Ugh, I wanted to take a shower after watching this segment on the BBC about CES and booth babes. However, I’m really glad to see the usual swath of opinions.
Woman in Tech: It sucks because tech is currently showing me what I’m worth, and apparently it’s not very much.
Booth Babe: I don’t think it’s a big deal. Women approach us. We’re not as scantily clad as they are at car shows so it’s not that bad.
Suited Dudebro: Frankly your trying to make a piece on this subject is cute but irrelevent.
Plainclothes Dudebro: Well it works because we like looking at pretty things.
Plainclothes Tech Guy: When I see a company that uses booth babes to sell a product, I think it’s sleazy.
So I’ve blogged about booth babes in the past, and a good tactic to try to convince dealers at shows to stop using booth babes. Some people accused it of being erasing and eliminating, but I’m going to respectfully disagree with that opinion. The goal isn’t to erase women, or to erase attractive women. The goal is to demand industries treat women like human beings, and not like pretty organic stands upon which a product rests.
The basic tack is this: When you see someone at a booth, assume they are knowledgeable about the product. Treat them like an intelligent human being who has been selected by their company to sell the product based on their product knowledge and conversation skills. If it should turn out that they are not knowledgeable about the product, ask to speak to someone in charge, and demand why they wasted your time by having representatives who don’t know what they’re doing and can’t answer questions.
Pretty simple, really. Stop using women as objects to hock goods. Treat them like intelligent people. If they are revealed to be simply there to draw the [male] eye, get mad. Because the downside of booth babes is that women are dismissed as objects, and are not seen as persons with knowledge and/or authority. By turning women, or anybody really, into an object there to hold your product while looking pretty, you diminish their worth as a human being.
It’s called objectification. You can tell by the part where it uses women like objects. This is pretty textbook.
I’ve heard the argument that booth babes are trained in the product they are there to sell. Not “just” eye candy. Oh, I guess that makes it all better then! Except wait no, it fixes nothing. Just because objectification isn’t the only bullet point on the list of shit you’re hiring women for, doesn’t mean it’s then totes okay for objectification to be on that list. That’s not how it works, not even in the slightest.
So, yeah, no more booth babes, please? It’s gross and skeevy and makes me think your product must be absolute shit if you have to use cheap tactics to attract attention. Do better.
(Bonus Aside: Female-only booth babes of course enforces the idea that these shows are only for straight cisgendered men, and that gay men, women, or anybody else who is not drawn to scantily clad women need not bother showing up, because this shit ain’t for you. This is what we call a hostile environment.)