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May 26, 2007

For $%^& sake

Both of my readers will know my ongoing concern about the place women have in the IT/web professions. A couple of recent conferences have copped some criticism for inappropriate words and images, that certainly don't help foster and engender an inclusive atmosphere where all participants feel comfortable.

But those pale by comparison with the completely boneheaded decision of the recent RailsConf to have a bunch of poledancing drum majorettes "perform" at the conference. Don't believe me? Check the video.

More disappointing, or perhaps infuriating, are the comments at Youtube, about how cool this makes Rails (note to commenters - not), and the discussion at Digital Web (where I posted a detailed comment outlining my concerns.)

And as I am giving them some google juice, they can get it with both barrels

The conference was co-presented by O'Rielly Media - recently seen calling for a code of blogging coduct. Get your house in order.
Sponsored by among others Adobe and SUN. Is this your attitude to your women employees?

This makes me infuriated. If people do not understand in 2007 why this is simply unacceptable, I %^&*ing despair.

And just for the record - people can do whatever they like in the appropriate place, provided no one else gets hurt. That's really their business - I am pretty much against all prohibitions of behavior in the appropriate context.


and you wonder why the participation of women in IT is plummeting.

May 26, 2007 | Permalink


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my eyes can not roll back any further in my head..


Apart from anything the burlesque thing is soooooooo 2006.

totally, totally lame.

Posted by: Sara Lander | May 26, 2007 11:11:08 AM

Stupid stupid idea. I don't think much of Carloyn Wood's post at DigitalWeb though. There's a much more informed discussion, including opinions from various women who were actually there, in the comments on Kerri Hick's blog:

Posted by: Tim Lucas | May 26, 2007 3:33:34 PM


I think Carolyn was pretty much right on the money - that's how important this is.

To put in in perspective -if that were a workplace in Australia - the organizer would be liable to be saked for sexual harassment. It is serious.


Posted by: John Allsopp | May 26, 2007 3:50:42 PM

The funny thing is I was watching the video and thinking "This isn't sooo bad" and then the girls pretty much stuck the flags up their fannies and started humping them.

And the guy on the youtube site wonders why the rails conference was such a "sausage fest".


Posted by: Cheryl | May 26, 2007 4:12:28 PM

Actually, the fact that some women (including some of the very few women at this particular conference who commented at kerri's blog) have become used to this behavior doesn't make it right. The fact that they've learned to take it like a man doesn't make it okay. Inappropriate behavior is inappropriate behavior at a professional conference and should be called out for what it is. For example, any young woman walking down the street in NYC or cities around the world is subjected to comments, body noises, body language, etc. The fact that they become numb to it doesn't mean it's okay. There have been discussions lately about women and IT and a number of women have commented on why they don't want to attend the conferences. My question was "okay, why are some of the rest of you wondering why many women don't like to attend or speak or even enter the fray of having a strong voice in the web community?" "Here's an example of why." And, by the way, Kerri Hicks was very involved in the post and comments at Digital Web. She even went further than I did, on her post, in bringing up things that were wrong, from her point of view, at past conferences. Most of my post was actually pro-male. I'm sorry that you didn't think much of it.

Posted by: Carolyn Wood | May 26, 2007 4:46:37 PM

I have to say I am very much in agreement with Carolyn on this one. Furthermore, it is irrelevant whether attendees, men or women, did or did not agree (or feel "comfortable") with this "performance". The point should be what is and is not acceptable at a professional conference seeking to be both credible and inclusive. If I didn't know this had occured at RailsConf I would have thought this was somekind of frat party stunt...what a joke!

Posted by: dez | May 26, 2007 6:24:04 PM


Some of us think this sort of thing is good clean fun, but that only applies with a sophisticated ironic audience, not a roomful of Aspergerian geek virgins.

Posted by: Joe Clark | May 27, 2007 12:14:17 AM


yes, entirely right - its about context.

Meanwhile, the pussy cat dolls crossed burlesque over to the mainstream some time ago. So it is getting a little tired for that matter.


Posted by: John Allsopp | May 27, 2007 6:42:10 AM

Oh my. If the drive is towards a better representation of gender in this workplace, I think this is a pretty bad idea. Bad move.

I made it through the vid initially thinking this isn't that bad. What's John talking about? Then the humping started and it was blindingly obvious to me at how much a bad idea this was.

Simply inappropriate. Women (Hell, men too) exhibiting their bodies isn't innately bad. Take the Satan's Cheerleaders troupe or the women of the band Mutaytor. Context, context, context.

I don't know about this RailsConf deal, though. Not being there, I can't make the best observation but my gut says it's exploitive and it looks bad. Aren't we long past the image of the horny geek boys?

Posted by: Patrick | May 27, 2007 3:40:46 PM

I was just reading some of the comments on Digital Web and I'm so frustrated I want to scream.

Gosh, of course if we don't want half-naked women in a working environment we must be prudes or frigid.

I feel like banging my head against a wall...

Posted by: Cheryl | May 28, 2007 11:57:05 AM

I haven't watched the video -- it would be inappropriate for my workplace.
Maybe that should be a clue...

I empathise entirely with Cheryl -- after reading the comments I still can't understand that people just don't get the notion of context.

So, John, no keynote/pole-dance presentation for Brisbane this weekend? :-)

Posted by: Gavin Jacobi | May 28, 2007 2:24:54 PM


if I lost like 20kg ;-)


Posted by: John Allsopp | May 28, 2007 3:21:14 PM

Carolyn+Dez: I too *don't* think those comments make the event acceptable. I was only pointing them out because I found the discussion much more interesting than any point based purely on a 1 min extract of the actual event.

I do think the event was inappropriate, and I too hate the fact that all of society, and not only women, have become numbed to these forms of discrimination (see note below about pussy cat dolls for a prime example).

Being at the event might not have scared any of the women away from conferences, but that video certainly did. What annoyed me though about some of the blogging was the failure to make this distinction.

The power of the videographer is the choice of context, and that particular person chose a context that seemed to evoke a completely different response from yourself, Kerri and John to those who were there in person, male or female. People then used this particular video to make sweeping statements, which though themselves true, don't come across as well as if they'd provided the full picture.

Both the videographer and the event organiser is to blame for the message that was communicated by the video.

That's the story behind "I didn't think much of..."

The O'Reilly folk should have realised that if you run any event, and especially a web one, you should keep in mind there's thousands of photographers with audiences of millions... and a little bit of context makes a big difference to the message you're communicating.

John: on the pussy cat dolls note, did you see the ep. where they forced them to be strippers at a strip club to improve their "self confidence"? WTF!?! I was fuming when I saw that.

Posted by: Tim Lucas | Jun 1, 2007 7:15:49 PM

yeah, Tim (well, no didn't see the ep but..) self empowerment though self abnegation - that'll work!


Posted by: John Allsopp | Jun 12, 2007 9:12:26 AM