July 1, 2011

Childish Behavior

A member of the PSF wrote to the Board to ask whether we thought the name of a particular package on the Cheese Shop was offensive, and if so whether we felt something should be done about it. This stimulated one of the more interesting recent Board discussions, in which we were even joined by the President (so you know how seriously such matters are taken at the PSF: normally Guido just lets Board business pass by, having many other demands on his time).

The general feeling was that the package name was offensive, but that unless we were faced with a legal request to remove content (as we have, very occasionally, from time to time, and with which we normally comply at some inconvenience to ourselves) we did not feel it was our place to police standards of decency on behalf of PyPi users. Censorship is a slippery slope, and can lead you into liability which transparency might not.

Given that I have done my best to encourage diversity, including gender diversity, among the international Python community, however, and even though I have on occasion been that guy, (as I suspect many of us have), it seems to me that if we truly want more women to feel at home in the open source software industry then we really ought to avoid giving our projects names like pantyshot. I was somewhat surprised by the name (for a piece of software that parses the MarkDown language?) until I saw that the author of that package had implemented the upskirt MarkDown parser. WTF? Perhaps I am missing something here, but when I ask Google what that means, it replies in somewhat unequivocal terms:
Upskirt is a term usually referring to up skirt photography, images of the view up a woman's skirt (as seen from underneath), including shots of a woman's underwear or crotch, or exposing her vulva or buttocks. Alternatively, an "upskirt" may be a video, an illustration, or simply a view... 
If you want to read any more I will leave you to do the research yourself. But the question it raises in my mind is: "What immature hooligan decided it would be a good idea to call a MarkDown parser upskirt?" Is that such an unreasonable question? Is there some rationale so obvious that all but me can see it?

It's coming up to July 4, so I hope that date's association with freedoms is strong enough (in American minds, at least) that the Foundation will be supported in its stance against censorship. But even though we agree so much with free speech that we will fight for your right to call your pissy little parser pantyshot or upskirt, we really would rather you grew up and called it something else. Don't you realize? Not only do you make the open source ecosphere hostile to women, you also show yourselves as hostile to the diversity of the ecosphere. That's not OK with me. Sorry.

If I am wrong, and I have overlooked some obvious (or even not-so-obvious) support for gender equality that is hidden in these package names then I would be grateful for the enlightenment. If this is just another juvenile set of geeks sniggering in a router closet somewhere about toilet language then yawn, I guess. I've got better things to do with my time than deal with that kind of stupidity.

DISCLAIMER [added July 2, 2011] This post was not intended as an official statement on behalf of the Python Software Foundation, but rather to give an insight into its decision making process. My personal distate for these particular names is heightened because it appears that the original libupskirt author's acceptance on trust of a foreign-language name for her library has caused her considerable discomfort and possibly harassment [EDIT July 12: apparently the primary issue was the way the development process was used to remove her identity from contributed code]. She apparently no longer wishes to work on open source.