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Re: Being excellent to one another

From: Ricardo Wurmus
Subject: Re: Being excellent to one another
Date: Tue, 21 Mar 2017 09:50:49 +0100
User-agent: mu4e 0.9.18; emacs 25.1.1

address@hidden writes:

> 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.

The generic masculine is a problem.  Since the 1970s there have been
numerous studies that were published in peer-reviewed journals that
demonstrate that the use of so-called generic masculine (in languages
with a genus) evokes a disproportionate number of male images compared
to gendered split forms or gender neutral terms.

As a result the use of generic “he” contributes to the alienation of
underrepresented groups, especially in fields like software
development.  I suggest reading some relevant research articles or a
literature review on this subject.

> I don't know about anyone
> else, but gender == sex, and that is more-or-less that.

This is not correct.  Gender has little to do with biological sex.  That
too has been the subject of research for many decades, and I encourage
everyone to browse the scientific literature on this matter.  Maybe this
simplistic view explains your misunderstandings in the rest of your

>> 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.

People, we already *have* a code of conduct.  There’s no need to try to
come up with one from scratch.  Please accept this.

> 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.

This is nothing to do with fashion.  What “should” be acceptable is not
up to you to decide.  There is no comparison between the distress caused
by being “othered”, invalidated, and erased and the minor inconvenience
of correcting one’s use of pronouns when talking to or about another

> 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.

It *is* very simple and our Code of conduct (which is much much shorter
than, say, the GPL) reflects that.  We ask everyone to respect other
people; this includes not to purposefully misgender others, not to poke
fun at (= harrass) people who do not confirm to the gender binary, not
to make sexist jokes or using sexualised language, etc.

> [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.

I very much disagree with this.  1) You cannot expect affected
minorities to educate you; there is enough information out there that
you can use to do this yourself.  2) As maintainers and developers who
make up a community it is our duty to tackle these issues head on to
shape the community in a way that ensures a welcoming environment for

As a final note I’d like to state that you can read about these things.
Please acknowledge the many researchers in social sciences, who have
worked on these issues since decades.  It is ill-advised to try to
explain away problems that you don’t understand and where you have no
theoretical background.  The hacker ideal of building models from first
principles fails here and is certainly not suited for a sprawling
discussion.  I recommend more reading on these subjects.


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