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Adria Richards, formerly of the company SendGrid, was at a tech conference this week when some dudes behind her made a series of inappropriate and sexual jokes. Annoyed by the pervasiveness of misogyny in the tech world, she snapped a photo of them and put in on Twitter with a complaint. One of the conference organizers spoke to the men and they apologized. Totally reasonable! Good response, PyCon. Later, one of the dudes got fired. Instead of getting mad at the company that made the choice to fire him, the internet hoards descended on Adria. She was on the receiving end of rape and death threats. Her address and phone number were published. Her blog and her company’s website came under DDoS attack. Oh and then her company, SendGrid, fired her (I’d be careful reading the comments on that Facebook post — there’s a whole lot of racism and sexism).
I think the firing of the dude who made a dumb “dongle” joke was ridiculous and overreaching — it appears Adria agrees. But she wasn’t the one who made the decision to fire anyone. She simply documented a thing that actually happened. The company made the (rash, harsh) decision to terminate an employee. Adria’s intent in posting the photo and the comments wasn’t to get anyone fired; I don’t even think the dude getting fired was a reasonably foreseeable consequence. Her intent was to stand up for women who always have to tolerate sexist crap at tech conferences.
For that, she’s getting brutally attacked and threatened. And then she loses her job for being a troublemaker.
SendGrid should be ashamed of itself. And so should the anonymous commentators and harassers who are attacking Adria online. You can show support with the #SupportAdria hashtag on Twitter (yeah, I know, using a hashtag isn’t exactly grade-A Activism, but it’ll at least send a message that there are a whole bunch of people behind Adria).
Even if you disagree with Adria’s blog post and her tweet, I’m not sure how SendGrid’s actions here are defensible. Yes, the jokes were relatively tame, and there’s definitely a discussion to be had about the ethics of tweeting someone’s photo and identity with a comment they made at a conference (although really, the comments were made in a public space and overheard by Adria who was also just trying to attend the conference, so I’m not sure I have tons of sympathy there). And it doesn’t seem like anyone agrees that the men (or one of the men) should be fired from their job for dumb, even vaguely sexual, remarks. Crude, sexist jokes are part of tech culture, and a lot of companies are run by young white guys who don’t seem to understand appropriate workplace behavior. As someone in charge of developer relations, Adria was going to have to interface with those dudes.
But inappropriate workplace behavior is the problem. Not the woman who documents it. And even if there’s outrage about her documenting it, firing her from her job is beyond the pale.
I’d suggest that anyone using SendGrid’s services drops them.
UPDATED to add that this post has been up for about five minutes and already we’re getting a massive troll influx. All comments are now in moderation. I’m going to be in and out over the next few days, so your comments may sit in the mod queue for several hours. Please be patient. If they are on-topic and in line with the Feministe comment policy, they will be approved as soon as possible.
UPDATED This post has been re-opened to comments, within some further constraints.
ADDENDUM (by tigtog) – signal-boosting writing on this incident elsewhere:
Debunking specific claims about Adria
Speaking up and speaking out:
#IAskedPolitely is not about the validity of being polite. It’s about the futility. [Shakesville]