"Fix it or Feature It" – Mary Robinette Kowal talks puppets, fantasy and safer spaces

Mary Robinette Kowal © 2012 Rod Searcey

Mary Robinette Kowal is a Hugo award-winning science fiction and fantasy author with a history of fighting harassment in the science fiction and fantasy (SF&F) community. Mary is donating 10 signed hardcovers of the most recent novel in her Glamourist Histories series to the Ada Initiative, "Valour and Vanity" – as well a signed manuscript of the upcoming fifth novel in the series, "Of Noble Family", scheduled to be published April 2015, along with signed hardcovers of the entire series. Signed copies of "Valour and Vanity" are thank-you gifts for donations of $256, and the signed manuscript and series for donations of $1024. It will be hard, but we promise not to read the manuscript before sending it to you!

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"I come from a theater background and there is a mantra, 'Fix it or Feature It,'" Mary Robinette Kowal says, speaking about her day job as a professional puppeteer. The idea is that if something goes wrong during a performance and you can't fix it, find a way to turn it into a positive for the performance. This concept has proved important in her role as a writer and public figure as well. Kowal remembers well a classic online forum incident that was a turning point for her.

Smiling woman sitting cross-legged holding a wooden puppet

2010 Annaliese Moyer

"A guy in an online fantasy writing forum [...] said a bunch of insulting things about me, including that I couldn't possibly be a feminist," she remembers. Initially, Kowal decided to ignore him, since he was speaking to an audience of no more than forty people. Then someone posted links to the discussion on Tumblr and the "audience" grew much bigger. Kowal decided that it was time to "feature it." She wrote about the experience on her blog, he ended up apologizing to her, and many people learned a lot more about the harassment women experience in SF&F.

"In these cases, there is a larger narrative that you are part of [...] When things go wrong online one of the things I am looking at is: 'How can I use this to make the world a better place?' I used myself as an example to talk about the larger issues of harassment and misogyny, and tried to bring attention to them."

Kowal brings her sense of justice and truth-speaking to her writing as whole – one of the many reasons we love it so much! Her Glamourist Histories delves into the complexities of gender, race and class, and her heroines don’t shy away from the difficult. As a sought-after speaker and panelist, she is a big supporter of the Ada Initiative's work on anti-harassment policies. She is also grateful for the many resources regarding harassment on the site, and the light that this work brings to the issue.

Valour and Vanity  bookcover

Donate $256 or more for a signed hardcover

"It is so important to talk about it," she says, "and to have clear resources and guidelines. All of the conversations that the Ada Initiative sponsors and encourages are so important to shape what the world will be like for the next generation."

Kowal follows her own advice and uses an anti-harassment policy in both of her writing workshops, "Writing the Other" and "Writing Excuses." She feels that it is particularly important in the more personal environment of a workshop.

"It is the kind of environment where people say 'Oh, you don't need one.' We give a speech up front about the harassment policy and make sure the students know that it is taken seriously. A number of students have blogged and mentioned that it makes them feel safer."

We are so grateful to Mary for her support, her writing, her activism and her courage. And that's just the beginning of the list!

Donate now, and you may be the lucky recipient of a signed copy "Valour and Vanity," as well as our new feminist sticker, "Not afraid to say the F-word: Feminism!" Don’t wait – these 10 copies will be gone in flash!

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Black and white sticker with text reading "Not afraid to say the F-WORD adainitiative.org"

Our latest feminist sticker, yours for a donation of $128 or more!

Conference anti-harassment work in SF&F, 2014 edition: N. K. Jemisin's speech, Hugo battles, Frenkel saga & more

[Trigger warning for sexual harassment and assault]

Smiling woman

N. K. Jemisin, award-winning author and leader in the SF&F anti-harassment movement

It has been an eventful year for the SF&F community, to say the least! In the Ada Initiative's 2013 history of anti-harassment campaigns we wrote: "Sometimes fighting harassment and assault at conferences feels like a losing battle. For every step forward, it seems like there's another step back."

2014 was no exception to that rule: a powerful editor and long-time serial harasser returned to the conference most people thought he was banned from, award-winning author N. K. Jemisin gave another game-changing Guest of Honor speech, and the Hugo awards became a battleground for the future of SF&F, to name just a few events.

Keep reading for our updated history of conference anti-harassment work in the SF&F community, adding the events from August 2013 to August 2014. Part of anti-harassment work is giving credit where credit is due, so we hope you take a minute to read through and honor the many different voices that have worked hard to make SF&F more welcoming, sometimes without recognition or fanfare for years. This entire post is licensed CC BY-SA the Ada Initiative – please feel free to reuse and remix according to the terms of the license!

Remember: Conference anti-harassment campaigns do work – they "just" take several years of dedicated effort to succeed.

Table of contents

  1. About the authors
  2. Summary of the SF&F anti-harassment campaign
  3. Detailed timeline (skip to the updates)
  4. What's changed in 2014
  5. How you can help
  6. Sources and resources

About the authors

Mary and Valerie laughing

Mary and Valerie
(CC BY-SA Adam Novak)

As a non-profit supporting women in open technology and culture, the Ada Initiative cares deeply about ending harassment in geek communities. Our co-founders, Mary Gardiner and Valerie Aurora, co-authored the most widely used example anti-harassment policy, hosted on the Geek Feminism Wiki. The Ada Initiative's first project was advocating full-time for the adoption of policies in the open source community, often working directly with conference organizers and community leaders as advisors and coaches.

If you find our work inspiring, we hope you will join SF&F authors and fans in supporting the Ada Initiative's anti-harassment work. We can only do this work with the support of people like you!

Donate now

History of the science fiction and fantasy campaign

The big picture: In 2010, Sexual harassment, stalking, and groping were common. Serial sexual harassers operated with impunity. The feminist science fiction convention, WisCon, was one of the only SF&F cons with an anti-harassment policy.

In 2014, over 1000 people have pledged to attend only SF&F cons with anti-harassment policies, many cons have policies, and several serial harassers have been publicly identified, banned from conferences, and/or fired from their SF&F jobs. However, some people charged with the protection of attendees have not educated themselves about existing anti-harassment work, and voices for diversity and justice in SF&F are subject to terrible attacks. In terms of our terminology for stages of anti-harassment campaigns, SF&F is somewhere around Stage 5–6: Most conferences have strong, enforced anti-harassment policies and powerful harassers are being publicly named, with attendant backlash.

Detailed timeline:

Smiling woman wearing glasses

Connie Willis CC BY-SA Ellen Levy Finch

August 2006: At the WorldCon science fiction and fantasy convention, Harlan Ellison gropes Connie Willis' breast on stage during the Hugo awards ceremony (both are Hugo-award winning authors), kicking off extensive online discussion about sexual harassment in the SF&F community.

April 2008: At Penguicon, a hybrid science fiction and Linux convention, attendees create The Open Source Boob Project, in which some attendees wore buttons to signal whether they are open to requests to touch them sexually. The creator later had a change of heart and publicly stated that he thought the project did more harm than good by causing women to feel unsafe.

Vito Excalibur suggests the idea that becomes the Open Source Back Each Other Up Project, focusing on anime and comic conventions. This is a pledge by individuals to intervene if they see harassment occurring.

Geek Feminism LogoMay 2008: The Geek Feminism Wiki is founded by Alex "Skud" Bayley (formerly Kirrily Robert), becoming a go-to resource for feminists in a variety of geeky areas, including science fiction, computing, fandom, anime, computer gaming, cosplay, and more. Mary Gardiner becomes a major contributor to the Geek Feminism Wiki.

July 2008: Genevieve Valentine reports on harassment of several women at ReaderCon. The offender was quickly ejected from the conference.

August 2008: Girl-Wonder.org launches the Con Anti-harassment Project, focusing on comic, anime, and fandom conventions. Girl-Wonder.org members include Karen Healey and Hannah Dame, who were listed on the press release for the CAHP launch. Several conventions adopt a policy shortly thereafter.

January 2009: Racefail, an SF&F-wide discussion of race in SF&F works and criticism, and of fans of color and their experiences in fandom, begins. Several hundred posts (as listed by Seeking Avalon and rydra-wong) are contributed by many writers.

May 2009: WisCon, the feminist science fiction convention, adopts a clear and specific anti-harassment policy after having a more generic one for many years earlier, in response to an incident of harassing photography.

The Geek Feminism Wiki page "Timeline of Incidents" is started. This page records the sexist incidents in geek communities and currently goes back as far as 1973. The Timeline of Incidents, along with the rest of the Geek Feminism Wiki, eventually become vital resources in the fight for anti-harassment policies.

A woman with raised eyebrows wearing glasses

K. Tempest Bradford
(CC BY K. Tempest Bradford)

August 2009: The Geek Feminism Blog is founded by Alex "Skud" Bayley and many others, with frequent contributions from Mary Gardiner, Liz Henry, Terri Oda, K. Tempest Bradford, and many others. With a firm moderation policy, this blog becomes a safe space to discuss geeky and/or feminist topics, including fandom, technology, and activism.

The Backup Ribbon Project is created by thatwordgrrl. The idea is to wear a ribbon indicating that you are willing to help victims of harassment, either by intervening or by assisting them after the fact.

[ENORMOUS GAP HERE PLEASE HELP US FILL IT: Email contact@adainitiative.org or leave a comment.]

A black and white photo of Jim C. Hines, smiling with his arms crossed

Jim C. Hines

November 2010: Jim C. Hines creates a set of resources for reporting sexual harassment in SF&F, updated yearly. The 2013 version is here.

July 2012: Genevieve Valentine reports harassment at ReaderCon from René Walling, a well-known fan. ReaderCon bans him from the con for 2 years, in contravention to their stated policy of a lifetime ban. Hundreds of blog posts and petitions protesting this decision followed, as well as more reports of harassment by René Walling as well as other Readercon attendees, from Kate Kligman, Veronica Schanoes, and others.

August 2012: The ReaderCon board issues an apology, bans René Walling for life, and resigns en masse. Led by Rose Fox and Crystal Huff, the Readercon convention committee commits to many improvements on its anti-harassment policy and its enforcement.

Dragon*Con bans Backup Ribbons from the Backup Ribbon Project, citing concerns that harassers might wear them.

September 2012: Scott Henry writes an article for Atlanta Magazine documenting that Dragon*Con co-founder Ed Kramer has evaded trial for child molestation for years. Kramer continues to receive part of the Dragon*Con profits each year.

Smiling woman

Award-winning author N. K. Jemisin

November 2012: The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) issue a a statement defining their sexual harassment policy and specifying that it applies to all SFWA events.

June 2013: N. K. Jemisin gives her Guest of Honour speech at Continuum 9.

So I propose a solution — which I would like to appropriate, if you will allow, from Australia’s history and present. It is time for a Reconciliation within SFF.

It is time that we all recognized the real history of this genre, and acknowledged the breadth and diversity of its contributors. It’s time we acknowledged the debt we owe to those who got us here — all of them. It’s time we made note of what ground we’ve trodden upon, and the wrongs we’ve done to those who trod it first. And it’s time we took steps — some symbolic, some substantive — to try and correct those errors. I do not mean a simple removal of the barriers that currently exist within the genre and its fandom, though doing that’s certainly the first step. I mean we must now make an active, conscious effort to establish a literature of the imagination which truly belongs to everyone.

Within days, SF&F writer and community member Theodore Beale denounces Jemisin in deeply racist and sexist terms on his blog, which he then syndicated to the Science Fiction Writers of America Twitter account (@SFWAuthors). SFWA apologises and bans Beale from syndicating blog posts to their account. Jim C. Hines and Amal El-Mohtar, among others, call for his expulsion from the SFWA.

Smiling woman

Mary Robinette Kowal © 2012 Rod Searcey

June 2013: In what appeared to be a watershed moment, Science fiction editor James Frenkel leaves Tor shortly after being reported for sexual harassment at WisCon 2013 by Elise Matthesen. Elise announced what she had done, without naming the editor in question, in simultaneous posts on the blogs of Mary Robinette Kowal, Seanan McGuire, Chuck Wendig, Brandon Sanderson, John Scalzi, and Jim Hines. Shortly thereafter, Sigrid Ellis names Frenkel in a comment on John Scalzi's blog post. Mary Robinette Kowal names Frenkel and details all the reasons why someone might be afraid to name him in "Why I am I afraid to name the editor?" K. Tempest Bradford reminds everyone that "high level people at Tor have been aware of Frenkel's behavior for years." More revelations about sexual harassment in SF&F, both by Frenkel and others, follow.

July 2013: Science fiction author John Scalzi pledges not to attend conferences without strong, specific anti-harassment policies and asks others to co-sign. N. K. Jemisin makes an important clarification that harassment is not limited to sexual harassment. Over 1000 people co-sign the pledge.

Mary Robinette Kowal posts an open letter to the "Twelve rabid weasels of SFWA" in which she reveals that she "spent four years in office [at the SFWA] and the first year I almost quit because I got so tired of getting hate mail." The post included gems such as "I know, I know. Asking you not to be racist/sexist/elitist, or just for impulse control is tantamount to fascism and catering to the liberal mob. All the other members manage to do it. Why can’t you?" and "Please quit. And by 'quit' I mean, please quit SFWA in a huff. Please quit noisily and complaining about how SFWA is censoring you for asking you to stop using hate speech. Please quit and complain about the 'thoughtcrime' of asking people not to sexually harass someone."

A green card with a picture of N. K. Jemisin looking at a small green monster, with the text "N. K. Jemisin, PC Monster, Writes amazing, critically acclaimed, award-winning fiction despite being neither white nor male!!! Uses Guest of Honor platform to brainwash audience with her radical-socialist-fascist-PC message of treating all people as human beings. +5 cloak of Not Taking Any of Your Sh*t.

PC Monster card for N. K. Jemisin

The PC Monsters of SFWA Twitter list is created, to mock members of the SFWA, described as "screeching feminists." Instead, people use it as a "Who to follow" list (DL Thurston made a copy here), and at least some members of the list suddenly gain dozens of new followers. Jim C. Hines creates collectable playing cards to commemorate the honor. The list includes Laura Resnick (@LaResnick), William Alexander (@williealex), Jess Haines (@Jess_Haines), Myke Cole (@MykeCole), Michael Swirsky (@mbswirsky), Josh Vogt (@JRVogt), Jim C. Hines (@jimchines), Amal El-Mohtar (@tithenai), Saladin Ahmed (@saladinahmed), Sean Wallace (@oldcharliebrown), Alex D MacFarlane (@foxvertebrae), N. K. Jemisin (@nkjemisin), Steven Gould (@StevenGould), Jason Sanford (@jasonsanford), and John Scalzi (@scalzi).

Dragon*Con finally gets rid of child molester and cofounder Ed Kramer by buying out his share of Dragon*Con.

August 2013: Theodore Beale is expelled from the SFWA for using it to promote hate speech, including racism.

January 2014: Amal El-Mohtar argues strongly against on-going "hand-wringing" over self-promotion of an author's eligible works for awards because it harms marginalized people the most, especially women and people of color.

February 2014: Dave Truesdale circulates a petition calling for the end of "political correctness" in the SF&F community (by which he means a return to cover art of sexualized women and women conforming to 1950's era gender roles). Science fiction luminaries Gregory Benford, Robert Silverberg, Barry N. Malzberg, and Mike Resnick sign the original petition. A significantly rewritten petition calling mainly for a set of rules around editorial decisions at the SFWA is signed by many more award-winning authors, including David Brin, Jerry Pournelle, Nancy Kress, Gene Wolfe, Harlan Ellison, C. J. Cherryh, and Larry Niven. Natalie Luhrs posts a detailed critique of the original petition.

Sean Fodera criticizes author Mary Robinette Kowal for fighting sexism while simultaneously publishing photos of herself wearing a romantic dress. He later apologizes.

The "Women Destroy Science Fiction" Kickstarter to fund an all-women issue of LIGHTSPEED Magazine raises over $50,000 – more than 10 times the original goal. It is expanded to create all-women issues of fantasy and horror as well.

April 2014: Larry Correia and Theodore Beale recommend a "Sad Puppy" slate of works to voters in the 2014 Hugo awards, comprising largely politically conservative or "golden age"-style science fiction works. John Scalzi recommends assessing all the works on their own merits; his position is criticised by Shweta Narayan and Arachne Jericho among others for exposing marginalised Hugo voters to hurtful and dangerous sentiments.

May 2014: N. K. Jemisin gives her Guest of Honor speech at WisCon 38, directly addressing Beale's attacks on her, saying that:

… I was premature in calling for a reconciliation. Reconciliations are for after the violence has ended. In South Africa the Truth & Reconciliation Commission came after apartheid’s end; in Rwanda it started after the genocide stopped; in Australia reconciliation began after its indigenous people stopped being classified as “fauna” by its government. Reconciliation is a part of the healing process, but how can there be healing when the wounds are still being inflicted? How can we begin to talk about healing when all the perpetrators have to do is toss out dogwhistles and disclaimers of evil intent to pretend they’ve done no harm?

Despite last year's harassment complaints, WisCon allows Jim Frenkel both to attend and to volunteer in the consuite. After the end of the conference, WisCon pledges a response to complaints about Frenkel's presence.

A women wearing a face shield and holding jewelry wire and tools

Elise Matthesen making jewelry, by Sarah Ahiers

June 2014: Both Lauren Jankowski and Elise Matthesen announce publicly that WisCon has told them their 2013 harassment reports concerning Jim Frenkel had been lost by the con committee. Jankowski also reports that she had falsely been led to believe Matthesen had asked for Frenkel not to be banned.

Deirdre Saoirse Moen criticises a piece that Leah Schnelbach has written for Tor.com valorising Marion Zimmer Bradley (MZB) on the basis that MZB had been complicit in her husband Walter Breen's sexual abuse of children within the SF&F fandom community. In June and July, MZB's adult children Moira and Mark Greyland give survivor accounts of MZB's own abuse of them.

The full text of the zine The Great Breen Boondoggle, with explicit contemporary accounts of Breen's abuse of children in the early 1960s together with the Berkeley fandom community's discussion over whether to expel him, is made available on Wikia, causing fans to reflect on how many of the fallacies the Berkeley community fell into, particularly the fallacy that ostracism is evil — "We're all kooks. Walter is just a little kookier than the rest of us. Where will it all end if we start rejecting people because they're kooky?", "…if we do such a horrible thing as expelling him, I'll quit fandom." — are still widespread and causing harm in fandom fifty years later.

July 2014: WisCon's subcommittee reviewing Jim Frenkel's continued attendance at WisCon announces a four year ban for Frenkel with apparent "parole" for good behaviour. Their decision is roundly criticised and a personal post by the subcommittee chair and resulting discussion reveals several key failings, including interviewing Frenkel but not the complainants, and an attempt to apply a judicial model to him. Widespread negative commentary on the decision has been linked by Natalie Luhrs. Stephanie Zvan publishes a detailed on guide on how to decide when or if an accused harasser can return to "scene of the crime."

A woman in a long red dress standing on stage

Ann Leckie CC BY-SA Henry Harel

August 2014: In a joint decision, the convention committees of WisCon 37 and 38 revise the decision on Jim Frenkel's future attendance, and announce that he is permanently banned.

The Correia/Beale "Sad Puppy" slate performs poorly at the Hugo awards in London. Ann Leckie's debut novel Ancillary Justice, widely praised for its handling of gender, wins Best Novel, and receives a standing ovation.

What's changed in 2014

Unfortunately, 2014 revealed that some of the progress that appeared to have been made in 2013 was spotty at best, with WisCon, a self-identified feminist convention, unable to respond decisively to protect its community from well-documented harassment that had already cost the harasser his job. The subcommittee responsible for the Frenkel decision was unaware of existing best practices, including those arising Readercon debacle of 2012. Likewise, SF&F continued to grapple with its long history of privileging abusers' place in the community over everyone else's safety.

But anti-harassment bridges continue to be built, with activists and fans involved in safety committees and anti-harassment work reaching out to each other to share best practices. Authors like N. K. Jemisin, Sofia Samatar, and Benjanun Sriduangkaew who work outside the traditional fascination of SF&F and other literature and media with the experiences and ambitions of white Western men continue to find venues for their their work, though not as many as are justified by the quality of their work. The work that precedes reconciliation with the SF&F community continues.

How you can help

Two women smiling

Sarah Sharp and Sumana Harihareswara, CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

Whether you are the leading novelist in your field, or a lurker on a mailing list, you can take action to stop conference harassment. You can use your words, your influence, your money, and your participation to change the culture in your community.

  • Only attend cons with (enforced) anti-harassment policies
  • If a con doesn't have a policy, ask them if they plan to have one
  • Start a pledge to not attend cons without policies
  • Start new confs if existing ones won't adopt policies
  • If you sponsor events, only sponsor events with policies
  • Publicly support victims of harassment, especially if you are exceptionally influential
  • Publicly support anti-harassment campaigns, especially if you are exceptionally influential
  • Educate yourself on responding to harassment, especially if you are a con organizer
  • Learn more about bystander intervention
  • Buy books from the PC Monsters of Genre
  • Don't buy the works of people who harass or support harassment

You can also donate to support the Ada Initiative, which has been working full-time on ending harassment in open technology and culture communities since January 2011. Our 2014 fundraising campaign ends October 8th. Learn more about our progress so far and our plans for future work in 2014 and 2015.

Donate now

Sources and resources

List of geek conferences that have adopted anti-harassment policies
Resources for reporting sexual harassment in science fiction and fantasy
The Geek Feminism Wiki Timeline of sexist incidents in geek communities
Ada Initiative anti-harassment policy page

Reminder: This entire post is licensed CC BY-SA the Ada Initiative – please feel free to reuse and remix according to the terms of the license!

Librarians use cats, dresses, and good humor to raise over $20,000 for the Ada Initiative in 7 days!

4-year-old girl wearing a dress and smiling

$15,000 challenge: Why is librarian Chris Bourg posting pictures of herself in a dress at age 4?

Donors to the libraries campaign (listed by permission only)

Amy F. Bocko
Amy Kautzman
Andrea Snyder
Andy Shuping
Ayla Stein
B. Albritton
Beth Warner
Bill Landis
Bobbi Fox
Bruce Washburn
Candy Schwartz
Cecily Walker
Chris Adams
Chris Strauber
Coral Sheldon-Hess
Courtney C. Mumma, Artefactual Systems, Inc.
Dan Cohen
Dan Scott
David D
Declan Fleming
Derek Merleaux
Desert Librarian
Diane Shaw
Dorothea Salo
Ed Summers
Elizabeth Skene
Eric Phetteplace
Erin White
Francis Kayiwa
Galen Charlton
Grace Dunbar
Jackie Dooley
Jaclyn Bedoya
Jacob Berg
janet carleton
Jason Casden
Jason Griffey
Jen Weintraub
Jen Young
Jennifer Vinopal
Jim DelRosso
Jodi Berkowitz
Johanna Carll
John Mark Ockerbloom
Jon Kiparsky
Jonathan Rochkind
Julie C. Swierczek
Kathleen Quinton
Kathy Lussier
Keri Cascio
Kevin Reiss
Kevin Stranack
Lisa Snider
Margaret Heller
Mark Beatty
Matt Critchlow
Maura Smale
May Yan
Meg Ecclestone
Merrilee Proffitt
Michael Perry
Mike Giarlo
Nadia Dixson
Netanel Ganin
Patricia Hswe
Patrick Lam
Paul Bracke
Peter Murray
Polly-Alida Farrington
Rachel Frick
Ralph LeVan
Robin Champieux
Ross Singer
Roy Tennant
Samantha Hines
Sarah Shreeves
Sarah Simpkin
Scott Hanrath
Shana L. McDanold
Sharon E. Farb
Sibyl Schaefer
steev'n villereal
Tara Robertson
Trevor Munoz

and 59 anonymous donors

When Bess Sadler, Andromeda Yelton, Chris Bourg, and Mark Matienzo pledged to match up to $5120 donated by librarians to the Ada Initiative, they hoped to reach their goal in 6 days. Instead, they met it in less than 24 hours! But they didn’t stop there – they announced stretch goals that grew to over $15,000. As of this post, they are only a few hundred dollars away from the latest goal: $16,384 to create a cat-themed skin for an open source online library catalog system.

All told, the library community has raised over $21,000 in just 7 days for the Ada Initiative. Join them in donating now (libraries campaign link here):

Donate Now

We are still in awe of the way that the library community has mobilized in support of our work – and taken the lead when it comes to putting the Ada Initiative's work into practice. For example, Stanford University Libraries is the only organization we know of with an official written policy strongly encouraging its employees to only attend conferences with codes of conduct, and we look forward to teaching the Ally Skills Workshop at the Digital Libraries Forum in October. We hope that other open tech/culture communities will follow the library community's lead!

We can’t thank you all enough for your collective support, your powerful words that bring attention to important issues in library tech as well as our work, and your sheer enthusiasm! We are also thrilled that you seemed to have a pretty good time doing it:

Text: "#libs4ada We've achieved #ButchInADress! Let's get to #CatalogsForCats today at $16,384! https://adainitiative.org/donate/?campaign=libraries … pic.twitter.com/UISXaDzoEv" with picture of the Koha logo with cat ears and whiskers drawn on

$16384 challenge: Cat theme for open source library software!

With the donations from the library community and the rest of our fundraising drive, we looking forward to running four AdaCamps in 2015, teaching even more Ally Skills Workshops, and much more!

A special thank you to Andromeda Yelton, Bess Sadler, Chris Bourg, and Mark Matienzo for organizing this spectacularly successful donation campaign and joining in the matching challenge. Chris's stretch challenges were unforgettable.

And our deepest gratitude to everyone who wrote blog posts for and donated to this campaign. Some of the many related blog posts are here (thanks Galen Charlton for collecting these):

Join the library community in supporting women in open technology today! If you donate $128 or more, you will get our new "Not afraid to say the F-word: Feminism" sticker, too!

Black and white sticker with text reading "Not afraid to say the F-WORD adainitiative.org"

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Geek spaces must move beyond "Kumbaya" – Award-winning author N. K. Jemisin on why she supports the Ada Initiative

Book cover with the image of a huge red moon over a city on a plateauAt the Ada Initiative, we're fans of N. K. Jemisin's work – all of it! She's an award-winning author, a powerful speaker, and one of the earliest and most eloquent voices in the fight against harassment of women and people of color in the science fiction and fantasy community. We are thrilled to offer a copy of N. K. Jemisin's novel "The Killing Moon" to the next 36 people who donate $128 or more to support the Ada Initiative's work fighting harassment in geek communities. The copies are all sold out now! Thank you, N. K. Jemisin!

Donate now

Smiling woman

Award-winning author N. K. Jemisin

"I've been a black female geek all my life," says award-winning author N. K. Jemisin, "and I have struggled with inclusiveness in geek spaces. I have heard the excuses: 'There is no harassment, racism, or bigotry in geek space. We sit around singing "Kumbaya" and coding.'"

What Jemisin actually experienced when she joined geek spaces was, of course, totally different: the racism and sexism were bad enough that she nearly did not pursue her career as a professional writer because of it. "Early on, I ventured onto Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine's online forum, back before there was any moderation," she remembers. "The bigotry and sexism were overwhelming. And here I am, dipping a toe in thinking these are supposed to be my people."

Book cover with the image of a huge red moon over a city on a plateau

Get your copy of "The Killing Moon" by donating $128 or more

Anyone who has read N. K. Jemisin's books, stories, and blog knows how lucky we are that she persevered anyway, and became an award-winning professional writer and a sought-after speaker. Her debut novel, "The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms," set in the aftermath of a world-wide war between the gods, won the Locus Award and was short-listed for many other awards, including the Hugo. Her "Dreamblood" series explores themes of power and corruption in a fully-realized society inspired by ancient Egypt. Her Guest of Honor speeches at WisCon 38 and Continuum received widespread acclaim. Many of us are used to reading fiction while braced for throwaway racism or sexism and unimaginative, derivative retellings of familiar themes. Pick up a Jemisin book or story and you can enjoy yourself, braced only for new ideas and brilliant writing.

Having encountered harassment and racism in many conference environments, Jemisin supports Ada Initiative's anti-harassment policy work and Ally Training Workshops which teach men simple everyday ways to speak up for and support women in their workplaces and communities. "Ally training work is essential," Jemisin says, stressing that harassers in geek space are the minority, and empowered allies can speak up to teach them that they don’t run the show. "Harassment is a learned behavior. Bigotry is a learned behavior. These behaviors have to be unlearned."

A green card with a picture of N. K. Jemisin looking at a small green monster, with the text "N. K. Jemisin, PC Monster, Writes amazing, critically acclaimed, award-winning fiction despite being neither white nor male!!! Uses Guest of Honor platform to brainwash audience with her radical-socialist-fascist-PC message of treating all people as human beings. +5 cloak of Not Taking Any of Your Sh*t.On a lighter note, N. K. Jemisin's work fighting racism and sexism in speculative fiction was commemorated in a tongue-in-cheek collectible playing card created by Jim C. Hines. The description mocks the hyperbole of the people trying to hang on to the racist, sexist old days, and includes "Uses Guest of Honor platform to brainwash audience with her radical-socialist-fascist-PC message of treating all people as human beings." We're honored to be working with her towards that reprehensible goal. :)

We hope you'll follow N. K. Jemisin's lead and donate to support the Ada Initiative's anti-harassment work. If you don't have a critically acclaimed award-winning novel to donate, perhaps instead you can give $128 and get a copy of "The Killing Moon" SOLD OUT – and our new sticker, "Not afraid to say the F-word: Feminism."

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Black and white sticker with text reading "Not afraid to say the F-WORD adainitiative.org"

Librarians donate over $10,000 to the Ada Initiative!

Librarians and archivists are an essential part of open technology and culture – the original open data, you might say. So we shouldn't be that surprised that the library community raised over $10,000 to support the Ada Initiative's work fighting harassment at conferences and teaching ally skills to men!

Smiling woman with glasses, by Molly Tomlinson http://photoclave.com

Andromeda Yelton by Molly Tomlinson

Andromeda Yelton, Bess Sadler, Chris Bourg, and Mark Matienzo pledged to match up to $5120 donated by librarians to the Ada Initiative. We planned to run this challenge for 5 days, but instead they reached their match in less than 24 hours! We are announcing stretch goals like this one for $8192 on the Twitter hashtag #libs4ada. If you are part of the library community, you can join Andromeda, Bess, Chris, and Mark and donate at this link to support women in open technology and culture. If you aren't, please donate at this link instead.

Here are a few of the blog posts the library community wrote:

The Ada Initiative Has My Back by Bess Sadler
Why I support the Ada Initiative. (You, too?) by Andromeda Yelton
This librarian supports the Ada Initiative by Chris Bourg
Support the Ada Initiative by Jason Griffey
The Power of Powers of 2 by Roy Tennant
The Ada Initiative Needs Your Help by Jake Berg
Why the Loon supports the Ada Initiative by the Loon
i support the Ada Initiative by Amy Buckland
Why this librarian supports the Ada Initiative by Erin White

Join the library community in supporting women in open technology today! If you donate $128 or more, you will get our new "Not afraid to say the F-word: Feminism" sticker, too!

Black and white sticker with text reading "Not afraid to say the F-WORD adainitiative.org"

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Will trade stickers for blog posts: Get the "Not afraid to say the F-word: FEMINISM" sticker

This offer expired September 15.

Stickers and other fundraising thank you gifts available to donors of $128 or more (or $10 per month) until October 8, 2014. Support women in open technology and culture today!

Donate now

Sticker reading "Not afraid to say the F-WORD: FEMINISM adainitiative.org" on a colorful laptop skinAre you excited about the new Ada Initiative "Not afraid to say the F-word: FEMINISM" sticker, but can't donate $128 right now? Did you already donate in 2014 and want to get the sticker without donating again? Do you want to support women in open technology and culture some way other than donating? You can!

We will send you a feminist sticker pack if:

  • You write a blog post after today about how the Ada Initiative has affected you, and ask people to donate in it, or
  • You already donated $128 or more in 2014 and promise to share photos of your stickers on social media, or
  • Someone at the Ada Initiative sent you this link and told you to get free stickers

Or you can donate $128 now and get your F-word stickers the old-fashioned way!

Donate now

Three women smiling, CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin PhotoOffer expires September 15, 2014. If you're not sure what to write in a blog post, we have helpful hints on our "Spread the word" page. And yes, we ship internationally!

Dr. Ellen Spertus is not afraid to say the F-word: FEMINISM!

Photograph of Ellen Spertus

Dr. Ellen Spertus: Not afraid to say the F-word

"Why are there so few female computer scientists?" That was the title of Dr. Ellen Spertus' first major publication, written in 1991 when she was an undergraduate at MIT. "I grew up programming computers and before long I wondered why there weren't any other girls doing what I liked to do," she recalls.

Today, Ellen is a Professor of Computer Science at Mills College and a Research Scientist at Google. She has mentored countless girls and women in entering and contributing to computer science, and recently joined the Ada Initiative's board of advisors. "As a computer science professor at a women's college, I support the Ada Initiative because they improve the environment my students will work and play in," she says. "There's no point encouraging women to enter the pipeline if there's a meat grinder at the end." That's why Dr. Spertus donates to the Ada Initiative – and hopes you will join her in donating today.

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Smiling woman

Valerie Aurora, Ada Initiative co-founder

Valerie Aurora, a computer programmer and an Ada Initiative co-founder, didn't start wondering where the other women were until she was much older. "In 2001, I realized that out of the hundreds of people working on the Linux kernel with me, I couldn't think of a single other woman." She started searching the Internet for clues to this massive disparity and found Ellen's work, which she read and re-read. "Without Dr. Spertus as a leader and a role model, the Ada Initiative might not exist."

Ellen started writing about and advocating for women in computer science when she took a class at MIT with Sherry Turkle. She had read the "Barriers to Equality" report laying out the ways women were marginalized in the computer science program at MIT. Inspired to write a term paper on the subject, she wondered if she would be able to write 25 pages on the subject – and surprised herself by writing 100!

Four women standing at a conference and smiling, CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

Women enjoying a conference with an anti-harassment policy

The focus and passion born in that moment play out today in both her teaching and research. She supports the Ada Initiative because "I am grateful that the Ada Initiative is out there holding companies and people accountable," she says. "And the work is incredibly effective. Just a couple of years ago, there were only a few people talking seriously about anti-harassment policies at conferences. Now it has become a mainstay."

During her tenure at Mills, a trans-inclusive women's university, she has directed and still mentors students in a late-entry computer science program, supporting people of all genders in entering the field later in life than their undergraduate years. Some of her favorite research at Google is focused on bringing computer science to kids – through projects such as App Inventor and Hour of Code – in a gender-inclusive way.

We're incredibly grateful for Dr. Spertus' support, as an advisory board member and as a donor! We hope you'll join Ellen and donate today to support women in open technology and culture (and get our spiffy new "Not afraid to say the F-word: FEMINISM" sticker).

Black and white sticker with text reading "Not afraid to say the F-WORD adainitiative.org"

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Show the world you're not afraid to say the F-word: FEMINISM! New sticker for 2014 fundraising drive

Four women standing at a conference and smiling, CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

Could these AdaCampers be FEMINISTS?

Black and white sticker with text reading "Not afraid to say the F-WORD adainitiative.org"

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"Are you sure you want to use the F-word?" a worried friend asked us. The word she meant was "feminist" – which we had just plastered all over the website for AdaCamp, the Ada Initiative's conference for women in open technology and culture. After all, she pointed out, when was the last time a large corporation donated $50,000 to a non-profit that called itself feminist?

That's one reason why most of the Ada Initiative's funding comes from people like you – people who aren't afraid to say the f-word! Now you can get the Ada Initiative's brand new "F-word" sticker, created by designer and feminist activist Amelia Greenhall.

We're sending 3 copies of the F-word sticker (plus a few more Ada Initiative stickers) to everyone who donates $128 or more to support women in open technology and culture before October 8, 2014, during our 2014 fundraising drive.

The sticker is 2.25 inches wide by 1.5 inches tall (5.7 cm x 3.8cm) and die-cut. Now you can proudly identify as a feminist every time you use your laptop, ride your bike, or walk with a cane – the possibilities are endless!


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About the Ada Initiative

Two women smiling

CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

Your donation goes to the Ada Initiative, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charity dedicated to supporting women around the world in open source software, Wikipedia, fan/remix culture, and similar areas. We lead the movement to adopt anti-harassment policies at conferences and conventions, run AdaCamp unconferences for women in open tech/culture around the world, teach men how to support women in their communities, and help women overcome Impostor Syndrome.

Show the world you aren't afraid to use the f-word, and support women in open technology and culture everywhere! Donate today!

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Why $128? What is with your weird donation amounts?

Our donation amounts are powers of two: $128 = 2^7 or 2*2*2*2*2*2*2. Powers of two are quite common when working with computers, and it makes our donation amounts a little more interesting!

Did you know Béyoncé was going to make feminism cool again when you designed this sticker?

We swear, the new stickers were already printed and sitting in a box in Valerie's apartment when we saw the photos from Béyoncé's VMA show on Twitter. We are incredibly happy that Béyoncé is using her star power to make identifying as a feminist more popular.

What is open technology and culture?

80 women cheering and wearing many different colors

AdaCamp attendees
CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

Open technology and culture is a term we made up to include open source software, Wikipedia, fan fiction, and similar areas. It's anything where people collaborate on and share their work over the Internet and let other people reuse and share the result. For example, anyone can read Wikipedia, or edit Wikipedia, or reuse things from Wikipedia (as long as they credit the creators properly).

Why do we need more women in open technology and culture?

In many (but not all cases), open tech/culture communities are overwhelmingly male (and overwhelmingly white). Wikipedia is averaging around 10-15% women editors, and open source software is only about 2% women according to the most recent study. At the same time, Wikipedia and open source software are changing the world we live in – most of Google, Facebook, and Twitter's servers are based on open source software, as are Android phones and the Firefox web browser. We believe that women have to be involved in the creation, design, and use of the Internet or it won't serve women needs and desires.

Black and white sticker with text reading "Not afraid to say the F-WORD adainitiative.org"

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Welcome NetApp and Rackspace as our newest AdaCamp sponsors

Two women smiling

CC BY-SA Jenna Saint Martin Photo

The Ada Initiative is pleased to welcome NetApp and Rackspace as the newest Bronze sponsors of AdaCamp, our conference dedicated to increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture. NetApp and Rackspace join the many sponsors of AdaCamp Berlin and AdaCamp Bangalore, our first AdaCamps in Europe and Asia!

NetAppFounded in 1992, NetApp creates innovative storage and data management solutions that deliver outstanding cost efficiency and accelerate business breakthroughs. NetApp's commitment to living their core values and consistently being recognized as a great place to work are fundamental to their long-term growth and success, as well as the success of their customers. NetApp is hiring at offices around the world.

Rackspace logo_No 1 Mgd_no tag_colorRackspace is the global leader in hybrid cloud and founder of OpenStack, the open-source operating system for the cloud. Founded in 1998, Rackspace employs over 5,000 people worldwide and is based in San Antonio, Texas. Rackspace is hiring at offices around the world.

About AdaCamp

AdaCampAdaCamp is a conference dedicated to increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture: open source software, Wikipedia-related projects, open data, open geo, library technology, fan fiction, remix culture, and more. AdaCamp brings women together to build community, share skills, discuss problems with open tech/culture communities that affect women, and find ways to address them.

In 2014, the Ada Initiative will hold three AdaCamps located in technology hubs on three continents: Portland, Oregon, USA; Berlin, Germany; and Bangalore, India. AdaCamp Portland occurred in June and was a huge success. AdaCamp Berlin applications are already closed and is slated for October 11-12. Applications are now open for AdaCamp Bangalore, which is scheduled for November 22-23.


Your organization has the opportunity to sponsor AdaCamps in 2014 and reach women leaders in open technology and culture on three continents. Contact us at sponsors@adainitiative.org for more information about becoming a sponsor.

Thank you to the AdaCamp 2014 platinum sponsors Google and Puppet Labs, gold sponsors Automattic, Mozilla and Red Hat, and silver sponsors New Relic and Simple.

AdaCamp Bangalore: free for everyone, and applications closing early on September 12

AdaCamp Bangalore is a 50-person unconference for women in open technology and culture, being held on November 22nd-23rd.

A free event for all

We're pleased to announce that we won't charge a registration free for AdaCamp Bangalore. Other AdaCamps have had a self-selected tiered registration fee, including a free option, to allow attendees to choose to support the event at whatever level they are able. For our Bangalore event, the Ada Initiative and our sponsors will be covering all our attendees' registration costs. If you have already paid a registration fee, you'll be refunded shortly.

New application deadline

AdaCamp Portland models 2We have had so many great applications to AdaCamp Bangalore that we are on track to fill all our spaces and grant all our travel scholarships before the originally planned deadlines. Also, it's important that our overseas visitors apply and register in time to plan their travel, including visas.

For this reason, we are moving up the deadline for Bangalore applications to Friday, September 12th. Please make sure to apply before that date.

We encourage applications from people who consider themselves "non-technical" or not "technical enough." We found that many people assume that AdaCamp is only for coders or computer experts, which is definitely not the case! AdaCampers include writers, makers and crafters, researchers & academics, NGO and community workers, activists, and many others. AdaCamp is more interesting and satisfying when we have attendees from a wide range of open technology and culture fields.

About AdaCamp

AdaCamp is a conference dedicated to increasing women’s participation in open technology and culture: open source software, Wikipedia-related projects, open data, open geo, library technology, fan fiction, remix culture, and more. AdaCamp brings women together to build community, share skills, discuss problems with open tech/culture communities that affect women, and find ways to address them.

In 2014, the Ada Initiative is holding three AdaCamps located in technology hubs on three continents: Portland, Oregon, USA; Berlin, Germany; and Bangalore, India.


Your organization has the opportunity to sponsor AdaCamps in 2014 and reach women leaders in open technology and culture on three continents. Contact us at sponsors@adainitiative.org for more information about becoming a sponsor.

Thank you to the AdaCamp 2014 platinum sponsors Google and Puppet Labs, gold sponsors Automattic, Mozilla and Red Hat, and silver sponsors New Relic and Simple.