Taylor Swift is a global pop culture icon and a feminist when it feels right. During an interview in Montreal this winter, she stated that as a feminist she believes that women need to cheer each other on more.
“To have gender equality we have to stop making it a girl fight, we have to stop being so interested in seeing girls trying to tear each other down,” Swift said.
This was all fine and well until Katy Perry stepped on Swift’s toes and the ballad “Bad Blood” was born. Needless to say, Swift makes a valid point. We are a society that thrives on pitting women against each other, especially powerful women. Why aren’t we doing that with Trump and Kanye? One is running to ruin America, the other thinks he is Jesus. The recent controversy at Reddit, regarding power women and executive employees, Victoria Taylor and Ellen Pao, is a striking example of how the internet fuels girl hate instead of rallying for it to become a more gender equal sector of society.
Reddit is a self proclaimed internet “bulletin board” with a strong user following. Users are registered as “members” in order to post and comment effectively. These members are also very opinionated. This is great because Reddit represents all walks of life and lets individual voices be heard. Sometimes though, these voices get too loud.
At the start of July, Taylor was fired from Reddit. Taylor was well known for her creation of the AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) series on Reddit which brings together celebrities, U.S. soccer referees and the “18 year old male living in the arctic” alike. The Reddit community’s anger regarding Taylor’s dismissal was immediately directed at CEO Ellen Pao. A petition via Change.org was promptly launched, rallying for signatures in support of outsting Pao. Her ensuing self-resignation was deemed a success in the eyes of the Reddit community.
But the reality is that Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian asked Taylor to leave Reddit. It was not Pao’s decision. Yet this fact has gone unnoticed. Reddit members stirred up a girl fight for their enjoyment and lost two impressive, powerful women who had “made it” in the male dominated tech world.
This is a rarity considering the report Huffington Post recently published stating that women hold 17 percent of tech jobs at Google, 15 percent of jobs at Facebook, and just 10 percent of jobs at Twitter. In the tech industry as a whole, women hold only 26 percent of computing jobs in the U.S as of 2013.
But let’s be clear that Reddit, even though it did not make it into The Huffington Post’s report, is not spared from the red hot label of misogyny. The real reason Reddit users were up in arms was because Pao shut down a “sub-community.” The shut down sparked a #Redditrevolt by members that outdid their Change.org petition against Pao and her alleged dismissal of Taylor. Instead, the #Redditrevolt was in the name of a sub-community that was doing none other than slandering women, fat women, in particular. The group was called “fatpeoplehate.”
Pao resigned from Reddit after only 8 months as CEO. During this time, she lost a discrimination suit against her former employer, Kleiners Perkins Caulfield & Byers, a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley. During her fight for gender equality, the Reddit community stood behind her and called the sexual harassment she endured at her former workplace “sickening.” These same people were the first to sign their name to a petition and put her in the boxing ring versus Taylor, another powerful woman in tech and Pao’s peer at Reddit.
Reddit’s success comes from the comfort we feel as a society behind the shield of our computer screens. It is just as easy to slander someone as it is to praise them with a keyboard and virtual distance as one’s weapons. The issue we face though, especially in the male dominated tech world, is using technology to support women and not pit them against one another. The road to respect for women is long. But can we at least strive as a society and as women, to teach women to respect one another, online and off?