Nonprofit, nonpartisan journalism. Supported by readers.

Donate

Community Voices features opinion pieces from a wide variety of authors and perspectives. (Submission Guidelines)

It’s not OK: How men enable rape culture at work

I saw a post in my feed recently showing two pictures of a tech expo. Both featured classic “booth babes.” The author captioned the post, “And we wonder why we have a hard time hiring women in tech. …”

Adam Best

Many who commented were women expressing similar incredulity. But one of the comments was from a man who said, “Well, we men are visual creatures.” I immediately replied, “Treating women as sex objects has nothing to do with our eyes. It has everything to do with our decisions.”

Some other men replied that, while they found it distasteful, it’s just something other companies do. Not them. Not their responsibility. Hands washed.

This post is intended for those men. You are wrong. This is your responsibility. This is your problem. Here’s why.

The message you’re sending

When you employ a booth babe, you need to think about the message you’re sending to your employees: “Sexy female bodies contribute more to our organization than smart female brains.”

Your employees will get the message. Your women will feel uncomfortable. Some of your men will, too. Other men will enjoy the license to openly lust at the workplace, because, hey, it’s all in good fun (see below). Do you see a positive outcome for your organization here? I don’t.

And some men have (innocently, I assume) suggested to me that we men need to protect women from this kind of — whoa. Ima stop ya right there. This is not a “knight in shining armor” moment. There is no “damsel in distress.” Women are not possessions you need to protect. They are your colleagues. They have every damned bit of skin in the game you do, and for the same reasons: their careers, compensation and livelihood. If they don’t, well … why the hell did you hire them?

Other comments from men shared a theme: What’s so bad about this? They (the models) are getting paid, right? Nobody’s forcing them to do this.

Where this path leads

To those men (and they were all men), let me show you where this path leads. 

So I like looking at pretty girls …

It’s just a joke …

Hey, take a freaking compliment …

Well, with those heels and that skirt …

Don’t tell me you don’t want it; you wouldn’t dress like that …

You liked it …

This is what we mean when we talk about “rape culture.”

One woman responded that women should just refuse to wear such outfits. I like the empowerment vibe there, truly. But it’s worth pointing out that in most companies that hire professional models to be their booth babes, the room in which that decision is made is populated almost entirely by men.

Established by men, enabled by men

Until we men start calling out other men on institutional sexism, women will be under pressure to just get along — “Don’t take it so seriously”; “What, are you on your period?” etc.

Rape culture was established by men, it is enabled by men, and men need to end it. Now.

Will you join me? Will you promise to call out sexism every time it occurs in the workplace? To not dismiss it as “boys being boys?”

Let’s stand shoulder-to-shoulder with women. #ItsNotOkay.

Adam Best has worked in digital marketing and sales for over 20 years, from startups to Fortune 100 companies. He’s attended — and staffed — more trade shows than he’d care to recount. He occasionally tweets @iSnob.

WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?

If you’re interested in joining the discussion, add your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a letter or a longer-form Community Voices commentary. (For more information about Community Voices, email Susan Albright at salbright@minnpost.com.)

You can also learn about all our free newsletter options.

Comments (66)

  1. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 10/31/2016 - 09:30 am.

    But this still bugs me…..

    I’m not going to argue for or against the points made here, but let me ask a question/raise and issue?

    Were the “booth babes” indentured servants? Were there guns trained at their heads? I’m going to guess that the answer is “no”. They freely and voluntarily chose to work in those assigned roles. Regardless of who decides to hire them, there’s only 1 gender that can fill the vacancy. And still, they do so. And to pretend that it’s not their free choice is acting like the ““knight in shining armor”….someone “you need to protect”…or maybe they’re just not as enlightened as you?

    There’s just a whole blanket of superiority and condescension in Mr. Best’s piece that’s just as troubling as the issue he raises.

    • Submitted by Brian Stricherz on 10/31/2016 - 09:58 am.

      Is it true that….

      ….. “there’s only 1 gender that can fill the vacancy”? If this is true, then you see the problem in a nutshell.

      • Submitted by Jackson Cage on 10/31/2016 - 10:08 am.

        What’s the “problem”?

        It’s only a problem if they’re being forced to fill the vacancy. Why is it men have such a problem with women (who are supposed to be their “colleagues”) freely and voluntarily choosing to participate as a “booth babe”? Or is it that you just know better than those poor little girls? It’s the whole notion that men have to change their behavior because women aren’t smart enough to get that they’re being exploited. I’d prefer to think that women have the same intellectual capability as men in deciding whether to take an opportunity or not.

        • Submitted by Brian Stricherz on 10/31/2016 - 10:56 am.

          Is it not a problem….

          …. that these hiring decisions are made by one gender and they choose to hire from one gender? This arrangement seems a relic or should become one.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/31/2016 - 12:32 pm.

          The problem is that there is this kind of vacancy. That is to say, the problem is that there are companies hiring “booth babes.”

        • Submitted by Pat Berg on 10/31/2016 - 12:54 pm.

          You need to read . . . .

          You need to read the information in the embedded link that explains what is meant by “booth babe”:

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Promotional_model

          These are NOT simply female colleagues who are regular employees who also happen to be covering shifts working at a trade show booth.

          No, these are outside hires – female models – hired to stand around looking “sexy” so as to draw attention (and hopefully traffic) into the the booth.

          Again – NOT colleagues as you have stated.

          • Submitted by Jackson Cage on 10/31/2016 - 02:36 pm.

            Maybe not “colleagues” to you.

            But I treat them as thinking adults despite what they choose to do for living. That they are my intellectual equals who are smart enough to decide how to make a living. Again – not BIMBOS as you seem to imply.

            My jaw drops open at the chauvinism in each of these comments. Do men decide to offer these “booth babe” positions? Maybe, but that’s not to say women can’t or aren’t having a say in that decision. And certainly no one is forcing women to be “booth babes”. I can’t figure out why Mr. Best didn’t say Men shouldn’t offer these jobs and Women shouldn’t take them. Maybe Mr. Best thinks one gender isn’t smart enough to make those decisions?

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 10/31/2016 - 04:02 pm.

              “Do men decide to offer these “booth babe” positions?”

              Yes. That is the whole point–“booth babes” should not be a thing. Full stop.

              I can’t help but think that the “booth babes,” for all their flirtatious smiles and jovial banter with show attendees, are privately despising the corporate lechers ogling them.

            • Submitted by Pat Berg on 10/31/2016 - 04:51 pm.

              I “implied” nothing

              So you can drop that line of accusation right there.

              My “colleagues” are the people I work with on a day-to-day basis to get the day-to-day work done. I’m pretty sure most people would share that definition. A definition which doesn’t really fit a temporary hire brought in to do something which is most definitely not part of the “day-to-day” routine.

              Would you care to comment on why a “booth babe” position should even be necessary at trade shows in this day and age?

              • Submitted by jody rooney on 11/02/2016 - 12:20 pm.

                As they say Right on Pat

                That you need sexy babes to attract people to your booth or product means that you are primarily selling to men – let’s not get started on the validity of that assumption; and that your product is not good enough to be sold on it’s own merits. It also probably means you lack enough imagination to do a good marketing display which also means your product and management and possibly customer service is hopelessly lost in some past time warp.

                Nothing says incompetent dinosaurs like a booth babe.

  2. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 10/31/2016 - 04:43 pm.

    Let’s see: Who is doing the looking at these “booth babes”? Men. Which assumes that all the “colleagues” at the trade show are . . . men. Not any female colleagues who wouldn’t be interested in ogling female bodies at a trade show booth. This whole process excludes women from the really lucrative jobs involved: the ones held by the men who ogle “booth babes” as they slide from booth to booth ostensibly checking out trade innovations, etc.

    The fact that no men take these “booth babe” jobs means not only that the jobs don’t pay well and have nothing to do with the industry involved. Men get really, really uneasy being reduced to the objects of female gazes as just bodies. No brains. Just bodies.

    Think about that a minute: You’re **nothing more** than an attractive body. (So don’t even imagine asking for a job with this company or corporation.)

    Adam, your nice reflections here got to at least one of your targets!

    • Submitted by Adam Best on 10/31/2016 - 07:46 pm.

      Thank you!

      When I evaluate a potential business opportunity, I am not interested in how “sexy” the person presenting the value prop is. I care about the value of the product.
      If a company cannot convince my higher brain that there is value to be had, I don’t care about their appeals to my brain stem.
      I don’t make $100K decisions based on my amygdala. And I don’t associate with anyone who would.

    • Submitted by Mike martin on 11/01/2016 - 01:57 am.

      Who attends trade shows

      Constance you seem to be implying that the only women at trade shows are “booth babes”. At all the trade shows I have been at, there have many women who are not “booth babes” attending both going from booth to booth and staffing booths as a part of their regular corporate jobs to sell their companies products or services.

      My impression (& I have not studied this or seen a study) is that “booth babes” are more common at retail type trade shows like that Auto Shows than trade shows that are strictly industry specific.

      The “booth babes” either have to have some product knowledge, with means they have some smarts to be of any real value to the company sponsoring the booth. How many companies can afford to have a “booth babe” to just hand out trinkets and collect business cards for raffles at a trade show?

      • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 11/01/2016 - 08:56 am.

        Not really

        I think you missed what Constance was saying. I believe that she was pointing out that the hiring of booth babes not only fixes the idea that women are simply objects in the sorts of trade shows they are hired for, but assumes that the only targets of the potential sales made as a result of hiring booth babes are men, not women. In other words, booth babes exist because there are certain people that decided that:
        1. There are no women in attendance other than booth babes (at least none worth appealing to)
        2. Men are too primitive to think beyond the booth babe
        3. Men are excused if they view women as mere objects (after all, if it was a bad thing, then why would anyone make so many objects available to look at?)
        4. It is ok to fill a job that should have a knowledgeable person in it with someone whose entire purpose is to “look hot” (no matter the gender)

        It’s clear that many people, including yourself, think it’s ok because booth babes are only used for certain trade shows that are “industry specific.” Like auto shows… Are you agreeing that only men are interested in cars and purchasing cars? Do women have no interest in cars, or use cars? What about the booth babes that are used in other “industry specific” shows, like tech shows? Do women not participate in the use and development of technology? Are they not allowed to be interested in cell phones and video games and programming? Or are you suggesting that these “industry specific” trade shows are not really about the trade, but rather a way to maintain male domination in such industries by making women unwelcome, uncomfortable, and unimportant (except as eye candy)? Because that’s exactly the mindset that the author of this article, and many others, are protesting.

        A solution, then, is not only to point out that the use of booth babes is a sexist thing to do–one that degrades both women and men–but to boycott booths that do not use regular employees of the company. Organizers of these trade shows should require an indication as to whether those that staff the booths will be entirely full-time, regular employees of the company, and that information should be available to attendees. While that might not stop companies from hiring people entirely for their sex appeal, it might make it expensive to have to keep models hired full time simply to look good a few times a year at a show.

  3. Submitted by Russell Booth on 10/31/2016 - 04:49 pm.

    Show me your…specs

    I wonder if tech companies ever try to sell gadgets to men who can be swayed by factors other than product specifications?

    No. There could not be people who make decisions by methods that are not completely rational.

    • Submitted by Adam Best on 10/31/2016 - 07:52 pm.

      Thank you.

      Businesspersons do not make purchasing decisions based on sexual attraction. At least, not at the level that matters for B2B commerce.

      • Submitted by jody rooney on 11/02/2016 - 12:22 pm.

        But a lot don’t necessarily make decisions on rational criteria.

        IF they did salesman wouldn’t be so personable.

      • Submitted by Russell Booth on 11/02/2016 - 04:28 pm.

        But do you value making sales?

        Traditional economics assumed that consumers always have all available information, understand it all and always act rationally upon that information. One day a pimply-faced kid fresh out of high school asked his economics professor, “But what if they don’t?” and a new field was born – behavioral economics.

        If I was staffing the booth at my company’s trade show and had bowls of candy and maybe some cheap flashlights with the company logo available to prospective customers, I would be concerned about a competitor who had bimbos in scanty dress “manning” their booth. (I am not young, female or exceptionally attractive.)

        If you are in competition and can get an edge you should probably take the edge.

        I made up the part about the pimply-faced kid. Economics academics got tired of being called stupid because their predictions were not coming true and decided to look at how the real world actually works. Turns out, men like to look at women. Stuff happens inside of their brains when they do. It can lead to sales.

        I also oppose rape culture. This is not a very good example of it.

  4. Submitted by Jackson Cage on 11/01/2016 - 07:50 am.

    This is becoming hilarious

    Pat wants to have her own definition of “colleague”, despite what the dictionary says…”a person with whom one works, especially in a profession or business”. If I’m a guy working in the both talking to customers, the Booth Babe is my colleague. But it seems Pat thinks less of her because of her job.

    R.B. has just decided for an entire gender that (a) Booth Babes shouldn’t exist and (b) he somehow, secretly knows that they really don’t want those jobs. If only women were smart enough to know what R.B. knows.

    And Constance is apparently oblivious to the fact that casinos regularly pack their showroom with male dancers.

    Look, I’m not making a case for or against, This is classic Supply and Demand. I’m simply the only one here giving women credit for having the brains to decide what they want to do about the Supply side.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 11/01/2016 - 09:12 am.

      Colleagues

      A model hired for the sole purpose of looking pretty at a show is not a colleague. At best, it’s a temp hire–you know, the person who will likely never be full time because they are either not qualified or not needed for more than a certain temporary task.

      R.B. isn’t out of bounds at all. While it may or may not be the case that booth babes feel resentment for being nothing more than eye candy (I can’t speak for anyone but myself), there are plenty of women who DO resent being treated as nothing more than eye candy. At least some women (probably a lot more than some–but again, I can only speak from experience), ARE smart enough to know what R.B. knows. Or, maybe he knows because he’s had meaningful conversations with women smart enough to know.

      Constance wasn’t talking about casinos, which are not trade shows. Presumably, a trade show is all about a particular trade (one might believe that it’s about a group of related professions, products, and services), while a casino is, pretty much by definition (since you seem interested in meanings) all about entertainment. While there might be professions, products and services available at a casino, the assumption is still that it’s about entertainment. There tend to be both pretty males and females there…for entertainment. It might be expected that purchases and business decisions made at a trade show are related to a logical combination of factors, like price, quality, and customer service. While, at a casino, no one expects that anyone makes a logical decision, because if they did, casinos would be failing propositions. I know of only one person who can bankrupt a casino–perhaps he believes that casinos are where business-type decisions are made? I have a hard time believing that you actually are equating casinos with trade shows.

      By the way, Supply and Demand are not groundwork for social improvement. After all, there was a pretty good Supply/Demand case for keeping slavery in at least some areas of this country. And yet, it was still wrong.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/01/2016 - 10:04 am.

      Give Me a Break

      “R.B. has just decided for an entire gender that (a) Booth Babes shouldn’t exist . . .” Actually, I was opining, not deciding. Rape culture is an affront to the dignity of all humans–it has nothing to do with gender.

      ‘[A]nd (b) he somehow, secretly knows that they really don’t want those jobs. If only women were smart enough to know what R.B. knows.” Because I think that many of them despise the men ogling them at trade shows? If you think that doesn’t happen, you are flattering yourself.

      I’m sure many “booth babes” want the job. Most of them probably see it as an entry to something better. The “supply side” is not the issue here (although that term does make “booth babes” sound like they are regarded as commodities). The issue is the demand side–puerile men who feel the need to flaunt someone else’s sexuality in order to attract business.

  5. Submitted by Brian Krause on 11/01/2016 - 10:29 am.

    Good points, bad writing

    I take no issue with the issues raised in this post. Institutional sexism exists and thrives in many so-called “professional” workplaces. It needs to be addressed with policy at the workplace level as well as at the level of the individual men.

    Nonetheless, the use of the slippery slope fallacy in this article (“To those men (and they were all men), let me show you where this path leads…”) is pure laziness. While Mr. Best may not realize it, it weakens his argument. His assertion is, undeniably, false.

  6. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 11/01/2016 - 10:31 am.

    Separate, but Related

    We have a couple of separate but related issues here, both having to do with respect for women and it’s greater effects. The comments mostly address the use of booth babes & the wisdom (or lack there of) of that practice. Adam Best was mostly addressing the effect of booth babes on the women who work for the companies that use them (and I employ the word “use” on purpose).

    Rape culture is a continuum. On one end is a man who would never dream of hitting his wife but tells a joke about a man abusing his wife or girl friend. On the far other end is a man who actually hits and ultimately kills his wife or girl friend, or another woman. It’s all one package. let’s not fool ourselves any more.

    Over the last 30 or 40 years, women have done much of raise our awareness of the issue of violence against women. They’ve done tremendous work, and we all owe much to them. And not at all to denigrate their past work or contributions they will make in the future, but it has become clear to me that it is now up to us men to do our part. It is time to speak up and to act. Jokes about violence about women should be met with a cold stare, or “That’s not at all funny,” or perhaps “Is that OK if it’s done to your sister, mom, or grand ma?”

    Men need to intervene, when they see a potential predator trying to isolate a woman at a college party. They need to, as I have done, ask college admissions counselors, “What is the athletic department doing to eliminate rape culture?” (I was asked if my daughter was an athlete; I replied no, I’m tired of seeing headlines about women killed by their romantic partners.) Men need to speak up when they hear, “She was asking for it.”

  7. Submitted by Jim Million on 11/01/2016 - 10:37 am.

    So…

    What’s the concensus here regarding fashion models who traditionally have been selected on the bases of weight, height, appearance (including the coat hanger look)?

    Wondering now if Iman suffered “Booth Babe Syndrome,” requiring prolonged identity therapy.

    Read more here: http://www.biography.com/people/iman-9542466#more-than-a-model

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 11/01/2016 - 01:41 pm.

      Iman

      What an incredible person Iman is. Interestingly, Iman could have been the ultimate booth babe–brains and beauty all in one, not some one-time, temporary hire to pose. But, she chose to be an educated person, then learned how to be a model, then built her good fortune into a gateway to helping others in many different ways. It’s curious that Iman herself suggested that she seemed the least centered when she was the most objectified. She left modeling for a reason.

      As for fashion models in general, well, that world is changing, too. There are some countries that put limits on how emaciated a woman can be and be a model. Retailers who are interested in selling real things to real people have also changed their standards as to what a model should look like. While all of this still places an emphasis on image, it at least focuses more on placing models more in the realm of being a human rather than an object.

      • Submitted by Jim Million on 11/02/2016 - 02:31 pm.

        Does the scissor cut both ways?

        Hi, Rachel. Hope you enjoyed the Iman bio. She may have set the exception to some rule, but many others have come off the runway to great personal and business success since then.

        Here’s a slightly oblique angle: What about those really good looking guys, you know, the half-shaven ones seen on magazine covers in beutifully cut tux and open-collared dress shirt? Why are we not also discussing them? What might we call them…Booth Buddies, maybe?

        • Submitted by Pat Berg on 11/02/2016 - 03:50 pm.

          That depends

          Are they being hired to stand – half dressed – at the entrances to booths at trade shows?

        • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 11/02/2016 - 04:18 pm.

          Time and place

          I’m not saying that there isn’t a time and place for beautiful people for the mere sake of beauty. But more consideration should be given as to how they are portrayed. Personally, I find images of men that are purely objectified distasteful. Tux and dress shirt type images suggest success beyond beauty, so I find them more enjoyable than the fully nude or half nude hulk with nothing but a pose. Still, all of that is about entertainment, not substance. When you use booth babes, you not only single out women as objects who have nothing to offer the trade, and thereby minimize the status of women as being able to contribute to the trade, you also signal that only men are your preferred customer, and thereby indicate that women have no purchasing power. None of this may be objectively true, but it is the aura that it portrays. And that’s just half of it. On the other side, it emboldens men to treat women poorly. No, it does not MAKE them rapists, but it does reinforce a culture in which it is ok to downplay the identity of women as people–and if women aren’t people, it’s easy to use and abuse them in many different ways. In a different environment, these men might get social cues to indicate that such behavior is NOT ok. While there are people who are born predators, most of them are actually made from their environment. If you want a good example of how behavior can be negatively directed in the absence of corrective social cues, spend some time on unmoderated forums. You will find a much higher percentage of sociopaths and narcissists than you would expect in the meat space–maybe because they just seem more numerous, or possibly because there are very few consequences to their noxious behavior. That is, their behavior is worse the more they can get away with it. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886914000324
          Same with rape culture.

          • Submitted by Jim Million on 11/03/2016 - 09:37 am.

            Good Thought and Information for me…

            While aware of many aspects of gender/role/etc. perceptions over the past nearly 50 years of adulthood, I am both surprised and somewhat intrigued some fundamental issues seem to persist, given public attention to them. As one who probably knows just a bit too much about American marketing faults, I’ve become a little bit more cynical (I guess) regarding various causes of the time, so to speak. I know much has improved in the workplace, and much seems to have not, at least in terms of perceptions. My daughter and I recently had a discussion regarding some of this, including female/female power issues in bureaucratic organizations.

            Forgive me if I seem just slightly suspicious of “campaigns” (I guess) that seem to chop and dice old hash, as it were, hash which I thought to be closer to being settled. Guess not. When I suddenly am confronted with an aggressive position regarding a topic of apparent closeting, I naturally focus and pick around the edges of the argument a bit before digging into the core. “Rape Culture,” at least in vocational use, catches me wondering if this is truly an overtly pervasive issue or more another of many “popular revivals.” In communication theory, we speak of “emotion-laden terms,” and their use and abuse. I cannot think right now of one more violent than “rape,” so I naturally first react as subject of some advertising “push” campaign.

            Honest question to one with very good answers: When did “rape culture” become topic of the moment, if it has? The term seems terribly hostile and divisive, rather than socially descriptive. I do keep up through various sources; however, my ignorance here makes me wonder just how pervasive and legitimate this concept (campaign) is. Have any insight for a guy who naturally wonders about the breadth/depth of this argument, and a few others? Thanks.

            [I do have a pretty old car show encounter to share regarding practical facts of at least one “booth babe.”]

            • Submitted by John Appelen on 11/03/2016 - 10:24 am.

              Appears

              To me it appears another marketing ploy to appeal to, or create a base… Reminds me of Trump when he mis-uses words on purpose to draw attention to him or his cause… Apparently “Misogynistic Culture” did not have the same response in the focus group assessments as “Rape Culture”.

            • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 11/03/2016 - 01:45 pm.

              Rape culture

              The term has been around for a bit longer than Trump has been running for office. I’m not sure when it first appeared, but it was around the same time that a woman (don’t remember her name) started recording her interactions with men on the street. I didn’t appreciate her approach–she was publicly shaming men in a particularly confrontational way.

              However, I did appreciate that it showed what women deal with on a day to day basis. If you are a woman and you are in a place where you are not connected with a man, yet are surrounded by men (strangers, generally), you will face some level of harassment. Some of it can be chalked up to instinct-driven attraction. Some…not so much. If a woman walks in downtown Minneapolis at 8 pm by herself, she may be subjected to anything from a relatively harmless pick up line (I’ve been openly asked if I would consider “being with” some random stranger) to nasty names to truly terrifyingly predatory stares and being followed.

              If the same woman is with a man, she is unlikely to encounter any of these things.

              As a result, most men who would never behave in this way will never notice that a woman they care about is being treated like an object. After all, they would never treat a woman that way, and they’ve never noticed her being treated that way. Sadly, they’ve probably been witness to such behavior, but it didn’t register. After all, these things don’t happen in the absence of other people. They are typically surrounded by other people when it happens. Yet, it’s very rare that such behavior is publicly denounced. Because it doesn’t register.

              As to the terminology being used, yes, you’re right. “misogynistic culture” is not terribly catchy.I don’t typically like emotion-based language because it rarely captures the real issue (“death tax” anyone?). However, in this case, the emotional language seems necessary. In this case, “misogyny” doesn’t really capture the issue.

              Rape is an act of dominance/power/violence via the use of sexual contact. Misogyny can have various forms, from simple patronizing behavior to overt assertion of power and violence. But, even exposure of the most benign form of misogyny can empower others to take their misogynistic tendencies up a notch. If the line in the sand starts in a morally questionable place right off the bat, toeing over the line (to rape, for example) is less offensive than if the line doesn’t allow for misogyny as an acceptable behavior at all.

              Have you heard of Brock Turner? Do you think that his daddy’s view of women (referring to the rape as “20 minutes of action”) didn’t have an effect on his behavior? Daddy may have been a boor, but surely he never raped anyone (in front of his son), so why did Brock cross that line? Probably because women are merely objects to him, which, given his parenting, doesn’t seem terribly surprising. Worse, the judge gave the public the message that rape just isn’t that bad. Brock served 3 months of a 6 month prison sentence, while stealing someone else’s mail can get you 5 years. Brock might not rape anyone again (or get caught), but 3 months for a violent act on another human being? La dee da!

              Personally, I think the term “rape culture” is meant to be divisive and offensive. Being nice about the situation hasn’t solved the problem. Yes, we are generally beyond women legally being classified as property, but we are not beyond women paying the consequences of a pervasive, low-level hostility. Those consequences aren’t always obvious, but they do cultivate an environment which empowers rapists. The term “rape culture” is intended to notify people that, if they aren’t actively pushing back against the hostility toward women, they are passively, if not actively, participating in it.

              • Submitted by Jim Million on 11/03/2016 - 06:24 pm.

                Typically Coherent Here, Rachel

                Thanks for this concise review. I must personally object to the final line, however. Were that indeed true, the term would need to be more universally accepted than it appears to now be. I’m no cloistered dope, and it’s new to me. Perhaps generational to some extent? It seems “degradation” is now far too light for purposes.

                “Misogyny” customarily relates to “hatred;” whereas “fear” might be more clinically accurate. In any case, this issue seems more Freudian than Skinnerian. Skinner focuses on “reinforcers” of behavior, which in this case would be various threats perceived by the perpetrator?

                “Rape Culture” seems just too hyperbolic and encompassing a term, at least to me. Not at all wishing to be pedantic here, but does this issue rise in pervasiveness beyond what we normally consider “sub-culture.”? Maybe I’m just being a bit defensive, myself, in believing this is a group to which I do not belong. Don’t know. I’ve certainly lived through some other cycles of “all men think that,” or “all men do it.” Some of us are trainable, or at least once were. Thanks for your detailed thoughts, Rachel.

                • Submitted by Janyce Hansen on 02/12/2018 - 05:33 am.

                  DOB of the term “Rape Culture”

                  To answer your question regarding the term rape culture, it originated when feminists released the film “Rape Culture” in January of 1975 to raise awareness of the normalization of sexual violence in society. This documentary was the first to establish the relationship between rape and our culture’s sexual fantasies by examining popular culture and media.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 11/01/2016 - 02:48 pm.

      Economics

      Some time back, while watching a TV show that centers around the fashion industry, I heard an explanation for the reason models are the way they are, and the explanation actually was centered more around economics and pragmatism than it was around appearance.

      Keep in mind that a designer has many, many outfits to present at a fashion show (the main marketing tool for high end fashion). The models get dressed, parade their look down the runway, then come backstage and – sometimes in no more than a couple minutes or so – have to remove one outfit and replace it with another and be ready to walk the runway right away again. So in terms of logistics, the need for “interchangeability” among models has a lot to do with production and time management.

      Furthermore, it is far simpler to design for one body “type” than it is to take into consideration all the nuances and fit issues that come into play when you start to design for wider hips or shorter legs or rounder tops and so on and so on. And yes – as Rachel points out – that is in the process of changing.

      But right, wrong, or in between, I can see where the industry benefited for a long time from settling on one standardized “body type” that all the models were expected to conform to. The problems, of course, arose when so many other women started to feel that they were expected to conform to this “body type” as well – no matter how unrealistic that may have been.

      By the way, all of this wanders FAR afield of a discussion over the appropriateness of continuing to utilize “booth babes” at trade shows in this day and age.

      • Submitted by Jim Million on 11/05/2016 - 06:15 pm.

        Well noted here

        Sometimes these outfits truly are completed just prior to runway time. I knew a buyer who regularly attended the New York seasonal shows. I believe you will find in research that few women did fit these body types, forcing many boutiques to persuade them otherwise or alter the outfits to fit. I believe designers know this is typical fate, but a sale is a sale…especially out here in the provinces.

  8. Submitted by John Appelen on 11/01/2016 - 11:00 am.

    A Beautiful Flower

    Sometimes a beautiful flower is just a beautiful flower.

    There are thousands of booths all trying to stand out. They all try to attract a potential customer to stop and enter into a discussion. Many techniques are used to do so…

    Flashy stand, Entertainment, Free stuff, Newest product, Attractive people, etc.

    I mean do you think that Tech Firms should also stop using attractive people in their TV and Internet ads? Give me a break…

    Besides what would all the models in the world do if we “robots” stop noticing them… 🙂

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 11/01/2016 - 01:56 pm.

      Flowers

      A beautiful flower, used as a prop, is nothing more than a dying womb with attractive parts. It’s both appropriate and illustrative that a woman used as a beautiful prop should be likened to a beautiful flower…

      Beautiful people are great for ads, where they need nothing more than to read their lines. But, at a trade show, it’s not too much to ask that the people doing the advertising actually be knowledgeable. That’s not to say that beautiful people can’t be smart–I know tons of people who fit both descriptions. But being beautiful shouldn’t be the basis for being hired for a booth at a trade show. Casino, fine. TV show, fine. Fashion magazine, fine. Trade show…nope.

      As a consumer and participant of lots of things that aren’t typically in the “female realm”, I expect someone knowledgeable at a trade show. Otherwise, I’d just plop my rear in front of the TV to watch some commercials where the smoke can be blown where the sun don’t shine without having to go anywhere.

      I once went to a car dealership where the salesperson that “helped” me was clearly hired to be blonde hair on a pair of heels. I was so disgusted that they didn’t hire someone competent and female. Couldn’t answer a single question, while all of the male salescritters seemed to have at least a basic knowledge of the brand and car models. Fortunately, their service department has made better choices. They have a great female technician that I interact with about every other time I get my oil changed. By the way, I had purchased my current car before the sales babe showed me another car, so her presence did not influence my purchase whatsoever. My fiance had an even more negative reaction than I did to her, by the way. So, yeah… I’ll also note that we left a car dealership while I was shopping and never came back because one of the salesmen made a racist comment. I don’t care what kind of deal I could have gotten.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 11/01/2016 - 03:12 pm.

        Target Market

        It seems you are not in the target market that they are aiming for… Maybe they want young foolish men who are happy for any excuse to work with and talk to an attractive sales woman… (or old foolish men) Thankfully I need little from car sales people except the capacity to give me keys and spend time with me while I test drive. A beautiful flower is just as well suited for this as anyone.

        As for at trade shows, I used to work at a big company who maintained a stage Conexpo and had performers to draw in the customers. No one expected the cast of Stomp to answer questions about construction equipment. They were simply the shiny lure to draw the unsuspecting fish into the net.

  9. Submitted by mstruwve Struwve on 11/01/2016 - 03:17 pm.

    Naugahyde whore/booth baby

    I once worked for a large shipping company. I noticed that they were hiring young gals that didn’t know anything about the company for trade shows. So I went in to talk to my manager, Mr. R., about why they were hiring these gals when there were a lot of folks in the call center who’d love extra hours and had years of knowledge about the company.

    He told me ” we have a certain look we want” which was young, with big breasts. Really?! “Well,” he replied “Wouldn’t you buy a nice looking car than an ugly car?” I was so upset I walked out. Later that manager told my co-workers that I had called all the booth babes “naugahyde whores!” I didn’t even know what the word meant until I looked it up in the dictionary.

    I can only hope this Mr. R. gets his just reward. He was already balding at a young age and had a beer gut; after all doesn’t everyone want to work for a good-looking jerk as their manager?!

  10. Submitted by John Appelen on 11/01/2016 - 04:44 pm.

    A Question

    Now doesn’t anyone else find the following to be the strangest assumptive flowchart… The idea that somehow rapists are created because women wear sexy clothing in public? Or in front of a booth?

    Will he next be saying that women should be dressing more prudishly because to do otherwise is to enable the rape culture? What am I missing?

    “To those men (and they were all men), let me show you where this path leads.

    So I like looking at pretty girls …
    It’s just a joke …
    Hey, take a freaking compliment …
    Well, with those heels and that skirt …
    Don’t tell me you don’t want it; you wouldn’t dress like that …
    You liked it …

    This is what we mean when we talk about “rape culture.”

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/01/2016 - 05:37 pm.

      Cause and Effect

      The rape culture is what decides that it’s a good marketing idea to have the “booth babes” appear.

      “Will he next be saying that women should be dressing more prudishly because to do otherwise is to enable the rape culture?” The rape culture should just go away, and women should be allowed to dress as they please without men sexualizing them.

      I don’t especially like this line of thinking, but let me ask you–don’t you have daughters? Leaving aside your rational homo economicus thinking, how would you fell if one of them was valued largely as an ornament for a bunch of leering trade show attendees?

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 11/02/2016 - 07:44 am.

        Thoughts

        “women should be allowed to dress as they please without men sexualizing them”

        Now I had a Springer Spaniel who had been bred for centuries to hunt birds. I did not need to teach her much of anything except to stay close to me and come when I called. Otherwise she instinctually knew what to do. Now if you think men are going to stop being sexual attracted to beautiful women, I think you have a long wait coming.

        What is frustrating me here is the slippery slope argument that somehow being attracted to sexy women leads to rape… I have many friends who go to strip clubs and have great time. But none of them will ever rape a woman, it just isn’t in their psychological make up. Please remember that rape is an act of control / violence.

        As for my 3 beautiful teen+ daughters, they occasionally wear things that I deem questionable. But as their Dad, I know nothing… 🙂 So all I try to teach them is that their choices strongly influence how others perceive them. And thankfully they seem to understand that and for the most part make good choices.

        Now if one of them wanted to enter the modeling / booth babe world, I would do what I do with all of their choices. I would explain the pros and cons, then allow them the freedom to choose. There are a lot of worse jobs out there.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/02/2016 - 09:20 am.

          Sexual Attraction

          Rape culture is not about sexual attraction. As you say, it is control/violence. Put another way, it is about dominance expressed in sexual terms. Being “attracted” does not necessarily lead to rape, but when a woman is evaluated solely or largely on the basis of her conformance to an ideal, she is being devalued as a person. That is where the slope starts turning slippery.

          “There are a lot of worse jobs out there.” True enough, A childhood friend had what may have been one of them. She was the waitress at a hotel tiki bar in the late 70s whose job was to mix the bar’s signature cocktail tableside. She had to wear a grass skirt and dance a short dance after she mixed it. Of course, she would get pinched by men having a “great time,” who would of course never rape a woman. She told her comeback was to ask how they would like it if someone did that to their daughter.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 11/02/2016 - 09:59 am.

            Quit

            Assuming your friend was not an indentured servant, did she quit immediately or was the pay check and other perks worth continuing her employment at that job even though there were some annoying customers?

            I guess I trust women to make the right choices for themselves.

            • Submitted by Joel Fischer on 11/02/2016 - 03:54 pm.

              As usual

              It’s the woman who should change, not the disgusting men.

              Perhaps men should be taught and should understand at a very early age that you don’t do that to a woman…or anyone.

              • Submitted by John Appelen on 11/03/2016 - 07:24 am.

                Not Perfect

                The reality is that there are annoying men and women in the world…
                And there will always be annoying men and women in the world.

                I am fine the restaurant manager kicking out patrons who behave poorly whether it is a man or woman. However male and female employees in the end do need to decide what they are willing to put up with to earn their income… Be it that annoying customer, unsupportive Manager, obnoxious co-worker, etc.

                Or do you want to become the morality police and try to control how every man / women is allowed to behave in the USA?

                Should we shut down all the strip clubs because they allow men to objectify women?

              • Submitted by Jim Million on 11/04/2016 - 04:05 pm.

                If memory serves here,

                Learning Tree and KinderCare began re-programming the boys 20+ years ago. Never read a conclusion, however.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/02/2016 - 04:03 pm.

              She Stayed On, for Awhile

              My point in telling the story was actually to illustrate how nice respectable men, who could afford an evening at an upmarket restaurant, and who would be aghast at the idea that they would rape anyone, could still degrade and demean a woman. My point was also to give an admiring word for her defense.

  11. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 11/01/2016 - 07:11 pm.

    The fact

    How about admitting that all humans are visual creatures (actually, almost all animals are visual creatures) because this is how finding mates works… and that is necessary for evolution: animals and humans treat others as sex objects. Think about all actors and actresses – almost all of them are good looking. Think about TV anchors, personalities, etc. – most of them are relatively good looking, too. Science shows that good looking people earn more and get more promotions…. And when women are in charge they still hire booth babes … or booth guys if applicable to sell the product…

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 11/02/2016 - 08:00 am.

      Career Paths

      I am puzzled why the writer wants to make these friendly attractive type of people unemployed.

      I mean working trade shows seems a pretty safe stepping stone to gain exposure and experience for a future career in modeling, acting, news reporting, sales, and the many other jobs where looks matter.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/02/2016 - 11:19 am.

        Puzzled?

        “I am puzzled why the writer wants to make these friendly attractive type of people unemployed.” You mean, their only career option is to stand around and look pretty? Aren’t they smart enough to, say, get their MBAs and go into something a little more cerebral?

        • Submitted by John Appelen on 11/02/2016 - 11:32 am.

          Options

          I guess I am happy to leave their options open for them to decide… Not insist that they follow my more boring Enrgrg / Business path. 🙂

  12. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 11/02/2016 - 07:22 pm.

    Seriously

    People keep up bringing those loaded terms (rape culture in this case) with total disregard for reality. Enjoying a good looking person has nothing to do with rape or violence and a lot to do with a sense of beauty which is, partially, based on sexual attraction. A lot of art forms are based on this fact. And of course, when people like what they see they would want to buy what is associated with it; all commercials are based on that psychology. Beautiful women are used to promote goods intended specifically for women as well so there is no sexism here either.

    • Submitted by John Appelen on 11/03/2016 - 07:33 am.

      Objectify

      Good point.

      I think some people have concerns that if people look at a beautiful woman, they don’t see her as a person anymore… They just see her as an object… I simply disagree with them.

    • Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 11/03/2016 - 12:37 pm.

      Let’s talk a bit about why there are no male “booth babes” at trade shows. It’s not that women don’t appreciate looking at attractive male bodies.

      It’s about the homoerotic charge that exists in all male modeling, where the male body is feminized as an object of desire: Heterosexual men can’t risk seeming to be attracted to attractive male bodies. Which they are, to a large or small effect, and that’s a desire our hetero-society insists always be strongly denied.

      One of the best ways to deny that men find male bodies attractive is to perform the male bonding exercise that entails hiring, objectivizing, looking at sexually, and commenting on them obsessively, of FEMALE bodies. All us guys can get together on that, right? We all love to “see beauty” in female bodies that are less, rather than more, dressed. The men who insist that beautiful female bodies are necessary to sell a product at a trade show resist, because in a hetero-normative society they must resist, the idea that they could enjoy gazing at a gorgeous man. At a trade show or elsewhere (even though they do look!). A male body stared at is a feminized body, by definition in hetero-normative cultures.

      The same principle obtains in circle jerks and gang rapes: men who aggressively do something sexual to show other males–who are really their main focus of attention and desire–that they’re all Real [heterosexual] Men Together. They fight back their subconscious desire for another male by joining other males in a ritual that debases all women and all feminized males. This is a major way that societies maintain heterosexual dominance and privilege. “Booth babes” are there to provide reassurance to the men who hire them or leer at them that those men really are heterosexual.

      There’s a ton of published research on this, guys.

      • Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 11/03/2016 - 07:36 pm.

        Who is promoting suits, men’s perfume, men’s underwear, etc.? Muscular and masculine men usually, right? But even if what you are saying is correct, it doesn’t contribute to, or support, the myth of “rape culture.” On the other hand, I may suggest that on average women are more sensitive to beauty in general than men for whom beauty may indeed be more sexual (in many cases subconsciously) but that is a result of evolution… But again, nothing to do with intentionally objectifying women or not respecting them.

  13. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/04/2016 - 09:31 am.

    Well, I think the problem here…

    It’s all well and good to expose and denounce sexism, but I think Mr. Best is getting mixed responses here because of his reference to: “rape”, and rape culture.

    Rape is actually real thing, and actual rape is the core of rape culture. Women are raped at an alarming rate, and rapist continue to assault women at alarming rates with minimal risk of prosecution. The rape culture isn’t about men hiring booth babes, its about men raping women.

    Looking at a booth babe is not equivalent to rape. Being a booth babe is not equivalent to being a sex worker or a victim of rape. Hiring a booth babe is not equivalent to hiring a sex worker. Even if there were no booth babes anywhere, rape would still be a huge problem because men would continue to rape women.

    Yes, booth babes are one of many expressions of sexism that reflect an illegitimate patriarchal power system. Yes booth babes and other examples of sexism should be recognized and denounced. But Mr. Best’s declaration that men have all the power, and women are just passive recipients of male desires, doesn’t actually challenge illegitimate patriarchy. Best essentially converts feminism into a patriarchal mission, rather than share power with women, he tells us women don’t need power as long as men are honorable. You see the problem?

    Feminism isn’t about getting men to use their power differently, it’s about empowering women. Men can participate in that initiative, and their participation is essential, but Best relegates women to the role of passive recipients of male insight, as if men know more about sexism than women.

    So, yes, on one hand men need to join the feminist project, but the suggestion that hiring booth babes leads to actual violence against women is a problematic charge that looks a little too much like a slippery slope argument. The whole thing actually strikes me as more a mansplain by a guy who has good intentions, but doesn’t quite get it. It’s a little too much of a swing at the low hanging fruit to impress me as courageous strike against sexism.

    Best is making some valid points, but I think the attempt to link booth babes to rape pretends his point is more than it is.

  14. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 11/04/2016 - 01:13 pm.

    Sorry, Paul, but there is a slippery slope. Call it a continuum, if you wish, but it’s still a slippery slope where a mindset obtains all along it: male primacy that objectifies women (and feminized males).

    Just because people don’t like to admit that something “mild”–like booth babes being hired to sell whatever at trade shows–falls on the continuum of mindset and behaviors that lead to rape, doesn’t mean the phenomenon doesn’t exist. Hiring booth babes is not rape, of course. But it’s of the identical motivation as rape, sorry to say. Hard to admit that, isn’t it?

    Mr. Best is not trying to speak for women, nor is he claiming that men have to protect women. He speaks to men, as a man, about what men have to begin to do about the problem of sexual assault.

    He’s saying that men, including the resisters in this commentary thread, must admit that when [men] hire booth babes they are doing to women something that falls on the continuum that ends in rape and murder of women (and feminized males). He’s suggesting that men must begin to confess their complicity in the cultural project of constant reassertion of male primacy. That hiring booth babes is bad. He’s asking men to ‘fess up. Hard to do that, isn’t it?

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/04/2016 - 04:16 pm.

      Sorry Constance but…

      “Hiring booth babes is not rape, of course. But it’s of the identical motivation as rape, sorry to say. Hard to admit that, isn’t it?”

      It’s actually impossible to admit because it’s simply not true. You’re criminalizing or pathologizing human sexuality itself, that’s where this branch of feminist theory typically starts to wobble. Human attraction is not a motivation for rape, I didn’t marry my wife so I could rape her. It doesn’t do anyone any good to blur the distinctions between sexuality and sexism. Rape is a significant and discrete act of violence with very different motivations than ordinary human attraction, companionship, or even mundane sexual attraction, there are qualitative difference, between the thought process of a rapist and someone who hires a model.

      Presumably when men hire booth babes it’s done under the assumption that beautiful women will attract attention to their booth. That assumption and it’s process is certainly sexist, but it bares little resemblance to the thought process of a rapists who stalks and violently attacks a woman. Rape isn’t objectification of woman, it’s violent subjugation. Rape isn’t a marketing theory.

      The thing about continuum’s is that they don’t establish causation, they simply chart variation. Yes, oogling a attractive woman may exist on a continuum of sexism with rape, but that no more establishes oogling as a cause of rape than an IQ of 65 causes an IQ of 170. It’s important to remember that slippery slopes are actually a form of logical fallacy, not agents of causation.

      • Submitted by Jackson Cage on 11/07/2016 - 07:51 am.

        Very well said Paul

        You noted the distinction very well. It’s this kind of hyperbole that makes the Left look foolish and will ultimately make them a fringe group akin to a Leftist Tea Party.

  15. Submitted by Jim Million on 11/04/2016 - 04:08 pm.

    Very true…

    It’s a steeply inclined slippery slope, I’d suggest.

  16. Submitted by Bill McKinney on 11/05/2016 - 10:45 am.

    Power of purchasing?

    Would be interesting to see if large companies with progressive diversity programs would implement policies to essentially blackball tech companies that do this. General Mills made waves when they recently changed their approach to hiring agencies that don’t employee diverse staffs. These big companies could end this kind of thing pretty quickly if they said, “we won’t buy from tech companies that do X, Y, or Z”. Someone should publish the list of tech companies that do it and let the public shaming begin.

  17. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 11/05/2016 - 10:48 am.

    Is this want we want?

    It looks like some people are trying to criminalize any sexual attraction because if ogling pretty women is a prelude to a rape, that behavior, by this logic, should be punished. Logically, then, the only way to resolve the problem is for men to stop being attracted to women because if they are, they will enjoy looking at them and will buy what is promoted by them meaning that, by market laws, women will be used to promote goods. By the way, don’t women like looking at handsome men, too?

  18. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/07/2016 - 08:33 am.

    Really….

    I’m not saying booth babe sexism and other observations are irrelevant, but I don’t think we should focus on this stuff while ignoring bigger issues. The problem isn’t so much the babes as it is the fact that the majority of executives and people sitting in executive chairs are still men. Again, it’s not about changing the way men use their power (although that’s certainly a necessary requirement) it’s about getting women into positions of power.

    I think Best’s article actually reveals the problem in that it’s almost impossible given the context of his discourse, for the booth babes themselves (who are women after all) to enter the discussion. The booth babes remain objects of discussion rather than participants. This is what happens when a feminist project puts men at the center of the discussion.

    It’s also important to remember that reducing or eliminating violence against women isn’t the only objective of the feminist project. While violence is a horrendous personal experience economic and social exploitation and oppression are just as if not more damaging to women, and a more universal experience for women.

    It’s easy to be against rape, I don’t anyone other than rapists (which I means I don’t know anyone because I don’t know any rapists) that’s not against rape. But ask a man to forego his own promotion (as women are frequently asked to do), or promote a woman instead of a man into a position of power, authority, and wealth, and suddenly the outrage of inequality begins to soften. It’s easy to be against stuff that’s easy to be against, but joining the fray in a more consequential role is risky, and meaningful change rarely occurs until people start taking risks. Where’s the risk in denouncing booth babes?

Leave a Reply