Gamer Gurl at Open Mic

Last night I went to watch my sister-in-law perform at our local open mic night. She killed, but that isn’t the point of this post.

The fourth person to perform was a girl who looks kind of like Claudia from Warehouse 13. She gets up and tells everyone that she is a true nerd and “enjoys playing role playing board games.”

I start working up some righteous nerd rage. No gamer in their right mind would say that! There are RPGs, there are German-style board games, there are MMORPGs, but not “role playing board games”.

So I start going off on about this person cooping my identity for lazy humor and pretending to be a member of a culture that she doesn’t understand. I was slightly tipsy so I hope I made semi-coherent arguments.

I wake up this morning and I realize that I really missed the punchline on this (no pun intended). While I was eviscerating this person on ADN, the rest of her bit was complaining about how the boys she was playing these games with wouldn’t look at her boobs. She complained about how she really likes sex and how no one would just push the game off the table and take her then and there.

I play board games. The idea of someone, for any reason, sweeping my $100 copy of Agricola onto the floor for any reason horrifies me. I highly doubt any real gamers of any gender in the audience would approve of this occurring.

This truly disturbs me. We have a bad enough time where almost every single female character in a video game acts as a prize for the protagonist with no wants or agency of their own. We don’t need someone who has never actually participated in our community to validate to the people in it that women are empty headed mannequins who want nothing more than to be taken violently by victorious nerds as their prize for being awesome.

When I play games or go to a conference I want to be treated with respect. I don’t consider it a mark of respect to have men checking out my boobs. I don’t want the men that I play games with to see me as their prize for completing the game. I just want to be a person who also happens to enjoy the same things as a lot of other people who happen to be men.

I also think it is lazy humor to make fun of a common stereotype. Hey look, there are boys playing games! They must be nerds who are terrified of talking to women! There are so many jokes to be done about that! No. There might be, but someone with enough of a brain to not get on stage and complain about lack of harassment will be the one to make them, not you.

The Conference Difference

I attended a pair of conferences this past weekend: Design Madison and UXMad. I attended as a volunteer along with some other people.

One of my fellow volunteers behaved in a way that made me very upset.

The way the Sapling Event conferences work is that when the conference is about to begin someone walks around with a cow bell to get everyone’s attention.

My co-volunteer heard that and said very loudly to the conference goes, “Hey Sheeple! You need to moo-ve!” imitating a cow.

Female Developers

Awesome inspirational female developers and speakers.

I was furious that someone who was representing this company would behave this way. I don’t think anyone else really heard this happen, but I was appalled that anyone would think it is okay to speak that way.

I have a very good reason for wanting Sapling Events to not be embarrassed by their student volunteers.

Back in February 2013 I attended my first conference. The conference was Snow*Mobile, a mobile development conference in Madison put on by Sapling.

My teacher Eric Knapp told us that the conference organizers allowed students to attend the conference in exchange for several hours of volunteer help. The conference cost several hundred dollars, which is a lot of money to an unemployed college student.

I went to the conference not really knowing what to expect. Going there was a life-changing experience.

I had an opportunity to meet a lot of prominent developers from around the midwest. I got to listen to a bunch of talks about technologies I was unfamiliar with.

I discovered why on earth people use Twitter. Twitter gave me the chance to tweet a speaker telling them I liked their talk. It also gave me the chance to talk to these people about something specific rather than just awkwardly trying to make conversation until we found a common thing to speak about.

One of the conference speakers mentioned the K&R book on C that I wanted to read. I tweeted him and told him it was on my to-read list. He told me after I read it he wanted to read my blog post about it. I didn’t have a blog then, but I do now! (Again, thanks Ray Hightower).

The first day of the conference when we broke for lunch, I didn’t really know anyone at the conference. I was too shy to just sit down with someone so I sat by myself feeling bad because I was eating alone. I felt a light punch on my shoulder. It was the videographer with the conference. He said, “You. You’re eating with us. We’re up on the stage.” That moment let me know it’s okay to just go up to random tables at conferences and eat with people you don’t really know.

Eric says that many people feel like they “found their people” at their first conference and I agree with this assessment completely.

I really enjoyed my time there and I became a conference addict. I found a CocoaConf that was happening in Chicago the month after Snow*Mobile. I carpooled and roomed with a classmate of mine I had never really spoken to very much.

I got to meet a huge number of people at CocoaConf. Among the people I connected with were Chris Adamson, Jonathan Penn, and Daniel Steinberg. I forged some amazing connections at that conference. I never would have paid the money to go there had I not seen how important these conferences can be to my professional career. Additionally, my conference roommate is an amazing person that I am planning to work with on an app in the near future.

Big Tiger

Big Tiger rocks out to Eye of the Tiger at the UXMad After Party.

Getting the chance to attend Snow*Mobile made one of the largest impacts on my potential career. I am so happy that Jim “Big Tiger” and Jenifer Remsik opened that opportunity up to myself and others. I hope that this one bad experience does not convince them to stop hiring student volunteers because their generosity has enriched my life so much.

I hope that I have the chance to pay things forward later in my career. We all get to where we are because people like the Remsiks give us a hand. Sometimes people squander the opportunities that others give them and that is a shame. If someone takes a chance on you, do your best not to let them down. If you do, then work hard to avoid doing it ever again since there are limited opportunities in this world and each one is precious.



Barbara Gordon

Today on I noticed that a lot of people were changing their avatars to super hero characters. I thought it looked like fun, so I decided to jump on the bandwagon and do the same.

I got called out by another user for following the hive mind and doing the same thing everyone else was doing.

There is a certain amount of validity to this point, but I had a few really good reasons for picking the avatar I chose.

I chose Oracle, aka Barbara Gordon. For those who are not in the know, Barbara Gordon was the first Batgirl. Her father is Commissioner Gordon. In 1988 The Joker came to Commissioner Gordon’s house and shot

Barbara Gordon Shot

The Joker shoot Barbara Gordon in The Killing Joke.

Barbara, not because he knew her secret identity, but to send a message to her father. She did not die, but she was paralyzed from the waist down. She was confined to a wheelchair.

She did not want to give up on her calling of being a crime fighter, so she learned computer programming. She became a super hacker and put together a female team of super heroes called The Birds of Prey.

I am a red-headed woman programmer. I admire her tenacity in not allowing that event to prevent her from doing what she wanted to do. She worked around her constraints and did not let a setback keep her from kicking butt.

I am a very literary person. My handle and my blog are named after a character from Alice Through the Looking Glass. I believe that characters from literature can speak to our better natures. They can allow us to walk in another person’s shoes and see qualities in them that we would like to have in ourselves.

This speaks to the dearth of female characters in popular culture. We get enthralled with characters in various medias and we like to see characters that represent ourselves. When women go to a movie and only see women as girlfriends or mothers, it is very discouraging. We want to see smart, brave, capable women. We want to see people who look and think like us. Men get to, why can’t we??

Barbara Gordon Chair

Just because she can’t walk doesn’t mean she can’t defend herself!

Whoopi Goldberg spoke about the pivotal moment in her childhood when she saw Nichelle Nichols on Star Trek and ran around the house screaming, “Mom! There is a black woman on the TV and she isn’t a maid!” Nichols said that she was planning to leave the show when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told her what an inspiration she was to the black community.

There is every flavor of white man on movies and TV. We have handsome charismatic people (James Bond), slacker stoner guys who inexplicably have hot girlfriends (Seth Rogan), violent anti-heroes who murder people and do bad things (Walter White). You name it, it exists. Why are these stories more important or identifiable than ours are?

You can argue that stories are flaky or unimportant, but they are vital to the formation of identity. By refusing to have more characters like Barbara Gordon in mainstream media we are saying that those people’s perspective doesn’t matter. That is tragic.