Re: Wow, we're famous, was WG Review: Effective Terminology in IETF Documents (term)

Mary B <> Fri, 16 April 2021 17:20 UTC

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From: Mary B <>
Date: Fri, 16 Apr 2021 12:20:37 -0500
Message-ID: <>
Subject: Re: Wow, we're famous, was WG Review: Effective Terminology in IETF Documents (term)
To: Victor Kuarsingh <>
Cc: Jim Fenton <>, The IETF List <>
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I was going to respond to Jim, but I think Victor's response is accurate
and I go so far as to say that I don't  think the terminology is in any way
a barrier to participation in IETF.  And, it's the last solution I would
put in a list when it comes to diversity.   I will acknowledge, it seems to
be the right thing to do politically at this time.

The problem in IETF is not these terms, but rather it's our culture and how
we interact as humans.  Many of us don't have what might be a culturally
acceptable way of interacting with other humans (and I'd go so far as to
say that some folks are not aware that they fall into that category).  Most
of us are very blunt, sometimes to the point that many would consider us
rude.  Some humans are fine with (and some actually appreciate) that we say
what we think. And, I think it's something that's extremely important in
doing things right and getting work done.   Being nice and not telling
someone that we don't think their proposal is going to fly is not a good

At the same time, people that come from cultures or environments where this
isn't how you ever interact with other humans will often not be comfortable
here or want to pursue their work here.   I've participated in many of the
newcomer activities and I told one newcomer that was a woman that she would
have to push back on folks that wanted to interrupt her before she finished
her presentation and react and treat people in a way that would disappoint
her parents. And, I speak from experience where I wish I'd done that - the
SIP WG meeting in Vienna is a great example of this (I'm still traumatized
by that incident).    So, again, we get into cultural issues.   My mother
would be appalled at how I interact with people in IETF meetings (as she
has been in other situations).  My father has resigned himself and his
basic view is that I inherited his intellect, but not his tact.  I'm just
thankful my mother wasn't Southern or she would have made me go to
cotillion. And, for folks that don't know what cotillion is, the purpose of
a cotillion is to teach respectful manners to young people so they can go
out and thrive in society (it includes manners, interacting with the
opposite sex in social situations, etc.).  I will confess that I sent my
sons because I knew I wasn't qualified to teach them myself.   And, in the
spirit of being blunt, there's clearly a whole lot of other IETFers in that
category, some of whom we appoint to leadership.  We are a group of very
smart people, but not a group of very polite people - you only have to
watch the behavior during snack breaks (around the cookies in particular)
to see this.

And, I will highlight that I'm the only woman responding on this thread and
it's not unusual for us to have threads where there are no responses from
any women.  Now, I could share why I think that is, but I know there will
be responses that tell me how wrong I am and that it isn't harder or more
hostile for women to work in this environment...and so it goes.

That all said, in one sense IETF is a microcosm of the industry and while
some companies have significant initiatives to address the diversity
issue,  it's still a significant issue that I think is only magnified in


On Wed, Apr 14, 2021 at 4:34 PM Victor Kuarsingh <> wrote:

> On Wed, Apr 14, 2021 at 2:02 PM Jim Fenton <> wrote:
>> On 14 Apr 2021, at 10:33, Eliot Lear wrote:
>> > What does this mean to the IETF?  I don’t think it means “stop
>> > doing TERM”.  Rather I think it means that we should work on the
>> > other aspects.  We should make it easy and fun to be here.  And mostly
>> > it is fun (of course I’m biased), but sometimes it’s not easy.
>> The question I keep asking myself (and I don’t have an answer) is
>> whether by focusing on terminology in this way we are distracting
>> ourselves from making more meaningful efforts to make IETF more
>> inclusive. I don’t know what those more meaningful efforts might be,
>> but I hope we’re addressing the big problems first.
> I am most interested in meaningful changes that help people come and
> participate.  I don't know if changing or updating terminology will help,
> hinder or be neutral in that cause.  I guess it's worth a shot.
> My (anecdotal) experience was that culture was the central and most
> impactful obstacle to participating within the IETF versus any content of a
> pre-existing documentation.  For example, when I read a draft or RFC
> (others may disagree), I am absorbing technical content and associate
> things I read, including words, to assisting in describing
> the technology, method or principle.  On the other hand, when someone
> engages, in-person or via email, I see that as a reflection of them
> communicating and of their personal resolve.   How we communicate with each
> other, as a unit, helps define our culture.
> I think addressing culture, IMO, would likely result in more meaningful
> ways to drive inclusion.
> regards,
> Victor K
>> -Jim