Adria Richards, PyCon, and How We All Lost

Let me get this out of the way:  I don’t like Adria Richards. I think I have good reason to not like Adria Richards. So I should be feeling some major Schadenfreude right now. Instead, though, I think what’s unfolded in the developer community in recent days has been a tragedy. Here’s why.

  • Adria Richards was an attendee at PyCon, a tech conference, as part of her job as a developer evangelist at Sendgrid, a tech company that manages emails.
  • She took offense to a conversation two men, also developers for a company called Play Haven, were having behind her during the conference, in which they referenced “dongles” and “forking”. Both of these are tech terms, they were construed to be used sexually on Adria’s part.
  • Without ever mentioning her offense to the men, she took their picture, posted it to twitter and asked PyCon to do something about it.
  • Play Haven fired one of the developers.
  • Then the internet blew up.

An Established Pattern of Action

Why don’t I enjoy Adria? I met her in New York some years ago at a conference and invited her to speak at a conference I was organizing in Boston. She was a very good speaker and I wanted her to help our beginners. She’s not an easy person- she didn’t like the title of her talk, she didn’t like her time slot, etc.  Two weeks before the conference, we got a few emails from attendees that she had just threatened on her podcast to boycott our conference because one of our speakers, Danielle Morrill was giving a lightning talk about how to use screencasting software called “Getting the Money Shot”.


She’d never told us she was offended, she’d never told Danielle- she told her podcasting audience and blog readers that we were promoting porn.  In the end, after great drama, she attended and deep sixed her talk, instead lecturing the attendees about how porn wasn’t acceptable at conferences. The beginners in her class were less than amused and ultimately, deprived of the opportunity to learn from her.

At the time I was really angry and frustrated. We were unpaid volunteers organizing this event, and she never gave us the opportunity to try and solve the problem and was about to leave us in the lurch. By the time it blew up (an explosion created entirely by her) we felt cornered and blackmailed.

The following year, she took offense to a t shirt created for WordCamp SF, pictured below.

XKCD generously allowed their comic to be used. Instead of contacting Jane Wells , who was in charge of the project and is easily reachable, she made the situation immediately public and rallied her troops.

To be clear, I believe the tech industry, of which I am a part, is rampantly sexist. It runs so deep and so organic to the industry that even men who would see it in other places don’t recognize it in our insulated world. So rampant, often females don’t even see it-it usually happens quietly- a lack of female speakers, a male praised for something a female said earlier, unnoticed.  But at the Boston conference, great strides were made to have a strong female presence. Almost 40% of attendees at Boston were female, almost 40% of speakers (at the time these numbers were VERY high), there were multiple women (including myself) on the organizing committee.  Jane Wells has long sought to inject opportunities for women into WordCamps and the tech community at large. Danielle Morrill was a highly regarded female in the startup arena, at the time the first employee at Twilio who spoke frequently at conferences. Unequivocally, each of us would have been very receptive to Adria if she’d just approached us instead of attacked us.

What We Can Learn from Overreaction

There is some small part of me that appreciated the backlash she received this week, something I’m ashamed to admit, because I’ve long viewed her as a bully who uses these instances to her personal gain, driving traffic to her blog. But people were missing the point.

Within 24 hours, Adria was being attacked with the vile words people use only when attacking women. They called her a man hater (this was the nicest thing they said) who robbed a father of three of his livelihood. Then the threats began- on twitter, on her blog, on facebook. She should get raped, she should be fired, she should be killed, she should kill herself.  A petition was started and people threatened SendGrid’s business. The company itself suffered a DDOS attack. All this ridiculousness made Adria look reasonable in comparison.

She didn’t get the developer in question fired… Play Haven did that and there are probably details of that transaction we aren’t privy to. It is a tragedy, but one that isn’t her fault. She committed one single offense: not approaching the men like an adult and saying “hey. guys- cmon, that’s offensive to me.”.  On her own blog, she states “it only takes three words: ‘That’s not cool‘”, which I agree with. She should have said them to the developers in question. If she was that uncomfortable doing so in a full room, she could have contacted PyCon officials privately, there were certainly channels to do so. Its important to note Adria’s entire job was conversing with developers. There were multiple steps she could have taken before she once again dropped a public bomb on twitter and her blog.  In her own take on the situation, Adria claims to have considered many things like the size of the room and the audience. All she had to consider was “what outcome am I looking for?”. If the outcome is “change the way these men are speaking” she’d have taken a different route. If “make as big a deal of this as humanly possible with no thought to consequence” was her outcome, she chose right.

I emailed SendGrid via friends who worked there to inform them of the pattern: when Adria is offended, she doesn’t work within the community to resolve the problem, and how ultimately,it actually harms female developers because it forms the perception that we are to be feared, we are humorless, that we are hard to work with. I suggested that SendGrid had the resources to retrain her and teach her better techniques and that I hoped they would choose that path instead of penalty to her. This morning, they went the other way, SendGrid posted that she was no longer with the company.

How did we lose?

The last 24 hours have been some of the ugliest on the internet. The tech community, especially the Open Source community is built on respect for others. There’s a gentleman’s code for privacy (taking a picture w/o permission is not ok; spamming someone a virtual crime) and procedure dictates even security leaks to be reported privately.  Trolls aside, if you don’t believe there is misogyny in the tech world, this will absolve you of that belief. There was little reasonable chatter, instead she was attacked not as a person or developer but as a female- a bitch.

SendGrid lost – they had an opportunity to build toward a positive resolution and they instead lost business, lost a good employee (Adria is a smart, educated teacher and speaker) and lost respect first for doing nothing and then doing too much. They couldn’t seem to win this one. They didn’t respond fast enough yesterday, when they should have insisted that Adria apologize for not dealing with her offense in a more mature manner. They could have immediately seized control of the situation and turned it into a productive conversation about men and women in this space. SendGrid is a fabulous company turning out a great product, employing many great people, some of whom I know, and its gotta be a very hard day there.

Adria didn’t win. I’m not sure she’s employable as a Dev Evangelist, which has been her role. Those who know her in the way I do believe she’ll use this as a platform, but I hope instead she learns from it. This wasn’t about feminism, and she shouldn’t be allowed to sit her perch on the issue. This was about the way humans relate to each other. Either way, the past 24 hours must have been terrifying for her and for that, I’m sad.

The developer in question didn’t win. He posted a very classy apology very early in this situation, surprisingly supportive of Adria and asking what most reasonable people are: why didn’t she handle it differently?  Based exclusively on the conference code of conduct he was in the wrong and he admits that. Was there a less caustic way for him to reach the same realization?

Most importantly, women didn’t win. The ugliness I’ve seen in the last week shocks me, I didn’t know it could sink to such depths. Adria reinforced the idea of us as threats to men, as unreasonable, as hard to work with… as bitches. Her firing in some way sanctifies the ugly things said to her as effective- the social terrorism won.  It doesn’t heal the divide, it slices it deeper.

By that default, men lost too.

How it Could Have Gone

I am surrounded by great geeky men in my life, and they are smart and sensitive and protective and funny. Many are far, far more sensitive than I am. And as with all communities, a fraction of them are douches. When women in this industry are hurt, we’re all hurt.  We have issues to be worked on, but I see the women and men around me working on them. At every happy hour, conference, event, roundtable, lunch.. we have rational and intelligent discussions about the topic.  Many more are to be had, and they all start with one simple action: talk to eachother. Assume people are reasonable until they are not.

I imagine in an alternate future, Adria just turned around, smiled and whispered, “Hey.  No offense, but I’m not all that interested in hearing about your dongle, you know?’. The men would have become momentarily embarrassed, and then reflexively defensive before letting their rational neurons fire in that crowded room and say, “yeah, dude, no problem”.  Maybe one of them would have approached Adria later in the day and pulled her aside to say “hey, I really didn’t mean to offend you, I’m sorry. Hope there’s no hard feelings.” In this alternate future, at a future conference that developer quietly steers a conversation amongst friends away from this territory, without making a big deal of it.

In that future, we all won.

Thank you all for your (mostly) incredibly lucid, thought out, rational responses. For the internet, this was a particularly kind and supportive group both of myself and each other, and for that, you all win the internet today. Comments, as promised, have been closed. I’d hoped to have a conclusion of some kind to post right now, and I don’t, but I am working on it with the help of many other diverse voices. That post will likely be the last one this blog ever has. Until then, and hopefully after, continue the conversation, and I mean, conversation. Talk to eachother, respecting everyone’s right to an opinion while being open to listening. Good luck and best wishes. 


915 thoughts on “Adria Richards, PyCon, and How We All Lost

  1. I’ve been fired myself before for less, frankly. Specifically, I was once fired (in part) because I regularly made personal statements on my personal blog (and as a commentor on third-party sites) that publicly criticized various for-profit companies that my employer was chummy with.

    Fact is, I was an at-will employee. At-will employees can be fired for anything at any time, as long as it’s not discrimination based on being in a protected class. I think employees have a right exercise their Free Speech rights on the Internet without employer retaliation, and I’d probably insist on that being written into future employment contracts I might sign. But at the moment, I’m an at-will employee again, and I know I can be fired for just about anything at any time. That’s what jobs are like in the USA, sadly. Welcome to unbridled capitalism.

    Meanwhile, IANAL and TINLA, but Adria may have a discrimination claim, arguing that her employer retaliated against her for standing up to sexism in her workplace. (And, yes, a professional conference IS a workplace, especially if her company assigned her the job of attending on their behalf).

    Anyway, I think it’s completely reasonable that the guy was fired, but mostly because of my own personal experience: I’ve been fired for less and I’m fine with it. It’s in some sense a lesson that one should get an employment contract rather than be an at-will employee. OTOH, most employment contracts, I suspect, would declare sexist comments in the workplace a firing offense, so admittedly that may not have helped him here.

    • Bradley, I’m disappointed that you think it’s reasonable that the guy was fired. It may be unsurprising, but it’s not *reasonable.* Really, I’d say this entire situation falls outside the realm of “reasonable.” Yes, they should have known better than to make jokes about “dongles” loudly in public. No, that didn’t merit a public shaming. No, it didn’t merit a firing. It certainly didn’t merit the fallout Richards has received from Internet trolls. Etc.

      Virtually everyone involved in this should have done better. But, damn – people shouldn’t be disposable. I’m disappointed nobody would just say “hey, waitamminute – this is a clear example of when we ought to take someone aside and tell them to do better next time” rather than just firing them.

    • I see a lot of comments here talking about or implying that the penis joke in question was a sexist joke.
      A penis joke like this is not a sexist joke. It is a sexual joke. This isn’t even a fine line. The only thing the two have in common is that they both have the word “sex” in it.

      Please don’t mix the two up, because we’re talking about the difference between being a little offensive to some sensitive people, regardless of gender, and one that is actually demeaning to a gender. One is harmless and the other is not.

      • This is exactly the nub of the issue, but I would go further. Outside of the USA, it’s not even a sexual joke, it’s an anatomical joke. In much of the the rest of the world it’s possible to have organs that play a role in sexual acts (breasts, penises, etc.) without linking them to sex each and every time they’re mentioned.

        The worst part is that this sort of thing is an ugly sideshow that detracts from the serious issue of making tech events and careers more female friendly.

      • I totally agree- I was horrified when, as a little kid, my EE dad explained about “male” plugs and “female” receptacles/sockets! I thought, wow, tech stuff is pretty darn explicit! I really thought he made it up. And dongles, heck I always thought they were called that because, well, the anatomical analogy is undeniable. I guess when flash drives became “thumb” drives it was more politically correct?? Whatever, I agree it’s an anatomy joke and not sexist. Not even really “sexual” but then no one has published the entire “joke” so, whatever…

    • She didn’t “stand up to sexism.” Where is the evidence for that? Based on reports of her earlier behavior (whining about her time slot, the title of her session, and so on), she’s an infant who acts up to get attention. She reportedly never confronts the perpetrators of her imagined “offenses”, and instead caterwauls on the Internet to make a mess.

      Well, she got the attention she so desperately wanted.

      • I think she is perpetuating sexism rather than standing up to it, and becoming part of the problem rather than part of the solution. This was a very very sad day for both women and men in industry everywhere, not just tech. This kind of behavior (from both parties, but especially her) moves us backwards a decade or 2. Of course the 2 devs were 1) being rude 2) telling jokes which could be interpreted in an offensive manner by someone somewhere. But that doesn’t mean you go in a witch hunt against them or bring out the pitchforks. Also, even being offended, doesn’t mean you have a right to muzzle everyone’s humor around you that you find offensive (whether they are male or female). You have a right to object and bring it up with them, but nothing more than that unless it’s objectively hate-speech or explicitly graphic. Unless you’re at an adult entertainment conference, of course.

    • There wasn’t any sexism involved (no references to gender), hence no claim for discrimination on that basis.

  2. When your only option is the nuclear one, everyone loses. Adria Richards needs to grow up. Geeks need to improve their social skills.

    • I’m sorry, but I think you’re missing the point. It’s this attitude where we think it’s ok to make gross generalizations like this (about “geeks” and their social skills for example) that is the larger problem. I’ve known plenty of tech workers with impeccable social skills, and plenty of people that are not in IT that are quite the opposite. In this situation there were multiple failures in communication and basic human decency across the board.

      I’m willing to go as far as to say that it’s not even necessarily a gender issue. However, I’m saying this as a female developer who hasn’t encountered a lot of sexism or misogyny in the workplace. But I don’t deny that it’s still rampant and there is still work to be done.

      Anyway, not sure I agree with everything in this article, but it gives some good taking points and lots to think about.

    • Come on, geeks don’t get a pass for being socially incompetent. If anything they should be more aware of being a jerk to other people. If we keep giving guys a pass for their social skills when are they going to learn?

  3. Great read, I think it’s deplorable the way people on all sides has reacted in response to this. She did not deserve to have violence and rape threatened on her, no one deserved to lose their jobs and at the core of it maybe a polite “hey that’s not the cool man stop talking like that or else… ” would have been the right thing for her to do. BUT as you state that’s not her style, and that being the case she can lie in the bed she made. I just wish people weren’t so gross and have to turn this in to a “she’s a stupid bitch” thing.

  4. Sane, intelligent, and fair. You really hit the nail on the head about this situation and how badly it has been handled by pretty much everyone involved.
    I hope that if this kind of situation happens in the future, the people involved will behave like in your imagined alternative future – it probably won’t, we’re all human of course – but I do hope. I also wish there was a way to stop the crazy-bomb from going off and the death threats/sexist comments towards Adria, nobody deserves that vitriolic level of hatred directed towards them.

    Anyways, I just wanted to let you know that I agree with everything you said, thank you for this post.

  5. 1000% agree with you.
    Everyone lost there, people taking part in this story, developers, companies, pycon and python in general… And that’s sad.

  6. Firstly, THANK You for leaving the comments open for a bit.
    Yes, this IS horrific, and does NOT do any good for men, women, geeks, employers, employees, or conference attendees in general.
    All because one stupid young woman with an undeserved chip on her shoulder believes she is “fighting the good fight,” by being overly offended by anything in the Tech Industry that is given the slightest whiff of a sexual connotation…

    Secondly, THANK YOU for sharing a very clear example that Ms. Richards’s extremely poor choice of how to handle a not uncommon, but somewhat uncomfortable situation is far from a “one-off” reaction. Adria’s VERY public, and VERY moralistic outrage about the usage of WORDS speaks true volumes about this woman’s personal bugaboos…
    More importantly, though, it clearly displays an established pattern of unjustified outrage in situations that do not involve her, followed by sneaky, yet vitriolic sabotage of the situation in such a manner as to feign non-existent victimization.

    Thirdly, PLEASE do not attempt to defend this woman or her behavior by decrying SendGrid for dismissing her. Opportunities are lost every moment of every day. This was NOT an opportunity worth pursuing, as GOOD people skills are tantamount in any position requiring any form of “preaching…” Adria does not possess those skills, and has evidently been skating by on the tolerance of people such as yourself who put up with her, regardless her destructive behavior.
    You are somehow attempting to excuse her, and cover up her atrocious actions by stating, “Adria is a smart, educated teacher and speaker.”
    Being smart and educated is (or should be) a PREREQUISITE for being a TEACHER, don’t you think????
    As for her “speaking” skills, I’m sorry, but this most recent incident CLEARLY illustrates that although Ms. Richards may be able to speak, she evidently is NOT smart enough to know when to keep quiet…

    Fourthly, woman to woman, please, please PLEASE stop tying to ride the fence when you write. YOU also contribute to this “misogyny” situation when you write, “There’s a GENTLEMAN’S code for privacy…” (You give the appearance that only a WOMAN would do something so stupid an sneaky…), You then rephrase it as “..the conference code of conduct,” two paragraphs later…I know. It’s all around us, and sometimes we don’t even realize we’re feeding into it, unless someone can point it out…See First thank you above…

    Finally, I feel you are totally wrong in stating that women didn’t win. No one won, and gender, although at the basis of this overblown reaction to a joke, is not, and should not be the “kumbaya” undercurrent of this thread. Adria would have been just as out of place if she had been a man getting offended over something essentially benign and banal.
    Yet, we ALL won (even poor, myopic little Adria – She was unsuited to her position, and honestly, retraining her attitude is too expensive. Better to train a developer evangelist from the ground up who doesn’t have a deep seated and unreasonable aversion to double entendres and suggestive word play… A loud-mouth, snarky, over-opinionated, tech bully was exposed and fired for making a mountain out of a molehill. And her comeuppance was, like her original agenda, broadcast across the Web – A cautionary tale against both inappropriate jokes, and self-indignation run amok.
    FAR too many WOMEN tend to play these haughty, yet vicious little games in the working world. And sadly, FAR too many women (like yourself) still find themselves trying to make feeble attempts to excuse it. Your first sentence stated that you “don’t enjoy Adria.” Yet you still find yourself trying to redeem her by playing “Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda” with how this incident MIGHT have played out. And after clearly illustrating her established behavioral patterns, you try to praise her as a “smart, educated teacher,” and take her employer to task for not attempting to retrain her (which, you don’t know, they might have already tried several times…).

    Hopefully you see how you are enabling such attitudes and behaviors by trying to play both sides of the gender fence, here…
    But still, you’ve done a wonderful job of giving all of us a little more insight into Adria, and the difficult and confusing balancing act women in the Tech Industry juggle.

    • I will certainly take those points under advisement. i don’t know that I agree, but I will definitely think about them and appreciate the feedback, OK?

      • Dear Amanda-

        I don’t think you need to take any of Mozbo’s circular nonsense under advisement. Your post, BY ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE, has been the most nuanced, balanced, and level-headed recounting of this whole debacle I’ve read all day (and I’ve read about 10 of them so far). I would love to see Rachel Maddow feature your post in one of her awesome ‘Moment of Geek’ segments, because it is such a fantastic snapshot of, at once, an isolated Internet tantrum, and a larger, cultural phenomenon.

        Well done:)

    • In my opinion, she’s a smart person, but she does some arguably dumb things. Like this. You can be smart and still do stupid things, they’re not mutually exclusive, and I don’t think it’s fair to categorize Amanda as “apologizing” for Adria’s massively over-the-top reactions.

    • Totally agree. Haughty, vicious games in the working world…and not just by women…but she’s perpetuating the stereotype that it’s women who do most of it.

  7. I remember an incident at work where a lady from accounting approached me and couldn’t keep a straight face to ask me about dongle. Explained to her what she wanted to know, what a KVM dongle is used for and the different lengths. Nobody got fired.

  8. I have to say i haven’t heard the word cunt (the c-word if it censors this) more in my life than I heard it yesterday.

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  12. When ‘{1}ist’.format([sex,rac,age,etc]) discrimination and aggression occurs, addressing those incidents through channels is only a solution to the extent that those channels actually result in the offenders being punished. You mention this Boston conference, and we have to take you at your word that working through channels would have worked then. But in the rest of the geek world, that’s a very risky proposition.

    Similarly: it’s great if the actual men in question (or at least one of them) listened to the criticism offered, allowed their rational neurons to fire a few times, and admitted that what they were doing was wrong. Unfortunately, that’s not the expected value of constructive criticism when it comes to sexist behavior; you’re much more likely to get escalation. This is why so many people are utilizing public shaming instead of quiet in-house criticism — because the tech world *doesn’t* police its own yet.

    • Do be careful with phrases like “actually result in the offenders being punished”. I admit, the whole “difference between justice and punishment” thing is fresh on my mind due to the recent Punisher short film making the rounds, but it’s particularly apt here.

      Justice, in this case, would’ve been the “turn around and ask them to stop” approach. Their minor breach of etiquette is met with a minor bit of embarassment. If you want to turn it into an issue, post an article about it, keeping them anonymous. Everybody wins.

      Punishment is getting them kicked out of the room, out of PyCon, even out of their jobs. Even if that costs your own job and mass derision in the tech community. Everybody loses.

      Sure, they won’t make the same mistake again — but it’s a far, far cry from justice.

      • It’s easy to say “turn around and ask them to stop,” but I suspect most women here, and not a few men, have a story about when such confrontations didn’t work well.

        • and not ALL of those would work out. I’ve had times when I’ve done it and the result hasn’t been ideal. But the point is to TRY. We can’t assume the worst of eachother. If you try and fail, THEN you proceed to step 2.

          • The point is to STOP THE BEHAVIOR you don’t like vs PUNISHING PEOPLE for something about them that irritates you. There were various ways to stop the behavior in this situation. One of which was doing nothing since the guys didn’t seem to continue to make more jokes. The most “comfortable” and “natural” way to behave in any situation is to follow the emotions (anger in this case). But adult women are not little children or animals who cannot own their anger, to go against it and doing something “uncomfortable” like communicating. Or forcing themselves to stop listening to other people’s private talks and concentrate on the presentation. Conference policies aside, nobody is entitled to be comfortable at all times. Little princesses should’ve already grown up.

            Actually, the whole story struck me as a parade of sociopaths, because of manipulation and lack of consideration for other people. Excluding the original guys since they apologized and moved on. It’s been very sad to see how the predatory “public shaming” behavior has become a norm in tech communities, over quite a few stories that didn’t make it to big news. There is one thing when a woman/minority speaks up about their bad experiences. And another one when somebody doesn’t care about real life discrimination and harassment, but goes on a witch hunt and punishes people for any “joke”, or just a perception of it. Just because (i.e. sociopathic). And then other sociopaths come to either fight it or support and make it more mess. It’s so infectious that makes normal people start behaving like sociopaths. Like the matter of belonging or something. Interesting enough, when the discussion comes to somebody wanting to stop certain *behavior* or communicating the concern, it’s often understood by default as punishment.

    • Can you explain to me the discrimination that occurred at the conference?

      I’ve heard a few people saying they were making “sexist” comments, from what i have read, this is conflating sexist comments with SEXUAL comments, very different. That some feminists seems to conflate, or be offended by both is, I suspect why many other feminists must place the “sex positive” modifier to their title.

      Joking about a penises is not sexist, joking about vaginas is not sexist. Joking about a certain individual’s may be. And assuming someone is less qualified to work/speak/have an opinion due to their ownership of one of those parts would certainly count as sexist and discriminatory.

      Can you please point out the sexist/discriminatory things that the developers were overheard saying at the conference?

  13. While she could (and should) have handled the initial interactions differently, is it really the case that the people behind her would have been “momentarily embarrassed, and then reflexively defensive before letting their rational neurons fire…” in their responses. Might it equally have been two speakers needing to save face in front of each other when confronted by objections to their juvenile language, thereby resulting in a session where Adria became a target of their face saving throughout that session and the rest of the conference? I agree that nobody won and the situation is not likely to have changed any minds.

    • Had that happened, it would have been perfectly reasonable for her to make a bigger deal of the situation and report it to the staff directly. But lets not become a society where we condemn the smallest missteps without giving someone the chance to reflect on their error. We will never know how the developers would have reacted had Adria just asked them to stop, but I think it would’ve been worth the effort to do so first.

  14. The details may be different but I feel I’ve seen this plot line many times before. Most notably the saga of ElevatorGate in the skeptic/atheist community a couple of years ago. Rebecca Watson (aka SkepChick) played the Adria Richards role then. I’m tired of people who pretend to be crusaders fighting the good fight when in fact they are gasoline.

    • I disagree. There is a large difference between becoming offended over overheard comments and feeling threatened when someone you’ve already told (in the talk of yours that they attended) that you don’t like being asked out at conferences decides to go one-on-one with you in an elevator to ask you out.

  15. She posted her personal beliefs on twitter, insulted random individuals (that could have been sendgrid customers for all she knew) on twitter, and then said “@sendgrid supports me” on a public forum (twitter) effectively merging her personal actions and opinions with sendgrids. She was fired because sendgrid was receiving NEGATIVE PR from their PR rep her behavior actually cost them sales.
    At this point you are not only completely ineffective but WORSE than ineffective.

    While not on here, I see lots of articles of people yelling about how she was fired for sticking up for sexism and whatnot. Maybe they should take a look at this article and actually pay attention to the sendgrid notice. If someone one the internet called you stupid, you shouldn’t start yelling back with a job like that

    Or maybe everything I said is wrong, not like I know anyone involved

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  19. If you put yourself out there as being so offended by words, which I personally find ridiculous, (I’m a comedian) then you have handed those against you an incredible weapon. This is exactly what I would expect to happen from ANY population on the Internet, not just developers. There’s a reason our society protects the identities of sexual assault victims.

    She put herself out there as a victim, while she was handling something horribly and apparently ruining a man’s life – which is exactly what she intended. She may be a very smart person but socially, she has the stunted mentality of a toddler.

    To the couple of comments above stating, “oh, she had it coming?” I’d say more than that. This is exactly what she wanted. People who post pics of others to shame them and take the actions she has are in one business: the business of chaos. This is what she creates. This is what she’s currently spending her time on Earth doing. The feels comfortable in the firestorm, tweeting away, blogging, feeling the rush of the fight. It’s a tedious existence. I’d know, it used to be me. But there’s only so many times you can poke the lion before the entire den comes after you. And guess what? People are very ugly creatures. I’m sure she’s enjoying every minute of this on some level, because it affirms her beliefs and fills her chaos hole that would be better served by hours and hours of therapy.

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  22. Some great observations overall, but one thing I noticed. You make a note that we don’t know what transpired in the firing of the developer at play haven, which is certainly true. But then you say that sendgrid failed because they fired ms. Richards instead of simply insisting that she make an apology.

    My question is: how do you know they didn’t? It is entirely possible that they tried to defuse the situation either in the manner you described or in some other way, that Ms. Richards refused, and so their only available option was to either sit on their hands and do nothing, or fire her. Why would we assume that was their immediate plan of action? I don’t disagree that they may have been in an unwinnable situation, but I do wonder as to whether we can assume we know the facts (unless of course you *do* know the facts, in which case my apologies.)

    Just from what I have gathered thus far, it would not shock me to find that she had been unreasonable to a compromise. Just sayin’.

  23. Amanda,

    I can’t imagine anyone writing anything more sensible on this topic. I’m amazed you’ve been able to take such a complicated, tragic, fast-developing situation and articulate so well what many of us feel. Many of us do want more diversity in the tech industry, but we believe that the key to doing so is to recognize the humanity of everyone, including those who may have just made a mistake. Your final paragraph alone is a summary that should be read as widely as possible. I even like the fact that you used the word “douche,” because though we all need to be more careful to avoid offence, we all need to be less eager to take offence. Sort of a Postel’s Law for human communication[1].

    Thank you.

    [1] All: yes I know Postel’s Law is too easily abused as an analogy.

  24. I agree with most of this. The only thing I disagree with is the idea that this is reinforcing the idea of women as threats to men. That’s ridiculous. That stereotype is one that lives on no matter what women do. I don’t believe that one person’s actions are a reasonable justification for that opinion – certainly, this is used as justification, but as justification of pre-existing beliefs and therefore irrational – if this hadn’t happened, other instances would have been used. This just feeds existing sexism but it is irrelevant in the larger picture. It doesn’t change anything, one way or the other.

    The incident itself, I think, does nothing. Perhaps the reaction can do something to expose sexism and bring more awareness. But of course the main struggle is in the everyday, not in the exceptional.

  25. Justin Bieber also receives those kinds of threats, not because of anything he has done to deserve those threats, simply because he is famous. Every famous person receives death and rape threats.

    She became famous, that is how crazy people react. This is because they are crazy. It is unusual to think about how fast the internet can both make you famous and allow crazed “fans” to send your death threats and creepy sexual messages.

    This is a problem of the Internet, it is not something she deserves, but nor does it prove sexism. Open the email box of the two immature programmers and I bet you will find similar threats. If any of their children have email addresses, you will now find similar messages to them as well.

    She doesn’t deserve these messages, but surely the children of people who offended her also don’t deserve to receive those same messages because she felt uncomfortable dealing with things as an adult?

  26. What a nice soap opera. What episode was this?
    (And, Oh My God, what sensitive people… and those were not even porn jokes, they were slightly sexual, maybe)

    PS: “dongles” and “forking”… that’s funny!

  27. Would be nice if such a world as you identify in final paragraphs comes to be. When, perhaps, more of us are more evolved. Hoping you influenced at least one future individual to handle it better. (PS Not sure if you intended the quiet irony of calling some men “douches”.)

    • It wasn’t quiet irony:) I’m a total asshole, myself:)

      But its NOT overly ideal world. I know because I’d done it. I’ve seen it happen. I hang out with a few male geeks I like to call “the 5 worst human beings on earth”. We have a great time, but I’ve let them know when its too far, I’ve just done it in a way that doesn’t put them on the defensive. And they’ve, in turn, adjusted.

      • No, you’re not that. You’re decent enough to acknowledge how we can all slip up and, unintentionally use language in ways that confer things that may not have been intended. I, myself, am second guessing a way I recently spoke to @RachelSklar (who’s been writing on the topic as you know, and whom I know personally from working together), in what I had intended as a good-natured quip at a public event where she was interviewing a good friend, but I actually may have caused embarrassment. There’s a difference in scale between being ham-handed, which many of us can be, and going to extremes.

  28. I think that sexism (and a long list of ism’s) are symptoms of a fundamental issue of respect. Our culture teaches disrespect. All one needs to do is turn on the TV and watch news coverage of political pundits shouting down the opposition, reality shows that make a spectacle of terrible behavior, etc to see that we have very few examples of thoughtful, respectful engagement in public view. Is it any wonder that this is an issue when the general public is just salivating over the next outrageous statement from Honey Boo Boo or her mom? That’s supposedly “entertainment” when seen on TV, but what happens when it occurs in our own lives? When disrespect is shown, we all have our own list of “-ism’s” that we’ve used to make sense of behavior that makes us personally uncomfortable. For Adria, it was sexism.

    Unfortunately, it’s pretty unlikely that everyone will be self-aware enough to be respectful in all situations, especially given the fact that our culture places little value on being respectful in all situations. The rest of us need to figure out how to process and deal with those situations. Adria’s flaw was in how she processed it.

    I do think we have an issue with sexism in our industry, but I reject the notion that all uncomfortable/disrespectful situations involving women are sexist at the core. I’ve seen junior engineers of both genders discounted/talked down to in meetings. That’s not usually sexist, from my perspective, but it does indicate a potential respect issue. I’ve also overheard senior (female) staffers openly discussing the physical assets of new young male hires in the workplace. The double standard is astounding. Was it sexist? Possibly – but it was more acceptable for them to be saying it. Such discussion would never have been permitted if they were male. I was not offended by their statements, only the business environment that made their behavior “ok” while at the same time shaming men for having sexual thoughts in the workplace. So what do I do about that? Nothing, unfortunately. Saying anything probably would have resulted in me being labeled a sexist. All most people would have heard (or processed) is that I wanted the right to ogle my co-workers.

    Adria’s case is also an excellent illustration of what happens when we go out of our way to try to “protect” people from various types of disrespect – it results in the underdevelopment of skills to process those uncomfortable situations. PyCon’s policy changes are important and absolutely need to be there – or course we should not have any sort of -ism creating uncomfortable environments for our colleagues! But people also need to take the responsibility to come to grips with how they would handle situations like that themselves. How we process uncomfortable situations often has more of an impact on the overall outcome than the initial disrespect.

  29. The entire things sucks, but I do think one good thing came out of this. I think people will start to be more conscious about how they communicate, on both sides. Also, I don’t know if I would have been offended (depending on the extent of the joke and whatnot) but I know that if I had been, I would most likely not have approached the person to ask them to stop. It’s not always easy to address the issue face to face, it takes courage, I’m not saying she shouldn’t have, just saying it’s not always easy. It would be much better if people made the decision to stop the jokes without having to be asked or prompted by someone else.

  30. I honestly don’t understand one particular thing about Adria’s reaction.
    Why did she make it a case particularly against women? Not to feel comfortable with mild sex jokes in a professional environment is one thing, but why assume that this behavior is making an environment more hostile towards *women*? (After reading her post, it is clearly her point.) If children were present, I would have understood, but why can’t women overhear such jokes? Can’t men feel equally offended by those jokes? It’s not like women don’t make sexual jokes, you can even read some mild sex jokes on Adria’s own timeline!
    There are jokes which *are* hostile towards women, but this dongle joke clearly isn’t one of them.
    Like one commenter said, I think this whole thing blew the internet up because she put her own sex at issue, when IMHO there was no reason to do so.

    • Because we are tired of hearing the jokes. We hear them all the time. There should be some safe spots where you don’t have to hear them. At work, by law, should be a safe spot. If those guys had posted those jokes on their own website, no one would care. But at work, we would like to you know, actually work, and not deal with sexual jokes.

      • Fair. But it wasn’t *at* work…..

        I’ll say it again. You have the right to be offended. Many are arguing whether she was, had the right to be, etc. I don’t- its irrelevant. You have the right to be offended, and I support Adria’s right to be offended by … absolutely whatever. It was never the issue. The issue was how she dealt with it.

        • I think, actually, that’s the crux of the problem.

          “But it wasn’t *at* work.”

          No? It was at a professional conference that people were going to as part of their job. To me, that’s “at work” and I behave accordingly. I don’t drink, I don’t flirt, I watch my language, I avoid certain topics of conversation. And, you know, I expect other people to do similarly.

          I’m gathering, from context, that some people don’t feel that’s true, and that Spring Break Mentality comes into play, and *they* act accordingly.

          Until we decide whether a professional conference is At Work or At Play, we’re going to run into these problems.

          • If you don’t drink, swear, or flirt at work, you’re either missing out, or you need to find a better place to work!

  31. Really, this is probably the most cogent, well structured analysis/editorial on the event I’ve seen. Thanks for putting something out that exhibits the very thoughtfulness that would have prevented the need to write it in the first place.

  32. Pingback: Rachel Sklar: The Firing Of Adria Richards Looks Like Kneejerk Appeasement To The Troll Armies | Tips for the Unready

  33. Great summary. The last thing we need in tech is a mindset of “as soon as anyone offends me, I will shame them”. Sooner or later, everyone offends everyone.
    An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.

  34. Firstly, I’m one of many to say “thank you” for a level headed approach to this.

    The thing is — and techies should understand this[1] — this is not a single cause issue; this isn’t just about the joke, the sexism, Adria Richards personality, or her job, PyCon, and the sackings, nor even about feminism or the trolls and vermin that follows: its about all of them[2]. So anyone focusing on just one[3] part of it has probably got an agenda to promote and an axe to grind.

    For what it’s worth: No one should have lost a job over this, and certainly no one should be threatened with harm or subjected to harassment. And, yes, people should be a bit more perfect and a bit less crap. All of us.

    [1] Who hasn’t seen a complex problem “resolved” with a “Can’t you just…?” from some PHB?
    [2] And the interactions, in fact one could probably produce a graph of them.
    [3] Or any number substantially less than the number of parts

  35. Adria Richards needs to read up on dongles and forking. What a dork! As an animator and software beta tester, I’ve worked with computers since they were the size of buildings and dealt with many sly innuendos by male colleagues. It’s still a male dominated industry where talent prevails. Talent, not tattle-tails. She needs to learn how to deal with the real world. Cannot imagine how insulted she would be about words like “software” & “hardware” – where they burn people for their words, they’ll burn people, period. Now she knows the true power the pen wields. Hopefully she has the time to get a life! Ridiculousness rules. Seriously?

    • Inadvertent humor? “…dongles and forking. What a dork!” Check the slang meaning of that last word.

  36. Oh … blow! I forgot to add one last comment:

    No one should ever have called anything a “dongle” unless s/he was under nine years old!

  37. The big downside to social media is the fact that its so easy to play out passive-agressive behavior like this without having to confront people face-to-face. I’ll pretty much bet that Richards would never act out her sensitivities directly, and that’s a bigger problem… one that permeates social media.

  38. How about the fact that if one takes a look at Adria’s background, she is very open about the fact that she was the victim of extended sexual abuse as a young child and it was this abuse in fact that led her to seek solace in the internet and led her to becoming a programmer? Why should she have to be the one to go around saying “excuse me, I’m a little sensitive to this kind of stuff”? Shouldn’t people conduct themselves appropriately at all times? Especially when sitting in an audience? Yes, her posting their pictures was completely out of line, no doubt about it, but I doubt that she could have ever imagined that it would lead to this.

    • Deji, you asked: ‘Why should she have to be the one to go around saying “excuse me, I’m a little sensitive to this kind of stuff”? Shouldn’t people conduct themselves appropriately at all times?’

      First, let me just be clear that I think the jokes made by the developers were inappropriate for a volume anyone else could overhear. The opinion I will state below isn’t just about this incident, I’m responding to the overall guideline for living that you suggest.

      One problem with your suggestion is that it assumes there is some universal definition of “appropriate” that we should all know and understand automatically. This will never be the case — there will always be things that seem perfectly appropriate to one person, but which seem offensive or in some other way inappropriate to another person. Therefore, what you suggest is not sufficient to solve the problem. Nor is it necessary — if everyone (especially those who are more sensitive than most) is prepared to give feedback to those around them and request that they behave in a way that will not offend, then that is universally more effective than telling people “just act appropriately in the first place”.

      Another, though minor, issue with your suggestion is that it assumes the subjectively-defined “inappropriate” behavior has no value. This just isn’t true. The same traumatic experience which causes one person to become extra sensitive about a topic might have a completely different effect on another — perhaps joking about that topic would actually ease someone else’s healing. If we are forced always to strive for the least common denominator, then there is a cost. As soon as there is a cost, we have to ask “is it worth it?”

      You also said: “Yes, her posting their pictures was completely out of line, no doubt about it, but I doubt that she could have ever imagined that it would lead to this.” What point you making here? The same could be said of the developers who made the jokes; they were completely out of line, but I doubt that they could have ever imagined that it would lead to this [their public humiliation on the Internet, one of them losing his job, her losing her job, etc]. Does that make it OK?

  39. In my opinion, SendGrid’s only mistake was not firing Adria Richards -immediately-, when it was clear that she is incapable of handling interpersonal conflicts like a mature adult. (I don’t care how smart and dedicated they are, someone that antisocial is not an employee to be missed.) Unfortunately, by waiting too long and giving time for the Troll Brigade to jump in with the death/rape/death-rape threats, they ensured that nearly any disciplinary action taken would be viewed as “negotiating with terrorists”, as it were. And that will only embolden them (the trolls), not that they needed much help with that.

    I wish Ms. Richards safety and health as she (hopefully) contemplates the incalculable damage she’s done to her own causes.

  40. Pingback: Adria Richards, PyCon, and How We All Lost :

  41. Pingback: The tech world’s chronic sexism problem: How a Twitter-shaming spiraled out of control

  42. Double Cluepon (The company I lead, which in fact does use Python) does not attend conferences, or meetups. Not even in the games industry. The risk is too high. There are no adults in the room. None. Let me explain a bit. There’s a phrase, “You shouldn’t go to war when you don’t know who the enemy is”. It was uttered for Vietnam and Iraq. It refers to the fact that when you cannot identify the enemy, and anyone on the ground *could* be an enemy, waging war is a bad idea. Asymmetrical warfare, attrition, these are bad things to have to fight against.

    Is there a war going on here? Maybe.I don’t think rape is funny. I think sexism in the industry is a travesty. I’ve raised two daughters who have encountered sexism to varying degrees. I’m a pacifist, but I want to punch anyone who catcalls one of my daughters, or whistles at them from a car. The company I lead is nearly an even split between men and women. I respect and love them all. Two women sit on our board of directors. I am neither fearful of them, nor do I agonize over any given word, or phrase I may utter in the course of business, or even after the business is done.

    But that changes when we step into the world of the general public. This situation illustrates it far more eloquently than any words could. When *anything* you say could be misconstrued, misunderstood, not by everyone but possibly *anyone*…then, you shouldn’t be there. I personally am at the point where I fear that even something innocuous to 99.99% of everyone will cause offense in someone. At which point, you’re doomed regardless of the facts. There is a difference between being offended and looking for offense for the sake of being offended. However, there are no adults in the room. We live in an age where a great many people are not seeking to have a dialog about the very real issues, and listening to both sides. No, we live in an age where one side tries to frame a debate in their own singular view, with the sole intent of being “more right” than the other party. No détente can occur in such an environment. As long as that is the case, as long as people insist on talking *at* each other instead of *to* each other…

    There will be hundreds of these cases. These (this, and the Sarkeesian fiasco) are just scratching the surface. If you think the internet is frothing at the mouth now, you just wait. The worst is yet to come. We won’t go to conferences, or meetups. We will promote ourselves with floor people at conventions, or booths..the surface of attack is much lower, because you can train people to be “in uniform”. But….technical conferences, game developer meetups…those are dangerous…nobody is “in uniform”, and everyone is “in camera”, and relax into being themselves…capable of making a slight without even realizing it. We see this as a huge risk. One word could destroy the livelihood of every employee and partner here. The risk outweighs the gain.

    And any company that encounters a risk that outweighs the gain has a duty to keep it’s safety, for the good of the body itself, and the people who make up that body. This situation displays a very simple fact: it’s safer to stay away, do your work, let your work speak for itself … but by no means should you attend one of these events. Ever. Catch the YouTube of the keynote, or the talk…but on no account you should you risk yourself, your reputation, your company and the people in it, your family….because the risk outweighs the gain by thousandfold. To send someone to a conference, realizing that you’re a pic and a tweet away from ruin…would be a tragic course of action.

    • Hi,

      I hear what you say and I think that your expressed view is very unfortunate. Just at a very basic level there won’t be any YouTube clips to watch if nobody goes, and why should everyone else take the risks that you refuse to?

      I’m not massively keen on big public events and there are indeed problems with them, but your reaction is, IMHO, extreme and overdone, and more likely to damage than help your organisation and the people in it.

      Many of those risks you allude to are present in all forms of communication, eg Web, email, phone, etc, not just in person.

      I may have completely misunderstood your point of course…



      • @Dave and Damon.

        Let’s see. I know all of our developers, quite well. Neither of them are sexist, racist, or in any way dishonorable. Yet, why would I risk the livelihood of some 20 people for the unknown variable, that I can in no way predict? We can buy books on amazon. They are free to join UG’s. (Indeed, some of our devs are part of various language UG’s)….

        But if history has proven one thing here, it’s that conferences are, for the lack of a better way of putting it….unsafe places for anyone (women or men) to go. Sad but true. Email, Web…those are discretionary forms of communication. You have time to edit what you say before you ring the bell…because, once you ring the bell, as this very situation demonstrates…it cannot be unrung.

        You think I’m silly. You think I’m holding back people. Not at all. I have to think about more than just our developers. I have to think about the other people here as well. Sure, there are no guarantees in life. But if you look at the last three years, between the DefCon debacle, this, and a whole slew of other idiotic events…these situations are getting worse, not better. As I said, there are no adults in the room. Any conference is a potential minefield. I see sending anyone to a conference at this point the same as driving cattle through said minefield.

        Books, Webinars, Research. Even User Groups are a far safer alternative. Cheaper too. If sending someone to a conference means the difference between my company doing well or doing poorly…then there are other problems I should be addressing. But as it stands…the risk of one of these incidents is going *up* not *down*. Explain to me how it’s worth the risk? You can’t.

        Sure, you can say…this is one incident that got blown out of proportion, the majority of these things go off without a hitch. You’re probably right. But, why risk it? Why risk a DDOS? Why risk having to fire someone? Why risk a PR Nightmare? This topic has become a zero sum game. Nobody wins. It’s best to stay completely clear of the environment. For me, it’s like sending someone to the worst part of town to get a gallon of milk and bread. They might return with the goods I asked for, or they could get into trouble, or worse. This has nothing to do with holding a person or two back. It’s got everything to do with maintaining the safety of the company they’re in. So what if they don’t attend PyCon, or YaPC? Got news for you, the beauty of Open Source is, the answers are freely available, whether you go to a conference or not.

        Would I like to send people to these, sure. Will I? Not on this company’s dollar. It would be irresponsible. With this latest incident…I see it as undue risk. One no sane person should take. I realize the PyCon folks changed up their Code of Conduct. I think it’s safer to wait and see how that plays out.

  43. Adria is just mad at the world. Sounds like a severe case of “woe is me, the world is against me”. She’s an attention whoring feminist, as evident by her track record. She’s a man hater, plain and simple. She may be a brilliant tech mind, I don’t know. But she is not immune from being called out as an angry jerk with the emotional depth of a 12 year old. Why the hell is she so mad at the world? I think she should move to Saudi Arabia. Maybe Iran. The type of language and innuendo that ruffles her feathers so much is illegal there. As are many other things. She needs to learn to embrace the opportunity she has to make a positive difference and quit wasting time trying to tear down the livelihoods of others. I’m glad she got fired. She had it coming. I’m sure she’ll blame it on “the man” though. Seems there’s always a man to blame in Adria’s world.

    • It sounds like you have issues with women. Not that I know you, but with your arm chair analysis of someone else, I have decided to be an expert on your psyche. I sense hostility towards women who are educated and speak up. The fact you use the words “whoring feminist” makes me think you have issues getting a date. I will now jump to the conclusion that you are a MRA with little evidence to go on. Wow this is fun! Now I know why men post crap like this!

      • You’re taking him deliberately out of context, the word he used was “attention whoring”, though admittedly he should have hyphenated it. It is a term that people use to describe trolls. Adria Richards should stop trolling.

  44. Thank you for your thoughtful take on this issue. I only wish everyone could be as calm, analytical and compassionate as you.

  45. Pingback: » Bottom line, We All Lose Geek Mama

  46. This has to be the best bit of reportage/editorial on this whole blow-up I have yet seen.

    It’s worthwhile to expand on one of your points: that because an individual’s “cause” is seen as just doesn’t excuse poor choices in approach. In all honesty in the United States, you’ll never truly hear anyone suggest that, for example, the homeless shouldn’t have a place to sleep– but you’ll see a lot of argument over the “how”. (Which can veer, itself, into awful territory with negative justifications).

    But more to the core, it truly begs some examination of the sociological/political tenets that get us to this point. From your description of trying to work with her, her own blog posts and tweets as well as her handling of this whole process, it becomes somewhat clear that she exists within a worldview that is rapidly different from the way most Americans see the world. If you ask her, she’s right and everyone else is wrong; if you ask others, they’ll be quick to point out that she is wrong and everyone else is right. That’s simplified, but the point is that these “advocates and activists”, for one reason or another, exist within a self-fulfilling prophecy of a life. It must be miserable.

    I’d consider that the real effect of something like this whole mess will be to see revisions of “Code of Conduct” documents across the world. Hopefully we’ll end up with guidelines that assist everyone. I find it dubious that “systemic oppression and discrimination” are touted as the causes of an incident like this, whereas individuals like Adria are engaged in continual work which prop up concepts of “Men vs Women” and are acts of division. You can see this sort of approach in any apology made to an individual like Adria for an offense: it is first demanded, then when received it is mocked and rejected. It isn’t enough to make someone grovel, they need to dig their own hole to hide away in.

    The same sort of behavior exists whenever women and video games are brought up as a topic. You’ll see women who play/make/whatever video games who come forward and say, “No, I don’t feel like I’m treated any differently”. But that goes against the social narrative and activists (men and women both) will descend in order to invalidate the stated experience and even go as far as to suggest that *not* seeing a problem is an essential proof of the problem. People like Adria would be lost without their cause, and will do whatever possible not to mend relationships and find respectful common ground, but instead act in a self-serving way to propagate the very sort of problems and arguments that they blame the state of things on in the first place.

    None of this should have happened. Everyone loses.

    However, I will say that women, when they act as Adria did, tend to find a sympathetic and supportive ear in the media and within large portions of our culture (although Adria’s situation gained a lot of detriment due to the clear-cut absurdity). However, a man or woman who desires to raise a conversation about how Internet Social Justice Crusaders are dividing, attacking and causing harm to the larger sectors of our culture, they’d be run off by any number of awful epithets and curses with an astounding amount of public support. Things certainly aren’t perfect, but I think we can sometimes provide too much sympathy to individuals due to their goals while never examining that person’s actions and practical intent.

    But most of all, thank you for this.

  47. Love the post, and I hope you don’t mind me posting my rather long comment here. I actually tried to post this exact comment on another blog, but it was deleted and I was banned. I was told that I did not follow the rules, but it seems rather clear that I was banned for showcasing how there are actually two sides to this incident. Since this is such a great post, and there’s a giant thread of excellent comments, I figured someone here might be interested in my comment, so here it is.

    There are two sides and I can see both sides here.

    A guy made a job. Inappropriate to some, acceptable by some others. Whether or not it’s acceptable in this instance is the question. The issue here is that someone overheard a comment that wasn’t specifically directed to anyone, and was offended by it. She essentially overheard a private conversation in a public forum. Again, the question is whether speaking in this manner was okay here. That’s subjective.

    Why is it subjective? According to the person who made the statement, the forking comment was not a sexual reference, and is in fact a common term for building upon someone else’s already existing project (example:…, and the fired developer did make a public apology (…. That seems like it’s a valid statement. So the anger here should then be focused on the “big dongle” comment, which is not unlike a comment that Adria herself made on her public twitter account (…, while actually at PyCon. So, Adria herself made a presumably sexual joke during the conference, in a public forum. Now if you look at the responses on twitter, you can see some people saying this comment is okay because of the relationship and context, that is, she said it as a “joke” to a friend of hers. The issue here, then, is that she person she called out on twitter also made a “joke” to a friend of theirs, only at the conference, not on twitter. Both are public, and you could argue that twitter might even be MORE public. Maybe the “forking a repo” comment was in a sexual manner, maybe it wasn’t, that’s now in “he said she said” territory. She says yes. He says no. We do not know for sure.

    Now, was the comment against the PyCon Code of Conduct (… You could probably argue both ways here, but yes, it probably was. If Adria was offended, and it seems she was, she of course has the right to bring it up to the conference organizers. She did choose to use #pycon, making everything public, rather than @pycon, making it a narrower conversation. She did choose to put that out in the public, and sure she could have done it differently. That’s not the issue though. She didn’t like something, she brought it to the attention of organizers and asked for it to be resolved, action was taken. It’s fine for her to do that, whether people like it or not.

    Did these developer create a harmful, hostile, harassing, or sexualized atmosphere? It doesn’t seem so. Did they make it uncomfortable? It would seen so. It doesn’t sound as if they were inciting anything or going out of their way to be rude or disrespectful. Perhaps if they were addressed they would have apologized and realized they were wrong. Perhaps not. We don’t know. But was anyone in imminent danger? Unlikely.

    Now on Adria’s own blog, she writes that she felt she had to take action or else a little girl she had seen would never learn to code (…. Now that’s a bit of rhetoric, as it’s unlikely that due to this person’s comments, this young girl would not have learned to code. I understand what’s implied though, all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men (and women) to do nothing. She felt she needed to say something to make the developer community more conducive, appealing, fair, and safe for women. Fine. She can do that and she should. And then she refers to them as “ass clowns.” I might take offense in that. Maybe that’s what she intended, probably not, but it would be well within my rights to be offended by a statement like that. It IS name calling. It DOES use what some people may consider profanity. And if someone wanted to make the argument, I suppose that someone could argue that it’s a gay slur (it’s certainly been argued before:….

    People claim that she got this developer fired. Again, you can argue here. Yes, it would seem that his firing was directly related to her actions. Had she not take this public action, this developer may not have been fired. So yes, she is a cause of the loss of his job. However, the decision to fire the developer was made by the company. They had a choice, and it seems that Adria did not attempt to get him fired.

    Should Adria have been fired because of this? This is probably an even bigger argument. Whatever you believe about her calling these people out. She did have a right to do so. She shouldn’t be fired for talking up about something that made her uncomfortable. However, SendGrid’s response does make a point. She is in developer relations. Not male developer relations. Not female developer relations. Developer relations. Yes, this story will likely make it more difficult to act in her role. Some people make want to work with her more. Some people may want to work with her less. It IS divisive. And her position at SendGrid, unfortunately, is scarred by this. It is likely that she would not be able to mange her role effectively. Not because of what she does, but because of what others do who relate to her. This whole situation would likely have more of an impact on Adria’s role, than it would on the PlayHaven developers role. So yes, her firing is probably valid, even if unfortunate.

    I’m also seeing people now talking about race being an issue here. Perhaps I’m ignorant in this matter, but I have no idea what race or ethnicity Adria is. And personally, the fact that anyone would act in malice towards anyone else in regards to race/ethnicity/gender/orientation is so absurd to me, that I almost cannot even fathom that something like that exists. I don’t know how anyone would go about choosing what race/ethnicity to be racist against towards her. But then again, I am a white male in the United States, so that could just be me being bling on that part.

    This is long and I don’t really expect everyone to read it. My point is this. There are valid points on both sides. To pick on and staunchly defend it while being blind to the other is not fair, and will only result in more divisiveness. This specific instance is a perfect example of how something might be accepted by some and appalled by another. Regardless of what side you’re on, it’s unlikely that either wanted this blowout.

    So, my friends, I hope my points make sense to you, I hope you don’t think I’m advocating either side, and I hope in the future, we can all get along and respect each other.

    The original post can be found here:

    • Could you please take a few moments to proofread your post? It may be too late to edit it as a comment here on Amanda’s WP blog, but on your own Tumblr page it would look better for you if you fixed some of the more blatant errors.

  48. Great article. There is plenty of blame to go around but in the end 2 people lost their jobs for being childish.

  49. Two adolescent girls have been charged with uttering threats to the victim of the Stuebenville rapists. It’s time adult men are treated with the minimum of such circumspection. Anyone who utters a threat to rape or kill or maim someone on the internet deserves a criminal conviction. It’s time the reptiles learned to evolve.

  50. I enjoyed this post, but I was surprised to read this: “And as with all communities, a fraction of them are douches.” “Douche” is itself a misogynistic term for what you were trying to convey.

      • 1. I think saying that Richards, or anyone, doesn’t deserve to receive death threats, rape threats, any threats over the internet is self-evident. The reality is it happens constantly to many people without regard, without sensibility, in various intensities – both in person AND on the internet. On the internet it is just a LOT easier to get 10,000 twitter threats, than getting 10,000 people to threaten you in person. She hit headline news for a controversial issue. I’m not saying it’s right to do, and who is really defending it? It’s a straw man argument and detracts from the actual discussion.

        2. I’m satisfied hearing that this is the mode of operation for Adria. It explains a lot, and really justifies my initial reaction that this situation was absurd. Especially as a Public Relations individual, the challenge she has is to take all sorts of difficult situations and make them into positive experiences for those involved so you can keep things moving forward. When was the last time we’ve seen a PR person try and hype up a negative situation? This is why. As a professional in her position she frankly doesn’t have the luxury of being offended. She deals with THE PUBLIC. The public is rarely forgiving of thin-skinned people. Noone wants to hear a speech (as you highlighted in your article) about how thin-skinned you are about a topic (such as pornography).

        On a much more personal note, I don’t think we have a human right to be offended. As a brilliant comment on your thread has said, “we must be much less eager to be offended”. Being offended is a narcissistic perspective – it shows that one is weak in how much they value themselves. A person who values themselves wholesomely is much less likely to be offended. The world is a vibrant mix of positives and negatives, and the more we delve into the world of social technology, the more we have to teach others how to find the positive in the world and amplify them – because that is what social media is today – it amplifies the emotions we pour out into the internet medium. And what we need to do is find value in each other as people and worry less about how much we are both offended, and how much we can win victories over each other. The story of social media will be that we all rise and fall together.

  51. Adira Richards, she wasn’t at Pycon 2013 in a private capacity, she was there on behalf of her employer. As such, like anyone else who’s not self employed, she’s bound by the rules of her company’s code of conduct. SendGrid’s code of conduct (now taken down from their website) had a clause requiring employees not to bring their company into disrepute. This is pretty standard for any sensible company’s code of conduct.

    Adira Richards didn’t lose her job due to reporting alleged sexism, she lost her job because she brought her company into disrepute by bringing a considerable amount of unwanted negative attention.
    Faced with a comment about forking that guys repo, first off it’s hard to see the sexual connotation, as someone supposedly posting as the guy concerned points out. (

    The optimum solutions would have been one of:-

    1) Ignore it and/or move away
    2) Politely tell them it wasn’t funny
    3) Inform a member of staff that it’s not acceptable under Pycon’s code of conduct to get them to stop.

    Instead she:-

    1) She used twitter to complain – fine, but she could have taken the post down once addressed (it’s now Friday evening European time and the original post is still on her feed).
    2) She then posted a long detailed blog about why she did what she did – which is also still up for grabs for anyone who choses to read it.

    Personally I think she has overreacted in an immature way and in an unprofessional manner. Further, jokes about dongles (if there even was such sexual innuendo) are hardly uncommon- here’s an example from a comedy on the BBC of all places – the programme was screened before the watershed.

    Yet she wittingly or unwittingly lit a firestorm and it rapidly led back to her company (not difficult to identify, she’s well known plus her twitter account (still) states who she (did) work for). The CEO of SendGrid was in a lose-lose situation. He could either

    a) Fight the constant DDOS’ing now ensuing, and start a PR campaign against the considerable negative comments for the way she went about complaining about the alleged sexual innuendo and in the medium to long term worry about any future incidents. Such an approach would be costly, and time consuming.
    b) Sack her on the basis of failing to adhere to the code of conduct – because she had dragged SendGrid into the mess. As a senior manager, you need to very carefully consider the value of your brand, and it’s common teaching in management textbooks to protect it as much as possible. Just look at the furore over Foxconn and Apple or Nike’s sweatshirt scandals in the past to see what negative PR can do.

    In the end, he has taken the quick, easy solution and fired her. For what it’s worth, I would have done the same – it makes the story go away much faster, and you save money on IT expenditure fighting off hacking attacks from hacktivists mad that the other guy got fired. Even if she sues, and wins, it’s a less costly option overall.

    But the ultimate ending of the story is that one guy who may or may not have made a sexual innuendo is now out of a job and will need to start finding a new one to keep his family warm, dry and fed whilst a social media veteran is vilified for what many see as a gross overreaction. Absolutely nobody has won.

  52. What a load of sexist crap – and yet posted by a woman – which of course will get all kinds of kudos and hurrahs from men. Adria didn’t reinforce the idea that women are a threat. She simply posted a comment on twitter to a situation she was experiencing. Sexism, and one company’s attempt to not be seen as such (you have to give some kudos to Play Haven for at least trying to do the right thing here), took over. Sure Adria could have turned to these men and asked them not to sexualize a professional conference. But then again, that conversation has already been had time and time again in the tech world in the last few years. Let’s state it again for those missing the message. HEY GUYS: overt sexualized conversations had loudly at professional conferences makes for a hostile environment for women.

    In reality, this man was fired because of something he did. What Adria did was make his actions public. And who cares if Adria isn’t “nice”!!! Neither were these “boys” that decided to make a hostile environment for some of the women in attendance. So, seriously…why are we still asking “girls to be nice” and blaming a girl for not being letting “boys be boys” should that “boy” gets in trouble for his own actions? Is firing too severe? Maybe. But that is up to Play Haven. I don’t want people to lose their jobs. But I’m glad some company is taking a much needed stand in field that is undeniable hostile to women.

  53. I’m sorry, but as someone in the tech industry who has been accused of sexism by someone much Adria Richards, I am glad to see that a woman like her is finally being held accountable for her actions. That doesn’t make me a sexist, it makes me someone who is glad to see someone get what they deserve.

    In my situation, a female coworker overheard me mention that I had Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue that I was giving to a friend of mine in my backpack (I subscribe to the magazine, but don’t see all the hype about that issue). She asked if she could look at it, and I said “sure, it’s in my backpack, feel free.” That afternoon, I was called into a meeting with the HR department and told that the female coworker had complained that I was showing the magazine to everyone, making comments about the anatomy of the women in the office, and that I was being written up for sexual harassment.

    Yes, the men at the conference made stupid comments – but everyone hears others make stupid comments everyday. I can’t remember the last day that I didn’t hear a woman talking about how she had to train her husband or boyfriend. Which is offensive in the fact that it implies that men are little more than animals that need to be lifted up by women.

    How she handled the situation, like you said was completely inappropriate. And like you said, her actions – and the actions of my former female coworker – make men in the tech industry VERY afraid to work with women. The incident with my coworker happened almost two decades ago when I was first out of college, and it had a profound effect on how I perceived, and still perceive, women in the workplace.

  54. Pingback: On Adria Richards, PyCon, and SendGrid | Fineness & Accuracy

  55. It really did put a dent in women at work in the tech industry. Where I work, the women of IT gathered up and made everyone sit at the conference room while they simply shouted out ” Dongles and Forking, Penises and vaginas, we have a sense of humour please don’t change the work environment.” To which everyone applauded and went back to their normal work day. It’s a shame those women had to even do that, as we all respect them (obviously!). We can’t take the actions of ONE women to reflect everyone else, because if we did that with men.. we’d all be horrible horrible people.

    • And please don’t let those women define what ALL women want in their work place. We are not part of a HIVEgina. Some women (and men) want to go to work and not hear sexist jokes. It’s called “creating a hostile workplace.” In fact if one of your co-workers found it offensive then those women would be in trouble.

  56. “…in which they referenced “dongles” and “forking”. Both of these are tech terms, they were construed to be used sexually on Adria’s part.”

    This is just flat out deception. You are saying that Richards entirely imagined the innuendo. Even the guys making the puns said that they were making “big dongle” jokes. You’ve lost credibility with me in the first minute of reading your article.

    You can take issue that her title “What’s Wrong With Using Porn To Sell Your Wordcamp Session?” as misleading (because from the title alone one infers that pornographic images were used in or to advertise the Wordcamp session), but then again the “Getting the Money Shot: Making Screencasts Without Going Insane” title uses similar attention0grabbing sensationalism. I can see your issue with her title though. But you take a literal interpretation of her title when you claim to your readers “she told her audience that we were promoting porn” when that’s not what the past-the-title blog post says. You must have read the actual post, you know that. At this point I assume you purposefully take that interpretation because it’s more conducive to this hit piece.

    The “How it Could Have Gone” section is undiluted naivete, even as a hypothetical situation. If she had approached them personally with “Hey. No offense, but I’m not all that interested in hearing about your dongle, you know?” the most likely response would have been “Yeah, it was joke. Lighten up.” or a snippy “Well you’re free to not listen.” or even an outright dismissive, sarcastic quip. If she was looking for the outcome of “change the way these men are speaking”, your suggestion is not what she would choose. Pycon has a code of conduct, she brought it up with Pycon staff (though in an bad manner by publicly posting a photo), the guys made a simple apology for this unprofessionalism, and everything got resolved. It’s Play Haven, SendGrid, and the Internet that are acting terrible, and I have to include your post among that last group.

    Like Jane Wells, I could have found your email and privately relay this to you. But I want to put my viewpoint out there, just as you and Richards do. None of us are trying to “rally the troops”, like you said Richards was trying to do (I only saw your link to her comment on Jen Mylo’s blog and assume that’s the sum of it. Did she also write about this on her blog/Twitter to her audience also?) And if you think my criticism or the way I word it is counterproductive and seeking to form a mob, then just delete it. I won’t post on this article again.

    It’s obvious you disagree with and don’t like Richards, and that’s fine. What’s not fine is misrepresenting the situation, and that happens in this post too often to not be deliberate.

    • No. What I meant by that (and perhaps didn’t elucidate clearly enough, for which i apologize) is that I don’t want to comment on whether or not the developers were ACTUALLY offensive. Wasn’t the point. The point is that Adria found is offensive, which i support her right to do. They are, infact, tech terms. Adria did infact, find it offensive. In the post script, the developer did admit that he was referring to “big dongles” which I make clear, but it would be unfair to the outside world to suggest these terms developed out of thin air.

      Actually, while you’re right, the post makes clear her upset w the conference re: porn, she repeatedly posted on twitter, etc without further explanation. But really, we’re touching on my fundamental issue w Adria, which may not be relevant here because its personal. I think she’s overly sensitive, but that is merely MY opinion, one I’m entitled to as much as she’s entitled to hers.

      I think its impossible to say what “could have happened”. I can tell you that it was idealistic, as I suggested. It was based on my experiences, which have been mostly good.

      I honestly don’t believe to be misrepresnting the situation, I have honestly, to the fullest extent of my abilities, tried to hear each and every perspective and give it honest time and weight and thought. Including yours. I have tried to be clear these are ONLY my opinions.

  57. The simple fact of the matter is that she is an attention whore(fuck off feminists men can be attention whores too, you would know this if you weren’t so prejudiced so shut it) She got what she deserved and I hope she can never be employed again.

  58. I disagree with your suggested approach. Adria handled the situation in a way she felt safe. There is no reason why she should have to approach the two people that made her feel uncomfortable and ask them to stop when it is common knowledge, and called “Professional Conduct”.
    Nor should she have to contact someone at a company to notify them she felt offended with the use of the word “porn” or the suggestion to the target audience to “think like a porn director”. All of these things should be common knowledge, that when talking to a mixed audience, you should respect everyone and always be professional.
    I’ve seen way too many presentations in the tech industry that could have been great, if they had less cursing, and sexual connotations. For far too long, men have gotten away with just about everything. Given every excuse under the sun, moon, and stars why the person that was offended should turn their head because they don’t know any better, or they are used to it, or because they were talking to each other even though they were around a crowd at a conference. Men are 9 out of 10 times approached quietly and softly, while walking away with merely a slap on the wrist or nothing happening at all. Behind closed doors they often don’t even get reprimanded, but instead, just a soft suggestion of “you have to be careful around the women”.
    Women still to this day live in a man’s world. And if this were not the case, then we wouldn’t be seeing these threads, or hearing discussions, or rallying to get women into the tech industry and companies being forced to make new policies to enforce some control on the sexist men in the industry. No one should be made to feel uncomfortable in situations like this because they shouldn’t have happened to begin with. These two men were grown adults. And should have thought about their conversation they were having in public, and respected others around them.
    It’s time for a change and the only way for that to happen is for people to get fired, or put out there when they cross the line, for companies to be mentioned on the news and so on. Every situation calls for someone to be made an example of. And although it may not be right, it happens every day, and it’s only when things like this happen that change is enforced. I think Adria made a mistake by saying her company backed her, as you should only do this when you know this for a fact, but I do not think she should have been fired.
    I applaud her for standing up to put a stop to the very things mentioned in this article that happen every day, and continue to happen because women are expected to walk on their tippy toes around this subject. Just because the tech industry is more relaxed than a regular corporate job, does not mean in any way, that the standards of professionalism and respect for others should be more relaxed as well. It should not be tolerated in any industry.

    • TOTALLY fair that she should not have to confront those two men directly. That is a very offensive position. My point is merely, if she’d gone to the conference directors privately (via twitter, email, phone, in person, many options) few would be upset, IMO. it would demonstrate she wanted anonymity and might have been afraid. Its why the tweets are hard to defend. Because she clearly didn’t want anonymity or protection from rebuttal. There is no “right way”. There were just a million “other ways” than the route she chose.

    • Not buying that she felt threatened. In her blog post about this incident, she mentioned that earlier that day she confronted someone for saying
      something similar. She wasn’t afraid then. She was using that as a cheap excuse for her unwise and unprofessional conduct, nothing more.

    • *applause*

      I was reading the blog of another woman about this and she pointed out, yet again, this whole dialogue is being framed in terms of how the *woman* should have behaved differently. Why is it all a matter of “She should have responded this way or that way,” and not a matter of, “When you’re at a professional conference, stop acting 12 and leave the sniggering about “dongles” and “forking” at home”?

      • Lets say that I agree the men should have behaved differently. (In reality, i offer no opinion one way or the other). Fine. Its really NOT the issue. Now the issue is, what should you do about it? If you believe they were wrong, do you stoop to their perceived level? Or do you have grace about it and handle it appropriately?

        • You know, it’s your blog, and if you want to wave your hands and say, “It’s NOT the issue,” that’s your prerogative. But framing it that way, and starting the discussion of “what should you do about it” *after* the speech, automatically puts women in a reactive position, and that’s inherently judgy.

          If the goal is truly, “What have we learned from this? How can we keep this from happening again? What should we be doing differently in the future?” we need to start earlier in the process, and not take it as a immutable fact that ‘Men are going to talk that way and that it’s up to women to learn the “right” way to handle it, whether it’s dealing or complaining or whatever.’ There’s been plenty of men, both in this conversation and in others, who say they *don’t* talk that way and *don’t* think it’s appropriate in a business setting, from men *or* women. So, what do we to encourage that point of view? I think *that’s* where the conversation needs to start.

          (It was also pointed out to me on another blog that, you know, we *still* have booth babes and we can’t seem to do anything about that — and yet this one woman Tweeting a picture of a couple of dudes was able to get them fired? Srsly? How does *that* work?)

          What I think is happening is that we’re starting to get more awareness that this sort of behavior goes on — that as more women attend conferences, enter the tech industry, and so on, more women are being exposed to the sort of behavior that goes on there, and are going, whoa, that’s not cool, and that, increasingly, there’s guys who are going, you know, you’re right, that’s not cool. (And there may well have been guys who felt that way before; I can only speak to my own experience.) And I think part of the reason this is feeling so hostile now is that there’s people who don’t like change, they don’t want the party to be over, and rightly or wrongly, they blame the women for that.

          It’s not any different from any other setting where there’s a majority, and then the minority comes in and calls attention to behavior in an attempt to change it. So this sort of friction is to be expected. It’s no different from, say, the way the world changed from being a smoker’s world where everyone smoked in their offices and it was just accepted and then people started going, you know, this isn’t cool, and now in some places there’s no smoking restaurants, no smoking bars, etc and it’s really unusual to have smoking in the office. (Why, yes, I’m a “Mad Men” fan,why do you ask? And talk about hostility to women in business…but I digress.) And there was plenty of hostility toward the non-smokers. But gradually, society is being changed.

          I suspect it’s specifically *because* the PyCon people made such an effort to be welcoming and open to women that this sort of situation came up there — because in a setting that felt less safe or where it was less clear what the conference mores were, a woman wouldn’t have felt safe, or that there was any point in, complaining, in whatever manner she chose to do so.

          It sucks to live through, but this is part of the process.

          • ok. but how do we get those men from not performing the same behavior in the future? by talking TO them. not at them.

            • Again, it’s not a matter of “we,” women, getting “those men” from doing something, and framing it in those terms is destined for failure. The group is not “women vs. men,” or even “women vs. the men who behave in that way.” The group is “The members of the industry that want female participation in it,” vs. “The members of the industry that don’t want female participation in it.” And I believe that the members of the first group are larger, if only because we’ve seen it happen with a number of minorities and other groups — that, ultimately, our industry *is* a meritocracy, and so we need to get rid of, or at least make socially unacceptable, those elements that keep it from being so.

              • Bravo! I wholeheartedly agree! However, in zealousness you have individuals who take pleasure in the targeting and public shaming on the behalf of misguided group identity. Adria’s actions don’t speak for anyone other that Adria, and in the end she’s just added more inane fuel to this same fire. There are too many people (of all affiliations) who go out of their way to make enemies of those who aren’t enemies. There’s a nice, comfortable middle ground. However, that middle ground doesn’t generate pagehits and retweets. Perhaps that, there, is the problem.

          • This type of behavior and reaction is good for my business in China. The more you fight over this issues, the more of your business will move here. Its a win win situation for me.

  59. Best article I’ve read so far about the whole DongleGate affair.

    Good job, Amanda. You’re an amazing writer.

  60. Where is a transcript of what these guys actually said? I think it’s very telling that the exact words have never been recounted.
    Everyone makes the assumption that what they said was inappropriate, but the only specific words we have are “fork” and “dongle” both of which are technical terms.
    There is rampant sexism illuminated by this case: the presumption of guilt by everyone against these two guys.
    While they apologized, as anyone decent would, that someone took offense, that is NOT a confession that what they said was actually offensive.
    If we follow the “innocent until proven guilty” viewpoint– as we should– we should note tht there is no evidence they did anything wrong.
    Adria’s crimes are all over twitter, its easy to go to the source there. These guys, so far are innocent.

    The only reason this is an issue, is actually, because of the PRESUMPTION that these guys made inappropriate remarks.

    The fact that Adria didn’t tell us what they actually said is strong evidence that they didn’t.

  61. Us bunny wabbits has a different take on this. We have an old saying in da burrow – “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never harm me!” Obviously that’s not completely true, but there’s far too much preciousness about stuff that’s said instead of plain old ignoring it. In this instance, she could have just ignored the remarks and the men would have just made themselves look small. By responding as she did she just confirmed in some/many men’s minds their opinion of feminism.
    I always start from the stance that 1. I am not a sexist. 2. Sexism is wrong 3. Being wrong is for cissy girlies! (Much hilarity and tears of laughter in da burrow!)
    In all seriousness, I respect women as much as I do men and can be equally insulting to either sex, us bunnies are past masters at the art of insult and abuse. We spend many a winter eve in da burrow snuggled up creating new swear words that would make your brains melt and dribble out of your ears, we is proud of it!
    Again, being serious, I work with a lady right now an she is da brainsiest, smart-as-a-whippiest Gal ya evuh did meet! Heck n’ Criminy onna biscuit if’n she ain’t!

  62. As someone who has had the privledge of knowing several bitches (the animal, not the person), is take exception to referring to Adria Richards as such. Most are straight forward, approachable, and friendly. And if they have a problem with what you’ve done, or what they think you’re going to do, they confront you openly and directly, rather than trying to turn the whole pack against you. If she’d lived up to the standards of a bitch, I doubt anybody would have a real problem here.

  63. I’d like to know the exact circumstances of why Richards and “mr-hank” were fired from their respective positions. Richards wasn’t obligated to speak to either man about his behavior directly, but I think she should have let the convention organizers know about the comments at that time, so that the issue could have been addressed with the two men.

    I’ll add that when I was young, naive and foolish, I was fired from a healthcare position for joking with a patient, after I teased a patient that he would have to wash his mouth out with soap after he told me a mildly off color joke that was not personalized (we both laughed at each other’s statements). Another member of staff heard the entire exchange, then reported my comment only (she was later obligated to admit that she had heard the patient’s joke) which led to a supervisor claiming that I made an abusive comment. While I technically had reason to be terminated, I didn’t harass or threaten the patient in any genuine way or with any serious intent and I’d have felt terrible if I believed that the patient felt abused or harassed by my comment. It did make me take note of how my comments could be incorrectly perceived in the workplace from then on, however. Some molehills unwisely do get made into mountains, and it’s unfortunate if two generally well intentioned people are being overly penalized for behaviors and comments that weren’t meant to be cruel or harassing. What’s completely disrespectful and revolting are the threats and harassment that Richards is receiving from the very problematic individuals (individuals that are our peers, our coworkers and supervisors).

  64. One interesting thing about this whole story is the juxtaposition of online vs. in-person actions. Adria reacted -online- to a couple of guys who were talking -in person-. When people over-react online, as in a flame war, they can feel “protected in anonymity” just like Adria mentions that these guys thought they were protected in the anonymity all the people in the large ball room. But look what happened. Adria was not protected by “free speech” any more than those 2 guys were, who probably didn’t realize she was eavesdropping. The ability to publish anything to everyone in a flash is not a good thing unless you are recording atrocities in Syria…. This was far from an atrocity. It was a clear abuse of power. And interestingly enough again, Adria’s “power “has been yanked by everyone who had anything to say. In all the lurking I have done, no one defends Adria completely except Adria. Her 15 minutes are over, and they were spent in infamy. I have never heard of her, but reading in USA Today and following the trail to her own blog, it’s clear that her attitude is self-righteous. Remember Tawana Brawley? Extreme example, but Adria reminds me of someone who likes to drum up reasons to be offended. For the record, I am an engineer (female) who has worked in EE for over 20 years. Adria’s actions and her persona are offensive. I would love to see a wrestling match between her and Tonya Harding. She may yet end up doing that since her career is toast. I don’t think anyone will touch her with a ten-foot pole now.

    • That’s a really fascinating point. Does online interaction offer us false sense of protection? (maybe its real). Of course it does, but then, does this idea apply when you are sitting 2 feet from the person you’re commenting on?

      • Both of these comments made me want to connect a few dots… Is a portion of what occurred an issue of transposing “online activity” into “offline life”? It feels like the reaction, there, was to address an in-person issue in the manner that one would address an offensive blog post or comment (screengrab and name ‘n shame tumblr, for example)?

        • I think its an interesting idea, that if you have an online problem, you address it online. Perhaps an in person issue should be IDEALLY addressed in person. Either to the people at the root of the issue, or their superiors.

          • I’m not sure I’d suggest that online should stay online and vice-versa, but that it showcases a huge cleft in the reality of how we interact. We almost (and maybe do) have two rather different modes of socialization/interaction and we get into messy places when they’re mixed together in potentially explosive ways. That when you’re used to internet-spaces that cater to one’s own sensibilities and beliefs, it’s easy to remain in that sort of mindset when you interact in the larger world. Most ideological spaces on the internet are an echo-chamber for whatever point of view you desire to hear, and it’s easy to believe that one is inherently holding “the Truth” when you have 9,000 twitter followers who support you or membership in a forum community where dissent is easily swept under the rug via heavy moderation (and Adria’s own blog is a prime example of heavy, heavy moderation to silence opposing opinions). People end up believing their subjective opinions are sacrosanct, and when faced with in-person, real life difference from someone who has a different world-view it becomes easy to believe that it’s “us vs them”, and it becomes much easier to justify and find internal strength to do things we wouldn’t have done twenty years ago before we were all on the BBS.

            • it really is a fascinating idea, and one worth more investigation. I’ll certainly put it in my pipe and have a smoke on it. I suspect that as the 3.0 revolution of the web continues (which is somewhat accepted as 2.0: social, as many connections as possible and 3.0 being about filtering, curation, etc) that we’ll be able to take these fewer and better connections and make more meaningful contact with eachother. thank you.

    • They knew she was listening since she had commented on something they had said earlier. You might want to go read her post on the events.

  65. Pingback: Interesting firestorm in the Developer world | Nickel Road Gifts

  66. After reading for a while, I agree mostly that it makes sense that such a mean-spirited person gets treated so meanly. Treat others how you’d like to be treated. But beyond that people seem to be quibbling over details when this could be just the very beginning of a whole wave of amazing dongle jokes, sites, videos, etc. Imagine, life could be fun again!

  67. Something people need to realise is that this is the internet, and there are a lot of people out there. You will always have a certain number of people who will look for any opportunity to start shouting about rape and murder and racial slurs, but to act like these people reflect on some group in particular is ridiculous.

    Secondly, if you can’t handle overhearing a joke to a friend about “dongles” (about as offensive as a cheeseburger), or a technical term like “forking” (if you’re at a developer conference and you’re some sort of “web evangelist” you probably won’t understand half of what is said), you have a social disorder and should look into therapy.

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  69. Well written, reasonable and rational article.

    I have a big problem with people using ‘personal armies’ and such to achieve their goal. My wife has been a target of the ‘personal armies’ of certain bloggers due to her differing opinion to them. A year later she still gets harrassed every now and then by people claiming to oppose harassment.

    The problem with using public shaming via the internet against individuals is the ability for these things to go viral. Any reaction is magnified a thousand or a million times. Mostly by people hiding under the guise of anonymity not afforded to the target. It is one thing to have a single person constantly messaging you, making comments about you, etc. It is another to have 10 000 people making drive by comments, saying whatever they want, knowing that there will be no consequences for doing so.

    I think it is a good thing that she was fired. Not because I have any particular malice for her. But because she recklessly fired the cannon of the internet at someone, and people need to understand how dangerous and unpredictable doing that is. The cannon backfired.

    • “she recklessly fired the cannon of the internet at someone…”

      I have to say that I think this is a brilliant summary of the entire incident. And I’m going to have to steal this phrase someday.

  70. Everybody loses in this history.
    The misogyny in tech is strong, we all lost this good opportunity. I don’t blame Adria, this is a misogyny world, sometimes this can make you angry.
    shame on us, men.

  71. Good post. But I would say that Blacks, in effect black women, lost as well. This just reinforced the meme that they are many of the things you named, hard to work with, bitches and crass. Sad day all around….

  72. I have worked with many IT people over the years and usually find most people reasonable. However I have come across those who unfortunately use race, sexuality and gender as a means for advantages, promotion or for highlighting inequality — sometimes this is justified – however more often than not, it’s for personal gain. The fact of the matter is that we live in a society that is and, sadly, will certainly be for the foreseeable future unequal.

    That being said however, the main fact of the matter is someone made a silly joke; someone took offense and then used the social media route to ridicule and complain. I don’t think that is a remotely educated or professional route to go, and as Amanda has already said she did a great disservice to women in the IT industry, which is sad to say the least.

    Everyone regardless of gender, creed, sexual preference or color should have the right to be treated fairly and judged on their merits, everyone is fallible, we all make mistakes and like most decent, educated people we apologize, try and make amends and move on. I know I have made plenty of “poor taste” comments, some of it just being bad humor and some of it in frustration, however Adria gave these two men no opportunity to resolve this situation and though her actions she has actually set women in the industry back a long way.

    Both my wife and I are educated, she is a physician and I am a developer. My wife and I both would both like our daughter to pursue an IT career if she so desires because she sees the passion I have for my job. I enjoy solving problems, adding value and working with a diverse team of people from multiple countries who all bring their own culture, viewpoints and experiences. However that doesn’t mean that we don’t have “teething” issues. It could be certain cultures maybe don’t work well with others or maybe someone is uncomfortable working with someone of a given sexual preference. I personally believe these issues have no place in the workplace, and as a society this is something we should try and resolve. In reality it comes down to one simple fact, can the person do job they are hired to do. If the answer to this is yes, then we should not care what your, creed, color, gender or sexual preference is. For the most part we have resolved these issues with health debates and that doesn’t mean that sometimes we don’t have to intervene, educate and regrettably let go of people who don’t want to be brought into the 21st centaury.

    I must admit reading some of the media backlash just show’s how badly educated our society actually is. There is no place for comments about rape, death threats and all the other abusive comments that were made via social media to Adria. These people – especially is they are men – have supported the somewhat questionable claims that Adria was saying she was trying to address.

    I think the two companies in question – SendGrid and Play Haven – both have acted badly and as a result have hurt their reputation. For Play Haven I am sure there is more to it than just one silly remark, otherwise that is a company that I for one would never want to work for and I am sure others will feel the same way about. SendGrid, however, have certainly dropped the ball on this one, and as Amanda has already said could have used this media coverage as a form of education.

  73. “She committed one single offense: not approaching the men like an adult and saying “hey. guys- cmon, that’s offensive to me.”.

    We coul;d say that a mass murderers only offence was getting out of bed that day angry in this light.

    She committed more than one offence. Taking photos of people without permission and placing them onto twitter, for a supposedly sexist comment that was said in a conversation she was not a part of (two men make a penis joke to one another is now sexist? The fork comment was actually denied) which does not seem to exist whilst making penis jokes herself from the same conference on twitter. So public shaming and hypocrisy right off the bat. I have no sympathy for her, and no amount of ‘sexism exists!’ is going to change my view of that.

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  75. Hmmm… so well, she received insults that are only thrown at women (and well, yes, women also throw those insults at other women). But there are plenty of insults that are only thrown at men.

    as for the death threats and similar, its the kind of thing we see on the internet all the time, thrown BOTH at men and women.

    anyway, those were not even sexist jokes. They were SEX jokes, which is different of a SEXIST joke. In case you people do not know, men and women have sex. Men and women DO JOKES about sex and men and women LAUGHT at jokes about sex.

    nobody is asking her to approve a joke about women being bad drivers, or not being good at the tech sector, or that the only tech women should be involved with is the kitchen appliances. Even in such case, she should ask them to stop, tell them that is offensive and such, before exposing them to the public they way she did and having one of them losing his job.

    now, getting angry and do what she did because of a sex joke she OVERHEARD? She really deserves all the insults she got (but not the death threats and such).

  76. The people who stand up against bullies are the ones who get destroyed. The bullies, well, they move up to head corporations, government, world leaders. Your suggestion on how she should have handled it is completely offensive, nor does it work with bullies. It would have made the situation much, much worse, not to mention lowering herself to their level. Too many women have become too much of the problem, as much as men. Misogyny knows no gender, and the few willing to speak out are vilified. Adria didn’t get the offender fired, that was a company decision, right or wrong. Anonymous DID get Adria fired though. That bully, under an anonymous cloak, threatened the business to such and extent, Adria became collateral damage. It happens all the time to the vulnerable in our society, regardless if they are in tech fields or not, female or not.

  77. Tasteless or not, the comments/joke were not made to, or in reference to, this grandstanding drama queen. Maybe her actions would have been justifiable if the developers in question were harassing her directly, but that clearly wasn’t the case here.

    She’s not “standing up” for anything but her own ego here. She, and her ilk, are prescribing thought crime, not in a search for equality, but in a search for power. I’m glad she got fired, at least some justice was done here. I hope she waits a long time for another tech industry position, maybe she’ll grow up by then.

  78. Amanda,

    I’m glad to see someone with personal experience with Ms. Richards has posted both an insightful commentary on this.

    The one issue in your post that I’d take issue with is the comment “I suggested that SendGrid had the resources to retrain her and teach her better techniques.”

    In this case, I think you’re being a bit disingenuous. If you have no problem believing that there are “details of (the Fairhaven developer getting fired that we) aren’t privy to”, I think it’s also appropriate to say that you are not familiar with Ms. Richards’ employment history with SendGrid. It’s entirely possible (and I’d suggest entirely probable based on the incidents you’ve reported) that she’s already had this counseling before. We just don’t know.

    I’d also say that based on your reporting of her previous incidents, if I was SendGrid management I’d wonder if my HR people had missed something in the interview process with her references, since a history of behavior like that is antithetical to anyone functioning effectively in her particular job. It may very well be that it wasn’t just going nuclear with PyCon that got her fired, since if you suddenly discover someone working for you has had a history of similar incidents, you have to take action. You may not be aware of this, but you also can’t talk about that publicly during their dismissal without giving someone grounds for a lawsuit. (And for the record, I don’t work for SendGrid or any of the relevant VC shops.)

    It’s a sad story all around. I hope all the parties involved can learn from it, move on, and wish them well.

    • All excellent points. I guess my goal was this: if they fired her, that was the worst case. It sends her back into the ecosphere with the same skills, a shitstorm to deal with, and an inability (I’d Guess) to make her livelihood. What’s left but to repeat the same behavior or hang your shingle on the house of martyrdom. By addressing the problem. SendGrid accomplished two very good things: giving Adria, a talented person with a lot to give, better skills to get her talents out to the world, and could have redirected the conversation. I’m not sure whats accomplished by firing her except to save their PR.

      • “I’m not sure whats accomplished by firing her except to save their PR.”

        You say that as if PR isn’t a vital resource for the company. At the risk of sounding like a cold-hearted Republican, why should SendGrid continue to take bad PR, with the accompanying potential loss of business, so that a talented person can have a second chance to grok some basic job skills? She was supposed to work for them, not the other way around.

      • I agree partially – it is an incredible shame that a minor incident like this may end up making two people entirely unemployable in this industry and that they will have this incident follow them around for the rest of their lives. I wish both employers could have found a way to put out a statement to the effect “we’re concerned about this and have counseled xx” and then eased both out in a few months after things died down.

        I think almost everyone has made the mistake of forgetting they’re working for someone else at some time or another, and you usually get your hand slapped for it when you do something stupid and you have to be reminded that you’re representing the company/institution/whatever and either aren’t authorized to speak for them or have embarrassed them. To an extent, that’s part of what Ms. Richards did initially, since if she’d stopped to think “You know, is my boss really going to be ok with me doing this?” she might have given some consideration to alternate ways of getting her point across.

        Problem is, I’d say that it’s not just a PR issue for SendGrid, and it’s not just a matter of Ms. Richards being in an appropriate job at the company. Ultimately, the biggest issue for her is that she’s going to have to come up with a better compromise between representing her employer and expressing her beliefs/expanding her own brand. What nobody has mentioned is that she made a truly fatal error after this turned into a firestorm – she actually spoke for SendGrid with the tweet “Hey @mundanematt, it’s clear from the last 24 hours you’re a bully. @SendGrid supports me. Stop trolling.” To me, that fits entirely with what happened next.

        When a crisis hits, you simply cannot speak on behalf of your employer unless you’re a C-level executive, and if by some chance you risk your hide and do so, you’d best make sure that what you say lines up exactly with management’s view (which by Jim Franklin’s post explaining why they fired her, it didn’t.) or else. She put her employer in an impossible position after that tweet, as it became a binary choice for SendGrid. Either they had to come out in public and fully support her actions without any reservations and take the hit, or they had to come down on her. I wouldn’t be surprised if part of the conversation before they fired her went something like “Adria, we can’t support what you’re doing. You can either disavow some of it and apologize and we can move on, or we have to let you go.”

        Sadly, that was the result. While I feel badly for her, I also can’t really fault SendGrid. Tough situation that both sides made worse.

  79. Perhaps Adria wasn’t fired for this incident alone, but for repeated similar behaviour based on your history alone and the tone of her blog. She is trolling with her own agenda – the excuses she makes for actions (listed on her blog) support that. Claiming to be tired, other people making offensive comments in the presence of others, etc. She didn’t even recognise the potential dangers of her actions.

    When a few different people cut me off or drive like jackasses on the road, it doesn’t give me license to go nuclear or act unreasonably. Our society is built on the premise that victims can defend themselves with reasonable force, but investigation, judgement and punishment are left to independent people. She doesn’t seem to understand or subscribe to the philosophy.

    I’m amazed lawyers haven’t become involved. In some countries she would have a defamation case to answer for.

  80. As a former coworker of Adria’s I can attest to how difficult it is to work with her. She finds every way possible to play the victim, and finds a way to be offended by everything. She needs to be on medication.

  81. I’m the father of a young girl, who I love more than anything. I want the world for her. I want her to pursue any and all fields of interest. However, if she honestly feels that she is not welcomed as a programmer because of a “dongle” joke not directed at her. Then I have failed to install the self-esteem I desperately want her to have.

    I am in Tech. There is sexism here. But the thing is the jokes made (as I understand them) do not reflect attitudes towards women. The jokes were sexually suggestive (word play on dongle) but not directed at a woman, not meant to intimidate or harass, In fact I know many women who make the same jokes. For Christ sakes watch sex in the city.

    If we are going to talk sexism let’s talk women earning less than men, let’s talk problems advancing in the field, Let’s not manufacture things and hurt people who behaved like juveniles but aren’t bad people.

  82. Adria sucks plain and simple. She obviously has a chip on her shoulder and has probably pointed her misguided finger of racism many times in her personal and professional life which her finger of personal responsibility remains firmly planted in her rear end.

  83. She is responsible for the subsequent events, following her actions. She deserves all she is getting, and genuinely deserves to be despised. She deserves to be blacklisted – never to work in the industry again: she’ll never work for us, she will never appear at an event we appear at, and we will not participate in any event she is invoilved with. Never.

    • “She deserves all she is getting” — No. She well deserves the professional consequences of her actions, including being persona non grata in her field. But she doesn’t deserve the terrorism being directed at her by the Rape Troll Brigade, nor does anyone.

  84. the bad thing was the guy getting fired over a stupid joke, just because an overprivileged hampered princess decided it was “not cool”. The backlash against Adria was on the other hand pure poetic justice, absolutely beautiful and magical, it’s the sort of stuff that restores one faith in the world

  85. Thank you for this. This is by far the most reasonable response to this whole sorry shit storm around and is where I am going to link anyone who brings up this issue.

    There’s already a disturbing lack of understanding about the situation from within our community and too many people are getting entrenched in the far sides of the debate.

    Take out the issues of sex and gender for a moment (don’t worry we’ll come back to that). A developer evangelist publicly shaming two developers for one immature but harmless joke and a perfectly normal phrase in the developer community that it’s possible to say in a manner with innuendo at a developer conference that results in one of the developers being fired is going to get a lot of shit aimed your way. Any developer evangelist that causes a shit storm amongst the people they are specifically hired to actually get on their side is going to struggle to keep their job. On top of that Adria has history as you mentioned and I’m pretty sure this hurt her chances of having people on her side for her actions.

    On to the other side the level and amount of shit she did get. WHAT THE FUCKING FUCKITY FUCK!? Let’s ignore the childish DDoSing of her company (though as someone on the fence about it being a digital sit-in protest against some of the bigger companies we have no other voice with let’s stop using it like this). Death threats, RAPE THREATS, some colourful mentions of lynching and a continuous never ending shit storm of graphic message and pictures… Even before these comments it should be painfully obvious that there’s problem with representation of women in tech but we should all be ashamed that our community is tarred with this brush.

    Of course after the first 48 hours or so it hit the more general internet community (hello /r/SRS, hello /r/MensRights and hello to the various bullying sycophants both your groups bring along). The “discussion” is polarising even quicker with one side saying how incredibly sexist it was to even question Adria’s actions (and seem to care far more about this point than the actual vile sexist shit being sent her way), and a load more people denying any actual problem in the industry or life in general with some “get back to the kitchens” for good measure. Oh and of course the trolls coming out of the woodwork to pile on even more disgusting comments at Adria because you know, teh lulz. And these three groups are quite happy whipping up an already big shit storm into a shit hurricane.

    The whole affair though has now jumped out of the geeksphere into the mass media and I am dreading what is still to come and how much more we are all going to lose because of it.

  86. Wow 842 comments. I’m not even going to try to read them all. Some people are perhaps too easily offended but that doesn’t mean the words of a colleague or a complete stranger can’t hurt them deeply. Often it is best to just walk away and stay away until you’ve calmed down. This includes walking away from the keyboard and the smartphone. I’d never heard of Adria Richards but let me assure you it is a tough job market and you are your Google results.

    I’m always leaving quotations in my comments, none are coming to mind just now though.

    As I walk through
    This wicked world
    Searchin’ for light in the darkness of insanity.
    I ask myself
    Is all hope lost?
    Is there only pain, hatred, and misery?

    And each time I feel like this inside,
    There’s one thing I wanna know:
    What’s so funny ’bout peace, love & understanding?

  87. I’m a guy.

    What bothers me the most about this entire fiasco is my self-monitored reaction to the word “feminist”. I believe in gender equality, so in that sense you could say I’m a feminist, but the term in my mind just conjures up those people rushing to defend actions that I can only describe as “self-righteous”. I read the blog post by Ms. Richards and I can only describe it as self-righteous (she felt she should mete out (mob?) justice to these men) and aggrandizing (the future of the young lady’s career is at stake!). It bothers me intensely because in my mind it reinforces the idea that so many ‘feminists’ are not interested in equality or righting wrongs as much as they are selfish individuals. It leads me to thinking other thoughts, wherein certain feminists essentially level the charge: “Ah, but you’re a man, you don’t have to worry about rape and glass ceilings!” as if a penis only brings positive contributions. I’d thoughtfully point out that men are 4 times more likely to be a homicide victim. Or far more likely to commit suicide or be incarcerated? Is it possible that the anachronism of “men being the bread winner” has had negative consequences on men? I suppose that what I mean is when I see activists like Ms Richards, my thought is that they only care for the injustices that affect themselves; and I can’t see myself being able to have a conversation about equality whatsoever with these people.

    Beyond all that, she made it about gender when she didn’t have to; it’s all a priori here that they are making these jokes because they are insensitive to women. You know, sometimes guys don’t want to hear that crap either. And sometimes it’s women that make the offensive jokes. It could have been “these guys are being disrespectful to humans around them”, but it *had* to be about gender or otherwise it wouldn’t be about her. Or at least that is what my inner voice tells me.

    And a little part of me is sad because I know this woman doesn’t represent all ‘feminists’, but she’s now woven into my mental tapestry of the word and the various unconscious prejudices that bears.

  88. Amanda, this is the best post I’ve seen about this so far.

    As a chick in Tech, I am appalled at Adria, TY to her for sending women back into the stone age in terms of being taken seriously.

    Posting a tweet with a picture and mentioning her company to boot was over the line professionally, and I can understand why they fired her. Why she couldn’t have just turned around and told them to cool it is beyond me. The excuse that she was surrounded by predominately men, and afraid of their reactions does not excuse making something public that could have been handled in a variety of more professional ways. Every one lost on this one all the way around.

    I do find it curious though how normal people become such trolls when they think they are hiding behind the anonymity of the internet, even those on Facebook making rape comments and they are trackbackable to real people. And on a personal note, if she if thinks Dongle and Forking is offensive, she should never ever work in the restaurant industry.

  89. Interesting insight to some of Adria’s past tantrums and a well written and balanced article – the best one I’ve read yet. As someone who was also watching this unfold live I feel the events before the ddos were actually avoidable. Her blog (and twitter) post which expounded her as a victim-come-hero and modern day “Joan of Arc” showed she has a penchant for drama, dragging this into a non-existent women’s lib issue. The backlash was confounded when she was stubbornly trying to defend herself on the same blog post against the landslide of upvoted comments which attempted to show her the error of her ways. Coupling that with the hypocrisy in her own tweets and she presented a character easy to target. Of course that doesn’t excuse what happened next but you’d think for someone so experienced online she would realise sooner how she was presenting herself i.e. a c*nt more-so than a headstrong woman. As for Sendgrid, they were in a lose-lose situation but can’t fault them for letting her go – agreed their decision to fire her was probably more to placate the masses but as they said “she can no longer be effective in her role.” One of the sadder points in this is how women may now be less likely to speak up in instances of genuine harassment and men would be less inclined to include women in the camaraderie.

  90. Here’s a copy of the comment I tried to leave on Adria’s blog. Her commenting system either imploded (possible as they’re rather messed up) or it was moderated out.

    I think there’s a misapplication of a lot of concepts at play here. We can talk all day about Patriarchy Theory, but in discussing an acute, particular incident such as this we’re probably better off approaching it (from a point of theoretical concept) as a function of the Repressive Hypothesis:

    If you read through the entry, the parallels to this particular incident are stunning. The whole concept of “name and shame” and “call-out culture” acts to censor discourse on sexuality (in particular a benign case such as this). However, we now have people like you, Adria, who seem to be working your hardest to create a discourse concerning male sexuality that exists by (and I quote) “using an ‘authorized vocabulary’ that codified where you could talk about it, when you could talk about it, and with whom.” It is the core of sexuality-based “othering” and acts to restrict the discourse to “acceptable” and “proper” discursive language and context.

    Now the big caveat is to also note that this can be a thin line, sometimes, as there are moral/ethical limits on sexual discourse which are not directly linked to a notion of individual or collective sexuality, but based on social contract in regards to one’s duty to minimize the harm to others. The practical application, in my view, would be if these guys had been making objectifying rape jokes which cause harm. However, expressing humor in a non-objectifying (or, perhaps in unknown context self-objectifying) such as making a “big dongle” joke doesn’t pass the moral/ethical test of harm without prioritizing an individual’s subjective sensibilities as more important than the larger social-contractual society. I have an inherent issue with this idea.

    Because, under Repressive Hypothesis and postmodern world-view, we’re really talking about cultural “anxieties”. One can easily understand that the context of male-anatomical jokes about size and prowess represent a social anxiety over the ideas of pleasure and sexuality which our culture remains engaged with as a problematic aspect of discourse. This is one of those places where the statement that “Patriarchy hurts men too” is immensely apt.

    In the end the problem is (as nearly always) ego. The context of this whole incident is a baseline assumption that there exists an esoteric solution that is only in the hands of those who have the secret knowledge. Of course, these ideas aren’t exactly esoteric, themselves, but they exist with the sort of clout of absolute moral conviction which betrays a simplistic, “easy” approach in which actions are evaluated not on their larger basis with a mind toward unpacking both (or, the many, many) “sides” of the incident.

    The hyperbole (which is always necessary) is that an individual who, for example, suffered abuse at the hands of a clown doesn’t necessarily have the right to demand that, again for example, a clown isn’t a small part of a carnival. It’s far, far more complex than that, but the point is that maturity demands interaction not passive-aggressive appeals to authority.

    I’m also somewhat amazed (and I have no idea what it said) that the Code of Conduct that keeps being trotted out as an authoritative appeal to justify the actions doesn’t prohibit non-consensual photography. Every conference, convention and larger event I’ve ever attended has had one sort of corner or another of their attendance agreement that covers consent for recording. Regardless, it isn’t a “Code of Conduct” issue at play, it’s a concern for maturity and treating people like human beings instead of pawns in some personal game.

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