Home > gender > Ode to a Smiley T-Shirt, for Ada Lovelace Day

Ode to a Smiley T-Shirt, for Ada Lovelace Day

A couple days ago, I found a box of old T-shirts stashed away in the attic: stored years ago as too nice to throw out, not nice enough to wear. Among them, I found an old classic: a black shirt with a white ASCII smiley, sideways, in Courier. I’m pretty sure I bought it in Cambridge, Mass at Newbury Comics in… oh, probably 1995? When I moved to Atlanta in 1997, it got boxed as too nerdy to wear.

When I found it, I was delighted. I’ve washed it, and plan to wear it proudly. In public. What’s different now, compared to when it was boxed?

I suppose you could say the shirt is different. In 1995, it was cutting edge enough to be hip–in a geek chic sort of way. Then it became mainstream enough to be passé. Now it’s so old it’s retro–back to being geek chic, I think.

But more importantly, I’m different. I’m old enough not to care what people think. My kids are still young enough to not care what people think. My husband thinks my geekiness is endearing. He sometimes gives me that comic smirk that says he’s feeling superior to Ms. Geek, but underneath it is a genuine respect.

You don’t need to be a geek to be a computer scientist any more. Most of my women students are most decidedly NOT geeky at all. I’ve taught quite a few debutante-sorority girl types, with perfect clothes, perfect manners, and a perfect understanding of memory management in C#. The new face of women in computing is, increasingly, as diverse as women anywhere.  This is something to celebrate.

But for those women with smiley T-shirts in their attics–it’s time to dust them off and wear them again. To be a bit geeky, or very geeky, and proud of it. We’ve come far enough–it is time. Happy Ada Lovelace Day.

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Categories: gender
  1. beki70
    March 24, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    so i need to get out the tie dyed bell labs shirt then… but I think I will never wear the collection of nerdy golf shirts (the CS world includes women people 😉

  2. Andrea
    March 25, 2010 at 9:26 am

    yes! i’m with you on the nerdy golf shirt, no way no how. but i do have a media lab 20th anniversary shirt, with 20 written in binary 🙂

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