In the ever-waging war of page views, unique visits, and follower counts, it can seem like the only way to stand out and drive traffic in waves is to kick up a dust cloud of controversy. When there are enough "design" and "inspiration" blogs to take a real chunk out of mainstream media, making a name for yourself is hard. But that doesn't justify articles like "The 10 Hottest Female Designers". Especially not in an industry that's already had its share of problems working with and attracting women to be a part of the creative community.
And here's a tip: Hiring a woman to write the article doesn't make it any better.
The motivations are paper thin: Of course these pieces are about driving traffic. A larger audience means larger profits for ad revenue. When it comes to page views, polarity is moot. They're actually counting on your outrage. Your vocalizing the article to your followers—whether lambasting or praising—is distributing their link all across the internet. Tweets and Facebook posts are driving eyes to their content in droves. An article's financial success is measured by traffic, not critical reaction. These "Hot Female" articles are a sickeningly shallow, asinine attempt to undermine the talent of so many by way of glamorizing an irrelevant, opinionated detail. It singles out individuals by merit and leaves out others in its bullied exclusivity. And it's time we all called it to a halt.
The truth is, as long as these articles are successful in driving traffic, they'll continue to exist: a perpetual loop of sexism as a last dying gasp of lazy but calculated editorial work. And our expressed outrage is potentially channeling all of that energy straight into their wallets.
But therein lies the problem. How do we talk about our utter disgust without also playing into their game? I'd suggest we do anything but stay silent. We have every right to express our distaste in these practices, but when we do it, let's not embed a link to these articles. Let's work to ensure that these editorials get buried beneath the waves of irrelevancy that they rose from. We can talk about these issues within our industry far more effectively if we take the rug out from underneath of these bullies. If an outlet wants to publish an article like this, steer clear of the site. Stage a complete boycott of that url without calling attention to these specific sources. If you want to take this boycott public, be wary of how you publicize it so you don't unintentionally drive even more traffic. Just like drivers slowing down to see a car accident, people have a fascination with abomination and an itch for drama. Work to ensure that you're not driving any new pairs of eyes for them.
So for us: Let's be vocal about sexism in the industry. Let's work to make the design and tech fields more friendly to both genders and all types of people, to celebrate individuals for their work and their integrity, and do away with crippling stereotypes and archetypes that box in those already working within these walls.
And for design blogs: We can't tell you what to write, but we'd ask that you have even a shred of decency. That you'd stop to think twice about what you're publishing and how it's affecting actual people's lives.
We can all work to bury these sites and these practices, but we've got to stop rubbernecking first.
For a much better writeup on all of this, I'd highly recommend you check out the Onion's coverage of Miley Cyrus on CNN's Top Story.