ARTo paraphrase Smashing Pumpkins, “The Internet is a vampire, set to troll.” It can get pretty ugly out there and it’s gotten very ugly for Adria Richards, who after tweeting about lewd language at a tech conference her employer was co-sponsoring, found herself out of a job. The ensuing publicity surrounding the case resulted infine Internet dialogues like this … and this:

From the UK Guardian:

One of the jokesters was fired from his job. The other, who worked at the same company, was not. Angry about this apparent travesty, internet harassers came out in full force. Richards’ own site and that of her employer, SendGrid, were subject to denial-of-service attacks. Richards was personally bombarded with rape and murder threats. Someone sent her a photo of a naked, decapitated bound woman’s body with the caption “When I’m done.” A concerted effort began on 4chan to get Richards fired. Instead of standing up for an employee in the face of rape and death threats, SendGrid caved. It fired Richards because, in short, she was a trouble-maker.

A lot of focus has been made on whether or not Richards should have tweeted about the vulgarities she heard and put the offenders on blast. But this has the all too familiar ring of “she was asking for it.”

Why is it when a woman does anything, rightly or wrongly, regarding a man’s behavior she is immediately threatened with sexual assault and dehumanizing language? It’s not about whether Richards used the proper venue to air her grievances, it’s that in our world, the only right way for a woman to deal with uncomfortable, lewd behavior is to “shut up and ignore it.” Anything beyond “shut up and ignore it” makes the woman “fair game” for any and every kind of attack because she dared to say a man offended her.

I’ve seen it and experienced it first hand.

The first time I “came out” as Bipolar was involuntary. I was working as an entertainment reporter in Bakersfield, Calif. when a very opportunistic writer was pushing me to write a review of his book. I didn’t do book reviews, which I told him repeatedly, and due to such he decided to declare “war” against me and my newspaper. He was initially more annoying than anything, until I wound up hospitalized for a mental breakdown shortly after my ex-husband contacted me. The writer decided to make my sudden disappearance from the paper about him, and blogged about it constantly.

Months later, on of all venues, on MySpace, I told several friends in a blog post that I suffered from depression and Bipolar Disorder to deal with rumors about my hospitalization. The writer, again, decided to make this about him, accusing my newspaper of “covering up” my mental breakdown (which was less of a “cover up” but more like “proper human resource practices”), and, quite proudly, wondered aloud if he had caused my mental breakdown.

This blog post lived for an obscenely long time online, following me to job interviews and on dates, constantly coming up because I, a non-book reviewer at the time, did not review a book.

I was eventually able to get the post taken down years later, but this harassment pales in comparison to what a close friend of mine went through when she outed a certain Congressman who was sending shirtless photos of himself to women on Craigslist. Rather than focus on the fact that a married Congressman was behaving like a jerk, a lot of attention was focused on my friend.

People thought her trademark humor and sarcasm about being on the receiving end of the photo was arrogance and malice. People questioned why she released the photo at all because she “ruined a man’s marriage.” One would argue cheating could ruin a man’s marriage, but it wasn’t about the cheating for a lot of people online. It was about getting caught and how he got caught. He never even met my friend because he used his personal email address and when she popped it into Facebook, found his personal page with family photos and the word “Congressman.”

Suddenly a date with him seemed a lot less interesting.

But it didn’t end there. Called a “sex scandal” (despite there being no sex), my friend was harassed at work and home by the press. Supporters of the Congressman (or just cheating men), harassed her online, one even going so far to make a web site disparaging her, then spamming that web site to the press. And the complete nadir of my career as a journalist came when I had to negotiate withTMZ’s ever dumber cousin, gossip site Radar Online for a photo exchange. They were going to run a story on my friend, but were going to use, by far, the least flattering picture in the world of her. So I negotiated for two hours to get “better photos” so if, at least, they were going to defame her, she could look nice while having her name dragged through the mud.

A lot of people felt my friend brought this on herself because “she shouldn’t have said anything” or the even sillier “why was she on Craigslist!” But why was there this response in the first place? Why was she such a target? Why was the onus to not get stalked and threatened put on her and not on the man to perhaps not send shirtless photos of himself to strange women on Craigslist?

Women who don’t do as they’re told or remain silent in the face of hypocrisy or sexual harassment are told they get what the deserve. After all, if I had just done what a man told me to do (review his book), I wouldn’t have had to deal with people knowing I’d been in a mental hospital well before I was ready to talk openly about it. If my friend had just, said nothing, perhaps some other woman the Congressman sent pictures to would have been the one to be targeted. But none of this would have changed the fact that these men are not good people.

The easier route is the passive route, or at least that’s what society teaches women. I mean, did you even try to talk your rapist out of raping you? Did you even consider it? Says all of society, all the time. But passivity doesn’t stop harassment or rape or entitled male behavior, it only silently endorses it.

In my first Women’s History Month post, where I celebrated my friends who pushed back, I wrote about how even on a small scale, they had to deal with men who were more angry about a woman speaking up for herself or even retaliating when wronged, rather than the cheating and abuse they were enduring.

In “She’s Not Difficult, She’s My Friend,” I wrote:

The reason why I don’t push back, (among the fact that I am quite possibly a wuss, but I prefer to imagine myself as some kind of pragmatic), is because my conscious won’t allow it and women who push back get a “reputation” — An unfair, double-standard reputation of being “trouble.” Of being “difficult.” Of being “crazy,” when they’re only hitting back after being hit. It amazes me that the mark of sanity in a woman is found in her ability to take a punch, stay silent, then remove herself from the situation, rather than stand her ground and demand satisfaction.

Adria Richards, like my friend, and like me, now has a “reputation” because she didn’t play the game. But as horrible as it may seem now, this is survivable. Even after a media shitstorm and people doing opposition research on you, as happened with my friend, you can move on. My friend did it mostly by refusing to go on air, only speaking to me, the Washington Post and on her own blog. I ended up being the “face” of the scandal, defending my friend on everything from Good Morning America toThe Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell.

Her life of being a mother and a writer, went back to normal. I became an advocate for my fellow mental health sufferers and use my writing and visibility as a way to tell fellow Bipolar sufferers that it can get better and they can find stability and health if they stick with their treatments and find good doctors and support systems.

I don’t now how Richards is going to turn this lemon into bittersweet lemonade, but just as a woman is expected to be silent, she’s also expected to persevere and move on.

At least one of those things makes sense.

  • Starla

    Great piece, Snob.

  • I got sense!

    If more women said something we would all be trouble makers and they’d have to get the hell over it. There are too many women willing to take it so when 1 in 1000 says something about it, it’s like ” what are you making trouble? Didn’t you know you were just supposed to take it and shut up like the others?”

  • AnnT

    I think I’ve said this before, but the aggressive attacks on woman passively perpetuate the myth that men are little more than upright feral animals incapable of being human. (Boys will be boys!) The men and women who feed into this allow men to behave badly, because they’re permitted to get away with it.

    And then those men once again follow suit because they see that behaving badly yields little to no repercussions or negative consequences.

    It’s the oddest vicious cycle of gender dynamics that seems to be growing exponentially.

  • GeekMommaRants

    Forking a repo is not vulgar language, what it means is making a copy of a code repository. Rape and death threats are proof of wrongdoing. Why threats of violence and murder because the guys were right and she was wrong? No! The action does not fit.

  • Taylor Williams

    It’s really sad that after how many ? waves of feminism the culture hasn’t progressed more than it has. Men who feel entitled to violate women’s boundaries in any way can count on the support of a mob to “defend” him when his behavior is challenged. Women who stand up for themselves should be backed up by our own loud, relentless army of loving support. When one of us is told to “shut up”, that’s the cue for all of us to pull out the bullhorns. Too many women step back from supporting a sister for the simple reason they don’t want to get called names. Truth is, we get called names anyway no matter what we do. It’s better to make it count for something. Count every b*tch, c*nt, dyke, whatever, as a sign you’ve been heard.

  • Greg Dragon

    I find it interesting that articles like this one attempt to paint everybody in the tech field (my field) with the same brush as the Twitter losers threatening her. Correct me if i’m wrong but it is the new norm for rape, murder, and anything else nasty to be thrown at people on Twitter whenever they are remotely unpopular.

    While this is disgusting and terrible it doesn’t take away from the facts of the Adria Richards situation. An internet personality (Richards) with a massive Twitter following got some jokers removed from a conference and in a lapse of judgment and attempt to rally the feminists, tweeted their photo (including one guy who wasn’t even involved) in order to have them destroyed by her mob, it backfired, her job as a glorified PR person was then in jeopardy because who would want to deal with a woman who does that sort of thing to others?

    Adria Richards is done in tech and it is nobody’s fault but her own for going there. She has a blog which does pretty damn good, and a massive following on Social Media, she could have left that conference, wrote about it and made it into a teaching moment. Instead she tried the bully route, got a man fired and pissed off a lot of people with enough power to shut her online life down.

    Articles like this one ignore all of that and use the Twitter nonsense as a reason to champion this woman as a martyr for feminism. She is not, and if she really wants to move on with her life she will want much of this off-topic along with the on-topic discussion of her situation to go away.

    And for the Clutch gaggle of hens who love to downvote the truth. For every article like this there are 3 more that explain the real reason why Richards was fired and became public enemy #1 of white males who develop applications. You can hide my truth but the internet never forgets. She should look for work in writing now since Tech will have nothing to do with her moving forward.

    It’s sad to be quite honest because her actions have done more harm than good for women in this field.

  • Angie

    I see the issue is that how can anyone justify rape and death threats as a fall-out from this unfortunate situation??? This is beyond the employees involved. It is time for law enforcement. One should take those kind of threats seriously. Too many crazy people out there, and it’s too easy to be found by anyone determined to do you harm…

  • Tallulah Belle

    If you believe that the only people hiring in tech are men with fragile egos, who care about SendGrid, then, yes, maybe Adria is “finished.” However, tech is a big wide world, with as many companies as there are good ideas and people with energy and intelligence to get behind them. Adria will find work again as a developer. Trust me. There is more to the industry than your tirade leads one to believe.

    I do agree, however, that she used the wrong platform to expose the crudeness she saw at PyCon. If I were her, I would have personally approached the wrong doers and stood up to them; calling them out, professionally, but doing it face to face. I think platforms like Twitter are overused and misused. They are not valid forums from which to address real concerns. Furthermore, platforms like Twitter tend to disempower the subject of the “tweet,” leaving them feeling retaliatory and seething. That is what happened here. It is a false platform, that gives users, with lots of followers a sense of power that they really do not truly have. Adria obviously imagined herself to be someone that she is not. She believed her own silly Twitter following.

    She believed that having a bunch of followers on a web platform made her powerful. Unfortunately, she was simply an employee of a startup with a bunch of Twitter followers. Period. Nothing more, nothing less. Next time, this go round, I suggest she spend as much time building up her own tech company as she did on dilly Twitter posts and blogging.

    Women’s real power will not come from chatting it up and shouting it out on Twitter. Women’s real power comes from building up a tech company, raising money and going public.

  • Taylor Williams Ink

    We can argue over whether Adria Richards’ actions constitute bullying, but it’s ridiculous to say “she got a man fired “. The man’s employer made that decision. The guy relieved of his job has every right to challenge that firing if he believes it to be wrongful termination. In the meantime, referring to Clutch readers as a “gaggle of hens” suggests your response is not driven just by a desire for reasoned argument but also by a bit of contempt for women.

  • dirtychai

    “Gaggle of hens”? lol!

    Sounds like my grandad after a long pour of ripple.

  • CMK

    So, erm, anyone who downvotes your comment is a “gaggle of hens”, but you just preached about not judging the entire tech community for some twitter comments. You do see how this makes you look, right?

    Also, who are you to say someone is done in tech? I’m sorry but this to shall pass for her, and I doubt she’s done, and I don’t even know her, or what she does. I mean seriously not only are you throwing rocks, you’re also predicting the future. Adria seems like a smart girl who made a very human mistake, so I’m sure she’ll ignore people like you who think you can dictate someone else’s career and or future. You’re not God and today is today, tomorrow a whole other group could come-up and it could be backlash against the backlashers, such is life.

    Now, just so you know, I’m not judging the entire tech community, but damn, It wasn’t just twitter, dude. Read all the articles. I mean anonymous hackers on Sendgrid, harassing their customers. I say involve the FBI, this seems like a damn crime. No one is just using twitter, as it’s only the tip of the ice-berg. You said if anyone who reads the whole story knows, well I did. I just wasted several hours of my life reading about a story that I personally don’t care about, because it’s in an industry I’m not. But, I thought the level of harassment she received for making 1 BAD CHOICE is insane. It’s not normal behavior and it’s really sickening how it’s cool that the whole damn internet likes to revert to e-thuggin’ and violence whenever someone does something like she did. Was she wrong? I think ONLY for tweeting their picture. It’s not cool. She could’ve tweeted what she overheard, then informed them she though the comments were crude, and if they barked, reported it to the organizers, that’s in hindsight. Now, if she had told them and they barked, and she told the organizers and they did nothing, I would’ve tweeted the photo. Just keeping it honest. Either way she didn’t release a damn nuclear bomb on the world, so why all this treatment of her like she’s Osama Bin Laden’s love child?

    This backlash is the most INSANE part of this entire situation. I mean it’s disgusting and it’s NOT just tweets, but message boards, anonymous hackers, etc etc. Read the details. The tech community should actually be outraged at the violence thrown at this woman, but no, they need to teach her a lesson and pretend their Hollywood honchos from the damn 60′s with McCarthy hanging on their wall and a long ass blacklist. Get real. It was a mistake, all have learned from this, relax and stop the madness.

  • D

    The avalanche of death threats, rape threats, volatile criticism and infamy that have fallen on Adria Richards is sad and wrong. Now, I disagree with what she did 2,000% but she still didn’t deserve all of this.

    She took a silly joke, or a series of silly jokes, somehow got offended by something that wasn’t directed towards her and wasn’t even all that vulgar (“dongle” “forking repo”)…seriously….and sought to brand the two perpetrators as immature, misogynist, sexist pigs. She knows all too well the power of the Internet…once branded as such that could follow them around for a very long time. Would that be fair? I guess that depends on who you ask. In my opinion, for a momentary lapse into 12-year-old behavior, it would not be.

    Now Adria’s actions will brand her as a hypersensitive, humorless, feminazi lunatic in the same way she branded them as sexist. Ironic. Well, at least the money she gets from settling her inevitable lawsuit with her former employer, the extra money from a sharp increase in speaking engagements, the book deal and everything else will help comfort her.

  • CMK

    Amen, AnnT! Amen! We need to give you a virtual bullhorn and let you blast this all over the internet.

  • CMK

    Please, BeReal. AnnT is speaking directly to the backlash. Read it. Who is e-thuggin’ and sending shutdown notices, and harassing Sendgrids customers? Who has started a Reddit group called, “Men Against Extreme Feminism” and how they need to take back their masculinity? It’s not women techies, it’s all MEN, and crazy men at that. Of, course, it’s not all men, but damn the backlash doesn’t fit the crime, sorry, it just doesn’t to me.

    I think Sendgrid did what they had to, because of those anonymous hackers, but that’s sad. She should’ve been fired because she broke some rules of theirs, but they’re afraid of men in tech who laughed about their technical woes on twitter. So stop the madness and deal with the facts. It’s absolutely grown ass men acting like babies aka boys will be boys.

  • CMK

    It seems to me that she’s trying to move on with the statement she released, but somehow I feel this won’t be sufficient for those in the tech community who seem to want real blood over this.

    I think she needs to move on with the FBI on her side.

  • AnnT

    I didn’t know you were replying to me.
    I’m speaking generally.
    I don’t think any one should have lost their job, but did you read the entire piece?
    Several other examples were provided as to why this is an issue.

  • http://nsy kathleen

    I agree and its important to acknowldge why she was fired.She was fired because she was a social media manager at the company and she hash tagged her company and pycon in the tweet. she also violated pycon’s code of conduct by breaching the privacy of the programmers and by tweeting the pic 1st instead of addressing them or complaining to the authorities there

  • Greg Dragon

    The anger at Adria (not speaking for the bullies and people making threats, but average Joes) is the photograph. It was a simple mistake like you said but the ramifications won’t be something soon forgotten. Our collective have long memories and low tolerance; she is already being reminded of things she has tweeted in the past, blogs she has written, and interviews that she has conducted.

    The group “Anonymous” along with Reddit and 4Chan united to wreck her website based on what happened to one of the guys who allegedly lost his job. Their aim was to take an eye for an eye which worked in their favor.

    My gaggle of hens comment wasn’t meant for Clutch’s entire readership which I now see it seems that way, it was meant for people who down vote when a comment isn’t popular despite it being relevant. I don’t think people who rush in to back Richards just because she is pretty, black and female are any better than the trolls who come at her for being all of the same things. The point of this whole fiasco is people overreacting and it has cost people their livelihoods, which now it seems that she is on the lawsuit train of glory to cash in on this.

    It will be forgotten in a months time for sure, but any company who decides they need a PR Evangelist will have to bring this up if she’s the one interviewing for the position. There is no getting past this for her.

  • Tonton Michel

    Adria doesn’t deserve the hate she is receiving for speaking out but she most definitely deserved to lose her job for going on the net with this. You do not go on the net an inciting a virtual lynch mob.What she did could be seen as the same type of bullying that she is receiving now, it is unprofessional and stinks of attention seeking. The truth is she may not have asked for this but she damn sure should have expected it, you can not play in the mud and come out clean.

  • TajMarie

    That is why we need to change the culture of “Boys will be Boys” and need to teach our sons that it is not alright to rape, sexually harass, or to be misogynistic to any woman. Oftentimes, we teach our daughters how not to engage in certain behaviors or mannerisms to attract such attention, but fail to make sons accountable for their behavior. This is not only evident in the US, but is evident Worldwide and in other countries where rape and incest is more prevalent. There used to be a campaign that “No means no”. However, you hear more instances of women being raped while drunk or intoxicated. Some will use the excuse that they see alcohol as a substance that only “loosens” a person up and make them less inhibited. However, one must ask if such actions under a situation is through ignorance/lack of awareness, lack of consciousness between right or wrong, or a willful act to gain sex from someone they know would not consent if she was sober.

  • Not So Nice NiceGuy

    She got fired because the day before she tweeted a sexual charged tweet. That’s the truth. So being that twitter was the vehicle to get others fired, her company chose to fire her. Fair is fair, right?

  • Ralph Kenol (@RalphKenolEsq)

    Some of her tweets during the conference were objectively more offensive than what she reacted to. If the guys said what she tweeted they probably would have been in more trouble.

  • Camryn

    It’s sad that trolls have nothing better to do than sit around & monitor someone’s name & mentions on the internet…

    What a sad miserable life some of you lead.

  • Taylor Williams Ink

    I agree there needs to be a revolution in how we raise boys. We do violence to the souls of boys when we push and bully them into complying with codes of masculinity. It’s no wonder that kids who are taught to feel contempt for their own vulnerability — which is the inescapable human condition — aren’t too good at empathy. It’s also not surprising that when the worst way of criticizing a boy is to compare him to a girl, that boys learn contempt for girls and women. It’s almost like the definition of a real man is to be better than a woman, to be a not-woman. So when a woman stands on equal footing and demands to be treated with the respect all human beings deserve, too many men feel a personal threat — like she’s threatening to take away their manhood. I swear, all these gender expectations drive the worst delusions. They also plant the seeds for behavior that ranges from the silly to the horrific. I highly recommend William Pollack’s “Real Boys” and bell hooks’ “The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love” for a dose of sanity.

  • Sharon Lowd

    I think that threats to rape or violate anyone is wrong. I also believe that Ms Richards first response was over the top. Men are sometimes childish, vulgar and vindictive and sometimes it is easier to just let it go. You cannot fight everyone everytime – give yourself a little peace; no one needs to be stressed all the time.

    You’re right we do get called bi**h, c**t, and dyke – I certainly have! Unfortunately I was called all of these names by other women – not because I deserved it, but because I disagreed with them. We don’t support each other unless it benefits us. When we disagree we get petty and vindictive instead of accepting the fact that no one is always right. Before we organize against men, we need to learn how to respect each other.

  • Catpopstar

    The same thing happened to Anita Sarkeesian when she just wanted to make videos criticizing gender in video games. Someone even made a game where you get to punch her face until it bruises. Then there was that 4 yr old girl that asked her dad to hack her Donkey Kong game so she could play as Pauline instead of Mario. Death treats for her too. Its funny because these people are probably the first to complain about feminist and “Social Justice Sallys” doing the thought policing.

  • AnnT

    Thank you!

  • Taylor Williams Ink

    @Sharon Lowd, What I was suggesting has nothing to do with organizing “against men”. It has everything to do with standing against hateful behavior. I’m sorry that you’ve encountered so much aggression from other women. So have I. Just as there’s internalized racism, there’s also internalized misogyny. So when women treat each other as competitors rather than as sisters, that’s good old patriarchal programming. It’s up to us to de-program ourselves so we can each love ourselves fully. When we love ourselves, love for others – men and women — comes easily. So a big amen to your statement that we need to learn how to respect each other.

  • Fantastico

    Ha. Don’t play dumb. In the Adria Richard’s case forking and “big” dongle jokes were told with innuendo.

    In many industries tools of the trade can be referred to in a sexual manner that make employees uncomfortable.

    Let’s not twist this.

  • ArabellaMichaela

    “I just wasted several hours of my life reading about a story that I personally don’t care about . . .”


  • MommieDearest

    I wonder how many years it’s going to take before people understand that they do not have to put every thought that pops in their head and every. thing. that. happens. in. their. lfe. on social media. I swear between Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and whatnot, some folks have gotten bigger opinions of themselves and feel that everybody wants and NEEDS to hear what they have to say, or see what they have to show.

    I feel bad for this woman. What is happening to her is uncalled for and criminal, but had she used common sense and handled the situation locally instead of getting all twitter-happy we wouldn’t be reading about her now. They were a couple of goofs talking smack. A well aimed side-eye may have shut all of that siht down. By the same token, if those 2 dudes had been more respectful in their language and tone, there would have been no siht to shut down in the first place. And the people who are harrassing her now definitely need to be dealt with. Harshly.

    *sigh* People really need to learn to be more considerate. It’s not always about you.

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