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On keynotes and apologies

Sep 28, 2009, 08:03 (0 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Chris Ball)

"Here's the story: Mark Shuttleworth gave a keynote at LinuxCon, which I attended, in which he said lots of reasonable things and one very unfortunate thing. Paraphrased, he said that if we did a better job at considering our non-technical users and accepting help from expert UI designers, we'd have an easier time "explaining to girls what we actually do". (By girls, he meant women, not female children.) I'd like to be able to provide a direct transcript when critiquing his words, but the LinuxCon organizers don't seem to be willing to make the video available for free, so I can't do that yet. I'll link to it as soon as it's available.

"Before I get started properly, I want to make it clear that I like and respect Mark Shuttleworth. I regularly use and recommend Ubuntu to other people, and am very glad that he's doing what he's doing in the world. There's no personal animosity or ill will behind this post at all.

"...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)."

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