Scotch, Cigars and Sexism: A Feminist Response to Henry Balanon and His/The Social Network

As I watched “Mark Zuckerberg” repeatedly hit refresh on a laptop that at five years old appeared somewhat archaic, I whipped out my iPhone and tweeted:

The Social Network is the most homosocial shit ever.

David Fincher’s contemptuously sexist telling of the arduously sexist story of Facebook’s genesis is certainly a disappointment worth discussing. However, I am far more concerned with the similarity between the social organization portrayed in the film and the one that shapes so much of my reality: that which I classified as homosocial. Homosociality describes a community that revolves around and is engrossed in same-sex bonding and relationships.

You see, just like the dorm in which Zuckerberg nested, like the fraternity he so desperately wanted to be a part of, like the family he made for himself in the California rental house, and like the glamorous big-money world of Sean Parker, the creative communication field in which I work* is a homosocial mecca. And despite its historically unique intention, motivation, and raison d’être, this exclusionary social configuration is disadventagous to women on levels both personal and professional.

Scotch, Cigars and Sexism

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Last week at TEDxDetroit, my friend Henry Balanon gave an important talk called “Building Relationships Over Scotch and Cigars.” The title of this speech is not a metaphor. It is not a charming projection of mythical, old-fashioned “adult” masculinity. IRL, the male population of my tightly knit Metro Detroit social media community periodically enjoys “scotch and cigars” together. And Balanon’s presentation hit the nail on the board: It is in the intimate space of “scotch and cigars”—the homosocial space—where relationships are formed, be they personal, professional, or creative-casual.

Since I myself enjoy smoking and scotching—not to mention building friendships and exploring new possibilities for vocational and artistic excursions—I was enthusiastic about joining in on a night of “scotch and cigars” as soon as I became aware of their happening, so one evening over some pre-#tweetea banter, I asked a male friend if I could come along to the next scotch/cigar occasion. He was not inclined to extend an invitation.

These men are my friends, and I trust that they enjoy my company as much as I enjoy theirs. So when I am excluded from such a highly regarded bonding ritual, I can only assume that my presence as a woman is somehow inhibitory to the creation of meaningful male-male relationships…and to the creation of “billion dollar companies.”

When I first became active in my regional social mediascape, I immediately observed the dominance of male leadership in/and/of “boys clubs” in the well-intentioned organizations that were forming and collaborating online and off. iDetroit consists of an exclusively male ensemble. Along with Terry Bean and Charlie Curve, Balanon and the men of iDetroit (Hubert Sawyers, III, Adrian Pittman, Brandon Chesnutt, Ken Burbary, David Murray and Damian Rintelmann) come together in various combinations to spearhead nearly every significant social media/technological/entrepreneurial/start-up/etc. event and community formation in Detroit.

I am proud to be friends with these men and support their endeavors to the brink of my personal means. I do not believe they would make a conscious effort to make me feel unwelcome or uncomfortable. Yet at the same time, I cannot shake the haunting feeling of  “no girls allowed.” Nor can I reduce it to political paranoia…

The awkward Harvard students in The Social Network are over-exposed, delicate, castrated, self-castrating, and bitterly beyond-the-point. The distant yet uncritical portrait of Zuckerberg as well as the screenwriter’s inclusion of the inconsequential truth-telling lawyer suggests a similar inhumanity and self-involvement in the films’ creators.

Contrary to the fictionalized Father of Social Media, the men I know are all socially apt, confident, self-aware and outward looking. Nearly all have wives and girlfriends with whom they share a healthy and supportive (or at seemingly so) relationship. This tells me that these men are capable of connecting with the opposite sex in meaningful ways and on both intellectual and emotional levels. Yet statistically inter-sexed relationships are something that remains in the personal realm, and the homosociality that has for so many centuries cock-blocked women from political and economic arenas remains in check. One might argue that male dominance in the public sphere is even mightier today, given that no argument can actually be given against the pretentious grin of neoliberalism.

The homosociality of geek “boys clubs” are something I think about a lot and have been concerned by for a good deal of my life. Despite years of preoccupation (back-burner though it may be), I am too timid to make and defend any statement regarding the reason such blatant gender divisions exist in the here and now. Even in my own head I shy away from constructive philosophical thought about the soft exclusion of women—particularly single women—because I am uncomfortable with the speculations that I make (“and it wasn’t good, because it was in secret”).

I’ve got a pretty nice bottle of scotch on hand if you ever find yourself having similar thoughts or discomforts…

Or…you know…we could always kick it online…

*ocassionally work

  • http://www.girlsintechdet.com Audrey

    Agree and disagree :o)

    I’ve been invited several times to Scotch and Cigars night, and I do know that a woman has already been added to iDetroit – just not announced yet.

    I think that it’s not really a male vs. female thing, but a popular vs. not in the in crowd thing. There’s more guys in tech related fields than girls – period. Thus there’s less opportunities/chances for girls to join such popular cliques. I think the “clique” situation and the male vs. female situation are two different topics.

    One of the reason’s I decided to start the Girls in Tech Detroit Chapter, was to educate, empower, support, encourage girls to enter technology related fields, thus inviting more women into our “group” , and possibly more of chance to stand up, and start/be involved with the conferences, camps, talks, etc.

    It’s a male dominated area because there aren’t any girls taking a stand and sphere heading events, not because they’re being excluded by the opposite sex.

    • http://janefader.com Boss Fader

      How interesting…I, too, agree and disagree :)

      I don’t beleive that tech/comm/media is male dominated because of exclusionary practices or a lack of initiative on behalf of women. I also don’t necessarily believe these things to be true. My view is that there is something far more complex at work than traditional discrimination, oppression, and stereotypical male-active/female-passive characteristics.

      Outright, I beleive the “lack” of women in the field to be an issue of, as you wrote here and as Henry said at TEDx, relationships. Friends like to work with friends, they like to hook friends up…everything is better with friends, for sure! I don’t beleive that men see women as unable to contribute significantly (nor the other way around)…

      In her comment, Eliza mentioned the importance of men and women acknowledging and appreciating each other’s differences. I’m a big fan of difference (a la Steve Kahn. #TEDx holla!). However, it seems to me to be exactly this “difference” that women bring to the table that disrupts the homosocial male bonding. Something that might shed some light on this is to compare female presence in primarily male groups to the tragically destructive competition for male attention that women often experience…I’m not saying they are similar in nature (although I’ve sure seen some things!), but it does demonstrate the way that introducing gender difference to a homosocial crowd has such disruptive possibiities.

      On that note…Thank you for such a swift and thoughtful comment. I’m terribly excited to check out Girls in Tech! Please please please tell me more about it! (particularly as I have received the comforting words of male approval on GIT…thank you Hubert and Noel! :))

  • http://www.sorsaw.com Hubert “GAM” Sawyers III

    As my name has been added to the list of gents that hold “exclusionary” parties, I feel inclined to make note that I also host TWEETEA, which has never excluded anyone.

    Now I feel your angst, Jane. Trust me, iDetroit has been scolded many times by local women in our siloed social sphere. I wish we could have put a quick bandage on that, but to this day, I am still unapologetic with who was/is a part of the group. The group was constructed of those that were putting in significant work in building community in the tech and interactive space. Mind you, the only women that were really wrecking shop in the scene had moved at the time that we formed. We were not of the mind just to add a woman, just so we could fit a quota. She needed to fit the profile of the respective members of the group.
    Not even to do this, but iDetroit has a new member and she is a wonderful woman, deserving of greater distinctions than being a member of our group. With the new Girls in Tech coming to formation, it only seems right that there is a greater need to bring more women into the fold before finger-wagging. Hopefully, in a time faster than we all would appreciate, men and women can comfortably understand our collective power without feeling excluded.

    Defensive is my current state being that I know groups like the FutureMidwest and TEDxDetroit teams are filled with awesome ladies. Nikki Stephan, Shelli Gutholm, Becks Davis and Audrey Walker have been doing some great things in the communities and guys like myself, Henry, Adrian, David, Brandon, Charlie and Terry are the first to support their work. At the same time though, you have to acknowledge that you are minority in the space. All we can do is work to continue to have more women join us.

    I don’t smoke cigars, but I do drink scotch and you know you’re welcome to join me for a glass for an aged whiskey. Holler at your buddy.

    • http://janefader.com Boss Fader

      Thanks for putting such good effort and time into a response, Hubert.

      I certainly didn’t mean to disregard any of the women involved in Detroit’s tech scene, nor forget the work they do. Nikki, Becks, Audrey, Shelli, or any other brilliant female specimines. I am aware that these women exist in the community…by far the most forward-thinking, knowledgeable, skilled, action-focused scholar and educator the Wayne State University Department of Communication may have ever seen is a woman (Karen McDevitt, if anyone’s interested…and beleive me, you ALL are!).

      When we first met I remember immediately expressing my dissapointment that there were no women in iDetroit. Do I think you guys should take some sort of affirmative action? Absolutely not. And quite honestly, I’m doing my best to keep my finger from wagging at the possibility that any organization will be “folding in” women, even as a reaction to GIT (and I’m assuming here that their political intentions are to diversify the scene). I hope that the formation of Girls in Tech forces everyone–including GIT–to consider the meanings of exclusivity, exclusion, and to become more aware of unintended homogeny and consider why and when it comes about.

      It also doesn’t seem too far fetched to ask everyone to re-consider the conditions and situations that led to the creation of the world’s most influential network (“network” seems too small of a word to communicate what FB is), and reflect on how the core lifestyle/culture/taste values of social media effect how you operate within social media.

      KNIBB HIGH FOOTBALL RULES!

      • http://rmeray.com Ryan Meray

        It’s worth noting that the movie is greatly a work of fiction. Zuckerberg had a girlfriend before he came up with Facebook, and he’s still with her to this day. Supposedly, he didn’t care about the Finals Clubs either.

        The movie reflects less on the actuality of women’s impact on Facebook’s formation and more on the male-centric story that Fincher and Sorkin wanted to tell.

        • http://janefader.com Boss Fader

          Good call, Ryan.

          Eliza SS was up on emphasizing the movie as a work of fiction, too.

          My problem is that there was a real lack of perspective from the filmmakers where there should have been one. For example, it is obvious that they pitted Sean Parker as the antagonist. We were left with very little room to come to our own conclusions about Sean Parker as a moral character. But the filmmakers put so much distance between themselves and the Zuckerberg character that all of his doings were neutral. If not neutral, then slightly “positive,” as he is aligned with the free-market ethics that we hold so dear.

  • DaveMurr

    Good point and a very accurate observation Jane.

    A lot of the communities that are built around the social networks here and across the country do seem to stem from a male dominant attendance. However, I will say that with iDetroit, we were conscious from the very beginning that we came across as a no girls allowed club. You will be happy to know that we just inducted Nikki Stephan into our group.

    On a personal note, I’m always out looking for new talent, and there is a long list of female talent that are making some serious waves in this space. Just as you have been doing all along.

    I’m sorry you were not extended an invitation for cigars and scotch. Such a social affair shouldn’t be restricted by ANY gender stereotypes. Let me know anytime you’d like to open a bottle together. I’m always in the mood for good people and good conversation.

  • http://www.guinnessatticus.com Graves De Armond (@guinnessaticus)

    You speak from the heart, intelligently, poetically and meaningfully! Each time I am pulled through to new levels of understanding and clarity – and though I don’t drink Scotch – I’d sit there having the time of my life with you, I’m sure! Thanks for your wit and sharing!

  • http://balanon.com Henry Balanon

    Dangit. I hate that you feel that way. Shoot me an email at henry AT bickbot.com and we can grab a cigar and whiskey and yap more about it. The last thing I would want to do is exclude any of my friends from anything. And if I did that to you then I am very very very very very very very very very very very very veryvery very sorry.

  • http://www.communityirl.com Brandon Chesnutt

    Hi Jane,

    Interesting take on the Detroit social media and tech community. After reading through the post, I couldn’t help but ask myself, “What can we do to bring more women into the fold?” So, here are my thoughts:

    (1) Include more women into the planning and strategic discussions.
    That’s why Nikki Stephan (@estrellabella10) is our newest “member” of iDetroit (we haven’t really identified what a “member” is… and we really haven’t even identified what iDetroit “is”…).

    I can’t speak for Charlie, Terry and the TEDx team, but I know that out of the 12 event producers, six were women. Seems like a pretty good mix to me.

    (2) Foster and encourage collaboration between the sexes
    Which is why we are working with Audrey Walker, Trisha Verma and Girls in Tech Detroit on some fun projects, including next month’s Startup Weekend.

    I like to think that women have always played a key role in building our interactive and tech community, but there is always room for improvement.

    Thanks for your comments,
    Brandon

    PS – Your comments about The Social Network are pretty dead on, but I think that’s just Fincher’s style. He is all about guys and their problems / egos (see Fight Club, Zodiac).

    PPS – I’m not sure who turned you down for a scotch / cigar meetup, but that just isn’t nice.

  • http://www.finalfiveproductions.com Matt Dibble

    Couple of issues I have with this post… The first is that I know multiple males who have gone out of their way to solicit your involvement with their projects, but you choose to focus on projects where you don’t get asked to be involved. Not once can I remember being invited to work on a project from a female.

    And secondly, I have a saying for people who take issue with not being invited to work on a project or join a group… Everything is Project Mayhem and you always determine your own involvement.

  • http://icrontic.com Brian Ambrozy

    Brilliant. You say things that others are afraid to, and that’s why we need more JaneFader™

  • Eliza Sawyers

    This entire post makes me sad and angers me at the same time.
    #1- It’s just a movie people! I have read a few blogs complaining about the sexist tone of the Facebook movie, and quite frankly I think it is blown way out of proportion. It’s just a movie, and yes, boys in college care about one thing 99% of the time. Not a shocker to me or the rest of society.
    #2- Have you considered that idea that perhaps you were not welcome to Scotch & Cigars because of another reason? It may have nothing to do with you being a “girl”. Maybe the fact that they did not know you that well made them uncomfortable, maybe they actually had another person coming to the meeting that they needed to discuss business with and did not want to bore you, etc….
    #3- I have been in the middle of many sexist and demoralizing situations in my lifetime at work and at school. My college counselor even said to me “You know Finance is a male dominated industry, are you sure you want to pursue this”? Not a great thing to hear coming from a counselor and a woman! I have found the best way to overcome this is to push through and succeed more than those men ever could. Complaining about it does nothing. Men are men, women are women. This will not change. Until us girls can completely rule the world we must learn to deal with sexism in a positive way not complain. Make lemonade out of lemons, You can catch more flies with honey….etc. I have encountered many females along the way that seem to find ways to make their situation even worse than it is, instead of realizing that they can have the same “power” that men have if they just work for it. And I must point out that we only give power to those that we want to give power to. If you believe that this space is male dominated, why not start your own club that leans towards a female audience? Cigars & Scotch, Vodka & Marlboro, whatever… That is what a feminist would do. If you perceive this to be a male dominated space, I would say that it is in our very nature to be quiet, demure creatures, sometimes taking a backseat to the males around them and then pitching in later. There is nothing wrong with that necessarily. In this modern day, I believe that embracing our differences and our femininity is very important because they can be used to our advantage.
    #4- I know most of the men that you call out in your blog. My first impression of them and the social media world you perpetuate is that it is not sexist at all. That’s what I liked about it. Men and women (Becks, Nikki etc…) were working together towards a common goal with mutual respect. Coming from the corporate world, where I can literally see the glass ceiling above me, I found this refreshing and comforting.

    Eliza Sorise-Sawyers

  • Kim Vaupel

    Aaron Sorkin wrote the screenplay. The treatment of women in TSN fits in with how women are dealt with in the rest of his work.

    I’m not all that involved with the social media community around here, so I can’t comment in length. I do know that I’ve never felt out of place because I’m female. There seems to be a definite “in crowd” that one needs to break through, but it doesn’t seem to be a “boys club” so much. Like I said, I’m not all that involved, so I can’t really compare our experiences.

  • http://www.icrontic.com Cliff Forster

    I think of some of Bill Maher’s commentary on the feminization of America, and the characterization of the “new and improved” American male. He would say, we live in an age where the strong silent type is no longer admired for his sense of honesty, integrity and honor. Now the expectation is to be sensitive, and emotionally open for the sake of being politically correct. I have to tell you, sometimes, its overbearing. You can’t say certain things at the risk of offending a group, you can’t do others at the risk of potential litigation. We live in a society filled with sissified men because thats what is expected of us, and frankly, its what is legally required in many cases.

    Maybe, just maybe, men want one little space where we can go and escape this nonsense, to drink, and actually be ourselves for a little while? Its not about world domination, or exclusion of the fairer sex… its about being able to unwind on our own terms, in a group that values honesty over sensitivity.

    • http://rmeray.com Ryan Meray

      People who say stuff like “feminization of America” are usually the ones who have problems with women. People who make decry “political correctness” are often the ones who have problems with people of different strokes. People who need to hang around those of their race and gender in order to “be themselves” and “unwind on their own terms” are the ones with the problem.

      That’s definitely not the vibe of the crowd that I smoke cigars with.

  • http://rmeray.com Ryan Meray

    I don’t know who gave you that line of bull, but the official #cigarup group is friendly, open, and definitely not homosocial. (I’m having an incredibly hard time not dropping innuendos about cigar smoking here, damnit.)

    Anyways, for all who are interested in the regular #cigarup gatherings, don’t forget to join the Cigarup Facebook group so you’ll get the invites and notification when events are coming up.

  • http://www.shaunanicholson.com Shauna Nicholson

    Glad you started the conversation, Jane. Sounds like everyone seems to have a general feeling here.

    Though I’ve never felt exclusion due to my gender in the Detroit social scene, I felt I should share a brief thought:

    The Detroit social scene is incredible. We’re pretty well connected to each other and always welcoming newcomers. I’ve continuously referred business to those I’ve meet through social, and continue to receive gracious referrals from them. In fact, the Detroit social scene is directly responsible for two major contracts I’m working on right now.

    I’ve watched this social group evolve into what it is today as a direct result of each “member’s” contribution. While other large groups tend to sever off subgroups, we’ve maintained a pretty decent closeness while indulging in sub-group interests. I think Jane’s contribution–and everyone’s comments–will serve as another molding piece of how Detroit’s social-loving scene continues to evolve.

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  • http://nikkistephan.com Nikki

    Jane,

    I love that you have no fear about saying exactly how you feel. Kudos to you.

    Commenters have made several good points, and in an effort to avoid redundancy, I’ll keep my thoughts short. For whatever reason, the men dominated at first when it came to standing up and making an impact in this community. So naturally, they were the ones at the forefront of everything. Finally, us fabulous females are coming through and making just as big of a statement with the work we are doing to make a positive name for the Detroit community and to encourage more collaboration among industries and organizations.

    I hope you’ve recognized from Tweetea that we are all about collaboration. No one’s opinion is dumb, and everyone’s voice is heard. There is no “in crowd”. We’re working on making this more apparent with SMCD, too. Just because there is a core leadership team does NOT mean we aren’t more than happy to get help and support from anyone and everyone. The only way we’ll ever move this region forward and actually make a crater versus a dent is if we all work together.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts on this topic. :)

  • recoveryrabbi

    Great article, great thread. I would like to share my personal experience with the local social media community.
    The first event I participated in was Ignite Detroit. Tickets were sold out and a nice guy named Brandon made sure that I got a ticket. When I showed up, fashionably late, I discovered that I did not know a single person. Throughout the evening I came to the realization that I was the only Jewish person in the room, out of over 200 people.
    What I also discovered is that I was the only one who cared. I was self conscious about a piece of my identity that no one else considered important in that setting. I got to meet many wonderful energetic and welcoming tweeps that night and at many subsequent social media and tech gatherings. Future Midwest, SMCD, tweetups, epic tweetups, TEDx and other opportunities.
    I still consider myself an outsider and newcomer but it has to do more with my own thinking than anyone else’s. Men and women, young and old, Jewish and not, all together form a wonderful community that is changing Detroit and Michigan, one connection at a time.

    • http://www.thatdamnredhead.net Stacy Lukasavitz

      I’m sorry I didn’t get to meet you at Ignite Detroit. For the record, you weren’t the only Jewish person in the room, there were more of us around. Some of us just aren’t very easy to spot. ;)

      • recoveryrabbi

        i hope to get to meet you at a future event then… I will be at BrandCampU tomorrow and at #140conf

        • http://janefader.com Boss Fader

          RecRab-
          I wound up leaving town and unfortunately couldn’t to Brand Camp. you can count on the crossing of our paths at the #140 though, as I’m volunteering for it. looking forward to meeting you!

          • recoveryrabbi

            awesomezzz!
            and i’m speaking…

  • http://fafoutee.com/katherine-d-hammond/ Katherine Dallas Hammond

    It seems your argument, regarding Henry’s TedX presentation which I took to be totally tongue-in-cheek and comedic, “I can only assume that my presence as a woman is somehow inhibitory to the creation of meaningful male-male relationships…” is an act of presumption. Accepting this statement as true doesn’t make it so.

  • http://noel.io Noël Jackson

    I think I’m seeing your point was that sex was a part of the equation that excluded you from the “cool group.” Which makes me feel like I’m in high school again. Reality or perception, it happened and you feel jaded.

    The stats for perceived gender bias are available online, thanks to A List Apart: http://aneventapart.com/alasurvey2009/#pgenb It’s pretty obvious that people don’t believe there is gender bias. Take that as you will. I think it just means that most people are actually really proud to work with anyone who is smart, especially women.

    Detroit is a small city. There hasn’t been an extremely successful web agency to come out of Detroit. Not on my radar at least. My perception is that people are really eager to make that happen in this area, and that causes them to be a little more outwardly defensive and protective than normal. The pack mentality kicks in at strange times. Not that that is any excuse.

    Real people don’t do that. You don’t want to deal with anyone who isn’t real. Call bullshit to someone’s face when they act a fool. Although, your blog will get much more attention.

    I sure hope GIT invites me to come get smokes and martinis with them sometime. ;)

    • http://noel.io Noël Jackson

      Which is to say, whoever excluded you, is the fool. Who they are, I don’t know.

  • http://www.thatdamnredhead.net Stacy Lukasavitz

    You have a very interesting perspective, Jane. I did not attend TEDx, nor did I see that movie yet, but what I can say is this:

    My entire life, I have always been considered “one of the guys,” and have felt more comfortable hanging out with guys than gals. Even my closest female friends I had growing up were “one of the guys,” and the packs I’ve traveled with have always had very few women, which is why I don’t think I’ve ever taken notice to the “homosociality” that you described in the local SM “scene.”

    Therefore, I can’t say that I agree with your observation nor that I disagree, but I’m glad that you raised the points that you did to at least remind me and others that regardless of whether gender divide exists or not, it is still perceived to by some.

    Personally, to touch upon what Audrey had mentioned, I don’t think it’s a male v. female thing, nor do I think it’s a clique thing. I think it’s just an interest thing. The first time I met Henry, he shared a cigar and a beer with me, and he thought it was cool that I dug cigars and beer. I’ve been invited to “#cigarups” in the past, though I been able to make any yet, but I remember that I told I was invited after whoever it was that was holding it (I don’t remember now) found out that I was into cigars and more “guy-type things.”

    Maybe you’re looking too deeply into it, or maybe I’m not looking deep enough into it. But I can’t say I’ve ever felt uncomfortable hanging out with any combination of the guys you mentioned (or who have commented) because my XX c-zomes were outnumbered by XYs. If anything, I’ve felt more comfortable, because that’s what I’ve always known.

    • http://flickr.com/photos/mswatty Watty

      I’m the same as Stacy, hanging out with more guys than girls. Never been part of the ‘in’ crowd, but I haven’t felt like I’ve been excluded in anything that I’ve showed an interest in with any event that has been posted online. Actually, most of the time, I’m suprised they let me in the door. :)

      I’m sorry if you felt excluded in something you wanted to participate in. That sucks and probably hurt. I’ll do cigars and scotch with you any time! (though I’d prefer wine and dessert night instead ;) (((HUGS)))

  • Lindsay Warren

    Instead of complaining about there being boys’ clubs (there always will be – yawn!), why don’t we girls start our own ‘chicks only’ club?

    Women tend to take far better care of each other personally and professionally anyway.

    Let’s do it! :)

  • http://www.iamyoungdetroit.com Margarita Barry

    If this post had a “like” button I would press it!

  • http://christopherbarger.com Christopher Barger

    Lots of good commentary here, so like Nikki I will try to avoid redundancy — except that I’ll join the chorus saluting you, Jane, for raising the issue and starting a conversation.

    I think I agree with most with Audrey and those who suggest that our real challenge is not male/female but the emergence of a “cool kids clique.” I don’t think for a moment that any of the leaders of the Detroit digital community intend to be exclusionary of anyone; I do think that human nature unfortunately lends itself to the emergence of cliques and power structures. (Not that I want to go all Lord of the Flies or anything… just saying I think that without specific, conscious effort we end up stratifying ourselves.)

    So maybe what’s needed here is maybe just a collective consciousness about being inclusive or broadly welcoming. I am quite sure that none of the people who were mentioned or who’ve commented intend to be aloof or exlcusionary. Maybe we could start a “mentoring” effort or a “new voices” night at some of the community events around town — where the specific intent of the event is to give “stage time” to people within our community who don’t always talk, and aren’t always in the center of all the cool stuff. Maybe we make a more concerted effort to help shine a light on voices that have until now been less heard — not because we condescendingly believe we can “create stars,” but because we know the strength of this community improves with every new person who rises to a level of prominence or respect, whose opinion is taken into account, whose voice is sought out for discussions like these or events like TEDx or #140conf or Future Midwest.

    I genuinely think this digital community is one that values its every member and feels stronger, not threatened, as more voices are added to the mix. We just need to do a little better at fostering this and allowing it to happen.

    • http://nikkistephan.com Nikki Stephan

      Love those ideas, Chris! Something we talk about a lot at SMCD is giving people the spotlight (having them present at events) who aren’t well known in this area, but are doing kick a** things. I know that’s something the 140conf Detroit team strived to do when picking out the speakers for the event. Everyone needs to continue working on shedding light on awesome people who are doing awesome things in our community.

  • Shelli Gutholm

    Jane,
    I am sorry you feel this way. Its not a good feeling to left out or feel snubbed. It’s happened to me as well on occasion. However, I cant help but notice that people are only focused on a few groups and events. There is SO MUCH MORE out there to get involved in and advocate.

    Just as a FYI; FutureMidwest Innovations, Lemonade:Detroit, SMCD, Tweetea and 313 Digital are organizations that are either mostly mostly comprised of women or primarily operated by women and, yet, people are still complaining. There are other amazing things happening like HandMade Detroit (run by all women), MakerFaire (largely comprised of women), etc etc
    This is not to discount what people like Hubert (Tweetea), Dave (SMCD) and iDetroit have done but if there is something I want to see done my best course of action is to create or offer my services/ideas that may be valuable to the groups I want to contribute to.

    I personally get involved in projects, groups and people that I am passionate about and have the time and energy to contribute to. In fact, I dont care if I ever get any type of recognition for these contributions. (although thank you for the mentions Hubert and Jane)
    I do what I do because I am passionate and driven to offer up my skills to help a project succeed. For that matter; I more often than not I offer my skills and network in-kind.

    I am increasingly aware that the community I love is becoming far to ego-centric as of late. My hope is that we get back to the business at hand, what ever that business may be, and stop worrying about who is included and who isnt and start promoting our groups/projects and not ourselves.

    • http://janefader.com Boss Fader

      Shelli-

      Quick question…I can’t find anything about the think tank, FutureMidwest Innovations. I am only familiar with the conference. Could you link to something about it?

      I agree with you that egocentricity has a way of creeping into projects of a community nature…I think that it has a lot to do with the “cool kids” thing that several other commenters mentioned. Another factor may be that the nature of social media is extremely personality and identity based and so people’s work either is or appears as if it is egocentric.

      I, too, am a big supporter of those whose faces are so often in the limelight (and look great under it), as well as those whose faces are not. I support them because I beleive in what they do, for the “sake” of the community, because they throw a damn good party, and to learn from them. I have several relationships with SM/tech men who support me and mentor me and challenge me, among other things, and I am happy to support them in all of their ventures, as they support me in mine.

      However, it must be pointed out that there is a trend of women “supporting” men who “initiate” and “lead” and “organize.” These gender roles are pretty typical, and have historically been a significant factor in women’s dependence on men. I cannot imagine that it is purely accidental that there is a large community of women playing supporting roles to male leaders. Or is it in woman’s nature to be giving, selfless, caring, and supportive, and we should just accept this?

  • http://charliecurve.com Charlie Wollborg

    Often the bias we notice is the bias we bring.

    I thought Henry’s talk at TEDxDetroit was one of the highlights of a remarkable day. As a militant non smoker who find cigars repulsive and someone who can’t stand the taste of scotch, I saw Henry’s talk as a guide to networking for people who don’t smoke or drink. He logically and humorously laid how to build solid relationships: spend time together, filter out distractions and find common ground.

    TEDxDetroit wouldn’t have happened without the women on the board leading the charge: @BecksDavis, @AmandaHanna08, @kbslattery, @NaynaDub, @beckyjohns, @shelligutholm and @Janet_Tyler.

    Networking events often attract business development professionals – a field where women still seem under-represented. Groups like Inforum (lead by @TerryBarclay) are working to change that.

    Social media events draw from a heavily tech crowd –again male dominated, but only until @tverma29, @EstrellaBella10, @techsocialite & @jennimurr get Detroit’s Girls in Tech chapter up to full speed. Social media also draws a lot of marketing and PR folks – fields where women have found great success. The state’s two leading internet marketing firms (@CJuon & @LGirard’s Pure Visibility and @LisaWehr’s One Up Web) were founded by women. The managing partner of Curve Detroit is a woman (@AmyCurve). Most of the hot PR shops are women led.

    The most influential blogger in Detroit is Detroit Moxie’s @BecksDavis. The top tweeter in Detroit is Model Supplies’ @AnitaNelson.

    Now, more than at anytime in our history, the barriers of success have been removed. There is no glass ceiling in the world of social media – only blue sky potential for those who take action. Excuses will never change the past, but they will almost always delay the future.

  • Pingback: The Hangover | Jane Fader

  • http://myownprivaterevolution.com/ geo geller

    just stumbling around to see what you are up too as i randomly periodically do and not sure anybody pointed this out but first i found your article thought-provoking as usual – it tickled my imagination – so i thought i would bring up something that percolated to the top of my imagination –

    so as i look back on my computer experience since 1984 to the present april 2011 Social Sculpture we are experiencing… and remember the days when it was truly homosocial – very much so – rarely did you see women in the room for strange reason – it was an ole boys club – and when there was a woman it was like a firefly in the night – anyway with that perspective being one of those suspicious early adopters i have found online communications especially both facebook and twitter to have grown into a less homosociety, ageless and sexless too – while the real world face to face community is still a hold over from the sexist society, that we have come to love and hate or is it hate and love i get it mixed up sometimes – anyway online is less homosocietal and homicidal too – food for the imagination