Coda Hale { writing, projects, about, contact }

FOSS and Male Privilege

In which I am baffled by Bruce Perens.

From the comments on the LWN thread, FSF to host a mini-summit on Women in Free Software:

Bruce Perens

Can we say that women aren’t joining because they, as a population rather than as individuals, are not interested? The other alternative would be to say that men in the field had established mechanisms which were astonishingly effective at keeping them out even though they really were interested, and which still stood today.

I’d be a lot more comfortable if I heard it from them, and if they explained what the mechanisms were and how they were so effective that even people who were interested were barred from participating with almost total effectiveness. And why this was not so for a number of other fields.


Bruce, I started using Linux in 1993 with slackware installed off a stack of floppies. I ran X with fvwm and kermit for dialup Internet. I learnt Perl a couple of years later and have worked professionally and full time with Open Source (mostly LAMP stack) since 1996. I’ve done all-nighters and adrenaline-fuelled hacking runs and totally fscked my PC with broken kernel recompiles. I have founded user groups, hosted mailing lists, launched open source projects, etc. I have contributed to major and minor projects all over the damn place; I regularly get email thanking me for writing one of the best known Perl manpages. I have spoken at conferences all over the world. I am well known by certain segments of USENET, IRC, and mailing lists, and geeks all over the world recognise my name when I travel; friends of mine threaten to get tshirts printed saying “Yes, I know Skud” because of this. I have been chewing people’s ears off about why open source/free software is awesome and world-changing since I was 18 years old. And most of the above information is readily available online. About half the first page of Google results (from where I’m sitting right now) for “women in open source” mention me.

Recently, I have also been documenting issues that women face in open source, linking and discussing and synthesising and summarising and KEYNOTING OSCON. (I started doing this a bit in 1998, but stepped back from it for a while, so most of my women-in-open-source work is more recent.)

And then I look at this thread and see that a) “women are just less passionate about open source than men” and b) that nobody seems to believe us when we say there is a problem.

Fuck that. Follow some of those funny little blue underlined words and DO SOME READING.

Bruce Perens

OK, I’m going to guess that you might be Yuwei Lin, and that you are a woman.


Bruce, I am Kirrily Robert, as a trivial search would have told you, if we hadn’t met in person on multiple occasions.

Bruce Perens

Oh, sorry. I just went by who came up in the first half page of google searches for women in Open Source. Lyn comes up first here.


Bruce Perens demonstrates one of the “established mechanisms which [are] astonishingly effective at keeping [women] out” of the FOSS community. The irony of his inability to recognize the existence of the mechanisms of which he is an active part is lost on him and depresses the rest of us.