Women Vs. Women, Or The Ugly Side Of Feminism


With the birth of the new feminist narrative sweeping popular culture, it is bound to enter its awkward teenage phase. And just like a teenage mean girl, the new feminism is growing unwieldy before gracefully settling into something we can agree on. But before it makes it there, I hope it doesn’t tear us all down in the process.

A few weeks ago at the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon in New York, I observed hundreds of men descend upon the Manhattan Center determined to build an app that would catch the eye of various parties awarding prizes. Among them were a handful of women who were certainly holding their own in the testosterone-heavy environment.

One of those women headed a team that built an app to help women organize trips to the nail salon. It was called Indulge and as co-founder Velina Ivanova was pitching on stage, I couldn’t help but get excited about the concept. At the suggestion of the editors backstage with me, I wrote about the project. “If you like it, write about it, Leslie!” they encouraged. So I did.

First rule of blogging is to never read the comments. The rancor that my blog post and the unwitting Indulge inspired was disheartening, and not in the way you’d think. What was most upsetting about them was that women were attacking Velina simply for the idea of Indulge.

mean girl
Love the responses to the initial comment.

Wow. Nothing that I love more than broad, sweeping generalizations. But that aside, it upset me because Velina is an incredibly bright, articulate, highly educated, substantial young woman who came with her (male) co-founder to the Hackathon and competed against 650 other developers to build something that ended up winning second place from our TechCrunch judges. The problem obviously extends further than our Hackathon, though.

Here’s the rub. Lately in the press I’ve been seeing a lot of second-guessing of self which women are apparently especially prone to. I’m guilty of it myself. In the annual “Shape Issue” of Vogue Magazine (AKA the one with Kim Kardashian on the cover), several articles focused on high-powered, arguably successful women in business. Each woman expressed some concern over being taken less seriously because of her individual interest in fashion and style.

“…if you talk about fashion in the boardroom, it takes on a stigma. It’s an insidious form of misogyny,” Audrey Gelman aptly put in the issue. Where I become frustrated is where men are concerned, a stigma does not exist when talking about sports or other male-associated topics in a business environment; but women hesitate to fully express themselves in this way lest it erode their image.

You’re considered superficial and silly if you are interested in fashion… but I think you can be substantial and still interested in frivolity. Sofia Coppola

Consider the Vogue profile of Marissa Mayer, which drew quite a bit of criticism. Onstage at Disrupt last year, Michael Arrington jokingly asked her to autograph his copy of the magazine. The Yahoo CEO has never shied away from her interest in fashion, as she’s moved through the ranks, but it is not supported in a way, say the Larry Ellison’s infatuation with boat racing is. This double standard is what Velina, Indulge and, subsequently, I were subjected to when my post hit TechCrunch.

As a woman who has a successful career in business and plans to continue in an upward trajectory, I also enjoy my twice-monthly manicure and get excited about the color of the polish I choose. This is totally healthy and normal behavior, by the way.

I also enjoy watching college basketball, practicing yoga, purchasing high-end footwear, and traveling. All of these activities make me a well-rounded individual, and certainly not someone who would be less capable of running a company one day. I’m not a one-trick pony and neither are the women who were featured in Vogue.

I started to feel badly about supporting Indulge because of the comments on my post, and that is unacceptable. My initial reaction — excitement about the app, seeing a real use case, and then expressing that to the TechCrunch audience — is what really matters, and I’m proud to stand by it.

I know we’ve been Lean In’d to death in the last year, but Sheryl Sandberg raises a valuable point about women needing to support one another. The Queen Bee syndrome does nothing but fragment us. Until we get to a place where we are truly equals, we cannot tear each other down for something like a project at a hackathon. No one bats an eye when a man builds a sports-related app at a hackathon. I want more for us and fewer mean girls attacking women who are trying to build new things.

More TechCrunch

Zen Educate, an online marketplace that connects schools with teachers, has raised $37 million in a Series B round of funding. The raise comes amid a growing teacher shortage crisis…

Zen Educate raises $37M and acquires Aquinas Education as it tries to address the teacher shortage

“When I heard the released demo, I was shocked, angered and in disbelief that Mr. Altman would pursue a voice that sounded so eerily similar to mine.”

Scarlett Johansson says that OpenAI approached her to use her voice

A new self-driving truck — manufactured by Volvo and loaded with autonomous vehicle tech developed by Aurora Innovation — could be on public highways as early as this summer.  The…

Aurora and Volvo unveil self-driving truck designed for a driverless future

The European venture capital firm raised its fourth fund as fund as climate tech “comes of age.”

ETF Partners raises €284M for climate startups that will be effective quickly — not 20 years down the road

Copilot, Microsoft’s brand of generative AI, will soon be far more deeply integrated into the Windows 11 experience.

Microsoft wants to make Windows an AI operating system, launches Copilot+ PCs

Hello and welcome back to TechCrunch Space. For those who haven’t heard, the first crewed launch of Boeing’s Starliner capsule has been pushed back yet again to no earlier than…

TechCrunch Space: Star(side)liner

When I attended Automate in Chicago a few weeks back, multiple people thanked me for TechCrunch’s semi-regular robotics job report. It’s always edifying to get that feedback in person. While…

These 81 robotics companies are hiring

The top vehicle safety regulator in the U.S. has launched a formal probe into an April crash involving the all-electric VinFast VF8 SUV that claimed the lives of a family…

VinFast crash that killed family of four now under federal investigation

When putting a video portal in a public park in the middle of New York City, some inappropriate behavior will likely occur. The Portal, the vision of Lithuanian artist and…

NYC-Dublin real-time video portal reopens with some fixes to prevent inappropriate behavior

Longtime New York-based seed investor, Contour Venture Partners, is making progress on its latest flagship fund after lowering its target. The firm closed on $42 million, raised from 64 backers,…

Contour Venture Partners, an early investor in Datadog and Movable Ink, lowers the target for its fifth fund

Meta’s Oversight Board has now extended its scope to include the company’s newest platform, Instagram Threads, and has begun hearing cases from Threads.

Meta’s Oversight Board takes its first Threads case

The company says it’s refocusing and prioritizing fewer initiatives that will have the biggest impact on customers and add value to the business.

SeekOut, a recruiting startup last valued at $1.2 billion, lays off 30% of its workforce

The U.K.’s self-proclaimed “world-leading” regulations for self-driving cars are now official, after the Automated Vehicles (AV) Act received royal assent — the final rubber stamp any legislation must go through…

UK’s autonomous vehicle legislation becomes law, paving the way for first driverless cars by 2026

ChatGPT, OpenAI’s text-generating AI chatbot, has taken the world by storm. What started as a tool to hyper-charge productivity through writing essays and code with short text prompts has evolved…

ChatGPT: Everything you need to know about the AI-powered chatbot

SoLo Funds CEO Travis Holoway: “Regulators seem driven by press releases when they should be motivated by true consumer protection and empowering equitable solutions.”

Fintech lender SoLo Funds is being sued again by the government over its lending practices

Hard tech startups generate a lot of buzz, but there’s a growing cohort of companies building digital tools squarely focused on making hard tech development faster, more efficient and —…

Rollup wants to be the hardware engineer’s workhorse

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is not just about groundbreaking innovations, insightful panels, and visionary speakers — it’s also about listening to YOU, the audience, and what you feel is top of…

Disrupt Audience Choice vote closes Friday

Google says the new SDK would help Google expand on its core mission of connecting the right audience to the right content at the right time.

Google is launching a new Android feature to drive users back into their installed apps

Jolla has taken the official wraps off the first version of its personal server-based AI assistant in the making. The reborn startup is building a privacy-focused AI device — aka…

Jolla debuts privacy-focused AI hardware

The ChatGPT mobile app’s net revenue first jumped 22% on the day of the GPT-4o launch and continued to grow in the following days.

ChatGPT’s mobile app revenue saw its biggest spike yet following GPT-4o launch

Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…

Bumble buys community building app Geneva to expand further into friendships

CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 

CyberArk snaps up Venafi for $1.54B to ramp up in machine-to-machine security

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

2 days ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’