Just Gonna Say It: Even Conwomen Like Elizabeth Holmes Can’t Weasel Out Of Sexism

Contributor: Emma Ruben

It’s 2022 and I’m obsessed with scammers. I’ve been obsessed with scammers since Caroline Calloway popped up on my Instagram and I became obsessed with her rose-tinted, romanticized Cambridge University life. Now, my obsession with scammers has moved on and I’ve admittedly spent the last few months binging shows like Inventing Anna, Tinder Swindler and The Dropout. And what I’ve noticed, as a connoisseur of scammers, is conwomen like Anna Delvey and Elizabeth Holmes face a massive, sexist double standard men don’t face.

I feel a sense of, dare I say, adoration of how these women managed to convince people they knew what they were doing. But when I look closely, I notice how much these, albeit white, cis, women, had to co-op masculinity into their “brand” in order for their business to be taken seriously.

In Inventing Anna, Anna finds it difficult getting a loan from investors because of her looks. A look she ends up completely shedding. And in doing so her character coins the famous line, “If I were a man with the right accent, in the right suit, from the right Ivy League college, would I still be knocking on doors?”

The real life Anna really did have similar issues with private investors who didn’t want to invest in her because she was 25 years old and “[didn’t] know what she was doing”. She also found some male lawyers condescending because of how they treated her because of her age and gender.

Elizabeth Holmes literally wore her masculinity. Having been obsessed with Steve Jobs, Holmes built her persona entirely on him — including the famous black turtleneck.

And who can forget the jarring, low baritone voice she put on when speaking. Amanda Seyfried gets it scarily right in The Dropout.

Not only do these female scammers have it hard when trying to break into the business world, but they suffered extreme consequences for their scamming.

The real Anna Delvey was sentenced to four to 12 years in prison, fined $24,000 and ordered to pay restitution to her victims. She is currently being held in ICE custody in upstate New York for overstaying her visa.

There’s no confirmation who her “dodgy” boyfriend Chase was in real life. But if he also scammed investors out of millions for his app, then it definitely seems like Delvey got the shittier end of the stick. Like her character said: “men fail upwards all the time”.

Elizabeth Holmes was found guilty of one count of conspiracy and three counts of wire fraud and is awaiting sentencing.

It’ll be interesting to see whether Sunny Balwani, Holmes’s ex-partner of 13 years and chief operating officer of Theranos, will face the same charges as her considering employees credit both of them for running a company built on fear and mistrust.

Worse still, the board of Theranos was made up of high-profile (white) men who, considering their experience, should have known something was not right with the company. Like George Shultz, former US secretary of state. He’s credited for ending the Cold War but apparently didn’t think to check if Theranos’s technology worked? Despite his GRANDSON, who worked in the Theranos laboratory, telling him something was seriously wrong?

That being said, these women have minds of their own and should be held responsible for their actions, especially considering the number of people they hurt as a result. And whilst I don’t admire their actions, I’m stunned they managed to tap into people’s minds, understand what they needed to hear and for a small moment completely fuck up the system.

And I’m slightly disheartened when I learn they face way more retribution from the state than men like this ever do. Especially if you consider that Tinder Swindler, Simon Leviev only served five months of a 15 month sentence AND it was his victims who faced more scrutiny.

The patriarchy sprouts its ugly head once again. And if there’s even a double standard in scamming, what hope do the rest of us gals have?
Emma Ruben is a journalist and freelance writer living and writing on Whadjuk Boodjar. She’s on Instagram and Twitter where she chats about reading, writing and other high-brow topics like reality TV.