Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

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Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby apeman5291 » Wed Dec 16, 2009 7:09 pm UTC

Article from MSNBC and LiveScience.com:

Spoiler:
The stereotype of computer scientists as geeks who memorize Star Trek lines and never leave the lab may be driving women away from the field, a new study suggests.

And women can be turned off by just the physical environment, say, of a computer-science classroom or office that's strewn with objects considered "masculine geeky," such as video games and science-fiction stuff.

"When people think of computer science, the image that immediately pops into many of their minds is of the computer geek surrounded by such things as computer games, science-fiction memorabilia and junk food," said lead researcher Sapna Cheryan, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Washington. "That stereotype doesn't appeal to many women who don't like the portrait of masculinity that it evokes."

The upshot: Women don't feel they would fit in and so steer clear of computer-science majors and jobs, the researchers say. Such avoidance could help to explain why just 22 percent of computer-science graduates are women, a percentage that has been steadily decreasing, according to 2008 data from the National Science Foundation.

Not only are women missing out on some of the "best career opportunities, but computer science is missing out on female perspectives," Cheryan and her colleagues wrote in a recent issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Geeky objects
The results come from four studies with more than 250 students who weren't studying computer science.

In the first experiment, about 40 male and female students entered a small classroom that either contained objects stereotypically associated with computer science, such as Star Trek posters, video game boxes and Coke cans, or non-stereotypical items such as nature posters, art, a dictionary and coffee mugs. (The students were told to ignore these objects because the room was being shared with another class.)

Then, the students filled out questionnaires about their attitudes toward computer science.

In the geeky environment, women were significantly less interested than men in computer science, while there was no gender difference for the non-stereotypical classroom. Female students in the stereotypical environment said they felt less similar to computer-science majors than did those in the classroom that wasn't geeked out.

In three other experiments, two of which involved about 90 students each, participants were told to imagine stereotypical and non-stereotypical objects in various environments. Here are some of the results:

  1. When women were given the choice of joining one of two all-female teams at a company, with the only difference between the teams being the objects found in respective workrooms, 82 percent of the women picked the team with the non-stereotypical workroom.
  2. Male and female participants were given the choice between similar jobs at one of two companies with the only difference being the description of objects (either nerdy or generic) for each company. Both genders preferred the job in the non-stereotypical work environment, but women's preferences for the non-geeky environment were significantly stronger than men's.
  3. In another similar job-position experiment, women were more likely to accept an offer with a neutral Web-design company while men had the opposite preference, choosing the stereotypically nerdy company. The more women perceived the stereotypical environment as masculine, the less interested they were in that company.

Changing computer science
There was a subset of women in the study who didn't view the stereotypical objects as masculine and geeky and aren't turned off by the associated office or classroom.

"That tells me that it's a cultural phenomenon," Cheryan told LiveScience. "These objects are not inherently masculine or geeky; they've been constructed that way. That means to me we can reconstruct the objects or more importantly the whole field."

Cheryan added one way to change the lopsided field would be, "broadening the image of computer science to make it so that other people feel a connection to the field."

© 2009 LiveScience.com. All rights reserved.
I've always thought this was the case, but it's good that SCIENCE! has weighed in on the situation. I wonder now if CS will try to undergo a re-branding to get more female interest in the field.
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby Indon » Wed Dec 16, 2009 7:18 pm UTC

This is slightly more significant than the obvious, "Oh, hey, nerd culture is a deterrent to women in more than one way".

This demonstrates that a culture can ward a demographic from valuable opportunities even to the detriment of that demographic.
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby nowfocus » Wed Dec 16, 2009 7:19 pm UTC

Meh, I think those objects go hand in hand with computer science.

Computer Science: Study of Computers
Sci-Fi: Fiction often based around advanced computers
Computer Games: Use of Computers for Entertainment

Further, I find that the attribute about me that signals people than I'm a nerd is that I run Linux, not the other stereotypical stuff - Not video games or sci-fi.

I think this is all part of the culture because it belongs. You can't just change the culture.
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby Snowflake » Wed Dec 16, 2009 7:36 pm UTC

apeman5291 wrote:I've always thought this was the case, but it's good that SCIENCE! has weighed in on the situation. I wonder now if CS will try to undergo a re-branding to get more female interest in the field.

Spend the valuable time while they're fertile just to sit in front of a computer and geek away all day? Naaah.
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby frezik » Wed Dec 16, 2009 7:48 pm UTC

nowfocus wrote:I think this is all part of the culture because it belongs. You can't just change the culture.


Especially since lots and lots of male programmers get into it from a young age specifically because they want to make games. You can't just remove the games and expect everything will work out.

Of late, I've been shedding some of my more blatantly geeky amusements that go over most peoples' heads in favor of being geeky but more universally understood. I don't see this as "selling out" so much as changing things around just enough to get non-nerds (of either gender) see just how cool some of this stuff is.

If you're a geek, you're probably a very creative person, just in ways that aren't immediately obvious to most people. If you're willing to focus your creativity in ways other than Warhammer figures, you can get surprising results. For instance, an edge-lit LED acrylic piece I made for a wedding gift (which I posted about a while back) went over very well. Learning a little Origami can enable you to make tiny cranes out of the wrappers of those little chocolate mints at restaurants. If you look over the archives at blog.makezine.com or Instructables, you'll easily find more projects like that than you can ever have time to do.

More recently, I started writing little programs for my Android phone. One of them takes the accelerometer readings and draws a line from the center and pointing "down" (that is, if you held the phone steadily upright, the line would point straight to the ground, since the Earth is accelerating it down at 9.81 m/s/s). It's a very simple program, but people love watching this little line squiggle around.

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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby Indon » Wed Dec 16, 2009 8:05 pm UTC

nowfocus wrote:I think this is all part of the culture because it belongs. You can't just change the culture.


Well, the culture's extremely sexist (have you played a video game recently?), so if we want women in the field, we're going to have to, now aren't we.
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby MoghLiechty2 » Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:19 pm UTC

Indon wrote:
nowfocus wrote:I think this is all part of the culture because it belongs. You can't just change the culture.

Well, the culture's extremely sexist (have you played a video game recently?), so if we want women in the field, we're going to have to, now aren't we.

Is there any goal related to "getting women in the CS field" beyond "getting women in the CS field?"
...
And OT about the video games industry (which I'm a member of):
Spoiler:
The culture probably is sexist, but I think I'd contend that video games are, at most, a reflection of that fact rather than the object of it. Video game characters are largely/entirely market driven, that is, catered to the audience they are made for. If your console is at least 80% male, (as I believe the 360, at least, is), having male save-the-world characters is either sexist, or is merely representative of the player who is taking the role while playing the game. If you've played Mass Effect (which is a counter-example for the idea that game characters are always male, as it allows you to choose a female), and you yourself are a male, did you choose to be the male or the female, and why? Most people I think choose a character of their own gender the first play-through, so video games that because of the gameplay or story logistics are unable to allow you to choose your gender will simply choose a male lead to better represent their audience.

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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby Princess Marzipan » Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:32 pm UTC

MoghLiechty2 wrote:
Spoiler:
The culture probably is sexist, but I think I'd contend that video games are, at most, a reflection of that fact rather than the object of it. Video game characters are largely/entirely market driven, that is, catered to the audience they are made for. If your console is at least 80% male, (as I believe the 360, at least, is), having male save-the-world characters is either sexist, or is merely representative of the player who is taking the role while playing the game. If you've played Mass Effect (which is a counter-example for the idea that game characters are always male, as it allows you to choose a female), and you yourself are a male, did you choose to be the male or the female, and why? Most people I think choose a character of their own gender the first play-through, so video games that because of the gameplay or story logistics are unable to allow you to choose your gender will simply choose a male lead to better represent their audience.

The fact that something's motivations aren't inherently sexist doesn't mean that that thing isn't sexist, though.
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby Jessica » Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:37 pm UTC

Not to get too off topic, but that's a very chicken/egg problem. why are games geared toward men? for one reason, because gamers are mostly male. why are gamers mostly male? Well, one reason is that games are geared toward men...
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby TheKrikkitWars » Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:38 pm UTC

Princess Marzipan wrote:The fact that something's motivations aren't inherently sexist doesn't mean that that thing isn't sexist, though.


But in this case, the market is sexist, and the market is sexist, because the sexist things sell, and companies that don't make things that sell, go bankrupt; thus it's not as simple as "don't make sexist videogames".
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby Jessica » Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:40 pm UTC

TheKrikkitWars wrote:
Princess Marzipan wrote:The fact that something's motivations aren't inherently sexist doesn't mean that that thing isn't sexist, though.
But in this case, the market is sexist, and the market is sexist, because the sexist things sell, and companies that don't make things that sell, go bankrupt; thus it's not as simple as "don't make sexist videogames".
Of course it's not as simple as "don't make sexist games". no one said it was. But, it is one of the aspects which keeps women out of them.
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby Princess Marzipan » Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:49 pm UTC

I never stated the solution was simple, I was just pointing out that something can be sexist (or racist or gaycist or anything else) even if its motivations are pure as driven snow.
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby MoghLiechty2 » Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:51 pm UTC

Princess Marzipan wrote:The fact that something's motivations aren't inherently sexist doesn't mean that that thing isn't sexist, though.

Does recognizing this (or better put, defining sexism in this manner) lead us to any valuable conclusions or courses of action though? As in, if I'm a game developer who recognizes this, is there a sort of moral obligation to enforce societal change through making games people will like less?

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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby aleflamedyud » Wed Dec 16, 2009 9:52 pm UTC

In the first experiment, about 40 male and female students entered a small classroom that either contained objects stereotypically associated with computer science, such as Star Trek posters, video game boxes and Coke cans, or non-stereotypical items such as nature posters, art, a dictionary and coffee mugs. (The students were told to ignore these objects because the room was being shared with another class.)

OH COME ON </Kyle Broflovski>!!!! Saying that we should change our culture because of this is like saying that Afro-American Studies should change the culture of its major because people shied away from a room with fried chicken, watermelon, and rap music!

The one thing on which I agree with the article is that we need to change the stereotypes of computer science majors. As I said on Reddit, we have to produce a pamphlet or booklet, "Computer Science: Myth and Reality". I mean, hell, in addition to these retarded stereotypes driving women and non-total-nerd men away from the field, they also attract people to Computer Science who really shouldn't enter it. In freshman year I lived on a Computer Science floor in the dorms, and at the beginning of the year I had a mental list after a month of who would succeed in computer science and who had just gone into Comp Sci because they were smelly (literally) nerds who wanted to make and play video games. At the end of one year, most of the latter group had endangered their staying in the major with mediocre grades (that's what happens when you play Rock Band instead of studying), and at the end of two years I met most of the "stars" who I'd originally guessed would do well in a summer research internship.

Majorist stereotypes: they hurt the Computer Science major's recruitment, and trying to fulfill them actually hurts computer-science students. Why do we let this shit continue?
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Wed Dec 16, 2009 10:04 pm UTC

MoghLiechty2 wrote:
Princess Marzipan wrote:The fact that something's motivations aren't inherently sexist doesn't mean that that thing isn't sexist, though.

Does recognizing this (or better put, defining sexism in this manner) lead us to any valuable conclusions or courses of action though? As in, if I'm a game developer who recognizes this, is there a sort of moral obligation to enforce societal change through making games people will like less?

Of course not. But if you have more information about what your game says about sex and gender, that may inform your priorities. And it may encourage consumers to rethink what they like in a videogame.
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby Dauric » Wed Dec 16, 2009 10:19 pm UTC

Unfortunately much of our public discourse places intent with any "-ist" be it "race-" "sex-" or whatever, and though the market for games is sexist there isn't any intent or design behind it. Upshot becomes while discussing it, as happened here, it becomes necessary to reiterate that it is a systemic "-ism", rather than a purposed or malicious one.

What really needs to happen for women to play more computer games is for women designers to start making the games that they want to play with the kind of game-mechanics that attract them, and distributing them through innovative channels over the web rather than through retail outlets. While this is happening to a certain degree, most of these games are "casual" games, designed around an activity with completion measured in minutes to a few hours. Nothing wrong with "casual" games, but the 'big money' games are the ones built on a completion time minimum of ten hours, and extending in to multiple hundreds of hours.

This is mostly my own observation, the Infocom text adventures (Zork, A Mind Forever Voyaging, Planetfall, Lurking Horror) and the 90's Sierra games (King's Quest, Space Quest, etc.) held more interest for a female audience ([anecdote] My mom played every Infocom text adventure ever, as well as most of the Sierra adventures. Also most female gamers I've talked with, rare that they are, have fond memories of both Infocom and Sierra[/anecdote]). My suspicion is that current "Interactive Fiction" games (yes, people are still writing text adventures) would have substantially more female authors except for that "Geeky programming" thing they'd have to learn to actually make them work. These kinds of games though could easily provide the basic framework of a more in-depth 10-100 hour game that appeals to women as a whole.

Another note: One of my friends wives made the observation that tabletop Role Playing Games (note: Role- not Roll-)* are something more women would enjoy if they knew how they were actually played, and didn't immediately associate them with being a 'Male Geek' pastime.

* The difference being playing a 'Character' in the literary sense as part of a shared 'Theater of the Mind', vs. just rolling dice to see if you kill the next monster.
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby dosboot » Wed Dec 16, 2009 10:20 pm UTC

Is it just me or is the article suggesting that discrimination by women against geeks is part of the problem?

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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby MoghLiechty2 » Wed Dec 16, 2009 10:25 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:Of course not. But if you have more information about what your game says about sex and gender, that may inform your priorities. And it may encourage consumers to rethink what they like in a videogame.

And to be honest, from my experience I think we have good reason to be optimistic about the sorts of people who are taking these positions this generation.

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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby Roĝer » Wed Dec 16, 2009 10:57 pm UTC

First of all, I think more women in computer science, or in any field where they are underrepresented for that matter, is a good thing in itself. Women should not be shood away from computer science because it is a masculine culture.

I think that a department can take active measures against displays in public rooms of a culture that it does not want to be associated with. If the future xkcd university (at which computer science will be a mayor field) is to be a university that welcomes all people, it should not be a bulwark of male subculture.
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby Dauric » Wed Dec 16, 2009 11:14 pm UTC

I think there's a difference between the -appearance- of a "male subculture" and an the real thing.

The "Real thing", in my opinion, would be the military culture (though this is slowly changing), specifically the portions that gave us things like the Tailhook scandal.

'Geek culture' though, while it does have individuals who need a thourough beating with the ClueBat(tm) (but then again what group of people doesn't), isn't inherently "Male" and quite a few women -do- enjoy Science Fiction, Anime, computer games, and wear costumes at conventions.

The deeper problem lies in the (artificial)* Jock Vs. Geeks dichotomy, where the "All American Football Jock" is the desirable way to be (for males) and be around (for females), that the 'preferred people' in media are the beautiful, fit, yet intellectually shallow people, and that the mental powerhouses are both weak and "Just good for a friend". And then we raise children exposed to this ideal, their school culture reflects this ideal, people choose their subcultures as they progress through school based on the ideas about those subcultures...

... and rinse and repeat.

*(I've known quite a few athletes and soldiers that were fit, intelligent, and played video and tabletop RPGs, and could quote SF TV series as well.)
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby nowfocus » Wed Dec 16, 2009 11:18 pm UTC

Indon wrote:
nowfocus wrote:I think this is all part of the culture because it belongs. You can't just change the culture.

Well, the culture's extremely sexist (have you played a video game recently?), so if we want women in the field, we're going to have to, now aren't we.

Jessica wrote:Not to get too off topic, but that's a very chicken/egg problem. why are games geared toward men? for one reason, because gamers are mostly male. why are gamers mostly male? Well, one reason is that games are geared toward men...


You only taking one part of the study in video games. Lets look at another - SciFi. Inherently sexist? I'd say no. Star Trek in all its iterations is one of the most progressive shows of all time. Featured a woman lead, a black lead, the first girl-on-girl kiss on television. Martin Luther King even asked the actor playing Uhura to keep going because she was such an important role model. Would women still refer to "Star Trek" as a masculine thing? I'd say so, even if it shouldn't be considered sexist.

Further, just because a profession is sexist doesn't mean women won't go into them. Most professions in this world are sexist. Lets take social work.

Despite two decades of effort by the NASW to achieve pay equality, both the NASW and the CWLA surveys again found that pay equity remains elusive. Even though the NASW membership is overwhelmingly female, the NASW survey found that average annual salaries of male members were $2,500 to $5,000 more than those of female members.


Female dominated profession. Male get paid more. Clearly sexist. But women still work there.

So lets not pretend that nerds are sexist, therefore women don't want to go into computer science. Lets all remember high school for a second and realize that woman don't like nerds, therefore they don't want to go into computer science.
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby nowfocus » Wed Dec 16, 2009 11:24 pm UTC

BTW, they are drawing the wrong conclusions from the studies. All this shows is that women don't like star trek, video games, and messy rooms as much as men: a truly shocking result.
Jahoclave wrote:Besides if you observe romance, you change the outcome. Especially if you put his/her friend Catherine in a box.

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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby Vaniver » Wed Dec 16, 2009 11:31 pm UTC

I seem to remember there being big strides made 10-20 years ago to get more women into computing, and then the number of female applicants started decreasing for economic reasons.

Who said 'geeky' was 'masculine'? I mean, geeky and male are associated, but to say 'masculine' and 'geeky' are associated seems to be using a peculiar definition of masculine.
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Wed Dec 16, 2009 11:32 pm UTC

What's peculiar about associating "masculine" with "male"?
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby Princess Marzipan » Wed Dec 16, 2009 11:35 pm UTC

Hey, you there. Fucking read words.

No one here SAID that "nerds" are sexist. The point is that there is still an institution that manages to be sexist in practice, even though it's not in intent. The point of the article is just that this is how things stand - it is saying Hey, Let's Recognize That There Is Sexism Here. There's no blame or fingerpointing; there's no one whose FAULT it is, but it's still a problem, and one we should try to fix.

And as far Star Trek not being sexist, the inclusion of a single female role model doesn't make it magically not sexist. I'd actually say that's evidence that it *is* sexist. If it weren't sexist, you wouldn't be able to point to merely a single iconic female character because none of the characters would be notable or remarkable due to their gender. Star Trek is sexist as *fuck.*
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby Vaniver » Wed Dec 16, 2009 11:42 pm UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:What's peculiar about associating "masculine" with "male"?
"Masculine" tends to be associated with "athletic," which is generally opposite to "geeky." That could be a byproduct of me being used to using masculinity to differentiate between men, rather than between men and women, though.

More like: I think nowfocus is right, that this is about SciFi, gaming, and messiness more than it is about male/female, and that's not necessarily a problem.

Princess Marzipan wrote:And as far Star Trek not being sexist, the inclusion of a single female role model doesn't make it magically not sexist. I'd actually say that's evidence that it *is* sexist. If it weren't sexist, you wouldn't be able to point to merely a single iconic female character because none of the characters would be notable or remarkable due to their gender. Star Trek is sexist as *fuck.*
Star Trek is a progressive, antisexist, antiracist dream come true, though- the producers fought to make the show as progressive and egalitarian as possible. The world was as sex-blind and color-blind as people raised in a sexist, color-sensitive society could make it.
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby Nath » Thu Dec 17, 2009 12:12 am UTC

apeman5291 wrote:I've always thought this was the case, but it's good that SCIENCE! has weighed in on the situation. I wonder now if CS will try to undergo a re-branding to get more female interest in the field.

Seems like the wrong angle to approach the problem. CS is geeky. Science fiction etc. are inherent, mostly beneficial aspects of CS geek culture. The problem is that these things are seen as 'eww, geeky' by the world at large (or, apparently, 'eww, masculine and geeky'). That's the problem we need to fix. I spent many an evening as an undergrad surrounded by 'computer games, science-fiction memorabilia and junk food'. The stereotypes here are mostly accurate; we just need to make peoples' perception of them less negative. (Well, except for the junk food bit. Feel free to fix that.)

There are numerous things about CS culture that need to be changed. It is probably as sexist as any other field, which is to say, enough to be a problem (though I have no first hand experience with this, being male). But the geekiness isn't the problem that need fixing here.

As for why balancing out the field would be a good thing: in CS, as in any field, we want the most suitable people to join. If a potentially good computer scientist decides not to enter the field, we've lost an opportunity to get someone who may do good work down the line. The objective isn't to make sure that every field is evenly divided by sex, race and so on. The goal is to make sure we get the best people possible, without driving any useful people away for silly reasons.

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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby Princess Marzipan » Thu Dec 17, 2009 12:42 am UTC

Vaniver wrote:Star Trek is a progressive, antisexist, antiracist dream come true, though- the producers fought to make the show as progressive and egalitarian as possible. The world was as sex-blind and color-blind as people raised in a sexist, color-sensitive society could make it.

Exactly. I mean, for its time, it was *relatively* progressive, yes. But objectively, it is still pretty sexist.

And I'm not so sure dismissing this study casually is a good idea, even recognizing that the criteria they studied are perhaps questionable. There's still information to be gleaned there, and it can point to a good starting place for removing sexism from the field.
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby Lumpy » Thu Dec 17, 2009 2:10 am UTC

I think the episode where Kirk got his body stolen by a woman that wanted to become a starship captain but was rejected for her sex played up the emotional stereotype a lot from start to finish of the episode. Seriously, the episode said women couldn't become starship captains.

Another thing: The original Star Trek series used the "prospective significant other is actually a ravenous alien fiend in disguise" trope a lot. When TNG came, she got nearly every single one of those plots and nearly every single one of her plots were those plots, which might involve a scene where Deanna Troi and Beverly Crusher doing toe-touching exercises turned away from a mirror when their exercise uniforms are basically spandex with a one-piece ending with a thong over it.

At the beginning of TNG they tried to make out Riker to be Picard in the disastrous episode with the planet ruled by Amazonian women; basically the leader implied to Riker that he was sexist for not thinking the female officers on the away mission could handle it by themselves in order to entice him to let them do all the work while he had a 60's style "fade to black and fade to Riker climbing out of bed with the alien woman while putting on boots" opening. When these moments come it's like finding a jackknife in sweet candy cotton.

Considering many of the reactions I've heard have been "too bad, computer science needs more hot chicks." I can sympathize with anyone that makes any subconscious by-proxy associations.

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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby aleflamedyud » Thu Dec 17, 2009 2:25 am UTC

Nath wrote:
apeman5291 wrote:I've always thought this was the case, but it's good that SCIENCE! has weighed in on the situation. I wonder now if CS will try to undergo a re-branding to get more female interest in the field.

Seems like the wrong angle to approach the problem. CS is geeky. Science fiction etc. are inherent, mostly beneficial aspects of CS geek culture. The problem is that these things are seen as 'eww, geeky' by the world at large (or, apparently, 'eww, masculine and geeky'). That's the problem we need to fix. I spent many an evening as an undergrad surrounded by 'computer games, science-fiction memorabilia and junk food'. The stereotypes here are mostly accurate; we just need to make peoples' perception of them less negative. (Well, except for the junk food bit. Feel free to fix that.

I disagree, in fact I emphatically disagree. I don't think the stereotypes are accurate any more than stereotypes about any other cultural group. Well OK, computer science has strong ties to the production and playing of video games, true, but the others aren't really. Science fiction (and nowadays anime) doesn't have ties to CS specifically but to science and engineering majors as a whole, and science fiction itself receives unfair stereotyping as being composed entirely of pulpy, cliched, trope-overdosed crap. Messiness has literally nothing to do with computer science, and neither does eating junk food (that's more associated with being American in general ;-)). Effectively, what these studies really expose is stereotyping of computer science as the Field of the Nerds, when it really isn't. All the most successful people I know in CS, including myself, many of my friends, and most of my professors, actually act far more normal than many of the art-geeks and drama dorks I know.

And quite frankly, I can't say I appreciate the self-hatred in this community. I've already effectively made all these points once, but rather than even consider for a second that stereotypes of computer science and its practitioners might not have more accuracy to them than the unpleasant stereotypes leveled against everyone else this entire thread has been spent discussing how we can change the culture of computer science to become less nerdy or less sexist. This is like spending a thread discussing how to make black people less stupid and drugged-up; you're assuming the truth of the prejudiced stereotypes, then proceeding to discuss how to rectify the only semi-existent problems portrayed by those stereotypes.

Though Star Trek has always had a real sexism problem -- yet another reason that, except for the 2009 movie, this computer science major can't stand Star Trek. How do you like them apples!?
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby Maduyn » Thu Dec 17, 2009 2:33 am UTC

Jessica wrote:Not to get too off topic, but that's a very chicken/egg problem. why are games geared toward men? for one reason, because gamers are mostly male. why are gamers mostly male? Well, one reason is that games are geared toward men...



Japan and sexism in japan started all of this.
japan as a culture was very sexist when it first made video games
japan to an extent is still a very sexist place and you guessed it they still make video games


culture needs to change everywhere for this to be fixed

OT:what is this threads opinion on bethesda and bioware on sexism levels IMHO i think they have done a bang up job at least lately
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby Rinsaikeru » Thu Dec 17, 2009 2:52 am UTC

You can't blame video game sexism on Japan alone--europe/north america is not far off in terms of sexism at all. That video games are accepted part and parcel and as normal even though they have heavy sexist undertones says quite a lot about western notions of gender too.

Ultimately, yes culture needs to change--one way to change it is to have more women actively involved in making video games/programming in general. Unfortunately women aren't taking computer science because they are actively encouraged not to.
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby Maduyn » Thu Dec 17, 2009 3:00 am UTC

Rinsaikeru wrote:You can't blame video game sexism on Japan alone--europe/north america is not far off in terms of sexism at all. That video games are accepted part and parcel and as normal even though they have heavy sexist undertones says quite a lot about western notions of gender too.

Ultimately, yes culture needs to change--one way to change it is to have more women actively involved in making video games/programming in general. Unfortunately women aren't taking computer science because they are actively encouraged not to.



alright i wont blame it all on japan but i surmise that after western game makers saw how well sexist games sold they followed suit in order to "be responsible to their shareholders"
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby aleflamedyud » Thu Dec 17, 2009 3:00 am UTC

Rinsaikeru wrote:You can't blame video game sexism on Japan alone--europe/north america is not far off in terms of sexism at all. That video games are accepted part and parcel and as normal even though they have heavy sexist undertones says quite a lot about western notions of gender too.

Ultimately, yes culture needs to change--one way to change it is to have more women actively involved in making video games/programming in general. Unfortunately women aren't taking computer science because they are actively encouraged not to.

Funny, but according to these studies I wouldn't say women are actively encouraged not to take computer science; I'd say that women falsely associate computer science with an extremely discouraging and somewhat sexist image. I've seen lots of efforts, to the contrary, to deliberately encourage women to enter computer science, including numerous scholarships and internships that openly favor female applicants when they allow men to apply at all!
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby Indon » Thu Dec 17, 2009 4:13 am UTC

nowfocus wrote:You only taking one part of the study in video games. Lets look at another - SciFi. Inherently sexist? I'd say no. Star Trek in all its iterations is one of the most progressive shows of all time. Featured a woman lead, a black lead, the first girl-on-girl kiss on television. Martin Luther King even asked the actor playing Uhura to keep going because she was such an important role model. Would women still refer to "Star Trek" as a masculine thing? I'd say so, even if it shouldn't be considered sexist.

I'd like to note that the original Star Trek involved a protagonist who got laid with a different alien species basically every other episode, and that TV Tropes has an entire page about how you're wrong.

Edit: In fact, TVTropes is a fine place to get a good idea as to just how thorough sexism is in our (nerd) culture. Tomorrow I'll post a bunch of other TVTropes pages that all demonstrate a sexist phenomenon, with an eye towards the fantasy, sci-fi, and video game genres, and list instances.

Nerd culture isn't just sexist, frankly it seems oblivious to the fact. And here, another fine example straight from the XKCD forums. In any remotely nonsexist subculture, shit like that wouldn't fly. But nerds - us, XKCD'ers - had to argue about if it was okay or not.
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby TheGrammarBolshevik » Thu Dec 17, 2009 4:18 am UTC

Indon wrote:Nerd culture isn't just sexist, frankly it seems oblivious to the fact. And here, another fine example straight from the XKCD forums. In any remotely nonsexist subculture, shit like that wouldn't fly. But nerds - us, XKCD'ers - had to argue about if it was okay or not.

I'd like to apologize, by the way, for my opinions and behavior back when that thread was active.
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby Indon » Thu Dec 17, 2009 4:20 am UTC

TheGrammarBolshevik wrote:I'd like to apologize, by the way, for my opinions and behavior back when that thread was active.


It's no problem as far as I'm concerned - we've all grown wiser over time, and in my case at least, from being on these forums.
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby Rinsaikeru » Thu Dec 17, 2009 4:40 am UTC

I remember that thread, I'd be able to blow them all out of the water for that crap now...

But if the offers are there, why aren't they being taken? The atmosphere contributes a lot to the choices women are making according to the study, but also girls aren't getting turned on to computers in highschool or elementary at the same numbers for whatever reason.
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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby Outchanter » Thu Dec 17, 2009 5:01 am UTC

Indon wrote:I'd like to note that the original Star Trek involved a protagonist who got laid with a different alien species basically every other episode, and that TV Tropes has an entire page about how you're wrong.

Edit: In fact, TVTropes is a fine place to get a good idea as to just how thorough sexism is in our (nerd) culture. Tomorrow I'll post a bunch of other TVTropes pages that all demonstrate a sexist phenomenon, with an eye towards the fantasy, sci-fi, and video game genres, and list instances.

Nerd culture isn't just sexist, frankly it seems oblivious to the fact. And here, another fine example straight from the XKCD forums. In any remotely nonsexist subculture, shit like that wouldn't fly. But nerds - us, XKCD'ers - had to argue about if it was okay or not.

I think TVTropes is more a reflection of writing culture (and society in general) than just science fiction. That sexism exists in many science fiction works is undeniable - but on the other hand, I'd argue that part of the reason that speculative fiction exists is to motivate us to look beyond society's stereotypes, and to question the assumptions we take for granted.

Fantasy and science fiction not only has quite a few overtly feminist sci-fi authors (Ursula Le Guin and Sheri S. Tepper come to mind), but it also has Terry Pratchett, who's subverted pretty much every stereotype known to humans - and that's in the books that aren't direct satires against sexism (Equal Rites and Monstrous Regiment).
Last edited by Outchanter on Thu Dec 17, 2009 5:05 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Geek stereotypes drive women away from computer science

Postby Nath » Thu Dec 17, 2009 5:04 am UTC

aleflamedyud wrote:I disagree, in fact I emphatically disagree. I don't think the stereotypes are accurate any more than stereotypes about any other cultural group. Well OK, computer science has strong ties to the production and playing of video games, true, but the others aren't really. Science fiction (and nowadays anime) doesn't have ties to CS specifically but to science and engineering majors as a whole, and science fiction itself receives unfair stereotyping as being composed entirely of pulpy, cliched, trope-overdosed crap. Messiness has literally nothing to do with computer science, and neither does eating junk food (that's more associated with being American in general ;-)). Effectively, what these studies really expose is stereotyping of computer science as the Field of the Nerds, when it really isn't. All the most successful people I know in CS, including myself, many of my friends, and most of my professors, actually act far more normal than many of the art-geeks and drama dorks I know.

And quite frankly, I can't say I appreciate the self-hatred in this community. I've already effectively made all these points once, but rather than even consider for a second that stereotypes of computer science and its practitioners might not have more accuracy to them than the unpleasant stereotypes leveled against everyone else this entire thread has been spent discussing how we can change the culture of computer science to become less nerdy or less sexist. This is like spending a thread discussing how to make black people less stupid and drugged-up; you're assuming the truth of the prejudiced stereotypes, then proceeding to discuss how to rectify the only semi-existent problems portrayed by those stereotypes.

Sure, sci fi appeals to most science and engineering types as well. It's not a question of what groups these stereotypes apply to; it's a question of what stereotypes apply to this group.

And as for messiness and self-hatred, think thou might be protesting too much? Sci fi and videogames imply neither of those. I like being surrounded by these things, and by people who also like these things. Normality is relative; CS geeks are normal relative to CS geeks; art geeks are normal relative to art geeks; sports geeks are normal relative to sports geeks. I'm saying that many CS people do in fact meet a lot of nerdy stereotypes, and this isn't a particularly bad thing. The problem usually isn't the stereotypical behavior, but the fact that people see this behavior as negative.


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