This is not tolerated

There had been several posts recently about disgusting sexist idiotic behavior on PerlMonks. Most people know my opinion on these issues very well, but I don't think that's good enough. I think we need to actually bring it up and discuss it. I want to thank all the people who wrote about it and specifically Joe McMahon who both spoke of it on blogs.perl.org and on Perlmonks here. No, this is not to be taken lightly. And no, I will not shut up about this. And yes, my post is probably gonna be long. I'm sorry, but I need to put it out there.

First, how I feel about it: It's sexist, it's creepy, it's horrible. If such behavior is accepted in PerlMonks, I would understand Joe if he were to leave over this. Why? Because we are our community, and by "we" I'm including women as well. By allowing such behavior, we are separating ourselves from a broad "we" to a limited "us" (males) vs. "them" (females, and those who "can't take a joke"). You're basically drawing a line saying "sorry, you girls (and people who don't get how hilarious boob jokes are) are excluded from our community". You do not live in your own little bubble with your friends who chuckle at the word "boob" in the calculator. You're in a community with other people (who are apparently more sensitive, considerate, sexually mature, and mentally developed than you) who do not deserve to be ostracized because of you.

Cut it out with the socially inept bullshit: many guys (read: geeks) are socially inept. Surprise, women also. The fact that it's hard for you to understand people in a social capacity does not exclude you from A. understanding that boob jokes are disgustingly sexist and objectify women, and B. being considerate enough to actually pause and say "ya know what? I honestly didn't mean to hurt anyone. I apologize." Don't give me this "we don't know how to talk to girls" bullshit. I don't know how to talk to girls either. This doesn't exclude me from basic common understanding of both hurting someone or at least at the very least accepting responsibility when I hurt someone, instead of a weak cop-out.

"You just can't take a joke": it's not about good humor vs. bad humor. If you know me in person, you know I have a horrible sense of humor in the realm of political correctness. You know what's the difference? I don't consider my humor a reflection of society. My off-color humor is never to reflect how I think of society and people. That joke actually said that big-breasted women are better. Can you objectify and demean anyone more than that? Do you actually see no problem with that?

So I can't make sexual jokes now?: You might. However, You are part of a community with people you do not necessarily know, and you should understand the forum you're engaged in. This means that even sexual jokes that are not demeaning or hurt feelings might ostracize some people. You need to be *gasp* considerate of others. Perhaps after the meeting, when you all go out to the pub, you could tell some of these jokes and people (including the women) will laugh with you. Perhaps not. If not, you'll know that you'll have to save these jokes for later.

Is sex a forbidden topic? Sex is not a forbidden topic. Adults actually talk about sex frequently, when they feel it's fitting and when they feel comfortable. Sexualizing software, demeaning women to a set of breasts and prioritizing their importance by size, that's not "talking about sex". That's disgusting behavior.

Remember, we compose who our community is, and "we" includes more people than you'd probably imagine. It includes different races, different colors, different creeds (or the lack thereof), different genders (or the lack thereof) and even different types of hairdos (or, again, the lack thereof). It's not a bunch of people who make it difficult for the community to joke about stupid stuff, it's the community itself complaining. And what this community is telling you, and is telling us, is that it will not accept such behavior. I'm thankful that this is my community.

UPDATE: Of course I made a typo there. Fixed.

29 Comments

You need to be *gasp* considerate of others.

Amen brother!

Hi

I'm with you on this. I even think those who harass people privately should be identified publically. And yes I can see a problem with false accusations.

The cruelty implicit or explicit in the harassment needs to be outed, and may even lead to the perps being ejected from the Perl community. At least, it needs to include pressure to be more tactful before firmer actions are adopted.

I'm not asking for perfection, just consideration.

Ron

Let's be clear though. I don't believe we're talking in the PerlMonks case about harassment, or something worth shunning another person over. At worst, the initial posting seems to me to be thoughtless rudeness, while the replies are the kind of garden variety derailing you can expect when someone doesn't want to admit that he acted with poor judgment.

Hi chromatic

Sure, but I was referring to the private harassment I read about.

Just to play devil's advocate a little, you write that one must "[understand] that boob jokes are disgustingly sexist and objectify women".

This statement (and similar ones that often come up) threatens to drag the whole discussion way off topic.

No one *needs* to understand that this is true (I'm not even sure that it is). The important point that people *do* need to understand is that sexualized discussions in public forums make some people in our community very uncomfortable. This discomfort may make them feel as if they are being intentionally excluded from the community.

How do we know this? Because they've said so, very clearly. Please treat these people with respect, even if you don't think boob jokes are sexist, even if you *love* boob jokes and think they're the greatest thing ever.

Save the boob jokes for your friends who you know also agree with you on their value. In a big community, sometimes you just have to self-censor a bit in order to make sure everyone feels welcome.

Thanks for clarifying. Physical assault is another category of unacceptable altogether.

Hey guys I'm a software professional and I recognize that coding can and should be for hobbyists as well, but that doesn't mean I expect anything less from hobbyists. I have witnessed excellent hobbyists who skills far surpass my own, thus I have no reason to expect anything but mature professionalism from my PERL brethren.

Thus this is not just a "Free speech" issue, this is a professionalism issue. Computing currently is a gift and privilege and it is becoming worrying less of any kind of a right. Let's not slander our privilege by excluding others except on the grounds of say professionalism (I also recognize that people are in different stages of training and that's fine I didn't mean any harm).

Let's be professional about this and be careful about how we affect others.

I fear for the joy of Perl when the joy of writing and talking about it is circumscribed by constant pandering to the easily offended.

Hell, I don't have to _fear_ for it. I experience its loss already.

Oh, wait, is "hell" going to offend those who dislike references, however circumspect, to mythological places of torment? Better not use that word any more.

And so it begins.

chipdude, I see well written posts on several sides of the discussion. I don't say "both sides" because there isn't only black and white. your post is one of those that try to create a fear of censorship, although it has been repeatedly said that probably nobody wants that. It's more a matter of learning what is accepted.

are you also whining because one can't call their black neighbour ni**** any more? is that censorship?

my hope is more that we can actually avoid strict laws that say "if you show more than x square centimeters of naked skin in your talk you have to leave the conference".
it isn't always easy to know what will be accepted, yes. but very often it's easy enough.
for example, I really like this quote of larry:
"The argument against using an operator for other than its primary
purpose strikes me the same as the old argument that you shouldn't have
sex for other than procreational purposes. Sometimes side effects
are more enjoyable than the originally intended effect."
it's mentioning sex. try to think about why this is not sexism and the comic in question is.

White knights and express-offense-as-control are the problems here, not sex. Sex is merely an easy target, a stalking horse. Soon must come every other topic that anyone finds uncomfortable. Why would anyone think otherwise? Has any censoring body been satisfied with restricting *one* offensive subject?

I have no problem with suffering whatever consequences my words may bring, due to whatever offense they may cause, as long as the consequences are personal and direct. I have a lot of problem with the idea that some nebulous standard may be imposed, strangling expression, excluding the outspoken -- including by those who are not offended themselves, but who model others' offense in their minds, and seek to avoid that phantom pain.

And it is, truly, a fearful prospect.

If someone suggested to equate any quality of code available on CPAN to penis size, I know I would feel just as uncomfortable about that.

I'd be amused, actually, by how appropriate it is. Geeks are jocks, just on a different field.

Sex is not a forbidden topic

O'Reilly's OSCON Code of Conduct has a different take on whether sex is, intrinsically, forbidden to discuss. Hey look, facts that confirm my view, how about that.

I have no problem with suffering whatever consequences my words may bring, due to whatever offence they may cause

Including the consequence of having driven off (or discouraged from coming by) people that would have enriched the community? How many of them must stay away, or leave, before your ability to say anything-and-everything becomes a worthwhile trade for having them?

Soon must come every other topic that anyone finds uncomfortable.

Slippery slope much? Send me a note when you see that happen.

O'Reilly's OSCON Code of Conduct has a different take on whether sex is, intrinsically, forbidden to discuss.

So you are saying they would throw a speaker out of the conference for making a remark like Larry’s. Is that right?

So you are saying they would throw a speaker out of the conference for making a remark like Larry’s. Is that right?

I'm not saying that. O'Reilly is.

I’m not saying that. O’Reilly is.

Are they, now? That I’ll have to see for myself. Unfortunately, and strangely, I cannot find this code of conduct posted online anywhere - does anyone have links, please?

Aristotle, I've found this: http://radar.oreilly.com/2011/07/sexual-harassment-at-technical.html
"We are going to adapt this blog post into a “Code of Conduct”" - so maybe it's not yet finished.

Sawyer: I understand the difference perfectly well. Evidence: Do I have a reputation as a sexist pig? No. Has there been lots of opportunity for me to show it, if I were? Yes. So, there you go.

I have a problem with a movement toward censorship, in and of itself. No one ever had to argue in favor of *popular* speech, after all. You're a smart guy; you should be able to see the difference between liking speech and disliking the creeping rules that come in as a reaction to it.

Thanks, Tina. That confirms that the Code says what I expected it says, contrary to what Chip claimed it says, i.e. that any mention of sex whatsoever is completely verboten at OSCON, to the point that a remark like Larry’s would lead to expulsion. How does that follow from language that leaves as much room for slack as “Speakers and exhibitors should use good judgment; if we hear complaints and we think they are warranted, you may not be invited back”?

Chip: so how is a Code like this the first step of an escalation toward the gagging and muting of the free expression on all sorts of topics, as per your impassioned argument?

Of course O'Reilly leave themselves wiggle room to favor whoever is popular; to do otherwise would be foolish. That doesn't change the fact that "sex", in itself, is in fact listed forbidden from any presentation.

As for the rest ... Assault and battery are already illegal. So what's left that you would eliminate? Words that offend. The only way not to "allow" such is to censor. QED.

I only have time for a short reply right now. Let me thus say:

First, assault can be strictly verbal. That's why battery is a separate crime. So where I would draw a line on acceptability may be different from what you thought. I have absolutely no tolerance for intimidation, stalking, etc. An absence of "yes" means "no."

The analogy with racism is an interesting way to get past assumptions (no snark). OTOH, women were not insulted per se in the breast size case, but rather, one aspect of women was equated with greater attractiveness -- crude, but not sexist, AFAICT, because it's not like men don't have their own markers for attractiveness. Frankly it said more about the shallow presenter than about women.

Also, racism is often acceptable humor if it's self-deprecating; so if a woman had used the breast-size slide, should she get a pass? What if I, being male, described benchmarking as penis-size comparison? But I guess any analogy breaks down eventually.

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