– The objectification of women is a problem for society not only the tech industry

Before you read any further let me just point one fact, I am not a woman which is a blessing for woman kind (if there is such a term) because I think I would make a rubbish woman. So there will inevitably be some who will feel that I have no right to write about an issue which is primarily about women and how they are portrayed in tech.

As the father of a nine year old girl who I would love to be able to code I thought I would put in my two pennies worth on this Friday afternoon, it avoids having to write code for a spec that is changing quicker than the British weather.

I had the misfortune to come across the CodeBabes website earlier today having followed a link from someone I follow on Twitter. Having briefly looked a the site and the videos I am very unsure what to make of it all it, Who is this aimed at ? Why does it even exist ?, surely they cannot be serious! It is safe to presume it is aimed at getting more women into coding and tech.

Now this just could all be a spoof to initiate a debate about women in tech, I very much doubt it (I am covering my back just in case :) )

The whole objective of CodeBabes is to teach those who do not know the basic elements of coding, HTML, CSS and some PHP. The controversy is that the tutorial videos are fronted by young women, suggestively dressed and who remove an item of clothing for each online exam you pass.

This has reminded me of an incident a few years ago where after the constant drooling by my developer work colleagues. One day I suggested that maybe them staring and commenting on every woman that went to the Kitchen to make a cup of tea was a little demeaning. They thought I was some kind of sub-human creature because I didn’t feel the need to join in with their little game. 

The reaction to the CodeBabes website has been understandably negative in the most part, although I have seen some on Twitter positively drooling over the site. However I think most people are simply missing the point , the debate has gotten into one about the role of women in tech, citing CodeBabes as the very reason most women are put off from a career in tech and more specifically coding. All this is true but there is a need to widen the discussion.

CodeBabes isn’t awful because it represents all that is bad in tech, but because it represents all that is bad in society. Just like the vilified but still heavily subscribed tabloid gutter press CodeBabes exists simply because there is a market for it. That market doesn’t exist in isolation but it forms a part of the society in which we live.

Women have in the past and still are today seen as nothing more than the object of fulfilment and the way to deal with this is not only to get more women into tech or to get more CEOs of companies to be women, but to accept that the way in which we live and think is fundamentally flawed.

You won’t be hard pushed to find a career woman who has made it to the top of the corporate world look down upon other women who maybe have chosen a life of domestication instead. It seems sometimes it is a lose-lose situation for women in todays world.

The objectification of women has infiltrated every single part of our lives from beauty pageants for young girls, to the pornographic industry. Is not surprising that within this context that something like CodeBabes would come into being. We cannot have our cake and eat it too, if we find CodeBabes repulsive then we have to begin to question society itself.

The solutions offered to stop things like CodeBabes happening again could be many, having more women in tech, having more women in the workplace in general or making the workplace more politically correct through company procedures. All these have their benefits but it will not get to the root of the problem which are the values that give rise to the kind of thinking that creates the CodeBabes.

When a bug appears in code or there is a perceived problem with the development process the best way to deal with this is a root cause analysis. To really question the end to end process, was the problem with communication between the project manager and the developers?, did the developers code to the wrong spec?, did a lack of tests in the code mean that bugs were not caught? did the testers test against a correct set of criteria? I could go on and on but the point is to find and eliminate the real cause of the problem.  

When the media portrays a society somewhere in the world in Africa, Asia or the Middle East where their cultural or religious outlook rails against the likes of CodeBabes , FHM magazine and the objectification of women, the world shouts “backward”. The freedom machine is then rolled out to give the savages a taste of freedom, democracy , liberalism , secularism , capitalism and everything in between.  Yet when we see something wrong with society there is no questioning as to wether societies closer to home are the ones that are the backward ones.

It is time for some intellectual honesty, don’t simply shoot the messenger (in this case CodeBabes) but question what gives rise to this in society. 

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