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The PyCon Incident

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Mar 20th, 2013
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  1. 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.
  3. Adria Richards used her soapbox as a developer evangelist at SendGrid to spread a covertly-taken photo to her thousands of Twitter followers ( is the first in a series; the "forking" reference turned out to be a fabrication). She never exchanged a word with the men.
  5. 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.
  7. In fact, the next day she made a phallus joke herself ( This suggests that her motivations may be questionable.
  9. This is hugely damaging to the community for a number of reasons:
  10. 1. Anyone can post a photo of you and an unfounded accusation to thousands of Twitter followers and get you fired
  11. 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.
  13. 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.
  15. 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.
  17. 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.
  19. 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.
  21. 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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