Posted on April 23, 2008 in FOSS, IP by Sarah DaviesView Comments

“You can touch my boobs,” she said to all of us in the hallway. “It’s no big deal.”

Livejournal is in a rage today over this post and this clarification.

Apparently there was a mixed-gender group of people at ConFusion and then later PenguinCon who put forth the idea that people who support open content and open software might be amenable to consensual open sexuality, specifically getting felt up.

As I have two X chromosomes and I’m attending LinuxFest Northwest this weekend, I feel obliged to comment.

There is definitely a lack of diversity within the American open source community, particularly gender diversity. There is certainly awkwardness and avoidance around the topic of sexuality. I don’t think either of those things are healthy. Humanity is diverse and sexual. The open source community would do well to accept this fact and attempt to rectify some of it’s shortcomings.

I think that many women agree with open source principles, if only because women tend to be more liberal and idealistic than men. And what is open source if not liberal and idealistic? Women do not, however, feel (generally) that their time is best spent debugging code for hours on end. What the open source community has failed to emphasize is the plethora of non-coding work that needs to be done. We need graphic designers, god help us. We need people to manage projects, to come up with new features, to do usability testing.

I have known very few other women who code. I have known many women, however, who enjoy spending their volunteer time building community tools. We, as the open source community, must reach out to these women and invite them into our projects and our conventions.

As far as sexuality is concerned, I think this problem is not specific to the open source community. This is a problem with America in general. We focus on sexuality as the pinnacle of self-worth, and the bottomless pit of sin. The open source community is built of smart people, and my hope is that they will outpace the general public in ridding themselves of these perceptions, but I think diversity of gender and sexual orientation must be a precursor to that exorcism.

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