Vanity Fair v. The women of the Internet

Some exposition: Felicia Day is an LA-based actress who achieved internet-celebrity status through the web-series Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog and The Guild, which she writes and produces, and also for genuinely amiable, genuinely nerdy interaction with her fans. Her success with The Guild has earned her profiles in Forbes and The Wall Street Journal,and over 1.7 million followers on Twitter. So when Vanity Fair  commissioned a piece on female web entepreneurs’ use of micro-blogging, Day was a natural choice for an interview and photos.

Now, Day tells us how it ended:

When I was first approached to do the shoot, I was very excited. The photography in the magazine has always been the best in the business, and the fact that they were interested in doing a piece about Twitter and New Media gave me hope that a magazine firmly in the “establishment” was interested in exploring the subject in a new light.  And then during breakfast I saw some weird Twitter comments go by…and then I read the article…and oh, gosh. Really?!

I can’t tell you how many hours I had to resist rage Tweeting about this subject. The use of inane Twitter lingo like “Twilebrity”, “Tweeple” and “Twitformation Superhighway” (Oh God please stop) just signaled that the writer obviously wasn’t well-researched about the service, or the internet in general, really. And her condescending jibes like, “…somehow this fascinates millions of readers.” Well, whatever.  We’re all used to snarkville. But what really ENRAGED me what the general tone, which artfully made intelligent, articulate women sound vapid and superficial. Check this part:

For tweeple, e-mail messages are sonnets, Facebook is practically Tolstoy. “Facebook is just way too slow,” says Stefanie Michaels…“I can’t deal with that kind of deep engagement.”
“Sometimes,” says Julia Roy, a 26-year-old New York social strategist turned twilebrity, scrunching her face, “when you’re Twittering all the time, you even start to think in 140 characters.”

“Scrunching her face?!” Oh gosh, thinking is hard!

Well, despite the overwhelming insinuation, these women ALL of them are self-made, business entrepreneurs. They aren’t skating by on their good looks, they have businesses. In some of their cases, with professional sports teams and major brands, they help steer the online presence of empires. They are a new kind of savvy business person, cutting the middle man out. Carving and creating new professions. Most importantly, in this celebrity culture of “Jersey Shore” fame, they aren’t just “famous” for being “famous” as the article implies. They have influence in an emerging and important arena. I guess that just wasn’t an interesting angle?  I mean, we’re practically naked in trench coats, who needs MORE zing?!

From left to right: social strategist Julia Roy, publicist Sarah Evans, travel journalist Stefanie Michaels, Felicia Day, lifecaster Sarah Austin, and marketer Amy Jo Martin

Luckily, there are many smart women on the internet whose hackles got raised as much or MORE than mine did. In blog entries at CNETGeek, smaller blogs like Geek Girl Diva, and many many comments through Twitter and Facebook, everyone picked up on the condescending tone of the article.  (Too bad VF doesn’t have comments enabled on the article, I’d love to see that thread!)  Perhaps this will spur more dialogue about old media’s perception of the internet, and the role of women in new media vs. old?  I can only hope.


One Response

  1. I find the photo interesting… the only ethnically different looking woman (Sarah Evans, is much smaller than the rest of them, and kind of stuck behind the rest… maybe just a bad photoshop job, but it seems diminutive to me.

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