Ian Bicking: the old part of his blog

Re: Respecting the whole person

I think you've been quite unfair in the way you've summarised Richard's post. If you look behind the words a little, or read the HOWTO Encourage Women in Linux document he's linked to, its not about one particular incident, or even porn in general.

Second, I find it a little upsetting that you call Richard's response "patronizing." He apologised once, on behalf of the committee, for allowing a talk that included provocative, openly sexualized and titillating pictures of women, on a six metre screen, in front of 150 people. His apology was concise, and to the point. I would also say, "professional", but he wasn't being paid. Richard did not condemn CPAN, and he did not cast aspersions upon the morals of the presenter. Like you say, porn is inappropriate in such a setting, so is it that's patronizing about an apology from the committee for allowing it? Please get off his back.

And people wonder why it's so hard to find committee members to run OSS conferences. (OK, yes, I know, it's not just because the general public feel free to complain and nitpick, but that's certainly part of it.)

Third - and tangentially - how can you say that we need to be more accepting of one another's sensibilities in one sentence, and, in the very next, write that "Acme::Playmate is not inappropriate in any way", like it was a self evident fact?

Finally, I agree with you that we need to be careful when we declare particular lines of thought and behaviour "bad". However, I don't really see any way around it in this case. Whatever the setting, if men start acting like they're at the pub with their mates, then - more often than not - women are going to feel uncomfortable and leave. I think OSS communities can work toward being more friendly to women without becoming dull and disingenuous, because I've been part of communities that have managed it.

I also agree that more needs to be done than simply avoid giving offense. The HOWTO has some ideas, but I know - from your previous posts - that you've thought a lot about this, and I'd like to hear your ideas.

Comment on Respecting the whole person
by Alan Green


Thanks, Alan, for getting to this before I did. Claiming that Richard's response was patronising is the worst sort of nonsense. Some inappropriate material that offended more than a few people in the audience was shown. At the first available opportunity Richard, acting as Program Chair, apologised on behalf of the conference for the talk.

This was extremely professional of him, not "patronising". If OSS conferences (particularly volunteer-run ones like OSDC, PyCon and YAPC) want to actually be treated seriously, they could do a lot worse than bear this example in mind. You can't plan for all contingencies. You can, however, step up and deal with things when they go pear-shaped.

I'm not going to comment any further on this, although I have considered it - but I'd suggest you actually ask the people who were in the talk (particularly the women) as to whether they were offended. Hint: It wasn't just a couple of booby shots that was the be-all and end-all of the offensive material. Hint 2: The women (and some of the men) I've spoken to were offended, and in some cases, very offended.

# anthony baxter

"""Claiming that Richard's response was patronising is the worst sort of nonsense"""

For the record, I said that Richard's post was patronising, not his response. However, if his response mentioned women specifically (as opposed to saying the porn was inappropriate), then it was patronising, too, and counterproductive to his goals (for more than one reason).

# Phillip J. Eby