Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian has used his personal blog to express his deep-felt objection to the sexist attacks on Adria Richards, the employee who lost her job after denouncing misogyny at a tech conference.
BuzzFeed reports that he chose to make a statement as a commentator, not a leader, which they call a "baldly political move":
"By identifying as a geek and then criticizing geek culture, he joins an ongoing conversation about tolerance in tech; but by minimizing Reddit's role in driving the backlash against Adria Richards (its /r/mensrights community is raising money for the "victims" of Richards), and characterizing the site's actions as a reflection of a larger problem rather than a possible cause, Ohanian exonerates himself."
Ohanian cleverly points out that geeks have often been victims of bullying and should empathize with women and minorities instead of scorning them:
"Plenty of us got used to being ignored. Many of us were bullied. But what did we learn from it — empathy or hate?"
He explains that "geeks" were once victims but 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 Reddit mogul clearly has come a long way since taking little ownership over the infamous creepshot-gate, but will this blog post really make a difference? BuzzFeed points out that his strategy is compelling but fails to include a specific call-to-action. Rebecca Greenfield at The Atlantic Wire is skeptical as well. She reports that Reddit users have already responded to Ohanian by starting threads about how much he "hates free speech," something many Reddit users are compulsively obsessed with.
I would argue that creating spaces in which women don't get called c*nts for expressing their opinions is what will foster actual free speech. Free speech doesn't mean being free to be injurious to women. Free speech is everyone feeling like they have the liberty to express themselves. As long as women are victims of sexist cyber attacks for speaking their minds, personal liberties aren't being upheld. It's not free speech if some members are privileged and that others are silenced.
Nevertheless, it's encouraging to see leaders in the tech community take a courageous stance against sexism. As more leaders stand up, let's hope even more will follow.
Let me know what you think on Twitter: @feministabulous