Mario Fux

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Konqi – male or female?

Konqi – the friendly dragon is our well-known mascot. There is the traditional one which didn’t change much over the years and was even created in plush. And on our historic KDE clipart page you find some versions of Konqi and his friend Katie.

There is even a moving Konqi and if you’re talented enough you might create your very own Konqui.

Then there is a collection of new Konqis by Tyson Tan. (And this is not the place to discuss which ones are nicer and you like more. As it’s my blog I dare to say that I like both versions very much. So thanks Tyson for the new ones and whoever did the historic version (after Kandalf?;-)).

But what about the question in the title of this blog post? Today I found some time to read about the “Plasma Sprint 2015″ by Ken Vermette (kver). Thanks Ken for this nice outside (and now inside ;-) perspective. Ken is one of several people of our Visual Design Group. Under this blog post I read a comment with the question “why are there no women in the picture?” (another and IMHO very important question but not the topic if this blog post, so for another time!) and later a small discussion about Konqi and his friend Katie and why a female version and why a pink dress and eyelashes. Unfortunately the comments are gone now (although they were very well written and had some good ideas and perspectives).

And as this is a topic (gender research) that interests me very much I had a short discussion with my wife how it would and could be possible to draw a female Konqi without using any gender stereotypes. We didn’t find an answer.

But in the end the answer is actually quite simple (thanks again Ken and his commenters for the insight) and even visible on this picture: KDE Dragons Ensemble.

Konqi is female, male and nothing at all. Just take a look at the ensemble above and you’ll see that there are a lot of different Konqis, different colors and some might be male, some female and some something else. So there’s no specific need for an additional female version of Konqi as we’ve already female Konqis. But there is always need for new Konqis…

But the ultimate proof (at least IMHO) gave my son when I asked him (he is a huge fan of Konqi and I’m completely innocent about this fact ;-) if Konqi is female or male? He answered: “It’s Konqi.”

PS: Another question could be (for bikesheding purposes ;-) : if our mascot’s name is “Konqi” or “Konqui”. (Please note the irony, sarcasm or rhetorical character of this question ;-) .

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19 Responses to “Konqi – male or female?”

  1. STiAT Says:

    Do we have to write on every official post now as “he or she (comm: ‘Konqui’)” to be properly gendering as in german, or can we keep our Konqui at “it” :D .

  2. Gallaecio Says:

    I did not like the characterization of Katie, and I would certainly like the approach of considering Konqi sexless. Like a minion :)

    However, I would like to point out that even in the linked http://blog.jospoortvliet.com/2014/07/awesome-people.html image, IMO eyelashes are used to define female Konqis as well. So, yes, no pink but still eyelashes in around half the Konqis.

  3. Bob Says:

    I was kind of disappointed to see that Ken deleted our comments. I think it’s better to discuss these important issues out in the open, rather than to shut down all comments on it.

    Although, it’s his blog and I can certainly understand if he doesn’t want it to turn into a political discussion.

  4. Daniel Says:

    Thanks for making my comment “unfortunately gone now”.
    I guess you didn’t want to expose readers to evil idea that maybe there is nothing wrong with particular clothing in particular culture huh.

  5. mario Says:

    It’s not “unfortunately gone now”. I just don’t want or accept insults on my blog. It’s that simple. Thanks for accepting this.

  6. Graham Davis Says:

    Regarding the pink dress, QI viewers may recall that many years ago, the traditional colour for a boy was pink whilst it was blue for a girl.

    A couple of other items I recall from the series are that, in Victorian times, all children wore dresses and, at one time, all children were known as girls.

    Regarding STiAT’s comment about use of “he or she”, I’ve always used “they” where the gender of a person is unknown.

  7. Daniel Says:

    It was not meant to be an insult and I tried to keep it in a joking manner. If you precieved in differently, well my bad i guess.
    PS In Poland it’s common hyberbole to call somebody “male chauvinist pig” (“męska szowinistyczna świnia”). It used to be a serious insult years ago but now people use it in a satirical manner.

  8. Tuukka Says:

    As the person who initiated the Konqui/Katie discussion, I kinda regret not being able to see the discussion that followed (when I checked the comments again all were removed).

    Of course pink dresses should be allowed, for girls and boys alike, but before using a pink dress to tell “she’s a girl” we should perhaps stop to think about the cultural context where we live (where a pink dress represents a traditional gender role that many women want to get rid of). Actually the whole idea of introducing Katie as a girl mascot seems to come from the assumption that Konqui is male even though the way he/she is drawn usually doesn’t have any indication of gender. We should get rid of the assumption that, if nothing suggests otherwise, everyone is male (at least if we want to attract female contributors). Making Konqui gender free would be a step to that direction.

  9. mario Says:

    Could’nt agree more.

  10. mario Says:

    Ok, sorry then. I searched for an irony or sarcasm tag or smiley and didn’t find one.

  11. Daniel Says:

    “the cultural context where we live”

    This is actually a fair use of cultural context. If you want to present cartoon of some sex you have to use sexual characteristics. That’s what they are for and that’s why we can perceive cartoon dragon as a male/female.
    If it happends to be a pink dress (or other equivalent really) – blame it on the moon, because it is no one’s fault.

    “whole idea of introducing Katie as a girl”

    It was just the artist idea. Just like it was the artist idea that Konqi is a dragon and not a wyvern. Can’t it be that simple?

    “pink dress represents a traditional gender role that many women want to get rid of”

    Early feminism was about having equal rights and being judged based on your skills, not you sex (in this context: you shoudn’t doubt my programming skills based on my pink dress).
    And now we ended up with some weird sex-iconoclasm which doen’t really go anywhere.

  12. Tuukka Says:

    “Can’t it be that simple?”

    That question actually represents the response many people have to these kind of questions. Why make it so complicated? That’s a fair question, and it’s actually hard to see the answer if you haven’t experienced discrimination as a result of cultural stereotypes (many white males haven’t) or you haven’t learnt to pay attention to the subtle gender biases in the society. The nature of these things is such that you don’t see them if you don’t try. Yes, I know you’re now thinking I’m trying too hard and starting to see something that’s not there. Well, I can’t say anything else than try for yourself…

    The thing is that every decision we make has some side effects in addition to what is the original purpose. What do we choose to use to tell that a cartoon character is female? A pink dress that to many symbolizes the most conservative gender roles for women, or something more neutral? And in the context of free software where the gender question is a sore point (also something that is easy to forget if you’re not a woman) all these choices carry a bigger weight than in the case of a cartoon movie for example.

    It’s not like I would go to the barricades if we don’t ditch the Katie-in-pink-dress mascot. I just wanted to point out that I see a problem there. If that provokes angry responses, I think we have a way to go to become truly welcoming community to women (not saying the responses to this blog would be over the top).

  13. Daniel Says:

    “subtle gender biases in the society”

    Males live on average shorter than females, nobody cares. Males have higher chances of being victim of a violence, nobody cares. Higher chances of commiting suicide, nobody cares. Way higher chances of losing child in court, nobody cares. Way higher chances of being homeless, nobody cares. No rights to abortion, nobody cares.
    Males also can’t wear pink dress which is optional for women, nobody cares.
    Yea, I can come up with some.

    Maybe there are some side efects but you cannot tell how severe. Maybe people should understand that drawing is usualy much much simpler than reality and uses assumptions _of target audience_ to present something. Drawing is all about human perception. And human brain creates assumptions on suprisingly simple data.
    You seem to not understand the problem. You have to simplify something in order to draw it (and to be understood by others e.g. dragon is girl), but you “can’t” because you gonna be accused of using stereotypes and whatnot.

    And if it triggers angry responses… Some people might not like losing something becouse of ideas they don’t share. Or ideas that seem to be very shady to begin with.
    I don’t care about Katie’s fate that much, but I have found it interesting that her dress can be such a problem.

  14. CTown Says:

    I think you guys maybe overthinking this a bit. Konqi is a male and Katie was meant to be a female. The rest are of either gender.

    The reason why Katie wears a pink dress is because she is a model. At the time, pink was the new black. This is very common knowledge that I just made up!

    Also, I have to ask, it is normal to see a boy in a pink dress in Europe? That’s what I get out of this conversation. I see Scottsmen wear some manly skirts (kilts) but never a pink dress.

  15. JR Says:

    I think KDE should avoid associating themselves with leftist politics. I have already noticed that there is a #kde-women IRC, but no equivalent for men.
    For the record, i think there should be no women or men IRC channel.

  16. Bob Says:

    “I think KDE should avoid associating themselves with leftist politics.”

    Indeed. I find it sad that something meant purely to be “fun” and “whimsical” like konqi can be used to further a political agenda. This only serves to divide people. And I think those that push this agenda are aware of that fact. Actually, I think that’s their goal. Fact is, I know plenty of women who do wear pink and find nothing wrong with what some call a “traditional gender role.” Should we marginalize the perspective of these women? Gee, what happened to tolerance and inclusivity?

    Frankly, if someone feels ‘unwelcome’ by something as trivial as a dragon in a pink dress, then I don’t want to interact with them. I’d be too afraid! What if accidentally bruise their fragile psyche? Talk about first world problems…

    Must gender politics poison every thing? Even something as silly software mascotts?

  17. Bob Says:

    “A pink dress that to many symbolizes the most conservative gender roles for women, or something more neutral? And in the context of free software where the gender question is a sore point”

    It seems you’re implying that women who tend to take a “conservative gender role” aren’t interested in free software. I find that stereotype more offensive than any mascott.

    “(also something that is easy to forget if you’re not a woman)”

    Again you are making a huge generalization here. News Flash: You don’t speak for -all- women.

  18. Matt Says:

    Treat this more like a problem of optimization rather than a political agenda.

    Pink is the easy choice for representing that a character is a woman, but, mostly because of the way products have been marketed in a frankly lazy way, many have started to push back against the pink thing. Go to a toy shop some day and look how the toys aimed at boys are in all sorts of colours and how the toys aimed at girls are 90% pink 10% purple.

    No one should be made to feel bad about using pink in a mascot, but perhaps it’s a good time for the artists here to think of some new ideas to go along side the pink.

  19. Futal Says:

    Dragons are probably hermaphrodites anyway.

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