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!
And as said elsewhere, just because you say shitty things about everyone doesn't mean that it's okay to say shitty things.
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?
As a female coder, I'd rather not be offered as a perk to male coders. So, yeah, this is belittling.
"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?
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.
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.""
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...
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" 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 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.
 In theory you should have religion in there too.
 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.
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" 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.
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.
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?)
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.
@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.
> 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.
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.
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).
One can be cognizant of the real issues and want to find solutions to them, without worshiping at the altar of Political Correctness.
What if, the attendants at the hackathon were in fact an all lady staff?
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".
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 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.
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.
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.
>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.
> 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  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.
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
"""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.
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.
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.
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.
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'.
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.
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.
* Women (who will serve you beer)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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...
However you do not have to accept an apology.
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.
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.