16 March 10

You Win When They Call You a Bitch: Presentation with links

If you want to read more comments from people who tweeted during and after the presentation, you can view them on Twitter.com.

First of all, I want to explain what I mean when I say that YOU are the winner when

THEY call you a bitch.

Cause if you haven’t won an Emmy award explaining why you’re a bitch, you’re likely going to be taken aback when it happens to you. That’s understandable. That’s exactly what they’re hoping. They’re hoping that an insult will throw you off track, derail your argument, and result in you looking defensive. But, we have the power to alter the meaning behind the word.

So when you’re called a bitch, instead of letting the argument get derailed, recognize that you’ve outsmarted them. Reply with “I win! You aren’t smart enough to continue the conversation, so thanks for ending it.” Once they bust out the ad hominem attack. The personal attack that has absolutely nothing to do with the conversation at hand, the conversation is over. And you win, cause they don’t know how to continue.

They may not just call you a bitch. There are a lot of other ways this may go down, but there are a few that are really, really common. Especially if you’re a woman. If you’re a woman of color, well, then you get some extra options.

But there are only a handful of ways that arguments get derailed and if you can recognize them, you can fight them pretty easily. But the goal of all of these types of attacks, is to try to make you back down.

Social Media and general online tech can be used just as easily to keep women out of conversations as they can be used to include women. And as long as we have the confidence to continue being attacked, being called a bitch, we can not only use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house, but we can create our own tools as well.

Groan, right? I know. But if you honestly have wondered this, if you’ve been in the position of organizing a panel here at SXSW or at another tech conference, and wondered how you go about finding women to be on your panel

That’s the bitchy response, of course. In all honesty, sitting in a packed conference room looking for one person to place on a panel is going to be hard.
But, if you use a very popular website,

you may be able to find what you’re looking for a little easier. Sorry, that’s still kind of a bitchy answer.

But honestly, there are a multitude of websites and conferences and groups and organizations that can help you find people who you may not already know, to create a truly diverse panel or workforce. And these women are trying to get your attention, they even have a booth here in the trade show at Booth 219 where they are presenting themselves as a co-op of resources.

If you are organizing a panel, and you know every person on the panel, then you’re failing your audience because you’re presenting to them one voice, one angle, one side of the story. And, based on the many years I’ve attend SXSW, the panels that have been more interesting have often been panels where the people sitting on the stage don’t know each other before they get together and who often disagree with each other. Because it is in our differences that we find our commonality.

But, it’s going to keep happening that conferences happen and women, people of color, gay, bi, and trans people don’t get invited. And we can either all keep writing posts about it, or we can do something like what

Allyson Kapin did last year. She was invited to attend the O’Reilly produced Web 2.0 Summit.

There were 25 men and a handful of women speaking. A handful. So she took action using an online tool called “act.ly”.

It’s a wicked easy and simple idea. You sign in using Twitter. Type in someone’s name. Type in what you want them to do. That gets tweeted.

You explain your petition a bit more, hit submit. And then as long as someone includes the @handle of the person you’re targeting with the act.ly url, their information will appear on the petition page. It is the easiest petition creation tool created. And, as soon as the person targeted in the petition responds, you get a DM.

Allyson created her petition, and a O’Reilly got flooded (as did some of the other conference organizers). And you know what?

This “work smarter” technique was aggressive and she got called a bitch. But she also set up a conference call to discuss how the lack of women and diverse speakers wasn’t going to be tolerated. And several of the organizers said they had been struggling with this and asked for suggestions from the women in tech and social media community. The Web 2.0 Summit is currently creating this year’s list of speakers.

5 years ago I attended my first SXSW conference. In every panel I went to, I counted the women and the people of color and the white men and figured out the ratio. I determined that women made up about 20% of the attendees and less than that of the panelists. I estimated that 5-10% of the attendees were people of color. But I also emailed Hugh Forrest and asked him what he was planning on doing to change it. I wasn’t the only one. And I got an email from him thanking me for my comments and criticism and letting me know that my request for diversity wasn’t the only one he’d received. It’s important to voice our concerns to the conference organizers.

The following year 1/3 of the panelists were female (and I guessed that 1/3 of the attendees were female). Because there were so many more people, I couldn’t get an accurate count for comparison sake of the people of color, but it was improved enough to be noticeable.

Like many conferences, once a pitch is chosen the person who wrote the pitch chooses their panelists. So while we can grow frustrated with the people who run and organize conferences, we can and should also take our arguments to the people who moderate and choose panelists.

I know that the organizers of SXSW ask the people who are moderating panels to consider the diversity balance of the people they ask. They even have a great acronym (VOWEL) to encourage their panel organizers to have a diverse panel.

You likely have attended or will attend a panel where you have credentials to be on the stage as well. Find out who the moderator is, email that person (or meet them in person) and tell them how YOU could have made their panel better. AND ask them to consider you as a panelist for next year. If they put together a panel this year, they’re likely to put together a similar panel next year. And if you help them round their vowels you may stand a better chance of joining them.

But tech changes aren’t just in existence in the Ivory outposts, the intellectual brainstorming and barnstorming that happens at conferences and conventions. Technology has quite often changed the way that many women walk down the street.

I’d be horribly remiss if I didn’t mention the almost five-year-old site: Hollaback NYC, the parent site with links to their 19 sister sites. These people created a way that is a safe place for women to take photographs or write descriptions of street harassment and make them public.

They’ve also got their new iPhone app in Beta Testing. Once it’s downloaded, you’ll push a button, the site records your location using your phone’s GPS, and you get an email so you can reply back to tell your story. All you need is a Unique Device Identifier (which is free), and you’re ready as soon as their developers have the app ready to go. They’ll be able to map where the harassment occurred and they’ll create a “State of Our Streets” report that can easily be sent to lawmakers and the media to demonstrate where this harassment occurs. Sort of an anti-sexism Gowalla or FourSquare.

But this isn’t just an American invention. The Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights has made public sexual harassment one of their central activism issues. ECWR estimates that 83% of women are verbally and physically harassed on a daily basis in Egypt and that 62% percent of men admit to perpetrating sexual harassment. . It’s a severe concern. Enough of a concern that last December leaders from 17 countries near Egypt met in Cairo to discuss public sexual harassment. Keep in mind that Egypt is a country where women are legally prevented from serving in judiciary positions. The Egyptian Parliament is currently considering legislation that would ban sexual harassment at work, in public, online, and through the use of mobile devices. And the only reason this has happened in the last five years is because of women sharing their experiences with harassment publicly. ECWR started out by surveying 2000 women to determine what was happening, who was going to the police for help, and where it was taking place. They published a report and then began putting up fliers, got a public service radio announcement, staged a demonstration, held press conferences and self defense workshops and public discussions about the laws.

All pretty basic grassroots mobilizing stuff. But, much like their American sisters at Hollaback, they’re looking for funding to launch the HarassMap Project to implement a system in Egypt for reporting incidents of sexual harassment via SMS messaging. GPS is illegal in Egypt, so they have to use other methods to reach their goal. which is to map the incidents online so they can highlight the severity and pervasiveness of the problem.

A popular youth magazine in Egypt, named Kelmetna was inspired to launch a campaign they call “Respect Yourself: Egypt still has real men”. They have seminars, self-defense classes, and street concerts.

They also have more than 53,000 fans on Facebook, which isn’t bad for a country where only 15% of the population has access to the internet. Unlike Hollaback, Kelmetna is targeting reaction against these on-street forms of harassment to young men as well as women.

But there’s a different type of tech that is most likely to be used by your bartender that can keep you safe as well. A group that started out as Drink Safe Texas has become Drink Safe USA. They’ve created a few things that can be used to help people keep their drinks free of being spiked with “date-rape” drugs. In fact, last October their Drink Safe Coasters were used to arrest an off-duty officer who had spiked the drinks of two women in a Dallas bar. The coaster, as you can see, has two colored dots on it. You can use your swizzle stick or your finger to apply a drop of your drink to the coaster. If either dot changes colors then your drink has been spiked with ketamine or GBH. The coasters cost around 40-cents each, which makes them very expensive for coasters, but a very cheap way to ensure that you’re drinking safely.

You can get them custom-printed with your logo and text and if you buy more than 10,000 the cost goes down to .30 each. I imagine the vast majority of bars right here on 6th go through more than 10,000 coasters during the course of a year. For anyone trying to figure out what kind of giveaway might be good for their company, some custom-printed coasters might be a way to care about your customer’s safety. I feel that it would be a far better technique to get your company noticed than paying for people to get their picture taken with the Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders.

But none of these things would have happened if the women who created them weren’t confident that they had an idea that could make a difference. And they continued to fight even though many people called them names, threatened them, and did their best to get them to give up on what they knew was right. Without the confidence to try their idea, and without the confidence to put up with the personal attacks they wouldn’t have made a difference.

And I doubt anyone who worked on these projects started off strong and confident, but that confidence grew as they continued to push for their goals. What these women, like so many other men and women, they adopted the “fake it till you make it” philosophy. Even if you have self-doubt about your ideas and your skills, even if you’re worried that you won’t be able to handle people calling you names, you owe it to yourself to put those fears aside, fake confidence if you have to, and then create, push, and win. Because if we believe everyone who calls us a stupid bitch, we won’t change anything, and we’ll continue to deal with harassment, we’ll be neglected, we’ll be ignored, we’ll be relegated to our small zones of influence where we know everyone. And nothing we’ll change. And that is what the people who call us all bitches want. Don’t let them win. Recognize that when they call you a bitch, you’ve won.


  1. Oh dear lordie, I so wish I had been there. This is amazing, Cinnamon. You rocked my world today. Thank you!

    — Christine Cupaiuolo on Mar 16, 01:10 pm

  2. very awesome, girl. :)

    carolyn on Mar 16, 02:30 pm

  3. WOO-fucking-HOO!

    Veronica on Mar 16, 02:50 pm

  4. You continue to find ways to make me think you’re even cooler than I previously thought. Just when I think there’s no way you could possibly be cooler, you go and raise the bar. I’m sorry I wasn’t in town for this.

    — Meredith Balderston on Mar 16, 03:26 pm

  5. This is awesome. I wish I had been there!

    Jasmine on Mar 16, 03:56 pm

  6. you fucking rule. hope you’re having a blast and I can’t wait to see you when you get back!

    leo on Mar 16, 05:09 pm

  7. Great information, Cinnamon.

    — Kirsti on Mar 17, 08:47 pm

  8. Thanks for the compliments, everyone. Sitting on stage and giving this presentation was a fantastic experience and I owe so many people hugs for encouraging me and helping me to calm my nerves and for making me believe that I could do this. But so much more credit goes to all of the women I linked to and mentioned. Without them creating something for me to write about, I wouldn’t have been able to do this.

    Cinnamon on Mar 17, 10:18 pm

  9. Awesome, Cinnamon. I’m really proud of you for putting all this together, for saying what you’ve said, and for spreading the word of other people working so hard to improve their and others’ lives.

    — eee on Mar 18, 10:00 am

  10. While I appreciate the sentiment behind this, and do agree with some of your points, I don’t agree that just because a female blogger is criticized that the person doing the critiquing is a “hater.” I kind of feel like we’ve gotten to the point where some women feel that feminism is tantamount to acting self-obsessed, diva-like, and obnoxious in order to be at parity with men. These kind of women are insufferable. No one wants to be around someone who thinks they are right all the time, who acts rude and obnoxious, and who believes that anyone who disagrees with her is a “hater” who wants whatever she has.

    A perfect example is a blog called “An Advanced Guide to Being Professionally Fabulous” (Google it).

    No one deserves to be called a bitch or personally attacked…but we as female bloggers/feminists should heed the difference between self-empowerment and self-obsession.


    — Diya on Mar 18, 03:15 pm

  11. Thanks for commenting, Diya. I want to clarify that I’m not talking about criticism, I’m talking about ad hominem attacks. I’m talking about resorting to insults that are usually personal and that are used in an attempt to derail a conversation, to turn the emphasis away from what a woman is saying by making her seem defensive and weak. And I have never, and will never, say that women are always right. Becoming “just like men” isn’t going to change things for the better for anyone. And there can be a fine line between self-empowerment and self-obsession like you mention. And while I have known a few people who could be quite a bit more modest and quite a bit less self-obsessed, I’ve known of far more people (many of whom are women) who lack the belief in themselves, the confidence they need, to make a change that will make their life and the life of others better.

    But I appreciate you pointing out the problems that can arise from over-confidence and providing the name of a blog which you feel would be helpful. I’ve added it to my reader.

    Cinnamon on Mar 18, 03:42 pm

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