The collapse of the crypto exchange FTX has dominated the headlines in recent weeks, at least in the tech and startup world. The events surrounding Twitter also amounted to a small earthquake in the scene. What they all had in common was the nature of the protagonists and how they proceeded. They were mainly men, or – as we often refer to them – the “techbros,” who unabashedly took full risks and proceeded with brute force.
Be it how a large part of a company’s employees were fired or how the money of investors and customers was handled, it was brutal and misanthropic. And it was done by men who are sure of themselves and see other people only as disposable articles. What’s amazing here are the reactions in the larger techbro scene, which somehow always manage to pin purely male failures on women.
Such misogyny was expressed by Paris-based venture capitalist Michael Jackson (yes, not a typo, that’s really his name) in what appeared to be intended a funny post. I myself don’t know of what exactly is funny about it, but the humorous Michael Jackson quoted the tweet of another San Francisco-based and equally humorous VC named Delian Asparouhov, in which the downfall of the crypto exchange FTX due to the fraud of its founder Sam Bankman-Fried (often just called SBF) was illustrated with a photo of SBF sitting between two women on stage at an event, and commented with the following sentence:
if you’re an engineer and supermodels think what you’re doing is cool sell all your shares immediately
Note that it’s clear that techbros built a digital platform, convinced people that they could make money out of thin air, collected hundreds of millions in VC money, collected billions in customer money, and then squandered the money on luxury resorts, expensive food, drugs, and cars. The techbros and VCs on the scene all jumped on it, poured money into it, and felt smart. And then this Ponzi scheme collapsed and all the money was gone.
But what VCs like Michael Jackson and Delian Asparouhov think of first about this is that women are stupid. They don’t name the real culprit of this scam in their posts with a single word. Instead, they comment on women from random shots with SBF. Comments that rebuked them for their misogynistic posting, they deleted and blocked the authors like me and others.
This has a system, by the way, as the Wall Street Journal also pretty much egged on the true background and consequences of the FTX collapse. The headline on the November 25, 2022 front page read:
FTX’s Collapse Wiped Out Founder’s Philanthropic Aims
Uhhhmm, excuse me? The FTX founder is now being pitied because he can no longer pursue his charitable goals with his investors’ and customers’ money? A WSJ reader showed what the headline should really read to represent the true facts:
FTX’s Fraud Wiped Out Customer Money
The Wall Street Journal, as well as other media, including the New York Times, among others, handled SBF and his fellow campaigners with kid gloves. But that is another story. Let’s move on to the next example.
Misogynist Techbro – Example 2
Another case of misogynistic commentary followed a post by Cologne-based cybersecurity expert Jean Pereira, who volunteers (as he says) to look at security vulnerabilities at companies. He then tries to report the gaps he finds to the relevant company departments. Often with little or no success, as he explains. Among other things, he also mentions city administrations, which often have security gaps and almost never respond to his inquiries. In addition to Cologne, he explicitly mentions Munich, whose systems are as open as barn doors.
The post is followed by a series of comments from other users who try to give hints on how to get the organizations to react. But it didn’t take long for a techbro like Felix Dziekan, a freelance software developer from Nuremberg, to unerringly find the misogynistic angle:
IT security seems to be a bit of a priority these days. I read today that the city of Munich wants to spend between 1.5 and 4 million euros to make IT gender-appropriate.
How he scrapes the curve from IT security to gender-equitable IT is not entirely clear to me. But perhaps the root of the evil in security gaps is that women have not been given enough consideration in municipal IT departments. After all, women are much more likely to be exposed to threats in both the physical and online worlds than men. After all, digital platforms have facilitated threats such as stalking. It happens to men to a much lesser extent.
Gender-responsive IT would force the perspective of women (and trans or non-binary people) to be taken into account much more. Storing personal data unsecured on city government servers and exposing it to cyberattacks would thus acquire a very different urgency if gender-responsive IT principles were employed.
As a man, it’s easy for me to say, “Ugh, what harm can someone do with my stolen address?” But that quickly sounds very different when it’s your own wife’s or daughter’s address. Gender-sensitive IT is therefore intrinsically security-relevant IT.
The topic of “misogynistic techbros” is not something that only lies in the far distance of or limited to Silicon Valley and is nicely broken down in the book Brotopia, for example, no, they also exist in our country. In Paris, in Nuremberg and probably not far from each and every one of us. And we must no longer tolerate it.
This blatant misogyny leads to women’s voices being underrepresented in public discourse, in politics, and in business. Toxic men, such as those mentioned, create a culture that promotes violence against women, and indirectly, against everyone else. If we do not act against this and get to the root of the evil, sooner or later we will be affected by it as well. We need to thumb our noses at these toxic men and confront them.
To that end, I’ve also written a book that addresses online violence and just such misogynistic comments as the ones I’ve mentioned, explaining the causes and effects, and how we can take action against it. Here it is: