Doubling Down with Amelia Greenhall (Episode 56)




Amelia Greenhall.
Amelia Greenhall.


Amelia Greenhall.



Double Union is a new community workshop in San Francisco designed for women, and intended to provide a comfortable, welcoming environment to make things. In this podcast, I visit the pre-renovation space with Amelia Greenhall, one of the people who helped create the non-profit organization. She explains why Double Union is necessary, and the path that led to it and others like it.

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Show notes

While Double Union accepts only women as members, the group notes that, “We are intersectional feminists, women-centered, and queer and trans-inclusive.” Members may invite guests who may visit with a member, and may be any gender or age. The group will also have open houses open to any any gender or age.

Amelia Greenhall has a vast array of interests currently centered around Quantified Self and wearable technology, but her site shows the full range of what she’s working on. (Quantified Self aims to use technology to measure our physiological state and inputs, and turn that information into useful data for self-modification or health monitoring.)

Amelia mentions three zine makers and their projects: Mermaid Tits produced by Hannah Schulman; Camel Toe, produced by Abigal Young; and Elly Blue‘s array of work. Elly is a Portland bike activist and publisher who has used Kickstarter many, many times to underwrite the expenses of her publishing and other endeavors. (She was a guest during our Portland pre-XOXO festival shindig, contributed an article on cargo bikes to The Magazine, and will be a future interviewee here.)

Before we get to Double Union, Amelia explains the concept of an unconference, and the intent of the Ada Initiative. Double Union arose in part from discussions with Leigh Honeywell and Frances Hocutt, who fostered the Seattle Attic makerspace, which is feminist, women-centered, and inclusive, but open to all genders as members. There’s also Flux in Portland, Oregon, and three others of a similar intent outside the U.S.

Impostor syndrome is a pervasive problem among creators who go it on their own, because we constantly compare ourselves to those around us, and believe that we can’t possibly be competent enough to be in their league. We worry about being discovered. Birds of a feather (BoF) sessions are ad hoc, participant-driven breakout sessions in conferences.

At The Magazine, we dealt with a paucity of women pitching articles partly by me talking to female contributors and writing “Gender Binder.” This article seemed to mark a turning point, after which we received article submissions from a far more even ratio of men and women. Bylines average close to parity since.

The Ada Initiative created a standardized anti-harassment policy that has been adopted by over a hundred conferences. I mention an article in The Magazine by Rosie J. Spinks called “Hacked Off,” in which she looks at harassment of women in the hacker-activism community. Some readers found this article problematic because they hadn’t seen harassment themselves.

Amelia points to the timeline of sexist incidents at the Geek Feminism wiki as an indication of how pervasive harassment is, and how much more thoroughly it’s being documented. Kelly Kend described harassment directed at her at XOXO 2013, and how well it was handled by the organizers. Amelia countered with what happened at Pycon 2013, in which a woman called out two men via Twitter for remarks, and then one of the men and she were both fired.

We are so over mansplaining, aren’t we? Not yet.

Jean MacDonald was a guest on The New Disruptors last month (“Girls Just Want to Code Apps“) to talk about App Camp for Girls, in which the instructors and attendees are all women. Jean and I talked at some length about fiscal sponsorship, in which an existing non-profit handles the administration and fund collection for a nascent one.

Liz Henry, a veteran software/Internet/reality cool-things maker, was part of the Double Union planning. Double Union created an Indiegogo campaign to raise capital for buildout and equipment purchases, intending memberships to pay rent and other ongoing costs. Asking for $5,000, the group raised over $15,000.

Once you find out about paper joggers, and you regularly deal with paper, you might not rest until you have one. Sergers create overlock stitches that seal the edges of cut fabric with stitches, and can trim at the same time! With a serger, you can dramatically reduce the time to make clothing that looks professionally produced. Sergers are cool.

I spoke to the folks behind Makerhaus about what was then an about-to-open facility for education, training, creation, and co-working back in February 2013 in “Iterative Imperative.”

Ashe Dryden has a lot to say about diversity, inclusivity, and harassment.