[NetBehaviour] Questions, Not Answers, Regarding the Post-#PyCon 2013 Fallout
netwurker at gmail.com
Mon Mar 25 00:13:28 CET 2013
I’m always curious – as any decent news-hound should be – regarding certain
aspects of controversial tech-related dramas. I’m especially curious about
those dramas that play out very publicly and create substantial
So this morning I’ve been intent on writing a long-form post regarding the
firing of a PlayHaven
<http://blog.playhaven.com/addressing-pycon/>employee for making
comments <https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5398681> at the Python
Developer Conference (PyCon
while in earshot of Adria Richards, a SendGrid Employee. Richards
the incident and complained to PyCon organisers, resulting in Alex
Reid <http://www.linkedin.com/in/microwavedboy> and
PlayHaven employee) being knuckle-rapped over the incident.
Subsequently, Richards herself has been
initially there was ample conjecture that this “news” may have
been the output of some elaborate DDoS hack, it now seems more likely to be
Fortunately, my intentions have now jumped up and poked me firmly in my
common-sense gland, and in lieu of finishing and posting that traditionally
crafted article complete with the oily title of “If it doesn’t add value to
the conversation, then it gets deleted” (a direct quote from Richards
why she’s currently deleting blog comments), I’ve instead started
crafting the following list of questions as ponder-fodder. The list isn’t
especially comprehensive and, in the effort of full disclosure, it’s
undoubtedly laced with my own complicated bias.
Then why do it? Because I’d rather offer readers something that may just
break those horrible and vitrolic “win-lose” mentality loops that plague
certain social media/blog commentators regarding such controversial issues.
I’d also prefer to present an alternative to the multitude of closed-ended
and exclusionary “facts” and “answers” such as those being offered by all
and sundry regarding the fallout post-PyCon 2013:
1. Were the comments observed by Richards at PyCon 2013 actively (or
even latently) sexist, or simply incidences of thoughtless comedic material
that peppers (and may even attempt to parody) aspects of sexist geek
culture? Could they also conceivably have been a mixture of both?
2. Were these comments misinterpreted – deliberately or unconsciously –
in order to create an incident that would create ongoing controversy and
3. If the comments under question had been voiced by two women
developers mentioning “big dongles” or “forking” (or shoving socks down
their pants <https://twitter.com/adriarichards/status/312265091791847425>),
would Richards have complained?
4. If the actions Richards undertook regarding the alleged sexist
comments were performed by a man instead of a woman, might the outcome, and
corresponding furore, be different?
5. Is the male
constant operation during events like PyCon, and if yes, how do we
create a workable solution for its removal? Should we also acknowledge and
discuss other types of “gazes” (or other power loaded stereotypical
behaviours embedded within unconscious neurotypical agendas) that might be
present at such institutionalised events, with associated bias and layered
prejudice (involving privilege and status) also in play?
6. When faced with what they think is offensive or hate-based commentary
that makes an individual “feel uncomfortable”, how should they react? In
today’s constantly “on” world where reports of any action may be
instantaneously broadcast, should an individual’s ability to magnify an
incident (to the extent where no reasonable or concluding course of action
can result) be considered *prior* to any action taken?
7. Is the right to refuse to openly engage – or directly communicate
with – an individual who *you think* is displaying offensive behaviour
acceptable, especially when this refusal is based on entrenched bias or
8. If you choose to expose those you think are “in the wrong”, should
you be prepared for a certain level of backlash from those who do not view
the behaviours as you do? If this level of backlash becomes threatening or
vitriolic, how should you respond? How should society at large respond?
9. How do we ensure that well-meaning discourse isn’t hijacked for the
sake of attention grabbing “netbytes”?
10. Would decent journalistic input regarding all of these questions
*[Originally posted at GeekGirl
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