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Re: Free Software and the New Sexism

From: Jacob Bachmeyer
Subject: Re: Free Software and the New Sexism
Date: Mon, 28 Aug 2023 23:54:03 -0500
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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.

Thank you.

[...] In fact, there is overwhelming evidence that moving communication online tends to /increase/ unkind behaviour and therefore the need for kindness and communication guidelines.

Ah yes, the G.I.F.T. problem.

[...] Communication guidelines can help prevent unnecessary fragmentation.

This is exactly why "stay on topic" solves so many of these problems. The topic is the software we are developing, not each other, and not what so-and-so did last summer.

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.

The solution here is /neutrality/---we are not here to support or harm anyone (granted, we work to erode the immorally-acquired power bases of software hoarders) but to develop Free Software.

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.

I think that the examples given help to clarify "demographic characteristics", which is a very vague term on its own.

[...] Please let's all just be kind to each other and assume good faith?

While assuming good faith is certainly helpful, sometimes that assumption is contradicted by evidence. (An example comes to mind that occurred on this list a few years ago.)

-- Jacob

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