Everyone knows Silicon Valley is a boys’ club. The needs of women are often ignored when it comes to business, but the story developing around the alleged rape and brutalization of a girlfriend by a Silicon Valley hotshot indicates that lack of effort carries into the personal realm as well.
Michael Arrington, tech magnate and founder of TechCrunch, has long been known for temper tantrums. His former girlfriend, Jenn Allen — the CEO and founder of the start-up RTist.com — recently took to Facebook to accuse him of some nasty stuff. Allegedly, he was constantly violent, raped her and another woman, and threatened to “murder” her if she told a soul.
That is disturbing, yes. But what is most disturbing is that many people in Silicon Valley had heard about his alleged violent tendencies towards women for years and never said anything, fearing repercussions by the constantly angry man who controlled so much in the land of tech.
Arrington’s legendary temper and deep connections in Silicon Valley and the most powerful media outlets earned him the ability to do whatever he pleased with no fear of being confronted. While this apparent bully might have been stopped years ago, bystanders preferred their comfortable lives in Silicon Valley while others suffered terribly at Arrington’s hand.
Loren Feldman, a former friend of Arrington’s and a well-known tech blogger, posted a video to his blog saying, "It's been the worst kept rumor in the valley for years,” and said he knows two other women who have been beaten by Arrington — but, as you might imagine, never takes responsibility for or even addresses never having come forward about this issue until now.
"I think he did it," Feldman said. "Personally, I think he did it. I think he did all the things [Jenn Allen] spoke about.”
Another former friend of Arrington’s, and his former (and now estranged) business partner, Jason Calacanis, took to Facebook yesterday to vent his feelings about the issue. While he never calls Arrington by name, it’s obvious that he’s talking about him, and even talked about Arrington’s violence towards him:
“I went to bat for the person until eventually they sucker punched me so hard that I couldn't go to bat for them no more.”
Fine, he punched you. Stay silent if you want (even if just figuratively). But what about those other people he brutalized that you knew about the entire time?
“Then story after horrific story of unimaginable behavior were told to me in private and I said nothing. Just stayed focused on my work,” he wrote. “Now all those stories are coming out publicly and there is no victory for anyone involved. Seeing the bully finally meet his demise is just sad.”
Actually, if the allegations against Arrington turn out to be true, I’d call his demise a long awaited victory.
The isolation of women in Silicon Valley may not be solved from a business perspective any time soon. Structural barriers will have to be overcome, and even in a fast-paced and constantly changing environment, change like that comes slowly. What can be done immediately and could have been done all along, however, is standing up for the few women who are present in Silicon Valley. Standing idly by while you hear horror stories of abuse and rape doesn’t cut it, and those that said nothing during this time are just as responsible for the abuse as the abuser. This needs to be a wake up call for the Valley – and a quick one.