Why Aren’t Feminists More Calm and Rational? Calling Out Sexism and the Courage of Adria Richards

As the firestorm over the Adria Richards story has only increased, a poem from one of my favorite artists – Alix Olson – keeps reverberating in my head.

Still we’ve tried being patient,
collected, calm, nice
trying praying, tried laying you
paying the price,
we’ve learned to scream
until our throats throbbed
what else do you do
while your cunt’s being robbed …

And I hear you saying
“subtle, sister,
less bite, more bark
you can make your point without leaving such a mark.
subtle, sister,
stop your seething,
I think we got it, I think we’re even:”

It’s a poem about feminism and anger, about why women are so abrasive and so loud and so obnoxious. And its meaning is never more relevant than when we examine the public’s response to Adria Richards.

For those just catching up, Adria Richards is a woman of color who was exhaustified by being surrounded by straight while males in the world of technology who didn’t see any need to recognize that they weren’t in a locker room. These are the kinds of men who like to make jokes about big dongles and forking, consistently going out of their way to make women feel alienated and unwelcome and unsafe in what they perceive to be their space (I’ve just linked to it, but seriously, if you haven’t read A Woman Walks Into a Tech Conference, do it right now.)

Adria turned around and tweeted a photo of the two men at this particular conference, calling them out for their sexist behavior, which also happened to be a violation of the conference’s code of conduct.  One of the men was later fired, and the internet turned against Adria.

You may be wondering what this means. This means Adria Richards has been subjected to the online trolling masses – the ones who feel that when a woman steps out of her place – a woman of color no less – it’s time to put her back. By force. This means death threats. This means rape threats. This means the most vile, hate-filled, misogynistic material you couldn’t imagine even if tracking it was part of your daily life. Richards has been “called practically every name under the sun. Some Twitter commenters demanded she kill herself.” One posted this photo of Richards tied up and gagged with the caption “Adria Richards when I’m done with her.”

Adria Richards has since been fired by her company and the internet has exploded once again.


Would I have done what Adria did?

Too many people have been phrasing their support for Adria with sentences along these lines: “I wouldn’t have done what Adria did, but she doesn’t deserve death threats.” Or “there are better ways Adria could have handled that, but I still support her.” Or “It would have been more professional for Adria to confront these men and politely ask them to stop, but she shouldn’t have been fired for her actions.” (Deanna Zandt has a great piece over at Forbes about why asking what Adria could have done differently is the wrong question because it focuses on victim-blaming in the same way as critiquing a rape victim’s clothing).

I admit it – at first, I was one of them. I’m fairly certain some of my first comments about the incident were like that. Why?

When I finally realized it, I was ashamed of myself.

The reason we are couching our support for Adria in those terms is because we want to send a message to our listeners. That message is this: “I’m a rational and reasonable person, so I totally understand where you are coming from and why you think she was wrong. But rape threats are still wrong.”

We want you to buy into us, to believe that we aren’t one of those “crazy women” who are burning our bras and marching around with signs that say Death to the Patriarchy! all day, instead of having rational and calm and informed discussion. We want men to take us seriously. We think “maybe if they realize how rational I am, they will hear me better. Maybe if they realize I respect them and I’m being polite, they will listen to what I have to say and actually try to understand.”

Let’s be clear – this method doesn’t work.

Women who stand up for themselves are constantly being told that we’re crazy. That we’re overly emotional and we’re too loud and we’re too obnoxious about our fight for equality. And it’s because of how we approach our fight for equality that we’re constantly being overpowered and shouted down and threatened and assaulted.

And yet the average person still wants to know: why can’t we just tone it down? Why are feminists so angry?

Why aren’t we softer? Why aren’t we calmer? Why aren’t we more subtle?


We’re living in a world that hates women. And there is nothing soft, calm, or subtle about it.

A world in which rappers brag about drugging and raping women, magazines feature women solely as ornamental objects, 18 year old boys rape 13 year old girls, 28% of women on U.S. campuses are assaulted, female children are brutally killed to preserve a family’s honor13 year old girls are forced into prostitution, 3 woman a day are murdered in the US by husbands or boyfriends, 33% of women in the military have been sexually assaulted, rape is a weapon of war, 1 in 3 US adolescents is a victim of dating abuse, fashion outlets glamorize sexual violence, women who suggest men not rape receive rape threats . . . oh this list could go on and on and on.

I wouldn’t have done with Adria did. Not because it was the wrong way to handle it, not because her anger wasn’t deserved, not because there were more “effective” ways of handling it.

I wouldn’t have publicly called out these two men for their behavior simply because I would not have had the courage that she did.

Do People Really Respond Rationally?

I know. You think of yourself as calm and reasonable and rational. We all do. And we often wonder to ourselves, why aren’t more people like us?

But the truth is that people aren’t calm and cool and collected and gracious and polite and reasonable all the time.  And I’ll tell you who especially isn’t like that – men who are confronted with their own sexist behavior.

I know. You think you are like that. You think your friends are like that.  You think your coworkers are like that.

But none of us is as we imagine. William Halaten writes in his New York Times review of the book, The Righteous Mind,

the problem isn’t that people don’t reason. They do reason. The problem is that their arguments aim to support their conclusions, not yours. Reason doesn’t work like a judge or teacher, impartially weighing evidence or guiding us to wisdom. It works more like a lawyer or press secretary, justifying our acts and judgments to others.”

Even our personal life experiences tell us this. People do not like to be wrong. We prize rationality and reason (not coincidentally, I think, traits normally associated more with men than women), and scorn emotions and gut feelings and instinctive reaction.  And so even when we do things because of our emotions or our feelings, we convince ourselves that we are being rational. We convince ourselves that if someone interacting with us had done something a little bit differently, we would have reacted entirely differently, too.

Except life isn’t like that. I’ve even written blog posts in the past about how to calmly and rationally approach well-intentioned men about their sexism (yes, I’m kind of embarrassed about that now). But it doesn’t work.  We see this a lot in the judgement of rape victims – people who say “if she had just said “no” more clearly or more politely, I’m sure he would have stopped.” The men who were called out by Adria make the same claim – “if only she had nicely asked us to stop, we would have!”

Oh please.  Just like the rest of us, men don’t like to be wrong. Men don’t like to be denied their place of power and privilege. Don’t tell me that these two men who made Adria Richards feel unwelcome and unsafe in a public space deserve to have been spoken to politely, or asked nicely. The idea that they would have politely smiled and apologized and gone about their way is a fantasy.

It’s fiction. It’s the same people who tell me that I don’t need to hollaback! at street harassers. If I just approach them and ask them nicely not to do that, they’ll stop.

Know what? They don’t. I’ve tried. We all have. It’s not working. Men who are making jokes like that do  not deserve the courtesy of respectful, polite discourse. Men who violate women’s space do not deserve the courtesy of respectful, polite discourse. Men who try to control what happens to my body do not deserve the courtesy of respectful, polite discourse.

Not every man who makes a mistake is a sexist misogynistic jerk who deserves to be publicly called out. But please don’t call yourself a feminist or an ally if you don’t want to trust women to know the difference.

We do. We know the difference between a man who compliments us on the street and a man who is sexually harassing us. We know the difference between a man who uses a word that unintentionally offends us and a man who is embracing his privilege and actively making the world an unsafe place for women.

If Adria Richards says she knew she had to speak up because these men were clearly hiding behind deindividualization in order to make their jokes, then I trust her. If Adria Richards says she thought about it and gut-checked it and considered the code of conduct in place at this conference, then I trust her. If Adria Richards says she was going to let the whole thing go on because she was just too weary to deal with it, but that a photo of a young girl who had participated in the Young Coders workshop inspired her to take action, then I trust her. If Adria Richards says the best way to have addressed this issue was to call out their behavior, then I trust her.

So should you.

If these two men just made an honest mistake, if they really didn’t mean anything by it and truly are “good hearted” people who meant no harm and want to learn from their mistakes, then help me out here. WHERE ARE THEY?

Where is their outrage at the way Adria has been treated? Where is their public statement saying “as we’ve said, we wish she’d brought this to our attention first, but the most unfortunate thing is that she didn’t feel safe doing so. Adria didn’t feel comfortable doing so. And now it’s clear why. Adria would have had no way of knowing that we would have been accepting of her critique or request. She would have had no way of knowing that we aren’t like everyone else who has treated her with such hate and disrespect.  The fact that she didn’t feel safe is explained entirely just by seeing the vicious attacks on her, and we publicly condemn those who are attacking her.”

Where’s that statement from these poor victimized guys who totally are good people???

Adria Richards didn’t do what any of us would have done. Instead, she did what needed to be done.

Alix Olson’s poem ends by bringing to mind what is obvious to everyone who is fighting for gender equality. To everyone who has ever tried to combat rampant sexism and blatant misogyny with courtesy or respect. Anyone who has ever been told it would be better to just be more . . . subtle.

Subtle like a penis pounding its target?
Subtle like your hissing from across the street?

Subtle like the binding on my sisters’ feet?
Subtle like her belly raped with his semen,
draped in his fuck, funny,
doesn’t seem even.

See, sometimes anger’s subtle, stocked in metaphor
full of finesse and dressed in allure
Yes, sometimes anger’s subtle, less rage than sad
leaking slow through spigots you didn’t know you had.
and sometimes it’s just

fuck you.
fuck you.
you see, and to me,

That’s poetry too.

Patriarchy isn’t subtle.

Unsafe spaces for women isn’t subtle.

Misogyny and sexism aren’t subtle.

This time, Adria Richards decided that she wasn’t going to be subtle either.

*Addendum: For those who are concerned about her health and well-being, I have it confirmed that Adria is safe. She released a public statement yesterday, which you can read here. I know that you’ll be as impressed with her courage and grace as I am.


This post is originally published on Left Standing Up and it’s cross-posted with permission

Photo credit Betsy Weber via Creative Commons


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  • YouMadBro1

    But Adria herself broadcasted a “penis” joke on Twitter to a public audience just days before. None of her defenders care to explain how this is acceptable, yet two men cannot do so in a private conversation. They simply ignore the question and act like it was never posed. In the interest of moving on, I’m looking for someone out there to help me understand this double-standard. Preaching “equality”, yet holding males to higher standards seems a bit conflicting.

    • You bring up a point that a lot of people have addressed, so I’d like to take the opportunity to respond. First of all, this isn’t to say that making sexual jokes in general is sexist or wrong. The difference is that Adria made sexual jokes on her own Twitter feed broadcast to whomever wanted to follow or listen. Making those jokes in a professional environment, particularly when it was against the conference’s expressed code of conduct, is an entirely different thing. Secondly, I’m baffled by people who keep claiming that this was a “private conversation.” If you are speaking in normal tones and people can overhear you in a public space, frankly, you should expect to be overheard. It wasn’t as though she was listening at keyholes. The language used in a public place like a ballroom during a conference absolutely sets a tone, even if the two men weren’t speaking directly to her. This wasn’t eavesdropping or listening in. They spoke out loud in a public space and should have had no expectation of privacy whatsoever.

      • Absolutely!! Thank you Ms. Collazo!!

      • And Richards’ twitter feed is also public, so where do you draw the line? An overly sensitive TSA agent could stumble upon her comment and take offence at it..but it would be stupid to. Anyone can take offence at just about anything these days. The problem is that too many people are looking for someone to arbitrate or resolve situations for them instead of just communicating, person to person. But are you saying that it’s okay for her to have “sexist” sentiments and thoughts as long as they’re not aired publicly? That’s ridiculous. Would you have felt the same if a guy suggested that a woman make her breasts look bigger?

        In relation to the Pycon event, though, what would’ve been wrong in turning around, there and then, and saying “guys…not cool”? Better still, what would’ve been wrong in just…not getting involved? They weren’t saying what they’d do to HER. They weren’t threatening her. They weren’t harassing her. She chose to take offence on behalf of countless other women without their consent. That is more offensive to women, IMO.

        I’m not saying there isn’t work to be done with regards to gender equality. But this is a step too far, and it’s counter productive. There’s an unreasonable expectation that people should be infallible purely because they’re in a work environment. You can’t police peoples’ thoughts, minds and actions to that extent. Yes, there should be a code of conduct, and perhaps this wasn’t in line with that but there were other ways to resolve the situation. When (and that’s a certainty, because she’s only human) Richards finds herself in a position where she’s made some kind of gaffe, or has said something that someone has perhaps mistakenly taken offence at, she might well find herself hoping that they’ll be reasonable about it. And at that point, I sincerely hope they give her a dose of her own medicine.

        • Paul – thanks for your thoughts. Although I have to disagree with you strongly. On something that make me wonder whether you read the blog post at all. What I hear you saying is that Adria shouldn’t be so sensitive since it wasn’t like they were threatening her, and Adria should have just politely asked them not to make jokes like that.” First of all, there is a huge difference between a woman of color making jokes with sexual innuendo on her own Twitter feed and two straight white men making sexual jokes (particularly the kind they were making) in a public space that has traditionally been hostile to women (especially women of color), especially when there is a code of conduct in place. I feel like you are equating her “public remarks” when their “public remarks” and assuming they are the same.

          They are not. Adria’s Twitter feed is not a recognized place of power and privilege that has traditionally been hostile to straight white men and over which another authority has declared that you can’t participate in her twitter feed unless you agree not to do certain things. The two “publics” are nothing close to the same thing. One could easily say ‘if you are offended by Adria’s twitter feed or don’t think her tweets are appropriate, then don’t follow her on Twitter” One cannot say the same thing for the remarks these two men made. Sure, you can move seats. Know what? Without a code of conduct in place, without people to call it out when it happens, and without people in power (the organizers in this case) enforcing it, the seats she moved to could very likely have put her in the exact same situation with two different people. Ok, so she moves again.

          And again it’s the same.(For more on this, read the article I linked to called “a woman walks into a tech conference). This is what we mean when we say “a hostile environment.” Ok, so now you say, “well if she doesn’t like the kinds of things these men talk about when they all get together, she doesn’t need to be at this conference.” And oh look, you have what we’ve always had, which is spaces like this that are where power is built and maintained, and huge numbers of people alienated.

          I absolutely would have felt not just offended but threatened by listening to this kind of discussion – and by the way, it’s not just a few random feminists who feel that way. Legally, this sort of discussion might even fall into the category of sexual harassment, which you claim you do think of as a big deal. Just because someone isn’t directing comments at me doesn’t me I’m not affected by it. Before all laws were on the books, women had to deal with these sorts of things all the time – men commenting on breast size and making jokes (all in good fun!!) about sexual conquests, etc.This does create a hostile environment.

          And all the same as I said in the post, I hear you saying what Adria could have done differently. Who cares? What is happening to her right now is so wildly wrong and out of proportion to anything, not to mention WILDLY wrong, and yet I hear nothing from you – no caveat even – that she doesn’t deserve (that NO ONE deserves) to be issues rape and death threats.

          If this company hadn’t fired this guy (which we know now they were just looking for a reason to do), much of this would not have happened. And yet, the blame is being laid at her feet. And still, I don’t hear you even remotely condemning everything she’s been through. All you can say is “why didn’t she politely ask them to stop?” It doesn’t work. All you can really say is that YOU would have responded politely, and that YOU would have been accepting and gracious about it. But as I said, there’s really no way to know if that’s true, and there’s certainly no way for Adria to have known what the response would have been.

          I also highly encourage you to check out Adria’s original blog post on the matter, which I doubt highly you have done. Perhaps you will be open minded enough to see that there is more context and background here than you have known before. Here is the link: http://butyoureagirl.com/14015/forking-and-dongle-jokes-dont-belong-at-tech-conferences/

          • browntechie

            A few points:
            1) Adria Richards overhead what the two men were saying because they were sitting behind her. She overhead a private conversation. If her twitter conversation is privileged private communication, what is a private discussion between two consenting adults supposed to be?
            2) In the tech world, “donggles” and “forking” have clear technical meanings. Adria Richards, who is a PR person and not a “techie” may not have known that the words have other meanings beyond what they sound like. “Penis” has no other technical meaning.
            3) Adria Richards may be a woman of color, but so are nearly half of the
            techies in the US! Bringing up the “color” issue is absurd as tech
            conferences (like the one she was attending) consist of a sea of “brown” faces.
            4) The rules of the conference did not pertain to private conversations that may have been overhead by others. The conference committee carried out an investigation and found no wrong-doing on the part of the men. The men should not have apologized.

          • qwerty

            What the Adria did was ridiculous and the entire resulting cascade of firings and trolling were also ridiculous. Further, you don’t seem to realize that the “fork his repo” statement is an actual tech thing (reusing someone’s code) and if Adria was an actual programmer, instead of someone that works in HR but dabbles a bit, then she would have known that.

            It seems clear that many feminists must reflexively defend her actions. It is like evangelical christians being afraid to admit that Benny Hinn might possibly be a crook because he supposedly is on their team.

  • Jim Grover

    I think Adria created a very unsafe environment through her actions. I know a woman who was a victim of domestic abuse who attended that very conference. She has very good reasons for not wanted a close up picture that indicates her present location posted on the internet. Fortunately, she was not sitting next to those men when Adria took that picture or she would be in real danger.

    Posting pictures of people online after overhearing a comment you don’t like is far from an ideal response. She could have use Twitter to send a direct message to the organizers with as much ease as she posted the picture to her 10,000+ followers. I’m still not entirely sure which of the men in the photo she was intending to shame.

    Adria’s actions and those who defend them make woman appear less rational and make employers less likely to want to hire them (especially if they are outspoken). This is the informal consensus among a lot of managers I have spoken to about this over the last week. No employer wants to be put in SendGrids position. Ultimately that little girl Adria spoke of will be the biggest victim her actions, Adria made her a victim.

    • Adria made no one a victim. Those men are not victims for receiving retribution from their employers for their bad behavior. If anyone victimized any of those men’s families it was the men themselves who did so. Rather than take ownership for their bad behavior and have to face up to it to their families, they choose to participate, just as you have, in blaming the woman who has to tolerate a hostile public environment. Those men weren’t in the men’s locker room getting changed when Adria burst in upon them in their private space and outed them for their remarks. Those men were in a non-private space and behaved unprofessionally and reaped the just rewards for that unprofessionalism. Adria should not expect that her comments on twitter to be treated with the same scrutiny as a work related public conference space, regardless of how many followers she has. Adria did what she felt was best for her. If those men did not behave in a way that was best for them (making sexist comments at work and in public) then that is the FAULT OF THE MEN who did the misbehavior.

      • Sally Douglas

        You seem to believe the original remarks, in and of themselves, actually merit dismissal. Are technical conferences supposed to be tamer then a bishops tea party? You are singling technical conferences out for a strange solemnity and decorum that would be out of place in almost any other context. I have made more off color remarks in interviews. I have made more off color remarks in interviews, and gotten the job. I have made more off color remarks in interviews, and gotten the job when the interviewer was a woman.

        Regardless of whether or not the jokes were offensive a major component of proper behavior is proportionality. One does not respond to littering by going after someone with an axe. Likewise a rational person does not respond to an overhead joke, which wouldn’t be out of place in a Disney movie, by publishing a photo of the “perpetrator” to 10,000+ followers and anyone else on the internet. What happened after she posted that Tweet illustrates the inadvisability of such a course of action. Someone as experienced in social media as Adria should not have been taken completely unaware by the consequences of her action. To display or support such behavior indicates a certain lack of rationality.

        The world must be a confusing, scary, and terrible TERRIBLE offensive place for you. But fear not the world will keep spinning, your petty grievances aumount to no more then a poorly conceived victimhood fetish.

        • That you refer to such things as at fetish says a lot about your point of reference in the world “Sally”.

          Perhaps you should address your fetish with fetishes?

          How ever many followers she does or doesn’t have as well as the consequences those men suffered for their bad behavior are arguments steeped in white racist patriarchal victim blaming, woman silencing thinking that you seem to have internalized and are projecting onto your interpretation of events “Sally”

          • Sally Douglas

            A fetish fetish would be a little too meta even for me. I’m into BDSM fantasies involving the racist patriarchy.

          • Ah, try to discredit someone who disagrees with your overwrought reading of the world by insinuating that they aren’t female, or that they have the cultural equivalent of stockholm syndrome.

            Oh, and there’s not a damn thing wrong with a little BDSM among consenting adults. The fact that you evince such disdain for it, trying to use it as a slur, indicates a bit of either projection or jealousy at the thought.

        • Sally – thanks for your thoughts. I agree with you wholeheartedly that their comments were not out of line sufficiently to have merited dismissal. And I think it’s important to note that Adria agrees as well. She publicly said that the man absolutely should not have been fired, that it was a complete overreaction. Of course, we know now that his company had had many problems with this employee and had been looking for a reason to let him go – something people still conveniently want to forget. And I must disagree strongly that Adria should have somehow known that this person worked for a company that was looking for a reason to fire him. She publicly came to his defense. And yet, he has not publicly come to hers when the reaction to her action was so overblown as well. If the company hasn’t been looking for a reason to fire this guy, none of this would have been nearly so bad as it was. Sure, Adria received negative online attention after the initial tweet. But the overwhelmingly vast majority of all this started when the guys company decided to fire him and blamed it on this one incident. It was they really who threw both of them under the bus.

          And when people ask why Adria didn’t assume these guys would have been calm and rational in their response to her, now we know Hu. We see that this company did not react call or rationally or responsibly, and yet she should have known exactly who would have done the right thing and who would not have?no, we can’t have it both ways. There’s no way she should have known what this company’s reaction would have been. And again, while she publicly came to this guys defense after he was fired, he is nowhere to be seen. Even though it was his actions that started the whole thing in the first place

          • Maybe she could have minded her own business, and not photographed two people without their permission then posted their pictures, with accompanying vitriol, to the public web.

            The trolls and stalkers who threatened her are waaaay out of line, absolutely and totally. Rape and death threats are never appropriate, period, and should be dealt with by the authorities.

            But what did she expect when she essentially doxxed two guys making small talk consistent with their profession? That was troll bait, pure and simple. If you stroll along the tracks with earplugs in, you are likely to get hit by a train.

            I’ve made dongle, forking, and fscking jokes, plus other computer/sex crossover puns for literally decades. I’m female, FFS, so it’s not a male only thing. Seriously, it’s just hardware and software, not assault (although some of the equipment takes batteries…)

      • Joking about dongles is “bad behavior”, unprofessionalism, and a “hostile environment”???? Grow the heck up, realize that not everyone is stultified prudes. Really, does everyone have to behave like pre-pubescent choir boys and girls to not be accused of sexist conduct? If you’d ever been in a real hostile environment, you would realize that you are making a federal case out of a non-sexist joke, and trashing people’s reputation with it.

        Or are you sufficiently technically illiterate that you don’t realize that various cables, including dongles, have male and female ends? Is that “sexist” too?

        If you are going to freak out and call every mention of anything to do with gender or sex in a work environment “hostile” and “sexist”, then I sure wouldn’t want to work with you, because your technical vocabulary would be stunted, and you’d be whining about a “hostile environment” the moment I asked you for a male to female USB adaptor.

        Oh, BTW, I’m female, well over 30, disabled, and RDP with another woman.

        Dongle jokes are not by their nature “sexist”. Having to do with sex doesn’t mean it’s sexist.

  • Pedro

    You call the behavior of these people “sexist”, but I fail to see how a joke about “big dongles” told by a man to another man can be sexist. Unless he said something completely moronic like “to be a good programmer you need a big dongle” (which is unlikely, otherwise Adria would probably have been more explicit about the problem), it was likely just a pun between dongle and dong (slang for penis).

    I.e. it was a SEXUAL joke but probably not a SEXIST one. And indeed Adria in her posts never calls the two men sexists.

    IMHO one of problems with these kind of reactions (like in this so-called “donglegate” and the somewhat similar “elevatorgate”; yes, they are stupid names) is that they are started by people that very prominently describe themselves and their actions as “feminist” and this furthers the meme that feminism is anti-sex and anti-fun.

    As a result of these episodes, some decent men may be more uncomfortable (even just unconsciously) at making any kind of joke or acting more friendly with female coworkers, or inviting them to places where it’s pretty much certain that there will be jokes that someone like Adria may consider inappropriate (e.g. a team doing an evening out at a pub). Even when the women involved would have no problems with it and actually enjoy it.

    Some women may become more wary of pushing back against actual sexism from male coworkers for fear that everything may spiral out of control.

    Random anecdote: last year a woman in my team made a joke about her breasts (which are indeed bigger than the average), I responded to the joke and we hugged. All this happened on the workplace, within very clear view and earshot of many other coworkers and was very clearly outside the company guidelines. But nobody was harmed and instead strengthened the friendship of everyone in our team.

    This kind of things help creating a more humane working environment and reduce the stress of the job. They must be clearly prevented by becoming offensive or harmful, but let’s not throw away the baby with the bath water.

    So justifying Adria’s actions only because the joke was not allowed by the PyCon code of conduct it’s not enough to me. These codes of conduct at conferences are approved to stop real sexism like the use of soft porn images of women in presentations, the worst examples of the so called “booth babes” or clearly unwanted sexual advances. Abusing the code of conduct to stop a mild and non-sexist sexual joke harms the people that are actually meant to be protected by these new codes of conduct, IMHO.

    Another reason why it’s better to ask questions first and shoot later is that people make mistakes. And indeed it looks like Adria made a mistake in judging a part of the overheard conversation: the part about “forking a repo” wasn’t a sexual pun according to the person that pronounced it. They were literally talking about forking the code repository of the (male) presenter, without sexual references (for background: this means making a copy of someone else’s programming code, with their consent, for making changes to it, usually with the eventual goal of having the changes integrated back in the original copy; it’s something fairly common, in some companies employees do it as a normal part of their job).

    As a programmer myself I find the explanation of the “forking” as a literal conversation between two programmers more believable than a sexual interpretation (which I don’t really get).

    Also the guy involved apologized at least twice, first at the conference and then after being fired, on this public post: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5398681 while Adria hasn’t AFAIK even admitted the possibility of having overreacted or misinterpreted the forking conversation. Nor she has ever mentioned the apologies of the guy to her over 12,000 followers.

    All this makes the “feminist” in this incident look like the “powerful bad guy” attacking an underdog and in some people’s mind this reflects negatively on feminism in its entirely. My first suggestions to Adria if I could talk to her would be: feel free to do this kind of things if you want, but please don’t say you do them in the name of feminism or of “a little girl”.

    IMHO we should use words like “feminism”, “harassment”, “sexism”, “rape culture” and “discrimination” with caution when they are clearly appropriate, abusing them only weakens them.

    One last thing: please completely ignore trolls. There are millions of death and rape threats on YouTube (I have a channel where I talk about politics and religion, and I regularly receive lots of them, including rape threats despite being male) but none of them ever resulted in any actual rape or murder, AFAIK. These are just troll and what they want is a reaction. Any reaction, including responding to them, blocking them or even just mentioning them like you do here, will make them happy and encourage them to post more of the same. So the best thing to do is to just completely ignore them, like they don’t exist. “Don’t feed the trolls.”

    Obviously if you think that a particular threat is credible report it to the police, they often can find the IP address and the person behind it. But in practice anonymous people trolling on the internet never pose any real physical danger.

    • I was going to respond to the whole of your comment, but frankly the end just made it not worth it. Your statement that rape and death threats – even thinly veiled ones – don’t merit a legitimate response or aren’t worth being afraid of reeks of privilege and a very deep (and disturbing) lack of understanding of what it is to receive them. For example, women are almost never, almost NEVER, raped by strangers while walking on a street at night. And yet, we’ve been taught our whole lives to be afraid of this. That’s what rape culture is -a culture of fear that has made women perpetually afraid of such things even when the reality is very different. What you are saying amounts to telling women “rape almost never happens at night by strangers in public, so why are you so afraid? Just ignore it.” I’m not sure I feel the need to address any of your other points if something as simple as this eludes you.

      • Pedro

        Isn’t what I’m saying (i.e. “don’t be afraid of rape threats that are not credible”) the opposite of rape culture as you just defined it?

        Obviously I’m not saying “just ignore rape”, I’m very much against rape and any form of violence and I think they should be prevented as much as possible (ideally always) and the perpetrators must be punished. There should be no need for me to write this paragraph.

        In my post above I wasn’t talking about rapists, I was talking about trolls. They are the ones that should be ignored, IMHO.

        You may be right that my reasoning comes from privilege (I’m a cis hetero man with a relatively fair skin color), but to put things in prospective I’ve had my share of real-life (in person) threats from people stronger than me, a long period of harassment from a group of bullies at school, I’ve been robbed twice and had a few beatings in the streets of my home town, one of them requiring me being brought to an hospital with an ambulance (nothing too serious but I wasn’t able to walk). I was born in a crappy and violent country, luckily I emigrated. I’m aware that there are lots of people that have it much worse than me.

        If you want feel free to ignore what I wrote about trolls, people have very different ideas on how to handle them and probably none of them is perfect, but if you have time please respond to other parts of my post above (sorry it’s so long), I’m interested in your opinions.

        Thanks! 🙂

        • Pedro

          Sorry for responding to my own post; there two articles that you have probably already seen but could be interesting for people that haven’t followed this closely.

          The first has lots of links and details that most other media reports didn’t include: http://techcrunch.com/2013/03/21/a-dongle-joke-that-spiraled-way-out-of-control/

          The second is a blog post from Amanda Blum that previously had an interaction with Adria at another conference: http://amandablumwords.wordpress.com/2013/03/21/3/

          (This is the even that Amanda wrote about: http://web.archive.org/web/20100409090316/wordcampboston.com/2010/01/12/ignite-also-means-to-set-things-on-fire/ )

          Thinking again about all this, I think the first in a long series of mistakes was done by the people who wrote and approved a code of conduct so strict to ban pretty much everything in this TED talk: http://youtu.be/ci5p1OdVLAc

          • Pedro – thanks for the thoughtful response. I will write a lot more later addressing your points, but in the interim, wanted to link you to this piece which debunks to Amanda Blum post you put up. http://www.technologywoman.com/2013/03/24/digging-beneath-the-surface-that-amanda-blum-article-on-adria-richards-is-not-what-it-seems/

            Besides which, I really don’t think what kind of person Adria is is relevant at all. I feel very confidently that nobody tweeted rape and death threats at her has been more likely to do based on rumors that she isn’t a nice person. Which all goes back to my original point that for these people, nothing else matters except that a woman (of color) spoke out of turn. But as I said, more later on your other points.

          • Jim Davies

            From all your comments it seems woman of color really need to be treated very differently from everyone else. I get the impression from your comments and those of other “feminist” commentators that woman, especially black woman, are incapable of successfully integrating into a professional environment. Before this blow up I would have strongly opposed such a view; now I along with a lot of others in the tech community are starting to believe that your views might have some merit.

            I do wonder about how easily you can dismiss the arguments against her conduct based upon some of the responses. If I mail a dead cat to the programmer who made the dongle joke with a note attached to it calling him a chauvinist pig, will you start to rail against Adria?

          • First of all, I’m not sure where you got the impression that I said that women of color need to be “treated differently” from other people. What I DID say is that whenever something – anything – happens that is contentious, one needs to look at context. In this particular case, Adria’s gender (and from my perspective, racial) identity are highly relevant to the actions taken and the attacks she is fielding right now.

            Secondly, what inherently makes a professional environment one that is hostile to women? Nothing. When you say “women of color can’t integrate into professional environments” what you are really implying is that it’s unreasonable to expect that professional environments – places of power and privilege and opportunity should be equally welcoming to all. I disagree with that strongly.

            Thirdly, your last analogy does not make logical sense. I do not believe in blaming one person for another’s behavior. So just as I do not blame the two men Adria addressed for the behavior of their peers (people sending her rape and death threats), neither would I blame Adria for actions taken by another (in this case, you). That said, there is a world of difference between sending someone a photo of themselves bound and gagged and sending someone a dead cat. How is a dead cat a threat to a person? It isn’t. Your analogy just proves that it’s not that you disagree with my blog post or those of us who support Adria, it’s that you don’t understand the circumstances or the discussion.

          • Jim Davies

            If jokes as tame as the one about dongles make a workplace unprofessional I have never encountered a professional environment, and I hope I never do. It sounds like a stifling sterile place. Most people, men and woman alike, would not enjoy working there. Who would want to spend time in an environment where if someone overhears your remark or the remark of someone next to you an acceptable response will be to publicly shame you on the internet. If a couple woman in the audience are joking about their menstrual cycles and an Islamic guy sitting a few rows ahead of them overhears them, will he be justified in posting a picture of them to the internet accusing them of making disgusting remarks? Is this a door you really want opened? It can swing both way.

            No reasonable person would react the way Adria did to that joke. If the fact that she is a black woman makes such a response acceptable then black woman will need to be treated very differently and excluded from environments where they’ll be prone to cause disruptions. For the record I do not believe this. There are lots of woman who do very well in a professional environment and make great contributions. They should not be penalized due to the actions of an unreasonable few and their defenders.

            I am puzzled by your response to my cat analogy. You wouldn’t find receiving a dead cat in the mail threatening? How many dead cats do you receive? If your prefer we can make it a picture of a dismembered man being dragged over a bed of hot coals and broken glass by a line of barbed wire wrapped around his balls, if you do not find the idea of receiving a dead cat sufficiently threatening.

            Many “feminist” commentators are saying that her behavior should not even be addressed because of the way some segments of the internet responded. My point is that the responses she received from trolls does not obviate the errors in judgment she made initially. By this logic one would simply have to be more awful to the other party to put them in the right.

          • qwerty

            Hence, why feminists are viewed by most others as humorless. If they had their way, then the entire genre of comedy would not have been invented since it often involved jokes at others expense, etc.

      • qwerty

        1. Finds weakest spot in long post
        2. addresses that
        3. thinks that destroys the rest of his comment

        Abigail, there isn’t a rape culture in the US. It is an extraordinary claim and requires strong evidence. On the whole, rapists are hated and hunted in the US.

  • hate filled misandry.

  • crayven

    Stopped reading at :

    “We’re living in a world that hates women”

    Lady get help. The psychiatric kind.

    • Thanks for providing Example A. a woman says something you don’t like or agree with (or whatever), and you imply she’s crazy. Appreciate your helping me make my point! Do come back soon.

      • qwerty

        Disagreeing with a woman and thinking she sounds crazy is so obviously sexist! (snark)

        Abigail, please realize that your position is crafted so as to be non-falsifiable.

  • bewbz mcgee

    Worthless femtard practicing their art of double standards.

    Grow the fuck up.

  • Adria is a hypocrite. She tweets penis jokes, and then takes dongle (penis) and forking (fucking) jokes to be misogynist? Women weren’t even mentioned, just male-ish computer parts. Or had she forgotten that dongles can fork other dongles with the right adapter?

    No, she didn’t deserve to be fired, but neither did the hapless guy she doxed on the internet.

  • moooboeyt2

    when you deal with psychos and cowards who terrorize in lynch mobs and
    faceless online the last thing you do is attack their stupidity and
    anti-social deviant existences with your real identity. You have to take
    down these gutless cowards while incognito.