Listing "web hunks" is sexist and does no-one any favours

Here is a list of 10 “web hunks“, showing men who are successful technology entrepreneurs or bosses and who are also, according to the article, “hotties”. Lucky them.

Usually anything that focuses on the way men look is treated rather gently. First of all, it doesn’t happen that often. Second of all, it happens to women all the time. Their appearance is immediately, and disproportionately, focused on, despite the fact that they might have a long list of achievements that are far more important than their looks (see the recent Techcrunch post on Israeli tech women, and its collection of lovely comments).

But if the boot was on the other foot, and a list of ten female “web hotties” was published, it would (quite rightly) be criticised. It’s probably a little optimistic to demand that people’s looks are completely disregarded – I wish it was achievable, but it’s probably not. But these men are not actors, singers or models – they’re businessmen and techies, and presenting them according to how “hot” they are undermines them and their achievements, same as it would if it was ten women.

It also encourages the idea that it’s ok to appraise everyone like this. If it’s ok to judge men by their looks, then it’s ok to do it to women (so the argument will go). It doesn’t do anyone any favours.

This is symptomatic of a wider, general movement to a bigger focus on what men look like. Instead of things getting better for women – the pressure is still as strong as ever – it’s just getting worse for men. There are more adverts selling male beauty products and more articles like the one linked to above. There’s still a huge gap between what women have got to put up with compared to men, but we’re heading in the wrong direction.

Thanks to Steve Jackson, who is on Twitter @ourman, for sending me the link to this.



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Thanks for the "@ourman" mention.

I guess my next question is - how would you react to a website that was "a place for men in IT" dealing exclusively with exclusively mail IT issues?

Wouldn't a website - based on an industry - but aimed only at a single in itself, sexist?

Shouldn't your own website be...a place for people interested in equality in IT?

Just a thought.

I obviously meant..."exclusively male" - not interested in anything post related.

The reason this blog is "a place for women in IT" is because the tech industry is SO male dominated. This is why organisations like Girl Geek Dinners have been started. Women, as a minority, face a range of issues that men dont face. The existence of a site like this is not, in itself, sexist. It would be sexist if we were saying "women are better" and "all men are rubbish". But we're not - we're looking at why women are a minority, how this affects the women who do work in tech, and how it might be overcome. It's assumed that everyone who reads or writes for it IS interested in equality. In answer to the question "how would you react to a website that was "a place for men in IT" dealing exclusively with exclusively male IT issues?" ....if men were in the minority, and had been for decades, and had suffered discrimination, harassment and alienation as a result, then no, I would not think the site you describe would be sexist. I think it would a necessary part of getting them on to an equal level.

However we are interested in posts, views and opinions from men, and as such it's not really an exclusively female blog. It's just interested in issues that affect women. I should probably write an intro somewhere, explaining this. sorry very long answer

Not so long...and very interesting.

I think I have mentioned this to you before but I used to work in an female dominated PR company. They would have girls nights out which was everyone except me.

I also used to work in a newspaper with a female editor who hosted "glass ceiling" club with the female staff which had the stated aim of fast tracking women into more positions of power.

This was done during working hours, involved tea and cakes (which we could see being consumed from the other side of the editor's glass office walls) and was a device aimed at replacing senior male executives with female staff. During these meetings these males workers were having to work twice as hard just to get the paper out with female half of the workforce away eating cake.

I don't understand why you believe it is okay to be "exclusive" (in the opposite to inclusive sense) if the people being exclusive are a minority.

I recall the whites in South Africa being a minority but no one would argue that their "white's only" policy was fair.

And okay, so you will argue that yes, but the whites had the power, and you are right.

But what I am saying is that whatever lines your draw as an excuse for exclusion - it is still exclusion. It can't be the unarguable right of a minority to exclude others.

It can't be the right of a minority to make blanket statements about the majority. Minorities should get equal rights...not special rights.

It seems to me that anyone who wants inclusiveness should practice inclusiveness. That seems like common sense to me.

If you want the barriers to go - then stop building them.

The female editor you wrote for obviously went about boosting women in totally the wrong way - by deliberately pushing down men. I'd never be interested in doing that. She sounds sexist herself, and I probably would have made a complaint about behaviour like that.

I'm going to quote you so I know I've covered everything

"I don't understand why you believe it is okay to be "exclusive" (in the opposite to inclusive sense) if the people being exclusive are a minority."

I don't think we are being exclusive. Men are welcome to comment and discuss, and post if they want to approach us. The fact that some women are seriously affected by sexism does not make us exclusive if we decide to discuss it. The issues are there, they exist, and women are being put at a disadvantage because of them. Us discussing it does not make us anti-men, or exclusive of men.

"I recall the whites in South Africa being a minority but no one would argue that their "white's only" policy was fair."

In comparison, we would never argue technology should be "women only". They were racist. We are not sexist. Minorities can discuss issues that are pertinent to just them, and support each other, without actually wanting to exclude or push down other social groups.

"Minorities should get equal rights...not special rights"

I completely agree with you. We wouldn't argue for special rights. Women probably have equal rights in the UK workplace (on paper at least), but there are other areas in which they are not equal.

"It seems to me that anyone who wants inclusiveness should practice inclusiveness. That seems like common sense to me." As I said, I think we do practice inclusiveness. Tackling problems that specifically affect women does not make us exclusive. If there were problems that only affected men in tech, then we would discuss them too. We'd set up another blog or something. It's not like we're saying that only women are allowed to talk about sexism. In fact we NEED men to talk about it and engage, because things wont change with out them on board.

"If you want the barriers to go - then stop building them."

I dont see how we are building up barriers. The way I see it, we are trying to highlight the barriers: the barriers to entry into the industry, the barriers to doing well, the barriers to feeling comfortable in your job and like you are progressing. If we ignore the problems (the barriers), that wont make them go. By talking about them, engaging in debate and inviting both criticism as well as agreement, that's how you get rid of these problems. Ignoring them and pretending they're not there is what's happened for years...they *need* to be talked about!

(really very long that time!)

How come I'm not on this list... gutted. I mean come on Bobby Halliwell, I must be hotter than him, right!

But seriously I understand the sentiments about why we should disregard people's looks and only concentrate on achievements. And I believe that the reality is that to get ahead in business (apart from maybe TV, film and porn industries) looks are just not important - it is achievements, experience, potential and character that are far more important.

So a list of who's hot, is for me a bit, well who cares, but that doesn't mean I won't look, because whether we like it or not, its human nature to be interested in how hot people are - that is part of our DNA.

It doesn't have any bearing on how successful you'll be though, that's down to our ability and character.

Well I have to say I'm absolutely gutted I'm not on the list, I mean, come one surely I'm hotter than Toby Halliwell?

Seriously though I do take your point about judging people on their ability rather than looks and think that by and large in business that is what happens. I accept their are some industries that are driven more by looks than others (TV, film and porn) come to mind, but outside of those I don't think looks come into it. In business what makes someone successful is their skills, their experience, their motivation and their personality, not looks.

So surely we shouldn't take a poll like this too seriously....when it comes to business, if you don't have the right quota of the above, you ain't going to succeed however good-looking you are.

In my view we will always be interested in polls, like the one you mention here, due to human nature.

It's in our nature, perhaps more so for men than women, to be interested in people's looks, that's part of our DNA, its biological, if it wasn't the world would stop turning.

So a poll like this means nothing, but people will look at it, and that's human nature.