I like the piece overall. I am not one of those antifeminist morons, but there’s a conversation about women happening that doesn’t really look beyond the surface of how women exist in the current society. What this piece does is actually try to ask a real question, and this is what The Ringer can and should do given that it’s an independent outfit. Don’t get complacent though.
First thing’s first, Bill has all these editors on staff but it took a few hours before some of the more glaring structural issues were fixed. I read this at work and am now home after work, it’s definitely cleaner now but it should have been clean on first publication. That said I can move on to the meat.
There’s a larger unsaid implication to “Lean In” mantra that everything will be better if we just have more women and minorities in power. Having something other than a white man in charge does not improve things if the underlying ideology doesn’t change. It makes sense if you don’t think about it and falls apart when you do, especially when you look at it in terms of the application of such power regardless if it’s in religious or economic or political realms. There’s no such thing as a woke excommunication, or a woke round of layoffs, or a woke drone strike. This isn’t an argument against women or minorities (because I’m a minority) but a recognition that it’s not enough to just put in place a veneer of inclusiveness.
To make a pop culture connection, there’s Wonder Woman. Now, I haven’t seen Wonder Woman, firstly because I will never pay to watch a DC movie in theaters ever again. The other major issue I have with it is that the movie tries to present a superhero action movie set in World War 1. Which I guess looks nice, and now people can say how woke they are for watching a superheroine movie. The problem is that such a conversation completely ignores the fact that WW1 is perhaps the single fucking dumbest war ever fought in history. I’m not going to get too into it just for my hot take, but literally not a single good thing came out of that war, and glorifying it as some sort of heroes vs villains is more than nonsense considering the outcome of WW1 was WW2 and all that came with it.
The business examples shown don’t seem to be ‘startups’ in a mainstream sense, as mainstream as startups can be anyway. They are consumer goods companies trying to actually provide products to people, which is like the exact opposite of what a Silicon Valley VC is looking to invest in. The value of software products or services in business terms is that they can scale up very quickly and add lots of users and customers (which are importantly not the same thing, for all their users both Google and Facebook are almost entirely B2B). The real value of such a startup to a VC is that the VC wants something that can demonstrate very fast growth then cash out on an IPO or an acquisition. The most valuable ‘startups’ right now are Uber and Airbnb, and those only exist because they operate in a regulatory gap.
It’s not impossible to do something similar in the consumer space, considering Unilever did drop a billion to acquire Dollar Shave Club (entirely just a brand, they buy and ship Dorco razors). Space exists but it’s primarily on the fringes. The reality is that typically a small company can only compete if it goes niche or luxury, since they don’t have the economies of scale to fight a price war against a major manufacturer. So rather than compete on price, it becomes about the brand. A niche or luxury brand can definitely make a lot of money, but ultimately that’s about dominating a small market for niche or selling fancy shit to rich people for luxury. That’s not really empowering anyone, let alone addressing the quandary of ethically consuming anything in a capitalist system.
I’m not saying any of this from a position of moral or intellectual superiority because I would sell out in an instant given the chance. I wouldn’t want to discourage the examples or other people from pursuing such things either. If they can make profitable businesses then good for them. Yet no one should expect some sort of massive societal shift in how we live and work just because bosses may look different than before.