Remove RMS from the GCC Steering Committee

Nathan Sidwell
Fri Mar 26 20:02:30 GMT 2021

[double sigh, attaching a pdf causes it to be blocked, and I guess the number of 
URLs is also triggering a spam trap for the follow up.  I have removed many of 
the URLS from this, you'll have to use your google-fu for sources.  I emailed 
several members of the SC, and don't want to bomb them with yet a third copy. ]

Dear members of the GCC Steering Committee (SC),  I ask you to remove Richard 
Stallman (RMS) from the SC, or, should you chose not to do so, make a clear 
statement as to why he remains.

I am writing this publicly, as it is important we address the issue. In 2019, 
when RMS resigned from the FSF, I asked the SC about his status on the SC (the 
web site continued to list his affiliation as FSF).  I never saw as response. I 
failed to follow up. (FWIW, I never received a response to a technical licensing 
issue I asked in 2020. Something seems amiss.)

As this is public, even though I know you, the SC, know who I am, and I am lucky 
enough to count several of you as friends, I present some bona fides:
     • I am a long-time developer of GCC, having become involved during the EGCS 
days of the late 1990’s.
     • While there has been a time when I wasn’t as active as before or since, I 
have made many thousands of commits to GCC. Particularly in the C++ Front End.
     • You, the SC, have recognized my skills and named me as a co-maintainer of 
the C++ Front End.
     • In addition to the front end, I have implemented middle-end and backend 
changes and improvements.  For instance the core of the OpenAcc execution model, 
building on the excellent OpenMP support developed by Redhat.
     • Outside of upstream, I have ported GCC to several architectures.  Sadly 
several never saw the light of day, but they did pay the bills.
     • Historically, I reimplemented the gcov coverage system, and was a 
co-maintainer of that subsystem for some time.
     • I implemented several pieces of the Itanium C++ ABI – the nearest thing 
we have to a cross-platform ABI standard.
     • I was named a maintainer of the morpho (since removed) backend, and the 
nvidia backend originally authored by Bernd Schmidt (Tom de Vries has taken over 
that maintainance).
     • I’m nowhere near as prolific as other contributors, but I have been 
fortunate enough to work on a program that is exciting and useful to so many people.

I would rather not have to write this email.  Like many developers, I just want 
to write code. Right now we’re working towards the GCC 11 release.  I thought 
about deferring this email. But there’s never a good time, and bad behaviour 
needs to be addressed in the moment.  I have left this for too long already.

I used to think of GCC development as egalitarian, and therefore fair, and, by 
assumption, welcoming. That is not true. I’m a white dude with a British accent. 
/Of course/ I have white male privilege.  I used to joke that I fell into every 
job I’ve had (including my doctorate) – that, right there, is white male 
privilege.  I have so much, that I can move to a xenophobic racist country and 
get a complete pass from the ‘immigrants are bad’ mentality. Many of you on the 
SC have such privilege – if you don’t think such privilege affects you, /then 
you have it/.

Just letting the code speak for itself, /is not enough/. Egalitarianism would be 
fine in an equal world.  We do not live in that world.

Perhaps you discount the benefits of white male privilege.  You’re wrong.  Of 
course I cannot speak from experience, but being female in a misogynistic 
environment is /exhausting/. Being non-white in a racist society is 
/exhausting/.  You may think the current pre-release crunch is tiring – but it 
has an end and will stop. The adverse affects of white male privilege never stop.

Perhaps you do not see the need to attract a diverse population of developers. 
Why do you not want to evangelize to everyone the fun it is in writing 
compilers?  /You’re writing a program that writes programs!/ /You’re writing a 
program that can rewrite itself to run on a different CPU!/ /How meta do you 
want to go!?/

You cannot have missed the sparsity of women and people of color in compiler 
engineering (kaporcenter black tech workforce).  Maybe you fallaciously put that 
down to imbalances in education (leakytechpipeline)  How can we, the GCC 
community, be expected to address that?  Representation matters, we’re the problem.

In the before-time, I had heard that RMS was ‘difficult’, or ‘socially awkward’. 
  I had ignored the true toxicity he engenders. I’m sure you have too. It didn’t 
directly affect me. I didn’t need to interact with him.  I’m not a woman. It 
diminishes all of us to ignore it.
Let me list a few of the cases I have found.  Warning, this are extremely 
offensive repugnant opinions. Mostly referenced via It 
didn’t take me long to find them – I should have done so sooner and for that I 
am sorry.
     1. 'skeptical that voluntarily pedophilia harms children.’  stallman's own 
  archives 2006-mar-jun  I note that children are *incapable* of consenting. 
That’s what the age of consent means.
     2. 'end censorship of “child pornography”’. Stallman's archives 
2012-jul-oct.html Notice use of “quotes” to down play what is actually being 
     3. 'gentle expressions of attraction’ Stallman's archives 2012-jul-oct.html 
Condoning a variant of the wolf-whistle.  Unless one’s talking to one’s lover, 
‘gentle invitations for sex’ by a stranger is *grooming* (be it child or of-age).
     4. Defends someone charged with ‘"sexual assault" on a "child" after a 
session with a sex worker of age 16.’ stallman's archives 2018-jul-oct  Notice 
the quoting here, implying the *child* is not a child. ‘The article refers to 
the sex worker as a "child", but that is not so. Elsewhere it has been published 
that she is 16 years old. That is late adolescence, not childhood.’ No, they are 
a child, that’s what the ages of majority and consent mean.
     5. The ‘St Ignatius’ ‘EMACS virgins’ non-joke. ‘The commenter writes about 
seeing the routine when she was only 15, and how RMS singled her out several 
times during that performance:
        He actually pointed to me in the back and proclaimed, into the mic, "A 
GIRL!" causing the audience to turn and look. Mortifying. Then he proceeded to 
gesture toward me every time he referred to "EMACS Virgins." (I cannot believe 
that he is still doing the same talk 10+ years later.)’
        No wonder women want nothing to do with him.
     6. A business card that is completely repelling image on oreilly
     7. He knows those cards are inappropriate.  He broke the code of conduct he 
helped author. wiredferret's twitter feed.
     8. I understand he’s tried to circumvent such codes of conduct by asking 
women to meet him outside of the conference venue. _sagesharp_'s twitter feed.
     9. He doesn’t acknowledge the few women he has worked with ‘I don’t have 
any experience working with women in programming projects; I don’t think that 
any volunteered to work on Emacs or GCC.’  Completely ignoring Sandra Loosemore, 
who is a coauthor, with him, of the Glibc manual. Sandra was involved with LISP 
standardization, so I would be surprised if he was unaware of her involvement 
there. As you well know, she has worked significantly on GCC,  GCC has several 
other women contributors, but too few for complacency.
     10. ‘My first interaction with RMS was at a hacker con at 19. He asked my 
name, I gave it, whether I went to MIT (I had an MIT shirt on), and after 
confirmation I did, asked me on a date. I said no. That was our entire 
conversation.’ corbett's twitter feed. This is but one of many reports of 
utterly inappropriate social interactions.
That list is no where near exhaustive, nor is it prioritized. As a personal 
anecdote, an acquaintance of mine who was at MIT, related that she was warned 
about RMS’s behaviour, and to never be alone with him.  It wasn’t an isolated 

Perhaps you’ll discount these as hearsay, or construct a rationale that the 
reporter was misinterpreting intent or something.  This is not a court of law. 
So many are pointing in the same direction that you cannot ignore the 
implication.  Perhaps you’ll claim my request is ‘cancel culture’.  That is the 
cry of the hypocrite – this is ‘actions have consequences’.  While I know 
neither you nor RMS will make a fallacious ‘but my rights’ accusation, others 
may.  The USA is not the world and the SC is not the US government.  For those 
in the USA, the (inapplicable) first amendment provides 5 rights, including 
showing an unwelcome guest the door.

The GCC web site mentions that SC membership is a /personal membership/:

‘Membership in the steering committee is a personal membership. Affiliations are 
listed for identification purposes only; steering committee members do not 
represent their employers or academic institutions. Generally speaking, 
committee members were chosen to represent the interests of communities (e.g. 
Fortran users, embedded systems developers, kernel hackers), not companies.’		 
gcc website steering committee
Thus, /you/, the SC members are each personally endorsing RMS via his SC 
membership. At best, /you/ are saying that his behaviour is not a hindrance to 
GCC’s mission.  At worse, /you/ are saying his behaviour is acceptable.  By 
accepting RMS on the SC, /we/, the GCC developer community, are saying the same. 
We should think about that.

RMS is no longer a developer of GCC, the most recent commit I can find regards 
SCO in 2003.  Prior to that there were commits in 1997, but significantly less 
than 1994 and earlier.  GCC’s implementation language is now C++, which I 
believe RMS neither uses nor likes.  When was RMS’ most recent positive input to 
the GCC project? Even if it was recent and significant, that doesn’t mean his 
toxic behavior should be accepted.

Our intent is to be welcoming, but RMS’s toxicity is repellent. We might not 
desire that toxicity reflect upon us, but it does. Our intent may be good, but 
intent is not important – impact is, and /harm is being done/. Fix it.

I am asking you to make a positive move towards more inclusivity and diversity. 
Perhaps you don’t think that is important – we’re about the code.  That’s a 
privileged view point. The other popular open source compiler has a much more 
inclusive community, and its conferences are a joy because of that.  And they 
put paid to the fallacious argument that women ‘just don’t like compilers’ – 
what rot!

My current workplace is a joy because of the huge step towards gender equality 
amongst the engineers.  You might not realize how enlightening that is without 
experiencing it. (And yes, it could be better.)

In the alternative, I want you to make a definitive statement about why you 
choose not to make such a change.  Do not hide behind silence.  Silence is 
agreeing with the status quo.  Further, if you choose not to make a change, do 
not hide behind a technicality. (My understanding is that RMS has veto power.) 
The rules of the SC are not immutable laws of the universe, nor does humanity 
have immutable laws cast in stone.  The EGCS project showed that we can make 
changes with GCC’s social organization.  If we fail to do so, it will continue 
to be harder and harder to attract new talent to GCC development.

Address this as a priority. Address it now.
Nathan Sidwell

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