3. Do's and don't's of encouraging women in Linux

Encouraging women in Linux involves both learning what to do, and learning what to stop doing. We'll present our ideas in "do" and "don't" pairs, since having only a list of things to do or a list of things not to do is not as helpful as having both. Some of these suggestions may seem insultingly obvious to you personally, but for many other people, they aren't obvious. Each of these suggestions is based on multiple real-life encounters with people for whom these ideas weren't obvious. Try not to dismiss any of the ideas--these are real suggestions from real women, the women you presumably want to attract to Linux. Also, most of these suggestions are not gender-specific, and will help to attract all types of people to Linux.

3.7. Don't make sexual advances towards women

Imagine a bar or a pub full of sports fans, fans of a game which you don't know much about or like. Imagine that they're all taller and stronger than you, speak in a language you only halfway understand, and belittle anyone who isn't totally focused on their sport. Now imagine that you walk into this bar, wearing a shirt that says, "I AM NOT A FAN OF ANY SPORT." Just imagine it for a minute. How would you feel? Nervous? Afraid? Different? Out of place?

You begin to have a teeny-tiny idea of what it's like to be the only woman in a large group of men.

Keep that feeling of nervousness in mind when you read the rest of this paragraph. When you immediately make a sexual advance to a woman at a LUG or online, you're making her feel like she's not part of the community, like she's under attack, and like she is risking being ostracized if she turns you down or offends you. Remember, this isn't a friendly one-on-one situation where she feels comfortable turning you down, she's surrounded by the equivalent of the aforementioned huge sports fans. She's trying to fit in and be part of the group, and by hitting on her, you're cutting her out of the herd and isolating her from the group. Women grow up with the constant fear and awareness of being attacked by men, and as silly as it may seem, it colors all her interactions, no matter how safe or mundane they may seem to men.

Like any other human being, a woman wants to have friends and be appreciated for who she is. Every time she gets an email asking her on a date, she is reminded that she isn't viewed as part of the group, but instead as different, an object of desire, and is certainly not being judged on her technical merit alone.

This may be hard to stomach, but you need to not hit on women who show up for Linux events, at least not right away. In all likelihood, you are NOT throwing away your only chance at true love by not coming on to her immediately, but you are throwing away your chance to have a fun new member of the Linux community. And even if you still think you're missing a chance at true love, keep in mind that many women brave enough to show up at a LUG or your local mailing list will frequently make the first move anyway. By hitting on them at the first opportunity, you're scaring them away, and you're also scaring away all the other women who might have become interested if the first woman had stayed.

This goes double for women you meet over email or on IRC. You may think that your "Are you single?" line is hysterically witty and suave, but she's heard it a million times. Even if you're joking, even if you already have a girlfriend or are married--don't do it.

3.16. Do compliment

Women have much lower self-confidence than men on average, and will generally judge themselves far more harshly than any outsider. Compliments help improve her self-confidence, which in turn keeps her interested in the subject. If she believes that she's not good at Linux, she'll probably stop working on Linux.

The following are some guidelines for complimenting anyone:

You almost certainly shouldn't compliment her on her hair, her face, her body, or her sweet temperament. If she's interested in Linux, she is, by definition, a geek, and probably wants to be complimented on her intelligence, abilities, and hard work. Compliment her on installing Linux for the first time, on her customized desktop, on her intelligent and interesting questions during the last meeting. A compliment on anything else is inappropriate and will be seen as a sexual advance (because it almost always is), and will make her feel more uncomfortable and less confident.

Copyright © 2010-2023 Platon Technologies, s.r.o.           Home | Man pages | tLDP | Documents | Utilities | About
Design by styleshout