Diversity on the governance teams


Hello all,

So, as promised, it is Monday, and I am reading this thread. I’m sorry I couldn’t participate much earlier, it was simply impossible, but this thread – and more importantly, the underlying hurt that caused it – has been very much on my mind nonetheless. I just finished reading the whole thing top-to-bottom, and I want to give my overall reaction.

To start, I think there is a genuine problem being discussed here, and I’m glad it’s being discussed. While we have expressed an interest in diversity for a long time, and tried hard to ensure our community is welcoming, we have made relatively few active efforts to grow that diversity. We need to do better.

In any case, I believe strongly that when you’ve made a mistake, the right thing to do is admit it, and then focus on what you can do better right now. In terms of “official” actions, I basically agree with the next steps that Aaron put forward (community subteam; prominent blog post) and I’m very interested in having further discussion about proactive steps we can be taking. (Oh, I just saw erickt’s started a thread on this, so I think I’ll just go participate in that for starters. :smile: )

Rather than removing the subteams we have now, I’d rather that we simply grow them. The size of each subteam is not fixed and it was always expected that they will grow over time. Of course, as has been mentioned a few times, growing the teams (other than moderation) will require growing the community first, which will take time (as most good things do).



That’s definitely an angle we should pursue. I didn’t bring it up mostly because I don’t have a good sense for what’s possible right now, but I have already been talking to Mozilla management to explore options. There are likely dedicated organizations we may be able to work with as well.


Organizing Community Organization

Erickt has locked https://github.com/rust-lang/rust/pull/25585 and pointed discussion at this thread. To which I respond it has nothing to do with diversity and rather breaking the rules of quotations by modifying a quote without using brackets.



If anything I highly disagree with the reasoning behind the change. Past injustice don’t justify present injustice.



There is no “injustice” done by rephrasing an example. This is just a phrasing to make the documentation a little bit friendlier to a wider audience.

It is, however, awkward and somewhat misleading to rephrase a direct quotation without marking the edits; and there isn’t actually a particularly good reason to choose this particular quotation, as it is neither the original statement of the problem, nor a particularly good one. I’ve submitted a pull request that eliminates the quotation entirely, using an original phrasing of the problem, and making the rest of chapter match that phrasing, eliminating a few other awkward pieces: the switch from numbered philosophers to named philosophers, and the switch from male (or female after the pull request) pronouns in the formulation of the problem to singular “they” throughout the rest, preferring instead the appropriate pronouns when discussing specific philosophers, or singular “they” when discussing an unspecified philosopher.

I think that this phrasing should improve the text overall, without introducing problems of editing a direct quotation.


Pronoun Policy

Speaking with my moderator hat on: For those who disagree with the PR on purely editorial grounds, @lambda’s approach is a good constructive one. I trust @steveklabnik will listen to any and all feedback on ways to improve the text, but ultimately I think this is Steve’s call to make, and I don’t think we need to use this forum for any prolonged rehashing of his editorial decisions.

Moderator hat off: For anyone who is specifically troubled by the choice of female pronouns for characters in this example, this is a good chance to empathize with people who feel the same about the constant use of male pronouns in similar situations. Consider whether you spend as much effort noticing and correcting “default male” language you encounter. Or, if you could live with the original pronouns in this text, consider whether you can also make peace with the new ones.



It’s the adversarial framing of the issue in the motivation that makes me uneasy.

If someone would like to revert this patch or switch to neutral pronouns after 30 years, feel free to set your alarm clock for 2045.

Does this serve the goal of making the environment inclusive?


Pronoun Policy

I’m pretty sure that was tongue in cheek. If not, meh. To me it read as emphasis on the original point of the post.

I’m mostly speaking for myself here, but given that tech has a huge skew towards males, a little thing like widespread use of female pronouns doesn’t make me feel excluded. I suspect other males have similar experiences.

On the other hand, many women have had bad experiences in male-dominated environments and may treat nonneutral language as the canary in the coal mine. Widespread usage of “he” may not in itself be directly exclusive, but it’s an indicator of exclusiveness and by being one, itself deters (and thus excludes) women. It’s also an indicator that “nobody noticed”, which can mean many different things and often points to an exclusive environment.

Sure, “they” could be used too; but I think the OP there feels that “she” would be a refreshing change, and I agree.

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I can see how that could come off poorly, especially if you read it as something like, “If you disagree with this, shut up and wait your turn.” I read it more as a half-joking, half-serious suggestion that if the male-default language had been printed and taught for decades, then a female-default equivalent should be no less worthy. And even that intepretation might generate strong reactions, if you disagree with it.

If someone is using exclusionary, harassing, or trolling language in our forums, please contact the mods and we can address it with that person. But also remember that just talking about some issues is inevitably going to make many of us uneasy, even when we all do our best to express ourselves and read each other charitably.



I wrote this in hopes of preëmpting the predictable reaction that gendered pronouns ought to be neutralized as soon as they change from masculine to feminine. It turns out, I was right about that.

Based on your feedback, I just tried editing my comment on GitHub, in order to make it less cheeky. However, I was unable to do so because that pull request is now locked after receiving a despicable comment from a troll. :cry:

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Pronoun Policy

Along the lines of what mbrubeck has said, maybe this would be a good time to remember that communicating via text can sometimes be hard! When trying to put into written words the complicated thoughts in our head, things can sometimes get lost – subtle nuance, humor, sarcasm can all fail to cross the brain->keyboard boundary in a lossless fashion

Thus I think we all have a dual obligation: as writers, consider not only what we think we are tying to say, but also think carefully about how others might read what we say. And as readers, think carefully about what the author might be trying to say, even if you at first read a different meaning.



I had submitted my pull request not to indicate that gendered pronouns should be neutralized, but merely to make the entire example more coherent. At one point it had used gendered pronouns, at another it had used numbered philosophers, and at another it had used named male philosophers, and when using both numbered and named male philosophers used the singular “they.”

My personal preference when I am writing is to use a mixed group as examples, use the appropriate pronouns when referring to specific individuals, and use singular “they” when referring to an unspecified person, and that was consistent with the existing usage of singular “they,” so that’s what I proposed in order to see if the use of specific named individuals would be acceptable to meet your goal of having a more inclusive philosopher example. I am quite sensitive to the reasons for preferring feminine pronouns, however, so switched to them based on your objection.

Based on the objections since I switched the full example to using feminine pronouns, it looks like your predicted reaction was actually correct. :cry: I hope that we can manage to find a way to convince people that using feminine pronouns for an individual from a mixed group of people is not an assault on the English language.



Thank you for replying here and in the pull request. I hope I’ve made it clear that I believe your proposed changes were made in good faith and with the best of intentions. I’m pleased with the most recent changes to proposal: using “she” and “her” for unspecified, singular philosophers.

I am very supportive of your response to @chris-morgan’s objections about your usage of the English language. I was in the process of composing my own reply to this comment but, upon reading yours, I realized that there was nothing for me left to say.

Thank you also for CCing me on the issue, inviting me into the discussion, listening to what I had to say, and responding accordingly. I am hopeful that your pull request will be accepted in its current form.

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FYI: I’ve carved off a separate thread to focus on the creation of a community subteam. I want to make sure we don’t lose momentum here, so please head on over and give your ideas!



Hi everyone, I did open GH issue regarding the PR regarding the gender-change in the dining philosophers quote because I was a bit concerned about parts of it and was asked to express my worries here.

The full text is in the issue but I’ll quickly summarize it. The problem with switching to anything but gender neutral pronouns is that it is a move form something (not adopting a quote) that probably can be seen from anything between OK at best to ignorant at worst to something (enforcing a specific gender) where a knowing decision to be non inclusive was been made. There are people out there who do identify with neither the male nor female gender, if we node move from male pronouns to female ones we repeat the same mistake made before just towards a different group of people. Admittedly a much smaller one then females but none the less an existing one, and frankly the goal of considering the gender of pronouns is to be inclusive so the size of a group should not matter.



There is quite a wide variance in gender identity and gender expression, and there are people who fall in the middle of, or outside the gender binary, or reject it altogether. However, there are a large number of people who do participate in it, both cis and trans, and of those, there is a very large disparity between the number of people who identify as women (and thus generally use feminine pronouns) and those who are involved in the project. There is already substantial weight, in the form of the contributor lists and the team roster, that can put off people from trying to join, as it may appear to be exclusive, or at the very least the case that with such a high proportion of men, that even if it is not actively exclusive, there would be a greater chance that the team and community would not be sensitive to the needs of women who do join.

Anyhow, I think way too much (virtual) ink has been spilled over the choice of a handful of pronouns in the documentation. Whatever choice is made on the documentation phrasing, it’s but a drop in the bucket in terms of actual outreach.



The purpose of feminine, gender-neutral, or mixed pronouns is not to match exactly how the reader would like to be referred to. The reader is not mentioned in third person, but rather in the all-concealing second person and first person plural (“we”). The purpose is to acknowledge and reinforce that the subjects don’t need to be male (regardless of whether this convention, known in German as Generisches Maskulinum actually tries to imply anything about sex or gender).

This minority is truly tiny. Most gay people, trans men and trans women identify as either male or female. Many people critical of the gender binary and in favor of pronouns like “xir” still personally identify as one or the other. Some people who don’t identify as either simply don’t care and use either pronoun. “Fluid” people don’t fully identify as either but often use one of the two temporarily. The list goes on. The people who actually mind seeing “he” or “she” referring to other people are an even smaller subset. Proportionally representing them among the unspecified people that are referred to in the documentation would amount to … zero non-binary people, I’d wager.

In that light, having strong opinions about extending the same consideration to the tiny minority that would actually feel excluded by different pronouns seems a bit excessive to me. It’s probably nice for the occasional non-binary entity visiting the docs, but they life their lifes, hopefully very happily, encountering so, so, so many people who are correctly called “he” and “she”. Tripping over ourselves to counteract that would be a curiosity, not a signal that we’ll respect everyone’s pronouns. They survive in a 99% gender-binary-enamored world, they will survive seeing pronouns other than their own referring to a couple of third parties in the documentation.

Note that I am not saying singular they shouldn’t be considered (I don’t really have a preference — I will oppose “xir” etc. though), I’m only saying that bringing accusations of exclusion is quite a stretch.



So, this is the first time I actually feel somewhat down while reading a Rust thread.

I am coming to this from a position of a minority group, (a disabled person with English as my 3rd language) and my own opinion on this is that while there certainly needs to be a lot of effort in building a diverse community for Rust, I don’t feel like that is something that that any member of the Rust core, moderation or whatever team is trying to “shrug under the rug” in any way.

As someone who watched Rust grow to what it is today for more than a year, I had many interactions with various members of the community and not once have I felt that they are in any way unwelcoming or non-inclusive. They’ve been the nicest group of people I’ve dealt with online and Rust has the first community I actually feel like an integral part of.

Now, I don’t want this to sound like I am just brushing this off or anything, I am just trying to say that people need to not assume malice where there is none. Rather, it is a simple act of trying to deliver something as large as a new programming language, package manager and a browser rendering engine within the promised time-frame and at the greatest quality possible with constrained resources.

I also think that the core team was perhaps somewhat under the impression that the community is pretty good at “self-organising” in the sense of welcoming new members to the community, (I certainly think that they are) and if yes, then that’s actually a great thing, I would say.

Look, communities that have had prominent women among them have only benefited from it, see for example all the amazing work Jessica McKellar has been doing in the Python world or Sandi Metz for the Ruby community. It would be truly amazing to have such people in the Rust community too and I am not aware of a particular reason why that shouldn’t happen here.

I realize that some of you have said that you were discharged from getting into Rust, because of the complete lack of women in the core team. Well, I certainly understand your sentiment here, but please don’t go away if you feel that way, instead join the community, contribute and eventually join the core team, if you want to - I really did not see any indication as to why this should not be possible.

You may feel that you don’t want to join, because there simply aren’t women in the community already and that somehow speaks badly of us, but here again, I would just like to repeat to please not assume malice where there is none, otherwise you’ll just be supporting this self-fulfilling prophecy; no women -> I won’t join -> no women -> I won’t join -> no women -> (You see where I am going with this?)

We need more diversity and I’ve been focusing on gender here, but this really goes equally for race, sexual orientation, economic conditions, political stance or any other diversity metric that you want to apply here, my only plea is that if you are a member of a minority, please don’t write us off just because there isn’t more of you, this is not due to bad intention on our part, (although more could certainly have been done), instead join us and make us more diverse!



So I seemed to be the only one that challenged the initial PR, though I was certainly a bit late in doing so. I never had an issue with the specific text regardless of pronouns. If female pronouns were used from the beginning it would have been fine.

It was more that the motivation for the changes as I understood them didn’t align with the actual changes to the text. The PR came up on the grounds of being inclusive, yet non-gendered pronouns seem to be the most inclusive (and at least a few others seem to agree with this from what I understood). I’m bothered by the fact that a minority (however small) is being identified, yet people seem happy to marginalise those people, as though it’s fine to completely disregard any offence that could be taken. Now I don’t claim to know how many people this is, nor can I speak on their behalf and say what they should and shouldn’t take offence to. The sensible choice to me is to rather not speculate about populations and percentages, and instead just take the safest option.

The only argument for keeping the female pronouns specifically seems to be the idea that women will feel more included in the Rust community. Personally, it seems like a noble but completely unrealistic idea that a single page in the documentation could do this (of course, I understand the argument that the little things can add up). On the other hand, someone else (who also posted above) has already taken issue with the decision-making process and the outcome. I don’t know if they represent the community they’re standing up for, but either way it seems like something more concrete to actually base a decision on. Furthermore, the completely dismissive comments made at the end of that issue I found to be disgusting, and in my mind they only reinforce the idea that the path of maximal inclusion should be taken.



Several people on Github have linked this thread as a place to continue the discussion of gender pronouns in documentation, but I think this deserves a thread of its own rather than adding to this already quite long thread. If you would like to continue commenting in this vein, I would recommend creating a fresh thread and linking it from here so that others may follow.

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