Some chucklehead working for Microsoft thought it would be funny to slip a thinly camouflaged sexist remark -- "big boobs" -- into software code that connects the Linux kernel to Microsoft's HyperV virtualization product.
Naturally, someone noticed -- that was the intent (snicker, snicker) - and, as should surprise no one, criticism has ensued, since the vast majority of grownups have come to recognize that this kind of juvenile nonsense has no place in the business world.
And, just as predictably, there are critics of the critics -- apologists and enablers for this chucklehead and others like him -- who insist on defending the non-existent right to be just a little bit sexist, even at work, as long as it's just a little bit and as long as not too many people notice or are offended. Lighten up, you nags, is the operative message from these folks.
Yesterday I asked Microsoft for comment and a public relations representative said she would seek one. (Update: It arrived 45 minutes after this posted and reads: "We thank the community for reporting this issue and apologize for the offensive string. We have submitted a patch to fix this issue and the change will be published in a future release of the kernel.") Here are the particulars of what happened.
Linux developer Matthew Garrett writes on his blog:
Piffle, harrumph the apologists, a number of whom contributed their tired rationalizations - "even my wife thinks it's funny" - in the comments on Garrett's post
Paolo Bonzini noticed something a little awkward in the Linux kernel support code for Microsoft's HyperV virtualisation environment - specifically, that the magic constant passed through to the hypervisor was "0xB16B00B5", or, in English, "BIG BOOBS". It turns out that this isn't an exception - when the code was originally submitted it also contained "0x0B00B135". That one got removed when the Xen support code was ripped out.
At the most basic level it's just straightforward childish humour, and the use of vaguely-English strings in magic hex constants is hardly uncommon. But it's also specifically male childish humour. Puerile sniggering at breasts contributes to the continuing impression that software development is a boys club where girls aren't welcome.
Big Boobs by itself shouldn't even be deemed 'sexist'