Kathy Sierra was silenced by death threats to her blog on "Creating Passionate Users". Then Don Imus was fired for comments about "nappy-headed hos".
I was working at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco yesterday and heard from MANY women who visited the Women 2.0 booth that Spock.com had offended them personally, I asked a Spock.com guy about it. He then reminded me that Spock.com was giving Women 2.0 a sponsorship for our upcoming event and gave me a look as he left that basically said "shove it".
A member of the Systers community (a mailing list founded by the Anita Borg Institute for women and technology) recounted what had happened.
Systers, I was wondering if any of you were at the Web 2.0 expo at San Francisco yesterday attending the keynote by Jeff Bezos? Right after the keynote, there was a launchpad session where 3 new start-ups launched their product officially in front of the audience. One of the products was a new search engine that can be used to search for people: www.spock.com The founder and CEO Jay Bhatti made a very compelling pitch that had me raring to give the site a whirl until he stuck his foot in his mouth. The first search he demonstrated for the audience was for "bloggers". For the next search, he said he wanted to make it more interesting, and asked the audience (mixed audience, 16,000+ mostly tech. crowd) whether they would like to search for Swimsuit illustrated models or for Victoria's secret models!! Folks in the front voted for VS it seems, so he went ahead and used his search engine to pull up Victoria's Secret models on the multiple big screens for the crowd. The women standing next to me were disgusted, and walked out literally calling him an idiot. I personally found it offensive and idiotic, considering research has shown that women are more likely than men to search for specific people and faces. Where he would not do a search for Australian beef cake for the audience, why should it be ok to search for VS models at a tech. conference well attended by women, who are well represented in the blogsphere? Did any of the other attendees get equally irritated? On the one hand, we are worried about hate crimes against women bloggers and here is a guy who searches for swimsuit models at the big launching event for his company at a tech. conference! Wow, how dense can he get? -Shuba
If there's not already a voice in my head that screams "misogyny", check this comment on a post about Spock.com at Tim O'Reilly's blog.
"Spock is a great way to get laid. Seriousy. Just enter "slutty whore" and look at the results. You could bang any one of those skanks, especially my ex-wife."That comment either escaped moderation from ignorance or misogyny. Either way, it should be addressed. Someone else suggested writing to Spock.com and its investors, Clearstone Venture Partners and Opus Capital. That's a fine idea. I've spent the last 2.5 years of my working life at startups without HR and I think engineering/male-dominated startups kinda need it. They also need more diversity on their teams, starting with hiring more women.
Little zings to women whether online or on the radio or in person should always be called out, brought to light, and extinguished. What is that smell in the air?
Spock.com's brilliant idea to publicly perform a search for scantily-clad Victoria's Secret models was projected onto multiple big screens at a large conference hall is a social faux paus because it offended many women in the audience --- I don't care if Spock.com has an amazing product, to read rave product reviews on their service, for the email the Spock.com CEO sent me as an apology. I still feel dirty that this happened in front of hundreds of attendees in broad daylight, and that women who speak out against bad taste are being called feminists and considered to be in hysterics. Wait a second. I don't think I'm the one exercising bad taste and testosterone-laden immaturity here.
Next time you do a search for lingerie or swimsuit models during a demo, you better run a search for beefcakes next. Seriously.