Digital Pinay 2005: Sent mail to Leo Querubin, Special Projects Chair of PCS

Received from Leo Querubin:

Hello Sascha,

Your email was forwarded to me by Bombing of MediaG8way regarding your
reaction to the Digital Pinay competition. I share your sentiments when
I saw the application form.

There was a misunderstanding in the contents of the application forms
(for the co-ed and professional) as the original forms did not include
the info on height, weight, bust, waist and hips. Be that as it may, I
take full responsibility over this as Special Projects Chair of PCS and
I apologise for this. It was never our intention to promote the
competition as a beauty contest.

You have brought several good points in your email. I would like to sit
down with you and discuss these comments and see how we can improve the
competition.

Sincerely,

Leo Querubin

Sent this reply:

Hello, Leo!

Thank you for your prompt reply. I’m glad to hear that the original
forms did not include such demeaning questions. I would still like to
clarify the rules of the competition and the expected public effect.
If PCS also considers the present form of the competition to be
insulting to IT students and professionals, I would like to help you
do damage control and correct the impression people have received.
After all, this is the form that’s out there in the wild, and that’s
the form of contest people will see it as. Whether it is a mixup or
not, PCS has done something wrong.

I would like a full explanation from PCS so that I can present other
sides of the story. How did this make it past the proposal stage? Why
was it approved by the committee? Did no one consider it as even the
least bit discriminating? How is it that the country’s premier IT
organization can do such a thing?

I would also like to understand how one can calculate scores based on
20% popularity (measured through text votes), 40% appearance, and 40%
intelligence and skills, and still not think of this as a beauty
contest. As
http://www.srcf.ucam.org/~hmw26/join-the-dots/2005/01/17/spectacular/
points out:

So let me see: that’s 60% for popularity and appearance based
criteria, and 40% for intelligence and technical knowledge. Oh
yeah, that makes total sense for an ICT professional award.

How is it possible that mature professionals can take all the
terms used in beauty contests—you don’t hear the term “formal wear”
or “reign” in software competitions, do you—and pretend that this is
something about the professional capabilities of women? How is it at
all understandable?

What about the public effect of this contest? The public sees only the
application and the coronation. They will not see whatever care you
put into sifting through applicants’ academic credentials. They will
not see the interviews. They will only see the beginning and the end.
They will only see this form that defines women by numbers and a
“coronation” that involves how well a woman can wear clothes and walk.
This _public_ includes students and children who may not have the
experience or confidence to know that you can be successful in
technology and yet not be an object because of your gender. They may
think that even in this field, women have to be pretty, and brains or
achievements don’t really matter.

What about the “prizes” that these women win? Are you just looking for
a promo girl? You cannot spin this as professional exposure for women
without also exposing the exploitation of women. You cannot even say
that this promotes women in computing when it reduces women to
something pretty to look at.

Perhaps you meant well, but this is broken. This is a release-critical
bug. This is something that should have never made it out the door in
its present form. The contest by itself is wrong, but I am incredulous
about the fact that PCS actually _came up_ with this thing. I have no
idea why it took me to point out how broken this is, but this is not
something you can just quietly apologize for, improve or even cancel.
You realize that that form has made its way to schools and to other
people’s lists, forwarded by people who either thought it was a good
idea or a farce. You must realize that the form brought with it an
idea of how PCS thinks of women.

I need you to think very carefully about the reasons why this contest
was implemented. I need that explanation from you, and I need it
shared not only with me but with as many people as it can be shared
with. I need you to think very carefully about how you’re trying to
encourage more women to get into IT. I need you to start doing damage
control.

What happened here?

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