The PyCon Incident
- At PyCon, two (male) friends were talking privately. One of them made a joke comparing "big dongles" to a phallus. Their photo appeared all over Twitter with allegations of sexism and one of the men was fired soon after. He now has a wife, three kids, and a tarnished reputation.
- Adria Richards used her soapbox as a developer evangelist at SendGrid to spread a covertly-taken photo to her thousands of Twitter followers (http://imgur.com/aiXK5SU is the first in a series; the "forking" reference turned out to be a fabrication). She never exchanged a word with the men.
- From the response online it appears that most are in agreement that a phallus joke is immature but not sexist. The fact that it was a private conversation between two friends should make this even more clear.
- In fact, the next day she made a phallus joke herself (http://imgur.com/7XGY8wB). This suggests that her motivations may be questionable.
- This is hugely damaging to the community for a number of reasons:
- 1. Anyone can post a photo of you and an unfounded accusation to thousands of Twitter followers and get you fired
- 2. She damages the reputation of everyone trying to make this industry more female-friendly. She's done the opposite of making men and women feel more comfortable working together; now men will be looking over their shoulder every time a woman is present in the workplace or a conference because hey, she might do what Adria did. This is not an environment anyone wants to work in.
- As a community and as an industry we need to have a more nuanced view of gender issues. There is only one way forward, and it's to respectfully and directly engage each other over these issues.
- Adria instead should have turned around and told the men that it made her feel uncomfortable. They likely would have apologized and this would be a non-issue. And if they didn't make it right, she could escalate it in a more productive (but still assertive) way. Instead she cowardly chose to not engage them directly, which let her slander them on the Internet without feeling bad about it.
- Of course, some issues can't be solved this way. But posting a photo of someone to thousands of people with a baseless accusation has never solved anything.
- Adria - you need to make this right by apologizing and admitting you were wrong. You've taken feminism in tech a step backwards and by standing by your actions you only make it worse.
- SendGrid - if Adria refuses to do anything about this we need a response from you. She is the personification of SendGrid in the tech community and not responding to this issue calls your company's leadership into question.
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