And so the Internet has found a new woman to hate. Most of you are probably already familiar with the Adria Richards debacle that’s developed over the past several days. If not, Jill at Feministe has a good summary of events:
Adria Richards, formerly of the company SendGrid, was at a tech conference this week when some dudes behind her made a series of inappropriate and sexual jokes. Annoyed by the pervasiveness of misogyny in the tech world, she snapped a photo of them and put in on Twitter with a complaint. One of the conference organizers spoke to the men and they apologized. Totally reasonable! Good response, PyCon. Later, one of the dudes got fired. Instead of getting mad at the company that made the choice to fire him, the internet hordes descended on Adria. She was on the receiving end of rape and death threats. Her address and phone number were published. Her blog and her company’s website came under DDoS attack. Oh and then her company, SendGrid, fired her.
Like Jill, I think firing someone for a “dongle” joke is an overreaction, to say the least. But Richards wasn’t responsible for that; indeed, she told the fired man she hoped his employer would reconsider and take him back.
SendGrid’s firing of Richards is far more problematic. It’s one thing to get in trouble for acting like a sexist boor; it’s quite another to get in trouble for simply pointing out someone else’s problematic behavior. Richards faced a virtual lynch mob for simply documenting an example of the everyday sexism that permeates the tech world; by firing her, SendGrid essentially sided with the mob.
Is “lynch mob” an unfair term to describe those who’ve gone after Richards? No. In this context, the term is sadly apropos, as the target of all this online “activism” is not only female but black – two strikes against her in the minds of many of her, er, “critics,” who attacked her as a “fucking nigger” as well as a “cunt.” (The more genteel racists referred to her derisively as a “diversity hire.”)
Numerous commenters have already documented some of the appallingly racist and misogynist attacks on Richards. (The links in the above paragraph contain plenty of examples.)
Here, I’d like to focus specifically on the attacks on Richards coming from Men’s Rights activists – that is, from people who like to think of themselves as upstanding human rights activists for the 21st century, virtual equivalents of Martin Luther King. In fact, many of the reactions of MRAs show them to have far more in common with the bigots who fought against the civil rights movement than they do with King.
In the Men’s Rights subreddit, the MRA masses gave more than one hundred upvotes to a graphic describing Richards as a “racist, sexist and hypocritical cunt.” Evidently pointing out that white men as a class have certain advantages in the world is a kind of “racism.”
Elsewhere in the subreddit, aasorted commenters indulged themselves in gendered slurs. Greyfeld got dozens up upvotes for comments denouncing Richards as a “feminist cunt” and a “screeching harpy cunt.” DerpaNerb described Richards as “a racist/sexist cunt [who’s] clearly … not capable of doing her job properly.” Buster2209 scored 160 upvotes with a comment describing Richards as a “stupid bitch [who] brought it on herself.” Cyridius simply declared “I hate her because she’s a dumb ignorant bitch.”
Others happily gave the Men’s Rights movement credit for Richards’ firing. The execrable EvilPundit got 180 upvotes for a post essentially endorsing the virtual lynch mob and declaring Richards’ firing to be proof that the Men’s Rights movement had entered a “new phase.”
Sorry to burst your bubble, Mr. Pundit, but there’s nothing new about men harassing and threatening a black woman.
AnnArchist – a former contributor to Reddit’s now-banned Beating Women subreddit — reacted with indignation to someone who pointed out Richards had been harassed:
Over on A Voice for Men, where the locals describe themselves with no sense of irony as Men’s Human Rights Activists, there was much rejoicing over the firing of Richards, who was variously described as an “entitled bitch,” a “sociopathic bitch,” a “femshit” and a “bush pig.” Naturally, the c-word, applied to all feminists, made an appearance as well.
Daflory hoped that Richards’ firing would be the start of an industry-wide purge:
Adria Richards seems like an entitled narcissist, who had become used to deference as a moral authority through her impeccable credentials as a diversity goddess: black, Jewish, and female. …
No one ever told Adria Richards that she was at best only an tolerated guest in the world of tech, and she could either play by male rules and contribute, or get lost. Hopefully other feminists in tech will get a similar message.
And August Løvenskiolds’ mind went straight to the gutter:
[A]fter being outed as a betrayer of her customers, none of them will want to work with her, and any tech company that hires her will instantly lose credibility.
She’s going to be hard-pressed to find a job as a sex-worker unless the light is quite dim.
Taking a step back from the particulars of the incident, Mark Trueblood wondered if a man strike might help to put things right once again:
I’m pretty sure Amnesty International doesn’t exactly endorse this sort of “human rights” activism.