Furore over sexism being called out at PyCon
March 20, 2013 3:17 PM   Subscribe

Developer evangelist Adria Richards snaps a photo of two men at the recent PyCon whom she overheard making quips about "big dongles". PyCon responds, following which one of the men is fired. Adria justifies the callout as a step towards securing the future of programming for women. Full discussion at Hacker News.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot (1449 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite

 
I am all for awareness of sexism and adherence to codes of conduct, but this could have been dealt with in a much more mature fashion. All she needed to do was turn around and give them a look or say "dudes, not cool." Instead, we've got one guy without a job, she's getting death/rape threats on her blog, and the level of animosity between genders has increased.

Jesus, there's less drama on LiveJournal.
posted by desjardins at 3:22 PM on March 20, 2013 [80 favorites]


What the fuck does joking about male genitalia have to do with feminism?

I could see being upset if someone was being hostile or exclusionary to her, but they were "being hostile" to themselves. Everyone has that fundamental right.

Adria's in the wrong here; she's the one who got upset about 'big dongles' when it didn't have anything to do with her specifically, or women in general, at all.

Should they have joked about female genitalia instead? Or wouldn't that be sexist? And if they can't joke about genitalia, period, isn't she really being anti-sex, not pro-woman?
posted by Malor at 3:23 PM on March 20, 2013 [56 favorites]


What does 'forking a repo' mean, anyway?
posted by kuujjuarapik at 3:25 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Something about this feels really off and weird.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 3:25 PM on March 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


What does 'forking a repo' mean, anyway?

From the BÖC classic. Don't Fork the Repo.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:27 PM on March 20, 2013 [38 favorites]


From the Code of Conduct:

Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, sexual images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention.

Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately.

Exhibitors in the expo hall, sponsor or vendor booths, or similar activities are also subject to the anti-harassment policy. In particular, exhibitors should not use sexualized images, activities, or other material. Booth staff (including volunteers) should not use sexualized clothing/uniforms/costumes, or otherwise create a sexualized environment.

Be careful in the words that you choose. Remember that sexist, racist, and other exclusionary jokes can be offensive to those around you. Excessive swearing and offensive jokes are not appropriate for PyCon.

If a participant engages in behavior that violates this code of conduct, the conference organizers may take any action they deem appropriate, including warning the offender or expulsion from the conference with no refund.


If it's a professional conference and you are there as a representative of your employer, it might be in your best interest to act like it.
posted by rtha at 3:27 PM on March 20, 2013 [40 favorites]


What does 'forking a repo' mean, anyway?

I assume they were referring to software project repositories -- repo for short. As it's being created, software is kept in a type of storage that tracks revisions to the source files that make up the software. You can 'fork' a particular revision of the software into an alternate branch separate from the main 'trunk' -- later merging your changes with the main trunk, or maybe not (e.g., software library X rolls forward to version 3 but you want to modify the software as it was starting in 2.5, rather than use the major revisions in 3).
posted by axiom at 3:28 PM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


What the fuck does joking about male genitalia have to do with feminism?

The woman who complained isn't a feminist. Why would you bring up feminism?
posted by Jairus at 3:28 PM on March 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


What does 'forking a repo' mean, anyway?

repo is short for repository (in this case a git repository). Forking means that you create another branch of someone else's work and build upon it. There will always be a connection to the source and you can submit contributions back to the original project with that developers permission.
posted by special-k at 3:29 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


There was also this: How To Get Banned From PyCon.
posted by octothorpe at 3:29 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I could see being upset if someone was being hostile or exclusionary to her, but they were "being hostile" to themselves. Everyone has that fundamental right.

It's not quite that simple, I think. I mean, there's an argument to be made that blokey hur-hur-hur penis hur-hur-hur humor creates an environment that's intrinsically hostile to women even if the jokes themselves are not specifically aimed at women.

That said, this feels like a waaaaaay over the top reaction to these two particular jokes (I mean, the above argument would apply far more plausibly in a situation where you worked with these two guys and they continually made these sorts of jokes in your presence--not to a couple of jokes overheard from two random people behind you at a conference).

And the "won't somebody think of the children" stuff in her self-justification is pretty stomach-turning:
There is something about crushing a little kid’s dream that gets me really angry.
posted by yoink at 3:29 PM on March 20, 2013 [24 favorites]


I don't know what any of this means but no one likes a tattletale.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:30 PM on March 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


I don't want to live in a world where geeks at a geek conference can't joke about big dongles.
posted by schoolgirl report at 3:30 PM on March 20, 2013 [90 favorites]


And the forking joke is common enough among developers that GitHub sells such a shirt.
posted by special-k at 3:31 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I dunno. I am very sympathetic that conferences need to do explicit work to make them into better places for women. That said, this wasn't a comment by an exhibitor or a presenter but by an audience member. And it was made privately to his friend presumably. I mean, I'm assuming the dude didn't stand up and make some sort of impromptu speech here. So to me it sort of pushes the boundaries. I'm all for being respectful towards other people, but this was a private conversation that she wasn't directly party to, so it seems a bit harsh for her to publicly shame the guy.

The he got fired is a whole other level of over-reaction.
posted by GuyZero at 3:32 PM on March 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


the callout was ok. pycon's handling was ok. employer firing the guy was not ok.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 3:32 PM on March 20, 2013 [25 favorites]


I wonder if she said anything to the two before taking the picture. I'm sympathetic to the idea of acting like a professional at a professional conference, but it seems like part of that might be addressing the behavior directly with the participants. I wonder if they got their presentations pulled as well as being fired.
posted by boo_radley at 3:34 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


If it's a professional conference and you are there as a representative of your employer, it might be in your best interest to act like it.

I have had co-workers say things that other people might find far more offensive at conferences. But these were private conversations between ourselves and not in any official capacity. I'm very much for being professional while "on the clock" but in private I think people should be free to say whatever dumb stuff they want.
posted by GuyZero at 3:35 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Finally a dev flame war not in the Rails community...
posted by PenDevil at 3:35 PM on March 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


Randomly, I had a brief conversation about tech stuff with Adria Richards a few weeks back. She came across as a pretty cool individual, but I don't really know anything about her.

There have been some claims that the dude on hacker news is not actually the guy in question. Assuming that he is, and did in fact get fired, this comes across as a fairly shitty way for her to have handled things. Of course, I'm sure she's now experiencing insane levels of misogynist rage as a result, which is completely horrible and makes me hate most of the internet all over again.

I think I'll shut up now. Probably no one needs my opinion all that badly, and this smells like the kind of thing where I'd wind up somehow arguing with a bunch of people whose opinions I often, broadly speaking, share.
posted by brennen at 3:36 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I wonder if she said anything to the two before taking the picture.

Both she and the fired guy say not.
posted by yoink at 3:36 PM on March 20, 2013


I'm all for being respectful towards other people, but this was a private conversation that she wasn't directly party to, so it seems a bit harsh for her to publicly shame the guy.

From the picture, it doesn't seem private, they were sitting in the audience right behind her.
posted by octothorpe at 3:37 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


In Geek world, repo forks you.
posted by No Robots at 3:37 PM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I don't know what any of this means but no one likes a tattletale.

I don't know what that means. When is it tattling to tell someone that someone else did something bad/rule-breaking, and when is it not?
posted by rtha at 3:38 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Wait, these were just two guys in an audience? Jeez. I'm out. Call a professional ethicist, because this is uncomfortable on all sides for me.
posted by boo_radley at 3:38 PM on March 20, 2013 [24 favorites]


Why does this take me back to growing up in the Christian Midwest where we "weren't supposed to say penis in the presence of ladies."

Also, wtf is a developer evangelist.
posted by Lutoslawski at 3:39 PM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Jairus: The woman who complained isn't a feminist. Why would you bring up feminism?

Well, from the FPP: Adria justifies the callout as a step towards securing the future of programming for women.

Is there some term I should be using instead? That certainly looks like feminism to me, and I absolutely do not see that a vague joke about male genitalia has anything to do with that. In what possible way does a vague dick joke threaten the future of programming for women?

She really fucked that guy's life up, for no benefit to herself.
posted by Malor at 3:41 PM on March 20, 2013 [36 favorites]


My main problem is it seems like a bit much to have these guys' faces plastered all over the internet for saying "forking" and "big dongle" in what sounds like a more-or-less private computer-dude conversation as if they are somehow the self-elected posterboys for misogyny. Did she have their permission to take their picture and use it publicly?

I would have thought a mature, self-assured adult woman would have addressed them directly and on top of that where does a conversation like this fall on the freedom of speech spectrum? It's not hate speech. Argh, I just think this whole situation is really odd and poorly-scaled and post-modern or something.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 3:42 PM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


wtf is a developer evangelist

Someone who is really, really excited about iron oxalate, iron sulfate or iron lactate.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:43 PM on March 20, 2013 [17 favorites]


When is it tattling to tell someone that someone else did something bad/rule-breaking, and when is it not?

I think we'd generally say that "tattling" is when you call in a higher authority to resolve something that would be better handled by the relevant actors themselves. If your neighbor's kid smashes your Halloween Jack'o'lantern, you probably could call the cops and ask them to arrest him for vandalism, but you'd probably be wiser not to.
posted by yoink at 3:43 PM on March 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


When is it tattling to tell someone that someone else did something bad/rule-breaking, and when is it not?

I know you quoted some rules, but there is some legitimate discussion as to whether those rules apply in this situation, and assuming they do, whether the reaction on the part of all involved — including Adria — was appropriate or reactionary/excessive.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:45 PM on March 20, 2013


Dongle and forking are both funny words. Can we at least agree on that?
posted by found missing at 3:45 PM on March 20, 2013 [32 favorites]


Adria posted a penis joke to twitter not long before this incident (re: the TSA feeling-up an attendee). Also, taking harassing photos is against Pycon rules. It seems she holds others' behaviour to a vastly different standard than for her own.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:45 PM on March 20, 2013 [92 favorites]


From the picture, it doesn't seem private, they were sitting in the audience right behind her.

She wasn't a participant in the conversation though. Are audience members at PyCon not supposed to say anything that might offend someone who overhears what they're saying? Neither of the people involved in the exchange seemed to want her to know what they were talking about. In an actual workplace this one incident would be unlikely to result in any action (especially firing). If there was a pattern of action that might be different, but she heard something like a few dozen words these guys exchanged privately between themselves.
posted by GuyZero at 3:46 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's unfortunate that he got sacked, but I think that a zero-tolerance policy on sexualised innuendo at conferences is a good idea, at least at this point in history. If there isn't a clear boundary, you will get the minority of touchy-feely improperly socialised males who attend such conferences pushing the boundaries, intimidating any women who attend. So making jokes like the “it was bare, just the way I like it” should not be tolerated, and should result in disciplinary action.

Perhaps, once things like the CouchDB talk are ancient history, we can attend technical conferences like mature adults. That time, however, is not yet. We still live in a world where women avoid computer science, and most of the female coders who exist shun open-source and go to work with Microsoft and Oracle and such because their environments have professional codes of conduct so they won't be considered fair game for the socially challenged mouth-breathing whiz-kids.
posted by acb at 3:47 PM on March 20, 2013 [25 favorites]


Sex jokes in a public place that make other people feel uncomfortable are grounds for being asked to leave the room.

She really fucked that guy's life up

No, the guy's boss is to blame here. An isolated incident of unprofessional behavior is not a hanging offence. Unless there's an ongoing pattern of bad behavior we don't know about his firing is an unjustifiable corporate CYA exercise.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:47 PM on March 20, 2013 [44 favorites]


From the Code of Conduct:

Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, sexual images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention.
I guess I would have to hear the actual jokes made, but I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't seem "offensive" to me. Obviously they offended her, of course, but lots of people get offended about lots of things. I don't really see how sexual jokes are necessarily misogyny, and I certainly don't see how a non-misogynistic sexual joke keeps young girls from becoming programmers.

Meanwhile, "harassing photography" is pretty much exactly what she did, no?
posted by Flunkie at 3:47 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


While I think being more thoughtful of others is a good idea in general, I am not totally comfortable with the idea that when in public, people should avoid ever saying anything that anyone eavesdropping could be offended by, on pain of their livelihood.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:49 PM on March 20, 2013 [75 favorites]


If you read her blog entry, she comes off sounding like a sociopath, ala yoink's quote upthread, ditto the self-invented title.

It's seemingly a clear cut case of "prudish asshat invents justification to inflicts their prudishness upon others". There is a slim chance the guys were being stupidly loud, thus making their conversation not really between themselves, and bringing PyCon's rules clearly into the picture, but that doesn't sound like the case.

It's not a feminism thing, just a freaky prudish power trip thing. Men do this too. Very unfeminist men even.

As much as I hate British libel law, it's amusing to point out that her action are civilly actionable in the U.K., if not actually criminal.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:51 PM on March 20, 2013 [34 favorites]


I am not totally comfortable with the idea that when in public, people should avoid ever saying anything that anyone eavesdropping could be offended by, on pain of their livelihood.
welcome to the future, have a pair of Google Glasses
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 3:51 PM on March 20, 2013 [44 favorites]


So making jokes like the “it was bare, just the way I like it” should not be tolerated, and should result in disciplinary action.

That seems like a very different kind of joke than the ones that were actually made, though. I wouldn't think twice about making a "big dongle" or a "forking" joke here on the blue. It wouldn't occur to me in any circumstance that I can think of to make your joke.
posted by yoink at 3:51 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is apparently what it takes to get people to realize that these sorts of comments are insulting to some. Anything shy of making an example of an asshole is virtually ineffective.
posted by blue t-shirt at 3:52 PM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


It is really unfortunate that words like forking and dongle are so pervasive in the community. It is almost impossible to not make jokes about them, After all, they satisfy Krusty's rule of comedy, they are words that sound dirty but aren't, just like mukluk. I propose the words forking and and dongle be replaced with words that sound less dirty.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:52 PM on March 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Overheard conversations can contribute to a hostile environment. It generally wouldn't pass a workplace sexual harassment policy, so it shouldn't fly at a professional conference. That said, everything that happened seems to have been overreaction. Posting the guys' picture on Twitter; the organizers kicking the guys out of the conference rather than warning them to knock it off; the one guy being fired.
posted by eruonna at 3:52 PM on March 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


Y'know, one of the things that makes it difficult for women in spaces that have been largely unexaminedly male-normative is the expectation that they be endlessly perfect and patient if they encounter something that's not cool. She describes having already that day had that conversation with someone else.

So here, in a panel audience where she couldn't get into a conversation about it without distracting and irritating everyone around her, she didn't try, but snapped a picture and kvetched on Twitter. How many of you have seen "Christ what an asshole" complaints with photos on the internet? Were you outraged every time?

Pycon saw it and talked to the people and said not cool (and whatever you think of how appropriate their comments were, they seem clearly in violation of PyCon's code of conduct) and they apologized and all of this is everything working in a reasonable manner.

If someone was fired (we seem to have only an unverified Hacker News commenter saying it) I think that's disproportionate and overkill. But it was overkill on the employer's part.

A few years ago, someone broke into our garage and stole my and my wife's bikes. If I could have done anything to effect it, I'd have loved to see the thieves arrested and tried and wouldn't have shed any tears if they'd done jail time. If they'd then been killed in jail, that would be a horrible thing and absolutely disproportionate to bike theft... but I wouldn't be wracked with guilt that I'd had something to do with their arrest.

Blaming Richards for something the employer did is nuts.
posted by Zed at 3:55 PM on March 20, 2013 [71 favorites]


welcome to the future, have a pair of Google Glasses

- Search: "conversation I will personally be offended by"

- 821,371,000,000 results. Would you like to find the nearest "conversation I will personally be offended by"?

- Yes.

- The nearest "conversation I will personally be offended by" is 7' from your location. Would you like to know the quickest route to get there? Note: You will need to climb through a window.

- Yes.

- You are arriving at "conversation I will personally be offended by". Would you like to RECORD?

- Yes.

- You have recorded "conversation I will personally be offended by". Would you like to upload this to Google+ to share with your friends?

- Yes.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 3:55 PM on March 20, 2013 [58 favorites]


Job Interviewer: "So tell me, why did you leave your job with PlayHaven?"

Interviewee: "I made an off-colour joke in a private conversation outside the workplace."

Job Interviewer: "Ah."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:56 PM on March 20, 2013 [30 favorites]


Stick a fork in it, I'm dongle.
posted by mazola at 3:56 PM on March 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


This is an odd situation, to say the least. Reading through the comments, it's clear that the story is not this story but a much larger story.

First of all, the firing is rather strange. Who knows what's going on behind the scenes there. Maybe the company was ready to downsize and needed an excuse. Or the guy was not performing to standard. Or the decision was made by someone who has absolutely zero tolerance for anything smelling vaguely of sexual harassment. Who knows? But it's obvious there was a reaction there that was made in a context we'll probably never know. It's easy to slag off as "psychotic corporation afraid of bad PR" but then again, great people are hard to find, and companies are loathe to let great talent go for any reason.

Secondly, the larger story. Tech has been dominated by men, since I started in tech back in 1994 at least. I've worked in a variety of tech-related roles, and by and large the staff have been predominantly white men. I realise that's changing – and rapidly – but that has been the zeitgeist for at least a generation, maybe two.

The jokes that go around in teams overwhelmingly populated by men can be rough, and that's regardless of industry. Tech, media, hospitality, etc. It's the mark of a male-dominated society – define "the other" and reinforce group identity. No magic there, basic human behaviour.

What the change represents is that Tech is no longer an old boys club, as it once was. What comes across from reading the links is that the misogyny is deeply engrained, there are heaps of people defending it without even realising that they are defending it.

Power is not an infinite quantity, it is a finite quantity. Before you tell me who has been empowered, first you must tell me who has been disempowered.

In this case, it's men who are being disempowered by the presence of women, and the requirement that their behaviour become more inclusionary, rather than exclusionary. If one has ever had to watch a woman endure jokes from these male groups – or even worse, make jokes at their own expense to fit in – it's obvious that jokes are not simple jokes. Seemingly innocuous comments are loaded with subtle statements of power.

It's difficult, because in these situations, the men are guilty of repressing women without even being aware of it. The misogyny is so embedded, that to call it misogyny is easily characterisable as 'dramatic'. That is the degree to which it is rooted within common everyday interactions.

Thus, this poor fellow has been made an example of it. And it sucks to be the example, but societies are composed of individuals, and sometimes shit happens. I feel for the guy – I really do – but at the same time, women cannot be empowered without men being disempowered. Women cannot be treated as equal as long as it is acceptable to not treat them like equals. Some men will go as far as to say they are open with the jokes, and therefore it is okay. That the content is irrelevant. It was just a joke. But that's the point where in a larger context, the joke itself is an expression of power.

And men's safe zones are increasingly under attack. For a long time, men – especially white men – had architected a society that self-perpetuated the benefits of white maleness. That comes first in socialisation and basic language, and is extended through formal education, and into the domain of the career. This was physical control – restricting access to be present in places like educational institutions and companies – as well as psychological controls, in the media, for example.

But that's changing and now women are performing very well in the workforce and educational institutions, often surpassing men. Software development is a growing industry with very high salaries, so a natural attractor for young talent. Previously, women were taught that they did not have a place in engineering and software. But those battles have been – and are increasingly – fought and won. Women are taking their rightful place as equals to men.

That is great for women, for it is empowering them, and shit for men, for they are being disempowered. But there's no other way around it. If the situation has been unbalanced, then it must be rebalanced, and that means winners and losers. Women are winning, therefore men have to lose. But then the case point, that men have had a disproportionate share of the winnings anyway, therefore, they have power to lose... or rather to be balanced.

So overall, there's not much of a story here. The story is much larger, about the shift of society toward being more inclusive of women. Men are going to have to learn to watch what they say, and there's two ways to do that. The easy way, and the hard way. This fellow happened upon the hard way. And he's not going to be the last fellow to learn the hard way either.
posted by nickrussell at 3:56 PM on March 20, 2013 [51 favorites]


Prudish bullshit from top to tail.
posted by Artw at 3:57 PM on March 20, 2013 [32 favorites]


Interviewee: "I made an off-colour joke in a private conversation outside the workplace."

In public, while representing the company at a conference.

You missed that part.
posted by blue t-shirt at 3:58 PM on March 20, 2013 [21 favorites]


It's not a feminism thing, just a freaky prudish power trip thing. Men do this too. Very unfeminist men even.

Even if it is so, in this case the result could be an awareness that, at conferences, you save your dick jokes for the bar.
posted by acb at 4:00 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Blaming Richards for something the employer did is nuts.

Disagree, especially if she had a similar situation earlier and resolved it by talking to the people. It's odd that she didn't do it in this situation.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:01 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


In public, while representing the company at a conference.

So there are degrees of public. These guys were no on a stage and where in no way attempting to make this women part of their conversation at all. I understand the issues with creating a hostile environment, but two guys talking between themselves don't quite get there.

women cannot be empowered without men being disempowered

Hm, not sure I agree that this is some sort of zero-sum dominance game.
posted by GuyZero at 4:01 PM on March 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


In public, while representing the company at a conference.

Well technically, at a private conference.

And this whole "representing the company" aspect is such a load of shit. It's evoked selectively
when things are blown out of proportion, such as this whole debacle. Every word you utter is
supposed to represent the company? Prudish at best, completely unrealistic at worst.
posted by gcbv at 4:02 PM on March 20, 2013 [22 favorites]


blue t-shirt:
I don't mean to single you out, but I don't understand. Can you please explain how that comment is offensive? What makes it offensive? Please be specific.

I guess I'm old now, because I don't understand the reference in the slightest, except in the way that Ad hominem has pointed out. The word sounds dirty, but it's not. So how is it offensive?

I am saying this as an honestly, really trying hard to understand, want to be a better person feminist white male. nickrussell has posted this power dynamic thing that I don't agree with, but will have to think about and address later.

Do juvenile jokes really cause a hostile work environment?
posted by daq at 4:02 PM on March 20, 2013


I do so wish she'd done this in the U.K. so that we could all enjoy bemoaning both her prudishness and the resulting libel suit.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:03 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


In public, while representing the company at a conference.

If I'm having a conversation with my neighbor in a normal speaking volume, is that 'in public'? What's a reasonable way to make sure nobody else but my intended is listening to me?
posted by ftm at 4:04 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The linked Hacker News discussion is kind of mind-boggling. There are thoughtful and constructive discussions that people can have about intensely complicated issues like this, but Hacker News rarely makes it there. I sometimes read those comments in order to remind myself that a large number of people in my industry are quietly thinking something along the lines of "nothing too bad about how women are treated around here, no need for special efforts at empathy; it doesn't make sense that they complain; works for me".
posted by dreamyshade at 4:04 PM on March 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


kuujjuarapik: "What does 'forking a repo' mean, anyway?"

Simple. kuujjuarapik makes Kuujjuarapik's awesome MetaFilter SuperClient & GoogleReaderReplacement. And, to make life easier you put the source code in an online repository like GitHub for easy management. I see it and I think "Gawd, those colors and fonts suck." But I can't change your code.

So, I fork your repo. I basically clone your code and such into my own repository. And I make a better version. So there.

(Of course, like so many explanations, it is all fantasy as I completely suck at coding.)

Also, some people use repos to track things like documents and other files they want to have change tracking and management on.
posted by Samizdata at 4:04 PM on March 20, 2013


Interviewee: "I made an off-color joke in a private conversation outside the workplace."

More like, "I acted grossly unprofessionally at a professional conference while representing my company".
posted by octothorpe at 4:05 PM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


In the future we'll all just have to glare at each other with fake smiles and a smoldering rage behind the eyes.
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:06 PM on March 20, 2013 [21 favorites]


Is there a difference between sexist comments and sexual innuendo? I'm still not sure what the sexist comments were. Is "heh-heh... he said dongle" sexist? Unprofessional, yes. Sexist? Not sure.
posted by yoz420 at 4:06 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Do men really need to wave the idea of penises and fucking around in blokey banter to mark their territory and feel “empowered”? I am a man, and work as an IT contractor, and have worked in blokey environments where such banter was commonplace (i.e., joking about one's porn viewing habits, hot women one wants to screw, mail-order brides, that sort of thing), and didn't enjoy it. Personally, I'd feel more comfortable in a work environment if such verbal dick-waving was not acceptable.
posted by acb at 4:07 PM on March 20, 2013 [22 favorites]


Earlier joke by Richards.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:07 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


More like, "I acted grossly unprofessionally at a professional conference while representing my company".

If you think this is grossly unprofessional you have been living in a box.

Now, perhaps it's still creating an unpleasant or oppressive environment for women, but believe me, this bad joke made in semi-private is nothing.
posted by GuyZero at 4:07 PM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Everything bad comes from Reddit.
posted by mobunited at 4:07 PM on March 20, 2013


In the future we'll all just have to glare at each other with fake smiles and a smoldering rage behind the eyes.

Isn't that what we do now?
posted by jessamyn at 4:08 PM on March 20, 2013 [76 favorites]


Adria posted a penis joke to twitter not long before this incident (re: the TSA feeling-up an attendee).

I was curious about this and went through her twitter feed. I don't know how to link to an individual tweet, so here's the exchange (this is on her way to the Pycon conference):
Dave Hall ‏@skwashd 14 Mar
I made it to US and A. I've received my traditional TSA welcoming - having my nuts fondled.
10:56 AM - 14 Mar 13 · Details

Adria Richards ‏@adriarichards 14 Mar
@skwashd you should put something in your pants next time...like a bunch of socks inside one...large...sock. TSA agent faint
I dunno. I have to say that this makes the "OMG, someone made a 'large dongle' joke in my presence!!" thing seem a little forced. I notice that she retweets, later, a tweet by Dave Hall saying that their exchange is "different" because of it occurring in the context of an exchange between friends. Um....hello? You might not have thought that one through the whole way.
posted by yoink at 4:08 PM on March 20, 2013 [53 favorites]


In the future we'll all just have to glare at each other with fake smiles and a smoldering rage behind the eyes.
i have always known that i am from the future
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:08 PM on March 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


I agree with the "hey, dudes, making jokey penis innuendos is uncool here."

I disagree with the "hey, this is too much trouble to say this, either to the perpetrators or the conference organizers, so I think I'll post their faces to my ten thousand Twitter followers instead, and let the internet have that discussion for me."
posted by zippy at 4:10 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Adria Richards ‏@adriarichards 14 Mar
@skwashd you should put something in your pants next time...like a bunch of socks inside one...large...sock. TSA agent faint


It should be noted that if she tweeted this while on the way to the conference, she was technically representing her employer.
posted by gcbv at 4:11 PM on March 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


She says they "kept going and kept going" so apparently it wasn't just one or two off-color jokes. I would be really uncomfortable too if I were at a professional conference and the men behind me kept cracking sex jokes for several minutes.
posted by Danila at 4:11 PM on March 20, 2013 [18 favorites]


Do men really need to wave the idea of penises and fucking around in blokey banter to mark their territory and feel “empowered”?

Yeah. Coming from the field of academia/science, the fact that this sort of thing goes on, and that women are still considered unwelcome, sort of blows my mind. Shit needs to change in the computing world, it seems. However, this pycon thing feels like very much the wrong battle to fight.
posted by Jimbob at 4:12 PM on March 20, 2013


joking about one's porn viewing habits, hot women one wants to screw, mail-order brides, that sort of thing

But if the jokes these guys had made at Pycon had been anything remotely like that there'd be a great deal more sympathy for Adria's response. Those would be obviously hostile and offensive. "Big dongle" seems, well, not. "Guy at conference starts talking about hot women he wants to screw, woman snaps his photo and posts it to twitter" would lead to a very different thread on Metafilter than this one, wouldn't it?
posted by yoink at 4:13 PM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


"big dongles" isn't funny, in and of itself. it's funny because it evokes big penises. No one would say it if they weren't trying to make their audience think of wang.

Why do we need to make jokes about big penises at a software developer conference? We don't. If it pisses someone off, you know that, and you persist, then you're an asshole. If it pisses someone off, and you don't know that, well, you've learned something.

I'm not condoning the actual firing on PlayHaven's part. That's a clear overreaction, but it sends a message, and it's a message that probably needs sending.
posted by blue t-shirt at 4:14 PM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


I would be really uncomfortable too if I were at a professional conference and the men behind me kept cracking sex jokes for several minutes.

I would be uncomfortable if after several minutes the best they could come up with was dongle jokes. They should be fired for being lame at a professional conference. Gotta have standards!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:15 PM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: "Earlier joke by Richards."

Cheers, sir.

I was starting to lean towards the "overreaction" camp, but that witty little bon mot pushed me right over.

So, let me get this right. Dick jokes by women on their own Twitter = okay.

Cheesy jokes based on suggestive programming terms at a geek conference your boss sent you too = You're banned from the conference AND fired.

I join with the group that said she needs to just turn around and call them out, somewhat loudly if she felt the need.

And just to finish off my opinion -
look
find
gawk
talk
touch
grep
unzip
finger
mount
fsck
gasp
more
eject
umount
makeclean
zip
done
exit
posted by Samizdata at 4:16 PM on March 20, 2013 [29 favorites]


This is why I still code in Perl.
posted by mcstayinskool at 4:17 PM on March 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


Even if she's a hypocrite, it doesn't mean she's wrong for calling these guys out. Pursuing that line of reasoning is fallacious.
posted by blue t-shirt at 4:17 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


From Richards:

I was telling myself if they made one more sexual joke, I’d say something.

The it happened….The trigger...

...I saw a photo on main stage of a little girl who had been in the Young Coders workshop.

I realized I had to do something or she would never have the chance to learn and love programming because the ass clowns behind me would make it impossible for her to do so.


This seriously made me fucking cringe. We're all the hero of our own story, I guess.
posted by Broseph at 4:18 PM on March 20, 2013 [55 favorites]


Fsck is the worst one. It is one letter away from a word I can't type as I am representing my employer. This shit has got to change guys.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:18 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


The hypotethical issue that is raised is probably an important one to be having. The actual situation smacks to me of an opportunity to make a power move over something that could have been handled one human being to another. I'm sure being an evangelist for something requires an ongoing platform of public recognition, and this really seems to be more about that. I would like to talk about the issues raised between gender perceptions at conferences like this, but it does not, at any point of the process, feel like it's been initiated in good faith.
posted by SpacemanStix at 4:18 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


1) This is not a zero sum deal.

2) The fact that two men said something sexist does not erase the fact that someone with more power than them in a professional field bullied them, or vice versa.

3) If Adria Richards had the influence of a typical attendee, institutional sexism would have ensured nobody would care, which would be bad.

4) Adria Richards has more influence than that, however, to the point where her actions not only derailed a career, but she must have known that the method she used would cause particular injury to the men she called out.
posted by mobunited at 4:19 PM on March 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


She says they "kept going and kept going" so apparently it wasn't just one or two off-color jokes. I would be really uncomfortable too if I were at a professional conference and the men behind me kept cracking sex jokes for several minutes.

She also described there being sexual forking jokes, which the guy involved says were legitimate technical non-sexual references to the forking procedure. Some of the "kept going and kept going" could easily be her misunderstanding of nonoffensive material that got bundled in with the juvenile dongle joke(s). She also says that these two dudes making this dongle joke would make it literally impossible for a young girl to ever learn programming and concludes that the future of programming was on the line over this dongle joke, so her writing style seems to involve hyperbole to some degree.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 4:19 PM on March 20, 2013 [25 favorites]


If you think this is grossly unprofessional you have been living in a box.

You really think that making dick jokes in public is professional behavior? I probably wouldn't get fired but if I'd done that I'd definitely be talked to by my manager and the VP of HR about professional decorum when I'm attending a conference.
posted by octothorpe at 4:20 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


ditto the self-invented title.

It's not self-invented, it's a pretty common thing these days.
posted by asterix at 4:21 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


The fact that two men said something sexist
Is this actually a fact?
posted by Flunkie at 4:21 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


She says they "kept going and kept going" so apparently it wasn't just one or two off-color jokes. I would be really uncomfortable too if I were at a professional conference and the men behind me kept cracking sex jokes for several minutes.

I guess I can see why, but here are some solutions that are not photographing them and placing that photograph into a stream that will be seen by all of their colleagues, along with a vague description of their behavior that they are given no opportunity to rebut:

* Ask them to stop making the jokes. That's the most obvious solution, but no one should feel obligated to initiate a confrontation; I don't think many people would do this, at least if they were alone. But it's a possible solution.

* Leave. No one should have to do this -- you shouldn't have to walk away from a panel you wanted to attend -- but again, it is a solution.

* Tell someone in authority that the men are creating a disruption.

Their behavior may have been boorish (it sounds fairly harmless to me, but I don't have a full accounting of what was said; largely we are left to imagine what might have been said for several minutes, but we really have no idea; if it were all jokes along the lines of "big dongle," that really sounds more obnoxious than alarming, but YMMV), but to be frank, photographing them and attributing bad behavior to them sounds a whole lot worse to me. I mean, I doubt that Richards thought anyone would get fired, but she had to realize there could be repercussions in the world of the internet, where torches and pitchforks are often torched and pitchforked first, and questions asked later, provided that the attention span of the questioner lasts enough tOH SQUIRREL
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:21 PM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


The idea that we are "representing our employer" at all times when out in public is extremely troublesome to me. Yes, even at a professional conference.
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:21 PM on March 20, 2013 [30 favorites]


It's the photograph which really lays bare her attitude - needless bullying and humiliation.
posted by mani at 4:21 PM on March 20, 2013 [30 favorites]


Well, we still have fart jokes.
posted by jperkins at 4:23 PM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Even if she's a hypocrite, it doesn't mean she's wrong for calling these guys out.

Even if she wasn't a hypocrite, I think she's in the wrong for posting their photograph to Twitter and denouncing them publicly for such a profoundly trivial offense. The appropriate response would have been, at most, "dudes! That's not cool!" The fact that she's a flaming hypocrite is just the icing on the cake.

Also, given that her dick joke--which is more explicit, more elaborate and far more offensive than theirs--would have been 'overheard' by far, far more people at the conference than theirs could possibly be unless they were talking to each other with loudhailers, she was definitely not the person to be administering even the verbal slap down.
posted by yoink at 4:23 PM on March 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


This is apparently what it takes to get people to realize that these sorts of comments are insulting to some. Anything shy of making an example of an asshole is virtually ineffective.

If your idea of an asshole is someone who makes a PG-rated penis joke privately to a friend, I honestly wonder how much of your life is spent taking offense. Please don't take that as an attack or criticism. I really have trouble processing it. It must be fatiguing.
posted by echocollate at 4:24 PM on March 20, 2013 [30 favorites]


The idea that we are "representing our employer" at all times when out in public is extremely troublesome to me. Yes, even at a professional conference.

Even if wearing a badge, listing your name and employer?
posted by acb at 4:24 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I mean, my first instinct was like, "Well look I'm a lady and speaking with my Lady Authority you're overreacting to the big dongle joke," but all we know is that it was a "big dongle" joke.

So it could have been "Heh heh that's one big dongle" (this would not really offend me, especially since as noted above it essentially amounts to just saying "BIG PENIS!"). But it also could have been, "Mmm, I have such a big dongle. There are so many places I want to put it. I like to touch it a lot so I know I haven't lost it, you know? Like, I want to keep my hands on it so when there's a nice dock for it, I can just shove it right in wherever I am. I think most people like big dongles, I mean, bigger's better, right? It can be kind of a tight fit but there are workarounds for that."

And if that went on for a couple minutes? Ugh. And nobody's released a transcript, so.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:24 PM on March 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


I think this is a totally fine callout, and I don't really have a problem with their photos being made public. However, the firing seems, to me, out of line on the employer's part. Employers should be held to a higher standard for taking punitive action based on hearsay than should random internet spectators.
posted by threeants at 4:26 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Even if she's a hypocrite, it doesn't mean she's wrong for calling these guys out. Pursuing that line of reasoning is fallacious.

Well, was she angry about what these guys were thinking? Or was she angry that they were voicing it while she was eavesdropping? If she's going to claim that making these kind of comments is harmful, she needs to either admit that her twitter comment did similar harm, or do a better job explaining why it's somehow different.
posted by ftm at 4:26 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe I don't get this because I don't use Twitter, but she took the photograph and added the pycon tag so the conference organizers would see it. At least, that's how she presents it in her blog post, that she was letting them know what was happening and who was doing it. I guess she could have left the presentation, gone to find someone and pointed them out but why in this age of much faster technology?
posted by Danila at 4:26 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh my lord, I just read Adria's blog entry about this event, and I've never heard such over-dramatic self-righteousness. This is pure garbage. Did she even try to tell the guys to stop before immortalizing them on Twitter? According to her account, no. And, I'm sorry, but nothing they said seemed to be terribly offensive. Ms. Richards seems to thrive on drama. Up until I read her blog, I was a bit more on the fence, but holy crap she sounds insufferable.
posted by Edgewise at 4:26 PM on March 20, 2013 [32 favorites]


Much to my chagrin, one of the involved individuals was a former student and intern of mine. I found out when I saw him in the picture attached to the tweet. As I write this, I am unsure of what if any discipline he has received.

While I'm waiting to hear his side of the story and while mostly I worry about his well being as an individual human (he said the last several days have been very rough when we spoke this afternoon) I agree 100% with her assessment that what he said was highly inappropriate and absolutely imperatively must be called out in these conferences.

For anyone saying she's overreacting: here I sit wishing I'd made a stronger impression when inappropriate remarks came up, and likewise, I wish my other coworkers had been more supportive when I did call out remarks as inappropriate.

2bucksplus: "The idea that we are "representing our employer" at all times when out in public is extremely troublesome to me. Yes, even at a professional conference."

I agree in general, however they were at an industry conference on behalf of their employer, wearing shirts advertising their employer. Almost certainly their travel, tickets and lodging were paid for by their company. This seems like an "at work" context and not an "at an outside of work, work related event" to me.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 4:27 PM on March 20, 2013 [30 favorites]


2bucksplus: "The idea that we are "representing our employer" at all times when out in public is extremely troublesome to me. Yes, even at a professional conference."

I assume that they paid his way there, that's how my co-workers end up at conferences.
posted by octothorpe at 4:27 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


When I got to the actual remarks being objected to I was pretty surprised, because hey, dongle jokes are funny! Genitalia are indeed funny and dongles sound like they should refer to them, look like genitalia, and even function kind of like genitalia - comedy gold. dongle jokes are also so very much a normal part of learning about tech hardware, talking about tech hardware, and hell designing tech hardware to be further punny in some way.

But then I got to thinking about how this would translate to my own non-tech science field that now has a significant number of women through hard fought battles. If I sat in the audience of one of our conferences making penis jokes about someones slides or the topic being discussed at a panel, this whole 'overreaction' (excepting the whole tweeting business because we're really not that tech savvy) would be a totally normal and expected way to deal with that bullshit all the way up to severe professional consequences. If I really had a burningly funny penis joke to make I'd wait until I was in a bar around exclusively colleagues who would find it hilarious and even then I'd do it carefully because you don't fucking play around with that shit in the workplace.

That conference is a fucking workplace, not a playdate for awkward dudes. Indeed, how normal it seems that Big Dongle jokes apparently are at conferences like this is not an indication of how much she overreacted but how really warped tech shit is away from totally standard business practices that normalize not sexualizing everything and keep workplaces accessible.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:27 PM on March 20, 2013 [36 favorites]


Is this actually a fact?

The assertion that there's no sexual innuendo involved in forking jokes is like the assertion that BSG's "frack" does not in the least resemble the same common expletive. There seems to be no dispute that there was a succession of stupid sexualized puns that are inappropriate in professional environments. Pretending that these words do not exist in the context of a sexist culture is approaching this situation in bad faith.

Using your power as a tech media professional in ways that, as a tech media professional you almost certainly know will cause disproportionate harm isn't cool either.
posted by mobunited at 4:28 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I realized I had to do something or she would never have the chance to learn and love programming because the ass clowns behind me would make it impossible for her to do so.

This seriously made me fucking cringe.

I somehow executed the elusive cringe-eyeroll-snort triplet on exactly that line too. Also... she's calling them 'assclowns'? By her own rational, does this make her a homophobe or something ridiculous as well? Count me among those that think she's a self-important fool.
posted by amorphatist at 4:29 PM on March 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


And, in semi-reversal of my "position" no one of any gender wants Beavis and Butthead sitting behind them if you're actually trying to pay attention to the presentation. But we just have a lot of hearsay so it's pretty much impossible for us to judge whether it was was 2 jokes and an entire episode of "huh uh huhuhuhuh".
posted by GuyZero at 4:29 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


In public, while representing the company at a conference.

I'm sorry, in the photo I see when I click the link I see two guys sitting in chairs in the audience. I cannot see the company booth they were sitting in while making the admittedly juvenile-seeming jokes, nor have I found the part where they went up on stage before the audience and horrified them with dongle jokes. My initial reading was that someone eavesdropping on a private conversation decided to snap a photo and subject these guys to whatever punishment the twitterverse could lay on them. Can you elucidate the part I missed where they sought to offend their captive audience? Or is this just someone seeking out something to be offended by?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:29 PM on March 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


Maybe I don't get this because I don't use Twitter, but she took the photograph and added the socon tag so the conference organizers would see it. At least, that's how she presents it in her blog post, that she was letting them know what was happening and who was doing it.

All of her followers would have seen the tweet, as would anyone who was checking for tweets using the hashtag. She certainly knew she was making the photo generally available.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:30 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have to wonder, if they "kept going and kept going", why does she only ever mention the fork and dongle lines?

Also, the next time I overhear anyone talking about Emacs, I'm gonna snap a photo of them and put it online. The shame!
posted by ymgve at 4:31 PM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm assuming none of these would be tolerated at this convention?
posted by Chuffy at 4:32 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The idea that we are "representing our employer" at all times when out in public is extremely troublesome to me. Yes, even at a professional conference.

You're being paid to be there. If you made a dirty joke in the hallway at the office and a visiting VIP took offense when he overheard, yeah, your job might be in jeopardy. So it is with a conference - employer's dime, employer's time, employer's rules. Save it for the ride back to the hotel, don't embarrass your outfit with unprofessional behavior.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:32 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I realized I had to do something or she would never have the chance to learn and love programming because the ass clowns behind me would make it impossible for her to do so.

Oh fucking puke.

I'm sorry if your reaction to some people being irritating had unintended side effects and it's all gotten a bit big, but seriously, you do the exact same shit and have not made the future better for anyone here.
posted by Artw at 4:33 PM on March 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


There seems to be no dispute that there was a succession of stupid sexualized puns that are inappropriate in professional environments.

They guy who got fired is disputing that the forking references were sexualized, while admitting that there was a (using the singular) dongle joke made:

While I did make a big dongle joke about a fictional piece hardware that identified as male, no sexual jokes were made about forking. My friends and I had decided forking someone's repo is a new form of flattery (the highest form being implementation) and we were excited about one of the presenters projects; a friend said "I would fork that guys repo" The sexual context was applied by Adria, and not us.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 4:33 PM on March 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


Shades of this thread, especially the whole "instead of talking to the person in question, grandstand to a web audience".
posted by zabuni at 4:33 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is this actually a fact?
The assertion that there's no sexual innuendo involved in forking jokes is like the assertion that BSG's "frack" does not in the least resemble the same common expletive.
I'm not asserting anything, and more importantly I'm not denying that a forking joke has sexual innuendo. I was asking about your claim that it is a fact that the jokes were sexist. Not sexual, but sexist. I was asking, is it actually a fact that they made sexist jokes? I don't even know what the jokes were, and the mere fact that they were sexual doesn't imply to me that they were necessarily sexist.

Unless I'm seriously misunderstanding you, or if you think anything with any sexual innuendo whatsoever is necessarily sexist, then I don't really see what your response has to do with anything.
posted by Flunkie at 4:33 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


"I'm assuming none of these would be tolerated at this convention?"

I should fucking hope not, Jesus.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:34 PM on March 20, 2013


When I used to work for a (UK) software company, we were told to not use the word dongle when talking to American clients because they considered it too rude and/or amusing.

It was 2005 and I was not yet an unemployed husk of a man.
posted by dng at 4:34 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


When I used to work for a (UK) software company, we were told to not use the word dongle when talking to American clients because they considered it too rude and/or amusing.

Hey, I like your pants.
posted by GuyZero at 4:36 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Really, because we were told not to mention shag carpets to you guys.
posted by found missing at 4:36 PM on March 20, 2013 [33 favorites]


While I did make a big dongle joke about a fictional piece hardware that identified as male, no sexual jokes were made about forking. My friends and I had decided forking someone's repo is a new form of flattery (the highest form being implementation) and we were excited about one of the presenters projects; a friend said "I would fork that guys repo" The sexual context was applied by Adria, and not us.

I don't think that's a fair reading of what Richards said, though. This is how she recounts the interaction:

He said he would be interested in forking the repo and continuing development.

That would have been fine until the guy next to him…

began making sexual forking jokes


She didn't object to the phrase, but to the jokes that followed after the first gentleman used the term as a compliment.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:36 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Save it for the ride back to the hotel

No - the employer probably paid the cab fare, so if the cab driver might be offended, no jokes there, either. At the hotel, which your employer is paying for, please be aware that the cleaning staff might overhear you while walking past your door, so please refrain there, too. And don't even think about cracking wise at the airport!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:36 PM on March 20, 2013 [27 favorites]


So it is with a conference - employer's dime, employer's time, employer's rules. Save it for the ride back to the hotel, don't embarrass your outfit with unprofessional behavior.

But isn't the company paying for the hotel and some gas mileage or transportation fares? So why save it for then?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:37 PM on March 20, 2013


When I used to work for a (UK) software company, we were told to not use the word dongle when talking to American clients because they considered it too rude and/or amusing.

Yeah, I know. One should never amuse Americans.
posted by Jimbob at 4:37 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"So, let me get this right. Dick jokes by women on their own Twitter = okay."

Yeah, I think that one is pretty solid. If that is her personal twitter account then yes indeed women make dick jokes on their own time too and that is totally ok. Making dick jokes in a professional environment around colleagues who are there because its how they make a living on the other hand is not ok.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:38 PM on March 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


@Chuffy
How many punks does it take to change a lightbulb?

None. Everybody knows that punk can't change anything.
lol
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 4:39 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I think that one is pretty solid. If that is her personal twitter account then yes indeed women make dick jokes on their own time too and that is totally ok. Making dick jokes in a professional environment around colleagues who are there because its how they make a living on the other hand is not ok.

Agree. I don't even get the hypocrisy, unless you assume she is a prude and is anti-sex. Apparently she's not so maybe there's some other reason she had a problem with a litany of dick jokes right in the middle of a presentation.
posted by Danila at 4:40 PM on March 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


But isn't the company paying for the hotel and some gas mileage or transportation fares? So why save it for then?

Because then you are around colleagues that you know and whose sense of humor you presumably understand, so you know that you all think dongle jokes are funny but take it easy on pope jokes because Ron is weirdly devout and also nothing to do with zebras, Jen had an unfortunate birthday party at a zoo as a child and she's still traumatized.

But when you're in public, you don't know where where people's sensitivities lie and you do know that a non-zero percentage of people are touchy about sex jokes.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 4:40 PM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


But isn't the company paying for the hotel and some gas mileage or transportation fares? So why save it for then?

Good point. I know of a sales goon who got into a ton of trouble for cracking racist jokes at a cab driver's expense while he was in the cab.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:40 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


somewhere, a software engineer named peter dongle has had a hard life.
posted by echocollate at 4:40 PM on March 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


So is this just the thing where the person on stage happens to say something that sounds rude, in this case "big dongles" and you just repeat it to your friend and giggle?
It's silly, but it's not something to get all crazy about. This would be a pretty horrible world without the silly people, believe me.
posted by w0mbat at 4:41 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not asserting anything, and more importantly I'm not denying that a forking joke has sexual innuendo. I was asking about your claim that it is a fact that the jokes were sexist. Not sexual, but sexist. I was asking, is it actually a fact that they made sexist jokes? I don't even know what the jokes were, and the mere fact that they were sexual doesn't imply to me that they were necessarily sexist.

If I were to walk into my office and talk about my dick and how much I enjoy its capacity to bring orgasm without referring to the gender or even existence of a partner, it would still be sexist, because we live in a culture where a man talking about these things in from of women in a professional environment exists in the context of creepy power relations, instead of a blank-slate 24th century holodeck amidst utopia.

It occurs to me, as a sidebar to this conversation, that this means that in allegedly post sexist Star Tre: TNG, people would freely talk about dicks, vulvas, alien genetalia and getting it on all the time, because there would be no creepy power relations.

Riker especially.
posted by mobunited at 4:41 PM on March 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


Can we stop treating this like an offense against borders, with stupid hypotheticals about whether or not the cabbie is offended while your employer is paying? That's not the point. The point is that if you're going to gamble on humour that could offend someone, even unreasonably, in a context where offending someone has consequences, then you're gambling and have to eat the loss if you lose. Don't want to risk it? Don't gamble. Know your audience. Don't whine about hitting snake eyes.

I've been through a few arguments about incidents like these on HN, and between the high minded idiocy there (and some of it here), and the reaction Adria's getting for calling out behaviour that she shouldn't have to tolerate, it all just demonstrates that people like Adria need to do shit like this to move our collective window of acceptable behaviour. Call me when we have gender parity in tech, and I'll agree that women should put up with Beavis and Butthead sitting behind them.
posted by fatbird at 4:42 PM on March 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


I was in a farmers' market this weekend and this one 20-something kid points to a huge daikon and says to another 20-something kid, "Dude, that's what mine looks like." I think part of being a good and responsible feminist, and having some success dealing with a still male-dominated world and the whole rape culture thing, is recognizing what is actually a threat and what is just ignorance and stupidity and an opportunity for re-education. These guys are ignorant and stupid and deserved a glare and maybe a small-scale public calling out by nearby audience members. That would have made them think twice the next time, in my opinion. They didn't deserve internet infamy or unemployment.

As for the daikon kid, I rolled my eyes and laughed inwardly at him and then moved on to the mangoes, which were three for $2.00.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:42 PM on March 20, 2013 [35 favorites]


I think the problem is not the "representing your employer" issue-- it's pretty clear, in my opinion, that they are. It's more the "unsubstantiated claim from an entirely third party" issue. If they had made this statement at the mic during a session, I would support the employer firing them. Or, if a woman within the company had reported this private comment to HR, and they did an investigation, I would support the employer firing them. This is just a random third party; I have very little doubt that her account is false, but the implications of the employer accepting it at face value concern me nonetheless, for workers' rights in general. I suspect that if the company did an investigation and talked to their own female employees, similar anecdotes might arise, on the basis of which I would support a firing.
posted by threeants at 4:43 PM on March 20, 2013


Know your audience.

She was not the audience of the discussion at hand.

I'll be the first to say that if a presenter had cracked these jokes then that would be right out.
posted by GuyZero at 4:43 PM on March 20, 2013


If I were to walk into my office and talk about my dick and how much I enjoy its capacity to bring orgasm without referring to the gender or even existence of a partner, it would still be sexist

Well since these men didn't walk into Adria's office and start talking to her about their dicks, then I agree with you that this was not sexist.
posted by amorphatist at 4:43 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


is recognizing what is actually a threat and what is just ignorance and stupidity and an opportunity for re-education.


This X1000.


If I posted every time a human said something dumb/sexist/offensive at my bartending job...
posted by gcbv at 4:44 PM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


The backlash against Political Correctness did, and does, more damage to liberal and political interests than most people want to admit.
posted by effugas at 4:46 PM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Well since these men didn't walk into Adria's office and start talking to her about their dicks, then I agree with you that this was not sexist.

Certainly, just in the same way anti-voter fraud laws are in no way racist, ever.
posted by mobunited at 4:47 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hope nobody offered to buy her a drink.
posted by Chuffy at 4:47 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


She was not the audience of the discussion at hand.

If she can hear you, she's your audience. I don't get a pass for telling racist jokes in a line-up because the black guy in front of me isn't part of my party.
posted by fatbird at 4:48 PM on March 20, 2013 [20 favorites]


So by that policy mentioned above, all the women should be wearing head coverings, and be segregated from the men, lest some Islamic men attending the conference are offended.

You're offended? I don't care.

Giving people the right to shut other people up who offend them is worse than letting those people be offended, I think.
posted by smcameron at 4:49 PM on March 20, 2013 [23 favorites]


is recognizing what is actually a threat and what is just ignorance and stupidity and an opportunity for re-education.

Is everybody automatically ignorant and stupid for making silly banter with a friend without first checking for the presence of ReEdukators in the vicinity? Jeebus.
posted by amorphatist at 4:50 PM on March 20, 2013 [17 favorites]


If she called out speech because it was made at a conference, that's one thing. The line between private conversation and public speech is ambiguous these days, and it's a fair point that these men may have indirectly been representing their employers, even when having a private conversation.

But if she was calling them out because she didn't like other people who happened to be men making dick jokes in private, then it is also fair to call her a hypocrite when she makes her own demeaning dick jokes, especially when made by a public relations staffer (I assume that's what technology evangelist means these days) on a public forum.

People have been fired over much less by employers for what they post to their personal Facebook page, so in the interest of fairness, perhaps her own public speech should also not be under any less scrutiny given the strict standards she applies — and what we seem to apply — to others.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:52 PM on March 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


Pardon me if I'm missing something here. Two people were, essentially, giggling over the silly words "fork" and "dongle," and this is worth firing someone over? What the hell?! Are we supposed to police all personal conversations to meet the standards of an interview or first date? This is just bullying masked as prudery.
posted by pleurodirous at 4:53 PM on March 20, 2013 [35 favorites]


Atheism Plus approves of this righteous purging of the wrongspeaking undesirables.
posted by Decani at 4:53 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


But things like "stand back or the foul ball will ruin your pretty smile" are sexist. Is "Huh huh huh, he said 'Big dongle'" sexist? I grant it's obviously sexual.
posted by Flunkie at 4:57 PM on March 20, 2013


Here's what I had to say on a different forum; Here is the guy's perspective, i.e., the guy who's picture she took and published on the internet.

For the record, he was a dad, with three kids, who is now unemployed in a state with high unemployment, all because she overheard something, and didn't realize it was an inside joke and felt justified by the word "dongle" to publicly humiliate him and subsequently put his children at risk.

For the record; I am a woman. I've been in tech since the 80s, when I was a semiconductor broker. I've subsequently been on the forefront of a lot of tech waves, led many tech teams, and launched a couple of well known IPOs during the dot.com boom. I've published numerous things about women in tech, and have been a member of Systers for almost 25 years. Just putting that out there to establish that I know a little something about the tech field and being a woman in it. I also grew up in a racing family, and was the founder of a comic book publishing company, so I know a little bit about how sexism works in the world outside of tech.

I believe that what Adria did was both an overreaction, and in the long term, a damaging thing for other women who attend conferences. I'm not suggesting that women should tolerate sexism, but it's also ridiculous to publicly humiliate and destroy the career of someone who wasn't even speaking TO her. She didn't know if she misheard it, she didn't know it was an inside joke, she didn't bother to follow the rules she so happily waves about, by asking them to stop. And this nonsense of "having her experience invalidated" is just poppycock. It's a public conference. If she heard it, other people heard it. If nobody else heard it, she didn't hear what she thought she heard, and there's nothing to invalidate.

And she didn't do a damn thing about the guy who actually said sexist stuff TO HER.

Again; I don't have a problem with her going to the conference people, if that's what she feels like she needs to do because she's too delicate a flower to ask some goofy geek to shut the hell up. What I have a problem with is that she broadcast his picture to the internet with full malice aforethought. She destroyed a man's life and is crowing about what a good thing she's done, because how dare he make a joke about dongles in a room where she might overhear it.

This wasn't a "win" for women in tech. No woman feels safer because of this. Nobody feels more empowered because of this, except maybe her. Nobody has had their lives or the conference experiences enhanced by this. This wasn't a win for anyone but Adria and her cheerleaders.

Sexism is real. Sexism is a problem in tech. This wasn't sexism. This was a pearl-clutching excuse to grab attention.
posted by dejah420 at 4:58 PM on March 20, 2013 [211 favorites]


Are we supposed to police all personal conversations to meet the standards of an interview or first date?

Oh come off it, who doesn't talk about their genitals on a first date? I mean, would it at least be ok to ask if the other person has brought theirs?
posted by amorphatist at 4:59 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry mudpuppie but I really disagree that she was in the wrong because she didn't make a scene in the middle of the presentation to "re-educate" entitled jerks. 9 times out of 10 they never listen and now you've made a scene. And in this situation you cannot at all, AT ALL, be assured that you'll have the support of other people in the vicinity or the conference organizers. Here, look at the response to what you said, and you're criticizing her:

Is everybody automatically ignorant and stupid for making silly banter with a friend without first checking for the presence of ReEdukators in the vicinity?


See what I'm saying? A lot of people will consider the person who is making the scene to be the one out of line. Political correctness gone mad! A prude! Radical feminist taking away all our fun!

I get that the real sin is supposedly embarrassing them in public. By publicly tweeting all the relevant information, including the code of conduct reminder, to the conference organizers, she accomplished a number of things. First, she let them know what was going on and who was doing it so they could act on it. But a lot of conferences have not been acting on their own codes of conduct, it's been a big deal. So she was publicly putting the ball in their court and if they did nothing and let the hostile environment continue then others would know about it. It wouldn't just be her suffering in silence and why should it be?

And these weren't teenagers, they were grown men who I think should know better than to crack a bunch of sex jokes in the middle of a presentation at a professional conference. But apparently many many many men do not know better, just look at this thread and the comments at other sites.

Now, if anyone got fired I don't really have an opinion on that other than she didn't contact their employers and that's really not her responsibility. If firing someone was overboard then the employer went overboard, not her.
posted by Danila at 4:59 PM on March 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


Why do we need to make jokes about big penises at a software developer conference? We don't.

Exactly. Nor do we need them anywhere else for that matter.

The way I see this is, at one point or another we've all been forced by whatever frustration we're experiencing to embark upon a stupidly righteous quest to draw a line in the sand, kick over a few tables, and Right All the Wrongs. Usually, these things are shielded in enough obscurity so that we can easily walk away from them to later reflect upon our actions and choose our battles more carefully in the future, but this one was unfortunate enough to have been documented on the Internet. I don't blame her for doing what she did, but I think it could have been handled better.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 4:59 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Know your audience.

It seems as though Richards did, when she took the photo, posted it to Twitter and asked for the PyCon staff to come to where she was sitting and talk to the guys. When the staff arrived, they talked to Richards privately, outside in a hall, and then indicated to her that they wanted to pull the guys out of the talk. She pointed them out, they were asked to leave the main hall. Richards returned to her seat.

It doesn't seem as though anyone talked to the guys about what happened, they were just asked to leave the main hall and one was later fired. A better solution would have been for Richards to ask the guys to knock it off and if they persisted, then asked PyConn staff to deal with them. She should not have taken their photo and publicly posted it. That puts a particular mark on those men, one that is hard to professionally shake and seems undeserved.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:01 PM on March 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


She didn't object to the phrase, but to the jokes that followed after the first gentleman used the term as a compliment.

I think you're misinterpreting what the guy is saying. He's saying there weren't any sexual jokes made, that the only jokes made were in reference to this little "forking = flattery" silliness the group was coining. He's saying that Richards misinterpreted those jokes as being sexual. And from the example he cites ("I would fork that guys repo"), that seems plausible.

In other words, he's saying that Richards totally misinterpreted a series of jokes—which can happen, when you're listening to parts of other people's conversations. He admits making "a comment about big dongles," and he apologizes for that comment. But he also notes:
My second comment is this, Adria has an audience and is a successful person of the media. Just check out her web page linked in her twitter account, her hard work and social activism speaks for itself. With that great power and reach comes responsibility. As a result of the picture she took I was let go from my job today. Which sucks because I have 3 kids and I really liked that job.

She gave me no warning, she smiled while she snapped the pic and sealed my fate. Let this serve as a message to everyone, our actions and words, big or small, can have a serious impact.
That seems like part of the story worth hearing.
posted by cribcage at 5:02 PM on March 20, 2013 [23 favorites]


Danila, they DIDN'T crack sex jokes in the middle of the conference; that's what is so infuriating about this.
posted by dejah420 at 5:05 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Exactly. Nor do we need them anywhere else for that matter.

Yeah! Shakespeare out of schools now.
posted by logicpunk at 5:05 PM on March 20, 2013 [18 favorites]


Is everybody automatically ignorant and stupid for making silly banter with a friend without first checking for the presence of ReEdukators in the vicinity?

See what I'm saying? A lot of people will consider the person who is making the scene to be the one out of line. Political correctness gone mad! A prude! Radical feminist taking away all our fun!


FYI, that comment was specifically in reference to the kid at the farmers market sanctimony, not the conference incident.
posted by amorphatist at 5:05 PM on March 20, 2013


I looked at the picture and I couldn't see any women in it. I know there are women there, but I was at a developer conference recently and the ratio was like 10:1, generously. Probably wider than that, in some specialties. And that's not a matter of intelligence; that's a culture problem of women being systematically excluded, deliberately and inadvertently, for generations. Plus looking at photos of her, it appears she is a woman of color. At the con I attended, virtually every attendee was white or Asian. So in one way she's among her group, but in most other ways, very alone. I think most women would be reluctant to confront a couple of dick-joking bros in a roomful of bros - that sounds like a situation that could turn hostile very quickly. I don't think it's her job to enforce the con's standards of behavior, especially if they were established specifically for the purpose of making such events less hostile and more inclusive.
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:07 PM on March 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


i generally don't feel it's appropriate to even acknowledge the existence of sex in a workplace environment but that doesn't have anything to do with my gender or that of my co-workers
posted by rap and country at 5:07 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The idea that this would be considered harassment makes me want to throw up. People who really harass women know exactly how to get away with it. Making a dick joke might be in bad taste, but it saddens my heart to even think that it might be put in the same category as some of the legitimate harassment that I and other women have experienced, harassment intended to sexually manipulate and destroy.

Misogyny should be unacceptable, but bawdy jokes and a matter of taste. I am alarmed that the hacker environment is becoming increasingly repressed and corporate.
posted by melissam at 5:08 PM on March 20, 2013 [18 favorites]


Danila, they DIDN'T crack sex jokes in the middle of the conference; that's what is so infuriating about this.

Okay. That's what the guy who was cracking sex jokes and is now really mad at the consequences had to say. Why do you take his word for it? And why do you use so much sexist language in the process. Pearl-clutching delicate flower, really??
posted by Danila at 5:09 PM on March 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


This seems like that rare "Three wrongs also don't make a right" sort of story.
posted by klangklangston at 5:09 PM on March 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


I tend to agree that these guys shouldn't have made jokes about dongles in public, whether or not they were representing anyone. In public means within earshot of strangers, and those strangers can overhear you without making any special effort.

About 10 years back I was out at a restaurant with my then girlfriend and another couple. My girlfriend at the time was a much more obnoxious drunk than I was. We got into a discussion about a specific part of the female anatomy. I don't think there was anything sexist about it, I believe she was giving out tips and tricks or something, just kinda loud. The other couple seemed mortified.

Later they told us that our banter had upset a family behind us. Parents and two little kids. Never mind that the kids were out at like 11pm. Never mind that we didn't even know the kids were there. Never mind we weren't speaking to them. We were in a public place, anyone could have been around, as is their right.

Should she have creepshotted them? no absolutely not.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:10 PM on March 20, 2013


"I'm assuming none of these would be tolerated at this convention?"

I should fucking hope not, Jesus.


(emphasis mine)

From the link:
A piece of string walks into a bar. The bartender says, "We don't serve string here." The string walks out, ties himself into a clove hitch, rubs himself against the sidewalk a few times, then goes back into the bar. Bartender says, "Aren't you the piece of string that was just in here?" The string says, "No, I'm afraid not."
Can I ask why this joke would cause this sort of reaction in you?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:11 PM on March 20, 2013


God damn it ya'll. THERE WERE NO DICK JOKES. She made the dick joke thing up out of whole cloth when she heard the word dongle. And I don't know a single person in tech who hasn't made a dongle joke. It's a funny word. She was mostly upset about the "fork" joke; which is to say, she as a "developer evangelist" whatever the fuck that is, doesn't know the first thing about code jokes.
posted by dejah420 at 5:11 PM on March 20, 2013 [22 favorites]


IMO, the guys' real offense was that they were talking during a presentation instead of paying attention and not distracting others. STFU, the people around you want to hear what the speaker is saying.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:15 PM on March 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


[This is not an appropriate place to drag tasteless jokes over from other websites. ]
posted by jessamyn at 5:15 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


i generally don't feel it's appropriate to even acknowledge the existence of sex in a workplace environment

Holy moly. I can't tell if that's meant to be a satirical exaggeration of "Political Correctness run maaaad!" or if you really mean that. If you do really mean it then, no, that's just nuts. If we were to take "acknowledging the existence of sex" as a meaningful standard for what counts as creating a hostile work environment we would be treating women as if they were the childish innocents of Victorian children's fiction.
posted by yoink at 5:16 PM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Ultimately, this is about political correctness, and PC has to be used correctly. When PC is used to keep people from being slyly racist or sexist or using dogwhistles, that's a good thing. When PC is used to make everyone into a humorless, sexless android, that's a bad thing. Everyone hates that, and the resulting backlash hurts the more worthwhile uses of PC and causes more racism and sexism in the world. This is clearly the second kind, and all it's going to do is make enemies of people who would otherwise be against sexism.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:16 PM on March 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


And Danila, I'm upset because I've spent almost 30 years of my life fighting REAL sexism in tech. Like being asked to go get coffee for the team, when I'm the team leader, like being asked to promote a man over a woman because "he's a provider and she's going to get married", like seeing contemporaries make less money because they have boobs.

I'm furious when people take the fight I've been fighting for all these years, and turn it in to "I"m gonna have someone thrown out of a conference, and publicly shame them for the rest of their lives because I don't like what they said, even though I didn't hear the whole conversation, I don't understand the inside joke". She's the one who said "Oh, I didn't want my experience invalidated, so I couldn't say anything to them, I have to get a protector to do it for me." Which is, from my perspective, and the perspective of a lot of tech women near the 50 year mark, is what she did.

Seriously, if you can't turn around in a tech conference and shush someone, if you smile at them while you take their picture so you can publicly humiliate them; you're not fighting sexism, you're an attention seeker and a bully who uses other people to do your dirty work.
posted by dejah420 at 5:17 PM on March 20, 2013 [104 favorites]


Pardon me if I'm missing something here. Two people were, essentially, giggling over the silly words "fork" and "dongle," and this is worth firing someone over? What the hell?! Are we supposed to police all personal conversations to meet the standards of an interview or first date? This is just bullying masked as prudery.

"Bullying masked as prudery" encapsulates my queasy feelings about this and a bunch of quasi-similar PC teacup storms (dickwolves, desborough).
posted by Sebmojo at 5:18 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


But things like "stand back or the foul ball will ruin your pretty smile" are sexist. Is "Huh huh huh, he said 'Big dongle'" sexist? I grant it's obviously sexual.
Did the comment I was responding to here disappear?
posted by Flunkie at 5:18 PM on March 20, 2013


I had something long and poorly-written, but dejah420 said it much better. There was no reason to publish that picture - she took it and could've shown it to PyCon staff when they responded to her. Instead, she used to it enable her own self-righteous actions, and now creating a safe tech environment for women is more difficult because someone tomorrow will invariably ask me, "Did you hear about that feminist who got that guy fired for saying the word 'dongle'?" and I have to sort-of defend her actions and sort-of criticize them, but the end result is that another dude will think that all feminists are out to get him.
posted by antonymous at 5:19 PM on March 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


Did the comment I was responding to here disappear?

Yes, the commenter asked us to remove it.
posted by jessamyn at 5:20 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


ok, so the guy got fired over a dongle joke - but h r people will be googling his name and this probably won't come up

now adria will eventually want to move on to another job - and h r people will be googling her name and this WILL come up

gee, i wonder how that's going to work out

she overreacted in the most public grandstanding way possible

would you want to take a chance on someone like that?
posted by pyramid termite at 5:20 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think one potential backlash from this is that people might take real complaints about real sexism at conferences (e.g. the infamous "Perform like a Pron star" debacle) and the real ways in which women are maginalized in the tech industry less seriously.

Admittedly, I'm a dude, so I have a different perspective, but "dongle" is a funny word and anyone who has heard the phrase "forking the repo" in context has thought "Heh. Forking the repo" at least once. This seems like pretty small beer in the offense scale. This isn't sexism so much as "acting like a five year old". I try to be very sensitive to this (as a straight, white male, I pretty much don't fall into the minority classification from any direction), but this seems to be something that could be resolved with a glare or a "Keep it down, kids".
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 5:22 PM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Keep in mind the word "dongle" is itself not a neutral, serious word, but was intentionally coined as a penis joke:

"The word is most likely a blend of dong and dangle, as it can resemble a penis that hangs off a computer."
posted by dgaicun at 5:23 PM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


The man who was fired responds in one of the HN threads:
Unfortunately in this case there were more downsides than could have been predicted. I personally helped recruit 2 young women over the course of the weekend who were looking for junior/intern positions. They both seemed very passionate about development and well qualified. Before I lost access to my corporate account I was able to get one of their resumes to my manager but I'm afraid the other might have gone down with my inbox. I've been imploring my boss to forward my address or look into my closed account to see if he can find her response. I know how hard it was for me when I was first starting out, how scary it can be, you're putting yourself out there hoping someone will see just how awesome you are. I can only imagine it's more difficult coming in as a minority to the field.
So, still feeling pretty conflicted about each accounting of the story.
posted by boo_radley at 5:23 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


IMO, the guys' real offense was that they were talking during a presentation instead of paying attention and not distracting others. STFU, the people around you want to hear what the speaker is saying.

If she got some rude jerks to shut up instead of this mess then I'd be all for giving her a medal.
posted by Artw at 5:24 PM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


"I would fork that guys repo"

If it is a sexual joke, and it sure looks like one to me no matter what he says, it's interesting that a joke about desiring sex with another man is at the heart of this.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:24 PM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Oh holy shit! She is employed by the spamming outfit SendGrid! Just gets better and better!
  SendGrid Raises $5 Million, Sends A Bajillion E-mails
  Email is still hot: Why SendGrid got $21M in VC funds
Worse, a spammer based on Microsoft products.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:26 PM on March 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


Obviously, their first mistake was attending a python conference!
posted by blue_beetle at 5:27 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


"And she didn't do a damn thing about the guy who actually said sexist stuff TO HER.

Again; I don't have a problem with her going to the conference people, if that's what she feels like she needs to do because she's too delicate a flower to ask some goofy geek to shut the hell up. What I have a problem with is that she broadcast his picture to the internet with full malice aforethought. She destroyed a man's life and is crowing about what a good thing she's done, because how dare he make a joke about dongles in a room where she might overhear it.
"

I think part of that is that she seems to have underreacted in the moment, and then responded by overreacting the next time.

"Why do you take his word for it?"

Why are you taking her word for it? (The rational thing seems to be saying that we can't really know what happened there, at least without further information, so basing speculations upon particular interpretations isn't going to lead us anywhere but increasingly fantastic Rashamons.)
posted by klangklangston at 5:27 PM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


i generally don't feel it's appropriate to even acknowledge the existence of sex in a workplace environment

And that's exactly what some of us fear that you hope to achieve.
posted by amorphatist at 5:27 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


"I would fork that guys repo"

If it is a sexual joke, and it sure looks like one to me no matter what he says,


I'm totally ignorant about the technical side of this, but doesn't the term also have a real, literal meaning? I mean, how are we to know which level of meaning is in play here? Like, if I said to you "would you grab my dongle for me" I'm obviously handing you the mother of all straight lines, but I could simply be saying "my hands are full, will you pick up that USB drive that's sitting on the desk for me, please."
posted by yoink at 5:28 PM on March 20, 2013


[Folks. Seriously chill out, quit being nasty to each other, and talk about the topic of the thread.]
posted by jessamyn at 5:28 PM on March 20, 2013


schoolgirl report: "I don't want to live in a world where geeks at a geek conference can't joke about big dongles."

And show slides of half naked women, right?

Here's the thing - geek asshole male bullshit is damaging as a whole - it DOES make women feel unwelcome in general. Maybe this instance is a bit silly, I honestly can't judge. I saw the photo - the look in the guys eyes, come on tell me he's not purposefully trying to troll?

So my link above - that's about Ruby on Rails. I don't know the current situation in Rubyland, but for quite a while there was a sharp dichotomy with what happened there and how Python decided to proceed. As pointed out above, they have an explicit stance on this issue. One of the reasons (I believe, though I could be wrong) is due to the specific RoR conference episode. Regardless, Python was supposed to be different and tolerant, it was supposed to make people feel welcome.

So maybe, maybe this one little joke isn't a "big deal", just like a bunch of dudes sitting in an office making jokes around a woman about sex (not about her, even, just sex in general, acting like fucking 12 year old children) isn't an environment that makes for a healthy workplace and makes the woman generally feel uncomfortable (and especially if the power dynamics are such that she feels less empowered than the rest of the people in that office)... This it the point. I won't make exact parallels to "rape culture" but there's a time and place to act like fucking children. Grow the fuck up. Wanna hang out in some place that's not a PROFESSIONAL CONFERENCE and be a childish dick? Then fine, whatevs. I mean, depending on who's around, probably something you should think about, too, as well. I mean, you don't go fucking swearing around little 2 year old kids if you can help it, do you?

Point being, just because it's not specifically targeted AT you doesn't mean that you, as a member of a certain class, aren't feeling violated.

In the end, these dicks broke the rules, and there should be no problem for them paying the consequences.

However...

I also believe that perhaps an automatic firing *might* be overboard if the individual in question was talked to, and clearly understood why what they did could be upsetting to someone of the opposite gender and hopefully get at least a little glimpse of how the power dynamics of social gender structures happen.

Fuck, why do I expect more of Metafilter than I sometimes get.
posted by symbioid at 5:30 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


"Folks"? Sounds dirty to me...
posted by Jimbob at 5:30 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


this reminds me of the creepshot thread. you have a person doing or being a certain way in public, and it can be observed by someone else within a certain distance. the doing or being is not directed at another particular person, but they take a picture anyway, post it on the internet and add cometary, all without consulting the subject of the picture.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:31 PM on March 20, 2013


What would have made this situation even "better" would be if the fired person was here on a H1 visa, thus resulting in him being de-facto deported upon being fired from his job. It could have happened.
posted by GuyZero at 5:31 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


"I was going to let it go. It had been a long week. A long month. I’d been on the road since mid February attending and speaking at conferences. PyCon was my 5th and final conference before heading home."
Ah, the 'extremely tired' defense for the way I reacted. Paging Mr. Holden Karnofsky. Please pick up a white courtesy phone. Mr. Holden Karnofsky.
posted by ericb at 5:32 PM on March 20, 2013


"Can I ask why this joke would cause this sort of reaction in you?"

Apparently not, though it might help to read the rest of the jokes.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:33 PM on March 20, 2013


yoink, I don't particularly buy that they used it as a form of flattery in the manner described without a wink to the double meaning. It just doesn't seem likely to me. Could be wrong.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:33 PM on March 20, 2013


Here's the thing - geek asshole male bullshit is damaging as a whole - it DOES make women feel unwelcome in general.

Yes. Absolutely.

Maybe this instance is a bit silly, I honestly can't judge.

Maybe it is. Maybe it isn't. Indeed, it is difficult to judge.

I saw the photo - the look in the guys eyes, come on tell me he's not purposefully trying to troll?

Ok, seriously, now you're projecting.
posted by GuyZero at 5:33 PM on March 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


God damn it ya'll. THERE WERE NO DICK JOKES.

The guy appears to admit that he made one:
Hi, I'm the guy who made a comment about big dongles. First of all I'd like to say I'm sorry. I really did not mean to offend anyone and I really do regret the comment and how it made Adria feel. She had every right to report me to staff, and I defend her position. However, there is another side to this story. While I did make a big dongle joke about a fictional piece hardware that identified as male, no sexual jokes were made about forking.
Now, he's admitting to making one inappropriate joke, and he then goes on to explain that Richards misinterpreted another series of jokes as sexual when they actually weren't. Still, if we're being accurate we can't really claim there were "no" dick jokes. Both sides admit there was at least one.
posted by cribcage at 5:34 PM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm at PyCon right now. Out of respect for a whole bunch of stuff, I'm just going to say this.

My first PyCon was 7 years ago. It was in Dallas. There were perhaps a handful of women there.

In the ensuing seven years, a lot of dedicated people who I feel privileged to know have put in unbelievable amounts of work. It started with a diversity effort that produced a positive statement. It evolved into a code of conduct, officially adopted by the conference, and the sponsoring foundation adopting a requirement for any conference it sponsors to do the same. It evolved into people trained to respond to and handle incidents. It evolved into a pledge by a ton of high-profile people in the community, to refuse to attend or sponsor any conference that doesn't have a code of conduct and incident-handling procedures in place. It evolved into outreach and diversity efforts and financial aid and grants to organizations that try to improve the diversity of not just the conference but of the broader community.

At PyCon this year, 20% of the attendees, at a conference dedicated to an open-source programming language, were women. At PyCon this year there were around $100k in financial-aid grants to help people attend. At PyCon this year there was a charity auction, organized on the spur of the moment, that raised $10,000 for PyLadies, an organization dedicated to getting women more involved in programming and in Python.

At PyCon this year there was a two-day workshop full of kids -- boys and girls -- who got to learn some basics of programming for free. At PyCon this year there were 2500+ Raspberry Pi kits on hand, given free to every attendee and the remainder donated to schools and outreach programs.

I'm not really going to comment on this incident, and I think all that can usefully be said about it has been said about it.

I am going to say that if you find you have some energy and would like to help make things better, you could do a lot worse than to look into those things I just mentioned and maybe help them out or promote them. We are far from what the ideal would be, but so far these things actually seem to be working, at least a little bit.
posted by ubernostrum at 5:34 PM on March 20, 2013 [36 favorites]


I should also point out that as my roommate and I were discussing this, we don't think that intergender discussions about sex in the office are strictly verboten. It's all about circumstances. It's about knowing who it is you're talking to. The two secretaries that are younger like me and I could talk about sex generally - I try to make sure not to get too offensive, but in general, it's ok. My boss making his stupid ass Archie Bunker comments is bad enough in front of me as a dude, and it's most certainly not ok when women are around.

So there's a lot of factors here. I don't want to say nobody should ever make a dick joke (fuck I'm the guy who makes genocide jokes and abortion jokes, so...) But context is important. That's all. It's quite possible this wasn't handled in the most appropriate way, but to say she had no right at all to feel uncomfortable or upset by the behavior of the individuals involved strikes me like a lot of right-wing attitudes towards liberals in general "OH come on, we're just jooooooooking. Lighten up!" etc..
posted by symbioid at 5:35 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


symbioid: "schoolgirl report: "I don't want to live in a world where geeks at a geek conference can't joke about big dongles."

And show slides of half naked women, right?
"

Hey, maybe don't put words in people's mouths.
posted by boo_radley at 5:35 PM on March 20, 2013 [22 favorites]


The walls have ears
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:36 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


If we believe what the guy says.

While I did make a big dongle joke about a fictional piece hardware that identified as male, no sexual jokes were made about forking

So yeah, one possible way to interpret the joke is the dongle is the fictional piece of hardware's dick. That is really the only way the joke is funny at all I think. The guys are not entirely blameless.I don't think it is unreasonable to characterize it as a dick joke.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:36 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I may play armchair shrink briefly, I'd suspect that working for a spammy outfit like SendGrid^ really helps explain the sociopathic quality in her blog post and behavior. Just imagine cognitive dissonance working there.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:36 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


This is weird to me: I was happy to see this posted here because it popped up on reddit first and the response there is so unrelentingly SOUND THE HORN FOR THE DEFENSE OF WHITE MALE PRIVILEGE that I was hoping for a bit more nuance here.

If I may play armchair shrink briefly, I'd suspect that working for a spammy outfit like SendGrid really helps explain the sociopathic quality in her blog post

You're fucking fired. No offense.
posted by yerfatma at 5:37 PM on March 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


These guys could at least have been joking about having big pythons or pypys or something. Also, no play on Richards from anyone? Come on! "Hard" is even in the etymology.
posted by michaelh at 5:39 PM on March 20, 2013


There has been plenty of nuance here. What there hasn't necessarily been is universal agreement with any position.
posted by Justinian at 5:40 PM on March 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Just to follow up: the SendGrid comments are the really insidious kind of shit that happens in male tech crowds: it's not that I'm judging her because she's a dumb emotional girl, I'm judging her because she works at a company I don't like because they use a technology I don't like (for no good reason because technologies are just tools) but really I just like to look down my nose at everyone because of my own insecurities and I can't be arsed to realize that bothers people and leads to making them feel unwanted. And if they happen to be part of a marginalized group, well, fuck them, they need to get a helmet because I'm not judge-mental.

Now THAT'S armchair psychology!
posted by yerfatma at 5:40 PM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


So what exactly is an evangelist? Is it a coder, or is it some kind of marketing droid?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:41 PM on March 20, 2013


Are we allowed a middle ground where we'd like tech dudes to conduct themselves in a manner that doesn't alienate and make female colleagues uneasy, but we're still opposed to Trial By Twitter, when a person could, you know, turn around and tell them to knock it off?
posted by DirtyOldTown at 5:41 PM on March 20, 2013 [68 favorites]


There has been plenty of nuance here

Sorry, poorly put on my part (especially given my total lack of nuance). I was looking for less "Bitch be cray".
posted by yerfatma at 5:41 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Marketing droid.
posted by Jimbob at 5:41 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why are you taking her word for it? (The rational thing seems to be saying that we can't really know what happened there, at least without further information, so basing speculations upon particular interpretations isn't going to lead us anywhere but increasingly fantastic Rashamons.)

Well I take her word that she thought she heard these guys telling a bunch of sex jokes in the middle of the conference presentation. And...they were telling sex jokes, the only dispute is on how many they told (and how many were just "regular" jokes, no dispute that they were telling a bunch of jokes).

I don't see this as being like a creepshot. She took the picture right in front of their faces. He smiled for the camera. That's the opposite of the creepshot. Not a creepshot, not a sociopath bullying with malicious intent, goodness. She'd been friendly with the guys just moments before things started going downhill.

I see sexist language being thrown at her (here at Metafilter, and much worse elsewhere). I see the standard diatribes against political correctness and oversensitive women ruining it for all women because of how men will react. These appear in every single thread, every single thread, on sexism especially with regard to these conferences.
posted by Danila at 5:42 PM on March 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


Marketing droid.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:43 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


People who really harass women know exactly how to get away with it. Making a dick joke might be in bad taste, but it saddens my heart to even think that it might be put in the same category as some of the legitimate harassment that I and other women have experienced, harassment intended to sexually manipulate and destroy.

I'm concerned that the huge reaction to this event will subtly discourage other women from reporting things that make them uncomfortable at future tech conferences, maybe even from reporting the kind of direct/intentional harassment that has ambiguity thrown in to confuse the target. I can imagine some people reading this event as "making a mistake in reporting can have massively heavy costs for your reputation, so it's probably best to avoid reporting".
posted by dreamyshade at 5:43 PM on March 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


So what exactly is an evangelist? Is it a coder, or is it some kind of marketing droid?

it varies. around here they're developer specifically designed to work with external developers and help them understand APIs, etc. It's developer outreach. But people use it to mean all sorts of things.
posted by GuyZero at 5:43 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, umm

Metafilter: the kind of thing where I'd wind up somehow arguing with a bunch of people whose opinions I often, broadly speaking, share.
posted by titus-g at 5:43 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


So what exactly is an evangelist? Is it a coder, or is it some kind of marketing droid?

I'd say it is closer to marketing, but with a technology slant. She would make technical arguments why her company is a better choice, be able to discuss technical capabilities, use cases and the API. I don't think she would code day to day, but would probably be able to gather or knock together some sample code.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:43 PM on March 20, 2013


Ah yes, marketing, the one group which it's still ok to hate. Like gypsies I guess.
posted by GuyZero at 5:44 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't want to live in a world where geeks at a geek conference can't joke about big dongles."

And show slides of half naked women, right?


But how are these things even remotely the same? This seems to me a tactic that has been resorted to again and again in this thread by those who want to side with Adria Richards--to jump from what actually happened to all kinds of horrible things that would obviously be utterly wrong and inappropriate and say "well, what if this had happened, should she have just stood by and said nothing then?" Well no, obviously not. But it's as if we're arguing about, to take an example I offered above, the neighbor's bratty kid smashing your Jack'o'lantern and what the appropriate response would be and you said "well, what if he'd smashed your dog's head in with a rock? Would you just turn a blind eye then? Or what if he invaded the Sudatenland and started executing millions of Jews? I guess you'd say all he needed was a good talking to, huh?"

What these guys are actually accused of by Adria Richards in her original tweet is making a "dongle" joke and a "forking a repo" joke. That's it. To each other. At a conference. Not "bragging about sexual conquests," not "joking about mail order brides," not "talking about their penises," not "showing slides of half naked women," not any of the various obviously bad and profoundly offensive things that people have felt they had to resort to in order to find some objective correlative for the OUTRAGE! OUTRAGE! they wish to convey. At some point, surely, the fact that you can't actually point at what they did in fact and expect anybody to do more than roll their eyes suggests that Adria Richards's response was overblown.

(Especially when you add in the fact that she is obviously not, in fact, particularly shocked by penis-jokes nor thinks them something that should be kept for purely private entertainment, given that she happily tweeted one--a far more graphic and explicit one--to all her thousands of followers as she was arriving at this conference, a conference which she knows that some of her twitter followers were also attending).
posted by yoink at 5:44 PM on March 20, 2013 [61 favorites]


Are we allowed a middle ground...

That's pretty much where I'm at on the whole thing. Not enough information on this particular situation for me personally.
posted by jessamyn at 5:44 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Well, if it makes anyone feel better, I'm reading mailing list threads between folks in the Ada Initiative community about this and Adria is getting significant harassment, as is her employer, over this issue. She's hardly coming out of this unscathed.
It's hard to say what level these jokes were at given what we've seen. Maybe there were trivial bits of nothing, maybe they were tediously lewd. I don't think anyone intended for anyone to get fired. The uncharitable reading of Adria here is pretty disheartening though. I expected a more nuanced discussion from metafilter, instead of "what a horrible overreacting prude".
posted by ch1x0r at 5:46 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Are we allowed a middle ground where we'd like tech dudes to conduct themselves in a manner that doesn't alienate and make their females colleagues uneasy, but we're still opposed to Trial By Twitter, when you could, you know, turn around and tell them to knock it off? - by DirtyOldTown


Yes. I'd like very much to stake out a territory there, please.
posted by dejah420 at 5:47 PM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Adria is getting significant harassment, as is her employer, over this issue

As are the conference organizers*, including phone calls to their homes. Because, y'know, reddit/ HN thinks you should know how they feel and it's not like calls to your house are intimidating or worrisome.

* I'll cop to having a dog in this fight as I used to work with one of the people tangentially affected and it's unreal how this has blown up for them.
posted by yerfatma at 5:50 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I expected a more nuanced discussion from metafilter, instead of "what a horrible overreacting prude".

Ok, how about just "overreacting"?
posted by GuyZero at 5:50 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


So does SendGrid actually do real spamming or are they just the go-to people when for example Gamefly sends me their monthly newsletter because I forgot to remove a checkmark?
posted by ymgve at 5:50 PM on March 20, 2013


The uncharitable reading of Adria here is pretty disheartening though. I expected a more nuanced discussion from metafilter, instead of "what a horrible overreacting prude".

What sort of nuanced discussion would you like to see?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:52 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


are they just the go-to people when Gamefly sends me their monthly newsletter because I forgot to remove a checkmark?

Basically. Also, forgotten password emails, receipts, etc.

I don't actually know anything about SendGrid in specific, I've just worked with ESP's before. It's a perfectly legitimate business and most companies in the space work very hard to ensure compliance to both laws and technical standards.
posted by GuyZero at 5:52 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


So maybe, maybe this one little joke isn't a "big deal", just like a bunch of dudes sitting in an office making jokes around a woman about sex (not about her, even, just sex in general, acting like fucking 12 year old children) isn't an environment that makes for a healthy workplace and makes the woman generally feel uncomfortable (and especially if the power dynamics are such that she feels less empowered than the rest of the people in that office)...

There are sexist jokes and there are jokes about sex. Jokes about sex do not make me uncomfortable. Jokes about women being fat, fearful, mail order brides, how the new tech isn't as attractive as the old one, etc. lead to an uncomfortable and detrimental work environment.
posted by melissam at 5:52 PM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


"Well I take her word that she thought she heard these guys telling a bunch of sex jokes in the middle of the conference presentation. And...they were telling sex jokes, the only dispute is on how many they told (and how many were just "regular" jokes, no dispute that they were telling a bunch of jokes). "

But you weren't there, right? And trying to parse whether that joke was OK or not would kind of require you to be there, unless you're going to hold to a zero tolerance policy. Which is fine if you want to, but I think that's a pretty dumb position to hold.

I don't see this as being like a creepshot. She took the picture right in front of their faces. He smiled for the camera. That's the opposite of the creepshot. Not a creepshot, not a sociopath bullying with malicious intent, goodness. She'd been friendly with the guys just moments before things started going downhill. "

When I'm friendly with people, I let them know when they're bugging me. Not doing so is kind of a dick move.

I see sexist language being thrown at her (here at Metafilter, and much worse elsewhere). I see the standard diatribes against political correctness and oversensitive women ruining it for all women because of how men will react. These appear in every single thread, every single thread, on sexism especially with regard to these conferences.

And that's OK to call out on its own, but it's not fair to characterize this conversation as being part of that, nor to reduce it all down to that attitude.
posted by klangklangston at 5:54 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wait, is attractive a verboten word now?
posted by ymgve at 5:54 PM on March 20, 2013


I don't see this as being like a creepshot. She took the picture right in front of their faces. He smiled for the camera. That's the opposite of the creepshot. Not a creepshot, not a sociopath bullying with malicious intent, goodness. She'd been friendly with the guys just moments before things started going downhill.

A creepshot is a photo taken of someone without their knowledge, with the intent of damaging use. The opposite of this would be a photo of someone taken with their knowledge, with the intent of positive or benign use. This is like 90 degrees from a creepshot, a photo taken of someone with their knowledge, but also with the intent of damaging use against the subject.

And given that she'd been friendly with them moments before taking the photo, isn't the most reasonable assumption that he smiled because he thought she had friendly intent?
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 5:54 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh wait, "new tech" as in "the new person we hired". That's sexist.

I was thinking in the "web 2.0 isn't as attractive as I was lead to believe" sense.
posted by ymgve at 5:55 PM on March 20, 2013


Not doing so is kind of a dick move.

Watch yourself!
posted by Jimbob at 5:56 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Nothing I say here represents my employer's views on anything ever.
posted by klangklangston at 5:58 PM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


I sat through a presentation at a big tech company once about a product that was being designed specifically to sell to a female 18-30 demographic. Every slide was of a scantily clad woman "enjoying" this technology luridly (it was a PC speaker; I know, so sexy). I sat there in this room full of people, jaw agape, wondering when someone was going to pull the plug Michelle Shocked-style on the guy. Nobody did. No repercussions. In hindsight, I was guilty of inaction on the matter, but I was probably the most junior employee in the room. I've never seen anything so overtly sexist in a corporate setting than in that meeting that day.

But this? This thing is bullshit. This is somebody who thinks for hours about what the next awesome thing they are going to Tweet will be to underline to themselves how smart and cool and great they are. This is not sexism on display. This is Twitter, misused again.

Just like many others have said in this thread, if this was an example of men creating an unhealthy professional environment for women, which I doubt but I wasn't there, then figure out a different way of fixing this that doesn't involve destroying their life via your bullshit viral social networking technologies.

God we've lost our way.
posted by mcstayinskool at 5:58 PM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


So does SendGrid actually do real spamming or are they just the go-to people when for example Gamefly sends me their monthly newsletter because I forgot to remove a checkmark?

Their client list appears to contain some reasonably legit companies. One persons targeted marketing campaign is another persons spam, I guess.
posted by Artw at 6:00 PM on March 20, 2013


I was hoping this story would show up here, because every other website has treated it like shit. Lots of guys saying, "what's the big deal??" and complaining about how she handled it instead of, you know, the fact it happened. I wanted to hear some opinions that weren't, "How dare she utilize the exact thing she was supposed to in order to report Code of Conduct infractions!"

I was saddened to see it's being treated the exact same way here. Yeah, her blog post was somewhat dramatic. Can you blame her, after having to deal with the same shit earlier in the day? This wasn't a high school class. It was supposed to be a convention for professionals. If you can't stop making jokes about your dick for nine days while you're at the con, there's something wrong with you, not the person who reports you.

Their comments weren't explicitly sexist, but they contributed to an atmosphere that is hostile to women, so they ended up becoming sexist. That's what a lot of you, and reddit, and HN seem to be missing. Just because they didn't call her a bitch doesn't mean their comments weren't hostile.
posted by ceol at 6:00 PM on March 20, 2013 [25 favorites]


Danila said: I see sexist language being thrown at her (here at Metafilter, and much worse elsewhere). I see the standard diatribes against political correctness and oversensitive women ruining it for all women because of how men will react. These appear in every single thread, every single thread, on sexism especially with regard to these conferences.


But see, here's the thing; events like this one DO make it harder to report real cases of not only sexism, but harassment and assault. Not because of "how men will react", but because it is crying wolf, when there is no wolf at the door. Do it enough, and the wolves get ignored.
posted by dejah420 at 6:03 PM on March 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


I'd be very interested to read a statement from the employer who fired the attendee, were such a statement forthcoming. I suspect that it would be necessarily short on detail, but might still provide an element of context beyond pure heresay. I'm not big on public shaming, but I'm also uneasy about putting the obligation on her to tell them to show a little class in public. But I'm also uneasy about what a low bar we seem to be setting for what acceptable public behavior is (where "unacceptable" results in real punishments). But I'm also uneasy about what a low bar for adult behavior we seem ready to accept.

So, obviously, this whole thing makes me uneasy.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:03 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you can't stop making jokes about your dick for nine days while you're at the con, there's something wrong with you, not the person who reports you.

And if the person who reports you for making a dick joke to your friend is happy to broadcast dick jokes on her twitter account, what then?
posted by leopard at 6:06 PM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


"I wanted to hear some opinions that weren't, "How dare she utilize the exact thing she was supposed to in order to report Code of Conduct infractions!""

I have pretty much zero problem with her reporting the guys. I do think that banning them from the conference is a mistake, and I also think that tweeting their picture is a mistake. I also think that tweeting the conference in public, instead of D@ was a mistake. I don't know what the guys said — and neither do you — so it makes more sense for me to comment on the parts that I do know.
posted by klangklangston at 6:06 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


And if the person who reports you for making a dick joke to your friend is happy to broadcast dick jokes on her twitter account

If you think those are comparable and it's hypocritical, my answer is you should attend the talk on lexical scoping, because you seem to lack any concept of context.
posted by yerfatma at 6:08 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


But you weren't there, right? And trying to parse whether that joke was OK or not would kind of require you to be there, unless you're going to hold to a zero tolerance policy. Which is fine if you want to, but I think that's a pretty dumb position to hold.

No, I wasn't there. I just...believe her. I'm actually allowed to do that, to believe a woman when she gives an account of sexism if the account seems highly plausible which it does, to me. The people who don't believe her are also using sexist and trite language in their dismissals, which just makes me believe her more. And yeah, I actually don't think prolonged joking is appropriate in that context, and jokes about sex that go "on and on" (again, I believe her when she says it was continuous rather than a one-off) in the middle of a conference presentation are way over the line. Over the line enough that she had a right to complain publicly about it, which is what she did.

This is somebody who thinks for hours about what the next awesome thing they are going to Tweet will be to underline to themselves how smart and cool and great they are. This is not sexism on display.

The evidence is clear, it is abundantly clear, that accusing men of doing something sexist does not make you appear smart or cool or great. This is not the road to success. No woman would think it is because it always ends up this exact same way. It sets you up for a lot of harassment and a black mark for not being a good girl who goes along to get along.

because it is crying wolf


Dejah, I think that would mean no one would believe Adria again. But that's not what you said, and a lot of other people echoed what you said, which is that men won't listen to women when they legitimately complain because of what some other woman did. If people find this particular woman dishonest or..sociopathic (I can't really believe this has been said multiple times), that's one thing. But I absolutely hate the threat that we could have been treated like human beings, but that one chick messed it up for all of us. No, she is not responsible if men in the future behave badly.

What makes it harder for women to report is being harassed and silenced and the terrible consequences they incur by speaking out. I mean, like what is happening to Adria now if a specific example is needed.
posted by Danila at 6:08 PM on March 20, 2013 [30 favorites]


Ceol, perhaps I'm just inured, but how is one guy saying to a second guy, about a third guy, "I'd fork his repo." Creating a hostile environment to women? That's the part of this I really don't get.
posted by dejah420 at 6:09 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


And if the person who reports you for making a dick joke to your friend is happy to broadcast dick jokes on her twitter account, what then?

Making a dick joke in one context forever waives your right to complain about others making dick jokes in every other context?
posted by fatbird at 6:09 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


yoink - what? i said (in the very same post, even) that my stance on that has nothing to do with gender
posted by rap and country at 6:09 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The people who don't believe her are also using sexist and trite language in their dismissals, which just makes me believe her more.

That is not a valid method to assess the veracity of a claim.
posted by amorphatist at 6:12 PM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


I was saddened to see it's being treated the exact same way here.

PShe did a semi-shitty thing with super shitty repercussions. Some of the repercussions have fallen upon her, in the form of a bug disgusting ball of Internet idiots, on the other hand her bullshit got some guy fired. I don't think she's going to be getting unanimous applause anywhere. TBH I think whatever applause she does get is undeserved. She doesn't deserve a hate campaign, but she's a legitimately shitty person.
posted by Artw at 6:13 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


mcstayinskool: "God we've lost our way."

You seem to have the impression that we have had our way to begin with.
posted by symbioid at 6:13 PM on March 20, 2013


She compares herself to Joan of Arc. That's kinda weird.
posted by homunculus at 6:13 PM on March 20, 2013 [18 favorites]


We use SendGrid for things like password resets, messages from other users, etc. It is just a highly reliable way to send email. It's a neutral tool.
posted by michaelh at 6:14 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you can't stop making jokes about your dick for nine days while you're at the con, there's something wrong with you, not the person who reports you.

What if the person who reports you also punches you in the face?

Just wondering where you draw the line at an unjust response (and if think her tweeting response was unjust), and whether it then determines where the post-game analysis ought to be meandering to.
posted by SpacemanStix at 6:14 PM on March 20, 2013


Making a dick joke in one context forever waives your right to complain about others making dick jokes in every other context?

It isn't quite as black and white as that. Both contexts involve public speech, for instance, so discussion of what is acceptable in that shared context should be fair.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:15 PM on March 20, 2013


So, this is going to go exactly like it always goes, right? The woman is going to be accused of ruining a good man's life, and her past history is going to be combed through looking for examples of publicly flirtatious behavior, iffy career choices and possible hypocrisies. Same thing happened with Rebecca Watson, same thing happend with Noirin Shirley. All this has happened before, all this will happen again.

Whether this particular callout was justified is proportionate is kind of irrelevant: for all the helpful advice being offered about what she should have done, there is nothing she could have done, except for hunkering down and keeping quiet, that wouldn't have ended with people feeling justified in calling her a bitch and a liar, and declaring open season on her. Rebecca Watson didn't name names. Noirin Shirley was sexually assaulted. The immune response was pretty much the same...
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:16 PM on March 20, 2013 [36 favorites]


Making a dick joke in one context forever waives your right to complain about others making dick jokes in every other context?

Well what was the reason she complained about the joke? Because she found it offensive? This appears unlikely on the face of it, given that she has previously demonstrated she is not actually offended by dick jokes. Because it created a hostile environment? How was she not creating a hostile environment on Twitter? Is there some reason she feels Twitter is allowed to be a hostile environment?
posted by Jimbob at 6:19 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Danila, if she had reported them, I'd be behind her. If she had tweeted that some jerks were being jerks, I'd be behind her.

Where she lost me was publicly publishing this guy's photograph and when she had to make a media splash about it, even though she got what she wanted; which was having the guy removed from a conference even though he said NOTHING to her, and she didn't have the common courtesy to tell him that she didn't understand forking repo jokes and didn't think they were appropriate.

She overreacted. She publicly shamed someone she had no right to shame, even though she did NOTHING about the guy who made vagina jokes TO HER, so she took out her anger on some random geek. She was directly responsible for putting that man and his family at risk so that she could garner more attention, and that's why this is infuriating to women who really do fight sexism every single day of their careers. Bullshit media call outs like this are a knife in the back of real feminists.
posted by dejah420 at 6:20 PM on March 20, 2013 [43 favorites]


klangklangston: I have pretty much zero problem with her reporting the guys. I do think that banning them from the conference is a mistake, and I also think that tweeting their picture is a mistake. I also think that tweeting the conference in public, instead of D@ was a mistake. I don't know what the guys said — and neither do you — so it makes more sense for me to comment on the parts that I do know.

For starters, they weren't banned. They were reprimanded. I'm also not about to dismiss her just because she did it in a way you happen to not condone.

dejah420: Ceol, perhaps I'm just inured, but how is one guy saying to a second guy, about a third guy, "I'd fork his repo." Creating a hostile environment to women? That's the part of this I really don't get.

They were speaking to her moments before they started those jokes, and it wasn't just "I'd fork his repo." It was multiple jokes equating dongles to penises. Couple this with the environment of constant objectification and belittlement in the tech industry women already have to face, and you get some very casual sexism.
posted by ceol at 6:20 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Casual sexism still doesn't justify plastering their photos online.
posted by ymgve at 6:25 PM on March 20, 2013


There is a deeper narrative here that few have touched upon, not just here on Metafilter, that beyond the accusations of sexism, there is the technological issue of policing your behavior or having it policed for you, often in ways beyond any legal recourse, given the increasing impotence of government now ceding its traditional role to employers, private entities that now have more control over your public and private life than ever before. The walls have ears, but it isn't the government that is the only one listening in. Beyond the grey areas outlined by this seeming overreaction, the multiplier effects are pretty terrifying, when anyone can eavesdrop and record you or your actions in or out of context, to be rebroadcast without your consent. We are in an Age of Google Goggles, indeed.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:25 PM on March 20, 2013 [22 favorites]


Making a dick joke in one context forever waives your right to complain about others making dick jokes in every other context?

Would you like to compare the two contexts and explain why one is perfectly acceptable while the other is a firing offense?

On her blog she reports a developer telling her how he made a joke about "looking under a [table] skirt" and how it was "bare just the way he liked it" (this part said after a woman gave him a look). Now that is stupid, offensive, fostering a hostile environment, ridiculously clingy to male privilege.

But the "forking the repo" and dongle jokes? You can tell this doesn't stand up on its own because we have to drag in fifty million analogies to make it some sort of crime. A little girl will never code because of the dongle joke. It was like Lord of the Flies. She's Rebecca Watson now. Guess whose side I was on during that debacle? But oh no, "there's nothing she could have done."
posted by leopard at 6:26 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


But the "forking the repo" and dongle jokes? You can tell this doesn't stand up on its own

Lol.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:27 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I, like others, have been waiting for a post about this on mefi in order to read some less knee-jerk discussion. It does seem like a fairly shitty situation all around, given any actual reality from all of the possible combinations of:

People were being egregiously out of line / people were being annoying / otherwise nice people were naively rude / people were misunderstood.
+
Someone called them out on it in the most effective way available / someone accidentally produced an overreaction / someone knowingly called in the personal army / unusually powerful person deliberately bullied people.

The thing is, I can't see any combination there which is actually okay, it's all just massively regrettable. However this particular instance played out, I feel like that's the real problem.
posted by lucidium at 6:28 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


A little girl will never code because of the dongle joke. It was like Lord of the Flies. She's Rebecca Watson now.

Ahem, that was tweets ago. It's Joan of Arc now.
posted by amorphatist at 6:32 PM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


"Whether this particular callout was justified is proportionate is kind of irrelevant: for all the helpful advice being offered about what she should have done, there is nothing she could have done, except for hunkering down and keeping quiet, that wouldn't have ended with people feeling justified in calling her a bitch and a liar, and declaring open season on her. Rebecca Watson didn't name names. Noirin Shirley was sexually assaulted. The immune response was pretty much the same..."

Some people may have felt justified in that, sure. But surely fewer, right? And I haven't seen a single comment here calling her a bitch.

I realize this is heated, but not every instance of someone responding to feeling offended is justified, and we can talk about this specific incident in a rational matter.

"For starters, they weren't banned. They were reprimanded. I'm also not about to dismiss her just because she did it in a way you happen to not condone."

Cool, thanks. I misunderstood. And I'm not dismissing her — I'm pointing out that this is currently something that we don't have a lot of information on, and simply overlaying existing biases onto the situation instead of thinking critically about it is only going to lead to a clash of biases.

"They were speaking to her moments before they started those jokes, and it wasn't just "I'd fork his repo." It was multiple jokes equating dongles to penises. Couple this with the environment of constant objectification and belittlement in the tech industry women already have to face, and you get some very casual sexism."

You don't know that. When you argue from premises of dubious truth value, especially in the service of a broader narrative, you get away from what actually happened and proceed into what you think happened and how that just lines up with everything you've already thought.
posted by klangklangston at 6:32 PM on March 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


There was also this: How To Get Banned From PyCon.

"Double underscore names as a language element suck!"
"Rails rocks!"
"Why can't a scripting language use more than one core?"
posted by JHarris at 6:35 PM on March 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


. . . a step towards securing the future of programming for women.

she has, in one story, embodied (and in her defense of it, perpetuated) a myriad of unfair stereotypical impressions of women in the workplace--that they are overly sensitive, humorless, gossipy, whiny, and can't mind their own business. i'm guessing many women would appreciate it if she didn't do them any more favors.
posted by fallacy of the beard at 6:37 PM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


I think sex jokes in a professional environment do create a hostile environment. Legally, it's sexual harassment to make pervasive "sexual or sex-based jokes" in the workplace. Not saying this was a legal issue at all. Just bringing that up because I don't agree with the assumption that of course it was overreacting because it was just jokes.

I don't find it hard to imagine sitting at a conference while several men are cracking sex joke after sex joke and I'm one of few women. It would really suck. This is not a social situation with friends, it's something they were all attending for their jobs. She could have got up and walked away or changed seats. She could have confronted them and risked making a scene. I understand why she didn't do either of those things. What she did do was actually effective and it's what the conference organizers encouraged people to do precisely because they don't want women to feel like a tech conference is a hostile environment.

she has, in one story, embodied (and in her defense of it, perpetuated) a myriad of unfair stereotypical impressions of women in the workplace--that they are overly sensitive, humorless, gossipy, whiny, and can't mind their own business. i'm guessing many women would appreciate it if she didn't do them any more favors.


The problem of stereotyping is in the people who use them to justify injustice and inequality. It is not in the people who "embody" stereotypes by being their individual human selves. She doesn't represent all women. She doesn't make women look bad. If women look worse to you (general you) now because of what this one woman did, you are the problem. But I'm repeating myself so I'll bow out of this.
posted by Danila at 6:40 PM on March 20, 2013 [34 favorites]


At the end of the day, the moral for me on both sides is, "Don't be 22". Both sides are too pleased with themselves and too self-righteous, but it sucks if the end result of this discussion is not that we all think before assuming how we like to act is how we should.

/The More You Know self-righteous bastard
posted by yerfatma at 6:41 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would totally trade dongle jokes with a coworker at a conference. Sorry everyone, I guess I am a bad feminist and unemployable. I don't even consider shitty pubs on fork and dongle inherently sexist, I really am a bad person.

I'd try and keep it down if people were listening to a speaker though, Jesus.
posted by Artw at 6:41 PM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


klangklangston: You don't know that. When you argue from premises of dubious truth value, especially in the service of a broader narrative, you get away from what actually happened and proceed into what you think happened and how that just lines up with everything you've already thought.

This entire situation involves taking someone's word for it, so I think that's a poor argument to make. If you want to argue from what is certain, then here is what happened:

- A woman reported two men for breaking PyCon's Code of Conduct by sending a tweet to PyCon with their photograph.
- The two men were reprimanded by PyCon organizers.

Seems like a non-story, right? It's actually pretty great. PyCon successfully enforced their Code of Conduct by listening to a con-goer, no one was banned or removed from the con, and two guys learn a lesson about saying something offensive in public. And it's not like tweeting photographs of people is out of line or anything. It happens all the time.

So then, what's the problem?
posted by ceol at 6:41 PM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


At the end of the day, the moral for me on both sides is, "Don't be 22".

At last, an explanation for Forever 21
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:42 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


And it's not like tweeting photographs of people is out of line or anything. It happens all the time.

You're wrong. It's absolutely out of line.
posted by ymgve at 6:43 PM on March 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


And it's not like tweeting photographs of people is out of line or anything. It happens all the time.

So then, what's the problem?


That is a problem, and many would argue yes, that was out of line.
posted by SpacemanStix at 6:43 PM on March 20, 2013


Apparently someone's making death threats over this. The original comment was deleted, but here's the response.
posted by desjardins at 6:44 PM on March 20, 2013


They were speaking to her moments before they started those jokes, and it wasn't just "I'd fork his repo." It was multiple jokes equating dongles to penises. Couple this with the environment of constant objectification and belittlement in the tech industry women already have to face, and you get some very casual sexism.

But... those jokes sounded like they were objectifying other men, not women.
posted by Apocryphon at 6:44 PM on March 20, 2013


And it's not like tweeting photographs of people is out of line or anything.

The only reason for her to publically tweet their photo was to attempt to bring down the Hammer Of Internet Justice upon them.
posted by Jimbob at 6:45 PM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


The problem, ceol, is that the picture wasn't sent to the py people, it was sent to the web. In her blog, she states that, and says she stood up and pointed them out to the conference people. She wasn't worried about making a scene, or interrupting the speaker, she wanted an audience to do it.
posted by dejah420 at 6:45 PM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Would you like to compare the two contexts and explain why one is perfectly acceptable while the other is a firing offense?

One was done on twitter, where readers have to seek her out and who's nature permits her to be occasionally racy. The other was done in a crowded convention hall in earshot of a tech pundit heavyweight who was having a Bad Day.

It was not her fault she was having a Bad Day. It was not her fault she over-reacted. She does not have the slightest bit of responsibility to shut up and take it, even if it was largely inoffensive to most listeners. She had every right to gripe, and every right to document what had ticked her off with a camera - this was a public venue, and they were acting inappropriately in public.

The dude who got fired? He had a responsibility to use civil language in public, in a professional venue, when his company's name is on that plastic card hanging from the lanyard around his neck. He didn't. He made dirty jokes when he wasn't sure of who was listening in - this is a public venue where she was obligated to be for her job.

One guy where I worked, in a cubicle environment, cracked a loud joke about "feminazis" - the director of customer service was walking by. Guess who wasn't there monday? Another guy at another gig had a naked lady wallpaper on his PDA, and one of the customer's project managers saw it. Guess who wasn't allowed back on site the next day?

This guy made a dirty joke when someone with clout heard it. She didn't make him tell a dirty joke. He did that all by himself. He should be grown-up enough to know that it's generally not OK to do that in crowded convention halls with a mixed and unknown audience around him.

A twitter feed is not the same thing as a crowded room full of professionals on assignment.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:46 PM on March 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


A quick search shows three or four instances of the phrase "not cool" on this thread. Interestingly, Adria Richards' post includes this:

What has to change is that everyone must take personal accountability and speak up when they hear something that isn’t ok. It takes three words to make a difference:

“That’s not cool.”


I can't help feeling that the whole thing would have gone better if she'd tried that on the people making sexual innuendos rather than going straight to the conference officials. It's quite possible they would have just shut up or at least resorted to the whispers they should have been using in the first place.

She says:

I decided to do things differently this time and didn’t say anything to them directly. I was a guest in the Python community and as such, I wanted to give PyCon the opportunity to address this.

I'm not sure that worked out so well. I'm an American citizen, but I might ring my upstairs neighbor's doorbell and ask them to turn down the stereo before calling the cops. You can make that one small effort before calling in the heavies.

I certainly don't blame her for the firing, which seems like the worst part of this fiasco -- it reminds me of elementary school kids being suspended for carrying subscription medication or a transparent dayglo watergun because of some "no-tolerance" policy probably motivated by fear of lawsuits. But saying "that's not cool" might have headed off the whole situation.

I also wonder if we'll get better at discussing this sort of thing as time goes by, without so much misunderstanding and talking past each other, or if it takes more than a text-only format for that to happen.
posted by uosuaq at 6:51 PM on March 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


To the extent that expressions in both forums are public speech, people should be allowed to be offended by her speech, if they find it demeaning, or even if they find it inappropriate. We (we as a society, that is) apply the same standards to others elsewhere — why do we give her a free pass?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:51 PM on March 20, 2013


The dude who got fired? He had a responsibility to use civil language in public, in a professional venue, when his company's name is on that plastic card hanging from the lanyard around his neck.

I couldn't help but notice from the picture that the company's name wasn't just hanging on a lanyard, his tshirt is clear the tshirt for that company. So yeah, he was pretty clearly representing his company at this conference, probably actively recruiting for them at the conference. It's not super surprising that his employer is pissed at him getting called out for saying stupid shit.
posted by ch1x0r at 6:52 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Guess who wasn't there monday? Guess who wasn't allowed back on site the next day?

And you think that's okay? This is the culture you should be more worried about than dongle jokes. One wrong move and you're on the fucking street. But that's okay, because someone got offended.
posted by Jimbob at 6:52 PM on March 20, 2013 [36 favorites]


One guy where I worked, in a cubicle environment, cracked a loud joke about "feminazis" - the director of customer service was walking by. Guess who wasn't there monday? Another guy at another gig had a naked lady wallpaper on his PDA, and one of the customer's project managers saw it. Guess who wasn't allowed back on site the next day?

So the moral is, don't piss off people with clout. What an inspiring message of social justice for the unempowered and downtrodden.

He had a responsibility to use civil language in public, in a professional venue, when his company's name is on that plastic card hanging from the lanyard around his neck.

Adria Richards' Twitter account mentions her company name. She uses it to promote her employer. Oh, but I guess no one with clout who was having a bad day complained. That's the real moral offense here, right? Because we've established that dongle jokes aren't intrinsically awful or anything.
posted by leopard at 6:53 PM on March 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


Would you like to compare the two contexts and explain why one is perfectly acceptable while the other is a firing offense?

No, because Richards didn't fire the guy, nor did she intend the guy to get fired, nor did she cheer when he was... assuming he was, because so far all we have is an anonymous HN account claiming to be him.

But, to separate the contexts: One is a broadcast channel to which people deliberately subscribe, in a medium with extremely broad standards for public behaviour; the other is a conference where you represent your employer (who is sponsoring the event), and present yourself as a professional within the ambit of the conference.

Like peas in a pod, they are.
posted by fatbird at 6:56 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I wonder if she has kill decals below the nameplate on her office door, and what the design for them is.
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:58 PM on March 20, 2013


dejah420: The problem, ceol, is that the picture wasn't sent to the py people, it was sent to the web. In her blog, she states that, and says she stood up and pointed them out to the conference people. She wasn't worried about making a scene, or interrupting the speaker, she wanted an audience to do it.

It was sent to her twitter feed, and then she immediately asked PyCon to do something about it. If she really wanted the audience to do something, she would have stood up and called them out to the rest of the audience. It doesn't make sense to post it on twitter if that was her true goal.

It seems you're reading your own motive into her actions. Nothing about what she did implied she wanted vigilante justice. Just the opposite, in fact: She asked PyCon, the organizers and enforcers, to do something about it.

I really don't like Twitter and Tumblr's witch-hunting culture, but this certainly doesn't qualify as such. They were in public, they were wearing their company's logo, they were very much subject to being photographed.
posted by ceol at 7:00 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


One is a broadcast channel to which people deliberately subscribe

How is this a defense? If I subscribe to someone because they are important in their field, and they make sexual jokes on their Twitter feed, how does that not create a certain sort of environment? How does that not set standards for what is and is not acceptable behavior? "Oh if you don't like it then you don't have to subscribe." Really?

the other is a conference where you represent your employer (who is sponsoring the event), and present yourself as a professional within the ambit of the conference.

Adria Richards' Twitter account description begins as follows: "Developer Evangelist for @SendGrid."
posted by leopard at 7:01 PM on March 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


From the PyCon code of conduct:
All communication should be appropriate for a professional audience including people of many different backgrounds. Sexual language and imagery is not appropriate for any conference venue, including talks.
[ . . . ]
Be careful in the words that you choose. Remember that sexist, racist, and other exclusionary jokes can be offensive to those around you. Excessive swearing and offensive jokes are not appropriate for PyCon.
There's no sense in discussing whether or not you think the conversation was appropriate, it was inappropriate within the guidelines all conference participants consented to when they decided to attend. The thread of thought trying to invalidate her complaint because of a joke she made on her twitter account outside the context of the conference is entirely irrelevant -- it's a separate context wherein she was not bound in an agreement with the convention organizers.

You will see she drew attention to the matter by tweeting all relevant tweets, including the picture, using the #pycon hashtag -- as hashtag is a way of grouping a large topic and it makes it easy for even organizers to see hundreds of concurrent streams of conversation relevant to their work. This certainly qualifies as "contacting a member of the staff" and really I don't see the public exposure as being much different than if she'd gotten up, gone and got a staff member, then had the fellows escorted out. The session was surely videotaped, it would doubtless be posted, furore would still be had.

And I have a feeling, seeing as not both participants got fired, that the one who was least contrite when confronted about the incident was the one who was fired. I'll find out if that's the case soon enough.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 7:07 PM on March 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


This all reminds me of the NYT piece on the "Human Flesh Search Engine" that was linked on the Blue a few years ago.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:08 PM on March 20, 2013


How is this a defense?

It's not a defense. She doesn't need a defense to make dick jokes on her twitter feed. If her employer dislikes being listed at the top of the page, they can fire her for it.

As for subscribers, yes, they can unsubscribe. The environment of being a subscriber to a twitter feed is obviously different from a conference where you're sitting there, trying to enjoy the speaker but some fellow participants are intruding on your space.

Again: Richards didn't fire the guy, didn't ask for the firing, didn't foresee the firing, and didn't cheer it when it happened. She said, in the HN thread where the guy said he was fired "I'm sorry to hear your employer deciding to not to work with you on this and I hope they reconsider, bring you back on and dealing with it constructively."
posted by fatbird at 7:08 PM on March 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm sorry, but for a "professional" conference, none of this, the comments, the tweeting, the blogging, the firing, sounds at all professional to me.

Sounds, rather, like a pathetic clusterfuck.
posted by sutt at 7:12 PM on March 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


This is such a shitty situation. I guess as a woman in a male dominated field I've just become desensitized to sexual jokes and don't get offended by them. The outcome I see as being a lasting testament to this is that men will be even more dismissive of women joining their spaces. There have been multiple questions on AskMeFi that I've seen where women in a male dominated field are upset that men don't seem to want them around... well, this is part of it. Even if it's not fair or right or moral or whatever for men to want to have spaces where they can make dick jokes, but this is still going to be on a man's mind when a woman wants to join their hackerspace or whatever: "Oh great, I can't make dick jokes ever again or I might get villified on the internet." And that's going to be friction to having women join, and it's going to create an air that they don't want us around - men won't want us around in their voluntary activities if we're going to be 'killjoys.'
posted by permiechickie at 7:14 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


And you think that's okay? This is the culture you should be more worried about than dongle jokes. One wrong move and you're on the fucking street. But that's okay, because someone got offended.

This wasn't the first time the bozo yukked it up about feminazis. Want me to describe to you how the women in the office hunkered down and wouldn't make eye contact with anyone when he was parroting Rush Lindbaugh's views on women verbatim?

There is a very low threshold for this behavior because of the intense social pressure (see the few hundred posts above) to just shut up and take it. So, when it does require attention, odds are it's already too late - things have run right off the rails and you're about to get a call from someone's lawyer.

You get second chances for screwing up your work. You generally don't for screwing up your workplace.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:14 PM on March 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


This is apparently what it takes to get people to realize that these sorts of comments are insulting to some. Anything shy of making an example of an asshole is virtually ineffective

George Carlin does a 360 in his grave.

Shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits.
posted by ericb at 7:17 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


This wasn't the first time the bozo yukked it up about feminazis.

Ah, okay. I was wondering what ever happened to warnings. Your previous description didn't make that clear, and I think there's a lot of difference between being thoughtless once versus being consistently offensive in the face of warnings. (And I have no idea which is the case in the original post.)
posted by benito.strauss at 7:21 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a pretty vocal proponent of keeping your goddamned mouth shut and being professional in the workplace and making a positive, proactive effort to create a welcoming space for everyone. The IT industry is a sewer of frat-house bullshit and the sooner people tone it down the better. At my workplace gendered insults are forbidden but cursing is allowed (possibly encouraged). That strikes me as a good balance between excluding the aforementioned frathouse bullshit without turning the place into a sterile, humorless wasteland.

I think it's a thorny issue in general, cons are more public so there's both a greater responsibility to be neutral and open (you can't give everyone the "welcome to the company, fuck is ok but bitch is not" speech at the door at PyCon) and at the same time a greater chance of people fucking up and getting it wrong. It seems that PyCon has a strict line on sexual content which is good and fine and makes this a straight black-and-white decision instead of a "well I wasn't offended" judgment call.

Like others here I'd be quite satisfied if the tweet had been private and the guys had been asked to leave. I'd also be quite satisfied if this was blogged about as a "guys being dicks, pycon did good by removing them" or ideally "don't make dongle jokes at pycon, you'll be asked to leave" (effective and educational!). The guys were flat out wrong for testosteroning up a professional environment and sanctioning and removing them was the right call.

I also think that it's flat out wrong to use a position of power to single out people in public like this as a first step. We are all absolutely, always and one hundred percent responsible for the proportionality of our reactions, bad day or not. Pycon is in charge of policing its content guidelines, the hammer of the internet rage machine is not.
posted by Skorgu at 7:22 PM on March 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


This wasn't the first time the bozo yukked it up about feminazis. Want me to describe to you how the women in the office hunkered down and wouldn't make eye contact with anyone when he was parroting Rush Lindbaugh's views on women verbatim?

You don't think that was maybe a relevant part of the story? I would imagine practically everyone on the "anti-firing" side would say if the person had a long, documented history of offensive speech in the workplace that the situation would be different. Maybe that is the case here as well--I doubt it, but maybe--but that is a very different situation than a one-off event.

In fact, reading your story at face value, you are seem to be saying the person had misbehaved to the degree that women were "hunkering down" around him, but nothing apparently was done until the director of customer service happened to be walking by during one of his episodes? I guess complaints from the peons don't count, or the environment was such that no one dared talk to HR?

Your former employer sucked.
posted by dsfan at 7:24 PM on March 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


I wonder if/how this would have played out differently if the forking/dongle joking guys were out-and-proud gays?
posted by Bwithh at 7:25 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


This wasn't the first time the bozo yukked it up about feminazis

Okay then - your comment made it seem he was overheard using the word "feminazi" and was promptly sent backing. If context was examined, if warnings, training were offered first and he didn't alter his behaviour, then fine.
posted by Jimbob at 7:25 PM on March 20, 2013


leopard:She's Rebecca Watson now.

It's OK to skim things, but it's also OK to read them. Here's what I wrote again:
Whether this particular callout was justified is proportionate is kind of irrelevant: for all the helpful advice being offered about what she should have done, there is nothing she could have done, except for hunkering down and keeping quiet, that wouldn't have ended with people feeling justified in calling her a bitch and a liar, and declaring open season on her. Rebecca Watson didn't name names. Noirin Shirley was sexually assaulted. The immune response was pretty much the same...
The point is, it doesn't really matter what specifically happened in this case. The same thing always happens right after one of these incidents.

Funnily enough, this ties neatly in to something we were talking about (somewhat belatedly) a few days ago - the "Doritogate" brouhaha. In which the discussion of the actions of a particular PR agency, promoting a game by a particular publisher, were dropped almost completely in favor of cross-referencing the blog posts and LinkedIn profile of a young female journalist looking for conflicts of interest.

klangklangston:Some people may have felt justified in that, sure. But surely fewer, right? And I haven't seen a single comment here calling her a bitch.

I realize this is heated, but not every instance of someone responding to feeling offended is justified, and we can talk about this specific incident in a rational matter.


Well, we have had "put his children at risk" and "putting that man and his family at risk", which a) makes her sound like she has them at gunpoint and b) neatly exonerates the company which allegedly fired him in order to focus on someone who, to the best of my knowledge, has no power over his employers' actions. That does not seem to me wholly rational. There's a slide into dramatisation and overstatement: you yourself, klang, were led to believe that the guys had been banned from PyCon, when no such thing apparently happened.

We actually don't seem to have confirmation that the guy has been fired, or who he is: the anonymous new HN account claiming to be him, and to have been fired, specifically says he is not the guy in the middle of the picture, who is still employed. So, something slightly odd is happening there, possibly. Is there an actual, official confirmation that someone has been let go, and that it was because of this?

The "putting that man and his family at risk" rhetoric is pretty common over on HN, although over there she is actually killing people:
The problem I see here is that you snapped a picture and posted it in public - being prosecutor, judge, jury and executor in one person. That's not how things should work out. There's two sides of the story and I think it would have been better if a neutral party heard both sides instead of public summary execution.
and
You are - by definition - a terrorist, applying unlawful use of force or violence against people with the intention of intimidating or coercing groups of people and societies for ideological or political reasons.
Again, this is all pretty familiar. In fact:

Apparently someone's making death threats over this.

Right on schedule.

So, there's a discussion about who said what and with what intent in this case, and the ethics of posting photos to Twitter. That is... not going to be resolved conclusively one way or another, although I guess it might be kallisthenic to argue about it.

However, there's a larger discussion, I think, which is that if you stick your head up at a tech/geek conference (or, more broadly, in tech/geek circles) and happen to be a woman, you are going to be called an attention whore and possibly a homewrecker. You're going to get Human Flesh Search Engined. You're going to get death threats, and/or rape threats. And a lot of people who don't directly participate in that process will either shrug and say that this is just the culture, and women need to toughen up, or that obviously this is out of order, but you did kind of bring it on yourself, and really, why would someone listen to/ employ an overly emotional troublemaker like you in future?

That feels like a broader systemic question than a fundamentally unresolvable argument about the uses of Twitter. Posting the photo was clearly unwise, because it's a signal flare for the "ruining a good man's life" brigade, but, really, there's no way she could have responded to this (except with silence) that would have avoided that.

For context, incidentally, C. Titus Brown's blogpost about PyCon's Code of Conduct is useful. Sample quote:
If you want to know, until last week, I was fairly publicly on the fence about the proposed Python Software Foundation code of conduct (which is not yet public, but is based on the Ubuntu CoC, I think) because I was worried about CoCs being used to whack people inappropriately, due to nonspecificity and other things.

Three things happened at PyCon 2013 that made me decide to (a) change my mind and (b) post this short note saying so.

First, I came to PyCon with two women colleagues, one of whom was harassed nearly constantly by men, albeit on a low level. Both of them are friendly people who are willing to engage at both a personal and a technical level with others, and apparently that signals to some that they can now feel free to comment on "hotness", proposition them, and otherwise act like 14 year old guys. As one friend said, (paraphrased) "I'd be more flattered that they seem to want to sleep with me, if they'd indicated any interest in me as a human being -- you know, asked me why I was at PyCon, what I did, what I worked on, what I thought about things. But they didn't."
(The second and third were someone appearing at a panel under the influence of illegal drugs, both of which he thought were handled well and appropriately by PyCon.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:25 PM on March 20, 2013 [21 favorites]




This certainly qualifies as "contacting a member of the staff" and really I don't see the public exposure as being much different than if she'd gotten up, gone and got a staff member, then had the fellows escorted out.

Had she gone and got a staff member, the gentlemen would have been spoken to, they would have apologized and then returned to their seat.

The route Richards choose managed to get one fired and the excuse that she didn't try for that direction result is incredibly odd to me. If you want to deal with the situation, then do so, must you publicly post a photo and then blog about it? It's hard to think that someone so heavily involved in the tech industry would not realize what a spectacle it could turn into.

I get that she was tired and probably a fed up with general sexism and this one incident was enough to really set her off. But part if being professional keeping your emotions in check and acting like a professional. This could have been handled quietly, with a similar result that would have everyone still keeping their job. It wasn't and that reflects poorly on Richards, the guy and the company, PlayHaven, that fired him.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:29 PM on March 20, 2013


Sorry this one time shit ran down hill on someone who looked like you.

Maybe you should try reading the comment I was responding to before jumping to conclusions about what I look like.
posted by leopard at 7:31 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"the gentlemen would have been spoken to, they would have apologized"

Yes, as I read it, that happened.

"The route Richards choose managed to get one fired and the excuse that she didn't try for that direction result is incredibly odd to me."

So Richards has an obligation to keep Playhaven's employees misadventures secret from Playhaven so as to prevent their bosses from exercising whatever they feel to be the appropriate disciplinary action?
posted by Matt Oneiros at 7:33 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]



This entire situation involves taking someone's word for it, so I think that's a poor argument to make. If you want to argue from what is certain, then here is what happened:

- A woman reported two men for breaking PyCon's Code of Conduct by sending a tweet to PyCon with their photograph.
- The two men were reprimanded by PyCon organizers.

Seems like a non-story, right? It's actually pretty great. PyCon successfully enforced their Code of Conduct by listening to a con-goer, no one was banned or removed from the con, and two guys learn a lesson about saying something offensive in public. And it's not like tweeting photographs of people is out of line or anything. It happens all the time.

So then, what's the problem?


The photograph *is* the problem. The whole conversation about the jokes misses the point.

If you are a social media personality (or whatever it's called) with a readership in the thousands, it is extremely irresponsible to take a picture of someone and post it next to an unsubstantiated accusation. There was no reason to post a photo other than to publicly shame these people. A tweet without the photo would have achieved the same thing, the jokers being reprimanded by the organizers, without this whole uproar.

I'm willing to give Adria the benefit of the doubt and accept that maybe she was having a bad day. But she made an extremely poor choice when she tweeted that photo.

Her subsequent blog post and response to the incident haven't really covered her in glory. My gut feeling is that she was having a bad day, found an opportunity to take umbrage to something and lashed out in an irresponsible way. And now, maybe, she feels that she can't de-escalate.

(That having been said, I hope the hate storm subsides because no one deserves to subjected to that sort of thing.)
posted by Maugrim at 7:36 PM on March 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


But part if being professional keeping your emotions in check and acting like a professional.

And that's the argument that gets trotted out consistently to women who have a difficult time dealing with sexism, harassment and general hurf durfery in the workplace: you're not being professional if you make a thing about it. Because professional has been outlined as putting up with this sort of thing. And somehow that needs to change.

I generally agree with you, if this had been me, even on a bad day, I would have handled it differently. But I think it's difficult precisely because outlining what is and is not professional has often been used as a silencing tactic historically for exactly the same situations.
posted by jessamyn at 7:38 PM on March 20, 2013 [51 favorites]


You don't think that was maybe a relevant part of the story?

No. No-one wanted to rock the boat, especially as he had a lot of conservative friends in the office, so no one reported it, and the managers just let it slide. This was the first time someone in a position to do something caught him in the act.

Which is kind of the point. Some places will give graduated warnings and levels of write-ups and PIPs - other places will look at it in the same light as threatening violence in the workplace or theft: grounds for immediate dismissal. Also, backlash against whistleblowers is a real concern - dragging it out with second chances and talking-to's may make things worse instead of better.

Don't start none, won't be none, all I'm saying.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:41 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I read the links and started off being pissed off at Adria for her over-reaction. But I'v been thinking about the situation. And reading the comments. And while she hasn't exactly covered herself in glory I no longer think she did anything wrong.

Whether the joker got fired or not is on the joker's company, not on Adria. At this point we don't even know if he was, but again, not on Adria.

I can see where a lot of people are coming from when they say that she shouldn't have posted their pictures on twitter because as far as her need to inform the PyCon people was concerned it was unnecessary (PyCon staff came to her and she pointed the two jokers out). But these people are in public (or at least in a quasi-public setting) and if someone wants to take a picture of them then there shouldn't be anything stopping that from happening. If you are in public someone can take your picture. They can post your picture on the internet and talk about things you did. This is part of what being in public means.

If we accept the jokes were sexual then they boil down to guys talking about their penis size and how much they want to fuck another guy. As a bystander I don't really want to hear about these things but how do such comments make things difficult for women as opposed to men? I don't see it but I fully accept this could be because I am male and can't see past my privilege.

I think of sexual comments the way I think of racial or classist comments. It is more acceptable for the people on the lower end of the power equation to make such comments about those on the upper end. Not saying either is acceptable but one way is definitely worse than the other. To my mind anyway. Where seemingly male homosexual comments heard by a woman fall into the power equation is a tough one.

This lame sexual comment/objectification bullshit seems to happen way too often at tech/comic/male-nerd conventions. A few high profile examples like this may be needed to get it to stop.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:44 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dejah420, I mostly agree with you, except for the mentions of how the guy has a family. That makes no difference.
posted by HopperFan at 7:45 PM on March 20, 2013


So Richards has an obligation to keep Playhaven's employees misadventures secret from Playhaven so as to prevent their bosses from exercising whatever they feel to be the appropriate disciplinary action?

It's a tough question because when you make something into a public issue the appropriate action may shift because it becomes a PR issue for the company. In that case he could be a liability that may have to be let go rather than reformed. If she had contacted them directly rather than going to Twitter they may have decided sensitivity training would be more appropriate.

Not sure on where I fall on if taking it public is appropriate or not in this case, but I think you should increase the consequences for the person you are reporting with some caution and make sure it's what you really want.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:45 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Would it make a difference if they were both gay?
posted by blue_beetle at 7:49 PM on March 20, 2013


If you are a social media personality (or whatever it's called) with a readership in the thousands, it is extremely irresponsible to take a picture of someone and post it next to an unsubstantiated accusation.
Both parties were met with, in private. The comments that were made were in poor taste, and individuals involved agreed, apologized and no further actions were taken by the staff of PyCon 2013. No individuals were removed from the conference, no sanctions were levied.
I think that probably counts as substantiation.

(As an aside, Adria Richards has 9,000 or so Twitter followers. That's not chopped liver by any means, but it's a long way from being Felicia Day or Veronica Belmont. She doesn't even have a verified account, which is the sort of low bar for being Twitter notable...)
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:50 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


In my experience professionalism as typically defined is mainly reserved for proles and public displays (like having a huge Twitter following and effectively representing an employer with a high public profile); as you move up the ladder in an organization, people are increasingly less concerned with professionalism in management circles except when making dog and pony shows to the staff (who are not too stupid to realize you're completely full of shit) or when sussing out what style of discourse is favored by a potential client, and once you've established that, "being professional" often involves the exact opposite of what the term evokes in the working class (hyperbolic example -- Dinner for Schmucks).

The word is thrown around all of the time and ultimately it comes down to knowing your audience, knowing your boundaries, knowing what may be taken as hurtful to someone even though you and your buddy have no problem with it, and it applies in most walks of life, beyond the workplace. Sometimes outright unprofessionalism is akin to throwing down a gauntlet and daring someone to pick it up and this is more like bullying. It only gets a special term in the workplace because not knowing the game can cost you dearly; every interaction with everyone but your closest confidantes is a fucking minefield of figuring out what is and is not acceptable.

My gut reaction is that she completely overreacted, she is representing her company on Twitter and has no problem making dick jokes, and is basically that type of passive-aggressive person that creates enormous displays of [often unintended but seemingly inevitable in hindsight] clusterfuckery rather than dealing with things on a direct human level. And they often save up their "bad day energy" and dump it all over somebody as if it's a valid excuse. The bad ones turn a blind eye and never apologize or acknowledge their disproportionate response, and perhaps martyr themselves.

And I know what it feels like to be put out and to not want to directly confront someone and make a scene, what an imposition it can be to have someone push assholery on you and to be expected to push back.

It's messy all around but I think she's the biggest "bad actor" in the mix.
posted by lordaych at 7:52 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


So Adria explicitly states early on and quite adamantly in the comments to her blog post that she doesn't consider herself a feminist, but doesn't say why ( maybe she does later on in the comments but the Find function is failing me on my iPhone). I'm curious why identifying as a feminist - any kind of feminist - is an negative for her...

Bonus question: what's with the photo if the man and baby daughter w/ laptop she chooses for the blog post. I don't think they're related to her, seems like something pulled randomly from Flickr ( see http://m.flickr.com/#/photos/qole/2191345684/ ). Is this to show what she thinks correct male roles should be? Implying that the responsible Dad in the photo would never make a risqué joke? ( maybe Adria is kinda socially conservative...?)
posted by Bwithh at 7:53 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is such a shitty situation. I guess as a woman in a male dominated field I've just become desensitized to sexual jokes and don't get offended by them. The outcome I see as being a lasting testament to this is that men will be even more dismissive of women joining their spaces. There have been multiple questions on AskMeFi that I've seen where women in a male dominated field are upset that men don't seem to want them around... well, this is part of it. Even if it's not fair or right or moral or whatever for men to want to have spaces where they can make dick jokes, but this is still going to be on a man's mind when a woman wants to join their hackerspace or whatever: "Oh great, I can't make dick jokes ever again or I might get villified on the internet." And that's going to be friction to having women join, and it's going to create an air that they don't want us around - men won't want us around in their voluntary activities if we're going to be 'killjoys.'

In my experience in male-dominated fields this actually weirdly leads to potty-mouthed women because they use it as a signal that they are "cool." I also grew up in a household where "low-class" language was used, so this was how I learned how to talk anyway.

Which makes a bit worried about politically correct speech codes at tech conferences, because at this point it's the language I use and I might slip up myself. To clarify I make jokes that might seem immature to judgmental people who are outside my culture, not sexist jokes, but jokes about sex and talking about sex, as well as generally naughty language. It's a benefit of working in the very very very backend of IT where I hardly ever interact with clients.

To some women this actually attracts them to tech. I for example was a tomboy and I didn't fit in with other females, which is why I stayed at home playing with computers and bugs. If I wanted to wear a business suit and be all proper, I would have stuck with accounting. But in many tech environments I've been able to be myself. I work with women who have worked as cooks, mechanics, bartenders, and other professions where this is common language, especially since I'm now in the more blue-collar end of IT.

This might also might explain the number of tech women who are not siding with Adria, which might be mystifying to people outside the industry. To us, Adria represents how the hacker community has gone from a place that embraced misfits to a stifling corporate environment. All the exhortions of people here about "professionalism" scare people like me and are why I increasingly skip programming conferences.
posted by melissam at 7:54 PM on March 20, 2013 [54 favorites]


I think that probably counts as substantiation.

A substantiation after the fact.

(And a rather weak one at that, judging by all the guess work that's going on.)
posted by Maugrim at 8:02 PM on March 20, 2013


"Would it make a difference if they were both gay?
posted by blue_beetle"


I'm not sure if you were responding to my comment, but just in case - that wasn't the situation, was it? Let's not stroll down the hypothetical tulip path. I just meant that whether someone did or did not have dependents at home is not a valid reason to NOT call them out on sexism, if necessary. Though I personally am not sure that it was warranted in this specific instance.
posted by HopperFan at 8:03 PM on March 20, 2013


Whether the joker got fired or not is on the joker's company, not on Adria. At this point we don't even know if he was, but again, not on Adria.

Personally, I don't let her entirely off the hook for this. Perhaps she wasn't thinking about it (*), but impugning a specific person's character online, it can have serious consequences for that person. Especially if the impugner has a strong online presence. Especially within a very online community. That stuff is always searchable, and it never goes away. It's not enough to throw up one's hands and claim to have no influence; we've all heard enough to know better. Especially, one would hope, a developer evangelist.


* Actually, from reading her blog, it's apparent that she never thought about it for a second, and perhaps still does not, but that is a fault of another kind.
posted by Edgewise at 8:09 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wasn't there, I don't know what she said or what they said or how they said it. From my limited vantage, it sounds like those guys were boorish and sophomoric -- and I'm with artw in finding their talking about anything during the presentation pretty offensive. On the great axis of offenses, dongle jokes seem sort of on a par with fart and poop jokes. But I wasn't there and I'm not her. I've had people use totally nonsexual words that have totally creeped me out and offended me. Tone and inflection matter. I can't and won't judge the level of offense she felt. Despite the evidence of her tweeting a dick joke, that doesn't invalidate her ability to take offense. I'm a lot more freewheeling with comfort-zone friends than with strangers in a professional setting.

But I do think she should have tried to deal with it on a human-to-human basis first - either by giving them the fish-eye or telling them to cut out the sophomoric sex jokes. Someone up-thread noted she might have felt uncomfortable confronting a couple of dick-joking guys - well, I could see that, but turning and taking their picture was pretty ballsy. That would intimidate me to do. And her actions throughout don't seem the actions of someone who fears confrontation.

Reporting it to the conference? That seemed fine to me.

Putting their photos on Twitter? That struck me like using a shotgun to shoot a flea. You may kill the flea, but there can be a lot of collateral damage.

That's just me - I don't like to escalate things to max level right out of the shoot. I like to leave people room to save face. If they react badly well, OK, all bets are off, get the elephant gun.

I think it was very crappy for the employer to fire the guy. But many employers are terrified of harassment litigation. And I have no way of knowing if that was the straw that broke the proverbial back - the only thing I know about him is that he jokes about dongles - a crime of which I am also guilty, mea culpa.

We all bring our own experiences. I related to quite a bit of what dejah said. I'm older and although I never worked in tech, manufacturing was no picnic. Nor was bartending or waiting tables. Or working in corporations. Hell, a lot of it was a tough slog, and I learned to pick my battles.

Thank you, men of mefi - this has been a very balanced discussion. I'm appreciative of all the great guys we have here who speak up about sexism. This is a thread I might have skipped 5 years ago.
posted by madamjujujive at 8:10 PM on March 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


I'm a female and have been a programmer for 20 years. I have withstood a lot of abuse in my industry and have also tried to fight against it. The bad boy behavior isn't going to stop until we stand up against it.

I work with a woman who is constantly stroking the men's egos, flirting with them, and laughing along with their bad behavior. Behind their backs she talks badly about them. I don't want to be that woman, and if I am a killjoy, then so be it. So tech is supposed to be the last bastion for men to behave like little boys. I say screw that.

Suppose this had been a story about Adria joining in with their sexual banter because she had a need to feel accepted by the men and prove her worth to them. Would you like her more then?
posted by jenh526 at 8:13 PM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


I don't really get the claim from the fired guy that the "I'd fork his repo" stuff wasn't sexual. I understand that they were using it to mean something nonsexual, but it seems pretty obvious that they're using the phrase because of its sauciness, even if it's not used to mean something sexual. If he genuinely thinks that he and his colleagues were using a nonsexual phrase to mean their nonsexual meaning, then it seems like he just didn't get it, which seems a bit hard to believe.
posted by Flunkie at 8:16 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


The keynote talk at the 2012 YAPC ("Yet Another Perl Conference") was about diversity issues in the Perl Community: "Perl: The Next Generation" (40 min.). I believe YAPC is a pretty major conference.

I don't know how much pick-up it's had since it was delivered, but I was surprised / impressed to see the issue dealt with at all. I can't find a transcript, but I found it worth watching.
posted by benito.strauss at 8:19 PM on March 20, 2013


I'm a female and have been a programmer for 20 years. I have withstood a lot of abuse in my industry and have also tried to fight against it. The bad boy behavior isn't going to stop until we stand up against it.

I work with a woman who is constantly stroking the men's egos, flirting with them, and laughing along with their bad behavior. Behind their backs she talks badly about them. I don't want to be that woman, and if I am a killjoy, then so be it. So tech is supposed to be the last bastion for men to behave like little boys. I say screw that.


Commendable. Do you think Adria's actions in this case work toward that?

She's put herself in a situation where it seems like she's making a mountain out of a molehill.
posted by Maugrim at 8:19 PM on March 20, 2013


This is what I think: Some nerds were acting like nerds, making jokes to pass the time at what I imagine is a pretty boring ordeal. They weren't being sexist, they were being silly, as nerds are often wont to do.

Some corporate busybody with no sympathy for nerd humor, but a large Twitter fanbase, misinterpreted and grandstanded some poor hapless nerd into unemployment.

Her over-reaction snowballed, and it just keeps right on snowballing.

I look at all the wet blankets and killjoys in this thread, quoting rules of conduct like goddamn hall monitors. Jesus, people, does everything have to be deadly serious all the goddamn time? Do you really want to live in a world where we all have to be stiff and silent and obedient at all times, lest we lose everything over a moment where we dared to inject a little levity? You sure as hell sound like you do.
posted by KHAAAN! at 8:22 PM on March 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


Is this to show what she thinks correct male roles should be? Implying that the responsible Dad in the photo would never make a risqué joke? ( maybe Adria is kinda socially conservative...?)

Never mind the adults, she's in trouble if she ever hangs around kids that age if dongle jokes were kryptonite to her.
posted by Artw at 8:24 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm suprised that either of the guys involved admitted anything. A picture of two people smiling and sitting in chairs and a tweet alleging they said something isn't evidence. I'm also pretty stunned that an otherwise performing employee would be fired over the evidence provided. The and he was fired claim does not seem genuine. It sounds more like the made up omg then the PC police fired the white guy bullshit. Look at that poor white man who lost his job to PC. Right that never happens. If you think that happened to you or someone you know it is because they were crappy in a thousand other ways in the eyes of mgmt and they took this as an opportunity to dump em.
posted by humanfont at 8:25 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Fuck Adria Richards and her insensitive use of the social media and her weight in that media to bring something like this down on another human being that she could have and should have encountered on a personal level. It's like calling the cops on a next door neighbor who is playing music too loud at 11pm, on Tuesday evening. All she really had to do was walk over and say "I was offended by what you said, and maybe the guy and her would have learned something about each other, and improved human relationships, just a little bit. Instead, this. What a fucking moron, and coward Adria Richards is!
posted by Vibrissae at 8:26 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]



I work with a woman who is constantly stroking the men's egos, flirting with them, and laughing along with their bad behavior. Behind their backs she talks badly about them. I don't want to be that woman, and if I am a killjoy, then so be it. So tech is supposed to be the last bastion for men to behave like little boys. I say screw that.

Suppose this had been a story about Adria joining in with their sexual banter because she had a need to feel accepted by the men and prove her worth to them. Would you like her more then?


What if I told you there is a third type of woman, the woman who hates misogyny, but sometimes enjoys and even initiates bawdy banter?

I've encountered interesting attitudes among the more seasoned women in IT. It seems like half are completely dismissive of everything and tell you to toughen up to open sexual harassment and sexism. I remember one really respected experienced women telling me I'd never make it in the real world when I complained about the leader of our open-source group making jokes about women being weak. She said I was proving him right.

And the other half pretend women like me, who would prefer that talking about sex not be banned in codes of conduct because it is an aspect of our personality, are just posers or don't really exist. Also it bothers me that you would conflate talking about sex with flirting. Reminds me of the kerfluffle over Violet Blue being at the b-sides conference.
posted by melissam at 8:28 PM on March 20, 2013 [33 favorites]


the PC police fired the white guy bullshit

Pray tell, what does race have to do with this?
posted by amorphatist at 8:28 PM on March 20, 2013


Everything, if you are using privelege as a D&D alignment chart.
posted by Artw at 8:33 PM on March 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


Just fyi, there were apparently non-sexual comments that Adria Richards misstook as sexual, but that when you reread carefully you might conclue must be homosexual, as they make no sense read as straight sexual comments. As I understand it, only one comment has any sexual references and no comments had an homosexual references. So you've missread something if you think you're reading about two males making homosexual cracks about another male's repository. It's confusing as Adria herself never acknowledged that the homosexual sounding comments were merely her miss-understanding.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:36 PM on March 20, 2013


Reminds me of the kerfluffle over Violet Blue being at the b-sides conference.

I hadn't heard that story. Thanks for that link, melissam.
posted by homunculus at 8:56 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think there are many failures that contributed to this shitstorm, and laying the blame at any one of: Adria Richards, PyCon, Mr. Hank, or his employer is a mistake.

Posting the photo on Twitter did turn out to be a bad idea, but I don't think it's appropriate to attribute that to malice. It is certainly an incautious use of social networking, and that reflects badly on her as a professional in the field, but that doesn't make it bullying behavior per se.

Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by incompetence.
posted by LogicalDash at 9:01 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Pray tell, what does race have to do with this?

I was observing that this claim fits a template. In other versions the antagonist might be black man instead of a woman and the protagonist would have made a racially insensitive remark.
posted by humanfont at 9:05 PM on March 20, 2013


If it were my company I would make damned sure that I never risked the potential of bad publicity of sending anyone to PyCon ever again.
posted by tyllwin at 9:07 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was observing that this claim fits a template. In other versions the antagonist might be black man instead of a woman and the protagonist would have made a racially insensitive remark.

I'm not really sure dongle puns really translate into that.
posted by Artw at 9:08 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'm not sure I believe anybody was fired over this. I don't really trust anonymous commenters on Hacker News.
posted by koeselitz at 9:12 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Thank you, men of mefi - this has been a very balanced discussion. I'm appreciative of all the great guys we have here who speak up about sexism. This is a thread I might have skipped 5 years ago.

Really? God, if that had come from anyone but you I wouldn't even try to believe it. This thread has been horrible from the get-go, frankly, with hateful comments getting piles of favourites too. It's not as awful as reddit or HN are, and it's a damn site better than the violent and evil mess of her twitter mentions right now, but it really hasn't seemed balanced to me at all. More a slew of guys who work in tech howling about their unseen privilege, and the odd lone voice of caution.

Tech is so deeply, horribly sexist, I would in fact be happy with a zero tolerance-style "prudish reaction" until these chuckleheads learn that this shit has to stop. I *want* men to go "uh uh can't say that here someone might tweet me ho ho!" because that's the first step on the road to understanding, just like it was when my father's generation said things like "uh uh can't call it a Paki shop anymore can I? Might be in the paper ho ho" until eventually they just started calling it a corner shop and the world got fractionally better.

If you don't think the guy should have been fired, barrack his employers. If you think she over-reacted and did the cause of feminism an injustice and pushback should be reserved for "real" sexism, get on twitter and start taking on the morons who are assaulting her right now. There is more than enough hate speech there for you to fill your boots.
posted by bonaldi at 9:15 PM on March 20, 2013 [34 favorites]


So two people were in the sort of liminal space where you're observable but have a reasonable expectation of some privacy. And someone else took their picture, without asking permission, sent it to thousands of people on the internet, and added a caption urging everyone to Two-Minutes-Hate on the people in the picture.

So basically this is Creepshots for people who like being offended more than masturbating. Christ, what an asshole.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:20 PM on March 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


What if I told you there is a third type of woman, the woman who hates misogyny, but sometimes enjoys and even initiates bawdy banter?


Yeah, that can't be repeated enough. This was NOT a misogynist joke. No women were demeaned in the making of this comment. This was a joke that acknowledged the existence of penises.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:21 PM on March 20, 2013 [23 favorites]


Also, on race, some of the abuse she is getting is specifically racist in form, which is possibly where race comes into this particular story. She's getting n-bombed, pretty much inevitably.

I think humanfont's point, however, is clearly not exactly that - but rather that narratives where a white man is oppressed by the forces of political correctness by dint of his whiteness and/or maleness tend to have a polemic rather than purely documentary intent.

So, the narrative here - that a previously model employee has lost his job purely as a result of a harmless comment blown out of proportion by a vengeful woman - feels like it may be incomplete in various ways.

To be honest, I share koeselitz' uncertainty that we can even say with confidence that anyone has lost their job. The available evidence seems to be an anonymous post on Hacker News. But, when someone thought they had identified the person sacked (probably by cross-referencing the photo with the headshots on the website), they were told that it was not him.

Also, of course, in the face of a story like this some communities, for purposes of ideology or recreation (or a mix of the two), look for ways to heighten the emotional temperature. When Jennifer Hepler of Bioware was targeted, a number of fake screencaps of posts she did not make to the Bioware Social Network were disseminated, along with falsified quotes.

So, it's entirely possible that someone has lost their job, but right now I think it still needs to be substantiated.

Speaking of - Maugrinn, I get what you mean, I think - that there is no primary evidence of the guys making those comments. So, all we have is a confirmation after the fact that they agreed that they had made inappropriate comments and apologized. That might be inaccurate - they might for their own reasons have given an inaccurate account to PyCon's officers, or expressed false contrition (possibly in the interests of smoothing things over), or it might have been misrecorded. However, it is the only account of the event from an independent, official and verifiable source. That's generally how things are substantiated - they happen first, and then the fact that they happened and how they happened is supported with evidence.

The lack of primary documentation raises an interesting side-point, though. Earlier, there was talk of "the age of Google goggles" - an age where everything is recorded, and we have to be careful of what we say and do at all times. However, there is no lifecast here, no Project Glass video clip to share.

Even if there were, however, I'm not sure it would make much difference. The argument over the wisdom of sharing it over social media would be about the same, although with a few different elements, and according to the official record nobody actually denied that the comments were made or that they were in poor taste, so the evidence value might be relatively limited. This is just one of those things people are going to disagree about, and probably still would if there were a video and audio record, since all sorts of elements of tone, context and motive could still be raised and questioned.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:22 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]



(As an aside, Adria Richards has 9,000 or so Twitter followers. That's not chopped liver by any means, but it's a long way from being Felicia Day or Veronica Belmont. She doesn't even have a verified account, which is the sort of low bar for being Twitter notable...)
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:50 PM on March 20 [+] [!]


Her website says she has nearly 2 million views and 10,000 subscribers for her YouTube channel, so I think she is fairly notable as a social media personality
posted by Bwithh at 9:23 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


And the forking joke is common enough among developers that GitHub sells such a shirt.

If you need an introduction to geek-bro culture, just attend a GitHub Drinkup. I wouldn't base my social standards on what they deem proper.
posted by jsavimbi at 9:23 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'd wager that Metafilter ranks somewhere in the 99th percentile when it comes to mainstream, general-topic discussion sites.

If the prevailing wind here suggests that this was an harmful overreaction to a non-example of sexism (in an area well known to be rife with it; namely coding) then it might not be a bad idea to step back and reexamine the situation objectively.

One would not have to tweak the details in this story very much to produce a 500-reply thread full of "Good for her!", but as it is, there are a lot of problems with it, not the least of which is that it further alienates borderline feminists or aspiring progressive thinkers who look at it and ask "is this what it's come to? We can't make christing 'dongle' jokes at a nerd convention? I'm off the bandwagon."
posted by ShutterBun at 9:29 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you think she over-reacted and did the cause of feminism an injustice and pushback should be reserved for "real" sexism, get on twitter and start taking on the morons who are assaulting her right now.

Where do you go if you think that both Richards and the Joker pretty much got (and are getting) unnecessarily dumped on and the only people who stand the gain are Internet faux activists on both sides (asshole MRAs and over-sensitive busybody PC types) who make it a business to generate controversy by stirring stuff like this up until it's a nice steamy, creamy froth?
posted by FJT at 9:32 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, on race, some of the abuse she is getting is specifically racist in form, which is possibly where race comes into this particular story.

Oh come off it. There is no indication whatsoever that the two guys took the race of some woman seated in front of them into account when they choose to banter amongst themselves about dongles and forking, nor did this charming offendee declare that they directed any racial nonsense towards her afterwards either (to the best of my knowledge, correct me if I'm wrong).

If the young lady had bad acne, these internet idiots would attack her for that. If she was larger or smaller, they would attacker her for being skinny or fat. Oh shit, look what just happened. Is this possibly where sizeism comes into this particular story?!
posted by amorphatist at 9:36 PM on March 20, 2013


If the prevailing wind here suggests that this was an harmful overreaction to a non-example of sexism

Yeah, a viewpoint I tend to agree with. It's unfortunate that the wind is carrying along with it a powerful amount of sexist tropes and same-old-awful arguments. I guess it's a small mercy we haven't had a huge men's rights derail, like that choking both reddit and HN
posted by bonaldi at 9:39 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think that we can all agree that the swarm of internet idiots are, indeed, idiots, and despicable for it, whatever you think of unmoderated dongle-chat.
posted by Artw at 9:39 PM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Reddit already is a huge mens rights derail - anything that isn't MRA is basically a shocking derail from that.
posted by Artw at 9:40 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


amorphatist: "Oh come off it. There is no indication whatsoever that the two guys took the race of some woman seated in front of them into account when they choose to banter amongst themselves"

Not the two guys at the conference, but post-facto racial harassment on HN, twitter, etc.
posted by boo_radley at 9:42 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


OK , I looked further into the comments section of the blog post and here's Adria on why she's not a feminist (bolded below), from a response she made to an critical poster identifying as a feminist :

Feminist Atheist ->ashedryden • a day ago −
The vocal majority is made up of reasonable people who believe that blowing a situation out of proportion under the flag of feminism is myopic at least and horribly offensive at best. Too many women have fought too hard to have this be what feminism has become. If we make it hard to stand up the way that Adria did, good--people should feel silly for doing silly things.


adriarichards Mod ->Feminist Atheist • 20 hours ago −
Sounds like you hit the nail on the head. All these efforts going on are to intimidate me into being a good, little, quiet woman who only speaks when spoken to. I will continue to speak up.

And I'll say it here again, I am not a feminist. Why? Because there is a much larger problem occurring at an institutional level and it all boils down to power.



I dunno, her position on feminism is still all a bit mysterious to me.
posted by Bwithh at 9:44 PM on March 20, 2013


In Australia we have laws that would probably protect an employee from being sacked under these circumstances. I think the lack of employee protection in the USA is reprehensible: taking someone's livelihood away is a very serious act, and employees ought to have some recourse against it happening for trivial or unfair reasons.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:46 PM on March 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


Reminds me of the kerfluffle over Violet Blue being at the b-sides conference.

Reading about that, it sounds more like the same "help, help, I'm being oppressedcensored" act that Blue trotted out during the Boing Boing mess. I'd question who thought it was a good idea to invite her in the first place. Not really relevant to the main topic of this thread.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:47 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The way she's been treated since by some people is totally reprehensible and symptomatic of how the internet is full of morons and racists and misogynists, but the existence of real sexism does not mean that any given call-out is actually calling out sexism. Even people doing something wrong should not be subjected to the sort of things she's been called. On the other hand, even people saying mildly rude things in public should not be subject to public shaming for such.

These things can both be true simultaneously without each lessening the import of the other.
posted by Ex-Wastrel at 9:50 PM on March 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Not the two guys at the conference, but post-facto racial harassment on HN, twitter, etc.

Yes, I understand, and as I said, now that she's incurred the wrath of the internet idiots, they will use any and every form of abuse available to attack her. It is despicable, but this is the sad condition of the internet. This is not news. And it doesn't make the story about race, any more than if somebody called her fat that this story would then be about sizeism.
posted by amorphatist at 9:51 PM on March 20, 2013


SendGrid's a good company. I've used them, and they seem to make the right noises about spam. Plus, if you think it's a good model to pay sendgrid prices for the sending of spam, then you probably don't know what you're talking about.
posted by zoo at 9:53 PM on March 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


amorphatist: " And it doesn't make the story about race"

Oh, I don't know. It seems like the internet idiots response to her becomes part of the story. Maybe that's just my take on it, though.
posted by boo_radley at 9:55 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Sorry, running order, I think my initial response was poorly worded.

I don't really doubt that "lewd" jokes were made, but it does seem that there may have been some things that were misinterpreted.

I see two problems with her actions.

1) Shaming: Throwing up pictures of someone on twitter and accusing them of something is public shaming. I feel that's wrong in most contexts and obviously so. I don't think that public shaming is going to bring about the desired change in behaviour. Plus, what if she misheard or misunderstood (which seems to be part of the case)? Are internet mobs ever a good way to go about something? She could have made the tweet without the picture and it would have had the exact same effect (of attracting attention from the organizers).

2) Making things better for women: From a "making life better for females in the tech. industry" standpoint, it's a really weak play. There's no real corroborating evidence. From the beginning it was a my word against theirs story. And the comments she accused them of making aren't exactly inspiring revulsion amongst most people. If they said something sexist and demeaning, it would certainly help her cause if she could repeat it verbatim or an approximation thereof. I don't make my living using social media, but I'd like to think I would have recognized the potential for a blow up before tweeting.

I'm very happy to give her the benefit of the doubt and say that it was a mistake made by someone having a bad day. But her blog post did nothing to improve my opinion of her.

(Disclaimer: If you can use the word "dongle" in a sentence and not immediately think of dick jokes, you are a far more serious person than I.)
posted by Maugrim at 9:56 PM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


ThatFuzzyBastard: "So two people were in the sort of liminal space where you're observable but have a reasonable expectation of some privacy."

This and other comments make it sound like Ms. Richards was eavesdropping or intruding on the two men's conversation. That's wrong, at least if her side of the story is correct:
The guy behind me to the far left was saying he didn’t find much value from the logging session that day. I agreed with him so I turned around and said so. He then went onto say that an earlier session he’d been to where the speaker was talking about images and visualization with Python was really good, even if it seemed to him the speaker wasn’t really an expert on images. He said he would be interested in forking the repo and continuing development.
So she'd been in conversation with the first guy when the second joined in. She was not invading their private conversation; she was already engaged in it, until it took a turn for the worse. (Not to mention that the two guys were talking right behind her, in the middle of a public event.)
posted by jiawen at 9:59 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


The "fired" guy claims to have 3 kids. Look at the picture. What was he twelve when he got married. She caught some guys engaged in jerky and unprofessional behavior. She had every right to complain and shame them. They appogized and the world went on. All this stuff about how these morons were wronged because they were outed for behaving like asses is ridiculous

She's a smart, educated professional. If she was offended and they apologized; you should presume she heard some shit that was way over the line; and what you've read was probably sanitized. The idea that she's it some hysterical black woman is garbage. If that's your reaction, you need to take a minute and do some serious introspection. She obviously goes to many events and interacts with clients on a regular basis. People prone to hysterics and hyper-dramatic outbursts don't end up in those jobs at the level she's at. So give her the presumption of correctly calling the situation and accept that the conference handled this in a way that resulted in an appropriate appology.
posted by humanfont at 10:00 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


People prone to hysterics and hyper-dramatic outbursts don't end up in those jobs at the level she's at.

LOL.
posted by amorphatist at 10:07 PM on March 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


humanfont: People prone to hysterics and hyper-dramatic outbursts don't end up in those jobs at the level she's at.

I'm really not sure about that. People who are prone to drama and demonstrate a willingness to run to the teacher/boss/lawyer at the first offense can do surprisingly well. I think it's because everyone is too terrified of them to get rid of them downward, so they get rid of them upwards or sideways.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:09 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh come off it. There is no indication whatsoever that the two guys took the race of some woman seated in front of them into account when they choose to banter amongst themselves about dongles and forking, nor did this charming offendee declare that they directed any racial nonsense towards her afterwards either (to the best of my knowledge, correct me if I'm wrong).

You're not wrong - but what you are asserting has nothing to do with what you quoted, so I am not sure what you think we are disagreeing about - it is as boo_radley says.

Regarding acne/weight - well, I don't think it's profitable to derail this thread with whether being racially abused is materially identical to being called "spotty" or "fatty". If that's what you believe, then that is a thing that you believe. It might be better discussed as an Ask MetaFilter question, though.

Her website says she has nearly 2 million views and 10,000 subscribers for her YouTube channel, so I think she is fairly notable as a social media personality

To be honest, I'm suspicious of the idea of a "social media personality" in general. Gotye, whom I would say actually is a social media personality - that is somebody recognizable from social media to mainstream audiences - got 380 million views for a single video. That's about the same as Totalbiscuit's lifetime views.

Charlie McDonnell - who you may well never have heard of, but who probably counts as a YouTube celebrity - gets more than 2 million views to a single video with reasonable regularity.

10,000 subscribers is 10,000 more than 0, and size certainly isn't everything - smaller followerships can be highly influential, and technology discussion on this level of granularity is unlikely to get the same number of views as cute cat videos.

I'm not trying to do her down or minimize her achievements or influence. I just don't think this is necessarily a case of a huge assymmetry in power or media profile. There's some good discussion about _why_ PyCon put a Code of Conduct in place on the webs - C. Titus Brown linked to his, above. I doubt that a company would change its corporate strategy, or fire someone, or a con would change its policies, purely out of fear of this kind of social reach.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:10 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Blasdelb: " That conference is a fucking workplace, not a playdate for awkward dudes. Indeed, how normal it seems that Big Dongle jokes apparently are at conferences like this is not an indication of how much she overreacted but how really warped tech shit is away from totally standard business practices that normalize not sexualizing everything and keep workplaces accessible."

Yeah, in most industries, the way this was handled is the norm. If your employer sends you to a conference, you represent your employer at the conference professionally, which means the workplace rules apply, plus you are now a public face of the company. If you do something to embarrass the company or anything that could be construed as a serious violation of workplace harassment policies (including telling off-color jokes), you can easily be fired for it. The tech industry is still behind the times, honestly, by a couple decades. I worked in tech for a long time until a couple years ago, and the atmosphere anywhere I worked always seemed like it sprung right out of the 1950s or a high school boys' locker room as far as attitudes towards women. It's long past due for a change, although the kicking and screaming will probably persist for a while...
posted by krinklyfig at 10:10 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's unfortunate that the wind is carrying along with it a powerful amount of sexist tropes and same-old-awful arguments

I'm not seeing so much of that, though admittedly I'm far from a keen identifier of such things, and may simply to take them for granted.

I'm not seeing "bitch be cray," or "fuck em if they can't take a joke," just a lot of "this was an example of being sensitive to the point of 'reaching', as well as an extreme overreaction to said offense."

Given the context of the jokes, it strikes me as being nearly in the same ballpark as the various people who have been fired over the use of the word "niggardly" over the years. Or maybe a (hypethitical) UPS driver who was fired for telling a female client he had a big "package" for her, while smiling just a little too much.

This could have been a great opportunity to teach a couple of guys what "not cool" means, but the takeaway for them (and others who sympathize) now is "sheesh, they (feminists) really *can't* take a joke, can they?"

It's a real shame things went this way, given how the convention and Python community seemed to be really going out of their way to promote diversity, but dramatic situations like this seem more likely to promote mistrust and division. Guys might become fearful of including women in conversations, lest they be placed under extra scrutiny. Obviously the goal is to teach everyone to treat everyone respectfully, but this was no way to do it (speaking as one who considers himself a student of such lessons.)
posted by ShutterBun at 10:12 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


The court of public opinion is never a fair trial. Reporting bad behavior to the conference and having the men escorted out, perfectly acceptable, laudatory even. The rest? Not so much.
posted by Freen at 10:14 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


The "fired" guy claims to have 3 kids. Look at the picture. What was he twelve when he got married

He looks like he's in his thirties to me *shrug*
posted by Bwithh at 10:15 PM on March 20, 2013


He could be 24 for all I know. It doesn't take that long to make 3 kids.
posted by ShutterBun at 10:22 PM on March 20, 2013


Absent of any hate comments by the so-called shamed ones, this looks like a frontal assault on free speech.
posted by Brian B. at 10:25 PM on March 20, 2013


Reporting bad behavior to the conference and having the men escorted out, perfectly acceptable, laudatory even.

We're still not in agreement over the word "bad" here, by the way.

If everyone who ever made a "floppy drive / hard drive" innuendo in the 80's got fired...sheesh.
posted by ShutterBun at 10:26 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Given the context of the jokes, it strikes me as being nearly in the same ballpark as the various people who have been fired over the use of the word "niggardly" over the years.

As an aside, this has happened once, to my knowledge, to a drugs councillor in Broward County in 2011, and even then it was a little more complicated than that. The most famous "fired for saying niggardly" example, David Howard, actually resigned, was invited to take his position back up and instead chose a different role in the Mayor's office.

Possibly you have better info, but this might be a good example of how ideas which fit a narrative get propagated - just as we still don't really have any solid evidence that anyone has been fired on this occasion, or, if they have been, for what.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:27 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I feel bad for the guy who got fired. I make lots of questionable jokes in public during private conversations (I mean, am I supposed to take all my bad jokes and my friends to a closet and whisper to each other?) and I certainly wouldn't want anyone snapping a picture of me (did she even get permission?) and telling the world about it without first confronting me.

It seems cowardly and vindictive. I'm sure if she had told the two that she was personally offended by their jokes, they would have probably apologized and stopped. No one would have been fired. She wouldn't look like a crazy person and people wouldn't be waving their internet fists at her.
posted by cyml at 10:32 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The court of public opinion is never a fair trial. Reporting bad behavior to the conference and having the men escorted out, perfectly acceptable, laudatory even. The rest? Not so much.

It is a scary thing to see many (including self-described liberals on Metafilter) endorse: Namely the destruction of a person's livelihood in the blink of an eye, over the whims of capricious Internet mob that saw a photograph, a false quote and filled in the blanks, right or wrong. It's like #amazonfail, but progressed to having actual human beings affected in a way that seems difficult to fix or undo. That is the power of a surveillance culture joined hand in hand with technology and a vindictive, fear-based mindset.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:37 PM on March 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


I see outrage above about someone possibly getting fired, even though we have no actual evidence that this occurred. Also outrage about guys being kicked out of the conference , when the truth is they were just pulled aside and decided to give an appology after talking about it. They were not kicked out.

I am tired of this ongoing grar in this thread over things that DID NOT HAPPEN. These myths are being used to position the woman as a bad person and ignore what happened to her. Focus on the facts.
posted by humanfont at 10:48 PM on March 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


ignore what happened to her

What happened to her? She was in the proximity of dick jokes not of her own making and ???
posted by Artw at 10:51 PM on March 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm female, loud, non-neurotypical, have a filthy sense of humour and often say things out loud before I realise quite what I've said. It's not the blokes with their dongle jokes in this situation who scare me, but that someone used shaming by photograph and tweet to deal with a daft double entendre from a conversation they dipped into. One day someone like Adria Richards will probably pick on me and do me serious damage and maybe even get me fired since I don't do a terribly good job of keeping my mouth shut and acting 'professional'.

I also really didn't like the pompous 'Won't somebody think of the children?' justification, especially when no children were present except as photos. It's a great excuse to bully and police people.
posted by Flitcraft at 10:52 PM on March 20, 2013 [38 favorites]


[Comment deleted. Do not come into this thread with your gallon of gasoline and pack of matches, or you will get a time out.]
posted by taz at 11:02 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


oh, look at all the poor nerds who have memories of saying things that they realise actually kind of are inappropriate, and feel bad for someone getting punished for doing the same thing. It's kind of like the conversations the Steubenville football coaches probably had among themselves, 'oh man I totally did the same thing when I was 16, lucky there wasn't twitter and phones then huh Bob!? Feels terrible to know that these days it can just ruin a nice kids life, his whole football career!'.
posted by jacalata at 11:03 PM on March 20, 2013


It's kind of like the conversations the Steubenville football coaches probably had among themselves

Um, no, it's really not.
posted by Artw at 11:07 PM on March 20, 2013 [39 favorites]


Oh FFS, jacalata, she overheard a conversation among strangers.

Comparing that to rape plus massive coverup is A) insane, and B) far more objectionable than anything these guys are accused of.
posted by Malor at 11:08 PM on March 20, 2013 [17 favorites]


[Yes, please do not do this. Please just have a conversation without setting up hyperbolic overblown premises. It really, really doesn't help. ]
posted by taz at 11:10 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


She otter have deleted the tweet with the photo after the situation had been dealt with. It does no good after.
posted by wemayfreeze at 11:13 PM on March 20, 2013



What happened to her? She was in the proximity of dick jokes not of her own making and ???


Did you read her account. She was at a conference talking with another attendee about a previous session they had both attended. Forking the code was suggested. She turned around and they started making jokes about forking her code and other women, and about the size of their dongles. She notified conference orgs, they got an appology.

If there was some misunderstanding of intent then I'd be more sympathetic of the guys. I was working a large corporate party. In an attempt to get the dancing going the DJ said, "come on up here, show me your moves." A person at the back heard it as , "come on up here, show me your boobs." They tweeted upset about it. I had to grab some staff and lead a search party to make sure we cleared it up. It all got worked out.
posted by humanfont at 11:15 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


As an aside, this has happened once, to my knowledge, to a drugs councillor in Broward County in 2011, and even then it was a little more complicated than that. The most famous "fired for saying niggardly" example, David Howard, actually resigned, was invited to take his position back up and instead chose a different role in the Mayor's office.

When it comes to political appointments, I tend to read "accepted his resignation" as being more or less equal to "fired." (The mayor himself profusely apologized for his "haste", which tends to point toward pressure against the accused.) Nevertheless, your account is accurate. There have been numerous other public controversies over the word, though. (Wikipedia has a whole section on it)

/derail
posted by ShutterBun at 11:16 PM on March 20, 2013


If there was some misunderstanding of intent then I'd be more sympathetic of the guys.

There was.
posted by ShutterBun at 11:22 PM on March 20, 2013


Did you read her account. She was at a conference talking with another attendee about a previous session they had both attended. Forking the code was suggested. She turned around and they started making jokes about forking her code and other women, and about the size of their dongles. She notified conference orgs, they got an appology.

Yeah, that's not what happened according to her account. The jokes didn't involve her or, apparently, other women. Her description of what was said is very vague.

It also seems, if you believe the account of the person making the joke, that Adria misunderstood the context in which forking was being used.
posted by Maugrim at 11:24 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Did you read her account. She was at a conference talking with another attendee about a previous session they had both attended. Forking the code was suggested. She turned around and they started making jokes about forking her code and other women, and about the size of their dongles.
Are you referring to her account here? If so, I did read that. Obviously I might have missed something, but I didn't notice her claim that they joked about forking her code. Nor did I notice her claim that they joked about forking other women. Nor did I notice her claim that they were talking about their big dongles. Did she claim these things there? Or elsewhere?
posted by Flunkie at 11:25 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I see outrage above about someone possibly getting fired, even though we have no actual evidence that this occurred.

"I'm only reacting to what I was told." - Martin Brody, Chief of Police, Amity Island
posted by ShutterBun at 11:25 PM on March 20, 2013


"oh, look at all the poor nerds who have memories of saying things that they realise actually kind of are inappropriate, and feel bad for someone getting punished for doing the same thing. It's kind of like the conversations the Steubenville football coaches probably had among themselves, 'oh man I totally did the same thing when I was 16, lucky there wasn't twitter and phones then huh Bob!? Feels terrible to know that these days it can just ruin a nice kids life, his whole football career!'."

Whoa, that's a massive fucking overstatement. If you can't describe what they did without playing a Steubenville Godwin, you don't have a very good argument and you should examine that before saying that being reserved in judgment here based on personal experience is the same as excusing gang rape. That's incredibly inflammatory and offensive, not least to actual victims of rape. Papercut Holocaust.
posted by klangklangston at 11:28 PM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Yeah, I just took another look at her account. This is what she describes:

The forking joke set the stage for the dongle joke. Neither were funny.
-
He said he would be interested in forking the repo and continuing development.

That would have been fine until the guy next to him…

began making sexual forking jokes


That's pretty much all the detail she gives and the account from the guy suggests it was joking about forking a guy. It isn't really specific enough to judge exactly how offended or not she "should" be, but she obviously felt it was serious.
posted by Drinky Die at 11:29 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Flunkie: " Did she claim these things there? "

That doesn't make any difference in terms of whether or not telling those jokes is a violation of the conference policies or is considered sexual harassment in a workplace. Telling sexual jokes or making sexual comments in the workplace is considered harassment, whether or not they could be considered to be sexist or directed at any gender or person in particular. It's contributing to a hostile work environment. It's also a violation of the conference rules.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:30 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"She turned around and they started making jokes about forking her code and other women, and about the size of their dongles."

Don't make shit up. It makes the conversation worse.
posted by klangklangston at 11:30 PM on March 20, 2013 [34 favorites]


Is it a coincidence that just a few hours ago, for a reason that I no longer remember, I was thinking of the time that Amanda Marcotte called the people who thought the Duke non-rapists might be innocent "rape-loving scum"? Good times.

I have so many questions. Can someone explain to me how what Adria did empowers women? What exactly is "progressive" about this? Why are even the most far-left Americans (well, some of them anyway) still puritanical prudes? Are our fucked-up attitudes towards sex so pervasive and oppressive that even the most enlightened minds among us cannot shake them? And yes, these are all serious questions.

Look, as much as I abhor the whole "slippery slope" fallacy, the commenter who said that the logical conclusion of this thinking is to have all the women wear hijabs lest a Muslim male be in the audience is correct. I know that to serial conclusion-jumpers this sounds like "women need to just shut up and deal with men being sexist pigs", but it is not. Middle ground, people. This could've been solved (assuming there even was a situation to begin with) in a few seconds by her turning around and explaining how what they were saying made her feel. Hell, she even could have tweeted that she got a couple guys to become slightly more enlightened about inadvertent sexism, at a developer's conference, no less! Could've had all that sweet, sweet internet twitter glory without destroying a guy's life.
posted by MattMangels at 11:31 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I didn't say it did make a difference with respect to that, krinklyfig. I asked if she said the things that humanfont said she said.
posted by Flunkie at 11:32 PM on March 20, 2013


Malor: "Oh FFS, jacalata, she overheard a conversation among strangers."

No, from the looks of it, she was in a conversation with strangers.
posted by jiawen at 11:33 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


And yes, these are all serious questions.

No they're not. They're a singleminded opinion masquerading as open-mindedness by slapping question marks on leading statements.
posted by fatbird at 11:34 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel like there is so much I don't know about what happened, I'm not comfortable coming to a conclusion. I don't know what was said, I don't know how long it was sustained, I don't know if there was anything resembling an opportunity to address these guys directly.

I do know that the response to this has been a relentless attack on her character, her psychology, and very literal DOS attacks on her website. I know a lot of the responses have been to specifically mock her gender. I know people are trying to wedge this into some "PC gone amok" narrative when they know just as little as I do. I know there is an exceptional amount of ad hominem.

And, from past events like this, I know that this is what she would have had to endure even if they had make unambiguously sexist jokes or engaged in unambiguously inappropriate behavior. Because that's what women have to deal with. And I would rather we not participate in attacking her personally or in inventing scenarios or in any of the other endemic misbehavior toward women that this sort of thing produces.

All I know is the event has rules of conduct, she felt they were violated, she reported it, she tweeted it, they were chastised, one apologized, and apparently one was fired. Without more detail, I don't know that she was overreacting, I don't know that they were in the wrong, I don't know anything but the barest bones and some conflicting accounts. One thing I know is that rushing to judgement on either side here is likely to make people look foolish at best.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:34 PM on March 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


All I know is the event has rules of conduct, she felt they were violated, she reported it, she tweeted it, they were chastised, one apologized, and apparently one was fired.

She tweeted and included a photograph.

There's a world of difference.
posted by Maugrim at 11:37 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Feel free to be critical of that. But this digging into her private life, scouring her tweets to show her up as a hypocrite, armchair psychoanalyzing, etc.? It's not forwarding the conversation, it's just making it look like people think that she misbehaved and this justifies any attack against her.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:39 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I acted grossly unprofessionally at a professional conference while representing my company

Professionalism is a ruse invented by companies to make you feel guilty about having a life outside of work. It's always a one way street, with the employee having obligations the employer does not have and it's always code for "we will fuck you over if you step out of line".
posted by MartinWisse at 11:40 PM on March 20, 2013 [39 favorites]


Don't make shit up. It makes the conversation worse.

Worse than that, it gets amplified in an echo chamber to the point until people can no longer distinguish it from anything that reasonably approaches objective truth.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:40 PM on March 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


What if I told you there is a third type of woman, the woman who hates misogyny, but sometimes enjoys and even initiates bawdy banter?

It's almost ironic the way self-proclaimed feminists find women to be such delicate fragile flowers that we must ban vast swaths of normal sorts of communication and interaction generally enjoyed by majorities of men and women.

It's like the way the left and right bleed into each other at the extremes; "liberal" ideas about sex and gender looping back around into repressive, unnatural rules foisted by a small, vocal, self-righteous minority, vainly trying to proscribe common human experiences from our shared society.
posted by crayz at 11:41 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Hell, she even could have tweeted that she got a couple guys to become slightly more enlightened about inadvertent sexism, at a developer's conference, no less!

She could, indeed, have tweeted that. It would not, however, make it true. In that context, at least from what we've been told, it seems very unlikely that there was any sexism. The comments were not directed at her, and there's no way to construe what she's told us about as anti-woman or pro-man in any particular way.

It might upset the prudish, but sexual humor is not at all the same as sexist humor.

It seems to me that what these guys are really guilty of is being un-funny in earshot of the wrong person.
posted by Malor at 11:42 PM on March 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


So, I attended PyCon this year, and I read and agreed to the Code of Conduct and I think that the key paragraphs are these ones:
Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to gender, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, sexual images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention.

Participants asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately.
From the attendee procedure for reporting harassment document, a specific note:
Public shaming can be counter-productive to building a strong community. PyCon does not condone nor participate in such actions out of respect.
These are nice, clear statements about how to behave at a con. It is possible to argue that the joker in question was immature, but I have a hard time seeing how his comments to his friend constituted any of the offenses called out above. I do see a possible violation on the photographer's part, though; harassing photography is a decent name for what she did, and so is public shaming.

That said? I think the PSF handled it with aplomb; they called the jokers outside and spoke to them about the fact that their behaviour was causing another person discomfort, and everything went better than expected. If the picture had been never been made public, then I think I'd still be squicked about the humourlessness that is being asked for, but I'd still be onboard with the whole process.
posted by ChrisR at 11:43 PM on March 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


It's almost ironic the way self-proclaimed feminists find women to be such delicate fragile flowers that we must ban vast swaths of normal sorts of communication and interaction generally enjoyed by majorities of men and women.

And it's intensely distressing that people feel free to invent straw feminists and mock them using gendered language in public forums. Is it really impossible that we not do that here?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:43 PM on March 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


Feel free to be critical of that. But this digging into her private life, scouring her tweets to show her up as a hypocrite, armchair psychoanalyzing, etc.? It's not forwarding the conversation, it's just making it look like people think that she misbehaved and this justifies any attack against her.

Honestly, I don't see much of that in this thread.

What I'm getting is that a lot of people who would, provided just cause, happily rally to her side if they weren't skeptical of Adria's actions.
posted by Maugrim at 11:44 PM on March 20, 2013


Honestly, I don't see much of that in this thread.

I guess I see enough of it that I felt it should be commented on.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:47 PM on March 20, 2013


crayz: " It's almost ironic the way self-proclaimed feminists find women to be such delicate fragile flowers that we must ban vast swaths of normal sorts of communication and interaction generally enjoyed by majorities of men and women."

I enjoy that kind of thing, too, but I'm an adult, so I can discern when such banter is appropriate or not and act accordingly. Especially when the rules are posted publicly, and my job is at stake.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:47 PM on March 20, 2013


Maugrim: What I'm getting is that a lot of people who would, provided just cause, happily rally to her side being skeptical of Adria's actions.

Yeah, if the events matched humanfont's very misleading rendition, I suspect MeFi would be apoplectic. The described behavior would be absolutely unacceptable, humiliating and demeaning her precisely because she was female.

But that's not, at least by the evidence that's on display at present, even remotely what actually happened.
posted by Malor at 11:49 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Man, what a mess all around. As anyone who follows me on Twitter can attest to, I'm pretty strident when it comes to issues of sexism and oppression and creating hostile environments for people with comparative little social power, but I have a hard time standing fully behind Richards on this one.

Some dudes behaved not optimally, she overreacted, the internet flipped the fuck out and is raining abuse and threats down on her and the PyCon organisers, and the employer (if HN is to be believed, which is a pretty big if) got freaked out and pulled the trigger on the guy too hastily. Seems like the only people who come off not looking like assholes are the Con staff, whose positions I do not envy one bit.

There's been some notable trends in the reactions to Richards, though. For one, I absolutely do not believe or agree that she would have been treated with much more kindness if the incident she called out was more egregious. It's an unfortunate reality that women who call attention to themselves in any way invite abuse, even if they have all the justification in the world. It's therefore doubly frustrating that this incident muddies the water on much worse instances of boundary-crossing and misogyny. She may not identify as a feminist (although she needs to do a hell of a lot more reading if she thinks feminism isn't about power and structural issues) but as this thread demonstrates, this incident will be attributed to feminism by both sides.

Secondly, there's been a little bit of discussion of how it sucks that the tech world is becoming more rigid and corporate, and that people like Richards represent the vanguard of that trend. Which I think is a little bit simplistic. The tech world may be more structured now, but it's also so much more accessible to a wider audience. I used Wordpress casually for years before deciding to check out a WordCamp, and loved it so much I switched careers. I could have taught myself the same things I learned in those 3-4 workshops by reading the Codex or something, but the diverse and engaging atmosphere at the convention made Wordpress development feel like something that was attainable to me, even if I'm not good at sitting through hours of documentation.

But when you run conferences (and organizations) that are open to a wider audience, you necessarily need codes of conduct. Not because bureaucracy is the unavoidable end state of things, but because you can't negotiate informal social norms when you have a diverse group with different backgrounds and expertise and engagement. The CoCs are there to protect the newcomers as well as the health of the community, even if this formalization of norms feels stuffy.

I'm personally incredibly grateful for the recent move in nerdy conventions to try and adopt anti-harassment CoCs. Not every convention is great at implementing or enforcing these, but their presence is an indicator to me that my experience matters, even if I'm not the expert speaker that everyone reveres. That means a lot.

The issue of inclusiveness is, IMO, separate from the issue of corporatization. A CoC looks like an HR document and thus feels like bureaucracy, but it doesn't have to reflect a lack of human input and contextual analysis in reflexive decision making. A bad implementation of a CoC can be that, yes, but bad implementations are not grounds for dismissing good ideas.

But given the tech world's aversion to anything that has a whiff of being corporate (something I don't disagree with), it's then interesting that there's been a lot of (attempted) character analysis of Richards in this thread that paint her in this light. She has a silly title, she is dramatic in her blog post, she works for a company in the most hated of all industries, etc. which is justification for accusing her of attention seeking, trying to get agead, being sociopathic, whatever. Even the employer's alleged pigheadedness, a perfect example of knee-jerk corporatism, is being attributed to her as something she intended or wanted to happen.

I'm not a fan of her behaviour at all, but it really of sucks that we still can't discuss the behaviour without inferring malicious motives or maligning her character. Not surprising, but still sucky.
posted by Phire at 11:50 PM on March 20, 2013 [19 favorites]


Humanfont wrote: I see outrage above about someone possibly getting fired, even though we have no actual evidence that this occurred.

We have a statement from someone who claims to be the guy that got fired. And we have a statement from someone who claims to have overheard inappropriate remarks. It's the same sort of evidence, and in neither case is it especially clear or especially good.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:53 PM on March 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I guess I see enough of it that I felt it should be commented on.

Fair enough. Please point it out when you see it.

My issue is primarily with the photo attached to the tweet.

Does anything merit the treatment she's received? No. Did Adria bring an avoidable situation on herself because she chose to tweet a photo alongside her text rather than just tweeting text? Yes.
posted by Maugrim at 11:53 PM on March 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Blazecock Pileon:
Don't make shit up. It makes the conversation worse.

Worse than that, it gets amplified in an echo chamber to the point until people can no longer distinguish it from anything that reasonably approaches objective truth.

................................................................................................................

Oh how I wish I could favor that a thousand times.
posted by TrolleyOffTheTracks at 11:56 PM on March 20, 2013


Phire: For one, I absolutely do not believe or agree that she would have been treated with much more kindness if the incident she called out was more egregious.

Well, the internet troll brigade would probably be out in force no matter what, but in places like MeFi, she'd have a lot of support. Imagine that humanfont's rendition up there was true, and I suspect the anger and derision here would be almost unanimous. (in her favor, not opposing her.)

So she'd absolutely get a lot more kindness if her case were better; the haters would hate no matter what, but she'd have a huge number of people backing her, instead of offering anything from very tepid support to outright eye-rolling at her claim.
posted by Malor at 11:56 PM on March 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Has the guy claiming to have been fired and to therefore be telling one side of this story over on HN been verified in any way? Every article about it links back to those posts, and I can't find any verification of the poster there. Like, you know, wouldn't it be easy just to post a picture of yourself?
posted by lantius at 11:56 PM on March 20, 2013


TBH the thing that's most depressing about if is the Internet flip out. Its so seemingly inevitable these days, and dumb, and heaping dumb on top of dumb helps no-one at all.
posted by Artw at 11:56 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's like the way the left and right bleed into each other at the extremes; "liberal" ideas about sex and gender looping back around into repressive, unnatural rules foisted by a small, vocal, self-righteous minority, vainly trying to proscribe common human experiences from our shared society.

Yes! MetaFilter, myself certainly included, will (more often that not) rightfully jump on anyone espousing the tired old "left and right are just the same, extreme views = bad, why don't you join me over here in the magical middle where unicorns bake cherry pie all day long and cocaine isn't bad for you" line. It's one of the most cliched, unoriginal, hackneyed things one can say in these sorts of discussions.

Yet, I'll be darned if there isn't some truth to it; not being a writer the only way I can think to express it is "extremists gonna extreme". These kinds of threads used to make me angry, now I just try to find whatever truth I can in them, even if it's an uncomfortable one.
posted by MattMangels at 11:57 PM on March 20, 2013


But that's not, at least by the evidence that's on display at present, even remotely what actually happened.

Well, the trouble is that codes of conduct have eliminated much overtly sexual behavior, and so we wind up with a lot of these edge cases, where the inappropriateness is uncertain and a matter of opinion. And I think what bothers me is that in these edge cases, there isn't so much of a discussion as an instant, angry dismissal. With more information, this is an instance where I might feel the behavior of the two men was not inappropriate -- but, then, it's not my call. I do think people should never be discouraged from reporting, and the organizers can address it. And I think the fact of reporting it shouldn't invite a torrent of abuse, or outright dismissal, or refusal to engage the discussion, or a presumption that one side must necessarily be wrong because no way is that sexist, because then there are no mechanisms for addressing the stuff that might be a problem but hasn't come up yet, or stuff that's a problem that people aren't aware of, or stuff that is just barely to one side of being a problem, but actually, yes, still is a problem. This might not be an example of it, and she may have been overreacting, but a lot of the response in general, and some of it here, seems to be an attempt to just tell her that she should have shut up.

Should she have tweeted the photo? I think not, but that's again something the conference has rules about and can address. The fact that she did something wrong does not mean anything else in this is right.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:58 PM on March 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


A few things, reading the guy's apology:

a) I think he needs to get some credit for an *actual* apology here; he actually says he regrets making the joke and that he defends Adria's right to complain. What he said wasn't some wishy-washy "I'm sorry you feel this way" shit.

b) He seems to be hinting that he was at PyCon on a personal capacity, or at least that he doesn't mind being at PyCon on his own; he did say he'd be back next year, despite apparently being without a job. It's possible that his employer hadn't funded his participation.

c) I think his point about social media makes me think; I'd wonder if there'd be this much response or discussion had Adria not had a "personal brand", so to say. I wonder how the discussion would have been different had the guy had an online presence himself.

Finally, I think it's pointless arguing whether the joke was appropriate or not, given that all the parties involved have more or less agreed that while it happened, it shouldn't have. Personal views apart, that's where it stands.

Also, the guy seems to already have gotten leads, so his job situation might not be as dire as it might seem initially.

Death/rape threats, DDoS attacks and personal attacks on Richards are beyond the pale, of course. That's the danger of social-media-izing normal face-to-face communication isn't it; brings out all the neanderthals out of the woodwork.
posted by the cydonian at 12:00 AM on March 21, 2013 [15 favorites]


ShutterBun: " This could have been a great opportunity to teach a couple of guys what "not cool" means, but the takeaway for them (and others who sympathize) now is "sheesh, they (feminists) really *can't* take a joke, can they?" "

I don't see why anyone should be inclined to stereotype women or feminists, nor that this incident is any excuse they should. Adria does not represent all women, and she explicitly says she's not a feminist (although I think she's perhaps not clear on what feminism means, but that doesn't really matter).

Would you confront someone over something offensive, if you were in a minority among a non-friendly crowd? I mean, look at the reaction here and elsewhere, for example ... all the vitriol thrown at Adria, because she didn't cater to the needs of the people who violated the conference policy or think of them first.

What if it had been a racist comment? Would you say that someone who had been offended by a racist joke directly confront the jokers before taking other action?
posted by krinklyfig at 12:00 AM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


On the plus side, we can hope that the sexists will be so tired out from this kerfuffle that the next time a major incident of sexual harrassment or assault is publicized they won't have the energy to go to town on the victim.

Ah who am I kidding-Reddit breeds sexists with infinite reserves of hatred. It's nice to dream though.
posted by happyroach at 12:03 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


The guy that was fired for saying "niggardly" was only re-instated because he was a respected gay activist and had a well-organized power base behind him that demanded he get his job back. His reinstatement was nothing to do with "niggardly" being a perfectly non-racist word with no semantic link to the N word.

Anyway, getting back to the subject,
Adria didn't just say something that sounded suggestive on Twitter. She implied that the man she was replying to had such a small dick he should stuff items in his pants, but it would be funny if he overdid it and made such a huge bulge that it shocked the TSA.
That's a public sexual insult.

By contrast, one of the guys in the audience said "big dongles" to his friend with no stated context
There is no body part called the dongle.

Now "dong" has been used (quite rarely) as a slang term for penis, but "dong" has many many meanings, e.g. the sound of a bell, it's the currency of Vietnam, it's a common last name in China, and it's the name of a North Korean weapons system, just to give a few from memory. I actually used to work with a guy whose name was "Tiger Dong".

Furthermore, "dong" and "dongle" are not the same word. A bang is not a bangle, a wig is not a member of The Wiggles, 'sing" is not the same word as "single", a "tang" is not a "tangle", etc.

If vague and meaningless statements are to be banned from conferences, they are going to have a hard time writing the speeches, I can tell you.
posted by w0mbat at 12:05 AM on March 21, 2013


There's been some notable trends in the reactions to Richards, though. For one, I absolutely do not believe or agree that she would have been treated with much more kindness if the incident she called out was more egregious. It's an unfortunate reality that women who call attention to themselves in any way invite abuse, even if they have all the justification in the world.

I agree and the "internet's" reaction is horrible and if I could end the hate on her right now, I would.

But MeFi threads are not usually bigoted hate fests thanks to the moderation and the people who come here. I think, to a certain extent, I can treat MeFi threads as a bit of a bellwether as towards what the actual debate should be about and on which side I should fall. And, in this case, it seems that there's cause to be skeptical about Adria's actions.

(Also, I post infrequently but I'm here quite often and I'd like to give a shout out to the mods and the community for being awesome. Thanks!)
posted by Maugrim at 12:10 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


That stuff those guys said was inappropriate. It should have been complained about. Stop defending what those fucking guys said, it was stupid, and it makes me vaguely ashamed to be a in the IT field even to the light degree that I am when people say stuff that dumb.

But a technology "evangelist" quasi-journalist rocking around 10K followers on Twitter knows exactly what she's doing by bringing it there and moreover sharing a photograph of those idiots instead of sending a message straight to convention staff, and knows the possible consequences.

So the question becomes whether or not we are cool with Adria Richards knowingly choosing to respond by endangering someone's job when there were other ways to get the behaviour censured. Please do not assume that she is an idiot when you would find it rhetorically convenient, and would have no idea that the guy's company might fire him for attracting bad publicity.

You either think that these guys' shitty behaviour warrants a response that could destroy careers, or you don't.
posted by mobunited at 12:14 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Adria didn't just say something that sounded suggestive on Twitter. She implied that the man she was replying to had such a small dick he should stuff items in his pants, but it would be funny if he overdid it and made such a huge bulge that it shocked the TSA.
That's a public sexual insult.
I didn't get any such implication when I read that tweet.
posted by Flunkie at 12:14 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


w0mbat: " If vague and meaningless statements are to be banned from conferences, they are going to have a hard time writing the speeches, I can tell you."

I think it matters that the people involved apologized and agreed that their words were inappropriate, and said publicly that she was right to report them.

It's really not that difficult to act in a professional manner at work and when in a professional environment, if nothing more than out of respect for others. It's pretty disrespectful, IMO, to disregard people's complaints about incidents which discourage the participation of women in tech. Even if you think it's silly that people are offended at certain ideas and words that don't offend you personally, isn't it better to be able to encourage women to voice their concerns rather than shut them down?
posted by krinklyfig at 12:20 AM on March 21, 2013


Stuff like this is so controversial on here because we don't actually know what they said, word-for-word, or how they said it.

We project caricatures of "bad people" onto either party, depending which way they lean. We go through hundreds of comments because we're all imagining a slightly different set of events. So we can't reach any definite conclusions about who was right and wrong.

I saw the same thing with before the Trayvon Martin case went to trial.

That's not to say the discussion isn't edifying, but people should be aware of what we're really doing when we talk about cases like this.
posted by victory_laser at 12:22 AM on March 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


krinklyfig: What if it had been a racist comment?

Well, let's turn your question around: what if the accusations here were of racism, not sexism? Same exact events transpired, but now she's accusing them of being racists.

It wouldn't fly. It absolutely wouldn't fly. I feel safe in asserting that nobody here would think this was racism.

So why is it sexism? I don't think the evidence for that is particularly stronger than a racism claim.

Yes, there are obviously circumstances where similar events could be sexism or harassment. Most of us have probably seen things like that. But this case appears to just be a little innuendo and wordplay, which wasn't even directed at her, and doesn't seem likely to qualify.
posted by Malor at 12:24 AM on March 21, 2013


I can agree with drawing a distinction between MeFi and the Internet troll brigade, but on a practical level, she would still be getting rape and death threats, still be harassed and DDOS'd. It's not nothing that she gets support from impartial third parties, but it's dispiriting to know that no airtight case will stop the abuse. (I also remember what a clusterfuck the Rebecca Watson and subsequent Skepticism threads were, and don't always have great faith in even MetaFilter to "do sexism well".)

It's also what makes accusations of attention-seeking a bit eye-rolly for me, because it seems to me to betray a lack of understanding of how risky it is to invite the Internet to pass judgment on you. Like all the MRA twits who think women just make up rape accusations for fun, not realizing how horribly society treats rape victims, you don't just decide to contravene community norms on a whim. She's a social media person, she must've know what kind of assholes would respond.
posted by Phire at 12:25 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Malor: " Well, let's turn your question around: what if the accusations here were of racism, not sexism? Same exact events transpired, but now she's accusing them of being racists. "

She did not accuse anyone of 'being' anything. She reported what these people did which was a violation of the conference policy. She was specifically calling out their behavior. People need to get to the point where they understand that calling out bad behavior is not the same as accusing someone of being a bad person. It also doesn't absolve someone of the consequences of their behavior, which is not her fault nor her responsibility.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:29 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


She's a social media person, she must've know what kind of assholes would respond.

Gosh, I wonder. People can be astonishingly naive about such things -- I mean, Anita Sarkeesian is about as savvy as anybody, and I doubt she could have predicted (and obviously she didn't) that she would become the end-level boss in an massive online multiplayer game in which the goal was to silence and abuse her just for having the temerity for wanting to explore gender roles in video games.

I am going to draw a personal line in saying that anything people do invites or deserves the response the web gives them, which is often like a random sustained shock and awe campaign.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:30 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


but on a practical level, she would still be getting rape and death threats,

Yeah, but remember that this is coming from guys who are usually (almost always?) under 21. We treat their threats as just as valid as ones coming from mature adults, because we can't see that the people doing it are pimply geeks with zero real ability to follow through. The normal social cues are missing, which is why young men love the Internet for this stuff so very much; largely hapless in their normal lives, due to a lack of social skills, they can terrorize others and feel big online.

It's the older people we have to actually worry about, and it's hard, maybe impossible, to know whether the troll brigade's attitudes are coming from true participants of mainstream society, rather than being bluster from the powerless.
posted by Malor at 12:31 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Malor: " So why is it sexism? I don't think the evidence for that is particularly stronger than a racism claim. "

Forget sexism. Sexual jokes and innuendo in a workplace is considered sexual harassment. It's also against the conference policies. Period. The people involved did not argue that they had violated the policy.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:32 AM on March 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


People need to get to the point where they understand that calling out bad behavior is not the same as accusing someone of being a bad person.

Except, when you do it on the internet in a social media context, for all intents and purposes, it is.

(I'd like to point out that I've consistently avoided prescribing malicious intent on Adria's part.)
posted by Maugrim at 12:32 AM on March 21, 2013


Yeah, but remember that this is coming from guys who are usually (almost always?) under 21.

I am not clear on the point here. Firstly, how do we know this? And, secondly, obviously rape threats from minors should be treated with the same degree of seriousness as when they come from adults.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:34 AM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Maugrim: " Except, when you do it on the internet in a social media context, for all intents and purposes, it is."

Dragging this into the light is unpleasant, and I have mixed feelings about the way she did it, but the real problem underlying all this is the poor behavior of men towards women at these conferences. I can't really muster a lot of sympathy for people who were called out publicly for doing something that was clearly inappropriate and a specific example of a much larger problem.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:39 AM on March 21, 2013


She's a hero, and she did it all for the children according to her blog.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 12:39 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


And, secondly, obviously rape threats from minors should be treated with the same degree of seriousness as when they come from adults.

Um, how many maladjusted geek minors have you actually known? These guys would make your eyes roll if they said that stuff to you in real life; you'd instantly know they were neither emotionally nor physically capable of such an act.

Plus, minors simply do not have the resources to carry these threats out; if someone's not in immediate proximity, there's rarely much they can do, because they can't easily travel, and they certainly can't get weapons once they get there. Once in a great while, you'll see a really unusual one shoot up a public place, but that's exceedingly rare to begin with, and always involves a nearby target. You simply do not see minors cross the country to rape and/or kill some random female they don't like on the Internet.

If you're aware of something I'm not, then feel free to educate me, but from personal experience, that would appear to be inaccurate threat classification.
posted by Malor at 12:46 AM on March 21, 2013


Um, how many maladjusted geek minors have you actually known?

I don't know any anonymous person on the web. I don't know that they are minors or that they are faraway. Neither do you. I do know that women are raped quite often, and, barring actually knowing the source of the threat, the safest thing to do is treat it as credible and criminal. I don't care if it is some maladjusted geek whose eyes will roll. That might be habit they would do to get themselves out of.

By the way, maladjusted geeks do rape people.

You know as little about these anonymous threats as I do. I find it strange that you are treating them as inherently unserious based on a series of assumptions about their sources. I would never advise somebody that they should ignore a rape threat because, in my opinion, it's some nerd in a faraway basement. Because I might be wrong.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:51 AM on March 21, 2013 [14 favorites]


krinklyfig I don't deny that there's a problem. I don't deny that she had the right to be offended.

I do, however, have a problem with her calling people out by posting their images on twitter.

She could have misheard. And, even if she didn't, how does subjecting people to a public shaming help anything? What if someone had attacked them as a result (yes, unlikely, but it's not like there's a shortage of crazies on the internet)?

Adria could have simply messaged the organizers saying, "Jerks behind me. Could you come talk to them?" She intentionally took the message to a public forum.

I'm perfectly willing to believe that she made an angry mistake. That really doesn't excuse what is a horrific lapse in judgement form someone whose business is social media.
posted by Maugrim at 12:51 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Adria didn't just say something that sounded suggestive on Twitter. She implied that the man she was replying to had such a small dick he should stuff items in his pants, but it would be funny if he overdid it and made such a huge bulge that it shocked the TSA.
That's a public sexual insult.


The exchange seems sexually suggestive, perhaps demeaning in a way that suggests her public behavior may not be all that much different from a private exchange which she has called out publicly. It seems to add another shade of grey to a fairly complicated matter.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:52 AM on March 21, 2013


. I expected a more nuanced discussion from metafilter, instead of "what a horrible overreacting prude"

Well, she was a horribly overreacting prude, but that's not the interesting part of this kerfuffle. What's interesting is that it was apparantly easier to sent a tweet to alert the con staff than to actually talk to them directly. Which is where the problem starts. Because now this incident is on record, with the consequence being that one of them got fired. This is probably not what Adria Richards intended, but by not thinking through the potential impact of using a public medium to settle a private grievance, she is partially responsible for it.

It's a good object lesson as well that if you make shit public, how people deal with it is out of your hands, something to remember in this glorious new Google Glassed future.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:23 AM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Bunny Ultramod, I hope you didn't read my comment to mean that I was implying that Richards deserved what she got. I was saying that the consequences of of doing what she did is so obviously negative given the recent furore over geek sexism--Sarkeesian included--that I would trust that anyone who makes that decision had very good reason to do so.

Malor, I tend find underestimating Internet trolls to be not super productive. We've seen plenty of situations where grown men are more than happy to attack and harass women. There are Facebook pages dedicated to putting "13-year-old sluts" in their places where men post awful comments with their real identities. The developer who made the "Beat up Sarkeesian" game is 26. The most egregious harasser I know in my Twitter circle who is now facing several charges is 40-something. The people who run A Voice For Men who regularly incite internet hate mobs against uppity feminists are all well into adulthood.

If we assume the majority of Internet trolls are teenage basement dwellers, it becomes easy to not take them seriously, and it discounts how threatening and upsetting it can be to receive demeaning and angry messages from anonymous usernames. One teenager trying to act tough may be laughable, but hordes of trolls acting tough drove a 15-year-old girl to take her life. Even if that assumption is correct, I think it's still worth examining and correcting why these many teenage boys have such disdain for women.

Anyway, I'm off to bed. I've rambled enough.
posted by Phire at 1:27 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


those fucking regular, ordinary guys said,

If anyone is willing to state that what these guys said is definitively beyond my correction, feel free.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:40 AM on March 21, 2013


It seems to add another shade of grey to a fairly complicated matter.

Eegads, we're up to 51 Shades now?
posted by ShutterBun at 1:48 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


she has, in one story, embodied (and in her defense of it, perpetuated) a myriad of unfair stereotypical impressions of women in the workplace--that they are overly sensitive, humorless, gossipy, whiny, and can't mind their own business. i'm guessing many women would appreciate it if she didn't do them any more favors.

I appreciate what she did and am glad she did me a favor. Standing up and making oneself a target for a principle is never an easy thing to do, especially now that it is clear that pretty much any woman who draws enough attention on the internet with get rape and death threats, among the lesser insults of sexual and racial slurs up to and including prude.
posted by Deoridhe at 2:28 AM on March 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


Not entirely relevant, but I'd gladly take 5000 Internet death threats over one real-life firing any day (assuming both sides of the story are true.) I don't want to diminish (what I think is) your principle is here, but if you want people to go to the wall over "dongles," god help those who are fighting the real battles. (my words)
posted by ShutterBun at 2:39 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can't speak for laws in all states, but when employees out here get briefed on sexual harassment law, it is made clear that the intent of the speaker is irrelevant, only the reaction of the listener. The example we are given is that if two of us are making off color jokes in a room by ourselves but somebody has their ear pressed agains the window, overhears us and complains, we can be fired and sued for creating a hostile work environment. In fact, we are told it doesn't even really matter if we're not making blue jokes at all and the person completely misunderstands what we're saying. We could still be fired and sued.

Now, at the end of the day, we probably wouldn't be fired or sued for it, but the point is sexual harassment, as its defined out here, can be committed by somebody who is having a totally legitimate conversation about dongles if the listener doesn't realize the speaker is actually talking about a piece of equipment.

Granted, I work at a school, but we're very careful about our choices of words. We can still make jokes and be playful, we just try our hardest not to say anything that might be misconstrued. When you work with kids, it's pretty easy to learn which words provoke Beavis like reactions. I'm not advocating nor complaining about this law - it is what it is and we just deal with it.

So in that context, when I read about this event, my first reaction was "oh, those guys shouldn't have said those things." Assuming the laws are the same in their states, they're potentially in violation of hostile workplace rules and could get themselves and their companies sued.

As to the rest of this issue, there has been a ton of assumption and speculation in this discussion. Lots of "yeah, but what if..." statements, lots of information that is proven false but still being trotted out as fact five comments later, lots of misreading and not reading and selective reading, and lots of assigning motives to the two men, to Adria and to other Mefites. There's also been some thoughtful and awesome discussion and insight. I can't help thinking that, in light of the scant information, we're over thinking a plate with only two or three beans on it right now.

The topic of sexism in the tech industry (indeed, in the world) is an important one to soberly and thoughtful confront. It's worth getting angry over and arguing about. The issue of privacy in the age of the Internet and the resultant mob "justice" is an important one that is equally deserving of our attention. This discussion has been at its best when those issues have been addressed. When we get bogged down in the details here of who said what to whom and what we think they intended based on a tweet, a blog entry and an anonymous comment, we tend to create and debate little fictions with increasing levels of vitriol. That seems to just make us all mad in an unproductive way.

Regardless of what actually happened at the tech conference, I think it's shameful that the broader Internet discussion has led to indisputable harrasment and theats directed at Adria. It's also sobering to think that we're moving into a time where anyone can generate a public shame campaign. It's also hopeful that a real effort is being made at conferences to help ensure that the environment is respectful to all attendees.
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:04 AM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


One anonymous threat would be quite bad enough. I can't imagine what it would be like to receive hundreds, or thousands. The barrier to harassment is incredibly low nowadays, and we don't seem to have any mechanism for dealing with it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:37 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


You should always report threats to the police folks because they might really catch whoever made the threat. I'd explicitly point the police the contact information for the company running the service through which the threats were sent because that'll increase the chance that they actually ask for identifying information like IP addresses.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:48 AM on March 21, 2013


Much ado about nothing.
posted by panaceanot at 3:54 AM on March 21, 2013


In fact, we are told it doesn't even really matter if we're not making blue jokes at all and the person completely misunderstands what we're saying. We could still be fired and sued.

Yeah, but you understand that that's completely stupid, right? Like, monstrously so.
posted by gadge emeritus at 4:23 AM on March 21, 2013 [16 favorites]


Maugrim: " She could have misheard. And, even if she didn't, how does subjecting people to a public shaming help anything? What if someone had attacked them as a result (yes, unlikely, but it's not like there's a shortage of crazies on the internet)?"

I think it's clear that the public backlash is mostly against her, and it has already reached that level. She puts herself in jeopardy by making this public. It takes courage to make a public stand like this, especially considering the inevitable reaction. I'm not sure there's any way she could have talked about this publicly without bringing down the shitstorm, because the last incident I recall like this involved talking about an incident at an atheist conference where no pictures were taken nor anyone identified, and yet there was the same reaction. I think public humiliation isn't a great way to bring about justice for the most part, but even if that were her motive, I can understand how the constant demeaning and insulting behavior becomes more of an issue than protecting the professional reputations of the people who are responsible.

The fact remains that those guys would never have ended up in that twitter picture if they didn't behave the way they did, in spite of clear and unambiguous rules. I'm sure they'll be fine, as long as they don't try to dig their hole deeper in a public way. From what I understand, the guy who was purportedly fired was getting job offers almost immediately. There are plenty of tech companies who are more than eager to claim some man they think was wronged by a feminist, so don't worry about him.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:24 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


What a terribly sad and confusing story.

There's nothing in this whole story where any of the main actors did anything wrong. Two men sharing a joke about sex. (and how many jokes aren't about sex). A woman, upset by this behaviour reported it. A conference followed its code of conduct.

I'm of the opinion that there should be some leeway in how we're treated for our public behaviour. Doesn't matter if you're at a professional event or you're tweeting or you're out with friends. People say and do slightly stupid things all the time, and it shouldn't provoke a reaction where people are being threatened or losing their jobs. This goes for the men involved and for Adria herself.

She photographed a couple of people and made a stink about their behaviour. Big woop-di-doo. It's not passive aggressive or weird or anything. It's what people on Twitter do. They made a couple of jokes between themselves about dongs and forking repos. Big woop-di-doo. It's not dangerous or unprofessional. It's what people do.

I can't understand how you would think one of the two parties behaved badly and the other did not. Either everyone is culpable or nobody is. She could have done better; the boys could have done better. Either you expect it from everyone or you expect that there are occasional slip ups and really, no-one is to blame.

My biggest problem at the moment with situations like this is that we're consistently being expected to behave in a way that we can't behave. You need a degree of this to push morality forward, but all too often, an unreasonable expectation of how we should behave is used to punish those we most disagree with.

Martin Luthor King has a great quote (I can't find it) which says as much. It's the sign of a corrupt society when everyone is guilty, but only certain people are punished for their crimes. Of course, none of this is new to women in the tech world. They know what it's like to be held to a higher standard than the men they work with. Don't think that I'm not aware of this.

The biggest crime in this whole story is the fury, threats and doxing being exhibited by the people on reddit and Hacker News. Find out who they are, round them up and kick the shit out of them.

On a sidenote:

It was kind of frustrating last year when a tweet about the lack of diversity at an upcoming Manchester Ruby Con caused the conference to be cancelled. The Manchester IT scene isn't perfect, but it does try to be inclusive. As a kind of antidote to this sort of shit, here's an awesome talk by one of the speakers at the recent Manchester Rasberry Jamboree.
posted by zoo at 4:27 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Much ado about nothing.

Definitely much ado, but ado that covers several important and unsettled areas - the boundaries of modern privacy, feminism and male culture, internet as leverage, employment and corporate power. Certainly worth talking about, regardless of whether the individual actors were victims or maroons.
posted by forgetful snow at 4:37 AM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


zoo: " It's not dangerous or unprofessional. It's what people do. "

In most industries, it is considered unprofessional and potentially harassing to tell sexual jokes in a workplace, including while attending conferences. The tech industry is just beginning to wake up to the fact that this kind of behavior really isn't appropriate for the workplace, and has only continued for as long as it has because it's so heavily dominated by men. Not understanding and addressing this issue is preventing women from becoming employed in the industry, because they don't see it as being friendly to them.

Martin Luthor King has a great quote (I can't find it) which says as much. It's the sign of a corrupt society when everyone is guilty, but only certain people are punished for their crimes.

Being called out for inappropriate behavior affecting gender equality in the workplace hardly qualifies as unjustly being labelled a criminal.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:40 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Definitely much ado, but ado that covers several important and unsettled areas

I don't disagree, but my mind wandered while reading all the comments, and I couldn't help think of the Mars Curiosity rover sampling rocks on another planet and how cool that is, and how ridiculous it was that I was reading about this conflated drama involving overheard crappy jokes and public shaming by tweets, and, well, *sigh*.
posted by panaceanot at 4:45 AM on March 21, 2013


the last incident I recall like this involved talking about an incident at an atheist conference where no pictures were taken nor anyone identified, and yet there was the same reaction.

Not on Metafilter, though. I mean there are degrees as far as "what constitutes harassment," but in the example you're citing, the prevailing attitude here was much more "good for her!" in that case.

It's quite possible for two people to be on the same side of the same good fight, and one of them totally screws it up, ya know?
posted by ShutterBun at 4:47 AM on March 21, 2013


it is considered unprofessional and potentially harassing to tell sexual jokes in a workplace
And that's fine. But if an expectation of behaviour is so high that everyone fails that expectation, you can use that to punish those you don't like. One of the most corrosive factors in stifling diversity in the workspace is exactly this kind of behaviour, and the quicker it's identified and cut out the better.

Obviously, there's a subjective line to be drawn as to what is / is not acceptable and I'm 100% against workplace harassment but we have to accept that people are flawed uncomfortable things that make mistakes. Any policy or reaction to a news story needs to take this into account.
posted by zoo at 4:52 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Martin Luthor King has a great quote (I can't find it) which says as much. It's the sign of a corrupt society when everyone is guilty, but only certain people are punished for their crimes.

By the way, this always seems to be the sticking point with these issues. The appropriate way to react when called out for this kind of behavior is to say something like, "Hey, I'm sorry, I wasn't aware that my behavior was a problem. I don't want you or other people to feel unwelcome because of it, and now I'm aware that this kind of thing is not OK in this situation." I'm not sure why it's so important to fight for the right to be crappy and disrespectful to others, even if you didn't mean it. Nobody is being called a criminal. I also find it hard to fathom Dr MLK was talking about defending the right to be a dudebro around women at work.
posted by krinklyfig at 4:52 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm not fighting for the right to be crappy and disrespectful. I'm saying that invariably, each one of us is going to have a day when we're crappy and disrespectful and we don't deserved to be either threatened on the internet or fired when that happens.

The fact that a woman is probably rightfully scared for her life and a man has been fired and is now scared for the welfare of his children does nothing to dissuade me that this is any different to being treated like a criminal. You can pick at the semantics of it if you like, but both these people have been found guilty, and are suffering the consequences of their actions.
posted by zoo at 4:59 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


zoo: " Obviously, there's a subjective line to be drawn as to what is / is not acceptable and I'm 100% against workplace harassment but we have to accept that people are flawed uncomfortable things that make mistakes. Any policy or reaction to a news story needs to take this into account."

Well, the conference people talked to the two men, who apparently apologized and went back to the conference. The public tweet may have resulted in one of the two losing a job, but that's really on the employer and that person's behavior. Some employers have a zero-tolerance policy, and some do not care as long as you don't make them look bad in public. Either way, not really her fault.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:04 AM on March 21, 2013


krinklyfig: Is there any part of this where I said it was her fault? I'm saying she could have done better, the boys could have done better but nobody was really at fault here. We shouldn't be *expecting* her to do some weird risk analysis before tweeting, and we shouldn't be *expecting* that a conference is a completely smut-free zone. It'd be nice, and we can all do better but my concern is primarily with how we (all of us) police imperfect people.

She felt the behaviour by the two men behind her was inappropriate, she and the conference acted on it and the boys apologised. Meanwhile the internet explodes in an effort to tell her that she behaved inappropriately, and meanwhile nobody can see the contradiction in any of this.

My preference is that as tricky as it can be, we afford people some leeway, we don't judge people differently according to whether we like them or not, and we don't put into place procedures that allow this behaviour. That is all.
posted by zoo at 5:38 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Calling out programmers for inappropriate behavior seems a little weird... I mean, duh! If we had people skills, we'd be taking the requirements from the customers to the developer.
posted by ph00dz at 6:01 AM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Two wrongs were committed in this story. The dude who was fired made off-colour comments in violation of the conference's code of conduct, was asked to leave the event, and has since apologized. All good.
Adria Richards publicly shamed two guys by posting their pics and her account of the conversation on her well-read twitter feed, which was in violation of the conference's recommendations for dealing with harrassment. She has not yet apologized or acknowledged that she did anything wrong.
posted by rocket88 at 6:04 AM on March 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


I am saying this as an honestly, really trying hard to understand, want to be a better person feminist white male. nickrussell has posted this power dynamic thing that I don't agree with, but will have to think about and address later.

I had an amazing professor at Santa Monica College, who taught the racial studies course. His view is paraphrased as follows:

The benefit of whiteness in America is not having to think about race. When a white person is pulled over by the highway patrol on the 405, they never wonder if it is because they are white. When a white person is refused a job opportunity, they do not wonder if it is because they were white. If a white man is rejected by a white woman, he does not consider if it is because he is white. When a white person is refused access or entry, he often sees the true reason. Class. He does not have enough money for a medical treatment, or to attend a certain college. The freedom of being white is not having to think about race.

When a black man is pulled over by the highway patrol, it could be because he is black. When he is refused a job opportunity, he may wonder if it is because he is black. When he is rejected by a white woman, he may wonder if it is because he is black. When he is refused access or entry, he wonders if it is because he is black. He lives in a world where, for everything, there could be two reasons. The real reason, and then because he is black. A black man in America thinks about race constantly. When he watches the news, white criminals are "men" and black criminals are "african american men" or "hispanic men" or "asian men". The art of his community receives the label "urban". His music is "urban music" and his art is "urban art" or "street art". He lives his life constantly aware of race.

That is the construct that has been created and is perpetuated. It is done so in jokes. We all know Carlton from the Fresh Prince. He has that little dance, The Carlton. He is a wealthy black man, who operates in a white world. That requires that he is stripped of his blackness. Therefore he cannot dance. He acts like a preppy. He takes on the behaviour of whiteness, yet he is black. His family is not identified as a "wealthy" family. They are a "wealthy black family".


These are the notes I have recorded, and they are quite old. But the point was that for the dominant individuals in the hierarchy, the dominance is the freedom from having to consider where they are in the hierarchy. I do not think most white people's first thought when they are pulled over is "it's because I'm white" or "I'm driving in the wrong neighbourhood".

Similarly, the benefit of being a man in a male-dominated world is that one does not consider gender when thinking about anything. Think about "ladies night" or "Sadie Hawkins" dances, where the evening is centred around women. That is a male construct. "Tonight it is okay for you to choose a man".

When men receive pay offers, how often do they wonder, "This is below my expectations. That must be because I am a man"? When a man is refused admission to a college engineering programme, how often does he wonder, "It probably is because I am a man"?

If you're wondering if the subtle factors matter, think about the high heel. The high heel is a symbol of physical weakness, for it puts the wearer at an immediate disadvantage in the environment. They are not using the full contact patch of their foot for bodily stability, but rather balancing on a tiny point. Whilst their male counterparts have the entire foot firmly on the ground. Think of that from a physical power standpoint. If one person was to suddenly push the other, who has more physical power? Obviously the one with more square centimetres of contact with the ground. Yet, when you look at high heels, do you seem them as a symbol of male physical power or male primacy? Probably not. Neither do most women, which is the other subtle feature of the power dynamic. Both sides of the equation buy into it.

When a woman is rejected from an engineering programme and considers it is because she is a woman, as often as there is anger at the rejection, there is often acquiescence to the power hierarchy. She is not the only woman rejected, therefore the power hierarchy is valid. Because it's not that the door is closed to her, but that the door is closed to "hers".

There was a point made earlier about the woman at the conference using her position in media to dominate this man. Damn straight, because that is how change happens. When a man uses his position to selectively hire, that is "the way it goes". When a women does it, that is "an abuse of authority". If this was a man who had called out this sexual harassment, he would be revered as "a man who protects women". Since it was a woman, she is being cast as "a woman using her power to crush men". Subtle, but absolutely essential if you are to understand the dominance hierarchy.

This is a hard point to deal with because it involves the individual within a larger context, which was the point I made earlier. If I am a woman who hires other women ahead of men, that is unfair, for I am considering gender. Yet, the deck is stacked against women to begin with, so the only way women will get ahead is if they take advantage of their positions of authority to enable other women.

In hip-hop, there's often the entourage that comes with a celebrity. Part of the reason for that entourage is that the big man in the group is bringing people with him. Putting his friends in a place where their opportunities are changed as well. This isn't my assertion, but the results of research findings from work done quite a while ago. Should the celebrity surround himself with the best people, regardless of race? Perhaps. But the reality is, he's taking his people with him because without the opportunity he is providing, many doors would be closed to them. This took the form in the research as "success is an opportunity to bring my people with me."

So in reporting the sexual harassment at such a high profile, it was unfair to the man who was the target, but simultaneously, he is the beneficiary of the system which she is attempting to change. So whilst it is unfortunate that he became a target, and it's through no fault of his own, that the cost of being a man. For the first time in his life – and many others – they're experiencing unfair treatment for their gender. And it sucks, doesn't it.
posted by nickrussell at 6:10 AM on March 21, 2013 [26 favorites]


The dude who was fired made off-colour comments in violation of the conference's code of conduct, was asked to leave the event...

The guys weren't asked to leave. I emailed Jesse Noller, the PyConn contact person about this incident and asked if the guys were asked to leave. The reply was that the guys were quietly pulled aside and then returned to their seats after things were settled.

This jibs with other reports that they guys were taken out into the hallway, spoken too and they acknowledged the problem, apologized and that was that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:14 AM on March 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'm not sure there's any way she could have talked about this publicly without bringing down the shitstorm

True. But that's not evidence for anything, either her being in the wrong about how she handled this, or her being in the right. The inevitable death and rape threats by outraged entitled man children is a constant.

There's nothing in this whole story where any of the main actors did anything wrong. Two men sharing a joke about sex. (and how many jokes aren't about sex). A woman, upset by this behaviour reported it. A conference followed its code of conduct.

It was the way she reported it, with the consequences it had, that is the main objection of people, like me, here. Talking to them directly to complain? Not a problem. Sending a private message to the conference organisers? Also not a problem. But publically tweeting their picture? That goes to for in the context.

Even the way she reported it, whatever offence they caused was minor at best, not deserving of public outrage.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:16 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is such blatant, obvious, boorish power tripping on the part of Richards, who is taking advantage of this whole "make ALL THE THINGS safe for teh womenz" environment.

Dear Ms. Richards: please remove the giant chip from your shoulder, and try to remember that the whole world is not designed for your comfort, nor shall it ever be.
posted by gsh at 6:19 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not seeing so much of that, though admittedly I'm far from a keen identifier of such things, and may simply to take them for granted.

Yeah, most of your comment is a sexist trope, too. "She shouldn't have reacted how she did", "she should have used it as a chance to teach then", "she should have confronted the people making her uncomfortable" are all sexist tropes.

Women have no obligation, whatsoever, to "teach" people anything. If I see you pissing on the floor, it's not on me to grab the learning opportunity and teach you about how big boys don't pee in public these days. I just get you thrown out. I might well take your picture too: an amorphous sense of privacy is not an inviolable shield for those acting like morons in public.

MartinWisse: same deal. Tone arguments demean the arguer.
posted by bonaldi at 6:21 AM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


What annoys me the most about the discussion here is the idea that "professionalism" trumps everything and that you have to be on best behaviour at all times in case your behaviour reflects back on your company, as justified by the idea that the company paid for them to be at this conference. It's very very easy, especially online, to make this universal, that everything you say or do (online) is subject to review by your employer.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:22 AM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm starting to feel like this is an ARG created by a group of Philosophy of Language professors to support a class about truth statements... I mean, it's all just really... didactically constructed. Check it out:

"She posted the picture to Twitter/blogged about the situation."

Is a factual statement - at least, within the bounds of reasonable confidence. Nobody has attempted to suggest that her entire online persona has been hijacked, or that this is a mass hallucination.

"It was wrong to post the picture to Twitter/ her blog post shows that she's a bad person."

Is a value statement - it's not actually a truth statement at all, but rather a statement about the interaction of a factual statement with the internal discernment of the person responding to it - which exists in a dialog with consensus and other individual and group responses, of course.

It's possible to disagree with that - to say that your internal calculus comes up with a different number - but it's actually very hard to say "you are wrong to think it is wrong", in truth-value terms. It's that confusing thing where "wrong" meaning factually inaccurate and "wrong" meaning morally deficient are very different concepts covered by the same word.

"If she had just talked to the guys about this, they would certainly have been receptive and respectful."

Is an untestable conditional. It is impossible to say with confidence that Y would have occurred if X had happened, because X did not happen. Our relationship with temporality is such that the moving hand, once writ, moves on.

(We can say that, according to the PyCon report, the men, once invited to discuss it, agreed that their conversation was in poor taste and apologized. But that's a different situation, and one could construct a hypothetical scenario where they felt pressured to do so, for example.)

"A man has been fired as a result of Adria Richards' tweet/ blog post."

Is first a factual assertion, based so far (to my understanding) on a single, pseudonymous anonymous post to Hacker News. If one has access to a datum (whether a man has actually been fired, which has a paper trail, although in the US not one necessarily with a stated cause), one can say whether at least the first half of the statement is true or false. It is second a proposed causal relationship - if we take the two statements ("Adria Richards tweeted/blogged", "a man was fired") as factually correct, there's then a kind of gnoming process required to connect the two.

"A man's life/career/livelihood/family has been destroyed."

Is an extrapolation. It takes the above simple factual assertion and extrapolates a set of consequences which are neither verifiable or unverifiable on the currently available evidence.

Hypotheses, assertions and extrapolations are hugely important, because they are the way we work out how the universe works. In this case, I think we've got a fundamental issue here because the relevant datum - whether someone has actually been fired - is not currently available.

(As an aside, Shutterbun, I think "a man has been fired" and "Adria Richards has received death threats" are statements with different assessable truth values. We've already seen a post which said that the poster was on his way to "slit her", along with her home address, posted to and removed from Hacker News.)

However, while we don't know whether the statement "a man has been fired" (and the extrapolation "a man has had his career/livelihood/family endangered") is truthful, it is definitely truthy: it reflects a particular view of the world and how it works which is a useful tool for particular purposes.

To take a less contentious example, rocket88 just said, and is by no means the first person to do so, that "the dude who was fired ... was asked to leave the event". As Brandon says, that record says that the issue was resolved privately and no further action was taken by PyCon's organizers.

However, the guy being ejected from PyCon is such a useful narrative element, because it creates a satisfying rule-of-three escalation of injustice (Richards tweeting - convention organizers ejecting - employer firing) that it's better than true within that narrative. So, it's going to keep coming up, and at some point a theory will start doing the rounds that PyCon falsified their record when they realised they had screwed up, if it hasn't already.

Truthiness - or confirmation bias, if we're being technical - is kind of fascinating. Back on Jennifer Hepler*, I recall having a conversation with someone who "quoted" a statement she had made (that is, posted a .jpg someone had posted to Reddit or 4chan represented as a quote from her) about how she wanted to move the Dragon Age franchise away from the kind of fantasy written by "old white males".

That sounded immediately fake to me - it's how straw feminists talk. And it seemed particularly fake because I knew she had specifically singled out George R R Martin and a couple of other (middle-aged to deceased) white men as writers she admired. And, indeed, no record of her actually having said it could be found. Even when this was pointed out, however, the guy who posted it maintained that, even if she hadn't said it, it was worth sharing because it was the kind of thing she would say. It wasn't truthful, but it was truthy.

(It's possibly anecdotally interesting that this conversation happened about a month ago, even though the Hepler hate fest peaked a year ago. Richards has basically signed up to get this kind of treatment from a long tail for for a very, very long time - which is tricky for someone whose job is tied up with their ability to communicate on social media.)

*Looking only at the process, not the extent to which a particular person deserved a particular level of opprobrium.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:22 AM on March 21, 2013 [21 favorites]


nickrussell: "There was a point made earlier about the woman at the conference using her position in media to dominate this man. Damn straight, because that is how change happens."

Domination is also the way by which change is prevented and injustice is done. To learn about social justice and come away with the conclusion that domination is the way to go? Jeeez, maybe go back and study your notes more.

Cooperation and education are a far better way to go about things. It sounds like Richards would have had a party amenable to cooperation and education, given their apologies and agreement with the PyCon organisers that they had stepped over the line. Unfortunately, the big problem was that she opted for public shaming and bullying via Twitter images to doubly make her point, even after the PyCon people had helped her solve the problem.
posted by barnacles at 6:24 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


When a man is refused admission to a college engineering programme, how often does he wonder, "It probably is because I am a man"?

Actually, this DOES happen now, due to affirmative action trying to get women in STEM fields. There are only so many spots, and if a man is competing against a woman of equal ability for admission into a college program, I would argue that the pendulum has swung far in the other direction insofar as one of these people will be passed over for a competitive spot. If you're a woman who wants to get into science and engineering, nobody is standing in your way - in fact just about everyone is encouraging you, because every program wants a good female-to-male ratio in their program. This doesn't necessarily hold for things like jobs/tenure, just because female-to-male ratios become less important to administrators beyond the college level.
posted by permiechickie at 6:25 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


MartinWisse: same deal. Tone arguments demean the arguer.

That's not a tone argument. She's free to complain however she wants, but she has to own the consequences of her actions. In this case that it caused one of the men she complained about to be fired.

And I'm free to criticise her for that. To repeat: I've got no problem with her complaint, even if I found it over the top, just the place she made it, which judging by her own statements, she didn't think through other than thinking it would be the quickest way to contact the con organisers.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:27 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


What annoys me the most about the discussion here is the idea that "professionalism" trumps everything and that you have to be on best behaviour at all times in case

Sounds more like what annoys you is that the power of tech men to act with impunity might be in question. As as been pointed out, other industries manage to be professional without the joke police sitting in their homes at night.

Tech could desperately do with more people having to be on their best behaviour, yes.

That's not a tone argument. She's free to complain however she wants, but she has to own the consequences of her actions. In this case that it caused one of the men she complained about to be fired.

That hasn't been proven. And even if it were, the consequences of her actions have been death-threats, rape-threats and a slew of hate-speech. Which is to me the real story, here.

But, yes, it is a tone argument. "Her complaint would have been fine if she hadn't been so public about it" fits exactly with the usual "oh, I would have listened to your complaint if only you hadn't been so shrill/uppity about it" formulations.

She had a very small amount of power, in the form of a moderate twitter following, and she used it in the context of a massive historic and entrenched power imbalance. It's illuminating how terrified that has you.
posted by bonaldi at 6:33 AM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


If you're a woman who wants to get into science and engineering, nobody is standing in your way - in fact just about everyone is encouraging you, because every program wants a good female-to-male ratio in their program.

It's only taken a thousand years. ;)
posted by nickrussell at 6:36 AM on March 21, 2013


The example we are given is that if two of us are making off color jokes in a room by ourselves but somebody has their ear pressed agains the window, overhears us and complains, we can be fired and sued for creating a hostile work environment. In fact, we are told it doesn't even really matter if we're not making blue jokes at all and the person completely misunderstands what we're saying. We could still be fired and sued.

Now, at the end of the day, we probably wouldn't be fired or sued for it


So in short, do not say or do anything that could possibly be misconstrued as sexual or there will be terrible consequences. But anything you say could be misconstrued as sexual, couldn't it? Sure, we all do it!

In shorter: As soon as you speak, you are guilty, and those with power will decide whether to punish you or not.

And this is supposed to be inclusive? This is an improvement? Yech and double-yech.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:47 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Blasdelb: ""So, let me get this right. Dick jokes by women on their own Twitter = okay."

Yeah, I think that one is pretty solid. If that is her personal twitter account then yes indeed women make dick jokes on their own time too and that is totally ok. Making dick jokes in a professional environment around colleagues who are there because its how they make a living on the other hand is not ok.
"

Well, seeing as she doesn't seem to have a business Twitter, I, well, see a case of pot and kettle. Of course, she seems to be self-employed.

Mind you, I am NOT objecting to women and dick jokes by any means. I AM objecting to her apparently making a slip in a semi-public forum, and these guys apparently making a slip in a semi-public forum and how things played out.
posted by Samizdata at 6:49 AM on March 21, 2013


(We can say that, according to the PyCon report, the men, once invited to discuss it, agreed that their conversation was in poor taste and apologized. But that's a different situation, and one could construct a hypothetical scenario where they felt pressured to do so, for example.)

One could also construct a hypothetical example where they were joking amongst themselves, but upon being told that they had offended someone, were honestly apologetic, because that hadn't been their intent.
But then, in your construction of truth statements and truthiness, you managed to start analysing things from after the establishing incident, even though whether she misconstrued a tech joke or overheard an in-joke or was party to something truly offensive is also one of the unknowns. That seems its own form of confirmation bias.

As for bonaldi saying: She had a very small amount of power, in the form of a moderate twitter following, and she used it in the context of a massive historic and entrenched power imbalance. It's illuminating how terrified that has you.

That's an immensely uncharitable assessment, and entirely unhelpful to reasonable discussion. Try harder.
posted by gadge emeritus at 6:54 AM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


Gadge: this thread reads, for a large part, like the yelp of scared and threatened power. Just two posts above yours is yet another "the sky is falling" post where whenever someone speaks "they are guilty". If anything needs to be worked harder on, it's the examination of privilege.
posted by bonaldi at 7:03 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


In shorter: As soon as you speak, you are guilty, and those with power will decide whether to punish you or not.

I agree, and would add that in the realm of speech monitoring and thought reform, you can be punished for not saying something too. Silence is never a right without the right to speak freely, and this leads to all kinds of posturing. It is also likely that every tyranny or oppression that ever lived always gave a serious reason before punishing someone. It didn't need to make sense to anyone outside the culture, merely that it was taught as a right and true one, and that a consistent social reasoning developed in order to control people automatically.
posted by Brian B. at 7:07 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sounds more like what annoys you is that the power of tech men to act with impunity might be in question. As as been pointed out, other industries manage to be professional without the joke police sitting in their homes at night.

This is highly uncharitable. I've seen behavior 100 times worse go on, both inside and outside of tech circles, and it's horrible, and women generally feel that they have to smile and be a good sport and go along with it, because that's the way the game is played. This ranges from women being sent to client meetings explcitly because the client would "appreciate" it, to two young women receiving a barrage of sexual innuendos because they had plans to go shopping together after work, to a man putting his hands on a woman's shoulders during a business meeting, etc etc etc. Horrible.

But someone got punished for talking about dongles and forking repos, so now we have an important step towards cosmic balance in the universe, and because this step is so important we no longer have any problems with arbitrary exercises of power and disproportionate responses and public policing. Nope, none of these things are problematic at all. A world in which you can get fired because someone with power is annoyed, that's only bad because everyone is desperately clinging to their male privilege.
posted by leopard at 7:07 AM on March 21, 2013 [18 favorites]


Hmm.

I've been sitting here typing out a comment, deleting it, rewording, deleting..

I just can't make the judgement call on this.
1) are sexist remarks bad? yeah they are, they inforce the institutional fault.
2) is outing someone bad? yeah, collateral damage bad.
3) is outing a person in power bad? no, but depends on the subject of "outing".
4) is it wrong to threaten someone for outing something/someone? this is always bad.

it's just too bloody hard to make the call on this, since we don't have anything but anecdotes of what really transpired.

We know frightfully little about what transpired, we know A. felt threatened due to the jokes and prior comments, we know someone got fired. But there's a lot inbetween along with motives we know zilch about.

I find myself agreeing with A, but I also think it's wrong whatever-his-name-was got fired for it.
I just don't ever want to find myself in a position where I have to police myself, my thoughts and my language.
We all operate differently, I come from two cultures where sexual jokes are very .. universal, guys are far less likely to make sexist jokes than women, and I've yet to see someone get fired due to a remark they made at a conference.

Also, the conferences i've been to, mindless banter is a way to handle a boring talk amongst other things.

But like so many others in this thread, we need to think about privilege, power and how sexism effects others on a day to day basis.

I just don't want to judge anyone in this. :/
posted by xcasex at 7:08 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Actually, this DOES happen now, due to affirmative action trying to get women in STEM fields. There are only so many spots, and if a man is competing against a woman of equal ability for admission into a college program, I would argue that the pendulum has swung far in the other direction insofar as one of these people will be passed over for a competitive spot. If you're a woman who wants to get into science and engineering, nobody is standing in your way - in fact just about everyone is encouraging you, because every program wants a good female-to-male ratio in their program. This doesn't necessarily hold for things like jobs/tenure, just because female-to-male ratios become less important to administrators beyond the college level."

You have just stated a number of testable hypotheses and every single one of them has either been empirically demonstrated to be patently false or is just irrelevant to your thesis. In the STEM fields there is a now massive body of research showing just how bad it still is, here is a good introduction to it with a solid references section,
Science Faculty’s Subtle Gender Biases Favor Male Students.
Despite efforts to recruit and retain more women, a stark gender disparity persists within academic science. Abundant research has demonstrated gender bias in many demographic groups, but has yet to experimentally investigate whether science faculty exhibit a bias against female students that could contribute to the gender disparity in academic science. In a randomized double-blind study (n = 127), science faculty from research-intensive universities rated the application materials of a student—who was randomly assigned either a male or female name—for a laboratory manager position. Faculty participants rated the male applicant as significantly more competent and hireable than the (identical) female applicant. These participants also selected a higher starting salary and offered more career mentoring to the male applicant. The gender of the faculty participants did not affect responses, such that female and male faculty were equally likely to exhibit bias against the female student. Mediation analyses indicated that the female student was less likely to be hired because she was viewed as less competent. We also assessed faculty participants’ preexisting subtle bias against women using a standard instrument and found that preexisting subtle bias against women played a moderating role, such that subtle bias against women was associated with less support for the female student, but was unrelated to reactions to the male student. These results suggest that interventions addressing faculty gender bias might advance the goal of increasing the participation of women in science.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:11 AM on March 21, 2013 [31 favorites]


This is highly uncharitable. I've seen behavior 100 times worse go on, both inside and outside of tech circles, and it's horrible, and women generally feel that they have to smile and be a good sport and go along with it, because that's the way the game is played. This ranges from women being sent to client meetings explcitly because the client would "appreciate" it, to two young women receiving a barrage of sexual innuendos because they had plans to go shopping together after work, to a man putting his hands on a woman's shoulders during a business meeting, etc etc etc. Horrible.

THIS.
I have a friend, let's call her P, she works as an economic advisor for a company in the construction sector. P is always the one they send to client meetings, negotiations and while she's happy she has that job and that responsibility, she also loathes that they (management) are making her feel like the only good use she has is her looks. We had discussions about this every now and then and this winter she took it up with the CEO, He told her that they'd implement a change policy and that she'd just have to "live with it" until they've managed to ease through the new policy.
One week afterwards, a companywide email went out about how due to various complaints from the female staff they'd have to implement this change in behaviour.
P being the only female on staff, She started receiving threats, physical confrontations and this went as far as one of the management bee's grabbing her ass and saying something reprehensible.

So what happened? She was fired for conduct unbecoming.

That wasn't the IT sector and is just one story out of many :/
posted by xcasex at 7:15 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


bonaldi: "Gadge: this thread reads, for a large part, like the yelp of scared and threatened power"

Just so I can understand this for future reference: Is there any way in which a male human can be critical of what took place (I'm particularly irritated by the reposting of the image on Richards's blog, for instance) without it being a yelp of scared and threatened power?

Let me know and I'll do some further self-examination. As it stands the only party that comes out looking okay in all of this are the PyCon organizers.
posted by vanar sena at 7:15 AM on March 21, 2013


"She turned around and they started making jokes about forking her code and other women, and about the size of their dongles."

Don't make shit up. It makes the conversation worse.


If you read the account and the followup it is obvious that she felt the sexual innuendo was directed at her and other women.
posted by humanfont at 7:17 AM on March 21, 2013


[Good morning. We don't really do the "fixed that for you" thing here. Be decent to each other and have a good faith discussion or go to one of the many other places you can be a relentless gleeful snarky jerk about this topic. Our contact form is always open if you'd like to discuss this further.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:17 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


this thread reads, for a large part, like the yelp of scared and threatened power. Just two posts above yours is yet another "the sky is falling" post where whenever someone speaks "they are guilty". If anything needs to be worked harder on, it's the examination of privilege.

Or, you could understand that those who don't agree with you aren't a monolithic block of privilege, and come from their own points of view. Or did you miss that it's not just white men who have questions or disagreements about what happened?
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:19 AM on March 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


What would she have done if the two programmers were women making a sexist joke about men?
posted by Leezie at 7:22 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Blasdelb, I was specifically referring to college admissions and not any higher (as per my last sentence). I would be very interested to read a study on college admissions to STEM programs and how male and female STEM-specific abilities compare immediately after admission. It was my perception going through a STEM field in college that universities tried very hard to recruit women, and, when spots are competitive, this means that at the same time they are rejecting men of equal ability who might otherwise have attended, admissions being a zero sum game ostensibly based mostly on merit. Retention of female students beyond the first year is a huge problem, and there ARE biases when people are asked to evaluate male/female students on "ability" for things like jobs/tenure where there is not a focus on retaining diversity.

This is perhaps a derail. I just don't agree that men's privilege is an overriding concern in college admissions to STEM fields, because a focus on diversity has overcome it in that specific area.
posted by permiechickie at 7:23 AM on March 21, 2013


I didn't formerly agree with the extreme "anti-doxing" sentiment at places like reddit. People who do wrong shouldn't be able to hide behind anonymity. However this situation may have changed my mind. All parties in this situation have been disproportionately harmed because a fairly private matter (not strictly private, but limited in scope) has blown up beyond all rationality due to the matter becoming too public.

I was leaning a bit towards the idea that she may have overreacted to the comments, not so much in posting a picture which I now think was wrong, but given the harrasment she has now received, how can I blame her? If death and rape threats are how some people respond to her complaints, what has she had to deal with in more private contexts over the years?

If so many people are willing to threaten felonies against her in public, how much lesser harassment must be going on unreported all the time!.
posted by jclarkin at 7:23 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]




So does that mean the people upset over someone (maybe) being fired for their actions "on the clock" are now DDOSing a company because of said company's employee's actions?
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 7:28 AM on March 21, 2013


this thread reads, for a large part, like the yelp of scared and threatened power.

If someone can get a person fired over comments made in private, the one being scared and threatened by power is the one who got fired.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:31 AM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


humanfont: If you read the account and the followup it is obvious that she felt the sexual innuendo was directed at her and other women.

I'm sorry, that's not obvious at all. All we really know about the jokes in question are,
That would have been fine until the guy next to him…

began making sexual forking jokes


and,

They started talking about “big” dongles. I could feel my face getting flustered.

and,

I was telling myself if they made one more sexual joke, I’d say something.

That's it. When it comes to what she found offensive, that's all she says. There is no suggestion that it was directed at other women, unless you presume that since she took offense then there must have been, and that isn't at all clear. We don't even know if they made more than one sexual joke. So no, it's not obvious in the slightest.
posted by gadge emeritus at 7:32 AM on March 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


She had a very small amount of power, in the form of a moderate twitter following, and she used it in the context of a massive historic and entrenched power imbalance. It's illuminating how terrified that has you.

Actually, it mostly has me rolling my eyes and muttering "americans".
posted by MartinWisse at 7:35 AM on March 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


But someone got punished for talking about dongles and forking repos

Now who is being uncharitable? She says they were making sexual comments that made her feel uncomfortable. That's not merely "talking about dongles".

Nope, none of these things are problematic at all. A world in which you can get fired because someone with power is annoyed, that's only bad because everyone is desperately clinging to their male privilege.

If we have problems with the disproportionate responses, why aren't we taking it out on the guy's employers? (And why isn't the vaunted MeFi investigative unit finding out if he was actually fired, rather than taking the word of an anon HN comment?)

Is there any way in which a male human can be critical of what took place (I'm particularly irritated by the reposting of the image on Richards's blog, for instance) without it being a yelp of scared and threatened power?

You know what? There's not really a way to do it that's simply not a good look. How much does your irritation at the reposting of the image on the blog matter when this woman is being subjected to a howling maelstrom of abuse, doxxing, rape and death threats? Lots of people here might be OK with shrugging it off as "internet gonna internet", but I'm not.

By analogy, this woman is down on the ground of the parking lot being kicked and punched, and people like you are all "well, wait just a minute, she totally cut that guy up when he was going to park. Who am I going to complain to about that, huh?"

If someone can get a person fired over comments made in private, the one being scared and threatened by power is the one who got fired.

Yes. And the reaction to that shifting balance of power is a lot of people who apparently thought their power to do what they like was unquestioned -- so much so that they hate the very idea of even having to be on "their best behaviour" when representing their company -- freaking out.
posted by bonaldi at 7:37 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Both parties contravened Pycon rules. There are no heros in this story. Everyone behaved badly. The jokers broke the rule about vulgar humour. The tweeter broke the rule about harrassing photography.

All three of them behaved like children, spoiled and demanding special snowflakes who don't have to abide by the rules, incapable of the forward thinking that would have led them to choose to act differently.

A pox on all their houses. Techies like these give everyone in the business a bad name. They should all be banned from future Pycons for being jerks.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:41 AM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


I just don't agree that men's privilege is an overriding concern in college admissions to STEM fields, because a focus on diversity has overcome it in that specific area.

I don't think it's particularly helpful to look at it this way. Nickrussell was positing a wider point, that men have the benefit of not having to wonder if their gender is being used against them nearly as often as women do. It seems really nitpicky to say "WELL IN THIS ONE CASE THEY DO" because even if your suggestion is true, that doesn't really change the overall power dynamic. You admitted as such - retention in those programs is still terrible, post-graduate job placements are terrible, etc. STEM fields even at the undergraduate level still heavily skew male, and that's not necessarily the fault of the individual colleges or admissions officers, but the extended education and socialization system that women go through before they even begin applying for college. I think it's safe to say that a guy who didn't get into a STEM program isn't really in danger of looking at those who did get in, and say to himself "I bet it's because I don't look like the other people in this program".

This derail about power structures is kind of what I meant when I say that this incident muddies the waters in the larger picture. It absolutely sucks that the guy got fired, if he did, but it's ridiculous to say that this one incident of an employer being an ass is evidence that women are suddenly the ones in power, or that the power structure itself has changed. As far as I can tell, no one was calling attention to this guy's employer until the employer themselves did. If Rebecca Watson's public call-out of her harasser at Skeptic Con had gotten that guy fired, that would have also sucked, but it would not have been Watson's fault, or proof of feminism running rampant.

If we all agree that the employer's behaviour was out of bounds, why would we attribute this insanity to Richards any more than we would attribute it to this guy making jokes about it to begin with? Neither is any more rational, but one of them sure makes Richards out to be a vindictive sociopathic jerk.
posted by Phire at 7:42 AM on March 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


However this situation may have changed my mind. All parties in this situation have been disproportionately harmed because a fairly private matter (not strictly private, but limited in scope) has blown up beyond all rationality due to the matter becoming too public.

And who was it again, who took a private matter and decided to broadcast it on the internet to thousands of people?
posted by crayz at 7:49 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


The jokers broke the rule about vulgar humour. The tweeter broke the rule about harrassing photography.

The joker made a (very, very, incredibly mildly) vulgar joke in the context of a private conversation, which the tweeter only heard because she forced her way into their private conversation. The tweeter took a nonconsensual photo with hate-urging caption in the most public of all forums. There's no comparison.

Yes, they were having a private conversation in a public place. If you don't understand how something in public can be considered private, see the Creepshots thread. Every defense of the tweeter comes down to the idea that private behavior must conform to the most restrictive rules of public behavior, and can be punished accordingly.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 7:53 AM on March 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


What would she have done if the two programmers were women making a sexist joke about men?

That's almost a textbook unanswerable question (the only way to make it better, in the sense of less answerable, might be to ask "what would she have thought if..."). The only way to get an answer would be to ask her, and even that answer is not a reliably accurate indicator of what she would have done, because the her you are asking is not the her sitting in a hall at PyCon a few days ago. It's a possibly interesting thought experiment, but I don't think any answer coming into existence after the circumstances in which the question can be asked have come into being could be confidently described as "true".

Speaking of...

One could also construct a hypothetical example where they were joking amongst themselves, but upon being told that they had offended someone, were honestly apologetic, because that hadn't been their intent.

Well, that's not exactly a hypothetical example - it's a supplementary hypothesis. But yes, absolutely - that's totally within the set of possible mental processes they might fairly credibly have gone through.

It's very hard to make verifiable truth-statements about what is happening in people's minds, though. What you decide is most likely will affect how you feel about the events, but how you feel is not in itself impactful with regard to truth statements.

Likewise whether she misconstrued a tech joke or overheard an in-joke or was party to something truly offensive is also one of the unknowns are three possible things-that-happened, but I don't think that supports your subsequent conclusion re: confirmation bias.

Immediately, I don't think I understand what "truly" is doing in "truly offensive", which is something I would hope to improve my understanding of. Do you mean "which would be understood to be offensive by an average (or reasonable) person", or "by which Adria Richards was sincerely offended" or "which would be identified as offensive under the code of conduct of the convention", for example?

Or do you feel there to be an absolute set of things which are offensive, regardless of context - that is, one can say "this is offensive" and be confident that this statement cannot be falsified (i.e., is "true")? In the last case, I think I disagree - offence is generally taken to be contextual, in terms of everyday social interaction and indeed convention codes of conduct or employment law. ericb mentioned George Carlin's "seven words you can never say", but Carlin actually added context in the last two words of the track title ("on television").

"Truth" means something quite specific here, and I don't think "[activity] is offensive" is a statement that can be said to be true or false, in those terms. It's the difference between "mackerel is a fish" and "mackerel is delicious"...

So, depending on what "truly" is doing there, all three of your possibilities, as far as I can tell, could coexist. And none of them are particularly relevant to looking at verifiable statements of events.

And, speaking of events, Playhaven's CEO has made a brief statement. Key quote:
PlayHaven had an employee who was identified as making inappropriate comments at PyCon, and as a company that is dedicated to gender equality and values honorable behavior, we conducted a thorough investigation. The result of this investigation led to the unfortunate outcome of having to let this employee go. We value and protect the privacy of our employees, both past and present, and we will not comment on all the factors that contributed to our parting ways.
So, we can say "an employee has been let go" is now a verified statement. But "as a direct result of an action taken by Adria Richards" is... well, still unverified, although a person might decide it is safe to proceed with it taken as true. Although that comes back to the question of who is responsible for other people's actions and how.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:55 AM on March 21, 2013




If someone can get a person fired over comments made in private, the one being scared and threatened by power is the one who got fired.

It wasn't in private it was in a crowded room at a public event. It isn't clear she had even left the conversation. A reasonable a action for a company would be to issue a reprimand, firing would be an over reaction. Whatever action the employeer took it is not Richard's responsibility. The guy in question was wearing representing his company at an event.

Consider an alternative where she reported the behavior privately to conference organizers. I've been in the situation as a conference host where one of the sponsor's reps behaved badly and the matter was reported privately. Because the individual was representing a sponsor we had to inform our prime contact at the sponsoring company that one of their employees had been reprimanded. I doubt the existence of a picture and a tweet would make a significant difference in how the employeer would choose to handle this incident. If she privately reported this incident and the guy was fired does that make a difference?
posted by humanfont at 8:07 AM on March 21, 2013


If she privately reported this incident and the guy was fired does that make a difference?

Yes because posting the picture is harassment in itself.

I mean, imagine the reverse. What if a man tuned around and took a picture of Richards sitting in the audience without her permission and posted it to twitter with the caption "dongle" or something like that? Clearly harassment.

As others have pointed out, Richards can be both right and wrong here.
posted by GuyZero at 8:12 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Consider an alternative where...

Maybe we can start just considering what actually happened, instead of hypotheticals in which doppleganger-Adria's behavior might have been appropriate.
posted by crayz at 8:14 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


If someone can get a person fired over comments made in private

Correct me if I'm wrong but despite the guy being pictured in his company shirt, we still have no verification if he was actually fired? I love a good sticky situation with no clear right or wrong responses, but I am curious about some of the actual facts. Still.
posted by jessamyn at 8:14 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Immediately, I don't think I understand what "truly" is doing in "truly offensive", which is something I would hope to improve my understanding of.

It's mostly there as an intensifier, and to separate the idea of, say, one of the things overheard being simply the use of the phrase 'big dongle', versus something like 'I'd like to slip my big dongle to her.' One can be perceived as a lot more innocuous, and also subject to a greater level of context requirement, than the other.

And the reason I brought up the idea of confirmation bias was that in your effective analysis of what had happened, by starting your examination of truth statements after the inciting incident, you accept the premise, that the men said offensive things, as a de facto truth statement rather than a value statement. While it's undeniable that offense was taken, the lack of knowledge about what was actually said means we can't make our own assessments about it.
And a number of people in this thread (not all privileged men) aren't all that sure what was said was worth getting offended by, seemingly based on the premise that, heh, dongle sounds funny.

Nothing egregious, just it seemed backing it up one step would cover what seems to be the crux of the matter, to many people.
posted by gadge emeritus at 8:17 AM on March 21, 2013


Correct me if I'm wrong but despite the guy being pictured in his company shirt, we still have no verification if he was actually fired? I love a good sticky situation with no clear right or wrong responses, but I am curious about some of the actual facts. Still.

jessamyn: See this post on playhaven's blog. At this point it's safe to say someone has been let go, but the blog says that it wasn't Alex Reid. Alex Reid is (as best as I can read it) the name on the name tag of the guy in the middle of the picture.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 8:24 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


There was seemingly only one sexual joke, gadge emeritus, the "dongles" one. We'd some confusion yesterday because, if you assume the "sexual forking jokes" have a person as object, then they can only be interpreted as homosexual. In fact, those remarks were not sexual jokes according to the guy who got fired, although maybe a double entendre or sorts, no clue. Adria Richards is not some homophobe bothered by two gay guys making off color comments, she simply heard a sexual joke where apparently none occurred.
posted by jeffburdges at 8:24 AM on March 21, 2013


Someone has definitely been fired for Pycon, as per Playhaven's statement that running order squabble fest posted. The CEO says it's not the guy sitting closest to the camera in Adria's photo. Probably safe to assume that it was the other guy in the photo, but we're still no closer to the rest of the facts.
posted by forgetful snow at 8:27 AM on March 21, 2013


It wasn't in private it was in a crowded room at a public event.

So does privacy cease to exist anywhere outside ones own private residence?

How is this any different from the way some people justify creepshots?
posted by Reggie Knoble at 8:28 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


"...we conducted a thorough investigation. The result of this investigation led to the unfortunate outcome of having to let this employee go..."

Perhaps in their thorough investigation, they discovered that the employee was sub-par on more than one level, and they let this be the last straw.

At my hypothetical company, if one of my employees got a complaint about bad public behavior, and in my investigation of such I discovered that they had a pattern of bad behavior that had not heretofore been brought to my attention, I would fire them. Even if the originally reported bad behavior had not been a big deal.

"...we will not comment on all the factors that contributed to our parting ways."
posted by Cookiebastard at 8:32 AM on March 21, 2013


I can't see how this is a step forward for feminism. All this will do is make male and female devs uncomfortable around each other. I've known plenty of female devs with perfectly ribald senses of humor. Generally, the idea is "dick jokes = okay, actual sexism is not". The fact that this Adria can't tell the difference tells me she would be no fun to have at an after-work happy hour.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:34 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm a woman in open source and I'm glad PyCon has shown it has my back. I am more likely to attend PyCon in the future because of how they acted in the incidents this year.

People who are interested in thinking about conference culture and what it means to ask for "professional" behavior in public spaces in open source might be interested in Open Source, Closed Minds? A reflection on Joseph Reagle’s “‘Free as in sexist?’ Free culture and the gender gap”. Excerpt:
The thing about freedom, at least the way it manifests today in open-source communities, is that it looks a lot like freedom from accountability... It’s free as in freedom, not free as in beer, but I’ve started to hear “free as in free from consequences” when I hear open-source people use “free speech” as a reason to be abusive.
...
At the same time as for-profit companies began to look harder at how to diversify themselves, how to create policies that would protect workers from sexual harassment and various forms of discrimination, the open source movement gained more and more momentum as a way to recreate all of the good bits of being a software engineer in industry (high social status, freedom, and money) without those annoying parts like human resources departments, processes, accountability, and rules (mostly rules to protect less-powerful members of the community).
posted by brainwane at 8:36 AM on March 21, 2013 [12 favorites]



There was a point made earlier about the woman at the conference using her position in media to dominate this man. Damn straight, because that is how change happens. When a man uses his position to selectively hire, that is "the way it goes". When a women does it, that is "an abuse of authority". If this was a man who had called out this sexual harassment, he would be revered as "a man who protects women". Since it was a woman, she is being cast as "a woman using her power to crush men". Subtle, but absolutely essential if you are to understand the dominance hierarchy.
...

So in reporting the sexual harassment at such a high profile, it was unfair to the man who was the target, but simultaneously, he is the beneficiary of the system which she is attempting to change. So whilst it is unfortunate that he became a target, and it's through no fault of his own, that the cost of being a man. For the first time in his life – and many others – they're experiencing unfair treatment for their gender. And it sucks, doesn't it.
posted by nickrussell at 6:10 AM on March 21 [5 favorites +] [!]


I think a man had been in Adria's role and taken her actions and written her weird cringeworthy explanatory blog post, he would not have been praised but still have been widely and rationally criticized by many people of all genders but he would not have attracted the level of irrational and vicious Internet abuse/hate Adria has gotten.

Also, the idea that the struggle for revolutionary change means that it's OK/tolerable collateral damage for the oppressed and marginalized to target people with injustice and domination meted out from positions of power, so long as the wielders of that power are on "the right side" and are oppressed-identified is the kind of thing that gives struggles for revolutionary change a bad name even in hindsight.
posted by Bwithh at 8:40 AM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


And really, how fucking passive-aggressive. If I were at a conference and I was interested in the speaker, and two nitwits behind me were cracking jokes loud enough to be disruptive, I would just turn around and ask, "Do you mind?" or something similar. Posting pictures of them on a blog? Fucking really? That's the kind of thing you do to subway flashers, not slightly-annoying conference goers.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:46 AM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


In my experience professionalism as typically defined is mainly reserved for proles and public displays (like having a huge Twitter following and effectively representing an employer with a high public profile); as you move up the ladder in an organization, people are increasingly less concerned with professionalism

And this is what offends me. Basically you have a higher-profile marketing personality with a penchant for off-color jokes deciding to go after a pair of staff programmers in the audience engaging in some private joshing between friends. Since no one seems to have chimed in with reports from other women about how this guy is known for harassing women, I assume he was doesn't have a pattern here and was exercising decent judgment, outside of not realizing that other people were in earshot.

This isn't "standing up to fight the power." It's a person who decides that she's going to "put someone in his place." The class dynamics of this interaction rub me the wrong way. She's making a very public naming and shaming and making demands for standards of "professional" behavior that she herself does not even think to abide by. We know what SHE was thinking because she publicly articulated it on her blog. And I conclude, based on that, that it was she who was violating norms of professionalism, and she did so in part because by dint of her position, she is rarely held to account when it comes to professional norms.

I read Joey Michaels' explanation of his workplace, and I can't help but think he is getting it completely wrong. Just because you have messed up workplace policies (which may make sense in a school), doesn't mean that everyone should suffer equally under the same regime. Equity is not, "everyone is treated just as poorly." But maybe some people figure that "heightening the contradictions" by abusing the working classes more will accelerate the drive to the revolution.
posted by deanc at 8:47 AM on March 21, 2013 [26 favorites]


She's a smart, educated professional. If she was offended and they apologized; you should presume she heard some shit that was way over the line; and what you've read was probably sanitized.

why should we presume so much in her favour because she has some privileged status? Her vagueness in her post doesn't feel like sanitization ( if the guys had said something extraordinarily vile and disgusting, I'm sure she would have stated explicitly what they said ( if it were so vile that she did not feel comfortable doing that publicly on her blog, then I expect this situation would have been in police report/ lawsuit territory by now, which is another kind of explicit public action) ; what would be the upside of sanitization for her?)
posted by Bwithh at 8:57 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


All this will do is make male and female devs uncomfortable around each other.

Lots of female devs are already uncomfortable around male devs. That's what they've been saying for years.

If I were at a conference and I was interested in the speaker, and two nitwits behind me were cracking jokes loud enough to be disruptive, I would just turn around and ask, "Do you mind?" or something similar.

So you're saying this woman should have done what you, a man, would have done? Because in this context there are no relevant differences?

is the kind of thing that gives struggles for revolutionary change a bad name even in hindsight.

... and is a strawman. The damage was meted out by this guy's employers, not Adria. Adria may have caused offence to deanc by throwing her weight around, but it's not until (in your terms) the dominant realise that the oppressed are starting to get power that change begins to happen.

That's not a blanket excuse for any and all exercise of power by the oppressed, but "oh the oppressed would get what they want if they were only more restrained/polite/less uppity and didn't behave like X" has a very long history indeed, and it's never been any cop.
posted by bonaldi at 8:57 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


And you know what? I'd actually like to hear from some people in other fields for a change. Let's take software out of the picture for the moment, and talk about fields with a more-even gender balance. Do conferences in other industries have such a draconian public shaming policy for dick jokes? Cause I've hung out with sales and marketing people -- male and female -- and they put us engineers to shame as far as off-color humor is concerned.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:58 AM on March 21, 2013


So does privacy cease to exist anywhere outside ones own private residence?

How is this any different from the way some people justify creepshots?


I feel like the "creepshots" comparison is tricky - the photo was taken with their knowledge (although without knowledge of the use it was going to be put to), they are fully clothed and over the age of consent, it isn't a sex thing - the things that tend to make creepshots creepy are not present.

Legislatively, the situations are also different. The Video Voyeurism Prevention Act talks about a filming a "private area" of the body in a place where someone has a "reasonable expectation of privacy". That falls apart in case law, generally, because where one might have a reasonable expectation of privacy is highly unclear. If I take a photo of someone bending over in a store, that is certainly creepy, but it's not clear if it's illegal. In response to that lack of clarity, some individual states are introducing their own laws, which often say that it is reasonable to expect parts of your body generally covered by your clothes to be private even in public - so an upskirt shot taken on a train, or indeed at a convention center, would be in violation.

The question of when a private conversation is private is trickier, but it's clearly not the case that a private conversation in a public place must always be considered private. If Tim Cook and Steve Ballmer meet in a hotel bar to hash out a couple of things, a journalist on the next barstool over would be both within his rights and probably professionally encouraged to report what they said. That's why they don't.

Likewise, if two people in a church hall are having an audible conversation in which they are using racially hateful language, or speculating about the sexual attractiveness of the other people present, or doing a number of other not-cool things, it's counterintuitive to demand that nobody respond to that because they are facing each other when they do it. The details of this situation notwithstanding, the idea that a personal conversation in a public space is indistinguishable from a conversation completely in private is not really defendable, from a legal or a common-sense perspective.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:02 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Welp.
posted by Coda at 9:06 AM on March 21, 2013 [10 favorites]



is the kind of thing that gives struggles for revolutionary change a bad name even in hindsight.

... and is a strawman. The damage was meted out by this guy's employers, not Adria. Adria may have caused offence to deanc by throwing her weight around, but it's not until (in your terms) the dominant realise that the oppressed are starting to get power that change begins to happen.

That's not a blanket excuse for any and all exercise of power by the oppressed, but "oh the oppressed would get what they want if they were only more restrained/polite/less uppity and didn't behave like X" has a very long history indeed, and it's never been any cop.
posted by bonaldi at 8:57 AM on March 21 [+] [!]



Not my terms or my "strawman" ( strawperson, surely) , though I don't think it is that. I was arguing on nickrussel's own terms which included clear celebration of an oppressed-identified individual using a position of dominance in the hegemonic system against hapless hegemony-identified individuals with less power in that situation.
posted by Bwithh at 9:06 AM on March 21, 2013


Welp.

Good lord.
posted by KathrynT at 9:08 AM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Welp.
posted by Coda at 9:06 AM on March 21 [+] [!]


Oh good grief, I don't think this is right either. These companies are all too trigger happy. maybe they're worried about lawsuits or brand equity. but they have no backbone it seems.
posted by Bwithh at 9:08 AM on March 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


Welp

So now Adria Richards has been terminated from SendGrid.

The moral of the story to me is not that companies believe in justice but that companies hate any connection to public controversy. No one was fired for standing up for making a safe space for women in tech. Everyone was fired for being involved in a fight on Twitter.
posted by GuyZero at 9:09 AM on March 21, 2013 [43 favorites]


Welp.

That's fucked up.
posted by nooneyouknow at 9:09 AM on March 21, 2013


Coda: "Welp."

Which is:
Effective immediately, @AdriaRichards has been terminated from @SendGrid. For more details, please see http://ow.ly/jhW0y
I can't get to owly from my current location -- what does the link say?
posted by boo_radley at 9:09 AM on March 21, 2013


Do conferences in other industries have such a draconian public shaming policy for dick jokes?

Scientific conferences, even in the CS industry, don't have this kind of thing (at least I've never been issued such a "norms of behavior" document), but I assume because people are generally more well behaved (in public). I visited another tech conference that's less "sciency" once (though I wasn't a participant), and, quite honestly, I could realize how these behavior codes came about. It was much less professional and much more boys' club/loudmouthed/etc.
posted by deanc at 9:10 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I can't get to owly from my current location -- what does the link say?

"Effective immediately, SendGrid has terminated the employment of Adria Richards. While we generally are sensitive and confidential with respect to employee matters, the situation has taken on a public nature. We have taken action that we believe is in the overall best interests of SendGrid, its employees, and our customers. As we continue to process the vast amount of information, we will post something more comprehensive."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:10 AM on March 21, 2013


SendGrid was being DDoSed and their customers harassed. I don't see how they had any other course of action.
posted by mrbill at 9:12 AM on March 21, 2013


I can't get to owly from my current location -- what does the link say?
posted by boo_radley at 4:09 PM on March 21 [+] [!]


"Effective immediately, SendGrid has terminated the employment of Adria Richards. While we generally are sensitive and confidential with respect to employee matters, the situation has taken on a public nature. We have taken action that we believe is in the overall best interests of SendGrid, its employees, and our customers. As we continue to process the vast amount of information, we will post something more comprehensive."
posted by Reggie Knoble at 9:12 AM on March 21, 2013


It's tough to be a developer evangelist when no developer really wants to talk to you anymore.
posted by PenDevil at 9:12 AM on March 21, 2013 [21 favorites]


The Richards v. SendGrid unlawful termination FPP should be an interesting follow-up to this. Unless of course she signed a massive severance package, which is entirely possible.
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:12 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


SendGrid was being DDoSed and their customers harassed. I don't see how they had any other course of action

Than to give into the mob? God bless reddit.
posted by bonaldi at 9:15 AM on March 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


If SendGrid is in California then it's an "at-will" state:

"California’s Labor Code specifies that an employment relationship with no specified duration is presumed to be employment “at-will.” This means, at least in theory, that the employer or employee may terminate the employment relationship at any time, with or without cause."

They don't need any reason at all to fire her, legally speaking.
posted by GuyZero at 9:15 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sharp comment on that facebook post:
The difference between what @adriarichards did and what the anonymous hackers did was, the latter WANTED someone to get fired. She didn't.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:16 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh, internet. Some stupid shit happened. And then some stupid shit happened. And just when you think this huge pile of stupid shit couldn't possibly get any bigger...
posted by forgetful snow at 9:19 AM on March 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


Jimbob: "Making a dick joke in one context forever waives your right to complain about others making dick jokes in every other context?

Well what was the reason she complained about the joke? Because she found it offensive? This appears unlikely on the face of it, given that she has previously demonstrated she is not actually offended by dick jokes. Because it created a hostile environment? How was she not creating a hostile environment on Twitter? Is there some reason she feels Twitter is allowed to be a hostile environment?
"

Well, then, I suppose I should contact SendGrid and tell them their envangelist offended me on Twitter and she should lose her job?
posted by Samizdata at 9:19 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


http://venturebeat.com/2013/03/21/sendgrid-under-ddos-attack-after-its-developer-evangelist-complains-about-sexual-jokes-at-pycon/


Venturebeat has a picture of Anonymous masked guys at the top of their story on the Sendgrid DDOS attack. Is this just "journalistic license"/hackery (of the old fashioned kind) or is there really some Anonymous angle?
posted by Bwithh at 9:19 AM on March 21, 2013


WHOIS data says Colorado.
"Colorado follows the legal doctrine of "employment-at-will" which provides that in the absence of a contract to the contrary, neither an employer nor an employee is required to give notice or advance notice of termination or resignation. Additionally, neither an employer nor an employee is required to give a reason for the separation from employment."
posted by mrbill at 9:20 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


GuyZero: "If SendGrid is in California then it's an "at-will" state"

SendGrid is in Boulder, Colorado which is also an at-will state. I'm not sure how this will help SendGrid in the long term. It might alleviate the immediate DDoS problem, but there's sure to be mixed consequences down the line.

The comments on SendGrid's twitter announcement are repulsive. What a mess.
posted by boo_radley at 9:21 AM on March 21, 2013


SendGrid is located in Boulder according to their Facebook. Colorado has presumably drunk all the right-wing employment theory cool-aid ever produced.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:22 AM on March 21, 2013


I conclude, based on that, that it was she who was violating norms of professionalism, and she did so in part because by dint of her position, she is rarely held to account when it comes to professional norms.

Well, I take that back, now. It turns out that she was "representing the company at a conference."

I don't have a problem with her telling the guys to knock it off or pointing them out to PyCon staffers for violating the PyCon code of conduct. Because they were. But she made herself "the story" in a very public way, publicly portraying herself as a crusading hero when actually she is an employee who has to abide by professional norms. I suspect what happened was that she had been on a long leash for so long that she forgot that she was operating under certain limits and rules.
posted by deanc at 9:22 AM on March 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


Also it's sort of crazy that Adria's personal blog seems to have good DDoS protection, but SendGrid doesn't.
posted by boo_radley at 9:23 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


The difference between what @adriarichards did and what the anonymous hackers did was, the latter WANTED someone to get fired. She didn't.

Truth.


I'm curious if anything else was behind Adria's firing, like with playhaven alluding to numerous reasons for their employee being fired. She clearly didn't expect this ("SendGrid supports me").
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 9:24 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Adria Richards is an assclown, and now she is fired; hopefully she realizes that she brought this on herself with her blatant buffoonery. :)
posted by zscore at 9:25 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Exactly, PenDevil... I'd find it very difficult to take Adria seriously as "technology evangelist" after this incident. Obviously, she doesn't get our community.
posted by ph00dz at 9:26 AM on March 21, 2013


How about we try not to add to the ugliness?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:29 AM on March 21, 2013 [15 favorites]


Two people lose their jobs, all over a dongle joke. Thank god Wang Computers is out of business.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:31 AM on March 21, 2013 [53 favorites]


It sucks that two people have now lost their job over this. But all of this was very preventable.

The moral of the story is an old one: Be careful what you make public, as the results are beyond your control.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:32 AM on March 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


[Seriously folks, just general spleen venting about who you don't like in this scenario is unhelpful. Stop it please.]
posted by jessamyn at 9:32 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


you have a higher-profile marketing personality with a penchant for off-color jokes deciding to go after a pair of staff programmers in the audience engaging in some private joshing between friends.... This isn't "standing up to fight the power." It's a person who decides that she's going to "put someone in his place."...

A thousand times yes! The remark she was offended by was demeaning to no one, and attacked no one, so it can't be called misogynist. Rather, this was about a marketing person wanting to enforce upper-class codes of behavior ("Do not acknowledge the existence of anything below the solar plexus") on others.

I feel like the "creepshots" comparison is tricky - the photo was taken with their knowledge (although without knowledge of the use it was going to be put to), they are fully clothed and over the age of consent, it isn't a sex thing - the things that tend to make creepshots creepy are not present

It seems to have been generally agreed that even when one creepshots someone over the age of consent, it's still creepy. It's also aggreed (I hope) that if you take a picture of someone with their consent and then post it to Creepshots, that's way fucked up (i.e. "Hey, can I get a picture of your family?" [apply crop tool] [upload]) As for it not being a sex thing: I would be much more upset by the thought that someone is posting my picture online in order to get me fired than to masturbate to me, as the former has a much greater material effect than the latter (not to say that the latter isn't unpleasant). So I'd say this is just like Creepshotting, except much worse.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:33 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


So now Adria Richards has been terminated from SendGrid.

Stupidity upon stupidity here. Neither SendGrid nor that other company comes out looking good with this firings. Another reason I'm glad to live in a country with sensible employment laws.

The only party coming out looking remotely okay is PyCon, which reacted quickly and without fuss to the original complaint.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:34 AM on March 21, 2013 [26 favorites]


I would be much more upset by the thought that someone is posting my picture online in order to get me fired

I would be very upset by such a thing, also, and as soon as such a situation arises you should absolutely get very angry about it. However, I think no recognizably sane and coherent response to this case has argued that anyone involved was trying to get anyone else fired (at least up to the DDoS attack on SendGrid, which was explicitly an attempt to get Adria Richards fired.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:37 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't really approve of the way that Adria behaved in this incident, but firing her... that's ridiculous. She may (MAY) have made a bad judgement call, but her company's response is the worst possible response.
posted by ChrisR at 9:37 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Neither SendGrid nor that other company comes out looking good with this firings.

Well, sort of. I think they sent their employees the exact message they wanted to send - do not get involved in a public fight with anything even vaguely work-related. From the company's perspective this was their only choice and a pretty good message to send.

Sad but true - both the people fired in this incident and and will be easily replaced.
posted by GuyZero at 9:38 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


We could just debate whether SendGrid is a spammer or not, Raining Florence Henderson. I vote spammer.

Wild guess : SendGrid is interested in India. Maybe developer evangelists aren't such great employees when you're considering outsourcing developer jobs?
posted by jeffburdges at 9:38 AM on March 21, 2013


Is total thoughtlessness of the consequences of your actions when branding someone a sexist based on extremely weak "evidence" much better?
posted by Reggie Knoble at 9:40 AM on March 21, 2013


jeffburdges: did you even read the article? SendGrid has customers in India as well as developers. Sending email is a non-trivial task, it's hardly a business of all spammers. Congratulations on throwing in xenophobia and jingoism into the sexism and classism already here.
posted by GuyZero at 9:41 AM on March 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


Neither SendGrid nor that other company comes out looking good with this firings.

Well, sort of. I think they sent their employees the exact message they wanted to send - do not get involved in a public fight with anything even vaguely work-related. From the company's perspective this was their only choice and a pretty good message to send.


This. The person brought unwarranted and negative attention to the company. Forget all the aspects of the story. From a purely business perspective, she was a liability and should be let go.

One should not think of companies as working within the same emotional framework as humans. When you do, you get Michael Moore.
posted by gcbv at 9:41 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


We could just debate whether SendGrid is a spammer or not, Raining Florence Henderson. I vote spammer.

Did you mean this comment for somebody else? That doesn't seem to address anything I've talked about in this thread.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:42 AM on March 21, 2013


Can someone with more law experience than me comment on whether "at-will" really means a company doesn't have to have a reason to terminate an employee? I have heard in the past that the at-will thing only goes so far.

I worked remotely for a CA company a number of years ago in an "at-will" capacity, and they let me go without warning and without (in my opinion) cause. However, based on their post-termination behavior there was clearly a tremendous amount of hand-wringing on their side, and they were very anxious about getting me to sign a severance agreement to clear them of any lawsuit. I ended up signing it (because srsly, when faced with this kind of b.s. just get a company in your rearview mirror a.s.a.p.), but why the anxiety if they held all of the cards?
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:43 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


However, I think no recognizably sane and coherent response to this case has argued that anyone involved was trying to get anyone else fired...

I am curious as to what a supposedly media savy person, representing their employer, was thinking when they made this incident public.


I don't really approve of the way that Adria behaved in this incident, but firing her... that's ridiculous.

She inadvertently caused problems for the company, so it's not too surprising she was fired. This isn't the sort of thing companies want happening again.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:43 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Neither SendGrid nor that other company comes out looking good with this firings.

So far, I think the big winner is CloudFlare. Richards' personal site is still up, which must be the equivalent of showing how your car wax can repel a laser without scratches.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:43 AM on March 21, 2013 [16 favorites]


You get fired! You get fired! Everybody gets fired! </oprah>
posted by ook at 9:44 AM on March 21, 2013 [20 favorites]


Isn't this a very simple story, really? Both people were fired for the same thing: Embarrassing their employer

The two brogrammers were dumb to be making off-color jokes in a public setting while wearing their employer's names on their shirts.

The developer evangelist (whatever that means) was dumb to make her complaint public in the way she did.

This is the way it works when you're an employee, at least in the USA.

Virtually all states in the USA are "at-will" states.
posted by JeffL at 9:47 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


So Adria's been fired, too. (on Preview, a little late. Sorry)
posted by exlotuseater at 9:48 AM on March 21, 2013


Lessons hopefully learned: don't be the jerk telling childish sex jokes at conferences and don't publicly shame offenders when the conference organizers have provided avenues for dealing with the jerks.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:48 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


SendGrid was being DDoSed and their customers harassed. I don't see how they had any other course of action.
Inaction is a course of action, and in this case I think would have been a much better one.

In any case, it's interesting that as of last night, she was claiming on Twitter that SendGrid was supporting her in this.
posted by Flunkie at 9:48 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Simpler: don't be a jerk
posted by ook at 9:49 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


She inadvertently caused problems for the company, so it's not too surprising she was fired

It's not even surprising that so many people seem to think that this is not expected, but the right thing to do, in both cases.
posted by MartinWisse at 9:49 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Aristocrats!
posted by ominous_paws at 9:49 AM on March 21, 2013 [13 favorites]


I think no recognizably sane and coherent response to this case has argued that anyone involved was trying to get anyone else fired

She posted their photos, made sure their faces were identifiable, and addressed them as assclowns in public. She *also* tweeted to PyCon without the photo, asking them to deal with it. Pretty clear that the latter tweet was an attempt to get PyCon to do something, the former was an attempt to get anyone who might recognize them to do something. I'm not sure if she was hoping to get them fired or simply personally attacked, but it wasn't just an attempt to get PyCon to reprimand them.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 9:51 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Can someone with more law experience than me comment on whether "at-will" really means a company doesn't have to have a reason to terminate an employee?

Well, they do have a reason: this is getting them a lot of bad attention. It's like firing someone for being arrested for a crime.
posted by smackfu at 9:51 AM on March 21, 2013


Christ. Things just keep getting stupider. I have even less respect for SendGrid than I did for Playhaven because it seems like they actually just caved to mob justice.

I know corporations function differently from people, but there's no good side to take here no matter where you look.

I'm off to enable CloudFlare on my sites, brb.
posted by Phire at 9:52 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's appalling that sendgrid fired her. If, as tech people, we're going to be able to get anywhere with this conversation we should at least be able to argue with each other without such serious consequences.
posted by zoo at 9:52 AM on March 21, 2013


A person's profit must exceed their cost, or what's a human for?
posted by forgetful snow at 9:53 AM on March 21, 2013 [18 favorites]


I vote spammer.

Have you ever used their service? There's a decent barrier to entry on signing up and like MailChimp and plenty of others, they watch their customers' behavior. If you want to spam, it's a lot easier to just buy cheap hosting and let a stupid PHP script rip until (if!) they cancel your account and then move and start up again. That costs like $5/month for as many emails as you can get away with whereas you pay by the email with services designed for it.
posted by yerfatma at 9:53 AM on March 21, 2013


Well, they do have a reason: this is getting them a lot of bad attention. It's like firing someone for being arrested for a crime.

Let me rephrase then. Do "at-will" laws mean that a wrongful termination lawsuit for a case like this (for either of the fired people) is an immediate non-starter?
posted by mcstayinskool at 9:53 AM on March 21, 2013


Probably my biggest issue with Richards' handling of this is labeling "professionally inappropriate remarks" as "sexist". It draws too many conclusions.

Really none of these firings probably should've gone on, everyone should've just been made to understand how whack the whack part of their actions were and hopefully given assistance in apologizing publicly for the whack portions (and only the whack portions) of their behavior.
posted by Matt Oneiros at 9:54 AM on March 21, 2013


Last bit re: SendGrid, can you explain why what they do matters so much you've been focusing on it?
posted by yerfatma at 9:54 AM on March 21, 2013


SendGrid wastes people's time, yerfatma. Yes, they do so legally, but they make the world a worse place.
posted by jeffburdges at 9:57 AM on March 21, 2013


To amend my previous comment, we're now up to: Four wrongs still don't make a right.

The brogrammers were foolish, she was a jerk, PlayHaven overreacted unprofessionally, SendGrid overreacted unprofessionally.
posted by klangklangston at 9:59 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Let me rephrase then. Do "at-will" laws mean that a wrongful termination lawsuit for a case like this (for either of the fired people) is an immediate non-starter?

Either person would have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit if their termination was in breach of either their employment contract, or employment law. I would be astounded if either firing met these criteria. Being fired for bringing bad PR to your company is a pretty standard thing.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:00 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


A person's profit must exceed their cost, or what's a human for?

Male privilege and power exist, but it is perhaps enlightening to this issue to see even greater privilege and power get exercised by employers.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:00 AM on March 21, 2013 [18 favorites]


Let me rephrase then. Do "at-will" laws mean that a wrongful termination lawsuit for a case like this (for either of the fired people) is an immediate non-starter?

IANAL but there are some specific carve-outs within at-will. But it would be pretty hard to sue, yes. It's doubtful she had an employment contract that gave her very much protection.
posted by GuyZero at 10:01 AM on March 21, 2013


I saw the photo - the look in the guys eyes, come on tell me he's not purposefully trying to troll?

I know it's already been pointed out just how much projecting is going on in this comment, but due to special circumstances I feel like I have to respond.

I need to preface my comment with a request to take me on my word for this: I read this story and all the links initially ... except the link to the actual photo. For no real reason, aside from knowing the photo existed, I hadn't looked. My opinion of the actors in the story was pretty firmly set just based on the text content of the various links, and the conversation.

So then I read this comment about "the look in the guys eyes", and thought to myself, "really?". And I opened the photo.

"Wait", I thought. "Isn't that ... "

Yes. Yes, it is. I know that guy (on the right -- I'm not going to put his name here, the internet remembers enough as is).

Full disclosure: we went to school together. We were in clubs together. Over time, I came to think of him as a friend. After college, we stayed in touch for a while, but one day he chose to move across the country, and as sometimes happens, we fell out of touch. I don't think I've really talked to him in 3 or 4 years. Such is life.

Still, 3-4 years later, I have serious doubts he's that much different than he was in the years I knew him well. If I had to describe him, the first word in my mind would probably be "goofy". He jokes around. He makes light of situations. It's in his nature to be self-deprecating. He's also always been a genuinely nice guy.

Also highly relevant: it's in his nature to mug for cameras. I have seen that look, or a look like it, dozens of times. Point a camera at him, and he's going to make a silly face. It might be a raised eyebrow, it might be a semi-manic look, but it's pretty much instinctive. Why does he do that? Who knows. Why does anyone do anything?

Now, in all seriousness: I'm not saying he wasn't in any way in the wrong here. He's admitted wrongdoing, and he was there, so I'm not going to be refuting that. But looking at the situation, and looking at how he's being picked apart based on something as trivial as the look on his face ... all I can say is this:

He's a human being. Maybe consider stepping back and ascribing something even close to human emotions and motives (flawed as they may be) instead of poring over a single photo like it's the Zapruder film. Humans, even humans who have admitted to having done something wrong, deserve that at the very least.
posted by tocts at 10:02 AM on March 21, 2013 [70 favorites]


I have heard in the past that the at-will thing only goes so far.

It goes pretty far. Your employer can fire you, at any time, with no warning, for any, or no, reason unless you have a contract or are part of a union.

The sticky ground for SendGrid, and arguably, for Playhaven here is that there are exceptions. Most companies have a termination procedure that, when they short circuit it, the terminated employee can argue that it wasn't followed and they were wrongfully terminated.

In SendGrid's position, they also appear to have fired someone in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment (whether or not you think it was sexual harassment, Richards obviously did). Unless they've reached a side agreement with Richards already, they've torched her career. She has very little to lose by bringing a wrongful termination suit. If I were her right now, I'd be looking for a lawyer to burn the place to the ground.
posted by IanMorr at 10:02 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wow. Just wow. Dongle / forking comments at a conference have now led to a person who uttered the them being fired and a person who was offended being fired.

This reminds me a bit of high school debate policy debate classes where the goal was to show that adopting the resolution would lead to either nuclear war or world economic collapse.

Except this actually happened.

I'm a little more afraid for us all right now.
posted by weston at 10:02 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, Sendgrid's behaviour proves my earlier comment about professionalism being a mug's game. Here we have somebody, who has partially been hired for her outspokenness, getting shitcanned the moment her outspokenness gets the wrong sort of attention. She had to be loyal to the company, but not the other way around.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:03 AM on March 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


Let me rephrase then. Do "at-will" laws mean that a wrongful termination lawsuit for a case like this (for either of the fired people) is an immediate non-starter?

There are some protections. My father won a lawsuit arguing that he was fired over a disability, for example, when he had also done something publicly that could reasonably have been considered embarrassing to the company that was used as an excuse.

You might argue that she was fired for complaining about sexual harassment which might be something that would be protected (not a lawyer here) but she didn't exactly follow standard procedure for dealing with it.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:03 AM on March 21, 2013


Now CloudFlare just needs to fire someone in solidarity with the other companies.
posted by Anything at 10:05 AM on March 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


Well that escalated quickly.
posted by kbanas at 10:08 AM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's appalling that sendgrid fired her. If, as tech people, we're going to be able to get anywhere with this conversation we should at least be able to argue with each other without such serious consequences.

I will say this: one of the problems that professionals face is that they have to have some kind of public "brand" to remain employable, especially for someone in marketing. Your own employer certainly isn't going to publicize your accomplishments to other employers. So Richards has to constantly and relentless market herself, and to a degree that is what she was doing with her public "call out" of those two guys at PyCon. Making a public to-do about their behavior was part of her personal "brand" in which she was touting her "accomplishments", such as they were in this case.

But this put her on conflict with her employer. Without a higher profile, it is harder for her to find a job and clients. But with that higher profile comes the fact that everything she says reflects on her employer, and the employer is going to hold her to account for everything she does in a quest to keep herself valuable on the job market. So she's in a bind-- she shouldn't have dragged these guys and this dispute into her self-marketing exercise, but it isn't like her employer is going to help promote her profile directly, yet they also hold her repsnsible for her public profile.
posted by deanc at 10:09 AM on March 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


Dolan: everything was actually workers' rights issue
posted by 2bucksplus at 10:09 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


At will doesn't require you to have a reason, but if you do fire someone for a reason the at will laws also say the reason has to be valid. For example you can fire someone for no reason, but you cannot fire someone because they are a woman. Also firing people for no reason is difficult to prove to a judge or jury. If you say no reason and the person says because of an invalid reason then your lawyers will have heartburn. Therefore always fire someone for a specific valid reason such as clearly documented poor performance or eliminating positions as part of a layoff.
posted by humanfont at 10:09 AM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Well, everyone saying that the most important thing in the workplace is to be professional now can see where this leads. HR departments and companies only have ONE PURPOSE: to protect their own ass. Anything that jeopardizes the continuity of the institution will be terminated. Doesn't matter if it's right or wrong. Only the survival of the company matters.

This is depressing. It's even more depressing since a lot of this mirrors what happened that led to my separation of employment. Except the sex joke part, I didn't do that.
posted by FJT at 10:14 AM on March 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


Richards' site seems to be down now.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:16 AM on March 21, 2013


I wish both ex-employees good luck at finding new jobs.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:16 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow this whole situation is all kinds of fucked up.
posted by Justinian at 10:17 AM on March 21, 2013


We could just debate whether SendGrid is a spammer or not, [...]. I vote spammer.

While I think that the conversation here has been pretty good and generally even-handed (with people all over the range of responses), I think it's notable that some folks have been all over what SendGrid's business model is (sending mass e-mails, which may cross into spam, may be "bacn", or may be legit) and how odious they are, as a means to attack Richards by connection.

Not one person in 600+ comments has brought up the relative odiousness of PlayHaven's business model, which is mobile game advertising, crosspromotion, rewards and user data collection: Monetize your game with lucrative, highly-targeted cross-promotions... Segment your in-game marketing and monetization by player purchase behavior, location, engagement, device, game version, and much more. That seems roughly as obnoxious to me as a bacn email sender, and is an interesting double standard.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:17 AM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


no sexual jokes were made about forking. My friends and I had decided forking someone's repo is a new form of flattery

This is so completely disingenuous. The reason "I'd fork his repo" is a "witty" compliment is because it sounds like you're saying "I'd hit it" but HAHAHA you're not!
posted by straight at 10:18 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Has anyone seen verification that the SendGrid Facebook and Twitter posts are actually from the company as opposed to compromised social media accounts? Occam's razor seems to favor the latter assumption from what I've seen so far.
posted by scottreynen at 10:21 AM on March 21, 2013


I used Sendgrid for a while as part of a website signup email confirmation registration process. It promised to help improve delivery rates and we were tired of dealing with all the issues with various email services. It didn't seem to deliver nearly as well as our own homegrown stuff, which was disapointing.
posted by humanfont at 10:21 AM on March 21, 2013


So...tweeting absolutely everything you see and do to all your social media contacts isn't always a good idea?
posted by prize bull octorok at 10:23 AM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


Well that's shitty.

Shitty + shitty does not make right.
posted by Artw at 10:23 AM on March 21, 2013


scottreynen: "Has anyone seen verification that the SendGrid Facebook and Twitter posts are actually from the company as opposed to compromised social media accounts? Occam's razor seems to favor the latter assumption from what I've seen so far."

1) I'm not sure Occam's razor supports your statement.
2) The official sendgrid blog (sendgrid.com) has the same announcement.
posted by boo_radley at 10:24 AM on March 21, 2013


scottreynen, its on their blog as well, for the moment i'm undecided, socialmedia and blogs are not that hard to hack.
posted by xcasex at 10:24 AM on March 21, 2013


So I can totally see her hearing those guys joking and seeing that girl on stage and imagining assholes "complimenting" her coding someday by saying, "Wow, I'd fork her repo!"
posted by straight at 10:24 AM on March 21, 2013


Fucked up situation that is now more fucked up.

My own take is that Adria was out of line - it'd be one thing to take a picture of two bros saying to her "hey, do you want to see my dongle?" or "Adria, I'd like to fork your repo". No question that is over the line and inappropriate.
But overhearing a bawdy joke that has absolutely nothing to do with you and publicly shaming the participants via photography seems just completely far over the line.

Their employers also seem to have wildly overreacted - no one should have been fired for this incident, on either side. The fact that they were sitting in a conference after being sent there seems to have little do with it, as far as I'm concerned. Again, one thing if they are 'presenting on behalf of' their company, but just sitting in the audience? Nuts. I go to conferences regularly at fuck that noise that my employer gets to police everything I say and do 24/7 for the duration of the conference.

This whole story lacks any semblance of reasonableness for anyone involved.
posted by modernnomad at 10:25 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


The operative word there is "imaging"
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:26 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Occam's razor seems to favor the latter assumption from what I've seen so far.

Pretty sure Occam's razor says that these people were fired. Why the elaborate conspiracy theories? People get fired for petty shit all the time. Thats why a lot of jurisdictions have labour protection laws.
posted by GuyZero at 10:28 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


The operative word there is "imaging"

No. Because if you have an environment where the common way to compliment a programmer is to make a pseudo "I'd hit it" comment, then that's creating a hostile environment to women, even if you never say it to a woman.

Women programmers shouldn't have to think, "I wouldn't like my work to be complimented that way."
posted by straight at 10:29 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Occam's razor is bloody today.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:30 AM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm trying to see some sort of upside to this whole story, like this is the first time PyCon has tried to enforce a code of conduct, and it definitely hit some bumps and snags and this whole story is a good lesson in what not to do for everyone involved?

I'm trying, but it's tough to even say these are bumps on the road to progress.
posted by mathowie at 10:30 AM on March 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


And the flip side to the double standard I mentioned above (where SendGrid is examined and PlayHaven was not) is that the fired developer has been accused of not being the person in question, not having children, and not being fired, and the theory has been advanced that SendGrid's Twitter, Facebook and blog accounts have all been hijacked simultaneously. Once the developer's firing was corroborated on PlayHaven's blog, no one questioned its' reliability.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 10:31 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


no sexual jokes were made about forking. My friends and I had decided forking someone's repo is a new form of flattery

This is so completely disingenuous. The reason "I'd fork his repo" is a "witty" compliment is because it sounds like you're saying "I'd hit it" but HAHAHA you're not!
Obviously you're not a golfer. "Forking" is an extremely loaded term in software development, but not at all because of the audio similarity to the word "fucking," and honestly the other loadings are far more controversial and political than any of the various meanings of fucking. Software development of any decently sized project is highly social, and requires editing other people's work, and close collaboration on the same set of files. In the past, "forking" has meant that a schism, a splinter group that takes the current version of the code and works on its own, independently, until the two different versions can no longer be merged together. This happens for political reasons, technical reasons, social reasons, and is generally a move that has detrimental consequences for a project, so must only be undertaken for "really good reasons." A fork was actually a "fuck you" to the existing group collaborating on a project. It happens, and in the past it's been shitty, fragmenting developer efforts and users' attention.

However, GitHub, which has grown in popularity tremendously in the past few years and provided some absolutely great methods for improving collaboration, has been somewhat successful in redefining the implications and meaning of "forking." Now, because of improved collaboration and decentralization of control and power, a 'fork' is not as permanent. It can be remerged. And on top of it all, every single project web page has a prominent "Fork me on GitHub" banner in the upper right hand of the page, and the source code views always include a "fork" button. This is a radical departure in the terminology of GitHub, and it makes developers nervous when they first encounter it because of 'fork's negative connatitons: it's what you did when you didn't like the direction a project. It's now what you do when you like a project and want to work on it. In fact, it's the very first thing one does! So because of social changes enabled by technological changes and decentralization of control, forking has been redefined from the very worst thing for a project, to a very good thing, a pat on the back and a decision to work with someone. Cursing or copulation pale in comparison to the entertainment or surprise of this new and enjoyable use of 'forking' and the negative implications of 'forking's previous meanings. I still have to cajole and persuade people to click on the 'fork' button on GitHub, because this is a transition still in progress and people are still afraid of the connotations of 'fork.'
posted by Llama-Lime at 10:33 AM on March 21, 2013 [31 favorites]


The future is a gigantic pyramid of shitty...
posted by Artw at 10:34 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


The person brought unwarranted and negative attention to the company. Forget all the aspects of the story. From a purely business perspective, she was a liability and should be let go.

One should not think of companies as working within the same emotional framework as humans. When you do, you get Michael Moore.
Wait, I shouldn't want companies to be more like Michael Moore, and less like heartless amoral destroyers of worlds?
posted by Flunkie at 10:34 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


like this is the first time PyCon has tried to enforce a code of conduct

At least IMO PyCon comes out of this whole event looking pretty good. I think they did the right thing at pretty much every turn. I sincerely hope that this episode doesn't have a chilling effect on future women reporting harassing behaviour to the conference organizers. That said, this was clearly a complete mess.
posted by GuyZero at 10:34 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


mathowie: I think that there is very real progress here. The conference had 20% female attendance -- which is incredible for the field -- and I saw many families as well, with kids. There was a broad tone of inclusiveness, the trade floor was devoid of (or I didn't see) any sexualized advertisements, and only two incidents happened that required comment... all of which were roundly denounced by central Python community members.

This is progress, trust me.
posted by ChrisR at 10:35 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Wait, I shouldn't want companies to be more like Michael Moore, and less like heartless amoral destroyers of worlds?

Just be aware that the world you want and the world you have are two different places.
posted by GuyZero at 10:36 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't be shocked if SendGrid was hacked and it was faked. Seeing the same news in multiple places doesn't prove much... all it takes is for the CEOs email account to get compromised. I don't think Occam's Razor says that is the most likely option though.
posted by smackfu at 10:36 AM on March 21, 2013


It wouldn't surprise me if SendGrid has actually been looking for an excuse to fire her that lets them go "Oh we're really sorry Adria, but as you can see our hands are tied."
posted by lucidium at 10:36 AM on March 21, 2013


Yeah, Sendgrid's behaviour proves my earlier comment about professionalism being a mug's game. Here we have somebody, who has partially been hired for her outspokenness, getting shitcanned the moment her outspokenness gets the wrong sort of attention.

Hired to be outspoken doesn't mean "and we therefore have to support her no matter what she says." I suspect a lot of the motivation for firing her here is her resolute (and wildly unprofessional) determination to be the Drama Empress of the Universe over the situation. Had she confined herself to the original tweet (which, even in itself I think was an overreaction, but at least a defensible one) and then left it at "I was offended by what I heard and thought it necessary to inform the conference organizers" I think she'd have probably been safe. But by making herself the Joan of Arc of future female tech people and engaging in a running Twitter war with all her detractors she has seriously compromised her ability to act as a spokesperson for anyone other than herself. No one will hear anything she says as "speaking on behalf of SendGrid" now--her brand has essentially eclipsed theirs.

That said, I suspect that the better move on SendGrid's part would have been to reach out to PlayHaven and say "look, is there any way we can work out how to navigate a way out of this shitstorm? Could you offer to re-employ the guy you fired and we issue a joint statement saying how sorry we all are that this incident blew up so horribly. We get Adria Richards to say that she never imagined that anyone would lose his job, we get the fired guy to say how sorry he is, again, that he made inappropriate jokes in a professional context, we all engage in a group hug and general singing of Kumbaya and the internet pretty quickly loses interest in all of us."
posted by yoink at 10:37 AM on March 21, 2013 [25 favorites]


It's appalling that sendgrid fired her. If, as tech people, we're going to be able to get anywhere with this conversation we should at least be able to argue with each other without such serious consequences.

Well, since the main (entire?) point of her job (as near as I can tell) was being a public relations expert, I think the company can easily make the case that she was fired for doing her job badly.
posted by JeffL at 10:37 AM on March 21, 2013 [14 favorites]


Yeah, I think PyCon did the right thing, just the reactions on all sides escalated to crazy ends.

My hope is other conferences and future PyCons can do this thing better and make it an industry norm. Hopefully the reactions of companies in future events goes differently.
posted by mathowie at 10:37 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Cursing or copulation pale in comparison to the entertainment or surprise of this new and enjoyable use of 'forking' and the negative implications of 'forking's previous meanings.

That's really interesting, Llama-Lime. Thanks.

So you really think there would be no sex-joke connotations to saying "I'd fork her repo"? You think a female programmer who understood that context would be comfortable having her work complimented that way?
posted by straight at 10:41 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I'm trying to see some sort of upside to this whole story, like this is the first time PyCon has tried to enforce a code of conduct, and it definitely hit some bumps and snags and this whole story is a good lesson in what not to do for everyone involved?"

Yeah, PyCon did exactly what they should have. It's a shame that the employers are being dickbags, but PyCon was the very model of good governance.
posted by klangklangston at 10:41 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Welp.

FFS. This whole mess just keeps getting worse.
posted by homunculus at 10:42 AM on March 21, 2013


According to my time-traveling neighbor from the year 100,000,000,000 : In the future, EVERYONE WILL BE FIRED, constantly, forever. Corporations will sustain themselves from the energy generated by employees turning the revolving door.

(Basically, [proto][ex]workers power the system by transferring to lower [that is, unemployed] energy states. Their own job hunting activities eventually push them into higher energy states. Basically, it's particle physics.)
posted by JHarris at 10:43 AM on March 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


So...tweeting absolutely everything you see and do to all your social media contacts isn't always a good idea?

That and tweeting socially awkward moments of particular developers when you're a developer evangelist probably isn't the wisest move.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:44 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'd rate them as least culpable in this rolling shitball, TBH. Though their rules of conduct are now effectively a gag order on non-corporate sanctioned communication.
posted by Artw at 10:44 AM on March 21, 2013


Twitter-shaming can cost you your job
There are some clear lessons in this tale. First, Twitter shaming is clearly no longer for teens, politicians, and celebrities. Simply being cautious as to what you post to Twitter (or Facebook or wherever) doesn't cut it; we evidently need to be mindful of all that we say, do, and wear as we go out in public, because you never know whether someone with influence is quietly monitoring you and has no qualms in outing your subjectively bad behavior to the world. One off-color comment can result in your reputation being tarnished and you losing your job.

(Incidentally, making off-color jokes in public doesn't necessarily make you a horrible human being who deserves public shaming, a point that Richards herself should appreciate as she recently joked with a fellow Twitter user about stuffing his pants with socks the next time he has to undergo a TSA pat-down.)

Second, it's a reminder as to how sensitive companies have become to even a whiff of potentially bad publicity that social networking can generate so quickly. Just look back at the whole Susan G. Komen-Planned Parenthood spat from last year as a case study in how social networking can rapidly affect an organization's reputation. In this case, the guys' employer's logo could be seen on their shirts in the photo that Richards posted. It's possible that the employer, PlayHaven, fired him for other reasons, but it's a safe bet this incident at least exacerbated by the fact that the company name was being connected to allegedly offensive and sexist comments at a professional conference.

Third: Hopefully this incident will serve as a reminder that there may be more productive and fruitful ways to address personal conflicts and grievances than immediately taking them straight to social networking. How about talking to the offending party face to face to work through any potential misunderstandings?

Ironically, Richards herself alluded to that fact in her blog in which she defended her actions: "What has to change is that everyone must take personal accountability and speak up when they hear something that isn't OK. It takes three words to make a difference: 'That's not cool.' ... We need to build bridges and be aware of our actions and not discount that our words carry weight."
posted by ericb at 10:45 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


every single project web page has a prominent "Fork me on GitHub" banner in the upper right hand of the page

And are you confident that this isn't an example of the sort of brogrammer humor that excludes women? Are female programers comfortable putting a "Fork me on GitHub" banner on their projects?
posted by straight at 10:45 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hacker News is deleting posts about Adria's firing, suggesting they are probably just posted from a hacked account. This makes sense... what company talks about HR issues on Faebook?
posted by gensubuser at 10:45 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


So you really think there would be no sex-joke connotations to saying "I'd fork her repo"? You think a female programmer who understood that context would be comfortable having her work complimented that way?

But that's the rub, isn't it? These people didn't say that about a woman's work, nor direct the comment at any woman. It was two colleagues/friends talking to each other about the work of another man.

It's seems a pretty bizarre suggestion that I ought to speak to a co-worker I am on friendly terms with only in the same fashion that I would talk with a stranger in a professional context.
posted by modernnomad at 10:48 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


So you really think there would be no sex-joke connotations to saying "I'd fork her repo"?

Llama-lime gave a good history of 'forking', but just because of the sound of the word, it will always have some juvenile connotations for some. And I can see how, delivered in a certain manner, it could be considered harassing sexual innuendo for a woman. But this is not what happened here, as has been pointed out a hundred times already upthread.
posted by amorphatist at 10:49 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's worth thinking about the implications of complimenting programmers in terms that are innocent as long as the programmer isn't a woman.
posted by straight at 10:50 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


And are you confident that this isn't an example of the sort of brogrammer humor that excludes women? Are female programers comfortable putting a "Fork me on GitHub" banner on their projects?
Yeah, the "Fork me on GitHub" banner is super-common and its meaning as "feel free to branch this code" is clear. I really doubt any female programmers would have a problem with it. "I'd fork her repo," on the other hand, is creepy and gross.
posted by ReadEvalPost at 10:51 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


It seems "Fork my project on GitHub" would be a more natural slogan if there were no innuendo involved.
posted by straight at 10:53 AM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


jeffburdges: ‘I wish both ex-employees good luck at finding new jobs.”

Just chiming in, one more time, to point out that as far as we know there's only one ex-employee in this situation, and I'm still not going to have blind faith in anonymous Hacker News comments.
posted by koeselitz at 10:53 AM on March 21, 2013


So you really think there would be no sex-joke connotations to saying "I'd fork her repo"? You think a female programmer who understood that context would be comfortable having her work complimented that way?
Practically anything can be made salacious, so really, it all depends. Personally, I could definitely see myself saying it without even realizing the sexual overtones that it would convey to others, especially if I was in a professional context. If I was in a place without programmers, I would generally avoid it in order to avoid using boring technical jargon. What's that called? Code-switching? In any case, I'll probably avoid the particular phrase "I'd fork X's repo" in the future just because of the ambiguity, and using language one knows to be ambiguous is just plain sloppy speech.
posted by Llama-Lime at 10:55 AM on March 21, 2013


Just chiming in, one more time, to point out that as far as we know there's only one ex-employee in this situation, and I'm still not going to have blind faith in anonymous Hacker News comments.

Wait, which one? Or is it none? Because there's people upthread saying that neither of them have been fired. Is this like some Schrodinger's layoff?
posted by FJT at 10:56 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Almost any verb can be made sexual if said in a particular manner ("I'd aspirate her carburettor *wink wink nudge nudge* say no more") . That fork happens to sound like fuck is immaterial. Forking is a legitimate action when describing managing source code.
posted by PenDevil at 10:56 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just chiming in, one more time, to point out that as far as we know there's only one ex-employee in this situation, and I'm still not going to have blind faith in anonymous Hacker News comments.

I'm not sure what you mean. PlayHaven confirmed that they fired an employee due to the PyCon incident, and SendGrid confirmed on Facebook and Twitter that they let Adria Richards go.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 10:57 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


So, I think I may have missed it : what was PyCon's official response again?
posted by Afroblanco at 10:58 AM on March 21, 2013


It seems "Fork my project on GitHub" would be a more natural slogan if there were no innuendo involved.
Ah, I think I might see the disconnect: You put those banners on project documentation pages, meaning the 'me' in question is not the developer but the project.
posted by ReadEvalPost at 11:00 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Context and tone are important. 'Fork' is not creepy, it's a perfectly legitimate description of what you're doing when you take the code in a different direction. So "I'd fork her repo" could be as innocent as "that chef is great, I'd eat her meals any day".
posted by IanMorr at 11:00 AM on March 21, 2013


The word "fork" has a long history of sexualized connotations. That said, it's also perfectly normal most of the time. Github actually got some flack for a "hardcore forking" message (I wonder if it still uses it?) which is much more clearly sexualized. Thus it's entirely possible for one person to entirely honestly make a forking joke and not think it sexual while another thinks it is.
posted by R343L at 11:00 AM on March 21, 2013


what was PyCon's official response again?

They responded to a complaint promptly, they talked to all parties in private and an apology for inappropriate comments was made by the commenter. And they had a policy in place before this all began.
posted by GuyZero at 11:01 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Honestly it should be "branch me on GitHub". Git doesn't really have anything called a fork. A fork is more of an abstract concept.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:02 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Googling around on the use of the term "forking" and "fork me on github" etc I find endless utterly mundane, dry, technical uses of the term. I'm sure it's often enough used in a jokey way as well, but it is very clearly not the predominant associations with the term. If you want an example (that also lays out some of the same history Llama-Lime laid out above) that dates from well before the latest controversy you could read this link.

So, yeah, it seems to me it's a term that's neutral in itself but which is also an obvious straight line lying around if someone wants to play it that way. It also seems very easy to imagine that the guys in this scenario could have been using it in the non-sexual way they described while Adria Richards misunderstood it as being used as double-entendre. To decide that question we'd need an audio recording. Given that they all seem to be straight guys and they were all talking about another guy that would seem to be something of a strike against the "double-entendre" reading--but it's hardly dispositive.
posted by yoink at 11:02 AM on March 21, 2013


I'd never encountered the term bacn before, thanks Homeboy Trouble. Yet, SendGrid and MailChimp are obviously sending way more legal "spam", i.e. mail that nobody wants, than "email you want but not right now." Facebook sends an awful lot of email through SendGrid, but password resets are almost the only emails you'd want from Facebook. Really, this term bacn is designed to confuse the issue and protect direct marketers.

I agree that PlayHaven sounds sleezy and exploitive. And they make the world worse for their customer's customers. And the armchair shrink wonders if video game companies are worse about dick jokes. Yet, ultimately PlayHaven does not impact me, well not a game player, while SendGrid does.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:03 AM on March 21, 2013


Git doesn't really have anything called a fork.

Every single github page has a "fork" button at the top right.
posted by yoink at 11:03 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


It sounds like PyCon's approach was reasonable. Did that happen before or after she posted the pictures online?
posted by Afroblanco at 11:04 AM on March 21, 2013


Every single github page has a "fork" button at the top right.

That's github, not git. I don't think git uses the term fork.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:05 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think, though I could be wrong, that she posted the pictures as part of making her complaint to the conference organizers. The photo & tweet may have been the complaint. At any rate, I believe she tweeted the photo before the conference organizers had a chance to respond to the complaint.
posted by GuyZero at 11:06 AM on March 21, 2013


Honestly it should be "branch me on GitHub". Git doesn't really have anything called a fork. A fork is more of an abstract concept.

In git terms a fork and a branch are two separate but similar concepts. A branch is a different version of a code base inside your own repository. A fork is my copy (with my own changes possibly) of another repository.

On further reflection: git tends to use the word 'clone', GitHub uses 'fork' but seeing as GitHub is the defacto face of git for many I see how fork has become more prevalent.
posted by PenDevil at 11:06 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Umm, branches exist within a git repository, but github users have many separate repositories, including forks from other users repositories, Ad hominem. Forks are not git branches.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:06 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Git itself possibly doesn't have any feature named 'fork', but that term has been used for a long time in the context of, well, forking open source projects. And 'branch' already has its own specific meaning in git, on a lower level of abstraction than the concept of forking a repo. But I suppose there would indeed be less probability of innuendo issues with a phrase like 'Fork Foo on GitHub' for a project called Foo, rather than 'Fork me..'
posted by Anything at 11:10 AM on March 21, 2013


I am tempted to tear the dongle from the shared workstation in my office and smash it with a hammer before this evil consumes us all.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:10 AM on March 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


GuyZero, from her blog, "I tweeted the PyCon Code of Conduct page and began to contacting the PyCon staff via text message"
posted by gensubuser at 11:10 AM on March 21, 2013


I'm just saying if you read the git book I don't believe it mentions forks, I'm not saying forks are not a thing in general, just that git uses the term branch, a fork is more abstract.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:10 AM on March 21, 2013


Afroblanco: Did that happen before or after she posted the pictures online?

After. But that would appear to be because she went public on Twitter with the complaint AS PART OF registering her complaint with PyCon. And that's where I'm having a problem with this.

Turns out Adria and I are in the same industry (I do email stuff). We've attended some of the same industry (email, not dev) conferences. The conferences that we've attended have very clear Codes of Conduct, and expect violations to be reported so they can be dealt with... and, in this instance, she didn't go down that path. She immediately reached for the Giant Stick Of Thousands Of Twitter Followers.

Were the guys being idiots? Yep. Did she need to say "whoa, dudes, not cool"? No. Should she have gone to the PyCon folks FIRST to see if they would deal with it and THEN reached for the nuclear button if she'd not gotten satisfaction? Yes, absolutely.

This may tend to have a chilling effect on other conferences - "Why should we institute and regulate a code of conduct when attendees are just going to dox each other if they don't like something?"
posted by hanov3r at 11:10 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


On non-preview, 'clone' does sound right, since that's pretty much the word for this in git proper -- although it's the less common word for the concept in general than fork is.
posted by Anything at 11:12 AM on March 21, 2013


This may tend to have a chilling effect on other conferences - "Why should we institute and regulate a code of conduct when attendees are just going to dox each other if they don't like something?"

I hope that every conference adds "no doxing d00dz" to their code of conduct although it's pretty hard to enforce. Some conferences may simply ban photography which which would be a pity.
posted by GuyZero at 11:13 AM on March 21, 2013


git and github are very different things in spite of github being built on git and I don't see why it's surprising that a github fork doesn't have a direct or even partial analog in git. github does a ton of stuff that git doesn't. That's why it exists.
posted by GuyZero at 11:14 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm just saying if you read the git book I don't believe it mentions forks

Yeah, it does. See e.g. here. Also a good example of the term being used in a clearly 'single entendre' way.
posted by yoink at 11:15 AM on March 21, 2013


and THEN reached for the nuclear button if she'd not gotten satisfaction? Yes, absolutely.

Yes, "absolutely" indeed. What was that thing about nuclear weapons? Mutually assured destruction?
posted by amorphatist at 11:16 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


A (development) fork is when software development diverges under different authors. Forks are usually either merged or abandoned eventually, although some persist for extended periods. CyanogenMod is a fork of Android that tracks Android development, for example.

Yes, github executes a clone operation when you press the fork button, but your clone becomes a fork if you change it. So they call it fork to inspire.
posted by jeffburdges at 11:16 AM on March 21, 2013


fatbird: If her employer dislikes being listed at the top of the page, they can fire her for it.

And look what happened. Hooray!

Jesus what a horribly depressing and senseless story.
posted by leopard at 11:22 AM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, it does. See e.g. here. Also a good example of the term being used in a clearly 'single entendre' way

Ok, I stand corrected. But to fork you clone and branch.

First, you’ll probably want to clone the main repository, create a topic branch for the patch or patch series you’re planning to contribute, and do your work there

I still think of a fork as an abstract concept, not an SCM term. I may be wrong though.At any rate I'll drop it.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:23 AM on March 21, 2013


because you never know whether someone with influence is quietly monitoring you and has no qualms in outing your subjectively bad behavior to the world.

Sousveillance.

aaaaaaaaaand there's another FPP topic...
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:27 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Here's a question: If she wasn't fired, why hasn't she chimed in on her own twitter to say so? Her silence on the matter kinds leads me to believe she has other things going on in her life right now, like cleaning out her desk.
posted by mullingitover at 11:41 AM on March 21, 2013


MartinWisse: "She inadvertently caused problems for the company, so it's not too surprising she was fired

It's not even surprising that so many people seem to think that this is not expected, but the right thing to do, in both cases.
"

As an American, I go to worked every day assuming that I'll get fired/laid-off. If I make it to 6:00 pm and I'm still employed, that's a good day.
posted by octothorpe at 11:47 AM on March 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


And I thought the PC days were bad. Sense of humor anyone? I guess the idea is that we should all be completely literal, take offense at the drop of a hat, and be suspicious of everyone all the time. Sounds like fun.

If everyone got offended as easily as this lady the subway'd be a bloodbath every single day. Most NYers are already walking on thin ice tolerance wise.
posted by nowhere man at 11:48 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


other things going on in her life now

Yeah, like death and rape threats. I would not take her silence as proving or disproving anything.
posted by hanov3r at 11:48 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh let's even forget code and the "fork" jargon and whatnot. Let's talk about hardware engineering. Male connectors? (those are connectors with sticky-outy-pins) Female connectors? (those are the ones that are receptacles for sticky-outy-pins) Genderbenders? (those are adapters you use to make one gender connector into a different one) You "mate" those connectors, of course. You might screw them. If you work in the underwater world like I do, you might have penetrators. Now you get to mate penetrators! lol! Sometimes if you don't have something mated to the penetrator you have to hack a way to make it waterproof just for a quick test so, guess what you put on the penetrator? A condom! (I am not joking, I have put a lot of condoms onto penetrators in my time, they are excellent quick cheap waterproofers) Also, did you know that in Australia, the world "flange" is slang for a woman's genitalia? Guess how excited I was when I found out I (female) had given 30 minutes of training to a bunch of Australian military men including discussion of mating the flanges on our equipment to put some things together?

The tech world is full of "hilariously" sex-related terminology. When you first learn about it, you get a Beavis and Butthead heh-heh-heh phase to go through. Then you stop thinking of it as pervy and you forget it has a meaning outside of the work you do until someone has their Beavis and Butthead moment and giggles at you, usually in the middle of something you're trying to be smart and professional about. Most of the terminology I think was dreamed up by people (mostly men, because that's who was in the industry) who thought it was hilarious and now that there are women in the industry it's even MORE hilarious that they have to learn and use those terms regularly.

I'm a woman in engineering. I'm one of the "cool" girls. I swear and I laugh at dumb inappropriate jokes and i proudly wear our (old, from startup phase) company shirts that say "when size matters" showing the different sizes of our phallic-shaped equipment. But I swear and I laugh and I wear that shirt in the small group of friendly coworkers with whom I am very socially comfortable. When I get the Beavis and Butthead chuckles from those I am not friendly with, it is tiring as all fuck. I don't care about the etymology of the word. I don't care how well-known the word is in the industry jargon. I don't care. What I care about is when I am using the professionally-accepted jargon, someone is giggling at me going "heh heh you know what that sounds like you're saying" because it is immature, distracting, and undermining to me when that's what people are paying attention to when I speak.

No one invented "Fork me on GitHub" to be pure and virginal about it. Someone was going heh-heh-heh. And now it's "industry accepted." And now we all have to put up with everyone in their heh-heh-heh moments.
posted by olinerd at 11:49 AM on March 21, 2013 [58 favorites]


mathowie: It feels like PyCon came out of this pretty well, at least, if one is looking for upsides - the code of conduct broadly worked in a couple of cases, and in this case the part of it about the code of conduct worked - they picked up the complaint, engaged all parties, determined that it was not a banning offence and could be resolved with an apology and treated as a learning opportunity. It was only... well, everything else where things got screwy.

I guess the downside there is that if PyCon is not heavily criticized, I can't use my "I haven't seen PyCon under this kind of attack since the pilot of Battlestar Galactica" gag, but that's probably on reflection an upside also.
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:51 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sousveillance is where everybody has the capability to watch over each other, peer-to-peer style

East Germany had this: it was call the Stasi. And, in the end, as with this debacle, there is always someone up the food chain (Brin, other Google execs, employers, government officials, etc.) capable of wielding real, true power over eavesdropper and eavesdropee, alike.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:51 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


As an American, I go to worked every day assuming that I'll get fired/laid-off. If I make it to 6:00 pm and I'm still employed, that's a good day.

Uh, I'm an American as well, and I don't do this. This sounds more than a bit neurotic to me.
posted by sweetkid at 11:51 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


No one invented "Fork me on GitHub" to be pure and virginal about it. Someone was going heh-heh-heh. And now it's "industry accepted." And now we all have to put up with everyone in their heh-heh-heh moments.

Exactly. Thanks for saying this and everything else in your comment, olinerd.
posted by sweetkid at 11:52 AM on March 21, 2013


nowhere man: And I thought the PC days were bad. Sense of humor anyone? I guess the idea is that we should all be completely literal, take offense at the drop of a hat, and be suspicious of everyone all the tim?. Sounds like fun.

Yeah, seriously. If I get any lesson to take from those whole ordeal, it's to just shut up at conferences, or at least don't try to engage on any level aside from work (and hope you don't offend anyone with that, either) . Oh, and don't use twitter, but I didn't anyway.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:53 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Someone was going heh-heh-heh

And heaven forbid anyone laugh!
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:54 AM on March 21, 2013


but why was Ricky Gervais at pycon in the first place?
posted by askmehow at 11:55 AM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


No one invented "Fork me on GitHub" to be pure and virginal about it. Someone was going heh-heh-heh.

There's no way this can ever be proven and there's no reason why your explanation should be assumed correct.

The term 'fork' has been used in source code control before Github (or git) ever existed.
posted by PenDevil at 11:56 AM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


No one invented "Fork me on GitHub" to be pure and virginal about it. Someone was going heh-heh-heh.

There's no way this can ever be proven and there's no reason why your explanation should be assumed correct.

Why exactly is the code personified as a "me?" Why not fork "this?"
posted by Drinky Die at 11:58 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah, seriously. If I get any lesson to take from those whole ordeal, it's to just shut up at conferences, or at least don't try to engage on any level aside from work (and hope you don't offend anyone with that, either) . Oh, and don't use twitter, but I didn't anyway.

Stay home, watch it streaming. Safer for everyone.
posted by Artw at 11:58 AM on March 21, 2013


And heaven forbid anyone laugh!
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 2:54 PM on March 21 [+] [!]


When you create industry jargon that is designed to be immature and to make others react immaturely when it is used, then that's just... kind of an assholish thing to do, isn't it? And it does kind of create and awkward and, dare I say, unwelcoming environment for newcomers to the industry who maybe aren't totally into the frat boy sense of humor.

No one invented "Fork me on GitHub" to be pure and virginal about it. Someone was going heh-heh-heh.
There's no way this can ever be proven and there's no reason why your explanation should be assumed correct.
The term 'fork' has been used in source code control before Github (or git) ever existed.posted by PenDevil at 2:56 PM on March 21 [+] [!]


I wasn't referring to "fork." I was referring to the "Fork Me on Github" badges that are apparently so proudly displayed.
posted by olinerd at 11:59 AM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why exactly is the code personified as a "me?" Why not fork "this?"

Because people often impart personality to impersonal things to make them seem more 'alive' and appealing.

I remember when I bought my car it had a sign on it at the dealer that read "Buy me! I'm on sale!".
posted by PenDevil at 12:02 PM on March 21, 2013


No one invented "Fork me on GitHub" to be pure and virginal about it. Someone was going heh-heh-heh. And now it's "industry accepted." And now we all have to put up with everyone in their heh-heh-heh moments.

Except that there's no evidence, one way or the other, that what the guys were doing here was a "heh heh heh" moment. They say not. If you were talking about "flanges" and "penetrators" and "condoms" and so forth at a conference and somebody snapped your photo and posted it to twitter calling for everyone to condemn this "assclown" who is obviously engaging in sexual double-entendre how would you go about disproving it other than by saying "hey, these are the normal terms of our trade"?
posted by yoink at 12:02 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


When you create industry jargon that is designed to be immature and to make others react immaturely when it is used, then that's just... kind of an assholish thing to do, isn't it?

The definition of "mature" as "never laughing at anything sexual" is the result of a whole set of oppressive class relations.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 12:03 PM on March 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


When you create industry jargon that is designed to be immature and to make others react immaturely when it is used

This is stupid. The salaciousness is in the eyes of the beholders.

Good grief, was I the only one who used to finger my friends in school?
posted by rr at 12:03 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]




yoink -- I have a lot of mixed feelings on the whole Adria matter including her posting the picture like she did. I'm not agreeing with her reaction. I am, in these past comments, pointing out the frustratingly immature jargon that is extremely popular throughout STEM fields that does indeed get quite tiring when people make an extra effort to be immature about it, whether it's large dongles or forking someone's repo or being sure to look out for leaky flanges. And it's really really annoying for some people, including myself. Insisting that "but it's jargon" or "but it's a commonly used term" doesn't make it less annoying. In this instance, someone's annoyance rapidly escalated into a disproportionate response from both sides, which is pretty shitty all around. But gosh, sure would be nice if the industry jargon didn't lead itself to these annoyances and offenses in the first place.

I love me an immature joke and laughing at sexual innuendo. I just have enough problems being taken seriously at work as a woman in engineering without all that, so work and other professional events are not where I want to laugh at these jokes.
posted by olinerd at 12:08 PM on March 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


Because people often impart personality to impersonal things to make them seem more 'alive' and appealing.

I remember when I bought my car it had a sign on it at the dealer that read "Buy me! I'm on sale!".


I would buy that in this particular case if not for the double entendre.
posted by Drinky Die at 12:08 PM on March 21, 2013


Oh, FFS. I'm no longer allowed to trot out my tired, dopey dongle puns? I've been getting groans with those since '96.

Truly bad form on her part to attempt to shame those guys publicly. Put the camera down, look the guy in the eye, and either tell him to cool it, or fire back with your own pun.

I was at a large gathering of UX types recently, and the featured speaker was a super duper well known UX top dog. During his presentation, he made a crack about women drivers. He got called out on the spot by a woman in the audience, and later, by a man. Not in a shaming way, just in a "Hey man, not cool, and not true, to boot." I don't think he'll make that dopey sexist blunder again.

That's the way to nip it in the bud.
posted by nacho fries at 12:11 PM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


This is the cluster of all fucks.
posted by dirigibleman at 12:14 PM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


Cursing or copulation pale in comparison to the entertainment or surprise of this new and enjoyable use of 'forking' and the negative implications of 'forking's previous meanings.

Sure, except for the fact that GitHub's first t-shirt design says "Fork You" on the front and the site, until just after their big Series A round, used the phrase "hard-core forking action" when you created a fork of someone's repo. I'm friends with the GitHub folks; they're good people, but pretending that isn't a joke about sex is just willful misrepresentation.
posted by Coda at 12:16 PM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


That's the way to nip it in the bud.


Well, sure. But then you wouldn't get a million tumblrs with people adding useful comments such as "THIS.", which is responsible for a sizeable part of the digital economy these days.

I think the Economist should abandon its "Big Mac Index" for a "Howls of Outrage Index".
posted by modernnomad at 12:17 PM on March 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


I would buy that in this particular case if not for the double entendre.

...I'm not familiar with the technology or services involved here though. Is the code personified as a "me" elsewhere on the site outside of the forking context?
posted by Drinky Die at 12:17 PM on March 21, 2013


olinerd I understand entirely how depressing it must be to be constantly subjected to "hur hur hur" double-entendre jokes. My point is, though, that the guys involved in this business claim that that is not what they were doing when it comes to the 'fork his repo" conversation. They entirely cop to the "dongle" one and have apologized for it. Their claim is simply that Adria Richards misunderstood a "straight" usage of the "fork his repo" term of art as a joking one. Again, given that they were all straight guys talking about another guy I find that not too hard to believe (if the context had been that they were talking about a particularly attractive female presenter or something I'd be considerably more suspicious). You might be right about a prevalence of easily sexualized terms being a product of a deeply sexist culture (although your own examples--"flange" and "male/female connectors"--are pretty shaky on that front; not one chose the term "flange" in an engineering context because of the existence of an Australian slang term, and plugs have been coded as 'male' and 'female' since they were first invented; it's not really a coy or jokey reference)--but in any case you can't blame individual people for what the terms of art that reign in their field happen to be. Obviously you use all of the terms you referenced, for example; and there's no much option for it. If the guys were actually saying "hur hur hur, I'd like to fork his repo--know what I'm saying?" then, sure, that's stupid and offensive. My point is simply that they claim that that is not they way they were using the term, that we don't have any evidence one way or the other, and that it's not at all inconceivable that they were using the term in an entirely innocent way and that Adria Richards misunderstood.
posted by yoink at 12:20 PM on March 21, 2013


(if the context had been that they were talking about a particularly attractive female presenter

Oh, dude.
posted by nacho fries at 12:22 PM on March 21, 2013 [10 favorites]




Sure, except for the fact that GitHub's first t-shirt design says "Fork You" on the front and the site, until just after their big Series A round, used the phrase "hard-core forking action" when you created a fork of someone's repo. I'm friends with the GitHub folks; they're good people, but pretending that isn't a joke about sex is just willful misrepresentation.

The fact that the phrase is easy to make jokes about does not prove that the phrase itself is inherently or originally "jokey." Tennis players make lots of jokes about "balls" and they have jokey "ball" related t-shirt slogans. This is not evidence that tennis balls were called "balls" in order to make those jokes.
posted by yoink at 12:25 PM on March 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


that it's not at all inconceivable that they were using the term in an entirely innocent way and that Adria Richards misunderstood

Yeah, a lot of this seems to be about a marketing dweeb not understanding programmer talk and getting very angry about that.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 12:25 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


(if the context had been that they were talking about a particularly attractive female presenter

Oh, dude.


I would hope that from the context the meaning "a female presenter that they, personally, considered particularly attractive" was obvious.
posted by yoink at 12:27 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ugh, reading about the ghastly personal attacks against her, not to mention her firing, has me feeling horribly conflicted now.
posted by nacho fries at 12:28 PM on March 21, 2013


SendGrid Fires Company Evangelist After Twitter Fracas

Isn't it weird to live in an age in which that headline makes any kind of sense?
posted by yoink at 12:28 PM on March 21, 2013 [49 favorites]


yoink, you're digging yourself deeper, mate.
posted by nacho fries at 12:29 PM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


SendGrid Fires Company Evangelist After Twitter Fracas

Mashable is just reporting on the tweet, so if SendGrid was hacked (as pg thinks since they haven't confirmed with any comments to media), this doesn't provide any new information.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 12:30 PM on March 21, 2013


The fact that the phrase is easy to make jokes about does not prove that the phrase itself is inherently or originally "jokey." Tennis players make lots of jokes about "balls" and they have jokey "ball" related t-shirt slogans. This is not evidence that tennis balls were called "balls" in order to make those jokes.

The phrase itself is just a series of sounds. It cannot be essentially anything without a speaker and a listener and the context in which they exist.

But as software engineer who goes to conferences and who has been using GitHub since before it went public, the prior probability of "forking" being jokey is incredibly high. No one I know would ever say the phrase "I'd fork him" as anything other than a play on words about how "fork" sounds like "fuck". Yes, there is a non-jokey, literal meaning to it, otherwise we'd just call it a fucking single entendre.
posted by Coda at 12:30 PM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


yoink, you're digging yourself deeper, mate.

No, you're trying to score a rather silly rhetorical point by deliberately misconstruing what I said.
posted by yoink at 12:30 PM on March 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


No one I know would ever say the phrase "I'd fork him"

Except they said "I'd fork his repo".
posted by PenDevil at 12:32 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


To clarify: it doesn't matter what the (theoretical) presenter's appearance is. I agree with you, that if the presenter were a woman, their comments would be possibly much more charged.

But to suggest that that would only be the case if the woman were "particularly attractive" is to imply something a bit dark: that good-lookin' gals (and only good-lookin' gals) are complicit in the grody sexualizing of otherwise innocuous commentary.
posted by nacho fries at 12:33 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Except they said "I'd fork his repo".

In the absence of any recording of the event I don't know that you can afford to be that literal-minded.
posted by Coda at 12:33 PM on March 21, 2013


Also, not sure how we know the gents in question are stick-straight.
posted by nacho fries at 12:35 PM on March 21, 2013


nacho fries: "Also, not sure how we know the gents in question are stick-straight."

Focus, please.
posted by boo_radley at 12:37 PM on March 21, 2013


When you create industry jargon that is designed to be immature and to make others react immaturely when it is used, then that's just... kind of an assholish thing to do, isn't it?

I don't think this is the case, at least not with the examples you brought up earlier. 'Male' and 'female' connectors, 'mating', 'gender-benders', and others like 'hermaphroditic' connectors are named that way because those are by far the most appropriate pre-existing English terms that could be used. I don't think anyone went out of their way to deliberately choose sexual terminology.
I've seen similar arguments against the use of terms like 'master' and 'slave' interfaces, and the result is the same. There just aren't any other descriptive terms we could replace them with.
The giggling, however, is stupidly immature.
posted by rocket88 at 12:37 PM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


But to suggest that that would only be the case if the woman were "particularly attractive" is to imply something a bit dark: that good-lookin' gals are complicit in the grody sexualizing of otherwise innocuous commentary.

Yes, in your pretend universe where what I said was "it would be entirely o.k. and understandable if they'd said this of a particular attractive female presenter" you would be exactly right.

My point, obviously, was that if the comment had been "I'd like to fork her repo--hurr hurr hurr" and made about some female presenter it would obviously be a sexualizing comment about the particular attractiveness of that presenter in the eyes of the speaker. It would also be quite obviously gross, over the line and unacceptable and in no way whatsoever "excusable" based on the attractiveness of the speaker. Satisfied?
posted by yoink at 12:39 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


In the absence of any recording of the event I don't know that you can afford to be that literal-minded.

It is, in any case, literally and explicitly what Adria Richards charged them with saying in her initial tweet ("forking repos" not "forking people"). So there seems absolutely no basis for making the leap to "I'd like to fork him."
posted by yoink at 12:41 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


But to suggest that that would only be the case if the woman were "particularly attractive" is to imply something a bit dark: that good-lookin' gals (and only good-lookin' gals) are complicit in the grody sexualizing of otherwise innocuous commentary.

That really took some deepwater offense-mining to arrive at the conclusion that this is the implication of yoink's comment. How does it read other than "offensive d00ds would be more likely to make sexist comments if said d00ds consider woman speaking to be particularly attractive", which seems a verifiable statistical observation?
posted by amorphatist at 12:42 PM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]



Venturebeat has a picture of Anonymous masked guys at the top of their story on the Sendgrid DDOS attack. Is this just "journalistic license"/hackery (of the old fashioned kind) or is there really some Anonymous angle?

This pastebin post at least appears to point at some Anonymous involvement. It claims that Anonymous is going after Sendgrid, its clients and its financial backers. There's definitely buzz about this on 4chan.
posted by dragoon at 12:43 PM on March 21, 2013


All I can say is that is ended up sadly for all concerned.
posted by Samizdata at 12:44 PM on March 21, 2013


All this talk about forking being offensive-or-no reminds me of a few years ago when someone pointed out to me that the whole hard drive relationship talk in IT circles of "Master" and "Slave" drives was offensive to them, being that they were black.

My first reaction was to say I'd never in a million years thought of hard drives in the context of human slavery and that his pointing this out was silly, but I thought about it for a few minutes and realized if you look at the history of the terms, yeah, they do come from that, and came away thinking there must be more neutral ways of discussing hard disk configurations without using those terms.
posted by mathowie at 12:45 PM on March 21, 2013 [20 favorites]


came away thinking there must be more neutral ways of discussing hard disk configurations without using those terms.

Next up: physicists should come up with a more neutral nickname for "The God Particle", because atheists or polytheists could be offended by the implication. And so on into madness.
posted by amorphatist at 12:50 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel kind of sorry for Sendgrid at this point. While I don't condone their actions, they faced the unenviable decision of having to either fire Adria Richards and risk the wrath of her lawyers (which, considering how easy this is to spin as being fired for reporting sexual harassment, is likely to be significant), or trying to stand up to Anonymous as they deployed a multi-pronged harassment/hacking/DDOS campaign against them, their clients, and their backers.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:50 PM on March 21, 2013


Afroblanco:
If I were at a conference and I was interested in the speaker, and two nitwits behind me were cracking jokes loud enough to be disruptive, I would just turn around and ask, "Do you mind?" or something similar.

As a matter of fact, at the bottom of her post, Adria recommends exactly that:
What has to change is that everyone must take personal accountability and speak up when they hear something that isn’t ok. It takes three words to make a difference:

“That’s not cool.”
posted by rhizome at 12:51 PM on March 21, 2013


mathowie -- I've totally thought that about "master" and "slave"! I don't know how offensive it actually is, but I would feel seriously self-conscious talking about "master" and "slave" nodes to a black engineer. Usually I try to say "primary" and "secondary" or something like that.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:52 PM on March 21, 2013


matthowie, out of curiosity, did you ever come up with a "more neutral" terminology for the disk master-slave thing? Nothing good immediately popped up for me.
posted by amorphatist at 12:53 PM on March 21, 2013


Bwithh: "Statement from apparent Anonymous member ( though who can tell one way or the other, claiming Anonymous membership for whateve aims is pretty much a free-for-all isn't it? ) threatening hacker attacks against SendGrid if Richards isn't fired.

Shouldn't this be call-in-the-FBI time for SendGrid rather than folding right away?
"

Uh, the linked statement says explicitly that the author is not affiliated with Anon, just speculating about what they might do.

FTA:
So, in closing, I hope this information helps you make an informed choice on how to deal with the situation. I do not represent, speak for, nor am associated with Anonymous, but I have seen some of their tactics. I present this information NOT as any gesture of threat, but merely to inform.
posted by mullingitover at 12:54 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Afroblanco: "mathowie -- I've totally thought that about "master" and "slave"! I don't know how offensive it actually is, but I would feel seriously self-conscious talking about "master" and "slave" nodes to a black engineer. Usually I try to say "primary" and "secondary" or something like that."

Those terms have been common since I got A+ certified (plus the cup of coffee) back in the early 90s.
posted by boo_radley at 12:54 PM on March 21, 2013


"Boss" and "Employee" drive?
posted by Drinky Die at 12:56 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wait, no: primary and secondary were the ide channels. They became "device 0" and "device 1" on each channel.
posted by boo_radley at 12:57 PM on March 21, 2013


"Dominant" and "Submissive"?
posted by PenDevil at 12:57 PM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


But to suggest that that would only be the case if the woman were "particularly attractive" is to imply something a bit dark: that good-lookin' gals (and only good-lookin' gals) are complicit in the grody sexualizing of otherwise innocuous commentary.

I went back and read yoink's comment a few times just to make sure, and one of us is having reading comprehension problems, because I can't see any reasonable reading that matches yours.
posted by weston at 12:59 PM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Dominant" and "Submissive"?

LOL, try saying that a storage conference, and just wait till the "sexist!" charges start flying!
posted by amorphatist at 12:59 PM on March 21, 2013


Yes, let's run away from very accurate and descriptive words that describe the roles of these devices because we can't handle thinking about some bad thing from the distant past that never directly affected us.
posted by mullingitover at 1:00 PM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


We just say parent/child or primary/secondary in the shops I've worked in, which works fine because we're uncomfortable talking about either BDSM or slavery with customers. It doesn't hurt me in the least to use less loaded words.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:03 PM on March 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


I would feel seriously self-conscious talking about "master" and "slave" nodes to a black engineer.

Germans were enslaved by Spartacus, so you really have your work cut out for you.
posted by rhizome at 1:04 PM on March 21, 2013


I'm surprised "parent" and "child" didn't catch on. It certainly shows up in other parts of computing and computer science: graph theory, binary trees, etc.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:04 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Dominant" and "Submissive"?

Yeah, and "Switch hit" for cable select.

This is not a suggestion from my employer.
posted by tyllwin at 1:05 PM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


mullingitover: "Yes, let's run away from very accurate and descriptive words that describe the roles of these devices because we can't handle thinking about some bad thing from the distant past that never directly affected us."

If this is about hard drives, then you're incorrect: The master doesn't "give orders" to the slave, and the slave accepts no input from the master. The master is simply the first device on a channel, slave is second.
posted by boo_radley at 1:06 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


The master is simply the first device on a channel, slave is second.

Well, that is certainly not the only meaning in the industry. Outside of specifically HD terminology, master-slave is used in DB replication/distribution as well. And "parent-child" does not capture that relationship.
posted by amorphatist at 1:10 PM on March 21, 2013


"offensive d00ds would be more likely to make sexist comments if said d00ds consider woman speaking to be particularly attractive", which seems a verifiable statistical observation?

I'm interested in what stats you have available, and how they are quantified and verified.

In my experience, some d00ds will make sexist comments irrespective of the woman speaker's appearance and relative attractiveness to said d00ds.

In fact, there is a particularly nasty type of person who will go out of his way to make creepy horndog comments about a person he views as unfuckable. It's a way to express dominance and derision.

yoink's qualifier about attractiveness simply jumped out at me, so I commented on it. I'm not interested in cranking up the Howls of Outrage Index (TM) in this thread.

I actually have my hands full (Not A Euphamism) trying to fix the bent dongle (yeah, I said it) that is making my external hard drive (also NAE) act up. The life of the lady dev is not a delicate one.
posted by nacho fries at 1:10 PM on March 21, 2013


boo_radley: "If this is about hard drives, then you're incorrect: The master doesn't "give orders" to the slave, and the slave accepts no input from the master. The master is simply the first device on a channel, slave is second."

My bad, I was thinking in terms of database replication.
posted by mullingitover at 1:13 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


The "particularly attractive" thing is a bit subtle and I don't think it demands a massive outrage attack or strong language policing, but basically it's part of a whole "I am a man, women exist to provide me with sexual entertainment, I am an arbiter of their sexual value and I deem her to be fuckable of the highest order [or of the second highest order, or not fuckable at all]" mindset. Then this feeds into "only hot women get sexually harassed, because who would want to make sexual remarks about some plain woman" and "sexual harassment is actually a compliment of sorts" and "I really had no choice but to think about her sexually, she's just so damned hot."
posted by leopard at 1:15 PM on March 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


As a matter of fact, at the bottom of her post, Adria recommends exactly that:
What has to change is that everyone must take personal accountability and speak up when they hear something that isn’t ok. It takes three words to make a difference:

“That’s not cool.”


Then she should have just done that and stopped there. Maybe alerted the PyCon staff if the dudes continued to be loud. Instead, she did something stupid and wrong that actually messed up someone else's career.

Worst part is this isn't the conversation we should be having. We shouldn't be forced to side with (A) an industry where real sexism does happen or (B) this woman who actually did something stupid and wrong. Just look at all the backlash -- she's making enemies she didn't need to make, and giving the impression that the only way to have equality in the workplace is to publicly shame people for doing things that aren't even all that that bad. There are enough "win-win" ways to make workplaces and conferences more inviting to women, there's no need to something like what Adria did.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:20 PM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


[...] which seems a verifiable statistical observation?

I'm interested in what stats you have available, and how they are quantified and verified.


"seems verifiable" != "stats already collected", but you know that already. Can we end this derail about yoink's comment?
posted by amorphatist at 1:21 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Can we end this derail about yoink's comment?

If the discussion makes you uncomfortable, of course you are free to exercise your free will to not participate. I'm not sure, though, that you are the arbiter of what constitutes a derail.

Be change you want to see, etc.
posted by nacho fries at 1:25 PM on March 21, 2013


The word "servant" could easily be used instead of "slave" - but it's a little too close to "server" in a field with wide accent variability.

Or we could go with mistress and slave - almost the same but a rather different connotation.

Boss and worker?

On topic... Well, there's nobody in the right here. They should just shake hands and make up, let PyCons be PyCons!
posted by dickasso at 1:28 PM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I appreciated @brainwane's link to Tim Chevalier's essay, and how the concept of free speech becomes, in certain contexts, constituted in ways that sidestep accountability. As Chevalier notes, "I hear open-source people use 'free speech' as a reason to be abusive."

How we use language matters.

In Judith Butler's Excitable Speech: The Politics of the Performative she writes:
"Could language injure us if we were not, in some sense, linguistic beings, beings who require language in order to be? Is our vulnerability to language a consequence of our being constituted within its terms?"
Or, summarized another way, "[Butler's] assertion [is] that we are constitutive of language and that this constitution makes injury possible[.]"
posted by simulacra at 1:33 PM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


SendGrid Fires Company Evangelist After Twitter Fracas

Isn't it weird to live in an age in which that headline makes any kind of sense?


The point's been made before, but we are apparently living in a William Gibson novel.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:38 PM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


I was at BSidesSF when Violet Blue's talk got canceled, (her talk was about sex, BSidesSF is not about sex, someone from Ada Init pointed out that this was sexualising the environment and not making the talk welcoming, everyone "agreed" to cancel the talk) and I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop and something like this to happen.

There were a lot of rumblings about the BSides event but not enough momentum for the boulder to shift and come careening down the hill to flatten everyone. Then someone came and took a flying kick at it.


TECH INDUSTRY PEOPLE: WHY CAN WE NOT HAVE NICE THINGS?
posted by subbes at 1:58 PM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Her tweet: Not cool. Jokes about forking repo's in a sexual way and "big" dongles. Right behind me
People who sexualize as many words as possible, who joke about forking repo's and "big" dongles in a sexual way are harassing a woman at that conference. She took a picture, and made a (as far as I know) true comment and posted it. If the employer is ashamed and embarrassed by their employee's behavior, and fires a man, that's not her fault. She documented a real event. Consequences happen.

If you joke like this in the workplace, you are potentially sexually harassing your co-workers. A woman who will make a sexually charged remark every time the words ball, crack, blow, screw, but, etc. are used at work is sexually harassing her co-workers, and is unprofessional as all get out (I work with her, complained, and find that working with her knife in my back is highly unpleasant).

One of the commenters on HN comments on women talking about their bodies in the workplace. Here's at least 1 difference, a woman who says I have cramps is talking about a medical condition that affects her reproductive organs. A man who says I just learned I should do a testicular self-exam every month. I didn't know testicular cancer happened to young guys like me is talking about a medical condition that affects his reproductive organs. A man who wonders if the Barbie on a cake is a MILF or a woman who accuses her co-workers of being in a bad mood because they aren't getting enough sex is sexually harassing. Yes, there are gray areas, and there are levels of how severe the harassment is.

Grow up, gentlemen and -women. Sexual harassment is a form of bullying. You can be funny without sexually harassing anybody. This form of chatter at a conference also clarifies that you don't have anything more interesting to say, don't seem to have much creativity, and are juvenile. Don't do it, and tolerate this from your co-workers and friends. At home, at play, if you must be a low-life, you're on your own. At work, learn how to be professional.
posted by Mom at 2:02 PM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sexual harassment is a form of bullying.

As well, public shaming is a form of bullying.
posted by ericb at 2:08 PM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


Consequences happen

Well that certainly seems to be the case, in the absence if anything else, consequences did indeed happen.
posted by Artw at 2:09 PM on March 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


If you joke like this in the workplace, you are potentially sexually harassing your co-workers.

If you joke like this in the workplace, someone may report you to HR. If it's part of a pattern of behavior, you may be disciplined for it. Otherwise, you'd probably just be warned.

What probably WOULDN'T happen : getting fired, having your face plastered all over the internet.

Context. It matters.
posted by Afroblanco at 2:10 PM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


If the discussion makes you uncomfortable, of course you are free to exercise your free will to not participate. I'm not sure, though, that you are the arbiter of what constitutes a derail.

In a thread about alleged sexism at a conference, an extended discussion of whether another mefite's comments are themselves sexist (or contributing to a hostile environment etc) seems like something that should be brought to MeTa, by my reading of site policy. Obviously YMMV.
posted by amorphatist at 2:10 PM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Not only did she send the photo contemporaneously via Twitter, she decided later to post a summary of the entire situation -- with the photo -- on her blog. Not cool. She chose to publicize the entire affair. She chose to bully these two guys. Not cool.
posted by ericb at 2:11 PM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Which turned out to be basically calling in an airstrike on her own location. Consequences happened.

Maybe there is room for some fine-tuning to consequences here?
posted by Artw at 2:13 PM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I guess the lesson here is don't go to PyCon or you'll be fired.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 2:15 PM on March 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


In a thread about alleged sexism at a conference, an extended discussion of whether another mefite's comments are themselves sexist (or contributing to a hostile environment etc) seems entirely appropriate. I don't even see the point of discussing sexism and language if such a discussion is considered a derail. This particular discussion was not personal either.

(On the other hand, comments about how things should be brought to MeTa seem like they should be... brought to...)
posted by leopard at 2:15 PM on March 21, 2013


: "People who sexualize as many words as possible, who joke about forking repo's and "big" dongles in a sexual way are harassing a woman at that conference. She took a picture, and made a (as far as I know) true comment and posted it."

- According to the guy who made the joke (see Hacker News thread on the topic), while there was some 'dongle, har har' going on, the part about forking a git repo was not a joke. Adria took it upon herself to interpret it that way. (I'm inclined to believe him on this part, since if he was going to lie about something, why not blanket deny the whole affair?)

- Using the photo for harassment as she did was just as much a violation of the PyCon's rules as the guy's off-color joke.

- Also, she plays fucking Cards Against Humanity (haha, child molestation and rape jokes aplenty, *so funny!*), so if you think she's legitimately as thin-skinned as she claims to be, I have a bridge to sell you.
posted by mullingitover at 2:16 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


let's petition the White House to invite them both for a beer and a chat in the Rose Garden
posted by Bwithh at 2:16 PM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


People who sexualize as many words as possible, who joke about forking repo's and "big" dongles in a sexual way are harassing a woman at that conference.

No, she was eavesdropping on two people having a private conversation and violating their privacy. They were not talking to her or about her. They did not harass her. She harassed them.
posted by w0mbat at 2:19 PM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Next up: physicists should come up with a more neutral nickname for "The God Particle", because atheists or polytheists could be offended by the implication.

See also Superstitious users and the FreeBSD logo.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 2:24 PM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


(On the other hand, comments about how things should be brought to MeTa seem like they should be... brought to...)

Wu-oh, recursion!
posted by amorphatist at 2:25 PM on March 21, 2013


"No, she was eavesdropping on two people having a private conversation and violating their privacy. They were not talking to her or about her. They did not harass her. She harassed them."

As best we know, she did talk to them prior to being offended and taking their picture. Please be scrupulous with your representations — distortions only fuel fallacious narratives.
posted by klangklangston at 2:27 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm TBH at this point confused as to if it's one or both of those. The drop feed effect certainly doesn't help keep things calm.
posted by Artw at 2:29 PM on March 21, 2013


: "As best we know, she did talk to them prior to being offended and taking their picture. Please be scrupulous with your representations — distortions only fuel fallacious narratives."

Nope. According to her blog, her first step was to publicly shame them with her photo.
posted by mullingitover at 2:40 PM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]




Also, she plays fucking Cards Against Humanity (haha, child molestation and rape jokes aplenty, *so funny!*), so if you think she's legitimately as thin-skinned as she claims to be, I have a bridge to sell you.

There is something really satisfyingly geeky about the idea of the "no angel" defence being based not on a penchant for short skirts or drinking, but for a Creative Commons-licensed card game.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:50 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Brogrammers Making Sex Jokes and Other Reasons Startups Need HR Departments -- "HR departments are ponderous, annoying, stultifying, and sometimes the one thing that can save startups from themselves."
posted by ericb at 2:51 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nothing left to do but fire myself, I guess. I do think in all this PyCon seems to be a shining light of reasonableness.
posted by maxwelton at 2:52 PM on March 21, 2013


Adria Richards got fired.
posted by _Mona_ at 2:55 PM on March 21, 2013


A very interesting blog post on Amanda Blum's experience interacting with Richards. You should really read the whole thing.


Highlight: Calling out the portrayal of a woman as a "total ditz" in a shirt based on this XKCD strip. For two bonus points, look only at the XKCD strip and tell me which one is the aforementioned woman.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 3:00 PM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


mullingitover: "- Also, she plays fucking Cards Against Humanity (haha, child molestation and rape jokes aplenty, *so funny!*), so if you think she's legitimately as thin-skinned as she claims to be, I have a bridge to sell you."

This -- to me -- seems like a red herring. I don't care if she has crazy times with her friends in private. Having a different experience in a different place with strangers isn't the same.
posted by boo_radley at 3:00 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can't believe they fired her. She may have a retaliation basis for filing suit. Plus, they just look creepy for giving in to the mob and for not standing by her when she is under such severe abuse and threats.

Whatever she did - right wrong or indifferent - there is no possible justification for that type of brutalizing. The internet rage mobs are truly unhinged and frightening and the sexual threats are just horrifying.

Nobody comes off well in this horrendoma.
posted by madamjujujive at 3:03 PM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


madamjujujive: "horrendoma"

That's... that's one effective and powerful word.
posted by boo_radley at 3:12 PM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Nobody comes off well in this horrendoma.

Hasn't PyCon handled all this quite well?
posted by Authorized User at 3:12 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Nope. According to her blog, her first step was to publicly shame them with her photo."

You've misunderstood what I wrote. Accorder to her blog post, she talked to the guys prior to being offended by their comments. Once she was offended, she didn't talk to them; she posted a public photo.

(I don't think it's necessary, though it would have been nice, for her to talk to them. I do think that she can use a direct message in twitter so that it's not public when she contacts PyCon staff.)
posted by klangklangston at 3:13 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


boo_radley: "mullingitover: "- Also, she plays fucking Cards Against Humanity (haha, child molestation and rape jokes aplenty, *so funny!*), so if you think she's legitimately as thin-skinned as she claims to be, I have a bridge to sell you."

This -- to me -- seems like a red herring. I don't care if she has crazy times with her friends in private. Having a different experience in a different place with strangers isn't the same.
"

If they'd done something to target her or involved her in any way, sure. But they weren't talking to her, and didn't intend to do anything to offend her. She snooped on their conversation and decided to make a spectacle of it for her own personal gain. This wasn't able dealing with something that offended her, it was about her finding a story that she figured would offend other people and putting it on display and encouraging ridicule.

madamjujujive: "I can't believe they fired her. She may have a retaliation basis for filing suit. Plus, they just look creepy for giving in to the mob and for not standing by her when she is under such severe abuse and threats.
Nobody comes off well in this horrendoma.
"

Paging The World Famous. From my layman's reading of the rules about retaliation, I don't think she has a case:
All of the laws we enforce make it illegal to fire, demote, harass, or otherwise “retaliate” against people (applicants or employees) because they filed a charge of discrimination, because they complained to their employer or other covered entity about discrimination on the job, or because they participated in an employment discrimination proceeding (such as an investigation or lawsuit).
The people she harassed didn't work for her employer, and she didn't have any open complaints to her employer AFAIK about discrimination. Realistically I think they have a pretty solid case for firing her on the grounds that she dragged the company into a PR nightmare and they don't support her handling of the matter (in spite of her explicit claim to the contrary).
posted by mullingitover at 3:14 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nobody comes off well in this horrendoma.

Hasn't PyCon handled all this quite well?


Once the "and they threw the developers out!!!" nonsense got cleared up I'd say that they did, yes. And given they way they did handle it I'd say their CoC is a good idea too.
posted by Artw at 3:19 PM on March 21, 2013


I think this whole thing is pretty stupid, but I just love how people who worked themselves into a frenzy about how the dude's firing was the most unjust thing to ever happen and OMG HE HAS A FAMILY are now falling all over themselves to explain why it's 100% right and just and perfect that she was fired for essentially the same reason (bringing negative attention to the company). The cognitive dissonance is mind-boggling.
posted by dialetheia at 3:21 PM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


ericb: "Brogrammers Making Sex Jokes and Other Reasons Startups Need HR Departments -- "HR departments are ponderous, annoying, stultifying, and sometimes the one thing that can save startups from themselves.""

Further to my earlier comments about the tech industry:

SOFT SKILLS. WHY DO YOU NOT HAVE SOFT SKILLS.


(Answer: because tech is male-dominated and soft skills are generally socialized out of men (and into women). And why's that? Gender socialization. And why's that? The patriarchy. Wheels within wheels.)
posted by subbes at 3:21 PM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


think this whole thing is pretty stupid, but I just love how people who worked themselves into a frenzy about how the dude's firing was the most unjust thing to ever happen and OMG HE HAS A FAMILY are now falling all over themselves to explain why it's 100% right and just and perfect that she was fired for essentially the same reason (bringing negative attention to the company). The cognitive dissonance is mind-boggling.

I'm sure Reddit are having a parade or something but general consensus here seems to be that they were both fairly shitty.
posted by Artw at 3:25 PM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


My take-away from this, aside from the obvious is that I learned that companies have Developer Evangelists. I have no idea what that means or what Richards's role was in the company, but it would seem that she'd be more of a mediator than a public shaming type of person?
posted by 922257033c4a0f3cecdbd819a46d626999d1af4a at 3:25 PM on March 21, 2013


Highlight: Calling out the portrayal of a woman

Because the woman is portrayed as not understanding how technology works. It's a legitimate concern, raised fairly quickly in the comment section of the blog on which it was presented.
posted by IanMorr at 3:29 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm so sick of developers hiding behind the "we don't have soft skills" trope. Take a class and learn to stop being an ass. You are otherwise a smart, educated professional. You can at least learn to be well mannered and polite, even if you are still an awkward nerd and bad dresser.
posted by humanfont at 3:30 PM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


A very interesting blog post on Amanda Blum's experience interacting with Richards. You should really read the whole thing.


Highlight: Calling out the portrayal of a woman as a "total ditz" in a shirt based on this XKCD strip. For two bonus points, look only at the XKCD strip and tell me which one is the aforementioned woman.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 3:00 PM on March 21 [3 favorites +] [!]


Amanda Blum's post is very good indeed.

Also - besides the question of how can we really tell the gender of the two stick figures --- *both* sides in the XKCD strip are caricatured and saying silly things
posted by Bwithh at 3:33 PM on March 21, 2013


She snooped on their conversation...

If I can hear your conversation, because you are sitting right behind me, and your words make it to my eardrums, you are not having a private conversation.
posted by Orb at 3:33 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


think this whole thing is pretty stupid, but I just love how people who worked themselves into a frenzy about how the dude's firing was the most unjust thing to ever happen and OMG HE HAS A FAMILY are now falling all over themselves to explain why it's 100% right and just and perfect that she was fired for essentially the same reason (bringing negative attention to the company). The cognitive dissonance is mind-boggling.

Although there are two different responses, it more likely reflects that people respond positively to a humble recognition of having messed up (as the developer did), versus someone who is willing to protect wrong actions at all costs (i.e., Adria). Whether it's right or wrong, people are less likely to extend grace to the person who is unwilling to acknowledge wrongdoing. It tends to lead to schadenfreude and a sense that justice needs to happen for that person, instead of grace.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:35 PM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


You can at least learn to be well mannered and polite, even if you are still an awkward nerd and bad dresser.

Your saying the second part of that sentence tends to undercut the first part.
posted by benito.strauss at 3:36 PM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Because the woman is portrayed as not understanding how technology works.

Right, but both stick figures are women (or men with long hair, or.....). And the shirt was either produced by women, or at least by an event that was run by a woman.


While I can see the issues with portraying women as dumb (especially with technology), that call-out just seems rather uninformed.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 3:37 PM on March 21, 2013


If I can hear your conversation, because you are sitting right behind me, and your words make it to my eardrums, you are not having a private conversation.

If you were having lunch with a friend at a restaurant and I sat down at your table and began to correct some you had said a moment before, how would you characterize your conversation to me? Were you making a public speech or having a private conversation?
posted by GuyZero at 3:44 PM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


I think this whole thing is pretty stupid, but I just love how people who worked themselves into a frenzy about how the dude's firing was the most unjust thing to ever happen and OMG HE HAS A FAMILY are now falling all over themselves to explain why it's 100% right and just and perfect that she was fired for essentially the same reason (bringing negative attention to the company). The cognitive dissonance is mind-boggling.

Almost all of the defenders of his firing were also saying that he represented his company poorly. Yet this "represents the company" position likely led to her firing, because her public shaming of developers on a personal blog would be a PR embarrassment to her employer, and perhaps went against her mission or job title, whatever it was.
posted by Brian B. at 3:45 PM on March 21, 2013


Whatever the circumstances, the history of men being fired for engaging in questionably sexual talk is so infrequent as for this to be an extreme outlier, and the history of women being fired for attempting to address it is so common as to be a cliche.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:48 PM on March 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


If you were having lunch with a friend at a restaurant and I sat down at your table and began to correct some you had said a moment before, how would you characterize your conversation to me? Were you making a public speech or having a private conversation?

I would characterize it as "not what happened" and "not a relevant analogy". I would also take a bite of your salad because aw yiss salad niçoise.
posted by Coda at 3:48 PM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


If I can hear your conversation, because you are sitting right behind me, and your words make it to my eardrums, you are not having a private conversation.
posted by Orb at 11:33 PM on March 21 [+] [!]


Do you really consider every conversation you have outside of your home to be public?

Every single word that has been or could be overheard by a third party is the equivalent of shouting across a room or speaking from a stage?

Would you honestly not mind if third parties started interjecting themselves into every conversation you had at the office, at a bar, a coffee shop, restaurants, the park, a street?

Surely not. And I wouldn't blame you because when two people are speaking to eachother at a reasonable volume allowing them some sense of privacy even if we can hear some of what is said is just not being an arsehole.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 3:48 PM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Whatever the circumstances, the history of men being fired for engaging in questionably sexual talk is so infrequent as for this to be an extreme outlier, and the history of women being fired for attempting to address it is so common as to be a cliche.

Since Adria's blog post specifies that she acted only when a photo was shown and she felt she needed to defend the negative possibilities reflected by her interpretation of the content of that photo, it would seem that trying to account for the entire history of gender conflict in this single event is a problematic endeavor.
posted by rhizome at 3:51 PM on March 21, 2013


Would you honestly not mind if third parties started interjecting themselves into every conversation you had at the office, at a bar, a coffee shop, restaurants, the park, a street?

Yes, if by "office", "bar", "coffee shop", "restaurants", "park", or "street" you mean "in the row of the conference hall sitting immediately behind them in the middle of a presentation".
posted by Coda at 3:52 PM on March 21, 2013


Since Adria's blog post specifies that she acted only when a photo was shown and she felt she needed to defend the negative possibilities reflected by her interpretation of the content of that photo, it would seem that trying to account for the entire history of gender conflict in this single event is a problematic endeavor.

You know, that's precisely how sexism works, systematically speaking. We think of it as being some guy on the street shouting at a strange woman, and it is that, but that's not why woman make 19% less in the workplace. No, women make less in the workplace because there are a million women, and, for each one of them, a perfectly reasonable explanation as to why they get paid less. A million independent cases of perfectly justifiable wage difference, based on experience, based on how long they have been at the company, based on education, based on a million factors. And it only finally seems to be sexism when we add it up and there it is, the final tally, and the final tally has women as a whole getting the short end of the stick.

I won't have those discussions anymore. A woman addressed inappropriate behavior at a conference -- which both the organizers and one of the people she criticized agree with. She got fired. Every single additional detail beyond that is the justification, the thing that makes it all right in this case, just as there is that one detail in every case, and so it is okay, and then we get a hundred of them, and then a thousand of them, and then, again and again, when women speak up, they are fired.

What is the lesson when it happens this much? Don't eavesdrop? Don't take photos?

No, in these numbers, with this sort of reaction, and with another firing, the lesson is clear: Don't speak up.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:00 PM on March 21, 2013 [25 favorites]


While I can see the issues with portraying women as dumb (especially with technology), that call-out just seems rather uninformed.

But it was part of a pattern that Adria suffers in which she intentionally creates a public kerfluffle in order to draw attention to herself and to get more hits for her blog. In one case, this urge to exploit opportunities to "go public" in order to draw blog traffic conflicted with her obligation to give a useful presentation to Amanda Blum's conference. In this case, it conflicted with SendGrid's need to have a drama-free developer-friendly face on its marketing efforts.

Here's the irony: her problems are caused by a clear lack of "soft skills." Which is all well and good, because plenty of us lack soft skills, but she specifically chose a profession and created a niche for herself in which her value is based in her ability to trade on her supposedly superior "soft skills" that are supposed to give her and her clients a competitive advantage in the software industry.
posted by deanc at 4:00 PM on March 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


Nobody comes off well in this horrendoma.

Hasn't PyCon handled all this quite well?


Yes, I think so. The former PR person in me feels badly for them - they put in policies and procedures to avoid just such problems. No good deed goes unpunished.

From my layman's reading of the rules about retaliation, I don't think she has a case

Well I'm no lawyer but it would not surprise me if a good lawyer couldn't make retaliation fly. She was representing her employer when the alleged harassment occurred.

I agree they may have a defense in "she did her job badly by attracting so much negative publicity" - but I think they best have some good documentation in her job description. I used to work in PR and if I had ever attracted such negative attention to the companies I represented for whatever reason - my fault or not - I'd have been expecting to be let go. One time a senior person in a company I worked for fubared badly in a press interview and jeopardized a project. I thought I was going to be the sacrificial victim thrown in the volcano because they weren't going to let him go -- but fortunately, things died down. When you're in charge of putting a positive spin on an organization and things go south, you are vulnerable - and you generally know that.

And both employers talked about these matters on the web, arggh. Two words of advice: Lawyer up.

Bad juju all around.
posted by madamjujujive at 4:00 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, if by "office", "bar", "coffee shop", "restaurants", "park", or "street" you mean "in the row of the conference hall sitting immediately behind them in the middle of a presentation".
posted by Coda at 11:52 PM on March 21 [+] [!]


And why does privacy cease to exist in a conference hall?

That fact that it was in the middle of a presentation is irrelevant, at least to Adria Richards, as she had engaged the men in question in conversation right before the dongle incident which shows that she didn't have a problem with talking during the presentation as long as she approved of the content.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 4:01 PM on March 21, 2013


> A very interesting blog post on Amanda Blum's experience interacting with Richards.

Oof, that is unfortunate. This is going to be waved around by the MRA people forever, isn't it? In fact, the comment thread on that post already has someone saying that assigning any responsibility to the dude is "a bit like blaming the victim".
posted by lucidium at 4:02 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


For reference, I think those stick figures are probably Megan and Joanna - it's definitely Joanna (or rather a Joannalog - it's using Joanna's character model) on the left.

It strikes me that she was quite possibly wrong, but the responses to her were nonetheless pretty defensive and in places kinda douchy. Not as much as death threats or threats of rape, of course, but context is important.
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:04 PM on March 21, 2013


And why does privacy cease to exist in a conference hall?

You think if you're speaking loudly enough at a restaurant or bar in an offensive manner they won't throw you out because you're having a "private" conversation? I think you should go try it and tell us how it works. This isn't a public park, this is a private venue with a code of conduct. Speaking loudly enough to be overheard is enough to fall into that code of conduct.
posted by ch1x0r at 4:08 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well I'm no lawyer but it would not surprise me if a good lawyer couldn't make retaliation fly. She was representing her employer when the alleged harassment occurred.

I'm not a lawyer either, but would happily take the other side. I don't think either of us has a guarantee of victory. I think it'd be an interesting case. The company's position, of course, would be that they would encourage her to report it to Pycon, and are only firing her because she tweeted the photo, thus harming the company's interests, and, arguably, herself violating the conference CoC on company time.

I wonder if it would depend on the jury we got, or if some judge would call it a point of law.
posted by tyllwin at 4:10 PM on March 21, 2013


I think this whole thing is pretty stupid, but I just love how people who worked themselves into a frenzy about how the dude's firing was the most unjust thing to ever happen and OMG HE HAS A FAMILY are now falling all over themselves to explain why it's 100% right and just and perfect that she was fired for essentially the same reason (bringing negative attention to the company). The cognitive dissonance is mind-boggling.

Really? It looked to me like there was a debate between people saying "This thing has gotten blown way out of proportion" and people saying "Look, no one forced these guys to make stupid sexist remarks, this is the real world, they're going to get fired if they bring bad publicity to their employers." Then she got fired, and the second group disappeared.

I wonder if one reason she got fired was for saying something like "SendGrid supports me" during a back-and-forth with some jackass.
posted by leopard at 4:19 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yes, whenever I am outside my house or automobile, I am aware that the things I say may be heard by other people. If I have something private to say to someone, I either lean in and speak quietly (i.e. whispering), or I wait until we are in a more private location where there aren't other people. And if I choose to say something, racist, sexist, or otherwise offensive while out in public and other people hear it and are offended, I would expect there to be possible repercussions.

Especially if I am sitting right next to them while doing so.
posted by Orb at 4:21 PM on March 21, 2013


Every single additional detail beyond that is the justification, the thing that makes it all right in this case, just as there is that one detail in every case, and so it is okay, and then we get a hundred of them, and then a thousand of them, and then, again and again, when women speak up, they are fired.

Yes, if you ignore some of the most relevant details of a situation, everything looks rather simple and clear-cut, doesn't it?
posted by Afroblanco at 4:21 PM on March 21, 2013 [22 favorites]


Re master/slave, on IDE/ATA devices, master means more than just the first device. The master can talk directly to the controller, but the slave has to talk to the master. So the master can prioritize its own I/O. IIRC.

We just say parent/child

Make sure to call waitpid() so your dead child processes don't become zombies.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 4:22 PM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm not a fan of Adria Richards, and I think she's projecting her anti-porn hangups to the world, however this whole situation really angers me.

The thing that pisses me off the most about this whole fiasco is that the "Men's Rights Activists" now think they've won the argument on the internet, and that there isn't really a problem with women being treated poorly or outright being sexually harassed in the tech community.
posted by amuseDetachment at 4:22 PM on March 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yes, if you ignore some of the most relevant details of a situation, everything looks rather simple and clear-cut, doesn't it?

Alternately, I provided some broader context.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:26 PM on March 21, 2013


And why does privacy cease to exist in a conference hall?

Because it's a public space. With other people in it. People you don't know. People you can't and shouldn't assume will enjoy your sotto voce asides to your friends.

Are you honestly shaky on the notion of a public space?
posted by Coda at 4:27 PM on March 21, 2013


Let's just let PyCons be PyCons.
posted by ShutterBun at 4:27 PM on March 21, 2013 [16 favorites]


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...

Boy, did Adria Richards really piss off Amanda Blum. Blum took the time to email Richards' employer to tell them that Richards wasn't capable of performing her job. Blum may have very well felt that Richards' actions "harms female developers," but you have to be MAJORLY PISSED OFF to email someone's employer. Did Blum really think SendGrid would respond in a constructive way?
posted by TrolleyOffTheTracks at 4:28 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Actually, to clarify my own comment, I'm referring to the discussion on this thread, not the general internet uproar, which was for the most part disgusting and ugly.
posted by leopard at 4:30 PM on March 21, 2013




Because it's a public space. With other people in it. People you don't know. People you can't and shouldn't assume will enjoy your sotto voce asides to your friends.

Are you honestly shaky on the notion of a public space?
posted by Coda at 12:27 AM on March 22 [+] [!]


Previously you said

Yes, if by "office", "bar", "coffee shop", "restaurants", "park", or "street" you mean "in the row of the conference hall sitting immediately behind them in the middle of a presentation".
posted by Coda at 11:52 PM on March 21 [+] [!]


Which suggested you believed there was a difference between a conference hall and the rest of those places.

I just asked what that difference was. Shall I take it you don't actually believe in any such difference and were just being snarky?
posted by Reggie Knoble at 4:32 PM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


A woman addressed inappropriate behavior at a conference -- which both the organizers and one of the people she criticized agree with. She got fired. Every single additional detail beyond that is the justification

It's true that if you add the part about addressing behavior with the person she criticized (which she didn't do), and omit the part about taking a picture of someone without their permission and tweeting it to thousands of people (which she did), it does seem like a much simpler situation. Indeed, had the thing you describe happened, there'd be little to complain about at all. But that's not at all what happened.

Richardson's job is working with developers, using social media, and making good PR for clients. She has proven herself spectacularly bad at all three of those. She does not deserve death threats, but she absolutely deserves to be fired.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 4:37 PM on March 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


The CEO of SendGrid makes a public comment on their blog.

That should pretty much put the speculation to rest, one hopes.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:39 PM on March 21, 2013


The CEO of SendGrid makes a public comment on their blog.

Well, at the least it's good to get something official out there, so we can stop speculating if their FB/Twitter accounts were hacked.
posted by mathowie at 4:39 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Unless the blog was hacked. Unless this blog was hacked! Matt - is that really you?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:45 PM on March 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


Richardson's job is working with developers, using social media, and making good PR for clients. She has proven herself spectacularly bad at all three of those. She does not deserve death threats, but she absolutely deserves to be fired.

I think she is very good at using social media, just not for the benefit of her clients or anyone else she works with. I am kind of impressed with how she has built a brand for herself and attracted a following using social media. At the same time, if I had a company, I would never, ever hire her or in any way use her as the public face of any endeavor.
posted by deanc at 4:45 PM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


A very interesting blog post on Amanda Blum's experience interacting with Richards.

I wanted to nth other commenters and say that this post is a really interesting read. She comes at it with a disclosed personal distaste for Richards, but is still fair and balanced and productive in her analysis.

I do want to point out that the first comment is honest to god a comment that says "Why do women think getting death threats and being called names is bad?" But... yeah.
posted by Phire at 4:45 PM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you are at a conference wearing a company t-shirt and your badge says "sponsor". Then you really should expect strangers will come up and talk to you. Your company didn't spend all that money so you could stand around running your gams with your buddies in the next cubical.
posted by humanfont at 4:47 PM on March 21, 2013


At the same time, if I had a company, I would never, ever hire her or in any way use her as the public face of any endeavor.

Why though? I mean, if you go back to before this happened, and you have a role in your company for a public face, and there's someone that made a name for themselves on Twitter and are really good at social media, wouldn't you hire them for a social media-heavy role at a company?
posted by mathowie at 4:51 PM on March 21, 2013


I would never hire her because she appears to be a sociopath.
posted by Artw at 4:55 PM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Why though? I mean, if you go back to before this happened, and you have a role in your company for a public face, and there's someone that made a name for themselves on Twitter and are really good at social media, wouldn't you hire them for a social media-heavy role at a company?

Not that I really think she should have been fired (and it goes without saying the death threats and the like are atrocious), but I wouldn't be enthusiastic about hiring someone who apparently said "@SendGrid supports me" when the controversy was breaking. It's rarely a good idea to put your employer in that situation.
posted by dsfan at 4:57 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, aside from all this mess Richards seems like a competent marketing employee. Like I said before, people seem to think it's somehow cool to trash-talk people in marketing but whatever. They have a job to do and most companies wouldn't survive without them. I don't know about her a as developer evangelist per se, but I have my own biases in that regard.

I would never hire her because she appears to be a sociopath.

Marketing people are not like developers. And that's OK.
posted by GuyZero at 4:57 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


there's someone that made a name for themselves on Twitter and are really good at social media, wouldn't you hire them for a social media-heavy role at a company?

I feel, because someone who's good at making a name for themselves isn't necessary going to know how to appropriately represent your company. You need to keep that stuff separate. Very separate. Especially if you're going to start using your fame to start throwing your weight around, fighting your individual battles from the same account you "evangelize" for your employer. Surely, the ability to attract Twitter followers isn't the sole qualification to be a professional marketer, otherwise horse_ebooks would have gainful employment by now.
posted by Jimbob at 5:00 PM on March 21, 2013


Why though? I mean, if you go back to before this happened, and you have a role in your company for a public face, and there's someone that made a name for themselves on Twitter and are really good at social media, wouldn't you hire them for a social media-heavy role at a company?

I'm guessing that deanc is probably referring to not hiring her at this point in time, as she has shown herself to be unaware of how particular uses of social media can be inappropriate.
posted by SpacemanStix at 5:00 PM on March 21, 2013


A developer evangelist is a developer who can sit down with developers and exain to them how to use your products SDK. You have to be able to write code, write copy and sell. They are rare creatures who can span marketing and development.
posted by humanfont at 5:01 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


That CEO announcement confirms something I have been suspecting for a long time.

We really need another term for "public shaming". For real, we're wearing a groove in those words.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:08 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I would never hire her because I'm not in management, and anyway, we're a non-profit so we're kinda tight on budget right now.
posted by klangklangston at 5:09 PM on March 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


You know, I'm mildly against Ms. Richard's handling of the whole situation; I do think she knowingly made it into a high-drama event, when it absolutely did not merit any reaction of the sort. As far as I'm concerned, the offenders at PyCon stuck a toe over the line, and it's putting those toes over the line that makes so much humor work. (Even so, the line they were actually sticking their toes over was the not the line she was accusing them of violating.) That guy being fired, as a consequence, was unjust and wrong.

But then the Internet Hate Squad getting her fired as well? What a nightmare. The terrorists win.

SendGrid: even if she was in the wrong, which I think she was to some degree, she needed you at her back, and you comprehensively let her down. Women will now be that much more afraid to speak up when things actually ARE harassing, because they'll know their careers will be destroyed if they do.

You screwed that up bad. Of all the choices you could have made, that was the worst possible one.
posted by Malor at 5:10 PM on March 21, 2013 [18 favorites]


I think the Internet should have gotten fired.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:12 PM on March 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


You can't fire the Internet, because it quits!
posted by Jimbob at 5:13 PM on March 21, 2013 [22 favorites]


The Internet got fired. Fired up.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:15 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Jimbob: You can't fire the Internet, because it quits!

It would have been so great if that was the last post, so that in the future the next thing that came after was 'This thread is archived and is closed to new comments'.

Not that it's time for the thread to end or anything, but that would have been a perfect last post for it.
posted by Mitrovarr at 5:20 PM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


from the PyCon Code of Conduct

This Code of Conduct was forked from the example policy from the Geek Feminism wiki

in other words, they forked the Geek Feminism wiki's policy.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:20 PM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


wait, how can the internet get fired? - i thought we all worked for IT
posted by pyramid termite at 5:22 PM on March 21, 2013


Of all the choices you could have made, that was the worst possible one.

I think the real mistake on their part was sitting quiet for too long. By the time they acted the whole thing had become a perfect shitstorm (and Adria Richards had nailed her colors to the mast and sailed, like the HMS Bounty, straight into the middle of it). I think if they'd jumped on it a.s.a.p, when it was first blowing up, had asked Adria to apologize for the twitter photo and to cease to engage in any way with the controversy they could then have come out with a "We feel that she acted inappropriately in moving so rapidly to make this situation public, but we support her right to respond to unwelcome comments at the conference" statement. As I said above, it would have been especially useful if they could have somehow negotiated with PlayHaven to get the fired guy reinstalled. Then it would just have been a matter of hunkering down until some other issue took over the twitterverse.

But having failed to jump on it early, and with Adria Richards having continued to make this issue pretty much the only thing anyone could possibly think about in association with her name and her work, I'm not sure they had any good alternatives left to firing her. They have a responsibility to all of their employees, after all, not just to her. If keeping her on would have meant losing contracts and losing work it's asking an awful lot of them to do it in the name of "not letting the MRA assholes feel like they won a round."
posted by yoink at 5:23 PM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would never hire her because she appears to be a sociopath.

You know, that's a really blunt assessment. But it's hard to not at least consider and it reminds of a comment that Jessamyn made earlier in response to some guy.
But part if being professional keeping your emotions in check and acting like a professional.

And that's the argument that gets trotted out consistently to women who have a difficult time dealing with sexism, harassment and general hurf durfery in the workplace: you're not being professional if you make a thing about it. Because professional has been outlined as putting up with this sort of thing. And somehow that needs to change.
Richards described how she had already dealt with a much more offensive comment earlier in the day, with little success. In that instance she was calm and tried to use it as teaching moment, but was met with a brick wall. Fast forward to the two guys cracking jokes behind her and it sounds like she'd had enough and wasn't going to take another damn inch of shit, even if it was seemingly small incident.

The stress of having to deal with a constant barrage of sexism can drive someone nuts and it's not surprising when they lash out, especially over a comparatively small incident. That doesn't excuse Richards' behavior at all, but she deserves a bit of sympathy for losing it. None of us are perfect or could be when dealing with years of low and high key sexism (or racism or another 'ism). We all mistakes, hopefully everyone personally involved in this situation has learned and the internet mob can move on.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:24 PM on March 21, 2013 [18 favorites]


it was call the Stasi

And now we are all Stasi. Everything you say will most definitely be used against you.

I think the real lesson here is that tech people like to think they're special snowflakes, with all their fine gadgets and Instagram accounts and social-media skills and airplane tickets and groovy conferences -- WITH NAME BADGES! -- and exciting job titles like "Evangelist" -- whoa, just like Steve Wozniak! -- but in reality you're all just ditch-diggers like the rest of us, able to be fired on a whim because the boss's coffee got cold. We're all just pieces of dumb meat. And all your fancy social media, and all your whispered jokes and asides, and everything you have or are, belongs to the people who tell you what to do.

Two dopes tell a stupid joke or two, another twit takes a picture of it, a thousand little shits fire up their DDOS machine, and the whole world burns down because of it.

Good going, all. Tomorrow I'm going to kill a puppy. I assume you'll do your part and turn me in.
posted by Fnarf at 5:25 PM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


This Code of Conduct was forked from the example policy from the Geek Feminism wiki

Huh. What a perfect example of the "single entendre" use of the term--and of its endless potential for "double entendre" misunderstandings.
posted by yoink at 5:28 PM on March 21, 2013


That doesn't excuse Richards' behavior at all, but she deserves a bit of sympathy for losing it.

I really don't have any sympathy for her. For someone who allegedly eats sleeps and breathes social media and has a title that contains the word "evangelist", she should have known what would happen when she posted that photo. If she hadn't predicted the response she got, that tells me only one thing : she was shitty at her job.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:38 PM on March 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


Actually, no. I do have a little sympathy for her : she fucked up at her job. Everyone does that at least once in their lives.

Still doesn't change the fact that she deserved to be fired.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:39 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


The second post by the CEO is obvious damage control because the first post looked like a pretty clear case of retaliation. This entire situation has been horribly managed.
posted by humanfont at 5:39 PM on March 21, 2013


The guy who was actually rather contrite about having inadvertadly offended someone despite that person causing significant unwarranted trouble for them, and isn't claiming to be Joan of Ark on the Internet and to my knowledge doesn't go through this whole cycle every six months?

Because he does not appear to be a sociopath.

It's a sick sad world, I know.
posted by Artw at 5:41 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I wanted to nth other commenters and say that this post is a really interesting read. She comes at it with a disclosed personal distaste for Richards, but is still fair and balanced and productive in her analysis.

I'd go so far as to say that's the definitive take on the subject. Richards behaved like a complete asshole, but Jesus Christ, Internet Hate Machine: if you're making me want to side with a complete asshole, maybe you should reconsider your tactics.
posted by Amanojaku at 5:42 PM on March 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


The "fork" argument here is kind of weird to me. Of course "fork" has a perfectly valid and nonsexual meaning. And of course they could have been using it to mean that. But it's not a question of whether the word in isolation has a nonsexual meaning or not. According to (whoever wrote the thing that claims to be by the fired guy), it was being used as "I'd fork his repo".

The phraseology "I'd X his/her Y", where "X" and "Y" could be basically anything, is almost cliché salaciousness. It's almost completely unbelievable to me that this particular phrase about forking entered their lexicon without knowledge of this fact, or even to a large degree because of this fact. I don't doubt that they could have been using it to mean something nonsexual; in fact it sounds astronomically more likely to me that they meant "I like that guy's code" than "I'd fuck him". But it's intentionally loaded phraseology regardless of, and in addition to, its meaning, whatever its meaning in any particular context might be.
posted by Flunkie at 5:44 PM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Maybe there is some kind of upside to this whole mess. I don't know, some Conservation of Trainwrecks law may exist, so some other grotesque event now won't happen.
posted by thelonius at 5:46 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


a pretty clear case of retaliation

What are they supposed to have been "retaliating" against? I don't quite get this. She didn't attack or badmouth them.

Jesus Christ, Internet Hate Machine: if you're making me want to side with a complete asshole, maybe you should reconsider your tactics.


I don't know what useful lesson of any kind we can draw from the "Internet Hate Machine"--I mean, it's not surprise, sadly, to anyone that they're out there and that they'd pounce on a situation like this. They're obviously sick, disgusting pigs and it's also obviously completely appalling that Adria Richards has been subject to the kind of vicious and sexist harassment that has taken place. But I'm not sure it makes any sense for anyone involved to recalibrate their judgments about what basically happened here on a kind of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" basis. These are related but separable issues and I think it makes most sense to keep them as separate as possible.
posted by yoink at 5:48 PM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


Maybe the little girl will grow up in a world full of casual sexism AND office psychopaths.
posted by Artw at 5:49 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel like "sociopath" and "psychopath" migh be starting a little high. If we are making amateur psychiatric diagnoses, maybe we should start at "compulsive hand-washer" or "alektorophobe" and work up?
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:55 PM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'd expect she'll find another job lickety split, yes she's an asshat, but that's useful for some roles. I merely worried that Boulder sounds like a smallish place, so she might need to move, maybe inconveniencing her personal life, real estate, etc., that sucks. Apparently Boulder has a quarter million though, so she's probably okay. PlayHaven is based in San Francisco and Portland, so presumably the PlayHaven guy should manage okay. It'll suck mightily losing a couple months to the unpaid full-time job of job hunting, but hey. As I mentioned upthread, this could've gone so much worse for Adria Richards if she'd done this in a country with ridiculous libel laws, like England.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:57 PM on March 21, 2013


The phraseology "I'd X his/her Y", where "X" and "Y" could be basically anything, is almost cliché salaciousness.

But only if said in a particular tone or with a wink or whatever. After all "I'd like to X his/her/your Y" is also one of those formulations we use all the time in ordinary life. "I'd like to mend your sweater," "I'd like to see his play," "I'd like to catch her show" etc. etc. etc. Say any of those with a leer and the emphasis on the pronoun and they sound dirty. But in 99.9% of the cases where we use it it's entirely innocent and sounds to all involved entirely innocent.

The reason the "fork his repo" sounds so obviously dirty to most of us is simply that we don't have any "normal" context for "fork" used this way (or for "repo" come to that). It's a trade-specific term, so there's pretty much nowhere for our minds to go but the "hurr hurr hurr" route. But obviously for the participants in that fatal conversation that's not the case. "Forking" in the technical sense is an everyday, utterly banal term. So the issue is not "is it possible to read this as a double entendre"--obviously it's only all too easy. The issue is "is it plausible that the argument made by the fired guy that she completely misconstrued the tone and intent of the comment is true?" And I think the answer to that is "yes." They may have been using the term in an entirely innocent way, and she simply misunderstood it.
posted by yoink at 5:59 PM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I do have a normal context for fork and repo being used in this way, and it's anything but obvious to me that the participants in that fatal conversation are any different with respect to either that or the hurr hurr hurr route.
posted by Flunkie at 6:04 PM on March 21, 2013


So is Github itself an oppressive environment for women or not?
posted by Jimbob at 6:09 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


The debate about whether or not "fork his repo" is dirty or not is a bit silly to me, because with only the least bit of prompting human beings will find anything smutty.

There was a comedian (George Carlin?) who used to do a bit where he would engage with an audience member in the front row and say "How's your thing?", with just the smallest amount of "you know what I'm talking about" in his manner, and everyone would laugh because it sounded smutty.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:23 PM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


... she should have known what would happen when she posted that photo.

And, then later (many hours after the conference event) she decided to make a blog post outlining the entire incident. She consciously decided to take things a step further (after the conference folks had already spoken with the two developers ... and they apologized and ackowledged their involvment). She knew what she was doing. She thought she was "in the right," " fighting for a cause." Or, she was so out-of-touch and tone-deaf as to the potential of the firestorm that was to come. I would never entrust her to be involved in any of my company's online/social media endeavors ever.
posted by ericb at 6:25 PM on March 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


She was doing it for the children.
posted by klangklangston at 6:28 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I'd go so far as to say that's the definitive take on the subject. Richards behaved like a complete asshole, but Jesus Christ, Internet Hate Machine: if you're making me want to side with a complete asshole, maybe you should reconsider your tactics."

No doubt. It's like, "You gave me a papercut? BURN YOUR HOUSE DOWN!"

What she deserved was, "Yeah, sexism sucks, but the way you handled it was kinda classless, and it came across as more about your ego than solving the problem. Maybe next time try this." She deserved the same level of mild reprimand that the guys did, and no one should have been fired.

(If this standard was applied to any of the jobs I've ever held, everyone in every one of them would have been fired.)
posted by klangklangston at 6:31 PM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Screw 'public shaming.' What about 'dog shaming.'

Think about the dogs!
posted by ericb at 6:36 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


The reason the "fork his repo" sounds so obviously dirty to most of us is simply that we don't have any "normal" context for "fork" used this way (or for "repo" come to that). It's a trade-specific term, so there's pretty much nowhere for our minds to go but the "hurr hurr hurr" route.

I don't know if this is how those two publicly shamed guys were talking, but to muddy the waters a bit, Github used to have a caption under a progress bar that said "hardcore forking action" when you forked a repo.

I guess the waters were already pretty muddy.
posted by ignignokt at 6:39 PM on March 21, 2013


So is Github itself an oppressive environment for women or not?

This has been discussed in this thread. Some good posts to look at include this one (about the "hardcore forking action" gag), this look at the traditionally negative connotation of "fork" in the FOSS community, and olinerd's excellent comparison of the language of hardware engineering, here. Also, there's quite a good joke about why double entendres are called double entendres, here.

One of the interesting things about these environments - FOSS and hardware engineering - is that they were so overwhelmingly male for so long that a whole language and culture evolved before there was a meaningful female presence in them - or at least a meaningful recognized female presence. So, there's a process going on of working out what these already-evolved forms mean to and for women, which is ongoing and by no means painless.

You can see something similar happening with gaming, where some men are responding very badly to the entrance of women into "their" world, both as players and as producers. I've mentioned the treatment of Jennifer Hepler, above. Anita Sarkeesian got something similar. This has all happened before, and this will all happen again. Over time, there will hopefully be a general upward motion, but the people with the rape and death threats, and indeed the DDoS attacks, are probably not going to follow this path upward. That's a shame, and working out what to do with a group of people who think this is a useful way to interact with the world - who are, in effect, damaged beyond easy repair - is a real problem, and a bigger one than whether or not "fork" is an intrinsically funny word. And, speaking personally, I suspect that giving them the sense that they succeeded in getting their target fired is not going to help.

(If I were a DDoSing troll right now, I'd be wondering what else I could get SendGrid to do. A little dance, maybe?)

Regarding the humor inherent in "fork", I think it's best to consult an expert.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:43 PM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


The reason the "fork his repo" sounds so obviously dirty to most of us is simply that we don't have any "normal" context for "fork" used this way (or for "repo" come to that).

I've been using GitHub for five years and git for at least six and for God's sake I even spoke at GitHub's one and only conference and I would think two guys at a conference chuckling and saying "fork his repo" were probably being jokey about it. What context am I missing?
posted by Coda at 6:46 PM on March 21, 2013


Companies shouldn't ever fire employees as a result of DDoS attacks, and people who participate in them should be criminally prosecuted, although perhaps the punishment should be relatively light. If a group was damaging or disrupting a business in any other way to pressure them to fire an employee this would be obvious to everyone.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 6:50 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


So... Everyone is award of the origins of the word Git, right?
posted by Artw at 6:52 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Git 'er done

no
posted by 2bucksplus at 6:57 PM on March 21, 2013


Probably something about the Irish.
posted by klangklangston at 6:57 PM on March 21, 2013


Scottish - from "get", the illegitimate offspring of a sexual liaison.

You're all fired.
posted by Artw at 7:00 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Proposal: let's retire the term 'forking' and replace it with 'sporking.' What double entendres am I missing?
posted by ericb at 7:00 PM on March 21, 2013


Linus Torvalds = Huge Monkees fan.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:01 PM on March 21, 2013


So... Everyone is award of the origins of the word Git, right?

Monty Python took a lot of British English words and turned them into shibboleths of funny + smart for large parts of my generation.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:02 PM on March 21, 2013


So... Everyone is award of the origins of the word Git, right?

No, but I heard that Linus Torvalds said that both pieces of software he's responsible for were named after him, so it must be a pretty fine upstanding term.
posted by A dead Quaker at 7:04 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also I just fixed a leaky toilet by adjusting the ball-cock.
posted by Artw at 7:05 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just masturbated by adjusting my penis.

That didn't fix anything though.
posted by klangklangston at 7:06 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


That's obscure slang for parsing XML using RegEx -you really shouldn't do that, as you might go blind.
posted by Artw at 7:10 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


you're sharing too much, man
posted by pyramid termite at 7:11 PM on March 21, 2013


Oh, fuck the MRA douchebags. Don't bring them into this. There's so much else that's more important than what loons have to say. Complete derail.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:22 PM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


What she deserved was, "Yeah, sexism sucks, but the way you handled it was kinda classless, and it came across as more about your ego than solving the problem. Maybe next time try this." She deserved the same level of mild reprimand that the guys did, and no one should have been fired.

I mentioned this further up, but the firestorm was a direct result of a lack of humility when confronted about it and digging in her heels. You can argue that it still did not deserve the response that she got, and I wouldn't disagree with that. But there's a reason why the person in this scenario who genuinely apologized did not receive a public backlash. It's not because he's male, it's because people appreciate it when they receive a genuine apology. If someone refuses to apologize, it should not be surprising that more people will try to bring it to your attention. That should be a classy endeavor, as well, but no one should be shocked that a public response is happening. It has less to do with gender issues than a lack of public respect and perceived hubris.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:27 PM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh, fuck the MRA douchebags. Don't bring them into this. There's so much else that's more important than what loons have to say. Complete derail.

Oh, I think MRA bullshit and swarms of Internet assholes are worthy of discussion, and they are part of this story, and of every other story like this, so that's a discussion worth having - there just doesn't seem to be a handle here to discuss it other than "this always happens and it's awful".

Oh, and Richards doesn't prove them "right" any more than they prove her right - that's just silly.
posted by Artw at 7:30 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


But there's a reason why the person in this scenario who genuinely apologized did not receive a public backlash. It's not because he's male, it's because people appreciate it when they receive a genuine apology. If someone refuses to apologize, it should not be surprising that more people will try to bring it to your attention. That should be a classy endeavor, as well, but no one should be shocked that a public response is happening. It has less to do with gender issues than a lack of public respect and perceived hubris.

John Scalzi: The Sort of Crap I Don't Get.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:33 PM on March 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


John Scalzi: The Sort of Crap I Don't Get.

running order squabble fest, thanks for posting that. I just read it through, and I'll actually take that to heart as I think further about this situation.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:38 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


The problem is that the MRA douchebags won here, and I think that's a very important point. They came out of this thinking they got her fired and won the argument, and genuinely believe that there isn't a discrimination problem in the tech community (when actually it's endemic).

The problem is that Adria Richards is promoting anti-sex as a priori, which is causing problems for the rest of us that believe feminism is a cause worth fighting for, but taking the flag of anti-porn/anti-sex a la MacKinnon to publicly shame people is downright counterproductive when there are real problems here.

By associating her anti-sex hangups with a real legitimate problem, she's doing the cause a serious disservice. At conferences, a problem with "promoting porn" (Amanda Blum's blog), and with a phrase like "forking his repo". It's clear that she isn't actually anti-sex, from her jokes published on social media.

The fundamental issue at play here is somewhat interesting to me, because the MRA issue is actually central to this. On the internet, "Tumblr Social Justice" and "MRA" people on a operational/psychological perspective, are one at the same. The only difference is that the "social justice" people are on the right side of what's ethically right/correct/rational/etc. Where they are similar, however is fascinating.

Adria Richard's methods are directly related to MRA because her modus operandi is the exact same (as her methods are very "tumblr social justice"-y).

The "tumblr social justice" / "MRA" modus operandi is simple. Find someone to public shame and troll the fuck out of them. The social issue at hand is incendental, the primary focus is enjoyment from trolling. I'd argue that this trolling method is interesting because you can view it within schoolyard gender roles of trolling. It's interesting, historically trolling was very much based on direct conflict, e.g. one person beating up another person. This somewhat newer form of trolling is akin to a group a school children shittalking and ostracizing one person, bullying by making them outcasts from the social in-group. It's interesting because this is easily mapped along gender roles in a schoolyard environment, and I'd directly map that to gender roles in this situation, if it weren't for the MRA folks doing the same thing.

Note: I don't believe I'm being sexist by making this assertion, as I'm exclusively being descriptive here, NOT prescriptive. It's not an unreasonable assertion to say that how bullying occurs is mapped to gender (I would assume this occurs due to existing gender social norms/etc, but I'm just talking about what tends to happen). I'd also like to note that this type of trolling had never happened before these past few years, but it has certainly become commonplace only in the last 2-3 years. The last prominent example was the Gawker/Reddit drama, where both sides had a big campaign of social ostracization.

This new form of trolling is interesting to me because this kind of trolling is somewhat problematic for people that actually care about issues like racism and feminism, because they are real issues that must be addressed whenever it rears its ugly head. I do think she should have said something, I wouldn't even have a problem with her blogging about it. What becomes problematic is when the side you are fighting for isn't interested in convincing the other party, but for enjoyment from the process of public shaming. Her use of public shaming as a technique, deep disinterest in discussing the actual problem that she has (to convince the other party), and an outright hostile attitude towards resolving this issue makes her no different than the methods used by MRAs.

I believe both Adria Richards and the MRAs are guilty parties here, and this new form of trolling where MRA activists and tumblr-social-justice activists fight, have now bled into the real world is new and an important issue that cannot be separated out from what's going on.
posted by amuseDetachment at 7:57 PM on March 21, 2013 [14 favorites]


These discussions always remind me of Fry saying sagaciously, "Leela, there's nothing wrong with anything." There's nothing wrong with anything women point out as sexism or harassment, essentially. Not if you think about it enough. Nothing wrong.

These guys were dumb and did something dumb which is annoying and alienating to many women in a male-dominated tech environment and which definitely does affect the way women and girls view tech and its accessibility to them. That's just the truth. If you're a man and you don't understand that, take some time to try, because it's absolutely real. I don't even know how to illustrate this-- imagine being in a workplace dominated by women where women are very often making jokes about periods and vaginas, I guess? That doesn't even touch the entrentched sexism part of the problem (which is the most gutwrenching) but it illustrates the claustrophobia part. What are you going to do? Develop menstruation envy? Start feeling like not having a vagina is making you fundamentally different from the people who lead your workplace and the way they joke and socialize? Start making jokes about periods and vaginas that sort of weirdly imply that you have one, because it's become a "symbolic phallus"? Sounds dumb but how many women say thing like "suck my dick," a whole lot, including me. I don't hear a lot of men saying, "ha, I just want to bleed all over that stupid motherfucker," for some odd reason. Doesn't give them a lot of power or social cachet.

If you're a guy and you feel like weeping over the idea of not being able to freely make penis jokes in the maximum number of environments, you are really unable to sympathize with women, who aren't allowed to freely bring up their bodies and sexual functions as an expression of humor or power nearly as often. You already get to talk about your penises pretty much all the time. Compare the number of hilarious penis jokes as general discourse on Metafilter to hilarious vagina jokes. The latter doesn't even really happen, not in the same carefree, sophomoric way. And that's not because women don't make those jokes-- my sisters and I are kind of disgusting about the number of vagina/period/tampon jokes we make to one another. But in a group environment? In an audience at a conference? When men are present, or women we don't know very well? Really not going to happen. And it's not that women are fighting for the right to do this-- it's simply that men being able to do it much more freely is a very alienating display of power, the allusion to the male body as power and a kind of default discourse about bodies. This is something I felt in my gut wwwwwwell before I was bored enough to write multiple paragraphs about it on Metafilter.

I'm kind of a rowdy loudmouth around the right kind of people, and I've been known to make an off-color joke a little too loud in the supermarket, and when an old person or a parent turns around and gives me a dirty look, I feel bad. I feel bad that I made them uncomfortable because I wasn't being tactful. I don't wave my big dongle in their face and tell them to suck it because I'm not going to let the jackboot of political correctness stomp my face forever, geez. These guys probably shouldn't have been fired but they should have been called out and told to stop being idiots. There's really no other way to address this kind of thing. Women can bring up their concerns one-on-one all day long, and that should be a part of the process, I think, but it's not going to stop the kind of people who keep wanting to do it. Why would it? Not all of these assholes are decent. Lots of people can muster an apology for things they're going to keep on doing forever unless there are consequences. Firing? No. But being told to quit being dumbasses lest there be more severe disciplinary action, yes, definitely, for sure, yes.

Which is to say that apologies are nice, but don't mean a whole lot-- a man does something dumb, he apologizes, he's brave and noble and learned from a trying experience. A woman puts up with these dumb events all her life, gets angry and does something "disproportionate," and she is a hypocritical prude who would probably kick a guy in the balls for asking her out, and there's no graceful way to exit the situation except sitting back down in the middle of rape threats and slurs and saying "yes apology accepted thank you, problem solved, will never be a systemic issue again." Basically accepting the male chivalry and humbleness (so much braver for a man to apologize! I mean, women do it all the time) we perceive in public apologies and then shutting up again.
posted by stoneandstar at 7:57 PM on March 21, 2013 [36 favorites]


Hi everyone. I'm on the PyCon staff — I was this years' program chair, and I was involved in creating our code of conduct. I was involved in our handling of both of these events.

I'm way too burnt out to handle reading this whole thread right now, but I wanted to invite anyone who has any questions about PyCon, our code of conduct, or our handling of this situation to email me (jacob at jacobian dot org) or MeMail me. If there are particular questions in this thread that haven't been answered point me too them and I'll try to answer them, too.
posted by jacobian at 8:02 PM on March 21, 2013 [24 favorites]


The problem is that Adria Richards is promoting anti-sex as a priori, which is causing problems for the rest of us that believe feminism is a cause worth fighting for, but taking the flag of anti-porn/anti-sex a la MacKinnon to publicly shame people is downright counterproductive when there are real problems here.

I don't know that it helps the discussion to recharacterize her position as anti-sex. She wasn't bursting into any bedrooms and telling lovers they were sinners. People have different standards for comfort with sexual innuendo in a professional environment, and we may not agree with those standards, but that doesn't mean that the other person is trying to rid the world of the wonders of whoopie.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:03 PM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm 100% in the anti-Adria camp, but I gotta ask : what the hell is up with the people who post the rape threats and death threats? Seriously. Like, I want to know what makes them tick. Who are these people? Why do they do what they do? Are they actual psychopaths who would like to rape or kill her? Are they 12-year-old boys who don't know the meaning of their words? Are they just random assholes who think it's funny? I'm serious. Who are these people? Why do they do what they do?

I mean, you can hate someone's opinions. You can even hate them. You can write nasty, vitriolic 1000-word essays about why everything they stand for is wrong. But to threaten to rape or kill them? What kind of person does that? Is this just a 4chan thing? (forgive me, every time there's something on the internet I don't understand, I always blame 4chan)

It's one of those things I'll never understand. I wish there was a website or something where people who used to do that kind of shit could post their confessional, explaining why they did what they did. It's a complete fucking mystery to me.

Threatening rape or death is a hell of a lot more offensive than telling a stupid joke at conference or even getting somebody fired. That should be the real issue here.

Fuck's up with people?
posted by Afroblanco at 8:05 PM on March 21, 2013 [24 favorites]


The problem is that the MRA douchebags won here, and I think that's a very important point.

No, they didn't. Not in my books. Not in this thread. Not at Pycon. Not at all.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:07 PM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Thoughts from a Development Manager in NSW, Australia (excerpt):
Some people have called out Adria [Richards'] complaint as petty; that she should have just turned around and told the guys to quit it and move on; that involving the committee and taking a photo was unwarranted.

What I have realised from my months of reading is that, as white males, we very very rarely feel in a situation where we are unsafe. I’ve only really felt physically threatened 3 times in my life, and I can recount to you those incidents in specific detail. They stick with me not only because they were intense moments, but also because they are definitely not the norm - typically, I never need to give my safety a second thought. ...

The irony is here that most of us have made a similar decision to Adria in different situations - where we’ve backed down, asked someone more experienced or influential to handle a situation, because, well, it’s not worth it and the potential risks are many. If you’ve ever hit Submit on a complaint form, or marked a tweet as spam, you’ve done exactly the same thing - extracted yourself from the situation and let a higher authority handle it. ...

Codes of Conduct exist not just to enforce the most common areas where people screw up, but to educate them that these areas are likely to cause offense. ...

The important bit of this incident is [that] it gives us a real opportunity to actually challenge whether our perspective is the only valid one, and start discussing the horrible situation that lies under the surface of all this.
Inspired by running order squabble fest's linked Scalzi essay.
posted by simulacra at 8:11 PM on March 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


stoneandstar: The problem with women and its issues w/r/t sexual capital and slut-shaming are real. I disagree that the solution is to outright prevent men from making harmless dick jokes to the point where they should be shamed on the internet for doing so.

Under that line of thinking, if I am correct in your understanding of the issue, a man saying "I'd like to fork his repo" is problematic because a woman cannot say "I'd like to fork her repo" due to slut-shaming issues.

I'm not so sure there is necessarily a problem with a joke like "I'd like to fork his repo", especially as it was a man talking about another man, the problem is that women are not afforded the ability to do the same. I think the solution absolutely should not be reduce the ability for one to make sex jokes in response, it simply buries the real problem. The solution for inequal pay isn't reduce men's pay to women's. (Note: if he was saying "I'd like to for HER repo", then it would be problematic and rapey)

Bunny Ultramod: Perhaps it's a bit too much to characterize her behavior as anti-sex, but it's easy to reach that conclusion when she publicly shamed conference hosters for "promoting porn" from a title "Getting the money shot". Being anti-porn plus being offended by a phrase "forking his repo" certainly comes off as anti-sex. Perhaps she is isn't precise in her words on what problems she has with that title, but my central point is in her methods, not on whether she's anti-sex or not. I'd certainly concede that she isn't actually anti-sex, but ostensibly more interested that conferences do not talk about sex at all.

five fresh fish: They thought they won, and that's what annoys me.
posted by amuseDetachment at 8:12 PM on March 21, 2013


No, they didn't.

Yes, they did. Who do you think ran the DDOS attack against SendGrid and got precisely the result that they demanded?
posted by dialetheia at 8:13 PM on March 21, 2013


'd certainly concede that she isn't actually anti-sex, but ostensibly more interested that conferences do not talk about sex at all.

During the actual conference, in a public sphere, representing their employer, in a crowd, in earshot of others, I would rather they not as well. That's not anti-sex; it's pro-work-environment-where-the-focus-in-on-work-and-not-on-dick-jokes.

Fortunately, it happens already to have been against the rules at this conference.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:16 PM on March 21, 2013


Yes, they did. Who do you think ran the DDOS attack against SendGrid and got precisely the result that they demanded?

They definitely think they won...and they are SHOCKED by it. They really believe they are on the oppressed side of a power imbalance with feminists and that it is historic that a woman was held accountable for her actions. So, when someone asks what makes them think death/rape threats or a DDoS are an appropriate response I just don't know what to answer other than that they are very angry people who have a tenuous grasp on reality.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:20 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Being pro-work-envrionment is very different than being a sexist bigot. I'm not disagreeing that it's unprofessional to make dick jokes.

I just don't believe the pharse "I'd like to fork his repo" is inherently sexist. Certainly not to go on a public name and shame campaign. My comment above was that very much in the style of "tumblr social activist" and "MRA" people to do a public name and shame, and her methods were very much in a similar style.

Her having fun trolling MRA bigots is all fun and games, but it's clear she's counterproductive to the issues she claims to care about.

My point isn't whether dick jokes are appropriate, if you want, you can ignore I said that. The larger issue is with "tumblr-social-justice" and "MRA" types using schoolyard social ostracization as a somewhat new technique of social bullying. This is a pretty new social phenomenon that has been brewing for a while, and it looks like it's only going to get bigger. The MRA types now think not only they're in the right, but they can get results through their "social activism" (see: trolling via ostracization) -- that's a problem.
posted by amuseDetachment at 8:25 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Adria Richard's methods are directly related to MRA because her modus operandi is the exact same (as her methods are very "tumblr social justice"-y).

I feel it's worth pointing out here that she was apparently distraught that anyone had been fired, and immediately expressed her hopes that he be reinstated on Hacker News also, which is not exactly how the MRAs have been behaving about her job.

And, also, I don't think she threatened to rape or kill anyone, or launched any DDoS attacks... there seems to me to be a considerable space between "she handled that situation badly" and "she behaved just like the people posting her address and threatening to kill her".
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:27 PM on March 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


Her having fun trolling MRA bigots is all fun and games

I'd rather we not make presumptions about her intent, which describing her actions as "trolling" does, and I'd rather we not make assumptions about her feelings about sex, if you don't mind. I will not be entertaining that discussion anymore, as it is all conjecture, and especially unpleasant conjecture at that.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:28 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


running order squabble fest: Oh for sure the MRA types are more scummy than the tumblr-social-justice types. However, her intention of posting the pictures of people were clearly to shame them. She did want them to face some form of personal punishment. She was attacking their identity online, the fallout was bigger than what she intended. She was playing a game of ruin-the-other-person's-reputation, and someone got hurt. However, her intention WAS to hurt their identity, what actually happened (them getting fired) isn't as relevant to me as her intentions.

Bunny Ultramod: Sure, I agree, her issue in this particular case is definitely that people should not talk about sex at conferences. I'd like to note that the only "intent" I care about is her similarity to MRA-vs-TumblrSocialJustice as her behavior is very much that of publicly naming and shaming, and it's the same process that tumblr-social-justice activists as well as MRAs use. Considering her issue and process is the same, and the retaliation of MRAs is the same, it's reasonable to conclude that the tumblr-social-justice vs. reddit-MRAs issue have bled into the real world again.
posted by amuseDetachment at 8:34 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


She got pretty deep in the weeds with some critics on Twitter after the fact. I would definitely not call it trolling, but I think linking the "White Male Easy Mode" stuff at an MRA is one of those things that while not trolling will have functionally the same result for that audience. They won't be appreciating the nuance. I wouldn't be surprised if getting into those kinds of arguments while Tweeting that her company still supported her contributed to their final decision.
posted by Drinky Die at 8:35 PM on March 21, 2013


The problem is that the MRA douchebags won here, and I think that's a very important point.

Nah. The logic of "we must not give in to terrorism" is stupid. The fact that terrorist groups wanted the US to leave Iraq is not a good reason to stay in Iraq. The fact that a lot of assholes wanted this horrible sociopath to be fired is not a good reason to regret the firing of this horrible sociopath.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:39 PM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Considering her issue and process is the same, and the retaliation of MRAs is the same, it's reasonable to conclude that the tumblr-social-justice vs. reddit-MRAs issue have bled into the real world again.

Certainly, if you consider something that is clearly not the case to be the case, then... yes, it is reasonable to conclude something based on that consideration. I'm not totally sure how useful that is, though, in relation to the situation as it is.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:39 PM on March 21, 2013


To me, attention-seeking-behavior through social ostricization is pretty trolly.

I tried to differentiate this new form of attack from previous personal individual antisocial behavior. Trolling used to be exclusively one person annoys another or generally makes their life miserable for no good reason other than to be mean. It's equivalent to beating someone else up in the schoolyard.

This new form of trolling via social ostraciziation is more interesting because the parties involved believe their cause is right and just. Much like how people who ostracize an individual for being an "annoying personality" in the schoolyard believe they are in the right for doing so.

It's not unreasonable to claim that the second is becoming VERY common on the internet. It's also clear that her methods are the same, and the MRAs response is the same.
I'm not totally sure how useful that is, though, in relation to the situation as it is.
It's useful because when you look at this issue within the lens of "tumblr-social-justice" vs "MRA", it's bleeding into the real world again, and will happen more and more. It's interesting to think about this as an issue to look out for and how to react to this.
posted by amuseDetachment at 8:45 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


ThatFuzzyBastard: I think we're in agreement, I also think that she should be fired. My point is that the MRAs are relevant here, not that they should be catered to, but that we need to think about how to react to situations like these in the future in a smarter way, because at the end of the day the MRAs think they won via their shitty methods.

It becomes even more volatile when the person on "your side" isn't acting in good faith and isn't turing-test different from looking like a troll. This conflicted feeling is the same that I felt during the whole Gawker/Reddit fiasco, and I'm concerned that this will blow up even worse next time.
posted by amuseDetachment at 8:52 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Trolling used to be exclusively one person annoys another or generally makes their life miserable for no good reason other than to be mean.

That's not at all what trolling used to be. Trolling used to be posting deliberately provocative content to newsgroups in order to attract responses from as many people as possible. It's decayed to just meaning harassment and abuse. I do not think you have a model here which is closely related to the history of Internet interaction.

What I do think you have is a theory (the tumblr social justice types are just like the MRA types), and you're trying to fit the available evidence of this case to support that theory, but I don't think it works.

I get that you believe you can read Adria Richards' mind and glean her intentions. Amateur psychology is absolutely the preserve of the Internet - see the confident diagnoses of sociopathy pinging around this thread at the moment. And I get that you want this to be an example of a model you are proposing - that two buzzword-groups are escaping from the Internet into "the real world". But I just don't think it's particularly relevant in this case. This wasn't "tumblr social justice types". It was one person, one piece of con drama, and then a series of failures of systems and good sense which led to where we are now.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:59 PM on March 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


I feel it's worth pointing out here that she was apparently distraught that anyone had been fired, and immediately expressed her hopes that he be reinstated on Hacker News also, which is not exactly how the MRAs have been behaving about her job.

She did? In that case I dial back my bad opinion of her quite a few notches.
posted by Artw at 9:00 PM on March 21, 2013


It is true that the big angry Internet swarm could be seen as originating with Racefail and the like. And then there are Anonymous, who I guess could be called social justice types. The big angry MRA cloud of misogyny and rape threats is a newish and particularly crappy variety of this kind of thing, and the kind I'd most like to see stomped out, but I think ultimatly all angry Internet swarms are kind of suspect.
posted by Artw at 9:06 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


running order squabble fest: I think my summary was a pretty accurate statement. Trolls make people's life miserable by increasing signal/noise, acting in a antisocial way. I'm pretty familiar with that form of trolling. One of my first interactions on the internet was probably getting trolled on usenet (hhhehehe).

The trolls before the past couple years didn't believe they were in the right. Everyone that trolled knew they were in the wrong. Much like how a schoolyard bully who uses physical violence/intimidation doesn't believe what they're doing is right. They did it to piss people off.

This is absolutely the same as "tumblr social justice" and "MRA" types because she posted on here twitter something equivalent to, "look at this asshole", which is what they do. It's social ostracizing someone. This isn't a person-to-person or person-to-community conflict for antisocial reasons as we've seen in years past.

My point about gender roles (again, I'm being descriptive not prescriptive here!!) in the schoolyard with bullying methods is something which I do find interesting as a theory, but don't have it fully fleshed out. I'd like to note that tumblr and twitter have near equal if not majority female dominated. The center of this is tumblr, they're, last I looked 60% female active users. I wouldn't ascribe the previous trolling style as "male", I think that would be incorrect. I'd ascribe this more towards historically gender norms in bullying, and the ways trolling gets exhibited as a natural fallout from that. Again, I'm not ascribing natural gender roles here, as MRAs do the same social ostracize bullshit.

Resolving this form of trolling is much more difficult than banning someone that posts an intentionally obvious inflammatory comment, as there are larger social dynamics at work. It's also a lot more difficult to resolve bullying in the schoolyard when it's a group that simply refuses to talk to one person and to shame them at every opportunity for having some faults which the larger group dislikes (even if the larger group is justified).
posted by amuseDetachment at 9:13 PM on March 21, 2013


What with the two scumbag employers, the puritanical language policing, the Tumblr SJ warriors and the global tide of MRAs and anti-feminists claiming victory, I kinda hate everyone at this point.
posted by dontjumplarry at 9:13 PM on March 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


I think the internet reaction to her is both expected and sad that it's to be expected, because no-one deserves to be subjected to the kind of shitstorm that routinely rains down on women.

I feel it's worth pointing out here that she was apparently distraught that anyone had been fired, and immediately expressed her hopes that he be reinstated on Hacker News also, which is not exactly how the MRAs have been behaving about her job.

I'm legit confused about one thing, though - are we taking Hacker News comments seriously as a source of information or not? Like, was this a verified comment or post, or was this the same level of authenticated as the post purportedly from the fired guy?
posted by gadge emeritus at 9:14 PM on March 21, 2013


You mean, the post on Hacker News saying:

I'm sorry to hear your employer deciding to not to work with you on this and I hope they reconsider, bring you back on and dealing with it constructively.?

That was either actual Richards, or someone playing a very long game - that ID has existed for over a year, whereas "mr_hank" (whose realness is less of an issue now that the firing has been corroborated by Playhaven) was registered three days ago (i.e. specifically to make that post).

A friend of Richards' also said on Twitter that she had been badly upset by the guy losing his job - which I guess could be image management. but does not seem incredible in the context.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:22 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


turgid dahlia 2: I guess the lesson here is don't go to PyCon or you'll be fired.

:(

I hope this is a joke. What could we have done differently to make you not feel this way?
posted by jacobian at 9:31 PM on March 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


It really isn't that unreasonable to ask you to stop talking about your dick when you are in public at a professional conference surrounded by a few thousand strangers. This isn't some new rule created by liberal college's secret language police. My old fashioned cattle ranching grandfather would have smacked the shit out of them boys for "using that kind of talk around ladies."
posted by humanfont at 9:32 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


The word "shaming" is doing a lot of work in this discussion (both here and on the wider internet), and I'm not sure I understand exactly what is meant when it's used in this context. "Public shaming" even made it into the new PyCon CoC in response to this incident. What exactly is implied by shaming, public or otherwise? Where's the line between shaming and just calling somebody out for doing something problematic? Conversely, are there behaviors that it would be acceptable to publicly shame people for?

Posting the picture is where she went over the line here, it seems clear, and the consequences for all parties involved were disproportionate to their offenses. But would everyone still have called it shaming if she had simply called attention to them in public at the conference and called them out there? Everyone is using the term shaming as if it's a commonly understood set of behaviors (like trolling used to be), but I hadn't seen it in common usage until this brouhaha and I don't see why it's necessarily a self-evidently terrible thing to do in every situation, as seems to be implied by a lot of the language here.
posted by dialetheia at 9:34 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


That was either actual Richards, or someone playing a very long game - that ID has existed for over a year, whereas "mr_hank" (whose realness is less of an issue now that the firing has been corroborated by Playhaven) was registered three days ago (i.e. specifically to make that post).

That's what I wanted to know, thanks.
posted by gadge emeritus at 9:34 PM on March 21, 2013


jacobian: "I hope this is a joke. What could we have done differently to make you not feel this way?"

Pretty sure it's dark humor. Honestly, PyCon is probably the only party that comes out "looking ok" in all this.
posted by boo_radley at 9:35 PM on March 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


jacobian: ":( I hope this is a joke. What could we have done differently to make you not feel this way"

jacobian, based on turgid dahlia 2's posting style, almost certainly one of their jokes! It's my impression that, regardless of the "side" anyone comes down on here, PyCon is the only party in this entire fiasco that came out looking good. PyCon handled it quickly, appropriately, had codes of conduct in place, and has been good throughout. It's unfortunate that your conference has been caught in the crossfire, but you all seemed to have done everything as well as you could.
posted by barnacles at 9:35 PM on March 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


amuseDetachment, I am serious in asking those who don't understand to please consider why making penis jokes might feel hostile in a male-dominated industry where very bad behavior has been tolerated for a long time. I do NOT think that women not being able to make jokes about their own sexual functions or anatomy at work is the injustice, here. The injustice is that men making sexual jokes at work is part of a much larger, more powerful pattern of male dominance that has concrete economic effects for women at work. You could say the same thing about work hangouts happening at strip clubs-- awesome for men who love strip clubs! Awful for women (and men, for that matter) who do not feel comfortable at strip clubs. The answer isn't "hold work meetings at Chippendales shows!" ... because that isn't a priority in the workplace. Sex jokes are not a priority in the workplace. Gender parity is.

I am telling you as a fact that the dominant culture of machismo/penis jokes/&c. in tech makes many women feel alienated, even if they don't speak up-- it is a fact, you can read more about it in many places. Women do not speak up because it's often very laborious and retaliation is often severe. If a person's immediate response to this issue is "but where CAN we make penis jokes?" I fundamentally don't understand why penis jokes are more important to them than a non-alienating workplace. Why they don't think seriously about workplaces (and draw the subsequent conclusion that penis jokes will work themselves out in the larger culture), and instead think seriously about penis jokes. Why they immediately jump to the conclusion that penis jokes are now illegal throughout society instead of the conclusion that workplaces are an environment of serious consequence for people and should thus not contain alienating or hostile behavior. (If many many women saying this feels alienating or hostile is not convincing, what would be convincing?)

Also, the idea that she's anti-sex at all is completely ludicrous, and the fact that her objecting to what is a really colossally inappropriate "money shot" reference is characterized as her being a prude with personal failings is such an obvious instance of workplace hostility to women, I can't even really say more than that. I would maybe be slightly annoyed, slightly disheartened to listen to out-of-place chatter about big dongles during a work conference-- I would be upset and angry about the normalization of porn lingo in the workplace. In itself, that's not even anti-porn-- I watch porn, as a matter of fact-- but it's a huge statement of power to refer to the hugely fucked industry of male-oriented porn and the glorification of male ejaculation at a fucking work conference, and that is some firing-level behavior, imo.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:35 PM on March 21, 2013 [19 favorites]


... and the reason it's firing-level misbehavior because being that tone deaf toward gender disparity in the workplace should be seen as a liability for any company that isn't actively trying to time-travel to the Stone Age.
posted by stoneandstar at 9:36 PM on March 21, 2013


"To me, attention-seeking-behavior through social ostricization is pretty trolly.

I tried to differentiate this new form of attack from previous personal individual antisocial behavior. Trolling used to be exclusively one person annoys another or generally makes their life miserable for no good reason other than to be mean. It's equivalent to beating someone else up in the schoolyard.

This new form of trolling via social ostraciziation is more interesting because the parties involved believe their cause is right and just. Much like how people who ostracize an individual for being an "annoying personality" in the schoolyard believe they are in the right for doing so.


You're totally and bizarrely wrong here.

Trolling is pretty much provoking anger online because online people are impotently angry. They're not doing it for no other reason than to be mean; they're doing it for lulz. It is not the equivalent of beating someone up on the schoolyard in any way that's salient to this discussion.

This is not a new form of trolling because the goal is neither, as you posited, just to be mean, nor lulz, the regular usage of trolling.

You don't know what you're talking about.
posted by klangklangston at 9:40 PM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


"This is absolutely the same as "tumblr social justice" and "MRA" types because she posted on here twitter something equivalent to, "look at this asshole", which is what they do. It's social ostracizing someone. This isn't a person-to-person or person-to-community conflict for antisocial reasons as we've seen in years past."

You are conflating trolling with bullying in a way that makes me suspect that you can't explain the difference between the two, nor are able to understand why this situation differs from both.
posted by klangklangston at 9:43 PM on March 21, 2013


dialetheia: Calling them out at the conference is 100% appropriate, writing about it to encourage change is also definitely appropriate (even naming names). The problem arises when it turns into, "look at these two assholes" with tons of retweets/reblogs on a twitter photo.

stoneandstar: Strip clubs are not acceptable as a place to hold meetings due to the nature of male dominance and opression, I think we're in agreement there. Simply going to a chippendale's show as well as a strip club isn't equivalent because the singular act of going to a strip club is unacceptable, you cannot counter that with fake equality. If a male manager decided to go to a Chippendale's show without going to a strip club, that would be sexist, as it's effectively forcing her to shove a dick to the woman's face. I do believe a lot of sex jokes should not be allowed in the workplace, however I disagree that a male audience person to another male audience person saying "I'd like to fork his repo" crosses a line. I'm not sure we'll ever see eye to eye here, but I do understand your concern and would agree that in many, if not most cases of sex jokes in the workplace, they're probably inappropriate and wrong.

klangklangston: People beat each other up on the schoolyard because they feel impotent in real life or at home, and express it, it's an analogy. This new form is different from historical trolling, but I call it trolling, if you want to classify it as another word, you're welcome to. My intention when calling it trolling is, it due to its similarity in creating a lot of infighting and conflict online intentionally, which the tumblr-social-justice and MRA types do. I used trolling because the social fallout was similar, but if there's a better concise word, I'd use it.
posted by amuseDetachment at 9:55 PM on March 21, 2013


but it's a huge statement of power to refer to the hugely fucked industry of male-oriented porn and the glorification of male ejaculation at a fucking work conference, and that is some firing-level behavior, imo.

Does it change anything that it was a woman whose presentation that was?
posted by gadge emeritus at 9:58 PM on March 21, 2013


I also wanted to clarify to amuseD that I did spend a lot of time with facetious "what if" scenarios about vulgar language in the workplace, but my point was that:

1) there is a power imbalance in society that makes male bodies default and more inviolate than female bodies (female bodies are discussed predominantly as objects, not the bodies of subjects; as submissive bodies, not dominating bodies)
2) the dominant embodied discourse of frustration and power and dominance is funneled through male bodies-- having "balls," "suck my dick," "raping" that problem set, ha-ha-having-a-big-punishing-penis, &c.
3) thus male bodies and sexuality mirror symbolic power (dominance, &c.), at the same time that some men also use their physical bodies to assert power over women and create fear in women, to the degree that women are at a high risk for rape, domestic violence, &c.
4) making jokes about big dicks, rape, machismo, almost always wittingly or unwittingly transmits that message of male dominance channeled through the body which is only male and which cannot be possessed by the female
5) women who participate in this discourse of bodies and power have to adopt a kind of male performative drag, where they too "have balls" when they're brave and in charge, can say "suck my dick" when they want to dismiss someone as submissive and subservient, &c.

All this actually does arise in the mind of many women who work and exist in male-dominated environments-- not just work, but in the culture as a whole. Do I want to stop everyone everywhere from making penis jokes? No. I make penis jokes and find penis jokes funny. But while finding it funny I also find it problematic in an instinctive, visceral way, and I emphatically do not want to put up with that in the workplace. It is very distracting and exclusionary and ubiquitous, even if men do not realize it. The "humor" of male dominance has been falling out of favor for a long time, but the workplace should be free of jokes about big dicks and fucking (which itself is a typically male-inflected term, reflecting just how entrenched the male POV is in discussing even the most reciprocal notions of sex.) The dominant discourse about sex and male bodies is already inherently hostile to women; that can't change overnight, but reducing the profound impact sex and male machismo have on keeping women out of work spaces is to me an important and immediate goal.

Seriously, I understand the tendency to minimize and say "why would a big dick joke make a young girl feel alienated from an entire field of work? That's hyperbole," ... but I can say from experience that it has a deep effect on a young girl to first notice a male-dominated culture of sexual machismo in a field she previously felt was wide open to her. It is discouraging and alienating and to be honest, unsettling and vaguely threatening. If you think I'm being a hyperbolic feminist bitch, you are thinking the same of my 14-year-old self.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:03 PM on March 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


Does it change anything that it was a woman whose presentation that was?

I think it lessens the severity compared to a presentation by a man, but still places pressure on women to play along despite their gut feelings of alienation, domination, &c. I still find it extremely inappropriate. Both due to the effect on women and men in the audience who would find it alienating-- because I also know at least several men who would be very uncomfortable with porn references at work.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:08 PM on March 21, 2013


"klangklangston: People beat each other up on the schoolyard because they feel impotent in real life or at home, and express it, it's an analogy. This new form is different from historical trolling, but I call it trolling, if you want to classify it as another word, you're welcome to. My intention when calling it trolling is, it due to its similarity in creating a lot of infighting and conflict online intentionally, which the tumblr-social-justice and MRA types do. I used trolling because the social fallout was similar, but if there's a better concise word, I'd use it."

People beat each other up in the schoolyard for all sorts of reasons.

If you call it trolling, you're inventing a special use and by doing so muddling all sorts of things together. There's no way to come up with any valid conclusion based on a special use of trolling and also conflating bullying, public consequences, trolling, tumblr-social-justice and MRA.

So maybe think about what you really want to communicate and leave out trying to come up with categories of offense based on inflammatory language.
posted by klangklangston at 10:10 PM on March 21, 2013


The word "shaming" is doing a lot of work in this discussion (both here and on the wider internet), and I'm not sure I understand exactly what is meant when it's used in this context. "Public shaming" even made it into the new PyCon CoC in response to this incident. What exactly is implied by shaming, public or otherwise? Where's the line between shaming and just calling somebody out for doing something problematic?

Shaming, or more appropriately, bullying is the proper terminology, because she took their picture and reposted in front of a large Internet mob.

She wasn't calling the two men out in order to correct their behavior. If she had, she would not have reposted their photos without permission. She would have discussed their behavior with them like a normal adult. Or she would have discussed their behavior with the PyCon moderators like a normal adult.

Instead, she did anything but what normal, adult, mature human beings do when initially confronting rude behavior. Specifically, she preemptively escalated her response by posting the photos to evoke a typical mob response from the thousands of people who followed her social media feed.

She did this because, as she well knew from her experience as a public relations staffer, she could count on those people acting in typical mob fashion, amplifying her fake outrage through various Internet social networks and press outlets.

She didn't count on the Internet mob she invoked from turning on her, but getting herself fired makes her initial behavior no less public shaming or bullying.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:10 PM on March 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


Maybe she did it because she was pissed off and sick and tired of men acting like douches at work. Also, maybe not every "outrage" felt by a woman is fake!
posted by stoneandstar at 10:12 PM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


I don't think you're being a "hyperbolic feminist bitch" at all. I agree, "big dick" jokes, telling someone to "man up" or "brass balls", or EVERY rape joke EVER is not okay and should not be made in any conference environment or workplace. I genuinely think those are issues that are commonly ignored by people who care and should speak up more. I think the end result of what happened in this case probably hurt those that want to raise their concerns more.

My concern is the MRA crowd has created and fostered a negative reputation Nash Equilibirum for those who wish to speak out. Before, people "on our side", would publicly shame others' reputation, and it would get results. Now, MRAs have wised up and are using similar tactics, creating a mutually assured destruction. Because the MRAs don't have social capital, sullying their reputation isn't important, so they intentionally create an environment where raising issues via social media mob justice creates a net negative Nash Equilibrium for the reputation of both sides, but the MRA is winning out because it discourages women from speaking up on real issues. Ignoring MRAs won't solve that problem, to do so would be missing the forest from the trees.
posted by amuseDetachment at 10:15 PM on March 21, 2013


Also, maybe not every "outrage" felt by a woman is fake!

Not every outrage felt by a woman is fake, no. But if she uses the same demeaning language she is "calling out", that makes her outrage fake, to me, even if some want to make excuses for her own shoddy public behavior.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:16 PM on March 21, 2013


Hey though, to clarify my precise feelings about a woman making a "money shot" reference at work-- if I admired her, I would have very conflicted feelings about whether or not my feelings of alienation and shame were "wrong," which is already creating a profound conflict for me at work specifically because I am a woman-- women being continually placed in situations where they must decide whether discrimination is real, worth speaking up about, crazy, &c. Women not only put up with hostility and alienation, but unless they are exceptionally strong, they are in a constant loop of self-doubt about it.

If I didn't know the woman from Eve, I would most likely still feel pressure to be "cool" and "one of the guys," no matter how long ago I would like to say I grew out of that kind of peer pressure. The point being that as a woman, I would go through a mental reckoning, no matter how momentary-- one that most likely, a man would not. So in that way I think it's very possible for women to perpetrate sexual hostility toward other women in the workplace without directly sexually harassing them or benefiting from it.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:18 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, the idea that she's anti-sex at all is completely ludicrous, and the fact that her objecting to what is a really colossally inappropriate "money shot" reference is characterized as her being a prude with personal failings is such an obvious instance of workplace hostility to women, I can't even really say more than that

I agree that criticisms of Adria focussed on supposed prudishness/anti-sex extremism are not well-grounded and off the mark - but Amanda Blum's description of a pattern of behaviour by Adria is not a criticism about alleged anti-sex prudishness, it's criticizing Adria for 1) choosing to go nuclear by publicizing damaging complaints about public events in an aggressive way rather than first trying to speak to the organizers behind the scenes to sort things out (in both the "money shot" and XKCD cases Amanda describes the speakers Adria is criticizing are women) and 2) what Blum suspects is a deliberate Adria strategy for using the public controversy she creates when publicly complaining to attract more of a social media following and increase her public profile.

I am pretty convinced by this perspective because it helps explain the way that Adria's donglegate blog post is written.
posted by Bwithh at 10:20 PM on March 21, 2013 [13 favorites]


I don't think that makes outrage fake unless you think that women have to be perfect to call out instances of inequality, or that let-he-among-us-without-sin applies stringently to issues of social inequality. I don't think her public behavior was exemplary, but I think she was right to be annoyed, even angry at two men acting inappropriately. Plenty of people cut people off on the freeway, but that doesn't mean their outrage is "fake" when someone else cuts them off.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:20 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Maybe she did it because she was pissed off and sick and tired of men acting like douches at work.

I think that is why she did this, but having an entirely legitimate reason to be outraged does not necessarily legitimize how you may express that outrage.

As a big kid who was socially bullied I appreciated the value of a punch as a much more effective resolution method than talking to a teacher, but if it meant blowback on me it wasn't really worthwhile. An alternative form of bullying isn't a good solution for bullying.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:22 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


While I was appalled by Richards' actions, I get no joy from the fact that she was fired. As others have said: everybody loses as a result of this drama.
posted by Broseph at 10:24 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Which is to say that she could very well be a publicity-mongering egomaniac but is still right that that kind of behavior is alienating both to women and to girls interested in entering the field.

I didn't say it legitimized how she expressed that outrage, but plenty of people think that because her actions were flawed, her outrage was fake/wrong/flawed/&c. The day when every woman can perfectly, un-self-interestedly, gracefully and kindly object to every instance of sexism they encounter in a day will be the day that sexism ends, I guess.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:25 PM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Speaking for myself, the repetition of "public shaming" is sort of reminding me of that Margaret Atwood quote about how men worry that women will laugh at them...
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:25 PM on March 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


I didn't say it legitimized how she expressed that outrage, but plenty of people think that because her actions were flawed, her outrage was fake/wrong/flawed/&c. The day when every woman can perfectly, un-self-interestedly, gracefully and kindly object to every instance of sexism they encounter in a day will be the day that sexism ends, I guess.

Yeah I'm with ya.
posted by Drinky Die at 10:26 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, it's so incredibly condescending to say "everybody loses" from the "drama" of a woman being angry about low-level sexism.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:26 PM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't think that makes outrage fake unless you think that women have to be perfect to call out instances of inequality

I don't know how to respond to this, because I never said this. I do think Ms. Richards' bullying speaks for itself, regardless of what excuses people continue to make for it. It's unfortunate she got herself fired, but she rose the metaphorical Internet Golem and it turned on her. Mobs are unpredictable like that. Hopefully, she learned to be a bit more careful about invoking an Internet mob as a response to dealing with behavior she doesn't like.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:28 PM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


My concern is the MRA crowd has created and fostered a negative reputation Nash Equilibirum for those who wish to speak out. Before, people "on our side", would publicly shame others' reputation, and it would get results.

This is a very rose-tinted version of the recent past. MRAs have maybe specifically become snakier as a group, but I don't think it poses a unique threat. Sexist men have always used these same tactics of indignation and so forth. I think the dominant culture is changing, and I think MRAs are dumbfucks but not much worse or virulent than the slowly fading misogynist dominant culture in general.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:32 PM on March 21, 2013


Blazecock, to stick more closely to your post then, you said that because she did something similar to the men she criticized, she could not be feeling outraged. I think that is an inexplicable and demonstrably untrue view of human nature; people are often hypocrites. That doesn't mean that their objections do not have a basis or that they do not feel them.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:35 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]



Also, it's so incredibly condescending to say "everybody loses" from the "drama" of a woman being angry about low-level sexism.


Except that's not what I actually said.

And I don't see what's condescending about pointing out that fact that the dongle joker, Richards herself, their respective employers, and a whole bunch of other people are worse off now.
posted by Broseph at 10:36 PM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Broseph:"While I was appalled by Richards' actions, I get no joy from the fact that she was fired. As others have said: everybody loses as a result of this drama."

Look, I agree that she made a stupid little mistake, but I think we need to keep some perspective and remember that it is a stupid little mistake people make every day. People forget that Twitter is public. That's not great, but it's also not something they deserve to be fired over. It's also not something that warrants the harassment she's experienced.

There's no indication that she was trying to get anybody fired; in fact, the accounts I've seen indicate that she was devastated when she found out that had happened.

It would be really cool if the Internet could learn to accept that people have suffered enough and to forgive them for their stupid little mistakes. I don't expect that to happen tomorrow, but I still hold out hope.
posted by koeselitz at 10:36 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I mean to be honest I've made stupid jokes that at the time I felt were kind of borderline sexist/misogynist and which I felt ashamed of, while also enjoying them and the social dominance they bought me. It's very exhausting to have your real anger called "fake" all the time because someone else doesn't sympathize with it, even if you have done stupid, contradictory, or hypocritical things in the past.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:36 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, it's so incredibly condescending to say "everybody loses" from the "drama" of a woman being angry about low-level sexism.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:26 PM on March 21 [+] [!]


oh, I read that as just Amanda Blum doing a bit of spin - a lot better than Adria did in her blog post, mind you, but still rather creaky with somewhat (YMMV) hammy appeals to universal in-a-perfect-world fluffiness. It's understandable why Blum is doing that though (she's upfront with the beef she has with Adria, but still has to manage our interpretations of her intent).

EDIT: oh, I thought you were talking about Blum's post. but I see now that maybe you were talking about something in the MeFi thread. oops, sorry.
posted by Bwithh at 10:37 PM on March 21, 2013


"Hey though, to clarify my precise feelings about a woman making a "money shot" reference at work-- if I admired her, I would have very conflicted feelings about whether or not my feelings of alienation and shame were "wrong," which is already creating a profound conflict for me at work specifically because I am a woman-- women being continually placed in situations where they must decide whether discrimination is real, worth speaking up about, crazy, &c. Women not only put up with hostility and alienation, but unless they are exceptionally strong, they are in a constant loop of self-doubt about it."

It's worth noting that "money shot" is the shot that takes the most amount of money to produce, i.e. the big pyrotechnic climax. Which was adopted for porn in an ironic way. So, if a woman makes a money shot joke, I don't necessarily assume it's a porn reference.
posted by klangklangston at 10:38 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


(Broseph: I think it comes down to what you mean by "this drama," which kind of makes it sound like you mean "everyone loses as a result of" Richards' actions. Which doesn't seem quite accurate to me; the firings were unforeseen by all.)
posted by koeselitz at 10:38 PM on March 21, 2013


So, if a woman makes a money shot joke, I don't necessarily assume it's a porn reference.

If you're talking about the talk I think you're talking about, the speaker specifically referenced "why you have to think like a porn director to get the money shot," in those words.
posted by KathrynT at 10:40 PM on March 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Broseph, it's condescending because women learn lessons about what speaking up means for their whole lives, and she is most likely devastated and unhappy-- but calling it drama that just hurt people like there was no real issue involved is blind. Almost no woman needs to be told that "everyone is worse off" when she speaks up about sexism-- she is probably well aware that the situation is going to be a shitstorm. If I were angry about sexism and spoke up and the situation were botched, by me or another party, the very very last thing I would want would be someone wringing their hands about how I should have been quiet because, I don't know, I am just a harbinger of doom? O woman, thy name is chaos.

klangklangston, possible but very unlikely, in my opinion.
posted by stoneandstar at 10:41 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Note: a few comments deleted upthread. Don't make personal insulting comments about other users.]
posted by taz at 10:44 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Koeselitz: Did you miss the part where I said I took no joy in her firing? I'm pretty much in full agreement with your last paragraph also. And the harassment, death threats, rape threats, etc are disgusting and completely undeserved.

I should probably clarify that what I was appalled by wasn't that she got offended, wasn't appalled by the fact that the guy got fired (which wasn't even her doing), but the whole photo-on-twitter thing and her conduct after the incident. Making it into a hyperbole-loaded hero story about herself on her blog (which is down now, as far as I know, but I hope people read it), comparing herself to Joan of Arc, etc. I haven't read any of the accounts you speak of where she was devastated. She seemed pretty unrepentant on her blog, but I can't remember if that was written before, or after the news of his firing became public.
posted by Broseph at 10:46 PM on March 21, 2013


"If you're talking about the talk I think you're talking about, the speaker specifically referenced "why you have to think like a porn director to get the money shot," in those words."

Yeah, you're right. I'd missed that earlier. The quote actually is "… how thinking like a porn director will help you be sure to achieve the 'money shot.'" So the porn context is there.

(I will say that the people who make porn — directors, camera ops, etc. — tend to be pretty good at their jobs, and if you're making short digital video, they're people who do it professionally all the time.

I'll also note that if the Blum post is accurate, again, Richards didn't talk that through with the people putting on the conference.)
posted by klangklangston at 10:51 PM on March 21, 2013


On a psephological note, I don't think there was a mob, exactly, on the 18th March - the idea that she is being consumed by her own magefire is poetic but I think inaccurate.

There are maybe 3-4 comments and replies to each of her posts on the day. It is only after that, and some time after that, that things go crazy - specifically when the reports started coming in that Playhaven had let an employee go, and when that spread from HN to Reddit and 4chan.

I know there is some fairly elevated phrasing in her blog post, but I doubt anyone with social media experience would imagine that the percentage of less than 10,000 Twitter followers who could be interested in getting involved would constitute a mob. To have a proper Twitter storm, you need a Stephen Fry figure - someone with a million or more followers, and with followers who are unusually emotionally involved with them - to act as a signal booster.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:57 PM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


but calling it drama that just hurt people like there was no real issue involved is blind.

Yeah, well... didn't do that either.
posted by Broseph at 10:59 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Shit like this is annoying and insensitive and all around shitty. I don't think the comment was sexist in the audience, but this comes of as gloaty and offensive. Girls Who Code should refuse their money.
posted by amuseDetachment at 11:04 PM on March 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Adria Richards, PyCon, and How We All Lost"
—amandablumwords.wordpress.com
posted by blueberry at 11:04 PM on March 21, 2013


Look, I agree that she made a stupid little mistake, but I think we need to keep some perspective and remember that it is a stupid little mistake people make every day.

True enough, except that the same generosity isn't always being extended to the two guys who were plastered as sexists. Their mistake wasn't posting a shaming picture on the internet, it was to swap personal, juvenile jokes in a public forum.
posted by gadge emeritus at 11:11 PM on March 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


And those jokes were not sexist!
posted by Malor at 11:16 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Broseph: “Koeselitz: Did you miss the part where I said I took no joy in her firing? I'm pretty much in full agreement with your last paragraph also. And the harassment, death threats, rape threats, etc are disgusting and completely undeserved.”

Well, I was mostly trying to say what I think stoneandstar was getting at; I think it might have seemed like an implication in what you said, though I don't know that you meant it at all.

“I should probably clarify that what I was appalled by wasn't that she got offended, wasn't appalled by the fact that the guy got fired (which wasn't even her doing), but the whole photo-on-twitter thing and her conduct after the incident. Making it into a hyperbole-loaded hero story about herself on her blog (which is down now, as far as I know, but I hope people read it), comparing herself to Joan of Arc, etc. I haven't read any of the accounts you speak of where she was devastated. She seemed pretty unrepentant on her blog, but I can't remember if that was written before, or after the news of his firing became public.”

First of all, we should note that she hasn't said a word in public since the firing was even hinted at. The account I was referring to was this tweet:
For the record, @adriarichards called me, SICKENED, the night she saw one guy got fired. It was not her intent. She was not happy.
This seems plausible to me, not least because, as I said, we haven't heard from Adria Richards since the firing(s) came out.

Second, honestly if there's anything I was reacting to in your comment it was the word "appalled." I think all we can say here is that she really didn't think about what it meant to publicly identify these guys. I don't see any evidence that she intended to shame them – only to identify them to PyCon organizers (which was in her rights, and which was frankly probably the best thing to do.) And if this lapse - the misunderstanding of the public-ness of Twitter, and the mistaking it for a catch-all response tool designed for quick communication in all situations - is something that appalls us, then we'd have to be appalled all day, every day, because this is a thing that happens constantly. I don't think it's fair to paint this as a great moral lapse when it's such a common mistake.

But honestly, Broseph, I'm reacting to a single word in your comment, so I appreciate that I'm probably reading a bit into it that you might not have been actually saying.

me: “Look, I agree that she made a stupid little mistake, but I think we need to keep some perspective and remember that it is a stupid little mistake people make every day.”

gadge emeritus: “True enough, except that the same generosity isn't always being extended to the two guys who were plastered as sexists. Their mistake wasn't posting a shaming picture on the internet, it was to swap personal, juvenile jokes in a public forum.”

I think that saying anybody was "plastered as sexist" in this situation is inflammatory and not helpful. Even Adria Richards didn't "plaster" anyone as sexist. She reported an incident that was clearly against the PyCon guidelines. You may disagree with the guidelines, but this incident was against them. Adria Richards happened to report this incident in the absolute worst way possible, and in making that mistake she inadvertently triggered an unfortunate chain of events. But I have not read any account anywhere that ends up painting these two guys as egregious sexists who must be stopped. You're free to correct me if you've seen that happening, but until I see it, I'm going to say that it's inflammatory to suggest that happened.

Malor: “And those jokes were not sexist!”

Did you miss the interesting part where nobody said the jokes themselves were sexist?

Jokes like this are not inherently sexist. Hardly anything is inherently sexist. Baking pies is not inherently sexist; women staying home and cleaning and mothering is not inherently sexist; wearing an apron is not inherently sexist; liking particular sex acts is not inherently sexist. What makes these things sexist is the context in which they occur.

What makes this sexist is that it creates an environment where there's a demand placed on women (and men) to put up what has historically been a way of framing women out of the equation. Yes, dirty jokes like this have historically been used as an exclusionary device intended to mark the conversation as "for men" and "not for women." I know older men who are otherwise quite equitable who still feel like it's necessary to observe "not around the ladies" rules. And I'm not the only one to point this out in this thread; olinerd said it above better than I can:
I'm a woman in engineering. I'm one of the "cool" girls. I swear and I laugh at dumb inappropriate jokes and i proudly wear our (old, from startup phase) company shirts that say "when size matters" showing the different sizes of our phallic-shaped equipment. But I swear and I laugh and I wear that shirt in the small group of friendly coworkers with whom I am very socially comfortable. When I get the Beavis and Butthead chuckles from those I am not friendly with, it is tiring as all fuck. I don't care about the etymology of the word. I don't care how well-known the word is in the industry jargon. I don't care. What I care about is when I am using the professionally-accepted jargon, someone is giggling at me going "heh heh you know what that sounds like you're saying" because it is immature, distracting, and undermining to me when that's what people are paying attention to when I speak.
As she says, these aren't inherently sexist things to say. What's sexist is the environment that is created when we force them on people and demand that they accept all the implications of that environment.
posted by koeselitz at 11:33 PM on March 21, 2013 [18 favorites]


Thanks for your thoughtful and well-reasoned reply, koeselitz. I don't really have much to add, but I appreciate it.
posted by Broseph at 11:38 PM on March 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


What could we have done differently to make you not feel this way?


Pycon did everything right, as far as we know. Somebody complained, you took the complaint seriously, talked to the people she complained about, they apologised, shit was done. Everything else was outside of Pycon's control and not their fault.

In an alternate universe, where Adria Richards had written a blogpost that focused more on the handling of this case, rather than on the offenders, it might've been held up as a great example to other technical cons.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:44 AM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]




koeselitz: I completely understand that sentiment and would usually agree, however in the circumstance cited, I don't consider it an issue. Now, I do agree that in most circumstances, making sexual jokes is usually sexist and shouldn't be acceptable in any work environment, as I've said above. Further, with respect to the specific comment you quoted from olinerd, I would agree that the comments to her were overwhelmingly likely to be unacceptable as well.

However, I'd like to clarify my thoughts, I'm not sure we will ever see eye to eye on this issue, so I'm saying this less to convince you than to express my point of view on why "I'd like to fork his repo" not on the same level as your examples, so you can see at least see where someone who empathizes with feminist causes (but nonetheless has no problem with that comment) comes from. I don't believe that sexual talk as a priori is sexist, nor sexual talk in an environment with women around is necessarily sexist (but it usually is). I think our difference lies in the importance you place on environmental context. I believe that an overwhelming majority of sexist comments said in the workplace are unacceptable no matter whether women are present. Using the phrase like "grow some balls" in private company is sexist no matter which gender is listening. Put simply, it perpetuates gender oppression and I'm sure nearly everyone here agrees that such language abhorrent in the workplace (even though it's common). Those jokes are inherently sexist.

Harm from creating an environment which accepts sexual oppression is fairly obvious when telling someone to "grow a pair of balls". Going from that towards one in which harm occurs due to a hostile environment due to talk from a sexual nature is something I've thought about. After all, if I believe that it's inappropriate to make sex jokes at the work place, it's probably inappropriate to make sex jokes amongst mixed company of friends and acquaintances. Nowadays, I certainly wouldn't tell a friend to "grow a pair".

On the other hand, I would have absolutely no problem making sex jokes amongst mixed company of friends and acquaintances on the same level as "Fork his repo". In a perfect world in which genders are treated equally, "I'd like to fork his repo" is not inherently sexist. In a prefect world in which both genders are treated equally, someone coming in and saying "grow a pair" is still sexist.

However (!!!), the case for avoiding it is that women cannot make jokes in the same way. I would agree, and that part is problematic. Sexual objectification, sexual capital, and slut shaming are massive problems, and those issues are what women face whenever they make sex jokes. That part is absolutely a problem and must be rectified. Whenever someone makes a sex joke on the level of "I'd like to fork his repo," I can understand why some would be uncomfortable that they cannot socially make the same jokes, that create a discriminatory environment in which women cannot be as chummy and jovial as their male peers. My issue is that anything but avoiding any sex talk at all would be sexist is too much. Not to mention it's a bad solution because those underlying issues will remain. It would be preferable in which both are accepted and women are not slut-shamed for making sex jokes. I'd also like to add that this situation would be entirely different if the group already makes sexist jokes (in the class/level I've given above), and made non-gendered sex jokes on the level of "I'd like to fork her repo." Within that context, it'd be offensive and with those men proving to be sexist, probably make those comments sexist as well within the context and environment.

I think the primary difference in our opinion lies in the fact that this contextual requirement is an issue, if I can project your opinion (do correct me if I am mistaken), that the tech community has proven to be sexist as a group and therefore any sexual comments represent the comments of a group that tends to be sexist. Even if sexual comments are not directly sexist on a systemic level, they're still problematic because the group has proven to be without trust in this matter. I take a different view in that individuals in the tech community cannot be automatically assumed to be sexist. I'm pretty sure many of us would feel differently if she had outed people who were sexist (in my criteria above), and then later overheard someone else saying "I'd like to fork his repo." I'm sure she's faced many sexist comments in the past, but our difference lies in whether to ascribe systemic sexism to individual tech communities or the tech community as a whole. Perhaps I am naively optimistic in that way of thinking, but it is something with which I've given some thought, I'm fairly sure we'll never agree, though.

To me, the test of a community is whether it slut-shames, objectifies, or treats woman in a different way when a woman makes a sex joke. That is where I believe the problem actually lies. I don't see it in the sex joke itself. I would concede, however, that it's much harder to call someone out on that, I don't have a solution. I also don't consider publicly shaming men whenever they make sex jokes as an appropriate solution either. I'd like to also emphasize that we agree that it's probably impolite and not professional to use sexual language because people might be offended, and therefore should not be used for that reason (from my vantage point, I can see that religious people would get offended too). I think we'd also both agree that it'd be nice if a conference, as a policy, discouraged making sex jokes and sex euphemisms (at least insofar as it isn't germane to the presentation or discussion).

Sorry for the long reply.
posted by amuseDetachment at 2:16 AM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Afroblanco:"I'm 100% in the anti-Adria camp, but I gotta ask : what the hell is up with the people who post the rape threats and death threats? Seriously. Like, I want to know what makes them tick. Who are these people?
Sad to say, but I think they're our plumbers, our builders, our butchers, our waiters, our colleagues, our bosses, our teachers, our uncles, our cousins, our nephews, our brothers, our sons, ...

Anonymity brings out the worst in people.

Incidentally I much prefer the older meaning of troll (and of hacker), the kind of single-post snowball-effect threadshit that was occasionally elevated to an art form. In this story, the perfect troll would have been if that guy saying he lost his job was a fake - but sadly that appears to have been true. Bullying is different and never approaches artistry.
posted by dickasso at 2:30 AM on March 22, 2013


what the hell is up with the people who post the rape threats and death threats? Seriously. Like, I want to know what makes them tick. Who are these people? Why do they do what they do? Are they actual psychopaths who would like to rape or kill her? Are they 12-year-old boys who don't know the meaning of their words? Are they just random assholes who think it's funny? I'm serious. Who are these people? Why do they do what they do?

Why do people wipe shit on bathroom walls? Have you ever looked at the hate mail section of the Daily Koz? Who knows? I view it as a complete side issue.
posted by bongo_x at 2:32 AM on March 22, 2013


I find it odd that people can’t see the difference between these two firings; One of them involved someone who’s job was to be a public relations expert, someone who handled a situation very poorly and publicly, and brought a shitstorm down on their company. Someone whose judgement in public matters seems very suspect at this point. That firing doesn’t seem odd to me.
posted by bongo_x at 2:37 AM on March 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


dickasso: The MRA crowd are doing the equivalent of a threadshit on the entire tech community by going after her. They're pretty damn close to trolling, they're intentionally causing mayhem and creating drama for their own entertainment. MRAs and tumblr social justice warriors do believe what they do (which is the one difference from traditional trolls), but they do it for the lols and "le epikkkk baits xD". I consider this single page selling a t-shirt a troll.

The reason I've been using the word troll is also because I'm very much averse to calling it bullying, especially amongst those who are not feminist. I agree that it's bullying, it probably is a more accurate term for what's going on here, but I fear that calling someone a bully means the next time someone raises issues with gender discrimination they get called out for being a bully. People that get trolled may be seen as foolish. People that get bullied are often called victims. I don't want MRA types to consider themselves a victim (any more so than they already see themselves) when someone raises sexual/gender discrimination issues.
posted by amuseDetachment at 2:47 AM on March 22, 2013


Yeah, that's it - they believe what they're saying, so it's not trolling. The skill in trolling comes from crafting the perfect believable-yet-utterly-objectionable opinion and expressing it in the most inflammatory way. These guys are only half way there - that makes them assholes, not trolls.

Of course in the new broader definition (sigh; I hate broader definitions, what's the point in having a good word if we make it mean the same as other words?!) everybody who types a mean thing on the internet is a troll, so fine, they're trolls now and the 'art' which I spoke of is nameless again.
posted by dickasso at 3:23 AM on March 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


It appears as though who misuse your prescriptivist application of the word troll are inadvertently trolling you on an epic scale.

Seriously though, saying they're similar in their end goals and to associate them with trolling is reasonable, especially because they take up the cause as a convenience. That they agree with their stated pitchforking is coincidental and convenient. Are they what one would traditionally call a troll? No. I think we're in agreement there. I'd just like to use a word other than bullying is all.
posted by amuseDetachment at 3:35 AM on March 22, 2013


Women aren't equal until we can speak freely without being threatened with violence and violation -- but we also aren't equal until we can make mistakes without having them minimized, explained away, and desperately mined for tiny slivers of acceptable intent. Because we're grown up people. We're full moral agents. We're supposed to think before we act, and stop before we go too far, and apologise when we are wrong. Richards had a point, but she behaved poorly and recklessly, and apparently not for the first time. You need not take a blowtorch to a spider, especially if you live in a house of straw.

The threats against her are horrifying, frightening and outrageous (and sadly, not surprising). The things she did and said are nothing in comparison. I still think, though, that they are quite bad compared to the behaviour she was actually calling out, and that not wanting to hurry past that on the way to a more comfortable discussion about how bad sexism is and how women should be able to say so is not the same as not understanding or agreeing with those two things.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 4:58 AM on March 22, 2013 [31 favorites]


I feel it's worth pointing out here that she was apparently distraught that anyone had been fired, and immediately expressed her hopes that he be reinstated on Hacker News also

That is all well and good, but for a couple of days, she forgot that the guy "existed," just as for a while she forgot that Amanda Blum's conference an her obligations to the commitments she made at the conference "existed." Instead, they were merely fodder for her blog and a means of promoting Adria Richards™.

There's a certain genre of blogs that seems to draw traffic to themselves by pointing their readers to an "outrage of the day," and based on Amanda Blum's experience, this seems to be Richards' stock-in-trade. And it's one thing to trade in "outrage-of-the-day" blog fodder from other bloggers or random situations, but in this case she turned her professional life into a forum for generating "outrage of the day/two minutes of hate" material.

As far as the threats directed at Adria, this is a pattern and a sign that we are quite simply horrible people. Zeina Maxwell (warning: offensive language) received an avalanche of them for saying that men should stop rape while on the Sean Hannity show. This happens time and time again and for women, and it's repulsive. But somehow it's considered semi-acceptable behavior online. It's not going to stop until it's treated by the legal system on the same criminal level as calling someone up and threatening them. People are doing this, and there are enough of them that we probably socially overlap with them in some way but don't realize it.
posted by deanc at 5:08 AM on March 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


One of the things about MetaFilter that annoys me is its inability to ignore trolls. Stop posting about the damn Westboro Baptist Church, for instance. Ditto harping on "MRA" in this thread as if it's an actual thing. Yes, a bunch of idiots said horrible, sexist things about Adria Richards and called for her to be fired. And yes, she was fired. No serious adult thinks these two things are linked.
posted by cribcage at 6:52 AM on March 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


And don't get me wrong -- I still think what Adria did was wrong and she deserved to be fired. But people shouldn't be able to get away with rape threats or death threats. If you did that in real life, you'd get arrested. I don't think the Internet should be any different. People should get arrested for rape threats and death threats. It should not be a part of the conversation.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:00 AM on March 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Look, responding to situations you're offended by in an unnecessarily public fashion, it's not the best way you can spend your time. Using your offense to spark controversy and draw attention to yourself is a tactic plenty of people who mean well stumble upon, because they think, "As long as I'm drawing a crowd, that means I'm starting a conversation and making people feel like this is more okay." That is a problematic way of thinking, not in the least of which is because not all conversations are created equal, but it is an understandable one, and not exactly one where there's a rulebook explaining why don't do that.

The responses to Adria's unnecessary public tweet have been an increasing shitshow of awful. That guy at the conference shouldn't have been fired. Period. Lectured, sure. Told by his company that he was on thin ice and don't do it again, why not. Fired? Well, that was bound to turn a public spectacle even more spectacular.

Adria's firing I understand. But I wish it hadn't happened, because, again, all it's going to do is inflame the situation further. I do feel that companies have certain responsibilities to their employees, and firing Adria in the middle of the backlash she was receiving was not the right move. Maybe they could have quietly let her go a month or two from now, if they really felt like that was necessary – and from the way she acted during this situation, maybe she's not the best evangelist in the world. But firing her publicly while the backlash is in full force is kind of a shitty thing for a company to do.

All of this pales to the responses Adria's received, however, and you can oppose her actions/personality as much as you like and still feel like she's getting the shit end of this deal. Nobody deserves rape threats, let alone as many as I'm sure she's getting. That is beyond the pale. No amount of obnoxiousness, inappropriate public shaming, or what-have-you should warrant a response like that. It's not okay when people send rape threats to Ann Coulter, and if you think Adria is a tenth the horrible nightmare that Ann Coulter is you've got another thing coming. So, I feel bad for her.

Another thing: this detached observing-and-judging that we're doing of Adria's actions, this talk of what trolling and shaming are and whether she crossed a line... can we cut that shit the fuck out? It is very, very hard to understand your own public persona. It is even harder to control your public actions when you're being thrown into an emotional wringer AKA thousands of people screaming hate at you. I think we should find it a lot easier to accept that people make mistakes sometimes than we're doing right here. Adria made a mistake, cool. She didn't get that guy fired – that guy's stupid company did that. Adria posted some silly things on Twitter – believe me, I see a lot worse posted from radical liberals on my Facebook feed, what she said barely twitches the meter. This doesn't make her an awful horrible person, and I think that anybody with any meager amount of sympathy can see that she is currently in a terrible situation. It would be nice if we could accept the ambiguity of human nature a little bit instead of jumping to condemn somebody whose intentions were, at the very least, good-ish.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:00 AM on March 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


Ditto harping on "MRA" in this thread as if it's an actual thing. Yes, a bunch of idiots said horrible, sexist things about Adria Richards and called for her to be fired. And yes, she was fired. No serious adult thinks these two things are linked.

Except here's the thing:

– MRA is an actual thing, and it is big. No, not many people identify directly with the MRA movement, but many people read what they're about and go, "Huh, that makes a lot of sense," and then walk about talking about how women are greedy and want an imbalanced system that favors them and how men are so so so sooooo oppressed in today's day and age. I know many of people who think their take on feminism is the correct one. I thought they had a good point for a long while – in fact, when I joined MetaFilter in 2009, I still felt like feminism was a deluded cause. It took a long time to rethink that particular idiocy. So, yes, this is a movement that needs to be paid attention to.

– Nobody will think "oh this company fired Adria because we said sexist things about her." They will think "oh Adria was fired because all of the horrible sexist things we said about her were accurate." This will confirm, for many people, that complaining about sex jokes in a professional environment is stupid, harassment is nonexistent, and women generally don't understand equality. Don't believe me? Read one of the ten thousand Hacker News threads in which that's one of the main stances being taken.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:05 AM on March 22, 2013 [20 favorites]


It's interesting to me that her tweeting the photo is considered the main event here, and the relentless online bullying she received in response is the sideshow. It really is as though you guys were saying, well, yes, rape and murder threats, that's just the web, but somewhere a woman tweeted a photo, and that's what we should be discussing.

I don't think the rape and death threats are a sideshow. They're the show. I don't know why we're expected to ignore them as trolls and just continue spending hundreds of words of text discussing how she was a bully because she posted photos. She oughtn't have, but if she oughtn't have, this campaign of online bullying against her oughtn't have by a factor of a thousand. Why is her gaffe the focus while the actual crime of online threats is just what happens when you taunt the web community?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:14 AM on March 22, 2013 [18 favorites]


I get kind of annoyed when people throw you in with the MRA folk any time you say anything that isn't 100% the feminist party line.

I think Adria was in the wrong, and should have known what would have happened when she posted those pictures. Understanding social media was a big part of her job. At the same time, I think anyone who threatens another person with rape or murder should be arrested. I don't find any contradiction between these two opinions, nor do I feel like the MRA people are even all that relevant to the discussion.

(also, I'm beginning to feel like 'MRA' is a little like 'hipster' : something people are often accused of, and very few people use would use to self-describe)
posted by Afroblanco at 7:15 AM on March 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


two or three cars parked under the stars: “Women aren't equal until we can speak freely without being threatened with violence and violation -- but we also aren't equal until we can make mistakes without having them minimized, explained away, and desperately mined for tiny slivers of acceptable intent.”

I don't really think Adria Richards is in danger of having her mistakes minimized or explained away.
posted by koeselitz at 7:21 AM on March 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


I can't help but be disheartened to know that we live in a world where women should know that if they step slightly out of line in the online sphere, they will be besieged with criminal terrorism.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:21 AM on March 22, 2013 [12 favorites]


I think, Bunny, that for a lot of people now, the 4chan culture is old enough that it is the one with which people grew up. I mean, I started frequenting 4chan when I was 14 years old and a freshman in high school; I'm guessing that for a lot of people, it was a college thing that they stayed interested in throughout their professional lives.

The sort of 4chan nihilistic attitude is that you cause as much outrage and offense as possible, then laugh about it because nobody should take the Internet seriously. So the over-the-top-ness is part of the fun – if you can say something that's truly unsettling, then maybe you'll even get Oprah talking about 9,000 penises on national TV! None of those 9,000 penises are real, but unless you know about 4chan, you can't be sure of that. It's a secret little club dedicated to mayhem and "culture jamming".

That doesn't make it any less reprehensible, but I think that the reason a lot of people are treating these threats less seriously are that they're assuming they're being shot at Adria in the old 4chan tradition. They're a smokescreen to be ignored, not a serious indication of malicious intent. From that perspective, anyway.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:24 AM on March 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


That's a very easy presumption for men to make. It's much harder when you're a woman and you're raised in the shadow of the threat of constant and inevitable sexual violence. Whether or not these threats are serious, they are serious, if you see what I am saying. They function to terrorize, and the fact that a large group of men can say, well, that's just 4chan being 4chan -- frankly, that's a problem.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:28 AM on March 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


I didn't say that it wasn't. But that's why those threats are being minimized by such a significant audience.
posted by Rory Marinich at 7:29 AM on March 22, 2013


I'm surprised to find myself agreed with Bunny Ultramod that it's Friday, but he's 100% dead on here. There's no excuse. None.

And y'know, frankly, some of this behavior is criminal. If we want to move shit forward, I'd like to see some of the people making death/rape threats prosecuted for it. I don't understand why there's no will to do that. If anyone's going to be "shamed" I'd like to see some of these people shamed as they try to defend their threats in court.
posted by tyllwin at 7:41 AM on March 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't think anyone is saying "if you criticize women or feminists, you're an MRA". I haven't seen that here, and I certainly don't agree with the sentiment. But it's also silly to dismiss the MRA as a fringe extremist movement that's not really a Thing that no one really pays attention to. I honestly think that the MRA movement could end up becoming the Tea Party of gender politics. As Rory says, so much of what they parrot makes sense on the surface and so few people stop to think the implications through. I've had conversations with a family friend--a very smart, very kind PhD level scientist--who was convinced that his son was at a disadvantage compared to his daughter because the pendulum has now swung too far. Plus, men are the victims of domestic violence just as much as women, but we don't hear about it because FEMINIST OPPRESSION?! Sure, why not.

I've been more and more terrified of how frequently I see MRA-sown sentiment show up in otherwise reasonable places. A school newspaper at my alma mater writes a piece denouncing victim-blaming, and you get a comment section full of angry "of course we should blame the victim" and "women make up rape all the time". This is a newspaper that maybe gets three comments on a particularly contentious article on mental health. An otherwise unremarkable webcomic showing cartoon violence draws legions of commenters snarling about the oppression of men. The student association at Carleton University voted to basically eliminate their anti-discrimination policy because it was hostile to male supremacy and white supremacy voices. The University of Toronto has given free lecture space to a tenured MRA-sympathizing professor from the University of Ottawa who thinks that any discussion of misogyny (or race, or sexuality) is "victim studies", after a previously planned lecture by notorious MRA-author Warren Farrell drew protests by liberal students. (The MRA responded by launching a massive online harassment campaign against women who were present and made my friend's life hell for months on end. Their creeptastic diatribes are still the top search result for her name.)

I think it's important to pay attention to their development precisely because of this faux "both sides have merits" bullshit we get in the media. I want to loudly tell everyone who even has a passing familiarity with gender issues why exactly the movement is little more than homophobia, hatred of women, and traditional gender roles wrapped up in a cute acronym, because I want there to be no doubt in their minds about how credible the movement is when some dumb mainstream news outlet inevitably reaches out to A Voice For Men about why the feminists have gone too far.

So in this specific instance, yes, it absolutely is important to me that the MRA think they've won, that they have identified a power-crazed feminist and put her in her place. It's not as important as the fact that Richards was fired, or the other guy was fired, or that the tech community is set back once again when it comes to figuring out inclusiveness. But there are going to be reverberating effects from their involvement in this debacle in the future, and that sucks. As I said elsewhere, it absolutely sucks that the guy got fired. It also absolutely sucks that Richards got fired. But at the end of the day, the guy is a martyr, and Richards is fielding rape threats. At the end of the day, it’s female developers now and in the future who will be disproportionately harmed by this clusterfuck.
posted by Phire at 7:49 AM on March 22, 2013 [21 favorites]


It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. Like, it will be interesting to see what the non-tech world thinks about this.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:51 AM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


they're assuming they're being shot at Adria in the old 4chan tradition.

This also requires the assumption that the target of this harassment should know this, somehow, and share that feeling that it's all for the lulz. We deal with a lot of this "The internet's not serious" stuff here at MetaFilter too which has resulted in some (not much but more than zero) harassment of our mods, both male and female but mostly female. And in very rare situations we have to make a decision about whether banning someone is worth the almost inevitable personal harassment that would likely be coming from that user in that case. I've dealt with some creepy shit that I would love to have not dealt with.

But ultimately, I think this is like the "video games inure people to actual violence" argument that people here tend to dislike. People are responsible for understanding the difference between real violence and blowing up a cartoon character. People who are willing to harass and threaten Adria online are probably smart enough to not threaten the president or a female superior at work, most of the time. People know, they just don't care.
posted by jessamyn at 7:53 AM on March 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


I don't think anyone is saying "if you criticize women or feminists, you're an MRA". I haven't seen that here, and I certainly don't agree with the sentiment.

I've actually seen it quite a lot. It always seems to come up. Not quite as bad as Godwinning a thread, but in the same vein.

And it's a classic tactic for discrediting your opponent : compare them to the most extreme person who agrees with them. It's not cool when people do it to Feminists either.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:55 AM on March 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


I agree with the assessment that her tweet and blog post was really pretty limited in terms if reach. It was the 4chan and other boards that started pushing it. The over-reaction and threats are the story here.
It seems that we still live in an era where women have to report this behavior anonymously or face terrible personal risks.
posted by humanfont at 7:57 AM on March 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Well, in that case I'm sorry it happens, and I'm sorry if it happened to you. It's likely I don't notice it because I'm rarely in the position to be targeted by those comments (though I certainly experience plenty of anxiety about being called out for not being feminist enough), but I'll keep that in mind and try to call it out when I see it. Petty tactics like that don't help anyone.
posted by Phire at 7:59 AM on March 22, 2013


This also requires the assumption that the target of this harassment should know this, somehow, and share that feeling that it's all for the lulz.

To be honest, I think this gives too much credit to the participants in this discussion. Plenty of them don't care if Adria knows, even if she thinks the threats are real, and is terrified by them. Considering her as a human being with feelings is not their priority.

Again, I don't sympathize with that attitude, I was just presenting it for people here who might not be so familiar with 4chan's history of pulling mass threats like this, and who feel genuinely baffled as to why some people care more about the tweeting of a photo than about the rape threats which followed it. From one cynical-but-popular Internet lens, it's all about the lulz.
posted by Rory Marinich at 8:10 AM on March 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Afroblanco: “I've actually seen it quite a lot. It always seems to come up. Not quite as bad as Godwinning a thread, but in the same vein.”

My feeling is