Sunday, June 15, 2008

This "Humorless Feminist" is filled with ennui

I am filled with ennui because the same conversations happen over and over. But sometimes it seems like little changes.

Do any of you remember last April when there was a tempest in the Web 2.0 teapot about a search company named Spock and their choice sample search terms at a big demo at the Web 2.0 Expo? No? Here are a bunch of Google links to remind you. Seems not everyone appreciated Spock searching on Sports Illustrated Swimsuit models or Victoria's Secret models as the example to use for a visual search tool. I wasn't there, but I can safely say my eyes would have been rolling back in my head on that one. I'm a humorless feminist like that.

But there I was little over one year later at a classy event in NYC for media and marketing types...part of an audience comprised of probably 35-40% women. This wasn't some tech, lone-woman-in-the-room event. And the CEO of a well-known Internet TV company could not manage to make his point about how internet video does indeed have a business model without treating us to scenes of ever-more-scantily clad women. Really? You couldn't find one example of how your awesome company is doing innovative awesome things to monetize online video that didn't involve women in lingerie and associated frat-boy humor? I mean, I understand that's the target audience for the actual show you were playing. Good for you. Know your audience.

But know your audience when you're presenting too! I don't think there was much overlap. That's alls i'm sayin'.

Then there's the whole diversity on conference speaking rosters topic. That poor horse. I saw Stowe's post on a recent twitter exchange. He presents a scenario by which a poor poor conference organizer can end up in the mess of being called on their lack of diversity.

I just have a couple of comments:

1. I'd like to know the definition of "tries really hard" to get more women or whatever diversity demographic you're talking about.

2. We don't know much about the example launched his blog post except that Jerry Michalski put out a tweet asking for speakers and got mostly guys to respond, and apparently debate ensues, much of it with Mary Hodder, which focuses on why women might not have responded or put themselves forward in this way.

But really, the problem with #1 and #2 above is that it is very hard to achieve diversity if you stick to mining only your own existing network. By putting out a tweet about it you are, by definition, reaching your existing network. The whole point is to reach outside your network and find fresh voices...people you don't already know and who, shock of shocks may not know you, may not follow you, may not know your event, no matter how prestigious you're convinced it is, exists...and may still be 100% qualified to speak at it!!!

People justify getting the same prominent voices speaking because they say they need to sell tickets. I am willing to conceded it may depend on your event, and YMMV, but I find the following is true for BlogHer:

If I set a goal to have 70-80% of every BlogHer speaking roster comprised of women who have never spoken at a BlogHer before (and I do) and if only 2 members of each speaker's community who has never attended a BlogHer before are sufficiently excited by the selection of a blogger she admires to speak and decides to check us out, I have lined up 200 or so new attendees that I would not have found any other way but to reach out to new (to us) voices and communities.

Before an organizer uses the "I need a draw" argument, I'd like to see some evidence that they ever tried featuring fresher, less expected voices and had their event fail because of it.

But like I said...I've blogged this so many times that I am filled with ennui.

Entire post above could really have been boiled down to this, IMHO: It's all about priorities, effort, and humility. You need to set them, make one and have some.

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I certainly hear you and feel the same way. And I went on over to Stowe's blog to comment! I can't let you languish alone in your ennui and have got to pick up the torch yet again...

FFS, trope? meme? way to go to trivialize what we just keep saying is a problem. But who listens?

Guys: OMG we wish we knew the problem!

*a bunch of women explain the problem*

Same guys: OMG y'all are such whiners! And you keep saying the same things!

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