Apparently We're Not Ready to Be Adults About Anything

I write rarely, once in a geological age (but it's a geological internet age, so it's just a few times a year instead of a few times an aeon), and that bell tolls again.

This fine piece of internet drama wakes me from my slumber. In short, a woman at a conference overheard a joke in bad taste. She outed the perpetrator on Twitter and he was removed from the conference. (Update: No action was taken by PyCon besides informing him of the issue; nobody was removed from anywhere). He was also fired by his employer.

The discussion that followed should have been along the lines of, "Wow, Twitter is a powerful soapbox, and we must all be aware of our audience, both in person and online." Also acceptable would have been sympathy for the man with three children who was fired for a lapse in judgement. Let he who is free of sin throw the first stone, etc.

Instead, we got some mouth-foaming. And insults. And general rage. Even the last bastion of the erudite, Hacker News, was not free from insanity. Even when the man in question apologized, recognizing his behavior was disrespectful, we get a huge dose of sexism bordering on the violent.

Listen up, tech community. I'm only going to say this once. None of that is acceptable, and you are to grow the hell up right now. Whether you agree with Adria, whether you agree with (I'm assuming, here) Playhaven's decision to fire the guy, whether you think you should be allowed to tell lewd jokes at a family-friendly conference, there is no world in which any of these examples constitute an adult conversation. Save your name-calling for the playground.

There is a massive anti-women sentiment in tech, and it brings out the worst in so many people. Hordes of men, and even some women, seem to relish the idea that tech is this insular field where the only rules that apply come straight from Lord of the Flies. Somehow, if we allow anyone who has human, adult feelings onto our island, we forever lose our capacity to do our jobs. If talking freely about "banging chicks" or ogling women in bikinis is somehow critical to your professional function, you may want to re-evaluate your career.

Technology is propelled forward by creative thinking and motivated individuals, not by our cavalier attitudes towards dick jokes. Curbing that behavior does not make us any worse as engineers and entrepreneurs, so you can stop with that argument right now.

You can also stop saying that she has no right to be offended, and that the jokes weren't offensive in the first place. Just because you cannot fathom something does not mean it has no merit. Being a straight, white male gives you no authority over what women, the genderqueer, or other minorities may take offense at. Being unable to sympathize with a completely foreign experience does not make you a bad person, but being dismissive because you can't does.

As technologists, we like to think that we're the ones driving real progress so we are exempt from the rules that every other industry has developed in their long, storied histories. It's time for a reality check. The rest of the world shakes their collective head at our childish antics while we struggle frantically to build the next 'facebook for dogs' or 'twitter for watermelons.' It's time to grow up.