My Chronicle/SFGate column this week is Web Celebs and My Rainbow-Flag Bikini — tagline, “Violet Blue spanks Leo LaPorte and John Dvorak. Hard.” A reader alerted me earlier this week that I had been dissed on Leo LaPorte’s podcast This Week in Tech (a reader who also wrote an eloquent letter to the show on my behalf, thank you), and when I took a listen, I was stunned to hear a group of tired old men be so juvenile and dismissive about the *four* women on the Web Celeb 25 list — and especially, about me. Snip:
“My goal as a sex educator, writer, culture critic, columnist and tech junkie is to wrap it all up in a fun little ball and change the cultural conversation about sex. To normalize sex. It’s my little plan to change the world. But I’m realizing that with guys like John Dvorak and Leo Laporte around, I’m not going to change the world. Dvorak would have dismissed any female sex writer who made the Forbes list. But it stands out conspicuously in an online tech culture — especially amid blogs, podcasts and vlogs — where we’re all forced to acknowledge that the true currency isn’t deceiving readers to fluff your traffic but is actually the democratic dissemination of information.
The all-male open degradation of women like me (by Dvorak and LaPorte) and silent complicity of Norton and Heron is out of line, yes, but even more conspicuously, it’s out of place. Because that Forbes list, despite the derisive comments made on TWiT, wasn’t made in a lunchroom — it was made from numbers. Web traffic is hysterical, unpredictable, desired, reviled, fickle — but above all, it is pragmatic. You could argue that ‘sex sells,’ but if that were the reality, then the Web Celebs list would have been overstuffed with Jenna Jamesons and Pamela Andersons. This Week in Tech’s recent ‘let’s share the love among men’ gropefest shows more than ever that these dinosaurs are on the outside looking in at popular, sex-positive girl-power outfits like GETV and Boing Boing, and that the Dvoraks and LaPortes are sore about being left behind, clutching their schoolyard insults about girls and sex. Boo-hoo.” Link.
Update: Wow, the email on this is pretty amazing. I wish I had time to answer them all — so here I’ll say, thank you. The thoughtfulness in these emails is stunning and means a lot. Read anonymous comments about this column (positive *and* negative), after the jump.
* * * * * * *
I’ve gotten a significant number of supportive emails from people who have requested anonymity. One quote I’ll excerpt is, “The reason I’m emailing you, though, is just to try to put these guys in some context. As you said, they ARE dinosaurs of a sort. They’re essentially print-based journalists trying desperately to survive in a web world.” And, “It’s nice to see them finally get a little bad press, because they’re all a bunch of entrenched sexist old cronies who think they invented all of this. (…) I won’t be sad to see that whole ‘tech journalism’ industry go away, which is basically pandering to Men’s baser instincts in the way it fetishizes tech, while often objectifying young women who often wouldn’t have a career without their ‘assets’. It’s no wonder these creeps are intimidated by you.”
The one that made it all worth it, of course, was from another of the Forbes list women, who said the TWiT podcast made her feel “so disheartened by this” and continued with, “Your response was brilliant.”
I have also received a number of positive emails from people who have worked with the TWiT crew. One subject line actually read, “my hero”. Meanwhile, on Dvorak’s blog, he’s put out his usual “I’m sorry but not really”. Dvorak is inflammatory and he doesn’t care who he hurts. He disagreed with the Forbes list, and so publicly (now repeatedly) made fun of and insulted the people on the list. Would you do that? And in lockstep on his blog right now, his few rabid fanboys are going to town with the Violet-hate. It’s vicious. They’re clearly enjoying it. Which is exactly why a lot of women won’t openly say stuff like I have.
Emails, all anonymous, any vague bit of personal information redacted with (…) :
Ugh, I felt that TWiT missed the point of the Forbes list. I mean they
called it “Web Celeb 25”, as in “celebrity”. Duh! A big part of the list was
you had to be recognizable and have big numbers. No Jessica Rose didn’t
design and produce Lonelygirl15, but she’s the face. I don’t know what the
guys behind it look like and I don’t care.
Plus! The intro to the list specifically states, “… we first defined “Web
Celeb” as a person famous primarily for creating or appearing in
Internet-based content, and for being highly recognizable to a Web-based
audience. That definition excludes people who were significantly famous
before they hit the Web–like author Arianna Huffington, billionaire Mark
Cuban or journalist Michelle Malkin …” Devorak mentioned these two
specifically in the podcast and in his apology post. He obviously didn’t
I don’t think these guys are purposefully sexist or dismissive, but they’re
not consciously avoiding the cultural attitudes about women’s status and
contributions to tech media either. So they fall back on them.
It is a boys club whether deliberate or not. I love listening to Amber
MacArthur! But they’ve only invited her on TWiT once or twice. Same with
Veronica Belmont from Cnet’s Buzz Out Loud. And Leo is slightly
disrespectful with Amber sometimes. He makes comments sometimes like he’s
talking to a kid and he’s rather presumptuous about her personal life. I’ve
gotten that kind of condescending talk before and it stops me in my tracks.
I get the same feeling when I hear Leo do it to Amber, it creeps me out. I’m
sure some of it comes from the age difference, but fer christ’s sake she’s
my age. Which is the same age as Kevin Rose and the rest of those guys and
he doesn’t talk to them that way. (…)
I wish there was a site that was a combination of Feministing and Digg. All
about tech and women’s involvement, benefit, and examination of it. A place
to critique (or write) all those “investigative” girl-gamer articles. To
call out myths like, “girls don’t like to tinker”.
Anyways, sign me up for the TWaT army.
Just read your blog, and banging out a quick note as I
sip my coffee and get ready for the day.
John Dvorak is an asshole; always has been. I used to
read his columns in (I believe) MacWorld back in the
1980s. He has been, and will continue to be, a fat
old man who only knows how to throw bombs. His shtick
20 years ago was to irk Mac fanciers into a rage (gee,
I think that is is shtick today). This man is the bad
stereotype of a critic: the rare person who gets paid
to sit back and gripe about things, be an armchair
quarterback who *has never played the game*. Consider
him the Rush Limbaugh of Tech, and I think you get an
These old men must be feeling their mojo slip silently
away from their addled brains and their withered
loins, if they need the egoboo by throwing barbs at a
young smart tech girrl. As a lifelong student of
human nature, psychology, love, intimacy, and tech, I
APPLAUD AND RESPECT your blog and your podcasts. I
have said it before, and will say it again – you have
replaced the mindspace once occupied by the original
Playboy Advisor (is he still working? don’t know).
Horray for new media! Heck, your life *represents*
the American Dream of bootstrapping yourself from
humble origins and inventing a better life in our
marketplace of open commerce and free ideas. Don’t
let the bastards get you down.
It’s not easy to find a way to send a private message to Leo Laporte. The forums at twit.tv are only for subscribers (and thus only for fanboys) and there’s no contact email address on any of his websites.
I did manage to find this, however.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: email@example.com < firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Feb 1, 2007 7:09 AM
Subject: [redacted] sent a private message
View [redacted] blog
This is your copy of a message you sent to Leo Laporte
Blog | Profile | Feb 1, 2007 4:09 AM
Congratulations on coming off, in TWiT, like an uptight old-media chauvinist.
Your dismissive comments about the women on the Forbes list are disgraceful. You didn’t read the article to find out how the rankings were created? You didn’t bother to look up the bios of the people you’re talking about?
Violet Blue isn’t “That Porn Person”. And you never met her, or you’d know better.
I expect an apology in the next TWiT, and on Vox.
Shame on you, Leo. I’m disappointed.
Vox is a Six Apart service. ©2007. Six Apart, Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
I loved todays column about those “at the risk of their credibility and believability, still feel obligated to relegate women who are openly sexual to the status of sex work, despite reality?”…out them all, I say!…with their old-boy clubs, undoubtedly bragging about all their conquests over women (and hiding their conquests over men), people like that are the height of hypocrisy!
Wow, I didn’t expect you to turn my email into a column. Or at least I’m assuming you meant me in your blog. The only point I might disagree with you on is your characterization of Patrick Norton and Robert Heron. The initial comment was basically an aside and we can’t be certain that they heard it. I don’t think people should be criticized when it is possible that they had no knowledge of the situation.
I will admit that part of my defense of them is that I have a fondness for Patrick Norton, who can not like a kilt wearing, 12 stepping skate punk?
I dislike narrowmindedness about sex, which is why I pointed the comment out to you and sent my email to Leo. It was not to create even this small amount of drama and I hope the situation didn’t upset you. I love the idea of you and Irina Slutsky (sp?) doing a geek culture podcast together and hope you both have the time and energy to pursue the idea.
You’re awfully defensive about an offhand comment that took up all of
5-10 seconds on a single podcast. To say that an inaccurate
description of you amounts to degradation of all women like you (and
to accuse people who DIDN’T say anything of ‘silent complicity’ when
it’s just as likely that they didn’t know enough to say anything)
speaks volumes about your insecurity with who you are– a trait that
you wouldn’t expect a sex columnist to have.
And the notion that, simply because these two live in the Bay Area,
the Area is not as progressive on sexual matters as you thought
before is downright ludicrous. If you think these guys are repressed,
you obviously haven’t met the vast majority of heterosexual men (and
women!) their age who live around here.
Just because a couple of middle-aged men who have obviously never
read your column inaccurately referred to you as a “porn person”
doesn’t make your work unappreciated, doesn’t make them evil
misogynists, and it certainly doesn’t justify the lame attempt at a
hit piece that made up the bulk of your most recent column. For
someone who deals with ‘mature’ themes so often, you seem like you
need to grow up.
Outside of them not being Forbes employees, damned if the behavior of men isn’t too predictable. Congrats on the Forbes listing, and watch your back. We’ve gotcha covered if need be.
Sadly, tech writing still hasn’t gotten away from that Old Boy/Moose Lodge frathouse mentality. I don’t know if it makes any difference if the guy has a high-tech background or not. Some are blowhards, others are hard-working journalists, but most have a chauvisnistic bent that doesn’t often get prodded into view.
It’s easy to believe that we live in a liberal, sex-positive wonderland, but arch-conservatism runs deep here in the Bay Area, hidden away in gated mansions in places like Hillsborough, Atherton, Pleasanton, Los Altos Hills. Involved in politics on a national level, these right-wing forces do not often reveal themselves locally, but if you attend talks at places like the Hoover Institution, you will see some of the most powerful people in Silicon Valley, including much of the money behind technology.
I hope you don’t feel like you’re tilting at windmills, but you will never change the mindset of the Old Guard.
You can — however — speak for the youth of the world, to the youth of the world.
snip form teh chronic:
“What the list shows is that I’m not necessarily
changing the world; the world is accurately changing
to include women like me.”
…but I would counter by saying that the world could
not change WITHOUT people like you out there. thank
p.s. – TWaT would totally be all up in my RSS
I treasure you articles; witty wordsmithing and accurate sexual and techy info. And I believe you are correct, the idiots are dinosaurs. It’s too bad they won’t turn into oil.
SFGate Article- Well done. Put John Dvorak and Leo LaPorte in their place! Bravo.
Sorry to see those guys dissed you. They definitely did. You’re right, they are part of the Old Boy tech network around here, because they were among the first to get in and clean up on all those columns in the first tech magazines. (…) They don’t like seeing people moving into their turf, whatever that is. Neither of them have any particular genius or gift; they just sniffed an opportunity earlier than a lot of people. But neither of them have ever invented anything; neither of them have ever innovated in anything in their lives; they’re certainly not easy on the eyes (sadly, like guns, video Podcasts are dangerous in the wrong hands); and I sure as Hell would never take investment advice from John Dvorak. Unfortunately, both of those guys are really showing their age. It’s too bad, because I’m not much younger than they but there are too many people like that who ossify in their thinking instead of trying to adjust to new times. (…)
Self-described ‘progressives’ can often be anything but.
I saw your column about sexism in tech on SFGate.
I would LOVE to have you be a guest our show Cranky Geeks, which is hosted
by John C Dvorak. We shoot every Wednesday at 12:30 in our San Francisco
studio. We have an opening on February 14th if you’re available!
We have quite a few women on the show – (since I produce it, and I’m a
female). Today we had Molly Wood, from CNET and Lisa Stone from BlogHer.org
Please come and argue with John if you think he’s a sexist good old boy!
Do Not Change
Granted some of your columns have caused me to wonder how I would feel if my mother were reading them; though that still doesn’t change the fact that I’m very pleased that someone is out there writing the topics you do so that the rest of us continue to be “educated”…
…..And in regards to my own embarassment ~ that’s something I realize originates from my own inhibitions about the topic of sex…
What you provide is healthy, informative and positive…
Keep doing what you do…
I have been reading you for a long time and everytime I’ve opened your
blog I’ve thought about how I long to tell you how much I love your
writing, how I appreciate your thought, your intelligence, your
cutting sensibility to things and society. (and your cuteness…) It’s
been years Violet and I’ve never felt ready to express how your
writing has pleased me, inspired me, made me think dirty dirty things.
I doubt I’ll ever feel ready for expressing my feelings but I wanted
to thank you. And yes, this is a fanmail. You are in my thoughts
everyday and I wish you ultimate happiness in every thing. And
cupcakes, of course! In an alternative universe you’d be in my
highschool and I’d have the biggest crush on you without you ever
Thank you for your writing Violet. I wish you happy days, every day.
nerdgirl from Iceland
Give me a break. First time reader and last time reader. Calling Twit an anti-woman show is like claiming that George Bush is pro-choice. You mean to tell me you’ve got nothing better to do than write about whether you’re deserving to be on Forbes Top 25 list? What is productively gained from voicing that opinion? I think very little and in fact I think you just wasted the time writing the posting. Fortunately, I only spent about five seconds writing a response e-mail.
First let me congratulate you for making the Forbes list!!! Way to go!! It is most refreshing to see a respected, sex positive commentator such as yourself get some serious mac, some serious kudos for your contributions. Second I just adore your SF Gate column, I excitedly await each Thursday!! Your insightful and entertaining writing delights me with every sentence. Your infrmation is right spot on and brings a smile to my face. The fact that you can speak about gay male sex and dildo’s, and good Lesbain porn all in the same breath (not to mention the sexiness of tech geeks), is truly a talent. Thank you so much for being a sexually assertive, forward thinking woman!! Thank you for your column, and thank you for existing!! It is people like you that make the dullness of American culture bearable, because you are a wind for change in such a contensious area as sexuality!! You Rock!
Nothing personal, but you are over-reacting for free
publicity. If the guys at Forbes made a real list
with the real top 25, you wouldn’t be on it. Check
Alexa.com if you want real numbers.
Twit.tv smashes your blog numbers any day. Sorry.
What else can you think of someone like Dvorak other than he is a classic example of a man who objectifies woman? What other reason can one have for being dismissive of another human’s heartfelt work, opinions and accomplishments. It’s worse that that, it’s dehumanizing.
As my Grandmother used to say: “Consider the source.”