Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Martyrdom of Adria Richards

If you haven’t heard about Adria Richards and her Mighty Feminist Twitter War and the firings and the backlash and the rape threats and the passionate responses, take a moment to google “Adria Richards” and come back after you’ve thrown up.  It doesn’t matter which side of the issue you come down on.  You will absolutely purge the contents of your stomach either way.

The Internet is ablaze with every conceivable point of view, many of which make me want to punch babies squarely in the mouth.  Full disclosure: I have made countless dongle jokes in the course of my short life; I have the soul of a 12 year old boy and one of my favorite things about being an adult used to be that no one can make me write “I will not tell inappropriate jokes” two hundred times during recess (Apparently, adults fire you instead).  Additionally, I had always thought that the appropriate first step in handling a situation in which I’ve taken offense at something is to address the party that is offending me and kindly ask them to knock it the fuck off. In the army, I once had to address someone who outranked me about what I'm going to term sexual harassment, and although it scared me to do it, my actions resolved the problem for good.  Surely Adria Richards could have found, dare I say it, the balls to address the offensive dongle-forker with her grievances instead of spamming his identity over Twitter and demanding his removal from the conference and...

And etcetera.  You can find more about this point of view, and every other possible point of view, everywhere on the internet.  So let’s talk about something else.  Let’s talk about logical fallacies.

You see, the internet has trolls, and the internet has vicious men’s rights activists (I have been told that there are reasonable men’s rights activists out there; I’ll believe it when I see it.).  Trolls are vile and horrible creatures, and many men’s rights activists’ response to nearly every issue involving a women is “rape the bitch”.   As a result, Adria Richards has been getting rape threats, death threats, rape death threats, etc.  Please see my previous post on rape to see how I feel about the issue.  TL/DR: no one deserves to be raped, and the threateners are vile and awful creatures for whom I have no sympathy at all.

About a year ago, there were massive protests and uprisings against Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.  Mubarak was a bona fida asshole—a fascist, a dictator.  This led the majority of the civilized world to believe that the victory of the Egyption protesters against Mubarak was a victory for freedom.  Does Mubarak's tyranny mean that the Muslim Brotherhood stand for freedom?  Based on recent statements by the Egyptian government that women ought to defer to their husbands on all matters, including that of birth control, and to accept their beatings if they fail to obey sufficiently, the answer appears to be "no".

Currently, the Syrian government is engaged in an all-out war against those who wish to topple the Assad regime—governmental forces are killing children, bombing cities, etc.  Vile, horrific acts of violence.  Does that mean the Syrian rebels are the good guys?  I’ve heard that claim on a lot of news sites for the last year.

Perhaps tomorrow, we will wake up to learn that rampaging civil rights activists have begun raping and murdering racists.  Does that mean that racists deserve our sympathy?  Are racists the good guy in this scenario?

Back, unfortunately, to Richards.  When my fiancĂ© brought this shitshow to my attention, he predicted that shortly there would be people who would move to Richards’ side of this argument because these threats are so vile and so hateful and so utterly inappropriate, and he was correct.  Already, there are people who are calling Richards’ firing a concession to the trolls, a victory for rape culture, etcetera.  By threatening to rape Richards for being a terrible person, these trolls have made Adria Richards into a victim and engendered sympathy for her…

I’m sorry, did I say trolls?  No.  That would be you.  You did that.  By “you”, I mean anyone who bought into the narrative.  The trolls only threatened to rape Richards.  You decided that had some kind of bearing on Richards’s actions.

It doesn’t even matter which side you take on the issue.  If Adria Richards was right, she’s no more right.  If she was wrong, she’s no more wrong.  The actions of an outsider can never change the morality of your own. 

“But the rape threats show that there really is a culture of violence and hatred against women!”  No shit.  Does that change the nature of Richards’ act?  Does the fact that there are monsters who see rape, and the threat of rape, as a tool to express rage and disapproval make all women into saints?  Take Richards’s side or don’t, but understand that threats of violence do not elevate the person on the receiving end into a martyr.

At issue here are our preconceived notions of black and white, good and bad.  Reality is not a made-for-TV movie, where there is a hero and a villain, and the hero is the guy who isn't smoking a cigarette or beating people up or popping children's balloons or whatever.  Sometimes everyone is the villain.  Sometimes there is no hero.

Garnering the rage of the internet does not make Ms. Richards into a martyr, but merely into someone whom the internet is angry at.  If America could correct this single logical fallacy, our foreign policy would improve, our domestic reactions would become vastly more rational, and we could all turn our attention back to dongles, and forking, as God intended. 


  1. We received a lot of hateful comments due to our legal analysis of Ms. Richards's termination by a Colorado employer.

    1. I'm sorry about the hateful comments you received in response to your legal analysis. The trolls are vicious and terrible: I can only imagine the things they've said in response to the article you've linked. There's no excuse for it.

      That being said, my personal opinion is this: If the law is on Ms. Richards' side, and a company cannot terminate their contract with an employee who was hired as a technology evangelist who has used her media platform to punish a gentleman she overheard making an innocent joke, then the law is mistaken and needs to be changed. I think Ms. Richards' reaction did more to create a hostile work environment than a thousand dongle jokes ever could--I would be frankly terrified of saying anything if I were anywhere near this woman, for fear she would take offense and that the law would be on her side.

      As a woman who has spent years attempting to be taken seriously as a woman in a man's field (it doesn't get more chauvinistic than the Army), I think Ms. Richards has set women's rights back years with her incredible overreaction. It makes me incredibly sad that this so-called feminist is focusing America's attention on a joke about dongles so that we can all ignore things like the Steubenville rape case and the India gang rapes and the recent announcement by the Egyptian government concerning women's rights and...basically, all the actual serious woman's rights issues going on in the world right now.

  2. It is always so much easier to make something into a black and white issue than to talk about shades of gray. Shades of gray make you think. Shades of gray mean no easy answers.