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Re: Being excellent to one another

From: dian_cecht
Subject: Re: Being excellent to one another
Date: Mon, 20 Mar 2017 16:54:25 -0700

First of all, I have no clue why my email was explicitly listed in the
CC:; I'll assume that was in error.

Second, it is not my intention to insult or offend anyone here, but
some people seem to be rather thin-skinned about (possibly pretend)
slights. However, I feel I should toss my hat into the ring here for my
own reasons.

I should also make it known I have no clue who anyone in these emails
are apart from ng0 and Ludo', the rest of you could be a very advanced
Eliza for all I'm concerned, so it's pretty much impossible for me to
support anyone here.

Also feel free to ignore it if you so wish, though I'd appreciate
everyone at least read the first footnote for what will be obvious

On Mon, 20 Mar 2017 11:17:28 +0100
Alex Sassmannshausen <address@hidden> wrote:

> John Darrington writes:
> > Regarding your other comments,  as we have discussed before, we
> > will have to agree to disagree about singular they.   I have not
> > the benefit of ever having learned English as a foreign language.
> > But I do remember in my elementary school being taught NOT to use
> > it *especially* not in written text.  And - perhaps because of this
> > early tuition - it still sounds clumsy and confusing to me.  
> Perhaps we have to agree to disagree on singular they,

I just want to mention that most, if not all, my English teachers
thought the use of "they" and related was entirely incorrect, so John
isn't alone here. English, simply put, lacks any "correct"
gender-neutral pronouns, despite what common usage suggest. However, as
I'd hope John is aware, common usage these days was considered the
height of vulgarity a century before, at the very least.

For anyone who reads older books, mankind as a whole used to be refered
to as "he", and while one can certainly make an issue out of that (and
I'm sure plenty of people have), it does also set a precedent for using
the male gender as a gender-neutral option, which happens to have a
rather long history.

> but I hope we
> can still agree on the following statements from my earlier email:
> -----------------
> [...] it's super easy:
> - if you're not sure (or have forgotten), use "singular they", or ask
> - if you know someone has a preference for pronouns, use those
> - don't use pronouns when *you know* the other person does not
> identify with them.

I'm just going to point out that this whole 'gendering' issue is, at
least as far as I am concerned, a rather recent developement, and one
that I can't understand in the least [1]. I don't know about anyone
else, but gender == sex, and that is more-or-less that. Certainly some
people don't follow the traditional sex/gender roles (tomboys and
metrosexuals (I think that was the proper term for an effiminent male
used during the 90's, anyways) being the best examples I can come up
with), but this feels very much like hairsplitting to me, and
especially in the case of older generations use of English can very
easily work against decades of normal, /correct/, and proper usage.

> If you make a mistake, no-one will tear your head off

I haven't kept up with this thread for very long, but I will say the
tone, to me, an uninvolved (up until now) individual, sounds like a bit
witch hunt.

> In manuals we can just use "singular they", because it is a well
> established convention and does not cause confusion.

Another alternative that I just remembered running across was swapping
pronoun gender between chapters/sections. This is done with some of the
RPG books I have, so I thought I'd toss that option into the ring.

> 1. Try not to offend.
> 2. Try not to be offended.
> 3. Recognise that diversity is an asset.  
> 4. Respect the integrity and right to self-definition of all
> participants

IMO, the 4th guideline there is entirely redundant and already covered
by the 3rd.

I don't know if it is a cultural thing, or how I was raised, or what,
but as far as I am concerned part of basic social etiquette is roughly
summed up by the first two guidelines in the above list. Call me old
fasioned or a bigot or whatever, but calling a male "he" and a female
"she" is and should be perfectly acceptable, especially in this day and
age. If one takes offense to being called a "he" when they prefer
"she", then as far as I am concerned they are either looking for a
reason to be insulted (which is rather poor manners IMO) or rather
thin-skinned and thus easily injured (which is a handicap in general
social situations and also seems to assume that anyone 'misgendering'
them is making an effort at being insulting, when there is probably no
practical way for someone to identify their prefered pronoun unless
they happen to be a rather capable cross-dresser). For people who are
easily injured, I do feel sorry, and hopefully a capable psychologist
could help with that (I'd make other suggestions, but I don't feel
this is the place for such).

As far as I am concerned, being insulted or injured because someone
misgenders you is like giving pork to a Jew or Muslim; if there is no
way for the person to know that one is unable to eat pork on religious
grounds, then there is no insult nor injury and instead the receiver
should be thankful that the giver was thinking of them and brought them
a present; how one handles things after that is more a matter of custom,
how well the two know each other, and the like.

This whole issue feels like a general lack of reasonable manners[2] and
interpersonal skills, and not something that really calls for long,
drawn-out thread on the development mailing list.

ng0 wrote (in another email I'm not going to quote):
> I agree to an earlier point which was made, and extend it: I don't 
> want to be part of a project which looks and behaves like almost
> every other project out there, an exclusive boysclub.

One of the sad facts of life is that someone has to have the guts to do
what isn't normal and provide an example to others; whether we're
talking racial issues, patri/matriachy issues, ect., /someone/ has to
be willing to stick their neck out and be willing to take some of the
abuse and deal with some of the problems trailblazing forces. As ng0
mentions, refering to some projects as "boysclub"s, is a bit of a
systemic problem since most females don't seem to be willing to mention
their sex/gender to anyone, and for (I'd imagine) obvious reasons.

However, one of the nice parts about online communication is that we
neither know nor do we have any need to know one's gender, sex,
religion, orientation, or basically anything about a contributor other
than what they can and can't do. It's only when one chooses to make
these sorts of things an issue that they become one, when otherwise it
really doesn't matter.

A portion of the "The Hacker's Manifesto" that I feel is rather fitting:

  This is our world now... the world of the electron and the switch, the
  beauty of the baud. We make use of a service already existing without
  paying for what could be dirt-cheap if it wasn't run by profiteering
  gluttons, and you call us criminals. We explore... and you call us
  criminals. We seek after knowledge... and you call us criminals. We
  exist without skin color, without nationality, without religious
  bias... and you call us criminals. You build atomic bombs, you wage
  wars, you murder, cheat, and lie to us and try to make us believe it's
  for our own good, yet we're the criminals.

  Yes, I am a criminal. My crime is that of curiosity. My crime is that
  of judging people by what they say and think, not what they look like.
  My crime is that of outsmarting you, something that you will never
  forgive me for.

I think the obvious extentions could be made here (keep in mind this
was originally written, according to my copy, on 1986-01-08), and if it
were written today would likely have been included.

The one thing that is really bugging me about this whole thing is why
is anyone making this an issue? While I'm certainly not enlightened
about this new-fangled "gendering" issue, it seems to be a nonissue for
these kinds of projects; most of the women I've talked to online (most
of whom were involved in computing, some of whom even sysadmin on Big
Iron, fwiw) weren't insulted and seemed to accept that people would
assume they are male, and IMO that is a good thing.

Again, it isn't my goal to insult or offend anyone here, but I do feel
the need to toss my hat into this flame-filled ring. Maybe it will do
some good, maybe it won't. Maybe I'm not of the right mindset to
discuss these kinds of things; I prefer to attempt to be courtious,
insofar as I can be, and part of that means not taking offense to
everything that crosses my path.

All I really know is that I couldn't care less if the person I'm
talking with via this mailing list is male, female, hermaphrodite
(which I'd like to point out I have yet to see a single mention of in
these threads, and which is a definable sex, albeit a genetic
abnormality, which also lacks any real set of pronouns for themselves),
transgender (pre or post op), male-idenfifying-as-female,
female-idenfifying-as-male, gay, straight, bi, curious, a leper, a
Muslim extremist, Satan, a hillbilly, an attack helicopter, a fish, or
The Great Spaghetti Monster in the Sky. As far as I am concerned it
doesn't matter. Unless I'm mistaken, we're here to do something
worthwhile for our own reasons. All any of us here is is an email, a
pubkey, and a mass of ASCII or UTF-8 encoded data. Now, if someone is
being outright rude (which happens; computer geeks aren't known for
their social skills in general), that is a problem, but it's easy to
simply ask if they meant to be rude or not; they may have felt that
what they were saying was entirely acceptable and they will know no
different unless it is pointed out, but I don't think that sentiment
should extend to "Hey, I know I'm an X, but I want you to call me a Y"
because there are so many reasons one could make a mistake; if someone
who is clearly male ask me to call them female, then they can expect to
be 'misgendered' plenty; this isn't done as an attempt to offend, but
because I'm most likely not going remember.

To make a long email short, I'm just going to say this: This subject is
too large in scope for us to effectivly discuss, and is so far out of
the perview of guix development that, imo, it shouldn't be continued
here. I'm all for gender-neutral documentation, though how to go about
that isn't entirely clear. As far as person-to-person communication is
concerned, a simple agreement to not be offended if you are misgendered
while writers make a best effort to use the subject's prefered gender
should suffice. A modicum of courtesy should, imo, be a simple answer
to these issues and, if something comes up that is a big problem, then
the injured party should make a best attempt to resolve the issue with
the injurer and, assuming there was no malice involved, that should be
plenty. If malice is involved, then that would be the time for someone
else (or several people, which would likely be better) to get involved
and either arbitrate, or, if that fails, deal with the matter in a
harsher manner.

[1] If someone wants to try and explain the issue to me, feel free to
send me a private email, but unless you're actually dealing with this
issue yourself, don't bother. I have no real tolerance for white knights
playing at protecting other people with issues, especially when it comes
to explaining said issues. I have no reason to believe a white knight
has any grasp on the situation that would prove to be useful to me.
Since this issue was apparently brought up by/because of ng0, I'd prefer
they send me a private email so I'd have a chance to possibly enlighten
myself to the issue at hand.
[2] I'm fully aware that manners can be and are a cultural issue, but
hopefully we are all aware of these differences and have learned to
cope with them reasonably by now, and ideally respect each other's
cultural diversity.

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