Technical.ly Baltimore

Creative

Oct. 15, 2013 11:00 am

Baltimore Hackerspace in East Baltimore draws crowds every week

A female maker at one of Baltimore Hackerspace's Open Hack nights. Photo courtesy of Baltimore Hackerspace.

What started as a miniature makerspace in a Harford County garage eventually grew to be a major makerspace in East Baltimore, where “between 25 and 30 men drop in weekly or daily to work on their creations,” according to the Baltimore Sun in its story about the Baltimore Hackerspace.

There is, however, one quirk to the place: there are no female members.

“There used to be,” says longtime member Miles Pekala. But because the old location didn’t have a bathroom (the guys just went out back), the women stopped coming. “I don’t know why they won’t come out,” he said. “We have a bathroom now.”

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  • Miriam Boer

    I’m a lady, and I visited one of Bmore’s so-called “hackerspaces” and chatted with a few of the members. The amount of genuine surprise that not only registered on the faces of majority of individuals present but was also vocally expressed when I mentioned I had firsthand experience in several highly technical fields told me everything I needed to know about their attitudes regarding technically/scientifically/engineering-ly adept ladies.

    Their surprise was especially ludicrous given the confidence with which one member was incorrectly explaining the sine function to another. Also, diplomatically speaking, I’m not a fan of google glass. I have exactly zero desire to be the token lady in a questionable space where at least one member has such a flippant attitude towards personal privacy.

    My feelings can be summed up thusly: Thanks, gentlemen, but I’ve spent way too long justifying my abilities as a lady scientist to further my career, and frankly, I’m too fucking tired to do that in my free time when all I want is access to some basic woodworking tools.

    I’m willing to bet that none of those gentlemen consider themselves to be misogynists, and perhaps others in other hackerspaces wouldn’t be so quick to assume that I’m technically inept, but it’s pretty clear that they’re unaware of what constitutes passive misogyny and how offensive and off-putting it is.

    • Brian Sierakowski

      But they have bathrooms now.

      • Miriam Boer

        …And if history has taught us anything, gender equality clearly means not having to widdle out back in an alley.

    • Zachary

      I’m sorry if you were offended Miriam. I have no doubt this attitude exists, but is it posible their reactions were misinterpreted? For every 30 people who visit or attend classes at our particular space (not in baltimore), the majority are just starting out on their maker journeys (And that’s great! We want to help and see what others can come up with). This is why when someone who is knowledgeable comes through you get those excited looks and vocal reactions… man or woman.

      And if you meant you received more sarcastic responses, it may just as well have been because you were new and they didn’t know you. Many like to bolster their egos by claiming they know something… like the sine function… and after hearing that enough times from new members, people become wary.

      • Miriam Boer

        I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and offer up exactly one sentence of self-justification: I was with a male friend whose technical expertise did not elicit anything even close to the same response.

        This illustrates my point. In other words, it’s the difference between walking into a room where no one knows anything about you and being accepted as knowledgable/adept – the response my male friend got – versus the assumption that you’re inept and need to prove/justify yourself – made clear by the response I got. The Baltimore Sun article and this blurb state that the Baltimore makerspaces have a self-identified gender issue. Based upon your voice, you appear to be affiliated with one of them. You can either accept my feedback as accurate and consider ways to deal with what I described (beyond modern plumbing), or you can brush it off as nonsense and continue on with business as usual.

        I’m not an educator, but this article is extremely accurate and may help you recognize and understand what I’m talking about: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/magazine/why-are-there-still-so-few-women-in-science.html

        Best of luck!

        • Zachary

          Oh, that’s a good way to compare it… yeah! Sounds like that group has a problem.

  • Baltimore Hackerspace

    The quotes posted here about Baltimore Hackerspace from the previous article were taken out of context and merged together. The quote was supposed to be in a joking manor and I apologize its rude appearance. In its infancy the hackerspace was run out of a members garage, and yes there was no bathroom. While I will admit that the attendance of women Baltimore Hackerspace is at a minority, it is not non-existent as quoted in the article.

    @miriamboer:disqus — I’m not sure which hackerspace you attended as there are 3 in the area, but if it was Baltimore Hackerspace, I am deeply sorry for your unpleasant visit. If it wasn’t, I’m still deeply sorry for your unpleasant visit. I don’t know any more about the particular situation, thus cannot comment any further.

    I guess the bottom line that came out of this article is the realization that women are at an overall minority in STEM fields, and after reading that nytimes article it really opens your eyes.