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Called out for sexism. Ouch!

sex·ism – noun
1. attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles. 
2. discrimination or devaluation based on a person’s sex, as in restricted job opportunities; esp., such discrimination directed against women.   

I thought the DemoCamp presentation I did last night went pretty well, but was a little surprised to see this posting The Boys of DemoCamp Strike Again.  Sandy Kemsley found my scenario where demo-guy John asks demo-gal Jill for a date to be sexist.  Personally, I didn’t see it as discriminatory, nor do I consider dating necessarily a bad traditional behaviour to perpetuate.  After all, where would we be if didn’t occasionally find a mate and breed… extinct!

Nevertheless, as I commented to Sandy in her blog, I’ve worked with hundreds of talented female engineers in my day, and I respect them and wish there were more women in the technology industry. Women often bring different and valuable perspectives to problem solving.  I apologize to Sandy and any other woman in the audience who was offended last night.  No sexism was intended, and I am sensitive to having caused offense.  I will change the demo scenario before I do it again. 

{ 7 comments… add one }

  • Sandy Kemsley February 6, 2007, 11:05 pm

    Alec, it may not have been discriminatory (hence didn’t match the 2nd definition of sexism that you quote above), but was right in line with the 1st definition, namely traditional stereotypes of sexual roles. The men in your scenario existed as business colleagues and friends, whereas the woman existed only as an object of sexual desire. Although that’s a perfectly normal situation — I’m all for dating 😉 — when we see demos where women are *only* ever presented as either objects of sexual desire or as technophobes/technodummies (the other common female stereotype), it reinforces the stereotypes to the audience. That, in turn, subconsciously tells all those little DemoCampers that it’s okay for them to do the same in their demos in the future.

  • Alec February 7, 2007, 4:42 am

    Got it. If I understand your point correctly, then there are really two ways to fix this:

    1. Portray Jill as a professional who happens to have a social life (ie. make her one of the John or Frank characters, and have the other ask her out).

    Or,

    2. Since this is a product targeted at professionals, leave the personal scenario out of it altogether.

    Does that make sense?

  • Alec February 7, 2007, 6:38 am

    You're right Martin, but what I thought I heard at DemoCamp Ottawa was that people thought the scenario was geeky rather than sexist. I thought it could be made into something humorous, which I was what I tried in Toronto. Clearly I misread the whole thing. Lesson learned.

  • Alec February 7, 2007, 7:07 am

    Very ironic, isn't it…

  • Martin Dufort February 7, 2007, 8:58 am

    Hey Alec:

    You also had an early warning about this at DemoCamp Ottawa 3. L8er – Martin

  • Martin Dufort February 7, 2007, 11:05 am

    Because of these posts, I love the ads that are *now pulled* on your blog site…. Guess we are using a very highly rated Google keywords..

  • Sandy Kemsley February 7, 2007, 12:52 pm

    Alec, in response to your question, either alternative would be fine, although I don't think that a personal scenario adds anything to the demo since it is, as you note, for a primarily business audience.

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