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FSF to host a mini-summit on Women in Free Software
Posted Aug 26, 2009 23:42 UTC (Wed) by coriordan (guest, #7544)
I could be guessing wrong, but your comment sounds like you've got low expectations for the summit. Have other by-women-about-women free software summits been failures? How so? Any advice I could pass on would be appreciated.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 0:14 UTC (Thu) by jordanb (guest, #45668)
There's nothing wrong with that, of course. It's something that needs to be done and I assume they're reasonably good at it. It makes me wonder, though, if either is going to have any real insight at all into what makes anyone -- let alone women -- get interested in Free Software. Since for both of them, what got them into the community was a paycheck.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 8:47 UTC (Thu) by james_w (subscriber, #51167)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:03 UTC (Thu) by garethgreenaway (guest, #60483)
Deborah Nicholson has been involved with the Free Software Foundation was several years now and I don't think anyone who knows how passionate she is about her work would ever refer to her simply as a professional hobnobber.
Stormy Peters began her career writing code and worked her way up the ranks in a commercial company that dealt with free & open source software. Only recently did she make the jump over to being the CEO of the GNOME Foundation.
Both of these woman are examples of women who are active contributions to the free & open source community. Neither one, like many others, doing it simply for a paycheck.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:13 UTC (Thu) by jordanb (guest, #45668)
And you and james_w have both so skillfully ignored.
I have no doubt that both Nicholson and Peters are doing things in their jobs that are very beneficial to Free Software. I have no doubt that what they're doing is important, and I assume they're both good at it and earning every penny they're being paid.
My entire point, in making that post, is to question if two people who were hired into the community might not have much insight on what makes a person come in by their own volition.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 2:13 UTC (Fri) by rahulsundaram (subscriber, #21946)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 2:50 UTC (Thu) by maco (guest, #53641)
I think Val's got things pretty well covered in that guide as to laying out what, exactly, the problems are. I don't think some new and amazing thing has happened to make Free Software any less attractive in that time either. I expect it'll be a rehash of the same issues that are always brought up every single time. And I expect that whether or not the FSF puts out something saying "we found the problem! (it's what the women said it was all along...)" the people involved in the communities aren't going to just jump-to and become more welcoming.
All that ever happens is people talk about what's wrong. If time's left, they brain storm the same things every time about how to make it better. Then everything goes back to business as usual but with the people involved feeling all warm & fuzzy inside. It's a matter of lip-service versus actual change. Talking about what's wrong isn't going to fix the bad attitudes of many of the people who permeate the Free Software Community.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 4:19 UTC (Thu) by coriordan (guest, #7544)
Sometimes it does feel like trying to hold back the tide, but if we weren't working on it, we'd miss every opportunity. There are never any obvious ways to easy victory, and like Val's doc, we've written down great advice years ago. Now we're working on bridging the gap to make that advice a reality. Sometimes we do win, and maybe in a decade or two we will have won. But my point is that this work has made me less negative about working on the same impossible problem again, and again. The other option (not trying) would be worse.
Posted Aug 27, 2009 15:44 UTC (Thu) by maco (guest, #53641)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 21:01 UTC (Thu) by alankila (subscriber, #47141)
It is perhaps fair to conclude from this anecdotalish evidence, once more, that men and women have different priorities in life, and they carry this baggage along with them wherever they go. It also means that if we are going to make a community of both men and women in equal numbers, it means also that the community itself must change to accommodate women who obviously are looking for very different kind of things from open source.
It's times like these I almost hope that all the discussion will amount to no practical changes at all. We know and understand the status quo and can work with it. Will we improve it, or make it worse, if we try to force it to change? Why can't women just find their place first among themselves doing whatever they like doing, and later when there are a lot of them, perhaps we can make these spheres interact and even merge to whatever degree makes sense.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 3:43 UTC (Fri) by maco (guest, #53641)
And well...there are women who do development for a job. But there, they have a sexual harassment policy and lawyers to keep the worst of the idiots at bay.
Posted Aug 28, 2009 13:14 UTC (Fri) by alankila (subscriber, #47141)
I had not considered that rewards could be high but costs also correspondingly very large: I had more or less assumed that a few idiots (small cost) can exceed the entire reward (which would also be small). My working hypothesis was that men simply like, say, coding more than women and therefore are willing to put up with more bullshit.
One possible resolving of the dilemma is that even if men and women experienced quantitatively the same input, it's possible that the women are much more sensitive to slights made by others, to the point of noticing slights where none were intended. (In the threads here, we have seen plain statements from Bruce being reinterpreted in ways that make them *very* offensive to women, and by at least 3 separate women.) But this is just a "grow a thicker skin" argument, and I don't expect it will fly over well.
Posted Aug 29, 2009 17:37 UTC (Sat) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
Posted Aug 29, 2009 22:18 UTC (Sat) by alankila (subscriber, #47141)
But I've also noticed the puzzling way women attack even well-meaning men. The sort of people who try to understand women, want to help them, but do not for some reason manage to express themselves just right. (Sometimes I wonder if there is any such man that manages to say anything which the women don't attack and tear down.)
The rest of my comment was idly speculation loosely around the issue, but I no longer believe those thoughts of mine are worth anything. All I can say is: there is some kind of major fault in communications between men and women, perhaps due to how much the issue has become polarized over the years.
Posted Aug 29, 2009 23:45 UTC (Sat) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
Couple that with how exhausting it is to have 101-level discussions (like this one!) over and over and over and over and over again, and it's a wonder we aren't any testier than we are :)
I don't think it's a gendered fault in communication. I just think that you need to read more beginner texts. You're expecting, to pick on the metaphor used elsewhere in this thread, to be able to hack kernel code without knowing the basics of C, and acting miffed when we get frustrated - if that makes it a bit clearer.
Posted Aug 30, 2009 3:31 UTC (Sun) by coriordan (guest, #7544)
When I read the derailing website, I said "Yep, this is indeed the correct term for when someone makes a two hour political speech and then a group uses a part of his closing comedy routine to completely change the subject and attack him."
This brings me to another point. There could be a problem with the available texts:
Group A can't see the reason for Group B to have a problem.
Group B, which sees the problem clearly, writes various docs about what they see.
It's quite possible that Group B's docs will be written from a point of view which is completely non-intuitive (and thus not very effective) for Group A. What I've learned from free software advocacy is that, unfortunately, if you want to change attitudes, you have to keep repeating yourself again and again (while trying to improve your technique). Before you've convinced someone that there's a problem, it's unlikely that they're going to be motivated to go read the beginners texts on the topic (and one can't assume that just because the beginners texts seem good to a Group B person, that they'll be appreciated by a Group A person).
Posted Aug 30, 2009 4:23 UTC (Sun) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
There are resources though which are written specifically to be for the "group A" in this case such as http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/the-faqs/faq-roun... and studies like the FLOSSPOLS one, and even Skud's OSCON keynote. These docs aim to be those 101-level documents.
There's also a difference between talking to J. Random Hacker and folks who have explicitly expressed an interest in what they can do to help. If folks (in this case men) want to help, that should include reading the resources we point them at. To demand otherwise is a particularly exhausting form of derailing - in fact, it's the first two points on Derailing For Dummies :)
Posted Aug 30, 2009 4:14 UTC (Sun) by alankila (subscriber, #47141)
I do not know what you mean by "challenges to privilege". I was talking about women attacking well-meaning men. The most common charge I have seen is "being patronizing". Like, having an idea that occurs to you as a 101-level man, you express it and then get very acidic feedback whose essence is "Do you think we are that stupid? Oh, the great man comes into the scene and surveys it with his superior intelligence and discovers a solution. You idiot! We tried that already in '73!"
I can understand where it comes from, but I would do all I can to beg for patience from women when facing guys. As a rule, we are clearly nearly completely oblivious to the objectives that modern feminist thought wishes to attain for women. It may well be because by default we live lazily and happily in our cozy cushion of privilege, and therefore do not perceive anything to be wrong. Perhaps if women came up with a good ad campaign or two that depicts real stories of women who suffered from male privilege and that way shook our world... Wait, don't tell me, this has been tried already?
Posted Aug 30, 2009 4:55 UTC (Sun) by alankila (subscriber, #47141)
Let's consider the word derailing. I'd like to argue that 90 % of the guys are probably making an entirely honest effort in trying to understand the feminist position. Unfortunately, they have been primed by widely circulated feminist statements like "all men are rapists" or similar blanket statements that finger them as guilty and on the wrong side for things they never did or planned to do.
Men judge these statements absurd and do not believe them, because we could hardly live with ourselves if all that was said about men by some feminists were true. Regardless, we are primed to be in a defensive, personal mood, even past what may be male biological conditioning: "I didn't do anything wrong, it's you who are being crazy and unfair". The consequence of this starting position will be an attempt to prove it, and thus follow the steps written in the derailing document.
Women seem to have categorically decided to not pander to men: they do not see any need to help us understand them -- after all, why should women sacrifice any iota more of their time and soul to help men -- but that has the unfortunate side effect of making it even more difficult to understand what women are saying at all. It's a bit like everyone was dug in their trenches and time of discussion went past decades ago.
That derailing document is biting and maliculous to the bitter end. This may be why it works. But that means that it is also unnecessarily difficult to read for even sympathetic audience. For a man, it may take an attitude of almost zen-like detachment to read it fully. As such, it can do more harm than good when you pull it into debate: it can easily feed the "women are crazy" side of the argument. Of course, you have much more real experience having presumably used that document in more than one occasion, but that's my take on it.
I would ask women to learn from Valerie Aurora's style. It's impossible to take offense with her style. I submit that words that get read are infinitely more valuable to those that do not.
Posted Aug 30, 2009 5:28 UTC (Sun) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
I'm going to respond to your comments, but I won't likely be able to until tomorrow. If you're not likely to be back here or aren't checking the RSS feed, ping me at leigh at hypatia dot ca and I'll email you when I reply.
Posted Aug 29, 2009 22:07 UTC (Sat) by njs (guest, #40338)
Just to say, I'm pretty sure that if I faced half the $#@ that I hear described by women, I'd never have stuck around in FOSS.
They're all telling you that yes, they face dramatically more BS than men. This is pretty easy to confirm. You're sort of brushing that aside to preserve your prior assumption -- not based on any data, AFAICT -- that no, men and women are treated the same, and in order to do that you speculate that really the problem is with the women, because they just such delicate flowers.
Do you see how your comment might be adding to that BS they face?
I'm not saying your heart is in the wrong place, but that's just the thing. They're not just complaining about a few bad apples that we could kick out or something (but don't) -- there are subtle sexist assumptions woven into our default assumptions and ways of interacting, and that means that they face this stuff at some constant low level from all directions. Sounds exhausting to me.
> In the threads here, we have seen plain statements from Bruce being reinterpreted in ways that make them *very* offensive to women
Alternatively, it's possible that those statements actually are offensive to women -- that they felt excluded, disrespected, and so on -- but that you and Bruce didn't have the right background to see that until they were commented on. I don't think I did any "reinterpretation" of your statement above; I think I just took it's plain meaning and pointed out *in context* it had problems you might not have noticed.
If anything, my impression is that the women commenting here are letting a lot of stuff slide and picking a few particularly egregious things to comment on, because there's just too much BS out there and life is too short. That's kind of the opposite of thin-skinnedness.
Posted Aug 30, 2009 3:09 UTC (Sun) by alankila (subscriber, #47141)
As this speculation arose from the written posts in this thread, I can of course point out the particular cases that I noticed where some women were reading the words of some men in quite adversarial way, beyond what a plain or entirely dispassionate reading would call for.
I do not dispute that women, or in fact any person can read anyone's words just like they want. But I consider it nearly self-evident that the responsibility for successful communication is as much on the speaker as it is on the listener.
> it's possible that those statements actually are offensive to women
This I do not doubt. I called into question the justification of being offended; you might have actually misunderstood what was being said.
Posted Aug 30, 2009 4:26 UTC (Sun) by hypatiadotca (guest, #60478)
Posted Aug 27, 2009 20:04 UTC (Thu) by Skud (guest, #59840)
1) Here are the stats on women in open source (very low %)
1a) disbelief! denial!
2) Here are reasons why women say that they don't get involved
2a) that can't be right! what would they know?
3) Here are some things women suggest might change that
3a) your expectations that we be respectful are ridiculous and unworkable
4) Silence, forgetfulness, and another round of the all the above the next year.
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