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.

adria

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  • au napptural

    Wow, the myth of the meritocracy is alive and well. It’s a shame that when we reach great points in our careers, like this young women, we are still assaulted by racism and sexism. Well, I’m glad Clutch is giving this woman attention for doing the right thing.

    • Ash K

      She didn’t get them fired, they got themselves fired by showing their a s s at a professional event that was being sponsored by their employer.

    • mr.fierce

      by that same logic, she got herself fired.

    • Fantastico

      @ mr.fierce she didn’t show her ass. She simply spoke up about a wrong and was punished for it. Would you say Rosa Parks was “showing her ass” when she got punished?

  • bob

    I am for my black sisters and think this woman should not be fired. But she showed poor judgement in how she handled the situation. You are going to get people fired because of jokes, you are not going to try to give them a warning, you just report them and ruin their lives, and then you put their personal identities out there for the world to judge, what are you 13 ? she handled this situation very very very poorly. The only reason to fire her was the posting of others pictures on twitter. That was very very bad potentially damaging these mens lives for years to come over jokes, jokes. This is ridiculous. She is not some delicate butterfly she is a grown adult woman that was acting like she was a teenager.

    • Kay

      Well the men should also be adult enough to understand social etiquette and not make lewd, sexual jokes. I mean really, if we’re all adults they should know better. Why is the onus on HER to just grin and bear it? If she is a grown adult woman, then they should be grown adult men. Period.

    • Alicia W.

      “She is not some delicate butterfly she is a grown adult woman” – notice how black women are never allowed to be delicate and in need of protection. i’m sure if she was white, you’d be singing a different tune

    • bob

      didnt you just read my other comment those harasshing her should go to jail, I treat women on a equal footing as men all women including white women , especially white women since I see them as the most privileged class of people in America. But puting peoples pictures on twitter was very tactless. The internet is a dangerous placed if used wrong. I think it was a mistake she made but you cant take that back so I see why she got fired. and yes she is a grown woman. who should of known better. My 16 year old little sister knows better than to do something that stupid , why does this grown woman not ?

    • The Other Jess

      Sorry people, but trust that no job would just fire these two guys if they were guilty of only minor harassments or a single joke in poor taste. Obviously these two guys must have had a track record of pretty severe sexual harassment, probably to several other women in the company, in order to be fired. If the company fired them, best believe it was because they truly deserved it.

      The woman lost her job too, you know, although in her case I think it was because she was a whistleblower, or maybe because she posted their pictures online instead of waiting for HR to handle it internally. Proof that you must be careful what you post at work or when work-related.

      The good thing is that the two harassing guys also lost their jobs, which they absolutely deserved to. I agree that there is more to this story.

    • Stock

      Except they guys didn’t harass her at all. They were talking among themselves and she overheard it. Not to mention the joke neither referenced females or any ethnic background.

      Man, when did this country lose it’s bearing so much that a simply anatomical joke, potty humor if you will, is suddenly harassment, sexist and racism or which it is neither. Next thing you know, we will be bringing 5 year old children to political correctness classes for making fart jokes.

      However, Adria did, in a follow up, comment on the way white males act.

      So let’s be real. Who is really being the sexist and racist in these comments and action to the situation. Adria is, not the devs. Sorry, but it is the facts of what happened and let’s not let that get thrown under the bus.

  • bob

    Also I believe anyone making threats against this woman should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I hope they find the people doing this and they go to jail.

    • mr.fierce

      yep, white women look out for white men. its one thing if those men were black, she still would have a job. her crime was being a whistle blower in a male dominated industry, its an unwritten rule, but nevertheless its a good’ole boys club.

      The guy that got fired will get another job, but she labeled herself and now will be ostracized by the same men who she has to go to for a job.

  • jaded

    I’ve met Adria a few times, and she is excellent at community building. This situation is unfortunate on many levels. Whether you agree with her handling of the situation in the conference is completely irrelevant. It is utterly ridiculous people cannot engage in mature discussion about sexism in Silicon Valley without threats of bodily harm. I hope the people responsible are punished accordingly.

    As I learned more about the story, it also seems her employer handled the situation poorly in more ways than one. This is also unfortunate.

    There is far too much evidence is that far too many adults are unable to engage in constructive and respectful discourse.

    • bob

      her employes put the whole situation on twitter, so that their site would stop getting attacked. Disgusting situation.

  • John Davidson

    This is a ridiculous article. Create a ficticious divide and rally the troups. No one wins, people get hurt, and all for alleged oversensitivity to a silly – private – joke. Funny thing is, Adria Richards also made a silly penis joke the same day and on her very public twitter. This, and the generated media frenzy, makes her seem more like a narcissist trying to direct traffic to her social media than a crusader. And response to vitriol online: any keyboard clown, of any age, could be writing that rubbish. This is not indicative of professional people, or men. This is the internet. The Wild West of vigilante justice. It really cares not about race or gender. Anyone can suffer its wrath.