A list of things I have been reading on miscellaneous topics.
This particular entry was inspired in part by a conversation I had with sigje and kissingthevoid as they drove me to SFO with a quick visit to see the Golden Gate Bridge. We talked, among other things, about tech, feminism, and emotion. It was a great conversation, and I’ve been mulling it over ever since, because that’s how I roll.
rushthatspeaks on the importance of remembering that “ignoring the troll” is a valid form of resistance. Neither the only valid form, or the only form, but a form. Those of us who think that tech has a woman problem often talk about anger, whether our own or other people’s. rush’s post started me thinking more about resistance (which is not the same as subversion, in that resistance does not have to be a fully conscious act).
rush’s post also reminded me of a throwaway line in an old post of Jo Guldi’s on fasting from stories:
…I argued that for thirty years, Foucault has driven political history towards
the dead end of lamenting power’s presence without studying the avenues for liberation.
A lot of current critique, feminist and otherwise, of tech and tech-culture is Foucauldian or Foucault-inflected, which means that it drives toward the inescapability of power. It is worth remembering that this is a particular theoretical lens, and there are other ways of looking at the problem. I am very fond of Maureen McHugh’s China Mountain Zhang precisely because it starts with characters being oppressed by large-scale forces beyond their control constrain their lives, and ends with them finding ways to try to improve their lives nonetheless.
That being said, I have an inner Foucauldian, and the idea of talking about empathy and devops without talking about power differentials on the ground brings her out of her lair. This is not to say that I disagree with the idea that empathy across organizational units is necessary, only that my experience is that unless those with more power are meticulous in doing empathy work, it tends to get delegated to those with less power, and not to their benefit.
On the subject of inequality and emotional work, Sara Ahmed’s excellent post on sexism starts with a cogent description of the emotional demands on those of lesser power:
Marilyn Frye begins this book with a discussion of how oppression involves the requirement
that you show signs of being happy with the situation in which you find yourself. As she puts it:
“it is often a requirement upon oppressed people that we smile and be cheerful. If we comply, we
signify our docility and our acquiescence in our situation” (2). To be oppressed requires you show
signs of happiness, as signs of being adjusted or even well-adjusted As a result for Frye
“anything but the sunniest countenance exposes us to being perceived as mean, bitter, angry or
dangerous” (2). Smiling becomes compulsory, at least for those who have to demonstrate they have
accommodated to a system that does not “really” accommodate them.
I think Ahmed’s post would be a good post to give to someone who is starting to think about feminism and who doesn’t mind words or revisiting written material. There’s a lot there, so it’s definitely not for everyone.
Lately it’s seemed like Give Me Something Real
has become the theme song of many devops people. I await further developments with interest.