Linux, musical road-dogging, and daily life by Paul W. Frields
Don’t throw in the towel quite yet.

Don’t throw in the towel quite yet.

I was rather harshly greeted over my morning coffee with the outright ugliness to which Maírín alluded and on which Smooge commented. However self-congratulatory or snobbish it might seem, I thought it was worth pointing out that I don’t think I’ve ever met a Fedora person personally who struck me as the kind of troglodyte one sees posting comments in the referenced LWN articles.

Now, it’s possible I’m misinformed because I haven’t polled anyone on their attitudes toward women in FOSS, but the abrasiveness factor of Fedorans I’ve met is pretty low. Nonetheless, it’s very easy to simply cry, “That’s not us; just those bad people over there!” and not accept that it’s the responsibility of every geek to participate — not just by posting “not me” blog entries, but by calling out the trolls when you see them.

I think that’s a bad sign, though, because if that makes Fedora special, then what does it say about FOSS in general that we’re (we == all of FOSS) so cavalier about excluding ~50% of the world’s population from getting involved in a blanket fashion? It’s a pretty sad statement that it’s so easy for anyone to decry bigotry based on race or nationality, and then in the next breath go on to indict the intelligence of women.

As my children get a little older, and my son (the younger child) joins his sister attending full-time school, I’ve more often daydreamed about how cool it would be for my wife — possessor of an incredible intellect — to get involved in FOSS. I rarely think about this dark side to the FOSS community, though — the one that fosters (or, at best, condones) outright hostility and rudeness in the guise of intellectual (ha!) honesty, as an ego crutch, or just as a way for one to constantly and ostentatiously demonstrate one’s intelligence. Is it really worth her time to wade through that crap to get involved? Will this situation be any better when my daughter, now in the first grade, hits high school or college?

Every time someone doesn’t get involved because they wisely shy away from purposeless hostility, it’s a loss to our community. Oh yeah, remember that word people are always throwing around, community? Keep it in mind the next time you hear the conversation devolving into bigotry or pointless rudeness, and make a stand. Community means participation, and we can’t afford to insouciantly dismiss or denigrate it. If we’re doing a good job at exceeding the general FOSS population in that regard, let’s keep it up; where we’re lagging, let’s pinpoint the causes and fix them wherever possible.

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