Feminism is a polarizing ideology, a commanding word, and is a transformative concept. I am proud of my feminism.
Computer science is an amazing platform, a pervasive idea, and a space for creative problem solving. I am proud to be a computer scientist.
An important question then becomes, what does it mean to be a feminist and a computer scientist? To be a feminist and a programmer? How can we combine these disciplines?
It might help to talk about what feminism means to me, as feminism means different things to different people. bell hooks defines feminism as “ a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.” I want to live in a world where people are not marginalized based on their appearance, birth, beliefs, or spirituality.
While people might have different areas of focus, computer science has a centralized definition. Computer science is a field that relates to computation and the applications of computers. In the article Making Programming Masculine, Nathan Ensminger explains how in the past computation was a field where antisocial individuals were sought out using personality profiles. Even though computer science involves a lot of quality time with your machine, there is no reason more socially minded individuals should be kept out of this field. Just as there is no reason that women should be kept out of computer science, or any other field for that matter.
Our globalized, networked world is entangled and chaotic. We live in the Information Age where the social impact technology, programming, and computer science have can be seen all over the world. This is part of why I work in computer science and feminism. When the code we write is changing the world, we have responsibilities to the people our code affects.
Feminism and programming languages get right to core of this idea. Batya Friedman edited a collection of essays titled Human Values and the Design of Computer Technology that demonstrates how values and biases are perpetuated through a variety of computer systems. My research is to explore how we can combine feminism and programming languages in a way that makes social responsibility, equality, and accessibility an effective part of the programming process.
So, what is a feminist programming language? I will be posting updates throughout the research process as I pursue an answer.