Ban Julien “rape evangelist” Blanc from UK – Sign the Petition

 As the 21st November draws near, we are watching carefully to see if the UK will follow the good examples of Australia and Brazil to take a stand against the sexist, misogynistic and racist Julien Blanc. The ‘Pick-Up Artist’ is due on our shores this week. He hosts ‘dating advice’ events where men pay up to £1,250 to learn how to emotionally, and in many cases, physically manipulate women into having sex with them. Teaching harassment is not a skill the UK needs. It’s bad enough that one in five British women have been victims of sexual violence since the age of 16. With tutorials that will only contribute to a culture of this violence, Blanc is offering a pick-up seminar in London on November 21 – dismally, it’s already fully booked.

Blanc provides seminars to “make girls BEG to sleep with you after SHORT-CIRCUITING their emotional and logical mind into a million reasons why they should”. One of Blanc’s tactics for ‘breaking the ice’ is to grab the heads of female strangers and thrust them toward his crotch. Another of his ‘approaches’ is to grab women in a choke-hold, while he puts his finger on his lips and whispers ‘Shh’. We don’t need more misogyny on our shores. According to The Ministry of Justice over 400,000 women are sexually assaulted each year in England and Wales.

Anti-Blanc social media campaigns have gathered pace in recent days, with Twitter users sharing pictures of his hand around the throats of women posted with his disgusting hashtag #ChokingGirlsAroundTheWorld. Online petitions are putting pressure on the Home Office and Theresa May to deny Julien Blanc a UK Visa. More than 150,000 people have signed a change.org petition, drawn up by a city worker using the pseudonym Caroline Charles to protect herself from abuse, and over 129,000 the avaaz.org community petition. Forced to cut short a visit to Australia following widespread protests, Blanc was subsequently denied visas in Australia and Brazil for his misogyny and racism.

As yet there has been no official comment from The Home Office but Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary and Lynne Featherstone, have added their voices to the calls with Featherstone telling The Guardian: ‘As the Home Office minister with responsibility for tackling violence against women and girls, I am extremely concerned by the sexist and utterly abhorrent statements Julien Blanc has made about women’.

We don’t normally advocate for petitions, but knowing that a man who routinely advises his audiences: “If you’re a white male, you can do what you want. I’m just romping through the streets, just grabbing girls’ heads, just like, head …on the dick’ means action must be taken. Please sign one of the above petitions as the UK is better off without Blanc’s ‘lessons’. The UK must show more respect for women and follow Australia and Brazil’s lead; let’s ensure his visa is revoked.

Are all the misogynists working in technology?

techonologyOur sister company, The InclusIQ Institute’s inbox was inundated with comments about a technology site ‘codebabes.com’ that aims to reward novice coders with page 3 style photos for every piece of new code they learn. No prizes then for guessing that sexism is a major problem in the technology industry. Headlining the website are hyper-sexualised women who remove a piece of clothing on the successful completion of a test like, ’Where to stick your CSS’. It’s actually advertised as ‘educational’ with a byline of being ‘awesome for Learning to code & Checkin’ out babes’. While sites like this are clearly offensive to women; they are patronising to men as well.

It reminded us of a MassChallenge Business Start up we attended a year ago. Everyone pitched their business concepts; looking for strangers to join them over the weekend in turning their idea into a reality. A number of young guys presented concepts for website or apps that rate local parties by the quality of the women attendees- ‘so you always know ‘which’ party to go to’. Dismayingly, these proposals got selected whilst projects by the few women who pitched potential websites where parents can rate babysitters in their local area, were largely ignored. What a missed opportunity for crowdsourcing great information for which parents would gladly pay.

It brought to mind an article: ‘Technology’s Man Problem’ in the New York Times. Two TechCrunch Hackathon entrepreneurs showcased their ‘Titstare app’ – which ostensibly offers bare-chested women the opportunity to take photos of themselves in the mirror. Thanks, but no thanks.

Not surprisingly, participants were shocked and it sparked a massive online backlash on Twitter. One attendee, Elissa Shevinsky, co founder of Glimpse, was disgusted and started a Twitter blogpost :“I thought that we didn’t need more women in tech. I was wrong.” TechCrunch published an apology; ‘Any type of sexism or other discriminatory and/or derogatory speech will not be allowed. You expect more from us, and we expect more from ourselves. We are sorry’. As purveyors of ostensibly the newest and best in technology, we do indeed expect more.

Parity between the genders in the technology sector feels a long way off. Every small step counts. We support organisations who strive to make tech a safer and more inclusive place for everyone, such as the one mentioned above and others: womenintechnology.co.uk, The Representation Project #NotBuyingIt app, and womenwhocode.co.uk, Black Girls Code , Girl Develop It, and Girls who code.

 

Why Jennifer Lawrence naked shots tell us we need more women in tech

Women codersUnless you’ve been living under a rock, you’d be hard pressed to not know that pictures of dozens of female celebrities have been leaked in the last week by a hacker accessing personal photographs stored on Apple’s iCloud. This has given rise to well-covered questions about the security of cloud technology. For us, this debacle also illustrates the sexist and threatening nature of these hacks and even the dearth of women coders.

As Hadley Freeman points out in The Guardian in her article: ‘The Naked Celebrity Hack: An Outstanding Example of Sexism’: ‘Anyway, the point of these pictures isn’t to give anyone sexual pleasure. Many of these actresses in the latest leak have posed next-to-naked in their various films and magazine shoots already so it’s not exactly like the hackers are revealing much more than is already known. It’s purely a power thing, like when tabloids publish pap photos of celebrities unawares….The only time naked photos of men get leaked onto the internet is when they ham-fistedly leak them themselves….,and the general response is laughter and mockery. With women, that leaking happens when others steal the images from their phones, and the response here is darker, sexual, triumphal. Neither response is good, but the one in regards to women is definitely more threatening. There is no difference between the leaking of stolen naked photos from a female celebrity’s phone and so-called “revenge porn”, when a man leaks photos of an ex-partner. It’s a means of exuding power over someone who thought they were, if not powerful, at least independent’.

Furthermore, the fact that the shots are all of female celebrities suggest the audience, and the perpetrators, are male. As long as heterosexual men are the predominate force in technology, IT products, services, and even security leaks will be focused on what men want to see – in this case, naked photos of female celebrities.

While we do not believe that equality will be gained when we have equal numbers of stolen shots of Ryan Gosling to Jennifer Lawrence, a point raised humorously, but rather coarsely by two female coders in this video (probably not safe for viewing at work), it does make you wonder what ingenuity we are missing if we continue to have our products … and even the destruction of those products, led by men.

Why ‘Silicon Valley’ is Business as Usual for a ‘Brogrammer’ culture

Silicon ValleyNew TV satire, Silicon Valley is centered around six ‘geek’ stereotypes who found a startup tech company. The sitcom’s sadly devoid of strong female characters. Instead it portrays a tech start-up world dominated by white men and the ubiquitous “brogrammer” culture. Some argue that the show’s mirroring the tech industry but with big tech companies, Google, Twitter, Yahoo and Facebook revealing disappointing gender balanced workforces, we at Female breadwinners hoped “Silicon Valley” would’ve presented a more positive and enlightening vision of the tech industry.

There’s only one female returning cast member, Monica. She’s an uber-competent assistant who’s proficient at making hotel reservations, maintaining schedules and offering support to the start up guys. Any other women, like ‘Mochachino’; a black stripper are either an object of sexual speculation or a disposable prop.

When the producers took to Twitter with a campaign #AskSiliconValley seeking feedback, the lack of women in the show, specifically in technical roles, was high on the agenda. When asked if there would be female coders, the creator,  Mike Judge replied, ‘Yes. We’re writing now and 2 new main female characters so far’. Judge wasn’t specific in his response as to whether their roles will be technical…we’ll be watching.

With the international prominence of strong female techies such as Sheryl Sandberg, Nicola Mendelsohn and Marissa Meyer, the lack of female representation on media vision of Silicon Valley must change. Nadja von Massow, Head of creative at The GIG at DST agrees and wrote in The Guardian: ’You only have to attend networking groups such as DLD (Digital Life Design) Woman to notice the high velocity of women now working in tech roles’. If the show takes heed of it’s viewers and wants to truly reflect the future tech culture, the cast will have to change.

 

Busy but bold women unite…Online

savvy woman on internetThe Internet is changing the way women talk about their experiences and increasingly their rights. While IT has historically been thought of as a male sphere, it is increasingly being used as a way for women to advocate and share ideas. As most women now hold down jobs outside the home, we increasingly use the social media and video clips to keep up with the zeitgeist; and this shift has not gone unnoticed. The recent Guardian article: 8 Ways digital is empowering women, highlights how social media, videos and online campaigns are putting women’s rights on the public forum.

The Representation Project and other advocacy groups use social media hashtags such as #notbuyingit, #changetheratio, #banbossy and #Mediawelike in their campaign to challenge gender stereotypes. Business woman and savvy communicator, Oprah Winfrey sent a tweet to her 21 million followers which generated massive support for The Girl Effect. ‘We are enough. We matter. We are NOT invisible. Girls around the world are having their say. This is the moment to listen. #GirlDeclaration’. Amazingly this simple tweet virally generated a massive following.

Video campaigns such as Jackson Katz’s YouTube video ‘Violence against women—it’s a men’s issue’  are clearly powerful. The message focused on the role boys and men have in ending gender based violence. Considering it features no dancing cats or naked celebrities, the clip has been phenomenally successful with over 1,216,000 views.

Online platforms and petitions such as Pinkstinks, Daughters of Eve, and No More Page Three tackle issues ranging from gender media stereotyping, female genital mutilation and glamour modelling. Clearly if you have an issue worth highlighting; online is increasingly the way to go for savvy women.

Why ‘Flawed’ men outlast ‘Aggressive’ Women: It’s in the language

power poseAggressive. Aloof. A real bitch. There are a litany of derogatory words we use to characterise female leaders. Men are given more ‘wiggle room’ in terms of the behaviours we expect or sanction, but women have less latitude. As discussed in the recent Huffington blog post: This is how we talk about female leaders (Hint: It’s not pretty) , Nic Subtirelu, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Applied Linguistics and ESL at Georgia State University assessed the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) 450 million words of text from magazines, newspapers, fiction and academic text from the last two decades for gender difference in language.

Dismally, women were labelled ’pushy’ twice as frequently as men despite the fact men are mentioned nearly twice as frequently as women overall in the COCA. Subtirelu found men were more likely to be describe as “condescending”; a term which can only be applied to those who are or believe they are in power.  On the other hand, pushy is comparable to being obnoxiously forward or self-assertive. The article details what we see everyday: Hillary Clinton being described as shrill, aloof, ruthless, icy, angry and frumpy; Angela Merkel as ruthless and frumpy.

Jill Abramson was described as pushy, stubborn, brusque and condescending by the media following her untimely removal as the first female executive editor of The New York Times. Her high profile removal was a mirror to that of Amanda Bennett, who was described similarly several years before when editor of the high profile Philadelphia Inquirer. She was ousted after just 3 years in 2006. In a recent opinion piece “Pushed off the Glass Cliff” in the Washington Post, she noted the only thing that had changed in the 7 years between Abramson and her own departure was: ‘Women now feel not only resentful, but also finally, entitled. Entitled to lead…to be paid equally. Entitled to be flawed… and to be fired, but also entitled to point out the obvious fact: Men with even more spectacular and difficult flaws than ours get not only longer tenures but also softer and more dignified landings.’

Incredibly, despite his own evidence, Subtirelu stated in his blog ‘Linguistic Pulse’, he was ‘suspicious of the possibility that these descriptions had an element of gender bias to them’. Why do the media insist on using condescending and gender biased words to describe inspiring, strong females? And how low do we have to sink if the researchers themselves can’t see the biased writing on the wall?

 

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