The "Hitchcock Blonde" is a cinematic icon. Cool, clever, capable and, well, blonde, Alfred Hitchcock's vision of the ideal woman, embodied by the likes of Tippi Hedren, Kim Novak and Grace Kelly, is easily identifiable and completely indelible. I love the Hitchcock Blonde, honestly, and think that, for all the twisted sexual psychology that seem to have lurked under Hitchcock's impulses in creating it, it's a complicated and worthwhile example of femininity in film.
But one of Hitchcock's talents was infusing even the bit players in his films with personality and identity, and for all the attention his heroines get, many of his supporting women are interesting and charming. More importantly, several of them are their own archetype, an often under-appreciated one in classic film - pretty girls in glasses.
Every so often, the conversation about women in technology and computing - which grumbles on quietly and constantly in the background, even when the media isn't commenting on it - breaks out into mainstream reporting. The cycle generally goes like this: a new study or survey reveals the numbers of women in tech are consistently low or even dropping. People start wondering, in a concerned tone, why is this? Smarter people push the questions of what we're going to do about it. Then the backlash starts of why we have to treat the question of women in tech especially and that they're SO BORED with this same old conversation. And then the talk ebbs until it's, a few months down the road, dragged into the foreground again. But it will come back, because in all the years since the conversation was started, for all the talk, we haven't solved the problem and, worse than that, there's no clear indication we're even making any progress in making people understand what the problem is, or that there's a problem in the first place.
I was reminded that yesterday, December 10, was the birthday of Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace - otherwise known as one of the pioneers of computer programming. While the exact nature of her contributions to Charles Babbage's analytical engine research is disputed a bit, her icon status as a computing visionary and inspiration to tech-inclined women is pretty solid.
So it seems an appropriate time to release a project I've been working on for a little while now: the Deliberatepixel t-shirt store, with its first offering: the Ada Lovelace: Heroine Geek t-shirt. It's the first in a series of "Heroine Geek" shirts featuring inspirational women from technology history, which might expand in the future to women from other geeky/sciencey areas.
Coincidentally, two days ago, December 9, was the birthday of another female computing icon: Grace Hopper - but I don't have her shirt ready yet. She'll be in the store soon, along with the ENIAC programmers and Hedy Lamarr.
Have I mentioned that film blogger Karina Longworth is one of my favorite writers on the web? Well, she is:
But linguistic clumsiness aside, panel after panel featured actresses, who should have better things to do, endlessly discussing their own physical attributes, as the young men in the audience continually made it clear that this was all they were interested in. When asked how playing the girlfriend role in the third Mummy film differed from her usual day at the office, Maria Bello answered, "Well, I'm not naked in this film!" Cue the smirking slur from a young gentleman in the crowd: "Wow, that was the wrong thing to say. They just lost my ticket."
Via my fellow Skepchick Amanda last week, I found this fantastic post from Thus Spake Zuska about the way gender stereotypes are exploited in the press and her handy checklist to those wishing to write about her or other female geeks:
- Are you planning on describing me as (A) not what you'd expect, (B) surprisingly pretty, (C) a rarity, or (D) all of the above?
- Will you be emphasizing my Womanly Attributes? (A) Yes, (B) Yes, in detail, or (C) Yes, in detail, with references to giggles and cupcakes.
- Will you also explain how technology has unsexed me? (A) Yes, (B) Yes, while simultaneously infantilizing you, you "geeky super-normal enthusiastic girl"!
- Are you planning to include intimations that I slept my way to the top? (A) Yes, (B) No, just an attribution of your success to Powerful Male Associates. Who you probably slept with.
- Will you end by asking when I'm going to give up all these crazy ideas and go back to full-time Womanhood? (A) Yes, (B) Yes, because you scare the boys.
Warning - there's a particularly nasty troll in the comments, but the other commenters, male and female alike, make short work of him.
Will you be my Elizabeth Bennett?
Yes, it's a link to an entire blog dedicated to that one topic.
As a side note, from my own personal experience back in my free-wheeling single days, yes, you can pick up girls in bookstores. Even though I was technically picked up in the bookstore cafe, and the man in question turned out to be probably the least literate one I've ever known. Whatever. I'm just trying to toss out there a bit of hope for those angling for bookish girls.
Pop culture-meets-feminism blog DollyMix publishes the first in a series of interview from their sister site ShinyShiny about women in tech with HP research engineer April Mitchell:
... if less women enter the fields of computer science and engineering then the future of technology is definitely at risk. Progress in any field without the input of both genders will put that field at a huge disadvantage.
Note: I'm linking to the DollyMix version because in the new future I'll have some DollyMix-related news to share. Be on the lookout for a familiar byline over there soon.