When Vanessa Grigoriadis's Vanity Fair story about female power Twitter users she deemed "Twilebrities" went online the other day, the women in the story freaked out about it. So did their friends. What's the big deal?
In the piece, Grigoriadis called Twitter "a utilitarian vehicle for ambitious extroverts, without previous distinction, to become digital superstars... Each day, these women speed easily across the Twitformation Superhighway on their iPhones and laptops, leaving droppings in their wake: "getting highlights before class," "I hrd u had fun!," "Wah, missing my twittr time!"" She quotes publicist Sarah Evans calling Twitter "a giant cocktail party, every day," and web actress Felicia Day (pictured, on a recent trip to Hawaii) saying that the "tools for success have been democratized. It's just me and whoever wants to talk to me, wherever they are in the world." The six women featured—social strategist Julia Roy, who works for Coach; Evans; travel journalist Stefanie Michaels (aka "Adventure Girl"); Day; lifecaster and online host Sarah Austin; and marketer Amy Jo Martin, whose company The Digital Royalty coordinates social media strategy for celebrities—were photographed bare-legged, wearing trench coats and stilettos.
On CNET, social media writer Caroline McCarthy called the article "completely off key." GeekWeek blogger Kiala Kazebee wrote, "THESE ARE SERIOUS REAL WOMEN VANITY FAIR." Day herself blogged that "what really ENRAGED me what the general tone, which artfully made intelligent, articulate women sound vapid and superficial" (though she admits that "for a few hours during the photo shoot it was like a dream come true").
But is it possible the women portrayed want to have it both ways? They agreed to a photo shoot where they appear to be naked under a trench coat. They call themselves "girls"—not women—on their Twitter pages and blogs. It implies that using sexuality and "girliness" for personal and professional gains is fine, as long as it's on their own terms. Grigoriadis is being attacked for not "getting" that these women are SERIOUS REAL WOMEN, but I think her argument is that these women are incredibly serious—about gaining influence and power in a new medium in a way that also takes advantage of their attractiveness (in every sense of the word).
So, ladies, own it! Accept that you have a will to power that is based partly on your ability to exploit your sexuality. And you know what? That's fine. It doesn't undermine your professional achievements.
I asked Vanessa what she thought about the outsized, outraged response her article had generated. She responded: "Twitter is obviously an awesome tool conceptually and in aggregate. But it's gotten a free ride in the media in the past six months, and I was trying to poke a little fun at the quest for power on it, which can be kind of absurd. I didn't expect to be frisked by the Twitter police for it."