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The dark side of open source conferences

The dark side of open source conferences

Posted Dec 3, 2010 22:08 UTC (Fri) by alankila (guest, #47141)
In reply to: The dark side of open source conferences by graydon
Parent article: The dark side of open source conferences

*sigh* just as I thought I'd stop responding on this topic entirely.

I'm sorry, but you probably have no real idea what I think about things. Yet you are accusing me of behaving here in bad faith. I think you must be jumping to conclusions, because I don't even know myself at this point what I really think about this.

The reason why I talked about "diluting the concept of gender" is that it seemed to me originally that there is no ambiguity around the topic: that we are all either male or female. I would say that this is objectively true for all of us, save from some rare genetic disorders. Additionally, we don't usually get to define many things subjectively, and I did not originally see any reason why gender should be allowed to be defined subjectively.

Thanks to some amount of Googling -- and expressly no thanks to anybody responding to me -- I now I understand that gender can be a really sore point for a number of people. Additionally, I understand also that my original remarks can be construed as offensive seen from viewpoint of someone who lives and breathes this issue, perhaps one such as yourself. What I find frustrating is that you seem to have forgot that people exist who have never thought about transsexualism related issues, and when they start from step one of understanding it, they are directly accused of being in the camp of the enemy.

It's a crazy way to relate to people that you should be trying to win over to your cause. I hope you can see that, and consider less fanatic ways to respond to others in the future.

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The dark side of open source conferences

Posted Dec 4, 2010 0:09 UTC (Sat) by graydon (guest, #5009) [Link]

Thank you for googling and reading. That is a good step towards avoiding a repetition of what was said earlier.

I'm trying to point out problematic *actions* here, rather than people. I understand you're a human who probably has a variety of thoughts on gender, as well as the ability to learn and change; I'm telling you that some behavior was unacceptable and needs to change. In particular:

1. If a topic (eg. "sexual harassment at conferences") makes you uncomfortable, don't change the subject (as aleXXX did) to one that seems easier to trivialize (transsexuals).

2. Don't trivialize transexuals. Also don't trivialize racism. Nobody even mentioned that. You can easily tell that the people involved in the topic take it seriously; starting your contribution by a trivializing statement is equivalent to an insult, and you can probably guess that.

3. Don't throw in innuendo about "real motives" when someone relates their their own experience or identity, or that of their friends, relatives, loved ones.

4. Don't make it someone else's problem to inform you of things you can learn yourself. It's a sign of respect for a topic to do independent reading on your own time.

5. Don't tell someone that they'd be better listened-to if they only spoke less directly to the topic at hand. You demonstrated how seriously you take less-blunt talk earlier: by trivializing. That is *why* I responded bluntly and why I'm continuing to be direct.

Again, thank you for hearing my earlier remarks and responding by reading. There is plenty more to read if you're interested in adapting your behavior; see the link I left above to the "resources for men" page.

The dark side of open source conferences

Posted Dec 4, 2010 0:55 UTC (Sat) by alankila (guest, #47141) [Link]

1. I think you may be reading too much into aleXXX comment, but I have no firm opinion either way. He is free to comment if he likes.

2. I offered "racism" as an example of term that has been diluted, especially similar to how the word "phobia" is used today. Both of these words are usually used as label, not as meaningful argument. Compare with fasism, which means apparently whatever a person wants it to mean. My original thought on seeing "trans-phobia" was to focus on the word "phobia" and consider that "phobia" normally means a medical condition that needs psychiatric treatment.

3. I believe I had a real question here. Innuendo is your interpretation and not what I intended. It simply did not occur to me that for some people asking if they are male or female is offensive.

4. I admit my response was hasty. Had I considered for a bit longer, I would not have written it. I was responding to aleXXX that I also experienced a kind of bewilderment when seeing the page he had chosen, and was therefore sympathetic to his confusion.

5. I believe this is firmly your interpretation and does not reflect my character.

The dark side of open source conferences

Posted Dec 4, 2010 15:03 UTC (Sat) by alankila (guest, #47141) [Link]

Also, an important point you seem to be missing. You seem to think I started reading because of your comments. That is in fact the exact opposite, and I already said this once. Had I not started reading out of interest before you or the other guy responded, I would not have bothered at all. Based on your actions, and the other discussion threads on the internet, I have arrived at the conclusion that any transsexualism-related topic requires silk gloves of +20 tactfulness that I don't happen to possess.

You also seem to believe that actions are the only thing that matter. But I believe that you have forgot that when you have words on screen, there are no actions per se. In discourse, you need to understand what the other person's point of view is, not take a few phrases here and there and build a completely different image and then immediately proceed attacking that. You are interpreting. You are not objective. And based on what I have read so far, you are not thinking what the people who write the text meant, but you are rather scanning it from point of view of "can this somehow be treated as an insult against some protected group". In doing this, you are of course labeling unacceptable actions, sure, but you are also making it impossible to have a conversation about the topic.

You linked to some trans-101 page which went through the stuff at exactly the correct way. That's _exactly_ the kind of stuff I needed to read, so thanks for pointing it out.

The dark side of open source conferences

Posted Dec 4, 2010 22:25 UTC (Sat) by graydon (guest, #5009) [Link]

You certainly do possess the tact necessary. It's not hard, I've given you direct instructions in every message I replied to about things not to do in such conversations, and you're adapting your tone fine. Thank you for doing so. I'm trying to adapt mine to match.

The "words on a screen" are the action I'm responding to. I realize that you have a "point of view" and, to be blunt once more, it matters less than what you choose to do and say (or not say) in the future. People feeling marginalized, harassed, trivialized and insulted by this community aren't at any loss for understanding or hearing our points of view. We broadcast them like a fog-horn.

You -- we -- need to hear and listen to their points of view. That means clamming up and reading-or-listening. Not having a debate. Not demanding people listen to your defensiveness or confusion. Not turning every related experience into a 250-message argument thread.

Speech matters, as does the assumption of whose job it is to speak, be listened-to, or be taken-seriously. You buy a phrasebook and learn the local etiquette if traveling to another country. You study legalese if going to court. You suppress your tendency to swear around your elder family members. You don't raise your voice around kids. You realize when you're angry or drunk that some of the things you have an urge to say are best suppressed, as you'd regret them. In all these cases you recognize the onus is on you for adapting your speech quietly and on your own dime. The situation is the same here.

I'm not trying to paint you into a corner of being an enemy, or the Bad Prejudiced Guy. Everyone has prejudices. I'm plenty sexist, racist and classist myself. I trip up all the time. But while reflecting on those thoughts and informing myself of the perspectives of those I'm prejudiced against, I read and adapt my speech behavior to avoid the worst parts I've seen described, that I recognize in myself. I've only been telling you to do the same.

That's really it. It's not hard, you can do it too. You'll do fine. There's an absolute ocean of ink spilled on these topics to guide you. If you want to spend the afternoon reading a far more nuanced and detailed meta-analysis about the issues of privileged speech, assumptions of authority and relevance, topic derailment and reframing, try this:

(Read the whole thing, and any links you disagree with. Bookmark any wikis or FAQs that you have residual confusion about. Don't stop at the first thing you disagree with. Suppress your defensiveness enough to finish it.)

The dark side of open source conferences

Posted Dec 5, 2010 14:45 UTC (Sun) by aleXXX (subscriber, #2742) [Link]

Please don't interpret things into my posting which were not there.
Please also don't take the right to judge me ("some behavior was unacceptable") based on a single basically neutral posting in a web forum.

I didn't change the subject because it made me feel uncomfortable.
I looked over to that web page because it was referenced in the discussion here a few times, so I thought it might be interesting.

I wrote back here when I saw that the site at least partially contains basically "blacklists" with posts from people which the editors considered inappropriate.
I was disappointed by this.


The dark side of open source conferences

Posted Dec 5, 2010 20:08 UTC (Sun) by graydon (guest, #5009) [Link]

Your behavior wasn't "basically neutral". I will explain what *was* in your postings, since you claim to be unable to see it.

You entered a conversation with a first statement denying the topic's validity, re-centering concern on your own perception, and ignoring the links about sexualized environments and harassment. Many of which discuss how the (mis-) perception and trivialization of the topic by men is central to the problem at hand.

You followed one such overlooked link only when it was pointed out to you again (by a man), but didn't read any of the text on that page, just went looking for a "random" incident by clicking around the containing wiki.

You ignored all the other incidents, the hundreds of pages of patient explanation, all the explanatory text, and picked one incident about transsexuals and transphobic speech (which isn't the topic here). You ignored all the text explaining that it was about transsexuals and all the links and terms that could educate you on why the incident in question might have been a problem.

You found a quote you "couldn't see" a problem with, but didn't google the term you didn't understand ("carpet and drapes"; which leads to a first-hit definition of its slang meaning).

You ignored all the other quotes in that thread which you might have more readily understood as problematic to transsexuals (trivializing the topic, shifting the discussion to penises, cracking jokes about women on magazine covers, false claims of gender-blindness).

You chose a defensive and self-centered framing for your interpretation of the thing you saw but didn't understand: "PC", "censoring" and an attack on your freedom of speech.

At this point I called you on your behavior.

Conversations like this have very clear patterns; if you don't recognize them, read some of the linked description of the patterns and what they mean. I'll link again below. Actually read them. All the text. Look for your own behavior in the descriptions. Suppress your defensiveness; reflect on your own reactions. Use a calm, open mind and assume the people speaking are are actually trying to explain what's going wrong, to help you change yourself for the better:

And finally, concerning "blacklisting" (note: no names were being collected, only quotes) please see:

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