On Hackers and Princesses

I’m back from Christmas visits to my and my fiancé’s families – and from the big hacker conference. Yup, I’ve been to the “Chaos Communication Congress” aka 29c3 (organized by the Chaos Computer Club each year between the holidays), Darling gave me a ticket for Christmas because the conference was taking place in our city this year and because I wanted to see what is going on when thousands of geeks and nerds and all sorts of people meet.

So what was going on?

– A lot of lectures about political fails concerning the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and retention of data to fight terrorism, reverse engineering tamagotchis, and some very technical computer stuff I didn’t understand at all (Darling did …).

– Discussions. For example about the question whether humans should always be allowed to override decisions made by “intelligent” machines. No, thanks, I don’t want my fridge to throw away food without my consent.

– Blinking stuff. A huge lot of it. Everywhere. From LEDs in blown-up plastic sacks used as seats and in stacked boxes looking like glowing ice cubes to tiny blinking devices just blinking for the sake of it – which also could be bought as kits to be soldered by the participants themselves.

– About 6,400 people drinking 32,000 bottles of Club-Mate – you know, this weird caffeinated lemonade-ish stuff? – during the 4 days … so I was far below average, as I only managed to go through one and a half bottle in total, cause I’m not used to the taste.

– People hacking all kinds of devices. Or making rings from silver. Or soldering the kits mentioned above. We soldered a different kind of kit – a micro controller (an Arduino clone, to be exact), which was great fun! Of course it was tinier than the things I soldered at school many years ago, but surprisingly I did quite well (despite my ever trembling hands), I didn’t break or burn anything, and the tiny solder blobs looked pretty nice :D I didn’t dare to solder on the processor itself, maybe next time.

– Weird overzealous fighters for gender equality … or whatever they are trying to achieve. You see, while in English the special forms for female gender (e.g. “actress” for a female actor) are not being used that much anymore, the German language is being more and more invaded by silly forms to ensure inclusion of “all” genders, meaning instead of e,g. “Lehrer und Lehrerinnen” (teachers and female teachers) you now also get “Lehrer/innen” or “LehrerInnen” (Ick! A capital i inside the word, wtf.), spoken – tadaaa – like the female form, sometimes with a little pause before the “innen” to indicate the inclusion of males, asexuals and purple transsexual squirrels. So we are back to the starting point – one form covering all genders. Only this time a constructed and more female-orientated one. (In the past often only the male form was used.) And these people, well, they want other people to use these and other “neutral” new forms all the time. And they were handing out green, yellow and red cards you should give to persons who are either nice to you (green) or show different grades of sexual harassment (yellow and red). This didn’t go to well (which makes me very happy), some folks started to understand it as a game and tried to get as many red cards as possible, and thus more trouble was born.

Because, even though you might think the opposite would be true, hackers are very friendly to persons no matter of what gender or species (some people were walking around with cat’s ears and tails). Sure, there are less biological females than males to be found at such a congress, but I pretty much enjoyed being together with these people. Because they don’t shove the “hey, you are female, please act so and so, and you will be addressed by this special form all the time” down your throat all the time. Which is what these self-proclaimed gender equality defenders do. What if I don’t want to be addressed by female forms all the time? I know I’m biologically female, I didn’t choose it, I only choose to accept it for the time being. And I enjoy wearing the clothes I feel good in. This doesn’t mean I want to be reminded of my sex and gender all the time. (Uh, what is my gender? I’m no cis-woman in the strictest sense. I just don’t hide what I am biologically.) What I want is to be treated equally in the sense of

– being allowed to choose whatever profession I want and not being asked the kind questions during a job interview nobody would ever dare to ask a male applicant (“What exactly is your family planning?”, “Do your child’s grandparents live close to the school, and do they take care of the child in case of sickness?”)

– generally same rights as men (When I hear of countries in the near and middle East prohibiting women from driving it makes me shiver. I also wouldn’t want my father to choose my husband or something like that.)

– not being overly protected

– not being exploited in any way

– not being expected to be everything at once – a perfect mother (taking care of her children herself, and having at least two kids to ensure this country won’t die out, but keeping these kids from making any sound or mess), a perfect employee (who doesn’t miss work because of a sick child), in possession of a perfect body, being natural, being a stupid consumer, being a great and empowered leader … for heaven’s sake, sometimes I think this country is run by total idiots without a drop of common sense.  Let’s hope the CCC and the Pirate Party will take control somehow.

– being helped by others when and because I can’t do something myself, not because I’m supposed to be weak because I’m female. (Heck, sometimes I offer guys at the train station to help them with their luggage at the stairs – there are not-so-strong males in need of help as well!)

– people not just labeling me “female” and that’s it, but rather “linguist”, “weird squeaking creature waving a soldering iron”, “person interested in computers but not having a clue about the deep processes”. You know, it seems that when you have a male-orientated show or game, you get male characters defined by personal traits, jobs, whatever – and one alibi female character. Being characterized by being … female. Duh. (Exaggeration maybe, but a tendency.)

Which is leading to the other part of this blog’s title. My current read is “Cinderella Ate My Daughter” (another gift from Darling, yay) – and it is awesome. If you haven’t read it yet, go and get it. I’m not yet through, so I won’t write a whole essay on it now.

But one thing is sure – I’d rather be a part of the hacker community than of the Disney princess club.

Pinkification won’t save our lives. Knowledge might.

Separating girls and boys by means of colours and toys will produce a generation of socially incompetent creatures, totally dependent on the industry telling them their gender roles. Do you want to live in a world where five-year olds judge each other because of wearing the “wrong” colour or taking interest in the “wrong” toys or activities?

Communication. Working together. Having a true choice. That’s what we need. Princesses are okay – as long as they grow up one day and help to change things for the better! :)

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