A feminist programming language? Why the hell not?

What might your reaction be upon hearing about the idea of a programming language that takes its cues from feminism? If you’re a computer scientist you may be interested on what parts of feminist philosophy one can apply, usefully, to the creation of a new programming language. If you have no understanding of computer science and a strange aversion to the word ‘feminist’ then you’ll probably just tweet an angry no and remain none the wiser.

To which, of course, they don’t reply when questioned on their problem. Ah, to be able to ignorantly babble so. Liberation.

If however you’re a little crazier in your reactions to the idea of a feminist programming language then you might write an uninformed piece on the idea.
Daniel Greenfield, a right-wing, homophobe decided to add his unwanted thoughts into the mix, seemingly unable to grasp that there may be overlap between programming and feminism.

They’re not disciplines and they have no points of orientation. It’s like asking how to combine being an NRA member and a plumber. There’s no actual overlap.

The underlying diseased thinking is the left’s obsession with politicizing absolutely everything.

Giving it 5 minutes of thought I can see how feminism might provide some guidance on variable and function modification/creation, garbage collection, and relationships between objects (if the language will even have objects!), so quite why someone who is proudly quoted by Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck couldn’t is beyond me.

The majority of Greenfield’s drivel is actually him regurgitating nonsense that was apparently posted on Bitbucket and later Github, along with “code” – both have since been removed, and good riddance I say.
I won’t put up what it says as it’d be a waste of everyone’s time but these are obviously nasty adolescents whose bullshit is being spread by a seemingly grown man.

It’s not all bad news however. On the Abuse Of Notation blog there is a well thought out piece (read it now) on some of the practical and theoritical aspects of this prospective new programming language. Emphasis in bold is mine.

With all this in mind, I’d like to say something about Arielle Schlesinger’s proposal to investigate feminism and programming languages. Given that it’s a staple piece of programmer wisdom that, in the words of Alan Perlis, “a language that doesn’t affect the way you think about programming, is not worth knowing”, the project of reflecting (from a feminist angle) on how our programming languages make us think about what we do with them seems timely, to say the least. A programmer who wants to know that which is worth knowing about programming, will certainly want to know about languages that affect the way one thinks about programming. I can only assume that those programmers who responded to Schlesinger’s proposal with knee-jerk derision were not interested in that which is worth knowing, which in my book makes them rotten programmers who should probably find something else to go and do with themselves.

Everyone who’s come near a programming language knows that there is a correct tool for the job, and there’s no reason to think Schlesinger’s musings, and hopefully eventual implementation, won’t have some impact on the future of programming. I never realised quite how polluted with short-sighted misogyny the programming world was, or at least I’d blindly hoped it wasn’t as awful as the gaming world. What a fool I’ve been.

So why shouldn’t we have a feminist programming language? I can’t think of any reasons, and I could certainly do with some fresh thoughts in the stale, male-dominated world of programming.

This entry was posted in Feminism, Politics, Programming. Bookmark the permalink.

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