Episode 47: All the Power Ladies, Live
Published April 15, 2016.
Gina: This is CYG producer Gina Delvac with a supersize episode for you this week. We kick things off with Donna Edwards, congresswoman from Maryland, who is running to replace Barbara Mikulski in the Senate. We hear some hot topics onstage and then Amina's interview from a little while back with Kara Swisher of Recode, an amazing tech site, she of infinite scoops it seems onstage at the Lesbians who Text Summit in San Francisco. This is actually where Kara first broke her news of her intention to run for mayor of San Francisco that you might've heard about this week.
Aminatou: Welcome to Call Your Girlfriend. [Cheering]
Ann: A podcast for long-distance besties everywhere and in Washington, D.C. [Cheering]
Aminatou: I'm Aminatou Sow.
Ann: And I'm Ann Friedman, and on tonight's agenda we have a little current events recap including a very personal Uber dilemma, some chat about the newest potential Kardashian, Hillary's liability -- get it? -- and as if that was not enough we will have Congresswoman Donna Edwards here with us too. [Cheering]
Ann: Let's talk about serious business like Congresswoman Donna Edwards. She represents Maryland's 4th Congressional District which is very nearby so you should all know her. She's the first African-American woman to represent Maryland in Congress. [Cheering] Yes. She has had a hugely impressive and diverse career as a nonprofit public interests advocate and in the private sector on NASA's Space Lab program. What? I know. In 1994 as co-founder and executive director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence she led the effort to pass the Violence Against Women Act. You may have heard of it. Yeah. [Cheering] These days she serves on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and on the Science, Space, and Technology Committee. She's a ranking member of the subcommittee on space. She's also a bad-ass. So please welcome to the stage Congresswoman Donna Edwards. [Cheering] Hello! Thanks for coming.
Donna: I was wondering about my wine.
Ann: We poured you one. We poured you one.
Aminatou: The one without the lipstick is yours.
Ann: Yeah, ours have already been marked with lipstick so cheers.
Aminatou: So my first question is why aren't you an astronaut? [Laughter] Because . . .
Ann: It seems like you could've been an astronaut.
Aminatou: Politics seems not as fun compared to that.
Donna: So here's the thing: I wasn't an astronaut. Go figure. No, I actually worked on this program called Space Lab which by the way is now in a museum.
Ann: What was it?
Donna: I know. It was a laboratory that fit into the cargo bay of the space shuttle which also doesn't exist anymore.
Donna: Yeah, RIP.
Ann: Awesome. Well, as many people in this room may know Carol Moseley Braun is the only black woman senator we have ever had in this country.
Aminatou: 227 years, one black woman senator.
Ann: Absolutely shameful. You are running for a senate seat right now. [Cheering] The primary is right around the corner. We're curious about that legacy and what that means to you. It's been many, many years.
Donna: Well it's really huge, and Carol Moseley Braun, I remember when she was elected. I thought then that we had already had black women elected because black women do a lot of really great stuff like elect presidents.
Donna: But we hadn't and so it's amazing to be at this point and to know that we're really on the cusp of making this happen. And I say it's a big we because it's going to take all of us in Maryland -- it doesn't matter where you live -- to make sure that this election happens. We've had a history of people not showing up to vote, so today we need everybody showing up to vote.
Ann: Yeah. [Cheering]
Aminatou: You know, I was wondering if you had any thoughts about the wage gap, just knowing that over a 40-year career it's the largest for both African-American women and Latina women where it amounts to like 1.6 million and 1.8 million respectfully and just the disparity there is really shocking and what we're doing about changing that.
Donna: Well, I mean, I like shoes but think of what I could do with 1.6 million or 1.8 million dollars. Apart from save for retirement or send your kids to college or buy a home or start a business or all the things that women could do if we were paid equally to men. And I just think it's 2016 and when young women graduate from college today they should know that on day one for the rest of their 40 years in the workforce that they're going to make the same as the man alongside whom they work. [Cheering]
Ann: I have a question that's also related to money. I mean one thing that I think about a lot is if you are in electoral politics you have to learn how to raise money and ask for money quite a lot. I know people help you with that. And then there's this parallel question of how do women advocate for themselves and ask for raises and ask for promotions and do that for those of us who aren't in elected office? I wonder what you've learned about asking for money.
Donna: Well I think it's really tough. When I was in the non-profit sector and I had to go out and raise money for a cause or an issue like domestic violence and sexual assault it was somehow easier to go and ask people for money to support things like that but it was really difficult to learn how to ask for money for myself for a campaign. It actually felt really awful. "Hi. How are you? I haven't seen you since high school but I'd just like to remind you that I was the class president and I'd like you to give me money." [Laughter]
Ann: I'm still running. You're like friending everyone on Facebook.
Donna: You know, when I first ran for Congress and certainly now in this run for Senate I pulled out -- I don't throw anything away, and thank goodness, because I pulled out every old notebook, Rolodex, piece of paper that I had with a phone number and a name on it and thank goodness for the Internet because I tracked them all down and I called everybody I'd ever gone to school with -- and I went to 14 schools when I was growing up because my dad was in the Air Force -- and so that's a lot of people to call. [Laughter]
Ann: So it got easier after a while?
Donna: Easier. It just got different. And I think one of the challenges that women have is that we aren't really connected to all of those networks that have money and so it takes us collectively putting together our money, small checks . . . I've received checks from people who give me five dollars or two dollars a month or whatever it is they can afford because they want to invest in my candidacy and you know what? I'm not going to all the big donors saying "Give me $2,700." $2,700 is a lot of money.
Aminatou: It is. We know.
Donna: I remember when it was hard to put food on the table, and going around to somebody and saying "Hi, how are you?" And it's really weird. You're calling people that you've never seen, who have never seen you. You don't know Adam or Angela and you ask them, you say "Hi. I'm Donna Edwards. I'm running for the United States Senate in Maryland to replace Senator Barbara Mikulski who is retiring, and by the way, will you give me $2,700?" It's just weird.
Ann: Yeah, I can see that. [Laughs]
Aminatou: People in the audience, you know where this is going to lead to. If you care there are specific things you can do about this. We'll talk about them later. But last night in our hotel room we were watching an attack ad against you and somebody -- I didn't even write his name down because it was literally nobody important -- said . . . [Laughter]
Aminatou: So annoyed. He said, in the ad, "Diversity is important but what's more important is electing people that get things done." [Booing] Just the insinuation.
Aminatou: You know, the insinuation that you're not somebody who gets things done and your record doesn't speak for itself. How do you respond to that?
Donna: Well, I mean, I get things done differently. People don't live their lives at the 30,000 foot level where folks are talking about tax inversions and budgets. They're on the ground where they have to feed their families, pay their college debt, pay their rent, basic stuff. And so when I first came to Congress the very first piece of legislation I ever passed was to do something called Give Maryland Students Dinner. Kids who needed breakfast and lunch and they were going home without dinner. And that was the very first piece of legislation -- first law that I ever passed. That's about doing something real in people's lives. And so I'm glad I didn't see the ad because I probably would've hissed too. [Laughter]
Ann: We did it on your behalf. We're like can you believe this?
Donna: Thank you. I love that associated hissing thing.
Aminatou: But just thinking also about the turn that it's taken, right? Because this campaign, it's a real nail-biter. People didn't expect it. And it's getting more personal as you're ahead in the polls now if you didn't know this.
Ann: To be clear the primary is in two weeks. Two weeks. [Cheering]
Aminatou: Yes, April 26th. Put it in your phone. But seeing the momentum that that gives you, right, do you think the more people start going after you and after your record that it's . . . you know, it's kind of a good thing because they're bringing their A game now?
Donna: Well I think it's a sign that we're running a really smart campaign that's about people's real lives and when you look at the latest two polls that have me ahead I think that's a good sign. And so when folks start attacking you it means that you're doing something right. And, you know, politics is tough and it's hard to run for elective office. And I think a lot of women don't choose themselves to -- you know, to run, because it does get really personal and attacks get really personal and you have to develop kind of a thick skin. So I've had to do that, either that or . . . [Running water]
Ann: Yep. [Cheering] Coping. You are . . . you are a very prominent single mom. We are among a huge group of single women. Not everyone but a lot of single women here tonight I am sure. [Cheering] And powerful electoral block. But I'm curious if you . . . I know. Everyone's not even cheering. We're like duh, yeah. Go on. But we're wondering about, in terms of legislation and thinking about single women, what would you introduce or push for that would help that specific population?
Donna: Well I think, one, pay. We've got to straighten out this notion that women can go to work for the entire course of their career and progressively make less than the men who work beside them. I mean that is an absolutely because it constrains everything else that we do. [Applause]
Making choices about our own reproductive freedom. [Applause] I just need . . . so think about it, who do we need in the room? We need our doctor and we need ourselves. We don't need anybody else and we definitely do not need men in the United States Senate.
Aminatou: I'm shocked this is playing well in this crowd. [Laughter]
Donna: Look, I'm 57 so I'm not going to hang around for the tampon conversation but . . . [Laughter]
Ann: You know, there's something else . . .
Donna: But this one right here I can deal with.
Ann: If there's something else you want to get personal around we can switch that conversation and have you around, if you would like to give your perspective on that issue. We can work that out.
Donna: You know, equal pay isn't the only thing that we need equality for. Let's just say that.
Aminatou: For sure. For sure. Well, you know, now that we've tackled all of the really hard questions we have some even more exciting ones. Just a rapid fire. Things that some people in the audience wanted to know, things that we wanted to know. Number one is how do you feel about the Thursday night Shondaland lineup? [Laughter] Do you participate? Who are your favorite characters? Do you also think it's problematic that the DNC keeps holding debates on Thursdays which means they don't care about black people? [Laughter]
Donna: Let me just say I've heard that that's very problematic, yes.
Aminatou: I haven't watched most of the debates because of this. So what do you watch for TV?
Donna: Oh gosh, this is such a loaded question. [Laughter]
Aminatou: This is the landline.
Ann: Yeah, this is . . .
Donna: Okay. I love HGTV. [Cheering]
Aminatou: Property Brothers? We need to get . . .
Donna: Property Brothers, you know, Flip or Flop. [Laughter] I'm okay with buying a house and redoing it in Waco, Texas.
Aminatou: Chip and Joanna, so handsome.
Donna: Yeah, I'll head to Minneapolis, climb up on a ladder and have a hammer.
Ann: Do you find that relaxing? Do you find those shows relaxing?
Donna: It's motivating. And so I've decided that, you know, should this Senate thing not work out -- I'm counting on it working out but we always have to have a backup plan. I'm a Girl Scout. And my backup plan is to start, you know, a home repair/reconstruction business. [Laughter] Do the plumbing and the tile.
Aminatou: We know a lot of people who will invest with you. That's great.
Ann: [Laughs] It's true. Okay, so you -- everyone in the audience has heard a few of the songs we listen to to pump ourselves up before a big work thing or a large event where you're talking to a bunch of strangers and you might be nervous. What is the song you listen to when you need to feel confident?
Donna: This Girl is on Fire.
Aminatou: Are there any favorite snacks in your office right now?
Donna: My favorite snacks? Oh my gosh, I think anything with a nut. [Laughter] My favorite thing though is a Payday. I love Paydays. It's the combination of the salt and the sugar.
Aminatou: Now you're going to win. You've won all of us.
Ann: Payday, also a well-titled snack for someone who is into wage equality. Yeah. [Laughs] Very on-brand. You know, we interviewed Huma Abedin and she said she liked Power Bars and Quest Bars and I was like she is visualizing something with her snack and I feel like the Payday is the same.
Ann: Like if anyone is starting a snack company to market to women call it something like Big Win. [Laughs]
Aminatou: Well, okay, here's some very specific things that you can do if you want to support Donna Edwards. Thank you so much for being here with us.
Donna: Thank you. Thank you. [Cheering]
Aminatou: Ugh, I'm feeling so energized.
Ann: Proximity to power, it is intoxicating. I was just sweating. [Laughs]
Aminatou: I am sweating.
Ann: Okay, so you might've noticed we sort of flipped things from the normal order of the show because we wanted to be accommodating to the congresswoman's schedule but I do feel like -- you know, I just want to do a little check-in. How are you feeling? You look really cute.
Aminatou: Thank you! [Cheering]
Ann: I know, right?
Aminatou: I don't know. It's good to be back in D.C. We have so many friends in the audience it's a little terrifying.
Ann: Shout out to all of our friends. [Cheering]
Aminatou: You know, you people are rowdy people.
Ann: Amina and I met here. We have a lot of emotional ties to D.C.
Aminatou: I know. We've done some highly touristy things. I got this -- like one of those bags that has the Obamas' faces on them, where when I lived here I never wanted any of the swag because only tourists did that and now that I'm a tourist I'm going ham. I want everything. How are you doing Ann?
Ann: Okay, well I had a very traumatic experience last night. Well, we all had a traumatic experience.
Aminatou: I was also there. [Laughter]
Ann: I know. I know. Okay, so a little bit of backstory which is when I arrived on Friday we had this long conversation about what you're supposed to rate Uber drivers or anyone who provides you sort of a startupy service.
Aminatou: Sharing economy.
Ann: Sharing economy that's really just economy. What you should rate those people, because I sort of feel like it's tipping 20%, that even if the service was really bad the system is stacked against people who make those wages and I should always give five stars unless something egregious happens. That's a personal point-of-view. Not everyone agrees with this but I feel really weird any time something kind of bad happens rating less than five stars. And you can maybe read some gender stuff into that with women wanting to give out approval or receive approval. I don't know; I haven't totally unpacked it. But I was just saying I had . . . Gina and I shared an Uber to the airport in L.A. and it was the weirdest dude and he took surface streets all the way to the airport and we were nervous and it was 6 a.m. Anyway, I was like I should've rated him low. Also after Gina got out of the car he said to me "How old are you?" Nothing good can come from this when an Uber driver asks you that. [Laughter] And I was like "I'm 34." And he goes "Oh, you sound like a millennial but smart." I was like you should lose a star for that! Anyway, but I rated him five stars because I always do and I made the flight. So I was presenting this dilemma and I was like what do you do?
Aminatou: Not give them five stars to start with? [Laughter]
Ann: No, but for real.
Aminatou: Okay, so here's the thing: I had never really thought about this until I had a really bad Instacart experience because I live in San Francisco and we do nothing for ourselves. [Laughter] Like every app is "What did my mom used to do for me? How can I turn that into an app now?" So that's how we role. So I ordered all of my groceries, somebody delivers them, and a very bad thing happened and I rate him semi-poorly -- I feel like a three was fair -- but I wrote a long explanation. I was like here's the thing that happened. And within five minutes I get an email back from Instacart that is like "We have fired this driver." I was like this was not my intention.
Ann: This is my fear. This is my greatest fear.
Aminatou: I had never thought this through. And so they're like "We're going to fire him," and now I'm crying and I'm talking to my friend. I'm like "I got somebody fired. The economy is hard. What do I do?" And she was like "No, no, tell them that if they fire him you will never shop there again." So they fix it. They're like okay, fine, he just won't deliver to you and we'll give him better training but I had never thought of this until now we're laying it out. Ann and I and Gina are in a car yesterday.
Ann: Well, very late last night on our way home from our friend Amanda's house. Shout out Amanda.
Aminatou: And I'm not paying attention because I have a one track mind falling asleep. I can visualize the bed.
Ann: So it was the three of us in the backseat of the car, Amina on the left, Gina in the center, and me on like the right-hand side.
Aminatou: Then I hear Ann scream and she's like "No, no!" And I'm like ugh, what is this again?
Ann: The last sound from your loved one that you will ever hear because a car was barreling towards us, like he was going directly through a red light.
Aminatou: Yes, and then I realized that the driver is going through a red light, somebody is going to hit Ann, and I'm screaming "Not the money maker! Don't hit her!" [Laughter] And then the driver pretends that nothing happened, like we weren't just three hysterical women in his backseat.
Ann: We were sort of gas-lighted by an Uber driver who almost killed us.
Aminatou: I mean I kind of respect his hustle because he just looked at us like "Um, here? Right here? You ready to go?" And then we get to the room and Ann is like what am I supposed to rate him? And I was like are you kidding me? [Laughter]
Ann: Okay, but real talk. So I devised this plan to use all of you as a way for me to feel not morally responsible for the rating for this Uber driver so I feel like we're going to do a little thing. Cheer for the number of stars you feel I should give this Uber driver who nearly murdered us and then kind of pretended it didn't happen. [Laughter]
Aminatou: Also, yes, remember this, we almost died. Two, this could happen to you. That's what you need to remember.
Ann: But counterpoint also remember the economy is really tough and also do you want to live in a world where everybody is rating everybody? I don't know.
Ann: I have this . . . [Laughter] Gina's shaking her head backstage. I have dystopian feels about that. I don't . . . okay. Cheer if you think I should give this man five stars. [Laughter] I heard a brief applause. Did I make that up?
Aminatou: You are . . .
Ann: Okay, four stars. [Applause]
Aminatou: We almost died.
Ann: Hey, stop trying to sway the jury.
Aminatou: Four stars.
Ann: Okay, three stars. [Cheering] Pretty good.
Aminatou: Two stars. [Cheering] My people.
Aminatou: One star, call 9-1-1. [Cheering]
Ann: I'm going to split the difference at two. That's not splitting the difference. [Laughter] I'm literally going to log into my Uber app and rate him two stars right now.
Aminatou: Journalism majors. One star. It's okay. We're here.
Ann: I mean I think they're both bad, right? Like they will email me and be like "What happened, right?"
Aminatou: Yes. Really if you want to know this anything three stars and below they'll contact you.
Ann: Okay. Sorry, Michael, two stars. Submit. Thanks for that you guys. Needed your help. What else are we talking about? I feel like we need to lighten the mood.
Aminatou: In this frame you have one Robert George Kardashian. [Laughter] And beautiful woman known as Blac Chyna, government name Angela White. [Laughter] According to Instagram they are engaged. It's very unclear. And we've discussed the saga of these two before so I won't rehash it but I want to point out some key things. First of all Blac Chyna has indicated that if her and Robert get married she will change her name to Angela Kardashian which is the most Game of Thrones thing in the world. [Laughter] Because she essentially is telling -- Kylie Jenner stole her baby daddy and now she's stealing her brother. That's amazing. It's like empires rise and fall.
Aminatou: So she's so beautiful. I'm really supportive of this. If you want to find out more about them mostly follow them on Snapchat where all they do is sit in cars and eat food. I don't understand. I'm like you're so famous, you have so much money, why are you always in a car in a drive-thru? I don't understand this. But I really support this and I hope it's real and they're not playing with us.
Ann: I mean can it be real if it's only been reported on Instagram?
Aminatou: Yes. [Laughter] I'm so happy for these two, that they found each other.
Ann: Wait, so even though -- you feel it's true love even though you described it as basically like a revenge plot.
Aminatou: Which is usually what true love is.
Aminatou: Here's the thing with famous people: you just don't know what they're up to. So when they give you this much access you just have to go with it. And the fact that the sisters are not commenting on it makes me feel that it's real.
Ann: Where's Kris in all this?
Aminatou: Devastated probably.
Ann: Crying alone at home?
Aminatou: And probably giving them a show very soon because she has to. So, yes, the real winner here is us. Don't worry.
Ann: [Laughs] We're always the real winner.
Aminatou: We are.
Ann: Ugh, okay.
Aminatou: What else?
Ann: Well, we've talked a lot about Bill Clinton lately and how we kind of wish he'd just go away and stop talking.
Aminatou: He is determined to be the only Clinton in the White House. It's like this . . .
Ann: Amina's convinced it's a conspiracy theory of him saying really stupid things about Black Lives Matter and what was his other . . . there was another . . .
Aminatou: Yeah, there was something about education but the Black Lives Matter thing was very egregious and defending his own crime bill that is so problematic.
Ann: That was what it was. It was like "Yeah, it was so right in the '90s when I locked up all of those people."
Aminatou: Yeah, and he's like "My wife was right to call them super predators." It's like are you not listening to Twitter? You can't do that anymore. So I am convinced that it's a conspiracy theory. He knows what he's doing.
Ann: I was like did you see the lights dim when you said it was a conspiracy theory?
Aminatou: Ann, what do you . . . I don't know. How much of a liability is he?
Ann: I love saying liability. I don't know. I do think there's a whole thing. We all like to pretend that we might have made different choices if we were in Hillary Clinton's shoes at various points in history and there is a part of me that's like okay, you stuck with him as long as you needed to in this House of Cards scenario. [Laughter] Like it's time to just drop the weight and, you know, full speed ahead. I do have that kind of long view.
Aminatou: You people are cold. [Laughter]
Ann: I mean as much as I love our conversations about what he would do as FDOTUS, First Dude of the United States, I'm just like ugh. I just don't care. Like I was over it in the '90s. I'm over him defending things that he did in the '90s that were not great. I'm like you had your time to shine.
Aminatou: Yeah, just go away. Okay. I mean he should go away. I think we're agreed on that. Okay.
Ann: Dear friend of the podcast Rebecca Traister wrote more than a year ago the case for Hillary dumping Bill at this stage and she was very prescient. She was like "I hadn't heard any of this yet," and she knew.
Aminatou: We've all known.
Ann: It's also true that when I thought back to the stuff in the 2008 primary that most enraged me from the Clinton campaign a lot of it was Bill's extemporaneous speaking. You know? Not saying that there's no broader liability for some of the stuff that he said that was racially-charged in the 2008 primary, but his comments in South Carolina, I don't know, there were many times when I was like [Sighs].
Aminatou: Listen, you don't have to convince me. I am right there with you. I just think, you know, they tell him the party line and every time he goes "How can I ruin this for her?" [Laughter]
Ann: I mean, but . . . and obviously there's also some gender stuff happening here where she was clearly told the party line for a long time and did great.
Aminatou: Exactly, yeah. And being a really supportive political spouse where we have a model for how it works when you're the stay-at-home wife. But we don't really . . . you know, nobody knows what happens when your man is supposed to be the one that's supportive. Well we know this is what happens. [Laughter]
Ann: It kind of reminds me of like I have some friends who are heterosexual couples who do this thing where they're planning on taking turns. Like one of them will kind of let their job take a backseat for a while while the other one . . . whatever. They make a move that advantages the other person's career and the idea is they will one day switch roles. And shockingly it's always the woman's career that temporarily takes a backseat while the dude's career is prioritized.
Aminatou: It just happens that way, Ann. Who knows why? [Laughter]
Ann: And it's hard -- it's hard for me not to read that, like lay that narrative over the Clintons.
Aminatou: No, that's true. I think that's the biggest frustration in that, right? So maybe when Bill listens to this he'll get the message. [Laughter]
Ann: I can't wait. Huma, pass it along.
Aminatou: Yes, Huma will pass it along. We have an inside line now so we feel . . .
[Music and Ads]
Gina: Thanks for tuning in to our D.C. event. Now more power lady talk between Amina and Kara Swisher onstage at the Lesbians Who Tech Summit in San Francisco.
Aminatou: Kara, every . . . listen, everybody here is in awe of you. You show up to . . . it's true. [Laughter] You show up to everything.
Aminatou: Do you sleep? Where do you find the time?
Kara: No, I'm a vampire. I don't know if you know that.
Aminatou: Well why is it so important to you though? Because . . .
Kara: That I show up?
Aminatou: Yeah, that you show up to all of these . . . you're there for the community in a really concrete way.
Kara: Yeah, you know, I'm an extraordinarily old person and so I remember a time when it wasn't very easy to be out and it was very difficult. And so, you know, I really value the ability to give back, of the people who did the most amazing things really early when it cost a lot to be gay. And, you know, not a lot of . . . it's hard to remember the times. Now I don't even remember that it was difficult. It seems like everybody loves a gay kind of thing. But it definitely was not the case not very long ago so I think it's really important to stay visible and it's always been one of my goals is to stay visible.
Aminatou: So I guess what's changed? I'm fairly new to Silicon Valley and the Bay Area and it seems okay except that it's very white and dudeish.
Kara: Yeah, except for that.
Aminatou: Except for that.
Ann: Except for that and "Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?" [Laughter]
Aminatou: But I guess what do you think has changed substantially for women and especially for lesbians?
Kara: I don't think anything has changed. You know that's my big issue. I mean I think it's a really appalling situation when you look at the diversity numbers which come out of all these companies which are supposed to be on the leading edge of tolerance -- which they are in a lot of ways -- but 70% men, 70% white. The numbers have not changed and they've gotten worse.
Aminatou: Is there any company you think is doing anything remotely to change this? Like of the tech companies.
Kara: I think they're all trying. You know, they're very sensitive men here in Silicon Valley. [Laughter] I always tell the story -- I wrote a story many years ago called The Men and Women of Facebook and all I did was put the photos of the men -- no women -- of Facebook. This was pre-Sheryl Sandberg who counts for six women apparently. [Laughter] And I just put them up and Mark Zuckerberg called me and was like "Oh, that really . . . that wasn't very nice." And I said "Well, look at your friggin management list. It's all white guy, white guy, white guy, Asian guy, Indian guy, white guy."
Aminatou: That's fair.
Kara: You know what I mean? It was pretty much that. And I did it many years later about boards of web 2.0 companies which many of the web 2.0 companies were really aimed at women, a lot of these sites, like Groupon and many, many others and all of them had the same breakdown. It was all white, all male boards and it pissed me off. And I noted Twitter was one of them. They had ten literally men within this five-year age range. It was really astonishing.
Aminatou: All the same three names.
Kara: The same three names. They were all . . .
Aminatou: All Jim.
Kara: No, no, no. It was all -- Twitter, I wrote a story and I said "Oh, it's just three Peters and a Dick." [Laughter] Which it was. Which it was. Which is one of my best lines. That's the benefit to running your own blog, you can do whatever you want. I could not do that at the Wall Street Journal, I can tell you that. Maybe under Murdoch. That guy. Anyway . . .
Aminatou: We won't touch -- that's Illuminati. We're not going there.
Kara: None of us ever touch Rupert Murdoch. We just . . . [Laughter]
Aminatou: We're not going there. Love his Twitter account. That's it.
Kara: I totally just had a visual of touching Rupert Murdoch in a sexual way.
Aminatou: Listen, I'm blocking it out. Listen, Kara, so . . .
Kara: Okay, I'm sorry. Your point being -- the point being they're very . . . so the guy who was head of Groupon got fired. Andrew Mason, who's a very nice guy, called me and he said -- he goes "Kara, I feel really bad." Like that. I'm like his mother or something like that. And he goes "I feel bad and I want to do something about it." And I said "Well, you should've done something in the first place. How did you compile this board in this manner?" And he goes "Can you help me find women?"
Kara: And I was like -- I said I can easily find women.
Aminatou: And you have binders full of . . .
Kara: I have binders full of women. [Cheering]
Kara: They mean well. They sit around and mean well and then they really don't do anything about it, and so it's just the same thing. [Applause]
Kara: And my least favorite expression is unconscious bias which I think there's nothing . . .
Aminatou: Oh, tell us why.
Kara: Because there's nothing unconscious about it. You know what you . . .
Aminatou: Oh, preach. [Cheering]
Kara: I think, you know, if you're looking across the room at Twitter and there are ten white men there and you didn't notice, you're a fucking idiot.
Aminatou: That's fair. Well maybe this is the year some things will change. Not holding my . . .
Kara: Yes. Yes, it seems so hopeful with the Trump presidency, with the assist from Chris Christie. Like bullies. It's like the season of bullies and assholes.
Aminatou: Kara, would you ever go into politics?
Aminatou: When are you going to run for mayor?
Kara: I want to run for mayor of San Francisco someday.
Aminatou: Someday? [Cheering]
Kara: I do. I do.
Aminatou: I mean I think you would make a great mayor. It's like what's next for you? You're already a media mogul.
Aminatou: Everyone's afraid of you. What's the next thing?
Kara: No, I think mayor would be good. I think mayor would be good.
Aminatou: Sold. You heard it here first.
Kara: I would have all kinds of weird decrees though. I'd have all kinds of strange things.
Aminatou: What would be the weirdest Swisher decree in the Swisher administration?
Kara: A citywide day you must wear polka dots. Things like that, like crazy. [Laughter]
Aminatou: I mean I think we can live with that here.
Kara: I mean I would drive the press crazy because I know how to drive them crazy.
Aminatou: Oh my god. Okay, listen, one of the recurring themes today is how everybody is so supposedly terrified of you.
Kara: It's true.
Aminatou: This is true. I see people run away from you all the time.
Kara: They do.
Aminatou: It's undeniable that you still break the biggest scoops and tell the biggest stories.
Aminatou: And so how do you keep doing that? How do you stay in the good graces of these people?
Kara: I'm not in their good graces. I mean . . .
Aminatou: Well, you know, stay in the circle enough that you get the information but you're still a person of integrity.
Kara: Well, I think one good thing about being scary is people think you're going to do something to them, like if they don't cooperate. [Laughter] And so my grandfather was -- I wouldn't say mafia, but nearby. Adjacent.
Aminatou: Mafia adjacent. Okay.
Kara: Adjacent. And I'll never forget he kind of kept things clear in the streets and someone did something wrong in the small town he lived in and I'll never forget. He goes to the guy and he goes "You're giving me agida in my stomach. I hate having agida. You need to stop doing the thing . . ."
Aminatou: So this is how you bully all the tech . . .
Kara: No, exactly. No, what I do is they think I know more than I do which I kind of do so they're not really sure where my knowledge is from and so they just give up right from the start. They just do. And I also build relationships. I mean a lot of reporting, and it's unfrotunate what's going on today, is based on -- I was mentored at the Washington Post by people like Ben Bradley. I mean there's just no better way to get mentored than by real journalists who really spend a lot of time teaching you how to build sources, how to create relationships, how to think on your own, not be yanked in as a cheerleader, and at the same time not be snarky. You know what I mean? Like really have a real balance. Because I don't like snarkiness. Well, I'm a little snarky, but I don't like heavy-duty unintelligent snarkiness just to be an asshole.
And so I was really trained as a journalist and I think a lot of people -- I think I've said this in an interview -- it's like how do you get so many scoops? I work harder than everyone else. I work harder than my little passel of millennials who work for me. I work harder. I make more calls. I just work harder. And that's all it takes, you really do have to be persistent. If you want to be a journalist you have to be persistent, curious, and you have to think really hard in terms of scenarios of what could be happening.
Aminatou: Okay, so like zooming out, ten-year-old Kara, is this what you thought you were going to be doing?
Kara: No, I was going to be the leader of the world at one point.
Aminatou: [Laughs] Don't worry, you're getting there.
Kara: I started -- yes, you know, I thought about being a lawyer which is in the same sort of area. I really wanted to go into the foreign service and go into the CIA. I actually went down that road far enough and one of the issues was they didn't allow gay people in the CIA. You know, there were interviews where they're like "Well, you're gay. What if someone finds out?" I'm like "But I'm out." They're like "But what if someone finds out?" And I'm like "But I'm out." Like it was ridiculous. [Laughter] "Well what if you go to Saudi Arabia?" I'm like "I don't speak Arabic. Why would you send me there? Are you a fucking idiot?" [Laughter]
Aminatou: We should probably put you in charge of the CIA at this point.
Kara: Yeah, exactly. So I was like that Zero Dark Thirty lady. I was going to do a lot of that kind of analysis. That's what I'd hoped to do, and pretend I was in the state department. But I was really interested in that. I'm actually a much more patriotic person than people realize even though I'm horrified by . . .
Aminatou: I know. Would you have gone into the military?
Kara: I wanted to. I wanted to. I know that sounds dumb -- just the uniforms alone. [Laughter] But my dad was in the military. He was poor in West Virginia. It paid for his medical school. He was great. It got him to where he was. He died unfortunately when I was very small. I did want to go in the military but I didn't want to say I wasn't gay, so I couldn't do that. I couldn't do it and I wouldn't pretend. I hated don't ask, don't tell. I thought it was the most inane thing. Sorry, Clintons, but it was stupid. It was such a compromise. And then when they finally let gays into the military I called up and I was too old. I was too old to go in. You have to be a certain age.
Aminatou: That's ridiculous.
Kara: So I couldn't . . . so, you know, the distance between me and my ability to shoot guns is now over I guess.
Kara: Which is probably a good thing. I shouldn't have a gun.
Aminatou: Okay, listen, that's debatable.
Kara: Let alone a machine gun.
Aminatou: It's fine. You know, so switching gears, Kara, a lot of people here are really into you.
Kara: I know.
Aminatou: Like the men are throwing themselves at you. The women are throwing themselves at you. What's the Swisher secret to keeping it hot and sexy all these years?
Kara: You know, that is an unusual way to ask for a date but I'm taken. [Laughter]
Aminatou: I think we can still work something out.
Kara: Okay. I don't know what to say about that. I think I've been very lucky in love over my life, and I am now currently, and so I don't know what it is. I think -- I don't know.
Aminatou: I mean I'm sure it helps to be a powerful/kind person. [Laughs]
Kara: I'm really good in bed, Amina. [Laughter] Well I am. I think it surprises people sometimes.
Aminatou: So everybody here has been talking about Scandal. What do you watch?
Kara: I watch Scandal.
Aminatou: What's on your DVR?
Kara: I love Kerry Washington. I watch Scandal. I watch Game of Thrones. The typical things. I watch House of Cards.
Kara: I like shoot 'me up movies. I am so excited for London is Falling after Olympus is Falling.
Aminatou: Sold. Okay.
Kara: I just took seven boys -- I have two sons -- and I took them and their friends to see Deadpool which is probably an unfortunate parental decision. [Laughter] Do you know what? It was fucking funny so whatever.
Aminatou: Again where do you find the time?
Aminatou: This is like the mystery for the ages for me.
Kara: I don't read books anymore. I used to read a lot more books. I spend a lot of time on my iPhone reading and stuff like that. I really enjoy the Internet quite a bit. It's been good to me.
Aminatou: I watched you interview Joanna Coles for Cosmo.
Kara: Yes. Oh no.
Aminatou: And she was saying this mumbo jumbo about how when you read a physical thing of paper you supposedly -- it has meaning. I really hate format fetishes.
Aminatou: I get like one -- I think I get one newspaper and I'm really into it.
Aminatou: But where are you at in your media diet? Are you more of a digital person?
Kara: I don't read any paper. I haven't read paper for years and years. I mean years ago I think I wrote a story in the Wall Street Journal that I cannot pick up a paper which is not the thing you write in the Wall Street Journal.
Kara: I also did one called Cutting the Cord -- this was in the early '90s, when I first got there in the mid-90s, about not ever having a landline. So I have been digital for a long, long time. At the Washington Post they had a suitcase cellphone there -- only one -- and they were testing them out and I got it. I took it and I ran around carrying this like . . . it's a miracle I ever dated. [Laughter] But I had this suitcase phone. I'd be like -- carry it around and call in my car and things like that, and I would say to people in the newsroom -- I think I've been prescient about a couple things, this was one of them, and I said "Someday this is going to be small. This is going to be in your pocket. You're not going to have a phone on your desk."
Aminatou: A visionary.
Kara: I mean I really was but they were like shut up kind of thing. And so the same thing with newspapers, the minute it became digital, I happened to be at a fellowship at Duke University, it was a teaching fellowship the Washington Post had so reporters came in and out and taught people things which is always funny, reporters teaching people things. But in case I was using . . . I got to use the Netscape browser, which was Mosaic Browser at the time. And I used it. I know, it was amazing. I actually met Marc Andreessen when he was very young, and he's still a big baby. [Laughter]
Aminatou: I didn't say it.
Kara: I'm having lunch with him Tuesday. I'm thinking of bringing Indian food. What do you think? Right? Anyone who knows what he tweeted, that appalling tweet that he did will know what I mean. But back to Netscape. Anyway, using Mosaic Browser and I was on the Duke system and I downloaded all of this Calvin and Hobbes book and I messed up the whole system. It was like they were so upset because it was a lot of images but at the time everything was super slow. I mean it's astonishing how much -- how quickly we've come.
So I messed up the whole system and these guys were like . . . these geeky guys were like "Can you believe what you just did? You just messed up the system." I said "I downloaded a book!" They're like "But you messed up the system." I said "But I downloaded the book!" like it was the most crazy situation. And they're like but you . . . you downloaded a book. Don't you understand?
Aminatou: You've always been on the forefront of technology.
Kara: No, and then of course I'm the only person who hasn't benefited from it so I'm like literally the stupidest person in Silicon Valley.
Aminatou: [Laughs] Listen . . .
Kara: I have had job offers from every major Internet company and I took none of them.
Aminatou: Would you take -- would you take one?
Kara: Now? It's stupid. I've missed everything. I missed all the money. No. [Laughter]
Aminatou: I mean I think you did okay for yourself though.
Kara: I did fine. Just sometimes I'm thinking -- Ted Leonsis who . . . Jeff Bezos offered me a job very early. Every company. And I keep thinking right now I love my career and I love what I've done. I love the people we're employing. I love my employees and what we've made. I do think though I would've liked that billion dollars right about now. Or not billion, like several billion, because I would become the Koch Brothers of the left and I'd just fuck with the right wing basically. [Cheering]
Kara: I'd like that money.
Aminatou: So what advice would you give to anybody who is thinking about coming into tech if they're not a rich, white dude or blessed like you are? Do you think that there's still space to . . .
Kara: Yes, yes. You know, of all the industries in our country, it is the most open. There are a lot of things -- they do mean well, even though it has the same result, so I'm not sure how to think about that. It still remains the place of . . . and especially in this country it remains a place of innovation, change, willingness to fail. Those things are not fakeries although sometimes they talk about them the way they are. When they have an abject failure they go "Well, I meant to do that," you know what I mean? Like nice to meet you yahoo kind of thing. But they -- seriously, they've been failing for a decade now. I always like watching someone willfully throw themselves down the stairs. You're like should I stop them? This is so entertaining.
Aminatou: I mean, listen, we're all enjoying reading you writing about them so it's fine. Kara, have you failed at anything?
Kara: Yes, lots of things.
Aminatou: What's one thing you can tell us about?
Kara: Oh, let's think. I sold Chipwiches once. You remember Chipwiches? No you don't. You're too young.
Aminatou: No, I don't know what a Chipwich is. [Laughs]
Kara: They were an ice cream and I was really bad. I sold them on the corner when I was in college at Georgetown and I was just the worst. I was the worst -- I'm a terrible sales . . .
Aminatou: So this is like your one failure in life is way back when when you were at Georgetown? [Laughs]
Kara: No. Yes it was because I was just bad at sales. [Laughter] I was bad at sales. You have to be nice to be a salesperson, you know? And their little line was "Put these chips between your lips." I remember that. And I'm like I'm not fucking saying that. And I was like just buy one you fat, ugly -- yeah.
Aminatou: Well it worked out well for everyone.
Kara: No, it just was . . . every time I think I failed it's when I wasn't straightforward enough and outspoken enough, when I've not spoken. There's lots of times when I've kept it . . . if you can't believe it, there's lots of times when I've kept it to myself. I think not coming out earlier was something I should've done. I think it should've been very early even though it would've had a lot of price to pay. I think not speaking up . . . any time I don't speak up I always regret it, but I tend to do it. I mean I was at a Silicon Valley dinner with all these VCs, very rich, and it was during the whole marriage thing going on and there was a conversation at the table. This guy -- this old . . . I'm not going to name him, but he's really well-known, such an asshole. [Laughter] So he goes "I don't know if I like this gay marriage thing. I don't like . . ." And of course he did the "[Coughs] Lesbians together is okay." You know, that thing. Like are you fucking kidding me?
Aminatou: Ugh. Ugh.
Kara: And so he goes "I don't know if I like this gay marriage thing. I mean I don't like the idea of two men having . . ." I don't like two men having sex. Right?
Kara: I don't like men having -- something like that. And so everyone just let him do it, and I go "You know what? If you don't like men having sex you need to stop doing it." [Laughter] And he said -- and he goes "I didn't say I had sex!" I said "No, you don't like it, so if you don't like it you've obviously had sex with a man and therefore you don't like it. Why are you doing it?"
Aminatou: That's so . . .
Kara: I just kept going with this guy. I'm like "For example, if you look on my plate, zucchini. I hate zucchini. I don't fucking eat it. If you don't like having sex with men you need to stop right now." And he was like -- he was turning that red that old white men turn. [Laughter]
Aminatou: We're all familiar with this.
Kara: And he goes "I didn't say I have sex with men." And I said "Well why are you lying to the group about gay sex? What is that? I don't understand it."
Aminatou: Right. It's like who asked you?
Kara: It was so good. [Laughter] You don't get opportunities . . . I do not regret that.
Aminatou: Listen, we're so happy that you get to be in spaces that we can't go to and you speak up for us.
Kara: Yeah. You can go to them. That's not true.
Aminatou: Well, you know, one day. One day I'll be an important media mogul. [Laughs]
Kara: No, no, no. See, that's the thing. The Internet has really leveled things a lot. Anyone can speak. Anyone can do things. You can't use the excuse that you're not in there as not . . .
Aminatou: That's fair.
Kara: If there's any moment in your life that you can stand up to things, and I think -- right now I'm on the peer review community about this SB Nation story, this terrible story about the guy who raped -- a serial rapist. He targeted . . .
Aminatou: In Oklahoma.
Kara: Yeah, he targeted poor African-American women. He was absolutely and justifiably convicted. And there was a story in SB Nation that was empathetic to him, astonishingly. They took it down and apologized and stuff. I'm in the middle of this and I can't talk about . . . I'm in the peer review. They always pull me into peer groups like this because we're going to be tough on what happened inside the company, inside this particular website, which is usually a terrific website. And one of the things that I noticed, and I can't talk specific about it, was that everybody . . . everyone had a feeling that was bad.
Aminatou: And nobody spoke up?
Kara: Very few people. But they felt bad about it and so it was sort of . . . you don't want to blame those people for not speaking up because why should they have to? And at the same time I don't know if it would've . . . the one person who did speak up who happened to be an African-American woman editor there, she kept speaking up and it didn't matter. You know what I mean? It didn't stop it. It didn't stop this train from going. And so I always thought . . . two parts of me were like she wasn't able to get what she wanted, but that she did speak up was the right thing. At the same time why should she be the one that has to speak up? Why couldn't all these other white male editors see the problem right away? You know what I mean? [Applause]
Aminatou: So you're fairly outspoken. It's a thing that I think for a lot of young women that's something that they're having to constantly renegotiate.
Aminatou: It's like how brave can you be in the workplace?
Kara: Yeah. And you can be.
Aminatou: And there's so much literature that's geared at us towards that, right?
Kara: Oh, absolutely.
Aminatou: Lean in. Lean out. Do this and that.
Kara: And I talked to a woman just the other day. She had some issues around kind of dude speak in the workplace and was relating this to me and then said "I don't know, Kara, maybe I'm too sensitive." And I was like shut the fuck up. Like don't say that. [Laughter] She's like "Maybe I'm too sensitive." I'm like "You're not too sensitive. It smells bad. It is bad. Stop." you know what I mean? Women tend to self-edit themselves. [Applause] And I think the thing that really drives me crazy is whenever people ask me for advice, especially women in tech often come to me and ask for advice, I always . . . I think of this woman who is a very prominent, another very big name who is leaving a company and trying to figure out what to do next and she had several offers. She came to me and she goes "I got this offer. I got this offer. I got this offer. What do you think I should do?" And I said "What do you want to do?" And she said "Well, this is interesting." I go "No, no, no. Not these offers. This is coming over the transom. What do you want to do? What is the kind of thing you want to create in your life?" And she goes "Well, this thing." And I said stop waiting for people to give you things; take what you want. And I think women tend to self-edit themselves a lot. And it's not . . . [Applause] You know, I have two sons, and believe me, I now understand privilege.
Kara: They completely think the world is their oyster and I don't think -- I've tried very hard to make them insecure and it's not working. [Laughter] But they really have this weird penile confidence that is really hard to shake. I would've liked . . . there's a regret, I wish I had a girl to raise one, because it's sort of fascinating to watch the self-editing that goes on. And again it's not women's fault; they shouldn't have to behave like this. But it doesn't change until we start to grab and take what's ours. I think one of the things I think I've done really well, and I give this advice to all you, is I always ask for tons of money whenever I'm doing something. I know it sounds dumb.
But when I was negotiating with one of these -- the Vox deal, the guy who runs Vox is astonishing, Jim Bankoff. And he was . . . I wanted more money; he wanted to give me less money. This is typical in a negotiation. And he goes -- he's such a nice guy, he really is, and he's a wonderful person to work with. And he goes "Come on, Kara, we're friends." Like that thing.
Aminatou: Yeah, that.
Kara: And I said "You know I super, super love you but give me the fucking money." [Laughter] And he laughed and gave me the fucking money. But I think that we have to really . . . it would be great to live in a world where you could be the person you are, if you're shy you don't have to be aggressive, and aggression and obnoxiousness have really worked for me. But we're not in that world right now and I think we have to stop letting . . . you know, when Donald Trump . . . god, this guy.
Kara: When he's saying things we laugh at it, you know what I mean? We don't say "This is appalling." I use Twitter a lot to like -- you know, that fucking troll and this and that. I don't think people . . . we have to speak up, especially right now in this political culture. It's really dangerous what's happening. One of the things that sort of drove me crazy, and I am a supporter of Hillary Clinton, though when she went on . . . [Cheering] I like the Bern too. I get it. But she was on I guess Jimmy Kimmel or something like that and she was just saying -- I guess he had just done a Muslim thing which we thought was the edge but it apparently wasn't, that he would fall off. And he said the Muslim thing, and she goes "Now it's not funny." That's the word she said.
Kara: And I wrote a note. I know them and I sent it to the Clinton people. And I go "Oh, so the Mexican rapists, the disabled, the women, that was funny?"
Aminatou: This is the new line?
Kara: This is the new line? I was like none of it was funny and you all should've been saying something right at the start. And so now it's too late. [Applause]
Aminatou: Okay, last question for you since we're still talking about politics.
Kara: Although I hate to say this, I kind of like Ivanka.
Aminatou: You like -- well, it's true. She's a successful business lady.
Kara: I guess, yeah.
Aminatou: We're all embarrassed by our family members.
Kara: Do you know what? When you start on third base you tend to get to home.
Aminatou: [Laughs] Well listen, I want to end on a question about Hillary Clinton.
Aminatou: I'm also a Hillary Clinton supporter. A lot of my friends are. You know, feel the Bern. I respect it. I get it.
Aminatou: What is it about Hillary that is so compelling? Why should this be her year?
Kara: I'm not sure it's so compelling and that's the problem unfortunately. I think Bernie Sanders is compelling to a lot of people. [Cheering] I have people I live with who like Bernie Sanders. We have an issue over him.
Kara: But you know I think the problem is she's a flawed candidate. Away from her being a woman, I think that's the difficulty she's going to face. And I think a lot of it is sexist. Not all of it for sure. Not all of it. There's definitely stuff that they have done that needs to be examined. But when you notice like -- and again I love the New York Times, but there was one story . . . every time she had a hangnail they wrote a story about her, and it was fascinating. And I kept saying "When are we going to see the stories on adorable Bernie Sanders that don't have to do with his comb-over?" You know what I mean? Let's talk about his . . . the same thing with Trump. You know, they had all these sort of attacks on the other candidates. They went after Christie which I don't mind in any way, and Jeb Bush, but they have not written serious stories -- and I love the New York Times, so it pisses me off -- serious stories about Trump and his finances and his claims and everything else. Not a serious, tough story. You know, it's all funny stuff with him. And so I think . . . you know, I think the problem with Hillary Clinton, there's the sexist stuff that goes on, there's her own history which is problematic, there's weariness about her. People are in a rage right now both on the left and the right and I'm not sure a candidate like her . . . I don't know what she can do. It's going to be a really tough election because people do want change but not in the Barack Obama way. They want to do it in the fear way. It's a fear election. And even though hope tends to be a better election we're not there. Today it's fear. And so in those cases you get populists and angry people and it tends to work and it's really sad.
Aminatou: Oh, maybe we'll . . .
Kara: Sorry. That's a bummer.
Aminatou: I know, that's like a bummer to end on but maybe we'll get a lady president in our lifetime so who knows?
Kara: No, I think she should -- she certainly has worked her ass off to get there, but she certainly is deserving and is very qualified and I'm going to put all my support to her. It may be cynical but we should back her because she's probably the one who could win. So that's unfortunately cynical. [Applause] And I like . . .
Aminatou: Don't worry, Kara, when you run for mayor of San Francisco we'll all be there for you.
Kara: Okay, good.
Aminatou: Thank you so much.
Kara: Thank you. [Applause]
Aminatou: Okay, you can find us many places on the Internet, callyourgirlfriend.com, firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to write us. We promise we read most of them so just be really specific with your question because we don't have all day sometimes. You can find us on Instagram and Twitter at callyrgf. You can also find us on Facebook. I don't know that so you can look it up yourself. And you can even leave us a sweet and short voicemail -- we love getting voicemail -- at 714-681-2943. That's 714-681-CYGF. This podcast is produced by Gina Delvac.
Ann: Gina Delvac! [Cheering] Okay, see you on the Internet.
Aminatou: See you on the Internet, guys.
Ann: Thank you for coming! [Cheering]
Melissa: Hi, I'm Melissa Cleter and we collected 3,897 tampons, 2,006 pads, 788 panty liners, 14 soft cups and 137 dollars at the CYG Live event to benefit homeless and transient women in D.C. Big thanks to everyone who helped make it happen with special shout out to Steph, Aaron, Liz, Dee, Mallerie, and the CYG crew.