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Disbelief: women and Open Source

36 replies on 3 pages. Most recent reply: Aug 19, 2009 7:25 AM by Achilleas Margaritis

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Aahz

Posts: 14
Nickname: aahz
Registered: May, 2003

Re: Disbelief: women and Open Source Posted: Jul 27, 2009 11:20 PM
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> Can someone give a concrete example of this sexism?

http://gadgetopia.com/post/6794

James Watson

Posts: 2024
Nickname: watson
Registered: Sep, 2005

Re: Disbelief: women and Open Source Posted: Jul 28, 2009 9:59 AM
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> > Can someone give a concrete example of this sexism?
>
> http://gadgetopia.com/post/6794

That is completely unacceptable and boneheaded behavior. The most galling part is that the presenter is supposedly some sort of executive. That this incident was not more widely publicized is problem enough.

That much I think we can agree on. The thing is that I'm not really convinced that this is why women are so much less represented in software and open source. Do you mean to imply that there are thousands of women out there that want to be developers on open source projects but they don't participate because of a few presentations at conferences? Perhaps this is indicative of a general culture that is hostile to women which is something I have seen in some cases. But women have to be present to experience this and it seems to me the lack of women starts much earlier. Consider the average university CS department.

I'd suggest that if more women were around, this behavior would pretty much disappear. Men are pigs, I grant this. But when women are around, most men know how to behave and those that don't are generally corrected by those that do. The conversation at my weekly poker game is very different when a female is present. I'm inclined to believe that the bad behavior is a result of the lack of females, not the cause.

The great irony here is that the first computer programmers were all women.

Michael Goldman

Posts: 9
Nickname: keppla
Registered: Jul, 2009

Re: Disbelief: women and Open Source Posted: Jul 28, 2009 2:03 PM
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> http://gadgetopia.com/post/6794

Call me insensitive, but what i see there is more a play with well known porn- and "geeks are not sexy"-cliches (the IT-crowd images), than actual try of discrimination. It seems clearly ironical to me.

Erik Engbrecht

Posts: 210
Nickname: eengbrec
Registered: Apr, 2006

Re: Disbelief: women and Open Source Posted: Jul 28, 2009 2:36 PM
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> > http://gadgetopia.com/post/6794
>
> Call me insensitive, but what i see there is more a play
> with well known porn- and "geeks are not sexy"-cliches
> (the IT-crowd images), than actual try of discrimination.
> It seems clearly ironical to me.

In a purely social situation, including mixed company, I wouldn't bat an eye at the contents of that presentation. It's actually rather tame, and in my experience it's women who tend to drive the conversation into the gutter, not men. But that's just my experience.

At work, I think if I gave that presentation in the morning I would be escorted out by security by lunchtime.

The question is: Is open source social or professional?

I think the answer is: It depends.

Open source projects linger somewhere in the middle, because some people do it professionally, some as a pure hobby, and some as a kind of an extracurricular activity with strong professional linkages but not directly for work.

James Watson

Posts: 2024
Nickname: watson
Registered: Sep, 2005

Re: Disbelief: women and Open Source Posted: Jul 28, 2009 9:58 PM
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> > http://gadgetopia.com/post/6794
>
> Call me insensitive, but what i see there is more a play
> with well known porn- and "geeks are not sexy"-cliches
> (the IT-crowd images), than actual try of discrimination.
> It seems clearly ironical to me.

You are insensitive.

Seriously, though, if I've learned something in my life, it's that you can never be too careful when it comes to this kind of thing. The reward is never worth the risk. To understand, you need to consider how it would look/sound if someone were to take things out of context especially during some sort of disciplinary action or hostile work environment lawsuit. Maybe some people are too uptight. Maybe you are a chauvinist. Either way, you have nothing to gain and everything to lose.

Save the jokes for your buddies at the bar. Just my two cents.

Michael Goldman

Posts: 9
Nickname: keppla
Registered: Jul, 2009

Re: Disbelief: women and Open Source Posted: Jul 28, 2009 11:28 PM
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> You are insensitive.

So, it the presentation is not ironic and meant to be taken literally, an i can expect do be surrounded by women if i use couchdb?

> Either way, you have nothing to gain and everything to lose.
> Save the jokes for your buddies at the bar. Just my two cents.

Grantet, in many workplaces you have to watch what you say for not having it used against you, but that's not something i would see the OSS community like to emulate.

Besides, I find it kind of interesting, that the (again, imho) ironic usage of porn cliches is considered sexist, but the statement "men are pigs", uttered in complete honesty in this thread, is not.

Kay Schluehr

Posts: 302
Nickname: schluehk
Registered: Jan, 2005

Re: Disbelief: women and Open Source Posted: Jul 29, 2009 12:44 AM
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Wow. When we discussed the Ruby + Rails hype a few years ago and few among us jumped on its carnivalesque anti-professionalism, I'd hardly predicted that showing some porn pics on a Ruby conference would be the dominant moral/cultural incident in the programming world even during the most severe economical crisis since 1929. But otherwise this trivialization makes perfect sense along with other non-events having much wider media coverage such as the hysteric media loops on Michael Jacksons death.

Just a few peanuts from me thrown on the Presbyterian activists...

Erik Engbrecht

Posts: 210
Nickname: eengbrec
Registered: Apr, 2006

Better presentation Posted: Jul 29, 2009 8:22 AM
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http://webchick.net/presentations/women-in-open-source-owv-09

The problem with Kirrily's presentation is that she's making a moral argument and the values on which she bases it a far from universal. I personally think her argument and the value systems that give rise to sexism and racism are rooted in the same place - the idea that sex and/or race transcends the individual and therefore must be considered independent of the individual.

I think sex and race contribute substantially to the formation of one's identity, but so do lots of environmental factors, and ultimately the identity is all that we can judge.

James Watson

Posts: 2024
Nickname: watson
Registered: Sep, 2005

Re: Disbelief: women and Open Source Posted: Jul 29, 2009 9:55 AM
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> Grantet, in many workplaces you have to watch what you say
> for not having it used against you, but that's not
> something i would see the OSS community like to emulate.

As a general rule, if something might offend someone and you can get your point across without saying or doing it, then why do it?

The point is that your intentions might be great but they can easily be misconstrued. Trust me, when you have wildly irrational people attacking you or your character, it's too late to explain your intentions.

> Besides, I find it kind of interesting, that the (again,
> imho) ironic usage of porn cliches is considered sexist,
> but the statement "men are pigs", uttered in complete
> honesty in this thread, is not.

You are proving my point here. When I wrote 'men are pigs' (I'm a man) it was tongue-in-cheek. You seem to be sure that it was meant honestly. I doubt you are really offended but there you go, that's kind of how it goes down.

Obviously, you don't have to follow my advice but for your own self-interest, I suggest you avoid unnecessary provocation. I have to work on following my own advice as I have learned this from (bad) experience.

Michael Goldman

Posts: 9
Nickname: keppla
Registered: Jul, 2009

Re: Disbelief: women and Open Source Posted: Jul 30, 2009 8:49 AM
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> As a general rule, if something might offend someone
> and you can get your point across without saying or
> doing it, then why do it?

in my opinion, anything has the potential of offending someone, therefore aiming to not offend anyone tends to saying very less.

> You are proving my point here. When I wrote 'men
> are pigs' (I'm a man) it was tongue-in-cheek.

It really seems meant honestly to me, and you're right, it IS proving a point: even if I was (slightly) offended, i'd rather be offended sometimes than not having discussions.

You wanted to made a point, you choose to use something which had the potential of offending someone, to get your point across better than not using it, it's ok with me.

It is definitvely advisable to avoid saying things just for offending someone, but imho, more often than not, things which get the point better across have a somewhat emotional conotation, and therefore have the potential to offend.

Slightly more back to topic: to make a community more attractive i think it is the wrong way to hide possible resentements under a layer of feel-good-rules that shun controversy.

James Watson

Posts: 2024
Nickname: watson
Registered: Sep, 2005

Re: Disbelief: women and Open Source Posted: Jul 30, 2009 9:53 AM
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> > As a general rule, if something might offend someone
> > and you can get your point across without saying or
> > doing it, then why do it?
>
> in my opinion, anything has the potential of offending
> someone, therefore aiming to not offend anyone tends to
> saying very less.

I actually agree with you here. It's possible to be too careful. However, there are limits. There's also a big difference between giving a presentation and having a conversation or bantering on a discussion forum.

Consider if the presentation instead had been referenced gay porn. I imagine a lot more of the audience would be uncomfortable and probably a lot of people would have stormed out. What if the presentation had been about how lots of Ruby projects are like abortions? I imagine almost no one would have thought it was appropriate.

Now, you can argue that what happened was not that extreme. But that's like, just your opinion, man. A lot of people, especially women, think straight porn is misogynistic and abusive to women with mental and/or emotional problems. You don't have to agree but trying to understand the viewpoints of others never hurts.

In the end, there's not much socially redeeming value in porn so making it a rule to leave it out of presentations is unlikely to be much of a burden. I get why they did it. It's edgy and therefore 'cool' (nerd-cool anyway.) But I think it's a bad idea overall.

Kay Schluehr

Posts: 302
Nickname: schluehk
Registered: Jan, 2005

Re: Disbelief: women and Open Source Posted: Jul 30, 2009 11:25 PM
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> in my opinion, anything has the potential of offending
> someone, therefore aiming to not offend anyone tends to
> saying very less.

I wouldn't show Mohammed cartoons because of death threads. This sort of suppression is an effective solution to fix problems in the moral space which is an option for activists of all colors.

Otherwise there is just too much ambiguity. No one cares anymore if some visitor of a contemporary art exhibition feels "comfortable" when seeing mutilated human or animal bodies. Our culture has just gone over it and accepts the contextual encoding within the art system. Apparently Rails fans don't care much about "professionalism" as a value system and this is also meant as a statement. Note that I don't believe they are more intelligent than the rest of us and simply play with the stereotypes and the naturalization of human conventions that go unquestioned.

Kondwani Mkandawire

Posts: 530
Nickname: spike
Registered: Aug, 2004

Re: Disbelief: women and Open Source Posted: Jul 31, 2009 6:45 AM
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> > Can someone give a concrete example of this sexism?
>
> http://gadgetopia.com/post/6794

This is not exactly representative of the Open Source community. My perception of leaders in the RoR community was also kind of sour - especially after the Zed Shaw Rails is a Ghetto rant. The RoR community does seem to be led by a bunch of jerks so maybe another more suited example is in order?

James Watson

Posts: 2024
Nickname: watson
Registered: Sep, 2005

Re: Disbelief: women and Open Source Posted: Jul 31, 2009 12:02 PM
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> > > Can someone give a concrete example of this sexism?
> >
> > http://gadgetopia.com/post/6794
>
> This is not exactly representative of the Open Source
> community. My perception of leaders in the RoR community
> was also kind of sour - especially after the Zed Shaw
> Rails is a Ghetto rant. The RoR community does seem to be
> led by a bunch of jerks so maybe another more suited
> example is in order?

There's definitely a contingent in the development industry of people who confuse intelligence with arrogance/meanness (which is something immature people do in general.)

I hadn't associated the Ruby community with that type of person but it seems that the impression others have. In general, when people think they are smarter than everyone else, they are usually pretty stupid.

Personally, I haven't seen anything that points to Ruby or RoR people being more intelligent. Frankly, I've seen some astonishingly stupid and/or ignorant assertions come from that community. That makes them about the same as everyone else in my book.

Michele Simionato

Posts: 222
Nickname: micheles
Registered: Jun, 2008

Re: Disbelief: women and Open Source Posted: Jul 31, 2009 11:47 PM
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> There's definitely a contingent in the development
> industry of people who confuse intelligence with
> arrogance/meanness (which is something immature people do
> in general.)

I think this is the attitude which repels women from IT, more than sexism by itself (sexism can be a
manifestation of this general attitude).

> I hadn't associated the Ruby community with that type of
> person but it seems that the impression others have. In
> general, when people think they are smarter than everyone
> else, they are usually pretty stupid.

Actually seven years ago, when I decided to learn a modern
programming language, I considered seriously both Ruby and
Python. At the end I went with Python because I
did not like the attitude of many people in the Ruby community. This was before Rails. I remember
I was put off by the idiotic remarks about the
importance of being "purely object oriented" and by the religious belief that x.len is better than len(x). I personally know many smart and decent Rubysts, but the the stupid one are apparently more vocal.

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