08 August 2012

Girl Power-Really?


I have to give a hat tip to Pro Male/Antifeminist Technology for this 'grrl power' tech piece I'm about to fisk.  This is an article about girls in technology doing Android apps.  I can't make this up; I just can't.  Here goes...


Don't be fooled by the old-school, cut-and-paste poster-board presentations that were propped up in the Intel (INTC) lobby in Santa Clara one evening this week.

What's wrong with old school presentations?  They may be simple and prosaic, but they're effective.  They're also immune to computer crashes and dead batteries.

Once onstage, the 11 teams of high school girls unveiling their mobile apps for the 2012 Technovation Challenge were totally new-school, stunningly savvy and digitized to the max.

Why weren't there any BOYS competing for these prizes, hmmm?  I mean, men only invented the vast majority of life changing devices and products we take for granted today!  Might there not be a reason for that?  Isn't it possible that, due to their temperament and aptitudes, that men will invent more than women will or have?

Competing for the chance -- worth an estimated $15,000 -- to have their app developed and brought to the Android market, 520 girls in four cities around the country teamed up with tech mentors to brainstorm ways to put smartphones to good use. Following a theme of "science education," the 100 apps were winnowed down in regional playoffs, and Thursday it was time for the cream to rise to the top.

What cream is rising to the top here?  Again, where are the BOYS in these competitions?  If this were an all boys competition (and, all things being equal and-gasp-fair, this would be mostly boys), there would be a huge hue and cry; that's sexist-waaaahhh!  Where are the women?  This is oppression-waaaaahhhh!  Ah, but when there are no boys in a competition in which they could and would do well, why that's all right; all is right in the world now that only girls are competing for these tech prizes.

"Our app is designed to change the way you consume, little by little, every single day," said Sonya Jendoubi, a 16-year-old junior at Lycée Francais La Perouse in San Francisco, showing off her team's Ecocitz app. By scanning grocery store products and learning instantly if the product is local, organic and comes in recycled packaging, Ecocitz "will help us fix our mistakes by focusing on people's misconceptions about what it means to be 'green.' "

I have a better, quicker, simpler, and easier idea: how's about reading the blasted label?!  It saves battery power and money for the necessary data transfer.  You want to change the way you consume?  Pay attention and practice discipline-duh!

One by one, the teams took the stage Thursday in front of an audience of proud parents, teachers and mentors.

Some of the mentors had worked closely with the finalists, eight of whom came from the Bay Area. And for 10 weeks, women in computer sciences, programming and even venture capital volunteered their time and expertise to help the girls build self-esteem while they fine-tuned their concepts. The point of it all is girl power, said Tara Chklovski. She's founder of Iridescent, the science education nonprofit that runs the Technovation Challenge, now in its third year and growing fast.

Translation: the mentors held the girls' hands and did most of the work for them.

Oh, and what about 'boy power', hmmm?  Men are treated as second class citizens; they're bashed and trashed at every opportunity; whether it comes to school, college admissions, hiring, or promotion decisions, females get preference these days.  Who needs girl power?  Girls are more than empowered these days.  How about some 'boy power'?  How about helping the TRUE disadvantaged in America's schools today: our boys?

"A girl's perspective is different and unique from the rest of the world," she said, "and the apps they've come up with reflect that. One's called 'Simply U,' and it's designed to prevent teenage pregnancy.

"The team saw this huge concentration of pregnancies in their area and came up with an app to educate girls about their options. You never see these kinds of apps on the market because there aren't girls creating them. We're trying to change that."

Here's a better idea: keep your freaking legs CLOSED!  Ann Landers or Dear Abby had it right back in the 1980s, and they have it right now: for a woman, the only 100% effective contraceptive is an aspirin clinched FIRMLY between the knees.  Abstinence works every time it's tried!

You know why a guy didn't come up with that lame-o idea for an app?  It wasn't for lack of empathy; it wasn't for lack of a 'female perspective'; it wasn't due to sexism.  No, it was because a guy would wonder why an app is needed to practice a common sense, preventative action-duh!

The pitches came fast and furious. Each team was allotted four minutes to describe their mobile app, the problem it was designed to solve, the competition already out there, and the marketing strategy they'd use to share it with the world. "Intoxication Station" from the Mountain View High School team took underage drinking head-on, with screen icons that brought up symptoms to tell how drunk someone was, offered first-aid tips and ways to get a ride home for a tipsy teenager, even help with hangovers.

Uh, shouldn't someone, particularly a designated driver, already KNOW this stuff?  Shouldn't people already know the signs of drunkenness?  Shouldn't people already KNOW the signs to look for before going out?  Shouldn't someone know what to do before someone gets drunk out of their mind?  What about the health classes students are required to take?  I learned all this stuff in seventh grade, for cryin' out loud!  Didn't these empowered girls have health classes?  If so, did they-gasp-LEARN anything therein?  Finally, can't someone consult sites like WebMD to brush up on this knowledge?

How did this app even get past the preliminary rounds?  How did it get past the second round?  How did this group make the finals in this competition?  What need does this solve?  What are people going to do, pull out their smart phone, pull up the app, and treat a drunk person on the spot?  If so, how are they going to concentrate on doing so while looking at the phone telling them to do X?  Again, shouldn't people have an idea of what to look for and what to do BEFORE a night of hard partying?  I have to scratch my head at this one...

The "SATisfy" app helps students help each other study -- social networking style -- for their SATs, pairing up kids online by matching strengths and weaknesses. And "Niffler," the Monta Vista High team's learning game based on a Harry Potter character, helps kids learn their chemical compounds by maneuvering a bucket across the screen to catch the appropriate ions.

I have a better idea on how to study: get together in a group if you must!  Oh, I know, I know; it's not flashy, new, or high tech, but again, it works.  Can someone study online?  Can someone play games online?  Yes, but it's not the same as doing it in person.

Why do students need to get together to study anyway?  I would do it once in a while or for a group project, but I normally studied alone.  Here's all you need to study: a quiet place, a table/desk, paper, pen or pencil, and the required books.  Oh, and some discipline would come in handy too; you have to make up your mind that you'll study at the same time on the same day.  That's it!  Where does social networking enter the picture?

But MarkyMark, I don't have a quiet place to study; my home life is bad; it's noisy at home and I have no place to study.  Okay, what about using the school or local library?  What about using the park picnic tables on a nice day?  What about using the tables at the local Starbucks?  What about taking advantage of study halls or gaps between classes?

"The idea," said Anupama Cemballi, 17, team member and junior at the Cupertino school, "is to help make chemistry fun. Chemistry can be really boring in class, but our app makes it interactive."

Many classes could be more fun and interesting if taught in the right way.  For example, history could be more fun if it focused less on dates and more on the people involved in a particular event.  Shoot, some events are better than any soap opera or drama you'll see on TV!

Science could be more fun too if its relevance were tied in to the real world.  For example, physics, when one thinks about it and its ties to the world, is interesting stuff; it's neat!  For example, by learning about rotational motion, one can learn WHY figure skaters pull their arms and hands in as they launch their jumps.  It's all about conservation of angular (i.e. rotational) momentum; as they pull their arms in (i.e. decrease the radius), the rotational speed (the rate at which the skater is spinning) has to increase, so that angular momentum is conserved.

I can think of an example too.  I was watching a figure skating event some years ago.  This female skater launched a jump, but she fell.  It turned out that she under-rotated, so her blade wasn't aligned with her direction of motion.  I said to myself, "I'll BET she didn't pull her arms in far enough, so she didn't spin enough."  Sure enough, when they showed the replay and the commentator spoke, this is EXACTLY what happened!  Not only did I know what happened; I knew WHY.  Why did I know?  Because I'd studied physics.  No apps were needed for this.  All that was needed was to ask one, simple question during my studies: what is the parallel in the real world?  How does this relate to what I see in the world around me?  What's really needed is to change the way in which the subject matter is presented, and for students to study better.  Ah, but we can't market an app for that now, can we?

This sort of thing is what you get when you don't reward good teachers, or reward those who WOULD be good teachers.  Educational reform is needed, but that's another topic for another day...

Cembali said even if her team didn't nail first place they still planned to get their app into the Android market on their own. "And eventually," she said, "we hope to partner with tech and education companies, maybe even Sylvan Learning Centers, to get our app out there."

Good luck, let's see what happens.  The market will speak, and it will let them know if there's a need for this app.

While some of the teams relied on the code-programming prowess of their mentors, others figured out how to develop the apps on their own, even using YouTube do-it-yourself videos on writing code. For most of the teams on hand, their initial app was clearly just the first step in a longer journey. The girls behind Niffler were already planning to add more games to help high-schoolers master their science lessons.

Translation: even the top girl teams didn't actually WRITE the code; they borrowed others' ideas, and they copied their coding techniques.

Oh, and see my above comment: we don't need more games to help students master their science lessons.  No, what we need is good, old fashioned hard & smart work.  You know, study diligently every day with books, pencil, and paper handy to work out problems?  You know, master mathematics, the language of science, first?  Without mastery of mathematics, no one can or will understand science, because the hard sciences ALL make use of mathematics.  Once math is mastered, one can easily learn science.  Again, if one asks about how this ties in with the real world, one can learn a lot!  Ah, but we couldn't market an app for that now, could we?

But it was the team behind "Froggy Cut" that seemed to be shooting the highest.

Oh, this is good!  You'll see in a minute...

The girls at June Jordan School for Equity in San Francisco addressed a long-standing biology class problem: how to avoid cutting up all those frogs year after year, thus saving money and frogs' lives. They came up with an app that virtually dissects the slimy amphibians, allowing students to tap into the magic of digital animation to do the dirty deed right there on the smartphone's screen.

Sorry, Girls, but there are certain things in this life that, in order to learn and master, one must actually DO them.  If you want to learn to swim, you have to get in the water.  If you want to learn how to ride a bike, you have to saddle up.  If you want to dissect frogs, you have to cut 'em open.  Sorry, but for some things, there is NO substitute for practical experience.

I didn't like it; I wasn't particularly good at it; but, dissecting frogs was nonetheless valuable for me.  How?  I realized that being a doctor was NOT for me!  I knew that, if I ever went to med school, that I'd have to do a whole lot more dissection, and not only of frogs; I'd have to dissect dead cats and cadavers too.  I don't think an app could teach this.  An app couldn't teach one to handle a scalpel or other medical instruments, either.  Again, in order to learn some things, one has to DO them for real, not on some computer, tablet, or smart phone screen-duh.

"Approximately 2.5 million frogs are dissected in high school biology classes every year," said one of the team members, pitching her heart out to the three judges. And without anyone questioning her math, she went on to posit that "with each frog costing $4, that's $10 million spent on frog dissection annually. Our app will cost each student $1.99. So we can save the schools $5 million and we can make $5 million."

Where does she get these numbers?  Furthermore, how does she figure that their team will make five million?  They'll earn five million in REVENUES, but what about profits?  What will be left after expenses, such as for legal and marketing?  What will be left over at the end of the day?  Shouldn't these students know these things already?  Shouldn't they have learned or figured this out before giving the presentation?  Where's the 'grrl power' here?

Furthermore, what's to say that these girls will capture the entire market for frogs?  What's to say that some school districts won't continue using frogs and doing dissection the old fashioned way?  What's to say that there won't be competition from other apps doing the same thing?  So how can these girls say that they will make five million dollars?  Would it not have been more accurate to say that their POTENTIAL market is worth that much?  Where is this superior, female intelligence I keep hearing about?  Where's the 'grrl power'?

And that's a win-win-win ... if you include the frog.

Whatever.  Where were the boys in all this?


That concludes my fisking of this piece.  Have a good day now...



Twenty said...

. And for 10 weeks, women in computer sciences, programming and even venture capital volunteered their time and expertise to help the girls build self-esteem while they fine-tuned their concepts.

Another take on the heavy behind-the-scenes involvement of the "mentors" in these projects is that "women in computer sciences, programming and even venture capital volunteered" couldn't come up with any ideas worth a damn either. How come none of these ModernEmpoweredWymym ever sat down with the teams and said: "Uh -- girls -- this is lame. Also, estimating your revenues by assuming that you capture 100% of the addressable market makes you look like a clown."

As members of the tech community, the vast majority of women make excellent receptionists.

Anonymous said...

All of these so called competitions share one thing in common - they aren't competitions as they artificially remove the best and brightest in Tech fields. Of course, the same things is being done in colleges, and grad-schools throughout the US. I regularly tell males students not to waste their time going to school - to start working in the tech field, and take classes in business administration and economics, and they will do a lot better.

Many boys have learned the deck is stacked against them, and some have decided to punt - these are the men that don't want to deal with women as they are tired of the whining and complaining.

Fortunately, the government has been making it more and more discrimination to take into account education - so it doesn't hurt the boys, since invariably they do a better job at coding, developing, and everything else when it comes to technology. All this trend as succeeded in doing is making women complain that they can't find any men.

Of course, they mean men who have stuck with being discriminated against and demeaned. Since the men that didn't want to deal with that crap have no time to deal with the other non-sense from all of the women who are complaining.

Men will do what they have always done - create a society of their own. And as the one by women and for women breaks down, the women will start screaming that women are discriminated against in that they can't start real businesses, or invent real applications... But then they do that already...

Carnivore said...

This is great:
The point of it all is girl power, said Tara Chklovski. She's founder of Iridescent, the science education nonprofit that runs the Technovation Challenge, now in its third year and growing fast.

Tara's a successful example of girl power: she's the founder of a nonprofit - i.e. organization that can't make it on its own but survives by getting money from the government and foundations.

MarkyMark said...


I took a quick look at their team, and it's mostly KIDS. One chick graduated college in 2011, for cryin' out loud! There's only a handful of guys in that organization; it's mostly female. How do guys work in such an estrogen rich environment?


Anonymous said...

As for your comment about the girls copying code, it is standard practice to imitate textbook examples. It's not clear to me whether these girls crossed the line of unethical copying.

Good coders will copy lots of code and make lots of changes. Eventually, their code gets more original, but copying isn't necessarily bad. Coding is about functionality, not originality or flair or style.

Getting someone else to do the code, however, is way past the danger zone. At that point, you're no longer a coder.

Roy Scott Movrich said...

@ Anon 15:15 -
Already the GOP co-chair is proselytizing that women want more jobs, a stronger economy ... yadda, yadda, yadda.
Even after pushing all the men out, its still NOT ENOUGH for them - they still want more!
You are right. We men have to go off and create our "Brave New World", and hopefully when the femmie one breaks down, they won't be able to find us!

phoenix said...

All I really get from that article is that yet more jobs are going to women rather than men. Yet these women will still demand men make more money than them so they can marry them and leech off of them.

Well, that's just not going to work. Everybody can't have a job, and you certainly can't prioritize females over males. This is why ancient societies were all polygamist. Women will only marry up, but when very few men are on top that means a lot of women for a few men while everyone else is just broke and not really part of that society.

America's greatest years were where men could have a solid middle class job and women didn't need to and didn't all want to work. Women always had access to jobs, they just did not flood the market. Therefore houses and everything else were set to a single wage earner. Taxes were also very high on the rich, to encourage them to pay their employees more rather than hoarding money at the ridiculous levels they are hoarding now. Anything over $2M back then was taxed at 90%, so most rich people just paid their employees instead and were still far richer than they could possibly ever spend in 5 lifetimes.

Whatever though. I have my gold, I have my ammo, I have my generator, I have my land, I will be fine.

Anonymous said...

"A girl's perspective is different and unique from the rest of the world,"

Sure because only 50% + of the world are females lol

"The team saw this huge concentration of pregnancies in their area and came up with an app to educate girls about their options"

Sure, we need more education and it's not as if sex ed wasn't being taught since the 70's. And it wasn't just taught as part of biology which would make sense but an entire subject and class was devoted to it. Yet, there are more knocked up girls than ever! Slowwww learners.

" Shouldn't people already know the signs of drunkenness?"

Marky, stop being so old fashioned these kids today are really smart which is why I guess they need warning labels on liquor bottles to tell them drinking it may make them drunk lol
Marky, this isn't even an app but just an iphone version of those old pictures showing different stages of drinking with the last pic of the guy unconscious. It'd make more sense to just buy a breathalyser to see what level you're at.
And I'd bet if I seen this app it would be some feminist version of the girl getting "date raped" after drinking at the end in one of the pics.

"pairing up kids online by matching strengths and weaknesses"

Wouldn't it make more sense pairing a kid who is studying up with an expert who knew all the right answers and who could explain things rather than kids who know nothing and will just end up fooling around with each other online? Perhaps some sort of bot.

"Shoot, some events are better than any soap opera or drama you'll see on TV!"

Marky, you're being old fashioned again. You can't learn history unless it has some vampires, knocked up 15yo, lesbians, or a gay George Washington wearing a dress in the story. It's just too boring :)

"Science could be more fun too if its relevance were tied in to the real world"

And that's why we went on field trips. Whether to the art museum, natural history, botanical garden, zoology or whatever. But I guess that there are so many nanny state rules today that by the time you got approved to go the school term would be over lol

"This sort of thing is what you get when you don't reward good teachers"

But in the past teaching was a low paying job usually made up of people who were dedicated to teaching.

"So we can save the schools $5 million and we can make $5 million."

But what about all of the frog farmers and specimen bussinnesses who prepare the frogs, fetal pigs and other stuff so it can be disected? Looking at a pic in a book or on an app is not the same as the real things because in the real world there is variation in anatomy and finding some organ in the specimen like the liver is not the same as the pic on the app. Things are packed in pretty tight and there is fat deposits and other stuff in the way. When I was a med student I couldn't find the appendix and it looked so easy in Grey's anatomy lol

Anonymous said...

I have 2 points I'd like to make.

1) Males don't need "competitions" like this. If they are truly interested in tech, they'll self-learn and come up with actual useful projects to complete. If you need proof, see www.hackaday.com.

2) Subjects like physics and calculus are very difficult to teach. Using calculus as an example, it's one thing to be able to do the calculations, it's completely something else to be able to explain the fundamental ideas behind calculus. Honestly I did not truly understand what calculus was really about until 3rd year in my undergrad degree.

Ecclesiastes said...

There was this movie a long time ago, "Risky Business".

It wasn't Casablanca, but on this issue it rocks.

Lily said...

"Competing for the chance -- worth an estimated $15,000 -- to have their app developed and brought to the Android market"

I wouldn't be too upset about this guys. I'd be more upset being one of these contestants. It sounds like they're being used to harvest app ideas, for which a winner will be paid a very small sum to have their idea taken and developed. The winner will probably have to forfeit their copyright to the developer who could make millions. Just like Amazon Studios is doing now with fledgling screenwriters.

P Ray said...

Good coders will copy lots of code and make lots of changes. Eventually, their code gets more original, but copying isn't necessarily bad. Coding is about functionality, not originality or flair or style.
That's plagiarism. Not to worry, their stupidity and complete ignorance of fundamentals (there's a HUGE difference between DESIGNER (that can code too), designer (that tells coders what to do) and coder (that does what they're told to)) gets exposed when TurnItIn is employed ... unless the lecturers have been told to pass those students by management who want to keep funding coming in.

I'd be more upset being one of these contestants. It sounds like they're being used to harvest app ideas, for which a winner will be paid a very small sum to have their idea taken and developed.
Capitalism AND Feminism in a nutshell. I wonder where these women will be in a few years' time, when a prettier one can bump them out of the way.

Utterly Anon said...

While this competition gave children an opportunity to think through some problems and come up with something, the real purpose behind it was something else. It wasn't to teach them programming skills. It was for some company to look at the ideas for apps that would be popular with young consumers so they can swipe the IDEA and potentially make money off of it. Targeting girls in particular means opening the market up to access girly dollars. Do you really think that any of these girls will get a single penny of a frog dissection app? Heavens no!

But INSTEAD, you got caught up in the idea of a perfect end product which you opine that BOYS would be better at.

You're cynical about the wrong thing here this time.

Constance said...

Quite frankly, I'm at a loss. How anyone can show so much hatred and be so fundamentally wrong is beyond me.

There is nothing which shows in any way that women are any less capable in the tech field. If there is any reason, it is probably because tech has basically been assigned to men, that video games are stereotypically played by men: It's called socialization. If all boys were brought up and taught to play with barbie dolls, to like the color pink and to do their hair, all things typically associated with girls, and their counterparts were given action figures, played xbox and wrestled, then it would be normal and no one would know the better.

Unfortunately, we are so ingrained in tradition that it is hard to escape these stereotypes and we continue to perpetuate them.

So, if girls were introduced to tech, considered it something they could do well at because they were familiar with it, then I'm certain we could do just as well if not better than men. Naturally there are differences between men and women, as far as their methods of working and so on, but there are just as many differences among men and among women.
Putting all women in one group and all men in another group is looking at it the wrong way.

As for it being unfair because this competition was only made for girls, this competition encourages girls to explore an area which they may not typically consider. It isn't to marginalize men, or give girls an advantage, but to expose them to the field and gain a new perspective. I do understand if people dislike this separation, but I honestly find the arguments here disturbing.