Planet Reddit

Alexis Ohanian Picked a Fine Time to Weigh in on the XX in Tech Debate

It didn't take Gloria Steinem to call this one.
Mr. Ohanian (Photo: Twitter)

Mr. Ohanian (Photo: Twitter)

Yesterday afternoon–after the controversy had already begun to cool down–Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian decided to chime in on the vicious online response to Adria Richards, who publicly called out two developers for what she perceived as sexist jokes at a Python conference.

In a blog post titled, “Dear Fellow Geeks: WTF?” he takes his fellows to task for the invectives and threats hurled at Ms. Richards.

“Aren’t we better than this?” he asks:

“I’m talking about how many (otherwise reasonable-seeming) people I saw who were comfortable and self-righteous in calling a woman a bitch/cunt/etc from their Twitter, Hacker News, or, yes, reddit account.”

He goes on to chide his less enlightened brethren:

The comments (and support for them) I’ve seen over the past few days have really disappointed me and I really hope this is a chance for us to reflect on how we use these tools to foster the tech community. This isn’t “political correctness,” this is you having the courage to use your words to create an environment that promotes an open exchange of ideas — not alienate people and certainly not terrorize them.

It’s a welcome stance against sexism and harrassment. But was it really news to Mr. Ohanian that there’s a deep sexist streak poisoning the tech community? Does the Reddit cofounder even browse his own site?

Mr. Ohanian reminds “not-poor straight white” geeks that they’re no longer the perennial underdog, but not without a tinge of self-congratulations:

“Holy shit, the rest of the world is finally realizing how awesome we are. The geek has inherited the earth. And now that we’re the powerful ones, we need to remember: with great power comes great responsibility. It’s irresponsible to continue to act as though we are victims.”

The Adria Richards case was an easy one. It’s a no-brainer to call threatening to rape and murder an outspoken woman (or any woman!) unacceptable. But what about when the trolling is coming from inside Mr. Ohanian’s own house? The infamous Mens’ Rights subreddit in particular seemed to have it out for Ms. Richards. And sure would have been nice to hear him take this kind of stand during the /r/creepshots debacle, for example.

For Y Combinator’s “Ambassador to the East,” the Hacker News headline on this might as well be: Tend your own garden.

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com