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Ruby and Male Privilege

In which I'm disappointed by sexism in the Ruby community.

Act One

I read this today:

A female computer science professor wrote:

[A]t a conference in France, a male speaker (French), who was speaking about the importance of testing, showed an overhead slide of a naked woman with a caption of the sort–‘Would you buy this product without testing it first?’ There were only 2 or 3 women in the audience (of about 150), but I had fleeting feelings of having accidentally walked into a stag party and wondering if he had either not expected any women to be there or had discounted the importance of directing his remarks to the women in the audience.

–Ellen Spertus, Why are There so Few Female Computer Scientists?

Dr. Spertus wrote that paper in 1991.

In 1991, I used a gift certificate I won in a junior high car-washing fundraiser content to purchase a tape of Pearl Jam’s Ten from the local record store.

Pearl Jam.

Junior High.

A tape.

Act Two

On April 18th, 2009, Matt Aimonetti gave a presentation on CouchDB entitled CouchDB: Perform Like A Pr0n Star.

The first slide from Matt Aimonetti's presentation, featuring a woman's rear in lingerie.

You can see the rest of the slides here.


In the eighteen intervening years, what’s changed?

Let me rephrase: in the lifetime of this year’s college freshman, what’s changed?

That’s a depressing question.

Here’s another one: when she graduates in 2013, what will have changed for that freshman?

Act Three

A few days ago, I noticed this exchange on Twitter:

An online exchange after the dust had cleared.

And this gem from David Heinemeier Hansson, creator of Rails:

Ladies and gentlemen, the leading lights of the Ruby community.


Read Why Are There So Few Female Computer Scientists and HOWTO Encourage Women In Linux. And honestly, I’m beginning to wonder if the women who aren’t joining the Ruby community aren’t making the right choice.

Update: Also be sure to read The Male Programmer Privilege Checklist for examples of the subtle privileges that male programmers enjoy, almost always without knowing it.