Tag Archives: essay


Subtitled: All My Heroes Are Women Because I Can’t Trust Men Not to Rape

I was at LibrePlanet in March when I realized that all my free software heroes are women. I am lucky among people from traditionally marginalized demographics: the people I respect the most in my field all look kind of like me.

A number of people I know are currently coping with the news that one of their heroes is a rapist.(1) Their reaction has, in its own way, been inspiring. They aren’t hiding from it, denying it or turning victims into liars as people have done countless other instances of sexual assault around the world. They aren’t abandoning the fight for digital rights, nor are they trying to separate the works from the individual, using philosophical and technological success as an excuse for horrible, horrible actions. My community is facing something difficult head on, accepting a harsh truth.

Heroes are important to us because we can share them with others. They inspire us and drive us and help us understand who we are, how we fit into our causes, how our causes fit into the world. My heroes give me hope that the world can be a better place and that I can be a part of it.

The world of digital rights has lost a hero. We have lost a hero who showed us he never deserved to be one in the first place.

We need new heroes. We need better heroes. We need heroes we can trust people who are good as well as driven and passionate and wildly unrepentant in their works. We need people whose ideals extend beyond their single cause, who truly live their values.

Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t want to be heroes. It takes a certain amount of egotism to not only share your own work, but to declare that your philosophies are so correct that everyone else should adopt them as well. Especially in front of a room of people (or the internet). However, the requirement of ego also puts some in positions where they believe they are entitled to things–including the bodies of others, regardless of consent.

This is true across disciplines–musical, academic, political, literary, business–my friends continue to find themselves disappointed when they learn that their heroes are rapists. These are men who use power, coercion, and even violence, taking advantage of their status and the respect given to them to violate, harm, and damage others in pursuit of their own personal and sexual satisfaction.

My heroes don’t do that.

Yes, I do know that women rape. I know that women rape women, and women rape men. I know that women take advantage of their positions. I know that men suffer as well. But, that does not in any way make my point less relevant. Significantly more men do this than women. As an absolute value and per capita.

I beseech my community to find new heroes. Find better heroes. Find people you can trust in not just their single cause, but their whole selves. Find people who are good. Find people you can be proud to admire. Find people who inspire you and who you can use to inspire others. If our heroes fail us, we need to let them go and replace them with people who deserve us.

Admire the strength of character that drove Chelsea Manning’s selfless actions. Acquaint yourself with the activism and powerful language of Cade Crockford and Evan Greer. Meet Shari Steele and her decades of devotion to extending our human rights to digital spaces. Look at the work and advocacy of Deb Bryant, Cindy Cohn, Sue Gardner, Leslie Hawthorn, Deb Nicholson, Allison Randall, Rainey Reitman, Karen Sandler, Runa Sandvik, Megan Smith, Parisa Tabriz, Yan Zhu, Marina Zhurakhinskaya, and so so so many others I can’t name them all.(2)

Let’s support their works and voices. Let’s be inspired.

(1) At first I thought I should say “allegedly” or “has been accused of” or something, but then decided against it. Take my claims at whatever value you want.

(2) Okay, here are some really awesome men too: Chris Webber, Matthew Garrett, MC McGrath, Ned Batchelder, Stefano Zacchiroli


I was asked: I’m a little confused about what you mean, are you saying you can only feel comfortable looking up to women because you can’t trust men?  

I thought about this for a while and realized that while there are men I look up to–John Darnielle and Chad Matheny are two of my music idols–I don’t feel as though I, in good conscious, tell anyone to look at a man as a hero unless I am actually confident in them not being rapists or abusers–which translates to “Unless I actually know and trust them.”