Open Source Software: Male Nerds Contributing To The Common Good For Free—So Feminists Ask "Where Are The Women?!"
May 24, 2015, 07:18 PM
A+
|
a-
Print Friendly and PDF
Few things get SJWs angrier than male nerds contributing to the common good for free. For example, from the Crooked Timber blog for conventionally minded academics:
Where are the women in the history of open source?

by SUMANA HARIHARESWARA on MAY 21, 2015

Hi – Sumana Harihareswara here. You might remember me from my April guest post about free/open source software, licensing, and codes of conduct in open communities. … Today I’m considering where we got frameworks that we free software/open source folks often take for granted, and specifically what might have been erased from our intellectual heritage due to sexism.

What’s missing?

If you ask some people about the history of free software, you hear about Richard Stallman creating the GNU Public License and formulating the Four Freedoms. …

Some people will tell you a bit about Stallman, and then discuss how Eric S. Raymond wrote “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” and articulated more pragmatic language for open source folks to use, and how permissive licenses helped popularize open source. …

But in any case — where the f*** are the women?

Getting paid to program?
I recently started looking back at the narrative I’ve been told about the origins of free and open source software, the male-centric narrative about Richard Stallman and Eric Raymond that I’ve repeated a zillion times as a teacher. I’ve corrected my understanding of my general software engineering heritage to correct for biases, so I’ve reclaimed a heritage that has tons of gender diversity. But what about my open source history? Approximately every field in history has suppressed or hidden contributions by women, so I figure it’s safe to assume that open source philosophy is similar, and proceed on that basis. Whom am I missing?
You can do a reality check on the notion that the contributions of women to computer programming were covered up in the past simply by looking up the Pentagon’s massive attempt to impose its Ada language on the programmers of the world. Back in the 1970s’s the Department of Defense wanted to radically reduce the number of programming languages in use by contractors, so it sponsored a new language, which it named after Lord Byron’s daughter. Ada was a huge deal when I took a course in programming in 1980. From Wikipedia (which, granted, is mostly written for free by men):
In May 1979, the Green proposal, designed by Jean Ichbiah at CII Honeywell Bull, was chosen and given the name Ada—after Augusta Ada, Countess of Lovelace. … The Military Standard reference manual was approved on December 10, 1980 (Ada Lovelace’s birthday), and given the number MIL-STD-1815 in honor of Ada Lovelace’s birth year. …

Ada attracted much attention from the programming community as a whole during its early days. Its backers and others predicted that it might become a dominant language for general purpose programming and not just defense-related work. Ichbiah publicly stated that within ten years, only two programming languages would remain, Ada and Lisp. Early Ada compilers struggled to implement the large, complex language, and both compile-time and run-time performance tended to be slow and tools primitive. …

In 1987, the US Department of Defense began to require the use of Ada (the Ada mandate) for every software project where new code was more than 30% of result, though exceptions to this rule were often granted. …

The Department of Defense Ada mandate was effectively removed in 1997, as the DoD began to embrace COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) technology.

You may recall Ada as another costly Pentagon boondoggle, but obviously your memories are poisoned by sexism.

Similarly, if you are of a certain age, you may recall how 1940s programmer Admiral Grace Hopper of COBOL fame was constantly feted in her old age with honors and promotions. Wikipedia lists 29 different honors bestowed upon her from 1969 onward, but that’s lumping together the more than 40 honorary degrees she received. But once again, the Wikipedia list was probably put together by some man for free, so it’s no doubt sexist.