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Beyond #MeToo: Tech Bros and Surfer Bros

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Spicoli, the iconic California surfer bro, from "Fast Times At Ridgemont High." (YouTube)

The California Report’s new series Beyond #MeToo: Abuse and Power Through a California Lens tackles many of the questions that have arisen in the wake of the #MeToo movement, and investigates how they play out in our lives, past the headlines.

Tech Bros: GoDaddy 2.0

From the boorish to the downright predatory, it seems like leading California tech "bros" are never not in the news for sexual harassment, questionable views about female engineers, or Silicon Valley sex parties that perpetuate stale, heterosexual gendered power plays.

Domain hosting business GoDaddy.com entered the ring as the ultimate bro-tastic Silicon Valley company, at least in reputation, when it started airing a series of sexually suggestive and controversial Super Bowl ads over a decade ago. Ads like these:

The California Report's host John Sepulvado visited GoDaddy.com to talk with Steven Aldrich, the chief product officer. Sepulvado learned the company has been trying to repair its image at the same time as it has made strides in its hiring practices -- for instance, they took a hard look at institutional bias in hiring and review practices.


Aldrich admits the commercials were gross.

“What GoDaddy has done to be able to take a culture that was good and make it great around being an egalitarian place, attract all comers, recruit women, retain women, promote women, and at the same time recruit men, retain men and promote men. You know it says a lot for how I think any company can change,” says Aldrich.

But would they have changed if they hadn’t come under fire for their ads? It might surprise you who was behind the marketing for that ad. Take a listen:

Beyond #MeToo: Tech Bros and Surfer Bros

Beyond #MeToo: Tech Bros and Surfer Bros

Out Of The Way, Spicoli

There's another iconic California subculture where men get to make waves, and women are rarely a part of the storyline. Thirty-five years after Spicoli ditched Mr. Hand’s history class to catch the perfect wave in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," the surfer bro is still an archetype. But what about the surfer gal?

Co-host Julia Scott caught up with champion big-wave surfer Bianca Valenti at San Francisco's Ocean Beach to talk about her push for equal representation for women at the world's most important big-wave competitions.

Bianca is a member of the Committee for Equity in Women's Surfing, an activist group that scored a major victory when it got organizers to let women compete in their own heat in the Mavericks Challenge this year (if the event happens; conditions have to be just right).

Valenti has been surfing since she was 7 years old in Southern California, and she simply got used to seeing men and boys in the water nearly 100 percent of the time. But for female surfers who may be less confident, a lack of representation can take a toll, she says.

"When you paddle out in the water and you're a woman, there's just no escaping the fact that you're not a man. You stand out. You are the other," says Valenti.

And surfer bros don’t just control the waves. Valenti says they also control advertising and sponsorship, which can affect how women's bodies are depicted in magazines, and how women's surf skills are rewarded with prize purses at big-wave events.

Have you ever confronted someone who harassed you? Did you forgive them? How did you move past it, or is that even possible?

Call us with your stories, and we’ll play some of them on The California Report: 415-553-2204. You can also email us with your contact information, and we’ll give you a call back: calreport@kqed.org.

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