Wired Women

Wiredcover_10-21_01-227x300 Cindy Royal, a blogger at "Cindy's Take on Tech," writes an excellent post complaining about this recent cover of Wired Magazine, which is a headless shot of boobs. Royal complains that this cover is typical of Wired's attitude towards women. For many years, they have failed to highlight smart women in the tech industry. If a woman is shown on the cover, she is scantily dressed or a ditsy actress or a scantily dressed, ditsy actress.

Royal writes,

Come to think of it, the last time that a woman was featured on your cover, because she was being featured in the magazine for an actual accomplishment, was way back in 1996 when it was Sherry Turkle, the academic and author. And, the only other time was in 1994, when musician/author Laurie Anderson was featured. Because since then, I guess no women have done anything notable in technology unless it had to do with their bodies? Really?

Go Cindy!

Chris Anderson responds in the comments.

UPDATE: Check out the interns.

12 thoughts on “Wired Women

  1. Is that even sexy? It just looked wrong, wrong, wrong the first time I saw it (anatomically, not politically). That much breast with no nipple action suggests some serious skew to me. Less “hot”, more “Arrested Development’s Kitty Sanchez after her bothched breast implants”.

  2. I was unimpressed by the editor’s comeback. He whines about how it’s hard to put people on the cover unless they are “well-known, likable people with interesting things to say.” That’s another way of saying that most women who accomplish anything in the tech world are seen as uninteresting or unlikable, eh?
    He also wrote that Martha Stewart kills sales while Will Ferrell ensures them. Hm: I don’t think that’s just about gender. I bet if they got Olivia Munn, they’d be rocking the cover sales!
    Finally, his whine that the cover story was all about breast tissue so the image was justified, well, from the cover text, I wouldn’t have thought that. Silly me, I thought that tissue engineering and medical advances signalled something that was widely applicable to medical science beyond just mammary tissue.

  3. Part of the photo effect is the matt paper stock Wired uses for it’s covers. It gives that 60’s dulling effect that we’re not used to for pictures of breasts.
    I do wonder if there’s been photoshopping here, but it’s possible that it’s just artful cropping.
    I have a hard time getting upset about this kind of thing. Those magazine folks are in a tough spot trying to get people to buy their magazines. Covers are about news stand sales. They can’t avoid paying attention to what will get someone to pick up their magazine and looking at it.
    The bigger complaint that Wired ignores women in Tech is the concern I’d concentrate on (if I were in tech, and new anything about it).

  4. Well I can comment on covers in general.
    We constantly get 2-8 reader letters an issue asking us why we don’t have real (non-celeb, not traditionally gorgeous) women on our magazine covers and these readers (confession: I used to be one who would write these letters) would insist that they and all their friends would FLOCK to buy the magazine if only we would do that.
    So now I’m in the industry and I see the data for magazine newsstand sales next to pictures of all the covers of magazines across the board (not just ours) and I have to tell you that what Chris Anderson said is exactly what happens, whether Wired itself is actually interested in promoting women in tech or not.
    Covers are expensive to get wrong. People will go with what has sold in the past and what early feedback is showing will sell.
    What I’ve observed is for years people insist that it’s time to do a cover with (x person that doesn’t hit the celeb/beauty markers) and exercise the power of media to do something more exciting or real or editorial, and eventually some whiff of optimism enters the room, the cover runs, and sales tank. TANK. Since that represents massive losses, it doesn’t happen again for a long time.
    That said, nothing really justifies the intern pic, unless it’s the interns that came up with it. (And there I’d say some mentoring would be in order.) So I’m not defending Wired’s culture.

  5. “That said, nothing really justifies the intern pic, unless it’s the interns that came up with it. (And there I’d say some mentoring would be in order.)”
    Boy, I hope they came up with it. I hadn’t linked through to that pict. If someone had suggested it to me, when I was intern age, I would have whole-heartedly balked, and made a big stink (even if it was suggested by another intern). But then, I say that I’m happy to be a sanctimonious feminist.
    The better mentoring would be in order, because I think that this is an example of how a young person might not realize that this photo isn’t going to be a good google link when they’re being vetted to be a Supreme Court Justice.

  6. The better mentoring would be in order…
    The internet sure shows a great deal of evidence of women who lacked sufficient mentoring.

  7. Agreed, bj. I keep seeing the “you’re such a luddite! In The Future, all women will have pictures floating around of them in sexy raindeer costumes fellating a dildo on their husband’s head, so it won’t have any power anymore” argument being bandied about and… no. As with all things, the careful parents — especially the ones that make a living in tech, IME — will work as hard as they can to keep that from befalling their girls, and the other girls will not realize until it’s too late.

  8. “The internet sure shows a great deal of evidence of women who lacked sufficient mentoring.”
    Yes, it does. And, I think that’s going to be another divider between the haves and have nots. I think the girls whose mothers are raising them to think of a future in which their on the Supreme Court *are* going to be less likely to have such pictures taken or shared.
    You can’t do much about a sleazy boyfriend (or an irate one), but you can avoid having salacious pictures of yourself published in Wired.

  9. This reminds me of the time one of my journalism professors brought a female journalist (a copy desk person from the LA Times, if I remember correctly) into class to talk about girl stuff (the fact she never saw her husband, etc.). She had worked for Rolling Stone at one point, but eventually noticed that she wasn’t getting anywhere at the magazine–all the plum jobs were going to girlfriends of male Rolling Stone staff. “To make it at Rolling Stone, you had to make it,” she said. I expect Wired has a similar ambience.

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