Let me start this one by saying first off that I don’t consider myself a feminist. There. We got that out of the way.
I have spent the majority of my career in male-dominated professions. I’ve been the only female camera operator in media scrums (elbows up!), the only woman on the web development team, and the only woman in the boardroom more times than I can count. I’ve been mocked, teased, and patronized for being the “girl”, “young lady”, and “sweetheart” in all-guy situations. It’s given me a thick skin and some great lessons about how to earn and keep the respect of my peers.
Which is all the more reason why the recent uprising against the Vanity Fair Article “America’s Tweethearts” gets way, way under my skin.
Here’s a brief synopsis, in case you had something better to do. Vanity Fair published an article featuring “The Women of Twitter”, starring Internet celebrities Julia Roy , Sarah Evans, Stefanie Michaels, Felicia Day, Sarah Austin, and Amy Jo Martin. All of these women are successful entrepreneurs, actresses and marketing professionals in their own right. The article was definitely not spun to be an in-depth look at this group of savvy, professional, up and coming young women. It read more like a high school gossip column with a few dippy head bobs thrown in for good measure (like, ok, ok?).
Flash forward to actress Felicia Day (she’s featured front and centre in the sexy photograph heading up the article) posting on her blog entitled “Disappointment”, her utter shock and dismay at what a lousy and unfair portrayal this article was of these six high profile and successful women. “But what really ENRAGED me what [sic] the general tone, which artfully made intelligent, articulate women sound vapid and superficial.”, said she.
Day is in utter disbelief that Vanity Fair writer Vanessa Grigoriadis “…obviously wasn’t well-researched about the service, or the internet in general, really.” She’s in shock that this writer chose to paint her and her friends in a less-than respectable light, making them out to be bimbos getting by on looks alone and not for their actual smarts in the ways of the Interwebz.
And herein lies the problem.
First, Ms. Day is expecting that Vanity Fair is going to do a smart, insightful, in-depth article on the intelligent, savvy women that are “leading the charge” in the online world. Ahem. It’s Vanity Fair. Not sure if you’re read it recently, but “in-depth” and “insightful” are not the first things that come to mind. Vanity Fair is in the business of selling magazines, and to do that they put shirtless Tiger Woods on the cover and photos of trenchcoat-only wearing Web Grrlz on the inside. Sex sells. If these women wanted to have a serious and insightful look into what it takes to be a young, up and coming female entrepreneur in the Internet Age, then getting a spread in Vanity Fair was probably not the way to go.
Second, they should have been tipped off during the “dream come true” photo shoot that something was up. Especially when they had to put on trench coats and nothing else. I don’t know about you, but the last time I was taken seriously in a board room I was clothed on the lower half of my body. Oh, I can hear it now. “Prude!!!”. Nope. I’m not a prude. I’m all for being well turned out. I like to look nice. That’s why I get my hair done and wear eyeliner and buy nice clothes. But if you want to truly be taken seriously as a “businesswoman”, then being naked under a trenchcoat for a magazine article is sending mixed signals, and that’s that.
Finally, being popular in social media is not automatically a sign that you are a successful, career-oriented woman. The one thing I vehemently disagree with in the article is their portrayal of success being directly linked to the number of followers one has. The reporter seems really hung up on the numbers thing, and makes it seem like the only reason these women are successful is because they have lots of people hanging on their every word. Well that may be partially true, but I appreciate that these women probably work very hard and would likely be having success even if it wasn’t for their self described “Twitter addictions”.
In the end, it’s really about self respect. If, as a woman, you want to be successful in business, then do good work, and earn the respect and trust of others. It’s okay to be attractive. It’s totally fine to be feminine. In fact, those are endearing qualities. But don’t put yourself in situations where people will be enticed to look at you as a sex object if you don’t want to be perceived that way. And don’t be disappointed if a magazine famous for doing fluff pieces doesn’t take you seriously.
Your turn. Have at it in the comments. I’m ducking!