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Parents: Why Snapchat CEO’s College Emails Matter

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Parents: Why Snapchat CEO’s College Emails Matter

If the Snapchat app itself weren’t sketchy enough (allowing for a text or image to be erased within a short period of time) and rife with opportunities for abuse, more information surfaced recently on just how sleazy the SnapChat CEO Evan Spiegel actually might be. Emails he sent in college – just a few short years ago – have surfaced recently wherein he boasts of among other things urinating on a woman he was sleeping with, obtaining oral sex, shooting “fat chicks” with lasers, and underage drinking to the point of blackout. Jim Edwards of the Business Insider explains in a great piece our two choices in deciding whether the emails actually matter.

“The first is that they don’t matter: They’re merely the kind of hijinks we all get up to in college and it’s unfair that they have come back to haunt him years later. A huge section of the tech industry feels this way. Two of the most widely read tech blogs within the business pointedly failed to mention the emails when they were published yesterday. They’re not “tech” news, after all.”

“The second is to admit that they do, in fact, matter because they’re an extreme example of a long, painful debate about how women are treated in the industry and whether male tech workers are discriminating against them. And these are emails written by the founder and CEO of possibly the single most valuable standalone mobile app company on the planet. They are not representative of all tech CEOs, but they are an extreme example from a very prominent tech CEO.”

Spiegel has apologized saying, “I’m obviously mortified and embarrassed that my idiotic emails during my fraternity days were made public. I have no excuse. I’m sorry I wrote them at the time and I was jerk to have written them. They in no way reflect who I am today or my views towards women.”

Too bad the SnapChat erasing platform didn’t exist then. Spiegel’s only hope is that his past actions, and past attitudes about women, will be seen as that – in the past. The problem is that these emails were just a few years ago – he only just turned 24 – and attitudes simply don’t change that fast, no matter what anyone claims. Period. These are not just the harmless antics of a typical coed, these are actions that deserve to be labeled for what they are: misogynistic. Demeaning and belittling attitudes towards women are alive and well on college campuses and in high schools, and our kids need to be prepared to identify and handle such attitudes when confronted with them.

Just weeks ago, in the wake of the Santa Barbara murders, the prevalence of misogyny was once again identified and discussed. The Twitter hashtag #yesallwomen gave a voice for thousands of women to describe their experiences with men’s demeaning attitudes and mistreatment. College campuses, and women’s safety, have been a focus of much recent discussion as President Obama is calling for stricter enforcement of sexual crimes. And while George Will, and others in the media, do not believe that rapes on college campuses are problematic, most of us understand that sexual assault, female mistreatment, and misogyny are serious problems on college campuses deserving our concern. As Snapchat’s CEO, Spiegel is a market leader in the communications business, making it all the more disappointing that his communications were so salacious. His emails of just a few years ago demonstrate the kind of misogynistic attitudes that can dangerously lurk beneath the veneer of a good time, the most prestigious universities, and even the most desirable companies. Indeed they sadly show how commonplace objectifying women can be.

If you haven’t already, talk to your kids – girls and boys – about misogyny, what it is, and why it’s dangerous and wrong.  Then talk about the dangers of words, and attitudes. Consider sharing Spiegel’s emails with your older teen, and see what they think. Have they heard this kind of language before? How does it make them feel? How do they think the women felt? I know it’s uncomfortable, but inoculating our teens before they head off to college is powerful, and using real life news makes it current and valid. Believe me, your kids know about SnapChat. This is a useful opportunity for us as parents to open this dialogue, and use this current event as the “teaching moment” that it is.

For more tips on how to identify and avoid misogyny, read here.

 

Alicia H. Clark, PsyD

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