A followup on the Shuttleworth incident

We’ve turned off comments on the original post; there were about 200 already and there’s only so much that can be said before people stop adding anything new.

I wanted to let you know that I received a private response from Mark Shuttleworth, in which he says that he has no intention of apologising for his comment. I know that a number of other people have approached him in person and by email, both before and after I posted my open letter, to ask him to consider the effects of what he said, and I’m still hoping that he will come around. (Despite numerous assertions to the contrary, I do prefer to see the glass as half full when it comes to these issues.)

Here are some other blog posts about Mark’s comments and their effects:

On Keynotes and Apologies by Chris Ball, Lead Software Engineer for One Laptop Per Child:

Well, I was at the keynote too, and was paying attention, and it turns out that even with context applied, someone who talks about “explaining to girls what we actually do” when talking about free software really is saying something sexist, and buying into the noxious stereotype that women can’t be developers or tech-savvy; that they’ll never be a real part of our group, even if a few of them are brave enough to try in the face of other people dismissing their efforts (and Mark certainly isn’t the first to have done that).

[...]

Finally, I want to repeat that for me the real shame here isn’t that Mark said something unfortunate — we can all say something unfortunate when we’re speaking in front of a large crowd for a long time, myself certainly included. What’s a shame is that it doesn’t take a superhuman dose of empathy to give a short and sincere apology for an obviously harmful joke afterwards, yet we don’t have one yet. To make matters worse, it’s the second time in a few months that someone’s implied that women are people who lack technical knowledge during a conference keynote, and it seems to be the second time we aren’t getting any kind of apology for it. We’re left to conclude that the biggest heroes in free software — the people who speak for and about us to the world — don’t care much about whether women feel invited to or excluded from free software, or how they could use their power to affect that.

Sexism debate by Adam Williamson, Redhat developer and QA community manager:

If we’re going to accept the big — yet paradoxically easy, because it’s abstract — proposition that sexism in F/OSS exists and should be tackled by people modifying their behaviour, we’re going to have to start actually listening when people start trying to point out exemplary instances of the kinds of behaviour that are problematic and need to be changed, rather than taking each example in isolation and trying to pick it apart or denigrate its individual significance.

Hide of a rhino or constitution of a psychopath by Brenda Wallace, Statusnet developer and one of the organising team for this year’s linux.conf.au:

Other survival techniques include changing project – I know of women who contribute actively to one distro, then change, then change again – in the hopes of finding a place where they can contribute their skills without frequent grunching. Yesterday’s “linux is hard to explain to girls” comment by Mark Shuttleworth is an example of The Grunch, and I know it’s caused more than one ubuntu contributor to start looking for another project. It’s the (prominent) straw that broke the camel’s back.

And it all ties up into the “Harming the Community” speech – that by reporting any incident, then you, the reportee, are doing harm to open source. I’m expecting some comments here along that line. I don’t agree with you, but could you please spend half as much energy helping ensure these incident don’t happen again as you spend telling the reportee how wrong she is to report it. Thanks.

People have been asking for transcripts or video; unfortunately those aren’t available. However, a number of people who were present have blogged, tweeted, dented, or commented about Mark’s keynote showing that they were angered or annoyed by it. (Others who were present have confirmed that Mark made the comment, but have said it didn’t bother them; at least there is no doubt that he did make the comment about explaining Linux to girls.)

Emma Jane Hogbin, Ubuntu user and Drupal contributor, first dented about it here while watching the live stream:

Mark! “Explaining to girls what we actually do.” WHATTHEFUCK!! RMS, anyone? #linuxcon

Chris Ball, commented here with his experience:

I was there and was annoyed by this. It’s true that it was said in quieted tones, imitating self-deprecating embarrassment. I think a simple apology for saying something that unintentionally excluded women would be sensible, and I’d applaud Mark for doing it.

An anonymous commenter, at comment #39 on Chris’s blog post:

I’m male. I was there, at the keynote, and I heard the comments. I found them both tacky, and I could tell that the women sitting next to me found them even more tacky.

Matt Zimmerman, CTO of Canonical, was present and audibly said “WTF?” from his seat in the audience, then mentioned it on IRC. His was one of the early reports that led to my letter. In email over the weekend (quoted with permission) he said:

I was there at Mark’s keynote, and have spoken to various people in the community about it as well as to Jono and to Mark himself.

My position is that Mark made a mistake in what he said. This mistake doesn’t make him evil, but it does warrant a response on his part. There’s some very good advice on http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/So_you_made_a_mistake about what to do in this situation which I hope that Mark will consider.

Women in the community who have concerns, questions or advice regarding this issue are welcome to contact me directly.

(ETA: Matt has now blogged about the subject here.)

Matt also has an excellent blog post on the subject of backlash from the last go-round, Backlash: feminism considered harmful, which is recommended reading for anyone taking part in this discussion:

We have a problem in the way that women in free software are regarded and treated. If this is news to you, I encourage you not to take my word for it, but read what women in the community are saying about it. Ask women you know about their experiences.

What I want to discuss here, though, is how people are received when they speak up about this, for example by criticizing sexist behavior they have observed. Often, the problem is denied, the critic themselves is personally attacked, and the victims are blamed. In short, there is a backlash.

This is probably the time to reiterate that Geek Feminism has a comment policy that says, in part:

We welcome discussion that encourages and supports women in geek communities. [...] If you join the discussion here, we assume you are either a feminist, or want to learn more about feminism. If you are new, we recommend that you read some background material. A good starting point is the Geek Feminism Wiki, especially Resources for men. [...] Comments that are anti-feminist, abusive, creepy, derogatory, or which add nothing to the conversation will be deleted on sight.

I’d also like to remind everyone that the correct English term for female, adult humans is “woman”. Thank you.
EDIT: Video now available

  • “A release is an amazing thing; I’m not talking about the happy ending..â€: 3:02
  • “Your printer, and your mom’s printer, and your grandma’s printerâ€: 35:30
  • “We’ll have less trouble explaining to girls what we actually do” at 35:55

Thanks to Chris for taking the time to find the timestamps.

69 thoughts on “A followup on the Shuttleworth incident

  1. furicle

    One thing I haven’t seen pointed out is *why* he’d say something like that. My only theory is the old ‘us vs them’ school of team building. Every hockey (football, whatever) coach in the world uses it to bring team members closer together by pointing out how different they are from the rest of the world.

    It worked well when FL/OSS was a small monoculture, but as soon as your audience grows more diverse it becomes counter productive. Time to leave that form of cheerleading behind… or retreat behind the enclave walls and stock up on sandbags and cammo.

  2. koipond

    Thank you for closing comments in the other thread. It’s that closing of the barn door before another concerned troll enters the house.

    I’m not surprised by the lack of apology. Sometimes the biggest resistance comes from those who think that they’re doing the best. The reaction is, “But look how good I am, how can I be doing something that’s sexist and othering?” So when you point it out they push back hard because they believe their own hype.

    1. Yatima

      @koipond:

      Sometimes the biggest resistance comes from those who think that they’re doing the best.

      This, exactly. With the corollary that all the people who are saying that we should drop it because Shuttleworth is basically a nice guy? Are doing him no favours.

  3. Matthew Jones

    Can you update the previous article to mention that the comments are closed, and that this is a follow up? Preferably around the top in bold, or something obvious. Many people have pointed out to me that they wanted to comment but could not, because the template breakage, or they tried after the comments closed.

  4. Peter

    From a comment within the post:

    “It’s true that it was said in quieted tones, imitating self-deprecating embarrassment.”

    What does this mean? I hadn’t heard this before.

  5. James Morris

    I really wonder what the point is of sending you a private email saying he won’t apologize. What about addressing the women in the audience who were offended, and those in the wider community?

    1. Bene

      @James: Agreed, it’s a very strange sort of thing–responding presumably to be polite but then essentially saying ‘shove off’.

    2. Trix

      @James: Indeed. And until I hear a public apology – NOT of the “I’m sorry you were offended” kind – Ubuntu is staying off my systems. I’ve been using the distro for nearly 4 years (Breezy Badger was my first install), but Mandriva is adequate for my purposes.

      Leaving aside the original remark, this tone of utter refusal to see the POV that’s being expressed here and many other places is off-putting in and of itself.

      1. Jef

        @Trix: I’m not sure boycotting in this case is the best approach. Can you really lay Shuttleworth’s lack of judgement with regard to the comments and the refusal to apologize at the feet of the larger Ubuntu community? At some point you have to make a stand or you just run the risk of bouncing from one community to another when the eventual lapse in judgement occurs.

        Maybe in this case there’s a real need for a loyal opposition. A group of people inside the Ubuntu community who are willing to continue to challenge Shuttleworth. You’ll have far less influence on him and the character of the Ubuntu community once you can be dismissed as an outsider.

        -jef

        1. Mackenzie

          @Trix: Exactly. I was asked recently why I continue to work on Ubuntu. The vast majority of the developers I deal with are wonderful. I’d rather not have to try to find my way into a new community every time someone said something silly. And it’s certainly easier to affect change from the inside.

  6. Havoc

    You know, this whole fracas is going to inspire me to try to install Linux on my backup computer (the one currently running Win2k that’s gathering dust anyway), even though I haven’t touched Linux since college, which was, um. A while ago.

    Now I just have to find the time…

      1. Chris

        Thanks very much, Rikki.

        The “girls” quote is at 35:55.
        “Your printer, and your mom’s printer, and your grandma’s printer”: 35:30.
        “A release is an amazing thing; I’m not talking about the happy ending..”: 3:02

        1. koipond

          I was listening to it and was shaking my head the whole time. Like Shelly said, listening from the beginning made me do a double take or two when he was like, “guys do this” and “guys do that” and then the references as mentioned at 35:30 and 35:55.

          It’s really sad that I went in expecting the worst and I’m still disappointed by what was said and how it was said and how he feels that he doesn’t have to apologize for it.

      2. mdz

        @Rikki: Thanks to you and whomever else was involved in speeding this along so that folks wishing to comment can have more context.

  7. Shelley

    The speech is online now, at http://techcast.com/events/linuxcon/shuttleworth/.

    The quote was 36 minutes in. It’s important to listen to the beginning, though, because it sets more of a context. And the context is not flattering to Mr. Shuttleworth.

    His whole talk was laden with references to guys. You guys, those guys, we guys–there was two references to “girls”, once to do with someone making a change or edit, and then the quote you reference. They jar because they’re so “alien” sounding after all the references to “guys”.

    There was nothing self deprecating about his quote either. He did for a laugh, without regard to how it would make the women in the room feel.

    I guess if I knew how hard Unix would be to us girls, I wouldn’t have co-authored “Unix Power Tools”.

    1. Liz Henry

      @Shelley: Just have to jump in and say that I *loved* Unix Power Tools. I learned so much from that book! I still refer to it.

  8. Adam Williamson

    Quick note: I work for Red Hat, these days, not Mandriva (I know there’s still some Mandriva stuff on my blog :>). If you could update that it’d be great. Thanks.

    1. Skud Post author

      @Adam: Done; sorry about that! I think your bio on your website says Mandriva, and I was working off that.

      1. Adam Williamson

        thanks, I took a look and realized there was still quite a bit of cruft on the ‘about’ pages on my blog, so cleared it up. Sorry for the confusion!

  9. Carla Schroder

    I wrote a detailed article on Mark’s talk, ‘Mark Shuttleworth’s Community Has No Women’, http://blog.linuxtoday.com/blog/2009/09/mark-shuttlewor-1.html

    Didn’t do timestamps because I didn’t think of it. Without all the dumb sexist junk it’s a great talk.

    So it’s all there, and it shows that it was not just a couple of careless comments.

    Thanks Skud, Chris and the gang for bringing attention to this.

    1. Carla Schroder

      I almost forgot– this line appears on http://www.markshuttleworth.com/archives/47 :

      “It’s as much about the girls in the port as the port in the girls.”

      I don’t want to read too much into it. But. I will say I’ll faint of shock if Mr. Shuttleworth, or any prominent male FOSS leader, ever has the guts to confront the issue of sexism in FOSS.

        1. koipond

          @Carla: Google and the IMDB failed to find one. Sure a 5 minute search isn’t in depth but the only hit returned were all dealing with Mark.

          I now go back to my regularly scheduled health check.

        2. jef Spaleta

          @Carla: I think going into the bowels of the twitterscape looking for offensive statements is a self-fulfilling prophecy and I would caution against it. It’s one thing to focus on comments made at a conference… where there is an expectation of professionalism..Mark’s even wearing a tie in the video! But its quite another to review the disjointed fractured historic collection of someone’s tweets and say a particular tweet crossed a line. Tweet’s are weird. They are like a public archive of inside jokes, mental notes and emotional outbursts. Tweets are spontaneous thoughts without context, and its difficult to go back and wrap context around any particular tweet.

      1. Chris

        I don’t want to read too much into it. But. I will say I’ll faint of shock if Mr. Shuttleworth, or any prominent male FOSS leader, ever has the guts to confront the issue of sexism in FOSS.

        If I agreed with this, I think I’d stop hacking on free software tomorrow. :)

        Matt Zimmerman obviously has guts, and is at most one step removed from being a prominent FOSS leader. Mako Hill, who’s keynoting Linux Conf Australia in January, is also a longtime feminist. See, for example:

        http://lists.debian.org/debian-project/2004/03/msg00360.html

        http://mako.cc/copyrighteous/20080827-00

  10. pete

    so, is it true? I mean, the guy told his anecdote about women and open source, and a bunch of people disagree with him and have their own anecdotes to back it up, I have my own anecdotes that may or may not match his (they do), but in the end it’s all anecdotes. Look around you, there are no women in open source, and the guy is suggesting a reason. Is no one curious to find out if what he’s saying is true? or do we just act offended pretend it’s something else?

    1. Peter

      But pete, he implied that the reason is because women (“girls”) are intellectually inferior in this area and need to have the tech made simpler for them to understand it.

      To me what’s even more unfortunate than his remarks is that he apparently doesn’t want to acknowledge his mistake.

    2. Skud Post author

      Look around you, there are no women in open source

      Um, really? *looks around* I see a whole bunch (me, Mary, Sumana, Liz, Valerie. Mackenzie, and Terri on this blog alone), who keep getting told we don’t exist.

      1. pete

        @Skud: this is what I’m saying. your argument seems to be “I’m a woman and I understand linux, therefore all women understand linux”, or “I see plenty of women in open source around me, therefore open source is full of women”. That’s flawed logic, and it’s all I’m seeing in this discussion, from both sides.

        1. koipond

          @pete

          No, they’re saying “You’re saying women don’t understand Linux. I am a woman an I understand linux, why did you say that?” Stop trying to put this in a binary situation. It’s not an either or situation because that’s all it seems you can do.

          Recapping for the sake of brevity.

          Mark Shuttleworth makes comments that alienate and other women in FL/OSS.
          The women involved in FL/OSS point out that he made comments that alienated them.
          People come to his defense and say things like, I dunno that there are no women in open source.
          The women involved in FL/OSS say that, actually there are women who are in the community and get the whole process. Please stop saying that they aren’t there.
          Then more people, or the same people, come in and try to minimize what they’re saying but throwing out words and terms they don’t really understand, and gross generalities, in an effort to sound smart.

          Wash, rinse, repeat.

          This comment may be snarky but I’m getting really tired of being polite to people who just refuse to get it.

          Before you comment again please consider checking out the following links.

          Feminism 101
          Resources for men at the Geek Feminism Wiki
          The comment policy on this blog

        1. koipond

          @pete

          Or, you know, Mackenzie could be helpful and stuff and provide a link to a list of people that you could read up on and stuff.

        2. pete

          Mackenzie:
          yeah, I know that list. when I said “there are no women in open source”, I was using a figure of speech. I’m aware that I’m commenting on a blog written by women involved in open source, so I thought it’d be obvious.

          Peter:
          no, he didn’t imply that. we hear that argument all the time. “Software X doesn’t have any users because users don’t understand it”. Does that imply that the potential users of software X are stupid? no (especially since they’re all using software Y, which is equally complex). usually it’s a bad interface, or there’s no documentation, or users are culturally inclined to use other (non-opensource) alternative, for whatever reason. The only people who jump to that conclusion are the arrogant developers of software X. Or maybe they are stupid, or maybe it’s something else entirely. I’d love to find out, but for that we need real facts, and not people saying “I use software X, so software X is perfectly simple to use!”.

          that list of women in open source is really really small. don’t you want to know why?

    3. koipond

      @pete

      These aren’t anecdotes. An anecdote is when you tell a short, usually humorous, tale about something that happened. These are systemically discriminatory comments that alienate the women, and their allies who support them, from whatever it is that you’re doing.

      I’m also calling Troll because to walk onto a blog entitled “geek feminism” and say that there are no women in open source is like walking into an arena’s locker room and yelling, “Nope, no atheletes here!” If you can’t be at least that perceptive then I wonder at the validity of your comments.

      1. koipond

        @pete

        that list of women in open source is really really small. don’t you want to know why?

        Exclusion and other through ignorant and sexist language. Harrassment both subtle and overt, both personal and sexual.

        There’s more if you want them and are willing to listen to what all the women here have been saying ad nauseum.

  11. Asad

    But has he broken out into an Edith Piaf song yet? That’s what I want to know. You know the song I’m thinking about.

  12. lauredhel

    There’s yet another one at 18:00 about software “landing in the hands of your grandma” and not doing what it ought to do.

  13. nitrofurano

    Please let us know when Shuttleworth publish his public apologies to this issue. He really need to do this for his own honour.

  14. LinuxCanuck

    Shuttleworth owes it to his community to apologize. Even if in his mind he did nothing wrong, offense was taken based on comments that he made. If he did not intend to offend, and I think that this is the case, then it would be good manners and considerate of him to apologize.

    As a leader, he must do many things. One of them is to do whatever he can to advance the interests of his company and the brand name. If the image is tarnished, no matter who does it, he must step in to remedy the situation. In this case, it is doubly important because it was his words that caused offense.

    My problem with the whole affair stems from forces ready to take advantage and blame the distribution based not on his words, which they don’t care about, but upon our reaction to them. Tuxmachines was calling for a boycott of Ubuntu based on comments made here. I am not saying that Mark should not be criticized, but that forces are at work that escalate things beyond reason very quickly.

    This is a sad commentary on the state of the larger Linux community and much more worrisome to me than if Shuttleworth is a sexist. As bad as that may be, we can recover from that. But the community is now divided in very unhealthy ways.

  15. FoolishOwl

    I just discovered this blog, when an instructor posted a link to the preceding post on Shuttleworth.

    The episode, and the “emacs virgins” episode with rms, are quite disappointing. I’ve been seeing free software as deliberately on the side of human liberation. I read “Hackers” by Steven Levy when I was in my teens, and I think Stallman’s views on free software were a major influence on my political views in general. I’d chosen Ubuntu for my preferred GNU/Linux distribution in part because a commitment to progressive values is implied by its very name. It saddens me to see major figures like Stallman or Shuttleworth, both of whom I’ve generally admired, make sexist blunders and fail to apologize suggests that they’re not seriously considering the problem of sexism in the industry.

    1. Chris Ball

      @FoolishOwl: Thanks for this thoughtful post.

      I totally agree. It seems like an awful irony that a group of people who are entirely conversant in the language of ethics, social justice and liberty are often so quick to fail to see how a struggle to treat its own participants well is *the same struggle* they’re already working on, just in a different context. I can’t understand how it got to be this way.

      1. Liz Henry

        Chris, I often wonder the same thing! The other night I was reading over some ancient mailing list arguments about FLOSS terminology, and the irony was killing me. Not only the passionate depth of the arguments over the right words to reflect a philosophy & a movement but also the volume of the emails (and not all deep, but with a fair amount of posturing and grandstanding and personal attacks etc.). Now basically that same population minds so much that a few people spend like 1% of our time pointing out annoyance at gender inequalities and sexist remarks. I had to laugh.

        As to why, I think there is some fairly deep damage done by the way “geek” has been gendered for men and boys. Men and boys direct misogyny and homophobia at each other, for example, and suffer from it. Just as some women have done, they have worked to distance themselves from anything that is gendered female or feminine, drawing a line and pushing whatever is devalued across that line, away from them.

        Another factor is simply not seeing the problem, or not seeing it as systemic, because of not having been exposed to it throughout life, or not having had to notice it and encompass its implications for their own sanity and survival. If people don’t recognize the problem as a problem then of course it would seem pointless and trivial to them, like staging a social justice movement off of someone accidentally bumping into you in the street.

  16. Sassinak

    Well, I’ve just watched most of the lecture. I must say I don’t get it. It seems to me Mark’s comments just aren’t as bad as they have been described. I think, rather, from the offended partie’s comments, that it’s all really a question of the cup being overfull. I am only just starting out in IT, and I already face sexism, and it sucks; but I think jumping three feet high because of the “explaining to girls” bit is rather a strong reaction. That phrase seemed thrown in almost as a afterthought; why did anyone laugh at all ?
    Are the women of FOSS so fed up with sexism they’re angry with Mark S. more because he’s a important figurehead than because of what he said? Will I be as fed up as that in a few years ?
    If the CEO of Canonical DID apologize to the women of the IT world for offending them, what would it mean? It would mostly mean acknowledging the problem; it would mark the beginning of a change of attitude. It would show a great deal of leadership on his part. It takes a big “man” to admit to fault and apologize. It is not humiliation. It is humility. A quality that should be indissociable from FOSS as it means: “I am no more than you. I am what I am because of who we are. I’m sorry I stepped on your toes. Please accept my apology. Thank you. Are you excited about the release of Karmic soon? So am I.”

  17. gedece

    I’d like to point something that’s not been pointed out. Mark is not NorthAmerican, neither is he an Englishman, he’s Sudafrican who’s now living in London.

    English is not the same in every part of the world, so perhaps what he said is being missinterpreted because of that. I know this is a BIG and unlikely ‘perhaps’, but nonetheless I wanted to add this in this blog.

    1. koipond

      @gedece: True, English is not the same in every part of the world.

      The structure of what he’s saying isn’t one of those things that differs. What was said didn’t fall under a idiom or a colloquialism. What he said was understood rather clearly by everyone in the room, and everyone heard when watching the feed.

      Bringing it up doesn’t help, it just gives a moron who doesn’t know any better another avenue to be like, “See! See! He doesn’t need to apologize!”

      1. Skud Post author

        koipond, let’s not go throwing around words like “moron”. That’s out of line.

    2. Jef

      First assuming your right and what’s happening here is primarily a friction between cultural norms.. it doesn’t really explain the refusal to apologize. If anyone should understand how inadvertent offences across cultural boundaries can be destructive it should be the leader of the Ubuntu project. Cultural friction will happen, but you have to be willing to accept the fact that you have caused it and apologize when it occurs or else you create more bad blood than the original statement. But I think you are wrong. I don’t think this was in fact a case of cultural friction.

      Your argument would make more sense if this was a pattern of behavior in the public record of communications that Shuttleworth has made. If you look over the Ubuntu irc logs or the Ubuntu mailinglists where Shuttleworth has been part of the conversation. Do you see a pattern that would suggest that Shuttleworth makes a habit of falling back on his own deeply ingrained cultural colloquialisms? I don’t see that sort of pattern. He’s much more consistently conscientious about choosing his words when he’s talking inside the Ubuntu specific communication channels than he was in this video… which makes the whole episode that much more of a head scratcher..especially the refusal to apologize. It’s so very out of character when compared to the image he projects of himself via the communications he makes into the Ubuntu project itself.

      Maybe the statements at issue in the talk were a deliberate effort to pander to what he expected to be an entirely male audience.. though I doubt it.. I don’t get the sense that he typically shoots for the cheap laughs. Or maybe we can just chalk it up to jet lag or stress as the underlying factor for the poor display of judgement. I’m guessing it was partly jet lag or end of the day low blood sugar or something else that threw him off his game and a couple of neurons stopped firing. I don’t really think the hooker joke was in his prepared talking points.

      I know that I am totally a different person at the end of the day due to a drop in blood sugar. Anyone who has received an end of the day email right before I’m going home to eat dinner can attest to that and I cross the line into mean spirited dialog. God forbid someone pushes one of my buttons on irc in those last ten minutes before I go home. But I do my best to acknowledge it when I’m called out on it.

      I wonder how much different Mark’s talk would have been if it had happened right after the open bar with the food instead of right before it. It’s a hobby of mine to anticipate the talking points Mark makes so that I can be criticise him… and I didn’t see these jokes coming. It’s not his typical style in public communications as far as I can tell. None of this excuses Mark’s statements of course, just like low blood sugar doesn’t excuse me for going ballistic at the end of the day. But just as a sincere apology helps undo some of the unintended damage, understanding the pre-conditions that made the uncharacteristic behavior more likely will help prevent it from happening again. And I think that’s the real goal for people who are calling Mark out on these statements, they want Mark’s poor judgement as a “dictator” reinforcing a bad pattern of behavior for the community he is dictating. People are more than willing to forgive Mark for an uncharacteristic lapse in judgement, but it has to be acknowledge as such. His refusal to apologize is probably more damaging than the original statements.

      -jef

      1. Jef

        Oops, I left out an important word near the end. The corrected sentence is:

        And I think that’s the real goal for people who are calling Mark out on these statements, they don’t want Mark’s poor judgement as a “dictator” reinforcing a bad pattern of behavior for the community he is dictating.

  18. mike

    I believe that the attitude Shuttleworth and others like him exhibit may be a factor in some of the feuds that happen (and slow progress) in FOSS, like the unfortunate incidents in the sidux community in July. Even this discussion is channeling our energy away from development and community and into animosity. Shuttleworth tries to defuse many arguments. Evidently it’s difficult for him to see his own difficulties.

  19. Am Elder

    There is at least one happy byproduct for me of the Mark Shuttleworth’s comments. Since FLOSS women have spoken up, I’ve become aware of some more of the impressive people who are working on Free and Open Source software. That list of women in FLOSS is really impressive. For this reason alone, I’m glad feminist geeks are making their case. And of course, I hope the culture starts to change.

    1. Mackenzie

      @Dave: The picture is a Gravatar. It goes by your email address. If that is not your picture, you must be using someone else’s email address to post.

  20. Lasse Havelund

    I’m writing this as a complete outsider. I’ve known about ubuntu-women, debian-women, geekfeminism.org etc. for a while, and while I appreciate the existence of such communities, I also believe in taking this type of thing with a grain of salt.

    Don’t get me wrong—I completely agree in the statement that Mark made a mistake (perhaps not as much a mistake as a brainfart), but I think it is going a bit far with some people calling Mark a sexist or a male chauvinist on some blogs.

    I haven’t listened to the talk myself (I simply don’t have the time with my current work schedule), so I can’t comment on the context of the remark in question, but it seems like a bit of an overreaction on the part of some members of these communities.

    I am, myself, male, and I have born witness to sexism in the FOSS community (I’m a long-term member of the Ubuntu community)—something I don’t accept or condone in any form, be it joking or not.

    My stance on this issue in particular is that, sure, he made a mistake. People do that. I don’t, however, understand why Mark refuses to make a statement making it clear that he didn’t mean to offend anyone, which would appease me (and, I hope, most sane people in the world).

  21. Ann (kudra)

    Hi Skud,

    I was at Open World Forum in Paris last week, and Mark gave the same talk that he gave at LinuxCon, according to someone who had attended both events. At Open World Forum he did not make this reference.

    I didn’t witness the original remark so I’m not qualified to comment on whether it merits an apology, but I’ve always found modifying subsequent behavior more valuable than giving an formal apology, so I’m pleased to see that the comments have elicited a response.

  22. Jonquil

    @Lasse: You appear to be suggesting that the commenters on this blog are responsible for every comment made by everyone in every Ubuntu blog. Feminists aren’t a hivemind, honest. The people here aren’t responsible for anybody’s language or behavior but their own; you can’t debate “some members of these communities” here.

    I haven’t heard a feminist use the phrase “male chauvinist” since 1980. Do you have a link for that one? I’d love to point and laugh.

    “”I haven’t listened to the talk myself.” Why, then, do you know more about the talk than the people who were actually present, the people who have listened to the talk, and the people who have posted exact quotations of what was said?

    1. Lasse Havelund

      You appear to be suggesting that the commenters on this blog are responsible for every comment made by everyone in every Ubuntu blog. Feminists aren’t a hivemind, honest. The people here aren’t responsible for anybody’s language or behavior but their own; you can’t debate “some members of these communities” here.

      Not at all—I was trying to suggest that this was actually not the case. geekfeminism.org appear to be one of the sources taking it the best.

      I haven’t heard a feminist use the phrase “male chauvinist” since 1980. Do you have a link for that one? I’d love to point and laugh.

      I don’t have the exact source—I read it on a blog somewhere when I first posted my comment on here, which is a few days ago now. Sorry, but I won’t be going through my history to find it.

      “”I haven’t listened to the talk myself.” Why, then, do you know more about the talk than the people who were actually present, the people who have listened to the talk, and the people who have posted exact quotations of what was said?

      I don’t believe I ever said I did. However, from the exact quotes that you mentioned, I’ve been able to piece together my opinion on the matter, which is really what I was attempting to share here.

      Your comment came off as a bit hostile to me, which was in no way the reaction I was attempting to provoke—or had expected.

Comments are closed.