I'd like to stem a couple of obvious, but inevitable (for HN and some other tech communities) criticisms that are bound to appear:
1) Yes, this stuff is tasteless and offends the sensibilities of most decent adults. (Invariably, someone likes to point out that it offends everyone, and conclude therefore that it can't be misogynistic)
2) Yes, people differ in their tolerances for crudeness in their humor. First, I think most people can agree that none of this was actually even funny -- as in, these presentations did not successfully execute the elements of humor. Second, a hackathon is not the place to get up on stage and pretend to come on the audience. There's audacity -- which, when coupled with other necessary elements can make for a great presentation -- and there's poor taste.
3) Yes, some women will take particular offense to these presentations and they are justified.
Allowing a couple of dumbasses to get up and laugh about staring at breasts and dropping terrible puns -- even when their presentation is self-deprecating and they hint that they know how crass they are being -- sends the message that the organizers and the audience accept the premise of the presentation: that leering at women's bodies in a completely unaware manner, is acceptable. It's not -- please let there be nobody who contests that point.
(Aside: a woman in a low-cut shirt is not putting her breasts on display for public consumption. And leering is different than looking -- nobody is saying that you aren't allowed to notice the attractiveness of a woman.)
Getting up and pretending to inseminate the audience is just gross, and as an act, it is at the same level as the guy in my seventh grade class who drew a full-page phallus in my yearbook. His excuse is that he was thirteen, and assumed that everyone else was as obsessed with his genitals as he was. That people are laughing about this sends another message, and I can understand if women are more sensitive to that message than men -- who were themselves thirteen y/o males at one time.
I don't know if I've demonstrated why things like this create an environment where it's hard to say, seriously, that women should get into tech.
> The sexism is in knowing that it will make most women somewhat uncomfortable, and some women very uncomfortable, and not caring.
I'd go so far as to say that how is an app that is all about exploiting women NOT sexist?
It is more than just making them uncomfortable. Some pics are taken of women that are drug addicted or white slaves or both. For most that do it on their own initiative, it is a decision they will regret later, but unlike a one night stand, it isn't just for one night. Those images stay around forever.
Personally I thought the demo was meta-commentary about absurd photo-sharing apps, community standards, and the combined awkwardness/humor of "men caught looking" (and then we, the audience or hypothetical users of the app, "caught looking at men looking"). Regressive, yes, but also recursive.
The chosen example photos seemed to have as their subject the male gaze, not the breasts themselves. And, unless staged, such photos don't usually capture a "stare" but a "furtive glance": it is an artifact of the photo-taking (and then sharing) process that turns a momentary glance, that the subject might have hoped noone would notice, into a permanent, ranked "stare".
The audience laughter was as much or more uncomfortable-distancing as it was enjoyment/approval, and the cultural differences in gender-sensitivity-taboos between Australia and Northern California added another interesting dimension to their act.
I would consider it one of the more interesting performances in the SF Fringe Festival (http://www.sffringe.org/appl/), now through September 21st on stages across San Francisco, and all the more notable because it was not, technically, an SF Fringe Festival entry or venue.
I don't believe any hack of the 250+ presented was intended to be equally useful to 100% of the audience. The 9-year-old certainly didn't assume the audience was entirely children looking for playdates.
Since the presentation obviously wasn't serious, imputing any serious 'assumptions' to the presenters is silly.
It's not even an app, really. It's a 'Joke App Mockup' – a bit of trolling performance art. You give it more voice and power with your outrage.
When you go to an event like this, or say a TED talk or some type of technology conference (VMworld, PyCon, etc), I assume a G/PG rating, unless told otherwise. Sure they were jokes, just told in the wrong setting. Some people like to push the boundaries, and if you give them a soap box, they will speak. This should be news to no one, but when you show PG-13, or R content to someone expecting a PG show, joke or otherwise, then eyebrows will raise.
As an example, lets say you went to see Louis CK , is anyone going to be outraged if he did a bit about either of these things, maybe, but that's what they signed up for, both were jokes right, what is the difference, people expect and want a PG-13/R rated show when they signed up to see Louis CK.
When you're at an event with tens of people, you can look around and see who in attendance. All youngish tech guys? Great, let's push the boundary for stupid humor. That's an acceptable judgment, although I personally would still keep it professional. It's an understandable assessment.
If, though, there are hundreds (thousands?) in attendance then prudence would suggest that you raise the floor of acceptability. The lowest common denominating factor has gone way down -- that people here all breathe air and want to see hackathon projects is about all you can safely assume. To come out and jerk off with your phone on stage is very poor judgment and not at all calibrated with the audience.
Some things do not need to be explicitly spelled out, and it is not negligence on the part of the presenters to expect people getting up to speak publicly to exercise a basic level of judgment. The conclusion, "I can't safely assume that everyone here will find this funny, or at least tolerable," is not difficult to arrive at given the circumstances presented.
I would like to see the opinion of someone who actually brought their young child to the event... or even, ideally, from a child in attendance.
When parents bring a child to an event that's traditionally ~99% adults, I'm not sure that what they want is for the event to down-shift to be more 'family friendly'. They may be trying to show their child more of the authentic grown-up world.
I think that's what my parents were after when they brought me to R-Rated movies at the age of 9. (Or perhaps, they were just too cheap to hire a babysitter.)
But, your parents KNEW it was R-rated, they didn't go into an UNKNOWN and then got whatever they got... I am fine with a hackathon saying "This is X rated, for improving <pornsite>" -- that is perfect fine, it isn't about the specific expectation, it is about SETTING one.
Having no guidance means that if this is acceptable is far more grey... I think it if was supposed to be G-rated, everyone would agree it was not.
Clear boundaries and expectations help everyone, from a parent deciding if their children should participate to an adult deciding if they want to attend.
Anyone coming here, wondering what happened, there were two presentation which were clearly inappropriate. First one was an app called TitStare, which allows you to view, upload, and share softcore photos of.. use your imagination. The second, circle shake, was an app to measure how fast you can jerk your wrist, upload and share your scores, accompanied by a pretty wild presentation.
I think the first one must have been a joke, because titstare.com was only registered today:
>I think the first one must have been a joke, because titstare.com was only registered today:
How does when the domain was registered affect whether it was a joke? The hackathon took place last night through today. I think it is supposed to be a mobile app (if any code actually exists) anyway, so having a domain isn't super important.
why not? The porn industry has been responsible for a lot of technological innovation on the internet. They were pioneers for electronic billing, for streaming video, for high scalability websites, and for user-uploaded content.
Should we exclude all content with a sexual nature, even if there is good technology behind it?
If someone were presenting a true technical innovation that happened to be inspired by the needs of that industry, that would not be objectionable as long as the 'product' itself weren't displayed in the presentation. (e.g. this innovation in streaming video software enables 10,000 concurrent streams etc etc)
Though if it were the AVN conference rather than TechCrunch, showing the product would be practically required. You, know, for demonstration purposes ...
> Sexism aside, these two presentations are too funny for me not to think they were done intentionally.
As opposed to being done accidentally?
These presentations were, of course, intended to be jokes. In fact, I'm sure they were designed to be harmless, unoffensive jokes.
Children and adults who were rightfully offended were all in the audience. TechCrunch showcasing an app designed to turn objectifying women into a social network is absolutely absurd.
I'm not a woman, but I also don't think that these types of "jokes" are acceptable at any sort of conference. If you want to joke around with your friends, fine. Hell, if you want to make an app called TitStare on your own time and publish it, great--but for an all-ages industry conference to publicize it? That's wrong.
I believe that the tech industry as a whole is doing great work towards being less misogynistic and being more diverse. Stunts like this at well-known events are huge road blocks towards that goal.
I'm not sure it's clear what we should discount "joke" apps as not being serious business. After all, they built a place where users upload offensive photos and allow folks to vote and share ... just like 9Gag, Reddit, and countless other legitimate, funded, businesses.
As far as it getting publicized that's on Tech Crunch. We can all blame the perpetrators but I still fail to see how this is a tech thing. News stations get phony phone calls everyday and some of them get through. To some people they are funny, while others are offended. This whole TC mishap is turning out to be a cheap attempt at making the tech industry seem misogynistic. I'll reiterate, it happens in every industry.
Male sexual desire is healthy. Heterosexual men like tits - deal with it. There's nothing "objectifying" or "misogynistic" about it. Jesus, what's wrong with you people? Is a man allowed to even look at a woman or is even that considered misogyny? I like women and no amount of buzzwords will make me ashamed of it!
You may not have been personally offended, but if you're not able to understand why somebody might have been offended then that really does sum up why lots of people think tech has a problem with misogyny.
The fact 'it was a joke' really isn't an excuse...I'd argue it actually makes it worse.
I don't understand why the presentations in question were sexist/mysoginistic. Immature? Yes. Crude? Yes. Probably shouldn't have made it on stage? Yes. Sexist? I'm unconvinced.
I also don't understand why they were only a problem because they were "sexist". The apps were parodying behavior that well... many men engage in -- which is something you can acknowledge regardless of your gender. The immaturity alone should have been grounds for exclusion. Calling them out specifically for sexism seems to be a little heavy handed.
Were there shots of men's cleavage? Nope? It was sexist by any reasonable definition of "sexism". Pointing that out isn't "heavy handed", it's the truth.
Whoever doxed them was heavy-handed, but since I haven't seen any threat worse than "I will never work with them" apparently not that heavy-handed. There are consequences for performing your sexism for all the world to see.
Except we don't. There are no clearly defined rules of what exactly defines sexism outside of "referring to women in a a way that makes anyone anywhere feel uncomfortable." It's entirely subjective and based on community, culture and societal standards. It's a landmine with wheels. Even if you stand perfectly still, it could bump into your leg at any moment and, I don't know, annoy you to death with shrill platitudes about patriarchy.
I hope you're joking. Besides the flurry of tech presenters and writers in the audience that were offended, a nine year old girl was at TechCrunch Disrupt demonstrating a product. Seeing as TCDisrupt isn't marketed as an 18+ event, it should be held to the same standards as any other public, professional gathering of individuals.
Judging by TechCrunch's reaction, they wholeheartedly agree.
IMHO both apps are tacky, however, I feel the whole thing is clearly a joke that some people found funny and some didn't. In any event, I feel the whole thing has been blown out of proportion.
I watched the videos and, while the Circle Shake presentation was cringeworthy, it was very mildly sexual at a conference that's aimed at adults, not children. There will have been people in the audience swearing in casual conversation too, possibly within earshot of the kid. I don't think anybody's equally upset about that though.
Regarding TitStare, I feel as though tackiness has been conflated with sexism. I just cannot see how such an app is sexist, especially given the fact there are plenty of bisexual and lesbian women. Conversely, if there were an app called ManButtStare, I'm really just not sure there would be the same response.
The reason I'm not offended by either of these apps is not because I'm a man (I'm not in the demographic for TitStare anyway given the fact I'm gay), but because the developers' intent didn't appear to be malicious or bad. It just seemed to be a joke that some people got offended over, but then again, I'm not sure why people think the world has to be so sterile so as to prevent people from getting offended.
The straight women will still be alienated. It's not as if as long as you're not alienating some women (bi and gay) that it's fine.
It also objectifies women. They're propagating the belief that women are only interesting as objects of men's sexual desires.
They don't have to explicitly do something sexist or racist to have a negative effect. Sometimes negative effect can simply be achieved by inaction or mis-action (action that isn't explicitly wrong, but has overarching negative effects).
The reason why you probably won't be offended by "ManButtStare" is because such a thing rarely if ever happens. You are in a male-dominated tech industry already so you don't feel alienation from that trivial instance of female-centric thinking. The problem with Titstare is it adds (in the wrong direction) to compounding attitudes of male-centric thinking and a male-centric industry, with negative consequences of alienation of straight female participants. This is a negative because there will be suboptimal appropriation of female talent into this sector due to alienation. More and more females will just end up going into fashion or art or English literature so they can join their gay, metrosexual, and non-sexist bffs.
See how I stereotyped fashion as dominated by gay men? Perhaps it is, but by promoting that attitude, I probably just added a little bit there to discourage a straight guy from going into fashion even though he may be good at it. That is bad.
>They're propagating the belief that women are only interesting as objects of men's sexual desires.
Nope. That's just your interpretation of it and says more about you and your biases than it does about the makers of that app.
>The reason why you probably won't be offended by "ManButtStare" is because such a thing rarely if ever happens.
Yep, because women definitely never stare at men's butts. Basically, women lusting after men is okay because... women just don't lust after men? Men, on the other hand, are to be shamed for expressing their sexual preferences. This is sexism at work.
If there were kids there then this was certainly done in poor taste, but clearly this was a prank. As for not screening, I can see how they would trust the good in people but just like anything tech related, you never trust anything user submitted.
For example, I always drop the n-word when I'm walking around. People should be more like me, I don't get offended by that kind of language, why should anyone else? Sometimes people do, and I'm like, "What? Why're you getting so offended? I'm not offended, why are you?"
I'm kidding. I don't ask "why are you?" -- that doesn't matter LOL 8-)
For some reason, black people get especially offended at this kind of stuff. No clue why. I mean, I don't get offended and that's literally the only thing that matters when considering whether something should or shouldn't be said. Not the audience, the venue or the event.
Literally, only my own sensibilities matter. Everyone else should loosen up. Like me.
Your reply would be entire spot on if the word "tit" and the n-word were equivalent. One is a body part that both men and women share. The other is a racially charged word that has more than a century of really bad history behind it. And, see how both you and I couldn't say the n-word? That's a tip off that it's not the same. I have tits. Yes, they are man-tits but they are tits nonetheless. The n-word, however, isn't something I'll be caught saying except in very specific company (explaining the history to my 12 yr old, for example).
I can't say I agree with the GP post, since I didn't see the presentations being discussed, but I know your comment is off base.
The point is that, you, the reader, obviously understand that a word, concept or type of behavior can offend others and would therefore abstain from employing it. Or at least exercise judgment in doing so, because you understand that you have a measure of responsibility when speaking publicly.
The inanity of GP's comments is staggering. He is literally saying that because he, himself, is not offended by such humor that everyone else should similarly relax their sensibilities.
If you understand that some language and behavior can offend others, even if you personally are not offended by it, then you already get the point of my argument. If you fixate on disproving the (not-claimed) equivalency between racial slurs and an app about breast obsession -- then you have missed the point.
I never said I was offended, and that doesn't matter. You said that people should not be offended, and the only reasoning you offered for this was that you thought it was funny. My point is that your singular perspective of the humor is not alone sufficient in determining whether or not it's appropriate for the audience, or whether other people are appropriately offended.
You appear to be saying that simply because you are not offended, nobody else should be -- which is an incredibly stupid position to hold. I don't care to explain to you why breast obsession apps and mock-stroking in front of and all over an audience are offensive to others. I doubt you would get it anyway.
I'd love to hear what you think are the salient differences between getting up and presenting Titstare, and showing something fictitious like "N-watcher"
Evidently your reaction if someone got up to present the latter would not be "LOL guys loosen up!" -- even though you are not someone at whom the humor/offense is targeted. Why the difference in attitude?
The problem with that comparison is that I can easily imagine some spoof "Racial Profiler!" app being showcased as a joke. Perhaps an app that allows Atherton residents to report "suspicious" behavior.
But I guess the larger lesson here is: do not try these things unless you're The Onion, SNL, or Key and Peele.
You're not stupid, you get the point no matter how obtuse you're pretending to be. You know that I'm not saying that "tits == N-word" and you know that such an equivalency is not central to or required for my example.
You simply don't want to admit that the only explanation of your position is to say "well black people have a right to get offended by the N-word, but women aren't allowed to object to breasts being objectified."
The prank wasn't brought to light with the intention of offending women. It's a play on an activity with men, we look at boobs. Not everything involving sex is made with the objective of targeting someone, it's just a joke. If you fail to see it as such, that's your problem.
Right on. I have some white friends who, when there aren't any black people around, call each other the n-word. They're not targeting any particular black person, so obviously the behavior is completely acceptable. It's a joke, you know, a play on actual racist behavior.
If you fail to see it as such, that's your problem.
The good thing about this position is that you lack such self-awareness that you would never know the extent to which your limited perceptual abilities cripple you. The bad thing is that you likely do understand the objections here, and are therefore a keyboard jockey. Accordingly, you would never have the courage to make such a ludicrous stand in a public, mixed audience, thereby giving others a fair, advance bozo alert.
Thanks for posting this! Was looking for it but couldn't find the link. Josh Rehman's comment there is also pretty good:
> This is a great example of what I call "petty injustice". The sheer volume of petty injustice causes far more net harm than "great injustice" but because it happens incrementally it is incredibly hard to combat for precisely the reasons you anecdotally state.
> When someone tells you to lighten up, have a script ready. Something like, "What you just said was one small example in a long-standing pattern of subtle discrimination that I've had to endure for years. In that context, it is not okay for you to tell me to lighten up."
I watched the two presentations via the valleywag page others have cited. The problem I see with TechCrunch's apology is that they are mixing up terminology. I don't think either presentation was sexist and especially not misogynstic - what they were was sexual.
Modern society has a similar problem distinguishing between racist humor and racial humor. While there certainly can be overlap between -ist and -ual humor, my general rule for distinguishing the two is that -ist humor stereotypes to get laughs while -ual humor laughs at the stereotyping.
Lots of organizations think the line between the -ist and -ual is too fine and prefer to outright ban the acknowledgment of any issues at all. If we forbid discussion of race at all then you never have to think about whether a topic is racist or racial. Same with sex, if all mention of sex is forbidden then there is no chance of someone saying something sexist.
If an organization wants to take such a "throw the baby out with the bathwater" approach that's their prerogative, but they should be clear about it. Don't say "any type of sexism will not be allowed" say "any mention of sex will not be allowed."
You're right that it was "sexual". However, I'm not sure that the industry has enough average maturity to handle frank discussions of sexuality, especially in big, diverse groups.
Given the demographics of the industry, I don't think it was an accident that it was "TitStare" rather than "DongStare" or "CockStare". I'm sure you could imagine that the nature of the app might make the women in the audience feel a bit odd, that the big punchline was an app about looking at their breasts. Especially since a lot of women feel like they are already struggling for legitimacy in this industry, which is considered by many to be dealing with a sexism problem
the nature of the app might make the women in the audience feel a bit odd, that the big punchline was an app about looking at their breasts.
The app was about photos of men staring at breasts, not about actually looking at breasts - the butt of the joke were the men who selfishly stereotype women as being defined by their breasts and act as if their breasts are there for men (e.g. the reference to the recent news story that looking at breasts makes men more healthy even if women don't appreciate being reduced to an object that makes men more healthy).
> why not "DongStare"
Because it is very common for people (plenty of women have also internalized this behavior) to stereotype women based on their breasts, but it is orders of magnitude less common for people to stereotype men by the bulge in their pants. The joke was about the people who do the stereotyping not about the anatomy itself.
> Given the demographics of the industry, I don't think it was an accident that it was "TitStare" rather than "DongStare" or "CockStare".
Translation from roundaboutspeak -> English: Yes, it was an app marketed at men (though remember that there are lesbians and bisexual men and women as well that like tits) that sexually objectified women.
If sexual objectification was the sole reason that made women leave an industry, there should be no women working for Playboy or the porn industry.
Last I checked, there were plenty of women working willingly in both.
In general, it depends on where in the world they are, and in general (if we're framing this in terms of the same women for whom a hackathon might be accessible), they are driven by characteristic/ psychological factors (Sexually Transmitted Diseases:Volume 26(2)February 1999).
That's also pretty demeaning to women whose choices deserve to be respected, rather than pitied ("poor, silly women!").
Desperately trying to escape the shittiness of your life through drug abuse, and from there getting into prostitution, is still desperation.
Say what you will about respect, but I find it disgusting that our society demeans women by congratulating them for entering sex work as a profession. ("Oh good for you, you made a free choice to take off your panties for me! What a sweet little empowered capitalist you are!") There are plenty of abolitionist women's groups around the world that agree, for example:
Say what you will about personal choice, but I find it empowering that our society enables women by letting them them freely enter sex work as a profession.
^ See what I did there? You believe sex workers are homeless druggies, I believe they are efficient businesswomen. The truth probably lies somewhere in between. At some point, it basically becomes your personal views about exchanging sex for money, and the morality involved therein.
Which is exactly what I'm saying about the current fracas -- it is a few people who have quickly-offended personal moralities that have been outraged by TitShare or whatever. Tying it to a larger issue of "this is why women don't work in tech" is a futile exercise.
There are also plenty of women that will tell you they are freely choosing to submit to male authority by wearing a head scarf, or binding their feet which requires breaking the arches so they can fold them in half (in centuries past), or working for significantly less money, or, or, or...
In general, I don't take people's words about the freedom of the choices they've made at face value unless they've first convinced me that they're actually free to make those choices, and that includes freedom from longstanding emotional baggage and unresolved internal conflicts.
Ted Dziuba has mentioned the tech industry being extremely sex negative, and him being almost afraid to criticize it because of the inevitable massive backlash he would face. And this is being reinforced by the increasing "don't even mention anything related to sex in a prrrrrofesional setting" approach being taken by a lot of popular organizations these days.
For example, just look at github's repository forking message. Before, it used to say the not-very-funny-but-would-still-bring-a-smile-to-your-face "Hardcore forking action". I'd bet good money this was changed to the unassuming dining table due to these same sex-negative, puritanical people who claimed it was somehow making them feel oppressed or uncomfortable.
Sex is a biological need of humans. A lot of the tech industry has forward, progressive views on things such as gay marriage. Why retain these puritan, intolerant, purse-lipped attitudes towards sex-positivity?
>Sex is a biological need of humans. A lot of the tech industry has forward, progressive views on things such as gay marriage. Why retain these puritan, intolerant, purse-lipped attitudes towards sex-positivity?
Because feminism is invading. If you can't see this, you've probably not been a part of the tech industry for too long.