It's nice to know that sexism still reigns
September 4, 2000 3:52 PM   Subscribe

It's nice to know that sexism still reigns at computer conventions. These are from ECTS. (It will be a sad day when the booth-babe becomes extinct. In the mean time, these women can have my soul just by asking for it.)
posted by Steven Den Beste (16 comments total)

All opposed... bugger off. :-)
posted by baylink at 3:59 PM on September 4, 2000

I love how progressive geek culture is bent on showing how intelligent and evolved it is, but can't get over its medioicre sexism.

Though I don't have a problem with the convention babes, you could at least acknowledge that yes you and your buddies aren't much better than the average Joe and that Star Trek is far from an egalitarian utopia.
posted by skallas at 4:03 PM on September 4, 2000

Hey, ST:TNG gave up the miniskirts after the first season! (And who said geek culture was "progressive"? It's a meaningless term anyway.)
posted by aaron at 4:30 PM on September 4, 2000

Skallas - it's also quite possible that "geek culture" is an impossibly broad category which many people lump very different types of people into. The booth-babe coverage is almost always found at the gamer hardware sites; the average reader of those sites is a lot closer to the "hormone-crazed 14 year-old" than to a real geek (which I define is someone with both an interest in and a deep understanding of technology). 90% the gamer kids have just enough technical knowledge to run Quake and install a new card. Anyone who's ever seen a "My video card is bigger than yours" flame-war could tell you how little intelligence is involved.

Consider also that the marketing people are the ones who hire the models for conventions and tradeshows. Like the TV script writers at Paramount, what you're seeing is a non-technical person's stereotype. All of the people I consider real geeks actively avoid the die-hard Trekkies and consider the whole booth-babe idea juvenile ("You've got a crappy product, but I'm supposed to buy it because it'll increase the odds of a model liking me? Right...").
posted by adamsc at 4:58 PM on September 4, 2000

That was a well written, "I know a geek when I see one" interpretation, but the broad acceptace of cheesy sci-fi and other lowest common denominator activities proves that techies (geeks, whatever is the proper term this year) are exactly like other people execpt they have an interest in technology. They're not necessarily smarter or better than anyone else with the same level of education and their collective opinions aren't necessarily better execpt, maybe, when it comes to tech issues.

No, I don't want to define geek culture either, but from what I've seen, the pretentious talk of the intellect over all (a la Spock) is just stupid and activities like this show that these are normal people with normal sex drives, not just horny kiddies as you like to think. The babes are there for the adults too.
posted by skallas at 5:09 PM on September 4, 2000

Actually, the vast majority of the hardware-geek web sites I follow stick to electronics and industry gossip. But there are two who have (ahem) embraced sex wholeheartedly, perhaps as a way of differentiating themselves from the others. (There are an unbelievable number of those sites and it's easy to get lost in the crowd.)

The one those links about booth-babes came from, Chick's Hardware, is one such, and I think they're doing it as much to live up to the name they chose as anything else. Anyway, they have the Chick's Hardware Babe of the Week page.

However, much stranger than that, almost incomprehensible in fact, is Hypothermia. By some miracle or other, the editor of that page managed to make friends with Asia Carrerra, Pornstar and computer geek. And not only do they post occasional X-rated pictures of her (warning, I'm not kidding), but she's got her own weekly "Ask Asia" column on the site.

By the way, when I was reading my "Geek membership manual" I don't recall seeing the rule that said that geeks can't like girls.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:07 PM on September 4, 2000

I wasn't arguing that the average geek doesn't have a normal sex drive, simply that most of them also recognize the whole booth-babe thing as a bit of ridiculous sexism, too, just as most of the general populace realize how ridiculous the ads which suggest beautiful people will want to have sex with you if you use this product are. (consider

Similarly, most would agree just strongly about "pretentious talk of the intellect over all (a la Spock)" being stupid. One thing I've noticed is that eulogies for people like Jon Postel or Rich Stevens tend to mention human characteristics - things like a sense of humour, friendliness / loyalty - and outside interests far more than their technical accomplishments.

Really, this is yet another case where the good people don't feel the need to remind you of it. These people don't get anywhere near as much attention as those who try to substitute PR for ability.

What this discussion highlights is that we don't have decent terms to describe the different groups. Right now the common interest in computers causes most people to treat the term "geek" as a catch-all covering everyone otherwise-unremarkable Star Trek/Star Wars fanboys, people who got into IT because it involves decent pay and no heavy lifting, people who have not just a desire to use computers but understand why things work (this attitude very frequently extends to non-computer related fields as well) and those who've attained near-godlike skills in a certain field. This is about as useful as categorizing someone as "car-owner" or "phone user".

I personally would define geek as including only the last two groups - anyone who has both a strong desire to understand how things work and an above-average level of ability in a chosen field. Above-average intelligence is common, but not a requirement - I'm sure we all know high IQ people who've never accomplished much and other people whose hard work and persistence has more than made up for an average intelligence. There's no requirement that these characteristics be demonstrated in computer-related fields. Characteristics like ones tastes in music, entertainment, social or sexual matters are irrelevent (except for self-destructive behaviour which is usually frowned upon).
posted by adamsc at 6:21 PM on September 4, 2000

FYI - the first episode of ST:TNG featured more than one man wearing miniskirts...
posted by plinth at 6:51 PM on September 4, 2000

I'm much relieved to hear that a geek is permitted to have a sex life; I was afraid I was going to have to resign my membership.

I've heard stories of death squads: Traitor, we know your IP. Kiss your computer good-bye.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 7:42 PM on September 4, 2000

Uh ... that wasn't nearly X-rated, dude. Good to know you're still that innocent, though ....

It is pretty demeaning, on both sides. Unfortunately there just aren't a lot of women in this profession, and so the trade shows skew male, and you get fairly natural exploitation of that fact. And everyone will tell you that it doesn't work, anyway. Sure the girls get looked at, but the true geeks aren't even going to be wowed by the t-shirts and toys they get. They want to see what the stuff does.

Anyway, I think this is just one more symptom of a weird post-feminist sinkhole we're in that's focussed almost entirely on male voyeurism. I may reveal my age here, but to me it feels creepily like stag films at the Elks club.
posted by dhartung at 9:37 PM on September 4, 2000

Actually, it isn't just booth-babes. You get booth-beef, too. At COMDEX, they had a male body-builder acting as "Duke Nukem" as part of the buildup for "Duke Nukem Forever", though admittedly he was accompanied by a couple of boothbabes as a sort of entourage. And among the hardware geek sites, it was the consensus that those babes were the best in the show. COMDEX tends to get broader coverage from the geek sites and more of them publish pictures. Oddly enough, these babes weren't dressed as skimpily as you might have imagined; it was leather and weapons, and they were apparently most impressive.

It is, however, true that they only do booth-beef when it makes sense for the product (like Duke Nukem), whereas booth-babes are gratuitously used everywhere.

[As to the X-rated warning, perhaps I was excessively cautious, but I didn't want anyone to get offended.]
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:12 PM on September 4, 2000

Do you come with the car?

Hahaha... Oh, you...

Do you come with the car?

Hahaha... Oh, you...
posted by rschram at 7:17 AM on September 5, 2000

Even gamer-geeks aren't universally suckered in by booth babes. Something Awful-- a great gaming humor site-- rags on booth babes all the time. They call them "floor whores" and rag on game publishers who use them as props to boost their crappy games.
posted by wiremommy at 10:45 AM on September 5, 2000

As far as I'm concerned, as long as the booth-owners are dumb enough to pay them, I'll be happy to drool.

Occasionally, you actually find one worth making conversation with; though they certainly select for bra size, rather than IQ.
posted by baylink at 7:43 PM on September 5, 2000

It's Las Vegas, it's Los Angeles, it's a bloody conference, after all: and that has as much to do with the proliferation of flesh as the gaming thing.
posted by holgate at 1:21 AM on September 6, 2000

Sorry, but ECTS was London...

Not exactly one of those cities with a reputation for being a "fleshpot", you know, old boy...
posted by Steven Den Beste at 8:42 AM on September 6, 2000

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