Notes From A Queer Engineer: Badass Princess Engineers and Gaming Manifestos

Notes From A Queer Engineer_Rory Midhani_640Header by Rory Midhani

Have you all seen Black Panther yet? I went yesterday and would just like to report back: the hype is real, your expectations are not too high, this movie is SO FREAKING GOOD. So many amazing roles for women, the best written “villain” I’ve seen in years, and oh yeah, a badass princess engineer whose tech is going to save the world.

Here’s actress Letitia Wright on her character, Shuri, and repping Guyana wherever she goes:

Lady Scientists

Cynthia Malone wrote an excellent piece for Vice called “The Future of Science is Black“:

Scientists in authority positions have told me that social justice does not belong in science. I have been accused of “reverse racism” for speaking out against actual racism at an international science conference, where I organized a handful of workshops and presentations on inclusion. While being called on to do “diversity” work for free and in hostile environments, I am tokenized and my status as a scientist questioned—despite years of education, global fieldwork, and management experience in ecology and conservation science. I did not struggle through the academy as a Black girl from a marginalized socio-economic background just to teach white people that Black peoples are human. I did it because I am passionate about monkeys and apes and the science of understanding their worlds, despite whatever myths racist natural historians perpetuate about our relationship to them.

PODCAST: Margaret Mitchell on Machine Learning Bias and Fairness.

Manu Saunders on science community blogs: recognising value and measuring reach.

Women in STEMM Australia has been steadily putting out profiles of women in science. One I particularly enjoyed was Dr. Gretta Pecl, marine ecologist:

I think unconscious bias is a big challenge to gender-equity in general, regardless of the field. There is so much research now demonstrating that both men and women evaluate women much more harshly in many ways. It’s frustrating we don’t recognize that more broadly given the evidence. I was taught a trick to identify such bias very early on my career: when you have a negative reaction to a woman in the workplace run the same scenario through your head with two or three men at equivalent level and see if you’d have the same response. At the start I was horrified and surprised at my own gender bias – but that’s exactly the point of unconscious bias – it’s unconscious, and it’s pervasive throughout our whole society. But we can all do something about addressing it, starting with ourselves.

Can’t Hold Us Down

Why it’s so important for girls to find role models in female scientists – Q&A with Wonder Women author Sam Maggs. (Who, by the way, is in Becoming Dangerous with me and Mey.)

The Women in Games community on Facebook is approaching 3000 members.

Manifesto Jam  a digital gathering to collectively uncork utopian energy for the field of videogames was recently held, and submissions are posted for your perusal if you want to read some good shit! Notably, The Communist Sister would like no more LGBTQ+ people to die in art this year, and Emma Dee says straight people are banned from making Let’s Play channels in 2018.

The Death to "Git Gud" Manifesto: all video games are pushing buttons. "Hardcore" and "casual" games don't exist. They're just pushing buttons. If a development team releases different game modes that change the button-pressing and make it more accessible to a wider audience, you have absolutely no right to complain. If someone else needs a guide/walkthrough to enjoy pushing buttons to the fullest, you have absolutely no right to complain. If someone enjoys pushing buttons in a different way than you do and they're enjoying themselves, you. Have. Absolutely. No. Effing. Right. To. Complain. Let people push buttons the way they want to push buttons. Be nice to your fellow button-pusher.

The Death to “Git Gud” notecard mini-festo by Emma Dee.

Hey, look! Sally LePage, your fave queer lady scientist on YouTube, has some good news to share about coral reefs:

Why Pay Secrecy Is Inherently Anti-Feminist


Gender inequality in the tenure evaluation process – likely operating through subtle or unconscious mechanisms – contributes to the gender gap in tenure.

Impact of Cleaning Products on Women’s Lungs As Damaging As 20-a-day Cigarette Habit.

Anna, structural engineer and Army veteran on “Fuck you, I like guns.”

Let’s be honest. You just want a cool toy, and for the vast majority of people, that’s all an AR-15 is. It’s something fun to take to the range and put some really wicked holes in a piece of paper. Good for you. I know how enjoyable that is. I’m sure for a certain percentage of people, they might not kill anyone driving a Formula One car down the freeway, or owning a Cheetah as a pet, or setting off professional grade fireworks without a permit. Some people are good with this stuff, and some people are lucky, but those cases don’t negate the overall rule. Military style rifles have been the choice du jour in the incidents that have made our country the mass shootings capitol of the world. Formula One cars aren’t good for commuting. Cheetahs are bitey. Professional grade fireworks will probably take your hand off. All but one of these are common sense to the average American. Let’s fix that. Be honest, you don’t need that AR-15. Nobody does. Society needs them gone, no matter how good you may be with yours. Kids are dying, and it’s time to stop fucking around.

Here’s what I have to say about gun control. I wrote it two years ago and we’re still having the same goddamn conversation, what the fuck. I’ve been donating to Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, maybe you’d like to too.

Notes From A Queer Engineer is a recurring column with an expected periodicity of 14 days. The subject matter may not be explicitly queer, but the industrial engineer writing it sure is. This is a peek at the notes she’s been doodling in the margins.

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Laura Mandanas

Laura Mandanas is a Filipina American living in Boston. By day, she works as an industrial engineer. By night, she is beautiful and terrible as the morn, treacherous as the seas, stronger than the foundations of the Earth. All shall love her and despair. Follow her: @LauraMWrites.

Laura has written 210 articles for us.


  1. I’d like to respectfully disagree with the idea that it’s best for “no more LGBT+ [characters] to die in art”.

    I think the conversation about how LGBTQ+ characters are disproportionately likely to die has lacked a lot of nuance about why it’s bad for them to die so much. It’s not because LGBTQ+ people never like the kind of stories where characters are likely to die, but because (as best as I can articulate it): 1) LGBTQ+ characters are treated as significantly more disposable than their cis/straight counterparts in media that’s primarily by, for, and about cis/straight people, especially mainstream commercial media, 2) LGBTQ+ audiences have historically been powerless to influence mainstream commercial media to treat LGBTQ+ characters as less disposable, 3) LGBTQ+ characters have historically only been allowed to take center stage in mainstream commercial media when telling stories about how miserable it is to be LGBTQ+, and 4) the stereotype that LGBTQ+ life is inherently tragic has been used to justify a number of atrocities against us.

    I’m probably not understanding/explaining it perfectly, but the point is that there’s an exploitative power dynamic involved, and while telling mainstream commercial media to stop killing LGBTQ+ characters is probably the best way to communicate with them in a clear way that can’t be weaseled around with how necessary it was this time to kill a lesbian, that dynamic isn’t there when the media in question isn’t made by cis/straight people and primarily sold to cis/straight people. It might not be to everyone’s tastes, but a lesbian making an indie horror movie aimed at lesbians who like horror where 13 lesbians go into the spoooooooky haunted house and a couple get eviscerated by the ghost is very, very different from a mainstream television show where the one lesbian gets killed off so her bi girlfriend can go have a “normal” relationship because the straight viewers are getting confused, agitated, and/or bored.

    LGBTQ+ people who enjoy the kind of stories where characters are likely to die largely agree with you that cis/straight media treats us extremely badly and that this needs to change, and largely agree with you that cis/straight creators need to drastically tone down the amount of LGBTQ+ death in their work. We are also not receiving any better treatment from cis/straight creators than LGBTQ+ people who like more positive themes in their media – the example of the all-lesbian horror movie above wasn’t something I put a lot of thought into coming up with, but looking at it again, it’s almost absurd because horror movies made by, for, and about LGBTQ+ people are laughably rare. The lack of darker LGBTQ+-targeted media is just as much a symptom of the problem as the lack of more positive LGBTQ+-targeted media, and it would be really nice if the people who liked the more positive side could acknowledge that.

    • Hi Ash,

      Thanks for your respectful disagreement. To be honest I think you are correct in basically all of what you say – but did not have enough space to write than many words in a relatively snappy manifesto entry. Nuance is hard to write in bulletpoints.

      However, that manifesto is mostly written for myself for work I make, not a blanket judgement on others. I would love to watch an all-lesbian spooky haunted house horror film, tastefully made by and for a non cis/straight dynamic, like you suggest. I just don’t personally want to make any art in which LGBTQ+ characters die. I personally want to put nice relaxing stuff into the world. But I consume a lot of art in which bad things happen because, surprise, that’s endemic to most media. If you make or know of an all-lesbian spooky haunted house horror film, hook me up.

      Laura – thanks for the mention. It feels strange to be mentioned in an article alongside such great company and in a place I read a lot.

      FreyaC / communistsister

  2. yo, thanks for the women in games shoutout! this is v unexpected! i’m an ambassador for them and they’re pretty cool. :D really awesome to see this on autostraddle and this has made my day <3

  3. Could you write an article on job hunting in the engineering industry. I’m just finishing up my degree in MechE/CompSci and could really use advice on interviews, resumes, and being queer in the industry.

  4. That article on “Impact of Cleaning Products on Women’s Lungs As Damaging As 20-a-day Cigarette Habit.”
    — This happened to my ex, she lost her health, her job… it’s amazing (but not in a good way) how dangerous these chemicals are. The mixes get stronger and stronger, and there’s no time/no training/no care taken to use them safely. Ugh. Don’t get me started.

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