Letter to Isaac

18 Mar 2014

Isaac Wagner wrote me an apology email yesterday, which I am very thankful for. I sent him a reply, however as I was writing it I realized it could use a wider audience, and others might find what I said to him useful. I will not be publishing his email to me, as that was private correspondence and I respect that. Here is my reply:

Hi Isaac,

Thank you for your apology. I would like to urge you to think about apologizing publicly. Remember, this is not just about you and me. I understand that my physical safety was never in danger. The point of all this is not that the words you typed were directly harmful, but that it contributes to what is considered normal behavior in the programming community. You do not know how many new, shy, female node programmers were lurking in that channel, and might have been scared away from programming by the idea that these are the opinions of the men that they would be surrounded by.

Taking control and responsibility for your actions is also a large step in adulthood. It can be incredibly scary to state loudly when you’ve made a mistake. Believe me, I’ve totally been there. You are afraid that others will attack or hate you forever. This is not what will happen. By owning and admitting your faults, you will have proven yourself to be self-reflecting and responsible. People will thank you and respect you for it. Instead of feeling shame, you will feel cleansed by the welcome you will receive.

This is also a time for you to do some deep reflecting on the actions and reactions of yourself and those around you. I see that you still have some blame for Nexxy in this. Please think back as to why that is. If you have prior history with Nexxy, that might be an indicator that other behaviors might not be in line with what is appropriate. I understand the desire to joke around with your friends in what you feel to be a safe environment. But this does not mean the way you act should be such that it might feel slightly less safe and welcoming to others. Perhaps Nexxy was trying to tell you this.

I’m sorry that you were the person that ended up being the target in all of this, not because you didn’t do anything wrong, but because it doesn’t make me feel great to know that another person was hurt deeply by a public shaming. This incident illustrated exactly what kinds of problems women and minorities face in the current tech culture, however, and we all need to change this mentality that perpetuates in this environment. Spend some time thinking about your actions very critically, and without emotion. When you can state clearly and concisely exactly why your actions and the actions of others in IRC were wrong, and the many ways that it could hurt many different people, then the community will be very proud of you, and you will have done something great.

Thanks, Davy

Thanks to @nexxylove for some of the fantastic wording