The Free Geek

Ramblings of a Free Software Geek

Of women and Free Software Mon, 17 Jul 2006 16:40:05 +0000

Filed under: Free Software,GNU/Linux,Open Source Software,Rants — Bon Goose @ 16:40:05

I came back from Bangalore just today and saw an apparently interesting blog post by Vidya (aka Svaksha). She talks about the problems that women in FOSS face and goes on to explain the reasons why there aren’t many females in the FOSS world. While a post like this is very much welcome, what concerns me are her pre-concieved notions about the whole picture. I would like to adress them one by one —

  • How is being rude important or necessary? How actually do you define rudeness? Nobody supports a rude person, notwithstanding the gender or the project. I agree that sometimes newbies are flamed, but that’s mostly because of not reading the manuals or asking stupid questions. Nobody gets flamed on the basis of his/her gender.
  • How is “survival” an issue here? All Free Software projects are open to all and everybody can contribute to them. Either you contribute or you don’t. It all depends on how motivated you are. You need to remember that you are _not_ doing us any favour by contributing in a Free Software project. You do it to scratch your own itch. If your itch is bad enough, you will scratch it no matter how inaccessible / tough / hostile that itch is. Ditto with Free Software. It’s wrong to expect people to welcome you a red carpet just because you are female or come from a poor country. This is a level playing field after all.
  • About women being made moderators of the Ubuntu-IN list, what makes you think that just being a female gives anybody the right to moderate a list or admin a server? Do you think this kind of favourism or reservation really helps? What about a situation where patches by female kernel hackers are given preference over male kernel hackers? It will just result in a bad and buggy kernel. Not because I think females can’t code (of course they can), but because the very idea of having reservtaions in a Free Software project goes against the basic philosophy of Free Software. Admin access to a server or mailing list is not a right, it’s a privilege and it is given to only the senior or experienced members of the project as and when required. Nothing more or less. If I make an absolute newcomer an admin of a server just because she is a female, it will be rather a discrimination against more experienced people and I don’t think it will help the project in any way.
  • All the decisions taken in Ubuntu-IN were taken as a result of a consensus among all the members of the team. You didn’t care to participate in any way and just bombarded with impractical recommendations. We repeatedly asked you to provide feedback or participate but you preferred to lurk in those times and tried to blast us with false allegations instead. No we don’t discriminate against females, but we won’t give them any special treatement either. You have to earn all the respect and privileges by virtue of your work here and not your gender.
  • Mentoring women is important, but it’s in no way more important than mentoring equally new but interested men. I personally don’t believe that *-women groups serve any practical purpose as there are many men in those lists and the same people can’t behave differently in two separate lists. The problem they say, lies between the keyboard and the chair, and nothing else. It’s just a mental block among many females which is basically an hypothesis propounded by a handful feminist women. For example, not many women applied for the Google Summer of Code, but when GNOME Foundation announced the Women’s Summer Outreach Program, hundreds of women applied for that. Considering the fact that the WSOP had < 1% scholarships available, this little piece of statistic does suggest that the problem is actually somewhere else.

So Vidya, your assumptions are mostly wrong in this matter and I don’t know what you want to achieve by condemning all the men for their so-called rude behaviour and their discrimination against women. Instead of whining about the status quo and founding more foo-women groups why don’t you join the generic foo projects and try to change the situation? I am sure everybody here is ready to accept constructive criticisms. This is the best possible thing one can do to improve the situation, splitting projects merely to separate the women from the community is, if at all, a very bad solution. That is, in my very humble opinion.