Firstly, let me post a link to an open letter by Melissa Draper to the Open Source community, complaining about discriminatory behaviour towards women, which discourages them to participate in the community, which is the reason why, according to polls, only 1.5% of the community are female.
Next up, an impassioned message from writer-producer-director-god Joss Whedon, concerning a male-dominated world, the society that propagates it, and the reasons why he thinks it happens. He has some good points.
Finally, an article from kuro5hin about the whole Kathy Sierra fiasco. (If you don't know, Kathy Sierra received some insulting comments on her blog and rather tasteless pictures (involving nooses, etc) were posted about her, which she felt amounted to death threats, and panicked, and cancelled her appearance at a conference.) I know that the article's title is "I Want to Stab You to Death and Play with Your Blood". Please try to read it anyway. It makes some more good points.
If Iâ€™m somehow making you feel bad, itâ€™s because you are letting me. You are giving me that power. The only way I could make you feel bad is if you placed more importance on my opinion than you do your own.and
Why should my self esteem be so fragile [...]?
It shouldnâ€™t. But if it does, perhaps you need to look inwardly to find what is lacking as opposed to playing the part of the victim being bullied by the big, bad Internet. The Internet hurts you only when you let it.
One more quote from somebody else. One of the commenters on Melissa's open letter said:
One of the things about geek culture is that there tends to be a certain self-deprecating humour throughout. We make jokes about *everyone*. We make jokes about people we like, we make jokes of people we dislike, and we even make jokes about ourselves.
If you donâ€™t want people to make jokes about you, thatâ€™s fine - but bear in mind that what you are saying is â€œTreat me differently, because I want to be treated like everyone elseâ€. Itâ€™s not really fair, is it?
Weâ€™ll stop making jokes about women being terrible drivers when women stop making jokes about men being terrible at cooking, terrible at cleaning, being insensitive, or any of the other stereotypes that women make fun of men for.
In the meantime, learn to give as good as you get. It will get you a lot further.
So, we've pretty much gone the gamut. What do I have to say? Not an awful lot, really. I'm a white male upper-middle class guy with a British passport. What the hell do I know about persecution and discrimination? I get called soutie by Stellenbosch people, but I think that's about as extreme as it gets. I can have no understanding of what it's like for Melissa or Kathy. I do have a gut feeling that one can be over-sensitive when people needle you, which makes you a more pleasing target to a certain more vicious type of troll, and invites more needling. I do have a sense that one can only be offended by people if one lets them offend you. But at the same time, I haven't been on the receiving end of a lifetime of glass ceilings and persecution. If I had been, maybe I wouldn't say "just ignore them, they'll go away" as if it was that easy. Just because I put Joss Whedon's article early on in this post doesn't mean I don't agree with it more than any of the others.
I think my point is, think about it. Whichever end you're on.
Update: Moving from the general topic of discrimination to the more specific topic of Melissa's grievance against the open source community... I think maybe the best response was just given to me by a friend of mine:
Melissa, your take on it is wrong.
The "open source community" is not insensitive to women.
It's insensitive, period.
Update: I didn't realise that one of the most vociferous commenters on Melissa's original open letter was actually one of our very own Capetonians! Jane has written a long post about Melissa's letter...