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on staying focused

On the last day, I was somewhat taken aback by the proposal that we generalize the focus of #libtechgender. I’m still not entirely sure what is being left out of LTG that requires a more general focus. In any case, I’m inclined to think that this is a BAD IDEA.

Why?

Well, because we have a lot to do in this particular area before generalizing can do any good (if it ever would). In general, the gender imbalance in tech is an ongoing and serious concern. So too with library tech. While, yes, we could generalize and focus on gender and tech, this would be a rather… large and potentially irrelevant direction to move towards. There are already groups and people working on these problems and restricting ourselves to focus on one particular subset of technology will allow us to craft strategies to effectively address gender-based oppression with libraries.

Of course, I don’t actually think that they were talking about generalizing in this direction. Perhaps they meant that we need to be more generalized/open towards men. The topic of allies definitely came up at one of the sessions I attended. And I noted that allies have no role to play.

Before anyone gets at me for saying this, I want to note that this question is all about framing for me. I talk about gender liberation not gender equality. One of the very few things that second wave feminism got right was by framing the issue as a matter of freedom (and oppression) rather than equality and rights. Saying that allies (in this case, men) are necessary for me to be free is, well, inaccurate. While they may be restricting my freedom, if/when they stop, freedom is not what they’ve given me. In the meantime, I am not about to sit around and wait for freedom to be given to me.

I prefer this over the language of equality and rights because both of those fundamentally depend on being recognized and given something via the state (or other oppressive institutions/people). The current discourse around many movements is all about rights. Getting Bill C-279 passed1. Gay marriage. Hate laws. Laws specific to gendered violence. While these strategies are necessary in the short term, in the long term they simply legitimize the right of the state to decide who is human enough to have rights in the first place2.

Then again… maybe this is not what was meant.

It could be that it was an assertion that libtechgender needs to also be about race, ableism, and other axes of oppression. While this is a possibility, this isn’t the sense that I was getting. Nor is it a particularly relevant criticism.

Gender is not (and can never be) a ‘single issue’ discussion. There is also a serious race issue in tech as well, with Latin@s and/or Black people being significantly under-represented. This only extra true if we are discussing Latina and/or Black women. The same can be said of the other areas of oppression.

Seen from this angle, using libtechgender as a primary focal point necessarily is already fairly broad. And based on what I experienced at the summit, there is already a long, hard road ahead to ensure that the people who already ought to be included in ‘libtechgender’ are, in fact, actually present and part of the discussion. Extending and generalizing the focus before we’ve created a space that is truly inclusive of women of colour, disabled women, lesbians, trans women, etc. (and mix and match), will only mean that some are always left out and left behind.