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Heroku Pulls Sponsorship After Boston API Jam Publishes Sexist Eventbrite (bostinno.com)
105 points by polarslice on Mar 20, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 159 comments

When I got to this thread the top comment (by ellyagg) 100% missed the point. He seemed to think people were upset by the idea of sexuality, or offended that a man might be attracted to a woman.

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 [1], 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.

[1] http://i.imgur.com/HNdWg.jpg *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.

Thank you for being wonderfully articulate.

When I tell my friend that he should come to my party because a bunch of really cool people will be there, didn't I just commodify them too? OH THE HORROR.

When you apply English class style logic you can make anything seem as bad the holocaust.

You are right with your first sentence. Don't know why you needed to invoke holocaust emotive in your last.

If everyone responded like Heroku did (immediately, firmly, and without apologies) when they saw such sexist behavior it would improve our industry. Please do so whenever you get the chance, and props to the Heroku team!

While I appreciate Heroku's quick and decisive response, I don't quite follow why they felt the need to muddle the message by explicating that their sponsorship is handled by women. That really shouldn't have any barring on anything.

In responding to something that further alienated women from the tech field, I'm assuming they felt it would make sense to reassure them that there are in fact women working in some of the best regarded companies in that field.

This was not sexism. It was a poor attempt at humour.

I agree it was a poor attempt at humor, but it was an attempt at sexist humor.

So? It's not hurting anyone. You know, there is a difference between an ad for a geek event that no one cares about and a woman not getting a job because she's a woman. These are not the same things.

I can imagine many women feeling unwelcome at an event that was advertised in that way. I don't want women to feel unwelcome at tech events for many reasons.

You're right about one thing: nobody cares about any technical value that might have been at Boston API Jam now.


I don't see any evidence that they were just trying to be humorous. "Women" is listed right after "booze". If they were joking by advertising "women" as "perks", then they should have understood that most people are not going to find that particularly funny.

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.

Well, did you expect to see a "WARNING! WE NOW WILL ATTEMPT A POTENTIALLY OFFESIVE JOKE" written in red print? Those things are supposed to be spontaneous, you know.

It looks to me like a well planned document, not a spontaneous remark. They could have quickly retracted it if they didn't mean it.

I wouldn't go so far as to say it was a "well" planned document.

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?

Heroku didn't notice/care until someone else started making a big deal about it. Then like any sane company they took the safe route.

It took less than 2 hours for this to go from Twitter meme to Heroku and Apigee pulling out. If a sponsor pulled out tomorrow, I'd still be impressed with them for doing it. The simplest explanation for what happened here: this is an image Heroku gives a shit about not having.

So they're OK with scantily-clad booth babes handing out beers at sponsored events, but they're not OK with a poorly-written post about scantily-clad booth babes handing out beers at sponsored events?

No? That's not what anyone is saying? That's not even wrong?

What reason do you have to think that Heroku or any of the sponsors had any knowledge of Sqoot's women-to-fetch-beers plan before the announcement?

It's just as likely that they didn't know. Marketing materials don't get sent through sponsors first.

Excuse me: "As soon as the event was published the Heroku team immediately took action with Apigee quick to follow."

What would you expect Heroku have done differently?

HN has seen a sharp increase in negativity lately. What gives?

Kids think it's clever to play devil's advocate all the damn time.

I am sure Heroku cared, they're really classy company. As someone who sponsored 70+ events in Q1 at Twilio, I can tell you that we don't review every Eventbrite page and email that goes out. The backchannel of people who organize hackathons is small and well connected, word about this got around to everyone very fast.

> Then like any sane company they took the safe route.

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.

I agree.

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"

> This was a prank gone bad.

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.

prank == joke

Sorry for my poor choice of words

A prank? It was a rather bad prank. Not in just in the political correct sense but in the "comedy" sense. It's awkward and weird; it's not funny.

It's not even a prank. It's a couple of half-educated, drunken frat-boys who wanted to throw a frat party disguised as a hack-a-thon. For it to be a prank, there would have to be a punchline.

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.

Any chance you could switch industries and, say, work in advertising or something? I don't want to share a career with you.

Why is that? Because I can't agree with big companies pulling their sponsorship because of a mistake? They apologized - which doesn't make it ok, but hey - now pretty much no one knows or cares how much effort has gone into the hackaton event. All it matters now is that they made a mistake.

So the whole industry is giving the message: Your effort is totally worthless (and unnoticed) if you make mistakes that offend someone.

> 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".

A general question: when someone says something offensive, the apology is often "We're sorry: we thought this was funny, but obviously it wasn't, so we've changed it."

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.

There is a difference between "We thought it was funny. We were wrong." and "We are sorry you were offended." The former makes the person in bad taste the responsible party. The later makes the "offended" person the responsible party.

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.

"...but if it weren't for you being offended there would be nothing wrong with this."

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.

So if I say something shockingly racist, but the only people around to hear it are my shockingly racist buddies, then it's totally OK because no-one is offended?

I'm late to this, but: yes.

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?

What you're describing is moral relativism. If I kill someone that everyone hates, is that wrong? If I kill a homeless person that had no friends and no family so nobody notices they're dead, is that wrong?

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.

Offensive comments are morally relative, though. Someone has to be offended, right?

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?

You're putting the cart before the horse. People are not upset because the wording was offensive. People are offended because the wording was upsetting. The flyer clearly objectified "Women". Objectification of any category of humans should be considered wrong in any context. This is not a case of moral relativism (or at least it shouldn't be).

There's no crime there. People have the right to say offensive things in the privacy of their own homes. Other people have the right to disagree with the first people, and to even voice their disagreement. What's the problem?

When I wrote "nobody" I meant nobody, not "nobody among those that happen to be within hearing distance". This includes the people I have an X opinion about. IOW if blacks/hispanics/women. etc are not offended by my opinion about them, is it still wrong?

Those are weasel words, non-apologies that only confirm the notion that the people who wrote this are actually sexist a-holes.

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.

Look at when comedians say something offensive. They either realise they went too far, or they stand by their joke. I've never personally heard a situation where a comedian causes mass offence and weaselly apologizes saying he's sorry but wishes his audience would grow up. Because it doesn't happen, because they're in the business of tastefully offending people.

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.

These non-apologies are pretty common from politicians ("Mistakes were made") to comedians (Adam Carolla: "I'm sorry my comments were hurtful. I'm a comedian, not a politician.") And there's a reason for that.

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.

The alternative is to realize why it was offensive instead of just that people got offended in some abstract sense that is unrelated to anything you can comprehend. For bonus points, further show enough empathy that you realize that what you said now offends you, too, culminating in some kind of "Damn, I don't know what I was thinking when I wrote that" apology.

Paul Graham has a nice essay on this topic: http://www.paulgraham.com/say.html

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.

And what if it doesn't offend them? Just because it offends you doesn't mean it should condemn 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 don't think I understand your point, but to be clear:

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.

There's a big difference between understanding how something might offend someone else and equally being offended by it. I wasn't offended by this. I ran it by my wife, who happens to also be a programmer, and she wasn't offended by it either. Are we wrong or bad people? I mean, we see how others might be offended by it, so there's some level of empathy, but we're not grabbing our pitchforks over it.

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.

When you say that you "ran it by your wife who happens to be a programmer and she wasn't offended by it either", are you then saying that your wife must then have a proxy for all women? That all women must then agree with your wife's point of view? Because she apparently is not offended, therefore no other woman should be offended? If she thinks it's ok then it must be ok because she's a woman? I wonder how many times this has been used against women? I know someone who is ok with this so therefore your argument is invalid.

This is my problem with this issue in general.

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.

If they are workers being paid to do a job, why is their gender even mentioned in the flyer?

I go to Octoberfest events where sexy female beer servers are advertised. A lot of women seem to attend as well.

That Oktoberfest isn't an industry event catering to professionals is no small difference.

Is it possible to have a programming event with an unprofessional attitude, or is that not allowed anymore?

It's possible to have any kind of event you want.

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.

Upvoted. And I just wanted to give some encouragement. It's become commonplace here to get downvoted not because you're belligerent or off-topic, but simply because you hold an opposing viewpoint. Please don't let that discourage you from participating in conversations here.

I can somewhat understand the downvoters in this case. The discussion at hand is "should we accept objectification of women in the tech industry" with opinions ranging from "No, nothing even resembling that" (paraphrased) to "It's not that big a deal"[1]. To those closer to the first stance, we don't want those kinds of opinions to gain traction here, in this community. I've done that by commenting, others by downvoting. Ideally, every comment would get a response, but there are more of these "it's not a big deal" than there are original ideas being expressed. Really, the top comment[2] should be enough to convince you that this was not an OK move on API Jam's part.

[1] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3731608

[2] http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3731725

Thank you!

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.

It's not an inclusive way to advertise an event. Making a minority in a community feel like an event isn't really intended for them is bad.

Honestly, when these sorts of things happen, I'd love for every man in the world to just shut up for a minute. I have a hard time stomaching this whacked out form chivalry where men somehow have to fight on behalf of women because they're unable to defend themselves. I understand it's of far purer intent, but it seems just as sexist to me. Actually, it seems worse because it has a tinge of hypocrisy to it. I'd much rather get a woman's reaction to it in an environment where she feels safe to speak her mind (and the Internet provides some pretty good avenues for this).

I've been to a tech conference that started with a few women in attendance and they'd basically all walked out by mid-afternoon. It was a tech conference with alcohol like this one. As the day went on, the men were getting drunker and drunker. Some women left out of concern for their personal safety.

How's that for a woman's reaction?

Honest and helpful. Thanks.

My position is mostly selfish. I care about myself and I care about my future children. For myself, I'd like more women to show up to tech events because I generally enjoy mixed company. For my future children, I'd like them to feel comfortable in any industry they find interesting. (I also have that desire for most people in general, but it's particularly poignant when I think about potential children.)

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.

I think it's important to want to support women in tech for non-selfish reasons too. The idea that half the people in the world don't feel like they can pursue hacking because of unrelated issues is not acceptable.

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.

That's fair. Although we really needn't limit ourselves to only women currently in tech. It's just hard to get a woman's perspective on the matter, which I think would be highly elucidating, when there's so many vocal guys offended on their behalf.

"I'd much rather get a woman's reaction to it in an environment where she feels safe to speak her mind (and the Internet provides some pretty good avenues for this)." Quite likely you are unaware that women bloggers as a community are continually the target of extreme and sexually explicit violent comments and death threats. But business as usual. People are always trying to shut up women and the men who support them.

Maybe this can help explain. My recent ex-girlfriend is female, but is also bisexual and so likes women almost as much as I do. She was perfectly happy to comment on the attractiveness of the waitstaff to me (male or female), and appreciated when I did likewise to her. She'd be perfectly fine with a social event advertising attractive female waiters. I think she might even have been happy about the prospect of attractive female waitstaff at a hackathon too (she's also a programmer).

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.

You are correct. Most men like women. However, there is a time and place for men to express their admiration for women. An event like this (as represented to prospective sponsors) is neither.

The phrasing of the squoot apology (and other similar ones) does not take responsibility for the action. It's a non-apology. It doesn't admit that they were offensive but instead implies that it was only bad that others were offended. It's about the placement of blame on the offended party instead of taking responsibility.

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.

It's not a mortal sin. But it's a sin, and should be punished. The "point" here isn't to elicit an apology, it's to make sure that everyone knows that the behavior is not acceptable and will not be tolerated. The condemnation is punishment, and a disincentive to do this in the future.

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 reason why people aren't satisfied with that kind of apology is because it isn't an apology it's a "Oh we're being forced to say this, but we still think we're right and its funny and you're just a douche for complaining."

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.

There's a huge difference between "we're sorry for our offensive behavior" and "we're sorry you were offended by our behavior."

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.

Jon Stewart had a rant on this not to long ago as Fox News tried to apologize for Rush Limbaugh's comments as "he's just an entertainer".

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

They could demonstrate that they understand why this was offensive instead of the obtuse, head-patting response. "We now understand that _____ is offensive to _____ because of ____. In turn, it has _____ effects on our industry. Sorry!" It's not really that hard if you have a capacity for basic cognitive reasoning.

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.

Mr. Byrnes, it is a little more complicated than that.

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 
  Blind Watchmaker.
As an objective fact, The God Delusion is surely a book that many millions of people around the world are on the record as finding "offensive" [1,2,3].

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.

[1] http://www.religiousforums.com/forum/religious-debates/65603...

[2] http://richarddawkins.net/articles/628795-duking-it-out-over...

[3] http://mattgrube.com/seminary-writings/dawkins-god-delusion-...

Not at all.

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.
Right. However, the group of people who are against sexism are objectively much more culturally and economically powerful than the group of people who are against Dawkins. Heroku doesn't fear any lost business from supporting Dawkins, but it dropped Sqoot like a hot potato.

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.

You seem to be stating that Christians (the anti-Dawkins) are objectively (ie measurably) less culturally and economically powerful than Feminists (the anti-Sqoot). I'm assuming, as Heroku and Sqoot are American, you mean it as a general statement about the US, or at least the US tech industry.

I'd like to believe this was true. Could you offer any evidence?

Correlation is not causation.

Good for Heroku. Clear, zero tolerance for avoidable stupidity with a group (developers) that prides itself on details, but is just lazy.

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.


Am I missing the part where they actually no longer intend to have female-only event staff/beer-servers? The apology makes it sound like they just changed the ad copy.

Also Apigee, MongoHQ. Presumably the rest eventually, too.

Whenever people get outraged about things like this, it interests me. I like looking at attractive women. I like programming. Would it be possible to have an event where I could program and look at attractive women at the same time? Or does enjoying seeing attractive women in public make me a bad person? As a man, is this my original sin?

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.

The marketing material assumed that the people reading it would be heterosexual men, and gave no consideration to the idea that a woman might actually want to attend an event. Finding women attractive is not a sin. Assuming the whole world should revolve around what you find attractive without giving any consideration to the other half of the world's population is sexist. Not "I hate women" sexist. Just "women don't really qualify as people the same way men do in my mind, and no I've never really thought very hard about it" sexist.

In addition, the marketing material assumed that the people reading it would be drinkers, and gave no consideration to the idea that a non-drinker might actually want to attend.

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 objection is more about equating women with cupcakes, I should think.

That isn't rauljara's stated objection:

"The marketing material assumed that the people reading it would be heterosexual men...Assuming the whole world should revolve around what you find attractive..."

Expressing outrage at "sexists in tech" is an important signaling ritual on Hacker News, as evidenced by the 50 million other threads interchangeable with this one.

There are people alive today who were alive when women were not able to eligible in the USA.

There are no people alive today who were alive when cupcake haters were not eligible to vote in the USA.

It would help if you explained your logic a little further. Why this fact is relevant? If this fact changes (e.g., once the last suffragist dies), will the conclusion change?

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.

> 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.

I'm not disputing the existence of differences between the groups "cupcake lovers" and "woman lovers". I'm asking for a logical explanation of how those differences matter w.r.t. the points rauljara and I made.

>> gave no consideration to the idea that a woman might >> actually want to attend an event

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 ... "

Tech population =! world population.

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 the tech population is dominated by men is to put your head in the sand.

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.

Do you think that the overtly sexist nature of these little frat-parties come hack-a-thons might have any bearing on the lack of women in the tech industry?

Last I checked, women generally don't like being treated like perks.

So, the tech industry is dominated by men, and this announcement was intended for the tech industry, so it's fine by you that it was addressed exclusively to men? It's OK that any techy woman reading it might stay clear so that they are not mistaken for being a server and/or don't have to put up with sexism like this?

In what other situations do you not feel that the minority do not have rights?

Yes, because you clearly have no rights if you're mistaken for an employee at an event.

How does offering to have women bring you beer at an event take away your rights? Shall we be boycotting Oktoberfest next?

Their right to be treated as equal. How would you like it if a predominantly female group was told there would be men serving drinks? Predominantly racist group told there would be blacks serving drinks?

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.

I'm completely OK with a predominately female group being told men would be there serving drinks? African americans serving racists? That's a totally different ballgame.

OK, so how about blacks serving a predominantly white group? I think my other race metaphor went too far, but this one works. There's nothing wrong with a black person working as a server/waiter. They're still considered by most people to be completely equal, and blacks are welcome to participate in the event alongside whites, it just so happens that their drinks will be brought by blacks.

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

What the hell are you talking about? Medical doctors are not "mostly men". Roughly 50% of all medical students are women, and current trends have women overtaking men in the profession long term.

"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.

What the hell are you talking about? Medical doctors are not "mostly men". Roughly 50% of all medical students are women, and current trends have women overtaking men in the profession long term.

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]

1) it's a younger field

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.

I'm a doctor and the profession is still quite dominated by men. The women are far more likely to fill primary-care specialties while the good-ol-boys dominate ortho/neurosurg/EM/plastics and most of the internal medicine subspecialties. The women in my specialty (ortho) tend to lean toward the masculine side (in personality). A lot of it is about fitting in.

Which sentence did I write that is actually wrong? I'm glad to have another doctor writing here, but (respectfully) I am not particularly interested in how "masculine" you think women in your specialty tend to act to fit in. The statistics do not appear to back up the argument the previous poster made.

I don't doubt what you say, but medicine (like most highly-skilled professions) has a long lag time. I would wager (without looking it up) that the median graduation date for practicing doctors today is around 1990. A beter indicator of current trends would be to look at medical school enrollment.

"What the hell are you talking about? Medical doctors are not..."

He is talking about the past, as indicated by his use of grammatical tense: "Medical doctors have been mostly men..."

Combined with the sentiment about nursing and status, that's not remotely the message I took away from that paragraph. I'm happy to agree to disagree with you about this, because that's not what I think he wrote.

> Or does enjoying seeing attractive women in public make me a bad person? As a man, is this my original sin?

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.

I don't think there is anything wrong with appreciating and looking at attractive women, that isn't sexism. The problem here is marketing the event with "perks" that put women in a submissive position to men by default. Its not going to create an environment when female developers want to come hang out and hack, because it leads to those awkward "Are you a beer girl, are a coder?" conversations.

FWIW you can totally look at attractive women while programming, without objectifying them at a hackathon -- that's what the Internet was made for.

If you would spend 5 minutes thinking instead of playing the victim, maybe you could see the rediculousness of what you're saying.

  As you well know, doctor/nurse fraternization is a time-honored pursuit.
Do you live in the 50s? Do you think real life is Grey's Anatomy??? The doctor/nurse dichotomy that exists today is a result of VERY powerful, and very wrong, sexism. For decades women were relegated to the role of a nurse in a subordinate position to a doctor simply because they were women. Beyond the blatant sexism, there exists a tremendous power play where the man is in a position to dictate what a nurse does, how her career progresses, what kind of roles she gets assigned to, etc.

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.

> 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.

Oh, honestly. Institutionalized sexism sure as hell made it quite difficult for decades (if not centuries) for women to become doctors.

> I like looking at attractive women. I like programming ... As a man, is this my original sin?

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.

> Would it be possible to have an event where I could program and look at attractive women at the same time? Or does enjoying seeing attractive women in public make me a bad person? As a man, is this my original sin?

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).

For me, there's so much viscerally wrong in this comment I'm just flabbergasted. I wrote a long reply and erased it. I think I'd rather just leave you with a cultural observation.

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.

Bizarrely, many Americans cling to the quaint notion that murder is wrong. We have a long way to go to catch up to progressive Europe!

It's always befuddled me that when it's a woman making a conscious choice about her body or when two men wants to marry the small government party see no issue with injecting themselves into peoples lives.

Also, it's slightly ironic to compare the american view on murder with a european view when you're the ones executing people.

On the issue of abortion, you can't see the other side at all? At the least, you're preventing a human life from happening. That doesn't give you cause for thought and reflection? Call it what you want, but if your mother had an abortion you would be dead.

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.

I've honestly tried hard to understand the other side, but no, I cannot. First of all, I don't see what gives you the moral prerogative to make that choice for a woman. Secondly, I don't believe it's a human being yet (we're not talking the 38th week here). If my mother had an abortion I would not be dead right now, I would have never existed at all. I would be a non-event. And I'm fine with that.

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?

I'm a strong believer that evolution/sex are the primary drivers for almost everything we do in life. The outrage in the comment thread here is part of the "pretend it's not like that" mentality. I'm sure the marketing people here senselessly thought "hey we want lots of programmers, most programmers are guys, what do guys like, girls!". I'm not offended by this, but it is clear they are alienating women (and homosexual men). If it was reversed; "lots of hot men serving beers", guys probably wouldn't be in a rush to show up either.

It's not just that women reading this flyer wouldn't be interested in showing up, it's that they are instantly reminded of how the programming world perceives them and their place in the industry. It reminds them of the sexism they've endured their entire professional careers and it reminds them of how little has changed.

"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?

The problem here is not that most men are attracted to good looking women. The problem is that they made it a marketing point, which is blatant objectification. "Booth babes" aren't even advertised like this.

  Or does enjoying seeing attractive women in public make me 
  a bad person?
It does if that hobby is so on the forefront of your mind that you would organise for them to be present at a specific public location and you feel this is such a perk that you should use it as an advertisement to attract others to come look at those attractive women.

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 looking at attractive women. I like programming. Would it be possible to have an event where I could program and look at attractive women at the same time?

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?

sexism != sexuality

> perhaps even servers at restaurants

what a tool.

I'm all for less sexism in the tech community, but this just looks like someone taking an opportunity to make a furor, rather than constructively working to change attitudes.

"Let's have a lynching."

One of the easiest and most powerful actions you can take to change attitudes towards acceptable behaviour in a community is, unsurprisingly, to immediately express disapproval whenever undesirable behaviour happens in your presence.

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).

As one of those elusive "females in tech" who generally gets somewhat tired of hearing about all of the complaints about sexism in tech, because I think a lot of people are overly sensitive to it, Sqoot's actions were the first thing I've read in a long time that actually offended me.

Yes, because pulling sponsorships from an incompetently promoted event is definitely the same thing as lynching its organizers.

You're sarcastic but I think we should be far more ravenous to go after them. Why defend, what purpose does it serve? Sure there is this anti-political-correct strain that is popular but this is just not acceptable.

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.

I don't think anyone in particular tried to make a furor, more that this was just a particularly egregious and dumb case, where it was easy for everyone to pile on and apparent to everyone what the proper resolution was. It snowballed quickly because unlike more pervasive gender issues in the tech community, this was an easy one to solve, if not avoid in the first place.

CloudMine pulled its sponsorship too.

I'm curious about how exactly the people who are complaining about the potential discriminatory hiring of female staff for this event and the sexist way it was described feel about several (most of the successful?) sxswi parties promoted and paid for by startups that hired local UT coeds to attend?

Shouldn't the same level of outrage apply? If not, why not?

Meanwhile, "booth babes" remain a common tech industry trade show practice http://www.zdnet.com/blog/violetblue/the-ces-2012-booth-babe....

Seriously, you just linked Violet Blue's odious post tagging an application developer as a "booth babe" because of the fit of her shirt. +10 points for proving the overarching point.

Ah.... different article. That one about the Saddest Booth Babe in the world is from 2 weeks after the one I posted. I'll stick by that point that Blue isn't much of a journalist, but I still don't think it overly detracts from what she said in the earlier article about booth babes being a degrading practice.

Yep, it was the wrong article. I jumped on you for this and shouldn't have. It's a procrastinatey day for me (finishing reports), but that's no excuse. I'm embarassed and apologize sincerely.

Inflammatory and less than accurate would be the words I would use, but the general slant of the article isn't off base. If you're talking about the comment on the bottom of the page, that Skunk Works employee never said she was an application developer... she said she was a professional model and actress who knew about the product and wasn't an idiot. Blue is wrong and off base to make generalized statements about the women themselves at those shows, but it doesn't change the fact that the whole "booth babes" practice is incredibly sexist in general. If the only issue you take away from that article is that Blue is a terrible journalist, I think you're proving the overarching point.

You know what, either the vb got edited or there's a different post you cited; I said you "proved the point", but shouldn't have personalized this, because yeah, the issue I'm talking about isn't in that post. I apologize.

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.

No worries at all. In hindsight I should have found a more respected journalist. HN users are picky about article sources haha. Good luck with your reports.

No complaints from me.

I also involuntarily twinged slightly at "take a brake" and "thing of the paste". Going to guess this didn't get a lot of review before being sent out...

Attention NYC brogrammer dipshits: next time, please tarnish the name of your own city!

It has nothing to do with the location.

I don't like that Boston is in the headline. People do notice these things.

Then shouldn't you be angry at the Boston API Jam people, not people 300 miles away who have nothing to do with this?

The Boston API Jam was being put on principally by Sqoot, who are a NYC-based deals API company. Presumably they were trying to drum up interest in their platform.

Now, see? Even you thought Boston had something to do with this!

I think he may be referring to the fact that Sqoot, the event organizer, is based out of NYC (and Chicago) but:

> Sqoot was founded in 2010 at DreamIt Ventures, a startup incubator based in Philadelphia & NYC. We're a scrappy team in beautiful Chicago & NYC.

From: http://www.sqoot.com/about

I think some people should loosen up. Yes, it's a bad unfunny joke. But it's not that big a deal.

You clearly have not experienced discrimination before. It's not just the act of being discriminated against, it's the memories that it invokes and the reminder of how little has changed.

Believe me, friend, I have experienced discrimination. My entire family has. They have been driven away from their home because of their nationality. Then I was mocked and humiliated by other kids as the-kid-who-cant-speak-our-language. Then there was the high school and all the "nice" things it holds for the nerds. It might well be that I have experienced more discrimination than some of the furiously anti-sexist people here. Yet I don't have anything against racial, sexist, religious or other kinds of "sensitive" jokes. They are jokes. They are not meant to be taken seriously. It's OK to laugh at them if you find them funny. If you don't, shut up and let other people laugh. Don't be a self-important asshole. After all, your precious nationality/religion/sex/sexual orientation is worth exactly nothing.

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