Empowerment gone wrong at pycon

Recent events in pycon, a developers conference, has me thinking what empowerment should really mean and has it gone overboard?

Two fired as tech world roils over a tweet about ‘sexist’ forking and dongles jokes

A tweet declaring that sexist jokes were uttered during a conference has led to the firing of two people and divided the tech world.

The situation spiraled out of control after Adria Richards’ took a picture of the two men who joked about “big dongles” and posted it on Twitter.

Jokes that lead to tweets, which lead to two people losing their jobs.

Two people have been fired and the tech world battle of the sexes rages on after a joke about dongles at a conference and a subsequent tweet.

The gist of it is that a female developer evangelist overheard what she construed as sexists conversation between two male developers behind her. Instead of confronting or talking to them directly, turned around, took a photo and tweeted her unhappiness publicly. This led to one of the developer being fired and include Adria herself later.

The whole event and its unfolding is wrong in so many levels.

Firstly, the two guys are probably rational and well meaning people. Why couldn’t she just have voiced out her disagreement with they terms which they are using? I am very sure if they were made known that its offensive, they would have apologized immediately. But she did not do it. Instead, she just posted a photo of the two guys and simply accused them of being sexists.

Secondly, from what I’ve read, the guys were not making any sexist jokes at any female audience nor speakers, they were just making jokes about a piece of machinery. Furthermore, Adria accused them of using “forking a repos” as sexists, but apparently it was not a sexists term rather it used with the highest regard to a developer.

Social media like Facebook and Twitter is a platform for empowerment for sure, but personally, I think this creates dis-empowerment. People instead of facing the issue directly and working out to resolve an issue on the spot (unless its life threatening), escalate it to the public or friends’ sphere to show their unhappiness and cry “help me, help me” instead. A classic superhero syndrome. This is the reverse of empowerment really. This is the same reason why I think the citizenry media in Singapore like STOMP is a stupid idea and worst off for Singaporeans in the long run. Perhaps it serves a purpose to the ruling party as an agenda to dis-empower Singaporeans instead, we may never really know.

Lastly, as much as I totally disagreed with her approach, I am even more disagreeable to the reaction from the tech community, calling her names, death threats and even attacking her account and also the company’s networks. These are really immature guys at work (I have to assume only those macho-acting guys but hiding ins shadows, will do this). If we disagree with her, take the issue to her. This is not different from terrorists blowing up Western tourists everywhere just because some white guy killed their family. If anything those tech folks are acting like terrorists which they condemn.

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