I'm not going to try to defend these bozos, so let's try some crazy made-up example.
For instance, I might have an opinion that we should bring back slavery. A totally offensive opinion, yes, but dammit, I'm entitled to have it. In this case I very well may be sorry that I brought it up on MLK day, or that I interjected it in your discussion about feeding the poor, but I'm not really sorry for feeling the way I do.
That's okay -- the part about differentiating between being sorry for being rude and being sorry for ideas, not the part about supporting slavery. People should never have to be sorry for expressing their opinions, only expressing them poorly.
We need to make sure we are not trying to tell people how to think. We can challenge them, call them out, ask them questions, demand an apology for their being rude or offensive, yes, but we change people's thinking by gentle persuasion, not by public mockery or lynch mobs. If we're not careful, the only thing we're going to teach misogynistic youngsters is to bullshit on the net better. And that's not good for anybody.
That's why the apology was weak -- because it was for the wrong reasons, shame instead of understanding. (And I don't think beating them up in public further is going to do much good. In fact, I think we've long past the point of actually doing something useful with this story.)
Or to put this in a business context, it's okay to have policies people don't like, and it's certainly appropriate to apologize if you've expressed your policies in a way that offended people. But it's not okay for a mob to dictate to you what your policies should be. They're two different things.
I think this is confusing two very different things. You are "entitled" to have this opinion in that (a) you shouldn't be locked in prison for stating this opinion and (b) I am not allowed to beat you up for having this opinion. However, that opinion is wrong. You should stop having it, and if you express it at work you will and should be fired.
I think this is exactly analogous to this case. Sqoot could have held a successful hackathon if they didn't display their sexism in their ad copy, but the root problem is the sexism, not the ad copy. That's why the apology rubs people the wrong way.
I think this opinion is wrong. If one expresses his opinion about slavery, he should not be fired. Now that you had this wrong opinion about opinions, should you be fired? From work? From Hacker News? Anywhere?
Because that's what the OP was suggesting, except that they used the umbrella term "slavery" to refer to it.
Scenario A, normal job, no customer interaction, non-manager, but an irrepressibly talkative fellow. Likes to talk to his co-workers about how awesome slavery is. Co-workers have complained that they're tired of hearing him, you've talked to him, he keeps talking irregardless.
Scenario B, customer-facing job. It comes up at the company picnic that the employee thinks slavery was really awesome. You haven't yet heard him mention this to a customer.
Scenario C, manager. One of your underlings, in charge of a hopefully-diverse group of under-underlings, expresses his pro-slavery opinions to you.
Sorry for the liberal use of pronouns there. But there's an extremely worrying trend to me whereby it's no longer okay to disagree or have an open discussion about certain topics that the HN mass has decided their stance on. Most of the time I, and many others, just bow out and let everyone here virtually pat themselves on the back as each professes the moral high road they've taken. It defeats the point of having an open forum or discussion on an article. It's our equivalent of political rhetoric.
The main point of the matter is, the interests of employers and employees are not well aligned. Employers do not want employees to know what their coworkers or colleagues at other companies make. Employees benefit from having this forbidden knowledge. Employees would prefer to only be fired for direct, active malevolence towards their employer. Employers would prefer to fire anyone they think is a liability to their business.
Employee beliefs matter because, as much as employers would prefer otherwise, employees are not cogs or robots who perform mechanistically. If you don't believe in software patents, how will that affect your performance at your job? Even if your employer isn't a part-time patent troll, but is extremely concerned about being sued by them, will you generate your fair share of defensive patents to be used as a shield for a few years? Or will you knowingly violate software patents you believe are bullshit, opening up your company to 10x the penalties should you lose in court?
I think this perspective is common recently, but only due to the current boom/bubble. I don't expect that to last forever, and somewhat anticipate the kind of insecurity you're describing (although I don't feel it right now), which is why I don't say anything even slightly controversial under my True Name.
B: Either he's capable of keeping his eccentric views to himself when dealing with customers or he's not. Whether it's supporting slavery or Bush 43, he can ruin a business relationship by expressing that view at the wrong time.
C: Again, he needs management. Does his view negatively affect his capability as a manager? What if he's an evangelical Christian and he has gay underlings?
I agree it was a very sexist thing to write. It makes me wonder though:
1. Which is worse, hiring an all female serving staff (perhaps wearing uniforms that would be considered particularly attractive to heterosexual males), or acknowledging that you have done this by writing about it in your invitations? Is it inappropriate (always and everywhere) to hire only attractive females and make them wear "sexy" uniforms? If they had hired all females, but not advertised it, would people still be upset after they had arrived and seen that all the staff were female? I wouldn't be upset. But advertising it, or at least they way they did it, strikes me as offensive, but I don't know why.
2. I feel mentioning the female serving staff in this instance is inappropriate, but is it always inappropriate? Is it acceptable for a sports bar to mention their "Bud Girls" or whatever in their ad copy? I would consider this acceptable, but I don't know why. Is it because a sports bar is purely leisure, and a hackathon, while leisure, is (presumably) directly connected to your profession?
I think what they did feels wrong, but I can't think of a good explanation of why it is wrong that is logically consistent with other acceptable norms in our society.
As to the larger society, yes, "Bud Girls", booth babes, GoDaddy ads, and Hooters are all sexist.
The problem here is that a goodly chunk of people expect the clientele of a hackathon to be developers. Developers are men and women who are professional. As much as sexuality sells beer, food, cars, etc., it is not a accepted selling point of professionals. Rather, it will get you in serious trouble in many professional environments.
Now, it is revealed that this company's fantasy event is programming while being served beer by hot women. This basically puts them in the frat with a big no hire for women.
Not to defend Sqoot at all, but... um... booth babes? Every large trade show has them. They are there specifically to excite the hormones of the male professionals in attendance. Their use is as sexist as it is effective.
Had Sqoot quietly hired a bunch of models to serve beer to the attendants, and had they had the sense not to publicly high-five themselves for doing so, there would have been no controversy. The reason Sqoot landed in the soup is because they wore their sexism on their sleeves, and handled their communications like obnoxious rubes rather than responsible business owners. Their crime was lack of finesse.
If they had quietly done it and female developers had showed up, the damage would have been worse, much worse. Words are one thing, pictures of scantily clad models serving beer at a hackathon would have been a little too juicy for the bloggers. Twitter pictures turn into mainstream media articles rather quickly these days.
Their crime is thinking it was acceptable. As my Dad told me (constantly as a youth it seemed), "I'm amazed you thought of that, and appalled you actually did it." Fantasy is best kept out of the professional workplace / event planning.
Can somebody help me to issue a DMCA notice?
I can laugh at myself (and I do quite often). If I didn't I think I would have gone insane by now. I don't even have a problem with Hooters, Playboy / Playgirl, or any of the thousands of other places sex is used to sell things. Like I said, hormones and money.
I'm just a little sick of the lack of empathy in this situation. The "midwestern" discussion had the same vibe (obviously not as damaging). Maybe I'm just sick of TV Shows showing a buffalo every damn time they talks about ND, or (much, much more importantly) I'm just sick of thinking about how many developers we have lost because of stuff like this. Can't really be a Meritocracy if stuff isn't based on merit.
So one is only allowed to have the "right" opinions?
And who gets to judge that? If it's the majority, then what if a poll showed that most Americans are against, say, abortion or gay rights? (Or most of Utah residents, at a local level). If it's just some minority with power (the government, the PC police, etc), why should they get to say it instead of the majority?
So, you're walking a very fine line here. He is entitled to think whatever, include slavery or the annihilation of mankind, and people should not only not put him in prison for it, but not even fire him for it.
They can disagree all they want with him for it, though. Now, if he tries to put his slavery ideals to practice, that's a totally different matter.
I think this is exactly analogous to this case. Sqoot could have held a successful hackathon if they didn't display their sexism in their ad copy, but the root problem is the sexism, not the ad copy. That's why the apology rubs people the wrong way.
Case in point. I am from a different country, and we would probably laugh at the very idea of the apology, not on the "sexism".
Why something that's ok for, say, a casino or a sports bar (female waitresses) is bad for a hackathon? Because a coding marathon should be for both sexes? Well, aren't casinos for both sexes too? How come they get to have women waitresses?
Also, who said the organizers of this PARTICULAR hackathon want it to be?
Is it that they SHOULD want it to be? Is the message that one cannot organize an event the way he likes it, provided he doesn't do anything illegal?
I think it has a lot to do with expectations. People held the hackaton to a higher standard than, for example, a strip club, and therefore they are a lot more vocal about it when the organizers fail to live up to what was expected of them.
> Is it that they SHOULD want it to be? Is the message that one cannot organize an event the way he likes it, provided he doesn't do anything illegal?
They have all the rights in the world to organize a hackathon the way they want it, but that also means that the general public has all the rights in the world to dislike it, i.e be outraged.
Maybe. For me a hackathon is a pointless thing, like a "machismo" competition for nerds.
Well, with that I fully agree.
If someone wants to kill me and everyone I care about, then surely it is reasonable for me to be somewhat irate at that person, up to and including choosing not to do business with them.
I think it's pretty obvious that everyone should try to have correct ideas. For example, if you think that Mac OS X is the world's most widely-used desktop OS, then you are wrong, and you should revise your thinking on the subject. Similarly, if you think that IP guarantees reliable delivery, you should think something else, because you're not right.
Thinking that it's ok to make people slaves because of the color of their skin (or any other reason) is also wrong, and if you think that (I assume no one on HN does), you should revise your thinking on the subject.
Saying, at work, that you think your coworkers should be made into slaves seems like a pretty obvious firing offense to me.
As for whether an event can be both legal and a bad thing, I think it's pretty obvious that something can -- imagine I organized an event to write patches with backdoors for the linux kernel. If you said you were going to organize an event like that, I would say that you shouldn't do it.
That about factual correctness. Another ballgame altogether.
Whether a hackathon should have female waitresses or not is an ethical/moral issue. In any case, not something that can be objectively counted and checked.
And regarding the slippery slope you tried to construct, I don't think there is one, unless you are a moral relativist. Anyone that thinks anyone else is wrong should be able to tell them so (or fire them if it's an at-will situation or part of the contract). If it turns out the majority (or those that are the most vocal) are wrong, then I can only hope that the right opinion will win because of its rightness and/or the persuasiveness of its proponents. Will this situation inevitably lead towards a more moral, ethical society? No. Does it have the potential to categorically exclude/supress correct opinions? No.
Only women are not listed as percs.
The PRESENCE of beautiful women serving beer is used as a perc. It's not like you BUY these women or use them as slaves...
In other words, not very different from a Hooters.
And for what was supposed to be a professional event (in the eyes of its sponsors and potential audience at least), the answer is a clear "No."
I'm unsure about the "clear" though.
How much of the potential audience would rather enjoy such an event, but is afraid to say so, because it's not PC?
As a non american(coming from a more egalitarian society, or at least a less objectifying society about women) this is for me a totally ridiculous issue. I'm pretty sure the same people that are being so offended by that small sentence have been in the last months to a Strip Club or a bar with prettier than average waitresses.
Some users talk about professional events and that it should not have been like that, go one day to any tech/arm/car/comic con expo and tell me the hostess are not "hot" and chosen because 1) they are women 2) They are good looking.
What a non-issue and HN front page was flooded with that today...
The message I'm getting from you is that you care more about group A than group B. Group A is all of the poor men that would like to see beautiful women while at API Jam and don't care about how that would make their fellow professionals feel. Group B is all of the women that want to go to a hackathon as professional coders, and not have to worry about people from group A. Will people from group A show up to any event? Yes, but they shouldn't feel that their sexism is welcome. I think group A has enough privilege, and they can do without this one perk for the sake of group B.
In this case, I can just barely see this being done by someone who was totally aware of how what they posted sounds, but forgot that the context that might allow them to make that joke, amongst people where it would be obvious that it was intended as a jab at a stereotype that all parties thought shouldn't exist, does not exist where it was posted. And then also hit a bit of a panic mode and put up a sheepish apology like that.
I know enough people that have actually done things similar to that. Not because they didn't understand the issues, but because they were distractable, burst-of-extroversion, nerdy younger folk who tended to forget here and there that the reality bubble they were in was not a universal one, and didn't know how to own up to a mistake well.
I absolutely agree with you about the right to opinion, and that people should not need to apologize for holding one. On the other hand, I do not think that those people have the right to have those opinions respected, and if they're especially ridiculous -- bringing back slavery, or the moon being made of conspiracy, for example -- and they're being expressed publicly and vocally, I do not think that those people have the right to not have their opinions called out in a confrontational manner.
Should a person be disrespected for holding a ridiculously offensive opinion? No. A person gets disrespected for actions related to that opinion.
Interesting sidebar here about John Nash, the famous mathematician. Nash, as you may know, suffered from what was probably paranoid schizophrenia. He had the most severe delusions which crippled his work.
Later in life he managed to get along. After watching the movie I did a little research. As I understood it, Nash basically said that the delusions never went away, and he really didn't stop believing in them, but he learned to live with them and express them in a way that allowed his life to continue. He felt that either way could be true -- the things he suspected or the reality others descried to him. Therefore it was inappropriate to make a big deal out of it. He kept the same useless and perhaps personally dangerous opinions, but he learned to adjust his actions so that he could continue being a functioning part of society.
Very interesting outcome. I think you only get there by encouraging people, not by shaming or ostracizing them. It could have worked out very differently for Nash.
I agree strongly, in cases where the opinion is held out of ignorance or misunderstanding, or some root that isn't itself malicious.
People exist who hold, or pretend to hold offensive, or actually incorrect "opinions" for the purposes of power-gathering or pure getting-off-on-pissing-people-off. The latter can range from harmless to very frustrating, the former are dangerous. It becomes obvious that they have explicit motives behind "holding" and expressing an opinion quickly enough, but if the former manages to gather enough people around it it becomes a force to be reckoned with quickly.
Luckily there aren't very many of either of those two types of people, and the best way to avoid malicious ones actually ... doing anything malicious is through a well-educated populace and encouraging people to think and challenging the ideas present in a sane manner -- I mention this stuff mostly due to thinking that it's important to make and know the distinctions between respecting a person, respecting a person's right to an opinion, and keeping in mind that that person does not have a right to voice opinions and have them considered with equal weight, does not have a right to voice opinions and not have them traits like bigotry, purposeful ignorance, attempts at manipulation, and so on. It's normally pretty clear when someone holds, for example, racist views out of ignorance versus malice if you've been engaged in discussion for more than a few minutes.
The thing to remember above all others is that the vast majority of the popular opinions we hold today were considered offensive and rude at some point in the past. The only reason we've evolved is because people holding those opinions were allowed to voice them.
Of course, for every "good" opinion there were a thousand hateful and wrong-headed opinions. But that's the way it works. You let in everybody and allow reasoned discourse to sort them all out.
Yes, there is a very rare segment of society that are actually evil, and there's nothing much to be done with those folks. Let them express their opinions, punish them when they take actions, just like we treat everybody else. You don't have an obligation to talk to idiotic people, or even say nice things about them. They just have a right to think as they choose.
What I find most shocking is the idea that simply because I am extremely offended by your opinion -- the way you think -- I should take some action against you: fire you, put you in jail, have you "re-educated", etc. No matter how offended I am at somebody's opinion, as long as they don't take action on it (express it rudely, hurt another person, become an embarrassment for the organization, and so on), I will fight for the death for their right to have it. That's the entire basis of a secular society, the root of the enlightenment. But a large majority of people don't understand that.
To me that's a lot more worrisome than a couple of jackasses. World is full of jackasses. </rant>
I think this is wrong. I was just reading a book about this actually, and historically convincing people that some practice is wrong does a bit, but if its social convention then people are actually mostly going to keep doing the same thing because "that's what people do" until it becomes a matter of public face or mockery. See dueling in the UK, or foot-binding in China.
An apology for being rude is in the form, "I apologize for being rude." It is not of the form, "I apologize, if someone was offended by my rudeness."
"No harm, no foul," does not apply to apologies.
When I truly apologize, it is not because I have offended someone else. It is because I have offended myself by not holding myself to my own standards.
That is why I may find myself apologizing to you when you have taken no offense.
>I very well may be sorry that I brought [slavery]
>up on MLK day, but I'm not really sorry for
>feeling the way I do
>We need to make sure we are not
>trying to tell people how to think.
>it's not okay for a mob to dictate to you
>what your policies should be
You can express empathy with the other person though. And in English, at least, this is commonly done using apologetic language, "I am sorry that you feel that way and I understand that you are upset" etc.
It is possible to totally disagree with someone but still feel empathy for their reaction to your opinion. As such, you certainly can "apologize" for making someone feel bad even if you don't find the cause justifies it. You're just not apologizing for your opinion.
No, "I'm sorry I made you feel that way" or "I'm sorry I hurt you."
You can if what you are apologizing for is the way or time you expressed it. Slavery is probably a controversial example because almost everyone now will agree it is morally wrong. But even absolute facts can be offensive at the wrong time.
For instance, I think more people should be aware of the extent of the dangers of drowning and the right ways to prevent it. It would be insensitive at best if I started discussing that during the funeral of a young child that had drowned. It is a good message to get out, but it would be appropriate for me to apoloize for bringing up in that context.
Are the people whom you are offending by acting like a fratboy really going to believe that you have "seen the light"? The apology these guys wrote basically says "sorry, we thought this was funny"... which is really just creating more problems.
I'd argue that this affair validates a rule my grandfather had: When you say something really dumb, the smart move is to stop talking.
At some point, it might be best to give your best apology as stated in the post, but assume that you will not be able to recover from the leg down your throat.
There's also nothing to forgive the person with the offensive opinion for, other than offending someone. I don't think that the opinion-holder would have a right to not have that offense expressed, and I don't think people should have the right to hold and express any opinion with the expectation that no one will express offense, but I also don't think people have the right to not be offended.
Being easily offended is not a good thing. And anything that divides for the purpose of uniting, like political correctness, enforced diversity, etc. is suspect because it can annoy or hurt a group, even if that group is in a power or majority position. And people have the right to be offended or not offended. A morally corrupt person has the right to hang out in the Hall of Evil if they would like. That is freedom.
But the purpose of the original post being discussed is that there is a way to apologize, and for that matter a reason to apologize. I personally think the apology was warranted. But, in the case of wanting to bring back slavery, I just don't think you can defend it as a moral opinion that should be aired. Even though I wouldn't outlaw the opinion, that doesn't stop me from strongly suggesting it is a bad idea and a sign of antisocial foolishness.
I am pretty sure that people who held the view that those things were abominable were not Dr. Evil caricatures, but honest people who sincerely believed that these things were utterly wrong and no-one should speak in support of them. I don't say this to illustrate that I think slavery is the moral equivalent of atheism, but that I don't believe that I am smart enough to forgo all my cultural baggage and assert that I have a privileged insight into what is "truly" abominable and what was just bad stuff other people believe.
Even if you do choose to assert that, I think that slavery is an interesting choice because there are arguments that can be made for it. Athenian democracy was essentially built on the backs of disenfranchised slaves; the lack of technological sophistication of Ancient Greece wouldn't have permitted enough free time to nurture a rule by the people without it. Is the world better off for Athenian democracy, slavery and all? I don't think you can answer that with a pat yes or no, but that's the whole point, it's a complex question, not a "slavery is bad, fire everyone who thinks otherwise" question.
Libertarians would question whether the state ought to have the power to ban certain kinds of life-long contract between consenting adults. If you want to stretch the definition of slavery, the standard of living in the West is only supportable by labourers working in other parts of the world under authoritarian systems they don't have political power to change. Is that bad? Sure! Is it a very similar situation to the Industrial Revolution of the 18th/19th centuries, which is essentially the underpinning for every single employment right we have? Yes, it is. Are we then doing good by supporting slavery? I don't know, but again, I don't think these questions should be shut down without discussion.
I don't mean here to speak directly in support of some of the very hateful opinions that you can see expressed every day--I think most of them are vile and I wish their holders didn't do so (and I pity them for the emotional turmoil that must have engendered them and that they engender). But the solution is never to ban or restrict speech, legally or socially, even when a majority agrees that it's desirable to do so, because we are not smarter than everyone else who will ever live.
On the general topic, I can't add much except that Sqoot's response adds to the apologetic miasma that suffocates honest expression. It is not the same thing, but of a piece, that several times daily a person will say "Sorry" for such transgressions as brewing their K-cup before I can brew mine, or for crossing paths as we walk around the office. It lacks conviction, and it should: these are not offenses, are not rude actions. They so quickly issue "Sorry" that it's as hollow of meaning as the familiar "You know" and "like." It is mere social lubrication without intent.
On the other hand, there is at least one subtlety I haven't read here yet, and that's this: if I enter another culture, either by travelling to another country or merely travelling down the street, I may risk doing something which is legitimately offensive in that culture but which I don't personally find offensive. I can easily, then, find myself in a situation where I am earnest in my apology even if I have no intention of changing my opinion. I can simultaneously claim my values and care enough about others to understand they may find them objectionable and respect them by either keeping my mouth shut or apologizing if I feel I've offended them.
Is there a line to be drawn between that scenario, which doesn't seem controversial, and Sqoot's predicament? Is there room for allowing the male-and-macho developer set to think sexism is cool and still earnestly apologize because they realize others are offended?
I agree in principle about things that, in your words "divide for the purpose of uniting" to do more harm then good. From the standpoint of idealism, I think that the best way to go about ending inequality is to simply cease treating people unequally. We can't just go straight from here to there though, and I don't have good solutions. I suspect that it's the type of thing that phases itself out as cultural patterns live and die, and that's slow. The ramifications of that are a separate, stupidly large can-of-worms topic.
And people have the right to be offended or not offended.
I agree that people "have the right" to be offended or not offended. I mean, in case the above is indicative of me not expressing myself clearly, that people do not have the right to suppress other people's expression of their opinions because of their offense. And people are not obligated to be sorry for offending somebody by having and expressing an opinion. And people do not have the right to expect that no one will be offended by their opinion. And people do not have the right to only have opinions expressed to them which they do not find offensive, assuming they are not in a ridiculously coercive situation, in which case the breach of right by the gun being held by their temple is probably of bigger concern than the offensive opinions being expressed to them forcibly. Outside of the context of extremist opinions, which are the majority of examples that get brought up in this type of discussion, there are way too many people for that to even be a feasible scenario.
A morally corrupt person has the right to hang out in the Hall of Evil if they would like.
As long as everyone in the "Hall of Evil" is consenting to hang out there, I don't think I could make a moral judgement about them. I could make one about myself, and how I would not feel morally "right" if I was doing what they were doing, but if they know what they're getting into and they're consenting to it, I could not call it morally corrupt. I know enough people that are legitimately into things that make me uncomfortable to think about participating in to not be able to hold another opinion while being intellectually honest with myself.
But the purpose of the original post being discussed is that there is a way to apologize, and for that matter a reason to apologize. I personally think the apology was warranted.
I agree. And I think the second apology they posted was much better. An apology here is absolutely warranted because they ended up making a whole bunch of people think that they were ignorant, or bigoted, or malicious in someway when they are (most likely) not, and did not intend to be so ridiculously insensitive to stuff they knew about. They made a stupid mistake, caused a bunch of people to be offended where they did not intend to, they're in the process of owning up for it, and that's good and will likely cause people to respect them a bit more.
If they posted that they thought "women should stay in the kitchen", and they really thought that, then the most honest apology they could make would be that they were sorry people got offended. I wouldn't agree with them, I would actively show people reasons why their opinion should be ignored if they were campaigning for laws requiring "women to stay in the kitchen". If they realized later they had been publicly holding a pretty ridiculously offensive opinion for no good reason, I would expect they would be apologizing, probably for their ignorance, but mostly for actions and offending people. If they just held it, honestly thought it, expressed it, and offended somebody, I see no reason for apology, and don't see how any genuine apology, other than "being sorry you're offended" would be possible.
Do I think slavery is defensible as a moral opinion? No. I think that if someone does, they should be able to express that, and that if they hold that opinion out of ignorance or misunderstanding that that ignorance or misunderstanding can be addressed. I think that suppressing the expression, the ability to express an opinion, any opinion, because it's offensive or "morally unsound" is dangerous. I don't think that many, if any, of the "extremist" opinions I've heard have enough weight that they should be considered so dangerous as to be banned. Doing so does nothing to solve the problem of people holding those opinions when they do not know they should not be.
Slavery, by the way, is alive and well. A number of people not only think it should exist, but actively purchase humans. A large part of minimizing or stopping that is making it so that when people who think that slavery "is just how it is" -- because they've been surrounded by it, or had ideas drilled into their heads as children, or grasped onto some fallacy they didn't identify -- are capable of being presented with information to the contrary in such a manner as to actually change their minds. This does happen. It does not happen when expression of opinion is suppressed.
For example, if Sqoot is not sorry, they could remain silent. Or they could say, "We understand that this is sexist. We care more about getting large attendance, and have a reasonable belief that attractive women serving beer will accomplish that end." That will probably enrage people even more so I think silence is the best option in this case.
> We need to make sure we are not trying to tell people how to think.
It is fine to tell people how to think if they are thinking wrongly. It is fine to use what force you have available to you, be it economic, social or political, to change their actions if you think those actions are harmful enough to warrant it.
I feel like this joke is somewhere on the line. In a world where people aren't putting pornography in their slide presentations for no apparent reason, maybe we could take this joke at face value (ha ha, we're all sex deprived computer nerds who would do anything to interact with women for a second). On the other hand it's not particularly funny (and I didn't really get the joke before they explained it), and in this world I can have some sympathy for the women.
I guess my ultimate point is, and I'd like to hear what others here think, I hope it's not too late to turn this around, such the solution is more genuine respect and tact so we can safely go back to actual harmless jokes, rather than this turning into another "PC police" scenario that's going to start making us uncomfortable for different reasons.
The issue with this kind of behavior is that it intimidates and/or repels professional women. It doesn't set an appropriate tone.
If you were a woman with a degree in CS who was potentially interested in seriously participating in this event, would you want to to hang out with a bunch of beer-swilling jerks making passes at barmaids? Do you want to be one of a small number of women serious about hacking, feeling inadequate around the girls with tight tops with the beers? Probably not -- but that is the picture that the event organizers were painting.
It's not a matter of bringing in the "PC police". It's about respect.
The distinction between these points is important to me, I'm glad you bring it up. I know I've been somewhat contradictory on this, but I'll say I agree that the given joke, as it stands, is not respectful. If it were a guy's gathering, I think it would be ok, but it's an open invitation.
Since I've been saying that the problem is about bad taste in humor, I've been trying to come up with a better way of making the same joke (if we are to take them on their word that this joke was really about being a male dominated field). What do you think of this variation (not to say it's that much more funny):
"Women: Yes, we aim to make a welcoming atmosphere for women who want to participate in our hackathon. (And for those men still afraid of getting out-programmed by a girl, we've hired an all-female event staff to serve you cold beer.)"
Granted it maybe sends a bit of a double-message still, I think something more along these lines could make it clear that we mean no real disrespect, but still keep it from getting too uptight.
Problems with your rewrite: Women: Yes, we aim to make a welcoming atmosphere for women who want to participate in our hackathon. (And for those men still afraid of getting out-programmed by a girl, we've hired an all-female event staff to serve you cold beer.)
1. Boys and Girls are children. Men and Women are adults. The target audience for professional events are people.
2. You imply that being out-programmed by a woman will hurt a man's ego. This is outright sexist and perpetuates the idea that men should be better than women. It both degrades women and shames men.
3. It creates a hostile environment for a woman who programs well. By outing herself as capable she will create social strife with her male peers. There is a reason women do worse on math exams in the presence of men. Social pressures is a real thing that you, as a presumably straight white male, get to ignore.
4. Pointing out you hired an all female staff makes explicit you cater to straight men.
5. By prefacing it with "Women:" you are still listing the female servants as a perk. "Great Food" Is a perk. "Handed to by a woman" is not.
The entire concept literally uses breasts and vaginas as a lure for men. You keep trying to force the idea but it won't ever work in an inclusive way.
> 2. You imply that being out-programmed by a woman will hurt a man's ego. This is outright sexist and perpetuates the idea that men should be better than women.
The point was to make fun of sexism, really. It makes fun of the side of us that is intimidated by smart women, and encourages the more adult behavior of not being afraid of smart "girls".
> 4. Pointing out you hired an all female staff makes explicit you cater to straight men.
Well sure, I don't want to make a purely PC joke either, sortof defeats my point. Sexism mixed in with anti-sexism, I would hope, sortof diffuses things with some absurdity. If done right. Which I still have to figure out I guess.
> 5. By prefacing it with "Women:"
I guess a play on the fact that in the first version, women was a perk. Here it's directly about encouraging women to show up. I guess it doesn't work out of context. How about pretend that I didn't put it in the perks section.
> You keep trying to force the idea but it won't ever work in an inclusive way.
I don't know what you mean by keep, this was my first attempt. Any case, I think that with your attitude taken to its extreme, you take away all possibility of fun. It may seem forced because there's no hope for turning this particular "joke" into something viable. I wouldn't have tried it in real life. I'm remain unconvinced that there's zero room for humor related to gender, maybe it has to be made very carefully and mildly. A female friend of mine pointed out that it's going to be a bad idea altogether while women are still less than 5% of the scene. The idea of waiting until things are less tense, I can get behind, I just would hate for this whole thing to result in a permanent taboo.
Wouldn't want to have to spend half a second considering the implications of our actions, now would we, Mr orblivion?
I didn't think hackathons were particularly professional. But I agree, the whole idea is pretty ridiculous.
Do you think that your variation would be considered OK if you were talking about a racial group? Or short people?
Personally, I'd want to stress that this is an event where you can hack and have fun. Just say some variation of "We have an awesome event staff on-site to serve you! Cold beer, hot wings, etc on us!"
99% of time, when people whine about being oppressed by 'political correctness', what they're really complaining about is ordinary human decency.
The answer is, yes and no. I'm certainly not politically correct -- I think I'm leading for Most Downvoted 2012 -- but there are some flavors of clueless that create problems beyond their immediate vicinity. This particular form is so predictable that it can easily cause a lot of women to just avoid settings where it appears, which pushes them away from activities they might otherwise enjoy and at which they might excel. If we want to provide those people avenues to what they might be good at, we have to make something more of such idiocy than we would of other idiocies.
But I think it is very useful to object to the important idiocies in a measured, thoughtful tone. Because this conveys This Is Serious, and encourages the knuckleheads to _think_ about what they've mistaken. I don't want them to learn to camouflage their boneheadedness from predictable outrage, I want them to be less boneheaded. When you're yelling at someone really the only thing they can do is make apology noises and retreat, which isn't exactly what you want here. I get that some people were genuinely irritated, I think some expressions of that help show the community's feeling, but if that's all there is to the community reaction I don't think it's going to teach all it could.
Trying to communicate with the people about what was wrong, as you suggest, sounds like a good idea. Assuming instilling good taste is a viable option for such people, perhaps if someone helps them distinguish disrespectful from edgy-but-respectful, they can safely stay on the other side of it.
1) I don't like when people are so sensitive that there's no room for a harmless joke.
The joke might seem harmless to you (because your are privileged to think so), but it doesn't mean it is for everyone. Also, if the joke is based on any kind of prejudice (the teller being aware of it or not), it is in fact harmfull as it only helps the status quo, while a number a groups are putting tremendous effort to disrupt said status quo in order to do something about prejudice that is affecting them.
2) there's so much social ineptness
Social ineptness might explain it but it doesn't justify or excuse it.
1) I'm not saying this is a harmless joke. I'm saying that I'm afraid that actual harmless jokes will fall prey to the backlash against ones like this. I anticipate that there will be another story at some point where an actual funny, but edgy, joke will be told and I will have to find myself on the other side of the argument. EDIT: I guess I've been sortof inconsistent on this one. I forgot I said that this one was on the line. It's a stupid joke. I suppose it's harmful in the current atmosphere, I could see it just being stupid in a different atmosphere.
2) I'm actually sortof holding their ineptness against them. I think it's their responsibility to try to learn to understand people a bit better, or leave the jokes to someone else. I'm just trying to get to the root of the problem, rather than assuming it's rooted in actual sexism (and again it very well may be, it just seems weird to me).
I think if there was an actual joke involved (a proper one, which was coherent and possibly even amusing) the reaction would be rather different.
I got over this by slowly growing up, not by having a crowd tell me I was an ass. I think if the crowd had pressured me back then, I'd tell them to go jump in a lake.
These guys were wrong, no two ways about it. My concern is that we've created a system where kids can't go out and get drunk, make racy comments about girls -- basically act like kids -- without the entire world coming down on their head. Everything you do online lasts forever. That doesn't sound like a good thing at all.
From a longer-term view, this incident will still be around 50 years from now when these guys are grandfathers. This is completely new and has never existed before in the history of humanity.
I don't think it's an either-or situation. The immediate response could be exactly correct and the long-term impact could be entirely out-of-whack.
This story, like all the embarrassing comments I have personally published in forums across the internet, can for all intents and purposes be just as lost to time in a deluge of data as it can in a drought.
A year from now, when one searches the names of one of these founders, or the name of their company, this episode will not even appear in the first few pages of Google search results. Perhaps for a person with a sufficiently strong memory that he/she was specifically searching for this exact story, the incident could be dredged up. But for the vast majority of humanity, probably even those looking for some vague form of dirt on sqoot, the episode will have vanished.
Sounds to me like we can perhaps finally just admit that kids go out and get drunk, and haven't quite expanded their reality bubbles past their own nose, and have all us "grown-ups" stop pretending we didn't (except for where we didn't). And we can perhaps finally admit it because it's punching you in the face all the time with minimal research.
The stigma against having "inappropriate" behavior in youth known about that turned out to be part of a growing up process for a pretty alright person is ridiculous. All I know is that if someone ever brings up to me that they can find an angsty Xanga from my teen years, I won't deny it, but it'll be a huge red flag for me if they judge me, now, on its contents.
I'll agree strongly that it probably won't be the most pleasant transitory phase.
I try to put myself in the mindset as follows: I'm a white guy. If I were in a club that had 90% black patrons and some people were making jokes about 'whitey', I don't know if I'd want to speak up in that environment. Even if the jokes are not intentionally intimidating, and I'm technically 'in the right', it's still going to feel intimidating pushing back and standing out.
I imagine it feels similar for a woman in a 90+% male environment pushing back against jokes like this. There's the uncertainty of 'am I overreacting?' and 'how will I be perceived if I push back?' weighed against wanting to speak your piece.
But there was no joke. None. It wasn't even an offensive joke (not that they're all that rare in the community, sadly), it was just offensive. I think their characterisation of it as a joke is just an attempt to get themselves out of hot water.
Specifically: "When I worked at Lulu, Bob Young used to say that whenever you screw up, it's actually a tremendous opportunity to win a customer's loyalty by making it right."
Pretend the topic is a bug found or any customer job delayed/flubbed. This is a great piece of advice. Generally engineering-types focus very much on explaining what happened and not enough time on hearing the customer, apologizing, and explaining that it won't happen again. It's our natural personality as problem solvers.
But I've seen how apologizing for even a major mistake can win loyalty, get help fixing the problem, and even make deals bigger/longer. "Wait, that problem happened because we are sending the data to you in that convoluted way? We should either fix that or work together on how to make it easier for you to support it." If done right, the relationship will become more collaborative (your ultimate goal) and the customer will appreciate you more.
But yes, my central point is that when someone (or the whole Internet) is pissed off at you, you have their attention and a chance to turn things around, if you have the right goals in mind. Nurturing your relationship with your customer(s) or audience is likely more important than saving face or winning an argument.
I suppose it varies with culture, but I can't imagine any of the women I know getting upset about that line.
So a genuine question, are we getting to a point where you need to think so much before actually saying anything? Personally, even if I were the butt of a mildly racist joke I would probably enjoy the joke than be offended.
"Women" are being presented in a list of "great perks" -- along with "food trucks", "top shelf booze", and "dark chocolate". This is pretty much a textbook example of objectification.
This sort of objectification and othering is part of what keeps women out of tech, and that's a loss to everyone. More women joining our community means more people in our community, and that's a win for everyone.
>I can't imagine any of the women I know getting upset about that line.
Have you actually asked any women who work in tech about what it's like? Spending just a little time listening to what women in our industry think about the culture can be an eye-opening experience.
I'm not doubting that you can find women who aren't offended by this, but that's quite beside the point. It's essentially the "I have black friends so how can I be racist!?" defense — so laughable that Colbert uses it as a running gag on his program.
> So a genuine question, are we getting to a point where you need to think so much before actually saying anything? Personally, even if I were the butt of a mildly racist joke I would probably enjoy the joke than be offended.
If you think sexist and racist jokes are acceptable then yes, you probably should think twice before making jokes.
Without the context of the list above, I kept reading "Women:" not as a perk in a list, but as a declarative. I kept wondering why people could be offended by them saying that women were permitted beer.
Now, I see.
I would have probably written the whole thing off as a troll (high level of promised services, amateur spelling, unknown startup, and overt sexism. Maybe one of those things could get a slight pass)
It bothers me that the organisers assume the attendees will all be straight males and therefore interested in the fact that the servers are women. It bothers me that it plays on the antiquated notion that "women are there to serve". It bothers me that women are being treated as a 'perk', full stop.
From the perspective of wanting women around, this "perk" basically says that they've given up on getting women in the field to want to come to their conference, and the only way to get them there is to hire them. It's pretty lame.
I'm a man, a mostly hetero-normative one, who disagrees.
The idea that there is something undesirable about a situation that gets it called a sausage fest is not about being male per se, it's part of a very large set of assumptions about gender and sexuality that are fairly pervasive and ingrained and present enough that they are part of identity for a lot of people.
The idea that the term sausage fest, and the idea that it implies -- that there too many penises in the room and not enough vaginas, and that this is making the penises sad, in the context of a hackathon is sexist. It has a sexist nature. It makes crass and sweeping assumptions about a group of people who are passionate about a topic on the basis of their genitalia, when there are plenty of people with other sets of it that share a passion for the topic, and no ones genitalia is relevant whatsoever to the purpose of the event.
If we can get some women in the context of our passions, that is awesome.
You sound like someone who is apologetic about their manhood, to be honest. It's unfortunate. Look up Bill Maher's rant about the feminizing of America.
I don't work all day with "a bunch of other men". From a literal standpoint, my workplace is about 1/3 female. It's a small shop, but out of the 4 people writing code there, one of them is female. Even if that wasn't the case, it wouldn't be something I even thought about too much, because when I deal with people I tend to view them as people, not as points on a gender scale.
Maybe I'm just much more left-brained than most people I know. I get absorbed in my work, and I get absorbed in discussing it with peers, regardless of their ... well, anything. A large part of the time, I don't know if the people I'm talking to in those discussions are male or female or whatnot. Their sex is, frankly irrelevant when it comes to the stuff we're doing. Variety and diversity are good to have, but I don't think humans are so static as to be boring because of a ratio skew. Because they're people. Not genders or sexes.
I'm not "apologetic about my manhood". I'm "someone who treats humans in the same manner unless they give me reason not to, and calls out pointless things when he sees them". I also do not happen to fall very much in line with western male stereotypes. I never have. I was not raised in anything near a home that thought that feminism, particularly the more recent waves of feminism, had any sort of legitimacy, I know about that school of thought, and others that have had influence on me because I read a lot of books as a kid.
Something being sexist doesn't mean that someone is necessarily consciously or purposefully stomping on or belittling some other group of people. It means that there are needless disparities about something based on sex. Thinking that a conference would be better just because it had more women or less women or more men or less men or more hot vapid men or women or more people of sex B for no reason other than because there aren't any there is sexist. "Sausage fest" has pejorative terms. It's normally used to refer to keggers, not hackathons. People who go to keggers at least can know that part of the reason people go to alchohol-fueled parties is to find sexual partners, giving at least a reason for the term. Not hackathons.
There's nothing intrinsic about having a penis and testicles that makes me less of a person if I don't fit into the behavioral profile of the ideal western male. There are 7 billion people, even assuming biological trends in behavior directly linked to sex that are unaffected by cultural pressure, that's more than enough for it to be ridiculous to try to shove all of any group of people into an absolutist box, and tell them they sound like they feel sorry about some intrinsic thing about them.
If you're getting bored just because someone with different jibbly bits isn't around, I would suggest finding something that isn't so boring to do. The world's a fascinating place.
I see what you mean though. Increasingly, there are a lot of professional women in these things. Might be a tad insulting.
Eventually, they'll have to start hiring stud muffins to compensate I guess!
Sure, that's being (heterosexual) male, but you are making the same assumption as the original event-planners did: all of our attendees will be male. There is nothing in the subject material of the event (their API discussion or whatever) that would interest a female.
This is the thinking that strikes me as sexist: all developers are male, so we only need to appeal to males to make our events appealing.
... right up until the line where they suggest that having female serving staff bring you beer while you code is another perk, on the same level as those others. At which point you reassess the massages and gym-passes in the context of this new information and realise that there might be a totally different vibe to this event than the cupcakes-and-chocolate-with-access-to-a-gym-to-burn-off-the-excess-calories-and-a-nice-massage-at-the-end-of-the-day a female coder might have, up until that point, been imagining...
Seriously, take out the sexism, and I think they were well on their way to figuring out the recipe for creating an event with cross-gender appeal.
Just don't do things that explicitly cater to "FOO" if your intentions are not to explicitly cater to group "FOO", particularly if those things include offering up people of group "BAR" as an incentive to come.
Should you do things to make your hackathon appealing to programmers? Yes. These things are food, drinks, subject matter/activities and socialization with other programmers. Food and drinks appeal to humans, and you don't want a bunch of people having heatstrokes or diabetic comas. Subject matter/activities and other programmers being there to socialize with appeal to programmers. Pretty much all programmers who would want to attend a hackathon.
This made it clearer: that line is not addressing women, it's addressing the event attendees and listing "Women" as one of the perks, because "friendly (female) event staff" get beers for the attendees. It's difficult to believe how a company can offer up "women" as a 'perk', and not expect the reaction that followed.
On a completely different note: it's extremely annoying having to hunt down links when they have exactly the same styling as the surrounding text, like in the Cloudmine blog. 
Yes - and many people are going to see this as a good thing (and some won't). I think the best route is to never include any references to gender, (or race, or any hot button issue) in any of your promotional material, slides, talks or whatever. Even if it's intended as light-hearted humor.
In many (most?) cultures, sexist comments are still _far_ more socially acceptable than racist comments. Look at dumb blonde jokes; distasteful and offensive, but many people are willing to make them in public; substitute an ethnic minority for the 'dumb blonde' and you'd find that far, far fewer people would be willing to make them.
You see the same with casual homophobia; it's not socially acceptable, but it's far, far less shocking than racism.
Just because you wouldn't be offended by something doesn't mean lots of other people aren't, or that your harmless and thoughtless jokes aren't deeply offensive and repugnant for historical reasons you possibly haven't considered.
I must have missed this entire story, but is this really a line that people are upset over?
Can someone explain why? Maybe I'm not reading into it enough or there is some missing context? To me it seems like they're just saying another female will get them a beer if they want one. How is that offensive?
I still question whether this is offensive to myself. Compared to the ads I hear on the radio and TV for local clubs and bars and how they're touting their female attendance or "hot bar tenders" as a reason to come, this seems relatively tame to that...
This is often a gedanken experiment that's often as distracting as it is illumination, but (assuming you're a straight man), imagine that 90% of programmers are gay or bisexual, and that one of the few hackathons available to you advertises itself by promising that "beefcake hunks" will fetch you drinks (which is just a couple of points down from the "massage" perk). Would that change your perception of the expected atmosphere of the hackathon?
However, this event was targeted at the tech community. You know, the scary wimminz can program too. The implication of it being an all-male event is perhaps more worrying than the objectification.
I see three different kinds of cases:
1) You do something that has a consequence that you didn't intend and you immediately regret it, like spilling coffee on someone.
2) You say or do something that you don't find offensive until you realize that the other person has a reason to be offended ("my mother is a redhead, you know!")
3) You say or do something you don't find offensive, but the other person does.
Now for #1, the apology will be sincere and it's easy to offer. With #2 it's harder but still possible but if like #3 you basically don't think you did anything wrong but just think the other party is uptight or over sensitive, it doesn't really make any sense to make an apology. People do all the time obviously and it can be the only way to move forward.
* An apology is not something you "say";
it is a *commitment* to the following:
1) You explain that you understand the situation you
produced and why you did it.
2) You understand how it harmed the other party.
3) You explain how you will prevent it happening again.
Sqoot seems to have failed on all 3 requirements and so their commitment is worthless. For the most part, they merely described what happened, which everyone already knew.
Are people upset with the objectification of women, or the assumption that women wouldn't be participants and aren't the audience of that flyer?
You need to know what the offensive issue is before you can apologize and correct it.
Does the apology go more "We're sorry we contributed to the objectification of a group of people, treating them not as an intelligent whole, but simply as a pretty object to be admired, like a piece of art, while the others work."
Or should it be along the lines of "We're sorry we made women feel excluded by targeting solely men in our advertisement, perpetuating the idea that we don't expect women to be participants in the tech event."
To me, I think the latter issue is the major one to be solved. It's something that can be easily corrected, and is specific to the tech industry (and other male-dominated fields).
I reject the idea that the two issues can be conflated, that the very practice of objectification is what makes women feel unwelcome. (Correct me if I'm wrong?) My internal counterexample I'm using is how I'd feel if the flyer offered as a perk "Men: Tired from your long hack-a-thon? Have our hot, muscled men bring you a refreshment or carry you to the lounge area to take a power nap." It's human nature to enjoy attractive people, landscapes, art, etc, and I, as a man, don't feel worse off knowing that women might enjoy ogling attractive men.
What does this reflect? Simply that objectification has much more of an effect when the group being objectified is not the dominant or majority one. Sure you don't care if men are being objectified, but you very well might if you were an ethnic minority and you've been enduring overt or subtle racism all your life. It's the same with women, who in many places still put up with objectification and obviously don't like it.
I'd imagine a little from column A, a little from column B. Both are offensive, especially in the context of the ongoing issues with sexism in tech.
I'd also love to see a company's apology where the 'how we will fix it' statement is "I shall be entering rehab tomorrow morning"
I wonder though whether over time this kind of understanding is just going to become a formula or best practice that ends up being handled by a PR department.
If it does, then how will we detect an authentic apology from a formulaic one?
But for small companies the founder's bias just comes right through. If the founder isn't really apologetic they will end up writing a half-apology, even if they know this formula. The formula really requires you to own up to the full responsibility and sometimes the founders don't want to.
The point is that over time this makes the apology itself moot.
A bit like the call centers which effusively state "I'd be more than happy to help you with that" after each thing you say to them.
It works amazingly well in practice. Basically, people appreciate when you're honest about your mistakes because they make them too. I've had more than one of my engineers say that they respected me more by admitting fault.
And for those that don't appreciate the honesty? Well, you can't please everyone. I just don't worry about them because there are too few hours in the day to care about it.
I grew up on Hara-Kiri, Reiser, Vuillemin and co, and later Derek and Clive. They are all way, way more offensive, but they are really funny and also quite aware that they are going to piss people off.
What I find disturbing in both the joke and the apology is the surprise that people would get upset. Basically that's it's perfectly normal.
That doesn't sound very honest, and I thought the post was about being honest while apologizing. I think quoting the offensive line shows spunk. One could easily argue that not citing it and hiding behind vague words like "something stupid and sexist" will offend people.
Step one .. realise what you've done wrong.
Step two .. don't do it again.
Oh right, I can't say that I like chicks.