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December 16, 2013

Area Woman Has Some Thoughts About a New Computer Programming Language to Be Created in Accordance With Feminist Ideology

Update: Is this all a Sokol-like fake? See the updates.

Via wiserbud, first spotted by Leon Caruthers, some very silly stuff from a feminist.

The most surprising thing about this article is that it's not on Slate -- yet.

Her basic argument seems to be that programming language is sexist. Yes, sexist. Programming language's strictness of rules and idealization of "elegant" (simple, direct) solutions is a normative, standard-setting paradigm of thought that reinforces masculine thinking and male hegemony.

In the scope of my research, a feminist programming language is to be built around a non-normative paradigm that represents alternative ways of abstracting. The intent is to encourage and allow new ways of thinking about problems such that we can code using a feminist ideology.

To succinctly sum up my research thus far I will outline the decomposition of my question below:

The idea came about while discussing normative and feminist subject object theory. I realized that object oriented programmed reifies normative subject object theory.

Let me stop right there to say this is the common way post-modernists spin their nonsense -- they notice one word (such as "object") appears in several different contexts, so they begin making silly parallels between its use in one context and another. Women are allegedly "objects" of male desire and male subjugation; and there's also a sort of programming called "object oriented programming," so obviously these two very different ideas of what an "object" is must be somehow related and this all must be a male conspiracy against women.

This is a brief definition of "object oriented programming," from Wikipedia:

Object-oriented programming (OOP) is a programming paradigm that represents concepts as "objects" that have data fields (attributes that describe the object) and associated procedures known as methods. Objects, which are usually instances of classes, are used to interact with one another to design applications and computer programs.[1][2] C++, Objective-C, Smalltalk, Java, C#, Perl, Python and PHP are examples of object-oriented programming languages.

Object-Oriented programming is an approach to designing modular reusable software systems.... Although often hyped as a revolutionary way to develop software by zealous proponents, the object-oriented approach is in reality a logical extension of good design practices that go back to the very beginning of computer programming. Object-orientation is simply the logical extension of older techniques such as structured programming and abstract data types. An object is an abstract data type with the addition of polymorphism and inheritance.

Inheritance? I can almost smell the Patriarchy.

So as you can see, we're already off to a very, very silly start.

Back to our Feminist Coder:

This led me to wonder what a feminist programming language would look like, one that might allow you to create entanglements (Karen Barad Posthumanist Performativity).

I have no idea what that is and I'm not looking it up.

I realized that to program in a feminist way, one would ideally want to use a feminist programming language.

In much the same way as a feminist carpenter would, ideally, like to use a feminist hammer with which to pound nails. Or perhaps not pound them; that's very andronormative. Guide them into the wood, maybe.


I am currently exploring feminist critiques of logic in hopes of outlining a working framework for the creation of a feminist programming language.

In the comments, in response to questions or suggestions, she fleshes out (fleshes out!? Male Gaze!!!) her nonsense. First, someone writes to her:

Oh my gosh yes

this is awesome.

For the longest time, I've been thinking about programming languages as a computer-human interaction problem: the purpose of a language is to make its features (affordances) obvious to its users.


C++ incorporated into an evolution of C and the Java language was created to *enforce* that paradigm on the premise that it would improve the code. What I find curious is how many people go out of their way to "beat" Java's enforcement to program in their own style.

We, as programmers, despite claiming that our field is "objective" have very subjective values that are entrenched in our discourse of programming language, particularly when it comes to the impossible-to-define term of "elegance". Walk into a language war and listen to nerds argue about their favorite languages and still believe that their views are "objective".

An excellent paper to read on this topic for anyone interested is Seymour Papert and Sherry Turkles "Epistemelogical Pluralism and the Reevaluation of the Concrete."

I saw the movie. It was pretty good.

The author of the post responds:

The visceral response trained programmers have to code that is not "elegant" is undeniable. If code were so neutral and objective itís hard to imagine why or how someone would come about such an extreme reaction. I think a lot of interesting information gets ignored under the guise of neutrality and objectivity.

As you can see from this exchange, both of these Feminists are bothered by the standards of programming, and the samey-sameness of different solutions, and want more "creative" and off-beat solutions.

In addition, they don't really seem to care that much about the actual goal of the programming, that is, whether it does what it's supposed to do. They're concerned about the meta aspect of programming, why this solution is chosen over that one, why some "interesting information" about why solutions are chosen is ignored.

So you can see that they seem to be spending a lot of time wondering "What do we mean by END_OF_LINE? Do any lines really end?" and that kind of nonsense.

Another writer -- a male, of course -- questions what the hell she's talking about.

Tirst, since I don't understand the critical theory: what exactly is a "a non-normative paradigm" in a programming context? Also, what is "feminist logic?" Does it oppose the laws of identity, non-contradiction, or excluded middle, or is there a more subtle difference?


Finally, what end do you see a feminist language serving, and where do you think it would best be applied? Do you see it as primarily being of academic/research interest, as an alternative form of expression/instruction, or do you think that this could affect (in a beneficial way) programming in general, even in industry? I know that this is very early in the research stages, so this question might not have any answers yet.

The author responds:

Fair questions.

Let's start from the top.

A non-normative paradigm would be something that does not reinforce normative realizations of what a programming language is.... The ideas is that the standard, normative, concepts reinforce the values and ideologies of societies standards. ... In many ways this falls under the scope of critical code studies, as I am asking questions about the cultural, social impact of normal programming constructs.

Critical Code Studies! My God, there's actually an academic critique of the social values embedded in computer code already!

Of course there is! I should have realized!

She continues:

What is a feminist logic is a question Iíve spent the past six months thinking about and researching. There are not a lot of women in philosophy, and there are definitely not a lot of feminist philosophers, so I donít have a good answer for this question. There is great scholarship talking about weather a feminist logic can build off of formal logic or if it has to reject the laws of identity and create something entirely new.

If you're looking to reject formal logic due to its "identity" as part of the male paradigm, I think you're well on your way down that path.

There are solid arguments for both camps, personally Iím swayed by the constructive theories that would build onto formal logic through a feminist lens. There exist logics that handle contradiction as part of the system, namely paraconsistent logic. I think this type of logic represents the feminist idea that something can be and not be without being a contradiction...

A value can be true and not true simultaneously, and the computer program should be able to just deal with that murkiness.

I think this woman might have been a lead developer on Healthcare.gov.

On to "what is the point of this:"


So, as for the last set of questions, you may have heard of the Sapri-Whorf Hypothesis. It was developed by anthropologists and posits that language affects perception of itís speaker and thus shapes understandings and thought. There is good evidence to support this hypothesis. So if the hypothesis stands, we can say that programming languages constraint the way we see and understand a given problem.

The idea of something being "true" and "not true" simultaneously doesn't sound entirely absurd -- but it does sound like something only an artificially intelligent machine could make sense of, because that sort of ambiguity is the province of human thinking. Fuzzy logic and that sort of thing.

It does not sound like something you should be doing in banking software. When it comes to their money, people want to know exactly how much they own. They are not willing to take "maybe this, maybe that" or "it depends on what you mean by own" as an answer.

This trouble-making Male Persecutor points that out:

I don't have much to say about using an alternative logic as the basis of the language, besides that programmers would probably get very annoyed if there was a value that could execute both the "if" and "else" branches of their conditional statement. ;-)

I think I just watched a Gendercrime in progress, but "no one wanted to get involved" so no one called the police.

Let's just end on a high note. First of all, wiserbud sends over this quote, apparently seriously intended (though who can tell with all this nonsense?)

"A feminist programming language is a language that respects the agency of objects, acting upon them only upon mutual consent."

Oh my God. "Objects" in code -- a datafield, say -- must only be acted upon by mutual consent, because the machine's acting upon them without permission would be a violation of the datafield, akin, I'm certain, to sexual assault.

Did I mention that these things we're calling "objects" are in fact really objects, not people we're calling objects, and real objects actually cannot offer consent?

And if you're thinking to yourself, "What's next? Queer Code?"

Well, that's not next. Because they already have that.

Queer programming language/Zach Blas

Of related interest is Zach Blas' work on a queer programming language.

"Queer Technologies is an organization that produces critical applications, tools, and situations for queer technological agency, interventions, and sociality. By re-imaging a technology designed for queer use, Queer Technologies critiques the heteronormative, capitalist, militarized underpinnings of technological architectures, design, and functionality. Queer Technologies includes, transCoder, a queer programming anti-language;ENgenderingGenderChangers, a ďsolutionĒ to Gender Adaptersí male/female binary; Gay Bombs, a technical manual manifesto that outlines a ďhow toĒ of queer networked activism; and GRID, a mapping application that tracks QT dissemination and infection."

And Now The Parody: Some people decided to parody this nonsense with a proposed new "feminist" coding language comporting with the ideas expressed above, called C Plus Equality.

You can tell they're serious because they've got a logo:

Thanks for that update to Maet.

Is This Fake Too? If you read this, it seems to be saying that not only is the above "C Plus Equality" language a parody and fake, but the original article (the one I just spent an hour writing about) is fake as well, and created just as pretext for the fake "Feminist" programming language.

I'm not sure if that's what they're saying, though-- and I'm not sure that they're right, even if they are saying that.

That is, this could be seriously intended (the original article, I mean), but very embarrassing for Feminist critical theory, so people are dismissing it as fake.

digg this
posted by Ace at 03:59 PM

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