TIME's Tone-Deaf Cover Reinforces All The Wrong Silicon Valley Stereotypes

Photo: Courtesy TIME.
While women and people of color in Silicon Valley desperately try to show that being an engineer doesn't mean you're a 20-something white male, TIME, apparently, hasn't been paying attention at all. The magazine ran a completely tone-deaf cover that not only pokes fun at the burgeoning virtual reality field; it reinforces all the traditional tech stereotypes.

TIME's cover story, "The Surprising Joy of Virtual Reality," sounds innocuous but unfortunately features an extremely goofy photo of 22-year old Oculus VR creator Palmer Luckey floating over a virtual tropical beach while wearing the headset. PCGamer calls the cover "the greatest threat to VR" because it "reinforces, rather than challenges, the perception that VR is a mask that nerds use to blot out the world." The text that follows (and the only text that's visible without a subscription) is even worse:

Palmer Luckey isn’t like other Silicon Valley nerds.

He’s a nerd all right, but not the kind who went to a top-ranked university, wrote brilliant code or studied business plans. He’s cheery and talks in normal sentences that are easy to understand. He was homeschooled, and though he did drop out of college...he doesn’t look like a guy who played Dungeons & Dragons so much as a character in Dungeons & Dragons. He’s a nerd from a different century.

The comparison to "typical" Silicon Valley types like Mark Zuckerberg is tired, but the worst part about the whole thing is that this magazine reaches far more mainstream readers (and captive grocery-store-newsstand browsers) than publications that are actually pushing the diversity-in-engineering stance. For many who see the cover, this will be yet another impression that the tech world is white, male, and unbecomingly dorky — that technology is isolating and that virtual reality itself is silly.

The article does goes on to paint a brighter picture and talk about how virtual-reality tech actually works. For those who don't know: While wearing a headset like the Oculus VR is somewhat awkward, today's virtual reality experiences really are amazing. Buying one for the home still seems quite far-off, but virtual reality headsets could easily become an invaluable tool for practicing skills like surgery without a human patient, or for learning how to check your car engine's intake manifold for leaks. Virtual reality has far more practical implications than just escaping to your own digital Cabo (although that sounds quite nice, as long as we've got a piña colada in our hand, too).

TIME
is taking it all in stride; it even ran a roundup of more than 30 of the best Photoshop memes of its cover (and there are some really good ones).
Advertisement
So, at least something entertaining came out of this.

Advertisement

More from Tech

You're at 20,000 feet, and you realize your flight doesn’t have WiFi — which wouldn't be a big deal, except you forgot your book at home, and none of your ...
It's a sad but true fact that a bad commute — one where you just miss the bus or subway — has the power to ruin your day. More often than not, these near...
When you think of playing a video game, what comes to mind? Is it a raucous game of Wii Bowling when you were in college? Hours spent on your Game Boy ...
GENERATION STARTUP presents Women In Tech, an episode of an exclusive web series with footage left on the cutting room floor. The feature documentary ...
If you're a Yahoo user (or ever have been), you'll want to change your password ASAP — and not just on that Yahoo account. Today, the company confirmed ...
There are two types of people in this world: the zero-inbox purists, and the ones with hundreds (or even thousands) of unread messages in their inbox. ...
It may seem like your car hasn't let you down. But apparently, all these years, you've been driving a vehicle suited for the wrong gender. At least that's ...
(Paid Content) Refinery29 is now on Versy, a messaging and content-sharing app made for busy people like us
The iPhone 7 may not be a mystery anymore, but the hype surrounding it is far from gone. Now that we know what it looks like (hello, new camera) and what's...
Without a doubt, dating in 2016 is an art form. If you’re single and looking for love, you know where the scene is. It’s online. (Unless you’ve made it ...
Instagram's latest update includes a tool that's ideal for every perfectionist — or anyone who spends time editing a photo in the app, only to get ...
I was doing my usual routine of scrolling through Instagram while eating my lunch when I saw a truly disturbing image: The now-10-year-old boy I used to ...
In the past, your phone has likely emitted a hideously blaring, horn-like sound to indicate you were receiving a flash-flood warning from the national ...
As a small business owner for the better part of a decade, I’ve learned firsthand that time is my most valuable resource — yes, even over money. You can ...