Shanley Kane had a legitimate complaint. But tweeting "please take it down, it's fucking gross." isn't really a great way to approach the situation. Don't get me wrong- the response was bad, too- Katz cc-ing Kane's employer later down the thread was a particularly bone-headed move.
The actual root sexism isn't the story here. It's a story about PR, or about making- and dealing with- complaints. Sanz's first reply actually admitted that the video needed to be replaced- if he'd rephrased it to something like "we've taken your views on board and we're going to talk about this in the office tomorrow" that might have been the end of it. But his response was vague and he took Kane's anger personally. Then it all spiraled out of control. I don't think the Geeklist guys are bad guys in the slightest, and I expect we'll see a reply from them soon.
EDIT: I meant "a bad thing [in the tech industry]" rather than an overall bad thing. Apologies for the misunderstanding that ensued.
Nope. They're paid for it, there is nothing illegal about it and I fail to see anything wrong with targeting perceived likes of a segment of the population to move product. In fact, I believe that's what advertising is. I see no difference between a woman in a bikini or a celebrity in an ad.
Ah, Hacker News, where all ethical questions boil down to "were they paid?" and "is it illegal?".
If you can't write a mathematical proof of it, it doesn't exist, and any discussion of it will inevitably lead to a bunch of people arguing semantics.
This site is one of my favorites, but when an article about sexism in the industry hits the front page, I do what I can to avoid the comments. The majority of the time, it will be things like
* "I still have a problem with this notion that simply because women may be fun to look at, that they are objects."
* "I don't think you'll ever be able to take the objectification of women out of society, and I don't know if it's necessary to try - we've seen women begin objectifying men in some capacity in the last seventy-five years or so, and I don't know if that's necessarily an unhealthy thing. Better to let that objectification be out in the open than keep it locked up in your head."
* "I really hope that everyone is as equally offended and quick to point out sexism for every advertisement, television show, and movie featuring a very fit, shirtless man doing a stereotypical "masculine" activity"
If the former, then you are wrong. If the latter, I'm not sure what you're trying to add to the conversation.
*'Higher' in this case interpreted as "more positive" or "more virtious".
As long as consumers choose to us services that monetize primarily on ads, (Facebook, Google, et. Al), I say game on. I may not personally agree on a style basis, but focusing on the morality of a business model seems like a way better time sync than trying to get everyone to capitulate to your opinions.
The reason for this is obvious: they have NO INTENTION to take the video down, and will do anything they can to stop criticism. Classical Trolling.
The appropriate response would have been:
"We are sorry for this, and did not realize the sexism portrayed, we will begin work asap to move away from such advertising."
That would have been the end of the conversation. And would have boosted their cred if anything.
Trolls don't try to stop criticism. Trolls like upsetting people.
Agreed. I'm kind of amazed how far it went. Regardless of if you think she was in the right or wrong in her arguments, Kane stayed reasonably on target with her comments while Sanz & co hung themselves.
At some point in time you have to throw a bucket of water on the situation instead of letting it turn into a wildfire. Even if it didn't necessarily start as a PR or customer support issue, it quickly became one, and you kind of have to recognize when that happens. Especially when you're talking about issues relating your company to people on something like twitter (i.e., a super public place where your words have some permanence and reach).
Why is it a bad thing? Have you taken the time to talk to some of the women who appear in these ads? They may have a bigger problem with your labeling them as "advertising objects" than them appearing scantily-clad.
It's quite likely that the models in the ads have no objection to what's going on- clearly, they chose to get into the industry. But that's not really the point- there is such a thing as being aware of your environment, and the tech industry has started making real efforts to be more inclusive. If you don't pay attention to this kind of stuff you're going to get a backlash.
Are you saying that they simply made the wrong ad for their tech audience(easier to agree with for a moment) or that they made some huge moral blunder(more difficult to agree with, also the argument by the lady who started the conv).
But imagine, for instance, that she tweeted something similar to @playboy. She'd be very unlikely to get a positive response, or really any support from others. But the tech world is not Playboy, we're supposed to be an inclusive community that wants to encourage more women to be involved.
So I guess my answer is somewhere between your two options- they made a moral blunder in the context of the tech community.
In other words,
OK: that model is being used as an object for marketing clothing
Not OK: women are objects that are fun to look at
I can't really agree to the position that sexualized advertising is inherently sexist. But in the case of geek culture, there is a big heap of social context that has to be taken into account that makes it very touchy territory.
I think it is, actually. This method of dealing with women who speak up - veiled threats, sniping about "tone," complaints that 'we're not being treated fairly!' - is the actual root sexism. It's not just a PR problem or a problem with complaints. The anger here focused directly and solely on the woman who made the complaint, in an ugly and crass way, and that qualifies as more inherently sexist than anything in the video.
Well... no, because the anger would have to have been because she was a woman rather than just directed at a woman. Being angry at a woman isn't sexist.
I don't see any evidence that the responses were that gender-specific. If I'd made similar complaints they might have also called me out on my tone.
Sexism is not about intentions. Neither is racism, for that matter. It's about the effect our actions have in the world. I can be a non-racist and say racist things; I can even say racist things accidentally or inadvertently. That doesn't make them less racist. Likewise, I can consider myself enlightened, and mean absolutely nothing sexist by it, and still let my girlfriend do all the housework, or say things that I don't realize are hurting women in general.
That can be little scary, I think, because most of us are at least a little worried that we're going to get accused of something terrible and be held up as guilty of sexism or racism. But there's something freeing about letting go of that and accepting that everybody can make mistakes. The fact that you say something sexist doesn't make you a sexist. The point is just to try to stop doing and saying things that harm the status of women as a whole in society.
And in this case, yes, this harms the status of women as a whole in society. I'm pretty sure that Christian Sanz and Rueben Katz are perfectly nice guys who don't catcall women on the street or abuse their wives or girlfriends or whatever. I'm sure, in short, that they're no sexists. But that doesn't change the fact that this event is part of a pattern that is endemic and that makes it very, very hard for women to speak up when a company does something wrong. The pattern is laid out clearly by one of Shanley Kane's tweets: distract people by focusing on "tone" and saying you're not being treated fairly, and then make subtle economic threats.
Regardless of whether or not Christian Sanz or Rueben Katz are themselves sexists - I have a feeling they're not - this pattern is patently sexist. And it needs to stop. It's a pattern that's been repeated over and over again. We can't see this one incident as completely divorced from the millions and millions of other incidents where women have been gaslighted ('calm down already! why are you so upset?') and then threatened with economic hardship.
On the whole, I think the guys involved in the conversation end up looking more stupid and petty, especially given they are cofounders. Now, am I sexist in saying this? Does everything have to viewed from those lenses?
You can try to reason with people or you can just have a bad attitude and smack them and hope the other will bow.
Threatening a woman for speaking out, repeatedly invoking one's "family", demanding politeness, etc., saying she's desperate for attention, all have overtones that aligned with the sexist narrative in an unfortunate way. When two men are accused of condoning sexism respond by trying to bully the woman who's complaining, that means something different than just bad PR.
What's next? Should I ask Shanley Kane to take her tweet down because I find it offensively stupid?
The answer is obviously no.
There's a wide margin between booth babes and sexual harassment, and conflating the two leads to people getting the wrong idea about sexuality, where to draw the line, and modern feminism.
I don't think you'll ever be able to take the objectification of women out of society, and I don't know if it's necessary to try - we've seen women begin objectifying men in some capacity in the last seventy-five years or so, and I don't know if that's necessarily an unhealthy thing. Better to let that objectification be out in the open than keep it locked up in your head.
This is ridiculous - as is the argument in the original post. That an ad should be pulled because why the ads with a woman in her underwear dancing around to dupstep? is quite similar to the view that porn should be banned because it is toxic to marriages and relationships and a cause of misogyny and violence against women.
Both views represent a subjective, personal world view, presented by a person that goes around proclaiming superior morality of their values and trying to enforce it on others. Both have subjective value sets and act all outraged that not all people subscribe to these. One is the girl in the original post, the other Rick Santorum.
It's absolutely, unmistakably clear that this is a company whose culture is inherently and proudly sexist.
Think rationality/LessWrong differentiation. It looks to me that you just don't have enough bits to differentiate between the hypotheses.
Who cares what a random girl in a video is doing? Was she forced to appear in there? Then what's the problem? It's not even "fucking gross", it's just a couple of people giggling around being silly!
I'm a girl and never felt objectified by bosses/colleagues in the tech world, nor suffered any kind of sexism. But maybe it's because I never cared for it. I did my job and was respected for it, just like everybody else. In this century YOU are responsible for the way you present yourself to others and that's how you will be judged. They will respect you (or not) because of what you do, how you do it, how professional you are, what you accomplish.... regardless of what you are.
But seriously thank you for saying what other women in the office where I have been working in the past have said: there is generally no problem. I don't know where the people I have read were working, but seriously, if it's that horrible, switch jobs.
And about the thing getting out of hand, this is the internet, people circle jerk problems ad nauseum, and Hacker News is not an exception.
Sexism is a subset of stupidity and a great deal of the latter is shown here.
I can tell. How sad that you should use you lucky position to blast those who have, rather than showing women that it doesn't have to be that way.
Nice insinuation that those of us unlucky enough to have been on the receiving end of sexism are not working hard enough to earn respect... sigh. Sisterhood, eh?
I'm just talking censorship because it's the nth thing of this kind I've seen this week alone and I'm starting to see a dangerous trend. Apologies if it looked a bit out of place, should have added a better explanation of what I meant.
Many others have, though, and you shouldn't dismiss their experiences because you were fairly lucky.
It's great for that you've never felt subject to sexism. (Says in your profile you're in the UK, might have something to do with it-- I don't know if you've read anything about the political climate here in the States, it's a little actively hostile towards women right now.) But I'm afraid what you're saying is wishful thinking. The fact of the matter is some people are assholes, and it's quite possible to do your job well and still not be respected, and in our industry that falls much, much heavier on women.
There are fewer women in tech today than thirty years ago. We have a real problem, and ignoring it isn't helping anything.
I have two issues with your post. Maybe they are a failure to understand what you're saying (blame it on reading comprehension in that case):
1) ".. has negatively affected most women's ability to be treated professionally and respectfully"
If you reread those lines, would you still choose them? _Most_ women's ability to be treated in either way or both is negatively affected? Maybe I stumble when I read 'most' and change that mentally to 90% or so - which my gut rejects as unreasonably large and way over the top.
2) Did you watch the video? Would you, if that girl came now down the street, think disrespectful about her? Consider her unprofessional in her job?
I think the video was obviously shot for this effect and completely unnecessary. The 'I need new pants' comment at the end was the biggest issue I have with that stuff.
Watching it I reacted like w/ most advertisements: Lack of interest in general, disgust for so badly disguised tries to influence the viewer, me.
But I don't think videos like these will go away, nor are they the biggest problem. Failure to distinguish between a model with little more than a shirt on (job: to be looked at) and your fellow rails programmer (job: produce awesome code) because they share the same sex is .. stupid. And needs to be eliminated.
Yes, I'd write this the same way. I'm referring to the subtle effects that the real katie wrote about yesterday in "Lighten up". Women are treated professionally and respectfully in many situations, but the subtle effects of what she described add up, and do indeed affect most women.
Believe me, I see where you're coming from. My gut instinct (which I'm trying to tame) when I hear something about objectification is "I wouldn't mind someone objectifying me!" - but that instinct is wrong and here's why.
I (straight, white, american, upper middle class, male from suburban christian background) have a shit ton of privilege. Part of that as I understand it is that there are huge double standards in society at large for men vs women. There are things that I can do, which a woman doing would have incredible different reactions an consequences.
To be extreme, if I worked for a company and the rumor was that I had slept with every woman that worked there, it would likely be seen by the coworkers (and management potentially) as being a generally positive thing. James Bond, etc... The rumor of a woman doing the exact same and she's a slut. The consequences of being seen in a sexual light for a man aren't the same as they are for a woman. For men, its a sign of increasing power, and for women unfortunately its of decreasing power.
What does offend me are advertisements with the bumbling-husband archetype or similar man-without-a-woman stereotypes.
Edit: I should point out that I do think male sexualization is bad as it can promote poor body image, etc.
Also I can detect the implication that somebody is a hypocrite if they do not sit there and correctly judge every single case of sexism that comes their way. Do you believe that ethical decisions are black-or-white and that you cannot judge one ethical decision unless you have the ability and time to judge them all?
Obviously everyone has different sensitivities, but if you cannot objectively identify sexism of both men and women in advertisements, yes you're a hypocrite.
Consider the context though. How were women treated a 100 years ago? How are they still treated? Feminism, etc.
I think you need a better model that takes this into consideration. Whether you like it or not for historic reasons there is greater sensitivity about sexism against women. I don't think rejecting this is being more objective, it's called trying to force an incomplete model onto reality.
Every woman I've talked to LOVES this kinds of photos. I've never ever hear anybody protesting this (except maybe some prude religious idiots).
Edit: which is not to mean that the entire gender stereotyping thing doesn't hurt men — of course it does — but there's a world of difference between what it does to men and women.
P.S. Objectification is a kind of strange word. Human body is an object. It's physical, materialistic.
Now, if there would be objectification of human soul (or whatever other thin layer) that where we would start to worry, but there isn't.
If it's okay for them it should also be okay for everyone else, don't see why not.
Got to say, I agree. The advert doesn't appeal to me in the slightest - the sexuality is so in-your-face and over-the-top. It's pandering and almost condescending:
Look, a geeky guy hugging a model in panties! Buy our shirt, it has a website logo on it. Look, here's some boobs, here's some leg, you're a man in your twenties who works in tech, so this is what you want, right? So just give us the money already.
The advert has turned me OFF the product it was selling by being too overt. But that's just me.
What I find objectionable about this saga is Kane's rather entitled "I find this offensive, so it must be removed" attitude. The advert itself is not, in my mind, sexist. The idea that women need some kind of guardian angel who stops models from being shown in promotional videos - that I find offensive.
I guess this is a good advertisement for Storify though.
Or all those commercials with half naked men aimed at selling male underwear to women (so their man will look just as good).
Is that sexism too? Why does nobody cry about that type of sexism?
Guess what I'm asking, in general, why is sexism towards women so horrible and sexism towards men is simply accepted as the way things are?
Feminists are opposed to sexism towards men. The reason you hear a lot more about sexism towards women is that men are the dominant of the two genders, so sexism against us [men] holds us back a lot less. This is particularly true in tech: how many men would you guess have ever left the tech field due to sexism compared to how many women?
Also, another point: it's appropriate to use appearance to sell products, when those products are related to appearance or attractiveness. If you're marketing a product that's going to make people look and feel sexier, it's totally fine to demonstrate that by showing sexy people using that product.
Geekli.st is not a product that's meant to enhance your appearance, it's meant to enhance your career. So the women is in her underwear, why?
And in fact, in the ad, only the woman's appearance is deemed important. The man is wearing a t-shirt and shorts, while the woman is in her underwear. That contrast to me is the most obvious reason why this is sexist. The man is essentially dressed like a hacker, and the woman is dressed like eye candy.
This is not exercise in defining objective rules about what "is" and "is not" sexist. Sexism is highly subjective, like most social topics. What matters is that a geek girl--supposedly the target audience for Geeklist--complained about a Geeklist video.
Complaints about brand are not uncommon. If you manage a well-known brand they WILL happen, and there are good and bad ways to handle them. Getting the hackles up, subtly threatening the employment relationship, whining about being polite, are all bad ways to handle it.
The things women talk about in regards to men would put even the manliest of construction workers whistling after every woman on the street to shame.
Geeklist is a social media startup marketed towards both genders.
I literally can't believe he tried to play the victim card and to get her employer involved. Knowing how to handle yourself and how to represent your company under stress is very important.
There is a great opportunity for somebody to start an association of start-up founders that are female-friendly and get people to join. Creating a social contract to do the right thing would help people lead in the right direction without feeling criticised.
Do women also find the fact that only women actors are used in cleaning commercials "fucking gross"?
I can't speak for women, but I do. I'm tired of men being portrayed in those commercials as buffoons who can't possibly manage household tasks, as well.
It's not gross in the same way, but yeah, that is a great example of sexism!
Quoted for posterity.