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Bruce Perens

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Bruce Perens (see "Bruce Perens" on Wikipedia) is an extremely prominent member of the Open Source community.

He has been involved in a number of incidents related to women in open source.

LWN "women in open source" discussion" Edit

In a LWN thread in 2009, in response to the FSF mini-summit on Women in Free Software, Bruce Perens was a major contributor to discussions about women's participation in Open Source Software.

While claiming overall to recognise that "there is a problem" and that he was eager to listen to people's opinions on the cause of it, he repeatedly failed to listen to women who offered their experiences, and perpetuated many myths and silencing tactics throughout the discussion.

Some of the comments he made included:

  • That women aren't interested in open source, and that there "perhaps 200 across the entire Free Software community"[1] (An example of Invisibility; easily countered by List of women in FLOSS.)
  • That love of technology is an "especially male thing"[2] (an example of Gender essentialism)
  • That women-only safe spaces are what prevent men from believing their experiences [3]
  • That Autism is to blame [4] for bad behaviour of men in FLOSS
  • "Nobody is considering the men's side of this equation."[5]
  • Conflating Skud with Yuwei Lin[6], apparently because he didn't believe there were many women in open source and "did a google" and found Lin's name in the first page of results.
  • "Believe it or not (and no snide comments please) I have had women in the workplace make me uncomfortable because they treated me as a sexual object."[7] (an example of I've been hurt too)
  • Suggesting that the job of encouraging open source projects to be more welcoming falls on women "because you are better at it"[8] (Gender essentialism)


In response to this thread, the Geek Feminism blog called on women to "tell Bruce Perens you exist". Many members of the Geek Feminism community, as well as other women in open source, dived into the discussion, which turned out to be one of the high/low points of 2009 for women in open source (along with the Mark Shuttleworth at Linuxcon incident, EMACS virgins joke, and MikeeUSA).

The effect of this thread was described by Skud in a blog post, My Second Shift:

That LWN thread with Bruce Perens? That ate a day of my life. A whole day. I talked to some of the other women involved afterwards, and I’m not the only one. Between the anger and frustration, the difficulty of following the damn thread without a comments RSS feed, and having to express ourselves clearly and provide supporting documentation (over and over and over again), we lost perhaps hundreds of woman-hours that could otherwise have been spent, oh, I dunno, WRITING SOME DAMN SOFTWARE.

Involvement in MikeeUSA incidents Edit

He was one of the people MikeeUSA complained to after the deletion of his Sourceforge account during the Geek feminism harassment incident, although it appears Perens did not take any notice of Mikee's email.

Support of women in open source Edit

Bruce Perens is listed as one of the Seed 100 Funders of the Ada Initiative. He is listed at the "Analytical Engineer" level. This means that he donated at least $1000 to the organization during the first major fund drive when it was founded.

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