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Re: Re: Just a single Question for the Candidates

On Sat, Mar 06, 2004 at 01:34:39PM +0000, Helen Faulkner wrote:
> >and just as you don't cure quadraplegia by breaking the arms and legs of
> >healthy people, you don't cure meekness by making healthy people fearful &
> >timid.
> Nice analogy.  It is indeed not the fault of able-bodied people that some
> people have quadraplegia.  If, however, a group finds that they have a
> disproportionately low representation of quadraplegics involved, it's
> possible that enquiry will reveal a barrier to involvement that effects
> people with quadreplegia more than able-bodied people.  Maybe there are
> stairs at the entry to the building.  Are you really suggesting that the
> able-bodied community should not at least attempt to lower that access
> barrier by providing a wheelchair-ramp?  I guess it depends on what kind of
> community you wish it to be, and how much you value the participation of
> those who are effectively denied entry by a barrier that is insignificant to
> you personally.

no, i'm not suggesting that at all.  it is perfectly appropriate to have ramps
and wheelchair access and welcoming committees and whatever else is needed to
accomodate people with different needs(*).

what i am *stating* (not suggesting) is that it is wrong to expect the
able-bodied to act as if they are crippled merely to make the disabled fit in.
ditto for meek vs non-meek people.  it is wrong to expect or demand that
non-meek people behave timidly and fearfully just to cater to the needs of the

(*) as long as they still fit the charter of the group - e.g. it would be
absurd to care that people with no interest or skill in hacking or other
technical fields are effectively excluded from participation in debian.

> Just because some people have difficulty understanding that there are
> barriers that make participation in things like the debian community more
> difficult (on average) for women than men, doesn't mean the barriers don't
> exist.  Social and cultural barriers are more difficult to see than physical
> barriers - that much is clear from some of the comments on this thread alone.
> They are also more difficult to lower.  It comes down to what the community
> as a whole wants to do.

i have no difficulty in perceiving the barriers.  i just happen to think that
the causes behind the barriers are nowhere near as clear-cut and one-sided as
you appear to think they are.

> For the record, I'm not a particularly meek person :)  But whether I am or
> not is beside the point.  The point is that barriers exist to participation
> in debian by women, and that as a result *on average* a women is less likely
> to participate in debian than a man with the same level of skill.  If the
> debian community wish to have greater partipation from women, maybe they need
> to work out how to reduce the overt barriers (eg sexist comments, harassment
> etc), and provide "ramps" to lower the effect of the more subtle barriers (eg
> lack of confidence).

certainly there should be no tolerance for harassment or sexist comments.  or
racist comments. or homophobic comments. or any other kind of hate speech or
group discrimination.

i'm not so sure about any requirement to prop up people's confidence, though -
i kind of feel that that is outside of the scope of debian, that people should
have their shit together to at least a minimal degree before participating.  we
shouldn't be dragging each other down, but there should be no compulsion to
prop each other up, either.

debian isn't an emotional support group, and shouldn't try to be one.  that
would just divert energy from what we are about, which is the development of an
operating system.

and that's perfectly OK - not everything has to be an emotional support group.
there is room in this world for groups that don't expend large amounts of
energy on emotional issues, that focus on other things (like OS development).

> How much harm can it do to make the effort??

that depends on exactly what is involved in making the effort.

some actions are worthwhile, some are counter-productive.

sometimes, if you try to change something too much you just end up killing
whatever it was that made it worthwhile.

to make a more general (albeit extreme) point: we should be very wary of
creating a mono-culture of kindergarten safety, where there is no chance of
offence or insult or injury.  that way lies cultural stagnation and bland
boredom.  there are also functional, healthy adults in this world, not just
children and emotional cripples, and their needs should be catered for too.


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