Skip to content

Children of Men, Gender, and Library IT

Last night another liberrian and I went to see Children of Men, a dystopian extravanganza based on P.D. James’ 1992 novel where the core premise is that humans have been infertile for eighteen years.

One of the questions this movie explores is “What would a world without children look like?” The answer, it appears, is a world that is grey, grim, pugilistic, and thoroughly patriarchal. It is a world where women have very few roles and little voice, and in scene after scene are betrayed, killed, imprisoned, or relegated to minor roles.

Even Kee, the young woman whose pregnancy bodes hope for the world, is swept along with events, occasionally offering her opinions but largely following the lead of the in-groups fighting to use her for their varied and none-too-noble aims (with the exception of Theo, one of the most gentlemanly scoundrels to have come across the screen in decades–and even he is initially pulled in to Kee’s plight for coldly pragmatic reasons).

One of the subtexts of the previous discussion about DSpace is that open source software is software by and large designed by and for men. (That last point has a dependency: you believe that OSS tends to be developer-oriented.) Dorothea hinted at it, I was thinking it. Too much OSS is, in a way, Software of Men: grim, grey, and–for those who have ever attempted to ask a newbie question on an OSS list–pugilistic and thoroughly patriarchal. You either are part of the in-group or you are a “fugee” (Children of Men jargon for ‘refugee’–a major subtext of the movie is the treatment of immigrants). If you are a fugee, God help you; you are no equal to the developers.

Now, before you think this is going to drift into “Command line execution is from Mars, GUIs are from Venus,” I know plenty of women who think in code–women for whom a command line is bliss–women who are geek from the git-go. (I keep referring to the “guys” in my department, even though several of us, including me, are female.) I am also not going to describe us as the kinder, gentler sex–not after working in libraries for fifteen years.

But I will ask this of you, ye who are of the geekish inclination. Go see Children of Men, and then think about software development. Who do you want building your software? What kind of world do they come from?

Posted on this day, other years: