I won’t pretend to be unbiased on this one, or even un-self-interested. I’ve been ‘fessing up about my association with Hot Tech Today since the summer of 2012. Back then we were scrabbling together a little tech blog, posting a few articles per day, augmenting those with some oh-so-slightly risque photo spreads, and—in all honesty—going mostly unnoticed.
Spring ’14 has seen a revivification of Hot Tech Today, a transformation into a multimedia digital magazine, targeted to Apple and Android users. This iteration has, to put it mildly, not gone unnoticed. And although the feedback hasn’t been uniformly negative (a lot of subscribers have left some very complimentary reviews, quite a number of them of the five-star variety)…the froth and churn of some very vocal online HTT protesters, and the resulting press coverage, has created the current controversy that I and other Hot Tech Today insiders find ourselves addressing again and again.
To start with, I’m a writer and contributing editor for the magazine. I write at least one column per issue, usually an opinion piece, and handle editorial duties for the rest of the mag as well as for a lot of our other internal and external communications. As far as the photo spreads and the now-famous Hot Tech Hotties go, I’m so far removed from that part of the business as to almost be without a relevant opinion.
Except that sounds like a cop-out, even to me, and since it’s the eye of the storm in which we find ourselves, I can’t avoid answering it.
Let’s backtrack, then, and take a look at the nature of the anti-HTT opinions. They date from much earlier this spring, from before the launch of issue #1, in fact. They included broadsides fired in Huffington Post, Salon, The Guardian, and Gawker (and most recently, and perhaps a bit more balanced, Forbes). Some of the early impetus might have been triggered by this one (admittedly provocative) image. Beyond the accusations of sexism, though, which seemed bound up solely in how people chose to interpret that “Tech Sexy” picture, the overriding concern, in all those attacks, was that the photos and videos presented in Hot Tech Today somehow contribute to the impediments faced by women working in the tech industries, and in their struggles to be respected as equals in the workplace.
It’s a pretty harsh charge, and we take it quite seriously—and personally. Our response all along has been that it’s a false equivalency. Are we leveraging sex appeal? Are we embracing the idea that not only “tech is sexy,” but also that aficionados of cutting-edge technology also enjoy spicy pics and vids? You bet. But that’s a far cry from disrespecting anyone, or suggesting that gender or appearance have anything to do with aptitude or performance. We’ve never come close to crossing that line, and we never will.
One of our co-founders, Erica Williams, as one of those storied women of tech, has answered these accusations much better than I can, and she deserves to be quoted at length:
“We certainly foresaw some level of backlash, 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.
I challenge anyone to find anything in Hot Tech Today, be it in our articles, videos, or photo spreads, that in any way demeans or belittles anyone. Do we embrace sexuality? Absolutely! Is sexuality a bad thing? We and millions of others think not.
I’m confident that nothing we’ve said, done, or published in any way reflects negatively on women working in the tech industries.”
All I’d add to that is that Hot Tech Today is, first and foremost, a magazine devoted to tech reporting. Recent articles have examined the impacts of Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks, the new leadership at Microsoft, and the incalculable loss of net neutrality. Part of my responsibility, to my HTT partners and to our readers, is to make sure that Hot Tech Today is and will remain one of the best publications available on the subject of contemporary technology. That won’t change, no matter what the Hot Tech Hotties are (or aren’t) wearing, or what manner of controversy might as a result ensue.