siobhan-featured

Which Siobhan is it anyway?

I was messaged yesterday on Skype by a friend who pointed to an exchange in the #wordpress irc chat room. The exchange went as follows:

Person 1: Need to ping siobahn !
Person 2: The hot chick or the other one
Person 1: The WP organizer for WCLND

Feel free to go back and read that again if you need to. In case you’re missing the problem – someone was looking for me, and the means for identifying me was not any of the things that I do, but my looks. And not just my looks (i.e. the red-headed one or the blonde one) but based on someone else’s opinion of whether they think I’m attractive or not.

This bothered me – not because I care whether someone thinks I’m hot or not – but because I honestly think of the WordPress community as a place where things like that do not matter.

In a working space, which the community is for me (as it is for many others) it is not appropriate to distinguish between people based on their looks – any people of any gender. But, let’s also be clear, we live in a society in which women are more often judged by their looks than men, and that judgement can have an impact on their career. Whether that’s in sport, television, or web design.

Let’s take a step back and look at the above discussion again – “the hot chick or the other one.” We can reframe it as someone looking for a man from the community:

Person 1: Need to ping ryan !
Person 2: simple pie ryan? WP Candy Ryan? The ryan from New Zealand?
Person 1: No - the Ryan who made WordPress Ryan

What any of these guys looks like doesn’t matter. The same goes for our Andrews or our Matts or our Bens or whoever. I’ve never distinguished between men in such a way. If I was to have to articulate the different between between Simon Wheatley and Simon Dickson, or Andrew Nacin and Andrew Norcross, what they looked like would have nothing to do with it.

As a woman, you grow up aware that you are compared to other women, compared to other girls at school, compared to the images on the front of magazines, to the women in movies. And you brush it aside, and you deal with it, and you accept the fact that no you’re never going to look like Audrey Hepburn, but that doesn’t make you a bad person. You realise that while society appears to value female beauty over almost every other female aspect (maternity excepted), the individuals that you meet aren’t like that – they think beyond the norms that are so frustratingly baked into society’s structure. People treat you with the same level of respect that they would expect themselves… except that sometimes there are those that don’t.

And you know that it’s not because they intentionally hate you or intentionally discriminate against you, but because they are thoughtless and their frame of reference is limited. In the workplace, however, there are rules that protect you from feeling uncomfortable or objectified. And these rules are important because everyone should have the opportunity to go about their job, or be a part of a community, without having to deal with behaviour that makes them feel bad.

When the “women in tech” issue is raised there are the inevitable objections that there is nothing excluding women from technology, that if we want to be involved we can. But if I was someone with an interest in getting involved with WordPress who went to the IRC chat room and saw women in the community being distinguished on the basis of their looks, I’d just think “oh hey, here’s another place that I’ll be judged based on what I look like – screw you guys, I’m going home.”

After I read the above exchange, which was bad enough (or as my friend described it, crass), I took a look through the IRC chat logs to see what else had been said about people.

An example:

<Joe> You wish you were as hawt as me
<Bob> um
<Bob> interesting fact
<Bob> when I see someone hot
<Bob> I don't wish that I was as hot as them
<Bob> I wish I was inside of them. I'm an adult.
<Joe> you dont get inside a hot chick without being at or above their number..
<Joe> or without being rich
<Bob> I can't complain :-0)
<Bob> a little bit of column a, a little bit of column b
<Joe> if the girl's a 7, you better hope you are as hot or hotter..
<Joe> you can't be a littel hot or a little rich..
<Bob> Joe, are you in a dry county?
<Bob> They have a thing here that levels the playing field, it's called alcohol
<Joe> Ummm no. That works for guys on girls.. but not girls on guys
<Joe> or RARELY girls on guys
<Bob> my old lady is smoking, I'm just happy
<Bob> Joe, as an adult, I can vow that it has worked more than a handful of times with females

And another:

<Frank> I wish I could build plugins as gracefully as wordpress developers
<Frank> then I might get a raise
<Paul> lolol
<Paul> wut
<Frank> Guys, wtf is a hook?
<Frank> If WP was a hooker, I would give it away
<Paul> wordpress is pretty much just shove that sql into your template
<Frank> open source sluts
<Frank> Paul, I don't treat wordpress like a lady. Balls deep, first push.
<Paul> man you are 100% agreed to catch something
<Paul> pretty sure I have lowered my life expectancy from working with wordpress
<ipstenu> Frank: That language is not welcome here. Please stop.

(yay Mika!)

(note: I changed people’s names. The intention isn’t to shame any individual but to draw attention to a problem).

This sort of stuff goes on in the IRC chatroom all the time. There’s a whole spectrum from judging women based on their looks to sexualised language to sexual banter between people in the chat room. If we are serious about creating a community that is welcoming to women (or to men who are uncomfortable with this sort of atmosphere) then it needs to go.

It’s also worth pointing out that many people who are prominent in our community sit all day in #wordpress (myself included), and this activity goes on right under our noses. I know that we just don’t pay attention to the chat room. How are other people to know that though? How does it not look like we condone such behaviour?

This needs to be called out in the WP community, like it ought to be anywhere else. The community is incredibly welcoming for women, I absolutely don’t deny that. But we’ve become very good at patting ourselves on the back about it. We’re in danger of creating a situation in which women who do feel objectified or discriminated against don’t feel that they can speak up about it. After all, who wants to be the person to ruin the party?

If anyone does feel that they have been discriminated against or made to feel uncomfortable then please let myself or someone else on the project know. We do care, and we will listen. I have had my own experiences of uncomfortable conversations or being sleazed on at WordCamp after parties, so I’m sure that there are other women who have too.

Jen has started an initiative around community expectations, and I am joining the team working on it. Not because I hate men or because I’m angry at society, but because I expect better, and I expect better for others too.

Too often we act as though the world is the way that it is by virtue of some natural law. We shrug our shoulders and say “oh well, that’s just the way things are.” But the world isn’t just the way it is, it’s become that way, it’s constructed – we made it. All of us have the capacity to change things – sometimes we can do it subtly, and sometimes we do it with a hammer. Sometimes we emphasise the positive, and other times we have to point out the negative.

Women and men are not yet treated as equals, it’s a slow, iterative process, but I strongly believe that we can get there. In our small community we should continue to redress the balance so that all of our spaces are welcoming, no one feels discriminated against, and so that when someone is looking for a woman, the first way to distinguish them from someone else isn’t how they look, it’s what they do.

In the meantime, here are some useful ways to describe me: red-headed Siobhan, WP History Siobhan, Docs Siobhan, Siobhan who makes up stupid names for people (like Zazzles and Hanzo), Siobhan who tamed Rarsty, Audrey Siobhan, Siobhan who eats her steak blue, Siobhan the writer, Siobhan who cooks awesome dinner, Siobhan of the terrible singing voice, clumsy Siobhan, world-class-list-maker Siobhan, WordPress Siobhan, extreme walker Siobhan, WCEU Siobhan, WCLDN Siobhan, Irish Siobhan, Northern Irish Siobhan, too-many-degrees Siobhan, Smashing Mag Siobhan, Siobhan McKeown.

97 Comments

  1. “Extreme walker” might confuse people, because you and I are otherwise alike in so many ways.

    <3 Thanks for the post.

    Reply

    1. People find it hard to tell us apart – although they do say that my extreme walking skills surpass your own.

      This may call for a walk-off!

      Reply

  2. These people’s behavior is unacceptable. How embarrassing. I’m sorry that you or anyone would be treated this way, and props to Mika for not allowing it.

    Reply

    1. I’m sad to say that I’m fairly used to it. What I don’t want is for behaviour like this to alienate other people.

      Reply

  3. I’m sorry this post was even necessary. I’d like to hope that the statement “Women and men are not yet treated as equals” is only true from some people, not from everyone. I know there are many members of our community who work to treat everyone the same, regardless of who they are. I wish the statement that I’ve seen Otto (#42 if you’re confused about which one) make about judging ideas based on content not based on who is presenting them was more the norm.

    Sidenote: there is more than one Siobhan in our community? I have been doing a bad job of learning real names lately.

    Reply

    1. Sidenote: there is more than one Siobhan in our community? I have been doing a bad job of learning real names lately.

      There’s at least one more: the GSOC Siobhan. Which means “Awesome Siobhan” describes two people in the WP community.

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      1. Two awesome Siobhans and one awesome Chip!

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      2. Thank you Chip.

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        1. Hi Siobhan,

          Sorry we never met. Thanks for contributing to WordPress!

          Reply

    2. Otto is totally right about that. And as a community we’re pretty good at it. But sometimes there are slip ups.

      And yes, there are two Siobhans – the other Siobhan was doing a GNOME mentorship this summer and was quite active in IRC.

      Reply

  4. Ugh and a hug over the situation that lead to this post, but thank you for writing this post as it’s needed.

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  5. Full support for all of this.

    Reply

  6. This post actually made me cry. I cannot believe these conversations occurred on IRC! :( It’s sad and infuriating. Hearing about this is giving me some courage to think about telling a story of my own. I didn’t think WP, of all open source communities, had a problem like this and had surmised that experiences I’ve had must have been isolated incidents. Thank you for posting this.

    Reply

    1. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve got a story of your own (though not surprised). If you want to share it, whether it’s in private or in public, I know that there are members of the community who would be supportive.

      It’s hard to share these types of things because there is -always- the danger of a backlash. However, when you share it, it makes others realise that they aren’t weird for feeling uncomfortable in situations, that they aren’t alone.

      I hope that this post lets you know that whatever’s happened, you’re not alone either. If that’s the only result of my writing it, it would absolutely be worth it.

      Reply

  7. I always just describe you as the awesome one with the awesome accent, but both descriptors really are totally subjective. I’ll just stick to Susan.

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    1. There is only one Susan! (I think? Maybe not…)

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    2. +1 for Susan.

      Siobhan, thanks for continuing to be a voice that raises the bar for our community. Thankfully those behaviors aren’t the norm, but I appreciate you and Mika (and the throng of others, a lot of them in these comments) that are willing to say “Hey, that’s not right.”

      Reply

  8. These people are not representative of the WordPress community as a whole, thankfully. But the sad reality is: open, unmoderated IRC channels attract trolls and immature twits such as they ones you had the displeasure of observing.

    We either accept that open, unmoderated IRC channels are the Mos Eisley cantinas of the internet, or else we find a way to actively moderate them, or else we lock them down – or, just maybe, we consider whether the time has come just to shut down the “official” #wordpress IRC channel (and maybe some others).

    In this day and age: do we really need them? We have so many other, and better, communication channels than IRC.

    Reply

    1. By the way: what’s my “stupid” name? :)

      Reply

      1. I anoint you…. “chiplet!”

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      2. Colts Fan Chip

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    2. There are absolutely trolls in the IRC chat room and unfortunately some of them are regulars. There are also people who are extremely aggressive and rude to people who are just looking for help.

      I would prefer to find a way to moderate the chat rooms rather than to shut them down. There is a very active and close community there. They should have the opportunity to fix the problem. We discussed it at the support/docs chat today and we’ve formed a plan for dealing with it. I suspect it will take time but I’m confident we can get there

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    3. …or, just maybe, we consider whether the time has come just to shut down the “official” #wordpress IRC channel (and maybe some others).

      What a great idea. Dozens of happy users that found answers for their WordPress related questions daily – who cares? Let’s shut down this mess! Close all Forums, too. And if i think about it, any kind of contribution is dangerous, isn’t it?

      In fact some regulars showed up on #wordpress-sdf in August and we discussed things as moderation, having capabilities to mute annoying users, etc. We had a great talk and then came to the conclusion to shut down the Internet do nothing.

      Of course I understand the anger and frustration Siobhan shares in her blog post. Not being a native speaker I had to learned many, many abusive words on the IRC chat #wordpress myself. For sure this isn’t funny. Yet don’t let us come to wrong conclusions.

      Being a stay@home-dad I enjoy the hospitality the WordPress community on #wordpress provides (almost) every day. For me, it’s a little like going to the office. You meet people, they help you and sometimes I can even provide an answer myself. Starting with very basic HTML/CSS knowledge I have learned a bunch on PHP, jQuery, JavaScript and some pretty cool tricks for writing custom WordPress themes and plugins. All that I would miss if we now came to the point to “close this mess”.

      Reply

      1. I 100% agree that shutting down the IRC chat rooms isn’t a solution. A lot of people use them and there is a tight community there. A solution lies in finding a way to empower the regulars to create an online social space that is welcoming to everyone. We’ll discuss this again in the sfd chat next week and I’m sure we can figure out a way to do it.

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        1. That would be a great follow up to our conversation on #wp-sfd in August.

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      2. I agree shutting the channel down isnt needed, just more activate moderators, ones in different time zones so stuff like this does not happen.

        I spend at least 5 or 6 hours a day , 5 days a week helping people, and only a few people act this way.

        A few bad apples shouldn’t shut down an whole orchard

        Reply

  9. Quite shocking and unnecessary. You and many others within the WP community are doing a fantastic job at humanising WordPress and building a community with strong values.

    I certainly condemn this behaviour as i’m sure many others do.

    As a side note, maybe the values WordPress stands for could be made more visible and accessible to people looking to get involved with WordPress and for those that are already involved with WordPress in some shape of form.

    Reply

    1. Thanks – we do our best!

      We have our first community expectations group tomorrow so hopefully soon we’ll be able to point people in the direction of a document that we draw up by consensus.

      Reply

  10. Unique name FTW :-)

    – I’m looking for Ozh
    – Which one?

    — Nobody, never

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    1. I thought I was pretty safe with Siobhan :D

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    2. I’ve heard people refer to “Ozh”, the core committer to WordPress, whereas they actually meant “Ozz”, the core committer to WordPress.

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      1. This is true. The confusion doesn’t happen online but it does happen in offline discussions. “Do you mean Ozh or Ozz?” “Errrr…”

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  11. Thanks for posting this, Siobhan. Spot-on point about not wanting to dusrupt the totally supportive areas with negative experiences. Still, this needs to be said over and over in many different places until it finally has the right weight in the community consciousness, or it won’t change for the better.

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  12. Thanks for sharing! I just refer to you as “WordCamp smoke buddy Siobhan”

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  13. I wanted to impress you and be all eloquent with my comment, but this is just bullshit and I hate it and I want to rip people’s heads off.

    I did, however, think that another Helen would come before another Siobhan.

    Reply

    1. +1
      See, I’m so bad that I don’t even write my own comment about writing an impressive comment, I have to +1 Helen’s. ;p

      I have the benefit of being married to a feminist (which, honestly, I hope everyone involved in this discussion feels comfortable applying that label to themselves) and yesterday I almost had a fit about one thing after another just illustrating how gender-biased our culture is against women. It’s maddening and infuriating. Those chat transcripts are abhorrent and mad props (again) to Mika for telling them to shut the hell up (in, you know, much nicer language that only someone with the patience to spend all day digging through support forums can manage — I would be more of the “shut the hell up, jackass” variety).

      Feminism isn’t about women hating men or having more power than men, it’s about equality, in the same way that the civil rights movement wasn’t about African Americans usurping white people, it was about not being treated as inferiors. And while I could say that you know the day has come when the chat transcript reads like this:

      Person 1: I'm looking for chris
      Person 2: the hot one or the other one?

      (…in my case that might even be “the hot chick or the dude”…)

      …I’d much rather than conversation not even happen at all if people are being distinguished as Hot Or Not. A lot of us spend all day working with WordPress, and if the day ever came where every day I had to wade through offensive, sexually-themed banter that made me embarrassed to have my chat window open (which the second two transcripts would qualify), I would switch to Drupal. (Not really…I’d probably switch to something less horrible, but you get the gist.) The point being, this (this being the wider community, IRC, Twitter, whatevs) is our workplace, and if two jackasses were having that conversation at an office, they’d be terminated on the spot.

      Before this meandering comment becomes even more tangential than it already is, I’ll just close by quoting Wil Wheaton:

      Don’t be a dick.

      Reply

  14. Thanks for speaking up, calling this out, not remaining silent.

    For the record, the first two words I think of when I think of you: YOU ROCK.

    Reply

  15. Thanks for sharing your experience and calling attention to the issue. WordPress isn’t immune to this stuff, and I appreciate the work you and others do to try to improve it.

    Reply

  16. Siobhan who eats her steak blue . . . Siobhan who cooks awesome dinner

    If both of these are being claimed, I will have to call general shenanigans and just call you “Shiobhan. The one I’m looking for, damnit. No, the other one.”

    Reply

  17. Thanks for raising your voice, Siobhan—it goes a long way to raise our awareness and bring new vigor to the community expectations.

    I often forget how naïve I am that these kinds of negative interactions take me by surprise—even though they are far too common.

    Now if I could just learn to *pronounce* your first name correctly… hehe.

    Reply

  18. So, you feel harassed. That makes me sad.

    If I recall right, there has been some confusion lately about “two Siobhans” showing up in WordPress world, one being a young, adorable trainee that posted on make.wordpress.org and one being young, no less adorable (yet-not-blonde-but-red-haired-who-cares) Siobhan McKeown. Hence the confusion about “The hot chick or the other one” …  and if i recall it right, we even talked about it on #wordpress chat and had a good laugh, sorting things out.

    I also had the great pleasure to attend WordCamp Europe in Leiden which was an amazing event – not only because it was extremely well organized.

    In fact, I saw you “live on stage”, being incredibly busy organizing it, and so didn’t even dare to say “hi, we met on IRC chat #wordpress before” as I … well … didn’t want to bother you while you were “contributing to the community”. On those two days, I adored you as one of the WordPress heroes, that contribute and make things possible. You don’t harass heroes, you just adore them.

    Just recently I had the pleasure to meet you on #wordpress. I very much hope, you didn’t feel harassed, when I told you, how much I appreciate your work and that I keep all fingers plus toes crossed, that everything works out great for the next WordCamp in London, too.

    As far as I can say, many have recognized you as a tough demanding, pretty, young lady that tries hard to contribute contributes to the WorldPress world and we appreciate that by all means. Who cares if some boys lack a sense of tact, anyway?

    Reply

    1. I’m not sure if harassed is exactly how I feel – frustrated is more accurate, frustrated that we’re not beyond this. It does matter if people lack tact because we want to create a community that everyone, no matter their gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, age, nationality, or whatever, wants to get involved in. Public displays of lack of tact put a roadblock on that.

      But thank you for your kind comments. I know you’re very active in IRC and one of the people doing a great job there. I was sorry we didn’t meet in person – I was hoping to! I looked out for you but I don’t know what you look like :( We’ll have to make sure that we meet at another WordCamp!

      Reply

    2. Hey Pixolin! I’ve just looked at your conversation from back in September while looking through the IRC logs. The Make blog post you were referring to wasn’t about my leaving the community, it was about the end of my internship period with WordPress. My internship’s finished now but I’ve still carried on being a part of the community. :)

      Reply

      1. … My internship’s finished now but I’ve still carried on being a part of the community.

        That’s good news.

        I am sorry for the confusion I caused in that chat. As you might have found out in the meantime, I never intended to offend anybody – but probably should read things more carefully in the future.

        If you follow an IRC chat frequently and over a long period, it gets pretty hard to stay on topic entirely and I confess I often digress. I’m not a bot (although some users even claimed that already) and perhaps sometimes what was intended to be funny may even sound harsh in other ears. Again, no offense made.

        Reply

        1. I am sorry for the confusion I caused in that chat. As you might have found out in the meantime, I never intended to offend anybody – but probably should read things more carefully in the future.

          No offense was taken by that September chat! :) It’s understandable if people get confused. I always use the “siobhyb” nick on IRC, for future reference. Siobhan M uses “siobhan.”

          Reply

  19. I think the power in this article is not only in teaching those who do this to stop, but in teaching those of us not on the receiving end of this treatment to put a stop to it.

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    1. Yes. This.

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    2. Also, yes, this.

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    3. I struggle with this. Because I’m not a confrontational person. So if I overhear someone saying something out of line (but not directly to me), my first thought is “well, now I know they’re a jackass, I just going to avoid them”, not “I should tell them off”. This, essentially: Homer-backs-into-bushes.gif

      I would love for there to be a video series like “How to Deal with Jackasses as an Introvert”. I worry that I’m going to escalate things with someone who has just proven themselves to be an unkind, unreasonable person. I also worry that (in situations where the person they’re talking down to is present) it’ll come off as self-important if I jump in to their defense, as if I’m implying that they’re not capable of defending themselves. I also suspect that I’m not going to change anyone’s mind, because when people are publicly challenged, they tend to respond defensively. I don’t at all suspect that anything I say in that moment is going to make them go “huh, I never thought about it that way.”

      TL;DR: HALP. I want to do the right thing but don’t relish the potential of a bar fight.

      Reply

      1. People behaving badly: you either control them or tolerate them. IRC channel ops, forum mods, etc., you have rules and you have people that enforce the rules.

        Someone acts like a jackass, they get a warning – they comply and apologize, all is good; they don’t, then they are not welcome.

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      2. I think it all comes down to finding a way to make someone view the issue at hand from a different perspective than what they were using prior. I have found that as long I keep reminding people, in a respectful and considerate manner, of the bigger picture at hand they’re actually willing to listen. Bypassing the mechanism to get defensive before they’re actually triggered into it.

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      3. This comment curiously resonated with me. I am heavily introverted and I’d rather not be dealing with… messy people situations, yet that is precisely what I end up doing again and again.

        I think it is important to have certain framework (mental and/or codified as rules) of handling such situations to not fall into the trap of that paralyzing freeze up.

        At my blog it is my personal decision what is inappropriate and as an owner of resource it is my role to enforce it.

        At WPSE it is set by network policy what is inappropriate. It is normal for me as member of community to act on it. It is *expected* of me as moderator to act on it.

        If I have a confidence on what is inappropriate and confidence I am not acting out of line – there is no room for hesitation. However on larger scale such environment does not just happen, it needs to be shaped so that participating community members have such confidence.

        I also think that we tend to zoom a little too much on such situations.

        We are almost certainly not going to fix aggressor party. They might have slipped horribly (which is usually followed by self-correction), but often they meant it and they are not looking to be fixed.

        We are likely not helping the target/victim to deal with it. Having thick skin helps. Support from friends helps. Strangers (even from within the boundaries of community) – maybe not so much after stranger have just been horrible to you.

        However what we can and need to accomplish (preferably immediately) is mitigating that toxic damage such acts do to community. Do not make this about someone being wrong on the internet, do not make it about imposing your help on someone.

        Make it about your action helping your community be healthier, friendlier, stronger, and more resistant to abuse. Because inaction doesn’t.

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        1. At WPSE it is set by network policy what is inappropriate. It is normal for me as member of community to act on it. It is *expected* of me as moderator to act on it.

          This is important. As you say, it ensures that you know how to act in all of the situations that come up. Of course, there will probably be edge cases which aren’t covered by your policy, or cases which as so subtle as to require some thoughts, but they usually cover 99% of incidents.

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      4. Mark,
        The answer is simple.

        Very often the person being a jackass doesn’t recognize it, and very often the person being talked down about is already suffering from low self esteem.

        Instead of saying “no, X is not as bad as you say. Prepare to die!”, try “Why do you feel X is bad? did you talk to X about it?.. Oh look X is over there, let me buy you two a drink and let’s discuss.”

        Very often it’s as simple as that.

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      5. Interesting you should say this. You’ve just echoed my own thoughts.

        I was at a meet up a few weeks ago and following up the presentation, an attendee left this comment:

        I didn’t understand the point of first presentation, but the guy was handsome (haha, yes, I’m a girl)

        I was pretty annoyed when I saw this, but just left is at that. I don’t want to get into fights either. Her comment is mostly harmless, but if the presenter had been female and a guy had said the same thing, there would have been uproar.

        After reading Siobhan’s post and all the comments, I went back and left a comment.

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      6. In an online community, it’s no surprise to have people that feel like this. The internet actively encourages groups of introverts to come together and find a common social space. Most of us are people who like solitude, locked up in our rooms engaged in our work. We don’t want to have to get into arguments with assholes, especially since we know that it will just end up in an argument that won’t change that individual’s mind anyway.

        That’s why moderators play an important role. They prevent anyone from being in an uncomfortable situation in which they feel like they have to confront someone but would prefer to back away from the screen (into a bush). Moderators act out of the consensus of the community. When they point out that something is not okay, they’re saying that the whole community condemns it. They don’t have to defend it as an individual stance but can simply point to the community’s common code. And if there aren’t any moderators around, having a community code of conduct that can be pointed to serves a similar purpose – anyone can point to the website and say “this is our space, and this is what we expect”.

        With some people, particularly those who speak out of thoughtlessness, having a simple discussion about why they’ve made someone else feel bad will have an effect. With others, standing up to them won’t do anything. Someone who thinks it’s okay to get women drunk so that they can sleep with them is not going to read our community expectations and have a revelation. But standing up to a person acting in this way isn’t simply about changing one individual’s mind, it’s about demonstrating to other people that this sort of behaviour isn’t okay.

        No one should be made to feel helpless because they are discriminated against or made to feel uncomfortable, but equally no one should be made to feel helpless because they are thrown into situations in which they don’t know what to do.

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  20. […] I stand by use of the word crass to describe a more than unfortunate exchange in #wordpress earlier this week. Siobhan has written an exceedingly eloquent explanation of the flaws in the way in which women involved in technology are often viewed or evaluated. If you’re involved in any community, take a look. Which Siobhan is it anyway? – Siobhan McKeown. […]

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  21. It was a bit of a shock when this came about last night. I hadn’t been aware of what had been said. I saw WP people discussing the #wordpress-sfd chat on Twitter so went to look up what had happened in the logs, and then minutes later this blog post arose. It wasn’t a nice thing to see. I also went through some of the other IRC comments in the logs, and they just made me really, really sad.

    One of my initial reactions on Twitter included the comment, “I thought the WP community was better.” I regret writing this as the WP community has been better than others in many ways and I hope I didn’t appear ungrateful. I understand that crass comments from a small minority don’t represent the community as a whole.

    Thank you to everyone who makes the community a great one to be a part of. :)

    Reply

  22. […] you read and reflect on one thing today let it be this one. I’m in awe of the amazing work the women in the WordPress community do and I’m […]

    Reply

  23. I prefer: “The totally awesome and irreplaceable Siobhan”. ;-)

    I would prefer to find a way to moderate the chat rooms rather than to shut them down. There is a very active and close community there. They should have the opportunity to fix the problem.

    I feel like Mika handled it wonderfully.

    Reply

    1. I prefer: “The totally awesome and irreplaceable Siobhan”.

      I’m not trying to ‘replace’ anyone. I also think Siobhan and the work she does for WordPress is awesome.

      Reply

      1. i’d say we’re both pretty distinctive. After all, I hate doing support and run a mile from the support forums :)

        Reply

        1. Exactly. People don’t need to get personal. :(

          Reply

  24. The community is incredibly welcoming for women, I absolutely don’t deny that. But we’ve become very good at patting ourselves on the back about it. We’re in danger of creating a situation in which women who do feel objectified or discriminated against don’t feel that they can speak up about it.

    +1 Siobhan, thanks for speaking up :-)

    Reply

  25. It’s a shame, really, that every now and then these kind of posts have to be written :/

    Reply

  26. Thosands of thinks I could say but only two words. Thank you.

    Reply

  27. […] Which Siobahn is it Anyway? – Siobahn McKeown: “Feel free to go back and read that again if you need to. In case you’re missing the problem – someone was looking for me, and the means for identifying me was not any of the things that I do, but my looks. And not just my looks (i.e. the red-headed one or the blonde one) but based on someone else’s opinion of whether they think I’m attractive or not.” […]

    Reply

  28. From the exchange you posted, the person looking for you said nothing at all about your appearance, and it was not a “means of identifying” you.

    (“…based on someone else’s opinion of whether they think I’m attractive or not” – this is confusing. Do you mean “based on someone else’s opinion of whether I’m attractive or not”?)

    I don’t see how person 2 asking that question reflects badly on person 1. Maybe there is more to it than you presented – how did #1 stereotype you?

    Reply

    1. Er… I don’t see where you’re drawing the conclusion that Person #1 was considered as trying to identify based on looks. That’s on Person #2.

      Reply

      1. That’s what I said. But the message I got from this post, the description of the “problem”, was that someone was looking for her, identifying her by her looks. If I misread that and it’s just an isolated comment from some idiot, I don’t see what the big deal is. Banned, problem solved. Or deal with the fact that not everybody behaves as you would like them to at all times.

        I agree that Mika handled the other transgression nicely. A quick slap on the wrist. Maybe this could have been handled by a message from the blogger to person 2.

        Reply

  29. […] Which Siobhan Is It Anyway?: Disappointed to read about this conversation on the WordPress IRC chat room. It seems not a week goes by that a new blog post is published about how women are judged by the their looks. Step forward in your community. Put a halt to this behavior, it's not acceptable. […]

    Reply

  30. Sorry to hear you had to experience that.

    I’m sure anyone who’s spent a certain amount of time on the forums and chats will have come accross some people who are rude and/or unreasonable that write things that could make your blood boil. One thing that the forums has taught me personally is that anyone in the world can sign up and say something stupid, and letting go is usually the best thing and gets easier over time.

    However, that’s one thing when it’s just a criticism of your work or just plain rude, hell, sometimes whilst it could have been put in a much nicer way, they may even have a point! If it gets personal though (forget gender-specifics, the comment was personal), that’s not OK., there’s no place for it in the WordPress community (the internet imo, but that’s another story).

    I must admit, I may have let that first comment go and not said anything, but then that may even be part of the problem… the person writing that may not have even realized how innappropriate that was and how they’re potentially offending people. If people don’t proatively speak up when lines like this are crossed, there’s no reason for it not to happen again.

    Mika’s reply was spot on, not attacking yet calm and to the point. It gives people a chance to if they don’t stop then they should seek help elsewhere (if anyone is willing with that attitude!).

    I don’t think I’ve come accross such personal stuff on the forums (which is where I usually am) but if I see something like this in the future, I will speak up. Thanks for posting this.

    Reply

    1. [correction] It gives people a chance to apologize or check themselves and…

      Reply

    2. Exactly . To many people that first comment wouldn’t have made them bat an eyelid. The fact that it’s so normalised is an issue. Judging people on their looks as opposed to their talents is something we ought to resist. It will make our community better, healthier, and stronger.

      Reply

  31. […] is more aware of the issue and how to handle this going forward. You can read more about it at Siobhan’s post and also as well as on […]

    Reply

  32. That’s simply not acceptable, you have all my support. Thanks for sharing your experience publicly.

    Reply

  33. Dear Siobhan,

    It has been brought to my attention of your blog post. I’m sure you know who said that “hot” line and it was me.

    I’d like to first apologise as it seems to have brought on some unhappiness with you and possibly the community at large.

    That being said, I had absolutely no sexist intentions when I said that. It was only quite recently that I was made known that there are 2 siobhans. I was confused for a short period of time.

    Now, I also do not actively follow who’s who on the WP Community. I’ve been using WP for a few years, and only started actively developing for it 2 years ago. It is only recently I knew who Matt is.

    So my frame of reference for the name siobhan, was only based on one of the regular’s line which roughly was something along the lines of -siobhan is an active, pretty, young and really respectable person of the WP Community. And the person who wrote that was quite happy to see siobhan(you) in real life.

    Now, I could have said, is it siobhan who works at Audrey Capital, or the other one. But unfortunately, I did not know who you are, not what you do. It was only today, that I saw how you look like. If I did ever saw any of the siobhan’s via avatar or anyway, I have no recollection of it.

    Please do trust me that, had I known more about you beyond that single instance that you were mentioned, I would have used a word other than ‘hot’. And if it helps any, when I said hot, I had no siobhans in mind as I’ve never seen any of the siobhans.

    I will not comment on the other instances of chats that are being deemed unacceptable.

    I guess no matter my intentions, you were bothered by my words and I apologise for that.

    Though I must say, I’m pretty bothered as well on how big this issue has blown.

    Reply

    1. You, and others, need to be aware that you’re on a public channel and that your comments can be seen by anyone. It was obvious that both Siobhan McKeown and I would see that comment. What did you think the reaction would be? In a real-life situation, would you have shouted that same thing out-loud for us to hear?

      Besides, that is not the only comment to have caused offence. The use of language used throughout a great many of the #wordpress IRC chats is isolating. In the reaction to this article, I have seen at least two people mention that they choose not to actively contribute to that channel as a result of the language that is used there.

      Please try to show some more respect towards others in future.

      Reply

    2. So my frame of reference for the name siobhan, was only based on one of the regular’s line which roughly was something along the lines of -siobhan is an active, pretty, young and really respectable person of the WP Community.…

      Please do trust me that, had I known more about you beyond that single instance that you were mentioned, I would have used a word other than ‘hot’. And if it helps any, when I said hot, I had no siobhans in mind as I’ve never seen any of the siobhans.

      This sounds like “I’m sorry I got caught” defensiveness. If you had no frame of reference for what either Siobhan looked like other than a single line that seems to me like it could apply to either one, then you saying “the hot chick or the other one” was incredibly useless and tantamount to trolling. Also, as Siobhan B. noted, your general behavior is logged for all to see. It is not hard to see why one would be less willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. After all, in the same day, you referred to somebody else as “retarded” (yes, I am aware that the somebody else was also behaving poorly, but that doesn’t make your behavior okay).

      Also, I think it’s very, very important to note that the underlying message here is not about judging individual intent, but rather evaluating big picture consequences. It’s generally a bad idea to try to read intent on the internet, but what you can read is that a comment that amounts to “hot or not” is off-putting to many parties, especially the one you were so willing to write off as not the hot one, but really to anybody who’s experienced working extremely hard and yet still being identified by irrelevant criteria that are not always positive.

      Reply

  34. “hot or not” is off-putting to many parties, especially the one you were so willing to write off as not the hot one,

    What???

    Sorry, I don’t get that logic. It’s like my wife asking me if she should wear the blue or green dress, I tend to the green and the next question that comes for sure is, what would be wrong with the other. I think the right term for this is Catch 22, right?

    Besides that, I start to feel offended myself.

    The use of language used throughout a great many of the #wordpress IRC chats is isolating.

    I’m sorry, I don’t know when Siobhan Bamber has made that experience. My experience from visiting the IRC chat frequently for over three years now is, that this “use of language” happens on rare occasions, only. Sometimes it is caused by language barriers, sometimes by frustration of users not getting to some point after trying hard. Trolls that just try to cool their mind (and who nobody ever would see as representing the WordPress community) are the rare exception.

    Also, could we please bare in mind that we all are humans talking there, not bots?

    It’s somewhat strange to see the Who-is-Who of core developers suddenly show up and judge the bad behavior that suddenly everyone seems to recognize in the channel, no matter if they have contributed to it or not. I do remember though that a group of regulars addressed a missing moderation in late August … and nobody really cared since. Yes, some were named “Rockstars” (wow) but then that was about it. Thank you for that.

    How was that? “… anybody who’s experienced working extremely hard and yet still being identified by irrelevant criteria…” – yes, indeed. I would say that a generalization of “language used throughout a great many of the #wordpress IRC chats [that] is isolating” meets that criteria.

    Reply

    1. It’s like my wife asking me if she should wear the blue or green dress, I tend to the green and the next question that comes for sure is, what would be wrong with the other. I think the right term for this is Catch 22, right?

      It’s not the same thing at all. If your wife asks you to make an evaluative judgement about her colour of dress that’s fine. I assume that since you’re married to her she has invited to you make value judgements about whether she looks good in one thing or another (something which she has a choice over).

      Deciding whether person X is “hot or not” is an uninvited evaluative judgement based on something that person X has no control over. It’s not like I can say “oh hey, I don’t look good in this face? Let me try this other one on – maybe you’ll like that a little better.”

      With regards to the “rockstars” thing, I agree that something should be done about that to enable you and others to be more proactive in moderating the chat room. But all moderators would need to understand why referring to someone based on their looks does not make for a welcoming community.

      Reply

      1. Siobhan,

        what can I say? For me this all is a big, big misunderstanding. I don’t see Kenshino’s casual words as any kind of “evaluative judgement” (why do you actually?), but I think we are at the point where “everything you say from now on can and will be held against you”.

        Kenshino tried to apologize and as much as I know him, I imagine he regrets the usage of words (2) very much. Yet his attempt is only taken as another chance to highlight what some want to see as a constant bad behavior that doesn’t represent the community. It makes me sad.

        I wish all of you good luck finding a solution for some kind of moderation of the IRC chats.

        Reply

        1. IMHO, while the apology appears sincere, it reads as a rationalization – and one that doesn’t even make sense. If one does not know that there are two people named “Siobhan” in the WP community, how does the question, “the hot one or the other one?” even make sense?

          The point is that the WP community is making it clear that differentiating community members by such things as relative “hotness” is not acceptable. Does it really need to be spelled out? “The hot one or the other one” is equivalent to “the hot one or the [not-hot] one”. And it is insulting to both people in question.

          There is no “use of language” barrier here; rather, there is a “use of maturity” barrier.

          Everyone needs to blow off steam from time to time; but the WP community is making a statement that it is never appropriate to do so at the expense of another community member, or in an official communication channel.

          Reply

    2. “… anybody who’s experienced working extremely hard and yet still being identified by irrelevant criteria…” – yes, indeed. I would say that a generalization of “language used throughout a great many of the #wordpress IRC chats [that] is isolating” meets that criteria.

      My comment about the use of language used in the IRC chats can hardly be classed as “irrelevant criteria.” It is in fact extremely relevant to this discussion.

      I refer back to Siobhan M’s original article, as she summed things up far better than I could:

      This sort of stuff goes on in the IRC chatroom all the time. There’s a whole spectrum from judging women based on their looks to sexualised language to sexual banter between people in the chat room. If we are serious about creating a community that is welcoming to women (or to men who are uncomfortable with this sort of atmosphere) then it needs to go.

      I stand by my comment… I do think the use of language used throughout a great many of the #wordpress IRC chats is isolating. That’s an opinion I’ve come to from lurking on that channel for the past few months, reading through the IRC logs, and from listening to the experiences of other people.

      I don’t see why you should be offended by me for having this opinion.

      I will also say that I think a great many of the #wordpress IRC chats are really helpful to users, and I actually think that the volunteers there deserve much more recognition for the hard work they put in. I hope you find a way to successfully moderate that channel.

      Reply

  35. Ladies & Gentlemen,

    I was here to explain my words and I did that. Now it is up to siobhan to believe my words or not.

    Thinking whether my explanation makes sense or if it was rationalisation or anything else is quite pointless and not at all relevant to anyone else.

    I see no point in anyone trying to defend me or trying to add more tags on me over the words I use.

    It is what it is. I’ve done something that offended someone and I have genuinely apologised to her about it.

    If this goes into somewhere positive and creates a set of fair guidelines on how the regulars should interact with people, it would be good.

    It is somewhat frustrating when we had a particular user actually on a near daily basis harass another female regular with crude sexual innuendos and no one cared. (One of the reason for pixolin’s idea which came to be called WP Rockstars) But this, is getting so much attention.

    Where were all those log readers then?

    Reply

    1. I had no idea that a user was harassing another user. Was it reported to anyone?

      Reply

      1. Yep. Happens to me often. Many times because I am blunt about my responses. I have a tendency to be that way when helping people who seem to not be interested in actually being helped or while I am busy and trying to do two things at once. I have tried to soften my tone a little bit but nothing warrants the attacks I have received in there. That said. I am NEVER EVER one to personally attack people EVER even if they are bothering me. I tried to keep my blunt comments on topic.

        That said, just last night these exact words were said in the chatroom

        ” As long as LindsayMac cleans the sand out of her cunt she’ll do quite well.”

        Which, once the person was quieted (QUIETED – NOT BANNED!) followed me with a barrage of even worse PMs. I could not believe that the person was not banned and no one came forward at that moment as a moderator to ban the person. Worse yet, the person told me he was “sent” by another member of the #wordpress community! Lovely.

        That is not the first time nasty language has been thrown my way in an explicity misogynistic way. A blunt, opinionated female is regularly called a “bitch”.

        We are (mostly) all adults there, and I can handle bad language when it’s used as just language. When it is used to attack someone, that is an entirely different world. In fact, it is less about the language used for me than it is the fact that whatever word they end up choosing for me seems to always have to do with the fact that I am a female. No, they don’t ever call me an ‘asshole’ or a ‘dick’ or a ‘douche bag’. It is 100% always to do with the fact that I am a girl. I am a bitch and a whore, and a cunt.

        Aside from the chat in IRC, I think the worse case was when I attended (as a speaker) a WordCamp. I showed up with my normal clothes. I ran to the ladies room and came around the corner up to this guy who looked at me – then looked at me again – then looked me up and down and said “Nice to see someone here with some style”. My reaction was just.. ugh.. I wasn’t entirely offended, but it was one of those “ok yea, you are clearly judging me on how I look”.

        Later that guy meandered over to where I was having a more tech-related conversation. He came back over to me and said some really just generally stupid things and we parted ways. Then my talk was about to start so I got up and did my thing. I saw the guy walk in during the middle of the talk and then walk out after 10 minutes of sitting there. Ok – figured he just didn’t care for the topic.

        After the talk I went in to another room to watch someone else talk. The guy had the nerve to walk up to me and PAT ME ON THE HEAD like I was some puppy and say “Oh cute. I didn’t think you would be presenting. How sweet.”

        Ugh. Really?!

        Anyways. That’s my story.

        I am not a crazy militant type of person who thinks that anyone who uses curse words or calls someone a bitch needs to be torched at the stake. I am a foul mouthed person who likes toilet humor and Howard Stern. Who used to spend a lot of time hanging out at skate parks and have had more male friends than female friends.

        The issue is, when it comes to web development and WordPress – we aren’t talking about friends. Sure, many of you may become friends, but in the real of WordCamps, support rooms, and anything with the WordPress name on it (or any industry-type event) you are at work. Let’s give each other some respect.

        It takes a lot to offend me, but I don’t do well when it comes to any type of comment in a professional setting that in any way demeans your female colleagues. That includes calling any female developer “the hot one”.

        Reply

        1. Hi Lindsay.

          That’s awful, and I’m really sad to hear all this happened/is happening to you. :(

          That person on IRC should have absolutely been banned. And the WordCamp guy’s remarks/actions were dumb as hell.

          I’d also like to say that it’s a shame to have seen some people react to complaints like this by rolling their eyes and muttering about ‘overblown political correctness.’ Or by saying things like ‘over-sensitive,’ ‘just can’t take a joke,’ etc.

          When a complete stranger personally attacks or demeans someone in a professional setting, the person that’s been attacked has every right to be offended and to stand up for themselves.

          My worst stories come from way before I started contributing to WordPress this year. There is so much more diversity in WordPress than there has been in any other place I’ve worked, and I had been too hopeful/naive in thinking irrelevant things like how you looked wouldn’t be judged in an on line community. This is part of the reason why I was so upset at seeing this blog post pop on my Twitter feed.

          It’s a shame that a minority have to put a dampener on a brilliant community. I hope positive things come from people, such as yourself, sharing your stories.

          Reply

          1. The ‘too sensitive’ thing is simply frustrating. There’s also the case when guys have the reaction of “well this happened to me too….” but it’s extremely hard to explain why it happening to a guy is bad, but not as bad or detrimental as when it happens to a girl in this industry in particular.

            There is such a thing called white male privilege, and most white men have a hard time understanding it. I don’t blame them, it is a hard thing to wrap your head around when you live in a world that really roots for you specifically. You could be a perfectly good human being, respectful of women, etc but you still lived with the privilege of being a white male, especially in this industry. You don’t have to walk in to a group of peers knowing that you immediately need to prove yourself as a good developer instead of simply walking in and people assuming you are probably pretty good at what you do. You don’t have to fight with the clients who look to your non-developer male partner for answers no matter how many times you tell them that THEY are not the person to ask. This happens ALL THE TIME and when it does, it is extremely hard to shake that feeling like you have to prove yourself first, gain respect later.

            ALso, I wanted to know – the issue at WordCamp I spoke of was taken care of wonderfully by the organizers. I posted some venting about it on my facbeook wall and one of the previous organizer PMed me and told me to message the main organizers about the experience and they would make sure that guy was not allowed back to another WP and would be warned that the type of behavior he displayed was not appropriate. I really appreciated that. A LOT.

            It sucks that its always still an uphill battle, but to me it’s a battle worth fighting.

            Here in my studio, all of the developers are female and all of the designers are male. This didn’t happen on purpose, but it’s a wonderful thing. I love it.

  36. I had a conversation with one of the people who doesn’t seem to understand why this was blown up so big. In that conversation I felt frustrated and annoyed.

    I think that we should have an online Q&A about what it means to be a women in tech.. or specifically in the wordpress community. I believe that the men who feel that things are blow up or just silly should pop in and make their voices heard so that they can actually get answers. (obviously only do it if you care to learn)

    Reply

    1. Can you make the Support chat at 17:00 UTC today on #wordpress-sfd? I’m sure a lot of people in that chat would like to hear your thoughts on IRC moderation.

      Reply

  37. MORE AWESOMENESS FROM THE IRC ROOM!

    http://cl.ly/image/0W1Z3B3h2f1Y

    No moderation.. nada.

    Reply

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