October 20, 2008
Things that put me in a bad mood
A howto on how to encourage women in Linux appeared in my newsfeed this morning, on Hacker News (it’s an old posting, I’m just behind). Of course, the first comment called it bull, and the next one said something about how men and women just like different things. But nobody admitted to being one of those guys who makes up a list of what kind of women each linux distro is, or even just comments on the appearance of every woman present at a user group meeting. Hell, nobody even admitted to being one of those guys who assumes every woman present is just someone’s girlfriend or wife.
I saw the title of the link, and knew what was coming. It always seems to be like this. There is a certain minority of men in computing or engineering who reflexively attack any analysis about why women might be underrepresented in their field, or evidence that men and women have equal capability therein. They insist that women have no interest or ability in this field, and that there is no problem. Any woman who dabbles and leaves, or who isn’t perfectly skilled, is evidence that they’re right about women. Any woman who is passionate or skilled is evidence that the environment is just fine.
To cheer myself up with a laugh, the next thing I looked at was the daily WTF. Today’s story was about a programmer obsessing about a female programmer, by naming everything in his code after her. But the scene setting text described this programmer as something attractive and unattainable that tormented the programming team, and the comments called for pictures, or insisted attractive female programmers were a myth.
It’s all just a joke, I’m sure. But I’ve reached a point in my life where it just isn’t funny to me. I browse through blogs, popular journals, and open source forums and mailing lists looking for ideas about what kind of research would be useful and interesting to the development community. When I run into this sort of thing, my first thought is that I don’t want to be part of that kind of development community. I have every intention of staying in computer science, but at those moments, I know why a lot of women leave.