Bitcoin as a concept can be pretty intimidating for your average person. I understand. For quite awhile, I watched from the sidelines, uncertain whether or not to take the jump in. After I did deeper research, I got more comfortable with the concepts, but it was the generous community of bitcoiners that ended up selling me on the idea.
When I first heard of the massive outpouring of generosity Sean’s Outpost Homeless Outreach received, my sometimes cynical heart was warmed—it got me right in the feels. Ah yes, the heart, that sometimes venerated but often distrusted organ that can have the purest intentions but be led astray so often. It’s an organ that sometimes gets downplayed (and I can’t really disagree) by your more mentally prone types—precisely the ones that tend to inhabit libertarian, anarcho-capitalist, and crypto-anarchist circles.
But today, I want to write about the unnecessary presence of another organ within another sphere of revolution—Bitcoin. Being the bitcoin news junkie I am, I came across this article about women and bitcoin, and being an active woman in the bitcoin world, I of course had to worry my pretty little head about it.
Now, this might come as a shock to you, but believe it or not, there are fewer female bitcoiners than men. All those men sure frighten my delicate sensibilities! Why, it’s just so scary being around a bunch of guys…talking about code…whipping out their dongles…discussing ways to nonviolently revolutionize the system.
You see, there aren’t many women in bitcoin because…there aren’t many people involved in bitcoin in general and there tends to be fewer women in technological fields. Oh yeah, and a bunch of other reasons the author left out or de-emphasized like personal preferences and that women tend to be more cautious with their investments; an understandably good thing. But the lack of women is not the problem the author makes it out to be because it is perfectly fine if people have different motivations. Men and women will tend towards different interests. I want more people involved in bitcoin period, but completely understand if they are hesitant to join because there is a lot to lose potentially.
I also admit I may be a bit of an outlier if what Turk argues is true because I was the one who talked my husband into bitcoin, not vice versa. Her blanket statement that most women she encountered at the conference were girlfriends or wives to the men that were there but not all that interested in bitcoin was an inaccurate assessment of how active women actually are in the bitcoin community (at least here in the US). Ms. Turk appears to be in the UK, so I can’t speak for the experience of women there but I will say I have never been a part of a community so accepting and respectful of women. It is unfair to say one conference represents the activity of female bitcoiners.
I also have yet to encounter the supposed rampant misogyny she suggests exists in Bitcoinia, and honestly if you get offended by some mean stuff some stranger says on the internet, perhaps you should spend your time elsewhere. Trolls are looking for a reaction, so don’t feed them, and these internet tough guys would never dare to say the things they do in meatspace and are even less likely to act on their empty threats. But I won’t even claim to speak for all women here, though I can say the several I have spoken with on this topic tend to agree that it is a very peaceful environment.
The women I know involved in bitcoin are some of the sharpest human beings I know, male or female. They are incredibly active and insightful, and also very supportive of one another. Actually, when I think about it, the cattiness I’ve witnessed in other activist groups among women is non-existent among the female bitcoiners. That’s not to say the community is perfect, but there are some exceptional women already involved and it was embarrassing (perhaps stemming from ignorance) on Turk’s part to mention only two women in bitcoin and then go on to ridicule one of them.
Probably the most disconcerting part was when she took a snide jab at Pua Pyland aka The Bitcoin Wife, Mrs. P. I am adamantly pro-woman, and that includes women making whatever decisions they find empowering. Women are not forced to be wage slaves or housewives, and any path a woman chooses I support because women know what is best for themselves just like other humans. Turk’s passive aggressive put down of Mrs. P being a housewife was tactless especially considering she is doing more to encourage women to join the bitcoin community than Turk. Mrs. P has helped make bitcoin accessible to a lot of people (specifically those womenfolk Turk is talking about), and I find her cookie recipes fantastic. If a woman wants to cook food for her partner or stay home with her children; that is beautiful. I found it strange that Turk had the opportunity to highlight Mrs. P’s unique approach to getting more women involved, and yet instead made her personal lifestyle choices a focus—how is that feminist again? How incredibly rude for Turk to assume she knows best for anyone, specifically a movement that is doing just fine without her gender politics.
She seeks to inject her brand of feminism into bitcoin, but it doesn’t belong there. If anything, feminists could take a cue from bitcoiners about how to treat people. Bitcoin is an idea that surpasses identity politics and offers tangible solutions to problems like poverty, and if Turk is arguing we need more enlightened women like her in bitcoin then she can stay far away.
Bitcoin needs feminism like a fish needs a bicycle. I would even say it has the potential to remedy perceived gender equality far better than what feminism has become.
Another reflection: we already have several enlightened women who are actually main movers and shakers in the community. Stephanie Murphy leads the very informative podcast Let’s Talk Bitcoin (along with a million other amazing projects), Elizabeth Ploshay serves on the Board of Directions for the Bitcoin Foundation, Andrea Castillo is a prolific writer on topics of bitcoin and feminism for the Umlaut, Tatiana Moroz inspires folks with her music, of course Mrs. P and so many more talented women are already here and thriving. I don’t want to speak for them as far as their opinions on women in bitcoin because they have competent voices and don’t need no man (or woman) to put words in their mouths. Many of them are smarter than I am, too. While our quantity of women may be low, the quality of female bitcoiners is sky high, and I find it more beneficial to focus on the intellectually powerhouses we have rather than who we don’t have.
I don’t want to be pigeonholed as a “Woman in Bitcoin” either. My defenses of bitcoin and actions within the community either have merit or they don’t; my vagina has nothing to do with this. I am a human being first and don’t want special treatment because of my gender—even if that treatment is beneficial. The respect I’ve received from my fellow male bitcoiners has felt genuine and not based on pity or guilt that there aren’t “enough” women in bitcoin, and I would hate for it to become a situation where capable male speakers are passed up to meet a quota some people feel we should have at conferences. I’m not sorry to say if I have a choice to see someone like Andreas Antonopolous speak vs. some unknown female speaker, the choice is clear and I would not feel guilty in making it. But this doesn’t mean I am sexist nor does it mean males who make the same choice are—we have different preferences—and that’s okay! I also concede we are far from having to make those choices as the concept and community of bitcoin is relatively new, and this is also beneficial because it is in the beginning that we can shape our image and sharpen our goals.
Bitcoin is a human rights movement that can benefit humanity, not just women and not just men. Widespread adoption with an emphasis on quality activists should be our focus, and if people want to gear that message towards women specifically, I think that’s great. I am not against having discussions about how to get more women involved, but my personal interests are more class centered and not gender centered. The people most benefited by bitcoin are the exploited and downtrodden—regardless of gender. I acknowledge the problem of poverty in this country and even more severe around the world, and it is in this realm that I see bitcoin changing lives the most. With bitcoin making its way into North Korea, the momentum is growing and worldwide free trade plus addressing problems of poverty in this country is more of my focus in bitcoin activism.
Bitcoin is an idea that transcends gender, and simplifying it to gender does a disservice to its greater potential. Like I said, I am happy to participate in discussions and if that is what is empowering to other female bitcoiners great, but I also want to be free to look beyond the gender issues. Too much focus on gender can detract from the greater message of bitcoin: financial freedom for all people. I don’t doubt that getting more women involved would be very valuable, but it makes me cringe when some collectivize them as a demographic that needs special PR because it is a huge market (cue Bill Hicks) instead of looking at how bitcoin can benefit individuals. Yes, pandering can be successful, but it is also insulting because it assumes women can’t grasp certain concepts that men can. To me, that is a kinder, gentler form of sexism.
I also have doubts that more women involved in general would be the best for bitcoin; I want more people who care involved and will always place quality over quantity. Opening up bitcoin to more statists of any gender could mean compromising the principles bitcoin is based on, so there may be a slight dilemma in our quest to get more people involved. I am still of course spreading the word to everyone I know, but realize that bitcoin is not for everyone. I mean this in the sense that many people won’t adopt bitcoin for the same reason they won’t adopt principles of anarchy—it demands radical self-responsibility—something I would argue the majority of people currently are not willing to embrace. We have to be honest about the limitations we are up against in espousing bitcoin to the general population. I don’t seek to discourage bitcoin evangelism at all, but keeping a healthy perspective can help hone our skills in talking to others who don’t share certain alternative beliefs.
I am not looking to make enemies; rather, I want my preferences for activism to be taken seriously. I want to be taken seriously as a human in bitcoin, not just as a woman in bitcoin. I also believe in solidarity with my fellow bitcoiners of both genders, and hope this won’t be misconstrued as a slight against the women already present in the bitcoin sphere who may have different goals. Bitcoin is for all people, and as an egalitarian leaning individual, I believe it to be the best vessel for rectifying structural biases in institutions given power to oppress people by the state with the least amount of violence. Bitcoin as the “honey badger” of money is greater than the meme itself, and needs no approval from anyone really–it will change the world regardless.
Bitcoin doesn’t need the state, bitcoin doesn’t need men, and bitcoin doesn’t need women.
Original content by Meghan, copyleft, tips welcome