Hackerspace: 3288 Adeline Street
Berkeley, CA 94703

Email: info@hackermoms.org

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Anti-HackerMoms send hate mail, HackerMoms respond

Through the publicity of our Kickstarter, we have received much praise, press and passion for Mothership HackerMoms, even requests to start up new spaces across the country. By the same token, HackerMoms have also been accused of exclusion, reverse sexism, being anti-women, anti-men, anti-dad and anti-hackerspace (i.e., “At this point the definition of “hack” has been stretched to the point of being meaningless.”).

Our mission seems innocent enough: “We’re dedicated to giving mothers the time and space to explore DIY craft and design, hacker/maker culture, entrepreneurship and all manner of creative expression. Because our kids learn by watching us, we provide onsite childcare while we meet.” Frankly, we’re surprised at the anger that a hackerspace for mothers has generated. We wanted to answer these critics with personal stories about why HackerMoms matters and why for members, it’s a matter so close to the heart.

Read our hate mail

This sampling comes from our inbox and article comments from Boing Boing and Berkeleyside:

  • Admirable for its searing sarcasm: “This is awesome ’cause we desperately need more sexual posturing and division over gender in the hacker community. We definitely need more sexism and more racism. I’m looking forward to the Caribbean-Chinese Tagalog-speaking hackerspace to meet the needs of male crossdressers… then there will finally be a special place where I can be welcome and respected for my skin color and body parts. It could be a meritocracy of race and gender, not irrelevant technical ability, where those shitty white European males should be shamed. You, ma’am, are awesome! Vaginal dominance forever!”
  • From some non-mom women “friendly to your cause”: “If you intend to be welcoming to all women, if you are hoping that your membership will ultimately consist of 37% women without children (which reflects the general breakdown for all women 20-40, and the number without *young* children is even higher) then from a marketing standpoint you could have chosen a better name.”

“I dislike seeing “women-centric” be defined by being mothers. Apparently I can’t be a certified welder, artist, maker, builder and crafter and also belong to this space because I’ve decided that motherhood is one project I really don’t want to tackle. It speaks of the divisiveness that keeps moms and childfree women at odds with one another.”

  • A mashup of dad complaints: “Considering it’s mom this and woman that and the information on their site doesn’t mention the other half of the world’s population once or suggest that they are welcome I think I’ll pass and give my support to organizations like Techshop instead. Tools and identity politics don’t mix well….Right, because only mothers raise children and deal with these issues. Tired tired tired.”

“This is discriminatory to all the Dads out there…i thought we were beyond all that stuff in the 21 century.”

“Seems rather sexist. No love for us stay-at-home dads? Primary-caregiver dads are second-class citizens; this seems symptomatic of that.”

“next single white men who can’t have kids hackerspace…not to forget the stay-at-home dads hackerspace”

  • A HackerMoms favorite: “So…hackers are badasses? Yes, because diapers and Yo Gabba Gabba is soooooo tough.”

HackerMoms Respond

This collection of member voices answers the critics in this ongoing conversation. We’d also really love to hear your comments, stories and insights on creativity, parenthood and balance. That means we welcome moms, dads, non-moms, non-dads and the whole gang.

Sho Sho Smith, Founder of Mothership HackerMoms

I only ever wanted to be a writer and artist. Motherhood was creative suicide, so I was a lifelong anti-breeder. I also really disliked kids and cruelly trivialized mothers. When I got preggers accidentally at 35, the thing I feared most in life, I made an abortion appointment and found myself skipping it. Friends around me couldn’t get pregnant. Even I could see this was some kind of gift – or challenge. This back story makes me an unlikely person to start a group like HackerMoms.

But 2 kids and one cancer-surviving husband later, I can truly empathize with all sides – the moms, the dads, the nons, the creatives, the kids. I take critics’ statements seriously because I once believed them myself. Back then my rationale was that mothers didn’t deserve anything for being mothers, since their plight was a hell of their own making. I too would have once complained about a space like HackerMoms.

The surprise for me was that motherhood was sublime, felt as transcendent as art, and I was actually good at it. “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry,” wrote Emily Dickinson. Motherhood is constant poetry. And there isn’t just this universal boring matron, but as many different and complex kinds of mothers as women. Creative mothers especially are consciously artists in every aspect of life – they can’t shut it off. HackerMoms is where we acknowledge and practice this all-consuming art form.

I come to our hackerspace to be inspired and learn from better mothers than me. But I can’t walk inside without also fighting a “bad mother” suspicion that a good mother should be invisible, even to herself. When women choose membership here, I believe they are refusing the invisibility and back-burner martyrdom that I once believed was the only thing they deserved as mothers. If I couldn’t beat mothers, I created HackerMoms and then joined them in twist of fate that feels like true poetic justice.

 

Samantha Matalone Cook – Educator, Writer, Artist

“There has been some criticism by a few people that we are not inclusive, that we are contributing to the gender separation in the maker culture, or that we should have created a hackerspace based on family friendliness, rather than our focus on mothers. Our mission has never been about separation or exclusion, but about empowerment and inspiration.

The focus on mothers is essential. It is not a secret that men and women often seek out different means of support. Especially in a child’s younger years, mothers often carry a larger burden of childcare, and life tends to revolve around the kid. We were particularly interested in supporting the women who wanted social connection and emotional support around her creativity, and not just another playgroup. There are plenty of those and they tend not to be very productive for the mother.

So why couldn’t a mom join up with any hackerspace? Well, it’s not just the childcare (though waiting for partner to come home after a long day when you just want to go to bed or trying to find cheap childcare on top of hackerspaces membership dues isn’t ideal). Most hackerspaces are comprised mostly of men, with no option to bring junior along due to safety concerns.

A quick survey of the projects can be overwhelming to the mother who is desperately trying to eek out a project (any project). And frankly, it’s intimidating. Intimidating to walk in, try to work, or try to learn a new skill. We mothers already tend to have a hard time letting ourselves have that personal creative time! The result, then? We don’t go. When the founding group began to meet up last fall, we wanted that to stop. So do we allow dads? Yes, we love dads. But we couldn’t meet every need that existed (though as moms we often try!) and so the foundation of our hackerspace was built on a single need we knew to be true – because we were all living it.”

 

Hayden Davis, Founder of Booby Love Breast Milk Exchange

“Hack yourself a bridge and get over it.”

 

Lacey Bastian, Hooper and Copy Editor

“It’s about INcluding moms, not excluding others. Being unwelcome as the mom with the crying baby is a dilemma we face in many public places, even awesome places such as Noisebridge and other hackerspaces. I don’t think we need to go out of our way to include people without babies, because most places already cater to them. Our doors are open to everyone, but we want to make damn sure that the smelly, sleep-deprived, stressed-out, frantic mamas know that this is a place they can take a load off, whip out their boob, change a diaper on the floor, and throw back some wine while they’re at it. Power to the mamas!”

 

Laura Henry, Landscape Designer and Artist

“as a women without a baby attached to your boob you can go weld at whatever hackerspace will let you in. if you have a kid with you you need a safe place to put it while you work and, if you want to actually get any work done, you need someone else to watch it while you’re holding that torch. this space provide a safe place to stash your kid and qualified caregivers to help you get some work done. Like it or not women are more likely to be the parent that takes a few years off their career to tend a baby. i loved tending my baby but that doesn’t mean i didn’t also want some time to be creative and learn new things and get some work done. we don’t have villages to help us with childcare and so we created one.

what should i do? stay home alone with my baby since i’m the slut who squeezed this baby out of my vagina? pay up to 20 dollars an hour for childcare (which i cant afford) and then slink out to a cafe alone with my laptop hoping that no one will notice i smell like baby vomit? fts. no. i don’t have to do that anymore. i can keep my art projects there, bring my kid and feel comfortable and safe and hang out with a group of awesome women who get how hard mothering can be OR a group of people who get it and are accepting of it even if they aren’t experiencing it directly. the founding members are fucking geniuses and deserve a medal.

anyway, parentship hackerparents sounded shitty.”

 

Artlyn Johnson-Kim – Founder of Alkhemy Print and Pattern Design Studio, and Interior Design Instructor, FIDM

“as a artist/dancer/design professional, my life before my child was full of activity and free movement. it was one project after another, performance or excursion. time for all of these creative endeavors was parceled out as needed. creationism is a product of time spent doing, thinking or seeing. life is not so simple nowadays. i do what is necessary for my child’s well-being, i think about whether i want to wash clothes or have a cup of tea and i see that finding a time to manage my creative projects is a neverending struggle. i find that my friends who are not bound to do creative work on a day-to-day basis have no idea how hard it is to manage your creativity while taking care of a toddler. you need TIME, SPECIFIC time to do work. you cannot turn this on and off like a light-switch. the times that i am most in the zone may or may not coincide with my child’s nap or downtime.

i love the idea of a space where i can get things done, mingle with other creatives and have my child needs met, all at the same time. with that said, i am perturbed that anyone man, woman, whoever would have the nerve to criticize a community because they happen to be mom-centric. do you know how hard it is in this day and age to raise a child in this bizarre social construct that we now live in? i can’t spend my mornings in a cafe working on my computer, i have a busy 2 year old. i can’t go to library, unless it’s the children’s section. any working set-up for folks without children is definite ” no go” for mother’s with tots in tow. it is quite obvious there are places you just can’t go with kids so, where do we end up? at home with the kid propped up at the tv, just to give us time to work on things.

imagine this is your everyday. imagine you don’t engage with any adult person except on the playgrounds or library or at the grocery store. this is the life for some of us. just imagine if you were not able to focus on just ONE thing for, at least five, even ten minutes. as mothers we are constantly engaged in the act of parenting, whether we want to or not. this kind of thing reeks havoc on the body and mind of a mother, especially stay-at-home moms who juggle hearth and home everyday. we need a space to be mom, be creator, be maker and be ourselves. that’s a lot of woman! birthing of any kind, whether it be children, ideas, concepts or movements require the same kind of nurturing. what better place for that than the mothership?”

 

Aya de Leon – Writer, Performer, Teacher

“What our detractors and many others in the society fail to understand about mothering is that it is mostly unpaid labor. Yes, we love it, it’s rewarding, we might get a card in the month of May at some point. But it’s also hard a lot if the time, isolating, stressful, alternately boring and overwhelming, and it’s many hours and decades of labor. Just like art or making things is labor, and artists and makers deserve to get paid, even though we love our work. Also, in this society, the labor of making things and the labor of motherhood are generally un/underpaid, under-resourced, and taken for granted. For those of us who are artists or makers, when we become mothers, we face this double burden, and are always looking for creative ways to make our lives work. While dads also parent, women do by far the disproportionate amount of parenting in this country. In fact, it is partly due to the consistent undervaluing of women’s labor that parenting is so poorly compensated and resourced in the US. In order for the society to function, human beings need birthing and raising up, and it’s an important job. Most other industrialized societies respect parents more and provide much better support to us as workers.

HackerMoms is about labor organizing. We have formed a collective unit to support both the labor of creativity/entrepreneurship and the labor of mothering. Unions are groups of people doing similar work who band together to protect themselves from labor exploitation. In our case, we don’t have a sinister set of bosses trying to exploit us, instead we have a whole society that benefits from our labor and doesn’t pay us. This is not about identity politics, or positioning ourselves in opposition to any other group, it’s about protecting ourselves as a guild of workers. Because sexism pits women against each other for just about anything, it’s not surprising that the organizing of women who are artists/makers as well as mothers is seen by some as an attack on non-moms. Unfortunately, because the sexism in society has invested so much in pressuring women to conform to a heterosexual/married/child-having life, non-moms, queer women, non-married/single women can perceive moms as part of that pressure. We are not. As HackerMoms, many of us may live within that configuration and still oppose the sexism that pressures women to marry men or become moms. We can still oppose the notion that marriage, heterosexuality, and mothering is normative, superior, or inevitable. In fact, living inside heterosexual marriages and/or parenting may give us even more reason to critique these institutions.

Just like a local welders union can be connected to and supportive of the local teachers union, we are doing different work from non-parents, but we want a better world and better treatment for all makers and artists. We stand in solidarity with all creative people building supportive, creative communities. We hope you can stand in solidarity with us.”

 

Elisheva Sterling – Educator, Writer, Coder

“If Mothership HackerMoms were just women-centric and not mother-centric, and if it had a name that didn’t mention motherhood at all, it would not be long before the childless women or the women with older children started to feel like the number of small children and babies was simply overwhelming. In a few years there would be a board meeting with a majority of non-founding moms in which the “problem” of all the small children would be brought up and dealt with. They would want to get rid of the noise, decrease the chaos that toddlers bring, quarantine the diaper-clad to just the childcare room, and keep them away from the crafting and social spaces. “Please, keep your breastfeeding to the baby room!” In five or six years, the place would be women-centric, perhaps, but it would be far less welcoming to exactly the people it was built to support.

I have literally spent my entire adult life as a parent. I have spent most of that time as a single parent. I have often been the person making other people mad by bringing my children into places where children aren’t generally welcome — whether it’s a coffee shop where people are working and studying, a workplace after hours when the childcare center was closed, or university classes on days when I had school but my kids didn’t. I have been asked to leave places, not because my children were behaving badly or even being noisy, but just because they were children.

Why “HackerMoms” and not “HackerParents”? Research shows that when you help moms, you help an entire family. That’s not just in the third world. It’s in places like Berkeley, too. And, like it or not, it is still mostly women who find themselves isolated by parenting. I’m not in Berkeley any more, but I am proud of being the first HackerGrandma, and I want to support moms (and dads!) and kids and STEAM education and the culture of Hacking and Making.” (excerpted from http://alwayssababa.com/why-hackermoms)

Please feel welcome to comment and share your stories with HackerMoms.

10 Responses so far.

  1. Akiba says:

    Ha ha ha. “Hack yourself a bridge and get over it”. Words for the ages :)
    You all are kicking ass. Do what you think is right and screw the critics. They’re not the ones putting themselves out there trying to pioneer a new concept and way of thinking!

  2. Keep rockin’ it mamas! I totally support you and those haters are just projecting their crap onto you. You’ve had the initiative to make a community creative space that WORKS–that should be inspiring to others!

  3. Hacker Dad says:

    What you are doing is awesome.

    See the hate mail as a good sign – when you’re scaring the trolls, it means you’re improving society.

    Have fun hacking and crafting!

  4. kayvaan says:

    You guys have chosen to be mom-centric and you should own it.

    You’ve chosen to focus on a specific target market – hacker moms. That’s how businesses succeed. By focusing on solving a specific problem for a specific set of people.

    Be sensitive to people who feel excluded but don’t pander….

    Don’t deny the claims that you are NOT being inclusive. After all, your mission is *by definition* NOT inclusive. Rather than argue in circles, keep steering the discussion to what you ARE doing – focusing on a target market and solving a specific problem.

  5. Violet says:

    wow. People, relax, if you don’t want to go to this hackerspace which is abundantly full of moms and little kids, there are two more hackerspaces an easy bike ride away. This is the Bay area, where people who specialize in anything you can imagine have their own little group to do it with. I assure you exclusion is not the point here. I have three kids and welcome a hackerspace where their needs can be a priority.

  6. LOVE this. F*ck the haters!!I loved all the responses, but had to laugh at the poetry of this one: “anyway, parentship hackerparents sounded shitty.”

    Bottom line: if you are not into the idea, take your hate elsewhere. there are plenty of opportunities for non-moms.

    Keep up the good work and the thoughtful dialog!

  7. Over the River says:

    Wow folks is it really that difficult to understand what HackerMoms’ goals are? I saw the post on BoingBoing and went directly to KickStarter to give my support. Empowerment doesn’t have have a race, it doesn’t have a nationality, and it doesn’t have a sex. Empowerment is an investment in the future for the person being empowered and for all those who benefit from one so empowered.

    As a male I welcome empowered women. What is good for them is good for all. Let’s put the golden days of “a woman’s place is in the kitchen”, and replace it with “a woman’s place is where ever she can take herself”.

  8. giuliano carlini says:

    100 years from now something like hackermoms might be reverse discriminations. But today, in the here and now, with the world as it is and not as it should be, we need some places like hackermoms. I hope women will choose to use “mixed” hackerspaces. They’ll be a good example and model the world as it should be. I hope women will use places like hackermoms. There aren’t a lot of spaces with childcare. Or that integrate kids into making. Or that encourage and support women who may be nervous about hacking in a mixed environment. The few that exist should be supported.

  9. aw says:

    I really would love a space like this to go to and work here in my little village, to make things without my husband (a fellow hacker) telling me how I should be doing it or I am ‘doing it wrong’. I want that tribe of fellow makers, supporters, and a sacred space of fellow mothers and women to join with me and not have it be just about a play group or our children’s needs. I need to grow as much as my children do.

    It is so painful to try to give from an empty source yet as mothers we are often expected to do exactly that.

    What you are doing is inspiring and gives me so much hope for my own child consumed life. Thank you so much Ladies.. keep fighting (and rocking) the good fight.

  10. Lucy Ham says:

    I can’t believe those haters! It seems like they’re just complaining because they feel left out, when in fact, I’m sure Hackermoms would welcome them. Keep doing what you’re doing, and please consider opening a space in San Francisco!!

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