TechCrunch's Disrupt conference hosted a presentation that proves objectification is alive and well in tech.
Two Australian men gave a presentation at TechCrunch's Disrupt startup hackathon with an app called "Titstare". Jethro Batts and David Boulton — the duo behind Hateyoucards.com (NSFW language) described their app as "an app where you take photos of yourself staring at tits". Other actions include rating, favouriting and sharing photos.
The pair described the presentation as "just a fun Aussie hack", apologising for offending people. Given the current discussions around gender equality in tech fields, though, it's baffling that TechCrunch didn't consider that without screening, a presentation of this kind might appear before an audience of professional developers, including women — and one 9-year-old girl, whose mother tweeted:
Titstare guys got a very loud applause from audience. Thank god sexism isn't alive and well in the tech sector. SO PROUD TO HAVE MY KID HERE— Kim (@kkjordan) September 8, 2013
It gets better. A few presentations before, developer Kangmo Kim had demonstrated an app called "Circle Shake" that has you shake your phone for 10 seconds, then ranks your shaking globally. During his demonstration, the developer simulated masturbation, complete with loud moans.
Disrupt has been running since 2010, and it is interesting that this is the first time not one but two presentations of this kind have attracted notice.
AOL — TechCrunch's parent company — has since removed videos of both presentations from its site, and TechCrunch issued an apology noting that, going forward, presentations will be screened before appearing on-stage.
Sexism is a major problem in the tech industry, and we've worked hard to counteract it in our coverage and in our own hiring.
Today's issues resulted from a failure to properly screen our hackathons for inappropriate content ahead of time and establish clear guidelines for these submissions.
Trust us, that changed as soon as we saw what happened at our show. Every presentation is getting a thorough screening from this hackathon onward. Any type of sexism or other discriminatory and/or derogatory speech will not be allowed.
Women still struggle for recognition and acceptance in tech fields, and many conferences serve to undermine their presence as participants. Like the ubiquitous presence of booth babes at trade shows, presentations like Titstare indicate that women are objects to be ogled, not peers to be respected.
More, however, both presentations are disrespectful to all attendees — assuming that puerile, sex-based jokes are welcome. While jokes about these topics may be appropriate among a group of friends, they have little place in front of a professional audience, each member of whom paid US$2995 to attend an event about app development.