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Forking and Dongle Jokes Don't Belong At Tech Conferences (butyoureagirl.com)
68 points by adriarichards 1402 days ago | hide | past | web | 121 comments | favorite



This whole thing was a massive failure on all sides.

It was a social failure by the guys who kept on making annoying and unfunny jokes (I think it actually starts with this obnoxious "thank me! thank me!" stuff).

It was a total benevolence failure on part of the author who seems exceedingly gleeful about her well-calculated coup.

It's a failure of society in general to think that "sexualized" environments somehow attack the expected chastity of women. Or that chastity is a virtue in the first place.

It's a failure of taste to think those kinds of comments are actually funny - or even sexual for that matter, and that equally-as-annoying non-sexual comments should go unpunished.

It's a failure of the geek community in general to create an environment where a constant battle is being waged between men and women, that certainly includes obnoxious and harassing behavior of groups of men, but it just as well applies to women who are constantly on the prowl to detect sex stuff.

This whole thing: totally unnecessary from all sides. Instead, we could just code in peace. But as I see it nobody is making an effort to actually question the factors that led to this totally predictable and depressingly recurring disaster. Everybody is just pouncing on the scandal. This energy would be better spent by employing a healthy dose of introspection.


The failure was not equally massive on all sides, though.

Two guys made possibly juvenile jokes to each other while sitting in the audience at a conference.

This was a minor failure of manners.

A woman reacted by taking a creepshot of them, publicly shaming them on Twitter, and getting them kicked out of the room without even trying to simply talk to them. Even though she had also been making sexual jokes while at PyCon: https://twitter.com/adriarichards/status/312265091791847425 And like most cyber-bullies, she felt exhilarated by her power to dispose of people she finds annoying without even having to interact with them as human beings: https://twitter.com/adriarichards/status/313442430848487424

This was a failure at displaying a stable, adult personality.

The company employing one of the guys fired him. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5398681 A father of three is out of a job because a silly joke he was telling a friend was overheard by someone with more power than sense.

This is the real massive failure.

This is the moment where the "feminism in tech" advocacy movement jumped the shark. Not the women in tech themselves, mind you, who where there before this thing and will be there after it. But this campaign to make everything as comfortable as possible for a group of people who is assumed to need protection, as interpreted by some vocal elements whose representativity is anything but proven, has already led us to establish a ridiculous police state atmosphere where an engineer can be fired for making an off-color joke to a friend.

This is not making tech welcoming to women. This is making tech unwelcoming and hostile to all the geeks, men and women, who are uncomfortable with this corporate-style PC totalitarianism.

And at this point it's not just a looming dystopia. It's happening now! A geek lost their job for a joke, because their corporate masters were afraid of the backlash from a cyber-bully riding the right PR wave.

This is not the kind of industry I want to work in. Please, let's stop this insanity now.


> A woman reacted by taking a creepshot of them

A creepshot by definition is a sexualized photograph, this doesn't count.

> publicly shaming them on Twitter

Nothing wrong with this.

> and getting them kicked out of the room without even trying to simply talk to them

When a con attendee violates the rules and con staff wish to pull them aside, that is totally legit. And no, she was under no obligation to explain anything to them.

> This was a failure at displaying a stable, adult personality.

You are implying that the OP is unstable, which is a pretty gross thing to say and is offensive to folks with mental disability.

> The company employing one of the guys fired him. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5398681 A father of three is out of a job because a silly joke he was telling a friend was overheard by someone with more power than sense.

The OP did not fire this individual nor escort them out of the room. Having con staff pull the person aside is an expected outcome, but being fired is completely outside of the OP's control and is, frankly, a huge overreaction from a company that would rather throw people aside than actually engage in meaningful sensitivity training for its employees.

> But this campaign to make everything as comfortable as possible for a group of people who is assumed to need protection...

Women in tech are not asking for others to protect them, but rather that policies be made and enforced that allow them to participate like any other attendee of the con. That con spaces are so unsafe in a variety of ways doesn't highlight the need for protection, but the need to provide basic rules of decency and to enforce them.

> ...as interpreted by some vocal elements whose representativity is anything but proven, has already led us to establish a ridiculous police state atmosphere where an engineer can be fired for making an off-color joke to a friend.

A conference is not a public gov't and they reserve the right to enforce policies attendees agree to when buying tickets or signing up. A police state this is not.

> This is not making tech welcoming to women. This is making tech unwelcoming and hostile to all the geeks, men and women, who are uncomfortable with this corporate-style PC totalitarianism.

Oddly enough the company that fired the gentleman in question fits more in line with your feelings of corporate-style totalitarianism. However, pulling con attendees aside who are making the space unsafe is to be expected and is a desired thing. Also, there isn't anything PC about not making penis jokes at a professional conference where your company is a sponsor.

> And at this point it's not just a looming dystopia. It's happening now! A geek lost their job for a joke, because their corporate masters were afraid of the backlash from a cyber-bully riding the right PR wave.

The problem you seem to have is with corporation and private business, not someone ensuring that the conference they are attending is a safe space.


It seems like you're being downvoted pretty heavily. Part of it probably has to do with the views you're expressing, but I think a big part of it is the manner in which you are expressing those views. The former is probably never going to change for you, but the latter could always be changed.

> A creepshot by definition is a sexualized photograph, this doesn't count.

I think your argument here is being overly dismissive. Sure in the most common usage of the term, it's not a creepshot. But I still think many would agree that it's creepy, as a matter of social custom, to take pictures of random people. It never bodes well for an argument when it's focused on the semantics of a single term.

> Nothing wrong with this.

You don't provide a justification for this. Just a matter-of-fact statement (which is very off-putting).

> And no, she was under no obligation to explain anything to them

I agree she was not under any obligation to explain anything to them. But again, I think this argument is overly technical. Might it have been a good idea to simply ask them to apologize, and then leave it at that? I don't think anyone should instantly jump for the nuclear option (of getting people kicked out).

> which is a pretty gross thing to say and is offensive to folks with mental disability.

I think you're getting downvoted here for throwing out what appears to be a red herring (quibbling over a minor detail and in general being overly focused on semantics).

> The OP did not fire this individual nor escort them out of the room

I agree with you here, but then again, keep this in mind: the Department of Justice did not intend for Aaron Swartz to kill himself. Yet that was the consequence of their actions. I apologize if anyone thinks this example is too extreme.

I also feel like it's a leap to say that it is actually the company that is being overly PC. It's more likely they fired him because of the negative media attention.


I wouldn't be surprise if the DoJ actually intended for Aaron Swartz to kill himself. The US government did this before with public right activists.

And I agree that without the twitter post of the picture with the accompanying accusing comment, there would have been no firing involved.


>The OP did not fire this individual nor escort them out of the room. Having con staff pull the person aside is an expected outcome, but being fired is completely outside of the OP's control and is, frankly, a huge overreaction from a company that would rather throw people aside than actually engage in meaningful sensitivity training for its employees.

The OP of the tweet is responsible for her actions. She publically attempted to shame them, with full knowledge that individuals outside the conference would be able to view, and/or react to the individuals who were not speaking with her.

There was no threat to the individual's safety. It was a "threat" to what she wants to hear. Shes throwing a tantrum over a minor squable.


"Women in tech are not asking for others to protect them, but rather that policies be made and enforced that allow them to participate like any other attendee of the con."

But that assumes women are unable to participate unless they are... well, _protected_ from ever hearing sexual jokes.

No, you may be right that most women perhaps aren't actually asking to be so protected, but some apparently are, and it is their wishes that are being heeded.


I don't want to get into an argument about it because I think you're on the right side of things but the one thing I would say about your assessment is that I think you need to think about how benevolent someone should be in the face of not just a single instance of something happening but continually being subject to this stuff on an on-going basis.

The "we could just code in peace" is fine up until something actually happens (such as people making inappropriate comments) at which point people have to make up their mind what to do about it. Turning the other cheek has, to date, been a remarkably ineffective technique.


I agree with in you principle, but the way this is being handled is simply not designed to alleviate any of the problems. It's sad that the only socially acceptable way of shutting up obnoxiously giggling douchebags during a presentation is by invoking the sex card.

It's true that I have never been to an American tech event and I cede that I can't really know how endemic threatening male group behavior has become in these settings. However, the example at hand does not strike me as such an instance. It may well be the straw that broke the camel's back in the author's case, but on its own this affair just leaves everyone involved in a very bad light.

My instinct is to look at the more basic failures that make situations like these possible, and I listed a few that struck me off the top of my head.


I'm not sure we can be all that certain about the author's failings (apart from some failures as a writer). Certainly in her other story about inappropriate behaviour, she acts very reasonably. However, we can't really tell from how she writes the story whether the guy she complained about was just joking around with his friend, or directing sexual comments towards her in a harassing manner.

The problem with sexual harassment isn't that it attacks expectations of chastity, and to be honest, that's quite a condescending attitude to take. Sexual harassment is unpleasant because it makes people feel uncomfortable and frightened. If you think jokes can't be frightening then that is a failure on your part.

Sexual harassment isn't uncomfortable and scary because unwanted sexual attention offends one's virtue. Overt sexual advances are unprofessional, they put people in awkward social positions, and embarrass them in front of their peers. Unwanted sexual attention in a professional environment can be very disrespectful - it's an unwelcome diversion away from the desired professional interactions, and sends a clear message that you're not being taken seriously at all. It's potentially career damaging stuff, so it makes sense that it makes people uncomfortable.

Sexual harassment becomes deeply uncomfortable when it persists. When someone receives a sexual comment and responds coldly or uncomfortably, with obvious embarrassment or disinterest, they expect the sexual content to stop. If the sexual comments persist, that is creepy. It's not necessarily that the comments themselves are deeply offensive, it's the fact that someone is persisting in an action that is intrusive and unpleasant to you. In a professional environment, it is expected that everyone behave politely and with consideration. If someone presses the point and tries to engage with you in a sexual manner beyond the bounds of normal politeness, then you begin to think they are motivated by some strong feelings, and that is scary. Worse still, once you become scared, if they persist further, that means they don't even care about frightening you.

It is genuinely quite scary when someone has some strong feelings towards you that drive them to ignore social convention and your discomfort and fear. Worse still, complaints about sexual harassment often get dismissed as simple misunderstandings and not taken seriously. The fact is, misunderstandings are scary if someone is misunderstanding your fear and discomfort as an invitation to bed.


I'm sorry, but I read this as a total overreaction on her behalf.

And, there's a massive dose of hypocrisy here, especially given the following tweets that she sent, whilst at PyCon:

   @skwashd you should put something in your pants next time...
   like a bunch of socks inside one...large...sock.  
   TSA agent faint
[1]

How is this not a massive double standard? Is this not dripping with innuendo?

Would it have been acceptable if the jokes about forking and dongles had been issued via tweets, rather than aloud? I doubt it. Given then terms of conduct specify "All communication should be appropriate for a professional audience", I doubt this complies.

Earlier, she retweeted a joke about Autism [2], a comment about a dollar bill being "6 inches long" [3], and a crack about developers being socially awkward. [4].

Let me be clear - I take no offence from any of these posts - and I'm sure they are all meant in good humour ... but, that's not the point here, is it?

And, to quote the victim herself ... "judge not yet ye be judged..."

[1] https://twitter.com/adriarichards/status/312265091791847425

[2] https://twitter.com/TheSportsBrain/status/312293963639971842

[3] https://twitter.com/adriarichards/status/312410699311755264

[4] https://twitter.com/adriarichards/status/312293950058815488

[5] https://twitter.com/adriarichards/status/313508129704927233


The reason you can't get offended by any of these is that they're in no way offensive.

Did you read the conversation around that first tweet? It in no way degrades anyone, with the possible exception of TSA agents.

The one "about autism" is a comparison in which someone is compare to someone autistic because they're good at something.

It seems to me that you've basically gone looking for stuff to beat her up with and still come up with a bunch of stuff that by your own admission isn't offensive.

Do you seriously think those are comparable things?


The Autism tweets have potential to be offensive because they're ignorant about ASD.

Many people with ASDs have very poor oral communication skills.

There's a bunch of stuff there about people with ASDs having to pass - having to fake who they are to be more neuro-typical so they can get work and avoid bullying - which is potentially distressing if you've ever had to do it.

Your general point that this isn't as serious as sexist banter at conferences is a good one, and I accept that.

I'm still uncomfortable that she tweeted photographs of a bunch of people, labelling some of them as sexist, without being very clear which ones she was accusing. There's a bunch of guys in that photo who may hate sexism and may be working hard to avoid it (or who maybe don't care either way but are not actively being sexist) who are now in a widely circulated photo.

EDIT: About "Being good at something" - we don't say "Women are nurturing"; "men are good at reading maps"; "people with Autism are great at math" because it's stereotyping limiting reductionist nonsense.


Fair point re the autism point though worth noting that she was talking to someone who was autistic and writes about it publicly (she replies to Maty in the comments below the piece on this).

Regarding the photo - agreed she needs to be sure she's not catching innocent people in shot and should probably be clearer who she is referring to.

One small thing (which I'm guessing was actually just you being brief rather than anything more):

It's worth noting that (I'm pretty sure) that she didn't label anyone as sexist.

She accused several people of behaving in a particular way supporting it with a detailed account of things she personally witnessed. That seems fair enough.

But she also seems (correct me if I'm wrong) to stop short of extrapolating that out to saying they're sexist. Many of us will have at some point said something, knowingly or unknowingly, that was racist / sexist / homophobic but most of us would deny being racist / sexist / homophobic. One doesn't necessarily extend automatically from the other and it's good that she didn't try to do that and stuck just to what she knew.


>> The reason you can't get offended by any of these is that they're in no way offensive.

That's entirely subjective, which is the point of this whole thing.

To me, the comments made in the original conversation were in no way offensive either. Yet, one guy lost his job as a result.

>> It in no way degrades anyone, with the possible exception of TSA agents.

A comment about a big dongle in no-way degrades anyone either. But, Adria took offense at it, yet deemed her own comments acceptable.


So, to clarify...

socks=penis: funny

dongle=penis: ZOMG this is like LORD OF THE FLIES call the cops!


Nope, it isn't an overreaction.

It isn't hypocrisy either.

You appear to have confused the difference between active and passive involvement in a conversation.

The tweets were an active response. The problem was directing a "suggestive" / "lewd" conversation at a 3rd Party with no active relationship.

As a representative of a company (their name is on your badge), unless you have a personal and independent connection with someone, everything you say "represents the organization". And, even if you have a personal connection, you can still get in trouble.


>> The problem was directing a "suggestive" / "lewd" conversation at a 3rd Party with no active relationship.

There is nothing in the source material that suggests that the conversation was directed at a 3rd party. Person A was having a conversation with Person B, and made a comment that Person C overheard and got offended at.

The twitter conversation analogy fits perfectly.

How is a joke about socks in pants less sexual in nature than a joke about a big dongle?


Since you didn't say who A, B and C were I have to assume,

A - person to the left B - person to the right C - Adria

Yes, you have missed the distinction and the twitter "analogy" is false.

Adria[C] (I've no idea who any of these people are) turned and spoke to the person to the far left [A] behind her - and it "involved forking the repo to continue development".

Then, the "guy next to him" [B] .... um, the 3rd Person [B], began making forking jokes.

So how does [B] have an active relationship to [C]? (Speculation: [B] thinks there is a relationship because they are sitting next to [A]?)

Now we have to introduce [D] -- the traveller inbound to the USA. The "socks in pants" sexual innuendo is between party [D] and [C]. Party [D] tweets about the TSA, party [C] responds.

Where is [B] or other letter if twitter is supposed to be analogous? Being an observer or a passive listener doesn't count!


You're kinda right here, the twitter analogy is not quite the same, the PyCon incident involved a handful of people and spoken words while the twitter one is much much worse as it is made public to the whole internet and doesn't go away once written.

Apart from this significant difference, both are dick jokes and to me seems to be poking innocent fun but reveals a closed mindedness and double standard from Adria.


So, we've got the "Think of the children!" argument:

  I realized I had to do something or she would never have
  the chance to learn and love programming because the ass
  clowns behind me would make it impossible for her to do 
  so.
I'll entertain that argument, though I think it is a wee-bit overbearing on her part to assume what will and what won't scare off this youngster; I don't believe, for example, that simple clumsy bawd would actually be enough to ruin software development for all people forever--and honestly, how many of us would want to work with someone who can't take the occasional obscene joke?

This is where I have a problem with the author's actions:

  I decided to do things differently this time and didn’t
  say anything to them directly. 
...especially when, in the same article, we have:

  I know I don’t have to be a hero in every situation.
Honestly? This is what passes for heroism these days? Are you kidding me?

Had the author talked to them, expressed discontent, explained why she felt their behavior was inappropriate, and all that, I'm sure everyone would've come out ahead. Instead, these poor folks are getting smeared for cracking wise to each other during a conference.

No amount of hand-wringing will change the fact that the author, when given the opportunity to directly improve the situation and help set a good example, chose to make a mess of things for what is probably at best just ill-timed immaturity.

If you want to help the cause of women in CS, you have to make sure that you are setting an example where your actions cannot be interpreted as fearful, backstabbing, or passive-aggressive. You want to be a positive role-model, right?

EDIT: Here, a call to action. Folks, don't put up with people who are being jerks--but at least try to explain to them why they are being jerks, and try to set a good example. A lot of people don't try to screw up things--they just need a nudge to keep on the right path from time to time.


Or just look at the domain name, the calculation, the self-aggrandizement and realize a perfectly played marketing ploy to drive traffic to her site and get her some future speaking engagements.

I give her props for deft manipulation of the situation for maximum effect, it was rather brilliant... and from her perspective the worst thing is an unfunny guy got fired, not a bad days work.


Worked out great for Anita Sarkeesian.

Judging Adria Richards website, her mostly inactive Github profile, her Youtube channel filled with spammy "how to" videos. She seems more like someone engaged with trying to make money on the talk circuit and Youtube game rather than as a developer.

But yeah well done her getting the guy with 3 kids fired for the PG-level conversation she overheard.


lol


Agreed.

When was the last time attempting to publicly humiliate someone convinced them to turn from their unenlightened ways?

Any desire to make the developer community more diverse and open is admirable. But responding to inappropriate jokes in this manner isn't just overreaching.

It's repaying asshattery with asshattery.

I'm not defending the behavior of the guys in question here. And I'd like to go all white knight and support OP 100%, but I can't seem to shake this damned sense of perspective.

What would she have done if she had witnessed deliberate sexual harassment? Gone the extra mile and used Instagram? Or gone over the organizers heads and demand Guido ban those three guys from even using Python anymore?

People make bad, unfunny jokes. Call them out if they're offensive. But this is just ridiculous.


"What many of you don’t know is that wasn’t the first time that day I had to address this issue around harassment and gender."

A few guys making idiotic jokes amongst themselves about forking and dongle size is now considered harassment? I can understand they were probably being annoying, but I'm having trouble seeing this as harassment.


The pycon people are aiming to build a conference where women don't have to deal with this stuff at all. It's a lofty goal, and I appreciate them for setting a high standard.

Excusing little comments creates a culture where women have to put up with innuendo throughout the conference. I saw these people removed from the room, and it was done quite appropriately. (I did not hear anything directly.)


It seems the pycon staff acted appropriately, but Adria certainly did not, posting pictures online with this kind of comment is not okay and goes against pycon guidelines.

And to me this report seems arguably abusive in the first place, but taken as a whole it amounts to witch hunting and hurts everybody to the benefit of no one.

Now both PyCon, the python community, women in tech and people working towards a more women friendly tech conference have a bad image that's impossible to restore. All because one single person misinterpreted a comment and found a joke not funny, well done !


If anyone wonders how bad things are they might want to think about the fact that creating an environment where this sort of thing doesn't happen is seen as a lofty goal.


If anyone wonders how bad things are, they might want to think that talking about sex is inappropriate in public, even though it's the most essential driver behind human behavior and, if you believe books, only one person on Earth was ever born without someone, somewhere having sex.


This isn't "talking about sex". It's making comments with obvious innuendo that is not really funny. The net effect of this is to make many people feel unsafe and unwelcome.

I respect that many people have the ability to ignore this "noise", but we shouldn't have to.


It's funny if you like that particular type of humor. I find penises funny, and I can assure you many other people do too. Maybe exactly because of the inappropriateness, I don't know. They're just now doing research of jokes and humor.

Otherwise, I fail to understand how the sexual innuendo would make her feel unsafe or unwelcome - it was a joke between friends and it wasn't even remotely targeted at her.

Even if it was, offering someone your huge dongle is probably the most welcoming thing you can do, ever. It's not noise, it's a compliment.


Amongst themselves? They were in public!

And one of them was a sponsor of the event, none the less!


That is definitely not how you use the phrase "None the less".


I am missing something here. I get that someone could be offended by these comments, but what does it have to do with being a woman? I know females who would giggle at such jokes and males who would feel uncomfortable.

I feel like the person here being the most sexist is the author, for insinuating that there's something inherent in her gender that makes "forking" jokes offensive to her. I would welcome an explanation of what I'm not seeing.


I don't know, it might be an American cultural convention though. Where I work I have a lot of Northern European and Asian colleages and the women here are by far worse than the men with forwarding explicit chain emails and questionable double entendres. Totally anecdotal, but it seems to me that soccer-mom characters are especially active in this area.

Never mind who is doing it, I find it increddibly annoying, but it's not harassment by any meaningful definition of the word.

My theory as to why it transcends annoyance and actually becomes a women's issue in America is probably because women there are expected to be asexual. So in that case it's only the men amongst themselves making these adolescent-type comments, and that in turn would make women uncomfortable because all of a sudden they have to deal with nasty group dynamics.


As I understand it, in Asia (and maybe Northern Europe too?) there is less of a stigma against women in science, so the gender ratio in these fields is more balanced.

In America though science is seen as 'nerdy' and most girls are discouraged from being nerds. So women in science are a minority who constantly feel defensive and overwhelmed by attention from men.


You're probably right. I remember when I was in med school in Germany, the gender ratio was something like 70-30 women, and in the hard sciences seminars it was also at least equal.


There is huge difference between sexual jokes being made among friends and the ones being made by strangers in a professional environment.

The latter makes the environment hostile to women. This is not specific to women. You can apply this to minorities (of any shape or form) as well.


"The latter makes the environment hostile to women. This is not specific to women." Uuh... You don't see the self-contradiction there?

Women are just as much sexual beings as men, so why should any talk about sex necessarily "make the environment hostile" to women but not men?!? That could only happen if there were some cultural norm that everyone should pretend that women are actually _not_ just as sexual as men, and then the problem would be _this hypocritical norm_, not the jokes. (Which, as several posters have already pointed out, seems to be exactly the case with US society.)

Actually, come to think of it, a policy to shield women from sexual jokes, in stead of one to encourage them to _make_ sexual jokes themselves, will of course only work to perpetuate this status quo, to reinforce the oppressive norm that "women are poor weak little asexual creatures, whose innocent little rosebud ears must be protected by chivalrous society form ever, ever hearing any innuendo"... THAT is the real sexual oppression here: This stupid policy is in fact _extending_ the (US medieval-style) status quo.

The real feminists here were the dongle-jokers.


The "jokes" (which are lame) weren't directed at her from what I can gather. The OP publicly lynched them, and one guy was fired for it.

What a crap situation all over :( I dont understand the offensiveness of what they said, directed at themselves, just being idiots. Christ, that could happen to me.

Is fear of reprisal better than actual understanding?


While it would not happen to me in all likelihood, I find the general lack of humour displayed in this case by the OP appalling.

However I am aware of the fact that many of my gender are incredibly offensive to women and that after a long week with many conferences and in all likelihood having to suffer many comments and jokes that really warrant a calling out the sensitivities are heightened.

Unfortunately calling a tasteless joke about a big dongle sexist draws attention away from the real offenders and validates the believes of die hard sexists that this is drama about nothing.

I'd rather have people concentrate on stopping things like http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Flashbelt_slide_show instead of twitter shaming someone who made a joke among his friends, that was not thought for the ears of the OP.


She references that she was twice a victim of domestic violence in this post: http://butyoureagirl.com/13871/success-against-the-odds-fill...

Obviously a horrible thing to go through, perhaps it has colored her perceptions somewhat?

I do agree that the reaction greatly outweighed the incident.


What you're witnessing is a taboo being formed.


Actually it seems the jokes were fired solely because she was in the earshot.

EDIT: downvoting, seriously?

I just go by her account in the linked article, which I hope everyone commenting took their time to read as well. Her argument is clear and isn't anywhere as unfounded as skimming through the comments here would make you think. She of course could be making things up, which neither me, nor anything else who weren't there are able to verify.


Yes, because you postulate unfounded facts. Nothing in the story indicates that the jokes where fired because she was in the earshot.


From TFA:

>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

The guy inserted his forking double innuendos in a conversation two other persons were having. Do you seriously think he'd do that if one of those weren't a female?

(Also, forking jokes? Is that 1995 or what)


> Do you seriously think he'd do that if one of those weren't a female?

Uhh, yeah... If he was crude enough to make forking jokes, he wouldn't care what his audience was, perhaps he'd even prefer it to be guys so they can all laugh along with him...


It's a fair point, though the whole thing is slightly irrelevant (the overall point you're responding to) as we shouldn't assume that men don't find this stuff offensive.


> Do you seriously think he'd do that if one of those weren't a female?

Jeez, me and my guy friends do this kind of thing all the time. In my circle at least (professionals in all walks of life, from software to academia to public policy), making double entendres is part of what it means to be a guy.

However, I do sensor myself around women.


However that was not the guy she twit shamed as far as I can gather from her not very organized writeup.


I wrote that jokes were fired because she was in the earshot. You commented that I postulate unfounded facts, while they are very well founded if you'd go through as much as first half of her write-up.


Nope, you did postulate an unfounded fact. It isn't clear why the guy made sexual jokes. The author joined in a conversation she wasn't invited in on, and then one of the guys in that conversation made some jokes she didn't like. It's actually not clear whether the tone of the conversation between the two men changed when she joined it. For all we know that guy makes sexual jokes to his buddy all the time, there really are people who are like that. The author simply doesn't say anything about what the offending man was saying prior to her joining the conversation.

So yeah, you were extrapolating. But it does make sense to assume that the guy made sexual jokes because she joined in the conversation, and directed the jokes at her. In the story she tells about the developer making the joke about shaved pubic hair, she seems very reasonable.

It's a shame, the author probably should have been clearer that the jokes were made directed at her. Everyone has their own biases, and the problem with stories like this is that when women read them they think about the worst behaviour of men they've had to put up with, and assume that's what happened and when most men read them, they think about their own typical behaviour and assume it must be a misunderstanding.


For the record I'm a male. Her side of story sounds plausible because I've seen enough folks who would act like that, especially after a beer in the lunch break.

I first read the stream of autodafe comments here and my initial reaction was to post something along the lines "crusade for the sake of crusade", but fortunately I opted to read the article first.


That any forking joke was motivated by the fact Richards would hear is not established by your excerpt. (Richards merely says that jokes were made.) Additionally, Richards' interpretation of the fork comment is somewhat disputed by one of the conversation participants: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5398681

It's certainly possible a fork comment was intentionally creepy, a first statement made to a new, female conversation participant, and with an inappropriate tone. But it's also possible two friends were continuing an "I'd fork that repository" riff from earlier, with negligible sexual intent, and the tone was misunderstood by Richards.

It's your definitive conclusion of ill-intent, from incomplete evidence, that people may object to.


For what it worth, a statement opening with "it seems" can hardly be definitive in any sense. The post I replied to made a statement that the jokes weren't directed at her - yet somehow we don't see nearly as much hair-splitting from my critics on that part.

> It's your definitive conclusion of ill-intent, from incomplete evidence, that people may object to.

Intent is always in doubt and I wouldn't ascribe any to the dude's mind process at the time. For all I know it could really be just a joke in poor taste, or a part of his cumbersome mating dance. All I pointed out is the case is not nearly as clear cut as the parent poster presents it, stupid me not realizing we have some sort of r/mensrights party here.


For the record, I didn't downvote you.

Her article is worded in such a way as that it can be construed as being directed at her, but it is never outright said, nor does the guy who got fired suggest that that was the case (of course, he does have a horse in the race; however, he was very honest and apologetic in his response).

It smells disingenuous to me.


The firing was definitely an overreaction. Then I feel her choice of tweeting vs. just telling him to cut it is really a form of conflict avoidance rather than some noble goal for sake of the children as she spins it.

Still I think the guy most likely acted like that just because the female was around. I mean, would a developer seriously bring lewd jokes each time forking is mentioned? Perhaps it was his take on acting manly or just general lack of social skills. It's unfortunate how it all ended.


That's possible, but not clear to me from Richards' account.


Wait so now it is 100% un-okay to make any kind of sexual joke ever if women are remotely in the proximity? I make sexual jokes with female friends all the time, and they don't care if some of them are duds, because they are reasonable people.

Surely the idea of feminism is to be treated like equal human beings, and human beings should have some sense of humour.

I mean, of course tits in a slideshow is horrible because it makes women feel marginalised, however forking and dongle jokes? Seriously? Fuck that. Unless they were clearly being used to make her feel uncomfortable, what business does she have overhearing a private conversation and being offended by it?


The problems with your comment are numerous. I'll list them off in order of sentence number:

1: Strawman; assumption of binary plus suggesting Adria's post is asking for an extreme solution ("100%"), rather than being aware of context and being sensitive to these issues. 2: False assumption that your female friends all don't care about your potentially sexist remarks. Chance is greater that if they do, they wouldn't admit it to you. Furthermore, you make a wrong accusation that because your female friends don't speak up when you make bad jokes, Adria is being unreasonable in her post. Adria is completely reasonable and accurate with what she's saying.

3. You continue making wrong accusations. There is a difference between "sense of humor" and being offensive. You can be both funny (to some) and offensive (to the same and/or other people) at the same time. If you are offensive on something, you deserve being called out on it, however funny or not you might've been in the eyes of people. You also don't seem to understand your own point. Being treated like equal human beings means treating people with respect, and making degrading, sexualized jokes at a professional event is not treating people with respect.

4: If you want to have a "private conversation," leave the conference/event venue and retreat to somewhere private. This was not a private conversation as it was in the middle of an audience at a public event, in a public space. They were surrounded by people. There was nothing "private" about this conversation. Whispering or talking softly while you're amidst hundreds of people does not make your conversation "private," it certainly does not grant you immunity against shitty behavior that doesn't have a place at the event you're at.


> assumption of binary plus suggesting Adria's post is asking for an extreme solution ("100%")

Well I'm not really sure what is less offensive than a dongle innuendo.

> False assumption that your female friends all don't care about your potentially sexist remarks.

Nope, they (including my mother, who was a feminist activist back in the 80s) have had my back in many arguments about similar sorts of things.

> Adria is completely reasonable and accurate with what she's saying.

Nope, because there is nothing reasonable about publicly shaming someone for a joke that has nothing sexist about it because you heard some shit in a talk and make a bizarre connection between that and it.

> Being treated like equal human beings means treating people with respect, and making degrading, sexualized jokes at a professional event is not treating people with respect.

We have different ideas of respect then. My idea of respect is to not treat people like children that flip out because of some silly innuendo that doesn't actually do anything. It's not like the pornographic slides (which I spoke out against) or any of the other numerous offences of the tech. industry. This is two dudes relaxing and making some non-sexist innuendo.

> shitty behavior

Point blank refuse to accept that what they did was "shitty behaviour". Loosen the fuck up, focus on the real battles.


> This is two dudes relaxing and making some non-sexist innuendo.

"Boys will be boys"


So tell me how dongle and forking innuendos are offensive to women, or why it is any of her business?

Women don't have domain to be offended just because a joke is unfunny.


It almost feels like we are being denied access to sex-themed humour...

Newsflash... we might not find forking or dongle jokes funny... does not mean that we do not enjoy jokes... it means we enjoy things that are actually funny....


Thing, sure they were crummy jokes. A reasonable response would be to not laugh.


I find puns(?) like dong-le, fork you, etc absolutely funny. Might be juvenile humour left but why am I not allowed to like them and laugh?


Given that it would be trivial to turn around and ask them not to offend, I fail to see the benefit in publicly going after these guys after the fact.

Mob justice doesn't allow the other party the ability to alter their behaviour (we don't know if asking would have worked) nor does it allow the other party to tell their side of the story.

In addition, it has a habit of causing both sides to dig their heels in and often causes more trouble.


Adria, and most women, are tired of asking people one by one not to offend. This is her asking everyone to think about what they say in public.


That is fine, but posting their picture is so wrong. She took their photo, while smiling at them. And then she captioned it: "Offenders" and put it on twitter.

This is the real issue here.

Let's for example go to your hackathon in Vegas. Lets say some asshole says something inappropriate to one of the high school girls in attendance. Do you really think that taking his photo, captioning it "pervert" and posting it to twitter is the right course of action?


I think you would find that most minority groups (whether they be religious groups, women in tech or geeks in high school) would be tired of asking those they consider to be offending them to stop.

Under no circumstances is that a justification for taking matters into your own hands. To suggest that it is creates a negative feedback loop where both sides feel justified to take ever increasing actions against the "aggressor" (from their perspective).


Well it's a good job that only a guy and his family's life were ruined, but thank goodness she didn't have to consider the implications of shaming the offenders by asking the two guys to stop violating her moral righteousness first.


Don't make sexual jokes in professional environment period. It is wrong and it is an act of hostility.


Prior to addressing your comment I'd like to make it clear that any jokes or insults with the intention to harm are not acceptable.

To address your comment - these things are not often as clear cut as you'd make out. The real world just isn't like that. Where this particular situation gets murky is that one of the men in question has replied to the charge against him, giving his side of the story:

  I had decided forking someone's repo is a new form of flattery
  (the highest form being implementation) and we were excited
  about one of the presenters projects; a friend said "I would
  fork that guys repo" The sexual context was applied by Adria,
  and not us.
Whether you agree with his comments or not, he should have the opportunity to present his side of the story before being 'sentenced'. In this case that hasn't happened and so he's out of a job for what may have been an innocent comment taken in the wrong way by OP.

It's for these reasons that vigilantism is never a solution to these issues. It's possible that in this case a deeper divide will created between those who see the comment as trivial and those who do not. The outcome will be that the former group pays less attention to more serious issues because of what they see as "crying wolf" by some parties and the latter group becomes more emphatic on trivial issues which "never get resolved". This helps neither group and does nothing to reduce these problems in the future, a net negative for all involved.


I guess the big factor here would be if they were purposely saying those comments in order to be assholes.

Friends do make silly jokes with each other, right?

Surely the person could have just said something like "Guys, not funny, because..." instead of making it a huge public shaming in the Internet Court of Law.


Behaving reasonably and like an adult would not make good material for a blog post though.


Sure, friends do make silly jokes. But friends don't let friends be assholes in public.


What is your point here...?


So Lynn root says holy effing crap in the tweet.

I am so offended. Why do women say things like this. I am so hurt. I wish someone showed her the code of conduct. Women talking about fucking is just not nice.


Not just fucking, but holy fucking. One cannot help but be assaulted by the image of their most beloved deity or earthly representative engaged in all manner of despicable behaviour. With human waste playing some sort of horrific part in the act. Highly offensive. Nightmare enducing, even.


From the "Attendee Procedure for Handling Harassment PyCon 2013" https://us.pycon.org/2013/about/code-of-conduct/harassment-i...

"Note: Public shaming can be counter-productive to building a strong community. PyCon does not condone nor participate in such actions out of respect."


Given that the author was contributing to a more accessible culture at one of the largest tech gatherings in the world, it's disappointing to see so much disbelief and anger here.

Her response and the resulting actions may seem harsh as an isolated incident, but they reflect her frustration with the countless times that she would have ignored such statements.

In the context of an event that prioritises diversity and equality - such that it has achieved 20% female attendance - the behaviour of the gentlemen involved represents exactly what the organisers are fighting against.

The best response to this story would be for readers to reflect and to realise how unintentionally alienating the macho nature of code communities can be.

The larger picture here is not Man vs. Woman. The issue is that we are members of a subculture which projects an image of immature and offensive behaviour. Behaviour which offends other races, ethnicities, ages, abilities, religions, sexual orientations AND genders.


My 2c:

- The conference organizers set a very inclusive mandate that was, perhaps unwittingly, violated.

- The blog post author was justified in using social media to alert the organizers that their mandate was being violated, but this probably could have been done privately with a similar effect.

- It is extremely unfortunate that the violator's employers fired him. That is a big overreaction on the employer's part.

- The individual outcome here of the guy getting fired sucks, really badly, but that was not the blog post author's decision to make in the first place.

- If this helps people think twice before speaking in a public place, that's a good thing. The community will become more inclusive as a result.

I think that this is not about political correctness but about fostering an environment that allows everyone to feel comfortable. Perhaps the general short term trend will be to overcorrect by being extremely polite and reserved, but when the community embraces women and the community is evenly split between males/females/other this will eventually fade into history as we collectively reach a tone for public conversation that embraces as many people as possible while still maintaining emotion.

This isn't just a tech problem. The whole world is figuring out how to communicate with each other anew. There are gay people, ethnic minorities, people who identify with an uncommon gender, recovered drug addicts, people who have had family members die, vegetarians, etc. who will all take offense to certain remarks that were par for the course some time in the recent past. This is inevitable as the world embraces diversity and myriad forms of identity.

I suspect things will work themselves out in time, and the world will become more tolerant, while allowing people to poke fun at each other in a way that doesn't take things too far for the majority of each minority.


> If this helps people think twice before speaking in a public place, that's a good thing. The community will become more inclusive as a result.

Are you (some non-offensive expletive) kidding me? This kind of overreaction will make the community more divisive. This is scorched earth -- it's not worth the risk socializing beyond your peers -- kind of action.


"I think that this is not about political correctness but about fostering an environment that allows everyone to feel comfortable."

Yeah, because an environment where you absolutely dare not make any jokes at all -- "if you wouldn't say it in a court room...", as some other poster said in all apparent sincerity -- sure is going to feel heckuva comfortable to absloutely everyone.

Or, hey, waitaminnit...?



No worries, I added CloudFlare so the folks who were DDoS'ing my site will have to find a new hobby.


So why couldn't you turn around and shh them? Move away from the "offending conversation?"

To me this appears that you intentionally set out to get them kicked out of the conference. You: 1. Tweeted about it 2. Took your phone to take a picture of them [they are "in a public space" or in a private space that allows photography (I'm assuming) but it's still a bit creepy] 3. Tweeted the "offending" rule to the staff.

Don't take this as an attack against you [or even in this situation] However, how would you feel if you were asked to leave a conference from a non-PC comment in a semi-private conversation that you had with someone? How would you feel if that ended your revenue source and/or tarnished your professional reputation?

[My 2c, get off your high horse and be an adult for once: People are going to say things you don't like, get over it. About the photo pit, I find this action extremely uncomfortable.. The same "right" you exercised could be turned around for you.. Someone could start photographing you and make you feel uncomfortable. ]

EDIT: Empowerment has nothing to do about interacting with other individuals. Theres no such thing as a lack of "empowerment" that prevents women from handling the situation with a "ssh" or moving away from the conversation. Could you have even mentioned to the people directly that you're offended, granted you'd look silly as that this is a very minor situation.


I wonder how many women are DDoS'ing you... You are destroying their image as normal, fun and smart colleagues. Now everyone is gonna "watch out" when they meet a woman, "keep their mouth shut" and many other things that alienate said woman. Guess she won't be getting invites to unofficial team-buildings, either. Good job.


> Now everyone is gonna "watch out" when they meet a woman,

no, only creepy nerds will have to.


Penis jokes are creepy? o.O


No, but as the readers of a site called 'Hacker' News we're bound to be called "creepy nerds" every now and again.


OT: My solution to the "creepy" part - fly the freak flag high! By utilizing a direct brain-to-mouth connection, people know exactly what I am, what I'm thinking, what excites me and why (e.g. implications on humanity for some technology). Of course, some people will be uncomfortable with some of stuff I say, but that's their problem, and most people are surprisingly understanding :)


Why do you assume you were being DDoSed? It's normal to receive an incredibly distributed spike of traffic when an article is featured on reddit and hacker news.


I find your behavior just as bad, if not worse, than the immature guys that made the joke. Karma came around and bit yo. As such, no one in the community will have any respect for you anymore...


Is this some kind of joke post? Oh, it's actually serious...

I don't want to live on this planet any more.


I don't think there's anything wrong with jokes like this... except that they exacerbate an already huge problem.

There were 4 women who graduated with a degree in CS in my class of more than 100 last year. The intro class to CS had almost 50% female enrollment. I watched as women dropped out, one by one, switching to math or other engineering majors, some to science or humanities. They were left out of study groups, judged by their looks publicly and awkwardly, and basically made to feel unwelcome.

I generally hate the privilege crusader SJW attitude, but we NEED more women in CS. It's not good for society to have an environment that discourages women from joining the highest paid major coming out of college. It's worth policing our tone and being extra careful to be strictly professional. If the numbers even out, I doubt it would be such an issue.


If you'll pardon me for quoting a recent Big Bang Theory episode...

"All your ideas address [women] at a university level. By then it is too late. You need to design an outreach program that targets them at the middle school level and sets them on an academic track towards the hard sciences."


who's to say that these "oppressed" deserve to feel so victimized? perhaps you don't see the counter-culture that badass CS chicks inspire...

the terms were NOT gender-biased, and if she had wanted to counter the joke by saying something like "I'll stick a fork in YOU -- haha, just kidding, but shut up 'cuz your joke legitimately offended me," or "you better watch out before I slap you with my crime-fighting dongle," and then smiling, or something... it's guaranteed that at least they would appreciate a break in the ice, and you could move on knowing that you didn't cause anyone to lose his/her/its job. friendship can be emoted in many forms, and turning to the internet crying heresy and sexism when you see it (friendship) happening is in legitimately poor taste here.

men who don't stand up for themselves think that they get bullied often, too. but there is nothing better than knowing chicks in CS who stand up for themselves and the good that they bring to the world (she++ shoutout). to cry foul this is insulting to me and my friends who enjoy humor and standing up for ourselves and not running away.


Link to the other HN thread on this topic: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5391667

If the comments are to be believed someone's already lost their job over this.


Steer clear of humor at professional events like this, even if talking with a friend. It's too easy to step over someone's line and come under surveillance. If you wouldn't say it in a courtroom..


To me they are puerile teenage boy jokes...

But they are not jokes that are actually problematic and intimidating.

More worrying overreacting on jokes that are not a real problem makes it that much harder to object to genuinely offensive and damaging humour.


there is no excuse for saying stuff like that at a conference its just not appropriate.

but posting their picture on the internet ... there is not any excuse for that either. its just plain wrong.


Heck! If I can't crack an innocent dick joke at my friend while attending a conference because others think it is inappropriate, I won't be attending any conference anymore.

Or would it make more sense to use IRC chat to talk to the person sitting next to me ?


We have to get better at this.

None of the jokes were remotely funny to me, and none of them were acceptable to me. I would have called them out. But many, most even, women don't feel safe or empowered enough to call these out, and the majority of the posts on this page speak as to why.

It has to stop.

I understand that the HN community has a large number of younger people, and understanding appropriate behaviour is one of those things we need to learn over time. The older people should be helping though.

We also have a large (ok vast) number of people who find social situations awkward, and perhaps make the wrong choices in these events.

Welcome to the entire country of New Zealand, where I am from and live. (And the UK is the same for that matter.) Over here we find every single social situation awkward. We don't tell each other our names, we are intimidated by everybody and we think it is embarrassing to speak in crowds. As a society we rely far too heavily on alcohol to loosen our social behaviour to, and sadly then well beyond, acceptable levels.

There are hacks to deal with these situations.

One, as I stated, is alcohol. That's almost certainly going to lead to trouble at a work conference, and certainly as you age society expects you to leave earlier and partake in less. But it does work at the after-parties, and many deals are struck under the influence. But not everyone enjoys the booze-fests, so smart conferences offer alternative gatherings.

Secondly, there are the codes of behaviour. That means understanding what sorts of statements are unacceptable and staying away from them. We never have to talk about not using the racist "N" word on HN, and similarly we should be at a place where it's alarmingly obvious that we never have to talk about not using sexist jokes and misogynist behaviour. It's a code - we need to live with it.

Thirdly we can call this out individually, and support those who do. This blog poster did, and the conference response was superb. A large group of us in New Zealand decided, at an unconference, to do so as well. And within 5 minutes of me sitting down at the next conference, organised by a group I help govern, I was the one loudly interjecting at some very poor MC choices. Since then a large number of the people in the room, male and female, have thanked me for that intervention, making it easier next time.

We need to realise that as founders, contractors, consultants, funders and employees that everything we write here is exposed to be read by not just YC, but also other people who can do business with us. Those words will last forever.

We can do this. We must.


This is what's wrong with America today; no one can take a joke. Political correctness, while originated with valid aims, has gotten so out of control.

Was it a mistake to converse like that in mixed company? No doubt. Was an apology in order? Absolutely. Is a couple guys being immature going to make sure "she would never have the chance to learn and love programming because the ass clowns behind me would make it impossible for her to do so." No, grow up and quit being overdramatic.

I realize that it's not kosher to drop the "drama" bomb in talking about women, but rest assured I have and will continue to use the same language to describe men who are incredibly self-important and turn what should be moderately uncomfortable and inappropriate situations into World War 3.


Way to be passive aggressive about it.


Standing up, taking pictures without hiding, engaging with staff in front of the guys causing the problem, and pointing them out is passive?

What, exactly, would you have her do to escape this passivity?


Passive aggressive behavior does not imply passivity. What would I have done? Well assuming that I'd give a shit, I'd probably talk to the guys directly. You know, "Hey guys, this is a professional conference, let's keep it professional". Again, that's assuming that they actually said something objectionable which I'm not sure they did.


yes! exactly. its like she's in class and some boys were exchanging dirty jokes behind her and she overheard. instead of turning around to tell them to shut up 'cos its annoying her or even just to 'shhhhhhh!' , she called the teacher over to report them and then posted on her blog/fb/twitter that she just got adrian/michael/david who were sitting behind her thrown out of class for exchanging dirty jokes. and felt like a hero doing it.


Imagine, instead of 1,000 people in a room, there are only 10. Two of them are women.

  - the conference specifically welcomed diversity, has many women's groups 
    represented and 20% women attendance is considered notable

  - the keynote speaker is the creator of Python

  - the current speaker is discussing a successful initiative about young girls
    coding

  - you are one of the two women and are sitting in front of two guys who are
    bantering sexual jokes as the current speaker discusses part of your work
    and thanks others

  - one of the guys speaking behind you is a sponsor of the conference.
What would you do?


I recently helped host a hackathon in Vegas and we had several high school kids, including girls, attend. They were nervous and felt out of place at first among all the older developers. But they went in to win a significant prize at the event and are now very active in the VegasTech community.

Thank god they didn't have to deal with anything like this.


As a 56 year old gay man, and defender of women (I have two sisters), I applaud your bravery and standing up for your beliefs. Much congrats to you! You stood up for yourself, and you are a winner! Thanks for doing so.

Sincerely, Tim Monteith



Actually, I'm not Alex. Alex was not involved in this incident. He still has a job, but I'm sure he appreciates the support.


If you live or are willing to relocate to SF, put your email in your profile. I bet a lot of people would interview you in a heartbeat.


Agree. I would.


she could change seats. or turn around and speak to them and tell them she can overhear them and its not cool.

why turn it into some sort of vigilante prosecution of juvenile behaviour + public lynching? i'd like to imagine most people don't have the kind of moral/cutural baggage to want to do that to strangers they happen to overhear/pass by/randomly encounter..


Oh boy, geeks are awful at coming up with pick-up lines.

It's like watching The Big Bang Theory.


There's no evidence this was a "pick up line".


I was just kidding.




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