Women are not crazy

… or at least, not any more crazy than any other gender.

Emacs Virgins

I’ve been trying to avoid getting involved in these discussions, but the RMS Female Emacs Virgin “joke” has brought some issues to my attention that I haven’t realised are quite as big as they are. There’s a number of people who actually believe that women are stupid and annoying and that they should stay out of the way in the free software world, and that’s quite disturbing. You would think that people who care about free software are mature to the level where they won’t discrimitate against someone based on gender, race or sexuality.

Some say that Richard Stallman’s joke was innocent and that it wasn’t meant as being discriminating. In my opinion, even if that’s the case, it was wrong to do so. It’s a known fact that there’s a very low ratio between female and male contributors to free software, and doing something that could alienate even a small percentage of female contributors is a big deal. Those who feel that it’s innocent, how would you feel if he specifically said “male emacs virgins”? I think I’ll keep my distance from him anyway.

The Blog From Hell

What brings me to this post is AJ Venter’s Blog From Hell. AJ himself isn’t that important, and I usually manage to ignore him quite efficiently, but when he spews out things like his last entry titled “Women are crazy” I find it highly annoying. He sells himself as being a big proponent and contributor of free software.

Making yourself a representative of a community comes with a great amount of responsibility, when you say something in any context, people will link that to the communities and organisations that you represent, even if you don’t see it that way. When you spew out things like this, it affects something much bigger than yourself. I also ask that you stop aggregating your posts to CLUG Park and other aggregators until you grow up. Saying “ew, girls!” is supposed to get old when you turn 7 already. Women aren’t there just to bring sexual pleasure for men and they’re not all stupid, crazy or useless. Why can’t you at least try to be a grown up? If anything, just for your own sake.

Update: If you can’t access the original post, it’s because AJ has deleted the blog entry. The post is still available as a Facebook note if you would like to read it there.

continuing to be

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15 Responses

  1. Jonathan,

    I’m sorry – but I completely dissagree with your assertion here, especially since you quite clearly
    didn’t read the peace in question. It’s obvious satire and the vast majority of that satire is
    I’m not making fun of girls, I’m making fun of men’s perception of girls. So basically – you either
    didn’t get the joke, didn’t understand the joke, or didn’t read the joke.

    Either way – the only reason I even bother to reply to your self-righteous drivel is to adres a crucial point. I have never tried to call myself representative of the FOSS community, I’m in that community, I work extremely hard for that community, in fact I dedicate the vast majority of my free time to that. When I speak though – I speak only for myself. When I do speak on behalf of a specific project (for example kongoni) I speak in a certain way.
    When I am writing on my personal blog, in my personal capacity, I can and will say whatever I want. In fact, since the entire point of Free Software is to preserve freedom of speech in the digital age, if
    those of use who work so hard to promote that ideal aren’t allowed to live it out – then what is the point ?

    To clarify – remember the things Julius Malema said that everyone said he shouldn’t be allowed to say because of his position ? I didn’t say that. He is a human being, with human rights: number one the right to say and think anything he wants to, even if you don’t want to hear it. By all means debate what he said and answer his bad speech with good speech – but do not for one second think that I will support the idea that him or me cannot say what we want to.

    In the words of George Washington:
    “What you are saying is uninformed and wrong, but I will defend to the death, your right to say it.”

    Sorry – but you are effectively calling for censorship on me because I made a joke about relationships? Heck, a huge group of people – largely comprising women have applauded the piece on facebook, making fun of it and teasing in the spirit in which it was written. You alone were offended.

    There is an old saying: if you are getting offended on behalf of other people – make sure they share your feelings because if they don’t – you’ve just taken the first step to despotism.

    A quick count shows that on that site, about 5 in 20 blogposts are not highly technical, 4 of those 5 will be philosophical discussions on some or other topic – usually free software but also things like democracy, freedom of speech and various other topics I care about. The last one will be humorous, with any joke- some will love it, some will hate it – the good news is I don’t need to please you but your suggestion that I should be censored and removed from aggregators because one of those jokes offended you is ludicrous.
    I remember once somebody mailed RMS to complain about a joke he had made about Religion, which was posted (and remains so to this day) on the gnu.org website, the person stated that making fun of his religion in the joke was wrong and that people should respect other peoples beliefs.
    To the suggestion that respect meant never making something (even religion) the subject of humor, Stallman wrote back: Nobody deserves that kind of respect.

  2. jonathan says:

    AJ, I’m failing to see the humour in that post. I’m not calling for censorship at all, what I am saying is that you need to keep other people in to account. I can completely see how your post can be very offensive to a female reader, and while I’m certainly not female, I am a member of the free software community and I don’t think that your behaviour is very representative of our values, so it’s not a case of getting offended on the behalf of others.

    I checked your Facebook note replies. It’s only 4 people that replied. 1 of them being you and another just correcting you on spelling. I’d hardly call 2 people a “huge group of people”.

  3. TheGZeus says:

    It was Cult of the Virgin Mary reference, and was not intended to be sexist.
    It was, however stupid of him to think that people would understand something that damned esoteric.
    Then again he’s always been really obtuse…

  4. ani says:

    you’re all insain.

  5. Well not all the responses were on facebook – women actually phoned me to tell me how much they enjoyed it. Since then a lot more people had commented in praise of it, and a few had complained.
    Some saw the joke, some didn’t.

    The simple reality is – enough people didn’t like it to make me decide that Poe’s law has kicked in too severely to bother any further.

    Now for the record I was unaware of the Stallman joke until after the post (I became aware when a commenter linked to it) – had I known of this event and the current controversy I wouldn’t have written this post at this time. Instead of a parody of chauvinists – people genuinely though that was what I really believed.

    In the context, I felt it better to delete it. I had no desire to be part of any controversial debates – I wasn’t at the event, the last time I saw the St. Ignutius thing with my own eyes it didn’t yet contain the EMac’s virgin thing so I don’t have the background to say whether the offense was justified.

    I can however categorically say this: There is nothing in the bill of rights that says “you have the right to not hear or see anything that offends you” – on the contrary – since there is a right to free speech – that is implicitely a right you do not have. Nobody has it.

    I believe in and defend free speech without limit. I am opposed even to slander laws – and if corporations didn’t have human rights (the stupidest idea in history) they would not even serve the minor purpose they serve now.

    Now those who know me, or read my posts regularly would never for once have thought (and their comments showed this) that this could be anything other than parody. I have written countless pieces about the need for true equality in society, no discrimination: not on gender, not on race, not on anything.
    My facebook profile states this belief of mine simply: The only valid grounds for judging anybody is their choices, nothing else.

    I had not realized that it would cause such controversy – especially among people who didn’t have this context, and believed that this parody was the real thing. Heck – even you who do know me in person (though granted, we don’t know each other very well) made that mistake.

    So – I felt it was posted at a time when it’s meaning would be largely lost. Moreover it would cloud an important debate currently happening in the FOSS world – with an irrelevant extra controversy that was in fact unrelated – whatever the outcome of this debate may be, I did not feel it was appropriate to be seen to express an opinion on something I was not informed about.

    All added up – I decided that it was best to delete it.

    Now I am sorry that you didn’t see the parody in it, considering how identical our viewpoints actually are, and that I was in fact promoting the same ideas you believe in with this post – that I was ridiculing sexism for just how stupid it is with a completely over the top parody… my regret is that you didn’t realize that if anything, we’re on the same side.

  6. David says:

    Oddly, I’m with AJ on this one. Personally, I think he could have been a bit more over-the-top, but I don’t see anything sexist in the piece. Overall, it’s pretty funny, and spot on in describing some of the things that many women do that drive men up the wall. Secondly, even if the piece were offensively sexist, I don’t see a problem with a FLOSS member (or any other community member) posting that on their personal blog. If it was however posted on an official blog of [insert major project here], then that would probably not be very cool, and would upset a *lot* of people.

    In regards to male virgins, it would not have had the same effect as the butt of the joke would have applied to the majority of the audience including the speaker himself. (I kid!) As a male *emacs* virgin, I would have passed off the idea as the rantings of a lunatic, which seems to be what many in the FLOSS community thinks of RMS anyway.

  7. Al says:

    Hear, hear – nicely put.

  8. confluence says:

    Thank you for your post, Jonathan.

    Regarding the original post and AJ’s responses here:

    * I don’t buy your retroactive “it’s satire!” defence. Sorry.

    * Distributing tired cliches about women, regardless of how much you personally claim to disbelieve in them (afterwards), helps to perpetuate an environment which is hostile and belittling to women. If you had entitled the post “My girlfriend is crazy”, I would not have cared. The problem is, once again, the lazy and insulting suggestion that something one person does is indicative of the mindset of half the human population — a trope which is apparently still *hilarious* to some people.

    * You don’t get the magical stamp of non-sexist approval just because some women liked what you wrote / didn’t think it was sexist.

    * Your personal blog is no longer just your personal blog when it is aggregated on a community blog. It reflects badly on the community when you post sexist jokes on it. If they don’t do anything about it, they are implicitly condoning your behaviour. I appreciate that Jonathan responded critically to your post in the same forum in which it appeared, and he was perfectly entitled to do so *because* both your blogs are aggregated on CLUG Park and thus implicitly associated with each other. Perhaps you should only have part of your blog aggregated, or start another blog which is really just personal.

    * Criticism =/= censorship, and a request that you don’t post things that are an embarrassment to the Linux community in a forum which represents the Linux community is not the same as a demand for the government to arrest you for what you said. Nobody can stop you from reposting your post in a variety of places. This is not a freedom of speech issue.

    * Accusing someone of not honestly representing their opinion on an issue, and getting “offended on behalf of other people”, is obnoxious. Do you think only women can be offended by sexism?

  9. Confluence.
    I am tired of defending a post I deleted since nobody got that it was parody. Look at my other writings, see the kind of society I advocate and actively promote, the ideals I really believe in then tell me you believe that this ten year track-record is consistent with the view you are forming based on one post ?
    I’d say that to negate all that because of one post and reject my statement that it was a parody is as bad an act of stereotype judging as you are accusing me.

  10. Then again, wouldn’t it be discriminating to think of women as weak and feeble creatures that can’t handle such a joke as Stallman made?

    I don’t see the problem with the remarks made by Stallman. I wouldn’t be offended if you’d replace female with male.
    Isn’t it much more an encouragement to get more women involved in FOSS?

  11. confluence says:

    Yeah, I can totally see how a sexual innuendo-laden joke about experienced male text editor users deflowering inexperienced female text editor users would encourage women to become involved in FOSS. It’s so welcoming!

    No, it really isn’t “discriminating” to believe that people should not be sexist because women find it unpleasant. Believing that doesn’t mean you believe women are too weak to “handle” sexism; it means you believe people shouldn’t, as a general rule, behave like assholes towards one another.

    The connotations of the joke would not be the same if the genders were flipped, because sexism in our society is not symmetrical. Apparently in most previous incarnations of this joke Stallman didn’t mention gender at all; I don’t know why he opted to put it in this time.

    But seriously, I’m not that pissed off with Stallman himself. I think he made a joke which was supposed to be about something unrelated to gender, and it came out sounding a lot more creepy than he had intended because he included gender. I would be happy if he simply acknowledged that; I don’t expect an epic sackcloth-and-ashes apology. What disturbs me a lot more is the hysterical and misogynistic anti-feminist backlash from his fanboys all over the internet.

    A large segment of the population seems to parse “you said something which came across as sexist” as “you are a baby-eater”, and thus can’t seem to respond to this kind of criticism with anything other than vitriol and outrage.

  12. Could then someone tell me what the sexist part is of this joke? Where is said that women need everything explained by men?

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m most certainly not against emancipation, but this whole affair looks like someone wanted to see a sexist joke in it.

  13. Sick says:

    Sick of these posts. It’s not like it was 10 years ago with a predominant sexism. Today is a lot different than it used to be, there’s a lot less sexism.
    uh, is it a new meme that everyone needs to talk about this? and especially taking the same examples?…

  14. yogurtu says:

    @ A.J. venter:
    I read the copy of your post in facebook, and the humorous tone of it is absolutely obvious. besides, the responses there are so… normal!!
    they were precisely what I would expect from normal, non-geek people.
    @ Jonathan Carter: given the bile you display towards AJ I would say that either a)you are trying to manipulate a geekish community (ubuntu) or b) you honestly believe in what you said and in that case you really need to go out more often and meet non-geek people.
    either way, given that AJ makes no reference towards free software, or programming or anything of the sort in that post, and that he is not pretending to be a model of anything, or making any judgments, I find you reaction pretty disturbing. Specially considering that you do belong in a community that preaches humanity towards others.
    I mean, I really like the sense of sharing that I see in the ubuntu community, but seeing this kind of behavior and the way some members in your community treat women (stallman, Matt Aimonetti, etc) I would rather stay away.
    P.S. I’m posting this also in AJ’s blog

  1. 27 July 2009

    […] So does Matt. So does Lefty. So does Matthew. So does Jonathan. […]

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