As you are undoubtedly aware, I was at BlogHer last weekend. And let me tell you, it was an amazing experience.
One of my favorite events was the Keynote with Guy Kawasaki. Right up until the Q and A.
You see, he was talking about his new book, about self publishing versus traditional publishing, and just sitting down and WRITING. He had me hooked. I kept thinking, "You know what? I'm going to go buy that book." And then it took a turn.
Dani of Martinis and Minivans stepped to the mic first. She introduced herself and her blog, and then went forward with the question. And before he answered her, Guy said this,
"You women writers come up with the best blog names."
I froze in my seat. I looked over at Janelle of Renegade Mothering and asked, "Did he really just say that?"
Here's the thing about whenever you put the word "woman" or "lady" or "chick" in front of a totally unisex description. It's essentially the same as saying, "I don't want to sound sexist, BUT..."
I bundled my feminist angst back into my oversized handbag and managed to tone down my frustration, but it was difficult. The way he was looking at Dani, and then at the next questioner, and then the next...
|Oh tumblr, you have a gif for everything.|
And then, as he discussed social media, he said this about Pinterest:
"I've got the wrong chromosomes for that."
And I kind of lost it.
After all, I recently had the good fortune to have a conversation about publishing and viral success with Paul Angone, author of "101 Secrets For Your 20s." Which has had so much success almost entirely because of Pinterest. And yeah, he's a dude.
And I know for a fact that he's not the only person with a penis at that massive social networking site.
And as I gritted my teeth and fumed about the Pinterest comment, Guy Kawasaki one-upped himself. He claimed he didn't have much to do with Twitter, but that he had a woman who was in charge of that. He warned the audience not to "steal her," from him, language that implies possession of another human being, and then told us that behind every great man...
You can fill in the rest.
There's a word for this kind of sexism. In fact, there are two. It's called "Benevolent Sexism," or "Pedestal Sexism." Basically, it's when men (and not always men) hold up this idea that women are somehow "better," and therefore not equal to men. It's why some women get bothered when men ostentatiously hold doors for them, imply that they are delicate flowers that need to be protected by men.
I walked out. And yes, I spent the rest of the day (and pretty much every day since) having the occasional irate conversation about the tone of that keynote.
But here's the thing- it wasn't SO bad. It wasn't like Guy Kawasaki walked into an inherently feminist event and told everyone there, including hundreds of cooking, shopping, mothering, and household-tips blogs, that he was glad we knew our place.
He didn't imply that writing and publishing- his domain- was something we shouldn't aim for. He didn't explicitly call women, "honey," or "little lady." He didn't leer at my chest and wolf whistle.
But what he did was illustrate that still, even somewhere as profoundly feminist as a BlogHer conference, the culture of sexism in which we live is inescapable. That it takes a constant self awareness on behalf of men and women both to realize that it's not just what you say, it's how you say it.
"Women writers" don't come up with the best names. "Writers" do. That's why they write.
Pinterest isn't only for people with vaginae. I'm pretty sure I don't have to scan my uterus to log in.
I'm also pretty sure that despite how much work she's doing to jump ahead of comments like mine, Guy Kawasaki's social media person is very much opposed to the idea that he somehow owns her.
These aren't the things he meant to say, but they are the things he said.
And I at least intend to keep calling out this type of subtle, pervasive sexism where I find it.
...I'll also probably still buy Guy's book. Because it sounds great. Even if he is a "man writer."