In cereta’s words, “Oh yes, I’m going there.”
After George Sodini went on a misogynist shooting spree, killing three women, a lot of people were making comparisons to the Virginia Tech or Columbine shootings. But among women in the tech world, the comparison I most often heard was the Montreal Massacre.
Most people outside of Canada (and/or geek feminism) have never heard of it. Here’s what happened: in 1989 at Ã‰cole Polytechnique, an engineering school in Montreal, Quebec. Marc LÃ©pine walked into an engineering classroom with an automatic rifle, separated the men from the women, proclaimed that he was “fighting feminism”, and shot all nine women, killing six. Moving on, he started shooting people in the hallways and cafeteria. In all, he killed 14 women and then himself.
In Canada, the anniversary of this event is a National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women. This year is the 20th anniversary.
LÃ©pine, like Sodini, hated women and blamed them for his problems, so he killed them. And they aren’t alone. In fact, they sound a lot like that guy who used to post to the Debian mailing lists (source):
Yea you’ve become a developer… and have done nearly nothing except shill your feminist shit and try to turn debian into a woman’s project (you are succeeding, men are leaving debian because of you and your ilk, worthless bitch).
I pray that God takes you and all your supporters from this earth soon.
You are a developer because so many vocal men support feminism (no matter how many divorces they suffer through). You are not a developer on your own merit. Those who are against you do not dare speak up because they know that anti-feminist men are thrown out of debian.
I am praying for your death and the death of your supporters.
What you have done to debian should not go unpunished, your dislike of men (that chip can be seen from space) and wish to raise women up to be “strong and powerful” and take men’s work (debian and other free software projects) away from them should earn you a death sentance. Debian cannot survive when men leave it.
I pray you find your way into a feminist unfriendly country one day. God willing, you will die.
Happily the feminist-unfriendly countries are immigrating to you. Remeber the netherlands? Feminists die there.
Since I gave my keynote at OSCON (which mentioned the above in passing) I’ve had people say, “Death threats? Really? Well, you can’t take trolls too seriously,” and “I’m sure it’s just an isolated incident.”
I’ve also had people ask me why we still need feminism — don’t we have equality now? I’ve had people say that attempts at making the open source community safe and welcome will “ruin open source” and that we’re trying to impose a thought police on a culture that wants to be free — free to make death threats, I guess. And at CLS, in a roundtable discussion on griefers and trolls, I asked whether anyone had ideas for how to deal with death threats online, and people just shrugged; law enforcement doesn’t take them seriously, and the only recommendation anyone could give was to put the mailing list or blog comments on moderation.
But what if you don’t control the forum where the threats occur? George Sodini had his own blog. Kathy Sierra‘s attackers were posting on other blogs. And why should it be our responsibility anyway? “Just moderate your mailing list/blog comments” sounds to me like “if you walk home alone you’re asking for it.” How did vile, murderous, misogyny come to be the responsibility of anyone except the perpetrator?
I heard a great quote, which Google tells me comes from Gavin DeBecker’s book, “The Gift of Fear”:
At core, men are afraid women will laugh at them, while at core, women are afraid men will kill them.
I know some people will roll their eyes at that and think it’s overblown. Others will probably say that living in a state of fear is counter-productive, and we should just tough up and ignore it if we want to eg. take engineering classes, participate in free and open source software projects, or just go about our daily lives.
No. The correct reaction to a death threat — whether specific or general — is fear. The correct action for resolving that fear is to remove the death threats.
We need to come down like a ton of bricks on anyone making those threats, online or off. And we need to stop pretending that people who say those kinds of scary-ass things are all “harmless trolls”. If George Sodini’s taught us nothing else, he’s taught us that.