Let’s get naked

Wouldn’t it be awesome if this were true? If some techie magazine had an article about being “Naked” or transparent in business practices, and in the article featured a bunch of men, and used a naked photo of one of *them* on the cover? Or a whole office full of cubicles with naked people? Since the article is all about guys anyway, and since it’s a tech magazine not Cosmo, and since there seems to be a dearth of women on its covers in general… WHY go this route?

How can a woman get featured in a tech magazine? Be eye candy.

Even better… be a naked secretary.

How annoying!

I’ve been watching many of my female colleagues get mad about this for weeks. Reasons for *not* getting mad (or for not showing it to male colleagues even if you do get mad) include, as usual, “If you show them that it hurts you, they’ll do it more.” All very well to say when dealing with anonymous trolls, but over time, this is not a productive strategy. It is also not effective when dealing with institutions or organizations more powerful than you are. If it annoys you or you think it’s not funny… say so!

And to guys who ask their female colleagues (or their girlfriends) for confirmation that they’re not sexist… Do you really think you’re going to hear it from them if you are? They already put up with you. They’re not going to be the ones to let you know. They might even have a heavily vested interest in letting you think that you’re not offensive. If they called you on your behavior, you might dismiss them as one of those crazy feminists…

People really aren’t getting the point that it’s about context, and objectification, and exploiting women’s bodies while devaluing their experience, knowledge, and contributions to the field — it’s not about prudery or censorship.

Arrrgh! Why not just throw in a Math is Hard Barbie and some B-list porn stars pretending to install Linux while you’re at it?

Stephanie Quilao puts it really well:

Okay, I get that corporate transparency is an important trend, but why do you have to put a naked woman on the cover to make your point? Why not put one of The Office guys naked on the cover? Oh that’s right! {hit myself on the noggin} It’s because no one wants to see a naked guy on the cover of a business magazine. Naked guys on covers isn’t showy. No it’s gross. But naked chicks, weeell that’s a different pad of sticky notes.

Frankly, I think you were not being creative at all in this cover. It’s familiar boy’s club crap. Yeah, just sex up the receptionist. Why didn’t you throw in the pot of coffee while you were at it? Naked women on business magazines is just wrooooong, and that’s why it’s never been done before by anyone with class. For crying out loud, how can you be so progressive and backwards at the same time? It’s ridiculous Wired people! This just has sexist bad taste written all over it. This is definitely showy but it is by all means NOT smart. I want to unplug you now.

And commenter Bianca Reagan adds in response to one of those standard defenses,

The fact that you don’t have a problem with the historical objectification of women says a lot more about you and your complacency than it does about my desire to be seen as a human being with equal rights.

Right on Bianca!

If you’d like to sound off about the cover and have something to say about objectification…. Let the editor of Wired know.

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Patriarchy exists and we’re kicking its ass

My blood is BOILING WITH RAGE from reading about the threats and extreme harassment that people made against Kathy Sierra.

And I wish I could ride in on my warhorse and help fix it, but I can’t. I’m not even surprised at the threats and harassment. That stuff and real life acting out of it happens every minute of the day. The surprising thing is someone speaking up *in public* in her own voice, unmediated.

Kathy rocks for speaking up. She rocks for calling this out and exposing it on her blog. She rocks for calling the cops and the FBI, and for saying so. She wasn’t shamed into silence or afraid of being called “too sensitive” or “humorless”, two things which often stop women from speaking up. I admire Kathy’s strength. I imagine the moment after she wrote that post, when she was looking at the “Publish” button and wondering whether to push it. I’m glad she did. I’m inspired, and I take her public response as a good example.

My immediate, visceral reaction is this:

You know what, jerks, bring it on. I’m not afraid and none of that shit will ever, ever, shut me up.

I really like what Dannie Jost said in Kathy’s comments:

On the grand scale of things, this is very unfortunate and totally unacceptable, it is however necessary to continue the fight which is nothing more than a fight for human rights and dignity. Learn to deal with your fear, do not let them win…

Molly Holzschlag added in the same vein:

I’ve always believed this is a self-correcting community. Well folks, we need to correct this absolutely unacceptable, abusive, illegal and heinous behavior.

Kathy, your community is with you. Your abusers will not win this one, oh no, unless they are ready to take on the rest of us, who greatly outnumber these sick and twisted people who are obviously jealous of your success.

Keep being yourself, don’t stop and let the bastards EVER win.

Thanks for those thoughts, Molly, I knew I liked you!

I’d like to link out further to reclusive leftist, who describes the exhaustion we experience as women bloggers:

Every time I read somebody saying that patriarchy doesn’t exist anymore, feminism’s won, etc., etc., I think, try being a feminist blogger for a while. Or if you already are a feminist blogger, wait a bit until the shit finds you. Or try doing online research on anything connected to feminism and find yourself shoulder-deep in a slime pit of woman-hating so toxic it makes you want to weep with fear and despair.

I do feel that fairly often — but in this case, am more angry than despairing.

Some commenters mentioned a book called “The Gift of Fear” which sounds interesting but also maddening. I get the idea it’s to tell women that if they start feeling afraid they should pay attention to that and get the hell out of dodge. SCREW THAT. Like we need any more “chilling effect”? How about a book called “The Gift of Total Rage” or “The Gift of Collective Action To Overthrow Patriarchy,” suckers. To hell with fear.

Now let’s kick some ass.

I’d like to make a call to action. When this kind of shit happens, we’ll call it out and document it in public. Call it in the moment. Call it in front of your coworkers. Call it if it’s major or if it’s minor, it’s all part of the same spectrum of misogynist behavior. How about just saying, once in a while, right in the moment if you can, “That’s not funny,” when it’s really not. Say it crosses your boundaries. Say it’s not acceptable to you. This takes practice, but with time, we can all do it and find strength in numbers.

Update: Really good post from Min Jung Kim, It’s awful, yes. I’m happy to see people like Robert Scoble and Mike Arrington speaking up in support of Kathy, and considering the times they didn’t speak up. So I hope they hear Min Jung’s points about the pressures on women to be anonymous online, and in particular, Asian American women:

it is also important to be quite clear that this is not the first time this has happened.

It’s just the first time it’s happened to someone that you know.

You see, I’ve known several other women (specifically Asian American women bloggers – Comabound, BadGrrl, C., A., J.,N, etc) who have had to pull down their blogs, shuttle from one domain to another, remain utterly anonymous, password protect their sites, or give up their online communities altogether. The list is longer than I’d like.

Why? Oh yes, stalkers. Rape fantasies. Obsessed emails. Comment trolling.

Threatening notices. IM harassments. Flowers sent to your work office. Etc.

I’ve gotten them all too.

This is NOT NEW.

We could also do well to think about the reaction to this situation and what was the blogosphere-wide reaction to that dude who was harassing Lynne D. Johnson so bad a couple of years ago? (Here’s some links on that incident: Hip Hop Hates Me; krispexgate; That damn lesbo; xxl mag online.

My own reaction at the time? Did I say anything? I can’t remember. Makes you think doesn’t it?

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Misogynist stereotypes on Valleywag

I don’t care what Sandy Montenegro Littlefield is actually like; I don’t know her, and I’ve never met her. Also, I am not intrinsically fond of superwealthy society people. Who knew that “Gentry” magazine even existed! Not me! Gentry. Wow. Weird. Lifestyles of upper class philanthropists; really beyond my comprehension – they’re like aliens.

Anyway. Gossip is fun and I love to hear it. Dirty gossip is great. I would love to see Dirty Friendster with all the possible totally sophomoric sex gossip charts of who slept with whom and who just made out in the conference room.

That said, I think that Valleywag’s post on Littlefield deserves to be called out on its misogynist rhetoric about Ms. Littlefield. The article says she “used to go to tech conferences in search of husband material” and, worse:

She’d arrive on her own and return on someone’s private jet. She is absolutely gorgeous in person, but I don’t think it took people too long to figure out she was a gold-digger.

I’d like to look at what stereotypes this gossip plays into and what reactions it can possibly evoke.

Here, who a woman sleeps with or marries is used to throw her competence as a tech executive into question. It is strongly implied that she is not a real geek, or maybe has no “real” skills at all other than her looks. When an article like this gets written, it also by association casts aspersions on all women in tech. Would this article be written about a man, a senior executive? Would there be any equivalent way to devalue and slander and ridicule a man?

It’s very strange because while men are always whining about reverse sexism, and how everything should be genderblind and we should all just be human and be judged on our skills and not our gender… Then they whip out this sort of rhetoric and use it against women. The stereotypes are built in and waiting, ready to be used against any woman, from the most successful and visible to the least important. As women, none of us are immune to being objectified by exactly the sort of rhetoric used against Ms. Littlefield.

Notice the way that the quote above suggests that Ms. Littlefield habitually went to tech conferences alone and then left with different rich guys – and that she went to the conferences solely for the reason of wanting to pick up rich geek guys. And also implying that’s how she got her jobs – by being a jet-set slut.

Again, I’m no expert on the upper class. But don’t quite a lot of rich people work off their personal networks and backgrounds and friendships? The woman has an MBA from Harvard and she speaks five languages. What’s so odd about her getting a good executive job? Didn’t like 5 gazillion MBAs descend on Silicon Valley during the boom? Why shouldn’t one of them be a multilingual cosmopolitan Guatemalan beauty queen from Harvard?

But no… instead Valleywag points to Montenegro’s past achievements as a beauty pageant winner and the fact that she’s from Guatemala as something further to objectify and sexualize her. Then they make fun of a newspaper article quoted on her homepage that calls her a “Latina who defies stereotype.” (See Common stereotypes of Latinas for more explanation.) Hey, if you are a Latina who defies stereotype, and you’re a successful senior executive in high tech, and a VC person and a bigshot international philanthropist, why not be proud of it? Valleywag evokes a stereotype in response, and stuffs her right back into it.

Waaah! Women in tech are toooooo sexay! That sucks! It ruins our whole homosocial male bonding geek guy thing! Get them out! Or, quick, give Sandy a reverse makeover, a pair of glasses with electrical tape on the nosepiece, and some penny loafers!

Everyone needs to keep in mind that when women, sluts or not, sleep with geek guys, it might just be because they like geek guys a lot. Sleeping with geek guys doesn’t invalidate one’s geek credentials. It’s not like they have to be *rich* geek guys and the women have to be brainless bimbos going after their money. Trust me, geek guys, you are often super cute all on your own. It’s the devastatingly sexy unhealthiness caused by hours of late night hacking, and how you get all passionate about open source, and the way that you probably got pushed around by those jock dudes in the locker room long ago. We love it. It gives you a mysterious aura, like consumptive bohemian poets from 1890 who smoked too much opium and thought they were in touch with the Divine. Heterosexual nerd chicks go for that kind of thing. It’s completely natural.

Anyway, Valleywag tries to preempt any criticism by saying they don’t really care, and they don’t think Montenegro is “evil”. Just mockable. Misogyny is automatically funny. Sexy women are automatically dumb golddiggers. We’re supposed to read that post and laugh and nod knowingly… as if we know the type. Do we really? Or do we know them from the idiotic stereotypes made up by and perpetuated in Hollywood movies?

It’s not uncommon for writers to evoke sexist and racist stereotypes for a cheap laugh. But not all of us are laughing when we read that stuff. Instead, we’re pissed off and alienated. Or we might respond by laughing at the writers for their cluelessness.

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Dear Urbana Slam Poets and Bowery Poetry Club

Dear “Big Mike”… at the Bowery Poetry Club

Fuck right off.

No I will not take off my shirt or show you my ass for your polaroids. Skeevy asshole. I”m so happy to go back to San Francisco and say goodbye to the Bowery’s poetry scene… Where they knowingly tolerate blatant sexual harassers in their scene.

Dear women in the Bowery Scene and people who aren’t misogynist fuckheads, I feel sorry for you that you have to put up with that kind of thing. Why do you?

Dear mc dude of the Urbana slam team, nice job of laughing off sexual harassment to my face. Also thanks for letting me know that “that guy hangs out here every single day at the poetry club.” I’m sure everyone just thinks he’s SO funny and such a character!

Dear guy working the door… I thought you were laughing with me and were complicit in my fool-baiting. “Thanks” for then when I confronted the dude about his fucked-upedness, then acting like you didn’t hear anything wrong… And for saying that you didn’t hear anything hostile. Because we all know that asking all the women in a cafe or a poetry reading to take off their clothes for a camera and if they have any “intimate” piercings or tattoos is just totally FRIENDLY… It makes women feel all appreciated and welcome and stuff…

Oh also? The tempting offer of a free copy of your book in exchange for the polaroids of my naked body… not tempting at all.

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