Sexuality or sexual orientation is not the issue. The commodification of women is the issue. When you list "Women!" as a feature of your event along with "Booze", "Gym Access", and "Food Truck" wares , you are treating them as commodities/paid for services like, well, booze, gym access, and food trucks wares. The unfortunate juxtaposition of "massages" and "women" in their list of perks makes the whole thing more unseemly (moreso than they probably intended).
Imagine you are a new female developer in Boston, and you're considering coming to this API jam, and you see that they are promising "women" to people who sign up to come.* Well, now you have to determine a) whether the organizers will see/treat you as a professional and not just a treat to dangle in front of lonely male nerds and b) whether others attendees have certain "expectations" about your reason for coming, based on what they were promised in the event promotion. This is bad. I won't speculate as to whether or not that would prevent anyone from coming, the fact that these considerations would even exist are unacceptable.
*I know this opens my argument up to "well I'm a woman and I don't see it that way" but please note that the assertion that follows doesn't claim any particular person would react this way but that such a reaction is reasonable/likely.
When you apply English class style logic you can make anything seem as bad the holocaust.
They advertised "friendly female event staff to get you a beer". Any reasonable person would believe that they were intending to follow through on that.
If it's a joke, where's the punchline? Were they not going to have women servers? Were the massage people going to be big, hairy, biker types?
What would you expect Heroku have done differently?
HN has seen a sharp increase in negativity lately. What gives?
Some of the other sponsors haven't, and I believe they're all fairly sane.
I don't really see how Heroku could be expected to have been any quicker than they already were in responding to this.
This was a prank gone bad. No one got hurt (apart from a few egos). Pulling sponsorship because of that is just lame.
Don't get me wrong, I have the deepest respect for women but that doesn't prevent me from pulling (even sometimes sexist) pranks on my wife. She does the same to me and we smile at each other.
I dare you, everyone that's horrified by their prank say it out loud (and mean it!):
"I have never, ever made a sexist joke before in my life. At least not a kind that would in any way offend someone"
A prank? As in "haha, we got you!"?
> Don't get me wrong, I have the deepest respect for women but that doesn't prevent me from pulling (even sometimes sexist) pranks on my wife. She does the same to me and we smile at each other.
Your wife presumably is comfortable in the knowledge that you respect her, because she knows you well. A woman showing up at a hackathon likely hasn't known the organizers for years.
I'll smack my wife on the ass, but if I walk up to random women and do it I'm going to get the cops called on me.
Sorry for my poor choice of words
Had they hired a bunch of Chippendale's dancers to serve booze (because alcohol does wonders for your productivity) and big hairy bikers to give massages (as opposed to the girls in tight t-shirts they no doubt retained for the event,) would be a prank.
So the whole industry is giving the message: Your effort is totally worthless (and unnoticed) if you make mistakes that offend someone.
The message is "grow up and stop acting like a hormonal 13 year old".
This seems to get universally condemned, and lots of people argue that it's wrong to say "I'm sorry you're offended." But what are the alternatives? I suppose they could have said that they were deliberately sexist and hoped to hurt people's feelings, or something. I'm not sure. What--aside from groveling--do people want when they aren't satisfied with that kind of apology? It's scarily reminiscent of the way cults and authoritarian regimes function: it's not enough to confess a mistake. You have to confess your malice, too. (I wish I had some examples that weren't so fraught, but that's all I can think of: The Gulag Archipelago, various ex-Scientology memoirs, and lots of interactions with political correctness.)
For what it's worth, I agree that the copy was lame, and the sponsors were right to disassociate themselves. I'm just not sure it's a mortal sin to make a tacky joke and then apologize.
When you say "We are sorry you were offended..." many people will read in to that "...but if it weren't for you being offended there would be nothing wrong with this."
A simple choice of words can make all the difference in the world.
Is this statement even controversial? The only reason someone issues an apology (honest or not) is because one or more others were offended. If nobody is offended, by definition there is nothing wrong with it.
Or rather, if you say something really offensive, like "Women should be allowed to read books, or even leave the house without covering their faces," it's not offensive because you probably aren't saying it in front of a Shia cleric.
If you say something that's intellectually unfashionable, but the people you talk to are unphased, I just don't understand the case for considering that a bad thing. Who is the wronged party? How were they harmed? What's society's interest in redressing this, and what's our mechanism for doing so?
The real question here is would you stand in front of the mirror, with no one around, and say to yourself "The women at this conference are a great perk!" without feeling bad?
It's tempting to think "I have these views about blacks/hispanics/asians/women/etc., but I know how to control my reactions and keep my mouth shut." The problem is that people communicate as much subconsciously as they do consciously.
In your examples, the victim certainly notices and cares; if they get a vote, they're going to vote "immoral." But if you did something "murderous" in absolute privacy--like, say, doing some target shooting--I don't think it would be considered equivalent to murder. Similarly, if you do something "offensive" and nobody is there to get offended, I don't see what the crime is.
Would it upset you if people were saying offensive things quietly to themselves in the privacy of their own homes? How would you propose to deal with that?
It's an underhanded way of blaming the people that are offended rather than genuinely apologizing for doing something offensive.
"We realize this was wrong and offensive, and we are very sorry" would have been sufficient. No groveling needed. Instead, they chose to blame the offended parties and preface their "apology" with lame excuses.
It's neither genuine nor an apology.
The problem is that douches like the guys running Boston API Jam have no social connection with women that they can't even understand why normal people are offended by this.
It this case it doesn't apply, it was just a lame attempt at humor. But in other cases there are whole organizations involved, with funding and lawyers and many of those organizations are simply bullies who manufacture controversies to show their importance (black hole/black hoe thing, Tracy Morgan offending some group). The best response would be to stand up to the bully: ramp up the joke, go further, but usually it would hurt too many bystanders who just happen to be in the group the bully pretends to represent or isn't feasible for other reasons so bullied public figures go with the next best thing -- a non-apology.
Things that are "offensive" tend to change a lot, compared to e.g. things that are "incorrect." I've found that the best mental model is that they're intellectual allergies. I wouldn't knowingly serve someone a dish he was allergic to, and I'd apologize if I did it by accident, but I wouldn't feel ashamed. And my mental model would have to a running list of common allergies, not an over-arching theory of misfiring immune system reactions.
I mean, let's try this out: can you tell me why you, personally, are offended by depictions of The Prophet? What about a picture of two men holding hands? Or an insinuation that the Pharaoh is not, in fact, a god? There's just too big a cognitive burden to reverse-engineer everybody else's cultural or intellectual allergies. I'd prefer to work around them.
Men like women. Men are, speaking factually, the extreme majority in the tech industry. Don't be shocked if your values don't match those of others.
I'm a man, and I like women. My like of women extends to not wanting them to be treated like beer-servants and told that they aren't welcome as equals at a coding event, because it would make me feel awful if someone did those things to me.
Empathy allows you to try to work out how something might feel from someone else's perspective, and is what should be used when trying to work out how to apologize for inadvertent offense.
On the other hand, we have friends that love bartending. The insinuation that they're not as good or equal to someone who wants to go into programming, or are nothing more than "beer-servants", could be construed as offensive as well. I'm guessing you're drawing from different experiences, so I'm not going to attribute malice to it. But these sorts of things have the ability to spin rapidly out of control.
They are not beer servants. They are workers being paid to do a job.Its an event where women are paid to bring you a beverage. Will you rally against Friday's, Hooter's, and Buffalo Wild Wings next?
I have empathy; I also understand that you don't have to work at a job bringing beer to coders if you don't want to.
But you are not immune to the consequences of your actions. It should be no surprise that many professionals do not enjoy having their industry associated in the public's mind with juvenile, unprofessional antics and socially unacceptable behaviours, and will be quick to tell you so.
I don't feel like I'm being sexist at all. Scoot didn't say "HEH! We have naked women bringing you beer!" They said "We're having women server you beer". This is a perk for some men. What's the problem? Women coders/developers are sexist and don't want to be served beer by women? So be it. I, as a man, will happily serve those women who feel offended in the same garb the women will be serving men.
How's that for a woman's reaction?
There's little chivalry involved here. The advertisement for this event makes the tech industry worse for me.
As a side note, only considering the input of women on this issue is problematic when so few are involved in the first place.
Still, I agree with your self-interest arguments and would even add another:
I am tired of only ever working around guys all day. It has been long time since I worked with any non-guy low-level coders. Heck, bring in some transsexuals, either direction, I don't care. Just mix it up a bit. An all-male work environment becomes tedious after a while.
Listing the staff under the category of "Women" though, with the implication that these were going to be the only women at the event. And that would really piss her off.
GOOD: I'm sorry that I hurt you when I punched you in the face.
BAD: I'm sorry that you were hurt when I punched you in the face.
The latter distances the puncher from the hurt in an unacceptable way.
So no, there's really nothing to be said after making a sexist joke. You made a sexist joke, and everyone knows it. All alternatives are bad ones from the sexist joker's point of view. But obviously some are less bad than others.
This isn't christianity. There's no foolproof path to redemption by accepting Gloria Steinem as your personal savior. Just sit down and take it like, er, a man.
The whole point is that they're so totally out of touch with the real world that they don't even get that they demeaned women and worse they don't even understand how. It's not even that it was a joke, it's that they were actually selling it as a perk along with massages to "take a break and unwind" and by their apparent hiring policy for their waitress staff, I'm guessing the masseuses are likely <25 year old Asian women.
The first admits you've done something legitimately wrong; the second only says that others were offended, perhaps illegitimately, and that wasn't your intent. The first is sorry for the action; the second, the reaction.
In this particular case, all they have to do is say "We're sorry - we were being sexist. We've removed the sexist language and we won't do it again." If they want to clarify, they could say they were being unthinkingly, not deliberately sexist, which is almost surely the case.
His statement was that there are repercussions to comedy no one gets to hide behind that the thin veil and say whatever they like without consequence.
Here's what I expect from these guys. Man up, take your licks and don't do it again.
Its a relevant diatribe
What my main point is, a person put up a bottled apology that follows all the rules, but it doesn't correct the behavior. It's a fix for the symptom, not the underlying problem.
Many of the people angry about this incident will, in another context, back up someone like Richard Dawkins when he offends. Dawkins happens to be one of my favorite authors, but he is quite provocative. And Heroku advertises the Dawkins Foundation as a success story:
The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
(RDFRS) supports scientific education and advances
critical thinking and an evidence-based understanding of
the natural world, in the quest to overcome religious
fundamentalism, superstition, intolerance and human
suffering. The foundation’s namesake and founder, Richard
Dawkins, is a scientist and best-selling author of works
including The God Delusion, The Selfish Gene, and The
So the issue is really not whether a statement is offensive or not, or how the apology is phrased. It is whether the group that is offended has the power to force an apology.
When deciding whether you think someone should apologize or not for an action, the issue is not whether the party they offended can force an apology, it's whether you believe that person's action was wrong.
Many of the people angry about this incident believe that sexism is wrong, but advocating atheism in Dawkins' manner is not wrong. Therefore they believe the sexist should apologize, and Dawkins should not. Their opinions are consistent, and it has nothing to do with force.
Many of the people angry about this incident believe that
sexism is wrong, but advocating atheism in Dawkins' manner
is not wrong.
You could quantify this by comparing a Facebook-based StatusRank for the anti-Sqoots vs. the anti-Dawkins. The former group will have much higher socioeconomic status than the latter. Harvard graduates are much more likely to believe "sexism not ok, Dawkins ok" and high school dropouts are much more likely to believe the reverse.
That is, sexism is "not ok" and Dawkins is "ok" in this thread because these are the beliefs shared by the most powerful people in society. This has little to do with right and wrong and much to do with socioeconomic status.
I'd like to believe this was true. Could you offer any evidence?
The more events that are run, and organized by over-brained and under-hearted geeks (by/for developers), the more bias towards women seems to come out.. maybe from their inexperience with women to begin with.
Reminds me of a penny arcade comic on the insecurity that often fuels this type of behaviour; there's a reason you're single.
In fact, I've even been known to flirt with attractive women in public--perhaps even servers at restaurants and events. I've dated many women I've met this way. Is it ok, when I'm eating and drinking, but not when I'm programming?
Sorry, but I don't think this is as cut-and-dried as the pitchfork brigades here make it seem. In my world, there isn't a bright line between "professional and sexless" and "fun", with programming strictly under "professional and sexless". Obviously there's a conflict here. I don't know what the right balance is, but I cringe every time men are screamed at for not hiding carefully enough that they like sex, as if it's mens' faults that women are powerfully interesting to them in a biologically mandated and different way than vice versa.
While I'm at it, I might as well mention that I very much doubt the dearth of women in technology is because men are sexual predators. Medical doctors have been mostly men, and, in my experience, exhibit pretty much the same desire for women as tech people, but that never stopped women from flocking to become nurses. As you well know, doctor/nurse fraternization is a time-honored pursuit. There is one big difference between the two groups, though, in that doctors are considered by women to be higher status than technical men. I've noticed that behavior which is welcome from high status men is often labeled "creepy" when exhibited by low status men.
Edit: I notice that people have latched onto the doctors thing which is bizarre inasmuch as it strengthens my point. I worded it the way I did on purpose, "have been", with an idle thought to making a point about the inroads made by women, but was too lazy to look up the percentages. The fact that the male/female ratio of doctors has improved so much is a tribute to the fact that women have no problem succeeding in a previously male dominated industry if it caters to their interests. And if you don't think the medical profession was a good 'ol boys club, or think that systematic "awareness raising" was the cause for the improvement, I'm afraid you're not too familiar with the history and dynamics of that industry.
In addition to sexism, the marketers seem to believe that "teetotalers don't really qualify as people in the same way drinkers do, and no I've never really thought very hard about it".
(They also seem to feel the same way about people who don't like massages, people who don't work out, and people who don't like cupcakes.)
"The marketing material assumed that the people reading it would be heterosexual men...Assuming the whole world should revolve around what you find attractive..."
There are no people alive today who were alive when cupcake haters were not eligible to vote in the USA.
Note that if the conclusion doesn't change upon the death of the last suffragist, the fact is irrelevant, and you bringing it up is a red herring.
The fact highlights how recent this level of discrimination is in our history, and why "being a woman" and "disliking cupcakes" are significantly different characteristics when you're discussing power dynamics and discrimination.
Spent about 5 minutes assuming that they were encouraging /women/ programmers to enjoy the female staff, and assuming all women in attendance were /lesbians/ ("Women: Need another beer?").
Like, "pff, not ALL women programmers are lesbians, you guys! ... ... ... oh wait. Oh ... "
To not recognize that the tech population is dominated by men is to put your head in the sand.
I like to code, I like to look at scantily clad women, and I fully believe they're just as equal as men.
EDIT: Downvote away. You don't have to believe in fact for it to exist.
To not recognize that advertising tech events that female programmers do not feel comfortable attending because they do not want to be treated like subservient beer-wenches is partially responsible for the continued decline of women in the tech industry is to put your head in the sand.
That's what people are taking issue with here. No one is putting you on trial for liking to look at scantily clad women. Trying to make yourself into some kind of martyr for "finding women attractive" movement misses the point so thoroughly as to defy belief.
Last I checked, women generally don't like being treated like perks.
In what other situations do you not feel that the minority do not have rights?
How does offering to have women bring you beer at an event take away your rights? Shall we be boycotting Oktoberfest next?
Some people might see it as a poor attempt at humor and not demeaning to women, but I'm sure others saw it as a reinforcement of their beliefs that women are for serving beer. When everyone laughs along, because they know nobody 'really means it' it sends these people the message that their views are OK and widely accepted.
If you don't think it's fair to compare racism and sexism, I suggest reading this Person Paper: http://www.cs.virginia.edu/~evans/cs655/readings/purity.html
"I very much doubt the dearth of women in technology is because men are sexual predators". Sheesh. I agree. Comments like this do the job just fine, too.
Hiding somewhere in the rest of that somewhat nonsensical comment (ellyagg's, I mean, not yours, tptacek) is the kernel of a fairly good question, related to what you're saying here: why is it that in almost every other once-male-dominated profession, the ratios have been rapidly approaching parity, whereas in programming, the separation maintains itself quite rigidly?
Male doctors, lawyers, and bankers tend to be a super scummy bunch assholes as far as women are concerned. Anecdotally speaking, guys in any of those professions are far more blatantly sexist towards women than your typical programmer is, and based on non-anecdotal data, the wage gap in each of those fields is worse than it is in programming (I don't have the refs at hand for that, but the conclusion is pretty solid, from what I remember programming is one of the fields with the smallest wage gap, especially for more recent grads).
I can't help but wonder how much stuff like the asshattery that's on display in this article is really the cause of the lopsided sex ratio in this field, and how much is a side effect of the fact that so few women are around in the first place. You'd think if sexist attitudes of men in a field really had such a huge impact on whether women wanted to enter the field or not, women would rarely go into medicine, law, or finance, but over time, they've flocked to each of them in much greater numbers than they have to programming, putting up with tons of abuse in the process (don't get me started on finance, oh, the stories I could tell...).
Not that it matters when sexist crap comes up - it's wrong, full stop, and if we really want women to enter the field we are right to make every effort to stamp it out.
I'd just be wary of accepting too easily that this is the whole story, or even the most important part of it; it's certainly a piece of the puzzle, but I find that I've got to squint harder than I'm comfortable doing to imagine that it really makes everything else fit together. [edit: just to be clear, I'm not saying that you or anyone else specifically claimed this here, but it's a common enough sentiment that I'm addressing it anyways]
2) unlike law and medicine, it's only recently been identified as being lucrative
3) the path to success is much more blurry as there is no guild or accreditation
4) because of the top three, parents don't push their daughters toward programming.
He is talking about the past, as indicated by his use of grammatical tense: "Medical doctors have been mostly men..."
If you cannot understand the difference between admiring attractive women while programming, and listing "Women" as a
"Great Perk" you need to have a serious conversation with yourself.
> Medical doctors have been mostly men, and, in my experience, exhibit pretty much the same desire for women as tech people, but that never stopped women from flocking to become nurses.
What decade are you living in? You should check the current demographic breakdown of doctors, lawyers, scientists, and programmers. I'll give you a head start: one of these is an outlier.
FWIW you can totally look at attractive women while programming, without objectifying them at a hackathon -- that's what the Internet was made for.
As you well know, doctor/nurse fraternization is a time-honored pursuit.
Unlike TV, in real life nurses don't get into the field to fuck every doctor they meet. They go into nursing because they want to save lives.
Oh, honestly. Institutionalized sexism sure as hell made it quite difficult for decades (if not centuries) for women to become doctors.
That is not the issue.
The issue is that attempting to herd software developers with promises of attractive females is tasteless, exclusive and offensive to decent people of both genders.
No, I don't think it's wrong to program and look at attractive women at the same time. I also think that dating/flirting at work is mostly harmless.
That has little to do with the above described situation though. What they manage to do with just that one line is alienate anyone that doesn't have the same sexual preferences to you. If they had left gender out of it and just had attractive staff of both sexes, then to me it wouldn't offend anyone (though it would seem as you say, a little bit out of place).
Americans tend to mired in sexism to a much greater extent than for example Sweden, where I'm at. The above comment would simply not be made by a professional in Sweden. I guess we don't equate sexism and fun to the same extent some americans do, nor is the female body under the same bizarre governmental scrutiny (abortion, an issue, honestly?). That there's a link doesn't seem entirely implausible.
Also, it's slightly ironic to compare the american view on murder with a european view when you're the ones executing people.
The opposition believes that nobody has a right to make the conscious choice to kill another human being. That sounds like a reasonable place to start.
I'm consistently dismayed by the amount of intellectual and moral atrophy displayed in discussions of politics.
On the flip side, how about contraceptives? If removing a fetus after 4 weeks is murder, how about birth control pills? Or emergency contraception pills? Arguably, they kill as well?
"Lots of hot men serving beers" isn't a very comparable example because male programmers haven't been discriminated against (at least, not professionally). A better example would be if the flyer were changed to "lots of Mexicans serving beers" or "lots of African Americans serving beers". Wouldn't that offend you even if you were able to somehow derive how the marketing people arrived at this approach?
Or does enjoying seeing attractive women in public make me
a bad person?
It does if, while describing the situation at an event involving people of all creeds, you draw attention to the fact that the presence of a part of those people is considered a treat, independent of their ability.
Replace 'female' with 'midget', 'gay', 'asian' or 'leather clad' and ask yourself that question again. Personally, I like looking at attractive leather clad asian gay midgets. That does not mean it's proper to collect a few to staff a programming event, because so many of us enjoy looking at attractive leather clad asian gay midgets.
I like custard. I like meat. Would it be possible to have a dish where I could eat meat and custard at the same time?
what a tool.
"Let's have a lynching."
It's Frown Power. It's effective. Sqoot engaged in some pretty douche-y sexism in the e-presence of thousands of people, and thousands of people are expressing disapproval back at them. It's a safe bet they'll get the message that doing things like that in the future is undesirable, because having people vociferously disapprove of you isn't a pleasant experience.
It might not fix the attitudes of the people who wrote that line, but if it discourages the expression of those attitudes, the culture will radically change in a quite short period of time regardless of whether or not those individuals ever get a clue.
(Incidentally, comparing Sqoot getting told off on twitter and losing some sponsors to minorities being murdered because of their race is more than needlessly hyperbolic).
Honestly, for me, it's not even about women. For me, I don't want my industry to be known as this "brogrammer" nonsense or just so completely sexist that it just shocks normal sensibilities. Even if there were no women in computing and there never would be, I don't think we want to be seen as being so openly ridiculous on this kind of stuff. We're supposed so forward thinking technologically but in the cultural sense we are stuck in the Mad Men days. It's sad.
Shouldn't the same level of outrage apply? If not, why not?
Meanwhile (apropos nothing you wrote):
The woman Violet Blue was talking about was Piroska Szurmai-Palotai, a developer for NeoPlay Entertainment.
When confronted with this fact, Violet Blue doubled down, in effect accusing the developer of acting enough like a booth babe to be called one in print.
Now, see? Even you thought Boston had something to do with this!
> Sqoot was founded in 2010 at DreamIt Ventures, a startup incubator based in Philadelphia & NYC. We're a scrappy team in beautiful Chicago & NYC.