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Feminist Software Foundation gets grumpy with GitHub … or does it?

'Smash the toxic Patriarchy inherent in all computer programming languages'

woman's arm flexing biceps

A group called The Feminist Software Foundation has accused GitHub of misogyny after it disabled access to a repository containing its first effort: a feminist programming language called “C+=”.

Pronounced either “C plus equality” or “see equality”, C+= has since found a home at bitbucket.org, where a manifesto declares it is “a feminist programming language, created to smash the toxic Patriarchy that is inherent in and that permeates all current computer programming languages.”

So far, so radical. But if one scrolls down and reads deeper into the manifesto the document reads a bit more like Life of Brian than The Female Eunuch.

A thirteen-point “Philosophy” says “Under no circumstances should the language be compiled, as compilation and the use of a compiler imposes an oppressive and toxic relationship between the high-level descriptive language and the low-level machine code that does all the labo(u)r.”

Point 6 says “On the off chance that objects do mysteriously manifest (thanks, Patriarchy!), there should be no object inheritance, as inheritance is a tool of the Patriarchy. Instead, there will be object reparations.”

By point 12 it's hard to take things seriously, as it reads “Forced program termination is not allowed unless the program consents to it. The process is part of the choice of the program, not the programmer.”

Then there's this … ahem … passage of text on how C+= will handle binary:

“The traditional binary foundation of 1s and 0s is deeply problematic: 1 is inherently phallic and thus misogynistic. Also, some 1s are 0s, and some 0s are 1s. It is not fair to give them immutable labels. Instead, we have 0s and Os as our fundamental binary logic gates. They symbolise/-ize the varying, natural, and beautiful differences of the female vaginal opening.”

Might GitHub's decision to remove C+= therefore be a simple decision not to give a satirical effort any airtime, rather than a crimp on freedom of expression?

Whether the Feminist Software Foundation and C+= are a gag or not is hard to say. The Bitbucket repository links to a post by Arielle Schlesinger that seems more earnest than satirical, at least in its intent to consider exploration of a feminised programming language. Other writing on the topic also seems serious.

Twitter seems convinced C+= is satire. Are you? The links above offer access to plenty more writing on the language, which should help you make up your mind. ®

Update It's been pointed out to The Reg C+= is absolutely a joke, and that the source of the gag is an in joke bubbling up out of 4chan and best-understood by those who inhabit that site's depths.

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