All Known Health Frauds are, in Fact, Valid

Author’s Note (6/10/14): Huh! Looks like we’re at 9k FB likes. That’s 8,996 more than I expected! So, that’s a win. Apparently a lot of people think the system is broken. Ok. Now, what do we do about it it? I’ve added a new bit at the end.  

::::::::::: RANT ALERT :::::::::::

Remember how six months ago, everybody had a gluten allergy? Remember how, as of last week, nobody has a gluten allergy? Remember, she said as a casual aside, my last post about social systems and pendulums?

I walked into a meeting yesterday where four people who know nothing about medicine, were confirming to one another that gluten allergies have finally been proven a hoax. My boss, a super-intelligent biologist, handed me the links cited below as proof that there are no gluten allergies in anyone ever.

I have issues. For starters:

One: Both links (same article), actually say in the abstract they found some evidence of gluten sensitivity. Just, not as much as people have been saying there is.

“Recent randomized controlled re-challenge trials have suggested that gluten may worsen gastrointestinal symptoms, but failed to confirm patients with self-perceived NCGS have specific gluten sensitivity.” Article (Absract 1)

“Gluten-specific effects were observed in only 8% of participants” Article (Abstract 2)

Two: the gluten conversation resembles all broken conversations between the alternative medical community, the conventional medical community (known here as The ‘“Damn That Hippie Medicine” People’), and humans. It is a social system with a broken feedback loop.

To say that gluten allergies don’t exist and/or cause anyone serious symptoms, is not only not factual, but it’s not even indicated. The new “DOES NOT EXIST” gluten mantra is hyperbole, driven by a knee-jerk reaction to the preceding hyperbole, which is “EVERYONE HAS IT.”

It is time to shut up about gluten

At this point, pretty much everyone talking about gluten, is making things worse. Here is what is happening.


I call particular attention to the little dude in the middle left panel, who actually does have a problem with gluten. Most people don’t. That little stick dude, does. The hype helped him figure that out, which is great! But because it was hype, it got tons of people on board who in fact did not have the problem, and when they realized that, it was mad embarrassing. Because who wants to look like a dupe, right? So they deal with it by shaming the crap out of the one dude who has finally figured out that gluten is what has been making him sick. Now he can’t have gluten, OR respect. Awesome.

That is what is happening with gluten. It is also what ALWAYS happens, with EVERYTHING. I have been watching this medical hoedown up close for 20 odd years (also, 20-odd years), and I have been rendered incapable of writing about it without invoking THE CAPS LOCK OF JUSTICE. SO HERE IT IS.

This superior CAPS LOCK OF JUSTICE was supplied by mystery man and new favorite person, Bret! Thank you!

This vastly superior CAPS LOCK OF JUSTICE was supplied by mystery man and new favorite person, Bret! Thank you, Bret!

A Letter to All Parties:

In the following open letter to all people who use medicine everywhere, I will attempt to drain the abscess of communication between alternative and conventional medical communities. I do so not merely about gluten, but also every other medical medical fad in the last, and next, ten years (Let’s play Med Libs: St. John’s Wort, heavy metals poisoning, Atkins, whatever.)

[Internet feedback: A: Several wonderful medical practitioners on both sides have reminded me that we are seeing advances in these two communities sharing ideas and techniques. This is true and awesome.
B: But there are not nearly enough of them. I’ve been watching this (tbf, very ranty) article bring a LOT of the pent up tension between the groups to the surface. This tension is exactly what we need to defuse if we’re going to turn A into most of reality.] 

Dear “Damn That Hippie Medicine” Doctors:

Hi there. Thanks for occasionally saving my life with your crazy robot chemistry ninja magic. Also, please stop debunking everything you don’t understand.

We are not talking about whether [insert medical phenomenon here] exists for all people, or no people. Edge cases exist. I call to the witness stand: math.


By definition, 3 out of every thousand people are an edge case in some damn thing, and there are a lot of “damn things”, so that makes most of us an edge case in something.* I, personally, have had at least four edge-case medical conditions, that my doctor had never seen before!** (I’m fine now, thanks for asking.) In fact I’d say that 25% of my friends have at least one super-rare condition!

True Thing: Each rare condition is rare,
but having a rare condition, is not.

You may have noticed that there are a bunch of people floating around who seem to be dying for no reason. There actually is a reason, which is that they are an edge case that science hasn’t figured out. You, “Damn That Hippie Medicine” Doctors, are mostly focusing on the causality chain of the 80% of average things, instead of the 20% of complicated things, and therefore, you have not figured out some complicated things! Which is fine, but then at least have the common decency to shut up about it!

I get that your job demands that you act like infallible gods. It’s a broken system putting you in a tough position and I’m sure it sucks. But just don’t forget it’s an act. Don’t believe your own damn marketing. When you do, it can kill people.

* Defined as 3 standard deviations from the mean. I use another definition in the next paragraph. Shrug.
** Two of which are still not recognized by the regular medical community as real things. But guess what, “Damn That Hippie Medicine” Doctors! Remember how I used to be dying? Well now I’m doing crossfit. </me nods encouragingly at you.> There are a bunch of me. You should be taking notes.

Dear Alternative Medicine Doctors:


News about important edge case solutions, is not currently being targeted to people who might have it. It is currently broadcast everywhere, all at once, in an information dissemination pattern similar to that used by hormones (which flood the whole body until the right organ hears them), radio (which does that same thing to the air), or TV advertising (which does it to your brain). This is the method society is currently using to distribute this information to the 3 in a thousand people for whom it actually makes a difference. This is a terrible method of communication and wastes everyone’s energy and time.* It is also and massively discrediting.

* mutter mutter creates oscillation in systems mutter mutter

To The “Damn That Hippie Medicine” People:

Guess what? When the alternative medicine IS paired appropriately with your actual illness, it actually works! For example, herbs that lower blood sugar, work! So it would be awesome, if you didn’t, for example, act with reprehensible irresponsibly and take 10x the dosage because you think it doesn’t do anything, and then die, and then rise from the grave in the form of a grossly-misspelled forum rant, crucifying the whole of alternative medicine! That shit is on you.

To The Alternative Medicine People:

I once went to a naturopathic store to buy, on the recommendation of a real doctor, some raw adrenal gland extract. I asked the woman behind the counter, how much should I take? She literally said the following:

“I mean, consult your intuition. Your body knows.”

Sooo…. by the way? THAT SHIT CAN KILL YOU.*

Alternative Medicine People, do not say “trust your intuition,” or your angels, or your energies! Ever! Use data! And science! Please! And please publicly discredit the ones in your midst who do not! Because of many facts, like the following:

One: People’s instincts say lots of unreliable and conflicting things, and therefore, people following said intuitions will do ridiculous things until they kill themselves, and then they will blame you.

And two: Alternative medicine is not a cosmology. Quit slipping spiritual riders into the bill of edge-case medicine. You wanna hand out cosmic leaflets, do it on your own time.

That said, I have had some great alterna-docs tell me: “The tests don’t prove X, but everyone like you who I put on thing Y, gets better. ::Shrug:: Want to try it?” That is great. You are acknowledging that we don’t yet know, or have the ability to collect data on, all the things in the world that are important. Which statement is patently, obviously true. So, great! Now keep records, and look for objective criteria to validate your hypotheses. With science ‘n shit.

* Probably.

To The “Damn That Hippie Medicine” Doctors:*

Will you PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, stop shaming people who are out there solving their own edge case medical problems, on their own steam, using actual data? Christ almighty, do you realize what you sound like? You might as well spit on us. Yes, I understand there are a lot of ridiculous Alternative-Medicine Patient hacks currently knitting natural fiber dreadlock tams in your waiting room.


Seated next to them, if I may point out, are the “Damn That Hippie Medicine” People who would rather have you give them four bottles of medication than choose to eat fewer than four Buffalo Ranch McChicken sandwiches a day, and who then whine at you about it.

The differentiator you are searching for isn’t “allopathic medicine people” VS “alternative medicine people.” It is “people who don’t give a fuck,” VS “people who do.” So when you talk to a smart person, treat them like a smart person.

* And also, everyone!

And finally:

To The Marketing People who Capitalize on Health Fads:

You guys are dicks.


In closing flourish, I hereby revoke the name “Alternative Medicine.” You are not an alternative. You are complementary. You are now called Edge-Case-Medicine, working arm-in-arm with Standard-Case-Medicine. And as long as you work from data, create data, and do science, you are officially valid.

The moral to our story, is that edge cases exist. Some people do have gluten allergies. You are probably not one of them. But you might be. To find out, try science.

</me puts away the CAPS-LOCK OF JUSTICE>

This topic makes people (like me) super mad. I mean, why shouldn’t it? It is literally a life and death issue for some of us. Of course we’re mad. But if we want it to change, we need to do more than just tell each other how mad we are. Here’s what I, personally, want to see happen.

Discussion about this topic, between people who don’t already agree. 

By “discussion,” I mean “good old-fashioned meeting-of-the-minds”, as distinct from, as a random example, “the rabid, screaming invective of torch-bearing mobs.” Shouting at the other guy is not useful at all. Shouting’s what got us into this in the first place.

We’re bored with this blood feud. We want the best of both worlds. To get that, we need both worlds talking to each other. Meaning:

People respectfully telling the medical community what they want.

Let’s start by openly asking our doctors to do things differently. I don’t know if it’ll help, but let’s try it. If you do, I recommend assuming they are good people who genuinely want to help you.

The medical community responding with what they need in order to make it possible.

There are forces acting on you that we don’t know about. Constraints and incentives. What makes it hard to do what we’re asking for, and how can we fix it?




P.S. The title of this article is hyperbole. Some things are frauds.

P.P.S. I release articles first on fb, where I follow any feedback I can see. It makes me better informed, and I appreciate it, even when it is full of fire, brimstone and flecks of monitor spittle. But the weirdest responses I’ve seen to this one, is conventional medicine people, furious that I’m validating all of alternative medicine; and, in the same thread, alternative medicine people, furious that I’m trying to debunk their real and serious medical problems. That’s just the point, guys: I’m saying the opposite.

Each community here has a big beef with the other. Each one is partly justified. But, not entirely. And the turf war between them is driving the tension through the roof. Which makes us defensive. It makes us choose sides. And react explosively. Instead of listening.

Wanna comment?

Here’s the comment policy on this blog. Short version: don’t be a dick to people! Listen, add value, no shouting. For this article, I’m most inclined towards comments about why you think the system is broken, and what we might do about it.

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The Politics of Pendulums

You’re pissing me off. I haven’t said anything, but frankly it’s been going on quite a while. And you have finally said the last goddamn thing I am going to take from you. I slam down my cup of coffee and I snap at you.

And, who knew? Turns out you were also getting pissed at me. So when you come back at me, you come back hard. Now I’m twice as pissed. I yell at you. You slit your eyes and cut me down.

You and I are a charged, oscillating system.

Put differently, we’re both pendulums. Each of us started this conversation pulled way over to one side, charged with potential energy. You add the final critical-mass electron, and I explode out. Now, the innate neural physics that pushes us around, sucks us hard back towards the middle. But, we both overshoot. Now we are amplifying one another, taking turns lashing out and reacting, charging each other up with anger. The swings get wider and wider. If we swing too wide, our relationship might break.

I wish I explained pendulums better

I see pendulums everywhere. And if there is one thing that I’ve learned about pendulums over the last two decades of seeing them everywhere, it is that I am terrible at explaining to other humans why they are a big deal. But they totally are. Everything breathing, and humans in particular, are composed of swinging forces – ideological, physical, neural, emotional – that are trying to reach equilibrium. Zoom out, and you get this giant human fractal of interference patterns, with everything dampening or charging up everything else. It’s lovely and super geeky, and damn it, why don’t we talk more about pendulums.

Not literal pendulums, obviously, but pendulum behavior: oscillation and feedback loops in social systems. (Note: this article is about Social Systems Theory, a field which may or may not exist. My last article about it is here.)


Engineering types refer to this mechanic as a “control system.” They usually start with the metaphor of a thermostat. A thermostat contains a goal state: keep the room at 72 degrees. It can be good or lousy at that job. A lousy one might look up every half an hour and say “Oh, hey, it’s only 60 degrees in here, let me help.” It cranks the heat on and then checks out for a while thinking about whatever it is that lightly personified thermostats think about. In half an hour, it checks again, and says: “Who, dude, how did it get to be 90 degrees in here?” And turns on the AC. Now you’re freezing. Back and forth, in big overcompensating swings.

In other words, this control system can’t maintain its goal state, in this case because it doesn’t sample its environment often enough. An equally bad thermostat might sample enough, but its corrective mechanism is the wrong size for the job (“Oh gosh, it’s cold in here, let me go turn on the flamethrower.”)

Human systems do this: oscillate, and try to converge. But it doesn’t work out as simply as a mechanical control system, because human oscillations can be in different energy states.

You can charge pendulums.

Charged pendulums swing farther, faster, every time they swing.

All kinds of things can build charge in humans. For example: being trapped between two social networks which both matter to you, but which each want you to do opposite things. In social network theory, you would be referred to as a “bridge” between densely connected groups; in this case, say, the one who raised you, who demand you condemn gay people; and the one with a lot of gay people who you like a lot. If this goes on long enough, you might blow up at one or both of them; alternately, you swallow it for a few decades, it eats you alive and eventually kills you. Either way, the conflict builds a charge, and it has to go somewhere.

Another gold standard charge-builder: raise a kid to think sex is evil, and watch the rubber band draw back over 7 years of raging hormones. Just Add College, and you’ve got a promiscuity slingshot. Depriving someone of basic human needs builds charge. Poverty & loneliness do it. Shame does it. Fear does it.

You can manipulate pendulums.

By which I mean, you can manipulate people. Groups of people, even better. When groups get into a shared mindset, we combine into a giant Voltron of collective force.

Take the #YesAllWomen phenomenon. Which, if you haven’t been watching it, is amazing, and not just because “Yay, feminism!” (though also that). Hundreds of thousands of women who didn’t dare tell anyone how scared they are, and decided as one organism to compile their latent static charge into one giant mega-ball of pissed-off electricity. Then, they (ok, we) fed off each other. We read each other’s tweets and got so pissed that, damn it, we had to add our own. Providing charge for the next person. We crossed the streams, a la Ghostbusters.

YesAllWomen magnified that community’s energy, to build enough escape velocity, to break past the disincentive to speak. This is what social change is made of. It’s literally how revolutions start. It’s also how stuck conversations finally move again, for better or for worse. Riling up collectives enough that they’ll talk about something difficult, stretches the Overton Window; meaning, it changes the range of things that polite society will permit people to say out loud. Charging pendulums is my favorite systems dynamic.


YesAllWomen was emergent, but plenty of other charge manipulations aren’t. Top-down rhetoric* is great at engineering a movement out of latent energy (usually fear). Take for example Hitler, or your least favorite political party, or also, your most favorite political party. That’s part of what we hire politicians to do: charge us up enough to make us act as one, even when it’s not in our individual best interest.

Manipulating systems on purpose – say, rallying a country to war – doesn’t just change that group, or that moment. It sets the system oscillating for a long time. You might win the war, but your enemy holds a hard grudge (a charge), and plans, conspires, and gains allies. A generation later there is retaliation, to which you later retaliate, because pendulums.

*Lateral rhetoric (rumor) works too: it creates violent, idiotic mobs.

You can let pendulums wind down.

The YesAllWomen created a huge initial charge, but it’s slowly losing momentum. Unlike mechanical control systems, which just keep doing the same thing forever, pendulums are always trying to approach a state of rest. If no energy goes in, they swing in smaller and smaller arcs until they just sit there pointing down. Sometimes that’s annoying, because it happens instead of interesting change. But sometimes it’s great, like when you’re fighting with your friend. Over the next half hour, you’ll both yell at each other a little bit less, calm down a little more, start to communicate, and over several dozen exchanges you’ll come to terms.


You can actively dampen pendulums.

LightDampingApply a little resistance on each swing, and you’ll converge faster on the middle. Dampening pendulums is my other, more favorite systems dynamic. Big fan.

When human pendulums are charged, dramatic and reactive, things get noisy, dumb and mean. We spend months rolling our eyes at ridiculous news headlines that intentionally misinterpret everything so they can shout more. Or, alternately, we intentionally misinterpret everything so we ourselves can shout at somebody.

When we dampen the pendulum, though, things get interesting. The less we swing, the faster we converge, and the fewer licks it takes to get to the tootsie roll center of public discourse! Then we can get on to the next interesting problem! Sentimentality aside, it’s just plain better geekonomics.

This is why I have such a thing about information moving. Withholding important information almost always charges pendulums. I should have talked to you about why I was getting mad, sooner. You should have talked to me. We didn’t. It would have been uncomfortable and maybe scary, but it would have saved a hell of a lot of time, and we would be out watching Witching and Bitching right now instead of actually doing it.

That’s what conflict mediation is: an oscillation dampener. Subduing our reactivity so that we can exchange real information. That’s what you’re doing when you go take a walk and think before you slam down your coffee cup and yell at a person, or at the entire internet.

Instinctively, we don’t want to dampen them.

We don’t experience pendulums from the outside, because they all pull at our heads with an almost literal gravitational force. We experience them from the inside, like kids riding a swing. Remember? You get excited! You want to get more excited, so you kick! You don’t want to slow down, you want to go up! But now your mom calls you and SwingPendulumit’s time to go home. Now you have to drag your feet on the gravel. It’s loud and jerky. It fights your momentum, it pulls at your body, makes you dizzy. The disappointment as you let go of the exhilaration of riding the high. Dragging your feet doesn’t feel right.

We experience pendulums like this. You get excited, or mad! It feels like things! Are happening! And you probably should do something about it right now. Dampening that energy feels unnatural, because it is. We are wired to think with our limbic systems first, our brains second. Check out this interesting Radiolab podcast on how the brain prioritizes information. The relevant bit goes from 3:40 – 6:30 (but all of it is awesome).*

Anything that raises your stress response, gets cognitive priority. You don’t get a choice about that, it’s the bargain your lizard brain made when it reluctantly agreed to wrap itself in your cerebral cortex. In the contract, it says: think all you want, buddy, but when we see a threat, lizard brain is calls the shots. You sit there contemplating the nature of the bear, and we get eaten, bucko.

Consciously exerting force to dampen a pendulum doesn’t feel right, because your nature wants you not to do it. You’re putting your precious wattage into pushing against your animal instincts and the physics of being human. It sucks a little. It doesn’t happen by accident. This is an act of free will, so we only do it when we would rather get somewhere, than ride the swing.

*You can also read about these two separate parts of human cognition, in Daniel Bernoulli’s Thinking Fast and Slow.

Pendulums cause trouble when they are invisible.

Pendulums can be so huge that humans can’t see them. The longer the string, the slower the pendulum, the wider its sweeps. Sometimes the string is so long, it takes centuries to complete one sweep – and to our eyes, it looks like nothing is happening. Huge masses of people – genders, races, political movements, religious movements – are constantly building up charges of fury and fear, lashing out, and pushing their counterpart into the swing. Big, lengthy cycles of dominance and retaliation. Not for nothin’, but: I wonder what we could do to dampen some of those big swings. Or, like: initiate fewer of them. Just throwing that out there.

Pendulums can also be invisible because they’re too close to see. And, speaking of which…

Look. I’m sorry I snapped at you. I’ve been carrying this big baseline charge around. I let my swing pull back too far, with you, for too long. So I lost my shit and treated you badly. I could have handled it better. I apologize. I’ll try harder to drag my feet.


Addendum: Pendulums are beautiful.

It isn’t just social physics. It’s art. It’s God’s kaleidoscope. Here is an ugly site featuring a pendulum mash-up that for some reason just dazzles me. I didn’t adjust the timing – they’re perfectly serendipitous. The lowest pendulum is the same as the music. Mesmerizing. These are the real, deep mechanics of the world. We’re made by them, stuck in them. We spend our lives pushing and pulling on them. So pretty.

Note: My husband, who is usually right about things, reminds me that physics metaphors for social behavior have a down side. They can encourage people to see the world in a mechanistic, reductionist way. Meaning, that if you add up all the rules, the system is just a sum of its parts, and everything is predictable. With humans, nothing is further from the truth. It’s emergent and complicated. That’s why it’s awesome.

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I Constantly Talk About Social Systems

You’ll probably notice that I talk a lot about a possibly nonexistent field called Social Systems Theory. There is a truly terrible wikipedia page on it that hasn’t been updated since 2009. Yet, I am positive it is a thing.

“Social systemics” learns from topics like cognition, complexity theory, economics, anthropology/sociology, psychology, and the structure & dissemination of information. It takes inputs from things like data feeds (data science), intelligence analysis, and neurological / cognition studies. It studies the dynamics of crowds, organizations, social networks, etc. It studies incentive structures, reputation systems and feedback loops. See also: cybernetics (which is not about robots or fake religions, as one might think).

The outputs of social systems study, should be something that real humans can use to impact real human well-being. This isn’t about the clever algorithms, although they are useful and cool. It’s about the social applications, built on a backbone of real data and scientific process. I’m curious to see where this part goes.

Picture Niccolo Machiavelli with a PhD and a pocket protector. That’s what we’re talking about.

Dr. Machiavelli, Berkeley CS Department, 2008

Go Go Gadget Moral Ambiguity

As with Machiavelli, the one thing about social systems analysis is that it might be evil. I’ve been thinking about that for a while, and it’s definitely a risk. The point of tweaking social systems is to make people do stuff without thinking about it. We like free will around here. Mostly, anyways. It does have its down sides.

But, one way or another, we’re all already using systems constraints and incentives on each other all the time. That’s what schools, games, companies and governments *are*. Smart people design social systems to guide our behavior and belief systems. Once in a while, those smart people are narcissistic assholes who do not have our best interests at heart. So, the way I see it. we might as well learn how it works.


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Brosie the Riveter

This was originally published as a guest post on the Hawkeye Initiative.

Thanks, Skjaldmeyja.

I work with an all-female team of data scientists, in the gaming industry. This makes me the professional equivalent of Amelia Earhart riding the Loch Ness Monster.

I love my job. Our company in particular is great. Firstly, our game (HAWKEN) is beautiful and people love it. Secondly, half of our executive branch is female. Half of them are punk rock, and all of them are badassed. Our gender awareness standards, compared to the industry at large, are top shelf. We are talking Amelia Earhart in Atlantis, at a five star resort, getting a mani-pedi from Jensen Ackles. I have it good.

For the last six months of my tenure at Meteor Entertainment, there has been only one thing I did not love about my job. This picture:


Our CEO loves this picture. It is to all appearances his favorite piece of comic art for the game. He had it blown up poster-sized, framed, and displayed on the out-facing wall of his office. There, it looms over the front room like a ship’s figurehead. It is the first thing workers and visitors see when they enter the building and the last thing they see when they leave. This little lady’s undermeats have been the open- and close- parens to my work world for the last six months.

I loathe this picture.

Why do I loathe it? How, you ask, can I stay mad at a sweet young belle who has so obviously taken a break from her important welding to offer me apiping hot cup of coffee and/or a vigorous hand job? (And probably, given her apparent safety consciousness, simultaneously?) If you don’t already know the answer, you might want to check out things like #1ReasonWhy, and the Bechdel Test, and also this, and this, and this and this, and all these other things. (And while we’re talking you should check out this other bullshit right here.)

So at our office holiday party, while our CEO was having everyone in the company sign it, I stand there grinding my teeth into tiny shards. Until, suddenly, it came to me: a vision.

And so it came to be that I approached Sam Kirk, a wickedly funny co-worker who shared my sentiment. Sam, turns out, is a very talented artist who can be bribed-slash-inspired using a medley of feminist indignation, hysterical giggling, and two $90 bottles of añejo tequila.

A month-and-a-half later, our vision was a reality. I give you:
Bro-sie The Riveter.


I want to make it completely clear that everything in this prank that required actual talent was done by Sam. Find this, and more of Sam’s art, at

We blew (ahem) Brosie up poster sized. We framed him. And then, at 7:30 on Monday, April 1st, we snuck into our CEO’s office and switched them.

I stood in the entryway, dizzy with joy. It was glorious. There Brosie stood, proud, nipples testing the air like young gophers in springtime, the post-apocalyptic breeze gently swaying his banana hammock. Brosie said, loud and proud: “Get ready, world! I am here to lubricate your joints and tighten your socket.”

I basically spend the next few hours having a joy-induced neurological episode.

As the morning progressed, Brosie (ahem) revealed himself to our co-workers. The air resounded with startled, suppressed gargles of mingled joy and horror.  Some take pictures. Some instantly turn and flee. Several men blush and grin in vindicated solidarity. Several women ask us for prints. At this point I am in total rapture. This is the moment I have been dreaming about for six months.

Yet somehow everyone in the office manages to keep quiet about it. Until, finally, our CEO arrives.

We hear a loud: “What the hell is this?!” And then all goes quiet. Ten minutes pass. We panic.

We are both suddenly and painfully aware that we have, in fact, just punked the CEO of our company. He is by all accounts an awesome dude. He is also a late-50s ex-army guy who happens to determine our employment futures in an at-will state. Meep.

Twenty more minutes pass. And then our CEO comes up to my desk, taps me on the shoulder, and says this:

“That was a brilliant prank. You called me on exactly the bullshit I need to be called on. I put up pictures of half-naked girls around the office all the time and I never think about it. I’m taking you and Sam to lunch. And after that, we’re going to hang both prints, side by side.”


Ruby Underboob and Brosie the Riveter, together at last

Yeah. That happened.

This wonderful experience has taught me two things that I hope to carry with me for the rest of my career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and in gaming. It taught me this:

  1. Lots of men (like Sam) are already sympathetic to the stupid, constant crap women put up with in gaming/STEM, and they are ready and willing to call that crap onto the carpet.
  2. And, most importantly, many of the guys who are behind that stupid, constant crap are totally decent, open-minded human beings who just don’t realize they’re doing it. You know how sometimes you don’t realize how much you and your girlfriend are talking about shoes or menstruation until some dude walks into the room? Well sometimes guys don’t realize how much they’re talking about titties.

We just haven’t been around enough for them to notice.

There is only one solution to that, ladies. Bust out your baby-Gap tee and your protective welding goggles, and let’s turn this damn industry into the environment we want it to be. It’s hard work, and yes, there are a couple genuine assholes along the way. But if Ruby Underboob can brave the occasional droplet of molten metal, so can we.

Speaking from experience, it’s worth it.



Information must move. 

About our CEO, Mark Long:

Mark has a long and storied history with, among other things, research, games and comic art. He’s a partner in the RoqlaRue gallery in Seattle, representing “chick art.” Mark considers himself a feminist activist. He is proud to have created a graphic novel trilogy with Nick Sagan (Carl’s son) that features a female hero so strong, Hillary Swank is attached to star as her.

Mark and I are now in an open dialogue about gender in comics and gaming.

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