On keynotes and apologies

I wasn’t going to blog about this, but I’m becoming pretty angry about it now, and I think I might actually have something constructive to say.

Here’s the story: Mark Shuttleworth gave a keynote at LinuxCon, which I attended, in which he said lots of reasonable things and one very unfortunate thing. Paraphrased, he said that if we did a better job at considering our non-technical users and accepting help from expert UI designers, we’d have an easier time “explaining to girls what we actually do”. (By girls, he meant women, not female children.) I’d like to be able to provide a direct transcript when critiquing his words, but the LinuxCon organizers don’t seem to be willing to make the video available for free, so I can’t do that yet. I’ll link to it as soon as it’s available.

Before I get started properly, I want to make it clear that I like and respect Mark Shuttleworth. I regularly use and recommend Ubuntu to other people, and am very glad that he’s doing what he’s doing in the world. There’s no personal animosity or ill will behind this post at all.

It’s actually not just the Ubuntu distribution that I recommend: I’m also hugely impressed by the Ubuntu Code of Conduct, which was a groundbreaking document at the time it was adopted, and made it clear — for the first time — that there is a free software community that is willing to put a stake in the ground and say that it’s not a place for people who want to communicate by disrespecting someone else, or another group. I think the Ubuntu community is one of the most tolerant, welcoming and diverse free software communities we have, and I’m sure that this is a reflection of Mark’s own thoughts on the matter.

So, back to the keynote. Kirrily Robert heard about this statement of Mark’s from Emma Jane Hogbin’s transcript in a conversation on identi.ca, and wrote an e-mail and blog post asking Mark to apologize and clear this up. Sam Varghese now has a blog post attacking Kirrily Robert, because Kirrily based her objection on someone else’s transcript of what was said rather than being there herself.

Well, I was at the keynote too, and was paying attention, and it turns out that even with context applied, someone who talks about “explaining to girls what we actually do” when talking about free software really is saying something sexist, and buying into the noxious stereotype that women can’t be developers or tech-savvy; that they’ll never be a real part of our group, even if a few of them are brave enough to try in the face of other people dismissing their efforts (and Mark certainly isn’t the first to have done that).

This statement actually wasn’t the first exclusionary thing Mark had said in the talk, in my opinion. Earlier he attempted another joke about how when he talks about “releases”, he doesn’t mean “release” as in “happy ending”. The joke didn’t go over very well, and he made a comment about how it must be because we were tired and not listening properly. Actually, I was confused because I already felt pretty sure that he was talking about software, rather than male orgasms and hookers, because that’s supposed to be a safe assumption to make during a technical conference keynote.

So, Sam Varghese can stop claiming that Mark’s statement wasn’t sexist because no-one in the room found it sexist: there’s no doubt in my mind that it was a sexist thing to say, and I was there.

Varghese tries to paint himself as a martyr, saying that he’s “sure he’ll be shouted down too” for denying sexism, but it’s actually extremely, overwhelmingly common to attack the person who points out sexism in free software communities — common enough that Matt Zimmerman, Canonical’s CTO, has an excellent blog post on the subject: Backlash: feminism considered harmful. The backlash is so strong that if Kirrily were just an occasional contributor, I’d be thoroughly unsurprised if the kind of attacks she’s receiving drove her away from free software completely. She’s been in the community for long enough, though, that she’s willing to put effort into calling out sexism even though she’ll be attacked and ridiculed for it by people who think that there’s nothing wrong with the situation. Thanks for not giving up in disgust and leaving us alone to enjoy our 1% participation by women, Kirrily.

Varghese finishes his post with:

“Shuttleworth has many faults, I’m sure, but one has to always assume that a person is innocent until proven guilty. If someone violates that basic rule, which should extend to every human on the planet, then that person is in the wrong.”

Look, we’re not talking about a trial that attempts to judge whether Mark is a good or bad person; we need to move past the idea that someone who said something sexist is “guilty” or deserving of punishment. Kirrily’s letter, after all, didn’t ask Mark to apologize for being a sexist person (which I don’t think that anyone involved actually thinks is true), it just asked for an apology for one sexist thing he said. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t behave in sexist ways sometimes, because it turns out that discarding privilege is really goddamn hard, even when you’re consciously trying to. We need to make it clear that someone who accidentally said something sexist is not “a sexist”, or a bad person, or worthy of our contempt, or deserving of a ruling of innocence or guilt. I do respect Mark, and I still think he said something sexist, and if he apologizes for accidentally saying something sexist and says he’ll try to make amends, that makes everything totally okay with me. We need to be able to admit when we say/do something sexist without it turning into something huge and unmanagable, because it’s something that’s probably going to happen quite a lot.

Matthew Jones also made a post defending Mark and I’d like to reply to that too:

“When Mark said try to explain to girls, he was not talking about women not understanding technology. He was talking about how hard the design work is to do, and that if things were designed poorly or had low usability, he would not know how to explain them to girls (my translation). The tone of his voice suggested sarcastic embarrassment, which implies he would prefer to impress girls.”

I totally agree with the context of Mark’s statement provided, although I don’t at all see how that’s “not talking about women not understanding technology”. The statement is still as exclusionary a statement given this context — the fact that Mark may like to impress women doesn’t excuse that his statement thinks of women as a synonym for “people who don’t understand how software works”! That’s a really destructive phrasing that we should all reject. It’s not hard to substitute “the average person” or just “people who aren’t as interested in computers as we are” and turn the statement from exclusionary-to-women to gender-neutral.

Here are some of the arguments made against asking Mark for an apology in the comments on Kirrily’s blog post:

Mark is a nice guy. I agree! However, when someone (metaphorically, perhaps) steps on someone else’s feet accidentally, you expect them to say “Oops, sorry.” regardless of how nice a person they are; that’s just not relevant to the fact that someone else is hurt and it’s their fault. If they refused to apologize for it, that might change your idea of how nice a person they are, but the fact that they hurt someone unintentionally doesn’t have any bearing on whether they’re a good or bad person in the past or in the future. It’s just a thing they did that they should apologize for.

Mark wasn’t trying to offend people, he was just making a joke. I agree with this too, but making a joke doesn’t stop the words we choose to tell the joke with from having power.

And, perhaps one that I’m expecting to see in the comments on this post:

Hey, you’re not a woman, so you can’t be upset about this. I think that actually helps, in this case. Sam Varghese used a lot of very loaded words like “emotional” and “irrational” in his rejection of Kirrily’s post that I think were an idea of his that she shouldn’t be able to complain about this because she’s a woman. I don’t agree with that restriction, of course, but I’m happy to help remove it from the discussion.

Finally, I want to repeat that for me the real shame here isn’t that Mark said something unfortunate — we can all say something unfortunate when we’re speaking in front of a large crowd for a long time, myself certainly included. What’s a shame is that it doesn’t take a superhuman dose of empathy to give a short and sincere apology for an obviously harmful joke afterwards, yet we don’t have one yet. To make matters worse, it’s the second time in a few months that someone’s implied that women are people who lack technical knowledge during a conference keynote, and it seems to be the second time we aren’t getting any kind of apology for it. We’re left to conclude that the biggest heroes in free software — the people who speak for and about us to the world — don’t care much about whether women feel invited to or excluded from free software, or how they could use their power to affect that.

Comments

  1. Your reading of what I wrote is wrong. I have criticised Robert for leaping to a conclusion without having seen Shuttleworth’s entire keynote. She did not have to be there, she could have watched it anywhere (as I did).

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  2. Sam,

    You’re right, I should say “because Kirrily based her objection on someone else’s transcript of what was said rather than hearing the keynote herself”. The difference between the two sentences hadn’t occured to me as being significant.

    In any case, I’m afraid I consider it a moot point — both my post, and much more notably Matt Zimmerman’s, make it clear that Mark’s words were unacceptable regardless of whether you were reading after the fact (as Kirrily was), listening (as you were), or in the room (as Matt and I were).

    I have a much stronger objection to your post, though. Your claim that “I’m sure I’ll be shouted down too – but it doesn’t bother me one whit simply because this whole argument is never rational, it’s overly emotional” argues that the debate on sexism in free software can *never* be rational — no matter whether it is conducted by Kirrily, by me, or by Mark’s own CTO. This is a far bolder claim than “Kirrily should have listened to the whole thing”; so if we’re going to argue about something, it should certainly be about that.

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  3. Kudos, Chris.

    It turns out that it’s pretty important that men also stand up and recognize when privilege, entitlement, and sexism collide in the mouths of our friends and colleagues.

    What I have noticed the most in all of these type of discussions I’ve read recently is how often they follow the same pattern. A bunch of men and a few women descend and entirely repeat every single mistake that all of the well-written online content (e.g. http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com) points out. Ironically, it’s clear to me that this pattern goes back many, many years, and I’m only just noticing it.

    Tone argument? Check.

    I’m a man and I’m oppressed too? Check.

    Men who explain and don’t listen? Check.

    I sat in a very interesting session on women in FLOSS at the Community Leadership Summit before this year’s OSCON. It was an hour-long discussion where (essentially) one man managed to hit every single classic argument as to why these women should just go find something truly important to care about. It wasn’t until afterward that I gained enough clue to recognize the irony of that moment, and the reason I did that is because women in that moment were saying, “I’m sorry, you are doing exactly what many men do in this situation; we really do have many years of experience here; your jumping in with shallow understanding making the same arguments that are clearly debunked is just making you look a bit silly; please close mouth and open ears.” Instead of talking, I listened. Then I read.

    It’s actually rather embarrassing. I long considered myself a male feminist, and I didn’t realize how totally backwards many of my male and female peers were thinking and acting.

    So I resolved to read, learn, speak up, and support men and women who are making clear and important feminist arguments. Thanks again, Chris.

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  4. Despite all the well-intent of the debate, I feel sorry for Mark though. Everyone can make a mistake like that when talking, because when you talk you say things without reflection. Sure most what you present is prepared, but not into detail. Otherwise you might read out a written statement. And then people wouldn’t go to keynotes, unless they wanted a good sleep.

    Often when I joke during a presentation it comes naturally, a prepared joke never works for me. So should I drop jokes because I could say something that (if you break it down) offends or stereotypes someone or something ?

    Is Mark a sexist ? Of course not. Did Mark say something sexist ? Maybe, but very likely not with intent. Does Mark believe ‘girls’ don’t get technology like ‘boys’ ? Of course not.

    So where do we want to take this ? Should we fight every mischaracterization from the brain ? Every slip of the tongue until people are afraid to take freely ? Should we start forbidding people to stereotype (which is a natural and unconscious way the brain works to be able to manage information) ?

    Or can we just accept that people can make mistakes, just like the brain does ?

    To be honest, if this is taken to the extreme, I fear that the same thing will happen with the word sexist, as happened with the word racist (around here), though. People start using it as a defense or attack strategy, and overusing the word, hollows its meaning.

    So I don’t think Mark should apologize for making a mistake like that. Errare humanum est, ignoscere divinum. (To err is human, to forgive divine.)

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  5. Hi,

    > Everyone can make a mistake like that when talking, because when you talk you say things without reflection.

    Yes, I said that in my post.

    > So should I drop jokes because I could say something that (if you break it down) offends or stereotypes someone or something ?

    No. You should apologize when your jokes unintentionally hurt someone.

    > (To err is human, to forgive divine.)

    The common definition of forgiveness requires acknowledgement by the person being forgiven that they’ve done something wrong. That isn’t present here. When it becomes present, I promise to try to be first in the forgiveness line. ;-)

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  6. The problem is that people went too far in judging and jumping to conclusions without an explanation or even the full transcript. The open letter quoted just five words taken out of context by someone not even there.
    The follow up was that one site (Tuxmachines) was calling for an Ubuntu boycott the same day based on the open letter which is now third hand information.
    This is all total lunacy.
    Ubuntu is not Mark Shuttleworth. It is a community and the distribution is the work of many people. To blame them for Mark’s unfortunate choice of words is just stupid.
    I think that many people are looking for opportunities to make some noise for their own political reasons. It isn’t about Ubuntu or Shuttleworth. In the end it is about their cause. Mark just conveniently played into their hands.
    Chances are none of them cares about Ubuntu, Canonical and Shuttleworth or want the situation cleared up. These same people are just sharpening their knives for the next unfortunate person to walk into their trap.
    I hope Mark has learned that people are watching and waiting for a misstep. Unfortunately many of these are open source people with an axe to grind. The Tuxmachines writer as much as said that he hates Ubuntu.

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  7. @Chris: You can also forgive someone who does not acknowledge or even does not agree that he did something wrong (publicly or privately)

    People might be hurt about what I just said, that does not mean I am wrong. Even when I acknowledge that someone is hurt because of what I said.

    I also take issue of the fact that Mark has to publicly apologize for something he said to a limited audience. Of which maybe no one complained to him. Should the video be edited for future people ? Maybe censored ? Isn’t Mark being targeted because he is in the spotlights ? Or is it because he generally does good and now makes a single snafu ? Is this why he has to apologize publicly, and for instance Berlusconi gets away with much more ?

    Example: Apparently it is rude in Japan to blow your nose in public. Unfortunately I happen to be very sensitive to things that makes me sneeze quickly, or forces me to blow my nose. Akin to upset people in the act. Should I apologize every time I blow my nose when in Japan ? Even when I do not acknowledge any wrong-doing ? (read: cultural difference) I’d like to know because I’ll be in that situation soon, doing a presentation :-)

    Another question I am asking myself, would it make a difference to you that someone apologizes publicly because he is forced to, rather than that he wants to ? For me it would make a difference. And I would probably less inclined to apologize in public than I would be in person, especially when there was no ill-intent and there is room for interpretation.

    Anyway, political correctness always gives me the shivers. It is like that Microsoft Windows 7 party video where everything is fake and clean and you have the mandatory African-American (or Asian) guy. I prefer real life, real emotions and the occasional public incorrectness or profanity.

    (Next you know I’d be thanking Mark, but I guess I might be hurting someone in the act ? ;-) )

    Maybe I need a general disclaimer: I apologize in advance for any emotion this comment may cause to the reader.

    Let’s keep things in proportion and let Mark decides what he wants to do, rather than what he should do according to some believe. It’ll make it much more honest too.

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  8. I feel very offended on your rascism against keynote speakers.

    Keynote speakers are, in fact, human beings also and they may say or do things that, when taken out of context, allow bigotted, sexist, and racsist individuals like yourself as fodder for their continued online persecution against their freedom of speach.

    I don’t know how hard I have to keep hitting people like you over the head until you realise that your distructive anti-keynote speaker agenda is keeping our community divided and we are losing out on the valuable contributions that keynote speakers everywere can give to use, but are continiously driven away by your ingorant and offensive stance on reality.

    Before replying to me I strongly suggest you take a look at:
    http://www.liberalconspiracy.org/2008/02/08/check-your-privilege-here/

    As a blogger you obviously fail to understand the true plight of the minority keynote speakers and unless you can read the link and fully comprehend were you fucked up at then your a asshole and I outmatically win this internet grudge match since I am obviously much smarter and more enlightened then you will ever be.

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  9. “I’m female and I’ve been active in the open source community as a contributor for over 5 years now, and it’s really time to drop the boys’ club. Seriously. If you think open source and linux are the domain of badly socialized geek men, you are wrong. So stop continuing to treat it as such.”

    As a badly socialized geek man, I take exception to that statement!!

    Seriously, though, why is it OK to imply that males in IT in general lack social skills? (Many do, IMO. But so do many females in IT, if this thread is any indication.)

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  10. “If you think open source and linux are the domain of badly socialized geek men, you are wrong.”

    I demand an apology for this extremely sexist kind of speech!

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  11. Too many people are wasting energy on something that shouldn’t have any power in their lives in the first place. Nothing has power over you except that power that you give it.

    “No one can offend you without your permission.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

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  12. @Ian:
    > Nothing has power over you except that power that you give it.

    It’s very easy to say that everyone should gain power for themselves when you’re the person who has the power, and there are other people complaining that they don’t have power and need your help in order to gain it. I think that this attitude acknowledges that someone else is being treated worse than you are, but then evades your responsibility to care about that by blaming the victims for exposing the power discrepancy in the first place.

    I don’t want to refuse to care about it. I don’t want people to make jokes that are only supposed to be funny to me because I’m heterosexual and male, at the expense of people who aren’t. I don’t want us to talk about how awesome the “guys” who make software are and how “girls” don’t yet understand what we do but maybe one day the guys will be able to simplify it enough for them to understand it.

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  13. I am sick of this politically correct bullshit. Mark Shuttleworth didn’t say anything that can be construed as sexist. Those who think he did are the hypersensitive types quick to get their panties in a knot over anything and everything.

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  14. @Chris – are you trying to prove your politically correct credentials? Do you have a SO or someone else you are trying to impress?

    Grow a pair! it is about time.

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  15. I for one, find this hilarious.

    Not so in an uncaring, arrogant sense, but rather that this clearly has been swept up into a storm under what was clearly a simple misunderstanding of true intentions in its initial outlay, and that alone is enough to make me chuckle.

    I suppose it’s simply a shame that what was publically said this time around just so happened to offend person “B” of important-and-in-the-foreground group “C”.

    To elaborate; Anything publically spoken is likely to offend someone, somewhere…

    However, I do not believe this man should feel any need to apologise (because he can say what he wants with every right to say it), but rather to simply clear up the haze around the true intentions of his statements.

    I’d understand this rash response to his speakings more if he made a “go back to the kitchen” joke or deliberately went out of his way to pinpoint and defame women, however, he did not… and that much is definately clear.

    Good day, Sir.

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  16. The statement is sexist only if you deliberately choose to ignore the context.

    He’s a heterosexual male, that implies a drive at the core level to impress the ladies by telling them about all the wonderful things he can do. Men, not so much… As a general rule, this includes all women, the great deal of which who are not in IT professions. For these women, yes, the subject of what we do in the Linux world can be hard to explain.

    Thus, the comment seems to be a lamentation of the difficulty of explaining Linux to non technical people in general and not a slur against women in IT.

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  17. Chris, thanks for posting this. Lord God, I don’t have the stamina to deal with this crap alone, and it’s good to have you in my corner.

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  18. ‘One guy unsuccessfully tried to rape my mum. She do not get pushed around so knocked him out. Women are able to do more or less anything, but do they feel like it?’

    Man, I hope you didn’t think about this before you posted, but your post is giving off some pretty strong victim-blaming vibes here. If women can do “more or less anything”, including stopping rape in its tracks, but choose not to because they don’t “feel like it”, then one of the logical conclusions of that argument is that rape victims get raped because they don’t try hard enough to prevent it. I really, really hope you didn’t mean that.

    I’m a woman, so obviously I don’t have male privilege, but I also happen to be white, mostly-heterosexual, and cisgendered. So I say my share of stupid, insensitive things. The other day, when I was introducing myself to a Chinese classmate, he gave me his full name. I asked if his first name was his “last name” (I meant family name). It wasn’t malicious, it wasn’t on purpose, it wasn’t the end of the world, but it was stupid and Eurocentric. So I apologized and corrected myself. Then he laughed, and I made a mental note not to do it again. The end. It isn’t nearly as hard as people are making it out to be.

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  19. I don’t think it was at all sexist when he said that he wanted to make it easier to explain to girls what he does. He is just saying that he only dates girls. He wasn’t trying to imply that they were stupid. He was implying that he feels bashful about being nerdy and that puts him at a disadvantage.

    He perhaps should have said,”It is probably hard to explain to boys too, but I don’t date boys.”

    Contrary to what some people would like to read into this, the term “guys” is not gender specific. Whenever he is talking about “guys”, this refers to a group of people regardless of their gender.

    See http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/guy

    “3 a : man, fellow b : person —used in plural to refer to the members of a group regardless of sex

    Also see:

    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/guys

    “2. guys Informal Persons of either sex.”

    Interpreting “guys” to mean a group of all males is really sexist. But, in this case, it is the people who are criticizing him that are being sexist. Maybe they should appologize.

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  20. Sorry to break it to some of you but the reason computer programming doesn’t impress or interest the majority of people of either sex is because it sounds so dull and boring not because us non programmers are too thick to ever understand it. It’s the digital equivalent of ornithology. That’s the real reason your partner’s eyes glaze over when you mention it.

    All those blokes making excuses for sexism need to realise that the cliched image of a computer programmer is a greasy haired skinny geek with pimples. Hardly an attractive proposition for the so-called “laydeez” (only a geek would think that word cool.) Standing up at a conference and referring to women as “girls” just reaffirms that never been kissed caricature of programmers unfortunately. Please try to be a bit more mature and insightful about why the masses aren’t falling at the feet of those who write software.

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  21. We should just lie? I have only 20 years experience from online technical communities. Might be that I do not have enough experience, but I have not met much women with a true technical interest.

    I have met some thousands of men, but less than ten women that has been interested in spending the thousands of hours.

    My mum, aunts, and wife are all managers in different organisations. Some of them at global level in large well recognised organisations.

    One guy unsuccessfully tried to rape my mum. She do not get pushed around so knocked him out. Women are able to do more or less anything, but do they feel like it?

    And yes.. My wife and my mother is better than me in physics, mathematics, and chemistry. BTW my wife also programs C when she absolutely have to.

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  22. @Patrick I think you need to reread Chris’ post to understand why that doesn’t make it okay. He explained it pretty well, I think.

    @Chris I couldn’t agree more. Very level-headed response on your part.

    Because Mark is a good guy who does understand the community issues involved, I am pretty confident we’ll see an apology soon (he’s probably busy like everyone else involved in various conferences this week).

    As for Sam, all I can say is that his articles have been some of the lowest, most insulting filth I’ve read in relation to our community, and the very idea that anyone should ever read what he writes fills me with woe. Sadly, Kirrily is not the first or even the most innocent honest person to be torn to shreds by him.

    I hope women (and men) don’t listen to him, and try to remember that although many (most?) men have trouble understanding this variety of sexism, we are working to change that, and at least outright bigotry is pretty rare these days. :-)

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  23. Oh dear, another sexism shitstorm. I wish people would stop saying stupid things and let my planets be about happy and technical stuff again :(

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  24. Of course Martin, thats what this whole thing is about.
    I brought this point up before.
    On that other blog it became apparent why these people were attacking others shouting “they said something sexist!”. Apparently they want gender neutral pronouns to be used everywhere and have stated that they will keep shouting until this happens.
    So we in free software should use these pronouns in our daily lives even though 99% of the world have never heard them before and if we don’t we are sexist.
    Do these people actually know what real gender discrimination is?
    How about they get shipped off to a Muslim country for a few years so they can find out.

    Its sad how out of it these people are.

    As for your remarks on the judging.
    I think your completely wrong. Mark shouldn’t have had a someone send him a letter saying he was sexist and also post the letter on a blog for the entire world to see before he had the chance to respond if he/she didn’t even have any evidence of what he actually said beyond word of mouth.
    But of course they jumped on it because that what they do, she gives talks on gender discrimination in oss so of course she needs to act anal with peoples words in order to have people think what she is doing is actually useful.
    I think people who start attacking others for little things like this should be removed from planet gnome.
    You are as bad as tabloids.
    As tom said.. Get a life.

    If this becomes another meme on the planet then I have had enough of this ridiculous “community”.

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  25. I can’t read Mark’s mind, but I believe everyone, both detractors and defenders, are missing the point. I think Mark’s phrase, if more detailed, would be something like: “I want to be understood when I talk about what I do when I’m in a bar making smalltalk to a potential candidate to be my significant other. Since I’m a heterossexual male, such candidate happens to be a girl. If I were gay or a girl, the candidate would be a guy.”

    Common, non tech-savvy people you meet casually. Gender not relevant.

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  26. It’s amazing how much more extreme the backlash reactions are than either the original thing Mark said or what we said on geekfeminism.org. Mark said one kind of annoying thing, Kirrily said basically, “Hey, that was kind of annoying, how about not doing that”.

    Then, a bunch of backlash which describes the above as:

    * trivial noise, nonsense, babbling, yammering;
    * violent metaphors like “firestorm” or “bloodbath”
    * actual oppression of men or attempts to censor people’s thoughts.

    I think that kind of reaction is much more harmful than either someone saying an annoying or offensive thing, or the act of pointing out that they’ve done so. No matter how many times it happens, I find it strange.

    Cheers Chris, and thanks for your sanity.

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  27. I am a woman (last time I checked), and I don’t feel offended at all.

    And the reason for this is, most of the girls I personally know don’t care about Linux or tech stuff, while most boys I know, do. Therefore, while it might sound sexist and harsh, Mark’s comment was not far from the truth. And I think we all know that.

    This doesn’t mean that there aren’t women who care about tech stuff (I am one of them so I know that they exist), but the reality is, that most, don’t. It’s a DAILY OBSERVANCE thing, not some kind of crude stereotyping said with evil in mind. Before you crucify someone and call him a sexist, you must understand his personal experiences and his conclusions in life, rather than quickly label him without a trial. Different people have different life stimulation and culture, therefore whatever might be obscene for you, might not be for that person.

    And in fact, in this case, maybe Mark had STATISTICS in his hands when he made that remark. Maybe his marketing told him that only about 5% of their users are females. Therefore, this kind of “sexist” remark would come natural out of him, because well, it’s LOGICAL to think that most women aren’t interested in the heavily involved Linux. And as he said, he tries to find ways to fix this problem. So he’s not someone who just sits his a$$ down, making fun of women and nothing else. He wants to see the situation fixed, his motives are good.

    So the real problem here is that some people get too offended, all too easily. You seem to be too uptight. Too Mrs Rights. The kind of people I don’t really like associating with. I grew up in a hot Mediterranean country, where are few rules. And I freaking like it this way. I guess I am more thick skinned than most around here, what can I say!

    And honestly, instead of all these people shouting at Mark at GeekFeminism.com and elsewhere, maybe INSTEAD, they should do something about the situation: try to recruit more women into gadgets/geekiness. GET TO WORK, instead of just shooting down people. It’s easier to shoot down a public figure to make your problem visible to others by making yourself look like a victim, rather than fixing your problems the clean way. Avoiding the truth and shooting down the postman won’t fix a bloody thing at the end. Instead of writing “open letters” and other bull like that, go sponsor Linux netbooks and GIVE THEM to school girls!

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  28. I dont get it, you openly admit that the context provided by Matthew, which states that “he was not talking about women not understanding technology” is accurate. Then you go on to state that “it’s the second time in a few months that someone’s implied that women are people who lack technical knowledge during a conference keynote”. These seem to be ideas at odds with each other.

    The fact of the matter is, people should be allowed to make a comment about desiring to impress the opposite sex or even the same sex. Does it need to happen in a keynote however? Probably not. This is the lapse of judgement in my view, that this kind of largely unrelated comment is made during a focused speech. It is largely out of context after all.

    Allow me to make a single modification to what he said. Instead of “we’d have an easier time explaining to girls what we actually do”, how about “I would have an easier time…”. Without a transcript I am not sure he didn’t already use I instead of We. This does seem to have a dramatic impact no?

    Reply
  29. @Chris:
    You aren’t blowing things out of proportion…

    @tretle: “gender neutral pronouns”
    …you are. No one (I’m willing for you to prove me wrong) has proposed that gender-neutral pronouns be used everywhere. Mostly, I’ve heard people use the same pronoun that applies to themselves, unless the identity of the person relies on the other one be used. For example, “the user” is “he,” Emma Jane Hogbin is she, “the programmer” is “he,” etc. Note that I’m not called out for addressing “the programmer” as “he,” because this is normal.

    As for the public letter, he said it in public. He should be called out in public. Same reason that security vulnerabilities in publicly available software should be public.

    And lastly, “If this becomes another meme on the planet then I have had enough of this ridiculous ‘community.’” Where do you find a leg to stand on, asking Chris to get a life?

    Reply
  30. Hi Jim,

    > I dont get it, you openly admit that the context provided by Matthew, which states that “he was not talking about women not understanding technology” is accurate.

    I’m just agreeing with Matthew’s description of the context leading up to the comment — as the post says, I don’t share Matthew’s conclusion that the result of the context is that Mark wasn’t talking about women in technology.

    > The fact of the matter is, people should be allowed to make a comment about desiring to impress the opposite sex or even the same sex.

    When the comment says that the reason people can’t impress women at the moment is that women don’t understand technology, people should be criticized for having said it. Mark’s allowed to say it (I’m not interested in censoring him), I’m allowed to criticize it, and massively influential role models should be particularly careful about what they say while the world’s watching them.

    Reply
  31. I think you did this exactly right. You’re not saying he’s sexist, you’re asking for one comment to be taken seriously, because words matter and “it was just a joke” doesn’t count in racism or any other area where people are feeling real-world effects. Also, you got in first on the “but you’re male so you can’t have an opinion” tripe (I saw a great flow chart mapping all those a while back).

    I don’t even need to know context, beyond that someone present thought it overstepped the mark. He should apologise and move on.

    Reply
  32. Thanks Chris, nice writeup. Some folks sure work hard defending poor behavior. The way people are jumping you definitely hit a nerve. It is sexist to single out women as being not-geeks, and in case anyone is wondering why so few women are in FOSS, well, take a look in the mirror.

    Though that’s not really fair to all the wonderful, cool people in FOSS; y’all need to speak up more and not let the jerks dominate the public discussions.

    best regards,
    Ellyn McMillan

    Reply
  33. @ liz -> actual oppression of men or attempts to censor people’s thoughts.

    You don’t seem to understand why people are annoyed here.. I have sexist things said to me every day by women. I don’t make a big deal of it, I don’t write on a blog aggregated on a place like planet gnome which is supposed to be about technical gnome related stuff not this kind of thing. This is not oppression from men, in fact that remark in my view is sexist. I demand an apology :D

    I believe that feminists aren’t doing their cause justice if what they want is a true equal society.
    There needs to be opposition for male rights too.. I don’t see how this issue is as pressing as some of the inequalities towards men which have become socialy acceptable today.

    How about you read this article and see the other side of the story ->

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masculism

    I don’t see why someone would label themselves a feminist if they where interested in equal rights.
    And the same goes for the male counterpart.
    I don’t see this as being a big issue as I think everyone has already agreed that Mark is in no way sexist nor did he use that remark in any sexist way.
    The problem is that even though you seem to understand this you still demand that he apologies, apologies for what?
    You know that the phrase itself was out of context, you know what he meant.
    Who is this hurting other than Mark?
    Do I need to get every women I meet to apologies for stereotypical responses towards my gender being spouted by them?
    How do you think society would view that?
    How do you think society would view a male looking for equal rights, the majority assume it has something to do with sexual orientation. Is that right?
    Feminists in my view are hypocrites.
    They don’t care about equal rights.

    Reply
  34. To quote a comment on geekfeminism regarding the letter to Mark from Mackenzie on the 24th of september:

    “You’re in luck! “ze” and “sie” are both accepted spellings of the gender-neutral singular pronoun. For possessive, “hir.” Now, I’ve heard one person say “but it sounds like ‘her’ when said out loud!” But any time I’ve heard it said, it was pronounced like “here.”

    Note: this is a situation where new words are made for a specific purpose. Sociologists, feminists, and those interested in trans rights tend to know all about these words. Others may need explanation.”

    This I believe backs up what I said, I wouldn’t have just lied about it. I tried explaining my argument surrounding the issue in another comment but it has not shown up so I assume it will not.

    Reply
  35. @tretle:
    > I tried explaining my argument surrounding the issue in another comment but it has not shown up so I assume it will not.

    Oops, this got flagged as spam. It’s approved now.

    Reply
  36. @Anonymous Estrogen:
    > Instead of writing “open letters” and other bull like that, go sponsor Linux netbooks and GIVE THEM to school girls!

    If you didn’t know about my job before writing this, that’s pretty hilarious — you’ve just described what I’ve been working on for One Laptop Per Child full-time for the last three years.

    (It turns out that you can do good things at work **and** have time to use writing to combat the social problems that are stopping women from joining the field you love. Who knew!)

    Reply
  37. I am a stand at home dad at the moment. My full time job is to clean the house, feed the baby, keep my hard working career wife sane, family economics, and so on.

    Linux and open source is my part time interests besides this important, but typical female tasks.

    The books I read, the groups I attend, and mostly everything else surrounding my everyday tasks is made for and by women.

    It is a known fact that most of these tasks are NOT done by male open source community members.

    I do not have a problem with the fact that I do not fit in to the stereotypical view of the role. I just get the diaper changed when needed.

    Reply
  38. I just want to comment on the “releases’ thing.

    Sexual release, ie orgasm, is something experienced by both females and males.

    It is not exclusive to male programmers when in the company of female prostitutes.

    Sexual pleasure, both female and male, are normal parts of the human experience. I don’t get how it is offensive to mention such things.

    Reply
  39. I’m glad someone took the time to read my opinion on what happened. And I am thrilled that you quoted several complete and sequential sentences from my post. Many people would fish sentence fragments from it.

    But if you read the very next sentence in the paragraph, it explains the part about it being exclusionary. It says:

    “So he could have said the same thing about his father. Or better yet. If he was gay, he would have said ‘guys’ not ‘girls’.”

    Of course he is going to say girls. He is apparently heterosexual. Hetero men like women. Most women and most men don’t know much about technology. And most people would not be able to understand bad design(what he was talking about). If Mark was a she, and said “guys”, no one would have batted an eyelash. It has nothing to do with the number of women in tech fields. Everything has been taken out of context. Therefore it is a-okay to say in my opinion.

    That is the context that he was applying when he said it. So it does not make it his fault that people are offended. No one should have to apologize for their opinion. People should accept that others are different, and move forward.

    I think that it is ridiculous that people are comparing this to the RMS “Emacs Virgins” incident. Or writing open letter to him, when they haven’t even seen the video. That is just a knee jerk reaction, and sensation journalism.

    Feel free to think otherwise. Everyone’s opinion is just as valid.

    Reply
  40. I think Tony is right. From what I’ve read, the comment was about impressing potential significant others, not specifically women – therefore, not sexism, because gender isn’t actually relevant. How would it be if a woman made the same joke?

    Reply
  41. @asp:
    > Sexual pleasure, both female and male, are normal parts of the human experience. I don’t get how it is offensive to mention such things.

    Have you tried asking women? They seem to be pretty clear on not wanting their professional interactions to be sexualized. There are, in fact, laws about this.

    > It is not exclusive to male programmers when in the company of female prostitutes.

    I guess this is debatable, but the kind of “manual release” that is part of a “happy ending” to a massage seems pretty one-sided to me, gender-wise. Not really the point, though; while the ability of each gender to experience sex is equal, the *desire* of the two genders to hear about it during technical talks is certainly not.

    Reply
  42. @Neil:
    > I think Tony is right. From what I’ve read, the comment was about impressing potential significant others, not specifically women – therefore, not sexism, because gender isn’t actually relevant. How would it be if a woman made the same joke?

    If gender’s not relevant, Mark is welcome to not specifically reference women when he’s trying to choose a group of people who he thinks it’s hard for him to explain his job to. That’s somewhat the point.

    Reply
  43. @Neil:
    > How would it be if a woman made the same joke?

    Well, the woman would say “haha, I wish I could explain my hard computer work to men”, and everyone would be confused and stare at her, and the floor of the keynote wouldn’t burst with laughter about how we could meet more partners if only we could find a way to explain our awesome complicated jobs to the gender that’s stereotyped as being less technical than us.

    Reply
  44. @Neil:
    > And then the joke would be ignored and no-one would call her sexist.

    Sigh. The fact that the reactions would be different is evidence that the joke is sexist!

    Reply
  45. Thanks for your post. As an OLPC supporter and happy XO user (but hoping for an XO 1.5 G1G1!), it’s really good to see you speaking up on this, and speaking so well.

    The “Backlash: Feminism Considered Harmful” link is also good. To the same end, may I quote Catherine Devlin (http://catherinedevlin.blogspot.com/2009/04/right-to-complaint.html):
    “When complaints are predictably met with accusations of “overreacting”, “political correctness”, and “intolerance”, the resulting message is: Be like us, be silent, or leave. … Complaint is *feedback*, it’s a legitimate part of a community’s communication.”

    Reply
  46. I agree with Matthew and Martin here,
    I also pointed out that sexual release is not gender specific or related to hookers on the feministgeek blog and was happy to see asp explain that here too.

    Chris lets take a step back here and read Martin’s, Matthew’s and ASP’s opinions again.

    I am all for equal rights and it irritates me that we live in a world where we don’t have them everywhere and for everyone but I think this debate is not helping that cause.
    Maybe people are just too jumpy after rms.
    But shuttleworth is not rms, what he said is being misconstrued.
    Your asking the man who came up with the gender neutral “ubuntero” word (specifically to ensure that no-one was left out regardless of gender) to apologize for a remark which has been labeled sexist.
    Please for the love of god think about the context of what he said first.
    Then pretend he is a women using the analogy of dating or whatever you want and ask yourself whether its still sexist and if its equally as sexist if he was a women taking about trying to explain something to guys then yes, its sexist. But its only sexist if it works both ways.
    But if a women used that analogy I personally would not have any issues as I would understand that she meant that it is uncomfortable to try and explain things to the opposite sex sometimes, especially if you are passionate about something and understand its flaws.
    It has nothing to do with the other persons ability to understand and more to do with your own honest perception of something you love.
    I think Mark loves open source software and understands its flaws, I think he is probably quite obsesive about these flaws and strives for it to be perfect in every way.
    This is the type of thing he was taking about, I don’t even think he started to mumble mid sentence due to worrying about his analogy, I think he did it because he was worried about what people might think of him if they added it up.

    Reply
  47. Hmm, I just now got what Mark meant – if you are at a party and talking to a person of opposite (or same) sex wanting to impress them, you want to talk about something cool, but yet something simple that you can easily explain to a stranger that you barely know and who might not even know IT all that well. We want free software to be such a thing, we want to try to make our passion (the free software) so cool that we can brag about it not only to other geeks, but to any cute stranger in a bar!

    Reply
  48. Great response, but you lose points straight away for responding to Sam Varghese (the shock jock, ambulance chasing idiot of “Open Source community” opinion writing).

    But it really was a great response… Hopefully folks who are not immediately turned off by “ZOMG another post about sexism” (and I’m not sure we can really help these folks at all) will find it helpful to understand exclusionary comments, no matter how casual.

    Reply
  49. I’m male. I was there, at the keynote, and I heard the comments. I found them both tacky, and I could tell that the women sitting next to me found them even more tacky.

    I agree with the comments on how Mark probably *meant* the second remark about “explaining to girls what we do”, but anyone who gave it a modicum of thought could have realized that the comments would offend people.

    As for the remark on “happy endings”, it struck me as crass and inappropriate. I wouldn’t specifically call it *sexist*; as a man, I don’t particularly want to hear a sexual reference in a technical presentation any more than a woman would.

    Reply
  50. @tretle:
    > Wohoo… Algarius gets it too..

    Woo-hoo, the men have decided that the women (and other men) who keep leaving comments saying that they were upset by this must be Logically Incorrect, and as a result the women are all going to realize their mistake and start feeling welcomed and valued again, right?

    Where do we get off telling people what they are and aren’t allowed to be upset by? Whatever happened to the idea of seeing that you’ve upset several members of a group of people with a different life experience to you, and assuming that they *probably have a good reason for being upset* rather than telling them that they can’t possibly be right because you don’t think that you’re capable of saying something hurtful to them, even after they explain in incredibly clear terms what it is that hurt them about what you said?

    My mind boggles.

    Reply
  51. i do not think his comments were sexist at all ..he is a guy who is (assuming here) that is into girls and he wants to impress them ..i understand his comments as saying something like ,,”its kind of hard to impress girls with FOSS when the FOSS software look like monkey butt”..

    is any comment about impressing the ladies sexist?

    Reply
  52. it’s perfectly reasonable to say you don’t find the comment offensive — but it’s also clear that numerous people who were there did immediately find it sexist. It’s a single stupid comment – so apologise for saying it and we can move on.

    Someone should do a flowchart of the comments here and on geekfeminism.org.
    The rules seem to include: you can’t comment if you’re male — and you’re a whiny feminist who we should be ignore if you’re female…. So you can only comment if you’re neither male nor female.

    Or even better logic — becuase there’s so few women in opensource that it’s okay to make comments that exclude them — and yet it’s those comments that are turning some women away from most of our projects, when they do want to contribute and have been for years. It’ll never change if we stick to that.

    p.s. why does commenting here require javascript? that’s naff.

    Reply
  53. “even after they explain in incredibly clear terms what it is that hurt them about what you said?”

    I have explained quite clearly that in my opinion I believe they have misinterpreted what he said(even the original poster on FeministGeek admitted in the post that it was her opinion that Mark is not sexist and that she felt the literal interpretation of the analogy was sexist), but analogies are not meant to be literal are they?
    Sorry for trying to be as logical as I can here but thats how I form opinions. I don’t understand why you are making me out to be bad because I try and form a logical opinion when the alternative is irrational?
    Would it be better if I was someone who didn’t actually believe in equal rights and said stupid irrational things like women cant work?
    I don’t like it when people make me out to be a bad person for trying to be logical about things.
    I would much prefer to be logical than have people like me here.

    “Where do we get off telling people what they are and aren’t allowed to be upset by?”
    I never said the weren’t allowed to do anything? And I am upset by this situation too, where do you get off telling me that I am not allowed to be upset or that women being upset outweighs my own opinion.
    I don’t think thats fair, I don’t think thats equal.
    I don’t think womens opinions are lesser than my own and I wont treat a women differently by pretending to agree when I disagree.
    I disagree with men too you know :D
    Out of interest did you read that wiki article I linked to, if you read it you will understand why I don’t think this is that pressing?
    I am sorry people were upset by this but the fact of the matter is that it was in my opinion a misconstrued analogy so although its unfortunate its in my view not Marks fault.
    Lots of people understood what he meant by the analogy, they have explained here yet people still want an apology because they didn’t get what he was saying.

    We might not agree with you but your entitled to your opinion just like you might not agree with us but we are entitled to our opinion.
    Please don’t start making everyone that disagrees with you out to be some sort of bad person. Or say its the man oppressing women, thats the type of thing that helps me form bad opinions of people.

    Everyone is an equal and deserves the right to their own opinion regardless of age, sex, race, sexual, religious or political orientation.
    They also deserve the right to free speech to voice their opinion.
    It is just that though, an opinion. Opinions tend to differ so thats why its best to try and hear both sides and form a logical opinion.
    In this situation there is no other side.
    Its based on assumptions and misinterpretation.
    All I have done is explain it from Marks point of view, surely someone who was hurt by what he said would be interested to hear what he was trying to say rather than hear an apology.

    No I should shut up, women are right and I am wrong. I am the man who is oppressing them.

    Reply
  54. “Woo-hoo, the men have decided that the women (and other men) who keep leaving comments saying that they were upset by this must be Logically Incorrect.”

    Every time I read this I get even angrier, what are you implying.. Men vs Men+Women = The Man vs Equality Activists.
    Am I the man, the bad guy and you are the person standing up for justice.
    Are my mother and three sisters also “The Man” because they agree with me.
    I can’t take you seriously if this is your view as you are only reaffirming my opinion.

    Reply
  55. @tretle:

    You’re taking Mackenzie’s comments about the gender-neutral pronouns ‘zie’ and ‘zir’ out of context, though you may not realize it. The threading setup at the geekfeminism blog can be a bit wonky sometimes, so it’s not immediately obvious that Mackenzie was responding to someone named Jef, who said (amongst other things):

    > Sometimes…. I hate the English language. We don’t have good gender neutral pronouns and we all suffer from that. We have to go out of our way in noun usage to ensure balance. Singular possessive case pronouns are the absolute worst. All we have is his/hers/its. I’m sure not going to use its when referring to a hypothetical or anonymous person. They/them/theirs is the only gender neutral construction we have..and that is boring to use over and over again when setting up hypotheticals.
    > What I want is for someone, or a group of someones, to get their heads together and decide on a set gender neutral words that I can reach for to talk about anonymous or hypothetical individuals either singularly or in groups so I don’t have to switch back and forth between gender specific terminology to point out that I’m really trying to be inclusive.

    She’s pointing out to Jef that gender-neutral pronouns have been constructed for people who want to use them, not embarking on a language reformation campaign as you seem to have gathered.

    Reply
  56. @ Rick -> Just looked over it and yeah, that blog’s comment layout is beyond terrible. It makes more sense now.

    Did find another interesting comment there while looking for Jeff’s.

    ->

    “Ellyn
    So Matt, instead of arguing with no facts, how about you find a transcript or video so we can all see the “context”? I sure do get tired of men trying to tell women we have no right to be offended when someone is offensive to us.

    Amazing how many words some folks will spew forth trying to tell us we should just bend over and take it, while denying they’re saying that. Just because you’re too chicken to face reality.”

    I love this comment, basically its guilty till proven innocent and how dare you disagree you “oppressive man”.
    I think this will be my last comment on the matter,
    I realize that some people(even people that disagree) understand what a differing opinion is but others are assuming that anyone who disagrees is oppressive and that tarnishes my own view of others with a different opinions.

    It makes me sad, cant we all just get along.

    Reply
  57. please stop this craptalk nobody cares about X words on women said by a guy somewhere, neither people will change their opinion..it’s just a FUCKING sentence..it won’t be written on philosophy books

    all this flaming is retarded

    Reply
  58. Gosh…

    So, Chris, you have an opinion that you feel strongly enough to want to share on a blog – no problem. The responses, though, are epic-scale accusations and squabbling. But it seems to be about a speaker pitching his talk wrongly (which can happen to us all – I can confirm it is the easiest thing to do to misjudge an audience). A comment that someone so well-known is being paid not to get it wrong is relevant. Anything else is self-indulgent generalisation about all ‘men’ and all ‘women’ that diminishes each of us.

    Reply
  59. A comment that someone so well-known is being paid not to get it wrong is relevant. -> Actually Mark is still loosing money as Canonical is not self sustaining yet so he is not even being paid to not get things wrong.

    Reply
  60. MB,

    Reinforcing a negative gender stereotype and dismissing the contributions of girls (aka women) to open source and to one’s own project goes beyond just pitching a talk wrongly.

    Chris was specific. Even if you disagree with the importance of the matter at hand, that doesn’t make it self-important generalizing, and it doesn’t diminish men or women to point out the problem with that keynote speech or the backlash against the objections to it.

    Reply
  61. Well it’s your blog and all, but gets combined into the Planet OLPC feed (and others it seems). And frankly, I’m not that interested in seeing long discussion on political correctness there, they already have more than enough of it.

    But to add my 0.05, there are clear hormone controlled differences in the ‘interest to tinker’, as a male-to-female transgender friend of mine observed after starting to take estrogen. So there are likely some biological reasons behind the gender distribution in IT, not just cultural ones. (And yes, I’d like to see more girls in IT too).

    Reply
  62. Hello,

    I haven’t read all the comments here, as there is an awful lot to read. For the same reason, i’ll try to keep it short.

    1. I liked your post and the open-mindedness it displays. The part on not judging people and calling them sexists is very much welcome.

    2. You did a great job of explaining the mindset of most people criticizing Mark Shuttleworth’s words. Though i may disagree with the criticism, i salute that respectful approach and it’s a pity some will overlook it and reply with agressivity or call names (“Get a life”, calling the critics stupid, etc.).

    3. As others, i think the backlash is more harmful to the community (especially to people already in the community who witness it) than Mark’s words. There has been some solid disagreement and criticism of the “open letter”, but there is at least as much hateful or disrespectful comments going on. This is saddening, though not unexpected.

    4. I agree that using “we” (meaning the Linux community) when talking about chatting up girls is misguided. Mark could have dropped the idea of using the context of seduction to talk about the necessity to make Linux more user-friendly, or worded it using the first person singular (me, my experience), or worded it with “we” but not “girls” or “women”. I believe it’s an honest mistake that can be easily corrected (“that was bad wording on my part, sorry about that”).

    5. I disagree that picturing women as not technical is sexist. Picturing men as not technical would not be sexist either. Even though in many countries there is a clear difference between men and women when it comes to their interest (and thus knowledge) of computers and software, most people you meet in contexts not related to technology (say, a bar) won’t know about Linux, and if you’re working on Linux your job won’t boost your social status one bit in their eyes.

    Reply
  63. @anon:
    > Well it’s your blog and all, but gets combined into the Planet OLPC feed (and others it seems). And frankly, I’m not that interested in seeing long discussion on political correctness there, they already have more than enough of it.

    I run Planet OLPC, and it’s clearly described as being about “the people working on the OLPC project”, not about the project itself. If you don’t like the content, you’re welcome to stop reading. :)

    > But to add my 0.05, there are clear hormone controlled differences in the ‘interest to tinker’, as a male-to-female transgender friend of mine observed after starting to take estrogen. So there are likely some biological reasons behind the gender distribution in IT, not just cultural ones. (And yes, I’d like to see more girls in IT too).

    We’re not (at least I’m not) talking about that gap — if free software communities could get from the 1% participation by women that they have now to the 20-30% participation by women that’s already seen in the IT industry, lots of people would be extremely happy.

    Reply
  64. I agree that an apology seems to be in order.

    One other point: repeatedly saying “there are very few women in tech” is harmful *even if it’s true*. Working under the notion that Ubuntu is male-dominated will make it so.

    Reply
  65. “explaining to girls what we actually do” when talking about free software really is saying something sexist, and buying into the noxious stereotype that women can’t be developers or tech-savvy:

    As an English man looking in, it appears you are deliberately twisting meaning to find offence: I think you’re getting offended about the wrong bit. He’s talking about flirting with the average person he meets in locations where he flirts, of the gender that he likes to flirt with (“so explaining to girls what I actually do” should be fine). I would suggest it is the “we” that is exclusionary, implying as it does that “we” would all want to impress girls (and not some other gender) (it’s not just sexist, it cuts out all gay men too. On the other hand, it is inclusive of lesbians. Win some, lose some…)

    Actually I think this evidence of cultural/lingual dissonance. You all hear Mark in American English. Unfortunately he’s not speaking American English (and thus maybe it was a bit rash of him to make such a remark in a keynote in the States).

    The rest of the world does not necessarily have US hang-ups relating to sexual mores (including those related to gender politics), and English English (for instance) is rich with oblique references, and I suspect that also applies to differences in feminism crossing culture and language barriers.

    And hey, you should apologise for the offence received, and not the one given :)

    (The bit about the “we” and the assumption that “we” are all the same still stands though as ill-judged IMHO)

    Reply
  66. @Matthew B:
    > The rest of the world does not necessarily have US hang-ups relating to sexual mores (including those related to gender politics), and English English (for instance) is rich with oblique references, and I suspect that also applies to differences in feminism crossing culture and language barriers.

    I’m English. I moved over to the US four years ago.

    Reply
  67. Chris you wrote a good piece and a well considered one – thank-you.

    It fascinates me how the privileged are so often blind to their privilege & to their prejudice.

    To the rest of the ‘guys’ – hey dudes keep up the inclusive behaviour like you’ve always done, it’s sure working really well to address the gender balance.

    Reply
  68. @ chris
    “We’re not (at least I’m not) talking about that gap — if free software communities could get from the 1% participation by women that they have now to the 20-30% participation by women that’s already seen in the IT industry, lots of people would be extremely happy.”

    I am not sure of the actual numbers but what percentage of males are involved in open source software with relation to the industry as a whole?
    And are you saying here that women account for 20-30% of the industry as a whole or are you saying you would like 20-30 percent of the women involved in the industry to be involved in oss?

    You need to take into account how much males are involved in oss over the amount of males in the industry and apply the same method to females.
    If there are more males in the industry there will be more males in oss.

    @ Kate – Privileges are a funny thing. People can be blinded by them on both sides of the spectrum.
    But hey, you could always prove me wrong.
    When was the last time you spoke out against lower insurance rates for women or unfair maternity rights towards men or shorter incarceration rates for women?

    Reply
  69. Now we’re at it, I think it should be about time that some people really need to apologize to my mom. I can’t remember how many times somebody claimed that linux should be so easy that even my mom can use it, without even knowing my mom, or how tech savvy she is.

    Reply
  70. Chris:
    >I’m English. I moved over to the US four years ago.

    OK that sinks one argument, but I’m surprised you really felt he was commenting on the intelligence of those he would like to flirt with (although that is as likely a reflection of my background/assumption set as anything else).

    I have used a similar phrase with women friends (although not with people I don’t know well). My job is hard to explain (not necessarily to understand, although most people I meet are already sufficiently bored by the first bit of the explanation that they don’t bother to understand the rest).

    … and I’m surprised no-one is more offended about the exclusionary “we”, since, I am assuming, this “we” would include people who would not be interested in “girls”.

    … but being surprised about something does not alter the fact of it.

    Anyway:

    Regardless, IMHO: Mr. Shuttleworth needs to apologise for the received offence rather than whatever he intended. (My previous “but hey” may have somewhat deflected my intended meaning).

    Reply
  71. @Lieven:
    > Now we’re at it, I think it should be about time that some people really need to apologize to my mom. I can’t remember how many times somebody claimed that linux should be so easy that even my mom can use it, without even knowing my mom, or how tech savvy she is.

    Hey, I agree. :) The “So easy your {mom,grandmother} can use it” meme is using the same stereotype — no-one ever puts {dad,grandfather} in there.

    Reply
  72. @Matthew B:
    > Regardless, IMHO: Mr. Shuttleworth needs to apologise for the received offence rather than whatever he intended. (My previous “but hey” may have somewhat deflected my intended meaning).

    Sure, that’s fine with me.

    That’s what I meant by the “stepping on someone’s foot accidentally” analogy in the post: your intentions aren’t nearly as relevant as the fact that someone has been hurt and it’s your fault. It’s obvious that you weren’t *intending* to stand on someone else’s foot, but saying “hey, what are you upset about, I wasn’t *trying* to do that, I’m not a bad person” would be ridiculous.

    Reply
  73. @tretle:
    > Did this post show up on planet fedora twice?

    I fixed a typo in the original post (s/anyone involves/anyone involved/), and it’s appearing as a new entry there. It didn’t do that on other planets, e.g. Planet Gnome. Sorry, Planet Fedorans.

    Reply
  74. I was checking Mark’s blog to see if he had said anything or apologized for the incident. He didn’t. But his latest twitter post on his blog sidebar says:

    “It’s as much about the girls in the port as the port in the girls.”

    Reply
  75. You should edit your original post, put XX’s, remove it completely or what ever but don’t mention that troll in discuise with initials S and V.

    Reply
  76. It is truly amazing how some men can never ever have the guts to listen to women and take us seriously, and you know ever so much better than us what is sexist and how we feel about things, and you fall all over yourselves “proving” we shouldn’t be offended by offensive behavior. There needs to be a stronger word than “arrogant” to describe this nonsense. You’re too chicken to face these issues squarely is the real problem.

    Mark’s stupid comments are especially noxious when you think about all the times he has taken people to task for having bad manners, and all that ‘humanity to others’ swill. I guess ‘others’ does not include women.

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  77. @tretle:
    You are lying. You said we want people to use ONLY gender neutral pronouns, and then you use my comment to back it up? Bullshit! My comment was a response to a person who was lamenting the lack of a gender neutral pronoun. THEY ASKED FOR A GENDER NEUTRAL PRONOUN, and I gave them some options. I did NOT say ANYWHERE that *ONLY* gender neutral pronouns should be used.

    Here’s how nonsexist writing works. You alternate genders. So that’d be like “so say someone wrote an RSS reader, and he…” then next time “so say someone wrote a Twitter client, and she…”

    Reply
  78. Thank you for writing this. Some people in the comments say this kind of talk doesn’t have any impact on anyone’s real life.

    But I can definitely say that it was this kind of talk that kept me from attending the Sci-Tech high school in my area–I was made to feel like an outsider just because I was female.

    This kind of talk does have a real impact on girls’ involvement with programming and thus has a real impact on the lives of women. Thank you for taking a stand against it.

    Reply
  79. @Raena – Who are you quoting? I don’t see that quote anywhere else on this page?
    Someone owns the planet, who?
    I never saw anyone claim that the planet was theirs.
    If you quote people quote them, don’t make up whinny sentences put them in quotation marks and point out how whinny they are.
    That implies someone else said them when in reality they are of your own construction.

    Reply
  80. @Ellyn – Sexism is not something only women face.
    And people are allowed to disagree with your opinion without being called “chicken” or “arrogant”.
    Especially when they have tried to explain why they disagree only to be ignored by nearly every commenter on this post.

    Reply
  81. @tretle:
    Also Re: #34:
    “Your asking the man who came up with the gender neutral “ubuntero” word (specifically to ensure that no-one was left out regardless of gender) to apologize for a remark which has been labeled sexist.”

    Actually…no. Mark didn’t come up with “Ubuntero.” And that name isn’t even in use anymore specifically BECAUSE of the gender implications of the -o suffix.
    See also: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Ubuntero_gendered_name

    Reply
  82. @ Mackenzie -> someone pointed that out on another post. Thats how your comment looked to me originally as the comment you were responding to was further up the page(the formating of the comments is a bit misleading).

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  83. Hey tretle,

    I posted this on James Cape’s blog too, but repeating just in case you haven’t spotted it there:

    I think you’re mis­read­ing Liz’s com­ment. She was describ­ing the back­lash against folks crit­icz­ing Mark’s com­ment. Let me try rephras­ing for clar­ity. Liz said: “Kirrily said basi­cally, “Hey, that was kind of annoy­ing, how about not doing that”.”

    She then said:

    “Then, a bunch of back­lash which describes the above as:”

    And then, re-read the bul­let point: “actual oppres­sion of men or attempts to cen­sor people’s thoughts.”

    She was not describ­ing men oppress­ing women, but rather accu­sa­tions in the com­ments that those of us who are crit­i­cal of Mark’s com­ments are oppress­ing men and attempt­ing to cen­sor men. There’s def­i­nitely a lot of that kind of back­lash both in the com­ments and in other blogs on this issue.

    Does that make a bit more sense?

    Because yeah, some folks — myself included — found Mark’s com­ments prob­lem­atic. Asking him to con­sider their impact on the women who are involved in Ubuntu, and the women who could be, is not the same thing as oppres­sion or censorship.

    –Leigh

    Reply
  84. @Anonymous @ #60:
    > The important part to remember is that this post of yours is how males like you (unsuccessfully) tries to score with females.

    Taking a genuine stand against sexism has nothing to do with trying to pick up and everything to do with trying to be a decent human being. Chris is doing a bang-up job. How do you think you are doing?

    Reply
  85. Ok I give up but before I do…

    I will ask again…
    When was the last time you spoke out against lower insurance rates for women or unfair maternity rights towards men or shorter incarceration time for women than for men for the same crimes?

    These are all sexist things but your not likely to give a crap.

    I would love to hear your reactions if it were switched around and you were paying higher insurance rates because you didn’t have a penis or had no choice on whether your child was born even in pro-choice states.

    I see people like you as hypocrites.
    And arguments like these as petty in comparison to the larger vision of “actual equal rights”.

    Reply
  86. tretle, everyone here has multiple issues that they care about. None of them are the topic under discussion, you’re just using a tired old tactic to try to distract from what Mark shuttleworth said, and why some of us have a problem with it. We’ll get along fine when men listen to women and take us seriously, and quit patting us on the head and telling us to run along whenever we complain about these sorts of events.

    Reply
  87. @trestle:

    If those are issues you care about, by all means, speak up on them. You don’t get to expect others to do so, though. I do actually give a crap about the issues you mention. But I focus the work I do on issues that affect me directly. There’s an FAQ on making this kind of choice here.

    I suggest if they are issues you care about, that you learn from what feminists have accomplished over the years and:

    1) sue your car insurer for gender discrimination

    2) campaign for more equal laws regarding paternity rights

    3) campaign for sentencing reform, or if you’re in a jurisdiction where judges are elected, make that something you vote based on.

    Those are all great causes. Since you care about them so much, get to work :)

    -Leigh

    Reply
  88. To Anonymous Estrogen:

    Thanks for the common sense.
    unfortunate as it is, the vast majority of Linux users and developers are male. And most of us have had a hard time explaining what we do to our wives/girlfriends. That’s a fact. It’s sexist in no way. It should offend nobody that did not want to be offended.

    Of course, anybody is free to be offended if they want, specially extremist and puritans, but that doesn’t make them right.

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  89. I can’t tell if Chris (and all the other activists) are joking. If not, this is super disappointing.

    Mark’s original point was let’s make Linux cool so we can impress folks. Ubuntu happens to be doing that and it is working.

    Now we get Chris with his retrograde cave man attitude that for women to be equal they need to value the man’s version of things (command line or whatever he sees as that).

    I hate to break it to Chris, but despite his attitude, Linux and many things would benefit from adapting based on womens input. So Ubuntu being something that girls like (or working towards that) should be encouraged.

    In case Chris hasn’t noticed, Apple has hired expert UI designers (many no doubt the very women he insists should only be interested in his commandline stupidity). They’ve done very well with this approach.

    Get a clue, grow up, and for heavens sake, go on a date or actually TALK to some real women.

    Reply
  90. Chris, just because you could find a “hilarious” line in the post of Anonymous Estrogen, does that mean that the rest of her post is “hilarious” too?

    I would love to see that you discuss that WHOLE post!

    So, because some people out there are upset by that tiny line in Mark’s keynote, we are no longer allowed to be shocked by the comments from people like geekfeminism?

    Do note, feminism is sexist by definition. And they are accusing Mark???

    Reply
  91. Women call men boys all the time. Anyone heard of the expression “Boys will be boys”? Or “He’s out with the boys”? Or the song, “Let’s here it for the boy”?

    When women call men “boys” it’s not usually an insult. It’s usually a term of endearment. That’s why women use the word “boyfriend” to their adult close male friend rather than “man friend”.

    Can men not be able to call women by the same phrases women call men?

    Now in the context of his talk, he was not talking about all women in general, just those that he wanted to get to know better and explain his work. Using girls in this context is entirely appropriate. If the genders were revered, calling his audience boys would be entirely appropriate.

    Mark could have given a vague general story devoid of context, but instead he give a personal story about how difficult it is to speak about his work to women whom he felt endeared to. Women in unusual field face exactly the same problem. It’s not a put down. It’s simply a fact of life that compiling kernels makes as much sense to the lay person as tensor analysis does to a kernel developer.

    The key problem in this whole brouhaha I see here is a lack of basic charity. Anyone whose been married knows that if you take every word at face value and react to every word, your marriage will be very short.

    To stay married, you need charity. Seek first to understand, then be understood. Very often, things are not as they appear.

    Even if ones spouse were wrong, telling all the neighbours about the fault and trying to get them to yell at your spouse before you even try to talk face to face with them is a sure ticket to a bitter divorce.

    I beg of you all, please let’s build a sane society. Please calm down, think about all that’s said. At this point, a one on one talk is out of the question since so many “neighbours” are involved.

    Judge people by their fruits. Has Mark been hostile to or supportive of women in the past? If he has been supportive, then please give him the benefit of the doubt this time and the next time, if you are offended, have a one-on-one email exchange before yelling to the neighbours. Okay?

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  92. Hello All,

    I think Mark’s comment, on telling the girls what we do, may be a bit unfortunate. Mostly because it has made some feel excluded, though I do not believe that was Mark’s intent.

    The one thing that always puzzles me, though. Is why is the mere mention (or implication) of sex considered sexist? Both men and women have sex. Generally speaking, I believe both genders want happy endings … I suppose I could be wrong in this.

    Troy

    Reply
  93. Oh my. I think people is becoming hyper-sensitive.

    If the participation of women in technological/computer fields is way lower than that of men, and that is a solid fact

    Couldn’t, perhaps, Shuttleworth just meant: “explaining to people-who-have-a-high-probability-of-being-less-computer-proficient-than-us what we do”, using a real life single word for that?

    Reply
  94. People. Words. This is what is causing this problem. While I agree words have meaning, they don’t hurt me if I don’t let them. I have some control of that side of it. I find what many people say to be either offensive or foolish; but, I don’t get upset and feel the need to call them out about one or two sentences in a lengthy talk. I can write them a private email or letter if it concerns me that much. Actions are the true test of any person; Mr. Shuttleworth’s actions don’t seem to warrant the uproar. We should all try to be respectful and understand our audience before any written article or speech; but, a public lashing for an unfortunate choice words shouldn’t be the first response either.

    Reply
  95. I wasn’t there but I’ve read both sides.

    The happy ending joke was tacky and unprofessional and deserved to die in my opinion, but without further comment.

    The remark about girls was rather innocuous and referred to the difficulty of impressing girls, if I understood it correctly. For feminists to rant about this shows a complete lack of both humour and perspective.

    Reply
  96. Why should anyone apologize for saying the truth? Has the world gone so crazy that a person can not say what everyone nows to be true for fear of offending a small group of lesbians.

    Hello, women are different from men last I looked (and I enjoy looking). Here’s a stunner, women have babies, and the anatomy to go with it. There interests are not the same as men in general, and geeks in particular.

    It is a sad day when Mark has to apologize for saying something that is true greater than 90% of the time.

    Reply
  97. **FACT**: Most Linux users are technical

    **FACT**: Most Linux users are men

    **FACT**: If Linux was easier to use (UI, etc), there would be more non-technical users (including girls).

    **FACT**: If there were more girls using Linux, we’d have an easier time explaining them what we actually do.

    Reply
  98. “The key problem in this whole brouhaha I see here is a lack of basic charity. Anyone whose been married knows that if you take every word at face value and react to every word, your marriage will be very short.” (…)

    “Judge people by their fruits. Has Mark been hostile to or supportive of women in the past? If he has been supportive, then please give him the benefit of the doubt this time and the next time, if you are offended, have a one-on-one email exchange before yelling to the neighbours. Okay?”

    Amen!

    Reply
  99. I have a few observations to make:

    1. The comment Mark made was probably made partially with light hearted humor in mind, yet it has an element of truth to it.

    2. The remark, though not intended to be offensive, was a sexist comment because it suggested something about the personality and understanding of “girls”.

    3. The fact that the comment was offensive to some, and also the fact that the mere discussion raises lots of comments, many much more inflamatory, suggest that these kinds of comments should not be made, whether to make a point or to make a joke.

    4. It is a fact that the overwhelming majority of developers are men. That says nothing at all, either about the intelligence or aptitude, either of women in general or of the intelligence or aptitude of those who do choose to be developers or involved with technology. There are a great number of factors related to those numbers, and frankly, I do not have either the background or experience to explain them.

    5. What I do know is that both men and women are capable of understanding technology. People of all races are capable of understanding and using technology.

    I would be greatly disappointed – and apologetic, if anything I say or do would discourage, offend, or anger someone who chooses, either to use or not to use the technology that interests me.

    I am not bothered that some people do not like to use technology either. From my perspective, there are both benefits and costs, rewards and risks, to choosing any profession, and similar gains and losses from being a consumer of any particular product or service.

    I believe in being open, fair, and honest. I certainly have my own strong beliefs, and I do not want others shooting them down, so I am not about to shoot down the ideas and beliefs of others. I do appreciate discussing beliefs – but not attempting to have someone shove something at me, nor do I want to shove something at someone else.

    To me, the most helpful thing to do is to acknowledge that some people have been offended by a comment, and simply apologize for being offensive. No need to explain further; we all say things we later regret. But showing that we at least care that we have caused an offense can be a great healer. Saying any more than that can often get us into more trouble; the less said, the better, but the one thing worth saying is that “I apologize for my offensive comment”.

    Reply
  100. I’d just like to preface this by very much *not* being one of the slack-jawed mouthbreathers who slavishly defends RMS on his EMACS virgin rants or whatever, and I certainly wasn’t impressed when he had a hissy fit at someone I consider a friend at Gran Canaria. His behavior is unacceptably bad in any responsible community.

    That said…the response to Mr. Shuttleworth’s presentation is overblown. This is really, really overblown. Sounds very much to me like he was referring to impressing a significant other. In no way did it sound like a sexist remark–if anything, it sounded like a self-deprecating one because Ubuntu has a pretty big problem when it comes to being interesting and impressive to *anyone’s* significant other. As do a lot of other pursuits. I’m an electronic musician. What I do sounds pretty lame when I explain it to *anyone* who isn’t already interested. This happens to include girls who I like. (Gasp! Shock!) If I was gay, it’d include guys, too. This is not playing on a sexist stereotype, it’s playing on *something being boring*. Linux is boring. Ubuntu is boring. Electronic music is boring (though distinctly less so after I press “Play”). None of them get you much mileage when trying to impress a girl. Or a guy. Or anyone else.

    Mr. Ball, I mean absolutely no disrespect, but this sounds a lot like deciding on an endpoint and then making your way to that point by whatever means necessary. Your claims are pretty effing out-there. I’ve been trying very hard not to use the phrase “political correctness” as a pejorative, but I really do think it fits here. There are many, many far more deserving than Mr. Shuttleworth.

    Reply
  101. One other thing, though–Sam Varghese’s reaction to Ms. Robert’s post was clearly out of line (and of no surprise to anyone who’s ever read his “work”), and *that* more than anything should be looked at in this situation. :-/

    Reply
  102. @Ed how about his comment on ejaculation, er, I’m sorry the release cycle?

    I’m female and I’ve been active in the open source community as a contributor for over 5 years now, and it’s really time to drop the boys’ club. Seriously. If you think open source and linux are the domain of badly socialized geek men, you are wrong. So stop continuing to treat it as such.

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  103. @Anonymous Estrogen

    I’m not female, although I am married to one who is smarter/better more skilled than me at most things, with a couple of exceptions. One of those exceptions is computers and anything to do with them. All she wants them to do is work. Period. (And for all those with a problem with the word “girl” to describe women, she uses it that way all the time. So do many – probably most – women. But I digress).

    So, your comments would seem to apply perfectly to her case. However, as a counterargument, I can say the same thing about nearly all guys. Trying to explain computers or anything about them to guys who aren’t interested takes us straight to the “trying to teach a pig to sing” analogy. Shuttleworth might better have said “average computer users” and left it at that. The average computer user is utterly clueless about computers, to a level that I (and doubtless most other) IT professionals find astonishing.

    OTOH, as a counterargument to myself, it’s worth noting – in agreement with you – that while most men and most women aren’t “into” cars – far more men than women are into cars. When I was young, Shirley Muldowney was noteworthy because she was AFAIK the only female NHRA racer of her day, and she was very good. The equal of any male driver, and the superior of most.

    Back then, women were also rare in computers (but not as rare as in racing). Not much has changed. I don’t really follow racing anymore, but Shirley Muldowney and Danica Patrick re the only two females racers well enough known for me to know who they are. Does sexism play a role in that? Maybe, but I think how much of a role has not been well established. Mostly, it’s just that most women are simply not interested in computers or racing. It’s just that silly stuff guys do.

    Turning to the “release” comment, that’s a whole ‘nother story. That was a sexual joke/reference, not a sexist one. Many people don’t know the difference and should. Was it in bad taste? Maybe. Was it funny. No, it was stupid and juvenile. Not that juvenile humor is not necessarily funny – I think Porky’s is still hilarious after all these years – but it was a dumb joke. Was it unprofessional? Yes. Should he apologize for it? No.

    Should he apologize for the “girls” comment? Yes. He should say “Sorry for speaking badly and stepping on some toes” and that should be that.

    Finally, I think way too many people have their knickers in way too big of a knot over everything that everyone says. People need to just relax. If I got that upset over everything that offends me or might offend me, I would have died of stress years ago. Chill, people.

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  104. @Ellyn M -> Yup, My disagreement is the equivalent of me patting you on the head and asking you to move along.
    And by your logic if I disagree with the president of my country(who is female) I must also be patting her on the head and asking her to move along.
    After all males disagreeing with females equals oppression and females disagreeing with males equals activism for “equal” rights.
    And by your logic pointing out sexism towards men is a tired tactic(glad to know how much you actually care about equality).
    Am I really distracting from what Mark said?
    Because thus far I have not seen anyone on either side of this argument actually quote word for word what he said.
    That in my view is unfair as you are drawing conclusions on someone without knowing what they actually said and in turn having no idea what context it was in.
    “Outrage!”
    The only thing I could be distracting you from here are conclusions not actual facts.
    Thats what gets me so pissed off about this situation.
    I love how on one side you have people replying to me telling me that they are not saying that men are oppressing them and then you have others say things like people who disagree are patting women on the head and not taking them seriously.
    Whats the definition of oppression again?
    You can use your conversational cartwheels to try and hide your biased view but in my eyes it just makes you too “chicken” to realize your ideology is flawed and that you are in fact the sexist one.
    And I have the right as human being to get pissed off at people that martyr themselves as equal rights activists when in reality they are just as biased as the dim view of the world they have concocted.
    Same goes for males rights activists.
    I love equal rights and understand sexism.
    I was backing our president when she was up for election because I thought she was the best person for the job not because she was female.
    I don’t agree that what Mark said was sexist, if women can become presidents of countries they can also understand technology.
    The reality of the situation is that Linux is not as popular as other operating systems and he said he would like to get to the stage where he could(as a heterosexual male) try and impress a women he was interested in at a bar by explaining his involvement in oss.
    This works the same when reversed. Women will most likely be more impressed with Steve Jobs or Bill Gates as the majority of people use those platforms and thus it would be easier to understand even for people(male and female) who have no interest in technology.
    I also don’t agree that what you are doing has anything to do with equal rights.
    Your dim view of this disagreement only goes to validate that suspicion.
    Linux is not popular, Mark wants to change that. Welcome to the real world.

    Reply
  105. @Máirín – Orgasms are gender neutral(women get them too you know).
    Its bad taste but that doesn’t mean its sexist or that its a boys club statement.

    Men are also capable of feeling the release statement was bad taste.

    How about you shut down LinuxChix, an actual club surrounding Linux which is gender specific or is that somewhat different from this non-existent boys club you speak of.

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  106. @tretle:
    > Orgasms are gender neutral(women get them too you know). Its bad taste but that doesn’t mean its sexist or that its a boys club statement.

    I’m mostly done replying here, but another comment on this, since it’s being brought up often. I think this statement is a classic example of privilege. Men rarely have to worry about being raped or sexually objectified, so some of them assume that references to sex must be as inoffensive to women as they are to them, even in the face of women trying to tell them that this isn’t true.

    When we fight for gender equality, we’re not fighting for the idea that we must treat people equally — for example, by getting rid of women’s restrooms so that men and women can be treated “as equals”. We’re fighting for the idea that we should *consider the needs of women* as being as valid as the needs of men. When you dismiss the repeatedly stated wishes of women not to hear sexualized conversations in their professional lives, you are failing to do this.

    I didn’t understand this fully until a female friend told me about her reactions to hearing inappropriately sexualized talk from men — it literally triggered a full-body adrenaline “fight or flight” action in her. That’s admittedly an extreme on the scale, but many women feel consciously or unconsciously threatened by this sort of behavior.

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  107. @Máirín:

    *@Ed how about his comment on ejaculation, er, I’m sorry the release cycle?

    I’m female and I’ve been active in the open source community as a contributor for over 5 years now, and it’s really time to drop the boys’ club. Seriously. If you think open source and linux are the domain of badly socialized geek men, you are wrong. So stop continuing to treat it as such.*

    I did not mention the “release” comment because I consider it to go without saying that that was in spectacularly poor taste.

    I feel that your tone in your reply to me very much complicates matters; I don’t think you gain much ground when you jump on somebody’s back like this. It is thoroughly possible to disagree and do so politely; I don’t think I was being offensive or unreasonable in my comment and I would thank you not to immediately push the Hostile Button on me.

    Or maybe you weren’t intending to be offensively hostile? That’d be interesting. Maybe it’d be a case of seeing offense where none was intended. This *does* go both ways, after all.

    I feel that tretle’s barking up the wrong tree when it comes to trying to rationalize the “releases” comment, and if anything *that’s* where Mr. Shuttleworth’s attention should be pointed. He likewise misses the mark regarding LinuxChix (which is a group full of eminently reasonable people), but perhaps not toward the “geek feminism” movement in general: a lot of it comes off as outwardly exclusionary toward the majority for the sake of being exclusionary. It’s been noted here and elsewhere that phrasing can imply a lot, and, for example, “women and allies” is precisely the kind of exclusionary phrasing and discussion that seems to have everybody in a lather right now. (I want to stress that **I do not think that this is intentional, but is rather a byproduct of the current situation**. That is not to be taken as an excuse for *doing it*, though.)

    I think that it’s not unreasonable to suggest that *everybody* does this, and that everyone’s time might be better spent investing in chill pill futures rather than jumping up and down on people for saying something stupid and off-the-cuff. If it was a mistake, point it out–and then why not be done with it? If they’re really a douchebag, then that’ll be apparent plenty quick. If not, it won’t happen again. This demand-a-show-of-contrition thing is getting old rather quickly.

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  108. I suppose I should qualify myself (again), based on some discussion on Lefty Schlesinger’s blog–I consider there to be a pretty significant difference between Stallman and Mr. Shuttleworth’s behavior here, even if Mr. Shuttleworth doesn’t apologize (and I’ll admit that a good chunk of me is rooting for him to not play with this demand-a-show-of-contrition game, but I hope he does just to put the thing to rest): Mr. Shuttleworth made a mistake and even if he doesn’t say a public word about it, he’s not the type who’s going to make the same mistake twice. Stallman has had many opportunities to make the same mistake many times over the years. Stallman’s continued misbehavior is, to my mind, a hell of a lot more important than the occasional screw-up.

    It seems that everybody’s gotten oversensitized to the issue based on recent events. Seems that a step back and a deep breath is in order for all involved.

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  109. @Chris – Thanks for explaining why some women find that statement to be inappropriate.

    I also feel that the statement was inappropriate but not because it was sexist but because it was unprofessional.

    Although I sympathize with this explanation I feel slightly annoyed as one of the main reasons why I didn’t think that the statement was sexist to begin with was due to a female friend of mine using the word orgasmic to describe chocolate. ice cream and other rocking things :D

    I would describe anyone who would rape another human being as the most disgusting, evil piece of **** imaginable.

    With that being said if my friend told me only she could say orgasmic because she was female and it would bring up thoughts of rape for her and other females if a man were to say it.
    Well I hope you can try to understand how being compared to a rapist for using a word to describe an ice-cream might sound offensive to me.

    Who would want to be compared to a rapist because they were male?

    Orgasms are good for both men and women, just like ice-cream is good for both men and women.

    I think the main thing I have learned from the comments and the post itself is that we seem to live in very different societies.

    It sounds pretty damn bad that women anywhere in the world are so fearful of this type of thing.

    It leads to conservatism which in my own view kinda sucks but if women are indeed given these impressions of rape from this type of thing then I don’t blame them.

    I will be sure to ask my friend the next time we get some ice-cream whether she thinks of rape when I also describe the ice-cream as being orgasmic.
    If so I will stop immediately. But something tells me she doesn’t.

    Reply
  110. Most folks understand the difference between appropriate public behavior, and appropriate private behavior. Mark Shuttleworth is a smart guy and quite capable of understanding this basic concept.

    Sexism in Linux and FOSS is a very old issue that is improving very slowly. It ranges from outright hostility and harassment to the more subtle “This is a boy’s club, and you can play only if we let you. And we will never ever let you forget that you are different.” We women don’t barge in an announce “I am female! Treat me special!” It’s those men who have a hard time dealing with our being there at all that go nutso over sighting actual women, and then don’t even have the guts to be honest but make dumb trolly self-justifications that don’t fool anyone, and of course they are never ever wrong, and never say they’re sorry. It’s juvenile, stupid, and unnecessary.

    Mark’s comments were not made in some informal conversation, but the biggest keynote of a prominent event. He should have been prepared. He is media-savvy, and should know better than to make any kind of sexual innuendo or ‘girls are dumb tee hee’ comments in a public talk. Neither one is appropriate in a professional or business setting. (If you’re thinking “Men like dirty stuff!” then you’re thinking sexist.)

    Don’t forget he set a high bar his own self- making such a big deal out of ‘humanity to others’, and the Ubuntu Code of Conduct. How many times has he reigned in confrontational Ubuntu discussions with “Let’s calm down and stay constructive” comments?

    So what’s constructive? If his goal is to see Linux continue to grow and to attract new contributors he can’t go on talking like it’s a frat house. He needs to apologize. It would all be over by now if he had- say sorry and move on. Instead it’s still festering.

    Reply
  111. To women in FOSS: remember this: “First, they ignore you, then, they laugh at you, then they fight you…” C’mon…what comes next ? ;)
    We must be really amazing at this for so many to feel sooooo threatened !

    Reply
  112. To Mark: a brilliant millionnaire like you probably shouldn’t hang around in meatmarkets if you’re looking for an “understanding” significant other. Look to the funny girl in glasses and no makeup at the library (or the Food market). She understands FOSS maybe better than you do!

    Reply
  113. @Ellyn -> Still unable to quote him word for word but more than happy to assume you are right.
    Big surprise there.
    Hey, I heard he is also a racist, communist and nazi..
    I am going to demand an apology from him, who’s with me?

    @Sassinak -> Whats wrong with you. People that try and figure it out are threatened while people who ignore, bash and name call are some sort of revolution. Not everyone that disagrees here is a sexist.

    Count yourselves ignored now.
    There is no rationalizing with people like you.

    Thanks to Chris, Leigh and others who did try and explain as rationally as they could.
    I don’t want to comment anymore until I hear exactly what Mark said.

    Reply
  114. @Máirín – I’m female and I’ve been active in the open source community as a contributor for over 5 years now, and it’s really time to drop the boys’ club.

    My wife have a master of science in a highly mathematical field of science. She is working in one of the largest and most well known engineering companies in the world.

    I have held several seminars for women about Linux. One of them with IBM. Did it do a lot of good? Not sure. I did understand it was a need and I did my bit to help.

    I am a stand at home spouse taking care of our baby while my wife is having a career in the global oil business.

    It would be great to meet more dads and be more social with other males, but I am not stop taking care of our baby because of that.

    What I could do about my current situation is to help encourage more males to open their mind to my kind of tasks. You hardly find a more sexist field of work than caring for a baby.

    Reply
  115. @Martin – they don’t care they pointed it out earlier with this link ->

    http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/04/12/faq-why-are-you-concentrating-on-x-when-y-is-so-much-more-important/

    Note that I never asked to concentrate on one genders rights I asked that we consider both genders rights so the is x more important than y argument doesn’t really count.

    And with relation to the equal rights subjects I brought up earlier, Chris responded by saying that feminism is not about equal rights while comparing maternity rights to male and female bathrooms(really?).

    Feminism is about trying to get women treated with the same respect and dignity as men.

    The problem I seem to have is I don’t tend to treat people(male or female) with respect if they don’t share the same aspirations for true equality for women and men.

    Organizations and groups that only fight for some parts of gender equality are in my view just as damaging.

    Without opposition they end up becoming the things they say they are fighting. And with opposition they end up shouting and fighting with each other rather than progressing towards a shared goal.

    I wonder how equal rights would have worked if homosexual males said screw homosexual females I only want equal rights for my gender.

    Or if black people said screw anyone from any other race, I am only fighting racism towards black people.

    Chris, feminism is about equal rights. If you cant see the link between respect and dignity for two groups and equal rights than I don’t know what more I can say.

    The whole philosophy of feminism is flawed, same goes for male equal rights activists.

    Both groups are self centered in nature and feel that if the other genders rights need upholding then its up to the other gender to start a shouting match to try and get things done rather than work co-operatively to achieve the same goal.

    This creates extremists on both sides which inevitably leads to lack of progression as each side feel the other does not care or take them seriously.

    The fact of the matter is that because of these two flawed ideologies sexism will likely persist in society.

    Its a shame that this is the case but I think this blog post has been the perfect example at showing how trying to separate movements for equality only leads to pissed off people who feel as though they are being ignored.

    Reply
  116. The video has been posted publicly now. The relevant sections:

    * The “girls” quote is at 35:55.
    * “Your printer, and your mom’s printer, and your grandma’s printer”: 35:30.
    * “A release is an amazing thing; I’m not talking about the happy ending..”: 3:02

    Reply

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