Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Computer Xiaojie CTRL+ALT+DELETE

Worth reading not just for general interest, but for the super classy tweet from ASUS at Computex 2012.


As Jezebel says...stay classy, ASUS.


So for every Cher Wang (HTC's chairperson, although it's not like she built an empire from nothing) we have some of these wankers.


The link to the original tweet no longer works - the tweet, as best I can determine, was removed. Still, the underlying thought process that led someone to believe it was an acceptable thing to say publicly makes me sad, and proves how sexist the industry really is. Most industries, in fact.


I mean, I do have the occasional uncomfortable laugh at the whole "Computer Xiaojie" thing that goes on at Computex and similar expos, but deep down I do wish it would stop. Not that I think it's going to - it's widely gossiped that Computex's revenues are pushed up a fair amount by all the attendees who come to gawk at the Computer Xiaojies and might only incidentally actually buy something, and it's notoriously hard to get rid of this kind of objectification. If you even say you'd like it to end, you get labeled a screaming sexless harridan when really, you'd like to see a world where women were worth more than their bodies, and women were seen as potential engineers, not potential sex objects that can push the goods (their own or whatever they're modeling for). Oh, perish the thought!


I'd like to see a world where it's more attractive to a woman to sign up for programming class than a stunt as a Computer Xiaojie (because, yes, these women do sign up for the gig and nobody's forcing them), because she values her brain more than her sexuality - because she lives in a society that does the same. Even if she is gorgeous.


There's an interesting comment-and-response about this on the article linked to above:


I know this is a woman's blog, but are you really complaining about booth babes? It's not like they were forced to do it. Haven't we always sexualized the opposite gender to sell things? It's not like the entertainment and clothing industry never does that with men.
promoted by ad infinitum

And the response:

A) Men's bodies are not, nor have they ever been, commodified anywhere the same degree women's are. That's a ridiculous assertion that doesn't pass the sniff test.

B) The use of booth babes is sexist and othering to women in tech (emphasis mine), which is the kind of thing Jezebel talks about. I realize that since that has no effect on you, it's very hard for you to see how it could matter to anyone, but that's actually why blogs like Jezebel are important--there aren't a lot of places, online or off, where problems that primarily or purely affect women are taken seriously. In most places, they're just mocked and discounted exactly as you did here. If you'd prefer to see women's issues mocked and discounted, you have almost the entire internet for that. Bitching because you choose to hang out at one of the few sites where that doesn't automatically happen is some seriously childish bullshit.
One of my students as at Computex right now, staffing his company's exhibition booth. I wanted to Facebook back "haha, hope you're enjoying the xiaojies" before thinking "wait, no, it seems innocent and all in good fun but actually that's totally buying into the patriarchy, oh noes". So I said nothing.


And that's just it - I'm not anti-enjoyment of looks. I'm not against men admiring beautiful women. Heck, I admire attractive men. It's more that this sort of commodification of cute sends a message to the men in the industry: that women are objects, that their main asset is looks, and therefore that they aren't to be taken seriously as colleagues and innovators. Then, less women get hired because women aren't encouraged to be the innovators, and the men spend less time around successful women (while still spending time around the Computer Xiaojies), and that's the view of women that they get, and the cycle repeats.

I have the same issue with entertaining for business by going out to special service KTV, hostess bars or places where women wear skimpy clothes (or no clothes) or are "for hire" - it creates an environment where that's how the men there see all women, and therefore it's harder to take female colleagues seriously - and harder for female colleagues to get ahead because they can't entertain clients in the same way.



That's what I have a problem with - not with the admiration of good looks or women using them to some degree. If I had good looks I'd use 'em too. I don't - I have brains, so I use those - but even if I were gorgeous I wouldn't be a Computer Xiaojie.


Working in the science park as often as I do, I can attest to the huge gender imbalance in the tech industry here - there are women who work in the park, but they tend to be office girls and HR, not techies (although those do exist). In the many classes I've taught at major companies there and in the Hukou Industrial Park, as well as Wugu, Huaya, Tainan (don't recall the official name of that one) and Tucheng parks, I can say that most of them are 100% male, and the few that have women have one woman out of 4, 6, 10, 12 or 16 students. In just one class do I notably have two women. That's remarkable enough that I took notice.


The upside is that the women I've taught, as few as they are, have all been engineers of some stripe. The downside is not only that there are so few of them, but that when I do take on these classes, the HR reps and office workers I deal with in the initial stages are usually women, working long hours for less pay (with far less technical expertise, though). Those women aren't 'worth' the salaries that the engineers earn, which one could argue is fair (what's not fair is pushing women into these lower-value careers - and by "lower value" I mean "not as valued by society"). They don't generally get to take English classes; it's not seen as a priority (or they're expected to already speak English well, but it's clearly not seen as important enough a skill to pay them better for it).


So, what would I like to see? A world that values women in tech as more than HR support and Computer Xiaojies, and women who value themselves enough to both shoot for the moon and demand credit, and a world where my classes full of engineers have a roughly equal ratio of men and women, because the women don't feel "othered" by the whole industry. Both in the USA and here in Taiwan.


Or maybe this issue is just really close to my heart right now because I have a meeting later to day about how I'm not getting as many of the "best" seminars (the 16-hour presentation ones) as I really should, as a senior instructor and - not to brag, but it's true - one of the best instructors. I have noticed that I helped train some of the men who do get these seminars, and that there are no women doing them. I intend to say that I can't help but wonder why this is happening when they know perfectly well I am capable - and in some respects better - than the men who are getting these gigs (not going straight for the "it's sexism" jugular, heavily implying is enough), that women who take these seminars are being shortchanged by never seeing female role models in presenting, and that with permanent residency coming up soon, they can do what they want and stay on course if they like, but I have noticed, I'm not stupid, and this will be one of the major factors that will influence my decision on where my best opportunities lie. Again, I don't need to say "stop the bullshit or your most senior instructor who consistently gets the best feedback and the highest renewal volume is going to quit". It merely needs to be implied.


So, anyway, that's my dirty lens. Down with the patriarchy.

9 comments:

Jenna Cody said...

I can't get the pasted comment to format right. Sorry.

blobOfNeurons said...

I'd like to see a world where it's more attractive to a woman to sign up for programming class than a stunt as a Computer Xiaojie (because, yes, these women do sign up for the gig and nobody's forcing them), because she values her brain more than her sexuality - because she lives in a society that does the same.

Is there a reason she can't do both? I didn't know Computer Xiaojie was a career ...

Jenna Cody said...

No, there is no reason why she can't do both - but how many actually do so? (I really don't know; I don't mean that as a commentary on the stupidity of Computer Xiaojies).

I'm not against enjoying the beauty of the human form (I mean, I too notice good-looking men, and there are some DAMN FINE men in Taiwan), I'm just uneasy about the commodification of it.

Jenna Cody said...

No, there is no reason why she can't do both - but how many actually do so? (I really don't know; I don't mean that as a commentary on the stupidity of Computer Xiaojies).

I'm not against enjoying the beauty of the human form (I mean, I too notice good-looking men, and there are some DAMN FINE men in Taiwan), I'm just uneasy about the commodification of it.

Klaus said...

Filming at the Computex for German tv, I just interviewed an Acer showgirl who was hosting the stage shows, and it turned out she studies computer science. She also told me performing at Computex for 3 years gave her self-esteem a real boost. She is probably not an examplary case, but still...

Jenna Cody said...

She probably is exemplary.

As I said, I don't actually know what the showgirls do otherwise - I absolutely do not think they're all just ditzes.

But then, I have to wonder. What kind of world do we live in where being ogled by geeks (or anyone - doesn't matter if they're computer guys or construction workers) all day is a "self-esteem boost"?

What kind of world do we live in where a woman smart enough to study computer science and attractive enough to be a Computer Xiaojie needs a "self-esteem boost" at all?

Jenna Cody said...

I mean exemplary as in she's probably above average in her studies.

Not exemplary as in she's not necessarily the norm (but I don't know).

Klaus said...

Well, her job actually is crowd control, making guys shout out "Acer!" at her command and then giving away freebies from the stage to the drooling masses, so you could say it's actually a position of power. I'll see if I can upload the video without German voice-over.

Klaus said...

Did it: http://www.intaiwan.de/2012/06/22/booth-babes-in-taiwan-good-ole-fun-or-should-we-talk-about-it/