Geek Feminism Wiki

"Form an Orderly Queue, Ladies" is a presentation given by Emma Jane Hogbin at OSCON 2008.

Notes from the talk[]

Title is an "Office" reference; better than naming the talk "Now with more vaginas!"

EJH discovered the interwebs through MUDs. Uses Ubuntu. Most famous on the Internet for knitting Drupal socks. Active in craft community. Lead hooker on crochetme website (Drupal installation, 10k members). Also member of ravelry - RoR app, 156k members. Big craft communities!

Interesting thing about these craft communities vs open source: both creative communities, but one is v. male, one v. female. Not much overlap other than the creativity.

Session this morning about stress: artists and hackers both find ways to retreat.

Also ran a "rural and modern technology conference": HICKTech.

Member of many women's groups: LinuxChix, WebGrrls, Ubuntu Women, Debian Women, DrupalChix. Why all the Chix/Girls/Women stuff?

Feminists? Breasts? Ovaries? Vaginas?

(Some of the men also have breasts. Not all the women have functional ovaries.)

I want to be me and have a personality. My vagina is not relevant to the functionality of my computer.

Woman Abuse and the Glass Ceiling are not unique to FOSS. Nor are they the dominant behaviour.

Gender identity is more than penis vs vagina.

On the MUD she had to change identity to win a scavenger hunt and find an item that was in the men's washroom. She wasn't very comfortable doing that, though. She doesn't want to dress up or pretend to be someone she's not.

Dead tree media:

  • Women don't ask
  • Unlocking the Clubhouse
  • Gender in the Information Society
  • The Sexual Paradox - chapter on women and science
  • Glass Houses - anti-violence organisations, and that female-only orgs can be unhealthy

Ubuntu issue recently - woman logged in to forums as "StupidGirl".

Talking about "the lack of women" has not moved us ahead. We're still less than 10% in the dev community. We need to change the conversation.

So, let's change the conversation: let's switch to "World domination for FOSS."

HOWTO encourage women in Linux - 26 rules of engagement - you're screwed both ways in many cases. Do/don't talk to women?

Ultimately, FOSS is social. IRC and mailing lists encourage interaction. Many interactions end up feeling awkward (dog humping leg photo).

"God gave men brains larger than dogs' so they wouldn't hump women's legs at cocktail parties." -- quote from Hackers movie

"Ubuntu helps you get laid. Now ask me about Jamie Zawinski's mother." -- an intentional misquote from Mark Shuttleworth at OSCON 2008 awards ceremony which was in turn a reference to [1]

We have all these sexually charged comments and we need to be able to move past the awkwardness and do more important things. If you don't let the awkwardness happen, you never have the opportunity for growth. Call out bad behaviour, shake hands, and move on with life.

Moving into World Domination of FOSS.

The problem. Ubuntu Bug #1: Microsoft has most of the market share.

The problem with end users is they're boring. More end users = more developers. Get end users to change brands so we can then recruit them as developers.

Marketing stereotypes:

"Two thirds of women are likely to switch brands based on a good cause" vs 15% of men.

"Women make > 80% of buying decisions in homes."

"Women research extensively and are less likely to be influenced by ads."

"Women place more importance on brand characteristics and personal assistance from sales people in stores."

But in FOSS, we don't have "brand characteristics" or "stores".

It's time to engage differently: move from RedHat to the Red Hat Society. Let's look at converting groups of people, not loners.

Game plan:

  • identify strengths of FOSS
  • determine needs
  • focus efforts


  • software is free
    • target charities! they tend to be mostly staffed by women, have small budgets, older hardware, no technology plan
  • freedom
    • target seniors! help them escape! They have a) free time and b) grandkids. Set up two generations at once, make connections between generations.
  • alternative
    • put a stack of Ubuntu CDs in your local sex shop! (dildo picture!)

"Women tend to socialise plenty already. Perhaps they don't really want to (or need to) use conferences as a social outlet?" -- Peter Cooper

Based on EJH's experience, women are total workshop junkies, eg. quilting bees and scrapbooking retreat. Women will pay to attend these gatherings! These aren't cheap hobbies! But they need to be interesting. Charging a fee makes them committed to participating. Increasing the cost will increase the perceived value (Larry Dolson).

HICK Tech - rural and modern technology conference.

Rural technology? What's that all about? Pumpkin-chuckers! ATVs go out and check where pumpkins landed. Air cannons!

50% female attendance at HICKTech conference. "Some women brought their husbands to the conference."

Balance of male/female speakers - women can see themselves represented.

"I made a conscious decision to get a good range of speakers, but it's not a women's technology conference."

Women are more likely to register early -- money up front for conference organisation!


  • Live in the future
    • Be a real person on and offline
    • Behave as if you are already surrounded by women
    • Work on the main team of FOSS projects
  • Do one thing different
    • You can effect change quickly if you are conscious of every single thing you do
    • Get one person using Firefox or OpenOffice
  • Ask for help - ask MEN to help make change happen too
  • Empower people to make foolish mistakes - reduce stress! it will empower you to work more creatively. move beyond being anxious about "the woman problem"
  • Clearly transfer authority - women are not used to consuming technology.

Keep your eye on the prize. We're going for world domination, and women are 50% of the solution!

Slides are available for download from [2]