Connecting Diversity Weblogging

Marriage equality and one bright moment in 2004

The Supreme Court decided in June, 2015 that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples. The decision was Obergefell v Hodges, and the was one of the most definitive for civil rights in the last century.

A few short years later, this decision, like that for Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed rights to healthcare, is under threat with a Supreme Court more interested in forcing a narrow, restrictive ideology than the law. In response Congress just passed the Respect for Marriage Act. Though the protections aren’t as comprehensive as the Obergefell decision, at a minimum this Act ensures that same-sex marriages would be recognized by both federal and state government, though it could not force states to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples.

Perhaps at a minimum, it will provide a warning to the Supreme Court that no, they won’t be allowed to turn back the clock, and they’ll leave Obergefell alone.

Serendipitously, this week while I was recovering old weblog posts from the Wayback Machine, I recovered one titled “No other word works but great.” I wrote it February 18, 2004 and it was about that brief and shining time when Gavin Newsome and the city of San Francisco, in an act of civil defiance, issued marriage certificates for same-sex couples.

As I wrote at the time:

This news coming out of San Francisco, is the first news I’ve heard in a month, over a month, of the triumph of the human spirit, the fire of those who will not accept the dictates of a hypocritical society, and the goodness of people reaching out to other people.

Enjoy this flashback, and think on how far we’ve come, and what we can’t lose.


The follow up longer essay I promised, also recovered from the Wayback Machine: For those who inhabit the empty spaces of the coloring book.


JK Rowling is a bigot

Politico has a new story about JK Rowling and her battles with the trans community.

I liked the Harry Potter books and the Fantastic Beasts movies, but I’m not a fan of Rowling. Or that sad excuse for a human being the NY Times let write an awful piece this week.

These people are using the fight for women’s rights as a transphobic attack. They’re no longer even hiding it.

I had thought we, who have long fought for equality, would be better than this. Evidently, not.

Here are two terms for you: AFAB and AMAB.

They stand for assigned female at birth and assigned male at birth. They’re inclusive terms that can be used in debates such as those around the right to control our access to abortion, to pregnancy prevention aids, and to healthcare used to treat gender dysphoria.

If we want to include cis women, transmasculine, and non-binary in a discussion—and we do when it comes to the harm tossing Roe aside does—then AFAB will do until something better comes along.

I am a woman. I am a cis woman. I use she/her as my pronouns. Even fitting society’s stereotypical model of a ‘woman’, it is still a fight being the person who I am. I can’t even imagine how much harder it is being someone who does not identify themselves the same way, but is facing the same, or worse, healthcare restrictions. The least I can do is make sure when talking about abortion rights, we’re all included.

We’re all being hurt by the same people: those who value power over humanity. I’d be a pretty sad excuse for a human being if I allowed this.

So, sorry that Rowling gets her feels hurt. She’s a bully, and a bigot.

Diversity Technology

Robert Scoble: Tech’s Weinstein moment

Earlier today I was stunned to read about the accusations of sexual harassment against Robert Scoble.  We aren’t friends, but we have friends in common and we have interacted remotely in the past.

I had no idea, no clue, that Scoble had harassed women. There are some people you might suspect of doing so, and some people you don’t, and before today I would have listed Scoble in the latter category. It just goes to show that on the internet, people don’t always know you’re a dog.


Corporate actions vs personal beliefs

2023 update:

In 2023, I find I disagree with this, completely. I do think that corporations hiring known bigots reflects poorly on the corporation.



Second Update Andrew Sullivan in The Hounding of a Heretic:

Will he now be forced to walk through the streets in shame? Why not the stocks? The whole episode disgusts me – as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society. If this is the gay rights movement today – hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else – then count me out. If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us.

Update: Mozilla caved to pressure. This was not a good decision. It was a cowardly decision.

We had a chance to have a mature, thoughtful discussion on what freedom really means, diversity—even if being diverse means working with people who don’t agree with you—and the importance in establishing boundaries between company direction and personal choice.

We had that opportunity, and we spit it all away.


I’m writing about corporate actions vs. personal belief. No, I’m not writing about the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case, at least not yet. I’m writing about Brendan Eich being named as CEO of the Mozilla Corporation.

Appointing Eich isn’t altogether a surprise. After all, Eich was a co-founder of the Mozilla organization. He has been CTO for years. He’s also known as the father of JavaScript, which should give him some street cred among techs. I’m not sure how his business acumen is, but I haven’t heard any Wall Street type yell out, “Oh god, oh god, we’re doomed!”

Eich’s appointment, though, has come with more than a fair share of controversy, and none of it is related to anything he’s done at Mozilla. It has to do with what Eich did, as an individual, several years ago.

California has a law where donations to political causes have to be reported. I’m not sure of all the particulars, but it sounds like a good law. In 2008, Eich donated to the Proposition 8 campaign. Proposition 8 was the initiative to make gay marriage illegal in California. Unfortunately, the law passed; fortunately, it hit a Constitutional wall.

Because of California’s reporting laws, Eich had to report his donation, as well as list his employer, Mozilla. The report went unseen for many years until 2012, when it generated a Twitterstorm of moderate proportions (after all, he’s a geek, not a reality TV show star). The storm died down, as these storms invariably, do.

Now, Mozilla has named Eich as CEO, and the storm, she is a blowing once again. Mozilla app developers are promising a boycott. Employees are asking Eich to step down. Pundits are writing heartfelt and soulful contemplations about the act.

And I don’t agree with any of them.

I have been and will continue to be a supporter of gay rights and marriage equality. I shouldn’t have to preface my reason for supporting Eich by saying this, but such is the environment with which we now hold discourse—we have to shield ourselves with righteousness just so we can safely have our say.

Appointing Eich as CEO to Mozilla is not a slap to the gay community—it’s a corporate action most likely taken for any number of reasons, in which Mozilla launching a new anti-gay movement is not one of them. I’m comfortable saying this because I’ve known Mozilla since the day this organization first started making ripples in the tech community. There are very few organizations as open, and as inclusive, as Mozilla. Mozilla’s own employees demonstrate this by coming out on Twitter, expressing their unhappiness at Eich being appointed. Not many companies have a culture such that employees ask a CEO step down because they don’t agree with his personal actions.

Personal actions. I can think of no act more intolerant than the one that does not allow individuals to express their own political views.

Brendan Eich donated to the Proposition 8 campaign. When I first heard this news, I was disappointed. Surprised, too, because I’m like so many others in the tech community in assuming we all share the same core principles. How shocking to find out, though, that among the tech community members I know, some don’t support gay marriage, some don’t like President Obama, and many are hard core libertarians. A few even teeter into Tea Party territory.

In other words, for all the homogeneity of the audiences at tech conferences, we are actually a rather diverse crowd. And diversity doesn’t always mean diversity our way.

I was personally disappointed in Eich’s donation, but it did not impact on my view of Mozilla. Why should it? He wasn’t donating as an employee of Mozilla. He wasn’t representing Mozilla. He was donating as a private citizen. Last time I heard, we respect this sort of thing in the US. Don’t we?

And now he’s been made CEO, and his past donation as an individual to one campaign I don’t agree with still doesn’t impact on my view of Mozilla. What Mozilla does, as an organization, influences what I feel about the organization: not what one employee believes, personally.

This situation isn’t the same thing as the Hobby Lobby court case, where the owners consider their business to be a reflection of their personal views. More than that: consider their business to be an extension of their personal views. This situation also isn’t the same as a bakery refusing to provide a cake for a gay wedding, or a pizza corporate CEO attempting to use his company as a way to undermine Obamacare. These actions were all the actions of leadership seeking to entwine personal views with corporate identity, and doing so aggressively.

Mozilla is Mozilla. I do not expect Eich to someday state that Mozilla is coming out against gay marriage. Neither will he allow his personal belief to negatively influence corporate culture because it has not done so for the last six years. Remember that Eich made the donation in 2008, but Mozilla has somehow managed to survive to this day, still open, still inclusive.

(Speaking of which, if you’re not going to develop apps for the company today, why didn’t you refuse to do so yesterday? Or last year? It was the same company then. He had enormous influence then. Do you expect his appointment as CEO is somehow going to rip down the rainbows over night?)

Leah Libresco wrote in the American Conservative that “Balkanized businesses, which only hire employees or leaders that are politically palatable to their donors and customers aren’t economically or socially efficient.” She also wrote:

If the gay rights movement wants to change Brendan Eich’s mind, it’s to their advantage to keep him enmeshed in mainstream culture; after all, gay friends and acquaintances are one of the strongest predictors of support for same-sex marriage.

Sometimes you can influence people more by positive actions than negative. After all, thanks to this thoughtful piece, I’ve now actually linked a story from the American Conservative.

I wish Eich the best of luck in his new position, as long as he doesn’t allow it to detract him too much from his work with JavaScript.

I also hope that all the openness and inclusiveness among so many Mozilla workers, floats up.

Update: Brendan Eich’s response.

Diversity HTML5


homogeneity: noun

composition from like parts, elements, or characteristics

Not long ago, Molly Holzschlag tweeted an innocuous comment:

I’d love to see a woman or group of women edit the HTML5 spec. It’d make for an interesting social experiment. Certainly would be a first.

I re-tweeted her without additional comment, and that started a sequence of responses that surprised me in their vehement rejection of “positive discrimination”—as if the only way that women could possibly be involved in editing the HTML5 spec is because of the result of some kind of reverse discrimination.

Craig Grannel caught the byplay and sent me an email asking if I’d be willing to be interviewed for .net magazine, not only about the tweets, but comments I made about the W3C and sexism. Discussions on this topic have not gone well in the past, and I didn’t expect any positive dialog from this interview, but as the saying goes: hope springs eternal.

The interview appeared in Call for greater diversity in web community. I thought that Craig did a decent job of taking my disjointed thoughts and punching them into a coherent whole, but I also decided to publish my full comments. There were a couple of points I made in my response that I wanted to emphasize.

> – How do you think the HTML WG would benefit from female leadership, or, at least, more women being involved? In what ways do you think the “dynamics of an all male leadership” have been negative?

I can’t give you a sound bite, because there is a back story to these communications. I guess I’ll have to trust that what I write will either not be used, or won’t be used in such a way as to cause more problems.

Women are underrepresented in the tech field, but they’re even more underrepresented in W3C working groups. Even with the recent addition of a woman to the TAG group, men in leadership positions in the W3C and in W3C working groups is disproportionate.

Unfortunately, women also underrepresented among the W3C representatives from the browser companies, which is why I believe the HTML WG is so badly skewed towards the masculine.

The group’s entire focus the last few years has been on basically giving the WhatWG members representing a few of the browser companies whatever they want. The procedures put in place to demonstrate a more “egalitarian” viewpoint have actually done the opposite.

If you’ve followed along the effort over the years, the debacle over the longdesc attribute, an accessibility aid, is representative of how badly the change process procedures have failed.

And that might be one key to some of the problems women have had in the group. Most of the women participating in the HTML WG have come in from the accessibility movement, and the people interested in accessibility have long been recipients of disdain and derision–typically expressed outside the group, true, but impacting on group dynamics.

However, what happens in public concerns me less than what happens in private. I’m not the only woman who has received a “tsk tsk, must behave better” email from the HTML WG chairs and members. The chairs say they’ve sent emails of like nature to guys, too, but there’s a different flavor to the communications–a patronizing tone that just sets my teeth on edge.

One time, I addressed some of my concerns in an email to www-archives–the dump hole for W3C communications–about my perceptions of sexism in the HTML WG group, and a W3C staff member wrote me to chastise–literally chastise me–telling me that he showed the communications that led to my emails to his girlfriend. and she didn’t see anything sexist about them.

As if we women all think alike, like some kind of single celled organism that shows absolutely no differentiation.

Tell me something: do you think the exact same thing as all the men you know? Do you perceive writings the same way? Do you all share the exact same opinions? Then why the heck would any of you expect the same from women?

I actually did formally complain to W3C leadership about my concerns about the HTML WG and underlying, subtle sexism, and their handling of the complaint was appalling. They turned around and communicated my complaint to the HTML WG co-chairs, one of whom sent me a blistering email in response. It was impossible to work with the group after that, and I’ve had little respect for the W3C management since.

Now I’m greatly concerned, because I’m seeing the same disdain and patronizing attitude directed to an HTML WG member who has been with the group for years, fighting for accessibility. I’ve watched her become disillusioned, and go from being an active, engaged member, to someone who rarely participates at all.

It’s not right.

Can more women in leadership help? I honestly can’t say whether we could or not, but I’d like to think it would help to have more women in positions of responsibility and authority. At a minimum, we couldn’t make it any worse that what it is. Frankly, the group is too homogeneous. It really doesn’t represent the broader Web community.

> – You said: “How about encouraging more women to get involved, rather than chasing out most who were?” What did you mean by that? (Note: from some of the responses in your feed, I can certainly infer, but it’d be good to get your thinking on this.)

I don’t want to speak for other women, I can only speak for myself.

I left the HTML WG group. I just couldn’t handle the emails telling me to behave, the chastisement, as if I’m a little girl and they’re all Daddy. I have better things to do with my time than be condescended to.

What’s been frustrating about my decision to leave, though, is people telling me now that “If you don’t like what’s happening with HTML5, get involved”, when I was involved at one time, and had to leave.

What’s even more frustrating is an attitude I see from many men and women involved in technology, especially as it relates to the W3C: unless a guy points out that sexism exists, it doesn’t exist.

Sexism isn’t always overt. It isn’t always some guy showing a slide with a naked woman’s bum during a tech conference. Sexism can be as much slow erosion as sudden explosion. Women feeling as if we’re ignored, that we’re patronized, that our contributions weigh less–sexism is as much about subtle perception, as it is about blatant acts.

In my opinion, the W3C, in general, and the HTML WG, in particular, have problems with sexism.

And every time I say this, I get slammed. So here we go again.

Ian Devlin wrote what I felt was a disappointing response to the .net magazine article.

What I did have issue with however, was what I saw as the implied notion that a woman would be better at doing the job of HTML5 editor simply because of her sex.

Isn’t that just as bad as saying that a man would be better at the task at hand simply because he is a man? Such a comment would, quite correctly, cause uproar. Granted the implication probably wasn’t intended, but I think that it was this perceived attitude that started the debate.

No one ever implied that women would do better just because we’re women. This was never said: in Molly’s comment, in my responses, or in the article. The real focus in all of the remarks was on the lack of diversity in the W3C leadership and among the working groups. Not only are women not well represented, but even among the men there is little diversity. Those who have defined the HTML5 spec display a remarkable similarity in thought and opinion, matched only by an almost complete lack of empathy.

Could women help? Good lord, we couldn’t make matters worse.

There’s a second component to my comments, though, that I wanted to re-emphasize: that sexism isn’t always overt acts. In fact, I don’t really care about overt sexism. Acts of this nature tend to self-implode, and they don’t need me to light a match. No, it’s the subtle form of sexism that bothers me. As I wrote in the interview response, subtle forms of sexism erode over time. There is rarely anything anyone can point to and say, “Aha! Sexism!” But in the back of your mind, there exists a feeling that no matter what you do or say, you won’t be heard, your concerns will not be addressed, your input really isn’t welcome.

You just kind of drift away.

Even now, when we have a fresh opportunity to discuss the issues, to address the lack of diversity in the W3C, our concerns are rejected as “positive discrimination”. That’s the same as saying how dare we hit that fist with our face.

Just as an aside: I did volunteer to be a co-editor of HTML5, back in 2008, I believe it was. My offer was rejected.