Miriam Ruiz
random thoughts on technology and life

{January 16, 2008}   Sexism? Hostility?

The story seems to have started with Damog supporting sexism and xenophobia in Debian, followed by Bernhard’s comment about that not being tolerable under Debian’s flag. Aigarius replied kinda shocked that stopping verbal abuses and violence would be censorship. AJ clearly explained the reasons why that shouldn’t be tolerated in Debian, but Aigarius seems to keep thinking that poor jerks are being discriminated when they’re not allowed to insult us. Wouter seems to be tired of the whole topic. Am I missing any chapter?

Now my turn: We are on the right way. Since the Debian-Women project started, we have being able to achieve a friendly and non-sexist environment inside Debian, which is something that I’d really like to keep. It doesn’t really mind that a couple of people try to go back to a hostile environment. Trolls just do exist, I guess, but they are not representative of the general feeling of the people inside Debian. Damog, I won’t get the fuck out of here, like it or not. It seems to me that it’s just a couple of you who are happy to be in such an aggressive environment as the one you’re promoting. For what I know, most of Debian people are happy to live in peace. You don’t have social life? You don’t like it? That’s your problem, dude, but don’t ask us to leave ours. I respect you, you know I have always done. I’m just very disappointed with your comment. Really. Making fun of other people’s problems and traumas is simply bullying. I hope you think about it.

For the rest of Debian, keep up the good job. Right now my feeling is that the level of sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, hostility and unfriendliness in general inside Debian development’s world is below the average in the Free Software world. It’s nice to be there, and I’m really proud of belonging here, which is something I cannot say about every group in Free Software. I’d like to keep it that way. Sorry for the aggressiveness in this weblog entry.

Thomas says:

Well said. Your post really quieted the question of “do I want to leave Debian now” that manifested itself after reading some of the posts today. Thanks.

Carlos says:

Well said. All the links in the posts are broken ;)


Adam says:

I heard that story that conditions for women in development changed for the better but I didn’t yet heard anything specific — I really can’t believe it, that’s my experience among IT/Linux experts.

On the subject, I’ve never been to that channel but from what I seen, I wouldn’t call it offensive or anything. It may not be OK for me to say everything cited from the channels but i wouldn’t organise “inquisition”.

About “sexism, racism, ageism, homophobia, hostility and unfriendliness” — this really depends. I’m not sure about the first four (seems like it’s in the eye of beholder, like when some agree and disagree in this particular case) but the latter ones are in general everywhere and that won’t change (and definitely it’s not based on sexual orientation, gender, race or whatever).

It seems to me, that Debian Women have in this field only about as big effect as placebo would. People just won’t change that easily. I remember from mailing list that it’s supposed to encourage women to join and not to disgust everyone with censorship — this is group which I’d support.

To sum it up, I don’t really care about renaming some offtopic channel but I think it’s not justified at all.

ulrik says:

Sexism and intolerance has to be fought in all social groups and contexts. Perhaps it’s much harder to do this online when you don’t meet other people in person. Thinking that one has the right to say anything is refusing to grow up and learn to respect other people.
Everyone benefits from tolerance and civil attitudes debian-women contributes a lot to the progress forward.

Btw the links have the titles as hrefs and thus they don’t work.

Kig says:

Hmmm… It seems all your links are 404. The ‘title’ tag seems good though…

Aigarius says:

When a person is insulting you specifically, please point that out and that can be dealt with reasonably. Merely saying that any expression that could be considered sexist by you is a personal insult is more than far fetched.

I can’t speak for the specific example because I do not know it, but if I would write “Love it of get the fuck out” in a channel topic then I would mean exactly what it say and in regards to that channel only. You do not have to listen to people that are offensive to you – that’s what filters are for. Trying to shut them up is a completely different ballgame.

Ignore the trolls. Fighting them is counterproductive and even damaging.

Miry says:

Thanks for the support!!

Sorry for the broken links, my fault :P I corrected them :)

ulrik says:

If I’m allowed a slightly more negative comment after some reading into the mailing list…

I think Melissa is overreacting. The way she presents excerpts and this being from users not developers (as I understood it), makes it feel like she contempts their assumed attitudes and assumed persons more than what whas actually said. Then that the following discussion has shown that some people are willing to defend those people far more than they need shows that there is, of course, this unsolved issue left. But the seed that sprouted this discussion is strange, and Melissa strikes me as slightly naive (I reacted to things like the very american aversion to “NSFW” (it was however unqualified, so this could be harmless or totally derogatory and totally not ok of course)).

Notice that I wrote that the following discussion shows that there are of course large issues. And debian-offtopic can be very intolerant. Melissa perhaps expected a more homogenous community coming from Ubuntu, but I don’t know much about “community projects” in debian. It’s mostly about developers (I’m no DD, but I maintain one package I must admit). Community projects are needed? Would they be centered around irc?

Kevin Mark says:

I supposed it is a positive comment that people in Debian feel allowed to express views in agreement with and opposition to the perceived offense that Melissa felt. At least there is a dialog. There is a continuum of peoples tolerance with Melissa on one end with folks who don’t like any offensive words spoken in even an informal, non-developer channel. What language friends use tends to be far less formal and possibly offensive, especially if some stranger walks in unexpectedly. People in a certain group my use self-deprecating humor. Should channels be rated like movies? Should Debian say that any associated groups, user or developer, should follow community standards like for the mailing lists? Maybe sign a plege like Ubuntu? Is Melissa’s position what is required to bring back all those developer who left?

David Dumortier says:

When Debian-Women was created I was astonished. Now I’m scared about the urge it was and it is to do so. If I think censorship is a bad thing I don’t think time will permit people to understand their mistake. By the time I loose hope for human gender, except when I see projects like Debian-Women …
Good job ! All my support for you all.
Mmh I must say also that anonymity of Internet (even when name is written) is sometime a plague. Somebody think they can make that they want about all. Freedom is not denigrate.

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