LUGging around a crisis

I have spent the last little bit of time reading HOWTO Encourage Women in Linux. This proceeds from the thesis “Why are there so few women in Linux” to the obvious subsequent question, “What can be done about it.” Unfortunately, the author fails to ask “Is there really a lower percentage of women in Linux than other areas of computing?”

In the introduction three overheard questions are posed:

My girlfriend hates Windows, how can I encourage her to use Linux?” This is rather like asking “My girlfriend is unhappy with her car. How can I encourage her to get a Mustang just like mine?” A more enlightened person might wish to know why she hates her current operating system, why she is still using it, and what alternatives she has considered.

“Almost no women attend my local LUG [Linux Users Group]. How can I fix this?” How does this compare to the gender breakdown of other local inherently geek-laden events? Or is it possible that your local LUG meeting is at a time or place undesirable to female geeks? Like the same evening across town from the Marion Zimmer Bradley Fan Club Meeting? Identify the problem and its cause before seeking solutions. That’s called “Science.”

“Why aren’t there more women in open source?” Why aren’t there more women in programming in general?

Luckily for us, the author addresses my rebuttal question in chapter 2. The valid points are unfortunately interspersed with red herrings and spurious arguments. It boils down to a collection of sexism both real and imagined, seasoned lightly with both real and perceived differences between men and women.

Chapter 3 is our handy Do And Don’t List. To be brief, Don’t be a sexist or a jerk. Be a decent human being. Indeed, these are fine tips for any workplace. Please, don’t save them for the Linux Users Group meeting.

I am only a feminist inasmuch as I think being a woman should not automatically close doors to me or insure that I earn less. Oh, and I think it would be great if there were less violence in the world in general, particularly against women. Sexism is real, but in the end I feel this article sees a lot more sexism in the world than really exists. Of course no mere man is allowed to say so; it takes a woman. I furthermore think that most of the examples of sexism used in this document could be neutralized with a slightly thicker skin and a witty retort.