If you've ever been to any sort of male-heavy convention, such as comic book/sci-fi or tech ones, then you've probably seen (or heard of, if you follow any coverage of these events) the anachronistic phenomenon known as booth babes. For the uninitiated, booth babes are women who are dressed in as little clothing as possible (sometimes none if they are body painted) for the sole purpose of attracting more attendees to their vendors. They're essentially signposts with boobs.
That this advertising model is cheaper and easier to deploy than traditional ones, has led to its inclusion on convention floors around the world. Still, it hasn't come without its criticisms and some have chosen to leave this practice in the past altogether.
Conventions such as PAX and Eurogamer Expo don't allow them. Speaking to me on the former (which is running in Boston this week from March 22-24), Robert Khoo, the President of Penny Arcade, explained some of the rationale behind the decision to ban them from the convention's conception: "It's true that there are a large number of folks that bring their kids to the show, so it probably wouldn't be terribly appropriate, but honestly, we've just always thought the practice was a bit silly. Let the games and content speak for themselves."
It's especially surprising that other organizations continue to hold onto this archaic practice, given that attendee reaction to the ban has been generally positive; he continued: "It's always been widely supported from the fans and the exhibitors, and only once in a blue moon do we hear complaints about it, usually in the vein of us trying to "repress sexuality" or us taking away the freedom... to ... look at scantily clad women, I suppose. Everyone has their right to voice their opinion, but ultimately we are really happy with the policy and think it's both the right thing for the show and gaming culture as a whole."
E3, the largest video gaming convention in the world, also banned them in 2006 which was notable at the time because it marked a significant step forward from the "women being designated as sex-objects/eye candy" mentality -- and the message was being sent from one of the leading conventions. Unfortunately, E3 later back-pedalled and booth babes returned in 2009.
In 2012, the BBC produced a video report that explored booth babes' inclusion in CES. Needless to say, many attendees weren't happy with the way women were being portrayed, and felt like they detracted from the actual product.
In the video, one Rachel Sklar, founder of Women's tech group Change the Ratio, got at the heart of the problem when she explained that booth babes "revealed CES to be devoid of forward looking leadership... the products that are being made and distributed for giant trade shows like that are not just for men." The fact that these shows are so narrowly directed towards a male audience is one possible explanation for why there are so few women in the engineering industry -- even if it is really just one symptom of a much larger problem.
Going forward, it is unclear how long it will be before booth babes are a distant memory. In recent times, visual studies on this topic like the documentary Miss Representation and Anita Sarkeesian's Tropes and Women in Video Games series have generally succeeded in raising awareness on the patterns seen in popular, gaming, or ad culture's portrayal of women.
In the BBC video though, the official representing CES called the booth babes issue irrelevant, indicating that the higher-ups don't seem to care about banning them because it's a profitable strategy. So, in much the same way that the fate of the rest of the technological mediums that alienate women can be decided, it basically boils down to how much support they receive from us, those attending these conventions.
As Khoo, in a final point about how conventions can think carefully about their continuing support for booth babes, stated, "Think about who you're beholden to, and let that guide your decision making."
Photo by flickr user, richcz3, and licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.
"Victorious" star Ariana Grande has been vocal about the importance of positive body image and a healthy lifestyle. “Too many young girls have eating disorders due to low self-esteem and a distorted body image,” <a href="http://www.shape.com/celebrities/interviews/10-fun-fitness-facts-ariana-grande">Arianna told "Shape" Magazine</a>. “I think it’s so important for girls to love themselves and to treat their bodies respectfully.”
Demi Lovato has spoken out numerous times on body image, eating disorders and self-harm. We love this quote from her <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/17/demi-lovato-covers-self-o_n_1680264.html#slide=1236490">2012 interview with "Self" Magazine</a>: "I used to feel my most beautiful when I was on the red carpet or at events or something where I’m all dolled up. Now I feel like the moment when I feel most beautiful is when I’m able to hang out with a guy without my makeup on or lay on the beach with no makeup on and not even worrying about what my hair or what I look like before I fall asleep. When I’m confident enough to show myself without makeup on, that’s when I feel my most confident."
Nina Dobrev told "Seventeen" that she'll never give up on snacking. "Somebody who talks about how much they're eating and counts calories in unattractive to me. And when you limit yourself in the things you eat, it affects your mood. I've seen people who are a nightmare to be around because they're not eating. That's why I always have an apple in my purse or a Luna Bar in the glove box in case I get stuck in traffic--I don't even want to be alone in the car with myself if I'm hungry!"
"I think there’s a perception out there that people know me based on these glamorous photos they see of me in magazines, but I have about two hours of hair and makeup and then people to dress me, to make me look even better, in those pictures," <a href="http://www.seventeen.com/victoria-justice-cover-gallery#slide-1">Justice told "Seventeen" Magazine.</a> "There’s really so much more to me than that."
"I definitely have body issues, but everybody does,"<a href="http://www.theboot.com/2010/01/07/taylor-swift-body-issues/">the singer told MSN in 2010</a>. "When you come to the realization that everybody does that -- even the people that I consider flawless -- then you can start to live with the way you are. I've read interviews with some of the most beautiful women who have insecurities. And you look at them and you're like, 'How do you have? Name one thing wrong with yourself,' and they could name a handful."
"I'm never going to starve myself for a part," <a href="http://www.popsugar.com/Jennifer-Lawrence-Elle-Magazine-December-2012-25819188">Lawrence told ELLE in an interview last year</a>. "I don't want little girls to be like, 'Oh, I want to look like Katniss, so I'm going to skip dinner. That's something I was really conscious of during training, when you're trying to get your body to look exactly right. I was trying to get my body to look fit and strong, not thin and underfed."
After Miley was criticized for being full-figured in 2011, the star <a href="http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/847325/miley-cyrus-speaks-out-on-weight-body-issues">spoke out</a> on Twitter about destructive beauty standards. "By calling girls like me fat, this is what you're doing to other people," the star tweeted, along with a photo of an unhealthily thin woman. "I love MYSELF & if you could say the same you wouldn't be sitting on your computer trying to hurt others."
"I was one of the only girls in my high school that didn't get [a nose job]," <a href="http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20435319,00.html">Michele said in a 2012 interview with GQ</a>. "And if anybody needed it, I probably did. But my mom always told me, growing up, 'Barbra Streisand didn't get a nose job. You're not getting a nose job.' And I didn't... That's why I'm proud to be on a positive show and to be a voice for girls and say, 'You don't need to look like everybody else. Love who you are.' "
In an emotional interview with Entertainment Weekly, Riley opened up about the lack of roles available for women who don't necessarily fit Hollywood's beauty standards. “I'm not going to conform, and hurt myself, and do something crazy to be a size 2,” <a href="http://insidetv.ew.com/2012/11/16/amber-riley-this-is-how-i-made-it-video/">she said</a>.
RIhanna has spoken out about the industry standard of being super-skinny. "You shouldn't be pressured into trying to be thin by the fashion industry, because they only want models that are like human mannequins," <a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-1279362/Rihanna-reveals-life-sweet-again.html#axzz2K4JyMPNf">she said</a>. "But you have to remember that it's not practical or possible for an everyday woman to look like that. Being size zero is a career in itself so we shouldn't try and be like them. It's not realistic and it's not healthy."
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