[UbuntuWomen] Introducing Myself : Shlomi Fish

Shlomi Fish shlomif at gmail.com
Thu Jun 5 19:35:18 BST 2008

Hi all!

This is my way of introducing myself to this list. It's a bit long, but I'm
in a philosophical mood (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypomania ), so
please bear with me.

My name is Shlomi Fish, and my homepage is http://www.shlomifish.org/ where
you can learn more about me. I am:

* A guy. 31 years old. Curly black hair, which expands radially instead of
in one direction and so I cut it to a minimum once in a while.

* An Israeli Jew. I'm Jewish by peopleship, but not by faith.

* A native speaker of Hebrew with very good, but not perfect English. I also
have a rusty knowledge of Written Arabic and French from my high-school days.
I love Linguistics and Philology, though.

* A Neo-Tech Objectivist. I don't identify myself as a "Randroid" because
I don't blindly accept what Ayn Rand or whoever said, and instead build on
them, modify them and adapt them to new times.

* A user, developer and advocate of Free and Open Source Software. I've been
using Mandriva for a long time as my primary desktop, and am now on Mandriva
Cooker, which is a lot of fun. I've also been using Fedora, Ubuntu, RHEL, and
other distributions in different contexts, and the experience was not so bad.

* A prolific writer of articles, essays and stories. (See my homepage). It's
still not enough to make a living from, but I also highly enjoy it.

* Someone who helped with organising, publicising, logistics, etc. of
community events in Israel, and elsewhere. I also gave some presentations,
to local FOSS clubs, but I tend to suck at it. (But wish to improve)

* A Perl 5 Monger, a Vim/gvim user, a Bash fanatic, a KDE user, and a
user of [Insert My Favourite Technology] here.

* A full supporter of the women lib movement, and a great admirer of past
and present competent women, but still one who opposes feminist pedanticness
and using government oppression to "promote" women.

* A LinuxChix refugee.


When I heard of this forum for the first time after I got banned from
LinuxChix, I went to see if you have a publicly online archive. I was glad
to see that you do, as opposed to say grrltalk at linuxchix.org , which speaks
against their openness.

In any case, I'm not here only to dis LinuxChix. I really want to promote
Women in FOSS. Now to my philosophy:

I think that Windows vs. Linux, much less Linux vs. FreeBSD, or Fedora
vs. Debian vs. Gentoo, are much more marginal than the following elementary

1. Life vs. Death.

2. Happiness and Pleasure vs. Misery.

These are the guiding points of human civilisation. As a human, I want to
live and I want to be happy. From these we can derive more complex, but
still very elementary, values:

1. Liberty/Freedom vs. Oppression.

2. Honesty vs. Dishonesty.

3. Openness vs. Secrecy.

and so forth. Naturally we can apply them to our context as:

1. Open-source software vs. non-free software.

2. Knowledge and cluefulness vs. dis-information and

3. "Do and let do" vs. nothing gets done.

4. Open or documented standards vs. proprietary formats and protocols.

But our mission as FOSS enthusiasts is to make people lead happier lives.
Interaction with computers and software can easily cause a person a lot
of frustrations. A lot of time is now wasted on cleaning up Windows
installations from malware (if it gets done at all), which is practically
a complete non-issue with Linux desktops, due to a better design. This costs
the world a lot of wasted time, a lot of added frustrations, and makes everyone
miserable. And miserable is one of the two primary evils.

Back when I wrote this article:


A programmer I talked with noted that I should explain why quality
in software is important. After a while I understood that it is, because using
low-quality software makes people frustrated and unhappy. And happiness,
pleasure, self-esteem, etc. are the things that people live for as
identified by Aristotle in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicomachean_Ethics ,
and also in modern Cognitive-Behavioural Psychology.


The reason I got banned from LinuxChix was because I sometimes used "derogatory
terms" such as:

1. "girl"

2. "he" instead of "they"

3. "hackeress"

Or other terms they dimmed as offensive. However, the equivalents terms in
Hebrew (and also in most other European languages) are completely unavoidable
due to the fact the language is not gender-neutral. While my English is
excellent, I still have some traces of Hebrew in my cognition.

In Hebrew we don't usually say "my co-worker" but rather "a guy from work"
or "a girl from work". So it's likely I'll say something like that when
speaking in English.

However, the Chix did not want any of that, and also supported the
re-engineering of English as a completely gender-neutral language, which
probably will have them alienate many other non-native speakers of English,
who are otherwise perfectly passionate about promoting women, but simply
don't think the way English-speakers do.

So I hope you'll forgive me for whatever not-so-English anti-feminist exits
I may have. I'm not a sexist person, but I still don't find calling a female
hacker a "hackeress" to be any more wrong that calling a female actor an
"actress" or a female Jew a "Jewess", both of which make sense in certain


Now, here's my philosophy of promoting women:

1. I think accusing the existing male hackers of making women feel
uncomfortable in their presence, while may be true, is not going to be
helpful. I'm talking about:


I'm pretty sure that the modern-day hackers, who tend to be very liberal
and anti-authoritarian, are angels compared to the male actors who alienated
the first female actors in post -
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_II_of_England -English theatre. However,
the first actresses who survived there for some time were determined, and
knew how to cope with abuse, and they paved the road for generations of less
confident female actors.

There's probably still a lot of discrimination (to say nothing of sexual
harassment) in the world of acting today, but at least there are more than a
substantial amount of women.

2. The same is true of FOSS. I know a lot of female programmers in Israel,
some of which I know are good. However, very few of them are active in
pro-bono activity, which is bad. It's not limited to women. Graphics
Designers, web-designers, UI designers, marketing people, etc. also tend to
avoid doing pro-bono work. (And a larger percentage of them tend to be

I think that if women are serious about being more visible in the community,
they should, well, become more visible. This involves coping with abuse,
becoming active in online forums (web forums, mailing lists, IRC channels,
etc.), writing good code or contributing graphics and free-as-in-speech
documentation, etc. The more women will do that, the easier it will be on
future female contributors.

3. I admit that I myself sometimes participate in "guy talk" in FOSS forums,
and that it happens a lot. I don't think women should be offended if they
witness it. Maybe it's an indication that we still believe that we're
mostly guys. ( I personally am not very sexually explicit, and find
pornographic imagery disturbing, but even some of this is quite common. )

That put aside, I still am trying to be a gentleman.

Women should not be offended when this happens. Boys will remain boys. Just
because we discuss our favourite female celebrities, or "hot girls" we saw
on the street, or what we think of some of the females we know - all
of that doesn't mean we don't respect women. I'm doing it all the time.

I'm pretty sure such "guy talk" was not invented in the 20th century.

4. All that put aside, I'm still all for creating a more hospitable environment
for women in FOSS. I think that one way is to give them leads for both
men and women. For example, I am an experienced Perl hacker and contributor,
and also active in the Israeli Linux community, and so can guide women
(and men) on their way to become more independent. I know many people helped
me and educated me.

5. You still need to cope with abuse. I received a lot of abuse, even as a
guy. If I hadn't had the will not to give up, and to show people what I was
capable of, I wouldn't have made it very far in the FOSS world. I often get
offended and even become stressed (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypomania
), but I still have known better than to give up.

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