Adria Richards got her panties bunched up nice and tight when she overheard a couple of guys making a dongle joke while attending a PyCon conference as a PR rep for her company, SendGrid.
What the hell is a dongle?
A device that is connected to a computer to allow access to wireless broadband or use of protected software.
Say it a few times. Dongle, dongle, dongle. Sound like dong, like schlong, like a dick joke waiting to happen. It would have taken me about two seconds to start talking about big dongles and little dongles and whether the size of the dongle matters, but I’m crass like that.
Not Adria Richards. Why, she overheard a dongle joke and the petals of her exquisite flower simply crumpled in dismay and outrage and a deep sense of having being personally violated. So she turned around in her seat and snapped a shot of the dongle-jokers and then tweeted it with a request to the conference organizers to remove the offending cretins from her sight.
Some reports say that the troglodyte dick-jokers WERE removed from the conference, and some say no, but what IS clear is that one of the punsters was FIRED FROM HIS JOB because his little dick joke offended fragile little Adria.
Some people at paste-bin thought so, and decided that the only reasonable course of action was to have Adria fired, too. A group of clearly talented hackers went in and crashed SendGrid, where Adria works and within hours the management team at SendGrid acted in the company’s best interest and fired Adria.
The whole sorry episode is now being cast as some kind of witch-hunt against Adria for speaking out against sexism in the tech world. That is the part of this story I would like to address.
Naturally, Jezebel has picked up the story, and spins it hard to cast Adria as a brave heroine defending herself against the mean, scary men who are creating a hostile work environment for her with their offensive dick-jokes and general misogyny.
Without the slightest hint of irony, Lindy West writes:
Regardless of what you think of the joke itself, it is sexist to contribute (willfully or cluelessly! Ignorance is not an excuse!) to a hostile work environment for women. Full stop. If you didn’t realize you were doing it, that means you haven’t bothered to think critically about women’s comfort and needs.
No seriously. Attention all men everywhere, but especially you men working in tech fields: you need to stop thinking about the subject at hand (dongle dongle dongle schlongle dongle), stop considering your own needs and comfort and start thinking about women’s comfort and needs.
Because we all know women get to define what constitutes an appropriate work environment, what behavior and language is considered polite and acceptable and if a lady is offended then the entire world must screech to a halt to address that tragedy.
Yeah, there’s nothing sexist AT ALL about claiming that women have the right to go through life without being offended by anything ever, and it’s certainly not the woman’s job to get over her shit. No way! If I am offended, it can’t be because I’m an emotional cripple incapable of dealing with the occasional dick-joke (that wasn’t even aimed my way)! Nope. It’s because men suck and I demand that you all stop sucking right now!
This would be an excellent moment to insert a dick-joke, but I might faint when my lady brain comprehends the full extent of what I just wrote.
Now, let’s be clear: the reaction to Adria’s little tantrum over some guy making a dongle-joke was completely over the top.
Threatening to rape or murder someone, or suggesting they go kill themselves is some pretty awful stuff, but there is nothing inherently sexist about any of that. That’s pretty equal opportunity awfulness. Adria wasn’t targeted BECAUSE she’s a woman. She was targeted because she had a hissy fit that resulted in someone losing their job! Over a dick-joke! And it turns out that Adria makes dick jokes herself, and that little bit of hypocrisy sent her critics over the edge.
What IS sexist is Adria deciding that the simple fact of owning a vagina gives her the right to decide what is and is not funny in any given situation. Waltzing through life believing you are owed special consideration because you are a WOMAN and you deserve to never be offended is sexist. Why should anyone believe they have the right to never be offended?
The man who made the dongle joke actually apologized for his “insensitivity”, which is kind of a shame. He should have told her to go dongle herself. Adria over-reacted to a conversation that she wasn’t even part of that resulted in a man being fired, and then boo-hoo’d her way across the internet when the same thing was done to her.
My friends and I had decided forking someone’s repo is a new form of flattery (the highest form being implementation) and we were excited about one of the presenters projects; a friend said “I would fork that guys repo” The sexual context was applied by Adria, and not us.
My second comment is this, Adria has an audience and is a successful person of the media. Just check out her web page linked in her twitter account, her hard work and social activism speaks for itself. With that great power and reach comes responsibility. As a result of the picture she took I was let go from my job today. Which sucks because I have 3 kids and I really liked that job.
She gave me no warning, she smiled while she snapped the pic and sealed my fate. Let this serve as a message to everyone, our actions and words, big or small, can have a serious impact.
Turnabout is fair play, cupcake.
Whether or not the tech field is hostile to women is not the point, although if the few women who are in the field act like Adria, it’s little wonder they meet with hostility. The real issue here is women feeling like they have the right to define social interactions with only their own comfort and needs in mind. On the one hand, women demand to be treated as equals, and then on the other hand, they want special consideration for their overwrought sensitivity to things like dick-jokes.
Deciding that you can police the conversations of others, and attempting to enforce your own aesthetic sense of what constitutes appropriate behavior for no reason other than you are a woman and you feel offended? Now that is sexist.
Looks like the tech world took a few steps to address sexism: Adria Richards is out of a job. I’d say she dongled herself quite nicely.
Lots of love,