Upon hearing a conversation between my friends and I about Blogger versus LiveJournal, Misogynist Bill notes, "That's so girly. I just blog on my own webserver." Horrified, I replied, "What the hell is girly about it?" He laughed and said, "You know."
I won't mention why I call Misogynist Bill by that name, because the topic is too infuriating for me to type it here. The point is that, according to M.B., "girly" means "for people who would rather do other things like watch movies, exercise, hang out with friends, and so forth, webserver maintenance is not for them." Honestly, I get plenty of computer time with my network simulations and my XML schema, neither of which I think is particularly girly. When I think of girly, I think of pink ruffles, frilly baskets, bonnets, and movies like "Princess Diaries 2" (which, by the way, my retired electrician dad thinks is better than the first).
Unfortunately, these notions of what is girly don't stop with M.B. The head of my computer science department was recently heard to have said, "Now that we have a larger HCI [Human-Computer Interaction] research group, we hope to attract more women." The graduate assistant head echoes similar statements. If I squint and rub my eyes really hard, I can sort of see what they are trying to say. This year our department accepted a pool of top students, of those only 9% were women. They want to attract more women any way they can, and there is a trend that more women are in applied areas such as HCI. But there's also a trend that there are more blacks in jails than whites. I guess to attract more African-Americans to our department, the powers that be should build a prison next to our building. It's a sick notion, but so are those about what is girly. Just because something is a trend doesn't mean you should feed it.
Still, I can't see why HCI is necessarily girly. It's a highly broad and technical field. It's not enough to know about computers. The folks in HCI need to know about psychology and statistics, not to mention how to run a good set of user tests in order to obtain worthwhile data without getting sued. Certainly, it's more applied than say Machine Learning or Theoretical Computer Science, but the meaty topics are still there. Moreover, HCI has direct applications to avionics, and killing people with missiles shot from planes certainly isn't girly.