Dear Penelope: Stop Telling Women Anything
This piece was written in response to Penelope Trunk’s article, Stop Telling Women To Do Startups, published on TechCrunch on December 11, 2011.
So Penelope Trunk thinks we should stop telling women to do startups. She backs up her belief with evidence based on science and personal experience. Sounds like a good pairing—the science proves she’s right and the personal experience demonstrates that she’s qualified to speak on the issue at hand.
The science is straightforward: "Women want children over startups" and "women prefer part-time jobs." The personal experience is noted on multiple occasions: Penelope has started her own startups and she has even written a book. How could we question her argument? It’s standing on stone pillars.
Problem is, the stone pillars begin shaking in the lightest breeze. Because the entire piece is a collection of fallacies.
Let’s take a closer look. If anyone took the time to click on the 18 links of scientific evidence presented, they would be led to a portfolio of other articles, seven of which were written by Trunk herself. Corroborating your argument by referring back to your own opinion. It’s a faulty loop: I’m right because I’ve said I’m right in the past. A few of the articles and talks she points to are composed by known names. Appeal to authority: I’m right because people whose names you recognize have agreed with my point.
Throughout her piece, she constantly refers to “many women” as a general whole. Women this, women that. Who are these Many Women? Is this a sequel of Little Women that I missed somewhere along the road? Or is it simply an example of argumentum ad populum? Something is true because many people believe it is true.
Ok, so the science doesn’t hold up. Fine. But how about the personal experience?
Penelope has started three companies. That certainly qualifies as experience. But eCitydeals.com doesn’t function and math.com looks like it was built during the Star Wars era. Brazen Careerist seems solid enough (though I actually just heard of it for the first time by way of this article). As for the book, if it was written in the same ranting manner as this piece, I can understand why she would think “writing a book is like a vacation compared to a startup.” I dare say that many writers wouldn’t agree. Many writers wouldn’t back up their piece with 18 sources, none of which provide a solid foundation for their claims. Many writers would call that sloppy.
Anyway, I don’t want to turn my piece into ad hominem, so I’ll wrap this up. It’s unfortunate that the article was written in such an emotional manner, because though I can understand what the piece is attempting to say, I refuse to relate with most of it. As a young female entrepreneur, I can only hope that past generations are not sending out a message of inevitable, indisputable facts to future entrepreneurs, regardless of their gender. Taking the extremist argument that all women should create startups and reversing it to state that all women want to stay at home with their kids is just as harmful.
We can’t live in a world of extremes. If you have an opinion to share, by all means share it. If you believe women shouldn’t be starting companies, then do us all a favor and don’t start them. But don’t start a company, whine about the difficulties, realize that you’d rather be home with your kids, and then decide that since it wasn’t for you, that must mean that it wasn’t for every other woman out there. Don’t comfort yourself at our expense. It’s not fair, and it’s not a good look.
Women should not be encouraged to start companies just to start them. Founders need to be passionate; without passion, a startup is going nowhere. But there are plenty of women out there who care more about a pitch than a womb. Chances are, they probably had to wait until a holiday to compose a response to an article written weeks ago, because they were too busy building their current tech baby.
This article was republished with permission from the blog of Nayia Moysidis.
Photo courtesy of Anuj Biyani.
Nayia Moysidis is the Founder and CEO of Writer's BLOQ, Inc. and an Event Organizer for Lean Startup Machine. She graduated from Columbia in May 2011 with a BA in Creative Writing. During her four years at Columbia, she played Division I athletics, explored six continents, and held positions at Film London, VISA, SportsMark, Levine & Gilbert, and Simon & Schuster. She is the author of published short stories in Flaneur Foundry and NOW!HERE. During her semester abroad in Australia, she completed a novel. Upon her return to the U.S., she realized the many limitations of the publishing industry and decided to create a solution.More from this Author