the verbage of comfort

There was recently a thread on the Jigsaw mailing list (daVinci) about reclaiming the Monday Math-Meet-Up. Horray! The goal was to have a more approachable set of topics, rather than esoteric and difficult. The first name thrown out was Math Porn. Most people were very into the idea of the event, but there was some back-and-forth about the name.

Just to be clear – I adore both Maths and Porn. But a maker space is not the place for such a name. The argument was basically that the name was very clear about the event being fun, accessible, and enjoyable. It would also be sure to attract a very specific group of people – those who were advanced enough in their understanding of society and the like to find the name amusing.

My response was as follows:

Yes, it would bring in a more specific group. But here’s the thing.

Women and minorities are appallingly underrepresented in geek communities. And it’s in part because many geek men (usually upperclass white dudes) do things like have specific panels for “women in tech” or crack jokes about sex in the openings to their talks. Makerbots are commonly named after women because “they’re full of glitches and problems.” Porn is stimulating, porn is fun, but porn is also a convoluted term to use in the context of larger society.

While I know that you are of the dark-humor persuasion (like myself) and understand that pornography tends to be an indulgence in intellectual wank sessions, the majority of people do not know that.
A pasty-making class is ok. DIY strap-ons are ok. It is very clear what people are signing up for, and it is indicative of subject matter, not the approach. Math Porn is not clear what environment people are entering into, and while I fully invest in the transdisciplinary ideology of Jigsaw, going the route of tried-and-true alienation is not acceptable.

I had also had a conversation with a gentleman today who is designing a new bike (450cc at about 80lbs – get your head around that one) and how it was more accessible to women. He also did a fantastic job of making it clear it wasn’t “For Women,” for that makes female-identified individuals feel pandered to, and men won’t buy it because they are insecure in their sexuality and feminity is seen as a bad thing.

When you make a separate space for us, you alienate us. When you tell us what we want or need, you belittle us. And when you expect all women to be “post-sexism,” you are being blind to what our everyday existance is like. Yes, things are better. But these places that are meant to be inclusive, meant to give people a handle on their own lives, and certainly to be a safe space, to treat exchanges oblivious of history and context is still an asshole move.

Some awesome stuff to imbibe: