Category Archives: Opinions

Bustle.com: the worst case of mansplaining…ever.

yup

Nah, there’s no gender bias in VC.

So, a “failed investment banker” decides that his grocery store survey of the impulse rack is where, how and why women are not being fulfilled in their quest for in-depth conversations on politics, business and technology, ooooh AND makeup tips and gossip too, and decides that he can do it better. Of course.

So, he goes to his buddies at Social+Capital PartnershipTime Warner InvestmentGoogle Ventures500 Startups, and Rothenberg Ventures, and says (after doing his grade one research of googling “women+online” for his business case),

“Hey, you guys?! Women are the future!! They’re the leading demographic of online users and they’re so underserved, I can do it better! Give me a few mil, wouldya? I can fix this!”

And guess what. They did. Seriously. And so Bustle.com is born.

Oh. My. Fuck. I don’t even know where to begin.

Reading through Goldberg’s piece on pandodaily, is an exhausting, exasperating, would be laughable experience if it wasn’t such a sadly true testament about the incestuous, celebutante state of startups, and the systemic bias toward the homogenous worldwide fraternity known as VC.

Before we get there though, let’s start where he did…

The fact that this guy states in his press release, which also apparently passes as “news” on pandodaily, that

“Politico, Bleacher Report, TechCrunch, Business Insider, Mashable, Grantland, TheVerge, Break, College Humor, IGN, Thrillist, and Gawker”

are written for men is a great indicator that this navel gazer doesn’t actually get publishing or journalism whatsoever. Wait, then again, maybe it’s just me? I wonder why when I met Jordon Crook of TechCrunch last year and we talked about the startup scene in Toronto why she didn’t tell me to hike my skirt and push up my boobs on camera, you know, for the guys? I guess I must pass the biometric testosterone sensor they have built into their sites when I login, or something. Ya, that’s it.

Further on Goldberg writes,

“Women’s publishing has long served as a symbol of “old media” stagnancy.”

You mean, that “old media” that’s just the same as the “new media” don’t you?

or this…

“What about a site that takes an introspective look at the celebrity world, while also having a lot of fun covering it?”

You mean, like JEZEBEL?! Hey Goldberg, just because you haven’t a clue about the huge number of sites that speak to women, through a woman’s lens doesn’t mean that those sites don’t exist.

Oh wait, they do exist! You know, “women’s sites” like Cosmo, and Vogue. They’re online, but of course they’re doing it all wrong, and that’s because “women publishers” have

“completely lost sight of which decade their readers are living in.”

I am so glad that Bustle is going to have paid “20 somethings” that are still in school writing on deep political issues like what Anthony Weiner said on BuzzFeed today, and “male nurses”! Phew! I can’t wait for more “awesome” “wow” and “Twittersphere” too! This is a way better business model than HuffPo. Who wants to read all that in-depth stuff on politics, business, culture & society, gaming, and tech from women, who, you know, may actually use the word feminist and not just since Caitlin Moran’s awesome missive. Clearly, Goldberg’s figured out that the writing on Vitamin W is just too, you know, male, I mean serious, for us women (or is that girls?), and who wants to hear from anyone that’s got any real life experience anywho? Definitely not enough eyebrow plucking reports included for my liking.

I am most excited that bustle.com is “ not just a publication either”, they’re investing in “technology” with “responsive design” on their site. Ooooooh, how 2010!

For the record Goldberg, “responsive design” nor “CMS” are “technology”.

Okay, enough mocking. That’s just too easy. Now let’s get a bit more serious on the real issues here, and why this is really pissing me off.

Let’s start with the word “feminist”. Oh, you opened the door Goldberg, so let’s go there.

Is this a feminist publication? You’re damn right this is a feminist publication.”

Let me simply say this; anyone that uses quotes around “income gap” is NOT a feminist. It’s not an “income gap”. It’s a fucking income gap. Your air quotes don’t make it a fairy tale, it’s a real thing. You sir, are no feminist. You’re not even a shadow of Hugo Schwyzer. You’re just a mansplaining asshole.

And speaking of assholes…

If you don’t think that there’s a bias in women led ventures getting VC funding, then you’re being willfully blind. It’s documented, ad nauseam that women only receive 4.2% of VC funding in the US. I seriously cannot think of another more perfect example than this one to animate how horribly wrong the VC eco-system is, and how every single one of the players that gave @BGoldberg money should be ashamed of themselves.

And you know why?

If a woman led initiative had come to any one of these VCs and pitched their business as piss-poorly as Goldberg obviously did, with this kind of tepid writing, and storify-ing stealing interface, they would’ve been laughed out of their offices. Soundly. And with good reason.

When sites like Bustle get $6.5 million in funding from multiple VCs, it is a glaring statement that as long as the same old same old exists in VCs, then the same old same old shit will get funded.

Lucky us.


There’s power in thy words

My latest blog from the MaRS site:

A few months ago, I sat down via Skype with Melanie Baker, a friend of MaRS and currently the community manager, developer relations, at Research in Motion. Melanie’s a no-nonsense kind of woman, which is precisely why we get along. We chatted about a variety of topics, including being part of a startup that was purchased by Google, women working in the fields of technology, women leaders and the power of networks and communities. One thing that she said to me during our conversation really stuck out: “If more women wanted to be in tech, more women would be in tech.”

I understand where Melanie’s coming from, because in her world and in her experience, you just “do the job,” and if you’re talented and capable, you make your own opportunities. I have to ask though, is it that simple for other women? Sadly, I don’t think so.

While attending a pub night back in March 2012 with the fabulous Waterloo Women in Technology group , Caity Dyck, manager of the University of Waterloo’s summer camp Engineering Science Quest, spoke to the gathering about the decline of girls and women in engineering. Case in point: in 2011, only 16% of students enrolled in engineering at University of Waterloo were women.

She spoke about how from kindergarten to Grade 2, girls’ interest in engineering is pretty much on par with boys, but by the third grade, girls already feel like they’re not as good as boys at science and math. Subsequently, girls’ further interest in engineering plummets. Whether it’s due to peer pressure or the undue influence of the gender-driven marketing of toys, it’s a disconcerting trend that perpetuates barriers against women entering engineering, and other science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) industries.

Here’s the thing: when girls are told that engineering helps people, families and communities with systemic issues, such as access to clean water or sustainably improving agricultural yields, their interest skyrocketsagain. It’s all in how you present it. When presented that way to girls, this is what they think of when they think of engineering:

It’s just one perspective, but it goes to show just how important language is in formulating one’s thought processes, and perhaps one’s future opportunities as well.

Just last week, an article that highlighted research by San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge showed that since 1900, as women’s participation grew in post-secondary education and the workforce, so did the prevalence of the female pronoun on the printed page. Does the increase in seeing the female pronoun encourage more women to participate in these formerly male-dominated fields? Is it a direct cause and effect? Chicken, egg? I’m not sure, but my instincts tell me that they’re intrinsically tied.

We’ve been having this conversation for many, many years. Language is an ever-evolving realm. We no longer speak in Shakespearean couplets, and every year new words are added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Resources such as Words That Count Women In by the Ontario Women’s Directorate and Talking Gender by Ruth King, both originally published in the early ’90s, introduced me to the power and impact of language. Having a young daughter also instilled in me the importance that my choices had in formulating her own internal messaging.

Instead of bowing to pressure or being derided for being too “politically correct,” I choose to use the power of language to be more inclusive and more accurate (after all, “staffing the table” is more accurate than “manning the table”), and this insight about the impact of changing the language around engineering continues to reinforce that this is a choice that has impact, not only for women in the field of technology, but ultimately for the betterment of our world all told.

 


Oh, I sure do use the “F” word

When I was 24, I went to university. I was a single mother, with a two and a half year old daughter. Before I started at York U., I spent one year at an adult day school in Toronto called CALC: City Adult Learning Centre. I wanted to upgrade my OACs so that I wouldn’t be restricted into the adult learning stream once I started my university studies. My daughter was in daycare at the same site that I was, and I was supported, and encouraged by wonderful teachers and mentors that cared and saw my potential.

There were generally three types of students during my time at CALC; many refugees and new immigrants to the city, whom I always had such a great respect for as they were working hard to create a new life and already knew two or more languages. There were also those that spent their time mostly smoking joints in the back of the field and were biding their time, ensuring they were getting their welfare cheques. Then there those like me, working on their upgrades, vying for the opportunity to head to university and get on with it.

In spring of that year, the news was reporting about a particularly violent weekend in Toronto. I didn’t realize why it stuck out to me at first, but there were a number of reports about multiple assaults and murders. Notably, the victims were all women. I remember thinking of this as I headed into my first class on Monday morning, when the head of the Social Sciences department pulled me aside and let me know that one of our classmates and her mother were in fact two of the victims that I had heard about on the news.

This woman was a recent immigrant from Poland. She was probably my age, and although we didn’t agree on a number of issues in our World Issues class, I respected the fact that she was vocal, opinionated, and strong-willed. Her boyfriend had apparently attacked her, her mother and her father, and only her father ended up surviving the assault.

It was around this time that I was starting to investigate what it meant to be a “feminist”. I actually went to the dictionary to look it up. Webster’s defined it for me as “one who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of women.” Easy. I was a feminist. Really, I always had been. I had the “When God Created Man, She Was Only Joking” t-shirt when I was a kid, and my mother had always instilled in me a great sense of pride in being a woman, but it wasn’t until I was about 23 that I started to really educate myself and self declare.

I started to read Ms. Magazine, Marilyn French, Gloria Steinem (seriously, have you ever read If Men Could Menstruate?), Susan Faludi, and Naomi Wolf. Then I started talking about being a feminist. Inevitably, the response I would get from most was “I’m a humanist”. Funny thing was, as soon as I would provide the actual definition of feminist, it wasn’t really surprising to me how many would say, “Oh, then I’m a feminist”.

Labels are scary. They can pigeon hole us, restrict us, cause judgments that we may or may not welcome.

I feel that one of the most important things that define us as human beings is our use of language. It is our language that frames our thoughts, and expresses our emotions. When my daughter was six years old she asked me one day, “Mummy, why do you use ten dollar words when two dollar words will do?” “Oh, because I love those ten dollar words,” I would respond.

So, I choose to use those ten dollars words, and I certainly choose to call myself a feminist. (It’s also not a surprise that my daughter, now 19, does the same. ) And I do it for many reasons; for the women that are afraid to, the women that no longer can, the next generation of women who deserve to see examples of what feminism look like across all the demographics, and most importantly, for myself.

Oh yah, I am feminist, hear me roar. You betcha.


The Gift of Honest Feedback

“You are about to receive the gift of honest feedback.” ~ Unknown (on office desk plaques everywhere)

I have a friend that makes people uncomfortable. She makes them uncomfortable because she will never allow racist, sexist, homophobic or unjust comments or actions just be. She can’t. It’s innate in her and I absolutely love her for it. She will call you out no matter where you’re at, no matter the context.

It also means that she’s not always the most popular person in the room. It means that she does make people uncomfortable, because she holds people accountable for their actions. There’s a reason we get along.  I fully believe that “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke) and it’s just not within my nature to not act on the side of what I perceive as justice.

At work, I’ve been calling myself an Elephant Hunter for years now, which usually means that my colleagues love me and my bosses, ummm, sometimes not so much, and I’m way okay with that too. I hold leaders accountable for their actions, or lack thereof. I ask the direct questions, put the elephant on the table. I realize that that too makes people uncomfortable. People don’t like to feel uncomfortable.

But you see, my job is not to make you feel better about your mediocrity or your soundbite or trite idea. Nor is it my job to allow horrible things be said or done without being a witness to it and saying that “that’s not okay.” My job is to challenge you, ask you questions and hold you accountable for your output. That’s my job because I’m your reader, your colleague, your audience and we are part of one another’s collective.

When there’s dialogue there are two things that occur. Either a) I determine that you’re totally full of shit and I decide to not waste my energies on engaging or supporting you or b) I find out that you’re an authentic, open soul whose idea, thought or expression comes from that same intent and regardless of whether or not I agree with you, I will engage you and unfailingly support you.

It’s the same approach I took to my last blog post about the team of @strombo deleting my comments when I attempted a dialogue with them publicly on their Fan Page on Facebook.

Now, for the record, I’m not under any delusions of grandeur and don’t equate Team @strombo deleting my comments as being  akin to spouting off racist, sexist, homophobic vitriol, nor do I think that my comments were that important either.

What I can’t abide is manipulation, inflated senses of import and people failing to provide even the base amount of effort to ensure that a wrong hasn’t been committed. That crap just rankles me to the core.

I had nothing to gain from posting my last blog (do you see any ads on this page?) except to generate a dialogue. I was merely providing that gift of honest feedback both to George and his team and apparently, that resonated with a number of bloggers and other readers.

So, Team @strombo decided what they’ll do with that feedback and I decided that they fell under my a) category. And that makes them feel uncomfortable. I get it.

So, you see that elephant there in the middle of the room? Why don’t you join me in grabbing a fork and knife and let’s eat that elephant.


“Opinions are like assholes…

…and everybody’s got one.” ~ Salt ‘n Pepa (1993)

There’ve been a ton of blogs written on the danger of becoming too insular in the “new ‘net”; the ‘net that is moving ever closer to being highly curated and driven by apps, providing people with only one voice, one view of what’s out there on any given topic. I’m just as guilty as the next person, predominantly listening to what I want to, what pleases me, what I agree with or what inspires me, rather than availing myself too much to the “other side“; and while I don’t consistently pursue that other side a great deal either, on Twitter I do follow the odd writer or media outlet that I regularly disagree with or sometimes vehemently oppose (disclosure: notably not anything to do with Fox or SunMedia, because my mental health is just too important to me and I choose to not avail myself to such evil).

So, without intending to earlier this past weekend on Twitter, I ended up having an interesting dialogue with a blogger for one of our Canadian national papers from that “other side” of my political and ideological sensibilities. I didn’t realize who the writer was at first.  Originally, I was  just replying to a comment that I saw from one of my tweeples, but as the tone changed, I had to take a closer look at who I was following.

I’ll save you the rehashing of the entire conversation because you can review it yourself here (between @karensd & @unambig) and really, the only purpose it would serve herein would be to more thoroughly articulate my points (because of course, I still believe I’m right and so does he). Nonetheless…

What appalled me about this whole stream of back ‘n forth was the antagonistic, patronizing, paternalistic approach of said writer from the other side and right from the onset.

Why is it when someone has a differing opinion, people tend to pat you on the head and tell you you’ve missed the point? It’s self-aggrandizing, petulant and immature and certainly doesn’t produce dialogue, does it?

I’m interested in real dialogue.  Real discussion. Real growth as a human being and as a critical thinker. Don’t you think that we all  have something to learn from one another? Is there not a nugget of truth in someone’s perspective that could possibly ring true for oneself as well, even if you’re on “other side”?

Throughout the entire conversation I had to choose to be ever present because quite honestly I found myself wanting to be derisive and patronizing right back, and it took a lot of restraint for me not to do that. Further disclosure: the original intent of this blog was also entirely different from what’s actually come to fruition too. It’s difficult to not fall into the trap of hashing, rehashing, stating over and over again to make one’s point and show someone just how wrong they are.

Later on in the same evening, I heard something on a recent podcast from CBC’s Definitely Not the Opera where the speaker simply stated, we are “yearning to being visible to one another” and so, I’m choosing to simply be grateful for being visible to @unambig, even if I don’t agree with him.

What I can do and what I choose to do is state my perspective, call out rhetoric and inflammatory commentary for exactly what it is and stick to the issues. I am choosing to not put people down, insult their intelligence or throw invective into the wind.

I continue to choose dialogue.

And in my strongest statement I’m also choosing to continue to not patronize this particular writer’s paper, as long as he and writers like him continue to patronize their audience.


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