women are often hindered by social expectations requiring traditional female social roles from them. These social expectations can be imposed from within and without. Geek women may find their assigned role intrinsically unpleasant, or find that fulfilling it is so time-consuming that they don't have a chance to pursue their core geek interests.
Not only are these social expectations not necessarily a good fit for all women, they are paradoxically assigned low importance and value compared to, for example, coding in Open Source communities. They lead to pigeonholing of women. Geek feminism seeks to both increase the value of these roles, and to free them from assumptions that they will be performed exclusively by women, or that any individual women is going to perform them.
Role in communities
Geek women may be expected or required to perform the following social roles in communities they're part of:
- dispute resolution
- emotional support
- provision of relationship advice
- enforcement of mainstream social norms
The expectation to enforce mainstream social norms may arise from inside or outside the geek community, and lead to women being accused of political correctness whenever they make any complaint or perceived complaint about anti-feminist behaviour. At the same time, they may not be accepted fully if they take up male coded roles, or may be accepted only as long as they are careful to play along at all times. Excluding women or rejecting feminist viewpoints might be seen as a marker of the rebellion against mainstream norms geek culture seeks.
Geek communities are far from immune from group or individual assumptions that are openly misogynist:
- a woman's anger is due to her menstrual cycle and can be safely ignored or openly mocked as such
Role in heterosexual geek relationships
Geek women in relationships with geek men are often viewed as an assistant to their male partner in some fashion. For example, they are often expected to act as an intermediary for correspondence with a tardy geek partner, and to act as supplicants to him on behalf of people needing a favour.
Male geeks may also expect that a female partner will take care of non-geeky social expectations on behalf of both of them, for example, maintaining intimacy with friends and with his extended family, responding to invitations, doing household chores, watching his health and doing the vast bulk of caring for any children they have. She may be expected to sacrifice career opportunities to let him pursue his career.
- Telsa Gwynne has a section of her webpage devoted to explaining that she will not ferry correspondence to and from her husband: "Q. So, how's Alan? Can you ask him or tell him...? A: No. No, I can't. I hate to sound petty about this but I am not his relay service. If you want to get something to Alan, send it to him." Occasionally Asked Questions
- Dorothea Salo announced in 2009 that she would not forward email to her husband any more: "I have a gmail address... It’s mine. My address. It’s not my husband’s, okay?... Stop sending me requests addressed to him for translations of things into Sindarin..." For the record
- Feminist blogger Melissa McEwan took a short break in June 2009 and her blog co-authors explained that the blog community was relying on Melissa to preserve a progressive safe space for them as if her work was their right: "All In" Means ALL of Us