Although I came of age at the height of the so-called Flower Power and Women’s Lib movements, the extent of my feminist activism was trying to join a men’s intramural snooker team as a freshman at Baylor University. Actually, that wasn’t even my idea; the guys I hung out with in the Student Union wanted to draft me because I frequently beat them. But I was denied permission to join a men’s team, and the administration refused to make snooker a coed event. So my days as a young, idealistic rebel — including momentary thoughts of a possible future as a professional billiards player — were short-lived.
All these years later I’m feeling some righteous indignation again. Maybe I’ve just been hanging out with Queen of Spain on Twitter for too long. (I’ve even been reading her blog occasionally, but don’t tell her.) Although Erin’s a couple of decades younger than I am and way more liberal, we agree that women are still treated differently, and that it gets old being invisible.
Every few months the blogosphere revisits the topic of gender differences at conferences. Jeremiah Owyang recently asked the recurring question: where are the women speakers in social media, picking up on a post by Lena West, X Chromosome Web 2.0 Rock Stars. Where the discussion really gets going is deep into the comments, with people cross-posting on both blogs.
This is my favorite quote from Lena:
People keep talking about how women are such â€˜naturalsâ€™ at what makes social media so effective, so why arenâ€™t the female leaders more visible? …
When I ask the question: Who are the male â€˜action figuresâ€™ in social media? You can almost see them in your mindâ€™s eye.
But, I ask, who are the female power players in social mediaâ€¦we start creating lists.
This afternoon I got an email from fellow Dot-Connector Brenda Thompson with the subject line: “Five White Men Talk About Social Media.” That got my attention and I opened the email right away.
“This just REALLY annoys me,” Brenda wrote. “The Chamber of Commerce is doing a thing on social media. … [she names the panel lineup] … It’s nothing against any of them, but did anyone think for a minute that they should have a woman on the panel?
“Having just renewed my chamber membership for a hefty $439, I will be passing along my thoughts to them, as well.”
It irked me too. It’s not like the organizers would have had to look very far to find some outstanding women to speak, and I’m not just referring to myself. In less than 30 seconds, Brenda and I came up with a list of five or six local women who would have made great panelists.
See, lists are easy to make. But women on lists are still invisible if conference organizers aren’t looking for the list.
We could debate endlessly about why women still lack visibility and what it feels like to be invisible (I’ve got some stories, so don’t get me started).
Instead, I’ll leave you with one anecdote that underscores the problem. This comes from BlogHer co-founder Elisa Camahort, pointing to Mary Hodder’s recent review of a New York Times article about girls who code online content:
So when they interview people like Doc Searls, Loic Le Meur or David Weinberger, all of whom are very smart about tech, those articles are in the Tech section or Business, but when they talk to girls, who for the record, are far more technical in this article than these three tech experts, girls are put in Fashion. I’ve never seen coverage with Doc or David or Loic in Fashion.
Maybe I need to take up snooker again. This time around I won’t take “no” for an answer. And I want my championship reported in the Sports section, not Fashion, even if I’m wearing my pink boa.
Update: I have indeed been officially invited to join the panel (which, I repeat, was not my purpose in writing this post) and am preparing a bio blurb for future publicity for the event. To avoid scaring the suits, I’m going with a corporate headshot, not my boa avatar.
Update: I was subsequently disinvited, details in this post. Correction: Four White Men Exploit Social Media.