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Mutual respect in our community

First of all I don’t use names because I don’t think that is relevant. If you followed the last 48 hours on Twitter then you know who they are but this blog post isn’t about attacking people but about understanding each other. No matter what gender and religion we have and where we live.

The last 48 hours I felt a shame of our WordPress community. Attacking someone because what he said felt wrong to you. And a lot reacted on that without understanding the person and his culture. And this all because someone said his country has beautiful women. What has nothing to do about treating women like objects but has everything to do about proud.

The first issue was obviously responding to something without even thinking about it and because of that put to much emotional context to it. Also writing a blog post about it and even attacking the guy. And to me that blog post was more disrespectful then the comment about beautiful women. And I think that guy was wrong because he didn’t write it to solve the issue but he write the post to create and escalate the issue. And that really hurts me because in this case the person is well known in the WordPress community. That shouldn’t matter but that does mean that you need to be careful about it.

The second issue is not understanding someones culture. I know how people are in Serbia and they are really respectful country. And not only Serbia but all the countries in the Balkan. I always feel welcomed and they really do their best for you feel at home. And that is amazing if you know what sometimes their salary is. Also you should not forget that they do celebrate international women’s day. They do give women flowers and if they can’t do that they will call them up and celebrate it. Seeing the map then it does surprise me that USA and Canada don’t celebrate this day even if they responded the heaviest on the comment.

The last issue is something what is on my mind this year is the meaning of equality. And the following questions is not to be demeaning but to think about it.  Around 44% of the speakers at WordCamp San Francisco was female. Is that equal? I don’t know what the diversity is in our community but if only 35% is female can that be seen as not equal? There are specific workshops for women. Is that discriminated. To me equality means having equal opportunities without checking what the numbers are. If 100% of the speakers are male then that should be fine if that are the best speakers who applied. Selecting someone to speak based on gender to me is disrespectful. You then don’t judge based on knowledge but on something completely different that should not be relevant.

The conclusion of this all is that I hate the attention this topic gets in our community. Not because I don’t care but because I believe that this makes the issue bigger then it really is. I never really felt this being an issue in Europe. But I can be wrong because I’m male.

19 Replies to “Mutual respect in our community”

  1. Maiken -

    # Answer to Marco

    I’ll be honest. As a woman, I’ve always felt that the WordPress community in Europe is pretty open. Anyone can join and you aren’t judged on age, gender or other things that don’t matter.
    However, the WordPress community isn’t the whole picture. It’s just a small part of the world and a small part of the tech community. And while people inside the community are welcoming, the world outside may be less welcoming.

    As long as I’ve been creating websites, I’ve always heard comments like “but you’re a girl” or the more optimistic stuff like “wow, for a girl you’re really good at technical stuff” and “I would never have guessed you’re a girl. You’re so good at this stuff.”

    Especially the last two comments make the tech community feel less welcome for woman like me. Because it doesn’t matter how good you are at something, you’ll always be reminded of your gender by someone when you least expect it. I’m glad I haven’t run into it in the WordPress community (yet), but outside of they community I have. Over and over again. It get’s really boring and you really need to learn how to not let these things get to you.

    I’ve actually grown quite defensive of hearing comments about my gender in combination with tech. Sometimes starting with “Yeah, I’m a woman, but…” I also feel more relaxed when I’m not the only woman attending a meeting.

    The subject (women working in tech business) has a long history. A long painful history. Comments can be taken the wrong way because of that. So I strongly disagree that when you say

    “I believe that this makes the issue bigger then it really is”.

    For you this may seem like a small issue. For me it’s a reality I meet very often. Me being a woman should have nothing to do with me building websites.

    You also wrote:

    “You then don’t judge based on knowledge but on something completely different that should not be relevant.”

    And I agree completely. It shouldn’t matter and the person with the best presentation should be picked. I would love to live in a world where gender doesn’t matter in that way, unfortunately however, we do live in a world where it matters. I hope that will change some day. The WordPress community has given me hope that it will.

    Reply

    Marko Heijnen -

    Thank you for your comment. I do agree with you that the issue is big outside the WordPress community but this blog posts is about the WordPress community. The one I know best. I’m not going to judge about other communities that I do know but not good enough.

    The point you mentioned about the comments you get about your quality in relationship of being a girl is a good one. That is part of the reason why I wrote this post. This is something we suddenly seem to do in the WordPress community. Setting up sites special for women in our community etc. To me that makes the subject “Women working in tech business” also something that applies to WordPress.

    Reply

  2. Helen H-S -

    This is probably a mistake, because you’ll draw the conclusion that I feel one way or another, but I don’t care.

    And that really hurts me because in this case the person is well known in the WordPress community. That shouldn’t matter but that does mean that you need to be careful about it.

    That’s exactly why that person should have been more careful about being professional in how he presented a job listing. I don’t care how other people are reacting – everybody is entitled to their own reaction, including you. However, if you cannot see that listing “beautiful women” as a part of a job description is unprofessional, even if it’s talking about the country, then I think we should accept this as a lost cause and move on. For the record, listing “beautiful people” would also have been unprofessional, but might have escaped notice because it wouldn’t have compounded the lack of professionalism with a gendered phrase.

    The second issue is not understanding someones culture.

    You are exposing your lack of understanding of the culture of others by insisting that the other party is wrong. Nobody here is completely wrong (or completely right) – the point is that what seems like a normal or silly statement often exposes historical issues that others face or are affected by in their lives. There is a culture around women in technology (and many other fields), as well the historic treatment and consideration of women, and whether or not you happen to like that culture, you should accept it and learn to understand it the same way you’re asking everybody else to understand that Balkan countries are really proud of their beautiful women (but apparently not their men).

    But I can be wrong because I’m male.

    You’re not wrong because you’re male, and that is a ridiculous statement. You are not wrong just because you were born a certain way – where you have gone wrong is being willfully dismissive of other peoples positions, feelings, and experiences. I understand why you would feel this way and would come to this conclusion, and if I didn’t I would also be wrong here. But you certainly aren’t taking a moment to see why somebody else would disagree with you or just be different from you.

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    Marko Heijnen -

    First of all thank you for your comment. I do appreciate it.

    I think the general issue here is how we see the job listing at Poststatus. To me I don’t add much value to a comment at a post. It’s like the hire/hireable walls at a WordCamp. It doesn’t have to be professional and maybe it’s an WordPress culture thing. We tend to be less strict in communication.

    I do understand the culture since I spent some time already in the USA and Canada. And I understand that it is more sensitive there. I have been involved in several communities years ago and I do get there are issues that maybe never will be resolved. I also don’t think the other party is wrong because of that but in the way he expressed himself before checking what is going on. Like using the word suing was a wrong thing to do. You should never say that in public like that.

    Me being a male was sarcastic placed but with a part truth in it. Sometimes it almost feels that you are the enemy. Like talking about understanding on this subject and then hear that you couldn’t know because you are male.

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    Jeffro -

    Me being a male was sarcastic placed but with a part truth in it. Sometimes it almost feels that you are the enemy. Like talking about understanding on this subject and then hear that you couldn’t know because you are male.

    This is exactly why I try my best not to chime in on the subject. I figure since I’m a male, nothing I say about Women in tech matters. Also, I think it increases the risk of being mobbed by angry women if you say something wrong. I’d like to stick up for women and talk about this subject more but I’ve seen other men get ripped apart for doing just that.

    Reply

  3. Sarah Gooding -

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. Americans who have never lived in Europe tend to be ignorant of how different the culture is. Many don’t understand that you can describe women as beautiful without objectifying / sexualizing them. I particularly liked this:

    “To me equality means having equal opportunities without checking what the numbers are. If 100% of the speakers are male then that should be fine if that are the best speakers who applied.”

    Well said!

    Reply

    Marko Heijnen -

    Thank you for your comment. I think the issue what makes things like this complicated is the mixture of gender and culture. And I’m sure the discussion will always be there but I really hope that the way we express our feelings will be less. The WordPress community should be a role model to the rest of the tech community.

    Reply

    Helen H-S -

    I used to wonder why people wanted to look beyond the application pool, but have since shifted. I would suggest this bit of reading to think about this a little bit more: http://www.dogsandshoes.com/2013/12/make-more-meritocratic-decisions-improve-diversity.html

    Reply

    Sarah Gooding -

    Helen – I can understand where this author is coming from in proposing that the applicant pool for conferences is likely not the best representation of the very best candidates. From my own experience I can agree that women are not likely to put themselves forward unless they feel like the foremost expert in their field, whereas men are often more confident, regardless of their understanding of a topic, to apply for speaking slots.

    However, I fundamentally disagree with the whole idea of championing “under-represented groups,” as that is an idea predicated on diversity as a penultimate value. In some situations I can see how diversity might create a sharper team of varied thinkers. But I never want diversity at the cost of quality speakers in a conference scenario and I reject the idea of quotas.

    Diversity is a value that Americans have championed quite vocally but it isn’t something that benefits ALL teams or all nations. So with the situation that originated this discussion, I feel that the critique of the advertisement was unfair.

    If Serbian men didn’t think that Serbian women were the most beautiful in the world, there might not be a Serbia at all. In the USA we consider ourselves a melting pot but other nations don’t have this same cultural value. They value perpetuating their people and preserving their culture. The criticism of a Serbian man being proud of Serbian women was imperialistic in many ways and it pushes our values on another people. In America we feel that we always should support diversity and the mixing of races and cultures, etc, and that’s great. That’s part of our culture of diversity and our identity as a melting pot. But for a small nation like Serbia to perpetuate its own culture, it’s imperative that its people are attracted to one another. I support that.

    I guess to boil it down, I’d say that diversity is great when it happens naturally. It may or may not add value but I don’t think we have to seek diversity out at all costs or force it on businesses originating in other cultures. And I realize we may have different opinions on this.

    For the record, I don’t think the original ad in question was intentionally exclusive. In fact, it made me smile. Him having his own culture/values doesn’t make me feel excluded simply because I’m a female, Puerto Rican/American and non-Serbian. It just makes me feel like I’m part of a big world with lots of different people. My thinking/reasoning capacity has nothing to do with my exterior or where I was born. I can appreciate his culture, even if I prefer my own.

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    Caspar Hübinger -

    This is the most comprehensive, wise, empathetic and professional response on the topic I’ve read so far. Bookmarked for later citation. Thanks, Sarah! It’s a huge relief and inspiration when someone on top of thinking the way you do manages to express themselves so deliberately.

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    Helen H-S -

    I’m not quite sure if the entire comment was directed at me or if you swerved into talking points – either way is fine, really, but I think I should be a little clearer that the suggested reading was solely about the merit of speakers who actually apply to speak thing, not about what I think of this particular “situation”.

    But I never want diversity at the cost of quality speakers in a conference scenario

    This is an oft-repeated statement, and it’s actually quite ugly in its insinuation – that the minority group(s) in question cannot possibly be of equal value. I understand what you mean, but it’s an ugly statement. The piece I linked talks about how those speakers gathered from means beyond the application were just as good, if not better, than the traditional pool of speakers. I may not personally believe in quotas, but I also don’t believe that being inclusionary via non-traditional approaches to the same task directly leads to a decline in quality.

    Frankly, I’m a little irritated that these conversations always devolve into “Americans are so sensitive” and “diversity should happen naturally”. Diversity doesn’t happen naturally, and it’s precisely because many are so dismissive of it. When you don’t feel welcome, or like your efforts or viewpoints aren’t welcome, the natural tendency is to stay where you are and surround yourself with similar people. I know this very well – did you know that Asians in the US marry *more* Asians than other races than they did 40 or 50 years ago, because there are more Asians in the US to choose from today? Why do you think places like the various Chinatowns even exist? Human tendency is to stick with the familiar, which everybody is guilty of, minority or not. I think we’ve been conflating diversity with integration (as in everybody, not just this conversation), the latter being a word that we avoid when it comes to this topic because of its historical connotations. True diversity isn’t just about numbers – it’s about representation and inclusion. Yeah, I hope that someday, it’s all natural, but it has to start somewhere. People need role models and indicators that not only are they welcome, they can thrive. If that starts with deliberately having more visible people who share a background with you, whether that’s race, gender, or socioeconomics, then I’m okay with that. I’m actually pretty shy and introverted, but I recognize that I can be a good role model for many different types – women, Asians, children of divorce, children of abuse, growing up without means. If I can help even one person who might otherwise not think about joining the world of technology, or the world of classical music, then it is worth putting on a persona of aggression and going for it. But, I don’t believe everybody has to be or is like me, and so I also believe in the benefits of actively seeking to include those can speak even more strongly to others. Being a good speaker is more than just your ability to speak and the strength of your content – it’s how relatable you are to your audience, and what you can do to grow that audience.

    I don’t believe I’ve actually said anything about what I personally think about the ad – I guess I might as well. My personal take is that objectification of people is not professional, period. I don’t really care a whole lot about the women part of “beautiful women” – it doesn’t bother me on an individual level. But, at the same time, I appreciate that it does bother others, and I think it’s a good thing that more and more “others” (e.g., not-women in this case) are noticing it, too. Believing that something isn’t exclusionary just because it doesn’t make me feel excluded is extremely small-minded, and again, dismissive of what other people think. It’s tantamount to believing that violent crime doesn’t happen because it doesn’t happen to you – an exaggeration, sure, but the same line of thinking.

    Reply

    Sarah Gooding -

    > This is an oft-repeated statement, and it’s actually quite ugly in its >insinuation – that the minority group(s) in question cannot possibly be >of equal value. I understand what you mean, but it’s an ugly statement.

    I didn’t mean to imply that minority groups couldn’t be of equal value, nor do I think it’s fairly characterized as ‘ugly’. I mean it for exactly how it reads without any added insinuation. To further explain, yes pursue diversity by all means if you value it. But in the event that your pursuit of diversity does not turn up equally-qualified candidates (and sometimes it may not), please do not insert someone who is less qualified. So if a conference organizer wants to broaden the pool of applicants by seeking out more applicants of different races and genders, that’s great! By all means, seek out minorities and women and please remember the shy white guys too. But in the end, once you have your expanded pool of applicants, please select them based on merit and do not offer special consideration for anyone based on race or gender. It is a conference organizer’s prerogative to select based on whatever criteria they see fit. But as a conference attendee, I would hope that I’m seeing the best and the brightest of the applicants. When I listen to a speaker, I don’t see male/female and I don’t think of the person in terms of race. It’s immaterial.

    >People need role models and indicators that not only are they welcome, >they can thrive. If that starts with deliberately having more visible >people who share a background with you, whether that’s race, gender, >or socioeconomics, then I’m okay with that.

    I respect your opinion here and perhaps that helps some people. Seeing others who look like me or share the same background isn’t what makes me feel welcome at an event. So while I haven’t experienced this, I can see how perhaps some people need that. I’m just not sure if it’s the duty of every conference organizer to arrange for diverse role models.

    >Believing that something isn’t exclusionary just because it doesn’t make >me feel excluded is extremely small-minded, and again, dismissive of >what other people think.

    I was just sharing how I felt about the statement. It wasn’t the “why” of what brought me to that conclusion, nor was it intended to be dismissive of others’ feelings. There were many ways for me to perceive the statement about the beautiful Serbian women, if I wanted to make my feelings about it a reason act on offense. Sure, I can see how you might think it small-minded. Just letting it be as a cultural statement and looking for the best in his intentions was how I chose to perceive it. I could have perceived it through a lens of feeling excluded because I’m not traditionally beautiful in a Serbian sense, or I could have felt indignation that it seemed he might only be looking to appeal to male engineers. But I think communication is about doing your best to see someone’s intention and in many cases it’s best to offer the benefit of the doubt. When he apologized for coming across in a way that hurt people’s feelings and said it was only cultural, I took him at his word. I’m not interested in policing speech on the internet to shut down anything that might be perceived as sexist, racist, etc, or forcing apologies with threats. Perhaps people cannot choose their feelings, but we can choose our reactions. For my part, I’d rather choose to cut someone some slack and look for the best.

    Milan Ivanovic -

    I really tried to stay away from the whole thing, and as this one is going for almost the second day, I think as a Serbian, I own a bit of explanation, and my thoughts about the whole thing.

    As I said I am Serbian, and lots of stuff when you translate it simply looses it’s touch, feel.. And when it’s written, it’s even worse.

    To get the full idea and the let’s call it a “feeling” on whole thing, you really need to be a part of the Serbian people and culture. We have a history dated from 7th century, and through all the centuries, we were so proud and happy with our women in general. NEVER considering them as objects and you CAN’T put that label on us. You. Just. Can’t. I am the part of this culture, and I am sure that we are not like that.

    I spent 8 months working and living in Norway, and every single time that I mentioned that I am from Serbia, I got labeled that we are terrorists, mafia, and all the bad things. People were judgemental, and not even knowing where is Serbia, thinking that we are part of Russia, Syria, or whatnot. You can’t judge us, any of you that doesn’t even know where is our country located, haven’t ever visited Serbia, haven’t heard the pride in voice of the Serbian when he is talking about Serbian girls.

    For the time me being in Norway, Norwegian told me so many times that they are not religious, and not believing in God and religion, and that the only thing that they believe in, is: Vikings took all pretty ladies from England and brought them to Norway. Brought. Them.

    I have seen the ad that Prelovac posted. My opinion, not sexist, didn’t mean any harm. I know so. It’s is literally translated Serbian saying.

    We are 7 million people nation living in Serbia, comparing to the States (sorry for mentioning and I really don’t mean any disrespect on that) yes, we are small nation, in population, yes, obviously, in history, not so much, but our pride when we talk about our women are far beyond the boundaries of Serbia.

    I would really love for all of you to come and visit Serbia, to feel the warmth of all men and women here and you would see that all those bad labels that we got and still getting are simply not true. All those wars and all bad media things got us where we are now, and it’s not beautiful at all, but, we are do have beautiful women, beautiful men, beautiful people.

    Why do we have that saying only for beautiful women, I don’t know. And I can’t answer you that. There are some things that you just take as-is. But, what I do know is Serbians are all about giving compliments and not just to Serbian women. Maybe that saying stayed in people because we have repeated it for who knows how many times.

    Don’t blame us, and please try not to judge, Serbia already has too much of some kind of a bad reputation. Either people thinking that we are mafia, terrorist, but I would love to invite you to visit Serbia, and to see all these beautiful people on streets, walking, and not feeling objectified or threatened.

    Rarst -

    @Milan

    Please note that I understood cultural context of remark just fine, it is often said about countries in this region. The issue is not with the culture or country.

    What happened was that even without any bad intent that remark *did* shape original comment in negative way. Which was important to be highlighted because I think pointing that out is vastly preferable than having people *silently* write off company in their minds.

    It didn’t help that that feedback wasn’t taken seriously (in my opinion) and “if-apology” bombed (in my opinion).

    This is not about using cultural phrase, this is about cultural phrase accidentally ruining [international] job advertisement. Not because people are overly sensitive (I am eastern european, male, and dense – yet still noticed it), but because it actually happened and that shouldn’t be dismissed. It being cultural norm doesn’t magically cancel out that it did screw up the message.

    Rarst -

    > However, I fundamentally disagree with the whole idea of championing “under-represented groups,” as that is an idea predicated on diversity as a penultimate value.

    While I get the easy logic of this point of view and sometimes have trouble side stepping it myself, I think that the fallacy of it that diversity is considered unnatural state (since it’s being “forced”) and harmful to status quo (since established group “suffers” from enforcing it).

    There is however completely different angle to discover. The one where diversity is *natural* state, which established group is *suppressing*, which is being detrimental to everyone involved.

    When we feel that diversity is pushed with too much force we need to consider why is that much force necessary and what opposing force is.

    Reply

    Sarah Gooding -

    Unfortunately, as much as we may want it to be, diversity in tech is not the natural state. Despite many of my female friends having computers available to them at a young age and supportive parents, they simply were not interested in them and still aren’t. Sure there are a lot of studies out there that say education is to blame and opportunity isn’t the same. But from what I’ve seen, even with classes open to all and lots of learning opportunities, part of the reason women make up such a small number in tech is because many are simply not interested. I don’t see that as a horrible inequality or problem to solve. So in terms of an “opposing force”, in many cases I think that force is disinterest, not a lack of opportunity.

    Rarst -

    > simply not interested

    I don’t buy this, especially in “simply” flavor. Brain is born curious in everything and anything (as long as it doesn’t stray too far from self-preservation 🙂

    I have two small nieces and at recent family holiday I found myself snapping at adult who *told* them girls are not interested in playing with car toys. More remarks like this and many years later they might find themselves “simply not interested” in cars, but there wouldn’t be anything natural, normal, or simple about it.

  4. Mike -

    Like I said in a previous tweet, it was very unfortunate that the word “people” wasn’t used because along with the rest of the text, it would have conveyed a very positive impression. OTOH, if it had been me seeing the original, I would have emailed the poster and never made an issue out of it unless I really believed that a chauvinistic motivation was really intended.
    I think it is very important that people don’t become self-righteous, holier than thou, self-appointed gods. We all make mistakes, we all can do better. There are many situations in life that are apart from the norm, whether by design or by accident, and it is an human instinct to overlook these while espousing a cause or ideology.
    While I am an American, I have live outside of the US for most of the time since 1979, but still endure snap judgements in Europe based on my accent and the dislike of America’s politics and isolation by Americans who question my patriotism. Generally, neither group even bothers to ask me why this is the path I have taken.

    Reply

    Marko Heijnen -

    Personaly I don’t know. First it is a saying in Serbia and second I do say it to friends that we have beautiful women in The Netherlands. And I do see myself as one of the last persons that objectify women. Saying something like this wasn’t a wrong thing to say. Maybe in this case it was because of the more formal tone but I wouldn’t say so and I don’t think this was a mistake at all.

    I always think the other way around. What if it’s was a woman that said that Serbia had beautiful men. I don’t think I would have write this post and that a lot of people would have complained about it.

    Reply

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