Stand and Be Counted

Posted by Nick Sieger Thu, 30 Apr 2009 03:07:47 GMT

From _why’s constructive post entitled “A Selection Of Thoughts From Actual Women”:

Noirin Plunkett: (Regarding Mike Gunderloy’s decision to leave the Rails team.) It seems like so often in these things, even the “good guys” just tsk-tsk and shake their heads, without being willing to stand up and be counted. Actions speak louder than words...

I don’t like to use this blog as a soapbox for non-technical content, but I too have been conflicted over the past week. So I’m standing up to be counted. As a father of two girls who are starting to show an interest in computing, I consider it my obligation. If you agree with me, I hope you will do so as well by posting a brief statement on your own blogs. If you do, send me a link and I’ll link to you from here. So here’s my statement:

I want the Ruby, Rails, open source, and web development communities to be a dignified, respectful, inclusive, and welcoming place. Acts like putting questionable imagery in a conference talk are regrettable and harmful to those aims. We’ve all been witnesses to off-color jokes, misogynistic back channel chatter and unnecessary, trolling comments. I pledge to do better to stand up and call this behavior out when I see it in conferences, online and other public settings. I don’t expect it to go away but I’m not going to tacitly condone it any longer.

I think we can have our cake and eat it too. We can have a welcoming community while still courting the creativity, edginess and even controversy that makes us who we are; we also need to actively listen and be open to alternative viewpoints. There’s always another side to any story and we need to seek it out, especially when it’s drowned out by online discussion boards run amok.

I’m looking forward to continuing the conversation at the Women in Rails panel next week. I hope to see you there.

Update: I think the individual at the source of the incident that sparked this debate has been through enough so I’m following others’ leads and have anonymized the post.

Nick Sieger

Other statements (Thank you!):



  1. Avatar Linda Eskin said about 1 hour later:

    Bravo. It will be hard to do, but worthwhile. Thank you for taking a stand.

    One of the things I stopped tolerating years ago was the derogatory use of the feminine gender. Things like “you throw like a girl,” or “what are you, a bunch of women?”

    I don’t get upset or angry over it, I just tell the person gently, but with authority, not to use my gender as an insult. Most are pretty taken aback, because it’s just something they’ve always done without thinking. But the usually see immediately why that’s not cool.

    Sometimes these efforts are like turning a freighter by splashing water against the hull with one’s hands. But with enough of us splashing, the change in direction will happen.

  2. Avatar knowtheory said about 5 hours later:

    Nick i’ll do you one better.

    Instead of feeding the cycle of rage and recrimination, let’s actually go out and *do* something.

    Why not go out and volunteer to help/teach someone?

    If there’s will to change stuff, let’s go do something.

  3. Avatar john said about 7 hours later:

    Thats great that you’re standing up and being counted. However, both the presenter and conference organizer have apologized (repeatedly). I think both the Ruby community has gotten the message and something like this is unlikely to happen again. Lets leave it in the past.

  4. Avatar Evan Light said about 9 hours later:

    My stand:

  5. Avatar Rich said about 14 hours later:

  6. Avatar Michael Easter said about 15 hours later:

    Well-said. Kudos for leading a movement towards a better place, and having the guts to stand up to a small cult of personality (at least as it appears to this bystander).

    Here is my response to you, Charles, and the others

    Taste and class may not win in the immediate-term, but it will always defeat utter tackiness on an asymptotic level.

  7. Avatar Gregory Brown said 1 day later:

    Excellent way to address this Nick. You gave me an opportunity to get involved without fighting, something I haven’t been able to figure out how to do since this whole fiasco begins.

    Here is my post:

  8. Avatar Gregory Brown said 1 day later:

    Oh wait, that’s your post :)

    Here’s mine for realz:

  9. Avatar Sarah Allen said 2 days later:

    Thanks for setting a trend of positive statements amidst the flurry of arguments. It is heart-warming to read your statement and others about the kind of community you want to create and be a part of.

    It is good to see that my initial impressions of the Ruby community were well-founded.


  10. Avatar Ryan Ripley said 2 days later:

    Here is my Stand and Be Counted message:

    Thanks, --Ryan

  11. Avatar Victoria Wang said 5 days later:

    Thanks for this. A lot of people are saying, “Well, let’s DO something about it”; however, I think making a public statement like this is just as important.

  12. Avatar design Miami said 13 days later:

    Creating a very open community can be extremely hard if you want to preserve the old ways. You’ll need to be very careful about approaching the whole idea.