It's Ada Lovelace Day. Well, for another few minutes in my timezone, anyway. Today is “an international day of blogging to celebrate the achievements of women in technology and science," and... well, to be honest, I wasn't going to write about it at all originally. There's so much other (completely unrelated) stuff going on. Sometimes I don't like reminding people that I'm female. I'm busy; sometimes I get tired.
But I was talking with Matt today and something came out, and I saw other people blogging, and I thought... well, all right. It won't be much of a post, and I'm not sending it to any Planets so nobody's really going to see it, but when have I ever stopped a braindump? So.
Women in technology and science. I suppose I am one. I became one because I liked technology and science, not because I wanted to be a fearless crusader for the success potential of my gender or anything like that. Other women in technology and science? I guess I came across them in a couple book chapters in history every so often (always the same ones). I didn't really see what the big deal was. I was a geek, I was a nerd, I was the little genderless imp that ran around, smaller and younger than my friends, 2N+1th wheel, always stuck with a book or (later) a computer; I never stopped running because if I did I wouldn't get where I was going, even if I was never quite sure where that was going to be.
And that was it. I was a hacker. I could be a girl, or I could be a hacker, and I was a hacker. It was not a sacrifice; it's simply what I was. And if you asked me when I was in high school what I was most afraid of, I would probably quote Eowyn to you: "A cage. To stay behind bars, until use and old age accept them, and all chance of doing great deeds is gone beyond recall or desire." It's still an accurate response, and how much of my recklessness and wanderlust and instability was amplified over the years in an unconscious attempt to become incapable of being tied down like so many people - mostly women - that I'd seen, I couldn't tell you. If freedom meant rootlessness, perpetual restlessness, never being home or having someone to come back to, then... that was the tradeoff I would make. And it still is.
But in the past 6, almost 7 years now, there have been women who have stood as silent (well, usually not-so-silent) living counterexamples of this. I remember the shock I felt during my first year of college when I discovered my female (engineering) professors had families. When I visited their houses and met their families and saw how they lived - with great intensity, doing what they loved, and with the people that they loved. It was the makings of another kind of life. I saw it again when I began having older friends outside of school, people within a decade of my own age, but with the same thing; they didn't have to run away from anything else in order to run towards the work they loved. And now I see it basically every day online, in the blogs and messages and posts and channel chatter of the women who I know in open source, and with my many Olin friends no matter where they are (there are a couple benefits to going to a nearly 50/50 gender ratio engineering school I never thought about when I went in).
I'm fortunate to have the privilege to say this, but for me, it's never been a question that women could be great at science and technology. Of course she can. Of course she will - perhaps if she is lucky, like myself, to be born with enough privilege to be allowed to love doing science and technology, and lucky to have enough freedom to make a run for it. It was just a matter of how much that was going to cost, and what else you could have other than a driving passion for Making Things Work, and a life entirely consumed by just that calling.
Turns out that you can have a lot. It isn't easy, but you can be a woman and a human being and a hacker, and be even more and better at all three of them than if you tackled only one of those alone. I can't claim to have mastered being any of those yet (they're listed in reverse order of my comfort with them, actually) - but I have models for this now, and have for the past several years. It's not that they stand quietly in my peripheral vision (standing is boring), but that they run like blazing meteors across it, in and out, shining with brilliant intensity and leaving in their wake a searing trail that says and I am doing what I love. Their lives aren't easy, but there's a lot of richness to them, and they are doing what they love, and I cannot deny that.
I will not call out names here, because I would forget people, and also because there are too many to be listed. But the people who inspire me are not the women in the history books or the glossy posters telling me that GIRLS CAN DO MATH! (I mean, I knew that, really.) The women in science and technology who inspire me are my friends, and in a sense what they are teaching me with their lives is that people who do math can be girls (and for that matter, people).
I will do the work I love, because I can't do otherwise. But maybe there is more than that - not more instead of that, but more in addition to that, in a way that doesn't steal from the work I feel I'm called to do, but adds to it. And the women who show me that inspire me to work - and live.