It gives me great joy to see the cover of the April issue of Wired. Limor Fried, the electrical engineer who is active in the open source hardware movement, was chosen for the cover of their Maker issue – focusing on the Do It Yourself Revolution. This is the first time a female engineer has been featured on the cover. I am thrilled that the Wired staff made the decision to spotlight the important contributions of this creative innovator.
You may have seen my blog post, breakup letter, to Wired late last year after the cover featured a pair of breasts depicting an article on tissue re-engineering. The post, which received more than 30,000 pageviews and inspired more than 300 comments, wasn’t taking issue with that particular cover, but the pattern in which Wired had either ignored or objectified women with its cover images over the years. You have to go back to 1996 to find a woman on the cover that had any actual involvement with science or technology, and before that there was only one other “cover girl” that fit that description (musician Laurie Anderson).
So, I said I wasn’t going to renew my subscription, but more importantly, I was going to severely curtail my usage of Wired resources in the classroom. I teach a significant number of females, and I was growing more and more uncomfortable with presenting a publication that represented women in, what I considered to be, a detrimental light in regard to their role in the tech industry.
The post and subsequent response elicited a comment and a more lengthy email exchange with Wired editor Chris Anderson. Ultimately I was invited to participate in a brainstorming session conference call with Wired editors to discuss ideas for a cover story that could feature a female technologist. (All this is fairly well chronicled on this blog). I was encouraged by Anderson’s willingness to include me in this discussion and the discourse that transpired during that meeting.
Fried was not one of the ideas that I pitched at the session, (I believe it was Anderson who originally recommended her), but I think she is a perfect choice. The cover is beautiful, and is completely in line with the Wired aesthetic and sensibility. No compromises here. The Maker issue was already in the works, and it is likely that Fried would have been featured in it regardless. But I am grateful for the small part the blog post, the ensuing attention it received and ultimately the brainstorming discussion played in elevating this woman to the cover. Her accomplishments definitely represent something to which young women, as well as young men, can aspire. Kudos to the Wired staff for listening and responding to its audience. Other brands should take note of the way that Wired so openly engaged its readership. I really don’t think Wired could have done a better job in addressing this issue, once it came to the fore.
I have not yet read the article, and will probably have more to say when I do, but I wanted to announce this here, because I had been repeatedly asked during SXSW if there had been any result of my involvement with Wired. I am happy to report that I am quite pleased with the way this process turned out, and I hope this is the genesis of many more women and their accomplishments being featured on and within the pages of Wired. An influential publication like Wired has the unique opportunity to invoke positive change. The fact that, within the strains of the current publishing environment, Wired was willing to so swiftly and transparently address this issue is great testament to their commitment to their audience. It also illustrates the role that one small blog post can have in influencing a process. We can use our online media skills to have a voice!
There have already been a few items written about the cover, including this piece on themarysue.com, and I expect there will be more. I’d love to know your thoughts.
Congrats to Limor (@adafruit) on the outstanding accomplishments that led to the cover story!