No Girls Allowed: File Sharing Culture and BitTorrent

July 20, 2010

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Anita Sarkeesian

Executive Director and Buffy the Vampire Slayer Enthusiast

Created for and originally posted at Bitch Magazine’s Mad World Virtual Symposium

Every time I go to download files from a BitTorrent tracker site I am constantly bombarded with ads for sex/dating sites or straight up pornography and I’m sick of it.  Women and people of colour are engaging in online technologies as well and we are repetitively told that we don’t belong.

BitTorrent (n.): a file sharing protocol used to distribute large files
BitTorrent tracker site (n.): is a server that assists in the communication between peers using the BitTorrent protocol

UPDATE: The YouTube version of this video was taken down due to apparent “Inappropriate Content”, with the help of New Media Rights, I contested the take down and had it reinstated.  You can read all about how I had another Feminist Frequency video taken down from the video hosting site and eventually reinstated.

Related Links and Articles:

For full video transcript click here >>

Created for and originally posted at Bitch Magazine’s Mad World Virtual Symposium

Every time I go to download files from a BitTorrent tracker site I am constantly bombarded with ads for sex/dating sites or straight up pornography and I’m sick of it.  Women and people of colour are engaging in online technologies as well and we are repetitively told that we don’t belong.

BitTorrent (n.): a file sharing protocol used to distribute large files
BitTorrent tracker site (n.): is a server that assists in the communication between peers using the BitTorrent protocol

UPDATE: The YouTube version of this video was taken down due to apparent “Inappropriate Content”, with the help of New Media Rights, I contested the take down and had it reinstated.  You can read all about how I had another Feminist Frequency video taken down from the video hosting site and eventually reinstated.

Related Links and Articles:

Transcript

music lyrics “computer love computer love” I’m so sick of porn with my file sharing.  What the hell bit torrent tracker sites.  BitTorrent is a file sharing protocol used to distribute large files.  So instead of sending the file from one computer to the other which is known as peer to peer.  What’s happening is everyone whose downloading the file is sharing with everyone else so we’re all taking little bits of information and that will eventually be compiled into a full file on our computers.

It’s a really efficient decentralized way of downloading files, it’s actually really ingenious. But as with most geeky technology BitTorrent tracking sites fill their ad space with ads directed at young men, not at people who look like me.  One way that I can tell is because the ads are either how to get ripped in 4 weeks or porn directed specifically at heterosexual, young males.  The images are of women being debased and dehumanized to sell advertising for sex sites or online dating sites.  Some are straight up pornography and others are just using pornographic images to entice young men to visit their sites.

For example the Evony MMO uses ads like this which clearly is using women’s bodies to attract boys to come play their game except I think their game was like a strategy MMO, like, it had nothing to do with the women in the advertisements.  And then these ads are clearly for porn except they’re trying to pretend that it’s like the “classiest collection of nude art.” All of these ads are just using women’s bodies to appeal to geeks and gamers.  People that look like this [cut to an image of the cast of The Big Bang Theory].

I just want to file share without being bombarded by naked women and offers to meet ladies in my neighbourhood.  I also don’t want to download a virtual stripper who takes her clothes of on my desktop.  And frankly, I’m horrified at the thought of someone turning their computer on and having a virtual stripper do a little dance for them everyday.  That falls under the fembot category and y’all know how I feel about that.

There are plenty of techno-geeks who are women so why do these sites insist on advertising only to men.  That was a rhetorical question, I actually know the answer to that. Women are systematically left out of techno-geek culture.  It’s a boys club that’s reinforced socially and culturally.  It creates a space that is so undesirable for women to be in that they don’t want to or they aren’t given the opportunity to participate.

Just look at the fact that less then 3% of open source programmers are women or how about the fact only 13% of Wikipedia contributors are women?  It’s not that women aren’t interested in technology, it’s that there are very real barriers for women to get involved and engage.

Having ads on the BitTorrent tracking site targeted at a very specific demographic of young heterosexual males alienates and discourages women from participating.  And these ads are only a teeny tiny little fraction of the intentional and unintentional barriers keeping women out of the boys club.  I like technology and coding and science fiction and open source software and all sorts of other geeky stuff, so why am I told I don’t fit in?  And I’m also told that the only place for women in this subculture is to be the hot chick or maybe the booth babe at a convention.

We want to be full participants in geek culture and the only way that’s gonna happen is if we dismantle the boys club and tear those barriers down.

music lyrics “computer love computer love”