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What makes !!Con feminist?

!!Con (pronounced “bang bang con”) is a radically eclectic, radically affordable conference of ten-minute talks about the joy, excitement, and surprise of computing. I co-founded it with a group of friends in 2014, and we’ve been running it every May since then; in 2019 we started a sister event, !!Con West. We’ll accept proposals for ten-minute talks about any computing topic imaginable, as long as there’s at least one exclamation point in the title of the talk!

Back in December 2019, when we were organizing !!Con West and trying to line up sponsors, I was exchanging a lot of email with people at tech companies who we hoped would sponsor the conference.1 During one of those conversations, the person I was talking to made an offhand comment that struck a chord with me. They said that they were glad they could put lots of exclamation points in emails to us and not feel weird about it. I tweeted about it, then forgot about it for a while. Now, over a year later, we’re soliciting talk proposals (today’s the deadline! get your talk proposals in!) and looking for sponsors for !!Con 2021, and I was reminded of that conversation by a tweet from Amanda Visconti a couple of days ago:

We’ve been doing !!Con for eight years now, but in all that time, I’m not sure if we’ve ever actually explicitly articulated the idea that emphasizing joy, excitement, and exclamation points is feminist — but it is!

There’s this well-known phenomenon of women having to carefully manage how we use exclamation points, for instance, in writing we do in a professional context. I’m sure there’s actual scholarship on this, but all you have to do is search Twitter for something like “men exclamation points email” to find hundreds of anecdotes. Here are just a few:

You’ll see women who are frustrated about having to add exclamation points, and women who are frustrated about having to remove them. The point is, there’s no winning: use exclamation points, and we’ll be seen as unprofessional; don’t use them, and we’ll be seen as cold.

!!Con subverts that. You have to use at least one exclamation point in your talk title at !!Con; it’s required. We take away

I could go on at length about all the reasons why I think !!Con is special, and why I think that should submit talk proposals — but you don’t have to take my word for it! Here’s what a few of last year’s speakers said about their !!Con and/or !!Con West experience:

If that sounds like something you want to be part of, please consider submitting a talk proposal to !!Con this year. We can’t wait to hear from you!

  1. Does your organization want to sponsor this year’s !!Con?! Check out our sponsorship prospectus and mailto:2021-organizers@exclamation.foundation!

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