Friday, June 22, 2012

Here are some hot guys for you

I figure since we're back on Computer Xiaojies (or "booth babes"), that if we can't have a fair world in which women
never fear the fine line of admiration vs. objectification, then I'll give a little somethin' to the other team. I'd prefer that we objectify nobody, but as long as the playing field is not fair, I don't see why I would need to play fair.

My friend Steven and I are fighting over bottom row, second guy from the right. I guess it depends on which side of the Strait he's on.

Har har. See what I did there?

From here - no, I don't subscribe. Blame Steven.

In the spirit of my continued interest (and hopefully yours) on the topic of women in tech, here are two more things worth reading:

Klaus on "Booth Babes" (thanks for the quote shout-out, Klaus - glad someone cares about this issue and is approaching it honestly without calling women who are concerned about it bitter harridans or whatever)

And Slate talking to Genevieve Bell on women in tech.


Crystal S. said...

Computer Xiaojie sounds so weird, why did you come up with this term? It's obvious you're not in the IT industry. We Taiwanese just call them "show girls", also in Chinese (it's an English loan word).

Jenna Cody said...

I came up with it, although my students understood it just fine. It was something that came out of a class as a joke. No, I'm not in IT (I'm pretty open about my job in corporate training, which spans companies in many industries). I just teach a lot of classes at tech companies - mostly in Hsinchu Science Park but also in Taipei and Tucheng and Wugu Industrial Parks. Next week I head out to Huaya (in Taoyuan County) for a seminar.

Jenna Cody said...

If you're curious, the reason I don't say "showgirls" is that this is an English language blog, and "showgirls" in English conjures up images of women on stage in Vegas with big headdresses and feathers glued to their underpants. The term common in the USA is "booth babes".

Crystal S. said...

Then better use "booth babes" instead of making up a weird term. Computer xiaojie sounds demeaning to me, because first of all, Computex is not only about computers and xiaojie sounds very strange in this context. I'm giving you this advice, because for same reason you avoid "showgirls", just that your context is AmE. It's one thing to communicate in Chinese and another thing to understand its subtleties. And maybe Taiwanese use wrong word with "showgirls", but in Germany they call a cell phone "Handy", which is also an English loan word used wrongly. So even Germans make such mistakes, I think you can't think only Taiwanese are silly.

And actually I have many friends who were showgirls and they are all smart and well educated girls. If you think they are bimbos (such as in your post from June 5), then you are wrong. They are not betel nut sellers.

And another thing: Why you told me your places of work and your work schedule? I am not interested in your jobs or that you are going to Huaya. It is of no concern to me and it doesn't relate to show girls O_0 (so why?)

Jenna Cody said...

I never said I thought computer xiaojies were bimbos-you clearly did not read that post very carefully. My exact point was that, regardless of their education or accomplishments, computer xiaojies as a whole create an "othering" influence of women in tech (which I have seen in the USA, not quite so much in Taiwan, but Computex is an international event), and that, generally speaking, while I'm not against female beauty or admiring of it, or using it (I said I would use it if I had it!), I'd rather see more female techies than female booth babes. Klaus pointed out - very intelligently - that some women might do that gig just as a confidence boost or for fun. I feel that if it's a confidence boost, if they're already well-educated and gorgeous, what a sad society we live in where those women need more confidence. I'd like to see a world where they already had it - and as for fun, great, but I feel the "othering" of women in tech is of more weighty concern.

I don't actually know the education level of the women who work at Computex, as I pointed out in the comments - but I see a lot of "xiaojies" out and about in Taiwan, and not that many female engineers, and so I wonder. I am perfectly willing to believe that many of those women do both. That's all.

At no point did I say they were bimbos, although I do feel that some men - attendees and booth staffers, as seen by ASUS's tweet - treat them that way, and THAT is the problem.

My problem isn't with the women, it's with sexism in the tech industry and social attitudes as a whole.

And if you didn't get that from my earlier post, I suggest you read more carefully next time.

Notice I am still calling them "computer xiaojies". I don't think it sounds demeaning, and I don't think "showgirls" is "wrong", it just doesn't sound natural to me, so I don't use it. I don't really like the term "booth babes", and I don't particularly care if you don't like that. It's not your blog.

Finally, I told you about my job because your previous, slightly snotty comment implied that I am trying to pretend I work in tech. I was attempting to gently correct that misperception, but clearly gentleness didn't work.

And if this bothers you, you don't have to read it.

Jenna Cody said...

One more thing I'd like to see a change in - because of this "othering" of women in the industry - is a world where people (well, men) expect and are expected to buy things - any sort of commodity, but I'll stick with tech products since that's the topic - without having a scantily clad woman standing near the product to entice him. I realize that pretty girls in tight skirts "sells", but it makes me uncomfortable, considering all of the things it implies about women (ie that our looks are more important than our brains - and people do buy into it. You're buying into it by *assuming* I was just trashing on these girls - which, if I had been doing, I don't think I would have gotten a quote or linkback from Klaus - and by feeling the need to defend them by saying "they are all highly educated" when I never said otherwise).

This is problem because we do live in that society. Sadly, a woman's looks *are* still often considered more important than any other qualities she may possess. That's a problem. I don't blame the girls, I blame the system.

Anonymous said...

It's really astonishing how you connect two absolutely unrelated things.

Do you really think females with a BA/MA in tech, or human resources, management, etc. care whether or not their company hires a bunch of models for computex? There are no females in tech because mostly working conditions are shit (for all employees mind you), most women sooner or later will have a family, thus retire and engineering and tech is just one big and totally unsexy nerdfest in general.

Also, it's pretty well known that in poorer countries (including China), there are quite a lot of female programmers, because it allows them to make money and is comparatively easy (nice office job). I met many Chinese Females in Mainland that absolutely hated tech but did it because that was the program they got accepted to and settled with it because its an ok job.

Finally, the booth babes are models, they model. Why? Because it's well paid and they can capitalize on their looks, which allows them to save their time working a McJob and do something else instead.

blobOfNeurons said...

I feel that if it's a confidence boost, if they're already well-educated and gorgeous, what a sad society we live in where those women need more confidence.

This statement is ... confusing. You make it sound like there is some sort of absolute confidence quota...

Education and looks don't guarantee confidence in dealing with large groups of people, which is a quality very valuable to anyone wanting to move up in the industry. Why would it be bad for her to desire more confidence in this respect?

Jenna Cody said...

Anonymous - you've got it wrong - I'm relating not how *women* with the right qualifications feel about a company that hires booth babes. I'm relating how companies who have the sort of culture where they are celebrated view potential female coworkers. It is a big source of complaint among women in the industry (at least in the USA - go read about it if you don't believe me: Jezebel, BoingBoing and other sites have some great content on the topic) that this sort of culture don't really even consider women as potential coworkers - it's just assumed that they "don't do tech", and those work cultures don't encourage women to apply, or necessarily feel it's important to hire more of them. The women themselves may not care, but the issue isn't what they think, it's what the men hiring them think (and the men hiring them often think that women are only useful as booth babes, because they have little experience with other kinds of women in the workforce).

As for "big unsexy nerdfest" - derr, women can be nerds too. And some of what happens in tech is kind of sexy. Most of it isn't, but it's not all crap working conditions for engineers in cubicles.

Also, "most will have a family and retire" has to be the most sexist thing I've ever heard. That's an old line from the mid twentieth century defending the lack of women in most industries as well as a dearth of female leadership in high-level positions, and it's bullshit. It justifies nothing - most women don't leave the workforce to have babies anymore. While most do have children at some point, they tend to go back to work, or never leave work at all except for a short break. What we need is a work culture where *parents* can have the time to have families and work, but that's the subject of a recent previous post of mine.

And, y'know, maybe the tech industry would be easier for women to get into if, hey hey, MORE WOMEN WERE ENCOURAGED TO GET INTO IT. It'd probably still be a nerdfest, but you seriously don't know any female nerds?

Finally, the jobs women do get into, at least in Taiwan, are often thankless, boring nerdfests anyway: accounting comes to mind (some people love it, good for them, but most of my students in accounting say they chose it because it's stable, seen as a good career path for a woman and their parents push them into it).

Again, if you don't believe me, go do some reading - start with my "Linktacular Wednesday" post from last week, and click some of the links. I'm not making this stuff up.

Finally, "female" is not a noun.

blobofneurons - my point is that in a perfect world (hahaha), a woman who is both beautiful and smart wouldn't need the confidence boost, because she'd *already have confidence* - society would have given it to her. We live in a world where such women, who have everything going for them, still lack self-confidence and that's sad.

I'm not talking about the one xiaojie given as an example in Klaus's blog, I'm talking about doing this sort of work for a "confidence boost" at all. It's sad that they need the confidence boost, because you'd think they'd already have it. Why do they feel lack confidence in themselves when they have so much to feel good about? What does that say about our society that they still feel that way?

I'm not against the women choosing this particular job. They can do what they want. I'm not even against women using their looks. I don't pretend I can change how advertising works. It just makes me sad. That's not the women's fault, that's our sexist world's fault.

Jenna Cody said...

Or rather, "female" is not used as a noun in that phrase.

blobOfNeurons said...

I just don't get why you think confidence would be transferable like that. Should she also be confident in her ability to draw or paint or play snooker? Also, isn't confidence relative to the task at hand? Crowd control (esp. using a second language) is a skill and it's normal to lack confidence in one's nascent skills. That doesn't mean she lacks confidence in all areas of her life.

And even if she or others were irrationally lacking confidence in themselves, it doesn't really seem to say much about society. People are just bad at rating themselves ( imposter-syndrom, Dunning–Kruger effect, etc.).

Jenna Cody said...

Perhaps I didn't make myself clear - I am not taking this one example of a computer xiaojie (the one mentioned in Klaus's blog). She's got more going on in her gig than a typical booth babe; she does more than show off products and look cute. I'm talking about the more typical booth babe gig where your main job is to look cute and entice visitors to your booth (which is accomplished mostly by looking and acting cute - hardly job skills).

The only reason why a girl might take a gig like that for "confidence boosting" is if she lacks confidence in her looks. It's saddening to me that a girl pretty enough to be hired as a booth babe (or karaoke bar hostess or girl handing out flyers in a short skirt or whatnot, but we'll stick with booth babes) would do it to boost confidence that way - not because I'd hold it against her (she can do whatever she wants, as I did say - I don't blame the women involved), but what a sad world we have in which a pretty girl doesn't feel pretty enough, and a pretty AND smart girl still doesn't feel pretty enough.

blobOfNeurons said...

Yes but isn't she the one who started this chain of discussion with her comments about her personal experience? If we're not talking about her then, um, who exactly is doing these gigs as a confidence booster? Until Klaus goes back next year to interview the rest of the attendants, it's debatable whether building confidence is even a factor for them. (If we're talking about the average attendant, I would venture to guess that the little "boost" in disposable income alone would be more than enough motivation.)

(On a sidenote, doing this type of gig is a pretty crappy way to validate one's looks, if you think about it. I know you're thinking about the girls who want to be ogled, but you have to remember that the primary interaction between a booth attendant and the visitors is to be ignored.

Imagine a girl attending the booth (a pole-tent for one really) of SomeSmallCompanyNobodyCaresAbout Inc. which just happens to be situated in a location perfect for viewing all the backs of the people gathered in front of Jessica and her co-workers at Acer. Yes, I can see how this would help build confidence in one's attractiveness.

I think any girl with the desire to be ogled would find the stage of a nightclub much more in line with her hopes and expectations.

Jenna Cody said...

It started as someone (possibly Klaus? Not sure) saying "I bet a lot of the girls do it for the boost in confidence", and then that one girl he interviewed turned into the poster child for that...and I agree with you. It's a crappy way to boost confidence, but I would be willing to bet that some women do it for that reason (a lot of people do things because it makes them feel good about themselves that are actually kind of crappy ways to go about it).

But I'm not going to hang my hat on what every booth babe thinks based on the experiences of that one girl, who had a slightly different job anyhow.

I'm not against women doing the gig for the pocket change or even because it's more fun than a cube monkey job (no offense to cube monkey jobs - some people like the stable work life and income and I say all the more power to them - that's just my own feeling about those sorts of jobs)

...but I still feel that this does not overcome the problem of the impression it gives a lot of men in the tech industry regarding what women are worth and what jobs they should be doing - that "othering" I keep mentioning where it's hard to see a woman as a serious colleague if most of the women you are exposed to at work are computer xiaojies.

If I had to choose, I'd say that it's more important to build an environment in the tech industry where women are more welcome and stop with the "othering" than it is to give these girls a chance to earn some extra cash. One is just clearly more important than the other to me.

But again, I don't blame the women. I blame a lot of things, but not them (I keep repeating this because, despite my effort to make it clear that I do not think of them as "bimbos", someone has already chosen to misinterpret me as saying they are).