My 9-year-old daughter Mirano, a Linux Chick in training, is pretty astute when it comes to matters relating to GNU/Linux. For example, she is working on a review of Tux Paint, and she’s the one that pointed out that Iceweasel is the opposite of Firefox (ice opposite of fire, weasel opposite of fox). I’m convinced she gets her brains from her mom — from me she gets an innate sense of irony augmented by generations of cutting sarcasm for which the Cafiero family is historically known, but I digress.
Anyway, I bring up Mirano because after reading Carla Schroeder’s blog about an mysogynistic ad — yeah, let’s call it what it is: mysogynistic (but see for yourself here — that ran in Linux Journal, I have to say that this is my first encounter with sexism in the FOSS realm; not to mention a disturbing one at that.
Apparently and unfortunately, however, this seems not to be a singular incident, but rather a business-as-usual attitude for both the publication, as well as — depending on who you ask — an acceptable “behavior” in male geekdom.
Case in point: Caitlyn Martin writes in a blog item that the August Linux Journal ad is not new behavior for the magazine. Martin’s blog is a good read, but more immediately it points out a Linux Journal column by “Gnull and Voyd” — a man and wife team where the “woman” writes the column but the “man” is the one with all the answers on Linux issues “because he’s the smart one.”
Another case in point: A blogger named Mackenzie (and perhaps, like Sting or Cher, she doesn’t have a last name, but I’d be willing to bet she does) posted a blog item that deals specifically about the fact that women who program are not at events for boys and men who program to hit on.
[An aside: Tux Magazine’s Mango Parfait, who is drawn like a Japanese manga comic book character, is also a bit much.]
I’m the last person to pull out the PC card (political correctness, not personal computer), but ads, columns and behavior like this insults women in general, insults women programmers/digital professionals directly and insults me indirectly as a male member of this widespread digital community.
The explanation in all cases, apparently, is “they do it because they’re nerds, and that’s okay” or “this is typical male geek behavior.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t cut it anymore; and — hey, you guys who think with the organ between your ears — you’re as embarrassed as I am by being painted by the same stroke of this brush used to deservingly illustrate our less-sensitive bretheren, no?
The point here is simple: Women and men — both in the realm of the digital field as well as outside in society as a whole — should be treated equally and with respect. How that is even an issue among intelligent people in this field continues to be a mystery.
But the Linux Journal ad: Fail. Some of the Linux Journal and Tux Magazine columns mentioned above: Fail. Guys who turn into Pavlov’s dog at the mere sight of a woman at any computer event (and the computer industry entities that foster this behavior): Fail.
My wife Kyoko and I left Japan, in large part, because we didn’t want to raise a daughter in a culture that, for all its advantages, still had a very low glass ceiling — to say nothing of second-class attitudes — for girls and women (to say nothing of societal norms in Japan that are still, to put it diplomatically, systematically and structurally stacked against women being treated as equals to men). While the U.S. isn’t perfect on a plethora of levels (and don’t get me started here . . . ), it does provide for more equal opportunities for women than a place like Japan.
And what about in the digital world? Well, as if that needs saying, I certainly am not going to stand by and let the same attitudes hold her back in the digital realm.
(Larry Cafiero, editor/publisher of Open Source Reporter, is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)