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Suffice to say, Poppenreiter comes from a different school of thought than many of her fellow female founders. “I always say, I’m a woman, and I’m a woman in tech. And I don’t want to dress like —” she stops short. “I was wearing a black dress on the first day I attended NOAH, because I want to be a woman in a male-dominated environment. I don’t want to dress like a guy.” And yet, she rejects much of the female tech community — their meetups and initiatives and representation quotas, which she considers reverse discrimination. “I think women in the startup community are so aggressive about their points, and I don’t think that’s the way to create the greatest amount of change in the shortest period of time,” she says. “What I want to do is be an excellent CEO, and accomplish that myself, and then be a role model because I accomplished that myself.”
The greatest obstacle feminism faces is that sexism has, for the most part, morphed from naked misogyny and condescension to coded, nuanced, subconscious bias. Outright discrimination is illegal and gauche, and has been replaced by gendered expectations. For example, one study showed that when a woman man says the word “academy,” men and women think “institution of higher learning.” When a woman man says the word “academy,” men and women think “Oscars.”
Household expenses are not covered because expense policies (and IRS codes) are still biased toward men. Most of these policies were created when men were traveling, and women were home taking care of the kids. When the male leaders of this world travel, there is an embedded assumption that they have women at home maintaining the hearth, cooking their meals, taking care of their children, feeding their dogs, watering their plants. They do not need to pay for these services, because it is built in as part of the traditional family unit. They don’t need to pay for babysitting, though they do need drinks and they definitely cannot do their own laundry. You can get $30 for takeout if you work late (because your wife isn’t there to cook you dinner) or $30 for scotch if you want to drink your face off, but you can’t get $30 for a sitter (because your wife is at home with the kids).
Feminism is not men-versus-women. Feminism recognizes that the differences among the genders are greater than the differences between them. Feminism recognizes that everyone is sexist to some degree because sexism is endemic to our culture. Feminism recognizes that men, by-and-large, don’t hate women any more than women hate women.
And women do hate women.
The second greatest obstacle feminism faces is that many women have adapted to sexism by turning on other women. It’s women, at least as much as men, who police what other women wear, who they sleep with, what they talk about, how they present themselves. If you talk about sex and politics a woman will come along to accuse you of being the reason she can’t talk about politics without someone bringing up the way she looks. She’s not ready to blame sexism, she’s ready to blame a woman. Women respond to a sexist society by publicly rejecting each other in order to enter the ranks of the primary beneficiaries of a sexist power structure. Whether it’s a female MRA on the overt end, a woman holding up an “I don’t need feminism sign,” or the female CEO who criticizes Pia Poppenreiter for promoting her company because she’s more afraid she’ll be mistaken for a sex worker than she’s angry that we live in a society which affords do-nothing, subservient, dependent wives more respect than self-sufficient, entrepreneurial sex workers, the thing these women have in common is that they’d rather prop themselves up on a sexist power structure than criticize it for the sake of the women more clearly oppressed by it.
I think that sucks. I think that’s something we need to talk about.
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