Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
A Selection Of Thoughts From Actual Women (regarding GoGaRuCo) (hackety.org)
66 points by sant0sk1 on Apr 29, 2009 | hide | past | web | favorite | 145 comments



How about a thought from an actual man? Me.

I've flipped through the slides and if I'd been in that presentation I would have had a very low opinion of the speaker. Not because I've got a problem with pornography, but because his presentation shows a complete lack of judgment.

If you are making a public presentation you need to realize that your standards are not shared by everyone in the audience so you need to tailor your presentation to them. There were probably plenty of people happy to see softcore pornography that day, some people who wished it had been hardcore, and others who felt uncomfortable. There's not an obvious male/female mapping to those categories.

Suppose it hadn't been pornography, but had been slides making fun of Christianity, or slides showing graphic depictions of surgery, or jokes aimed at a minority based on skin color. You can imagine the audience splitting into groups that were happy with that, unhappy and indifferent.

But why split your audience? They were there to hear about CouchDB, not to understand the speaker's personal beliefs or preferences.

In addition to having a low opinion of the speaker, I would have been uncomfortable with the images knowing that others in the audience were likely offended and didn't say anything.

And lastly, his metaphor is broken. So CouchDB performs like a porn star? Good to know. To me performing like a porn star means pretending to do something and not doing the real thing. I guess CouchDB is some sort of phony database that looks good at first glance but is just faking it.


Yeah, if CouchDB really performs like a porn star, it should cost $1000 an hour to run and need to get health checks every month. Not quite selling points for an always-up service (pun not originally intended, but I'm going with it now).


OTOH, It's often nice to see people speak who just don't care if everyone likes what they have to say.

I find it quite funny how this is apparently only offensive to women for some unbeknown reason. I think that in itself belittles women.


Agreed. But I get the distinct impression that this speaker figured that everyone was going to like his pornography analogy and imagery.


He should have based it on military - drawings of tanks, ships, missiles etc. Most people seem completely fine with killing people. But sex? oh my god think of the children!!!


I think you are missing the point if you think the issue is about people's attitude towards sexual imagery.


I was just pointing out that we live in a time when some peoples attitudes to sex are ridiculously prudish, compared to other things (Especially in the US).

People should be offended by people being killed. But they aren't. Instead they're offended by some women at the superboll flashing a breast. Or some intern helping to relax the president. Or a tech talk with some scantily clad models in it.


I think pictures of bodies from Iraq with a tagline "CouchDB kills the competition" would be equally if not more frowned upon.

No one ever said that this would be the ONLY thing that was unprofessional and offensive, you are arguing against a point nobody made.


>> pictures of bodies from Iraq with a tagline "CouchDB kills the competition"

I don't think most people would have batted an eyelid at that. If they were 'anonymous' non close-up bodies without any gore. People are pretty desensitized to that sort of thing. Also it's harder to say "This is offensive to <insert minority>".

I think the moral is if you're going to use humor, be very very careful. You might miss the mark for some people, and offend them instead.


Really, I would have been very, very dubious about the speaker if he'd shown pictures of war dead in that context. Actually, I think I would have been more upset than the pornographic imagery situation.


I think your demographic is desensitized to that sort of thing, I would not imply that most people are though. Are you in the 18-34 Male demographic by any chance?

You wouldn't need the gore, just show a few hundred coffins in a airport hanger draped with the US flag and that tagline, and you will have people forming a lynch mob.

Right you are with that last statement, but its how you react when you do offend people that counts, its easy to forgive after all.

Its not the imagery thats upsetting people here, its the fostering of a Macho culture that not everyone wants to opt into that is difficult to accept. And it suggests that if you don't want to constantly get involved in a dick measuring contest to see who can be the most edgy or offensive there is no other alternative than to leave the community (And the community leaders are more than happy to show you the door)


I sort of get your last point, although I can't imagine how it'd work the other way.

Lets say for example I decided to be a primary school teacher/kindergarten - something that is probably about the oposite of 'tech' in terms of males/females. I would be a complete outsider. It's quite likely I'd be the only male teacher in the school. Lets then say maybe the women do a staff presentation about the kids that includes makeup or lingerie as a metaphor. Would I be insulted? I don't think so at all. Is this a good analogy? I don't know. I just can't think of many situations where men can get offended and claim 'sexism'.


Your argument is ineffective. The point is not to swap one potentially controversial topic for another in a presentation, the point is to attempt to appease a majority of the audience in an entertaining way precisely by avoiding abrasive topics.


Interesting comment quoted here: http://www.oblomovka.com/wp/2009/04/28/how-to-be-edgy/

It’s not about whether it’s porn or not porn. Those commenting on people’s supposed hypersensitivity to nudity or bodies are completely missing the point. It’s about presenting women as ‘the other,’ not ‘us.’ It would have been just as offensive if all the women shown were domineering mothers in aprons, shaking their fingers and threatening with rolling pins.


It wasn't about women (to me) - I would have had the same reaction if it was gay porn. Or if it was a talk on security and featured photos of real life cops and criminals breaking the law. I'm sure it's a great database, but the visual baggage wound up being a major distraction.


Possibly true, it wouldn't have gotten any attention. It wouldn't be outrageous and very few people would be talking about it, if any.


"Titillation is certainly good marketing, but frankly, if you can’t find a way to make your presentation interesting that doesn’t include thonged asses, your presentation isn’t interesting."

I found this the best summary.


I think it goes just a bit further than this, but not a lot. He tried to play off of the "rock star" persona that surrounds the Rails community in an over the top and humorous way. He failed, miserably.

Those he was satirizing thought it was great, and those who should have appreciated the satire were offended. It showed a complete lapse of judgment, and frankly professional taste.

But the amount of hype this whole drama has received is yet another mark against the Rails community. Maybe Zed was more right than everyone thought.


The one thing I do have to say is:

> What about a presentation about writing code on deadline: “Delivering Like a Birth Mom.” Or how about graphic images of up-close breastfeeding in a talk titled “Nursing Your Projects Along.”

I don't think this would upset many male attendees, nor would it upset me. That doesn't necessarily mean that "Perform like a pornstar" was ok, but this analogy doesn't really hold. I think most guys would find the birthing/nursing metaphors funny, and I don't think you'd see any complaints afterward. Unless, of course, it was a guy who gave the talk.


I think she's alluding that a lot of guys, when they see a mother breast feeding in public will roll their eyes in disgust, "does she really have to do that here?" Hence the big Facebook controversy a few months back - is it appropriate to post breast-feeding pics on the site?

I don't have an answer to that, but I understand how I might feel uncomfortable if I had to watch a presentation about breast-feeding for 30 minutes when I was expecting something on CouchDB. Swap that out for something potentially more inflammatory and you get the disaster we see now.


a lot of guys, when they see a mother breast feeding in public will roll their eyes in disgust, "does she really have to do that here?"

People who are disgusted by breastfeeding have no place in any society. Breastfeeding is just something women do naturally, unless they are part of the minority that doesn't have children. Hostility to breastfeeding is just a form of hostility to women, and it has the effect of making women second-class citizens: it forces women to choose between raising their children themselves and participating as full members in society.


These things are very culture-dependent. In Europe, most people don't care much about breast feeding in public, and don't see why Americans seem to raise such a fuss about Janet Jackson's breast.

Which means you don't want to use these themes to illustrate your presentation, unless you are deliberately trying to annoy or offend part of your audience.


>> "a lot of guys, when they see a mother breast feeding in public will roll their eyes in disgust"

Seriously? In US I assume?

I'm in the UK and have never had such an impression. Old people seem to sometimes get offended at such things, but certainly not the general population.


Yeah, it's a US thing and it happens exactly as quoted. And it actually gets the same reaction from both men and women.

The exceptions are men and women who have realized that it isn't easy to control infants and a good mother will do what has to be done. Not so disgusting from my point of view (and I'm a guy in my 20's with no kids).


Can't think of many things more natural than a woman feeding her baby.


Lots of things are natural that you wouldn't want to see.

I personally have no problems with breastfeeding, and I'm dubious of the "omg Americans flip out when they see it" implications above, but "naturalness" is not not really the reason something is ok to do in public or not.


Perhaps it's more related to the religiousness of the US?


Kinda, but I think it's more of a question of "tact" from a US'ians point of view. There's a high priority placed on politeness (real or not), service, and ultimately obedience. While this conservatism may have it's roots in religion, the attitude permeates through the rest of the culture.

The US is a country of immigrants, and if you look at the history - immigrant groups tend to be pretty dang religious. Pilgrims and Puritans, Africans embraced Christianity with zeal because of their circumstances. Later waves: Irish & Italian Catholics, German Protestants, European Jews; all very religious. And modern immigrant groups, Latin Americans, Koreans, Indians, etc. can all be quite conservative. Religion and culture intertwine because people tend to hang out with their own in the beginning - and the place to find them is usually at a church/temple/whatev. I guess it's like the old lunch table theory, you'll prefer to hang out with people that you think are more like you.

[edit] And to extrapolate this to the current topic, the presenter's greatest sin in the eyes of many US'ians is not his gratuitous use of sexual imagery to convey a point, but his complete lack of tact when doing so.


Sex, certainly, is equally or more natural. No sex, no babies feeding.


"I'm in the UK and have never had such an impression."

I'm in the USA and have never had such an impression, either.

It sound more like an unfortunate male stereotype that various media like to play on.


I agree. The only difference would be that more people know about porn, than have kids and know about birthing/breast feeding.

If you could be pretty sure most people knew about it, I think either would be fine. Maybe an odd choice raising a few eyebrows though.


Danny O'Brien has picked out a great quote on this issue:

> "It’s not about whether it’s porn or not porn. Those commenting on people’s supposed hypersensitivity to nudity or bodies are completely missing the point. It’s about presenting women as ‘the other,’ not ‘us.’ It would have been just as offensive if all the women shown were domineering mothers in aprons, shaking their fingers and threatening with rolling pins."

http://www.oblomovka.com/wp/2009/04/28/how-to-be-edgy/


You know, the Drupal community is always looking for talented developers and to date I've yet to see any pr0n embedded in a presentation I've attended. Just sayin...


I really don't see why people make this into a gender thing. Because there were more women in the photographs than men?

The speaker showed very poor taste. Such illustrations are totally inappropriate for a public presentation. But this has nothing to do with gender, so I don't see why women were more offended than men.


Why is there so much drama in the Ruby community?


Because it's a scene.


I do not think the presentation was particularly offensive; but he tried to be funny and failed. He should have apologized and move on. But he didn't and that is what caused all this. Just poor judgment followed by poor damage control.


I get why the presentation/presenter was ineffective for some audiences. I get that there are various assorted prudes that need to be marketed to. I don't get why everyone has to have an opinion about it.

Has no one heard the term "booth babe" before? Been to car show? Turned on the television and seen a beer commercial? Watched a race car driver endorse a domain name registrar? Sure it sucks that marketing and sex are intertwined. Read this: http://www.marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2009/04...

Then can we please shut up and get back to coding?


"Has no one heard the term "booth babe" before? Been to car show? Turned on the television and seen a beer commercial?"

Three things that are specifically targeted at the 18-34 Male demographic. I thought the point of this debate was that tech conferences should be more inclusive than just that key demographic that makes up the bulk of the tech sector workforce.


But that is marketing to customers, this is a technical conference. Sex sells but sex does not belong in the workplace.

I can see an argument as to why that is a double standard, but it is what it is and if you are going to be a professional you have to respect that.


"sex does not belong in the workplace."

Well who said a tech conference is a "workplace"? I thought it was just a place where people who code hung out and discussed stuff.

What is "professional" and what is not depends on what you are trying to do. I guess I just don't think of a tech conference as equivalent to another day in the company cube farm, unless of course I am representing the company is some official capacity.


What do car shows and beer commercials have to do with intellectual discourse?

yeah, base advertising works. on the other hand, if going to work was like being in a car commercial i doubt we'd produce anything constructive.


in fact, here's a good quote for that:

> "Victoria Wang: DHH’s attitude seems to say that the more we lower ourselves to the most base level of marketing scum in the name of entertainment, the better, even if at the end of the day there are no more women, or anyone worth knowing, in the room. It kind of makes me want to never touch Rails code again."


"It kind of makes me want to never touch Rails code again"

Don't.

It is a free world out there and there's a lot of competing frameworks and languages. I seriously doubt any framework or language designer sets out to have "more women in the room" and neither should they.

DHH made his code available for anyone else to use if they wanted to. That doesn't mean he abdicated his values or thought process to to what the rest of the world dictates.

He is not an elected leader, who you expect to at least pretend to share your values. He happens to occupy a leadership position because he contributes code. Contributing code shouldn't have to imply political correctness in thought and speech.

I think all these complainants should really walk away from Rails (vs blog about it or whine about it day after day after day ) if they are so offended that DHH (or other people) don't share their prejudices on how the world should think.

Just. Walk. Away.

And how many people will do that (as compared to running a torches and pitchforks type campaign on blogs and twitter)?

Not many I would think.

And how much difference would it make to Rails if they did walk away? I have no idea though I think, maybe not much.

All this looks increasingly like a storm in a teacup.


I can only hope that this one comment will not come to represent the prevailing attitude in the Rails universe. Because "if the Rails community behaves too erratically for your taste, you can just walk away" is not a sentence I can afford to say to a prospective client who wants a website.

Clients want to hear "your site is built on a platform that is managed by a friendly, responsive team, with a long history, that is dedicated to recruiting an ever-growing, diverse community of developers and designers who can be hired to maintain your site over the next decade". Anything else is poison.

Yeah, nobody is forcing the Rails community to be polite. It's an open-source project. Nobody is going to get fired. But it's up to the community to decide how big it's going to be at equilibrium, and whether or not it will contain any customers who have money.


@mechanical fish,

""if the Rails community behaves too erratically for your taste, you can just walk away" is not a sentence I can afford to say to a prospective client who wants a website."

Fair Enough. But

(a)no Open Source community in the world has any guarantee on not "behaving erratically" in the future. All OS guarantees is that if the community goes in a direction different from what you think appropriate, you still have the code. So your client still only has that to fall back on in the ultimate analysis.

(b)"Clients want to hear "your site is built on a platform that is managed by a friendly, responsive team, with a long history, that is dedicated to recruiting an ever-growing, diverse community of developers and designers who can be recruited to maintain your site over the next decade".

I agree. But it is not necessarily the project founders concern that your clients hear what you want them to hear. he could just be sharing some code with no worries about what anyone says or does.

(c) Just to be clear, I speak for me, not "the community".

I just think it is unfair of people to demand that the presenter apologize just beacuse some people chose to be "offended". To me, this line of argument is similair to those put forward aginats the Mohammed Cartoons.

I also think it is unfair of people to project their notions of what "leadership" should be on to DHH and then complain he doesn't meet those standards. This is an Open Source project. If you are dissatisfied with the leadership, step up and lead.

Fwiw, I don't think the presentation was a very cool one. I just support the presenters right to make his presentation in any manner he see fit (and the audience's right to walk away ). I am just wary of some claims of moral superiority.


If you are dissatisfied with the leadership, step up and lead.

What do you think that process would look like in its first few days, if not like this?


So what you seem to be saying, is, if you don't like it,

"Fuck You."

I think that captures a certain something about the culture, doesn't it?


"So what you seem to be saying, is, if you don't like it,

"Fuck You."

"

Paraphrasing is a dangerous art. What I am really saying (vs your paraphrase claims I said) is "If you don't like X , that is fine. If you want to express your thoughts , that is fine. If you don't want to work on Rails, that is fine too.

What is not fine is you expecting me (or anyone else) to think the way you do and say only things you like to hear just because of your feelings are offended. Being offended is your privilege. How much I should care about that is mine."

That is a bit more nuanced than" Fuck You", but if you insist on twisting my words to hear it that way, <shrug>


As I indicated when closing my response, my opinion is that "Fuck You" captures a certain something about the Rails Culture's response to many things, this one included.

What is there about "Fuck You" that you don't like? Is it that you would prefer to say the same thing more politely?


"my opinion is that "Fuck You" captures a certain something about the Rails Culture's response to many things, this one included."

Well Ok but "Fuck you " wasn't what I said. If you were talking about DHH's old slide (or something like that ) that's fine.

"What is there about "Fuck You" that you don't like? "

I don't have a like or dislike for "Fuck you". Sometimes the phrase is appropriate, sometimes not.

" Is it that you would prefer to say the same thing more politely?"

No. If I want to say "Fuck You" I'll probably say "Fuck You" (or equivalent). Again no particular like or dislike for one way over another.

When you said "so what you seem to be saying, is, .. "Fuck You" "

I assumed you were paraphrasing what I said. And since that was not what I said, I thought it might help to clarify.

That said, I can't help it if you collapse all arguments you don't like into "Fuck You".


I can't help it if you collapse all arguments you don't like into "Fuck You".

Checking my history on HN, I find yours is the only argument that I have summarized as "Fuck You." Let me know if you find another I have forgotten.

EDIT:

In the mean time, no you didn't say those words. I heard them. I suggest that others heard those words when reviewing the various non-pologies flying around the blogosphere over this tempest-in-a-teapot.

As you (and Martin Fowler) put it, it's entirely up to you whether you care about the feelings of the people who perceive themselves as unwelcome or marginalized or uncomfortable within the Rails Community. I'm not saying you're a bad person for putting forth your opinion.


"Checking my history on HN, I find yours is the only argument that I have summarized as "Fuck You." Let me know if you find another I have forgotten."

heh! (a) what you did historically is of no relevance to what you are doing now (b)even if true, that still doesn't make your collapsing my argument into "Fuck You" correct paraphrasing.

I made it clear in the original argument and then again in response to your (inaccurate imo), paraphrase that I was saying something other than "Fuck You!".

What I said was

"If you don't like X , that is fine. If you want to express your thoughts , that is fine. If you don't want to work on Rails, that is fine too.

What is not fine is you expecting me (or anyone else) to think the way you do and say only things you like to hear just because of your feelings are offended. Being offended is your privilege. How much I should care about that is mine."

If you are still hearing that as "Fuck You", it may be because you choose to collapse it to "Fuck You I can't help it. " It's just too bad.

EDIT (responding to raganwald's edit where he said)

"In the mean time, no you didn't say those words. I heard them"

yes that is what I thought as well. My suggestion is that you "check your hearing" because "Fuck you" is not what I said.

" I suggest that others heard those words when reviewing the various non-pologies flying around the blogosphere over this tempest-in-a-teapot."

Yes I never refuted that. My point is that DHH doesn't necessarily care about what other people "hear".

When what people "hear" is completely disconnected form what was said, I don't care either.

"As you (and Martin Fowler) put it, it's entirely up to you whether you care about the feelings of the people who perceive themselves as unwelcome or marginalized or uncomfortable within the Rails Community."

Exactly. Id' rather focus on writing code and making my chosen framework or language better for my purposes, than worry too much about what every possible person "out there", "hears".

Especially if I don't set out to "build a community" and am just sharing some code I found useful.

"I'm not saying you're a bad person for putting forth your opinion."

I didn't "hear" it that way ;-)

And even if you do say so, it doesn't make me a bad person. So it is quite all right.


In all fairness to you, even if yours is the only argument I have ever collapsed to "Fuck You," it's possible yours is the only one I didn't like.

...Thinking...


You could argue the same about anything - For example if you don't like the fact new Macbooks don't have firewire, Apples response could be paraphrased to "fuck you".

You can't please everyone, and if you don't like something, don't use it.


You can't please everyone, and if you don't like something, don't use it.

The salient difference to me is that saying "Fuck You" about something technical--like composite primary keys--is very different than saying "Fuck You" about someone's comfort level in my community.

I personally applaud Rails being opinionated about the former but deplore persons having the same opinionated approach to the latter circumstance.


I deplore speaking in generalities about "the community", especially in cases where there is an obvious disunity.


edited. thank you.


I agree with you that advertising sucks for getting work done, and that's why 90% of technical conferences with endless vendor pitches suck. Pitches for open source stuff can obviously also suck just as badly, and be even more clumsily delivered.

Let's not construe a non-technical statement about an open source product as "intellectual discourse". It's an advertorial statement of opinion, not a fact. The CouchDB marketing department may not have approved the message, but, for whatever reason, the guy is trying to get people to try some CouchDB. That's an attempt at persuasion/marketing/advertising. Hence, the relevance of other attempts that use similar means, and the ridiculousness of anyone getting worked into a lather about someone doing it.

Of course, must people don't like sitting through commercials. It's even stupider to pay to go to a conference so you can listen to them.


Again _why blows the discussion out of the water, sets it down and makes everyone in the room feel like a child for his foresight and wisdom.

Thanks _why.


He has foresight and wisdom in spades but this is just an objective list of quotes :)


What use is a good quote, when you can't change it?

Really: Selecting the 'objective information' is still judgement.


I meant his choice of quotes is objective. The quotes themselves are not objective. That said, he seems to have quoted pretty much all of the women who've said anything about it. A great move, but not exactly collating the Bible.


Laying it on a bit thick there, don't ya think?


did you watch the video of the shoes presenter from gogaruco? I suspect the poster is that guy.


Where are all the comments about evolution, biology and women as programmers? This group of HN commenters really bothers me -- the armchair biologists who declare that women keep away from programming and startups because evolution rather than socialization tells them to.

I have a pretty strong opinion that runs counter to that one, so I want to see a response from this group! Here we have a lot of women talking about how macho-ism and the locker room mentality makes them less comfortable. How does this fit in with the question, "Why are there so few women developing software?"


>> "Why are there so few women developing software?"

You don't need permission to develop software you know... Just go ahead and do it. If you get good enough at it and make some cool stuff, people will hire you.


My question isn't clear -- a better question is, "Why do so few women want to develop software?"

I think it has a lot to do with the software-development culture. And I think that the comments that these women made back up that position. Software development -- especially in startups -- has developed a "macho" culture. And that's a shame because it excludes.


I disagree completely. I think women don't want to develop software because they in general like doing other things. The sexes are hard wired totally differently.

How many girls spend their 13-16 years hunched over a home computer hacking away?

Personally, I don't think there's any issue with the culture. It's a matter of what girls like doing, and what boys like doing. At early ages. We shouldn't try to 'fix' things that aren't broken.

My daughter loves dancing dressing up and singing. My son likes playing cars and power rangers. Those aren't learnt things, they're instincts people are born with.


I'm not certain how dancing or playing with cars is anything but cultural. I mean, aren't these products of years of culture, including the gender roles assigned to them? What makes dancing girly and cars boyish?

"The sexes are hard wired totally differently."

The thing is, I can get behind this statement. If you zoom out further, and say, "Boys are different from girls." you can even say, "duh".

I'm pragmatic; I would accept biological evidence suggesting that men are more biologically inclined to be programmers. But how likely is it that that gap reflects the gender ratio that we see in software developers today?

It's possible, but I think it's unlikely.

I think that a much LARGER force is the perpetuation through behaviors like this presentation that developing software is a "boys only" club. If women want to play, they have to "man up". Creating a female-unfriendly culture is still gender discrimination, even though there's no one person doing it.


Absolutely not IMHO. It's a product of evolution. Caring vs hunting etc


How can you argue that working as a programmer is more a hunter role than a gatherer/care giver role?

Lack of role models at the young age is a more likely cause imo. Who do young girls in the 12+ age group have to look up to in our industry or in pop culture? In the comedy "Big Bang Theory" about 4 male Nerds, the female lead character is the dumb blonde next door.


Programming, especially at the start, is a very solitary thing usually. You sit hunched over a computer bashing out code. That really suits some people and not others - in generalities, I'd say it suits Men more than Women.

Just like a hunter, you're alone, competing with several other lone programmers/hunters.

I'd say roles that Women excel at in Tech are PR, design, managing communities, etc where art, communication and caring are more important.

In general Women are far better at communication than men IMHO.


LOL. since this topic is making HN worse than reddit anyway, I'll post a video link. Your comments remind me of David Wain's speech in this episode of Wainy Days:

http://www.mydamnchannel.com/Wainy_Days/Season_1/6AWomansTou...


Sorry... I forgot it's un-politically correct to point out obvious differences between people. Just like there can be no losers at sports day any more...

http://www.cerebromente.org.br/n11/mente/eisntein/cerebro-ho...

http://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/heshe.html

http://library.thinkquest.org/26812/gather/cgi-bin/messages/...

If you'd rather pretend we're exactly the same, up to you :)


That's not the point I was making but it would be impolite of me to make a "woosh" post two days in a row.


But human's didn't hunt alone until very recently. We are like all big mammals in that we hunted in packs (e.g. Lions, Wolfs, Dolphins). The invention of the spear/bow made solitary hunting possible.

If anything the gatherer was a role that could be done in a solitary fashion, even today woman usually take the solitary role of staying home to care for children while the male associates with his peers in the workplace.

So why aren't woman more suited to the solitary roles?

Also correct me if I'm wrong but historically, art has been a male domineered field, only recently (past few hundred years) have famous woman artists shone through. So why would art/design be a female role and not a male role?


Writing code is an act of communication. Your code must communicate clearly to the compiler. If you're really a rock-star coder, your code should communicate clearly to the next coder who comes along and has to maintain it.


That's an exact thing though. It's instructions. Map reading. It's not the same thing...

Perhaps one of the reasons that there are more male coders is the same reason that in general men are better at map reading than women.

Once you start stating things like this though you run the risk of people getting offended. The fact is though, men and women are very different creatures, often suited to very different jobs.


Anecdotal evidence at best. If anything map reading is akin to being able to spot a pattern (Where am I on this squiggle of contour lines). Woman are historically great at weaving and producing patterns, reading instructions is just like following a recipe.

A male (Charles Babbage) came up with the computer but a female (Ada Lovelace) came up with how to communicate with it. Men and Women are not so different at all.


http://www.cerebromente.org.br/n11/mente/eisntein/cerebro-ho...

There are several such results...

>> "One of the most interesting differences appear in the way men and women estimate time, judge speed of things, carry out mental mathematical calculations, orient in space and visualize objects in three dimensions, etc. In all these tasks, women and men are strikingly different, as they are too in the way their brains process language."


We shouldn't try to 'fix' things that aren't broken.

I don't know how you got into hacking, but...


Could one problem with the discussion be that people talk about different things?

a) was the presentation very tasteful and/or funny? (most would probably agree that it wasn't)

b) was it an unforgivable affront against women? (some think no, and end up defending the presentation even though they might not even have liked it much).

I must admit I have troubles understanding some things, like the thong picture making a woman feel unwelcome.


I must admit I have troubles understanding some things, like the thong picture making a woman feel unwelcome.

I am not a woman, but some of the comments on that site made me understand. Perhaps you would too, Imagine the conference was attended by only 6 guys and all the others were females, the one giving the presentation is female, and the pictures on the presentation are of men depicted sexually. Now imagine that some of these females might have the opinion that males inherently are inferior intellectually than females. Now imagine that this minority situation continues in the work place and these men are seen as a strange oddity by the females. It wouldn't feel nice to have a presentation which sort of harnesses the feelings of these females.


"Now imagine that some of these females might have the opinion that males inherently are inferior intellectually than females."

With what justification do you add that to the story? And if that would have been the case, wouldn't that be the problem, rather than the pictures?

I can imagine a minority situation feeling strange and uncomfortable, but it seems a bit unfair to blame the men for that - as a man, the only way to tilt the gender balance would be to not attend the conference.


I don't think the controversy is about the gender balance. From my understanding it seems to be about antagonising these females.

I added the inferiority thing to show that these females might feel they are undermined and might perhaps feel some sense of discrimination. From my understanding basically it is a power possession issue. They might feel that they are not on equal standing with their male counterparts and that such presentation only serve to legitimise and create a culture of harnessing such perceived or real inequality by further creating a sense that this presentation is only aimed at guys as most of the pictures were of females.

I mean how would you feel if all those pictures were of men rather than women, it would just be weird.


But it happens every day, I remember advertisements going both ways. I don't watch much TV, but already a couple of years ago there was the Coke advert with the well trained building worker.


I think next year, a woman should give a presentation at a Rails/Ruby conference that had nothing but slides of penises for visual aids (or muscled men in seductive poses and scant clothing).

I'm sure a metaphor could be worked in that would fit a stack of penises.

Then see what the community has to say about that presentation.

Because I think that's the biggest problem here, they aren't considering what it would've been like if the presentation had contained something that extremely marginalized them in the same way this woman felt. The community is saying "Whatever, boobs are fine. Fuck professionalism.", but they are only considering it in the context of what they saw and what they are comfortable with.

And from what I've seen, the Ruby community is championed by a bunch of self-important douchebags. And because of them, I'll probably never become interested enough to learn Ruby. It's that huge a turn off, I don't want to associated with that. Level of success/fame/money is unimportant because by that same metric, Bill Gates is an awesome guy and Microsoft one of the coolest companies around.


The original presentation was not "nothing but slides of vaginas for visual aids". It was a normal tech presentation, but with LOLCAT FAIL replaced by ugly porn stars, and EPIC WIN replaced by pretty porn stars.

If the same presentation were made, but with LOLCAT FAIL -> ugly man in seductive pose, EPIC WIN -> muscled man, I doubt many men would be offended. I certainly would not be.

In my opinion, women (at least the ones who complain about such things) are simply less tolerant of edgy material than most hackers.

Also, the original presentation showed no full nudity. I don't think your comparison to a "stack of penises" is apt.


But it's not really about the degree of nudity, but the degree of uncomfortableness felt by the audience. That's what DHH, the presenter, and you are getting wrong. You are arguing about the wrong thing. It's not so much about the content of the slides, but how that content made that lone woman feel in a room full of men.


My main point is that most men (particularly most hacker men) would probably not have chosen to be offended under the same circumstances. I certainly would not have. I believe the mainstream of hacker man is simply very tolerant of differences.

Several people here and elsewhere have come up with "what if the shoe were on the other foot" examples (stacks of penises, breastfeeding, images of surgery, etc). In each case, I had varying reactions from "clever" to "confusing" to "meh" (1). In no case would I choose to be offended.

(1) I laughed at "Deliver like a Birth Mother." I'd probably be confused by images of good and bad breastfeeding technique.


>> would probably not have chosen to be offended under the same circumstances.

It is easy not to be offended when you are in the majority!

Let's try yet another empathy experiment--although I suspect empathy cannot be taught. Imagine going to a professional conference where you are the minority. For example, if you're white, imagine everyone else is black or vice versa. Now imagine the presentation is filled with slides portraying your race in a demeaning or comical way.

When you say this made you uncomfortable, the community leaders say "get over it."

How welcome do you feel? Are you going to tell me with a straight face your answer would be "very welcome!"


Or how about I'm an academic, and also a political conservative/libertarian. That's an extreme minority.

If someone includes an anti-conservative joke on a slide (which has happened), I'm not offended. I have better things to worry about than bad (and sometimes good, but offensive) jokes in a presentation.


Rather than switch to a different example that is not outwardly visible nor nearly so divisive, please answer the original question. Do you feel "very welcome" in the given scenario?


I switched to that example because it is real. But no, I don't think I'd be offended by a racist joke in a set of slides. For instance, comparing one database to a short white basketball player and another database to Shaq?

In this case, there isn't even a sexist joke. The slides say nothing in particular about women. All they did was compare one database to a fat woman dressed as wonder woman and another to a beautiful woman in a bikini. What statement does this make about women?


"What statement does this make about women?"

Your example implies that white people are bad at basketball, just as the slides imply that fat women are unattractive. But implicitly, the standard of comparison makes a statement, too. It makes the statement that women are sex objects who should be judged only on their most superficial characteristics. Men can be judged on their ability to play basketball but when it comes to women, the only standard of value is how sexually attractive they are.


The presentation doesn't make the statement that women should be judged by their sexual attractiveness. It makes the statement that porn stars should be.


"I'm sure a metaphor could be worked in that would fit a stack of penises."

Frankly (as a man) I wouldn't be offended.

"they aren't considering what it would've been like if the presentation had contained something that extremely marginalized them "

You can't "marginalize" me unless I choose to feel marginalized by what you say. I'll be damned if I give you that kind of power over me.

If I thought the presentation was full of shit, I'd just walk out. I am sure a decent tech conference would have better presentations elsewhere.

One thing I wouldn't do is whine endlessly about it because one of my "identities" got hurt. It is a free country and I am fine with the right of free speech sometimes causing me "offense".

This is the Danish cartoons on a smaller scale. It is all right to "offend" 6th century "prophets" (and their followers). It is all right to "offend" the political correctness of the day. That is what free speech means. You don't think a particular instance is appropriate, just walk away.

All we need are mobs burning DHH in effigy and destroying public property and then we can all go back to our normal lives.


This misses the point of the debate though. The original blogger didn't whine about it or leave, she just mentioned it was a little out of place to see in a conference presentation. That's nothing like the Danish Cartoon controversy, what upset a few folks however was the response of the Rails leadership in jumping to defend the presenter and implying that presentations that offend more people should be the order of the day at Rails conferences.

How the hell do you build a community by fostering a culture that goes out of its way to try and alienate people to gain a few high fives and back pats by the leaders?


"she just mentioned it was a little out of place"

I have the impression the reaction was much more that "it was a little out of place". Anyway I am not objecting to people's feeling whatever they felt. I am objecting to demands that the presenter apologize, and claims that DHH (and others) did something morally wrong/unspeakably evil. I hate one set of people demanding another set of people behave in pre approved ways just because someone "felt offended".

"How the hell do you build a community by fostering a culture that goes out of its way to try and alienate people to gain a few high fives and back pats by the leaders?"

I guess the assumption here is that either the presenter or the "leaders" see any value in "building a community by fostering a culture" through political correctness and "inclusiveness".

DHH has mentioned very clearly he writes Rails for himself and could care less if any one else used Rails. Given that, why should he confine his thought and speech to "what builds community" (however that is defined) ?

I have no objections if people are offended. That is their choice. Just don't tell other people that they should change their views or speak or not speak in specific fashion


>> "Then see what the community has to say about that presentation."

I suspect most men would just laugh if they saw pictures of penises. But it's Apples and Oranges. Calling the slides in the presentation 'porn' is false advertising. It's some scantily clad women.

A better analogy IMHO would be a women giving a talk, that includes makeup+lingerie in it as metaphors etc. But I don't think most men would feel offended by that.


So agreed that makeup+lingerie (Or Shopping?) for the average female stereotype is equivalent to the average male stereotype of thinking about scantily-clad women.

Now if you went to a industry conference attended by 200 women and yourself and all the analogies were about "Women" stuff. Would you leave the conference thinking that the industry was equally representative and welcoming of males than females?

For me thats the important question, not if it offended you or not.


>> " Would you leave the conference thinking that the industry was equally representative and welcoming of males than females?"

No. I'd recognize that most people were women, and women like 'Women stuff'. :/

You gotta cater to the majority.


WOW it seems really surprising to me that some pr0n images on some presentation has got 124 comments from people. This doesn't seem good for HN. I think it will be better to talk about some technical issue than this.

Anybody downvoting this, can you just clearly explain to me why what I have stated needs downvoting ( or why I am wrong ... please !! )


this is an interesting one. i didn't realize that people voted without seeing the content. i guess they were just voting for topics or titles?

> "I voted for it, actually, because CouchDB is one of those things that’s the new hotness and I haven’t had a chance to play with it, and besides, he wouldn’t actually put porn in the slides. Right? […] I’m a minority in this community. I know that, and generally I can ignore it and go along thinking it’s a meritocracy of ideas and code. Then I encounter a woman’s thonged rear on the screen at a conference, 20 feet tall, and I remember, oh yeah, people like me don’t belong here. To most of these men around me, I am, at best, an oddity, and at worst, a sexual target. I feel a little less safe."


There was no porn in the slides. (Edit: to be more specific, the "thong" picture on the front page was the most explicit one of the slides, and that looks more like an ad out of a women's magazine, maybe for underwear or perfume. Might be a better place to look for roots of sexism.).


I wasn't at the presentation, but it was reported in the original posts that 5 slides were removed from the web version of the slideshow that were more explicit (Although not reported how explicit, nor has this been verified by anyone who attended.)


maybe for underwear or perfume. Might be a better place to look for roots of sexism

How is presenting underwear for women on a woman sexism?


The offending image of the presentation was a female torso with underwear, that looked like a typical advertisement for underwear. If you say that is sexism, how can you at the same time say the same picture in a women's magazine is not sexism? I just wanted to point out that women consume that kind of images on a daily basis and never seem to freak out about it.


In this community, everyone is an oddity. Get used to it or GTFO.


This reminds me of the Janet Jackson superbowl debacle. The attitude to sex in the US is just bizarre.


The root of the problem? Broken funny bone.

This is something that sounded funny in the head of the presenter, but he didn't have the comedic chops to carry it off. Just like that Giles Bowkett "lynch him" brouhaha.

Matt is a good man, but a very bad comedian.

I left a lengthier comment on _why's post.

I get away with off-color humor in my talks in the "Ruby Community" all the time and nobody's bitched. Maybe it's cuz I've got breasts! Or, more likely, it's because I know how to gauge the audience & carry it off.

Alas.

The true problem will never get addressed.


Honestly I don't care if women are offended by this or not, but it's awfully embarrassing to me as a man, and as a computer programmer. Sigh.


" ... but it's awfully embarrassing to me as a man, and as a computer programmer. "

Why? Matt's not you, doesn't speak for you, doesn't claim to represent you. Or would any reasonable adult think that.

One person did something, others have their reactions. Let them sort it out.


You've never sat in an audience and felt uncomfortable/embarrassed when the presenter or speaker started making a fool of himself?

What the fuck are you, some kind of robot? You're full of shit.


"[A]wfully embarrassing to me as a man, and as a computer programmer" is quite different from "felt uncomfortable/embarrassed when the presenter or speaker started making a fool of himself".

I can feel basic empathy for someone's situation without it being "embarrassing to me as a man."

And thanks for the gratuitous vulgarity, it really added to the discussion.


Do you that one speech from Joe Spolsky? Where he shows _one_ slide with a scarcely dressed women on it to make a point about attention? If I remember correctly he held that speech on a prior Rails Con.

I guess that was an "inspiration" for Matt, wasn't it?


A great impartial commentary on this entire situation.


How is commentary from women (subgroup of entire population) who chose to comment (selection bias) impartial?


I've noticed a very unpleasant trend in some of the complaints (both here and in similar discussions). A couple of examples:

Ruby (and Rails in particular) loves the rock star image...It’s also a significant barrier to adoption for people who aren’t already a part of this culture, and don’t find it appealing.

As a young women in tech, ... I would be extremely uncomfortable in a classroom of thirty young men and me if an instructor used sex as a metaphor for teaching.

In short, "I'm a girl, I don't like the existing culture, it should change to accommodate me."

I could make a similar statement about the culture I'm currently working in:

As a macho libertarian hacker type, I would be extremely uncomfortable in an extreme liberal, PC-gone-wild culture which glorifies east coast pseudointellectual preening. Therefore, the culture of modern universities should change.

Most communities have a preexisting culture, and you are not a good fit for all of them. But demanding that a culture change to be more palatable for you is the height of arrogance. I don't demand that academic culture change, I just fit in as best I can. Sooner or later I'll probably move on to a place where I fit in better.

[edit: I've been refreshing the page, this post seems to be getting a lot of both upmods and downmods. I'd be curious to hear responses.]


Most communities have a preexisting culture, and you are not a good fit for all of them. But demanding that a culture change to be more palatable for you is the height of arrogance.

I grew up in a culture where people of colour were not welcome. Others fought and actually died so that I could write about Ruby and programming and have people include me or argue with me on the basis of my ideas and not my skin colour. In my own lifetime, I have witnesses the exact same struggle over sexual orientation.

If giving one's life to change the world in this manner is "the height of arrogance," I welcome it.

http://members.shaw.ca/cartermyths/Pics/jamesmeredith.jpg

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xbbcjn4d1cE


As I already clarified, I'm not defending active discrimination. I'm simply claiming you need a stronger argument than "As an X, I'm offended, so the world should change."

Acting like a rock star != discrimination against women. Women may disproportionately dislike geeks acting like rock stars, but that doesn't make it discrimination.

It is simply wrong to compare actively harming a group of people (segregation) to a group of people disproportionately disliking a certain culture.


I don't know any rock stars. Is objectifying women a necessary component of acting like a rock star? When someone is described as a "Rock Star" developer, does this mean that soft-core porn is an inevitable metaphor for their work?

I don't know how to debate whether acting like a rock star is discriminatory against women, because I don't know what "acting like a rock star" means. I do know that a certain presentation offended a non-trivial number of people and did so in a manner that was entirely unrelated to its technical content.

Asking that this sort of thing be avoided is rather specific and says nothing about rock stars or any random thing that may irk any random person.

Why don't we discuss the specific incident rather that (a) trying to generalize it, and then (b) disputing the argument on the basis of an invalid generalization?


I'm using "rock star behavior" to describe the macho culture found in the RoR community.

Lets talk about the specific incident. Some people were offended by a joke. The joke did not say that women were unwelcome or say anything about women specifically. It did not say or do anything to negatively affect women.

Women may have disproportionately disliked the joke and the culture which it exemplifies. That's all. That's simply a complaint that "I and people like me don't like this, therefore the world should change." I believe my generalization is fair, certainly more fair than your comparison to active legal discrimination.


Lets talk about the specific incident. Some people were offended by a joke. The joke did not say that women were unwelcome or say anything about women specifically. It did not say or do anything to negatively affect women... Women may have disproportionately disliked the joke and the culture which it exemplifies. That's all. That's simply a complaint that "I and people like me don't like this, therefore the world should change." I believe my generalization is fair, certainly more fair than your comparison to active legal discrimination.

You know, your statement pretty much sums up your perspective on the issue and quite frankly, I see no reason to dissect it. I think there is enough in this thread for people to read what you have just written and decide for themselves what to think of your point of view.


It's not rock star behavior. It's frat boy behavior. But it's the information systems management frat that can only get six women to come to the party. And the guys blow it with the only six who show up.


Well said


I initially voted you up because I think I know what you mean, but in thinking about it I would change my vote if I could.

Point being, your argument applies just as well to any sort of discrimination, and it basically boils down to "you don't like it? Tough, you're not in charge". At least that's how it sounds to me.


My argument doesn't apply to all discrimination. If women were being actively discriminated against, I'd object.

That isn't the complaint. The complaint is that "ROR culture is tolerant of edgy material I dislike, and they should change to make me more comfortable."

The latter argument is the one I'm claiming is flawed. It's an argument about culture which some people may dislike, not specific actions which directly harm another person.


Change tolerant to encourages and you have a point. Some people are tolerant of edgy material that they find offensive, you see it then you get over it or forget it.

Its when the edgy/offensive material is encouraged that people sit back and take a look at the culture that is causing it.


> As a macho libertarian hacker type, I would be extremely uncomfortable in an extreme liberal, PC-gone-wild culture which glorifies east coast pseudointellectual preening. Therefore, the culture of modern universities should change.

I've heard this sentiment expressed on a couple occasions ^^ There's nothing wrong with trying to change to world, or even just your corner of it. It's important not to be too annoying about it, but that's not really an issue here (you can always just ignore the debate and keep on hacking.)


I don't object if you want to change the world for the better. I object when you want to change the world for your personal benefit.

A good argument: "The number of great female hackers is much larger than the number of macho rockstar hackers. To get more good hackers, we should change our culture."

[edit: I'm not sure if the good argument is true, but imagine it is for the sake of argument.]

A bad argument: "I was offended, the culture should change to accommodate people like me."


I agree with your point in theory, but I don't think that is what is happening in this situation.

This is not a single person with a megaphone taking issue with something and insisting that the world accommodate their needs, it's a group of people (men and women) taking issue with the decisions a person made and the way a community reacted to that decision. These people who are objecting are not outsiders, these are people within the community and if they can make good arguments as to why the community did something wrong, I don't see any reason why the community shouldn't change. A "tough luck, throw your own party" argument really doesn't apply here.


You're assuming the worst from couple of quotes which aren't clearly one or the other of these statements. From my personal interactions with women in programming (including, btw, the author of one of those quotes), most of them seem to be much more aligned with your "good" argument than the "bad" one. They are concerned that there are lots of women who could be valuable contributors to this community, but who choose to go elsewhere because the culture makes them feel unwelcome and unvalued.


Most people go out to change the world to improve their own situation, it just so happens usually that helping their ownsituation also benefits the rest of society.

Try telling Kate Sheppard, Myra Bradwell or Jeannette Rankin that the culture shouldn't change to accommodate them


Do you intend to imply that women shouldn't feel welcome as Ruby/RoR hackers?

Because all this time, I just thought Ruby and RoR were about hacking in a powerful yet carefree interpreted language. I didn't realize it had anything to do with excluding women.


"Do you intend to imply that women shouldn't feel welcome as Ruby/RoR hackers?"

No that isn't what yummyfajitas said. What he said was " Culture of X should change because I, as a Y feel it should" is not a convincing argument.

EDIT: ok I just saw yummy fajitas response and he said it better.


No.

I'm claiming that the argument "As an X, I dislike the culture surrounding Y, therefore it should change" is arrogant and flawed. I then illustrated with a non-gendered example of a culture in which I fit poorly.

There are many valid criticisms one can make about either ROR culture (see Zed's rant) or academic culture. But "As an X, I don't like the culture surrounding Y" is not a valid criticism. That's just a selfish demand that the world change to make your life easier.


And I think you're doing a very good job of missing the point, because the issue here is gender. What the hell else would it be?

"As a woman, I feel unwelcome in the Ruby community" is the gist of the criticism. If you don't read it that way, fair enough. But I did, and in that context, your response came across as, "It's selfish of you to expect the Ruby community to be welcoming of women."

I shouldn't have to explain to you why that's just plain wrong, and not at all analogous to your experience in academia.


I understand the criticism. I don't agree with it. The template for criticism is this: "As an {{X}}, I feel unwelcome in the {{Y}} community."

The case under discussion here is "X=women, Y=ROR". I gave another example witha "X=macho hackers, Y=academia". In all cases, I feel it is selfish to expect a community to change just because of your feelings.

Could you explain why things are different in the special case of "X=women"?


"Selfish" implies that it's a personal problem. Making half the human race feel unwelcome just because they happen to have been born female rises above the level of a personal problem.

As a "macho hacker", you've probably adopted some beliefs and values that are a misfit to what you perceive to be the beliefs and values of the academia. There are no such beliefs and values endemic to being a woman. When a community starts to exclude people, not for having incompatible values and beliefs, but for having vaginas, I'd say there's a serious problem.


No one excluded women or made them feel unwelcome. The slides said nothing offensive about women. Women may have been disproportionately offended by them, but that is not the same thing. Anyone who is offended by the presentation is offended because they have adopted beliefs and values which lead them to be offended.

If the community is actively excluding women (e.g., not allowing them to participate or treating them badly when they do), that's a completely different matter.


"The slides said nothing offensive about women."

They portrayed women as sex objects rather than living persons with minds of their own. They say to women, "we're more interested in your tits and ass than in any code you might have to write." You didn't get the message, and it may not have even been intended by the presenter, but the message was there, loud and clear.

Those of us who are interested in precise communication (which, in my experience, usually includes hackers) are usually more than willing to criticize someone for miscommunicating. If I go around saying "functional programming" when I really mean "procedural programming", somebody is going to stop me and correct my usage. And if I refuse to listen, the fault is my own. This is no different. If you don't want to broadcast misogynistic messages, don't use misogynistic visual language.


No, the talk portrayed porn stars as sex objects. The comparison was explicitly "bad database" == "ugly porn star", "good database" == "pretty porn star". You can't demand precise communication in one paragraph and then drastically read hidden meanings into things in another paragraph.

Besides, you would never demand the same level of precision in visual aids if he used lolcats rather than porn stars. I think that precise communication is simply a posthoc justification for your gut reaction.


Come to think of it, it's not necessarily a matter of precise communication. The fact is, the vast majority of women who saw that presentation got the sense of being unwelcome and objectified. I think you can measure just about any attempt at communication by the message that actually gets across to people, and the message that actually got across to women was what it was. That's the point of the whole article.

Why did the women in the article perceive it differently from you? Maybe because when you're a victim of systemic sexism every day of your life you're better at recognizing it, and when you're the beneficiary of systemic sexism every day of your life, you're better at ignoring it. That's the standard explanation at least, and there's merit to it.




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: