WE DID IT!

Sep. 19th, 2014 05:03 pm
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
See that number? It has five digits in it.

Donation button

Donate to the Ada Initiative

Comprehensive retrospective and thanks post coming soon once I'm done having all the feels. For now, I just want to thank the last batch of donors from this afternoon (the ones who tweeted and/or gave permission for their names to be used):

[twitter.com profile] alleynoir
Dan Licata
David Smith
Eric Rasmussen
Glenn Willen
Holly M
Lucas Bradstreet
wilkie

As always, if I left out anyone, let me know.

And if you weren't paying attention all week? Now it can be told: if you donate now, the money still goes to exactly the same place :)

tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
We've achieved our $8192 goal!!!! But wait, there's more: we're increasing our goal for a second time and are trying to raise $10,000 by 5 PM Pacific time today. (If we raise $16,384, there will be filk singing.)

Donation button

Donate to the Ada Initiative

Thanks to those who donated between 6:00 PM September 18 and 12:15 PM September 19 and gave permission for their names to be used and/or tweeted about it on #lambda4ada:

Aaron Miller
André Arko
Andy Adams-Moran
Dan Licata
[twitter.com profile] dorchard
Eni Mustafaraj
Eric Sipple
Glenn Willen
Justin Bailey
Ken Keiter
Kevin Scaldeferri
Kristy
[twitter.com profile] lindsey
Lyn Turbak
M Wallace
Michael Greenberg
Peter Fogg
Rob Simmons
Ryan Wright
[twitter.com profile] simrob

If your name is not on the list, you've donated, and you'd like it to be, send me an email (catamorphism at gmail).


A thought for today:

On Reddit, user green_mage asked:
"Why ask us to pay for something you don't want to talk about?"

This was in reference to what I said in my initial post:

"I would rather not talk about diversity, inclusion, feminism, gender, race, and sexuality with my colleagues. The difference between me and -- say, the young male graduate student who attended Wouter's Haskell Symposium talk and later tweeted something to the effect that Europe didn't have a good record when it came to distinguishing people based on race and gender -- isn't how interested we are in lambdas, type theory, theorem proving, compilers, or whatever happens to make our synapses light up. We both are. The difference is that I cannot do my job while ignoring the constant drone of small -- and occasionally big -- indignities and violations that make my friends who are also my colleagues sad and, sometimes, drive them out of the field altogether."

I don't want to fix bugs in code. I would much prefer it if my code worked the first time I wrote it, so I could focus on implementing new features. Wouldn't everybody?

I fix bugs anyway. Not just because I get paid to do that -- I'd still do it even if I became independently wealthy and decided to devote the rest of my days to open-source volunteering. The reason I fix bugs is that -- as anyone who's ever used a computer knows, not just programmers -- bugs in software detract from the pleasure and delight that using good software can bring. All the new features in the world don't do much good for someone using my code if it crashes when they try to save a file.

I try to fix bugs in culture for the same reason. That we exclude people who look different from ourselves from our professional cultures -- usually without meaning to -- is a bug in human behavior. We are taught to hold onto our power; that part of the value in who we are and what we do is excluding other people from it. (This is why most women were driven out of computing in the 1960s, when it began to be a professional and profitable occupation.) Exclusion and marginalization, deliberate or accidental, distract attention from the things that unite those of us who like to program in functional languages: beauty, elegance, the Curry-Howard isomorphism.

I don't want to fix bugs. But I do it because it's part of being a programmer. I don't want to do advocacy. But I do it because if I don't, I don't feel like I'm doing my job, either.

I hope this answers green_mage's question.

Donation button

Donate to the Ada Initiative

tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
We're on day 3 of 4 in the functional programming community challenge -- we're less than $1000 from our $8192 revised goal! We have exceeded our second goal, $8192, and have increased the goal to $10,000!

Donation button

Donate to the Ada Initiative

Thanks to the people who donated between 3:00 PM September 17 and 6:00 PM September 18 who gave permission for their names to be used and/or tweeted saying that they donated; if your name is not on the list and you donated, then you either didn't give permission, didn't use the ?campaign=lambda URL suffix, or something somewhere got messed up; if so, email me (catamorphism at gmail) and we'll fix it.

AlephCloud Systems -- our first corporate donor! (We'd love more.)
Corey "cmr" Richardson
Eric Kow [twitter.com profile] kowey
Jack Moffitt
Philip Wadler

As well as those who donated earlier, but whose names got left off the first list somehow:

Aaron Tomb [twitter.com profile] atombeast
algebraic affects [twitter.com profile] joshbohde
Bob Atkey [twitter.com profile] bentnib
Maggie Litton [twitter.com profile] MaggieLitton

And finally, thanks to [twitter.com profile] haskellnow, [twitter.com profile] haskellorg, and [twitter.com profile] lambdaladies for help publicizing!

Giving money is a good start, and I hope that at least some people will be moved to collaborate with the Ada Initiative in other ways. In any case, it shouldn't end there. Here are 12 other things that functional programmers who want to support and include women can do:


  1. Know what intersectionality is
    This is tricky to talk about, because TAI and the loosely affiliated Geek Feminism Blog and Geek Feminism Wiki are all run mostly by white people (like me). We all know there's a problem here; we talk about how there's no excuse for companies and open-source communities to be 100% male, yet we're almost 100% white.

    With that said, to be an ally, being open to feminist perspectives isn't enough. Intersectionality, a term coined by Black feminist scholar Patricia Hill Collins, refers to the ways in which membership in multiple oppressed groups is not compositional. That is, a Black woman's experiences (for example) are not merely the result of composing a prototypical white woman's experiences with a prototypical Black man's experiences; rather, multiple marginalizations compose in a more complicated way. When it comes to understanding a concept like intersectionality, functional programmers have an advantage: like intersectional feminists, we are often criticized for using too many long and unfamiliar words. So we should know as well as anyone that sometimes, technical language is necessary for clarity. (Insert pun about intersection types here.)
  2. Attend an Ally Skills workshop

    The Ada Initiative runs workshops that teach men how to better support women in their workplaces and other communities. I participated in the Ally Skills track during this year's AdaCamp in Portland, and I appreciated that it was designed primarily around small-group discussions of hypothetical but realistic scenarios. For a reasonable fee, TAI will hold one at your workplace, and one thing that donations finance is holding them at nonprofit organizations for a reduced cost. You just have to ask.
  3. Listen to women

    When a woman talks about her experiences, and you have never had the experience of being perceived as a woman, try something: assume she is reporting on her own experiences accurately. Almost all the time, your assumption will be correct. But more than that, it's an important skill to be able to temporarily suspend your programmerly desire to find edge cases and point out errors, and just listen. Listening doesn't always mean shutting the heck up, although sometimes that's what's needed too. Rather, active listening means acknowledging that you understand what's being said: you can do this non-verbally (for in-person discussions) or by rephrasing what the person said in different words to indicate your comprehension and validate what she is saying. In light of point 1 about intersectionality, the more intersecting oppressions somebody has, the more important it is to listen to and let them know that you hear them.

    This doesn't mean you have to believe everything all women say all the time. Rather, it means that there are already enough men in the world automatically casting doubt on everything a woman says, and you don't need to be one more. Indicating that you hear what somebody is saying doesn't mean agreeing. It means that for the moment, you prioritize understanding their message ahead of showing off how much you know or how good you are at debates. You can decide offline whether to agree.
  4. Believe women

    But I just said you didn't have to agree! Well, yes, you don't have to, but in a world that bombards more or less all women with gaslighting, believing a woman is a radical act. In particular, if a woman is talking about her experience of harassment or another adverse experience that typically involves men mistreating women when no other men are present, assume she's telling the truth (and if anything, understating how bad it was). You will almost never be wrong if you believe her, and it's better to have a vanishingly low chance of being wrong than to contribute to the systematic psychological torture of women who are honest about their lives.
  5. Help women get heard

    Say you're in a meeting and a woman says something; it's ignored, and 15 minutes later, a man rephrases the same idea and gets praised for it. At that moment, you can speak out by saying, "How does that compare to the idea that [woman's name] proposed?" This is a non-confrontational way to re-center the woman as originator of an idea. In general, if you're in a conversation and other people are steamrolling a woman or women, say something -- you don't have to say "you sexist pigs, why don't you listen to her?" unless you want to, but there are many different ways to indicate that, if nothing else, you heard her.
  6. Hire women

    If you work at a software company and have any influence over hiring, hire women. The same goes if you work at a university, even if the hiring process is a bit more byzantine. In computer science or in software, anybody who is not a cis man is more qualified than an imaginary person who is identical except being a cis man. Isn't that "reverse sexism"? No, for the same reason that it's harder to do a pull-up with 50 pounds of weights strapped to your ankles than without. Give women (as well as people of color, disabled people, trans people, queer people...) credit for the enormous amount of work they've had to do just to be seen as equally competent to a given man who is actually less competent. In functional programming, nobody would do this work just for fame and wealth, because there is very little of that to be had; someone purely interested in a high-paying job or other extrinsic motivators would never choose our field if they also had to deal with others' bias along with the risk of not getting rewarded at all. The people who do persevere do it because they love the work they do, probably more than you do.
  7. Practice your empathy

    If you have lived your entire life in the Western Hemisphere being seen as a white, cis, abled man, you probably have some work to do here. It's not your fault: it's likely that you've rarely been rewarded for taking the perspective of someone unlike yourself, and indeed have been coddled for solipsistic thinking rather than being encouraged to think of others' feelings. Fortunately, empathy is a skill that can be learned. Kronda Adair's talk Expanding Your Empathy (from Open Source Bridge 2013) is one place to start.
  8. Encourage double-blind reviewing

    This one applies to those of you who review for and/or help organize academic conferences. It is documented beyond a shadow of a doubt that innate bias affects decisions about people's work: when evaluators know that a particular article is by somebody with a name they interpret as female, they grade it more harshly than if all of its authors had male-coded names. Most people don't want to exercise bias against women, but they do anyway, subconsciously. Concealing author names during reviewing goes part of the way towards addressing this problem. It's not perfect, but someone claiming that it doesn't reduce bias is making an evidence-free claim.

    Non-academics can try applying this one by having their recruiting team (if they have one) redact names from resumes during the first round of candidate evaluation.
  9. Show fallibility and humility

    This one has to be exercised carefully, but if you are someone with a relatively high amount of power (for example, if you're a white cis man who has a tenure-track or tenured academic position, or are a manager in an industry position), it's helpful to others around you if you say "I don't know" when you don't know, admit mistakes when you are wrong, and acknowledge when you're finding something difficult. Sometimes people underestimate just how much influence they have. If you're white, cis, and male, whether you like it or not, the people around you will tend to believe the things you say. With that increased power comes increased responsibility: to scrupulously distinguish what you believe to be facts from what you know are your opinions.
  10. Volunteer to mentor women

    For example, the GNOME Outreach Program for Women matches promising women getting started in open source with mentors from various projects. This is one of the most direct, personal ways you can help. If you don't work on an open-source project, find out what your company can do in the way of outreach at local schools, or if you're a faculty member, figure out what your department can do to support women in undergrad and graduate CS programs instead of just tallying up your admission numbers and cheerfully declaring diversity a done deal while all the women get constructively dismissed.

    If you do this, though, be prepared to learn as much from your mentee as vice versa.
  11. Try to be kinder than you have to

    I don't mean that you need to be kind to people who are abusing or oppressing you; you don't. What I mean is that you have the affordance of being patient when somebody asks the same beginner question for the nth time on a forum you're on, or when somebody makes a wrong assumption based on their knowledge of a different programming language. It's easy to lose patience with people who don't know as much as you do; I've done it a lot myself. But it takes very little to make somebody give up on a community that is new to them, and I've personally seen that happening with functional programming. When somebody else genuinely seems to be acting in good faith, even if they're confused or seem to be slow on the uptake, just remind yourself that you have a privilege that they lack (knowledge) and give them the benefit of the doubt.
  12. Remember that functional programming is a part of programming, and programming is part of the world.

    You might react to some of these suggestions with, "what does that have to do with functional programming? That happens everywhere." Indeed. Most of these bullet points are not specific to our field. But global problems must be addressed locally, in the community that you're in. The good news is that everything you do to make functional programming a safer field for women, and genderqueer and non-binary, people to be in will also make programming as a whole that much safer, as well as the world as a whole.

Donation button

Donate to the Ada Initiative
Don't forget to tweet to #lambda4ada when you donate! Suggested tweet, though you're encouraged to use your own words:

I donated to @adainitiative b/c I want @TheOfficialACM events to announce their anti-harassment policy. https://supportada.org?campaign=lambda #lambda4ada

tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
In my initial challenge post, I left the connection between functional programming and the Ada Initiative's mission a bit unclear. I suspected that most people who would already be inclined to listen would already understand what TAI has to do with helping bring more people into functional programming and use their talents fruitfully there.

But on the Haskell subreddit, where a Redditor by the name of LeCoqUser (in reference to the Coq proof assistant, of course) linked to my initial post, one person wrote: "I cannot fathom what this has to do with Haskell or functional programming..." I'm going to give this person the benefit of the doubt and assume they really meant, "What does this have to do with Haskell or functional programming?", and were simply applying a principle that many people like me -- who were socialized by Usenet -- learned: "If you want to know the answer to something, never just ask a question; make a false statement that's designed to get people to answer your real question by correcting you."

And it worked! Here's what I wrote on Reddit. My comment was specific to Haskell because it was on the Haskell subreddit (it's also the community I know the best), but I think what follows applies to all other functional programming language communities too.

Just to clarify why it's on-topic, I'd like to say a little bit more about what the Ada Initiative (TAI) does and how it helps the Haskell community:

  • As has been noted, TAI helps conferences and meetups develop codes of conduct. The ACM anti-harassment policy, which applies to ICFP and other conferences and workshops related to Haskell, is based on TAI's model code of conduct.
  • TAI leads anti-impostor-syndrome workshops for women who want to enter technology. As I tried to explain in my blog post, impostor syndrome is a structural barrier to getting involved in functional programming for many people who otherwise would be interested. Impostor syndrome disproportionally affects women. By helping fight impostor syndrome, one woman at a time, TAI is creating more potential members of the Haskell community.
  • TAI runs AdaCamp, which has a potentially life-changing effect as self-reported by many of the women who have participated -- in terms of building the confidence necessary to participate in tech as a career software developer and/or open-source volunteer. Again, this means more potential Haskell programmers -- there's no sense in losing half the potential audience before they even start.
  • TAI runs Ally Skills workshops, which help men who want to make their tech communities safer for women -- including, I like to think, most of the men reading this -- put their intent into action.

Hopefully that clarifies things, and I hope folks from Reddit will help us reach our new goal of $8192 $10,000! Money talks, and the fact that we've already raised $4320 [edit: $5557] [edit: $8678] from functional programmers in less than a day [edit: two days] [edit: three days] says to me that most of us recognize that TAI's work is both crucial, and not being done by any comparable organization.

Donation button

Donate to the Ada Initiative

Don't forget to tweet to #lambda4ada when you donate! Suggested tweet, though you're encouraged to use your own words:

I donated to @adainitiative b/c I want @TheOfficialACM events to announce their anti-harassment policy. https://supportada.org?campaign=lambda #lambda4ada

tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)

Donation button

Donate to the Ada Initiative

Don't forget to tweet to #lambda4ada when you donate! Suggested tweet, though you're encouraged to use your own words:

I donated to @adainitiative b/c I want @TheOfficialACM events to announce their anti-harassment policy. https://supportada.org?campaign=lambda #lambda4ada



So far, the following people from the functional programming community have donated to the challenge, as well as a number of anonymous donors. If your name appears here, it's because you checked the box that says it's okay for TAI to share your name, for which I thank you as well -- knowing who has donated so far makes it easier for other people to decide whether to donate. If you want to be as cool as these folks, then donate and (optionally) tweet about it!

In addition, I made an additional matching donation of $64 (on top of my usual $80/month), and my fellow challenge organizers Adam Foltzer, Clément Delafargue, and Chung-chieh Shan have donated as well. If your name doesn't appear here, you want it to, and you donated between September 1 and 3:00 PM Pacific Time on September 17, email me at catamorphism at gmail and I'll add it. (If you donated after that, don't worry, I'll be doing more thanks posts!)

In alphabetical order by first name:

Aaron Levin / Weird Canada
Alejandro Cabrera
Ben Blum
Bethany Lister
Carlo Angiuli
Chris Martens
Colin Barrett
Colin Gourlay
Dan
Dan Peebles
Daniel Ross
David Van Horn
Dylan Thurston
Edward Kmett
Florent Becker
J. Ian Johnson
Jon Sterling
Joshua Dunfield
Lars Hupel
Manuel Chakravarty
Pat Hickey
Prabhakar Ragde
Wouter Swierstra

Thanks as well to everybody else who has tweeted under #lambda4ada so far! Keep it up.

To all of you on this list, as well as to the donors who preferred not to be named: thank you! And if you haven't yet donated, you still have until Friday, September 19 at 5 PM for your donation to count towards the challenge. We have more than satisfied our initial $4096 goal, and are trying to raise $8192 by Friday. [Edit: We have raised $8678 and are now aiming for $10,000 before the end of business, Pacific time, on Friday!] What's more, if we raise $16,384, then the four of us will record a version of "There's No Type Class Like Show Type Class" and share it with the world. We appreciate your past and incoming donations, tweets, and blog posts!
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
I'm happy to report that the community challenge has raised $4394 for the Ada Initiative as of this writing, passing the $4096 mark just five hours after the first blog post. Thanks to Adam, Clément, Ken, and everyone who has donated so far!

Since leaving our friends who were just getting ready for bed when the original blog post went live wouldn't be nice, we're increasing the goal to $8192. If we raised more than $4096 on the first day, can we raise a little less than that with three days to go? I think so!

[Edited to add: With 6 hours left, we've raised $8678 and are aiming for $10,000!]

Donation button

Donate to the Ada Initiative
But that's not all! We're adding a stretch goal: if we raise $16,384, then Adam, Clément, Ken, and I will record Ken's classic filk "There's No Type Class Like Show Type Class" and post the recording on YouTube (or another video sharing site of our choice), illustrated by some informative graphics explaining topics like "polymorphic recursion" that the song mentions. We are putting our mouths where your money is. Tell your friends! Tell your colleagues! Tell everyone who doesn't wish you any specific harm!

Remember: donate, then tweet:


I donated to @adainitiative b/c I want @TheOfficialACM events to announce their anti-harassment policy. https://supportada.org?campaign=lambda #lambda4ada


I'd love to link to more blog posts from folks writing about why the Ada Initiative's work is needed, and why our conferences need strong and clearly advertised anti-harassment policies. Just drop me a line (full contact details in my original post).

Still no response (as of this writing) from [twitter.com profile] TheOfficialACM after 15 mentions -- maybe 15 more will do the trick?
tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
The following is a guest post from Adam Foltzer ([twitter.com profile] acfoltzer).

Our Challenge

Donation button
Donate to the Ada Initiative

This fall, I'm joining with Tim Chevalier, Clément Delafargue, Eric Merritt, and Chung-chieh (Ken) Shan to challenge the functional programming community to help make computer science conferences more welcoming to more people. We have two goals:

  1. Support the work of the Ada Initiative by donating $4096 $8192 by 5pm Pacific time on Friday, September 19th. Use and share the URL https://adainitiative.org/donate/?campaign=lambda so that we functional programmers may be counted!

    (Edited to add: We reached our initial $4096 goal at 1:15 PM Pacific time on Tuesday the 16th, so we are now aiming to raise $8192 by Friday!)
  2. Call on the ACM to definitively support and publicize their anti-harassment policy for their conferences. If you're on Twitter, tweet @TheOfficialACM with the hashtag #lambda4ada with something like:

I donated to @adainitiative because I want @TheOfficialACM to stand behind their anti-harassment policy https://adainitiative.org/donate/?campaign=lambda #lambda4ada

Being part of the functional programming community has been an incredibly valuable and rewarding part of my life. Much as Tim says in his post, conferences like ICFP offer a wonderful recurring dose of friendship, support, and belonging.

However, conferences like this are not necessarily as welcoming to folks who aren't white, cis, hetero, well-off men like me. This isn't usually due to any overtly toxic behaviors as in other communities (hi, fellow atheist gamers!), but due to a combination of incidental condescension, microaggressions, and other subtle ways that often well-meaning people can exclude those who aren't already part of the in-crowd. We can push back against these exclusions by supporting the work of the Ada Initiative and making sure ACM stands behind their anti-harassment policy.

In the last year I have become a member of the Haskell.org committee, donating my time to help improve our community, but I am under no illusions that the balance is equal. Because of functional programming, I have a career so cool I could not have imagined it, I have friendships of great depth and strength, and I have the privilege of constant learning as we discover and invent together every day. Laying down this challenge is part of what I can do to repay this debt, and I hope you will do the same.

The Ada Initiative does important work supporting women in a broad range of technology fields through the development of codes of conduct, anti-harassment policies, advocacy, and education. Their model anti-harassment policy is the basis for the ACM's, and their work informs much of what we are working on in the Haskell.org committee to improve the inclusiveness of Haskell specifically.

The Ada Initiative does valuable work worth supporting. Every month I donate $32, and for this challenge will be donating an additional $128. Join me in reaching for that $4096$8192 goal (powers of two, y'all!): https://adainitiative.org/donate/?campaign=lambda

The ACM has done well to adopt an anti-harassment policy, but to have impact it must be consistently supported and publicized along with their conferences. Join me in calling on them to do so:

I donated to @adainitiative because I want @TheOfficialACM to stand behind their anti-harassment policy https://adainitiative.org/donate/?campaign=lambda #lambda4ada

And finally, as a functional programmer, you probably know at least 5 other people who have benefited from being part of such a weird and delightful community. Pass this challenge along to them and give them the chance to help us reach our goals. Let's make it happen!

tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)

Make Functional Programming Better by Supporting the Ada Initiative and Petitioning the ACM

Edited to add: we reached our initial $4096 goal in just 5 hours! Can you help us raise it to $8192 and double what we hoped to raise? Edited again to add: We've now exceeded our goal of $8192, six hours before the end of the challenge! Can you help us bring it up to $10,000?

Donation button
Donate to the Ada Initiative

Clément Delafargue, Adam Foltzer, Eric Merritt, Chung-chieh (Ken) Shan, and I are orchestrating a community challenge to both raise money for the Ada Initiative, and make computer science conferences (specifically, the many technical conferences that the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) organizes) better. We are challenging anybody who identifies as a member of the functional programming community to do two things:

  1. Donate to the Ada Initiative, a nonprofit organization that is working hard to make it broadly possible for women and people in a variety of other marginalized groups to work in technology.
  2. Call on the ACM to consistently publicize their own anti-harassment policy for all its conferences. That is, I'm asking that those -- at least those of you who use Twitter -- tweet a statement like the following one (use your own words, just include the #lambda4ada hashtag and try to include the donation link):

    I donated to @adainitiative b/c I want @TheOfficialACM events to announce their anti-harassment policy. https://supportada.org?campaign=lambda #lambda4ada

Our goal is to raise $4096 $8192 $10,000 for the Ada Initiative by 5:00 PM Pacific time on Friday, September 19. If you use the URL https://supportada.org?campaign=lambda, your donation will count towards the functional programming community challenge and help us reach the $4096 $8192$10,000 goal. I have personally matched the first $1024 of funds raised -- that is to say, I already donate $80 per month to TAI, so over a year, my contributions will add up to $960. On Tuesday, Sept. 16, I donated an additional $64 to round the amount up to $1024. I've spent the past couple years struggling to pay off student loans and medical bills despite being generously compensated for my work -- nevertheless, I support TAI every month because I see it as an investment in my continued ability to work. I hope that my example inspires those who have a bit more financial freedom than I do to donate accordingly.

If you are reading this and you have benefited from your involvement, past or present, with any part of the functional programming community, we need your support. It is up to you how much to give, but we ask that you consider how much you have gained -- materially, intellectually, socially, perhaps even spiritually -- from what you have learned from functional programming and from the people who love it. Particularly if you are currently making your livelihood in a way that would be impossible without the work of many people who have and are making functional programming languages great, consider giving an amount that is commensurate with the gift you have received from the community. If you need a suggested amount and are employed full-time in industry who is using functional programming or doing work that wouldn't be possible if not for the foundations laid by the FP community, $128 seems pretty reasonable to me -- and at that rate, we would just need a total of 32 people to donate in order to reach the goal. I think there are far more people than that who do FP for a living!

If anybody assumed that Clément, Adam, Eric, or Ken endorsed anything in the remainder of this blog post, that assumption would likely be wrong. In what follows, I am speaking only as myself and for myself. I am an employee of Heroku, a Salesforce company, but neither Heroku nor Salesforce endorses any of the following content either. Likewise, I don't necessarily agree with everything that Ken, Eric, Adam, or Clément might say in support of this challenge; we are all individuals who may disagree with each other about many things, but agree on our common goals of supporting the Ada Initiative and raising awareness about the ACM anti-harassment policy.

If you've already gone ahead and made a donation as well as tweeting your support under #lambda4ada, great! You can stop reading here. If you're not sure yet, though, please read further.

Why ICFP Is Fun... For Some

  • Young man, there's no need to feel down
  • I said young man, put that old journal down
  • And come publish at... I - C - F - P
  • It's fun to publish at... I - C - F - P
  •  
  • When your lambda is tight, and your theorems allright
  • You can come, on, down, and publish at... I - C - F - P
  • You know I'm talking 'bout... I - C - F - P
  •  
  • There's a place you can go, and lots of friends that you know, at the I, C, F, P.

          -- Nathan Whitehead, paying homage to The Village People

ICFP, functional programmers' annual "family reunion" (to borrow a phrase from one of the organizer's of this year's ICFP, which took place two weeks ago) feels to me like more than just an academic conference. The lone academic publication that I can claim (second) authorship for appeared in ICFP, but it's more than just the opportunity to hear about new results or share my own that keeps me coming back. Maybe that has something to do with the affiliated annual programming contest, or the copious number of co-located workshops revolving around different language communities, or maybe it's just about folks who know how to keep the "fun" in functional programming. It's a serious academic conference that occasionally features cosplay and [PDF link] once had an accepted paper that was written in the form of a theatrical play.

Putting The Fun Back in Functional Programming and How the Ada Initiative Is Helping Us Do It )

tim: "System Status: Degraded" (degraded)
It's usually a good thing when people talk about ways to increase women's participation in programming communities. I used to be active in the Haskell community, so normally, that the subject came up during the annual "Future of Haskell" discussion at this year's Haskell Symposium would be something for me to cheer about.

Sometimes, men talk about the gender disparity in tech communities as if there's some big mystery. I have to conclude that these guys haven't talked to women who currently work in computer science academia and the tech industry, or who did and then left. As someone who was perceived as a girl or woman doing computer science for 12 years, my solution to the lack of women in tech is:

Stop telling women that they aren't welcome and don't belong.



During the "Future of Haskell" discussion, Doaitse Swierstra (a professor of computer science at the University of Utrecht), suggested that a good way to increase the number of Haskell programmers would be to recruit one woman for every man in the room and that this would be a good thing because it would "make the meetings more attractive".

In other words: he followed a call for more participation by women with exactly the kind of comment that tells women that a space is unsafe for them.

Suggesting that more women would be welcomed at a conference because they would make it "more attractive" is saying that women are valued for how they look, not for what they do. If you've ever heard the words "objectification" or "hypersexualization" and not known what they meant, well, look no further than this comment for an example. And because many women see spaces where they are targets for the male gaze as spaces where they will be targets for more than just men's gazes, it's a comment that carries the underlying message that the computer science conference under discussion is not, in fact, a place where a self-protecting woman ought to be. It's not that Prof. Swierstra said any of this outright, of course. He didn't have to. English-speaking academicians are part of that subset of the world in which everyone comes pre-installed with the cultural programming that means a few words about the "attractiveness" that more women participants would bring to the Haskell Symposium evoke a whole world of stereotypes -- ones that limit women's choices, careers, and lives.

Swierstra's remarks were also potentially alienating to any non-heterosexual men who were present, as they reflected an assumption that he was speaking to an audience of people who found women, and only women, "attractive". Finally, there is a tacit understanding when one talks about "attractive" women that one is talking about women who have cissexual bodies, are thin, aren't disabled, and are in a particular, narrow age range. So apparently, if you're a woman and not all of those descriptors apply to you, maybe you shouldn't think about learning Haskell, as your presence wouldn't make the Haskell Symposium more attractive (to heterosexual men).

So while Prof. Swierstra may have meant no harm -- may indeed have meant to do good by encouraging efforts to increase women's participation in the Haskell community -- what matters is not his intent, but the effect of his words. (Everyone who's ever written code knows that the compiler doesn't care about your intent; extend that to your interactions with other people, and you might find yourself behaving more fairly.) Any women who were in the room for the meeting (and when I have attended it in the past, there have always been at least a few) got the message that if they weren't there to be pretty, why were they there? And any women who watched the video of the discussion (relevant part begins around 32 minutes in) got the message that the Haskell community is a community that tolerates sexism.

When I watched the video, what I heard after Prof. Swierstra's comment about attractiveness was laughter. No one called him out; the discussion moved on. I might be wrong here, but the laughter didn't sound like the nervous laughter of people who have recognized that they've just heard something terrible, but don't know quite what to do about it, either (though I'm sure that was the reaction of some attendees). It sounded like the laughter of people who were amused by something funny.

It would have taken just one person to stand up at that moment and say, "That was sexist and it's not acceptable here." (That person would probably have to be a senior faculty member or researcher, someone of equal rank to Prof. Swierstra; challenging a male, senior researcher is not something a female grad student (or even maybe a male grad student) should be expected to do.) But nobody did. And that's what really disappoints me. Structural sexism persists not because of the few people who do and say blatantly bad things, but because of the majority who tolerate them. People say things like the things Prof. Swierstra said because they are socially rewarded for it: they can get a few laughs. Also, they can display their membership in a high-status group (heterosexual men). Take the reward away, and the comments and actions that exclude go away too.

I expected more from the people who attend the Haskell Symposium. I expected more because for years, I attended ICFP and the Haskell Symposium, and even in the days when I didn't identify as male and didn't usually challenge others' perception of me as a woman, I felt like I was in a community where I belonged when I was there. For the most part, I didn't feel like my perceived gender was called attention to, and I felt like I would be judged based on what I could contribute to a conversation rather than on whether a man would find my appearance pleasing. If my first Haskell Symposium as a twenty-year-old had been in 2012 instead of 2000, I wouldn't have come away with the same impression. And I don't know if I would have gone back.

I'm no longer in the community of people who attend ICFP, and I no longer work on Haskell projects. My academic career ended a year ago when I was told that I couldn't be a grad student if I didn't want to interact with another student I'd witnessed joking about raping a fellow student. I have a job that doesn't involve Haskell, and lack the privilege of having spare time and energy left to do programming projects when I'm done with paying work. There have been days when I've had regrets. Today is not one of them. If I'd continued doing functional programming research, I could have been an agent for change; sexism no longer affects me directly now that folks have to have it spelled out for them that I'm not a cis man. Still, I don't feel like a community that makes somebody feel like it's acceptable to say that women would add "attractiveness" to a professional meeting is a community that I belong in.

If you are a man in this community, please don't feel like you have no power. You actually have a lot of power: you can let people who make these comments know that sexism isn't okay. The Geek Feminism Wiki's "Resources for allies" page is one resource that can help; the wiki also has a page of good sexism comebacks. Some comebacks that might have helped in this situation are: "I don't think that sounds as funny as you want it to sound"; "Who let you think it would be okay to say something like that?"; "Excuse me? / "I'm sorry, I don't quite understand what you're trying to say. Could you state it more plainly?"; "It sounds like you are implying <sexist thing>. I'm sure you don't really think that. <change subject>"; "That was sexist"; and (if used by the moderator) "We're done" and "That was sexist, and that is not acceptable here." Of course, there are others. The most important thing you can do to be an ally is to listen to women, and people who are perceived as women, in your community. Don't lecture people about how to respond to difficulties you haven't faced; simply learn from their own self-reporting of their experiences. Of course, don't demand that others educate you without establishing trust, either.

Countering sexism requires courage and (in Samuel Delany's words) moral stamina. It is work that largely needs to be done by men, since men who tacitly believe that women aren't quite human are hardly going to listen to women's opinions on the subject. For men to do this work, of course, they have to believe that women belong in their communities, that women are more than just attractive bodies, and that their communities will benefit from the inclusion of women -- benefit in ways that are not about aesthetics. Whether from within or without, I hope that the Haskell community will include more men who have this courage and who believe these principles -- whether or not the presence of those men makes the community more attractive.


Addendum: If you're coming here from Reddit, please take the time to read four background pieces that are part of my earlier series of essays "A Problem With Equality": "Power and privilege", "Systems and individuals", "What oppression is", and "Emotional invalidation". Most criticisms of the piece you're reading have already been answered in one of these essays.

Profile

tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Tim Chevalier

September 2014

S M T W T F S
 1234 56
78 910 111213
1415 16 17 18 1920
21222324252627
282930    

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags