Women, the Niggers of Weblogging

It’s unfortunate that the incident I wrote about in the post titled Respect has been reduced to Michael and I having a beef with each other. We’ve hardly exchanged any words with each other to be seen as having some long time squabble. I’ve commented on ‘some’ posts at TC — but mainly when others I read have pointed to his weblogs and what was said interested enough to respond. Frankly, I tend to respond more to Duncan Riley’s posts, and Marshall Kirkpatrick before him.

I don’t believe I’ve commented on anything related to ‘feminism’ or bias against women in his weblog. I may have noted the hostility of some of his readers to women, but that’s something I would note with anyone. Frankly, I would expect any of you to do the same.

Yes, I’ll repeat that: I would expect any of you to do the same. If you disregard such as typical and not worth the hassle, then, frankly, I haven’t a clue why you’re reading this weblog.

To reduce what I described in “Respect” to a ‘spat between two people who know each other’ does me a grave injustice. No, it does women in weblogging a grave injustice.

If we can’t write on these issues without someone saying that our views on other topics are based on the gender of the participants, then we women have been grossly marginalized. We’re effectively shut up from making any comments about the obvious belittlement of women, either because we’re supposed to be afraid of turning off our readers (“Oh god, she’s on that again”), or because we’ll be compartmentalized into a person who …who hates men or a person who …writes only about women–or something else along these line; supposedly, then, only capable of having one narrow view of the world.

This effectively cuts us off from other discussions, which only adds to the growing problem of visibility for women. Can we not see how insidious this behavior can be? And how frustrating it is for those of us who have spent years pointing out such behavior?

What’s worse is, do I see those of you who talk equality saying, “This is wrong?” Of course not, because those who don’t (pick one): believe it’s a spat between parties; assume its a way of getting attention and links; it’s not fun; it’s not worth the hassle; it’s not about technology, or whatever hobbyhorse is ringing your bell today. What a crappy attitude to have. No wonder this environment is, frankly, so screwed up.

In a comment to my post, Respect, Sheila Lennon linked a YouTube video that I think perfectly sums up this attitude. If you can leave off typing code, or baking a cake, or taking pictures long enough, you might want to give it a glance.

Oh, and it features a guy, in case you’re wondering.


Jeneane wrote a post on this at the same time, titled Casualties of Casual Dismissal that makes telling points.

Second Update

I hesitated to update this post again, since the title seems to have caused undue pain and discomfort, and people aren’t (or can’t because of work filtering) viewing the video to get the context of the quote. However, I did want to specifically thank Rogers for his spirited defense, and Eric Rice for his video.

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31 Responses to Women, the Niggers of Weblogging

  1. D says:

    The use of the “N” word to prove any kind of point is disgusting.

  2. Shelley says:

    Is it more disgusting then the acts described in the post? Is it more disgusting than the acts of inequality that cut across racial lines? Or cultural lines? Religious (or not religious)?

    The word is a word–because we eliminate the word, doesn’t mean we have eradicated the actions behind the word.

    By all means, if you consider the word worse than the actions, wipe the dust of this place off your shoes and go to where people engage in a pretense of equality because they don’t use ‘the word’. Live in the daydream that all we need to is eliminate ‘words’ to have equality.

  3. jeneane says:

    It’s a SONG title for God’s sake that is apt and fitting for use in the current situation. John? Yoko? Anyone?

  4. jeneane says:

    Well Shelley, in the Twitter version of the web 2.0 soap opera, I get to play an ugly cow – http://twitter.com/1938media/statuses/510077482. Yipee!

  5. Shelley says:

    Well, he used his wit to cut you down, didn’t he Jeneane? Man has a real way with words. I’m dazzled by his use of ‘words’.

  6. ocean says:


    Any point you may have had is completely lost because of the title of this post. You’ve accomplished nothing except to drive away an old fan, in my fan. Good luck.

  7. Jacob says:

    Talk about being overly dramatic. He stated his opinion that he noticed a trend with you. Sexist? He’s not sexist unless you’re just looking for someone to try and bring down. He can’t have an opinion? It wasn’t an opinion that he’d made after 1 post by you, but by multiple.

    If you weren’t trying to get links or attention you wouldn’t have made such a sensationalist headline.

    “Man has a real way with words” – gee, I don’t sense any resentment there towards the opposite sex. Wait a minute, that’s sexist, I’m offended!

  8. Shelley says:

    On the contrary, Jacob, I expect to lose subscribers and gain no links with this title. I also expect to have made my point under no uncertain terms.

    Now, if you want to respond to what I wrote, next time read it.

  9. D says:

    Absolutely. I find it interesting that the title of a post about the supposed trivialization of a comment trivializes the negative aspect and feelings about such a hateful word…and all for shock value.

    …and your blasé attitude towards its use might give insight to why others aren’t making the jump from your personal spat to Lane is getting dumped on b/c she’s a woman.

    But I had to say something. I found it disrespectful…but it was worth the hassle.

  10. Shelley says:

    ocean, that’s the freedom of this place.

    D, did you look at that video?

  11. Karl says:

    Shelley, that video provides context.

    Context means diddlysquat in sound-bite reinforced attention influence capital world.

    Truth – which only can be understood by recognition of context – means nothing anymore – on the web – or in the media.

    I hate to say it but that sentence will be attached to your name and taken way out of context.


    It’s clear that the only thing that matters to some is winning. And they will do whatever it takes to do so.

    Otherwise, there would be apologies, or attempts to back up assertions with facts.

  12. Ethan says:

    Annnnnd… I’m still not missing anything on Twitter.

    If we can’t write on these issues without someone saying that our views on other topics are based on the gender of the participants, then we women have been grossly marginalized.

    Yeah, and to build on that, I think another perception/misconception is the idea that women should only talk about certain things, and leave other topics to us men. We men will do the heavy lifting, and work out tough math and science problems, and get “us” back to the Moon.

    I hate to come off like this is exactly what you’re describing, but as a man who is interested in scrapbooking, it is fascinating yet galling at how gender-specific the industry is (or can be). I’d imagine this is me getting a taste of what women have to put up with in the sciences or the tech world, but in either case the industry is alienating those who would keep the community vibrant, rather than crusted over with stagnant ideas and groupthink.

    I wonder if the tech scene comes off as chauvinistic as a byproduct of rewarding individual efforts? Which means team builds something, [man] heads up that team (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates), [man] gets credit for the accomplishment, [man] reaps the benefits, other males assume that only men can or should be involved in the tech sector.

    Lest I come off as male-bashing, I’m more interested in people/businesses taking on the philosophy that diversity might be used to our collective benefit, or as one employer declared, as a competitive advantage.

  13. Shelley says:

    Actually, Ethan, you have a unique perspective into this by the fact that you’re a guy who is heavily into scrapbooking– a hobby/industry strongly populated by women.

    I agree: I’ve only found that diversity works in a team. I have worked on very diverse teams in three different companies, and they had the best development environments.

    Karl, I am aware that I’m giving people a bullet. I just don’t care anymore.

  14. What’s worse is, do I see those of you who talk equality saying, “This is wrong?”

    Eric Rice did, and I followed suit this morning. I also tried to have a meeting of the minds with him in email, because I found the attack on your character to be extremely offensive.

  15. Shelley says:

    I appreciated Eric’s video, and his support, and his calling out such behavior–but I don’t support any concept of boycott, Rogers. You and I both now how dangerous this can be to people who make their living online. Too many of us know how often this has been used to destroy people’s lives and careers–many times based on nothing more than a popular weblogger sicing their readers onto some hapless victim.

    I appreciated his support, and I think he’s quite a good video caster. But I wish he had not even mentioned Arrington’s sponsors.

    Jeneane writes about it.

    On the other hand, I just read your post and I do appreciate your support. Very much. Thank you.

    I just wish this hadn’t become an issue of personalities. There is a broader issue here that’s got lost. I don’t know how to make a point on this anymore.

    This really isn’t an issue between Arrington and me. It has to do with having respect for women online. And calling people on being disrespectful to women. If more people did this, there wouldn’t be just the few of us doing it, who are then marginalized so that we can’t write on any other topic without this being tossed in our faces.

    Is it so much to ask?

  16. I don’t want to encourage a boycott. I said otherwise in anger last night in a comment on his blog, but I told him in email that it was a hollow threat.

    Regarding the controversy over your headline, it’s becoming clear to me that society’s become much less comfortable challenging the taboo of that word than it was when Lennon and Oko wrote their song. I was channel surfing one evening and saw Richard Pryor’s 1975 Saturday Night Live sketch “Racist Word Association Interview.” I can’t imagine the show would ever get away with it today.

    One of the reasons we’re less comfortable is that racially charged language is the easiest means to engineer a boycott.

  17. jeneane says:

    Rogers you continue to make relevant points. I give you and Kevin Marks a lot of credit for risking the smackdown.

    Shelley you say: “This really isn’t an issue between Arrington and me. It has to do with having respect for women online. And calling people on being disrespectful to women.”

    In my post, I say I think it goes beyond the having respect (or not) for women, because there is a great population here being dismissed. Hear the pin drop when Kevin and Rogers piped up (and they have actual names in this space–never mind the women and men who don’t).

    It’s the cult mindset that is getting to me, the thought canceling dismissive you’re-a-known-commodity, you are ALWAYS this or that. We are cast into assigned roles and expected to write/comment/speak/work accordingly.

    I came to this space six years ago because of the freedom, because the fluidity of who I am is evidenced over time through my larger stream of conversation.

    That seems to be disappearing in favor of clusterfucks.

    I don’t have a problem with you taking the Yoko/John song title and using it in your post. I’ve used it myself. It is a historic reference that is lost on the bubble-gum web culture.

    However, I am not sure that I agree with its conclusion re: weblogging at large. As I’ve said, it’s more than one group being casually dismissed. But as it relates to events of the last day or so, I can see why you used it.

  18. Scott Reynen says:

    I’d like to pick at a different portion of what you wrote here. What is “TC”, who is “Michael” and why should I care what they think? More importantly, why are you writing as if the answers to these questions among your readers can be safely assumed? Is that really the kind of reader you want here?

  19. Shelley says:

    Scott, I added links. However, I don’t think not having them, or knowing who the players are, detracts from what I wrote. Or overshadows the larger point I was trying to make. I’m sorry if you think it does.

    Your point is good, Jeneane. I guess my hope is let’s start with respect for half the world and then work our way up.

    But your point on your-a-known-commodity is good, as is Karl’s referencing the same slam-dunk slotting of personalities, and people reacting first, thinking later. We’ve gotten horrible at how quickly we ‘mob’ and how easily destructive we become.

    You know, nature evolved us frontal lobes. It would be nice if we used them sometime.

  20. D says:

    unfortunately, the Man…or Woman…is keeping me down and blocking YouTube at work. And if once I’ve seen it…my views have changed…I’ll comment. However…I’ve never been ‘ok’ with any use of the word. Its nasty…mean…powerfully hateful..and in this case deflects from whatever point you’re trying to make…
    Not sure why I would want to challenge the taboo of the word…ever.

    Regarding the actual topic…I don’t see anything in Arrington’s original RS/Lane post that would infer the uproar having anything to do with a person’s sex. “hurt feelings” does not equal female to me…it means “sensitive”…possibly oversensitive to Arrington. Is there a beef b/w you two? Seems like it…but I don’t transfer those specific feelings about a person to that of the issue.

    Or I could be really naive.

    Why would a name matter here? What could you be trying to determine?

  21. Shelley says:

    D, in a way you just demonstrate a lot of what Jeneane and Karl were saying, not to mention Rogers and Ethan. Or myself.

    Don’t take undue offense, but you made a very dismissive comment, yet you didn’t view the video, it seems like you didn’t read all of the post (“Is there a beef b/w you two? Seems like it…”), but you did know enough to write an incredibly dismissive comment, only because of one ‘word’.

  22. Scott Reynen says:

    I don’t think it overshadows the larger point as much as sheds new light on it. I think you’re conceding far too much authority to people who are only seen as important in an incredibly small and insular community. Most people couldn’t care less about those people and I think you could help matters additionally by using that fact to marginalize opinions that apparently should have been marginalized long ago.

    These are big fish in a small pond and I don’t expect much progress on this issue until more people are willing to seriously consider the idea of leaving the pond. When you say you’re going to now read TechCrunch to see which discussions to avoid, it seems to me you’ve bought into the myth that the community you’re in is so indespinsable you couldn’t afford to leave it. As someone who has largely dispensed with it, I’m telling you that’s not true. You can stop reading TechCrunch (or really anything else) altogether and you won’t really miss much. You don’t have to do that as part of some sort of boycott; just try it and see if it doesn’t improve your own personal quality of life.

  23. Shelley says:

    The link to Respect is probably the one I should have had, but I have an aversion to self linking. As for leaving…

    Have you ever heard of the term “white flight”? One can always leave rather than stay and work through the differences. White flight is a move away from diversity to insularity. It’s a real world case, and a very serious issue here in St. Louis now. But the concept is the same: moving away from a diverse world of viewpoints to one more insular in order to avoid frustration, and, well, frankly, petty shit.

    Many of these topics are of interest to me, and I like being part of the discussion. This means, at times, yeah, reading Techcrunch, or Mathew Ingram, Nick Carr, Susan Merrit, and others. Why should I stop because of one person’s incredibly dismissive attitude? Well, other than not reading Techcrunch, which is sure a given now.

    Improving the personal quality of life would probably mean me giving up the weblog, and I’m not joking about that. And it is something I think about, when I’m not remembering how much I do enjoy the interaction with others in this environment.

  24. D says:

    …and you’ve made more than one post only because of a few ‘words’.
    I know me…and I know that nothing in that video will make it ok to use the word.
    I read this and the Respect post and to me you took a comment directed at you and you only and applied to the Lane situation and I don’t see the connection.
    You say: If we can’t write on these issues without someone saying that our views on other topics are based on the gender of the participants… but aren’t you doing this when alluding to his mention of hurt feelings possibly equaling sexism? Just because he views most/all of your comments as feministic does that mean he’ll see every woman’s reaction/view the same way?

  25. Kathy Sierra says:

    Jeneane said:
    “It’s the cult mindset that is getting to me, the thought canceling dismissive you’re-a-known-commodity, you are ALWAYS this or that. We are cast into assigned roles and expected to write/comment/speak/work accordingly.”
    I think that’s not only dead-on, but something that’s used to justify dismissal/ridicule/disrespect to all groups, not just women. I have no doubt that Mike believes what he accused Shelley of. At the same time, how many times have women bloggers (many of us) written to suggest that a man’s action was perhaps “because he is a man” or “because the target was a woman.” It’s the black/white roles accusations and dismissal that seems to be the biggest problem. We shut someone down because we’ve already put them into a clear, unyielding category.
    It’s a really tough problem. As my friend used to say, “You can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t use reason to get into.”

  26. Shelley says:

    Kathy, you and Jeneane both have very valid points. But one thing I don’t want lost with this post is that women are frequently treated dismissively, especially in technology related posts. And that people should call it when they see it.

    Sometimes what happens when a person writes about a situation involving men and an associated behavior to women, it can be extrapolated out into other groups or all groups, but then we’ve lost the original emphasis. Well, of my post, at least.

    I agree with both you and Jeneane. But for me, this post really was about the lack of accountability for how women are treated, frequently, within tech circles.

    Now, having said that, have I been suspicious of behavior of men to women just because the person was a man, and a tech? Yeah, I’ve been guilty of this a time or two. However, this has usually happened after there’s been a sequence of abuse and I’m preternaturally sensitive.

    Or in other words, I would say the problem does tend to happen more, with men degenerating women because they are women, then women degenerating men just because they are men.

    I’m also curious about something: you wrote about women who write things about men, and you mention that Mike probably believes what he wrote about me, but you didn’t say whether you think he was wrong to do so. What’s your opinion on what he said?

  27. Elaine says:

    “I am aware that I’m giving people a bullet. I just don’t care anymore.”

    Y’know, I can respect that.

    Like D, the “Man” keeps me away from YouTube, so I don’t have the full context. (Nor was I aware of a John & Yoko allusion. So sue me for being a Gen Xer.) But I can give you the benefit of the doubt on the title. This whole episode seems very stressful. :(

  28. Ethan says:

    Had to share.


    I’m also curious about something: you wrote about women who write things about men, and you mention that Mike probably believes what he wrote about me, but you didn’t say whether you think he was wrong to do so. What’s your opinion on what he said?

    I probably shouldn’t get between you two like this, but Shelley, I’m not sure that every commentor must renounce the sins of Michael Arrington to gain entry into this discussion. Not that I’m siding with him, but pardon the term, this struck me as a witch hunt. Your site, your rules, but I thought I’d say something.

    FWIW, the tone of Kathy’s comment came off as “let us not focus on the misdeeds of one group of people while excusing those of others (or ourselves),” which seems to be a common thread in her comments of late.

    To Kathy, I for one am glad to see you here testing the waters, so to speak, but sooner or later “closure” will have to come from within. I can’t speak to what all went down during “the incident”, and I don’t want to invalidate your personal experiences. But if questions are to be asked, I’ll ask these: Do you forgive yourself? Do you wish to continue writing online, even if it means a change of venue? Do you wish to insulate yourself against [whatever] before taking another shot at writing online?

    I don’t expect answers to these questions publicly, or privately, Just thought I’d ask.

  29. Shelley says:

    Not witch hunt, Ethan. I was struck by Kathy’s curious turn of phrase. And forgive for saying this, it is between her and me, as you mention. However, nothing wrong with venturing an opinion.

    However, Kathy, I can understand you not wanting to answer, and feel free to ignore it.

  30. Ethan says:

    No offense taken.

  31. Shelley says:

    I hate to cut off people’s commentary, but I’m closing down this thread. Ultimately, this ended up not being a good experience for me, and as the day progressed, increasingly disappointing one.

    Both Rogers and Jeneane’s posts are still open for discussion, and I would strongly recommend that folks visit them.