I read a lot of blogs, and surprisingly often I encounter a blog that is interesting, but uses examples that are sexist or offensive. This is especially true in technology blogs, where the visuals accompanying interesting technical discussions often turn me off and turn me away from the blog. Generally I don’t respond to such blog posters, unless I know them personally. I appreciate the effort it takes to put out regular blog posts, and I don’t want to be too critical. On the other hand, I do think it turns people off.
This discussion recently came up on Systers, a mailing list for technical women.
Nancy Tinkham, a professor of Computer Science at Rowan University proposed an elegant solution. This is what she wrote:
I’m a computer science professor, and if I encountered this blog while researching information for a class I was teaching, I might send the author mail like this:
Thank you for your wonderfully-written blog on <gaming technique>.
I’d like to tell my students in <graphics course> about your blog,
so that they can use it as a resource, but unfortunately I can’t
use your blog in a university setting, because of the image that you
used. Do you have a version of your blog post that uses a less
troublesome image that I could use as a resource for my students?
Is there a version of this that’s appropriate for your situation? “I’d like to show my colleagues at work your wonderful explanation, but…”? You can praise the good aspects of the author’s contribution, while nudging him to think about how he’s rendered his own work useless by his choice of an inappropriate image.
I think phrasing the issue in this way moves one away from being pedantic or picky, and into simply suggesting that making a small change would make an already-useful resource much better. I really like this approach, and intend to use it the next time I encounter interesting substance with distracting and unpleasant graphics or other content.