Sustaining Resilient Spaces for women with a voice : emotional narratives to fight the political repression of women’s voices and public presence
My public works and research activities as a social science researcher, an ICTs expert and an advocate for women’s expertise in science and technology (2008-2015, see publication) led me to reflect further about the personal experiences of sexism and fascism in technology I have experienced for being an empowered woman in education and knowledge and the situations I have faced with acts of women targeted violence in France, Europe, and North America.
Through my years of practice, I observed how sexist bias tend to dismiss women’ roles and contributions in science and knowledge in elites, as shown by many women stories and narratives posted on social networks. In this work, we question also the economical notion of women’s works and the situations of oppression that might cause it as immigration or foreign affairs.
As society tends to assimilate the norms and the values of dominant culture as men’s cultural codes, men’s colonialism and cultural appropriation of women’s productions render women’s lives and professional paths more precarious tham they are under the influence of financial capitalism.
If the issues about women in the tech & science field are real and might be analyzed through the prism of gender studies, it is not the common issue of merely « dealing with men’s values » or « facing men’s bias » which is at stake, but the one of creating independent structures and networks from centralized hubs of power as tech hubs and financial mafias, as monopolistic structures tend to normalizes the discrimination of certain categories of person for economical exploitation.
In order to restaure the damaged identities and the loss lives from people living under oppression, we need to build processes of redefinitions of personal identities in situations of racism, sexism or abusive surveillance and economical and sexual exploitation. Emotional responses to acts of women targeted violence are seen as ways to reground and restaure damaged identities.
With this model, I advocate for the emancipation of marginalized and oppressed groups as precarious, foreign and transient women, more at risk at borders and in places of central power, caused by the instrumentalization of scientism in technology milieux and by oppressive and war tactics.
Writing stories about scientific women’s oppression in foreign and corporate contexts
We argue that women with public activities and presence – ‘women with a voice’ – as women advocates, scientists, activists or journalists notably are more confronted with women directed violence due to an absence of representation that can lead to criminalization and ostracization, blocking them access to economical resources and progress. This situation is maintaining them under the control of patriarcal power spread with institutional sexism and state violence (police brutality and surveillance).
We argue indeed that by writing news and analyzing news production (Debaveye, 2012b) specific areas of war zones defined by multiple abuses, violence and threats against foreign intellectuals women, in elites places like academia, science institutes or international backgrounds for business, innovations or public affairs, we can act against oppression and annihilation of our living.
Writing narratives allow us as women and groups under oppression to frame specific identities fitting their own norms, values and agenda and not the ones of the mainstream dominant culture (male-like culture or the engineering startup culture) to build a woman specific culture when faced with males’ oppression and violence.
Cognitive works and emotional responses allow to take notice of some professional and social places influenced by gender and cultural bias that can render certain types of persons more visibly distinct from the dominant group and confront them to acts of aggression and repression.
Women at borders are being exposed because they have higher value, having both sexual (reproductive) and symbolical powers conferred by high literacy skills and education which make them target number one with the anger and frustation from dominant men as it’s been documented by numerous gender studies.
Counter-narratives are a way to re-empower women reaching some levels of expertise and knowledge in war contexts against the abusive and lethal practices of militarized groups paid by financial investors that deepen discrimination and social exclusion with the logics of institutionnal sexism and the weaponisation of diverse range of tactics.
Rewriting our own life with narratives testifying about conflicts and war allows to resist and to fight abusive categorizations on women’s public and private identities. By identifying bias and misrepresentations into the normative code of law and technology DESIGNED BY MEN, we can disrupt the dominant narrative and rebuild our transient and flexible identities.
We argue that evolution can be achieved by importing new types of knowledge unheritated from women’s views and experiences into male-dominated fields of knowledge, AND BY CREATING VALUE FROM HYBRIDATION AND WOMEN’S CREATIVITY : moving from arts to academia, from academia to industry, liberal arts to technology and technology to computering, from consulting to entrepreneurship is a way to acquire flexible and critical thinking.
The practices of writing and sousveillance from THE LIVING EXPERIENCE OF REPRESSIVE cultural and social backgrounds help to enrich intuitive visioning (Debaveye, 2012). Thinking critically against the norms and stereotypes might give emergent and alternative sources of information a more stable and perene form that can be communicated and recognized by peers as a valid representation.
Writing dialectically in social networks and discussion among the critical community – i.e. PERSONS WHO EXPERIENCE THE OPPRESSION OF WHITE MALES – are also a way to go beyond the dichotomy of the self when faced with others so to create a space where hidden relations between the private person and fields of knowledge are revealed.
The practices of writing allows also to think reflexively about the uncontrolled or idiosynchrasic attitudes of PEOPLE WHO CRITICALLY LACK THE SCIENTIFIC AND CULTURAL LITERACY AND KNOWLEDGE TO UNDERSTAND what is at stake with sexist stereotypes and false representations about women scientists and women in science who face demonizations and criminalizations while moving abroad.
In spite of how unpleasing, testifying about the experiences encountered by the insiders of men’s violence on the path of economical emancipation and survival are acts of sousveillance as « critical appropriations of dominant technology » (Debaveye, 2015) AND subversive forms that aim at revealing patterns of abuse and harassment in toxic places in order for women to transform their social experiences into a positive act (Debaveye, 2015).
WHILE BEING IMMERSED IN AREAS OF CONFLICT AND WAR AS A WOMAN SCIENTIST AND A FOREIGN WOMAN, during my quest for financial autonomy, I used to consider it as playgrounds (see my works about the practice of game employed by activists during street occupation’ events to counter the surveillance of the police, Debaveye, 2012a, 2012b).
I explored the fascinating resilience of persecutated groups or persons to give an account about the way violence impacts the ability to work and perform for public recognized and foreign women, either by discapacitating them or either by improving their proficiencies when confronted with episodes of violence, and constraints due to their lack of economical power, physical and psychological hurts and damages.
In stories about women facing violence, women tell how men’s constant and frustrated abuses and sexual attacks are draining and are a cause for serious apathy or disengagement. As toxic places at the cross point of sexism and imperialism are mostly dominated by MEN’S VALUES AND NORMS CREATING PLACES FOR THE PERSISTENCE OF AUTHORITARIAN AND REPRESSIVE POLITICS by the use of coercion and strenght, women are disempowered as their voices and identities are being erased from public places and their productions attributed to men.
Younger generations and some new comers reinforce misrepresentations and stereotypes about women’s scientists as young men fear the rejection of the dominant culture and tend to assimilate the ideology and culture for women’s domination.
But as I said earlier, the experience of hurt and damage FROM THE OPPRESSED GROUPS can help to improve cognitive abilities. Through several ordeals I faced with sexual and intimate partner violence and professional harassment at various stages of my existence as an immigrant woman in the UK, US and Canada under temporary visas, I have been experiencing clairvoyance for detecting patterns, and learnt to nurture a better perception of the relations linking subjects and objects to point attackers’ hidden motivations.
I thus hope my work will allow to raise awareness about the inacceptable issue of the weaponization of tactics employed against women activists and foreign women (Debaveye, 2012a, Debaveye2012b, 2015) and the stealing of their symbolical role in society via the malveillant appropriation of their knowledge and expertise by young privileged white males to allow them to live decent lives.
Following acts of abuse when exposed to war policies from US foreign politics, society is still due to consider better the role of transient and foreign women and to valuate their contributions to scientific knowledge and community’s development because the persistence of well-documented social logics of exclusion (through racism, sexism, agism or discrimination) within the political structures and a specific political climate exacerbating cultural divisions are fostering severe abuses, and impacts on women’s health, wealth and reproductive health.
Sorting things out from messy texts
The only thing needed for the triumph of Evil is for good men to do nothing.
This work aims at showing the different strategies employed by central power and the war strategies employed by belligerent nations to persecute foreign women and their variations in time and the way women under oppression might counteract with acts of sousveillance and giving names and adresses (Debaveye, 2015).
By revealing the processes that allow to an idea or a scientific concept to come to creative fruition (Kuhn, 1978) based on real-time data collected in conflicts and war points, we want to show the appropriate ways to respond to military tactics against civilians, and to the jailification of women’s groups and individuals to save their lives.
Observing and recording acts of abuses and threats with « sousveillance » (Debaveye, 2015) allows us to give accurate images and congruent definitions of what is going on in the matter of violence against women both in science and at borders as they are confronting technics of oppression and persecution that may differ in action but aim both at their annihilation when they face deep racism and misogyny.
I recorded my double experience as a social science/ICT researcher and as a persecuted woman at borders by writing down local stories and fieldnotes and using Twitter, employing the methodology of qualitative observations, community narratives and social network analysis (documenting my views also by analyzing streams and documents from my oppressors), the same methodology I have been producing for my PhD’s thesis dissertation (Debaveye, 2012b).
To give my insider view as a woman worker in international contexts dominated with protectionism, economic rationalization, war and competition, a more generic overview I have been comparing different cases and places, as with Berlin or Amsterdam – having growth economy based on financial investments – making use of women’s stories and news shared into public new media.
Personal experiences and insider point of views are, following me, a better way to provide feedback about life contexts than by making vague interpretations or correlations about missing texts and images or things that overpass the watcher’s comprehension. It gives more pertinent, fair, authentical, and accurate findings about social realities.
Most critics made to positivist paradigm (Kuhn, 1978) made apparent the problems of the lack of empiricity and the one of manipulating data into figurative models based on subjectivity, fictions and lack of ground luring readers into pseudo-science and demarcationism (Popper). I had the opportunity to be introduced to this thought during my PhD scholarship but I won’t discuss it here.
I would only underline that in hypothetico-deductive models, data are forced into theories and concepts before their emergence, with the definition of prior hypothesis and the selection of factors and criterias that cause the reproduction of mistakes, past actions and discriminative bias to create borders and isolate dissent groups from the others.
Abusive strategy employed by central power against dissent and women activists prevent the emergence of the newness and redistribution of wealth and informational metworks. By excluding the altermative voices from the norm and dismissing the creative value of migrant women’s contributions, State, media and corporations are undermining our social and economical structures to benefit a cast of privileged.
Because they expose shocking and appalling counter realities about political collusion, banks and real estate scandals and corruptions in Montreal, that are not quite mentionned by mainstream media, my narratives might be perceived as minor, idiosynchrasic and thus erased, just as gatekeepers tend to judge « reasonably » contents by referring to common wisdom or standard representations that are in fact stereotypes, false representations and desinformed views of social realities.
This is the well known procedures and patterns of denial and revisionism employed by the nazist propagandists. Silencing the dissent by cutting off funds, resources and internet access is a common strategy employed by State and central power during World war II and post-11/09.
To avoid these pitfalls, I worked with a mixed method nomad research framework that I have assembled to fit the constraints of the daily life while producing a scientific account (Debaveye, 2012, 2015). It doesn’t allow for much access to external sources and the comfort of theorical references, which is a good thing, to prevent us from using artificial models and assumptions biased by scientific or political ideology in knowledge and news production.
The material shown on Twitter is locally produced and is composed of raw, rough, unfiltered and messy data shaped by the circumstances and by the various contexts of production. At the interface of arts, writings and science, it is aspected by the very nature of the interactions caused by external social forces of exclusion, repressive policies and global economics of war and destruction, thus, if it’s positive or negative, reactions and attitudes of external agents will impact the perceptions and views presented in the study.
The point is to produce an account of real-time processes that can be refined over time to achieve higher quality.
Even if I recommend proceeding with caution, I do consider blogging and micro-blogging as a valuable way to understand the processes happening in real-time.
Mapping them and questionning the limits they pose to women entering new fields in technology and economy help to foster practices for interventions and social change in order the reval the traits and common features that shape patterns for domination.
The practice of blogging and microblogging allows for the expression of hidden emotions and regressive feelings that can have a positive driving role in shaping representations and writing down realities. The thing is that the groups and people I described in my story, being biased with security rhetorics about terrorism and 11th of september (in which everyone is a suspect, see Debaveye, 2012 ,2015), completely flied off the handle when directly confronted with my texts on Twitter as I was giving names and adresses, considering my work as intended to them and attacked me severly both online and offline, causing deep emotional stress and fear.
To break the trauma caused by these attacks, the expression of my emotions helped me to break the psychological and unconscious patterns of defensive behaviors that can lead to protective defenses as over intellectualization and distanciation. Thus the creative use of my emotions avoided the use of a rigid frame to allow the emergence of the newness. Through the practice of blogging and networking, I could then refine my intuitions over time.
I was far to know when I started the practice that I have signed for a detention camp Guantanamo like that would repeatedly dismiss me, stigmatize me, attack me, torture me, exploit me and my production at the end of reaching high profits.
Also, scientific research is a process that is time consuming and minutious and can involve months to years of research so it is not applicable to economical environments based on fast profits, capitalization and high rentability that pressure researchers into fast research.
In academia, the recurrent problem of scientific analysis being published one or two years after collection due to the constraints of benevolent peer-reviewing (it is un unpaid labor so reviews staff are working on on their spare time) confront academics with the problem of publishing anterior states of the art which tend to produce a gap between what is observed and the description of the reality and prevent society to access knowledge. That’s why, sometimes, some more « frivolous » or profane approaches via social media and blogs as this one that can be refined over time are recommendable.
As I experienced in academia while being a French Ph.D scholar publishing papers with minor visibility confronted with colonial science, academic research might take several years to reach an audience without consequent and substantial fundings, opening paths for abuse and plagiarism, but incomplete or missing research on the stream are highly valuable for discussing living problems, real time constraints and complex social interactions with society. Doing science is thus, in our perspective, a never ending process, at the image of life. It is also dealing better at the right to be forgotten.
In spite of being informed about the difficulties of such in the wild research and aware of the risks, by my previous works on the matter, I felt inspired by Kerouac’s on the road works (unless he actually wrote most of his consistent works from his mother’s house) and other researches produced in the field of digital activism, radical feminism and research action.
Auto-ethnography is a way of collecting information that is based on the researcher’s reflections and responses to the local environment and the interactions with the others when confronted with racism and sexism (the observer quite obviously cannot be detached from the world at the surroundings). I made use of my Twitter account as a result of an embedded diary practice of writing and interacting in emergency.
As with any ethnographical account dealing with sexual violence, it is asked from readers to understand that vulnerability via the publication of unfinished texts is supposed to be given people an opportunity for constructive interactions and not an entry point for abuses or harassment. I don’t allow any type of interaction that is motivated with the desire to hurt or to damage my personal integrity and feel free to block, mention or reject them.
But these contexts for war are instrumentalizing sexual violence in order to capitalize over people’s living. I am and will remain an advocate for the remix culture aiming at protecting safe environments where hybridation can give birth to enriching variations and profitable transformations for women leadership in academia, science, media, business and technology and international backgrounds, but policies that deepen social exclusion might be adressed by power.
As some places are enablers for transformation and social change, others that create toxic cultures are preventing social change and emancipation from the very basic logics of domination as with culture of engineering and science, anti-immigrant narratives and colonialist perspectives that are blocking access to foreign women’s economic emancipation. It is important to identify the places and practices that can lead to the persistence of exclusion and the ones that can lead to social change and freedom.
First, a serendipitous approach led me to Berlin that is both not too far from where I lived and known for its startup culture. So here I was, in the plane embarking in a journey that will last several months. I always had wonderful and tremendous experiences while traveling and I remember being very excited by this trip as Berlin is known to be a startup place and is also a place that I like (I have been there several times in the past for friends meetings and holidays).
As I said in my introduction, traveling around has become quite difficult with the rise of imperialism and dreams about national domination that created the cohort of xenofobia, racism and sexist violence. Traveling lead foreign women to be physically confronted with agents of state colonialist and people having some imperialistic agenda. If I made huge friendships that persisted over time as we shared a common experience of trust and love, I observed a degradation of the conditions for the travelers and transient populations with surveillance and criminalization of the dissent.
In Berlin, my excitement about the trip didn’t last for long as I faced first aggression in a tech meeting controlled by the Deutsh Bank as soon as on day 1 when a group of women ignored the contribution I have made from an entrepreneur perspective about choosing an expensive place to start a business in Canada because it was not fitting their views to promote their local culture:
A german woman coming back from Vancouver has made critics about Canada for its fares I had replied with saying that Vancouver is not the most enabling city for new comers as BC is amongst the most expensive regions and is actually confronted with high problems for renting house even for canadian citizens precisely due to the tech bubble investments, rathered answer despectatively : « Who would like to live in Montreal? ».
The second part of discussion had them talking in between themselves and dismissing my role and status in the community which is a typical feature of central power. Her abrasive commentary opened paths to dismiss my fragile legitimacy at participating to the main group’s discussion as a foreigner as my agenda for learning and cooperation was not fitting the main culture’s social norms that tend to exclude alien narratives as in any nationalistic, anti-foreigner propaganda.
Being really femiliar with these revisionist logics for erasure of foreign women’s voices, I eventually got bored about the discussion and look out for more exciting venues in town. What bothered me was not the comment in itself but the social acceptation of the dismission she had made to my participation despite the poor argument she had invoked. In fact, central power just aims at maintaining an illusion of democracy and participation rather than providing scientific arguments.
I also observed through diverse attitudes how far right policies were increasing at the time that are today about to challenge Merkel’s government.
Tribalism is the product of distorted perceptions fed with sectarism and some random racism based on the popular idea that native views are better informed, more acceptable than the ones of the foreigners. This postulate prevents some fruitful hybridations and combinations to happen to create alternative ways of doing and learning.
Somes places for entrepreneurship or engineering culture are colluding with financial capitalism by blocking processes in spaces originally designed for cooperation and using them instead as places for delation and retalisation.
It remembered me the words of a german friend who used to date an eastern guy and said to me that fascism is still well alive in Berlin and perpetuated and I started to question the possibility of the UK, US and Canada being maintaining fascist politicies through immigration procedures and norms.
Toxic and abrasive attitudes derived from imperialism towards women in science and international contexts
The parallel between the situation of women scientists and women entering foreign political contexts both refer to situations where an alien enters a background highly dominated by homogeneous norms and values.
As I underlined in the previous paragraph, most of the persons from the main group expect with no further considerations that the alien fits the characteristics imposed by the main group (be it a group of engineers or any cultural group) and deny and erase what differ from the most dominant values, forcing it into assimilationism at the expenses of what constitute the person’s identity.
This situation gives rise to predispositions for some people to adopt discriminative attitudes and toxic behaviors towards women foreigners sustaining politics for discrimination and repression and logics of state power.
I categorized these behaviors as, 1. abrasive remarks (lack of skills, justification), 2. diverse acts ranging from minor micro-aggressions to higher aggressions (abrasivity, voice intonation, defamation), 3. calling and false representation (uncompetent, dangerous, frivolous, tourist). 4. mockeries (I truly observed how a group of young boys was making fun of me, my style in a coworking place in Montreal), 5. dismissing someone’s expertise or knowledge, 6. Attributing the credit of her work to others or 7. plagiarizing 9. intimidating and interacting physically 10. physically harassing, attacking (I once got my bag lacerated in Paris and got shot in shoulders in Montreal) or sexually/physically assaulting ( rape attempt, rape, physical violence).
By listing these attitudes, the point in my work is to avoid rigid typologies and artificial taxonomies as situations differ following the contexts of production to address the concepts of richness, fairness and equity. As shown in my work (Debaveye, 2012b) local informations, supported by exemplifications and real cases situations, based on truly experienced situations aim at showing the erasure of women’s voices in some peculiar isolationist backgrounds as anti-immigrant policies or tech culture.
The use of coercive force and abusive power is an attempt to civic rights and liberties. Politics of repression might be expressed through violent acts or campaigns of cyber-harassment through social networks, as spreading false rumors and defamation, revenge porning, doxxing, stealing of personal informations but also with hacking dissents’ accounts for disqualifying someone’s role or voice and blocking them access to networks and visibility.
It can go also through various sets of behaviours of predation as walking out of one’s way to intentionnally cross the other’s line, laught load, comment about someone’s appearance loadly or looking bad at people that indicate high level of stress and poor emotional responses in face of the challenge that pose big cities’ competition and cohabitation.
Street harassment as insults, or physical assaults as shots in shoulders and intimidation that certain types of men typically have with foreign women presenting a threat or causing them desire are deep signs of social inadaptation caused by what people perceive as a danger but isn’t.
People freaking out are endangering the others’ lives and opportunities to live a decent life like this hatred guy who intentionnally throw his car high speed on me once I was walking on a peaton sign and forced me to run aside to avoid being bumped in berlin or this other shocking my shoulder in Montreal.
This reality you cannot ignore because it is forcing you into considering it in your daily routine.
Feeling tired after a week of work, I resolved it by sometimes putting headphones or going in more quieter neightboorhood. But it would be better if cities have found the way to create adaptive spaces and safe infrastructures for people to walk free and gather around the city.
These attitudes aim at belittling certain persons versus other types of person in order to make them look or feel like inferiors (edit nov 17), causing discapacitations and feeling of inaptitudes due to the use of militarian and coercice forces on civilians (works on war will document also that the killing of local populations also go through indirect harms as starvation, blocking access to care, autonomization or resources).
Coding or not coding
Coding is another discriminative rhetorics used against categories of person in technology who do not belong to the main culture of engineering schools nor had complied an engineer education.
In a tech accelerator where you would mostly encounter white male (and spouses or concubines) with an engineering background, I have been said to go to a digital training « for non tekkie » despite my extended expertise as a digital researcher (I have published accessible works attesting of it and joined in my application).
When I advocated about the field of technology not having to be that much focused on code but on developping more accurate methodologies for web and social network analysis, I have been said that I couldn’t adapt.
I noticed how the engineering culture aims at portraying itself as a ritual of initiation that necessarily go through the dominion of code and how they tend to present data science or coding as a complex process when the technical process involved is in fact more simple.
Machine learning and coding are not as complex and difficult as it is liked to be said. Most of the time, the coding procedures involved into the data analysis are really easy tasks compared to the one of selecting, analyzing and interpreting data.
The proficiencies involved in dealing with data sets are rather more intellectual and cognitive like with the choice of selecting these specific sets of data or identifying the patterns that are better suited to answer the questions, or this one of assembling diverse data sets and methods for some particular modelization, or this one of interpreting and giving meaning to large heterogeneous data sets, or this one of needing to collect complementary data so to reach validity, and so on.
Second, coding isn’t that necessary as softwares technologies have evolved into non coding design.
More commonly, coding is just a rhetoric used to exclude new comers and people from diverse backgrounds from the main group so to appear as a culture of selection and rarity based on a coded language that is only revealed to a socalled few privilegiated. This rhetorics give them a feeling of retribution and value.
In some way it could be as well instrumental as board members or CEOs wouldn’t want you to get too accurate insights about their procedures and decisions and are rather fine with developpers with technicality skills that do not let them to take part into the decision making made with the global strategy.
Anyone can learn to code in weeks.
In the end, the coding imperative appears to be more a matter of personal tastes and preferences that serve to justify the codes and the values from the dominant group so to maintain a feeling of belonging than a consideration for the well being of the whole community.
It is abusive to expect from women or groups of persons with diverse backgrounds and educations to adopt and to fit the views of the dominant culture. Why would their viewpoint be of less value than the viewpoint of them and not deserve consideration?
Society is calling for more inclusion and diversity in technology, some people are even disengaging and boycotting… It’s more important today to create the structures of integration of tomorrow and to free us from the logics for domination and subjugation, than to consider and to perpetuate communautarian feelings vectors of exclusion.
I happen to have a point of view based on what I observe and hear and incidently some years of research. And this point of view is that technologies need as much developpers and coders than it needs social science researchers because in the end it is people using new media and technology.
Anecdotally, I have intuitive coding skills and maths proficiencies but I rathered to focus on social research and methodology for social uses of technology as it’s clear that there is a crucial need for criticizing old paradigms for analysis and communicating science better through the description of procedures and methods.
Women facing assimilationist and authoritative policies commonly face intimation and harassment at work. I used to teach at engineering schools during my Ph.D writing and I noticed that the engineering culture has an obsession for domination of the living, aiming at objectifying subjects, as well as a low predisposition to practise reflexivity due to a positivist educational background.
Repressive policies towards female advocates for social justice
Also one component of sexism is racism when violence is directed at foreign women and playing on cultural stereotypes, as French women being seducive or submissive (many american « feminists » are racists in this aspect). I went through diverse acts of sexism and xenofobia in Montreal and Quebec, at home (a roomate, some neightbours), at work (a mentor, a manager, a client and some coworkers), at the gym, in streets, with the health care system, in coffee shops, in transports, and even with personal relations, basically in every place I went, because of deep stereotypes and criminalization of French women activists.
I met many other immigrant women in Canada who faced this feeling of being suspicious or dirtiness. It is not easy to fight the constructs about immigrant women as immigrants themselves become anti-immigrants and tend to mimic competitive models they think normative instead of engaging relations of cooperation and solidarity, making the work of central power easier.
A lively and active far right extremism against migrants is rising in Quebec as well as a deep masculinism and francophobe culture especially in tech startup culture. It manifests through appalling acts of terrorism as threats and attacks against mosquees (Quebec and Montreal) or the mass murdering of women (Polytechnic) but most of the times it lies under the cover up of independantism and the banner of national identity as racists people tend not to show their political preferences in public and rather to act under the radar.
In Montreal, a quebecker man who gave me a violent shoulder shot while I was walking down town days before I started my practise at a tech incubator in september , that has been recognized as an act of criminal offense, reminded me of a violent aggression I faced in 2013 in the UK that led me to be stigmatized in academia when I was reaching a position in the elite in digital research ( actually I opened about it by mails and it’s been known by my coworkers) and was precisely my motivation to get out of Europe.
I started to envision have been confronted with acts of intimidation from the central power as I have noticed how I have been becoming the target of attacks in street and surveillance since I have graduaded.
When I voiced the aggression I had been a victim of in streets on Twitter, around me and even with some acquintances at the tech incubator, I couldn’t find any support and was rather confronted with denial of the violence of the attack and stigmatization – do they really think it is something normal to cause a whiplash to a woman walking in street in the middle of the afternoon, would they feel like it is something acceptable for them ? Of course, not, but when it is adressed at foreign women, it becomes acceptable – and others calling me to withdraw my writings as it was giving a bad image of the city.
I consider that my writings are useful in countering some highly visible propaganda made by the immigration desk to portray Canada as a country of tolerance, acceptation and solidarity and most of all, safe for women.
After I’vee started my practice in a tech accelerator, I found out through some allusions that one of the leading team member was in touch with an ex coworker in academia who plagiarized my work and was part of the group that stigmatized me after the sexual assault I went through in 2013.
I felt like Grace in Dogville with all these Tom everywhere like raping you virtually or literally and I wish I could put a bullet in their heads just as she does in the end of the movie. But I couldn’t.
After the aggression, people at work tried to compromise my reputation accusing me with bad rumors as being seducive, racist, sociopath or submissive (yeah all French women are remember? That is why they deserve to be rape, see the sollipcism), and ostracizing me in front of the group playing on the stereotype of women victims of sexual violence as bad girls.
In an attempt to stigmatize and ostracize me, the man in charge with the learning session « called me to his desk » to have a private exchange with me so to provoke an argument about a minor fact. He raised voice on me and accused me of belligerance and bad behaviours when I was raising concerns about racist and sexual discrimination.
I came to know that the same team had projects that were infringing of civic rights as placing sensors all around the city without citizens’ consent, CCTVing, collecting private data and testing citizens in public spaces. This projet, called open lab, is supported by one of the most powerful tech companies, Videotron in Canada. The project is presented in the press as a project for citizen science but it doesn’t respect any of the scientific and ethical standards and just aims at reaching high profits.
Other projects were dedicating at using technologies that were not complying of ethnical standards in the health sectors or could be easily manipulated from their so-called scientific purpose as powder sensors who can be used for a massive open air laboratory.
They also warned me that I should better not talk about pressures or coercions I have been confronted with as they had previous cases of denounciation that faced retaliations with foreign workers.
Following these events, I have asked the people in charge with the practice to go to another tech incubator in Montreal (eventually sponsored by the same company, Videotron Google labelled). Once there, I faced renewed pressures and discrimination from the same group.
During a tech event that aimed at showing entrepreneurs’ projects at the end of september, they physically intimated me by putting a demonstration table in the middle of the path to my office door retaking the words I have used to describe my project in their marketing communications.
At the opposite of them, my project was to help people into building networks for cooperation to confront the views of the experts about the city and publicly discuss public issues in health and education in full transparency. Of course, they didn’t pay any interests in the scientific part of the project but they used some tags to raise fictional investments for money whitening.
When they found out my texts, they made pressure on me by calling on my private cell, nights and week-ends, and pretending to help to find a situation.
But in fact, these people who pretended to find a solution to support me and were not giving any feedbacks to my claims colluded. I just felt like I have entered an over abrasive culture that was taking advantage of my position as a isolated woman to exploit me.
I have read since then stories about ‘spycops’ and the way state is trying to break the dissent by luring them into fake relationships and procedures to psychologically manipulate and « detaine » them in order to steal informations and personal data (edit of june 2018) and it became quite clear that that was the strategy employed with me.
The issue of creating fictional worlds has been dealt by activists of the anti-G20 in Toronto I have been studying in past publications (2012a) who were detained at the movie studio after they’ve been arrested by private police who infiltered them.
I also suspected them to also have accessed my office (I was supposed to be the only one in having the keys) as I noticed that my computer has been accessed and some of my files on my cell also corrupted (with the complicity of Police?) during my practices at the tech incubator.
They used manipulative technics to keep me in and harass me to prevent me from voicing publicly. I also knew through some conversations that the networked group was in touch with the Police, the intelligence agencies and the Army and I observed that Police and private firms at the same time were vigilating me by always being in the surroundings like a police car waiting while I was going to the physicist (colluding?).
Actually police and secret intell agencies are the main clients of tech corporations so it is not that much surprising. I opened to coworkers to see their reactions but they stopped giving me notice which was a sign of collusion and weaponization : what human person on earth would drop you in such a moment?
Finally, the purpose is for foreign women being repeatedly plagiarized, abused, manipulated and exploited as male peers with more power and visibility take all the credits and merits for their works and productions from their blogs and researches until they finally resign and leave. They use coopting women to pretend that it is not targeting at women but evidently there are also issues of sexual predation for single women travelling far from home.
A group of american academics harassed me on Twitter, pretending I was a bitch sleeping with men to get access to elites places in order to prevent me access to an academic conference in Amsterdam, a well known patriarcal hub, after I have voiced concerns for plagiarism on Twitter. Evidently I am not a paranoid and there is a pattern for exploitation. Consequently, I had in several occasions to cut the rare connections I had made with male mentors in security, blockchain and machine learning, through my various occupations; which deepened my isolation in elites networks by opposing me as a single woman with groups of men and women’s attackers.
I then realized that the Startup experience program has been from start a virtual experiment as a prefiguration of Westworld that makes of Montreal startup places a site for fascist procedures.
I know sufficiently the principles of direct action to know that you never have to go alone in places of oppression but here I have been calling public attention about the blurring between places for containment and social spaces as the penetration of our lives by ultra-capitalist technologies go further and further.
There is a call for creating structures out of patriarchy, spaces where we could finally breathe in. But these women’s structures and networks are rare to inexistent in rural areas, industrial suburbs and countries that have reached low levels of development with gender gap as France, Spain, Italy or Greece in Europe.
It is crucial to identify spaces for resilience to allow the construction of science practices, informational knowledges and alternative economies by precarious women.
An enabler of this abrasive and toxic culture is denial – an absence of consciousness – that create serious levels of threats for advocate women in science and technology. The absence of work ethics or conscientization about the value of human identity encourage systematic attempts to damage the integrity of the person involved.
Apart of the damage caused on identities, the issue of the militarization of the tactics employed against whose who speak and that they label as threats is at stake with issues of rape, violence and torture on women’s advocates, an issue I observed and analyzed in a paper dealing with female independent journalists dealing with police violence (Debaveye, 2012a).
I made links between these sets of abusive behaviors directed at me and others I have faced in the past and I thus identified the hidden interactions between groups that form the network of collusion at diverse scales in Europe and North America. Some might call it freemansory but it could also be the permanence and reaffirmation of abusive networks of power and corruption laying in the shadow.
Historically authoritarian policies have a long proven track record of exercing intense pressure on foreign female intellectuals by rising legitimacy and public validations from the appealing security fictions of terrorism, or the fantasmagoric folklorism of women kamikazes (oftenty described as prostitutes or junkies for example) enhanced by popular fears.
As it seems, the drifts of fascism have impregnated foreign politics and market economics for long, with episodes of xenofobia and sexual violence allowing for the resurgence of a medievalism that consider transient and knowledgeable women as primay targets.
Many big cities planners who pretend to build an idea of modernity are in fact instrumentalizing local knowledge and wealthy networks to exclude and to repress alternative media. The point is that the « natural » process of selection is nothing natural but cultural and technology reproduces this ideology.
As a result, the impacts of capitalism are much more damaging on disempowered people as technologies used become more and more sophisticated and occult.
Market places and information consumption
In face of war, what is it that make a city remain still is again really mysterious to me. Is it the activation of antic tokens without integration of the otherness – the woman, the Alien – and a sort of stiffness opposed to movement?
Resistant dynamics and archaic mindsets prevent from creative transformation. Remains of activities are stucked into stones and still. Streets have become concentrative hubs for markets through mass tourism, partisan media and unhealthy urban environment, emptied from the concept of humanness that has been replaced with constant consumption. Selfies. Malls. Dollars. Numbness. This is not compensing the loss.
Technologies are not meant to be mere replicants and the echo chamber of the dead old world passing along inappropriate rhetorics based on violence with some tricky machine learning techniques devoited to legitimize repression and abuse. Technologies are meant to allow the integration of life and movement, society should become enabled by technology as more people will be using technology for change to raise awareness and fight.
Technologies should not be used to control or to design the oppressive city of the ubiquitous technocrates but to enable a reflection of the insiders on their living system. City are not objects or chiffers. They’re populated with real selves looking for authentical and meaningful connections.
Maths and profitability ideology deeply encouraged the marketization of our living creating places that are war zones with people making use of war strategies on civilians to acquire more power. It normalizes a permanent culture for threat of the precarious, poors, women, immigrants or foreigners for the sake of the system that is based on the oligarchy.
Sometimes we are surviving while being there whislt silentful when confronted with too high states of abuse and misfits. When empathy, respect for the others, are long gone. When society enclose us into systems that comfort other people into fake beliefs, distorted views, shared rhetorics among groups that have produced disembodied cities. When people link into abuse against certain categories of persons systematically and attack them repeatedly until death.
When the most repelling thing is that you cannot escape the world made at the image of them, the city you live in, the media you read, the politics you choose, the social interactions you’re forced to accept in a world that you have never contributed to raise, because of highly concentrated power and dismission of the diverse and vibrant voices that compose society, this same world loose all savour, taste and interest.
Like a gangrene, women scientists’ exploitation has become deeply rooted in tech culture and in the whole market economy and it became even impossible to adress the issue via new media protocoles as the process of demarcation is deeply integrated in systemic procedure (recruitment process, training, funding process, etc).
As a researcher, you always try to explain things to people about science but you cannot explain everything and science production involves that, at the point, the public makes use by himself of the material and get access to informed documents and news.
The remembrance of my stay with German attackers vanished on the cruise (bus-boat) that was leading me to the city if Copenhagen. After Berlin, I was about to fly back home but I didn’t want to leave without seeing it. Many people have said to me it was a huge place to go but I was fearing the disappointment, hostility or rejection. I was wrong.
Everything’s been perfect since my first seconds in there and I finally came to define what makes a culture smoothly integrative. Only a look at the city suffishes to make you feel serene. If you look at Montreal or New York for example, big trucks, high buildings, cult of gigantism and invasive screens have made an image of men filled with excitation and thrill. And we might wonder until what point screens are used as barriers.
Danish helped me spontaneously in casual situations as going out of the bus with my luggages and finding my way to the hotel. I had the right connections with the metro and bus. I was wonderfully hosted by the right people with good talks, drinks and foods, some comfort and heat. They have that degree of empathy and tolerance than enable the necessary spaces for a foreign woman to express her personal views, to create meaningful social connections and to find the courage to innovate. They’re just clever enough to get that it benefits the whole society to help you in a way that is not only material but symbolical.
My short experience has been like a physical combustion of synchronicity. I was impressed with the smiles and the good intentions of the people who surrounded me. I wondered if it was because I was a woman by my own. Maybe it’s part of the Danish culture to support women traveling by their own as a kind of cultural and social regulation.
People were celebrating the return of the Spring and I was celebrating new beginnings. They willingly invited me into their talks, showing high interests and sharing intimacy with trust and confidence. I remember how they tried to understand my accent with no sign of irritation.
We are made of atoms and pieces of information that connect, interact and intertwine permanently like a plasma. I felt the attention the connected, gender blurred city suddenly was paying at me with the cooperation of the infrastructures designed by the Danish school : good commuters, mixed urbanism, streets adapted to peatons, shime lights, connective zones, autonomous bike paths, smart traffic and housing areas.
The magic of resilience and science is hard to define: is it linked with the intrinsic nature of the city to welcome hosts, its capacity to surround you with the proper energy because you are person of culture? Sharing cultural interactions is a way to overpass cultural differences. I wondered at some point if my flamish roots have played a role on that feeling of belonging giving the many similarities between the scandinavian and northern cultures or if it was just the feminine shape of the city.
I am a bit tanned and my eyes are brown but curiously never felt different from all these tall and blond persons contrary to what happened with my family (I happen to have lots of tall blond blue eyes siblings). Apart of being quite sure I did mistakes with behaviors and attitudes not fitting the Danish culture, I never felt I was under extreme pressure.
Biking the city with its smart networks free of any cars was a tremendous experience I will always be grateful for. Danish people – as Flamish people – are really refined persons who like to make things easy for the others and expect the same in return. They openly engage in conversations and good talks. I think it was the first time in my life that people talk to me more than I do.
People showed curiosity with my otherness and uniqueness. I think cultural difference is perceived as something positive in Copenhagen. I rode my bike all day long until 10pm, talking with strangers to figure out who they were and what motivate them in life. Danish culture is quite exotic to me as it was my first time in Scandinavia. It is really easy there to have a living in the outside while being in the city so it allows more connections. Feeling accepted is in the end the step that lead to further exploration, commitment and improvement.
I liked what I was seeing and I liked the way people interacted with me, directly and without violence. It is a really specific feeling to feel home while not being home. Quite delicious feeling actually. It inspired me creative works.
I visited Denmark and Sweden once again before living for Canada, I cycled the northern sea coast of Denmark and the way up to Helsinborg and once again it was an enchantment.
It’s not a hazard if our virtual civilization started with the Fée Electricité, The Fairy Electricity, the first flux of information commonly shared among human. Information flows connect in the antic canals remixed by the newness of the other’s irruption and conveyed by the mix of media and technology interrelated within networks of texts, subjects and interfaces. In a civilisation integrating fully the human subjectivity and considering cultural divergence as an asset, we could be happier. This piece is also to recall that once again, research is not endorsement.
The Fairy Electricty as described by Apollinaire as a Fairy for party and fun. And fun for all.
Some advanced states of conscious find innovative ways to change and innovate while others stable dead forms are derailing into contempt and self-complacency. After the war, Denmark had to rebuilt and to recover from bombing and occupation by successively the Swedish and the German, just as France with war II, they knew what fascism is. They learnt from that terrible experience how to transform their social forms of communication.
This is the resilient city my resilient soul and body were calling for : the informational city made as fluid as we dreamed it. A city where women can go free and not enslaved in patterns of domination and annihilation.
Notes : giving the abuses and negatively motivated contributions I faced through my Twitter account, mostly due to a gap in scientific literacy with the audience and a blatent sexism, while producing this research, I have been exposed to deep toxicity that prejudiced my health.
Notes 2 : there are surely parallels to be made with the foreign american politics that I will adress in a separate note.
Notes 3 : I open a case for an examination of american belligerence in Yemen and Birmanie.
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