More Than a Name

Rikki Endsley

ROSE Blog: Rikki's Open Source Exchange

Feb 20, 2008 GMT
Rikki Kite

Emma Jane Hogbin wrote an interesting blog about a recent experience she had in the Ubuntu online chatroom. In short, Emma Jane was uncomfortable with the username "stupidgirl," and subsequently felt dismissed when she shared her thoughts with other members in the Ubuntu staff room.

I probably wouldn't have given a second thought to the name "stupidgirl," especially considering it was a name someone chose. I certainly understand where Emma Jane is coming from, though – she will be talking about gender and technology at LugRadioLive this spring, so she's acutely aware of the representation of women in the open source community.

I found a few things particularly refreshing about Emma Jane's situation. First, she spoke up in the Ubuntu online staff room and said how she felt about the name "stupidgirl." She was pretty clear in her explanation and said, "I think I'm trying to advocate for friendly language."

Emma Jane's point didn't necessarily get across, as shown by a member's response, "... then be friendly and let someone call herself stupid if she wants." Even though she received a less than supportive response from staff room members, she didn't just drop the topic. I can't even count how many times I've been dismissed over the years and now wish I would have been more assertive or persistent, so I admire Emma Jane for re-evaluating her approach and tackling the topic again by going directly to "stupidgirl."

Emma Jane's new approach was to offer "stupidgirl" technical support while also sharing her opinion about the "stupidgirl" username. "Stupidgirl" decided to change her username, but even if she'd chosen to keep it, there's a notable difference between the interaction Emma Jane experienced in the staff room and the open communication she shared directly with the Ubuntu chatroom member.

As Emma Jane put it, "In the grand scheme of life, the universe, and everything, it is probably completely insignificant and irrelevant that I stepped up and asked for change. But it is the collective sum of our token actions that will make the difference in the end." Well said, Emma Jane.

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