Pua Pyland's website looks like many other women's lifestyle blogs. Pyland, 33, writes about fashion, posts photos of delicious-looking food, and shares parenting tips. But her blog is also very different from its Internet peers in one respect: It's entirely bitcoin-themed.
"It's time to chickity check yo'self. Spending Bitcoin is so easy," Pyland wrote in a post after launching her site, The Bitcoin Wife, last spring. "You can buy some dope things with it, and I'm not talking about [illegal-drug site] Silk Road. I've got lots of goodies in store for you from food to fashion to travel. These are exciting times, and the boys shouldn't get to have all the fun."
Bitcoin—a virtual currency that was introduced in 2009 and has enjoyed no shortage of press lately thanks to the collapse of one of its exchanges and Newsweek's outing of its alleged founder—is, by all accounts, a man's world. There are no official statistics, but last year, University College London postgraduate researcher Lui Smyth surveyed 1,000 bitcoin users and found that 95.2 percent were male.
Enter Pyland and a handful of other female bitcoin enthusiasts, who are trying to upend this dynamic. Their numbers are tough to quantify; Pyland and another blogger I interviewed struggled to think of similar female-centric bitcoin-lifestyle blogs. But there is a growing community of pro-bitcoin women on Twitter. And a Google+ community for women in bitcoin created last Tuesday night had 23 members by early Wednesday morning, suggesting ready interest.
Pyland's brand of evangelism is tech-meets-Martha Stewart. A recent post on her site, for example, showed how to make Valentine's Day boxes for bitcoin paper-wallet gifts. (Paper wallets are used by people who hold the currency to store their bitcoin records offline.) Pyland's boxes are emblazoned with the bitcoin symbol—a "B" with two lines through it, akin to a dollar sign—and she suggested throwing in a few chocolates, too. "You might not be able to buy love with Bitcoin," she wrote, "but you can certainly make it a little sweeter!"
She and her husband, who live in Utah, have been bitcoin fans since 2011. They left their jobs in IT in April 2012 to live off bitcoin investments and to "mine" bitcoin full time—a process that is somewhat analogous to mining precious metals, except it involves using high-speed computers to solve complex math equations. Pyland started The Bitcoin Wife a year later. She says the website gets between 500 and 1,000 unique visitors every day. One of her most popular posts so far was on using bitcoin to reward her kids—who range in age from 20 months to 14 years old—for doing their chores.
Pyland is probably the best-known bitcoin lifestyle blogger, but she does have a few peers, including Catherine Bleish, a 29-year-old "stay-at-farm" mom in Texas who identifies as a "voluntaryist," which is similar to a libertarian. She has two young kids and started TheBit Mom.com in late 2013. "As a mother who's really passionate about alternative currencies and, you know, not liking the Federal Reserve banking system, yadda yadda yadda, I'm really passionate about this, and I had a hard time setting up my first [bitcoin] wallet because I'm so distracted; I have children," she told me. She says she hopes her website can become a support system for women in similar situations.
TheBitMom.com's logo is a religious Madonna-like figure holding a child—and a bitcoin. Bleish is currently posting a "Women in Bitcoin" podcast series, and selling T-shirts featuring a stylized version of Rosie the Riveter. "We Can Do Bit!" they proclaim.
Both Pyland and Bleish have gotten pushback for playing up the wife and mother angle. Pyland says she has received "several emails" from other women. "They felt that my moniker of being called 'the bitcoin wife' and focusing on maybe more gender-stereotypical aspects of bitcoin, like shopping and motherly things … was demeaning to the women's plight and that it wasn't sincere. And that it was antifeminist," Pyland says.
Her latest venture is the "Bitcoin Weight Loss Challenge," a 12-week competition that is basically a Biggest Loser for the bitcoin set. Elizabeth Goss, a 33-year-old stay-at-home mom in Minnesota, is one of the participants.
Goss started her own bitcoin website, Bit Baste, because her husband had been active in the community since 2010 and she didn't want to feel "left out," she told me. She decided to sell recipes in exchange for bitcoin. They're listed for $0.99—which, according to a converter on CoinDesk, is roughly 0.0016 bitcoin at the moment. (The currency fluctuates a lot.) "My husband thought, well, nobody would buy them unless they look really sexy," she says, and thus chocolate "climax cake" was born. Goss says she has sold about 10 recipes so far.
A few other female-centric bitcoin sites don't make for comfortable at-work browsing, such as Bitcoin Beauties, which isn't fully up and running yet and features photos of topless women with the tagline, "Beauty, Brains & Bitcoin." There was also a "Girls Gone Bitcoin" thread on Reddit, which shared many traits with the spring-break program that inspired its name.
Pyland is heartened by what she sees as an explosion of interest from women in recent months. "You have women that are deeply involved with various projects and businesses that are bitcoin-centric, and it's amazing—I mean, that just wasn't the case last year," she says. "Mostly you heard from men who were selling their wife's jewelry, or selling their wife's jam, or talking about how they're going to help their wives set up bitcoin payments for their cupcake business, and stuff like that. But now, you actually hear from the women. And that is a huge, huge deal to me."
This article appears in the March 15, 2014 edition of National Journal Magazine as The Bitcoin Mom Bloggers.