So apparently this is creepy

Responding to RT #78146 (and a recent CPAN rating) I am pulling the library off CPAN.

However, I would like to elicit some comments here, especially from members of the discussed gender (that is, if they want to expose themselves). I admit, having never worked or lived in America/Europe/anywhere abroad really, I am pretty oblivious to the politics of the whole thing. Were this done in my country, I would expect no such ballyhoo. Something related to religion, however, ...

On the one hand, the information gathered is publicly available. In fact, most people's names indicate gender pretty clearly. Also, isn't nationality something that can also be the basis of discrimination (for which there are plenty Acme-CPANAuthors dists)?

On the other hand, I never asked for permission for the authors to be listed. But then I was also not asked for permission when included in a couple of other Acme-CPANAuthors dists.

Nevertheless, I understand the good intention of those who requested the library to be pulled.

11 Comments

I'm wondering what problem you were trying to solve with it. Why is it useful to provide a list of female CPAN authors?

I wrote up a full explanation in my own blog about why this is viewed as creepy, even if you had no intention.

Hi Steven

You say "In fact, most people's names indicate gender pretty clearly". Unfortunately this is an extraordinarily complex issue.

It's true that in simple terms a huge number of names have male and female forms (which is fascinating), but to give you just one instance:

Many bisexual people call themselves Ashley in order to advertise their sexuality, /no matter what their real name is/, while some may actually be called Ashley.

This is the same as gays advertising by saying things like:

  • Do you (also) get that oceanic feeling of being at one with the universe (or some such). The key here is 'oceanic'. This was much more common in past centuries.

  • I (not me!) am interested in philosophy/postmodernism/etc. These are also all ads. You could clearly add theatre/architecture/books by Don DeLillo/$many_others to that list.

  • Etc, etc.

You swim in dangerous waters. Keep a life-jacket handy :-).

Cheers
Ron

Taking the logic to extremes, would it be OK to make a module

CPAN::Authors::Transsexuals

for example?

I don't think so, especially if someone who wasn't a transsexual made a list of transsexual CPAN authors.

The problems with your "females" list are

(a) the module author is not a member of the group
(b) the module list is made opt-out rather than opt-in

If a female author had made the module, put her name in, and asked other female authors to add themselves (opt in), maybe it would be OK though.

Coincidentally I found some funny reviews about another one of these cpan author modules:

http://cpanratings.perl.org/dist/Acme-CPANAuthors-AnyEvent

This is the most stupid module in the whole stupid series of stupid.

It's like someone took the =head1 AUTHORS section of the AnyEvent POD, doused it in stupid and set it on fire as a beacon of stupid, a benchmark against which all future stupid would be measured.


Hi Steven,
Although I have lived in the US for six years I have the same thoughts as you have and I do not understand this reaction (this data is already available and anyone can get this even without programming knowledge ) , maybe its our "blind spot" as we do not have enough context and background on this issue.

However I wonder if the reaction would have been different if you had used different wordings like celebrating the women cpan authors. Here is an example , http://perlbuzz.com/2009/03/celebrating-women-in-perl-on-ada-lovelace-day.html.


It might all have been in good spirits, but the result is creepy, yes. Perhaps not to you, perhaps not to some other men, but overwhelmingly to women, it definitely is.

You were understanding and kind and removed it. Good job. No, I'm not being cynical.

The next step is actually understanding *why* it is creepy to most women (and quite a few men). Schwern tried to answer it, and I think he did a good job.

If you're still unsure why (or simply want me to), I'd be happy to try and explain my view of it.

I'm not an American, but I would never consider it creepy. I'd consider it pointless, but hey, that's what Acme::* is for, right?

Anyway, as a foreigner, it seems like people in the US are constantly freaked out about anything like this. Americans seem to be always afraid that something bad will happen to them, their family or anyone they consider vulnerable, really ("think of the children").

I'm from a country where bad stuff actually happen to people on a regular basis and most people wouldn't care a lot about something like this.

I personally can attest to the importance of anonymity. I don't have a Facebook, Google Plus, LinkedIn or Twitter and I use a moniker. Anonymity provides us with a way to work with others without being afraid of being public. It lets us be in public while keeping our privacy, and that's something very important to understand.

Some groups are attacked more than others. For example, gays are attacked more than Russians. While I can see a Russian not wanting to be exposed, it's clearly understandable if a person at work won't want to reveal they're gay.

I don't know when's the last time you were stalked (online and in real life) for being Indonesian but females *are* stalked (daily!) online and offline for being female. This puts a higher bar of risk for women. This means that Acme::CPANAuthors::Indonesian is not the same as Acme::CPANAuthors::Female or Acme::CPANAuthors::Gay. Clearly it's something that is pretty obvious to us once we point at it.

Further more, making *public lists* of people *behind their back* (*without their consent*), of people who are generally *afraid* of being in the spotlight, specifically a list on the *ground of a characteristic* which is at the foundation of *stalking*, *harassments*, *sexual attacks*, *physical threats*, *bullying* and a bunch of other *shitty behaviors* I can't even remember (much less experiences like quite a few unfortunately souls did) - that... that's seriously creepy. The fact that a well-intentioned good person was behind it doesn't change the feeling. Imagine many don't know you, or your motivates, and it's scary.

Further more, the fact that you can deduct the probable gender of the person by their name is irrelevant to this, since no one is actually going over the entire CPAN authors listing, cross referencing to a dictionary of names with a probability calculation of name/gender, and making a list of it. No, please don't do that.

People theoretically *could* do it, just as they *could* sit at a cafe, and ask Foursquare for which females are near them and then cross-reference that to their Facebook account and go over their pictures. They *could* but (at least most of them) don't.

I'm probably missing a lot, but that's the tip of iceberg I can see at the moment (having only woken up recently too).

And thank you for giving me the room to express it and discuss it.

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About Steven Haryanto

user-pic A programmer (mostly Perl 5 nowadays).