A Selection Of Thoughts From Actual Women

April 29th 12:38
by why

It would be totally presumptious and ridiculous for me to try to make the call on whether the dreaded GoGaRuCo incident was offensive to female hackers. As it turns out: I’m not a woman, I wasn’t there.

But I’ve been around for the aftermath, to witness that first-hand. (And I’m not going to make a judgement on that either, because I am patently wrong at all times.) However, I am going to steal this chance to quote as many of the lady Rubyists as I can find.

I know everyone wants this topic to end. Go then. Or: stay and hear the feminine perspectives concentrated; we hear the other side quite enough. (And I definitely don’t deserve to talk as much as I do.)

Linda Eskin: Watching the RoR / DHH / pr0n / GoGaRuCo fiasco, shaking my head that some just can’t see why there would be problem.

Dana Jones: What about a presentation about writing code on deadline: “Delivering Like a Birth Mom.” Or how about graphic images of up-close breastfeeding in a talk titled “Nursing Your Projects Along.” I have four kids. I breastfed. I’ve hunted. I even like porn! But two great tastes don’t always taste great together, and that is the point that so many seem to have failed to make, or to get.

Amy Newell: I understand that the ruby community prides itself on its un- or anti-professionalism. But some professional norms exist for very good reasons: because they make it easier for people of different backgrounds and life experiences to come together and work productively and respectfully. One doesn’t have to be an uptight square to suggest that aggressive displays of sexual content at programming conferences perhaps decrease, rather than increase the ability of those attending to learn and focus on the technology itself. Titillation is certainly good marketing, but frankly, if you can’t find a way to make your presentation interesting that doesn’t include thonged asses, your presentation isn’t interesting. Not everyone responds to tits and ass, but everyone can respond to honest, creative, intelligent command of the material and eagerness to share it.

Denise: Only six women at the conference… it explains everything, off course the majority liked it! […] the issue is not about censorship and freedom of speech, the issue is about mutual respect, there are no rules or laws for this, only human judgement.

Sarah Allen: I think the Ruby community is awesome. The weird shit is reflective of society as a whole and the tech industry in particular. Sometimes people are jerks. Sometimes nice people act like jerks. However, the cool stuff is genuine. The enthusiasm is infectious. It’s not just a love the latest whiz bang techno-goodie (although there is a lot of that); many folks are interested in contributing to something bigger, something that makes the world a better place, even in the kinds of small ways that software can sometimes help.

Julia Evans: In any case, this is a good example of how insular the software development environment is. It is a boy’s club, where locker-room behavior is overlooked, and indeed, not even acknowledged.

Deirdre Saoirse Moen: DHH’s responses pretty much follow my own take on the issue despite our differences in taste. […] I didn’t see it, granted, but I generally don’t have an issue with pr0n, though it isn’t my cuppa either.

Libbey White: (Also, don’t miss her joke about bringing rhinestone-encrusted mace cans to RailsConf.) i’m not all freaked out or anything, but it does set a certain tone that i’m leery of. (i thought amy newell kinda nailed it.)

Desi McAdam: (Who is moderating a discussion on women at RailsConf.) […] it is an emotionally difficult discussion and I have been trying to keep my opinion to myself.

Audrey Eschright: Ruby (and Rails in particular) loves the rock star image. You see it in job posts, how people talk about their work, and the way Rubyists rant on their blogs. It’s macho, it can be offputting to both genders, and it makes it easy in this kind of situation to say, “what’s your problem? I’m just busy being awesome”. It’s also a significant barrier to adoption for people who aren’t already a part of this culture, and don’t find it appealing.

Lindsay Ucci: Getting women involved in the IT world is not the main issue here. It’s about those if us that are already here. I, and many like me, have felt extremely uncomfortable in work situations because of the men I worked with & their “macho jokes.” However, I don’t even really think that this particular issue is a women vs. men debate. I was disappointed by the presentation simply because it was, in my opinion, inappropriate for a professional setting.

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…

Jessica Ann Yeo: (Also to Mike.) I read the D16 – Gender: Integrated Report of Findings and if I had to work in the environments described there, I know I’d leave too. Good for you for standing up for your values. I’m glad to see that at least some guys are more enlightened.

Beth C.: (Ibid.) It’s great to see that there are people out there who get it. Thank you.

Charlotte Oliver: (Ditto.) Applause. Thank you.

Karen Reid: […] I hope that the core developers will soon realize the talent that they are losing through their reprehensible behavior.

Renae Bair: So big fucking deal if Matt Aimonetti showed you some chicks in thongs to make a somewhat amusing point. YES, Matt’s slides gave me major douche chills. It was odd and I didn’t quite like it. But I was not offended, nor did I care how professional/unprofessional it was.

Rose: As a young women in tech, I can tell you I would be extremely uncomfortable in a classroom of thirty young men and me if an instructor used sex as a metaphor for teaching. There are so many other things in nature and society that can be used it’s best to not bring sex into it because most people are uncomfortable in public because of it. I think my discomfort comes from the fact that we need to maintain a respectable attitude towards one another to get along and a lot of men have enough trouble seeing women as intellectual equals without a respected community expert or leader bringing those attitudes to everyone’s attention.

Sarah Mei: (Who is moderating a discussion on women at RailsConf.) I voted for it, actually, because CouchDB is one of those things that’s the new hotness and I haven’t had a chance to play with it, and besides, he wouldn’t actually put porn in the slides. Right? […] I’m a minority in this community. I know that, and generally I can ignore it and go along thinking it’s a meritocracy of ideas and code. Then I encounter a woman’s thonged rear on the screen at a conference, 20 feet tall, and I remember, oh yeah, people like me don’t belong here. To most of these men around me, I am, at best, an oddity, and at worst, a sexual target. I feel a little less safe.

Victoria Wang: DHH’s attitude seems to say that the more we lower ourselves to the most base level of marketing scum in the name of entertainment, the better, even if at the end of the day there are no more women, or anyone worth knowing, in the room. It kind of makes me want to never touch Rails code again.

Jenna Fox: (Below.) Am I supposed to leave one of my creative passions because the community is full of sexist arseholes and men who don’t stand up against injustice?

Amy Hoy: (Below.) And if people don’t “get” your “jokes,” the correct response is not “There’s something wrong with you” but rather “Lemme take that one back to the drawing board.” Teachers don’t get to blame their students, writers don’t get to blame their readers, and comedians never get to blame their audience.

Liz Koegh: (Read all of it, very analytical.) There’s a subconscious association going on in that show, too; another proximity which is harder to spot. We’ve just experienced words of technology – key phrases like scalability, REST, public interfaces – with images of women whom we’re told are available for visual sexual gratification. There are a few men in some of the images; they appear to me to be in positions of power and influence. The images of women, on the other hand, tend to be submissive. So we’re learning, subconsciously, that women associated with technology are also associated with sexual gratification and submissiveness. (The only strong women in the slideshow are associated with conflict, which we try to avoid.)

Cameron: Censorship will not change people’s minds or make them explore themselves. In fact, by letting these things out in the open, we in the tech community should use this as a point of discussion and perhaps even chastising. It is difficult for men to examine their own privilege because it manifests itself in complicated ways. Men also have to be willing to listen critically to what others are saying.

Anita Kuno: (Below.) It confirms my gut feeling as well that the gatherings that are the most appropriate for my information intake needs are small meet-ups and local events.

Renai Fox: (Below.) We don’t yet live in a nudist paradise where people don’t have hang-ups about sex issues. It doesn’t matter if you think other people should stop being “prudes”, it was obvious that the images would make some people feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. If the conference wasn’t intended to make everyone feel welcome, then what was it? A club.

Catherine Devlin: (Actually a Pythonista, but still…) The key is the right to complain safely. When complaints are predictably met with accusations of “overreacting”, “political correctness”, and “intolerance”, the resulting message is: Be like us, be silent, or leave.

Sarah Taraporewalla: Was I offended by the presentation? I don’t know; I wasn’t there, so I don’t feel that I can really comment. Was I offended by the reactions and the aftermath? Yeah, I was, although I was not surprised. Would I want to get in my DeLorean and stop Matt from doing the presentation? Hell-to-the-no. I think that we should embrace this storm and let it be a catalyst to changing our minds, our behavior and our industry.

Sara J. Chipps: (Representing .NET.) It is difficult to encourage young girls to get in this field. I get emails all the time. It is scary being “the only girl in your class,” and one of three in a room of fifty people. It’s scary to ask questions when you’re afraid your entire gender will be judged by your grasp of a concept. Asking girls to brave these situations because writing software is fun, and interesting, and exciting is a moot point when faced with these type of stories.

Leah Silber: (An organizer of GoGaRuCo.) I find the generalization that this offended women to be offensive. It offended people — not women selectively or by any majority. See? It’s a slippery slope and we’d best err on the side of being open-minded, rather than calling for book (or slide, as it were) burnings.

I’ll end there, for now. These are just excerpts of a battle that is really sprawling. I’m trying to make this thorough, but reaction on Twitter is particularly hard to follow. (Naturally, if any of you who I’ve quoted above feel misrepresented, I’ll be glad to replace it or remove it.)

Anyway, if you are a hacker mademoiselle who has a comment, please post below (a link even) or send it my way on Twitter.

Now begin the comments …



said on April 29th 07:55

Good research _why! Good responses ladies! Nothing else to add, on my behalf.

August Lilleaas

said on April 29th 08:02

How sensible! Now I don’t have to guess what women say about this.

Kent Fenwick

said on April 29th 08:06

This was a very nice post.

I was wondering yesterday what the Ruby Women had to say about this. I had a chance to briefly speak with Dana Jones (who is awesome by the way) who had great insight but seeing everything like this is great. It certainly doesn’t answer the question or prove anything either way, but it does give context and depth to the debate.

Great work.



said on April 29th 08:07

I’m not a feminist but I was offended by the slides and I would have walked out of that presentation because they would have made me uncomfortable and I would not want to be thought to condone them with my silence.


said on April 29th 08:10

One positive out of all of this is that is has shone the spotlight on the issue of lady hackers and the kind of discriminations that they face. It has made me look at the way I act around my (solitary) female co-worker making sure I’m not being a sexist jerk. Also giving her the same amount of help and attention that I do for my other co-workers.

Ryan Platte

said on April 29th 08:14

Sex-object-oriented presentation. Sickening, and lacking basic respect for the person (the audience, the model, and the presenter himself).

Thanks to everyone who’s speaking up.


said on April 29th 08:19

Nicely Done.


said on April 29th 08:22

Maybe we’d be more successful in reforming the community if we reduced things to terms everyone can understand.

I’d love to see less douches in our community. We need a “don’t be a douchebag” campaign.

Jenna ‘Bluebie’ Fox

said on April 29th 08:24

This is why I don’t go on freenode anymore except when I need help. I feel like I either have to hide my gender and pretend to be something I’m not, or I feel.. endangered. It is totally a boys club, and while the vast majority of guys on freenode and presumably at conferences like this are really great people, they always seem to be silent when stuff like this happens. It is a lonely, vulnerable feeling.

I think you can all imagine, for a moment, if you had gone to a conference on womens rights, surrounded by feminists and regular women who mostly act like you are strange, unusual, giving you strange or surprised looks, watching a presentation littered with pornographic imagery of men as though they didn’t even expect you might be there… You’d probably feel uncomfortable. The difference of course is that you could leave without a second thought. Am I supposed to leave one of my creative passions because the community is full of sexist arseholes and men who don’t stand up against injustice?

I don’t know, but more and more, I’m distancing myself from you guys. Female hackers are out there. We just aren’t at the conferences or the chat rooms. Eventually the sense of alienation builds greater and greater till we tend to just give up on it and do something else.. Web design, Illustration, Music… Something with a culture of caring and accepting. I will say this though, _why’s rooms on freenode have some of the nicest people in them that I’ve ever met. :)

Matt Todd

said on April 29th 08:25

Thanks for sharing these. I’m kind of lost on this, not having been there for the presentation and not actively following the discussion.

My initial response at the beginning was “Big fucking deal, I didn’t see anything offensive in the slides,” and I still don’t.

Unfortunately, that makes me sort of a bad guy; but I just don’t see the larger evil.

I wish I were enlightened, and some of these comments are enlightening, I do now see moreso why it is legitimately a big deal.

I am still conflicted by the “debacle”; ultimately, I don’t see the necessary connection to the lack of women in the Ruby/Rails community or in IT and this behavior. I think, to a degree, that a “focus to bring women into the community” sounds contrived, that natural curiosity or a normal introduction isn’t good enough.

Let me clarify: I think it odd that we say that we need to “involve women in the community” (or anybody, for that matter) against their own volition. Isn’t it someone’s own choice and a bit of chance that introduces them into the community? (Perhaps this is why I’m not on the evangelism team, haha.)

Or are we talking further, or more specifically, of creating a gender-neutral environment? Even so, if this were the case, I don’t quite see the value of arguing to curtail people’s behaviors beyond saying “I’m offended” or “that was offensive, please be considerate of my opinions,” except maybe to be clear what was offensive.

I feel that I am dim on the topic, so I hope that my commentary here can engender an educational response from someone who can illuminate the topic.

Peter Szinek

said on April 29th 08:25

Andrea Dallera is a guy :-) (Andrea is a typical Italian male first name)

Jenna ‘Bluebie’ Fox

said on April 29th 08:27

Thanks to all the good guys speaking up in the comments too. I really like your anti-douchbag campaign idea Phill, but perhaps the name could be something other than a feminine hygiene product? :)


said on April 29th 08:31

Peter Szinek: Oh yikes, sorry bout that. Okay, Andrea’s out of there.

Matt Todd: Can you at least see that men are not listening to women in this situation? Just talking and talking as if they decided everything?

Jenna ‘Bluebie’ Fox

said on April 29th 08:31

@Matt Todd: If you wanted to play American Football, but hypothetically, it were a womens sport, would you join a girls football team? Would you feel at all uncomfortable or alienated in that situation? This isn’t different.

Ted Benson

said on April 29th 08:32

_why — Thanks for putting this together. The presentation itself was bad enough, but the inability of key members of the Rails community to recognize the problem is even worse.

Mike Woodhouse

said on April 29th 08:37

I think a point that a number (possibly quite a large number) of fairly vocal people seem to have missed is that something is, by some relevant definitions, that which causes offence. If a number of those attending the presentation were offended, and I think by now it’s pretty clear that this was the case, then the presentation was offensive.

The “get over it” brigade seem, in large part, to be those who are as yet too emotionally immature to understand that their own sensibilities and sensitivities are not necessarily the perfect set and that people who do not share them are not defective because of this. My children are like that; it’s OK, they’re children. Sadly, the developer community has historically been prone to this: we should get out more.

Matt Todd

said on April 29th 08:45

@_why Yep, I can definitely see that many will decide immediately that they didn’t mind the presentation and see nothing wrong. But I don’t give two shits about them: changing these people is near impossible, and I’m certainly not one to do it without a better understanding, at least. I’m curious, I want to be understanding and capable of helping change the attitude of the community, which means addressing this behavior as I come in contact with it (which, to be honest, hasn’t been much thus far). It may be simply that, for the most part, I don’t hang out with douchebags in the Ruby/Rails community, or am too oblivious to realize it. Hell, I could be a douchebag, though I don’t think I am _

@Jenna Thanks for the analogy, totally get that. Even a segregated team would be a little alienating. So the thing to take home is the challenge to make the community inclusive? Is this enough, or the right problem?

I’ve worked with women before in the Ruby/Rails community, and I don’t think it was any different than when I work with men or any combination.

It’s both a blessing and a curse not having encountered blatant sexism or bigotry in our community, since it means that I’m either blind or unfamiliar enough to be ineffective in discourse (as I think I am now, sorry). Sometimes it makes me wonder if it’s blown out of proportion, too, which I don’t want to.

Nick R

said on April 29th 08:50

Nice write up – speaking (as it were) as a Toastmaster, this kind of presentation insensitivity to the audience really clouds the message. He may (or may not) have been able to get more people interested in CouchDB, but we’ll never know now because everyone’s glued to the concept of thonged rear ends.


said on April 29th 08:52

You know, I think people should stop being so obstinate. I’m offended that some people were offended. You know what? I’d like to enact violence on the arseholes who offended. But you know what stops me? Common social decency. And, something else, probably jail.

Just because you feel like you’re expressing yourself through some kind of edge social ideal or whatnot doesn’t mean you should go and express it. Nobody is trying to stop anybody, and hey, look, this guy went and did his preso anyway, and it’s caused a commotion, mostly because that dude who is like the best, says it’s OK, or something. But he wont respond coz part of his marketing entails not responding to stuff like this because he’s too good.

I reckon, stuff has like, come to here, party because of this arrogance, and party because of technical awesome, and I don’t subscribe to the “Matz is nice so we’re all nice so we’re all nice” coz sometimes it’s quite socially reasonable to get pissed off and angry but, come on.

Come on.

Geeks are reknowned for their social inability, can we please stop continuing the stereotype as of now? That’s what this ordeal strikes of, to me. Just plain old social inepticy.

So there.


said on April 29th 08:53

Oh, and to be clear, I mean, the initial preso as inepticy, not, like this post. This post was socially rather useful and useful. OK. Is that how you spell inepticy? Inepiciticici.. gah.

Matt Todd

said on April 29th 08:55

@Mike Woodhouse
Well said. If I could summarize this whole discourse, it would be with that last paragraph.

Luigi Montanez

said on April 29th 08:57

@Matt: No, you’re certainly not a douche. While I see nothing wrong with the slides either, the issue here is that other people definitely were offended by them.
And as such, if we are to be a welcoming community of people, we should take into account all viewpoints for things like this. It’s really that simple.

But I think Twitter and blog storm has resulted in a mob mentality, and there is definitely a piling on here against Mattetti and DHH .

Nikolai Weibull

said on April 29th 08:57

The problem isn’t porn. The problem is that some haven’t understood that porn could be a problem.


said on April 29th 09:07

I’m not quite sure I understand what all the fuss is about. Was there some invisible force holding people in their seats, so that if/when they became offended by the presentation, they could not stand up and walk out? It doesn’t matter if this offense was caused by porn, politics, or whatever. The main point I take away from this “fiasco” (I’ll call it an overreaction) is that people would rather sit idly by and then become offended at something, rather than be proactive and vote with their feet.


said on April 29th 09:22

it seems that the RoR rock stars are trying to pawn off their sex video to show they still matter. Even though a lot of people still love the music and don’t really care about the image.


said on April 29th 09:37

@Ryan….I can’t believe you would address the upstanding women noted on this blog entry by the very sexist and misogynistic term “ladies”. You should be ashamed of yourself. You should flog yourself repeatedly. I am officially removing myself from the Ryan Activism committee…I simply can’t feel good about advocating you any longer.


said on April 29th 09:41

I didn’t think the presentation was offensive at all. You see much worse on TV, on billboards, everywhere around you (plus there’s nothing wrong with the human form or sex). I showed it to my wife and she said “not offensive, but where are the scantily clad guys”. Which made sense – there’s nothing wrong with pictures of the human body but this was purely “images for blokes”

However, I’m not white and Sarah Mei’s comment struck a chord.

I’ve often been surrounded by white people, making comments about race that they think are inoffensive and biting my lip because they genuinely don’t mean any harm and I don’t want to kick up a fuss. But, in the back of my mind I’m thinking “people like me don’t belong here”.

So thanks Sarah for helping me understand and _why for bringing it to my attention.


said on April 29th 09:46

It’s not like there was actually porn or naked people in the slides. And many of the slides did refer to men. I think a lot of the people complaining would actually have not minded if they were at the presentation, but are just getting upset because a lot of other people are also upset.


said on April 29th 09:49

there was an excellent reddit comment that helped clarify my thinking on the matter


said on April 29th 09:51

If there’s a piling on against DHH , it’s because his statements as a community leader are in and of themselves a piling on against those offended by the presentation.

Richard Pinneau

said on April 29th 10:01

If you’ve watched the award-winning “Mad Men” dramatic series about people stuck in an advertising corporation in the early 1960s, you’ve (hopefully) be astounded that such immature, gender-bigoted, outrages existed that recently in the U.S. But then it was (*was*) a “man’s world” back then.

So much of the tech world seems content to delude itself that it can/should continue as an insular “man’s world.”
Sadly, this brightest, most creative sector of modern business remains stuck in a slum of the blindest, most hide-bound bigotry and objectification.

Abuse of a religious or ethnic minority in such a setting would not have been tolerated.

Perhaps this incident will spark a turn toward equal consideration for the gender that is severely in the minority of most tech professions – but an enormous portion of the economy that employs tech professionals.

Dana Jones

said on April 29th 10:01


While there aren’t many women in #rubyonrails, I’m in there pretty frequently. Very few of the men there have made an issue in a negative way about my gender, and most have been overwhelmingly accepting. People who don’t know me usually assume there I’m male (and I rarely correct them, because it doesn’t matter in that context), but I really don’t mind that. I am going to RailsConf for the first time this year, which will be the first time I’ve interacted face-to-face with any Rails devs other than my husband. Should be an interesting experience!

I hope you don’t allow negativity to chase you away from something you enjoy.


said on April 29th 10:02

No one’s mind has ever been changed by a blog comment.

With that out of the way, I’m trying really hard to empathize here. I like _why. I like a lot of the people quoted above. I understand that sex is a sensitive topic for many people. I understand that the implication of sexual objectification hangs particularly heavily on the stereotypically weaker and objectified gender. I can empathize with that, but I can’t condemn Matt.

First, the presentation is not porn. It’s a reference to porn. The map is not the territory. The images are barely racier than television ads, even on US TV (OK, maybe one is). The title of the presentation uses the label “pr0n”, which is an obvious mockery of both the porn industry and the subculture in which that spelling is common — so, the people who do it and the geeks who like it.

OK, fine. It was audience-challenging, “unprofessional”, and sort of icky.. But how about “Perform like a beauty queen”? Or “Perform like a heavyweight boxer”? “Perform like a gangsta”? Three other professions that are ostensibly voluntary, require a ton of personal sacrifice, pay well (for the elite), often involve pimpsHHHH^Hexploitative managers of naive performers, and hold absolutely zero interest for me, and little interest for most people in the Ruby/Rails community.

Is the last more upsetting than the others because of the racial implication of the spelling, or the ehtnic implication of its original meaning?

Is it just the sexual component that gets people all stirred up? So much that a reference to sex, in an unexpected place, is worth all the drama? Would sex, ideally, go away? Be relegated to something that should be considered/discussed/referred to only by two people (male and female, obv) who love each other very much and want to procreate? Does that sound prudish?

I’m sorry that people were offended. Offense often says more about the offended than the offender, though. Matt’s presentation content was good, but the style was unexpected — and exposed a bug in the sensibility of the observers. It’s a big world out there. It would probably be more productive to fix the bug than to hope to never see unexpected data. I’m just sayin.

PS: I kinda hate CouchDB tho. They keep using that word “replication”. I do not think it means what you think it means.

PPS : I remember someone ranting to me about _why’s ruby tutorial a few years back. How it was inappropriate, unprofessional, offensive to his sensibilities, and made the whole community look bad. People are different and take many forms of silly, sometimes.

bruno ( )

said on April 29th 10:09


A: “I’m not going to make a judgement on that”.
B: “Actions speak louder than words…” (Noirin Plunkett).

A + B = begs the question, was it incidental that you didn’t use this kind of humour in the poignant guide?

My two cents:

Sometimes you don’t need to be {a woman, black, queer, jewish, catholic, muslim,…} to realise something is offensive. In that sense, an applause to Leah Silber’s “I find the generalization that this offended women to be offensive. It offended people”.

Another applause to her calling people to be open minded. Protesting is perhaps the least effective way of getting people to be treated all as equals: because then you to begin with, you the minority, are standing up as unequal. Quite the slippery slope indeed.

Any publicity is publicity [citation needed], anyone?) : instead of thinking in terms of right/wrong, try to think of your reactions as dog training. You don’t lecture a dog on bestiality when it humps a tree, do you?

Better look at the joke and not find it amusing, and in that sense Ryan Dy’s annotations were the best manifestation in the round so far.


said on April 29th 10:15

jesus christ, people. again, 98% of these are either “it is patently offensive because of topic, even thought it was not offensive to me” or “we must worry about offending other people”. this whole argument is retarded. fucking retarded.


said on April 29th 10:17

@_why, if you have 3 cups of water, and add 3 drops of food coloring, you still have 3 cups of water. Make the connection?

Tim Connor

said on April 29th 10:17

@dar I don’t think pointing out it could have been does racially means there isn’t a problem, All that points out is there is more than one way it could have offended people. So?

bruno ( )

said on April 29th 10:18

My already long comment doesn’t feel complete in a way. Bear with me, I’ll be quick. When I said open mindedness is the solution, I was saying it was the solution to the problem of “how to react to this presentation”.

The problem of “how to make hackers a more gender-blind community” is totally different, indeed a very long (albeit probably amusing) discussion.

Also, I forgot to highlight Ryan Dy in the other comment. So I’m highlighting it now. (It’s nice to have your name pop out when you’re dragged into a discussion).

Rev. Dan

said on April 29th 10:25

I think that in some ways this has been blown out of proportion by tons of us (myself included) being quick to offer our Fox News-style punditry. We already have all the “n)e(w)s” we need: the ones who yell “Chunky Bacon!”

I think the Ruby and Rails community is about excellence… at least that’s what drew me into it. The perpetual awesomeness I see from folks like Ryan Bates, _why, Gregg Pollack, etc., etc., etc, has inspired me to try to develop myself and my dev. skills so that at some point I can contribute back in to the larger community as a whole. I know from talking to many Rubyists that they feel exactly the same way. Chad Fowler’s “Don’t Follow the Lemmings” presentation is what really got me off of the proverbial fence. It was amazingly inspiring.

I see a lot of rocket fuel being burned on the launchpad instead of being used to propel the Ruby Love Rockets forward. Can we maybe challenge ourselves to rise above the noise and figure this stuff out?

How ‘bout we seize this as an opportunity to reflect upon what people with different perspectives have said and y’know… maybe demonstrate how we’re not only a “cut above” technology-wise but interpersonally as well?

I’ve decided that I’m now hugging everybody as a gesture of friendship at conferences and meetups instead of shaking hands. If you think that hugging other men is a homosexual act then you’re absurdly off-base and are really just flattering yourself. This will be a good reminder to always make sure I’m wearing deodorant. :)


said on April 29th 10:26

Even if something is offensive to some, that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t do it. People don’t have the right to not be offended. You could argue that the presentation was ideal from a marketing strategy point of view, but obviously some people are getting a lot more worked up over it than that.


said on April 29th 10:28

edit: “was” in the post above should be “wasn’t”

Rev. Dan

said on April 29th 10:28

Dang it… the formatting thingiemabob seems to have borked my Fox News joke…

> We already have all the Fox[n]e[w]s we need.

Lisa Clarkson

said on April 29th 10:33

@dar, your first sentence was your most persuasive.


said on April 29th 10:44

Thanks for bringing these views to everyone’s attention.

Sure, you cannot predict with certainty who you are going to offend, and you certainly cannot please everybody all the time. However, there are general standards of nicety that we can stick to. The attitude of: “If someone has a problem it’s their problem and i don’t care” is not really very respectful.

Never mind the gender issue: i feel the same about DHH’s attitude to swearing. Different people are offended by different words for different reasons, but an easy solution is not to swear – ever – and then you avoid the whole problem.


said on April 29th 10:44

Dear Oops. I apologise for not being up-to-date with the correct vernacular. Apologies all round.


said on April 29th 10:46


A huge portion of the outrage did not, has not, and will never be about the actual material of the presentation. As destructive as the presentation itself is, the reason that this is still being discussed is because people like you are trying to make it about all porn. It is not about porn, as clearly stated by quotes above, and even more so at the posts that those quotes come from. It is about the dismissal of concerns of a minority by a bunch of locker-room type dudes who don’t understand that it is not their right to determine whether something is offensive, or sexist.

So, the explosive controversy had not indeed happened at the time of the presentation. And I am sure there are people who Did walk out. Others perhaps stayed so they could feel fully justified in critiquing it. And as to people voting with their feet, what do you think Mike’s departure from Rails Activists is? And there will be much more feet voting in the future as people decide to completely avoid the caustic reputation of Rails being a playground for douchebags, so don’t worry, the people are not as weak or docile as you expect.


said on April 29th 10:47

I was in attendance at gogaruco when this happened, and the talk made me very uncomfortable (not the porn itself but the presence of porn in a conference talk about couchdb). I kept expecting people to stand up and leave.

My guess is that Matt put this talk together in about 30 minutes while drunk. It was completely boring to anyone who has spent 10 minutes reading the docs on the couchdb website.

Amy Hoy

said on April 29th 10:49

OK, people, a little perspective.

I make sex jokes in my talks and all around the conferences. I love a good ribald joke. (This overheard quote from a RailsConf past? Yeah, that was me.)

And yet, I also got “douche chills” from the slides.

Are pr0n star jokes funny? Hell yes. Is it (conceptually) a funny twist on the incredibly annoying “rock star” trend? Yep. Was it “unprofessional”? Sure, but I also am very unprofessional, and I think that’s fine. Is Matt Aimonetti a truly nice guy in my experience? Also yes.

The problem is: eyecandy. Maybe it was “a map and not a territory,” but it’s titillating nonetheless.

I sure as hell don’t want to have to worry about the nerd next to me getting turned on when I thought I was attending a database talk.

More importantly, it was all-boys eyecandy. And so stereotypical at that. It’s not offensive, but it’s crass, and not funny crass either. It’s just a bunch of smooth, mostly-naked, idealized parts.

If it were near-equal male and female pics, only the prudiest would have been bothered. And we could have brushed it off. If there was some direct humor in the images, that would have helped (think FAILblog type things).

But none of those factors were taken into account, thus people are hurt, confused, uncomfortable and angry.

That’s no big surprise.

If I put a bunch of naked, pasty, small-dicked nerds in my slides, then somebody would be uncomfortable and pissed. Having a funny title that references something annoying wouldn’t make that all better.

Straight up soft core != snark.

If you are going to try to be edgy and push boundaries and shit, you should at least be sure you’re good at it and know how to handle that kind of content, first. Otherwise, it’s just destructive.

It’s a mistake, and there should be apologies, not encouragement.

Amy Hoy

said on April 29th 10:55

And if people don’t “get” your “jokes,” the correct response is not “There’s something wrong with you” but rather “Lemme take that one back to the drawing board.” Teachers don’t get to blame their students, writers don’t get to blame their readers, and comedians never get to blame their audience.

You gotta man up.


said on April 29th 11:03

The real offence here is your use in the title of the phallocentric, mysogynistic slur “women” in the title of this post. There is no “men” in “women”, you chauvinist, patriarchic, sexist pig!

Please update the title immediately to use the correct term “wymyn”.


said on April 29th 11:09

All I know is I’m looking forward to Joe Francis’s presentation next year.


said on April 29th 11:20

+1 Amy Hoy. I wasn’t there and am thus armchair QB, but it seems like it wouldn’t have been such a deal if the execution had been just slightly different.


said on April 29th 11:25

This is all very complicated, and I’m not going to pretend I even understand the specific context of rails conferences. However, I want to speak to the issue of inclusivity in contexts I know.

Obviously, FLOSS isn’t an open space for women now. You can blame it on about 8.2 billion different things, including gender expectations, the biological snags of motherhood, and the fact that adult women now are still carrying around the baggage of the 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s when they spent their formative years. We all have layered histories that we bring to bear on everything we see and do.

@Matt Todd refers to creating a gender-neutral space. As a teacher who works very hard to create an inclusive classroom (I’m in the humanities, not in tech), I can tell you that doing so is a lot more difficult than whitewashing what you say and just generally avoiding offense. There’s a need for what has been called “leaning forward” to make a place more welcoming to people who have to “lean backward” everywhere else in their lives. Think of this: everywhere I go, I’m female. That means when I worked at a computer game company, when I bought a car, when I walk in a city at night, when I shop for clothes, and when I’m in the supermarket check-out line. As someone pretty conscious of these things, I know that each of those situations highlights the cultural disparities between men and women. (Although my students, bless their hearts, will insist they’re not affected by ads and culture—at the same time that they have eating disorders, buy overpriced branded things, and drink themselves silly). This is also of course relevant to people of color, an issue which hasn’t been addressed here, but perhaps should be.

So in my classroom—this one, tiny, almost inconsequential space in my student’s lives—I try to make things just a little bit nicer for the students who probably are given a hard time at my school. This goes beyond gender and race, so it’s a judgment call I make. It’s not a matter of special treatment. And if someone invokes some BS about “standards” here, I’ll write a chapter-length tirade on the history of how “standards” have been scrubbed of all of their inherent racism and sexism, etc.

So my point is this: You have a community with a serious gender imbalance, where women feel isolated and generally unwelcome. Most people in the community agree that this is not desirable. So lean forward, rather than continuing to perpetuate the same sexist BS that happens on TV, in magazines, everywhere else.

Scott Andreas

said on April 29th 11:37

Thanks for pulling this together, _why.

It’s been a bit funny to watch feminism go machismo lately – in that many of the most vocal stakeholders in the conversation have been men. Glad to see a more distilled collection of these thoughts.


said on April 29th 11:41

nettework: Brilliant. I’m not sure I get what you mean by this “leaning forward.” Are you indicating the motion of listening to somebody?


said on April 29th 12:06

_why: That’s a really good analogy, I think. Leaning forward to catch the whisper of someone whom everyone else talks over. I’ve always just thought about it conceptually, as meeting someone where they are.

In practice, of course, it’s a lot more complicated. So although I suggest here that I’m particularly reaching out to students who have obvious differences from others, in reality, when I see any student who has differences in their writing, affect, or whatever else, I try to be understanding. There are issues going on with every single person that I can’t pretend to ever know, but it’s important for me to acknowledge that I can’t know them. I might try a little harder to reach out to students who I’m sure are dealing with issues due to gender and race and body type and nerdiness and all other stuff that marks people. Doing this makes me a better teacher to all my students, or at least I hope so.

I realize that simply talking about this makes it hard to distinguish from general, corporate, PC nonsense, which is I think the “straw man” set up by the faction who say “wtf how can you be offended?”. That BS is easy to dismiss because it’s awful and insulting to the intelligence of everyone everywhere ever.

What I’m talking about it much, much more subtle and much, much more difficult. It’s a daily practice of making the world a more welcoming place to everyone—without sacrificing humor or intelligence or dialogue, which is the tricky part. Maybe it’s best thought of as a zen thing: a practice always there, always in process, rather than the reaching some destination. Political correctness is a kind of endpoint, a right/wrong thing that corporations can hang on to. Making a welcoming community—something _why is obviously good at—is a much less cut-and-dry activity.


said on April 29th 12:12

Hey now, not all male nerds are of the “locker room jock” type. I’m a gay nerd, and I would be bored to tears if I had to sit through a talk featuring gratuitous tits-and-ass. It’s immature and inappropriate to add softcorn porn to a presentation.

If you want to make a presentation funny, add some lolcats or something, or maybe, just make the talk itself interesting enough to keep people’s attention?

Jerry H.

said on April 29th 12:18

One thing that seems to be overlooked is that the community has a lot of people, an apparently vast majority of people, who “get it”.

Is it really worth all the sturm and drang about a relatively small number of immature men who don’t?

insane dreamer

said on April 29th 12:25

What puzzles me about all of this, is how does one Ruby programmer showing arguably inappropriate slides somehow turn into a reflection on the “Ruby community”. Even if Matt is a well-known Ruby programmer, he certainly doesn’t represent the whole Ruby community (and neither does DHH for that matter). Funny how these things get blown out of proportion.

Also, judging from Matt’s response on Sarah’s blog, this seems to have been an honest mistake and error in judgment of how the slides would go over, and a lack of sensitivity to the audience. A mistake for sure, but hey, we all make them. Lets learn from them and move on.


said on April 29th 12:27

I only saw the pdf presentation and I enjoyed it, however I’m a guy.
Still, after seeing it, I thought: a shy community of women developers/hackers would fight back in anger or disappointment at the bastards who dared to offend them, instead of doing the opposite: more of them to join the RoR (or any development area, for that matter) and help grow the community…


said on April 29th 12:28


Very good suggestions. Am I right in thinking that inquiring into the mechanisms that triggered an offense would be more ‘leaning forward’ than asserting that you have no idea what there is to be offended by? Because that is one of the most seriously damaging things that is going on right now, the dismissal (from a position of male privilege) of the right to be offended. As you say, the Political Correctness angle is being leveraged quite frequently, when that is not the issue (as I see it).

Building a welcoming community, as you say, is very hard and takes daily work (as does de-conditioning one’s self from sexism and racism). It is also most definitely worth it.


You might want to take a look Liz Keogh’s recent piece. A lot of good quotables to choose from. She explores the psychological side of this controversy.

Cullen King

said on April 29th 12:32

All this dialog is interesting to read, since I have heard different takes on ‘women in engineering’ over the last three years of higher education. One of the things I have noticed, in general, about software development is the lack of good, qualified people with critical thinking skills as well as the ability to self-teach. When I look around at my peers, I see about 80-90% future thoughtless cubical jockeys that picked computer science because they spent so much time on a computer at a younger age (doing things like gaming and browsing the internet), they never developed a passion for other things. Thus, computer science as a profession was the easy and familiar route, even if that person had no real interest in the underlying process of computer science (programming, electrical computer engineering, etc). This isn’t as big of a problem in something like Mechanical Engineering, since you don’t have many lazy high school students mentally saying “oh well hmm, what am I going to do when I graduate? I guess I am pretty good at sitting around and playing with statics and dynamics, so I’ll take the easy route and get a degree in ME”.

On top of this mediocrity we get to add in a lower level of social skills than the norm. Yeah there are outliers, however through a large amount of direct observation I feel safe in saying the social abilities of computer scientists can be pretty small.

Now to direct my point: with the large quantity of mediocrity in computer science today, good programmers are hard to come by. Since there is a significantly smaller population of female programmers, the number of qualified women coders is even smaller. Add in some poor social skills, and you get a large body of programmers who are bluff, rude and dismissive of their female peers for reasons separate, but in addition to the gender norms we face today.


said on April 29th 12:35

@_why, thanks for taking the time to do this, and for thinking it ought to be done.

@nettework (hi, you!), you make some really great points. This whole thing makes me less enthusiastic about participating in this community, and is that what they’re going for? Surely not. I keep coming back to what you said: “everywhere I go, I’m female.” The leeriness that I feel is not a naive paranoia, nor prudery, it comes from an accumulation of actual experiences.


said on April 29th 12:49

Yay! Quotes from women that I didn’t know before but who seem very awesome. Wheee~

psst did you know I am a girl too? a gender confused one yes but a girl at that. I already wrote some things about this crazy mess. Then I listened to Bikini Kill and biked really fast.

Tim Connor

said on April 29th 13:02

@insane dreamer. It’s more about the Rails community. Basically people are comment on the Rails communities response. The slides themselves say nothing about the whole community. The ensuing response, might.

Linda Eskin

said on April 29th 13:14

Thank you for including my tweet (above). Here are some additional thoughts, compiled from my comments about this elsewhere:

I was not at GoGaRuCo, but I’ve “been there” many times, having been involved with amateur radio, private aviation, classic cars, industrial construction/sales, blues guitar, and of course, software development.

Those commenting on people’s supposed hypersensitivity to nudity or bodies are completely missing the point. It’s not about being prudish. I enjoy a raunchy joke as much as anyone else.

The issue is not about images. It’s not about whether it’s porn or not porn. It’s the underlying message that “they” (women) are not “us” (the men who are the real insiders here at this conference). It’s about presenting women as an objectified “other.” It would have been just as offensive if all the women shown were domineering mothers in aprons, shaking their fingers and threatening with rolling pins.

Unless you’ve walked into a professional meeting and had conversation stop while everyone looked at you like “what you you doing here?” it’s probably hard to imagine the impact.


said on April 29th 13:22

@Linda Eskin:

“It’s about presenting women as an objectified “other.””

OK, but he didn’t. He showed other peoples’ portrayals as such, and made fun of them. He’s talking about a software product, with an intentionally ridiculous comparison to a male porn star.

“It would have been just as offensive if all the women shown were domineering mothers in aprons, shaking their fingers and threatening with rolling pins.”

To you, perhaps. Do you really believe this controversy would be happening if he showed images of Julia Child (or nameless women in less obviously accomplished situations)?

Julia Child was a spy, by the way.


said on April 29th 13:39

At least it wasn’t full of lolcats.

Kaitlin Duck Sherwood

said on April 29th 13:59

The problem with the slides is that the presentation was created for men. That sends the signal that women either aren’t in the audience or are unimportant.

I remember reading a collaboratively-written web page on “ten things to do before you die”. One of the things suggested was to get a hooker in Vegas. Now, I understand that having a wild night with a great hooker might (MIGHT) be a highly memorable and worthy experience for a man. But there was no qualification, no statement that this was for men only — it assumed that only men were reading it. I didn’t exist in the mind of the writer.

(I thought about putting in “give birth” as one of the things to do before you die, but to write off half of the population felt too rude for me to do.)

Since moving to Canada, I’ve noticed that many many articles are similarly US-centric. Many articles/postings assume that the reader is a white male in the US.

To not exist in the writer’s mind once isn’t a big deal. Whatever. Three times, you start to notice a pattern. One hundred times, it really starts to piss you off.

The specific slide deck in question was probably not the first time someone noticed that the author did not consider them part of the audience. It was probably >100, and thus really rankles.


said on April 29th 13:59

Come on guys/gals: thicken up your skin. There is enough to worry about. Since when does a crappy presentation deter us so easily from an otherwise great product?

I thought “that stuff is insulting to me” was something of religious conservatives. When we think bad about the muslims being all fussed up about some cartoon of mohamed, then why respond to this in this manner? Life is tough, get over it.

Kaitlin Duck Sherwood

said on April 29th 14:02

I should have said that most people assume that the audience will be “straight white US males”, not just “white US males”. Gay/lesbian people probably have more invisibility issues than any other group.

Linda Eskin

said on April 29th 14:16

Thanks for your thoughts, @dar. As I said, I wasn’t there, so I don’t know what he said over the slides (re: making fun of them). I have seen all the slides, however. Maybe what you pointed out further reinforces the point: The images so completely distracted from the material that the audience didn’t even get what the presenter was trying to say. People’s brains just seized up and didn’t make it past the images.

When one is in the position of being a communicator, whether writing an instructional manual, teaching a student, designing a UI, or addressing an audience, the responsibility for getting the communication across as intended is your responsibility. That includes being sensitive to the “listener’s” level of understanding of the subject, their cultural background, and a hundred other factors, and crafting the communication in such a way that the listener “gets it.”

There’s no blaming the listener in professional communications. Sure, we could say “they weren’t paying attention,” “they just aren’t smart enough to figure out our app,” or “they are just being overly sensitive.” But that would be just as arrogant (and wrong) as “it runs fine on my computer, so obviously there’s nothing wrong with the code, it must be something you did.”

If we care about our communication being received, it’s our job to tailor it to the audience. It may need to be more interesting, written in simpler language, or free of distracting images. We don’t use open hand icons (such as for "Stop") in UIs intended for international or inter-cultural distribution, because people from some cultures would find that offensive. By avoiding hand images we are not saying there’s something wrong with hands. We’re being sensitive to the listener so that they will feel comfortable using our product or Web site.

The general question around this issue is “how do we create a culture where women feel comfortable and participate?” The answer is not “you’re just being too sensitive.”

Anita Kuno

said on April 29th 14:19

This whole conversation makes me both tired and sad.

The only thing that I get from it is the knowledge that individually there are certain programmers with whom I would enjoy conversing. I would probably enjoy conversing with them best at an informal social function that allowed enough light and sturdy napkins for an impromptu diagram of information flow or platform relationship. Though I’ll probably never meet you _why, you were on the list previously and now there is a strong checkmark beside your name.

It confirms my gut feeling as well that the gatherings that are the most appropriate for my information intake needs are small meet-ups and local events. I still do intend to travel to San Francisco someday but I experience information overload quite quickly so to experience SF and a technology conference in the same trip would probably be to much for me.

I look forward to speaking individually with other programmers about programming. I have been contacted by a male colleague who was looking for a woman’s input as a reality check for himself and it was a very good conversation.

If any of the men whom I know from conferences and such would like to email me or find me on Twitter or IRC to discuss such thoughts you are welcome.


said on April 29th 14:37

Will you people asking for thicker skins please recognize that this discussion is now as much about your response to criticism (see, “dismissal of”) as it is the content of the slides themselves?

Re: the Muhammed cartoon—Was I not supposed to get righteously pissed when the NY Post printed the editorial likening my president to not just a chimp, but a chimp shot dead? Don’t pretend that there is never a valid position of “offended.” And in a male-privilege-positive environment such as most OSS projects, why is it always on the onus of those offended to justify their offense? Why can’t you just look into it a bit and start reading some theory that would explain it a bit better? I’ve read so many things by woman who write of having grown “thick skin” as a psychic survival mechanism just to not go insane at the sexism they are subjected to every day.

Muslims had every right to be offended by that cartoon. A significant line was crossed when they started killing people over it.

Renai Fox

said on April 29th 14:49

Thank you for collecting these quotes, some of them really hit the nail on the head.

The thoughts on expected audience are right on. Everyone knows that porn is still a contentious subject (and blow jobs are porn, it wasn’t just near nudity). We don’t yet live in a nudist paradise where people don’t have hang-ups about sex issues. It doesn’t matter if you think other people should stop being “prudes”, it was obvious that the images would make some people feel uncomfortable and unwelcome. If the conference wasn’t intended to make everyone feel welcome, then what was it? A club. If this were the 70’s no one would be surprised, but we’d call it what it is.

I don’t think I can take another guy’s comment on why we should just shut up and suck it up, though. I suppose I didn’t get into programming for the charming people.


said on April 29th 14:58

There is a recurring idea that depicting cats and other animals in “funny” or “cute” positions, with anthropomorphic captions featuring abysmal grammar and spellings, is completely acceptable. It is not. It is a particularly offensive form of speciesism which is limiting our ability as humans “us,” to recognize that we are also animals, “them.” The cats aren’t laughing so why should you?

Joachim Bengtsson

said on April 29th 15:17

Very, very fascinating read. Everything from the original blog article, Matt’s fantastically bizarre replies (the non-apology apologies, the “I didn’t intend to make a macho joke”), all the comments from both sides of the story, through this article and all the fantastic comments, and finally to Liz’ take at http://tr.im/association. I couldn’t help myself, I’m a nerd, I needed to figure this out, read everything and take a side based not on what I felt was right but knew was right. On the one hand, I love reading bynkii, the angry drunk and stuff like that, and the “you’re all just too pc, grow up and get a sense of humor” argument always felt treacherous but appealing at the same time. Finally though, it’s obvious that _why et al’s side has a million fantastic arguments (especially liz’), while the opposing side only has one (“you’re too easilly offended”), and it’s been debunked over and over again. Thanks for all the good reads :)


said on April 29th 15:20

how come my name’s not Amy Hoy and I didn’t write her comments? ++ to that.

Oh, and Thanks _why, for collating. and also, I think I spewed coffee out my nose when I read your Axe tweet. So thanks for that, too.


said on April 29th 15:21

soycamo: Wait, come back you left your Huggy Bear cassette!

seriouscat: I once heard a scientist on talk radio say that shark deaths were due to people depicting sharks in art and pop culture with humanlike smiles. But what are we supposed to do? Sharks have fantastic smiles, that’s just the way it is.


said on April 29th 15:31

Matt – stepping aside from the specific instance here, it’s not about ‘how to we get more women into IT’ but the wider question of ‘why has the number of women entering the IT industry, and programming in particular, declined significantly over the since the mid-80s to now’.

Given that I’ve worked with some great female developers, the fact that I don’t know any under 30 is suggesting that we, as an industry, are missing out on talent.

The why of how this has occurred, on the other hand, is fairly complex, and I’m not actually sure that it’s something that the industry can itself address. Most girls are not getting far enough along the IT education route to become driven out by workplace sexism.

Equally there are other careers / workplaces with a reputation for sexism (finance, law, advertising) which do not suffer the same recruitment problems. Surveys suggest that the ‘geek factor’ is the biggest ‘turn off’ for both female and male students towards the sciences in general, and engineering and IT in particular.

We can’t really do a whole lot to change that perception, except not encourage it. One presentation isn’t going to make a whole lot of difference in the wider world, but I think what people see here is that it’s symptomatic of a deeper cultural problem.

(There is a gap between amateur and unprofessional).

The other thing we can do are things like _why?’s projects, where we try and reach out to kids and show them that programming is relatively simple and can be fun, before they get old enough to start distinguishing their swots, nerds, geeks, jocks and emos.

Sandi Metz

said on April 29th 15:56

The best thing about this fervor is the fervor itself.

Why (no pun intended) did it start? Not because a tiny number of woefully uninfluential women had the nerve to express their discomfort; no, it started because of an astonishingly virulent backlash from a few people followed by the appalled reaction of the vast sea of men to that backlash.

If this were ‘no big deal’ we wouldn’t still be taking about it. The tree of those original blog posts would have fallen silently in the virtual forest.

People are troubled, not so much by the original act as by the tone of the subsequent discussion.

The world I live in is more dangerous, pays less and involves a lot more cleaning up than the world most men live in. When I go to conferences I’m one of very few women and if everyone stands up at once I can’t see a damn thing.

It saddens but does not surprise me that some folks in our community react to “I feel uncomfortable” with “You’re wrong”, but wow, it is so obvious that the vast majority of guys have the ability to understand a different point of view and are willing to stand up and be counted.

I applaud you all.

Jane Q. Public

said on April 29th 16:41

Jesus, ladies, get over it! For many of you, why does every little joke have to make you some kind of “victim”?? All that attitude does is demonstrate your unwillingness or inability to cope with the real world.

And Liz Keogh: the fact that YOU make dysfunctional mental associations willy-nilly does not mean that everybody else does. Sounds like a personal problem to me.

Anko Painting

said on April 29th 16:54

Thanks _why – this is the best discussion on the topic I’ve seen.

nettework/Amy Hoy – you guys rock. Thanks for your added insight.


said on April 29th 17:15

Could we please move on to the solutions part?

As of about noon Saturday there have been a grand total of 3 people who have changed their minds about the original presentation, or whether the response to the response (to the response, …) was sexist or not.

Since about noon-oh-five Saturday, all that has been achieved on either side is further withdrawal into a defensive stress condition which prevents the objective processing of information.

A vast majority of the people who did not see any issue with the above will respond positively to the idea of trying to ensure there is no sexism in the community.

We have our hands full with just that, anyway: there is no consensus of what, if anything, should be done, and whether there can really be a strategy for involving more women as opposed to people who happen to be women? Should men be actively involved, or should women act as the catalysts? How do these efforts relate to trying to introduce more, say, black people or gay people to the community?

(Personally, by the by, treating any group as, well, a group strikes a chord of offence in me, which probably causes me to focus too much on individuals and reject perfectly viable “group solutions” without due consideration. I feel a bit stupid saying that, and certainly do not mean it as a boast, but I think many if not most others have a similar instinctive/conditioned apprehension. I hope the feeling I describe comes across understandably.)

So what can I, as an individual, do proactively? (I would like to think that reactively I treat everyone with equal distaste.)

Alice Makenson

said on April 29th 18:30

Frankly, if anything I thought the presentation’s rather tame imagery didn’t go far enough; the reason why it flopped like this was because it was softcore yawn-shoots. Ruby is about shocking, full on hardcore bestial love-grunting.

That’s why I’m a Rubyist, because I’m not afraid of sex in public, my lovelies, every time you see me stroking my velvety smooth MacBook Air in Starbucks I’m making love to my code. Wearing my dark sexy TextMate. While Safari watches.

Coding is a creative and thus procreative act. If you love defining my gender’s type so much why not switch languages, we don’t define types here. We screw square pegs into round holes because it hurts so good. The only thing we need protecting from is people who call themselves Rubyists who aren’t scrabbling to put hardcore gooey porn on every slide, whether its pictoral, video, audio or just really fucking amazing code.

Sex it up. Or go back to getting fucked in the ear by Java.


said on April 29th 18:34

Why are you asking for womens’ opinions specifically?

That is why you are stupid. You are not a woman, you don’t count.


Liz Keogh

said on April 29th 18:56

Jane: Everyone makes dysfunctional mental associations based on their experiences. You do that too. It’s called “being human”.

If you don’t believe me, I refer you to Cordelia Fine’s excellent work, “A mind of its own”.


said on April 29th 19:52

Immature presentation is immature. What is this guy, 16?

I mean, humor is great and all, but that presentation wasn’t funny at all.. Which in my opinion crushed every chance of it going over well. Had it been done in a more “tasteful” way (to whatever extent that word applies to this situation..) and balanced maybe it wouldn’t have caused as much of an outrage.

But of course, it’s not just about it being poorly done. Many feel that it shouldn’t have been done at all, and I think they’re right. There were so many ways to do that presentation and not offend people, while still being unfunny, that it just boggles the mind why he picked this one.

And I really don’t feel that all of what’s going on at the moment is directly related to that presentation. It seems to me that it was the last straw for a lot of people who are tired of the somewhat immature, unprofessional people who claim to be leaders of the ruby (rails) communities.

Being “awesome cool” and “edgy” isn’t really that cool to be honest..


said on April 29th 20:35

I read quite a few of the comments, but didn’t quite get to the end. With that being said I apologize if I’m repeating anyone.

I wasn’t at the talk, but looking at the slides I thought they were quite dumb. There was a lot that could have been done with the slides to make them much better and engaging.

Given that, however, there was no nudity in the slides. Where they in bad taste? Sure. Was it unprofessional? Sure. Was it pornographic? No. Go to a beach and you’d see more than that.

To all the people who are offended, what would your reaction be if this had been full of the flying spaghetti monster and had poked fun at religion? Would the theists have been so offended (since you would be the only people qualified to speak on the matter, having been marginalized during the talk)? If you were offended, does it matter? Do you have the unassailable right to go to the talk and NOT be offended? Where does it say that?

Basically my point is that the talk was stupid, and immature, but so what? If you don’t like it you don’t throw out things like you have to “leave the community”, that’s just blatantly stupid and over dramatic. Just don’t associate with people who you find disrespectful/don’t share your beliefs. Eventually the level of class and respect shown in the
community will normalize to what the general population believes to be acceptable, and that will be that.

Also to people comparing this conference to a professional setting like a classroom or a business meeting. As far as I can tell this definitely wasn’t even near that sort of prestige.

Ryan Ripley

said on April 29th 21:09

@RANDOM: The point is that this should not be an issue. Religion and/or Sex should NOT be mixed into a presentation in a professional setting.

Furthermore, degrading women for the sake of advancing technology is not a dependable means to an end…

Just my .02


said on April 29th 21:20

It shouldn’t be an issue if you view it as a professional conference which has sponsors etc etc. I’m not fully apprised of the situation as far as that goes, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Also where did I say that degrading women was acceptable? All I said was ask what right you have to not be offended, and to stifle the presenters (attempt at) creativity?

So you were offended. Ok that’s great. Does that somehow make your point of view more valid than the presenters?

Just to be clear. I might not agree with what you have to say, sir, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. Make a rule banning that type of behavior, or live with it.


said on April 29th 21:46


If you put 3 drops of iocaine poison into 3 cups of water, would you still drink it?

Adulteration of a pure presentation by something completely innocent (food coloring) is a broken analogy here. But then, you probably know that…

As a male, I’ve never had a moment’s patience for the quiet biases of those waspy good old boy’s club types. To use the 2nd-best phrase I’ve learned here, I ‘lean forward’ to help good people that generally catch hell from these biased bohunks or oblivious arrested-development types. And everyone that rails (pun unintentional) against the reaction of this dumbass and inappropriate presentation ‘doth protest too much.’ Yeah, I know you don’t get it. And if you don’t get THIS , how many of your other screwups am I going to spend time cleaning up after… better to surround myself with people that are eager to learn and adapt, IMHO .

My takeaway from this is that I need to be quicker to challenge this publicly, quicker to walk out. Women might find this strange: a willingness to make a fuss is damn tough for me — the ‘play nice with others’ trait of mine that would instinctively know this presentation was out of line makes walking out near-unthinkable for waspy male me.

Ryan Ripley

said on April 29th 21:55

@RANDOM: We all have the freedom of speech. I agree. My point of view is no more or less valid than the presenter.

However, the behavior of the community trickles down from the top. It appears that this type of (in my opinion) offensive behavior is not only “ok”, but encouraged… I do not agree that things will “normalize” while DHH is at the top of the chain, unless he matures in his 30’s… :-)



said on April 29th 22:03

Alice Makenson: You crass and crazy thing you. Way to fog everybody’s glasses up. I’d quote you in the list above, but I can’t seem to find anything on the web showing that you’ve been around before today.

Anko Painting: Hi, and I like your name.


said on April 29th 22:11

And thank you _why, for my part as a guy, for making this more visible. This is a big deal and needs to be taken seriously by more of our gender.


said on April 29th 22:46

@ Ryan

I guess I just don’t understand the problem fully. If the people “on high” don’t agree with your moral system, then why are they in control? If they’re so far off base (which this incident seems to suggest with the amount of backlash which has occurred), why are they still given a voice? This just makes no sense to me.

( FYI I am a much more passive ruby user, one who uses it for scripting jobs when I need to get something done and not in any real deployment scenario. As such I am not really into the whole culture which, quite frankly, I find to be childish, so I don’t really have my fingers on the pulse of the community.)

The real question I have for you is, therefore, why don’t you (the collective you) set the moral standard you would like to see by setting up conferences which ARE professional in nature? You could then weed out this kind of douche-baggery by the participants (via censorship), and instead be more like an IEEE / ACM conference which are much more formal affairs? This seems to be what people ASSUMED were going to happen, where really what you got was something more akin to a talk between friends.

Ryan Ripley

said on April 29th 22:55

@RANDOM: “They” have a voice because “they” own the trademarks to rails, and control commit rights to the source. :-)

I find most of this childish too. I think we actually agree on most of the points.

I don’t want to see stale conferences and boring agendas. I just want to see some boundaries. Overall, I feel bad that women were objectified to make a tech talk “more interesting”… I think that deep down a lot of people are bothered by that, and that is why there are lot of angry voices on the web right now…


said on April 30th 01:02

@Ryan Ah I don’t necessarily think formal is boring. I just think that if you don’t have boundaries, then you can’t really act all surprised when that fact is exploited.

Also I don’t think that being upset or annoyed that said talk happened is unreasonable. As I said, however, I do think it is unreasonable that people think that because they were offended that somehow means that the talk shouldn’t have happened.

In the end I think this will be the spark of change, and make people aware that not all people who go to these conferences are “pasty, small-dicked nerds”, and instead they are people who have a completely different sense of humor/right and wrong. With this in mind maybe we can drop the latent sexism from both sides, and realize that we are dealing with adults who, horror of horrors, are immature and have access to unlimited adult content (be it porn or gratuitous violence, etc). Without any kind of checks and balances it should be as shocking to you as it is to me that informal talks degenerate into 5th grade humor.

Thanks for being so kind and civil when discussing this with me by the way, I appreciate it.


said on April 30th 02:33

I know this is totally irrelevant..

@Cullen King
"This isn’t as big of a problem in something like Mechanical Engineering, since you don’t have many lazy high school students mentally saying “oh well hmm, what am I going to do when I graduate? I guess I am pretty good at sitting around and playing with statics and dynamics, so I’ll take the easy route and get a degree in ME”..

As an ME, I just wanted to add that you get a lot of students who enter mechanical engineering programs because they like to work on cars. Lots of car/aircraft buffs who have no real recognition of or passion for the science, but a “I really like cars, so why don’t I become an ME and go make them!”.. The lazy students usually drop out..

Rob Gilliam

said on April 30th 03:32

@Ryan – I think you mean ineptitude

Andrea Dallera

said on April 30th 04:13

Andrea Dallera is a guy :-) (Andrea is a typical Italian male first name)
Thanks for pointing it out Peter :-)


said on April 30th 06:00

“Ruby on Rails promotes adultery among geeks!”
How’s that sound for wannabe pr0n stars out there?

Ryan Ripley

said on April 30th 09:36

@RANDOM: Likewise on being civil during the discussion. I enjoyed going and back and forth with you.


said on April 30th 15:20

I find this male bashing going on very hypocritical. The answer to this is simple. If you care about the nature of the content at a conference, only go to ones that have some sort of statement of intent that you agree to. If the conference breaks that intent, make a complaint to the appropriate people in charge, wait for a response and make a decision. If they don’t have such a statement, ask for one. What happens if you find yourself with no conference that appeal to you? Start your own. Freedom of Association is a powerful force and one that doesn’t impinge on others’ rights to be crass and misogynistic(consciously or unconsciously) in the public square. One that has proven itself time and time again in Democracies all over the world.


said on April 30th 16:09

this is the stupiest discussion ever. really.


said on April 30th 16:27

Rack, would you kindly point out the male bashing, so that I can condemn it as well?


said on April 30th 16:36

I gotta admit I’m vaguely disappointed by your stance on this issue. It reminds me of a master poet skewering a teenager’s best effort. Can you not understand that Aimonetti obviously tried really hard to make a memorable and effective presentation? Isn’t that worth something?

I mean no exaggeration when I say you are an absolute master of effective, memorable communication. Should it not be apparent when someone else is trying something new to reach the same goals you so effectively achieve with your weezards and such? Even if they’re not perfect? Surely it’s better than your average monotonous presentation dialogue at the very least. This should be taken into account and at least offset against the clearly unintended offense.

Jenna ‘Bluebie’ Fox

said on April 30th 18:05

Dana Jones: I’ve already abandoned Rails and that jerk fraternity, but I found some friendly caring people in the Camping community, and now days build my little web doodads with that. I think camping maintains it’s friendlier community by having that sort of ‘artists tool’ image that things like the Arduino, and Processing have, which brings with it a wonderful attitude of supportiveness and curiosity. :)


said on April 30th 18:45

The “I’m such a rockstar” attitude is a big reason I stopped working on (and with) Rails.

I attended a couple of Ruby and RailsConfs and the bullshit level was intolerable. Got sick of listening to wannabe “thought leaders” trying to establish their position in the pecking order.

Even the day-to-day blog conversations are rife with posturing and blowhardiness. It’s like the worst of the teenage social climbers all grew up and decided to build webapps with Rails.

I did meet a bunch of good people. Don’t get me wrong. It’s just that other development communities are interested in tech more than self-promotion.

Interestingly, pre-rails RubyConfs were awesome.


said on April 30th 19:18

i can’t believe this has continued to escalate.

omg. maybe Matt made a mistake. maybe he didn’t, he was just edgier than some people would have liked.

can we please get over it? if this is a major topic at RailsConf, i’m going to be really upset. i want to goto RailsConf to meet people and have fun, not to argue about whether or not boobs are appropriate to show in presentations.


said on April 30th 21:39

Eric: Many sorries. I really don’t want to squash the guy; it just seemed to me that the ideas of a lot of interesting programmers were being dismissed. I grabbed a broom, any broom. If I’m siding with people, I guess that’s a risk worth taking to help people out that appeal to me. I don’t know, I’m probably way off. Blehhh, I never have the faintest clue what I’m doing.

I do rib DHH though, both as a leisurely pasttime and because I know he can take it.


said on April 30th 22:08

Best coverage of the unfortunate topic.

However, I find your name “the lucky stiff” to be both offensive and degrading to leprechaun erections. Thanks.


said on April 30th 22:59

Thankyou for putting this together _why. It’s very enlightening to read opinions of real people here rather than generalizations of what others might be feeling.

This has certainly transcended the original presentation in terms of importance for the Ruby community, and if nothing else seems to have brought out some long standing issues of alienation and feelings of uncomfortableness based on gender.

I feel a great deal of empathy for people who are feeling alienated after reading the insightful comments on this post, and hope that I have not, and do not contribute to such feelings. I must admit that I didn’t fully grasp the extent of the feelings of some people that have commented here, and it’s been a great education for me to have read them. Thankyou.

I am also acutely aware now that this is a long standing issue. Matt may have made a mistake in presenting the way he did, and unintentionally offending ppl. The offense caused was unintentional though and I know that the response has caused a lot of anguish.

I hope that we can all see past the trigger for the discussion and get into the underlying problem. What I’m trying to say, is that Matt, although his presentation did trigger the response, and therefore the discussion, is not the cause of the problem, and I hope that we collectively do not hold him singularly responsible for these feelings in the workplace.

I am very grateful to the people who have made such insightful comments, and have a much better understanding of the feelings that occur in these situations now. Thankyou.


said on April 30th 23:05

As a porn star, I find it extremely offensive that my picture was used for a boring computer talk. It detracts from my art! I thought Ruby was some chick’s stage name - otherwise, I’d never have done the photo shoot! Anyway nerds, I’m outta here there’s a steamy-sounding porn event called a “Python Users Group” I’m off to check out — but y’all are probably way too prude for that kinda thing.


said on April 30th 23:29

_why, you rock. thanks.

Sarah Taraporewalla

said on May 1st 03:20

My thoughts: http://sarahtaraporewalla.com/thoughts/women-in-it/how-i-perform-like-a-p0rn-star/


said on May 1st 07:16

_why, the axe body spray thing did have me laughing, I’m sick too, yay for spreading the infection. ;)


said on May 1st 13:07

Wow… thank-you. The general lack of mature, considered exploration of ideas is missing out on the web. It’s good we got this onto the table, to enlighten our conversations and respsonses in the future.

said on Mon DD HH:MM

* do fancy stuff in your comment.