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Developer Evangelist Adria Richards Fired After Tweeting About Sexual Jokes At Tech Conference

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Developer evangelist Adria Richards has been fired from her job at SendGrid after she tweeted a picture of a developer cracking sexual innuendo-filled jokes behind her at a recent tech conference. “Not cool. Jokes about forking repo’s in a sexual way and ‘big dongles,’ #pycon” Richards tweeted, referring to PyCon, a conference for the Python programming community. The tweet was accompanied by a TwitPic of the man who’d been making nerdy insider jokes. Richards added in another tweet, “Can someone talk to these guys about their conduct? I’m in lightning talks, top right near stage, 10 rows back #pycon.”

PyCon saw her tweets. “Thank you @AdriaRichards for bringing the inappropriate comments to our attention. We’ve dealt with the situation,” @PyCon tweeted. The man was identified and fired by his employer, PlayHaven. Then, earlier today, SendGrid announced it had fired Adria Richards, too. 

As per SendGrid’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.

The tech blog VentureBeat notes that SendGrid is currently under attack by hackers, meaning communication from the company’s social media accounts may be compromised. However, the company also confirmed Richards’ firing on Twitter.

The man who lost his job explained himself on a Hacker News thread, via Daily Dot. He is lamenting his firing, but also warned others that they should be more careful about what they say in public/public-private:

My friends and I had decided forking someone’s repo is a new form of flattery (the highest form being implementation) and we were excited about one of the presenters projects; a friend said “I would fork that guys repo.” The sexual context was applied by Adria, and not us.

My second comment is this, Adria has an audience and is a successful person of the media. Just check out her web page linked in her twitter account, her hard work and social activism speaks for itself. With that great power and reach comes responsibility. As a result of the picture she took I was let go from my job today. Which sucks because I have 3 kids and I really liked that job.

She gave me no warning, she smiled while she snapped the pic and sealed my fate. Let this serve as a message to everyone, our actions and words, big or small, can have a serious impact.

I don’t wholeheartedly agree with either firing. The joker should have gotten warned somehow by his bosses; even if Richards hadn’t tweeted about his jokes, his sexual innuendo-laden remarks would reflect on anyone who overheard him. It may have been a private conversation, but they did it in public, while seated at a conference within earshot of other people. Firing seems a bit much for a joke about “forking the dongle,” though. Although perhaps the joker had other transgressions and this incident — a very public incident — was the last straw for his shenanigans. If that is the case, them’s the breaks, kid. It’s not Adria Richards’ responsibility that he has three kids to support.

Additionally, Richards absolutely should not have lost her job either. Perhaps a complaint about “forking the dongles” isn’t the greatest example of calling out sexist bullshit. But she and everyone else in the tech industry damn better be able to call out sexist/racist bullshit without fear of punishment.  There is a long-standing problem in tech culture of crude, lewd behavior towards women. How will the boys’ club of tech ever change if people are punished for calling out immaturity and bigotry within the culture? “Brogrammers” have their name for a reason. Shame on SendGrid for firing an employee who called out someone else’s unprofessionalism at a conference. She could have handled it in a less public way — I’m not really a big fan of publicly humiliating people online — but I think it’s shitty her bosses didn’t have her back in this.

Not surprisingly, Adria Richards is getting a barrage of harassment on her social networks, like being called a “bitch” and told “fuck you” and “you aren’t a hero.” Some of it is just anger.  Some of it is straight-up sexist. All of it seems to me like a bunch of fucking bullshit that strangers get so worked up spewing venom at a woman they don’t even know. Don’t they get it this is why she spoke out in the first place?

[VentureBeat]
[Daily Dot]
[Facebook.com/SendGrid]

Email me at Jessica@TheFrisky.com. Follow me on Twitter.

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