To Sir, with Love: How To Get More Women Involved in Open Source
Subject:   Men do have some responsibility.
Date:   2007-09-28 09:57:24
From:   RachelPhilPa
Male I/T folk need to stop making sexist and misogynist attacks against women in the industry. We can't continue to have situations like what happened to Kathy Sierra, where she had to shut down her blog and cancel an appearance at a major conference in fear for her life, after receiving rape and death threats on her technology blog because she dared to be competent while female. As long as that kind of things happen, women (including myself) will be scared to participate in the open-source movement.
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Showing messages 1 through 5 of 5.

  • Men do have some responsibility.
    2007-09-28 17:31:42  RickMoen [View]

    If I may try to help for a moment: Guys, Rachel is right. Rachel, plenty of men of goodwill are oblivious to this problem because they either don't commit these offences and have never witnessed them, or do contribute to the problem in minor ways but aren't aware of what they're doing. Major assholedom is rare; minor jerkishness is very common.

    It would be nice to know what to suggest, but nothing comes to mind beyond what Rachel and (e.g.) Val Henson do: Matter-of-factly pointing out the problem, ignoring the inevitable trolls / knee-jerk arguers, and refuting those suggesting that the situation's symmetric, which it is not.

    Rick Moen
    • Carla Schroder photo Men do have some responsibility.
      2007-09-29 10:35:23  Carla Schroder | O'Reilly AuthorO'Reilly Blogger [View]

      Rick, you're close but not quite there. Major assholedom is common, as is minor jerkishness. Even when you don't see it yourself, it's reported a lot. There are two predictable responses when we talk about the crap that gets dumped on us just for being women:

      1. That sucks and it should not be that way (yay!)
      2. There is no problem, so shut up. (stab!)

      A variation on #2 is "flames and hostility are part of FOSS. Get used to it."

      Too many FOSS projects are too tolerant of toxic pests and destructive behavior. I think the jerks are a sizable, loud minority, but still a minority. There needs to be a lot less tolerance of poisonous behavior. What to do? Here are some suggestions:

      1. Silence = assent. Speak up against bad conduct.
      2. Hit the delete key- list and forum admins have the power.
      3. Give disruptive troublemakers the boot.

      Yeah I know, censorship list cops blah blah. We're not obligated to provide podiums for hostile, destructive people to spew their bile from. It's a big slap in the face to the courteous people who actually contribute to projects to tolerate the trolls and jerks. No one- absolutely no one- is such an indispensible genius that they can be excused from ordinary courtesy and respect. That includes Linus, everyone's favorite cuddly flamer. I had to laugh out loud at an article a few months ago- Andrew morton, I think it was- who invited more people to get involved in kernel development and posting bug reports. Riiiight- come on masochists, this is a job for you! You'll get all the beatings you can handle!

      This isn't just a women's issue, though we're the only ones brave enough to speak up about it. How many talented men have been turned off to FOSS because of the dorks? How many non-white women and men?
      • Men do have some responsibility.
        2007-10-01 07:36:18  RickMoen [View]

        Carla, some of the rather appalling responses to Selena's story (in particular) suggest that your characterisation, here, is dead-on correct, much as it chagrins me to say it.

        Anyhow, FWIW, I'm pretty much on your side of the issue, anyway: I was just trying to stress to men of goodwill that, just because they never (or seldom) noticed the syndrome occurring in their presence, they shouldn't dismiss the reports of Selena and others that it's a serious issue.

        My point is, guys, that this is real, and views like Rachel's (above) should be taken with due seriousness.

        Rick Moen
        • Men do have some responsibility.
          2007-10-01 14:20:45  RickMoen [View]

          Just to be clear: By "appalling responses", I mostly meant on the burgeoning LWN discussion thread, not here.

          Rick Moen

  • Selena Deckelmann photo So do women.
    2007-09-28 12:37:02  Selena Deckelmann | [View]

    Hi Rachel,

    First, There are many, many places where you can find a list of "what not to do". I tried to give a list of "what to do".

    Second, where would you like to participate? Which project? Please contact me -- selenamarie -at- gmail -dot- com, and perhaps I can put you in touch with someone in that community that would allay your fears.

    I feel terrible about what happened to Kathy. And I support taking action to reduce the chance something like that would happen again. However, I don't think that's the norm. It certainly has not been for me, and as Audrey mentioned in her article - participating off-line is certainly an option. My experience has been that most open source work is done among small groups of connected people.