Adria Richards Tweets About Sexism at Tech Conference, Becomes Internet’s Most Hated Person
4:30 pm, March 22nd | by Colette McIntyre
I’m sure when Adria Richards attended this year’s PyCon, a conference for people to discuss the Python programming language, she didn’t have any explicit plans to get a developer fired, become an Internet pariah, or be publicly fired from her own job, but that’s exactly what happened.
While sitting in her umpteenth seminar of the day, Richards, a developer evangelist for email delivery company SendGrid, overheard two men sitting behind her laughing about “big dongles.” According to Richards’ account of the events, the men continued their fifth grade laughfest, giggling over sexually suggestive comments about “forking.” At the same exact moment, the seminar’s speaker was addressing gender inequality and misogyny in the tech community. How apropos.
Tired of feeling maligned, mistreated, and unsafe in what is allegedly supposed to be her “community”, Richards took a picture of the jokesters and posted it to Twitter:
She then asked for help in addressing the issue:
Richards next reached out to PyCon staff and posted a link to the event’s code of conduct. Shortly after Richards’ tweets, the men were led out of the ballroom by administrators. While both attendees were allowed to remain at the conference, one of the men lost his job at mobile-gaming company PlayHaven after his boss discovered Richards’ tweet. Richards expressed her sympathy and regret that the programmer was now unemployed, saying that revenge or retribution was not her intention. And here’s where the story should’ve ended. But oh no, end it did not. Here go hell come.
The Internet hulked out. A female developer, feminism, unfair punishment for a man: Richards’ story turned out to be the perfect storm, coaxing the trolliest trolls’ out of their lairs and provoking an onslaught of ire, sexism, and violent threats the likes of which haven’t been seen since the last time a woman in tech tried to do anything. The controversy erupted onto Reddit, Google+, Twitter, Hacker News, and the comments section on Richards’ blog. One of the most disturbing responses, as reported by the Daily Dot, was a photo of a bloody, beheaded woman, bound and naked, with the caption “when Im done.” Unsurprisingly, 4chan jumped into the fray, planning a DDos attack on SendGrid, Richards’ employer. As the saying goes, “hell hath no fury like 4chan’s scorn.”
Amidst the avalanche, Richards was fired by SendGrid, a development made public by a statement posted on the company’s Facebook page:
Effective immediately, SendGrid has terminated the employment of Adria Richards. While we generally are sensitive and confidential with respect to employee matters, the situation has taken on a public nature. We have taken action that we believe is in the overall best interests of SendGrid, its employees, and our customers. As we continue to process the vast amount of information, we will post something more comprehensive.
It seems that the madness has come to a screeching, swerving, careening off the road, and crashing into a “Save Masculinity” sign halt. I just wonder when all Richards’ attackers will realize that their grotesque and violent reaction proves that the tech world needs more women like Richards.