Richard Stallman was a very foundational and prolific hacker in the free software movement. However, no matter how instrumental a person is, no matter how critical someone is we cannot and should not allow the behavior rms was allowed to get away with for so so long.
I used to openly idolize rms. I knew he was a bit weird and maybe a little creepy, but I never really looked into his creepiness and since I never really interacted on a developer level with any GNU project directly, know anyone from MIT, or really do more than donate to the FSF, I never really had to. I am disgusted by what I’ve read about Stallman and my heart goes out to women who have had to deal with him. I myself have had to deal with creepy men at work but nowhere near the levels of what I’ve been reading. I am sorry to all my fellow women in tech, for putting him on a pedestal.
As much as I love FOSS and the ideals of Free Software held by rms, the bazaar has been absolutely terrible for diversity. Women and non-binary people are often either ignored, pushed out, or even harassed. I’ve known minority friends who have left tech entirely because of harassment and a general gatekeeping mentality.
This is a personal anecdote, but it’s a story I feel needs telling as my personal example of tech woes. I had moved to a new city and was looking for new work (I was working remotely at my old job in the interim, but I didn’t want to stay there). So, I wrote up my resume and started looking. For months I got very little in the way of interviews and recruiters. I managed to get a “third round” interview with a company which turned me down at the end. Then I changed the name on my resume to my legal (dead)name. Within a week I had a recruiter calling me asking if I wanted to work at what would become my current employer. I had skipped half of the interview process and jumped straight to the in-person interview. I got the job, and even promoted within a year of working there full time. Nothing else changed on my resume, only the name: from a feminine name to a masculine name. Months of nothing, to less than two weeks and had two job offers.
I did eventually come out as transgender to that team and I guess lesbian considering I couldn’t shut up about my girlfriend1. It took time for them to understand and HR has been wonderful about it. Eventually though, things started to strain and I started noticing things. I don’t want to get too into it right now, but suffice to say I changed teams. Which honestly was a better decision for everyone.
I’ve tried to take some time to process everything I’ve read about Richard Stallman, it’s been hard to even boot up emacs to do work, including writing this post. I’ve decided that it’s time to look for a new text editor, at least for now.
- FSF Resignation of rms
- Remove Richard Stallman
- Remove Richard Stallman: Appendix A
- Vice’s story with more examples
- Daring Fireball’s post
- Love you Grace ❤️ [return]