In this episode of Underrepresented in Tech, Allie and Michelle discuss a very unfortunate conversation that took place in a popular WordPress Facebook group recently. They react to what was said, how it was said, and how the members of the group reacted. In total, they examine what this interaction can teach us about fighting for diversity and inclusion in tech and beyond.
This episode was sponsored by Ninja Forms. Ninja Forms is WordPress form building simplified. Build beautiful, user friendly forms that will make you feel like a professional web developer. No code required.
Michelle Frechette, Allie Nimmons
Allie Nimmons 00:02
Welcome to the Underrepresented In Tech podcast, hosted by Michelle Frechette and Allie Nimmons. Underrepresented In Tech is a free database, but with the goal of helping people find new opportunities in WordPress, and tech overall.
Michelle Frechette 00:17
Allie Nimmons 00:19
Hi, Michelle. Happy Thursday.
Michelle Frechette 00:22
Happy Thursday to you. It’s February. I can’t believe it’s already February.
Allie Nimmons 00:26
It’s February. We’re already a month into the new year. I don’t know. So bizarre.
Michelle Frechette 00:34
Like, is it? Is it old year? Or is it used year? Like, you know, like, new New Year, New car, used car? Is it like, it’s a used year already. It’s already February.
Allie Nimmons 00:44
it kind of feels like that. I feel like it’s been 2022 for 100 years now.
Michelle Frechette 00:49
We drove we drove it off the lot. That’s already lost some of it’s value.
Allie Nimmons 00:53
This year is the lemon. Let’s take it back. It’s no good.
Michelle Frechette 00:58
Does this come with a warranty?
Allie Nimmons 01:01
What’s the return policy?
Michelle Frechette 01:04
Well, I have something to share today that makes it feel like a lemon. So I wanted to, to bring this to you. And I did send it to you yesterday. So you could have an opportunity to read it in advance, of course. But this is a story of two different people, really. Well, I mean, there’s more people involved in that. But basically, the story is about two different actors. One person posted in the Atrium group yesterday, or the other day, I should say. Now first of all, I should specify, it’s a Facebook group for people who use Atrium and I’m part of that group, I know Vito, he’s a friend of mine, of course. And I have nothing but love for that group and the people, they’re phenomenal people. One user commented or posted in the group that when it comes to defining roles within the Atrium plugin, that the definition for where it says Super Admin says “he has full capabilities for all the plugins functions”. Now, first, I want to say that the people who are creating this are not necessarily, English is not their first language. So I have no, like, I’m not upset that it said “he”, right. So then this person called it out and was like, “Maybe this should change.” Right? And she did, she tried to make it like we women do, right? We try to make it humorous. So like, if I’m gonna say something, and if I’m not gonna, I mean, they’re gonna, I don’t want to come across angry about things. I’m talking about, like, me, like, the collective seems like the royal me. Right? So the royal me, I do have terrorists, but that’s another story. Um, so, but usually, like, if I’m gonna say, “Oh, gosh, can we like make it inclusive of everybody, you know, cuz like, last time I checked, I’m still a girl,” you know, like, we try to we, as women, we try to soften the load a little bit.
Allie Nimmons 03:04
Kinda downplay it a little bit.
Michelle Frechette 03:05
Right? Otherwise, we just get called bitches, right? We get called all these things. So this person says, “It’s such a tiny, tiny thing, but it makes a difference. Help my eyeball muscles, please, from having to roll my eyes each time I come across this.”
Allie Nimmons 03:22
Michelle Frechette 03:22
it should say..
Allie Nimmons 03:23
And they also started. And they also started by being by saying “Hello everybody”, right? Like, “I love love your tool”. Right? Like, totally cool and ended with “Thanks” too, right like saying thank you. So they craft a response message. Yeah, sandwiched in positivity, not making it a huge deal, but just saying, “Hey, this is something I noticed. It comes under my skin. I wonder if this is something that we can look at or potentially change”, right? Like a textbook perfect example of how to approach these kinds of issues. Like yes, yes, this person should be applauded for the way that they wrote this message.
Michelle Frechette 03:32
And Disha, a woman at Atrium says, “Hey, Kathy, thanks for pointing this out. We really appreciate it. This is in our list to change in the next update.” Yeah, fantastic. Right. Exactly. Kathy says “Thanks. You can also use the, you know, they”, as in the neuro neutral plural, not neuro neutral “for you or admin. Thanks for listening and serving a free speech community.” Such a wonderful, you know, back and forth so far. Vito, who I love, says, “Very good point. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.” And she replies again, “You’re welcome. It’s your tool or service so do what feels right for your business. I hope you did get that the eyeroll thing was a joke. I’ll never respond to a person who attacks rather, you know PS will never respond to a person who attacks rather than discusses. You do you and thanks for your plugin.” Love it. So literally, she’s just saying my two cents worth. Thanks for all that you do. I love it. I love it all. And yes, it was a little bit of a joke, that I will say.
Allie Nimmons 05:00
And approaching it that way, like what kind of developer or business owner wouldn’t respond with? At the very minimum, like, “Thank you for your, thank you for first for bringing this up”, right? Like, who’s gonna reply to this and be like, “Absolutely not you jerk blah, blah, blah.” Like, she made it so easy for them to respond positively. Which is, which is why what follows is so unbelievably jarring.
Michelle Frechette 05:25
So next, and I’m, you know what, if you post it publicly, I can say your name publicly. So, and I think I’m pronouncing it properly. His name was Paul Aswad. Okay, and it just, it’s like a-s-w-a-d. So he says,
Allie Nimmons 05:43
Well, we pronounce it differently, but we’re a positive podcast.
Michelle Frechette 05:47
That’s right. So I’m going Aswad
Allie Nimmons 05:50
Michelle Frechette 05:51
Aswad. Okay. “Well, technically, it’s super admin, not super admins, meaning that you can’t use they because it’s not thorough. Saying they would mean there are multiple admins. It would sound crazy if they was used to talk about one person, they, the admin”, and then he puts like the crazy face emoji. “How can someone get offended by a word beats TF out of me.” You know what TF stands for
Allie Nimmons 06:17
Michelle Frechette 06:18
So then another woman says, “No, it’s not, they is used forever when talking about one person and not knowing their gender. English isn’t my mother tongue, but I learned that my second year.” And another person, another woman says, “Not at all, they can be used in the singular, or he could be swapped out at times for she. Unfortunately, women are often sidelined, sidelined in tech. And examples of this compound the feeling, despite women being some of the forerunners in computing. Yes, they are. Thanks for taking this onboard Vito.”
Allie Nimmons 06:50
And I would just like to add as well, for context, his initial posts that you’d read out his initial, you know, reply, has, like, Facebook isn’t really it’s hard to see how many of each, but there is a thumbs up and a laughing reaction. And there are four of those in total. So in total, four additional people within this group, thought what he said was funny or agreed with it in some way. So I think that’s important to remember as well.
Michelle Frechette 07:21
Thank you. Yes, absolutely. So now he responds again, he being Paul Aswad. “Your eyeball muscles hurt because you saw the word he, you must be sexist A F and that lady is more disgusting than say he in any text.” And then he puts the vomiting emoji.
Allie Nimmons 07:40
Yeah. Which that one got five reactions, which were a mix of thumbs ups, hearts, and at least one angry face. So at least one person didn’t agree with that. Right?
Michelle Frechette 07:52
I was at least one angry face because I got, I started, I joined in on this conversation at some point, we’re getting there. And then he can’t leave well enough alone, he goes and responds again, he’s the two responses that are out. “I would be disgusted if that changed, and wouldn’t recommend this tool to anyone anymore. If the company bends over backwards for this type of crap.” Then Jason Liversidge, I don’t know Jason, but I, he is my new best friend. “Seriously, I’m sorry, you’re triggered and wounded mate. They have been used as a singular pronoun since the 14th century, and it’s not going anywhere. Before you ask for a source feel free to do a bit of research starting here.” And he placed them towards an article on the starz.com where they is a singular pronoun. So now Vito, I mean, this is all happening pretty rapid. This is all at the same day, so Vito responses. “Wow, that’s a strong response, man. Looks like no matter how we do, we lose. I think Super Admin has full capabilities for all the plugins functions, and that’s in quotation marks. It’s something we can all agree on. I have no personal attachment to any string of text. It’s there to serve you all.” That’s a wonderful response. Yes. And he’s saying let’s just put a gender neutral who cares we don’t say he there anything. Just refer to the to the article, right? So doesn’t Paul have to have a response for that? He says “Vito, for the words use of this post, my response should have been harsher”. Like saying like that somebody’s sexist as fuck and everything else isn’t harsh enough, dude. “Yeah”, he says. “Not sure how such a sexist post by what clearly is a sexist member can be allowed here.” Speaking of Kathy’s initial one saying you know please could we think about this right? He says the “English language is very clear about what is to be used in such scenarios, the male gender, but there’s so much hate going on against men and companies bend over backwards for such nonsense. Well, I’m taking a stand against it. Seeing he hurt her eyes, that let her pluck them out, that should solve her problem.”
Allie Nimmons 10:10
To which there was at least one surprised face, and at least one heart reaction to that post. Yes.
Michelle Frechette 10:18
So, I mean, himself, who knows? I don’t know, because we.
Allie Nimmons 10:21
Do we want to read the entirety of this thread?
Michelle Frechette 10:28
Um, so, so two other gentlemen, like, chime in after that, and it’s like, you know, being a ridiculous idiot, basically. And then I.
Allie Nimmons 10:37
Trying to calmly explain the rules of English and like, make him make him see reason too, like nobody even here is attacking him or necessarily calling him names, but like, trying to explain why he is just objectively wrong and out of line.
Michelle Frechette 10:53
With that, of course, I jump in. I can’t, I can’t stay silent. I try. I really do. I tried. I literally walked away from this post four times before I came back and responded, but this is my response. And it’s to Vito, not to Aswad. “Vito, honestly, losing someone so clearly, vitriolic isn’t a great loss, being more inclusive is always a better way. And for what it’s worth, the English language isn’t clear that masculine is the default, which is why we use they when we don’t know the person’s gender. Who was driving down the road so fast? I don’t know. But they must have been in a hurry. See?”
Allie Nimmons 11:33
I dare you to provide reason and rationality too.
Michelle Frechette 11:37
Oh my god, I know, right? Um, I guess I was sexist as fuck, who knows.
Allie Nimmons 11:43
And don’t deserve to have eyes.
Michelle Frechette 11:45
I know, sorry. Everybody affected, you know. who’s offended by the F word. But it needed to be said, but here’s the thing. First of all, the only people I mean, people may have been reacting with hearts and things like that. But the only person in the entire discourse here saying anything negative was Paul Aswad. Everybody else was like saying to him back off, be inclusive, you know, all this other stuff. And, and to their credit, the people from Atrium, Disha and Vito, were all like, let’s just be inclusive. Let’s just take the word he out and make it applicable for everybody. And, you know, the point of bringing this up today wasn’t because I mean, yes, okay, clearly, I want to shame somebody who was so clearly actually sexist, because that’s kind of sometimes what I do. But, I mean, I’m a nice person, but you know, when somebody is going to be that clearly hurtful, poor Kathy did not deserve that. I’m just gonna say Kathy did not deserve that.
Allie Nimmons 12:50
Nobody deserves that
Michelle Frechette 12:51
I, and I hope that Kathy isn’t like, sitting at home wondering like, “What the hell did I do? And was I in the wrong” because Kathy, if you’re listening, you were not in the wrong. You were very polite and very kind in everything that you said. And we applaud you for what you I’ve speak the we, me and Allie, we applaud you for what you said in the way that you asked it.
Allie Nimmons 13:12
Michelle Frechette 13:13
I bring it up. And I don’t honestly, I don’t think that people who are sexist as fuck are listening to our podcasts, right? I mean, the people who are listening to our podcast, are people generally who agree with us and want to grow and learn. I don’t think the people who are, you know, dead set against everything that we’re not, we don’t have sexist and racist listening, going, Oh, my gosh, I’ve seen the light, I wish,
Michelle Frechette 13:35
That’d be lovely.
Michelle Frechette 13:36
It would be wonderful. But I don’t think that’s the way it works. But the reason that I did want to bring it up today is because although there are incredibly supportive people in our community, I don’t think that they always see the product of what we talk about, right? So we you and I can say that as women, as disabled, a person as a person of color, you know, that, that as their, you know, all of our different, whatever labels that we all want to apply to ourselves, we can say that we experience discrimination. We can say we experience vitriol, we can say that we experience hate. And I think it’s wonderful that people take that at face value. And they believe us when we say it, but to actually hear some of the discourse. I think that the people who believe us but haven’t witnessed it, their eyeballs just rolled back in their heads and they’re like, I think I sprained an eyeball because I heard that today kind of thing, you know, and I think that sometimes you have to bring the receipts just to prove to the people who might be thinking oh, it’s not as bad as they say, or I believe them, but maybe they’re just too soft or exaggerating or they get hurt to to thin skinned or whatever it is. Trust me when I tell you that we have the thickest skin out there. We’re just tired of it.
Allie Nimmons 14:56
Allie Nimmons 14:59
Hey there, Ali. hear popping in. If you’re enjoying this episode, please consider sponsoring the Underrepresented In Tech podcast. Your sponsorship dollars will go towards transcripts for these episodes, as well as support for the overall Underrepresented In Tech project. Visit underrepresentedintech.com/donations/podcast-sponsorship in order to support us. Thanks, back to the episode.
Allie Nimmons 15:26
I’m tired of it. I’m tired of it. Like I was having conversation the other day. I was part of the WP diversity, one of the workshops that Jill Binder does. And we talked a little bit about how when the reaction that we get when we see other people being attacked is often stronger than how we feel if something happens to us. Right. And so you sent me this yesterday. And I’m reading this, and I’m just thinking about this poor woman who really tried hard to have a healthy and positive, not even debate. It was a suggestion. Right. And given the care to which she wrote that request. I can only, I can imagine maybe her hesitating on having posted that. Or maybe she thought about posting that for a couple of days and and didn’t do it because she was afraid. And then finally plucked up that, I’m guessing here right, of what her experience might have been. And that’s wasn’t easy.
Michelle Frechette 16:29
And my guess is she was super careful with her words too, right. She was super careful with words. Right? And then to have that be her reaction.
Allie Nimmons 16:35
Have that be the reaction? And what also because obviously what he says is wrong and hurtful and borderline just violent. Right? The whole “she can pluck her eyes out”? That is so inappropriate, right, that is well beyond, Well, I disagree. And I don’t think that that what you’re saying is a problem. This is well beyond that. Right?
Michelle Frechette 16:56
Allie Nimmons 16:57
So putting that aside, right, the things that stood out to me were how the original poster must have felt. And the fact that oh my gosh, sorry, I sit right in front of a window and two people almost a crash right in front of my apartment. I’m thinking about the the reactions, right, the emojis, the implicit support that people were silently showing to this person, it makes me wonder if if nobody had hearted or liked or uploaded whatever, those those comments of his would he still have felt as bold because everything that he posted, got bolder, and bolder and angrier and angrier and nastier and nastier. And fueled the fire. And so you know, for the people who are listening. We are not we Michelle and I don’t do what we do, just to to, I put fight in air quotes, because I can’t think of a better word right now. We don’t just do this to fight the Pauls of the world. We do this to address the fact that we do this for a lot of reasons, but partially to address the fact that in this community, we have a lot of people who are very comfortable silently supporting the worst of them. And just kind of saying, Well, you know, I, I kind of agree, but I’m not going to speak up. Right. I’m not going to join in, but I do agree with what he said. And that can that is a contribution that is that, like you said fueling the fire. And it’s it’s not acceptable.
Michelle Frechette 18:35
Allie Nimmons 18:36
It’s it’s incredibly, incredibly frustrating. And it it brings to mind, you know, the thing that they say, what is it? Like, if you’re not part of the problem, if you’re not part of the solution? You’re part of the problem?
Michelle Frechette 18:47
Allie Nimmons 18:48
And it feels and it sounds like an extreme thing to say to where it’s like, oh, well, if you want to stay out of it, then you’re part of the problem. But it’s true. It’s it’s, it’s been true in the most extreme instances in history. I mean, we learned this when I remember learning about the Holocaust and learning about the, the Germans who were not Nazis, but who didn’t do anything who stood by and let it happen, right? That feels like a very extreme parallel to make to a conversation in a Facebook group. But it’s, it’s, it’s the same principle, if you’re gonna stand by and just kind of say, “Oh, well, that guy’s nuts”, or, you know, “Oh, he has a point” and hit that little heart button. You are contributing to the problem.
Michelle Frechette 19:32
Mm hmm. Absolutely. And, you know, we we do deal with this a lot, right? So, in the 5.6 release, a year and a half ago, it was all women and non binary folks we had all kinds of things like this that were happening in the community and lots of conversations. I had to block people on Twitter because they were attacking me personally, for defending, you know, the group of us. But yeah, it’s just, you know, the bottom line is don’t be at ass wad,
Allie Nimmons 20:06
Don’t be an ass wad. That guy is an ass wad. Gosh, and like to be honest with you perfectly honest, when you sent me that yesterday, I didn’t read the whole thing. I read about half of it. And I was like, Alright, I get the point. Like, it was making me so red in the face. And so upset. I was like, I can’t let this ruin my day, right, which is kind of a selfish tack to take considering that there are people who, you know, replied throughout this entire post, or keeping up with it and all of that and like, but I was just like, I, this is so upsetting. This is so upsetting in so many ways. And so embarrassing that this is happening in our, you know, our wonderful, diverse, inclusive, loving community, right? Like, we love to paint ourselves like that. But we do still have these ass wads, who just think it’s they were just put on this earth to like, hurt other people. Like I don’t get it?
Michelle Frechette 20:58
Yeah. Yeah, I agree.
Allie Nimmons 21:00
I don’t get it. I mean, do you know if this person was removed, because it’s a private Facebook group? Do you know if this person was removed from the group by any of the admins?
Michelle Frechette 21:09
I don’t know, I don’t know. I haven’t I haven’t researched today to see where anything sits at this point. But I can certainly look that up later.
Allie Nimmons 21:18
Well, if you are a web agency or freelancer that uses Atrium, go join their Facebook group and support them because that’s, that was the other thing that I mentioned that we briefly talked about is that the admins, Super Admins of this group Disha and Vito, I thought there was another one, but maybe they were the only two who were in that thread. Yeah, Disha and Vito, kudos to y’all for the way that you handled it for not kowtowing to this person. But for also like remaining, remaining positive about it. And just being good leaders being good, good product owners, good business owners, all of those things, but big, good community leaders. Because this is, this sucks, right to build a community to try to help people. And somebody comes in and asks for help. And some and somebody else decides to tear them down. Right? It sucks. And so thank you to Vito and Disha for replying quickly and replying thoughtfully, and all of those good things, because it’s not easy to do that sometimes.
Michelle Frechette 22:27
Agreed. 100%. Yeah, absolutely. Kudos to them for sure.
Allie Nimmons 22:31
And I hope that that guy did get kicked out of the group. Because what, what was that meme I sent you like, directly after? Because after I read that, right, I was like, I need a palate cleanser. I go to Instagram, and I’m just scrolling around. And I find this quote that I sent to you like a couple minutes afterward, “I would rather adjust my life to your absence than adjust my boundaries to accommodate your disrespect.” Yes. And I was like, wow, how apropos is that?
Michelle Frechette 22:56
Allie Nimmons 22:59
Michelle Frechette 22:59
Allie Nimmons 23:01
I like to think that karma is going to give that guy what he deserves. But I think the most important thing we can take from this is just moving forward. Not tolerating this kind of stuff, not being silently complicit to this kind of stuff.
Michelle Frechette 23:15
Allie Nimmons 23:17
Yeah. Be better.
Michelle Frechette 23:19
No matter how good you are, we can always be better all of us. Well, next week, I won’t be on the show with you because I will be traveling.
Allie Nimmons 23:28
Aw, I’ll miss you.
Michelle Frechette 23:28
I know, but I’ll be back in two weeks. And next week. I know you’ve got some things planned, but I’m not sure I’m not gonna announce them because
Allie Nimmons 23:35
They’re not 100%. Yeah, not 100%. But we hopefully have somebody awesome. Well, we’ll have somebody awesome next week. Regardless, I just don’t know who exactly it will be yet. But definitely tune in for that for that surprise.
Michelle Frechette 23:50
100%. Very good. Allie, it’s always fun to talk to you.
Allie Nimmons 23:53
Fun to talk to you too.
Michelle Frechette 23:55
Did we tell people that you’re coming to Rochester?
Allie Nimmons 23:57
I think we mentioned it last week. But yeah, we can stand to remind people I’m coming. Next month. I’m so excited. I miss New York. I miss Michelle, we’re gonna co work together we’re gonna get tattoos. It’s gonna be great. I’m really excited
Michelle Frechette 24:12
We’re gonna have a big old dinner with with good people here so you can see people. It’s gonna be fun.
Allie Nimmons 24:18
I’m gonna hug your cats, it’s going to be fantastic.
Michelle Frechette 24:21
It was worth it because you could either be there but she’s been just off screen begging to be petted the entire time. Like she’s been all over my mouse, which is kind of funny because I just can’t do anything.
Allie Nimmons 24:34
I’m trying to do work.
Michelle Frechette 24:36
Right. That’s right. All right. Well, everybody be safe out there. I know. It’s a storm and all that other stuff everywhere. It’s no one here but be safe and be better. And thanks for all the things that y’all do to make the world a better place.
Allie Nimmons 24:51
We’ll see you next week.
Michelle Frechette 24:52
Allie Nimmons 24:53
Allie Nimmons 24:56
This episode was sponsored by the following companies. Ninja Forms. Ninja Forms is WordPress form building simplified, build beautiful user friendly forms that will make you feel like a professional web developer. No code required.
Allie Nimmons 25:12
If you’re interested in sponsoring an episode, using our database, or just want to say hi, go to underrepresentedintech.com. See you next week.