What Is Wrong With You Monkeys?!

Attention conservation notice: Angry rant about sexism and sexism-motivated abuse in the computer industry.

I was going to write a crunchy, cerebral, if perhaps controversial, post today about how I don’t think Bitcoin is going to change the world, but then I got up and read my usual newsfeeds and discovered that, once again, the Internet’s collection of gibbering follow monkeys have decided to hurl abuse up to and including death threats at someone. Someone whom, I am not surprised to find, is female and not white. So now you don’t get crunchy, or cerebral. You get an angry rant, because I have had enough of this shit.

For context, the sequence of events appears to have gone something like this. More details available at GF Wiki.

  • Some dudes were making sophomoric, not actually funny sex jokes at PyCon.
  • Adria Richards complained to the PyCon organizers and also kvetched about the dudes on Twitter.
  • The PyCon organizers told the dudes to knock it off and/or leave the room, which they did.
  • The gibbering follow monkeys flipped the fuck out, like they do, and started throwing abuse, DDOS and death threats around.
  • One of the dudes was fired subsequent to a thorough investigation by his employer.
  • Ms. Richards has also been fired, apparently after the abuse widened to include her employer as an organization.

Okay, here comes the rant.

What. The. Fuck. Is. Wrong. With. You. Monkeys?!

Why is it that this type of incident always seems to provoke a nuclear-grade shitstorm?

Why is it so important to you to be able to make sophomoric, unfunny jokes no matter where you may find yourself?

Where on God’s green earth did you get the idea that death threats are an appropriate response to ANYTHING?!

Why are you not ashamed of yourselves?

So tell us how you really feel, Weinberg.

I rather think I just did, but now I’m done shouting, perhaps I will elaborate a bit.

The sophomoric, not actually funny sex jokes may seem like a minor thing and not worth complaining about, but there is a fucking track record here. Much more serious things can and have happened to women at professional conventions (both in the software industry and out). By calling out minor bad behavior and publicly telling the perpetrators to knock it off, communities signal that more serious misbehavior will not be tolerated, and then hopefully it doesn’t happen at all. (Note: I am aware that this has been partially discredited as regards violent crime, but if you think it doesn’t work at all, provide evidence to back up your claims, and be aware that you are arguing with Philip Zimbardo.) The initial hey, this is not cool report and the knock it off response by PyCon seem precisely on the nose to me. Should anyone have gotten fired? Not just because of this incident, certainly, but the thorough investigation by the dude’s employer may have turned up something more serious; they, quite properly, do not elaborate. (Commenting in public about why you fired someone is a nonstop ticket to lawsuit land in the USA.) As of this writing, Ms. Richards’ employer appears to be in panic mode and not behaving rationally; I would not be surprised if they calm down tomorrow and pretend it never happened.

Now, as to the shitstorm. There is also a track record here, and for that I’m going to refer you to John Scalzi: The Sort of Crap I Don’t Get. He explains how he gets hate mail because of things he does, but he does not get a continuous stream of abuse, nor is it because of who and what he is (unless you count opinionated and widely read). Anyone who isn’t a straight white male, however, can expect that continuous stream of abuse, especially if they have a prominent online persona. This is not okay, and this is what I am especially angry about this afternoon. I have seen it happen over and over again to friends and acquaintances and strangers whose writing I read, and what the hell can I do about it?

I can say WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU MONKEYS out loud instead of just thinking it, maybe. Maybe if enough people do that, the monkeys will start to feel some shred of shame.

I can hope.

Thanks for listening. Have a flower.

Crocuses in a vacant lot

Responses to “What Is Wrong With You Monkeys?!”

  1. Zack Weinberg

    NOTE: Comments will be very aggressively moderated on this one. I have already lost all faith in humanity today. Do not make it worse.

  2. matti

    The guys didn’t make jokes about her or about women in general as far as I know. Instead of asking this 2 guys to shut up she posted the picture from this 2 guys on twitter. Sorry but that is a no-go and she should knew it better as PR person. After the poor guy with 3 kids lost his job I’m glad the she also lost her job. Maybe she and the community will learn from this.

    Note: My opinion would be different if someone makes racist jokes or jokes against women.

  3. krip

    Anyone who isn’t a straight white male, however, can expect that continuous stream of abuse, especially if they have a prominent online persona.

    I am not a straight white male. I have a somewhat prominent online persona, in that news sites mention my name in their stories, and sometimes there is controversy in them, fanboys get angry and whatnot. I have never gotten a continuous stream of abuse.

    Of course, there is plenty of such online abuse. I agree it’s terrible and must stop, but please, don’t assume (1) straight white people are immune to it, and (2) it happens to all non-straight white people.

    Also, regarding Adria not being white: What makes you (1) notice that, and (2) assume it is relevant to the story? That she is a women is relevant since she brings it up, but I didn’t even think about her ethnicity (why would I care?) until you mentioned it here. In fact I still don’t know (or care) what her ethnicity is.

  4. starwed

    @Matti, no offense but… you seem to be just regurgitating talking points you’ve seen elsewhere on the net. They’re not really relevant here, because most of the internet’s response to the situation isn’t justified even if she were some sort of terrible, terrible person.

    The blog post by Amanda Blum (linked above) is a much more interesting and nuanced take on the anti-Adria side of things. It’s proof that there can be debate on the issue without slipping into monkey-land.

  5. Galia Ladiray Weiss

    Hey, I’m a woman (does it matter?) 20 years in CS. I started by only reading Adria’s post about the issue, and I was sad. Reading HER side of the story I felt she was overreacting only in order to draw attention to her.

    This is unfortunate to ANY woman in the high tech industry, because it again gives the impression of how fragile we are. I am not fragile. I know many women who are not, I actually do not know ANY woman that in such circumstances, would not either laugh of the joke, or tell the guy to shut up.

    People defending women in scenario they would tell a man just grow up and handle it are the worst kind of male chauvinist. (and I am not talking about PyCon organiser, who probably just told the guys to shut up, because she asked their help on that)

    Now please close your eyes, imagine she is a white male, and 4 white males behind him are making meat eating jokes, and he is a vegetarian and is really sensitive about killing animals, what would your reaction be now?

    I don’t think this is Adria’s fault, people can be like that. The problem is the public reaction. The dude was fired and she was fired DUE to the public reaction. People should ignore attention seeking Adrias. Try to make the difference between real abuse stories and, someone made me angry stories.

    I agree on the death threats and any aggressive messages, she or he receives. This is terrible, nothing justifies that. The worst is that this is a part of human behavior and we can find it everywhere. Lets us NOT be like that and help others around us to avoid this.

  6. Zack Weinberg

    I have very little sympathy for the she should have handled this differently class of arguments, for three reasons. First, it’s Monday morning quarterbacking. I wasn’t there, you probably weren’t there either, and there are all kinds of reasons why what she did may have seemed to be her best available option at the time. Second, it has all of the problems of the tone argument even if technically it isn’t quite the same thing. Relatedly, who hasn’t gotten a little self-righteous and self-congratulatory on their own blog? Another thing that there’s a fucking track record of, is women, in particular, not getting cut nearly as much slack as men when they talk themselves up (buried lede: look for this hesitation might be for good reason about halfway down) and this smells like another instance of that to me.

    But most important of all: you can’t have a constructive conversation about how an incident might have been handled better (by all concerned) in the middle of an Internet shitstorm. The moment the gibbering follow monkeys start throwing feces around, the conversation is over, and all you can do is raise shields and play whack-a-mole until they stop. And I think it’s not too much to ask that we all express some solidarity with the person at the center of the shitstorm, either—regardless of what we think of them or their actions. We do this for weev, who glories in the title of Internet asshole, because nobody should have to go to jail for issuing a bunch of programmatic GET requests, no matter how much of an asshole they are; we damn well can do this for Richards, because nobody should get fired for what she did, and nobody should get threatened with death, full stop. That’s the really important thing here.

  7. Martijn

    For non-english persons, this debate is quite confusing. What were these guys talking about exactly?

  8. Zack Weinberg

    Martijn: It may help to know that a dongle is a small piece of hardware that plugs into a computer, like a USB stick; originally it referred to the copy protection devices that came with expensive CAD software and the like. The word is similar to one of the many English slang terms that means penis (namely dong), and of course their entire function is to be plugged into another device, so it’s perfect material for the sort of sex joke that is hilarious if you’re twelve, but not if you’re older.

    I regret to say I have to close comments at this point. The monkeys have showed up, and I don’t have time to play whack-a-mole. My email address is on the contact page if anyone has anything more to say; thanks to everyone who made this a mostly-constructive discussion to this point.