I have a question, and I once again really don’t have an answer, just some sneaking suspicions coupled with some mild and growing concerns. I’m looking for your insight.
See, the other day, as I was gathering posts on Google+ for the Blog Library, I came across a post by the well-known Robert Scoble. The post is called “Why yo momma won’t use Google Plus (and why that thrills me to no end). I read the post and it kind of rubbed me the wrong way, but I was tired and so I figured I was just feeling cranky.
However, I found that as time went on, the post kept kind of bugging me, like one of those darned fruit flies that pops up in July. There are a few things that are bothering me, and coming together with other posts I’ve read, I’m kind of feeling like Google+ is being constructed as a velvet rope, smoke-filled, dancing lady-filled men’s lounge. I don’t have an invite to Google+ so I’m not saying this is so, but I’d like to tell you why I’m feeling this way, and you can then let me know if I’m totally off track.
Issue 1: Distinguishing between “Social Media Stars” and “your mom”
Now before you get hot under the collar, I do understand metaphorical language. By “your mom,” Scoble means the average user, and that could (technically) be a man or a woman. However, he uses the word “mom” which is generally speaking not gender neutral. Here is a phrase that caught my attention in his post:
Since most of the people who are on Google+ so far are geeks, insiders, social media stars, journalists, and other people (Google admitted tonight they are only accepting people who have strong social graphs so that they can both make sure everyone has a good first experience as well as test out some of the technology before opening it up to a wider audience) the chances normal people (metaphorically speaking, your mom) won’t hear about Google+ from normal users for quite a while.
First, who are Social Media superstars? What does “strong social graph” mean? It feels like this is this summer’s answer to last year’s Fast Company Influence Project, only now the winners will be touting their Google+ status rather than win a chance to appear on Fast Company’s cover. And why would normal people (aka your mom) be distinguished from an environment where a pleasant online experience can take place? I’ve never interacted with Robert Scoble at all on Twitter, nor have I interacted with Ashton Kutcherr. I’m still enjoying myself rather well. I probably have a lot more in common with “your mom” than I do with some of these super stars and “other people.”
Later in the post, Scoble writes:
Come on now, we geeks and early adopters and social media gurus need a place to talk free of folks who think Justin Bieber is the second coming of Christ. That’s what we have in Google+ right now. Do we really want to mess that up?
Now, granted, I don’t really consider myself a sufferer of Bieber Fever. However, I wouldn’t say that folks who do suffer from that affliction are “messing up” Twitter. They’re using it for their purposes and I’d wager a lot of them don’t know who the “social media gurus” are.
The other problem with this statement, though, hearkens back to the title. To me, feminizing the title and repeatedly using “your mom” equates people who would “mess up” Google+ with women. Am I reading into this too much?
Issue 2: Women and Technology
A lot of women know that there is an underlying belief held sacred by men – “Women can’t do technology.” I have to have my dad talk to the car guys when I take my car in for repairs because the guys simply will not listen to me. When I call the maintenance guys where I live and tell them my freezer isn’t freezing or my dryer isn’t drying, they don’t believe me. It feels like this belief, this sensation that women and technology don’t mix, is also creating an idea that women won’t like Google+ because it’s too nerdy or technologically involved.
Scoble writes, “But they haven’t yet proven that they can convince your mom to use it and that’s just fine with me.”
Again, if the post had been written about “techies versus normal people,” I don’t think I’d have this anti-woman sensation. In a lot of sentences, Scoble does distinguish between “us nerds” and “normal people.” But it’s that use of the word “mom” over and over again that raises my eyebrow and maybe even my dander.
Maybe “your mom” is a woman like Liz Strauss, Charlene Li, Peggy Fitzpatrick, or Carol Roth. Maybe “your mom” is even more geeky than Larry Page. Should she still stay on Facebook?
And doesn’t “stay on Facebook with your kids and grandkids” kind of sound like “stay in the kitchen while us men work on the car?” I don’t know. Maybe it’s just my ancestors whispering in my ear.
Issue 3: It’s mostly men I see talking about Google+
So far, I’ve only seen one woman write a blog post about Google+, and that was Gini Dietrich. Gini doesn’t have an invite to Google+ yet and as of the writing of her post, she felt a bit unsure about it. All of the other posts I’ve seen so far have been by men. So what does that mean? Are women fulfilling the stereotype or do we just not feel welcome?
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this issue – and remember, I could be 100% on the wrong track. I’d be happy to hear it, actually!