Mar 15
Her eye on the news
Coding problem

We know all too well that the tech sector has a problem with gender parity. So you would think that the recent upsurge in women-friendly coding workshops and the numerous TED talks that have been posted online that encourage women to get into tech could only be a good thing. Surely, the more women acquiring the requisite skills to enter the industry the better?

Well, apparently not. In an article for Logic, a new magazine about technology (re-published in The Guardian), Miriam Posner, a digital humanities teacher at the University of California, Los Angeles, argues that the more women enter a role, the more its value appears to decrease. As such, she suggests, what we have seen emerge within the tech sector over the years is a “distinct gender hierarchy between front-end and back-end development” with women typically confined to lesser paying, front-end roles. Where front-end developers design and put in place what you see when looking at your web browser, back end developers are the ones creating the programming behind the scenes. Developers who do everything are referred to as “full stack.”

Although this gender stereotype isn’t set in stone developers have, Posner says, told her it rings true more often than not. Where women, surprisingly perhaps, formerly dominated the tech-realm, web work began to stratify as it professionalized. Developers who had computer science degrees (often men) tended to take up back-end roles, self-taught coders filled in the positions at the front.

And what has aided this gendered division of tech-labor? A good old-fashioned stereotype of the “tech genius” — bearded, unkempt and fiercely intelligent — rendered synonymous with the back end world of programming, says computing historian Nathan Ensmenger. This stereotype emerged then in order to push women out of programming to make way for the men. And it was quite effective, too. In the 1980s women accounted for 37 percent of those working in computer science. That figure has fallen to just 18 percent today.

The problem now, Ensmerger told Logic, of getting more women into coding is that the labor market generates a circular logic. Because front-end jobs are easier for women to obtain, more women occupy these roles and they subsequently become feminized and ascribed a lesser value. As get-girls-to-code initiatives attempt to address the gender imbalance in tech by getting more girls coding, what they may actually be doing, he says, is promoting the developers to create distinctions where they weren’t before, devaluing the roles girls take on.

A chicken and egg scenario if ever there was one …

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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A 4-year-old girl in Russia’s Tuva republic is being celebrated as a hero after she walked five miles through the snow in sub-freezing temperatures in order to find help for her ailing grandmother. Last month, Saglana Salchak was living with her grandparents on a remote farm deep in the Taiga forest near the border of Mongolia when she woke to find her 60-year-old grandmother lying unnaturally still. After consulting with her blind grandfather, locals news outlets reported, according to The Guardian, the child decided to walk to their closest neighbors for help — a five mile trek along a riverbank covered by snowdrifts.

The journey was a dangerous one — the child set out in early-morning darkness and braved temperatures of -29 degrees Fahrenheit, while also remaining on the lookout for the wolves that had taken to plundering her grandparents’ livestock. “Tuva has simply filled up with wolves,” said Semyon Rubtsov, head of the regional search and rescue group. “She could have easily stumbled on a pack in the darkness.”

Unable to spot her neighbor’s house amidst the undergrowth, the child had almost passed the building when the neighbors spotted her in the snow and called medical personnel from the local village. After checking on the girl, the specialists traveled to the girl’s grandparent’s farm where they found the grandmother dead from a heart attack.

“You can’t [easily] impress residents of the remote Tere-Kholsky district with extreme stories about Taiga life,” wrote Tuva Online in a story celebrating Saglana’s heroics. “Nonetheless, the incident several days ago amazed even the old-timers in Kungurtug, the district center.”

A criminal case against the child’s mother, who together with her stepfather owns a herd of horses in a different part of the region, is reportedly being pursued by the Tuva investigative committee on the basis that child’s safety had been endangered. But according to Sayana Mongush, an activists and journalist, the real culprit in the case was the Russian government for failing to provide people in remote areas with the technology to reach help.

Saglana, who has said that she was not afraid while making the journey but that she had “really wanted to eat,” is currently living at a social center where she recently celebrated her 5th birthday.

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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Detroit native Corey Maison, 15, says she has always identified as a female, but it wasn’t until she was 11 that she dared to tell her parents. “I wanted to make my parents proud of who I am, but I thought that they would not like me,” Corey admitted in an interview with Australia’s 60 Minutes. Eric Maison, formerly Corey’s mother Erica, said he was inspired by his daughter’s bravery. Last year, Eric realized that he wanted to transition as well — now, the transgender dad and daughter are transitioning together.

Corey, who has chronicled her transition on Instagram, says that while she’s endured bullying at school “it feels so good to be myself and it feels even better to love myself.” Eric, for his part, said that he wished he had been “educated sooner about what transgenderism was so I could do it sooner.”

In spite of the seemingly massive changes occurring in his family, Eric’s husband Les said that little had changed from his perspective.

“I fell in love with the person,” said Les. “She was beautiful as a woman, but equally beautiful on the inside. As long as Eric is happy with the appearance, Eric will be happy with what’s in her brain — or his brain.”

Watch an excerpt from the interview below.

Read the full story at The New York Post.


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Free women

Famed feminist and professor Camille Paglia has released a new collection of essays, titled Free Women, Free Men: Sex, Gender, and Feminism, in which she criticizes the modern feminist movement for what she views as an overemphasis on the opinions of educated white women, and puts forth an argument that “women can never be truly free until they let men too be free.”

Since the 1990s, when Paglia famously criticized feminist responses to date-rape by arguing that “feminists have told young women that before they have sex with a man, they must give consent as explicit as a legal contract’s,” Paglia has been no stranger to controversy. More recently, the sex-positive and staunchly feminist author has unapologetically attacked Madonna (whom, years ago, she praised as “the future of feminism”), described Taylor Swift as an “obnoxious Nazi Barbie” and Gloria Steinem as a “mummified fascist.”

In an interview with Broadly’s Mitchell Sunderland, Paglia refused to back off of her criticism of the modern feminist establishment — and instead doubled and tripled down. She condemned what she describes as the “pampered, affluent upper-middle-class professional women who chronically spout snide anti-male feminist rhetoric” and the movement as a whole for catering too much to the interests of “privileged white middle-class girls at elite schools can’t seem to express themselves forcefully enough even to manage their own dating lives.”

Second-wave feminists, Paglia argues, fail to understand the sacrifices made by working-class men who perform “constant labor” in order to “maintain the fabulous infrastructure that makes modern life possible in the Western world.” And in the end, Paglia concludes, many had failed to notice “the real source of oppression” in modern American society — “nanny-state college administrators who subject you to authoritarian surveillance and undemocratic thought control.”

Paglia holds nothing back throughout the interview and heaped criticism on women such as Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg, whom she derided as “insufferably smug and entitled,” before explaining why she found the Facebook COO’s bestselling book to be “utterly dishonest.”

Read the full Q&A at Broadly.


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An immigrant from Ethiopia was deported back to his native country on Monday after serving 10 years in prison for mutilating the genitals of his 2-year-old daughter back in 2001. Prosecutors had alleged that Khalid Adem, now 41, used a pair of scissors to perform a female circumcision on his little daughter inside his family’s Atlanta-area apartment. In 2006, a jury convicted Adem of aggravated battery and cruelty to children and he was subsequently sentenced to a decade-long prison term.

Adem’s case is especially significant because he is believed to be the first person in the U.S. convicted of a crime for committing female genital mutilation, according to WXIA in Atlanta. The case paved the way for a new law in Georgia outlawing the practice, in addition to the federal law that bans FGM.

In statement released on Tuesday, Sean W. Gallagher, a field office director for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), said, “A young girl’s life has been forever scarred by this horrible crime. The elimination of female genital mutilation/cutting has broad implications for the health and human rights of women and girls, as well as societies at large.”

Much attention has been drawn to the practice in parts of the world that still practice it. In the U.S., the practice has become increasingly common. According to a study released last year, the CDC reported that more than half a million women and girls in the United States live at risk of FGM — a threefold increase from the last CDC count in 1990. The agency attributed the sharp rise to the increase in immigration from countries where the FGM is practiced. And since 2003, WXIA reported, ICE has arrested more than 380 suspects accused of committing the human rights violation and deported nearly 800 who have been found guilty of FGM or are suspects in FGM cases.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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