Forbidden Fruit: Thirty years of oppressive spiritual cultivation at Apple (Part V)
Inside the Church of Apple and the living word of Steve Jobs
This is part five of a five-part series. New? Read parts I-IV:
If all men are born free, why is it that all women are born slaves?
— Mary Astell
Apples: “A pearl of health hidden in a fruit.”
Out of the Bondi Blue, a Pink Pearl Apple emerges
Working for Apple fundamentally changed who I am. I became intertwined with the Cult of Mac just like anyone else. The experience I had during my last three months there was so unconscionably traumatic, it felt like it had been years that passed. It sounds so trite to say that, given what I know of the workers in other parts of the pipeline, but it’s true. I walked away a shell of who I once knew, with nothing but pain and emptiness where the boldness and compassion used to hide. I needed to work through it to understand it, but also, to turn it into something beautiful. What I didn’t realize is that my experience at Apple was merely an extension of my strange loop. The oppression and abuse I experienced throughout my life was echoing.
Because she was a giver
She gave too much
And even when they took
She told herself it was a gift
Because that was the only power
White Elephant (2011)
It’s hard for me to explain being an audaciously unapologetic feminist once people start to get to know me. When journalist Reed Albergotti was interviewing me, I had to tell him a lot of things I was ashamed of. Some of them shocked the “WHAT?!” right out of him. I told him all the messy details of my sordid past.
I started stripping on my eighteenth birthday. When I got to the Dejá Vu, I arrived before the 28-year-old I was ‘dating’ at the time. The bouncer wouldn’t allow me to enter because I was by myself, unless I was going to dance. It felt inevitable — a scientist in a stripper’s body, I thought, is still a stripper. I had been told since I was twelve years old that I didn’t look like a little girl, that I looked like a stripper, a ‘street walker’, and in junior high school, Playboy, and pornography became their prophecies. All of the adult men in my life sexually harassed me when I was a teenager.
My first sexual experiences were not consensual, and after that, I can really only say that men got some kind of special joy out of making me feel like I owed them my body for having the audacity to look a certain way — and I was happy just to be in control of agreeing to not be sexually assaulted. I got no joy out of being a woman. I hated every feminine bit of my body. I’d go out with friends and without fail, I’d get groped or catcalled in the most vulgar ways imaginable. “You ooze sexuality,” one said. Some skipped the pleasantries and jumped straight to offering me money to go home with them. My life has been an infinite loop of men offering me empowerment, freedom, and love, only to use whatever they offered me as a tool to derive power and control.
I was working at Hooters during the day and dancing at Hustler at night. By the time I ended up featured on my local Hustler Club’s MySpace page a year later, I was groomed to be trafficked. “You were made for sex. You’ll be a star.” I was desperate to be in control of my sexuality and my body. The goal was Playboy. Lynne Austin, Pamela Anderson, Jenny McCarthy, Carmen Electra, and Girls Next Door star: Holly Madison. These women were free. Lynne and Holly worked at Hooters first, I could totally do that.
When I went to work at Hooters, I thought one of the founders, whose name is Lynn (LD), was a woman. Turns out it was started by six businessmen with zero restaurant experience. The women in the world’s first Breastaurant were so enthusiastic. What an incredible feeling, to be the one controlling your own objectification! When I joined, I had to sign a 52-page employee agreement that I consented to and acknowledged that “the Hooters concept is based on female sex appeal” and that I could be subjected to “jokes” and “innuendo”.
When you’re signing the acknowledgement, it doesn’t occur to you that you’re signing up for sexual harassment and misogynistic degradation. At Hooters, you own the ogling and management would protect you from the groping you got working at the college bar on the other side of town, right? Wrong, the kitchen staff and managers were a part of the harassment. There was no escape. And while we were present in the restaurant, we had to maintain our ‘All-American Cheerleader, Surfer, Girl Next Door’ cheery demeanor. We signed up to be their entertainment — to be naive, innocent, and cheery, while simultaneously seeming overtly sexually available. Smile and bear it. Literally, if you look at all affected negatively, a customer will tell you to smile if your manager doesn’t pull you aside to remind you of the acknowledgment.
I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.
— Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
Unless doing a photo op, we were not allowed to touch any men while in uniform (and if you were caught wearing your uniform outside of your shift or offsite, you’d get fired). It was confusing to experience what was supposed to be the empowerment of my sexuality, yet my expression of it was completely dictated by layers and layers of men, and at the end of it, I was getting harassed more than ever. The men in charge acted like I owed it to them for giving me the safety and freedom to dress a little bit sexy in public without judgement. They sold me feminism and sex-positive counterculture, what I got was an oppressive, nonconsensual environment where I was constantly pressured to look and act like the object of a man’s gaze. The taboo aspect was maintained by their culture and advertising, because the point was never to free us. It was to cage us in booty shorts and tank tops.
It was not worth the $2.13 per hour I was paid. The founders made millions. Management was also obsessed with Playboy. It was so obvious that their goal was to make a tacky, beach-themed Playboy restaurant to bring the out-of-reach luxury and taboo of Hugh Hefner’s empire to the corner wing bar. Lynne wasn’t even the one who submitted her own photo to Playboy, Ed Droste, one of the executive founders did. They even got the Supreme Court to uphold that they had the right to hire only women for the sole purpose of sexualizing them.
Each one of them broke her
Until there was nothing left to fracture
She put the pieces back together
Just to slide down a pole
As she lay on that stage
A kaleidoscope of men gazing
She’d never really been whole
Holly Madison described her confusion with the public perception that the pornographic photoshoots she was involved in at the Playboy Mansion were pornographic because the environment wasn’t sexual during. She was accustomed to the nudity and sense of controlled sexual freedom — the women weren’t there for the sex, it was like winning the absolute beauty pageant. Being celebrated as beautiful and popular in a world that consistently treats women like second class citizens leads women to take what they can and even when they realize the freedom is just on a higher tier of slavery, it’s better than being on the bottom.
What we don’t realize until much later is that at ‘the bottom’, we often had more autonomy. Sex work of all kinds that is managed by men results in not only the men in charge feeling entitled to our bodies — but everyone else. Over a decade ago a man in World of Warcraft was angry that I didn’t want to give myself to him. I had sent him explicit photos and his response was to upload them and share them with hundreds of people without my consent. A year later, someone who saved them shared them on Twitch, the video game streaming platform. At the time, the community was not necessarily small, but concentrated to a very small amount of communities, and revenge porn was a huge problem. Almost any link you clicked in a chat led to a woman’s nude photographs that had been shared without her consent. One person was collecting them and creating albums of each streamer. With the newfound efficiency from the user, called Uncleswagg, the nudes spread faster and racked up hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of views.
I was harassed on a daily basis. The worst of it were the men who sent me pictures of my nude photographs printed out on paper covered in their ejaculate. If I responded with disgust or anger, they quickly let me know it was their right and I should have expected it for “acting like a whore online.” When I penned a Medium essay titled Half a million people have seen me naked outing the perpetrator, Uncleswagg, who had risen to special privileges as a moderator in Blizzard’s Overwatch League, a half a decade later, I was doxxed on 4chan, an anonymous message board known for its use as a tool for just that. Stalkers found my home and at least two of them visited my front door just as they threatened they would. The #MeToo and #TimesUp era was upon us, so the reception was mostly supportive, but plenty of men were blaming me for having taken the photos at all. The same victim blamers were the ones asking if anyone still had them.
When you become a sex worker, even with full consent and ownership over yourself, you are still trapped in a prison of nonconsensual acts. Sometimes women who were forced into sex work either due to coercion or force, like Holly Madison, harbor subconscious hatred toward the women who seem to freely express themselves sexually in the same environment they’ve been held captive in. This comes through in Madison’s memoir, Down the Rabbit Hole, leading many to criticize her as misogynistic and insecure.
…I would challenge you to decide: Do you hate girls? Or do you hate the expectations put on girls by society?
— Liz Prince, Tomboy
Madison was colonized by Hugh Hefner with the threat of a “mountain of revenge porn”, being guilted into orgies, and abrasive degradation when she defied his expectations — everything from changing the cut of her hair to her makeup.
At Hooters, we signed an agreement to such expectations, but the result is the same. We were required to be a certain kind of beautiful in the breastaurant, and maybe even more insidiously, we were not allowed to be that same kind of beautiful outside of the breastaurant. We signed our beauty and sexuality away to our captors. This same sentiment comes through from the Bunnies.
Even though at the Hustler Club I was given a lot of freedoms by management and never questioned about my outside activities, the customers erected their own kind of implied confinement, especially my regulars. “You don’t do that move for anyone else, do you?” Your job was to make them keep coming back, so a sultry smirk and, an “Of course not, darling,” was the expected answer. If a customer complained about you and hadn’t sexually assaulted you, you could forget returning to that club ever again.
He thinks it’s for him
But it’s never been
The symmetry, the curves
A touch that lingers and burns
She closes her eyes
In a cocoon, she hides
Tells herself, “I’m not even me,”
“I am a butterfly. I’m free.”
By the time I was trafficked, I could have never seen myself as a victim of a crime. I blamed myself for making a stupid decision and ending up in teenage torture porn. Even when I worked with the authorities to help capture the leader for canvassing homeless shelters for teenage victims and he was convicted of sex trafficking minors, and I was added to the victims advocates list, I did not know I had been trafficked. It wasn’t until a year ago when I was told commercial sexual exploitation — where others derive value out of sex work via the use of coercion, force or deception — was a form of sex trafficking.
I was groomed from the time I was twelve years old to say, “Yes, and,” when it came to a man’s desire. Guilt became my Achilles’ heel always abstracting the idea of consent behind the pressured agreement to give in. The choices were never really a choice. The only outcome would ever be sexual, my option was merely whether or not the experience would be violent. What was two minutes of mindless hell over having my sexuality ripped from me while I fought my captor off? Might as well just get it over with while I space out about sacred geometry or cosmology.
Sympathy is only meted out if you follow all of
society’s rules for how a victim is supposed to behave.
— Nenia Campbell, Cease and Desist
It’s taken Hugh Hefner’s victims decades upon decades to come forward. The man has been dead for years — the same year actress Alyssa Milano popularized the #MeToo movement (it was started in 2006 by activist Tarana Burke). The more society views you as someone who invited your own torment, the less you fit the profile of the rules of being a victim, the likelihood you will garner empathy or sympathy rapidly decreases. This doesn’t come from the women — though they often are a part of maintaining it — this is what rape culture is. The deservedness comes from the entitlement of the men creating and consuming the material. If you’re a victim, then they’re one of the predators. They can’t have that.
Empowerment of women is so unfairly wrapped up in a glass case — it’s deceptive captivity we don’t see until we find ourselves ready to dissent only to run into an invisible wall. The men who lured us a promise of empowerment and enlightened celebration of our womanhood suddenly exercise complete power and control by threatening to take it away. If we shatter the glass and run, they do everything they can to ensure we leave with nothing they promised.
If history could set you free
from who you were supposed to be;
If sex in our society
didn’t tell a girl who she would be;
’Cause all my life I’ve tried to fight
what history has given me.
— Marina Lambrini Diamandis, “Sex Yeah”
Now that I’ve finally escaped the series of prisons men trapped me in over and over again, I see all of it as a form of trafficking. Susan Bennet’s stolen voice for Apple Siri. Taylor Swift not having control over her music and work. Britney Spears being forced to work against her will in an abusive conservatorship. Baywatch star Pamela Anderson’s leaked sex tape distribution. The Twitch streamer Sweet Anita’s face being used to create deepfake pornography — a computer-generated type of pornography using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.
“Don’t worry, darling, you’re safe here,” Hugh Hefner told Pamela Anderson during her first visit to the Playboy Mansion. Coercion is not consent. A survivor of domestic violence, Anderson has been somewhat of a beacon of hope for me. A woman I idolized for her ongoing exploitation and abuse in my youth has grown into an absolutely fearless woman I hope my own daughter looks up to.
Virtue can only flourish among equals.
— Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, A Vindication of the Rights of Women
It takes victims of domestic violence an average of seven attempts before they leave a physically abusive relationship. Forever ahead of the curve, I’m on try number five. The abuse started the moment I said, “I’ll marry you,” as if I’d signed a contract. I’d had his signature tattooed on my neck, and joked he was branding me. He vehemently rejected the banter, and celebrated my past as a part of me. I had no idea what was coming. The day before we had sex for the first time, I had had surgery to fix a complication from a multi-decades-long battle with bulimia, an eating disorder often caused by sexual or otherwise violent abuse. My stomach had escape up through my diaphragm and my esophagus was extremely damaged. After surgery, I was in intolerable pain and couldn’t eat anything solid for months.
He forced me into having sex. It wasn’t violent, but it was clear I had no choice in the matter. I laid there like I’d done hundreds of times before with as many men and waited for it to be over while I mulled over mindless nonsense for the few minutes it lasted. It escalated when I learned a week after we got married that both he and my daughter’s father had each given me one type of Herpes without warning me they’d contracted it to begin with. My new husband decided I’d tricked him by not telling him I had it and I’d ruined our honeymoon by having to go to Planned Parenthood for treatment of my first incredibly painful outbreak. He threw things at the wall of our hotel room and screamed abrasive insults at me. With each escalation, he’d downplay the last, until it turned to throwing things at me, throwing me around, constricting my breathing, and finally striking me in the face, which he’d later refer to as ‘just a slap’. My darling, please find me another recipient of a slap who has a black eye.
the world gives you so much pain
and here you are making gold out of it —
there is nothing purer than that
— Rupi Kaur, Milk and Honey
When it comes to domestic violence, law enforcement, is generally not helpful. They often escalate and at times take the victim to jail. Incarceration in this country adds another layer of trauma to victims — many of whom go on to be the abusers themselves. When you try to get help getting out — they insist on filing a report. This causes anyone who comes from poverty an immense amount of anguish and guilt, often the reason we are stuck in the power-control wheel to begin with. It adds to the oppression. Our control over our situation — the thing we are trying desperately to take back — is now taken by the police, made up mainly of men.
When I was in the parking lot of the hotel I’m staying in, my ex-partner was calling me obsessively because I turned my location off on Find My iPhone. I was having a panic attack and trying to convince myself to stay put when a police officer rolled up behind me and parked to check on me. My phone was ringing off-the-hook and it was clear what was happening. I told him I was fine and that I wasn’t in any danger. He went back to his squad vehicle and parked the SUV perpendicular to mine so I could not back out. His partner got out and blocked the passenger door. He aggressively pushed me until I gave him a vague idea what was happening and repeatedly pushed me to give him my partner’s name. I refused, and he still tried to force me to file a report. It took an hour to get them to leave me alone. “I’m just trying to do my job,” he said. My anxiety in the situation continued to heighten from being boxed in.
Trapping a woman and trying to force her into filing a nonconsensual report is not ‘protecting and serving’. If an ambulance can drive off when someone refuses medical assistance, the police should also have to leave if the person is not a danger to themselves or others.
Unless I am allowed to tell the story of my life in my own way, I cannot tell it at all.
— Mary Seacole, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands
It’s not that I didn’t see the irony that I was one of the people standing up for others against the biggest company in the world. It’s just different when you’re in it. When you are conquered, you become subservient. There was a moment for me with Apple that I’d never reached in any abusive relationship of my past or present that triggered a cascade of events. I am fiercely protective over others. I’ve never shown myself, alone, the same level of care.
Many years before I worked at Apple, I worked at another company whose culture is centered around counterculture, Blizzard. I am one of the many who came forward with stories of abuse and inaction, leading to lawsuits from the California Civil Rights Department and the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. My brazen honesty on Twitter helped prove to the SEC that they were guilty of negligent securities violations. I set myself up as a beacon to connect other victims and witnesses with the agencies to share their stories. As the Blizzard messages trailed off, something I’d not expected started happening. Apple employees were asking me for the same assistance. It was mostly women sharing their stories of harassment, discrimination, and abuse — and what happened when they reported it to the People team.
Question what the TV tells you
Question what a pop star sells you
Question mom and question dad
Question good and question bad
— Marina Lambrini Diamandis, “Sex Yeah”
Before I launched #AppleToo, someone in Slack made a comment in response to a woman discussing the fallout with Blizzard, pointing out that the same inaction and retaliation Blizzard employees were describing from HR was happening in Apple, too. His response was to say, “Well, it’s not that bad here, no one is getting raped.” Several of the women in my direct messages had specifically told me that they had been sexually assaulted and the company told them because it happened outside of the purview of their work, there was no policy violation and they could not do anything to help.
When Antonio García Martínez, the former Facebook ad executive, was hired everyone was so surprised Apple would hire someone who made such awful comments about women in the bay area. Within hours of the public outcry, he was fired. My Twitter and email inboxes were painting a very different picture than what I believed about Apple.
Seems odd that they could fire Tony Blevins, the former VP of procurement, for his crude TikTok video sexualizing women, and Antonio García Martínez for his misogynistic comments about his female Facebook colleagues in his memoir with such haste, but they could do nothing about being sexually assaulted or harassed by male colleagues or customers because you weren’t on shift? Is celebrating and empowering women about furthering societal equity or selling iPhones?
I think you travel to search and you come back home to find yourself there.
— Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
In every era of counterculture — Neoplatonism, enlightenment, abolitionism, the 1960s , et aliae—the women that play prominent roles are erased. Their recorded works are lost, destroyed, or never surfaced to begin with, and what is left is a few accounts about a few packaged and sold as the archetypes of the various liberations of women. The love goddess, the angry activist, the hippie chick, the eclectic witch, the breadwinner — curated to categorize us right back into the cages we fight to escape.
In 2022, for International Women’s Day, Apple featured several women in its Apple event. In the wake of #AppleToo, we were ignored. The only action that Apple took was to gaslight and quietly attack us. The main component of my separation agreement, was not just restricting my right to speak — but they also didn’t want me to help or encourage any other victims to speak out or seek remedy with the government. They were more worried about my propensity to lead an anti-Apple revolution than they were about the hundreds upon hundreds of stories of abuse.
During the #AppleToo wave, our colleagues and leadership continually stressed that Apple had hundreds of thousands of employees and that the growing number of victims coming forward to share their stories was a small fraction of Apple’s workforce. That is the definition of minimization. Antonio García Martínez didn’t victimize anyone at Apple, yet there was swift action and an outpouring of public commitment to the support of women. Our open letter was never responded to by leadership. We found out he was fired with the rest of the world via Axios, where Apple had planted the story.
I’m no longer accepting the things I cannot change…I’m changing the things I cannot accept.
— Angela Davis
Janneke Parrish, who helped me lead #AppleToo by sorting and organizing the data by issue and then curating and publishing the stories, was fired with pre-text about the same Global Town Hall that Janneke and others were investigated for. Janneke also lived and worked in Apple’s Austin, Texas office when they enacted the abortion ban and was calling for Apple to make a commitment to employees to help ensure its Texas workers could seek abortion care out of state. Someone sent a recording to the New York Times which shared Apple’s claim that our health insurance would cover out-of-state travel for abortion healthcare. That wasn’t true. Janneke and another Texas employee confirmed the statement Tim Cook gave to NYT was false. She penned an open letter asking the company to cover it in light of the fictional PR they spun. She was contacted by HR to remove the letter and then placed under investigation for the ‘leak’.
Women expressed more than concerns over abortion care — they were also worried about potential restrictions on access to other women’s healthcare. Their feminine freedom was unraveling before their eyes at the hands of the Supreme Court. Apple declined to comment. I suspect their PR statement from the town hall about our insurance was meant to serve the same purpose of firing the two men who publicly berated women — it was performative. Tim Cook didn’t expect the federal government to side against women and overturn Roe v. Wade. Their brand machine was unraveling and the only possible damage control plan was silence.
When 15 women spoke on the record to Patrick McGee in the Financial Times to further corroborate #AppleToo, they agreed to overhaul their human resources department. They’ve announced a new executive for the People team — since Dierdre O’Brien has apparently been doing the jobs of two people all of this time—essentially making her out to look like the scapegoat. She was saddled with double the work of all of her male executive counterparts. Tim Cook, a month later, decried that there’s no excuse for the lack of representation of women in tech. He also that Steve Jobs’ legacy was about privacy, specifically naming the protection of women. Odd that for years they have been criticized for the women’s health data they expose, are lobbying against health privacy bills in Washington state, and for not having the input of women. They developed a product that was exploited to stalk women.
Tim Cook name-dropping our gender in any sentence with the legacy of Steve Jobs is at best ignorant, at worst barbaric. Steve Jobs was in no way a feminist. It’s uncomfortable looking back at the panel of women tasked with swatting down Aaron Sorkin’s portrayal of Steve Jobs in his 2015 film. Former Apple marketing executive Joanna Hoffman, who was an early member of the Mac team, referred to herself as the party pooper for pushing back against Jobs in some of his unreasonable, possibly dangerous ideas. Success of the few does not determine the ethics of actions that affect others. And these women were not successful because of Steve Jobs. They were successful because they worked extremely hard and honed their unique gifts.
All oppression creates a state of war. And this is no exception.
— Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex
I am no longer surprised by their empty words and behaviors. They refused to audit their use of concealment clauses, add speech-protective language to their contracts for victims of various unlawful behavior, including harassment and discrimination, and tried to keep me from helping victims of their culture find peace and relief in solidarity and accountability. They refused to audit the specific departments we identified as problematic — namely hardware and software — where pay equity was not the only issue, but women were not getting promoted when they deserved it. One woman who spoke to me was in the position where she was training a fresh level 5 that got promoted while she’d sat at level 4 for nearly a decade. He had many years less experience than her and he’d only been at the company for a couple of those.
My survey was small and anecdotal compared to the large size of Apple’s workforce, sure, but the raw data was still valuable enough to spark concern. On the one hand there was the question of opportunity and pay, on the other, there was the question of why Apple was breaking down data in their charts in complex, but nonsensical groupings. Why are retail geniuses grouped with software and hardware engineers in demographics? I’d venture a guess their response would be to celebrate the Retail workers as technically just as capable as their corporate workers. You don’t need to obscure demographics to celebrate the technical skills of workers. You could just pay them fairly, instead, giving them a fairer share of the company’s fortunes.
In Part II, when we were exploring Apple’s religious motifs, we talked about the Forbidden Fruit Michelangelo selected for his painting on the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling, the Fig. The term was eventually etymologized into sycophant, but what came in between that was flipping someone off — in all its forms, straight to calling someone a ‘C U Next Tuesday’. Before we were flipping the bird with Marshall Mathers in Y2K, the term was flipping the fig. The bird, often a pejorative term used to describe women, is the clitoris. We could make a very long list of words and phrases specifically to demean women, but how many insults are specific to men? The ratio is astounding. If you were to set out and list them all, you’d struggle to argue any conclusion other than a reality in which society despises women. It’s no wonder men are reacting so violently to being referred to as ‘incels’ for their involuntary celibacy.
For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.
— Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
In Steve Jobs’ “Think Different” campaign, one of the things he said about ‘The Crazy Ones’ is that you can quote them. It is almost impossible to quote the most influential women in history up until recently, and of course, women had far fewer opportunities to be recorded in the first place. The most complete works from Antiquity of women were the ones arguing that women should cover up and not express themselves sexually to keep a happy marriage.
Women have been erased in various ways — through their forced silence, through giving credit only to the male participants, through applying credit to someone else entirely, and by replacing the ‘squeaky wheels’ with the subservient ‘greased’ ones. It’s not a coincidence that when you look for the written works of women from ancient Greece you are lucky to find fragments from the women who challenged authority and misogyny and preserved works in their entirety from women who spoke of the importance of a woman’s ‘prudence’.
Women were sometimes grouped as one being labeled under the leader of their government, like Cleopatra, for one the earliest record of alchemizing Gold and describing it with the idea of eternal recurrence with the ouroboros. “One is the Serpent which has its poison according to two compositions, and One is All and through it is All, and by it is All, and if you have not All, All is Nothing.”
I seek not the Pomp and Effeminacy of this World, but Knowledge and Virtue… For true Satisfaction, thou knowest, is in the Mind…
— Hipparchia of Maroneia
Another strange serendipitous anecdote for you — I had a falling out with a dear friend years ago and we got matching tattoos when I took her on a trip to Amsterdam. I designed a tattoo to cover it up with a three-headed snake and an ouroboros at the center and the alchemical symbols for silver and gold. It was meant to represent how money can change some people in ways that keeps them from getting wealthy and in others they never experience the joy of rebirth because they choose to enrich themselves at the expense of others instead.
He alone received great honor among men,
because he first laid the illustrious foundation of the house
by spreading the good news for the mortal race.
— Aelia Eudocia, Homerocentones
When I was looking for quotes from women from a millennia ago, I had to sift through the majority of results being about women, rather than by women. I was genuinely shocked to find multiple paragraphs preserved from Eudocia’s centos.
When authorities — and by extension the media — picks and chooses whose work is preserved and whose is not — the result is a maintenance of status quo. We are cherry-picked to death and while the internet has helped ensure we can’t be erased from society’s records, there’s still a sinister element in what bubbles to the top.
Apple likes to erase women and shape their narratives for them. Steve Jobs even erased Eve from his story of creation. One of the top results when you Google me is a story that I tried desperately to stop from being written, and is the tiniest blip in the media about me and another activist who had a falling out. How is an article that was barely circulated one of the top results? It’s not the only one there that doesn’t make sense, understanding how Google’s search algorithms work along with knowing the actual impact these articles had.
Sometimes people try to destroy you, precisely because they recognise your power — not because they don’t see it, but because they see it and they don’t want it to exist.
— bell hooks
When the Apple Event video featuring the women developers aired, I felt a tinge of anger. Not toward the women, I celebrate every single advancement of women, but toward leadership. How dare they use their power to decide which women get to advance and be celebrated? Would any of those women be on the screen if they had participated in #AppleToo? If they had publicly participated in the wage transparency survey? If they demanded accountability and corrective action for illegal behavior being ignored and covered up?
If any of those women rose into a Tall Poppy, someone who stands out for their high abilities, enviable qualities, or visible success, eclipsing the messiah Steve Jobs and besmirching the good name of him and his baby, Apple, would they star in Apple’s marketing materials? I can’t say I believe they would. Call it women’s intuition if you want, but the evidence, to me, is pretty clear.
All my life I’ve felt it deep inside of me
All this time was fighting for what I believe
All my life I’ve tried to hide what history has given me
— Marina Lambrini Diamandis, ‘Sex Yeah’
I’ve said previously I didn’t set out to write this. Yet when I started writing it, it practically wrote itself. Steve Jobs left crumb after crumb that felt so undeniably by design I narrowly escaped being sucked into Elon Musk’s theory that we are in a simulation. I was playing a maze game — my favorite type of video game — and I was solving every single puzzle like I’d played it before.
I had to ground myself back in reality because I was going in strange circles that expanded the mystery over and over again in a labyrinth within a hall of mirrors. Is this why it was me in 2021? I’m navigating the protagonist of this fictional storyline?
I believe myself to possess a most singular combination of qualities exactly fitted to make me pre-eminently a discoverer of the hidden realities of nature.
— Ada Lovelace
What triggered my dystopian temporary insanity? I actually watched the 1984 ad.
When I came back to reality, I realized it was just an ad selling us more counterculture. The color theory was blue and orange — defiance to authority. But hidden in the ad was a disguised Hooters uniform. It’s just a coincidence I donned the uniform. It could have just as easily been a nod to a rabbit to conjure up Playboy. This ad is so much more deeply complex than people realize, and I doubt I’d have noticed if I hadn’t read every possible biographical account of Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs’ legacy is in no way feminist. Steve Jobs, through Apple, reflected society back on us like a mirror. He knew he was doing it. He enriched himself off it. He filtered women’s experiences — their voices — through the company of Apple, and Apple — so firmly rooted in his tree of wisdom — continues it.
Katelyn Bowden, the founder of BADASS, an organization that helps fight revenge porn and helped takedown all of the revenge porn of me, said so aptly, “Apple is more subtle… They’re not selling sexuality- they’re selling accessibility. Equality. But it’s still just as harmful. It’s almost like Apple is a predator, a serial abuser who looks for their next victim.” They sell women empowerment and equity, a safe place to work. When we arrive, we find ourselves in a prison of silence where no one advocates for us and we cannot advocate for ourselves, either.
The aim of totalitarian education has never been to instill convictions but to destroy the capacity to form any.
— Hannah Arendt
Steve Jobs’s mother’s family was entrenched in societal norms — he was given up because he was born out of wedlock to a man that wasn’t an all-American Catholic of European descent. His devoted mother made him a sibling to an adopted sister. His girlfriend was impregnated with a daughter and fought for child support out of his self-made fortune. He showed them all by breathing life into his own creation, and named a computer for the baby girl he had no choice in making.
Christianity. A clamshell. Hooters. The regulated empowerment of women. The silencing of women. I’m not living in a simulation with a maze meant for me to find, I’m living in a world that treats women like objects worthy of resentment and oppression. Steve Jobs wanted to do one thing in his lifetime. Merge technology and humanity. He was enamored with the idea of Artificial Intelligence. He created Siri, a free assistant anthropomorphized as a woman for everyone, with the stolen voice of actress Susan Bennett. He wouldn’t even pay a woman, much less get her consent, to use her labor. Steve Jobs wanted to do what only a woman has the power to do: create intelligent life.
’Cause all my life I’ve been controlled
You can’t have peace without a war
— Marina Lambrini Diamandis, “Power & Control”
He elevated women and wound up exerting the power of his control over them. And if you look at how everyone talks about it, he didn’t help women succeed, he “gave women opportunities.” Women don’t need to be given opportunities, women need to be treated as equals. When we are aggressive, it should be met with the same regard for the hyper-focused passion of Steve Jobs. It is not. Look at the way my colleagues spoke about me. Look at the way they spoke to me. That is deep-seated, though perhaps unconscious, hatred.
Apple decides which women get to speak. It’s not a breastaurant or a sexual prison disguised in a Mansion — Apple isn’t selling sexuality per say, but they are selling us counterculture while upholding the status quo. The primary target has been, from the beginning, women. To sell to men, Steve Jobs used innuendo and references to unfair beauty standards. This all stopped in 2011.
- Teeny doesn’t mean weeny. (iPod)
- Small is Beautiful (Mac)
- You can’t be too thin, Or too powerful. (iMac)
- Everybody Touch. (iPod)
- Now there’s even more to touch. (iPod)
- Thinnovation (MacBook)
- Beauty. Brains. (iMac)
- Thin as always. (MacBook)
- Beauty outside. Beast inside. (MacBook)
- Small is huge. (Mac)
And in case you have any doubt that Steve Jobs was consciously reflecting society back at us, his final act, in a massive show of power: he helped design an enormously long and girthy superyacht for 100,000,000 Euros that he never stepped foot on. He was dying while it was being made.
He named his 256-foot-long phallic masterpiece Venus.
Steve Jobs was obsessed with the ancient proverb from Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” He failed to see the way that life finds is not just through division, but through a series of division and union.
Society is fighting a war that mimics the war of the universe. A quest for equilibrium against a dark, unseen force rapidly increasing the instability of the entire system. After I was trafficked and survived my suicide attempt when I was nineteen, I started writing poetry. The irritation and pain that infected my outer shell would eventually become layers upon layers of beauty — a pearl from within a clam. ‘Pearls of wisdom’, they say. Venus, goddess of sex and fertility was born of a seashell, life, I thought, was not only a gift, but a painfully complex one in which I get to choose to continue enduring day after day.
My first poem was my imagining myself to be a butterfly to deal with trauma — metamorphosis. That the pain I endured would make me stronger, wiser, more beautiful. The Butterfly Effect had been a popular movie the year before, undoubtedly the inspiration for the piece.
At that same time, I was learning color theory so I could be a better artist. I learned about blue being safety and trust and loyalty. I didn’t understand. In nature, blue is an illusion. The sky, the ocean, a parrot’s wing, it’s not actually blue, it is a refraction of light that we see as blue. At the time, the only pigment in nature I knew to be blue was Carbon — a toxin. In nature, blue is not an invitation, it is a warning. Predators won’t go near a Blue Poison Dart Frog because its bright blue color is signaling it is poisonous. Perishables turn blue to warn us they will make us sick when ingested.
The Morpho butterfly eat the leaves of the pea family, which are toxic to humans. If you were to eat it in its caterpillar form, you’d likely be poisoned and die. The butterfly eats nectar. Over time, it becomes more and more docile and harmless, and conversely more and more beautiful. It is an endangered species because human beings are destroying the ecosystem in which it lives. Blue Morpho butterflies live most notably in the rainforests of Brazil. Illicit mining operations in Brazil — which Apple purchases precious metals from — contribute to its deforestation and it is killing off these beautiful creatures. It’s the butterfly Apple chose for its butterfly emoji.
The sad truth is that most evil is done by people who never make up their minds to be good or evil.
— Hannah Arendt
The amazing thing about this butterfly is that the cellular structure of its wings is not male or female. It is a mosaic — or it can be bilateral; their wings are always the union of two sexes. It is unique in its striking beauty because it is a combination of male and female. We are enamored and captivated by the non-binary nature of a cultural symbol of nature’s most stunning example of rebirth.
Race is the child of racism; gender is the child of misogyny.
I always say getting pregnant prompted me to change my life. That’s true, but part of the story is missing. I had an extremely traumatic childhood and adolescence. Prior to getting pregnant, I did not care if I lived or died. Deep within me, I felt that life was a gift, but it was not one that was bestowed upon me. I didn’t belong here, and my repeated survival was a cruel joke of nature.
Life is the gift, yes, but women don’t make that gift alone. It is the union of male and female. From a toxic relationship that made me feel like a small and valueless thing, came a beautiful chance to try at life again, and again, and again.
The first time I experienced joy, love, happiness, and beauty — both in spite of and because of immeasurable pain — was when I became a mom.
I don’t know if Steve Jobs was resentful of women, purposefully trying to control them, or trying to reflect society back onto us while feeling he truly deserved all of his pilfered riches.
What I do know is that women deserve an equal voice, and not one that is dictated by the men in charge. Until then, men like Steve Jobs and companies like Apple, Playboy, Hooters, and others will continue to exploit our womanhood to enrich their own lives.
They say the ‘Apple doesn’t fall far from the tree’. That’s true, but if an Apple seed starts growing too close to another tree, it will be infected with parasites and disease, and won’t get enough sunlight to properly grow. Being in the shadow of the Apple tree it fell from will literally stunt its growth and eventually kill it.
Apple trees are not an invasive species, but their roots grow very shallow. The bigger tree’s roots can and will uproot any hope the shadow tree has of survival.
Steve Jobs tricked the world into giving him a Presidential Medal of Freedom for building an oppressive religion known as Apple’s legendary ‘Fortress of Secrecy’. I guess that is pretty legendary. The legend of toxic masculinity, authoritarian capitalism, exploitation of brand trust, and cultural superiority: Apple.
Steve Jobs’ last two fixations were to erect an Infinite Loop and to slide a phallus named Venus into oceanic voyage. I can only hope he meant to say that the recursive nature of life, the strange infinite loop we live in, eventually leads to the conclusion that the key to saving humanity is the union of man and woman to create the gift of life.
Maybe that’s up to each of us. Steve Jobs spent his life erasing and controlling women, and he started with his ex-girlfriend, his daughter, and Eve in the Garden of Eden in the 1970's. Did his own strange loop change his mind in the end? Or did he die believing he’d figured out that men are so powerful they can replace women with technology? For the love of humanity, I hope it’s the former.
It broke my heart to read Walter Isaacson’s portrayal of Lisa Brennan-Jobs in Steve Jobs. Her father came off as cruel, but he was quite humanized. Cruelness in complexity gives the reader room to make their own decision. Brennan-Jobs was not afforded such liberties by his biographer. The thing is, she is the epitome of a woman who spins her pain into gold. She is an incredible writer — and even though her father was a jerk, it’s clear she took it and made herself into a person who is artistic, thoughtful, and forgiving. She sees that the man who contributed half of her DNA influenced parts about herself she values most.
Her mother, Chrisann Brennan, does the same. When I read her essay in Rolling Stone I was beyond touched. These accounts of a man who reminded me so much of the cruel father I have, the equally cold and distant ex-boyfriend who fathered my own incredible daughter, and the sensitive man I married who uses my own pain to cut me like a knife showed a soft side to a deeply hurt human being. People are complicated. She mentioned in the essay that Steve Jobs was “100% romantic” when they moved into the cabin they shared in Cupertino in the early 1970’s. He would tell her that they were among the poets and visionaries he called “the wheat field group”. She said she didn’t know what that meant ten years ago and now that I know him through the words of everyone who has written about him over the last fifty years, I think I know. Chrisann Brennan is a painter.
Steve Jobs was infinitely complex — he was an observer, a reader, a voracious consumer of art, forever voyaging a strange sea of thoughts, alone. Vincent van Gogh struggled with oscillating emotions, now categorized as a likely mood disorder that I, too, am afflicted with: bipolar disorder. He struggled with social situations because of his emotional dis-regulation and felt discarded and unseen by society. He expressed himself through art, but also through writing. Van Gogh painted an entire series of wheat fields, which was quite notably his most visible and complete expression of his wish to share his deep love of life — what he referred to as the union of man and God.
Vincent van Gogh said of his muse:
The wheat field has… poetry; it is like a memory of something one has once seen. We can only make our pictures speak.
— Vincent van Gogh
Wheat is a symbol of prosperity — often referred to as ‘gold’ for its glistening yellow and orange hues in the sun — but it also represents birth and resurrection; the recursive cycle of life. An ouroboros of agriculture, humans seasonally cultivate its abundance into gold — my own Volga German ancestors lived off farming wheat in the unforgiving frozen desert of Russia. Van Gogh saw wheat fields as a metaphor for the humbling power of nature and the magnificent triumph over hardship in growth.
Steve Jobs saw in Brennan what he loved in himself, someone who saw the beauty of the chaotic world and spoke it back to society with a brush and colored pigment. A poet’s cryptically romantic way of saying, ‘I love you’.
To read his later Dylan-splice poetry, though… it’s dark. You can see that something is happening to him as their relationship starts to dissolve. Something is hidden deep below. He wrote of Brennan, as a product of her mother:
I can see that your head…
has been twisted and fed…
by worthless foam from the mouth…
— Steve Jobs
Brennan’s retrospective of her, Jobs, and Wozniak acting out Alice in Wonderland for work in a shopping mall was something she described as a foreshadowing of what was to come. The Mad Hatter and White Rabbit with giant costume heads, while a little girl — portrayed by Brennan — fell down a hole. Her essay was the last piece I read about Steve Jobs and Apple. It is fitting that what started as my feeling like Alice lost in Apple’s reality distortion field led me back to the first woman who loved Steve Jobs. I was trying to figure out who I am using clues left behind by a seemingly maniacal madman, and I discovered an incredible woman left to find a way for herself and their incredible daughter with nothing. What I found was a mirror, the very metaphorical device Lewis Carroll provides Alice in Through the Looking-Glass, the sequel, where she must do the impossible and conquer the Jabberwocky. Carroll wrote, “You can’t change the past, but you might learn something from it.”
As I sit here, having slain the beast — my own guilt and shame; blaming myself for the abuse I’ve endured—I’m thankful her final words about him were to mention he became a despotic jerk. What she endured was not deserved, and not her fault. It was the choice of the man she loved.
The mirror I found wasn’t really Brennan’s decades-prior parallel experience to mine with my daughter’s father. It was this piece of writing. Writing a memoir is an exercise of letting the past go; reading it is the reflection. You are face to face with it, as if the story belongs to a friend and you are compelled to help her through it. It is painful, but a different kind of hurt than when it was living inside of you. Locked inside, it was a poison; set free, the fading ache of growth.
The duality of Steve Jobs was that he was capable of unimaginable cruelty, especially targeted at women, whom also seemed to be the thing in which he desired most in this world. As a wordsmith, his blade cut both ways, but as an entrepreneur, he rose to build the religious brand of Apple that entrenched the world in senseless deaths and destruction.
Steve Jobs wanted to be loved. He wanted to be seen. He wanted to be seen as worthy of love. When he found the counterpart of his soul, the woman who could see the depth and complexity of wheat fields, it fell apart, leaving him alone again. As he wrote into his first Apple logo, he felt condemned to voyaging amongst the busy noise of the world alone. I think Steve Jobs, the duplicitous asshole, the despotic jerk, the inhumanely cruel god of his own making, was not just lost in his own warped version of reality. Steve Jobs was an incredibly lonely man.
The book of Apple could have been his magnum opus, a cautionary tale of the future of technology, a modern 1984 meets Jurassic Park. If only Steve Jobs had never created the company of Apple, and instead picked up the writer’s mirror — paper and pen — who knows what marvelous literary masterpieces he could have created.
With Chrisann Jobs, he may have created his greatest: Lisa Brennan-Jobs.
No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.
— Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Frankenstein
I said I am an atheist. This is true. But as an addict, we learn in Narcotics Anonymous how important it is to have a higher power to surrender the truly uncontrollable. I always got stuck in this step because my own experience with religion in a cult. God was not something that could have resonated with me. Eventually, I found that replacing ‘God’ with ‘collective consciousness’ helped me feel connected to something bigger than myself.
Men and women are in a power struggle. In this patriarchal society, women are not treated as equals, leaving us in an eternal tug-of-war. As a software engineer, you become intimately familiar with various types of users and their needs. The only thing that improves the user experience is learning about them and gathering their input. The product is not complete without the consideration of all who use it.
Modern Christianity said God is a Man. Ariana Grande sang God is a Woman. Perhaps god is the harmonious union of man and woman: a genderless singularity. That would certainly explain why sex between enthusiastically consenting adults is foretold to be euphoric.
I just want a world where I can see the feminine
We only make up one-quarter of the government
Like an angel gone to hell
Cast the moon under our spell
Owning female power, taking back what’s ours
Earth is like a white rose
Quiet cloud of petals fold
A place so corrupt where
Angel flesh and blood is sold
The feminine is born as new
Started with a diamond dew
Solitude was coming, everybody knew
Need to purge the poison from our system
Until human beings listen
Tell me, who do you think you are?
It’s your own decision
But your home is now your prison
You forgot that, without me, you won’t go far
— Marina Lambrini Diamandis, “Purge the Poison”
This concludes this series. For fact-checking and to draw your own conclusions about what any of this means, the Bibliography is here.