June 23, 2008

More on Girl Geeks - Yes, Zivity - No

Just a quick update to my last post.

Apparently the founder of Girl Geek Dinners, Sarah Blow, made GGD SF remove Zivity as a sponsor. I was told this from someone I met at PDF2008 who emailed her, which she forwarded. I didn't hear this directly. But it does explain why I had seen Zivity sponsorship there as a sponsor at the GGD SF website when I wrote about this originally.. and then it was gone without explanation. Couldn't figure out what happened.. but just got word of why it's gone. Blow didn't like Zivity sponsoring.. apparently she picked up on Zivity using the GGD sponsorship to buy cred with GGD.

A thought about the many women who work in jobs where they would prefer to not be sexualized at work because they are working with their brains don't have the power or control over their situations some of us do.

For example, I worked with a woman who was a single-mom legal secretary, w/ 7yr old son, severely mentally and physically retarded, who desperately needed the office provided insurance. The person I watched harass her, chose sex as the tool, knowing she was in a week position. It's the same as a child molester choosing the weakest kid around to go after because that kid doesn't have a good support network. Catholic priests come to mind, where there are many cases where they would pick a weaker kid over another stronger one to abuse.

The problem is, the weakest are vulnerable, without protections and standards for behavior. I wish it weren't the case, but I also recognize that when people can abuse someone, sometimes they will. Which brings us back to my point around GGD, which is that people feel bad about speaking out (I'm witnessing all the people telling me in person how upset they are about this GGD dinner/Zivity and yet, I'm one of a few writing or talking about it publicly. I'm trying to get them to blog about, but they are scared of being pinpointed as the woman who whines about this. I don't want to be that either, but someone has to say something).

And people who feel bad about it are often also the ones coerced into doing something they don't want to do... like allowing themselves to be sexualized at work, to be forced to be "hot" first and maybe then be good at their jobs, worth funding, worth hiring for a leadership role. It's unfortunate that we live with that in our culture. But why put women even more in that position, with a Girl Geek Dinner originally to be sponsored by Zivity (sponsorship has now been removed by the founder, as I mentioned above) with Zivity speaking and taking photos.

By going to the dinner, it feels as if you are asked to support and agree with Zivity in this implicit way... to put up with the photos thing (where do the photos go, and you have to ask: who owns them and when do they show up on Zivity's blog to show how cool they are associating with Girl Geeks?). It's just bad for professional women to be put in this position.

What's interesting about Zivity is that they want it both ways: tech company with woman founder, girl geek cred, sort of a "we're just like everyone else so don't segregate us for being in porn" thing, and at the same time, they really work the porn to get as much publicity as possible. Cyan wants geek cred, and wants to take her shirt off for Techcrunch and did their thing at Techcrunh40 where they walked around with company promotion on their breasts and ass. In the end, they are a porn company, and if it's okay for them to sponsor/speak/photograph Girl Geeks, then why isn't it okay for Girls Gone Wild to do the same? And how bout Penthouse and Playboy?

In the 70's Playboy tried to sponsor a lot of women's groups and events, but most wouldn't take the money because those women felt it was "blood money" derived from the objectification of women sexually, and here were those groups trying to make a place for women where they didn't have to be "hot first," where they wouldn't have to be sexualized at work, where they could be successful the way men can be, and it didn't have to be about their bodies first.

So one founder of Zivity is a woman. Have you looked at their team page? Of the three founders, one is a Cyan, but she's not CEO, and there is only one other woman at the company (user experience analyst). It's not like they went out and aggressively hired women engineers. They are like any other porn company.. mostly all men, exploiting women, to make money. They share 80% of their income with the women? How generous.. just a bit more than Suicide Girls. But isn't it really just the same thing?

Posted by Mary Hodder at June 23, 2008 11:50 AM | TrackBack

Right on, Mary. Zivity is trying to use women to abuse women. The most prevalent argument we faced at Gracenet -- a networking group for women in high-tech I founded in the '90s -- when we launched our DisGRACEful Award in Advertising to target and eliminate sexist ads in high-tech media was that a woman had been in charge of developing the ad. That's the same argument racists used to make to sanction slavery by pointing out that slaves were originally kidnapped by other Africans.

Posted by: Sylvia Paull at June 25, 2008 08:32 AM