Lessons from DongleGate: Being Pro Inclusion is Not Anti-White

Lessons from DongleGate: Being Pro Inclusion is Not Anti-White


Yes, we are living in a world where “donglegate” is the name of a controversy.

It’s the colloquial term for the recent fallout from an email distribution company’s decision to fire tech darling Adria Richards, who up until last week was its very popular brand evangelist. That’s fancy talk for a glorified public face of a company. Her job was to interact with development community, attend events and conferences, network and grow good will on behalf of her company. Richards also stars in a high trafficked web series and writes a popular blog which ranks top 16K in Alexa.

Let’s flashback to a week ago.

Ish got real when, while sitting at a session at a conference for developers of the open-source programming language Python, Richards overheard a couple guys cracking tech humor behind her. They were juxtaposing language and using double entendre in a Beavis and Butthead sort of way.  The  technology-related terms dongle and forking could be suggestive and could be interpreted as raunchy, I suppose, too. I totally get it.  If offensive, they violated the conference’s code of conduct.

It certainly upset Richards who opted to Twitpic the guys images and report the two to conference organizers who were considerate and sensitive to the possibility that this incident could ju ju jinx their unprecedented 20% attendance by women. Reports of sexual harassment just would not do.

To cut to chase: The dudes got reprimanded. One even lost his job.  In an industry known for having so few women, the fired attendee’s company couldn’t possibly risk a reputation of being hostile to females, so someone had to go. The company could have taken an alternative route, but didn’t. It also escaped much culpability in all that followed.

When word got out, in its fragmented super fast social media – act first, ask questions later – sort of way, all tech hell broke lose. Irate supporters of the fired individual attacked SendGrid and disrupted its ability to serve its clients. At first, according to Richards’ tweet, the company backed her but something about a mob mentality and pressure had them do a quick about face within 48 hours.

They blamed Richards for being that first domino in the quick downward spiral of events that ensued. Only thing, they never addressed the fact that in between the initial incident and their ultimate decision to let her go, she had received the most heinous, sickening, racist, sexist and downright mean vile hate and rape messages.

One sicko sent Richards a tweet on Twitter with a picture of a bloody, beheaded woman with the caption,”When Im done.”

And just like that, in one fell swoop, we learned again that the consequence of being perceived as going against one of your own…even if you arguably had a justifiable basis for doing so.

Trolls searched her timeline repeatedly brought up one old joke tweet from Richards that could be construed as itself having sexual innuendo.  Then, the obvious next step was to attack her race and gender and those rushing to her aid to defend her.

And indeed one of the most interesting take-aways was the way the situation quickly turned to race and gender.  It’s a punk move. Why bother use intellect when there is an easier cop out option of digging  down low and finding the easiest and cheapest way to offend?

Some even started calling her anti-men and anti-White all because she dared advocate for more inclusion of women and minorities.  Chill. Pro inclusion is not anti-white.

They are not mutually exclusive concepts. Calling Richards anti-man and anti-white because she promotes female and minority inclusion is equally whack – if I can borrow a term from hip hop lexicon. In fact, White men will do fine and have been doing quite fine for some time now.

Last time checked, they were aptly represented in a overwhelming majority in the Tech Field, among the wealthiest in the nation, in the top fields of tech and professions like  medicine, law, accounting, among Fortune 500 CEOs, among graduates of IVY League schools, as recipient of venture Capital funding, as venture capitalist themselves, and working in all the top tech companies in the nation.

And most of the available scholarship indicates that these standings won’t alter much anytime soon.  If one is a member of the group and haven’t made it big, then the blame cannot be hoisted upon affirmative action, a national political party’s nascent inclusion campaign or a sole woman doing her best to foster a more welcoming tech community.

But there was no time for anything like reality or logic. Quickly, the focus shifted and shuffled.  What could have been a case of a woman being disgusted by disruptive and vulgar loud conversation with sexual innuendo and her calling out the offenders, even perhaps more discretely, have turned into an out and out haranguing of feminism and women.

Two steps forward, five steps back. Wasn’t Richards and others working to make the community more accepting to women in the first place?  But her speaking up lead to a disruption of harmony and focused unwanted attention on any 10,000 pound Gorilla conspicuously standing in a corner of the room.

One piece of advice for all to consider: Step back.  Let go.  As quickly as things turned sour, they can be forgiven and forgotten.

The lessons to be learned are plentiful. Put aside the divisiveness and bitter pills.

Distractions are great for doing just that, getting our collective eyes off the ball and the bigger goal.

Donglegate was such a diversion. It’s time to move forward.