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Ubuntu Women Project Status

I’ve already posted about much of this on list, but it’s been a big part of what I’ve been doing over the past couple weeks, although I will concede that my attention to this project over the summer has dropped due to a lot of factors. General summertime business in my life (so many festivals, so little time!), other Ubuntu obligations (like our overactive LoCo team), but now as the weather cools it’s time for me to bring my attention back, so here’s a bunch of info about the status of the project.

After a discussion with several other women in the Ubuntu-Women project, a discussion with the Program Manager at Canonical, Billy Cina, and a call with the Community Manager at Canonical, Jono Bacon, last week about general project status we’ve begun to formulate a plan to move forward with our Mentoring and Courses program at Ubuntu Women.

The discussion with Jono was both informative and a bit depressing. His brought the outside perspective of the project that I had been lacking, which helped us better understand our current position in the community. The depressing bit? Many people within Ubuntu view ANY comments on feminism by ANY women within Ubuntu as a reflection of the Ubuntu Women project. Melissa‘s controversial posts, Sarah‘s -marketing thread about the Canonical women’s t-shirts, Vid‘s suggestion that Ubuntu-Women.org should be on t-shirts and even my -marketing post about UWN “wives” comment have been put up as examples of how all the Ubuntu Women project does is complain – when in fact NONE of these are official positions coming from the Ubuntu Women Project, some of them are even denied by a majority of folks in the project. We’re just Ubuntu Members who stood up with an objection, all on our own. Regardless, association matters and we aren’t going to change our image by doing more complaining about the unfortunate associations, what we need to do is continue push forward with our wonderful projects and work to show the community that we’re a positive force within Ubuntu. And ultimately we need to work harder to show that women ARE coming to and staying with Ubuntu via the Ubuntu-Women Project.

Billy Cina dropped by the #ubuntu-women after hearing about the Debian Packaging Course Miriam Ruiz is doing on LinuxChix and which Ubuntu Women is promoting. She explained that the Ubuntu Training team had been discussing creating a similar tutorial. As discussion progressed, it was decided that the Ubuntu Women project working in a partnership with the Ubuntu Training team (and begin seeking out other courses, classroom type projects within Ubuntu) would be beneficial to both groups. Ubuntu Women can push women who want to do tutorials for the Training team (or other teaching teams, where appropriate) and promote all the Training courses at U-W, and our tutorials can put more focus on Women in F/OSS issues, like a possible upcoming course about how to effectively handle unpleasant behavior we encounter in F/OSS. This has been discussed loosely in the past, including the fact that having general courses on U-W takes away from them being promoted to the general Ubuntu community. I agree, but until now haven’t seen a way to move forward with it.

Finally, it perhaps goes without saying that discussion with other women in the project has been pivotal to this new surge forward, I certainly can’t do it on my own and the democratic nature of the project wouldn’t allow me to. Thanks to previously mentioned Miriam and Melissa, Lydia, Susana, hypa7ia and others in IRC who have lately been so active with our plans moving forward. We’re making progress, ladies!


  • Dinda

    What a double edged sword it is for anyone who speaks up. If you say nothing then nothign will ever change, if you speak up you are almost immediately labeled as complaining. A call for discussion, or rather a call for Thought, is not complaining!

    Thanks for all your had work these past few months! It’s not in vain.

  • Mary

    I came over to make the comment that Dinda made above essentially! There’s always people who want you to be a bit less loud before they’ll approve of you… and a bit less… and a bit less again…

    That said, adding positive action to your box of tricks is a good thing anyway because it will make the project feel better about itself too.

    I think part of the key of distinguishing helpful criticism of your approach from attempts to silence you is to think about whether the criticism comes from someone who is really your allie. If someone is saying “Ubuntu Women members are too strident” but actually means “I pretty fundamentally disagree with the goals of Ubuntu Women and most of its members” then their criticism is of limited value to you: they’re not the audience you’re trying to reach at the moment.

  • Michael

    Yay Ubuntu Women!

  • Joseph James Frantz


    This is a great post. It is very positive and informative.

    Folks like you and I speak up when we believe something is amiss. Since we are very vocal about issues that we believe in, this tends to be what folks focus on about us. They do not see you working with the Ubuntu Women project, in the chat rooms, with your LOCO group to improve the Ubuntu project, just helping folks in general, or the very technical and complicated contributions you make, that is your great skill with Linux. They do not see me encouraging Free software adoption at my place of employment, with family members, in the community, with the Web Standards Association of which I am a member, or helping persons in private msg with Ubuntu Issues (I am not as public as you are in the Ubuntu Community, though I am notoriously known). Nor do the see the other aspects of our personalities, lifestyles, feelings, religion, family life, or any of the other things that make the us who we are.

    First, I think we absolutely have a right to speak out about issues that are important to us, and we should not be told to shut up. Even though I have disagreed with a couple of your posts, I still believe not only should you be *able* to speak up about them, but that you *should* speak up about them. This is not about permission, you most certainly do not need anyone’s permission to do so, and should not feel like you have to ask it. I know that feeling and I think it is unacceptable. But rather it is about something more. Your taking the courage to speak out, knowing that there will be those of us that disagree with you, sets excellent precedents. It gets us thinking and talking about issues. Because of your posts we examine things in the community a little bit more to see if we feel they are unreasonable. While we might disagree in any specific area, the thinking, feeling and communication process gets kick started.

    More importantly though it gets us thinking about ourselves. How am I acting? What am I saying? How am I disagreeing? Have I said things in disagreement that could have been phrased in a postive manner? Have I said things that could be deemed attacking instead of merely expressing a different conclusion? Am I saying things that could imply that I think the person should not have said what they say? How would I feel if I brought up an issue (say about the PTLGB community) and someone responded the way I did? What about things I have said about christianity, would I appreciate it if similar things were said about paganism from a christian? How do other people feel about my responses to your topics? These are only a few of the questions that such posts as yours and mine should inspire people to ask of themselves.

    But most times, myself included, we get caught up in the particular singular issue brought up, rather than the overall scope. So if the person (you or I) have a single fact wrong, our entire arguement is dismissed. (Sometimes that fact could be an issue of how the event occured, or the motive behind it, or the actual event itself). Yet sometimes, these things are not specifically about a single fact. When we say “this and that occured and I felt taken aback (or I felt hurt, or I felt demeaned etc)” we are expressing our feelings. Certainly sometimes the thing that occured was not meant to hurt our feelings. How many times have I been at a church meeting (when I used to go) and someone would say Hi to me, but I was distracted, and did not hear them. Can I dismiss their feelings when they tell me I hurt them? I had to learn that they had a right to express such hurts to me, and yes I likewise had a right to explain that I am a nutty professor type and my vision is often pinpoint so I lose my perepheral. So too with you. My disagreeing with you on a particular fact, does not dismiss two realities. The first being that a particular event made you feel a certain way. The second being *why* such things would make you feel a certain way. I believe part of the why might be the general mistreatment of women in society. No it doesnt mean that every single hour of every day every woman is mistreated. Nor however am I, though there are a great many times I feel (and am) mistreated if only for an instant.

    You made the point that even most in the Ubuntu Women community do not particularly agree with these posts (forgive me if I am analysing this comment incorrectly). Perhaps they are like the women I have shown these things to, and mentioned in my responses. Perhaps these particular events do not seem demeaning to them. And they are correct. However, you are unquestionably and equally correct in stating that this or that made you feel a particular way. Because of this, you should not be dismissed. When I have brought up similar issues regarding my lifestyle, statements have been made to me like “Maybe when YOU become more comfortable with your lifestyle, others saying this or that (the this or that being that my lifestyle is against the rules or talking about it is against the rules) will not bother you anymore.” However we both know that it is not your being a woman that you are uncomfortable with, or me being poly that I am uncomfortable with. (For me it is not even that people disagree with my lifestyle). Rather, it is that they want us to ‘shut up’ about the things that are important to us. So really it is *they* that are uncomfortable with us, not we ourselves.

    So I hope you continue to bring up these issues. Most importantly I hope that you bring up things that *I* disagree with you on. Why? How am I to grow if all I read, think, talk about, who I talk with, and such like things are the folks and ideas that I already believe? I hope that you and I in the least of all people in this community can have positive and sometimes vehement disagreement with each other’s positions, because doing so will make us better people. You will help me to appreciate other kinds of feminists than the sort I am used to being around. Reading your posts, talking with you, will make me into the sort of person that I am trying to make myself. So when you see me disagreeing with particular facts, understand I do this so that I might question and in questioning learn more about the whys of things, rather than just the whats.

    Regarding Jono’s statements. I have heard from others that he is a good person, and a good leader. I have heard that not only does he follow the Ubuntu Code of Conduct, but the Ubuntu Leadership Code of Conduct, which places more responsibilities on leaders than the rest of us. So I hope his comments to you are not of a negative sort. I hope for instance that he is not speaking of his personal view, but rather just giving you perspective of how some people feel. Whether your comments represent the Ubuntu women community is actually to me kind of irrelevant. They should not be dismissed, and I hope that was not how your conversation went.

    With that in mind though, your post gave me a perspective on myself. As we are aware some of the most recent posts have been about only these issues (that is to say posts on planet.ubuntu.com). So likewise have my posts been. Folks have not seen me in a technical or helpful sense, though I am being so outside of their scope. Likewise the same might be what Jono was saying of the posts about feminisim. Though as I have already mentioned your posts *are* helpful. There are multiple ways to help a community like Ubuntu and they do not have to center around technical things. Your posts are one way to help the community.

    Nevertheless, I take away from this that folks like us should also somehow be more vocal about the other things we are doing. This helps folks to see that our bringing up issues of alternative lifestyles, or women’s issues, are one part of our whole person. And so doing, hopefully they will begin to view us as people, and then not dismiss our feelings as readily as they have done until now. More importantly, if you or I seem to be dismissing each others feelings, let us set the example of really trying to hear each other.

    Thank you for hearing my long post, and thank you for your work in all of these areas and for helping me to examine myself and grow. Many kind regards.

    (Besides all of this we look forward to these projects of the Ubuntu Women project. They are very exciting for all of us in the community.)

  • pleia2

    @ Dinda

    Thanks! A “call for thought” is certainly a better term for it. The “wives” comment in UWN was met with an “oh sorry, I just didn’t think” from the author. I personally like it when people point out offenses I have made so I can remedy them, I’d never call someone being offended and speaking up about it “complaining”

    @ Mary

    That said, adding positive action to your box of tricks is a good thing anyway because it will make the project feel better about itself too.

    Agreed. While I do value speaking up (and didn’t mean in any way to suggest that we’ll stop or have been silenced), I think more action that will boost the profile of women within the project is ultimately going to be a more powerful force in our success. Sadly we’ve gotten off this path, but we’re getting back :)

    You’re also right on with your mention of people who disagree vs those with real criticisms. I’m taking Jono at his word as a professional representative of Canonical, he seems to be genuinely interested in seeing the project succeed.

    @ Joseph

    Thank you for your kind words.