A modest proposal

It does sometimes seem that *some* folks think the free & open source community is a fun frat party where it’s cool to joke about ejaculation and picking up ‘girls.’ Not just at the pub with your friends – at a professional conference, as part of a keynote no less (video.)
If women^Wgirls can’t deal with that, they can crawl into the little feminist dens they came from and scheme up other ways to get offended by the world, right? This is OUR community, dammit, and if you can’t get comfortable with the way it is, well, nobody asked you to join, stop killing our buzz!
Well, I propose we transform the free & open source community from being like a frat party to more like a day at the beauty spa with the girls. I would like to share with you some of the little jokes I’ve prepared for my debut as a FOSS conference keynote speaker, in support of my vision for the FOSS community:

  • “Proprietary software really hurts you, just like when your bra straps dig into your shoulders.”
  • “Memory management in that application has more leaks than tampax tampons!”
  • “We’re going to fix printing in Linux so even your Dad, Grandpa, and Uncle Joe can use it!”

Seems a little off, right? Cringing about the tampon joke, yes?
Now you know how we feel.
P.S. I am not offended by the comments I am parodying. Please re-read the above if you believe that is the case.


  1. Can we know more about this incident? Who said what? 🙂

    1. I added a link…

  2. Pavel says:

    oh, come on.. cant we just stop this sexism is everywhere crap? We are not all equal – I am male and you are female and this IS a difference. I see the world different than you. I sometimes end up explaining what computer science is about to girls at parties, since I am straight. Ooops… seems like I am also different from gay males.
    So if Marks explains stuff to girls it just his view of the world – there is nothing offensive in that. Do you really feel better if you force him to deny he is a male when he speaks?

    1. Your personal life (or lack thereof, depending on how you obtained your 'happy ending') is completely irrelevant to free software.
      Where did I say the word "offensive," by the way?

      1. Pavel says:

        there is no doubt that personal life should not be part of a technical presentation. The point was that mentioning girls in my examples it is not connected to any specific event in my personal life – I do this because of my subjective perception of the world.
        And as long as it is not offensive, it should be ok to say. (thats where offensive came from 😉 )

      2. Pavel says:

        sorry – I must have missed the context then. I thought your post was only referring to Mark Shuttleworth explaining stuff to girls.
        Telling about ones last ejaculation at a conference is certainly not caused by a different perception of the world. 🙂

      3. @Pavel talking about picking up girls and ejaculating in a professional conference meant to discuss Linux is indeed bringing personal life into an unrelated subject. Offensive, perhaps not. Inappropriate? Absolutely.

  3. zorb says:

    Actually, I am male and I liked the jokes. You are free to go with
    Some PMS jokes, if you don't find them offensive, are also welcome.

    1. Good sport! 🙂 I'll get on with it then 🙂

  4. Silner says:

    Actually I thought they were quite funny in a low brow way and I'm male. Maybe i just have no shame 🙂

    1. You know it's funny… I'm not really a very 'girly girl' to be quite honest, and I've been on spa trips with 'the girls' and felt rather uncomfortable when some of the tampon / bra / worse stuff came up in casual conversation…. lol
      Even so we need equal-opportunity low brow jokes!

  5. jef spaleta says:

    I actually find tampon jokes quite refreshing compared to the commonplace bodily function jokes. Not as refreshing as douche jokes of course, but a good change of pace.
    On the more general theme of female oriented 'in-jokes' I think that Saturday Night Live actually got funnier when they stopped being as much of a boys club and started having a more sophisticated female voice in the mix of the writing pool. The Tina Fey era versus say the Dennis Miller era of the show is a completely night and day contrast. The retro maxipad commercial is one of the funniest fake commercials ever… and it never would have happened if it kept being a boys club. It's even more striking a difference when you look further back into the first years of the show. And of course I have to give an obligatory shout out to current.tv's target women..which is awesome.

  6. DDD says:

    I am not sure if your jokes are directly comparable. I am sure that there are quite a few things that could be phrased about the standard macho and egotistical male programmers who believe that they were placed on the planet for their coding genius (heck – that's me in a sentence).
    I personally don't believe that the problem here is really about sexism in IT, it is more about whether Shuttleworth is to be trusted with being in charge of such an important company in FOSS. If ***anyone*** in IBM or Redhat or Novell upper management had said something like this, I would expect them to be removed.
    A lot of people I know use Ubuntu, but I am glad I chose Fedora. Not only did Redhat help build Linux from the start, they have the respectability as a *real* IT company. Linux needs respectability more than it needs mavericks.
    As for the concept of "Geek-Feminism", I don't know what the future is for such a movement (there isn't actual opposition to women's rights, or women working in IT – so we aren't exactly in Martin Luther King territory here), but like any other group, they should be welcomed if they bring new people and ideas to the community.
    DDD [bloke]

    1. Yeh, they would be more comparable if I made a vibrator joke to his ejaculation joke rather than copping out and going with a tampon joke.
      I don't think there's any malice involved at all in this particular situation, and I believe no malice is the case in the majority of similar situations. It's more a lack of social graces / simply not considering your wider audience. The FOSS community is rather tight and I'm sure it is quite easy to mistakingly believe it's a good old time with your friends at the pub. Even so, that is no excuse for such careless comments which help catalyze an environment friendlier to people who are indeed misogynistic. (For example, I have received death threat comments on posts to this very blog. As a female blogger in the FOSS community, I'm not alone in this.)
      I am really glad I'm a part of Fedora as well. In no way could I ever imagine a male Fedora community leader like Paul or Max or Greg or Spot or any of the other prominent Fedora folks making a comment like that, and in the remote chance something they had ever said could be construed to be denigrating to women I could not imagine them preparing any response except an extremely apologetic one.

  7. Florob says:

    I am kind of feeling like I must be missing something.
    The only thing he said that is ever quoted is that what the community does is hard for him to explain to girls. Which is a totally valid statement, maybe add "some" or "outside of the community", but other then that…
    I suspect he must have said other (way?) more offensive things and would appreciate if someone would spell them out for those of us who didn't hear the keynote.
    Next any of the "jokes" you listed are supposedly meant to make men feel as bad? as women did when they heard Marks remarks. Maybe I'm wired, but they seem neither off nor offending to me…
    So, what am I missing here?

    1. When did I say I was offended?
      (p.s. you did miss the ejaculation quote.)

      1. Florob says:

        Maybe that is the part where I'm lost… What's the point your trying to make? You did not say you're offended, but you come across as if you were (as the other comments show).
        Also I find myself unable to read or hear the "ejaculation quote" anywhere 🙁
        If you're refering to the "happy ending" thing, I personally am under the impression that both sexes can have an orgasm and that this therefore is not sexist (which I understand is what people are complaining about), but at best tasteless (which the people who laughed probably would disagree with…). I have to admit that this is my version of interpreting "happy ending" though as a non-native speaker and urban dictionary will tell me something very different, but I choose to give Mark the benefit of doubt… (not saying it would have killed him to say sorry though :/)

      2. @Florob Mr. Shuttleworth's comments do not need to be offensive to be inappropriate and exclusionary. They are inappropriate and exclusionary, and *that* is my point. The ejaculation comment is indeed the 'happy ending' comment, and whether or not he was specifying male or female orgasm, the comment is equally inappropriate at a professional conference. As a native English speaker though, I can say I've never heard of the phrase 'happy ending' referring to anything but male ejaculation.
        You are absolutely right, it would not take much for Mr. Shuttleworth to apologize. The only reasons I can think of that he would refuse to do so do not reflect well on his character.
        (p.s. I've been witness to public speaking exercises where the audience reaction to inappropriate jokes was uncomfortable, polite laughter)

      3. @Florob, thanks for being patient with me and giving me an opportunity to explain what I meant. Your story about the article written entirely in female pronouns is a great example of the type of feeling I was trying to send with my example 'jokes.' Thanks for taking the effort to try to understand my perspective a little bit! 🙂

      4. Florob says:

        Thanks you for the explanation. I personally belong in the category of people who have a hard time finding the remarks inappropriate, which is possibly just cultural background. Here in Germany such “jokes” are (I might say unfortunately) relatively common in the media which numbs you down a bit I guess.
        Exclusionary I can fully agree on. I can also relate to that feeling.
        Once upon a time I read an article that was completely written using female pronouns and overall in a way that clearly assumed the reader was female (although the content did not imply this in any way). Even if this is far from what Mark did (your choice whether it’s milder or tougher) it gave me a somewhat irritating feeling (Might be something for the males to consider).
        As for the laughter, it sounded quite honest to me, I’ll also have to admit I did laugh myself (given my incomplete understanding of what he said of course, but feel free to feel sorry for me 😉 )

    2. there is another wrinkle which the below discussion doesn't address – Mark didn't say it's hard for 'him' to explain to girls, he said it's hard for 'us' to explain to girls. he co-opts the rest of the community to his viewpoint, which is exclusionary for anyone in the community who isn't a straight male. if he'd actually said 'I' and 'me' not 'us' and 'we', it would've been a far less problematic comment.

      1. Hi Adam, that is a great point, and it really is the 'us' that transforms it from an offhand to a seriously exclusionary comment.

      2. it turns out after posting that I meant the *above* discussion, not the *below* discussion. predicting the behaviour of comment nesting systems is tricky, it seems =)

  8. Mathias says:

    Yes, he most probably refered to male ejaculation. Well, but to defend him a bit: Expect for birth of a child there are not many other moments in a man's life, were world feels perfect, warm, nice and balanced. So unless he's a father already, he probably doesn't know any other feeling close to this.
    Hmm. Well, but yes: Even then he could have used better words not making him look stupid.
    Trying to say his stuff about making releases in German. Oh damn, what drugs did he take? Of course it is an almost orgasmic feeling[1], but this really can be phrased carefully.
    [1] At least for man. Maybe the female experience is much more intensive than making a software release.

    1. @Mathias You go to such lengths to defend him. Why? Why is it that some folks cannot admit he made a mistake and should own up to it?

      1. Mathias says:

        Oh, sorry if I sound like defending him. I was more about finding reasons for such behavior. To speak as developer: To really fix a problem you have to find the root cause, instead of tinkering on the symptomes.

  9. Jason Smith says:

    I suspect my comment will get lost in the storm here but. Do you feel all this is really needed at this point. I mean if I were in Marks shoes at this point, having been at the center of this shitstorm long enough I might have a real hard making an apology. Actually personally, I was raised in a way that apology was mostly reserved for bad intentions, and simple understanding of others who screw up with good intention was all that was needed for these situations.
    As for your post, I actually found none of your jokes offensive, in fact I found them quite amusing. The last one even made me laugh out loud 🙂 Also I really don't get this women/girls thing. I am 22 years young and still called a boy all the time. My gender as a whole is frequently referred to as boys. Many songs are written about grown men but refer to them as boys. I find it very difficult to see why it matters if I say girl/woman. To me and where I grew up, they both mean "a person without a Y chromosome", to get downright technical.
    I don't really wish to offend women however, I do rather enjoy having their inputs in the community. I think women and men think quite different due to whatever reasons (not entirely universal of course), and having both viewpoints is great for our software as a whole. So if at the end of the day, it really *really* matters if I say girl or woman, I can try to make that change, but it will always feel kind of alien to me. Boys and women just sounds funny 😛
    I hope you can receive this in the light manner I intend. Also if something I said seems offensive please ask and I will clarify, sometimes discussing these things over text is difficult.

    1. @Jason
      What do you mean by "this is needed," are you questioning whether or not my blog post is necessary? That seems a silly question, since I wouldn't have posted it if I did not feel it was necessary. 🙂 If Mr. Shuttleworth had apologized by now, I would have felt it less necessary to post for sure.
      That's interesting that you were raised in a way to only apologize for bad intentions. Have you never stood in someone's way unintentionally or gesticulated during a conversation and accidentally knocked over someone's glass of water and apologized for it? Or do you typically stay mum in these situations since you obviously did not intend the negative effect? (I was raised to never hurt anyone intentionally, and I was raised to apologize when I hurt others – which in most cases is never intentional.)
      You've fallen into the same trap as many of the commenters who've attempted to defend Mr. Shuttleworth have – you claim to not be 'offended' by my 'jokes.' Where in my post did I say I was offended by Mr. Shuttleworth's comments, and where in my post did I say I intended to offend men with my comments?
      I get the impression you're making a bit of a stretch by saying people refer to you at 22 years old as a boy. Perhaps your grandparents do, but would a keynote speaker at a professional conference refer to you or some other male your age as a "boy?"
      It seems your childhood was particularly atypical. Not only were you apparently taught that you shouldn't apologize when no ill will was intented, you were also taught that term 'girl' only refers to a person without a Y-chromosome without implication as to the specific age and maturity level the term also encapsulates.
      "Guys and girls" sounds natural, doesn't it? "Boys and women" does indeed sound funny, doesn't it? I wonder why it seems to feel more natural to refer to women by a more diminutive and immature term, but it seems "off" to refer to a man by an equally diminutive and immature term.
      I'm not offended by your comment by the way, nor am I offended by any of the comments to this post. 🙂 When I get my next "fuck off and die" comment, I might be offended, but probably not since the person(s) who feel the need to post them are cowards and won't own up to it. What do I care what a cowardly, impolite jerk thinks about me anyway? 🙂

      1. jef spaleta says:

        Guys and girls? I thought the musical was called Guys and Dolls.
        -jef"sit down..you're rocking boat"spaleta

      2. Jason Smith says:

        meta note: Sorry, I am working right now too, so this is shorter than I like.
        Re: Not apologizing:
        No, if I stand in your way in front of a door. I will say "my bad" and move. I wont go out of my way to make a public apology. It does not feel like what people are looking for is a "my bad" however. It is clear I should have been more… clear on this. I also admit this will look like backtracking, however this is what I intended. Make of it what you will.
        Re: Not Offended by jokes
        You're right, I made an assumption. I do wonder why an apology is request if there was no offensive remark however. Personally, I think this could either go unmarked or a "my bad" can be issued. However demanding a full blown public apology (not something you may have done, but others have) is certainly way out of line. Still, the jokes were funny.
        Re: Being called boy
        As for being called boy, seriously, come to Michigan (actually, I really dont suggest it…). You'll hear boy and girl thrown around more than man and woman in most informal situations. I must admit, I have never keynoted a speech, so I have a gap of knowledge there. Boys and Girls is a common phrase to get the attention of a group of grown people at least around here. I admit I am not all that worldly however.
        Guys and Gals is the natural term you were looking for here btw. Guys and Girls has a similar cadence which is why it sounds similar to the ear. In fact we have a "Gals and Guys Haircuts" just down the road.
        P.S. – I didn't mean to come off as cowardly and impolite. I'll remove myself from the conversation from here on.

      3. @Jason Oh boy, now I think I've unintentionally wronged you and I'd like to apologize! I was referring to the person(s) who leave death threats as comments to my post as 'cowardly impolite jerks,' not *you*! You've been perfectly civil and reasonable in your comments and in no way was my mentioning of some of the other people I deal with in my comments meant to be a slight to you at all. On the contrary, I was just trying to point out how difficult it would be to take offense at anything you said, as I generally don't take offense when people *try* to offend me here in the blog comments. 🙂
        I don't know that anyone has specified the terms of the apology they'd like to see from Mark. "My bad, I made a mistake, sorry about that," is really the most I'm looking for, and I honestly haven't seen any specifications beyond that in any of the outcry that I've read about his keynote. So I'm not sure why you make the distinction between 'oops my bad' and an 'apology.' 'Oops, my bad' is an apology. Mr. Shuttleworth won't even admit any wrong was done.
        I definitely a strict Northeasterner, and I will fully admit not knowing much about the Midwest so I was unaware that calling men 'boys' and calling women 'girls' is socially acceptable there. In the Northeast, both are considered derogatory. (Especially calling a man a 'boy,' unless you're very close family.)
        Guys and gals, maybe, but Mr. Shuttleworth still did not give equal treatment on that count since he referred to men as 'guys' and women as 'girls.' I probably wouldn't have taken as much issue with 'gals' although it would have sounded strange coming from him. Honestly, I don't see what's the problem using gender-neutral terms like, 'contributors,' 'folks,' developers,' 'community members,' – there are so many gender-neutral terms he could have used. I just don't understand why he chose to go the way he did.

      4. Stefan Friesel says:

        @mairin several weeks after the keynote, just “My bad, I made a mistake, sorry about that” would sound a little odd imho. If he's going to apologize at all after that time it would be way "bigger" like Jason said.
        As for your jokes I think they do illustrate the inappropriateness of what he said for a technical keynote. But reversing the gender roles doesn't really reflect (to white, male, caucasian, anglo-saxon colege graduates) the exclusionary effect of the original comments (which I assume you wanted to demonstrate), because one would also have to think of them not as isolated incidents and told to a largely female-dominated FOSS keynote audience.
        Therefore, anyone who lacks the empathy to recognize that the original comments were exclusionary, will simply shrug off these jokes as well (seen in several comments).
        [sorry for my english]

      5. @Stefan Yeah, it seems like my jokes didn't entirely succeed, but at least they're a little different than some of the other posts in protest. 🙂
        It doesn't matter to me how long it's been. If he owns up to the mistake, I don't care how big or little it is. A simple post to his blog, 'Yep, I made a mistake. Sorry,' is really all it would take for me, and I doubt the other women in the FOSS community really would demand any more than that, even at this point.
        You see as time ticks forward, I get more and more upset by the silence…

    2. @Jef I dare you to call me a 'doll'…. c'mon, just try it! You gonna be at FUDcon Tortonto? (/me grins mischievously.)

      1. jef spaleta says:

        Sadly…. no. I can't spare the time before I head off to Antarctica a couple of weeks later. Real work has been CRAZY busy in preparation for the trip. Unlike some people who can afford to go there as a tourist, I'm actually going there to do "science".
        -jef"Very content to make a career studying 'space' without ever going there"spaleta

      2. @Jef Sounds like an exciting adventure. 🙂 Well, you get off easy, my friend. How about this – I'll owe you one if you can find someone brave enough to take on the challenge in your stead @Toronto? ROFTLMAO

      3. jef says:

        I hate to be "that guy" but I really can't resist pointing your blatant spelling mistake in your reply to me. You misspelled "dumb" as "brave" … it's a common mistake. Though usually I find that people make the mistake the other way around and say "dumb" when they meant to say "brave" when talking to me or about me… especially my wife oddly enough. Maybe this sort of mistake is a female specific brain dysfunction. I'll ask my wife and see what she thinks.

    3. jason: it's worth knowing that someone did approach Mark in private after the speech and point out that what he'd said was a bit dumb. His response was described as 'hemming and hawing', though I don't have a direct quotation.
      A simple 'whoops, I'm sorry for any offence caused, I didn't mean to cause any' would be a perfectly good apology as far as I'm concerned. I can't speak directly for anyone else, but Kirrily's initial post says: "I’d like to invite you to think about the message you’re sending to women in the Linux community, and, if you didn’t mean to convey the message that we’re technical illiterates and hard to educate, consider apologising publicly."
      As I said, I can't speak for Kirrily, but the apology I described above would seem to cover that.

  10. I was only cringing about the tampon joke b/c I can imagine certain members of the community making that joke and it not going over so well.

  11. Zydoon says:

    I all with you Mairin, hope you get understood by everybody

  12. loool this is awesome… I should use some of this; but I think I already do 😀 go girl!!!!!!

  13. This post wins. 🙂

  14. Haha!! Best planet post all month!

  15. Well at least you didn’t suggest we eat babies 🙂
    Nice one mairin and thankyou for the laugh

    1. mmmmm BABY! GET IN MUH BELLY

  16. Hi! The first two jokes were actually quite good. The third one was off and rather tasteless! Nice start nevertheless, practice makes perfect.

    1. Off and rather tasteless…. yes, just like the “mom and grandma” ‘jokes’ it was meant to parody.

      1. @Mathias I agree! I don't think it's a joke! I've noticed a lot of folks defending Mark's keynote by considering his comments about 'mom and grandma' a 'joke,' so I thought it only fair to categorize my parody of his 'joke' as a 'joke.'

      2. Mathias says:

        Where is the joke in that printer sentence? It only says in an illustrative way that printing is too complex for non geeks. You seriously have to work on your language skills if you consider such sentences jokes.

  17. […] A modest proposal « mairin a few seconds ago from Gwibber […]

  18. Jeff says:

    Joke #1 is offensive to all manzier wearers!

  19. Tim says:

    So many post AND COMMENTS FOR such a little mishab.
    You all need to get a life.

    1. Hi Tim! Congratulations! You need to get a life – you said so yourself, all who commented here need to get one. You posted a comment here as well. Good luck finding it!
      (p.s., s/mishab/mishap)

  20. Yes! If we can't expunge the non-inclusive jokes altogether, can we at least turn them around for a while?
    Thanks for this. =)
    PS. The pain of non-free software use reminds me more of an underwire bra – not only do the straps still dig into your shoulders all the time, but every now and again you get an excruciating jab in the ribs for no apparent reason at all. 😉

    1. LOL here here on the underwire.
      I'm glad you picked up on my intent 😉

  21. Richard says:

    Comments about a “happy ending” might have been inappropriate or tasteless, but I forgot that this community was a heavily sanitised version of reality where you didn’t acknowledge reality.
    His liberal use of guys, despite his one distinction, doesn’t mean he believes that women should be excluded, it’s just an *APT* description of his working environment. If you want it to be untrue, instead of ignoring the reality of low female participation, encourage it. He needs to do his part by making it welcoming, but denying the reality of his situation is disingenuous and obsequious.
    There isn’t really a problem with any of the jokes you proposed making. The
    * “Proprietary software really hurts you, just like when your bra straps dig into your shoulders.”
    This could better if there was a better correlation between the ways in which both hurt a person, rather than just the end effect. Or perhaps it is, with proprietary software clenching you tightly and leaving an impression?
    * “Memory management in that application has more leaks than tampax tampons!”
    I think this is supposed to induce a cringe and would be great for that effect. Leaking tampons seem terribly unpleasant and undesirable, and those who don’t use tampons (most men and some women) can probably still understand just how awful the memory leakage is.
    * “We’re going to fix printing in Linux so even your Dad, Grandpa, and Uncle Joe can use it!”
    How is this wrong? Some people’s male ancestors might be versed in printing, but even they will understand that that doesn’t apply to everyone’s experience, and lots of older people do have issues with varying tech aspects including printing. When Mark uses his mother as an example, why can’t we take that *as his experience* which can have parallels that don’t include our own mothers?
    He could and should have been more careful with his choice of language and in what he related to the audience, but for the love of reality, could people stop demonising him (not saying that you are) for relating honestly from his own experience? Do you dare to actually suggest that he sees females as inherently less capable? Can’t we focus on making women more welcome without vilifying every non-gender-neutral term used? What are we, Republicans and Democrats?

    1. Hi Richard,
      With all due respect, in what reality are those kind of comments acceptable at a professional conference?
      I work in two professional communities – free & open source software and human-computer interaction. If Mr. Shuttleworth had given that keynote word-for-word at SIG CHI (would he have had the gall to so there?) he would never have been asked back, and would likely jeopardize his ability to speak at other HCI-related conferences.
      Why is this kind of ‘pub talk’ acceptable at free & open source software conferences, but unfathomable at professional conferences in other domains? Why are you fighting for his ‘right’ to be crude and thoughtless?
      The tampon joke was an attempt to induce a cringe similar to the one collectively induced by Mr. Shuttleworth’s ejaculation joke, as I’d imagine most folks would not wans to visualize ejaculation while attending a professional conference (well, unless it was a conference for porn filmographers?)
      I could care less about Mr. Shuttleworth’s mother. You missed the point – using ‘dad and grandpa’ is far less worn a phrase than ‘mom and grandma,’ and something about it sounds ‘off.’ Why is that so?
      I don’t really think anyone criticizing Mr. Shuttleworth’s keynotes has said or even implied that Mr. Shuttleworth intentions were malicious, so you don’t need to defend him. In fact, having gone to an engineering school with a 5:1 guys-to-girls ratio and working in a highly technical field, I’m intimately familiar with the perils of the social ineptitude in male-majority technical domains. I would not have batted an eyelash to his comments if he had simply apologized for their thoughtlessness – again, thoughtlessness, not pre-meditated malice. That he seems so opposed to owning to his bad is what really drove me to even bother posting this in the first place. It sets a really poor example, especially so considering his status as a highly-visible leader in the community.
      BTW, “If you want it to be untrue, instead of ignoring the reality of low female participation, encourage it. He needs to do his part by making it welcoming, but denying the reality of his situation is disingenuous and obsequious.”
      How is he making it welcoming by ignoring the many female contributors in the field? There are quite a few of us. Phhhhhssssawwww! /me does the head bob, palm out ‘whateva’ pose.

      1. Richard says:

        I wrote something big and long and decided I lack the relevant perspective to contradict you on this.
        I will note as an aside that I wish the few conferences I've attended had less posturing and more genuine personality at them.
        Oh, and he really should have explained himself by now to the community. It's stupid that he hasn't apologised yet.

      2. @Richard Do you think that using appropriate language == 'posturing' and lacking personality?

      3. jef says:

        I'll do you one better. How about less personality and more professionalism and utility.
        How many of the keynotes actually held useful information? Take away the 4 or 5 sentences that were obvious bad judgements from Shuttleworth's talk and what did he really say that we haven't ALL heard before? He's been harping on his meta-cycle cadence thing for over a year now.. Was there anything new in his talk? Any quantitative analysis that showed progress along any of the subjects he lightly touched on? Was it really worth anyone's time who sat in that room and listened to that keynote? Was it even worth Mark's time? He probably would have had a better impact if they just cut the conference short an hour and he chatted up people at the open bar.

      4. Richard says:

        I agree that contentless keynotes are pretty useless and could be curbed.
        Sometimes peoples attempts at being professional abstract away honest meaning. They refrain from saying things in the simplest, most straightforward and relevant way to instead say the proper thing. Like when a message adopts too much form over function. I don't mean that I'd rather they discuss personal or irrelevant matters, though using those to explain their points is pleasant for me to hear.
        Hehe, the idea of "appropriate" seems to bias that question. It's like my elementary school teachers asking me if I thought something I did or said was appropriate. Obviously I did and obviously they didn't, but they wanted to make sure it is was clear that they didn't.
        What language is proper in a context is relative to the individual experiencing it or what multiple individuals negotiate as a group. The resulting kerfluffle indicates that the group is split on this, with a bunch of people wanting to ensure inclusivity or feeling personally or as a group denigrated, making Mark's keynote inappropriate to them, and another bunch variously defending sexism or "free speech", or protesting a perceived disproportionate response, thinking Mark's keynote not inappropriate.
        My idea of posturing has more to do with authenticity of the message and the mesesnger. It can feature a detrimental absence of frankness, like when people start focussing on selling their message to the crowd, when people focus too much much on theoretical benefits and ignore real caveats. In general when people are disingenuous. A message that caters too much to the audience seems less trustworthy as reliable information than one that is willing to be frank.
        So, being crude and insensitive is not what I mean by exposing genuine personality. But if can be seen as refining himself out of his human nature out of his message in favour of being extra palatable to all sensibilities, it approaches a state of dreamland candy and compromises its authenticity.
        I'll emphasise my attempt to separate my opinion on conferences and professional poses from the issue of Mark's keynote, though. I should have been more explicit than "as an aside." Sorry.

      5. @Richard if the two remarks have nothing to do each other, then I'm at a loss at why you chose to bring it up – to me I saw it as a parting statement meant to be provocative, but it seems you've backed away from it actually applying to the topic of this blog post. I really don't care much about your position on speakers and authenticity if you will not relate it to the topic at hand – at greater than 50 comments to this blog post it only makes the discussion harder to follow.
        I agree with you that the finer points of appropriateness are negotiable based on cultural context. This doesn't mean that within the shades of grey there are clear areas of acceptable/appropriate behavior and unacceptable behavior within that context – it isn't as flexible as you seem to imply, although it's of course not rigidly defined either (thus the need for Dear Abby columns on manners.) Using an example of a school teacher and a child is a poor counterpoint, as it is school teachers along with our parents and other adult role models who teach us what is acceptable within the cultural context they help raise us under. It would be better to use an example that instead involves an adult who has clearly had enough life experience to be able to judge appropriateness within their cultural context fairly. In fact, I would question the ability of the men who work in environments with poor ratio of women of being able to judge appropriateness in a mixed-gender setting. I think *that* is more the reason folks are 'divided' on this issue, although it seems a lot more people are disappointed in the situation's effects on women in the community than those who defend Mr. Shuttleworth as having done nothing wrong or worth apologizing for. At least, out of the total percentage of people willing to speak on the incident.

      6. Richard says:

        Sorry. You had generalised a bit about about professionalism at conferences, comparing Open Source ones to your HCI-related ones, and I felt it important to protect one of my favourite features of Open Source that have translated its way into conferences: openness, even as its applied to its messages and not just its code. So, while it's not directly related to Mark's comments, it was related to your response.
        What I've written since will probably prove unwelcome to, since it strays into criticism of the idea of "propriety". Even though I find such rules arbitrary and often unfounded, I do expect people with a modicum of awareness and empathy to be more sensitive to possible offense. I'm curious whether Mark was careless, oblivious, or purposefully insensitive.
        While I see many instances of most men at my workplaces behaving excellently to women, memories of Universities make me shudder, and further encourage me to recuse myself from commenting on what had felt like a disproportionate outcry (based on my sensibilities which are of course limited to the experience of a white, anglo-saxon male and have rarely ever been relegated to a minority situation in the last 5 years).

      7. @Richard My relation between behaviours at FOSS conferences and HCI conferences was absolutely directly related to the topic.

      8. Richard says:

        Sorry for wasting your time by generalising it : (

  22. Mathias says:

    Best post on that topic I’ve read – until I came to this:
    “Seems a little off, right? Cringing about the tampon joke, yes?
    Now you know how we feel.”
    Did not got a littlebit offended by those jokes. Obviously only a girl could tell them. Obviously they would be off for some presentation or even key note.
    “We’re going to fix printing in Linux so even your Dad, Grandpa, and Uncle Joe can use it!”
    Perfectly valid statement. You are absolutely right that we should should use our sample user’s gender randomly. Perfectly valid that you make them all male, considering technical illiterate people way too often are given female gender. You seem to think that such statements insult less technical people? That’s quite off. Idea behind this kind of statements is to underline, that expecting technical interest for such tasks would be ridicilous.
    “Memory management in that application has more leaks than tampax tampons!”
    Strange that you want to talk about this topic, but there is enough crap code outside deserving such drastic classification: It’s the purpose of such statements to make listeners shortly develop horror of the application’s current state.
    “Proprietary software really hurts you, just like when your bra straps dig into your shoulders.”
    Now this sentence really exposes the sexist I must be: My inner eye instantly projected some interesting female attributes before even reaching the word “straps”. Frankly have no clue how bad such cutting strap hurt. Actually also have no intension of trying out.
    When trying to imagine that pain and reflecting about the burden of propritary software, the imaginary straps started to cut into shoulders deeply and as a result the imaginary sexual attributes grow. Crap. Having a sexual orientation sucks, but I only can smile of that awkward statement. Guess it shall create some negative feelings, but too many primitive, positive feelings are dominating.
    So I have to correct me, the __really__ good part of this post stopped with “stop killing our buzz!” The remaining paragraphs were just imature.

    1. Hi Mathias,
      Did I ask you if my parody jokes were offensive? Did I ever say I was offended by Mr. Shuttleworth's comments?

      1. Mathias says:

        I interpreted you "Now you know how we feel" as you being offended. Now you say you didn't mean this. So probably you want to say, that you feel ashamed of such sheepish statements. In that case I partly agree: Tampon, bra, sexistic jokes are quite off.
        Like said before I see no problem in choosing fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, grandmas, grandpas, aunts or uncles as substitute for cold words like "non-geek", "non technical user".
        Finally figured out that "happy ending" seems to be interpreted as ejaculation in English speaking areas. Actually this says more about those cultures, than about Mark: As non-native speaker I'd also easily describe female orgasms as "happy ending", although this ignores the much broader nature of the female version.

      2. @Mathias Your second assessment is much closer to the mark. My response to Mr. Shuttleworth's keynotes involved cringing & forehead slapping. I did not crawl into a corner and cry, and I did not shake my fist and shout 'how dare he!' Rather, I felt extremely embarrassed for both him and our community.
        With my parody of his remarks, my goal was to induce the same reaction in the males who seem unable to recognize the inappropriateness of Mr. Shuttleworth's remarks.
        There is no problem choosing examples of family members as examples of 'non-geek' or 'non-technical user' as long as you are responsible in selecting those family members in a fair and representative way rather than consistently choosing female examples. If you cannot accept such responsibility while speaking at a video-taped, widely-publicized technical conference, you would do well to instead select gender-neutral examples, such as, "my neighbor," "my plumber," "my favorite barista."
        You can be sure that Mr. Shuttleworth knew well how his 'happy ending' comment would be interpreted at the conference, which I will also point out occurred in the United States where such a phrase is synonymous with male ejaculation.

  23. As a member of the Ubuntu AND Fedora community I was offended by Mark's comments for how tasteless they were. There are several high profile women bloggers in the Ubuntu community and surely he reads their stuff. With the (even worse) Ruby on Rails Keynote about faster apps[1] not long before his talk it makes you wonder what bubble Shuttleworth lives in.
    At least there are those like yourself who understand males in tech are often socially inept. Pointing it out in parody softens the tone while staying on the central theme.
    [1] It isn't worth linking to but googling couchdb pr0n star will find it for those inclined

  24. Although your humour is all right and if anything i could just go "pff that was unnecessary" at a conference, I would like to point to what had brought you to the action.
    The whole thing is based on hearsay without readers being able to judge for themselves. The blog entry you link to – it is based on "multiple sources".
    I wonder how big this pyramid of truth can get and what will be the final crime of Mark's or other Very Sexist Persons.

    1. @tm, I watched the entire video, which at this point weeks after the event I assumed most readers of this would be aware of. If you feel it would be more responsible for me to point to the video I can do that. But please don't assume that I'm writing anything based on hearsay – a video of the talk is not "hearsay."

      1. all right, i did not go through the gazillions of threads this all crap has populated to find the link to the video and since you linked to the entry that does not link to any video and you did not link to any video either, well, i made a wrong deduction.

    2. Have /you/ watched the video, tm?

    3. @tm the video was linked directly from the blog post I cited from the incident. At your suggestion I've added a direct link to this post as well. You would do well to do your homework before making negative assumptions about others.

  25. Pete says:

    God this is getting old

    1. So why are you reading it?
      You know what, I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. Hell yes, this kind of language in our community *is* getting old.

  26. A few years ago I went to a drinking with a friend and in a bar we started talking to some guy. Within 5 minutes of meeting us he was recanting the time him and his friends made this homeless guy dance while throwing coins trying to hit his face. We cringed.
    The next day we were talking about him and my friend said "OMG that was so racist", to which I was a bit puzzled. Apparently I didn't hear that the homeless guy was also black.
    If you are saying these kinds of things to people you don't know, you're a "dick" (I looked this up and that is the correct term). Whether you are sexist/racist/homophobic as well is academic at that point.
    Would anyone say the worst thing about Hitler was that he was a bit racist. That would seriously overlook the general "Dick-atude" (also a correct word) of his character.

    1. You got it. And no where am I calling anyone sexist, but people seem to assume I am. It's rather annoying.

  27. heathenx says:

    How DARE you make fun of my Uncle Joe like that. 😉

  28. Peter Jones says:

    I think it's also important that we not lose sight of the fact that his keynote was inappropriate on other levels, for a variety of reasons. To wit, it was a recycled talk that he's been giving for at least 2 years, and was nearly – if not entirely – free of any content whatsoever. It lacks any deeper understanding of how the Linux community actually works, it was patronizing, it was condescending, and it was ultimately a plea for contributors to other distros and upstreams do Canonical's work for them. Such a talk has no business at a technical conference, as a keynote or otherwise.
    Not that I don't think the sexist comments were bad – they're enraging and they defame the conferences and our community. Unfortunately, that also helps to mask the other issues surrounding his talk.

  29. Ah, please *do* those jokes in a talk. seriously, I really miss unrelated and unnapropriated jokes on talks, sometimes it's so techy, and I'm a tech guy, but a not-so-formal speech is much more pleasant for the ears.
    One thing that I really miss from the old times are the unnapropriated jokes.
    I feel bad, really, where I go to a place that nobody makes any fun of themselves.
    I foud to be enjoyable to work in a place where nobody calls you in a formal way, but with nicknames, best if they are naugthy ^^. ( my last work I was called 'little pesty brother', and the person that called me that way was my best colleage. )
    My best work till today had a boss named Dick Hardt (the best name ever for a boss), and the compani shirt had a "Who's the dick writting comments on my blog?"

    1. Hey, 'inappropriate' or casual fun and taunts between friends is fine.
      Not between a keynote speaker and a room full of paying conference attendees.

  30. Thanks for the laugh

  31. hen says:

    So, I've been reading most of these comments, and I think I understand your position. The problem is, you seem unable to accept that *people actually like* comments like the ones Mark made.
    You argument seems to come down to this:
    Mark said something that might be deemed inappropriate. Therefore, he should apologise, and not say it again.
    People may have a problem with this position from 2 perspectives. The first is: who is the arbiter of what is appropriate? You say you weren't offended, so why is it not appropriate? What about talking about the view from the window when their is a blind man in the room? How about discussing ones eating of beef when a Hindu is present? Nobody has a right not to be offended. If they did, communication would cease. If you personally don't find something offensive, then shut up and accept that people can and should speak up when they do. If you do find it offensive, then argue that position not the one you seem to be doing. Its a common trait of over-political correctness that people feel the need to be offended on someone else's behalf.
    The second perspective is, I think, the brunt of most peoples objections to your position. Frankly, I don't want to get the sanitised Mark Shuttleworth. Nobody actually believes a single man speaks for the whole community. You asked in a comment "Why is it that some folks cannot admit he made a mistake and should own up to it?". He didn't make a mistake. He said exactly what he meant to say. Which makes it all so interesting and far more insightful (for the rest of us) than a dry technical talk. Whether it was prudent of him is a different question, but it was certainly not a mistake. Like it or not, we live in a world that is black, white and infinite shades of grey. It all makes life a little more fun to live when people don't conform. If Mark conformed, he sure as hell wouldn't have set up Ubuntu; he would have invested is money in a sensible stock portfolio whilst taking cruises on the med. I want to know what sort of a man Mark is, so I can get something a little more than the technical content.
    Stop demanding that people be what you expect them to be, and start accepting people for what they are. If everyone did that, the world would be a better, far less angry place. Mark is a big boy and is perfectly capable of feeling embarrassment himself. Just don't invite him to speak at your conference if you think he doesn't represent your interests.

    1. "If you personally don’t find something offensive, then shut up"
      You've not been a good advocate for me to take your position seriously using this kind of language. It's this kind of hostile language that we really need to clean up if our community is going to reach our goals, don't you think?
      "If you do find it offensive, then argue that position not the one you seem to be doing. Its a common trait of over-political correctness that people feel the need to be offended on someone else’s behalf."
      It's not offensive. It's inappropriate. If President Obama decides to stick his middle finger up at the cameras during a state of the Union speech, it's not going to offend *me*, but it certainly would be inappropriate. There is no single arbiter of appropriateness. There's no black and white, but a spectrum. Appropriateness and generally-accepted behavior is learned through experience, and for me personally, I've learned what is appropriate at a professional conference by attending many in person as well as watching many second-hand and speaking at a few. A number of folks, I would argue the majority, who've had similar experiences have attested to the fact that Mr. Shuttleworth's remarks stuck out like sore thumbs in comparison to their other experiences of keynote speeches at professional conferences.
      Yes, Mr. Shuttleworth is absolutely free to speak to his keynote audience as if he was speaking to his buddies at the local pub. He is not free to do so without consequences. I've taken a couple of public speaking classes. I was always taught to not bring up religious or political or personal issues up into a public speech unless they are intimately connected to your subject, otherwise you will distract your audience from your message and completely derail your speech. It seems Mr. Shuttleworth's poor judgement has lead to just that. The problem is, the message Mr. Shuttleworth was supposed to send is very much about making the free desktop easier to use, and I am dismayed that the message was lost due to his poor judgement.
      Inappropriate, yes. It is inappropriate to talk about ejaculation and picking up girls if your mission is to push for improving the free desktop. Those of us, myself included, passionate about making the free desktop surpass proprietary desktops feel his speech inappropriate because it eclipsed what we care passionately about, and lowered it to a level that jeopardizes it from being taken seriously. Furthermore, the rampant usage of exclusionary language in his speech make it less likely 51% of the world will feel welcome joining this cause we feel so passionately about.
      I really don't care about political correctness. I do care about making the free desktop excellent and ubiquitous. By resorting to juvenile, thoughtless jokes, Mr. Shuttleworth has made a mockery of what I stand for.
      "Frankly, I don’t want to get the sanitised Mark Shuttleworth."
      Great. Save it for "beer o'clock" and talk to him at the pub afterwards.
      "He said exactly what he meant to say. Which makes it all so interesting and far more insightful (for the rest of us) than a dry technical talk."
      Boys' club.
      "I want to know what sort of a man Mark is, so I can get something a little more than the technical content."
      Again. Go talk to him at the pub afterwards.
      "Stop demanding that people be what you expect them to be, and start accepting people for what they are. If everyone did that, the world would be a better, far less angry place. Mark is a big boy and is perfectly capable of feeling embarrassment himself. "
      This isn't about Mark. You've completely missed the point.

      1. hen says:

        I'm sorry, but you're missing _my_ point. This issue of appropriateness is entirely irrelevant. If you think it was inappropriate, then so be it. Mark obviously didn't. If you want to plow umpteen million dollars into the community and then get invited to give keynote speeches, then you can decide what is appropriate. This, perhaps unfortunately, is the way of the world.
        Dismissing my points as "boys club" is petty and weak. The fact of the matter is that this is a community dominated by males. Its just the way it is and, to be honest, it will likely be like that for a long time. Not because there is a local anti-female bias but because of much deeper societal disparities. You said yourself you were part of 1 female per 5 males at university. There is much more that needs to change in society than just a change in rhetoric during technical talks.
        Don't conflate my arguing against your points with me thinking Mark said something appropriate. I don't, but I will maintain that as long as the man has a standing in the community, he's entitled to say what he wants. Eventually he may damage his standing, but that his concern, and he may decide it isn't worth it.
        I don't understand your initial objection (the first point on the previous comment). Do you really think that you're entitled to be offended on behalf of someone else? If so, how far does this go? You never seemed to answer that point. Its pretty crucial because if something is not offensive, then why is it inappropriate? This is a genuine question I would like to know your opinion on.
        The whole debate is not black and white like you make out. It really is nuanced, and your casual dismissal of several good points made in these comments (particularly Richard's) doesn't reflect well on you. I don't want to be associated with what appears like a bunch of authoritarian feminists any more than I want to be associated with a band of meat eating jocks. That said, I don't really believe that is the case: I think the community is richer and better for the differing perspectives and ideas, including any idiosyncrasies. Your position is just one among many.
        Just for the record, I don't think you're an authoritarian feminist.

      2. @hen Unfortunately I don't feel that it's really useful to point out that people have a right to do whatever they want (within legal boundaries they do, and no lines of legality were crossed here) nor do I think it's useful to point out that there is a rich set of many different perspectives on everything in any given community. So what? Who is going to argue that?
        That someone can do whatever they want AND choose to act in a classy way that others should look up to is impressive. That someone in the same position chooses to act immaturely, as a poor representative of that for which they speak on behalf, is an embarrassing and saddening thing.
        I don't make anything to be black and white, and multiple times in the comments here I have pointed out that there is very much a spectrum of grey involved here.
        You keep bringing back offense. Don't. I'm not playing at being offended vicariously for anyone. Offense has nothing to do with my discussion here.
        The community is going to remain a boys club with attitudes like yours.

    2. jef spaleta says:

      I LOVE ejaculation jokes like the one Shuttleworth made in his talk. I don't get why the crowd just sat there in stunned silence when he said it as I have every confidence they all share my tastes in raunchy humor. If I would have been there I wouldn't have been able to contain myself.. I would have been laughing for like 5 whole minutes just like I did when I saw the archived video of the talk on the web.
      Yep, I just can't get enough of ejaculation jokes. There isn't a day that goes by when I don't author one myself..sitting at home or at a bar and uttered just as someone is taking a swig of beer in the hopes I might make one of my bar buddies choke and spit it all over the table. I also crackwise about how technically and scientifically illiterate women are (especially blonde women) to my female bar buddies (blonde women with highly scientific technical professions who also curl better than I do) Nothing beats watching a woman blow an Amaretto sour out her nose at a perfectly timed "joke." It's a beautiful thing. Totally worth the punch to the stomach I get in return.
      But let me stress that this is …at home…or in a bar…. not on stage at a professional software development conference in front of paying attendees. I'll say it again… I think everyone would have enjoyed Mark's talk more if they had just cancelled it and he and stood on a bar table and given his talk to those gathered around him at the open bar with a pint of beer in his hand. Or perhaps if there was a locker room nearby..he could have given the talk there instead.

  32. I guess everybody compares things and gets examples where his/her experience comes from. Just because I am not experienced with tampons doesn't mean that I have to be offended if somebody compares things to it. I can feel the pain about the bra, too. After all tight cloths have similar effects. If I show my Mom how to use Fedora and my sister, too and not to my Dad because he already figured it out for himself and then I say I explained it to girls is that offending? If yes, does it have any hint that I intended to upset anybody? This way anything can be upsetting and people should talk in a scientific manner saying only the necessary impersonal information to draw conclusion. How boring that world would be…
    I also understand that we should do everything to make women more comfortable in our community. That sometimes needs some positive discrimination, that is, we help them more then we help men. If that's offending then I am sorry, I quit.

    1. I would like to highlight a part of the original blog post it seems you completely missed:
      "P.S. I am not offended by the comments I am parodying. Please re-read the above if you believe that is the case."

      1. Well, perhaps I wasn't directly replying to your blog, but wrote the thoughts that first came to my mind about the topic. (The internet is full of this right now.)
        O.T. Just want to say thanks for the amazing work you do on Fedora. I'm also using the new fonts you recommended for inclusion.

  33. KO Vatanen says:

    Your jokes leave me a bit puzzled.
    “Proprietary software really hurts you, just like when your bra straps dig into your shoulders.”
    I don't really understand how bra strap can dig in to shoulder. I tried to reproduce this by using a network cable as a strap over my shoulder and pulling it downward. It seems the only way for the strap to dig into shoulder is to dig into a bone.
    “Memory management in that application has more leaks than tampax tampons!”
    You wrote tampax instead of Tampax. Was that just a typo or is tampax some kind of generic term for some type of tampon? Or is it relevant to the joke that the tampons must be Tampax branded. The first joke sounds a bit different if you say "Apple's proprietary software" instead of "Proprietary software".
    “We’re going to fix printing in Linux so even your Dad, Grandpa, and Uncle Joe can use it!”
    I can't find the joke in this one. It sounds a bit off because only the uncle has a name. Is Uncle Joe perhaps some kind on cultural reference?

    1. Wow. just… wow. I have nothing to say to you.

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