There’s a new tech webmag in town, and they have an innovative idea. There are articles in Hot Tech Today, like in the old world of, uh, journalism, but in this bold new publishing model, there are also photos of scantily-clad women.
Are you not entertained? Twitter certainly wasn’t — though it took the edge off to notice that their launch website was riddled with typos and that the person behind their Twitter account writes like Dwight Schrute talks. In short order they were decried in various internet places, and while I’m sure it exists somewhere, I can’t find a single positive online response by a person not affiliated with the magazine.
Which is probably because Hot Tech Today’s implicit message is that consumers of tech news are men, and that women can only participate as eye candy, which is repulsive for a host of reasons. High tech workplaces and scenes are dominated by men, and sexism abounds. “Booth babes” are used to woo crowds at conventions, and sexual harassment is widespread. It is in this state of affairs that Hot Tech Today masterminds David Kelley and Erica Williams say they don’t get why everybody is so bent out of shape. Today, Williams posted an open letter to critics:
We embrace the idea that “Tech is sexy,” which is why every issue features tasteful, respectful, non-nude model photos and centerfold spreads. In this way we’re not only supporting the careers of some wonderfully talented models and photographers, but also giving our users both sides of that “Tech = Sexy” equation.
We certainly foresaw some level of backlash in this regard, and frankly we’re fine with that. Our magazine isn’t for everyone, and anyone who finds our material objectionable is cheerfully invited to go elsewhere for their tech news. What has surprised us, though, is the strongly held yet very wrong position put forward by some of our detractors that our magazine is somehow demeaning to women in general, and to women working in the tech industry in particular.
First, Kelley and Williams have pushed the idea that because Williams is a woman, they are immune to criticism. This is obvious nonsense. Judas, after all, was an Apostle.
Second, they’ve repeatedly tried to dress this up as a matter of feminists not being comfortable with sexuality. This is willfully missing the point. I imagine most of Hot Tech Today’s critics support the rarefied kind of pornography where everything is safe, economically just, consensual, and makes an effort not to disseminate harmful ideas about sex. Hot Tech Today — like previous generations of bad ideas like Maxim and Playboy — is presenting journalism and sexy models as two sides of the same hetero-male-oriented coin.
Starting a magazine in 2014 is a bold move, but this is a deeply flawed way to go about it.