To be fair to a woman who has established that she’s a racist a-hole, we are relying on secondhand accounts of a talk which Bethenny Frankel gave to a room of women business owners, at a conference called Project Entrepreneur. Jezebel compiled the responses to Bethenny’s speech and several attendees were outraged. Bethenny allegedly (again this is secondhand as there is no video) told minority women that they should hire white male spokespeople for their businesses. Several attendees tweeted about this. Bethenny also reportedly suggested using sex for business purposes. When two women of color got up during the Q&A session to tell Bethenny how wrong she was, they were shut down.
An entrepreneur named Mary Pryor blogged about her experience trying to question Bethenny about her offensive speech:
I was one of the women who tried to stand up to reality TV star and Skinny Girl Vodka founder, Bethenny Frankel, at a women’s entrepreneurial summit over the weekend. And was silenced.
As a participant in Rent The Runway’s and UBS’s Project Entrepreneur, a new initiative to equip women founders with the tools and advice they need to thrive in the marketplace, I was stunned when Frankel implied that women should have sex with men in exchange for capital. I was offended when she expressed some kind of kinship with black women because she’s “loud.” And I was taken aback when she advised those of us in the room to get business advice to hire a white man as the face of our companies.
The session was not recorded, but it caused a firestorm both in New York City, where the event took place, and on social media.
Another female founder of color, Naomi Hirabayashi of Shine Text, was just as disturbed given this response. Many of the women of color in the audience turned their heads in shock. Some took to the mic, prepared to address the inflammatory remarks. While Frankel’s flawed advice comes with unfortunate truths regarding access to funding- white men do get the lion’s share of venture capital funding while black women founders don’t seem to even register on the radar. This phenomenon was most recently covered in Digital Undivided’s #ProjectDiane report; it’s clear tech has a long way to go when it comes to supporting black women founders. Armed with this knowledge, I weighed the pros and cons of responding to Frankel after I saw eye rolling, dismissive stares, and “Here she goes!” reactions from other women in the room but. Something needed to be said. Not even when the wrong-headedness was called to her attention, Frankel didn’t back down.
Nothing. No apology. No acknowledgement of an ignorant reply. Just a comment from a moderator about “breaking up a fight” and removing the mic from our hands. Naomi and I stood there shaking our heads. We stood up to defend female founders of color. She stood up as an ally aware of bias and ignorance in tech. We came together respectfully and left disappointed.
[From The Huffington Post via Jezebel]
Project Entrepreneur has since apologized while Bethenny has tweeted some nonsense about color not mattering. You know that means she said all these obnoxious things.
Project Entrepreneur went one further and tweeted that Bethenny was wrong, essentially and that “We believe that every founder is enough on her own. We disagree with any sentiments to the contrary.” I hope this means that businesses and organizations will think twice before giving Bethenny a platform, but then I see the orange idiot who’s running for president and realize that there are a lot of racists who are being given platforms lately.
Update: Bethenny has denied saying this despite the many eyewitness accounts and she has gone on to block several people on Twitter insisting she said it.