back to article Bye bye, booth babes. IT security catwalk RSA nixes sexy outfits

The organizers of this year's RSA security conference have made at least one thing clear to exhibitors: no booth babes. The industry shindig has sent out a new dress code banning scantily clad models, regardless of gender, from wandering the show floor. The rules dictate that exhibitors cannot wear shorts, tank tops and …

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Not worth going then

At all too many trade shows, the booth babes are the only things worth looking at. The collection of "me too" items, items that are well past their sell by date, horribly overpriced items and items that are not ready for production use makes many trade shows a boring waste of time.

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Re: Not worth going then

"At all too many trade shows, the booth babes are the only things worth looking at."

Thank you for demonstrating for us the primary reason this decision was the right one.

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Re: Not worth going then

Without wanting to come down on one side or the other of this argument - I don't go to trade shows so this doesn't mean much to me - I am not sure picking on the language really makes the point.

Have you really never said something like: "the only thing worth seeing at the circus is the trapeze artists"? Or that: "the only thing worth going to the event for is the keynote speaker"?

English has lots of words and often several words for the same thing, but there is no real word for "things and people" together. If there is, I'm happy to be corrected.

As I read it, the poster was trying to imply that all the actual things there are not worth looking at so only the 'booth babes' are.

If he said: "The booth babes are the only people worth looking at" that would imply that the other people are not worth looking at - which is not what he means - but would fail to convey the point that the THINGS there are not worth looking at - which is what he means.

When it comes to things like this, people jump on common phrases and idioms as supposed proof of some overt or underlying sexism. That's just not helpful - there is enough real sexism against and objectification of women in this world without manufacturing it out of a phrase that is common English and otherwise unobjectionable.

Of course, I would suggest that if none of the actual products or exhibits are of interest that one just not go.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not worth going then...to an A-Sexual event.

"Of course, I would suggest that if none of the actual products or exhibits are of interest that one just not go."

However, when you do have an interest in the exhibits, and the exhibits turn out to be crap, then the booth babes are still something to be remembered. Well, I guess not anymore, so everything might turn out to be crap.

The I.T. industry is turning cold, bland, and colorless like a convention for insurance agents. I'm not trying to be a complete asshole, but it seems like the people with money in I.T. aren't nerds, they're dorks (yeh, I used name calling rudely). The whole thing is turning into genericide.

I'm a straight male, but what I love about South Beach and other areas is that sexuality is so distorted and/or exotic that there is no way you're going to see someone force the tranny's out because it can be construed as disrespectful. And politico types can't hide behind "Well, the industry is Tranny's there, so..." because they are people who are enjoying themselves, and people are people, no matter the industry.

A fucking dress code for a computer convention...pfft. Great, should the employees bring their tailor along? Or should I next? Wait, the whole industry seems tailored already, nevermind.

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Re: Not worth going then...to an A-Sexual event.

Look, there is nothing wrong with having a perve. You are allowed to do it. Sure, the person you are looking at might not like it and might think you are a sleaze and avoid you, but that's the way it is.

Having a perve at the people around you, however, is different to employing people to stand around for the express purpose of being perved on, which is what the practice of hiring 'booth babes' amounts to. You (as the exhibitor) are using 'sex' to try and sell your product. Which, again, is allowed, generally, but it has it's place and RSA is simply saying that a conference about embedded system security, intrusion detection systems and mitigating the mobile malware threats that come with BYOD policies might not be the place.

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Headmaster

Re: Not worth going then @dan1980

You forgot something --------------------------------------------------------------------->

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Re: Not worth going then

I'm well aware that the use of the word 'things' was largely a figure of speech. However it was a particularly unfortunate figure of speech given the objectification inherent in the statement as a whole, hence my choice to highlight it.

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@ MYBACKDOOR Re: Not worth going then...to an A-Sexual event.

The I.T. industry is turning cold, bland, and colorless like a convention for insurance agents.

The wildest convention I ever saw (and I've seen a few over the years) was for funeral directors. I got stuck in Chicago for a weekend and the hotel had a convention of funeral directors. Not at all dull. It was jumping more than a frat house on a Friday night. And we shouldn't insult insurance agents as I've heard their conventions come in second after the funeral guys. I think IT is falling down below accountants as far as these kinds of events.

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Anonymous Coward
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Re: Not worth going then @dan1980

@Florida1920

Quite right.

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Re: Not worth going then

@fearnothing

Fair enough.

Perhaps a less accusatory way to have expressed that sentiment, then, would be to say that you understand that the poster did not really mean to infer that booth babes were 'things', however, the problem is that some people really do view women as objects and trussing them up in latex and trotting them out for inspection does not does not help matters.

Men have sex with women*. It is okay to look at a woman and think about sex. One could argue that this would be a normal evolutionary response because men and women having sex is rather central to the whole shebang. This is the reason that 'sex sells' - we are programmed to think about sex and programmed to want it.

In some ways, using 'booth babes' actually demeans men as much as women. I am bound to get downvoted by all the knee-jerkers but to use scantily clad women to sell a product to men is to say that you are trying to control men by leading them around by their genitals. You are treating men as that base evolutionary product.

I am not saying men are necessarily being objectified, but they are being demeaned by this; both sexes are. It's normal and natural to feel attraction but this should be a private thing between people - not used by some marketing bod to try and increase sales by 2%.

It is these people - the ones hiring the 'booth babes' - who are objectifying women: they are using them as a prop; treating them as little more than a glossy photo - a real life advertisement. They are being used as props. I would argue that the males attending the events objectify the women FAR less than the people who hire them.

But I have digressed. Rather a lot.

* - For convenience, I am focusing on the situation here, where an overwhelmingly (heterosexual) male audience is attending an event where there are female 'booth babes'.

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Yag
Trollface

Re: Not worth going then

Everything is things.

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Re: Not worth going then

Ideas and situations change, mostly for the better. We don't use terms like paki, nig-nog, wog or coon any more because they're nasty, racist and only serve to demean others based on skin colour and cause friction. Would you describe your female co-workers as babes and bitches? Not unless you want slap and handed a cardboard box by HR.

The world is changing Duncan my old son and having respect for everyone, whether they have a penis of a vagina, shows we are growing up and becoming better people. I suggest you leave your 1950's attitude to women at the door.

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Paris Hilton

Re: Not worth going then

"Everything is things."

Except when they are Objects. Where do Containers fit into this?

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Re: Not worth going then

@Amorous Cowherder.

"Ideas and situations change, mostly for the better. We don't use terms like paki, nig-nog, wog or coon any more because they're nasty, racist and only serve to demean others based on skin colour and cause friction."

Oh dear, not this old nonsense. Words are not racist, sexist or any other 'ist' you care of think of. They are completely neutral. It is the way they are used, context, body language etc. around their use that confers the 'ism' or not.

There was a very well known comedy on British TV in the 70s called Love Thy Neighbour. Nobody today would ever make it because of the language used. The black chap would refer to the white chap as 'chalky' (is this a racist word?) and the white chap would use all sorts of stereotypical words to describe the black chap..........nignog etc.etc. The funny thing about it was, they were actually best mates in the programme. Quite a lot of people didn't get it and the liberals at the time threw their toys out the pram as they simply went by the language and not all the other nuances around the language, which conveyed the real intent. The two guys would go down the put together and socialise together. The actors even spoke of this afterwards and explained everything.

So, words are not racist etc. at all. It is the way they are used. That is both the beauty and danger of the english language. You can use a sexist word like 'babe' to a woman if all the other signs are right (glint in the eye etc.), but get them wrong and you'll get a slap. The context can even change based on whether you know the person or not, or how well you know them. The only people who really believe words are racist, sexist etc. inherently, are those that simply don't properly understand human interaction and all its nuances and subtleties.

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Re: Not worth going then

And primitives. Not everyone is using a new fangled language that treats everything as an object.

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Re: Not worth going then

@ fearnothing

"At all too many trade shows, the booth babes are the only things worth looking at."

Thank you for demonstrating for us the primary reason this decision was the right one.

I want to weigh in on this because I am sick of assholes and feminazis (not the people who believe in equality which is something different) who have no real contribution but like to twist the English language to create offence. 'Thing' is a reference to 'something' which has been explained to you in previous posts, but the alternative is nothing reference to 'null, nada, zip'.

So as you may try to make offence of someones perfectly acceptable choice of words, I would point out that your comment is actually the offensive one to suggest he cannot use normal English language and that a woman, especially one dressed up to attract attention, is nothing.

You may dislike men looking at women, or women choosing a profession where they attract attention, but then I suggest you are the wrong species but I have no idea which one fills your desire, probably something asexual. And without the possibility of language.

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Unhappy

Re: Not worth going then...to an A-Sexual event.

@MyBackDoor. So right. IT is getting duller every year. Never go to the shows either, but ElReg had a few pleasing snaps to give an eyeful. Now the unforeseen consequences. I mean, those out of work hungry models, they will get even more ghastly skinny. Odd how the age of Victorian prudery is back but not from the conservative types this time.

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Re: Not worth going then

Obviously a Container is a Thing for another Thing (or an Object) - they are univerally compatible ...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not worth going then

Totally see your point.

However, I consider it important and incumbent on *everyone* to think about what they write and how it could be misconstrued.

Because there people out there that don't grok the difference you mentioned, and just take it as socially acceptable perpetuation of sexist / misogynistic standpoints. We all have a responsibility to make this not OK any more.

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Devil

Re: Not worth going then

Containers would be the building.

Actually, I'd say that we are objects. Each object has a series of properties and identity to distinguish it from other objects. It just happens that one such property is 'person'. Or perhaps 'human' but I'm not always sure about that...

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Re: Not worth going then

@AC

"However, I consider it important and incumbent on *everyone* to think about what they write and how it could be misconstrued."

I sort of agree, but you hit another problem with the english language. Any particular statement or sentence can be read so many different ways, it is almost impossible to say anything substantial without potentially offending someone. Yes, some things are very clearly and obviously offensive, again not because of the words, but the context of the whole piece etc. However, I've seen many people take offence at things that are actually quite neutral and certainly not meant in that way.

People highly sensitised one way or the other are the first to jump to the wrong conclusion, as they have a pre-conceived bias to do so. I used to work with a woman who if you held a door open for her would take great offence that you were doing it because she was a woman. Problem was, I'd hold a door open for anyone if they were following behind me. It's not about man/woman, it's about being polite in general. But, as she was a rampant feminist, she automatically assumed everyone was treating her differently as she was a woman. This made her a nightmare. She would take deep offence at the most minor of things.

A bloke moaning in the office on a Monday morning about having to wait around in shops whilst his wife spent hours trying on dresses would get a verbal tirade on being sexist etc.etc. She effectively had few friends and nobody would talk to her. She, of course, took this as sexism from IT men who hated her doing an IT job. It wasn't. It was her attitude and actions made it impossible to talk to her in any sensible way and she was just a nightmare co-worker, not for being a woman, but for instantly assuming everyone was trying to insult or undermine her.

If we're all to live in harmony, we need to get rid of these extreme ends of the spectrum and get more to the middle ground. In their own way, the liberals purporting to support all these anti-ism stances, are actually as bigoted as the people who they're trying to stop. Liberal is absolutely the worst word to describe them as they are anything but.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not worth going then

Isn't there an old phrase in sales circles:

"Tits sell bits"

?

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Headmaster

Re: Not worth going then @dan1980

At all too many trade shows, the booth babes are the only nouns worth looking at.
That should help.

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Re: Not worth going then

But are things everything?

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Re: Not worth going then

"And primitives. Not everyone is using a new fangled language that treats everything as an object."

And there you have it. A prime example of why booth babes should not be banned. We nerds generally already know about the tech even before arriving, and will soon enough have one of our very own. But these shows provide the only chance that we will ever have of getting anywhere near girls such as depicted in the photo.

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Re: Not worth going then

Terry Pratchett — 'Things that try to look like things often do look more like things than things.'

(Wyrd Sisters)

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Re: Not worth going then

Don't forget stuff.

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Re: Not worth going then

"They are being used as props. I would argue that the males attending the events objectify the women FAR less than the people who hire them."

this is exactly what i thought when the wording of the OP was attacked, they literally are things in this instance. moving cardboard essentially.

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Re: Not worth going then

"In some ways, using 'booth babes' actually demeans men as much as women."

Absolutely! As you noted it's not that men are objectified so much as that we are stereotyped as immature, grunting savages completely at the mercy of primal urges. Yes it's okay for a man to look at a woman and think of sex. And the people staring at them are less at fault than the people hiring them. But I'm not going to keep my mouth shut when someone implies it's okay to ogle and forget the negative effects.

As far as tact goes, a large part of the problem is that the culture of stereotyping men and demeaning women is built into our language habits. It's subtle, it's habitual, and kids learn it long before they see anything like porn or booth babes. If I get labelled a feminazi for trying to get people to be aware of this, then bring it on. Language shapes our thoughts and in many ways defines the thoughts we are capable of having. For that reason I'm not sorry for having addressed it in a way that looked like linguistic pedantry.

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Re: Not worth going then

Huh? English isn't your native language, right?

But neither is mine - yet I know perfectly find that he IS CORRECT when using "things" because he is referring the THINGS SHOWCASED there (vs people etc.) when she says the booth babes are the only reason to visit the show...

...or it is your native and you're just being ignorant/trolling when you try to spin something out of context (and miserably failing)?

Obvious troll is odious.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Levente Szileszky

Keep digging.

C.

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Re: Not worth going then...to an A-Sexual event.

"The I.T. industry is turning cold, bland, and colorless like a convention for insurance agents."

Depends what do you mean by IT industry... everything at SIGGRAPH was very interesting to me (but yes, I also went to the after parties in bars, of course.)

"I'm a straight male, but what I love about South Beach and other areas is that sexuality is so distorted and/or exotic that there is no way you're going to see someone force the tranny's out because it can be construed as disrespectful.

(...)

A fucking dress code for a computer convention...pfft. Great, should the employees bring their tailor along?"

Err, hate to break it to you but you are in the wrong profession or at least visiting the wrong events - you sound like a perfect fit to be in the audience of an adult entertainment expo or that annual porn Oscar show in Vegas (not sure what's the name)...

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Chattels

Now give me 100 upvotes because that is what this post really needs

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not worth going then

Um, in Melbourne (Australia), young Italian people often refer to each other as "wogs" with absolutely no racist intent.

In Perth, the other side of Australia, the older generation get really offended by the word.

So... it's definitely not a set in stone thing of "this word is offensive!".

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Anonymous Coward

About friggin' time.

Booth babes are frankly embarrassing.

I can't think of a bigger turn off at conferences than scantily clad meat draped around technology.

Call me a prude if you like, but technology should be able to sell itself.

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Re: About friggin' time.

@skeleband

Yes, they are. But they are also insulting. I kind of get them at car shows because - so far as I know (I'm not much of a 'car person') - they are usually reserved for the super cars and high-powered sports cars with fences around them. You wouldn't see them, for instance, draped over the latest Subaru Forrester with mum and dad trying out the seats.

In that way, they are part of the 'you wish', going-for-a-perv-at-something-I-can't-have fantasy, rather than the 'let's see if we should wait until the new model Focus comes out'.

At a tech conference - it's all the latter market: we're there to see the new technology because we are interested in it capabilities and whether it is suitable for us. Mostly, at least.

At something like E3, I can, again, understand it more because E3 is about entertainment and, for many males - especially younger males - looking at attractive younger women in revealing outfits is entertaining.

I don't necessarily approve of it and, again, I just don't go to these things so it doesn't really affect me much but I can understand it in those contexts, where people are throwing around words and catch-phrases like "thrills" and "excitement" and "ride of your life" and so on.

I do not, however, understand in the slightest, why this is happening at a conference where people go to hear speakers discuss the best ways to implement "risk management frameworks" and "strategies to enable local law enforcement personnel to collaborate more closely with international police organizations".

For the person, above, who jumped up and down about the use of the word "thing", my use of the word "it" in the preceding text refers to "the practice and institution of having 'booth babes' at conferences and trade shows"; I am not suggesting a 'booth babe' is an 'it'. So we can all calm down, okay?

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Re: About friggin' time.

This is a conference where American software companies sell you security products that both you and they know have been backdoored by the government.

The same government that wouldn't allow one of the inventors of RSA a visa to visit a previous conference because he had a suspiciously middle-eastern name.

Booth babes are sadly the least embarrasing thing about it

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Re: About friggin' time.

If they are anywhere near the beef from the photo - I agree with you.

However, there is a fine line here. I was at a conference recently and Ericsson technical sales team was sprouting at least 3 long legged ladies with legs which would have passed the catwalk test (not something I can say about the fat beef in the pic). At least one of them showed up in a fairly short skirt on some of the days too.

There is a distinction here: They were actual tech sales employees and they knew their stuff. They just happened to be pretty as well.

So what's next? In the name of political correctness ban hiring Scandinavian and Eastern Europeans? Make everyone wear a full body burkha? Mandate that every techie is fat and ugly too? Make stuffing your face with Pizza and Dr Pepper a mandatory employment condition?

Err... With all due respect I disagree with that. No f*** way...

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Re: About friggin' time.

I agree with you that the tech should sell itself, but I don't agree with a ban... Why should we have to cover up the human body? why can't they have employees wearing nothing if they want? the human body is natural no need to be ashamed because of a bit of cleavage!

I am not advocating booth babes, and unless they are in a costume for a game/movie/anime whatever product they are advertising, then I can't personally see the point in hiring models to stand around doing nothing in ugly clothes..

But if a company wants to waste money giving a model a job, why not?

think about the person out of a job because of a few prudish idiots.

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Meh

Re: About friggin' time.

oh I dunno Dan. Most hardware and software these days is far duller than the old old stuff. I mean, the last 3 iterations of M$ apps and OS have provoked scorn or loathing. Yet Win95 was exciting for those who led sheltered lives. Now its all dull, linux included. Nothing like the first time I fired up a real multu-user, multitasking OS on my PC at home.

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Re: About friggin' time.

@Voland's right hand said "So what's next?"

How about not referring to people as 'fat beef'?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: About friggin' time.

@dan1980

"You wouldn't see them, for instance, draped over the latest Subaru Forrester"

Funny you should say that. Last time I went to the motor show, there was a very bored looking babe draped over a Subaru Forester. She more or less coerced my wife into the car, locked the doors and spent an hour and a half talking incessantly to her about holidays and modelling and other girly things. I suspect she was starting to lose her sanity.

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Re: About friggin' time.

Here on the wrong side of the pond the Subaru Forester is the car of the "women in comfortable shoes" So perhaps having a booth babe who then locks your wife, rather than you, in is a deliberate part of their sexist marketing campaign,

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Anonymous Coward

Re: About friggin' time.

Referring to women as "meat" is I think quite offensive and disgusting. Just because they are there purely to give sex appeal to a product, doesn't mean you should demean the women who do that by suggesting that they are nothing but meat.

Its one thing to object to using sex to sell something, quite another to be so demeaning about women when you do so. Using their sex appeal does not say that that is all they are good for, it is usually the people objecting to it that imply there is nothing more to these women, it is the people objecting who objectify them the most. Looking at a woman and finding her attractive does not limit her to just being an attractive object, but people attacking them by saying they are nothing but sexual objects does reinforce the idea that attractive women are just sexual objects.

If you don't want them there because scantily clad women make you feel awkward and uncomfortable and don't think it is appropriate for the venue. Just say that, that is reasonable case to make. But using the objectification argument, just adds to the problem you claim to be against.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: About friggin' time.

> Referring to women as "meat" is I think quite offensive and disgusting. Just because they are there purely to give sex appeal to a product, doesn't mean you should demean the women who do that by suggesting that they are nothing but meat.

Both you and I know that the women are there to give the nerds a stiffy and to get the technology buyers aroused enough to make rash buying decisions. There's nothing distinctly stylish about booth babes.

And I make a distinction here. I'm not talking about attractive sales personnel. I'm talking about *very* short skirts, swimsuits and the like. It's objectification plain and simple.

I'm in to all that like the next man, but conferences and technology shows are not the right place for this sort of thing.

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FAIL

@Voland's Right Hand

I've read through most of the comments here and some I agree with and some I disagree with but whether they're pro or anti- the presence of "booth babes" I don't think any of them are as offensive or stupid as you calling someone in the picture "a fat beef". For one, whether people are in favour of their presence or not, pretty much everyone here regards the booth babes as people. Except you, apparently. They're hired to engage attention, be friendly and project some energy about their employer. That doesn't mean they're there for you to dehumanize or insult them.

I think any further responses from you on this topic should be accompanied by a recent photo of you in a skin-tight outfit of your own so we can all see your perfection.

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Re: About friggin' time.

"I can't think of a bigger turn off at conferences than scantily clad meat draped around technology."

Are you serious?? I have a computer at home. I don't have a booth-babe at home. Nuff said.

And, do you really perceive those ladies as "scantily clad meat"? Isn't that objectifying? They are persons, like you and me, who happen to be physically endowed with very good looks and who are paid to draw attention to the sponsor who hires them to do so. It does happen to work as intended, since that is just human nature.

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