Geek Feminism Wiki

At Linuxcon in September 2009, Mark Shuttleworth, founder and Self-Appointed Benevolent Dictator For Life of the Ubuntu Linux project gave the keynote address. He said, in part, that the Linux community's work was “hard to explain to girls”.

Video of the talk was streamed live, so some people heard it who were not physically present at the event. A Flash video copy is available.

  • “A release is an amazing thing; I’m not talking about the happy ending..”: 3:02
  • “Your printer, and your mom’s printer, and your grandma’s printer”: 35:30
  • “we’ll have less trouble explaining to girls what we actually do" at 35:55


Shuttleworth's comments were examples of the following issues:

  • Condescension -- use of the term "girls" instead of "women" treats women in a condescending and infantilising way.
  • Othering -- the comments set "geeks" and "girls" as two separate groups, with "girls" as the Other.
  • Invisibility -- ignored the fact that many women are involved in Linux, or were in the keynote session at the time.
  • So simple, your grandmother could do it also featured, as well.

His use of "we" assumes that everyone in his audience is interested in impressing women.  As his audience would eventually include those who saw the recorded version of the talk, the audience could be understood to be all FLOSS developers.  This assumption would only work if all FLOSS developers were single heterosexual men interested in a relationship or lesbians.


On 30 July 2010, Mark apologized in a blog comment for what was said at LinuxCon.