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Posted by Carissa Morrison

We’re back from spring break.  Midterms are over. Graduation, which will steal away far too many of our beloved members, is a mere 2 months from us! I’d say it’s about time to have some serious fun.  Who’s with me?

GREAT! Then in that case -FSU is glad to announce that we will be hosting renowned poet & activist Andrea Gibson! 

AND you are cordially invited to join us on March 21, 2012 in the Stone Center Auditorium for what is bound to be an unforgettable spoken word experience. I’ve sampled a bit from her bio (which you can read in its entirety HERE ) to give you an idea of what to expect if you are unfamiliar with her work:

Andrea Gibson is not gentle with her truths. It is this raw fearlessness that has led her to the forefront of the spoken word movement– the first winner of the Women’s World Poetry Slam –Gibson has headlined prestigious performance venues coast to coast with powerful readings on war, class, gender, bullying, white privilege, sexuality, love, and spirituality.

“Gibson is among the nation’s most admired and emulated poets. Her verse is at once personal and political, feminist and universal, filled with incinerating verbs and metaphor, and delivered with gut punching urgency.”

Metaphor Media

“Andrea Gibson is a truly American poet, or rather, she represents the America I want to live in. Her work lights a candle to lead us where we need to go.”

Cristin O’ Keefe Aptowicz

Thursday, following this performance (3/22), Andrea Gibson will be leading us in workshop focused on the poet’s responsibility in the current political climate. We will read and discuss poems by contemporary writers focusing on issues of race, class, gender, sexuality, patriarchy, and capitalism, after which we will use the shared poems as writing prompts to inspire our own radical voice.  12:30pm in Student Union Room 2518A-B

Space for the workshop is limited, so if you are interested, please register immediately. The first 48 to register will receive an email confirmation within 24 hours of the workshop.

Register here:

There is also a link here on our site. Look. Upper left-hand corner. See? Great.

Tickets are available this Thurs (3/15) at no charge through the Union Box Office.  Space is limited, so act now (or Thursday)!!

Doors open @7:00pm and opening performances by spoken word group EROT will commence @7:30pm. At 8:00pm any remaining seating will be opened up to non-ticket holders.

For more details you can check out our Facebook Event Page

This event is sponsored by Feminist Students United! and The LGBTQ Center!!


Posted by Zachary MacHardy

Talking about women in computer science can be a bit of a downer, so I figured it might lighten the mood a bit and open this post with a bit of a game.  The rules are simple:  Go to the Wikipedia page on the “History of Computer Science,”and count the number of times women are mentioned.  It’s okay.  I’ll wait.  Alright, you back? Truth is, that wasn’t a very fun game, was it? At any rate, (At the time of this writing) here’s the answer (Drum roll): 1 time!  Did you spot where?  I’ll go ahead and quote it here:

Just chillaxin at Harvard, doin some computing.

“Before the 1920s, computers (sometimes computors) were human clerks that performed computations. They were usually under the lead of a physicist. Many thousands of computers were employed in commerce, government, and research establishments. Most of these computers were women, and they were known to have a degree in calculus. Some performed astronomical calculations for calendars.”

Oh cool, degrees in calculus!  They were known to have them!  That’s right y’all: the place of women in the history of computer science is, according to the Wikipedia narrative we all know and love, as predecessors to the literal objects that we know today as computers.  This certainly would be a disheartening story, were it actually representative of the part women have played in computer science.  Luckily for us, this isn’t exactly the case.  Truthfully, despite rather distressing rates of under-representation, women have taken an active and vital role in the development of modern computers, and continue to do so to this day. Just to name a few:  Grete Hermann, who did foundational work on computerized algebra; Grace Hopper, the mother of COBOL and writer of the first compiler ever for an electronic computer; Mary Allen Wilkes, inventor of the first minicomputer OS; Roberta Williams, a pioneer of adventure gaming and developer of King’s quest; Frances Allen, first female recipient of the Turing award, famous for her invaluable work on compiler optimization.  Each of these women has done invaluable service to the field.  But before any of them had even been born, before the first computer had even been manufactured, the very first computer program the world had ever seen had already been written, and by a woman to boot.  On that note, then, let me introduce you to the mother of computer programming, the author of what is widely acknowledged as the first computer program, the namesake for the programming language Ada, and general all-around smarty pants: Ada Lovelace.

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace: A Badass

Augusta Ada Byron was born in England on the 10th of December 1815, to Lord George Gordon Byron (Yes, that Lord Byron), and Anne Isabella Milbanke.  Ada never knew Byron, since he opted to leave her and her mother while she was only a month old, then proceeded to kick the bucket while she was nine. Understandably, this disappearing act did little to endear Lord Byron to Ada’s mother, and, in an attempt to ensure that none of the poetic insanity of the father took hold of the daughter, Ada was schooled in mathematics and science from a very young age.  She quickly proved adept in her lessons, and by the age of seventeen had been noted by the prominent mathematician Augustus De Morgan (of De Morgan’s laws) as having the potential to become a “mathematical investigator, perhaps of first rate eminence.”

Ada soon began to attend Court and met many prominent personages of the time, among them Charles Dickens, Michael Faraday, and importantly, Charles Babbage.  She married William King in 1835, and in 1838 gained the title of “Countess of Lovelace.”   Lovelace and Babbage maintained a correspondence for many years, and, noting her mathematical prowess, Babbage dubbed her the “Enchantress of Numbers.”

It was in 1842 that the work for which Ada is so well known began.  Originally, Ada was to produce a translation of Luigi Menabrea’s notes on Charles Babbage’s proposed “Analytical Engine,” the first Turing-complete design for a mechanical computer.  But the translation work was quickly supplanted by the addition of a lengthy (significantly longer than the translation itself) collection of notes of her own design (which are available for your perusal here, if you’re up for a bit of a dry read) detailing the hypothetical workings of the analytical engine.  Buried deep within these notes, in “Note G”, Ada details what is widely recognized to be the very first computer program, geared toward the algorithmic calculation of Bernoulli numbers.  It is likely that even beyond this translation, Ada had an active hand in the development of the analytical engine, but little is known of the further extent of her influence.  Regardless, her design of the first computer program and her astute observations on the future of computer utility beyond mathematical calculation had a profound impact on computer science (She even predicted that electronic music might be composed via computers.  In the nineteenth century!).

Unfortunately Ada didn’t live to see the construction of the Analytical engine.  She passed away in 1852 at the age of 36, due to medical complications related to the treatment of uterine cancer.  But her work was not forgotten.  A programming language commissioned by the US DOD in the 70’s to replace the hundreds of languages previously in use was named Ada in her honor.  The British Computer society awards the Lovelace medal annually to those who have advanced work in Information systems.  Annually, Lovelace is honored in a celebration of Ada Lovelace day, intended to raise awareness of women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.  Certainly her work, as well as the work of many other women in computer science, has not gone unrecognized, Wikipedia references or no.

The Dire State of Digital Diversity

                But visibility of these contributions to those outside the field is low.  The situation of women in computer science is a dire one, despite the invaluable contributions of various women to the discipline.  We are facing a demographic crisis, as computer science is one of the very few disciplines which has become gradually more male-dominated over the last 30 years.  A recent study by the Computing Research Association puts the percentage of female recipients of Bachelor’s degrees in computer science at around 14%; this is certainly a far cry from the figure of nearly 40% participation taken in the mid-80s.  The question of why participation by women has declined is a complex one, and certainly one which requires a reevaluation of how we as a society choose to socialize our children, among other things.  But what is not in doubt is that this dire imbalance needs to be addressed – The lack of women in the discipline is not only embarrassing for the computer science community but detrimental to progress.  It is not a question of whether or not brilliant women have been dissuaded from entering the discipline, but, unfortunately, a question of how many.

Way to castrate Turing, Britain

Though the focus of this post is on participation by women in computer science, I would be remiss to conclude without addressing the overwhelming heteronormative and cisgendered biases also present.  By all rights, computer scientists should be natural allies in the fight for queer rights; perhaps the most brilliant, influential man in the history of computer science, Alan Turing, committed suicide after being forced to undergo chemical castration by the British Government for that most heinous of crimes: being homosexual.  This despite the fact that his work was invaluable to the British in breaking German ciphers during World War 2 (way to go y’all).  The designer of the instruction set for the enormously successful ARM processor was Sophie Wilson, a transgendered woman.  Lynn Conway, another transgendered woman, was the inventor of generalized dynamic instruction handling, an important advance in computing efficiency used by most computers today.

This is not even to mention the dearth of black, latino, (or really non-white, non-east or southeast Asian) computer scientists.  Diversity abounds among the great minds who have contributed to the field of computer science as well as among those who may yet contribute.  Yet the canonical image of the computer scientist is decidedly male, heterosexual, cisgendered, and one of a very small set of ethnic backgrounds.  This is an injustice to the myriad of brilliant contributions made by those who do not fit into this restrictive stereotype.  There is nothing inherently male, inherently white or Asian or Indian or straight or gay or cis or trans or anything about computing.  So let me end this post with a plea.  Don’t be fooled by the stereotypical image of the computer scientist.  Encourage your sister, your daughter, your friend, your mother, your roommate, anyone of any gender or sexuality or race or age or creed to seriously consider the discipline.  Don’t let the preconceived notion of who is well suited to computers and who is not influence the future of computer science.  Don’t let a computer scientist tell you that, well, there’s a certain set of people who just “get” computers.  That’s bullshit.  This is a discipline whose efforts have had far-reaching effects the world over as the world advances into the digital age.  The computer science community has enough white, straight, men in its ranks; We will need a diversity of experiences and opinions if we are to have any hope of contributing meaningfully to progress for us all.

On Wednesday, UNC’s Men’s Ice Hockey team chose to advertise its upcoming tournament by painting a cartoonish image of a woman in a string bikini with breasts bigger than her head wearing high heels above the text, “Come watch us score.”  As members of FSU, UNC students, and human beings, we were outraged by their extremely offensive presentation of women as sexual objects to be won and we decided to take action.  Early Thursday morning, we painted a neighboring cube to call attention to their problematic design and identify it as part of the larger rape culture under which we live.  Take a look at our response:

Immediately after we put on the finishing coats of paint, people began to react.  We saw many students stop to take photos, talk about the cubes animatedly with their friends, and, as our eye-witness (shout out to Abigail who had a clear view of both cubes from the union) reported, the hockey players who were initially laughing at our cube proceeded to paint over the bikini-clad woman after two adults appeared to emphatically explain why their cube was offensive.

Moments later, FSU received an e-mail from an officer of the men’s ice hockey team apologizing for their actions, offering to come to our next meeting to learn more, and pledging to “do all that [they] can to make it right on behalf of the team.”  We are pleased with the Men’s Ice Hockey team’s prompt response, and we look forward to working with them to raise further awareness about the harms of rape culture and what they can do to work against it.

It is important that we don’t treat their cube as an isolated incident resulting from a temporary lapse in good judgment. Their misguided actions are only a small reflection of a much larger problem.  Members of the UNC community felt that this cube was appropriate and perhaps even funny because we live within a rape culture that objectifies women and glamorizes sexual violence on a regular basis.

Just over a week ago, FSU invited Dr. Matt Ezzell to speak about gender, power, and how the media routinely relies on the unimaginative exploitation of women’s bodies to sell products.  He discussed how these ads and images that we see constantly have extremely dangerous consequences—one in four college-aged women experience sexual assault first-hand, and all women live limited lives due to the threat of sexual violence.  While by no means do images such as the one on the cube cause rape, they are an enabling factor of a larger system known as rape culture.

Rape culture “is an environment in which rape is prevalent and in which sexual violence against women is normalized and excused in the media and popular culture.  Rape culture is perpetuated through the use of misogynistic language, the objectification of women’s bodies, and the glamorization of sexual violence, thereby creating a society that disregards women’s rights and safety.”

Marshall University lists the following things as aspects of rape culture:

  • Blaming the victim (“She asked for it!”)
  • Trivializing sexual assault (“Boys will be boys!”)
  • Sexually explicit jokes
  • Gratuitous gendered violence [and objectification] in movies and television
  • Defining “manhood” as dominant and sexually aggressive
  • Defining “womanhood” as submissive and sexually passive
  • Pressure on men to “score”
  • Teaching women to avoid getting raped instead of teaching men not to rape

Members of the ice hockey team did not initially realize that their advertisement was remotely offensive, and the misguided comments on our previous post highlight similar ignorance. And we have to ask why. Education about rape culture and patriarchy cannot be limited to a handful of speakers brought in by student groups and a few academic departments.  This analysis needs to be emphasized via multiple avenues at our university and at all institutions of higher education that claim to prioritize diversity and safety.

While it can certainly seem daunting to attempt to change harmful cultural norms, remember that cultures (ours included!) are composed of individuals who can choose to act in ways that either reinforce or challenge sexism.  Although it’s clear that we still have a lot of work ahead of us, hard-working students, faculty, and staff have already made important steps in fighting rape culture and creating a safer and more equal campus community.

Moving forward, we need to unequivocally shift the focus of the conversation from how to deal with the problem of violence against women to working to change the fact that men overwhelmingly perpetrate violence in the first place.* Women don’t need more self-defense classes, more canisters of pepper spray, more advice about not walking home alone at night, or more blame when men perpetrate violence against them despite all of their precautions.  Everyone needs to speak up and refuse to allow actions/advertisements/jokes that promote men’s violence against women. We’re glad that our cube has generated so much buzz about the problem of rape culture—let’s keep the conversations and the actions going!

*Although most men do not commit violence, 95% of sexual violence is committed by men.

For more information and ways to get involved:


Here’s a excerpt from a recent Feministing article that details the outrageous ways in which capitalism thrives on sexism…

“The average American woman will woman will spend over $20,000 on cosmetic products alone between the ages of 13 and 29. And that doesn’t include manicures, pedicures, haircuts, [relaxers], or colorings – that’s just for makeup products. Once you add in those services and include other services like tanning and waxing, the number goes up over $40,000. Over the course of a lifetime, the average American woman will spend about $500,000 on making herself beautiful. Half a million dollars. That’s a studio apartment in New York. It’s two full rides to medical school. And while a lot of women never go tanning or get a pedicure, and while products and services obviously cost less depending on where you live, as well as a number of other factors, that’s still an enormous percentage of women’s collective earnings being spent on making ourselves beautiful. As I said on Wednesday night, I’m in no position to tell anyone how to spend their money, but I think it’s important to take a moment and imagine all the other things we could do with that money, and to carefully examine the reasons why we spend it on making ourselves beautiful.”

And if time is money, then how much more are we losing?

Thanks to Robyn Levine for finding this article and bringing up the issue of time as well!

Every week, check for our This Week in Feminism post – a list of the most current strides in feminism and instances of sexism and racism and class inequality, from a rotating round of co-collaborators.  Do you have a link you think would be appropriate for this section? Please feel free to leave it in the comments.Right on the tails of our event last night on Crisis Pregnancy Centers, many of this week’s links are about reproductive rights being cut across the country and world.

— Jessica & Eva

This Saturday is HKonJ – Historic Thousands on Jones St – a huge rally in Raleigh, NC put together by the NAACP and attended by progressive activists across the State.

Apex mayor’s op-ed piece on why the Town Council unanimously voted to stop coverage for abortions in town employee’s insurance plans.

Project HOPE publishes a new study with findings confirming that “…immigrants are not contributing disproportionately to high health care costs in public programs such as Medicaid.”

Eviction has become typical in the lives of poor black women – a piece on this new reality for people in lower income neighborhoods.

A Camarillo, CA hospital has banned midwives from delivering babies – are women-centered practices not welcome?

A proposed bill in Utah will make it a crime for a woman to have a miscarriage, and make induced abortion a crime in some instances.

Lousiana ordered to issue a birth certificate naming a same-sex couple as the parents of their adopted child.

New anti-abortion billboards in Atlanta boldy proclaim “Black Children Are An Endangered Species”.

Marjan Kahlor is the first woman to represent Iran in the Winter Olympics.

Kenya poised to constitutionally ban abortion.

Feminist Students United (FSU) is a progressive feminist organization which affirms that no form of oppression can be overcome until all aspects of racism, classism, sexism, and heterosexism are dismantled. We acknowledge intersecting identities and strive to be mindful of these intersections in all our work. We endeavor to create an environment which is non-hierarchical and supportive in nature, and we work to bring about change in our community through education, outreach, direct action and community organizing.

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