[SIGCIS-Members] History of gendered terms, e.g., "motherboard"

David Golumbia dgolumbia at gmail.com
Wed May 24 17:18:35 PDT 2017

and, as in every time a fundamental theory in the humanities outside of
pure date/narrative history is raised, this list becomes so full of hate
and ignorance that I am sure I am not alone in considering leaving it.

it's ironic that at some level, umbrage is being taken at the view that
computing history has some very deeply racist and misogynist views built
into it.

the people now claiming that it does not, in a perfect illustration of
"Lewis's Law," appear not to know or not to understand or not to believe it
possible that their statements could be taken the way I know they are being
taken by many on this list, including me.

from where I sit none of this is surprising. perhaps SIGCIS is not a good
place for anyone not doing what I'll metonymically call "straight" history
of computing to be.

there are clearly many members of SIGCIS who want it to be more than that,
and yet they are continually shouted out by people whose own political
suppositions are ones that they are at best blind to, and I don't even know
if that's credible.

I find it tiresome and I generally quit lists that I find tiresome.

If this list wants to be open to a multiplicity of perspectives, I would
really appreciate it if those who do not work closely on topics like gender
studies or race studies and so on refrained from commenting on scholarly
fields they don't specialize in. I would appreciate if the moderators or
directors of SIGCIS decided to take a stand about this.

I notice that, having been on this list a long time, I'm not sure I can
ever remember this dynamic playing out in the other direction--a gender
studies specialist, for example, opining that on the one hand he/she has no
particular expertise in another scholar's approach, but at the same time,
he/she dismisses fundamental precepts of that scholar's methodology out of
hand, and finds them abhorrent and ridiculous.

this is not productive conversation. part of this latest debate was sparked
by Brian Dear's Medium post in response to a presentation, which Dear
characterized repeatedly as a sincere attempt to correct problems in the
presentation's historiography. I took him at his word, and read the post,
and was shocked by the amount of vitriol it contained. i suspect Brian Dear
himself does not even see this vitriol. I wish he did. yet to those of us
who do read a lot of gender studies and so on, it is obvious, and it is
beyond tiresome among a group of scholars to need to "educate" others on
issues that would be covered in advanced undergraduate courses on the

frankly, I think the large number of us who find these messages offensive
should resign from SIGCIS and/or this mailing list, as it is not
productive. If SIGCIS wants that not to happen, some measure needs to be
taken to reign in the infrequent but repetitive attacks on entire fields of
study from people who do not practice them and who find them abhorrent.
That isn't scholarly disagreement, it's harassment. And I do not see it
coming from the other direction. It is entirely on the part of people who
find "theory," gender studies, cultural studies, studies of race, and so
on, to their extreme dislike. Well I find "straight" computing history that
avoids these matters to my dislike, and yet I have never posted a single
message to that effect (until now), and I can't remember any of those
involved in this thread ever doing so. I would find that inappropriate, and
I welcome the fact that people use approaches I don't like. I might argue
with those approaches in my scholarship, but I do not find it productive to
personally harass them on lists like this. and, without naming names, that
is exactly what's happened here, and what's happened many other times, with
perhaps the largest recent flareup over Tara McPherson's race & Unix

this needs to stop, either by some kind of cleavage in the constitution of
this group, or some kind of agreement, tacit or explicit, that it is
unacceptable in a scholarly community.  i know which subfields I have read
deeply in and which I haven't, and I see no need to try to lecture
specialists in subfields I haven't read in about how stupid their work is.
If people need to write screeds about how awful feminism is, that is your
right, more power to you, but I don't think this is the correct place for
it in any way. the fact that you may not recognize what you've written as
an antifeminist screed is no excuse. this has happened too many times.
either it needs to stop, or there needs to be an exodus from this generally
worthwhile group by those of us who do not condone this kind of harassment.

David Golumbia
dgolumbia at gmail.com
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