I’m responding to this as:

  • someone who’s had conversations with you on this general topic
  • a DjangoCon US speaker or organizer since 2015
  • The DEFNA North American ambassador, who’s spent the past 10 months traveling North America trying to build ties among the Python and Django community
  • someone who holds Mariatta in high regard.

Shortly after I got on a plane to come back to Houston from DjangoCon AU & PyCon AU, you sent out this response to the announcement that Mariatta would be keynoting DjangoCon US this year.

My issues

Don’t hate and congratulate at the same time

My initial concern was that you seemed more interested in attacking the current DjangoCon US organizers than celebrating an awesome member of the Python community. Your tweet starts with ~ 3/4 (by line count) “DjangoCon US snark”. It ends with 1/4 “Congrats Mariatta”, almost as a post script. If your goal was to congratulate the keynote speaker, that ratio is off. Why not just congratulate her, then snark about DjangoCon US later? Don’t let your frustration with 10 years of DjangoCon history get in the way of celebrating Mariatta’s keynote selection. Let her have her moment. She’s definitely earned it.

We, the current DjangoCon US organizers, can DEAL with criticism. I, personally, take offense that you “lumped in” congratulations to Mariatta, almost as an afterthought, with criticism of us. She’s someone who’s gone out of her way to help new contributors to Core Python, including myself, and she deserves better.

Your criteria for Keynote speakers

Your tweet also suggests that prior female keynote speakers of color SHOULDN’T have spoken because they either couldn’t “actually code” (which is false) or weren’t pre-existing members of the Python/Django community.

First, DjangoCon US speakers don’t HAVE to be Django or Python developers. They need to have something to offer that the program committee thinks will benefit DjangoCon US attendees.

Secondly, your concern that some keynote speakers weren’t pre-existing members of the Django/Python community is very exclusionary. DjangoCon US works VERY hard to have the most inclusive conference we can, where a wide variety of people from different backgrounds are comfortable. Then, someone who co-wrote one of the most well-known books on using Django says something that sounds a WHOLE lot like, “these keynote speakers shouldn’t have been selected because they’re not from our community”. That’s the OPPOSITE of inclusive. You also seem to be devaluing the contribution of at least two of our prior keynoters who were women of color, SOLELY because they weren’t Python/Django developers when they gave their talks. That doesn’t seem logical or fair.

And as much as you seem to be trying to champion more women of color giving keynotes, do you really think your comments are going to encourge that? If prior women of color who keynoted DjangoCon US are criticized because they don’t meet your specific criteria, how may future potential keynotes feel about speaking?

Finally, you and I both know that you don’t see a lot of keynotes from women of color at tech conferences. But here’s where you DO see them: DjangoCon US. It’s something we as organizers are proud of and plan to continue.

10 Years of history, but different organizing teams

In a later response to my initial concern you gave a “mea culpa, but I’m still right” response with a key logical flaw that you’ve repeated elsewhere: DjangoCon’s 10 year history of not having a woman of color FROM the Python/Django community give a keynote.

While it’s true the first DjangoCon in the US was 10 years ago, a LOT has changed since then. It’s been put on by DEFNA since 2015. The current organizers can’t change what prior organizers did or did not do. However, since DEFNA began organizing DjangoCon US, a female developer of color keynoted in 2016, 2017 and will again in 2018. So, it took this group ONE year to make that happen, not ten. If you have concerns about DjangoCons in the US before 2015, you’ll have to address them with the prior organizers.

My Conclusion

Clearly you’re unhappy with the representation historically at DjangoCon US. I understand this and am part of a group that is ACTIVELY working to improve that situation. But in this case, it seems like you let your displeasure with the history of DjangoCon US overwhelm a positive occasion and lead to some exclusionary remarks.