Gender, competence and the Ubuntu philosophy

I want to go on record and say that I do not believe that gender plays any part in a person’s competence in leadership, intelligence or mental capacity. I’m tired of people questioning another person’s intellectual or technological abilities based on their biological plumbing. I’m sick of female members of technological communities feeling like they need, or want, to hide their gender because of very real bias they have sensed against them.

It’s slightly off-topic, but also for the record, I’m frustrated that this attitude exists in the music, and especially guitar-playing community as well, since that is something else I enjoy participating in.

Thankfully, this experience isn’t universal or constant. I know many ladies among us do not feel as if the gentlemen in and around our overall Ubuntu Linux community are sexist pigs. At least, I would wager they do not think that of most of them. And yet, the problem has not yet been eradicated.

We have at least one staff member in the forums who has chosen not to reveal their gender. That’s fine with me. This person was chosen to join the staff based on the merit of their service to the community, not their plumbing, not the color of their skin, not their politics, not their religion, not based on any other issue. This person is a competent and very helpful member of the community. Yet, there was a recent discussion about whether this person was a man or a woman. Why? Does it matter? The person is a wonderful addition and part of our community who would be missed if absent.

If a member of our community chooses to remain anonymous in name, gender, race/ethnicity, native language, place of origin, religion, political stance, sexual preference, or other things, let’s respect that. Some do so because they are private people who simply don’t wish to share their private lives. That’s cool. Some choose not to share out of fear of rejection, a fear that we often do not cause, but which is based on past experiences with which we were not involved. However, this is a fear which may be inflamed by our manner of address, joking, or perceived pushiness in asking questions that are too personal in nature, and therefore inappropriate…this is something we need to pay attention to on our end.

To the extent we are able, let us continue to make our community as safe of an environment as possible for people to be themselves. Let’s continue to encourage participation by all without strings attached, without the need for disclosing unnecessary details about their lives. At the same time, let us also allow the freedom to celebrate the differences shown by those who desire to reveal the personal bits about themselves, and by doing so, do all we can to make anyone who wants to be a part to feel welcome.

I am who I am because of who we all are…Ubuntu.

10 thoughts on “Gender, competence and the Ubuntu philosophy

  1. Well said. As a active member of UF I would hope that no one their feels threatened by users. I am not aware of the debate regarding this persons gender nor do I know who you are talking about but all of the UF Staff do a great job and I have never stopped to consider their gender, race, religion…etcetera.

  2. I absolutely agree,to the free software community and any community real assets are people regardless of their gender.
    Props Matthew!

  3. Different people are offended about different things. There’s no way to satisfy them all and political correctness only makes it worse.

    I don’t know about that debate, but I find it very natural for one to be curious about who one is talking to, the internet being such a cold medium.

  4. It’s sad to see something like this in this community. It’s inexcusable for anyone following the Ubuntu Code of Conduct. There is no excuse for such prejudice, nor for the inquisitiveness that you’ve said happened.

    Thank you for bringing it to our attention.

  5. Good point, Matthew. I wish there was no need to remind us of what you said… maybe in an ideal world or maybe in the future.

    In the meantime, thanks for the article and thanks for being part of our wonderful staff.

  6. Lucian: if a person is offended because I chose not to attempt to show respect, that is my problem. If they are offended even after I have done all in my power to make them feel welcome, that is theirs.

    Herman: agreed. Respect is a learned behavior, one that must be taught. This is precisely what makes the Ubuntu community unique and wonderful–the focus on treating people well, as encoded in the Code of Conduct.

    Thanks to all who have made comments so far.

  7. the bigger the community the more its reflects the whole society. This will only get worse as Ubuntu grows and with more and more active users around the world this only gets more complicated especially if they put in their politics and religion.

    As you can see on your daily news its not exactly common the repect each other in all that.

    What makes the CoC very important and probably forms a challenge for the community if they want to maintain or better said _evolve_ the Ubuntu spirit in the right direction.

    In any case not all men are gentlemen and to make sure I do not discriminate: not all women are ladies.

    Lets stress the importance of the CoC. Ill leave it at that.

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