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How to promote your sexism while promoting your conference

by erik on April 7th, 2011

In my previous post, I talked about LessConf 2011 and that I think their conference promotion is another link in the chain of sexism at tech conferences.

That post should stand on its own, and it depresses me that in 2011 I still need to explain why this kind of stuff is sexism. Unfortunately, I think it’s still necessary. So here’s my analysis of what’s going on.

LessConf 2011 - Atlanta Georgia - April 29-30 2010 - Tech/Business/Marketing Conference

Charlie Sheen

Until recently, I was unaware that Charlie Sheen was a convicted beater of women. There’s a good chance Steve and Allen are not aware. Because we’re men, we have no reason to worry about which men are convicted beaters of women. They’re never going to beat us, so who cares? But women have to care. Especially poor women. Because their choices are going to influence whether they accidentally decide to date a beater of women, or end up alone with a beater of women, or leave their children in the care of a beater of women.

And many women have already been beaten by their husband or boyfriend or father, or experienced some form of violence against women, and this question looms even larger for them: will this guy be the next one who hits me? I can program all day, go out to clubs, go on dates, fuck whoever I want to, and I never have to worry about that. Those are precious minutes that I can spend doing whatever I want to, not thinking about which men beat women.

So I think it’s fair to say that programmer women, and victims of domestic violence in particular, are much more likely to be aware that Charlie Sheen is a convicted beater of women. And when they visit to the LessConf page, and see this convicted beater of women promoting the conference, they have a lot more to think about than your average programmer man. First off, they may have to deal with flashbacks. And second, they have to think: is this representative of the conference?

And you know, maybe it’s not representative of the conference. But Steve and Allen are forcing those women both to make that judgement and to take that risk.

LessConf 2011 - Atlanta Georgia - April 29-30 2010 - Tech/Business/Marketing Conference

The Business of Strip Clubs

Strip clubs are funny for men. They’re even funny for many women. But those of us who’ve done our homework know they’re also incredibly violent places. That the vast majority of strippers suffer some kind of sexualized violence during their careers, often over and over again. And we also know that the politics of sex and power that are on display in a strip club are the same politics that fuel the culture of violence against women in the bedroom.

And again, this is not shit that your typical man developer has to care about. Strip clubs and bedrooms are pretty safe for them! But women, particularly women who have suffered sexualized violence, and particularly women who’ve been in sex work, need to care. And to watch this talk, they’ll need to sit in a room of hundreds of men who think that strip clubs and sex are just HAHA AWESOME FUN SILLY TEEHEE HOO HOO.

Sex is a battlefield and the casualties are mostly women. If you don’t think sex is a battlefield, YOU ARE LUCKY, and probably male. Bringing sex into professional discussions is bringing the battlefield to the conference center. And it’s forcing women to do a bunch of work that has nothing to do with tech or startups, while the men sit there and giggle and eat shitty pastries.

YouTube - Less Conf 2011- Uncle Bear / Episode 3
“Uncle Bear” shows us his guarantee

Uncle Bear

I hope I don’t really have to go into this at this point. Yeah, it’s supposed to be funny. Yeah, it’s an over-the-top character who isn’t meant to be a representative of the conf. But the mental calculus that you’re forcing women to go through is not cool. Sure, he’s an “expert on trashy chicks”, but are we supposed to expect that none of the conference organizers, and none of the men watching this actually think it’s funny to try to “get trashy chicks”? Certainly some men do think many chicks are trashy, and they want to find those women so they can push them hard sexually and the women won’t resist.

Many women watching this video will be forced to parse out what they think about the conference organizers. How satirical is this video supposed to be? Are they really just joking, or is this going to be the kind of conference where the guys are all hitting on the women? Is the kind of person who thinks a video like this is funny the kind of person who will take me seriously if one of the conference participants is bothering me?

Not something men have to worry about. And that’s what makes all these demands LessConf is making so goddamn onerous, and so goddamn sexist.

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10 Comments
  1. Joey McHatesWhenWomenThinkSexIsAPowerGame permalink

    I want to shout from a roof top, “sex is not a battle field.” Yes, they were wrong to allow sexism in their promotions. Strip clubs are gross, totally, I agree. But please, please, I surrender, I’m never going to hit a woman. Sex is just sex. You undermine gender equality to everyone who does not live in fear when you insist that they should be afraid.

  2. Greg permalink

    Man you’re wound up tight. Bet you can’t stand South Park either, or the Simpson’s, or pretty well any stand up comedy.

  3. Joey: I never told anyone to be afraid. You’re lucky you haven’t seen the casualties of sex. But that doesn’t mean you haven’t committed acts of sexualized violence. It’s so normalized in our culture men and women both think it’s normal. I was talking to a woman the other day who was talking about a man doing things she wasn’t comfortable with. She just chalked it up to the game.

    Now, I’m not commenting on anyone’s sex life *in particular*. There are people out there who have great, consensual sex. I try really hard to be in that category. But I still screw it up. And I think most people screw it up, in ways they are completely unaware of.

  4. Hey Greg! I *am* wound up tight! This whole thing made me really angry. South Park and The Simpsons vary for me. Some of it I think is really funny. And when I was younger, I thought every minute of South Park was gut-splitting. I think both series put out some really destructive messages though. Pretty much all T.V. does. Both the Simpsons and South Park have their radical moments though. The series I really hate is Family Guy. That’s just a big woman-hating jack off fest.

  5. Wayne permalink

    LOL …. I really hope this is a joke and you are playing a character. The fact that you try and connect lessconf and sexism and Charlie sheen is nothing but laughable. You need to write every news host and comedian who uses sheen as the butt of their jokes if this is the argument you sticking with.

    Charlie Sheen is all over the news. It is just a joke and would not even be a video for less confirm if the man hadn’t made a fool of himself. The fact that he is messed up and beat up a woman is a moot point in this matter.

  6. Wayne: Nope, serious as a heart attack.

  7. Shveta permalink

    Erik, I’m constantly amazed by your ability to relate to women and from their perspective. All men who care about well-being of women also need to care about all this in addition to women.

  8. Meg permalink

    Thank you for this post, Erik.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Is LessConf laughing in the face of feminism? | Erik Pukinskis, Snowed In
  2. So you want more women a your tech event? Put a woman in charge | chroni.ca | Women, technology, multilingualism, sustainability. 

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