Commenting on the Sendgrid, Playhaven, PyCon Debacle

Posted Saturday March 23, 2013 at 8:55:12 pm in Musings

You may have heard it by now. A couple male attendees make some chauvinistic jokes in mixed attendance at a PyCon conference. A female attendee takes offense. She takes pictures. Uploads them to Twitter. And puts the male attendees on blast. Time goes by, one of the male attendees is fired by his company, the female attendee ends up getting fired by her company, and in between DDoS attacks occur. And it is all topped off with death threats, racist and sexist comments, and everything in between being directed at the female attendee.

Don't think you know enough about the situation? Most don't except for the people that were actually there. And their Human Resource departments. I won't pretend to know the exact details. I will attempt to opine about the situation from an outsider's perspective. 

But if you want to read more on the issue (and I implore that you do), you can read some of the following articles:

Now, I will say this ahead of time: this isn't a case of me saying Adria Richards was wrong for bringing this to the attention of the PyCon representatives. This isn't a situation where everyone should just ignore and "just let it be." That type of mentality is exactly why bullying happens. It's exactly why racism was accepted in the past. If people don't stand up, nothing will happen. So to that end, I just want to put this to bed.

I will also reiterate what I said above: I don't pretend to know the exact details. I can just opine about the situation from what I do know. And let's not forget one of the biggest details that none of us were afforded:

We were not there. The heat of the moment and adrenaline puts people in different mindsets. 

Let that absorb for a second.

So to that end, I have to agree with Deanna Zandt over at Forbes when she says:

Is it possible that by asking this question, that we're digitally asking if maybe Adria shouldn't have been drinking or wearing that short skirt, shouldn't have been walking home from the subway stop by herself, shouldn't have walked by that proverbial construction site where she knew she was going to get catcalled and harassed?

But also to that end, I have to slightly disagree. Heat of the moment, being offended, feeling outnumbered in a very heavily male dominated industry, she felt the need to speak out.

I get that. I understand that. And I fully understand not being in that situation, I don't fully know how I'd respond in that matter.

I will, however, say that if the argument that these guys were sponsors and hence representatives of their company (Playhaven), then in that same mold Adria Richards represents her company (SendGrid). It's mighty telling that SendGrid fired Adria Richards, it's also telling that Playhaven fired a still unnamed engineer. Clearly both companies felt that their actions were not representative of their companies.

And to that degree is what I will opinionate.

To me, this situation can be summed up by the following points:

  • You're a sponsor, representing a company in mixed company. Making chauvinistic jokes is not a good idea. It's certainly not professional.
  • You're a female attendee, at a professional conference with other professionals. You're representing your company. If you're uncomfortable with the attendees, contact the PyCon representatives and let them handle the situation.*
  • The guys (after being put on Twitter) were confronted by PyCon and Adria Richards, admitted their fault, and apologized for their actions. Is this enough? Not in the eyes of Playhaven, but I digress.
  • In no way, shape, or form are racist comments, death threats, sexist comments, and everything in between acceptable. It is downright disgusting.

*Despite what some may say, this isn't the same level of urgency as rape, there are ways to properly handle this. And, IMHO, taking pictures of the guys, putting them on blast on Twitter before talking to PyCon representatives is *not* the best way to handle it. Easy to say after the fact, but there you go. I will say that I do understand why, I just don't agree with it.

On another note, I have to commend Adria for making a stand despite all of the drama and hate filled mess that is being directed at her. She clearly sees a male dominated industry and a problem with some of its employees. 

As for the firing of Adria Richards? If she violated any of their policies or felt that she didn't represent the company, certainly that is their right. Would I have fired her? Most likely not. But once again, we're playing with incomplete information here.

To wrap this up, I will say the following: if you disagree with Adria Richards's actions, fine. Don't bring sex, race, and violence into the equation. Just bring logic. That usually wins out.

The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer’s view