Thursday, June 22, 2017

'Here's another good example of the limits of liberal "tolerance": in the name of equality and diversity...'

Drupal Developer Larry Garfield Ostracized Over Involvement in Sci-Fi Based Kink Community - Hit & Run : "Here's another good example of the limits of liberal "tolerance": in the name of equality and diversity, tech leaders have turned against a long-respected member of their community over his private and consensual sex practices. Sure, the scandal has revealed that Drupal developer and spokesman Larry Garfield has a penchant for BDSM broadly and also for a specific sub-genre of the kink centered on the fictional land of Gor, in which a subset of women serve as men's sex slaves. But more importantly, the situation has exposed strange taboos in the liberal-leaning Drupal community and how hypocritical their talk of tolerance can be. Taking the brunt of the hypocrisy criticism is Drupal trademark owner Dries Buytaert. Buytaert's main gig now is chief technology officer for Acquia, a company he co-founded in 2007. But he's better known as the the creator and original project lead for the open-source content management software Drupal, which has attracted a huge and devoted community since its 2001 launch. Drupal is "supported and maintained" by the nonprofit Drupal Association, which also organizes Drupal conferences.

...a Drupal Community Working Group investigation into Garfield found that he had not violated anything in the Drupal community's Code of Conduct, which probably should have been the end of things. No one has offered any evidence that Garfield discriminated against women in his professional life—in fact, many women whom Garfield has worked or associated with have rushed to his defense—let alone committed any more severe offenses or violence against them. Garfield himself says he believes women are every bit as intelligent as men and that his desire for female submission extends only to his own personal romantic/sexual partnerships. "The [dominant/submissive, or] D/s and Gorean community in general places a heavy emphasis on explicit, active, informed consent and constant communication," he notes, adding that he personally has "never, ever advocated for treating women, as a class, with anything other than dignity and respect." But even if Garfield did hold sincerely sexist views in private, it hardly seems grounds for community expulsion in the absence of publicly articulated views or actions. 

The idea that women should be submissive to their husbands is a prominent feature of many religious faiths, and a value that plenty of Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others still hold dear—typically with way less add-on feminism than you'll find in BDSM relationships. Would the Drupal Association feel as comfortable ousting a devout supporter of Islam or evangelical Christianity if it came out that their wives practiced voluntary submission? If—as Buytaert says—the association is commited to treating people equally regardless of "their heritage or culture, their sexual orientation, their gender identity, and more," they seem to doing a pretty terrible job. 

People's preferences toward certain types of sex or particular fantasies can be no less innate than a sexual orientation toward same- or opposite-sex partners (and no more reason for alarm). And it's hard to imagine a woman receiving the same treatment and derision if it came out that she once worked as a dominatrix or wrote 50 Shades of Grey fanfic. Meanwhile, Garfield was disinvited from the upcoming DrupalCon Baltimore, had his status as a conference track coordinator revoked, and (in a February phone call that both agree on at least the basics of) was asked by Buytaert to stop contributing to the Drupal community. (The request might not seem like a big deal to those outside the tech world, but "open-source communities/projects are crucially important to many people's careers and professional lives," explains John Evans at TechCrunch, "so who they allow and deny membership to, and how their codes of conduct are constructed and followed, is highly consequential.") "

...It's equally unclear what sort of other behavior of which Garfield is being accused. Garfield says he does not know, and has publicly asked Buytaert and the Drupal Association to enlighten him; they have stayed mum, not even revealing the basic nature of the alleged info. As John Evans writes at TechCrunch, "Dries & co. could surely have told the community substantially more (indeed, anything) about Garfield's problematic behavior, if any, without revealing sensitive information. For instance, they could have said they'd received reports of threats, harassment, or coercion by Garfield, if any such reports existed. They have said nothing of the sort." But "just trust us is not enough," Evans continues. "Especially since it also seems possible that the CTO and co-founder of a heavily funded pre-IPO company has participated in expelling a man from what has been his professional community for the last twelve years, ignoring that community's own Code of Conduct and Conflict Resolution Policy, because it was decided he was guilty of, essentially, thoughtcrime; that no real accusations have been made, and no allegations of problematic behavior have been cited, because none such exist.""

"Throughout all this, Buytaert and others opposing Garfield insist that it isn't about "sexual practices and kinks" and what Garfield does in his own time is fine—it's the fact that he "flaunted" it online which made a difference, or it's the "underlying" belief system behind his sexual kinks. Their statements sound a lot like some of my older relatives talking about gays and lesbians a decade or so back—if a man wants to have sex with another man in his own bedroom, that's fine, just don't go holding hands in public, or calling another man your boyfriend in front of the children! Buytaert et al. seem to suggest that sexual practices and kinks are relegated to things that happen in the flesh, in the bedroom, and entirely on the physical level. But for many BDSM practitioners, part of the fun lies in rituals and rules that extend beyond the bedroom, and role playing often (or exclusively) happens in online forums. Saying you're cool with someone's sexuality unless they ever talk about it or allude to it in public doesn't really hold water. "In the past, Dries might've kicked Larry out because 'BDSM is a threat to family values'," notes Nadia Eghba at Medium. "Today, leaders like Dries kick Larry out because 'BDSM is a threat to gender equality;. Unfortunately, the end result is the same....If diversity is our dogma, call me 'spiritual, not religious'. I still pray for the same things as you, but I won't be at the witch trials."

 John De Goes, organizer of the programming conference LamdaConf, expressed similar sentiments in an Inc interview. "In this new world order, it's not sufficient to conduct yourself with the highest standards of professionalism, as Larry Garfield has reportedly done," said De Goes. "Instead, you must have the right private beliefs and values, and you must restrict your private consensual sexual behavior to the list of approved behaviors. Everything you say and do must be examined with a microscope to judge whether you are morally worthy of inclusion into the community." Inc points out that "the deeper question about how much tolerance should be afforded to controversial views is one that has popped up multiple times in open-source communities" in recent years, from Brendan Eich's removal as CEO of Mozilla over his opinion on same-sex marriage to the drama surrounding LambdaConf's inclusion of programmer Curtis Yarvin (who runs a neoreactionary blog in his non-professional life)."

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