Bitcoin in the Headlines: Pundits Ignite Battle of the Sexes

Bitcoin continued to take a beating in the press this week, facing attacks for its perceived male-dominated user base and lack of merchant acceptance.

AccessTimeIconApr 24, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 11, 2021 at 11:39 a.m. UTC
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Bitcoin in the Headlines is a weekly look at bitcoin news, analyzing media and its impact.


In the absence of exciting product launches or massive funding rounds, the digital currency community saw renewed scrutiny in the media this week.

Mainstream outlets are still indulging in lengthy features on the subject, however, most continued to address the technology's perceived shortcomings.

The general consensus seems to be that bitcoin is still doomed for failure, although everyone seems to have a different – and equally creative – opinion as to why.

'Male domination'

Perhaps most notably, this week saw Fusion's Felix Salmon's contribution to the debate, alleging that the digital currency would fail because the ecosystem is dominated by men.

In his piece, titled "Why Bitcoin's male domination will be its downfall", Salmon discussed Nathaniel Popper's new book, Digital Gold, noting that it was "as close as you can get to being the definitive account of the history of bitcoin". In so doing, the author talks about "misfits" and "millionaires", responsible for the building, mining and hyping of the digital currency.

The post talked about Popper's failed search for bitcoin creator Satoshi Nakamoto, but focused more on his inability to find something else – prominent women in the community whom he could interview for his work.

Salmon used the observation as a springboard to hang the cryptocurrency's success or demise on a gender-based premise.

Despite the loose connection, Salmon was not alone in taking up the narrative. Shane Ferro echoed Salmon's line of thought in a Business Insider piece, writing:

"Fusion's Felix Salmon delves into the seedy underbelly of the bitcoin world an comes up with the real problem with cryptocurrency: the community is 96% men."

Note the use of the word "seedy".

Ferro's concluding statement, "it's hard to have a currency that leaves out 50% of the population", also raises some eyebrows as it implies no women are using the digital currency.

'Cash is here to stay'

Following the debate, Forbes' contributor Arjan Schutte argued that cash is here to stay, regardless of alternative electronic payment systems that are seeking to disrupt its market.

Schutte started by saying how "everyone in the financial services industry is excited about the digitisation of money", adding "at the hand of bitcoin, or Apple Pay, or what-not – our money would be more secure, more liquid, more flexible and wield control".

Despite his admission that a like technology could potentially disrupt the world of traditional finance, Schutte continued to note that the digital currency would never reach mainstream adoption.

He said:

"Last year was clearly quite exciting for the bitcoin world, and I believe cryptocurrency technology remains incredibly important to the current financial services revolution. Bitcoin also offers most of the cash advantages, it's free, it offers control and anonymity. It is not universally accepted – and never will be, in my opinion. And because of that, it's not effectively liquid. So, no chance."

Schutte's statements mirror those of bankers, who are much more willing to talk about blockchain technology and the potential applications of open ledgers than comment on the future of bitcoin.

This ongoing linguistic battler was perhaps best illustrated by this week's FutureofMoney conference and SWIFT forum.

'Gimmicky and niche'

Credit must go to BBC News's Zoe 

The island has become increasingly prominent in the bitcoin and technology ecosystem. From the beginning of April, digital currency business in the Isle of Man now have to comply with anti-money laundering (AML) laws.

Known for its extensive e-gaming industry, Kleinman's piece 

She explained her choice of words, commenting on how bitcoin often made the headlines "for all the wrong reasons", citing the now defunct Japanese exchange Mt Gox – which coincidently made the news this week – as an example of its association with illicit activities, adding:

"[Bitcoin] has also gained notoriety as the currency for choice for illegal activity because bitcoin transactions can be carried out anonymously."

At this point it is important to address that bitcoin is not wholly anonymous, as frequently misreported by some media outlets. This aside, Kleiman cites various sources who discuss issues affecting the bitcoin economy as a whole, including regulation.

Adrian Forbes, an entrepreneur whose startup TGBex sells physical bitcoin coins, told Kleinman that he was not a big fan of legislation. He continued:

"I see bitcoin as something very niche. I don't think it requires same licences as banks and stockbrokers and hedge funs that have a thousand times as much money at stake. Bitcoin will work best in the third world first. In the west, it's a novelty, niche technology, a bit of fun. It might be advantageous in terms of speed but there's no real need for it."

Kleinman then cited Nula Perryin, the female founder of an all-female cast taxi company, who said:

"We do about two or three [bitcoin payments] a week ... I think it's a bit of a gimmick ... as a new firm it's something to get us noticed."

Whether bitcoin will ever be integrated into the existing traditional financial system still remains to be seen, Perryin proves that, fad or not, women do get involved in and use the digital currency.

Newspaper image via Shutterstock.


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