Re: Felicia Day
It's interesting to me to see your prejudices showing through in your comments.
Obviously if a male respects a female, he must "have an enormous crush on her," right? There's no other possible reason. Personally, I think she's cute; but frankly, not that cute. There's no reason to go ga-ga over Felicia Day because of sheer looks; Hollywood provides us dozens of tarted up this-or-that that are far more to my personal taste, even several who play geeks on TV.
Secondly, I didn't yammer on about her playing scientists on TV. That's a day job, as far as I am concerned, and something that you have chosen to focus on. It’s frankly the element of her professional and hobbiest life I find least interesting. (Honestly, I’m far more interested in her musicianship and writing.)
But whether or not you choose to admit it, people do avoid ICT and STEM jobs because of the “geek” stigma. They don’t want to be around geeks. They don’t want to BECOME geeks. Whether or not ICT and STEM fields are in fact populated by geeks (and to what actual percentage) is irrelevant. perceptions of such is huge.
So there are important classes of people in my mind that we need to get out in front of those who would be turned off by working next to raging geeks. The first are individuals like Felicia Day who is in fact a gigantic geek…but also pulls that off as “okay.” She’s not an introvert, she’s not shunned, she’s not the kind of person you chain to a desk and throw snickers bars at over the roof while yelling “keep working.”
She’s popular. She’s respected. She’s even fawned over by a reasonable chunk of 20-somethings. The concept that geeks aren’t scary – and can in fact be awesome – is important for the short term. Because in the short term, there is still a significant chunk of the population that cannot separate “raging geek” from ICT or STEM. So we need to make “being a geek” okay.
The next sort of person that is important to get out there are ICT/STEM workers who have nothing to do with geekdom at all. Gearheads, outdoors types, gardeners, writers, you-name it. Demonstrate a diversity within the field that shows a lack of cultural monoculture.
Unlike you however, I see that both are absolutely necessary. I understand the engineer’s approach of “picture only the best possible scenario and work towards that,” but we aren’t’ dealing with machines. We’re dealing with people. Group dynamics on a scale of hundreds of millions. That means planning for transitionary events, and spending more time planning on how to get from “extant to perfect” as it does trying to design the perfect solution itself.
It may well be that we will never separate ICT/STEM from the geek mystique, so we need people like Felicia Day to make geekiness seem “okay.” At the same time, we need to strongly encourage non-geeks so that all these related fields experience a diversity of experience, opinion and viewpoint.
So Felicia Day is a good role model in my mind. She is one of two necessary types. One that demonstrates that “geek can be cool.” Not just fake geeks “as seen on TV,” but she’s a real geek, in real life, with real geekly skills and qualifications. Even if you yourself don’t aspire to geekdom, it’s a wonderful thing to have this person out there showing geeks aren’t to be feared.
But this conversation has a much darker side. Certainly there are commenters in this thread who can’t help by try to define ICT/STEM according to their own beliefs. You yourself are guilty: constantly equating ICT with “programming,” to the apparent exclusion of all the other skillsets involved in ICT.
Others push engineering, some will push maths…but the point is that it is all absolutist thinking. Rigid, inflexible. “This is what it means to be X” is just one more way of saying those who want to enter the field must rigidly conform to something.
The correct approach is to take each and every individual on their own merits, and see what they bring to the table. There’s a hell of a lot more to ICT and STEM than programming, or engineering, than maths or any other one skill/belief/cultural element you can name.
So I do not proclaim Felicia Day as “the one true role model for aspiring ICT/STEM entrants.” I think she is one amongst many that are important, though for reasons you may not grasp. Similarly, I think Admiral Hopper is important, for completely different reasons. I’d also list Marie Curie, Maud Menten, Jane Goodall, Sally Ride and Marissa Meyer (off the top of my head) as relevant role models to ICT and/or STEM, each and every one for a different reason.
The absolutist binary thinking of people in this thread scares me. On/off. This or that. “Addresses all cases or none of them.”
“Why don’t more [people in general, with women as an important subset] go into ICT and/or STEM” is a hugely complex topic. All sorts of people are needed to help solve it. What isn’t needed is snark, condescension and constantly trying to put people in boxes.
Solving the recruitment problem requires both making geeks less scary and the long, slow slog of decoupling geekdom from ICT/STEM in the public eye.
First; you are correct, I did lash out at jake. That’s because I personally dislike him. Intensely. He may be playing the roll of troll online, or he may in fact be a gigantic douchenozzle in real life. The effect as far as I am concerned is identical. He is a downer. He rarely has anything positive to say, constantly criticises everything and everyone, except when he is agreeing with someone else’s criticism.
Most of his criticism is in the form of unprovable statements of opinion, and/or statements that are – at best – controversial. (I.E. there is no preponderance of evidence to prove his hypothesis versus any of the competing ones.) Indeed, he will often make statements that go against the preponderance of evidence, but which he asserts to be true because of his vastly superior intellect having carefully considered his personal experiences and extrapolated the sum totality of the human condition and the optimal life choices for all human beings on the face of this earth.
So I fell entirely confident in saying that his personality would remain a blight on any field he chose to occupy, and that any field evidencing a statistically higher-than-average percentage of individuals like him is likely to become one avoided by any number of subgroups.
Secondly, to put the pointless speculation about my “internet crush” to bed, Felicia Day isn’t it. I respect her immensely, but she is in the same category to me as Wil Wheaton: someone I want to interview, talk about their successes and failures, pick their brains and maybe even play some DnD with. My interest is professional, with respect for their roles as ambassador for my subculture.
They serve a role to me similar to that of “politician.” They represent a group of people (geeks), and we have elected them by popular acclaim. I’d certainly prefer them representing my subculture than Stephen Fry!