About my article in American Libraries on libraries, technology, and gender

amlibmag

[ed: You can read the article online, page 26, though it is it flipbook style. A direct link will be forthcoming next week.]

Dear Internet,

While I’ve known this was coming for months, and I’ve had an advanced copy for a few weeks now, today the official copy was slide into my mailbox. As it is now out in the wild, I wanted to address some things that are bothering me since the final edit a few months ago.

Most importantly: the article is horribly flawed.

After the panel at Midwinter, when it became clear other voices were not allowed to participate in the conversation including people of color,  those who do not prescribe to binary definitions of gender, and other marginalised groups, I panicked. I panicked because I did not want to present myself as the privileged, white lady feminist role of speaking for all when I was only speaking for myself. I panicked because it is important to me that others get to be a part of the discussion to, not just me.

I contacted my editor straight away and pitched an idea of less on women being marginalized and more on other types of oppression within the library technology world.

The editors felt, and I vehemently disagreed, that the focus should remain only on women in technology since that was my experience. While that is my experience, it is not the only experience that exists of the oppression and marginalization that happens to those who do not fit the white, male, able construct. I wanted to bring awareness.

That idea was rejected.

I was talked back into writing on a singular point of view with the idea more of this line of thinking could potentially come forward, hopefully by others coming to the discussion too. I agreed. I did not fight harder to be more inclusive and that embarrasses me.

I decided if I couldn’t write the article I wanted to write, I would at least be more inclusive with my language.

That language was changed and or edited out.

It’s interesting to be excited and proud creating a THING and so horribly defeatist that I didn’t do enough for that THING.

In order to work at dismantling the system, we need to make sure we are being inclusive. I was not inclusive in my piece and for that I’m deeply apologetic. My privilege was definitely showing because I could have fought harder, not written it but wrote about it somewhere else, and more. That shames me. With the upcoming book, and pieces, I will do better.

Speaking of books, as some of you already know, Sarah Houghton and I are co-editing a book on this very topic, and one of the things we’ve been doing has been inviting people (and they have been accepting — yay!) from all over the human spectrum to make sure we can get as many diverse voices into the conversation as possible.  It is going to be amazing and I cannot wait until we get it published.

 

Update: After this was published, I was notified by an anonymous person, who has done some live blogging for American Libraries magazine, that they approached the magazine to invite panelists from the Midwinter libtechgender session to write in depth about the topics that were being discussed as the live blogging was only covering the topic at a blush.  AmLib invited the blogger to extend invites to the panelists to write in as “letters to the editors” with the addendum that I, yes Lisa Rabey, would be covering these very topics in my piece and they felt I was qualified enough to write on topics I have no business writing about. Wrap this up to my panic phone call to my editor around the same time and what transpired from that conversation, it seems pretty clear to me AmLib has no intention on actually working to promote the conversation forward or by making sure that others are invited to the conversation in the first place.

Traversing the #libtechgender landscape

Dear Internet,

In the weeks since ALA midwinter, and the #LibTechGender panel, conversations have shifted all over the place. Much, I believe for the good. I have been attempting to be mindful and listen, read and listen more. Becky Yoose’s post, Gatekeeping the table full of cookies, and recent conversations with others have prompted me to put out there what I have been thinking for discussion.

(This is being fueled by vegan White Russians, so be forewarned.)

    1. The conflict over the use of “storytelling”
      Becky, and Julia, make clear, concise arguments on why storytelling is often not a Good Thing. I wrestled with this a lot. I do a lot of storytelling here on the blog on a variety of topics that can, and are often, painful to read, let alone write. It is mentally and emotionally taxing to keep pulling at the same scab over and over, but it is something I often feel needs to be done because there are too many variations on how people learn. So how do you approach this with grace and be mindful of other people’s needs? Hard question, but my buddy Liz put it rather succinctly, “Some need to feel comfortable with their own story before they’ll ever feel comfortable at the table.” This seems like a great way to start those conversations.
    2. The conversation is going to be messy, whether we like it or not
      I am at heart an observer and a commentator on what I observe. I’ve seen people talk around each other. I have had people tell me that they or someone they know are afraid to speak up. I’ve seen people ignore other points of view because for whatever reason. I’ve seen people dominate the conversation for their own gain, personally and professionally. I’ve seen people get into the conversation to cause a ruckus and then leave, never to be heard from again. I have had people say they don’t want to talk about this or any related topic publicly because of potential ramifications, privately or publicly. And when I mean people, I’m talking about anyone who describes themselves as human and has opposable thumbs. What we’re not doing is talking to each other. I don’t have the perfect answer for this, but I do know we need to put aside our egos and personal interests (myself included here) and move beyond the personal to start working towards the common good. If we don’t, nothing is going to get changed.
    3. We are all human
      I am going to eff up. You are going to eff up. They are going to eff up. I’m not conjugating verbs here, I’m pointing out that no one, no matter who they are, is going to eff up. We’re human. We pick ourselves up, we apologize, and we move on. I have long been cognizant my own diseases1 warp some of my social interactions and have said this many times to people privately and publicly, so this is ripe for repetition: If I somehow offend / piss you off / am an asshole or any other combination on anything, please let me know what and how so I can fix it / apologize / clarify. I’m being sincere here. One of the biggest growth things I’ve been working on is swallowing my own pride and listening to people when they are critical of something I did and or said that has upset them and not taking it as an outright attack against my person. It’s hard to shut up and listen, but if I truly want to be a good ally, hell a good human, I (we) have to let the ego go.
    4. Gender 101 vs Academic/Structural Breakdown
      I’ve seen arguments fly for both sides and both opinions are equally valid. I do not believe this should be an either/or thing. There are a lot of people who need the Gender 101/Social Justice intro and those who want to tackle the higher level stuff. As we’re not all at the same level, we should be but we’re not, dismissing one over the other is counter-productive and in the end, makes the conversation much messier. There is definitely room for both sides, and everything in between, to exist until we get it right.
    5. This is not the Lisa Rabey show
      After Internet Librarian happened, I was approached about the following things:

      • Editorial in a major professional magazine on library/technology/gender
      • Potential to edit/write a book on library/technology/gender
      • Quoted in various places
      • Requested to be on numerous panels at various conferences on library/technology/gender
      • Requested/finagled to do an interview panel for Circulating Ideas on library/technology/gender

      I am not an expert on anything other than my own life. But what I am is brassy personality who is a bull in a china shop who asks the right questions, sometimes the hard questions, at the right time. I am not the only one talking about this and I am not presenting myself as being the authority on the topic. But I think because I’ve been writing about my own experiences for nearly two years on sexism/gender inequality in library land and I was vocal on the panel at IL AND after as well as I keep tweeting to keep the conversations going, I’ve been approached because I’m accessible. I’ve turned down / requested others to be at the table other than me but many decline, due to some variation of my second point, so then I’m being touted as the voice. I also get no matter how much I make clear my intentions, there are people who are going to wildly disagree with whatever I’m doing. There is room for critique but I do not take kindly to willful misreading of situations to suit someone’s agenda. This whole situation becomes circular at times and trying to navigate this is tricky and hard in any attempt to be mindful, so if anyone has suggestions on how to better navigate this AND make the conversation go forward, please pass those along.

    6. No matter what, someone is going to be mad
      LaToya Peterson, owner and editor of Racialicious, wrote transformatively on the value of work, mindfulness, and moving the work forward. While her conversation is directed as a response to the Jezebel / Toxic Feminism kerfuffles, I felt her wisdom was on par with what I was attempting to figure out and articulate my thoughts on lib/tech/gender and it has been my touchstone for me in the last few weeks. LaToya’s comments, coupled with a few other things I have been reading lately in the same vein make concrete an ugly truth: No matter how much you try to be civil, kind, and attack the evil, people are going to be assholes. People are going to attack you not because of what you’re doing, but because you’re being you. Because you’re not doing it right. Because you’re doing it too right. Because you farted in the wrong direction. In short, someone is going to get pissed over something no matter how hard you try to right the wrong. Someone is not going to be happy because you were not doing it their way.This book project weighs on me heavily – I do not want to be another cis/white woman eating all the cookies. I worry heavily about my writers and the ramifications of their bravery and courage. I worry my diverse group of writers will be criticized for not being diverse enough or too diverse. I worry that people will critique the call was not made at various spots thus we were ignoring other voices, regardless if the call was actually made or not. I worry that it will be seen too much as 101 and not adding to the conversation. I worry about these things because this is the behavior I’m seeing in conversation on Twitter, which is leading me to believe something in print will be amplified.What was drilled into my head is putting the book out there, acknowledging the book’s shortcomings AND its strengths, will go a long way to blocking the detractors. I also know if I am going to go forward with this, even with that caveat and being mindful of the content, there will be complaints. I had to decide if I can grow the skin to separate the personal complaints against the legitimate critiques, and I decided the answer was yes. There has to be a first book, to push others then to write/edit their own books to move the conversation along. To get voices that may not have been heard before out there. Yes. This needs to happen.
    7. Questionable need for conferences / panels / summits not held by those trained in the field could potentially do more harm than good
      This is a valid critique and one I’ve been musing on for a while. Using the Backup Ribbon project as an example, stopping to see if someone is okay is not the same as being a counselor / expert in the field and should not be touted as such. It is simply being human. The ribbon provides an entry way to let people know you are there when they need you and can pull them out of harms way if they need it and direct them to appropriate sources. It seems logical if someone is warning said ribbon at a conference, it should behoove them to be familiar with the conference’s particular Code of Conduct / anti-harassment policies to have that information on hand when it is needed. As for the panels, conferences, and so forth, my experience with IL was the panel did the following:

      1. Created a public venue for people to interact in often “elephant in the room” topic
      2. Created a public voice, even if lopsided, to “elephant in the room” topics
      3. It was a point of entry for those who may not have pathways to discussing the topic

      I may be wholly naive on this, but I think as long as it is made clear what people’s intentions are and what the outcomes may be, presenting/discussing 101 and working on pointing people in the right direction to get training, additional information, etc can’t necessarily be a bad thing. It has to be done mindfully and with skill, but getting folks moving in the right direction is how they will move and think for themselves and carry their own conversations forward.

I am thankful for a lot of people listening and talking to me on these discussions, primarily Coral, Cecily, Emily, and Kristin. I’ll keep reading, listening, and reading and listening some more.


1. I’m Bipolar 1/2, with ADHD married with general anxiety disorder. At times when I am unstable, my behaviors are considerably more abrasive and alienating. Reconciling that sometimes it is the disease and sometimes it is me is hard work. I have had people say, later, that telling them to tell me when I am acting out in a way that is not acceptable is too confrontational. I can’t fix / clarify / apologize if I don’t know what I said/did that was intrusive. I am okay with doing the heavy lifting, but often I need to ask for help. There is, to me, no shame in asking for help.

LibTechGender article roundup for January 2014

Dear Internet,

Here is your curated monthly round up of stuff on library/technology/gender, covering many -isms and spaces. Citations are pulled from writer’s about pages. If you have an alternate preference, please let me know! As always, check out the #LibTechGender project for even more.

Blogs/Sites

Articles

 

Frankenstein’s Monsters: Roundup of Responses to ALA’s Code of Conduct

Dear Internet,

Apparently this was the wrong time to take a break from social media as it is currently all enflamed about ALA’s Code of Conduct — yes, this again. It will always be “this again” because as long as I have a vagina, someone, somewhere out there will be in disagreement of what I can and cannot do.

Below are as many of the articles I could find that have been published in the last week, which I’m going to put in chronological order. But to set the mood, I’m kicking things off with a piece by Sarah Houghton from 2011 about her experiences with professional sexual harassment, and adding in my own piece when I got harassed in 2013, and a piece from Dorothea Salo written 2007 about a woman being harassed at a DSpace conference. It’s stories like ours that explain the background reasoning as to why CoC’s need to exist. As Salo succinctly puts it in her blog,

No woman should have to “escape” people in a professional setting. EVER.

You’d think this would be enough, but obviously it isn’t or else we wouldn’t continue on having these “conversations.”

I’m also including a link to the working document to the CoC so that you can see how the process started and formed and a link to the finalized piece that is now on ALA’s website. I’m also including the Storify that ALA is tracking of all the commentary, which will be ongoing. Additionally, I’m adding in Will Manley’s piece, which was dismantled from his site several days later and lost through Googlecache, that I was able to capture via Pocket and made viewable to the world via Evernote and well, what started the whole pitchforking in the first place.

This entire list will be ported over to the LibTechGender project. Make sure to bookmark that page.

Lastly, as to be expected, there is trolling on some of the pieces and social media has been in a tizzy about calling those people out in public spaces for being effs. It is one thing to have a discourse with someone on a particular topic, even if  you violently disagree, but it’s a whole ‘nother space to start pitchforking for blood and harassment — that’s bullying. Don’t be an asshole to assholes.

Edit: 1/18/14 to add new posts.
Edit: 1/27/14 to add new posts.