Meet Andrea Gonzales and Sophie Houser, two high school students in New York City. They met this summer at Girls Who Code (@ IAC), and Tampon Run was their final project for the program. Andy and Sophie skyped in with some bluestockings staff last week for an interview, but it’s pretty obvious that we just wanted an opportunity to fangirl them and sing their praises!
Maru: Could you talk a bit about what drew you to Girls Who Code and what your experiences were at the camp?
Sophie: I first decided to do it because my mom recommended it. She thought coding would be an intersection between math and being creative, and she knew I liked both of those things. Now that I’m actually coding I realize it’s more logic than math-y. It wasn’t really the ‘girls only’ thing that drew me in initially, but by the end of the program I appreciated my womanhood so much more just because I had been working with 19 other girls. We were so frustrated together when our code didn’t work, so excited together when it did, and we just built each other up so much. It felt so good to be a part of that.
Andy: Yeah, definitely. Going into “Girls Who Code” I was kind of skeptical because of the all-girls thing – maybe not skeptical but very nervous about it – because I had been coding since the year before my freshman year of high school, and I had already gone to this other camp that was co-ed. I spent two summers there so I was very comfortable coding and learning around a community that was for the most part male. My first year, there were only 4 girls out of the 50 campers, and the girls included the staff. So as Sophia mentioned, going through the whole process of being with 19 other girls for seven hours for seven weeks was really transformative.
Chanelle: How did the two of you get paired up? Did you know each other beforehand?
Sophie: No, we didn’t. It was our choice to work together, we weren’t just randomly paired up. Andy had this idea to make a video game that created some sort of social change with maybe a feminist twist, and I liked the idea of using coding to create social change so I joined her. And while we were brainstorming I just like made a joke and said, “Maybe we can make the girl throw tampons” but then as soon as I said it, we realized it was something we had both dealt with in our lives. We did some research on it and realized it was a much broader and more serious issue, and it was something we could tackle through a video game. So that’s how it all came to be. That’s how we got together.
Sophie: Also I liked Andy a lot.
Andy: Yeah, I liked her too…sort of. Just kidding, I was really excited to have Sophie on board with me! I would not have come up with the tampon idea independently. Definitely not. I was actually thinking about targeting the hyper-sexualization of women in video games because obviously that’s a huge issue, especially now.
Maru: What are some stigmas do you think still need to be dealt with within the world of programming?
Sophie: That girls aren’t good at coding or that they’re not good at math or at science, which really isn’t true at all. But importantly I felt that the woman coders are so welcoming of other woman coders, they’re so nice. It’s a small community, but it’s such a welcoming and supportive community.
Andy: I think, at least from my personal experience, no one said that I was incapable of coding but the fact that I was a girl and interested in coding was a surprise to some people. I’m also part of a robotics team and people will say, “What do you do?” and I’m like, “Oh, as a hobby I like to code sometimes” and they’ll say, “Woah, that’s really interesting”, whereas I feel like if I was a boy I’d be treated differently, like “Ok, that’s cool I guess.” It was always surprising to people that I’d be interested in something like that. There’s that shock factor.
Maru: I have a quick question about the game itself. When Chanelle and I were playing it a couple of days ago, it took a while for us to realize that the enemies steal the tampons from you, they don’t attack you. I’m curious about where that idea came from. Can you talk a bit about it?
Sophie: Yeah, definitely. We were actually inspired by something we read on the Huffington Post when we decided this is what we wanted to do. Like a year ago, in Texas, officials at a courthouse confiscated women’s tampons and maxi pads as they were coming into the courthouse because they worried they were going to use them as projectiles. But they let all the guns into the courthouse. We thought that was really crazy. So it was kind of a play off that, and originally the little enemies were actually dressed as policemen, but we didn’t want the game to have any political overtones greater than menstruation, especially with what’s going on right now in Ferguson. So we changed them to having pink baseball caps, but that’s why they’re confiscating the tampons.
Malana: Do you have any plans for what you’re going to do next?
Sophie: Yeah! We’ve gotten a lot of requests for it to go mobile, like as a mobile app. And we feel like that would be great because not a lot of “gamers” play on their computers anymore, everything is on iPods or iPads or Android devices. People have also requested making the game more difficult or progressively more difficult, adding features like more enemies or someone mentioned super-absorbent tampons – things that would make it more interesting. So yeah, I’ve been working on that today and we hope to launch the mobile version soon.
Chanelle: The fact that the two of you are still in high school is mind blowing. When I was in high school, I was still nervous that tampons would come out of my backpack in class instead of a pen.
Andy: It’s totally real. This entire process made me question the reasons why I don’t feel comfortable when I’m menstruating.
We thank Andy and Sophie for their time and wish them success in the world of feminist gaming and beyond!