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I was the helpful kid, so when I needed help, the community was there.
I'm fairly sure I'm the only programmer anyone in that town has met in person..I'm something of the archetypal computer geek as far as they are concerned.Open source was my refuge because it was a place were nobody cared what my pedigree was or what I looked like—they cared only about what I did.I ingratiated myself to people who could help me learn by doing dull scutwork: triaging issues to keep the issue queues neat and orderly, writing documentation and fixing code comments.They've changed the rules in ways that have put a spotlight on my sex for the first time in my 18 years in this community.When we call a man a "technologist", we mean he's a programmer, system administrator, electrical engineer or something like that.That goes doubly for girls, who then grow up to be liberal arts majors.
Then, in their late teens or early twenties, someone who feels the gender skew in technology communities is a problem drags them to a LUG meeting or an IRC channel.The first time he saw a home-built robot, it was shown to him by a local hackerspace member, a woman who happens to administer one of the country's biggest supercomputers. Thanks so much, modern-day "feminism", for putting very unfeminist ideas in my son's head.There's another place in my life, besides my home, where the idea of technology being a "guy thing" is totally absent: my hometown.Even if they lacked computers, they were taking apart alarm clocks, repairing pencil sharpeners or tinkering with ham radios.Some of them built pumpkin launchers or LEGO trains.The girls didn't do projects—they talked about fashion or seeking popularity—not building things. These guys treat me like one of them, rather than "the woman in the group", and many are old enough to remember when they worked on teams that were about one third women, and no one thought that strange.