Computer Chix, or the Death of Feminism Has Been Greatly Exagerated

Offlist chat about the recent discussions on systemic gender bias in Wikipedia made it clear that a number of women were not comfortable contributing to the conversation there. This inspired the creation of WikiChix in November 2006. WikiChix is a wiki and mailing list for female wiki editors to discuss issues of gender bias in wikis, to promote wikis to potential female editors, and for general discussion of wikis in a friendly female-only environment.

LinuxChix is a community for women who like Linux, and for women and men who want to support women in computing. The membership ranges from novices to experienced users, and includes professional and amateur programmers, system administrators and technical writers. Joining LinuxChix is easy – just join one of our mailing lists and start participating.

Annalee Newitz on WikiChix:

Feminism on AlterNet:

Feminism on

Feminism on reddit:

Feminism on digg:

37 Signals Debate:

I was reading an AlterNet piece by Annalee Newitz on the recent founding of WikiChix, and I realized that there is good news is out there, if you go looking for it. Sure, WikiChix and its foremother, Linuxchix, was founded out of a critical sense that the world of technology is too male oriented, but the existence of these organizations shows that the push for feminist change has not lost steam.

In a sort of quiet way, women have been steadily constructing alternative networks and perspectives that probably have had more of an influence than we can judge at this early date. In fact, if you do a search at some of the social networking sites, you can see that feminism still engenders (sorry) a lively debate. Perhaps not surprisingly, digg produced the least numbers of hits; it’s the most technology oriented of the lot.

I also came across a fascinating debate (November 2005) on the 37 Signals Blog, fostered by a post that asked, “Doesn’t it feel like most software is designed for men?” The comments include some posturing and silliness, but also a wealth of good information. Among other things, writers pointed out that most icons used in both Mac and Windows systems were originally designed by Susan Kare. Another post points to an interview with Patrick Bayren, the founder of, who says that their successful website was designed specifically to appeal to women.

Interestingly, Bayren’s ideas about women don’t exactly conform to traditional notions of lady like behavior. “For a lot of women,” Bayren says, “shopping is like a sport; they shop frequently and thus are keenly aware of prices and inventory cycles. Women know that paying retail is foolish. I think they also enjoy the thrill of the hunt and sense of pride/accomplishment in finding that red hot deal that few others will have discovered, too. ” That sounds more like “Snips and snails, and puppy dogs tails” than “Sugar and spice and all things nice.”


About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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