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We Can Do Better: An Apology from Sqoot (sqoot.com)
33 points by ElliotH on Mar 21, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 71 comments

Second comment puts it perfectly: "Could you please explain how your "humor" was designed to call attention to the male-dominated world and was intended to be inclusive? How is inclusive to say that one of the perks were "women" and that one of your female event staff can fetch the boys some beer?"

Claiming humorous irony is a very thin get-out clause in this kind of situation. You can't say "we were advertising our female beer-fetchers to ironically draw attention to the male-dominated programming field, thus showing solidarity with women." It just doesn't hold water.

For your own sakes, guys, grit your teeth, bite down on a piece of leather or something, and write a real apology. This is so close! I know you can get the last 5% of the way!

What is the big deal. People get way to offended this day in age. It's almost as if people are waiting for someone to say something offensive just so they can jump on it acting all high and mighty.

Sexism (specifically in tech) is the new racism. If you go down that path of anything remotely sexist, expect to be torn to shreds just as quickly as if you made a racist remark. If people didn't get offended, then people like Sqoot will feel like it's totally OK to belittle women, even if they would never think to include racist jokes.

Actually that's the funny part, this "joke" was in no way belittling women, it's idolizing them. It was made at the expense of the stereotypical male geek to whom women are otherwise inaccessible. Somehow it was appropriated as being about the female attendees.

Having/Wanting someone to serve you is not "idolizing".

And as said elsewhere, just because you say shitty things about everyone doesn't mean that it's okay to say shitty things.

> Having/Wanting someone to serve you is not "idolizing".

Is that the point of contention, that people feel that serving someone is demeaning?

> And as said elsewhere, just because you say shitty things about everyone doesn't mean that it's okay to say shitty things.

So you agree that the comment wasn't slighting women? Or are you just generally offended by all the possible interpretations?

Yes... it's idolizing women... as sexual objects offered as a perk to male coders so that they can serve the men.

As a female coder, I'd rather not be offered as a perk to male coders. So, yeah, this is belittling.

It wasn't directed at the female attendees at all. Here's how it was meant:

"Hey lonely geeks: you will have the chance to meet women there because our catering staff is female."

Did you interpret it as though they were planning to force the female attendees to serve the male attendees beer?


No. You are wrong. The original flyer was clearly offering a perk of women delivering beer. The perk is first named "Women:" and then described "Need another beer? Let one of our friendly (female) staff get that for you." That first word "women:" is not aimed at a female audience. It's aimed at a male audience. It's clumsily using stereotypes of programmers as mostly single males. That's pretty offensive in itself.

Thank you. I had trouble finding the original advert and I thought that sentence was the entire ad. When I finally found it, I came back and deleted my posts. Sorry about that.

You weren't being offered as a perk to male coders though. Other women were not even "being offered".

Saying that women will be serving beer has nothing to do with the act of sex. If you think so, then you're reading way too far into it.

Can you honestly not see how telling a bunch of men that they will be served by friendly female staff is appealing to sexual desire?

I'm not sure why you say that other women were not being offered.

Here's the item in the list of perks.

"Women: Need another beer? Let one of our friendly (female) staff get that for you.""

Sorry for replying three times but after talking about it with my wife for a couple of hours, we both agree...this is an absolute over-reaction and a projection of women's general frustration onto a non-issue.

It would be like men getting angry that there are entire trade shows that exclude men, such as this one - http://peters.patch.com/articles/annual-fashion-show-benefit...

I'll try to respond to some of your points in this one answer.

You're right, sex wasn't being offered. I was trying to show how specifically mentioning the sex of the servers, in a list of perks, was a shoddy move. It plays to traditional stereotypes of male programmers as lonely losers, and it puts women firmly in the role of subservient to men; not good enough to be there as participants. It's lazy and stupid. It's not as if "treat people with respect"; "don't discriminate against people based on their age, sex, sexual preference, race, or ability"[1] are new concepts.

You mention a mixer, where men and women can meet. (We'll assume "people can meet" because we're not being hetero-normative.) With your mixer it's going to be a social function. Men turn up, women turn up, people meet and talk. There'll be other people working there. People serving the drinks, for example. So, you have one group (the people meeting each other, who are different sexes but on an equal[2] footing) and the people serving (who are different sexes, and who are on an equal footing with their colleagues; subservient to the meeting group, but because they are employees and not because they are women.)

You can see that it's different for work or for professional situations. When you're working in an industry that's trying to attract a more diverse workforce you need to try harder not to exclude people.

You mention an event that excludes men. Ignoring the male children that will be helped by that function, you're right, it does seem aimed only at women. But no-one is saying that there are not enough men working in the fashion industry. And there are strong socio-economic factors that mean women with children are more likely to need help than men. (Although I do hope that group considers changing their mandate to include "men and children" too.)

You mention places like "Hooters". In my opinion these places are horrific. I'd feel very uncomfortable if I had a daughter and she worked somewhere like that. But, they are legal, and if people are able to make an informed choice to work there and people are happy to pay money to go there then who am I to judge them or stop them? These are specialised services; they are a niche. There's a big difference between Hooters (who aim at that market; they don't care if women are not customers) and a daily deal API firm who should be proud to be part of the modern inclusive world.

Finally, you say:

> this is an absolute over-reaction and a projection of women's general frustration onto a non-issue.

The over-reaction comes because some people just don't get it. It's the 21st century; suffragettes were campaigning for equality more than a hundred years ago. It's definitely an issue - the wording was clumsy and lazy and stupid. The fact that they got jumped on so hard is a good thing - it shows that people actually care about this stuff.

You mention women's general frustration. That's a really important point. Josie Long (she's an English comedian) says it well here. She talks about the general everyday grind of stuff that she has to put up with, just because she's a women, that her male colleagues don't.


[1] In theory you should have religion in there too.

[2] Dating sucks. It sucks for very different reasons for men and women. I understand men who are annoyed or angry or bitter or frustrated at their dating experiences, and I'd probably agree if they said that men and women are not on an equal footing when it comes to dating. I'm handwaving over it.

"... specifically mentioning the sex of the servers, in a list of perks, was a shoddy move."

I disagree. I don't see anything wrong with it for the same reason that there's nothing wrong with advertising that scantily clad women will be walking around at a comics convention.

" It plays to traditional stereotypes of male programmers as lonely losers, and it puts women firmly in the role of subservient to men..."

In your opinion... and you only have that opinion if you actively work to extrapolate that meaning from what was actually said.

"It's lazy and stupid. It's not as if "treat people with respect"; "don't discriminate against people based on their age, sex, sexual preference, race, or ability"[1] are new concepts."

The problem is that in reality, there are differences between men and women, races/cultures and people with differing levels of ability. That you can't accept those differences and are offended by anyone else that addresses them is where the problem comes in.

That you think women are not being treated with respect here is a fault in your own understanding. There's simply nothing wrong with targeted advertising.

"She talks about the general everyday grind of stuff that she has to put up with, just because she's a women, that her male colleagues don't."

Right, but projecting those frustrations onto something completely harmless is still wrong.

Also, as if to put an exclamation point on this conversation... my company is moving it's office this week and guess who didn't have to do any of the work of moving or disassembling our furniture or other hardware?

I don't hear men complaining about always being targeted for this kind of work. I'm not complaining either, I just happened to remember our conversation as I was lugging our office stuff around. I really don't mind it when a woman says "Oh, I need a big strong guy like you to do X", even when the woman in question could probably handle it herself if she really tried.

Complaining about something like that would just be a waste of time and emotional energy, besides the fact that there's really no need to complain at all if you acknowledge that "equality" is a fiction.

The women themselves were not being offered. Serving of beer by women was being offered. The chance to meet a woman was being offered. Nobody was offering sex with a woman or any kind of woman sex slave.

If I advertise a mixer where men and women can meet each other, does anyone have a problem with that? I don't think so.

Should we all get mad at Hooters or Chipendales next?

(EDIT: Seriously, do you really think that men should be offended that Chipendales exists? Why?)

Also, I'd like to know... what's wrong with appealing to sexual desire?

The women were not being offered as chattel. There's nothing wrong with sex.

You really have to work to be offended by this one. Well, maybe you don't, but it certainly defies logic unless you read into it, which you are most certainly doing because the words themselves don't really back you up.

Or there is a legimate problem here?

I personally don't think so. Everyone knows that Hackathons are widely male dominated. Yes, the comment was a little out of line in a professional content, but forgive them for trying to crack some humour and have some fun with their ad. Have we become so politically correct that we can't let this slide?

@rmc: Do you honestly believe that Sqoot is sexist because of that one joke? That they look down on women, and think they shouldn't be working in the industry? Really?

EDIT: I reread it, and I think the major issue was listing 'women' as a perk, instead of something like 'beer'. Definitely out of line, but again, they should be allowed to make up for it.

I think the argument that it was a joke is hard to swallow. It doesn't even approach humor to me. A commenter on the apology got it right:

> From the original press release it sounded like you were just trying to throw a party with "hot waitresses serving drinks"

I'm not rmc and I won't answer for him, but I'll answer your queries from my own point of view.

Do I believe that they're sexist because of that one statement? Yes, I do, absolutely, but: does that imply that I think that "they look down on women, and think they shouldn't be working in the industry?" No, I don't believe their sexism is of that sort.

I think that most sexism in the US today is significantly more subtle than an outright looking down on women. In this case, its subtlety makes it all the more pernicious: it's harder to spot (even in one's self), it's harder to call out, it's easier to excuse. Saying women are trash will make you into a pariah, and no one will patronize your business. But what does a much smaller objectification of women, like this case, do? It has a chilling effect and it normalizes similar behavior; it contributes to the culture of sexism.

Are statements ("jokes") with such negative effects acceptable? It's hard to argue that they are, and so it seems to me that the argument in defense must be that the statement doesn't have those effects. And I think from the backlash, well written comments on the apology, etc--I think that's a steep hill to climb.

As for them personally: I don't think it should be judged that they're bad people. Maybe they are, maybe they aren't. I don't know. Are they sexist? I said they were, absolutely, because their behavior was, which they're culpable for. So they're sexist even if only partially and unconsciously. I'll give them that benefit of the doubt, so it's an offense, but it's a forgivable offense. There's a lot of sexism around. I've been guilty of sexist behavior in the past, and I'm sure I'll be guilty of it in the future.

That's what happens when it's ingrained in culture and remains normal behavior. And that's what happens when statements like this are allowed to slide. We do things without knowing their full weight, meaning, and impact. And then we learn, and we adjust. And most importantly, through adjusting our behavior we introspect to the causes, and so learn more about ourselves and our world, and what makes it all tick, so that we can eliminate that which doesn't live up to our ideals.

You do make a really good point, and I definitely do agree with you. I just feel like people overreacted, almost like they jumped on the holier-than-thou bandwagon. When you consider events like CES and that one Yahoo Hack Day which employed strippers, this isn't nearly as offensive.

Again, I definitely do see what you mean by it contributing to the culture of sexist, and that simply isn't acceptable. However, I feel like the sponsors, etc should have given Sqoot a chance to fix things before they resorted to the moves they did.

Yes hackathons etc. are male dominated. No-one's saying they aren't.

The question is should they be this way, and if they should not be, what can we do to make things the way we want them to be like.

Things can be funny and sexist at the same time. Humour doesn't exclude any and all behaviour that someone wants it to. Sometimes the fact that it's funny is the sexist part, as in, the fact that 'humour' is used an excuse can be a symptom of sexism. It would be rare and mostly unacceptable for a bigwig businessman to do a black face show (à la an episode of Mad Men) and then claim "hey I was only being funny".

A thing might be funny for some people (e.g. straight male hackers), and be off-putting for others. If the others are the people who you think should be participating more (e.g. women hackers), then you might have found the reason why the world isn't the way we want it to be (i.e. this might be why hackathons are male dominated).

There's no reason it couldn't be both. There does appear to be a legitimate problem; but some people are also eager for any opportunity to scream "sexism" or "discrimination" and start jumping up and down looking for attention.

One can be cognizant of the real issues and want to find solutions to them, without worshiping at the altar of Political Correctness.

Women - did you know that on golf courses the attendant who serves you beer is commonly referred to as a beer girl? Did you know that it describes the attendant perfectly because she is in fact a girl who is serving beer.

What if, the attendants at the hackathon were in fact an all lady staff?

I don't think that the backlash would have been as strong if they had mentioned it in the way that you are suggesting. But they listed Women in a bulleted list of perks next to food. It is 100% objectification.

she is in fact a girl who is serving beer.

I didn't think many golf courses could employ children.

Unless you're trying to belittle adult women by calling them childish names. This has been done many times, e.g. the old habit of white men calling black adult men (before & after slavery) "boy".

I'm obviously the minority here but I feel that this backlash is way over the top. Sure, the comment was sort of stupid and shouldn't be a part of any official communication from a company (although part of what I love about startups is that the communication is more human and doesn't feel like it's been screened by legal and marketing before published).

To me, it pokes more fun at geeks than anyone else. "A real woman!" The idea that the underlying message is that women are supposed to be servants to men and that's all they are good for is imo quite a stretch. Does anybody really believe that they meant something like that?

Looking past the "women servants" message there's the implication that "developers are men, and we'll have women there to serve them beer."

DO you think a female developer would feel welcomed by that message?

The servants bit is a joke, the unspoken assumption that devs are men is the insidious poison.

Even if it did mock geeks, how does that excuse the dehumanization of women? Just because you're saying shitty things about everyone doesn't mean it's okay that you're saying shitty things.

This is how I see it: claiming that A can "dehumanize" B implies that A is over B somehow.

I find your statement and the like elsewhere in this discussion ("Women are not a perk!" etc.) more demeaning and patronizing that the original line. Women are not weak souls who need protection from evil sexist geeks.

/me grins.

You're backing yourself into a corner rhetorically here.

I'm not (just) white knighting here to defend all the poor helpless ladies. I am actually offended and disheartened by the comments. The things that Sqoot said makes me not want to be part of the community they belong to.

Secondly, the ladies have been more than capable of communicating that they felt this was demeaning. This isn't smoke without fire.

Here's the thing. Sqoot are obviously dumb kids, because the ad for the event was clearly written in dumb-kid-speak. I have hope that they do grow and learn from this experience, and they better understand that they should be more mindful not to be jerks to others.

What I genuinely can't abide (either rhetorically or ethically) are the mealy-mouthed defenses of Sqoot's writing.

What they did was not okay, there's really no justification of it. And to their credit they have tried to apologize. I'm still not convinced that they have (yet) internalized why everyone is upset at them, and I think that's why the controversy has continued.

But the fact that you are willing to accuse others of being more demeaning than Sqoot simply because they are explaining their grievances is mega-weak. I hope you too grow and at some point come regret the defense of Sqoot's behavior you have offered here.

I think the underlying message is that only male geeks would ever go to a hackathon.

I don't undertand why people are intent on burying these guys for a poorly written flier with one mildly misogynistic joke in bad taste. The whole sanctimonious/lynch mob mentality of this reminds me a lot of reddit.

There is so little of substance to be angry about here that people are now more interested in criticizing the quality of their apology. I think they've learned their lesson.

I would disagree: I think there is a point. The issue isn't necessarily the wording of the joke or semantics in the apology. It's this idea that the entire tech community is male and should be treated as such. It's not about this being politically correct or agreeable, it's about the attitude being insular. In my opinion, it would have been fine if they had said something similar, yet gender-neutral. Comments can be sexy without being sexist.

There are a couple forces at work here.

First, the tech/hacker world tends to be male-dominated, which creates a male-oriented culture, which reciprocally draws more men, and the cycle continues. We want to break that cycle, and a good way to do that is to snap at the heels of people (like Sqoot) who are slow to get with the program. Overall, this sort of admonishment improves the community. I'm glad it's happening.

Second, anyone who has first-hand seen or experienced being subjected to this type of offensive comments will almost certainly have an emotional interest in the matter. It feels pretty good to watch someone burn at the stake, especially when day in and day out you watch others get away with making similar comments. Just scroll through the comments on Sqoot's apology and you'll find some pretty visceral remarks.

The problem is, it may feel good but it doesn't help. Here's why: As blatantly offensive as the original comment was, it wasn't written with the intent of bashing women -- it was just plain insensitive. Grossly insensitive and very hurtful? Yes. But there's an important difference between being insensitive and being malicious.

Why does it matter? Because if you truly have the goal of improving the community, insensitive/ignorant behavior needs to be met with education. Otherwise, all we get is an "Us vs. Them" mentality, which leads me to the third force at work here: defensiveness.

Sqoot's initial apology, along with many of the comments on this new one, reek of defensiveness. It's easy to see why: those people are most likely just as oblivious as Sqoot, and they see themselves in Sqoot's behavior. Don't alienate those people and don't put them on the defensive by being overly harsh on Sqoot. That pushes people away from the conversation -- the very people who most need to be educated.

There needs to be a clear distinction between Sqoot's words (not tolerated) and Sqoot's mistake (mistakes must be tolerated).

There is another aspect of the apology that seems to be forgotten around here. Forgiveness.

Yes, maybe they screwed up (I screw up more by 7am than most people do all day), but when someone apologizes the decent thing to do is accept it and move on with your life (and let them do the same).

I was wondering about this as well. I did think that the advertisement was sexist and made the hackathon seem exclusive to men. I don't know whether this incident was just an isolated bonehead move or it reveals incorrigible bad character in the people involved. I can see it either way depending on how I stare at it, but I don't believe I have enough data to make a firm conclusion. I don't have a pressing need to do so, so I will probably just leave the question unresolved in my mind. But for the people that have made firm conclusions, it seems like the apologies make no difference.

I would ask people that are unsatisfied by Sqoot's apologies: Could they issue any apology that would satisfy you?

We are supposedly talking about how to apologize and whether they can/should offer a better apology. But if nothing can change one's mind then we are really talking about whether the offense is forgivable or not, irrespective of the content of the apology.

Yes, a decent apology needs to show some awareness of why exactly what they did was wrong. A decent apology needs to show a little bit of soul searching, and that they understand where people who were offended were coming from.

People need to fucking lighten up. I would not have said what they said on the site, but it really was a stupid joke.

Everyone jumps to conclusions that we're all a bunch of misogynistic assholes. The problem is, you can't understand someone over the internet. You can't understand someone's apology or who they are or any of that. Worse, the majority of these people calling this issue out online would NEVER confront squoot in real life and raise these points. I make rude/crude/evil jokes to people all the time. Especially women friends of mine. But it's all in the spirit of being cocky/funny, and they love it.

Do I believe men and women were created equally? Yes. Do I believe a woman should be able to do whatever the fuck she wants in this world, be it fighting fires or curing AIDS? Yes. Do I feel bad that my sister is hurt by dickwad ex boyfriends out there who lower her self esteem. Yes. Do I have 3 little sisters and hope they all grow up to be strong and independent individuals? Yes. But there ARE certain gender roles in this world, influenced not just by our society but by many, many things. Testosterone? Yeah, I have a lot more than most women. Why? I have a penis. We're different. We joke differently, we think differently. We need to appreciate each other for who we are. Part of that is realizing each others faults as well. If a bunch of girls started a hackathon and listed one of the items as "$1 to the community bucket for whoever doesn't put the seat down", I think I'd laugh at that (maybe a bad example).

For the most part men and women are aware of their stereotypical flaws. Search for "Shit girls say" on youtube and admire the view count. I don't know a single girl who didn't completely piss her pants watching that. Sure, there are things that people should not say/do regarding women. For example, I'd beat the shit out of ANY guy I ever met who ever made even the slightest joke about rape.

But then there are other things, like the stuff Sqoot said on their event page. Psh, just a harmless JOKE. Pick your battles people.

Ugh. I'm ranting. This whole thing is just stupid though. Everyone needs to relax.

I'm sure on many counts you are absolutely right.

However there is a HUGE difference between what I say in person and what I put in a a public invitation.

In isolation its "just a harmless JOKE" but it is not in isolation in the tech scene. There is a long list of this behavior that makes this industry uninviting (and in some rarer cases just damn hostile) to women.

I think in Startup culture we appreciate that its all in the nuance and little details when it comes to success.

Small things like this add up. I'd argue that it is in dealing with matter incidents like this that we make a larger change in the long run.

As for "Everyone needs to relax"... I have two daughters. When I don't have to read about people like Sqoot then I'll relax.

> People need to fucking lighten up.

>But then there are other things, like the stuff Sqoot said on their event page. Psh, just a harmless JOKE. Pick your battles people.

I have a lot of problems with your rant, but I wanted to respond to these in particular.

When I saw their flyer, it didn't read as a joke. It read as “One good reason to attend this event is that there will be women there who we're paying to serve you beer.” I guess I might have missed something, but this sounds like it was something they planned to do. So, not a joke.

What does this tell me? The target audience for this event is men. Of course others can come, but really it caters to men.

Why is that a problem? Because the development community has historically been dominated by men, and has various cultural elements that are not very welcoming toward women. So then to put on a prominent hackathon, and explicitly say “Hey, and really this for the men out there” is a problem for me.

Your comment reads to me like you're saying that you're okay with believing in stereotypes about women [and men], and that you don't see any problem with maintaining rigid gender roles. This to me, is not congruous with the statement that you believe in equality.

> The problem is, you can't understand someone over the internet.

This is true, and that's why one should go out of their way to be welcoming to all-comers when promoting an event like this. There are things you can say to your friends that are not appropriate to say in a professional or more-public setting, because people have no way of knowing whether you're joking or just an asshole.

> Do I believe a woman should be able to do whatever the fuck she wants in this world, be it fighting fires or curing AIDS? Yes.

One of the things that would prevent your sister from doing that is misogynistic cultures in the [fire/AIDS/bug]-fighting community. Who wants to pursue a career in an environment where they're not welcome, or treated as second-class citizens? This is the reason people are reacting so strongly to this.

> For the most part men and women are aware of their stereotypical flaws. Search for "Shit girls say" on youtube and admire the view count. I don't know a single girl who didn't completely piss her pants watching that.

The thing is, not all men and women have the same flaws. Stereotypes tell us they do, but that isn't true. And there are plenty of people [1] who thought shit girls say was sexist (including me.) The reason I think it's sexist is because it portrays basically one way for women to be, and perpetuates the idea (while not outright saying it) that all women are like that.

[1]: https://www.google.com/search?q=%22shit+girls+say%22+sexist

> Everyone jumps to conclusions that we're all a bunch of misogynistic assholes

No, the conclusion was that was some sexist shit, and it's part of a much larger problem, and all of it needs to fucking stop.

Here's a thought, maybe listen to a real, live woman's perspective on things before you speak: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3736037

What exactly was sexist about what they did?

"""Women: Need another beer? Let one of our friendly (female) event staff get that for you."""

Perhaps the quote is missing context, I found it here: http://philomousos.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/how-to-apologize.h...

To me it doesn't even make sense. What is this 'Women:' bit about?

If you discount the 'Women colon' I think if anything it offends programmers. Are we really so geeky that we would go to an event just to get a beer from 'female' event staff?

Perhaps they think their audience is locked in some underground lair 364 days of the year and women have become nothing but a mythical creature to a programmer. The promise of seeing this rare and mysterious creature serve beer would make someone like me want to go? I think not.

There are 3 things that bug me about this.

1) The quote makes no sense and if you try to rationalise it attendees should be most offended.

2) People have got into such a kerfuffle which in scheme of things shows the inexperience of the hosts rather than their malace.

3) The event might not go ahead at all because of this... which seems like a bit of a shame.

This looks like a storm in the tea cup brewed by people who don't get out enough.

> What exactly was sexist about what they did?

I came here looking for the standard, oblivious, "Hey, what's so sexist about being completely sexist?" comment.

As usual, HN did not disappoint.

So let me explain:

"Women" are not a perk. Women are humans with as much value to contribute to software development as men. To list them as a "perk" and to relegate them to a service role minimizes women in two ways beyond the obvious, gross objectification:

First, by saying "hey, all women are good for at this event is serving beer."

Second, and much more toxic, listing women as a perk reveals the unspoken understanding that heterosexual males are the intended audience for the event and that anyone else is secondary.

> I think if anything it offends programmers.

But yeah, by all means, muster up some indignation for all the poor, privileged, over-represented men who should be offended by this.

I definitely agree with you, but I think men should be offended by this! What many heterosexual men don't seem to get is that sexism against women usually hurts them too. TV commercials that treat women as objects are usually also sending the message that men are drooling hormonal morons. If a sitcom wife is portrayed as a shrieking harpy, she's usually berating the dopey, inept man who screwed everything up.

It's bad for all of us. Sexism (or any -ism) is a net negative for anyone who values the intellectual growth of society, regardless of sex, gender, or orientation.

pfft... like I said "What is this 'Women:' bit about?"

I didn't realise that they had listed women explicity as a perk. I just thought it was a bad bit of copy. I didn't see their original site and as it has now been taken down.

I thought they had listed it in a less obvious way noting the servers would be women to bait males to attend.

Perhaps this is a bit more than a kerfuffle then.

While what they wrote turned out to be sexist I don't think at all this was there intention. They fell into the trap of sterotyping their audience. If your a hacker your probably a pale introvert with little access to women. The trouble is a hacker/programmer/whatever is just a job title. The people who do these jobs have variety personalities and genitals.

If anything they misunderstood their audience which is a shame really and managed to generate some copy that could offend just about everyone.

Are you serious? "Generate some copy?" Copy doesn't just appear out of nowhere. Someone wrote that, and meant to write that, you're kidding yourself if you think they didn't.

I have no idea what you are on about to be honest.

Surely in this context generate == produce. I don't really get how you could take what I wrote as 'these guys made content "magically appear" in their event description'.

In context, the "Women:" part denoted the title of a perk in a bulleted list of perks, which absolutely makes this more offensive. The idea that you would put "Women" in the same list of perks as "Food", especially in a widely public way, is sort of mindblowing.

After food, shelter and possibly respect from one's tribe, women are probably next on the hierarchy of needs for most men. Interestingly, even women tend to prefer looking at beautiful female forms to beautiful male forms.

This isn't the kind of language that should be used by an event trying to attract female participants, but on the other hand I don't think many men would object to being listed as a "perk" at an event for elementary school teachers, flight attendants or some other female-dominated field. There certainly wouldn't have been a lynch-mob reaction as there was in this case.

The real world is asymmetric... and that holds for every human culture.

The difference between your conceptual examples and what has happened here in reality is in part a matter of history. There is the history of women being objectified to promote and sell things, and the better part of society has decided that this history is in poor taste and is something to rise above, especially for a professionally affiliated event. There is no comparable history for men, and any event objectifying them as a promotion would clearly be seen as being tongue in cheek - the kind of joke the backpedaling event organizers here would like to be seen as having made, but one that cannot be made honestly in such a straightforward way because of the asymmetry of the social treatment of women and men historically. You might think it would be nice to make a clean break from this history, but it will never be as simple as everyone suddenly agreeing to clear off the scoreboard and start from scratch.

Actually, I think you may have misinterpreted me. It's not simply a matter of history or culture. There will be a greater market for looking at attractive females than for attractive males in the greater human culture until we have the ability and the will to re-engineer our biology. I would be very surprised if any level of condemning men and/or other social manipulation changes this in our lifetimes.

Sex sells. While there are good reasons for restrictions in many situations, the successful strategy will be to walk up to the line of what's acceptable, whether that is booth babes or simply having attractive people (particularly women) in PR and advertising materials. This isn't an ideal situation, but unfortunately we don't live in an ideal world.

I can respect people who wish we were built to value competence or altruism like this instead of sex. It's very hard to make progress without addressing reality, though. One of the more unfortunate things about political fads is that they make it difficult for people to even discuss issues. It's far easier to write-off, downmod or brand dissenting opinions as immoral, heretical, communist, sexist, divisive, etc... than it is to really probe them.

The "women:" bit is a listed perk.

   * Women (who will serve you beer)
The people at Sqoot really need to learn better writing - their listing on EventBrite was full of typos.

I don't think the quality of their writing is the problem. Their "apology" comes across as the same kind of apology a child gives when their parent forces them to apologise for something, but they don't really think what they did was wrong. But hey, nobody can complain anymore because they apologised, right?

And your suggestion is that they say or do nothing until they believe all the same things you believe? Sometimes people have a real disagreement or contention.

I think there is some value to "I'm sorry that upset you" -- obviously the apologizer is not sorry that the thing was done, but they are indicating they did not mean it maliciously.

2) If you're putting on an event where you have paying sponsors, "inexperience" is a pretty lame excuse. If you're going to play in the big leagues, you get held up to the standards of professionalism of the big leagues. As far as i'm concerned, they're being accorded the appropriate level of respect & deference.

"(female) event staff get it for you" == "They're less likely to dose it with roofies than a man would be."

> we used language that we now realize was reckless and hurt efforts to diversify gender in tech.

Hurting gender diversity isn't the issue. That's a consequence of being a jerk. The problem with being a jerk, is being a jerk.

This kind of attitude SERIOUSLY hurts the industry as a whole. Two of the very best programmers I know are women, and blatantly sexist remarks are not the way to get good programmers to attend your event. In fact, why would you even want people who are drawn towards those kinds of perks ANYWAY? Whoever came for the perks of "women" are obviously not the kind of people that you want to associate with. This type of attitude (I remember reading an article about "brogrammers" on HN too) is not acceptable in the hacker community.

For those who don`t think this is offensive: Replace Women/Female with an ethnic minority (e.g. Japanese, Hispanic) of your choice, and then think about how someone of that background would feel reading that message. Then try it with other minorities - lesbian or deaf people, for example.

Yes, it's blown up. Proportionally? I don't know.

A lot of the people who are saying "get over it guys, this really isn't that bad" are the people who've never had to face continual prejudice regarding their coding abilities or competence because of their genetics. It's difficult to understand the perspective of a woman in tech unless you're experienced that. When you've been receiving subtle indicators that "you're not really part of this club", this sort of message can sting quite a bit.

To all the straight men here who can't see what the original problem with including "Women who bring you beer" as perk, let me give you a little thought experiment.

Imagine instead all the gendered terms were swapped in the original post, and it read something like this:


* Men. Need another beer? Let one of our friendly (male) event staff get that for you.

You hardly ever see that, and if you're used to the programmer culture, when you read that you might mentally stumble and feel weird. Would you like to go to an event like that? If you went, how do you think people would treat you. This is what the subtle sexism feels like.

People do realize that this is an apology right? You do realize that they did this twice right?

Why in the world can't be just accept it and move on. It literally boggles the mind that people ARE STILL OFFENDED after an apology.

Get over it! Geez...

An apology is nice. They wrote a good one too.

However you do not have to accept an apology.

They wrote two apologies. Their first one was pretty terrible and did not show that they had actually processed why what they did was so offensive.

Their second apology was a bit better. But they claimed that their comment was "aimed to call attention to the male-dominated tech world through humor and intended to be inclusive."

Do they honestly expect us to believe that their comment was designed to be inclusive, so that's why they offered women serving male coders as a perk? (And this isn't just me reading into it. That's very literally what they said.)

I would have much more respect if they just came out and said that, in an attempt humor, they had made immature and sexist remarks and that they understand that their comment was harmful not only to women, but to non-straight men, and to hacker culture as a whole.

They're embarrassed, and rightfully so, but trying to BS around what they were doing doesn't help. Admit your faults directly and people will be much more forgiving.

Agreed! You've put it much better than I could.

If they really mean what they say, they should work with the women in the NYC startup scene (GirlDevelopIT and others) to launch a new more inclusive event.

this sounds like limbaugh's apology the other day. "sorry that our WORDS made our sponsors mad. we should have used different WORDS." missed the point.

The only thing they're sorry for is the quick, efficient and brutal backlash they were rightfully subjected to. All the "we wanted, we decided, we aimed" self-centered nonsense only solidifies the belief that it's all about them and they're unable or unwilling to understand why people are upset when being known for having a loose atmosphere at their events was what they really wanted in the first place.

And when I mean loose, I'm referring to the immature and douchebag activities best represented in the bro-party video genre. In retrospect, they should've doubled-down on stupid and pitched the event as being just that, instead of employing the guise of a hack-a-thon. Although it would've gone a lot smoother for them, it's obvious they would've failed there as well due to their incompetence, but at least they wouldn't be known as a couple of liars for some time to come.

Oddly enough, this blog post must be hard to find, as their website makes no mention of their catastrophic implosion.

these guys put a godhead on their website apologizing for this ... if you are reading, sqoot, i would advise you actually hire a PR firm experienced in these matters. they'll probably tell you to just go silent for awhile. that would be "good advice"

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