Harvard is opening up its junk drawer and calling it the Digital Public Library of America,
Men Who Hate Women
Here’s a brief outline of what happened at PyCon and on the web earlier this week.
- a female developer evangelist overheard two male developers making sexual jokes during a session, took a picture of them and posted it to Twitter.
- PyCon picked up on it and followed their rules for dealing with that kind of problem
- one of the developers got fired, the company says for other reasons as well.
- someone posted to HackerNews claiming to be the fired developer, talking about his wife and children and being out of work
- the female developer began to get rape and death threats, and her company was threatened by Anonymous with a DDOS attack.
- both the female developer’s personal site and her company’s site were DDOS’d.
- the female developer’s company fired her
That’s what happened. I’m trying to wrap my head around the commentary on it. Most of the tech websites that I read have covered this in detail this week. They’ve done a good job with it. It’s the comments on the posts that have me thrown for a loop. I have never seen such a virulent display of sexism, ignorance, and unexamined privilege. And sure, there will be trolls on any controversy. But every place I’ve held my nose and looked at the comments they have been twenty to one dismissive of the woman’s position if not outright hostile. Repeating the same “it’s not a problem, why didn’t she just ask nicely” bullshit. I gotta say, I often don’t speak up about things that bother me because I’m worried people might be mean to me. And I’ve never had a death threat, or a rape threat, or a threat to destroy my business. If any of those were remotely possible I’d pretty much want to bring some friends with me if I were going to compain. Richardson did the digital equivalent of that by posting the picture to her Twitter followers.
Like Blum, I was at the Wordcamp Boston talk Richards gave in 2010 complaining about porn imagery in another presenter’s talk. It was theatrical, and a little overblown (I thought), and more than a little self-promotional. But it struck me as a reasonable use of unconference time: to draw attention to a real problem in the tech community using the tools of that tech community. It’s a valid activist tactic, and threatens no one.
Here’s the thing for me. The self-referential ugliness of almost all of the comments on the sites that are my home on the web makes me ill. And it’s not trolls bringing the ugly, because there are hundreds of responses to posts like this on The Verge "The Thug Mentality". I am not OK with that environment.
It doesn’t matter whether Richards overreacted. Nothing she did warrants threats on her life, her body, or her property.
My thanks to Jason Snell and rjmarsan, a Verge commenter who you can see going toe-to-toe with almost everybody else in the comments on the The “Thug Mentality” post. For reminding me it’s not OK to ignore it and hope it goes away.
The lack of sympathy in my Twitter stream for women in tech and how isolated they feel is not surprising, but saddening. Shame on you.— Jason Snell (@jsnell) March 21, 2013