Re: [Gendispatch] Diversity and Inclusiveness in the IETF

Vittorio Bertola <vittorio.bertola@open-xchange.com> Wed, 24 February 2021 17:47 UTC

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Date: Wed, 24 Feb 2021 18:47:18 +0100 (CET)
From: Vittorio Bertola <vittorio.bertola@open-xchange.com>
To: Christian Huitema <huitema@huitema.net>
Cc: GENDISPATCH List <gendispatch@ietf.org>, "ietf@ietf.org" <ietf@ietf.org>
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Subject: Re: [Gendispatch] Diversity and Inclusiveness in the IETF
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>     Il 24/02/2021 17:37 Christian Huitema <huitema@huitema.net> ha scritto:
> 
>     Vittorio,
> 
>     The word "coder" is a somewhat insulting way to refer to software developers. Please stop. This vocabulary implies a hierarchy in which the specifications are developed by superior specification writers, then handed down to subservient "coders" who merely translate it into computer code. This is a very reductive way of considering software development. For example, it completely discards the interaction between implementation, deployment, testing, and user feedback. In the IETF, the writing of good specifications has always benefited from such interactions, and we want that to continue.
> 
Of course (originally being a software writer myself, and still doing it as a hobby) this was not my intention, and personally I never heard any software developer complaining that "coder" is an insulting term. But if it is, I apologize for using it, and we should just add it to the list of problematic words, so that everyone is aware that it should not be used at the IETF.

Then, I also suggest that the list is handed out to every new subscriber of any IETF mailing list, because this is not the first time that I use a perfectly normal term in my native language / environment and I find someone jumping up and taking the issue as an offense (the last time was with the term "militant", when chatting on this same issue).

As a result, I am feeling like I should just stop participating in these discussions for fear of using the wrong choice of language and getting publicly shamed (and in my own culture, like in the Far East, in Arab cultures and elsewhere, "saving your face" in public is paramount). So, ironically, language correctness leads to self-censorship and exclusion.

Now, while we are at it, I also note that sometimes there are extremely offensive terms in my culture that are being commonly used in this discussion. The main example is "race"; in Italy, in Germany(*) and in other European cultures, using the term "race" to refer to a subset of mankind, implying that more than one "human race" exists, or suggesting that there are "race issues" and "race diversities" to be considered, is considered outright racism. I was shocked the first time I saw the term used as a category, but then I realized that there was no intention to offend - just a different linguistic background - and I moved on.

But if the principle is that nobody's sensitivity has to be offended, I think that we should definitely stop using the term "race" in this conversation or anywhere at the IETF.


(*) e.g. see https://www.dw.com/en/dont-use-the-term-race-german-scientists-urge/a-50390582

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Vittorio Bertola | Head of Policy & Innovation, Open-Xchange
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