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Misogyny and the Marketing Chick

We have lots of characters in tech. We use these characters to tell each other and ourselves stories about what technology is, what tech…

Misogyny and the Marketing Chick

We have lots of characters in tech. We use these characters to tell each other and ourselves stories about what technology is, what tech culture is, what innovation is, what our industry is. Lots of these characters are about geek revenge, about the continued dominance of the white man, about the ownership of technology and the money that comes with it by the privileged class.

Here are some of our favorite characters. The heroic founder. The mad scientist. The prodigal investor. The tinkerer. The hacker. The nerd boy genius. The ideas man. The product guy.

We love these characters. We change the real stories of real people to fit these shapes. We write about them in our tech news. Our VCs invest in them, our journalists propagate them. We export them to pop culture as consumable plastic sound bites. We try to figure out how to reinvent ourselves to look, to feel, to act like them, to make money like them, to win like them.

But we have a character that we hate.

She’s the marketing chick.

She’s not in tech, she’s around it. She doesn’t understand engineering. She’s not a programmer. She probably got her job because she’s pretty. Or how did she get that job, she’s not even pretty. She probably got her job from sleeping with that guy. She probably does social media. She’s helping out with the conference. She’s doing the launch. She’s setting up the meetings. She’s writing mass emails. She’s composing tweets.

She’s just here to serve the beer and order lunch.

Fuck, we hate her. We hate her so much. We want her out of our industry so bad.

What is to be done about her? We need to make sure the marketing chick can’t infiltrate our industry, make sure we don’t accidentally aid and abet her rise. So we’re going to assume all women in our industry are like her unless they can prove to us they’re not a marketing chick. Now even women hate the marketing chick because they have to prove everyday, in every meeting, in every conversation, that they aren’t that.

Until she can prove that she’s not, we’re not going to look at her in meetings. We’re not going to talk to her at the booth or at the meetup (but we might feel her up). We’re going to call her the marketing chick to her fucking face.We’re going to treat her like shit. We’re going to make sure she knows we don’t want her or her kind here.

Only this character does not exist. We invented her.

We invented her because technology is a male-dominated industry that distributes wealth and power to white men and is designed to make sure that wealth and power continues to flow to white men. We’re making sure that women don’t become programmers and engineers… and we’re doing such a good job at it that there’s been a 79% drop between 2000 and 2008 in the number of incoming undergraduate women interested in computer science.

But women are still leaking in to our valley of white milk and green honey. They are taking tech marketing careers that here in Silicon Valley can offer six-figure salaries, economic independence, upward mobility. Jobs that can offer a great deal to the next generation of women - mothers, allies, role models who have built their careers and futures in tech.

The marketing chick stereotype is so elegant and well-constructed that as a cultural studies and semiotics buff I have to stand back and admire it for a second.

Marketing chick works because it allows us to harness hundreds of years of denigrating necessary social work by relegating that work to women. The marketing chick has all those soft skills that patriarchy has taught us are undesirable, less useful, less expensive, less valuable, women’s work. These beliefs about social work and its worth, and which gender it belongs to, lets us ignore the very real value that women in “marketing” provide our industry. LMAO if you think you are going to build a viable technology company without people who are doing “marketing” - talking to your customers and users, establishing partners and channels, communicating with the market, coming up with product specifications, conducting user and beta testing, planning international expansion, pricing and selling software, writing product information and documentation, designing interfaces, doing marketing and sales operations, building culture and processes, handling finance and business strategy. If you think a company can be built on engineering alone you’re either an idiot or have never worked at a real company or on a real team. Ironically, but not surprisingly, men who do these jobs are almost never denigrated and insulted the way women who do these jobs are. In fact, most high-level marketing positions in tech are still occupied by white men. Funny how that works.

Marketing chick feeds on the ongoing capital/labor struggle of programmers who are watching investors get rich off of them while many of their jobs are shipped overseas. Programmers are also in a long, bitter and probably losing battle to align decision-making with creation - while we trumpet the self-realized programmer, an Ayn-Randish figure who is coming up with products AND building them AND shipping them AND marketing them AND selling them, the reality is that oftentimes programmers aren’t involved in decisions about what to build, while other business units are - especially marketing. The tension between labor/capital, between decisions/workers, generates a rich antagonism that is really about white men fighting each other for money and power but is easily diverted into hatred for the “invading other”, be it overseas labor or women and minorities in the workplace.

Further, marketing chick gives us an outlet for all of the misogynist behaviors and attitudes cultivated by the rest of our social upbringing. It’s no error that marketing chick draws unapologetically on the same cultural mechanisms that make fake geek girl work. The marketing chick, like the fake geek girl, is a succubus that poses as something she isn’t in order to gain the social and economic capital created and owned by men, to trick them into sleeping with her, to steal from them, to subjugate them, to benefit from them. Often the marketing chick is also the subject of vile and sometimes violent commentary on her appearance and its relation to her stature and professional achievements. By creating a caricature of reviled femininity out of the women in our industry, we create a way to use slut-shaming, objectification and other tools of misogyny as weapons against our colleagues.

But the thing to most hate and fear about marketing chick is how it turns women against each other. We’ve created this fictionalized, trumped-up phantom enemy that allows us to blame other women for why we treat women in this industry so bad. We manufacture a paranoia and revulsion towards a fictionalized bad other that allows us to default to treating women like shit, that makes women struggle everyday to prove they aren’t like that. It manufactures suspicion and resentment by women towards other women.

That’s what makes me so sad about it, anyways.