in reply to Re^2: a 3D flower made with Perl
in thread a 3D flower made with Perl, for anonymous girl

Maybe it's because I have a number of women, and women of color as well, in tech fields who are close friends, and who have fought hard to not just be "some girl", or "the Indian one", or "the black girl": both close to my age (55) and a lot younger, and I know from them telling me so that casual use of stuff like "some girl" does hurt and/or anger them, whether they make a point of it or not.

As far as where I'm coming from, I grew up in West Virginia, which was not exactly a wellspring of egalitarian thought at the time, and where my parents were casually prejudiced about all kinds of things. I try very hard not to be. It's a matter of accepting you have patterns of thought, and actively working to be sure that you didn't just talk from there without considering whether you've said something you didn't actually want to say to a casual stranger or a friend.

And I'm sorry to have hijacked the thread so badly, but I was really shocked to see that DrHyde had gotten downvotes for pointing out that "some girl" wasn't a good way to put it. Perhaps his not saying why he didn't like it would have been more useful - but downvoting says "this was an incorrect and inappropriate thing to say", which definitely is not the case.

"Some girl" says "please apply whatever set of default assumptions you have about women to this person". "Someone" says "just a person, and what race, color, or religion they happen to be is completely irrelevant". If it was a dear female friend, then to me it feels appropriate to say that specifically. Even "my lovely girlfriend" wouldn't have caught my attention, let alone bothered me. But "some girl" really grates on my nerves, sort of like "they're all interchangeable anyway" - which I am totally sure you did not mean...but it isn't about what you mean, but what you say.

Let me make it clear that I am not trying to bust your chops - I am trying to communicate something I've learned about how this can come across to someone who you actually like and had no intention of offending or saddening. I would like the Perl community to be one that women and minorities feel comfortable in, and showing that you actually think about that helps a lot.

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
Re^4: a 3D flower made with Perl
by zentara (Archbishop) on Jan 13, 2012 at 10:35 UTC
    Point well taken. I will be more careful for sure, in the future, regarding my choice of words. I'm sorry if I caused you and others any mental turmoil.

    I'm not really a human, but I play one on earth.
    Old Perl Programmer Haiku ................... flash japh
Re^4: a 3D flower made with Perl
by chacham (Prior) on Jan 24, 2012 at 18:51 UTC
    After your comment i was able to read it both ways. Though, i find DrHyde's comment unhelpful, and would likely downvote it myself.

    "since all girls like flowers, it must have been a girl".

    By the words "i assume" he did not mean "all girls" or "must have", and instead made an assumption based on the mental image of femininity, which he explained. This falls very much in line with the Jungian psychology (females associate with the Anima, males with the Animus). In which case, there is nothing wrong with the prejudging, as there is no action taken upon it.

    I do see a different problem, however. If the requester was indeed male, who is also politically-incorrectly prejudiced, he might take it as an insult to be assumed to be female. Though, i'm not sure if i truly care at that point. :)

      You put your finger right on it - the "mental model of femininity".

      It's about being aware that one has such models. Everyone does - it's part of the way humans build models to abstract and generalize; this is why it's possible to get up, get breakfast, and head to work while thinking hard about a problem: we can default a lot of actions to automatic responses and get along pretty well. It's only if something isn't as we assume (shower breaks, no eggs in the fridge, someone slams on the brakes in front of you) that we get in trouble.

      Assuming that someone likes flowers is really not that a big deal. But assuming that they're not good at math, or that they represent every person that fits into a given group, or that they're comfortable with the same behavior or language, or any number of other things is a very big one. Not taking into account that you have a model, and that if you don't think about it, it will get used, will result in it being used to make a lot of default assumptions, some benign, some not.

      As the public representatives of Perlmonks, we need to try to present the best face we can - because people who see us are humans too, and just as likely to form opinions about groups as anyone else. If we thoughtlessly use language that says "I'm not thinking about this group as a whole lot of different individuals who happen to share a common, easily-identifiable characteristic, but as all the same", then people observing us start building mental models that say, "the Perlmonks folks don't care about/don't like people who are X" (female, who don't speak English well).

      If on the other hand we try our best to not do so, we help people build models that say, "Perlmonks are pretty nice people who care about understanding individual people".

        It's only if something isn't as we assume (shower breaks, no eggs in the fridge, someone slams on the brakes in front of you) that we get in trouble.

        Not all, only the impaired and unprepared :)

        When an assumption fails, the prepared STOP

        Stop Think Observe Plan

        I heard it from some old white woman, who heard it from some bearded white guy , on the internet

        That is right, when I am asked who I heard it from, humans want to know that someones status ( man/woman/race/age/bona fides)

        Being a human, living with humans, I look at and remember faces, and with faces the information man/woman, color/race, hair, clothes....

        So when someone calling themselves girl asks about drawing flowers, naturally we remember some girl , not some body

        So some girl, I assume doesn't mean anything other than, it must be some human girl, don't know what she looks like or anything else about her.

        It doesn't mean anything negative

        All that psycho-knee-jerk-huu-haa is knee-jerk thoughtlessness, by jerks who assume calling a girl a girl is calling her bad at math, and other stupid things

        You heard it from a dog

        Good points.

        I would like to reiterate that Jung explains at great length, the Anima and Animus, and how it is part of our psychic development as living beings. When we sey "feminine", we mean Anima, and so too with masculine and Animus. Hence, the assumed masculinity and femininity are not like any other group assumption, they are part and parcel of the human race.

        Hence, in this case, i see no problem with the assumption. Though i would likely be agitated about any other grouping.