Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 9th Jul 2009 12:09 UTC
Talk, Rumors, X Versus Y During the Gran Canaria Desktop Summit, Richard M. Stallman of the Free Software Foundation (and the Superfluous Introduction Award goes to...) gave a keynote speech. Said keynote speech raised a few eyebrows in the Free software community because of a number of questionable remarks regarding women in technology. David "Lefty" Schlesinger, member of the GNOME Advisory Board and active in the mobile open source community, took issue with RMS' remarks and decided to call him out on it. The response he got was... Less than satisfying.
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I'm no fan of Stallman for starters. I tend to ignore him even when he's not being controversial. But from my understanding his comments were taken from a context of a religious parody: the Church of Emacs.

I'm also no religious scholar, but I've read quite a bit of each of the holy texts of the three Abrahamic religions, and in case you haven't noticed, there's a slight obsession about virgin women. I dare say Stallman was trying to satirize this.

I do think that it's risky to alienate the female audience. If you are someone who chooses to believe in ancient literature and live your life according to its (extremely bold) assertions, then you are not exempt from critique or satire. It's a belief, a matter of opinion, a personal conviction, and you are on weak ground to state offence if others not only disagree, but contest those view. If, however, a characteristic which is out of your control, e.g., your gender, is the target of criticism, then people are rightfully outraged.

However, it's not black or white, and many of us draw significant light-relief from making gender generalisations: my partner and her friends will make "typical male" observations, whilst me and my friends will poke fun at typical female behaviour. It's done with tongue-firmly-in-cheek, of course: friendly banter.

Was he attacking women's intelligence? I can't conclude that he was. Was he saying that women - in his opinion - steer clear of emacs? Yes. Should we force them to use something they are keen to avoid (assuming his observations are true)? Of course not. The conclusion Stallman should realise is that the female of the species are smart enough to realise an overly complex utility when they see one and move on to something more intuitive. Actually, my conclusion is who gives a toss about who uses emacs?

I think Stallman was the victim of some misjudged words, albeit intended as some comic relief. Let's just go back to ignoring him.

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