Sarah Taraporewalla's Technical Ramblings

How I Perform Like a P0rn Star

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After a few days of introspection, I have finally decided to post about my reactions to the now infamous “Perform like a p0rn star” presentation and it’s aftermath.

The Presentation Itself

Looking at the presentation online, without having attended the conference, may exclude me from commenting fairly, but I just think “why”; as in, I don’t get it. I think that there is a tenuous link between the pictures and the slide; one which could also be made with other images. I guess I follow Ted Neward’s feelings that the same effect could of been achieved with subtle imagery, and double-entendres. 

The Audience Members

I wonder how many people in the audience thought this was inappropriate at the time. Clearly, Sarah Allen and Sarah Mei were uncomfortable. How many men in that room looked around to see how the 6 girls were reacting to it? I bet what they saw was an expression that read ‘Oh…haha….’ while really the girl’s inside voices were screaming…‘groan no, not another god-damn picture - we get it already, you are a guy…time to move on’*. With the obvious acceptance of the girls, perhaps the rest of the audience felt the images were ok (at least at first…I think I have seen comments from people who say that the first few pictures were good and funny but the joke wore thin). I would like to think that if I was in attendance, I would have the courage to standup and declare the inappropriateness of the presentation. In reality, I know I would not. I know this for several reasons; firstly, I would actually find that too rude.

Secondly, when at conferences or at the workplace, I try not to draw attention to the fact that I am a woman. Why do I do this? Frankly, because I wanted to be seen as a damn good developer first, and I fear what thoughts some people might have, especially some of the men who fit the stereotypical profile of a single, WoW playing, don’t meet real girls unless they are an elf on WOW (who, I have come to learn are usually men playing women) guy (as irrational as it may be).

Thirdly, I know that is how I would react (ie inaction), because it is the same reaction that I give when I am sitting next to a group of developers (yes, all men) who are talking about putting their girlfriends/wives/women into their place, or commenting on the length of another woman’s legs as she walks past, or other behavior which I would associate with groups of friends at a pub. At a pub, or out with friends I am quite happy for this type of discussion to take plus, but com'on guys, let’s make the workplace gender-free, not equal, and leave our hormones at the door.

The comments along the lines of ‘this should not offend you’ or ‘I’m and Rrated person - deal with it’

Quite frankly, I was not surprised. This is the same type of comments that I get whenever I mention the whole women-in-IT thing. It’s also why I try to not to post too many entries on the subject matter (obviously sometimes I feel the need to speak out about the latest injustice)

The comments along the lines of ‘this is bad. How about we all grow up’

Wow. Every time I read a comment like that, it negated any bad feeling I got from the other type of comments. It is great knowing that there are a large number of people out there, people of influence especially, who are on ‘your side’. When people like Martin Fowler speak out about the Smut in Rails, it really makes you feel like you are on the right side. At Thoughtworks, we had an internal discussion on a mailing list about this, and I was just waiting for someone to say ‘hey, its not so bad’, but still I can’t believe that everyone I talk to about this strongly believes that this is inappropriate. So, thankyou for all who believe in this, and especially thankyou for all those people in a position in power who not only believe in it but also speak out about it.

In Summary

Was I offended by the presentation? I don’t know; I wasn’t there, so I don’t feel that I can really comment.

Was I offended by the reactions and the aftermath? Yeah, I was, although I was not surprised.

Would I want to get in my DeLorean and stop Matt from doing the presentation? Hell-to-the-no. I think that we should embrace this storm and let it be a catalyst to changing our minds, our behavior and our industry.

 

  [Update - I corrected a few places where I used the wrong version of woman/women; also fixed grown into groan - Thanks Simon] *[Note - reading back on this, I feel like I have read it somewhere before on someone elses blog/in a comment. Sorry if I have, but this is still a valid point].

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