Today, freelancer Luke Winkie wrote a little thing assigned to him by Complex entitled "The 40 Hottest Women in Tech." It was a list, you see, or really, a 40-image slide show of totally bangable women who work "in technology," (which includes, uh, hosting television shows, "New York City Government," and YouTube). The tagline reads, "Our digital beauties." The post begins:
Technology has been a boy's club for most of its existence. Just another unfortunate repercussion of the patriarchy. But that's been slowly changing, and over the last decade we've seen a number of wonderful, intelligent, and cunning women make inspiring strides in the field of technology. Through web development, social media, space exploration, and video game design, we see the world of tech becoming a more equal playing field. Here are 40 women we admire doing work in the field of innovation.
So what happened next? Sonic boom. All sorts of women who make you go "Awoooga!" [open mouth, tongue unrolls] were included in this roundup—New York Times writer Jenna Wortham, Lifehacker founder Gina Trapani, Boing Boing blogger Xeni Jardin—and it's fair to say that most of them did not take kindly to the, uh, honor:
Also, to editors of that website: did you not see I am bald, and missing a breast+other body parts? The lulz, they’re on you. #sexycancer— Xeni Jardin (@xeni) March 22, 2013
This week I was called every obscenity in the book, then included on a hottest women in tech list. I think it's time to get offline now.— Gina Trapani (@ginatrapani) March 22, 2013
Not that anyone else on Twitter liked the piece. A hailstorm of angry tweets responded to the piece, while several tech pundits, many of whom were included in the roundup, created a hilarious Branch (a conversation platform meets YelpKidz) called Hot Women in Tech. It's wonderful, and if you haven't seen it yet, go now.
Elsewhere, Luke Winke was spazzing out on Twitter, possibly because his ex-girlfriend was sub-tweeting him (take it to a 2am drunk fight outside a bar, guys.), responding to angry messages the way a kid caught by a teacher drawing Anarchy symbols on his locker in sharpie would, with a very whatEVER 'tude.
@kttykatie if you were still my facebook friend you'd see the real storyyyyyy— Luke Winkie (@luke_winkie) March 22, 2013
such is life in the machine— Luke Winkie (@luke_winkie) March 22, 2013
What was the "the real storyyyyyy"? Winke answered the question himself in a rambling explanation on TwitLonger. The whole spluttering thing is included here:
I was assigned to write the 50 Hottest Women in Tech by Complex and it really bummed me out, because the idea of perpetrating the same old gender divisions in an area like tech - which has predominantly been a boy's club throughout history - seemed like kind of a messed up thing to do. It represents the most banal form of internet content that exists. But it's hard to say no to a paycheck.
So what I tried to do was see if it was possible to make something called "The 50 Hottest Women in Tech" earnest and empowering and an actual good thing. I pretty much only included normal looking women, who were involved in something really crucial or exciting in the tech space. I made no allusions to their looks in the blurbs, and ended up with simply a long list of very exciting women.
Of course when the piece actually ran, I discovered that over half of the women I had included were replaced with people like Morgan Webb, complete with the usual lascivious dialogue. Sigh. It's hard to win when you're writing for Complex, but please know that I tried.
You see, what Luke had intended to write was not the infuriating garble we have here, but something that congratulated the women of tech for being such smart, empowering, (ahem) "normal"-looking humans. What woman wouldn't want to hear she looks "normal"?
Except that Winkie chose to condescend to these women—to all women really—by a) accepting this turd of an assignment in the first place and b) opening it with a collective pat on the head to a group of women who are smarter and better at their jobs than he is, who knows and c) trying to climb out of the grave he'd dug with a murky, sorta-kinda apology, a "that's just the way it is, what can ya do" sigh, and a promise that there once existed a document, as precious and rare as the Dead Sea scrolls themselves, that was about normal-looking women. Women who would look like the the result if you added up the attractiveness of women in tech, and then divided by that number of women in tech, I guess. You know what's a better way to avoid looking like the kind of guy who compiles repulsive lists of hot babes? Not accepting the assignment in the first place.
(The Daily Beast just published the original list- with some normal ass ladies on it - in pdf form, along with another rebuttal from Winkie. Complex cut his original list down and added some "digital beauties" of its own. Regardless, the list was still rife with errors and also, still a list ranking women's hotness on the internet.)
This unfortunately tends to be Complex's business model: slideshows that are part check-these-babes-out and part troll-the-feminists. And this is one hell of a troll. But thanks to Winkie's vague, useless attempt at undermining the inherent misogyny of the assignment—and thanks to bro-ditors who aborted whatever hint of righteousness Winkie might have added—the punchline to this troll is "women." Ha ha?
Photo: Nejron Photo/Shutterstock