Sunday, February 22. 2009
Today I am going to break with the spirit of this website. This entry is not about Programming Stuff as advertised in the title of my blog. Today I am going to complain about something which is only very casually related to Programming Stuff. In some way it is kind of similar to when CmdrTaco used the Slashdot front page to complain about Blizzard making him change his WoW name. It's my website and I post what I want. So if you came here expecting new Programming Stuff you can hit the Back button of your browser now.
Anyway, let's start. I woke up this morning and saw that someone I know will attend the French IT Security conference FRHACK. I began to browse the FRHACK website. I checked out the Events section. I came across something called Best IT Security Girl of the Year. For a split-second I was amused about this obvious little satirical reflection about the role of women in IT and especially IT Sec. I quickly scrolled around to find the IT Security Boy of the Year. There was no such award. It dawned on me that the IT Sec Girl of the Year award is actually a serious award and I started to feel sick.
I have never ever seen a worse idea for an award at an IT Sec conference. There are people who are concerned about the lack of women in IT and especially in IT Sec. Then the organizers of IT sec conferences pull shit like this and we are surprised that woman don't feel drawn to working in our field. I really want to know the exact thought process that led to the creation of this award. Unless someone can explain it to me in more detail, I picture a bunch of sweaty neckbeards sitting around going "You know what we should do? Make a special award for girls. The girls will love us, especially the one who wins" - "Brilliant idea broseph, we're so gonna score. Hi-fives all around".
The whole concept behind this award strikes me as incredibly demeaning for the following reasons.
First, the award is titled IT Security Girl of the Year and was given to Joanna Rutkowska. Now I have never met Joanna or had any contact with her at all as far as I know but I am pretty damn sure she is not an "IT Security Girl" but a serious IT security researcher and a grown woman, not a girl. Can you imagine an award named "IT Security Boy of the Year" that is seriously given out to males older than 16 years? I can't either. Unless we are talking about a satirical award, which is why I was searching for it when I first came across the FRHACK website.
Second, the way the award is advertised on the website. Click here to see it. And just in case the FRHACK organizers recognize the shamefulness of the whole situation and edit the website I have actually made a screenshot to document the whole thing. Look at the two pictures that accompany the announcement. I think there is nothing left to say there. Imagine if the Pwnie Awards were advertised like that. We would see a topless Alex Sotirov kissing his biceps while striking a pose.
Third, "This prize should be delayed by Miss Franche-Comté.". I am reasonably sure that the word delayed should be replaced by delivered or something in this sentence. Anyway, I can only imagine the situation. Joanna Rutkowska is on stage. A 2nd-class beauty queen shows up, gives Joanna the award and maybe even says a few words about Joanna. You know Andrew Wiles? The guy who won the Fermat prize for solving Fermat's Last Theorem? Image a comparable situation. "Professor Wiles, we are proud to award you the Fermat Prize this year. This year the award will be given to you by Heidi Klum who will also give a short overview of your life and the proof you developed. Ladies and Gentlemen, applause for Heidi Klum please". Now I actually think Heidi Klum is a pretty funny/nice/cool/strong/underrated woman, and I am sure Miss Franche-Comté is also a swell person all-around but some things are appropriate and some are not.
Alright, let's wrap this up. The whole idea and execution of the IT Sec Girl award is so lacking in class and professionalism that I can not really find words. Since I love giving advice to people I have never met I will end this entry with giving advice to Joanna. If I were Joanna I would reject this award. Hell, I would even think twice about showing up to the conference. And should I decide to show up anyway I would use a few minutes of my presentation to talk about the award (permission to recite this blog entry on stage is hereby given). But I am not Joanna, and maybe Joanna actually thinks that this award is totally awesome and wants to be treated like a little princess instead of a serious security researcher at a professional conference. After Miss Franche-Comté gave her the award she can then prove her worth to the audience by presenting incredible talents like juggling pins while whistling the Polish national anthem or something.
There are a few problems with this blog entry. I am not a woman and I am far away from receiving any kind of award at any kind of conference. So maybe I am totally misinterpreting the situation with my overwhelmingly male brain and all the women in IT sec actually think this award is the best thing since sliced bread. There is also the chance that the IT Sec Girl of the Year is actually a satirical award. In that case, yeah, I've been had. Mea culpa, I gave the reaction you tried to get. You can post comments to this blog entry to make fun of me now. Maybe I should also just lighten up. I don't know. At least I took a break of nearly six hours between first wanting to write this blog entry and actually writing it. Otherwise it would have been significantly less friendly.
Update: The FRHACK organizers threatened to take legal action against me if I do not remove the screenshot I took of their website. Their specific complaint was that one of the photos (the one with the woman and the gun) shown in the screenshot is copyrighted. Turns out the FRHACK organizers do not even own the copyright of that photo. I actually contacted the guy who does own the copyright (Jason Snell) and asked him about his opinion. He has granted me permission to keep up the screenshot and stated that "I, and many of my fellow security researchers in SF, agree with your point. I contacted the French group immediately because I was shocked at their tasteless use of my work." The FRHACK organizers have taken down Jason's photo after they received Jason's request. That's why the FRHACK website now looks different from the screenshot I took. You can find Jason's blog where he posted the photo in question at http://3d.syne.net/ . Thanks again Jason.
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Thanks to pointing us on some misunderstood stuff and bad translations.
Please remove your screenshot, since pictures are copyrighted. Thanks
"Thanks to pointing us on some misunderstood stuff and bad translations.
Please remove your screenshot, since pictures are copyrighted. Thanks"
Posted without reply...
You know that Joanna used to be a dude right? No joke, post op tranny is the FRHACK IT Girl of the Year.
I agree. Treating women like this is only demeaning to them and everyone else involved in the field of computer science.
I enjoy your blog a lot by the way. Keep up the good book reviews!
I and my XX chromosomes agree with you 100%. This award manages to incorporate pretty much every stereotype and tendency that would cause women to feel uncomfortable or unwanted in an IT environment. Nothing is worse than when reality could be mistaken for a bad joke.
Page 1 - http://www.frhack.org/events.html
Page 2 - http://www.frhack.org/conference.html
Check these pages out, Page 2 has this entry, even though they managed to change, or so-called "censor" it !
"The FRHACK Team (TFT) is proud to announce that it voted for Miss Joanna Rutkowska as The Best IT Security Girl of the Year, and will offer to Miss Rutkowska a prize during the FRHACK conference."
I'm with you on the issue, it's bollocks to start with, about "a girl" or girly award, which simply demeans the idea, and there's no award for a guy which is totally annoying.
Their email seems to be more of a "scare tactic" than anything, just brush it off, and go strong !
Probably, one more hint for a good post, Aditya Sood's course, he's titled it as ' WAPT like "an hacker" ' (why use "an" for a non-vowel)... as far as my limited english skills say, AEIOU are vowels, nothing else from A-Z
They certainly need copywriters, technical writers, and proof-readers, who really know how to do their job correctly, and they've to pay you and me, and all of us pointing their mistakes, for the feedback and FREE PR, hehe !
"as far as my limited english skills say, AEIOU are vowels, nothing else from A-Z"
How about that pesky 'y' letter?
As a woman, I couldn't agree more with you that this whole thing is demeaning and unprofessional.
i think there's something wrong with you if you think sexist jokes in an industry rife with misoginist behaviour is something funny.
And I think you should stop sock-puppeting around here. Five posts using five different nicks. IP addresses exist, dude.
I think it's just as funny as telling girls to take knitting needles to school, as they don't need anything else in their whole life. Sexism in disguise of humour (if this should - by any means - be meant ironically...)is still sexism.
What is the english translation of "meilleure hackeuse de l'année"?
I don't know what 'hackeuse' means for sure, but 'la meilleure [something] de l'année' means 'the best [something] of the year' according to my High School French. So that's likely 'The Best Female Hacker of the Year'.
Anyway, this is patently ridiculous. Is it so hard to treat everyone with respect?
Someone linked me here talking about that Ruby presentation making the rounds.
EDIT: I must have forgotten to switch the radio buttons, I got blocked first time round. Hope this isn't double.
Yeah, I saw that Ruby trouble yesterday. I definitely see some parallels between the two cases.
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