The fight against ingrained sexism in tech culture is gruelling indeed; but what do you do when an off-color joke about "dongles" leads not only to internet drama, but everyone—including the claimed victim—getting fired? Ars Technica sums up "Donglegate". Adds Amanda Blum: everyone lost.


  1. Unless the comments were directed at her, “Miss Manners” should have minded her own business and stayed out of the conversation of others. Even in a public venue, common social courtesy and custom says you don’t listen in and then comment on a conversations you are not invited to participate in. If she’d done that in a restaurant or a church or a movie theater and tweeted about it, it’s a big “meh” to the Internet. But because she did it ostensibly on work time at a conference, everyone gets a smackdown. Guess what? It’s still a big “meh.” Everyone involved should learn better manners. And the Internet should unbunch its collective britches over this. (And while we’re at it, SendGrid should polish up its courtroom manners…)

    1. There are times when I think it would be appropriate to say something, even if it were a conversation I was not a part of. This wasn’t entirely a private conversation. Obviously, they were speaking loudly enough for those around them to hear what they were saying. If someone made a racist joke in that situation, I would definitely turn around and say something to them. I also would if they made a sexist joke, if that joke were truly sexist and not merely sexual. This sounds like it was a sexual joke. So to me, the problem is not that she should have minded her own business, but that 1) she should have realized the difference between sexual and sexist, and 2) she should have turned around and said something to them directly first. Then, if they had continued to make inappropriate jokes, she should have gone to conference organizers. Jumping straight to Twitter helped no one.

      1. Please give argument that what was said was sexist. Things of a sexual nature are not by default sexist.

        1. Danimagoo wasn’t claiming that the comments were sexist. In fact, a distinction was drawn between sex and sexism. That argument is an entirely reasonable one. From what I can tell, their comments were not of a sexist nature.

    2. You need to qualify that further. Let’s say the people at the restaurant table next to yours are spending the evening swapping racist jokes: would you still say and do nothing out of politeness?
      I would suggest that you’re broadly right as long as what’s being overheard also respects common social courtesy and custom, but context is everything: an overheard comment that would pass unnoticed in a bar might be outrageous in a kindergarten.

      1. No, I don’t need to qualify it further. This really is just an exercise in bad manners, where “bad” is a sliding scale. Where I’m from, uttering vulgarities in public is bad manners and socially should be ignored. It is just as rude to be a strident interjector in a conversation you are not a part of as it is to say naughty things that might be overheard by others they weren’t intended for. 

        If you are so offended as to find it completely intolerable, you should remove yourself from their proximity. Ask to be reseated in a restaurant, change seats on the bus, or move to a different location in the conference. Observant nerd boys with potty mouths should be able to take your departure as a clue that what they were saying was offensive and moderate their behavior. But that presupposes that they were raised with some semblance of manners in the first place, which is an increasingly dim prospect these days.

          1. PyCon came out this smelling like a rose and isn’t getting enough credit for having a process that everyone thinks was fair. They have now, in fact, updated their code of conduct to prohibit public shaming, too!

        1. You’re not a woman. Talk to a bunch about majority-male tech conferences. An atmosphere in which sexist jokes can be told in public areas of the event is just the same as directed sexual jokes or hostility.

          The conference handled it perfectly: when reported, they investigated, and even the guy who was fired believes they handled it correctly. He even apologized for one remark, but disclaimed any innuendo of the other.

          The muddiness is the public shaming, which gets more complicated, and I don’t support except in extreme cases.

          “If you are so offended as to find it completely intolerable, you should remove yourself from their proximity”

          Entire events are full of this. Maybe you should talk to more women about what it’s like. I have! It’s affected my opinion.

    3. Really? So if you’re in public, sitting right behind me, saying stuff that’s offensive, you’re telling me: get a thicker skin and ignore it?

      Why, that certainly sounds like a great way to improve the general atmosphere in technology that has led to such a ridiculous underrepresentation of women and minorities in our field. I think if I just ignore the actively-othering dialogue some magic fairy will come along and make it not exist anymore.

      Here’s a big pile of sand, I could stick my head in it for a while too. That’ll make everything better. Gritty eyes, but that’s the price you pay for ignoring what’s in front of you.

      1. She’s a woman. She should have kept her head down and mouth shut. How dare she overhear what two people in packed quarters are saying! If she didn’t think two men in a professional setting were being appropriate, she should have just left the conference. Not like she had a good reason to be there in the first place!

        ::sigh:: …and of course I need to add: /sarcasm

  2. I don’t think that Adria Richard style virtue police has much to do with feminism. But her tweet would have been meaningless without the firing of the guy.

    His employer didn’t even check the facts before dumping him like dirt.

    Hey, that-guy’s-employer! In this wonderful little adventure, you’re jerk in chief! 

    Hey other employees of that guys employer! You boss will treat you like human toilet paper! Get a raise or get out!

    1. In their defense, they now supposedly have implied there were other factors that led to his firing.  However, given the timing, it does seem like an example of throwing your employee under the bus.  Doesn’t sound like the kind of company I’d want to do business with.

      1. ” they now supposedly have implied there were other factors that led to his firing”

        I don’t believe them – it’s just covering their butt.

      2. To be sure, both SendGrid and PlayHaven are shitty user-hostile companies the Internet can survive without.

    2. Look what happened to SendGrid, they were DDoS’d mercilessly. Granted, I don’t think the white knights and feminist brigade rallying behind Adria Richards utilizes those kind of resources, but it comes across to me that he was fired as a preemptive measure to nip any bad press in the bud.

      1. She seems to have lost the trust of at least half of the developers out there. As her job was to engage with developers for the good of her (former) employer I find it hard to fault SendGrid for letting her go. As a friend put it: she shot her own career in the face.

  3. Uh, without the verbatim joke in question it is hard to argue one way or the other, but how exactly is a dick joke sexist? Are we now supposed to have equal gender representation in genitalia-related amusement? And how is anyone making borderline-offensive conversation going to make it impossible for anyone else to learn and enjoy anything? This story is about being judgemental and self-righteous more than having anything to do with sexism.

    1.  Uh, are you talking about the Boing Boing tag? Do you not think any sexism has played out in the aftermath?

      If you look at the first tweet (it’s easy, it’s shown in the linked Ars story), she complained that they were making sexual jokes. She didn’t say they were being sexist.

      Much of the controversy here is about whether overtly sexual statements are appropriate behavior at a professional conference, such statements don’t have to be sexist to be inappropriate.

      It’s sort of fascinating to watch it all play out. There is lots of apparent dishonesty in commentary, lots of people choosing to speak after doing little more than playing a game of telephone, and lots of people who seem to want to refuse to acknowledge, in any way, that it might be more worthwhile to include people that are not comfortable with dick jokes than it is to make dick jokes (obviously an individual is free to make this choice for themselves, but if the rest of the room disagrees with them, maybe they should go ahead and get their own damn room and go make dick jokes to the wall).

  4. I know “Donglegate” is supposed to be Dongle-Gate, like Water-Gate, but I can’t stop reading it as Donglegate, sounding like Congregate (the adjective, not the verb), and thus presumably meaning “of or pertaining to dongs”.

  5. Unfortunately, she does comes across as a self-important busy body with no sense of proportion. “I was going to let it go” to “I realized I had to do something.” The moment of decision came after seeing a picture of a young girl on the main stage who had attended a Young Coders workshop. “She would never have the chance to learn and love programming,” Richards wrote, “because the ass clowns behind me would make it impossible for her to do so.” Pure, unadulterated hyperbole. The jokes were lamely innocuous by almost any standard, and this could have been resolved sans tweet and public shaming. I want to be harder on the guys who made the jokes to begin with, but the problem is two fold: 1. I would have to hear what they said, and in what context. The double entendre of dongles and forking they were bandying about, seems typically geeky. 2. To what degree should we sensitize ourselves to potential slights? Is zero tolerance a necessary evil from here on out? Are all jokes to be filtered through a puritanical sieve? Ultimately, she dropped a very public time bomb that damaged careers and reputations.

     (The rape and death threats against this woman are reprehensible. No one deserves this kind of harassment, ever.)

    1. I agree completely with your point of view.  
      The woman needs to learn from the situation that she helped to create.  It is one thing to overhear a fool but something entirely different to be moved by fools.

      1. Exactly, she should have just kept her mouth shut. The lesson here is a woman should never express her opinion in public, it might get her fired.

        *edited for clarity

        1. Bullshit, she could also have asked to just tone it down.  They were entitled to their joke, as long as people around them didn’t have to suffer it as well.

          And it’s not because it’s a she, it could be a conservative older person as well.  Anyone with the maturity to be assertive, not vengeful

          1. No and no. The two men were *not* entitled to their joke since it clearly violated the PyCon code of conduct. Nor was it her responsibility to stop them/ enforce that conduct.

             I can’t and won’t defend her means of bringing it to PyCon official attention, but it was a valid choice to make over trying to stop them herself.

          2.  Replying to reallyniceguy:
            It is not hyperbolic, hypersensitive, or ‘desperate to be offended’ to point out the clearly defined rules. PyCon had a code of conduct that specifically said:

            “Excessive swearing and offensive jokes are not appropriate for PyCon.”

            Here, I’ll make it easy for you –

            I’m sorry you either can’t understand that or can’t read.

          3. ” Excessive swearing and offensive jokes are not appropriate for PyCon.”
            Whether it occurred here depends on where you place the braces:
            “Excessive (swearing and offensive jokes) are not appropriate for PyCon.”
            “(Excessive swearing) and (offensive jokes) are not appropriate for PyCon.”
            Even in the latter interpretation, you would have to work really, really very hard indeed to be offended by a dongle joke.

          4. Please, since mine and other women’s interpretations aren’t sufficient, what is appropriate? What would constitute ‘excessive’? I need to know what my opinions are allowed to be. Am I allowed to be uncomfortable about (offensive jokes) or just excessive (offensive jokes)? I certainly wouldn’t want to come to my own conclusion and be wrong.

    2.  Sure, she may have overreacted.  People overreact all the time in the heat of the moment.  She may not have overreacted – we didn’t hear the jokes or the context they were made in.  Either way, reasonable people don’t go firing staff over a thing like this – neither the accuser nor the maker of the inappropriate joke – unless it’s part of a longstanding pattern that’s making it seriously difficult to get any work done, and there have been repeated attempts to fix the pattern.

      What this mostly shows is that having any kind of good sense at all is not a requirement for being the CEO of a tech company.

      1. She overreacted. More despicable is that she used the girl as a shield when confronted with criticism. It’s the age old “Think of the childreeeen” weasel tactic.

        1. Yeah, that part really got me. “I was waiting for them to say one more thing in order for me to report them. They didn’t say anything else. But then, I saw a child. Unleash the hounds.”

        2. She overreacted in a relatively minor way, in the moment.  The people who overreacted in a really egregious way, and after they should have had ample opportunity to reconsider, were the employers.

          1. She overreacted in a relatively minor way, in the moment.

            If you read the Amanda Blum piece it appears that there was nothing spontaneous about her actions and that she’s an expert at disruption.

      2. It’s true that we don’t have all the information regarding what the men said, and in what context. On that account, I have to reserve judgement. Her personal feelings regarding their demeanor is entirely subjective. What she chose to do with those feelings(take a picture and broadcast recrimination to the world), was inappropriate, regardless the nature of their discussion. I agree that the employers made a grave miscalculation. 

        1. They are a company that bases it’s reputation and business on 100% uptime and availability. Her actions, which had nothing to do with her professional role even though she was a paid attendant at a professional conference, caused such a shitstorm that the company itself got DDOSed, bringing their servers down and causing real damage.

          Not just that, but she pissed off the devs she was supposed to be ‘evangalizing.’

          It was absolutely necessary to fire her for this incident. She acted unprofessionally in a professional context and brought totally unecessary trouble to the company.

          1. They are a company that bases it’s reputation and business on 100% uptime and availability.

            That, and spamming.

      3. Except it wasn’t the heat of the moment. She talked to the organizers “in the heat of the moment,” the guys were talked to and they left of their own accord. It was over until she got home later and decided to post the Twitter pic and her blog.

        EDIOT: The tweet was indeed contemporaneous, I was wrong, but I would say that the larger publicizing was not in the heat of the moment.

      4. The tweet may have been forgivable  The tirade of a blog post a few hours later though makes it clear that wasn’t just a bad choice she made in a heated moment. Her past behaviour, along similar lines, also shows a pattern to her behaviour.

    3. I think you can get a lot of internal context from her own statements, which might help explain the disproportionate response:

      “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.”… “Then it happened….The trigger.”…”I saw a photo on main stage of a little girl who had been in the Young Coders workshop.”

      Sounds to me like she was tired, stressed, probably jetlagged, and likely physically in pain to boot (A convention tour can really do a number on your feet, voice, back…) Then something upsetting happened, something that likely touched on a personal trigger, and her tired brain reacted with disproportionate rage. Her actions ended up ruining her career. They also trashed the career of a guy who was likely in the same sort of state (tired, stressed, not thinking all that clearly) and made a joke with all the menace of a 12-year-old laughing at the phrase “penal colony”.

      Her online history shows her to have been a very angry person, quick to find offense and lash out against anything that she thinks “put down” women in any way, often missing humor or satire that completely changed the meaning of what she was looking at (go read Amanda’s article for examples). I would be willing to bet she fantasized about taking this kind of revenge against sexist developers for a long time, and that situation was close enough to let her play it out.

      The lesson I would take from this? Try and rid yourself of unnecessary anger. Be more zen, because when you’re unguarded your recurring thoughts influence your actions, and if they’re angry this kind of stuff can be the result.

      (I completely agree about the threats she received  No matter what she did or didn’t do, those are out of line and have no place in a civilized discussion.)

      1. Thank you. This does help to contextualize what happened. For what it’s worth, I do feel bad for her. I think we have yet to come to terms with the power of social media. In the end, she is taking the brunt of it.

        1. Maybe she is, but if you look at everyone else’s attitude, they are all repentant (look at the dev that got fired, or the ways in which PyCon organizers tried to smooth the situation).

          She’s the only one that still seems to believe to have done no wrong.  Her and the companies that fired them both…

          No pity from me.

          1. The pity comes from the raging backlash she is in the midst of. Her response was disproportionate (in my opinion). The response to her actions via ‘the world’ has amped this up by an order of magnitude.

          2. She could have probably contained that all if she would have shown a bit of reflective quality. Her one post on the Hackernews post essentially was: “Well, there are consequences for your actions” to the guy who got fired over her tweet. 

            If she would have shown some kind of remorse / realization that she stepped way over the line the vast majority of people would probably have been way less aggressive about the whole thing. But she’s not and some of the online writeups are trying very very hard to paint her as the victim here.

        1. I’m quoting her too ;)

          “Yesterday the future of programming was on the line and I made myself heard.”

          It just gets worse as you read it. Her completely feigned self-examination rings so shallowly. Her justification just doesn’t hold water. She doesn’t seem able connect simple dots.

          It takes three words to make a difference:
          “That’s not cool.”

          Yep. That’s all she needed to do.

          “Live a good life then make room for others.”

          Yep. Even dudes making stupid jokes.

          And finally, this utterly ridiculous gem:

          I’d consulted in the past with an automotive shop that needed data recovery and technical support. I know what PCMCIA dongles look like.

          Ah. Clearly establishing she’s an expert on dongles. That justifies the whole thing.

          1. This part really got to me. Clearly she’s never seen the long USB dongles with a short length of cable that were common in the 90’s and 00’s, which is clearly what the person was referencing. There’s a reason they were called “dongles”: they dangled!

            Honestly I’ve never even seen a PCMCIA dongle before. I thought USB was pretty much the standard for things that require one.

          2. It certainly predates that — the earliest dongles I’m aware of are parallel port dongles for copy protection:

          3. Yeah, when I hear “dongle” PCMCIA is not the first that comes to mind–usb is, though I’m old enough to have used the parallel port dongles Alex Mauer mentions too. But you’re 100% right, they were called dongles because they dangle and the word pretty much demands a few “dirty jokes.

            And this all reminds me of of an old joke about floppy disks… One that I, as a woman, told dozens of times back when people still remembered what floppies were…

  6. What is so bad about the way she handled it is that the other guy in the picture she took was mistaken by many to be the guilty party.

  7. One thing not mentioned:  When we go to a conference paid for by our employer and wear a badge with our employer’s name on it, we are representing that employer and our words and actions can have in impact on our employer.

    And another thing:  In that tweeted photo, did you see any women?  They might be there, but man, that Python conference looks like what I’d imagine an Elk’s Lodge meeting looked like in 1953.

      1. Python, the language name, is a reference to Monty Python, a comedy troupe including 0 women and not unfamiliar with lewd references. We should have seen this coming.

        Next time: My father was NOT a hamster, nor did my mother smell of elderberries!

        I’d feel bad posting this without acknowledging that there is a lot of sexism in the tech world (or, big businesses in general). Also a lot of poor social skills. And I think we’re seeing a bit of both from everyone here.

        1. One truly unfortunate thing: the domain for the Python language is, but if you forget that and go to, you get something else entirely…

          These days the landing page just says “we’re not accepting new affiliates anymore”, but until a couple of years ago it went straight to a hardcore porn site specializing in guys with… you guessed it! Great big dongles!

    1. Yes, so maybe they should have toned it down. They made a joke of (arguably) bad taste. She shouldn’t have screamed at them, she shouldn’t have taken a picture, she should have quietly asked them to tone it down, or maybe to avoid conflict (doesn’t seem like she avoids conflict), she could have taken it directly to PyCon organizers to ask them to tone it down.

      Have you ever been to one such conference? There’s a bunch of people you want to network with, lots of boring talks (sometimes). It’s easy to get it wrong and offend SOMEONE. Everything pretty much offends SOMEONE. Politics, religion, sex, TV, child-rearing, social issues. If you open your mouth between sessions, anything that is not precisely technical will offend someone.

      1. She didn’t scream at them, but it’s funny that you got the impression she did even when it’s mentioned nowhere.

        1. She didn’t, I poorly worded it.

          I meant that keeping it discreet was a better solution making it a public issue by either screaming at them (which she didn’t), shaming them online (which she did).

      2. Isn’t that worth noting?
        In a world where 80% of conference attendees can feel comfortable making offensive comments?
        That right there is worth talking about, and not just by women, by everyone.

        1. As opposed to your suggestion of 80% of the conference attendees being able to feel uncomfortable saying nothing at all.

          There is a balance to be found, neither end of the spectrum feels positive to me.Again, I’m not saying she wouldn’ t be right to take the issue to them if she felt like it.  They would likely have toned it down or moved elsewhere.

          1. Again, I’m drawn into your world where 80% of the conference attendees WANT to be making offensive jokes.

            Is that what we’re arguing about?
            The right to be offensive?
            What world is that and how can I avoid it?

            I do not want to be at an event where 80% of the attendees are holding their tongues only because they know what they want to say is offensive.

            I would like to go to an event where everyone is free to say what they wish but no one wants to tell offensive jokes.

            Why are you fighting for the right to make sexual jokes over the right not to be subjected to sexual jokes? It’s an odd position to take.

          2. No, that’ s not what I said.  I said that you don’ t actually know what someone will be offended.  There is plenty of margin for error, and assuming people will be offended is almost as bad as assuming they shouldn’t be offended.

            The line is flexible, and with a bit of effort it can be adjusted.

            You are entitled to not have to suffer it, it’s just best done by communicating your discomfort at this particular subject.

          3. Replying up here instead of down there.

            “you don’ t actually know what someone will be offended.  There is plenty of margin for error, and assuming people will be offended is almost as bad as assuming they shouldn’t be offended.The line is flexible, and with a bit of effort it can be adjusted.You are entitled to not have to suffer it, it’s just best done by communicating your discomfort at this particular subject.”Why is the emphasis always on the person who might have “discomfort”? How hard is it to just be a nice and respectful human being and not make dick jokes? Is it actually that hard?

          4. Gus – fine, don’t use “dick jokes” the question still stands, how hard is it to just be nice and respectful and not say things that you know can be offensive? 

            And no, it’s not about “you don’t know what people will find offensive” it’s about what you know people will find offensive. 

            I’m not talking about the “million” things people get offended by, I’m talking specifically about making sexual jokes in a work environment. Thats not appropriate, full stop.

            I also don’t talk about many of those things you listed at work either, because it’s just not appropriate.

          5. Good for you that you don’t.  Work is one of my main sources of social interaction.  I do talk about most of these subjects.  When people signal they are uncomfortable, either verbally or otherwise, I take the subject elsewhere, either by closing the door if someone can overhear us, or going elsewhere, or dropping the subject altogether.

            I don’t do it to harass other people, and I tend to not make the same mistake often (things do slip up once in a while).  Any interesting discussion will have some level of friction, it’s just about seeing when friction becomes unwanted.

      3. she could have taken it directly to PyCon organizers to ask them to tone it down.

        She did, and they did. She didn’t post the pic and her blog until she got home later.

        1. Even worse! The issue was settled, the devs were chastised, and promised to tone it down.  Why bother?

          1.  EH is wrong. The tweet was pretty much right after the comments.

            Pycon can be seen contacting her in a reply to the tweet.

  8. Having read some of her history (from Amanda Blum) I partially blame the ego-amplifying echo-chamber that many blogs and online public forums have become. Surround yourself with enthusiastic echos that amplify your every expression and see how your sanity fares.

    1. I will admit, blogs and forums do seem to have cobbled together a donglegate culture of self aggrandizing.

  9. I’m not arguing for or against anything, but I know I’m not the only woman who feels a little more nervous in very-male settings when sexual jokes start up. I don’t think a lot of guys truly understand how many women go through life constantly making half-conscious “How likely is it that I’ll be raped or harassed right now?” calibrations.

    For me personally, men talking and laughing about sex or genitalia in a setting that has nothing to do with sex stuff raises my guard ever so slightly, in a way that might lead me to avoid whatever that setting was.

    Actually, it’s a pretty big reason I feel genuinely edgy about going to mostly-male technology conferences myself. It’s not that I think the guys have malicious intentions, but I just don’t want to be in an environment that’s always a little uncomfortable and gross to me.

    I don’t even identify as feminist, but I’d have to say that at about 80% of the mostly-male technology conferences I’ve gone to, at least one guy has said or done something professionally inappropriate to me that had a sexual dimension.

    I really dislike the website Jezebel, but they had a great piece awhile ago in which women commenters poured forth on all the restaurants, stores and other places they no longer visit simply because a male employee was slightly too friendly and it made them a little nervous. They knew perfectly well the guy was probably just being nice, but nevertheless, it raised their threat level too much.

    Sexual talk and jokes – even if the woman herself thinks they’re hilarious – definitely exist in a higher threat level than, say, jokes about pandas. I’m not telling people to not say sexual jokes (unless someone tells you it’s making them uncomfortable or upset, that is) – but I do think guys aren’t always aware that the funniness of sexual jokes can also be entwined with something more sinister when you’re a woman.

    It’s also worth a reminder that somewhere between one-in-three and one-in-five women are survivors of rape, so there’s actually a pretty high proportion of women out there who may be feeling extra threatened by sexual commentary at any given moment.

    *Note: I edited this comment because it took out my paragraph breaks.

    1. Do you really think she was likely to get harassed or raped sitting in the audience during a speech? I got the impression that those men were joking between themselves and she just overheard them. 

      1. Are you really so stupid as to ask this question?  Is English your second language?  I feel like you entirely missed the point of the comment you’re replying to.

        1. Indeed it is.

          I got the point but I think it’s hyperbole and so was my response. I understand that there are situations were women can feel threatened but a public conference is not such a situation. Harassment is real and no joke but I oppose the view that men are hormone-driven animals always preying on helpless women.

          1.  Thanks for your reply.  The point is that a public conference can be a hostile environment without being physically threatening.  The comment we’re discussing is an explanation for how this happens and how it affects people, it’s not hyperbole.

          2. I think ffabian’s comment is is that there must be proportionality on the response.  IF it’s emotional and unavoidable, you can fix it in yourself (take some therapy, most females I know, including an ex-girlfriend that was raped when young, do not feel threatned by a few jokes.  And when they do feel like a line has been crossed, they take charge and either ask people to tone it down, or leave if it’s useless (i.e. bunch of drunk idiots) or makes some jokes that make them unconfortable instead (easy to backfire).

            Being assertive without being an ass is a valuable art

          3. I’m glad I know now! Otherwise I might have felt threatened when I didn’t need to be! What a load off my mind! Now I can think about sandwiches and shoes!

      2. Hi ffabian. 

        For me, the way the “rape threat level” calibrator works isn’t that I think I’ll actually be raped at any moment. I might feel 2% threatened, and 98% safe. But I’d rather go to a conference where I’ll feel 0% threatened. That 2% may not make me scared for my life, but it does add a tension and ickiness that I don’t like. 

        It’s kind of like walking in a room where a bunch of people are wildly thrashing their arms around and smashing things. Let’s say you know from experience that there’s only a 2% chance that they’ll whack you (by accident or on purpose), but still, you probably feel more at ease in the room where everyone is standing around normally. 

        Also, if we only care about women feeling comfortable when they’re feeling 90% threatened that they could be attacked, I think that’s a low standard of caring. I’ve felt 90% threatened before, and I really thought I was going to vomit or piss myself from fear. I thought I’d be beaten or killed. I experienced that 90% threat level for only five or six minutes, but it was such a potent experience that I was still acting sort of weird for months after. So I hope most men care about women feeling comfortable well before their nervousness approaches that level of terror. In fact, I hope some men will even care about that mere 2% threat level that some women may feel from sexual jokes.

        A side factor is that when a guy doesn’t realize sexual jokes can make women nervous, or doesn’t care, I feel less comfortable around him. Doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy, but it adds a layer of ambiguity about how caring and respectful he’ll be around me, and I’d rather hang out with people where it’s less ambiguous. I’m lazy.

    2. As a man, it’s disturbing to consider that many women feel this way. It would be fair to say that we’re generally clueless regarding this aspect of our culture. Most of us ARE harmless, and it comes as a genuine surprise to learn how intimidating we can be.

      Equality. We’re obviously not there yet.  

      1. Not many. All.
        And especially when we’re in situations where we’re outnumbered 4:1.

        Remember, we’re all told, from childhood, to “be careful” at all times, lest we get raped and it’s our own fault. We are not taught that men are “harmless”, we are taught, over and over and over, that we’ll get raped if we’re not careful enough. 

        And frankly after reading the reddit rape expose, I’m not sure about the men that think they’re harmless…

        1. “Remember, we’re all told, from childhood, to “be careful” at all times, lest we get raped and it’s our own fault.”

          The statement that having to be careful to not get raped means that it’s your fault when you are, says something about our culture.  I’ve been thinking about this lately.  The notion that clucking our tongues about the Stubenville victim being blitzed.  I wouldn’t dare express the opinion that she shouldn’t have been there in public, because I know I’ll be shamed for my victim shaming.  I’m not meaning to blame the victim.  Rather, I’m just expressing my opinion that she shouldn’t have been there, blind drunk.  I also feel her attackers got off too light, and had no right to do what they did.

          I feel mothers and fathers should be teaching their children, explicitly, that rape is wrong, and that having sex with someone without consent is always wrong.  By the same token, I’ll be teaching my daughters to use some sense and stay out of situations where they don’t feel safe, just as I’ll be teaching them to look both ways before crossing the street, watch for cars when they’re riding a bike, and to lock the doors when nobody’s at home.  Not doing so would be as foolish as not taking security precautions on my computer, car, or home.  I mean, hey, I shouldn’t have to do it; why can’t people just be taught that stealing and hacking are wrong?

          tl;dr taking precautions is alway a good idea because people are terrible.

          1. People do suck.
            Jane Doe was at as a party of her friends and peers.
            The message still remains, be careful lest your friends rape you.

            Where is the message “don’t rape your friends”?

          2. ^ Yep.

            If she was at a party and someone slipped her a roofie would Shane blame her for putting herself in a position to be roofied?

            The default position should be not to rape and the onus put on us guys to not rape.  The way a guy wanted to stop one of his friends from driving home drunk but didn’t speak up when this girl was violated.  

            Drinking and driving was given a wink and nod for years but that changed.  We can do the same for harassment and rape.

          3. So… is it or isn’t it your (potential) daughters’ fault that they got raped if they are drunk somewhere where they, in your opinion, shouldn’t have been?

            The first thing the public does when rape happens seems to be… find out what the victim did wrong. Because if he or she hadn’t done that… they wouldn’t have gotten raped. D’uh! It’s so easy!

          4. Everyone is a rapist apparently, and the only solution is hyper-vigilance, you get raped, totally your fault, you fell asleep, no sleeping! Vigilant at all times! 

          5. I’m not meaning to blame the victim. Rather, I’m just expressing my opinion that she shouldn’t have been there, blind drunk.

            As long as you’re also buzzing around the internet saying the same thing about men, then no problem. Wait… what? This advice is only for girls? Well, that’s rubbish.

            And it doesn’t matter if you think that the advice is also good for boys if you never publicly express it.

          6. Since you’ve been cyber-stalking me, you know that I’ve been using gender-neutral language as often as I can, but to be blunt it tends to annoy both MRAs and feminists.

          7. It’s not a language issue. It’s the issue of whether anybody gives boys the same advice to never let down their guard for a moment.

        2. I have my daughters in mixed martial arts. I’ve tried to convey that most people are basically good, but one can never take it for granted. As for where the fault lies in regards to rape; it’s with the rapist. I would never teach my girls to believe otherwise. 

      2. There’s also times when we, and I mean all of us, see things through our own internal filters, and take offense when none was meant.  Sometimes we misunderstand things.  Allegedly some of the things the victim thought were said, weren’t said.  I hate to think what I’ve opened myself up to by saying that.

        As an example, I was just reading an interview with Spike Lee from around the time of Malcolm X.  Arguably Spike Lee has done a lot to raise awareness of important issues, but there was one point in the interview where Spike Lee and the interviewer were going to Brooklyn, called a cab, the cabbie acted disgruntled, and Spike took it to be a racial slight.  The interviewer lived there and shared, as an aside, that she often had to call for more than one cab before getting one that would go to Brooklyn, because cabbies really didn’t want to go there.

        And then there’s the opposite phenomenon that leads some of us guys to be able to stroll around a space that has “booth babes” without even realizing it’s causing anyone any discomfort, or white kids who like hip-hop to refer to one another as “nigga” without realizing the black kid in the corner might be really uncomfortable with white people using that word, even on other white kids.

        And then there’s the people who want to explore it, to take away its power…

        Man, the world’s a complicated place once we’re adults.

      3. If there are any other guys reading this who feel surprised and disappointed to learn about the rape threat level calibrator thing that many women have, and are interested in being more sensitive in this regard, I hope they’ll consider sharing this info with their male friends and family members. 

      4. The best thing you can do is start asking every non-cismale person you have some sort of trust with to share their experiences with this.  Will curl your hair for sure.  Just ask about public transportation, or just ask about elevators, or just ask about parking lots. The rape threat level is broadcast to women, trans people, homosexuals, people in police custody, etc. etc. as loudly and often as the terrorist threat level used to be at airports.  

        There’s this ‘warning’ thing many dudes tend to do, for instance.  Addressing a person who’s not a cis-male and reminding them how rape-able they are, but then that they will not be raped right now because whatever- sometimes more gory, sometimes less but the message of power and sexuality is clear.

        To be more specific, example taxi driver not long ago going on and on in the cab about ‘you really ought to be careful, you know most men would pull over and do all kinds of things to you right now, and you couldn’t do anything to stop them, but relax, I’m not going to do anything to you because I’m a gentleman, but most guys would look at that skin of yours, that figure of yours and just do whatever they wanted to you right now, while you’re all alone here in this cab, but I’m nice so you can relax.’  

        Or the public bus driver when I was the last passenger on board doing wheelies in a parking lot telling me how ‘I could do whatever I wanted to you right now and nobody would ever know-you couldn’t even do anything to stop me.’ It’s insane and fairly constant.  And then, even when you’re just in class or work and some dudes near you just HAVE to make sure you are fully aware of them and their schlongs, that they have schlongs don’t forget, schlongs schlongs schlongs, well . . .yeah, we know . . . ‘The current threat level is (pause) . . . ‘

        EDIT: this was a reply to Chris Warren’s earlier comment about “As a man, it’s disturbing to consider that many women feel this way. It would be fair to say that we’re generally clueless regarding this aspect of our culture. Most of us ARE harmless, and it comes as a genuine surprise to learn how intimidating we can be” – Disqus filed it wrong.

    3. Thank you for that.

      (also – what IS up with BB comments randomly losing their paragraph breaks?)

        1. My only hope is that when I die, I will also get logged off of eternal damnation upon entering my password.  

    4. “Sexual talk and jokes – even if the woman herself thinks they’re hilarious – definitely exist in a higher threat level than, say, jokes about pandas. I’m not telling people to not say sexual jokes (unless someone tells you it’s making them uncomfortable or upset, that is) – but I do think guys aren’t always aware that the funniness of sexual jokes can also be entwined with something more sinister when you’re a woman.”

      And from the guy’s perspective here, it doesn’t always dawn on the guy that they’re threatening anyone.  In fact, there probably isnt a threat there, implied or no.  I’m not saying that to minimalize anyone’s discomfort, but taking issue with the words “threat” and “sinister”.  If you were to say “crude” and “infantile”, then yes, I agree wholeheartedly. I don’t like being around those guys, either.

      1. I’m not saying “threat” and “sinister” is how they’re intended. I’m saying it can be how they can be experienced. That’s my whole point: that men may have perfectly innocent intentions for their joke, without realizing the context their jokes take on for a gender that’s frequently sexually victimized.

  10. “We believe in the importance of discussing sensitive topics such as gender and conduct and we hope to move forward with a civil dialogue based on the facts.”

    That’s rich.  We’ll have a civil dialogue based on the facts – with all the power in our hands, and if we hear anything at all we don’t like, we’ll flip the everloving F out and fire you.  I’m sure that will be an open and honest conversation all round, and everyone will come out of it with a calm mind to reflect fully on what they’ve learned.

    1. “With all the power in our hands” accountability is gone. Anywhere this occurs you tend to see this kind of messed-up behavior. 

      I think that our society harbors many secret tyrants, waiting for their opportunity at power. They are not moral, they put on a moral face because society demands it. They are civilized, polite and not really human. They might even be in the majority.

      A great example is right here on the internet. Look at the power that comes with anonymity; or with being an “op” or “forum moderator” or “blog owner”. Look at the upward-spiraling self-aggrandizement – the shameless censorship and discussion-editing – The *casual cruelty*.

      It makes my hair curl I tell ya.

  11. I don’t think SendGrid is in the wrong here firing her. First off, her position was a “developer evangelist”, and as best as I can grok from that ridiculous job title, she was a liaison to and promoter of the SendGrid product. Her role was marketing and PR, and here she goes on company time at a conference handling a small situation in the worst possible way, drawing a lot of negative attention to SendGrid.

    While Play Haven is ultimately responsible for their decision in firing one of the involved people, she set that in motion. All the while, she maintained her position on her high horse, admitting no wrong. She was outed as a blatant hypocrite with a twitter post made from the very same conference, joking about creating a fake penis in your pants to shock a TSA agent with during a frisk. Isn’t that closer to sexual assault than an overheard pun? Other twitter posts from her show an extreme lack of understanding of consequences for her actions, one saying that basically once she’s done something she no longer holds any responsibility for what happens. Is that not absurd? Is that the kind of person you want as a public face for your company?

    How about some of the more serious posts that were found in her twitter feed? “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is”? “Black people CANNOT be racist against White people.”

    We also don’t know what happened behind the scenes at SendGrid. First off, she obviously misrepresented her employers position. She stated as fact that SendGrid supported her and what she did. Clearly they didn’t, so maybe they asked her to apologize and she stood her ground. That’s no longer a good work environment for either party.

    When your job is being a personality, a company has every right to fire you when that personality is bad for business.

    1. As a side note, I am sure the PlayHaven employee MUST have been on thin ice. There’s no way they would get fired for that. They were probably looking for an excuse to let him go.

      As for her, yeah, the big trouble this caused, and how her personal vendetta acted in direction opposition to the purpose of her paid job, would make this incident by itself enough to fire her.

      1. I don’t think . You don’t send the troublemaker to the cons. He had something to lose, family and all.

        I think he was fired just in case.

      2. As a side note, I am sure the PlayHaven employee MUST have been on thin ice. There’s no way they would get fired for that.

        Have you never had a job? With a boss?

  12. My takeaway from this, more than anything else, is a kind of pet peeve I have come to have about our modern society: People’s inability or unwillingness to just deal with each other directly when there are problems.

    This first tendency to go to authority figures instead of talking it out bugs the HELL out of me.

    My next neighbor was playing the album ‘Dirt’ on repeat at top volume. My downstairs neighbor was furious and was about to call the police on him. I dissuaded him, just went over there, knocked on his door, he apologized and never played loud music again.

    It doesn’t always work, but it’s simply a socially accepted and even encouraged cowardice if you don’t give it a chance. It enables and encourages passive agressiveness and poor interpersonal ability. It’s not like these PyDevs were going to shank her or something.

    If she had expressed her feelings to them and they continued, OK, maybe she’s a bit thin skinned, but she wouldn’t have been in the wrong. Furiously tweeting and SMSing event security without talking to them first was simply inexcusable, and reveals a lack of character.

    People skills were 80% of her job; this display of poor people skills was by itself enough to warrant termination, IMHO.

    1. So one of the standards at play is whether Sasha Shepherd thinks the people involved might shank each other?

      I think the response she chose was a mistake. I agree that there are lots of situations where people would do better to just talk to each other.  But I also think someone at a conference that advertises itself as a certain type of space should feel comfortable raising the issue with the organizers. There’s also lots of other social contexts where someone might better appeal to an authority, or should at least feel comfortable doing so.

      Your statement about her complaint reflecting upon her character is unfair. The style of the complaint? Maybe. That she complained to someone? Not at all.

      1. That she complained to someone, without first complaining to the guys personally.

        If you’re going to live by the persona of a strong woman who stands up for yourself, be a strong woman who stands up for herself.

        There are very few situations where you should go straight to authorities without trying to sort things out directly first. Such as where doing so might put you at physical risk (“Could you please kindly stop selling crack on my doorstep?”). Other than that, I really have trouble thinking of any.

        If that fails, sure, go to the authorities. But you owe it to civil discourse to try direct engagement first.

        1. The important thing you seem to be missing is that you don’t get to draw the lines for other people. If someone doesn’t feel safe, that’s as far as the discussion needs to go.

          That doesn’t mean that there has to be an active response to such a complaint. If the complaint is unreasonable, the response might be to simply explain that the authority can’t (do anything to) provide the environment being requested.

          Also, you should probably provide a very clear discussion of what it is to live like a strong woman, so the women that you decide are living with that persona can properly meet your expectations.

          (That last paragraph, to be clear, is sarcastic and probably isn’t really civil discourse.)

          1. You’re arguing into the void, some people will just not get that they don’t get to decide how other people should feel/act/behave.

            If we ever do come up with a list for how to live life as a strong women, someone please share it with me, I’ve been living my life for 40 years without a blueprint! 

          2. 1 – Confront everyone, unless you think you’ll be shanked.
            2 – Speak your mind, except in public.
            3 – Dress for success, except not with a dress too high or too low.
            4 – Take time for your kids and family.  Unless your career gets in the way, then stop your career.  You might be able to pick it up later, but since you only made 75% of the guys in the office, the money isn’t a big loss anyway.

            Any questions?

          3. “some people will just not get that they don’t get to decide how other people should feel/act/behave.”

            Funnily enough that is pretty much the lesson she had to learn as well.

        2. If you’re going to live by the persona of a strong woman who stands up for yourself, be a strong woman who stands up for herself.

          As usual, your empathy plug-in has crashed. When women politely ask men to do something, such as stop talking during a conference, it’s quite normal for the men to sit there and hiss “bitch” at her for the rest of the day. Or to follow the woman around trying to intimidate her. It happens all the time. But not to you, so it doesn’t matter.

          1. Oh come on, you saw that in a movie or something. I never saw anything like that and I know a lot of women.

            Also, are you deleting comments in this discussion? I saw one or two of Sasha’s were removed but it doesn’t say who removed them, him or you. (it should say who removed them, seriously).

            Everybody’s been impressively polite up to now.

          2. Everybody’s been impressively polite up to now.

            My standards aren’t based on your outlook. And we also have a rule about commenters saying the same thing over and over and over and over and over.

          3. In Spanish, there’s this term ‘malcojida’ which loosely translates to ‘not being fucked right’ or ‘fucked wrong’ which neatly substitutes for ‘bitch’ in Latin America. 

    2. You are a white man.
      You have no concept what it is like to be a woman in a man’s world.
      Just like I have no idea what it’s like to be a person of colour in a white world.
      There is so much unacknowledged privilege in all you comments it actually makes me sad.

      1. I have, several times in my life, have had some sort of experiences like this. 

        Twice I have been and underling employee at a company that was entirely women, and I was the lowest person on the totem pole.

        Also at an all Chinese company where I was similarly the gopher, and was often verbally abused, intimidated, even to the point of physicality (crazy job…).

        And I’ve lived abroad in countries where being white is looked down on as inferior and there were no other white people around.

        Not quite the same, but gives some perspective.

        In all cases, there are just some universal rules that apply. If you want something from somebody, even if they are intimidating to you, make the appeal to them directly. The best way to get respect is to demand it through your demeanor.

        1.  I am truly curious; in which country are White Westerner men looked down upon and considered inferior???

          1. Friends of mine who have spent time in Hong Kong, the *-istan’s, and in northwestern rural china have all told me that their experience involved noticeable racial hostility, and some sense on their part that the existing population regarded them as pretty stupid. Of course, this could all have been in their heads, and it could also be merely anecdotal. It doesn’t add up to the kind of institutional and personal racism that the USA has practiced for centuries. But its not nothing, either.

          2. But its not nothing, either.

            The fact that it happened is not meaningless. The fact that you need to bang on about it in some mansplaining attempt to derail the conversation is something else.

      2. The only time in my life when I’ve been speechless beyond words during a conversation was about 20 years ago. I was having a vigorous discussion with an African-American woman (disclosure: I am a white English male, transplanted to the USA) about a historical novel or movie or something. Things were not nasty, just energetic and passionate. At some point, she said “How could you, as a man, have any idea what it was like to be a woman in 18th century England?”

        I was stopped in my tracks. If I need to state the obvious, one simple comeback would have been “How could you, as a 20th century American, have any idea what it was like to be an 18th century English person?” I didn’t say that because it was immediately clear that there was a rat’s nest of complicated questions about identity and meaning, none of which were (or are answerable). Did my upbringing in the UK trump her lack of a Y chromosome? Did my white skin trump her dark skin when it came to identifying with whoever the historical character(s) were? It cannot be known, and its a stupid question to even be asking.

        These days, I try to avoid assuming that people’s clearly identifiable characteristics tell me much about who they are. That includes even their gender. Pointing fingers and telling people that because they are “X” means that they cannot know “Y” is something I try to stay away from, even though it is clear that there there several cases of various (X, Y) pairs for which this is true. The problem isn’t just that you never know enough about a person’s background. It is that you also can never, ever know enough about what it really means to be “something” to rule another person out of some real sense of the experience.

          1. Absolutely. That was the source of my gobsmackery – neither of us could have any real idea, so why try to pull rank (which is what I perceived was going on) based on one  characteristic rather than another?

            And yes, I love the Louis CK clip, and have shown it to many people.

          2. But I’m not talking about the past. I’m talking about real world experiences.

            The experience a woman of colour has in the tech world vs. the experience a white man has are vastly different.

            My stating that fact, that you/he/whoever, as a white man, have no idea what it is like to be a woman or a woman of colour in the tech world is not a stretch of the imagination. It’s fact. You don’t know what it’s like. 

            And to quote Louis, “if you don’t admit that, you’re an asshole”

          3. (replying to your reply)  … you didn’t narrow it to “the tech world”, you said

            You have no concept what it is like to be a woman in a man’s world. Just like I have no idea what it’s like to be a person of colour in a white world.

            What if i was transgendered but had not told you and you just looked at my picture? What if I had spent my working life counselling women? Is it still absolutely the case that I would no concept what it is like to be a woman in man’s world?

            What if I had been a white english speaking person who had lived for a decade in a culture where my skin tone and language put me in a minority that was subject to some level of discrimination (some parts of south east Asia, for example)? Is it still absolutely the case that I would have no idea what it is like to be a person of color in a white world?

            Louis CK’s video clip doesn’t talk about knowing what its like to be something you apparently are not. He is talking about unacknowledged priviledge, which is a related but different (and extremely important) issue.

          4. Is it still absolutely the case that I would have no idea what it is like to be a person of color in a white world?

            Yes. For heaven’s sake, go to the Third World and find out. You might meet racial hostility, but you’re never the underclass.

          5. I read Scalzi when he wrote it. The only semantics going on here are your insistence that you can make absolute claims about individuals based on their having or not having some property, in tandem with some general (true) observations about the world.

            You made a specific claims that go WAY beyond unacknowledged priviledge (which is, as Scalzi wonderfully illustrates, a huge problem). You claimed that as a matter of category, a male can have no concept of what is it like to be a woman in a man’s world. You claimed that as a matter of category, a white person can have no concept of what it is like for a non-white person to live in a white world.

            I gave you a couple of specific examples where this type of categorical claim would be inaccurate, and possibly plain wrong.

            It almost certainly is the case that most men do not have much if any idea of what it is like to be a woman, and that most white people do not have much if any idea what it is like to be non-white person.

            But this doesn’t justify you making categorical claims about a specific individual of whom you know very little, which is how I interpret what you said in response to Sasha Shepherd (who I agree comes across as sitting on the edge of an unrecognized priviledge chasm).

          6. But I don’t know what it’s like to be a person of colour, I can make educated guesses, and I can make inferences, but I don’t *know*, it would be impossible for me to know, and completely presumptuous for me to assert that I knew what it was like to be a person of colour.

            I also don’t know what its like to be a man, or gay, or blind, or disabled, so I can say I have no idea what its like to be any of those people either. That is a simple fact.

            And after spending far too much time reading Sasha Shepherds comments today, I think I do know him a little bit. Even enough to say that he has no idea what it’s like to be a woman, today, in our world, which is a man’s world.

            I do usually avoid making categorical statements, but I think when it comes to gender and race issues, they still hold true. I cannot know what it is like to be a person of colour, because I am not one. For me, that means I need to be cognizant of that privilege and more conscious in my choices. And as a man, in a man’s world, you are not going to be able to know what it’s like to be a woman, you can make educated guesses and inferences, but you cannot *know*, and I would hope that you would also then be aware of your privilege and careful in your choices (as I can tell from your comments, that you are.)

            In conclusion, if we ever met for a drink, I think the conversation would go on for a very long time and we’d not be bored. :)

          7. well, now that you’re using the “I” word you’re on much more solid ground. and indeed, i don’t believe i any real idea of what it is like to be a non-white person in a white world.

            but that doesn’t mean that it is impossible for me to have any concept of that. i also think that these questions are actually more nuanced: i might have some idea of what it is to be someone that you think i am not, even if i don’t get the whole thing.

            i think i am just irritated by denials of the possibility of meaningful empathy based on group membership (or lack thereof)

          8. (missy, this is not a reply to you, but BB’s unfortunate use of Disqus prevents me from replying directly to Antinuous)

            Yes. For heaven’s sake, go to the Third World and find out. You might meet racial hostility, but you’re never the underclass.

            Ah, I see. So now its all about being part of the underclass rather than a member of a group that suffers from overt and subtle personal and institutional racism. The experience of being non-white in the USA is not about racial hostility, but racial hostility AND being part of the underclass?

            How do we fit the experience of the african-american middle class into that vision? If I spent a decade in, say, south east asia, would I at least have some idea of how the african-american middle class feels? That is: subject to racial hostility but not part of the underclass?

            Look, this is getting stupid. When people do what Missy did, and state that

            You are a white man.
            You have no concept what it is like to be a woman in a man’s world.

            the claim is subject to refutation by just a single example of a white man whose peculiar circumstances provide him with  a very strong concept of what it is like to be a woman in a man’s world.

            If the claim something far more sensible, say “it is very, very hard for white men to understand what it is like to be a woman in a man’s world” – something that doesn’t make a category claim – then it can stand as a useful truth in spite of the occasional exception.

          9. The experience of being non-white in the USA is not about racial hostility, but racial hostility AND being part of the underclass?

            Of course, I hope for your sake that you’re being deliberately obtuse. Black and white people in the US (or any similarly mixed-race country) might regard each other with equal measures of fear and hatred, but they still wouldn’t be treated equally and their experiences would have almost nothing in common.

          10. I’m not being obtuse at all (the onoy thing being obtuse here is your nested, nesting-limited disqus formatting).

            Antinuous, it was you who wrote that the key to the non-white American experience was being part of the underclass, not (just) racial hostility. You did this apparently to explain how it would be (categorically) impossible for a white person to ever gain any insight into the experience of a person who had experienced both of these, since they could never be part of the underclass anywhere in the world.

            Then you ignored my point that there are many non-white people in the USA who experience the racial hostility but are not part of the underclass. Presumably they still have “authentic” experiences of what it means to be a non-white american, opening up the possibility of some shared understanding between them and white americans who had, somehow, experienced racial hostility.

            I’m not sure what axe you have to grind here. You seem to be insisting that there can never be any mutual understanding of the experiences the members of various culturally created groups. I find it hard to believe that this is your position. If it is, I am very sorry for your loss.

          11. The solution to wondering what middle-class African-Americans think is to read what some of them have written about their experiences.  Trying to contort yourself into identifying with them is impossible and will produce false conclusions.

  13. One point to note: Women (and others) have been Politely Asking men (and others) to stop making sexist jokes in public for literally all of human history. Have they stopped? Auditing the choices Adria made simply buys into the general patriarchal narrative. “I support your right to be a human, provided you don’t make me feel uncomfortable or embarassed about my dickishness”.

    Second point: SendGrid’s announcement of her firing on facebook (in a post since deleted) was littered with actual threats of violence, death, rape. At no point did SendGrid call out any of these facebookers (or twits) as being inappropriate for the discourse. In an astoundingly (to me) ironic turn, the entire thing is being ignored, politely and quietly.

    Until and unless we can call out crap in public, I don’t think we’ll be shifting the public discourse. I’d go and personally call out most of the people commenting above me for their crap (and it’s thick in this particular thread), but I honestly don’t have the time or energy to be That Person.

    1. Did SendGrid make ANY comments on the facebook post?

      Being too busy to police your facebook wall is hardly the same as encouraging such abuse. And they DID take action – they deleted the whole thread.

      1. I think in this particular case they could easily have policed their post. It wasn’t random posters to their wall, it was responses to a post they put up.

        I think in this particular case that SendGrid should have, after deleting the original post, made a public statement to the effect of: “Hey, we deleted the original thread because it was filled up with hatred, threats of violence, and general misogyny. That isn’t cool, and we don’t want that here. Go elsewhere.” 

        Because they didn’t say anything along those lines, they tacitly agreed that, yes, those hate-spewers could have their place in the sun, even if it is for a limited time, and the only sanction that they’ll face is deletion after many hours. That’s buying into the kyrarchy, and that’s being part of the problem.

        1. It had like 2000+ comments. Facebook’s interface for reviewing comments is horrible. I imagine they glanced at facebook, saw thousands of notifications, said ‘fuck this’ and closed the browser. When they were alerted to the actual content of some of those comments, they deleted the whole post.

          Many people think that calling people out for conduct that society recognizes to be socially abhorrent is just a waste of time, it’s just a kind of grandstanding that doesn’t really improve anybody’s situation or help anybody. To say ‘hey death and rape threats aren’t cool’ is a bit like saying ‘the sky is blue and the clouds are moving.’ It’s stating the obvious, how does it improve a single person’s lot on this planet?

          1. Yeah, when they saw some of those comments, they deleted the whole post.

            And said nothing to the effect of “Those posts… they were bad, and the people who made them were bad.”

            ObT: if your job is to post something as potentially inflammatory as “hey, we just fired our dev evangelist who is in the middle of an internet shitstorm, while we are ourselves being DDoSd over this whole thing”, and then say, “fuck this, I’m not reading those comments for a few hours”, you are also bad at your job.

  14. Mixed feelings about this. I wonder how many people would’ve said this was an overreaction had she been a white, straight dude? Had it been Richard Dawkins speaking about atheism and not somebody talking about sexism, how many people would’ve said, “yeah that’s a bit of an overreaction but you need to act professionally at a conference”? Wouldn’t people have felt it was unfair but have acted more passively towards it, sort of – sure, this dude’s a dick, such is life. It wasn’t his fault one of them got fired. Etc.

    I say this because POC and women often feel like their right to speak counts for less. Let me emphasise that I do agree that tweeting someone’s picture instead of just telling them to shut up is ridiculous, and immature. However there’s something about how eager people are to join the backlash against her because she got someone kicked out of a conference (sorry, not gonna hold her responsible for one of them getting fired). I’m not surprised a black woman is facing this amount of backlash for slipping once.

    ETA because I misinterpreted events a bit. Sorry folks.

    1.  The guys weren’t even kicked out of the conference. The Pycon organizers did talk to them and they apologized. That was all that happened on their end.

    2. Honestly, I think Rob Beschizza said it best when he tweeted this: “Everyone is horrible.”

      And Robert Scoble was told he was overreacting when he called for someone to be fired for that horrible Galaxy S4 reveal, and when Richard Dawkins traded barbs with Rebecca Watson, people were declaring his career to be “over”. Can’t argue with the rest, but just thought I’d throw that out there.

      And honestly, she does share some responsibility in getting one of them fired, because she chose to “out” them in such a public way, using her followers to get the word out. To his credit, the guy who was fired over this agrees with her that the “dongle” comment was out of line, but disagrees with the assessment of the “fork his repo” and the “bald” comment has been disputed (who knows without corroborating evidence.) Sounds like the vitriol is coming from the sidelines. And boy howdy, how I wish they’d all just shut the hell up and calm down a second.

      And then there’s Amanda Blum:

      Having said all that…yeah, I didn’t go into tech, but when I was still in uni I saw how much harder the women, and American POC, had to work to be taken seriously.

    3. People are eager to join the backlash because the guy got fired. That is the long and short of it.

      Adria plays the shrill, narcissistic harpy – “Mr Hank” plays the poor family man – The corporations play the evil empire. Not completely realistic perhaps but good drama.

    4. I suggest reading Amanda Blums take on the situation (linked above). Adria Richards has a history of using public shaming over a minor quibble instead of resolving the problem in a more appropriate way. To her detriment the situation backfired this time.

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

        Regardless of the nature of the event, the invective being levelled at her, from the tech world, is sexist and racist and horrific. THAT is what we should be talking about, NOT about how you feel about her personally, NOT about whether the joke was or wasn’t sexist or any of that. The reaction of otherwise “reasonable” and “normal” dudes who feel that she must be punished. THAT is what we should be talking about.

        1. “Regardless of the nature of the event, the invective being levelled at her, from the tech world, is sexist and racist and horrific. ”

          This.  Just because she shamed them in public does not call for public statements about sexually abusing her or attacking her.  She essentially called someone out behind their back and has been reviled for it in demeaning ways.

          I’m not going to claim she didn’t start it, but the response to her has been far beyond the pale.  Nobody looks good here but there are a lot of people going out of their way to make themselves look worse in an attempt to make her feel horrible.

          1. The infuriating thing to me is how far out of the way otherwise intelligent caring normal people are going to insist its all her fault, all of it, the threats, the firing, everything, AND then insist that there’s no sexism at play. 

            Mind = blown.

        2. Are you sure you wanted to reply to my comment? I did NOT comment wether the joke was or wasn’t sexist or how I feel about her personally or about the threats.

          She resorted to public shaming, she did so in other situations before – see Amanda Blums blog.

          Please stop impudently insinuating I said something else esp. that I downplayed the threats.

          1. I’ve been called a lot of things, but never impudent, one for the record books.

            I did read Amanda’s blog, thanks tho.

            My point is and has been, I don’t actually care about the incident, its the reaction that needs to be talked about.

            Whether she has a history of public shaming or not, its the reaction to her, the words used, the insanity of it all is sexist, it’s racist, and shows a horrible thread of misogyny in the tech world that we’ve been hoping was going away but obviously isn’t, and thats what we should be talking about. Not whether she “deserved” it because she publicly shamed someone.

            No one, man or woman, deserves to be subject to this level of hate, threat of violence, and hand-washing, no one, not even her, not even if she was in the wrong.

            But I’m impudent, what do I know.

          2. “My point is and has been, I don’t actually care about the incident, its the reaction that needs to be talked about.”

            Fine, Im talking about the incident while you talk about something else. Perhaps you should reply to a comment more relevant to your message

        3. Okay…but people who are running around now saying, “I stand with Adria!” reeeeeeeally need to read the whole thing.  

          Because people are so apt to cling to a binary way of thinking, I want to point out that my saying that she should have gone through the process of asking them to knock it off, go through the proper channels as per the conference policy, then blowing the whistle if that didn’t work (and shame on PyCon if it hadn’t) in no way means I condone the action of hundreds, even thousands, of Internet dickwads who have made it their mission to make her life hell.  Sure, she seems to have a flair for the dramatic, but that’s not a crime.  I’m sure nobody threatened Robert Scoble’s life or person when he wanted someone fired over Samsung’s shameful Galaxy S4 spectacle, after all, or if they did, I’m sure it wasn’t to this level.

          1. The majority of people running around now saying “I stand with Adria” are doing so because of the reaction to her, not because of her actions. It actually doesn’t matter what she did at this point, when the rape threats come out, we all stand together.

    5. If a white male was commenting that a woman of any race was being inappropriate for telling a sexual joke, he would be generally humiliated, she would be generally praised.  I’ve seen it happen.

      Not endorsing either behaviour, but how is your example relevant?

  15. I don’t really care about the events at the con, or her tweeting things. What I care about is yet again, a woman said something on the internet (reasonable or no) and there is a tidal wave of death threats, rape threats, and racist crap thrown at her. I am particularly tired of this whacked out threat squad hitting women that say anything that might be seen as controversial on the internet. I am also particularly tired of people quasi-supporting this behavior with “But look at what she did” kinds of comments. I don’t care what she did. Nobody deserves rape and/or death threats. Nor do they deserve sexist and racist screeds posted at and about them. 

        1. Gabby is awesome.
          AND the backlash was so ironic… because of the asexual nature of the name “Gabby” the gendered invective was amazing/horrifying.

  16. It is unprofessional and offensive to tell “dirty jokes” anywhere but with your buddies in private.  The message, which women get over and over ad infinitum, is YOU are not part of the club, YOU are a sexual object who is not quite on par with men, YOU are a lesser being who is judged by your genitalia.

    As a woman who has been chided for saying “no fraternity jokes allowed” and being told, I just need a sense of humor.  No, I have a great sense of humor.  I am just tired of being marginalized and laughed at and made lesser through those jokes.

    It’s not just the jokes, guys.  Just as a black man might feel unwelcome when the folks next to him tell coon jokes, a woman feels unwelcome when the men next to her tell sex jokes.

    We are sick and tired of being treated as second class citizens who just have “no sense of humor” when we demand that we be treated with respect as any professional deserves.

    People (men) complain there aren’t women in STEM.  Want to know why?  Because we are made to feel unwelcome by men who still see women only as “women” and not as people.

    Sexual harassment includes men telling dirty jokes and is illegal.  It makes a hostile and threatening (yes, threatening) environment for women, excludes women and drives them away.  Period.

    If the man who was fired was in the habit of telling dirty jokes at professional conferences or in his office, he was opening his firm up to a lawsuit. And asking men politely to stop doesn’t work. We’ve been doing it since the beginning of time and still have to keep asking. How about we don’t have to ask.

    The woman who complained is NOT TO BLAME.  The men who actually told the jokes, who took the offensive and inappropriate action, are to BLAME.  They made the decision.  They did what they did.  Her presence and catching them at her do not make her at fault.

    This is not a ‘minor quibble.”  This an on-going problem that needs to be called out over and over again until it stops.  Until men stop denigrating women and making them unwelcome due to their sex.  Every time it happens (and it happens all the time) it needs to be called out.  Maybe, some day, if it gets called out often enough, it will stop.

  17. The fact that the woman AND at least one of the guys was fired after the companies starting feeling some heat tells me that this whole thing isn’t really about sexism, harassment or proper behavior…its about money.

  18. Personally, I find the two companies at fault.

    The was (to my mind) properly taken care of at the convention.  Perpetrator identified, apology followed, lessons learned.  (Perhaps optional ribbing by colleagues for bad, but not stupendously bad, behaviour).

    PlayHaven, by firing the employee right now and linking the firing to the incident, even when there were apparently several other issues involved, turned the incident into a huge resume stain.  Waiting a month would have allowed the employee to maintain the “didn’t work out” excuse for leaving the job, which, in all likelihood, it probably was.

    PlayHaven has badly damaged their former employee’s career simply to make it a little easier for themselves to let him go, as many employers will simply want to avoid controversy and not hire him.

    Likewise, Adria’s employer is also at fault.  By firing her now, it has explicitly linked “complain about bad behaviour” with getting fired.  Given that her position as a developer evangelist was probably untenable at this point in time (because of PlayHaven’s action), she should have been given the opportunity to resign, in which case she could easily have maintained a reasonable “I do not feel what I did was incorrect, but given the controversy and unexpected result of my complaint, I do not feel I am in a position to serve in this position successfully.”

    There’s enough ambiguity in all of this that I am not unambiguously ‘behind’ Adria’s action that led to this, but I *definitely* think that both companies, in firing their respective employees, behaved very badly indeed.

    (Note: It’s possible that Adria’s employee did make such an offer to let her resign with dignity, in which case I would withdraw my criticism.)

          1. Are you saying that companies will create an enormous controversy with themselves at the center in order to fire an otherwise valued employee because of some juvenile humor?

            Possible, but it feels unlikely.

            I could understand if there was an immense firestorm and PlayHaven didn’t want to be seen as defending sexist or abusive comments by a staff member, but as far as I can tell, if they hadn’t fired him, this would all have been forgotten tomorrow and never reached viral status.

            In other words, it really looks like PlayHaven threw gas on the fire (and in doing so, also got Richards fired.)

          2. No, I’m saying that companies will fire people for reasons of appearance if they think it will deflate controversy or smooth potential legal issues.
            As to whether you believe that they would do so or not, well, since I’ve actually seen it happen, I guess our opinions differ.

          3. No, I’m saying that companies will fire people for reasons of appearance if they think it will deflate controversy or smooth potential legal issues.

            I completely agree.

            It’s just that as far as I can tell, there was no controversy or legal issue *until* they fired him.

            (Which is why I think it was a rotten thing to do…)

        1. There is literally nothing in that article to support the premise of the hed. Anything else is just speculation.

          I kinda wonder if maybe they were getting angry emails/tweets, DDOS, etc. but kept it quiet. I don’t know. Neither do you, and neither, probably, does VentureBeat. Maybe he really was just a dick and they needed a good reason. Maybe the HR person got a fortune cookie that they felt foretold the need to go ahead and fire the guy. They’re probably going to keep it quiet until after everyone lawyers up. This will probably go on for ages, and by the time the court cases are done nobody outside the sphere of influence will care anymore.

          Crap, I can’t stand it when websites like VB post such obvious clickbait.

          1. Well, it’s true the article doesn’t back up its lead.  As I said, it agrees with my assumptions, so I tend to go with it.

            But even if it wasn’t, this would be a really nasty thing to do to an employee, especially since it wasn’t mandated by a huge PR incident.  Let him go in a month or two for “not fitting in with corporate culture”. 

            Instead, in the mind of the public and future employers, they’ve ineluctably tied him to the sort of thing that *does* get you fired: persistent and egregious sexual harassment.

            While I find puerile jokes, well, puerile, it’s a whole different kettle of fish from sexual harassment.

            To my mind, the only truly egregious behaviour I see here is the two companies (as to the simply unfortunate behaviour of the two parties).

  19. I am female. I work in tech, I’m a programmer at small company where I am the only woman in the office (except for the boss’ wife, who only shows up sometimes). Every time a new man gets hired, I have to mentally assess them to see how comfortable I would be were he and I the only ones left in the office at night. Sometimes my boss will only email my male teammate about a project, and my coworker has to forward the email to me. But I love where I work because I love what I do, and the guys I work with are (fortunately) great guys.
    I am just as likely as those guys at Pycon to make a joke about big dongles. Its a funny word, it makes me giggle. And even though the guy who posted at Hacker News said the comment about forking was not meant to be sexual, I’m just going to say that if I had been saying it, I would have meant it that way.
    And I can GUARANTEE I have made jokes/comments to a friend sitting next to me during a conference before.
    This woman is hurting the cause she thinks she’s helping. She’s reinforcing the negative stereotype of women as emotional and over-reactive. I’m not saying she shouldn’t have her own opinion, and I can even see why a lewd joke could be inappropriate at a conference where you’re representing your company. But one- the joke was not referencing HER in a any way. Two- it was not SAID to her, it was between two friends. And lastly, if she was so dead set on being offended by a juvenile joke with innuendo, I agree with everyone else who’s asked why she didn’t just confront the guys then and there and been done with it.
    I don’t want men to think they have to tiptoe around me for fear of offending my feminine sensibilities. I’m not some fragile fucking butterfly.
    It’s not that I’ve never been offended by sexism. I had a (now ex) boss once tell me he’d have to give up his “man card” if I helped him troubleshoot his printer. Later in the day, he finally asked me for help. I’ve had a (also now ex) boss call me and another girl his “good luck angels”. I had a friend not-so-quietly casually refer to a girl at a bar that he did not know as a “whore” and I looked him straight in the eye and said very clearly (and somewhat angrily) “that was a DICK thing to say.” (And later explained to him why it was not only rude but also sexist and feeding into a lot of bad things) This is a tiny example because if I were to go through them all we’d be here for days.
    I am not blind to the rape culture we live in. As a little girl I was told, “boys aren’t good with feelings and sometimes tease girls they like”. Really? What about telling the little boy “don’t pull her hair, don’t touch her if she says no. No means no”. You’re going to teach a little girl that being treated like shit is an okay thing, and teach the little boy that not only is he not expected to develop emotional maturity but that this adult doesn’t even think he’s CAPABLE of it? We have some very deep-seated wrongness in our system.
    What this woman has done is cheapened every other sexist, scary thing that women have complained about at conventions. By blowing this out of proportion, she’s given all the MRAs (“mens rights activists”) out there fuel to point at and say, look, it’s not a big deal. Women, amirite? Crazy, all of them.
    Next time a woman complains of something that is threatening and offensive on a much higher level, she’ll be treated with a little more suspicion. Next time a new woman gets hired somewhere new and primarily male, it will take them all that much longer to treat her as one of the team and not some unwelcome political-correctness-bomb that’s been planted in their office.
    If I had been the boss of either of the guys, I probably would have pulled them aside and said “Look, either make a joke discreetly or don’t make it at all. When you’re at this conference you’re there on the company’s money and representing us.” And that would have been it.
    Had I been the boss of the woman, I would absolutely have fired her because I would not want some loose cannon out there representing the company, styling herself as some vigilante women’s rights champion when she in no way speaks for every woman. Some of us laugh at stupid jokes.

    EDIT: Oh man I didn’t realise how much I wrote! TL;DR: What she did cheapens actual threatening experiences women have had, and she definitely doesn’t speak for every woman because some of us laugh at dick jokes.

    1. I had a (now ex) boss once tell me he’d have to give up his “man card” if I helped him troubleshoot his printer.

      I don’t know the circumstances, but it’s possible it was self-deprecating humor about the delicate nature of male egos while engaged in mortal combat with the printer.  I’ll admit that I hadn’t considered how joking about male insecurities, which I’ve done, could be hurtful.  Thanks for making me aware.

      1. Haha, this is true. I should clarify though, I offered help and he responded with something along the lines of “the day I have to ask a female for help with a printer is the day I have to turn in my man card,” and then proceeded to ask his male friend for help. It felt like, because I happened to have boobs I couldn’t possibly know how to set up a printer, which did hurt. He also had a reputation among the employees for having somewhat, “old-fashioned” views on women.
        I think you have an important point though that context plays a role in how things are interpreted. I don’t think simply joking about an emasculating printer situation is a bad thing, and I’ve had my fair share of problems with those beige(/grey/black/whatever) boxes of misery.

        1.  and then proceeded to ask his male friend for help

          And with that all the humor drains away.  It’s one thing to joke about not wanting help to protect one’s fragile ego.  It’s another to then immediately accept help from a male. 

          Suddenly it’s not about going mano a printo, it’s about who is a colleague.

          I’d certainly be hurt in the same situation.

    2. If a black man was sitting next to some white guys telling ‘coon’ jokes, should he just ignore it?  Or is it possible he might be either threatened or offended.  

      And asking politely doesn’t cut it.  Women have been asking politely for men to stop being jackasses for centuries and men are still being jackasses.

      Telling a dirty joke in a public, professional place is a bad idea because it makes you out to be a crude child and if a woman is close enough to hear, she gets the message, don’t talk to us, we’re manly men and you’re only a girl and we think of you as a girl only.

      Maybe you are young and lucky but I am old and damned sick of having ‘men’ tell dirty jokes as their way of excluding me, belittling me and making sure I keep in my place.  Because that is why they are doing it in the first place.  Not to get a laugh but to assert to ‘manhood’ among the other boys and make sure all the girls know who is in charge.

      1. Out of all terrible, sexist things in the world, “DONGLE” is really the battle you want to fight?

          1. And this attitude is why eventually activist either burn out or get bypassed as society moves on.

            Pick your fights, fight those that actually make sense and can further change. Picking every fight will only lead to you losing big in the end and hurting your cause. 

            You know, the human individual that repeatedly cried wolf comes to mind.

      2. Have you seen the twitter hashtag “#iaskedpolitely” – its fantastic.

        And as a woman who has worked in tech, its fricking exhausting having the same conversations over and over with the “boys” who don’t get it, so I hear ya. Part of the reason I’m no longer in it.

    3. You know what?  It’s a lousy world when all women in tech have to be stellar examples so as not to hurt the cause.  

      1. Sad but true. There are shitty guys out there who want to tear women down for daring to invade their space. And there’s perfectly nice men who take part in systematic sexism without even realising. My current boss took months to relax and stop getting mad at the guys when they cussed or made jokes around me. I don’t want to be treated like I’m an outsider. I just want to show up, write code, laugh at stupid shit, and be treated like a human.

      2. Time was a lone asshole in the wilderness could do no more damage than wreck his house and piss off his immediate neighbors, and that would take serious effort. These days an asshole with a blog can screw up his whole world with a single reckless post. It’s one of those “the power is also a curse” deals. It’s a tricky time to be an asshole.

  20. As a woman who used to claim to be a feminist, I’m appalled at what passes for feminism today. As a girlgeek I don’t wish to be associated with this woman whining about off-color jokes at a conference just as as an atheist woman I’m ashamed to be associated with elevatorgate. As women we need to work for what matters and dirty jokes and getting asked out in elevators ain’t it. I believe in equal rights. I am not a feminist. 

    1. As a woman, that used to vehemently identify as NOT a feminist, I am appalled at the behavior I see these days, and the fights I’m seeing played out, that I thought my mother and my grandmother already won. 

      Needless to say, I identify as a “capital F” feminist now. I, like many others, can be concerned about alienating language, as well as “what matters”. I am a feminist. I too believe in equal rights, and same pay for same job. 

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