The sky is not evil

Posted by Piers Cawley on May 5, 2007

Joss Whedon writes strong female characters, he’s the mind behind some of my favourite TV ever and he’s a wise man. Here he is reacting to seeing camera phone footage of the murder of Dua Khalil Aswad on CNN almost alongside the trailer for Captivity:

The trailer resembles nothing so much as the CNN story on Dua Khalil. Pretty much all you learn is that Elisha Cuthbert is beautiful, then kidnapped, inventively, repeatedly and horrifically tortured, and that the first thing she screams is “I’m sorry”.

“I’m sorry.”

What is wrong with women?

I mean wrong. Physically. Spiritually. Something unnatural, something destructive, something that needs to be corrected.

How did more than half the people in the world come out incorrectly? I have spent a good part of my life trying to do that math, and I’m no closer to a viable equation. And I have yet to find a culture that doesn’t buy into it. Women’s inferiority - in fact, their malevolence - is as ingrained in American popular culture as it is anywhere they’re sporting burkhas. I find it in movies, I hear it in the jokes of colleagues, I see it plastered on billboards, and not just the ones for horror movies. Women are weak. Women are manipulative. Women are somehow morally unfinished. (Objectification: another tangential rant avoided.) And the logical extension of this line of thinking is that women are, at the very least, expendable.

You should read the whole thing. Seriously.

Dress for success: wear a white penis

Sexual violence and intimidation isn’t an ‘over there’ thing, it’s not a muslim thing or a hindu thing or a christian thing. It appears to be a humanity thing. We live in a culture where ‘She was asking for it! She wore a short skirt!’ actually seems to carry weight in rape cases, where an intelligent, confident woman can be brought to the point where she feels it necessary to put herself into some kind of purdah because she fears for her life. And where she is castigated by some sections of the community for writing about it.

Not long ago, I blogged about the organizer of a professional programming conference who thought it was good business to advertise his conference by laying on an after show party with lovely girls pouring drinks that the delegates were encouraged to chat up. In response I had my sexuality brought into question1, got phoned up by the organizer and threatened with violence and, funniest of all, got called a sexist. Charming.

Closer to my current programming home, Audrey Eschright has blogged about the #railsconf backchannel and don’t get me started on some of the parties at OSCON.

The odds are depressingly good that, if you’re reading this, you’re a man. I’ve written before about the gender imbalance in open source communities (2% women, 98% men at the time I wrote it) and the poisonous nature of some of those communities. We’re so used to it that we hardly even see it any more, and when we do, there’s always someone ready to stand up and blame women for it.

We have met the enemy, and he is us

We geeks pride ourselves for our intelligence, so why do we have this huge blindspot about the fact that we are (consciously or unconsciously) excluding nearly half the population from our community for because… er… what is the reason?

There isn’t one. It’s irrationality, pure and simple: a Big Lie, and we bought it.

Yes, there are bigger fights than the cause of equality for women in the open source community, all of them worth fighting. But so what? This is something we can do something about simply by deciding to speak up when we see or hear abusive behaviour. We don’t have to put our bodies on the line, we just have to play fair; it shouldn’t be much to ask for.

Further reading


  1. Don’t get me started on the geek attitude to homosexuality… [return]