Changing The Conversation

I am tired of seemingly only ever reading about the topic of women in Open Source within the context of a conflict scenario which typically spawns a spat over whether specific behaviour is deemed offensive or not. It feels like the topic has become very one-dimensional.

I am more interested in talking about the awesome, positive and inspiring stories of women in Open Source, with the intention that it will not only recognise these rock stars, but to also continue to grow a safe and fair environment in which other women can be inspired to get involved in the world changing opportunity that is Open Source, Free Software and Free Culture.

Some time ago there was a terrific meme that kicked off around Ada Lovelace day, and I would like to encourage you all to join me in resurrecting this meme. Today I want to talk about five women who inspire me every day when I switch on my computer.

Allison Randal – Allison is well respected in the Perl comunity, chair of the Parrot Foundation, and deeply involved in the FLOSS Foundations group. She is also well known at O’Reilly, one of the organizers of OSCON and was instrumental in helping me to make the Community Leadership Summit a reality. Allison is someone who I have known for about three years now, and every time I come away from a conversation with her, it always makes me think that she is the epitome of the Open Source contributor: kind, considerate, wicked-smart, balanced and excited about her work. She is…in a word…awesome.
Amber Graner – In the short period of time that Amber has been involved in the Ubuntu community, she has had a tremendous impact. Beginning with her frank yet always respectful blog entries that scrutinized our community, she has joined us to make Ubuntu her passion too. She has been deeply involved in the LoCo community, Open Week planning, has participated extensively in UDS remotely, has been involved in event organization at Atlanta Linux Fest and more. What I love about Amber is her practical, approachable and humour-laden approach to her work. When Amber walks in, she makes a difference, and I am proud that she is part of our community.
Rikki Kite – For those of us who tread the boards of the Open Source conference circuit, you won’t go far without seeing Rikki. She is the Associate Publisher and Managing Editor of Linux Pro Magazine and Ubuntu User Magazine. Rikki’s passion is deliver great stories about real work by real people. She has always been there to give a voice to everyone from the bedroom hacker to the corporate executive. Rikki has really driven the success behind Ubuntu User and her commitment and endless devotion to her work makes her an utter delight to be around when I see her…typically, at a conference. :-)
Ara Pulido – Ara works for Canonical on the Ubuntu QA team and she is deeply involved in building automated tests, smoke testing, and encouraging our wider community to get involved in improving the quality of Ubuntu. She is active in Ubuntu, upstream and demonstrates an incredible responsiveness and eagerness for her work and Ubuntu. As an example, I asked Ara to work on a last-minute EC2 test plan for Karmic the day she got back from her vacation and she had it ready within a day to an incredible level of quality. It is people like Ara which make Ubuntu what it is.
Leann Ogasawara – Leann also works for Canonical and works on triaging and managing our collection of kernel bugs. She has an epic reputation for productivity in Canonical and the community and our kernel story would be very different if it were not for contributions. Leann is also involved in hardware testing, working with the upstream kernel community, ISO testing, working with the mobile team, taking part in community initiatives such as Ubuntu Developer Week and 5-A-Day and many other areas. She is a blast to work with, is great fun and has a wicked sense of humour.

Before I wrap up, I want to highlight one other woman who inspires me every day: my wife, Erica. She was reluctant for me to feature her as she wanted the above five women to be the focus of this post, but I have never met someone so driven, yet so grounded, and I am incredibly fortunate to have her in my life every day.

  • http://identi.ca/notice/11022337 Jono Bacon (jonobacon) ‘s status on Wednesday, 30-Sep-09 05:23:13 UTC – Identi.ca

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  • http://koolinus.wordpress.com kOoLiNuS

    Thanks Jono, for this injection of goodwill and positivity in a community which too often divides itself …. or should I say forks? ;-)

  • http://geekosophical.net Melissa

    There’s a huge list of female FLOSS contributors at http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/List_of_women_in_FLOSS. Feel free to contribute to that page of positivity.

  • http://mneptok.com Kurt von Finck

    There are so many names that could be added to this list, and to the the Geek Feminism Wikia list. It’s daunting, and I just moved houses and am on a week’s vacation to do so and recuperate. So I’ll leave it to better hands than mine …

    But the list is there. And FLOSS would be such a different, less interesting, and less productive world without the people on these lists.

    And it’s not because they’re women, or in spite of it. It’s because they’re talented, interesting, involved, motivated people.

  • Andrew Mason

    What about Kernel Hackers Kristen Carlson Accardi and Valerie Aurora?

    It’s not just the management,documentation,foundation …type roles that women are involved in. There are some fantastic female engineers out there to look up to.

  • PÄ“teris KriÅ¡jānis

    Thanks Jono, it was really refreshing and helped me to start day with great, positively charged feeling.

  • http://hypatia.ca Leigh Honeywell

    I am tired of seemingly only ever reading about the topic of women in Open Source within the context of a conflict scenario which typically spawns a spat over whether specific behaviour is deemed offensive or not.

    Haven’t been paying much attention to, say, the Ubuntu Women planet, or perhaps the monthly profiles of women in Ubuntu in Full Circle Magazine I guess?

    I’ve heard enough “harming the community” backlash for a lifetime over this one incident. That’s what I’m tired of. I’m also tired of community leaders who don’t have the courage to stand up and say “That thing you did was kinda not ok. Could you think about changing your behavior?”. Or to say “Wow, I screwed up, I’m sorry.” And I’m honestly disappointed to see you couching it here, Jono, with profiles of some very awesome women. I think you do them a disservice.

    Changing the conversation shouldn’t mean not having the conversation.

    Sexism doesn’t come up because it’s all we want to talk about. We’re all bored to tears of talking about it. But it comes up because this stuff hurts – it hurts women, it hurts the community, and it hurts the community’s ability to attract both women and men in the future. It comes up because it’s a problem we continue to face, in part because of the continued failure of community leaders to stand up and say “this is not acceptable”.

  • http://matthewhelmke.net matthew

    Thanks, Jono. This is great!

  • jono

    Absolutely! This is why I featured Allison, Ara and Leann: they are all incredible engineers.

  • jono

    Hi Leigh,

    Thanks for the comment.

    I am not trying to suggest that there not positive stories of women in Open Source, or that we should not have conversations about examples of inappropriate behavior.

    My point is that it seems that a large proportion of cases in which the subject of women in Open Source is raised, it is surrounding a controversial topic, statement or incident, and an associated argument in which people define what they consider acceptable or not.

    I do believe that this is harmful in some cases to community, not because people are discussing the topic of sexism, but that the tone in which the debate is executed often seems to devolve into a less constructive form. I would apply the same view to some other topics, examples of which include very pure perspectives on software freedom and controversial technologies such as Mono.

    I never want to silence or muffle the topic, it is an important topic to discuss, I am just saying in this post that I want to focus my efforts on positive re-enforcement of women doing great work in community. You may see this post as “couching” but I wrote this with the genuine intention of showcasing women that inspire me in the hope that others will continue to join the meme and build a positive web of posts on the topic of women in Open Source.

  • http://namei.org James Morris

    So you’re tired of the process of identifying and confronting sexism, but no mention of the sexist behavior itself. Do you think that ignoring it will make it stop?

  • jono

    Hi James,

    I am not tired of the process of identifying sexism, I am tired of the flamewar that ensues afterwards.

    It is these incidents and flamewars that hit the headlines as opposed to the positive work that women are doing in Open Source.

  • http://www.lczajkowski.com Laura Czajkowski

    Thank you so much for this Jono, I too was sick and tired of seeing the relentless posts which seemed to only focus on the negative aspects of women in FOSS. You’ve just made my day!

  • Zac

    Well said Jono.

    You should put your wife on there. :)

    For the record, at times, I and others around me (male and female) also use ‘guys’ as a generic term for everyone.

    Here’s to advancing Linux for all and getting more to participate.

  • Zac

    One more thing, thanks for featuring those incredible people above. I enjoy reading about the effort that people put into a ‘product’ that I and thousands use that makes my life easier and more enjoyable. Also, Ubuntu User magazine is a top notch publication.

    Actually, I wonder if you could feature people in your blog occasionally like you’ve done here. Just a couple of sentences and a photo to give it that human touch. It gives people an idea of the amount of effort that goes into this.

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  • http://www.jaduncan.com jaduncan

    Thanks for this; it was genuinely refreshing to read. They were inspiring stories, and it was also inspiring to see strong women enjoying the community.

  • http://www.getgnulinux.org Fabian Rodriguez

    Hi Jono,thanks for sharing this.

    It’s a nice coincidence Leann is in Montreal so we could share this with her :)

    We’re running out of ways to tell her and other colleagues how much we appreciate working with them, thanks for helping out in that area !

  • Chris

    Typical response unfortunately. If a female had posted these she would have been flamed as a feminist. A male posts these and he’s labeled as couching.

    So if no matter what someone does is wrong to someone else then why should anyone do anything? Is that the world you want for yourself, your kids, your grandkids?

  • http://geekosophical.net Melissa

    I’m tired of identifying sexism. I’m tired of the flame wars. I’m tired of the discussions being cut short and left incomplete hence unresolved and open to history repeating itself by cries of “Discussing this is negative! Shame!”.

  • http://ubunulinuxtipstricks.blogspot.com Mackenzie

    Though most of the debate that has a “mean” tone is from people who are upset about seeing the status quo challenged. The calling out, as Kirrly and Matt did is certainly phrased very respectfully. And if you read the comments on Kirrily’s post, many of us repeat over and over “great guy, made a mistake, please try harder.” Mark’s character was never called into question.

    Conversely, there was quite a lot of screaming that, somehow, by saying he’s a great guy that made a mistake, we’re attacking him. Or that if women would stop pointing out sexism, that’d be the same as it not existing at all. The Ostrich Plan does not work!

  • http://shadowspar.dreamwidth.org/ Rick

    It’s definitely unfortunate that we spend so much time discussing incidents of sexist behaviour in F/OSS. Having these incidents not happen in the first place is the best way to reduce the amount of time we spend on them.

    As for the tone: In this most recent and other incidents, I’ve watched women (and allies) craft statements designed to highlight someone’s (possibly inadvertent) sexist language or behaviour as the problem, carefully avoiding slighting the individual who said or did the thing in question. I’ve watched people in the community then go on to interpret these statements as personal attacks where none was at all intended.

    Being told that something you did or said is sexist is not a flame. It’s a genuine attempt by someone to help you see that something you said or did might be problematic, because they think you are a decent person who will address the issue when it’s brought to their attention.

    We need to think very hard about our role in this. As long as we keep hearing “I think you are a sexist” when someone tells us “That thing you said was sexist”, the discussions we have about sexist behaviour are going to start off on the wrong foot every time.

  • http://ubuntu-user.com/ Rikki

    Thanks, Jono! I’m thrilled to be mentioned on the same page as these other inspiring women. As you know, Erica also inspires me (which is why I interviewed her for my blog), so I’m glad you added her, too.

    While I think it’s important to acknowledge what’s going wrong and try to fix it, I think it’s even more important to recognize what’s going right and celebrate it. Plus, that positive reinforcement encourages even more of the good behavior.

    And I understand what you’re saying about feeling tired — there are days when I feel like things are increasingly negative in our communities, but I have to remind myself that it’s just easier to focus on the disagreements and we get sucked into them. Meanwhile, all these really cool things are quietly going on beneath our noses and we easily overlook them & fail to acknowledge them.

    [P.S. I'm happy to say that I'm no longer the managing editor of Linux Pro & Ubuntu User -- Rita Sooby, yet another inspiring woman in open source, is now our managing editor.]

  • Carla Schroder

    Jono, I’m with Leigh. Linux leaders are too chicken to confront and address this issue. Or they think it’s OK to be sexist. And that is one big reason why the flamewars continue.

    Recognizing women in FOSS is nice, giving recognition to all the everyday FOSS contributors is something we need to do more of, instead of letting all the glory go to the stars. We would see some real progress if the stars of Linux would take a stand against asshattery and sexism. Let’s see, that would be Linus, RMS, Mark Shuttleworth….LOL never mind, it’s still up to us commoners.

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  • http://notnews.today.com/ David Gerard

    And that this is actually all about your boss – this post wouldn’t exist otherwise – has nothing to do with it at all, of course.

  • Bmidge

    I think it’s a great idea to identify wonderful women, but the fact that you are doing so only perpetuates the situation.

    The situation sucks, but it is what it is. It’s tiring for us all, but we have to keep having it and moving forward with it. And while I appreciate your opinion that you weren’t trying to couch the issue, I have to say, from my perspective, it appears that you were.

    This issue is deeply embedded in who we are, it is a part of who we are. We all have to wrestle with sexism, and we all fail at times, women included. It seems to me that you’re raising a flag saying, “Look these five women are awesome, hopefully that will appease everybody so we can get back to the status quo.” While it is less direct than what Mark said, it also seems sexist, to me.

    I have no doubt that this wasn’t your intention, but sexism is a part of our lives, unconsciously, and it comes out in ways that we don’t even recognize, from good folks like yourself, who are truly trying to help. We have been conditioned to be sexist, and raising awareness of how this comes out and when it comes out is crucial to moving beyond it.

  • John McHugh

    I think this post was a great one. I don’t think Jono is asking for an ostrich approach, If Mark made a badly thought out remark which excluded women I think we need to try and figure out why he messed up in the first place.

    Its a great thing to highlight intelligent amazing women on the Ubuntu Women Planet or Full Circle magazine but I don’t really read either of them. I tend to read planet gnome, ubuntu, fedora etc. I think it would be awesome if more women in the community blogged in these places. In my view, atm they(the planets, not women :D ) are sort of unbalanced which leads to posts like this where someone needs to point out some positivity.

    I think its due to this unbalance that Jono felt as though what he hears on the planet’s surrounding women tends to be negative.

  • John McHugh

    @Bmidge -> Really, you think this post is sexist? Do you think Laura Czajkowski is also sexist for her agreement with Jono? Negativity knows no bounds.

  • Don Christie

    What I don’t understand is why many in the free software movement don’t see this issue (sexism) as a chance to distinguish itself from the rest of the IT industry which is, quite frankly, equally culpable.

    I mean, we are all about freedom, right?

    I quite like this approach to being PC:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K21e7po1Sro

  • Bob

    @John Yes, if jono is saying “i’m gonna not talk about the sexism in the ubuntu community, and you shouldn’t either: here look at some women who made it”, then he’s using the ostrich in the sand approach.

  • Bob

    even better, if ignoring the problem is not what jono wants to do — how about a follow up post where the sexism is discussed?

  • http://ubunulinuxtipstricks.blogspot.com Mackenzie

    I was just responding to this bit “but that the tone in which the debate is executed often seems to devolve into a less constructive form.”

    You’re right, it is nice to showcase hardworking women.

  • Bmidge

    @John While I don’t know if your question is rhetorical, or not, I’m happy to answer.

    “Really, you think this post is sexist?”

    Sexism comes in many forms and is not limited to whistling at women walking by, staring a woman’s chest, or believing that women should ‘know their place.’ I hope that we all can agree that this type of behavior is hateful and contributes to the challenges we face socially. However, sexism also appears in subtler ways that are easy to overlook because they are such an ingrained part of our social system. For example, 75 years ago it would have not been considered sexist to restrict women from voting simply because it was the socially accepted norm.

    If this post were made during a time that was not heated with sexist dialogue, such as the instances that Leigh pointed out, then it would be entirely different. But what I heard underneath this post is, “I can’t tolerate having to address this part of myself as well as this part of my community, so I’m going to try and divert the attention somewhere else.” What better way than to offer flattery?

    “Do you think that Laura is sexist for having agreed?”

    I think that attempting to undermine many people’s efforts of raising awareness of a serious community issue contributes to sexism. In sum, I don’t know that I’ve ever met someone that isn’t sexist to some degree. I’ve never met Laura, but I would assume that she is like the rest of us. Do I think she is ‘evil’ or ‘bad’ because of agreeing with Jono. Of course, not. However, I do get the impression that you think I am a ‘bad’ or ‘negative’ person because you and I disagree about this social phenomena at the moment.

    In fact, I think the reason that this type of dynamic occurs is because people fear that negativity does indeed have no bounds. People are afraid that if we hang out it in the crud of sexism and talk about it, that we’ll be overwhelmed with our own shame. What I’m suggesting, and what I believe many others are suggesting, is the opposite – there is no need to be afraid of this dialogue. Many of us have confronted and accepted our own sexism and continue to do so. And none of us have fallen off a cliff into the depths of eternal doom for having done so.

    I don’t think that Jono is a hatemongering biggot for what he posted. I simply think there are many unconscious motivations at play, and that it does absolutely no harm to talk about them. All I’m saying is to let people talk, especially those with minority opinions. If you don’t want to hear it, well, the women in the conference didn’t want to hear Mark’s comments either. But the fact is that it is a part of the Ubuntu community, no harm talking about the pink elephant.

  • John McHugh

    @Bmidge -> Please read the first comment I made on this post. I don’t think that this post is ignoring or trying to divert attention away from sexism.

    I think not enough intelligent women are vocal about what they do on mediums like planet gnome, fedora, ubuntu etc.

    It was pointed out they are on Ubuntu Women Planet and the fridge but I don’t read either as I am sure is the case for others.

    To be honest I did not even know about Ubuntu Women Planet as I never found myself searching for a planet dedicated to one gender.

    What Mark said was stupid and probably unintentional but what I find myself asking is how could he have said something stupid unintentionally.

    Sexism in my view is not something which resides in every man from the moment he is born and I take offense to your stance with this regard, sometimes its thought and sometimes its spread though the media just like everything else(politics comes to mind).

    In this particular case I think maybe its due to the unbalance on the planets.

    It seems to draw unconscious assumptions which in the case of Mark came out vocally at a talk.

    When I read the planets I tend to hear less about women in oss than men and the only memes I see invloving women are with regards to sexism.

    I checked planet ubuntu women and out of the 31 blogs being aggregated only 8 are aggregated on planet ubuntu.

    Thats not cool in my opinion, there are hundreds of posts from men and women on planet ubuntu that do not interest me and the likelihood that I will find a posts from a woman that stands out to me is statistically lower because there are less women being aggregated.

    This creates an unbalance gender wise and then posts which surround negativity towards women seem to get more attention than posts surrounding the great things they accomplish.

    Out of a matter of interest why is it that the other 23 women on ubuntu women planet don’t blog on planet ubuntu. It only makes sense to me that having more women blog on planet ubuntu would increase the chance of someone finding another individual interesting and having what they say click in their heads and in turn help kill any subconscious stereotype someone might gain from only hearing interesting things from one particular gender all the time.

    Leigh posed Jono the question “Haven’t been paying much attention to, say, the Ubuntu Women planet, or perhaps the monthly profiles of women in Ubuntu in Full Circle Magazine I guess?”

    The Fridge makes sense to me as it is a gender neutral medium, with regards to Ubuntu Women planet this question makes less sense.

    What I have to ask is when was the last time you looked up Ubuntu Men Planet?

    I am not saying to get rid of it, I am just saying that having only 8 of the 21 members aggregated on the gender neutral ubuntu planet is damaging your own cause.

    To summarize, I think this post from Jono is great one and not in the least bit sexist and its ok for women in oss to feel as though they are not listened to or respected by the opposite sex as this is the case in allot of circumstances but if they are only broadcasting their views to other women then they are not actually attempting to fix the problem.

    And this is a problem I would like fixed.

  • John McHugh

    P.S

    “But what I heard underneath this post is, “I can’t tolerate having to address this part of myself as well as this part of my community, so I’m going to try and divert the attention somewhere else.” What better way than to offer flattery?”

    Nobody can read minds, don’t pretend you can.

    Psychologically, when we start telling people that we know what they are thinking we are really sharing our own subconscious thoughts, not theirs.

    But hey, if you can guess what number I am thinking right now then I will believe you are telepathic and agree that what Jono just posted is sexist.

  • http://amber@redvoodoo.org Amber Graner

    Thanks Jono!! Your post made my day! For once I am at a loss for words. :-)

  • http://andregondim.eti.br André Gondim

    Where are Ursinha?

    Cheers.

  • Bmidge

    @John, You make an important point regarding the nature of our tendency to psychologically project our subconscious, and I think it is an important one. I would like to add, however, that I intentionally stated that it is what I hear, not what Jono said nor what was in his mind. Is it all in my head? Possibly. But the reason that we have these conversations is so that we get other points of view, and use them to examine what is in our head, to see if we are contributing unintentionally to issues such as these.

    I’m not attempting to get into an adversarial position with you or with anyone else, and I don’t really see this topic as “my cause.” I am a man, I have daughter and wife that aren’t men, but I don’t see it as my duty to protect them from sexism as a personal cause. I am simply trying to engage in what I believe is an important discussion and offer my perspective. If you think it’s rubbish, I’m not going to take offense at that and try to prove that I’m right and those that I disagree with are wrong. I’m not angry at Jono for his post, nor at Mark for his comments. I don’t even know them. But I do think that it’s important to be able to communicate about these things without it turning adversarial.

    I didn’t intend to offend you, and I’m sorry that I did (see, that wasn’t too hard.) Furthermore, I would hope that if we had the proper medium, we could continue this conversation and find a place where we both feel empowered.

    But I do think it’s important in situations like these to hold ourselves to the same level of accountability as we do others, and that is why I mentioned our sexism.

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  • James Westby

    “I checked planet ubuntu women and out of the 31 blogs being aggregated only 8 are aggregated on planet ubuntu.

    “Thats not cool in my opinion, there are hundreds of posts from men and women on planet ubuntu that do not interest me and the likelihood that I will find a posts from a woman that stands out to me is statistically lower because there are less women being aggregated.

    “This creates an unbalance gender wise and then posts which surround negativity towards women seem to get more attention than posts surrounding the great things they accomplish.

    “Out of a matter of interest why is it that the other 23 women on ubuntu women planet don’t blog on planet ubuntu. It only makes sense to me that having more women blog on planet ubuntu would increase the chance of someone finding another individual interesting and having what they say click in their heads and in turn help kill any subconscious stereotype someone might gain from only hearing interesting things from one particular gender all the time.”

    You are exactly right, it would be great to get more women on the Planet Ubuntu.

    The reason that only the minority of people on the Ubuntu Women planet are on the main planet is that only the minority are Ubuntu members, which is at least the criteria for putting yourself on the main planet, if not for being on there.

    When a women that blogs on the Ubuntu Women planet becomes a member then she is usually encouraged by the other members of the group to also syndicate to the main planet.

    Therefore what we need to do is invest some more time in helping those of the 23, those that would like to at least, to become Ubuntu members. Getting more female voices in the official channels involves getting more women to join. You have found a great pool to draw from to help with that.

    “What I have to ask is when was the last time you looked up Ubuntu Men Planet?”

    Please go ahead and set one up if you like (which may require CC approval, I’m not sure).

    However, as your posts point out, we kind of already have one. With only a little selective blindness and willingness to miss out on some great posts, you can read the main planet as an Ubuntu Men planet.

    If the numbers changed such that there was about equality on the main planet or more female voices then some may feel the need to set one up to help encourage more male voices.

    You rarely need specialist institutions for the dominant group, as the main institutions of the project tend to do a great job of catering to the dominant group.

    Jono, it’s great to highlight the contributions made by these important contributors to our community. I think the main issue with your post is with the title and the first paragraph. Even if it wasn’t intended, they can be read as requesting discussion around the negative aspects, and this particular discussion, to stop. That is something that many will be sensitive to, as if you deny them their voice they will feel marginalised and unable to change the status quo. This can lead to them being disenfranchised, and this is compounded when it is the leaders of the project that do it, as they can’t satisfy themselves with the thought that it is just “Internet trolls”.

    We definitely need to do a better job of highlighting the contributions that women make to our community, but that isn’t a replacement for discussing the issues that discourage them as well.

    Thanks,

    James

  • http://bemusement.org/ Andrew Bennetts

    “Jono, it’s great to highlight the contributions made by these important contributors to our community. I think the main issue with your post is with the title and the first paragraph…”

    Yes, I agree with this.

    Jono, your post would have come across quite across differently, and I think more positively, if it included some acknowledgement that sexist remarks in keynotes are a problem, or at least that posts like Kirrily Robert’s open letter are constructive criticism (even if you do not agree with the criticism, but I hope you do). As it is you seem to have slighted everyone that has commented on the topic as contributing to a “spat” or otherwise “lowering the tone” (as you say in a comment) equally, when that is not the case. Instead as James points out you seem dismissive of those women and the opinions they are voicing.

    So, please do highlight positive contributions. But at the same time, please be careful not to do it at the expense of avoiding necessary conversations about unpleasant topics.

  • http://lamerk.org Fab

    “I am not tired of the process of identifying sexism, I am tired of the flamewar that ensues afterwards.

    It is these incidents and flamewars that hit the headlines as opposed to the positive work that women are doing in Open Source.”

    I couldn’t agree more with Jono. The backlash you get sometimes these days makes even the most feministically brought up become very insecure in how to address women in the community. I’ve had this happen several times in the past few months. I have become very unsure how to formulate certain things I want to say in fear of sounding sexist. And believe me that I never, ever want to be sexist in any way. Nothing is farther away from the way I define myself.

    Still, the constant accusations (in many cases over throw-away comments), if justified or not, aren’t helping at all in my view. They only serve to make some people (like me) very unsure in what to say and will probably make the rest of the male community stop caring, which would be very bad.

    I think that making people aware of their comments if they make a mistake is good, just don’t overdo it. In my own experience, the line of what constitutes a sexist comment is much fuzzier than with many other sticky issues. Everybody pretty much knows what would constitute a fascist comment, for example. But all this gender stuff is much more of a grey area and even the people criticising often aren’t in agreement.

    So in short: It’s better to educate in a nice tone than to shout for people to apologise. That will make it easier for everyone.

  • jono

    Thanks for the comment, Fab. I think you articulate the view of many incredibly well.

    You outline the worry that I have been developing with aspects of the debate, in which I feel many people feel uncomfortable to participate (myself included) due to accusations of latent sexism being thrown around.

    As you outline, I also worry that due to this conflict, people will (a) not want to engage and (b) lose interest or concern in the topic.

    As such, I am focusing my efforts on this positive message. There are plenty of other people welcome to engage in the more critical side of the debate, but I want to extend my efforts on the positive message.