When Stereotypes are fostered

I wrote a relatively positive piece on Blogher over at Just Shelley. I guess I’ll use the Bb Gun to write the negative stuff. Or a better way of looking at this: address some of the comments that bring out the bitch in me.

There’s this from a twenty something who since she’s never experienced any problems of gender bias in her life, women can’t possibly have any problems, and should stop ‘whining’ about such:

I don’t know how else to put it, but I say that to encompass my almost zero interest in most women’s issues and female activism and empowerment. Now, I think women deserve to vote and can have careers and can do whatever they want to. However, I hate the male-bashing and whining about it being a male world that so often dominates feminist conversations (but, as a caveat, not all conversations). For example, one of the take away points from the session was to hire women or help other women get hired, etc. Are you kidding me?! Hiring someone because they’re a woman is just as bad as hiring someone because they are a man. There seems to be a little bit of a double standard going on there.

There’s already a double standard. Do you know that all interview techniques at Google, Yahoo, and other major companies are primarily devised by male engineers between the ages of 25 and 45? Now, you tell me: who is going to do better with these techniques? A woman of any age? An older man or woman? Or a male engineer, between the ages of 25 and 45. Most likely from the same socioeconomic background as those who devised such tests?

To assume that because bias isn’t blatant it doesn’t exist makes one naive at best; self-centered at worst. Am I being hard on this young woman? Damn straight. She’ll most likely only get reaffirmation from her own set as to the justice of her views. What I’m suggesting, strongly, is that she develop a bit of empathy. The quality of empathy is understanding that just because you’ve not experienced an event directly, doesn’t mean the event doesn’t happen.

ValleyWag already touched on Dave Winer’s obsessive use of chick when referencing anything women were doing at Blogher. To give Winer credit, he did make a statement about how being a man at Blogher must be how a woman feels at ETech. I noticed he hasn’t said one word on the second day, but to give him the benefit of the doubt, much of this could be because of the blatant marketing of the conference.

Robert Scoble wrote:

Other things I learned from BlogHer?

That the stereotypes about women are true (they talk about things like mothering, cooking, sewing, and soft stuff like feelings, sex, relationships, along with broader things like books and movies far more often than I usually hear among the male dominated groups I usually find myself in after conferences). But, the fact that they are true gives women HUGE economic power and content power that the tech bloggers simply won’t touch.

So that’s what women are good for other than sex, having babies, and taking care of the house. We buy things.

I shouldn’t rise to such bait, but I suppose it would be too much for anyone to contemplate that Blogher attracted primarly women who do want to discuss such issues. That’s more or less how the conference was promoted. Would Scoble be surprised to hear both men and women talking about open source products at OSCON? Or new technology at ETech?

Having said that, there is a part of me that wishes the Blogher folks would not stress so much that they’re representative of ALL women in weblogging–because they aren’t. Theirs is a commercial enterprise which, more and more, is catering to specific types of interest; reflected in the conference, which was geared more toward certain types of topics and discussions. By stressing the company’s all inclusiveness, rather than band us, they’re branding us.

Media companies have to have a focus audience, and Blogher is a media company. Linux Journal, where Doc Searls works, focuses on men with certain interests. That doesn’t mean that Linux Journal will appeal to all men, the same as Blogher’s conference will appeal to all women. To draw inferences from the given sampling to the global all is an example of failed logic.

Now, having said all of that: what’s wrong with the ladies (and gents) of Blogher discussing these things? They’re terrific discussion points, and obviously, for the most part, the people who attended enjoyed the topics. The world is full of infinite variety–including men who liked the discussions just as much as the women. In fact, much of the more positive commentary I’ve heard on Blogher has been from men, and not just about women as marketing target.

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14 Responses to When Stereotypes are fostered

  1. But,Honeeeeyyyyy…..
    Somebody has to be the gatekeeper for the women’s Portal. After, all with the HUGE economic power engendered in 1/2 of the race, somebody has to bear this awesome responsibility, and manage to nick a few bucks from all the folks that are selling whisky and beads.

    Since they are a commercial enterprise, here’s what’s coming.

    Next year look for fashion shows, 18 wheel carnival trailers in the parking lots from shoe stores and handbag shops, tupperware parties in the hospitality suites, Meredith Publications handing out ‘Ladies Magazines’, and the girls from the View TV Show, broadcasting live from the conference.

    In two years watch it move to Vegas, getting bigger and bigger. Watch HGTV start a Home and Garden Blogging Series. Although how they will stretch, ‘get a tool, type, publish’ into a series is a stretch, but I’m sure they will make it happen.

    In three years it gets get bought out by AOL and rebranded.
    Ding! You’ve Got Female!!

    In four years this will be behind us.

  2. Arthur says:

    In three years it gets get bought out by AOL and rebranded.

    This is the part that has me worrying: for some kind of reason, I keep thinking of tons of unwanted disks and cd-roms.

  3. Shelley says:

    Perhaps a pool: How long before Jason Calacanis steps in with an offer?

  4. Ethan says:

    FWIW, I thought the idea of a BlogHer-themed podcast called “PodHer” was/is brilliant.

    Re: the conference losing its “indie cred”, I kinda see that horse leaving the barn, but then again, it’s up to the the organizers. They have big goals and “indie” is only going to go so far. But if this “just” becomes Yet Another Marketing Opportunity (YAMO Beee There), that will be a bitter pill indeed. I hope they really do bring it to Chicago in 2007. I might actually make it there!

  5. Nick Douglas says:

    Jason’s not allowed to buy anyone who’s actually worth something.

    By the way, Shelley, I didn’t touch on Winer’s “chick” terminology, I just made an easy pop culture reference about it. Keep saying stuff like that and people will think Valleywag is worth reading! Agh!

  6. There’s “being hard on the young woman” (who’s a friend of mine), which may or may not be justifiable, and there’s putting words in her mouth, which isn’t. She cited an example of not being taken seriously because of her gender, and noted that

    If those people have that kind of hang up, they have more problems than who is trying to help them buy a computer.

    Which is a far cry from “never experienced any problems of gender bias in her life, women can’t possibly have any problems, and should stop ‘whining’ about such.” It’s also a pretty strong attitude toward sexism: if someone’s got sexist hangups, we should make that a problem for them. Sexism should, like censorship, be treated as damage and routed around, so that its negative consequences come to bear entirely on the sexist and not on anyone else.

  7. Ken Camp says:

    I was actually stunned with Scoble’s post which began with – “I think it’s interesting that I met two of my favorite bloggers for the first time at BlogHer (both of whom are men, Guy Kawasaki and John Battelle).”

    U’m thanks girls for letting me meet the guys I idolize.

  8. Shelley says:

    Nick, I slipped. Will it help if I say something worshipful about Arrington?

    Ethan, PodHer is a good idea. For someone.

    James, it was the ‘finding it humorous’ remark that tended to negate that example to me. If your friend ever finds herself in a situation where it’s not humorous, perhaps she’ll be a little more tolerant of ‘whining’.

    Perhaps she should also remember that women didn’t win the vote by asking nicely and going around saying, “Can’t we all just be people?”

    I agree sexism should be confronted. Operative word: confronted. Usually following acknowledgment that it exists and can’t be fought alone.

    Ken, what makes me puzzled is I seem to be the only one writing on this that is not focusing on Scoble’s remarks on Vox. I think we have our priorities a wee bit screwed up in weblogging. Or is it that we don’t care anymore? So totally focused on the marketing of this environment that even the devil won’t find a thing to barter for from among us?

  9. Ken Camp says:

    I haven’t written on it at all. And that little comment here was all I ahve. This year was the turning point that ensures I’ll never go to BlogHer. I was a big fan and supporter of the indie start and feel to it all, but now they might as well hire Amanda whats-her-boobs for PodHer and become a complete washout of a non-event down the road. If I’d been, maybe it would be different, but reading what everyone says, men and women alike, it has truly come BlogHerCon to Winer’s BloggerCon. It’s just not worth my CPU cycles any longer. Damn shame

  10. Nick Douglas says:

    That’d just make it worse. Mike and I are on the outs after I implied he wasn’t the Holy Prophet of The Internet.

  11. Shelley says:

    I had hoped once upon a time that this new media could make a difference for women, Ken. But then, I still believe in fairies, mountain gnomes, politicians who care about the people they represent and that someday the people will realize that the environment really is important.

    I just find myself disappointed. But then, there are women are most likely disappointed in me, so I guess all is even.

    Nick, does this mean you’re still Mr. 501?

  12. rev_matt says:

    I’ve largely ignored the BlogHer deal as I ignore pretty much all conferences. They are a marketing forum. Nothing of real significance is discovered at them, and the conversations that do happen are simply meatspace versions of what’s already happening online. I stopped going to conferences for just those reasons. Even break out and BOF sessions ended up being rehashings of forum threads from last month.

    As for the twentysomething know it all, I think most twentysomethings of either gender genuinely believe that THEIR generation is different, and us old folk are too out of touch to matter. I’d like to check back in with her in ten years when she’s actually been in the real world for a while. I’m a guy, and I see sexism towards women in the workplace all the time. Less so in my current environment simply because of the Civil Service, but even there it’s a problem.

  13. Rob says:

    That the stereotypes about women are true (they talk about things like mothering, cooking, sewing, and soft stuff like feelings, sex, relationships, along with broader things like books and movies far more often than I usually hear among the male dominated groups I usually find myself in after conferences).

    Ok, now I feel like a freak. In my personal conversations, I talk about mothering, cooking, and soft stuff like feelings, sex, relationships along with broader things like books, comic books, and movies.

    I don’t talk about sewing. For Christmas, 1975, I made sewed a cap and purse for my then girlfriend. I’m not saying they were bad, but it’s worth noting she dumped me shortly after that.

    This reminds me, I haven’t blogged about my violets for a long time.

    I’m getting thrown out of the guy union, right? Figures.

  14. Kristine says:

    The root is established and the branches have grown. The leaves must evolve through the seasons, to become once more. So is the life of technology. What’s here this spring is gone by Christmas. But a blog…well, is it snowfall in summer? Or toasting marshmallows at a campfire in winter? Is it woman in wet t shirt or man in a speedo? Either way, hopefully both are physically fit. The boundaries between man and woman are falling to the side of the road, slowly, very slowly. But falling away none the less.

    I believe there is another issue much more important that requires a boot, much more than man vs woman, is children vs internet safety, and it goes on. We need to unify our skills and talents to create a safer environment rather than banter about…