About half a year ago, I put together some notes on “Sexism on the web and in hacker spaces“, because there have been a lot of ugly things going on over the summer which urged me to voice some concerns and point to ongoing struggles (usually of women) against sexist behaviour.
Sadly, once again I have to take this issue up following some major incidents in hacker communities. Recently the 29c3 took place in Hamburg – the major annual hacker conference in the German speaking regions. And happily the incidents of last summer led the organisers to device an explicit anti-harassment policy for the conference. Of course nobody would have thought that this alone will hold back sexist jerks from harassing and insulting other people. But what came out in the end is more disappointing than I have imagined. A good summary of all the sexist crap that happend and was often tolerated is provided by Valerie Aurora at the Ada Initiative blog: Ending sexism in hacker culture: A work in progress.
For now I won’t go on any further, because I am a bit disillusioned. I actually thought after last summer that something might change and even ‘hackers’ (speaking in cliché) would grant more diverse people to join their ranks. And of course there are enough hackers who find all that awful too and who put a lot of effort into changing this, but they are clearly the minority. Interestingly some of the best efforts come out of male and hacker dominated contexts – they just seem to be ignored again by the majority of these context’s members. For example Anatol Stefanowitch gave a great talk (in German) on speech and platform neutrality at the last openmind conference – #om12. In this talk he explained very clearly from a linguist perspective how sexism, racism, classism and other forms of discrimination work in speech and what to do against them. If you understand German, give it a try, it is a very clear presentation and funny in it’s own way: Sprache und Plattformneutralität. So, not all Pirates seem to think they are post-gender (confer my article “No, we are not post-gender!” from May 2012).