Yahoo hires lap-dancers to entertain at its open, inclusive Hack Day event

Yahoo has apologized for paying lap-dancers ("Hack Girls") to grind against attendees at its Hack Day Taiwan open event. For the second year running.

Because, you know, it's the kind of thing that you can just accidentally do, hiring sex workers to come to your everyone's invited, inclusive Hack Day event. Two years in a row.

What a blot on technology culture this is. As a father of a young daughter whom I hope will be excited about technology, hacking, and making stuff, Yahoo's vile behavior makes me want to puke purple exclamation points. For shame.

I wanted to acknowledge the public reaction generated by the images of female dancers at our Taiwan Open Hack Day this past weekend. Our hack events are designed to give developers an opportunity to learn about our APIs and technologies. As many folks have rightly pointed out, the "Hack Girls" aspect of our Taiwan Hack Day is not reflective of that spirit or purpose. And it's certainly not the message we want to send about our values here at Yahoo!. Hack Days are about making everyone feel welcome, including women coders and technologists.

This incident is regrettable and we apologize to anyone that we have offended. Rest assured, it won't happen again.

Regrettable? I can think of some choice words to describe this, and regrettable is so far down the list that you'd need to scroll for a week to reach it. Love how this is all in the passive voice -- "the incident" is regrettable. As though it occurred in a vacuum, untouched by human hands. A kind of lightning strike of ghastly, stupid, boorish thoughtlessness. An act of God, perhaps.


This shouldn't be the image of Hack Day


  1. If this pisses you off, check out some of the comments on the various places this has been posted. They range from accusations of racism (because apparently this is perfectly normal in Taiwan, and we should respect that) to statements about the inability of women to program anyway. Add to this a number of self-identified females asserting that since it wouldn’t bother them personally, those that object are clearly oversensitive, and the calls to kick out the feminazis, and your blood will boil.

    Yahoo took too long to respond, but I’m glad they did. I just hope that the troglodytes that have been making comments on the various threads will not show up here on BoingBoing.

  2. Disappointing definitely. It comes down to education of course. The staff at Yahoo that organized and planned this are probably not bad people, they just clearly need some training and education.

  3. Totally agree, but this isn’t in the passive voice.
    “…we apologize to anyone that we have offended” is active voice – the subject is there for all to see.

    If he had said “It is regrettable that lap-dancers were hired for this event“, say, then that would be passive voice – you can ask, “Well, who hired the dancers?”
    As it is, it’s just management-speak.

    1. “we apologize to anyone we have offended” may be active voice but it doesn’t really take responsibility for a stupid action. Much stronger would have been, “we apologize to *everyone* we have offended.”

  4. God, or the last 2,000,000 years of evolution which left males with the instincts toward polygamy and females with instincts toward longer term relationships? Society is healthier when we discuss sexuality, gender, and human sexual behavior openly: abstence-only “education” results in more teen pregnancies. My daughter’s parents teach dance and program computers. There can be just as much sexuality and sensuality on the ballroom floor as in a risque lap dance, but I don’t mind that she’s aware of it. I would be more worried about her if she wasn’t.

  5. One of the wonderful side-effects of culture is that men and women both have to temper their natural instincts. Maybe the caveman wanted to bonk the cavewoman on the head and drag her off to his cave, but that’s isn’t appropriate behavior in today’s society. Neither is lap dances at what is supposed to be an inclusive professional event. There is a time and place for everything.

  6. Well done Yahoo: Openly embrace absurdism and continue to offend would-be intellectuals hiding behind Judeo-Christian morality dressed as enlightened-parental dismay. How fragile is the sexual foundation your parenting lays that exposure to a stripper might turn your daughter away from the enjoyment of technology, or, as I believe is your implication, derange her sexuality. Do better work at home so that you needn’t be concerned with what she encounters in the wider environment and agree that god just told you to write this post.

  7. @Riebrick, it’s hard to know whether you’re serious or just trolling. First of all, I am an avowed atheist.

    Second, do you honestly mean to say that women would feel welcome and happy attending an event in which the men were invited to grope and be fondled by professional sex-workers? Especially in a trade that has traditionally excluded women from its ranks?

  8. Could someone fill me in on what’s wrong with this? I think I might have missed the memo, but didn’t we just go all up in arms over the burkini and women not being allowed the freedom to expose themselves or their sexuality?

    1. You are clearly being facetious.

      Lap dancers are perfectly acceptable in an Erotic show or a party where they could reasonably be expected (stag nights in some countries and amongst people that have no problems with this for example).

      What is not acceptable is to use their services during a professional tech show.

      it is not only disingenuous and tasteless, it also shows a complete lack of sensitivity towards females that may feel uncomfortable in such a loaded situation.

      It is appalling that there are people out there that can’t understand that there is a place and a time for everything, but in this occasion the place was wrong, the time was wrong.

  9. riebrick/js7a: Cory’s (and my own) objection to strippers on stage at Hack Day is not sex-negative, or even disapproving of stripping in general. Rather, it’s about the objectification of women at a tech conference.

    Why are these women on stage? Certainly not to educate the men and women in attendance about any kind of technology, or to be praised for their research.

    Our children will of course grow up to know that women are often treated as sex objects– but in a technical setting? How inappropriate. It devalues female programmers and academics, who should be appreciated instead for their intellect in their field. We are good for so much more than this.

  10. @Doctorow, I was provoking a reply but I wasn’t trolling.

    Firstly; simply avowing yourself as atheist does not free you of your cultural heritage. In fact the very assertion is confirmation that you find the concept of divinity important.

    Secondly; I say hire male strippers as well.

    Thirdly; you have avoided my main point which essentially paraphrased a favoured maxim from your country “strippers don’t kill people, misguided parenting kills people”. Children should be taught that their personality is strong enough to incorporate novel stimuli, not protected from those stimuli and convinced the opposite.

  11. “professional sex-workers”

    The words you’re using keeps implying these women were prostitutes, which is a little harsh and more indicative or your opinion of the women than your opinion of Yahoo.

    It was lame to use them for this type of event, but I think you should give some thought about how you’re talking about the women in this case, whether you agree with their job choice, or not.

  12. Riebrick, for someone who isn’t trolling, you’re doing a pretty good job of trolling. Stop trying to pick fights.

    1. Not trying to pick fights. Trying to make an important point. If I need to use a less direct tone I will happily do so. I am also happy to continue this discussion by private email.

  13. …and this is why Yahoo is full of also-rans, and Google continues to beat them every step of the way.

    Regardless of how fun or not this may be, the problem is sexualizing a technical and somewhat professional event. I like strippers too, but I don’t like being in a supposedly technical and professional atmosphere where everyone is being explicitly turned on. That makes me feel like I’m going to be the next object of lust, and that’s a really unpleasant situation to be in.

    Anyways, this just contributes to Yahoo’s perennially lame public image. Yuck.

  14. I agree that hiring sexy dancers (of any genre) at a technical conference is at least very silly. I think our kids are under-exposed to real sexuality, while being over-exposed to commercial sexuality. A Taiwanese lap-dancer probably falls in the second category.

  15. Sorry, I must agree with Riebrick. Cory, I did find your analysis and commentary more degrading to women than the act of Yahoo hiring them in the first place. I’m really surprised. This reminds me of the typical US hysteria upon seeing a nipple on TV. Note also that groping and touching is not permitted during lap dances.

    Finally, please take into account cultural aspects (be they right or wrong, that’s another discussion ;-)) – any event of the expo type gets lots of beautiful women installed all over the place. Let me see you guys deny the fact that women’s bodies are shamelessly used and abused in Western advertising for the same purpose.

  16. I’m not happy about this, either. Booth fluff is OK, lap dancing is not. Lap dancing belongs at bachelor parties, and frat blowouts, not at a company function. I’m trying to imagine what would be a parallel gesture towards the womenfolks, but I can’t think of one (the closest I can think of is the “win a date with a Nobelist” prize from the IgNobel awards). This is not racism, this is just sick.

    Yahoo!, you’re still #2 in my book.

  17. @riebrick:
    ‘you have avoided my main point which essentially paraphrased a favoured maxim from your country “strippers don’t kill people, misguided parenting kills people”‘

    Now I’m confused: has Cory changed nationalities or has the NRA always been Canadian?

    Totally agree with the original point of this post: tech has enough of a reputation as a male-only domain without one of the best-known companies employing women for the titillation of male attendees … again.

  18. Arguably it’s sort of traditional– look at what went on at the ancient Greek symposia.

    In any case, a good conference or convention is very much one part on-topic activity to one part orgiastic bacchanal. That’s why people enjoy going…

  19. @ldrydenb; I stand publicly corrected for my poor research. Cory, I apologise for misnationalisation… Surely not out on a technicality though; the point stands.

  20. @Avram: Yes, I see, I got distracted and posted before refreshing. That is all.

    @* This is all very problematic, I agree that sex does not belong in a professional environment. I however do support anyone and everyone’s capitalistic endeavors whether sexual or not. Furthermore I feel that that women (even those who are not wholly puritanical) who may feel uncomfortable due to such sexually charged circumstances suffer from a larger social problem, one that we may not solve for some time.

    Bioengineers can we eliminate the problem of the male/female divide and create a unified sex while retaining a superfluous drive? Yes I know, evolutionarily risky business, but I’m sure we could manage.

  21. Having done business in Taiwan for over ten years I can certainly say it is differnet from the USA/Europe in a number of ways. There is no shortage of women in tech there, from Cher Wang, one of the richest people in the country to senior, middle, junior and hackers. As a pointed example Clevo has entire departments of sales and technical sales that are solely women. Not the norm but i’d say that would be impossible elsewhere.
    These kind of events happen this way to attract men to tech professions. Really. The women already have jobs straight out of high school, while the men are forced into millitary service, with most losing their girlfriends at the same time. Few women are willing to wait 20 months for their teenage crush to come out of the army. They become confident, productive and have a full year head-start over their male counterparts. Socially as well as skills-wise.
    “Entertaining” in a variety of ways is also ingrained into the business culture. This involves a lot of drinking, kareoke and yes, lap dancing. Women work, men entertain. It is just how it is done there.
    Guys, there are a lot of highly educated, attractive women there frustrated with all the badly behaved male population. Best place in the world for tech.

  22. Liberated sexuality is not something anybody has to pay for, or for which anybody gets a paycheck. Or such was my understanding back in the day much closer to the advent of the “sexual revolution.” Maybe now we’re all just commodities and the world is one big auction block.

    In any case, people who don’t understand that lap dancing is sex work are … uh … let’s just say they don’t know what they’re talking about. If there’s physical contact and the dude is getting aroused … use your head people.

    1. From anonymous: “Liberated sexuality is not something anybody has to pay for, or for which anybody gets a paycheck.”

      I would be happy to put such nonsensical views to rest.

      There are plenty of sex workers that happily accept that they enjoy their work, it is not up to you or anybody else to decide if they should do that job or not.

  23. It’s typical of common knowledge to explain the sexism present in todays society as a biological or evolutionary development.

    We should “discuss sexuality, gender, and human sexual behavior openly” I totally agree – let’s talk about the incidence of violence against sex workers or how the use of woman as objects being SO common that people don’t even see that it’s wrong.

    Gender inequalities (sexism), like racism, classism and homophobia, is a part of a culture. It’s woven into the fabric of society to the degree that people exhibit it and utilize logic stemming from these prejudices without even realizing it. Such as “feminazi”. The stereotypes surrounding feminists as well as the immediate aversion to feminist perspectives proves the presence of sexism.
    If it’s your goal in any capacity to improve yourself as a human being and continue to improve until you reach your grave. I urge you to suppress such culture-induced aversion and learn about ALL of these inequalities.

    Treating a woman like a sex object isn’t edgy or new, and it stems from the same place that forcing a woman to cover herself does. It’s the other side of the blade. Free your mind, man, and LOOK at the world around you.

  24. How about if you were at a tech conference and suddenly there were a bunch of women running around giving free manicures? It isn’t the same thing, since there isn’t sexual stimulation going on, nor is the manicuring likely to truly offend anyone, but it is the same in the sense that it would be trying to entertain one segment of the attendees while completely alienating the rest. If you want attendees to have fun, pick something that is unlikely to offend anyone there. This is a professional conference we are talking about, not a private party. I would assume the organizers would be trying to attract attendees based on technical ability and interest?!?!

  25. I totally support YAHOO for being a multinational that respect local business customs!

    I’m really puzzled by how some people judge other countries/cultures/economies thinking that their very own monotheistic culture/education should be enforced on the other side of the World…

    Have you ever though about how an integralist muslim would feel if attending a Tech meeting in USA with girls in skirts and short sleeve shirts?! (I mean average tech company staff not companions and hostess)
    Don’t you think that he would say that this kind of fashion belongs to BROTHELS/SEX CLUBS and not a tech conference?!

    1. No one has made any suggestions that we change Taiwan customs, culture, or laws.

      What we can do is provide a point of view as a form of informal social sanction that anyone who chooses to read this, regardless of nationality, can accept or reject.


      From wikipedia:

      “Some sex workers perform erotic dances and other acts for an audience (striptease, Go-Go dancing, burlesque, peep shows).

      Although the term is sometimes viewed as a synonym or euphemism for prostitution, the term is meant as a general term for erotic labor in any of the different parts of the sex industry, hence, strippers and performers in pornography (who generally do not define themselves as prostitutes) are also considered sex workers.”

      This is kind of an aside from the main topic. I have friends who are dancers or models and consider themselves to be “sex workers”. Prostitution is not some lower rung of society, it’s simply a profession (the second oldest one). Cory was completely accurate in his use of the term.

      1. @Chrisyf:

        Technically accurate insofar as many with similar jobs do self-identify as sex workers, but nevertheless a misleading and prejudicial term when used by a third-party reporting on the matter, being as the prototypical sex worker does engage in sex acts. When reporting, one should generally aim for clarity, which using a sufficiently broad definition of ‘sex worker’ muddles considerably.

        After all, contrariwise, I know a number of burlesque performers who would not call theirs sex work. To say nothing of go-go dancers; I daresay, at the point you’re including go-go dancing in your broad, catch-all definition of sex work, as the wikipedia article you linked does, it ceases to be a useful term. And, perhaps more siginficantly, softens the impact of Cory’s complaint, since the distinction between go-go dancing and “booth babes” or “car show babes” that characterize so many other conventions of this sort are trivial, at best.

  26. The objections to this event don’t have anything to do with any kind of sexual puritanism. The issue is very plain and simple. Any man who doesn’t get it lacks fundamental empathy for the other gender. When a technical conference attended mostly by males hires scantily-clad women to provide public lap-dances, it is going to make many of the women attending the event feel unwelcome. It is going to make many of them feel that women’s bodies are more valued than their minds, and it is going to make them feel like women are welcomed as sex objects but not as programmers.

    Let’s simply flip the genders and try to imagine it. You are a male going to an industry conference of some sort. When you get there, you find that most of the attendees are female. This perhaps leaves you feeling a touch overwhelmed and a little out of place, but you’ve been in this industry for a while, and you’re at least okay with it. Then you go inside and find that there are some very buff, almost-nude males up on stage giving lap dances to appreciative women while others look on and perhaps shout encouraging things. Are you going to look around and say “I’m clearly in the right place and feel very welcome here”? Probably not. You’re much more likely to wonder if you somehow wandered into the wrong ballroom at the hotel or something. And when you figure out that no, you’re in the correct ballroom, you aren’t going to say to yourself “Hey, male strippers, that’s great.” You’re going to feel at least a little bit more unwelcome and less at ease.

    None of this has anything to do with sexual puritanism. It has to do with having basic consideration for other people.

  27. Arguably it’s sort of traditional– look at what went on at the ancient Greek symposia.

    haha, i agree

  28. Have you ever though about how an integralist muslim would feel if attending a Tech meeting in USA with girls in skirts and short sleeve shirts?! (I mean average tech company staff not companions and hostess)
    Don’t you think that he would say that this kind of fashion belongs to BROTHELS/SEX CLUBS and not a tech conference?!

    That’s precisely analogous because in Taiwan, most women dress like that all the time. Skirts which so short they don’t manage to fully cover a woman’s butt-cheeks are standard business attire there. Most female Taiwanese programmers don’t even own tops which cover their navels. It’s tough to be taken seriously there as a woman programmer unless your coworkers can see most of your skin. It’s a cultural difference caused by shortages in the supply of fabric.

  29. In Bangkok, where I live, I attended a seminar organized by Cisco. The dinner’s host was a kathoey (the local name for men who became women).
    For me, that was a whole evening of very inappropriate jokes, embarrassing situations (and nightmarish karaoke, but that’s not the point here).
    For the Thai part of the audience, men and women, it was a great moment of laughter and fun. Seems the host happened to be even a bit famous there.

    Let’s not forget the point of view and the meaning of such things can really differ.

  30. I don’t support Yahoo hiring strippers for the conference. Women should not be forced to sell their bodies in order to live a decent life. On the other hand, I also don’t support Yahoo hiring programmers either. Human beings should not be forced to develop software under hierarchical management for the purpose of advertising in order to live a decent life. Neither the sex nor the software industry should be run by anyone except the workers, and these workers must create balanced job complexes so that the rewarding and shit work would be shared by all.

    For those asking “what if the genders were switched”…first of all I must say that you have a rather old fashioned idea of binary gender. There are all kinds of exciting, beautiful, awesome, crazy gender variations. Fem guys, Masc gurls, transgender, intersex, genderqueer, chimeras, etc. Real liberation will come, not when old male sexist behavior ends, but when we don’t even think of people as male or female anymore. Male and female will just be ends of a spectrum.

    Second of all….what if the genders were switched? I’m a hetero cis-gendered male and I wouldn’t mind going to a conference of mostly women who happen to have male strippers available for them. Nor would I mind men with gay male strippers, women with women strippers, genderqueer strippers, whatever. I have an issue with the strippers doing their work for money…I have an issue with capitalism in general…but not stripping as an activity. In fact, the idea that people are clothed 99% of the time strikes me as far stranger than the occasions when we are not clothed, so go ahead, TAKE IT OFF!

    And a right to see other people nekid goes for people of any age. The real perversion is pretending that young people are asexual and that sex is something harmful that they must be shielded from.

  31. Not a big deal by any means… I don’t think Yahoo needed to apologize in the first place, and nitpicking the apology just makes folks look like even bigger nancies.

    1. It’s Cory’s weekly change from one narrow worldview-accompanying-a-short-stage-in-life to another one that I’m reacting to after reading this article.

      First it’s “check out all the weird/edgy/cool/childish for-20-something-singles-only crap” and then onto “Atkins!” and then “Baby!” and now this.

      Yeah, I think that Yahoo shouldn’t have hired lap dancers for their event, but Cory’s sudden shift to “think of the children!” is what’s making my head spin.

      Cory, since my own journey through life is about 10-15 years ahead of your own, I expect to see a strong reaction against sexualized teens and booth-babes in about a decade.

      BTW, I absolutely loved “C@ntent”.

  32. Yet again I’m amazed how Boing Boing readers are able to be progressive on every issue except the biggest and deepest one there is.

    If you really can’t see how this affects power relations between one dominant group and one marginalised group, then you really have to be blind.

    1. Yet again I’m amazed how Boing Boing readers are able to be progressive on every issue except the biggest and deepest one there is.

      That may be the “biggest and deepest” issue for you (and apparently for Cory) for others like me the issue is marginal at best. If this makes me look like a heartless monster in you eyes so be it. Fact is that there is not one club called “progressive” with a single uniform and an unified outlook. Do I think this move is tacky? Absolutely. Do I lie awake at night about human rights that may or may not have been violated without any evidence of coercion whatsoever? Sorry but no. As for cultural relativism, I’m noticing some very nasty people using the perceived threat to our liberal values for fanning the flames of xenophobia, so perhaps some cultural relativism isn’t all bad.
      The alternative is clinging dogmatically to our own value system, and I for one am not confident enough to say that my ideas have absolute validity in all circumstances.

  33. tl;dr I do still hold you in the highest esteem, Cory, but I disagree with your views on this particular matter this time. Please don’t stop writing on my account :P

    Full length:

    @Bade, thanks for making the point – We in the West (UK/US, specifically) may well find the actions of Yahoo offensive*. That others have a different way of life should Never make *us* want to change *them* – we have seen what happens when we think we know best (North Africa, Middle East, etc) and we may well simply not understand the ways of others – see where Saudi Arabia has no age of consent and where some parts of Central America have an age of consent of 9!! Should we attack them too, for allowing 9 year olds to be “taken advantage of” by older people? For the record, I disagree with that age of consent, and I do not have the answer of what to do about that, though it seems that the general world consensus is roughly 16 at the moment… but I digress. That you, Cory (and others in this thread) do not like it is not just cause for judgement. The Scouts don’t allow gays and atheists. I don’t like it, it’s my choice not to send my children there, but I have no right to tell them they are wrong (see South Park Cripple Fight episode).

    *I may not like it, but my current partner is an “exotic dancer”. As a single mum with a 10 year old daughter, this is the only way for her as a recent university graduate to provide for her 10 year old daughter a middle class lifestyle immediately in the UK. The daughter has a big telly and an XBox 360 in her bedroom, lots of DVDs and Manga (that she emulates, draws and goes to Comicon as), yearly trips abroad and they are both living in a largeish house in a good part of town. This job also allows her to have the free time to spend with her daughter going to the local zoo, city botanical gardens and so forth. While she is in the skin trade, I disagree with your assessment of her job as a sex worker, and I disagree with your assessment of what that means for her daughter’s upbringing – her daughter would be living in some shitty council housing estate if it wasn’t for her mother’s hard work!

    so there.

  34. How come riebrick gets called a troll, and Keithlrwin doesn’t despite his reductio ad absurdum agrument being a classic trolling technique, recorded in ‘The Art of Controversy’?

    Personally I think riebrick is spot on – what the femaleness of Cory’s infant has to do with this situation I don’t know. I think Yahoo’s decision is tasteless according to my standards, but not morally wrong. I’d be more worried about all the aspie haxx0rs flipping out because they can’t cope with physical contact with girls.

    But hey, when I saw a girl at Rock City wearing nothing but fishnet and dancing like a stripper, I didn’t start lecturing her about how it was ‘all about the music’ either.

    1. @Anony Mouse, thank you. I didn’t want to be the one to call bullshit on Keithlrwin. I still think this whole business could be solved with male strippers. I’m also still curious what Cory thinks.

  35. I don’t disagree with Cory in general on this but … (and I’m just saying) this is posted by the same guy who thinks cartoons of sexy nubile nude male magazine fantasy type girlies are ok because they were in the context Alice in Wonderland. They were all MUCH older than Alice – seems Alice was purely an excuse for some old-fashioned male sex fantasy, Cory. It had NOTHING to do with Alice in Wonderland as a literary or artistic work, at all. Keep your morals and principles consistent please.

    1. Cory’s morals and principles are perfectly consistent:

      There is a big difference between enjoying erotica in the privacy of your own home, and being subjected to live sexual performances at a business event.

      I love looking at pretty ladies, and I’ve been to my share of strip joints, but I wouldn’t hold a goddamn *work* event at one, especially not if my female co-workers were going to be in attendance.

      Hell, I don’t care what gender the performers are. It’s a professional event. Unless you’re in the porn industry, mixing it with sex acts is just squicky.

  36. Arguing the cultural aspect of this is absurd. For one thing, it’s a technilogical event. If I (as a woman) had seen these dancers at the Linux fest I attended with my 8 year old son, I would at the very least felt completely uncomfortable. Whether or not you are okay with lap dancing, it doesn’t belong at a tech conference.

    This isn’t about puritanism or forcing values on another culture. It’s simple consideration for other human beings.

  37. “Regrettable…” and no doubt they take this “incident” “very seriously” …

    When companies make decisions to do crap like this it usually indicates broader internal issues. From where I sit it looks like Yahoo is on their way out

    oh well, I guess the ride was fun while it lasted… G–O-O-D-B-Y-E YAHOO…

  38. Since this is the SECOND time, shouldn’t they have been dancint to “whoops, I did it again”?

    …performers in pornography (who generally do not define themselves as prostitutes)

    -I’ve always thought that’s curious, personally. Aren’t they having sex for money? How does having a camera pointed at the action change that fundamental dynamic.

  39. The “interactivity” of Yahoo’s display is perhaps a little too much, but in terms of presenting women as objects for play – do the words Tokyo Game Show mean anything to you? I went there a few years ago to satisfy my curiosity and man it was a bit much. All the akiba kamera otaku crowded around the promo girls taking picture after picture.

    I can just imagine them at a net cafe a few hours later with their PC and some of those little tissues they hand out for free at the stations…. OK, too much? Im sorry.

    Anyway, I’m with the troll – they need to hire male strippers!

  40. Cory, thank you for getting it! I am teaching a programming class currently that was inspired by this very thing and hopes to open programming to women and other non-traditional programmers. The tech industry is already sexist and unwelcoming to women and this kind of shit is completely unacceptable. Yes, there are pockets of the tech world that are more women friendly and I do know quite a few male programmers that aren’t jerks, but that doesn’t change the over all climate of unfriendliness and tech’s public face. To be infuriated at this is not sex-negative nor is it prudish and to say that seems symptomatic of the whole problem here. Hiring lap dancers at a tech conference promotes the idea of women as sex objects and as existing for the pleasure of men not as equals with things besides their breasts to contribute to the tech world.

  41. “the “Hack Girls” aspect of our Taiwan Hack Day is not reflective of that spirit or purpose. And it’s certainly not the message we want to send about our values here at Yahoo!.”

    So the women are not reflective of the Yahoo! values, but having staff members who think that the objectification of women which often causes a “boys club” and anti-woman environment is a good idea is? Hmm… I see what you did there, Yahoo!.

  42. thank you for being thoroughly pissed off! hopefully with this kind of outrage yahoo can see why this “regrettable error” (grrr) is so offensive. that it “won’t happen again” should go without saying, and it’s disgusting that they even had to say it.

    “hey, why don’t we have lap-dancers again?”
    “no, remember women got all offended or some shit.”
    “oh, right. sucks.”

  43. @Cheqyr, @ganymeder – I don’t see why they would have non-tech freebies (Slinkies, t-shirts, stickers), beer, food, music, colour at business meetings either… ad absurdium trolling, I know, but the point is *very* cultural: Why are beer and coffee and music and games (Halo3 demoed at FoWA last year – atrocities are fine, so long as we don’t use naughty language and keep our nipples in check?) accepted at tech shows here in the UK? Because culturally we expect them to be there.

    @Cheqyr – “being subjected to live sexual performances at a business event” Then leave that session. I leave restaurants that play loud music, thusly avoiding offensive eating.

    @Cory – Simon Willison’s words in the blog post you link to are (I quote)
    “I’ve heard arguments that this kind of thing is culturally acceptable in Taiwan I don’t care.”

    He doesn’t care, and I have no respect for his opinion on this matter. Up to everyone to make their minds up, but the line is drawn when the above words are uttered. They are the primary cause of war across the world and our illustrious history.
    Convince them to change fine, but puking purple exclamation marks? Really?

  44. By the fact of currently residing in Taiwan’s capital city I hope I might attempt to shed some light on this via my own observations of cultural norms in the very few years I’ve been here. Were the lap-dancers appropriate? Personally, no, I really don’t think they were, but as has been pointed out, neither are girls paid to stand around Comic Con while scantily clad.

    Anyhoo – you all should be aware that over here, it’s normal to hire strippers for your WEDDING. Lap dancers are, I’m guessing, pretty common at lots of corporate events here, though I can’t say for sure. The gender rules are fairly heavily defined, and in many respects are still stuck back in the Fifties (I remember an Australian friend who’d lived here for many more years telling me he couldn’t tell locals he’d thought about training as a male nurse, because they’d have thought he was insane since, in Taiwan, nurse=girl).

    The hiring of lap-dancers for this event is entirely typical of Taiwanese naivete in relation to the wider world. Still don’t believe me? This is a nation where someone opened an Auschwitz-themed restaurant with pictures of gaunt Jewish prisoners plastered all over the walls ( without apparently realising it might draw international opprobrium. That someone here thought it would be a fun idea to hire lap-dancers for this event is the least surprising thing I’ve heard about this country. But for what it’s worth, the Taiwanese are amongst the very nicest people on the face of the planet.

  45. I think this all (the article, the reactions elsewhere and the reactions here) illustrates not just the varying attitudes with which women are seen by people in different regions, but the way those attitudes are then viewed by people from elsewhere. There seems to be an even spread of attitudes from acceptance to loathing, with various justifications from all angles, cultural and not.

    I don’t think that exploitation is acceptable, but who’s to say it’s truly exploitative, and which set of cultural morals do we use to judge such? Who does this exploit more: the dancers or the gamerboys who become zombified when they see pretty girls dancing?

    What if the girls were not lap-dancing but yet just standing around in revealing costumes? That happens at -plenty- more places than just this con, and is plenty exploitative IMHO. So was it just the lap-dancing per se that pushed things into an exceptionally uncomfortable place for us?

  46. Boy, this is a lot of hand wringing over a fairly innocuous form of entertainment. I mean, I hate tap dancing as much as the next person but I… hmm? Say again? Oh. Never mind.

  47. @garygibson – thanks for pointing out Auschwitz-theme… As a Jew it’s not nice, but perfect example of points made above.

  48. “Our hack events are designed to give developers an opportunity to learn about our APIs and technologies.”
    Was there something special about the chairs that they were sitting on during the lap dance? or is Yahoo moving into sex toy development and dance production?

    Oh and I have to agree with #2 – it isn’t in passive voice. Its the relational process that makes it look that way – “this incident is regrettable” it lacks agency but thats because it is relating two things not because its in passive voice. Interestingly, if you unpacked the ‘this incident’ you would most likely have to change to past tense, which sits oddly with an apology.

    1. It’s ironic that you mention that because I remember there was a big deal about how Yahoo acted ever-so-ethically when they banned adult content from their auction and shopping sites.

      Talk about Hypocritical! Yahoo should make a How-To Guide on how to lose your ethical values in a decade or less…

      For those of you saying that this is respectful to Taiwanese culture, as a business and ethics student, I have learned that although you must follow the laws of the foreign country you do business in and should respect and hire the locals there, you should always guide decisions not dictated by law with the moral values of the company, I agree.
      For example, in one country, it may have no minimum wage law, but, the executives and board of directors may feel as if it is right to pay them somewhat more than a sustainable wage in spite of the fact that paying them that wage would be above the average pay for that industry. (yes I know, many companies wouldn’t do that)

    2. Yahoo Should spend less on lap dancers and more on making their site competitive and decent. I’m glad I use Google Search, Google Maps, Ebay, etc and not that crap Yahoo offers…

      To me Yahoo is chocolate milk that I drank when I was in elementary school.

  49. Look, I’m as big a fan of the female form as the next guy, but this was tasteless and grossly inappropriate.

    I have a young daughter. Young as in, she’s seven. Already I’m having a hard time keeping negative images of “what women should” be from infiltrating her precious little head.

    Do I want her to be a geek like her dad? Sure. But I’d be satisfied if she could just grow up believing that she’s great the way she is. That she doesn’t have to look and act like the women pictured above. But more importantly, she knows there are men (or women, depending on where her sexuality inclinations are by that time)who do not believe that objectifying women is a moral thing to do.

    1. @Eric Ragle. You sound like my mom, she always said that I could be whatever I wanted to be, and she would not only approve, but help me on whatever I choosed. The day she knew what I wanted to be, she threw me out of the house.

      1. Ooh. Drama! Do tell. Tell us more of what your mom, Eric Ragle, is going to do. Er. Has done. Wait. Your mom is named Eric?

  50. Meh. They gotta compete with Google somehow. If you can’t do it on tech prowess alone, hang a bunch of shiny eye-catchers out there.

    I think there is some cultural relativism here as business meeting frequently take place at strip clubs in Taiwan. And on the other end of the scale, women aren’t allowed at conferences at all in Taliban Afghanistan.

    I would say (based on my biased, western world view) that were this to be a “professional” conference, dancers probably undermined that atmosphere. If it was meant to be a “we’re hip! and fun! c’mon computer geeks, there is cool stuff outside the WoW-verse!” conference, than this should have fit right in.

  51. Why is programming different than any other technical professions? What makes anyone involved in the field anywhere in the world think it’s OK to hire exotic dancers to perform at a conference? Seriously? What Yahoo has done here is just grossly unprofessional.

    For those of you asking if it’s OK to have scantily clad women hawking wares at ComicCon, CES, or any other tech/geek event the answer is NO. It’s a dick move. It sends the message to half of your potential consumers that their money just isn’t green enough.

    1. Though I agree the use of scantily clad women to hawk wares is deplorable (and insulting; my mind is stronger than my sex drive, thank you) it’s entirely obvious why they do it.

      It works.

      Dress a woman up like Ms. Marvel or Morrigan Aensland and the men will flock, at the very least encouraging them to be near your product.

      I dispute, however, that women are half the “potential customer base” at events like comic or sci-fi conventions. Yes, they are there. Yes, it’s awesome that they are as interested as the guys. Yes my girlfriend is one of these women, but let’s face it… they are the minority.

      As far as the people saying that lapdancing isn’t sex work go; grinding your genitals on the body of a person for the purpose of pleasure or arousal is a sexual act. Performing a sexual act for money is sex work. No moral judgment implied. That people are offended by the label only serves to demonstrate their own hangups.

      Lapdancing as a human rights issue? This kind of sex work isn’t a human rights abuse. These women choose to make more money in a shorter time period at the expense of their safety and their view in the eyes of society. How is this different from driving long-haul truck routes, working oil rigs, or being a wilderness logger?

      I’ll echo the above statements about how inappropriate this was/is. You’re serving to make women/gay men/and men who are less than interested in mixing sexuality and work feel rather uncomfortable and feel excluded. As someone who’s had to attend tech industry meetings in a strip club, I can say that they are often *intended* to make people feel excluded. The women never really showed, and the ones who did… well… they advanced rather quickly. What ever happened to having business functions that focused on, I don’t know, business. Whatever happened to selling products on their merits?

      1. Note that I used the word “potential” as the operative. There are way more women interested in scifi, video games, comics, gadgets and general geekery than the men who hire “booth babes” can possibly conceptualize. These conferences have been sausage fests for far too long and that atmosphere puts off women who would otherwise like to attend. I’m a woman and I am a geek. I’m part of that potential half. I’m put off by the misogyny. A quick read of many of the comments from other females here tells me that I’m not alone.

        Yup, sex sells crap to men. Awesome. Fast cars and other shiny inaniamate objects sell shit to men, too. Congratulations, you’re fortunate enough to have the intellectual capacity to recognize the blatant attempts to manipulate you to spend money. Lots of average males lack the finesse. That’s why sexual objectification of women works as an advertising scheme when hawking your wares to only the heterosexual male.

          1. It’s worth something. Do yourself a favor and ask your wife her honest opinion of “booth babes” and similar advertising strategies. You may learn something new about your partner. Ask her if she’s encountered overt sexism in the workplace or as a customer (especially as a customer at, say, an electronics retailer or anything automotive).

            In fact, I’d like to offer up the above suggestion to any male commenting here who doesn’t see a problem with lap-dancers at a technical conference. If you don’t have a mate, ask your mom, aunt, sister, etc. Much like the fathers commenting that they want a better world for their daughters, you just might garner a different view point if you talk to a woman you care about.

          2. Then I would suggest adding a branch to your family tree.

            Yuk. Nasty troll. Incest is a universal taboo for good, biological reasons.

  52. “Hack Days are about making everyone feel welcome, including women coders and technologists.”
    Well then, while the boys are getting a lap dance I would like to see a strip show by a nice group of geeky boys and if they could strip to nerd core please – preferably LHC rap – mind you, thats really not going to make me focus on work and I might end up in a fit of giggles

  53. Those who are outraged should remember this : the recent lapdancers annual general meeting special feature was arguing geeks

    The hackers got off lightly in this cultural exchange.

  54. At funkensteinberg | October 21, 2009 3:43 AM

    Full length:

    @Bade, thanks for making the point – We in the West (UK/US, specifically) may well find the actions of Yahoo offensive*.

    >That others have a different way of life should Never make *us* want to change *them* – we have seen what happens when we think we know best

    Actually this is incorrect. The generic ‘different way of life’ is a dead give away for comments like this. For example, “That others have a different way of life and infibulate female children…make them fight for The Lords Army…” and so on.

    There are generic elements of human life which require protecting and defending. Attachment and development research clearly show that people as young as nine are not able to make decisions about very serious elements of their lives nor give consent. They are not intellectually or emotionally independent enough. That any country permits sex with children as young as nine is abhorrent and is often considered so by many older females in the countries. That the one’s you identify are dominated by masculine centric values which fail to take active steps to prevent violence against women is NOT a coincidence.

    More so, the problems within the Mid East are not the consequence purely of Western influence. The current events are not a ‘because we know best’ event. They relate to the Mid East’s monopoly on oil – pull the plug on this (pun intended) and there will no longer be any strategic interest in the Mid East. Each historical epoch has had areas of significant interest. The Mid East is ours.

    All of this diverges from Cory’s main point. The events described have no place in a tech event. The events are meant to be professional and are meant to be inclusive of those that attend. Offensive behaviour is often contextual and Cory’s position is clear and obvious, as are his reasons for rejecting them. Good on him. This is not a ‘cultural issue’ it is perfectly reasonable and acceptable to criticise such behaviour. It is a sham to claim any cultural bias exists – it is merely the hegemony of a particular type of masculinity that allows this to occur and Yahoo were right to back away.

  55. Being “progressive” and “open minded” doesn’t just mean being that way about pornography and sex. Or just being that way about foreign cultures.

    It also means being progressive on the idea of including women in traditionally male areas of power (we all think hackers are powerful, right?), and being open minded about how people other than ourselves might interpret or feel about the presence of female lap dancers at a supposedly inclusive event.

  56. People use females to sell snake oil all the time. It’s really no surprise that a company as terrible as Yahoo did this. It’s just eye candy for a shoddy product. If people don’t realize this is THE way to get you interested in their sub par product by now, they really need to open their eyes. Honestly, it’s shocking people can’t see things for what they really are and must mask it in static till it is twisted beyond belief.

  57. @keithlrwin wrote:

    you go inside and find that there are some very buff, almost-nude males up on stage giving lap dances to appreciative women while others look on and perhaps shout encouraging things. Are you going to look around and say “I’m clearly in the right place and feel very welcome here”? Probably not.

    In some ways, you and I must be very different people. I’d be thrilled to be surrounded by women who felt able to express themselves and able to appreciate beauty. I see your intended point, but it just reminds me of this dialog from Futurama:

    Truckstop dude (to Leela): Yo sexy mama, let’s get busy and freaky, in that order.
    Fry (indignantly defending Leela): Hey jumbo, how would you like it if Leela said you were sexy and she wanted to make love with you?

    1. “In some ways, you and I must be very different people. I’d be thrilled to be surrounded by women who felt able to express themselves and able to appreciate beauty.”

      You are. You probably just don’t appreciate the beauty they do or like what they choose to express.

  58. What if it had been gay male dancers grinding on men? I think that would be more awesomely uncomfortable.

    @Angstrom: That, my friend, was hilarious.

  59. Having lapdancers at a business event is wrong. Period. When you reduce women to their sexual parts and their sexual function, you abandon any semblance of belief that they are to be taken seriously in any other context. Personally I don’t even care for the whole booth babe thing but there is a vast difference between a woman dressing to look desirable and one doing a bump and grind.

    It’s enough to make you throw up your hands in disgust. All of these years of working toward being treated as equals in the workplace…and what do we get. It’s all for naught until men start thinking with the brain in their head instead of the mindless one in their pants.

  60. For everyone pointing out “hey, we have booth babes!”:

    Newsflash: Lots of women also find booth babes silly and condescending. Many of us have learned, though, that *saying* that often doesn’t mean we’re morally consistent, but uptight (and other choice things).

    “I’d be thrilled to be surrounded by women who felt able to express themselves and able to appreciate beauty.”


  61. It is interesting that all the defensive comments above are from men. Where are the women saying they’d be thrilled to be surrounded by women or that they personally love dancing etc. Sorry guys you’re in a privileged position ( so anything you say to defend the use of lap dancers carries no weight.

    Personally I wouldn’t care if they were lap dancers or the chippendales, erotic dancing, even in jest, is not appropriate at a conference. At an erotic show its fine. I bellydance but I wouldn’t wear my bellydancing gear to a FOSS conference.

    1. @Cyberspice, by the same token, Cory is also in a position of priviledge, so his decision to take offense on behalf of women is, what? Not something that should be interpreted through the lens of priviledge as something paternalist and condescending, or at very least a perspective that should be every bit as irrelevant to the issue? If you’re going to trot the privilege argument out in this case, be aware that it does, in fact, cut both ways.

      Of course, as a heterosexual male who a) has a strong interest in a career in child care, b) currently is a health worker in a women’s health center, and c) wants one day to raise children of my own, but am unlikely to find a mate, I take some pretty strong exception to that ever-obnoxious “checklist of male privilege”; very few women have to deal with the presumption that they are potential child molestors and rapists as part of their everyday jobs, and this is one of the Very Fun Things that men on childcare and teaching vocations, or men who are simply single parents, get to look foward to, and these men absolutely get to see their career prospects and advancement opportunities hampered accordingly.

      1. @yrogerg The unfortunate thing about gender politics is that you need to stereotype. You’re dealing with society which means you’re looking at groups of people and averages. There are some pretty despicable women out there, look at Mira Hindley for example (British serial killer of children), and there are some great guys. I am aware for example that statistically men are more likely to be attack on the street than women but women attacking men on the streets is far rarer than men attacking women. Typically the criminal in a rape case (whether it be male or female victim) is a male.

        Now what we’re talking about here is no where near as serious but the balance puts women at a disadvantage. I face minor inequalities every day whether it be the behaviour of male drivers on my drive to work, or at the parts counter of the local electronics store (being overlooked for a man who turned up later), or the patronising attitude of the guy at the camera store, or the wolf whistles when passing a construction site. Yes you can identify inequalities the other way but on average men have it better than women!

        As for Cory’s privilege, he may have privilege but as the minority I say it is okay and that is my right.

        1. @Cyberspice: Wait, hold up. I’m a member of a number of marginalized groups myself, and ones where there is a lot of (or, at very least, should be more) discussion regarding differing privilige within those groups, and who is able to advocate, and whether they capable of fairly providing a voice for the rest of the group. As such, one of the paramount rules for myself has always been that my experiences are my own, and my voice my own. I do not, cannot, speak for others, whether I’m a member or the same group or not. At very best, I can provide my voice, the voice of a single member of a particular group, whether representative of the whole or not. And frequently, not. Many marginalized groups are greviously harmed by those who take it upon themselves to be representatives of groups that, by many metrics, they do not truly represent, and that’s someplace I’ve taken great pains to qualify my status.

          A corrollary to this is that I do not, cannot serve as an arbitor for relevant or irrelevant voices in a discussion, something that you did earlier and that I reacted to. If you feel that the input of men in this debate is fraught because of privilege (a line of argument I’d be willing to accept, if only to a point), you’re free to make that claim; however, it’s nevertheless hypocritical to attempt to then revoke that argument, but only for those men that happen to agree with your conclusions. Particularly since being on the right or wrong side of things has nothing to do with why these opinions are potentially suspect.

          As for why Cory’s remarks (might be) equally fraught as any that I or any other guy might have made in this thread? Well, the only datapoint I can give is that of previous discussions I’ve had with women who have represented themselves as feminists: put simply, I have been told by several women that many feminists do, in fact, look askence on “male feminists”, and particularly on men who take it upon themselves to take offense on behalf of women. I’ve been told that this stance skirts dangerously close to being patronizing and paternalistic, of belying a presumtion that said women cannot speak for themselves. In so doing, even if with the best of intentions, one robs women of their agency, of their voice on the matter. This is a line of argument, as I’m sure you can imagine, that I’m extremely sensitive to, given my own relationship to other marginalized groups and voice and privilege. And so, I said that invoking privilege to tell some men that their views are irrelevant very much does cut both ways. And, I’m sure you disagree with me there, *but*: it ends up, much like me, you do not speak for everybody.

      2. Cory,

        I wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your efforts. Posts like this are the reason I still read BoingBoing and haven’t retreated to the feminist blogosphere entirely. I only wish the comments here didn’t always leave me so disappointed/infuriated/whatever.

        People who don’t see anything wrong with this:

        We have a problem with *sexism*, not *sexuality*!

        No one here is objecting out of prudery. I support sex workers’ rights (and, yeah, Cory used the most correct/non-demeaning term), realistic sex ed and all that. Too often people take a black-and-white view of sexuality–there are the forces of sexual repression vs. the forces of sexual liberation–when the reality is much more complicated (I can’t take credit for this idea; read Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality vol. 1. He calls this the repressive hypothesis). Many of you are operating under this false model of the history of sexuality in our culture. Just because there are repressive forces out there does not make more sex = less repression = good.

        This is problematic because it assumes that everyone in the audience–all of the Hackers/Techonologists–are straight men (I’m not forgetting about lesbian or bisexual women, I just don’t think that the organizers were thinking of them when they hired the dancers; they were thinking of nerdy men, who are stereotypically desperate for sex). This makes it seem like straight men are the ones who really belong at this kind of event. Women only belong if they’re giving the guys lapdances. This marginalizes and excludes female attendees.

        Would this have been better if they had hired male dancers, too? No. Events like this just shouldn’t be sexualized; it’s unnecessary, and it excludes people who are made uncomfortable by it (and there are a lot of reasons to be uncomfortable without being a prude).

        Those of you saying that you never see the outrage over booth babes, etc? Maybe not here, but it’s definitely out there. I don’t remember whether BB covered it or not, but the Dante’s Inferno promotion telling people to ‘commit acts of Lust’ with the booth babes at the show was upsetting to many people for a number of reasons.

        Also, @yrogerg: You have a very poor understanding of the concept of privilege. The fact that you experience sexism as a male (your example of being treated like a child molester, which is spot on) does not invalidate or undo the ways in which you are privileged. And Cory’s position of privilege doesn’t make this paternalistic and condescending–it’s not an automatic thing. Feminist analysis is complicated: do try it at home, but do get it right. You can’t just call all men sexists and all women feminists, and anyone who tells you otherwise (whatever side they’re on) is an idiot. We (feminists) want to work *with* men, not against them, to end sexism, which affects *everyone*.

        You’re upset that you get presumed to be a child molester? Any men here upset that they’re assumed to be mindless, sex-craving geeks who can be easily manipulated by marketing strategies involving tits? Good, you should be! These are negative stereotypes of men and they suck! Feminists are your allies. We hate this shit, too.

        P.S.: That whole ‘men evolved to have lots of sex, women evolved to have long-term relationships’ is about as good science as the Victorian studies that ‘proved’ the white race to be superior. Evolutionary psychology creates hypotheses that can’t be tested, but ‘make sense’ because they confirm our society’s (sexist) beliefs. It’s not good science and it’s finally starting to die out in the academic world.

  62. As a female working in technology I have to say it seems par for the course frankly. I’m not saying I’m ok with it, but honestly that’s the way the world is. The only option is to die or live with it so I’ll live with it until I don’t have to anymore.

    1. Its a sad state of affairs that either you have to take the pragmatic approach and put up with this kind of thing or you fight back and get called all the names that come with that. I’ve been pragmatic for years but enough is enough!

    2. You’re on the inside. You’re in a position to voice an objection where it’s most likely to be heard.

      If you don’t like something, change it. Damn it.

  63. Ths s wy mr fn thn wht ws mnt t b dng:

    @lg – cn’t vd th d hmnm. Y s dt. ‘v nvr sn sch cncntrtn f fllcy, gnrnc nd slppd lgc.

    “Whn y rdc wmn t thr sxl prts nd thr sxl fnctn, y bndn ny smblnc f blf tht thy r t b tkn srsly n ny thr cntxt.”

    Frstly; wld ssrt tht ll hmn fnctns r sbsrvnt t thr sxl fnctn.

    Scndly; D y mn t sy tht whn y hr thr cnsnslly mplyd strpprs t ttllt bsnssmn “y rdc thm t nthng bt thr sxl prts nd sxl fnctn”. Bcs fr n lk strppr wth prtty fc. D y ls mn t sy tht s sn s m ttlltd by ths prtty-fcd strppr wll b nbl t tk fml nclgst srsly? dr y t try nd pply yr rdctnst d t Mrgrt Thtchr. My prtnr s smkng ht dctr. Dspt my vrwhlmng rspct fr hr ntllgnc nd ccmplshmnts, my fvrt thng t d wth hr stll nvlvs hr ‘sxl prts’.

    @smdd – cldn’t gr mr

    @rc Rgl – Cry lrdy md yr pnt xctly nd ws ttckd fr hs rcrs t prntl trg. Why s yr rg bttr thn hs?

    nd qstn

    @grygbsn – ddn’t y nvk Gbsn’s lw?

  64. I for one wouldn’t have been shocked if male models were doing this to ladies at a trade show or convention. Maybe Yahoo should have provided dancers for all genders and “persuasions”. Then only the prude and those who disapprove of the adult industry would have been offended?

    Cory’s reaction is probably understandable given his frame of reference. I hear having a daughter can seriously change ones feelings towards this kind of things. But to me, not having kids, his reaction seems extremely political correct.

  65. @blm, ‘d lk t prphrs “n sm wys, y nd mst b vry dffrnt ppl. ‘d b thrlld t b srrndd by hrny btchs wh flt bl t xprss thmslvs wth prmscs sx”

  66. So because it is okay in Taiwan it should be okay? Really? Let’s not change perceived cultural norms through open debate… only through all out war!
    And saying it’s the same as the booth babes etc at conventions… did anybody say they were okay and these lap dancers weren’t? No? Didn’t think so. I’d say a majority of the disapprovers ALSO disapprove of those ‘scantily clad women’ whose presence is just to draw attention by flaunting themselves for a product they probably don’t know anything about or care for.

  67. I’d like to point out that E3 was supposed to be a “professional” conference and yet we never saw this level of outrage about their booth babes. Of course, the booth babes weren’t giving people lap dances, so maybe E3 just never went far enough to piss people off. Though the presence of such scantily-clad women still creates the sort of female-unfriendly atmosphere that a lot of the commenters here are railing against.

    I’d like to hear from a Taiwanese female who was actually AT this event. Because they are after all, the ones being directly affected by this.

  68. With all due respect, some of you need to take feminism 101 before you spout off. A little intellectual humility is a good and healthy thing.

  69. 75 comments later, I am still stunned that anyone thinks this is okay at what is essentially a business conference. I guess I had a higher regard for BoingBoing commenters than was warranted.

    1. Agreed. Beyond the broader issues of gender equality issues, this is, boiled down, a simple matter of business professionalism.

      Still, it’s a good laugh to see who can say with a straight face that they’d *expect* to go to a work function and *expect* to find dancers grinding on their co-workers (male or female). Apparently I really need to find a new job.

  70. Those pointing out “It’s different there,” are failing to realize that as (subsidiary of a?) US company they kind of have to pay attention to the social moores of BOTH countries. Witness Lockheed bribing Japanese officials.

    This is a nation where someone opened an Auschwitz-themed restaurant with pictures of gaunt Jewish prisoners plastered all over the walls ( without apparently realising it might draw international opprobrium. OTOH, I recall seeing a photoset (flickr?) of Taiwanese WWII reenactors. One of the guys wearing japanese uniforms had his face blacked out, because he obviously didn’t want his family/friends/coworkers to seem him in THAT uniform.

  71. The incident was called “regrettable”, in that “it was regrettable that someone made a fuss about this”. Why would they say that? Because it is done all the time there.

    I had a roommate who worked for a big company that will remain nameless. He was required to travel to Taiwan on a regular basis to inspect factories and meet with designers. On several occasions he has had the embarrassing experience of being taken to parties by his hosts, where a parade of prostitutes was brought out and lined up, while his smiling host encouraged him to take his pick (more than one, if he wished). This was not my roomie’s cup of tea, and it always resulted in confusion and embarrassment when he politely declined.

    He once told them he was married (and he was, at the time). They replied with blank stares. “So what?”, one said.

    This happened on numerous occasions with several vendors, so I suspect this is a cultural (or at least, business cultural) norm in Taiwan. Maybe its only “regrettable” when you get caught.

  72. If this kind of culture persists for much longer, I foresee a female secessionist movement within computer geek culture. There are now enough women involved in hacking/coding/gaming/etc to comprise a significant fraction, but still not enough to influence the mainstream. And the mainstream is pretty misogynistic and very unapologetic about it.

    It’s not going to be long before women say “hey, these guys aren’t going to change. we don’t have to put up with this shit anymore, let’s have our own geek culture where we feel comfortable and supported.” That would be an unfortunate loss for everyone, but an understandable reaction.

    And I think it would even be a good move in the long term, since the non-sexist geek culture would inevitably become the dominant one, simply because it appeals to the most people. The only ones left out would be the hardcore misogynists who are responsible for the worst aspects of sexism in current geek culture.

  73. Time like these make me despair for BoingBoing’s comments. Anyone who thinks it’s appropriate to have lap dancers at a professional function–and also thinks that such an act isn’t going to exclude women and make them uncomfortable–is thoughtless at best and socially maladjusted at worst.

    Defenders, enjoy the loops and dives of your rationalizations. But sometimes being contrarian is just being a dick.

    (Hint: this is one of those times.)

    1. Fortunately we have you here, to level out the rest of us, since clearly you are morally and intellectually superior to everyone who’s viewpoint you don’t understand. I, for one, am INSTANTLY SWAYED, especially by all the insults.

      Forgive me for being so morally corrupt as to not see eye to eye with you. Clearly I’m a horrible person.

  74. I am shocked to see this sort of objectification…. of men. As these women were obviously paid for their time, this further reinforces the cultural stereotype of men as financial resources to be drained by women.

    What male would feel welcome and happy attending an event in which women were invited to simulate the business of financially draining men in exchange for titillation? Especially in a trade that is notorious for socially awkward males who are only able to receive female attention due to financial prowess?


    Seriously though, Cory – lets take a moment to get our bearings here. I don’t recall you or anyone else here being outraged every year about booth girls at E3, CES, or any other similar convention. This is just a little more “edgy” but in the same vein.

    You do have a right to be upset that your daughter may be discouraged, but your parenting is going to have an infinitely larger impact on her attitude toward the professional world.

    You are a highly intelligent and progressive individual, so lets let consenting adults and corporations decide what to do with their bodies / public image.

    Bottom line – sex sells, and I don’t blame Yahoo for anything other than forgetting to hire some “Hack Boys” for the ladies entertainment.

  75. riebrick — I suggest that you ask your smoking hot doctor if she would be comfortable having lapdancers at a medical conference. And, BTW, the fact that you like strippers with pretty faces and that you like to have sex with your partner has nothing to do with the appropriateness of objectifying women as sexual objects in what should be a professional setting. Please note that it is possible to make a point without descending to name-calling.

  76. While there is certainly an element of culture clash going on here, it isn’t as though there is a Big Book of Culture in which cultural ideas are codified. We influence the culture we are in constantly by publicly accepting as is, accepting with modification or rejecting the ideas presented to us.

    This is not the same as going into some local Taiwanese establishment and complaining about how they behave there. This was clearly an international business event. The person who organized the event may well have been acting as he (I’m guessing it was a he) saw as acceptable from his cultural bias. That certainly doesn’t constrain others from calling bullshit and working to force changes to the Taiwanese version of international business culture that make the environment more acceptable to all. One would hope no more Yahoo events will have lapdancers, no matter where they are held.

  77. Remember when only women were allowed to be programmers? It was because men weren’t constitutionally suited to “tedious” work like sewing, laundry, child-rearing, or programming. Men were too macho!

    Personally, I would be OK with this if and only if Yahoo hired lap dancers of all genders and orientations, including the less popular ones. Furry transgendered amputee sex workers need jobs too!

  78. Clearly a lot of you have not been to Thailand.

    This is not out of the ordinary there. Interestingly they are far more accepting of homosexuality (due to having what is almost considered a third gender identity) than we are, so we can’t say their culture is any worse than ours when it comes to sex prejudices.

    While I mildly agree that the event would be better without dancers, it is silly to think that this is going to have any significant effect on people, adults or children alike. Kids are exposed to far more sexualization of both men and women on a day-to-day basis than seeing some lap-dancers for a few minutes.

    If there had been male dancers would anyone be complaining? Probably not nearly as much.

    1. @The5thElephant So with your logic if had been held in the middle east it would be perfectly acceptable to ban women all together from the conference. Just because Thailand (btw the event was in Taiwan – a bit of a geography fail there) has a sex industry it doesn’t make it right.

  79. This particular post – and the ensuing comments – finally got me to create an account at BB despite the fact that I’ve been reading it for a while now. I haven’t had a chance to read ALL of the comments so I amy be repeating things here: Given that I have two daughters I’m also repulsed by Yahoo? (? instead of ! from now on I think). But what bothers me more is the fact that I have – in my professional life – spent years trying to help girls and young women nurture a passion for engineering, art and design. Stuff like this doesn’t really help. I know some have called you out as being a bit too PC -but thanks for posting this Cory.

  80. I certainly don’t think there’s anything wrong with strippers in principle. It’s a little exploitive, I suppose, but being free from exploitation is a functional impossibility for the vast majority of humanity. And then it doesn’t have to be exploitive: some people like it, some people groove on it, some people make it an art form (hi, suicide girls!), it’s not the stripping that is the problem.

    It is the context. This isn’t the place for lap dances. I get that Yahoo! wanted to entertain the folks there — the intent wasn’t a bad one. But the nimrods who made the choice didn’t think beyond the “tech people are shy nerdy boys who need to get titilated” stereotype, which is harmful to the industry. I mean, they’re stuck in this view of technology as a profitable hobby for stunted adolescent boys, when it is more than that.

    They could have invited some Chippendale dancers, too, for the gender equality angle, but it would have been equally redonkulous.

    Of course, anyone decrying stripping as somehow inherently immoral and wrong needs to cut it out and revisit the past 50 years of sexual liberation. Also, Cory’s statement about how comfortable women would feel kind of has this “I speak for all women everywhere!” quality that I find profoundly obnoxious (I know quite a few girls who enjoy a well-performed striptease by a woman). However, that’s neither here nor there: the point is, it was in horribly bad taste. Yahoo apologized, and perhaps someone got their shins kicked for being a fartclown, a stereotype is perpetuated, and perhaps some programmer got a boner. The End (unless it happens again).

  81. I’d say I am morally superior to those trying to justify lap dancers at professional events, yes. I don’t like to sit on a high horse, but I’m comfortable on this one.

    Ask your mother how she feels about this one.

      1. Possibly so. I probably should have left that last part out. But I think Yahoo’s behavior is indefensible and undermines any effort to treat women as equal–or even respected– participants in their conference.

  82. Seeing as I am female, work in the computer business, AND live in Taipei, all I can say is that this is incredibly embarrassing for Yahoo. This really isn’t just a case of cultural misunderstanding – yes, the culture surrounding women is much different than in the states or elsewhere in the western world, but it isn’t ordinary by any means to have lap dancers at a corporate event. I would even go as far as to call Taiwanese sexuality slightly more publicly conservative (privately is another matter altogether) than the US. To whoever was saying that Taiwanese women walk around with their stomachs exposed and short-shorts even in a business environment – where do you work/live? Maybe I go to all the conservative parts of Taiwan, but I’ve never seen that as the standard. Really, the only time I’ve seen that is either in a nightclub, or on someone on their way to/from a night club.

    Additionally, Yahoo is a large company that does quite a bit of international business and even if this was totally kosher in Taiwan, it’s still a bit of a gaffe for its customers in other countries. It’s not like an event meant for promotion is not going to get out. A huge “What the hell were you thinking?” goes out to whoever planned this event.

    Personally, I don’t really find this offensive. It doesn’t say anything about my skill in development or programming (whereas some of the comments generated by this do). These are women doing a job, and if that’s what they want to do, whatever. It’s not my place to dictate that. You’re probably an idiot anyway if you think a few lap dancers represent the entirety of womankind. I don’t get why male strippers don’t get this kind of grief. But isn’t that the double standard…

  83. “As a father of a young daughter whom I hope will be excited about technology, hacking, and making stuff”

    That’s cool, but I don’t think these types of big company-organized events are the best way to interest kids in technology. I mean, Yahoo… please… they don’t stand for technology but for money. Just like every other big company in this industry. That’s also why they hire lap-dancers, that’s stuff for the businessmen, not for the hackers.

  84. @failix It perpetuates a culture, though, of viewing women as ‘not one of us’. That kind of culture is what made me shy away from tech education and a career in tech from 9th grade through my early 20s.

  85. Why on earth are people talking about the tech industry as if it was male dominated? I guess those posters must be in some kinda backward countries where almost all of the software engineers aren’t women: unlike Taiwan. The sorts of places that only have yakkety-yak about how neat it would be to (sometime in the 24th 1/2 Century!) to have lots of women in this field but no action.

    In all the years I was working in the semi-conductor factories I think I ran across one or two guys out in the binary trenches and they were kinda token. The rest were women – many of whom were so hyper-intelligent that I started to wonder when they were going to rip off their masks revealing the Organian/Arisian beings beneath the facades. I specifically recall this one little kewpie doll in a shocking pink, “Hello Kitty!” themed cubicle who would really make my head hurt with off-hand analyses that she’d toss off about my company’s 3.5-million-lines-of-code product whilst fiddling with a Nuclear Magnetic Resonance scanner.

    So, if you have to make a few concessions to the disadvantaged male gender to get them into this field, like stippers, then I think that’s locally appropriate. And why the assumption that the lap-dancers couldn’t be coders too?! ;-)

    BTW – wasn’t COMDEX, the first really big tech show in the States, originally a porn industry show? Weren’t all the initial, pioneering breakthroughs in on-line payment systems, video compression and streaming video from the porn industry? Would youTube or BoingBoing Video be possible without the porn industry? No.

    This has been the A/V technology curve since the days of cavepersons tech conferences about clay figurines. “More realistic 3-D rendering!”

    Bade, Garygibson et al have said most of what I’d otherwise have said here. But don’t forget the strippers hired for funerals: the ones where they get a permit from the city to block an alleyway with a 6-ft high pyramid of beer for the wake-like festivities. Not to say that there aren’t the same number of Puritans there as elsewhere. Remember that Confucius was a Hanging Judge who, early in his career walked out on his boss for indulging in the 80 “Dancing Girls” received as a present from a neighbouring Potentate
    ( )

    Ditto the comments on the Taiwanese being amongst the nicest in the world. As to their naivete regarding the outside world, well, we’re just as naive about them. What’s the difference between the Happy Buddha Chinese restaurant and the Jolly Jesus Christ tavern?

    Although I still chuckle about the local Taiwanese non-embassy (the Han Chinese Empire on the mainland says that we’re not allowed to have a real embassy from them) and their Hinterlands Who’s Who attempt at promoting eco-tourism. They exactly recreated the old CBC television spots’ soundtrack, right down to the music, for a set of radio spots. Very Old School!

    I can totally see this all being an accident. Yahoo probably fired the local event manager who did this last year figuring that he was some weirdo perv and kept the whole scandal hush-hush. Then the guy who replaced him, while doing the last minute checklist, probably panicked, “OMG! They forgot to hire the lap-dancers! Quick, Shih! Phone the agency!”

  86. I can’t believe all the people on this forum trying to justify Yahoo’s using female lap dancers at a technical forum. Nitpicking about the use of “sex worker” versus “lap dancer”? That’s completely off-point! I don’t care if these are Taiwanese customs, they’re intolerable and are customs that shouldn’t be imported. Cory, thank you so much for standing up against this.

  87. Is there a name for the phenomenon, similar to Godwin’s Law, that as the length of a comment thread increases, the probability approaches one that someone will express shock and disappointment that other commenters have an opinion contrary to one’s own?

  88. Oh for crying out loud. No offense fellow boingers but ligh-ten up! You really find this puke inducing? Chill out, smoke a bowl, and enjoy the beautiful people with the rest of us.

    First of all, is this a kids/all-ages event? In the case that it’s not (It sounds like an adult geek event) I fail to see the problem, fun police. Besides, these may well be first and last girls these lads see! (I kid I kid!)

    Second of all, to concede a bit, Yahoo could consider hiring some males for the straight women and homosexual attendees.

    Thirdly, in Asia, we actually enjoy sexual relations – self-flagellation is optional. Although these girls don’t resemble “sex workers” anyway, it is considered a valid occupation in this part of the world. Besides, my eyes start to glaze over after about 2 hours of APIs.

    Fourthly, if you really want to take issue with Yahoo this morning, you might recall that this is the same company who turns over (mainland) Chinese dissidents for fun and profit.

    1. “First of all, is this a kids/all-ages event?”

      No but it’s definitely not an adult male-only event either, at least it shouldn’t be. Plus: this kind of stuff has nothing to do with technology and hacking, unless these strippers/dancers were cyborgs and nobody noticed.

  89. A fair number of us are simply questioning how “professional” the event actually is, being as E3 is a professional event some definitons, and this is only a few hairs worse than much of what people are hired to do for those, and similar expos.

    Additionally, some people -people familiar with the business culture of Taiwan, no less- pointed out that the standards of professionalism in Taiwan are, in fact, considerably different than those in Western Europe or America. The professionalism argument -as distinct from the human decency argument, mind you- therefore hinges on understanding this sort of thing as culturally bound, something that those in this thread who have advanced the professionalism issue have simultaneously repudiated as “cultural relativism”.

    Still others have made a related point, that the gender demographics in Taiwan’s tech industry belie claims that women are a marginal group. Obviously, there’s some complexity to the gender issues involved, all the same, but Cory’s argument above, that we’re talking about “a trade that has traditionally excluded women from its ranks?” is particularly misplaced here, and this does alter the context considerably.

    Me, I’m mostly taking the role I do in any Internet argument, which is that of a fairly pedantic critic who points out any examples of egregious hypocrisy that crop up in the discussion. I’m hardly “justifying” it, save to point out, once again, that professional standards (and as others have pointed out, gender demographics!) differ greatly across national borders, and that Cory’s post was misusing language in a manner that tended towards the misleadingly sensationalistic.

  90. Despite my support of yahoo on the specific matter of having fully-clothed exotic dancers at their events, I will continue to passively boycott their search engine.

  91. Sounds like people are having problems deciding about cultural relativity.

    Apparently invoking cultural relativism is only appropriate when the example you are invoking it for is one you personally approve of.

    -abs thinks it’s “either or” and people either need to accept that other cultures will do things they don’t like, including things they consider criminal human-rights abuses, or they need to accept that there’s One True Morality and just go impose it on the world and kill everyone who doesn’t agree, those taking bets should put money on “-abs is a relativist” because the other route is evil

  92. So let’s see. If you object to lap dancers at a technical event you’re a religious zealot, anti-male, not sexually liberated, judgmental, and a cultural racist. Did I miss anything?

    It’s always good to know that you can object to inappropriate behavior without being called names. Maybe you personally do not object to this behavior, but you should accept that at least a significant percentage of the population considers it inappropriate at a technical conference. Calling people who object names just reinforces that you have to put up or shut up to work with geeks. Which certainly keeps quite a number of us out of technology.

    To the commenter suggesting that Taiwan hackers are all women: Look at the video or photos. At least at this portion of the event, it is all males. I don’t see any females on stage, or many in the audience.

  93. Jeez, I guess you can’t go anywhere on Al Gore’s Internets without finding prudes and sexually repressed bickering.

    Frankly, I question the authenticity of your sexual predilection.

  94. I am shocked, shocked I tell you that there are people out there who don’t agree with Doctorow the Prude:

    1. A woman hosting a “news program” wearing a scoop neck shirt doesn’t have much credibility with me.

  95. I love how uncomfortable and awkward the ‘lap dancees’ look. Were they tricked into climbing up on stage? Perhaps they were expecting a game of musical chairs?

  96. My mother, who was a Bright Young Thing at MIT during the war, worked as a research scientist in national security from the 1940s to the 1990s. She told me that she got dragged to the Old Howard in Boston for a burlesque show in the 1950s, because that’s what was set up as a business meeting by her boss. She regarded her boss’s primitive brain functions as a source of humor rather than scorn.

    I do wonder how straight men defending this would feel about getting teabagged by male strippers.

  97. While I agree that Yahoo’s dispositions are not too appropriate for this kind of event, I think we should go easy on the moral outrage here.

    Yahoo! “hire sex workers”? Come on – sex workers are people and need to make money just as everyone else. Comparison to certain types of columnists and journalists apply, but that would also be unfair – these people need to make a living too, you know.

    So while I admit I wouldn’t make such a hiring myself, and admitting that this might frighten off women participants from such events, I think we should just call it a bad decision, no big deal. I mean, it’s not like someone got arrested just for doing their job, as they do to sex workers in the US (and the UK too, I believe).

  98. A company like Yahoo shouldn’t have to take a stance on stripping. They’re a technology company. The question shouldn’t ever have to be discussed. WTF were they thinking?

    If nothing else, it’s sexist because of the lack of male lap dancers.

  99. Cory– I feel your pain, I have 3 daughters. And, yes, everyone of them has a bullseye on her and is in somebody’s sights as a fairgame sexual conquest. They are 8, 11, and 14. The issue here is really the pornographication of society. It is the creep and ooze of sexual imagery into every facet of our culture and the desensitization of more and more graphic and lewd acts. It is not enough for people to enjoy sex with a trusted partner– no we must want to have sex all the time, with whoever is available, in any setting and if we do not, then we are prudes and spoil sports and PC.

    I have a lot of space in my mind for people to consume and enjoy pornography, for people to choose to work in the sex trades, for women to have multiple partners, for everyone to have fetishes and hang ups and even for people who just don’t like sex. But I do have a problem with it being, literally, shoved in my face every single day. I have a problem with my daughters getting the cultural message that female sexuality is all about giving pleasure to men. (Go ahead guys flame me, but when was the last time you saw a billboard of a man going down on a woman?)

    How insidious is all of this? I live in a small town in Maine. My daughter’s xcountry team has tee-shirts that say “Fast girls have better times”. It’s not that as a parent I can’t give my daughters the tools to deal with this– that is my job. But man, wouldn’t it be cool if I didn’t have to.

    1. “I have 3 daughters. And, yes, everyone of them has a bullseye on her and is in somebody’s sights as a fairgame sexual conquest. They are 8, 11, and 14.”

      How do you get through the day while manifesting that level of paranoia?

      Bulls eye? Sights? Fair game?

      Good grief. I’m not saying that pervs are not out there, but to wallow down to this level?

      1. pabarge– no paranoia, no wallowing, just clear eyed realism. I came of age in America in the 1970s. By the time I was 12 I was being actively pursued by a friend of my Dad’s and on a couple of occasions had been offered rides by strangers while walking to school. To be fair my brother was more regularly propositioned by men. Small New England town. I would say this was fairly typical among my friends– several of whom had to fight off step fathers. That was in the good old days of Penthouse under the mattress and red light districts in big towns. I would say the game has shifted since then, and not in a direction that makes it easier for my daughters. At least when I was a kid, the cultural norms were on my side when I said “No thanks.” to these advances. I am not doing my girls any favors by pretending that the world is full of gentle people and that all men are honorable.

        Question. All you “lighten up types” what, exactly am I supposed to say to my daughters– “No honey, just because those girls are lap-dancing with strangers and everyone here thinks its a big laugh doesn’t mean you have to do it! It’s all in good fun! If it makes you uncomfortable, maybe you should just LEAVE, obviously you are a little prude who doesn’t realize how much FUN it is to lap dance with strangers and get PAID for it. Don’t you feel empowered knowing that you too could pick up a few extra bucks this way? C’mon, you know boys only do things when there are semi-naked women around to make it interesting for them. But you shouldn’t feel self-conscious about it. They don’t want to see YOU naked. And even if they did, would that be so BAD? I mean you’re cute! Of COURSE they want to see you naked, that’s a COMPLIMENT! But, hey if you DON’T LIKE SEX that’s cool. You’re smart and can be anything you want– some day, if you study hard and go to the gym you can be a smokin’ hot doctor! The years of medical school will be an extra turn on for all those guys who want to see you naked!!”

        And in case you think that this is just my own personal baggage and shit… my little community in Maine has had two pedophiles arrested in the past 4 years– a director of the local kids choir and a high school advisor. So, the “pervs” you admit and then dismiss aren’t just “out there” they are everywhere.

        Considering all that, I’m not paranoid at all. I believe that the best defense is a good offense and my daughters will be as prepared as I can make them to hold their own in a world full of wolves.

  100. I’m disappointed in the poor logic and lack of actual thought in the comments, but not surprised. Comparing a hacker tech event to a Con or an entertainment industry event? Not the same thing. Thinking that we should be on par with what the ancient Greek civilizations did, and using that as a justification? Not the same thing. Attacking the author because of their opinions on matters other than this specific topic? Not the same thing. The weak ‘cultural’ references? They don’t hold up. It doesn’t matter if you personally don’t have an issue with a bunch of strippers (regardless of gender) or lap dancers or whatever at a tech summit or in your office or in your place of work. They don’t belong there. And I say that as a female who has worked at 2 companies who hired ‘exotic dancers’ for their holiday parties. I say that as a female who is very raunchy with my friends in non-professional settings. I say this as a female who gets attacked on tech boards SOLELY for my gender. It’s not a matter of ‘lightening up’ or whatever other passive-aggressive brush-offs anyone wants to use to dismiss the facts; this was an event to learn about APIs and technology, and it’s meant to be an inclusive event. This means that men who are uncomfortable and/or ‘prudish’ shouldn’t be subjected to lap dancers; it’s not what they signed up for. This means that women who are uncomfortable and/or ‘prudish’ shouldn’t be subjected to it either. It’s not okay to dismiss someone’s feelings about a professional event, and it doesn’t have anything to do with their values outside of their professional activities.
    While the ‘bro culture’ has been very successful in the past in its efforts to pass their responsibility with the attitude of ‘people that aren’t okay with it don’t have any rights to not be okay with it, and we’ll call them names and reduce them down until we get our way’- those tactics are starting to fail. And since the attitude itself seems to stem from insecurity and bullying, just imagine how much worse this ‘culture’ will get as it gets the scrutiny it deserves.

  101. Updating my prior comment:

    So let’s see. If you object to lap dancers at a technical event you’re a religious zealot, anti-male, not sexually liberated, judgmental, and a cultural racist. Did I miss anything?

    Apparently I missed that you are a prude, sexually repressed, if you are male you are homosexual, and you are economically oppressing sex workers.

    This list is getting quite impressively high in rationalization, if not in rationality.

  102. I don’t think that those of you using the phrase ‘cultural relativism’ quite get it. In order for this to be an issue of cultural relativism, you would have to make the argument that lap dancing is an intrinsic aspect of Taiwanese culture. Since lap dancing is a recent import from the West, your argument falls apart. You’re using ‘cultural relativism’ as a meme, not as a rational argument.

    1. @Antinous Nobody’s arguing that lapdances are an intrisic part of Taiwanese culture, but people are arguing that there exist sharply differing standards of professional conduct between Taiwan and, say, England, that are themselves pervasive and, perhaps, intrinsic, and that this incident is one example of the same. These standards themselves *would* be culturally bound, and consequentially, make cultural relativism an appropriate term, ne?

      1. These standards themselves *would* be culturally bound, and consequentially, make cultural relativism an appropriate term, ne?

        Strictly speaking, everything that exists in any specific place and time is part of the culture, but you have to draw a line somewhere when you refer to cultural relativism. To put it in absurd terms, are French people being cultural supremacists if they criticize Paris Hilton. Because she’s part of American culture.

    2. Oh dear. Antinous thinks that lap dances only showed up recently in Taiwan as a result of the arrival of western culture?

      You can’t be serious. Please. Sex and all the standard activities associated with the vernacular have been in the vocabulary across the orient long before we westerners got there.

      In point of fact, if Yahoo hacker day were trying to be historically accurate, the lap dancers would have been nude.

      Let’s complete that PhD in Taiwanese studies before we careen off into moral relativism, shall we?

  103. “Grabs popcorn” … hopes discussion continues :D

    Ponders what a Taiwanese woman thinks about the subject.

  104. I wonder if at any point somebody said “dude…this is not cool” when the idea of getting lapdancers was suggested?

    Did they think it was waaaay “edgy” and “coool” (man).

  105. To the men who are defending this:
    I don’t care what your reasons are, if you can’t see what’s wrong with the fact that this happened, you are part and parcel of the problem. Take a hint.

  106. I’m a hetero dude – probably a relatively sleazy one, even, and being at this event would make me super uncomfortable. It would be like plopping down a plate of blow on the table after Thanksgiving dinner with your family. I dated a burlesque dancer on and off for a while, and I think burlesque is cool, but getting a lapdance doesn’t really appeal to me – especially in front of a crowd at a tech convention.. not my idea of a great place for an erection.

  107. So…….Cory’s outrage over lapdancers at a business conference in Taiwan has turned into an argument over whether its the outrage or the lapdancers themselves that are western cultural imperialism on the march?

  108. As there are so few male voices who seem to have a clue on this topic, let me chime in, please: This is horrible, non-inclusive, sexist, and grossly unprofessional. I don’t think the geek/IT industry should hold up the automotive industry and it’s trade shows as the gold-standard for professional behavior. And I am male, have a sweetheart, and do not have kids (as if that should make a diff!!)

    Yo Guys, please stop acting like boob-crazed animals who hate the opposite sex despite wanting only to f**k it.

  109. Thanks Cory, that blog made my day today! I’ve been wondering where all the techie fathers were who would be thrilled if their daughters “followed in their footsteps” (I almost followed my Dad’s – he was an engineer, that WAS the “hi tech” industry back then). I have fond memories of him teaching me circuitry and chess.

    May you inspire other techie men to see themselves as protectors of their daughters’ future in tech!

  110. Maybe those hack girls were just energetic developers who needed to work off some energy and get some exercise after a long day of coding. At least in my fantasies.

    1. Yeah, I like that fantasy, too. Unfortunately, it is obvious those are paid (not ecstatic volunteer) lap-dancers. There are differences between the sexes, and one of the more common differences is that most women need to feel comfortable and safe in order to feel like being sexy. This Conference (and High Tech in general) needs some changes before it is a place where women in it can feel comfortable and safe on a par with men. So, no. If we ever get to that that utopian liberated place where this could be a playful romp (and it wouldn’t be just young thin women doing the romping)…. After the professional presentations, there could be a romp party. Clearly, that isn’t what is happening here.

  111. Two things.

    1. “They should have just had male strippers, too.” But they didn’t. And they wouldn’t. What’s bothersome to me is not the dancing itself. It’s the mentality behind hiring the dancers, which presupposes that the attendees are going to be men. I agree that they don’t intend to offend women; they don’t intend anything toward women. They don’t envision women being there. That’s the problem. It has nothing to do with being a prude or thinking lap-dancing is gross. To me, it has to do with “For whom is this event intended?”

    2. I do understand the general issue of being sensitive to cultural differences and things that may be standard in one place but not in another. But I don’t think this is a situation where something that’s affirmatively important in the culture is being interfered with. This isn’t “don’t wear your religious garb, because I think it’s weird.” I don’t think it’s anyone’s idea of a cultural expectation that business conferences must include lap dancers and it’s an affront to the local culture if they don’t. If this is a cultural difference, it seems like it would be more like “in Taiwan, it’s less likely that it would offend anyone.” I have no idea whether that’s true, but even if it is, that doesn’t mean you affirmatively have to do it or else you’re being disrespectful of the local culture.

    In the end, what’s the harm in just NOT having lap dancing at a business conference? Why not just … not have the lap dancers?

  112. My tip to all GEEK DADs:

    If you are American Do NOT travel to Taiwan with you daughters and do not travel from India, or a Muslim country, to USA for a tech event (as your kids would be shocked to see hamburgers and hot dogs served at the fair)… this way your daughters will keep growing as an happy geek and you will save a lot of money to be used for their education!!!

    And, while at home, please, not leave em alone in front of a PC, since they don’t need to travel to Taiwan to be exposed to pornography (lap dance is not) and perverted materials that would definitely shock em…
    just in case switch off your TV or they could watch News and discover that technology is used in WARs to kill people and so your daughters could be definitely turned away for their brilliant tech career!!

    For me, remembering as I was as a kid, it would have been more shocking to discover how Yahoo “turns over (mainland) Chinese dissidents for fun and profit” [benher] that two fully clothed girls moving in a strange way around a couple of stupid guys…

  113. It’s true, apparently, they hire strippers for funerals here as Nadrack points out, not that I knew until I called over to my Taiwanese wife and asked her if it really was the case. A wake here apparently constitutes a party where the deceased is regarded as rather more of an active participant in the proceedings than they might in the west, in spirit if not in body.

    It’s true we can be just as alarmingly naive about Asian cultures as they can about European or American history, which would explain why there’s a chain of Chairman Mao-themed restaurants in the British Isles ( – open one of these in Taiwan and you’d start a riot, let alone an international incident).

    Curiously enough my wife, who teaches English as a foreign language, currently teaches a class of technical staff and workers employed by a local branch of a Korean semi-conductor company, and indeed they’re all women. I’ve asked her to canvass their opinion of the Yahoo thing if she gets the chance.

    1. @GaryGibson: Now *that’s* an interesting input to the discussion: Actual experience and knowledge. Please follow up to this of you can :-)

  114. I think a lot of these “I don’t see how this is sex work” type comments are from people who don’t, y’know, actually know what a lap dance is.

    If you’ve never frequented strip clubs, or known any strippers socially and had one of them explain it to you, or (this century) bothered to look it up, I could see why this might not be obvious.

  115. lets let consenting adults and corporations decide

    Yes, a free agreement between equals!

    /sarcasm should be obvious

  116. corey – i have daughters too and empathize with your position – but repeatedly calling exotic dancers “sex workers” is a blatant misrepresentation to push your agenda. it’s also presumptuous and insulting to these dancers (whether they provide sex for money or not, because you don’t know) and any others who don’t. we all know that not all dancers are the mythical “wholesome doctoral student and mother of 3 just trying to pay the bills” – but calling them sex workers is misleading and careless, at best. it’s also hypocritical, because this is the type of unsubstantiated demonization that you and the boingers call out on politicians and dilettantes on a regular basis. and i applaud you for it.

  117. I knew a gal who put herself through college partly by doing the “exotic dancer” routine — not doctoral student, but social work. She described it as “an internship in the Combat Zone”, since a large part of the job was to be available to be chatted up by the clientelle and that gave her an excellent opportunity to practice her interviewing skills. I never watched her perform, but I’m willing to take her word for it that she was on a strict “look, don’t touch” policy.

    Even though lap dancing goes rather beyond the pale as far as I’m concerned, I’m tending to agree with Treeskier on this one. Workers in the sex industry, yes. But “sex workers” has connotations that may not be applicable.

    Sharp lines don’t work well when trying to describe human behavior.

  118. Who says “sex worker” is demonizing? Can we ask a couple of dancers as well as sex workers what they think about the title?

  119. Thanks for posting this, Cory! And I didn’t know you had a daughter — congrats!

    As for me, guess I’m not applying to Yahoo!…..

  120. “pabarge– no paranoia, no wallowing, just clear eyed realism. I came of age in America in the 1970s. By the time I was 12 I was being actively pursued by a friend of my Dad’s and on a couple of occasions had been offered rides by strangers while walking to school. To be fair my brother was more regularly propositioned by men. Small New England town. I would say this was fairly typical among my friends– several of whom had to fight off step fathers. That was in the good old days of Penthouse under the mattress and red light districts in big towns. I would say the game has shifted since then, and not in a direction that makes it easier for my daughters. At least when I was a kid, the cultural norms were on my side when I said ‘No thanks.’ to these advances. I am not doing my girls any favors by pretending that the world is full of gentle people and that all men are honorable.

    “Question. All you ‘lighten up types’ what, exactly am I supposed to say to my daughters– ‘No honey, just because those girls are lap-dancing with strangers and everyone here thinks its a big laugh doesn’t mean you have to do it! It’s all in good fun! If it makes you uncomfortable, maybe you should just LEAVE, obviously you are a little prude who doesn’t realize how much FUN it is to lap dance with strangers and get PAID for it. Don’t you feel empowered knowing that you too could pick up a few extra bucks this way? C’mon, you know boys only do things when there are semi-naked women around to make it interesting for them. But you shouldn’t feel self-conscious about it. They don’t want to see YOU naked. And even if they did, would that be so BAD? I mean you’re cute! Of COURSE they want to see you naked, that’s a COMPLIMENT! But, hey if you DON’T LIKE SEX that’s cool. You’re smart and can be anything you want– some day, if you study hard and go to the gym you can be a smokin’ hot doctor! The years of medical school will be an extra turn on for all those guys who want to see you naked!!’…”


    “@Cheqyr – “being subjected to live sexual performances at a business event” Then leave that session.”

    If your company is paying you to attend the conference and attend the session, you could be penalized and maybe even fired for leaving the session.

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