Of girls and tech

It came to my attention this morning that some things were said on TWiT this past week regarding the Forbes “The Web Celeb 25” list. Now, there’s been a lot of discussion on the blogosphere about the list, mostly in the vein of “Where’s Kevin Rose?” or “Who the heck is so-and-so political blogger?” This Week in tech discussed things in this vein too, but that part of the discussion isn’t what caused the controversy.

No, it was their comments about blogger Violet Blue. Violet is becoming (has become?) a San Francisco institution, and her columns on SFGate.com and her posts on her own blog, tiny nibbles, are both interesting and educational articles on sexuality. She’s a mainstay of the SF tech scene, and while we’ve never been introduced I admire her very much. Leo LaPorte is also someone I admire, and it was a lot of fun having him co-host the podcast the two times he did.

However, I am unsettled that Leo referred to Violet as “that porn girl” and insinuated that she didn’t deserve to be on that list. John Dvorak has since apologized for the things he said on the show , but I haven’t seen an apology from Leo. He’s a hugely influential tech personality, and it just seems so frustratingly old fashioned that this can happen .

I’m constantly asked what it’s like to be a female working in the tech industry, and let me tell you… it’s not always easy. True, it’s not easy for women working in many fields, but technology has always had that “boy’s club” feel to it. Do you know how many times I’ve been told that I should just stop bothering with technology, and maybe try porn for a living? Or that I’m obviously just a talking head that’s reading a script?

Maybe I’m taking this too personally. It just bothers me to think that for people who are so forward-thinking in one sense can be so backwards in another. Very disappointing.

Link to Violet’s post on SFGate.com

UPDATE: Oh my god… check out this comment:

Yeah, I noticed the old-school mentality of Leo in that episode (as well as in a few other actions in other podcasts and interactions).
No defending intended, but for what it’s worth, there is a porn star called Violet Blue: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violet_Blue_(porn_star)
This doesn’t say much for Leo’s research on the subject, especially since Forbes had links to the prover Violet Blue.

Could Leo have been Googling Violet and turned up the porn star by accident?! Could this all be a case of mistaken identity? What do you think?

UPDATE:
We were right, he DID confuse the two. From SFGate.com:

My apologies – I did, in fact, confuse Violet Blue, podcaster, with Violet Blue, the porn star. Having taken Patrick’s advice and done a little research I now see my mistake. I am sorry if I have offended Ms. Blue, please accept my apologies.

It takes a big person to admit a mistake, so good for Leo. While this was a unfortunate misunderstanding, I’m glad that it gave people the chance to open a dialog on the subject. The comments on my blog post were very interesting to read, and I think it gave people something to think about.

30 thoughts on “Of girls and tech

  1. I was also disappointed with his remark. Violet Blue is not any kind of “porn girl”, and I hope his comment was more out of ignorance of what Violet actually does than his ignorance altogether. No matter what he said or insinuated, she certainly deserved to be on that list.

    As a man working in the IT field, I’m happy to see a huge upsurge, at least in my neck of the woods, in women who are also working in IT. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a circumstance where I’ve observed anything untowards like the horrible remark you’ve described – I can’t even fathom the neanderthal brain functions that would cause such a thing to be said – but I’ve no doubt that kind of thing goes on far more than it should.

    I’ve been reading tech media outlets for decades now, and the last few years have been better than ever, specifically because there’s more women involved in it, lending a completely different perspective and, in many ways, more quality to the various outlets. And no matter what, you’re as popular as you are because you’re intelligent, you have informed opinions, and you produce quality media – all of you at cnet do, men and women. It may not be easy, but we out here are glad you’re still doing it.

  2. Hear, hear!

    Yeah, I noticed the old-school mentality of Leo in that episode (as well as in a few other actions in other podcasts and interactions).

    No defending intended, but for what it’s worth, there is a porn star called Violet Blue: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violet_Blue_(porn_star)

    This doesn’t say much for Leo’s research on the subject, especially since Forbes had links to the prover Violet Blue.

  3. Well, it’s entirely possible he thought they were one and the same person. Now I don’t know what to think! Doug’s right, though – this isn’t the first time Leo’s been kind of a cad. It’s not often, but it does happen, so really either way wouldn’t surprise me.

  4. I’m not surprised at this either. Leo’s made the same “some porn blogger” comment about her before on TWiT. I’m actually surprised nothing came out then. I knew it possibly happen now. I read Voilet’s blog and her being on the list is well deserved. I like Leo (and sometimes Dvorak) but some of his comments about things are pretty stupid. Now I see (from Violet’s blog) that Partrick Norton’s gotten into it. For what it’s worth, I don’t he googled her at all or has ever had any intention to, but I don’t know so…

  5. I have to agree, she does not act in porn, buuuuuuut, I can’t listen to Violet’s podcast, it’s too hardcore for me. While I am not one of them, there are many people who would consider her podcast to be pornographic. I’m not defending Leo and Dvorak, but Open Source Sex is not for the timid or inhibited.

  6. I’m sure Leo would be mortified that he’s upset someone so much but I do think this has been blown out of proportion. They were all just making fun of a silly top list in a humourous and derisive manner.

    The first I’d heard of any controversy was when I read your blog post. I think Leo’s on one of his tech cruise type thingies at the moment so it may be that he’s not seen any of this controversy or he’s not been able to respond.

    He wasn’t dismissive of Violet because of her involvement with certain aspects of the sex world. It was more that they, as a whole, felt there there were lots of people who they felt were more deserving. Dvorak just thought these lists were a big crock and was being his curmudgeonly self.

    I really don’t think that what Leo et al have said can now have them labeled as sexist pigs. It was a simple off the cuff remark and I don’t believe that it reflects their opinions of women in tech. They simply didn’t know who she was so they dismissed her. I doubt they’d have felt the same if either yourself or Molly were on the list. They know who you are and know what you’ve done.

    I run a web comapny and my business partner of 8 years is female and many of the people I’ve worked with, and had working for us, have been female. I am in the UK so I don’t know if that makes a difference but I know several female sys admins and have never had a problem working with any of them. As far as I know none of the males I’ve worked with have had any problem working working with or for women in tech oriented businesses.

    As for people who said the following to you, “should just stop bothering with technology, and maybe try porn for a living?” They aren’t worth giving the time of day.

  7. Ok, ok. I agree with you about being hard to work on a boy’s club. And I also forgive Leo if he said those things thinking only about the porn girl, and not about the “real” Violet.
    .
    BUT, if someone ever said such thing as “stop bothering with technology, and try porn for a living.” to a friend of mine, he/they wouldn’t have his/their teeths anymore…
    Yeah! I’m that kind of pre-historical man, now what?!?

  8. you’re not taking it too personally.

    And I really, really hope that no one tries or has tried the 100% crap comeback of “well, Veronica, women have it bad in a lot of fields (and have it worse than in your field) so you shouldn’t say anything” as indicated in your post:

    “I’m constantly asked what it’s like to be a female working in the tech industry, and let me tell you… it’s not always easy. True, it’s not easy for women working in many fields, but technology has always had that “boy’s club” feel to it.”

    Sexism is sexism.

  9. I think as women we should take this stuff personally. The comments on Dvorak’s “apology” are absolutely horrid. I haven’t heard this particular TWiT yet, but I really hope it was a mistaken identity. Thanks for blogging about this V, it’s important.

  10. Oh, come on. I think she is completely in the wrong here. She is lashing out at Leo and John for an off-hand comment about her. What angers me the most about her post is that she calls out Robert and Patrick for not having anything to say. What does she want? Them to “come to her rescue”? Puh-lease.

    Look, obviously sexism exists, but crying wolf isn’t helping her cause. Her accusations make me physically sick.

  11. “I really don’t think that what Leo et al have said can now have them labeled as sexist pigs. It was a simple off the cuff remark and I don’t believe that it reflects their opinions of women in tech. They simply didn’t know who she was so they dismissed her. I doubt they’d have felt the same if either yourself or Molly were on the list. They know who you are and know what you’ve done.”

    Exactly. They didn’t know, they didn’t bother to really learn about who she is and what she’s about and they dismissed her because of their stereotypical, initial judgement. And though it may not reflect their opinions about women in tech, to me it reflects their opinions about women in general which of course includes women in tech. How is this sort of shooting from the hip suddenly acceptable when it comes to women, to women who talk openly about “taboo” topics? People wouldn’t expect this if it were about a Black male blogger. Folks (I hope) wouldn’t angrily say “that rapper.”

    “I run a web comapny and my business partner of 8 years is female and many of the people I’ve worked with, and had working for us, have been female. I am in the UK so I don’t know if that makes a difference but I know several female sys admins and have never had a problem working with any of them. As far as I know none of the males I’ve worked with have had any problem working working with or for women in tech oriented businesses.”

    I’m glad that the women you’ve worked with in the tech industry haven’t encountered sexism and that you yourself don’t have a problem working with women. But I would be a little careful in thinking that how it is over there is how it is for other folks. I work for an organization in a specific field that has people of color, women, and women of color in positions of upper-management and leadership. However, I know for a fact that this is unfortunately not the case in many, many other similar organizations. I’m not a woman and i’m not a woman in the tech industry. You’re not a woman but you are in the tech industry. At this point, when it comes to sexism against women by men in the tech industry, i’m going to believe a woman in the tech industry.

    “As for people who said the following to you, “should just stop bothering with technology, and maybe try porn for a living?” They aren’t worth giving the time of day.”

    I’m going to disagree with you on this because I think this is just telling Veronica to “ignore it” which puts the entire unfair burden on her and refuses to place blame on the ones who are saying it in the first place. The guys who say this kind of stuff aren’t going to stop from the silent treatment. They stop when you and call them out on it.

  12. OUCH !

    I really dont know what to say.

    so i’m just gonna say it again.. OUCH ! :)

    Chill out, V. You ROCK !

  13. “Do you know how many times I’ve been told that I should just stop bothering with technology, and maybe try porn for a living? Or that I’m obviously just a talking head that’s reading a script?”

    Kick them straight in the nuts. Tell them to stop bothering with virginity and try getting laid >:D

    On a serious note, you could probably kick up hell over any moron who would dare to try that.

  14. I am truly embarrassed when I learn that guys make comments like this. Veronica, I can’t believe that people have said that to you. I’m sorry for them…they are just being ignorant and hateful (stating the obvious). Unfortunately, the loveliness of the interweb comes with anonymous idiots and their verbal diarrhea.

    Leo is at fault either way you look at it. He was either sexist and insensitive, or totally irresponsible for his lack of research as a tech journalist/blogger/host. It would be the same as commenting on our Molly and citing credits of the porn star who shares her name because you were too lazy to learn which is which.

    I for one am so excited anytime I meet a female who is interested in technology. I have said many times that I think there should be more. This week alone I met a girl who likes video games, and another who is attending a software development university! She made me aware of what a minority women are in this field. She is one of 5 women in a class of 400. (the women’s restroom must be very clean!)

    Every morning your site is one of 14 that loads in my tabs. The only other tech related are Ambermac.com, Engadget, Pogue’s posts, TUAW, and BOL lounge. I think that’s a testament to how relevant women are in tech.

    BTW, ever since you posted the Buzz report video, Safari crashes when I get to your tab.

  15. “I’m constantly asked what it’s like to be a female working in the tech industry, and let me tell you… it’s not always easy.”

    Yes Veronica, I have no doubt about that. But if you want to get some credibility in such a male dominated field then why the heck would you give yourself a porn name. If youre going to name yourself “Elvis Thrust” then don’t expect people to just assume you’re the worlds greatest botanist.

    Sexism goes both ways. Don’t forget that.

  16. Without having heard what Leo said first hand, and thus being entirely unqualified to speak on the subject, if the gist of it is encapsulated in your post I don’t know if it should be called a sexist remark as much as a generalization of all people who deal with sexual topics as pornographers.

    That said, I think you should post some of this porn and let your readers decide for themselves.

  17. I will be interested to see what Leo says in response. As he has been on a cruise all week, that is why we have only heard from John on the topic.

  18. I think women in tech are making bug strides. Look at CNey, the public face of Cnet at least, it seems like a majority o’ the podcasts/TV shows(?) are being host by women.

    But, I think Leo may have been confused over which Violet Blue. If Molly Wood’s porn name-twin was 3rd search result down on Google I’m sure that alot of people who don’t know her might be confused.

    Also, the conversation started as a way of Dvorak to make of these lists. “Top 35 Celebrity Dogs…” “Top 10 Internet Icons…” I’m sure no insult was ment.

    Howver, evene if insult was ment… so what? Violet Blue shouldn’t act like it was the end of the universe. Two late-aged men call you “that porn girl.” It isn’t a stab at women… it’s a stab at sex-writers.

  19. **Sorry About the Grammar, Usage and Mechanics in that last comment**

    I think women in tech are making big strides. Look at CNet, the public face of CNet at least, it seems like a majority o’ the pod-casts/TV shows(?) are being hosted by women.

    But, I think Leo may have been confused over which Violet Blue. If Molly Wood’s porn name-twin was 3rd search result down on Google I’m sure that allot of people who don’t know her might be confused.

    Also, the conversation started as a way of Dvorak to make of these lists. “Top 35 Celebrity Dogs…” “Top 10 Internet Icons…” I’m sure no insult was meant.

    However, even if insult was meant… so what? Violet Blue shouldn’t act like it was the end of the universe. Two late-aged men call you “that porn girl.” It isn’t a stab at women… it’s a stab at sex-writers.

  20. The problem isn’t Leo’s comment. If you’re ignorant of Violet Blue’s work and visit her website, it’s not difficult to see how a person could offhandedly shortchange her as “that porn girl.” (Yes, it’s idiotic and puritanical to equate sex with porn, and yes, he could have said “that porn woman” (It’s no longer the 19th century. A woman shouldn’t need to be married to be considered an adult.), and yes, I’ve heard Leo’s comments about “girl gamers” on BOL, which does suggest he might be guilty of some casual sexist thinking; but I’m trying to make a broader point here and don’t have the time to get all equivocal.) The real problem is that too often, in both the tech world and the world at large, women need to be physically attractive to be noticed but then aren’t take seriously because they are physically attractive. Take a look at that list, for Steve Job sakes! Maybe it’s my orientation, but the four women seem way hotter than the twenty-one men. (No offense to Merlin Mann; he seems cute.) More importantly, there are only four women on the list. If there were twelve or thirteen women on the list, let alone twenty-one, falsely dismissing one as “that porn girl” would be an insult only to Violet Blue and not to women in general. Society sucks, not Leo Laporte.

    I hope that wasn’t too muddled.

  21. With regards to the “stop bothering with technology…” ‘suggestion’ that you often get, let me just say that I’m glad you didn’t follow through with it. Girls in porn are a dime a dozen (no duh). Girls like you who are genuinely interested in tech, sci-fi, an Apple-fangirl to boot, and have looks that make guys tell you to try that career alternative, are one in a million. So to you, Veronica Belmont, to Molly Wood, to Jasmine France, to Bonnie Cha, to all the other females in tech, more power to you. I’m sure it’s a trend male geeks are embracing with open arms. Heck, I sure am.

    As for Leo LaPorte, are you sure the main basis for his saying Violet Blue shouldn’t be on the list is because she’s a female, i.e. on the basis of gender? I will confess I haven’t gone through the comments but if it’s because of her material, he’s entitled to his opinion. Violet Blue could be a guy and he could have said the same thing, albeit “that porn guy”.

  22. Good of Leo to admit his mistake and apologize. Mistakes do happen, though I would think that he’d research his stories a little better…

  23. You know, if you take a look at Violet Blue’s weblog right now, you’ll find 18 instances of the word “porn” on the front page alone, and of 9 images in the main body (read: not including the cruft-for-sale on the right and left), 7 of them would be considered “not safe for work”. Then there’s Fleshbot.

    So, how, exactly, is it inaccurate to describe Ms. Blue as “that porn girl”? Is such a phrase sloppy, linguistically? Perhaps. It is, however, not untrue.

    Then again, I suspect what’s going on here, as well as on Blue’s “blog”, is that you’re playing semantic rhetoric games to channel some internally perceived sense of cultural injustice. Have fun with that.

  24. @Paul – You can come here and be rude, that’s fine… but Leo himself said he confused Violet with someone else. I’m allowed to make calls on how I see things in this world, just the same as you are. And obviously, we see things MUCH differently. Have a great day.

  25. I would hardly consider pointing out the statistical inaccuracy in calling Violet Blue anything *other* than a “porn blogger” to be “rudeness”. Perhaps you meant to say “you can come here and disagree”? I refrained from making any personal insults, I refrained from using any vulgar language, and generally was pretty darned polite. I certainly didn’t *intend* to be rude.

    The fact of the matter is, much as Violet Blue would consider herself to be a “woman working in technology”, those of us who actually hold jobs that deal with technology would never consider her one of us. I work with plenty of women, as well, and discussions today at lunch on this very subject indicated at least four of the women I work with don’t think there’s any textual evidence that Blue knows anything more about “technology” than any number of other ranting bloggers.

    More concisely, what I’m saying is this: if you want to discuss the difficulties women encounter in the field of technology, go for it. It needs to be discussed. However, including Violet Blue in the list of women suffering from sexism in the field is absurd; quite simply, she isn’t *in* this field. She’s a person with a blog. And, at that, a blog that has almost nothing to do with technology at all. Unless you count “rambling every four months or so about teledildonics” as being a “tech job”. I don’t. I don’t imagine many other people do, either.

  26. Paul. Paul…your nose is growing, you fibber you! I was at this lunch and the so called “discussion” you had with these women? Come on, be serious. I’ve never seen women look so horrified and ready to leave the table/conversation in my entire life (The hands in the pockets weren’t enough of a dead giveaway). I’m just guessing, but it might’ve been after you yelled at the waitress for describing the lunch special as “Spicy tangy chicken.”

    “THIS ISN’T ‘TANGY’ I KNOW WHAT TANGY IS THIS IS SWEET I SUSPECT WHAT’S GOING ON IS THAT YOU’RE FEELING INADEQUATE ABOUT YOUR LOVE LIFE AND YOU CAN’T SAY SWEET. SWWEEEEEEET.”

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  29. I agree with you on the whole girls and tech thing clashing. I havent even taken a job or anythinng in the field and I’ve already been told to go be a girl as if just because I am interested im not a girl anymore. Geez. Well highschool is usually extra cruel so I try not to let it get me down. Anyway..in my book any type of blogging has to require some kind of tech skill. If I tried to teach my mom how to blog she’d probably start crying…no joke. It takes some initiative, motivation, patience, and interest to do anything related to tech when it comes to any gender, girl or boy.

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