monthly musings #1: Could Fran Lebowitz be the Patron Saint for Women in Tech?
Hello and welcome to monthly musings, this new column where I publicly present my stream of consciousness based on topics that are living rent-free in my noggin. This is the first of hopefully many installments, so keep your eyes peeled!
I’ve been thinking a lot about the rise of people building their brands on the Internet. It seems like we are reverting back to the age of the early 2000s where everyone had a personal website with the aspirations of being a blogger. At the time, people were building blogs to enjoy the habit of writing but now people want to get into writing to gain more points on their resume.
“I need to start writing.” “I really need to get my voice out there.” This is a constant theme when I talk to friends who are slowly peeling the curtain to become online personalities and follow the canonical advice of building a brand. There always seems to be this hesitation that no one will pay attention to them or think that their thoughts are valid. Yet in individual conversations, these women enlighten me on such fascinating topics or share resources that I hadn’t even considered to look at.
For instance, I have a dear friend who I consider to be one of the best minds in product management and yet with each insightful tweet that she shares, she has to ensure that her thoughts passes the vibe check before shipping on the bird app.
As we yearn for an equitable future in tech, that I pray isn’t a pipe dream, I couldn’t help but wonder : how we can make it more comfortable for women to speak up and speak out on the status quo and the issues at hand? There are so many men with a plethora of genuinely bad takes on Twitter (ie. baseless opinions they’ve pulled out of their derrier, pardon my French) and yet they have the consistent confidence to keep telling us what they barely know through an unhinged brain dump. Maybe this is a case of being an extrovert but I want to see my really smart ladyfriends, especially the ones that deem themselves shy, to post great takes consistently and change the face of how we engage on the internet.
Like many people with a good internet connection capable of streaming, I’ve been slowly making my way through Fran Lebowitz’s show Pretend It’s a City and it’s been a quarantine delight. In this seven-part Netflix special, Lebowitz is paired with baddie Bronx boy Martin Scorsese as they discuss money, real estate, and everyday life on the island of Manhattan. With each episode comes a new revelation of Lebowitz’s seasoned life, like her stints as a seasoned taxi-cab driver and writer for Andy Warhol’s Interview Magazine, her apartment full of 10, 000 books, and the fact that her only point of contact is a landline and her address.
Lebowitz has developed a personality by being the unabashed spokesperson of New York City, offering her takes on the things that make the place go round. Making the leap across the George Washington Bridge from Morristown, Jersey to New York as an 18-year-old in 1969, Fran set her sights on the city and never looked back. For the past 50 years, she has seen the ups and downs of a city plagued by gentrification, cultural shifts, and unruly mayors. Nevertheless she persisted and has managed to channel her experiences into hilarious commentary and a few books despite her chronic writers block.
Fran’s life holds a lot of lessons on how women can make sense of this industry. The thing that struck me the most is how outspoken she is. She recounts the tales of New York past with such detail and emotion that even if the story was about her sorting mail or walking down the street, I still found it to be incredibly riveting.
When coming to terms with imposter syndrome, women are always encouraged to “channel our inner Chad“, that fierce white man brim with courage who isn’t bashful. Yet I feel like this perpetuates the patriarchy that we are all actively working to remove from our society.
What if we turned the whole idea on its head and started to “channel our inner Fran”. Unafraid to share our experiences that makes these incredible women navigating a world that doesn’t seem to find favour with us or make us feel extraordinary. Refusing to dim our light and being comfortable to show rage or distaste publicly when we don’t agree with some terrible take or another troll being overtly sexist.
While we’ve been given the girlboss jargon and the likes of Sheryl Sandberg and Tyler Haney as women to emulate only for them to be smited by hit pieces, Fran offers this refreshing perspective affirming that it does pay to be a cranky, verbose independent woman who needs no man.
For instance, when talking about her decision to permanently reside in New York, Fran says
“When people say, ‘Why do you live in New York?’ you really can’t answer them, except you know that you have contempt for people who don’t have the guts to do it.”
This might be a stretch but this can apply to putting yourself out there in that if you don’t build up the gusto to start engaging with the discourse while ideas are still fresh or the intention is present, you may soon regret it down the road.
Even though Fran Lebowitz, world’s most offline person, wouldn’t dare find herself sharing her musings on the big blue bird app, I think her fearless spirit can encourage the rest of us to passionately build our online personalities. So yeah girl, go ahead and post that thought leadership thread on companies that excite you or that random tweet about your favourite skincare product, your inner Fran Lebowitz would be proud.
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Lord I’ve seen this work for other bloggers so I’m going to start adding little nodes of what I’m reading, eating, and watching.
Reading: Designing Design by Kenya Hara; Franchise by Marcia Chatelain
Watching: Lupin on Netflix, Tampopo on Criterion Collection
Eating: Kalles Kaviar on buttered sourdough toast, Eric Kim’s sophisticated Spam recipe for one
Thanks for joining me on this journey! If you ever want to talk about Fran Lebowitz as a somewhat feminist icon or other cultural events du jour, drop me a line on Twitter.