How does something like this happen?

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    after all the discussion we've had on the web this year about diversity and harassment, it's amazing that a quote like this can be used as a testimonial for a web conference... or anything for that matter.

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    1. Patrick Griffiths ages ago | reply

      I'm the one to blame for putting the quote in there. I'm really sorry to have caused offence - certainly not my intention, and I'm not entirely sure why it *is* so out of order.

      I think both the quote and the use of it (ok, well, definitely the use of it), is meant to be very lighthearted. It *is* a commonly used tongue-in-cheek phrase. It's not mysogynistic (I would, without doubt, have put up a quote along the lines of "@media is a lot like making love to a handsome man"). It's not demeaning, either - it's not saying "that's all a woman is good for" or "I only see women as sexual objects". Now that *would* be *very* wrong.

      But making love to a woman (or man) is a great thing, isn't it? It's not crude. In itself it's supposed to be a beautiful thing. No? It's the subject of a majority of modern pop songs. Are all of them bad?

      As for the humour, as has already been mentioned, I'd like to refer people to the the tradition of Monty Python. And it is a direct quote from the Fast Show.

      I'm not going to take it down just yet, but I will happily admit to being wrong and take it down if someone can explain why, in light of what I've just said, it is particularly damaging.

    2. LisaHerrod ages ago | reply

      Look I think the real problem here is that the quote is completely out of context on your site.

      I, for example, have never seen the show. I wonder if it was ever shown in the states?

      So I would never have got the joke. It's not a commonly used quote over here.

      And for the record, I agree making love is a great thing, but I'm sure making love to a beautiful woman is just like making love to John Cleese for some people...

    3. Adam Schilling ages ago | reply

      Its just not the kind of thing you expect from a professional conference. No matter the intention. There's just no context for that kind of comment.

      And, its easily the sort of thing that promotes a 'boys club' and may prevent some from feeling comfortable enough to attend.

    4. chezza g ages ago | reply

      Patrick - ok I haven't seen the show so maybe I am missing the joke so I read it out of context - as I imagine a lot of people will.

      yeah making love is a wonderful thing but not something I want to be thinking of in a professional context such as a conference. I really don't think I want to associate making love with the majority of people I meet at conferences - especially the geeky ones.

      I just think it's incredibly inappropriate and reflects badly on the conference, whether a joke or not.

    5. NathanaelBC ages ago | reply

      It gets a thumbs down from me ... not funny.

      You can't rely on everyone using at least 1024, you can't expect everyone to have JavaScript enabled ... and you can't have watching some TV series as a prerequisite for context for comments like that.

    6. dez ages ago | reply

      @Patrick - Nathanael makes a good point.

      Humour is both highly contextual and highly subjective. A thing is only funny if the reference is understood by the audience and if that reference is consistent with the shared value-set of that audience.*

      In the absence of these two factors such references can be elitist and may cause offence.

      I'm a big fan of the Fast Show. Quoting Swiss Toni is hilarious to those of us who know the reference. As such I can see the funny side, because I understand the character and context I don't find find the quote sexist.

      But in the context of the current issues of fair representation and sexisim occuring within the community, some sensibility and good judgement must exercised. Just going by this reaction I would say the "joke" has gone down like a lead balloon...and should be removed.

      * This is an abstraction for the purpose of articulating my point but I am not a cultural relativist. Just because a group or a society shares a particular value-set, does not make those values right nor does it make what passes for humour within that grouping, as a result of that value-set, acceptable.

    7. Maxine Sherrin ages ago | reply

      Um yeah, in the words of Le Tigre "I get it, I get it I get it"....... but, ah, most people just aren't going to. As with others, I've never heard of The Fast Show.

      I guess you just have to be really careful with this kind of thing. I saw that testimonial myself and just thought "wow, that is really retrograde". (because I didn't know it was a quote).

      It's funny, reflecting on this now, I can see it as a great example of how hard it is for us to really know and understand each other. Even with all this technology which would appear to enable us to communicate, we can all get it so wrong so quickly.

      Having said that, I can't help but point out that Patrick, you're on shaky ground. Either defend it as an obvious ironic reference to a widely known TV program or defend it as an acceptable thing to say that "isn't misogynistic" (sic) - not sure you can do both :) Why's it funny for Swiss Toni to say it on the show if it isn't?

    8. toolmantim ages ago | reply

      Patrick: I know @media's your baby, but surely you've another channel for this particular aspect of your personality and sense of humour? A channel where you could publish that quote verbatim, and the same people that find the quote offensive in this context could actually find it to be funny.

    9. adamcoop ages ago | reply

      Look, there are lots of bad things in the world.

      However, if you're getting upset over this, you really need to take a holiday and chill out.

    10. chezza g ages ago | reply

      Adam it's not a matter of "getting upset" about it, it's about calling what is appropriate or not in a professional environment.

      If you think it's ok for someone to associate a conference with having sex, great. Go for your life.

      I don't, and I wouldn't attend a conference that thinks it's funny (yes I am taking it out of context because I haven't seen the show). I don't like the idea of being in the minority as a female and thinking that everyone around me is thinking that being at the conference is like "making love to a beautiful woman".

      I just find it incredibly inappropriate.

      For the record, it's really patronising to assume that we're all getting our knickers in a knot and need a holiday because we find something inappropriate. I could go the other way and say you maybe need a wakeup call on how to treat women but that would be equally patronising.

    11. adamcoop ages ago | reply

      I understand that you may have found the comment inappropriate.
      However, in the grand scheme of things, is one attendee's apprasial really enough to stop you going? And If your decision to go to a conference can be so fickle, should @media be concerned about losing you as a potential customer?

      Look at at the @media site, and the conference they're trying to provide.
      This is not a summit on the plight of starving children, the mistreatment of the sun bear or the suspected Weapons of Mass Destruction hidden in Ray Martin's hairpiece. It's a conference about web design.
      It's meant to be informative, but at the same time, it is going to be light hearted. By allowing comments like the one your complaining about, @media is allowing some of that laid-back feeling to come through.

    12. floydwood ages ago | reply

      i don't find that comment offensive. it's not degrading to anyone, it's simply comparing a conference to something that, let's face it, is also a good thing. I guess i am in the minority on this.

      i haven't heard of the show that's been mentioned but i don't think a comment like that needs to be excused by referencing to a tv show.

      what has happened to make people such prudes? when did mentioning sex - with a beautiful women - become so taboo, do we really live in that kind of world? what exactly do you think is offensive or sexist about it?

      Is it because you feel threatened by what that guy thought was beautiful? that you may or may not be it? what if what he thought was beautiful was a women whose life shows through on how many lines her hands have, by the small scar on her face that tells of a childhood adventure - how is that not a beautiful thing to compare something else to.

      i guess i just don't understand why a comment like this can be considered as offensive, sexist and inappropriate.

    13. chezza g ages ago | reply

      Adam - yeah one appraisal probably will stop me going. It's not the point that someone said it, it's because @media chose to publish it, therefore my initial reaction is that the conference is going to be another white-boys club, with very few females, and the socialising is going to include a bunch of guys making lewd jokes and thinking they're hilarious.

      Ok that's probably wrong of me to make that assumption but I've been to too many conferences like that and so one published comment will put me off. It's not a matter of me being fickle, I just have better places to spend my money on than a conference where I would potentially feel uncomfortable by being a woman.

      And it's not that big in the grand scheme of things - sure, world hunger, George Bush as president, etc are all much scarier things but this IS something that I can have a voice about - in the same way that I'm one of the whingers that complain to the advertising board about shit ads on TV, I can voice that I think it's wrong. And it's a similar situation where people say "it's only an advertisement" or "it's only one comment on a conference, what does it matter"?

      Ahh I think we're just going to have to agree to disagree - and I do see where they were coming from in trying to be light-hearted, I just think that they did it the wrong way.

      I mean, would you feel differently about it if it was a quote from a woman that said "Attending the conference was like getting rammed by a big black man"?

      Do you see where I'm coming from?

    14. LisaHerrod ages ago | reply

      Cheryl, let's make it public...

      I love you

    15. adamcoop ages ago | reply

      Actually, if I read "Attending the conference was like getting rammed by a big black man" I'd probably laugh coffee out my nose and then assume that was just someone's metaphor for being a real eye opener (okay so that IS probably inappropriate).

      I get where you're coming from, though I think you underestimate what you have around you. You're here conversing with some of Australia's leading figures in the web industry - male AND female.
      Surely they're much more fun to socialise with than the boy's club at the bar?

    16. chezza g ages ago | reply

      Adam - I totally agree - everyone here is way more fun than the boys club... which is exactly why I initially wouldn't attend the conference based on that comment. But now we're going to get into a circular argument so I'm going to leave it at that. :)

    17. adamcoop ages ago | reply

      You know you could save yourself $1000s each year if you just went around to Lis' and Lach's place and talked about microformats and drank copious amounts of alcohol.

      Maxine - mind if I use the "Web Essentials" name?
      I think I've just figured out a venue...

    18. john f allsopp ages ago | reply


      just a disclaimer to start. Most people reading this probably know this, but, while I don't think we in any way compete with one another's conferences (and the existence of related conferences round the world I think helps all of them), I organize a conference that some would consdier as being in competition with @media. So, I am concerned that what I say does not come across as motivated by that. It doesn't. I've been pretty forthrightly on the record about this issue for a long time, and criticized people who are my friends about their position on this and related issues - which I think is a measure of a genuine friendship - the ability to frankly discuss things on which we don't agree. I also know Patrick well enough to know he is a pretty funny, droll guy, much like many poms, and enjoyed his company on more than one occasion. I don't for a moment think he is a nasty, derogatory person.

      OK, you'll find that pretty much all of the support for the use of the "joke" is along the lines of "I didn't find it offensive", and most of that is coming from men.

      There is a lot bound up in this.

      First up - Cheryl observes really well, it is about appropriateness, not offensiveness per se. Most of the peopel I know who commented on this in the negative (woman as well as men) can be ribald, offensive, and very funny. None of them are what I'd remotely called prudes. One of them used to do SEO for porn sites. So, this really is not about prudery, victorian values, political correctness.
      As Maxine I think cleverly observed, it's funny (and in the appropriate context in IS funny) *because* it is offensive.

      Sadly, high profile, successful, and increasingly ANY women in IT are becoming rarer. So when these women speak, I think it behoves us to listen. When smart, successful, far from prudish women say "I'd never ever go to a conference like that" - listen to them. Don't find reasons to criticize them. These women are telling us they find it makes them uncomfortable, that they feel it is inappropriate. The strength with which Cheryl put her analogy should demonstrate how uncomfortable. While you or I may not be offended, that is not the issue here - it's that other people are.

      But it is in some ways more serious than all this. I've had quite a bit to do with the laws relating to sexual discriminiation and harassment thorugh my role on boards of not for profits and the like.

      Here's a definition from Australia's Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission

      "Sexual harassment does not have to be direct or physical, it may include:
      suggestive comments or jokes


      [The behaviour] does not have to be directed specifically at you"

      Sorry to be a downer, but I am sure we'd all rather hear that in the current context, than from a lawyer we are brifing about an acton brought against us. In a workplace, repeated use of "humor" like this may well be a form of sexual harassment - if the people involved find it makes them feel uncomfortable.

      OK, I'll clam up now.

    19. LisaHerrod ages ago | reply

      LOL looks like everyone else has too.

      OK guys

      Thread closed...


    20. druasmith ages ago | reply

      Patrick Griffiths Pro User says:

      It's not mysogynistic. It's not demeaning, either - it's not saying "that's all a woman is good for" or "I only see women as sexual objects"

      yes it is

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