UN Global Alliance for Media and Gender, Part One

By Lisa McLaughlin, Miami University of Ohio
Edited by Sharon Irish
December 11, 2013

This “report” has been compiled from a series of posts on the FemTechNet listserv in late November through December 10, 2013. Lisa McLaughlin, Associate Professor, Department of Media, Journalism & Film and Women’s, Gender, & Sexuality Studies Program, at Miami University of Ohio, took the lead for FemTechNet in Fall 2013 in the UN Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMG). The Alliance was initiated during a UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization] forum in Bangkok from December 2-4, 2013.  Together with FemTechNet co-facilitators, Anne Balsamo and Alex Juhasz, Lisa decided to submit the online information necessary to join the Alliance. The full compilation is available as a pdf document here.


What is the UN Global Alliance on Media and Gender (GAMG)? At this point, it is a set of ideas, objectives, and processes. For information on the objectives of the GAMG, a good place to begin is https://www.unesco.org/new/en/communication-and-information/crosscutting-priorities/gender-and-media/global-forum-on-media-and-gender/homepage/.

Lisa also registered to join the debate virtually that took place prior to the forum in Bangkok. Her initial input into the debate was to object to the suggestion that only “truly international organizations” should belong to the Alliance; she argued that there are no “truly international organizations” and that, if we proceed in this way, a number of exclusions–notably at the local/community level–will occur, and the GAMG will be a top-down arrangement.

Lisa wrote: UNESCO is basing the promised declaration and action plan on Section J, women and media, from the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing. Overall–and I know that I am not alone–I think that Section J of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) (https://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/beijing/platform/media.htm) is thoroughly inadequate for addressing digital media and ICTD [Information and Communication Technologies for Development], especially in a way that addresses gender disparities “on the ground.” Please see this statement from the 2000 Beijing + 5 Media Caucus for a very incisive critique of Section J: https://www.womenaction.org/ungass/caucus/media.html.

Lisa McLaughlin’s statement of November 30, 2013:

It should be recognized that, unlike Security Council resolutions and some conventions, the general UNO pattern suggests that, typically, very little is accomplished in the two years following summits, forums, and conferences, particularly those related to human development-oriented initiatives of UN agencies and organizations. However, if I felt that the activities in the years subsequent to a Global Forum on Media and Gender were inconsequential, I would not be representing FemTechNet for the GAMG. 

I am suggesting that, in the two (and more) years following the forum, we need to engage in actions which will keep the enthusiasm generated at the forum going, to keep the issue of media and gender front-and-center as a critical area of concern, to recognize the weaknesses of Section J, and to be prepared to confront issues relevant to gender and the current information and communication environment(s). Answering this future-oriented question requires that we begin by remembering the past. In 1995, after having been a specter in the previous UN Conferences on Women, Section J “women and the media” was added to the list of critical concerns. For purposes of the GAMG, UNESCO has recognized the importance of including Section J at the Beijing Fourth World Conference on Gender: 

“This initiative is related to one of UNESCO’s global priorities, namely Priority Gender Equality. It will articulate a systematic follow-up to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action,Women and the Media Diagnosis, and its strategic objectives:

  • Strategic objective J.1: Increase the participation and access of women to expression and decision-making in and through the media and new technologies of communication.
  • Strategic objective J.2: Promote a balanced and non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media. [1]”

But, let’s consider that, after 1995, “women and the media” largely was marginalized, ignored, and forgotten during the various Beijing follow-ups, perhaps in part because of what is described as the “strategic weakness” of Section J in the Beijing + 5 review, Gender and Media Caucus statement at https://www.womenaction.org/ungass/caucus/media.html The critique that Section J “failed to articulate the structural constraints and impediments that women and other marginal groups face due to commercialization and globalization of media and the concomitant decline of public broadcasting media in societies with democratic and pluralistic traditions” is spot on. 

Still, post-Beijing follow-up meetings failed to adequately address Section J, and “gender” certainly was not a priority in the World Summit on the Information Society proceedings (unless, I suppose, it could be tied to internet governance, which became the almost singular issue of concern by the end of the WSIS process). 

Within this context of marginalization and forgetting of gender and media, UNESCO’s prioritization and efforts to focus on numerous aspects of gender and media–with what appears to be a more intensive approach to the “digital age” than was the case in Section J in 1995–is very welcomed.

 However, I am suggesting that it now is time to go beyond Section J and confront its “strategic weaknesses,” as outlined in the Beijing + 5 Media Caucus Statement (url above). 

Among my suggestions: First, although public-private partnerships [PPPs] were in place in 1995, the past two decades have seen an enormous increase in public-private partnerships involving ICTs forged among the private sector, UN agencies, governments, and NGOs. Many of these proceed without any meaningful oversight. At best, we get a handful of “best practices stories” which tell us nothing of the PPPs that have failed and continue to fail to enable and empower the communities targeted for these initiatives, generally because of the failure to encourage community and local input and participation. (These claims follow from empirical, ethnographic and political economic, research). The notion of targeted groups for PPP initiatives must be abandoned in favor of understanding groups and communities composed of persons who are capable of expressing their needs and desires, persons and groups who are capable of innovating. Missing the latter generally is a sign that a corporation is more interested in wrapping themselves in the blue mantle of the UN flag for promotional purposes than in working with marginalized groups. Because private sector funds now fill the void as public funding has decreased, or is non-existent, PPPs seem here to stay. However, not all PPPs are alike, and we should demand that PPPs are oriented to serving human needs above all else (while knowing that, however doctrinal, it by no means is clear that access to ICT is the ultimate way to serve human needs). 

Second, Section J is about images and jobs–the usual two sub-areas that have arisen when discussing changing the representation of women since the late 1960s. This is so limited and has tended to avoid both the structural and local aspects of imbalances and inequalities. We don’t need additional great projects of “stereotype-hunting” as a follow-up to the Forum on Media and Gender. This has been done and is useful mostly as a form of consciousness-raising. As UNESCO is aware, many aspects of media and gender need to be identified, analyzed, and confronted. 

A final problem is that the various sections of the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) actually overlap but are treated as separate in such a way that literacy largely remains with “education” while many of the more problematic ways of addressing women’s lack of access to IT–notably public-private partnerships and increased privatization of services–are addressed in other sections having to do with employment and the economy. With the GAMG, there are no areas of concern “competing” with “women and the media,” so there is no reason to create divisions among societal areas by sections and bulletin points. Perhaps one of our objectives should be to guarantee that Section J cannot be ignored in the future.

What was “media” has become much, much more – so closely intertwined with our world and its multiple realities and spaces. Does this require a new digital age or network society (or info society) level response to issues of gender and media?

Part Two has a further exchange between Lisa McLaughlin and other FemTechNet participants.

The Eye of the Wikistorm

By Jade Ulrich, Pitzer College

On Monday, December 2, a fellow FemTechNet (FTN) intern, Susie Ferrell, and I organized an event with funding that we were awarded from the Reclaim Open Learning Contest last summer. FemTechNet is an activated network of scholars, artists, and students who work on, with, and at the borders of technology, science and feminism in a variety of fields including STS, Media and Visual Studies, Art, Women’s Queer, and Ethnic Studies. Participants in the Feminist Dialogues on Technology course at Pitzer College, along with other interested students from the Claremont Colleges community, came together for this three-part event.


Entitled “The Eye of the Wikistorm: The Future of Feminist Technoculture Histories,” we hosted a moderated discussion between Dr. Adrianne Wadewitz (Occidental College) and Professor Jacqueline Wernimont (Scripps College), to create a dialogue on the keyword, “WikiStorm.” We filmed the hour-long discussion between our two guests. I asked them how they see traditional academic work intersecting with public intellectual labor (such as Wikipedia), and then asked them to share their recent Wikipedia-related projects. To hear their answers, you will have to watch the WikiStorm Dialogue video, which will be up on the Commons as soon as it is edited!

WikiStormScripps PitzerWikiStormStudents2

Following this filmed dialogue, those in attendance embarked on their own Wiki-a-thon. The Wikistorming project seeks to engender a set of digital practices among women and girls, to teach and encourage their participation in writing the techno-cultural histories of the future by becoming active participants in the creation of global digital archives. Experienced Wikipedians helped the new editors, and great work was done on this digital encyclopedia. At the end of the evening, we all enjoyed a delicious Thai dinner, where we socialized and talked about why we were attending the event. Many of us had similar interests, and the conversation flowed easily. In the end, FemTechNet brought together a group of passionate people, filmed a dialogue video that we can add to the FTN archive for future use, and we enjoyed each other’s company throughout an evening of Feminist Technology Networking. What more could we ask for?

Feminism and Latina Representations in Media

Post by Xuxa Rodriguez, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; Photo Credit ABC/Michael Desmond

On November 21st, 2013, at the University of Illinois, I presented my research on representations of Black, Latina, and Queer bodies within advertisements and content in Seventeen magazine. There are problematic cultural stereotypes being perpetuated in relation to these bodies, and more work needs to be done to represent these bodies in ways that don’t conform to a performance of “White Woman” Drag: in other words, a performance that prefers straightened hair; a streamlined body frame with controlled curves, ideally focused on the breasts; clothes and accessories that can be easily visually read as “girl,” “feminine,” and “middle class.” Perhaps most importantly for this performance’s aim of reinscribing dominant cultural values, it expresses and actively pursues heterosexual desire that works towards the reproduction of a nuclear family and the accompanying ideologies that will ensure the cycle repeats itself ad infinitum. “White Woman” Drag both makes visible and invisible that which it signifies: the performance calls upon a culturally agreed concept of “White Woman” while simultaneously erasing any features that would identify the concepts of “white” and “woman” with an actual body or group of bodies that really and truly exists in the world. (I’m currently in the process of theorizing “White Woman” Drag so  forgive me if this articulation of the concept is lacking or unsatisfying at the moment.) The perpetual reification of “White Woman” Drag in images, media, and cultural consciousness devalues and undermines the ethnic identities that it compounds and breaks down within its signifiers.


Photo by Michael Desmond/ABC. Just after the moment depicted in this photograph,
Gloria’s son asks her to not root for him at the game because she’s too Latina.

Despite people coming up after my talk and congratulating me for a job well done, I felt I was preaching to a very invested choir. I’m a doctoral student at a Research I university, but I wonder if I am doing all that I can from this privileged position to further my feminist fight for equality regardless of race, class, gender, or ability, especially in relation to Latina bodies. This is where technology helps amplify the movement: as a feminist today, there are many avenues for activism and criticism that folks can join. Ms. Magazine has been going strong since 1971, Jean Kilbourne’s “Killing Us Softly: Advertising’s Image of Women” is in its fourth installation, the Feminist Majority Foundation is 25 years old, Bitch Magazine is 17, the Media Education Foundation’s series is 14, and both the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and Feministing are coming up on their tenth anniversaries.

I live in a world where Feminist Frequency delivers sharp, accessible critical analysis about representations of women to countless online viewers. I live in a world where Feminist Ryan Gosling launched a thousand blogs in its likeness. I live in a ridiculously exciting world where Rookie produces content by girls and women of all different backgrounds for girls and women of all different backgrounds.

And yet I also live in a world where “Modern Family”’s Gloria is told by her son that she can’t help her fiery outbursts—she’s Latin, it’s in her blood. While Gloria’s outfits struggle to contain her buxom figure, I shake my head as I add her to my running mental list of Latina women failed by media representation, almost tauntingly as if waiting to see when anyone will notice the stereotypes they keep perpetuating. Eva Mendes, Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayek, and Cameron Diaz are almost always represented as Latina bombshells. If Latinas aren’t represented as sex kittens, their ethnicity is often hidden or erased on screen. Although Rosario Dawson has been luckier, Gina Torres has yet to play a Latina on screen despite being of multiracial Cuban descent. This is nothing new as Dolores Del Rio, Lupe Velez, Carmen Miranda, Rita Hayworth, and Raquel Welch are all examples of Latina bombshell typecasting, with Hayworth and Welch at the extreme end of the typecasting spectrum by virtue of having been packaged and represented as non-Latinas for public consumption. (As of 2002, Welch has publicly claimed her Latina identity because of her performance as Aunt Dora in PBS’s “American Family”.)

Will Latina women ever find themselves not being represented as fiery-tempered and cartoonishly-curved, with voluminous hair, as they mew and preen for viewers? While this question isn’t new and there are certainly academic conversations devoted to the topic, I wonder if education and publication is enough to win the long-term battle to transform and open up representations of Latina bodies to include a wide variety of gender expressions and performances in the media?

What other models can be followed to work towards transformation? Is the future online? In self-produced and crowd-funded video analyses, like Feminist Frequency? In pop cultural packaging for quick, immediate uptake, like Feminist Ryan Gosling? In community-specific and community-sourced exchanges, like Rookie? Or is the future beyond what we can come up with today?

NOTE: Danielle Henderson has said that she started Feminist Ryan Gosling as joke flashcards to help in studying the work of the cultural theorists she was learning at the time of her master’s degree. However, I think there’s a lot for academics and academia to learn from the way that the project culturally resonated, almost overnight.

Xuxa Rodriguez is a first year PhD student in Art History at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Her doctoral work focuses on the work of Afro-Cubana and Cubana artists Coco Fusco, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, and Ana Mendieta. She also works on gender performance and representations of women of color in media and fashion. More info on her work and interests can be found at https://xuxarodriguez.com.

DOCC 2013 Courses Wrapping Up

Maria-Belen Ordonez at the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD U) notes that her DOCC 2013 class just ended this week (end of November.) She reports that the “nodal course students were fantastic.” In only a few more weeks, the rest of the DOCC 2013 nodal courses will be wrapping up, with final projects moving online, conference papers and course reflections being written up, and a few courses developing for Spring 2014. The remaining Video Dialogues will be released in the next two weeks: Archive with Lynn Hershman Leeson and B. Ruby Rich, and Transformations, an homage to Beatriz da Costa.


Students in OCAD U DOCC 2013

Evolution of the MOOCs?

By Alexandra Juhasz, Pitzer College

I am recently returned from the 9th Annual Policy Summit, Rise of the MOOCs: Foreshadowing the Coming Transformation of Higher Education? held by the Mid-West Higher Education Compact. While I have become a frequent public speaker, most recently asked to explain my several innovative projects within technology and education (like FemTechNet), I have never had the opportunity to speak and listen to this particular, and highly engaged, audience.

I was pleased, albeit a bit intimidated, to be speaking in Omaha, Nebraska, on behalf of FemTechNet and our DOCC2013, a collaborative feminist rethinking of the MOOC, in this decidedly red-state environment, and to a large number of powerful people who are seriously considering the many ramifications of Open, Free, and otherwise digital education initiatives in relation to policy and Higher Education. Yes, people in this audience in a great many ways have more power than do I over what will happen to MOOCs evolution, rise, or decline in that they are in control of purse strings, policy, and large institutions.

Difference between A DOCC and a MOOC

Graphic contrasting MOOCs and DOCCs

I was placed on an elegantly-curated panel of fellow professors (Bryan Alexander, from NITLE, Ronald Rogers, San Jose State, who has authored two really interesting MOOCs, and Ray Schroeder, a specialist on online learning) who are each thinking critically, seriously, and actively about the huge ramifications of these many technological changes.

While I learned a great deal at the Summit, let me briefly point to a few of the most important things that I heard several times over, which all point to why I titled this post, “Evolution of the MOOCs”: they are being challenged from many angles; they are being changed and modified by many of us; and, whether our concern is cost, access, ownership, content, structure, or completion rates, people want MOOCs to develop past this first consolidation. It is my sense from this and some other recent conversations, that a great many of us who are wanting to use technology to improve Higher Education share concerns about:
• the current MOOC-osphere, where for-profit or other highly-funded models are dominating the landscape
• and leading to top-down, static, one-way delivery flows that are surprisingly ill-suited for their web 2.0 home
• teachers not driving teaching and learning and teachers not retaining control of their intellectual property (even if this is to let it be free through a Creative Commons license)
• learning systems that subscribe to the limiting terms behind the MOOC. What would digital class delivery look like that was Local, Closed, Hybrid, and/or Modular (this is from Stacey Clawson from the Gates Foundation).
• The quick loss of the cMOOC (which was Open) for our current xMOOC (“broadcast, amplified, online learning”; this is from Bill Meinke from Creative Commons)
• that like anything else on the Internet, expanding access to courses or free education is only a first step; students and professors need support structures not just (free) platforms (Mark Johnson, Educational Policy Studies, U WI)
• that professors will always be needed to create (new) content (knowledge); why are we handing delivery (profit and ownership) over to someone else?
• that MOOCs not be only huge, expensive, and fancy things but rather, that little pieces of MOOCs, as modules, might allow for all kinds of usability within any particular (for-credit) class; that pieces of (free) MOOCs can also be well-used to flip traditional classrooms

Wikistorming in Progress

By Adrianne Wadewitz

For the past two months, students in DOCC’s Wikistorming projects have been contributing information on women and feminism to Wikipedia, bringing their voices to the larger cultural conversation about what it means to write about underrepresented topics.

  • At The New School, students have added content to a variety of articles about women and topics which had previously undeveloped articles. For example, one student is researching the Soviet filmmaker Esfir Shub. As the student writes, she “was an incredibly influential pioneering documentary filmmaker and editor in post-revolutionary Soviet Russia…Her best known film, Fall of the Romanov Dynasty, was the first Soviet documentary to employ sound. I am thrilled to a part of this course as delves into the depths of my interests. It has been an interesting experience thus far.” Another student is expanding the article on Brenda Laurel, who is, as the student explains, “known for her involvement and enthusiasm for female gaming and was the vice-president and founder of Purple Moon, a gaming company that was dedicated to creating games for young girls.”

University of Illinois Students editing Wikipedia, October 2013

  • At the University Illinois, students have made plans to improve a wide variety of articles related to women, from comedian Tig Notaro to vegetarian food writer Deborah Madison to Betty Crocker. All of these articles are in serious need of improvement and the students’ work will dramatically improve their visibility and completeness.
  • At the Claremont Colleges, students have organized a Wikipedia edit-a-thon to be held Friday December 6th in conjunction with students from Cal State Fullerton and Cal State San Luis Obispo, where they will share their expertise and editing knowledge, followed by a collegial dinner. While FemTechNet aims to show the possibilities of distributed efforts of online communities through its DOCC, it does not neglect the importance of the physical presence and rejoices in the connections that can be made in these physical spaces.

While a great deal of work was completed, there is more to do. See our lists of open tasks at WikiProject Feminism to help out!

Livestreaming Place, as well as Agency, Bodies and Care

By Alexandra Juhasz, Pitzer College

As part of the larger DOCC 2013 effort, I hosted a dialogue between Professors Radhika Gajjala and Sharon Irish—two devoted members of FemTechNet—about their feminist thinking on technology and place. We livestreamed the event from my “Dialogues on Feminism and Technology” classroom at Pitzer College on November 14, 2013. A video of that live event is now available on the FemTechNet Commons.

I hope you will watch this inspiring, interesting, and invaluable conversation between two amazing feminist thinkers (as well as their lively interactions with my amazing students). Here, I hope to provide a more personal frame for your viewing, a few ideas that were raised for me in the doing of this event, in its liveness, and lived-ness; things you can’t know, unless you were there, or I write them here for you online.


Our digital engagements take us to places and people we might never meet in person in material space and this is grand (most of the participants in the DOCC 2013, for instance). But when we do have the opportunities of funds, time, and bodily energy to meet face-to-face, new, complementary, and deeply sustaining opportunities of the flesh arise! It is well worth the effort.

My students have loved “meeting” all the professors and artists we have read this semester on video, through the video dialogues. They discuss how this transforms the authors of the complex and empowering texts we read into people. My students say that they come to understand, by seeing diverse feminists’ interactions online, that real people write what students learn from, and they further realize, as real people themselves, they too are authorized to author.


Video Dialogue on Place gets underway at Pitzer College, Claremont, CA

And then again, to meet the thinkers in person brings ever more delights and possibilities. A different kind of sense of these scholars’ complex selves passes in a look, a smile, a nod, or even a touch. Given that the personal or affective or bodily is so deeply connected to feminist politics, theory, and practice, it is no wonder that engaging with otherwise distant “experts” has particular resonances that are of use to feminist students. Don’t get me wrong, I am aware of the possibilities for intimacy and enlightenment in purely digital encounters! I only want to add to that the particular affordances of the embodied.


Several DOCC 2013 students in conversation with Liz Losh (L), Radhika Gajjala (second from left), and President Maria Klawe (back to viewer), of Harvey Mudd College

When the official Dialogue concluded, my students ended up sitting in a circle quite close to our guests (something we had never done in class before). We seemed to want to signal that we were close, collaborative, and engaged together in something we all cared about. We signaled with our bodies because we could.

This is part of the DOCC challenge to the MOOC. The places we live in and learn in, the places where we come together as situated communities are different, with their own cultures of engagement and interaction and their own styles of and needs for learning.

This placed difference is as vital to our learning possibilities and needs as are the ways that technology expands this reach, opening us up to new places, as particular as our own. (interestingly these same students also LOVED their class with Professor Sharon Collingwood, who generously taught my students last week on Second Life: they sat in a circle there, too.)
And that brings me to care, with which Radhika also ends the Place video dialogue. She expresses how hard care is to commodify, or off-shore (try as neoliberalism will to do so). The felt care that these travellers shared with myself and my students is part of our larger DOCC 2013 effort where we model together the many ways of feminist knowing and teaching, that always attempt to acknowledge the needs of humans in their many places, online and off.


Jade Ulrich, Scripps FemTechNet student, and Liz Losh, UCSD FemTechNet Prof who drove to Claremont for the event

Why Spanish women don’t write…

by Sue Burke, writer and certified translator living in Madrid, Spain

Why do women in Spain write very little speculative fiction (SF)? This umbrella term refers to science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, and horror, since they share overlapping authors and readers. It’s the genre I love and write in, and when I began to search for locally written SF when I moved to Spain thirteen years ago, I found lots of excellent work, but hardly any of it by women.

In the English-speaking world, things are different. Statistics from Broad Universe show that one-third of the SF authors are women and one-third of the published works are by female authors, although the data also reveal continuing problems and raise the question of why fewer women than men write SF in English. This is why Broad Universe, dedicated to promoting women writers in SF, is a busy organization.

(Mainstream writing suffers from similar problems, according to statistics in The Count by VIDA, which explores critical and cultural perceptions of writing by women.)


Equivalent statistics for SF in Spain haven’t been collected, but I have a piece of raw data at hand that in my experience is fairly representative. Among this year’s candidates for the Ignotus Awards, the top award for SF in Spain and equivalent to the Hugos, there are no women among the five nominations for novels, three out of five for novella, and only two out of seven for short story. Compared to the pool from which the nominees were drawn, women writers may actually be over-represented as candidates. Yet despite encouragement and recognition, Spanish women write hardly any SF.

The reason why takes us into a broader examination of Spanish culture. Laura Freixas, author of the book Literatura y mujeres (Literature and Women) and president of an organization for gender equality in culture, has provided some statistics about women in the arts:

On any given week, female authors account for 10% of the best-selling fiction by Spanish writers. Only 7% of films are directed by women. Only 5% of art exhibitions are of female artists. Only 24% of executives in the communications industry are women, though they are 46% of the professionals. In theater, among the candidates for the prestigious Max Prizes in 2008, 25% of the directors and 19% of the authors were women. Between 1977 and 1987, only 3% of the winners of the annual National Prize in the categories of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry were women; between 1998 and 2007, that number increased to a whopping 13%. In the leading magazine about literature and ideas, Letras Libres, only 8% of the correspondents are women.

“The absence of women among the creators of culture,” she concludes, “produce contents that legitimize and normalize the absence of women, and vice versa.”

Women may be absent in Spanish culture, but SF is an import, and it has its own rules even within Spain. Although the genre started in the United States, like another US invention, rock music, it grew across borders. And as it grew, SF developed certain trappings. These include a close connection to its fan base and rituals like annual conventions. This year, 6,060 people attended the 71st World Science Fiction Convention in San Antonio, Texas; next year, fans will gather in London. Spain celebrates a national annual convention similar to any other SF convention worldwide but unlike anything else in Spanish literature.

The worldwide SF community has always been connected by regular face-to-face meetings and by the best technology of its day. Decades ago, the letters columns of fanzines contained lively debates; now those debates have moved to the Internet. The worldwide web keeps the community connected with such sites as Europa SF, Science Fiction and Fantasy Translation Awards, countless others, through both personal blogs and organizational web pages. Fan and writers anywhere in the world can easily learn about authors like Isaac Asimov, Ursula K. Le Guin, Ken Liu, or Aliette de Bodard. And they can observe the continuing, noisy debate about gender equality in SF: for example this entry in Justine Larbalestier‘s blog. These debates become fodder for discussion in many languages.

What does that mean for the world’s female SF writers? Equality is the stated norm with an open, active, even acrimonious effort to achieve real equality. Another norm is the encouragement of new authors, so anyone who wants to write can get useful advice from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. A good place for a thematic analysis is Ada, a journal of gender, new media, and technology; the genre has a deep past and present, and writers who understand it will write better.

But for female writers in Spain, the big hurdle to taking up the pen is located outside SF but within national borders. That seems harder to overcome, and the loss extends beyond the SF world.
For other writing by Sue Burke, visit: https://www.sue.burke.name

FemTechNet classes meet in Second Life

By Jade Ulrich

This week Professor Alex Juhasz’s Feminist Dialogues on Technology class at Pitzer College and Professor Sharon Collingwood’s Gender, Sex and Power class at Ohio State University (OSU) attended class with OSU students, digitally…in Second Life (SL). Professor Collingwood teaches class every week in Second Life, but SL was new for the majority of students in Professor Juhasz’s class.

To prepare for this class, the students went through an independent orientation using Virtual Ability Island, an island on SL that is designed by people with disabilities for people with disabilities. There they familiarized themselves with SL, getting acquainted with how to navigate and interact with the space. They were asked to answer questions such as, A virtual exhibit has many ways of communicating its message. For example, it could put up big signs to tell you why you are there. That’s a pretty obvious way to do it, but there are also subtle ways of having an effect on the viewer. It could be something that you see out of the corner of your eye, it could be something that moves, it could even be something that you trip over. Has the creator included anything like this in the exhibit? What effect did it have on you? Following this orientation, Pitzer students began preparing for Professor Collingwood’s class by doing her assigned reading.

This week’s topic was Reproductive Justice. We read articles that included “Do Pregnant Women Have the Right to Refuse Surgery?” and “The Only Good Abortion Is My Abortion”. We also took a quiz offered by the Guttmacher Institute that tested our knowledge of sexual and reproductive health. When all of this work was done, the plan was that we would be able to participate in OSU’s digital class, along with the rest of Professor Collingwood’s students.

Sure enough, there were Pitzer students and OSU students, all sitting around a presenter screen with Professor Collingwood’s avatar front and center. On this research and teaching center within SL, known as Minerva Island, we were given the lesson plan for the class and eagerly awaited the field trip that we had been told we would be going on (to a women’s clinic in SL).

Professor Collingwood led a quick voice check, and eventually, most students got their microphones in order and were able to participate both visually and aurally. She began with a short lecture about the confrontation of women’s biology with traditional social structures. Then one of her students gave a fascinating presentation on cesarean births. This jumpstarted the Pitzer students’ involvement, and soon students from both classes were interacting with each other about the subject matter.

An hour flew by, and before we realized it, we were teleporting to the Slenz Midwifery Project, a birthing center that is inspired by the real life natural birth centers that are currently being built by the New Zealand government. Our students were in awe of the clinic and how much they learned about Reproductive Justice through this digital medium. I have already received enthusiastic responses from Pitzer students about their time within SL.           FemTechNet seeks to bring students together, in dialogue, both physically and digitally, and this specific joining of two very different classroom setups speaks a great deal to the work that FemTechNet is doing to make its mission a reality, virtual and otherwise.

Feminist Pedagogy Initiatives

by T.L. Cowan, The New School

When groups of DOCC 2013 faculty met in July 2013, we realized that we were convening not only around a project, but also, importantly, around a process. As we came to decide how the course would be structured and how we would use online capacities (and work around online limitations) to do collaborative teaching across institutions, we wanted to figure out ways for our students to have access to a number of DOCC 2013 faculty, since one of the core principles behind the DOCC is that it matters not just what you are learning, but who you are learning with. So we devised this idea to hold online Open Office Hours that would be open to all DOCC 2013 students. These office hours can be found in the yellow highlights in our calendar https://femtechnet.newschool.edu/teaching-learning-resources/the-calendar/. During these office hours, students can contact faculty from many institutions and disciplinary backgrounds and have the opportunity be in an online discussion with students from diverse learning locations.


Another crucial aspect to the DOCC 2013 is that this is a world-making project not only for students, but also for faculty. DOCC faculty have collaborated on all aspects of the course: sharing syllabi, skills, funding and other resources, co-producing Video Dialogues, generating closed-captioning for the Videos Dialogues, and building the (always in development) online space that is the FemTechNet Commons. Through this course-building process we realized that most of us crave the opportunity to learn about teaching from other teachers, to have a chance to talk about our classes, assignments, grading habits and innovations, and to cultivate and share our pedagogical philosophies and practices. So we developed Open Teaching Hours for faculty (in green on the calendar), as times for us to converse about what we’re thinking and doing when we’re teaching. In addition to these Open Teaching Hours, we have also scheduled Focused Pedagogy Sessions for faculty to share their expertise on special topics related to DOCC 2013 specifically, and on feminist pedagogy more broadly.

These Focused Pedagogy Sessions (also in green in the calendar) include discussions on the following topics:


Making Keyword Videos – by Alex Juhasz – Pitzer College – This session is passed, but you can read about the key assignment: https://femtechnet.newschool.edu/key-word-videos/.  You can also learn how to make a Keyword Video here: https://femtechnet.newschool.edu/docs/videoinstructions/ thanks to the prowess of AJ Strout.

And you can check out Keyword Videos up & running here: https://vimeo.com/channels/femtechnetkeywords Stay tuned for new videos throughout the term.


Object-Making/Gift Exchange – cross-institution collaborative project– Alex Juhasz, Pitzer College and Radhika Gajjala, Bowling Green State University –


You can watch a video of the discussion here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OaarwUPyOMA

Mark your calendars for upcoming Focused Pedagogy Sessions!


Effective Blogging – Liz Losh, University of California, San Diego – Wednesday, Nov. 13 12pm PST


Feminist Mapping – Karen Keifer-Boyd, Penn State University –  Friday, Nov 15 – 3pm EST https://femtechnet.newschool.edu/feminist-mapping/

Feminist Online Pedagogy – T.L. Cowan, The New School – Friday, Nov 22 – 12pm EST


Grading Non-Traditional Assignments – Laura Wexler, Yale – Monday, Dec. 2 – 1pm EST

Building Activities Across (International) Contexts = Radhika Gajjala, Bowling Green State University – Wednesday, Dec. 4 – 4pm EST

Digital Storytelling – Karen Alexander – Rutgers University – Thursday, Dec. 12 – 2pm EST

In addition to this work, DOCC Faculty have been doing amazing things: from collaborating on accessibility and ensuring that all of our Video Dialogues are available with closed captioning/subtitles (go here to find them: https://ats-streaming.cites.illinois.edu/digitalmedia/download/femtechnet/embeds.html), to holding a course for self-directed learners, run by Penelope Boyer – https://femtechnet.newschool.edu/selfdirectedlearners/ and here https://plus.google.com/u/1/communities/102819821160046892301?cfem=1

You can also check out Sharon Collingwood’s DOCC 2013 hosted on Second Life https://elliebrewster.com/2013/09/02/update-on-the-sl-discussion-group-on-feminism-and-technology/

These activities reflect the ways that DOCC 2013 faculty appreciate feminist pedagogy as an ongoing collaboration—across disciplines, institutions, stages of career and employment status. We learn from each other’s successes and failures; we build on each other’s knowledges and borrow from and add to each other’s teaching work, design, and principles. No one holds the trademark on feminist pedagogy—it is collective intellectual property.

For more on the feminist pedagogy informing this work, see the FemTechNet White Paper here: https://femtechnet.newschool.edu/femtechnet-whitepaper/