Monday, 4 May 2009

Attracting Women: U iz doin it rong

Great article from Allyson Kapin entitled: Is the Tech World Really Sexist? Not only does it point out that yes it is along with most other industries, but she gives practical advice to women who work in tech and want to break through the digital ceiling.

It is important for women to challenge social norms in this way and indeed we wouldn’t have the vote without the women who protested and were forced to eat tar or Emily Wilding Davison throwing herself in front of a horse. However, men can do their bit too. And not being utter fuckwits would be a start.

Kaplin made reference to Matt Aimonetti's presentation at the Golden Gate Ruby Conference. Here’s a few stats from the slideshow:
  • There are 32 slides with images on them (including photos, logos and graphics)
  • 17 of the slides have images of women, 7 have images of men and 2 have images of Viagra which I would argue evokes a certain image of men
  • Of the images of women; 10 were overtly sexualised (women in micro skirts, naked arses, pr0n scene with 1 man 4 women etc), 2 were primarily demeaning (i.e. ‘funny’ pictures of an old woman and a fat woman), 2 included Jen, the female character from the IT Crowd, and the remaining three although not overtly sexualised (I’m being generous here) would have been chosen to be titillating (woman being massaged, woman’s mouth and women boxing).
  • Of the images of men: 2 were of Dr Manhattan (drawing attention to his godlike power and penis), 2 were of men surrounded by sexually available women, 2 were the other members of the IT Crowd and one was of Sting (fully clothed and to my mind deeply unsexual, although he is there to reference tantric sex – something to do with ‘performance’, geddit?)
  • Eight of the slides contain the logo for CouchDB which I presume is linked to whatever Aimonetti is peddling. This logo is a graphic representation of a ‘slacker’ bloke on a couch.
Now I can understand that this was probably an incredibly boring talk and Aimonetti thought the only way to engage what would have been a predominantly male audience would be to come across as blokey and use demeaning and objectifying images of women to ‘spice it up’. I also acknowledge that the demographic of the audience for this presentation (whether physically or online) would be one that consumes online pornography and so would identify with the imagery of naked women’s arses, women writhing around in simulated orgies, pole-dancers, thigh-high boots etc.

And therein lies the problem. This is what alienates women, this is what has led to the mainstreaming of images once the preserve of girlie mags now proudly boasted as pr0n. Not only does it stereotype Techy men as sexually-repressive, social misfits who can only conduct a ‘relationship’ with an animated Japanese teenager, it also makes the women who work in Tech, use it, and consume it (increasingly the majority) hate you.

You might think of yourselves as terribly intellectual but there is no difference between this kind of presentation and having a titty calendar up in a garage.

So yes, women can start promoting themselves within Tech and speaking out more. But the men in Tech are going to have to stop being such sad wankers and stop with the lame lame lame Tech porn.

Disclaimer: I know the title of this post and some comments are terribly heteronormative - but then so is most porn. I'll post some other time about sexuality and science reporting. Although have done some here.

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