Nurses, naughtiness and women in IT

NetRegistry have raised some ire in some parts by having women dressed as nurses on their stand at CeBIT in Sydney.  In some ways this all takes me back to the bad old days when IT was a blokey world and scantily clad women were commonplace at conferences and exhibitions.

I had a chat to Jonathan Crossfield earlier today.  He explained that their booth at CeBIT has a medical theme.   I do not imply any malice, nor any intent to cause offence with this stunt.  It simply looks like the team thought it would be fun to dress up as medical folks while they worked the booth at CeBIT.  Funnily enough one of my first questions was “is the doctor a man?” and he admitted that the person dressed as a doctor was indeed a man. This made me wonder about unconscious sexism in our society.

The unconscious sexism & misogyny that remains prevalent in our society continues to fascinate me.  And I think that the automatic (and probably unselfconscious) assignment of roles in this case is an example.

But let’s consider a few other things …

  • We are currently in the midst of revelations about systemic demeaning behaviour towards women – especially in relation to rugby league.
  • There have been ongoing allegations of demeaning behaviour towards women by male sporting team members.
  • The calendars featuring scantily clad women and similar that used to decorate workplaces have disappeared.
  • Conferences & exhibitions are places of business to which women have free access nowadays.
  • Governments and volunteer organisations have put enormous effort into encouraging women to enter the ICT industry, and to retaining those already there.

I don’t think this kind of marketing exercise is a good idea in general, nor in particular for a conference/exhibition (doesn’t pass the Mum test).  Further, the day after the Four Corners program about the alleged sexual abuse of women it was bad timing (probably unintentionally so).

But, for the record, there were similar poster in the NetRegistry booth at CeBIT – is there a pattern here? It makes me ponder what the outcry would be if this was an equivalent racial depiction?

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24 comments

  1. vincent browne says:

    I live in southern California USA. Personally I do not fine the picture offensive. I have been a nurse aide 33 years. I worked mostly with women. We did have our times of teasing and having fun. I must say that until some one told me I didn’t even know she was a nurse. It seems to be hidden.She looks like a flirty girl in a pretty dress.
    I din’t know he was a doctor. Our nurses and doctors wear stethascopes around their necks.Medically the picture would not encourage me to get an exam or anything.

  2. interesting. i like the post. as well as the comments. i enjoy reading all of that. thanks again and keep up the good work.

  3. Aurelius says:

    Hi Kate,
    I can believe that workload would cause a delay in comments being approved. My question though weas prompted by speaking to two people who commented on your blog, and emailed me their comments. But when I read them here, they were “trimmed” in a manner that seems to better serve your intended “angle”.
    My question is not interrogatory; but curiosity.

    • kcarruthers says:

      Nope don’t have time to “edit” anyone’s comments – I just go into WordPress & either hit “publish” or “delete” (or sometimes “reply” like with this one).

  4. Aurelius says:

    I’m wondering if it’s your policy to censor and edit comments, as you’ve done in the comments in response to this article?
    Is there any point to allowing comments on a blog if you edit them so as to alter their meaning?

  5. kcarruthers says:

    Hi Kate,

    I’m the “gay guy” the papers were talking about, behind the NR Web Clinic you were so happy to relate to the idea of exploiting women for sexual purposes in marketing. Jonathan was hoping to introduce us at the show, but alas, I was busy dealing with everything going on.

    Anyway, I myself published a lengthy article dissecting the stand and controversy (completely away from my commercial position with NR), and retelling the story of how it came about – and why. It’s on the same blog I use to write mostly feminist pieces. Who would have thought?!

    I also noticed you published a further piece pondering why nobody noticed the others over our nurses. I think perhaps my article may offer something on that question… perhaps you’ll find it interesting.

    http://www.aarondarc.com/poppsychology/content/view/434/32/

  6. Peter says:

    And yet, Miss Curruthers, you gladly advertise against the internet filtering system and censorship on your site! Perhaps you don’t feel as strongly for this society’s need to address the problem of pedophilic material and culture, as you do about girls dressed as nurses for a trade stand.

  7. Jacob Ball says:

    Larry,

    If you expect anyone with any intelligence at all to actually believe a single word you wrote, you’re as delusional as your ‘creative’ team.

    ‘A real difference between having gratuitous babes on a stand that are there purely as “eye candy” and what we undertook’ – you’re kidding, right? Could you have done your ‘theme’ without the chicks in uniform? Yep, sure could have. But, some genius says ‘Hey, let’s get ‘em dressed in something skimpy/cheeky/sexy [insert your favourite here]. And bingo, you’re back to the old standby of ‘Sex sells’. Heey, you say, we’ll probably get some GREAT publicity out of it. You probably have. Still doesn’t make it right.

    Frankly, I just don’t see anything creative about this type of thing any more. A prime case in point is one of your feature articles in Nett about Lynx, where they came up with a cutting edge marketing campaign featuring, you guessed it, scantily clad gals needing stuff smeared on them. Wow. How long does it take to come up with these ideas?!

    I’m as red-blooded as the next bloke, but seriously, if you want to be considered ‘creative’, how about actually doing something clever? See if you can do it without some kind of sexual tie in. Oh, and you can leave the fart/toilet jokes out of it too (just a heads up for your ‘creative’ team).

    You will, without question, slowly erode your own credibility and standing within the industry AND with customers, if you continue down this path. Mark my words.

  8. Larry Bloch says:

    Hi Kate,

    I wanted to thank you for taking an interest in our CeBIT stand and marketing campaign.

    Whilst there are a variety of views on the appropriateness of our nurses or our overall theme, I believe that the vast majority of visitors to CeBIT (say 90%) and well as the broader community are not offended, surprised or shocked by our stand.

    I also believe there is a very real difference between having gratuitous babes on a stand that are there purely as “eye candy” and what we undertook. This appears to have been overlooked by some of the more ideological commentators. Our nurses were part of an overall medical theme designed to deliver website healthchecks to CeBIT delegates. In other words, the nurses outfits had context, where the impression given by some commentators is that they were purely in nurses outfits because of the attention (a part, but not a majority of our strategy).

    Importantly, Netregistry supports 100% the stand, our marketing team, the girls in the outfits and everything we undertook at CeBIT. We are ecstatic with the attention and the excellent execution of a creative concept and campaign. So from me, WELL DONE to our marketing team. We couldn’t be happier!

    Lastly, I will make the point that Netregistry is Australia’s largest regisrtar of .AU Domain names and its leading hosting company because we approach the needs of our 100,000’s of small business customers with the innovation and creativity on display at CeBIT. Our business customers care about results and (just as we did for ourselves at CeBIT) we deliver!

  9. James says:

    Who gives a fuck? It’s not offensive to anyone if you don’t read anything into it. It’s just sexy women promoting something – you’ll find that’s a good way to sell things, to men at least.

    Why doesn’t anyone complain that attractive men are used to advertise Diet Coke to middle aged women? Because nobody gives a fuck. I don’t feel like the world respects me any less just because people are aware that women are attracted to men and takes advantage of that.

    Your outrage at something so ridiculous is what outrages me, and probably most other well adjusted individuals.

    Oh and to the poster complaining about Virgin Airlines – what’s wrong with sex? Why shouldn’t something we do every day be discussed every day? Why can’t we sell things with sex like we sell things with peoples’ need to eat and drink?

  10. [...] Obviously there’s the whole NRL story going on, then there’s the issues around the NetRegistry and other stands at CeBIT this week. (Props to Kate [...]

  11. I say mandatory back to the politically correct 50’s heyday of IT – all techs in full length white lab coats and thick coke-bottle glasses, all sales people in blue suits and all customers in brown cardigans (no offense to cardigan wearers intended).

  12. [...] This post was Twitted by r20_blogroll – Real-url.org [...]

  13. David says:

    Definition of Sexism: Sexism is the belief or attitude that one gender or sex is inferior to or less valuable than the other and can also refer to a hatred or distrust towards either sex as a whole (see also misogyny and misandry), or creating stereotypes of masculinity for men or femininity for women…

    Can you please tell me how having women dress in a nurse outfit is sexist?

    Please keep your close minded attitude away from the rest of the world.
    If it was an actual “not fit for customer” ad campaign then it wouldn’t of been allowed to be there nor would the company hosting the stall use it in the first place…

  14. JV Douglas says:

    You’re right Kate, I actually actively dislike conferences where underweight scantily clad women with silly sashes across their chests hand out useless trinkets, it sends a message that the company fails to take either women, or their customers seriously.

    Sure have a joke – but don’t treat your customers like a bunch of socially incompetent adolescents. Besides if your customers are nurses and Drs surely you should start by treating the profession with a little respect.

    Nudge, nudge, wink, wink marketing should have disappeared along with the Chiko Roll…

  15. Pirate says:

    So you are comparing the sexual abuse by sports people to harmless boothbabes at an IT show? WTF? Seriously, if you try hard enough you could probably link this “outrage” to the nazis too. What about the murder of Anita Coby? She was a nurse too, why not compare it to that?

    You also really need to look up the definition of sexism before you open your ignorant mouth. You obviously don’t even know what it means.

    Stop sucking the fun out of life you grumpy wowser.

  16. Loquacity says:

    Thanks for this post, Kate. This is a theme I’ve been pondering for some time. We’re not in the worst situation ever (as an industry), but there’s a way to go. It’s difficult to get it in perspective, though.

    L

  17. Samantha Lea says:

    Hello Kate,

    While I applaud the fact you care I’m not sure you understand how sick of political correctness some of us are. As a woman myself, when I look at the poster you displayed I don’t feel demeaned or put down. I think it’s actually the blokes who are being demeaned. A great marketing ploy on behalf of CeBIT really. The majority of people in IT are men, not because us women aren’t allowed to be or that it’s a conspiracy and they’re keeping us out, it’s just that more men get into it. That is women’s choice. So when doing any advertising for server services, it makes sense to direct it at the blokes.

    As a woman people dressing up as doctors and nurses, even if the men are the doctors and the females the nurses, again is just the way it is. The majority of doctors are men and the majority of nurses are women. This is changing too. But the exercise was about business and they are trying to appeal to men, again because that’s just the way it is. It’s their advertising dollar, it’s their business which will sink or swim on the strength of that.

    Women really do need to toughen up if we’re going to play in what are historically places the boys played alone. I’ve been in the construction/IT sector for years and I couldn’t give a damn if the workshops had naked pictures on the wall or they tell dirty jokes. As long as they treat me and other women they come into contact with respect and as an equal, which most do, then I have no issue with that.

  18. Kate says:

    At best, this is ill-considered. However, I don’t feel qualified to offer my opinion on the stand because I was not there.

    What I object to is the way the aftermath has been handled. Reading that a founder of NR is addressing people’s concerns by saying that some people “just need to relax” makes me feel really negative about the company as a whole.

  19. Jewel says:

    I am absolutely appalled by the use of that poster – an absolute disgrace

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  21. It’s just so juvenile and unnecessary.
    Any time I fly Virgin Blue I cringe at their insistence on using little sexual allusions. The excuse for such behaviour is usually that “we are a cheeky and irreverent brand.”
    Surely it is possible to be cheeky and irreverent without also evoking sex and hinting at uneven relationships.

  22. Lisa Harvey says:

    Nice job Kate. At Cebit yesterday I saw the nurses. There were male nurses, dressed in greens. The women dressed as nurses were in short frilly skirts with little hats and aprons. Seemed like a sex theme more than a medical theme to me.

    I’m guessing that the phrase “chicks in tight pants” came up frequently in the marketing brainstorms before the conference. One woman had “KISS” on her red lycraed rear.

    One year there were women in bikinis in a spa putting plastic sheaths on mobile phones.

    Am I offended? No (though the spa thing was really distateful). Am I disappointed? Yes! I expect this stuff at a truck show, not at the showcase of Australian technology and innovation.