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Sexism in Tech: A Good Apology is Better than No Mistakes (keen.io)
72 points by mwetzler on Feb 1, 2013 | hide | past | favorite | 170 comments



Did the fact that all of the models are, in fact, the apparently objectified and degraded women pass everyone up?

Look, I am totally against misogyny and sexism as much as the next guy, but I have a hard time taking these posts seriously on a few counts:

1- A large portion of the marketing industry is based around the "objectifying of women." Women should go out in droves and write long screeds against marketers (pigs?) instead of flooding the marketing companies with their resumes.

2- Stop buying clothes from the long list of fashion companies that are clearly objectifying women to an unrealistic standard of beauty. Oh, right, fashion schools aren't male dominated either.

I love women and I have a lot of female (and male) friends, and I am just as bent out of shape about the way marketing is done as many other marketers (which I am), but you have to call out double-standards when you see them if you are ever going to have an intelligent debate about it. It's very easy to point out a male-dominated industry and call it all sexism, but please look at the very culture you not only built with your sisters-in-arms, but the culture you implicitly support with your dollars.

As for the picture in question. Yeah, I don't see how it sells hard-drives either.


Re: your point 2. There is a huuuuuuge difference between women dressed in the clothes being marketed sending the message, "You could look like this," to other women, and women placed on pedestals like the product being marketed sending the message, "Buying this hard drive is like buying hot sexy naked me," to a group mainly comprised of men. Huuuuge difference.

Maybe the former is not completely kosher, but the degree is so different that it makes zero sense to accuse someone of not calling out double standards when they mention the one and not the other. Also, it is really silly to tell activists that they aren't allowed to bother you until they have sufficiently bothered everyone else to your satisfaction. Basically all you've done is ask them to go away. It is morally equivalent to saying that people are not allowed to worry about healthcare or the homeless in their own country until the Africa problem is fixed. It's dumb.

Also, plenty of feminists are complaining about the representation of women in fashion. So on top of being bad rhetoric, your objection is wrong on the facts.

> I love women and I have a lot of female (and male) friends

If there was a website called "x-ist-tropes.com", "I have X friends, my mom is an X" would be the #1 trope for almost any value of X. Just don't say it.


I can write about sexism in female-dominated industries all day, and there are most certainly sexists pigs of all stripes and all genders. The fact is that the tech industry is a super-easy target for people to jump on, and this is wrong on so many levels it is barely worth writing about anymore. I could write long screeds about being a male in marketing and other industries, but what does it accomplish but upping my view-count?

Honestly, I'm not sure what the Africa thing is about.


> what does it accomplish but upping my view-count?

Same thing any form of political writing accomplishes. It tries to convince the audience to change their view.

> Honestly, I'm not sure what the Africa thing is about.

To paraphrase your original comment, "you shouldn't talk about this problem, because that problem isn't fixed." This maps well onto the an argument I've heard that "you shouldn't worry about homeless people in America while so many are starving in Africa."


> Honestly, I'm not sure what the Africa thing is about.

There is an argument that people make that you're not allowed to complain about first world problems (for example, the NDAA) until we've fixed things like world hunger.


Conversely, how come America feels like it can fix the world's problems when it has so many of its own that it can't fix?


> The fact is that the tech industry is a super-easy target for people to jump on, and this is wrong on so many levels it is barely worth writing about anymore.

Yeah, let's just stay silent and the problem will fix itself.


I'm worried that saying "there's a trope for this" is now becoming a trope. "It's a trope" isn't anywhere near as good an argument as "what you just said is really dumb and here's why".


Women can be sexist towards women just as much as any other kind of person. In fact, some people have internalized misogynist feelings about women as a gender: http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/10/20/internali...

Also, people do quite loudly complain about objectification in media, esp. in advertising. Jean Kilbourne does a lecture series about this very subject called Killing Us Softly (trailer is on youtube): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Kilbourne#Works


The Miss Representation documentary is REALLY GOOD. If you have a mother, sister, daughter, or girlfriend I'd highly recommend watching it.


> 1- A large portion of the marketing industry is based around the "objectifying of women." Women should go out in droves and write long screeds against marketers (pigs?) instead of flooding the marketing companies with their resumes.

It's not that simple. Societal pressure can cause people to behave in ways that are detrimental to their own well-being (especially in a situation where the actual effects are extremely subtle). Question: which job would be more appealing to the average person who identifies as female: a job where she gets to work with other women and not face any criticism, harassment, or judgement for doing so, or a job where she is surrounded by men who (on average) get paid more and hold all of the higher level positions?

Take it a step further: if I'm a women, and I was being objectified, I would prefer to be objectified by women rather than men. I'd prefer to be in a career and a position that allows me to control how I am perceived, if I am going to be objectified regardless of which career I chose.

The current power structure favors men, and it's more the responsibility of those with power to make positive change. It doesn't mean women aren't responsible for their own well-being, but it means that men are more responsible for any detriment we cause when power is in our favor.


To me, your post could be pretty easily translated to another industry & time as follows:

"Got a problem with slavery? Stop complaining about it! And just buy cotton from the Yankees or from the Dutch, ya bunch of whiners."

Drawing maximum attention to the problem is the most important step in solving it. Even stoking seemingly unproductive conversations like this HackerNews thread is an important step, if only because it helps those of us who are on the side of justice practice our arguments.


I'm calling this statement out as nonsense. The fact that this woman or that woman participates in it does not mean it's wrong to call it out. If you don't call it out 999 times in a row, it does not mean you have abrogated your right to call it out the 1,000th time.

There were black slave owners. Did that suddenly make it wrong to call slavery out? many whites said nothing for a century. When they spoke up, should they have remained silent for another century?

This thing can be judged on its own merits without resorting to Ad Hominem Tu Quoque. This statement feels an awful lot like cross-examining a rape victim about her sexual past in an attempt to discredit her as a witness and intimidate other women so they won't speak up in the future.


Are you saying I shouldn't write this post because some women work in fashion? Honestly, I don't understand.


No, I am saying that pointing fingers is easy to do and I can point to anything I wish. Blaming others for societal problems when there is clearly issues from within the very people this post defends is wrong-headed. If you want to be taken seriously as a person, I would suggest you learn to take responsibility for your own actions and be an equal opportunity blamer. Look in then look out.


I'm working very hard to be a strong woman in tech and support other women in tech. I don't understand why I shouldn't be taken seriously.

I don't understand why you think that because some women are sexist, I can't talk about it. This post wasn't targeted at men or women, it was target at HyperMac, which includes men and women.

Women are half of the population. We don't work as a group and we don't have a hive mind.


You're points are totally valid and I don't fault you for making them, but you are attacking an easy target, and your post has a much more men -vs- women attitude in it. All the articles posted on HN forget to make it obvious that women were behind this offense as much as men, and in many cases, the women were more responsible for the offense than the men.

I'm a marketer and I'm a male, thus I am a quant and have no sense of "creativity" or "feel." Women are more creative, do better at writing for social media, and are better with people. I'm a male that can't doesn't represent the flair culture a company is looking for. I hope you don't believe all of this is true and I doubt you'd be interested in reading about my plight, but I hope you find this attitude insulting toward both men and women.


You’re basing your whole attack on the author on having your feelings hurt because you, too, are a man in marketing, just like the people responsible for the awful sexism displayed.

Some women are sexist towards women, yes. But the idea that this kind of marketing “stunt” was <em>more</em> because of the women at the company in question than the men there, is absurd. Women don't tend to hold executive power anywhere near as much as men do, in almost every industry—marketing being among them. Furthermore, even the women that <em>are</em> sexist against other women tend not to come up with a marketing campaign featuring naked women to sell hard drives. Your belief that men had less to do with this campaign than women did is… I’m at a loss for the right word for it. “Naïeve” doesn’t cover it. Silly, too, because if that had been the case, their sexist piece-of-shit CEO would’ve used that as an argument trying to justify their disgraceful stunt. But he didn’t.

Lastly, as others have already pointed out, you’re being extremely hypocritical by blaming a woman for not blaming other women first, when the <strong>VAST</strong> majority of sexism in tech is committed by men. Men like yourself. So you should start by pointing the finger there, thus following your own advice.

Right now, you’re nothing but another man blaming a woman for the sexism being committed in tech, sexism in which women are the victim 9 times out of 10 (if not worse), and in which most of the perpetrators are men.


Hmm. Then to go with your double-standard argument, am I not supposed to support your plight because men keep watching emotionless action movies or something? I don't get it.


If you want people stop blaming others, start with yourself.


Fun fact: Women are individuals and not a hive mind.


haha. I know it seems absurd to say that women are not a hive mind, but I don't know how else to react when someone says something like "if you want people to think x about women, stop women from doing y". As if I wield some kind of influence over women just because I'm a woman. That would be an amazing superpower.


Cue the usual slew of comments stating "I have a hard time seeing how this is sexism."

Really, there's no need to post these types of stories on HN anymore. The discussion always goes the same way - lots of heated argument, no open discussion, no admission of vulnerability.

Very few men are willing to question the power structure they've been brought up in. If you're born at the top, why bother to question the system?

[EDIT: yeah, I'm grumpy about this today.] [Further edit: when I first posted this my karma was 1129 - let's see where it stands at the end of the day.]


I'm new around here, and I've got to say, this thread has really let me down. All these definitions of feminism and sexism that seem to have been taught by straight white fathers to their straight white sons.


Welcome Crindy!

HN is great for some topics, but on the issue of women, get ready to cringe. In the same thread where I said I didn't want kids I was told that I would live a miserable life where I would always wonder what I was missing on top of being told that I shouldn't have a problem with not getting a certain job or making less money because the potential for maternity leave is a liability to the team (I don't disagree with the latter in theory, but I'm an individual, not a gender, so if something doesn't apply to me, I shouldn't be reprimanded for it).

There's also at least one member (with a decently large karma score) that goes around downvoting (and often times insulting) every female-looking username in these types of threads. For this reason, many women use gender-neutral names and don't bother engaging in these conversations.

Very embarrassing for the community, we need to do better.


Thanks for the warm welcome, Nicole!


I'm also new and until now I didn't actually encounter the angry, hateful sexism on HN that is rampant on Reddit & Co. However with comments like "There is a very thin line between being a feminist and being an asshole." I guess I just didn't look hard enough.


Reddit is definitely worse. But any HN discussion on gender will leave you feeling a bit depressed.


I know what you mean, but the problem is not straight white males, it's everyone. I find MYSELF being sexist at times (and then I catch myself and feel terrible). Seems there's a feminist backlash that has been deeply ingrained into most of us. I hope to write about this soon.


The "fathers" to "sons" thing I get, but you have to be straight and white to have an incorrect interpretation of feminism these days? I am _genuinely_ confused by this. Not trolling, I just don't understand this aspect of the discourse.


Well your racist, hetero-phobic and misandrist accusations aren't helping the situation. Are you coming here from Tumblr?


> Further edit: when I first posted this my karma was 1129 - let's see where it stands at the end of the day.

And you were doing so well until then…


I think he means "I think I'm going to get downvoted by a lot of privileged dudes", rather than "I'm gonna get mad points from this!"


Both meanings would be equally unproductive. If your post deserves up or downvotes, let it stand on it's merit. Anything else is an attempt to game the system and adds nothing to the discussion.


I was ok with it. It's just the HN equivalent of "Yep, I know I'm going to get lambasted, egged, heckled but so be it bring it on" type of thing.


From the HN Guidelines:

> Please don't bait other users by inviting them to downmod you.


That was my meaning -- I'm not really attached to my karma score. I use it as a barometer of what kinds of feedback is valued on HN. I've been greatly disappointed by the amount of downvotes volleyed against "let's have a frank discussion about sexism" comments.


These days, the pre-emptive "cue the usual slew of comments..." happen first. Then someone feels they have to defend the tech industry against these silly generalisations, and the prophecy is fulfilled.


Love this. At the very least, you get a +1 from me.


Interesting here is the automatic assumption that the company should agree with the criticism and apologize. Except for the gratuitous accusation of bad faith, the response is what one might expect from someone who did not agree with the offended's characterization of the situation.

Rather than explain exactly why the display was sexist, this is mostly a combination of condescending hectoring and whining. You have no right not to be offended. If you think that the display was sexist, it is incumbent on you to explain why and not act as though it is obvious to everyone under the sun.


> If you think that the display was sexist, it is incumbent on you to explain why and not act as though it is obvious to everyone under the sun.

Uh, when someone does something wrong, its not up to the oppressed to explain everything. This is classic victim blaming mentality that seeks to take the blame off of the company putting out sexist messaging and advertising and to place it on women at large. People have a right to be upset at this company and if you feel that people don't you are implicitly endorsing sexism.

EDIT: If you are occupying the position of privilege, you have a duty to go read about why this is sexist and to listen to the perspectives of the people affected (in this case women). You can Google, so don't sit there and demand an explanation before you are satisfied.


One of the key facts I hear about privilidge over and over, is that it is so ingrained in those who benefit from it, that they don't even realize it. So how else are they supposed to understand if you don't explain it to them? Essentially your message then becomes "You're bad but I can't tell you why, you should just know" which just seems like you're wasting their time. If it's worth their time to care, it's worth your time to explain it.


The point is that it's not the _responsibility_ of the oppressed to educate their oppressors. Obviously, it can be useful, and education is a big part of it.

But it's perfectly legitimate to say "Listen, I cannot explain this to you, but understand that what you say hurt me, and if that matters to you, you should take the time to figure that out."

It's about the asymmetry: for the privileged, this is a situation, an unusual part of their day, something that needs to be dealt with. For those who aren't, it's an ingrained part of everyday life. Your entire life could be devoted to education and there still wouldn't be enough hours in the day.


It might not be the responsibility of the oppressed to educate their oppressors, but who else is going to do it?

I agree that the "booth babe" situation is sexist (and I also happen to think it's incredibly stupid - semi-naked women are not going to make me buy your product, and I'd feel insulted by any brand that used that as a marketing tactic). But we also live in a society and, as hackers, in a sub-culture where we generally prize reason and debate over emotion. When we're debating other topics here, this reason-over-emotion thing doesn't seem to be a problem.

If someone says "I want you to do, believe or refrain from doing or believing something, and I can't explain why" then we generally ignore it. In no other context would this be seen as a reasonable line of argument.

The thing is, I don't often see people saying "this makes me feel bad ergo it's a bad thing". Most feminists have well-worked-out arguments for their positions and it's not hard for any reasonable person to accept them. I've been persuaded of many feminist arguments and this has contributed to changing how I see the world. Sure, when we're talking about arguments on Twitter then there's not a lot of space to cite references or bring in supporting arguments, but to pretend that they don't exist or aren't necessary isn't helping.

tl;dr I think the hacker community prizes rationalism and if you want to persuade them of anything you should use rational and not emotional arguments. This may be annoying but demanding that the hacker community abandons rationalism isn't going to work.


> we also live in a society and, as hackers, in a sub-culture where we generally prize reason and debate over emotion.

This is an ideal, but it's not true at all. Look at all the 'dramas' posted all over HN, does that seem like reason to you, or emotion?

Hackers are people too, as much as they try to deny it.

> who else is going to do it?

Either them themselves, or someone else. I think maybe this comes from a slight misunderstanding of what the saying means. Let's say that Bob makes a joke about rape around Alice, a survivor. Alice says "yo, that is not cool, and you're making light of a trauma I experienced in the past." Bob says "Why?" Alice says, "I don't want to explain it to you, I'm really upset right now." The saying is trying to explain that it's not _Alice_'s responsibility to make Bob see exactly where he went wrong; he can either look at the numerous resources online to explain why, think about it and puzzle it out himself, or maybe, ask Eve or someone else about it. But forcing Alice to confront something in her moment of pain is just not right.

> I think the hacker community prizes rationalism and if you want to persuade them of anything you should use rational and not emotional arguments.

This is _exactly_ why there's so much sexism here. The rhetoric around this is extremely frustrating, especially with your charge of 'abandons rationalism.'


Do you want to be righteous or do you want to be persuasive?

If you want to be persuasive, you appeal to people's better nature. You don't tell them that their cherished ideals of rationalism and no-bullshit, all-about-the-code ethos are a crock of shit, you tell them that you believe in this too, and you want it to be this way for everyone. The people who are undermining this are the misogynist minority, who are putting their irrational hatred of women ahead of all other things. The reason we keep having to have this tedious discussion is because these people are consistently attacking and undermining our fellow female hackers, and it's about time we told them where to go with that kind of behaviour.

The problem is, you've become convinced that the community at large is full of sexism, when it really isn't. It's just that nobody has figured out how to talk about this in a way that makes sense, and unfortunately arguments like yours are counter-productive (which is why people are arguing with you, which has the depressing effect of making you think that the community must be full of sexism, and the cycle goes on).


If you are occupying the position of privilege, you have a duty to go read about why this is sexist

According to what? The Social Justice Handbook? king_jester please stop lecturing us on how to behave. You are not our proctor. You clearly subscribe to a post-structuralist/Marxist belief system and thankfully most of us do not. What you are doing is equivalent to a Evangelical Christian going into an Atheist discussion forum and telling them all they must consult the Bible to find out why they're behaving incorrectly.


> According to what? The Social Justice Handbook? king_jester please stop lecturing us on how to behave.

My response was specifically to someone who demanded proof from affected before they would believe anything that is being said. You are free to do what you want, but I of course will call out sexism. There are tons of resources going over the basics a simple Google search away, so there is no excuse for someone to come into this thread and brush off people who are rightly pointing out this marketing stunt as sexist.

> You are not our proctor.

True, but that doesn't mean I can't call sexism out when I see it.

> You clearly subscribe to a post-structuralist/Marxist belief system and thankfully most of us do not.

Actually, I don't. Calling sexism out doesn't make me post-structuralist or Marxist.

> What you are doing is equivalent to a Evangelical Christian going into an Atheist discussion forum and telling them all they must consult the Bible to find out why they're behaving incorrectly.

Except I'm not telling anyone to consult my preferred religious beliefs and implying that not obeying my religion is behaving incorrectly.

The fact of the matter is dismissing people's criticism and experiences is simply moving the goal posts. That commenter could have easily done the bare minimum of googling to learn more, but instead they went with a brush off. I do personally behave that treating people ethically is the duty of folks who could otherwise treat people poorly, but that's just polite behavior.


There are tons of resources going over the basics a simple Google search away Actually, I don't. Calling sexism out doesn't make me post-structuralist or Marxist.

From one of your other comments: Gender is a performance, not a thing. You act in alignment with what you portray to others as your gender.

Oh bullshit. People that think "Gender is a performance" and that there are "basics" that have to be learned have clearly been steeped in post-structuralist thought or perhaps maybe you should Google more about the origins of your beliefs. And you're not just "calling out" sexism you're clearly instructing people how to behave and think.

That commenter could have easily done the bare minimum of googling to learn more, but instead they went with a brush off.

See what I mean.

I do personally behave that treating people ethically is the duty of folks who could otherwise treat people poorly, but that's just polite behavior.

Right.


> People that think "Gender is a performance" and that there are "basics" that have to be learned have clearly been steeped in post-structuralist thought

As someone who knows a thing or two about post-structuralism, I also know many, many people who think "gender is a performance" and know absolutely nothing about it. Your assumption that everyone knows the entire intellectual history of the ideas they espouse is a bit wrong.

Furthermore, while it's true that Butler et. al are some of the more prominent proponents of 'gender is a performance', one could easily believe that gender is performative for a different reason. A implies B does not mean B implies A, and all that.


Eh, I would say everyone has the right to feel however they wish; be it happy, sad, angry, or even offended.

Now, you are not entitled to have other people care about your emotions, but that is rather a separate issue. If you feel they haven't adequately defended their reaction you are of course free to disagree, but your right to disagree should not be misconstrued as a lack of a right to be offended on their part.


> If you think that the display was sexist, it is incumbent on you to explain why

This is a genuinely odd sentiment. The message was written by someone who thinks it is obvious why painted naked booth babes are "mildly offensive," for people who think it is obvious why painted naked booth babes are mildly offensive. Prefacing her message with a treatise on feminist theory 101 (or something) would just add noise to the signal.

In other words, this isn't for you and you can move along. You don't want to experience all of her "hectoring and whining," right? That woman is hysterical!


I actually thought of this after writing the above. It struck me than KeenIO is probably the sort of community where this wouldn't need to be explained.

For better or worse, HN is.


Thank you! The first version of the post DID have the explanation. But it ended up being multiple paragraphs and distracting from the point. It is hard to explain without a lot of historical context. It may become a separate post, though I'm not sure how much appetite there is for that based on what happened here today.


> Rather than explain exactly why the display was sexist

It should be obvious. I'm not sure, but I think that pretending not to know why people could be offended by this display in this day and age is just willful ignorance. Note: I'm not claiming that everyone has to agree that the display is offensive, but you must at least know why some people think it is.

At any rate, it is not true that every article on gender politics should have to re-explain the basics to people who haven't been paying attention for the last few decades.

> You have no right not to be offended.

I think you mean, "You have no right to be offended," and you're wrong. Of course, it's awful hard to force people to stop offending you, but you absolutely have a right to be offended.


I mean you have no right to an offense-free existence. Otherwise, claiming offense amounts to a heckler's veto, and is chilling and oppressive. You can be offended, and proclaim your offense to your offender, but offense isn't enough to require a change of behavior without an ancillary moral imperative, such as "offending some women is wrong".

On further thought, this post was probably written for an particular community, of which I am not a part, and on whose internal discourse I cannot make demands.


One point nobody seems to have touched on: men should be just as pissed off about the "booth babe" thing as women. A company using this tactic is basically telling the straight men at a conference to think with their dicks, not their brains.

It's taking a product that could only exist through cultivating the higher functions of the human mind, and selling it by appealing to our basest lizard-brain instincts. It'd be like marketing a product by having two gladiators fighting to death in front of the booth. Impressive, but a step backwards for the species.

And yes, it's totally degrading to women as well. Even if the models involved were willing/wanted to participate.


Aaaand, cue the throng of straight, white, upper middle class males, who'll post a hundred aggressive comments like "stop being oversensitive".


As opposed to these types of comments that attempt to preempt and invalidate the viewpoints of straight, white, upper middle class males because every single one of them obviously can't think objectively.


As one of those people myself, I certainly didn't mean to suggest that all straight white males are oppressors, but rather quite the opposite: that all or most oppressors of civil rights in this country appear to be straight white males.


Understood. Like you, I'm sure, I think I'm in the non-oppressor group. I often want to share my opinion in many of the posts about examples of tech industry sexism, but I never click the reply button. Even after taking a few minutes and thinking as logically and objectively as I can about the situation, I know that disagreeing that there was sexism involved will trigger an equally irrational mob response of downvoting my comment and accusing me of being sexist or being too privileged to even be able to recognize sexism.


The point is that you're talking about an aggregate. It is impossible not to benefit (in aggregate!) from the patriarchy as a male. All straight white males are oppressors, but some of them attempt to recognize those advantages and not trample on others any more than they have to.

But that doesn't mean they don't benefit, even passively.

(P.S. I'm a straight white cis male.)


So you're invalidating other people's opinions because of their skin color and gender?

You're never going to be taken seriously when you dismiss the opinions of others based on the not-necessarily-true claim that they hold that opinion because of their skin color, gender, and upbringing.


I agree that it could have been phrased better (dorkitude's post seems to suggest a causal relationship) but I don't think that's what he was really saying.

As people have observed elsewhere in this thread, there's a natural human tendency for the privileged to underestimate their own privilege, and to overestimate the power of other groups. There are several comments in this thread that try to put the blame on women for not defending themselves more effectively, or even for contributing to the problem of sexism (see dizzystar's opening volley). This is flawed in the same way that it would be flawed to shout-down critiques of institutional racism by saying that minorities are as much to blame as white people. Of course there are sexist women and racist minorities. But they and their actions are not on an equal footing with those of the dominant holders of power in this country.

The fact is, in situations of social power imbalance, blaming the victim is an easy, shitty way to avoid addressing hard problems. The very defensiveness being displayed in this thread is further evidence that the members of this community need to calm down, look in the mirror, and consider their own privilege.

(And no, I'm not saying everyone in the HNN community is a straight, rich, white guy, but I think it's pretty clear we have a stilted demography).


This is a great synopsis. There are so many examples of how companies have handles sexist snafus well, compounding the gaffe like this is inexcusable.


It's inexcusable from a PR standpoint. It's sad to think how much more love they could have received from the community.


Not to say that this is not an issue, but is this sexism in tech... or sexism in marketing?


My issue here - and why I am glad it's on HN - is because we have this problem in our industry a lot. We question why more women aren't interested in it while we parade them around our conferences or include photos of them in slides barely-clothed. We make very vivid implications that they are just visual stimuli for the taking.

We can go back to that whole Violet Blue Twitter/article debacle wherein she criticized a woman legitimately working at her company's spot on the floor for being a boring-looking booth babe.

In my opinion, the only people that should be doing your advertising for you are your employees. There's no reason to bring human eye-candy to these events in the hopes that it will get a few more customers. I do like PAX's stance where if the "babe" isn't educated on your product as much as you are, she shouldn't be there. At the same time, those are "models" of the characters for your games at a gaming convention, not male or female bodies just standing in a warehouse being ogled to sell unrelated product.


I think we would be remiss if we did not consider this in a more bayesian fashion.

Say 90% of all tech companies are using sexist advertising. Big problem; clearly something wrong with tech.

But that is only part of the picture. We have to consider what companies that are not "tech companies" are doing as well. If we see similar levels of sexist nonsense from them, then we should consider the possibility that the "techiness" of tech companies is not to blame and the problem has another cause.

I think it is very likely that this incident is a manifestation of something that is wrong with marketing and corporations in general. This stuff isn't popping up because tech is involved, it is popping up because advertisers are involved and executives okay it.

I feel I should say explicitly that I am not saying this behavior should be permitted "because everyone else is doing it". The behavior is not acceptable, but we should find the real cause.


Totally agree with you there. VS is a brand almost exclusively for women, and yet all of their marketing is clearly for men. That said, lingerie/fashion do have a [sometimes scantily-clad] human component that should be represented in some way (more tastefully..), whereas tech generally does not. That's my problem with this situation; there's no excuse for this company that could fall into the "but we make x, so it's kinda sorta okay" category.


Fair point.


Sexism in both?


I don't deny that there is sexism in tech, but I can't figure out how this is an example of it just because the product being advertised is in tech. Is there sexism in the razor-blade industry because of how razor-blades are advertised? I can't imagine the people advertising razor-blades and the people manufacturing razor-blades have very much in common.


I don't think it does much good to try and differentiate between the industry making a product or service and the advertising industry that supports them. They don't exist without each other.

For example, if Apple put out a sexist ad, you can bet people would talk about sexism in BOTH the tech industry and in the ad industry.


Here is the issue I'm having.

"Tech" is considered by the mainstream to be full of socially maladjusted overgrown boys who spend far too long in their mother's basement. They are cold and unemotional and they took engineering classes in college; perhaps one is the cause of the other. Sexism in programming teams made up primarily of this stereotype is a common topic here, and it is almost universally agreed that it is a major problem.

So I guess it annoys me when a bunch of marketing people use sex in their advertising, as they do in every other industry imaginable, and we use it as an opportunity to flog tech some more. Where the exact people who made this decision selling umbrellas instead of hard-drives, would this be on HN? I don't think so.


I can explain a bit. The reason that it annoys me that a tech company did this is that I'm attuned to the struggles faced by women in tech. Two things make this industry different from other industries.

1) The ratio of males to females is worse. Women feel more like outsiders in tech than in other industries. Things like booth babes make us feel like outsiders because they are a ploy to attract MEN to the booth, as if there is no reason to attract women to the booth. Secondly, as a female at a conference, people assume I'm not the technical expert. They ask me if I'm in marketing. I see them directing technical questions to the males. It is really annoying to be judged based on your looks and gender, but I don't blame them, because chances are they are right due to the scarcity of female technologists. Booth babes reinforce the stereotype that women at the conference are there because they look nice and are friendly. That makes the problem even worse. Objectification in general reinforces the idea that a big part of women's role in society is to look good.

2) Tech is an area where people STILL question if women are really as capable as men. That makes women in tech more sensitive to gender bias.

In other words, it just stings more to see this coming from a tech company.


Well, the company in question was totally OK with objectifying women, so I would say that this is both a problem of sexism in tech and marketing. The advertising a company puts out or endorses is a part of the company's culture, even to the people working at that company.


I don't buy that you can draw conclusions about individuals or their trade from what a company that happens to employ them does. This incident reflects poorly on the marketing people involved, and the executives involved. That tech is also in the company is irrelevant.

If Uber started putting out sexist advertising, would that reflect poorly on professional drivers?


The reason I titled this Sexism in Tech was because the story was about tech companies dealing with sexism. I was trying to offer advice to companies who may encounter this int he future. It's not because I think all tech companies are sexist. It's just that I work for a tech company and feel more comfortable talking about this industry. Sorry for the confusion.


I didn't mean to say individual workers at HyperMac are responsible for the sexism, but rather that the company HyperMac most certainly is responsible, esp. those in charge of that company who made to call to run with this marketing.


Absolutely, my issue here is the "Sexism in Tech" headline. "Sexism in Hypermac" or "Sexism in marketing" would be far more appropriate I think.


Except HyperMac worked VERY closely with their marketing company. AND the vitriolic response was posted by HyperMac's CEO.


....Riiiight. That is probably why I said the headline that specifies HyperMac would have been a better choice...


It's not like this is an isolated incident though, it seems like every other week we see yet another tech company with a sexist ad campaign, sexist convention booth, or sexist job advertisement flyer.


I'm really still not seeing what any of these things have to do with tech.

Tech is only the thing that all of these incidents have in common if you include only tech companies in your survey.


Well, this is another example of tech company that not only sees nothing wrong with employing sexist marketing, but the CEO doubled down on it and attacked anyone who disagreed with what HyperMac did. We aren't saying that only tech companies do this kind of thing, but rather why is it that so many tech companies do this kind of thing at all and why is it that the CEO of this company can get away with this kind of sexism without the whole of the tech community calling that out?

Obviously, a site like hacker news will be reporting stories about tech companies far more often than other kinds of businesses.


I suppose I have never really agreed with the equivalence people on hacker news make between tech, and companies that do tech. To me, they are completely different topics. I don't consider CEOs my peers, no matter what sort of company they are in charge of. A jackass CEO of a "tech company" says absolutely nothing about tech to me.


I know what you mean. No matter where I work, big or small companies, I never really feel in the same peer group as CEOs. I am working in tech, though, so even if I don't feel like I'm a part of what they are doing I recognize that people outside of tech don't really see it that way.

As unfortunate as it is, businesses produce a lot of technology and hire most of the people working in tech on a daily basis. Even if I don't like it, those businesses are a part of the field I'm in and what they do affects me, esp. if they are contributing to alienating women who already have a hard time breaking into or working in tech.


Many readers of HN are in startups whose small teams have to deal with all aspects of running a tech company, from engineering to handling customer complaints like this. On the Keen IO blog we write about all aspects of starting a tech company, and many of our non-technical posts have been very popular here (e.g. negotiating salary, pitching).

It would be interesting to see the breakdown of HN readership. I always assumed a large portion are YC companies and other startups who would be able to relate to these kinds of posts.


The women don't exactly look degraded. I can understand how people would be offended by this, but I don't see it being sexist. As they pointed out, both men and women were involved in putting together the booth, so it's not like this is universally offensive to women.


Just because women were involved in creating something doesn't make it not sexist.


Well it's no guarantee, but does make it a lot less likely.


The more I think about that statement the less sense it makes to me.

Why does being born a certain gender make one less likely to do something negative either to their own gender or the other gender?

If we take your statement at face value then we have to make a whole bunch of assumptions that make little sense to me (e.g. that people have the same opinions of what is sexist, that all women are "sensitive" to such issues, that women never actively take part in sexism of women on purpose, that women being sexist to men doesn't exist, etc).

So yeah... I'm going to go ahead and say that that statement is just false unless you can show me something that indicates it is true.

Women are people. People are "sexist." More or less likelihood of such sexism is hard to track because there is no fixed definition (or "line") of sexism its self, nor is there an easy way to /prove/ that someone is or isn't sexist/being sexist.


Wow, can you at least pay attention to the context here? We're talking about a group of mostly women who are complaining about treatment of women.

1. It's not "being born" but identifying with a group. Gender, race, sports team, etc. You're more likely to act favorably toward people in your group.

2. Clearly not everyone has the same opinion of what's sexist.

3. If women were not "sensitive" to this, then they wouldn't be complaining so much. They are complaining, therefore I conclude that they are sensitive to it.

4. Women can be mean to other women, but why would they be sexist against women on purpose?

5. Women being sexist to men is not relevant to this context. We're talking about treatment of women.


> 1. It's not "being born" but identifying with a group. Gender, race, sports team, etc. You're more likely to act favorably toward people in your group.

Gender is a performance, not a thing. You act in alignment with what you portray to others as your gender.

> 2. Clearly not everyone has the same opinion of what's sexist.

While this is true, the vast majority of disagreement about what sexism is are deflections that serve to discredit actual instances of sexism or to pretend that sexism doesn't happen.

> 3. If women were not "sensitive" to this, then they wouldn't be complaining so much. They are complaining, therefore I conclude that they are sensitive to it.

This is totally true, women are sensitive to sexist depictions of their gender that are objectifying. Who wouldn't be?

> 4. Women can be mean to other women, but why would they be sexist against women on purpose?

Sexism is more than just conscious actions taken against others, it is about cultural and social contexts and structures. The same misogynistic messages in our culture are heard by men and women and that means everyone is affected by them to some extent. Misogyny isn't limited to men against women, some women may have internalized misogyny: http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/10/20/internali...

> 5. Women being sexist to men is not relevant to this context. We're talking about treatment of women.

Women cannot be sexist against men in a systemic way. Advertising that objectifies men's bodies doesn't increase the rhetoric that devalues men nor does it contribute to a culture where sexual assault against men is the vast majority of occurrences.


I agree with you on points 1-3. I think your point 4 is not relevant; the question was about women being sexist on purpose and not just incidentally. Also in the situation in the article, the question is not whether the degradation was intentional, but rather whether there was any degradation at all.


Whether someone is sexist on purpose or not is irrelevant, it doesn't make things any less sexist. Often people will claim lack of knowledge when they do something that is sexist and use that as an accuse to continue engaging in sexist behavior, so its important to call out sexism regardless of how it occurs and for those responsible to make that apology and commit to recognizing that sexism.

As to whether or not this marketing event was degrading, the answer is quite clearly yes. Women's bodies were used as a marketing ploy to sell a product. Women's bodies as a commodity is a long running sexist theme in our society, including marketing. Commodify-ing women's bodies is dangerous and is directly related to violence against women. For an overview, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_objectification#Sexual_o...


The context here is someone claiming that women are less sexist than men simply /because/ they're women. I was responding to this one comment/sentiment, rather than to the thread as a whole.

#1, while I will accept that at face value you're more likely to root for the home team - I disagree with the unspoken assumption that that translates into less sexism.

#2, right, but even with that being the case we know enough about what sexism is to blanket say that an entire gender is less likely to conduct it?

#3, some women are complaining, some men are complaining about the reverse (e.g. /r/mensrights). Therefore using identical logic I can claim that because some men have complained about sexism that men are "less likely" than women to be sexist. See how that works (or doesn't)?

#4, because women are people and people are sexist? What is it you want me to explain? If someone calls something sexist and it was produced by a women, earlier discussion not withstanding, it is.

#5, women being sexist to ANYONE is entirely relevant to this discussion. The discussion is: "women are less sexist." Therefore ANY sexism on the part of a women is fair game.


Oh, OK, this is about some kind of misunderstanding upthread. I didn't mean that women are universally less sexist, but that including women on the team means the "message" of the booth is less likely to be offensive to women.


Don't we all experience moments where our jobs require things of us that our moral compass disagrees with? The fact that women were involved (which is incredibly vague by the way) says just about nothing of the women or men that find this kind of thing sexist.

It's not like sexism at tech trade shows is a new thing, but there always seems to be people to defend it. They are using naked women as attention-getting displays to sell laptop batteries to a largely male audience. Forget blaming the company, maybe they had to do it to sell their product, but surely there is some sexism involved here.


That's definitely not true.


It's not true because men and women are both brought up in the same power structures. There are plenty of women who believe that women's rightful place is in the home, that buy into the notion of modern beauty, and that don't care about women's rights (aka abortion, rape, etc).

That being said, I'd buy an argument that said women are more likely to be aware of these issues. Or even that women are less likely to be sexist. I suppose I took issue with your assertion that women are MUCH less likely to be sexist. I guess it's an argument of degrees.


Thanks, and sorry for the snark but it's way too easy to just talk past each other about feminist issues in general.

My memory is a bit fuzzy but from interviews I've read with models, most of them (male and female) are against the "power structures" you're talking about. The only model I'm friends with is definitely not the sort of girl who believes her place is in the home etc.


Please be specific. I don't feel like guessing what you mean.


I think he meant that what you said is not true. I.e. he is stating the inverse: "Having women involved in the creation of something does not have significant impact on whether it is sexist." Although I don't get how that needs to be clarified.


I understand how it can be offensive and why it is but in this particular situation I can't help but feel the publicity being provided to the company is doing them a favor. Sometimes these campaigns go a little overboard and become zealous when they aren't making much of a difference.

I have never heard of Hyper-whatever. I have now. In 5 months time if I come across their name I may not remember the controversy but I will remember the brand, and they know it.

Its a little different however if their core customer base was the ones in arms, not people like me who have never heard of them. Non-customers rallying doesn't do anything but spread their name about I feel.


I wrote the piece and I worry about this too :( My hope is that even if they get more brand awareness out of it, they'll at least think twice about their next booth.


The problem isn't that women are being degraded. The problem is that women are being presented as bodies that can help sell laptop batteries.


Women are bodies, among other things. They can pose for a display for tech junk without giving up other aspects of their humanity. In other words they are not reduced to being bodies, they are just choosing to express that facet of themselves. Tomorrow they'll show off some other aspect.

Edited to add: I'm good friends with a model. She does stuff like this for fun.


Hi there. I wrote the post and just wanted to let you and the models know that I fully support them and their right to do whatever kind of work they want to do. I don't see them as victims and I didn't write the article to be a voice for them. I wrote it for myself, as a woman in tech. It's awkward when women are used at a tech trade show to attract men to the booth. And it's offensive when a company like HyperMac calls us crazy for pointing it out.


Thank you for writing that post. You're not crazy, you're right. Hell, I would feel awkward too if some painted up butt-naked guys became the norm at tech conferences. Unfortunately some people just don't get it, because they fail to see outside themselves. Keep writing more about this. People need the perspective.


That's not what I got from your article. I saw HyperMac responding to the people who said the display was degrading and dehumanizing, not to the ones who "passed it around the twitter-verse, rolling our eyes and having a good laugh." This part especially seemed odd: "What HyperMac failed to realize was that all the community wanted from them was acknowledgment and support." Really? Then why did the community boycott and attack them instead of asking for acknowledgement and support?


Because they got an apathetic, arrogant, selfish, shitty response, that's why. You respond to people like shit, you get shit back. It's not rocket science.


That is exactly my point. People started jumping all over HyperMac, and HyperMac dismissed the twitter pile-on as an uninformed mob.


Which was exactly the wrong way to go about things. You don't dismiss a large demographic's concerns by trying to throw it back at them.


The alternative being... what, sitting down, listening to what they want to say, and then giving them what they want?

Bear in mind that there's nothing more frustrating that someone apparently taking you seriously and listening to you and then flat-out refusing to give you any of what you want from them. It makes you feel like you were tricked by someone who never took you seriously at all.

Fundamentally, this is about a company facing off against an angry group of people who want to force the company to action that pleases them. No CEO is going to enjoy that.

Also, if the demographic in question isn't your customer base you're likely to treat them somewhat less seriously.


As far as I can tell, HyperMac's customer base is people who own macs.

Miss Rep is a bay area non-profit so I'm sure they have a very large base here. And a lot of macs.

Not to mention all the techies, not at all affiliated with Miss Rep, who were tweeting about this event.

Many tweeters and posters stated specifically that they were former or potential customers who will now look elsewhere.


Well, I too was part of their customer base, but not anymore. If this is what the company stands for, consider me out. I'd much prefer purchasing products on their merits than some played out douchey marketing scheme.


This is a point of contention for a lot of people. For myself, reduction of a women to their body in order to sell a product is objectification that appeals to a message that women are commodities. The majority of objectifying advertising has this implicit message built it. You might enjoy Killing Us Softly for more information about women and advertising (this link is trailer only, I'm afraid): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTlmho_RovY


I'm not sure I like that explanation. If the laptop batteries were sold using women's brains, we'd be celebrating how far women's rights have come, despite completely ignoring that women are human and also have bodies.

The real issue here seems to just be a puritanical view of nakedness/sexiness.

Women most certainly do deal with problems in the workplace, but having the ability to choose to stand mostly naked to sell batteries doesn't seem like one of them.


I'm comfortable with nakedness and sexiness. I doubt the booth would have hit my radar at all if they'd included male models too. Honestly, this wouldn't be a blog post if the CEO had responded in a thoughtful way. It's his response that is most offensive.


>I doubt the booth would have hit my radar at all if they'd included male models too.

I'm sorry but this was not at all clear from what you had written. Or any of the tweets you quoted. I tried to be pretty careful, thoughtful, and understanding but apparently I failed badly. After all this discussion I have no idea what your objection actually is. Sorry for wasting everyone's time, I wish there was something I could actually take away from this but I just feel defeated by this whole conversation.


Thank you for reading and trying to understand. I really mean that. I hope some of my other comments will help explain it better.

Here is a link to one of them: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5157470


I appreciate the response. It was actually the original tweet that made me feel it was about the generally negative view of bodies, and not any kind of women's rights issue. It mentions appropriateness, which is usually associated with people, of all sexes, needing to covering up to be appropriate.

Obviously the whole thing runs much deeper and I agree that things could be handled much more effectively.


There are very few things that are "universally offensive." As nollidge accurately pointed out, just because women were involved doesn't mean it's not sexist.

The fact is that this was widely considered offensive and unnecessary, and the CEOs response only made it worse. No one has the right not to be offended, but everyone has the right to speak out and not buy a product for whatever reasons they choose, which is exactly what happened.

Personally, I don't have a problem with naked people in body paint as part of a display; it does everything you want a display to do, it catches eyes and it sticks in memory.

But why did they only choose naked women? There are no painted male models in their staff photo from the event.[1] Was it decided that including naked men would somehow hurt the effectiveness of the display, and if so, why? Certainly there were willing male models, so it seems that HyperMac just steered clear of hiring men. The accusations of sexism (or more accurately, objectification) all springs from that, and the unwillingness of the CEO to even acknowledge that as a concern is honestly disturbing.

[1] http://www.hyperblog.com/2013/01/thanks-for-an-amazing-ces-2...


The complaint in the article was that the display was degrading to the women. Including men in the display just would have degraded men as well as women. It's not a numbers game.


That's nothing but blind speculation.

There is absolutely no evidence that it would have been considered that way.


I don't follow. How would putting men in the same display change how degraded the women in the display were?


The argument isn't about whether or not they're being degraded, but whether women as a group are being objectified by the people who organized the display. That argument is significantly enhanced by the fact that women were the only "objects" that were on display, especially when women were far from the only "objects" that were appropriate for this display. There's nothing about HyperMac's products that figuratively or literally only applies to naked, painted women. Naked, painted men were just as appropriate as women, but they were completely avoided for reasons that are unknown to the public.

Right now, the display is "naked women in body paint", but with men it would be "naked people in body paint." The gender neutrality of the display would exist in more than just a semantic sense, but also in a deeper sense that gender wasn't considered a factor when they were making this display. Right now, that's not how it looks at all. It looks like they only wanted naked women to be associated with HyperMac's products. And the CEO's comments do absolutely nothing to dissuade that viewpoint.

Would people have still complained about objectification of women if there were men in the display too? Maybe. But they would have a much weaker case than they do now.


I really don't understand how objectifying men makes objectification of women less offensive. It's OK to dehumanize people as long as we do it equally?


Do you see nude, painted models at a trade event as being inherently dehumanizing? Because that would be a separate issue from what's being discussed here.

The problem -- at least as it seems to me -- is not that there were nude, painted people hired for the event, but that there were only nude, painted women hired for the event for no apparent reason other than their presumed sex appeal to the predominantly male attendees.

That's where the objectification argument comes in, at least in my eyes. Like I said from the start, I don't have an inherent issue with using nude, painted models for a display.


No, but I didn't see the display as being degrading to women, which is why I'm looking for other people's perspectives. You make it sound like someone hijacked these women and used them in a degrading way. I don't see any evidence of that. Also I see no basis for presuming that they were hired only for sex appeal.


I have no idea where or how I made it sound like someone hijacked these women. That's obviously not the case. They were paid models who likely have no qualms with this work, and again, that's perfectly fine.

My issue with the display is it that HyperMac only hired female models when males would have sufficed just as well. That's the only real basis for claiming objectification of women in my eyes. Because the CEO gave absolutely no answers -- refusing to acknowledge that could even be a concern -- Occam's razor suggests going with the simplest explanation of why only nude female models were chosen to represent HyperMac, and the simplest explanation (at least in my eyes) is their sex appeal.

Models are chosen primarily for their looks, so why was the look of the nude female body the only one HyperMac had representing them at the show?


OK, actually to me the nude models did not seem to me to be for sex appeal, but the 8 women with "HyperMac" on their breasts convinced me. Given that women were hired for their sex appeal: why is that a problem?

Edited to add: at least the CEO claims they were knowledgeable, which takes care of the main problem with booth babes. Both men and women had been trained to ignore women at the conferences, as a kind of mental spam filter just because many of the booth babes were clueless about the products.

About the depth thing: click the "link" button if you want to reply. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=5154055


Thanks for asking. This is a huge topic of research for decades. Here are a few starting points.

http://www.netmagazine.com/features/primer-sexism-tech-indus... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_objectification


Sorry, I asked the wrong question. Given that they were hired for sex appeal, how would hiring more men have helped?


This is a transparent promotion for the nonprofit mentioned in the article.


It's not, but even if it was that wouldn't be a bad thing. They need as much support as they can get because they are doing very good work.


I'm surprised no-one has taken note of the assertion in the title and at the end of the article, that "a good apology is better than no mistakes". Yes sure not making stupid, sexist decisions and never get all the publicity. However when a [person/group/company (delete as appropriate)] does something bigoted, even the best apology still leaves them several notches below where they started beforehand.


HyperMac's response was certainly accusatory, which is probably not good for anyone.

But what if they had just said "We believe our display was not sexist, and we won't be changing anything." Is that any better than "We acknowledge that you think our booth was sexist, and we support anti-sexism in tech, but our display was not sexist and we're not going to change anything" ?

The former at least seems honest, the latter condescending.


I think both of those would be better than their actual response, which was accusatory and hostile.


Totally agree. But the article seems to say that you should always acknowledge and support, even if you disagree. And I think that could come off as dishonest in some cases.


That's a fair point. I think the article is assuming that, in these cases, the companies are in the wrong.

This is actually interesting. I think there's probably a huge opportunity to communicate with your customers in this case. There's got to be a way to engage while respectfully disagreeing.


That would depend greatly on who you are engaging with. If you're dealing with your customer base, there absolutely is. They can and should be engaged as customers.

If you're dealing with a number of people who aren't your customers and were never likely to be, then you have a different problem as the presumed customer relationship isn't there. In this scenario you're dealing with people who don't care about your product and wouldn't buy anyway but mostly want to see you knuckle under. Engaging them as customers is a fundamentally misguided decision.


Anybody know why this post instantly dropped from page 1 to page 4?

Is it a bot or does someone really not want this conversation on the front page?


If a story gets flagged a few times it drops off the front page. If it gets flagged more it's killed. I think this is all automated.


  GitHub is an exceptionally popular open-source community
  where any developer can find code for pretty much
  anything. But there's a problem—some of that code contains
  extremely offensive racist, sexist, and homophobic,
  language.

  A word of caution before you proceed, because these search
  results are very NSFW.

  You don't have to look hard for to find hundreds of
  results for controversial terms of every stripe. Simply  
  inputting racial slurs, misogynistic words turns up code
  in several languages—Java, HTML, Python, Ruby, and so on
  —casually riddled with things like bitch, slut, whore, and
  worse.
Source: http://gizmodo.com/5980842/there-is-blatant-racist-and-sexis...

  GitHub is a platform geeks and techies love because it not
  only lets you manage projects but allows you to share your
  code and your projects with the outside world. This kind
  of transparency obviously has its perks as well as its
  downsides—among the biggest is the fact that now we can
  see who's coding what. And we can see exactly how mundane
  racism, misogyny, homophobia, and other kinds of prejudice
  are in the coding world on a granular level.

  GitHub sits in the center of an Open Source community that
  has been dealing with heated ongoing controversy over its
  lack of diversity. In November, BritRuby, a Manchester
  conference of Ruby on Rails coders, was canceled after
  outrage broke out online at its all-male lineup of
  panelists. Ruby coder Sean Handley took to GitHub to
  criticize the online community for bringing down the well
  -intentioned conference with "careless words."

  "Turns out, a lot of the prominent Rubyists are white guys 
  and all of the ones who said they'd like to come were,
  indeed, white guys," he stated. "Making an issue out of
  that is, frankly, misguided."

  Is it an overreaction to make an issue, likewise, out of
  the words being used by GitHub coders? Perhaps. But if
  anything, Morris argues that the issue strikes at the
  heart of nerd culture itself:

  The reason we’re seeing such vicious anti-equality 
  bullshit in the geek community over the BritRuby situation
  and other conference type stuff is because the very
  existence of societal inequalities (against women, racial
  minorities, gender/sexual minorities) threatens the whole
  idea that hackers got where they are because they are
  super-fucking-smart.… A lot of what we call luck boils
  down to us being in groups that don’t face discrimination
  and other problems.
Source: http://www.dailydot.com/society/github-code-search-racism-se...


thank you for sharing this!


There is a very thin line between being a feminist and being an asshole. The problem with these women, who claim to be angered by women being treated as objects is that they don't identify the real problem.

Women are attracted to men and men are attracted to women. This is basic nature and no one can change it. Using either to sell a product is not exactly sexism. For example, many deodorants use both male and female models to promote their products.

Sexism in my definition would be when given the same opportunity, when one gender is being paid or treated better than another gender, that would be sexism, because someone is being treated unfair.

What hypermac (the company in question) did was not wrong. They hired models who were for god's sake ready to do it. They were ready to accept money and stand nude on their product exhibit. It would have been unfair if they were treated unfair, or against their will, none of which had happened.

The real problem about women being objectified is that women are ready to be objectified - either for money or for some other form of compromise. This is the real problem. As long as such women exist, the product makers and corporations would obviously use them. So, if you want this to stop, you have to revolt when someone from your own gender (male/female) is ready to represent your gender infront of a public audience and accept to be objectified for money. Don't go after the corporation that hired them, instead ask these people why they let them objectify you, on behalf of you/your gender in the first place. This is the real problem.

I love the way that these rogue women go after men (and vice versa) only because they want an apology to feel superior and write a blog post about it.

I think it must have been a great marketing campaign for HyperMac and the guy was right - These people deserved no apology for this particular event and this particular event alone (please don't generalize this conclusion).

There's a great saying - Any publicity is good publicity. I hope these feminists realize this and stop fucking themselves up like this, publicly.


> The real problem about women being objectified is that women are ready to be objectified - either for money or for some other form of compromise. This is the real problem. As long as such women exist, the product makers and corporations would obviously use them. So, if you want this to stop, you have to revolt when someone from your own gender (male/female) is ready to represent your gender infront of a public audience and accept to be objectified for money. Don't go after the corporation that hired them, instead ask these people why they let them objectify you, on behalf of you/your gender in the first place. This is the real problem

Either you think objectifying women is wrong, or you don't. If you do, then it's absolutely logical to go after the people deciding to run their marketing campaign this way. You will always find people ready to do whatever if you put enough money on the table. It doesn't mean it's not wrong.


What I fail to understand is why objectification of the body is wrong, but objectification of the mind is normal, if not encouraged.

We spend a lot of time trying to make individual thought into an interchangeable machine. You don't even have to dig very deep in HN to see people boasting about the benefits of a college education, or why you should drop out, in order to make yourself like just like everyone else, creating an "us vs them" mentality. Then we put the most attractive minds on display for all to see. "Buy this and you can be smart and successful just like me!"

Exploiting a woman to display her body to sell a laptop battery is no more wrong than exploiting a woman to use her mind to create the battery in the first place. In either case, we are not appreciating the person for being a person, just an object that gets the job done.

Women are not free of problems because of their gender, but this case seems entirely about a non-sensical shame of the human body.


Interesting analogy. This actually made me pause and think for a while.

However, I think it is ultimately flawed. The message here is clearly targeted at the reptilian part of heterosexual male brains: buying this battery is like buying this woman to bed her. Straightforward and effective.

Saying "do this and be smart just like me" works in a completely different way. It does reduce people to one dimension: their success, while ignoring their appreciation for the finer points of Zoroastrianism. But I would not call it exploitative. You put forward a positive quality (business skill, programming chops, whatever) and you encourage people to take action and work to acquire it. This is a fairly positive message.

I would say also that paying a woman to create a battery (provided the compensation is fair) is not exploitation. In this context, we are not talking about economic exploitation, but exploitation of heterosexual male lust in ways which send out the message that women are nothing better than sex toys.

To every straight, at least moderately attractive male who have trouble understanding how this can be an issue, I suggest to challenge yourselves and go out to a gay night club on a Friday night. If anything, this should be an interesting experience, and may help you understand some things which can make women uncomfortable.


You definitely make some great points. I do, however, wonder why you consider business skills a positive quality, but being a sex toy a negative quality? Neither is inherently good or inherently bad.

I expect it is because the woman is viewed as a sex toy without getting to choose to be one? However, the stereotype about a man's wallet seems to play into the same idea. A man who looks wealthy is going to be assumed to be a smart businessman, even if he wishes to not be seen that way.

I admit that I still don't fully understand, and maybe it is impossible for me to fully do so, but I'm glad we can talk openly about it to learn more.

- "I suggest to challenge yourselves and go out to a gay night club on a Friday night."

I have actually done this and found it to be a fun and positive experience. Nothing creepy or uncomfortable about it. I guess I am, perhaps, too ugly to have experienced what you are talking about?


> You definitely make some great points. I do, however, wonder why you consider business skills a positive quality, but being a sex toy a negative quality? Neither is inherently good or inherently bad. > > I expect it is because the woman is viewed as a sex toy without getting to choose to be one? However, the stereotype about a man's wallet seems to play into the same idea. A man who looks wealthy is going to be assumed to be a smart businessman, even if he wishes to not be seen that way.

But society does not see businessmen in the same light as sex toys. At all.

The problem is that we've been living in a patriarcal society for a long, long while. Sending the message "women are sex toys" also means "women are sex toys, nothing more - they are here for your enjoyment". It's a message that they are not in a position of power, contrary to the businessman. They are not equal.

> I have actually done this and found it to be a fun and positive experience. Nothing creepy or uncomfortable about it. I guess I am, perhaps, too ugly to have experienced what you are talking about?

It's a bit difficult to explain. Imagine suddenly that somebody sees you as just a piece of meat, ready to be consumed and thrown out afterward. This is not a pleasant feeling. And congrats for challenging yourself!


So would you say the root problem is our puritan shame of sex, as I suggested earlier? If a sexual person was held in the same regard as a business person, wouldn't that be something to strive towards, not shy away from?

"It's a bit difficult to explain. Imagine suddenly that somebody sees you as just a piece of meat, ready to be consumed and thrown out afterward. This is not a pleasant feeling."

See, I wish people would value me for my body in that way. It is the constant having to prove myself with my mind, instead, that made me think of the original comparison. Without being able to fully understand what you are feeling, it seems like it could be the same thing in many ways – ultimately rejecting what you have and seeking what you don't have.


> So would you say the root problem is our puritan shame of sex, as I suggested earlier? If a sexual person was held in the same regard as a business person, wouldn't that be something to strive towards, not shy away from?

Well, it already is... for men. A man with many sexual partners is looked favourably upon. A woman doing the same is called a slut. There is a gender imbalance built into our society, and until such time as a majority of men recognize it, it will keep being there. But it is a question of equality and power more than sexuality. Just as if you systematically represented male CEOs and female secretaries in the media. This wouldn't be about sex, but would be equally problematic.

> See, I wish people would value me for my body in that way. It is the constant having to prove myself with my mind that made me think of the original comparison. Without being able to fully understand what you are feeling, it seems like it could be the same thing in many ways – ultimately rejecting what you have and seeking what you don't have.

You have a point here. I'd say the problem is treating people as the means to an end - whether as sex toys, problem-solving machines or plain old cannon fodder.


"I'd say the problem is treating people as the means to an end - whether as sex toys, problem-solving machines or plain old cannon fodder."

I don't know if I can speak for all men, but personally, having someone to want you to do something for them is where self-worth is derived. Whether someone wants to have sex, or a business wants to hire you for you services, it feels good to be wanted. That seems like the exact opposite of a problem, from my unique perspective. And maybe it is foolish to have those feelings, but it largely outside of my control. Assuming you represent the prevailing views of most women, and the gender divide on this is real, it is clear to see how we got here.

Interestingly, I've noticed this pattern even outside of gender differences. People generally push on other people what they want for themselves, male and female. Even my aforementioned college example is a great one here. Someone who wants to go to college will think everyone should go to college and push that idea upon them, even if it is not the wishes of someone else. I don't know where you even begin to fix that; it seems to be the human condition.


> I don't know if I can speak for all men, but personally, having someone to want you to do something for them is where self-worth is derived. Whether someone wants to have sex, or a business wants to hire you for you services, it feels good to be wanted. That seems like the exact opposite of a problem, from my unique perspective. And maybe it is foolish to have those feelings, but it largely outside of my control. Assuming you represent the prevailing views of most women, and the gender divide on this is real, it is clear to see how we got here.

The difference is whether you are treated as valueable or as a commodity. In both cases, you can be made to feel "wanted" but completely different ways.


It's true the interaction between companies and their employees has issues, esp. with regards to employees whose output is more mental than physical.

But objectifying women's bodies to sell a product is sexual objectification[1]. The issue with this is that we live in a society where attitudes that women do not control their bodies or that others get to control those bodies is a root cause of sexual violence against women and promotes an attitude that blames victims of such violence for being the cause of that violence. Keep in mind that for the vast majority of history in the western world, women were treated literally as objects and were bartered and sold and denied protection of the law when assaulted (this last point arguably is still true).

The difference between that objectification and the kind that occurs when a business simply treats you as a faceless output unit is that sexual objectification mainly has negative effects for women compared to men. The tech world has a long history of contributing to that objectification of women in a way that doesn't apply to men, who are the most common type of worker in the tech industry (that isn't to say that there aren't issues for tech workers with their jobs).

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_objectification


Very different issues you're talking about. It's disingenuous to equate them, but nice slip of rhetoric.


What you say may be true, but I fail to see the difference. That is why I brought it up. I'm open to learning and understanding more about the subject, but simply passing it off as rhetoric doesn't really help the cause. Care to explain what you mean?


If you apply enough reductive logic, anything can seem to be the same thing.


Surely, but that doesn't explain why this case is not reductive in the way I have presented. You can claim anything to be not true, but that doesn't make the claim true.

If we want to progress women's rights, we need to be able to talk about the problems, not just sweep everything under the rug with "No, you are wrong."


> The real problem about women being objectified is that women are ready to be objectified

Root cause analysis, please. Five why's. You've answered one.


I've never been called a "rogue woman" before. That's awesome. It's funny how women having an opinion is so offensive to some people.


I love the unintentional imagery of feminists as rebels against the system, with the implication that the rebellion is unjust and the correct behavior would be to know one's role. The term "rogue woman" about someone standing up for equality is so offensive it almost makes me laugh.


Taking money for something does not mean that you're comfortable with it, that you're not being exploited (unknowingly or not), that what you did was right, that you understand the context of your actions, etc. Being a man or woman does not mean you speak for all men or women.


> The real problem about women being objectified is that women are ready to be objectified - either for money or for some other form of compromise. This is the real problem. As long as such women exist, the product makers and corporations would obviously use them. So, if you want this to stop, you have to revolt when someone from your own gender (male/female) is ready to represent your gender infront of a public audience and accept to be objectified for money. Don't go after the corporation that hired them, instead ask these people why they let them objectify you, on behalf of you/your gender in the first place.

Why do people accept money to do things? What a great question. That ranks right up there with "Why do prisoners want to escape from prison?"

Everyone has a price. If someone told you they'd pay you a million dollars to stand naked for a few hours in front of a gaggle of lecherous old ladies, I bet you'd do it. Scruples don't pay rent or put food on the table. Maybe your price is higher, or maybe it's lower like these models, but at some point you'd do it.


> Women are attracted to men and men are attracted to women. This is basic nature and no one can change it.

Except when, you know, they are gay or on the asexual spectrum.

> Using either to sell a product is not exactly sexism. For example, many deodorants use both male and female models to promote their products.

People aren't objecting to the existence of ad, but rather that this marketing reduced women's bodies to a commercial commodity. Lack of self agency and a women's body as property is a very sexist issue that is present in US culture today and affects many.

> Sexism in my definition would be when given the same opportunity, when one gender is being paid or treated better than another gender, that would be sexism, because someone is being treated unfair.

This is the case today. We have well documented instances of individual sexist treatment and systemic sexist treatment, mostly towards women.

> What hypermac (the company in question) did was not wrong. They hired models who were for god's sake ready to do it. They were ready to accept money and stand nude on their product exhibit. It would have been unfair if they were treated unfair, or against their will, none of which had happened.

Getting a job isn't some kind of process that occurs in a cultural vacuum, a lot goes into why people take on jobs that are sexist in nature. Also, just because the company can hire models for sexist marketing doesn't mean they should.

> The real problem about women being objectified is that women are ready to be objectified - either for money or for some other form of compromise.

This is victim blaming at its prime. You are blaming cultural objectification of women on women.

> So, if you want this to stop, you have to revolt when someone from your own gender (male/female) is ready to represent your gender infront of a public audience and accept to be objectified for money.

This directly against what feminism is even about in the first place. Feminism doesn't proscribe that you attack women who exercise their self autonomy. In fact, telling women to attack other women who act in a way they don't approve of is a common way to sow discord and distract people from the larger social and cultural issues that affect their lives. That is, you are telling people to ignore context and attack other people who are just as affected by our society as they are.

> Don't go after the corporation that hired them, instead ask these people why they let them objectify you, on behalf of you/your gender in the first place. This is the real problem.

That you see no problem with ignoring corporate behavior and attacking individuals speaks a lot about how you feel with regards to corporate domination and control over people's lives.

> I love the way that these rogue women go after men (and vice versa) only because they want an apology to feel superior and write a blog post about it.

Lol "rogue women"

> There's a great saying - Any publicity is good publicity. I hope these feminists realize this and stop fucking themselves up like this, publicly.

So now feminists are fucking themselves up because a company engaged in sexist marketing and people called that out? What's really fucked up here is how willing you are to defend companies and marketing over the actual lives and experiences of people who are directly affected by that kind of sexist marketing.


Hahahah. The first line is gold. Took the words right out of my mouth.




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