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...my penis (or vagina)
June 12, 2012 12:46 AM   Subscribe

How a song at the Norwegian Developers Conference came to joke with the phrase "The words ‘micro’ and ‘soft’ don’t refer to my penis (or vagina)".
posted by dabitch (59 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
So "hard vagina" is a good thing?

I'm surprised some sort of dick move like this got up in a company as big as Microsoft as much as I am by the bizarre logic in the post.
posted by Mezentian at 1:13 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm surprised some sort of dick move like this got up in a company as big as Microsoft

Hahahahahahahahahahaha.

Ahem.

Ha.

Hoo boy.
posted by brennen at 1:15 AM on June 12, 2012


There's been a lot of bad corporate attempts at motivational music (to use the term loosely), such as Symantec Revolution, but this is an entirely new level. Not only is it completely inappropriate according to the norms of music, but it also inappropriate according to the norms of modern corporate society and the norms of basic human decency.

This video is such a sucking black hole of cluelessness that it comes across like the absurdity of rally for stopping plate tectonics. But I think this link gets is probably right, it's not sexism meant to intentionally enforce the gender disparity in tech as much as it is a bunch of fish so used to swimming in sexism that they can't even conceive of what sexism is, which is pretty disturbing and inexcusable.

Thank god this was recorded and called out. It seems that the frequency of such disturbing reports from tech conferences in recent years is increasing. I hope this means that this is due to increasing awareness of the harm of such incidents rather than an increase in the events themselves. As long as tech is (intentionally or unintentionally) trying to keep out half the population, it's going to be missing out on half of its potential.
posted by Llama-Lime at 1:23 AM on June 12, 2012 [10 favorites]


I wanted to get it over and done with so we could move on to the substance of the topic.
Because I can't even follow the reasoning of the post, much less the thought that must have gone into producing the song.

Male gaze or not, it strikes me as ... a bit insane.
Sure, everyone's an adult, but there must have been so many red flags along the way.
Unless Norway is that much more laid back.
posted by Mezentian at 1:25 AM on June 12, 2012


The whole sex, drugs, party theme of the video/song is just awkward and painful in the first place, but with the entirely biased and sexist spin it comes off as immature, cringe-worthy college humor (at the very least).

I actually don't get how the video could be relatable to any adult. Unless it's all supposed to be over-the-top silly, i.e. ironic and sentimental through its retro-ness, which is then way worse...for reasons not far off from liberty, cheeseburgers and the American dream.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:38 AM on June 12, 2012


Llama-Lime , I wish I could favorite your comment a hundred times, partly for that terrifying link to the Symantec Revolution song. I will save that thing for Halloween.
posted by dabitch at 2:11 AM on June 12, 2012


I'm no fan of the concept of the Male Gaze (Have you actually seen Rear Window?), but it seems to be an accurate usage within the linked article. There's a huge problem with embedded sexism within the development community, and we need to work towards solving that problem.

The take home quote for me from the article is "I don’t want heads to roll. I want heads to be educated." That's where I am too. Stupid mistakes were made, and they were made because the development environment is predominantly and insularly male. It's not about blame, it's not about mocking Microsoft, it's about how we fix the problem.

The fact that author fesses up to the "(vagina)" comment and he does so with humor, humility and the acknowledgement that it was a stupid, stupid mistake says a lot. The fact that Microsoft do seem to be taking this extremely seriously, and they're doing it in a way which is less about brand management and more about actual inclusivity says a lot.

There's going to be a bunch more har-di-har-har to be had about how stupid Microsoft is w.r.t. this story, but the it actually makes me a bit more assured that we're finally getting it, and even when we don't get it, we're trying to get it.
posted by zoo at 2:16 AM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow, that was surreal and scary, and just a horrible piece of music.

But, I wonder how much of an issue this would be, if this didn't involve an American corporation with American views of sexuality and the accompanying repressive puritan values.

I think anywhere in the states this would've been outrageous and ridiculous, beyond words. Clearly. But in Norway, where women are light years in terms of progress and the very real and harmful culture of "the Male Gaze" is addressed and neutralized, these kinds of hang ups are extremely rare. If anything, I found women in Norway to be much more comfortable with their sexuality and their sense of parity with their male counterparts.

Honestly, I feel that if this didn't involve American's and an American company, this would've been a non-event.

Perhaps someone from that culture can agree or correct me if I've not read their culture right.
posted by Skygazer at 2:58 AM on June 12, 2012


If anything, it's "the correction" to the song by an American ironically hung up on Feminist theory, that made that song even more insulting and more stupid.
posted by Skygazer at 3:02 AM on June 12, 2012


Skygazer: But in Norway, where women are light years in terms of progress and the very real and harmful culture of "the Male Gaze" is addressed and neutralized, these kinds of hang ups are extremely rare.

While it is true that Norway is light years ahead, that hardly constitutes having male gaze 'neutralised'. The only reason we are hearing about it is that it was an American company, sure, but I don't think this would've gone down well if it had been some minor Norwegian company either. Minor Norwegian companies just don't make the same kind of international news, gaffe or no.
posted by Dysk at 3:05 AM on June 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


You know, programmer-as-male is a stereotype you people outside of Norway have bought into this anyway. You're uncomfortable with your own stereotype, and when people bring it up you become defensive. You overcompensate by saying that the merest mention, the subtlest hint, that you actually have such a stereotype is absurd. In fact, you are the most open of minds, treating all genders equally, denying any possibility that there are hiring and pay scale gaps between men and women. "Absurd! Ridiculous! Offensive to even think!" you say, ignoring actual verified gender gaps in electrical engineering or, frankly, any other form of engineering. You pooh-pooh federal statistics which say that Less than 20 percent of the bachelor's degrees in computer science go to women.... By comparison, nearly 60 percent of all bachelor's degrees are awarded to graduating females because you are an enlightened soul and even the thought of such a possiblity makes you angry.

Meanwhile in Norway they really have worked to eliminate the gender gap, so much so that it seems like a funny old idea, worth joking about. Let us not be amused, but rather offended.
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:39 AM on June 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


Holy shit, literal jawdrop: "As unfortunate as this faux-pas was, it did actually get worse when he turned to one of the handful of female speakers at the event3 to say: “you are providing those, right?”"
posted by barnacles at 3:39 AM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Also, they stole the same joke I made last year.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:18 AM on June 12, 2012


Wow twoleftfeet, that is some grade one prescience.

Someone should do a pc version for linux.
posted by marienbad at 4:32 AM on June 12, 2012


But, I wonder how much of an issue this would be, if this didn't involve an American corporation with American views of sexuality and the accompanying repressive puritan values.

None. In Denmark (neighbor to Norway, same values, was same country until 'recently') this incident has not been reported at all, not even in ComputerWorld. People simply don't care.

This is a Microsoft version of Nipplegate.
posted by flif at 4:32 AM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Denmark and Norway are culturally very similar, sure. To say that the business/tech cultures within both are basically identical is... less true, in my experience.
posted by Dysk at 4:46 AM on June 12, 2012


Also, they stole the same joke I made last year.
posted by twoleftfeet at 4:18 AM on 6/12
[+] [!]

I know you're proud, but I remember seeing the "Bill named the company after his penis" jokes in IRC, around the time he was shoving IE down our throats with Win98.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 4:52 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know you're proud, but I remember seeing the "Bill named the company after his penis" jokes in IRC, around the time he was shoving IE down our throats with Win98.

Seconded, I remember seeing this all the time on Slashdot during its unironic "At least I'm not Bill Gates' bitch!!!!!!" era.
posted by indubitable at 4:58 AM on June 12, 2012


Yeah, that joke is as old as people writing Micro$oft.

Anyway, what a fucking debacle. How anybody at any level thought this was a good idea is just mind-boggling. I mean, usually Microsoft marketing tends to just be clueless (see: Songsmith), not outright offensive.

If anything, it's "the correction" to the song by an American ironically hung up on Feminist theory, that made that song even more insulting and more stupid.

Nope. It made the song more stupid, maybe, but all the insult and offensiveness was there already.

And god forbid anybody in the tech world should know something about feminism.
posted by kmz at 5:12 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Did anyone other than me RTFA?
posted by zoo at 5:25 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


The earliest mention of it on the Norway's ComputerWorld site is an article (translated) about how The Wired etc has written about the event. So they didn't think themselves that it was worth writing about, only when the US media went into a frenzy.
posted by flif at 5:27 AM on June 12, 2012


This is why I've switched to programming in languages that don't have pointers.
posted by srboisvert at 5:27 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I read the fucking article. Twice.
I'm not sure what your point is.
TFA was confusing, and at no stage actually explained anything much in a way that made sense.
posted by Mezentian at 5:29 AM on June 12, 2012


I wonder if it's too late for this episode to make it into Microsoft's "Standards of Business Conduct Training" next year...
posted by Slothrup at 5:31 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Did anyone other than me RTFA?"
posted by zoo

*holds up hand*

Seconding Mezentian, what is your point?
posted by marienbad at 5:31 AM on June 12, 2012


None. In Denmark (neighbor to Norway, same values, was same country until 'recently') this incident has not been reported at all, not even in ComputerWorld. People simply don't care.

Congrats Denmark for not caring that a giant company used an incredibly sexist song to promote its products.
posted by kmz at 5:33 AM on June 12, 2012


I don't think the Norwegians were being sexist as much as they were poking fun at themselves in a self-deprecating sort of playful and goofball manner. The singer was male.
posted by Skygazer at 5:48 AM on June 12, 2012


when is this crap going to end? And more importantly, what will the world look like when it does?
posted by rebent at 5:57 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


It was a fucking skit with some bawdy jokes. Between this and the Oatmeal thread, apparently, everyone on Metafilter today can't handle jokes any more. Oh lordy me! This "Smothers Brothers" is giving me the vapors! They must be sexist and racist! Hitler hitler hitler!
posted by fungible at 6:02 AM on June 12, 2012


In Denmark (neighbor to Norway, same values, was same country until 'recently') this incident has not been reported at all, not even in ComputerWorld. People simply don't care.

A few weeks ago: "At a Dell global conference in Copenhagen, Danish celebrity Mads Christensen called women ‘bitches,’ lauded the industry for shutting out females, and harassed the ones in the audience—forcing the PC giant to apologize. (...) Among the insults [...] was Christensen’s insinuation that women were better with rolling pins than technology. He apparently ended his performance by telling the men in the audience to go home and tell their wives and girlfriends, “Shut up, bitches.” "
posted by iviken at 6:10 AM on June 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


It was a fucking skit with some bawdy jokes. Between this and the Oatmeal thread, apparently, everyone on Metafilter today can't handle jokes any more.

No, this is different, as people are there because their job says they have to be there. They literally have no choice but to put up with sexualized workplace, and one where women are on display as objects of male desire while the music explicitly extols male desire. It's creepy and wrong, even in "post-sexist" countries. (This shows they're past sexism! Suuuure.)

The Oatmeal, whether you believe the cartoon is sexist or not (put me in the "not" camp), is online entertainment, and easily avoided by people uninterested in it.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:17 AM on June 12, 2012 [9 favorites]


It was a fucking skit with some bawdy jokes.

A skit? In what world is that song a skit?

Between this and the Oatmeal thread, apparently, everyone on Metafilter today can't handle jokes any more. Oh lordy me! This "Smothers Brothers" is giving me the vapors! They must be sexist and racist! Hitler hitler hitler!

*backs away slowly*
posted by kmz at 6:27 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm often amused at the thin skin of people who accuse others of being thin-skinned; can't take a little criticism of what you find funny? Come on, just get over it already!

And yeah, something like this at a club where you show up because you want to be there? Whatever. It's stupid and the club would last about five minutes if they booked a lot of stuff like this, but fine. But at a work thing you're required to be at? Bullshit.
posted by rtha at 6:30 AM on June 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


Yeah, that joke is as old as people writing Micro$oft


I'm not old.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:32 AM on June 12, 2012


The assumption that the audience is male is the least offensive thing about that video.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 6:53 AM on June 12, 2012


From this piece: I was talking to Lea during the song and she was not happy at all with the line “Lea Verou will make your dreams come true.” She called it “cheesy” and “creepy” – a sentiment she’s since repeated in a tweet. I’d missed the innuendo when I’d first heard the song but now I can’t hear it any other way.

A piece I shared recently made the point that when we teach people that equality already exists, it blinds them to the fact it actually doesn't. I don't know if it's impatience or not wanting to feel guilty - but it's quite hard to get a lot of people to recognize that it hasn't been very long at all since the mere idea of women being treated as equals to men filtered into the popular consciousness - a handful of generations at the absolute most.

Even if Norway is light-years ahead compared to North America (somehow that feels a bit exaggerated) because they've enacted more progressive laws aimed at reducing the gender gap (I'm not knocking that at all, of course), it's still only been decades, really. (Wikipedia: "Women's right to vote was passed by law, June 11, 1913 by the Norwegian Parliament. Norway was the second country in Europe after Finland to have full suffrage for women." Happy 99th anniversary - that was yesterday!)

Deep change is not measured in one hundred years. The progressive laws are great, but they do put a veneer on the problem - "look, the change has been made, everyone's equal now, the laws say so". Then there is the backlash - "you have the laws, what more do you want?" Laws alone do not change attitudes. I would argue that this is harder in some ways, to preserve the gains made, and to get people to understand that wasn't meant to be the final step, only the first step, and there's still a lot more work to be done.
posted by flex at 7:11 AM on June 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Mads Christensen happening is very different from a Danish point of view. He basically said he's happy that there is so few women in the IT sector and that it should be kept that way.

I think "the words MICRO and SOFT doesn't apply to my penis (or vagina)" is in a very different league than "I'm happy there is so women in the IT sector": The penis joke doesn't make women less worth than men.

So I see the Microsoft case as just a bawdy joke at a Rock'n Roll event. Are we now going to censor all songs, all Rock'n Roll events, so they have to be 100% politically correct?
posted by flif at 7:21 AM on June 12, 2012


Even if Norway is light-years ahead compared to North America (somehow that feels a bit exaggerated) because they've enacted more progressive laws aimed at reducing the gender gap (I'm not knocking that at all, of course)

Condescension and ignorance in one go. Well done.
posted by Skygazer at 7:32 AM on June 12, 2012


You know what impresses me? That Aral Balkan, the author of the article we are discussing here, spent so much time to look at this incident, patiently explain how it made her feel, put it into a feminist context, and recommend a way to engage Microsoft to repair the damage. It's a remarkably detailed, thoughtful piece.

In response to a fucking frat joke.

Seriously, how exhausting it must be as a woman to attend all these tech things constantly aware that as a woman you are in a minority. And to encounter some horrible thing like this music, the cheesiness, the thoughtless sexism, etc. And then to turn that into a thoughtful essay that educates us. I wouldn't have blamed her if she just rolled her eyes and said "that was really dumb and offensive", but I think it's great she made something interesting out of it.

See also Anil Dash's essay How to fix Popchip's racist ad campaign.
posted by Nelson at 7:55 AM on June 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


[Less Godwin, more discussion please. Thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 7:56 AM on June 12, 2012


That Aral Balkan, the author of the article we are discussing here, spent so much time to look at this incident, patiently explain how it made her feel....

The autor, Aral, is male.
posted by Mick at 8:31 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Not that there's anything wrong with that
posted by Mick at 8:32 AM on June 12, 2012


The part I don't like is "I'll be programming .... for the rest of my life"
posted by Ad hominem at 8:50 AM on June 12, 2012


The Mads Christensen happening is very different from a Danish point of view. He basically said he's happy that there is so few women in the IT sector and that it should be kept that way.

So. The entirety of Denmark is misogynistic, then.
posted by ymgve at 8:51 AM on June 12, 2012


The autor, Aral, is male.

Yikes, thanks for the correction. That's funny, I read his essay and just assumed that someone with that nuanced a view of gender stuff must be a woman. That's a funny form of sexism, oops.
posted by Nelson at 9:09 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


So I see the Microsoft case as just a bawdy joke at a Rock'n Roll event.

The Norwegian Developers Conference is a "Rock'n Roll event"? All I know about it is what I'm taking from TFA, but it sounded like a professional conference.

Are we now going to censor all songs, all Rock'n Roll events, so they have to be 100% politically correct?

For the last time, no, we are not. We are going to encourage all songs not to be shitty and insulting. We are going to discourage shitty insults.
posted by clavicle at 9:25 AM on June 12, 2012 [5 favorites]


...."The singer was male."

I might be missing something here, but is the singer of the male-gendered lyrics being male, while the dancers in the hotpants female, a plus of some sort? Wouldn't that make it even worse?
posted by dabitch at 10:37 AM on June 12, 2012


Are we now going to censor all songs, all Rock'n Roll events, so they have to be 100% politically correct?

This is such an incredible overreaction that I must agree with rtha-- people who are the first to say "can't you take a joke??" are actually incredibly thin-skinned. Calm down, no one is taking away your rock-and-roll music. They're asking you not to talk about your dick at a mandatory work conference. And not to call in a bunch of female dancers in short-shorts, too, in case you forgot.

That's a funny form of sexism, oops.

Nelson, I wouldn't worry too much, it is incredibly rare for even a male feminist to give such a detailed and spot-on account of tech sexism.

It appears that with some Googling, plenty of Norwegian women are unhappy with sex discrimination in the workplace, whether it's as bad as the US or not. So maybe all the men talking up the Norwegian tech gender-equality utopia should calm down a little. What is eating you up so badly, anyway? That someone is talking about sexism in their workplace? Shouldn't that be a win-win, if you care about women feeling comfortable in tech?

For myself, I don't care about Nipplegate or the mention of a dick or a vagina in the media-- but if I were at a work event and forced to watch a guy make jokes about his dick while women were dancing in short-shorts, I wouldn't be averse to smacking a few people.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:48 AM on June 12, 2012 [6 favorites]


When I lived in Scandinavia I did find it fascinating that despite all the gender equality there, the computer-based professions are still male-dominated. I think China is where these professions will maintain greater gender parity first because there is such a greater emphasis there on practicality of the profession you chose.
posted by melissam at 12:10 PM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Dabitch: I might be missing something here, but is the singer of the male-gendered lyrics being male, while the dancers in the hotpants female, a plus of some sort? Wouldn't that make it even worse?

1. The song itself is a completely over the top parody of standard Euro-disco, replete with robotic and cartoon voices and a completely silly dude admitting he has size issues. It's complete shit, but slapstick...

2. The women dancers look to be wearing tasteful retro-ish (like 40s retro) outfits that aren't excessively lascivious and their dance movements amount to a modest bit of tap dancing and arm-waving, again, very retro and modest. These aren't even as risque as can-can dancers for that matter.

3. The audience basically acknowledges it for the terrible sophomoric nonsense it is by barely clapping for it.

4. This would've been a non-event in a post-sexist culture like Norway, had not the puritanism and hypocrisy that underlies much bad over-wrought PC-esque theory in American culture not been present, and this wasn't such a prominent American company with a need to have a wholesome international image.

That being said, sexism is absolutely alive and well in the United States and much of the world when it comes to IT, and it should be discussed and many minds need to be educated and illuminated to their unself-conscious sexism and propagation of the "male gaze" and how oppressive and damaging it can be to women, it's just that this situation in particular is definitely a matter of two different cultures (American/Scandinavian), at two very different and non-matching arcs, in their evolution towards women's rights getting their signals crossed.
posted by Skygazer at 6:35 PM on June 12, 2012


Skygazer, I'm a woman in Sweden who has lived in both Denmark and have a bit of family in Norway and I've even worked in tech companies (Ericsson making cellphones for the record) as I am the daughter of a long line of engineers, and I must say, I do not recognize what you are describing as my "post sexist" utopian culture over here. I wonder where you have learned about it?
posted by dabitch at 7:56 PM on June 12, 2012 [4 favorites]


I didn't call it a "utopia," and the "post-sexist" aspect came from one of the Scandinavian comments above, as it seemed to describe well the differences between American and Scandinavian culture.

If you were born there and had your formative years in that part of the world (?), I'm sure you know it much better than I do.
posted by Skygazer at 8:12 PM on June 12, 2012


a completely silly dude admitting he has size issues

WTF, the singer is explicitly saying he doesn't have "size issues".

This would've been a non-event in a post-sexist culture like Norway, had not the puritanism and hypocrisy that underlies much bad over-wrought PC-esque theory in American culture not been present, and this wasn't such a prominent American company with a need to have a wholesome international image.

The levels of condescension and derailing packed in this statement are astounding.

I didn't call it a "utopia," and the "post-sexist" aspect came from one of the Scandinavian comments above, as it seemed to describe well the differences between American and Scandinavian culture.

You mean all the comments that gave evidence of how much sexism there still is in Scandinavia?
posted by kmz at 7:39 AM on June 13, 2012


WTF, the singer is explicitly saying he doesn't have "size issues".

I think it's satirical. A parody of a euro-disco song. YMMV.

The levels of condescension and derailing packed in this statement are astounding.

I'm simply attempting to broaden the issue here with a different perspective. Perhaps my mention of puritanism and feminism frequently sharing a similar motivation is a derail, and apologies for that.

You mean all the comments that gave evidence of how much sexism there still is in Scandinavia?

To the contrary, it seems to me like many from that region seem to agree that this is a bit of a "non-event" if not for the fact that it involves an American company and an article patronizing the Norwegians from an American all hyped up about the "male gaze," who seems bent on needing to "lift up" and "educate" the IT community of Norway from it's "deplorable" and "immature" "sexist" ways and I think it's laughable...the more I think about it.

It's actually downright idiotic.
posted by Skygazer at 10:20 AM on June 13, 2012


It's really like a weird form of backwards American cultural imperialism, because it's an American hang-up and an American problem being transposed and projected on a different culture.

And you want to talk about insulting and condescending, THAT is insulting and condescending.
posted by Skygazer at 10:37 AM on June 13, 2012


from an American all hyped up about the "male gaze,"

It's really like a weird form of backwards American cultural imperialism, because it's an American hang-up and an American problem being transposed and projected on a different culture.


Aral Balkan is not American.
posted by gladly at 11:11 AM on June 13, 2012


...and neither am I (the OP) so color me bloody confused here.
posted by dabitch at 11:18 AM on June 13, 2012


It's really like a weird form of backwards American cultural imperialism, because it's an American hang-up and an American problem being transposed and projected on a different culture.

Aral Balkan is not American.


Microsoft certainly is, and Balkan (British), regardless of his cultural background, is making the first and biggest mistake in user experience design here by looking at the end product through theclient's eyes (MS) rather than through the eyes of the community he's dealing with, but he admits he should've taken a bit more time with really understanding what was going on there....

...and neither am I (the OP) so color me bloody confused here.

Well, enlighten us, then...
posted by Skygazer at 11:41 AM on June 13, 2012


I'm from here. I'm offended by the dancing chicks at a tech-conf which is not a rock'n'roll event. The laughter you hear is one of embarrassment. Booth babes are not funny, cute or quirky - but that (and vagina) bit is utterly hilarious. How it came to be there is a post well worth reading all the way through. Somehow this thread is now about America and not the male gaze.
posted by dabitch at 2:52 PM on June 13, 2012


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