Uh-oh, looks like the editorial team at Wired got their garbage and their clean towels confused!
In a new piece, Why You Should Think Twice Before Shaming Anyone on Social Media, writer Laura Hudson claims that getting flak for sharing racist bullshit on Twitter is just like reporting a climate of sexual intimidation at a tech conference, and requesting some help, and then getting fired from your job because you, unlike the white guys you exposed, are a woman of color and therefore just as guilty.
As a publication that holds itself out as an arbiter of tech, it is disturbing that the Wired editorial team can’t leave crappy enough alone. It has been more than four months since Adria Richards was fired for making it clear that forking and dongle jokes don’t belong at tech conferences. That she is a woman of color exposing routine sexism, and by the way paying a pretty big price for it, makes it even more outrageous that she is being put on the same plane as people who are racists.
Just like exposing sexism and being a racist are totally separate things, so are embarrassment as a tool for social change versus shaming. As I have written before, these are totally separate tactics. People should be embarrassed when they are caught being an oppressive bigot. It helps to dispel future oppressive bigotry. Shaming, on the other hand, is attacking the core of who someone is. No one, at their core, is a bigot. Bigotry is learned social behavior. Very bad learned social behavior that relies, among other things, upon false claims in service of the status quo.
4 thoughts on “Wired Claims Exposing Sexism Is Just Like Being Exposed As Racist”
Your right, racist tweets and what Andria Richards did is very different. What Andria did was far worse. She published a photo of someone to her 10,000+ Twitter followers publicly shaming them and the innocent people sitting next to them (I’m still not sure which of the men in that photo she was trying to shame. Was it the one on the left?). A racist tweet against a public figure, on the other hand, does no direct harm to any individual. Certainly a bad thing but is doesn’t plunge to the same moral depths as Richards action. Being an adult she should also have known better then the teenagers in question.
However, the most harmful effects of Andria Richards tweet was not to the men she targeted but rather woman in the tech industry. I work in the tech industry so I am able to see the change first hand. Before donglegate sexism was seen, by both men and woman, as a problem that needed to be dealt with (though men did often understated the problem). It is now often seen as an “us vs them” issue, with a significant chunk of men thinking that woman come into the tech industry and try to push a political correctness that will damage innovation and efficiency. The managers I know are now being much more careful in the woman they hire so as to avoid an Andria Richards problem.
“getting fired from your job because you, unlike the white guys you exposed, are a woman of color and therefore just as guilty.”
When making these kinds of judgments I would advise you to look beyond gender and skin color to a persons actions and the contents of their character.
Respectfully, I disagree with the points above.
1. Casting light on behavior that has a purpose to intimidate — whether sexist or racist speech — is not the same thing as actually giving sexist or racist speech. I believe what Adria Richards did was good, and I support her. I could not disagree more with the idea that a racist attack “doesn’t plunge to the same moral depths” as exposing sexism at a tech conference (where, by the way, people should expect to be Tweeted, Instagrammed and displayed on social media). Racist expressions in our culture are deeply immoral, and part of a culture of hatred and violence that allowed an unarmed black teenager to be hunted down and shot for the non-crime of carrying a bag of Skittles after dark.
2. Sexist or racist speech is not just directed at the recipient. It is directed at everyone. Its purpose is to intimidate and shut those with less power out. In so doing it does harm to a great many individuals — those with disadvantaged identities, as well as those with privileged identities.
3. Standing up in the face of intimidation is admirable.
4. I am deeply concerned by this statement: “The managers I know are now being much more careful in the woman they hire so as to avoid an Andria Richards problem.”
The simple fact that Adria Richards is taken as a stand-in for ANY woman in the tech industry, a boys-club industry, is exactly why it’s so admirable that she spoke up. When all women are considered the same, you know that the problem isn’t individuals or their behavior — it’s assumptions about them on the basis of their gender.
Thank you for explaining your position.
If overhearing a dongle joke counts as “intimidation” then the sexists who say that woman are too delicate for a life outside the kitchen may have a point after all.
The way Andria published those photos isn’t allowed or expected. In fact she broke several rules by publishing the pictures, and the Pycon conference rules have been altered to emphasize that you shouldn’t publish peoples photos like that. I have a friend who was at the 2013 Pycon conference who has an abusive ex-boyfriend. Fortunately she was not sitting next to those guys when Andria took and published that photo, but if she had been she would have been placed in real danger. There is a reason why the rules at conferences prohibit publishing photos of people in real time without their consent. Adria created an unsafe environment by breaking those rules.
“The simple fact that Adria Richards is taken as a stand-in for ANY woman in the tech industry, a boys-club industry, is exactly why it’s so admirable that she spoke up. When all women are considered the same, you know that the problem isn’t individuals or their behavior”
Adria Richards presented herself as representing woman in tech, in fact that is kind of her shtick. Enough woman, like yourself, agreeing with her and supporting her gives her claim a certain degree of authority. No company wants employees who will perpetuate this kind of rampant political correctness. Employees can’t be efficient, let alone innovative, if they have be afraid that a joke, which wouldn’t be out of place in the Disney movie, will get their pictures circulated to thousands of people on the internet and get a pink slip sent their way. That’s why Adria Richards was fired from SendGrid and ostracized from the tech industry. That’s is why there is now more screening for perspective female employees by HR (especially social network posts) to make sure no one who might pull a Richards will get through the screening process. I don’t think that’s what she wanted and I don’t think that’s what you want. But that is what Adria Richards actions accomplished.
Totally agree with you on this.