CES’s Seamy Underbelly

Lynne Kiesling

OK, I just effused a bit over a new product introduction at the Consumer Electronics Show. Time to balance my enthusiasm with a glimpse of CES’s seamy underbelly. You’re surprised that the largest consumer electronics trade show in the world, held annually in Las Vegas (of all places), has a seamy underbelly? Want to buy my bridge?

It probably has several seamy underbellies, but the one that caught my eye this afternoon is misogyny, as recounted with some wonderful and entertaining writing by Liz Gumbinner (AKA CoolMomTech). Trade shows are infamous for such things, right? Booth babes, speaking panels where all of the speakers are men, and so on. Liz’s post recounts a few of the instances of misogyny she encountered at CES2013 this week, from almost-innocuous “oh, you must not have been able to get the phone cover off because you didn’t want to break your nails” to some truly appalling encounters. Like this:

Oh, here’s an easy one to start with: If a tech publisher tells you she has four children, the correct response is pretty much anything other than, “Wow. You must have a lot of sex.”

I mention her post here for two reasons. First, big shout out for great writing; I’m a scan-reader, and I was hanging on her every word. Almost never happens for me. Second, she highlights some important economic implications of such behavior:

Tech marketers and conference track programmers, I have some really simple advice for you: It’s time to move on from 1954. If not for feminism or for social good, you need to do it for your own business.

According to research from the very organization putting on the show, women spend more on tech than men. They’re involved in 89% of the consumer electronic purchase decisions. They own smartphones and digital cameras and laptops and tablets. They buy apps like crazy. And you know? They’re writing about technology too.

I can guarantee that if Lindsey Turrentine or Molly Wood or Xeni Jardin or Jolie O’Dell decide your product is a great one, you will sell a crapload of them. Enough even to pay for lap dances for the whole sales team.


4 thoughts on “CES’s Seamy Underbelly

  1. Thanks so much Lynne! I hung on every word here too. So…mutual admiration? Off to check out the Ford post.

  2. Hi Liz! I’ve added CoolMomTech to my RSS reader; you review a lot of devices that interest me (although I’d obviously suggest looking at some home energy management devices too).

    It’s not just consumer electronics; I’m also a cyclist, and the cycling industry’s biggest annual trade show is in … wait for it … Las Vegas, and it’s infamous for having the full panoply of booth babes and boorish behavior.

    Your post has also gotten a lot of interest in my Facebook feed, and been shared among several of my friends. Thanks for it!

  3. An eminently sensible suggestion, which will of course be completely ignored. This blog has taught me just how scarce the Rational Economic Actor is, and this seems to be a great example.

  4. Nah, that’ll play. I needed a facepalm to replace the Tarantino-should-make-the-antebellum-south-less-violent-as-a-service-to-his-fans one (which took all of 8 hours to apotheosis in a Penny-Arcade.com blog post.) Better “Yes, sleep is a terrible option here at CES and I have to pretty much agree with your choice of gestation.”

    Defs not the only example of disappeared contexts, though of course Gen X men talking about Gen X youth (as if we were 5-18 y.o. rather than 38-44 y.o. or the counter hadn’t rolled into Gen i8910nx0↭) is a nice err also. Were there indeed so few male booth babes? Did the Nekomimi people treat you right? Will therandomtexan (what is it there right now, 67° F…or do you take that thing up in an open cockpit) ever find a squee-inducing hat?

    Also, how do I get my cycling industry up in parity with 4-wheel motorized errands/permits/charging/licensing/activism/insurance; there’s a sense of inevitability I should move over, yet I’m disinclined to just go over 2 bike use-cases (a reclining self-balancing regen duo corvette and a mountain rig) piecewise picking the $80-700 entry-level versions of each part (or interchangeable used bearing or stick.) Then the mismatch in racing and accessory cultures comes in; how is the ‘prosumer’ making up for $3k dropped on carbon-fiber wheel gear and where are the durable and modest velo shirts? It’s not like you can then put a ladder on top of your bike and book re-siding of houses then…that I notice.

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