On the Production of the Spirit of Feminism
(2016, ACM Interactions)
Ingrid Erickson, Libby Hemphill, Amanda Menking, Stephanie Steinhardt
Interjecting ‘feminist’ or a reference to ‘feminism’ in our community is usually triggered by something controversial or atypical: sexism in “the Comments section” of many sites; the asymmetrical “white male”-ness of big data or its apparent claims; the inequities between male developers and ‘Other’-ed developers. Seen in these responses, the moniker ‘feminist’ serves to distinguish something from the the mainstream, from the ‘normal’ way of doing things. It also immediately charges what is to come with an alternate set of logics and values.
This piece is no exception.
The tale we are about to tell here is not another report of uncovered inequalities, however. It is a story–within an already feminist-identified group–of awakening to our own realization of alternative ways of thinking. Through a series of workshops on feminism and social media at the Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) conferences in 2014 and 2015, we, as organizers, gained insight into both what we want the word “feminist” to mean for us and what we think it can mean more globally within the tech communities of which we are a part.
Our realizations stem from the work of creating and implementing these workshops with others. Not all the workshops’ organizers are authors here, and the reflections we present here are not meant as a summarizing voice nor any attempt to speak for anyone other than ourselves. That said, the diversity of collaborators over these two years is a significant part of our story. Together we are able to produce and reproduce the spirit of feminism as a collective activity, not just as a lens through which we gaze upon our objects of study. Through collaboration we confronted feminism not only as a set of values and ideals but also as a set of practices.