The Porny Presentation Bingo Card

If you’ve been following news in the tech world over the last few months, you would have heard about Matt Aimonetti’s CouchDB presentation at Golden Gate Ruby Conference back in April:

couchdb.jpg

… and last week’s Flashbelt keynote by Hoss Gifford:

hellohoss.jpg

(The links above go to the Geek Feminism Wiki, which has roundups of links to blog posts about both these incidents, as well as to official responses by conference organisers.)

This is far from the first time it’s happened; the wiki even has a nascent timeline of porny presentations, harrassment, and other incidents. I guess history just keeps on repeating. So, in preparation for next time round, here’s a handy bingo card.

pornbingo_500.png

Click through for a bigger version. Thanks to Liz Henry and the folks on #dw for help with filling in all the squares.

24 thoughts on “The Porny Presentation Bingo Card

  1. Awesome, susan, thanks! Liz H pointed me at assholesintech the other day. I was thinking of doing something similar a while ago with another friend. We were going to call it Hollaback Tech. Glad you have more follow-through than me :)

  2. Having all the jerky responses in one place is maybe the best critique I’ve seen of the “boys club” mentality. Thanks for this.

    I’m a member of the CouchDB project and lemme tell you I think it’s too bad that we got associated with that stuff. CouchDB is dedicated to lowering the barrier to entry for new programmers, which I personally hope means bringing more women into the community.

  3. Chris, I know you meant well, but dude. That was the most left-handed apology ever! “lowering the bar” == “more women”?!?

  4. @David good catch. But… I think it *can* mean that, in part. I mean, there are two things you need to do: 1) not scare off skilled women, and 2) welcome newbie developers, including women. Both need to happen together, I think. The concern is that if you *only* do the bar-lowering/welcoming-newbies stuff, the women among them may burn out and leave in response to ingrained misogyny/sexism in the tech community.

    An interesting bar-lowering project I’ve recently been involved in is Dreamwidth, which I blogged about here. They lowered the bar down to “you don’t need to be able to program or have a development environment; we’ll teach you and provide one”, and they have 75% women.

  5. There’s a difference between “lowering the bar” which means lowering standards to allow less qualified persons entry into a field, and “lowering the barriers” which means removing some of the artificial blocks (like sexism) that hold qualified people back. J. Chris Anderson referred to the latter, not the former.

  6. Thanks Amadi – exactly. It’s not really women that I want to get into programming anyway, it’s kids like I was when I was 9 and learning BASIC. At that age girls don’t yet know they aren’t “supposed” to program – there were just as many girls in the elementary school computer club as boys. As far as bar vs barrier my apologies – the iPhone keyboard before my coffee kicks in isn’t conducive to accurate phrasing.

  7. I’m sorry that I misread that. Or at least that I took it badly. I agree entirely that barriers to entry need to be broken down.

  8. Ah, David:

    That wasn’t quite an apology. In fact, one could say that it was a rather left handed apology indeed. If only you had left out the words “Or at least that I took it badly”…

  9. I am being mocked! (I think).

    I am most definitely sorry for chastising Chris when he did not deserve it. I did so because I misread and misinterpreted his comments about “lowering barriers”.

  10. Well, only a little. Because I saw a parallel (left handedness used to describe something, and then an apology that due to a small statement in it came off as left handed) and couldn’t resist.

    It is an interesting type of mistake though, isn’t it? Simply put: How very easily we can misread things and end up with incorrect conclusions. I’ve frequently caught myself inserting words – and this has ended up changing meanings completely from what was actually written. I think a lot of this stems from the fact that written word is relatively permanent compared to spoken, and that in spoken conversations we can immediately ask for clarification. It also seems that people are a lot more forgiving of misspeaking in person than in text.

    Totally separate from this thread: The first image at least has some potential artistic merit. The second, not so much. Both really, really, really are inappropriate for such a presentation though. I think that even if we were to accept that somebody had absolutely no understanding of why people might find it offensive and no empathy they would at the [i]very[/i] least be more professional than this. Ignoring ethics and caring about others (or understanding others for that matter) this is simply way too huge a liability. As a professional, as a business, as an employer or any other similar entity, this is simply unacceptable – even if we discount “rightness” entirely, it still stays unacceptable due to liability reasons.

    To summarize: What the…?

  11. Yes, I did see the geekfeminism article on Wikia, and was pretty pleased about it. I’ll take a look at the timeline.

    I’d definitely love to meet up in person at CLS as well. Something else to look forward to, see you this coming weekend, then!

  12. I personally discriminate against fat developers who don’t share my 07:30am start, but I’ve also learned that women in IT have a different emotional profile to men.

    Obviously it is impossible to construct a team philosophy that caters to every cultural perspective. But the egalitarian model here in the West of your planet has been carved out by champions of equality. Most female programmers I’ve managed are profoundly introverted and not predisposed toward being that exemplar.

    Now I’ve said this before and then been asked the question “should they be?”. I find that specious. Nothing should be taken for granted. Only a fool or a liar would state that equality of treatment and respect should be taken for granted – you humans naturally form stratified social orders and this must be accommodated and, where inappropriate, fought.

  13. Also

    I’m concerned that both examples given present only women as sex objects and that the scorecard assumes the role of “woman as victim”.

    I’ve seen the occasional buffed Adonis, phallic graph etc in presentations and felt threatened as a man. I’m sure you can imagine the range of excuses that the female presenter might deploy (“Men do it too” “It’s harmless” etc).

    You need to stick up for everyone threatened in this way to maintain credibility. kthx.

  14. No, @Kosh, I don’t need to stick up for you, neither to maintain credibility nor for any other reason. It is not the duty of any marginalised group to provide support for the majority.

    Your argument looks like the classic, “This happens to men too!” which appears with great regularly in comments on blog posts like these. You might like to read http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/10/18/phmt-argument/ for some background and understanding on that point.

  15. No! You misunderstand! I said, effectively, “this happens to men too”, not – as that link reminds us – “*BUT* this happens to men too”. I am not excusing the problem. Heck, if you reread my other post you’ll realise, I hope, that behind the dry whimsy I’m someone already sensitive to the social and emotional architecture of a gender & sex-neutral environment.

    But you do need to stick up for me. For example, I once politely asked a female employee to remove a male pin-up calendar. This was in an otherwise most harmonious office. Hilariously this was met with the same kind of dismissive mild hostility you’ve afforded me. It doesn’t help change things for the better. Fortunately I am a persistent chap with a thick skin, so I will keep trying.

    And in the case of the staffer with the calendar, I went on to explain that I hoped to run an environment in which no-one could feel threatened; and that this meant, amongst other things, consistency across all sexualising materials. It took some time and numerous examples and counter-examples before she accepted this perspective. So please do stick up for me as much as smacking around asshats like RMS, and we can all benefit.

  16. @Kosh: You are throwing away a FAQ because it contains the word “but”? Try again.

    And let me repeat: It is not the duty of any marginalised group to provide support for the majority.

  17. Wow, talk about upping the hostility level! Did you even read beyond my first sentence?

    You’re talking about duty. I leave that to bad Gilbert & Sullivan and talk about the practical politics of changing the world. I’ll do it my way and get results. You can keep complaining and wonder why you’re ghettoised. Best of luck with that.

  18. Actually you need to re-read that FAQ, because yes- the very first thing it does is carefully distinguish between the two statements:

    “things happen to men, too” (in the title), and
    “but [x] happens to men, too” (carefully restated as the problem phrase, in the very first paragraph).

    Notwithstanding that the FAQ entry makes the error of then constraining the topic to the rather narrow fields of “rape and reproductive rights” when in fact their position holds true for the broader case e.g. as we’re discussing, the removal of sexualising materials in environments that should remain neutral. I refuse to make that a feminist-only issue because I cannot retain credibility when defining workplace standards otherwise. Not least because it defines women as victims, when the truth is that both sexes are offended by sexualising materials in the workplace.

    I really don’t understand why you think this is a marginal group issue, unless you really think that the problem solely exists for women at open-source conferences. Because in my world, the majority are people who already understand the need for fairness, balance and a sex/gender-neutral workplace, and the transgressors are the minority! But then those are characteristics that I explicitly hire for.

    I like my way. I try to set a positive tone or respect and understanding, and enforce it universally. I do not believe in allowing marginal groups to sit complaining in the corner about how they are a marginal group; your so-called majority has to embrace and understand the needs of others, and this occurs only with mutual outreach and engagement, not harsh words and ghettoisation.

    Everyone who has successfully changed the emotional tone of a group will, I hope, recognise my thesis.

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