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untog 760 days ago | link | parent

I don't know if this is going to be an unpopular post, but I don't think this is such a clearcut case of sexism as the API Jam/"Lighten Up" stuff we've seen recently. I think we can all agree that using scantily-clad women as advertising objects is a bad thing- we were hating GoDaddy for it long before SOPA. But I think that everyone in this story went about things the wrong way.

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.



badclient 760 days ago | link

I think we can all agree that using scantily-clad women as advertising objects is a bad thing...

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.

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untog 760 days ago | link

I would say that it's a bad thing because it offends women in the tech industry and makes them feel alienated- the root of this entire story.

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.

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badclient 760 days ago | link

Those are two very different arguments.

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).

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untog 760 days ago | link

I think that moral judgements are inherently difficult to make on an objective level, because everyone has different morals. It's why I said that her demanding they take it down wasn't actually a great move- clearly, it offends her, but that doesn't actually give her the right to demand them to take it down.

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.

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mistercow 760 days ago | link

I think it's pretty hard to dispute that advertising modeling is objectification. The thing is, objectifying an individual who agrees to be objectified is not a bad thing. What is bad is generalized objectification.

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.

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badclient 760 days ago | link

I still have a problem with this notion that simply because women may be fun to look at, that they are objects. Perhaps you should define "object".

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mhurron 760 days ago | link

>I think we can all agree that using scantily-clad women as advertising objects is a bad thing

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.

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bct 760 days ago | link

"They're paid for it, there is nothing illegal about it"

Ah, Hacker News, where all ethical questions boil down to "were they paid?" and "is it illegal?".

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ceol 759 days ago | link

Also, "define <word for which the definition is obvious>".

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."[0]

* "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."[1]

* "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"[2]

[0]: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3740048

[1]: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3740090

[2]: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3740003

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japhyr 760 days ago | link

There is a higher moral ground than just what is legal, and what people are willing to do for money.

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megamark16 760 days ago | link

Agreed, and a lot of it has to do with the context. If your're selling swimsuits, then you hire models, have a photo shoot, and sell swimsuits. But in the technology industry, where a lot of people are working very hard to encourage more women to get involved, there's no place for this type of objectification of women. We should hold ourselves to a higher standard.

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jemfinch 759 days ago | link

That's why we're all seeking to ban pornography, right?

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megamark16 759 days ago | link

No. If you're selling pornography, you hire porn stars, make porn, and sell it. That's the adult entertainment industry. If you're selling "an achievement-based social portfolio builder...exclusively for developers, to build tangible credibility in the workplace..." maybe you don't hire a model to dance around without pants on. Maybe you do, maybe you don't care, but if your customers care then maybe you should too.

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mhurron 759 days ago | link

Your morality is not everyone's morality.

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netshade 759 days ago | link

Are you saying this disqualifies his point because some people don't include equal treatment of women in their moral outlook? Or are you just stating a fact?

If the former, then you are wrong. If the latter, I'm not sure what you're trying to add to the conversation.

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enord 759 days ago | link

There is nothing higher* about the moral ground. It usualy degenerates civil conversation to people taking mountains offense and guilt-by-association attacks.

*'Higher' in this case interpreted as "more positive" or "more virtious".

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rorrr 759 days ago | link

This is not Iran. Women are allowed to dance around in underwear. And get paid for it. It was that model's choice. She was OK with it. If she's OK with, I'm OK with it.

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chc 760 days ago | link

Many people can't see any difference between a snippet of code from the Linux kernel allocator and a MySQL SELECT statement. That doesn't mean there isn't a difference, just that they aren't educated on the matter. Same deal here. Studies have shown substantial and harmful differences in how people respond to the two scenarios above.

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dbuns 760 days ago | link

+1

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.

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dlikhten 760 days ago | link

My point with all this is that you can advertise however you want. Naked women, women in bikinis, who cares. However if you do some blatant sexism and want to attract intelligent women into your ranks, or want to attract intelligent men who give a shit, you fail. Furthermore you can expect a PR backlash. And of course will try to justify yourself.

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.

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eurleif 760 days ago | link

>will do anything they can to stop criticism. Classical Trolling.

Trolls don't try to stop criticism. Trolls like upsetting people.

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noodle 760 days ago | link

> The actual root sexism isn't the story here. It's a story about PR, or about making- and dealing with- complaints.

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).

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redthrowaway 759 days ago | link

Exactly. You could make the argument that the video was mildly sexist (though no more so than the rest of the advertising industry), but to demand it be taken down because "it's fucking gross" is idiotic. I would have simply told her to get lost.

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koeselitz 760 days ago | link

> The actual root sexism isn't the story here. It's a story about PR, or about making- and dealing with- complaints.

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.

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untog 760 days ago | link

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.

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koeselitz 759 days ago | link

This is a misunderstanding of what sexism is, I think, though it's a common one.

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.

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badclient 759 days ago | link

Complete bullshit. The "anger" that you refer to has very little to do with her being a woman. If the same words came from a guy, he'd be met with a similar response.

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?

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posabsolute 759 days ago | link

I agree with badclient, there are ways to speak to people about things you disagree and the way she handled it was far from being professional.

You can try to reason with people or you can just have a bad attitude and smack them and hope the other will bow.

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ForrestN 760 days ago | link

You're right, the original sexism definitely isn't the story. But the way the geeklist guys handled it wasn't just bad PR. As Kane pointed out several times, the way they treated her was part of the same orthodoxy that gave rise to the sexism in the first place.

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.

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swombat 759 days ago | link

Being right is no excuse for being bone-headed. Shanley Kane may have been right to point out that the video was a tad sexist, but she was totally bone-headed in how she went about it. Moreover, though she is well within her right to request the video be reviewed and perhaps dealt with, demanding it be taken down because it's "fucking gross" is far more unacceptable, to me, than the contents of the video.

What's next? Should I ask Shanley Kane to take her tweet down because I find it offensively stupid?

The answer is obviously no.

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stfu 759 days ago | link

I am all against Godaddy, but ... using scantily-clad women as advertising objects is a bad thing- we were hating GoDaddy for it long before SOPA

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.

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debacle 760 days ago | link

Morally, I don't know what a good argument against using scantily clad women as advertising objects is - historically, scantily clad women have been used in advertising for thousands of years, and I think that's kind of the object of that particular advertising, and in some instances (Axe body spray), it probably works.

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.

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humblest_ever 759 days ago | link

Also--it's an advertisement. Can't we promote egalitarianism without trying to criminalize male sexuality? Nobody would have complained if it was a male model doing the exact same commercial.

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nknight 760 days ago | link

It's a story about sexism. The "PR" in this case is basically a "How to be Sexist" guide. They hit all the high points -- "looking for attention", "double standard", "I bought you drinks!", and, of course, threatening the woman's economic welfare.

It's absolutely, unmistakably clear that this is a company whose culture is inherently and proudly sexist.

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pja 760 days ago | link

You missed "tone argument" (as in, "I don't like you being uppity about this thing which I don't care about so I'm going to draw attention to the language you chose to use rather than deal with the actual issue at hand.") but otherwise yup, that pretty much hits all the high points.

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ovi256 759 days ago | link

You don't have enough information to differentiate the case you're making from "I don't like you being uppity about this thing which I care about and I was going to make right, but now I won't, because you're unprofessional and it's hard to believe you'll appreciate if I'll fix it" or even from "I don't like you being uppity about this thing which I care about and I'm going to make right, but you're unprofessional and I'd like you to tone it down so I'm going to slap you on the wrist until you do", which is completely innocent.

Think rationality/LessWrong differentiation. It looks to me that you just don't have enough bits to differentiate between the hypotheses.

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