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Re: Free Software and the New Sexism

From: Taylan Kammer
Subject: Re: Free Software and the New Sexism
Date: Tue, 29 Aug 2023 00:43:33 +0200
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Thank you, I pretty much agree with all you've said.

The GNU KCG seems to side-step the whole "sex vs. gender identity"
debacle by just saying "gender" which can be interpreted to mean
either.  (Whether that was intentional, I don't know.)  It could be
left the way it is if everyone's fine with that, or the explicit
listing of characteristics could be preemptively removed to avoid
similar issues to this one; I think either way is fine.

If anyone who's accused me of "trying to push my world view on others"
or such in the past is reading this: If that were the case, I would be
lobbying to have the word "gender" replaced with "sex" because the two
aren't synonyms in my world view.  I'm perfectly fine with the text
saying "gender" and leaving the interpretation up to the reader, and
wouldn't dare to suggest that it should say "sex" while leaving out
"gender identity", precisely because I don't want such documents to
put one world-view over another.

I've also come to think it's fine to not have a CoC at all beyond a
simple statement like "treat others kindly."  That, coupled with the
rule "no politics or religion," is all we've been using for a while in
a community of a few dozen members that formed around a project I've
started a while ago ( and we seem to be doing perfectly fine.

I wish Guix used the GNU KCG instead of the Contributor Covenant, or
ditched the CoC altogether.  But I have no hope of convincing them.
I hope this discussion will, at minimum, serve to put it on record
that the CoC used by Guix and many others, the Contributor Covenant,
is controversial and arguably better to avoid.

- Taylan

On 28.08.2023 17:24, Adam Spiers wrote:
> On Mon, 28 Aug 2023 at 05:40, Jacob Bachmeyer <> wrote:
>> The fundamental problem here is that all of the issues these CoC documents 
>> are supposed to address are entirely off-topic and inappropriate in a 
>> software development context.  Sexism, racism, whatever-ism-of-the-day are 
>> all irrelevant because discussions are supposed to focus on the /software/ 
>> instead of on the /people/ writing the software.  Yes, your patch proposing 
>> to add "sex" to Guix's CoC was wrong, but the CoC itself is wrong in the 
>> same way as your patch:  none of those issues are relevant.
>> Put another way, on the Internet, to other users, you are not a person, you 
>> are a stream of messages.  More idealistically, on the Internet, /you/ /are/ 
>> /your/ /ideas/. 
> There is something wonderfully aspirational about this utopian and 
> well-intentioned approach.  Unfortunately however, personally I don't see how 
> it can ever work, because we don't cease to be human beings or lose all human 
> context when we move our communication and collaboration online.  In fact, 
> there is overwhelming evidence that moving communication online tends to 
> /increase/ unkind behaviour and therefore the need for kindness and 
> communication guidelines.
> Some may agree with this but still contend that it is outside the scope of 
> Free Software or GNU.  However there seem to be counter-arguments, e.g.
> - If it was out of scope, the GNU Kind Communications Guidelines would
>   not have been written.
> - Whilst Free Software can exist as a pure, abstract concept, GNU and
>   other Free Software communities consist of people, all of whom have
>   our own biases and communication styles.
> - Copyleft and other Free Software licenses do not and cannot exist in
>   a vacuum, and indeed are built on and enforced by the socio-legal
>   construct of copyright.
> Similarly, whilst arguments along the lines of "if you don't like the 
> community, you are free to fork the software and/or build your own community" 
> are (marvellously) true, they ignore the pragmatic reality that as a movement 
> we are generally stronger together through economies of scale, rather than 
> fragmented into siloes.  The freedoms granted by Free Software are a 
> wonderful baseline, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't aim higher.  
> Communication guidelines can help prevent unnecessary fragmentation.
>> Efforts to thwart that, efforts to carry real-world baggage into the 
>> Internet space, are, put simply, /wrong/ 
> Maybe that is true for deliberate efforts, but given that it is impossible 
> for human beings to entirely divorce themselves from their baggage in the 
> Internet space, realistically we need systems for dealing with it.
> The crux of this particular debate seems to be whether it is possible to 
> support one group of people without discriminating against another. 
> Personally I think it /should/ be, /regardless/ of the group(s) in question, 
> and that doing that should obviate or at least minimise any conflict.  
> Indeed, that is why I like the neutral words "any other demographic 
> characteristics" in the first sentence of the GNU Kind Communications 
> Guidelines:
>    "The GNU Project encourages contributions from anyone who wishes
>    to advance the development of the GNU system, regardless of [...]
>    any other demographic characteristics"
> Perhaps it would have been better if the "[...]" words I trimmed were not 
> present and it just read "regardless of any demographic characteristics", 
> because there is an argument that mentioning certain demographic distinctions 
> may introduce biases against other distinctions not mentioned.
> That said, this last point is much more philosophical in nature, possibly 
> getting off-topic for this list, and certainly a rabbit-hole, so I won't 
> continue down that avenue here.  Please let's all just be kind to each other 
> and assume good faith?

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