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OK, I'll bite. Sides of this issue you might not be considering
Posted Aug 25, 2009 3:13 UTC (Tue) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
If anyone had the slightest chance of understanding EMACS virginity to be in the slightest way related to sex, and then feeling threatened, it wasn't because they were a woman. To believe that is insulting women much worse than anything RMS said. Lots of women handle much worse social challenges every day. And this is not approaching why there are so few women in the technologies.
IMO, someone who espoused that sort of feeling during RMS talk was primed for this to happen before it did, looking for a fight, and towed any number of people looking to be politically correct along with them.
I saw Lefty at the Community Summit and he was totally sickly nonlinear about this. He had a cry in his voice the whole time he explained it to me, and ran off in a huff when I didn't buy it.
Nobody is considering the men's side of this equation. It happens that virginity is pretty much a social affliction among the young nerdy men who flock to computer programming. And RMS goes without a girlfriend for a while now and then. What do you do when something's painful and you can't make it go away? Joking about it makes it feel better.
I remember my first year in communication arts at NY Tech, there was one woman entering the program. They used to bus us to events with Fashion Institute of Technology and Barnard just so that we could have social interaction with women our age. But you already knew this was not a problem unique to Free Software.
I think we have to solve the overall problem with women in Science and Engineering to solve Free Software's problem. It's not all discrimination and bad jokes, or we would not have other minorities at the level that is currently represented. Some of it is what women grow up wanting to do and be.
Remember what the Jesuit said: Give me a child until he's 7 years of age, and he's mine for life. I think we have to concentrate on very early training at home and in early grades.
Posted Aug 25, 2009 8:03 UTC (Tue) by Cato (subscriber, #7643)
http://opensourcetogo.blogspot.com/2009/07/good-gcds-begi... is the link to Lefty's blog with his viewpoint.
Posted Aug 25, 2009 8:15 UTC (Tue) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
So... why did Stallman say it was women specifically who needed to be relieved of their 'EMACS virginity'?
Because women who use EMACS are especially rare. I have found out about only one in the past 30 years, and she was trained on it for a job and doesn't use it any longer.
I think that link is broken, but the host name works. But it is a lot more heat than light.
Posted Aug 25, 2009 11:52 UTC (Tue) by RobSeace (subscriber, #4435)
Perhaps that merely means women, on the whole, have far better taste in text
editors than most men... They all use vi, of course... ;-)
Posted Aug 25, 2009 13:11 UTC (Tue) by njs (guest, #40338)
Because... I mean... really? I can't imagine it. Admittedly, the reason I can't imagine it has a lot to do with the cultural rules for how men cannot say anything vaguely homosexual public, but... there it is. Jokes that allude to the metaphorical rape of women are just more publicly acceptable than jokes that allude to the possibility that the speaker might be gay. (Of course, that version also alludes to homosexual rape, but sadly, I don't think that has much to do with its unacceptability.)
(Oh, just to ++ your count: my wife uses emacs. So do the, like, 40% of the entering CS class at Berkeley who are female, etc., it's actually not that big a deal, but hey, since you're counting.)
Posted Aug 25, 2009 14:54 UTC (Tue) by coriordan (guest, #7544)
Second, nobody mentioned rape or even hinted at it, until you did.
Folks, if you want to help gender inclusion, then dissecting a joke and making up stuff to feel offended about is not the way forward. How about organising a summit on the topic? Oh.
Posted Aug 25, 2009 15:38 UTC (Tue) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
Posted Aug 25, 2009 16:41 UTC (Tue) by coriordan (guest, #7544)
If you read my comments in this thread, you'll see that I haven't said that any woman is/was wrong to feel offended.
In my comment, I pointed out some unfair accusations by njs. You've replied by launching unfair accusations at me :-) I'm sure you're well intentioned, but I think this topic is being approached in an unproductively hot headed manner. I expect the ladies will do a better job on Sept 19th, and then we can listen instead of discussing how offended we feel for them.
Posted Aug 25, 2009 17:02 UTC (Tue) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
In any case, this isn't a situation that will magically get rectified by the existence of a summit. If there's a problem here then it doesn't get solved unless men (as well as women) are willing to do something about it. That includes calling people out on perceived poor or unhelpful behaviour, and it includes accepting that people might be offended for themselves rather than being offended on other people's behalf. RMS's behaviour offended me not because I think women are unable to stand up for themselves but because he managed to undo some quantity of the work many people have been doing to try to make the Linux community a welcoming and friendly place that doesn't marginalise anyone on the basis of biological differences they have no control over. I'm offended because he made us look bad. I'm offended because it was entirely unnecessary and could have been avoided with a straightforward apology, and the refusal to do so encourages the perception that our community leaders are all unwilling to accept that they may have made mistakes but we love them anyway.
By saying that people are merely being offended on behalf of women you imply that there's no rother reason for a man to have been offended by the case in question. You're writing off their concerns as an irrelevance. It'd be very easy for you to just put this down as another unfair accusation on my part, but at some level I'd hope that you'll put some time into considering why people feel this way about what you're writing instead of deflecting it without any obvious thought.
Posted Aug 25, 2009 23:55 UTC (Tue) by coriordan (guest, #7544)
Then you criticised me for "telling [women] that they're wrong to be offended", which I didn't say at all. Now, when I say the summit could be helpful, you complain that the issue won't "magically get rectified by the existence of a summit" - I never said it would!
Do you think misrepresenting people and making careless accusations is a way to make a gender inclusive forum? I don't think a vague joke by rms is the only problem here. Not by a long shot.
Posted Aug 26, 2009 0:00 UTC (Wed) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
Posted Aug 25, 2009 23:25 UTC (Tue) by njs (guest, #40338)
Uh. Then I suppose you're glad I didn't call anyone sexist...?
Bruce claimed that the reason RMS talked about women was a simple reflection of user statistics -- that it had nothing to do with the sexual/gendered overtones of "virginity", and indeed, that those overtones didn't even exist in context of the joke.
I'm skeptical. Note that this is not "I think Bruce is sexist", or even "I think RMS is sexist". It's "I'm skeptical of Bruce's claim that I was replying to". I think that's a pretty unremarkable sort of stance to take in LWN comments.
One way I tried to express that was by appealing to people's intuition for cultural rules about sex -- AFAICT, around here (here being America, more or less) it's much more okay for a guy to joke about taking a women's virginity than to joke about participating in homosexual sex. If you then try to imagine RMS taking guy's emacs virginity and your brain goes "whoa whoa what?", then that suggests that yeah, "emacs virginity" *is* pulling up all those sexual/gendered stereotypes. Sorry Bruce.
But maybe you don't share that intuition, and that's fine. Cultural rules are messy, variable, and hard to articulate; maybe you're coming from somewhere else, maybe I just got it wrong, it happens. But that doesn't mean they don't exist, or don't matter, or that "*I*" cannot talk about them on the basis of my own knowledge. I'd rather try and get it wrong occasionally that pretend they don't exist.
And as for hinting at rape... well. Here's the quote again: "we believe that taking her emacs virginity away is a blessed act." Does that call on men to go out and rape women? Absolutely not. But when I take my lunch out of the fridge, the lunch doesn't have any say in the matter. I decide to take it, it doesn't make a decision. It's just some apples and lasagna and stuff, decision-making isn't what it does. I certainly wouldn't ask it if it minded being taken. That's the metaphor he chose to use; women are like my lunch. Whether women lose their virginity/learn emacs is something for a man to decide and implement, with no place for her to have an opinion on the matter.
One more time, before people rise up with pitchforks: I'm not saying that anyone who uses that sort of language is an evil misogynist who hates women and wants to rape them. This stuff is subconscious and out there in the culture; it's easy to miss. (Esp. for men, who don't spend their lives with the spectre of real rape hanging over them.) But you know, one could just as easily talk about helping women relieve their own virginity, or just offer to answer their questions about emacs. When we choose not to, then yeah, that has something to do with our nasty cultural models about power and sex and agency.
Posted Aug 26, 2009 1:25 UTC (Wed) by coriordan (guest, #7544)
Heh. I guess I'm also not immune to reading people's comments with tunnel vision. Sorry 'bout that.
(As for "taking someone's virginity", I think that's a pretty normal turn of phrase for two consensual partners where one or both is a virgin.)
Posted Aug 26, 2009 2:08 UTC (Wed) by njs (guest, #40338)
np. Thanks for being willing to listen.
> (As for "taking someone's virginity", I think that's a pretty normal turn of phrase for two consensual partners where one or both is a virgin.)
Oh, it's definitely common. It's still just a bit icky. And of course context matters: when you're not talking about two consensual partners, but publicly exhorting a crowd of men to go out, find some women somewhere, and take away their virginity... yeah, it's a joke, but within that joke it's asking listeners to laugh at a really disturbing scenario.
Posted Aug 25, 2009 15:00 UTC (Tue) by forthy (guest, #1525)
Where in the world is "take virginity away" equal to an act of rape?
In countries where all people (except the geeks ;-) have sex first time
before being of age?
My take at what our problem is: Women hate us geeks. That's why there
are so few women in geek-like activities. They hate us because we are
boring, we don't dress properly (we look deliberately poor), we don't
smalltalk easily on parties - if we go to parties at all (other than of
course geek parties). It's not our social deficits - if someone who beats
his spouse loses her finally, he's got a new one the next day. Yes, we
have that kind of people in the OSS szene (think of Hans Reiser). He was
married, and had children. Come on, this sort of social deficit is only a
serious handicap if the spouse is six feet under, and you have to deal
with a court.
What matters a lot to women is if you are wealthy or at least care
about wealth. Free software and wealth? Doesn't seem to fit. This was
Hans' real problem, this is our real problem. Women who do software
already have a gender-specific handicap. But doing it for free, just for
fun, and not out of monetary interest, that's a much larger handicap for
female way of thinking. Remember: Men are driven by recognition, by rank
they achieve through fights. Women aren't. Their rank comes of age, not
of achievement (we are apes, after all). The ranking system we in the
FOSS szene have is not recognised by women - it has no obvous benefits
outside, you can't pay the rent with Linux kernel patches (well, you can,
but the reward system is extremely indirect).
This will change all on its own. IMHO it is basically a recognition
problem: Do ordinary people recognise how important software is? More and
more, they do. Computers for young people are everyday's tools. They
aren't strange things stuffed in geeky cellars any more. Women often lag
behind in adapting new technologies, but when the technologies are old and
boring, they are usually only operated by women. Again: Remember that
rank in the female ranking system comes primarily of age, not of
achievement! What has been around long enough obviously is important.
And always remember: The question is "why are there so few"? All those
points that prevent people from joining are not the points that annoy
people who already are in there. You have to ask the people who are not
in there, why they won't join. They may have completely different
reasons. I think what we need to fix first to appeal more to women is the
reward system. We can't go on with a reward system where the joy of
having a working program is the only reward, and that is spoiled by the
bug reports. I know of no woman personally who is rewarded by the result
of her work. They all need compliments in addition. "Bug reports"
usually don't work. Even when women complain about problems, it is no
good to help them by telling them how they should do (especially when
completely counter-intuitive things are involved). They want that you
listen and agree to their laments. Women apparently can improve. But an
open discussion how to improve things - no way.
Of course this is a very stereotypical view. But like the long-haired
geek with goatee, stereotypes are not generally wrong. They are only
wrong in special cases, in the other cases, they are mere exaggerations.
Statistically, special cases are not that relevant.
So to sum that up: The most urgent thing to establish is a positive
reward and compliment system. Put a "send flower picture to developer"
button on Sourceforge pages, next to the donate (developer can choose
secretly what kind of picture it actually will be, and the option "porn"
is only shown after the developer has proven he's male ;-). Add a "thanks
for fixing that bug" button to bugzilla. Make sure that the social page
of your project shows how long each developer has been with the project,
how many flowers and how many thanks for bugfixes they got (and build a
social page first, idiots! If women care about anything, it is about
brownie point competition with their peers). Add a pink flower and
butterflies theme to Sourceforge (also for
gay developers; if you need inspiration, look at a random web page from
Asia ;-). Wait for asian people to become significant part of
the community - the girls there have less problems with technology and
being geeks than ours. And that despite they are usually much more
stereotypical girls than ours. They haven't been that much through
emancipation, so they just accept the gender differences. Some things go
away by themselves, our young girls have less problems with them being
girls than the generation before - this gender-mainstreaming is already
Posted Aug 25, 2009 16:36 UTC (Tue) by hppnq (guest, #14462)
But not this challenging.
Posted Aug 25, 2009 20:15 UTC (Tue) by nix (subscriber, #2304)
What matters a lot to women is if you are wealthy or at least care about wealth.
But in fact it isn't. Do you actually know any women? Hint: female motivations are every bit as complex and multifaceted as male ones (hell, more so) and it is erroneous to say 'all women X' for almost any value of X.
(In any case, this bit of pop evo-psych applies to mating strategies. We're interested here in why so few women become free software developers, not in few male free software developers get dates, if indeed this is true, which it probably isn't unless you have some other major deficit. TBH this latter effect is of interest to nobody but male free software developers.)
Posted Aug 26, 2009 19:28 UTC (Wed) by maco (guest, #53641)
Oh! You're right, I *do* hate myself!
Here's the problem I have with what RMS said: he made the wrong-headed assumption that all EMACS users, all geeks...are men. And you just did too. Can we stop with the marginalization?
Posted Sep 8, 2009 12:02 UTC (Tue) by forthy (guest, #1525)
Why is it so difficult for you to parse expressions? I'm not
marginalizing anybody, I'm just making a generalized statement (would you
like it better if I write "70% women hate 70% of the geeks" or whatever
figures there actually are?). Most women are non-geek, just as most men
are non-geek. Most women "hate" female geeks as much as male geeks (or
even more, because they directly compete with this "knows-all-better" but
badly dressed, w/o makeup girl). We geeks all are marginalized!
The society is pretty anti-geek and pro mediocracy as such! And of course
most women approach men (and professions) with "mate selection mode"
applied. If you don't - I'm fine with that. But to explain "why are
there so few
xxx" (e.g. xxx=properly shaved, without ponytail) geeks, then
generalization works. Those few who are there are the exceptions. If you
fail to understand that you are an exception, please learn more about
yourself. And if you don't accept your own exception-state, you are
I just came out of a conference full of geeks. The only woman was the
wife of one participant, and she was only there for the social activities
(the geek parties). There was an obvious separation between groups, which
became visible when we started discussing about foreign language
interfaces (to C and other languages). The left side of the U-shaped
table was the side of Windows users who didn't see the problem with their
approach, because it works for them - basically one OS, two processor
architectures, of which they mostly support only one (32 bit x86). It
didn't work for the other side of the table, where the weird, bearded,
pony-tailed Unix guys where sitting (in fact, only one of us was actually
bearded and pony-tailed, but it is completely sufficient if you have one
of those in your group ;-), who have lots of different architectures and
OSes, and know of problems the other side never has heard of - and
therefore propose to use the C compiler (which is not available to Windows
And even though discussions like this bring up personal things, we can
get along with each others well. Technical discussions have to be hard,
it's about not giving in when you know that the other side is wrong.
There's a time where you are nice to your peers and there's a time where
you are rude. And sometimes, discussions like this bring up your
beard+ponytail state. Or your gender, if it differs. So what? If the
results are worth the hard discussions, it's apropriate. The occasional
women in this sort of meetings often is said to "have hairs on her teeth",
i.e. she masters this sort of discussion style perfectly.
And after all, as geeks, we won't compromise on a process that's
working just for having more girls in that field. Or other complaints,
like occasional sexual harassments: Come on, girls who go to a club are
more than occasionally harassed, yet the places are packed full with
girls. This is just a crazy argument. Unless, of course, you really hate
the male geeks, and therefore their sexuall harassment is much worse than
the ones of the guys in the club.
Posted Sep 9, 2009 3:00 UTC (Wed) by xoddam (subscriber, #2322)
One goes clubbing for the purposes of overt public exercise of one's sexual animal nature (well 99% of patrons do, some just like dancing or drugs or deafening music). People are there to show off their bodies and those of their partners if they have them. Plenty of people are there in order to advertise their availability, and it's a good bet quite a few intend to 'score'. The rules in a nightclub are, for this reason, very different from those on the street (your local red-light district partially excepted) or in a daytime workplace. Harrassment is still unacceptable, but the very definition of harrassment is different. Sex-related signals abound and they must be read and understood, and ambiguities tactfully resolved, before it is clear what behaviour is acceptable.
Technical mailing lists and websites are not sexually charged environments. Well, they *shouldn't* be.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 19:58 UTC (Thu) by lizhenry (guest, #60479)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:32 UTC (Thu) by artibasos (guest, #60487)
I am so glad to know that "geek" and "women" are mutually exclusive
Posted Aug 28, 2009 0:29 UTC (Fri) by alankila (subscriber, #47141)
I think the guy was trying to say, poorly, that he thought women would be most attracted to sort of (male) social climbers who try to get status, not the sort of people who dress poorly and don't care if they work for free for idealistic reasons. Starting from the next paragraph he's quite clearly implying a mate-selection context with "What matters a lot to women is if you are wealthy or at least care about wealth."
Posted Aug 28, 2009 21:51 UTC (Fri) by nix (subscriber, #2304)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 22:33 UTC (Fri) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
If anyone wants to discuss why some women go for abusive dirtbags instead of you, with all of your shining geeky qualities :-), there are appropriate net venues. LWN isn't one.
Posted Aug 29, 2009 21:54 UTC (Sat) by alankila (subscriber, #47141)
We're concerned with editor choice among female open source developers? Really??
Posted Aug 25, 2009 17:29 UTC (Tue) by PO8 (guest, #41661)
If you want to meet female open source developers who use emacs, I guess you're welcome to drop by and say "hi" to some. But it would be kinda weird---I guess you could give a talk in one of my classes or something and chat with them afterward. You can also meet married open source developers with kids who use emacs, and 40-something open source developers who use vi, and an up-and-coming young open source developer who prefers nano, and any number of other combinations of demographic and editor choice with varying likelihoods...
Here's a blog from one of my students, a woman who develops open tech and (IIRC) uses emacs: http://dotfiveone.com . Her current entry is about a bunch of women, one of them another of my students, who spoke at our recent open source conference in Portland. It's pretty likely some of them use emacs too.
Posted Aug 26, 2009 19:23 UTC (Wed) by maco (guest, #53641)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:13 UTC (Thu) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:29 UTC (Thu) by artibasos (guest, #60487)
(I am female; I use vi.)
Posted Sep 22, 2009 15:29 UTC (Tue) by Lefty (guest, #51528)
Posted Aug 25, 2009 8:40 UTC (Tue) by engla (guest, #47454)
njs industries: filling your tl/dr quota of today -- and tomorrow!
Posted Aug 25, 2009 13:10 UTC (Tue) by njs (guest, #40338)
For most of us, our gender just doesn't come up when hacking. Who stops and thinks "hey, I'm male" in the middle of discussing a patch or whatever?
But if you're Julie Random Hacker, it doesn't work that way. You can't forget you're female and be "just another hacker".
Sometimes it's because of malicious jerks who will harass and threaten you. (They're a minority, but that can be enough.)
Sometimes it's because of desperate geeks with weird impulse control and deeply twisted or broken social skills, especially regarding sex. They're not malicious, not evil; if anything, they're damaged victims of their culture. But you're the one who has to deal with it.
Sometimes its because of perfectly well-meaning, easy-going people who nevertheless will make casual jokes about women, or bring up your gender in the middle of an argument about other things entirely, or otherwise demonstrate that while they're perfectly nice people, it's never occurred to them to think about how things look from your perspective. That in their world, your experience just isn't that important.
Sometimes, even, it's internal. You screw up, you wonder if everyone is nodding sagely and thinking "yep, that's why women aren't real hackers". You look at your friends and co-workers who really are cool, don't fall into any of those categories above, but you still know that they're aware of your gender, that they can't forget it, that they know all the stereotypes, and you wonder what subtle influence that has, what internal struggles they face just to deal with you as an ordinary human being. You wonder what they say when you aren't around, and sometimes when people assume you're male (since everyone is, right?)... you find out.
Or maybe you try and get away from all that, go by "J. Hacker" to hide your identity... and accept that you'll have to be constantly vigilant about what you reveal to who, and what might happen if you let the wrong thing slip to one of your hacking buddies. For years.
The point is, there is no escape. It's not always violent, it's not always blatant, sometimes you can forget about it and it's not even always negative, but. It's always there, at some level. You are never plain "you", you are "you (a woman)". Always.
Now, given that. Getting more people to use emacs is certainly a virtuous act, and inasmuch as FOSS is a particularly toxic environment for women, finding ways to counter those particular forces is certainly virtuous as well. I don't think RMS is a bad person trying to do harm in any way. I'm even willing to believe what you suggest, that this is his way of trying to do good.
But telling a bunch of men to go out and "take" women's "virginity" is not the way to do that. It's not malicious, but it is -- at the least -- deeply ignorant of who women are and what their experiences are like. And so when RMS said it, and when other men defend it, they end up sending the message that they only care about some people's experience, and not others, and that they draw that line based on an accident of birth. I'm not saying it's on purpose, but that's what's communicated. Men matter, you don't — except as another notch on Emacs' bedpost. It's not just ineffective, it's toxic.
But there's a solution: ignorance is easy to treat. Just read, and think, and read some more, and think some more, and try to keep an open mind. Remember that no-one's being graded, but being a decent person is worth fighting for. Pretend women are Haskell or something. Sure, you have to learn to think in new ways — and that's awesome. The only people who really can't learn are the ones who find learning scary, and would rather be certain than right.
Posted Aug 29, 2009 10:57 UTC (Sat) by spzeidler (guest, #60508)
Actually you only need to keep gender out of the equation long enough that first contact and assessment is over; once somebody has filed you under 'person I know' instead of 'wow something potentially fuckable !!1!' (no, the "thing" is not an accident), people tend to generally behave.
Posted Aug 29, 2009 11:30 UTC (Sat) by njs (guest, #40338)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 19:50 UTC (Thu) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
Posted Aug 25, 2009 10:55 UTC (Tue) by ewan (subscriber, #5533)
You can believe that there's a problem, or that there isn't; but you can't reasonably hold the view that there's a problematic gender disparity and then blame someone for saying that it "was women specifically who needed to be relieved of their 'EMACS virginity'".
Posted Aug 25, 2009 20:19 UTC (Tue) by nix (subscriber, #2304)
Posted Aug 25, 2009 20:40 UTC (Tue) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 26, 2009 19:33 UTC (Wed) by maco (guest, #53641)
Amends or not
Posted Aug 26, 2009 22:27 UTC (Wed) by man_ls (subscriber, #15091)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 2:24 UTC (Thu) by maco (guest, #53641)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:06 UTC (Thu) by lizhenry (guest, #60479)
Posted Aug 25, 2009 8:19 UTC (Tue) by paulj (subscriber, #341)
IME, those ranting about a (bad) joke would do much better to look instead at the mundane, day-to-day behaviour of many people as they work on free software. Discussions all too often descend into over-heated argument, rife with assertion, misunderstanding and failures to to even *attempt* to understand the other. There are many project leaders and other high-profile individuals who seem particularly prone to causticism, defensiveness and communication-failure - and rarely, if ever, are they taken to task.
I don't know why things are so - perhaps it's the heavy reliance on the low-bandwidth medium of email lists. However, it seems a deeper problem than just a few bad, sexist apples. It seems we, in free software, would do well to step back and consider how we could improve communication between each other in a more systematic fashion.
I.e. I think the problems possibly might be due more to extremely poor (if not destructive) communication practices than sexism.
Posted Aug 25, 2009 8:35 UTC (Tue) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
There are many project leaders and other high-profile individuals who seem particularly prone to causticism, defensiveness and communication-failure - and rarely, if ever, are they taken to task.
Some of them are high-functioning Asperger's syndrome sufferers and it's not their fault. Indeed, the only reason their plight is not considered worse than that of the women is that there are so many of them that the community is collectively used to their quirks.
Posted Aug 25, 2009 11:42 UTC (Tue) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
Posted Aug 25, 2009 12:35 UTC (Tue) by coriordan (guest, #7544)
For people with such strong feelings and rigorous moral standards on this issue, I'm puzzled by the lack of visibility of their related work.
If a politician was in this situation, they'd be accused of empty opportunistic points-scoring.
Posted Aug 25, 2009 12:39 UTC (Tue) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
Posted Aug 25, 2009 12:48 UTC (Tue) by coriordan (guest, #7544)
Your post just motivated me to join the discussion because everyone else had used polite language before you.
Posted Aug 26, 2009 19:35 UTC (Wed) by maco (guest, #53641)
Posted Aug 26, 2009 19:37 UTC (Wed) by corbet (editor, #1)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 2:25 UTC (Thu) by maco (guest, #53641)
Posted Sep 6, 2009 7:51 UTC (Sun) by email@example.com (subscriber, #14112)
Why do you find it suspicious that, in a community which is estimated to be
over 95% men, that the respondents to almost anything should be mostly male?
Posted Aug 25, 2009 14:57 UTC (Tue) by paulj (subscriber, #341)
It's possible, if HFAs/Aspies are for some reason overly represented amongst free software developers (compared to engineering generally), and given that developers are the 'rock stars' of the free software world and so are somewhat trend-setting, that they could have a disproportionate effect on culture.
I agree bad behaviour shouldn't be accepted.
I wonder if we need some kind of "How to communicate and generally discuss things productively 101" manual for the free software world. I.e. some kind of positive effort to help improve our communication, rather than a debate about who is and is not sexist (which will inevitably become very heated).
Posted Aug 25, 2009 15:46 UTC (Tue) by jordanb (guest, #45668)
I think a lot of the problem with this community is that many of us are willing to devote epic amounts of energy to really lame, petty arguments in order to bolster our fragile egos. I've certainly been of this persuasion myself, but lately I've been getting quite sick of it -- to the point where I'm spending more and more time with 'real people' who want to just sit back and have a beer rather than have geek-wars about silly things.
Anyway, my point is that I'm not at all convinced that most of the people here (or in computers in general) *want* to learn or follow etiquette. We want to be intellectual bullies duking it out to become the biggest jackass on the playground. Just look at this conversation.. or.. any topic the libertarians can turn into a dick-wagging free-for-all about their silly absolutist ideology. It's all a sport. A game's being played here -- and a particularly insipid and pointless one at that.
Posted Aug 26, 2009 1:13 UTC (Wed) by paulj (subscriber, #341)
That said, I enjoy free software. I want to still do so in X decades time, so it needs to be sustainable. There seems to be a very definite problem of a gender imbalance in free software, relative to software engineering generally. That inherently hurts sustainability by greatly limiting the pool of expertise available to free software, in addition to harder to quantify social sustainability effects.
So yeah, it's annoying we have to spend energy on this, but it seems really important. It's good mjg59 spends energy on this (though, I think he still needs to fine-tune his approach a bit more). It's good the FSF are having a conference.
Course, seems we can't even discuss the issue with each other without getting worked up, so far..
Posted Aug 25, 2009 17:06 UTC (Tue) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
All of these folks write very eloquently and place email correspondence at a very high priority. I've seen one of them repeatedly insist that he had to get back to his email during face-to-face meetings.
There are real physical brain deficits coming into play in these situations.
Posted Aug 25, 2009 17:38 UTC (Tue) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
I've been that asshole. I'm very sorry about it, but if more people had pointed it out at the time maybe I'd have dealt with it faster. In the end it took working with people who were unable to, say, go into a bar and order a drink without elaborate social coaching to show me that I was just making excuses for myself. If you're able to turn up to a conference in person and have face to face conversations with multiple people then you're able to learn to recognise that your behaviour has an effect on others and train yourself to avoid things that are likely to cause offence.
Nobody benefits from just saying "It's not their fault". Offended people are still offended and the offender continues offending people and ends up dying sad and lonely. Using the Asperger's defence is itself offensive to people on the autistic spectrum who've overcome the adversities they've faced, those who've put themselves through hell in order to be able to step outside their house on a daily basis, those who you wouldn't know had a diagnosis unless they told you. I'd respectfully ask you not to do it again, but instead to accept that the personality flaws of some of our leaders may be down to their fundamental personality more than any mental disoders they have.
Posted Aug 25, 2009 18:13 UTC (Tue) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
IMO, understanding a not-entirely-sympathetic audience's perception of innuendo in advance to telling the joke is something he would find difficult.
This is from personal experience as long as yours, and with all due respect I will go on saying that you can not expect some folks to reliably act the way you and I would be expected to act, and it's not their fault.
Posted Aug 25, 2009 18:55 UTC (Tue) by paulj (subscriber, #341)
They might not do brilliantly in face-to-face social settings, but they can almost certainly learn to apply to some rules to improve the way they communicate online. (Note that these rules can include things like appropriateness, etc.. which could go to addressing the more specific perceived problem of sexism, in addition to generally improving the state of communication in free software - the sometimes aggressive/unfriendly/unappealing aspect of which I personally suspect is at least a co-contributing factor in the gender imbalance).
In order to form and apply any such rules, HFAs would need /more/ in the way explicit feedback, rather than just accepting inappropriate behaviour from them. Further, the "form" part can be bootstrapped somewhat.
Posted Aug 25, 2009 19:58 UTC (Tue) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
It is a problem I encounter frequently in consulting corporations on how to operate relationships with the Open Source community. In general that setting allows me to help choose the corporate communicators for their mediative ability and their capacity to work with unskilled communicators outside of the company without taking umbrage. Sending the engineers to occupational therapy would be beyond the scope of the engagement :-)
Dispensing additional coaching isn't always easy. At some point we can exceed people's ability to receive criticism, and they get upset.
Posted Aug 26, 2009 19:41 UTC (Wed) by maco (guest, #53641)
Posted Aug 25, 2009 23:10 UTC (Tue) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
The first, and perhaps the most important, is the difference between misjudging your audience and refusing to accept that you've misjudged your audience. I'd have been absolutely fine with RMS apologising for misjudging the audience and accepting that he may face similar audiences in future and adjusting his act to cope. He's given no indication that he's going to do so. I don't think anyone expects people to be perfect all the time. But I do think that the community expects its leaders to be willing to accept that they've fucked up and do better in future. If they're unwilling to do that then they don't deserve to be the community's leaders, regardless of what else they've accomplished. Implying that people with Asperger's are unable to tell the difference between these two situations is a significantly further stretch than I'd take. The response to "I'm offended, please don't do that again" does not require empathy.
Secondly, I take grave offence at the accusation that I'm transferring my own issues onto the people that I worked with (voluntarily and unpaid - I think clients is the wrong word here). How many people with a professional diagnosis of Asperger's have you spent a significant period of time with? Where did you gain the professional qualifications that allow you to correctly position RMS on the autistic spectrum? What basis do you have for accusing me of describing these issues incorrectly and having a faulty understanding of what people with severe levels of Asperger's face?
I suspect that many people would be happier if you stopped implying that Asperger's is equivalent to being unable to say sorry. If individuals want to offer it as an excuse then that's their prerogative. Offering it on behalf of individuals is as insulting as me accusing you of being able to understand my position because you're fundamentally sociopathic. Neither of us is qualified to judge what socio- or psychological disorders are present in others. If you want to persist in this argument then I'd strongly suggest that you find someone with more experience than general folklore to guide you in it.
Posted Aug 26, 2009 3:04 UTC (Wed) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
I was a rafting guide for Environmental Traveling Companions, a group which took people with many different sorts of disability on white-water rafting trips. There were people with developmental delays, and blind people, and kids with cancer, and paraplegics. My job was to help provide them with a good time and to help get them down the river without getting them killed or hurt. Dealing with their emotional issues was one part of it, but I also had to help the blind folks use the pit toilet and the paraplegics to empty their catheters. There were often multiple guides per boat due to the nature of the clients disabilities. I also helped to assist a blind person through his entire time in college.
And I am myself a survivor of (a different set of) developmental delays.
So, I've got the experience.
I'm not at all clear who RMS is supposed to apologize to. The most vocal complainer has been Lefty, who does not appear to be a woman. I know Stormy Peters, one of the people behind the upcoming FSF meeting, and I've not heard her calling for an apology. And I still question that the few women who I have heard (third-hand) claim to be offended really should have been offended.
In RMS' position I might well have chosen not to engage in what would rapidly become a low-road argument, and to instead operate some sort of high-road activity such as we see scheduled.
I have known many critics of RMS, but none who would do a better job in his place, and certainly none who put as much of their lives into it as he does.
Posted Aug 26, 2009 9:29 UTC (Wed) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
And I still question that the few women who I have heard (third-hand) claim to be offended really should have been offended
I really don't think there's much left to say.
Posted Aug 26, 2009 21:26 UTC (Wed) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
What was that about your having learned not to be an asshole?
Posted Aug 26, 2009 22:07 UTC (Wed) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
If you've spent weeks of your life working with people with Asperger's, then I apologise. "There were people with developmental delays" is not obviously referring to Asperger's any more than "I've worked with sick people" obviously implies "I have significant levels of experience working with people with advanced prostate cancer", so it's not inherently surprising that I might misinterpret you. I still think you're utterly mischaracterising the condition. It's certainly the case that some people with Asperger's are unable to recognise that they've caused offence, but this really isn't a direct result of Asperger's. Asperger's and assholery are orthogonal axes. Someone's presence at the positive end of both doesn't imply correlation.
Posted Aug 26, 2009 22:34 UTC (Wed) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
The way I see it is that I have continuing relationships to this day with a few folks who really do fit the diagnosis to the best of my knowledge.
I never did imply that RMS was incapable of apologizing. As someone who speaks in similar situations to those of RMS, I have made any number of jokes about sex or religion that might offend someone, while speaking. I am not interested in encouraging anyone who would subject me, and people like me, to a political-correctness magnifying glass and for that reason I will probably not engage such people at all. Not apologize, and not communicate with them at all.
While I believe that the way we represent ourselves may indeed make women uncomfortable sometimes, I still don't believe that's why there are so few women participating.
Posted Aug 26, 2009 23:09 UTC (Wed) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
What would it take to get you to believe that? This is a serious question.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 0:01 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 2:29 UTC (Thu) by maco (guest, #53641)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 4:35 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 16:05 UTC (Thu) by maco (guest, #53641)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 17:14 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:46 UTC (Thu) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
After all, there's an additional incentive to not lose volunteers, since the organization isn't paying for their labour.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:07 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
And presumably the volunteers in a hospital are able to access the same venues for redress of things like harassment as the paid employees are.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 17:24 UTC (Thu) by james_w (subscriber, #51167)
Some evidence that may sway you:
A woman that as a young lady was intimidated by RMS' same routine. Choice quote:
> The sexism on display in his talks and in these comments are the
> precise reason as to why there aren't many women in free software to
> speak up, and the awkward gender ratio and propensity for male nerds to
> shout down any opposition makes it even more difficult to do so.
The ever excellent Abi Sutherland on being a woman in a tech environment. Choice quote:
> Frankly, if I were doing this for anything other than pay, Id have
> long since buggered off with a good book. I certainly wouldnt do it
> for the love of the work,
Bemoaning the apparently pervasive attitude that allows sexist comments to be the norm in many situations. Choice quote:
> Its all just a joke, Im sure. But Ive reached a point in my life
> where it just isnt funny to me. I browse through blogs, popular
> journals, and open source forums and mailing lists looking for ideas
> about what kind of research would be useful and interesting to the
> development community. When I run into this sort of thing, my first
> thought is that I dont want to be part of that kind of development
> community. I have every intention of staying in computer science, but
> at those moments, I know why a lot of women leave.
Yes, one person making a sexist remark in a talk doesn't cause all women to leave the community, but put it in to context, with some women encountering almost daily reminders that they are the minority and that not everyone in the community sees them as more than their gender and it adds up. "Jokes", marriage proposals, scantily clad women in technical presentations, assumptions about interests and skills, physical intimidation, marginalisation, and good old-fashioned disrespect all add up to an uninviting environment.
Yes, the problem starts early with societal pressure on women to not get in
to computers, but that just means we should value those that do make it in to our community, not subject them to the above. The "leaky pipe" effect will mean that we continue to have low numbers of female contributors.
If you are interested in other opinions on the topic I suggest you subscribe to the Geek Feminism blog. Even if you disagree about the causes, listening to smart people talk about the issues is worth a try, we might all learn something.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 18:24 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
I'll state it clearly:
Women are not so weak that words can keep them from participating in Free Software, amateur radio, and other technical volunteerism.
IMO, you'd be insulting them if you thought so. There must be some other reason keeping them out. I suspect gender-based differences in interest, and do not have a good call on how much of this is nature vs. nurture. There are of course exceptions.
This isn't to say that being less than polite and welcoming of them is acceptable.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 19:37 UTC (Thu) by johill (subscriber, #25196)
If you were randomly but frequently insulted, I'm sure you would also come to the conclusion that that particular community is not worth participating in.
I've come to that conclusion multiple times in the past.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 19:50 UTC (Thu) by james_w (subscriber, #51167)
I linked to a comment on his blog, left by someone who
identified themselves as a woman. The owner of the blog
has nothing to do with that.
> Women are not so weak that words can keep them from
> participating in Free Software, amateur radio, and
> other technical volunteerism.
When women tell you that these things keep them from
participating you just ignore that? It appears as though
you are living in an echo chamber.
> This isn't to say that being less than polite and
> welcoming of them is acceptable.
Well, thank you for being so gracious as to acknowledge
that much. Now could you stop telling them that they
don't exist and that what they say is untrue?
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:09 UTC (Thu) by lizhenry (guest, #60479)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:25 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:34 UTC (Thu) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:06 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
But we do have a self-fulfilling prophecy here, don't we? Without you being there to tell the men when they're being intolerable, they probably won't realize they are.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:18 UTC (Thu) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:28 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:18 UTC (Thu) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
This is the guy who at Wikimania yesterday asserted in front of a crowd of people that any difference of opinions with him constitutes a personal attack. I'm just not going to bother, sorry :/
Posted Aug 28, 2009 1:18 UTC (Fri) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Sep 22, 2009 16:20 UTC (Tue) by Lefty (guest, #51528)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:21 UTC (Thu) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:24 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Here are things that are not acceptable and driving women away:
* Being treated like we're invisible or non-existent
* Assumptions that women just aren't interested in computing/FLOSS/etc
* Belittlement of contributions as not "really" contributions
* Sexist jokes
* Sexually-oriented conference presentations
* Booth babes
* A culture that is generally unwelcoming to newcomers/beginners
* Sexual harrassment online and in person at conferences etc
* Upskirt photos on Planet blog aggregators
* Blowjob-related ads in Linux publications
* Not having our experiences believed
* Being asked to explain things over and over again and STILL not being believed
* Being asked "A/S/L" or having pics demanded of us
* Out-of-band communications of an inappropriate personal nature
* Death threats
* Accusations of reverse sexism when we ask people to avoid the above
* ... and more.
Hope that helps.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:45 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
* Upskirt photos on Planet blog aggregators
* Blowjob-related ads in Linux publications
* Not having our experiences believed
* Being asked to explain things over and over again and STILL not being believed
* Being asked "A/S/L" or having pics demanded of us
* Out-of-band communications of an inappropriate personal nature
* Death threats
* Accusations of reverse sexism when we ask people to avoid the above
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:22 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
* Not having our experiences believed
Maybe it would be better if some of you stuck with LWN instead of being on some girrls-only list. If you want to be believed, being there counts.
I am on one women-only list out of dozens. Do you seriously believe I (we) are active participants in open source without being on mixed mailing lists, websites, twitter/identi.ca, IRC, conferences, LUGs, etc? Strawman.
* Death threats
I get them too. What are these folks objecting to? Just your presence? Are they really project participants? I see some people whose job or obsession is to demotivate us and aren't really project participants.
* Accusations of reverse sexism when we ask people to avoid the above
But what do I do when someone is? It can happen, you know, and right now I'm damned if I do, and damned if I do not.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:41 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Was Mike-whoever-he-is identified as a real member of a Free Software community? The reason I am asking is that I have had people do similar stuff to me, and when I've explored I find that they have no real connection to any project and are more likely someone who is paid to make us look bad.
OK, "reverse-sexism" is bogus, and not the sexism I was concerned with.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 0:02 UTC (Fri) by Skud (guest, #59840)
As for the fact that you (and presumably others) receive death threats, I don't think it's cool or OK that *anyone* threatens anyone's life ever, but I do think men are in a better position to brush it off: there is not such a history of men being killed purely out of misandry. The Debian death threats had an eerie similarity to the Montreal Massacre killer's anti-feminism, and more recently to George Sodini. It is absolutely and realistically scary that men kill women just for being in technical fields and/or believe that feminists are ruining everything. Much as we'd love to ignore it and brush it off, we can't.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 0:58 UTC (Fri) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
While I would not be a victim of misandry, there is a history of similar nutcases targeting ethnic semites. And lots of folks believe we're running everything too.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 1:42 UTC (Fri) by spender (subscriber, #23067)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 6:18 UTC (Fri) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
i <3 your exploit videos, incidentally.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:35 UTC (Thu) by maco (guest, #53641)
> Is this "Do you suck at coding", or something else?
Linux Journal ran an ad for QSol about how their servers wouldn't "go down on you either" with an image of a woman's heavily-made-up face.
>> * Death threats
> I get them too. What are these folks objecting to? Just your presence?
> Are they really project participants? I see some people whose job or
> obsession is to demotivate us and aren't really project participants.
Some nutjob was going off about how women were destroying Debian and he was going to kill them for it.
>> * Accusations of reverse sexism when we ask people to avoid the
I've seen a few guys enter the #linuxchix IRC channel recently and tell us that our IRC Etiquette rules are sexist because they're about making men not be men (ie not, as you put it, led around by their gonads). That's just an example of the many times guys say it's unreasonable to expect them to be able to control themselves enough to not hit on every woman they see who can code.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:54 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
I've seen a few guys enter the #linuxchix IRC channel recently and tell us that our IRC Etiquette rules are sexist because they're about making men not be men (ie not, as you put it, led around by their gonads). That's just an example of the many times guys say it's unreasonable to expect them to be able to control themselves enough to not hit on every woman they see who can code.
They're children. Either real children or emotionally handicapped adults.
I counsel companies on their relationship with the Open Source community. One part is preparing them for childish behavior on mailing lists, and helping them find mediators who will never take umbrage and then say something that makes the company look bad.
There are actually worse groups than Free Software in this regard. If you have to work with cypherpunks and the crowd who go to defcon, be prepared.
Attempting to educate them is all we can do, I guess.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 3:52 UTC (Fri) by maco (guest, #53641)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 6:44 UTC (Fri) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:41 UTC (Thu) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
> Unless you're telling me there aren't any early-childhood or nature issues in the mix as well, there is not a lack-of-belief issue here.
There are absolutely early-childhood issues at stake. They are covered extensively in the Unlocking the Clubhouse study. It's really a fantastic read.
As for the nature issues, here are three things to consider:
1) Studies which show a lack of difference tend to not get published. This messes up our understanding of gender issues a heck of a lot. This is feminist science studies 101, in a nutshell.
2) Even given that, there is some interesting research and data that shows that a lot of the perceived math/science gender differences are cultural and experiential, rather than in-born. Here's a fascinating one from the school I'm studying at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071024145626... . There's also interesting data from places like Malaysia where software dev is more like 50/50 men and women.
3) Even if nature does come into play /at all/, its influence is so eclipsed by culture as to be irrelevant. And, well, we can't change nature, so let's focus on the things we can change. Arguing about how much of a role nature plays doesn't really help us get more women involved.
Here's some further reading about the problems with the "nature" argument, which is also called essentialism within the gender studies context: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Essentialism , which links to http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/05/10/faq-bu...
Leaky pipes and early childhood interventions
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:53 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Nobody's saying that there aren't other leaks. There absolutely are. But the ones that the open source community can best address are the ones that are specific to the open source community.
If you are interested in eg. encouraging girls in STEM (science/tech/eng/math) education at early ages, there are many other organisatinos working on that. Many of them take donations, or would welcome your volunteer time.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 0:44 UTC (Fri) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
The analogy is that the process of getting women into open source is like a pipe with leaky points all along the way.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 3:06 UTC (Fri) by njs (guest, #40338)
Just to expand for the benefit of those without a lot of experience in social science: this has two unfortunate consequences.
First, social scientists constantly have to ask themselves whether some pattern they observe in their data is a result of some underlying principle, or just a coincidence. (If you flip a coin 10 times, and got 8 heads, is that because the coin is unfair? If you had 10 men and 10 women perform some task, and 8 of the women did better than the average man, is that because women in general are better at your task?) That's what statistical testing is for. Unfortunately, statistical tests are never perfect -- they won't tell you that getting 10 heads in a row means your coin is unfair, just that if not then that's one *heck* of a coincidence.
But if you keep trying long enough, then eventually you'll get that coincidence. And "science says women are <...>!" gets press, so lots of the time, when someone's running some random study, they'll do a quick check for gender effects, just in case. If 20 people do this, then 19 of them will get nothing, shrug, and forget about it; 1 of them will flip 10 heads in a row and publish a really excited paper! They don't know they're the 20th person to try, after all. (And that's leaving out the effects of confirmation bias, etc.)
Second, once a claim like that is out there in the literature, it's hard to disprove; if you just repeat the study and don't see a difference, then maybe you just did it wrong or something -- it's hard to get that published. (And even if you do, it's not as exciting, so it won't get press coverage, so a heap of people will go on believing that they Know Something About Men and Women that's just wrong.)
The end result is that the literature on gender differences has heaps of confusing nonsense in it. There are real gender differences too, but they're hard to pin down, and after all that nonsense it's hard to imagine that people would have *missed* anything so dramatic as to cause 98.5%/1.5% differences in participation a specific field invented in the last 30 years. Seriously, that'd be Nobel-worthy.
This isn't my area of specialty, but AFAICT, whether you're right or left handed has more of an effect on your general cognition than what you keep in your pants (and your culture matters a lot more than either).
Posted Aug 29, 2009 17:05 UTC (Sat) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
Posted Aug 31, 2009 22:21 UTC (Mon) by njs (guest, #40338)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 2:40 UTC (Fri) by njs (guest, #40338)
But you also realize that there's a difference between the resentment due to someone trying to lure you by your gonads, and resentment due to being told that -- roughly speaking -- those companies didn't consider you a real member of their audience, and implicitly "reminded" that your proper aspiration in life is to use your body to lure others by their gonads?
I hope so; it's just that I've heard a lot of men grumble about booth babes, but if they really *hated* the concept of booth babes the way that they might, then one way or another I'm pretty sure booth babes wouldn't still exist.
> The folks I don't believe are the troop of men here telling me what you think.
Speaking as part of that troop, that's why I've tried to provide logic, data, and links. I'm well aware that I may have gotten things wrong despite that, and if I become aware of any then I'll certainly apologize. Is there anything I've claimed that you still particularly disbelieve?
> I get [death threats] too.
For thinking about this issue, I highly recommend this comment by Kathy Sierra, especially the second half about what's happened since she talked about her threats in public: http://geekfeminism.org/2009/08/17/george-sodini-montreal...
On merit, that comment actually deserves front-page treatment. But I don't know what the consequences of that would be :-(
Posted Aug 28, 2009 12:16 UTC (Fri) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 12:35 UTC (Fri) by coriordan (guest, #7544)
My theory, which I'm pretty confident about, is that this is a general issue of conferences with mostly male attendees, nothing to do with the free software community.
Booth babes continue to exist at conferences because conferences are full of men with no interest in the topic but were sent there by their employer.
When I see booth babes at a free software conference (actually, I've only seen them at "Linux" conferences), then I know that that stall is a reputationless company selling something with no differentiating features. Red flag for "ignore this stall". Most other LWN readers would also ignore that stall at a free software conference, by my theory.
Then there's the separate category of attendees who can't tell the difference between the companies and who aren't interested in the details anyway - that separate category, which has almost nothing to do with us, is the target of booth babes.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 2:03 UTC (Fri) by njs (guest, #40338)
Things *may* not be so hopeless: it turns out that telling men when they're being intolerable is actually possible even *without* ovaries.
I joke, but seriously, I don't wait for women to pop up and tell contributors that my community values testing, regular releases, or clean code; why should I make an exception when it comes to human decency? Obviously I'll screw up sometimes or miss things, but 1) women aren't born knowing how to handle this stuff either, 2) if I pick up some of the slack maybe they'll have a chance to actually do the stuff that I can't, instead of fighting fires and pounding their head against walls 24x7.
Posted Aug 29, 2009 11:22 UTC (Sat) by spzeidler (guest, #60508)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:42 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Pull your head out of the sand.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:13 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Desiring respectful treatment isn't about weak vs. strong...
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:45 UTC (Thu) by miss-electra (guest, #60481)
Knowledge and time and effort are as much currency as money is. So why is it okay for me to say "I refuse to spend money on someone who acts disrespectfully towards me" and that doesn't cast me (or any woman) as weak...but if I make the same statement about my time/knowledge/effort then it's "weakness"?
Posted Sep 4, 2009 6:49 UTC (Fri) by Arker (guest, #14205)
Why should I have to fight for respect and recognition that is accorded to others simply by their BEING PRESENT?
Clearly you shouldnt. However you *might* be overestimating the respect others are getting. I wasnt there and I dont know, but I have seen that happen for sure - in many groups (not specific to free software but online conversation in general) there is a hazing process that may be informal and undocumented but is very real. I have seen females in such situation get very offended and storm out, appearing to believe they were singled out for disrespect when in fact each and every guy in the room had gone through the same crap earlier. Now I'm not justifying it and I am NOT saying that was what happened with you - I am just saying it's a possibility. I do know from experience that females *are* routinely singled out for special treatment on the internet, for multiple reasons many of which have been mentioned, it's not right or good but it's a fact. This quite naturally and predictably results in females being generally more likely to take offense based on mistakes as well, or to perceive disrespect even when it is not intended. This is not intended as a criticism at all - it's natural and understandable and predictable, and I think ultimately only improvement in communication can address it.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:48 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:37 UTC (Thu) by dannyobrien (subscriber, #25583)
Arguments against this irony from Bruce himself will be rejected as anecdotal. To be valid, I need to hear from everyone else before I can understand what his arguments are.
(If Bruce even exists, which I doubt.)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 12:51 UTC (Fri) by coriordan (guest, #7544)
He argued that weakness is *not* the reason for women leaving. i.e women are not weak.
Posted Aug 29, 2009 11:36 UTC (Sat) by njs (guest, #40338)
(I can't believe we're *actually* describing Bruce's arguments to each other in this subthread.)
Posted Aug 29, 2009 1:29 UTC (Sat) by niv (subscriber, #8656)
Posted Sep 6, 2009 7:58 UTC (Sun) by firstname.lastname@example.org (subscriber, #14112)
Why should the pervasive language of patriarchy be any less influential in
excluding people from free software, than the "words" of the GNU Manifesto,
or the Open Source Definition, or the Debian Social Contract, which motivate
many people to participate?
Language is a conduit for ideas and feelings. It's how we communicate with
each other, including telling people who is welcome and who is not.
Posted Sep 22, 2009 17:15 UTC (Tue) by Lefty (guest, #51528)
Sigh. It would serve you well to actually read what's being cited before you respond to it, Bruce. It's a bad habit of yours, just like "responding" to people in person before they've actually finished what they were saying.
That aside, since you seem to doubt the comments in my blog posting, I'd direct you to Celeste Lyn Paul's identi.ca feed, and Chani Armitage's blog.
Celeste asks (while RMS was giving the keynote in question), "Do men really think RMSs virgin joke at #gcds was not sexist? Very disappointed in FLOSS comm chatter about this."
In the comments to the posting, Chani writes, "talking about relieving women of their virginity casts women in a submissive role, with men in a dominant role, and brings up thoughts of oppression and (indirectly) rape. (yes, thinking about a roomful of guys thinking about taking womens virginity does eventually lead me to wondering how many of them would take it by force.) it becomes less about the non-sexual meaning of virgin and more about all the crazy ideas societies have had about virgin women. and thinking about that stuff would make any woman uncomfortable."
Apparently you know a lot better than these women who were present at RMS' GCDS keynote, Bruce. Maybe they're just being "sickly nonlinear" here.
Posted Aug 25, 2009 20:39 UTC (Tue) by nix (subscriber, #2304)
See, Aspergers is sort-of-curable. It takes large amounts of time and effort, but unless you have noncommunicative autism, by the time you're thirty or forty you have coping strategies that can lead you to appear mostly normal in most non-extreme social interactions (e.g. don't ask us to function at weddings).
But RMS, for instance, is in his mid-fifties now. If he doesn't grasp the elementary atoms of social intercourse by now it is because he *has not tried*, and that's nobody's fault but his. I know formerly-noncommunicative autistics who dragged themselves to near-outward-normality in less time than that. Plainly, if he has an ASD, he has overcome some of it: he can give public speeches without disintegrating, which either indicates a successful coping strategy in one domain or the absence of an ASD.
Note: I'm not saying here that it is incumbent on all autistics to spend huge amounts of effort acquiring coping strategies to function in normal society. I'm saying that if they don't, then that is their choice: and the consequences of that choice are also theirs, at least insofar as they extend to things like social ostracism. If they turn themselves intentionally into a community leader, as RMS has done, then it is sheerest foolishness not to acquire such coping strategies in advance, as that is a social position in which the interpretation of social cues is of paramount importance. So RMS is in a dilemma here: either he doesn't have ASD, and has shown himself to be a boor, or he does, and has shown himself to be a fool. A man can be a fool in one area and brilliant in another, so the latter is quite possible: but I can't see a third alternative at this point.
Posted Aug 25, 2009 20:59 UTC (Tue) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 25, 2009 20:27 UTC (Tue) by nix (subscriber, #2304)
People with ASDs are in any case rarely assholes: that trait is found in people on the top of the social pile, and when ASDers are found anywhere in the social pile at all it is generally at the bottom. When you have very few friends, you really don't act like an asshole anywhere, because it might lose you the few you've got.
Posted Aug 25, 2009 20:35 UTC (Tue) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 25, 2009 23:21 UTC (Tue) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
The biggest problem people on the autistic spectrum face is generalising from a specific item of behaviour to broader behavioural aspects. People with no experience of working with those on the spectrum tend to generalise this into a complete inability to learn, which leads to positions like Bruce's implied "It's not their fault if they offend people, no matter how often they're told it's offensive". When we look at the specific case ("Don't make the joke about taking women's emacs virginity, it can be interpreted in a variety of unfortunate ways"), suggesting that it's not RMS's fault if he does it again is entirely inexcusable. I'm genuinely upset at the implication.
Posted Aug 26, 2009 0:52 UTC (Wed) by paulj (subscriber, #341)
FWIW, the debate here seems to have at least the first if not more of the elements I wrote about earlier: "over-heated argument, rife with assertion, misunderstanding and failures to to even *attempt* to understand the other". And this amongst commentators who are, afaict, **all agreed** on the core issue of there being a gender problem (possibly due to sexism) in free software, and do not seem to be sexist themselves. I have to say, and perhaps you might take my view on board even if you disagree with it, that you have played a part in ramping-up the heat and miscommunication somewhat.
Why exactly does our community suck so much at having rational, productive debates? If someone makes a well-intentioned but disagreeable point, why not correct it in a friendly manner instead of becoming terribly offended (or, if it's not particularly important to overall topic - let it slide, perhaps with a small comment). If there seems to be miscommunication, try to at least *present* your reply as if the miscommunication may have been your fault (and hide any exasperation). If the heat starts to rise, instead of fanning the flames, why not instead try douse them with some humour or self-deprecation (which works even when the heat source is at the other keyboard)? etc..
It's probable these tricks do not come naturally and take time to be acquired - having them spelled out may help some people.
Whether the female-anti-factor in free software is down to Aspieness, sexism, heavy metal poisoning due to teething on electronics or whatever combination of those and other factors, who knows - but it seems like we have an even bigger .*-anti-factor thanks to our communication norms.
NB: I hope it's obvious that the above was not meant to attack you personally, but rather to generalise from this thread to help illustrate my general point about communication problems in our community. ;)
Posted Aug 26, 2009 1:07 UTC (Wed) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
My concern is that, as a community, we're too focused on acceptance of anyone who fits our model of what a Linux developer should be and are entirely willing to accept multiple character flaws as long as they don't completely prevent someone from fitting into that model. If someone later points out that they're being discouraged from involvement because of that person's behaviour, we're inclined to argue that since the behaviour doesn't conflict with our model then it's acceptable for one reason or another - they've got Asperger's, they're from a different cultural background, they're just like that and don't mean any harm. And when people like Bruce (who is at some level still identifiable as a community leader) make that argument, it makes it sound like we all agree.
I don't think that's helpful. I think we need to accept that the cost of alienating potential contributors is likely to be greater than the cost of asking the more extreme characters we work with to tone down their behaviour. I'd be shocked if any of them are utterly unable to cope, but I'm also entirely prepared to believe that it may be a slow process involving a lot of explicit explanations. That's something I'm willing to bear if the perception is that people think this is a good thing. But it does mean that we need to stop making excuses for people, no matter how high-profile they are. Let them make their own excuses and then judge them appropriately.
Posted Aug 26, 2009 1:33 UTC (Wed) by paulj (subscriber, #341)
they're from a different cultural background
Ah, good one. E.g. Sino-Asian culture, I guess, would clash particularly badly with the more overtly-confrontational disagreement-resolution culture in free software.
There really do seem to a number of related problems that could be solved through a collective effort to elevate our civility.
Posted Aug 25, 2009 15:10 UTC (Tue) by jordanb (guest, #45668)
I seriously doubt Linus Torvalds is an aspie. I think he's just a dick.
Posted Aug 25, 2009 13:21 UTC (Tue) by njs (guest, #40338)
Cherry-picking the best case measurements, our female participation ratio is still 10x worse than for any other science/engineering field I can find statistics on.
Not 10%. 10 times. If we were only doing as badly as engineering as a whole then that would be *wonderful*. There's plenty of room for debate on why this is, but the numbers are what they are. It's a FOSS problem specifically. We own it.
Posted Aug 25, 2009 17:10 UTC (Tue) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 25, 2009 23:04 UTC (Tue) by njs (guest, #40338)
Posted Aug 26, 2009 5:48 UTC (Wed) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
There is a difference in how much of themselves they put in to the work. The amateurs often take the time to make it beautiful when the professionals would rather finish a job and go on to the next.
I teach, and this is obvious in the students too. I'll be teaching an Open Source at Agder U. next month.
Women don't have the same passion for open source men do? Really??
Posted Aug 26, 2009 14:59 UTC (Wed) by PO8 (guest, #41661)
Posted Aug 26, 2009 17:51 UTC (Wed) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
There are very many parallels between Open Source and the Amateur Radio Service. Both are used for technological development and experimentation. Both demonstrate a "love" of the technology beyond what is needed for employment. And both have carried out this same discussion: why aren't there more women?
While there is no database of Open Source developers, Radio Amateurs are licensed by the FCC (in the US) and there is a public database of their names and addresses.
Information on how to utilize the FCC database is at http://www.n6lhv.net/uls/ . A trivial scan of a sample of the data for women's first names vs. men's first names is easy. You'll find that less than 5% are women.
Posted Aug 26, 2009 21:51 UTC (Wed) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
Posted Aug 26, 2009 22:10 UTC (Wed) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Are you seriously trying to equate "There are few women engaging in this activity" with "Women are not interested in this activity"?
Since we last corresponded, Jon posted the number of people answering the LWN survey as "female" being 2.9% and 12% didn't state. This, I think, is roughly parallel to the statistic for Amateur Radio.
Can we say that women aren't joining because they, as a population rather than as individuals, are not interested? The other alternative would be to say that men in the field had established mechanisms which were astonishingly effective at keeping them out even though they really were interested, and which still stood today.
Now, I do think that men don't help the situation with their acerbic nature and the way they might talk about women. A specific offense is the telegraph abbreviation for "married woman", "XYL", which means "ex young lady". This goes back to the '20's, I guess, and is still used today, even by people who are speaking rather than using telegraph.
But I just don't accept that such treatement is enough to keep the vast majority of women away even if they really are interested.
Based on the evidence? No. HTH, HAND.
Posted Aug 26, 2009 23:25 UTC (Wed) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 26, 2009 23:38 UTC (Wed) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
Posted Aug 26, 2009 23:51 UTC (Wed) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
You could propose a more representative sample of Free Software participants than the LWN subscription roles. There are many projects, mailing lists, etc., that you can scan for participation of women. Good luck showing that more women participate that way, I'll be astonished if you do.
Or you could propose a cause other than interest.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 0:01 UTC (Thu) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
You can ask that, yes. It's still not a supportable supposition. You can't make statements about the general population if your evidence is based on a non-random subset of that population. Ever. Identifying why there's such a small percentage of women involved requires spending time talking to the women who aren't as well as looking at the number who are.
(I should possibly point out that I have a fairly reasonable set of experience in statistical analysis, experiment design and criticism of unsupported conclusions, including teaching that at the undergrad level)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 1:50 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 2:40 UTC (Thu) by maco (guest, #53641)
I would think the number of responses listed on the Geek Feminism Wikiato when he said it at GCDS would show that at least a handful of us were put off by the statement.
Now, I wasn't there. If I was, though? "Ugh, why do they always assume all the geeks are guys? *roll eyes*" The issue with assuming and perpetuating the assumption that we don't exist is that it creates an atmosphere where some [asshole] male developers think they are well within subcultural norms to say some pretty nasty things to female developers (when they encounter them). Things that include telling us we don't exist, crediting the men we are in relationships with for our successes, assuming we must be there to get picked up by male developers since we're obviously not there to be developers ourselves...
Posted Aug 27, 2009 4:15 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 8:12 UTC (Thu) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 19:13 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:43 UTC (Thu) by njs (guest, #40338)
(I actually disagree with Matt -- I think your data is fine for showing that women are rare in FOSS and ham radio. You don't need more data. The problem is that you want to conclude from this that the reason they are rare is that they're uninterested. For that you need *different* data. Like data that tells you something about why they are rare, or whether they are interested. There's lots of that available, including stuff written by Real Scientists, and we even did the googling for you. It doesn't support your conclusion. In the mean time, in this game you're playing about which evidence you have to listen to, you're denying that it matters that actual, individual people were actually, in reality, hurt.)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:02 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
What googling? I didn't see anything dealing with technical volunteerism. I submit that there are differences between this and technical employment.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 1:31 UTC (Fri) by njs (guest, #40338)
I just wanted to point out to him that he is not arguing under the same rules he demands of me.
What googling? I didn't see anything dealing with technical volunteerism
Posted Aug 28, 2009 4:41 UTC (Fri) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
I have already explained that to do so was not meant to deny anyone's pain, but to point out to Matt that by his standards he could not make any statements from the data either.
Now that there are women contributing to the discussion, you might do better to let them speak for themselves.
Posted Aug 29, 2009 11:15 UTC (Sat) by njs (guest, #40338)
I agree, and have never claimed otherwise. You have every right to say whatever you want.
I was pointing out that the things you chose to say were, perhaps, problematic, and that choosing to exercise your right in that way might be causing collateral harm in order to pursue a (relatively) trivial point. When I do things like that, I like to be informed -- not because I'm worried that I'll overrun my rights and get arrested or something (?), but because I generally prefer not to be an accidental asshole. It isn't necessarily a big deal in this instance, but there was an underlying principle there that I thought you might want to have pointed out.
> I have already explained that to do so was not meant to deny anyone's pain,
I heard that, and I appreciate it. But should I therefore not point out the problem? If I punch someone in the nose, and it was an accident, then 1) their nose is still broken, 2) they may be legitimately unimpressed if I say "oh well but my intention was good!", 3) I'm still responsible.
Again, I don't need an apology or something. (I can't, of course, speak for others either way.) But you've used your good intentions as a defense several times on this page, and so again, it's a general principle you might want to consider.
> Now that there are women contributing to the discussion, you might do better to let them speak for themselves.
I speak for myself, about things that I see and believe. Certainly I don't mean to co-opt or silence any women in doing so. Nor do I see evidence that they think I have. I've seen two comments from women about my participation here: Liz Henry said I "rock". Skud said that one of my comments described "*exactly* why [she hadn't] dived until this thread until now". (Ironically, she was talking about my explanation of why your demanding to talk to a woman was uncool, with the links I referred to above.)
So far, you're the only one who's objected. If people -- esp. women -- find my contributions problematic then I'll absolutely listen. But perhaps you should let them speak for themselves?
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:12 UTC (Thu) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
I'm not denying that your figures show that there are few women involved in free software or amateur radio. I'm just saying that it's impossible to deduce *why* there are few women involved from that information.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 14:25 UTC (Fri) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Are interest and involvement different things? It seems to me that for an activity that has no direct monetary cost, is conducted online and internationally, and about which information is readily available, they are essentially the same thing.
Compare with eg. sailing. I'm interested in sailing but not involved, because the monetary costs are high and I can't do it in odd bits of free time from home or work, but have to go far out of my way to do it; also, many kinds of sailing I'm interested in require certifications/licenses/training that take extensive time and money to acquire, and for which I can't self-educate.
So if you have an activity where interest and involvement are very close to being the same thing, the question "why aren't people involved" is almost exactly *the same question* as "why aren't people interested".
Posted Aug 28, 2009 15:03 UTC (Fri) by dlang (✭ supporter ✭, #313)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 21:38 UTC (Fri) by kov (subscriber, #7423)
So bear with me here: maybe it's time to rethink this whole thing. Maybe all women who are
interested are already involved, despite having to deal with crappy behavior from time to time,
and we need to work to shift our attention to what makes women not be interested in the first
place, which I think is what Bruce is saying.
Posted Aug 29, 2009 11:44 UTC (Sat) by njs (guest, #40338)
I'm not sure what you meant to say.
But what you said is "maybe we shouldn't do anything about existing crappy behavior -- or even bother noticing it -- since a few women seem to put up with it". (Not to mention ignoring all the women who say that no, they really would be interested if it weren't for the crappy behavior.)
Perhaps we can put attention *both* on fixing the crappy behavior *and* working on the problems women face before they reach FOSS?
Posted Aug 29, 2009 17:33 UTC (Sat) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
Posted Aug 30, 2009 1:35 UTC (Sun) by kov (subscriber, #7423)
Posted Aug 30, 2009 2:27 UTC (Sun) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
I think that "lack of interest" is not a good metric, as I think there are a lot of social pressures at play outside of Free Software which cloud "interest" to the point where it's meaningless. Similarly with male "interest" in traditionally female-dominated professions like nursing - have you ever considered whether you were interested in nursing? It doesn't even cross most guys' minds.
That said, of the few women who are already explicitly interested, not all are already involved. I know for a fact that there are women who are already doing CS / IT / programming work in various capacities who look at what kind of crap takes place in free software and say "thanks but no thanks".
> Do you think there are actually women who are interested (as in, working with the code, and who would really like to contribute), but not involved in the projects because they tried and hit a barrier?
I think there are both men and women who have been interested but have hit barriers and not gotten involved. I personally know examples of both. I think there are additional barriers to women's participation relating to the various things that have been discussed over this thread - being hit on, being talked down to, being harassed, etc, which men don't deal with to the same degree or at all, in some cases.
I hope that answers your questions. I'm watching the RSS feed of the comments, let me know if it brings up new ones :)
Posted Aug 30, 2009 3:31 UTC (Sun) by kov (subscriber, #7423)
I have in fact. I have absolutely no interest for that, though I was quite interested in biology
while I was at school (I would have liked being a biologist, but certainly not a medic or nurse).
While I was studying Social Sciences I did consider whether I would have interest in another
female-dominated profession (at least in Brazil), which I think is called 'Social Assistant' in
English, and I decided I certainly didn't have any. The one female-dominated area I did
consider once was psychology, but I decided I preferred more practical stuff, in the end. Being
female-dominated areas was not what pushed me out, mind you, I just don't really like dealing
with people day to day that much =).
> I think there are both men and women who have been interested but have hit barriers and
not gotten involved. I personally know examples of both. I think there are additional barriers to
women's participation relating to the various things that have been discussed over this thread
- being hit on, being talked down to, being harassed, etc, which men don't deal with to the
same degree or at all, in some cases.
OK, thanks for the input =). I have seen some of that myself, and like I said, I think it's
important to deal with this kind of stupid behavior. My original point was that we should try to
not blind ourselves by looking too closely at the issues we face in out day-to-day lives, and
forget about the more general issues.
> I hope that answers your questions. I'm watching the RSS feed of the comments, let me
know if it brings up new ones :)
Coolie, I am watching replies, so same here.
Posted Aug 30, 2009 4:41 UTC (Sun) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
That's a perfectly valid reason, and I'm glad that you did at least consider it. I think if you ask around your male friends you'll be surprised at how many never even got that far. It's the same with women and the "hard" sciences - in both cases, "interest" just never comes into play because it's not on the list of professions folks consider.
> My original point was that we should try to not blind ourselves by
> looking too closely at the issues we face in out day-to-day lives, and
> forget about the more general issues.
I hear what you're saying there, but I also think it's super important to be able to make the link between the issues that we face in our day-to-day lives and the society we live in, or as second-wave feminists put it, that "the personal is political". As a specific example, the most interesting way that this works that I've seen lately is the way gender affects negotiation, and how this has a broad impact on the lives of both women and men. It ranges from the big-ticket issues like women's ability to negotiate pay, to the every day interpersonal interactions - how many times have you heard a woman ask "Would you like to do $foo?" when she really means "I would like to do $foo, is that amenable to you?". There's a whole book on the topic called Women Don't Ask, and let me tell you, it was a life-changing read for me. I've got 4 copies on my desk because I've been giving it to all the women (and some of the men) I know. http://womendontask.com is the interweb site for it.
The flipside is that our experiences of oppression or difference do not map perfectly, and we may not always be able to judge them accurately; there's a phenomenon called "denial of personal disadvantage" which basically means that even if we see that discrimination exists, we may not believe that it happens to us. Here's an interesting study on the topic: http://www.ur.umich.edu/9394/Feb07_94/15.htm
Although I don't think we should expect to live in an ideal world, I do believe we need to keep
addressing stupid behavior in our communities. People will still sometimes strongly disagree,
and some discussions will keep being heated and not that civil. I think this is normal in any
community of people. Working towards making sexist behavior go away keeps being a very
important goal, nevertheless.
Posted Aug 31, 2009 12:50 UTC (Mon) by njs (guest, #40338)
Those are the words that my response was based on; I don't see where I'm extrapolating. Is there some other way to read your words? Can you explain?
> People will still sometimes strongly disagree, and some discussions will keep being heated and not that civil. I think this is normal in any community of people. Working towards making sexist behavior go away keeps being a very important goal, nevertheless.
I definitely agree. I hope it's clear that I'm not trying to attack you personally with my remarks above, but just continue educating people on how to understand and deal with these issues. (Not that I know everything about it either, but apparently I know more than some, and that's enough to be useful...)
Posted Aug 31, 2009 13:24 UTC (Mon) by kov (subscriber, #7423)
I believe we need to rethink our belief that there is a large number of
women who are interested and got held back by these issues - perhaps that
is not the larger issue, and would even be comparable to that of men who
are not attracted to the community. It doesn't mean we should stop fixing
this issue, at all.
When I say shift the atention, I actually mean shifting our focus. It
doesn't mean 'drop everything else'.
I believe seeing the world as black and white is one of the problems we
usually have in these discussions, and I can see how my words could be
misinterpreted if you use a binary view of the world.
In some cases, we are so passionate, and so frigging tired of meeting
people who are just dumb, and who think this is a male area by definition,
that when someone questions anything, that one is surely one of the dumb
guys who are our enemies.
Why am I saying this? Because I think lots of interesting ideas have been
raised here that not necessarily mean 'women do not exist', nor 'this is
not your place', nor 'there is no problem', but these ideas have been
mostly shot down on the spot because they _looked_ like ideas you would
hear from an enemy. I mean, when one says 'maybe the main problem is not
this one', this is very different from saying 'there is no problem at all'
Posted Aug 31, 2009 22:15 UTC (Mon) by njs (guest, #40338)
That's... very generous of you?
If you re-read my original post in this thread, you'll notice that my point was that we *don't* have to choose. I'm not making things up because I have a binary view of the world; I'm pointing out that the plain meaning of the original term "shift our attention" -- and also your clarifying term, "shifting our focus" -- is to *reduce* the attentional focus we give to one matter so as to give it to another. Not drop to nothing, necessarily, but de-emphasize. You think that maybe there aren't actually all that many women who "got held back by these issues", and maybe we shouldn't worry about them as much as we are.
I disagree with that. I think that we as a community don't put nearly enough effort into dealing with "these issues". I also think we should put more effort into dealing with other issues, sure, but that that's no reason to reduce our (already paltry) efforts in this area.
> when someone questions anything, that one is surely one of the dumb guys who are our enemies.
I definitely see where you're coming from here. But I think you misunderstand our position. Dumb guys aren't enemies, they just need to... learn some stuff so they aren't dumb anymore :-). Everyone's a newb at some point, no shame in that.
> Because I think lots of interesting ideas have been raised here [...] but these ideas have been mostly shot down on the spot because they _looked_ like ideas you would hear from an enemy.
I don't know which specific comments you're looking at, so I can't respond to them. But I can say that in general, when I personally have critiqued people's responses, my goal hasn't been to shoot them down and make them go away. My goal is to draw out problematic assumptions and show just how unconscious and common they are, in the hopes that people will learn something, dust themselves off, and do better next time.
And I know that sometimes having someone do that to you is painful and sucks -- I've been on the other side of such comments, and probably will be again! -- but I don't see any alternative.
> I mean, when one says 'maybe the main problem is not this one', this is very different from saying 'there is no problem at all'
And the other problem is that on the internet, it's hard to tell who has good intentions. You're right that those are different statements. But people who argue in bad faith will often bring up some other issue as an attempt to change the subject and stop discussion of the original issue. And even people arguing in good faith will do this accidentally. In either case, the end result is that the conversation wanders around and doesn't accomplish anything. Since this is so common, and since these conversations are so exhausting in the first place, those of us with more of an investment in accomplishing something will therefore tend to jump on such topic shifts very quickly.
Posted Sep 1, 2009 23:39 UTC (Tue) by kov (subscriber, #7423)
> If you re-read my original post in this thread, you'll notice that
my point was that we *don't* have to choose.
Exactly! We don't have to choose to forget an issue for the other, but
there's no way we can make everything the focus, otherwise we have no focus
at all. We are tired of knowing that if everything is a priority, there's
no priority (specially if you have to deal with customers who have no idea
of what planning actually is =P).
Our current focus is on looking to the inside; I don't think we should
shoot down questioning whether this is helping we further our common goals
as well as we could. Doing that by no means denies problems; questioning
status quo is essential to improve.
> In either case, the end result is that the conversation wanders
and doesn't accomplish anything. Since this is so common, and since these
conversations are so exhausting in the first place, those of us with more
of an investment in accomplishing something will therefore tend to jump on
such topic shifts very quickly.
This is exactly my point. Just look at the threads. People spend so much
time saying "that's not what I said", that many times questions or points
that would otherwise have produced useful ideas are forgotten.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 16:10 UTC (Thu) by pyellman (guest, #4997)
Men are more inclined to be "tinkerers" than women. Period. "Where's Dad?" "Oh, he's down in the basement fiddling with the broken volume control." Interest in free software development, progress, etc., is a classic tinkerer's refuge. In fact, the same phenomenon could be observed about the MS Windows enthusiast community, especially in its heyday in the 90's.
I'm absolutely, 100% positive that even if you removed most or all the "barriers" you and others see to women's participation in this activity and community, their participation rate will NEVER come close to their representation in the general population, or even in various other technical fields -- unless, of course, you and others are talking about fundamentally recasting the nature of free software development and community into something that does not appeal to the tinkerer, in which case your success would of course be self-defeating.
This is in no way intended to suggest that I think people in free software, or people anywhere for that matter, shouldn't make efforts to be more polite and welcoming.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 4:44 UTC (Fri) by njs (guest, #40338)
That may or may not be true. Given that in the mean time those barriers (I am not sure why you felt the need to use scare quotes there?) have been exhaustingly described, demonstrated, and clearly *are* driving many people away, I don't see how relevant the possibility is. The only way to find out whether it's true or not is to fix the stuff we need to fix anyway.
I also don't see how you can possibly be so sure -- to be that certain about such a complicated issue, you must either have information that the rest of us are missing, or be basing your judgement on something other than empirical reality.
But here's a more specific question: science is more or less distilled tinkering. If women are so incurious, then why are the technical sciences so comparatively full of women, including computer science?
> This is in no way intended to suggest that I think people in free software, or people anywhere for that matter, shouldn't make efforts to be more polite and welcoming.
Good to hear.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 13:19 UTC (Fri) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Dreamwidth (http://dreamwidth.org/) is a fork of Livejournal's code, which differs from LJ as an open source project primarily in the fact that it values diversity and welcomes and supports anyone who wants to develop for it.
The percentage of women working on the LJ code is unknown, but is certainly small (I would guess under 10%, probably under 5%); the percentage of women working on the DW code is 75% of its 40-something developers.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 13:20 UTC (Fri) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 0:01 UTC (Thu) by jordanb (guest, #45668)
So when does Inspector Fox show up and arrest you guys? :P
Posted Aug 27, 2009 0:09 UTC (Thu) by jspaleta (subscriber, #50639)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 2:17 UTC (Thu) by njs (guest, #40338)
Many women who currently participate in FOSS claim that yes, this is exactly the case.
That may or may not be correct, but I am a bit astonished that you can dismiss the possibility as ridiculous, unworthy of consideration. Have you ever *talked* to women? Do you care what they say?
I'll also point out that your argument -- that women almost never do <whatever>, therefore they must not be interested -- has an extraordinarily poor track record. Within the last 70ish years, people have made that argument about essentially every field of human endeavor, and in every case it has either turned out to be wrong, or the jury is still out. (With FOSS in the latter category.)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 4:24 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Many women who currently participate in FOSS claim that yes, this is exactly the case.
I'd be a lot more comfortable if I heard it from them, and if they explained what the mechanisms were and how they were so effective that even people who were interested were barred from participating with almost total effectiveness. And why this was not so for a number of other fields.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 10:13 UTC (Thu) by njs (guest, #40338)
Well, obviously I cannot satisfy that request myself. Perhaps someone with the required chromosomes will chime in.
In the mean time, though, can I point something out that you may not have considered?
In FOSS, there are about 60 men for every 1 woman. Imagine that that one woman sees problems, and is trying to speak out about them. And suppose that -- as we see in these threads -- they can write dozens of comments to one man and yet fail to communicate those problems. Now multiply that by 60, and realize that's unasked-for work piled on top of, you know, actually hacking.
Many women in FOSS do make heroic efforts to communicate what they see -- they form organizations like LinuxChix, Debian Women, they write essays, give keynotes, found blogs, curate wikis, etc.
But those aren't what you want. You asking one of them to take the time to explain things to you personally. And after they do that, honestly, it also sounds like if you don't find their explanation sufficiently complete with regard to mechanism, with I don't know, charts and lists of people who never became hackers and circles and arrows on the back, then you reserve the right to ignore them and continue blithely on talking about how it's a shame women just don't have passion for programming.
If someone posted a demand on some random mailing list, "I'm not going to believe that Bruce really thinks <...>, unless he shows up here and tells me so himself, and in *full detail*", what would you think of that person?
You're an old school hacker, community leader, prominent person. It's easy to assume that with all that expertise and experience, if you can't see a problem then oh well, there must not *be* a problem. Please consider the alternative possibility that you are a good person, have the best of intentions, and also a big of unconsidered privilege that is making you part of the problem.
Here are some quotes to start with:
Posted Aug 27, 2009 17:30 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Bruce, I started using Linux in 1993 with slackware installed off a stack of floppies. I ran X with fvwm and kermit for dialup Internet. I learnt Perl a couple of years later and have worked professionally and full time with Open Source (mostly LAMP stack) since 1996. I've done all-nighters and adrenaline-fuelled hacking runs and totally fscked my PC with broken kernel recompiles. I have founded user groups, hosted mailing lists, launched open source projects, etc. I have contributed to major and minor projects all over the damn place; I regularly get email thanking me for writing one of the best known Perl manpages. I have spoken at conferences all over the world. I am well known by certain segments of USENET, IRC, and mailing lists, and geeks all over the world recognise my name when I travel; friends of mine threaten to get tshirts printed saying "Yes, I know Skud" because of this. I have been chewing people's ears off about why open source/free software is awesome and world-changing since I was 18 years old. And most of the above information is readily available online. About half the first page of Google results (from where I'm sitting right now) for "women in open source" mention me.
Recently, I have also been documenting issues that women face in open source, linking and discussing and synthesising and summarising and KEYNOTING OSCON. (I started doing this a bit in 1998, but stepped back from it for a while, so most of my women-in-open-source work is more recent.)
And then I look at this thread and see that a) "women are just less passionate about open source than men" and b) that nobody seems to believe us when we say there is a problem.
Fuck that. Follow some of those funny little blue underlined words and DO SOME READING.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 19:02 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
In lin3_gender, there is discussion of a text-based environment as somehow more gendering. And the causes given are 1) perhaps they've had less IT training in general, 2) schools aren't teaching those environments, and 3) there is more reliance on externalized memory, but you're not implying that women are poorer at externalized memory.
All of this seems to imply a nurture-based bias in early-to-middle education. And I'm very willing to believe in such a bias, but it's not Free Software's fault!
Regarding why textual environments are seen to connote more expertise, rather than being a simple preference, it is true in many fields that the person who can function in a less supportive environment is seen as expert.
It is also possibly the case that to those males with sensory-motor integration disfunction (I am a sufferer or ex-sufferer and anecdotal evidence is that such is common in technically-oriented males), a textual environment is definitely more comfortable. But I don't yet see the support for this as a female weakness rather than a male deficit.
So, I agree that a more supportive environment for women is desirable. This is in part social and maybe part technical. I think you would need good experiments to support your theory that some software is inherently less supportive of women, and you don't have those experiments yet, and I'm still dubious.
You don't seem to disagree with the early education differences, as far as I can follow. I feel this is where the most progress can be made. Unfortunately, it takes a generation to pay off.
There is still the nature aspect. You narrate your own passion as an argument against this, but isn't there some chance that you are an outlier?
Posted Aug 27, 2009 19:11 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 19:43 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
So, going from your content instead of Lyn's, I would guess that you feel women in Free Software are marginalised, uncomfortable because you are seen as sexual objects, and excluded.
Marginalization is to some extent a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is cured by the presence of enough women that they can't be ignored. Certainly we can help by being more welcoming, but unfortunately the greatest load is on the women who choose to be pathfinders.
Believe it or not (and no snide comments please) I have had women in the workplace make me uncomfortable because they treated me as a sexual object. And I've been treated that way by a gay man too. I agree this is more of a problem for women, but you aren't alone. Also, I suspect some of the problem with actions of men in our field how strongly they have been effected by a lack of approachable women who are interested in the things they are. That will improve over time. The college program where I reported there was one woman is doing better now.
And excluded. I do notice that in-groups of any kind tend to exclude outsiders - regardless of sex. I've seen this most powerfully in a group of railroad motorcar enthusiasts who very strongly excluded interested people who did not yet own a "speeder".
Is this so very different from RMS' own problems into fitting into a society that - in the large - does not accept and understand him, and which he can not understand? I don't think so.
But having been in another group that tries very consciously to attract women (we even make commercials about it! http://www.arrl.org/pio/ARRL709D.mp3), I am still not seeing that all of the issues are under our control. We still have a nature or nurture problem - either early childhood education or hard-coded gender issues. Of course, these have outliers.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 19:55 UTC (Thu) by maco (guest, #53641)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:29 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:09 UTC (Thu) by jordanb (guest, #45668)
I can't even begin to imagine why that's not working for you....
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:29 UTC (Thu) by nix (subscriber, #2304)
Believe it or not (and no snide comments please) I have had women in the workplace make me uncomfortable because they treated me as a sexual object.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:56 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:17 UTC (Thu) by maco (guest, #53641)
Bringing a guy with you when you go to tech conferences usually helps. Then it's clear that someone else has already called dibs. But it doesn't always work. Sometimes it just results in inappropriate things being directed at you both. Obviously my partner will not disagree with me on a technical topic because then "he won't get any tonight," according to a fellow developer (note: this is utter bull. he is quite ready to correct me on any technical matter where he has more expertise...which is most of them, since he's been at this since I was in elementary school).
Posted Aug 28, 2009 20:34 UTC (Fri) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 19:07 UTC (Fri) by eon (guest, #60489)
>Believe it or not (and no snide comments please) I have had women in the workplace make me uncomfortable because they treated me as a sexual object. And I've been treated that way by a gay man too. I agree this is more of a problem for women, but you aren't alone.
Dude! really you haven't a clue what women have to deal with! Not a freakin' clue. I can not forget that I may be a target, on the street, at work, at the doctors office. And while you may feel "uncomfortable" I have to worry about rape. Dude, unless yr in prison or some other extreme situation you don't have to think about rape. You just don't. As women we modify everything & weigh the risks at all times. It's part of city life. And yea, I had a male, *MARRIED* co-worker who went out for drinks with other co-workers & told them he was gonna kidnap & rape me cause I was unavailable to him. I left that job.
And dude, I'm sooo not hitting on you cause I look you in the eyes while I talk to you. I'm not hitting on you cause I appreciate the cool things yr doing in tech. I'm just not hitting on you. So get a grip, be polite & treat me like the rest of the guys.
Don't trivialize the violence women have to deal with. It makes you look stupid.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 19:20 UTC (Fri) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
The main thing that I go through is other's perception that I am physically or emotionally intimidating. And once in a while I've made women scream through no intention of mine. I guess this is the opposite of what is happening to you, but be assured that it gets old.
Posted Sep 22, 2009 15:12 UTC (Tue) by Lefty (guest, #51528)
I do not mean to trivialize what you go through in any way...
You'd be well-advised to stop doing it, that being the case.
Posted Aug 29, 2009 12:05 UTC (Sat) by omnot (guest, #60509)
You say that you have had women and gay men cause you to feel uncomfortable in the workplace. I ask that you use that experience to conduct a thought experiment:
Imagine that your industry has 98% female participation. These are the women who made you feel uncomfortable only, on average, they are stronger, more arrogant and more notoriously horny than you are comfortable with.
Imagine that of those 98% 4% are overtly misogynistic and hostile, loudly mocking of your contribution, males in general and you, personally. Only a few of the other women ever spontaneously chide them and ask that you be treated fairly. 80% of the women don't even notice the bad behaviour.
Imagine also that your overall impression is that about half of the women you have ever worked with (still the mooted 98% of all workmates ever) have been overheard making casually derogatory remarks about the sexual proclivities of men -- specific and general -- and some of those comments have been made about you, personally. Your objections are dismissed as irrational: you should be a "good sport".
Sexually explicit questions are routinely asked of you directly, by women you are trying to work with, in any form of media with which you communicate. Some of the women are unnervingly creepy and persistent, and get disturbingly hostile when you do not respond as they would wish.
Imagine that suggestive to semi-pornographic images of impossibly handsome men, and lewd "clever" captions are used widely to promote the product you are working on. Imagine that when you suggest that the imagery is not cool, your teammates tease you, deride you, ostracize you and talk about how uptight you are behind your back.
Imagine that whenever you arrive at an industry conference some harried organiser snaps "Deliveries around the back". Once they let you in, a few people will ask you who your partner is (you must be accompanying a woman because men don't work in the industry), and almost everyone who does not ask makes that same assumption.
Imagine that walking into the conference involves wondering which of the women there -- women you are not attracted to, do not know and only wish to interact with on a professional level -- are the 4% who have nothing but contempt for men. Who are the 50% who see men in your industry as a bit of a joke? And who among them are going to try hitting on you over the course of the conference? And, when you decline their unwelcome and inappropriate advances, will they graciously accept 'no' for an answer? Whether you say yes or no, will they lie or exaggerate to their friends, to your cost?
Imagine the appeal of asking a female friend to accompany you to such an event so that you don't feel like a gazelle in a lion enclosure? Can you imagine the disgust and despair you feel that such a precaution should even cross your mind in such an honourable, well intentioned field of endeavour?
So, Bruce, how good is your imagination? How long would you tolerate marinating in that before you could not be bothered volunteering your spare time and earnest efforts any more?
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:06 UTC (Thu) by cesy (guest, #60482)
Early education does make a difference, and there is bias there, but there is also prejudice in open source, as well as prejudice in the IT industry in general. All of those things need considering. However, here, we were talking about open source, not early education, so please don't derail the conversation.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:24 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Sep 22, 2009 15:15 UTC (Tue) by Lefty (guest, #51528)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:27 UTC (Thu) by nix (subscriber, #2304)
(There are 'I know Skud' t-shirts? where? ;) )
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:48 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 2:04 UTC (Fri) by jamesmrh (guest, #31622)
Posted Sep 22, 2009 15:10 UTC (Tue) by Lefty (guest, #51528)
Oh, I think you want to be careful, there, Kirrily: Bruce is likely to accuse you of being "sickly nonlinear".
In point of fact, in my attempt to discuss the issue with Bruce at the Community Leadership Summit, I found myself being interrupted in mid-sentence by Bruce over and over so that he could provide me with an apparently endless series of reasons why I was wrong to bring up RMS' behavior at GCDS: "He's got Asperger's, he's incapable of perceiving when he's offended anyone, he's incapable of apologizing when it's pointed out to him that he's offended anyone, he's been doing the same joke for fifteen years, you're not a girl, and there's really not a problem, anyway."
At which point I decided "this wasn't a discussion", and left to find someone more interesting to talk to. Fortunately, there proved to be no shortage.
For the record, I personally view this "outreach effort" on the FSF's part, absent any acknowledgment of past bad behavior and any commitment to do better in the future, as being in essence a whitewash.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:17 UTC (Thu) by Myrtti (guest, #57414)
But I know all too well that my existence is a matter of pure faith, a bit like the existence of Invisible Pink Unicorns.
So never mind me...
// Myrtti - http://myrtti.fi
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:43 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Since you are one of the people summoned to a thread already in progress, I feel it my duty to inform you that nobody was attempting to say that you don't exist.
The topic is why there are not more women involved, and whether this is due to internal to Free Software issues or external ones.
I believe that some of the problems, and indeed the most significant ones, are external to Free Software. I think one significant problem is early childhood education serving as a demotivator of women to participate in technical volunteerism as well as technical occupations.
Beyond that, the question is whether there is something different about women - not you obviously but women as a population - that make them less interested in technical volunteerism. We have more data regarding technical occupations.
I would be really glad to see a serious discussion of this.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:18 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
It's like if I showed up on the Debian mailing lists and suggested that Debian would be much more popular and successful if it would only include a Flash player in the distro.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:23 UTC (Thu) by jordanb (guest, #45668)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:57 UTC (Thu) by maco (guest, #53641)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:00 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:24 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:28 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
(Do I need to put emoticons here to make this clearer? Would ";)" help?)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:46 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Well, I would swear that when I ran gnash as a mozilla plugin, I saw the not-HTML menus and animations that were supposed to use flash. Just slowly, and using a lot of memory.
Posted Sep 6, 2009 8:09 UTC (Sun) by email@example.com (subscriber, #14112)
Your line of argument sounds, to someone with a working knowledge of
feminism, just as absurd as Skud's line of questioning about Debian.
With apologies for spoiling the joke by spelling it out...
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:34 UTC (Thu) by jordanb (guest, #45668)
A: There is! The GNU Gnash player is installed by default, and it supports the Flash file format. Unfortunatly, it's not 100% complete in its support yet, but progress is being made.
Q: Why isn't Adobe's proprietary Flash player distributed on Debian media, such that it is installed by default?
A: You'd have to ask Adobe about this. Their licensing terms forbid it.
Q: Why doesn't Debian provide an installer that fetches Adobe Flash Player from adobe.com?
A: It does. The package is called flashplugin-nonfree.
Q: Why is flashplugin-nonfree in 'contrib' instead of 'main'?
A: Because it relies on non-free software, which prevents it from going in 'main' per the Debian Free Software Guidelines.
Q: I don't care about the DFSG. Why isn't installing packages from 'contrib' enabled by default on my debian system?
A: Because when asked, during installation, you said that the 'contrib' repository should not be automatically enabled for you.
Hope that clears things up. ;)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 5:00 UTC (Fri) by njs (guest, #40338)
But I haven't tried yet because I keep getting errors about my video card. I tried changing the permissions but it didn't help. What kinds of idiot designed this? It's a *brand-new* nvidia g10000, it works fine in Windows. Linux sucks :-(
I think I'm going to try this thing my friend told me about called "automatix", do you know it?
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:23 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
I really do appreciate having you attach some data to this issue. The LWN discussion was not terribly factual with men telling other men what was going on with the women.
Like many newbies, I think I have something to contribute to the issue. The proper reaction is not to smash me down before I have a chance.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 5:12 UTC (Fri) by rictic (guest, #58655)
Like many newbies, I think I have something to contribute to the
proper reaction is not to smash me down before I have a chance.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 19:41 UTC (Thu) by zrusilla (guest, #60475)
I attend Perl Monger meetings, gave lightning talks at YAPC and OSCON, read copiously, expand my skills on the job, take classes, and dispense advice to fellow geeks of any sex. What I don't spend my free time doing is butting heads to establish alpha geekdom on IRC. That might explain why you've never heard of me.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 19:51 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:19 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:46 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
You went and tweeted that I'd said women don't exist in Open Source? That's sort of inaccurate, isn't it?
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:42 UTC (Thu) by garethgreenaway (guest, #60483)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:52 UTC (Thu) by jordanb (guest, #45668)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:24 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 19:46 UTC (Thu) by selenamarie (guest, #60476)
I started using Linux in 1994, installing Slackware from floppies on a home-built machine some friends of mine from the dorms helped me pick out parts with. I screwed the motherboard into a case myself and tried not to bend pins when I put the cpu in for the first time. I was terrified I was going to break something, but my friends wouldn't do it for me.
More recently, I was the co-chair of Open Source Bridge (a conference for open source developers and "citizens" in Portland, OR), and am very involved in PostgreSQL.
Anyway, I have written a lot about the topic of women and open source -- primarily from angle that mentorship and social circles really impact women's participation.
I think your comment could be an example of this effect. :)
When more of the men who lead and code the core open source projects start to know and are friends with the women who participate, I think we will see a huge shift in perception and reality around recruitment and participation of women.
My approach is to just do stuff - start user groups, write code, tell people what I think - rather than argue about whether there are or are not enough women.
When people ask me how to get more women involved in their software projects, I tell them to look around, start talking to the women around them and ask the women they find who show interest to participate directly. This, oddly enough, tends to work. I live in Portland, OR -- which some people think is some kind of techno-communal utopia. But we're just like everyone else.. We just have a bit more energy around bringing social activity and tech together right now.
I'm not very interested in discussing the barriers to participation at this point. They are there, *shrug*.
I think it is far more productive to just take action, measure the results and adjust accordingly.
If you're interested in some of what we've done, I've got a blog post about a specific group that's was successful in the last couple years: http://www.chesnok.com/daily/2009/04/29/whats-changed-por...
And here's something I wrote for O'reilly a while ago:
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:16 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Reasons women avoid open source
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:31 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
From the top two, it seems that these are general, rather than gendered, barriers. The need to build a whole development environment has kept me from hacking on some code at times.
I really cringed at the fact that mailing lists were prefixed baby- . Women will take that, eh? I would have considered it to be abusive of beginners.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 13:08 UTC (Fri) by coriordan (guest, #7544)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 15:32 UTC (Fri) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 18:28 UTC (Fri) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 18:34 UTC (Fri) by jordanb (guest, #45668)
Those 'Dummies' books are trash of course, but that's true of 90 percent of tech books.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 18:39 UTC (Fri) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 29, 2009 11:02 UTC (Sat) by njs (guest, #40338)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:31 UTC (Thu) by selenamarie (guest, #60476)
Thanks for reading! I appreciate it.
Honestly, trying to figure out why there are a lot of women who never will be interested isn't really a priority for me at the moment. If we look at *open source hackers* as a slice of the population of the entire world, we're a minority - no question. So addressing the issue of why more *people* aren't interested in hacking on open source -- I think the same reasons apply to women.
The stuff that Nat Torkington (and many others) have talked about and done -- volunteering at schools, and finding ways of integrating interesting/fun technology into curriculum, and starting very early (primary school) -- are important. But those aren't the only ways that we can change our culture. We can actually change how many women are involved *now*, by simply looking around for the people who are on the fence.
I think it is counterproductive for hackers to throw up their hands and say, "Well, most women just aren't interested" when the due diligence has not been paid to encourage people who are interested, but not participating -- for whatever reason.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:34 UTC (Thu) by cesy (guest, #60482)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:46 UTC (Thu) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
Sure, there will always be women who aren't interested. Just like there will always be men who are honestly just not interested in going into nursing. But at the moment, "interest" is so clouded by cultural expectations around gender roles - "computers are for dudes, nursing is for chicks" - that the idea of "interest" is effectively meaningless.
A more important point to focus on, that I think you're missing in this whole discussion - how is Open Source / Free Software <i>missing out</i> because women aren't participating? How can we change that, as a community?
Then go read the various link posted around this thread, where many suggestions regarding that have already been made :)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 19:57 UTC (Thu) by talbutt (guest, #60477)
So you don't have to guess: I'm a woman too.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:58 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
As for women being harassed at trade shows, it's horrible. It's not restricted to our field, though. Consider this, perhaps the worst example known.
On the internet? Yes, I'm sure it happens there too.
I am just having trouble with the idea that this is almost 100% reliable in keeping out women. No other cause at all, eh?
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:20 UTC (Thu) by ShinyShiny (guest, #60486)
There's plenty of women, right here, right now, on this thread saying the sexist shit that happens does drive them away.... Are you deliberately ignoring and discounting them?
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:26 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
I am not against fixing the problems within the free software community. I am not convinced that those are all of the problems or even the worst problems.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 7:34 UTC (Fri) by koipond (guest, #60493)
You're surprised that sexism has been effective in keeping women away?
Just stop on that comment for a second and then realize that this is privilege. You don't have to worry about this kind of thing at all and because you don't it is a symbol of your privilege. You are free from this kind of fear and frustration.
What had been increasing other people's frustration is that what you've been saying though your words is the whole, "I don't see it, ergo it must not exist." When people point it out you still have that hat on your head and there's nothing women comment makers and experience sharers feel that they can do to dislodge it because you're denying their experience.
It is a large problem because the people who are affected by it say it's a big problem. You can't tell people who are experiencing the situation that it's not a big deal because that's making their problems seem invisible.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 17:54 UTC (Fri) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:01 UTC (Thu) by cesy (guest, #60482)
You appear to be repeating urban myths that have long since been disproved. Please go and read some of the 101 and FAQ entries on the GeekFeminism wiki.
Also, it appears that this website can't cope with the idea that I can develop both proprietary and open source software.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 12:27 UTC (Fri) by alankila (subscriber, #47141)
The sort of code I write for business generally has very little technical merit, it's usually just webpages and the required code behind to drive them, the sort of stuff that is so boring and predictable that my eyes glaze over just thinking about it. On the other hand, I use open source stuff to do something that interests me personally. In latter, doing the work is its own reward.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:05 UTC (Thu) by yatima (guest, #59881)
One of the powerful mechanisms at work is invisibility. You know Kirrily Robert and I - two founders of the Geekfeminism blog - in person, but you didn't remember us.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:24 UTC (Thu) by jordanb (guest, #45668)
How dare you not remember someone you met years ago!
I guess by the sudden influx this thing must have been posted to one of the geekfeminism mailing lists.
Corbet: Why not implement some feature to turn off comments on a article when things get too heated?
I'd say that when you start getting attacked for "silencing women" because you asked someone to quit talking about hymens would be a good place to draw the line.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:26 UTC (Thu) by james_w (subscriber, #51167)
*phew* it's hot in here, someone get me out.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:36 UTC (Thu) by cesy (guest, #60482)
And it was posted to Skud's twitter, which you can see for yourself.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:17 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
I am not attempting to say you're not there. I am, however, saying that there aren't very many women participating, and I suspect that if we had a perfectly welcoming Free Software community we'd still have a lot less than 50%. And I suspect the reasons are not directly in control of the Free Software community.
Nature or nurture is an old argument, but still going on.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:49 UTC (Thu) by yatima (guest, #59881)
You may well be right: let's try it and see!
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:58 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
We have seen communities that make an active effort to support and welcome women having 10% (Drupal) to *well* over 50% (Dreamwidth, AO3). If you could increase the ratio of women across open source to 30% (a not unreasonable goal), that would effectively increase the number of open source developers by 30%. People have suggested ways in which we could do this, and which appear to have worked in multiple cases. Why are you resistant to it?
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:05 UTC (Thu) by jordanb (guest, #45668)
I *totally* agree.
What's more, Bruce's HAM community should be doing *at least* as well as commercial radio broadcasting in attracting women.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:22 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Perhaps because they don't feel it's right for their project (might be true, might not be).
Perhaps because they personally aren't good at dealing with newbies (in which case they need to recruit intermediaries first).
Or because it's framed as a women's issue and this puts them on the defensive. Does it work better when you promote it in a gender-neutral style?
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:05 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:29 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 0:12 UTC (Fri) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 1:03 UTC (Fri) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
I recommend a woman who has brought up teenagers, or if they can't find one an older man who has brought up teenagers. Of course this is not an automatic qualification for being level-headed, so the corporate PR officer has to judge the candidates individually.
They have lots of hot-headed young men in their software departments. I don't generally find them qualified for the position.
Women expected to take care-taker/support/social/maternal roles
Posted Aug 28, 2009 13:31 UTC (Fri) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 18:06 UTC (Fri) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 20:48 UTC (Fri) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
The reason I your earlier statements about putting women in this position problematic is that you're basically tailgating on a particularly shitty way that women are socialized - to take responsibility for other people's feelings at the expense of any of our own, to mediate, to avoid conflict, to have poor interpersonal boundaries. These are useful forms of social conditioning for this particular purpose, yes, but they are also frustrating ones to see perpetuated as an expected role for women.
I realize this is a bit meta, I hope it makes sense :) Fundamentally, it's socialized behaviour rather than actual skill, and that's problematic.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 21:13 UTC (Fri) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Is it not possible for a woman to do what I'm asking while maintaining internal strength? I see it as an area in which women often excel and something very powerful that they bring to the table as managers.
Posted Aug 29, 2009 11:25 UTC (Sat) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 29, 2009 17:29 UTC (Sat) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 31, 2009 13:27 UTC (Mon) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 31, 2009 13:26 UTC (Mon) by Skud (guest, #59840)
As an adult, and particularly since my mid 20s, I've made a very serious effort to try and gain some social skills. It didn't come naturally to me, and I had to do it painstakingly and with lots of errors. I know other geek women who've done the same; one friend of mine treats it as a process of exploration and debugging, for example. It is absolutely possible for most people to do this (I concede that there are a small number who can't), and I don't see why men should be exempted from this.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 7:36 UTC (Fri) by koipond (guest, #60493)
What should be said instead of, "You're better at it" is that "The community could improve on it."
Posted Aug 28, 2009 18:18 UTC (Fri) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
I can't take the time to put the male programmers in the company through whatever training (or is it therapy) they need to fill this role properly. Nobody would pay for it.
So, the short-cut is to look for someone who already doesn't base his/her ego on his/her code and doesn't view communication as conflict, and who has long experience with difficult communication. Such a person often turns out to be a woman who has brought up teenagers. It works.
This isn't to say that males can't or shouldn't solve this problem.
Posted Aug 29, 2009 0:33 UTC (Sat) by maco (guest, #53641)
You end up with an inflated sense of what he knows. He ends up thinking you knows less than you do. And well...maybe you're just not 1337 enough for this group he's in. Maybe this isn't right for you. I mean, jeez, you're the same age and he's so much more advanced! You must not be good at this. That's it, this just isn't your thing. Hmm...maybe you'll go become a math teacher...
If you get past that point, you'll learn that in geek circles, overconfidence is the rule in stating your skills. You have to talk yourself up like it's a job application instead of being politely humble. It's intimidating until you realize this.
I spent the first year of university being intimidated of a group of guys in my class. Turns out we're pretty close in programming skills, and for Linux skills there's a range that I'm somewhere in the middle of.
Posted Aug 29, 2009 0:45 UTC (Sat) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 31, 2009 13:34 UTC (Mon) by Skud (guest, #59840)
One very important one is to allow women to behave and communicate in ways that men do -- being assertive, self-promoting, having vigorous disagreements with people, etc -- without applying a double standard and saying that they should be nicer or watch their tone.
Another is to call out people who silence and discourage women, including people who expect women (and girls) to behave nicely as above. (This goes right down to early childhood, btw, so watch how people act around their kids!)
Another is to proactively seek out women doing good stuff and help promote their work to others, by writing about them, nominating them for awards, offering them speaking engagements, etc.
Another is to donate money or time to organisations working with girls and women who are into technology.
Now you know four more ways :)
Posted Aug 31, 2009 14:41 UTC (Mon) by paulj (subscriber, #341)
allow women to behave and communicate in ways that men do - being assertive, self-promoting, having vigorous disagreements with people, etc
Eek, no! We need to *raise* the bar for communication - not encourage others to drop theirs.
Posted Aug 31, 2009 21:16 UTC (Mon) by njs (guest, #40338)
"Raising the bar for communication" is not the same as "subject everyone to the current feminine bar" -- personally, I'm all for assertiveness, self-promotion, and vigorous disagreements, so long as they're carried out in a way that respects everyone involved. The full rules for female/feminine behavior are weird and nasty -- disagreement may have to be expressed as ostensible agreement, misunderstandings are the woman's fault, things like that. I don't think anyone wants those to be universal, least of all the women who know them best.
And the double-standard is enforced by men (mostly) who freak out if women break the rules -- i.e., men who aren't meeting reasonable standards for respectful communication. Raising the bar for them, and fixing the double standard, work out to be the same thing.
Posted Aug 31, 2009 23:22 UTC (Mon) by paulj (subscriber, #341)
"Raising the bar for communication" is not the same as "subject everyone to the current feminine bar". ... The full rules for female/feminine behavior are weird and nasty
No doubt there are many subtleties of the rules of female discourse that yet escape me, but in general it seems that females are slightly less inclined toward destructive, aggressive argumentation than men (particularly younger men). So to improve the tone in free software online communication from the (generally) young-male-like level to the female level would be an improvement. Perhaps that level again could be improved, but that's beside the point. The point is we should improve, not find a way to get women (and perhaps others) to be more comfortable with the current level.
personally, I'm all for assertiveness, self-promotion, and vigorous disagreements, so long as they're carried out in a way that respects everyone involved.
Ok, that's interesting. Why do you think that? I used to think that too, and I used to be *very* assertive and vigorous in my disagreements with people. However, with time, I've come to see these traits as actually being destructive to good debate. They tend to poison things and increase the risk that people start taking things personally. Further, these traits, I have come to think, do not bring anything positive to a debate.
Assertiveness of personality is a poor substitute for sound reasoning with supporting data, such that the argument asserts itself (to right-thinking observers at least). Vigorous disagreement (as in "direct", "forthright") has a high risk of stimulating egos into taking offence, compared a more indirect and less confrontational approach (no matter how much we'd like to ignore egos, it seems they'll always be with each of us). Etc.
However, I am probably misunderstanding your point. ;) Overall, I do not disagree with your more central point that we should be working toward some higher bar of respectful communication.
Posted Sep 1, 2009 8:17 UTC (Tue) by njs (guest, #40338)
The complaint about the double-standard has nothing to with whether women are comfortable with the current rough-and-tumble of FOSS discourse; it's about men being uncomfortable with women who are half as outspoken as the men themselves are.
Re: assertiveness, self-promotion, vigorous disagreement: Yeah, I think we're talking at cross-purposes a bit. By assertiveness I mean, for instance, speaking up when one has something to say; there's nothing wrong with pointing out one's accomplishments when relevant (rather than as a way to knock others down); and as for vigorous disagreement, it is entirely possible to present one's thoughts in a forthright manner without attacking anyone's ego. "Thanks for the patch! The current version has a few problems that prevent me applying it as is; could you look over the following and see what you think? ..." All those are, I think, good things.
OTOH, there are some people who delight in turning fact-based disagreements into personal fights, and are happy to win through logical rudeness and gratuitous nastiness. One of the usual ways to pick up social status in geek circles, for instance, is by flaming people to a crisp -- these are scored not on whether you happened to be right or wrong, but on how thoroughly the recipient is ground into dust, and how entertaining bystanders find their destruction. Many communities have designated targets for their members to practice on.
All that is just obnoxious, and goes *way* beyond "vigorous disagreement". Often someone who gets called on such behavior will start waving around terms like "free speech", "healthy debate", "vigorous disagreement", as a way to deflect criticism, but pff. That's just more of the rudeness that got them into the mess in the first place, and I'm under no obligation to buy into their self-serving redefinition :-).
One more point about the idea of raising the bar for men rather than lowering it for women: In addition to my concerns about whether that's an accurate description of what we want, it seems to me that by framing it that way, you run the risk of providing comfort to those who *don't* want to give up the double-standard -- you may give them an excuse to stop worrying about habitual sexism while feeling virtuous about working on the "real problem" (whether they accomplish anything or not). I assume that's not your intention, but the possibility makes me uncomfortable, and might be off-putting to other potential allies as well.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:18 UTC (Thu) by mjg59 (subscriber, #23239)
Given that the number of women inolved in computing at pretty much any age is less than 50%, I suspect you're right. Fixing the issues in free software won't magically fix any of the problems that exist in the wider world. That's not an excuse for not doing it, though - we should strive to at the very least be no worse than the commercial software industry or CS intake. And once we're there, any progress in the wider world should be reflected in our own demographics as wel.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 22:25 UTC (Thu) by ShinyShiny (guest, #60486)
Posted Aug 29, 2009 4:53 UTC (Sat) by yatima (guest, #59881)
Posted Aug 29, 2009 11:29 UTC (Sat) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 1:56 UTC (Fri) by eon (guest, #60489)
In 1995 at a conf where I went to find vendors for parts (worked in biotech at the time & the war put a crimp in our budget). A man in a suit handed me a biz card & told me & my older female mentor that we should have "the guy with the screwdrivers" give him a call. I handed him back his card & said "I'm the guy with the screwdrivers & I prefer email".
I'm back to being a DBA. When I made the move to MySQL from Oracle the first thing I noticed was that I was one of a handful of women at the MySQL conference. There are more women there now, but still not as many as in Oracle. And, yea, MySQL suits me better than Oracle & I'm very passionate about it and the open source database world right now. It's a *very* exciting time to be working with open source databases. VERY!
Why aren't more women contributing to open source? There are a lot of women that just don't want to deal with the male b/s after work. We have to deal with it at work, why deal with it in our after hours?
the guy with the screwdrivers
Posted Aug 28, 2009 17:04 UTC (Fri) by jadelennox (guest, #60499)
I hung up on him and called his manager. His manager spluttered and groveled a lot. It felt good.
But that was professional technology. I'm not saying there wasn't a lot of miserable sexism in professional tech, but at least they were always managers who would splutter and grovel, you know? In open source somebody makes comments about virgins (and *yes*, I wasn't there, but here's another woman who has seen record of what was said and is incredibly offended by it), and he keeps getting invited back to get more and more speeches with the same joke.
unicorn herd check-in
Posted Aug 28, 2009 16:57 UTC (Fri) by jadelennox (guest, #60499)
I first installed Linux (Slackware) from 5.25" floppy disks sometime around 1993. I was a systems administrator, and contributed in a small way to a number of open-source projects, never for financial renumeration. Mostly Perl, very early on some C. I left the open source communities for a few years -- burned out by all the sexism, in fact -- and have recently returned because of the much more welcoming environment of the two new predominantly-female open-source projects.
Even when I was young and had much thicker skin I always avoided online open-source community interaction (e.g. mailing lists, IRC, web forums), precisely because I don't have the Sanity Watchers points for threads like this one.
I love contributing to open source projects. But I hate needing to prove myself as something more than a real developer's girlfriend, I hate hearing sexist jokes, I hate the idea that I'm only interested in user interface or documentation, I hate flirtation. So my passion for open source, true, was not as overwhelming as my unwillingness to deal with sexism on the Internet. Now that I have found a place where I can be passionate about open source without all of that garbage, I'm incredibly happy.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:03 UTC (Thu) by lizhenry (guest, #60479)
Posted Aug 26, 2009 9:03 UTC (Wed) by johill (subscriber, #25196)
Posted Aug 26, 2009 18:31 UTC (Wed) by jspaleta (subscriber, #50639)
While related...I don't think you can assume the same fundamental problems are at play between Science/Enginneering/FOSS.
Not all of the sciences show the problem to the same extent. Out of the big 3: biology, chemistry, physics...physics has a severe problem as measured by the number of women seeking and attaining advanced degrees. Even though in high school level physics coursework women typically out perform men in aggregate. Even inside physics...some subfields are doing better than others. Astronomy and astrophysics see more advanced degree earning women than other subfields. And then of course there are the interdisciplinary fields like ecology or geology which again i think have a less dire problem as measured by the breakdown of higher degree earners.
All of that is to say, I think you have to look much more closely and do some comparative studies across subfields if you want to use "science" as an example and look for what is attractive and what is not. Hopefully this summit will be bring forward some specific project examples that are bucking the general trend...and by analysing those projects...dispassionately...we'll have a better idea of how to change other projects to be more attractive.
Posted Aug 26, 2009 21:58 UTC (Wed) by nix (subscriber, #2304)
Posted Aug 26, 2009 22:47 UTC (Wed) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:38 UTC (Thu) by nix (subscriber, #2304)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 5:59 UTC (Fri) by njs (guest, #40338)
Their mathematics numbers don't have a breakdown for pure vs. applied (probably because US universities tend to stick them both into a single department), so it might be more extreme in the pure side of things (maybe the answer is buried in HESA somewhere?), but the data that is available doesn't seem very supportive of a FOSS-level gender split in either field.
Posted Aug 29, 2009 22:52 UTC (Sat) by spzeidler (guest, #60508)
You want to know why girls drop out of math?
Cue Barbie, "Math is haaAAaaard!" (as in, just don't make the effort, you're not really supposed to understand this, let alone have fun with it - even if you are better at it than most of the boys in your class, it's not girly to have a brain)
Plus "oh, you want to study physics? that's a strange subject for a girl" (as in, you're not a proper female if you are interested in that)
Those that survive all that active discouragement are either really good or really stubborn, or both, but on any account not lacking passion for their field. There are -so- -very- -many- easier ways to get to the same degree and the same level of income.
Much the same (if at a somewhat lesser degree) with women who go into IT; one doesn't wake up one morning, "oh what will I do with my life, hairdresser, secretary, bookkeeper, programmer? let's flip a coin", a young woman becomes a programmer in spite of 90% of her environment telling her she is nuts, and does it anyway.
(masters-equiv in physics and astrophysics 1991)
Posted Aug 26, 2009 19:25 UTC (Wed) by maco (guest, #53641)
"Affliction"? Uh... yeah... ok. It's the natural state into which all people are born.
Posted Aug 26, 2009 21:14 UTC (Wed) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
"Affliction"? Uh... yeah... ok. It's the natural state into which all people are born.
Maybe you're religious. Please be assured that for many folks it's an undesirable state.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 2:43 UTC (Thu) by maco (guest, #53641)
And umm...well we are born virgins... I mean, unless you're a twin and for some reason gettin' frisky with your sibling in the womb...
Posted Aug 27, 2009 4:34 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 7:48 UTC (Thu) by johill (subscriber, #25196)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 7:52 UTC (Thu) by johill (subscriber, #25196)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 15:39 UTC (Thu) by maco (guest, #53641)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 15:47 UTC (Thu) by corbet (editor, #1)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:09 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
From what I can see here and in previous threads, LWN-style discussion is sexist, ignorant tripe that ignores and attempts to silence women. Is this what you meant?
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:27 UTC (Thu) by corbet (editor, #1)
On rare occasion (decreasingly rare, unfortunately), I wander into a discussion that, I think, has gone off-track and doesn't really fit on LWN; I'll ask that the discussion stop. In this case, the discussion wandered into hymens and sexual history, which is just a bit off-topic for LWN.
I have pointed not tried to stop the larger discussion, despite the fact that I'm tired of it and some of the participants in it. The larger discussion is important. That is why LWN continues to point out things like this summit and your keynote, and that is why I have made my own feeble attempts at writing on the subject. It would sure be a lot easier to just avoid the topic, but I don't think it would be right.
LWN-style discussion tends to be technical, intelligent, and useful. Obviously, there are exceptions. I am not proud of them, to say the least, but there is far more to LWN than that.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 2:26 UTC (Fri) by quotemstr (subscriber, #45331)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 18:46 UTC (Fri) by coriordan (guest, #7544)
That makes sense to me, but I'm not part of the group that feels excluded.
Rather than "is is really important?", how about we look at what's being asked for. If the feeling-excluded group just wants a "no sexism" policy to be written down, then why not do it?
Either there's no problem, in which case writing this policy changes nothing, or there is a problem, and this policy improves things.
I didn't see this before, so I'm glad this big long discussion took place.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 18:53 UTC (Fri) by dlang (✭ supporter ✭, #313)
there are things that are very obviously sexism, I'm not talking about those
but is referring to a user/developer in the third person as 'him' or 'he' disallowed sexism that needs to be aggressively stamped out?
Posted Aug 28, 2009 19:11 UTC (Fri) by coriordan (guest, #7544)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 20:43 UTC (Fri) by dlang (✭ supporter ✭, #313)
if a project is making a formal statement to ban any sexist comments I think there is a need to give some indication where the project considers the line to be.
I have had a boss who, when referring to internal opinion will use the phrase 'just between us girls we know that .....'
this statement could very definantly be taken as sexist or potentially harassment
note that I have not made any comment on the gender of the manager or the staff that this is said to. it happens that the manager and the entire staff is male at this point in time. does this make a difference on if it's considered sexism or not?
I personally suspect that at one time in the past he would have said 'just between us boys' and got called on it as being a sexist comment so altered his habit.
Posted Aug 29, 2009 11:32 UTC (Sat) by Skud (guest, #59840)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 22:26 UTC (Fri) by nix (subscriber, #2304)
(If you happen to think that the reason for this is that women just naturally think differently from men -- I don't -- then you should be even *more* in favour of fixing this. That's a different viewpoint we're not getting, and different viewpoints = better design/coding/bugfixing.)
Posted Aug 29, 2009 21:35 UTC (Sat) by njs (guest, #40338)
In theory, that's great. But in practice, it means that women face all sorts of problems, and you get it ignore that, because hey, they're just like everyone else. They don't get it ignore it. And if you don't care or think about people's gender, then how certain are you that you've never assumed everyone was male, made sexist remarks, etc.? I'm sure there are people around you who do that kind of stuff, and the human default is to pick up whatever the people around us are doing (monkey see, monkey do, as they say). If you're not making a conscious effort to avoid it, then how do you know you aren't?
> The code and philosophy is what's important.
Dude, we're social mammals. The philosophy's cashed out in the code; the code's produced by communities. Can you really say mailing lists, IRC, conferences, blogs, planets, conference calls, LWN, bug tracker threads, ... are unimportant? Have you ever seen a philosophy department take on multi-billion-dollar industries?
Discussing social interaction is in no way a distraction from the "important" parts of FOSS.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 23:58 UTC (Thu) by maco (guest, #53641)
Posted Aug 28, 2009 0:05 UTC (Fri) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 19:57 UTC (Thu) by lizhenry (guest, #60479)
You seem to imply as well that someone female in FLOSS needs to take one for the team and sleep with RMS just so he'll stop making (bitter?) sexist jokes.
That's what I'm hearing as your subtext, anyway. If we can even call it "sub".
Really appalling but unfortunately all too common, for men to feel so entitled to every aspect of women's lives and bodies.
Please try to step back and listen to yourself a minute.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:42 UTC (Thu) by BrucePerens (guest, #2510)
You suggest that we need to teach girls under 7 how to be more technically minded, specifically so that male nerds of the future will have a greater pool of girlfriends.
Ouch! I think you're being really unfair to twist my words around that way.
I suggest that any community which is predominantly of one gender is emotionally unhealthy. To the extent that they or their surrounding society are reinforcing their one-gender status through differences in early childhood education, they should try to solve the problem.
But this is not to suggest that your duty as women is to, well, "think of England". Good heavens no.
Let's please consider this as getting men and women to go to the same meetings. As I described in my story of the college program with one girl, their solution was to bus us to gender-mixed social events, and not to some less honorable resource.
Posted Sep 6, 2009 7:45 UTC (Sun) by firstname.lastname@example.org (subscriber, #14112)
And we're expected to cut RMS some slack because he "goes without a
girlfriend"? Because as a man, he has the right to the company and body of a
woman, and if he doesn't get it, he can't be held responsible for his
This reads like a checklist of silencing tactics. You may feel an affinity
for Richard, and want to defend him as a person, but this is a matter of
behavior, not (necessarily) character. The identity of the actor matters far
less than the act.
Posted Sep 22, 2009 16:38 UTC (Tue) by storming (guest, #58723)
While I wasn't threatened, I did feel it was insulting to women.
The reason I don't find these comments threatening is partially because of all the men (like Lefty) that always stand up and speak out for women.
While I'm one of the 2% of women in free software, I have always felt extremely welcome and supported. On the rare occasions I've encountered behavior that was really not friendly, several of the men present have always checked in to make sure I'm ok and to make sure that I know it's not a universal attitude.
So while I think I'm usually pretty capable of taking care of myself, I really appreciate the feeling of support that I get from the free software community at large. It's part of the reason I've been working with open source software for 10 years.
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