Tech Notes And Miscellaneous Thoughts


OK, I’m finished my experiment. It’s over now and I can “break character”.

First, I have to offer special thanks to “tshirtman” for being the first to unambiguously exemplify one of my main points. well done!

In case it’s not blindingly obvious (as it should be), the reason for my post was that I was outraged by the spectacle of one fairly high-profile member of the linux community trying to rally support to shun and exclude another fairly high-profile member because a nightmare had upset her.


Is that really all it’s going to take to destroy someone’s reputation and perhaps their career? even with the shunning target’s own words available and archived to disprove the ridiculous straw-man mis-characterisations of what he actually said? Not one of the arguments against him actually addressed anything he said, they ALL attacked him for things he didn’t say, for things that other people claimed he said.

I was further outraged by seeing everyone who even suggested that questioning of stats (or, indeed, ANY claim of fact or evidence) may be, in some small way, a valid and reasonable thing to do get instantly put in their place and dismissed as Yet Another Rape Apologist.

Are we supposed to be anti-science, anti-scientific method now? or are rape stats a special case like religion where we are just supposed to switch off our analytical brains and accept what we are told on faith, without question?

Surely we are capable of better than that? i know we are capable of better than that. Or, at least, i used to know that. Now i’m not so sure.

In 2011, all it took was Ted Tso (“TT”) making some fairly reasonable statements about the need for any claimed evidence or statistics to be viewed skeptically and that dissenting research should also be considered – and he was instantly vilified as a “rape apologist”.

Sorry, but questioning extremely dodgy stats (that even in feminist circles are viewed more as ideological propaganda than as serious research) is NOWHERE NEAR SUFFICIENT to earn the label of rape-apologist.

That is not how debate works – you can’t just refuse to engage with someone’s point and simply accuse them of being the enemy for not agreeing 100% with whatever you say…at least, not if you have any intellectual honesty or self-respect.

(sure, some people are complete jerks and deserve to be told to FOAD in no uncertain terms – but a) jerks like that are self-evident and obvious, and b) TT’s participation in that thread was at all times civil and reasonable)

But that thread is ancient history – it was over and done with nearly two years ago.

In October this year, for reasons which are not at all clear, Valerie Aurora (“VA”) decided to revive the issue (which had been resolved back in 2011 with a resounding “fuck no, we don’t want misogynist shit or porn in our conferences” from pretty much the entire linux community – including near-universal support for improved anti-harassment policies both for and for geek conferences in general) and use it to attack TT.

And she did so by twisting his words and claiming in a post on The Ada Initiative blog that he said something which he didn’t, that “rape was impossible if both people were drunk enough”. If he chose, he could quite easily win a libel case against her and TAI on that. It’s not what he said, it’s not even close to what he said, and VA is clearly too smart to honestly believe that it is what he said.

In another post on her personal, blog she talks about how what he said was so terrible that it even now gives her nightmares, and that she can’t bear the thought of working with him.

Again, WTF? VA can say “I had nightmares and was upset and furious” and THAT is enough to justify a call to shun TT?? He didn’t attack her, or threaten her (explicitly or implicitly), he was polite and civil. What he did was disagree with VA by referring to other research that disputed VA’s preferred studies.

I agree with and support many (perhaps most) of VA’s and The Ada Initiative’s aims, I certainly believe that linux and open source etc should be very welcoming and supportive of human diversity (including gender and sexuality, identity, religion, politics and so on), believe that it’s a good thing that The Ada Initiative exists as part of that diversity welcome to be particularly supportive of women in geekdom.

And i wholeheartedly agree that Linux leaders should not make public statements belittling and condoning rape BUT:

a) I haven’t seen one instance of that happening, ever


b) I find VA’s choice of tactics here to be despicable. as i do when anyone else uses similar tactics, because they ARE despicable tactics. They are exactly the same as accusing someone of being a child pornographer for being against net censorship: You dared to disagree with me so I’m going to accuse you of being a monster.

(and, i must admit, the enthusiasm level of my support for The Ada Initiative is somewhat….diminished…by this tactical blunder by the spokesperson and co-founder)

There are far more deserving targets of VA’s ire than TT. And there are far better ways for the Ada Initiative to achieve their aims.


So why did I decide to comment when I knew that I was inevitably going to be accused of “hating women” and being a “rape apologist?

Mostly because I thought it would be gutless of me not to.

Hardly anyone else had, and they quickly backed down under the accusations of misogyny…and since I consider myself to be psychologically fairly strong, I felt that I am capable of wearing a little shit (or even a lot) for a while. In my egocentric fashion, I thought “if I can’t do then it’s no wonder that no one else dares”.

And also because anyone who cared to make even the slightest effort to find out what my actual views on sexual harassment, rape, women’s rights and numerous inter-related issues are can fairly easily see a very consistent record of the kinds of things I argue for and against, and my scathing responses to actual misogynists when they appear on lists that I participate in. they are not my kind of people.

and even then, i hesitated. it’s scary and intimidating to be putting yourself forward to be accused of being one of the things you hate. this is, of course, an instance of the chilling effect.

So, I found the prospect scary, almost terrifying….and I can’t think of a single person who has met me online or in real life who would even remotely describe me as being any kind of delicate or sensitive wall-flower.

again, “if i can’t do it, it’s no wonder no one else dares”. so i clicked the “Publish” button. an ego is useful for some things.

Also, I took VA’s words “but don’t be silent” as inspiration.

In the process, i discovered why it is that some people just simply refuse to engage in rational discourse. I’ve seen it many times from the other side, but i’ve never experienced the seductive pleasure of indulging in it myself before – there’s a liberating freedom in just ignoring any and every point that someone makes and simply accuse them of being the enemy. You don’t have to try to understand what they wrote, hell you don’t even have to really read it…you just need to quickly scan it for overall tone and if they don’t seem like they’re 100% supportive, you just accuse them of being the enemy or an apologist for the enemy. it’s that fucking simple and easy.

well, sort of easy. easy for some, perhaps. i personally found it extremely difficult – a struggle – to refrain from engaging, to remain in character (i’m not much of an actor). especially when i kind of agreed with whoever was arguing against my experimental character or if i thought they made a good point. and even more so when i thought that some comments skirted a bit too close to being the kind of misogynist crap that i didn’t want to tolerate having on MY blog.

(i resolved that issue by just approving any reply that didn’t squick me or that i could squint at and think ‘hmmm…borderline, give benefit of doubt’)

but even though i don’t like it, i can recognise the attraction it holds for some people.

Other thoughts:

I’m particularly disgusted by the men who intervene way too early – without an explicit invitation or request for help or a clear need such as an immediate threat of violence – in womens’ issues.

Many or maybe even most may not realise it, but they are just taking over and asserting male strength and control by “protecting” women rather than giving them the support and space to discover and practice their own strength and their own voices. These uninvited interventions do not help women, they weaken and undermine them, they perpetuate dependence, they steal strength from the movement. It is patronising and enfeebling. But mostly, they just re-assert male dominance and are an attempt to make women’s spaces more comfortable, more palatable, for men.(*)

(it’s also quite often very transparent self-serving and ingratiating behaviour from blokes who want to lay the groundwork for perhaps getting laid one day)

IMO this goes far beyond a problem with men over-involving themselves in feminist causes – i feel the same way for any relatively less-privileged group with a need to find their own voice and their own power – they’ll never find it if members of the privileged class (i.e. white males like me) just ride roughshod over the movement and speak FOR them rather then just silently lending their strength in support. For the most part, they (we) should just shut up and listen…we already have more than enough opportunities to have our say.

(*) yes, i’m well aware of the difficulty in writing something like that paragraph as a member of a privileged class, without coming across as either self-hating or patronising or both. if i’ve failed here, it’s not for want of trying.


  1. Matthew Garrett

    Ted didn’t merely question statistics. He questioned statistics by asserting that certain events classified as rape weren’t rape. He claimed that rape couldn’t happen if both parties involved were drunk (*). He insisted that it was incorrect to classify it as rape if the victim later slept with their attacker. He supported claims that a large proportion of reported rape claims were false. This isn’t a reasoned discussion of whether or not certain statistics are being misinterpreted or overstates. It’s blatant rape apology and victim blaming.

    I’m glad you wrote your piece. I clearly disagree with it, but if there’s an opinion’s held then it should be voiced. Nobody should be beyond criticism.

    (*) It’s disingenuous to claim he didn’t say this, given that he both (a) explicitly said it, and (b) it’s the logical conclusion of the claim he makes that being drunk can result in the absence of mens rea.

    1. cas

      I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. I’ve tried hard to find it, but I can’t find any evidence – i.e. his own words, rather than someone else’s interpretation of them – that supports any other conclusion than that TT was just being a stats nerd on this issue, and that he was unfairly accused of being a rape apologist.

      1. Matthew Garrett

        Being a stats nerd would have involved taking the published, peer-reviewed academic study and finding direct fault with the methodology in ways that would have skewed the results. Arguments such as “The study asked whether the victim felt that consuming alcohol had led to them having sex that they would not otherwise have, but did not distinguish between the cases of diminished judgement and actual inability to provide informed consent and so some cases may have been misclassified” would be legitimate criticism of the statistics. “46%(*) of the women classified as raped went on to have sex with their attacker in future, which indicates that these cases may have been misclassified” is not legitimate criticism of the statistics, because it’s based on the unfounded assumption that women who’ve been raped would never have sex with their attacker at a future date, which is the assumption that certain rapes aren’t actually rape. That’s rape apology.

        (*) The paper actually says 43%, but I don’t think it’s a significant mistake.

        1. cas

          See, that’s exactly the kind of thing i’m talking about. He said “may have been misclassified” (which, IMO does constitute legitimate criticism of the methodology). You treat that as if he’s saying “[…] that women who’ve been raped would never have sex with their attacker at a future date”. it’s a pretty long leap from the tentative possibility he suggested to the definitive and absolute statement you claim he made. “may” is a different word from “is”, and doesn’t imply “always”.

          If you’re determined to always interpret something in the worst possible light, you can find fault in anything.

          IIRC the point he was making here was not his main point, but intended to be supportive of his earlier point that the Koss study was deliberately inflating rape counts. He’s far from the first to say that, it’s a common criticism of the paper both within and without relevant academic circles…in fact, in his first post he provided three links to other research and analysis which made the same point and disputed the Koss paper’s methodology and conclusions.

          He didn’t say that women subsequently having sex with their attackers was proof that it couldn’t possibly have been rape, he offered it to support his earlier statement that even women who did not feel they had been raped, and did not even think a crime had been committed were counted as rape victims. i.e. additional corroboration, not definitive stand-alone proof.

          admittedly, it would have been better if he had explicitly said “some of these cases may have been misclassified”, but i read it as implicit anyway due to the “may”. I guess how you read it depends on whether you’re willing to give someone the benefit of the doubt or are just looking for the worst possible interpretation.

          I still think his “crime” was that he pointed out some of the flaws in the Koss study. Some people find dispassionate nerdery extremely offensive when the subject matter has emotional significance to themselves (it’s seen as negative or critical rather than neutral), and then everyone backed themselves into their respective corners.

          1. Matthew Garrett

            Have you read the three links that Ted provides? One is to a review of published work that doesn’t criticise the Koss work at all. The second is a reprint of an article published by Christian Leadership Ministeries. The third is produced by the Manhattan Institute, a political think-tank. None of the criticism is peer-reviewed or published in an academic context. But anyway. What Ted actually says is:

            ‘This one does a pretty good job of taking apart the Koss / Ms. Magazine study, which is the source for the “1 in 4” number. For example, it points out that over half of those cases were ones where undergraduates were plied with alcohol, and did not otherwise involve using physical force or other forms of coercion. And if you asked the women involved, only 27% of the people categorized by Koss as being raped called it rape themselves. Also found in the Koss study, although not widely reported, was the statistic that of the women whom she classified as being raped (although 73% refused to self-classify the event as rape), 46% of them had subsequent sex with the reported assailant.’

            The 46% figure is not a subset of the 73% figure. He’s saying that the fact that women subsequently had sex with their attacker is in itself a reason to doubt the figures. That’s not criticism based on methodological flaws or errors in interpretation. He used his own preconceptions about rape to disagree with the figures. That’s not legitimate science and it’s not stats nerdery.

        2. Arno

          (replying out-of-thread, max nesting level reached?)

          He’s saying that the fact that women subsequently had sex with their attacker is in itself a reason to doubt the figures

          Maybe this is too much of a tangent, but that statement does rub me the wrong way. Are you implying it’s not? On the face of it, it strikes me as extremely odd that any rape victim would later associate themselves with their attacker in such a way. Generally speaking, I wouldn’t expect a rape to last long enough to trigger the Stockholm syndrome so we should assume the second choice was of a sound mind.

          So yes, including such figures into the definition of rape either artificially inflates the figure, or it makes rape a much less harrowing ordeal than it is claimed to be. Either is disingenuous to victims who need years to recover from such a crime; the former by politicizing it, the latter by trivializing it.

          1. Matthew Garrett

            I’m implying nothing. I’m explicitly saying that the fact that someone later has sex with someone that allegedly raped them gives you no insight into whether or not they were actually raped, or the level of psychological trauma or lasting damage they received as a result.

    1. cas

      “Really” what?

      are you asking if intelligent people choose not to apply their ability to reason to examine their faith? yes, some do, for a variety of reasons. It’s very common, especially amongst people who do not want to risk undermining their faith.

      It’s why it’s called faith. it’s not supposed to be reasoned or analysed, it’s just supposed to be believed.

  2. I, and special thanks welcomed, but i don’t think i did what you think i did… as other people, you see what you want to see.

    I totally understand the necessity to discuss statistics, and their meaning, but not all statistics are equals, i guess you wouldn’t (as much of the nerves you have) discuss the statistics about deportation during WWII, though there is surely a lot of things one can discuss in the methodology of some of the studies, there is also a quite obvious emotional load that one has to think about before going there. Hell, i know that, i did moderation on discussion about pedophilia on a public forum, and yes, i tried my best to prevent the discussion to be shut by people simply unable to carry the emotional load of seeing such thing discussed, try that one day, if you want to test your ability to “take some shit”.

    For the Rape/not rape when drunk, well, is a murder any less of a murder if both persons are drunk? (some person think rape is worse than murder, i don’t agree with this, but you have to know some people hold this opinion). People are responsible for their act, even when drunk, if you can’t behave under the influence of alcohol, don’t use alcohol.

    Now, what you did was a misrepresentation, you says VA complains because of nightmare she had, and thus any nightmare is enough to ban people, the thing is that the nightmare comes from a trauma in the real world, and act of people in the real world, had somebody in the linux community said “well, i like to wear some baby seal”, and had you been one that really was traumatized by such thing, it would have been different, because in your piece, the whole alleged involvement of the community members was imaginary, and independent of any of their acts. I hope you see the difference, i think i tried to point it out in my comments in the other post, but i apparently failed.

    You advocate that it’s not up to men to come to do the work, that women can defend themselves, of course they can, does that mean they should be alone? It’s a dangerous slip, imho. I read a few feminist articles (by women) pointing out the situations where men clearly can help, from their position, i think it’s clear that criticism for both men and women is more helpful to solve these issues, than from either men or women only.

    1. also:
      “(it’s also quite often very transparent self-serving and ingratiating behaviour from blokes who want to lay the groundwork for perhaps getting laid one day)”

      I’m married, thankyouverymuch, and i had girlfriends since my college years (one at a time). So i don’t think such comment are any useful.

    2. cas

      > For the Rape/not rape when drunk, well, is a murder any less of a murder if both persons are drunk?

      absolutely. being drunk does not diminish your responsibility for committing a crime. it doesn’t magically make a crime into a non-crime. and i couldn’t agree more about “if you can’t behave under the influence, then don’t drink”

      At the same time, alcohol doesn’t automatically turn something from a non-crime into a crime. i.e. there’s a huge difference between two people getting drunk and choosing under the influence to do something that either or both later regret, and one person deliberately intoxicating another to render them incapable of refusing, or taking advantage of someone’s inability to refuse/resist.

      The former is not rape, it’s just stupid drunken activity that seemed like a good idea at the time. bonker’s remorse, if you will. People do all sorts of stupid or careless or embarrassing things when drunk that they later regret or wish they hadn’t, without it necessarily being a crime on anyone’s part. It’s part of the reason why people use alcohol, to relax, to let go, to give themselves license.

      The latter two examples are clearly and undeniably rape.

      > Now, what you did was a misrepresentation, you says VA complains because of nightmare she had, and thus any nightmare is enough to ban people,

      no, what I did is called parody. absurd exaggeration for effect, to highlight the point, is a standard part of the format.

      > You advocate that it’s not up to men to come to do the work,

      i advocate that men should be wary of their own motivations when they feel the urge to charge in to the rescue. it might feel good to be the great white knight, but taking away someone’s agency doesn’t help them. context is everything.

      and people, male and female, should also be wary about being caught up in a mob. responsibility for attacking someone just because everyone else is doing it isn’t diminished any more than it would be if you attacked someone because you got drunk.

  3. essy

    I suspect this argument was never really about rape, or misogyny. It seems like a minority with extreme politics, probably never a victim of any of these things, who feel they must impose their beliefs on any community they are a part of. If their logic isn’t compelling, they instead must root out those who might oppose or question it – then disgrace and exclude them. Tomorrow there will be some new cause and the same process repeated.

    I don’t think that is acceptable behaviour, is neither relevant nor helpful to making computer software, and someone should have called them on it. Thank you doing that, and ‘taking one for the team’ when you made yourself a target. Know that you are not alone in this, and I would have been afraid to speak out for this reason.

    There’s no need to argue these issues further because it is the trap they have set – say anything that makes them question their views and they will accept nothing else you say – and a FOSS community doesn’t seem like the right place to debate social politics anyway.

    1. Jonathan

      “probably never a victim of any of these things” is an odd claim. I don’t know anyone, male or female, who has not been affected by misogyny. Craig’s explanation of the harm in hyperbolic claims like “ defends rape” seems sincere and compelling; I hope you can resist making the same mistake with other questionable claims in response.

      1. essy

        Sorry I don’t want to have that argument.

        Could we please accept there are going to be differences of opinion in a large, open community. And it doesn’t have to interfere with doing useful work.

        1. Matthew Garrett

          There’s no such thing as a truly open community. A community either explicitly excludes people because it believes that their behaviour is unacceptable, or it implicitly excludes people because they’re unwilling to be part of a community that tolerates that behaviour. Either way, you’re excluding people who do useful work.

          1. essy

            Isn’t there another option, like getting over our differences? Working together and trying really hard to keep this sort of politics separate? That would mean having to deliberately ignore inappropriate things and not make a scene of it, which is hard to do, but doing so wouldn’t necessarily mean that anyone is tolerating it or that we don’t care.

            By that logic TT’s comments might have stayed buried in the past, MG wouldn’t have made a very public accusation, and cas’s blog posts (making accusations about the accusations I guess?) wouldn’t have happened either. Instead we could maybe all just ‘get along’…

          2. Arno

            I would much rather explicitly exclude the people that attack other members on the basis of highly political non-technical issues than implicitly exclude all minorities. I’m sure that makes me antisemitic, racist and misogynist all at once.

            As a software developer in Europe, I have never born direct witness to events such as described on various sites. Maybe that’s because I don’t attend many conferences, maybe I’m simply blind or maybe it isn’t that prevalent in Western Europe. Still, this posturing does more harm than good to the Ada Initiative. It makes me shun rather than engage my female co-workers.

    2. S.P.Zeidler

      I suspect this argument was never really about rape, or misogyny. It seems like a minority with extreme politics, probably never a victim of any of these things, who feel they must impose their beliefs on any community they are a part of.

      Of course, one is supposed to get over trauma in a few weeks, asking basic consideration of other people a years later (or complaining that they trigger abuse survivors) is beyond the pale.

      1. cas

        asking it is no problem.

        Expecting complete strangers to be aware of your personal history and make special effort to tiptoe around your triggers is demanding way too much.

        Also, nobody has a right not to be offended. people have a right to be safe and secure in their person, but if you live in the real world with other people you’ve just got to expect (and accept) that people are going to say things you find offensive – and they have every fucking right to say those things.

  4. Erik Johansson

    I don’t feel this post is that much different that the one you posted earlier, still not helping. I think you fail to listen to what VA and MJG says, when I read the comments above I get the distinct feeling that you guys are talking about different things.

    I feel very sad that you feel the need to critize The Ada Initiative for it (maybe “diminished” isn’t critizing).

    1. cas

      Firstly, i can’t think of any reason why i should care what your opinion of my post is. i didn’t post it for your approval. you’re simply not relevant.

      Secondly, if you think i criticised TAI in any way then you didn’t read anything i wrote.

  5. S.P.Zeidler

    essy also writes:
    Isn’t there another option, like getting over our differences? Working together and trying really hard to keep this sort of politics separate? That would mean having to deliberately ignore inappropriate things and not make a scene of it

    i.e. what rape victims also get to hear: don’t rock the boat. Just suffer getting abused.

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