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Advocacy plans

I will be home in a month!

I am overflowing with ideas I want to share with people, and I'm planning to go to different places in the Philippines in order to do open source and computer science advocacy.

  • I want to show people that you can be passionate and enthusiastic about computing, and you can share what you know even if you're just talking about simple things.
  • I want to help start geek communities so that people know who's working on what. It's important for people to know whom they can ask for help.
  • I want to find out what issues teachers face in other schools and how teachers deal with those issues. I hope to share thoughts on teaching introductory computer science and making computer science fun and interesting for university students as well as elementary students.
  • I want teams from the provinces to perform better in national programming competitions.
  • I want to help show people that they can do funky computing stuff in the provinces so that they're not always envious of Metro Manila and its high concentration of geeks. ;) I want students to be able to consider their local colleges seriously. I want to encourage people to hold their own technical sessions and regular meetings.
  • I want to show people that computer science isn't just about money. It helps you learn how to think, and that makes it really useful.

I don't need to speak to large audiences, although I can do that if I'm part of a larger event. If I spoke in front of a large audience all day, I'd bore them—better to reserve that for smaller audiences so that I can adapt to people better. I don't need a grand event. I just need to be there, meeting people, asking questions, exchanging ideas...

I can start with a small thing. I can talk about computing on XTs if that's all they have. I can assume zero background on Linux or even computing if necessary. It's just that I'm mobile (aka unemployed) in a position to do something cool, and I can't let the opportunity pass.

Summertime would be best. That would mean I'd have to raise PHP 10k for airfare or so. There's a Cebu Pacific Air thing running until March 15, but I won't get to talk to teachers and students then, so it might be better to spend that time with my family, use all March to prepare really good presentations, and head off during April so that I can talk to lots of people.

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Mail sent to Ateneo CS and CompSAt mailing lists

Updated copy at http://www.livejournal.com/users/sachachua/6605.html . Please leave comments there.

Miguel Paraz just forwarded a _very_ interesting contest application to the CompSAt-EB mailing list, and I'm sending this to you because it is worth talking about, and that is because it is completely wrong.

The Philippine Computer Society (PCS) is doing a search for "Digital Pinay 2005". They're looking for role models for information and communication technology, "women who exemplify the qualities expected of future women leaders of the Philippine ICT industry."

To help them find worthy candidates, their application form asks for information like name, paragraph or two about why you deserve the award, IT experience, and such essential information as height, weight, bust, waist, and hip measurements.

I put up a copy of the form at http://sacha.free.net.ph/notebook/personal/digitalpinay.doc . Read it all the way to the end. You may start out amused, perhaps annoyed. I hope you end up horrified that such a thing could have been thinkable, much less thought a good idea. That it was proposed at all could be chalked up to temporary insanity, but that it reached this point cannot be attributed to reason.

A beauty pageant does not pretend to be anything but a beauty pageant. On the other hand, "Digital Pinay 2005" pretends to define an ideal woman in ICT, and _that_ is why it is so insulting. Or perhaps our Atenean curriculum is missing charm classes to help women learn how to wear business suits and casual clothes well?

Our industry _cannot_ be like this. Until now, I have not come face to face with such discrimination in what I believe to be such an egalitarian field. Our industry _is_not_ like this. But the existence of this contest sends a message to students, to professionals, to people inside and outside our industry. The message is that ICT in 2005 is about appearance more than substance, that how a woman looks and how she walks is more important than what she learned and what she can do. If nothing else, it tells us that our industry thinks this view is acceptable.

It is a farce that I must denounce in the strongest terms. If the PCS would like to beautify its meetings with models, it should not pretend at all to be promoting women in ICT when it is actually doing the exact opposite. If PCS would like to say that women are valuable contributors to ICT, it should not attach such values to them. For what will these women be but stereotypes and living proofs of discrimination in IT? What is their value? What will they be beyond a pretty face and a nice body?

(I find it interesting that winners are required to attend all PCS official functions. Essentially, you can buy a professional woman's time for P 25,000. The co-ed winner costs only P10,000 and the runners-up are free. Why will they grace the PCS functions with their presence? Who will take them seriously knowing the criteria by which they were judged? What of this promised visibility in the job market? Is that really the kind of job markets Ateneans are preparing for?)

The contest insults women by objectifying them, and men for proposing that such objectification is commonplace and normal. The contest insults our industry and our society. Will we not discuss it? Will we not consider how such a situation came to be? Will we not point at it and say that this is wrong?

Exams are going on and there seems to be no time to talk of things like this, but these are things that must be thought about. This is Science and Society. This is the Philosophy of Man. This is, even without all the subjects you've taken up, even if only considering that still and quiet voice within you—this is a matter of right and wrong.

So read, reflect, and be angry, for this is the sort of thing that should never be complacantly ignored. Realize that this _is_ a problem, that it _does_ exist, and that we contribute to it with our silence. Affirm what you believe in. Write. Write your fury, your shock—or casual indifference, if that is all you experience upon reading this.

As for me, I believe that just because something _is_ doesn't mean it has to be.

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