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This shouldn’t be the image of Hack Day (simonwillison.net)
78 points by toni 2951 days ago | hide | past | web | 122 comments | favorite



And finally I can comment...

http://developer.yahoo.net/blog/archives/2009/10/taiwan_ohd_...

I probably shouldn't comment much, but there is one thing I really want to say for me, not the company. I hope we've done some good in the community, and despite this mistake I hope that people will remember that. A bunch of us in the office I work in, in California, do our best to promote women in tech (http://www.flickr.com/photos/yahoo_women_in_tech/3799977956/...). I hope you'll judge us (Yahoo!) by our actions, and that includes our ability to say sorry when things aren't done right.

Tom


Did Yahoo every appoligize for handing over information about the Chinese pro-democracy protesters that China asked for some years back?

To not apologize for that is a much graver mistake than what you are currently apologizing for.


+1 to Tom on this.

I had the pleasure of attending Open Hack Day NYC and it was an amazing event. Mad Kudos to Yahoo! to put something like this together.


Here's my practical problem with this:

- We're missing out on 50% of the people who could be good engineers. Programming is a really effective tool for improving our world, so any waste of talent is a Bad Thing.

- Whatever the moral arguments, accepting go-go dancers at events sucks as a way to attract women into our world.

Is shaming conference organizers the most important change we can make? Hell no, but it's low-hanging fruit. It gives us a zero-effort way to advertise that we as a community want more women here. If we can't even manage this, god knows how we'll make any real changes.

It's pretty depressing to read this thread, I thought there was a widespread consensus that the lack of women in computing was a problem. I'd be interested to know if any of the commenters defending the conference agree or disagree that it's important to get more women into our field?


I'd add a third point:

- It makes male programmers look socially inept, weak, and sophomoric. I don't like the perception or suggestion that I'll appreciate bought eye-candy at a technology conference.


No it doesn't, and anyone who would draw a conclusion about an entire profession from the actions of a handful (positive or negative) can, in my opinion, go fuck off.


> I'd be interested to know if any of the commenters defending the conference agree or disagree that it's important to get more women into our field?

I think it's important to get intellegent people into the field, regardless of gender. However, it's foolish to judge a conference in a far-off land by our system of morals.


> However, it's foolish to judge a conference in a far-off land by our system of morals.

I tried to re-frame this as a practical problem rather than a moral one, since cultural relativism is a rabbit-hole this thread could disappear into for decades.

Do you believe accepting go-go dancers at events is likely to discourage Taiwanese women from wanting to get involved? That's the basis of my disapproval, cause and effect.


> However, it's foolish to judge a conference in a far-off land by our system of morals.

I strongly disagree.

The country where I live (Canada) is the fourth in my life (after Portugal, Angola and Brazil). I also visited more than a dozen other.

The system of morals that people embrace in Canada is one of the main reasons I choosed to live here. And I believe that I have enough multicultural experience to say that no, it isn't foolish.

Same cultures are better than others. How do you know? Because there is an absolute in morals: don't do to others what you wouldn't want they did to you. You can derive a lot of judgements from there.


Props to you for getting around and seeing that much of the world as a person living there. It sure makes your argument carry a lot more weight.

Where are you in Canada ? (West, East, Middle ?) Have you gotten used to the winters yet ?


Also, from a personal perspective, it makes the assumption that all the male coders in the room are straight, which is in some ways an even more insidious assumption.

You can look at the room and say "okay, sure, there are no women at this event". You can't do that with sexuality -- but people do anyway.

(I feel I should note that this unfortunate, embarrassing incident aside, Yahoo is an incredibly, almost ridiculously gay-friendly place to work)


There used to be more women in the field apparently. Coolest compiler researcher ever is Fran Allen who worked at IBM. Her interview in Coders At Work is great.


> We're missing out on 50% of the people who could be good engineers.

Much as many of us would like to believe it, where is the evidence for this statement?

Decreeing a politically-correct gospel and punishing heretics for denying it doesn't make it true.


The most plausible explanation for the imbalance is that women don't lack the innate ability, they're discouraged from developing it. Why do I say that?

- Some professions requiring comparable skills (eg actuaries, accounting) contain many more women.

- There's no known mechanism or evidence to explain why women might be innately bad at programming, but there's lots of well-documented mechanisms by which women could be discouraged from joining the community.

I'd be happy to learn from evidence that contradicts this argument, but in the absence of that, the simplest explanation is that we're wasting the potential of thousands of proto-programmers.


It seems to me the real bug is that everyone assumes that a sexual performance necessarily degrades the person doing it. Everyone seems to be making that assumption, from the mouth-breather geeks who called up rent-a-lapdancer, to the prudish, sometimes hypocritical, bloggers wagging their fingers.

Don't get me wrong; I understand the problem. Being asked to make the coffee is fine. Being asked to make the coffee just because you're a woman is reprehensible. The actions take place in a context, and just because there are empowered women doing sex-charged performances in San Francisco doesn't mean the event in Taiwan was empowering.

Still, I feel the disconnect from the sex-positive culture I know in SF, and the generally sex-paranoid culture of corporate America. There are subcultures at least where neither being 'professional' nor being very out front with your sexuality matters at all to how respected you are. I kind of wish mainstream culture would catch up. If people would just get that, they wouldn't have to see a sexual performer as an inferior, and the nature of the entire exchange would be different.


The actions take place in a context, and just because there are empowered women doing sex-charged performances in San Francisco doesn't mean the event in Taiwan was empowering.

Does it mean those women in Taiwan weren't empowered then? Besides, maybe that kind of thing is common in Taiwan, and nothing to get all worked up about (especially on the other side of the planet).

To the women, it was probably just a business transaction, and the geeks probably enjoyed it. No one got hurt or degraded.


Yes, how dare someone on the other side of the world do something that doesn't fit with contemporary American standards for what is professional! Clearly this is the fault of the technology industry, as a whole. Just like the energy industry is clearly not inclusive because of how middle-eastern oil-producing countries treat women. </sarcasm>

Seriously, can we please stop seeking out any instance of anything inappropriate and then using it to slander an entire industry? The fact that something potentially sexist happened somewhere doesn't mean that discrimination is rampant throughout the industry.


Firstly, I'm British.

Secondly, I'm not arguing that this incident proves our industry is sexist. My argument is that the low number of women involved in our industry is a problem, and one thing we can do to address that problem is to have a zero tolerance attitude to this kind of thing.

Thirdly, I couldn't care less about "professionalism". The first London Hack Day had people playing Faceball on stage! I care about behaviour that makes a portion of the potential audience feel uncomfortable or unwelcome.


I imagine a far greater proportion of the potential audience consists of (guys who get offended on behalf of women for sexist behaviour) than consists of (women who may or may not care). On that basis this behaviour should be stopped. Not because zero tolerance is the right answer; that way lies political correctness gone mad.


Now why on earth would that get you modded down ?

I fully agree with you.

I'm a male and I would have been quite disappointed at this whole thing, and I certainly don't get 'upset' at seeing scantily clad females, the beaches here are full of them.

The problem is the context, as if women on a gathering like that have nothing but 'decorative' functions, and as if all men would find such a display appropriate.

I also think that regardless of how far from 'home' this happened if that's yahoos' approach to this kind of event anywhere that it reflects bad on them as a company. The apology that is linked to from here is actually pretty weak.

It shows a certain disrespect.


I had to go and look up 'faceball'. What's that go to do with hacking ?


Not much, other than it was invented at Flickr. There was an on stage faceball match during a gap between presentations at the first Open Hack Day, as entertainment. Silly entertainment that didn't alienate anyone.


> My argument is that the low number of women involved in our industry is a problem

Why? Can't individuals, whatever their gender, make up their minds freely about what they want to do with their lives?


Many American technology conferences and trade shows are just as bad, and the same debate happens about them. (Yes, even in the U.S. some companies hire go-go dancers for their customer conferences.)

And since this event was sponsored by Yahoo, you would think that Yahoo management would be concerned about how it would be viewed not just by the Taiwanese attendees but also their worldwide employees (and employees' families), customers, and shareholders.


People are way too sensitive. Looks like they hired Go Go dancers for a party. Probably not the best idea in the world but people trying to use this as an example of the "shame" of the IT worlds sexism are just grand standing. There are not a lot of women in IT because up until recently it was considered a mark against socially to be a nerd. Now with the growing popularity of nerd culture and the high incentives to be in that field there will be a more diverse crowd. Or maybe there will always be more men then women because women are less interested in technological fields. Sorry if that's not a popular opinion but I'm not interested in many fields of study and have not slammed one for being in anyway discriminatory against me. It certainly won't be because Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are sending out masses of men wearing NO MAAM t-shirts to tack no girls allowed signs on the the computer labs across the country. If anything the same loosely regulated and relaxed environment, common in many IT fields and shops, that would make them think nothing of hiring dancers for a party is the same attitude that would welcome anyone regardless of looks, sex, race, or anything else.


> I’ve heard arguments that this kind of thing is culturally acceptable in Taiwan—in fact it may even be expected for technology events, though I’d love to hear further confirmation.

When in Taiwan...

I mean, not to rain on anybody's parade, and I'll say that I wouldn't be expecting this at a conference either, but you shouldn't be holding Taiwan to American standards.

Maybe I'm still too young.


I strongly disagree. While living in China I encountered horrific racism and sexism, both widely accepted as community standards. There was a human cost to those "standards", and I grew to believe that we should all be held to a certain standard of behavior, regardless of our national origin or cultural identity.

Disapproval of the current situation is how progress gets made in the world. There was a time in this country when slavery was widely accepted and women weren't allowed to vote. Those were the standards of the day, and they were only shifted because a vocal minority stood up and cried out, "This is wrong!".

Somebody always has to be the first to raise the bar.


There are many examples of things in Taiwan accepted by society in general that make me cringe or feel embarrassed about about or induce even stronger feelings.

The thing about the Taiwanese though that I think makes Taiwan very different from many other places is their agility and willingness to adapt. I believe the most rapidly changing attitudes come due to commercial and business links - Taiwan is completely dependent on its export market.

Attitudes such as racism as sexism ARE changing in Taiwan, but there is an incredibly strong cultural influence that may impede that, but I think it's mostly coming from a healthy interaction with other countries that have established those ideas or enshrined them in their own laws.

There is a small, but growing groundswell of appreciation for all kinds of humanitarian rights based on gender, culture, race and other subjects but these things do take time. Shaping other peoples culture and attitudes is a very sensitive topic.


> I grew to believe that we should all be held to a certain standard of behavior, regardless of our national origin or cultural identity.

I guess this is just where we differ. I don't belive that one way of living is inherently better than another; or that I have some moral imperative to make others behave in a way that I see fit. Of course, I'd love them to, and if asked the reason that I act differently, I'd be happy to explain.

I used to feel the way that you do. It's easy to get caught up in the "of course, slavery is wrong! Of course, sexism is wrong!" But then it slowly starts to bleed into "of course, we have to spread Democracy to Iraq," "of course, we have to make laws that gay people can't marry"...

Moral superiority is how wars start. By making others' ways of life into the literary Other, you're demonizing the very people you're trying to convince.


This is very easy to say, as someone privileged enough not to be affected by the issue, and you're making an insane leap to say that criticizing routine discrimination "is how wars start" or somehow imply that it leads to banning gay marriage. It looks like you're missing the difference between suggestion and coercion and, as far as "making others' way of life into the literary Other" goes, well, I think a great way to do that is to assume that everyone is choosing to engage in sexism rather than uncritically going along with the status quo.


> as someone privileged enough not to be affected by the issue

Yes, my position in life certainly has an effect on the truth value of my statements.

> you're making an insane leap to say that criticizing routine discrimination "is how wars start"

Moral absolutism causes problems. "I'm better than them" causes problems. I'm saying that morality is not cut and dry. You're treating it as though it is.

And it's certainly why people fight to ban gay marriage. Don't you see that, "Women find stripping offensive, it drives them away, don't let that happen" is the same thing as "We find homosexuality offensive, we can't let that happen"? Those who feel they're on the moral high ground will do all kinds of things to impose their morals on others.

> It looks like you're missing the difference between suggestion and coercion

In this case, you may be suggesting, but other comments here are certainly imply coersion.

> assume that everyone is choosing to engage in sexism rather than uncritically going along with the status quo.

You're assuming that the woman there are offput by the 'strippers,' and that's why they weren't attending the conference. I'm merely pointing out that that may not be the case at all.


Other people still have problems even if you refuse to acknowledge them - and your position in life does matter simply because you've never been forced to acknowledge those problems' existence.

> Don't you see that, "Women find stripping offensive, it drives them away, don't let that happen" is the same thing as "We find homosexuality offensive, we can't let that happen"?

Well, sure, if you misrepresent the problem your argument looks better. Our argument is quite simple: don't demean people. Demeaning women? Bad. Demeaning gay people? Bad. Getting upset about the inability to use your religion as a justification to demean people? Tough luck.

> You're assuming that the woman there are offput by the 'strippers,' and that's why they weren't attending the conference. I'm merely pointing out that that may not be the case at all.

Note that no one here is saying Yahoo should be shut down, hack day stopped, etc. The only thing people are saying is that there should be a clear message that this behaviour is wrong - and that we should be encouraging everyone to recognize and refuse to participate in it. Conference strippers aren't the only reason why the gender ratios are unequal but the attitude has gone a long way towards making our field unattractive to anyone who doesn't fit a rather unenviable stereotype.


>Our argument is quite simple: don't demean people. Demeaning women? Bad. Demeaning gay people? Bad

This is an empty argument because those who oppose gay marriage would not accept the assertion that it is demeaning. You could just as easily claim that allowing gay marriage is demeaning to heterosexuals. But let's pretend everyone agrees it is demeaning. Isn't it acceptable to demean someone (fines, imprisonment or other punishments) when someone makes some type of transgression? In the case of gay marriage, the moral transgression would clearly permit some of this.


And it's certainly why people fight to ban gay marriage. Don't you see that, "Women find stripping offensive, it drives them away, don't let that happen" is the same thing as "We find homosexuality offensive, we can't let that happen"? Those who feel they're on the moral high ground will do all kinds of things to impose their morals on others.

Moral relativism is equally as tired as absolutism.

Hiring strippers for a technology event is a simple question of social graces, class, and creating an inclusive environment -- not morality.


Go go dancers are not really racism and sexism, though. Maybe you could argue about the sexism, but still, I think you are creating a straw man argument here.

Edit: if women don't like it, why do they work as go go dancers? Don't tell me they are being exploited, because for example cheer-leading seems to be highly desirable to middle class high school girls (judging from movies and MTV documentaries). I don't think they are all slaves or drug addicts.


"Don't tell me they are being exploited, because for example cheer-leading seems to be highly desirable to middle class high school girls (judging from movies and MTV documentaries"

I'm sad that I don't think you're trolling...

a) The issue here is that objectifying women, at a tech-corporate-sponsored event, is damaging and embarrassing for those of us who want the community to be more welcoming to women. Not about whether dancers are being exploited.

b) Cheerleading is not lap dancing any more than ice skating or swimming is.

c) Stop judging entire groups of people based on what you see on MTV.


"The issue here is that objectifying women, at a tech-corporate-sponsored event"

No that is not what I was replying to. I personally would not like a tech event with go go dancers either. I just think it was drawn out of proportion to compare it with racism and slavery.

And sorry, but cheerleading is almost the same as go go dancing. From the photos, I didn't get the impression that the dancers were actually stripping. Again, I don't want to defend the use of it at a tech event, but it annoys me that there is the assumption that all women would automatically have to be offended. in fact, many men would also be offended - some would like it, some would be offended. In general it is a bad idea to organize an event like that. But I think the reactions are blown out of proportions.


Apparently this kind of thing really is pretty much a requirement for a Taiwanese event - pretty dancing girls are in attendance for all kinds of events. But like I said in the post, I don't care. For me, addressing the gender imbalance in technology is more important than obeying cultural norms. Plus dancing girls is one thing, but dancing ON people is quite another.


Ya know, I've never walked into a conference, office or classroom and started counting up the number of men versus women in the room. Do you also worry about race? Religion? Sexual orientation? Disabilities?

It seems like you're projecting your own feelings about the tech community onto Taiwanese business culture. By your own admission this is common to Taiwan, not tech.

Maybe it would be better if we just saw people as people and stopped freaking out about which sub-groups we can split them into.


You know, I never explicitly start counting either. But it was very obvious when I walked into my computer engineering classes in college, and there were two other girls out of 150 people. Then I'd walk into my English class and it would be half female. It doesn't take counting to notice disparities like that. Conferences are the same.

I also didn't think about it until I was on a team at Google that was half female. But that was my third team there, and I'd also interned at IBM, Microsoft and a startup, and I had never worked with a female engineer before.


Just the assumptions that the difference in numbers is because of discrimination is wrong, or at least the numbers alone don't prove it.

It could prove the opposite thing: that men are in a bad position because they are forced to study hard and lonely subjects. (Not saying it does, just saying the numbers could be interpreted in any number of ways).


I didn't say it was discrimination, and I've never felt like it was. But I'd feel uncomfortable if I went to a conference that was basically held in a strip club. I even felt a little uncomfortable at Google's Christmas party in 2004 when they had scantily clad Go Go dancers on tables everywhere.

But working often with people that have exceedingly poor social skills around women is something that has affected my job satisfaction. I'm sure men have other things that affect them that I haven't had to experience though.


I wouldn't like strippers at a conference either, no question. I haven't really experienced above average social incompetence around women in IT, but as I said elsewhere, there tend to be not many women around to act incompetent with.

Of course I would like to have more female coworkers. I just don't think that go go dancers in Taiwan are the root cause for not many women being in IT.


To be fair I often count the number of other women at tech events I go to... mostly because it's obvious and easy. I mean, I don't even need to take my socks off.


Ya know, I've never walked into a conference, office or classroom and started counting up the number of men versus women in the room.

Did you go to a university with a good CS program that you were in? Were you ever single while attending university? Did you ever think it might be nice to date a woman who shared your abilities and interests? It's not exactly unheard-of for men to tally up the male/female ratio at gatherings where they spend the majority of their time if it seems out of whack.


You're not going to win your battle by defying cultural norms. By chastising the way that others live their lives, you only drive them further away from your ideas.

You may win your moral battle, but you'll lose the war.

> Plus dancing girls is one thing, but dancing ON people is quite another.

Once again, how other people choose to live may, in fact, be completely different from you.


It's not defying cultural norms to NOT hire dancing girls for your event. That's like saying refusing to smoke is defying the cultural norms of smokers.


Didn't you just say above that

> Apparently this kind of thing really is pretty much a requirement for a Taiwanese event - pretty dancing girls are in attendance for all kinds of events.

If it's expected to be there, and it's not... you're acting in a manner that's inconsistent with culture.

As for your refusal to smoke comment, you'd be suprised at how strongly people will hold onto such things. I used to never drink alcohol, ever. But I had no problems with others doing so at all. I'd go out to bars with my friends all the time, and just drink a Coke, no rum. But slowly, people stopped inviting me out. They felt that I was being judgemental by not partaking in drink, that I was somehow saying that it was beneath me. This happened with several different disparate groups of people.

People don't listen when you tell them that they're wrong.


I don't think Simon's argument has to do with adhering to American standards. In fact, he explicitly states that he's interested in creating an "inclusive environment" for women developers.

How quick are we on Hacker News to pass judgement on Google for censoring search results in China? Why aren't we defending their actions in the same manner that some are defending the decision to include lap dancers? I think it's because we sense that there is a greater issue at hand, and that is precisely what Simon is saying here.

Forget whether or not Yahoo has the right to hire provocative dancers for their conference or even what the norms are for other conferences in the area. Those things have no concern for the feelings of women. Even if Yahoo can and others do, it doesn't mean it was the right decision.


> Those things have no concern for the feelings of American women.

Sorry, I've edited your quote. You're still projecting your morals onto others. See my response to your sibling. ( http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=891269 ) You won't change hearts and minds with a message of "You're wrong."


Tens of millions are in slavery as we speak.

People in some countries cannot get free information and the government closely monitors what they watch and do.

Some countries still "harvest" organs from condemned prisoners to sell on the open market.

And yet we find time to get outraged over a couple of pretty girls lap-dancing a couple of geeks at some conference.

Modern morality is an interesting thing. It seems that it rests on how easy it is to pass judgment, how many people will agree with you when you do, and having the appropriate degree of self-flagellation.


I usually don't agree with "don't solve problem X, because Y and Z are worse" (society isn't exactly like prioritizing bugs), but in this case - right on.


I think the best argument against the dancers is that it is tasteless -- or at least seems so to most of the readers here. I honestly don't know if it seemed tasteless to conference attendees or not. I also don't know if it was a major part of the conference or could easily be skipped by those who didn't like it.

I try to be an easy-going guy. Nobody is being harmed here. More troubling is the tendency to mouth-off about "easy" things like this while saying things like "every culture is okay" when it comes to things like the secret police or freedom of information. That just seems completely moronic to me.


Unfortunately it has been decided (in the rest of the comments) that we're not allowed to do anything about, or even comment on, any of these problems, even if done by Western companies in foreign lands, because to do so would be cultural imperialism.


They did the same thing last year: http://developer.yahoo.net/blog/archives/2008/09/taiwan_open...

To quote: "The evening entertainment (Hack Girls) was an interesting contrast to Girltalk at Sunnyvale Open Hack Day the weekend before."

Also on FlickR, from 2008: http://www.flickr.com/photos/myhsu/sets/72157607394199935/?p...

And: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/hackgirl/

I can't find any kind of confirmation anywhere that this kind of thing is considered normal for a business conference in Taiwan. Perhaps people are confusing car shows (or arguably computer games shows) with a hack day?


I moved to Taiwan last year, and I can confirm that dancing girls are very common in all kinds of irrelevant contexts, particularly expos. It's weird to me, but I haven't heard any women here complaining about it.


I've attended both the London Yahoo hackday's myself and found them wonderfully well run by lovely people.

Personally, I would feel terribly uncomfortable if they had booked dancers like this for entertainment. It is a bad idea for two differing reasons.

1. I attend hackdays to build things. Not for loud bands, giant jenga or lap dancing. The intention is hacking, surprisingly. Organisers should focus their energy and resources on good wifi, nice apis, etc that appeal to the hackday audience instead of any form of auxiliary entertainment.

2. There seems to be a slight gender imbalance at hackdays. I don't think lap dancers are going to help that.

Even if this is the local 'norm', Yahoo hackday is a global brand. When people see behaviour like this, it marks the whole tech community as either misogynistic or ladish.


I wonder how many people are genuinely outraged, and how many are outraged because it is the expected response.


I wonder how many people are bordering on asperger's levels of social ineptitude and insensitivity due to the fact that it's really easy to be insensitive when you're on top.


Insensitivity and oversensitivity can both be inappropriate. It's always safer to be oversensitive than insensitive, though. Wouldn't you agree that becomes a problem when it masks how people actually feel about a subject?

Side note: I move to officially recognize mentions of Asperger's when discussing social situations as HN's custom version of Godwin's law.


Wouldn't you agree that becomes a problem when it masks how people actually feel about a subject?

No -- I think the fact that it's considered culturally inappropriate to express clearly racist and sexist opinions is a benefit -- it's the first step to stemming the spread of that cultural virus.

Side note: I move to officially recognize mentions of Asperger's when discussing social situations as HN's custom version of Godwin's law.

It was an intentional reference to an endemic lack of social graces in technology culture and the oft-referenced syndrome. It was not an ad hominem argument.


No -- I think the fact that it's considered culturally inappropriate to express clearly racist and sexist opinions is a benefit -- it's the first step to stemming the spread of that cultural virus.

I disagree - and I think the fact that my first, intentionally ambiguous, comment was modded down (by some) is a hint why. I had the temerity to as much as HINT that some people are not honestly outraged by this, and was immediately shot down.

The problem is not with expressing clearly racist or sexist opinions - the problem is that any such subject automatically becomes a minefield, and anyone except the clueless (or the bored) will automatically either adopt a "how COULD they" attitude, or keep silent. There is no discussion, no explanation of why it is wrong (even if it should be self-evident), just something bordering on a witch hunt.

Now, say someone with a sexist view walks into the conversation. Having an IQ higher than, say, a garden gnome, they immediately pick up on the "right" thing to say, and join in the chorus - possibly even becoming the loudest voice. Have they actually learned anything or been convinced of anything, other than how to act?

I'm just generally not a big believer in taboos. I feel that talking about problems - HONESTLY talking about problems - is better than pretending they don't exist.

Edit: and now you got modded down. See, this is what I mean - it's such a polarized topic, it makes it almost impossible to have a normal conversation.


I was surprised in other parts of Asia, how common a practice it is to engage 'race girl' PR staff for the most civic of events.

For an open source promotion we had in Thailand I interviewed several stunning PR girls [tough job but someone has to do it].. Fortunately among these air hostesses and models to be were some students with genuine interests beyond makeup and fame.

The impeccably dressed PR beauties we chose, did a fantastic job of translating the message of free software 'as in beer and freedom'. We gave demos and handed out 12 thousand promo folders with Gimp and Blender on CD over 4 days. Exhausting but fun.


Not in China. You are not getting a lap-dance in public from a Chinese woman.


Thought experiment: early stage startup A, which consists of 3 males throws a private launch party at which there are female strippers. It's unprofessional, but at this point it doesn't matter because it's just a group of friends who happen to be running a company. Startup B, consisting of three females, same situation with male strippers.

Later A and B merge and, to celebrate, throw an event called Hackers and Strippers, which is open to the general (adult) hacking population and features male and female strippers and a guitar shower room. Hard to imagine any hacking gets done, but a good time is had by all. The actual logistics of such an event, and whether or not it would offend their customer bases, are left as an exercise to the reader.

AB grows to become the 3000 employee AB Corp. When they IPO they throw Hackers and Strippers Worldwide. Same kind of party on a larger scale. Unprofessional? You betcha.

Independent of sexism, at what point does unprofessionalism become a problem?


I read this twice and I'm still confused as to what this has to do with the OT?


Part of the argument is that this is sexist. Part is that it's unprofessional. If there were also male strippers the event would no longer be sexist, only unprofessional. Would it still deserve moral outrage? Would it still be counter-productive?

I'm just exploring permutations here. I think half-naked dancing girls would make it hard to get any hacking done. But that doesn't necessarily make it a bad event (aside from sexism). A bad event to hack at, maybe.


I'm still trying to figure out where the guitar shower room comes in >.>?

(This thread is the first google result for "guitar shower room.")


Hah. I tried to google it, too.

Maybe it's an xkcd reference?

http://xkcd.com/305/ www.wetriffs.com


XKCD is sexist!!! /s


That's an interesting thought experiment that frankly has almost nothing to do with reality. There is no "independent of sexism" here--sexism is the issue.


Enough people will be outraged at the sexism that I don't need to be.


> Independent of sexism, at what point does unprofessionalism become a problem?

At the point where it affects productivity.


For shame, for shame - forget where it's held, this kind of action reflects on the industry as a whole.

Couldn't agree with this article more. The lack of female talent in this industry is a real shame, and excludes a perspective that could be extremely helpful.


It's the kind of image that has been prevalent in the gaming industry for eons. I wonder how disparate the percentages of female hackers (if you can define hacker sufficiently) versus women in gaming are. Certainly in gaming we're pretty much used to it by now - and it is slowly changing.

Plus, as another poster says, 'when in Taiwan'; their culture's totally different. If there is a gender imbalance specifically in Taiwanese or Asian computing (and most of the female CS students I met were from China or Japan), addressing it needs to take the culture into consideration - the miniskirted lapdancers are a symptom, not the disease.


True, but even when you have a disease, you start by treating the symptoms to ease the discomfort. I can only imagine how uncomfortable women at these conferences (what few there are) must be.


I am a woman, in case that wasn't clear. I'm fine with the level of stuff that goes on and is acceptable in my culture. And I worked in gaming, covering booth-babe laden expos, for several years.

Guys don't need to get outraged for us. We can do that ourselves.


Well, my wife is also in technology (a developer, not games) and isn't fine with it. I'm glad you're OK with it, but there's nothing wrong with those that aren't.

As a man, I'm not fine with the perception these ridiculous stunts create -- that men in technology are so socially retarded that we need organizers to hire strippers and booth babes for us.

You wouldn't see this behavior at another professional conference -- you'd see it from a subset of the attendees AFTER the conference, where it's appropriate.


> Well, my wife is also in technology (a developer, not games) and isn't fine with it. I'm glad you're OK with it, but there's nothing wrong with those that aren't.

Nothing wrong, you can organize your own conferences in whatever way you like.

But if you act morally outraged at what others do in the conferences they organize, don't expect much sympathy.


Nothing wrong, you can organize your own conferences in whatever way you like.

... and you can lose out on the participation of a valuable subset of contributors. This isn't a moral issue, it's a question of maturity, decorum, and being inclusive.

But if you act morally outraged at what others do in the conferences they organize, don't expect much sympathy.

Likewise, if you're a socially ignorant asshat, don't expect people to like you.

Or come to your conferences.

Or invite you to speak at theirs.


Yes. It's useless when people that are not affected get offended about something even when people that maybe should be offenced don't.

I think it shows a patronizing attitude which is a real offence and not just some cultural quirk.


> I can only imagine how uncomfortable women at these conferences (what few there are) must be.

Or would be, if they were American. Considering this is part of their culture, they probably don't bat an eye.


Culturally held sexism is still sexism, and such culturally established prejudice and undue partiality is not unique to Taiwan.

We shouldn't accept sexism or racism, period.


This is true, and I'm not making a value judgement on this particular event at all. I'm just saying that a comment like that is projecting the poster's own morals, thoughts, and culture onto a whole separate group of people who probably don't even think like that at all.


I agree with this, thank you.

Respectfully disagree with others. If we didn't fight it, we'd have the same cultural distinctions as to what is and is not acceptable.


Many American women would not be offended either, there are plenty of open minded people in all countries with better things to do than acting offended and outraged at every opportunity.


> I can only imagine how uncomfortable women at these conferences (what few there are) must be.

Why? They might find it boring or uninteresting, but if it makes them feel 'uncomfortable' they have problems greater than the industry they are in.


Are you white knighting disinterested females, or denouncing tech conferences that employ half naked women to make it more enjoyable?


While I don't think what they did was a good idea. Saying it causes a gender imbalance seems unsupported.

Here's why: Which country has a great gender imbalance among technology workers the USA or Taiwan ?


I feel like people are missing the point.

You shouldn't be pissed about this because it'll hurt women's feelings. You should be pissed because it makes developers look sad and pathetic and overly horny. I'd be appalled to see that in any kind of professional/academic setting.

WRT Women, I think the white knight stuff is hurting more than helping. They don't need our protection from the perils of sexism, they just need us not to be sexist and to know that they can handle it all by themselves.


it makes developers look sad and pathetic and overly horny

Not commenting on whether it's right or wrong, but erm, really? Do racing drivers evoke those impressions? Because they sort of have the same thing at car races.


There isn't a preexisting stereotype of racing drivers being sad, pathetic, overly horny. Public tends to look for perception reinforcers. This is one example


> WRT Women, I think the white knight stuff is hurting more than helping. They don't need our protection from the perils of sexism, they just need us not to be sexist and to know that they can handle it all by themselves.

This can't be repeated often enough. All the 'white knight' grandstanding is much more appalling and offensive any of the 'sexism' I have seen anywhere in the IT industry.


I find it weird that some tech guys, unlike nearly all normal men, get really upset when fine women are in the picture. Would you rather the following image continue to be the image of Hack Day and all other tech events? http://www.fugly.com/media/IMAGES/Funny/nyc_linux_users.jpg


I'm personally embarrassed by the presence of "fine women" if they've been paid just to show up - it makes tech guys look like the only time they get to talk to a woman is if she's being compensated for it.


I think that underscores an insecurity about your ability to interact with attractive women. Strippers, exotic dancers, and eye candy in general have and will remain a big part of male-only events. You can whine that there should be more females and that is fine. If there were, and they cared, they would voice out against it. This is not uncommon.


As opposed to the blatantly sexist, misogynistic viewpoint represented by the other pictures?

Yes, absolutely and unequivocally.

I do see your point, and the tech community could learn a little about marketing themselves, but it doesn't excuse the garbage that is in the article.


> As opposed to the blatantly sexist, misogynistic viewpoint represented by the other pictures?

Uhu? What pictures are you talking about that represent "blatantly sexist [and] misogynistic viewpoint"? Because I have yet to see any.


You are so dead; geek feminists have probably already ordered an air strike on your location.

1. You can't say "fine women" in a professional context.

2. Those women are dressed like strippers, which also isn't remotely professional (in the US at least).


Like my point above, if Hack Day had even a 15% female attendance this would likely have not been the entertainment.


I enjoy "fine women". Even at strip clubs. This wasn't a strip club.

When the "fine women" present at a technology event are paid to attend (and gyrate), we alienate intelligent, fine women (for all values of 'fine') who might actually want to be there.


Note to others who may make this mistake: tech men seem to dislike calling women fine.


When I got my certificate in geographic information systems (GIS), it was an 8 week long intensive program where I spent 36 to 40 hours a week in class and up to 20 more studying. GIS is a 2/3s male field and my classes were all about 2/3s male. The last week of school, it dawned on me that the majority of women in my classes occupied the last two rows of seats. There were a few women who sat various places. I was the only woman who consistently sat in the front row. I also was one of only a few women to attend the graduation party. The few other women left by about midnight. I stayed until about 4am. I was one of the last people to leave. I've had people (usually women) make horrified remarks about what a terrible (ie "immoral" -- good girls don't stay at parties surrounded by male colleagues until 4am) and dangerous thing it was I did to attend the graduation party.

I really have no way of knowing what lap-dancers at a hacking event might have to do with sexism and discouraging the participation of women. But it's clear to me that there are still very real social barriers to the full inclusion of women in technical fields.


Some of the disturbing arguments here demonstrate just how far we have to go before women are celebrated as equals in technology.

Here's one techtalk I found to be quite enlightening: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmROmy5jT80

Google TechTalks - Dr. Cornelia Brunner Associate Director, Center for Children & Technology Education Development

Anyone have others they would recommend?


Technology is possibly one of the most meritocratic fields that there are. Programmers and scientists respect results, and generally are poor with the surrounding social issues. I've never heard anyone say "oh, yeah, that paper, too bad it's authored by a woman." or "I'd love to accept this patch, but I'm not gonna bother looking, a girl wrote it." I've won (well, second place, actually) a programming competition with a female partner.

I won't deny that there are few women around here. I think there were 14ish in my program? But the problem won't be solved if you run around trying to make special rules for the girls.


> I've never heard anyone say "oh, yeah, that paper, too bad it's authored by a woman."

I have, if you substitute "book" for "paper".

Now that we've traded anecdotes, where does that leave the discussion?

> ... the problem won't be solved if you run around trying to make special rules for the girls.

What special rule do you have in mind? I would feel uncomfortable with partially-unclothed dancers of any gender at a Bar Camp or hack day regardless of cultural norms. I suspect I'm not the only person who would feel that way, and I'm very comfortable suggesting that conference organizers should avoid hiring said dancers.


I won't deny that there are few women around here. I think there were 14ish in my program? But the problem won't be solved if you run around trying to make special rules for the girls.

"Don't hire strippers. No lap dances." aren't special rules for the girls.

Technology is possibly one of the most meritocratic fields that there are.

Yes, clearly there are no social issues and sexism in technology, which is why we get blog posts about it from women who take issue with blatant examples of sexism in technology.

Sarcasm aside, I can't recommend the above video highly enough.


Do you seriously think the fewer number of women in IT is because of strippers and lap dancers? Even though this is the first IT event I heard of that includes lap dancers. But I guess all these years women were fearing this day that there might be strippers at an event with computer nerds, at the other end of the world nevertheless, so they chose to study history of arts instead.


No, I think that the lack of women in IT is partially due to an endemic lack of social inclusion, amply demonstrated by hiring strippers to give lap dances at a technology conference.


Most tech people never even have a chance to practice social inclusion with tech aspiring females. I think the problem starts before that (if it is a problem - just like the missing male nurses).


> "Don't hire strippers. No lap dances." aren't special rules for the girls.

The way that you're presenting it is, however. "Don't hire strippers because it makes the girls feel uncomfortable." is the subtext here.


The way that you're presenting it is, however. "Don't hire strippers because it makes the girls feel uncomfortable." is the subtext here.

So? You're saying male strippers wouldn't make the men feel uncomfortable?


It may, it may not. Cultures are totally different.

For instance, I was watching some Torchwood last night. The amount of sex and actual nudity suprised me, because I forgot that other places don't have hangups about such things. The culture is different, rear male nudity is completely normal on the BBC at 9pm, apparently. And that's fine. Their hometown, they get to make the rules.

Presenting hypothetical questions about male strippers is a non-sequitor. What we're discussing is the appropriateness of some girls in slutty clothing at an event. Which is apparently par for the course in that part of the world, so, whatever.

I would argue that hiring strippers in any capacity here in America would be a poor idea, because _everyone_ would feel uncomfortable.


Ridiculous cultural relativism can be applied to almost any transgression.

If you don't like naked males, don't watch Torchwood.

If you want to be part of the technology community, but feel uncomfortable with strippers and lap-dances, too bad?


"If you want to be part of the technology community, but feel uncomfortable with strippers and lap-dances, too bad?"

Um, just go to any of the thousands of other conferences that are not "Hack Day in Taiwan"? You are interpolating too much - there was ONE event with dancers (not strippers it seems), and you seem to think it is common to all events.

Here is a thing about the media: only unusal stuff gets reported. The dancers are unusal, hence they make a blip on the radar. Just try any other event or conference and you should be fine.


I have this feeling that we're just going to have to agree to disagree.

Good luck.


I have this feeling that we're just going to have to agree to disagree.

That may be, but before you abandon the question, I suggest watching that Google Techtalk.


Take a look at the second and third picture again.

I can understand (if not agree with) the argument that dancing girls are a culturally acceptable form of entertainment in Taiwan.

However, judging from those pictures this was more akin to lapdancing than dancing on a stage.

I cannot believe that anyone would try and say that isn't associated with sex. That isn't wrong in itself, but it does mean that it's a form of entertainment aimed at a specific gender preference. While I do not preclude that many female developers are attracted to females, statistics show that on average a (much) greater proportion of males prefer females as a sexual partner than females do.

That means their entertainment was primarily aimed at men.

I believe that Yahoo should not discriminate based on race, religion or gender, and this bias is a form of discrimination.

QED

(There are other genuine concerns about the objectification of women as sex objects at a technology event, but I believe that the above argument is sufficient to show that it is wrong)


So set up another Hack Day without Go Go Dancers and go there instead of the Go Go Dancer day?

Or somehow trademark the "Hack Day" label so that you can enforce a "no go go dancers" rule. I suppose atm anybody can call an event a "Hack Day", so there is no point in trying to enforce any particular style.


Those pictures make me feel very uncomfortable.


[deleted]


In case you haven't noticed, both men and women (including prominent women like Caterina Fake) called out Yahoo on this event. And previous occasions have been no different, with plenty of women raising their voices. For example, after last spring's CouchDB talk we heard from several women:

http://www.sarahmei.com/blog/2009/04/25/why-rails-is-still-a... http://www.ultrasaurus.com/sarahblog/2009/04/gender-and-sex-... http://dyepot-teapot.com/2009/04/25/dear-fellow-rubyists/ http://www.renaebair.com/2009/04/27/perform-like-a-frag-sta http://lizkeogh.com/2009/04/29/i-am-not-a-pr0n-star-avoiding...


While other women didn't give fuck, because they had more important things to worry about than a handful of lame pictures.




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