How to react to conference criticism

During RubyKaigi 2013, Peter Evjan criticised the audience of a talk for applauding a sexist talk slide. You can read what he wrote at RubyKaigi 2013 – great conference, but I probably wouldn’t go next year if I was a woman.

I didn’t enjoy the criticism one bit. It hurt. I really love RubyKaigi, and the majority of English-language tweets were now about this incident. I also worried what non-Japanese people would think about the Japanese Ruby community.

While I may have disagreed with what he said, there was one thing I did not do:

I did not criticise him for saying what he did.

To the best of my recollection, no other RubyKaigi attendees did, either. Random internet trolls who hadn’t attended RubyKaigi did, though, in a very abusive manner.

Why didn’t I criticise his decision to speak out? Because he was genuine in his opinions, and it’s a topic that many people don’t want to talk about.

To the credit of the Japanese Ruby community, they discussed what he said, with one person even translating an outline of the blog post into Japanese. In addition, Kakutani Shintaro gave on the RubyKaigi blog a genuine apology, with no ifs, ands, or buts: We apologize.

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