Gaba Rodriguez: Building Feminist Infrastructures

Published April 17, 2018

Editor’s note:
Since the very beginning of computer science history, women have played key roles in programming and software development. Programming isn't a male or female job, yet these days only one in four computing jobs is held by a woman. The tech industry’s lack of gender and racial diversity is often a major discussion point every year at the Internet Freedom Festival.

Kathy Triệu brings us a conversation with Gaba Rodriguez, who is a computer engineer working to build feminist infrastructures to solve these problems. Gaba is also a member of the IFF’s Code of Conduct team -- ensuring the festival was safe and welcoming for all participants.

Kathy Triệu: This is Kathy Triệu at the Internet Freedom Festival. I’m here with Gaba Rodriguez. She’s going to talk a little about her session on building a feminist Infrastructure. But first Gaba, can you tell me a little bit about your background?

Gaba Rodriguez: Yes, I’m a software developer and I have been also doing a lot of work with data, and also work around facilitating safer spaces. Right now, I work with Tactical Tech, on a project that involves gender and technology, where we do trainings around technology, secure and private tools.

KT: Can you tell me what does it mean to build feminist infrastructure?

GR: Yes, this is part of a collective I have been involved in for a long time. We felt we needed like a safe space to play with servers. We learn about sysadmin to the ability to build and maintain our own services. Like have our own email, like have a place where we can do web hosting. We are not dependent on any other guy to do it. We learn to do it ourselves and we do it ourselves.

So right now, what we are trying to do when we are talking about building feminist infrastructures is we are trying to strengthen our networks to support feminist and activists when they need services in the internet specifically. So it’s the idea that we are not only feminist but we are bringing our feminist perspective to the work what we do: to the tools we choose to implement, to the services we choose to to give to to people. We are bringing the idea of like community-base. We are bringing idea of inclusivity, diversity. We are giving the idea of ‘we are all equal to to the work we’re doing.’

KT: Is the idea behind that to create spaces where women can feel as if they are not reliant on men?

GR: It’s about creating a space where we feel we have agency with the tools we we decide to use. We are also trying to build different relationships with technology and with the people who use that technology. When we say that we provide services, we are saying that we are building relationships with the people that use those tools.

Caption: An Internet Freedom Festival participant with the sign she made for the International Women’s Day March. (Photo: Kathy Triệu)

Caption: An Internet Freedom Festival participant with the sign she made for the International Women’s Day March. (Photo: Kathy Triệu)

KT: How does it feel to be at the Internet Freedom Festival this year, at the same time as the International Women’s Day March?

GR: I think each year [and in] each of these spaces that we come together, we are always learning how to relate with each other, how to build trust, how to support each other. That means having room for making mistakes, and having room to gather and find ways to to be active. International Women’s Day is kind of a tricky situation because sometimes we are organizing and being part of this day in our own communities. But being here is showing the government in Valencia, and showing the people here at the festival the struggle of so many women through time.

KT: I want to thank you for your time. I know that you’ve been really busy and getting this interview time was very difficult for both of us. I really appreciate that. Do you have any last words you want to share with our listeners?

GR: Yes, something else I’m doing here in this space is trying to build safer spaces for everybody. This is a focus that the festival has, as a space for people that do security, privacy, and technology. We need places where we don’t feel harassed, where we can talk, when we know we we are not going to be sexually assaulted. That’s something that’s very important to us. That’s something we are building at the festival.

KT: That’s wonderful. Thank you so much.