If you haven’t noticed, large industry conferences are the new feminist battlefield.
Via Heartiste and Pax Dickinson, a “developer evangelist” and “2013 TED attendee” named Adria Richards complained at a tech conference called PyCon about two men sitting a row behind her who were making jokes to themselves about “forking” and “dongles”. She snapped their picture, seemingly without telling them why she was taking the photo, and tweeted PyCon. One of the jokesters was fired from his job. He has three kids.
Richards recounted the incident at her blog:
They started talking about “big” dongles. I could feel my face getting flustered.
Was this really happening?
How many times do I have to deal with this?
Can they not hear what Jesse is saying?
The stuff about the dongles wasn’t even logical and as a self professed nerd, that bothered me. Dongles are intended to be small and unobtrusive. They’re intended for network connectivity and to service as physical licence keys for software. I’d consulted in the past with an automotive shop that needed data recovery and technical support. I know what PCMCIA dongles look like.
The trigger for her, what made her act, was seeing the picture of a little girl on stage.
I saw a photo on main stage of a little girl who had been in the Young Coders workshop.
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 calculated my next steps. I knew there wasn’t a lot of time and the closing session would be wrapping up.
I’m not a tech guy, but I wondered what about the etymology for the word “dongle”. None of this would have happened if pioneer tech gurus weren’t a bunch of huge pervs:
The term dates to at least January 1982, when it appears in MicroComputer Printout:
“The word “dongle” has been appearing in many articles with reference to security systems for computer software.”
The word is most likely a blend of dong and dangle, as it can resemble a penis that hangs off a computer.
A company called Rainbow Technologies, which manufactured dongles, claimed that the term was named for its alleged inventor, a certain Don Gall. This is not true and no such person existed, at least as far as I can tell; the story was simply a fabrication of the marketing department.
Anyway, Richards tweeted that she felt like Joan of Arc, minus the visions. I knew Joan of Arc, I worked with Joan of Arc, Ms. Richards you are…. wait. But, no, Richards is no hero. We don’t even know if Joan of Arc wanted to be Joan of Arc. Ideally, a hero is pulled reluctantly to their heroism, and there’s usually a threat of death or anguish. Not, as with Richards, a threat of a massive Twitter tickle session. Feminist agitators like Richards troll conferences with their outrage antennae fully extended. She states that she was primed because earlier in the day another male attendee made a joke which involved sexual innuendo.
One of Richards’ supporters is a man named Avdi Grimm who makes the claim that the inherent qualities held by men are a microaggression in their own right:
Here are some things that are true about me:
- I’m a white male. (This is empirically a fact)
- I’m charismatic, reasonably eloquent, and have a commanding speaking voice (these I infer from what others have said, and from the fact that I can often influence people by speaking to them)
The fact is, I can feel quite secure saying “Hey, not cool!” in most contexts, because I’m confident that because of all those beneficial attributes I listed above, when I say “not cool” the response will be respectful, even deferential.
But what if I didn’t have that expectation? What if I knew from observation of similar situations that the likely outcome of saying “hey, not cool” would be a pile-on of defensive reactions? Reactions ranging from “lighten up, we’re just kidding around” (translation: our intentions are pure, therefore your feelings are invalid), to “don’t get your panties in a bunch”, to outright mockery, even to threats? You don’t have to look very long to see this kind of pile-on in action every time a woman says the equivalent of “not cool!” in a tech forum.
“Check your privilege, bro,” that’s what he’s saying. Anyway, chances are greater that a guy confronting another guy will lead to a confrontation. Would those guys hit Richards right there in front of everyone? Doubt it.
Here are some people discussing dongles for a NetGear segment. How long until the word ‘dongle’ is changed because of its inherent sexism? Before or after the Washington Redskins drop ‘Red’ from their name?
Addendum: A commenter at Richards blog throws the PyCon Code of Conduct back at her by pointing out that the COC says that people who have been asked to cease engaging in harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately. Richards didn’t give the men that chance. 99% chance that if Richards asked them to stop they would have said “oh, sorry”.