Lessons From Adria Richards' Firing and Online Threats Against Women

Generic image (Thinkstock Images)
Generic image (Thinkstock Images)

The African-American SendGrid developer was fired for tweeting a photo of men who she said were making sexist jokes during a conference. Writing at the Huffington Post, Soraya Chemaly takes on the "online thugs" who came after Richards with disturbing attacks when the story broke.

Earlier this week developer Adria Richards tweeted a photo of two men sitting behind her joking about forking and "big dongles" at a tech conference. You know, in a shared public space. The man's employer wasn't too keen about it either and fired him. Then Anonymous, Reddit, and 4Chan got involved in his defense and … she was fired after her company's servers were attacked. And then, like clockwork, the online harassment, including death and rape threats from total strangers began, thereby proving her point about who feels comfortable doing what in public space. Now, just to be clear, she didn't just get messages saying, "Shut up and go away!" She received messages like this, documented in The Daily Dot: "a photo (blurred but still NSFW) of a bloody, beheaded woman, bound and stripped, with the caption 'when Im done.' Next to it was a home address and phone number, ostensibly Richards's."

As I've written before, threats like this are not harmless expressions of free speech. They're akin to hate speech and are maliciously intended to intimidate and silence. Messages like this don't make women feel safe. And that's the point, isn't it — to make sure our gendered safety gap stays constant.

Threats like these are "legitimate" from the perspective of most people who get them, regardless of how others — platforms like Facebook or Reddit where threats like this often turn up and are not considered "credible" or people who send them and think they're funny — feel. Ask Kathy Sierra, which may be difficult since she is no longer writing …


Read Soraya Chemaly's entire piece at the Huffington Post.

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