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Stuff You Absolutely Have to Read: Kathy Sierra and Adria Richards on Harassment and "Trolls"

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Sometimes when I post links, they’re simply interesting things I’ve run across. These, though, are essential reads:

Why the Trolls Will Always Win, by Kathy Sierra, Wired

A detailed post by Java expert and game developer Sierra describing the harassment and vilification she’s faced for the crime of, well, basically for being a woman in the tech world. While long and a bit rambling in spots, this is an important piece that, among other things, describes how harassers can sometimes transform slanderous assertions about their targets into “conventional wisdom,” details the damage that “trolls” can have on a person’s reputation (and their life generally), and offers some sobering reflections on the culture of harassment and how difficult it can be to fight.

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Even Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian is appalled by Reddit’s role in the attacks on Adria Richards

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Wow.  The vitriol directed at Adria Richards by the angry dudes of Reddit was so extreme it even had Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian feeling a bit embarrassed by the monster he helped to create. In a blog post earlier this week, Ohanian chided the

(otherwise reasonable-seeming) people I saw who were comfortable and self-righteous in calling a woman a bitch/cunt/etc from their Twitter, Hacker News, or, yes, reddit account. …

The comments (and support for them) I’ve seen over the past few days have really disappointed me …  This isn’t “political correctness,” this is you having the courage to use your words to create an environment that promotes an open exchange of ideas — not alienate people and certainly not terrorize them.

He reminded the “not-poor straight white men” who dominate the tech world that many of them were once the victims of bullies themselves.

Growing up, we typically weren’t picked first for sports, but were first on the Quake II server. Few people really understood our peculiar hobbies or how amazing it was to see “Hello, world” for the first time. Plenty of us got used to being ignored. Many of us were bullied. But what did we learn from it — empathy or hate?

We need to know the answer, because suddenly we are the cool kids. They’re making movies about us. We’re “rock stars.” Holy shit, the rest of the world is finally realizing how awesome we are. The geek has inherited the earth. And now that we’re the powerful ones, we need to remember: with great power comes great responsibility. It’s irresponsible to continue to act as though we are victims.

Now, there are more than a few problems with Ohanian’s plea for tolerance, up to and including all that self-aggrandizing crap at the end. On Buzzfeed, John Herrman describes Ohanian’s post as a “strategic response to a real problem.” As Herrman notes, the blog post

distances Ohanian from the site he helped create. Here, he is a commentator, not a leader. It’s a baldly political move: By identifying as a geek and then criticizing geek culture, he joins an ongoing conversation about tolerance in tech; but by minimizing Reddit’s role in driving the backlash against Adria Richards (its /r/mensrights community is raising money for the “vicims” of Richards), and characterizing the site’s actions as a reflection of a larger problem rather than a possible cause, Ohanian exonerates himself.

Technically, it was the Red Pill subreddit that started that laughable Feminist Victims Fund, but it’s certainly the case that Men’s Rights Redditors have been some of the loudest Adria Richards haters on the Internet.

Despite Herrman’s criticism, which I think is generally on the mark, Ohanian’s post is still quite striking. Apparently one of the architects of Reddit  is beginning not only to realize but to publicly acknowledge  just how toxic the culture on Reddit can be.

The big question now is whether or not the powers-that-be at Reddit will do anything about it.

EDITED TO ADD: In other news, the Daily Dot reports that Reddit’s new meme is just a topless woman who agrees with you.

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Women are Deadly to Hire: The Spearhead’s Many Misogynists Weigh in on Adria Richards

The tech sector fighting off feminism (artist's conception).
The tech sector fighting off feminism (artist’s conception).

So we’ve been talking a lot about the MRA response to the Adria Richards firing over the past few days, but (like a lot of the regulars here, I suspect) I’ve had one lingering question in my mind: what does eminent MRA philosopher Cooter Bee think about all of this? Well I am pleased to report that Mr. Bee has finally weighed in on the subject in a comment over on The Spearhead.

Always a model of thoughtfulness and restraint, Mr. Bee suggests that the best way to deal with the problem of women in technology – rightfully a man’s place – is for men in tech to go on a giant man strike until civilization starts to crumble:

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Men’s Rights Redditors team with PUA douchebag Roosh V to raise money for alleged victims of feminism

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Men! Worried that eveil feminists will destroy your life and your financial future because, apparently, they have that power and love to destroy men’s lives for fun?

Fear no more, because Reddit’s Men’s Rightsers have your back! Mods of Reddit’s RedPill subreddit have started something called the Feminist Victims Fund, which will enable brave freedom fighters to send what will inevitably be a tiny amount of money to that dude who got fired after Adria Richards complained about a sexist joke he made, even though it wasn’t Richards who fired him and indeed she’s said she hopes he gets hired back!

Make sure you donate now, because Reddit’s MRAs will soon grow bored with this bold initiative and it will be completely forgotten, much like the massive Sink Misandry protest in Washington DC last year which actually didn’t even happen, come to think of it.

Here’s the pitch:

Feminism has caused some serious changes to our culture, to our society, and to our lives. We focus on some that are affected more than others, and we give back.

Our goal is to encourage men to speak out, to be men, to not fear oppression and enjoy their freedom of speech. Unfortunately in today’s climate, being a man has become a financial liability. Say the wrong thing in the wrong place and you can find your entire life ruined. Destroyed.

Feminists have fought for equality, but now they’re out for our rights.

They’re destroying us financially. They’re trying to tear apart our families.

We’re saying that enough is enough. No longer should men fear masculinity. No longer should speaking up risk a man his job, career, or family.

It’s time to rise up against the tyranny. It’s time to tell men it’s ok to speak up. We’re here for you. This is the Feminist Victims Fund.

Did I mention that you can donate using BITCOIN? In case you were worried that this thing wasn’t Reddity enough.

As Buzzfeed notes, one of the “board members” of the new fund is pickup guru and predatory douchebag misogynist Roosh V. On his blog yesterday, Roosh happily celebrated the harassment and vilification of Adria Richards in a post with the lovely title “American Feminist Adria Richards Gets Gang Raped By The Internet.”

Speaking of rape, Roosh is also the author of a booklet titled Bang Iceland, in which he admits that, well, he’s kind of a rapist himself. Buzzfeed quotes this rather revealing passage from the book, in which Roosh recalls a “date” he had in Iceland:

While walking to my place, I realized how drunk she was. In America, having sex with her would have been rape, since she legally couldn’t give her consent. It didn’t help matters that I was relatively sober, but I can’t say I cared or even hesitated. I won’t rationalize my actions, but having sex is what I do.

What a humanitarian.

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Men’s Rights Activists Greet Adria Richards’ Firing with Cheers, Gendered Slurs

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And so the Internet has found a new woman to hate. Most of you are probably already familiar with the Adria Richards debacle that’s developed over the past several days. If not, Jill at Feministe has a good summary of events:

Adria Richards, formerly of the company SendGrid, was at a tech conference this week when some dudes behind her made a series of inappropriate and sexual jokes. Annoyed by the pervasiveness of misogyny in the tech world, she snapped a photo of them and put in on Twitter with a complaint. One of the conference organizers spoke to the men and they apologized. Totally reasonable! Good response, PyCon. Later, one of the dudes got fired. Instead of getting mad at the company that made the choice to fire him, the internet hordes descended on Adria. She was on the receiving end of rape and death threats. Her address and phone number were published. Her blog and her company’s website came under DDoS attack. Oh and then her company, SendGrid, fired her.

Like Jill, I think firing someone for a “dongle” joke is an overreaction, to say the least. But Richards wasn’t responsible for that; indeed, she told the fired man she hoped his employer would reconsider and take him back.