Last night, the Twitter stream went nuts over a story, and I did too. I know I just said I needed to show more gratitude to people, but even some of the guys in my followers have shown…let’s say confusion, over this story.
First, let me direct you to a link where Adria Richards herself can explain how she chose to stand up to sexual harassment at Pycon. Next, I want to show you another story detailing how she’s been harassed and attacked by bullies, threatened with rape and murder, had her private information exposed, and got fired by her cowardly employers. That second story has a graphic and brutal image at the bottom, so when I say trigger warning, I ain’t kidding.
Now, guys online are honestly saying, “Well, hey women, HE lost HIS job too. Why can’t you defend HIM too?” Sit down guys, and I’m going to explain to you why you’re confused. You see, we have a federal law about sexual harassment in work places. Pycon is a professional conference for programmers. It is not a convention, and this year in particular, Pycon was feeling a bit sensitive to their need to be welcoming to women. They added some new codes of conduct expressly forbidding the behavior that these men displayed. Adria Richard did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING wrong by calling out these men. What’s more, “HIS” employers did nothing wrong for firing him, because he was guilty of sexual harassment. If you feel women should defend someone guilty of breaking the law, you’re officially inducted into the club of misogyny, and as Bill Engvall would say, “Here’s your sign.”
“But Zoe, don’t you think she made a mistake too? She could have handled it privately,” you say. “Surely they all were adults, and—” Whoa, back up, Tiger. You made a couple of logical fallacies there. First of all, most of the time it does a woman no good whatsoever to call men on their behavior by herself. NONE. Men in the tech sector are openly hostile to women, and this kind of sex joking is very common. So is bullying under the guise of “ribbing” and “snark.” (And yes, I know all about the tech sector. Maybe you forget, but I spent a good eight years working as a PC tech and a help desk operator.)
Secondly, the tones of these jokes proves the men involved may not be minors, but they sure as hell can’t be called adults either. Men who suggest that “they could have sorted it out like adults” are both ignoring the behavior of the men and projecting an ideal onto the situation that does not exist. You want to believe in the inherent goodness of the men and act like this was just a little slip up, and not a regular part of their behavior in professional work spaces. Your belief is misguided at best. At worst, you’re actively in denial about how men react to criticism, and that’s sad because we’re discussing men’s VIOLENT online reactions to criticism right now. (more…)