The fun part of reviewing Double Union applications is reading about amazing projects and cool life histories! The least fun part is rejecting people’s applications. :(
Double Union can’t be what we want without rejecting some applications, since not everyone shares Double Union’s base assumptions - and we want Double Union to be a place where those assumptions are shared by all members. Sometimes people share these base assumptions, but DU can’t be what the applicant is looking for (e.g., a full-time co-working space). But necessity doesn’t make rejecting applications any easier for either Double Union members or applicants. People often spend a long time writing their applications and coming to the space to meet members, and we are really grateful for their efforts, and it feels awful to say no after all that work.
Unfortunately, we don’t comment on the specific reasons a particular application was rejected, even when asked by the applicant. Although most of our rejections are because we don’t have enough information to say yes - an easy letter to write - explaining why we reject people for other reasons is a much more difficult conversation. This is mostly because it is almost impossible to give someone more detail on why they were rejected without actually hurting them more. Also, none of our volunteers are willing to write that many painful emails. We additionally wish to respect the privacy of applicants, so after the voting period, applications are removed from members’ view, so confidentiality will be easier to maintain.
Since we don’t comment on the specific reasons that individuals’ applications are declined, we wanted to share some general reasons why an application might not be accepted, in hopes of helping reduce the number of applications we reject, rightly or wrongly.
Your application didn’t have enough detail.
If an application has very short answers for each question, it’s hard for us to guess whether DU is suitable for what you want or if you share our values. Sometimes we can figure it out based on other links and web sites in the application, but an application with nothing but an email address and one-sentence answers to each question is unlikely to be accepted.
You’re looking for something that the space can’t really offer.
If you’re primarily looking for a full-time coworking space, especially one where you can have team meetings and take calls, DU isn’t set up for this - see the membership description page for more detail. Sometimes people are primarily looking to use a specific kind of equipment that our space can’t have - it’s in an office building and isn’t suitable for very flammable or very dust- or fume-producing equipment - so that isn’t going to work well, either. Sometimes people are looking for a space where they, as a person who doesn’t identify as women in a way that is significant to them, can be members. While we understand and support the desire for a more-genders hackerspace with an explicitly feminist mission, we aren’t that space.
Your “Tell us about your feminism” answer didn’t answer the question with what we were hoping to hear about.
Sometimes applicants answer this question with identifying themselves as not really a feminist. Double Union is a feminist hacker/maker space - identifying as feminist in some way is something we expect of every member.
Sometimes people answer this question with a list of the women-in-tech organizations they participate in. But many women-in-tech organizations actively avoid describing themselves as feminist, so we don’t presume membership with a women-in-tech group equates with a specific feminist philosophy. While it is great to hear about in addition to your opinions, what we want to learn is more about your thoughts/philosophy around feminism. We want to hear your perspective!
Your “Tell us about your feminism” answer suggests that you are currently working through learning “feminism 101”.
We are happy that applicants are in the lifelong process of self-education about feminism; all of DU’s members are working on this, too. But one of our base assumptions is that members understand many of what we consider basic principles of feminism, so that we can have a space where we can get stuff done without having to explain or defend basic feminist principles amongst ourselves. Sometimes applicants write an answer that suggests they are still in the early stages of learning about feminism or don’t get one or more of our base assumptions; for example, seeming to miss that intersectionality is an essential part of feminism, or asserting that women bear the responsibility for changing sexist spaces, or condemning any feminist activities that might offend people, or calling adults “girls” instead of “women”.
We didn’t get a chance to meet you, or if we met you, not enough of a chance to talk to you.
It’s difficult to get a sense of people from Internet-only interactions. Since Double Union is an in-person place and we are trying to create a welcoming environment, understanding how people interact in person is an important part of deciding whether they should be a member. We require that every applicant have met at least one member in-person who thinks the applicant would be a respectful member of the community. Also, sometimes we are hesitating on an application because of one of the reasons above, and if we get a chance to meet the person and ask for more information, that can help us accept their application.
What’s next, and what to do if you have been rejected
We are continuing to work on making our expectations for applications more clear. We recently added more detail to the how membership and applications work page and we hope to improve the process more before applications open again.
If your application has been rejected, and you are still interested in joining Double Union, don’t despair! We have had several members that we initially rejected, and then after we got to know them more, we accepted their follow-up application. If you choose to apply again, here are some tips on how to improve your chances of your next application being accepted:
- Come to Double Union events and make things and talk to people.
- Read books on feminism, especially intersectional feminism, technofeminism, and non-corporate feminism. bell hooks, Angela Y. Davis, Judy Wajcman, and Joanna Russ are good places to start.
- Read the Double Union web site carefully to get a sense of what the space is for and figure out if it’s what you’re looking for in a hacker/makerspace.
And as we have mentioned before, it appears that there’s so much demand for feminist hackerspaces in general that the Bay Area could support three or four more! It would be exciting to see other hackerspaces starting that fit needs that Double Union can’t or doesn’t fill. For example, a more co-working oriented space with booths for phone calls and connections with potential funders seems like it would be extremely popular!
Here are some hackerspace-starting resources we’ve posted in the past: