The ubiquity of cellphone cameras has blurred the lines between public and private. On one hand, if not for cellphone cameras and quick thinking, the murder of Oscar Grant never would have been caught on video. On the other hand, women in public going about their daily lives are often photographed unknown and without consent, and these pictures are often widely circulated on the internet by creepers.
Last week Channing Kennedy wrote about how the firing of Adria Richards represents part of a larger pattern of women of color being targeted by internet trolls for speaking out against racism and sexism. As he points out, “Crackpots don’t get people fired, people who validate crackpots do.”
The number of people piling on Adria Richards for tweeting a picture of two guys who were making dick jokes behind her at a tech conference has been incredible, with vitriol spilling forth from critics white and black, male and female. As a culture, we seem to feel that documenting and uploading just about anything is appropriate, but not when it’s done to call out sexism at work? Here’s what you had to say.
I was attacked several times for defending Adria Richards, women, and especially (yes, I said especially) women of color in STEM fields who are not only bullied and marginalized but are told to “stay in their place” by a racist and misogynist tech culture. I will continue to defend her.
If there’s one thing some white men seem to love is to offend. Why? Because white male privilege keeps them from holding any sort of accountability for their sins. So, they keep at it with the mentality that they are not doing anything wrong because they weren’t taught what’s right and wrong in the first place. They’ve likely gotten away with some more BS with the help of friends and family who are, themselves, detached from reality and morality.
When you defend yourself or others who are at the receiving end of such attacks, then you are attacked yourself by racists and misogynists. The message is they’re sending is that they can be fools if they want to and if you’re offended, so what? They’re untouchable.
We need to do what we can to check these mindless fools somehow and change the system that allows this to happen.
I’ll tell you about “White man privilege” in a country which differs from the US: do you want a job as a developer in my firm and you’re black? No way. Why? Because you’re black and we’re not used to it. Do I like it? No. Do I endorse it? No. Am I trying to fight against it? With all of my powers. Which are, to tell the truth, very little.
Wonderful troll take down. BTW they do it to White Women too.
You just point by point summarized the general response to this so well. Thank you.
Interesting and provocative analysis. I appreciate the insights into how humans operate in the social media-driven new world order. It really comes down to the fact that there are no (or markedly few) rules to how to operate in this space and people take actions they wouldn’t otherwise take under the guise of anonymity. In Ms. Richard’s case, she chose to share her opinion in a public forum; however, I am assuming she was there in a professional and not a personal capacity, which makes her tweet a business communication, and thus, it falls under whatever policy(ies) her employer has in place for these situations. But, again, not many employers have updated their policies to accurately reflect the nature of communications in the social media. Regardless, a decision to post her experience was not the impetus for the vitriol—that type of negativity exists absent of a public forum—it seems we prefer a negative exchange to a rational discussion nowadays. We don’t want to have a calm conversation, polite debate or even a heated discussion about which aspects of an argument have merit and why? We’ve stopped caring about facts and have replaced them with opinions and innuendo for which we may or may not accept (public) responsibility. So, unfortunately, I believe in this case Ms. Richards was the arbiter of her own demise. She “overshared” in a wildly unchecked social medium which left the door open for a very public social experiment in corporate CYA (cover your a**). In these situations we all lose.
A cautionary tale…perhaps the lesson is don’t try to fight every battle…and social media can be useful, or your worst enemy. Choose your battles wisely, and live to fight another day, but that is just my opinion.
How sad that this article was soooo good. Bravo and thank you. Have reposted.
Actually this is pretty hard. By the same logic, to get a white male fired you just need to tweet his photo and say he offended you.
I can’t believe people are honestly trying to turn this into a racial issue. Internet trolls didn’t attack Adria because she’s a woman, or because she’s black. They attacked her for being being vindictive, and they went after her gender and race because they wanted to inflict as much emotional pain on her as she had brought upon others.
And, for the record, I’m black, and I, and the black women I know in the tech field, get along fine with our non-black colleagues because 1) We aren’t obsessed with race. We see people as people, not as black or white people. And 2) We’re careful about picking our battles. Intentional insults should be reported, but overhearing an “offensive”, non-racist, non-sexist joke could have been settled through civil discourse, or a simple “shush…”
She didn’t just report it she tweeted their picture to her 10000 followers, she had no right to do so over a dongle joke, seriously. She had no right to take a picture of people and post it on the internet and mention the event. She thought she had more power then she actually had and tried to abuse it to start a mob to get fired but now it turned against her she wants to cry racist and sexist. Nope, not buying it. She messed up when she took their pictures over dongle jokes.
I think it’s all about hypocrisy. She got offended over a misheard “dongle” joke (you hear that kind of stuff on television every day) but it was OK for her to make “size” jokes on Twitter about penises to all her followers—hey, you are either a “professional” in your public life, or you are not. She was not. She didn’t deserve to be threatened or abused, but those guys having a PRIVATE conversation that she was listening in on didn’t deserve to get singled out, photographed, publicly shamed in a grade school way, and one guy fired over something so stupid, either. What ever happened to collegiality? She was looking for a GOTCHA and she got one. Perhaps she should have tried talking to those guys—none of them looked like badasses, they looked like cheery geeks. And this has nothing to do with race—it has to do with being mean and getting more back than was bargained for.
She did not report it, she publicized it. There is a MAJOR difference. If she would have just reported it to the proper people it WOULD have just ended there, but because she blew it up to a 10000000x larger issue than it was it did not.
What she was doing was a public service. Women staying silent about these incidents leaves other women feeling alone and like they have to ‘take it’ to be accepted. The massive upswell of women tweeting about this and blogging about this kind of stuff is helping move the dialogue about sexism in tech forward and public. Private isn’t sufficient for marginalized groups. Awareness is vital. Even if this was a misstep (it wasn’t, except in terms of consequences for Adria) it’s the right thing to do. Everyone should want to be aware of inappropriate shit going down in their industry.