The “Our Servers Won’t Go Down” Ad
(You might want to read the previous post for some background first.)
The ad pictured to the right is the original “Don’t feel bad. Our servers won’t go down on you either” ad that got Qsol into trouble in back in 2000. The ad has received some much-deserved derision with a DisGraceful Award from GraceNet (a group that promotes the contributions of women in technology) and a place in the In Search of Stupidity Museum (the companion site for Rick Chapman’s book bearing the same title).
The ad ran in Linux Journal in late 2000, and after a number of complaints, Qsol responded in the “Letters to the Editor” section saying:
We sincerely apologize to all those who have expressed concern about our advertisement recently featured in Linux Journal (November 2000). It was certainly not our intention to be offensive and we wish to again express our regret to anyone who was displeased by the ad. We understand that this has angered some readers and have therefore reacted immediately by pulling this artwork from all future issues of the magazine. Again, we extend our sincerest apologies.
Something must’ve changed their minds, because they ran an updated version of the ad in the August 2007 Linux Journal (and presumably other tech magazines from their publisher).
The Reaction So Far
The ad got a link in Reddit titled Who says Linux geeks don’t have a sense of humor?. The usual jokes were made (“rm -rf clothes”, for example), but not a single commenter suggested that the ad might just be a little bit sexist and possibly a cause of women’s avoidance of high tech. Elizabeth Bevilacqua wrote about the ad in her LiveJournal, and a couple of male commenters did the usual hand-wringing.
I’m hardly someone you could accuse of being politically correct; I have some issues with the way that society currently treats perfectly natural male behaviours as suspect.
However, I think that stuff like the Qsol doesn’t help the high-tech gender balance. I think it “breaks” rather than “bends” (from the expression “If it bends, it’s comedy; if it breaks, it’s not”). Once again, what Neal Stephenson wrote in Snow Crash about sexism in geekdom still holds true. In the novel, the men belived that Juanita Marquez’s work on faces and facial expressions for a VR interface was relatively unimportant, and Stephenson wrote:
It was, of course, nothing more than sexism, the especially virulent type espoused by male techies who sincerely believe that they are too smart to be sexists.
I think that the ad does the tech industry a double disservice. It sends a message to women that they might want to look to another field for a career and it makes men in high tech look like dolts.
Doc Searls Helps Out
I sent an email expressing my concerns to the man I like to refer to as “the adult supervision of the blogosphere”, Doc Searls, who’s Linux Journal’s senior editor. He responded quickly, saying that he’d have a word with the publisher and asked me to please pass his apolgies along.
Thanks, Doc! You’re the best.