Sunday, March 31, 2013

What Adria Richards Wrought


Once more I’m late to the party, really late. An eon ago, March 18, 2013, Ms. Adria Richards decided she needed to call out the inappropriate behavior of some attendees at the PyCon event. There offense, being misogynist jerks via the old rubric of bad jokes. 

Now I have no desire to do a masters class in what constitutes comedy. I will only point out that the “jokes” in question were both inappropriate and lame. Nerd humor quite often lacks polish. The commentary by the offending party added nothing to the discussion and was offensive, especially at an event who’s purpose was to be inclusive.

Ms. Richards decided that action was require and used the tech weapon of choice, the Tweet. Little did she know her Tweet would become the digital equivalent of a mob call. The murder of crows flocked all about and both Adria and the offending coders got axed from their jobs.

I am constantly surprised by the lack of common sense in the world in general and in tech specifically. Adria had every right to call out these men and PyCon had every right to discipline the offenders. What was not correct was the over reaction of the coders company. Yes they were poorly socialized jerks, but if you fired every poorly socialized jerk in tech, there would be no tech. And the sacking of Ms Richard was beyond idiotic.

But for true idiocy and crass stupidity you really cannot top the inevitable victim blaming and hostility hurled at Adria. What an epic shit storm that has become. How much do the manly men hate Adria? Let me count the ways. Bravely hiding behind the cloak that the internet and social media provide, they have launched every racist, sexist, and Anti Semitic trope at her imaginable. Fortunately David Futrelle has waded in to this toxic cesspit so I don’t have to. 

But even on her own blog there are people who are missing the point. I guess some people still can not get over their male privilege or bother to get a clue. At the time of her tweet Ms. Richards was only trying to put a stop to unwarranted behavior. She deployed what to her was the best solution that she thought would create the least drama. She had no idea that others would escalate this beyond expectations or reason. There was no way to predict the knock-on effects of this would bound beyond excess, and straight into the nuclear option. She sure did not expect the backlash she would get for decisions she had no part of.

Calling out her interlocutors was appropriate, they needed to be named and shamed. They were at a public event and behaved wretchedly. They made the wrong assumption that they could act that way because they were mere faces in the crowd. That was wrong, you are responsible for your actions at all times and in all places: full stop. Don’t want to get your ass fired for making rude comments? Don’t make rude comments. Don’t “know” what rude might be? Well no, you do know, you can read this and that means you were not raised in cave by wolves. But if you really are confused maybe you should just not talk about anything that is not germain to the subject at hand? Thus if you are at a tech conference, and the subject is programing, off color jokes about “dongles” should be avoided. As a matter of fact unless that dongle you are talking about is anything other than a true computer peripheral no one really needs to hear about it.  

While Tech has been part of the Heman Woman Haters Club for a rather long time, it need not continue to be so and will not be so sooner or later. Those icky girls are here to stay and are only going to become more numerous. The Darwinian imperative is now in force : Move, Adapt, or Fail. For those committed to a career in tech your options are really only two: Adapt or Fail. You can upvote the tribal consensus until your blue in the face, change is coming, change is here, this is no longer your dad’s male dominated tech. 

This is going to take some time to work out, but follow the bouncing ball; women are going to increase their role in the professional fields--all of them. Women are not staying in shitty paying pink collar ghetto of the secretarial pool, they want the real money. As their numbers increase some “traditions” and assumptions are going to fall by the wayside. 

So quit your whining about how mean Ms. Richards was. Your male privilege card is about to expire. Your “right” to have a work place that is hostile to women (and others) is going the way of the Dodo. Don’t fret, you still have plenty of opportunities to be a petulant, bigoted, misogynist jerk thanks to Reddit. You have plenty of opportunities to slut-shame, harass, belittle, taunt, and other wise act like the inner spoiled five year old that you are. You can even thoughtlessly, wantonly, cruelly put someones safety and life at risk by broadcasting their address on the web. Don’t worry little one, your ability to act like an asshole will only be moderately curtailed.
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