Blathering on about Feminism

I must write this response to the article by the FOSS developer “The Beez” over at his blog. He has taken it upon himself to attack feminism and has made such a lot of mistakes that I feel compelled as a strong supporter of fair social attitudes and cultural norms for women to correct these mis-memes.

Lets start off with ditching the feminism of the 1970s as it became more radical and inwardly looking. It’s not even the same kind of movement and to confuse feminism with what various FOSS women’s projects are trying to do is just disingenuous.

Secondly, brains change shape the more they are used. If boys are predisposed to mathematics (and I don’t think so) then girls should be given more help exercising and learning mathematics. Saying that women are no as good and thus not worth the effort, beggars our thinking of people’s worth. Women who are encouraged to engage in mathematics would have bigger IPL’s than average.

I’d also like to point out how ridiculous it is to think that programming is purely mathematical. Is it not. The majority of programming is logical, systematic and multi-threaded with a great dose of collaboration and writing ability. Things that women are “supposed” to be better at. Perhaps this is why young girls usually do better on maths and programming exams but are less confident of their abilities than young boys? It’s not until girls get older that they loose their advantage in programming and mathematics due to social stereotyping and the lack of encouragement and confidence building in these subjects.

To be picky, why is it that Beez wants us to believe that you can argue predispositions on averages and say that on average women are shorter, but then in the very next paragraph says men are “typically” more mathematical? Was averages not good enough for the second part? Perhaps because if something is typical, it is typed and deviation from this norm is ignorable. It gives it a much stronger definition of predisposition than a mere “average of possibility”.

Lets be honest here, it’s not about the code. I know Beez goes on and on about code being the ultimate valuable judgement, but I don’t buy it. I’ve worked with some talented programmers in my time, and some of them were impossible to be functionally productive with because of how little they regarded social interactions. Social collaboration is a major function of large software development, or at least successful projects.

Nowhere has there been an attempt to explain why some projects have no women and others have relativity larger numbers. Perhaps it’s because women like to program in projects that respect them? Perhaps what we should be doing is realising how much of our FOSS culture is depending on aggressive, self assertive, “on average” male cultural qualities and how very little of it is based upon real pragmatic views of code. It’s easy to ignore if everyone in your club is a fist pounding male gorilla.

I’ve seen the cultural and social effects that marginalise women and a lot of them can seem very subtle and almost innocuous. But that doesn’t mean these social factors should be tolerated and that as men we can excuse ourselves from watching our own behaviour and at least attempting to respect everyone. This includes respecting male peers and being able to function with them on a social level, this includes learning about behaviours that are detrimental to women’s participation and not encouraging them.

Finally I’d just like to say that I deplore men who attempt to preserve their precious all boys club in the FOSS community and I find it immature of them to disregard social aspects of being human when it comes to programming.

And yes there are differences between classifications of people on average, but there is normally a much greater difference between individuals in the same class than those averages between each class. I’m not saying that I think everyone needs to be equal, I’m saying people should be given the same opportunities and perhaps understanding differences can lead to better opportunities instead of denial.

Update: Because of the attacks in comments I’m getting from various boys, I’m closing comments until people can learn to be civil. I also deleted two comments, one by accident the other because I want to, now re-added.