Original to:
https://www.forbes.com/sites/addiewagenknecht/2018/03/05/how-claire-evans-is-writing-women-back-into-the-internet/


How Claire Evans Is Writing Women Back Into The Internet


Claire L. Evans is the author of the new book: Broad Band The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet. Claire recently caught up with me to discuss Broad Band using email, Skype dates and various document sharing platforms while across the world from each other, with five time zones in between. Her book comes out at a time when #metoo and net neutrality are major topics in the internet conscious and women's roles are being redefined and rewritten.




Can you tell me about your new book Broad Band? How did it change your point of view on how history is documented and how we should approach the narrative of the future differently?

The easy thing is to say that Broad Band is a feminist history of the Internet. That’s what I’ve been telling people. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that it’s a history of the Internet told through women’s stories: boots-on-the-ground accounts of where the women were, how they were feeling and working, at specific, formative moments in Internet history. It emphasizes users and those who design for use, while many popular tech histories tend to zero in on the box. I’ve always been fascinated with what happens after hardware hits the market; it’s what we do with it that counts.

What inspired you to write this book specifically?

I see it as the confluence of a few factors. I cut my teeth as a writer on message boards on the early Web, and published volumes online in the height of the blog era; for me, writing has rarely if ever been separate from online writing, but I had reached a point, having grown up online, of disconnect with the medium. I think we’re all grappling with the ways in which the Internet is changing faster than we can register. As a kind of balm, I started writing “secret history” pieces for Motherboard about female-identified Internet arcana: cyberfeminist artists, lost CD-ROM games. At a certain point it just felt like an inevitability to take the full plunge.

You met many of these women in person, was there a commonality among the early pioneers of the internet in terms of how they got into the tech sector, their personalities or upbringing that manifested their trajectories?

My process for identifying subjects for this book was to first identify the major sea changes—the birth of programming, the earliest attempts to network computers—and then to play detective, poking around, looking for women’s names. What I found, again and again, was that the women tended to concentrate at the beginnings of things, in those moments where the lack of precedent a new technology affords allowed them to carve their own place, rather than be beholden to institutional requirements or the existing standards of a field. Another way of saying this is that many of the women profiled in the book did some of their best work while nobody was looking—for their own reasons, to serve their own communities, or for the sheer love of the technology.

What does your creative process look like, do you have any rituals or favorite things to do before you start?

Like a lot of writers, I imagine, there’s a lot of hand-wringing and procrastinating and staring hopelessly at an empty text document. I try to read something before I start working, just to remind myself what’s possible. I write best in the morning; I write better if I’ve meditated. A moderate amount of sativa can help in a pinch. When I get burned out, I switch my working method; I’ll go on a long drive and dictate my thoughts into my phone, or pivot to writing longhand.

How as the shift in cultural and social climate since the election affected your work?

I started writing Broad Band before the election. There are some subjects in the book that I spoke to before, during, and afterwards, and although the tone of our conversations definitely evolved over that time, I tried to stay the course. Ultimately what I tried to create with this book is a sacred place: it centers women’s experiences, it highlights the more subtle, beautiful contributions made by people at the margins and at the protean beginnings of these important technologies. I didn’t want to let in the scrum. I wanted us to have something nice that wasn’t necessarily in a position of retreat, resistance, or reaction to external factors. That’s not to say I don’t get into the darkness at all—just that my priority was to hold up the light.

Do you have any key collaborators and people who have shaped your personal aesthetic?

My partner, Jona Bechtolt, is a huge part of my ability to get anything done. He and I have been collaborating for over ten years; we play together in a band, YACHT, and we founded an app together, 5 Every Day. He’s very fastidious and design-oriented, I lean towards big-picture concepts and culture; he can work in intense bursts, and I’m better on the longer-term follow through. He’s rhythm and I’m lyrics. I wasn’t even done with the book before he was obsessing about all kinds of minutiae on my behalf. I’m the type of person to easily spiral inwards, so I need a counterweight.

What is your relationship with beauty and fashion like?

The beauty industry I have a hard time with—my favorite comedian, Kate Berlant, used to do this great bit in her stand-up about how it’s okay to shoplift from Sephora because makeup is a tool of patriarchal oppression, and although I’m so terrified of shoplifting, that sentiment resonates with me. Maybe it’s just because my face resists makeup. I can’t even put on mascara without somehow getting it all over my cheeks.

That being said, I love skincare. I travel a lot so I’m always trying to retain moisture. I always have a tube of Embryolisse Lait Creme, which is the best moisturizer, a bottle of Mixa Bébé, a French cleansing milk my mom always used when I was growing up—it’s so hypoallergenic you can literally squirt an entire pump into your eyes without anything untoward happening—Shiseido Urban Environment sunscreen and Milk Makeup Sunshine Skin Tint, which as close as I get to foundation. Sometimes I do Korean sheet masks on the plane, much to the horror of people traveling with me. The older I get the more minimal my palette is, fashion-wise. I’m obsessed with buying vintage suits on eBay, because I love a uniform, and I like to dress how I imagine a lady tech millionaire might have dressed in the dotcom era: a sharp ‘90s Armani suit or some Pleats Please, a white t-shirt, Nikes.

How do you deal with failure in your work?

Honestly? Badly. I’m an only child and a Scorpio. I lope around silently wounded. I know that highly successful people—according to the jargon of business types and motivational speakers, anyway—crave failure, because it helps bring them closer to the truth, but I’ll take indifference over failure any day. I like to do my own thing, in the hopes that eventually someday it will all make sense in the rear view, as a body of work.

I noticed in many of your Instagram videos and stories, as well in your music, you speak French. How did you learn the language and how has it impacted your ability to live in a global community?

French is my first language! I grew up in Saint-Nom-la-Bretèche, a village north of Paris, and emigrated to the United States when I was nine. In my family, we move between English and French when it’s convenient, and I really believe it’s allowed me to appreciate the nuances between worlds: no language has a full grasp on reality, and part of the fun of being bilingual is having access to an extra set of idioms and words for concepts that might be lacking in another language.

I know you spend a lot of time on planes en route to various different cities and countries. Do you have any places you always go whenever you’re in Portland, LA or say the South of France?

I like familiarity when I’m traveling—being a “regular” somewhere, even if it’s only in my mind. Small shops and galleries run by friends give me that feeling: Tusk in Chicago, Stand up Comedy and IAMTHAT in Portland, Otherwild and Virgil Normal in Los Angeles, Freda in New Orleans, the Marfa Book Company in Marfa. From touring in a band for such a long time, I’ve also been to, like, nearly every vegetarian restaurant in the continental United States.

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