quinta-feira, 1 de outubro de 2009

This blog is sexist

I find it amazing that when "the man who gets desktop Linux" came and delivered an interesting talk on cadence, quality and design (important things that desktop Linux has traditionally missed and Ubuntu is pushing) all people are talking about is his supposedly sexist jokes. The pattern of amplifying some not so relevant details from someone's speech, while forgetting the main points, is usual on politics but that much on the Free Software community. So, all the noise [1,2,3...] around Shuttleworth's jokes is not something I would expect.

But since we are at it, some quick notes:

1- the word "guys" is not gender specific; can be used for a group even if there are only girls in it
2- to think women get more offended than men regarding mildly sexual puns is even more sexist than telling the jokes
3- the modern way of reacting to a sexist joke is telling a better one, not playing over sensitive
4- girls complained about the jokes but if they can't deal with something soft like this how will they handle a typical Free Software flame war [1,2,3...]?
5- and yes... explaining Free Software to girls is an issue as typically they aren't interested enough to hear all that's needed to get it right (see? it's interest and patience not difficulty...); whatever comes that makes it easier is welcome... otherwise let's talk about something else :)

The reason there are not so many women on the Free Software community has nothing to do with sexism. There's few women in IT as there's few women in Engineering in general. It just means that statistically they're more interested in other things. The ones who are interested are certainly welcome as are males of different ages, colors, countries, continents, shapes, religions and sexual preferences. In fact gender is just a normal attribute of the data structure that makes our representation of a human being. Why would the community be tolerant on all other attribues and play unfair on this one? Nonsense.

Now let's get busy with the next release.

Local PS:

Não estou a ver nenhuma mulher portuguesa a fazer-se de donzela ofendida só porque alguém descontraidamente falou dos "gajos do Gnome" ou "gajos do KDE" numa conferência. O mais provável seria ouvir-se uma voz do público a dizer "desculpe cabe-me informá-lo de que o projecto também tem gajas". E a vida continua.

2 comentários:

José disse...

I am usually in complete agreement with your writings, I've even pointed people to your really useful post on MS deceitful tactics when "implementing" open standards. You messing up this issue so badly has surprised me, but since you chose to write about it instead of simply ignoring it, I'm going take some time and reply.

People who pointed out Shuttleworths's mistake in how he delivered his talk were not doing an overall evaluation, they were pointing out that comment as sexist and wrong. This does not prevent any discussion anyone may want to have about his points. That's about your preamble, as to your numbered points:

1 - maybe so. But we really need to discuss this on another level too. Language is powerful. The words we use determine to great lengths how we frame and think about issues. That is the reason professional politicians hire professional spinners to help them frame discussions in the way most favorable to them. See "framing". The fact that we normally use "guys" to refer to everybody (and "Man" to refer to our species and so on) is not innocent. It reflects a history of male dominance, a patriarchal society. Yes, using "guys" is typical now but that doesn't make it ok, very much in the same way that "nigger" was perfectly 2 centuries ago and we now know better.
2 - not sure what exactly you are replying to. but inevitably, women *will* tend to get more uncomfortable because sex talk has been a way to exclude, belittle, alienate them. It is not an even playing field. Women that have sex are sluts, men are studs.
3 - never heard of this "modernity". so I guess you're saying that when confronted with a racist or xenophobe comment (or do jokes get special status?) the way to respond is with a "better" one? In that context you probably mean a funnier joke, and I still can't see how that makes it any "better". Are victims of misogyny, racism or any kind of discrimination supposed to use "better jokes" to move towards ending this discrimination?
4 - *women* (not "girls") did deal with it. They pointed out that it's sexism and wrong and why this is so. Your qualification of it being "soft" is telling to the fact that you do not suffer from it. And I would observe that by all the experience they got from honest discussion and flame wars about discrimination they seem to handle technical, free software, flame wars just fine, even better and more reasonably than most white male techies.
5 - funny. I don't know what people you hang out with, but I don't find that much difference in understanding free software between my female or male friends ;)
"The reason there are not so many women on the Free Software community has nothing to do with sexism. There's few women in IT as there's few women in Engineering in general." And why are there fewer women in engineering? Nothing to do with sexism? Or education? Or patriarchy? Or male dominance? Care to back your statement somehow?
I don't think you actually read the blog entries of Matt Zimmerman and the geekfemminism wiki you linked to, as your remarks are pretty well covered there. Sexism isn't acknowledged, recognized and discussed as some other forms of discrimination. Fifty years ago racism wasn't this well acknowledged and recognized as today. The community didn't simply decide to "play unfair on this one". This one is hard to spot, hard to accept, it goes unacknowledged as your post and our discussion shows. It is also very easy to mess up on this. Which is why it is important to recognize it when pointed out and correct it.

Panoramix disse...

Hello José,

Thanks for sharing your opinion.

First of all, this provocative post was an exaggeration meant to highlight how much (IMHO) the whole subject was inflated. It's not meant to be understood word by word.

I don't share your view regarding sexism in engineering. The numbers from IT Eng compared to the potentially most sexist one (Civil...) prove you wrong :-) I perhaps agree with you regarding politics where males are overly dominant, which is bad. One way or another, still think the whole reaction to Shuttleworth's talk greatly outdoes the action.

So my disagreement is in concept (but as our experiences are different so the opinions we have may be and that's ok) and especially in intensity.

Anyway, thanks for taking the time to share your view.