So I just read up on what’s called #donglegate (really? thats a thing now?) on Twitter. Apparently, a developer at PlayHaven got fired for making a sexually tinted joke at Pycon, after Adria Richards, a developer evangelist at SendHaven publicly called him out for it on her Twitter. Here’s the full story.
After having a somewhat spirited debate about it with @Niacursshi (who, by the way, proves that you can be passionate about a topic and still be respectful towards someone that disagrees with you. Kudos!) I felt like putting my thoughts on the matter on paper, so here goes:
I’d like to start by clearing two things up. First of all, under no circumstances, ever, is it acceptable to threaten someone with violence because you disagree with something they said or did. If you threatened Adria for what she did, you are a terrible human being, and do not deserve to live in a free country.
Second, Adria did not get those guys fired. That decision was made by PlayHaven, not her. She did, however, opt to publicly shame someone for what in my view was a private conversation. And that’s the part I’m not ok with.
What many people seem to be confused about is this: sexual and sexist are not the same thing. There is nothing mysogynist about two guys making penis jokes to each other. In fact, it turns out that women make penis jokes as well. Point in case? Adria herself:
@skwashd you should put something in your pants next time…like a bunch of socks inside one…large…sock.TSA agent faint
— Adria Richards (@adriarichards) March 14, 2013
Apparently, its ok for her to make sexual jokes in a public channel, but its not ok if men do it. If that’s not a double standard, I don’t know what is. Adria seems to think that only men can be sexist, because they are in a position of power. She made a similar point about racism a couple of years ago:
Black people CANNOT be racist against White people.Racism is a position of the oppressor who has the power
— Adria Richards (@adriarichards) November 25, 2009
I’m sorry, but that’s not how it works. By making it seem that only men can be sexist when they make sexual jokes, you are in fact being sexist yourself, and in the process, pitting men and women against each other instead of bringing them together (as you should).
What upsets me more than most is that sexism *does* in fact exist in our industry, but it’s mostly hidden beneath the surface. This makes it very hard for women to speak up when they do run into it, and more often than not, they are not taken seriously.
By misrepresenting what sexism is, and looking for it in places where it is not, you are making a bad situation worse, and giving ammunition to people who’re trying to discredit women who speak up about real harrassment. You’re losing them valuable allies.
Update: I just saw some rumors on Twitter that Adria has been sacked. I hope that’s not the case. I think she did something naive at best, and hypocritical at worst. I’m criticising that behaviour, but I don’t think she deserved to be fired. Nobody did. It’s sad that our industry feels it needs to overreact to things like this.