April 2009

PayPal Cofounder and Former CEO Outs Himself As A Misogynist Nutbag

Facebook backer and former PayPal CEO Peter Thiel has dropped his pants and let his crazy flag fly, right in front of the entire internet.  In an essay published on the website of the Libertarian think tank The Cato Institute, Thiel bemoans the day that women won the right to vote. 

I should be outraged by this, or at least dismayed.  But the truth is: I laughed.  I couldn't help but laugh.  Thiel's essay is so flamboyantly and earnestly insane that, were its author not worth $1.3 billion, it would be distributed via tattered Xerox copies stapled to light poles. 

The meatiest bit is as follows:

Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women - two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians - have rendered the notion of "capitalist democracy" into an oxymoron.

Gardasil Saves Women's Lives, But That's Not Enough For Some People (OMG SEX)

Dr. Ben Goldacre, one of my personal heroes, recently published an editorial in The Guardian about the two-facedness of Daily Mail articles regarding Gardasil, the HPV vaccine. In its English edition, the Daily Mail is screaming scare tactics about the vaccine, publishing accounts of bad vaccination reactions as though they were at all representative or even statistically significant. However, in the Irish edition, the Daily Mail is heavily promoting the HPV vaccine. This despite the fact that the Irish government refuses to fund the vaccine. This is just the latest in a long line of controversy over Gardasil. A controversy which makes me want to set my head down on my desk and close my eyes, just for a few minutes. Here are the facts: 1. Gardasil is a vaccine against HPV (Human Papilloma Virus). HPV causes genital warts, and some strains are responsible for about 70% of cervical cancer.

The "Observe And Report" Date Rape Thing

I have been quietly observing the fracas over the infamous "date rape is funny" scene in Seth Rogan's new movie. At this point, I'm more interested in the discussion itself. A lot of people are arguing that "it's just a joke in a stupid movie; calm down." I would direct these people to read the comments on just about any given article on the movie scene. The problem isn't the scene itself, but that so many people feel that the actions therein are perfectly acceptable. Here's an excellent example, pulled at random from a Huffington Post comment thread, by user keerod76:
When I watched the movie on Friday I didn't think of it as a date rape scene. It reminded me of when I hooked up with girl and we were both drunk out of our minds.
Indeed. What I'm seeing is a trend: not only do many women think "rape can never happen to me," many men think "I could never commit rape." But they then fail to understand what "consent" really means.


British columnist Victoria Coren takes aim this week at celebrities who discuss the details of their diets, and the media which insists on asking for the details of their diets, and how this creates a culture that only enforces dietary panic:
You or I might read about a Hollywood star explaining: "I kick off the day with an egg-white omelette, a banana for elevenses, a salad for lunch and a piece of grilled fish in the evening" and think that the lady is advertising a strict regime. But no. That is a film star trying to convince us that she lives life to the full, stuffing herself constantly with delicious treats.
Coren contends that celebrities are functionally anorexic, which of course makes a person obsessed with food. "If a supermodel tells you she eats sushi, that is because it's the most fattening thing she can think of." (Note: I am drawing a distinction between "functionally anorexic" and "clinically anorexic," although I admit that there may not be one.

Penelope Trunk Takes On "Women Only" Lists

I've been a fan of Penelope Trunk's blog for a while now. She's the CEO of a small start-up, a serial entrepreneur, and she writes about women's issues with relation to the business world with candor and experience. I don't always agree with Trunk's conclusions, but I always find her posts to be interesting, entertaining, and thought-provoking. Today she takes things a step further than her usual fare, and takes aim at the phenomenon of "Women Only." She begins by assessing the photo ops of the wives of the men involved in the G-20 Summit.
"What about the two women in the G-20? Do we put their husbands in the midst of this group of women? No. It would look insane."
This article is an excellent example of Penelope Trunk's interesting and often controversial take on the world. Trunk has staunchly advised against joining groups dedicated to promoting women - networking groups, business groups, career advice groups, and so forth.

You're Not Pretty Enough: Photo Retouching

Feminist blog Shakesville has been working on a hefty series of posts about retouched photos in fashion magazines, emphasizing the point that not only are YOU not pretty enough - neither are the models that the magazines hire. No one is pretty enough for the fashion magazines. Not Cate Blanchette, not Jennifer Lopez, not Reese Witherspoon. No one. Oh and by the way, according to the fashion magazines, apparently all black people are "too black." The fashion magazine industrial machine has come to a point where it has consumed its natural prey (women) and now must reach farther to feed itself, into the realm of the entirely unreal. The recent New York Times opinion piece, "Sex, Lies, and Photoshop" by documentary filmmaker Jesse Epstein, underscores this issue by interviewing several professional retouchers.

Stepping Off the Bus: My Life In Tech

A lot of people are wondering why the educational system and corporate high tech world are losing women at transitional stages. Obviously I can't speak for everyone, but for me the answer is that after ten years working at high tech start-ups, I took the next transition as the perfect opportunity to step out. I'd had enough. At a certain point, I just got off the bus at the next stop it made. The only obvious misogyny I can think of is that back when I was fielding customer calls, about once a month a man would ask me to transfer them "to the Unix department." To their credit, when I explained that I was the Unix department, they were universally sheepish. I received marriage proposals at about the same rate, although to be fair, so did my male coworkers. And I feel that as a rule, my coworkers always treated me fairly. The hardest part for me was the alienation. Few girls do Linux, and fewer still do Unix. For ten years, I was "the girl." The only female in a department of 5, 10, 50, 200. That's no exaggeration. At one point in my career, I was the only female on an entire floor of about 200 men. They were nice, the men.