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Trying to be less sexist #15

merged 1 commit into from

10 participants


Why not?


Why not? Well, for one, the top of this page reads:

This guide is my opinionated attempt to bring you a good set of instructions that will allow you to create beautiful and consistent software.

In the text you changed: I exclude emacs users, I romanticize the the notion of dictatorship, I correlated the use of older technology with older people, I assume the reader knows english, and I also assume my audience is male.

You could have picked any one of those.

I don't care if somebody is male or female. If they care, I would like them to fork this site and use the kind of language they like. I'd also like an edition that recommends emacs and is translated into Chinese. IMO gender and culture are good things, trying to rip them out of all text is removing its soul.

There is obviously a line, where people will use these things to spread a message of hate rather than love. But please, don't let those fuckers win by making all other writing dry and boring.


@felixge felixge closed this

Well spoken Felix


I think the response here is actually a bit misguided. No one's asking for you to write gender-free prose (which, old fashioned though I may be, strikes me as overly sterile as well.)

"Impress the ladies or gents" is just as soulful, in my opinion. Speaking as a gent who enjoys being impressed, I think the proposed patch is actually quite nice, and does not sterilize the writing at all.

But my issue is not with the patch, which is fairly trivial. Accept it, reject it, whatever. I take issue more with the tone and character of the responses to it.

On an empirical point, I notice a few things quite often:

  1. By a very large margin, most programmers are male.
  2. Many male programmers say that programming is a nearly-perfect meritocracy, and that they are not sexist.
  3. Many female programmers say that the programming industry is an unpleasant sausage-fest.

If we are to believe that a meritocracy is desirable (and I believe that it is), then we males in the software engineering discipline ought to be concerned that so few females seem to find joy and success in this field, despite their somewhat more statistically fair representations in other mostly-meritocratic fields such as academia, civil engineering, aerospace, marketing, economics, and business.

We should consider that perhaps we are more sexist than we notice, and that our meritocracy is not so perfect as we'd like to congratulate ourselves for. If that is the case, then we ought to try to be much less sexist than seems appropriate, much more encouraging to females than we feel is necessary, and so on, to balance out the bias which we clearly do not notice automatically. If our sense of what is and is not sexist has led us to a place where the vast majority of programmers are male, and females frequently comment about how awful it is, then perhaps we should begin to be skeptical of the intuitions that have built these institutions.

I would suggest that the assumption that our audience is male (not to mention heterosexual), true though it may be a majority of the time, is a major part of this problem.


Felix & Isaacs: I think you have too much time, answering so much. ;) Or you are procrastinating, as I do a the moment.
Btw: I agree with "But please, don't let those fuckers win by making all other writing dry and boring."


From now on, I'm going to try to do all my technical writing assuming a female audience. No I'm not kidding. It'll be really soulful and amusing and we'll see how my real audience responds. Thanks for this. Sometimes the best ideas come from some small thing.


@isaacs my point was not that I thought the patch was bad, or the motives were, or that it would greatly decrease the quality of my writing (I have no illusions, this sentence isn't great to begin with). I actually agree with you on all of those.

What I did try to question, was if it is fair to make this correction, and leave the other problematic statements untouched. For example, the notion of romanticizing dictatorship may be the most offensive aspect to some people out there.

So given the choice of either changing all or none of these problems, I believe I am making the right call, as the first option would certainly destroy the writing. If you can give me a moral compass that helps me weigh these problems against each other fairly, I'll re-consider and merge this patch.


Thinking a bit more about this so, I rejected this pull request for the wrong reason.

My reason for rejecting it, is that I'm a sucker for debate (and I'd still be happy to continue it).

But truth is, if this patch has the chance of making even a single person in the community feel more included, I'd be an ass not to merge it. So I'll do that now, but I'd still be very interested in hearing more thoughts on the topic in general.

@felixge felixge reopened this
@felixge felixge merged commit 9cd668f into felixge:master

felixge: Thanks for merging. I think I understand your initial thoughts (›there is so much wrong, where should I start?‹). However, exclusions are backed by different power relations: I think ›we‹ have a big problem including women, I think society has a big problem with heterosexism. I don’t know much about emacs vs. vim, but I think it’s not that bad a problem in your daily live to use either one of them, and you are not usually excluded from a target audience; and so on. As for the representation of people of different ages – yes, there are issues baked deep into society, but I didn’t see being linked to vim as any sort of problematic thing :) Language, that’s really a point. You can’t do too much about it easily besides promoting translating and linking translations.

Rest assured that I am no fan of neutralizing to death. Actually, I consider ›impress ladies and gents‹ to be much more inclusive than ›impress people‹, because the latter just serves as a base for adding stereotypes. I wrote two (German-language, sorry) blog posts on gender and language (1 2), fyi.


First they came for the masculine pronouns...


Thank you for merging this pull request.


@felixge You're a great example of the type of attitude that makes the node community better than and different from pretty much every other software community. Thanks.


@felixge Its too easy to accidentally exclude people. I think you made the right choice for the right reasons.

@automatthew Implying everyone wants to impress the ladies is hardly banning masculine pronouns. If it said "vim may not help you to impress men, but it will impress our bdfl." would that sound the same to you?

@adrianheine adrianheine deleted the unknown repository branch
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Commits on Feb 28, 2012
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  1. +1 −1  guide/style.pdc
2  guide/style.pdc
@@ -32,7 +32,7 @@ alive][hnsemicolons]. So follow the community, and use those semicolons!
You can use any editor. However, having support for JS syntax highlighting and
executing the currently open file with node.js will come in very handy. While
-[vim][vim] may not help you to impress the ladies, it will please our
+[vim][vim] may not help you to impress the ladies or gents, it will please our
[BDFL][bdfl] and your grandpa will also approve.
I'm typing this document in Notes on my iPad, but that's because I'm on a beach
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