sexism posts

Lindsay’s War Story: Sexism in the City April 11th, 2014
Part 57 of 58 in the series War Stories

Lindsay Moore is an independent design research and strategy consultant from Colorado.

We were in New York City, on day four of a three-week fieldwork trip. We had had some bumpy interviews the first few days, including a participant who clammed up because her husband was in the room, another who wasn’t comfortable showing us any of the software processes she had been recruited to show us, and a third with whom the conversation was like Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, with us hanging on for dear life. But I was finally starting to settle in to the interview guide and was feeling positive about what we were learning. Plus we were getting a great apartment tour of Manhattan!

We were accompanied on each interview by a rotating member of the client team so that they could all experience the research firsthand, and this day was our first with a particular team member. Our morning interview had gone fairly well, but I could tell our client partner was having some trouble staying in the background, as she was used to more actively managing her interactions with customers.

We walked in the door for our afternoon interview, and I made some small talk, saying something like “How is your day going so far?” to our participant, who was an older gentleman. He answered that it was going much better now that we three pretty girls were there, but that it would be even better if we didn’t have clothes on. I experienced a shocked moment of “Did he really just said that???” and took a sidelong glance at my client to see her reaction. She had one of those impenetrable customer service masks of politeness on her face. I tried to shake off the comment and proceeded into the interview.

For the first 30 minutes, I found myself utterly unable to manage the flow with the participant, who would physically turn towards the client to answer my questions, and then turn back to me and say “You understand?” The interviews were about financial behavior, and he made it very clear that he thought I wouldn’t be able to follow what he was saying. Meanwhile, in an effort to be polite, engaged and responsive with her customer, my client was unintentionally making it worse. I realized I needed to gain some kind of credibility and after the umpteenth “I don’t know if you would understand” I told him that I do have some financial background and that I was following just fine. After that I was much better able to lead the interview and he engaged directly with me. Still, for another hour and a half he continued to condescend and make inappropriate/sexist comments (The number of times he suggested we “girls” go shopping at Bloomingdales after the interview? Five. What he wanted us to buy? Blouses.)

After leaving the interview I was hopping mad and said to my client and my colleague that I couldn’t believe what we had just experienced. They agreed but felt like we had still been able to uncover great information in the interview. They also thought that sometimes older men are just “like that” and that I shouldn’t let it get to me. I was bothered but decided to let it go. The interview had been uncomfortable but not unsafe, and the client was pleased with what we had learned. As an interviewer, wasn’t I supposed to be able to set my own emotions aside?

When revisiting the transcripts and coding the interview data, it really became clear to me that I was not overreacting to what we experienced. It was blatantly bad. Still, what should we have done? When I’ve related the story to other friends and colleagues, they’ve said that we should have left the home after the initial no-clothes comment. I want to agree on principle, but I also know that if I never allow myself to experience something uncomfortable, I’ll miss out on the richness and depth that is a part of this kind of work. What I do know is that it’s okay to share and talk about our own emotional responses to difficult research situations and that doing so is an important part of self-care for researchers. In the future, I will also make sure to have a plan in place with my fieldwork partners for when — and how — to end an interview, so that it’s not a process we need to invent in the moment.

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ChittahChattah Quickies March 7th, 2012

‘Brogrammers’ challenge coders’ nerdy image [SF Chronicle] – It’s a bit of a silly story that turns a catchphrase into a cultural trend, but of course there’s something happening to drive the growth of the catchphrase. Sad that flipping the nerd stereotype reveals a sexist one.

Tech’s latest boom has generated a new, more testosterone-fueled breed of coder. Sure, the job still requires enormous brainpower, yet today’s engineers are drawn from diverse backgrounds, and many eschew the laboratory intellectualism that prevailed when semiconductors ruled Silicon Valley. At some startups the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction that it’s given rise to a new title: brogrammer. A portmanteau of the frat-house moniker “bro” and “programmer,” the term has become the subject of a Facebook group joined by more than 21,000 people; the name of a series of hacker get-togethers in Austin, Texas; the punch line for online ads; and the topic of a humorous discussion on question-and-answer site Quora titled “How does a programmer become a brogrammer?” (One pointer: Drink Red Bull, beer and “brotein” shakes.) “There’s a rising group of developers who are much more sociable and like to go out and have fun, and I think brogramming speaks to that audience,” said Gagan Biyani, co-founder and president of Udemy, a San Francisco startup that offers coding lessons on the Web.

Mr. Peanut’s Alter Ego Leads Kraft Into Planters Butter [Bloomberg] – Surprising not to see any mention of Kraft Peanut Butter, the Canadian product that pretty much defines peanut butter in that market.

Mr. Peanut has a stunt double. Sporting a goatee, aviator sunglasses and overconfidence, “Doug” performs death-defying feats that always end the same way: with him getting crushed and turned into peanut butter. Doug’s daredevil act is part of Kraft’s move into the crowded U.S. peanut butter market. In what may be the most overdue brand extension in history, Kraft is using the 100- year-old Planters brand to spark growth in its mature grocery business. Kraft is targeting adults, who consume two-thirds of the $1.8 billion of peanut butter sold in the U.S. each year, Kraft was looking for an adult mascot and settled on Doug, voiced in Web ads by Kevin Dillon in an homage to the hapless Johnny Drama character he played on HBO’s “Entourage” series. “Peanut butter was a natural extension,” Schmelter said. The new spread and Peanut Butter Doug, as he is formally known, are signs Kraft is getting more aggressive with the grocery business, said Alexia Howard, an analyst for Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York.

Internet Archive’s Repository Collects Thousands of Books [NYT] – Digital technology allows rapid content creation, and creates interesting archiving challenges. First all the digital data was worth preserving. Then digital was a method to archive the physical world. Now we’re going all-in and trying to archive the physical world itself. Seems like a setup for a Steven Wright joke (didn’t he describe his full-scale map of the US and the problems he had folding it?).

“We want to collect one copy of every book,” said Brewster Kahle, who has spent $3 million to buy and operate this repository situated just north of San Francisco. “You can never tell what is going to paint the portrait of a culture.” As society embraces all forms of digital entertainment, this latter-day Noah is looking the other way. A Silicon Valley entrepreneur who made his fortune selling a data-mining company to Amazon.com in 1999, Mr. Kahle founded and runs the Internet Archive, a nonprofit organization devoted to preserving Web pages – 150 billion so far – and making texts more widely available. But even though he started his archiving in the digital realm, he now wants to save physical texts, too. “We must keep the past even as we’re inventing a new future,” he said. “If the Library of Alexandria had made a copy of every book and sent it to India or China, we’d have the other works of Aristotle, the other plays of Euripides. One copy in one institution is not good enough.” Mr. Kahle had the idea for the physical archive while working on the Internet Archive, which has digitized two million books. With a deep dedication to traditional printing – one of his sons is named Caslon, after the 18th-century type designer – he abhorred the notion of throwing out a book once it had been scanned. The volume that yielded the digital copy was special. And perhaps essential. What if, for example, digitization improves and we need to copy the books again?

Myq Kaplan Gives Birth to a Stand-Up Joke [NYT] – The prototype/test-with-users/iterate process of designing a joke.

The first week is arguably the most creative in the life of a joke. For Mr. Kaplan it’s all about generating ideas. What could explain this jacket convention? Maybe, he speculated, jackets were once very cheap and, as he would later say onstage, “men wore seven coats out, hoping it wasn’t an eight-puddle day.” He also decided that the modern equivalent was leaving the toilet seat down. All these ideas were transformed into jokes as the bit expanded. Setups shrank. Punch lines multiplied. The jacket over the puddle soon became one of several examples of chivalry that began with his pantomiming opening a door after asking the audience: “Does it detract from chivalry if, when opening a car door for a lady, I say, ‘Chivaaalry!’” He dragged out the last word in the self-satisfied voice of a magician introducing his assistant. A coarse joke about chivalry during sex replaced the homeless-man line. By early January Mr. Kaplan’s rhythm became more assured and moseying, lingering on pauses, finding extra laughs between punch lines. His typical stage pose – leaning back, his free hand placed gently on his stomach as if he were pregnant – became looser, adding touches of showmanship. It didn’t matter where he performed (clubs, restaurants, even a hostel), chivalry always worked. The focus now was on getting the right laughs. It was important, he thought, to get a big one right at the start with his car-door opening, and in paring it down, he turned a question (“Does it detract from chivalry…”) into a statement. Later, he brought back the question. Laughter marginally improved.

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Gender Bender October 14th, 2011

What do diet soda, strollers, and pink have in common? (hint: not women)

Dr Pepper Ten: Because Men Don’t Drink Diet Soda? [huffingtonpost.com] A new diet soft drink is out and “It’s not for women”. In explicitly marketing the dudeness of the drink, including a definitive guide to social protocol for men known as the Dr Pepper 10 Man’Ments, the ad campagin has apparently been effective at getting both men and women to give it a try.

A Facebook page for the drink contains an application that allows it to exclude women from viewing content, which includes games and videos aimed at being “manly.” For instance, there’s a shooting gallery where you shoot things like high heels and lipstick, for example. There is also a “man quiz” with questions on activities like fishing and hunting. “One topic people never tire of talking or arguing about is differences between men and women, particularly if women are excluded,” said Deborah Mitchell, executive director for the Center for Brand and Product Management at the University of Wisconsin School of Business. “That will always get someone’s attention.”

How To Design “Manly” Household Products For The Involved Dad [fastcodesign.com] ‘More Work for Mother’ comes full circle as designers focus on the domestic dad.

When out in public, even the most rational dad might shun parenting products that make him feel less “manly.” For instance, my friend Chris is a tough-on-the-outside social worker by day, but he also stays at home part-time with his daughter, Sarah. Every time he goes to daycare, the park, or play dates, he has a routine of emptying the entire contents of his wife’s handbag-like diaper bag into his own duffel. “One topic people never tire of talking or arguing about is differences between men and women, particularly if women are excluded,” said Deborah Mitchell, executive director for the Center for Brand and Product Management at the University of Wisconsin School of Business. “That will always get someone’s attention.”

Defend Your Research: The Color Pink Is Bad for Fighting Breast Cancer [harvardbusinessreview] Gendered approaches to marketing and branding may actually have the opposite effect desired, aka rejecting the hypothesis of “So long as it’s pink-”

The finding: Seeing the color pink makes women less likely to think they’ll get breast cancer and less likely to donate to cancer research… In psychology, there’s a lot of literature on defensive responses. How do we deal with threatening ideas, with things that are existentially difficult to comprehend? What happens is, these set off very strong denial mechanisms. By adding all this pink, by asking women to think about gender, you’re triggering that. You’re raising the idea that this is a female thing. It’s pink; it’s for you. You could die. The cues themselves aren’t threatening-it’s just a color! But it connects who you are to the threats

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ChittahChattah Quickies September 29th, 2010
  • [from steve_portigal] Homeless World Cup – [An interesting reframe of sporting championships and an interesting reframe of 'charity'] The Homeless World Cup is an annual, international football tournament, uniting teams of people who are homeless and excluded to take a once in a lifetime opportunity to represent their country and change their lives forever. It has triggered and supports grass roots football projects in over 70 nations working with over 30,000 homeless and excluded people throughout the year. The impact is consistently significant year on year with 73% of players changing their lives for the better by coming off drugs and alcohol, moving into jobs, education, homes, training, reuniting with families and even going on to become players and coaches for pro or semi-pro football teams.
  • [from steve_portigal] In Scholastic Study, Children Like Digital Reading [NYTimes.com] – “I didn’t realize how quickly kids had embraced this technology,” Ms. Alexander said, referring to computers and e-readers or other portable devices that can download books. “Clearly they see them as tools for reading — not just gaming, not just texting. They see them as an opportunity to read.”… “The very same device that is used for socializing and texting and staying in touch with their friends can also be turned for another purpose,” Mr. Chen said. “That’s the hope.” But many parents surveyed also expressed deep concerns about the distractions of video games, cellphones and television in their children’s lives. They also wondered if the modern multi-tasking adolescent had the patience to become engrossed in a long novel. “My daughter can’t stop texting long enough to concentrate on a book,” said one parent surveyed, the mother of a 15-year-old in Texas.
  • [from steve_portigal] Get a Geek in Five Easy Lessons [AMD at Home] – [AMD tries for humor on their corporate blog but ends up with an awkward, dated, false, sexist and generally alienating tone. Was this wise?] It’s hard to find a good man, but not impossible if you’re willing to make a little effort. Working in high tech, I’m mostly around guys all day. And I can tell you that – in general – technical guys are pretty cool. If nothing else, they will always be able to fix the TV, your PC, and the sprinkler system in a pinch. Yes, they have way too many gadgets, but come on, how many shoes do you have? How about just the black ones? So, if you’re single and find yourself at a TweetUp chatting with the cute geek in a backpack, here’s how to speak his language, appreciate his hobbies, and potentially snag a date at Fry’s. (Leslie Sobon is corporate vice president, product marketing at AMD. Her postings are her own opinions and may not represent AMD’s positions, strategies or opinions.)
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