Sexist, Sexist and More Sexist: Digg Responds to Fast Company's Women in Web 2.0

"Insert female porn star name here," "You can probably fit a bus in her vag," "There are no women on the Internet." The responses elicited by Fast Company's Women in Web 2.0 article on Digg prove that sexism in Silicon Valley is alive and kicking.

It's been one week since the country elected its first black president. All eyes are on America. Words like hope, change and forward thinking are being bandied about like never before. The US is a developed country right? Obama in office is proof of just how developed right? America can once again settle comfortably back into its undisputed position as world leader yes? After all, the nation sets an example for the rest of the world, particularly countries in which equal rights are not yet affirmed. Right?

Wrong. Racism may be off the map for now, but the US, just like everywhere else in the world has a long way to go. For one thing, the country is still rife with sexism.

I come from a developing country and have grown up watching women unquestioningly take a back seat to men. For years I've heard stories of women being beaten by their husbands, female fetuses being aborted or worse yet female babies being killed, widows being forced to burn themselves on the funeral pyres of their dead husbands, acid being thrown at women by rejected suitors, exorbitant dowry demands compelling young girls' families to sell everything but the clothes on their backs. Coming from a big city, I've never encountered any of this myself, but knowing that I lived in a country in which thousands of others did was sobering.

Then I came here. I went to school at the nation's oldest women's college, Mount Holyoke. I saw a breed of woman I had never seen before -- tough, intelligent, determined and passionate. And as I looked at this country through the eyes of an immigrant, I saw a world of possibility that defied barriers of age, race, caste and especially sex that I had grown up hearing about. Sexism, it seemed, had faded into a very distant shadow from the past. But college ended, I moved on, and I eventually meandered into the untrammeled world that is the Web. The walls came down, the masks came on and the politically correct BS I had so willingly bought into dissipated into thin air.

Yesterday, an article I wrote on the most influential women in web 2.0 went up on FastCompany.com. The comments it elicited on Digg were unprecedented. (Update: Digg's founder Kevin Rose emailed me after I posted this blog to say that his team is in the process of deleting any comments on this article that violate the site's terms of use. So the comments I highlighted may not all still appear.) A few applauded the list, a few critiqued it and offered others they thought should have been featured, but the overwhelming majority went like this:

seantubridy
Do her... Wouldn't do her... Wouldn't do her... Do her... Do her... Wouldn't do her... Wouldn't do her... Ugh, who hasn't done her? Wouldn't do her... Do her... Argghh!

zoydberg
not the chicks from 2 girls 1 cup?

Scootie
"insert female porn star name here"

smallchaz
The most influential woman in 2.0 is a man.

Huangism
is any girl that will show some skin

wassim2k
You can probably fit a bus in her vag.

chaosatom333
I'd hit each one of them.

MacintoshMan
There are no women on the Internet.

Humdain
"Do her, do her, Oh who hasn't done her, do her, lose the pigtails and we'll talk"

What is it about the online space that brings out not only the best, but the absolute worst in people? Where are all these people in real life? Do they just never leave their holes, I mean homes? Or are they people I run into all the time -- at work, on the subway, at a bar downtown or at Starbucks?

The first thought that comes to mind whenever I run into ugliness like this is the New Yorker cartoon: "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." The comfortable anonymity offered by the Web allows people, in this case men, to say whatever it is they actually think deep down. And their feelings are incontrovertibly sexist. These are the same people we all run into in real life. But in the offline world, like the Ku Klux Klan when their masks are put away, it's hard to tell who's who. Men offline would never dare claim ownership to the ludicrous statements they so freely spout on the Web.

Where do these feelings stem from? Is it bitterness, callousness, loneliness, boredom, resentment or a genuine belief that women are inadequate? Digg is an Internet forum so perhaps this isn't all that serious. But then again, it's THE Internet forum and it's a fairly good indication of what people are thinking.

Admittedly, the list FastCompany.com came up with is not perfect. The word "influential" like other adjectives is subjective. We anticipated disagreement and disgruntlement. We expected some names to be disputed, and others to be offered up. Sheryl Sandberg, Charlene Li, Susan Mernit, Tara Hunt, Angie Chang, Jane Hu, Mary Hodder, Anastasia Goodstein and Allyson Kapin are just some of the names we considered for the list and eventually rejected -- not because they aren't important or influential, but because they didn't fit the very specific criteria we had decided upon for the purposes of this list.

To clarify, as the introduction to the piece clearly states, "our list wasn't chosen by star power, nor by career altitude." Rather, we judged each candidate on a single criterion: has she definitively changed the way we interact online? Some of these women gave us new tools to speak to one another. Others put those tools in more people’s hands. Still others are thought leaders, attempting to simplify and enhance how we interact online. We offered you these names knowing our list would spark debate.

When I initially decided to look into doing a piece on women in the world of Web 2.0, I talked to several people in my quest for an angle. One recurring theme that emerged was how hard it is for women to make it in Web 2.0.

"It's a heck of an interesting proposition to raise money from angel investors. You have to bring a guy with you whether it's a 16 yr old you saw on the street or your grandfather. It's sad but true," said Dina Kaplan of blip.tv when I asked her about how women were progressing in her field.

"There are definitely some women who have emerged like Gina Bianchini from Ning. But the blogosphere is where you hear so much about web 2.0 and it is very male dominated. There's still a lot of sexism there. There are perceptions and stereotypes and roles we play into. I'm thinking about Sarah Lacey being targeted at South by Southwest and Cathy Sierra being targeted for no other reason that I can think of except her gender. They attacked her and bullied her. I don't know why it's so hard for women to gain visibility in this space," said Anastasia Goodstein who writes YPulse, a blog about youth marketing to teens and tweens.

"There are so many women pioneers in this field, but the press doesn't cover them. Tech reporters at the New York Times and the Washington Post tend to cover the same handful of men they view as pioneers instead of looking outside the box," said Allyson Kapin, the founder and organizer of Women Who Tech.

"In Silicon Valley, everything is fluid and temporary. There are no employers or employees as such. With no tradition here, we're losing the opportunity to develop a better social structure. People make ridiculous remarks to women and there's no oversight. Silicon Valley is all about getting eyeballs and numbers for your product, money. That structure is never going to support good behavior between those who are the defaults (the white males) and everyone else. It's an environment that's very supportive when it comes to developing new technologies but is otherwise not supportive of anyone but the default. Silicon Valley has always been full of very brash, young experimental crazy thinking people. The role for young men to be mentored by older men who when they go too far just doesn't exist," said Mary Hodder, founder of video site Dabble.

She went on to talk about the difficulty of securing VC funding as a woman: "I think it's fair to say that one of the reasons I had such a hard time getting funding was because I didn't have a business partner. There's no sole woman out there getting funding. Even BlogHer consists of multiple women… It's really difficult for a woman to get funding -- unless you're willing to take your shirt off on TechCrunch. I just don't think we should have to do that."

I listened to it all, and then made a decision. This article would focus on the things that have been achieved, rather than the challenges that still exist. Because the world can say what they will, women are doing some amazing work on the Web, and they're doing this despite a wide variety of difficulties -- raising funds, being hired and promoted, gaining technical experience, and being taken seriously -- that men just do not have to grapple with. They deserve to be acknowledged for their work, and for their courage.

Add New Comment

116 Comments

  • Anonymous

    John's death was SO crash

    "John" is actually Paulie Carbone, who died July 10th 2007 in a fucking idiotic street racing accident where he and his idiot friend sprayed their combined 2 oz. of brains over the pavement of mountainside street in Jersey. Since his death was SO cash, his friends and family immediately created several shitty videos on YouTube with shitty songs. Because you don't fucking mourn by posting vids on YouTube visible for everyone, Anonymous, as the good-hearted person he is, offered the Carbones his condolences (video has been removed) NEW VIDEO ANONYMOUS DOES NOT FORGET at the comments page resulting in Paulie's mom getting a heavy period and going crazy in the comments herself.

    "every thing you write will be deleted if you want to say something come say it to my face pauls father would like to meet you oh also his uncle and friends and etc so keep it up come on fucking scumbag with the big mouth come say it to us so i can have you head protruding from your anus oh wait is already is with all the shit you say dirtbag i will be waiting that goes for all writing nasty comments come say it to me his mother who lost her only child also have your parents come meet me"

    -pauliecmom

    "YOU RELLY NEED TO STOPP NOW.. YOUR ALL JUST JEALOUS COZ HE WAS LOVED BY ALOT OF PEOPLE ND YOUR A WORTHLESS PiECE OF SHiT ND TRUST ME YOU DNT WANT US TO FiND YOU COZ TRUST ME YOULL HAVE TO BE HOSPiTALiZED.. GET A LiFE SCUMBAGS =]"
    - mariaNpaulie

  • Anonymous

    Hey guys,

    My name is Jenna, and I'm asking every single one of you to help me. My boyfriend is this skinny, greasy-haired guido who spends every second of his day looking at his stupid ass hair. He is everything bad with today's youth. Honestly, do all men brag about having fucked their "bitches" last night? I mean, I guess it's because of peer pressure and trying to be accepted, but he takes it to a whole new level. This is even worse than drinking beer all day and listening to Heavy Metal.

    Don't ignore me. Please, help me. I'm pretty much desperate. I was a regular at the literature club, and vice-president of the science club. I also had a thing for classical music? I used to get straight A's, that is, before I met him (He just made me blow him; Shit was SO gross). He's a faggot, and I want to kill him. Please help me!

    Pic Related: It's me.

  • Anonymous

    Hey Faggots,

    My name is John, and I hate every single one of you. All of you are fat, retarded, no-lifes who spend every second of their day looking at stupid ass pictures. You are everything bad in the world. Honestly, have any of you ever gotten any pussy? I mean, I guess it's fun making fun of people because of your own insecurities, but you all take to a whole new level. This is even worse than jerking off to pictures on facebook.

    Don't be a stranger. Just hit me with your best shot. I'm pretty much perfect. I was captain of the football team, and starter on my basketball team. What sports do you play, other than "jack off to naked drawn Japanese people"? I also get straight A's, and have a banging hot girlfriend (She just blew me; Shit was SO cash). You are all faggots who should just kill yourselves. Thanks for listening.

    Pic Related: It's me and my bitch

  • Anonymous

    The "shit was SO cash" copypasta appeared on 4chan's /b/ sometime in mid-to-late 2007, as a picture of a typical Guido fuck with his girlfriend mocking nerdy basement-dwellers. Said guido was Paulie Carbone, a young man whose early death was mourned by relatives with heartfelt internet videos. Like gay bees to semen-flavored honey, the denizens of 4chan gobbled up this salty load of copypasta with smiles on their faces, and it spread like fail wildfire AIDS in a closed pool.

    At first this forced meme was seen as a typical example of the cancer that is killing /b/; a typical piece of unfunny copypasta like any other. However as the original text was spammed relentlessly, chemo was performed on it, and many lulzy variations were created of the original load of copypasta, complete with an image and the variant text, making it notable for being one of the few memes to go from fail to a level of win. John, the protagonist of the original copypasta, is also dead IRL.

    The failed meme has been briefly revived in the current SOHH projects. Typical use of the meme now involves the spelling "SOHH CASH". This is to reference the numerous idiots niggers on the SOHH.com forums who foolishly and blatantly challenged 4chan/ /b/ /Anonymous to an internet war welfare match.

    It may be interesting to note that it is currently under debate as to whether John's original copypasta was not the successful efforts of a troll who happened upon said "Paul Carbone" memorial page on MySpace. This is largely due to the fact that the death date of Mr. Cash and the birth-date of the delicious copypasta appear to cross each other in the gray area.

  • Anonymous

    Just like there are no girls on the internet, it is common knowledge that there are also no black people on the internet. Whether this is due to the fact that there typically aren't internet connections in cotton fields or whether computers are beyond the average ape, this simple statement has given internet savvy races free reign over treatment of blacks on the tubes. Certain political or social groups revel in that circumstance and create tons of laughably poor-quality web sites where they carry on crazy-assed, one-sided conversations about the evils of niggerdom. Their absence, and hence inability to defend themselves, has made them the center of countless memes, image macros, and hilarious videos.
    Further Evidence
    BITCH WUT CHU MEAN NO MO CHIKINZ?!?!11
    BITCH WUT CHU MEAN NO MO CHIKINZ?!?!11


    [this game] Looks pretty crap so far, i was hoping for non-urban settings like hanging out in a farm house with zombies crawling over fields and ditches.And did i see a n1gger in a screenshot? There are no niggers on the internet and niggers dont play games, so who wants to play as a n1gger anyway?

    —Ulfus, on niggas in vidya games

    Also
    This looks shopped
    This looks shopped

    How come you never see any black goths?


    There are no black goths. There are no black people on the internet.

    —Ouroboros

  • Anonymous

    You can try to outrun her, but she's faster than the fastest man. And if you leave your home while she's knocking on your door, she won't be so courteous when she catches up to you.

    Now the man was certain that this thing had killed his sister, that he had tried to tell the police, but they would not listen. Next he had tried to tell his priest, but the priest turned him away when he saw that the thing was following him now - oh, that's right, I forgot about that - it can only get you if you tell someone else about it, or you saw it kill someone else. The man, after finishing his tale, stole a car from the mission, and was never seen again."

    Apparently his mother and father had immediately called his aunt about this when it happened. They were found in the morning, skinned and dismembered. Their bodies were covered in tiny, child-like handprints."

    His aunt was really drunk the night before, and had told him about that. He told me this story early in the morning today at school, before the cops arrived. His aunt had been murdered that night. I called him later that night, and he told me that he was being chased by someone, and now they were knocking on his door. I told him to stop shitting me.

    He held the phone away from his face for a minute, and I could hear slow, deliberate knocking. A moment later, I heard the door rip from its hinges and the dying screams of my friend.

    Then a little girl's voice spoke over the line: "WITNESS." I hung up.

    Three minutes ago someone started knocking on my door. She has to knock 28 times on my front door, 28 times on the mirror in the hall, and another 28 times on the door to my bedroom. She's doing it slowly... I think she wants to scare me some more, let me know that my death is just moments away. I will not run - I couldn't get to my car in time anyway. She started knocking on my bedroom door a minute ago, she should be done any moment.

    Nice knowing you guys, it's been fuy5
    WITNESS

  • Anonymous

    I'm an Alpha male /b/.

    And girls want to fuck alpha males. Let it piss you off as much as you want, but you know it's completely true. That girl you like who is kinda cute in a weird way, but is totally sweet and you have the biggest crush on? The one who keeps going back to guys who treat her wrong for reasons you don't understand? The one who calls you up at 1 am to cry about how her boyfriend hasn't called her in 3 days, and no matter how long you listen to her, she'll never think of you as anything other than asexual? The one who will curl up next to you on the couch, hug you close, kiss you on the cheek, and never let you fucking touch her beyond that?

    Yeah, I'm fucking her.

    The hot girl who won't even look at you when you nod at them and smile? The one who laughs when you trip in the hallway and drop your stuff? The one who comes up and coyly asks for your help with her homework, and then pretends you don't exist once you finish?

    Yeah, I'm fucking her too, even harder.

    The geeky girl you think might be enough like you that you have a chance with her? She plays warcraft on your server, and watches anime, and reads comics? She's so incredible and you just love her so much but you still haven't worked up the courage to tell her how you feel about her?

    Guess who just sucked me off and told me they'll always love me?

  • Anonymous

    Kool-Aid, not to be confused with Kool-AIDS, was invented by the Reverend Jim Jones in the late 1970s, in all food groups (red, urnge, green, blue, and turkwise) as a way to experience spiritual enlightenment, as well as quench thirst. OH YEAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Although hugely popular, sales of Kool-Aid suffered a setback after it was found that a batch was laced with cyanide, killing 913 residents of Jonestown, Guyana. OH YEAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!! BTW, Jones used Flavor Aid in his mass suicide, not Kool Aid. Only niggers drink Kool Aid, niggas always need mo Kool-Aid.

    Sometime in the 1980s, some douche made this comic.

    These days Kool-Aid is only drunk by black people and zealots. OHHHHHHH YEAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

    Kool-aid also is a metaphor that means drinking a mind altering drug that makes you get into liberalism.

    Family Guy recently realized that the Kool-Aid guy was the subject of the only funny joke they've ever made, and decided to pointlessly re-use it verbatim. Seth McFarlane has confirmed that all future episodes of Family Guy will consist solely of flashbacks to the aforementioned joke, interspersed with Stewie making sexual innuendos for fan service. OH YEAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

    LOL DISREGARD EVERYTHING I SUCKS COCKS!!! (Flavor-aide is the thirst-quencher of choice for Jim Jones.)

  • Anonymous

    /b/, You have a huge crush on this girl. She's cute, hot, funny, smart, playful, fun, etc. Bad news though: you're in the friend zone. Hardcore. You guys hang out a lot, you may even cuddle when you watch movies, but that's it. You want more and she sees you as totally asexual. Everyone on /b/ has been where I'm describing.

    Well, /b/, I've finally come up with a solution: drugs. Let me explain.

    Put 5 milligrams of oxycodone in her food/drink/etc. It's not enough to get her high, but she'll still be in an amazing mood and won't know why. She'll have a continuous warm fuzzy feeling in her stomach the entire time you're hanging out. Do this every time you hang out with her. After 3 dates, she'll be convinced that she has fallen in love with you. After she comes forward with it, stop dosing her and the placebo effect will do the rest.

    Enjoy your dream-come-true, /b/.

  • Anonymous

    I watched this whole program on National Geographic entitled 'The Dark Side of Dolphins' and let me tell you, dolphins are total assholes. So here's the deal, male dolphins travel in packs of two. These males want to get laid, and so they trap a female between them and keep her captive for up to a month, having sex with her as they please. If she tries to get away, they will beat her with their snouts and fins. When you see large groups of them it's just a bunch of these two packs of males joining together to keep captive a few females so that they can gang rape her. The females hate it and try to get away but then get beaten up. If and when the female gives birth she won't want to have sex while protecting her young, and so males will gang up and try in some instatnces to kill the baby inorder to have sex with the mother. Bottom line, dolphins are assholes. According to marine biolgoists dolphins could have normal courtship and sex, but the males choose not to they prefer gang rape. Dolphins are assholes.

  • Anonymous

    you shut your face you nigger loving pile of intestinal feces, ill rip your bowels out and feast on them, then i'll impregnate your girlfriend and wait 7 months then unravel her belly button and suck out all the vaginal discharge and feast upon the baby. i will fornicate your liver, then make you guzzle gallon after gallon of putrid diarrhea. you will gag on my green logs of asshole mud butter

  • Anonymous

    You see, Bob Barker was in New Jersey with a 42 year old woman. At any rate, Bob and this Jersey broad, told the Jersey broad's teenaged kids to throw pennies at hasidic jews. A cop saw it, and bid on door number one. Bob Barker had him castrated... he now goes by the moniker "High Pitched Eric." The rest is history.