adria-richards

The war against women continues as more of our bright, courageous voices are deliberately shamed into silence. Adria Richards lost her job and became the target of death and rape threats for simply reporting sexual harassment at the PyCon tech conference on Twitter and her blog.

Blogger and web developer Adria Richards, one of the few black women in tech, was made to feel like an outsider at the PyCon tech conference when two men made inappropriate lewd comments a row behind her.

She writes:

“The guy behind me to the far left was saying he didn’t find much value from the logging session that day. I agreed with him so I turned around and said so. He then went onto say that an earlier session he’d been to where the speaker was talking about images and visualization with Python was really good, even if it seemed to him the speaker wasn’t really an expert on images. He said he would be interested in forking the repo and continuing development.

That would have been fine until the guy next to him… began making sexual forking jokes I was going to let it go.

It had been a long week. A long month. I’d been on the road since mid February attending and speaking at conferences. PyCon was my 5th and final conference before heading home. I know it’s important to pick my battles. I know I don’t have to be a hero in every situation. Sometimes I just want to go to a conference and be a geek.

But… like Popeye, I couldn’t “stands it no more” because of what happened – Jesse Noller was up on stage thanking the sponsors. The guys behind me (one off to the right) said, “You can thank me, you can thank me”. That told me they were a sponsoring company of Pycon and from the photos I took, his badge had an add-on that said, “Sponsor”. My company was a Gold sponsor as well. They started talking about “big” dongles. I could feel my face getting flustered. Was this really happening?How many times do I have to deal with this?”

Richards photographed the men, tweeted the picture and reported their actions to the conference organizers. The two men were reportedly fired by their company for their inappropriate behavior. At that point, Richards became a target.

In addition to receiving rape and death threats, she was fired from her company, SendGrid, who released the following vague statement:

“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.”

In what world is it okay to fire someone for speaking out and reporting sexual harassment? The tragic and deplorable mishandling of this situation by SendGrid sends a message to women that having a voice and defending yourself can cost you your job. It is a way of silencing and disempowering women in an environment where sexually obscene and offensive comments are all too prevalent. The death and rape threats Richards is now receiving are just another example of sexism rearing its ugly head. Media outlets are blaming the victim, asking what she could have done differently rather than addressing why these men thought their lewd comments were appropriate in the first place.

As Richards is faced with daily attacks and commentary questioning her character, we want to support her, be in solidarity with her and thank her for her courage. Her actions were commendable and necessary to protect herself and other women from a sexist culture that constantly threatens to demean and humiliate them.

Her attackers and SendGrid are the ones who should be ashamed.

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  • Well said, Clutch. We should always pull together and support each other like this.

  • TajMarie

    This is grounds for a lawsuit.

  • la mala

    Really? In the best interest of the employees and customers? This is so ridiculous…

  • Yvette

    Hmm, my comment seems to be stuck in moderation. I wonder why?

    • Yvette

      Guess I’ll try again. One of the most important facts was left out of this story. Not only did Ms. Richards photograph the two men, she also tweeted the picture. Why didn’t she just go directly to the conference organizers and ask that the men be removed? Instead, she chose to turn it into a public Internet spectacle – very immature in my opinion.

      She definitely shouldn’t have been fired nor threatened, but she also should have handled the situation in a more professional manner.

    • Alicia W.

      “Adria Richards lost her job and became the target of death and rape threats for simply reporting sexual harassment at the PyCon tech conference on Twitter and her blog.”

    • Suzanne

      As much as I agree with you, I do have to wonder if Ms. Richards complaints about the comments would have been taken seriously had she handled it privately. Would conference organizers have forced these two male idiots to leave? I doubt it. What would Ms. Richards have said: “These two guys are making sexual references that are making me uncomfortable”? Considering the venue, she may have been laughed at.

      I’ve seen companies completely ignore such issues. In fact, the person filing the complaint often suffers backlash from coworkers and management.

    • Yvette,

      On Friday night after 7 pm est through Sunday – we don’t really get to monitor comments and if they get stuck in moderation – it is not us and most of the time we don’t get to look at the comments in moderation and approve until Sunday afternoon or Monday morning – due to us being off on weekends.

      Thanks!

  • Simone L

    Although I’m not sure she should have tweeted it, its sad that her company let her go. A black female in the tech world- those two are really rare in that field. Sometimes I think the internet is making us worse people. We’ll send a death threat in a heart beat. And for some reason, some people are comfortable with threatening to violate a woman. This bothers me to my core.

    • Fantastico

      Yeah, like a previous comment said would have been laughed away and brushed off if she made a formal report. This type of workplace sexism is not taken seriously in most corporations.