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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Increasingly upset about the mean kids

This keeps getting worse and worse. I had read in several places that Maryam Scoble was “mentioned in meankids.org” but that’s got to qualify as one of the worst euphemisms ever. “Mentioned”? For god’s sake people. It’s one of the nastiest pieces of racist, misogynist, cruel, psychotic garbage I’ve ever read. It’s not snark and it’s not satire.

I’d like to know exactly who wrote it. I’d also like to know who thinks it’s funny. Go on, sign your names and stand up proudly to defend your brand of humor. Cowards.

What a fucking outrage. I keep trying to calm down and have perspective, and to say what I’ve got to say about being fearless and not letting this panic people into demanding more closed spaces and less free speech, and I still think that, but then I get mad all over again, and am feeling in the grip of that particular internet outrage obsession where I want to check technorati every 15 minutes and see what else has been revealed, and now that I’ve read this I’m back to square 1 of boiling over with rage.

I’m going to go read Pandagon and poke around in the feminist blogosophere because I think I’m only going to find the rage I need to inhabit there. Maybe Twisty Faster will write something. Tennessee Guerilla Womenzuzu at Feministe

I know that there are people who wish this would blow over. But I think we need to look at the ways racism and misogyny are connected here. I’d like us (“the blogosphere”) to reject racist hate speech very firmly. Fine, let there be free speech and let it exist in some nasty little dark corner of the web where the white power insane-o people lurk. But not anywhere that we approve of and link to, not in our own tech blogger communities.

I think it’s fine for us to do this. I am a harsh critic of my own community as well, as you can see if you look at my calling-out of misogyny from people who came to BlogHer when a bunch of women I consider friends and colleagues talked misogynist smack about the BeJane women from some Microsoft blog, using the rhetoric of woman-hating against them. That wasn’t okay with me either, so I pointed it out.

I’ve been the target of dumb internet name-calling and yeah it bothered me and I whined to anyone who would listen. Yet at the same time I was kind of amused. It never crossed the line into completely cruel. It was just a bunch of people calling me a dumbass. And there was a level on which I not only didn’t mind, I kind of admired them on the principle that I like polemics, I engage in them, and it’s only fair that I be the target of them sometimes, and without polemical writing everyone would be wishy washy and boring and there’d be nothing to take a stance against. However, the instances I’ve seen so far from meankids.org cross the line from satire, humor, and polemics into actual insanity.

Here is a further thought.

Rage and powerful writing can combine to create calls to violent revolution. For instance, the SCUM Manifesto. Calls for violence attempt to justify extreme actions. I don’t agree with violent revolutionary methods. Yet in then 90s when I was about 20, I re-published, in a tiny xeroxed zine form, The SCUM Manifesto, because I felt that the rage that led to that call to revolutionary action was important and should be heard, though I arrive at a different conclusion than Solanis did and would like other people to agree with me and NOT to go off shooting. Yet I think that reading it has value; it can help people to understand a particular moment in history, a rant and a manifesto that was important, and a rage against injustice. Reading it helped me understand my own feminist rage against injustice. I realize that many people might disagree with me here, but I feel it’s important. The point now of my own linking to the archived version of the racist hate-filled diatribe against Maryam is not to promote it or to harm her. It’s to document a phenomenon, now, that many people don’t understand exists. I’ve heard so many white guys and some white women say that there is no particular racism or sexism in the tech industry. What a laugh! There totally is. The people who think like this, we have to expose their hate, and “name the problem”, so that we can resist them with firmness and unity.

I would rather that the post about Maryam had never been written, and I feel sorry for the hate-filled, bitter loser who wrote it. His rage, I’m guessing, must be against people like Kathy and Maryam because they’re popular. How shallow! Get over it! Some people are popular because they’re nice, funny, fun, warm, and did I mention nice? To look at someone who is loved, and full of love themselves, and to feel the need to tear them down — for no reason other than perhaps the suspicion that others might be nice to the “popular” person in an ass-kissing way and might not critique them honestly on a professional level — is cruel and evil. It is not in any way “speaking truth to power” — the illusion I suspect that misogynist person, or community, was entertaining.

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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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