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steveklabnik 1648 days ago | link | parent

> 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.



megaduck 1648 days ago | link

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.

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bhrgunatha 1647 days ago | link

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.

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Tichy 1647 days ago | link

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.

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kalvin 1647 days ago | link

"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.

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Tichy 1647 days ago | link

"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.

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steveklabnik 1648 days ago | link

> 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.

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acdha 1648 days ago | link

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.

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steveklabnik 1648 days ago | link

> 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.

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acdha 1647 days ago | link

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.

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userd 1647 days ago | link

>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.

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antonovka 1647 days ago | link

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.

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simonw 1648 days ago | link

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.

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yalurker 1648 days ago | link

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.

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smokey_the_bear 1648 days ago | link

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.

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Tichy 1647 days ago | link

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).

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smokey_the_bear 1647 days ago | link

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.

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Tichy 1647 days ago | link

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.

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jlees 1648 days ago | link

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.

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swolchok 1648 days ago | link

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.

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steveklabnik 1648 days ago | link

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.

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simonw 1648 days ago | link

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.

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steveklabnik 1648 days ago | link

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.

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nopal 1648 days ago | link

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.

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steveklabnik 1648 days ago | link

> 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."

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