9 Myths about Free/Open Source Software and Feminism: Page 2

An apparent backlash against women participating in free and open source software projects should be better understood.
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3. FOSS feminists emphasize the social over the technical:

False. This is a strange claim to make, because one of the identifying features of the community is the importance of the social aspects of coding, not only in the form of email and chats, but also of conferences and coding sprints.

In addition, relationships within projects often have as much to do with decisions as the quality of contributions.

You might question the claims that code will somehow be better if more women are involved in it, but you can hardly single out FOSS feminists for emphasizing social aspects when almost every community member is doing the same.

2. FOSS feminists advocate affirmative action:

False. Although some FOSS feminist talk about a future time when projects consist of 50% women, none have suggested any kind of quota system. This should not be surprising; FOSS feminists may question how well meritocracy is practiced, or even whether it should be an ideal, but they tend to respect competence as much as their male peers.

Many FOSS Feminists do support programs like the GNOME Outreach Program for Women that provide internships for women at participating projects. However, no project judges the work of these interns differently from that of other contributors.

1. FOSS feminists are pro-censorship:

Generally false; may be true in a specific case. This myth comes from allegations that in February 2013 The Ada Initiative forced the cancellation of a harm-reduction talk by Violet Blue at BSides San Francisco.

However, no feminist nor feminist group did much, if anything, to defend The Ada Initiative against these allegations. The most that can be said is that they remained silent -- in many cases out of concern that denouncing one group might reflect on all free software feminists.

The Need to Debunk

More than anything, these myths show that the backlash against free software feminism is present and active.

Such a backlash is hardly surprising, especially when FOSS feminism has become a community presence so quickly. But, regardless of what you think of feminism in free software, these myths deserve to be rejected. One way or the other, the critiques made by feminists need to be addressed, and these myths listed above do nothing except confuse the issues, and make them harder to confront. Finding common ground can be hard enough at the best of times without imaginary issues adding to the confusion.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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Tags: Linux, development, free software, FOSS, open source software, Coders

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