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Some Comments on Sexism in #debian

Hello, my name is Matt R Hall. I am a student of
computer engineering and German at the University of
Pacific in Stockton, CA. IANAD (I Am Not A Developer),
so I reserve my comments specifically to the IRC
channel, where I have been present regularly since
1998 under the nickname "mhall."

I would like to offer some comments on the recent
discussion turned flamewar regarding the issue of
barriers to entry for women.

In one of Mr. Srivastava's earlier posts documenting
some problems that have happened in the channel, you
probably noticed me trolling "tam," who had been
accusing helix of using the "Lesbian Linux" parody
distribution on the basis she was female. The approach
I have taken to those who abuse the women in #debian
is to attempt to parody-troll them to show them how
stupid their behavior is. In that particular case, tam
refused to listen. It's not a perfect world.

Before just very recently, when this thread brought
some much-needed attention to the issue, the channel
was (in my opinion) rather poor at noticing and
combatting sexist and abusive behavior. When I was
first present in 1998, the channel was averaged around
350-400 users. In my opinion the membership and
traffic in the channel has kept rising beyond our
capacity to administrate it.

Another problem that has been hurting all IRC networks
is the proliferation of better and better tools to
abuse channels and servers, which I think has kept us
from being able to progress in other areas, such as
making the social environment as healthy as it could
be. Perhaps it would be good to create a group of
non-operators to act as semi-official catalysts, like
those mentioned in lilo's freenode guidelines.

As Mr. Harris noted to Mr. Srivastava (which was then
sent to this list), there are 12 operators in #debian,
which means we expect each one to be present at least
2 unique hours per day, assuming the task is equally
divided. In my opinion that is probably not enough for
a channel with 600+ people and such extreme traffic
levels, which again lends some credence to the above
possibility. I think that some influential regulars
working together could stand a good chance of curbing
some of the abuse problems that have been known
together, through means other than a raw display of

Next, I would like to say some words to those who have
been saying that Debian doesn't discriminate against
women. As far as IRC goes, IT DOES. ADMIT IT ALREADY.
Every day the channel is filled with trolls and
flamers abusing the few female regulars who "boldly
dare to frequent it." On top of that, there is a
constant flow of sexist sexually suggestiv remarks
(which was a deterrent mentioned in our favorite HOWTO
Of The Week (TM)). Simply put, we can do better, I
think we will do better thanks to the additional
attention generated by this thread, and I hope we
don't slide back down from the path to the pinnacle of
success, because I greatly value the contribution
brought by everyone to the channel, except the real
trolls (not me, remember) and flamers, who can <insert
choice insult here>.

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