Exhaustion, depression, and directionlessness

Burnt-out Rachel on a laptop, saying

Burnt-out Rachel on a laptop, saying “I don’t have the inspiration to write lecturesssss.”

Maybe if I hadn’t been so over-worked the last two years, I would be willing to stick with it longer. But, working up to 12-hour-days on days I have class, and then spending so much of my time off-campus also at a computer working – prepping, grading, answering questions, etc. – has thoroughly burnt me out.

I mean, I’ve been burnt out for well over a year, but at this point I just don’t want to continue. And it’s only the 3rd week of this semester. I know I’ll have to tough my way through this semester, just like many semesters before it, but I cannot return to this in 2019. I need something else.

But what?


Interviewer:

Interviewer: “So why do you want to work for Boring Co.?”
Rachel: “Because you exist, and you hire C++ developers.”

From software to teaching

I was miserable as a traditional, corporate software developer with traditional, 8-to-5, salaried employment. I hated feeling baby-sat since I had to be at a specific location at a specific time to do my work on a specific machine with specific tools. Hated it hated it hated it!

I hated how pointless it felt, building software that didn’t affect me, or didn’t improve things I really cared about, or were even remotely related to a topic I was even tangentially interested in.

I hated always being underpaid and underappreciated, always feeling different from everybody else, and feeling like a zombie throughout the workday.

When I began teaching (part time), I loved the freedom – I built my own curriculum, on my own machine, using tools I liked. I had to be in the classroom at a certain time, but beyond that, I was simply trusted to get my work done whenever and wherever. My best work is done from home, at my desk with my computer with my music, and not being disturbed by listening to smalltalk from coworkers on the other side of a flimsy wall in an open-office floorplan.

I loved teaching my students, and creating classes that they liked being in, that empowered them. I liked building accessible and welcoming classes, classes that understood that I’m teaching adults and they have their own lives going on, so I’m not going to assign grade based on attendance. Classes where they know that I know that they’re adults, and I treat them as such.


Rachel stands on a cliff and yells out to the world,

Rachel stands on a cliff and yells out to the world, “I’M NOT READY FOR SCHOOL TO BEGIN!!”

Teacher workload

But, over time I got more and more work. First a standard full-time load – four classes. But as the need arose, some semesters I ended up with 5 or 6 classes.

A majority of my work is done outside of the classroom, so it may seem invisible to most people. Again, it’s grading (very time consuming for programs), prepping for the next week’s classes, correcting errors/typos in slides and exercises, answering questions via email and phone, and so on.

If you reuse everything from previous semesters, students may cheat. Some things I can reuse, but I’m also always striving to make things better, so that does require work every semester to improve my slides and exercises and projects and so on.

In an effort to cut down on my grading time, I have been adding unit tests to all the projects and labs in my Data Structures class. Writing a programming assignment can take 2 – 3 days: Building the full program, building a sufficient amount of unit tests, writing the documentation, and bundling it all together.

I try my best to write clearly and give illustrations and diagrams where appropriate, I try to make sure my work is accessible and doesn’t leave students feeling completely lost. I’ve had so many teachers who were disorganized and 90% of the challenge was figuring out wtf they even wanted.


Rachel's in bed and the alarm goes off. Rachel looks disheveled;

Rachel’s in bed and the alarm goes off. Rachel looks disheveled; “Ugh can I not do today, plz??”

Student workload

Additionally, my employment as a teacher at a community college – adjunct or full-time – depends on me actively working towards a Masters degree in Computer Science.

I completed one semester at KU, taking an undergrad class and the orientation class.

The second semester, I dropped the grad-level Machine Learning class within the first month because I didn’t have enough time to complete the time-consuming hand-based computations (things that we should be programming a machine to do, but okay…).

The third semester, I dropped the grad-level Visualizations class within the first month because I bombed the first homework assignment because I also did not have enough time to figure out and work through all the computations and the programming assignment, and the drive to KU is 40 minutes at best, and I had to pay hourly for parking, and with my full-time employment it just was not doable for me.

I dropped out.

This semester, I’ve begun at UMKC. I’m taking Advanced Software Engineering, which is doable. I can get through this semester and I can work with a small team to build an app. Piece of cake. Also, UMKC is 10 minutes away, I went here for my undergrad, I know the campus and some of the faculty, and I’ve even worked here previously as an adjunct.

While the instructor of the class still assumes that the grad students are only students and not working three part-time jobs (teaching, teaching, and running a startup), it’s doable. It’s more accessible. But it’s still frustrating.

And it’s not really what I want.


(In 2002...) College employee:

(In 2002…)
College employee: “You’ve been accepted to community college! What will you major in?”
Rachel: “Oh, uh…” (Didn’t think about it.)
Rachel: “I like computers? So, that?”

Where to go?

I don’t really want another degree in computer science. I’m not really that interested in pure Computer Science theory anymore. Heck, I’m not even that interested in the idea of teaching Computer Science anymore – actually, I’m feeling rather adverse to it at this point.

I’m interested in linguistics. I’m interested in entrepreneurship. I’m not interested in software development for other people/businesses, and I’m not interested in teaching anymore; at least, not until I’ve had a good and thorough break. Maybe again in the future.

Sometimes I think I should go back to doing software development for a bit – it’s good pay, and I’d be able to come home and just veg-the-fuck-out for once. I wouldn’t be able to continue going to school, though. And if I dropped out, I’d be denying myself the option of the “back up career” of teaching. Maybe I’ll want to teach again in another 10 years? Or in my retirement age? So I don’t quite want to deny Future-Rachel that option.

But the idea of going back to work full-time as a software developer feels like a step back. It’s not what I want, and it would continue to steal time away from things that are really important to me, although not very lucrative right now: My startup. Learning about linguistics and languages. Projects revolving around educational games, language preservation, and so on. Volunteering for good causes. Raging against capitalism.

I could do contract work, or part-time software development (if such a thing even exists; it’s super rare if it does.) For a contract job, I’d probably have to find some other people to work with, I wouldn’t want to do it alone, and I probably wouldn’t want to be the one in charge. I’d need a human buffer who can translate human requirements into programming features, because I don’t need that kind of stress in my life right now. I’d probably need a second programmer to help split the work so we’re not over-encumbered by what should be an alternative to the 8-to-5, 40+ hr/week development job.

Or, I can be a contractor at an established company for a short amount of time. Usually, companies dislike my history of working here-and-there for 6 months at a time, but maybe it’s fine for a contractor. At the end of this year, I’ll have been teaching at my community college for 3 years now, so I can stay somewhere as long as I’m happy.

I wouldn’t mind being the “all-tech” person at a small business that doesn’t revolve around software. Like fixing the business’ computers and updating their website and making little utilities to help make life easier. That sounds fun. Some Kansas City small business, hire me as your techie.

But going back full-time just … doesn’t seem right. I don’t think I could even begin to tolerate it. What I’ve wanted to do, since I was 12 years old, is just run my own company. But I also have to pay bills.

Rachel:

Rachel: “This is how I think a business should be run.”
Guy: “Yeah, we do the complete opposite of all of this.”


Rachel is looking at their calendar. Rachel:

Rachel is looking at their calendar.
Rachel: “It’s a miracle! I’m not 100% busy this week!”

Fragmented focus

Here’s what I actually want: Time to build some educational games, and focus on those games. Focus on making them and marketing them. Focus on getting the word out. Focus on maintaining them. Focus on making them a viable product to sell.

And keep working at it. And keep trying. And keep going until I succeed in making some amount of money.

 

But with the way my life is, with having to work full-time, or be going to school, or whatever else, I can’t. I literally cannot, because my focus is so fragmented. I am constantly switching between planning for this class, or that class, or the other, or switching into student-mode and focusing on lectures and doing homework. When I’m home and allow myself a bit of free time alone, I pursue projects I can complete within a day, within a few hours: Drawing, writing a comic, making the odd YouTube video, programming a small experiment or utility, and so on.

We’re all working on visual novels this year, and we’ve been getting them done with our once-a-week meetings. But, I still don’t have time to focus on the marketing, or much of anything. Artwork here and there for the games, getting them published and on a store, and not much else.

We stop working for weeks at a time because we’re all so busy. And even when I neglect the things I want to be doing, I’m still completely overwhelmed by work. Work work work work work. If I take a Sunday to spend time with friends, the regret hits me the next day as I’m even more overwhelmed and under pressure.

 

I’m tired. I don’t want to do this anymore. I want to build cool things, useful things, educational things, fun things. I want to have a chance to make it work. And I’m so depressed because I still have 14 weeks left of class – the semester has only just begun.

I miss Fin ‘N’ Kit

Where I was, job-wise

Back in 2012 I quit my job as a software developer and decided to go back to school and use this chance to try to make and publish games. I was so sick of working in the basement in a 6’x6’x6′ cubicle (in retrospect, I was lucky to have a cubicle!) and I was incredibly depressed. All things considered, it was a good job – I look back on it as the best place I’ve worked as a programmer, but back then I was waking up and panicking because I did not want to go into work.

I did go back to school – one semester at one place, and one semester at another place, different degrees each time, neither of them a good fit, but I still had to pay for those classes so I had racked up more student loans.

I’m trying to look at my LinkedIn to put the pieces in place, because I don’t remember exactly when I ended up being unemployed for an extended period of time. I had part-time jobs at an office store and at a music store, but those paid nothing. Anyway, it looks like the original Fin ‘N’ Kit was published in 2014, so around then – I finally went back to work as a software developer around May 2014 because school is expensive and I needed money.

So somewhere in 2014, I had no job on purpose, because I wanted to try to start making and publishing games. While at my previous job, I had always been day-dreaming ideas for all these great things I could make if I just had the time and the energy. Was depressed, quit job.

Taking the plunge, unsuccessfully.

At the time, I was fortunate enough to have a boyfriend that I lived with and seemed relatively okay with me only working part-time retail jobs while trying to work on games. There were two projects I worked on during this time – one was a contract game for a client to advertise their brand, but Fin ‘N’ Kit was what I did first.

The old title screen of Fin ‘N’ Kit, back when it was Delfino & Katyuno

It was originally named “Delfino & Katyuno”, which is an Ido language title, but nobody is going to remember how to spell that. Anyway, I was working on Delfino & Katyuno for a while. The gameplay and having a cat/dolphin I thought up in a dream, and it seemed really cute.

Gameplay of Fin ‘N’ Kit for Android

I also wanted to include a level editor so people playing the game could also make their own levels.

The old level editor

(The level editor ended up taking me a majority of the time to make.)

I built the original Fin ‘N’ Kit with Gideros & Lua, as well as that contract game that became Gift Grab. Gideros made it easy to test on mobile and publish on mobile, though trying to figure out how to do certain things with the filesystem was a little difficult. I published a Fin ‘N’ Kit demo for free here: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.Moosader.DelfinoKatyuno

After the demo was released I began working on the contract project. However, now I was unemployed and stopped seeing my therapist because of the cost. I was depressed at work, I was depressed off work. I did get the project to a complete state, despite feeling useless and lethargic and often crying on the floor, immobilized. But it had been like this for years – it was always a struggle to get myself to move forward. It felt like there was one me, who wanted to get stuff done and felt terrible if they didn’t (the Anxiety-Rach), and the other me, who felt like I was a failure and useless (the Depression-Rach).

So the whole “quit your day job and make games” experiment failed.

And of course I felt bad about that.

Back to work

I went back to work as a software developer for two more companies, from 2014 to 2015, and again, I was so fed up with that world. Every subsequent job I took was worse, and I kept looking back at the job I had before I quit with nostalgia. Sure, I broke down and cried a lot, but at least that place was decent. Oh well.

I had quit my last software development job, and had an interview with a new place. They were going to offer me a salary of $100,000, which would have been my highest salary I had made, but after I informally verbally accepted, I kept breaking down. Again, I was on the floor crying, and I couldn’t quite explain why, but staying in the field felt wrong.

After a few days of this, I told myself: Look, this is my body telling me that this isn’t the right decision. I can’t keep doing this.

So I rejected the job. What else could I do? Working part-time in retail was beans, and I can’t support myself with that (I was with a different boyfriend at this time). Back in 2013, when I was going back to school at UMKC, they had given me the opportunity to be an adjunct there for a couple of semesters. I really enjoyed teaching there, even though it really challenged my shyness and difficulty speaking in public. I had always really enjoyed teaching – my first job was tutoring math at my community college’s math lab. And, being an adjunct, while the cheaper alternative for schools to go with for hiring, was still a better paying job than working part-time at an office supply store.

The CS department at UMKC has always been pretty good to me. I was able to email the chair and ask if I could teach there again, and I got one class. I also ended up meeting another instructor at JCCC through a friend of mine (who was a classmate of mine back at UMKC), and that got my foot in the door for teaching there as well.

In Spring 2016, I was teaching two classes: CS 201R at UMKC, and CS 200 at JCCC.

I also had asked my doctor for antidepressants.

I had also met this cute boy on Tinder…

Rai and Rachel!

Rai and Rachel!

Teaching and gamedev

2016 was the best year of my life in a very long time. I was excited to teach – I loved teaching and making programming assignments and lectures and recording videos. I had also began my relationship with Rai and we hit it off so well, unlike anyone I’ve ever met. I was also on antidepressants, so that probably kept my mind more focused as well.

I was committed to continue working on games while working part-time as an adjunct, and I did manage to do that, even though this was my first semester teaching in a while and I had to prep basically everything. (I’m picky, I think textbook resources are really boring.)

I decided to work on Fin ‘N’ Kit but I didn’t want to use Gideros – I was having a hard time working with the filesystem, and now I had teammates to help me work on levels but the problems with Gideros made it hard to work online and send each other levels. I decided to rewrite the game.

In C++, SDL, and Lua.

Actually I had a lot of fun writing it – though of course I would also get worn out by having to implement everything as well. I split the game into two parts: I worked on the Kuko engine, all the reusable bits common to any game, while simultaneously working on Fin ‘N’ Kit itself. I also used the Lua scripting language, and that’s how levels, language files, menus, and other things are stored. I was so proud of that code. I would go back and refactor as I saw fit because, unlike writing software for someone else, you can freaking choose to take the time to make things better!

The beautiful map editor

Like the first version of the game, I also spent an ungodly amount of time on the map editor itself. My excuse this time was because I needed other people to build levels, too. I kept tweaking the UI and adding features to make it better and better.

A cutscene – Fin says “Hello!” and Kit says “Hi!”

I went with a totally hand-drawn look, and wanted to make it super cute. The main game had still cutscenes you could watch before playing the story-based levels…

The level select screen

I had intended to add several map types – Beach, Swamp, Lava, or something I don’t remember what they were!

“Balmy Beach”, the first world

And I kept polishing it up and updating it to look really nice.

Fin ‘N’ Kit looking really nice

I worked all through the spring semester on this, but I was also feeling weary – my teammates couldn’t work on anything while I was the bottleneck, programming this entire game solo.

And, there was a texture glitch – probably because I used vanilla pointers in the Kuko engine and was manually managing the memory, instead of using smart pointers.

Where did Kit go??

Textures would disappear or be replaced with other items’ textures, and I knew it would take a while to figure out what was going wrong. In the meantime, my teammates didn’t have anything to do. So, for the time being, we put Fin ‘N’ Kit aside.

The client who contracted that game I worked on back with the original Fin ‘N’ Kit had, years before, decided to not publish that game. I was really proud of my work on it, and I thought it would be a waste to just let that code die, so I had ended up paying back the money they paid me so that I could keep the code and republish with new assets, but it had always been sitting around – no time to work on it.

So in autumn of 2016, I was working on new graphics for the game, Tea worked on translations, Jessica worked on marketing and the trailer, and Rebekah helped with testing. We put out Gift Grab: Christmas Quandary together by Thanksgiving.

Depression, revisited

Two weeks from November 1st, 2016, Rai’s employer’s client decided they didn’t need him on-site anymore since they were going through budget cuts. They let him know he would have to return to India in two weeks. We were already living together, but had only been dating for eight months. Those two weeks were so tough, and we weren’t sure what was going to happen to our relationship. He went back on November 1st, and leaving my night class, walking to my car, knowing that he wasn’t there waiting for me was crushing.

Soon after, the election happened. Antidepressants can only combat so much.

For the rest of 2016 and most of 2017 I just got through each week like a zombie. Each workday like the last, just class prep, teaching, grading, repeat. Kabe the cat was there for me in the evenings, and most nights I just laid on the sofa and watched TV after work.

Kabe and me

I did go to protests, I did some volunteering for refugees, I donated money monthly to multiple causes. But I can’t remember much of anything from 2017, except my trip to India to see Rai, meet his parents, and officially get engaged.

Rachel and Rai at his parents’ house after engagement

OK, but what about Fin ‘N’ Kit?

I’m still really proud of that code. I’m also proud of the game and the polishing I did on it. Sometimes, when my students ask about using graphics in C++, I pull down the code and run the game and step through how it all works together (from a high-level overview). Every time I open it up for my students, I remember how much I love that game.

Through 2017 I was working full-time and more-than-full-time, so I didn’t have the energy or the time to work on much in the way of game development. This year, I’m working on focusing! I’m so bad at focusing on one project. But after these visual novels, maybe I’ll work on Fin ‘N’ Kit on the side while everyone else works on their own games. I know writing a game from scratch… IN C++… seems like a weird thing to do, but I really enjoy it. I love so many aspects of game development: The UI design, the art, the animation, the programming, the code design, just putting all of it together!…

…Awwman I want to work on Fin ‘N’ Kit so much!!

Done with KU

My time at KU so far has been largely unproductive. I’ve completed a seminar course and an Intro to Operating Systems course (which I had at UMKC as well when I was an undergrad), and for the two grad courses I’ve attempted so far (this and last semester), I’ve had to drop each one. Just due to my schedule of having 20 credit hours to teach last semester and 17 credit hours this semester, it just is not doable – and that’s clear after this first homework assignment that I bombed.

Now, this semester is also my last full-time semester teaching, because the grant paying for my position ends, so I will be going back to part-time adjuncting. I will have more time then. But, KU doesn’t feel like a good fit. I hate the 40 minute commute out into the middle of nowhere (There is NOTHING between Overland Park, KS and Lawnrence, KS). I don’t have the time to thoroughly work on my homework, and while at first I felt like this was a personal failing, now I feel like this is more to do with my schedule than anything. I was envious of students who did better at the project than me, but then I also have to realize that if you’re not working 12 hours a day twice a week, and you live on campus, and you can walk to go see the instructor during their office hours, you just have more resources available to you than I do.

This has been my third attempt at Grad School. And yeah, that kind of stings. I’ve failed three times:

  1. I enrolled at UMKC for a Masters in Curriculum & Instruction, 2013
    I completed the semester, getting A’s in three classes, including Linear Algebra. However, for one class I had to shadow a high school teacher and, having been homeschooled, the concept of public school is so foreign to me. The dynamic is so foreign to me. I also sub taught this semester, once at an elementary and once at a jr high, and that solidified my fear of school even more. I love teaching at the college level, but I’m afraid I don’t understand the school system before that.
  2. I enrolled at MS&T for a Graduate Certificate in Computer Science, 2013
    With the intention of completing a certificate and then transferring to their grad program, I enrolled in the certificate for Computer Security – which I found out that I’m really just not that interested in. And this expensive lesson taught me that I need to work on topics I’m passionate about in grad school, because it’s hard to get through on mere lukewarmness.
  3. I enrolled at KU for a Masters in Computer Science, 2016
    I completed my first semester of taking an undergrad class and the graduate seminar, and the following semester I attempted to take Data Mining. However, the volume of work required was too much for me, when I was barely surviving my work schedule. I dropped out. This semester, I registered for Visualization. Both of these topics are interesting to me, but the amount of time you need to put into them is just time I do not have. This includes the time required to commute to school for special reasons (e.g., professor office hours).

Looking back, I actually enjoyed my work towards the Masters in Curriculum & Instruction. I miss it. I feel like the classes I took – about diversity in the classroom, and about students with special needs – taught me a lot. Computer Science is too focused on just computers, but I need some more of that knowledge around people, too.

So now what I’m thinking about is going back to UMKC, where I went for my undergrad. In my time at different colleges, I’ve learned that I’m really just not a fan of the university format. My experience at Longview, when working on my Associates Degree, was so enjoyable. I think the teachers at JCCC are wonderful and we all put a lot of work into the education aspect of what we do. But at university, it’s a different dynamic, a different feel. The teachers don’t feel invested in me, personally, the way I feel invested in my own students. I feel like the attitude towards me is “sink or swim”, while for my students I want them to do the best they can, and if they do poorly on a specific topic, I want them to learn from what they did wrong, and not have it doom their grade in my class. A second chance.

So if I’m unhappy with the university format everywhere, and if I haven’t found a fit at these other schools, why not just go back to UMKC instead? I know the faculty there and they know me, they like me. I’ve worked beside them as an adjunct as well as learning from them as a student for my undergrad. I feel like the faculty at UMKC want to see me succeed.

UMKC is also in the middle of Kansas City. Even if I have to commute 40 minutes to UMKC (which I wouldn’t have to), there’s at least stuff on the way. I can do errands on the way to/from school. I can visit my sister in Westport after class. It’s a central location close to a lot in Kansas City. And Kansas City is much more interesting than Lawnrence, Kansas.

And, I’m pretty sure I could get a Teaching Assistantship at UMKC. I’ve taught there before, I’m going to teach there this fall as an adjunct. For KU, I’ve been paying out of pocket, $1600 per one class per semester. They may have TA positions, too, but I don’t want to make that commute.

I think in the long run, I might try to get two masters degrees at UMKC – the Computer Science, and the Curriculum & Instruction.

UMKC is home, and after exploring other environments here and there, I think this is where I will be most likely to succeed.

Flarsheim Hall / Haag Hall at UMKC

University and “Non-traditional Students”

My bilinear interpolation isn’t right. I’ve spent hours and hours on the project, sent emails to the teacher, but I still feel confused and like I lack the resources I need to do well.

I’m a non-traditional student, I guess. I would be a traditional grad student if I had started working on my masters right after my bachelors degree, but I was ready to get out of university. I worked in the industry, and then found I enjoy teaching computer science at the college level, and have returned to university at several places at several times pursuing several different types of degrees.

I will be 30 next month, I live 30 miles away from the university I’m currently attending, I’m teaching 17 credit hours this semester (and 20 last semester). I don’t spend time on campus for funsies; I park, attend my class, pay the $1.75 for an hour of parking, and head home. I have more focuses in my life than just my education – my husband, my day job, and my startup. I really only have the weekends to work on homework and studying.

I remember my pain-points while I was an undergrad, and that makes me the teacher that I am. I understand that my students have a life, I understand that students learn in different ways. Sure, access services will provide you a note taker, but I’ve always wondered how you can rely on the quality of a peer note-taker? When you’re new to a topic, how do you know what is important to highlight, and what’s ok to miss? How do you even take notes fast enough to keep up with a teacher lecturing? (That’s always something I’ve had trouble with.)

Honestly, I’m sitting in class right now and I cannot read all of the teacher’s hand-writing. There is glare on the board coming from the cracked windows, his scrawl is sometimes messy and hard to make out.

I’m frustrated, and I’m unengaged, and while a few days ago I was questioning my own intelligence and self-discipline and abilities, I’m now feeling that university just isn’t accessible to a student like me.

Part of it is the schedule – all of these classes, even grad classes, are mid-day. I’m not working a traditional 8-to-5 job, but if I were it would be impossible for me to attend this college.

Part of it is distance – all classes are in-person, and it’s a 40 minute drive each way. I’m not on campus enough to justify a parking permit, and by paying-per-hour, there is a financial penalty if I need to come on campus more often than I need, such as for office hours.

Another thing is the traditional teaching style – teacher lectures, scribbles on the board, and generally doesn’t refer back to the book or any external data. You’d better show up to class, and you’d better be good at taking notes because there sure as hell aren’t any recorded lectures to refer back to, no slides to look at (and if it is, it’s full of pictures and header text but none of the content.)

And it’s so striking how much different I try to make the experience in my classes, and how shitty I feel in other peoples’ classes.

And part of me wonders if this is part of the whole “toughen up” culture around college and tech – stop whining and “get gud”; if I can’t take it, then I’m just not good enough.

Or if the teachers don’t think about the inaccessible nature of their classes? Or think it isn’t their problem; “There’s an access services! Students can get a note taker and extra time on exams, what more is needed?”

Or maybe they’re more interested in their research than their teaching?

I remember the pain-points of when I was an undergrad, and the same pain-points crop up when I’m a grad. In my classes I make sure that anything I go over in class is also accessible outside of class: My slides or notes are very detailed with all the steps needed. I have video lectures for some of my classes (when I’ve had time). I write exercises that focus on building up the students’ understanding of new topics, starting easy and working their way up. In class we work on things together, because I know that something can seem understandable in lecture, but once you begin trying it yourself that’s where the confusion crops up. I want to make sure students recognize what they’re not understanding, so that we can get through it together and build their foundations and understandings.

And while some students have reviewed me as “worst teacher ever” (Maybe 4 in total have given me that distinction), I feel that so many more honestly find my classes engaging, fun, and instructive. And hopefully they feel secure – they know I’m not trying to write tricky reverse-psychology questions, or throw them in the deep end to sink or swim. They’re here to learn, I’m here to give them resources and help them explore and practice and learn.

And then it’s frustrating when I’ve had so many classes that are all the same “lecture-lecture-lecture, now 3 2 1 go do it hope you’re good at taking notes”. And for the most part, that’s how I’ve taught myself to teach myself. But now in gradschool I’m running into scenarios where there is less information out there, and sometimes (often) the teachers use only themselves as the only resource in the class, which leaves me feeling dumb – at first – and then frustrated because I know I could do better if things were just a little different.

2017

When 2017 began, I was very depressed.

My boyfriend, Rai, was rolled off his project at work and had to return to India a few months prior – shortly after we had began living together. I now had to return home from work to nobody. I cried after getting home from work until I managed to numb myself.

My hopes for the first woman president were dashed and anger and fear and dread were my feelings as the new year came around. If Clinton were president, I would at least have had some optimism about the future. The double whammy of losing my love and no longer having faith in anything as basic as are we going to fight climate change and have a future was hard.

But, one has to keep living. I threw myself into my work and attended protests and sent postcards to the president and called my representatives.

A big stress in 2017 was trying to think of some way that I, as an independent programmer, could make something to improve the world in some small way. I committed to letting my students know that my classroom is a safe place, and that I am there for them if they need an advocate, but I also wanted to know what more I could do.

While I don’t think I achieved anything big, programming-wise, in 2017, I at least have been experimenting and trying. I’ve also achieved things not programming related – because I’m not a robot.

So here is a reflection on things I’ve done in 2017, because it’s so easy to forget what we’ve achieved. It’s really easy for me to slip into a feeling of uselessness and start beating myself up for not meeting my own standards, and part of that is learning to accept myself for being myself (not just doing stuff), it’s also good to put things into perspective; not the warped, exaggerated perspective that anxiety and depression-glasses make you see through.

What I did

I got married

Rai and Rachel at the marriage ceremony

Rai finally arrived back in the K.C. on November 15th, after having been gone since November 1st of the previous year. We made it!

We had a small ceremony at the Olathe courthouse, and poof! Married! We did it in our own way – low stress, simple, etc. Though we still need to plan our reception party for 2018!

I went to India

Rachel and Rai in front of the Taj Mahal

We submitted our fiancé paperwork in April, but a 6-to-9 month wait would have been too much time to go without seeing each other. During the semester break (a couple weeks between Spring and Summer semesters), I flew to India and spent time with Rai, where we became “officially” engaged.

We spent time in New Delhi, where Rai was living, in Agra, and in his parents’ village in Uttarakhand.

Rai and I worked on the fiancé-visa paperwork

Rai was sent back to India in November 2016, and at that time neither of us were sure if we (as individuals) were ready for marriage. But after the time apart, and after eventually getting his father’s approval, we started on the fiancé visa paperwork.

I’ve spent time with my sister

After a couple of years in Seattle, my sister moved back to Kansas City and I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with her multiple times per week.

I completed an easy-reader comic

Rachel’s Reader preview

I finished the first in a series of comics I’d like to make – an easy-reader meant for language learners. It is available on Itch.io here, and as of writing has versions in English, Esperanto, Finnish, French, and Hindi.

I began taking Hindi classes

Me in Hindi class

It was serendipity that I learned about the Hindi class at our local temple – I had taken my friend Aishwarya to the temple and there was a board there with the information. I signed up and, even though I’m the only adult in the class, I’ve been learning a lot and really enjoying having a Sunday tradition! I love language learning and taking the class has really helped me build a good foundation.

I’ve aggregated the Hindi learning resources I’ve made here on GitHub.

I started gradschool

Although I only completed one semester and dropped out of the Fall semester due to work, I did effectively start gradschool. Even though I’m overall underwhelmed by my experience so far, at least the momentum is going. Even though being a teacher isn’t my be-all-end-all career goal, having a Master’s Degree will at least keep doors open to me no matter where I move to.

I also vlogged!

I taught a new class

After an emergency at work, one instructor’s classes were split up between the other teachers. I landed with Discrete Math II, which I had been wanting to teach for a while. Before, I had only taught Discrete Math I. While I got some really nasty (and some good) reviews on the end-of-semester anonymous surveys, I feel like I did an alright job… especially considering that I was teaching 6 classes… 20 credit hours. I survived.

I reclaimed my YouTube channel

My original, humble rise on YouTube (8000 subscribers) was due to my game programming and educational gamedev content. For the longest time I felt like I couldn’t post about other interests or parts of my life because of “my subscribers”. But the

controversy showed us that not all gamers are good people. So fuck ’em. I’ll post what I want, I don’t care about losing subscribers (and I did lose subscribers). It’s more important to visibly show your support for a cause than cater to assholes on the internet.

Some of the videos I posted that made people mad were:

I protested, called, and donated

I invested what I could of myself to trying to make political changes in the only way I know how. I protested, I contacted my representatives, and I donated to various causes and activists.

I did some coding

Random magical girl generator

Random comic generator

I did take time to explore code, even though it was small. Just little experiments here and there. I made the visualization of how many people could die if Obamacare is repealed, I worked on things to procedurally generate characters and dialog, I made a couple of Twitter bots, a painting app for toddlers, and so on.

I made some YouTube videos

I did manage to publish some YouTube videos this year. In addition to the ones posted above, I also did a Robot Let’s Play, a video about Cyrus the Dog, some of my lectures from my classes, vlogs about gradschool and going to India, and some videos for my Conlang-oriented channel.

I delegated

One of my goals in Moosader is to learn to delegate, and to offer opportunities for others to do some commission work that I pay them for. I did have a friend, Kuĉjo, work on conlang videos,

I freelanced

Did some freelancing, met a deadline, mentored Shawnee in working on the game as well.

I made a board game

The board game I worked on

As a joke Christmas gift, I made a board game for my cousin based around one of her biggest pet peeves – people not changing the toilet paper. It was a lot of fun to come up with pieces and the board, and test out the rules with my sister.

I explored business ideas

I like to make different types of things, and I’m trying to find a way to funnel my creativity into different business ideas. This has included making educational videos, language apps, punny Esperanto t-shirts, a web-portal for conlang games, and more.

I saw John Carmack give a talk at UMKC

John Carmack giving a talk

Ever since I read Masters of Doom as a tween, John Carmack had always been one of my biggest role models in the programming world. This year, he came to give a talk at UMKC – a university that he briefly attended, and where I got my B.S. from – and I went to see him. <3

I crafted

A purse I made for Rai’s mom prior to going to India

Cute nails that I painted

I’ve always been a crafty person but I made some cool crocheted things this year, as well as painted, drawing, and even doing nail art.

Other notes

I lost my dog

Rachel and Cyrus the dog

I’ve made a blog post about this already, but our childhood dog passed away this year, which was very hard. He’s been in my life for more than half of it, and now I still tear up to think about how I won’t get to hang out with him anymore.

Winter break goals

It is finals week. I’ve finished giving 2 finals, and there are 4 more to go. I’m teaching 20 credit hours this semester, and I’ve been much too busy to do other things like “pursue hobbies” and “cook food” and “socialize”. But, soon I’ll have a break, and next semester will be much more manageable. My anxiety is building, however, at being concerned about using my break time productively, for things that I’ve wanted to work on all semester but haven’t had the time to do so. What should I do? I need to write out a list.

Things I’d like to spend time on

Game development

I definitely want to work on a game over the break, but I have several ideas so it can be hard to figure out what to concentrate on. I want to continue working on language learning apps, and make new versions of the Language Fantasy games that I have out there. I’d also like to update some of the reference apps, such as for Toki Pona and Láadan.

I want to work on some Visual Novels, or at least games using the RenPy engine but in a unique way. I want to work on some microgames about silly things. One day I want to remake Rawr Rinth and Lenxion and improve them.

Book writing

I have started writing a book about PyGame and I was thinking of also writing a book about RenPy to help my Moosader team members ramp up on the engine so we can build more Visual Novels, without ME being the bottleneck.

I also want to spend time on making an easy-reader comic, which I can self-publish via itch.io.

Video making

I want to make some short films, as well as possibly just do other random YouTube stuff during the break. I like making language learning videos, cartoons, and so on.

Freelancing

I have one freelance project I’d like to get moving on again.

Celebrating

My husband and I had a small wedding and essentially no reception, so for January we need to plan some kind of party for our friends and family to celebrate with us. I’m just not sure what to plan!!

Not working

At the same time, I’d like to spend time away from a computer, too. Maybe traveling or other non-computer activities. Spending time with my husband and all that. 🙂

Cleaning

I want to make our apartment more organized and get rid of stuff we don’t use. Cut down on clutter!

Parties for Introverts

I want to plan an introvert-friendly wedding reception party (for sometime in January?)…

So for instance, somebody on Mastodon suggested “drinks and live music”. This is not a party I would enjoy, because I would just stand around not knowing what to do with myself – I’m awkward like that.

It is better when there’s something else to focus on, and interacting with people via that activity. For example: Watching a movie together, playing card / board games together, playing video games together, etc.

But, there should also be activities that everybody can enjoy – not everybody is a gamer.

I’d like to plan something where there’s a space, and people can arrive whenever they’d like, stay as long as they want, and leave when they want (rather than waiting for a specific thing to happen), and I’d like self-serve food to be available.

 

Why does it feel so hard to come up with activities? I can barely find anything online… It’s almost as if introverts rarely throw parties. T_T

Burnout

This semester, I’ve been teaching 20 credit hours – 6 classes. Two sections of Data Structures online, three sections of Discrete Math 1, and one section of Discrete Math 2, which is the first time I’ve taught Discrete Math 2. I’m getting it done.

I’m not putting as much effort into Data Structures as I had wanted this semester, but I am getting it done. Instead of lecture slides and videos, I just write detailed notes in the labs. I know my students aren’t reading the textbook, I really ought to do something to encourage that. They come to me with questions that would be covered by the textbook if they had read it. With a math textbook, it is easy to get them to use it – assign homework. With a textbook on data structures, it doesn’t so much have a repository of homework to do, but is more of a reference item. I need to figure out some homework to get them to go through it.

I’m pretty happy with Discrete Math 2 this semester. I haven’t had much trouble ramping up on each new section as I re-teach myself stuff I took in college maybe eight or so years ago. I’m happy with my LaTeX assignments that I’ve been writing up, and the class has gone smoothly. Discrete Math 1 has also been going alright, though my night class is mostly silent. It’s a Monday night class, my lectures are all up online in video form, and in class we work on the exercises I write. For my day classes, students pair up and discuss the work. For the night class, everyone works solo (even though I’ve tried grouping them up) and is quiet. Their lack of energy saps my energy, and my lack of energy saps their energy – at least, that’s how it feels. In my more “outgoing” classes, I find talking about the topics easier. The night class, nobody works together, nobody asks me questions, and they already have all the resources they need. It’s such a weird dynamic.

 

Beyond classes this semester, I find it really hard to operate outside of work-mode. I’m so over-worked that it can be hard to wind down or relax or focus on any other tasks I want to do. It’s hard to go to sleep at night after working all day, because I still want to do something fun. But with any spare time I find, I cannot think of what is fun to do; I haven’t spent much time on fun all semester so my brain isn’t configured to receive fun. Sometimes I can get lost in an evening of Overwatch, but otherwise I just feel tired and lethargic.

As the semester end slowly comes, I keep thinking about what Moosader thing to work on next. And my mind is fuzzy. It’s so hard to focus on anything outside of my day job. The big picture, the small picture, anything. It stresses me out.

And I know next semester I will be teaching 4 classes (two Discrete Math 2s, two Data Structures) and taking one grad class. I know I’ll continue being exhausted for the foreseeable future, and that to get anything done with my startup I’ll just have to adapt.

I’m hoping that I will go back to part-time Summer 2018, adjuncting at my school and maybe another, and hopefully that will free up my brain for working towards something that is really my career goal – my startup – and not just working towards my backup goal – teaching. I love teaching, and I’m fine doing it, but I’m not ready for this to be the “endgame” in the MMO of life and career. I figure, after my Master’s, I can work as a teacher anywhere as needed. To add in some extra income, to work on when I’m closer to a retirement age, do pursue if we move to India, etc.

I’ve always dreamt of running my own company, I’ve always loved making work for myself, but these things have always been shoved on the back burner due to school or work. I don’t have the luxury to just quit a job and focus on a startup full-time; I have bills to pay. I have student loans to pay off. But when I think of where I want to be in the future career-wise, what I’m doing now isn’t exactly what I envision.

Micro project ideas

When you’re too dang busy to do something that takes hours to set up, complete, and clean up…

  1. Write a one-page micro story based off a random idea you get from a Tweet, meme, or other post.
    (e.g., post-apocalypse where humans discuss how the Blue Bird caused civilization to destroy itself, by delivering messages from The Orange Man to antagonize The Great Leader, and TGL retaliated with fire.)
  2. Practice another language by writing short/micro-stories in that language.
  3. Crochet or weave a little bracelet.
  4. Draw a four-panel comic about a pet peeve.
    (e.g., people not refilling the ice cube tray when they pilfer a cube directly from the tray)
  5. Study a few vocabulary words from a language you’re learning.
  6. Post an educational how-to blog post about some random thing that you know how to do.
  7. Program a text-based game without any extra libraries or anything. (Keep it simple)
  8. Practice Morse Code.
  9. Take a walk – you’ve been sitting long enough.

Common arguments re: Women in Tech

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻ You know, I get really tired of seeing these same arguments every time anybody mentions the lack of women in tech. Like we can’t just discuss it on its own, a group of people need to swoop in and immediately start throwing around these examples; it isn’t a problem, women are just that way! — And, of course, most of these people who claim it isn’t a problem are men. I posted one time in a YouTube video about getting women in tech and for well over a year I was receiving vitriolic replies because how dare I state that I’d like to get more girls watching my programming videos.

A posting on Facebook by Chuck. It says, “A sad graphic for women in Comp Sci.” and highlights a graph of womens’ careers, with all going up – except Computer Science, which drops in the 1980s.

Why am I posting this? Because this thread came up, while I was out minding my own business, and made my day worse by spiking my anxiety and stress level.

The post itself – not a big deal, just showing a graphic of women in CS going down since the 1980s. Instead of asking “why the 1980s?” the thread was immediately taken over by men explaining it is not a problem. It’s womens’ faults; they’re just not into it. If you try to push them into it, then you’re a horrible person.

Completely ignoring the graph and the question – why was it going up, and then fell in the 1980s?

And I’ve dealt with this before. Two years ago, I posted a comment on YouTube that I still received responses to up until 7 months ago, along the same lines. My post about girls interested in tech was met with the same hate and anger that I dare even bring such things up. And YouTube comments aren’t the only place you’ll hear this shit. It doesn’t matter where you are, if you bring up a pipeline problem or a retention problem, you’re the bad person for trying to force girls and women into the field. Why are you bringing this up? It is a non-issue!

Women just aren’t that into tech.

Content warning: Sexism, racism, transphobia.


As a note: I, myself, identify more as genderfluid… mostly agender, but professionally I present myself as feminine and use feminine pronouns and whatever else because correcting people just isn’t that important to me. So for this I am speaking as a woman in tech.


Exhibit A: Women and men are just wired differently.

actuatedgear posts, “You DON’T. You just don’t. By and large, women are NOT programmers. Its not because they cant. Its because they don’t. They don’t want to. It is contrary to their biological tendencies on average to work at ALL, let alone in a highly specialized, highly technical field.”

Radel Gratereaux Gautreaux posts, “Has it ever ocurred to you that, maybe, you don’t need to even that out?
You know, the hole feminism thing… wasn’t about women doing what they want? If they don’t want videogames as much as men do, then that’s their decision.”

There are a lot of reasons why there aren’t a lot of women in tech. There’s a pipeline problem (exposure, education, encouragement), as well as a retention problem (being a woman and/or a person of color in a male-dominated field is exhausting).

Role models – Women can program, and they do program, and women have been part of computer science since the beginning – but how many of you know that? How many womens’ names are swept under the rug in the history of anything, in favor of praising names like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs? Perhaps you’ve heard of Ada Lovelace, or Grace Hopper, but what about Stephanie Shirley? There are women, queer, and PoC role-models out there in tech, but you just haven’t heard of them. Why is that?

And as much as men like to argue that, “Well, if women were really into computers, then they would just do it, even if none of the visible role-models look like them”, it is difficult – not because women are weak, no. Men get inundated with plenty of examples of role-models that look like them in one way or another; men can take it for granted. In a sense, they’re blind to the lack of diversity because they haven’t had to think about it, because they are satiated with all they need to get into the field – unless they’re a man of color.

Appearance – Another problem with tech is its appearance. I think that in our culture, we still see programmers as nerdy, 20-something white men, overly concerned with scifi television and not having much of a life outside of the internet. But in professional settings, I’ve worked with software developers with a vast array of interests. Many programmers are sporty and active, or love to travel, or do other “non-computer-nerd” hobbies. But when the images of a career field from the outside seems just like the domain of 20-something fratboys with nerf guns, not everybody wants to be part of that.

I actually wrote a lot about this in my BNE: Women in Computers essay that has more data behind it. I hear a lot of arguments that, “well if women really loved computers, they’d put up with the shit and just do it” – but life isn’t so simple, and people aren’t so simple. Some may continue pressing forward in a field despite hardships, and some may not, whether or not they love the field, like the field, are good in the field, etc. People who don’t have to deal with the countless microaggressions and overt problems just don’t see how much that can affect a person: their mental health, their happiness, their ability to focus and get things done.


Exhibit B: There’s no problem with the tech field being mostly men.

A post by Kristoffer that says, ” Women make different choices it would seem. Show me statistics that indicate any problems with that and I’d be happy to join in your sorrow. For now I’ll just respect that there are inherent gender differences which seem to include what majors each gender finds interesting to pursue. As far as I know there are virtually 0 majors which are 100% gender balanced, and with all the new genders popping up every day maybe they’ll never be.”

“Just because tech is dominated by men doesn’t mean we have to change it.”

Except that it makes better products, better workplaces, and a better environment. Bringing in people from many backgrounds can help your company solve problems or come up with unique designs, they can point out problems that a homogeneous group may overlook – for example, seat belts are less safe for women, (See: The World is Designed for Men), and some tech doesn’t work for dark-skinned people (The Reason This “Racist Soap Dispenser” Doesn’t Work on Black Skin)

You can see this in any design dominated for one group. The video, “How architecture changes for the Deaf“, was really awe-inspiring for me, and eye-opening at how our architecture is built in a specific way that presents challenges for Deaf people. If you told a group of people who were all hearing to design a building for Deaf people, do you think they would be particularly effective at it without working with Deaf people?


Exhibit C: If women really are paid less, then why don’t business only hire women?

Jacob writes, “so I could save money by hiring an all female work force? seams legit..”

Kristoffer writes, “Do you honestly believe women who are more qualified earn 20-30% less? Why aren’t companies hiring only women if they are so cheap labour? Last i checked the real number was 5-7% which might be explained by men taking more dangerous jobs and work more unsocialble hours and not indicative of systemic sexism.”

Arguments about the wage gap always lead to the same things – women work less, women take more time off, men are more willing to work long hours and not worry about work-life balance.

Work-life balance – Why shouldn’t men have the right to work-life balance as well? Why are we sitting here accepting that work-life balance is terrible in America, and say that it is the price that men pay to make more than women? Shouldn’t we demand that all of our employees are treated fairly, and given the time they need for their families and their wellbeing, regardless of gender?

Why don’t we only hire women? – And if women are paid less, why don’t we only hire women? (BONUS ROUND! This is an extreme favorite of anyone who wants to argue that the pay gap doesn’t exist) Clearly, if we just want to save money, we can just hire a bunch of women, right? You can’t argue that there’s a wage gap because clearly there’s a lack of women in tech, therefore businesses aren’t saving money on this magical resource.

Except it’s not so clear cut. There’s more that goes into hiring than just pay. We’ve all heard of the study of submitting two identical resumes, but one with a masculine and feminine name, and the one with the masculine name being preferred. Just because women may be paid less doesn’t erase the sexism and bias in the industry.

Women may be less likely to, or less effective at, negotiating for a better starting salary. Even then, when asking for raises or a better salary, they may be more likely to be rejected. Though it’s only anecdotal evidence, I have experienced this myself – after asking for raises, I’ve received excuses like, “we aren’t sure if you’re going to stick around, so we can’t pay you more” (e.g., are you loyal to us, even if we pay you shit?)

Women are held to a different standard than men, and what might be assertive for a man might be seen as bitchy for a woman. There is a larger minefield for women to navigate when trying to get paid fairly than there is for men – more challenges, more taboos, and so on.

Additionally, there are other things to consider when it comes to hiring women – companies may not be advertising their positions in the right place, or rely on word-of-mouth or references to get ahead. And if your employees are mostly male, chances are they mostly know other male programmers, and they get the referrals.

It’s not as simple as just posting to the “womens’ job board – where you can get more for less!” (not cheap enough? Try the “women of color job board”, where the wage gap is even larger!)

The wage gap isn’t that big – So being paid less is OK if it’s not that much less? What about over time? Maybe you earn $99,000 in a year and the other employees make $100,000 in a year, so you’re losing out on $1,000. “Not that bad!” – What about over a decade? $10,000. What about over 30 years? $30,000. Is that much money negligible to you? But it’s not just $30,000 – women lose out over hundreds of thousands of dollars over their careers.

Women make different choices – Again, this plays into the same problem as work-life balance. If women are largely taking a break from their careers to rear the children, then why don’t men have the same opportunity? The gender roles and sexism in our society goes deep.

Everybody should have the option to take a break and stay home with the kids. Everybody should have the option to be a stay-at-home-parent without the taboos. Our laws should be supporting workers, not make it a race to who kills themselves from overwork first.

If your argument is that women just choose lower-paying careers… why is that? If those careers are more attractive to women, then why are the jobs that appeal to women the lower-paying jobs? Why are the jobs that appeal to men the higher-paying jobs? That opens up a whole new layer: We value “mens'” work more than “womens'” work? How do we decide the value of any given field?

And finally, what about the women who aren’t taking breaks for building a family and are just as competitive as men? The pay gap still affects them.

See also:

  • Myth Busting the Pay Gap, the U.S. Department of Labor blog This addresses a lot of these,including:
    • “Saying women only earn 77 cents on the dollar is a huge exaggeration”
    • “There is no such thing as the gender pay gap – legitimate differences between men and women cause the gap in pay, not discrimination.”
    • “But the pay gap is not my problem. Once you account for the jobs that require specialized skills or education it goes away.”
    • “Women are responsible for the pay gap because they seek out flexible jobs or choose to work fewer hours. Putting family above work is why women earn less.”
  • Is the Gender Pay Gap Real?

Exhibit D: Actually, men have it harder.

Anthony states, “#femaleprivilege means women are more often encouraged to seek jobs they enjoy, whereas #maleexpectation means men tend to seek jobs they can be successful in. It relates to the idea that men see women as sex objects and women see men as success objects.”

Oh man. Does someone else want to take this one for me?


Exhibit E: Men bring home the bacon.

Richard posts, “Programming in the 1980’s was just starting to take off as a viable career path. As a result, it was flooded with men seeking employment in a new stable industry. Men are the breadwinners in most relationships due to countless reasons.”

Women have had careers since the 1930s, with a dip in that after World War 2 when men came home from war, and then a resurgence again after that. At least since the 1980s, women have had careers and been supporting themselves, and often women and men are both required to work to pay bills, raise a family, and so on.

Women have to support themselves just as much as men do, and there are plenty of single parents, or just single childless people, who want to be paid the same as their counterparts. “This man has to take care of his family” isn’t a legitimate reason that he should be paid more than a woman.

As far as it “just starting to take off as a viable career path” – we didn’t begin having programmers in the 1980s. We had programmers since we’ve had mainframes, and for a long time programmers were primarily women – programming was the womens’ work, the feminine side of computers. Men handled the hardware.

Once programming became more prevalent, men started pushing women out of the industry to make room for themselves…

What changed? Well, male programmers wanted to elevate their job out of the “women’s work” category. They created professional associations and discouraged the hiring of women. Ads began to connect women staffers with error and inefficiency. They instituted math puzzle tests for hiring purposes that gave men who had taken math classes an advantage, and personality tests that purported to find the ideal “programming type.”

From “Computer Programming Used To Be Women’s Work”, from Smithsonian.com

And with the rise of personal computers in the 1980s and marketing targeting boys over girls, girls were implicitly taught that this isn’t for us.


Exhibit F: Men have to lift heavy things.

“We don’t need to bring women into tech because they’re also not doing physically demanding work like construction.”

In male-dominated fields men like to have a certain type of culture. When I was hired at a web startup, the guy programmers were afraid that, because the boss hired a woman, they would have to begin to police how they talk.

Can women be construction workers? Of course they can. Anyone can train their body to become stronger, or learn the technical parts of the job, or do physically demanding labor. That’s not the problem with the fields.

But when men want to keep women out, when they want the workplace to be a “man’s world” and not have to worry about the language they use, they will make the workplace unwelcoming.

It’s easy for men to shrug it off and say, “Well she should just have a thick skin”. Why? Why should anybody have to deal with abuse and harassment just to do a job? Men shouldn’t have to participate in toxic masculinity to prove that they’re “man enough” to be an electrician, and women shouldn’t have to deal with it. Why can’t workplaces be safe spaces?

See also:


Exhibit G: Why do men have to work on the gender imbalance?

Anthony writes, “This gender gap certainly does annoy me. The tech industry is crying out for more talent. This isn’t the 1950’s any more. It is 2017, and time women started committing to filling the tech skills shortage, rather than expecting men to do all the heavy lifting.”

“The oppressed need to do all the work to combat their oppression.” – A common sentiment.

Why should men bother to worry about inequality in STEM fields?

Because it’s the right thing to do.

Because making the world better for women makes the world better for everyone? (However, Nothing says misogyny like defining feminism as equality for all – Marcie Bianco)

Because we all need to examine our culture and see the problems that women face in tech, in order to fix the problem? (Ignoring it won’t make it go away…)

And we’re not expecting men to do the heavy lifting – we are already doing the heavy lifting. We are asking men to do the minimum possible: to stop ignoring the issues, and to offer us support. To be an ally, instead of acting like it doesn’t concern you, so why bother. Help us, instead of sweeping the problems under the rug to spare yourselves discomfort. Stop blaming us for systemic sexism just to spare your own ego.


Exhibit H: Womennagging is never helpful / watch your tone

Rachel writes, “THIS is why there’s a problem with women in tech. THIS is why I’m sick of hearing all your guys’ shit. I’ve heard all of this before, because any time anyone so much as HIGHLIGHTS that there’s a problem, you all need to swoop in and protect your egos by saying that there can’t POSSIBLY BE A PROBLEM – IT’S THE WOMENS’ FAULT. HEY RACHEL, WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO BE A FEMINIST-NAZI AND FORCE WOMEN INTO COMPUTER SCIENCE? Instead of discussing why there was a dropoff in the 1980s we immediately jump to WELL WOMEN JUST DON’T LIKE TECH. DUH. And what do you think girls and women think of when they see a thread like this? Maybe if they’re not aware of our culture and human psychology, girls will think it’s not for them… or at least see the price of entry: constantly fighting this shit. Women? If they’re already in tech, maybe they’re sick of it by now. So many women leave tech. There’s a pipeline problem AND a retention problem. We have to deal with this shit constantly, and you guys can’t just sit down and LISTEN to our stories. You have to exclaim that it’s womens’ faults, that’s just how women are, that men need to “bring home the bacon”. Excuse me? When have women been relying on men as the sole provider of the household? Not in my lifetime! I and most other women need to make some fucking money to support our-fucking-selves.”. Anthony responds with, “And man-hating rants like that merely reenforce a prejudice that you are incapable of debating facts. Womanagging is never helpful.”

From the article on Tone Policing, from Wikipedia:

Tone policing (also tone trolling, tone argument and tone fallacy) is an ad hominem and antidebate appeal based on genetic fallacy. It attempts to detract from the validity of a statement by attacking the tone in which it was presented rather than the message itself.

In Bailey Poland’s book, Harassment, Abuse, and Violence Online, she suggests that tone policing is frequently aimed at women[1] and attempts to derail or silence opponents who may be lower on the “privilege ladder”.

Telling us over

Mario says, “Also regarding tone, it’s actually very helpful. As a human being bound by emotion myself, it is helpful when both parties of the discussion make an effort to adjust their tone, so that way the discussion can carry through logically, and not be hampered by emotion. A request of this is not a matter of appeasement, but a matter of ensuring a decent conversation for all; and again, both parties need to agree to this to work, as we are all bound and affected by emotion.”

and over

Marco states, ” Also regarding tone, it’s actually very helpful. As a human being bound by emotion myself, it is helpful when both parties of the discussion make an effort to adjust their tone, so that way the discussion can carry through logically, and not be hampered by emotion. A request of this is not a matter of appeasement, but a matter of ensuring a decent conversation for all; and again, both parties need to agree to this to work, as we are all bound and affected by emotion.”; I respond by asking, “are you literally unable to comprehend what I’m saying because you’re too distracted by my frustration?”

and over

Mario responds, “Rachel Not that I’m unable to comprehend, but that I’m trying to comprehend.
Frustration and emotional tension from the speaker in a conversation does make comprehension very difficult for the listener. This is true for all people in humanity, as naturally we are emotional creatures. All of us.
I understand you feel frustrated and I completely understand why you feel frustrated. I’m with you in the effort to bridge the gender gap in STEM fields. But what Anthony is suggesting, is for all of us to make a conscious effort to ensure a smooth conversation. It’s not a matter of appeasement, but a matter of mutual agreement to ensure a fluid and productive conversation. After all, we are all bound by emotion.
It’s up to you how you want to converse with others, but if we all do our best to place our emotion to the side, then it will be a great help to all of us. It’s up to you though.”

and over again

Mario states, “Rachel I never suggested that the onus was on you. Of course the onus is on me to understand. But when it comes to discussing with allies, who cares who’s onus is who’s? Our goal is to solve the problem at hand together. This is why attempting to put our emotional tenseness aside will greatly help our effort for all of us.
But in the end, you can choose to be frustrated, and I’ll still be willing to try and understand your perspective; I won’t bow out from that just because you feel frustrated.
But just know that remaining frustrated will negatively affect my ability to discuss productively with you. In the end, this is a team effort, no?”

that we need to follow your rules to have you buy into helping us is sexist. – Yes, that is sexist.

We don’t actually believe that you’ll listen to our point of view if only we make it more palatable to you; when you say that, we hear, “I want to make myself feel better! I’m not sexist, I just require debate to make me comfortable. Even if you’re uncomfortable, it is up to you to present your point of view, something very personal to you, in a way that is welcoming for me. I need you to welcome me before I can welcome you!”

Mario writes, “Rachel so because we’re not women, that means we’re automatically the enemy? If that’s true, then that’s very disappointing, because we want to be part of the solution with you guys. If you disallow us, then we’ll unfortunately have to find more willing people to solve it with.”

“Clearly, I would help you eradicate sexism, if only you’d be nice to me!”

See also:


Exhibit I: There are male dominated fields and female dominated fields.

TheMikel333 writes, “Well, there may be other reasons, but I don’t necessarily think they’re tied to feminism or misogyny. Just like there are many professions or areas where males are dominant, there are female ones alike. I’m taking computer programming myself, and there are very few females in most of the courses, true, but I’m also taking an elective course about “Fairy Tales”, and guess what, 80% of the class is occupied by females. Maybe we should just accept that not everything that’s male dominant is a byproduct of oppression and ostracization.”

I’ve already talked about this in the “men bring home the bacon” point (Exhibit E), but perhaps the reason that women avoid certain fields isn’t that they’re not naturally interested in those fields – maybe it’s because the dominant group actively or passively make others feel unwelcome.

This can be dealing with explicit sexism: “Women aren’t as good at math as men.”, “Hey, sexy.”

Or implicit sexism: “There’s not really a problem with sexism in tech, and discussing it is a waste of time.”, “We hire for talent, not diversity.”, “I would be on your side if you just accommodated me properly.

(╯°□°)╯︵ ┻━┻


Exhibit J: I’d be an ally, but…

Mario writes, ” Rachel Not that I’m unable to comprehend, but that I’m trying to comprehend.
Frustration and emotional tension from the speaker in a conversation does make comprehension very difficult for the listener. This is true for all people in humanity, as naturally we are emotional creatures. All of us.
I understand you feel frustrated and I completely understand why you feel frustrated. I’m with you in the effort to bridge the gender gap in STEM fields. But what Anthony is suggesting, is for all of us to make a conscious effort to ensure a smooth conversation. It’s not a matter of appeasement, but a matter of mutual agreement to ensure a fluid and productive conversation. After all, we are all bound by emotion.
It’s up to you how you want to converse with others, but if we all do our best to place our emotion to the side, then it will be a great help to all of us. It’s up to you though.”

And I’ll just paste in my response…

You’re clearly not very well versed in being an ally, then, if these are your arguments… “I want to be an ally but…” types are all over, no matter that oppressed group they’re trying to support.

It’s another way that people try to shift the blame to the oppressed group, “you’re not calm enough”, “I WANT to listen but I can’t with your attitude”, “I was going to support you buy you’re not friendly to me” – I hear these things a lot.

The onus is not on us to help you understand, the onus is on you to listen and contemplate and understand. The onus is on you to strive to do the right thing, even if the oppressed party isn’t all buddy-buddy with you. The onus is on you to do the research and BE an ally, not an ally-wannabe.

See also: Exhibit H


Honorable mentions

I’m not going to leave off some of the “yes, this is a problem” comments from the Facebook thread that inspired this post. There are some good points in the points as well, and can help illustrate how exasperated we feel when having to deal with this. Notice that everyone who states “this isn’t a problem” are almost always men, and even when women or femme people step forward and say “yeah, this is a problem”, the not-a-problem-ers fight tooth-and-nail to not be proven wrong.

Heather writes, “Let’s see: some customers voiced their opinions that they wanted a male tech instead. Some customers wanted to pay me literally nothing. I never once made the 6 figures college claimed I’d make. Oh, and work/life balance? Hah, forget that: I was on call 24/7/365, even when “off.” And you wonder why more women aren’t staying in computer science?”

Simone writes, “‘Its just the way of the world’….oh come on, you can do better than that. Passive acceptance of this kind of thing and excusing it /colluding with it/ not even seeing there is a problem simply perpetuates the crap that any minority or marginalised group has to put up with. I know, let’s pay anyone but straight white males less, restrict their opportunities and make life difficult when they do venture out of their assigned roles so as to perpetuate the status quo – we can occasionally wring our hands and say its not good but we will still collude and accept it after all – its always been that way. Shit tons of human talent and potential wasted. Bah humbug!”

Simone’s thread blew up; “I can see why you want to be anonymous!” (it’s Facebook, they only are denying having their picture as their profile pic), “Men just go after the higher-paying jobs!”, “Oh, I’M the rude one, eh?”, “There are a lot of Indians in tech… guess it’s their dark-skinned privilege, eh?!”

Raymond responding to the tone policing toward Rachel, ” It doesn’t matter how many facts are provided. Since the problem doesn’t affect you, they will be dismissed in the name of ‘debate.’
Read Rachel’s blog post linked in the thread, and you will see the facts presented for you.
But I doubt they’ll make a dent, because the assumption and argument is always some variant of, ‘well that’s the way things are.’
No women in a boardroom? Women don’t like business.
No women pilots? Their wombs will fall out at high g.
No black people in government? Black people aren’t interested in politics.
Instead of automatically taking the, ‘that’s just the way things are’ approach, the burden is on you to consider that, all humans being equal, there will be some in every subset that like the same things.
If you don’t see people from every subset involved in a particular career, don’t just ‘Oh well!’ it. Especially when those underrepresented in the field tell you it’s a problem.”

Another example that [almost-]everyone who argues “it isn’t a problem!” is a man, and those who argue, “it is a problem!” are men and women.


We’re tired.

I compiled this post because I need something to link people to, I guess. I have another article I wrote about the lack of women in computer science (BNE: Women in Computers) but just having that isn’t adequate. I’m so tired of responding to the same arguments over and over, and it never ends.

We’ve heard these arguments so much.

If this post made you feel tired, imagine how I feel.


How you can actually be an ally and help us

Listen. The first step is to actually listen to people, and listen to a lot of people, and consider what they’re saying. Store their statements in your memory for later, so that you have some context for where we are coming from and the struggles we face next time they arise.

Swallow your ego. You don’t need to respond to every argument, and you don’t need to make sure that you feel secure and happy as the priority in a discussion. This is very common with any ally trying to learn about an oppressed group. Don’t worry about your ego, don’t worry if you’re uncomfortable or a bit insecure with what is being said. Just listen.

Talk to your group. Your job isn’t to prove to the oppressed group that you’re “one of them” or that you “get it”. Your job is to talk to your group (e.g., men at work) about the problems. Your job is to call out sexism when you see it. Your job is to show your group that not everybody is like them and not everybody agrees with them. For example, if a man calls out another man for saying something sexist, then you are also communicating that not everybody in his in-group agrees with him, and he can’t have a safe space to be sexist, that he needs to reflect on what he said and why he said it.

Amplify. Rather than rewording the oppressed point of view in your own words like you’re writing a college essay, amplify the oppressed voices. Retweet, share their posts, and distribute their message in their voices.

Why? If you’re asking “Why?”, then you’re not yet an ally.

For further reading…:


Have something to add?

If you have some screenshots or examples you’d like to add, or some statements regarding one ot the exhibits you’d like to add, please let me know and I’ll add your comment with credit to the post. I think it would be nice to aggregate responses in this post because we’re all tired of dealing with this, and I can only utilize my brain so much to come up with so many statements.

Rachel@Moosader.com


Links

Articles linked to in the blog post

More fun stuff to read

Miscellaneous things that you may want to read.


Edits