Dear Linux Journal: News Flash- Women Are People

by Carla Schroder

This just keeps getting worse. Please tell me how anyone could think this is a good idea:

Tech Tips with Gnull and Voyd

"Howdy. My husband is Chester Gnull and I'm Laverta Voyd, and I'm the lady to light a way for all you sweethearts out there who do fancy stuff with Linux. Me and my husband's gonna be bringing you tech tips just about every month now....I don't know nothing about Linux. Chester, he's the smart one..."

How many moronic stereotypes can you count in this? I thought the odious Mango Parfait in Tux Magazine was bad; somehow the fine folks at Linux Journal managed to exceed their previous Standard of Awfulness.

Here is a free suggestion for the fine folks at Linux Journal, though given the systemic awfulness of their perception of women it's probably wasted: women don't need husbands and boyfriends to do tech. We don't need to be portrayed as cartoony stereotypes. We stand on our own merits as competent, skilled adults and tech professionals. Are you capable of understanding this? Why do you have an editorial policy of belittling and being disrespectful to women?

When are you going to issue a public, sincere apology? When are you going to get a clue and quit portraying women in such idiotic ways?

Part 1:

Linux Journal contacts page:


Craig M
2007-08-17 14:22:21
I think you're digging up old dirt on Linux Journal. The column originally appeared in January 2007, and was removed in the March 2007. While I agree that the column was in poor taste, I think your argument would be better served with more recent complaints.
Caitlyn Martin
2007-08-17 18:55:09
@Craig M.: Part one was very current. What Carla has done is show an ongoing pattern of sexism and cluelessness at Linux Journal.
Roy Schestowitz
2007-08-17 18:58:34
They ought to apologise like Intel did (the sprinters).
Paul G
2007-08-18 05:36:23
Just got my copy, saw the picture and well, it's not a show stopper.
I can understand that some, like yourself, maybe offended.
But really, your just trying to grab attention and you have, this once and never again. Chill out will you.
2007-08-18 05:53:42
Carla, why does this have to be sexism? Couldn't it just be a clever and entertaining way to present information? Your reaction (and that's what it is, a hasty reaction not a thought-out response) to this Gnull and Voyd thing clearly demonstrates some serious insecurities within yourself that you should consider addressing with a licensed professional before you make them public as you have in this blog post.

My advice to you is stop blogging for a while and figure out why you personally feel so threatened by men. By the way, was it man or a woman that came up with the Gnull and Voyd idea? Wouldn't it be ironic if a woman created this?

Martin T.
2007-08-18 06:40:07
Hi Carla, I really appreciate your comments.

Luckily not all men are like Linux Journal (and Carla knows this), and if you think just a bit, philly, she's not generalizing every men as Linux Journal (and others, like you) do with women.

Have a nice day.

2007-08-18 09:17:41
@ Paul G

It's guys like you that show the extent of the problem. "I'm not offended, what's the problem?" I found the ad to be offensive, and I'm not even a woman.

You wouldn't think there were a problem if there were complaints about an ad that insulted democrats or republicans. You would fully understand complaints about a racist ad. I wonder what you would think if the pervert responsible for the ad happened to also be a homosexual male, and it showed a couple of guys in an X-rated shot. I can guarantee that there would not be a casual dismissal, "Oh get over it. It's targeted at a specific group of perverts. So what if you're offended." It's supposed to be a professional publication. The ad has nothing to do with Linux or IT. And it certainly is not the kind of thing I'd want associated with the Linux name. Maybe Linus will take away their right to use the term Linux.

Carla Schroder
2007-08-18 11:41:43
Philly, maybe you can explain what blowjobs have to with computers. This sort of "humor" might be funny in a private context, like friends goofing around. It might be funny if this type of "humor" weren't used routinely to demean and belittle women. What is this ad really saying- that IT geeks are all men who are too lame to get girlfriends? Or is it saying that women are cruel and withhold their affections from deserving geeks? Or is it saying that the product is so lame they're giving away blowjobs with every purchase? Which implies that men are so sex-crazed and easily manipulated they'll base professional decisions on blowjobs. (Yeah, I know some do, but not the ones that I like and respect and enjoy working with.)

It has no place in a professional journal or in the workplace, and it doesn't matter if it came from women, men, or livestock. Folks who aren't bothered by its nasty putting-down of both men and women aren't too happy with having a giant full-page reference to blowjobs in a technical publication.

ps- no problem about the dupes- all fixed.

David F. Skoll
2007-08-19 12:04:54
Gnull and Void was discontinued very shortly after it started. It was so mind-numbingly eye-crossingly cringe-inducingly bad that even LJ wised up after only a few months.
2007-08-20 00:40:03
Carla, you are of course right. I am an ordinary heterosexual man and had exactly the same reaction you did. What the hell are these guys thinking of? When will they grow up? It is painfully embarrassing.

While I am writing, thank you for your books and articles, which are invariably super clear, informative and entertaining with it. I have the Cookbook, refer to it every now and again and greatly enjoyed reading it.

2007-08-20 01:14:19
Please , I don't subscribe to oreily for this .... you mentioned it once thats enough ... you can add updates over there for ppl who are interested in this!!

2007-08-20 04:33:15
If it were some easily offended, knee-jerk reactionary feminist that were doing the complaining, this could all be written off as so much noise. But it's not. Carla is an accomplished technology professional and a well-known Linux writer. Her opinion carries real weight, and her mere existence proves the point that she is trying to make. If you want more women to be involved in technology (particularly in Linux and open source) then the use of advertising that is offensive to women -- or at least offensive to intelligent women -- isn't the best way to encourage them.

2007-08-20 06:00:59
Well, (as a man), I find the selling of these T-shirts offensive, but I have chilled out about it.,_throw_rocks_at_them!

People Magazine ran a story on the T-shirt, opening with a quote from a then 10 year-old girl, "I want to make boys feel bad because it's fun."[1]

Soooo...Carla, I hope to see that you will equally campaign against depicting men/boys as stupid, etc. by women.

Paul G
2007-08-20 06:15:52
@ MR BIGG and Dear Carla

Easy does it guys, your in a world of diversity and need to adapt to all that surround you. For example, don't put on perfume, you'll offend someone sense of smell. You'll need to wear white cloves and walk gently like on egg shells because just maybe your walk will offend someone. Don't make too much noise either, someone will be offended that you break the sound of silence. What about belly dancers, oops don't show that you'll offend even more people.

It's an advertising gimmick people, you read in it what you want. I take it with a grain of salt and decided to move on. Why don't you and Carla do the same, just move on.

2007-08-20 06:30:33
So, I look forward to your volunteering to write articles against the mistreatment of men/boys as well:

Carla Schroder
2007-08-20 08:07:44
"So, I look forward to your volunteering to write articles against the mistreatment of men/boys as well"


I love how every single time, and I mean that literally, that anyone speaks up about some cruddy behavior directed at women, some troll always pipes up with "well what about the oppressed and mistreated men!"

Well what about the clubbed baby seals?
What about all the people in war zones?
What about climate change?
What about poverty and drugs?


It's not a zero-sum game. I pick my battles and advocate for what I believe in. You need to do the same. It doesn't mean I don't care about other issues, because like any thinking person I do. I can't fix the world, so I do what I can.

Carla Schroder
2007-08-20 08:21:54
Thanks to everyone who posted supportive, thoughtful comments. This shows progress, because even 3-4 years ago the negative, trolly replies would have been overwhelming.
2007-08-20 10:31:39
Ok, I'm going to copy the comment I posted to LinuxToday. This comment regards the tendency of people to equate the ad that Carla complains about with all other ads featuring women - but there's a disturbing difference. (Note that I did not see the original ad at first, just the one referenced by Carla in LT as "does this one look better". However, I think the original ad has the same overtones as the modified one, so this argument still applies.)

Also note that, were I female in a workplace with an LJ subscription, my offense is so great that it could be construed to be saxual harassment. Companies who want to avert the risk of such suits would do well to cancel their LJ subscriptions.

> Of course you are free to read whatever you like
> into the words, you can spin them as you see fit.

Hmm. Even though I'm a guy I find the ad very offensive. There is afundamental difference between this ad, and the mere use of the female figure to sell stuff. Excusing this ad because "there are lots of other ads with saxxy females" is a straw man argument.

Ads with physically attractive women are intended to a) Grab your eye, b) Activate certain endocrine-producing areas of your brain (so the entire message is remembered to a higher degree), c) intimate that if you're a guy, using this product will bring you females, or if you're a gal, you'll look like this female. They are an accessory to the ad.

The ad in question is very different. It does not give you any of the above benefits; it only refers to a saxual act, and implies that all other women who look like this will perform the saxual act when this one won't. And honestly - with the photographic style used in the ad, the woman looks much more like a domestic violence victim than someone who may be attractive under different lighting. It is extremely repulsive.

This ad is akin to going to Las Vegas, taking a picture of a woman who is clearly forced into prostitution against her will by a pimp, and saying, "What ------ you do in Vegas, stays in Vegas." The photographic style communicates far more than just the words.


Doug E.
2007-08-20 14:14:14
Ads like this just go to show that there are jerks in every aspect of life. Whether it be ads in what should be a professional magazine, or even in the comments of a blog.
2007-08-21 00:35:36
In my experiences, I don't believe the SEXISM pervading the free software movement truly rises to the level of misogyny too often, but I APPRECIATE a voice exposing our ignorance and apathy on the subject. This is definitely a point the whole community should care about and WORK TO CHANGE. A little more empathy/understanding is needed and your speaking out on the subject is a great start to penetrating our preoccupied minds. What other, perhaps more constructive, criticism can you offer?

Continually degrading anybody or any group ultimately holds us all back from achieving our loftier goals. I resolve to stop perpetuating stupidity and to support an ethic that values and encourages everybody to feel welcome in this community.

Looking forward to more enlightening posts from you in the future...

linux gal
2007-08-21 05:12:54
I WAS going to subscribe to Linux Journal. But I'm NOT now. I agree with Caitlyn that Carla is showing an ongoing pattern of sexism and cluelessness at Linux Journal and elsewhere - one that pervades the field of system administration in general and has for years.

I know a man who has daughters entering this field and he was quite disgusted at these write-ups and ads in technical magazines. But sadly, this is what they face - still.

2007-08-28 22:24:22
I read this earlier today. Sorry, I don't see any references to blowjobs here. Rather, what I see here is a funny reference to stereotypical Southern hillbilly-type folks. Matter of fact, I know a "good ol' Southern gal" from West Virginia, and I had her read it before showing her the comments here on your blog. She got a kick out of it, saying, "well, they got po' white trash down, that's for sure!" According to her, there are indeed some folks up in the hills that talk pretty much like that.

Then I showed her your blog. Here's what she said:

"Hmm...well, I guess if someone wanted somethin' to get upset about, they're gonna find it wherever they look."

Specifically on the supposed "blowjob reference," she was rather surprised that you got that out of it, because she hadn't when she originally read the article, any more than I did. Her response to that: "I dunno, I guess if you just want to read that into it."

Joseph James Frantz
2007-09-03 09:44:24
First some of yall are mixing two posts here. One is an ad that Carla blogged about, and the other is this column.

Next quoting a comment here:
"If you want more women to be involved in technology (particularly in Linux and open source) then the use of advertising that is offensive to women -- or at least offensive to ***intelligent women*** -- isn't the best way to encourage them."

Alright at this point I have to take exception. My girlfriend found the advertisement funny. Both of us can understand how some people would be offended. However, if our goal is to be uplifting women, rather than demeaning them, implying that a woman who isnt offended by this ad lacks intelligence is not getting us there. My girlfriend is one of the most intelligent people I've met. She has a lot of knowledge and a great deal of wisdom.

So can we stop making these kinds of comments, either about Carla, or other women?

Carla, the column I can go either way on. That does not matter though, please continue to speak up about these things even if some of us disagree with your conclusion, or are undecided in any *particular* case.

Joseph James Frantz
2007-09-04 08:26:47
Alright I've reread the article. I've been raised all over the states, and had a southern drawl for a long time. That does not bother me. I am convinced that many southerner's would not be bothered by it either.

However, I have to say I don't like the following statement:

"**I don't know nothing about Linux**. Chester, **he's the smart one**, but he's not much of a talker. That's why I'm here. He don't do nothing without me, and I don't mind much cause I like talkin' and I like hosting."

Highlights obviously mine. First I think the journal should probably get out of the business of fictionalizing their content. The chef stuff, this series, and others just grate in a way. Get to the point, which is the technical discussion. Spending several paragraphs trying to make me feel at home in a way that has nothing to do with the topic just are a waste of time. And honestly, these types of articles try to be funny, but let's face it, we computer folks arent really all that funny all the time.

Ok so that statement is one of personal taste. Next the parts I highlighted. I could assume that this article is written by a real life married duo. I could also assume that the wife just doesnt know Linux. **Maybe** in that case it might be ok. Maybe in that case she really feels that he is the smart one. Though I think if we are reasonable we agree that knowing linux or not is not the touchstone of ones smarts and our experience with women should demonstrate that knowing linux or not, they are our intellectual equals. Again those statements assume the real life authors are merely being reflected in one fashion or another by this column.

However, I have a sneaking suspicion that the characters portrayed are just that. Which means someone thought enough of women(and men) in general to foster this stereotype. Could the entire thing have been done without belittling a woman's intelligence when compared to a man? I believe so.

Now if she said something like "I'm not as smart as he is, I don't log in as root and perform all functions as root, and as a result I've never had my system hijacked, like he has..." Then we have something which might have been funny. In it she *says* that she isnt as smart as he is, to demonstrate that in fact she is smarter. But the take on this post is, that she cannot muster anything about Linux without his help. Please.

So if women are confronted with these kinds of statements all the time, maybe we can understand that issues that we think are not a big deal, are a big deal to them.

2007-09-11 15:59:02
Wow, that's an eye-opener. I had no idea. I go there following an occasional link for information, but didn't know this sort of thing was published there, let alone that ad in the magazine that was in your other post. This is bad, but that was beyond belief!
2007-10-02 08:16:26
With all the gratuituous misandry passing as humour EVERYWHERE in the press, it is only fair for men to have an enclave where they can act out and pay women back for all that "men never leave the toilet seat down" stuff. Men are ROUTINELY the butt of the modern politically-correct joke. Where are your petitions and open letters protesting that?

"It's not a zero-sum game."

The sum of the game is a property completely determined by the game's rules. The problem is that you feminists constantly cheat, so any estimate of the game's sum based on the assumption that rules are obeyed and not changed on the fly goes right through the window.

Jack Flash
2007-10-07 18:51:42
Carla... Have you ever thought that if you went down on more guys that you might have found the humor in such an article?
2008-04-15 01:54:04
A women is very pretty her smile is very emblishing wish her all the best.