Category Archives: issues

Sheer hilarity

../personal/digitalfilipina.doc

Expect a long rant from me later.

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The largest Philippine IT organization is running a search for

The Philippine Computer Society (largest IT organization in the Philippines)
is running a search for “Digital Pinay 2005.” They’re looking for role models for information
and communication technology. Women who exemplify the qualities
expected of future women leaders of the Philippine ICT industry. Their
application form asks for information like name, paragraph or two why
you deserve the award, IT experience, and such essential information
as height, weight, bust, waist, and hip measurements. I’ve posted the
application form at
http://sacha.free.net.ph/notebook/personal/digitalpinay.doc . Read it
all the way to the end. It’s hilarious. So hilarious that I cried from
fury and humiliation that this is what they think future women leaders
of ICT should have, should be. I am embarrassed that the worth of a
person is bound up in how well she can wear a business suit. I am too
furious to analyze how this objectifies woman, too close to the
problem to see how anyone could have imagined this as having any sort
of positive effect on women in IT.

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Mail sent to Ateneo CS and CompSAt mailing lists

Updated copy at http://www.livejournal.com/users/sachachua/6605.html .
Please leave comments there.

Miguel Paraz just forwarded a _very_ interesting contest application
to the CompSAt-EB mailing list, and I’m sending this to you because it
is worth talking about, and that is because it is completely wrong.

The Philippine Computer Society (PCS) is doing a search for “Digital
Pinay 2005″. They’re looking for role models for information and
communication technology, “women who exemplify the qualities expected
of future women leaders of the Philippine ICT industry.”

To help them find worthy candidates, their application form asks for
information like name, paragraph or two about why you deserve the
award, IT experience, and such essential information as height,
weight, bust, waist, and hip measurements.

I put up a copy of the form at
http://sacha.free.net.ph/notebook/personal/digitalpinay.doc . Read it
all the way to the end. You may start out amused, perhaps annoyed. I
hope you end up horrified that such a thing could have been thinkable,
much less thought a good idea. That it was proposed at all could be
chalked up to temporary insanity, but that it reached this point
cannot be attributed to reason.

A beauty pageant does not pretend to be anything but a beauty pageant.
On the other hand, “Digital Pinay 2005″ pretends to define an ideal
woman in ICT, and _that_ is why it is so insulting. Or perhaps our
Atenean curriculum is missing charm classes to help women learn how to
wear business suits and casual clothes well?

Our industry _cannot_ be like this. Until now, I have not come face to
face with such discrimination in what I believe to be such an
egalitarian field. Our industry _is_not_ like this. But the existence
of this contest sends a message to students, to professionals, to
people inside and outside our industry. The message is that ICT in
2005 is about appearance more than substance, that how a woman looks
and how she walks is more important than what she learned and what she
can do. If nothing else, it tells us that our industry thinks this
view is acceptable.

It is a farce that I must denounce in the strongest terms. If the PCS
would like to beautify its meetings with models, it should not pretend
at all to be promoting women in ICT when it is actually doing the
exact opposite. If PCS would like to say that women are valuable
contributors to ICT, it should not attach such values to them. For
what will these women be but stereotypes and living proofs of
discrimination in IT? What is their value? What will they be beyond
a pretty face and a nice body?

(I find it interesting that winners are required to attend all PCS
official functions. Essentially, you can buy a professional woman’s
time for P 25,000. The co-ed winner costs only P10,000 and the
runners-up are free. Why will they grace the PCS functions with their
presence? Who will take them seriously knowing the criteria by which
they were judged? What of this promised visibility in the job market?
Is that really the kind of job markets Ateneans are preparing for?)

The contest insults women by objectifying them, and men for proposing
that such objectification is commonplace and normal. The contest
insults our industry and our society. Will we not discuss it? Will we
not consider how such a situation came to be? Will we not point at it
and say that this is wrong?

Exams are going on and there seems to be no time to talk of things
like this, but these are things that must be thought about. This is
Science and Society. This is the Philosophy of Man. This is, even
without all the subjects you’ve taken up, even if only considering
that still and quiet voice within you—this is a matter of right and
wrong.

So read, reflect, and be angry, for this is the sort of thing that
should never be complacantly ignored. Realize that this _is_ a
problem, that it _does_ exist, and that we contribute to it with our
silence. Affirm what you believe in. Write. Write your fury, your
shock—or casual indifference, if that is all you experience upon
reading this.

As for me, I believe that just because something _is_ doesn’t mean it
has to be.

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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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Reply from Leo Querubin

We are meeting with the committee to discuss these issues and will update you.

E-Mail from Leo Querubin

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It just gets better and better. This is a “traditional” event.

From Ibarra Gutierrez, Editor-in-Chief of Media G8way:

Digital Pinay is a project of the Philippine Computer Society. It
is actually a take-off from their traditional Ms PCS contest.
Media G8way, with its Events Department, was simply contracted to
manage the project. This is not to say, however, that we are
washing our hands with regards the project’s concept now that
it’s getting flak from the IT community. In fact, we’ve called
the PCS organizers to an emergency meeting tomorrow precisely to
discuss reactions like yours. Rest assured that we’ll do what we
can to make the project truer to its purported objective. And
we’ll keep you and the IT community posted. Thanks for your
concern.

IBARRA “Bombing” C. GUTIERREZ
Editor-in-Chief & Publisher
Media G8way Corporation
3rd Floor, Eurovilla II Building
118 V. A. Rufino St. (formerly Herrera St.), Legaspi Village, Makati City, Philippines
Tel. (632) 840-4227

It just gets better and better. You mean it’s only getting flak
from the IT community now? You mean this is an old concept? I’ve
e-mailed Leo Querubin to find out how long _that_ has been
running and how it has managed to survive so far.

In the meantime, take a look at this excerpt from
http://www.pcs-it.org/pcs/committees.htm#msict :

Special Project: Miss ICT

In-charge of preparing the activities and implementing
guidelines/criteria for the Search of Miss ICT (professional and
student levels):

  • Revive the Computer Girl
  • More than just a beauty contest
  • Reflects ideals of PCS
  • Promote gender equality in the ICT industry
  • Promote ICT as an equal opportunity employer

Director-in-Charge: Ms. Ann Gatmaytan
Chair: Mr. Leo Querubin

ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGHHHH!

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