Women who complain about sexism in the geek community are sometimes accused of harming the community in various ways and are thus silenced. Examples of claimed harm include discouraging other women from joining, focusing on the actions of a minority of participants, or giving the mainstream media an opportunity to criticise the community. Women will be told that there are more productive ways to change the geek culture.
This silencing is particularly prevalent in Open Source Software, some of whose members view themselves as taking part in building a better world. Criticism of the community is therefore regarded as an attempt to damage the good work of the community.
Variants of this argument include:
- you shouldn't discuss sexism in geek communities
- you shouldn't discuss sexism in geek communities publicly; it should be taken up with individual offenders only, because anything else is "airing dirty laundry"
- you shouldn't discuss sexism in geek communities unless you have a certain level of standing in the community
- you shouldn't discuss sexism in geek communities unless you have made a certain number of 'positive' contributions unrelated to criticising sexism
- you shouldn't discuss sexism in geek communities unless you simultaneously and at great length note that the geek community is a wonderful place to be and you are simply criticising the actions of an extremely small minority
The modified 'unless' arguments are sometimes used disingenuously, but even when not so, women will generally find that no matter how high their standing or how enormous their non-feminist contributions, there is another critic who thinks her standing needs to be yet higher or her contributions yet greater to be allowed to be critical. The cumulative effect of having this argued every time sexism is brought up is to make all the arguments equivalent to "you shouldn't discuss sexism in geek communities".
In addition, many of the silencers perceive themselves as brave sole defenders of the geek reputation, and frame their arguments in terms of "I know everyone else thinks you are doing a great thing but..." The effect of this framing is to make the woman feel like she is following the herd and behaving thoughtlessly.
They ask me why I want to do such a horrible thing to open source as to blog about the things that happen. Very clearly I'm part of the problem by reporting it. Often they'll throw in something about me not understanding how open source culture works.
I’ve heard enough “harming the community” backlash for a lifetime over this one incident. That’s what I’m tired of. I’m also tired of community leaders who don’t have the courage to stand up and say “That thing you did was kinda not ok. Could you think about changing your behavior?”. Or to say “Wow, I screwed up, I’m sorry.”
- You are awful, too by Kate Harding:
Similarly, if you’re an atheist whose first response to something like this is, “Don’t blame atheists! Most of us aren’t assholes!” you are awful, too. You’re right–most of us aren’t! And that has nothing to do with the fact that this is happening on an atheist forum–not to mention at atheist conferences–and yet, instead of wondering, “How might I help clean house in this community I care about, which I do not wish to see filled with assholes?” your first instinct is to explain to women why they’re wrong.
- Here on this wiki: User_talk:184.108.40.206#Concerns
The geek feminism wiki makes me pretty uneasy, and feels like someone is tying a rope to the past and present to make it harder to move forward....how does keeping meticulous track of all the problems of the past and present help? What about the girl entering the community without any predispositions who encounters this site?