With sexism as with so many other things, the situation only get worse when you don’t admit to screwing up right from the start. That was Matt Aimonetti’s real error. Sure, pepping up his presentation “CouchDB: perform like a pr0n star” with a little porn imagery at last month’s Golden Gate Ruby Conference was ill-conceived and problematic, but certainly not fatal. Women, especially women who work in technical fields have developed pretty thick skins when it comes to sexism. But when you’re doing backflips in order to NOT understand what was wrong with your presentation featuring women as if they were so many body parts rather than actual human beings, well, that’s a much bigger problem.
Most of us are weary of having this conversation. The Aimonetti’s of the world should get it by now–its not rocket science–using porn imagery in your professional presenation–sexist. We shouldn’t have to keep educating men about this stuff, but somehow we do and that’s incredibly depressing.
Aimonetti’s presentation literally shows ass. That’s what porn stars and most women are right? Pieces of ass? That’s certainly what a lot of women would take away from Aimonetti’s presentation. Imagine being one of the six women sitting in a room with hundreds of men watching this presentation like Liz Keogh was? Would it make you feel self-conscious? Would you feel like you belonged there? Would you feel like you were respected?
Several men and women did take the time to point out what should have been obvious to Aimonetti and his defenders. But Aimonetti, Ruby On Rails Founder DHH and many men in the Ruby on Rails community still don’t get it, so entranced by the “edgy” image of their community. Apparently, edgy also means sexist to them.
At the first Reno Ignite event, one of the presentations featured the image of a very tall man holding a very small woman off the ground by her throat. In other words, the crowd was treated to an image of a man choking a woman during a “funny” presentation. The funny thing is–choking isn’t funny. And a large man choking a tiny women is definitely not funny.
I remember “tweeting” this during this presentation: “Choking I could do without.” Somehow that wasn’t clear to someone else. Are we still here? Do we still have to tell men that showing sexualized images of women or images of men choking women during a conference/event is wrong? Apparenty, we do and that sucks.
When you present information in a way that trivializes women, whether you are objectifying them sexually or making light of violence, you are sending a clear message to the women watching you–you don’t take them seriously, you don’t respect them, and probably you don’t want them around. And if you don’t mean to communicate that, you better re-examine your message.
So back to Aimonetti–there’s still a way Aimonetti can fix this situation. To borrow a phrase from The Coup’s song called “ShoYoAss,” Aimonetti can show his ass. He was happy to show someone else’s ass, now its his turn. Like singer Boots Riley sings, it time to… “Act a fool, show yo’ ass/Let’s make it alright.”
It’s time for Aimonetti to let it all hang out this week at the O’Reilly Rails conference in Vegas this week where there will be a panel discussing women in the tech community. Apologize like you mean it, Matt. Admit you were wrong no matter how much it hurts your pride or your edgy image, and no matter how foolish it makes you feel. Show your ass and the Ruby on Rails women will get behind you. Be a man, “…act a fool, show yo’ ass/Let’s make it alright.”
Screen shot of Matt Aimonetti's presentation publicly available here.
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