time for that now

Transmit the virus to the invaders
Hope they will blow up someday
I got three novels, a couple short stories
But they’re all fanfic for now
On my friend’s TV Trek II is starting
everyone’s ready to KHAAAAN!
I filk in the daytime, I slide in the nightime,
I might not ever get home

This ain’t no starship, this ain’t no dungeon,
this ain’t no fooling around
This ain’t no Watchmen or InuYasha,
I ain’t got time for that now

Heard about Warcraft? Heard of Avengers?
Heard about Trek on Blu-Ray?
You ought to know not to stand by the airlock
somebody throw you out there
I got some Buffy, some Game of Thrones here
to last a couple of days
but I ain’t got no comics, ain’t got no manga,
ain’t got no Skyrim to play

Why be a mundane? God, that’d be boring!
Gonna read Hunger Games now
Can’t roll for damage, can’t find my phaser
I ain’t got time for that now

Trouble with nanites, we got you covered
We like our John Williams loud
We got computers, we’re checking Twitter
We’re all on Pinterest now
We dress like Cylons, we dress like browncoats,
or in a fez and bow tie
I’ve changed my cosplay so many times now
I don’t know what I look like

You kill that ogre, I’ll get the darkspawn
We make a pretty good team
Don’t get exhausted, you’re out of hit points
You ought to get you some CON

Burned all my Twilight. What good is Twilight?
I’d rather slit my own throat.
My books are breaking all of my bookshelves
Ooh, look! New reprint of Dune!