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let's not move backwards

I have not followed the recent thread on the event proposed by
Marga, and I don't know what happened so far. I also don't really
want to find out. This is why I am starting a new thread.

I only saw Miriam's suggestion about a women-only list. I wanted to
react to that, and in doing so, I do not want to condone or condemn
anyone's behaviour in the aforementioned thread.

In particular, I don't want to say anything against Marga's initial
idea. A conference that encourages women, even if it's about
non-gender issues, is in no way tokenising, and if advertised as
such, then it could be a powerful event. I'll submit a paper and
maybe you'll just have to accept me to meet the male quota! ;)

also sprach Miriam Ruiz <miriam@debian.org> [2009.09.10.1137 +0200]:
> I'm just thinking aloud, but I wonder if it might make sense to
> also have a women-only mailing list, so that women who otherwise
> wouldn't intervene can do it, kinda Systers or the Girls Only
> mailing list at LinuxChix. Dunno if there would be demand for
> that, but I have the feeling that something positive might come
> from it.

I would consider this a step backwards.

Whenever I talk about debian-women to anyone, I am proud that we
have managed to revolutionise Debian in many ways, and that the need
for debian-women began to shrink, because the ideas and directions
that this project defined and pursued spilled into pretty much all
other parts of our project.

I am proud that we've been a mixed group from the start, a group of
people who pretty quickly saw beyond the distinction between
genders, but set out to fix the rough style of conduct that
cowboy-Debian used to be. I think we managed to teach a lot of
people to tone down (myself included!), and have made Debian a more
enjoyable place for many of us, including the men who hang out here
and elsewhere. I think the number of posts by women has increased
over the last five years, not by a whole lot and we still need to
become more supportive of everyone, but in my humble opinion, we're
on the right track.

I am proud because I have the feeling that debian-women has not
overshot the goal, unlike some other groups with similar directions.

Men and women are different, no question. But what we're trying to
achieve is that these differences (which are fundamental to life,
after all) do not play a role when they are not applicable.
Debian is such an environment where gender makes no difference, and
we should strive to uphold and further that, instead of creating
artificial separations by way of women- or men-only

also sprach Miriam Ruiz <miriam@debian.org> [2009.09.10.1426 +0200]:
> At some point I don't think that this has nothing to do with Debian
> exclusively, but with the way women are socialized and brought up, in
> fear and low self esteem in many ways. Unfortunately some women do
> need some encouragement before being able to talk assertively in a
> public mailing list. And participating in Debian lists, even this one,
> needs a certain level of self-esteem and assertivity. I was not
> accusing Debian of being hostile to women (not this time) but that
> shouldn't be the whole picture in my opinion. Such women-only lists
> are still needed, as they cover an existing gap.

If women still don't feel comfortable joining us, then that's what
we should work on: further improve how we interact as a group, and
maybe help people who have problems speaking up in public (and
that's not only women!) realise that fear and low self-esteem are
(should be) a thing of the past, and that they can (should) be

I don't think public, assertive speaking can be practiced in closed
groups, but it _can_ be practiced in supportive, open environments.
At least I hope so, and I'd like to contribute my part to make d-w
(and all of Debian actually) be such an environment.

Unfortunately, not even the best intentions can prevent a troll or
idiot from speaking up, but in the face of such an instance, we
should not get discouraged or retreat into our house.

But this brings me to another point:

If someone says something one doesn't like, then it's not always the
other's fault. I don't want to provide an excuse for assholes,
because some things are clearly out of order, but then again, some
things may not be so wrong as they initially appear. Maybe the
message was just framed in a suboptimal way. It helps to read again
and try to imagine whether it could have been meant in a different

I have faith that we have gotten better as a group to shoot down
those who clearly overstep the lines. But if the group does not
react, then chances are that there wasn't a need. And if anyone still
thinks something was inappropriate, then would it not make sense to
bring it up and try to sensibilise the group further?

We are trying to grow closer together, right? I think this requires
openness and flexibility from everyone. Maybe I am really living
on the dark side of the moon, but I think our group *is* open and
flexible. Let's build on that.

One may say (and people have said to me that) I have no idea what
I am talking about, because I am in a "privileged position", but
it's unfair to call me that — after all, it's not my fault that
I was born male, and there is nothing I can do about it. If anyone
disagrees with the above stated goals, then let's find out where we

But if the goals are in the right direction, then let's focus on
making sure that Debian becomes an even more equal and fun place for
everyone, let's join together and tell off those who just don't get
it, but let's not take that step back and introduce barriers which
we've previously transcended, at least as I see it.


[0] In the light of trying to overcome problems with fear and
self-esteem, I do not appreciate how — in my perception — the Geek
Feminism Wiki ties us to a stone by keeping meticulous track of all
the bad things, and giving them names. I don't think we need
a central resource to help us prove that things have not always been
ideal. I may very well be unable to maintain a clear view on this
due to my privileged position, though.

 .''`.   martin f. krafft <madduck@d.o>      Related projects:
: :'  :  proud Debian developer               http://debiansystem.info
`. `'`   http://people.debian.org/~madduck    http://vcs-pkg.org
  `-  Debian - when you have better things to do than fixing systems
"no, 'eureka' is greek for 'this bath is too hot.'"
                                                            -- dr. who

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