# OSCON: Standing Out in the Crowd

Kirrily Robert gave the first keynote speech this morning, entitled “Standing Out in the Crowd.” She spoke about the gender imbalance in open source and shared her experiences working on open source projects that have a higher-than-average percentage of women participants. She laid out statistics about the current gender balance of various projects, looked at trends in open source, and closed with a number of tips on how open source projects can get — and keep — more women contributors.

First off, Kirrily quantified the gender imbalance problem for us: women make up only 1.5% of contributors to open source projects overall. They’re 5% of the perl community and 10% of Drupal. The IT industry has 20% – 30% women; clearly it’s a sad state of affairs that open source lags so dramatically. At least part of the problem can be traced to the culture of open source communities. Unfortunately, many open source communities share sexist jokes, and even here at the conference Kirrily saw sexist images in presentations. (Over lunch I even heard of an OSCON party last night where faux strippers were “dancing” for the party attendees. If that is true, it is indeed a sad state of affairs.)

Turning to more cheerful topics, Kirrily shared some success stories. The Organization for Transformative Works (OTW) is a “nonprofit organization established by fans to serve the interests of fans by providing access to and preserving the history of fanworks and fan culture in its myriad forms.” The OTW project boasts 60 thousand lines of Ruby code and 20+ coders who are all female!

She also talked about Dreamwidth, which forked the LiveJournal codebase to modernize, update, and streamline the project. Dreamwidth has 210,000 lines of Perl and JavaScript code with 40+ coders, about 75% of them female. These projects show that women are indeed interested in participating in open source.

So, why do so few women actually participate? Existing open source projects simply do not present an inviting atmosphere to women. When asked about not participating in open source projects, women replied: “I didn’t feel like I was wanted,” or “I never got the feeling that outsiders were welcomed…”.

Kirrily gave us a number of tips for how to get more women involved in our projects. First, recruit for diversity. The early project members set the tone of the project, so reach out to women from the beginning to make sure they help create the project’s culture. Next, set up a Code of Conduct that lays down proper and respectful behavior for the project — say it and then mean it. Then use tools to make it easier for beginners to contribute from day one — make newcomers feel welcome in your project. Transparency is also very important — show newcomers what your project is like on the inside and show them what it would be like to participate in the project. Value everyone’s contribution: code, docs, bugs. It’s all important — successful projects need more than just code. When someone contributes to your project, be sure to thank them and appreciate their efforts.

One tip that seems obvious, yet needs to be stated: don’t stare. Staring at people makes them feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. Also, call people on their crap: “If there is a naked lady on someone’s screen, then they are being an asshole.” Don’t be assholes!

Finally, pay attention! Most guys simply aren’t aware of sexism around them, so it may take conscious effort to spot things that can make people feel unwelcome or uncomfortable. Please watch out for sexist behavior and address it when it happens.

Kirrily closed with this thought: Any steps you take to include women in your project will only increase the total pool of hackers who can work on it! Well said. I’ve been keenly observing the gender imbalance at conferences for a number of years now and I find it enlightening to have Kirrily lay down the issues as she sees them.

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• http://www.roblambert.com/ Rob Lambert

I had some heavy-hitting gender coverage at OSCON 2007 :) OSCON 2007 Stats: OS’s and Gender

• http://infotrope.net/blog/ Kirrily Robert

Thanks Robert, great post! I am working on writing up my talk for my own blog, but you hit all the main points here, so I almost feel like I don’t need to :)

Regarding the faux-strippers at an OSCON party, this is more or less standard for certain party-holders. I’ve certainly heard of it at numerous OSCONs in the past. There is a certain business close to my main open source community, for instance, that it is somewhat notorious for hiring attractive women to attend its OSCON parties and “entertain”. Not sure if this was the same one or not; wouldn’t be surprised to hear it, nor would I be surprised to hear that it was another business entirely. These things are all too common.

K.

• http://www.women2.org/ Angie

Is there a video of this keynote online somewhere? I’d love to see it :)

• Robert Kaye

Angie:

It looks like it hasn’t been posted yet, but I suspect it will appear here soon:

• http://azurelunatic.dreamwidth.org azurelunatic

Psst, “Organization for *Transformative* Works”.

I contribute time and effort to both Dreamwidth (bugs, documentation, work with the spam team) and its parent project LiveJournal (bugs, documentation, work with organizing feature requests) and the difference in organizational commitment to acknowledging volunteers is massive.

At LiveJournal, volunteers are regularly acknowledged and thanked by other volunteers, the employees directly coordinating the volunteers, and the Director of Development. Occasionally a developer working on a patch will contact a volunteer. There is a very tight-knit volunteer culture, but it can feel like volunteers are carefully segregated from most actual employees, and largely kept out of the code.

At Dreamwidth, volunteers are regularly acknowledged and thanked by other volunteers, project leads, and both owners. Part of the difference is in the size of the project, as it’s small enough that an owner can make time for some one-on-one with a volunteer. Part of it is an organizational attitude that if someone wants to help, they are doing the project a favor and it’s accepted happily, not that the project is doing them a favor by allowing them to help.

• Frank Ch. Eigler

Someday someone will perform the right sort of multivariate analysis to tease apart success factors that are obviously gender-neutral (“make it easy to contribute”, “offer transparency”, “don’t be an asshole”) vs. gender-ish (“naked women”, “recruit for [female] diversity”). Mushing them together dilutes the argument.

• http://www.stonehenge.com/merlyn/ Randal L. Schwartz

For the record, there were no “strippers” (“faux” or otherwise :) that were hired for the Stonehenge/LinuxFund party on Wednesday night. I also am not aware of any time in the past for any Stonehenge party that we might have done so either. (I will acknowledge that we generally encourage women who attend to invite other women along, whether or not they are connected with the conference, just to balance things out a bit more.)

So I’m hoping that you, Kirrily, are talking about some other organization, and not mine. I won’t have bad and false rumors being spreading around about my integrity.

women make up only 1.5% of contributors to open source projects overall. … The IT industry has 20% – 30% women

Is there a more detailed breakdown of those stats available somewhere? Without that it’s hard to see what relation they have to each other.

For the most part, “contributors to open source projects” means “programmers”. But that’s only one slice of the IT industry as a whole, no matter how you define the industry.

And if you define “IT industry” as “companies that make hardware or software or provide tech-related services”, then accountants, salespeople, and executives could all be considered part of the “IT industry”.

Just wondering what definition of IT industry the presenter had in mind.

• http://infotrope.net/ Kirrily Robert

Randal, thanks for responding. I am glad to hear that Stonehenge does not hire women to entertain guests at their parties. That is certainly a message you might want to reinforce a little more strongly, as there are misconceptions out there.

What is the purpose of your “balancing out”? Have you considered encouraging women who *are* at the conference, or technical women who might be interested, to attend? I feel this would provide a more appropriate balance than non-technical women, and help make it clear that women at the party aren’t just intended to entertain or socialise with (presumably straight male) attendees.

• http://caseywest.com Casey West

I was at the party and was having a great time on the dance floor. I was in a group of a dozen or so OSCON attendees, half women, dancing and drinking. We were having a great time and the dancing got started right away. I mention that because I saw the mentioned women join the dance floor and I just don’t understand what their purpose was.

It’s true, I think the stripper is a mischaracterization, but these women wore extremely short, tight dresses and tall heels. They weren’t dressed like anyone else at the party and did not appear to be attendees of OSCON. The effect of their presence was to make the dance floor suddenly awkward. The floor cleared quickly and there was a noticeable difference, a sexual tension was added because of these two strikingly out of place women.

My group of friends stopped dancing and left the party shortly after the atmosphere changed. I don’t understand why they were hired to dance with us, we were fine on our own.

• http://infotrope.net Kirrily Robert

Ben D: I’ve been gathering stats on women in the tech industry here: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Technology_industry#Proportion_of_women_in_the_tech_industry

As you can see, most of the numbers are in the 20% ish area. In my talk, I said “depending on how you slice it” — what I’ve seen from various studies and my own experience is that corporate IT has higher percentages, while tech startups and Internet companies have lower; there are also more women in low-level positions like tech support, and fewer among senior developers.

Most of the surveys I’ve seen talk about “ICT roles” meaning “jobs where you are primarily working with ICT” regardless of what industry you’re in. This also means that they aren’t counting eg. marketing people in tech companies. Other surveys that are looking at women in higher tiers focus more on the company’s industry than the role, eg. “women execs at publicly listed tech companies”. This is why the numbers vary so much.

To provide some anecdata, my last few jobs have been as follows, counting only technical roles either in the whole company if small, or my team if large:

* 5 women out of 50-something in the whole company
* 3 women out of 20 developers on my team
* 3(?) women out of around 40 developers in my department
* 1 out of about 20 in all technical roles
* 2 out of about 20 in technical roles

Those have been everything from startups to huge telcos, in three different industrialised, English-speaking countries.

Ask around your female friends. Unless they have worked in a few niche areas, they will probably tell you of similar experiences.

• http://infotrope.net/ Kirily Robert

FYI, I have put the full text (and the most important slides) from my talk up on my blog: http://infotrope.net/blog/2009/07/25/standing-out-in-the-crowd-my-oscon-keynote/

• Zooey Glass

Frank, you’re right that some of the success factors are gender-neutral, but I think they have gendered implications because the general barriers to getting involved seem extra-intimidating when you are already part of a minority group. If you already feel like the odd one out, then you’re even less likely to feel confident in breaking past the fact that it’s difficult to contribute as a beginner coder. One of the things I took from Kirrily’s talk was the fact that these kinds of initiatives make it easier for everyone to contribute – her conclusion that this will expand the total base of coders is spot on.

As a coder for the Organization For Transformative Works, I can certainly testify to the effectiveness of their setup. I had no coding experience and had never even considered coding before I started working with them, and the supportiveness of the whole community has definitely made it possible for me to acquire those skills. After slaving over two lines of code for days, it makes all the difference to have someone say ‘Great job!’ when I commit, because I’m painfully aware that more experienced people could have done the same work in 2 minutes. And hey – next time it will be four lines of code, and I’ll be that bit quicker! I’m involved in the training side now, and I like to think our setup would make it much easier for any newbie, whatever their gender. But – to reference the cartoon Kirrily used – it definitely helps that when I make a dumb mistake, I know people are just thinking ‘Zooey sucks at coding’, not ‘Girls suck at coding’.

• Zooey Glass

And to add to my last comment – I know from the responses I get that people are thinking ‘Zooey sucks at coding because she is just learning – I should help her!’ I have been babystepped through so many things, and the result is that I’ve gone from someone who barely knew basic html tags to someone who has committed functioning code (albeit small) to the project.

• bowerbird

casey said:
> these women wore extremely short, tight dresses and tall heels.
> They weren’t dressed like anyone else at the party
> and did not appear to be attendees of OSCON.
> The effect of their presence was to make the dance floor
> suddenly awkward. The floor cleared quickly and there was
> a noticeable difference, a sexual tension was added
> because of these two strikingly out of place women.

“these women” obviously didn’t know their place, did they?

-bowerbird

• hfb

Randal, you’ve hired booth babes in the past, are crazy about Hooters, been *ahem* strongly reprimanded for Bill harrassing the female ORA staff (and I really don’t think Vee would make that up), organised excursions to “TJ” from the conference, etc., etc., so I really don’t think it’s much of a stretch to think you hired ladies to spice up the party. You have integrity in the sense that you are consistent and predictable.

Kirrily, sorry I didn’t make it to the con due to work obligations as I would have really liked to have attended your talk. You might have mentioned, too, that programming in the beginning was the domain of women until they were told to go back home and do a load of laundry and make dinner. It’s not just guys who enforce social gender roles, as everything around us tends to push us all into what people expect us to do. Guys see this as well, but they have a lot more latitude in what is considered acceptable.

It’s complicated and I have noticed that it takes a certain kind of personality, e.g. a bit of obsessive-compulsive, to really enjoy and excel at this type of work. But, I will also admit that the environment could use some improvement, too.

• http://infotrope.net/ Kirily Robert

@hfb Hi! Would have loved to catch up with you, ah well.

A bit more research on the Linux Fund/Stonehenge party turned up that the women in question were paid to be there; they were not gatecrashers or friends of conference attendees. Current best understanding is that they are part of the package offered by the club. Since the event was produced by Stonehenge and you and/or Bill presumably chose what venue to use and what features of the package you wanted, and since Stonehenge has a history of hiring attractive women to provide sexual titillation to conf attendees (see eg. this hooters promotion at LISA in 2001, on Stonehenge’s own site), I call bullshit.

Randal, they may not have been strippers (nice dodge around that technicality, btw), and they may have been paid through the venue rather than directly, but Stonehenge are ultimately responsible for their presence, and for a string of conference events where women have been paid to wear provocative attire and entertain. This creates a sexualized atmosphere that makes both men and women feel uncomfortable at your events, and is inappropriate for a tech conference like OSCON.

I call on you to stop doing it, and on O’Reilly and other conference organisers to make it clear that such “entertainment” is not something they want associated with their events.

For those who weren’t there, Randal’s Flickr stream shows what we’re talking about.

• bowerbird

i said:
> “these women” obviously didn’t know their place, did they?

aw, i’m slipping. i obviously should have used the opportunity to
work in a play on the title of this entry, about how “those women”
certainly managed to “stand out in the crowd” on the dance-floor.

-bowerbird

• Dan

I was just entering the establishment when the two women that people are describing as faux-strippers entered. It was obvious to me that they probably worked for the bar. The bouncer controlling the line let them through immediately (right before me since I was at the head of the line entering the joint). The two women immediately hugged the manager of the establishment. My guess is that the were hostesses. Note that all the male bouncers where dressed in nice suits, looked great and had great bodies too.

• http://www.stonehenge.com/merlyn/ Randal L. Schwartz

“you’ve hired booth babes in the past”

I’ve hired only people who are appropriate for the venue. If you have a challenge to that, specifics please.

False. I’ve been to a number of Hooters restaurants around the world, and when I had some cash back in 2000, thought of opening the first one in Oregon, but that fell through. I hardly call that “crazy about”.

“been *ahem* strongly reprimanded for Bill harrassing the female ORA staff (and I really don’t think Vee would make that up)”

False. Bill has never had such a conversation with me.

“organised excursions to “TJ” from the conference”

I presume you’re talking about me inviting some of my friends from one of the San Diego conferences to go down for a night of drinking to TJ. Yes. But that hardly has the painful tone that you’ve added.

So given that all of your inputs are ficitional, your conclusion is unjustified, and borderline libelous. I’d suggest you refrain from making such remarks, unless you want to be looking at a stronger reprimand.

On the other hand, you didn’t disclose that you are a jilted ex-lover of mine, with an agenda formed from the fact that we were once hooked up, and then I rejected you, and you even gave me (unsolicited) a lock of your hair in a manila envelope, like some crazed little girl. Why don’t you disclose THAT every time you attack me in public? It’d be fairer to the readers to understand why you have such painful hate for me, and just how wacky and untrustworthy *you* are.

• http://infotrope.net/ Kirily Robert

Randal, it’s not necessary to be an ex of yours to take issue with the “entertainment” provided by Stonehenge at your events. Robert described it in his post as a “sad state of affairs” and AFAIK he is not your ex. I take issue with it, and I am not your ex. Casey says he felt uncomfortable and left the party on Wednesday because of it, and he is not your ex. And even if we were ALL your exes, that would not make our opinions less valid.

You are scraping the bottom of the barrel here. Stop.

• http://www.stonehenge.com/merlyn/ Randal L. Schwartz

Yes, I see four voices, and even if these represent another 40, that’s still a minority of the 400 or more who enjoy the work that I did at OSCON exactly as it was.

I support your wishes to change the attitudes of the majority, but I also want you to understand that I *cater* to the majority, because that’s where the money ultimately is. And it won’t happen by changing people like me, because I *have* to do what the majority want to do, or I don’t have a job the next month.

Your job should be to change what people want, not what people provide. (And good luck with that.)

Unless you’re willing to take up a collection to support me when I do your “right thing” (if that’s what it is), you should let me do the “common thing” for now. Please now put up money to offset my lost wages, or stop attacking what I do. I’m doing what I have to do because the market demands it.

Our LinuxFund Booth Babes (Honor and Jessica) were hired (and quickly trained) from local talent to hand out brochures and T-shirts at the booth. But did you look around? I counted at least a half dozen women who were most likely hired for their looks rather than skills on the show floor. This is the state of the world. Stop singling me out for doing what works. I have no qualms about any of the shows I’ve arranged in the past, because they worked *for the majority of attendees*.

And I will continue to do what works in the future. If the tide changes out there, and the majority of the voices come up and say “Hey, Honor and Jessica don’t represent you well”, I’ll listen. But until then, you’re the minority, and not the ones paying my bills.

• http://liz-henry.blogspot.com Liz Henry

A quick note. I really appreciated Kirrily’s talk. Everyone from Dreamwidth and OTW have been amazing to work with. I think that what Kirrily said strikes a perfect balance between pointing out some things that make the playing field not level, and what we can learn from majority-female open source projects.

It is damaging to be tokenized, or to have other people treat you as if you must be a token minority and have to prove yourself in every new situation. The slow burn of anger and resentment burns a lot of women right out of the industry and other male-dominated fields.

In general, I find it is good to listen to what one might think of as extreme opinions, or angry people. If someone is explaining what is wrong from their perspective, it is information that should be welcomed. However, in this case, everything said in the keynote was quite moderate and full of a spirit of constructiveness and positivity. So, I don’t why anyone would get defensive over it. Fail better, guys. Please!

To Frank I would like to say that ignoring gender completely does not fix the problem. In fact, it takes away our language to *talk about the problem*.

Not sure there’s any point in talking to Randal as he seems a bit off the rails; how embarrassing for him, his friends, and his company.

I had a great time at OSCON, and met many women who I admire who work in open source. It was a good conference for me, because they were there and we had some solidarity. Because there is a problem with gender inequality in our society at large which is amplified in our specific industry, it helps us to have that solidarity. That shouldn’t be hard for anyone at OSCON to understand – you’re smart people.

Kirrily’s closing slide expresses very well that including more women and respecting them doesn’t exclude men; it just widens the pool of talent we have to draw on as a community.

• http://liz-henry.blogspot.com Liz Henry

Oh, since I started typing that I see Randal has gone even further. I have to get a little more un-moderate now, although it is very annoying that this keynote’s topic is being derailed.

Seriously, I hope that Linux Fund’s own members and beneficiaries will call Randal on what is wrong with what he is doing and what he said above. How sad that Linux Fund and Randal can’t stand on their own considerable accomplishments and talents and thus seem to think they need to stoop to the really dumb “booth babe” stuff to attract attention. How demeaning to the men involved… really… do they not see that? They seriously feel okay about *paying women just to hang out with them*?

Next comment, if I make one, I may be reduced to posting disrespectful LOLcats. Heh.

• http://www.stonehenge.com/merlyn/ Randal L. Schwartz

So, the question is, would LinuxFund be better off attracting three times as many people having “Booth Babes” vs not. I think this is a simple equation. And again, if you want this to be different, it’s not our job, but your job, to convince males to be different. Good luck with that.

• hfb

Oh, whatever Randal. I suppose a decade of eye-rolling and your own over-sensitivity to the criticism doesn’t tell you anything. Maybe thousands of pictures of Hooter’s chicks are my imagination, too.

As for the trying to embarrass me over my mistake thinking you were a decent human being once, well, everyone makes mistakes. That was over a decade ago and you still haven’t figured it out.

As for what pays the bills….you’re right, most of the attendees are men but I’ve said for years that the ones who find it offensive, particularly the guys, should speak up as things will never change, or change too slowly, since too many think like you do, e.g. it’s not wrong if it makes money. Don’t complain about paying taxes to bail out the banking system as that’s the same reasoning that got them there, too.

Perhaps I expect too much of intelligent people to not be so base as to sink to the lowest common denomenator.

• http://denise.dreamwidth.org Denise Paolucci

Each voice speaking up to say “this is not cool” doesn’t represent one person, or ten people. Each voice speaking up to say “this is not cool” represents a considerable number of people who are a). so burned out at fighting this kind of crap that they don’t have the energy to challenge every case of institutionalized sexism and misogyny, because if they did, they’d never do anything else, or b). not even there to challenge it, because they were so disgusted by the fact that it seems to pass unchallenged in the community that they left.

I do not go into the exhibitor hall at conventions and conferences anymore, because I’m tired of this crap. I’m not the only one I know who can say that, either.

• http://www.stonehenge.com/merlyn/ Randal L. Schwartz

“Each voice speaking up to say “this is not cool” doesn’t represent one person, or ten people.”

I bet it’s about ten people. I’d bet my entire reputation on it. Been around this, done that. if you can actually generate more, I’d be happy to be wrong, but until that, I’m betting your 40 people who hate this against my 400 people who like it, any day.

• http://liz-henry.blogspot.com Liz Henry

Okay Randal, let’s do a survey of OSCON attendees and ask them, maybe O’Reilly will help out with that. I think you’re wrong.

Booth babes, booth bunnies, scantily clad hostesses at vendor parties who are paid “to balance things”… even the (very rare) booth boys… It is all *completely inappropriate* and that crap should not be present at technical conferences, including LISA and other USENIX conferences, and SCALE as well as OSCON.

But to make this discussion just about booth babes derails all of the other information provided in (and potentially productive discussion resulting from) Kirily’s keynote.

Voices have been raised about these issues in the past, and very few people have listened.

Am I disappointed with the open source community? Yeah, I am, with the exception of OTW and DW. Frankly, I’ve got better things to do with my time that to try to educate men who ought to know better already about sexism and diversity issues. Most of the men who need education on these things won’t listen to women anyway, and not enough men are noticing and speaking up to make enough of a difference, from what I have seen.

Am I utterly, completely disgusted with vendors pandering to the lowest base impulses of potential customers, in derogatory, sexist and heterocentric ways?

Yes, I am.

Am I angry at conference organizers who do not make it clear that crap like that from vendors is unwelcome?

Yes, I am.

I note that only one man so far has stepped forward here to call another out on derailing this entire discussion with the tone argument.

I also note that no one has called attention to Randal equating a man’s irrational emotions with being “a crazed little girl”.

And now Randal is playing the “bringing scantily-clad nontechnical women to a technical conference just makes good economic sense, to entertain the straight guys” card.

And of course, there’s the “other vendors bring them too, so no one should single out LinuxFund or Stonehenge” card, too.

Right. How charming. And some people are still wondering why this open source environment doesn’t feel welcoming to women or to clueful men? Some people are still unclear on how hostile and demeaning all of this is, to both men and women in the open source community, to developers and sysadmins and documentation experts and project managers alike who have time, energy and expertise to bring to bear on open source projects?

Okay then. Open source participation beyond OTW and DW? Still not worth my time. I’d thought if the community as a whole at OSCON had gotten clueful enough to invite Kirily to speak about these issues, then the community might be willing to really listen, might be making some headway. From the discussion happening here? Obviously I was mistaken.

Again.

I wonder how long it will take this time before I’m willing to give the community beyond OTW and DW another chance at my time and energy? I am not going to bother any time soon.

• Jacinta Reid

Oh Randal L. Schwartz, if you want to argue that is just competitive necessity that forces you to employ tactics that alienate at least half your potential market, please go back and examine the last two slides of Kirrily’s OSCON Keynote.

I ask that you replace the word “project” and “developer pool” with the words “consumer base” and “sales” respectively. The resulting statement (Any step you take to improve the diversity of your client base will work to increase the sales overall.) is true and it makes a nonsense of your silly arguments in defense of behaviour that is, in reality, gratuitously sexist.

• http://nop.dreamwidth.org/ Lionel Lauer

Speaking as a white, heterosexual man who’s attended innumerable trade shows & conferences over the last 25 years, I actively avoid booths with booth-babes. The whole concept offends me for a dozen reasons, big ones being:
1) It’s blatantly manipulative towards men,
2) It’s insulting to women in general,
3) It’s insulting to the attendees in particular,
4) It tells me that the product/service can’t stand on its own merits,
5) It shows that the vendor is sexist. And while there are feminist stances that I don’t agree with, I think that in this case, they’re dead right.
6) If I’m at a technical show, booth-babes add no useful information whatsoever.

• http://www.stonehenge.com/merlyn/ Randal L. Schwartz

“employ tactics that alienate at least half your potential market”

Oh, Jacinta. I thought you’d be smarter than this. But apparently, you’re also swept up in the same rhetoric.

My target audience is the decision makers of people purchasing training. That’s 95% male. And even if a third of those are offended by what I do, the other two thirds aren’t, and are vocal about that.

You need to pay attention to what the majority pays attention to. And if you don’t like that, convince them, not me.

It’d be like if I got offended that all the great government jobs got occupied by people who were 6 foot or better, and then bitched about it since I’m 5’7″. So what. That’s still who gets elected. All the complaining can’t affect who gets elected. Y’all are sounding a bit like that. Wake up and smell *what is so*.

• http://www.dustywilson.com/ Dusty Wilson

I’ve always assumed that many females were just not interested in the projects. If they are actually interested, they should get involved. Knock some sense into the assholes that bar you from entry. Don’t listen to anyone that makes you feel “no”. Ignore what anyone else thinks. Just do it. You will be loved and adored, just like the rest of us.

I mean no offense in this following bit. This is only a guess and a bit of grasping at straws. Those two projects are very female-friendly. I don’t mean the culture, but the topic. Almost every LiveJournal friend I have (I use LJ myself) is female. The people that encouraged me to join were female. I used to host several female-run fan art and anime sites on the now defunct hey.nu Network (http://hey.nu/). It is possible that simply the topic of the project itself helps to bring in females. This is not a bad thing. I don’t knowingly know of any females that are interested in hacking on the Linux kernel or on Apache. If there are females (or any other current not-gender-specific minority) that want to participate, they should just do it. Being male, I don’t completely understand or see the barrier to entry. I hope that whatever the barrier is (intentional, accidental, or perceived) can be overcome or corrected properly so all people, no matter the gender, race, etc can participate. I hope this hasn’t offended anyone. I’m truly sorry if so.

If there is some way to gauge the interest level of females in specific projects, I’d really love to see it. This interests me greatly.

Speaking of which (and is my main interest in this topic), I’m soon to start an open source project dealing with computer management. If anyone at all (female, male, white, black, brown, green, purple, red, rainbow-colored, bald, fat, short, tall, skinny, blind, pregnant, impotent, shy, outgoing, martian, or any other attributed person) would like to participate and has something useful to provide to the community, I would want them to join in a heartbeat. I don’t care who they are, where they came from, or what their eye color is. If they can help and want to help, I want them. I have a feeling that a lot of people *won’t* be interested simply because it’s a boring topic, but if that’s what interests them, I’m interested. This topic interests me to a great extent.

• http://www.stonehenge.com/merlyn/ Randal L. Schwartz

Thank you Dusty…. this is my point as well.

If you’re a woman, get involved. Nobody cares that you have different genes.

Now if you don’t have a thick skin, good luck, because thin-skinned hackers (male or female) who make broken contributions *will* be called to task. If you expect to be treated nicer because you have a thinner skin, you will be more likely to run away screaming. But if you can put up with being yelled at for breaking the build, you can get to the next level, and get more respect.

As for face-to-face, I’d love it if I could get as many people over to our LinuxFund booth if it was just us guys handing out shirts, but it doesn’t happen. So, we ensure that we have at least one female there, and we get more interaction. Does it make sense, in the larger sense? Hell no. But it’s what works.

I’m confused and sorry that this is the way it is. I would wish that face-to-face, women and men would be treated equally. But that’s not true, and there’s nothing I can do today to make it true. So, knowing that, and knowing I’ve got quotas to fill, i do what works. Do I wish it was that? Perhaps not. But I do need to make quota at the end of the day. So I do what works.

I have no qualms believing a woman or man might make contributions to a project, and I would ignore any gender bias in such. So I suspect that most of this confusion is not about what I think, but about what women think about themselves. Maybe that’s where the problem lies. Consider that.

• http://www.dustywilson.com/ Dusty Wilson

@Adele “I wonder how long it will take this time before I’m willing to give the community beyond OTW and DW another chance at my time and energy? I am not going to bother any time soon.”

Don’t assume that all FOSS projects are unlike OTW and DW. There are a lot of them out there, they just aren’t visible or are just uninteresting. I don’t think you should go looking just to find one. It think you should find something that is an interesting topic for you and focus on it. If optimizing a video card driver is your thing, go do that. Don’t let anyone keep you from it.

If enough females participate in a project, it will eventually drift away from these negative behaviors. With low counts of female participants, this behavior can go unchecked. It would be difficult to fix without sounding like “you’re PMSing” (no, not meant to be offensive, meant to say what others could be thinking about just one or two people speaking out). With a sufficient number of female participants, it would be less easy for someone to exhibit this behavior and get away with it.

Imagine a room full of white people (gender ignored completely). It’d be easy to tell a black joke. Add just a few black guys (5% of the room). The joke still goes out, but a few people might complain (and probably sound like “woe is me”). Add lots more (30% of the room). Tell that joke again. No? I wouldn’t think that would be wise. Then again, they shouldn’t be telling such a joke in the first place.

My point is that you need to increase the female (or whatever minority you care about in particular) population of the projects. You can educate all you want when you’re an extreme minority (it probably does help somewhat; it helped for me at least), but you’ll come out to many as being a complainer or a “bitch”. When you no longer stand alone, you’ll have a much better chance at being understood. (Yes, I think I just defined “minority” in this… heh.)

Humans are stupid. Every human is stupid, but in their own special way. Some are stupid because they require a certain number of people to agree before they will. I don’t know any other way around that than to increase the population, which increases the votes.

Kirily, you should keep up your good work. You have a great intention. Your presentation needs to be worked on as it feels like it isn’t very balanced. I think that could turn some of your audience off. Remember, when straightening your teeth, a sledgehammer is not a faster replacement for braces.

• http://yoz.com/ Yoz

I note that only one man so far has stepped forward here to call another out on derailing this entire discussion with the tone argument.

Hi! I’m (another) white hetero male. I was one of Kirrily’s co-presenters on the “Forking Encouraged” talk, and from Thursday onwards it seemed near-impossible to spend 10 minutes in conversation with her without being interrupted by men thanking her for this keynote. So, while I can definitely agree that pro-diversity, anti-misogyny attitudes are nowhere near as prevalent as we’d like, I’d also hate for this thread to descend into battle of the sexes.

I’d been hesitant to jump in because I saw far smarter voices than mine already in a heated discussion. Also, while Randall may be trying to derail the discussion, he’s inadvertently managed to demonstrate exactly the kind of problems that give weight to Kirrily’s talk. But yes, Adele, thank you for the correction: this is one of those rare discussions about misogyny that needs men to say something rather than just listening. It’s just that, while I can only speak for myself, this may partially explain why the many men who I know are out there and agreeing with you haven’t said much yet.

We’ve seen what can happen with project communities at their best and worst. It’s far too often that we’re drawn to staring at the car-crash flamewars of communities fighting and forking, so seeing projects like Dreamwidth and OTA pioneer new levels of openness is – for me, at least – far more of a contemporary FLOSS success story than, say, Android or Rails. That, and seeing stories like Debian ditching glibc for EGLIBC make it clear: The superiority of open projects is about a lot more than just the license.

All of us who carry the Open Source/Free Software banner have to work constantly at ensuring that our communities are welcoming, inclusive, and harmonious. And, on average, we have to do a lot better than we’ve done so far. It’s a matter of survival: if this isn’t a safe place for women, it’s not a safe place for anyone.

Randall, you appear to be not only happily maintaining the status quo, but exploiting it as a revenue strategy. I can’t tell you how to run things, but simply beg. For the sake of LinuxFund and the excellent projects that it supports: stop, listen and think.

• http://www.dustywilson.com/ Dusty Wilson

As part of your research, I think you should investigate female-sounding or unisex names. Do these people have problems participating in projects?

• Jacinta Reid

Randal, you have no clue who I am except that I am one of the vocal woman who are doing what Dusty is suggesting we do; pointing out that your behaviour is unacceptable and asking that you stop it.

You ask that I “wake up and *smell what is*. I tell you that I, and the vast majority of your potential market can smell precisely *what is* and it reeks! I’m not talking about the oblivious or complicit customers you already have, I’m talking about the ones that you wish you had.

I am asking that you pull your head out of… the sand *ahem* and take a look at what can be. If you want to cater to the Hooters niche of the tech industry, keep on as you are! If, on the other hand, you would like to have a market ubiquity more like that of MacDonald’s family restaurants, stop asking every potential customer “would you like boobs with that?”

• http://yoz.com/ Yoz

Being male, I don’t completely understand or see the barrier to entry.

Thank you, Dusty – that’s a really important point. Let’s work on it right now.

The recent comments about the barrier, and who should do the work in getting women over it, seem to imply that it’s the same for both genders. From what I’ve seen, that’s a fantasy that’s tragically far from the truth. We like to think that all our projects are meritocracies, but in fact they’re incredibly rare. We’re irrational beings, and our communities reflect that. There is always bias of some kind, and there is always a power structure. The question is: how clearly can you see it?

The implication (and it’s not yours, Dusty) that women “just need to try harder” is ridiculous: why should they have to try any harder than we men do? That’s what equality’s about, right? At the moment, we’re the ones with the most power in our communities. This is both the problem and the solution. If we really want those barriers to come down, we cannot shirk the responsibility.

• http://yoz.com/ Yoz

(Weird – a response to Adele that I posted a while back never seemed to make it in. Trying again.)

I note that only one man so far has stepped forward here to call another out on derailing this entire discussion with the tone argument.

Hi! I’m (another) white hetero male. I was one of Kirrily’s co-presenters on the “Forking Encouraged” talk, and from Thursday onwards it seemed near-impossible to spend 10 minutes in conversation with her without being interrupted by men thanking her for this keynote. So, while I can definitely agree that pro-diversity, anti-misogyny attitudes are nowhere near as prevalent as we’d like, I’d also hate for this thread to descend into battle of the sexes.

I’d been hesitant to jump in because I saw far smarter voices than mine already in a heated discussion. Also, while Randall may be trying to derail the discussion, he’s inadvertently managed to demonstrate exactly the kind of problems that give weight to Kirrily’s talk. But yes, Adele, thank you for the correction: this is one of those rare discussions about misogyny that needs men to say something rather than just listening. It’s just that, while I can only speak for myself, this may partially explain why the many men who I know are out there and agreeing with you haven’t said much yet.

We’ve seen what can happen with project communities at their best and worst. It’s far too often that we’re drawn to staring at the car-crash flamewars of communities fighting and forking, so seeing projects like Dreamwidth and OTA pioneer new levels of openness is – for me, at least – far more of a contemporary FLOSS success story than, say, Android or Rails. That, and seeing stories like Debian ditching glibc for EGLIBC make it clear: The superiority of open projects is about a lot more than just the license.

All of us who carry the Open Source/Free Software banner have to work constantly at ensuring that our communities are welcoming, inclusive, and harmonious. And, on average, we have to do a lot better than we’ve done so far. It’s a matter of survival: if this isn’t a safe place for women, it’s not a safe place for anyone.

Randall, you appear to be not only happily maintaining the status quo, but exploiting it as a revenue strategy. I can’t tell you how to run things, but simply beg. For the sake of LinuxFund and the excellent projects that it supports: stop, listen and think.

• http://yoz.com/ Yoz

(Weird, a reply to Adele that I posted earlier never made it in. Removing a link in the hope that this’ll get past the mod-filter.)

I note that only one man so far has stepped forward here to call another out on derailing this entire discussion with the tone argument.

Hi! I’m (another) white hetero male. I was one of Kirrily’s co-presenters on the “Forking Encouraged” talk, and from Thursday onwards it seemed near-impossible to spend 10 minutes in conversation with her without being interrupted by men thanking her for this keynote. So, while I can definitely agree that pro-diversity, anti-misogyny attitudes are nowhere near as prevalent as we’d like, I’d also hate for this thread to descend into battle of the sexes.

I’d been hesitant to jump in because I saw far smarter voices than mine already in a heated discussion. Also, while Randall may be trying to derail the discussion, he’s inadvertently managed to demonstrate exactly the kind of problems that give weight to Kirrily’s talk. But yes, Adele, thank you for the correction: this is one of those rare discussions about misogyny that needs men to say something rather than just listening. It’s just that, while I can only speak for myself, this may partially explain why the many men who I know are out there and agreeing with you haven’t said much yet.

We’ve seen what can happen with project communities at their best and worst. It’s far too often that we’re drawn to staring at the car-crash flamewars of communities fighting and forking, so seeing projects like Dreamwidth and OTA pioneer new levels of openness is – for me, at least – far more of a contemporary FLOSS success story than, say, Android or Rails. That, and seeing stories like Debian ditching glibc for EGLIBC make it clear: The superiority of open projects is about a lot more than just the license.

All of us who carry the Open Source/Free Software banner have to work constantly at ensuring that our communities are welcoming, inclusive, and harmonious. And, on average, we have to do a lot better than we’ve done so far. It’s a matter of survival: if this isn’t a safe place for women, it’s not a safe place for anyone.

Randall, you appear to be not only happily maintaining the status quo, but exploiting it as a revenue strategy. I can’t tell you how to run things, but simply beg. For the sake of LinuxFund and the excellent projects that it supports: stop, listen and think.

• http://www.dustywilson.com/ Dusty Wilson

If you don’t think you can remove the booth-babes, at least scale them back. I find obvious booth-babes distasteful myself. But then again, I’m not a typical guy. I prefer the “normal” girl, not the one dressed in skimpy clothes. I think a better tactic would be to include people that are part of your project that are female (or whatever minority you wish to include) that are good at what they do and present a diversified look at your project (hopefully true and accurate, not a fake stand-in). I don’t know the answers. Speaking specifically for myself, it would be much more effective to include a female that knows the project, is a true member of the project (not a fake), and is at least somewhat outgoing and helpful. I visit a lot of booths. I don’t visit the ones with obvious booth-babes unless their topic is of actual interest. This isn’t intended to be a slam on you, Randal, but my own opinion and observation. I just feel that using a “fake stand-in” is a way to get people that are interested in few things, none of which actually help sell the product. A “fake” shows me that you are marketing to “fake” people or that you are a “fake” business/project. I’m interested in honesty. Having a “fake” doesn’t show me this honesty. Again, not an attack. I mean no disrespect. I’ve read your books. I don’t get the feeling that you are a fake person. I only hope that using these booth-babes isn’t presenting an inaccurate representation of you or your business.

Dusty, I’ve volunteered with SCALE (Southern California Linux Expo) for a couple years, and have been a vocal advocate for the use of open source software for much longer. I’ve burned out multiple times trying to make my voice heard in various IT venues trying to find a tone that clueless men would deign to listen to. I’m sick and tired of dealing with the same crap over and over and over, and I’m done spending my free time in places actively hostile to me. Just DONE. No one is keeping me from anything; I’ve just got better things to do with my free time than put up with the same crap over and over.

There are a few places I still devote my time and energy in IT in my free time, and aside from OTW and DW, open source projects are not among them.

The tone is not the problem. The women are not the problem. The problem is that with mostly complacent people in any community, bad behavior goes unchecked… you do not need to be a member of a minority group to speak up when you see something hostile to a minority group happening.

You say “When you no longer stand alone, you’ll have a much better chance at being understood.” So why are most of the men here letting women do almost all of the consciousness-raising work on these issues? Why are *you* not standing alone against behavior that is actively hostile to those whose presence you would supposedly “welcome in a heartbeat”, and why are you not asking other members of the majority group to stand with you?

There is a Women in Open Source track as part of SCALE. Guess how many of the male attendees of the rest of the conference bother to attend the sessions, including those sessions specifically addressing how to get more women into open source projects?

You say that you assumed that women were uninterested. You say that you do not understand the barriers to entry. And yet you attempt to give me advice without walking a mile in my shoes.

And you give examples where rooms full of men let others “get away with” things which you know to be wrong, to be unwelcoming, to be hostile, to be intolerant.

It is not OK to tell racist or sexist jokes in a room which is apparently filled with all white men. Why does anyone need to explain again and again and again that it is not women’s obligation in life to make men behave themselves? Or that perhaps that room of apparently all white men might already be more diverse than you think it is?

Every. single. time. a minority person steps forward and offers suggestions, the same sort of reactions surface from the majority. The tone argument. The did you get your numbers precise argument. The I don’t understand what’s so hard about this so it must be simple argument. The well it doesn’t offend me so you must just have a thin skin (or are PMSing) argument. It’s the same uphill battle, over and over and over. Some folks even make bingo cards with all of the usual arguments in the squares… the patterns of conversation are that predictable.

It is in the majority’s best interest to create and foster an environment conducive to the presence of minorities. And it’s far past time time for the majority to finally step up and make it so.

• http://infotrope.net/ Kirrily Robert

@Dusty: “As part of your research, I think you should investigate female-sounding or unisex names. Do these people have problems participating in projects?”

Is that directed to me? I’ll answer as if it is :)

I know of one study that shows that people who use feminine names online get 25 times the number of malicious messages as those who use masculine or gender neutral names: http://www.physorg.com/news66401288.html

I have also been interviewing women in open source for a video project and many of them describe using a masculine or indeterminate name, and being treated with respect while people thought they were male. Most only experienced outright sexism (eg. people acting surprised that they code, or asking if they were at an event with their boyfriend) after people realised that they were female.

I use a fairly gender-neutral name myself (I go by “Skud” online, and my given name “Kirrily” is indeterminate to many people), and I’ve found that many people assume me to be male, and I’m fortunate enough to be able to skip some of the most overt sexism. But while that alleviates a certain amount of “wow a girl”/”pix plz”/”who did you sleep with to get that patch accepted” and the like, it doesn’t lessen my exposure to the endemic sexism I see in our community.

There is also an issue that women using gender-neutral names online — for whatever good reasons (and protecting themselves from harrassment is a very good reason) — reinforce the idea that there are no/few women in open source. We’re kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place, that way.

• http://yoz.com/ Yoz

I think a better tactic would be to include people that are part of your project that are female (or whatever minority you wish to include) that are good at what they do and present a diversified look at your project (hopefully true and accurate, not a fake stand-in).

+1

Apart from Randal, are there any men here who approve of the deliberate hiring of “booth babes”?

• http://www.dustywilson.com/ Dusty Wilson

“Is that directed to me? I’ll answer as if it is :)”

Yes, it was definitely directed at you. I failed to mention that. Sorry. :-)

“who did you sleep with to get that patch accepted”

Does this really happen? If so, that’s disgusting. I haven’t seen it myself, but I suppose I wouldn’t be surprised.

“There is also an issue that women using gender-neutral names online — for whatever good reasons (and protecting themselves from harrassment is a very good reason) — reinforce the idea that there are no/few women in open source. We’re kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place, that way.”

I don’t think females should use non-female-sounding names artificially. I don’t think it helps in the long run. It might give temporary relief, but in the end, I do think it hurts the perceived female population in projects and the community as a whole. Then again, that’s just my opinion. Plus I could see someone discovering that a male-sounding name is actually being used by a female and now they start thinking “OMG is she a lesbo?!? LOL” and such nonsense (which then brings us past gender altogether into more messy nonsense regarding sexual orientation, another topic but very similar). I think just being honest is the best policy. If your name is “Mary”, just call yourself Mary. Don’t fake it. If the jerks want to be jerks, either do something about it or ignore them. I don’t really know what to do with them of course. I would be very happy to hear that females are actually interested in taking part in projects. Using a real name (not pretending to be another gender) is a great way for this to be obvious. Of course this doesn’t apply for those that have unisex names or a non-obvious name (like “Kirrily”). My point is to not intentionally hide your gender. It’s not important to make your gender obvious, just don’t hide it. And definitely don’t hide it just to fit in “with the boys”. That’s crap. Don’t fall for that. Maybe it’ll be hard to start out, but before long, it won’t even be a blip on the radar. When we get to proper equality (and I think we can get there), it will have all paid off.

“All of us who carry the Open Source/Free Software banner have to work constantly at ensuring that our communities are welcoming, inclusive, and harmonious. And, on average, we have to do a lot better than we’ve done so far. It’s a matter of survival: if this isn’t a safe place for women, it’s not a safe place for anyone.”

Yes. I agree completely. Plus this really helps make the point about not hiding your gender on purpose. If you can’t happily exist as a female in the group, we need to find out why. Not being able to be yourself in a community of your peers is not a good way to live. It’s definitely not a safe way to live.

And to my big point: ** Isn’t the point of open source and the FOSS community to foster openness, sharing, and community? ** How can you possibly have “community” and “openness” if you don’t even feel comfortable as a female in the community? That just doesn’t jive. FOSS isn’t about exclusion. It’s not about keeping the little guy (non-gender) down. It’s not about treating people with disrespect. You like to share code? You want to keep this stuff open? Why is there such a problem keeping the community itself open? If females (or *any* other attribute-group) feels like they are being excluded or otherwise not welcomed in the community, we *must* fix it. This is not acceptable. This is not the FOSS-way. Anyone that truly believes in this openness must not behave this way.

• Marna Nightingale

Dusty:

If enough females participate in a project, it will eventually drift away from these negative behaviors.

Yeah, thanks for that. I’ve already done, and retired from, one male-dominated industry in my life.

So now you want I should get involved in another one so I can ‘fix’ it – while trying to get my actual work done AND not using, apparently, a sledgehammer. Because just because somebody tells sexist jokes in my presence and behaves in sexist ways and makes me look at their porn in my working environment is no reason for me to ever hurt their feelings, right? I should just keep encouraging more people like me to come and live in this toxic environment until there are so many of us that the guys notice and somehow, magically, stop doing all that stuff.

I’m glad that all the projects you’re involved in already have all of the people they need, because as Kirrily did an excellent job of demonstrating, your hypothetical future female coders are not exactly short of other things they could be using their tech skills on.

Imagine a room full of white people (gender ignored completely). It’d be easy to tell a black joke.

Would it? Because if it would, that’s not a room fit for decent human beings – of any colour – to be in. And I would be go to HELL before I encouraged a POC to go into that space for the purpose of explaining to you all why they really shouldn’t talk like that.

You have a great intention. Your presentation needs to be worked on as it feels like it isn’t very balanced.

You wanted more “on the other hand, sexism can be fun and build a feeling of community among male coders! Also, it’s easy! So, you should do a careful cost/benefit analysis before deciding to try to stop it.”?

If that’s what you wanted, friend, you totally came to the wrong shop there.

I think that could turn some of your audience off. Remember, when straightening your teeth, a sledgehammer is not a faster replacement for braces.

Ok, stop right there, read this, come back, and try to remember in future that Tone Arguments Are Always Bad Arguments.

Also, try to notice all of the people in these comments saying “well, I don’t care if what I’m saying offends everybody, because geek culture is all about facts.” Notice how they’re all defending sexism? Notice how they expect to be taken seriously for their ideas, not their tone? Notice how you totally let them get away with it?

I’m sure it did ‘turn some of her audience off’. Except that would be the part that wasn’t interested in being turned on in the first place.

Some of her audience does not care to hear that sexism is their problem, and they wouldn’t have cared to hear it had she been so sweet she made your teeth ache.

Sledgehammer, hell. It’s gonna take a fleet of backhoes and a boxcar full of high explosive…

• http://infotrope.net/ Kirrily Robert

@Dusty: “If your name is “Mary”, just call yourself Mary. Don’t fake it. If the jerks want to be jerks, either do something about it or ignore them.”

The usual thing that women do about it is to leave the community, to protect their safety and sanity. Sometimes, however, we speak out… and people tell us we come across as bitches. What else would you suggest we do about it? Do you have an idea that we’ve missed all these years?

• http://www.dustywilson.com/ Dusty Wilson

I think it would not be a terrible idea to call people out on obvious sexism (or racism/whatever-ism) in forums, mailing lists, whatever. Don’t be an asshole about it. Just tell them it isn’t cool to act that way. Don’t take the sledgehammer to their teeth; teach them about braces. Remain tactful. Responding to an ass by being an ass will only start a war. This is an invitation to males and females alike. If there is uncool behavior and you have a little bit of power (ability to respond is probably enough?), be cool about it and let them know that it isn’t helping anyone to behave in that fashion. Be prepared to get an asshole response. Don’t encourage a flamewar to ignite. Maybe don’t even reply to their response. Just tell them once that it’s not cool and move on. Don’t be a troll. Don’t be a jerk. Just a simple “Dude, that wasn’t cool. Please show some respect for the people in our community.” would probably suffice. Be mature about it. Stand up for your peers when you see that they’re being mistreated, but don’t forget to be tactful and calm about it. As always, this is only an opinion of mine. I invite criticism/additions/subtractions/lovenotes/cash.

• http://www.dustywilson.com/ Dusty Wilson

“The usual thing that women do about it is to leave the community, to protect their safety and sanity. Sometimes, however, we speak out… and people tell us we come across as bitches. What else would you suggest we do about it? Do you have an idea that we’ve missed all these years?”

If you’re being accused as coming across as a “bitch”, analyze what you’ve said in response. If you really don’t think you have, maybe have someone else that is impartial to it check it out. If they don’t think it was worthy of the “bitch” label, they’re probably just being immature about it. Move on to the next thing. You don’t need to impress them. If they can’t be decent, don’t deal with them if you have the choice.

If what you’ve said does remotely deserve the “bitch” label, try to find another way to state it with more tact and less harshness. You don’t need to knock the other person down. Just let them know it wasn’t cool for them to speak or act in that fashion.

Above all, you must remain tactful. It’s true that many things people say are hurtful or insulting. They might know this and are doing it on purpose, probably not realizing how terrible that behavior is… or maybe they do? If so, get away from that person but don’t leave the project if you can help it, or speak with someone in the project about it. I would like to think that one person in the community does not speak for the whole community. If they don’t know that they are being hurtful, you might be doing them a service by telling them (tactfully!) that they are behaving in an uncomfortable or hurtful way. Maybe they grew up with sexist/racist/etc parents or environment. Maybe they think that behavior is okay. They need to learn (via tact, please!) that it is not okay.

Above all, don’t start a war. Don’t be an asshole in response. Don’t act like them. Don’t “woe is me” in response. Just be cool about it. Be calm. This behavior might take awhile to adjust. It sucks, but it might be something that you’ll have to deal with for awhile. If you use a lot of tact, you will make great headway on this.

If someone thinks that you got somewhere simply because you “slept with someone” to get something done (patch accepted, etc), make sure you let them know (again, with tact!) that you are capable and qualified. Let them know that your code is just as worthwhile as theirs. They aren’t better than you.

Be sure that you don’t present yourself as claiming (intentionally or not) to be better than them or more deserving. This one thing will turn people off of your cause faster than anything else. This is about *equality*, not reversal.

• Marna Nightingale

Above all, don’t start a war.

About sexism and racism? The war’s been going on for years. And we didn’t start it.

If someone thinks that you got somewhere simply because you “slept with someone” to get something done (patch accepted, etc), make sure you let them know (again, with tact!) that you are capable and qualified.

Oh, you have seriously got to be kidding.

• http://dave.org.uk/ Dave Cross

I note that only one man so far has stepped forward here to call another out on derailing this entire discussion with the tone argument.

I haven’t been at OSCON for several years, but back when I used to go regularly I stopped going to Randal’s Stonehenge parties because the overt sexism made me really uncomfortable. Of course I just avoided the parties, I didn’t actually register my objections anywhere. I should have done that and I’m sorry that I didn’t. As long as men keep quiet about their objections parties like that will continue to take place.

I’ll be more vociferous about my objections in the future.

• http://www.dustywilson.com/ Dusty Wilson

@Marna:

“About sexism and racism? The war’s been going on for years. And we didn’t start it.”

I don’t mean a global war. I mean a flamewar.

“Oh, you have seriously got to be kidding.”

About which part? If you’re referring to the “slept with” part, it wasn’t mine. Kirrily said it several comments before. If it was about something else, let me know more specifically what you’re talking about.

• Michael S

“Why don’t you disclose THAT every time you attack me in public? It’d be fairer to the readers to understand why you have such painful hate for me, and just how wacky and untrustworthy *you* are.”

The personal allegations you made in this post speak more to your nature than Kirrily’s and, quite frankly, disgust me.

• http://yoz.com/ Yoz

@Dusty

A word of advice: It’s generally a bad idea to try and advise women on how to handle sexism. They have way more direct experience of it than we do (i.e. any). Such advice can – even though it’s clearly not your intention – come across as patronising.

As I said earlier, we’re irrational beings, we humans. If calm reasonable discussion was enough to solve everything, sexism wouldn’t be a problem any more. The trouble is that it takes more fixing than that, and most of the work needs to be done on our side.

@Randal: Guys like you are pretty much the reason I don’t bother going to conferences, open source, vendor, or otherwise. I have no desire to have people waste my time by waving a supposedly pretty lady in my face, and to be surrounded by other people who think that it’s okay.

If your product and/or service can’t attract attention without waving “sex” over it, then it’s bad, and I want nothing to do with it.

Also as TV advertisers are finding out when they compare the cost effectiveness of TV ads vs Online ads, there’s a large difference between numbers of people that view your advertising (or take your pamphlets), and actually translating that into real sales. Booth babes may draw more idiots to your booth to take your pamphlets, but they’re not very likely to actually increase your sales.

@Dusty: “If they can’t be decent, don’t deal with them if you have the choice.”

What if there is no choice, because the majority aren’t decent? What if you are polite, get things done, and regardless of that, men treat you as if you are nothing but a sex object to be stared at and talked about?

That’s the space we’re talking about here. Don’t go pretending that it’s just the women that should be acting correctly, when it’s the majority of men that are acting in the wrong. Call the men out first, before you go calling out the women.

• Marna Nightingale

I don’t mean a global war. I mean a flamewar.

I know what you meant. Telling people that their unacceptable behaviour is unacceptable is not “starting” anything.

Oh Good Lord. If you seriously thought for a second that I thought that Kirrily was kidding or making that up you need to seriously educate yourself about the realities for women in male-dominated professions, because if you don’t understand that that is in fact incredibly common, you do not know thing one.

“make sure you let them know (again, with tact!) that you are capable and qualified.”

One does not reply to such remarks with a “tactful” recital of one’s qualifications. Or a “tactful” anything.

One replies to them, if one replies at all, with a strongly-worded invitation to apologise, right there and then, and to never, ever even think about making such a remark again, to anyone.

Much better, one has someone with the authority to get them off the project address them on one’s behalf.

(Trying again since the first version of this didn’t go through for whatever reason… apologies if it somehow shows up twice.)

Dusty, I’ve burned out multiple times trying to make my voice heard in various IT venues trying to find a tone that men would deign to listen to. I have volunteered, moderated and advocated and I am done spending my free time in places actively hostile to me.

I understand that you are trying to help. But the tone is not the problem. Tact is not the problem. The women are not the problem.

Every. single. time. a minority person steps forward and offers suggestions, the same sort of reactions surface from the majority. The tone argument. The did you get your numbers precise argument. The I don’t understand what’s so hard about this so it must be simple argument. The well it doesn’t offend me so you must just have a thin skin (or are PMSing) argument. It’s the same uphill battle, over and over and over. Some folks even make bingo cards with all of the usual arguments in the squares… the patterns of conversation are that predictable.

You do not need to be a member of a minority group to speak up when you see something hostile to a minority group happening.

You say “When you no longer stand alone, you’ll have a much better chance at being understood.”
As though it is my responsibility to convince my peers (both men and women) to want to spend time in your toxic community with me?

Consciousness-raising work on these issues is not easy. Why are *you* not standing alone against behavior that is actively hostile to those whose presence you would supposedly “welcome in a heartbeat”, and why are you are not asking other members of the majority group to stand with you? Why are you asking the minority group to present ourselves as meek and polite when we are responding to full-on insults and harassment?

It’s good that you’re brainstorming about ways to accomplish positive change, but you’re brainstorming at the wrong target audience.

There is a Women in Open Source track as part of SCALE. Guess how many of the male attendees of the rest of the conference bother to attend the sessions, including those sessions specifically addressing how to get more women into open source projects?

Please, ask yourself why you and other men in greater numbers aren’t attending such sessions to educate yourselves about these issues.

Please, ask yourself why you are placing the responsibility of gently instructing your community in how to be good human beings onto the very people who have been marginalized by your community.

Please, and I mean this in the most tactful way possible… stop trying to tell women how to be more tactful, and start figuring out how the clueful men can best deal with the toxic men in your own community.

• http://blog.rictic.com/ Peter Burns

@Dusty – I don’t see where Kirrily’s presentation is unbalanced. Honestly, I’ve read it several times and I just don’t see where you’re coming from. There’s a brief intro that establishes a few data points and tries to make the experience of being a member of a visible minority salient, then it’s on to What Your Project Can Gain By Being Inclusive.

As far as the “women should just try harder/toughen up/etc” meme goes, that is missing the point. There are a lot of good projects out there to hack on. Hell, there are a lot of good hobbies as well. If someone finds it unpleasant or the environment alienating, more often than not they’ll just silently move on. And especially when your discriminator is as arbitrary as gender then that’s your loss at least as much as it is theirs.

If you want to change this in a project/community you’re involved in, take a look at the work referenced in the presentation. One thing I can tell you from experience though is that one of the most powerful things you can do as a member of the majority is to speak out when someone is making others feel alienated and unwelcome.

On that note, you’re being patronizing Dusty. Like, really patronizing. Your heart is in the right place, and there are good discussions to be had about, e.g. how to deal with someone who uses a sexist insult on a mailing list. But the audience you’re addressing has a lot more experience with the subject than you’re likely to have had. Again, you see a problem and an injustice and you want to solve it, and that’s awesome, but keep in mind that many of the folks that you’re talking to have in all likelihood been dealing with it for a while now.

@Randall

“I have no qualms believing a woman or man might make contributions to a project, and I would ignore any gender bias in such. So I suspect that most of this confusion is not about what I think, but about what women think about themselves. Maybe that’s where the problem lies. Consider that.”

I’m not sure what this is apropos of. Noone’s saying that women are having trouble getting patches accepted. What’s being said is that women feel alienated and unwelcome in open source communities.

“I’m confused and sorry that this is the way it is. I would wish that face-to-face, women and men would be treated equally. But that’s not true, and there’s nothing I can do today to make it true. So, knowing that, and knowing I’ve got quotas to fill, i do what works. Do I wish it was that? Perhaps not. But I do need to make quota at the end of the day. So I do what works.”

Just so we’re clear: You’ve all but said that you feel that hiring booth babes is unethical, but money-wise the open source world is in a local maxima where it makes sense to hire them. I suppose I feel more comfortable about where you stand in the dialog now that you have.

For the record, since you are apparently counting, I would be uncomfortable at your booths and parties. I’d also be very interested in the results of a survey about how folks feel about hiring sexualized models/spokespeople at these events.

• http://www.dustywilson.com/ Dusty Wilson

“A word of advice: It’s generally a bad idea to try and advise women on how to handle sexism. They have way more direct experience of it than we do (i.e. any). Such advice can – even though it’s clearly not your intention – come across as patronising.”

I have spent the majority of my life in almost constant contact with women. I have seen how many deal with these sorts of situations. It’s not that I know all of the answers, but this is how I would want to be treated if I were to make that mistake (being sexist, telling inappropriate jokes, etc). If someone just went wild and started attacking me, it wouldn’t be effective. It would start a nice war. I’m not saying I would participate in that war (as I’d just walk away), but others might jump in for the battle. Many people make mistakes. Many of those people don’t realize the mistake that they’re making, even if it’s obvious to you. I make mistakes all of the time. I’m human, after all. Responding with anything except a calm, tactful response is not constructive. If we (and yes, I mean *all* of us) want this behavior to end, the conversation must be constructive.

I do not assume that I know the answers. I am only telling my opinion. If I’m wrong, I would like to know about it. If my suggestions aren’t logical, please let me know. I take criticism very well.

“As I said earlier, we’re irrational beings, we humans. If calm reasonable discussion was enough to solve everything, sexism wouldn’t be a problem any more.”

The problem is that many people don’t respond to a jerk in a calm, tactful way. Usually the response is at the same level as the attacker. This is not helpful.

“The trouble is that it takes more fixing than that, and most of the work needs to be done on our side.”

The males that do the attacking are in the wrong. This is not at all disputed. But the handling of this attacking is needed by everyone. My suggestions do not apply only to females. Everyone that feels that this behavior is wrong needs to do something about it. And this “something” must be constructive. If the conversation (response to attack, response to that response, etc) can not remain constructive, it must end before it erupts into chaos. Chaos does not solve problems.

Again, I don’t know all the answers. I probably don’t know any of the answers. I’m not female. I’m not in their position. But if I were the asshole (knowingly or not), a tactful response would be the most efficient way to deal with it. Being a jerk in response is no better than the asshole.

• http://mdzlog.alcor.net/ Matt Zimmerman

Randal, your comments make it sound as if you don’t feel responsible for your actions. They are a matter of your choice. Even if you believe that this is what most people want from you (and I would disagree), this is at best a weak justification for making a decision.

You cannot realistically expect the people who object to your actions to pay you off, either. There are many, many other people in your industry who make a very nice living while meeting a higher standard of conduct. You can, too. I do not accept that doing so would deny you a fair chance in the market.

It is completely beside the point that women may be in a minority in your audience. The actions described here are reprehensible in any context. Women and men do not need to be your customers in order to take offense at what you do. This is not a right they need to buy from you.

I’ll wager your audience is overwhelmingly white as well, but this wouldn’t make it OK to objectify people of color and suggest that they should pay you not to do so.

Your hand is not forced in this. You are in control, and you have a choice in how to act.

• http://pecunium.livejournal.com Pecunium

@Dusty Wilson: Kirily, you should keep up your good work. You have a great intention. Your presentation needs to be worked on as it feels like it isn’t very balanced. I think that could turn some of your audience off. Remember, when straightening your teeth, a sledgehammer is not a faster replacement for braces.

Oi! Did the big stwong menz get their widdew egos bwuised?

No one gets treated better because they were willing to sit politely in the back of the bus. Telling women to “lie back and think of England” until men see the light is rubbish. So long as crap like this isn’t pushed back against, it will continue. So long as it continues, it will keep women from entering open source.

Look at what you are telling Adele. She says the way she has been treated is driving her away. Your response… Suck it up. Dive in and see if the rest are better. If they aren’t, well it’s because there aren’t enough females taking part.

You go on, “With a sufficient number of female participants, it would be less easy for someone to exhibit this behavior and get away with it. Bullshit.

Kirrily gave numbers, right now the numbers are about where you posit the telling of the racist/sexist joke ought to be a lot harder, but you; the guy who says he doesn’t think the joke should be told in the first place go on to tell her to be, “more balanced”. In short, you don’t think the jokes should be told but you don’t care enough to support those who are saying the jokes suck.

That’s the problem right there, in a nutshell. You don’t care,and when someone says they do care, and that it’s hurting OS, you don’t agree with them, you tell them they need to make sure the men are properly treated, with due regard to their feelings.

Well you know what… if I step in it like that, I deserve to be told to bugger off until I can act like a decent human being. If it shouldn’t be told, it should be condemned.

• feezumschism

I’m curious if any of you with such distaste for the booth babes, etc. had the stomach to actually talk to Randal about it? It’s obvious some of you feel very strongly about these issues and I bet a good percentage of you actually had the ability to talk to him face to face at the conference.

I was almost missing the Perl-centric OSCON community there for a bit. Thanks for reminding me that there is _always_ some sort of BS elementary school drama going on.

Awesome talk, Skud. I really enjoyed it.

• http://www.dustywilson.com/ Dusty Wilson

“On that note, you’re being patronizing Dusty.”

Sorry. This is not my intent. I just see so many people responding to jerks by being a jerk. This isn’t the right way. Kirrily asked what I’d do instead. I responded with my opinion. I don’t mean to be patronizing. I apologize if I’m coming across this way.

I believe I’ve said a lot more than I should say. I thought I was helping, but several people now have said I’m condesending or patronizing. I’m sorry that I wasn’t helpful. Obviously I didn’t do a very good job of wording my intention. Sorry about this.

Kirrily, thanks for making this topic more visible. It’s important and I support you.

• http://blog.rictic.com/ Peter Burns

@Dusty

I wasn’t trying to exclude you from the conversation or pile on. Partly a consequence of so many people posting at once. I think you came off better in your clarification above. You just sounded a bit like you already had it all worked out, which is kinda presumptuous, and can make someone feel like their problems are being trivialized.

• http://denise.dreamwidth.org Denise Paolucci

@Dusty:

You may want to go google “tone argument” for some explanations about why what you’re saying here won’t be taken very positively. There’s a very long history of privileged people failing to listen when other people point out sexist (or racist, or ableist, or homphobic, etc, etc) behavior politely and calmly. After the calm and polite pointing out fails to work, the people who are affected by that behavior lose their cool and yell — at which point they are told that if they would only have presented their issues politely and calmly, the result would have been more positive.

I don’t think anyone would argue that calm discourse is more polite than angry yelling, but history shows that it simply isn’t as productive. Look at Kirrily’s presentation: 80% of men in the open source community say that they haven’t seen any evidence of sexism in the community, while 80% of women say that they have. A gap like that indicates a basic fact of human nature: people don’t tend to notice discriminatory behavior unless they’re a member of a group that’s been sensitized to notice it, whether by being part of the group being discriminated against or by having realized it’s happening through other means.

It just so happens that the ‘other means’ is often someone losing their temper loudly and publicly about the discriminatory behavior, because that person has tried to address it calmly and politely and gotten nowhere. You’ll only notice it when the person hits the point where they lose their temper, because you have the luxury of not listening to the discourse until then — after all, it doesn’t affect you.

Women hear from men — every day, in person and on the internet — that their lived experiences don’t count: that their experiences of sexism and discrimination aren’t valid, because the (male) listener has never noticed or experienced that discrimination. It is pervasive, it is systemic, and it is something that men literally do not notice, even after having it pointed out to them, unless they make a concerted effort to learn to see it.

The best essay I’ve seen on this topic is Men Who Explain Things, by Rebecca Solnit. I’d like to encourage you to read it.

• http://www.dustywilson.com/ Dusty Wilson

“Oi! Did the big stwong menz get their widdew egos bwuised?”

No. And this is what I was talking about. I was just trying to help and I feel that this is an insulting response. I appreciate that the rest of your response was more reasonable. This one thing wasn’t nice and isn’t productive.

“No one gets treated better because they were willing to sit politely in the back of the bus. Telling women to “lie back and think of England” until men see the light is rubbish. So long as crap like this isn’t pushed back against, it will continue. So long as it continues, it will keep women from entering open source.”

I’m not saying that you should sit politely. I’m saying that you shouldn’t attack the bus driver with a wrench.

“Look at what you are telling Adele. She says the way she has been treated is driving her away. Your response… Suck it up. Dive in and see if the rest are better. If they aren’t, well it’s because there aren’t enough females taking part.”

I am not saying suck it up. Being treated poorly is unacceptable. But being treated poorly by one person is not a good reason to leave a project that you feel is worthwhile. As I’ve said in a previous response, tell someone about it if you can’t get anywhere by telling that person that you are not being treated properly. You don’t have to be mean to them. There are more options than “suck it up” and “flee”.

“You go on, “With a sufficient number of female participants, it would be less easy for someone to exhibit this behavior and get away with it. Bullshit.”

Are you saying that if 50% of the community were female that males could continue with this behavior? That is what I’m interpreting from this. I do not believe that this would be true.

“Kirrily gave numbers, right now the numbers are about where you posit the telling of the racist/sexist joke ought to be a lot harder, but you; the guy who says he doesn’t think the joke should be told in the first place go on to tell her to be, “more balanced”. In short, you don’t think the jokes should be told but you don’t care enough to support those who are saying the jokes suck.”

Her presentation was almost entirely great. It was only the beginning that felt like it was an alpha-female meeting. I am very pro-equality and watched the whole thing (the video of the presentation). I’m glad I didn’t tune out at the beginning because the rest was spot on and very well executed. It just felt that the beginning was very strong. I should watch it again to verify these thoughts.

“That’s the problem right there, in a nutshell. You don’t care,and when someone says they do care, and that it’s hurting OS, you don’t agree with them, you tell them they need to make sure the men are properly treated, with due regard to their feelings.”

No, it’s not about male feelings. It’s about effectiveness. There is a stereotype that I did not invent called “bitch”. Please understand that I don’t mean insult or offense by this. If your responses are all pointing to this stereotype (intentionally or not), it will not be effective. The jerks in the audience will just tune you out. This is not about feelings. If some guy is being an ass, I don’t care about his feelings. I care about changing his behavior.

“Well you know what… if I step in it like that, I deserve to be told to bugger off until I can act like a decent human being. If it shouldn’t be told, it should be condemned.”

If you’re being an ass, you should just stop being an ass. If some random guy is being an ass, he should stop being an ass. People should be treated with respect.

“As far as the “women should just try harder/toughen up/etc” meme goes, that is missing the point. There are a lot of good projects out there to hack on. Hell, there are a lot of good hobbies as well. If someone finds it unpleasant or the environment alienating, more often than not they’ll just silently move on. And especially when your discriminator is as arbitrary as gender then that’s your loss at least as much as it is theirs.”

If you say that all projects are equal and that you personally don’t care which one you work on, that’s fine. Go find another project. But if you care about *that* project, you have to find a way to make it work. That probably means that you need to tell the person that is being a jerk to stop it. If that doesn’t work out, tell someone in the project. Don’t just run away from the project because of one jerk. I’ve worked with lots of jerks. I stuck around because the project was worthwhile. This is not my decision to help anyone make. Don’t just sit there and take it, but you don’t need to be an ass in response. That won’t get anyone anywhere.

(Unless I have to defend something (because I think I’m being interpreted unfairly), I’ll only be lurking. Sorry for my way-too-many replies.)

• http://hypatia.ca Leigh Honeywell

@Dusty,

The reason you’re being read as patronizing is that you’re falling into the common trap of the “tone” argument. “If only you were more polite, people would listen to your concerns about *ism!”.

Derailing For Dummies has a good writeup on this: http://www.derailingfordummies.com/#hostile

And just google “tone argument” for much, much more discussion on the topic. This came up a lot during RaceFail09, but it’s all relevant to discussions of sexism, too.

-Leigh

• http://pecunium.livejournal.com Pecunium

really dude… “If what you’ve said does remotely deserve…” WTF? Remotely deserve? Are you seriously trying to say that “remotely” offending some man makes it needful to put up with being called a bitch, and “tactfully” restating it…. fine… Let’s recast it in the following hypothetical: what you have said more than remotely deserves being called an ignorant prick…. would seeing someone write that make you inclined to “tactfully restate your position to make it more palatable to them? I didn’t think so)

• http://www.dustywilson.com/ Dusty Wilson

“really dude… “If what you’ve said does remotely deserve…” WTF? Remotely deserve? Are you seriously trying to say that “remotely” offending some man makes it needful to put up with being called a bitch, and “tactfully” restating it…. fine… Let’s recast it in the following hypothetical: what you have said more than remotely deserves being called an ignorant prick…. would seeing someone write that make you inclined to “tactfully restate your position to make it more palatable to them? I didn’t think so)”

Are you wanting to have a serious discussion or are you just attacking me? Have you actually read most of what I’ve written? I already said that it’s not that someone’s feelings are being hurt by responding to them. I couldn’t care less about how you make the jerk feel. It’s whether or not it is actually *effective*. Just responding like a jerk won’t make the guy any more educated.

Do you really think I have zero experience in this? I’m a guy. I’m not a strong guy. I do computer work. My fiance’s family tells me that I’m not a real man because I don’t to physical labor. They would rather me take a huge pay cut so I could work more hours lifting things for a living. Her mom and sister hate men as if they had been the cause of all bad things in their lives. They treat their husbands like trash. And then they turn all of this on me. I get attacked on a regular basis. Do you think I like it? No. I don’t like it at all. You think I don’t have a clue? You’re wrong. If I take that stuff and then respond like a jerk, I get more jerk responses back. If I respond like a tactful civilized human, I get tactful civilized human back. It really isn’t that unreasonable to try to be civil with a jerk. If you play their game and respond like they do, you’re no better than they are. Is this really what you want to accomplish? It’s never gotten me anywhere. And if you think being a jerk to someone will make them respect or fear you, that’s a mistake. They’ll just think you’re a jerk.

• http://pecunium.livejournal.com Pecunium

I’m a little calmer now.

The tail end of that comment was truncated, here it is:

From my experience in the various fora I’ve been in, these past 26 years of public writing/interacting, the best bet when that sort of thing happens is to assume the asshole is the man, and call him on it. Point out to him; and the rest of the readers/participants, that he’s being a mysogynist pig. He’s not likely t see it (even when it starts with simple statements of observed events, see here with Randall and the booth babes issue), but the rest of the people will see it, and just maybe tone down the asshat behavior, for fear of being called on it (see above, your comment about it not being tolerated in a room where more than x percent of the population is in the offended group)

++++
Now to continue, in a the calmer vein.

Dusty: Maybe if several people are telling you the tone of your argument is patronizing, you ought to take look back and see what you’ve said which looks that way.

I’m male. I was making fun of the idea that all these big tough guys need to be stroked and coddled. That somehow the thick skins they are supposed to have to be able to do OS coding, somehow fail to protect them from an introduction to talk which might make them feel a bit put upon.

If that’s too much truth for them to handle about the social code they’ve been writing for their community then they have a problem. Being quiet, and, “ladylike,” and taking care not to call them out, shame them or, gasp; criticise them in public, isn’t going to fix it. One hears, all the time, the way to stop bullies is to stand up to theml; but when women stand up to this sort of cultural bullying they get told they are being “too harsh”, that “one catches more flies with honey,” and that if they are patient it will all get better.

Well they’ve been patient, and it’s not getting better. Sadly it seems to need men to stand up and say, “guys, this shits gotta stop,” because no one listens to the polite, tactful, women, and the ones who speak out with some force get told they need to be more polite, and considerate of the feelings of the bullies.

• http://pecunium.livejournal.com Pecunium

Dusty: I did read it all, that’s what pissed me off.

You told women that when someone is personally offensive (i.e. calls them a bitch), they need to re-examine what they said, to see if they, “remotely deserved” being called a bitch, and if so, to be more tactful when they restated it.

Which means the person calling them a bitch is being rewarded for bad behavior. When recast, you took offense. The shoe, on the other foot, pinched.

Which means it’s not about the response to someone calling someone accusing a person of bad behavior, it’s about women stepping beyond some cultural limit of “good” behavior.

You probably don’t mean it that way, but that’s what it is. You’ve had several people tell you that’s the problem (Kirrily, Marna Nightingale, Peter Burns, Yoz, Kirrily; as well as me). I get that you don’t like my tone. There’s not much I can do about that (yes, I know, you think I should be more polite; been there, done that. Most of the time, in fact, I do moderate my tone), because the point here is that the “tone argument” is a standard way of dismissing women’s complaints about common problems.

When I see that I get pissed. Women have a right to be a lot crankier than they are. They’ve earned it from all the years when they were told to flat out shut up, instead of merely to be more polite.

But, as I said, no one seems to have felt it was worth the effort to actually tell the men who have been rude, directly, to be more polite. No, they are allowed to be pricks, while the women are told to be careful about the feelings of the men being systematically rude to them.

That’s a double-standard, and it deserves to be mocked, and rudely treated.

• http://www.dustywilson.com/ Dusty Wilson

All I’m really saying is to not go after jerks by beating them with wrenches. It might hurt, but it won’t necessarily teach them anything. They’ll just think you’re a jerk. Many people can be reasonable. If they can’t, just don’t communicate with them. That’s all.

Everything else is just trying to extend on this, which obviously didn’t work out. It doesn’t help that it’s 5:21AM right now and I have yet to sleep. I’ve been awake for well over 24-hours now (I woke up Saturday night, it’s Monday morning now). My writing skills are subpar at this moment. I hope that after I’ve had sleep that I realize what it is that I’ve done wrong and that my writing skills magically are back to normal.

This is a difficult topic. And being a guy, this is a terribly difficult topic to discuss. It’s not because it’s uncomfortable for me, but that it’s a mine field. One poorly worded sentence and I’m knocked down. I don’t understand how someone would expect to be able to change someone’s behavior in a proper and lasting way when they can’t even discuss this topic with someone (ME!) that is trying his best to help.

“Sadly it seems to need men to stand up…”

Well, that’s what I’m trying to do. But instead of being helpful, I’m getting knocked around by the very people I thought I was supposed to be helping. That makes me feel like I don’t belong here. That makes me feel like I shouldn’t participate. Do you want me to feel this way? How about instead of attacking me that you tell me what it is that I’ve done wrong and be polite about it. I’m not intentionally being an asshole. I’ve been told that I’m not coming across very well, but it’s not on purpose. Please don’t come at me with a wrench.

• http://www.dustywilson.com/ Dusty Wilson

“You told women that when someone is personally offensive (i.e. calls them a bitch), they need to re-examine what they said, to see if they, “remotely deserved” being called a bitch, and if so, to be more tactful when they restated it.”

What I didn’t say (but meant) was that they shouldn’t restate it to that guy. They should learn what it is that was “bitch” about it and try a different tactic next time. Don’t go restating your “hey don’t be a jerk” message to the guy. That’s silly. Just each time this happens, tweak your tactic until you find something that works… whatever that is.

Sorry. Like I said. Need sleep. Sorry again.

“Which means it’s not about the response to someone calling someone accusing a person of bad behavior, it’s about women stepping beyond some cultural limit of “good” behavior.”

It’s not about the woman having good behavior. It’s about communicating with the jerk in a way that will effectively inform him that his behavior is not okay without starting a prolonged fight or flamewar.

I’m not saying women should just bend over and take it. I’ve already replied to that above. I don’t think women deserve to be treated like crap. I don’t think anyone should get away with treating anyone that way.

And again: I don’t give a crap about the jerk’s feelings. It’s about effectiveness. If the guy doesn’t learn from a harsh response, it’s not effective. I don’t care if you make him cry. That’s not what I’m even talking about. You don’t have a lot of shots at being effective. Just read my stuff and see how many times it takes me to even try. You have to do better than me since I obviously suck at it. If he doesn’t respond to civility, rip his head off. I don’t care.

And this isn’t about making women be polite while the men are jerks. This isn’t me saying anyone has a license to be an asshole. I’m not saying you have to take this treatment.

Everything I’ve been trying to say (and failing) from a specific guy’s perspective (mine) applies to everyone. This isn’t just for the women. This is for everyone. You (guy/girl) do not deserve to be treated like crap. Unfortunately, you’ll have to do something about it. I’ll try to tell everyone that is being an ass to cut it out, but that only goes so far. It’ll take everyone to do this.

If women already have this figured out and I’m just talking to myself, maybe the women should talk about what works for them. It’s obvious that a guy’s perspective isn’t appreciated.

I’m going to bed, if I can. I’ve tried and I suck and way too tired to do better. You’ll hear nothing more from me.

• http://pecunium.livejournal.com Pecunium

Dusty: I’m a man too. It’s been a long weekend for me (I just moved 3,000 miles, and I’m looking for work).

It’s not one poorly worded sentence, it’s the entirety of your defense of the idea that women need to be more considerate of how they will be taken by the men they are trying to correct.

At the risk of seeming contentious; if you feel this beaten up by one evening’s comments how do you think the women who are trying their best to be reasonable (do you think Kirrily didn’t agonise about how to present her piece, to avoid the “tone” argument; knowing that someone, no matter what she did was going to make it anyway?) feel, when it happens to them, day in, day out?

I know it’s cold comfort, but the amount of comment you are getting is because the people reading this think you are reasonable.

Randall has merely been told off, and dismissed, people are trying to teach you.

• Matthew Garrett

Dusty:

I don’t think anyone’s under the impression that you’re not trying to be helpful here. Part of the problem is that you’re managing to imply (and I suspect you don’t mean this, but it is the impression gained from your posts) that a large part of the trouble that women have could be moderated if they’d change their behaviour. That ends up skating very close to “It’s your fault”, so it’s not very surprising that you’re getting a hostile reaction.

For the most part, I suspect that the women involved in this discussion have tried making points in a more “polite” manner. My experience is that you’re right that this avoids the problem of men feeling attacked on the issue – but it also does absolutely nothing to change their behaviour. Politely asking people to stop behaving abusively towards you rarely works.

Various people have suggested things for you to read. I’d really recommend that you get some sleep and then come back and read them in the morning. Very few of these arguments are novel, and there’s existing online discussion that describes most of them far more comprehensively than any response you’re likely to get in the comments thread of a blog post.

Dusty, it’s not helping that my last three attempts to post a comment to you have apparently not gone through.

I believe that you mean well. But you are speaking more than you are listening.

Polite women who are not listened to get exactly the same return on our time investment as blunt women who are not listened to. And jerks do not listen to any of us women no matter our tone; perhaps, only perhaps, they will listen to you because you are male.

I gently recommend sleep, for anyone currently sleep-deprived, because exhaustion is a deterrent to productive discussion.

• Tui

It’s good to want to help and there are lots and lots of ways in which men can be feminists, feminist allies, and can advocate for the equal treatment of women. But sometimes telling women what to do about the way they’ve been oppressed is not one of those things. We’re all clever people: it’s not like we’ve never heard of politeness (and there are women out there every day trying and trying to effect change in the way you suggest, smilingly and gently pointing out to men the way they’re hurting women.) So we have heard all this before. I do not tell you this to hurt or offend you: I have seen this exact conversation take place in numerous other forums. That is why people are responding negatively: they’re sick of people telling them the same thing about what to do about sexism over and over and over again.

• http://www.stonehenge.com/merlyn/ Randal L. Schwartz

“I’m curious if any of you with such distaste for the booth babes, etc. had the stomach to actually talk to Randal about it? It’s obvious some of you feel very strongly about these issues and I bet a good percentage of you actually had the ability to talk to him face to face at the conference.”

Exactly. This is all monday-morning quarterbacking (literally, now :).

At the conference, *nobody* came up to me and objected to the presence of the two women we had hired to help hand out T-shirts. In fact, quite the opposite… we were complimented on our choice.

For the record, this also includes the O’Reilly people, who came by our booth frequently, and said nothing, and have had plenty of opportunity to do so. And given that this isn’t the first time that Stonehenge has thrown a party, or hired people to help hand out T-shirts, there was ample opportunity to have been spoken to from past events.

Even when we had the Hooters girls at LISA 2001, the objection was not the girls, but rather that we were handing out food in a closed venue against venue. We’ve never done the food thing again, and in fact we had the Hooters girls there the following year (or maybe it was two years later), again with nobody from LISA raising an objection.

I’m doing what works, and what is accepted by the majority. If you want to change that, change the majority. But until then, let me keep doing what works.

I can fully agree that setting up a stripper pole in our booth and playing music with girls gyrating in bikinis would be wrong, but if the sight of a pretty woman handing you a T-shirt offends you, you’re in the minority. And that’s really all we’re talking about here.

• Matthew Garrett

Randal,

Ignoring capitalist concerns for the moment, do you recognise that some number of people present at the event are likely to feel uncomfortable at the presence of women who have been paid purely to look pretty, and that this may affect their view of the entire event rather than just your contribution to it?

@Randal: Ah, self selection effects on surveys. You have booth babes, people who like booth babes come up and compliment you, people who dislike booth babes don’t come up to your booth. So… 100% of people who come to your booth support booth babes. Of course you must be doing the right thing. Brilliant logic there. Well done. Have a biscuit, and please go take a Statistics 101 course before commenting again.

• Jacinta Reid

“if the sight of a pretty woman handing you a T-shirt offends you, you’re in the minority. And that’s really all we’re talking about here.”

Bollocks, Randal.

As an aside to Dusty, I understand your good will, but consider this equation. Women in the IT industry = 20% (give or take, depending how you slice it) for the sake of argument. That leaves 80% male, right? And 80% of males report being oblivious to sexism in the workplace. Of the 20% of women surveyed, 20% are oblivious. If my maths is not broken, that means over two thirds of IT workers have no concept of the discrimination that women experience in the workplace.

That means that the 16% of women who are aware of it, and the 16% of men who are aware of it are outnumbered more than two to one.

In the open source community where 1.5% of the contributers are women, the ratios are… well, you can work out that they are not good.

So no, sorry Dusty, as a minority, we have to make a disproportionate noise per person to be heard. I am not going to simper and put on lip-gloss and wear something low cut, then smile as I try to find nicer and more palatable ways to repeat that paying to have skimpily clad models present for purely decorative purposes is unacceptable.

I’m going to raise my voice. And if I am being shouted down, I am going to repeat myself with increased sharpness and volume. Now I’m saying this:

Randal, using the bodies of women to “sex up” the image of your product by association is crass, confronting, demeaning, exclusionary, and insulting to the intelligence of your much vaunted male clientèle. And as I have pointed out, your marketing techniques actively repel much of your potential client base.

Dante’s Inferno team acknowledge that theyjumped the shark by asking that people commit “acts of lust” with their “booth bunnies”.

People complained, they heard.

Can you hear us, Randal?

• Frank Ch. Eigler

@Liz,

To Frank I would like to say that ignoring gender completely does not fix the problem. In fact, it takes away our language to *talk about the problem*.

I merely suggested separating gender-neutral from gender-related issues. If you wish to list them all as legitimate grievances of an unpenised individual, that is fine. But if the meat of the topic is to be “what bothers women qua women”, as opposed to “what bothers people qua people”, then break down orthogonal things. Trust your audience to compute the “union” of the two.

• http://mdzlog.alcor.net/ Matt Zimmerman

Randal, we can’t dismiss the voice of a minority simply because they are a minority. This is especially so when, outside of this microcosm, said “minority” accounts for half the population.

The only way that anyone will “change the majority” is by reaching individuals, like you. Take a view on what’s right for your community, rather than what the majority does or doesn’t do.

• Any Nonous Cow Herd

So let’s get this straight. Randall used to date Kirrily. And now Kirrily has suckered Randall into a public “intervention” where all of her friends can take turn raking Randall over the coals because he is a horrible horrible man and Kirrily and her friends are perfect and have never made mistakes.

Let’s just make sure we understand each other here. We are geeks. Now shut up and get back to work.

• http://www.stonehenge.com/merlyn/ Randal L. Schwartz

For the record, I never dated Kirrily (aka “Skud”). I think you’ve confused her with Elaine Ashton (aka “HFB”), whom I did reference in an earlier post.

• Any Nonous Cow Herd

Regardless, you got roped into a suckers game, Randall. Don’t worry … they got mud all over ’em too.

• hfb

@ feezumschism

“I’m curious if any of you with such distaste for the booth babes, etc. had the stomach to actually talk to Randal about it? It’s obvious some of you feel very strongly about these issues and I bet a good percentage of you actually had the ability to talk to him face to face at the conference.”

Yes and it’s like trying to tell an alcoholic they have a problem or, in my case, it’s greeted with the ‘oh, you’re a bitter ex’ thing which does get pretty old. (Oh, and for the curious, the hair thing was a prank a few of us played since Randal allegedly had a ‘stalker’ – and it was my entire ponytail since I got my hair fully chopped at the con that year – it seemed like a funny idea at the time, but I digress)

I’ve gone as far as asking ORA to not invite him to OSCON, to make an example of him as he is the poster child of poorly behaved idiots everywhere.

It’s easy to ask why there aren’t more women in the business, but to do the more difficult job of making the behaviour unacceptable is one that few seem to have the nuts to do. ORA has noticed but tolerated Randal (and others like him) for years and, given that ORA is seen as being a leader/trendsetter in the business of IT as well as being a frequent flyer in asking the questions about why there aren’t more women, I think it’s time to stop turning a blind eye to the booth babes and the myriad of other behaviours which people do grumble about but do nothing to discourage or address.

I think there is plenty of money to be made without the argument that extra tits imported for a small minority to look at.

• hfb

@Kirrily

“I know of one study that shows that people who use feminine names online get 25 times the number of malicious messages as those who use masculine or gender neutral names: http://www.physorg.com/news66401288.html

You know, I lurked as a guy in perl until the first perlcon? :) I always knew Abigail was a guy because, well…he didn’t fit the profile of a woman online. I laughed so hard when the guys were so scandalized that Abigail was a man as it was pretty obvious to me. Abigail, however, was interesting to watch since he was terribly skilled and took no shit from anyone and most of the guys left her alone due to a sort of fear and respect. For the rest of the female crowd, though, usenet was a pit into which few women who posted would ever return given the level of idiocy particularly on comp.perl.*

At Sun, for the first time ever, I have more than one female on a team of ~20 and my boss is female but I suspect this is largely due to Sun having an older, more experienced culture where women who have worked in the business long enough to gain the experience wind up in senior technical roles. We’re also spread out around the globe so the pool of people is larger and not confined to a particular geographic area.

Yes, to survive in this profession, you have to have a passion for it and be willing to work harder and be tougher than most of your male counterparts which is why there are few of us and the few of us there are who remain are generally tougher and more skilled.

• http://theworkinggeek.com/ Andy Lester

@Randal, why not have attractive women from the community be your booth babes? I would have felt far less awkward and less insulted if a woman who was actually involved in open source handed me an application for a LinuxFund credit card.

There are plenty of women who are at least as attractive and far more charming that also work in the community you’re trying to promote. Although, to be fair, Honor may be charming and intelligent. I didn’t actually talk to her, because the man in the booth did all the talking while she thrust a flyer at me and smiled.

Have you pursued the idea of having community women do your booth attraction before and been turned down? If so, why were you turned down?

re: “tone arguments” One aspect that made Skud’s talk great was that it was inclusive, encouraging. I suspect reaction would not have been so positive had she gone out and insulted everyone who’d wronged women.

The term “tone arguments” itself feels like a simple way to marginalize the very real point that many people do not enjoy conflict, and indeed avoid it. I’ll start with me.

Currently, this is my fifth reply that I’ve written in response to this thread in the last twelve hours. I abandoned the previous four because I didn’t want to get dragged into a fight as reward for trying to help spread some illumination.

I talked to a female hacker friend of mine last night about this thread. We’ve often discussed her reluctance to get more active in the community because of her fears of being insulted and marginalized. I told her about how I had abandoned previous attempts to post in this thread, saying “I think I’m feeling now what you’re talking about, afraid to contribute.” That’s not a victory for the side of feminism and equality.

That’s a double-standard, and it deserves to be mocked, and rudely treated.

Nobody deserves to be rudely treated. Whether you’re discussing an abstract idea or a person implementing it, all deserve to be treated with basic human respect.

@Dave – Thank you.

@Frank – OSCON asked a woman to keynote to help people understand why it is in the best interest of the open source community to become less oblivious to problematic things that should bother people. I am asking men to help other men to become less oblivious to things that should bother people. Draw as many Venn diagrams as you like, but please do not treat the concerns of women as something outside from and mysteriously-alien to the concerns of people.

@the world at large: I see we’ve gotten to the stage of anonymous insults in the usual discussion pattern… “vocal women = herd of cows”. Lovely.

• http://hypatia.ca Leigh Honeywell

Andy, It’s not a double standard, it’s two different things:

Person A raises equity issue
Person B tries to dismiss equity issue, or “help” Person A “get the point across more effectively” by saying “but you’re not being polite!”

You’re feeling marginalized because your privilege at being a dude in the FOSS community has been laid bare for all to see. That’s never a comfortable experience, for anyone involved. For you because it’s something you may not have confronted before, and for the women in this thread because you’re trying to derail our attempts to un-derail the tone arguments going on with “but it’s a double standard!”

I recommend you go read the derailing for dummies link. It may be a little eye-opening.

-Leigh

• http://theworkinggeek.com/ Andy Lester

Leigh:

I never said it was a double standard.

I’m not trying to derail. Why would I want to do such a thing? I’m on the side of Skud’s key point.

I’m trying to help explain things from this side.

“help” Person A “get the point across more effectively” by saying “but you’re not being polite!”

Why do you dismiss that as being irrelevant? I’m on your side, not the enemy.

• Any Nonous Cow Herd

@all — no wonder I have never expressed a desire to get to know you all and hang out with you. You are all a bunch of unhappy whiners.

• Erica

Thanks, Randal, for summing up in a few comments why I left the open source community despite being successful building a company around Linux.

You wrote: “I *cater* to the majority, because that’s where the money ultimately is. And it won’t happen by changing people like me, because I *have* to do what the majority want to do, or I don’t have a job the next month.”

I am in marketing now, and your comments should not only be shot down by women and those sympathetic to our views, but by any reasonable marketing/PR team. In marketing lingo, you haven’t bothered to split test your results. Therefore, your comments are meaningless and statistically invalid.

Try having competent women from your team at your booth at the next conference — women who know their stuff, are smart, can engage the customers instead of just handing out flyers and grinning. Then split test your results. Not just how many horny geeks^W^Wpotential customers came to your booth, but how many of them engaged and ultimately bought from your company. Also, survey your customers who bought from your booth and see why they bought in both cases.

Since you claim you do this because the “majority” wants it, the split test results would generate interesting discussion. As a good marketer, you should be willing to do this on a good-faith effort — put your all into it to try to increase sales, based on feedback here.

-Erica

@Randall:

Your behavior in this discussion is exhibiting all the traits of the standard Usnenet troll. Is this intentional?

As far as men speaking up, here’s my voice: books with Mr. Schwartz on the author list will no longer form any part of my personal library.

• Mr. Real World

“Yes, to survive in this profession, you have to have a passion for it and be willing to work harder and be tougher than most of your male counterparts which is why there are few of us and the few of us there are who remain are generally tougher and more skilled.”

Just like us males have had to do all along as well. You can continue to be passive aggressive or you can roll up your sleeves and put your money where your mouth is.

I mean, do you want to go back to the sword again? Would that level the playing field for you?

• Matthew Garrett

“Mr Real World”:

That’s a ridiculous assertion. Women in free software generally have to do significantly more work than men to gain the same level of technical recognition at present, and pointing this out is certainly not passive aggressive. And while, yes, the world is a better place than when physical aggression played a significant role in the employment market, that doesn’t mean that everything’s perfect.

• Mr. Real World

Looks like we’ll be getting back to the sword fairly soon if you collectivists get your way. Let’s just castrate all males now and get it over with.

• http://hypatia.ca Leigh Honeywell

The trick thing with “tone” is that we’ve been trying to be polite for years. It’s not only exhausting, but it doesn’t work very well. “Well behaved women rarely make history” and all that.

Again, please do read the Derailing for Dummies bit on this, it explains the problem far better than I do:

http://www.derailingfordummies.com/#hostile

-Leigh

• http://infotrope.net/ Kirrily Robert

All right. Time to take this back to basics.

What I said in my keynote:

1. Women form a tiny minority of the open source community.

2. We face a number of problems in the community, from feeling like we stand out and have pressure to perform, to outright harrassment and even death threats. This is well documented.

3. However, there are some pockets of the community that are very welcoming to women. I give two examples I know of: Dreamwidth and AO3. Most of the women from these projects that I surveyed/interviewed are not otherwise involved in open source, many saying they did not feel welcome.

4. Based on the things I have seen working at DW/AO3, I offered some suggestions that could potentially help open source projects be more inclusive of women, other minorities, and more broadly of anyone who has ever felt unwelcome here before. They included:

* recruit diversity from the start of a project
* have a code of conduct or diversity policy, and stand by it
* use tools like wikis or hosted dev environments to make it easier to get involved
* communicate transparently

And for individuals within the community, whatever their role on any project, I suggested:

* don’t stare or make a big deal when a woman joins a project
* value all contributions, and thank people for their effort
* if someone’s being an asshole, call them on their crap
* watch for subtle things that might be making people feel unwelcome; this is hard, because members of the majority group usually aren’t used to noticing this stuff.

5. If you make your community more inclusive, it will broaden your developer pool overall, which is presumably something that most projects want.

I was asked to give this keynote back in May, and initially I turned down the opportunity. Why? Because speaking about these subjects is difficult and exhausting. It’s almost impossible to do it in such a way that you don’t come in for criticism for having used the wrong “tone”, for attacking/damaging the community, or for having failed to address every incident of inequality or bigotry, past present or future, with equal force.

I made my absolute best effort in my keynote to be “balanced” — not by saying “OTOH, sexism is fun too!” (thx Marna, you made me snort) but by offering positive examples and suggestions along with depressing facts. That’s the best I can do, sorry; I can’t whitewash over what’s going on here.

I don’t think I was particularly angry when I gave my keynote. I was excited, delighted, even inspired by DW and AO3’s work and wanted to share it. I hope that came across in my talk.

Now? Now I’m starting to get angry.

Here are some things I would like to see happen in this thread:

– If you haven’t been actively campaigning for equality for a good long while, don’t assume you know more about the issues than those who have.

– If you are going to take issue with anyone’s tone, take issue with everyone’s tone; I’d suggest looking at the comments mentioning “bitches” and “cows” for starters. And think hard: if I had presented my keynote in an even more restrained, ladylike manner, do you think more people would really have been moved to change their behaviour? Really? Do you think it would still have been keynote-worthy?

– Several people have recommended Derailing For Dummies. I recommend it too. It is a list of the most common rhetorical techniques used in discussions of sexism, racism, whatever, to silence people pointing out problems or distract the discussion’s participants from the main issue at hand. This is not new. It is old, *very* old, and it’s part of why people are responding strongly; we’ve seen it before and we’re exhausted by it before it even begins.

• hfb

@ Mr. Real World

My husband, Jarkko, is a broadsword enthusiast with a brown belt if I recall correctly. If you’d like that castration, I’m sure he’d be happy to help you out with that. :)

Seriously, how is noting that a woman does need to be a bit tougher and more determined passive-aggressive and emasculating? I’ve been here over 20 years and things haven’t change much to be honest.

And I’m sure plenty of people will vouch that, for all the faults I do have, passive-aggressive ain’t one of them. :)

• http://theworkinggeek.com/ Andy Lester

Leigh: Yes, I read the derailing page. I saw anger, sarcasm and condescension, none of which help bring me around to your side, if I wasn’t already there. I also saw the assumption that anyone who says any of those things must be the enemy and/or trying to derail. The premise of that page is “If you say any of these things, you are an asshole.”

As to whether or not it’s accurate that politeness “doesn’t work very well”, I can promise that rudeness and attacks work less well. For an example of politeness working well, take a look at Skud’s talk and her overwhelmingly positive response. Take a look at how much it’s been passed around and retweeted.

• Any Nonous Cow Herd

“have a code of conduct or diversity policy, and stand by it”

Mine is to hire based on skill, not sex or skin color. Last I checked, we aren’t slaves to some king. So go start up a project. Nobody is stopping you but yourself.

Put your money where your mouth is. If you want to drive Randall out of business, do so by having a better business — not by pointing out one of his sins, lest we do the same to you.

• Any Nonous Cow Herd

“I’ve been here over 20 years and things haven’t change much to be honest.”

Change is up to you. Not anyone else. And so far all you have done is whine. Perhaps rightfully so, but really … do you want us to break out the world’s tiniest Victrola for you? You wanna cookie?

• http://theworkinggeek.com/ Andy Lester

take issue with everyone’s tone; I’d suggest looking at the comments mentioning “bitches” and “cows” for starters.

I don’t take issue with the “bitches” and “cows” people because I don’t care if they’re seen as obnoxious, because I don’t want them to win. I can fight them, but to what end?

I do very much want to see the side of inclusion and equality win. I also very much hate being in the middle of fights, and avoid confrontation when possible, and I know I’m not the only one. That’s why I bring up tone. For some, it may be a derailing technique. For me, it’s an honest-to-God suggestion of how to help encourage people to see the light.

• http://hypatia.ca Leigh Honeywell

Andy, I recognize and appreciate that you’re already on the side of progress in this debate.

What I’m trying (and apparently failing) to get across is that the way you’re arguing about this is an example of derailing. Let’s not talk about how to be polite, let’s work on fighting sexism. Because arguably, doing that in and of itself is impolite :)

-Leigh

• Danny O'Brien

You’re right Randall. I should have been brave enough to say to your face that I found your use of “booth babes” at the LinuxFund stand was creepy (I didn’t actually know that you were connected with LinuxFund), just as I’ve found that whole Hooters thing was creepy too.

Honestly, it’s just easier (especially as a man) to try and stay away. But that’s not good enough. I have to stand up and say that it doesn’t only creep me out, but I’m pretty sure it’s creeping out over 50% of the people I’d like to see at OSCON, but don’t.

So here: it’s creepy! It’s like lifting up your t-shirt and wiping your finger around your nipple while talking to me creepy! It’s walking away afterwards with friends I’ve brought who say, unprompted, “What the fuck was that about?” and me shrugging sheepishly creepy. It’s mouth-breathing creepy.

I’m not saying “don’t do it” (well, I am, but I don’t pretend to think you’ll listen to me, because I’m presumably “one of them” now). But I am saying, as an attendee and a speaker and a geek and nearby stallholder, so you can hear me, “Ew”.

I’m sorry if that sounds rude, but you kind of challenged me to be rude. If it helps you to understand things, I’ll try be ruder in future.

On a brighter note, I really enjoyed OSCON this year; I liked Skud’s talks, and … hell, I think we can fix this. Excelsior!

• http://theworkinggeek.com/ Andy Lester

Let’s not talk about how to be polite, let’s work on fighting sexism.

Being rude, hostile and sarcastic doesn’t help the fight against sexism. If your message falls on deaf ears because defensive walls have been put up by the listener, it does no good.

You say that “Well behaved women rarely make history” I say “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Personally, I’m more interested in making change by building up the good than I am beating back the bad.

For me, that’s going to include an inclusionary statement based on Skud’s example that I’m going to include in all my code, and on Perlbuzz.com.

@Any Nonous Cow Herd

If you were not attempting to imply that all of the women speaking up here were merely an unthinking herd attempting to bolster the otherwise logically-unsupportable position of an uppity friend (that’s certainly how you came across to me), then please, feel free to clarify your statements.

I did a quick web search on the off-chance that “Any Nonous Cow Herd” is your usual online handle and that you might not be intending a specific insult by mentioning cows in this context, and I found nothing. If that is your usual handle and I’ve misinterpreted your statements, I’m not above apologizing when I’m wrong.

• hfb

@anonymous coward

“Change is up to you. Not anyone else. And so far all you have done is whine. Perhaps rightfully so, but really … do you want us to break out the world’s tiniest Victrola for you? You wanna cookie?”

Whining? What part have you seen as whining? Please be specific in your details as I’m really not the type. And I bake my own cookies, honey. :)

I’m dead serious when I ask that ORA finally get the nuts to either not invite those who are notoriously sexist or somehow enforce the idea that booth babes, etc. are not welcome at these conferences. It is long past due as I know it’s a known problem, but one that hasn’t quite gotten the traction it deserves.

• Rowan

@Randal: Your booth at LISA is one of the primary reasons that I have stopped spending much time in the vendor exhibition. I am actively turned off by a vendor that has such little respect for decency, and that tends to poison my experience of all the nearby booths as well. You claim that no one has complained to you about the presence of these women at your booth. Perhaps you should consider that several of us have complained to USENIX about them. Perhaps you should consider that several of us have chats at the bar where we note that you’re pulling the same crap again and we’re even less interested in buying your products or services (heck, I don’t even know exactly what Stonehenge does, I just know that I won’t be touching it with a ten mile pole if I can help it). Perhaps you should consider that after years of this kind of behavior from you, and evidence such as this thread, we see that there’s NO POINT in talking to you directly, because you’ll never get it. Thank you for having such a derailing discussion.

The rest of this discussion is an illustration of why I don’t spend as much time in the OS and sysadmin community as I might. As Adele notes, this kind of thing has been going on for a long time, and we’re burned out on it. Being told to suck it up or stick it out and see if it gets better gets old after a while. I’m very glad that people are carrying on the fight, and I think Kirrily’s talk was a wonderful one. But when I’m going to look for a project where I can spend some free time enjoying myself, I’m not going to go to one where I have to close my ears to the general chatter or wince every time I see an email thread because I know that someone is belittling a minority friend purely on the basis of their minority. I’m going to find a project where, like Dreamwidth’s diversity statement, every person is welcomed and their contributions are valued for what they are and where people joining up are given a helping hand and support of the rest of the community, even if (or *especially* if) they’re not sure what they’re doing yet.

• http://hypatia.ca Leigh Honeywell

Being rude, hostile and sarcastic doesn’t help the fight against sexism. If your message falls on deaf ears because defensive walls have been put up by the listener, it does no good.

Those defensive walls are already up, Andy. Please try to understand that no amount of talking nice and dancing around the issues of sexism is going to make those who don’t want to listen, start to listen.

I’m done arguing about tone. It’s not productive, and it is derailing.

-Leigh

• hfb

@ Danny

“So here: it’s creepy! It’s like lifting up your t-shirt and wiping your finger around your nipple while talking to me creepy! It’s walking away afterwards with friends I’ve brought who say, unprompted, “What the fuck was that about?” and me shrugging sheepishly creepy. It’s mouth-breathing creepy.”

LOL – You mean like this kind of creepy? :) http://www.flickr.com/photos/hfb/96715312/ [Disclaimer: NQSFW and possible mental anguish may ensue] taken by Gnat at OSCON a number of years ago.

Someone should be a hidden camera on a couple of the women at OSCON next year just for the eye-opening view of bizarro guys and behaviour we must endure.

• http://infotrope.net/ Kirrily Robert

@Leigh: hear hear. I’m gonna try and back off from the tone arguments too.

Guys, if people won’t listen when we’re being reasonably factual and decent (which we are, or at least were) then sugar-coating it’s not going to help. The tone argument is an excuse for not listening, and an attempt to shift the blame back on women. It’s predictable, it’s boring, and it’s not worth arguing over.

So hey, on another note, I hear that female attendance at OSCON is up. I got this from Gina Blaber, O’Reilly’s VP of Conferences. She says they keep stats based on registration. I wonder if they could post them?

• Any Nonous Cow Herd

“I’m dead serious when I ask that ORA finally get the nuts to”

Whine. Whine. Whine.

• hfb

@Kirrily

I seem to remember Gina giving me an excel file years ago with the attendance breakdown by gender. I may go hunting for it later as I can’t remember where I scurried it away, but the number of women was never higher, at least as of 2003 iirc, than it was at the first perlcon. I’d be interested to know if that has changed at all.

@anonymous coward

And this is whining how? I have a year to work on it as I do think it’s time.

• http://liz-henry.blogspot.com Liz Henry

Am only in mid-thread to catch up, but so far, right around here,

I’m laughing…. bitterly… and just kind of smacking my forehead at Dusty. Dusty you are really full of a lot of “wise” advice! OMG! I can’t believe anyone could be so pompous as to explain to a bunch of women with a lifetime of actual experience working in open source what they should do and how to do it! What do you expect, us all to say Oh, thanks, I hadn’t thought of just being *sweet*. Can you even hear yourself ? Wow!

• http://www.yatima.org Rachel Chalmers

This comments thread gave me exactly the kick I need to go and join Dreamwidth Kindergarten. I’ll be damned if my daughters grow up to face the condescension and dismissiveness shown here.

• Jeremy Fitzhardinge

The problem with Randall’s attempt at derailment is twofold:

There’s the actual derailment, which is annoying, but pretty easy to disregard. Even within the context of this thread in isolation he managed to completely discredit himself within, what, three posts?

But its also that he’s so egregiously bad that it makes it much easier for others to say to themselves “well, I’m not *that* bad” and can carry on smugly without needing to engage in any self-examination. It seems to have cast a long shadow over the rest of the thread.

The open source community I’m most familiar with – Linux kernel – seems to fairly free of visible explicit sexism on lists and other public fora (though its the only OS community I know of to have counted a convicted murderer as its number, so yay us!).

But the very low number of women contributing patches and to the mailing lists and the (essentially) 100% male attendance of the invite-only kernel summits speak to a pretty deep and somewhat invisible problem; though I expect it is a lot less invisible to women trying to engage with the kernel community. I think Skud has referred to it as a lost cause, and I have to say I’m at a loss.

(Oh, look, you used the KS pic as an example.)

“watch for subtle things that might be making people feel unwelcome; this is hard, because members of the majority group usually aren’t used to noticing this stuff.”

This is key. Kernel development tends to have a very steep learning curve and very stringent technical requirements. Combine that with a general mailing-list tone which reads as (at best) very intolerant of fools, foolish contributions and impatience, it makes it very unwelcoming to anyone, let alone someone who has an initial barrier of feeling unsure and out of place to start with.

There’s been some small success in getting the most abrasive people to tone themselves down, since it became obvious that not only do the targets of the flames tend to disappear forever, but it causes an indeterminate – but likely large – number of onlookers to also disappear, since they had no desire to get involved in that kind of combative environment.

Small success, but I can hardly say that there’s been a huge improvement, or even one that outsiders would even recognize (“lkml is horrible!” “Well, its better than it was…”)

There’s also the “you suck at math/girls suck at math” problem. A typical tentative first patch that anyone submits is some kind of small cleanup, code formatting fix, minor bugfix. Such patches are a great way to get started, and when you submit one and it gets accepted, it is a great feeling of achievement which, ideally, with inspire more, more substantial, changes.

The problem is that if the submitter of such a starter patch is (identifiably) a woman, then one gets the definite impression that such cleanup patches are considered “women’s work” and there’s less attention paid to mentoring that contributor beyond that. The problem is inaction; the encouraging response someone failed to send, rather than anything specifically negative.

(This is all very handwavy and general impression, since we’re talking about subtle pressures rather than an explicit institutional policy; I would like to be completely wrong about this.)

So, my resolution: more encouraging code reviews.

• http://hypatia.ca Leigh Honeywell

@jeremy:

If you haven’t seen it already, Angela Byron’s “tale of two developers” is a great way to communicate to new devs how the patch-feedback-resubmitpatch cycle works in a really positive way. It’s here: http://webchick.net/embrace-the-chaos

-Leigh

• Dave S

This is hilarious.

Are people really left wondering why there aren’t more individuals getting involved with open source development? Not just women… anyone. It’s because of petty bickering, sniping, carping, grousing, and infighting like this.

Yoz said, “Hi! I’m (another) white hetero male.” Are you now suggesting that we bring race and sexual orientation into this? Fine. Let’s lay the cards on the table:

I’m a disabled Puerto Rican hetero male in my mid 40s, and I manage a team of twelve skilled developers, of which five are female (I’m not going to ask any of my team about their sexual orientation, because it’s none of my business, and frankly, it’s none of yours, either). But you know what? None of that matters, because we Write Good Code. Even if we were all women, or all men, or all in our 20s or our 50s, or all gay, or all straight, it wouldn’t matter, because we Write Good Code.

My company is the market leader in its industry, and it’s not because we’re not open source. It’s because we Write Good Code. We have a Good Product, and people will pay money for it, and compete to work at our company.

I’ve been to many trade shows in the last two decades, and some of the vendors have “booth babes”. Some don’t. Some have clearly spent a lot of money on their booths. Some are downright spartan. But does any of that matter? No.

You either have a good product, or you don’t. I’m not saying that all open source projects are poor because the developers are spending too much time grinding their personal axes. Some projects are quite good. But ask yourself: how many lines of code could have been written in the time that it took to write and post these comments? How many bugs squashed?

A tip from someone who does this for a living: leave the coffeehouse debates for the coffeehouses. If you Write Good Code, you win. If you don’t, you suck. Nothing else matters.

I’ve said enough; it’s time for me to follow my own advice.

Go and Write Good Code.

• Elizabeth Cortell

This problem is not isolated to OSCON. It is general enough to inspire a Con Anti-Harassment Project:

http://www.cahp.girl-wonder.org/

You have probably heard about the Electronic Arts Comic-Con ‘Sin to Win’ epic fail.

http://www.socialmediatoday.com/SMC/112003

A question for anyone inclined to dismiss sexism: would you tolerate similar displays of racism? They are equally corrosive social ills. Racist behaviour and the loathsome myths that support it have gone from accepted norms in many environments to grounds for termination, notoriety and/or ostracism. Sexism needs to go that way too and I ask the help of all those reading this thread to help it get there. No more excuses.

• http://theworkinggeek.com/ Andy Lester

Those defensive walls are already up, Andy.

I’m not talking about the defensive walls around the perpetrators. I’m talking about the other 80%.

Here’s how I figure it. 10% of the crowd is actively sexist. 10% of the crowd is working to fight it. In the middle you’ve got 80% who don’t even give it much thought. Argue about the numbers if you must, but the key is: The people who are not yet on your side are who matter.
Unfortunately, those are the people who will see the nastiness and hostility on the side of right and say “I don’t want any part of that.”

• Jeremy Fitzhardinge

@leigh –

Yes, that’s a useful resource. “Post early, post often” is something I need to keep reminding myself, and I’ve been doing this for 15+ years…

Its important that a particular community regards each patch post as an opportunity to critique the patch, not criticize the poster. It takes a fair amount of self-confidence and confidence in the community for a poster to really believe that, and that confidence can be easily broken.

• http://pecunium.livejournal.com Pecunium

Randal: I’m not coming at this from anyplace but someone who has been looking at your comments/behavior in this conversation. I’m not in OS. I’m like Tui; someone who knows people in OS, and someone who cares about feminist issues.

I have nothing to go on but what I see here.

What I see is someone who is defending his use of womens’ bodies to sell something; something which doesn’t have anything to do with womens’ bodies.

You started by saying, “I don’t use booth babes,” and moved to, “If I don’t use booth babes, no one comes to see my stuff.” You were angry and defensive, and said it was all about someone who had personal issues; even going so far as to say they needed to disclose those issues (in what appeared to be an attempt to, functionally, make them say their opinions were therefore invalid).

It may be you don’t have a sexist bone in your body, but your actions here are defending things which are sexist behaviors, and that’s what we’re really talking about here.

My issue isn’t with the booth babes, per se. It’s that here and now, when people are doing what you say is the right thing (talking to you about it) you don’t care. “It sells product, and that’s what matters.” Ok, fine. But don’t get high and mighty and say you’d listen to people if they complained. They are complaining, and from my perspective (as an outside observer) you don’t care.

• http://pecunium.livejournal.com Pecunium

Andy Lester: I said the idea deserved to be rudely treated. If you look at my hypothetical, it was carefully built; I designed a passive aggressive structure where I didn’t actually say Dusty was being a prick.

Why? Because I don’t think he is. He’s being clumsy, and making a common mistake. Dusty, however, took it as a personal attack. I admit it, I set up a situation where that mistake was likely. Why? Because it’s one of the few ways I’ve seen to convey the impact of the, “women need to be more polite when a man gets upset about being told something,”argument.

I don’t, though it may be hard to believe, “enjoy conflict,” but I am good at it, and that leads me to engaging in it. When something gets as heated as this was getting coming back to it makes me a trifle sick to my stomach. I stopped commenting this morning, long before I stopped reading.

I will say that while you don’t, enjoy conflict I am apalled that you are willing to engage in telling people (like me) they need to be more polite, to attack them for being rude (which no one deserves) but turn around and say you let people actually being rude have a pass, because you don’t care if they are seen as obnoxious. That sends a message. The message it sends is, “calling people bitches and cows is ok, calling people out when they call people bitches and cows isn’t ok.” Of the two behaviors, I know which one deserves more criticism.

And with that, because it really isn’t about tone, I will retire.

• http://theworkinggeek.com/ Andy Lester

I didn’t say you need to be more polite. Feel free to do what you want.

I didn’t “call you out,” I made a suggestion, as someone who is both on your side and in what I suggest needs to be your target demographic. I said I think it’s more effective to work the positive angle than the wronged angry angle, because it’s more likely to get that middle 80% to listen to you.

You call it “appalling” that I choose to ignore certain bad behaviors. I call it picking my battles. I’m more interested in working with the 10% on the side of right than convincing those in the wrong. I’m going to go after the people who I think have a chance of listening, rather than the perpetrators of the crap, because I don’t think they will.

Please consider this: Someone on YOUR SIDE is trying to help by providing insight from where he’s sitting. Your response is to question his motivations and call his actions “appalling.” How does that help get people on your side? If this were an open source project, I’d just say “screw it.”

• http://hypatia.ca Leigh Honeywell

@andy:

I know I said I wouldn’t engage, but here I go again.

Folks in this post have repeatedly said “thanks but no thanks for the advice, here’s why this isn’t so helpful”, and you’ve chosen to play the tone card over and over. While I appreciate your intention, you’re not helping. Calling dbags out on /their/ behavior would be helping. Please listen to the folks you’re trying to help, ok?

-Leigh

• http://theworkinggeek.com/ Andy Lester

Got it. Only a certain subset of people know The Truth.

I’ll leave you to your inclusionary goodness.

• hfb

@ Jeremy Fitzhardinge

“But its also that he’s so egregiously bad that it makes it much easier for others to say to themselves “well, I’m not *that* bad” and can carry on smugly without needing to engage in any self-examination. It seems to have cast a long shadow over the rest of the thread.”

Well, Randal isn’t all that unique, really, and the guys just like him don’t pause long enough to consider it a problem, much less gauge it. I really would love to see ~10 women wear a hidden camera at the con next year as nothing quite illustrates the problem like technicolour playback. Someone could turn it into a documentary and sell it as a comedy in the indy theatres. :)

Also, just to add a slightly different OS dev environment picture – OpenSolaris is part internal Sun and part external developers and is, as far as I know, unique in this sort of arrangement. (I’m not sure how some of the commercial linux development works so I could be mistaken in that.) The interesting part about how this does and/or doesn’t work with the inside/outside model is that, of course, those on the payroll are strongly encouraged to be polite to a fault which includes being polite to those who probably should receive an anvil to the head which also tends to create the environment where only the strong and well-armoured survive/participate. To its credit, Sun does have a larger number of sr. technical women than anywhere I’ve worked, but I think most of those have asbestos pants and have had them for years.

• http://pecunium.livejournal.com Pecunium

Andy: You did say I needed to be more polite. More to the point you said women needed to be more polite.

Being rude, hostile and sarcastic doesn’t help the fight against sexism. If your message falls on deaf ears because defensive walls have been put up by the listener, it does no good.

You say that “Well behaved women rarely make history” I say “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Personally, I’m more interested in making change by building up the good than I am beating back the bad.

That’s telling people (myself included) to be more polite.

As to the offense you think I took, It wasn’t me who was being called out; it was the people who used “bitches and cows”, and when they were called out the people calling them out were being told they needed to be more polite, to “catch flies with honey and not vinegar,” to “take the high road,” to reconsider what they might have done to “remotely deserve” the label.

All the while the people calling them names are being allowed to go on with it, being rude, and demeaning and getting away with it; being rewarded because the women they are attacking are being told to just accept the bad behavior, and figure out what they did to deserve it.

You feel pressed? How do you think they feel? When they are, time and again, called names (and trust me, bitch and cow are the half of it)? When time and again the response to talking about is to be told, “you just have to be more polite, so the silent majority won’t ignore you,”?

Guess what, the silent majority is ignoring them. The not-so silent majority is telling them (very politely) to sit down and shut up. And they say screw it. They leave the field, and the field suffers for it.

Here’s an example. In her own words

It’s terribly common. Women who speak up get death threats. They get called dykes, and bitches and accused of hating men (just look here, where they are accused of wanting to castrate men; just because they want to be treated as equals). Then some of their allies tell them it’s partly their fault; they are too angry, they don’t take mens’ feelings and sensibilities into account.

And it doesn’t matter how careful they are; it will happen. There are men who are just so threatened by having their assholish behavior called out, at all, that it can’t be tolerated. And the vast majority (the 80 percent you mention) can’t be arsed to speak up. And the people who are protesting are being told to cater to them.

It’s a double standard. The men can be pricks, and it’s ignored. The women speak up and they get chastised. That’s bullshit, and if I were them, I’d say screw it too.

• Any Nonous Cow Herd

“Calling dbags out on /their/ behavior would be helping.”

And that’s what you ladies are being. Us males have dealt with this as long as you, and you will forever be slamming your head against this wall as long as you continue to forcibly make people do want you want. You think this is just about your side of the sex. It’s not.

Stop feeding the trolls, and you will see change. Until then, you are just pissing EVERYBODY off.

Go write good code and enjoy yourself. Booth babes are the least of your worries in this day and age.

• http://annalee.dreamwidth.org Annalee

@Randal, why not have attractive women from the community be your booth babes?

I say this with all due respect: As a woman in open source, I don’t want to be objectified at all. “Wow, she’s got a brain along with those boobs!” is not much of an improvement on “wow, boobs!”

Both are examples of the kind of thinking that makes me feel unwelcome. The kind of thinking that says “You are a sex object. This is a meat-market. People are listening to you because of your bra size.”

What vendors should be doing is hiring good salespeople to work their booths. Like good coders, good salespeople come in all sizes, colors, and genders. And not only do they get people to come over to their booths, they have this crazy habit of actually getting people to buy things. Sales go up; objectification of women goes down. Everybody wins.

• Jeremy Fitzhardinge

@hfb –

Yes, “now only 10/5/1% assholes” doesn’t sell processed meat products or OS communities.

But my point is that Randall has the effect of providing cover for those who are being “reasonable” and “helpful” in a clueless way.

On your other point about Sun’s culture, I was going to speculate about whether women (or anyone) find it easier to deal with something like the Linux community when they’re rooted in a supportive corporate culture. I would guess that there is a higher proportion of corporate vs individual or academic women contributors vs the contributor population overall, but I suspect there would be too much statistical noise to make much of that.

@Kirrily Robert Thanks for you “back to basics” comment (as well as for your keynote, and participation in this thread). I hear you that “…speaking about these subjects is difficult and exhausting.” We’re lucky you’re willing to do it, in spite of the cost.

@All–please be respectful, *especially* when you disagree with someone. Insults, mockery, and all manner of rudeness aren’t constructive, and don’t advance the cause of open source. While we want to encourage discussion of difficult issues on this blog, we’ll moderate out comments that are just flat-out insults or, in our judgement, otherwise not appropriate. Thanks in advance for steering the discussion to a positive and civil exchange.

• Mr. Real World

I noticed that you deleted a lot of my comments, even though I insulted no one.

In short, you are using censorship now to get your way.

@Mr. Real World: Yes, we’re moderating the comments on this post, and yes, I decided that your comments were insulting and inappropriate and didn’t add to the discussion. You’re free to make them other places on the Internet.

@Leigh Honeywell: I’ve deleted your comment, as well, for the same reason I deleted Mr. Real World’s.

@All: Srsly, feel free to disagree, but don’t insult! And do try to add something of substance to the discussion.

• Phil R

I can easily believe the widely reported experience that moderating one’s tone doesn’t prevent people who vehemently disagree from continuing to do so disrespectfully. So, in that sense, I think I understand what people are getting at when they say the tone argument is a fallacy.

Here is a data point for your consideration. I may be an outlier, and in any event nobody is of course under any obligation to modify their behavior taking me personally into account.

I almost always lurk in any kind of discussion, whether regarding equity issues or not, unless I’m pretty sure I have information that is accurate and likely to be actually wanted.

I have had my mind changed by listening to what people have to say. I can also report that tone can make a big difference to me personally in at least two ways.

First, mentally filtering through hostility, snark, and sarcasm takes more mental effort for me than reading a direct account. (I rarely if ever enjoy reading hostility, snark, and sarcasm even when it’s used on behalf of a position I already share.) Whether a writer is being respectful or disrespectful toward the audience makes a real difference in how much of my time and energy I’m able to devote to reading, learning, and thinking about these things. It can already emotionally taxing to open my mind enough to examine the ways in which I’m taking for granted behaviors and attitudes which I ought to change. I don’t think I’m unique in this; I think this is one of the reasons change comes so slowly.

(The most significant modification I ever made in my political beliefs came as a result of an author who took pains to explain the rhetorical weaknesses in the accounts usually presented in favor of his position, gave a convincing account of why he believed people disagreed in good faith, and went on to explain why he believed that, ultimately, his case was still correct. Even after coming around to that side, I still find myself put off, frustrated by, and otherwise generally uninterested in reading polemics for this position which are based around scoring rhetorical points or generally being rude to those who disagree. My personal experience demonstrates to me that, if nothing else, these writings were not strategically useful to the very narrow goal of convincing me personally.)

Second, I observe how people who are not fully opposed to a position but struggling to understand it are treated with any given conversation. I’m willing to ask an honest question even if I expect to be insulted, ridiculed, condescended to (just f***ing google it! just look at this snarky faq!) if it’s an answer I’d like to have. I’m certainly likely to do some forum shopping, though, if I perceive a generally hostile audience.

The only person who is obligated to educate me is me. If there’s something I don’t understand, it’s on me to learn about it. A good way to do that is to get first-hand experience from other people who do understand it, but this does not obligate anybody in particular to be the one to do so.

Someone who has decided, whether from passion about the subject itself or from frustration with the world’s ignorance of it, to undertake the project of education is free to use any strategy they like to do so. When educating in a broadcast forum, though, it may turn out that the people who listen to you and learn from you are not always the people you hear back from directly.

• Andrew Odewahn

@ Kirrily: “I don’t think I was particularly angry when I gave my keynote. I was excited, delighted, even inspired by DW and AO3’s work and wanted to share it. I hope that came across in my talk.”

It did — it’s one of the few things from OSCON (besides CouchDB) that I’ve forwarded to other people and thought about now that I’m back in real life. Thanks for the thought provoking keynote.

• hfb

@Jeremy Fitzhardinge

“But my point is that Randall has the effect of providing cover for those who are being “reasonable” and “helpful” in a clueless way.”

Perhaps, but they’re all cut from the same cloth and too busy typing with one hand to really consider a rather different perspective. My one hope is that many of the contributors have little girls (and not so little anymore) now which may help bring enlightenment. I’m a dreamer, but there it is.

“On your other point about Sun’s culture, I was going to speculate about whether women (or anyone) find it easier to deal with something like the Linux community when they’re rooted in a supportive corporate culture. I would guess that there is a higher proportion of corporate vs individual or academic women contributors vs the contributor population overall, but I suspect there would be too much statistical noise to make much of that.”

I think that would be an interesting statistic since being on the payroll for such work does imply a certain level of verified skill (at least I would assume so) vs. just out in the cloud doing it for free. And, while the corporate environment does demand a certain level of decorum, it doesn’t mean that you don’t encounter the same problems dressed up differently.

I think the doc patch and cleanup patch queue being seen as ‘women’s work’ is somewhat ironic, but it is an easy place for beginners who want to help to start. It does, however, carry a stigma of being less important work since many who write code don’t often understand the value of excellent documentation. It’s not restricted to just girls however, e.g. Many moons ago, I remember someone commenting that Randal always used to seagull through p5p demanding things be fixed and, in addition to not having any real modules on CPAN, had only a couple of documentation patches, mostly dealing with his own name and thus wasn’t worth comment. So it can be applied to either side of the aisle.

• http://infotrope.net/ Kirrily Robert

@Phil R: something I’m struggling to figure out in this conversation is whether the tone arguments in this thread (i.e. “you would be more persuasive if you presented your opinions more gently/politely/etc”) are being directed at me, the original keynote speaker, or at commenters in the thread itself.

I know that every time I see someone here saying “you can’t just complain and rant” I wonder whether they have actually seen my presentation. As I mentioned above, I went into the talk committed to not just whining, but to briefly outlining the issues, then offering positive examples of groups that have been welcoming to women, and offering suggestions for projects and individuals who are interested in doing likewise. And yet I feel like my effort is being discounted.

• http://www.stonehenge.com/merlyn/ Randal L. Schwartz

“in addition to not having any real modules on CPAN”

False. CGI::Prototype is used in production at a number of sites. File::Finder gets mentioned frequently as a wrapper for File::Find.

But true, I don’t have any large contributions to the Perl core, other than my “perldoc perlboot”. That’s not where my contributions were focussed.

• Jeremy Fitzhardinge

@hfb –

“My one hope is that many of the contributors have little girls (and not so little anymore) now which may help bring enlightenment. I’m a dreamer, but there it is.”

That certainly brings the problem into more acute focus for me than it might otherwise have.

“I think the doc patch and cleanup patch queue being seen as ‘women’s work’ is somewhat ironic, but it is an easy place for beginners who want to help to start. It does, however, carry a stigma of being less important work since many who write code don’t often understand the value of excellent documentation.”

Yeah, there’s a combination of overcoming the stigma and making sure that everyone who wants to go further can get the help and support they need to do so.

• Robert Kaye

@Everyone: I would like to underscore what Sara said. I am all for a lively discussion as long at we can maintain respect and decency in the conversation.

We’ve had some name-calling but we seem to have calmed down a little. Good — lets keep it like that. If the discussion goes downhill again, we’ll close off the comments.

Thanks!

• Phil R

@Kirrily Robert

I did not attend your talk, but I did read the PDF. I wish now that I had thought to include a clarification at the top of my post to make explicit that I wasn’t referring to your presentation, which I in fact thought was an example of good communication. I appologize for that omission. I appreciate your giving me the benefit of the doubt in your response.

A good example of what I’m trying to get at is this interaction on a FreeBSD mailing list from 8 years ago that went very, very, very right: http://markmail.org/message/ig5prkmq6urx4alf

Probably anyone who’s been on an open source project mailing list can imagine how differently that interaction could easily have gone.

• http://hypatia.ca Leigh Honeywell

Hey Sara,

Thanks for setting an example of me. That deletion was entirely deserved :)

-Leigh

• http://perltraining.com.au Jacinta Richardson

I resent feeling it necessary for me to add a me too but apparently if I don’t speak up then maybe I think “catering to the masses” by objectifying women is okay.

Of course pretty ladies draw attention by men. That’s what being a pretty lady means. As about 98% of the available open source market are men booth babes are a viable marketing technique. This is unfortunate for everyone. It is more unfortunate that using such a selling technique at best keeps the status quo and in many cases may actually reduce the number of women interested. Most of the OSCON stands *didn’t* use booth babes, and yet still seemed to be well attended. I don’t believe that it should be difficult to get bodies to visit a tech stand without using the gimmick of pretty ladies; but it probably involves using more imagination.

I know that Stonehenge’s market is a training market, but I think it’s a mistake to think that the people who make training decisions are only the executives and managers (regardless of their gender). It has certainly been Perl Training Australia’s experience that most training decisions usually come from developers asking their managers to send them rather than managers encouraging their staff to go (although that does happen too). As such, it is important to make sure that you’re not telling potential attendees that you don’t respect them on the basis of their gender or gender preferences.

On the other hand, the market for LinuxFund is not so restrictive. Anyone who qualifies for a credit card can help raise money, anyone who can afford a donation is worth courting. Turning away even 10% of an audience can impact on your success rate to raise money for this endeavour. That doesn’t seem wise.

I applaud, preferentially support and recommend businesses who advertise themselves and their products without resorting to sex.

• http://www.webappwednesday.com Michael R. Bernstein

OK, so I’m coming in very late to this discussion, and am largely in agreement with Kirrily, Yoz, Casey, Liz, Adele, and so on, but I have a couple of things to contribute:

1) I am a 39-yo straight white male, and I am put off by booth babes. Mostly because it’s a cheap trick, and I feel insulted. If you want to reach me with your marketing, skip the cheap tricks. Free stuff works pretty well, especially if it is something clever. If you have to resort to booth babes to get people to take your free shirts, you need better shirts.

2) If Randall doesn’t want to unilaterally disarm, we should try organizing a comprehensive multi-lateral booth-babe ban treaty, and get (shame) vendors and sponsors to sign on. Enforcement of the ban would be triggered by reaching some threshold of vendors/sponsors. Randall, are you willing to be the first signatory?

3) I went to the party in question, because I thought it was being sponsored by Kaltura. The hired guns patrolling the dance floor were very off putting, but I made the best of it and talked to other folks. I don’t think even the weak arguments made in support of using booth-babes even apply to these hired hostesses.

• bowerbird

women, you need a room of your own.

start your own project; exclude men,
except by special invitation to those
who have proven their impartiality…

after you have set the tone yourselves,
eventually you can let everyone in and
the equality will be self-perpetuating…

firefox is getting kinda flaky these days…
i’d love to see a browser made by women!

-bowerbird

• http://www.webappwednesday.com Michael R. Bernstein

Oh, and Randall? It’s a shame you decided to delete the pictures that Kirrily linked to. Makes it hard to engage in a debate when the other party is shredding supporting documentation and records.

• http://www.stonehenge.com/merlyn/ Randal L. Schwartz

“It’s a shame you decided to delete the pictures that Kirrily linked to.”

Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. Many of you would likely claim that *posting* those pictures is more “needless exploitation”, and I hear you. And upon reflection, I’ve pulled them down, out of respect for what is being discussed here.

• Dave

Okay. I’m male. And I’ll admit – I find attractive women attractive. It’s not an entirely shocking state of affairs when several million years of evolution causes me to perceive attractive women as attractive. I’ll even go so far as to say I find it hard to say absolutely who’s exploiting whom in a place like Hooter’s.

But, you know, I didn’t go to OSCON to see attractive women. So, if I talk to people at a stand about a technical product, I damn well want to be talking to someone who can answer my questions.

So it annoys the hell out of me – really frustrates me – when there are people at the stands in a show like this who can’t do that.

Note, I’ll admit – at the risk of further ostracization – that I’m probably swayed to some degree by an attractive young female answering my questions instead of a crusty old drooling man – but that implies that if you use booth babes, you couldn’t find sufficient useful staff.

• Tracy Mac

As a woman in a senior technical role who does make purchasing decisions, I can tell you that I go out of my way to not consider products that are advertised in a sexist manner. For example, Dell would recently have fallen off my consideration list with “Della” if we weren’t avoiding their kit anyway because it isn’t good enough for a large enterprise.

As for “booth babes”, I’d love to see it demonstrated – with controls – just how effective they are at actually getting people to buy a specific product. Not much at all, I suspect, and not enough to offset those who do not attend the event or visit the booth because of that crap.

As for the question of why there aren’t so many women in technology, Kirrily at least is making a stab at answering the question. When you get a preponderance of the more privileged type even questioning that there is a problem, no wonder we have issues.

Sure, some more assertive women are willing to jump in and tell the condescending men to STFU and let us get on with it. However, if right from the initial moments of those “girls are less good at science” messages, it’s an uphill battle at every point. You have to acknowledge you *are* good at science/maths/engineering, despite those messages, and even though the toys you got were more likely Barbie dolls and makeup and less likely Lego/chemistry sets/electronics kits. You have to deal with the fact that it’s not seen to be a “feminine” or even particularly neutral occupation. You have to accept there will be only a few of you in each of the classes you take. You have to deal with the fact that sexist advertising is targeted at your occupation. You have to deal with the fact of games and comics that use semi-pornographic imagery of women (I’m all for porn, in its place). You learn that you have fewer entrance points into various environments (like industry groups/coding communities/whatever) because you aren’t so likely to have the networks that will get you in (ok, you build those networks up, but it often takes longer, due to the fact you’re not going to participate in get-togethers at Hooters). You have to constantly deal with the fact that you will be regarded as “unique” and the “minority”, and that even after more than a decade in the business, people will still ask to be put through to the actual system administrator when you answer the phone.

So as many people have pointed out, it’s bloody tiring. Sure, everyone has a learning curve, but for women, it’s generally steeper due to all the subtle and unsubtle impediments. No wonder that so many don’t bother.

• Matt McLeod

I’m a bloke. I’m involved in any number of IT purchases in a typical year and if I’m aware that the vendor has been using the “booth babe” shtick to promote their wares then that sends them to the bottom of the list as far as I’m concerned.

It’s about time event promoters dealt with this whole sordid business by simply banning the use of such marketing tactics at their events. They wouldn’t put up with a racist equivalent, so why give a pass to sexist stunts that have no place at a technical conference?

• http://apostate.raqsstorm.org Woodrow "asim" Jarvis Hill

“why give a pass to sexist stunts that have no place at a technical conference?”

That is, I think, hinting at the core of what Kirrely is talking about.

People love to make this kind of conversation personal. It’s easier/simpler, I think, to wrap conversation around the “tone argument” or if critics have personal “beefs” with other people, than to focus on seemingly abstract problems with sexism.

The tool that’s helped me, over the years, try to combat my sexist impulses is, indeed, to reflect upon “what if it was racism?” Racism is something I deal with; not so much in the online-only corridors of Open Source (where my contributions are tiny, I confess, compared to many people commenting here), but in my day-to-day. And through that vision, I’m sorry to say, what many people are saying here is true. Most notable, the Open Source community copies the overall tech community in struggling with issues around gender, and women specifically.
This isn’t news. This isn’t a shock. What Kirrely said isn’t anything anyone here don’t know, but she brings facts and figures and details to a discussion that’s sorely needed.
And this is a major undertaking, and I say this as a student of many such fights, from my readings and studies on the long fight that Thurgood Mashall put in for my rights, to the barely observed and studies fights to encourage the comic book industry to have more female participation both within and in their products.
What Kirrely is doing is echoing MLK’s actions, not just his words. In his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail, he wrote of 4 steps in non-violent campaigns, the first being “collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist.” And to this collection of facts which No One Has Disputed, we have the above discussion, fueled by fear of being seen as sexist. Fear of confrontation. Fear of anger and fury.
I do not grasp this. No Civil Rights campaign has ever worked by being “nice”. Again, MLK was not “nice”, he sent kids to be beaten! Non-violence is not about hippie-style “love and peace”, it’s an active and oft-brutal struggle to get people to grasp their prejudices and wrestle them to the ground. And prejudice never lets go without a fight.
And as to his more weak-kneed white allies, he wrote in that same piece:

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

If any of you see yourselves in that, perhaps you should consider the point King was making.
There are people here, trying to fix issues in this community we all love. Helping that starts with actually learning from the people who’ve been in the trenches. We all learned from people more knowledgeable than us about technology, right?
Why, then, would you not start by asking, and observing, and trying to understand why the people who’ve invested years in this fight take the actions they do?
No, this is not “shut up”, this is “take some time to observe the issue in some detail, and ask questions about why actions are occurring.” It’s your right to disagree, yet I think it’s not wise to disagree from a position of not grasping the underlying issues, and how these discussions have played out in the past — and by “past”, I do mean more than the last few years.

• kllmnt

Started out great, great presentation (watched it @ oscon.blip.tv). always believed in equality.
But while I reading this post and the comments, few questions came to mind…

* Kirrily when you talk about OTW and Dreamwidth I got the feeling you praising those communities for having women only and 75% women respectively, at the same time criticizing the other communities for not having more women. Are they (OTW and Dreamwidth) sexist? Isn’t this like having “male booth babes”? Anyway what can OTW and Dreamwidth do get more men to join their projects?

* Did any of you take the time to explain to the “booth babes” and the club hostesses, how they offend the decent people attending the OSCON and related parties by helping others be sexist? Or is it a question of being inappropriate? but who decide that? organizers of OSCON, the organizers of parties, the attendees?

* Are the people who enjoyed or didn’t mind having the “booth babes” and had a good time at the party despite having the club hostesses there sexist? or is it just the organizers who are sexist?

So many questions, just have to post some here. hope radar won’t mind (pls don’t mark as spam) ;-)

**** Treating a person differently because of their gender (being sexist) is bad, immortal, stupid, idiotic etc.. and most of the time displays the insecurities of that person. but it seems for some of you, not being sexist is not the *opposite* of that…. ***

• kllmnt

@Matt McLeod : “so why give a pass to sexist stunts that have no place at a technical conference?”

Should we give them a pass in any other place?

IMO “sexist stunts” shouldn’t have any place anywhere.

@kllmnt /sigh

A very cursory google around the place will get you all of the answers to your very not new questions.

Seriously, anyone commenting needs to go do some basic research before mumbling questions that have been answered elsewhere and elsewhen, many times.

This kind of struggle for equality isn’t new. Unfortunately, it keeps happening in many different places and times.

• http://infotrope.net/ Kirrily Robert

@Michael B: It’s OK, Randal’s photos are all under CC-BY-SA, and several people saved copies. Here’s one: http://neo.theblob.org/randal/ Note that you are free to reproduce them, but if you do so, you *must* credit Randal L. Schwartz as photographer, and insist that anyone who incorporates the photos in their own work use the same license.

@Randal: The way to avoid being “damned” either way is not to try to change the past, but the future. An appropriate response would be, “I realise my actions have alienated and upset a large proportion of the community, and I will not repeat them.”

• http://infotrope.net/ Kirrily Robert

@kllmnt: You have several questions there but I’m going to look at the first one in particular, because it’s something I thought about a lot.

What I have come to realise is that sexism in our community is a pervasive thing. If someone said, “Here’s a single project with no women in it” that might be a symptom of something pervasive, or it might be just a one-off. Sometimes projects draw from a user base that is already gender-tilted; I talked to a guy last week who works on software related to model railways, and the model railway community is itself pretty much all men, so I’m not surprised that his project is too. However, users of free software such as eg. Linux, GNOME, Apache, PHP, WordPress, and the like are *not* mostly men. So if you take a survey across all of the open source world and see that the developer base is 98.5% men, there’s likely something weird going on.

So, in short: I personally feel it’s OK if certain projects have strongly tilted developer bases, as long as a) the tilt is at least an approximation of the user base, and b) the *overall* developer community starts to balance out a bit.

The fan fiction community served by AO3 is very close to 100% female; the fact that their developer base reflects this is not surprising. Likewise, DW’s user base (see http://www.dreamwidth.org/stats.bml) is 8.6% male, 52.1% female, 1.3% other, and the rest “prefer not to say”.

If — and only if — you have an open source project that serves an almost exclusively male population, then I’ll give you a hall pass for having an almost exclusively male developer team, but not otherwise.

• http://infotrope.net/ Kirrily Robert

(Err, which is not to say that if a software project serves an almost entirely male community, there isn’t broader work to be done out there in that community.)

• http://www.stonehenge.com/merlyn/ Randal L. Schwartz

I’d like to separate two issues here that for many are co-mingled.

First, more women in open source. I’m all for that. I don’t know how to make it happen, and I was unable to attend Skud’s talk, but I’m sure Skud had some great ideas and calls to action. I’d be happy to have special shows on FLOSS Weekly about this issue, and consider whatever else I might do to help.

Second, I’m a marketing dinosaur. I’ve been doing trade shows for thirty years. It’s become painfully obvious to me that the times have changed, and I haven’t. My actions are out of sync with the current climate, and to those who I have clearly offended, I’m sorry. That wasn’t my intention. I’m taking everything here to heart, even if I was initially defensive.

So yes, I *am* listening.

• http://infotrope.net/ Kirrily Robert

@Randal, thank you.

• http://theworkinggeek.com/ Andy Lester

Randal: Here are the slides of Skud’s talk:

http://infotrope.net/blog/2009/07/25/standing-out-in-the-crowd-my-oscon-keynote/

and here is the video:

http://blip.tv/file/2400597

As to “I don’t know how to make it happen,” amidst the anger and vitriol in this thread, there are indeed suggestions. I suggest that the first one be “stop hiring attractive women as sex objects for my parties and booths.” That would be a great start.

Thanks for listening. It can only help.

Thanks, all. I’m sitting here gobsmacked (in a good way ;-). I’ve had the privilege of working with the open source community for 15 years. I say “privilege” because youall have, in fact, changed the world. And your work’s not done, as this discussion makes clear. If any group can marshall the power of community to make something happen, you’re it. I love the shift in understanding (and yes, in tone) that’s happened here. I predict that it’ll unleash energy and creativity that fuels change. Go for it.

• Any Nonous Cow Herd

“If — and only if — you have an open source project that serves an almost exclusively male population, then I’ll give you a hall pass for having an almost exclusively male developer team, but not otherwise.”

What does this mean? Are you saying that you, Kirrily will take action against an open source project that has mostly male developers?

If this is true, what kind of action will you take?

If you will, what kind of authority do you have?

Last I checked, open source projects are non-profit and driven by volunteers. Are you seriously suggesting changing this?

• http://infotrope.net/ Kirrily Robert

@Any: My authority and the actions I can take are the same as any member of our community: I can call out bad (exclusionary, unwelcoming) behaviour, and encourage people to do better.

• Joshua Gay

This comment thread is amazing. I assume that this is the precursor to next years oscon reality tv show. So, I just wanted to put this out there sooner rather than later, when you broadcast it online, will you please provide an Ogg Theora stream? Thx, Josh

• http://infotrope.net/ Kirrily Robert

@Randal: Btw, if you are looking for ways to encourage women in open source, there are a number of resources available. My keynote lists things that open source projects and individuals can do, and the video is now available, as is a blog post on my own website. The “HOWTO Encourage Women in Linux” document is also worth reading.

More broadly, reading up on “male privilege” (google will have lots of resources for you) may help you understand why guys often don’t notice stuff that women do; that’s what I was referring to at the end of my talk when I said “pay attention” and “this is hard, because you’re not used to noticing.” The article Check my what? On privilege and what we can do about it is a good followup to the privilege checklists you will undoubtedly find.

• Any Nonous Cow Herd

Care to define “better?”

I want to note that many people who take issue with booth babes, booth boys, paid hostesses and other nontechnical eyecandy at technical conferences are not making value judgments about the decency or indecency of those entertainers as people.

And no, I would not directly ask a paid entertainer to leave a booth, even if I felt their clothing or their presence inappropriate, because that person is there doing a job. I would (and have) spoken up to the management/leadership of conferences, and I have corresponded with vendors via their available corporate contact information. In my experience, most of the time, unless a vendor is a very, very small company, the staff at the booths, even the person in charge with the booth, is *not* the person with the decision-making power over whether the booth is staffed with technical or nontechnical people, nor the decision-making power over how the booth staff is attired. The same goes for vendor-sponsored parties at technical conferences.

@Any Nonous Cow Herd – No authority is required to take the action of drawing others’ attention to something. Again, I question your intent in commenting here, which you didn’t bother to clarify when I asked before.

@Randal – Thank you.

• Kirsten Comandich

Sounds like great keynote Kirrily.

In the open source communities I’ve been involved in, I’ve seen the things you advise work well to keep more women involved: reaching out to women, making newcomers feel welcome, valuing everyone’s contribution, etc.

I agree with something Andy said: “Nobody deserves to be rudely treated. Whether you’re discussing an abstract idea or a person implementing it, all deserve to be treated with basic human respect.”

That’s why I think people hired to be at a booth only because of their looks do not represent LinuxFund or any other open source project well. People who are already part of the community would be a better choice.

Thank you Randal for listening to the feedback.

• Any Nonous Cow Herd

@Adele I was addressing Kirrily and she answered the question. Thank you very much for your concern. My intention is to learn your intentions and to HOPE that even though you want to do good, you do no harm.

• Marna Nightingale

I say “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

Really? I favour a flyswatter, myself.

(Actually, if you want fruitflies, vinegar, everytime. I digress … and really, who wants fruitflies?)

Ok, look, how shall I put this: in any remotely normally-socialised group of mostly female persons looking for change, it is wise to assume that asking politely has not only been tried, it’s been tried long past the point where it ceased to be at all productive.

It’s sad and it’s sorry and it’s all those things, but after 20-odd years of working in a great many male-dominated environments, I feel pretty confident saying this: far too many men are socialised such that the sound of women politely asking them to alter their behaviour sounds exactly like a deferential and attentive silence.

Also, “nice” versus “nasty” is a false dichotomy.

Firm is not nasty. Angry is not nasty. Determined is not nasty. Strong is not nasty. Blunt is not nasty. Nasty is nasty.

And compared to the kind of crap that women in open source have to put up with on a regular basis as part of their normal working lives, I am just not falling for the contention that there has been nastiness from the women and male allies here.

Really.

• http://pecunium.livejournal.com Pecunium

Randal: Please allow me to say I am sorry to have assumed you weren’t listening to people.

I apologise.

• hfb

@ Sara Winge

So can we assume, then, that ORA will work on and adopt a policy for future conferences to make it clear to vendors and such that rented boobage isn’t welcome and/or downright prohibited?

I’m curious if only because I realise that’s a fairly big step, especially in tough times where you don’t want to offend vendors, but I’d like to see something concrete come out of all this.

• http://pecunium.livejournal.com Pecunium

Randal: I wanted to say more, but I didn’t want it to seem my apology was cover. I am impressed, it takes courage to admit that sort of thing; courage I’m not always sure I have.

I’ll wager that a lack of booth-babes isn’t going to hurt you. A more balanced group of people from LinuxFund might work better; attracting more people who are interested, and making the female attendees more comfortable with coming to your booth.

What I’ve learned (selling books, snakes and the Army) is that a crowd is self-sustaing. I’ll bet you can figure out better ways to get the crowd.

• http://theworkinggeek.com/ Andy Lester

Randal: Here are the slides of Skud’s talk:

http://infotrope.net/blog/2009/07/25/standing-out-in-the-crowd-my-oscon-keynote/

and here is the video:

http://blip.tv/file/2400597

As to “I don’t know how to make it happen,” amidst the anger and vitriol in this thread, there are indeed suggestions. I suggest that the first one be “stop hiring attractive women as sex objects for my parties and booths.” That would be a great start.

Thanks for listening. It can only help.

@ Any Nonous Cow Herd

How very condescending of you.

You want to know my intentions? I haven’t been hiding them. My intention in reading this post and its comments (and other posts about Kirrily’s presentation elsewhere) in the first place was to see how the presentation was being received by the open source community at large, to see if the community was still as toxic as it has been to me and to other women in the past, because if the toxicity had dropped to levels where I might be able to enjoy spending time interacting with people in open source again beyond OTW and DW, I might consider doing so.

My resulting anger at what I saw in the comments above prompted me to comment, so that other lurkers and commenters here could hear my voice, and could possibly begin to actually hear when women attempt to be heard by the community.

From my perspective, you seem to just be here to try to silence dissenting opinions, using the handle that sounds like “anonymous coward” without responding to my question far above, wherein I asked you to acknowledge the implied insult of the word ‘cow’ in the context of gender-inequality discussions. You call everyone whiners, tell us all to shut up, offer us a tiny Victrola and a cookie.

And now you’re asking Kirrily, or women here in general, or commenters here in general, to “define ‘better'”?

Seriously?

And you “HOPE” that my intentions are good, and that I will do no harm?

You’ve given me no reason to believe you’re sincere about anything but your insults.

• Any Nonous Cow Herd

@Adele What can I say? I bring out the real you in you for all to see.

I am afraid you have too much bitterness and anger inside you to effectively help this cause. I wish you the best in your efforts to find inner happiness.

@ Any Nonous Cow Herd

For starters, you can say that you’re sorry for being condescending, to me and to others here.

• Jeremy Fitzhardinge

@Woodrow –

Thanks for posting the Birmingham Jail letter link. I’d not read it before, and its brilliant.

Aside from its general demolition of the “tone” argument, this spoke to me particularly:

“your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children”

I hope nobody will outright tell my 6yo daughter “No, you can’t be a programmer”, but I can see her coming to that conclusion on her own if she’s exposed to enough pictures like the infamous Kernel Summit group portrait.

• http://www.markroseman.com Mark Roseman

Kirrily, I saw your keynote video, and very much enjoyed it.. well, “enjoy” is probably not the right word, but I’m very glad you said what you did, and think you did a very good job saying it.

My own experience with conferences started with HCI-related events, which by their nature are more multi-disciplinary and diverse. The first couple of times I attended more tech-oriented open source conferences was an eye opener.

One thing I liked in your presentation was when you referred to the ‘code of diversity’ used by one of the projects you highlighted. It seems to me that one positive step for the community would be if events like OSCON published such a code in their conference materials as a guiding principle (e.g. part of the ‘About’ page).

While it shouldn’t be necessary in the first place, being so explicit does makes it clear the standard of behavior and attitude expected. That does make it easier for someone to stand up and say “dude, not cool” when it is violated (without first having to think about what the right code of conduct is for the community, which demographically at least is currently not far off from a strip club). It also encourages people to be more conscious of the issue in the first place.

Would O’Reilly be willing to include such a code in their materials, and if no, why not? I’d love to see the day when not having such a code (or more to the point, not abiding by such a code) would be seen as abnormal and a throwback.

• Any Nonous Cow Herd

@Adelle Actually, I was waiting for your apology for projecting yourself on others. I believe it is you who is trying silence others simply because they don’t agree with your politics.

I guess we’ll both be waiting for a long, long time. In the meantime, how is your happiness level? :)

• Marna Nightingale

You know, this just occurred to me.

When you all are evaluating whether or not women in this thread and elsewhere are being ‘patient’ enough and ‘nice’ enough and ‘understanding’ enough of men who are just trying to grapple with and understand this new and scary idea of diverse and welcoming and non-harassing behaviour in the workplace, this may lend a bit of useful context:

My grandmother got her first job in 1915. In a factory, during the war, working beside the men, as a lot of other women were. That workplace underwent considerable adjustment and change in the next few years, from what she told me decades later.

In the niney-four years since then there have been women in the workplace as a normal and usual thing, in an ever-increasing number of fields.

And apparently it is still necessary to explain, in small and easily understood words, in each and every professional field as women enter it in any numbers, *exactly the same kinds of things*.

Before you even start to explain how women need to be patient and kind and understanding about how this is a new and scary concept … think about that. Think about the fact that our grandmothers AND our mothers AND we have all had to have pretty much the exact same discussions and fights.

And then ask us what happened to our niceness and patience, if you still don’t know where it went.

• Jacqueline Thijsen

@Cow lover: I think the action Kirrily may take is to actually (*gasp*) speak or write about it.

But really, your reactions are starting to get a bit hysterical. Please do try to calm down and stick with the facts, would you?

• Any Nonous Cow Herd

@Jacqueline

Thank you for your concern, but you are most likely describing yourself, don’t you think? I think so.

Really now … who is trying to silence who here? :)

I’ve seen just about every single Internet message board cheap trick used on this list. I wonder just how many sock puppets there are posting here.

• kllmnt

@Kirril Thank you for your answer, nicely done. But still I don’t think the problem starts at the open source projects like you talked about.

some facts I would truly like to know.
* Do you have an idea about the ratio of female/male programmers and how many of them are interested in open source, because most of the time it’s the person’s own interests that guide them towards a specific project.
*How many users become developer or directly contribute to a project.
*Do you think there are less/almost-equal/more female users (that do *not* directly interact with specific projects) than male users.

“encourage women in open source” why do you think they need special encouragement? Isn’t it better to encourage everybody in open source and encourage new people to join in and treat them equally.

I would also like to know whether you (or anybody) can find out from the women who are involved in the large communities (GNOME, KDE, kernel, Drupal…), what there experiences were in their own communities and if there were any sexist situations and how the community as a whole reacted to those situations.

“If — and only if — you have an open source project that serves an almost exclusively male population, then I’ll give you a hall pass for having an almost exclusively male developer team, but not otherwise.”
wow nice one :-D there might be more than one reason for the women not joining a certain community(my 1st paragraph). so don’t be quick to judge.
If a community satisfies each others’ needs and treat each other equally and take action when some one is treated differently because of their gender, raise, religion…, I don’t they need any validation from anybody else.

• kllmnt

like to suggest you do the same, reading is good for you (most of the time :-)).

“I want to note that many people who take issue with booth babes, booth boys, paid hostesses and other nontechnical eyecandy at technical conferences are not making value judgments about the decency or indecency of those entertainers as people.”
so it’s not about decency or indecency, and you don’t have any issue with them as people. do you think those “booth babes” and club hostesses are being somehow exploited?

Or is it about the quality service you are getting from the people at the booth? If so, and you think it’s a waste of your time just leave their booth. It’s their booth, it’s up to them to decide how to present their products and services to others. Same goes for the parties, if you are attending some one else’s party at a club and if you think you think you wouldn’t enjoy the atmosphere there’s nothing anybody else can do.

BTW were everybody miserable at the party?

• http://hypatia.ca Leigh Honeywell

@Marna Nightingale

Thanks for doing a better job of explaining the problem with “tone” than I was able to do.

You may note that most of us on this thread are using our real names or a pseudonym which is easy to associate to their real name. Funny how you aren’t.

@kllmnt I notice you haven’t given me the suggestion to go read more. Is that because you prefer to talk down to women? Or did you just fail to read everything? All of your questions have already been answered, in this thread and elsewhere.

@Randal kudos.

to all Re: @any : Don’t feed the troll.

• http://pythoncraft.com/ Aahz

I thought Kirrily’s talk was great (not that I really needed to be convinced), and the aftermath of disbelief and dismissal has inspired me to start taking action within the Python community. The Python community has AFAIK never had the problems with overt barriers, but still has inherited the lack of diversity from Open Source in general.

I have started a new mailing list with the short-term goal of officially adopting a diversity statement for Python, and I welcome anyone who wants to join:

http://mail.python.org/mailman/listinfo/diversity

@kllmnt – In general, I do not willingly spend time in technical conference booths or parties belonging to vendors who are demeaning toward any of their potential customers in their advertising or marketing.

You pretty much missed my entire point.

Out of curiosity, because these discussions are really repeats of the same things that have happened many times before… I’ve just googled for the keyword combination “open source” and “sexist”. There’s a lot to read there… 49,200 hits. That’s even more than the 36,100 hits for the combination of “information technology” and “sexist”.

Ah, the Linux Journal ad that ran in 2000 and their promise never to run it again, which they broke in 2007. Memories… Oh, hey, there’s the How To Encourage Women in Linux primer from 2002. Sad to note how many of the points keep needing to be repeated by those trying to foster a more welcoming, tolerant community for all, and how many of the points keep being ignored by so many.

Ah, here’s an article from the first few pages of hits that I hadn’t seen before; interesting things on page three: http://itmanagement.earthweb.com/features/article.php/12297_3830651_1/Richard-Stallman-Leadership-and-Sexism.htm

If anyone is really looking for stories of how the open source community has reacted in the past to incidences of sexism and toxic situations, and how the community is reacting now, quite a bit of it is archived online, and can be easily found by those willing to see.

• http://www.stonehenge.com/merlyn/ Randal L. Schwartz

There is a thread on Skud’s blog (http://damned-colonial.dreamwidth.org/44292.html) in which some imply that I was pressured in some way by LinuxFund to say what I said. I can’t reply there, because it’s not an open membership (ironically :).

Rest assured, I reached this conclusion entirely on my own, without any sort of pressure from the LF board. It took me a few days, but I saw that what I was doing was upsetting to far more people than I had realized. Hence, the soul searching, and the resulting post. I may be a jerk most of the time, but I do have my moments of clarity. :)

• http://infotrope.net/ Kirrily Robert

My primary blog is at http://infotrope.net/blog/ … my DW account is mostly used for more ephemeral/personal wittering and non-professional creative endeavours.

• hfb

“Ah, here’s an article from the first few pages of hits that I hadn’t seen before; interesting things on page three: http://itmanagement.earthweb.com/features/article.php/12297_3830651_1/Richard-Stallman-Leadership-and-Sexism.htm

I think Stallman is getting a bit of the shaft (no sexist pun intended :) ) on that. It sort of goes with the old saying that if all you have is a hammer, everything begins to look like a nail. Someone should call the pope and complain about the whole ‘virgin’ mary thing and no women priests first rather than rake Stallman over the coals.

Stallman saying something that could easily be taken out of context vs. having a rent-a-boobjob with dragonlady nails with a skirt up to her buttcrack are on totally different scales of what is obvious and what can be addressed. I’m sorry I wasn’t there as I would have loved to ask how anyone could manage to type with those nails. :)

I worry that if people start pouncing on every word, etc., guys say (And fwiw, I thought the pr0n star talk referenced in that article was kinda funny though, admittedly, not very technical) that we’ll just get tuned out. Maybe I’ve just been around too long and had too many extreme experiences to be bothered by another old fossil who likely isn’t going to be the point of change anyway.

My money is still on hackers who’ve had little girls which, at least in the perl ranks, is a fairly large number and the moment they see what goes on through a father’s eyes ….there’ll be a lot more interest in change and change on a number of fronts. It’ll be another 10 years or thereabouts, so maybe by then the cons will be free of dragonladies by then.

Of course, then we’ll need to worry about dads tagging along to the cons with a shotgun to keep guys away from their little girls ;)

• kllmnt

@Thorfi
it seems you are one who haven’t read all the comments. I replied to,
which was a comment from **Adele**, and that’s what I replied to.

DONT’T BE A CONDESENDING ASS.

Thanks to idiots like you ppl now have to explain them selves, when they are not being remotely sexist.

I started commenting on this, because I just want to clarify some points on Kirrily’s talk and some types of marketing stunts are considered as sexist by some people.

• http://infotrope.net/ Kirrily Robert

@hfb Just goes to show that feminists are far from unanimous in our opinions :) I think it was important to call RMS out, because of his standing in the community and the fact it was a keynote. A comment like that from one guy over lunch, sure, I’d roll my eyes and let it slide, most likely. But I’m glad it came up in relation to RMS, especially this year when sexism in conference presentations seems to be a particularly hot topic. I noticed at OSCON that a few people seem to have modified their slides in light of the whole ongoing discussion.

• kllmnt

>>”You pretty much missed my entire point.”
thank you, for pointing that out,..

being dismissive and providing some google stats, I guess that’s one ways of proving a point.

@all
What I finally understood is that *I* seem to have a problem with how some people define sexism. I definitely understand when a person id discriminated because of their gender, it is sexism. I’ve seen it in real life, and understand it and do not, for any reason tolerate it. But how can personal taste, like attraction towards women (booth babes in this case), translate in to sexism?

Remember Bucky O'Hare spaceship is sometimes not the answer… :-)

• http://arrow00.com Arrow

@Kirrily, what an awesome keynote. Terrific tone and meat to the content. Made me wish I could have been there. Thank you for it, and for this discussion, painful as it has been at times.

I’m a volunteer sysdmin for the OTW and one of the two sysadmins (female) currently supporting the AO3 (we’re just now training a third o/). We also have a fourth sysadmin (male) on staff who supports one of the OTW wikis, and I have to say I think he’s brave as anything to be (I believe) the only male volunteer in the technical arm of the org. I wonder what it’s like for him to be in the reverse situation most of us face? Or maybe it’s a little bit like being behind the curtain.

I joined the project because I was looking for a good OS project to devote my time to and yeah, it made a difference how welcoming I found the atmosphere. I had an aborted start in package name deleted for libel concerns and got iced out. (It wasn’t linux kernel).

(it might rhyme with ‘Attila.’)

@Randall, I don’t know what caused your change of heart, but all I can say is, I’m glad. Because Programming Perl taught me my first language and started me on my career lo these 15 years ago, and it felt like a punch in the gut to read the stuff (frankly, crap) you were saying. I would say one thing in response to your continuing attestations that “this is what the majority wants” and that no one complained to you at the con–people generally do not like confrontations in person. And nowadays we are much more likely to take it to the lists and twitter. I don’t know where you get your numbers, but seriously, take a poll. A real poll, not one in your imagination.

I’m a little afraid of your imagination, to tell you the truth. I’m afraid it might involve…bubbles.

(Not the chimp.)

But I’m very glad to hear you’re listening.

Btw, in reference to something you said earlier about being thin-skinned: in my daytime career I’m release engineer over 50-odd C, C++ and Java developers, and I can say with absolute truth that regardless if it’s a man or a woman, they all react exactly the same way to breaking the build–with total and instantaneous red-faced humiliation and an immediate compulsion to fix it immediately, hopefully before I get the continuous build notification and track their asses down.

It could be because I’ve trained them that way. Has something to do with the tire-iron I keep on my desk, I think.

PS: anyone interested in volunteering for the OTW, please feel free to contact us at http://transformativeworks.org. o/ We train! We teach! We don’t have strippers!

• kllmnt

“having a rent-a-boobjob with dragonlady nails with a skirt up to her buttcrack” If I found this funny (I really did, but at the same time feel a bit sorry the person who is described in this way), am I being a sexist here?

I wonder what made hfb talk about that person in that way.

BTW is this the “rent-a-boobjob” in question? http://www.flickr.com/photos/randal-schwartz/3758325639/

@ hfb – I am interested in the analysis of how bloggers and media responded, and in the links and thoughts on moving forward given in page three of that article I linked. I’m refraining from commenting about the Stallman situation itself here.

I certainly would not have felt comfortable attending Matt Aimonetti’s talk, nor can I envision most of the techie women I know, and the techie men I know who have daughters, feeling comfortable through that. But I certainly don’t know all techie women, and I wouldn’t try to speak for all techie women, either.

But why, why, why should we have to wait yet another ten years for change at conferences?

I just watched Angela Byron’s Video/Slides from Women in Open Source talk at Open Web Vancouver 09. She was given the opportunity to make a much longer presentation than Kirrily was, and I found both the presentation and the discussion in the room at the end of the talk interesting. http://webchick.net/presentations/women-in-open-source-owv-09

I was certainly not trying to dismiss you entirely… had I intended so, I would not have tried to place myself in your shoes even for a moment of googling.

• kllmnt

I have seen sexism related articles, blogs and mailing list posts all over the web (and yes I have used google to find them many time).

Pls go back and see my first post, where I said “So many questions, just have to post some here”.
That’s related directly to the OSCON presentation Kirrily did. Google search wouldn’t have been the answer in that situation. So pls don’t try to take it out of context. (comment in question : http://radar.oreilly.com/2009/07/oscon-standing-out-in-the-crow.html#comment-2069297)

• http://arrow00.com Arrow

Rest assured, I reached this conclusion entirely on my own, without any sort of pressure from the LF board. It took me a few days, but I saw that what I was doing was upsetting to far more people than I had realized.

@Randal — I hadn’t seen this later posting, so my apologies. I didn’t realize there was a whole other thread going on, either. Thank you so much for listening, and for having the guts to do that kind of soul searching.

• kllmnt

@hfb you said : “Perhaps, but they’re all cut from the same cloth and too busy typing with one hand to really consider a rather different perspective.”

“typing with one hand” ;-) Isn’t this sexist statement.. Or is this about Randal only.

btw some guys use the mouse instead of typing.

• Matt McLeod

@kllmnt: of course not. But a technical conference is the context under discussion so that’s what I’ve limited my comments to.

However. The societal changes we want are not going to happen quickly. It’s all incremental. And this is one increment — and end to “booth babes” and similar stunts at ORA conferences — which ought to be reasonably straightforward to achieve.

• http://apostate.raqsstorm.org Woodrow "asim" Jarvis Hill

@Marna Nightingale: Thanks for that. I suspect the more people grasp that there is a history

@Andy Lester: I’d like, personally — and people tell me if you think this is too much — to redefine that “booth babe” prohibition. Because, really, there’s a lot of issues around the term “attractive” alone.

Rather, I’d take the tack of saying, if I was a conference, something like:
“We encourage that the people working your booth have a strong, working knowledge of your products. We discourage the act of hiring help from outside your company to draw attention or distribute advertising.”

That, alongside a work — not just statements, but active recruitment — of groups that are not typically involved in technology conferences, would go a long way to mitigating these issues. Having a conference reach out to the Internet, to their local communities, to find women, minorities, kids, etc. who might provide a new set of ideas and visions around our tech is, of course, how we can improve relations. Not only that, but said active recruitment can also open doors in areas where Open Source isn’t as well known, which can bring in a number of opportunities.

This isn’t a zero-sum game. It’s not only the right thing to do, esp. with people famous for attempting to democratize access to computing knowledge, its also a way to get more people involved and invested in working (and buying!) Open Source technologies.

• hfb

@Kirrily

“Just goes to show that feminists are far from unanimous in our opinions :) I think it was important to call RMS out, because of his standing in the community and the fact it was a keynote.”

Well, I said he ‘sorta’ got the shaft. Richard really isn’t doing anything new and people drag him out for the dog and pony every now and then for the fanboy crowd. I suppose what I was getting at with my earlier comment is that it would probably work better to have Brad explain it to him than to lynch him since that appears to have just made him angry. Maybe having a toddler has made me soft in that I tend to pick my battles more carefully these days.

The parallel to racism is valid and, though at the time of MLK, nobody would dispute that language mattered, but language is less symbolic and harder to get the masses to rally around than a brave woman refusing to move to the back of the bus. Maybe making an issue out of the rent-a-boobs at the cons is the kind of blatant and symbolic issue which most could agree upon as an issue whose time has come.

@ kllmnt

“If I found this funny (I really did, but at the same time feel a bit sorry the person who is described in this way), am I being a sexist here?I wonder what made hfb talk about that person in that way.”

She might be mother teresa for all I know, but my description was not terribly embellished.

• Ann / Kudra

I have not really observed any sexism directed at me, personally, in my career as a programmer. By that I mean that I have never had difficulty finding work, or had anyone question my abilities on the basis of my sex. In fact, if anything, I encounter less focused sexism in my work than I do outside of it.

However, I have observed plenty of sexism which wasn’t aimed at me particularly, and I can see how this would discourage some people from participating. I ignore it, but it doesn’t mean I like it.

As for Randal’s reputation concerning women…I’ve never met anyone who likes the way things have been. I’ve always found it a little sad, actually, more than offensive. So I’m glad you’ve been reading and thinking, Randal–I’m yet another person who would prefer it if the sexual stuff could be removed from technical conferences.

• kllmnt

@hfb
Thats in the club isn’t it. nothing special about it.

• kllmnt

I think most of the ppl commenting here agree that there are sexist individuals in some open source communities and nobody should tolerate it. But this, ‘my shit doesn’t smell’ attitude in some ppl would not help in this situation. ppl crying out *sexism* when ever they they see some thing they wouldn’t approve or doesn’t match their taste, is as damaging as the comments of sexist individuals.

• http://theworkinggeek.com/ Andy Lester

@asim: I’m not going down the road of trying to define what is and isn’t kosher as far as booth help, not the least of which is the definition of “attractive” as you mention.

I also don’t think that there’s anything wrong with outsiders coming in to attract attention. What if the Linux Fund booth had, say, a magician to do card tricks? And all he knew was to say that the Linux Fund credit card helped a great cause, and Bill here can give you details? I can’t imagine anyone complaining about that, any more than the MediaWiki person in a bunny suit walking around the show floor.

But what if the magician was a she? And what if she was in a tiny skin-baring dress?

And what if your booth babe is someone from the community, who wears skin-baring clothing? She might be entirely knowledgeable with the internals of MySQL or Hadoop, but dresses in a manner designed to attract our baser instincts?

All of which is a long way of saying “I’m glad I won’t be the one having to write this policy”. :-)

• hfb

@ kllmnt

No, which is precisely the point in that ladies like that are easy to find, and at rather reasonable rates, so why import them? Break out the corporate AmEx and head for the right side of town.

When you choose to enter a profession where you focus on brains more than looks, it’s rather offensive to be so rudely reminded of the challenges an AA-cup woman faces in a male-dominated profession. If I had a nickel for every time I heard a guy tell me how much he loves smart women only to trot out the trophy wife, I’d have retired long ago.

I showed that pic to a few (male) folks at Sun asking them to reassure me that nothing like this would be found at the Sun booths or parties and the reaction was a rather consistent “WTF?” So I’m glad the problem is obvious to some if not to all.

• kllmnt

booth babes weren’t wearing “skin-baring clothing”
http://www.flickr.com/photos/randal-schwartz/3758260545/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/randal-schwartz/3758260491/

It seems the problem some of these people have is that they are *women*

Because it seems the bunny was ok with everybody.

Insecurities brought up by facing years of sexism in society? can’t be…

• hfb

“I certainly would not have felt comfortable attending Matt Aimonetti’s talk, nor can I envision most of the techie women I know, and the techie men I know who have daughters, feeling comfortable through that. But I certainly don’t know all techie women, and I wouldn’t try to speak for all techie women, either.
But why, why, why should we have to wait yet another ten years for change at conferences?”

As I said, one has to pick your battles wisely and the pr0n talk, while somewhat over the top, appeared to be a mostly tongue-in-cheek bit of pr0n mockery. I have a more ribald sense of humour than average, though, so that may be a mitigating factor.

As for being patient….it’s going to take time to change the wide range of social attitudes that create a hostile environment for women in the industry. There’s no magic to be had to that end and it will get progressively more difficult as you work from the obvious to the pernicious.

• kllmnt

@hfb people appreciate brains and I think the same people appreciate looks also. some people one more than the other. You can decide for your self what(and how much) you value a person. It’s not the same for everybody. You talk about sexism and what everybody need to do to stop it. But ‘in your mind’ the ladies @ the club are some how less intelligent (less brainy) than the people who attended OSCON.
So according to your logic are the ladies @ OSCON were not(or less) attractive?

Just to make it clear. When you said,
“Break out the corporate AmEx and head for the right side of town.” I take it that you are implying that those two ladies were hookers.
If that’s true, that means they are couple of less intelligent hookers (I feel sorry for them)

you said,
“I showed that pic to a few (male) folks at Sun asking them…” So you told folks at Sun, they (the big boobed ones) were at the booths also?
Thats not true is it?

• hfb

@ kllmnt

“I take it that you are implying that those two ladies were hookers.”

I don’t know if they were or not, but being paid to look like one really muddles the difference. I’ve lived where prostitution is legal and I’m all for that, so that’s not the issue.

“So you told folks at Sun, they (the big boobed ones) were at the booths also?”

That’s not what I said and, no, as far as I can tell, guys were expected to go buy their own elsewhere.

• hfb

@ kllmnt

“I take it that you are implying that those two ladies were hookers.”

I don’t know if they were or not, but being paid to look like one really muddles the difference. I’ve lived where prostitution is legal and I’m all for that, so that’s not the issue.

“So you told folks at Sun, they (the big boobed ones) were at the booths also?”

That’s not what I said and, no, as far as I can tell, guys were expected to go buy their own elsewhere.

@hfb: Thank you. I would be more patient, I think, if we’d collectively made more noticeable progress on the obvious stuff by now.

• hfb

@ kllmnt

I’m all for legalized prostitution and think women who can get paid for their entertainment value should and I hope they get paid a fair rate. But, yes, since we are talking about looks and judgement thereof, there’s a cost that comes with dressing like a woman who rents by the hour, namely, you aren’t expecting folks to be wondering if you got your Ph.D. in quantum mechanics. It’s less about sexism and more about class which is an entirely different conversation.

And, no, Sun did not have rented boobage as far as I’ve been able to ascertain.

• Arrow

@kllmnt the problem is taking the sexuality of a woman, turning it into an object, and trying to make a product more sale-able by waving that object (a woman’s sexuality) near the product. Using proximity. If you don’t get that that is sexism, then no amount of logic will work with you. You are a ship that is lost in the whirlpool of your own rhetoric.

People had no trouble identifying the booth babes as booth babes because they are booth babes. Booth babes only belong in a booth if you are selling booth babes. Or, you know, if they live there. Are they paying rent? No? Then they are there for the purposes of selling product. In which case, you know, it’s sexism, or they are being sold themselves as a product, which is illegal in most places.

And @Andy, it would be like having a Magician, yeah, if he used his cock as a magic wand to sell the product, and if Magicians had oh, thousands of years of having their wands being iconized, objectified, trivialized and used for the masses.

I suppose you could argue Magicians are marginalized in our society, but I tend to think that’s a good thing. But then I’m a rationalist.

• Arrow

@kllmnt the problem isn’t that they were women, the problem is taking the sexuality of a woman, turning it into an object, and trying to make a product more sale-able by waving that object (a woman’s sexuality) near the product. Using proximity. If you don’t get that that is sexism, then no amount of logic will work with you. You are a ship that is lost in the whirlpool of your own rhetoric.

People had no trouble identifying the booth babes as booth babes because they are booth babes. Booth babes only belong in a booth if you are selling booth babes. Or, you know, if they live there. Are they paying rent? No? Then they are there for the purposes of sexualizing product. (Or they are being sold themselves as a product, which isn’t what the con was about.)

And @Andy, it would be like having a Magician, yeah, if he used his cock as a magic wand to sell the product, and if Magicians had oh, thousands of years of having their wands being iconized, objectified, trivialized and used for the masses.

I suppose you could argue Magicians are marginalized in our society, but I tend to think that’s a good thing. But then I’m a rationalist.

• kllmnt

@hfb thanks for answering some of the questions.
so you don’t have issue with prostitution, and you just think they look like hookers. I’m sorry for interpreting it differently.

anyway it’s been great reading all the inteligent and well informed opinions of all you guys and gals, I have no doubt that you are trying to make the O/S community a better place for every one, but I still think destroying some things while protecting another ‘is not cool’. Hope there won’t be too much Collateral damage.

bye bye

• http://theworkinggeek.com/ Andy Lester

Arrow: I suggest that you re-read my comment before dumping on me.

I was in no way suggesting, as you seem to think I was, “Well, if there’s a magician, that’s OK, so why can’t we have hot chix?” My point was that we would have no problems with a magician doing a performance, so an exclusion saying “rent-an-attention-getters are bad” would be overkill.

• Danny O'Brien

@Randal

Wow! That is awesome. Thank you. @Aahz, ditto. I’ve always found the Python community to be friendly but that just makes it a great place to start.

Randal, it occurs to me incidentally that the Squeak community would be a great place to work on improving the number of women involved in OSS in general. It’s a space that would really benefit from more involvement, the design of the software is meant to lower barriers to entry for beginner coders. Also, one of the key areas I think for improving diversity is to get people involved in OSS is to get a broad swathe of people involved *early*. Squeak’s educational mission would seem to be a great fit with this. What do you think. Maybe Squeak could look to the Dreamwidth model for encouraging new developers?

• http://infotrope.net/ Kirrily Robert

@hfb, @klllmnt, I don’t think this back and forth is productive at this point. Can we let it go, or take it to email, or something?

• Arrow

@Andy Your comparison with the magician seemed to be trying to blur lines that can’t be blurred. I’m sorry that I misunderstood.

But I don’t think it would be so hard to draw up a new policy. If sellers felt the need to glamorize their products beyond the actual features, they could hire magicians and other performers, all who would sign contracts that would say, “No skin,” or some equivalent, and it would all be above board. Hiring women to wear abbreviated clothing and entertain at the Stonehenge/LinuxFund party, e.g., would not have made the cut. “Booth babes,” and how I hate that term, IMHO should be allowed, as dressed in those photos. What’s being traded on there is sexual appeal rather than skin, and to try to have a policy against hiring women to distribute T-shirts is kind of ridiculous, and hurtful to their job prospects.

Again, MHO.

But I think there are probably other trade shows/conventions who have been through all this, and from whom OSCON could borrow the standards/language.

• hfb

@ Kirrily

Actually, I thought it was getting closer to the real issue in that we all make judgements at first glance. If we didn’t, the guys would have been chatting those ladies up about their latest kernel patches instead of staring at their anterior and posterior cleavage.

We hold ourselves apart from women who don’t worry about respect or technical esteem in this crowd and manage to get a lot more attention, different than desired, in spite of that. We’re in a different class and we want that to be recognised and the offense comes in when it isn’t or is trivialised when we see women who have different values and don’t care about the respect mingling in our little universe where we wish things could be more equal and meritocratic.

• http://mjmojo.com/ Mary Jane Kelly

Wow, I can’t say how disappointed I am now.

I was at the party and when I saw the girls who were ‘dressed differently’, I immediately thought ‘OH wow! They look cute!’ I had no idea that they were paid to be there as decoration*.

I don’t care how they looked; I actually found them quite pretty. The fact that they were hired to attend makes me sick to my stomach, though.

@Elizabeth Cortell: I like your analogy about racism. It puts things into perspective.

*Before I get attacked, I must admit that I didn’t administer a scientifically rigorous intelligence test/interview to each and every woman at the party. I also didn’t ask if the company that hired the women administered a similar test. It is purely my, perhaps biased, assumption that, no matter what they were wearing, if the hired ladies were interested in the subject matter or actual party guests, they wouldn’t have needed to be paid. Furthermore, since the venue was not especially suitable for tech demonstrations/presentations, I can only assume that they were being compensated for something other than their technical expertise.

• Bob Roberts

20+ coders who are all female!

This is supposed to be a victory? A separate but equal project?

• http://www.stonehenge.com/merlyn/ Randal L. Schwartz

“The fact that they were hired to attend makes me sick to my stomach, though.”

No. We did not hire any girls specifically for the party, other than inviting our exhibit hall booth assistants to attend. The girls in question were off-duty cocktail waitresses who had shown up for their shifts anyway, and were paid by the venue to be there, but when we realized that most of the folks would be happy just walking up to the bar for their drinks, they gave them the night off.

• Arrow

@Bob

A separate but equal project?

You’re confusing terms. Separate but equal referred to government-established/paid-for infrastructure (such as schools) during civil rights era rulings (although now I believe the term also applies to gay civil unions as opposed to marriages provided by the State. It’s still not equal.)

The coding project you are referring to was created by the people who participate, not by an outside agency, and was not explicitly created to be women-only in the ranks, that was just the way it fell out because of interest. The point is there are obviously women interested in coding, in learning and participating in OS projects. It means that when the barriers to participation are lifted, the enthusiasm and talent is there. Victory, yes.

• Marna Nightingale

hfb:

Someone should call the pope and complain about the whole ‘virgin’ mary thing and no women priests.

I realise this was a casual analogy, but this whole discussion seems to have a strong vibe of people not being aware of feminist history, relevant history and general history.

I assure you, that discussion has been going on, vocally and continuously, for longer than this one.

Also, I’m no fan of Stallman, but comparing his attitude towards women to the Vatican’s is a bit harsh … I hope.

Bob Roberts:

This is supposed to be a victory?

This is a victory. 20+ coders, many of whom are brand-new and about to start moving out into the larger community. More to come. Plus, one Hell of a good project.

And it’s not like anyone is stopping men from getting involved in OTW. They just need to, you know, jump right in there and be persistent. And incredibly competent. Tactfully and nicely and without offending anyone or bruising any egos or getting all bent out of shape about the little stuff. While keeping firmly in mind that they are of course at all times representing their entire gender.[1]

[1] This is sarcasm. It does not represent the policies or opinions of the OTW – an excellent organisation with which I have no formal affiliation – or any part therof, in whole or in part. Don’t make me say “Oh, c’mon, honey-sweetie-baby-boy-pookie-dear, can’t you take a joke?” Because I will. At the drop of a hat.

• hfb

@ Marna

“I realise this was a casual analogy, but this whole discussion seems to have a strong vibe of people not being aware of feminist history, relevant history and general history.”

It wasn’t an analogy, it was sarcasm mostly. He’s a Jew and I’m a recovering Catholic. Him talking about virgin anything is about as meaningful as me telling rabbi jokes. I still think making a mountain out of that molehill doesn’t really have the desired impact.

• Marna Nightingale

hfb: Well, yes, but “[thing you are suggesting] is like [utterly improbable/useless thing]” as a means of sarcastic dismissal works better when [improbable/useless thing] is carefully selected not to actually be widespread and making strong progress.

Congratulations on your recovery, I suppose.

• Bob

I notice that “age” isn’t listed on either the DW or python diversity statements. I guess us old C programmers should just get put out to pasture, ’cause after all, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks (said tongue firmly in cheek).

It looks like this got bifurcated into two different discussions:

1) Women in open source (Kirrily’s original topic, as far as I can make out), and

2) Booth babes.

With regard to the first, it seems like some people are arguing for a meritocracy, which I’m all for. Want to contribute? Fantastic! Doing great work? I’ll praise you for it and give you cookies! New to OS and want to learn more? Sure, I’ll give you what time I can to hook you up with the right resources!

But I’m taken somewhat aback at the notion that as a privileged male, it’s my “responsibility” to ensure diversity within a developer base. If you can come up with the goods, I don’t care if you’re female, Canadian, or Martian. I’m all for getting neophytes into the mix, too, but the idea that I “should” pay more attention to the women who are new to OS chafes me a bit; why not just make sure that EVERYONE feels welcome?

I worked with women that do project management and documentation, and have been damn good at it. Some might claim that these are the “girl jobs” within development, but AFAIK (and I’ve asked), they’re happy doing what they’re doing. I’d never say no if they wanted to learn more about dev or start contributing, but I’m NOT going to chase them down and say, “You really SHOULD start learning some Ruby and contributing to a project, or you’re just letting your gender down,” no more than I would anyone else.

I also balk at the idea of ensuring a consistent ratio of men to women between the developer community and the user community. “Sorry, Joe, those are some fantastic feature suggestions, but 7 of us ten code-grinders are men, and our user base is 50% women… come back when we have more dudes using it.” How does Kirrily’s “hall pass” benefit anyone?

If it’s important enough to you, I fully support your right to use products that are coded only by women, men, children, dandruff sufferers, kittens, whatever you like… but don’t tar everyone with the “anti-diversity” brush just because the demographics of the folks doing the work don’t match the demographics of the user base.

As to the second discussion, it seems like voting with your pocketbook (or FTP client) is the best way of dealing with vendors that do silly things. Tell ’em that you found their babe/band/T-shirt/presentation/magician/mime offensive, sure, and maybe they’ll change their ways. But IMHO, trying to come up with a comprehensive con policy that addresses everything that might offend someone is like trying to teach a pig to sing.

One last note: some of these knives cut both ways. Don’t assume that someone’s an airhead just because they’re pretty. I used to date an SE who’d come home from conferences frustrated because both male and female attendees assumed that she wasn’t technical, given that she was attractive and wore make-up and heels on the show floor.

• http://www.otterbook.com David N. Blank-Edelman

It looks like cooler heads are prevailing here and some people’s minds are changing. I’m sorry to go back to an earlier point in the discussion but I need to make a slight annotation/correction to something said in the heat of battle:

Randal said with nobody from LISA raising an objection.

I was the program chair for LISA 2005. At that time I made it very clear to the person who handled the vendor show (who has since moved on to doing stuff associated with Open Source) that I did not want Stonehenge or any other vendor to hire “booth babes.” I was clear that I found the practice to be a few stops down the line from Danny’s Creepy heading towards Repugnant and I didn’t want something like that at any conference I was going to organize. As I recall, I was told that there had been a number of similar complaints and that they were going to make it clear to Stonehenge that this was not acceptable.

So, if Randal couldn’t hire \$OBJECTs for his booth at LISA 2005, that’s because at least one person did raise an objection.

P.S. Delighted to see this conversation starting to bloom in the open source community. It is very important; my kudos to Kirrily for moving it along in such a constructive way with the keynote.

• hfb

@ Marna

“Well, yes, but “[thing you are suggesting] is like [utterly improbable/useless thing]” as a means of sarcastic dismissal works better when [improbable/useless thing] is carefully selected not to actually be widespread and making strong progress.”

I’m not entirely sure what you mean by that and I’m down on a deadline so am tired and a bit thick, but I think you missed the idea that I don’t think Richard is a raging sexist, there was at least one european OSS guy who at the talk I know isn’t who didn’t get ruffled by it, so I’m willing to trust that reaction and lack thereof, and that there can be landmines in even the most unwittingly chosen words, especially if people are looking to be offended.

I think getting guys who get it to lead by example is a lot more likely to be successful than beating old farts like Richard up for tripping over his own id.

@ David

:)

• http://denise.dreamwidth.org Denise Paolucci

@Bob:

The reason Dreamwidth doesn’t mention ‘age’ in our diversity statement (and we have gotten some questions about that) is because US law prevents us from accepting users under the age of 13 without jumping through COPPA’s hoops, which are timeconsuming and tedious. Since the COPPA process is so fraught with minefields, we just don’t allow users under the age of 13, so technically we do discriminate on age, and we couldn’t figure out a good way to phrase it.

I’m all for getting neophytes into the mix, too, but the idea that I “should” pay more attention to the women who are new to OS chafes me a bit; why not just make sure that EVERYONE feels welcome?

Because, historically speaking, there is far more societal and cultural pressure against women in technology fields. It generally isn’t overt pressure — I say generally; I personally had several high-school guidance counsellors tell me “you don’t need to take that computer programming course, there’s plenty of space in home ec”, but from what I hear statements like that are less common today — but it’s a very subtle and invasive subtext that women have their noses rubbed in in a thousand different ways. (There are some useful links to checklists elsewhere in the comments here that will provide some concrete “privilege check” examples of how women are pressured away from technology.)

Efforts to encourage women in technology, and in open source development, aren’t to single out women or provide preferential treatment. They’re an effort to level the playing field and attempt to undo some of the societal pressures women face that turn them away from technology and/or programming when they would otherwise find it interesting, relevant, or fun.

I don’t think anyone’s suggesting that projects should pressure women into the “programming track” if that’s not where their interests lie, but the problem is that there are plenty of women out there whose interests do lie in programming; they’ve just never been encouraged or taught. (And in some cases, they’ve been actively discouraged.)

When preparing for this talk, Skud surveyed female Dreamwidth and OTW developers to ask them about their prior experiences with open source and programming — that’s the source of her quotes from DW/OTW developers in her keynote — and I think that a lot of those responses might be enlightening, to you and to others in this thread. You can find that survey, and its comments, here:

http://damned-colonial.dreamwidth.org/26119.html?format=light

Those are the voices of the women who’ve felt turned away from other projects, and I think they’re really powerful voices. That is why it’s important to encourage and mentor women in open source.

Making sure that everyone feels welcome — beginner or not — is important, of course, and I don’t think anyone would dispute that. But projects need to take an extra step to make sure that beginners and women feel welcome explicitly, because far too often, women are used to hearing “everyone is welcome” in theory and seeing something else apply in practice. By explicitly mentioning that women are welcome, one makes the statement that one’s project leaders are aware of the things that turn women away — or at least are willing to listen nonjudgementally when those things are pointed out to them — and that one’s project is committed to avoiding or censuring those behaviors, which is a powerful and important reassurance to have.

• http://denise.dreamwidth.org Denise Paolucci

Mea culpa, that link in my previous comment was just the survey for Dreamwidth developers. Here’s the one for OTW developers:

http://damned-colonial.dreamwidth.org/26935.html?format=light

• Eric TF Bat

Randal (who is one of my heroes, which is why I was dismayed at his comments) wrote: My actions are out of sync with the current climate, and to those who I have clearly offended, I’m sorry.

… Which is excellent, and it takes a big man (or woman, or mammal) to make that sort of apology. I’d just like to suggest a one-word change, though.

“Offended” is one of those loaded words that can get fired back at the wielder. I find myself thinking, on occasion, “Oh, you’re offended are you? La-dee-dah! Aren’t you a sensitive little petal!” Half the time I see people being offended, it’s because they’re precious little twerps who go out of their way to find opportunities to take offence, just so they can have a chance to complain.

But that’s not what’s happening here. Here, people are feeling excluded, irritated, rejected and, more often than not, hurt.

So I recommend using the word “hurt” instead of “offended”. Some people, as above, damn well deserve to be offended, because they’re bloody offensive themselves. But people don’t deserve to be hurt, even if “only” by words.

• Clown Soup

Lionel Lauer “Speaking as a white, heterosexual man who’s attended innumerable trade shows & conferences over the last 25 years, I actively avoid booths with booth-babes”

Ah. I understand. You have confidence issues.

• http://friendfeed.com/webmaven Michael R. Bernstein

Oh look, a troll.

Clown Soup, I think I speak for most, if not all, of the non-misogynistic men participating in this discussion in saying that, I think what you’ve got there is an *overconfidence* issue, son.

You might want to get that looked at.

• http://blauzahl.livejournal.com A. L. Spehr

I have to say that I find the idea that you need booth babes to hand out free t-shirts which were also your entrance tickets to a party with free booze hilarious. The idea that someone in a .org booth would hire booth babes is so outlandish to me, that I didn’t really parse them.

Some of us “booth babes” are developers.

Just how many does it take before things change?

Some projects are better than others when it comes to all this stuff. So to the women out there reading, especially bystanders: don’t give up. Not every place is as bad as this thread. There are some nice bubbles of happiness, and I’ve met some great guys (and gals too!) who were/are happy to give help to newbies.

• Deb

The meritocracy argument only holds water if you don’t simultaneously expect all the female members of your community to spend half their time explaining why sexism is offensive.

• http://nop.dreamwidth.org/ Lionel Lauer

Clown Soup: Ah. I understand. You have confidence issues.

Oh honey, I’d bet money that I’ve been with more women in the last two years than you have in your entire life.
Grow the fuck up, or at least keep quiet while the grownups are trying to have a conversation.

• http://nop.dreamwidth.org Lionel Lauer

@Dusty Wilson
‘Tactful’? Jesus H. Christ!
If someone in an OSS project is giving someone shit for being a woman, screw being tactful – give ’em both barrels! You might be surprised how many guys will stick up for you. If not, screw ’em, save your talent for somewhere it’s appreciated.

• http://www.hondentrainingschool.nl/online-dierenwinkel/ Hondentraining

Lol at these comments, seriously you people are amusing