BlogWorld: Why Not Feature the Smart Women?

Today’s post diverges slightly from the topic of this blog. But it’s been eating at me and I feel I need to say it. So here we go.

This week I attended BlogWorld in New York City. Overall the experience was awesome. I learned a ton from a lot of really smart people. I got to know some new people, meet some people I’ve only known online to date, and just overall soaked it all in and got as much as I possibly could from it.

But there were a few things that made me scratch my head, and I want to talk about this from a women’s perspective for just a minute.

  1. At the opening night party, they had contestants from Miss USA walking around in their sashes. Most of the male attendees I talked to thought this was a great thing. But I have to say…why? Why, at this professional conference, are we stooping to the objectification of women as a draw to a party? As a female in this industry, I was slightly offended. I got over it, but still. Why?
  2. At the closing keynote, rather than bringing on some of the incredibly smart, professional women we’d heard throughout the conference, they chose instead to feature a woman who showed a video about mixing cake batter with a vibrator, and another who spoke at length about female sex organs. And people cheered. (You can read more about the travesty of the closing keynote here: http://www.thesaleslion.com/blog-world-new-york-sales-lion/)

Really?

How are women ever going to be taken seriously in this industry if we keep featuring women in this way? And I have to say, I’m not a kumbayah kind of girl. I’m not a hearts and flowers, hanging with my girls, let me tell you how I really feel emotionally kind of woman. I’m pretty tough. I’m a professional. And I think this kind of thing stinks.

There were some incredible women that I met and listened to over the course of BlogWorld. People like Gini Dietrich, Shonali Burke, Johna Burke, Julie Perry, and Ekaterina Walter. Professional women. Smart women. Why weren’t they on the panel? Why did they instead choose women who talk about female sex organs?

I think the BlogWorld people did a lot of things right. I learned a lot. But it’s this little seedy underbelly that’s going to keep women from being taken seriously. We have a responsibility to feature the smart women, not the ones that will just make people laugh at their crude jokes. We can do better.

Am I off base here? What do you think? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments.

58 Responses to BlogWorld: Why Not Feature the Smart Women?
  1. Pola
    May 31, 2011 | 2:59 pm

    I am not a blogger and no little about this industry. I follow Jen for her geat business tips and social media tools. What I read here was the Jen did her job . She provoked thought and brougt attention to an area that women and men have opinions and learning to uncover. Isn’t it all about learning? It takes courage to speak up and tell your truth and I commend any women who takes that path and also takes responsibility for the outcome. Thank you Jen !

    • Jennifer Fong
      May 31, 2011 | 3:10 pm

      Thank you Pola! I sincerely appreciate the support!

  2. Ellie
    May 31, 2011 | 8:26 am

    I read your last apology and then read the post in question. Thank you for the reminder that what we post can be read all over the world. My second thought is that I have been reading your blogs for about 6 months- you are a professional but human and humans are not perfect.

    Finally, I can relate through my music background. I have attended concerts all my life, performed in concerts and recitals and am a private music teacher. Part of my job with my students is teach as many different styles of music and at the same time teach how to search for the best music out there.

    My stand is always be professional in all that I do and expect the best from others.

  3. Coffee with Julie
    May 30, 2011 | 10:56 am

    Thank you for this post. This was my first BlogWorld and I left with similar feelings that have lingered … it almost felt like I’d walked into an “old boys club” of some sort.

  4. Lucretia Pruitt
    May 30, 2011 | 1:43 am

    I’m so never having a session at the same time as Gini Dietrich again. Not only don’t I get to see her, but she sucks all the folks like you in there instead of in our session and I don’t make lists! 😉

    On a serious note though? I keep looking for a good way to say this…

    Some of us women have been sexually harrassed and sexually objectified through out our careers. No, it hasn’t stopped us. No, it’s not wrong that Sarah did exactly what she was hired to do. But what she was hired to do? Didn’t sit right with those of us who see it as furthering the loutish behavior that has brought this whole convo up. I don’t need the men I work with looking at me and thinking anything other than “she has some great ideas and skills” not “huh, I can’t picture her with a vibrator stirring a cake.” Does that make sense?
    It’s not that what Sara & Shauna said or did is offensive – it’s that it was done at an event that I attend for professional reasons. It makes my job harder when something like this sets certain men off into objectification.
    It’s tricky. I don’t want to be in an environment where that sort of thing is inevitable.

    • Jennifer Fong
      May 30, 2011 | 11:47 am

      Thanks for your comment Lucretia. You have articulated exactly the reason for this post. I totally need to check out your session at the next conference! 🙂

  5. Lara Kulpa
    May 29, 2011 | 10:31 pm

    While this topic has certainly begun to bore me to bits over the weekend, I feel that I need to speak upon it after reading all the comments and defenses you, Jennifer, have given.

    First, let me disclaimer this with stating that I’ve spoken at Blog World twice now, and have attended since 2008. I’m absolutely in love with this conference, for oh so many reasons… Many of which have to do with the amazing talent I see across the board when it comes to speakers and keynotes as chosen by the BWE team. But let’s spill some facts here, that have not been mentioned thus far…

    1. None of the Miss USA contestants were dressed anything but tastefully. There weren’t boobs and g-strings. This post would lead any reader to believe that BWE had actually HIRED Playboy centerfolds to patronize the party, when in fact, they were (as previously stated) in town to do some charity work for children. Hmm. Don’t know many stupid, objectified sex objects that would do that kind of thing. You sure wouldn’t see Hugh sending his ladies out for stuff like that. So the Chippendales reference made by a commenter is completely null and void.

    2. BWE has ALWAYS had a funny, off-kilter session for it’s final keynote. Always. A little research would’ve told you that. Nothing anywhere, on any materials or websites, refers to BWE as a “tech” conference. Blogging, vlogging, podcasting… sure, uses technology. But it’s about content, as Rick said. I think you should probably check into your personal definition of “tech” versus what the rest of the world considers “tech” to be. You’re being too general and it’s costing you some validity behind your complaints.

    3. You did, in fact, presume Sara and Shauna to be NOT smart when you said, “At the closing keynote, rather than bringing on some of the incredibly smart, professional women we’d heard throughout the conference, they chose instead to feature a woman who showed a video about mixing cake batter with a vibrator, and another who spoke at length about female sex organs. And people cheered.”

    First, you say “rather than bringing on some of the incredibly smart, professional women” which directly says that the woman who showed the video and the other who spoke about sex organs are NOT incredibly smart or professional.

    Then you say “And people cheered.” Which is totally insinuating that the people who enjoyed the entertainment were also NOT incredibly smart or professional.

    My bottom line here is that I think by taking the time to write this post, you’ve focused so much on one tiny part, the “mostly for entertainment, end of the show, finale” part, that you’ve completely negated anything else you’ve said about any part of the conference you may have actually enjoyed, despite the fact that you did in fact say there was some. You’ve devalued that “compliment” you snuck in there, because you surrounded it with your disgust over something that was never meant to be taken as seriously as you have.

    I suppose, had you been to Blog World before, you would’ve never written this post. You might’ve commented somewhere else about your equal distaste for the over-the-top sexuality of the final keynote, but you would’ve understood much more about the conference as a whole, and one keynote wouldn’t have bothered you.

    It kind of sucks that you’ve officially stated twice so far that you don’t intend to attend another Blog World, simply because of one hour that didn’t suit you. It sucks even more, that because you focused ONLY on that (really, now… a list of links to a handful of women you claim to have enjoyed doesn’t count for much in the grand scheme of this post), that you’ve probably effectively discouraged others from ever attending even one.

    You can say, “But that wasn’t my intention!” all you like, but you know as well as I do that what you say as a blogger has an affect on people. You can see it by the comments from others that say as much.

    I don’t think that Rick, Deb, or the Blog World team, much less any of the fabulous speakers who will comprise the majority of sessions at the next one, deserve that from you or anyone.
    Lara Kulpa recently posted..How To Deal With Negative Ned-Nancy In Your Community

  6. @DrNatalie
    May 29, 2011 | 10:09 pm

    Watching this conversation evolve has been interesting. There are always many versions of what is “right” “wrong” and what just is. Perhaps the real issue is that there’s not enough women speaking at conferences in general — social media or other types. Perhaps if there were more than this one particular incident may not have garnered the attention it did.

    I’d like to see us focus on having more great, smart female speakers from all walks of life. Maybe because there are so few, that when someone does get the chance to speak, we are having an expectation that it look or feel a certain way — somehow because there are so few spots that the upset is more magnified that if there were equal number of men and women speaking.

    One of the things that I learned as a management consultant was, it’s not what you actually do, but more what the “client” expects that stabilizes relationships. This situation “seems” to be one in which there were expectations of one thing and other things happened that were outside of that expectation.

    I don’t know what the show should have been like or could have been. I wasn’t there. What I have found is that asking what people want and making sure that those expectations are communicated and met has made my life a littler easier. Not saying I always get things right. But perhaps this was a case of managing expectations, of wanting to do something outside the box and the results are some very good “teachable moments.”

    My 2 cents is to not beat up Deb or Rick or anyone else involved. Its to get clear on expectations of the event creators, the speakers and the audience. And then be in full disclosure to help met everyone’s expectations.

    Because I do speak a lot, I often see Deb, Rick and his team at conferences. They spend an incredible amount of time, care and energy to look for good speakers. I know they really care about what audiences think and feel. I’d say, let’s move on and use this as a good point in time to understand what do audiences want and where are the lines and allow creators their artist freedoms as well as the audiences opportunity to stay or go as a result.

    It’s not to say we shouldn’t share when we don’t like something, but rather make feedback about the ability to provide information/feedback that is not hurtful and does allow for humaness and expresses “what we’d like better if…” That’s the only information anyone can actually act on after the fact.

  7. Lenore Sanborn
    May 29, 2011 | 9:53 pm

    Thank you for your thoughtful comments & perspectives, Jennifer. I think that many of these issues are easily made clearer when the shoe is placed on the other foot:

    How would the *men* at the event have felt to be served by men in Chip-n-Dales costumes? … or Mr. Universe contestants in tuxedos if you feel the comparison isn’t a fair one. I’ll bet that most attendees would have questioned the relevance of having such servers, even if they didn’t object to their presence.

    How would it have been received to have a male comedian on the panel making jokes about male genitalia? Would it have been appropriate to this venue or event? Honestly, I work in a female-dominated industry (direct sales) and I have seen the shoe on the other foot.

    To be frank, I’ve seen male VPs turned into “hunky objects of desire” by consultants and objectified onstage and off… and was equally appalled- perhaps more so because of the strides made over the past decades to accommodate women in the workplace. It seemed doubly offensive to have the tables turned. When I asked these same questions: “How would it have been received if a female VP got cat calls as she walked onstage to address the sales reps of a company?,” the answer became immediately clear.

    Just because people weren’t offended, doesn’t indicate that it’s not worth questioning its pertinence.

    • Deb Ng
      May 29, 2011 | 10:19 pm

      Chippendales wouldn’t have been relevant to the talk. It wasn’t about beefcake or cheesecake or even sexuality. The closing talk show is always about the diversity of content we find on the web and the people who make their success creating content. Shauna Glenn is someone who discusses women’s issues and sexuality in a frank manner. She’s also a humorist. We featured her in our talk show because she’s a smart, successful content creator. Not because she looks good in a tight black dress.

    • Chantilly Patiño
      May 31, 2011 | 4:41 am

      Exactly!

  8. Marla Schulman
    May 29, 2011 | 9:09 pm

    While I wasn’t there at BWENY, I have been a part of several conversations and have read the Sales Lion’s comments and yours with a bit of curiosity so I feel I am qualified to respond.

    Have we lost our sense of humor, or our ability to accept other women as THEY CHOOSE TO BE not as WE THINK they should be? Isn’t that what we women (I am a infant of the 60s) fought for?

    If women want to become Miss USA, then they should…not my cup of tea, but who am I to judge. Also, in the same vein, who I am to say the women panelists as vulgar as some say they were or as funny as female Howard Sterns (whose humor I enjoy from time to time – though he can go far), why should they not be represented? And to say these women are not “professional” enough because their subject matter is too blue for some tastes…isn’t that just wrong?

    There were production mistake as admitted by BWE’s Rick Calvert in a comment to Sales Lion, but deciding who and what to program is not our charge to judge. There are many conferences and we can choose to go or not go to individual panels, or even the event itself…we can walk out if we don’t like or in this case are offended by something…but throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water is counter-productive and calling the women who spoke unprofessional or unqualified to be there is a slur on our gender and our ability to chose.
    Marla Schulman recently posted..Starting a Yoga Practice – Life After Kids TV 5-19-11

  9. Linda Sherman
    May 29, 2011 | 7:36 pm

    Jennifer, I think that BWENY did feature smart women. There were plenty of good sessions with women. I was very pleased with the value I got out of the conference and I was pleased to be one of the women speaking.

    This was my fourth BWE so I was not so surprised by the final keynote.

    Perhaps because I worked as a female executive in Japan for 20 years, I am not so easily offended. Personally, I would rather have a closing keynote where I learn something rather than be entertained but I don’t find watching female comedians do their thing offensive.

    BWE is an excellent conference that attracts participants that I truly enjoy spending time with. I look forward to attending the one in November in Los Angeles.
    Linda Sherman recently posted..Leadership Tips for Running a Foreign Subsidiary

  10. Morgan
    May 29, 2011 | 1:10 pm

    Sara B. said “I suppose I ought to ask Columbia University’s M.A. program for my money back.”
    You should probably do that anyway, bc a) it was their non prestigious Education school and b) you wish you had the money back because now you ‘work’ a bad comedian who spends too much time commenting on blogs.

    • Jennifer Fong
      May 29, 2011 | 5:27 pm

      Let’s be respectful here. Sara did the job she was hired to do. And she did it well, according to what the people that paid her asked for. The issue lies with the fact that it’s unfortunate this is what was asked for. At least in my opinion, and in the opinion of some others. But I respect Sara for chiming in and sharing her side of the story. She’s a woman that clearly “has it going on.” 🙂

  11. Morgan
    May 29, 2011 | 1:02 pm

    People who lack a sense of humor = Sara Benincasa. The video was horrible. And just because she wants to make up for it in a ‘comment’ about how educated she is and how she is writing a book, does not mean she was funny in the least as a lecturer. (She never is.)

    Rock out, Jen. You’re right to say she sucks. Her’s is not an issue of freedom of speech: she’s delusional to think so. Just like she’s delusional to think she’s funny, or that anyone cares to read her book.

    • Jennifer Fong
      May 29, 2011 | 5:29 pm

      And when we talk freedom of speech, that’s part of the beauty of what happened here (and what’s great about this country.) Sara has the right to talk about any part of the female anatomy she wishes. I have the right to object to it. So do you. And we all can co-exist. Yay democracy!

  12. Leesa Barnes
    May 29, 2011 | 10:34 am

    I’ve been in tech since 1994 and this discussion about female representation in tech is as old as the Internet itself. Jennifer, I appreciate that spirit of your blog post because as a smart women, you want to see reflections of yourself at events. Like me, you probably learn best when smart women speak brilliantly and are represented well.

    I chose not to submit a speaker proposal to BlogWorld because those who gather at that event are not in my target market. To put it another way – those who show up at BlogWorld don’t see me as their Cali Lewis, Zadi Diaz or Amber MacArthur. They see me as Oprah – their mother’s guide, guru or maven – and they avoid me. So, while some may crucify Dave or Rick for not including more smart women on panels and in speaking sessions, it could just very well be that smart women are passing on BlogWorld Expo because they simply don’t fit in.

    I’ve met Rick and he has a super generous heart. He won’t get it right all the time. I know that he and Dave try hard to ensure there’s a diversity of thought and voices at their event. And I know that as women who attend events like BlogWorld Expo, we want to see reflections of ourselves – smart women speaking brilliantly about great topics (with most of their clothes on). My advice is to choose your events wisely – both as a speaker and as an attendee.
    Leesa Barnes recently posted..Top 3 Reasons Why You Make Mistakes in Your Virtual Support Business 3

    • Jennifer Fong
      May 29, 2011 | 5:33 pm

      Thanks for chiming in here Leesa. (And you know I think you rock…you’re hardly beyond anything.) I hope I’ve made it clear that I think that the BlogWorld folks did a lot right. I learned a lot, and plan to highlight that this week when my regular audience is more engaged (it’s a holiday weekend, after all.) I attended the sessions of all the really smart women I mention in the post, and I learned a LOT. I’m more concerned with the keynotes. I think we should be hiring the same folks for the keynotes. But of course, that’s just my opinion. I will choose future events based on that.

  13. Katy Lunsford
    May 28, 2011 | 5:09 pm

    Wow, I would have been VERY offended, I do hope you will let the organizers know how you feel. how we feel.

  14. Allison
    May 28, 2011 | 4:42 pm

    I wanted to make a comment about your first point, about the pageant girls at the BlogWorld party, since everyone is focusing on the keynote. As a disclaimer, while I do work with BlogWorld on their blog, my opinions here are not in any way representing opinions of the show organizers or the show in general. This is just how I felt as someone who attended the party.

    As Gary announced (maybe you missed it, since it was pretty loud), the girls were in town for Fleet week, and promoting their event the next day when they would be helping members of the military build bikes for children in need. I think that’s a really good thing to promote. The girls were walking around talking about it, but maybe you didn’t get a chance to talk to one of them.

    In general, I think pageants are great because they highlight that women can be both beautiful/sexy and intelligent. The girl I talked to told me a little about her platform – the charity and causes she’d like to promote if she wins. They were definitely objectified – as objects of power, grace, brilliance, sexiness, intelligence, and joy. It would be different if there were just a bunch of models walking around in skimpy dresses. I thought that these girls were not only dressed extremely tastefully, but they spoke very intelligently about their passions. Pageants give them the opportunity to do that.

    I guess, I just don’t see any problem with a girl celebrating her beauty, especially if the fact that she’s beautiful can get some otherwise uninterested people to take notice of the causes she is promoting.
    Allison recently posted..Circle- Circle- Dot- Dot- Coffee- Fear- and BWENY

    • Jennifer Fong
      May 29, 2011 | 5:37 pm

      Maybe the pageant gal I spoke with missed the memo. She never mentioned anything about charity, although she expressed delight that if she WON she’d get to move to NEW YORK. *insert eye roll* My personal feeling is that people should take control of their own destiny. Get a job (or start your own business) and get it done. You mention “sexiness” in your comment. I personally don’t think that has anything to do with what we’re doing here. Again, just my opinion. And I come from a female-dominated industry. But I’d rather focus on women who are noticed for their brains, rather than their boobs.

    • Chantilly Patiño
      May 31, 2011 | 4:51 am

      “I think pageants are great because they highlight that women can be both beautiful/sexy and intelligent.”

      In truth, pageants highlight the ‘most desired/most beautiful’ women…they do not celebrate the beauty of women, but instead rummage through our features and point our which are ‘acceptable’ and which are not. Not exactly a way to build up a woman’s feelings of ‘sexiness’, unless of course, she’s the winner. I wonder if you could tell me how all the losers feel? Also, how does this set a positive example for men to appreciate women’s beauty and intelligence, when they are constantly taught to ‘critique’ our every thought and feature?

  15. Dan
    May 28, 2011 | 2:52 pm

    If you’re an adult and “adult language” offends you, you are not smart.

    To give The Sales Lion any more traffic after he wrote “comedy” in quotes while referencing ANY ARTIST in humor is awful. Shame on you for even mentioning him and his clearly inflammatory post. I would comment directly on that post, but I don’t want him to have one more iota of attention.

    If people cheered, that means they liked it. If you didn’t like it, just leave and complain to whomever put on the event that they did not give you enough information. Posting these statements however means you want an entire culture of bloggers (something that exists in the heretofore free world of the internet) to abide by your standards of decency in order for all women to seem smarter. What about smart women who disagree with you? Smart women who have a different sense of humor? They’re wrong? That seems to be what you’re saying. They’re wrong for enjoying this because you thought it was indecent.

    I can only ask: what year is it? Women should be respected for speaking their minds bluntly, and not when they adhere to a standard that YOU think is right.

    Dan

    • Marcus Sheridan-The Sales Lion
      May 28, 2011 | 6:50 pm

      Hi Dan, I’m honestly not sure if you read my post or not based on your comment, but I’ll repeat for those here.

      1. I don’t think Sara did anything wrong at all. She is also very talented, kind, and intelligent. In fact, her and I have formed a unique friendship through this event.

      2. My article is not about adult language and whether or not it is offensive. It’s about the timing of the keynote, and the way it was done. If blogworld wants to do performances like that in the future, they must do a better job of helping others be aware of what it’s all about and a keynote to cap things off is likely not the best place.

      3. I think diversity is a great thing. I love talent in all its forms. But everything does have a right time and place. Had Sara gotten in front of everyone and started preaching about some religious teaching, I would be saying the exact same thing here.

      Finally Dan, it’s healthy to discuss these things as Jennifer and I have done. When done civilly, it’s the ultimate form of understanding and human communication. This is why I’m impressed with Sara, is that she has a great ability to talk civilly about the issues.

      And Jennifer, I’m obliged to you for linking to my site and also for your willingness to tackle this problem.

      Cheers,

      Marcus

      • Jennifer Fong
        May 29, 2011 | 5:35 pm

        Marcus,
        Thanks for commenting. I think your article raised an important issue. That’s the beauty of the blog-o-sphere…that we can all share our views. Hopefully respectfully. Posts like yours and mine hopefully make people think, which helps move us all forward.

        Cheers!
        Jennifer

    • Jennifer Fong
      May 29, 2011 | 5:39 pm

      The beauty of democracy is that we’re all entitled to express our opinion. I’ve expressed mine, as did Marcus. I was offended. As is my right.

  16. Lorian Rivers
    May 28, 2011 | 1:40 pm

    I agree with both sides of the comments. The women who performed were not at question, the organizers of the meeting, were. Why not have men running around in g-strings so the women who attended could get their jollies too? Or would that be too much? Why not just have a non-sexist to either gender gathering?

  17. Julie
    May 27, 2011 | 8:15 pm

    Sara Benincasa is one of sharpest, wittiest, intelligent comediennes I’ve met. I’ve worked with her and she’s a total professional.
    And she’s sexy and does great work to provide insightful, thoughtful, smart and yes humorous education on sexuality to the mainstream.
    You may not have liked the panel, or even seen it, but her intelligence is not in question here. That’s a below the belt kind of complaint.
    Just own that you aren’t comfortable with her particular skill set and area of expertise, instead of claiming she’s unintelligent.
    Julie recently posted..Why A Women’s Comedy Festival

  18. Sara Benincasa
    May 27, 2011 | 6:28 pm

    Jennifer, I am one of the women you disparage in this post. I hope you’ll permit me this space to speak up for myself, as Marcus kindly did at The Sales Lion.

    I’m a professional comedian who performs nationally at colleges and in comedy clubs. I also have an M.A. from Columbia University. I blog and created original video content for Comedy Central. I’ve done the same for Jezebel, The Frisky, Marie Claire, Nerve, and other sites. I speak at colleges and universities about managing mental illness and about positive body image for young people. My memoir, which is about managing panic attacks and depression, is forthcoming early next year from William Morrow/HarperCollins.

    All of which is to say: you may not have liked what I had to say. I was not booked as a business speaker. I was booked as a comedian, and encouraged to be explicit, wild, outrageous, and funny. I did all those things.

    When I was booked for this event, I expressed concern about the edginess of my material and asked if I ought to tone it down. I was encouraged to not do that. I was also given this video by way of guidance ahead of time:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebu213cQNNk&feature=player_embedded

    If my use of adult language and humor leads you to believe I’m somehow not smart or to conflate me with pageant contestants (maybe of whom, believe it or not, have brains in their head too), then I think you need to expand your definition of what intelligence is. Women like Margaret Cho and Sarah Silverman are brilliant, funny, and yes, outspoken.

    I encourage you to consider the words of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, who famously said, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” And if you would like to continue this discussion via email, I’m at sara@sarabenincasa.com. I can promise you I will be respectful and you might just find I’m not so dumb, or so embarrassing to women, as you seem to think.

    • Mandy Stadtmiller
      May 27, 2011 | 7:34 pm

      Oh man, oh man. My heart always goes out to people who lack a sense of humor. And what a surprise, too, coming from a blog about “Social Media Success Strategies for Direct Sellers.” Isn’t that the name of Stephen Colbert’s blog, too? So, listen, it’s hard to feel angered at this completely misguided post. It’s like reading a comedy review by Glenn Beck of “The Daily Show.” I just feel empathy, quite honestly. Sara Benincasa is one of the most brilliant comedians I know. Her Palin send-ups alone will go down in history. Actual history. No exaggeration. Ranked #1 internationally on YouTube and deservedly so. What’s even better is that she realizes it’s possible to be brilliant — and be outrageous, sexual and provocative at the same time. (To me, thinking that sexuality is antithetical to intelligence, or a detriment, or mutually exclusive or somehow “hurts” women being taken seriously is *the ultimate* in anti-feminism. To be a serious female, you have to be a neutered one? No. Just no.) Thanks for inspiring me consistently, Sara. I’m so sad to have missed your keynote. You’re one of the greats. And it sounds like you killed it, too.
      Mandy Stadtmiller recently posted..mandystadt- RT @lizzieohreally- @mandystadt Only a moron would have picked Danny Zuko

      • Telaina
        May 27, 2011 | 8:25 pm

        Boy, do the Puritans have a lot to answer for. And why, BTW, do men get to define what professional behavior is? Why do we have to be more like them or even MORE like them than they are to be taken seriously? Why don’t we question that? If I can’t say f*** when I want, or make a vibrator joke I’ll just stay a part of the seedy underbelly of feminism. I’m all about calling out the objectification of women but I don’t think you do that by making blanket judgments about someone’s intelligence and judging what is and isn’t appropriate behavior in someone who was hired to be AN ENTERTAINER. That sounds like getting pissed at the wedding DJ because he keeps playing slow romantic songs.

        BTW, I have an MFA and my tested IQ puts me in the 96th/97percentile. Of men and women.

        Viva la Sara. ♥

    • Jennifer Fong
      May 28, 2011 | 8:52 am

      Sara,
      First I apologize for offending you. It was not my intention, and I am truly sorry for that. I am sure you are quite intelligent. The intent was not to attack you personally. My point was that ANYONE can make jokes about female anatomy and such. It is not an indicator of intelligence. (Building your career as you have, however, does indicate intelligence, and I applaud you for that. Would have preferred to hear about that.) And after spending days hearing from women who demonstrate their intelligence daily through some astounding work in their businesses, I was surprised at the choice of topic for the closing keynote.

      Honestly, you did exactly what you were hired to do, it seems. And I find the fact that this is what they asked for disappointing. From Rick’s comments, it sounds like they are unapologetic and intend to continue this vein for future conferences. So perhaps this is not the conference for me. I thought I was attending a business conference.

      Because you see, in the boardrooms that I, and many of the women who attended and spoke at this conference, frequent, we are constantly dealing with stereotypes that make our jobs more difficult. There is an old boys network that, unfortunately, sometimes makes us have to work harder than our male counterparts in order to be taken seriously. It’s performances like the ones on Thursday that sometimes perpetuate this.

      When I saw the likes of Brogan and Pirillo on stage, I expected fascinating content from industry leaders that I admire. I wonder why they did not bring up female industry leaders of the same caliber. Again, it’s not to say that you are not very good at what you do. Apparently you are, and your passionate defenders make that clear. I just expected women in the social media space. Maybe I just should have read the program materials more closely. Again, I made assumptions based on attending a business conference.

      I guess I’ll just have to rethink my attendance of this particular conference in the future. I wish you much success.

      Jennifer

      • Sara Benincasa
        May 31, 2011 | 10:51 am

        Thanks, Jennifer. As I said on Twitter, we are both Somerset Patriots fans, so we can agree on that. 🙂 I appreciate your response and its measured and honest explanation of how you feel.

        In fact, I don’t usually respond to negative posts about my work. But I was moved to do so here and in the case of Marcus’s blog and his commenters because this was criticism rather than trolling. There is a very important difference. Critics are people who don’t like what I do. Trolls are people who don’t like who I am. And I would imagine that as an outspoken woman who is successful in business, you have encountered these types via the web. They are so empty, so dull and so deeply envious of our platform (“Why should anyone listen to HER when no one listens to ME?”) that they develop a kind of imaginary relationship with the object of their envy, and this quickly turns to hate. These folks are bullies who are too cowardly to throw a punch in public. Instead, they sit at their desks or in their bedrooms, alone, enraged by their own obscurity and powerlessness. The only way they know how to claim power is to type words on a screen and hit “submit.” There are many of them out there, and they increase in number as the object of their obsession increases in visibility. I’ve seen it happen with a number of women friends across media.

        Your blog post was not this. And your commenters are, by and large, not of this type. Which is why I turned my attention to it and formulated a response.

        Best of luck to you in future with your work and with growing your business. And I hope you had a good holiday weekend.

  19. Michelle Maskaly
    May 27, 2011 | 4:56 pm

    Your post is exactly on point.

    As a woman, the comments being made on stage felt like they were just furthering the stereotype, issues and inappropriateness we have to deal with in male-dominated boardrooms and business everyday. Instead of having women up there who can talk issues, they picked woman who continue to capitalize on sexuality to be successful.

    You didn’t see Brogan come out in a tight black dress and four inch heels.
    Michelle Maskaly recently posted..Networking Tips to Get the Most Out of BlogWorld New York

    • Rick Calvert
      May 28, 2011 | 2:29 am

      First of all Thank you for caring enough to write this post Jennifer and thank you for supporting our event. I know you meant it constructively but I hope you can see where some others might be offended by your characterization of Sarah and Shauna. They are both brilliant and funny. They are not “tech bloggers”. BlogWorld is not about tech bloggers, or marketing podcasters, or PR flacks. Though we attract a lot of them to the show.

      All of the women you mentioned actually were on panels. Just under 40% of all our speakers were woman in New York. That is actually lower that our last event which was 51% men to 49% women but we don’t use a quota. We just actively think “who is a great woman who can give this talk” for literally every single session. Only 10% of our submitted sessions are from women. We actively recruit the rest of them. We are very proud of the smart, funny, engaging women who present at our show and our record of empowering them.

      We are also very proud of our commitment to all forms of diversity not just in gender but culturally, racially (we are still working on that party), and by having diverse genres of content represented.

      The Social Media Business Summit has two full tracks over three full days. Two of the three keynotes were business focused (featuring 2 more brilliant and professional women).

      We had one keynote that was entirely meant to be entertainment and to showcase some of the most talented content creators in the blogosphere. Sara and Shauna are exactly that. We advertised that this keynote had adult content and was strictly entertainment several times online, in our newsletter and in the show directory. We realize now we need to do a better job of warning people what they are in for when they attend this session.

      Our event is meant to appeal to all digital content creators from all genres. We have had a similar format to our closing keynote for the last three years now. Even with your comments, Marcus’ post and the many comments there I can tell you we are still committed to this format for the closing keynote in Los Angeles and going forward.

      We feel we owe that to the content creators who don’t have a focus on monetization, marketing, PR, etc. And it is our hope that our community would support them the same way they support the other 200 speakers at the event. It 2:30 in the morning and we have spent all day trying to get our stranded staff back home to California after having all their flights bumped so if this comment comes off as being a little short please do not take it the wrong way. I am just trying to provide some facts and thought responding sooner instead of later was the right thing to do.

      I have 30 minute podcast Dave and I recorded this morning that I should be posting in reply to Marcus’ blog post tomorrow that much better explains why we are committed to this format.

      • Jennifer Fong
        May 28, 2011 | 9:00 am

        Rick, thanks for your response, and I hope you and your team made it home safely. I spend a fair share of my time on planes, and travel delays are never fun. I also want to say (again) that I got a great deal out of the conference. The panels were excellent, and I greatly enjoyed them. I learned a lot that I can put to work in my business right away.

        It’s too bad about the misconception (which I did, indeed, have.) I thought I was attending a tech in business conference, and my expectations were based on that. When I saw Brogan and Pirillo on the keynote ticket, I also had certain expectations, and clearly did not understand what you meant by the description. That’s too bad.

        Since you have no intention of changing this type of content, even given the outcry of your attendees, I will have to consider whether this is the conference for me in the future. Particularly because I am interested in business tech. That’s what I forked over $2k over for, when all was said and done for this trip.

        I wish you success with future Blogworlds.
        Jennifer

      • Lucretia Pruitt
        May 30, 2011 | 11:45 am

        “Even with your comments, Marcus’ post and the many comments there I can tell you we are still committed to this format for the closing keynote in Los Angeles and going forward.”

        That kind of saddens me Rick. I have always avoided the closing keynote as it has never struck me as something that fit with the rest of the event. Unless there are a lot of people out there posting “yes! Thank heavens BlogWorld has a closing keynote that is refreshingly different from the rest of the conference” somewhere I would hope that reading such strong feedback would at least make you guys consider that it might not fit the growing audience’s needs. Saying this in this way looks more like you’re saying “we don’t care what our attendees think” and digging your heels in.
        You’ve guys have never struck me as people who put on events despite their audience, but rather for them.

        Am I just not seeing the posts yet on the other side of the issue?

  20. kelly
    May 27, 2011 | 12:13 pm

    Did you miss the keynote with Stephanie Agrsta or HP Mallory or the women’s empowerment session? BlogWorld is one of the conferences I attend because they make a point of bringing in strong, smart and successful women. And who says strong women can’t enjoy being sexy? I think that we women tend to objectify women more than men do.

    • Jennifer Fong
      May 27, 2011 | 12:21 pm

      I did not attend the women’s empowerment session (too many great sessions, not enough time!) and I am not saying that no smart women were featured. I did see HP Mallory, and some other fantastic sessions, which I noted in this article. What I am saying is that there were things that I thought could have been done differently. Women face enough misogyny. We don’t have to exacerbate the problem with keynotes like the close. Let’s just be appropriate, and focus on what this conference was about…smart people in tech sharing ideas, both male AND female. There were many smart women there. There should have been more of them, especially in the keynotes!

      • Rick Calvert
        May 28, 2011 | 2:40 am

        This is a HUGE misconception about our event. It is not an event about “smart people in tech sharing ideas”. This event is about content not technology. That is one of the reasons we have never been in San Francisco.

        Think about the diversity of programming choices you have on television on the radio, at the movies. Better yet think about the diversity of content that was available at Book Expo America. Everything from children’s books, to cook books, to comics and steamy romance novels were on the shelves.

        When the new media industry learns that we are all content creators from a huge variety of genres we will have grown from our infancy to our adolescence. We obviously have a very long way to go 8).
        Rick Calvert recently posted..How to Market to the “Untouchables”

    • Sara Benincasa
      May 27, 2011 | 6:41 pm

      Your final sentence is absolutely right, Kelly, and unfortunate. I’m sorry Jennifer assumed I was not intelligent because I referred to the reproductive organs. I suppose I ought to ask Columbia University’s M.A. program for my money back.

  21. Michele Price
    May 27, 2011 | 11:20 am

    Jennifer I have been reading about this situation this morning and now I understand why the streaming of the closing keynote was not working-at least not for me.

    You are on target and the sad part is I know how hard Rick and Deb worked to make this an event a successful one that was for everyone.

    In stepping out and trying things you will have great successes and huge failures. I would be more concerned if they never made mistakes, as that says to me, they are not leading enough VS following other people’s leads.

    I bet they learn from this and will make a better choice next time, will we have our speaking material ready to state our case to choose us?
    Michele Price recently posted..Driven to Excellence or Defeat

    • Jennifer Fong
      May 27, 2011 | 11:26 am

      Michele,
      I agree that Rick and Deb worked super hard. And hopefully I was clear in the post that I thought overall the conference was great. It’s just so important to be sure that we’re supporting the rising female stars in our industry. There are some incredibly smart women in our industry. If we’re going to feature women, let’s choose them and avoid the cheap, vulgar joke. I fully support the risk-taking. I just raise the issue so that perhaps it’s kept in mind next time!

      Thanks for commenting!
      Jen

      • Melissa
        May 27, 2011 | 8:57 pm

        Jennifer,
        If Sara Benincasa was featured they DID choose a smart woman. You may not like her humor (I do, along with her inspiring honesty and openness) but that doesn’t mean you have put her–or anyone else–down.
        Signed,
        A woman with a genius level IQ who doesn’t think female sexuality is cheap and vulgar, but disparaging other women is.

      • Deb Ng
        May 28, 2011 | 9:51 am

        Jennifer,

        BlogWorld has always been about supporting and showcasing the rising stars in our industry – the content creation industry. And while I didn’t particularly care for the closing keynote, and I’m not a fan of excessive swearing and potty humor, I understand and support my team’s reasons for their choices. Our closing talkshow is always about showcasing the diversity of the content we’re ALL creating online.

        What bothers me the most is that we received so much positive feedback for our entire conference. We were told our content was the best content yet and our speakers are top notch. As Kelly mentioned above, we had two dynamic women keynoting on our first day. Why isn’t anyone talking about that? Why are we basing our decision on this one keynote?

        I also agree with Kelly’s remark that we women tend to objectify women more than men. A lot was made of the fact that Shauna Glen wore a black dress and had blonde hair. And that remark was made by women who would like to imply Shauna is a bimbo. We absolutely do create our own stereotypes. While I’ll go on record that I felt the video was rather inappropriate, I’ll also say that we can’t make it a point to provide educational sessions and tracks for all content creators, and say in many of those sessions to push the envelope, and then never push the envelope or show diversity when creating our own content. That would be the true hypocrisy.

        Now, you and I go back a ways and you know that I feel that creative people can truly make an impact without using adult language I still believe that to be true. However, by posting this, you’re also choosing not to focus on what you consider to be the smart women. Instead, you’re highlighting the same thing you accused us of doing.

        • Deb Ng
          May 28, 2011 | 9:54 am

          P.S. I also want to share that the part that disappointed me the most is when Sara poked fun at the session titles. Because I work hard to cultivate relationships with our speakers and I know how much hard work when into the presentations, I took it kind of personally for them and I was worried they would feel their hard work was being minimized. I’ll also go on record as saying had I not been conference director and had I nothing to do with putting the sessions together, I probably would have found that bit to be pretty funny.

        • Jennifer Fong
          May 28, 2011 | 10:29 am

          Deb, you know I respect the heck out of you. I think your blog is brilliant. And I do intend to highlight some of the fabulous sessions I attended in a future post next week, when my regular readership is more fully engaged. I want the majority of them to benefit from it.

          And here’s the other thing…clearly the intention with this speaker was to be edgy and controversial. So if that’s what you’re going for, you can’t be surprised when folks like me are offended. That’s what this type of entertainment is built on. You should be more surprised if you don’t get this kind of feedback.

          I did see the comments about Shauna’s dress, etc. I did not make them. I am fully focused on the content of the presentations. This was what I did not appreciate.

          And I agree with you that we can make an impact without using adult language. In fact, people may be more open to the point we’re making if we don’t offend them first. Just my 2 cents. Many, many women did that in the sessions, and I intend to highlight that next week. I just hope that in the future we can move more of them to the keynote main stage. The closing content, in my opinion, would have been better suited for a session where the folks that attended were prepared for that type of content. It wasn’t really suitable for a general audience. It sounds like even Sara thought that.

          I still think you’re great Deb. 🙂

          Jennifer

          • Deb Ng
            May 28, 2011 | 10:51 am

            But Jen, the closing talkshow was meant to be edgy and always is. We’ve had it this way every year and we post disclaimers on our schedule, newsletter and directory. We warn of adult content and let everyone know that our closing keynote is meant to entertain. This is our tradition.

            We’re not surprised anyone was offended – heck, I was offended in some places – but sometimes we’re surprised at why people are offended. For example, your posts is questioning why we’re not highlighting “smart” women. A large portion of our conference featured extremely smart women. However, you, like others aren’t highlighting them. You’re highlighting the people who you feel weren’t deserving of the attention. And you brought this to light by giving them even more attention. How can you blame us for not featuring smart women (which we did in spades) when you’re making them a very small part of your own blog post? I think it works two ways. We featured about 80 extremely smart, creative, talented women at our conference. Why isn’t anyone writing about them?

            I don’t defend the closing keynote and my team knows how I felt about it. However, I defend what it’s about and our right to do it. I also feel you can’t accuse us of not featuring smart women when you fail to do the same thing.

            And P.S. I find both Sara and Shauna to be extremely smart and gifted.

            • Lucretia Pruitt
              May 30, 2011 | 1:32 am

              “the closing talkshow was meant to be edgy and always is”
              This may be a large part of the real issue Deb. It appears that this ‘tradition’ is being perceived as a negative one. I’m fairly sure you guys are the sort who might look at something and think about whether or not it fits with the direction the conference has and is taking.
              Seems like maybe the “talkshow” doesn’t fit the vibe of NY as well as Vegas. The thing I keep hearing is less about “were they talented comedians?” and more about “is this appropriate at an event of this nature?”
              I see that Rick keeps saying “BlogWorld is not a Tech conference” and I want to say to him “yes it is – but it’s a bunch of other things too.”
              I have this visual image of an ice cream sundae with multiple flavors of ice cream, different syrups and toppings, and sprinkles – that someone keeps putting a pickle on top of. That’s not to say that the pickle is a bad one, or that it’s less desirable than the rest of it. It probably has better nutritional value than anything in that sundae.
              But as someone who doesn’t want a pickle on my sundae? I’ve skipped every BWE closing show because it offered me no take away and nothing I couldn’t find on the internet if I wanted to. But I just voted with my feet. Something some people think is a little too quiet. :\

  22. Paul Young
    May 27, 2011 | 11:19 am

    I had to read this entry twice and then check that I wasn’t on the Onion.com site. Jen, that is really, really sad. I’m very sorry the conference took a turn like that. I’m glad I decided not to attend.
    Paul Young recently posted..Lessons for Technology from the nonRapture

    • Jennifer Fong
      May 27, 2011 | 11:24 am

      Paul, the thing is, there were a lot of great parts to the conference. But unfortunately this was a misstep. I’m still glad I went. But hopefully they’ll do better at this part of things next time.

      • Paul Young
        May 27, 2011 | 1:37 pm

        I think you’re letting the organizers off far too easily. Imagine if instead of using a woman with a vibrator for a few laughs, they had a black man showing how to slice watermelons in a funny manner? Do you think the reaction would be as subdued?

        In the 21st century, I simply don’t believe it is acceptable to make a misstep like this.
        Paul Young recently posted..Lessons for Technology from the nonRapture

        • Sara Benincasa
          May 27, 2011 | 7:22 pm

          Paul, you’re talking about a racist stereotype (black men and watermelons) versus…a woman with a vibrator. There’s nothing offensive about a woman doing a COMEDY video (which is what Shauna did, she’s not a business speaker) involving a vibrator. I don’t want to shock you, but many women enjoy sex and sexuality.

          Now was it appropriate for this event? The event was advertised as being “edgy.” It has typically involved some outrageous language and commentary in past years in Vegas. So yes, I’d say it was appropriate. Here’s how it was advertised:

          “The “New Media LIVE!” Talk Show has become a favorite closing keynote tradition at BlogWorld, one that you won’t want to miss! Chris Brogan (president of Human Business Works, co-founder of the PodCamp new media conference series, co-author of the New York Times bestselling book, Trust Agents, featured columnist at Entrepreneur Magazine); Chris Pirillo (former CPU Magazine columnist, author, producer on CNN.com Live, Internet entrepreneur and former TV host); Shauna Glenn (hilarious author, columnist, blogger, and mother to four children); Sara Benincasa (VH1, MTV, NBC Today Show, comedian, writer, and political blogger) and Andrew Breitbart (commentator for the Washington Times, author Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World, publisher, commentator, and founder of Breitbart.com, Breitbart.tv, Big Hollywood, Big Government, Big Journalism, and Big Peace) offer an irreverent, humorous, off-beat, entertaining, insightful and edgy panel, in a late night talk show format, to wrap up the conference. Special guests may be announced on-site…stay tuned!”

          And it was irreverent, offbeat, humorous, entertaining, and edgy. Maybe not insightful, but edgy.

          • Chantilly Patiño
            May 31, 2011 | 5:13 am

            Wow…I can see why people were up-set. Edgy and off-beat might have given a clue that it was meant to offend, but it certainly doesn’t say ‘adult content’. I would have been shocked by results that came out of this vague description.

        • Rick Calvert
          May 28, 2011 | 2:32 am

          I am sorry you feel that way Paul and completely agree with Sara. You are way off base in your comparison.
          Rick Calvert recently posted..How to Market to the “Untouchables”

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