"So Rebecca Lovell is the chief business officer of Geekwire, and I got to know– you can read the bio– what's written, but just for some personal color: So, Rebecca took over as executive director of the Northwest Entrepreneur network while I was on the board there and just blew us all away with her expertise, her knowledge, her connections, and her charm. And when we were putting together this program, we were looking for a real dynamite moderator who really knew the subject area, might know some of the potential panelists, and who could really add something– some substance to the program.
Rebecca's one of the smartest ladies ..."
"These would all be appropriate topics to use when introducing someone, man or woman. Here’s what the man introducing Rebecca chose to say instead"
It seems pretty clear that the omitted portion of his introduction explicitly recognizes her merit. I favor the author's overall point, but by deliberately excluding this portion of the text, he opens himself up to straw-man arguments about the misleading lack of context.
Really? Because what I read from the original ("out-of-context") quote was a guy trying to be funny with some sexist remarks. I didn't care what he said before or after, because it didn't matter. The part that was tasteless was tasteless and wrong.
It's not like you earn a get-away-with-sexism-free card for every complementary comment you make about a woman.
I didn't care what he said before or after, because it didn't matter
Of course it matters, the whole truth always matters. The speaker's comments were absolutely inappropriate, but he did not make them to the exclusion of her notable accomplishments. Yes, the sexist remarks were wrong, but his opening remarks mitigate the notion that he is only capable of viewing women as sex objects.
a guy trying to be funny with some sexist remarks
Agreed once again, but I think it's important to draw a distinction between this type of sexism and genuine misogyny (e.g. women are too emotional/less capable/worse at math/deserve to make less money etc).
Hmm. Perhaps not directly, but is it inconceivable that an announcer might say something about how sharply a man is dressed?
Do you see sharply dressed men with a fine hair cut? No, you see abs, you see topless men, you see bulges in tight briefs, you see wet speedos. This is how you could sexually exploit men's appearance.
Would that be appropriate at a conference?
Now, I'm sure some men (or women) can successfully use that word to describe their colleagues and still work productively with them, but quite a few men can't. For an egregious example, see this profile about Sheryl Sandberg: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/07/11/110711fa_fact_...
"Dina Kaplan, the co-founder of Blip.tv, says that when she met with angel investors to raise funds she dressed nicely, and in a meeting with a potential funder he told her, “Here’s what we do, Dina. We’re going to spend half the meeting with you pitching me, and half the meeting with me hitting on you!”
“I felt nauseous,” she says. “I tried to laugh it off. I asked, ‘Of all the things you’re working on, what most excites you?’ He said, ‘Seeing you naked tonight.’"
When you've got men like that out there describing their female coworkers as sexy, you're going to have to work pretty hard to convince women not to lump you in with them. It's unfair, but that's how stereotypes work.
As long as you describe all your male presenters by how they look -- then it's not sexist at all.
I've been to a math talk where the speaker was introduced as the "most buff mathematical physicist in the US". It was probably true - he was also an amateur bodybuilder. Most speakers don't get such an introduction, only the ones with a distinctive (and good) appearance do.
(Similarly, in a CS talk, a speaker was introduced as having "the greatest shirts in all of computing." It was probably true - I've never seen a more blinged out shirt outside of a Filipino nightclub.)
It depends on how you describe them. Straight men have odd ways of thinking they are describing appearances of men in the same way as women, when in fact they are sexualing the women and then complimenting how sharp a dresser the man is. They give straight male compliments to men, rather than sexualising them.
as I said elsewhere, If you want to see how men can be sexually idolised, look at the gay community. That's men looking at men. Look at the people at gay pride parades, soft core porn or adverts aimed at the gay community (e.g. for gay bars). (Or go to amazon, look at the DVD covers for gay films)
If you just act like the cast of Mad Men ("Nice tits Peggy, nice shoes pete"), you have double standards.
To be clear, I am not condoning sexism, but this particular tirade against it feels like someone is trying to deceive me into taking their side by not presenting a full picture. It could have simply stated that the intro was actually okay until that point and perhaps that sort of comment inside a longer intro has no place.
The sort of people who can make it in the tech world are smart, motivated, powerful people. If they find the tech world uninviting, they have plenty of options elsewhere. So it's perfectly possible that you could survey a hundred women in tech and find that all but a handful don't notice or don't mind their peers' attitudes towards women, but that if you were to survey a hundred women who could be in tech, 95% of them would find the behavior unacceptable.
You left out an important subset, here: Those who notice, and mind, perhaps even mind a lot, but who know better than to admit it out loud, because doing so won't help them.
Does she mean he has a physical impairment, which would seem more than a bit crass to point out in the context, or is this an idiomatic/euphemistic expression that isn't coming over right?
burgeoning, is, compared to erstwhile:
erstwhile replaced quondam in about 1910:
Look, it doesn't matter what someone said before or after they sexualized someone in a professional context. Here's why: human beings are smart. They know that things people say matter. Thus, if you are commenting on someone's appearance or sexiness in a professional context, that must matter to you.
Why is that important? It serves to undermine the person it's said about. Rather than being judged on their work, or their connections, or what not - they are now being judged for their appearance. And that steals credibility they may have had in other, legitimate arenas.
It says, I like you because you're attractive, not because you deserve it.
("Oh, Nancy's not a good lawyer - everyone just thinks she's pretty." "Well Bob got that promotion because he's so good-looking. He didn't really deserve it." Etc.)
And yes, in some contexts, we expect to be more casual and colloquial. But if you're in a professional setting, unprofessional remarks do insidious harm to the subject.
I don't think so. What if, instead of commenting about her physical appearance, the introducer commented about her sense of humor. Is that saying "I like you because you're funny, not because you deserve it"? Equally, no. It is simply a noticeable quality about the person.
To me, it's more like saying "I like this person, and just one of the things that make this person unique and remarkable is his/her appearance/humor/whatever." There is no "...not because you deserve it" part to that.
That said, it does seem out of place in a professional setting to remark on someone's appearance when there are more relevant things to comment on. That is, unless you don't know that parson particularly well; in that case, appearance may be the only thing you know how to comment on.
If someone is about to give a talk, then (depending on the venue) it may be appropriate to say "Stacy is very funny," because it has a clear implication for the situation at hand.
But imagine this. A woman walks by - your colleague Bob knows her and waves. You say, "Bob, who was that?" He says, "That's Stacy from Accounting. She has a great sense of humor." Do we think Stacy is great at her job? Probably not.
The point is that in a professional context (certain professions excluded), it is never relevant to comment on someone's appearance or sexualize them. Like many things related to sexual harassment, the waters can be murky, and many people don't realize they are undermining their colleagues (often people they do in fact greatly respect) by their words and behaviors.
And there is just no excuse for commenting on someone's appearance or sexualizing them in a professional context. Even if you don't know them well.
I don't think that's quite fair. If I'm not in accounting, chances are I don't care if she's good at her job or not (hell, chances are Bob doesn't even have the knowledge to say if she is or is not). On the other hand, her personality is much more relevant.
If I'm in the same department, her boss or coworker, this of course changes.
Why is the offensive part the only part that matters? It doesn't matter to you because you're not the one being denounced as sexist, but when it comes time to convict someone in the court of public opinion, it is important to give a comprehensive account of the events in question. This guy made some stupid and sexist comments, but the first half of his introduction mitigates the idea that he is blind to Lovell's accomplishments and only sees her as a sex object. No two ways about it - the comments were sexist and wrong - but the full context speaks to this guy's general regard for women (poor, but not vindictive, predatory or misogynistic).
I'm not trying to convict anyone - in another comment I note that these situations are often unclear, and many very well-intentioned people may not even realize they are harming or undermining someone (and they probably think highly of that person, too!). To be honest, my primary impetus was to explain why a comment like this is actually sexist (there seemed to be some disagreement on that part) and why it is harmful. It's not always intuitive, since we often describe our friends as "attractive" or "sexy" without a second thought in a friendly/social context.
I'm not trying to say that the introducer was sexist - the behavior was.
Edit: From the downvotes, it seems that there is disagreement here - which part do people take issue with?
It does not matter with regard to the assessment of his remarks as sexist, but it does matter with regard to his perceived attitude towards women and how that perception will impact his reputation. The author was right to call this guy out for his sexist comments, but it was not right for him to omit 50% of the transcript that shows this guy is actually a human being and not the paragon of male sexism and misogyny.
Sheesh. You'd think coders (of which we have many here) would understand the importance of context! ;)
Of course it matters to his reputation, but by definition if we're talking about the larger question of sexism in the industry, it doesn't seem relevant to me. In fact, I think it serves to excuse or ignore the question of sexism that was raised.
How do you think the other women now feel? The ones who didn't get a generous helping of compliments? Women in that professional setting also have to consider if they fall in this sexy category which only applies to them. And for what? Some pointless filler? His intent is completely irrelevant.
You seem to be under the impression that the compliment offsets the objectification, as if it's some balance sheet.
When you start talking about women's bodies in a public setting you've now made their bodies part of the dialogue. This is something men can be completely blind to. It doesn't make those men bad people, but it does mean they should expend some more energy on empathy for others in the environment.
I listened to the remarks, they weren't particularly well thought out ("one of the smartest ladies i know"? that's an interesting sub-set) and so fell short of the courtesy I'd hope to offer. But they're just sloppy and clearly the introducer was quite enthusiastic about her credentials.
In this society, to be called "sexist" is pretty close to excommunication. So maybe we ought to be more careful about how we use the term.
Nonsense. Larry Summers, Michael Arrington, and tons of other guys have done just fine after being called sexist.
> So maybe we ought to be more careful about how we use the term.
Or, maybe we ought to be more careful about saying sexist things!
>> So maybe we ought to be more careful about
>> how we use the term.
> Or, maybe we ought to be more careful about
> saying sexist things!
>> In this society, being labelled a "Communist"
>> is pretty close to excommunication. So maybe we
>> ought to be more careful about how we use the
> Or, maybe we ought to be more careful about saying
> Communist things!
In this society, to be called "sexist" is pretty close to excommunication.
Hardly. There is lots of sexism in the world and this society and people are doing fine.
"But if we judge women based on sexual reasons then that will drive women away." WOW I DID NOT KNOW THAT. Listen, sanctimonious repetition of platitudes does not constitute an argument that any particular incident is a platitude violation.
I mean, I am certainly not implying that attractiveness is central to marriage, which it obviously isn't, nor can a successful long-term relationship depend primarily on physical attraction. It is relevant, though, and that'll never change.
They weren't at her wedding reception, or at a private party, or in any other social situation where that topic might be appropriate. Instead, they were in a professional setting, about to discuss a professional topic, about which she had many credentials. Why is it at all appropriate to bring up her recent marriage?
By bringing up the recent marriage of a woman, you are either promoting that idea in general, or signaling that you are the kind of person who thinks all women want to get married.
However, while not all women may want to be married or be seen as "failures" by society if they don't, because this woman was married, it's clear that she wanted to and would be excited about it.
It's still a major life event that made her happy and deserves some congratulations or recognition. If the woman had, for some reason, been a huge WOW fan and just won a big national tournament or something, that could've been brought up and wouldn't have connotations along with it. It's still just as irrelevant, but once again, human beings usually seek to bring up and congratulate people publicly on major life events they find important.
You might be surprised to learn that 30 y/o virgins and other sexually frustrated nerds are resentful of women, and consequently, don't believe that sexism exists.
Let someone oppose this comment by asserting that the pristine, untouched nature of their junk is irrelevant to their point -- but the sexy attractiveness of a female speaker is fair game.
For someone who is offering a critique against inappropriate comments, what makes this ok?
You've just ridiculed an entire group of people for what can be a very painful life circumstance, many of whom would never make or defend the kinds of comments you are criticizing.
I ask because letting these things slide, or worse letting the comments seem approved-of by mass silence, is doing active harm.
Fuck this. This situation is not a license to lash out at an entire group and say things that in any other circumstance would be offensive and inappropriate.
I would answer your question about objecting to those comments, but it seems pretty clear that there's an impossibly high standard for what a guy has to do to not be "guilty" for this crowd. Not even the guy who posted this blog entry objected "out loud, audibly" to this introduction at the time.
Are you kidding me? Have you read the other 100+ comments on this thread? My own comment went from +11 to +4, so you have plenty of company. By "this crowd" you must mean the handful of people who aren't scrambling to sustain their invulnerable self-image by cobbling together some half-assed theory from the little bits of pop-psych they've read.
What is your big upset about? If someone introduced you at a conference as the "guy who has never been laid" instead of "the guy who did brilliant thing X," you'd have no problem seeing why that would be hurtful. Shit, at least not being laid is the result of your own (in)action, and therefore something you've arguably earned; being "sexy" is an artifact of an organism's constitution. Perhaps by hurting you, I've sidestepped the intellectualizing process that prevents you, or someone like you, from understanding that there are fundamental emotional wounds involved, not abstract intellectual concepts.
Unsolicited advice to any man who still doesn't get it: when someone says "that hurts me" don't come back with "no it doesn't, here's why..."
Your response to "that's not sexist!" is "yes it is you bunch 'o lonely virgins!"
Is this HN or high school?
That says to me that your mean-spirited comment was plenty popular until I pointed out its hypocrisy.
> What is your big upset about? [...] when someone says "that hurts me" don't come back with "no it doesn't, here's why..."
But apparently you still don't see your own hypocrisy.
> Shit, at least not being laid is the result of your own (in)action, and therefore something you've arguably earned
And you still think it's ok to be mean for no reason, not to mention speaking of things you know absolutely nothing about.
> being "sexy" is an artifact of an organism's constitution.
Being "sexy" is also a compliment, however misguided or inappropriate it may have been in the situation in which it was given. Your comments on the other hand are intentionally mean.
I don't deny that some people inappropriately defend the "sexy" comment. But it's a chicken shit move to use that as a license to suspend the rules of civility to make your point.
Reading that, it's easy to feel cognitive dissonance as preconceived notions don't actually fit reality. But, that's the thing intuition is not setup to analyze society in much the same way that people are vary poor at balancing risk and rewards.
Men on the other hand DO seem to treat women differently. I've seen it myself many many times.
You're "one of those guys" aren't you?
The point is, if behavior is wrong, it is _always_ wrong. It's not a good idea (in my book) to engage in this kind of behavior to make a point.
Not me... We work with a bunch of troglodytes...
I've worked in a place where I could locate the female programmer by where the flock of nerds were hovering.
Also I don't get this line of thought. Many women (and men, but we are talking about women) love it when noticed for their appearance, that's why they dress well, that's why they put makeup on, that's why they color their hair and so on.
I like you because you're attractive, not because you deserve it
And come on, at least the man's honest about it ... liking someone for their appearance and not saying it is a lot worse. If you're pretending that looks doesn't matter everywhere, then you must also believe in fairy tales (and I know that a lot of us, including me, believed in such meritocracy at some point).
And sorry, but I view these discussions themselves as sexists.
Sexism in the workplace can be really subtle, and the more that is let slide, the more hostile the environment becomes as a whole. A man or woman should not have to worry about dodging come-ons and propositions from their coworkers because of their physical attractiveness. It is extremely unpleasant and wears on a person over time.
Now if the gentleman giving the introduction was in the right environment, say a bar having drinks with said speaker, it is a lot more appropriate to let it slide that he finds her really attractive. But it is objectifying and belittling when given as an professional introduction to others.
And in what way are discussions about possible sexism in the workplace sexist, besides the fact that some commenters might say some pretty idiotic sexist things as counter-arguments? If this piece was written instead about racist remarks overheard in a professional setting, would you say addressing that racism with a blog post would be racist?
Now look at it from a woman's point of view. If everyone tells you you're pretty or sexy and that's all you ever hear, that becomes what you think you're worth. And unlike intelligence you KNOW that beauty will fade and there's little you can do.
Yes, it's a compliment, but it's a compliment on something very transient that the subject has only a little control over.
EDIT: I got the full audio to work and the introduction is longer than the quote he pulled out. Judging from his tone and the earlier part of the introduction, I really don't think he was doing anything but trying to compliment/congratulate her (though admittedly he could have done a better job).
Take a step back. Bottle your immediate reaction to this article.
Starting asking yourself a few questions. Why did the author react this way to the introduction? Why do so many people in the comments seem to agree?
Avoid easy, dismissive answers. "Because they're illogical," "because they're too sensitive," "because they're not thinking this through," etc. are not good answers. They're easy answers.
If it helps pretend there's a woman upset by this sitting across the table from you. Have a conversation with her. The goal is to really understand why she's upset.
Or imagine what the husband in the audience felt -- if I were him, I'd be a little embarrassed and apologize to my wife afterwards. I'd also send a follow-up email to the moderator and the person who organized the conference voicing my displeasure (as the husband).
I'm not being flippant. Think deeply about why people are reacting this way, and avoid easy answers.
In this case though, you have a third party journalist complaining that a racy joke is a cultural set back to an entire group of people ("startup guys"). It's pretty far out there. The commenters are mostly agreeing with a generalization of the headline, something along the lines of "there is too much sexism in tech", which is probably true.
I know this will seem like I'm dismissing you, but looking at your profile I see you're a current student at RIT.
There is a backdrop here and it's hard to see from the other side of the country. Heck, it's hard to see right here in Silicon Valley unless you're in the middle of it and sensitive to it.
Many people are the former, but not the latter.
You might accuse me of using weasel words -- "many people," "most instances," etc. -- and I won't blame you.
What I can say, though, is that there's a lot between the lines here. Anyone who spends time in Silicon Valley and isn't completely unaware sees it and knows it.
See my top-level comment on this thread: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3573674
If we wanted to give it a name, as a point of reference to research this more, I'd say it boils down to "ethics".
[Also, I couldn't let this comment thread go without this nick getting an outing ;)]
Edit: Fuck, I just scrolled down and found http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3573710
This kinda comes off as, "don't worry, this woman is being properly escorted."
b) the incredibly sexy gibybo commented.
one of these is better. sexy.
I'm just not sure when physical attributes have any relevance to a professional introduction.
When we selected Bob and he said yes, he was a fat single man.
When we selected Dave and he said yes, he was a acne-ridden single man.
When we selected Joe and he said yes, he was a weightlifting single man.
I think in all other cases, you'd just say single. maybe "talented" rather than drawing attention to physique.
It's just stereotypical nerd bullshit that everyone will try to paper over as not a big deal. Frankly, there doesn't seem to be a market for non-stereotypical engineering environments, or the market would capitalize on that. So perhaps it's not a big deal in any startup sense, but it's a real effect.
Don't introduce people as sexy unless you're trying to make a joke about being weird and creepy. In which case, make it a guy, and compliment the way their hair smells for extra weird and creepy.
Being reminded of an episode from The Office is probably evidence that you're doing it wrong.
For whatever reason, I have usually seen this done better with Black technologists. Unfortunately, even rarer than women as keynote speakers, but introductions rarely do anything too facepalm-inducing. Maybe people just have more cultural sensitivity around race, so some of the more egregious things you could do in that context are too obviously stupid for anyone to actually do.
In most circles, sexist discrimination is also one of those things that is universally frowned on. Maybe not in tech, though.
I disagree strongly with this assertion. There is much sexism that is highly regarded by certain sectors.
In trying to be aware of gender issues, it seems you've (accidentally) stumbled into homophobia or mysandry. You're implying that sexualizing a man is "extra weird and creepy", something which many people would disagree with.
Simple rule: don't sexualize people in a professional setting, unless you are trying to market their sexuality.
I'm definitely not trying to defend homophobia, totally agree with you on that.
"make it a guy, because singling out a women because of her sex in a mostly male environment is not cool"
Yep, you got it right. Good comedy always aims upwards. Women put up with this shit a lot, so it's not funny.
If you think this is much ado about nothing, consider this: the subtle sexist parts of your company's culture will turn off any qualified woman from working there.
And we all know how EASY it is to hire in Silicon Valley these days.
I'd also like to add, one of the most positive experiences in my startup life was working for Brian Sugar and Lisa Sugar at Sugar, Inc.. This was my first job at a proper startup and as a male I was in the minority.
I joined as #10 or so, and the first non-founding engineer. One third of the founding team were female. The second engineer we hired was Lydia Wagner.
From #10 to #30 or so I think I was one of only two or three male hires.
The stereotypical Silicon Valley startup is founded by N engineers, probably male, who graduated from college in the last 5 years.
Put those people in a tiny room for 10-14 hours a day, 6 days a week, for a year or two and it's kind of inevitable.
But it's also easy to stop if you're self-aware about it, and the founders make it a priority.
Also, guys (if I may be so bold), this thread is acting as an existence proof for the point the article is making.
I think the term "microaggression" gets overused, but the story referenced in the article says that what's important about the person is her gender, attractiveness, and marital status. To the point that her "lucky" spouse deserves special recognition. What?!
If anything, it's underused. I haven't heard it before now, and this is a subject matter that I'm particularly interested in.
Women used to only been seen as good for menial jobs and as eye candy unable to do real work but kept around for the menfolk to look at. By calling someone sexy you are reinforcing this old view, or implying that you might hold that view yourself.
At one point he described her as a sexy single woman. He even mentioned her husband and asked for him to stand up. While I would consider that to be a very odd and uncomfortable way to end his introduction, it doesn't seem sexist. If somebody went on at length about how great I am professionally, and then threw in a statement about me being a sexy single man, I'm pretty sure I'd just consider it as an added complement.
I understand there is real sexism in the industry. I just don't think this is it. It's just an odd comment from a person who may be odd/uncomfortable around women.
1. grannyg00se is a great person to work with
2. grannyg00se has a keen understanding and knowledge of the industry
3. grannyg00se brings a lot to the table and is a valued member of their team
You stand there and maybe blush a little, proud. Then,
4. grannyg00se was a really sexy single and just got married and is still sexy.
How is that relevant to the audience? If you are a guy and everyone in the audience is a guy, maybe that's some kind of frat behaviour that gets a laugh out of everyone. But if you are a women on that stage suddenly you are subject to intense pressure: be good at your job and be sexy because your female and the being good at your job isn't enough.
It's complex and it's hard to really explain how it feels but I've been in situations like this. It's just really uncomfortable even when you know it's not meant in bad faith, that maybe some guy in the audience is objectifying you and no longer paying attention to what you are contributing outside of being pretty to look at.
There is a history women only being viewed as good for marriage and babies. It used to be seen as unusual & unnatural for a woman to not want babies and marriage. It was seen as weird for a woman to want to focus on carrer rather than marriage. Also they were viewed as "nice to look at, but unable to do any real work". Things have gotten a lot better, but there are still bits of this attitude around.
If you compliment a woman based on (a) getting married and (b) physical attractiveness, you are slightly re-inforcing that meme. You are also signaling that you might be the sort of person who thinks the above, or that you support the above attitudes.
After all, would you compliment a Jewish speaker about how much money they had? Or compliment an older man about how they haven't needed to go to the toilet in a while?
John’s one of the smartest guy I know, and I thought that he was a perfect pick for the role of moderator. When we selected John and he said yes, he was a handsome single man. And since that time, he’s become a handsome married man, and so I wanted his lucky new spouse to stand up. So we’ve got not only a very talented, but a happy moderator.
Would someone saying that get to the top of hacker news? I do agree that this is far from a good introduction thought.
You are assuming that "systemic exclusion of women from technology" is a proven fact. It isn't.
The male version is this:
John’s one of the smartest guy I know, and I thought that he was a perfect pick for the role of moderator. When we selected John and he said yes, he was a sexy single man. And since that time, he’s become a sexy married man, and so I wanted his lucky new spouse to stand up. So we’ve got not only a very talented, but a happy moderator.
... and noone would get up and say this as an introduction. Which is why this is at the top of Hacker News.
And where, I might add, no one rushes to the defense of men with a "cut the sexist crap" article.
And yeah, that happens all the time. Somehow, men deal with it (I know: the horror.)
Why would they? Men aren't being oppressed by sexism!
1) Nobody does that;
2) It's not the tip of a bigger iceberg.
A) John being introduced at a PTA meeting in a way that draws attention to stereotypes of males as inept and uninvolved in child rearing.
B) Jamal being introduced at a business meeting in a way that awkwardly draws attention to his white girlfriend.
C) Amir being introduced at a social gathering in a way that draws attention to terrorist Middle Easterners.
At best this is a weird social faux-pas.
None are acceptable in a professional setting.
I took the time and listened the audio recording. What happened is:
- The guy spends minutes talking about how good and smart Ms Lovell is and how she suits the role perfectly
- And in the end makes the short remark about that a sexy single lady who is now a sexy married woman, obviously to celebrate the recent happy event.
- He even pointed out how lucky her new husband was instead of, say, drooling at her sexiness himself.
- Everybody laughed.
- Ms Lovell laughed, and made some witty comments before starting with the real business.
And then some third party guy gets upset because he thinks there's a problem somewhere. Excuse me but this reeks of steep hypersensitivism.
It might certainly be sexist to say somewhat that would expand to "she's so smart that we picked her for this role eventhough she's only a woman" or "we chose her and that is because she was just too sexy to pass". That would be somehow implying that women are lesser but at least they can look good.
But this was clearly not the case in this event. What happened was a compliment, both on her recent marriage and related to that, her good looks.
Emphasis on the word "good". It was a compliment: the man stated what he thought were positive facts about her, and especially not pointed to anything negative nor exhibited, say, disturbing personal interest in her.
The strange thing is that it's not only that as if women couldn't take compliments anymore—I think most of them can—but, rather, it seems that some men can't take it anymore to observe women being complimented. This is just crazy.
We're all men and women and men do pay attention to good looking women and women do pay attention to good looking men (at least if only they let themselves). That is perfectly normal and there's generally nothing wrong in making a compliment about one's good looks. While there are subtle but complex rules about social interaction, flirting, including making comments about good looks or of even sexual nature, most of all that used to be the norm, and generally well received and lavishly given, without the slightest hint of sexist nature.
If you compliment a woman based on (a) getting married and
(b) physical attractiveness, you are slightly re-inforcing that meme. You are also signaling that you might be the sort of person who thinks the above, or that you support the above attitudes.
Of course, this is all just anecdotal, and my sample size is still small right now.
The programming world is so used to breaking the norms, revolutionizing industries, and wearing T-shirts and sneakers to work that we forget, sometimes, that some aspects of "professionalism" actually do serve a purpose. There's a reason that senators don't call each other by name (hint: how vitriolic can you sound when yelling "I respectfully disagree with the senator from Kentucky"). Respect is a currency in the world of intellectual pursuits. At one time, we showed that respect in the way we dressed. At the very least, shouldn't we show that respect in the way we speak? You might be surprised how far a little respect can go.
"Here’s what the man introducing Rebecca chose to say"
So, who is this "man"?
Easy to say but hard to do depending on your relationship to the "someone".
Let's say the person doing this is of the stature of PG and you are looking to get into YC.
Is it safe to stand up to him?
Sure that might get you points for taking a stand, he might actually like that.
Or maybe not. It's double or nothing.
It's easy to take a stand when the person being sexist is of no significance to you. Much harder if you have something to loose.
This is why things like this happen many times. And important to keep in mind. Power.
Yes, when other people in this thread -- and let's be honest, men -- play the thought experiment where the roles are reverse and it's the wife sitting in the audience, they don't see what's so offensive. "I wouldn't be offended!" they think.
They see a formal symmetry in the situation, but miss the fact that there's a huge asymmetry when it comes to power and gender.
That being said we take the same approach that south park does. Everything is on the table or nothing is on the table. Everyone in my group constantly rags on each other for everything including some off color jokes. However we've been friends for years, and when we work with other people we cut that stuff out immediately. The comments he made were fairly demeaning, and I guess a strong lesson here is know your audience or if you can't figure that out then don't do it at all.
To clarify I judge a person based on their ability and how they treat others. It's really the only way to go about things.
I suppose it's like all jokes. You have to make sure not to say something too cutting to the audience.
I feel that there are five points here that need addressing.
1. Women rarely become attractive by doing nothing. We have to work at it. You have to take care of yourself, go to the gym, eat right, choose appropriate clothing, and etc. I have never laid eyes on Rebecca Lovell, but if she's attractive then I think it is a safe assumption that she is trying to be attractive. If I were Rebecca, I would be pleased that my efforts had been noted and approved of.
2. If the fellow who introduced Rebecca had implied that her attractiveness was her only useful quality, I would be more sympathetic to Dan's complaint. But the introduction didn't do that. In fact, he led off by saying how smart Rebecca was, and then he went on to describe her as "perfect" (for the position) and "talented." At no point did he imply that Rebecca was chosen for her looks or that her looks were her claim to fame. On the contrary, his introduction seems genuinely kind, respectful, and affectionate.
3. Even if this introduction had been offensive -- if the introducer had said "Rebecca is hot and stupid and we will enjoy looking at her while she moderates" -- is it really that big a deal? Men insult each other all the time in similar contexts, and it's very rare that they get criticized for it as when women are insulted. If we women are worth a damn, surely our egos should be sturdy enough to handle this sort of thing like adults.
4. I have often heard men say "No wonder there aren't more women in tech; they get treated like sex objects!" It should be news to no one that men like sex -- least of all to women. People in all industries and with all interests are insulted all the time. Can it really be true that womens' interest in tech is so fragile and tenuous that vague insults and sexual innuendo are enough to discourage them from it entirely? I don't believe that, and I'd further venture to say that women who do say that are just making excuses because they're interested in something else. I got my CS degree from Georgia Tech, and in the College of Computing men outnumbered women 9 to 1. I was often the only girl in my classes, and sometimes I was exposed to immature male freshmen being immature male freshmen. This wasn't a trial for me; it wasn't difficult. I wasn't alienated. It sounds crazy to even consider that references to breasts or sex (gasp!) would make me leave my chosen field of study. Who cares if I know that someone wants to have sex with me?
5. Dan Shapiro is clearly trying to do right by women and be a good man, and I respect and appreciate that. But I think he is selling Rebecca (and all women) short by suggesting that that introduction should hurt her feelings.
But it's something that deserves to be called attention to. It makes some people uncomfortable, maybe not everyone, and does not belong in a professional setting.
Lets say instead the speaker was overweight, and now the person giving the intro, after plenty of appropriate compliments, makes a diet joke, or comments on their weight even in a non-judgmental respect. It is belittling and inappropriate. Commenting on people's physical appearance in a professional setting, not a casual social setting, is objectifying and inappropriate, regardless of if that person is good-natured enough to just laugh it off or not.
If the introducer gave that speech in front of a group of friends at a dinner party that's totally fine - Rebecca can defend or affirm herself there if she chooses, but not in a professional setting.
This completely misses the point that in our culture women are frequently (practically _always_) objectified sexually in some way. There's a gulf between what it means to call a man sexy and what it means to call a woman sexy.
I think this is what men so often completely miss. The male equivalent of this is not
"John’s one of the smartest guy I know, and I thought that he was a perfect pick for the role of moderator. When we selected John and he said yes, he was a handsome single man. And since that time, he’s become a handsome married man, and so I wanted his lucky new spouse to stand up"
it's something closer to:
John’s one of the smartest guy I know, and I thought that he was a perfect pick for the role of moderator. When we selected John and he said yes, he's a single man with just has a gigantic penis. And since that time, he’s become a married man with a gigantic penis, and so I wanted his lucky new spouse, who gets all that in bed, to stand up"
It's not 'out of place' it's appalling that something like this is acceptable _anywhere_.
(Personally, I think the best way to navigate uncharted waters like this is to stick to the facts. "Here's our panelist, she has a PhD from Harvard and likes skiing." I'm not going to get any laughs or win any awards for that sentence, but I'm also not going to make anyone feel bad. And that's more important to me.
I was at a career event last week. None of the women representing a company could give a clear story of what the company does from day to day. They where just there to be pretty.
If we want to stop sexism we have to stop this, but i don't think this will happen any time soon.
This "controversy" seems like a lot of bunkola, to me.
What utter rubbish. So getting married isn't something compliment worthy? A compliment based on physical attractiveness is always sexist?
In this context, the personal life of the person being introduced and their physical attractiveness has nothing to do with why they are here. At best it's completely off-topic.
Consider if it was a male presented being introduced with: "...he was an alcoholic when I met him, but now he's been 3 years sober". Completely irrelevant personal details that undermine the credibility of the person for at least some of the audience (not to mention making the person feel awkward).
It's a bloody startup presentation, not a congressional hearing. Making a nod at the person's personal life, on a subject that's typically cause for celebration (are you going to tell me "Congratulations on your new son/daughter" is sexist and eebil now) is somehow uncalled for?
>Consider if it was a male presented being introduced with: "...he was an alcoholic when I met him, but now he's been 3 years sober"
That's a really crappy example. The things we're talking about here are ostensibly positive.
No, but you'll need to find a way to not imply that that's all a woman is good for. This is not easy, so it's easier to just not mention it.
Maybe in a few generations when this isn't as much of a problem we can come back to it.
How in the hell do you read "All you're good for is having kids" into "Congratulations on getting married!"?
There is a lot of tradition of impling that the most important thing for a woman is to be married. That's the whole thing. So when you mention, in a setting with few women (and hence more susceptible to sexism), that someone is married, it might sound half like the old ways.
Remember for example when Sylvio Berlusconi made a mediocre joke about Obama's tan how the correctness cannibals went frantic. Funny thing that the racist card was pulled by the people who actually had a taboo with skin colors.
If being called out on my looks was an exceptional thing, it would be less annoying. Heck, I was harassed on my way into this Mountain View coffee shop just now. I just want to study data mining...
Saying that you'd be flattered just goes to show that you really don't understand the problem whatsoever.
I do not know anything about the person who said it or the companies involved, but I associate this kind of talk to a particular type of person, which may or may not be an accurate portrayal of "guys who talk like this", and I guess it is this very archetypal man that rubs me the wrong way. Here I am no longer talking about the person who said this sexist comment, but the image of a guy in my own head: a yuppie, clean-cut, trendy, smooth-talker, that thinks (and certainly can be) cutting edge in the IT or business sector, that also thinks he's got it all figured out and knows exactly what each person (not just women) is worth. He's got us all "figured out", but is really just full of himself. I've met a couple, and again, I'm not saying this person is that type, but having gathered extremely little information on him, he reminded me of this "theoretical" person, and I just have no tolerance for these "slick" smooth-talking men.
If my post is inappropriate because you deem it to be an overreaction, please delete it or advise me to, and I will follow through. I just feel very strongly about this.
I can write a whole essay on how calling anybody "sexy" sends the wrong message. Good on him for going for the un-PC, hip talk, but it absolutely fuels the image of what our society deems to be a standard/pre-defined sense of beauty or a definitive definition of "success". And the problem is that many people point out what "sexy" is to the point that we start seeing a pattern and assume "Oh, this is what sexy is", or "Oh, this is what beauty is". It takes all types to make the world go 'round.
And just to add a point that is not contentious: Calling anybody sexy in a business environment is disrespectful, regardless of gender, or how in-tune/hip with the kids you may feel you are. I feel women in power tend to downplay it or act like they don't mind for the very reason that they may be blamed for falling into the "typical sensitive, overreacting" woman role. It's like they can't escape it. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. A catch-22. So might as well make the best of it and put on a smile. (Or talk about it privately with your bestfriends.)
I'm new here, so if this rant is inappropriate, please let me know and I'll remove it or edit it, instead of getting a flood of down-votes.
The interesting thing is many guys probably wouldn't say something like this about a close female they knew themselves, be it their own wives, girlfriends, sisters.
Nor would we want anyone speaking like that about our wives, girlfriends, or sisters.
Shouldn't the title be "startup people" if we're "cut[ting] the sexist crap" - unless of course it's a documented fact that no female involved in a startup has ever made a sexist comment.
There's no point in arguing false dichotomies where everyone agrees or not.
1. Say something about why the person is here. Speak to their credentials and establish credibility.
2. Know your audience. Let them know why the person being introduced is important to them.
3. It's okay to make a small personal comment. It establishes rapport.
If the entire intro is #3 you've screwed up. This intro was clearly out of line. My guess is that the moderator didn't even realize it which is twice as bad.
Not all personal comments are OK.
That said, there was a good point here:
Think before you open your mouth.
Couldn't agree more. Far too many faux pas (including some that I've made) could be avoided just by thinking about what you're about to say before you say it.
Removing the obvious weird part -- "sexy" -- yields, "... When we selected Robert and he said yes, he was a single man. And since that time, he’s become a married man, and so I wanted his lucky new spouse to stand up ...", which isn't weird anymore, but somewhat of an awkward construction; you don't say "he has become a married man" in normal conversation.
If I had to rephrase that less awkwardly, I'd go with "... since we selected Robert and he said yes, he's gone and got himself married, and so I wanted his lucky new spouse to stand up ...". Maybe throw in the classic, "Let's have a round of applause for the happy couple."
Putting this all back together:
"Rebecca’s one of the smartest ladies I know, and I thought that she was a perfect pick for the role of moderator. Since we selected Rebecca and she said yes, she's gone and got herself married, and so I wanted her lucky new spouse to stand up. (Let's have a round of applause for the happy couple.) So we’ve got not only a very talented, but a happy moderator."
 "ladies" might be slightly off in this context, but I think it's less egregious than twisting a marriage announcement into an opportunity to call a woman sexy twice.
> "Robert's one of the smartest men I know, and I thought that he was a perfect pick for the role of moderator. When we selected Robert and he said yes, he was a handsome single man. And since that time, he’s become a handsome married man, and so I wanted his lucky new spouse to stand up. So we’ve got not only a very talented, but a happy moderator."
That doesn't seem even remotely odd or out of place to me (perhaps it would be as the entirety of an introduction, but that isn't the case here). So yes, he maybe should have said "beautiful" instead of "sexy", but if people think this is an example of how the tech community is sexist then they are seriously deluding themselves with how non-sexist it really is.
A direct replacement is correct:
"Robert's one of the smartest men I know, and I thought that he was a perfect pick for the role of moderator. When we selected Robert and he said yes, he was a sexy single man. And since that time, he’s become a sexy married man, and so I wanted his lucky new spouse to stand up. So we’ve got not only a very talented, but a happy moderator."
"He didn't slap her ass, therefore it's fine."
While I agree with this statement to an extent, on the other hand, which has more of an impact: the infrequent blatant examples, or the more common low-level ones? I can't answer that myself, but I would imagine that the ubiquity of the ubiquitous different treatment would bother me more than the blatancy of the few blatant assholes.
Kind of like the reverse of: http://xkcd.com/385
Uh, it's taped. You can listen to it yourself by simply clicking on a link.
This is only news when the person being rude is male and the person on the receiving end is female.
Are you saying female sexism is common in the tech startup world? Can you cite any examples?
THEN it's proof of how horrible men are.
Where has anyone claimed all men are horrible? I must have missed it.
It is an example of an horrible culture, which fortunately is diminishing.
The whole point is that a man being rude about another man in this particular way -- by superfluously mentioning his attractiveness -- is exceedingly rare, while for women it is all too common. One would be an aberration, the other is pattern, and the pattern is why it's at the top of HN.
ugh. Sexism is an attitude, the rude introduction was the action. Who cares why it was rude? It shouldn't be more offensive because you can (correctly or not) ascribe a motive to it that you find distasteful.
Trying to decry this sort of thing and speak up in "defense of women" or any of that garbage infantilizes women and perpetuates a much more serious problem than men noticing how we look.
seems like being sexy matters a lot to women. you just better not acknowledge it out loud.
Sadly this reaction is typical when confronting a majority about their taking advantage of minority groups. "It's just a joke". (Hint, this response has already been offered up more than once in this thread). It doesn't affect males and it's a male dominated industry, thus the issue has low visibility and personal impact to those who are causing the problem or have the influence to fix it. This all compounds to make this issue hard to solve unless people are willing to vocally confront these incidents as they happen, when they happen, and take responsibility for treating people with respect and equality.
I believe I remember the posts to which you're referring, which centered IIRC around posts of "what you as a woman can do to improve your salary", by at least one feminist and one recruiter. The thesis of both posts - and many of the comments - was that a heavy contributing factor to the lower average salary for women, at least in "higher" professions (C.S., engineering in general), was that the system was biased towards giving higher salaries to those who were bolder and greedier, traits which women seemed less likely to display at the negotiating table. I suppose one could argue that emphasizing the "what women could do" rather than "fix the damn system" aspect was sexist, but it's a stretch, especially given the authors.
Re: jokes. Whenever someone complains about a joke, or about an aspect of language, I always feel like we're attacking the tip of the iceberg in a way that won't really affect the rest of the problem at all. I'd rather people spent their time dealing with the roots of these sorts of problems than arguing over words and jokes.
If you are a woman and you ask for a raise, you have to be much, much more careful about how you do it than a man does.
As for the jokes, I agree. As I commented elsewhere, it takes a sexist culture to excuse and allow sexist jokes. I think that being less tolerant of such jokes is a good first step towards reforming the broken aspects of such a culture though.
Look at most bold women and the jokes that people make about them being "bitches" or "cold" or what not.
I would respond "bold" men are often called "predators" and "douchebags" by the very same people. I find that there are always people who dislike those who put their necks out, no matter their sex.
However, there's also a group of women whom no one seems to acknowledge in the bold/bitch debate: the women who claim to be bold and claim suffering the bitch-label from sexist men, but who are in fact bitches.
I think the confusion stems from the fact that bitch and bold are actually composite characteristics. Bold is a combination of being assertive and compassionate, while bitch (or asshole, the male equivalent) is a combination of being assertive and arrogant. You'll notice assertiveness is a quality common to both descriptions.
One situation where this distinction really shows itself is in team projects in college. I'm sure everyone has experienced suffering under the leadership of an asshole -- a male who claims the leadership role, asserts a direction for the group, and completely ignores contrary opinions and input, even in the face of evidence that his direction isn't working. What's somewhat less common is a bitch who leads a group project.
I recall a group project in an Electrical Engineering lab where we had to build a line-following Lego robot. A woman in our group quickly asserted herself into a leadership role. However, her bitch-hood quickly became apparent when she repeatedly ignored my criticism of (and suggested solution to) a design flaw which was ruining the performance of our robot.
(Technical aside: the root of the problem was that we only had two wheels, and started with a design of a long and narrow "car", with powered wheels in the rear and skid plates (and sensors) up front.
the design was almost identical to the one in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VriEXbuTbF0
Because the battery box / CPU was quite heavy, a significant portion of the weight rested on the skid plates. The resulting friction made the robot sluggish and prone to getting stuck. Further, the weight of the structure was causing the front end to frequently fall apart.
I suggested "Hey guys, I think what's happening is that we have too much weight transfer onto the friction pads. If we redesigned the robot to shift the weight more towards the axle, it would reduce the friction problem as well as the fragility problem". "No, we just need to reinforce the frame. That will solve the problem," said the bitch.
Now, I was auditing this class as a university employee, so I was older and more experienced than my teammates, and I recognized it would be doing them a disservice to simply take charge. The highest quality learning comes through experimentation and self-determined results, rather than simply being shown what the "best" answer was. So I backed off and let them try it their way.
Of course, the reinforcements only exacerbated the problem by shifting even more weight onto the skid plates. However, I felt it was important that they realize this on their own. After several hours with no progress, I chimed in again with the redesign suggestion, this time putting heavier emphasis on trying to explain the root phenomenon which was causing the problem, and trying to engage them in "what sort of design would result from attempting to reverse that phenomenon?". The bitch simply rejected this input again, and we all continued watching our robot get stuck and fall apart.
Finally we were nearing the competition deadline, and we hadn't made any forward progress. We had to make it through an entire maze, yet our robot couldn't reliably travel more than a few inches. I asked to be the overnight care-taker of the robot, claiming I wanted to "tweak the code a bit". I tore the robot apart and redesigned it to shift all of the weight over the axle, with two opposing skid pads on either side. This eliminated the friction problem, made the robot much more structurally sound, and actually ended up being one of the fastest and most nimble robots in the competition.
Here is a video of my redesign: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CT0YgOPJCDQ (please excuse the corrupted audio)
When I showed my teammates the next day, all of them were overjoyed by how much better the robot performed. Except for the bitch. She was silent for a while, and then became even bossier than usual towards the rest of the team, visibly angry. She said absolutely nothing to me.
I felt bad for taking over at the last minute (because that's a poor way to lead), but quite honestly, I knew I was right, I knew she was wrong, and I wasn't about to let this bitch's arrogance needlessly drive our grade into the ground.)
I think what happens in these situations is that Women, in a male dominated field, recognize the quality of assertiveness in the leaders of that field, and they try to emulate it themselves. However, some of them fail to recognize that simply being assertive isn't enough to be a great leader -- you have to be compassionate as well. You have to provide your team a firm guiding hand, yet still be willing to consider critical feedback fairly and objectively, and especially be willing to change course in the face of supporting evidence. No one wants to be lead by a bully.
Bold women are a very valuable asset, but bitches be crazy.
The gender difference I'm pointing out is in how those who take offense to the bitch/asshole label push back against that accusation.
Anecdotally, I've noticed its often the case that women will make an appeal to victim-hood ("You're just calling me that because you have a problem with powerful women"), which is something I haven't seen men do. Sadly, they are often correct. But a small portion of the time, they are mistaken, and somehow the specious claim of sexism is particularly odious. That tiny portion of the overall picture is what I was pointing out.
With men, it seems more often that either they shrug off the accusation because they are fine with being an asshole (which is particularly distasteful), or they respond by further turning up the arrogance dial ("I'm not an asshole, its just that I'm better than you").
> "It's just a joke". (Hint, this response has already
> been offered up more than once in this thread).
Anyone have a link to what this is referring to?
I've written more than I might like about an otherwise useless reddit thread, but it's better than you having to read it much. Since I read it this morning the votes and placement have adjusted that it's not as bad, but it still makes me cringe.
I find those who had Moms that worked when they were growing up seem as far as a group as of a whole to be less inclined to state stuff like this
Are they in the pr0n industry? No? Well then, sit down and shut the %%%% up.
I don't see a problem.
This wasn't a sexist joke. This was a sign of a sexist culture, which is much more pervasive and damaging.
Women are just as competitive as men
Men don't have to take this crap. Well, usually.
he reason they stay out of tech has not much to do with sexism
So, what is it?
Lesser ability , risk aversion and intolerance (on the part of women) are distinct possibilities. There is quite a bit of evidence supporting each of them. See both my comment and keithflower's reply, which presents additional evidence in favor.
 I'm pushing the Larry Summers' hypothesis of higher variance here, not an unequal mean theory.
Also, your mention of sexist culture makes it sound like that's the culture in technology startups, this is not true. Sexism, where it exists, does not depend on the domain. Its pervasive.
Is there something that says females can't be inspired by males and vice versa? Why does anyone care a jot about the sex of a particular worker in their field when it comes to being inspired and encouraged?
Sounds like sexism to me.
And why is there a lack of role models?
I disagree. Different domains have different women:men ratios and that'll affect the male sexism, particularly if the ratio is high on positions of power/influence.
Ding ding ding, exactly right. Not only that, but it takes a(n at least minimally) sexist culture for "sexist jokes" to be excused as "jokes" rather than acknowledging the real impact that they have for people. It's not just sexist jokes, it's any sort of off-color joke that's not appropriate in any sort of business/professional/even entrepreneurial setting.