What We Can Learn from '100 Percent Men'
Is a Tumblr that collects instances of groups curiously lacking women the best way to change a deeply rooted problem or is it just making the case for tokenism?
Lydia DePillis made the Tumblr "100 Percent Men" while procrastinating on a Sunday afternoon. By Wednesday, the single serving Boys Clubs site that posts pictures of 100 percent male dominated organizations—including the editors of The New Republic where DePillis works—was getting passed around Twitter. "I want to show a lot of manifestations of egregious maleness," the technology reporter told The Atlantic Wire. Outside of Tumblr, however, DePillis had been cataloguing the unfortunate trend on Twitter, tweeting out examples of all-dude conference speaker agendas, boards of directors, and the like for the record. "I would tweet about them in a frustrated way, but in a way that also collects them," she said. The Tumblr, however, does more than collect instances of groups curiously lacking women, it puts them on a public forum as a means of shaming. But, is that the best way to change a deeply rooted problem or is it just making the case for tokenism?
The Tumblr isn't overly critical. Commentary is sparse and the header takes a matter of fact tone: "Corners of the world where women have yet to tread. Shine a light," it reads. It doesn't come out and say "THIS IS BAD." But that's because it doesn't have to. The photos of the homogenous faces over and over again say enough. These companies or organizations or anythings—DePillis accepts a variety of "Boys Clubs," from Presidents of the United States to people ringing the NYSE bell—don't necessarily have anything against women, per se. It's just that their leaders aren't women. The Tumblr raises awareness not just of that, but that so many of these Boys Clubs still exist—even, and especially, in the era of Lean In.
Though DePillis says she had "no proactive intent" when creating the site, the natural order of things suggests awareness will facilitate change. But what kind of change? DePillis conceded the possibility that the forum might lead to more superficial advancements. "What I hope doesn't come out of this is people just putting one lady on their board and on their schedule just to avoid being blogged or Tumbl-d about," she said. But if people felt a little "embarrassed" by it, even, DePillis would consider that a success. And surely it's embarrassing to have your all male, mostly white, group next to a bunch of other all male, mostly white groups. But how does that sort of public shaming help? "The ideal outcome is that organizations which are completely full of men will think about why that is and think about what they can do," she added.
The former outcome might have already happened. After posting the TechCrunch Disrupt speakers list, the technology blog updated its list with "a bunch" of women. It's not clear this was a direct result of the blog. DePillis wasn't the only one who noticed the oversight, others had been tweeting about it, too. It's also possible TechCrunch had people lined up. But no matter the cause, certainly slapping a bunch of female speakers onto a panel doesn't fix the well-documented sexism in Silicon Valley. Then again, it doesn't hurt to have more women speaking to the tech nerds, right?
But can we expect much more to come from this Tumblr than that. What's "really important," says DePillis is that people "see the overall disease" and right now the Tumblr just illustrations one symptom of that problem. Ultimately: "Tumblrs aren't deep, they're just galleries" DePillis says.