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MIT Librarian: sexist Star Trek posters intimidate women

MIT Librarian: sexist Star Trek posters intimidate women

Oh, and no more nerd and geek humor, thank you very much

After having my car keyed during the Bush era for a pro-president bumper sticker, I have avoided those with political slogans.

As I live in California, in a veritable sea of soccer mom mobiles, having a distinguishing feature on my Honda is critical. So I chose “Star Trek Valedictorian”.

Eastman Original

Little did I realize even that was political.

The top librarian at MIT recently argued that to make tech workplaces more inclusive and welcoming to women, ditch “Star Trek” posters and other geeky stuff cluttering office walls.

“There is research that shows that workplaces that are plastered with stereotypically ‘tech or nerd guy’ cultural images – think Star Trek – have negative impact on women’s likelihood of pursuing tech work and of staying in tech work in general or in that particular work environment,” said Chris Bourg, director of libraries at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Replace the Star Trek posters with travel posters, don’t name your projects or your printers or your domains after only male figures from Greek mythology, and just generally avoid geek references and inside nerd jokes,” Bourg added. “Those kinds of things reinforce the stereotypes about who does tech; and that stereotype is the male nerd stereotype.”

Bourg made the comments during her recent keynote address to the code{4}lib convention in Washington D.C, according to a post on her blog.

I had to double check the spelling in the librarians name: Is it really Bourg or Borg?. It turns out that about whether she is human or cyborg isn’t the only source of confusion, either.

Since my gender has been misidentified too many times to ignore, let me make it very clear here: I am a cis woman. I was assigned female at birth, identify now as female, and use feminine pronouns. I also identify as butch and queer. Years ago, when a rather well-known trans scholar asked me “Are you trans in any way?”, I was flattered; but I don’t identify as trans. Again for the search engines: If you are wondering “what gender is Chris Bourg?”, the answer is female.

There is so much to blast with Bourg’s assertion that I hardly know where to begin…so I will start with me. I have been a fan of the sci-fi series since I was a little girl. I hung several of those “offensive” posters myself (including this classic):

I have degrees in chemistry, geology and biochemistry.  I was also surrounded by male “nerds” who were extremely supportive of my scholarship and subsequent profession.

Beyond my personal experience, let’s review the fact that this is “Women’s History Month”. Bourg has clearly forgotten that Star Trek women have inspired young girls to consider STEM degrees and technical professions. Here is the data to prove my assertion:

My son has inherited my love of Star Trek. One of the biggest compliments he gave me was that I reminded him of Captain Janeway. Here is Janeway’s take on the Borg.

My son is now a sophomore who has a passion for physics (he does calculus for fun). The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of his top picks for college, and I would prefer he and his posters go to a place where there is real tolerance and appreciation for the iconic and classic works of science fiction.

MIT may want to consider what supporting Bourg’s stance might mean to future enrollment. Do its administrators really want serious scholars or social justice warriors?

Finally, I assert that attacking the posters in the name of feminism creates a hostile work environment for men. Subsequently, it will eventually mean that women who can handle sci-fi and fantasy posters may miss opportunities because feminist Borgs have contaminated the workplace atmosphere.

Should my son be accepted and go to MIT, I will have to get a set of Star Trek and other geek posters for his dorm room.


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UnCivilServant | March 11, 2018 at 2:04 pm

Let me see if I can find my translater.

“I don’t like it, so it must be sexist”

Close enough.

Anything to attack men. Any narrative that destroy a the confidence of men is what feminists will espouse.

DouglasJBender | March 11, 2018 at 2:23 pm

“Cis woman, butch, and queer.”

Sounds like it could be the title or first line of a progressive rock song.

She has got problems… real problems internally. One goes into the sciences to advance science not politics. Well, that was how it was for millennia but not now. Lysenko has been both cloned and reincarnated. Wait until she finds out that subatomic particles are not gender based and that cis- and trans- really mean something in chemistry.

I always found the MIT library staff to be the very worst part of the Institute bureaucracy. Lazy, inefficient, and obviously fantasizing about being somewhere else.

“Those kinds of things reinforce the stereotypes about who does tech”

Well, no. Those kinds of things are clues about who does tech. And if you change it, then—surprise!—it won’t be “tech” any more. It will be just another dismal branch of Women’s Imaginary Grievance Studies.

    Subotai Bahadur in reply to tom_swift. | March 11, 2018 at 5:44 pm

    I grew up during the Cold War. In the 1950’s-early 1960’s the government was worried about having enough engineers and scientists. They did several studies to find indicators of who they should concentrate educational resources on to get those scientists and engineers. My first school counselor in Jr. High showed me one which indicated that the best early indicator of scientific aptitude was a kid who voluntarily read science fiction in elementary and Jr. High.

    Geeks rule.

      tom_swift in reply to Subotai Bahadur. | March 11, 2018 at 9:27 pm

      was a kid who voluntarily read science fiction in elementary and Jr. High.

      Those were the days. I bought SF books by the thousands. Literally by the crate. There were no paperback chains in those days; I had to hit every drugstore and bus station I saw to catch the latest.

      Still have them all, too.

      ‘Tech or nerd guy’ isn’t a job, it’s a life. And certainly not something you get into because it was the shortest line on registration day.

You know, she doesn’t sound that intimidated.

Humphrey's Executor | March 11, 2018 at 2:44 pm

Alice Krige.

Most of my friends and acquaintances that are trekies are female. One in particular is an especially rabid SJW. Can’t wait to rub this one in her face.

Yeah, the college library here in NYC only has political posters of democrats. On the reception desk sits an overtly ‘democrat’ donkey, so I asked the dim-bulb which other desk had an elephant on it.



and inside nerd jokes,” Bourg added.

Borg, fucking Borg the irony is delicious.

Roddenberry had it wrong. These idiots are assimilating themselves. The IR light bolted to the skull will be a feature of iPhone 12, I’m sure.

Her web page discloses that she used to be a sociologist, although I did not see anything about a degree.

So, a confirmed non-math-major thinks that people in the hard sciences are nerds. She is turned off by things that all of the people around her enjoy.

Further, her imagination is so limited that, despite being surrounded by women as well as men, she presumes that females in the hard sciences react the same way that she does. Her inability to make unprejudiced observations of the women around her places her firmly in the category of “non-scientists.” This might explain why she self-identifies as a former sociologist: because sociology is a “soft” science, a sociologist must be able to make accurate observations that yield insight. This person cannot see past her own prejudices, and is more properly described as a failed sociologist.

I have worked with scientists and engineers all of my professional life. The women all enjoy a good, nerdy joke. They tend to read a lot, with both science fiction and trashy beach novels well-represented in the mix.

don’t name your projects or your printers or your domains after only male figures from Greek mythology, and just generally avoid geek references and inside nerd jokes

I’ve worked in IT and software engineering for twenty years. I doubt any of the people I’ve ever worked with could name any Greek gods, male or female. Her examples belie a lack of familiarity with the culture she’s criticizing.

So do the Star Trek references. I haven’t seen a Star Trek poster, reference, or joke in over ten years. To the current crop of millenial tech nerds, that stuff is boring ancient history. You’re more likely to see things named after legendary Pokemon.

Speaking of ancient history:

Star Trek women have inspired young girls to consider STEM degrees and technical professions.

Uhura was a secretary. This is outright lampooned in Galaxy Quest. It’s great that two whole people claim to be inspired by her, but a sample size of two isn’t terribly meaningful. It’s a manufactured myth that Uhura inspired legions of black women to go into STEM.

a place where there is real tolerance and appreciation for the iconic and classic works of science fiction

Star Trek isn’t science fiction. It’s social allegory and Greek morality play tarted up with spaceships and rayguns. Voyager did an entire episode about this.

One of the biggest compliments he gave me was that I reminded him of Captain Janeway.

That’s not a compliment. Katherine Mulgrew herself said that the only way for her to rationalize Janeway’s bizarre, inconsistent and irrational behaviour was to assume she was suffering massive PTSD and so she played her that way.

    It appears we live in parallel universes. I wish you good luck in yours.

    gospace in reply to daniel_ream. | March 11, 2018 at 6:09 pm

    Haven’t talked with them much, have you? Science fiction fans tend to be far more knowledgeable then the general public and liberal arts majors when it comes to mythology. Quick look at comic fandom- where exactly do you think Thor comes from? The gods of myth are inspiration for a lot of science fiction. Saberhagen’s Books of the Gods come immediately to mind.

    Then there’s the sci-fi theory I’ve read at least once that the gods stopped existing because people stopped believing in them. If you get a critical mass to start worshiping them again- they’ll come back.

    Let’s face it- mythology is a form of science fiction. And fertile ground for nerd discussion. I’ve never met a nerd who wasn’t familiar with mythology.

      It is obvious you know little about me. I am well versed in all sorts of mythology.

      For example, I recognize “gospace” as the Divinity of False Assumptions, whose symbol is the broad brush and whose animal is the Sacred Cow.

        gospace in reply to Leslie Eastman. | March 11, 2018 at 6:59 pm

        I was replying to Daniel, who said I’ve worked in IT and software engineering for twenty years. I doubt any of the people I’ve ever worked with could name any Greek gods, male or female.”

        You didn’t say anything of the sort, and you know little to nothing about me.

      This was my thought, too, reading daniel’s comment. That and, “they sure don’t make nerds and geeks like they used to.” Nerds and geeks are traditionally well-read and gobble up mythology at early ages in just the comics you mention, gospace.

      I’m calling for a recall of all nerd and geek cards for anyone who doesn’t know Greek and Roman mythology. Heck, let’s toss in Celtic and Norse mythology while we’re at it since no one deserves to be numbered among the noble nerds of geeks of this land if they are so intellectually incurious that they never bothered to read mythology at all, let alone as voraciously as real nerds and geeks do.

You people just don’t understand.
Bourg would rather be a scientist instead of a librarian, but she’s not.
And all the blame goes to all those intimidating Star Trek posters that prevented her from doing all the easy parts, like Advanced Mathematics, Physics or Chemistry.

Subotai Bahadur | March 11, 2018 at 5:33 pm

One of my daughter’s best friends from kindergarten on went to MIT majoring in Bio-Chem. She graduated just after 9/11 and went to work for Uncle on what was technically the civilian side. What little I know of what she did, I can’t talk about. I can say that she rendered honorable service to the defense of the country. After she left that, she went back to school and is now a doctor, having finished her residency a couple of years ago.

While she was going to MIT she would come home to Colorado to visit, and frequently would bring a group of friends from MIT. MIT students are a very interesting group, with unique senses of humor and the ability to come up with amazing pranks.

If Ms. Bourg becomes the gross Schmerz im Tuchus she seems to intend to be to the student body; I have every confidence that they can make her life absolutely miserable there in ways she will never anticipate or begin to be able to counter.

the key is she made her problem your problem.

People like this make me wish for the SMOD.

Those who can’t do, teach.

Those who can’t teach, teach gym.

Those who can’t teach gym, become librarians at MIT.

Here is a picture of Chris Bourg:

I’m sorry but I can’t put too much credence in the opinion of a woman who wears traditional MEN’s clothing [including the one piece of masculine attire that men HATE, the tie] and who has the world’s worst haircut. Especially if she is a sociologist.

Beam me up, Scotty. There is mo intelligent life here.

“don’t name your projects or your printers or your domains after only male figures from Greek mythology” Here’s a couple of PC female names that you geeks should be allowed to use, so you can retire the Zeus, Hercules, and Charon names:

Just be careful of the following types of naming:
Pandora – not a good name for a malware repository
Medusa – do not use for projects that shut down or freeze hardware or software
Echo – not to be used for a voice warning system
Aphrodite – not a good name for a dating app project
Eris – should not be used for a chat program
Psyche – not for use for software that gives access to the Dark Web
Hestia – not a good name for a recipe book and home management organiser
Erinyes – not to be used as the codename for an employee management system

CIS my A$$. Your are either NORMAL or ABNORMAL.

Reason 4,896 why women don’t belong in combat:

They’re intimidated by Star Trek posters and other geek stuff.