Home Business NewsBusiness Sophie Hobson: Why Milo Yiannopoulos makes me want to swear profusely – a note on women in tech, and feminism

Sophie Hobson: Why Milo Yiannopoulos makes me want to swear profusely – a note on women in tech, and feminism

28th Jun 13 11:43 am

Please read this. It’s important.

When we started LondonlovesBusiness.com we made the judgement that it would definitely be best for none of our journalists to swear when writing for the site. But sometimes, even as the editor, I regret not being able to use the most offensive of swear words on the site. Because sometimes you see something so disgraceful in the public domain that you spend days using swear words about it to people you know, and you pine for the satisfaction of being able to publish them, just this once.

To elucidate – I am talking about a tweet posted by Milo Yiannopoulos, i.e. @nero, last week. For the uninitiated, Milo is one of the most famous and infamous journalists on the tech scene in London. He is a mightily divisive figure, for reasons too many to number, and that, frankly, I can’t be bothered to go into here – perhaps, in fact, in cowardice, as they would perhaps provoke a vicious response from him, that, to be honest, I fear. Sorry for not being braver.

But on this particular issue I cannot hold my tongue any longer. Look at this tweet:

@nero tweet

Much of my life is dedicated to word-smithery. I love the English language for its variety and richness, and, in particular, for offering us more words than any other language known to humankind. But all I can give you in response to this tweet is a non-word:



This is offensive and wrong on so many counts – unless, of course, you genuinely do find every woman in the world who believes in equal rights for men and women ugly. That is possible. But I find it a tad unlikely.

There are many incredible people who have articulated why everyone – male, female and transgender – should self-identify as feminist, and proudly so.

My personal favourite is from the formidable and in many writery ways unsurpassable Caitlin Moran – even though I disagree with her definition on technical terms as it excludes men, although I’m sure she would agree they should be feminists too (as, in fact, she heartily argues elsewhere in her hilarious and inspiring book How To Be A Woman).

“But, of course, you might be asking yourself, ‘Am I a feminist? I might not be. I don’t know! I still don’t know what it is! I’m too knackered and confused to work it out. That curtain pole really still isn’t up! I don’t have time to work out if I am a women’s libber! There seems to be a lot to it. WHAT DOES IT MEAN?’

I understand. 
So here is the quick way of working out if you’re a feminist. Put your hand in your pants.

a) Do you have a vagina? and
b) Do you want to be in charge of it?

If you said ‘yes’ to both, then congratulations! You’re a feminist.” 

The timing of @nero’s tweet was fortunate for me in some ways, as I have in the last two weeks encountered two particularly brilliant examples of why misogynistic sh*t (sorry) like this is ridiculous. I will limit it just to these two, as there are too many others to number and I don’t want to tire your reading eyes before the weekend. Also, both of these are examples of women being awesome in the tech world – and it is, fortuitously, our Tech For Business Week. Plus, @nero is of course a tech journalist, so this is fitting. Thanks, karma, for making this all work out so neatly.

First up we have the DNA Summit, which I wrote about earlier this week. June Sarpong, a person I have a huge amount of respect for, brought together an absolutely mind-blowing panel of women in tech who go to prove (not that any proof should ever be needed) quite how much value women are adding to the formerly male-dominated world of technology:

Joanna Shields                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Kaye Koplevitz

Celestine Johnston

Gina Bianchini

Penny Abeydewardena  

Julie Moss Woods  

Cindy Padnos

If in any doubt, google them. These women are ridiculously brilliant in their achievements and the contributions they have added to technology.

The second example is a list being compiled by Sherry Coutu, another person whose contributions to the advancement of tech I have a huge amount of respect for. She is compiling a list of female tech entrepreneurs in Europe. You can view this here.

These examples are among millions, nay, a googleplexian of examples I could have given of why it is ridiculous to malign women who believe they have every right and capability to achieve everything that men can – i.e. feminists.

(It is also fitting that Gina Bianchini, co-founder of the Lean In Organisation, was on the panel I mentioned above. I strongly recommend understanding more about their work, and reading her co-founder Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In if you are someone who is alive and has the time or capability to read or listen to someone else reading.)

The trouble is, despite the inspiring women out there proving feminism is RIGHT because the world is worse-off when women are automatically relegated to second place, we still face a ridiculously unbalanced business world in terms of gender. Huge progress has been made in this country. But it’s not yet enough. Women account for just 17.3% of FTSE 100 board directors, and a meagre 13.2% of FTSE 250 board directors. The amazing project Everyday Sexism (which, predictably, @nero has slagged off on Twitter in the past) will demonstrate some of the many prejudices, both subtle and hideously overt, that contribute to this imbalance.

The tweet above is just another to heap onto the pile.

And as long as people with more than 15,000 Twitter followers are spewing out cr*p (sorry) like the tweet above, we still have major challenges to overcome.

I am enormously lucky to have LondonlovesBusiness.com and @londonlovesbiz as a platform to share my beliefs. Many other men, women and transgender people do not have such a platform to fight against prejudice of all types. I very much hope that anyone reading this understands how incredibly important it is to fight against prejudice of any kind. If you do one thing today, make it supporting a fellow human being who is being discriminated against, whether in the workplace or elsewhere. Comment below or tweet that you are a feminist, whichever gender you are.

And feel free to swear profusely at things that I have a professional responsibility not to.

Leave a Comment


Sign up to our daily news alerts

[ms-form id=1]