Widgets Magazine


What’s behind the creation of a hashtag?  When it comes to the creation of #SexismAV, quite a lot and nothing at all.
A Persistent Problem
It is a sad fact that bias is a persistent problem.  We see it everyday in a multitude of forms both overt and subtle.
One enduring issue is that of sexism. Despite one’s origins or culture, women are often a universal target. It is a problem that one would think should have become extinct long ago.
I cannot speak for the world’s cultures but what I do know is the community of the professional audio visual world. The last 20 years have shown a dramatic increase in both the numbers and the roles women play. A good number are counted as CEO’s, Founders, and industry leadership.  Yet the good ole boy attitude of treating women like nothing more than office decorations persists.

I have lived through the transition from when women techs were treated like lost children, regardless of experience or knowledge. Worse was the constant and unfettered ogling, accompanied by the constant suggestions of after work activities.
This sort of obvious and out loud sexism is rarer now but it has not gone away. The expression of the same ideas  now reverberates online.
Forum Frustrations
I am an active reader of and responder in several pro AV forums – from the deeply technical to the light hearted observations on work foils and foible.  Most of these discussion groups are civil, sometimes a bit snarky, but generally congenial.
Then there are the groups, purportedly pro AV centric, that allow the free distribution of sexist and misogynist memes, photos showing “women techs” dressed in barely there clothing or jokes about what work a woman really should do on the job site.
The tenor of the discussion was bad enough, but the fact that they were openly proffered under the moniker of a professional forum made it even more stomach turning. These groups were ‘members’ only and they are free to conduct themselves as they wish, but they presented a bit of a bait and switch.

Last week, after commenting, privately, to the admins of the site and no change in the content I finally had enough. The result was me quitting three separate high membership forums and commenting on this via a Facebook rant.   

While the temptation is great to name names and call out the admins, it would only give them undeserved attention. Regardless, I felt it necessary to state my reasons, even if it was a bit of shouting into the wind.
Interview with Johnnie Sanchez (enter hashtag)
Johnnie Sanchez is someone I recently started chatting with on Twitter, mostly over a mutual appreciation of Diego Rivera, Faulkner, classic literature in general and sometimes pro AV.
Johnnie noticed my Facebook outburst and asked if I would be open to an interview on the topic.  She was curious about my reasons for publicly quitting the groups. She also wanted to know what a white bearded veteran, such as myself, thought of the state of AV and women.
We agreed that a public discussion would be fine and in order to keep our thoughts organized and searchable that the hashtag #SexismAV would be used.
The discussion centered around the items discussed above and Johnnie’s interest in how I came to my strong feelings on the issue. Spoiler alert, I grew up with really strong women around me – my mother in particular.
It is a sad fact that too many of us have seen the active discounting of a female colleague with the loaded sentence, “Well, she is just not right for this part, it really should go to [enter male associates name here].”  We have also heard the asides about the physical characteristics of a woman as she turns the corner from a recent discussion.
These sort of actions throw roadblocks in the way for those in the industry and serve as a warning to those thinking of entering it.

In the advertising world this sort of thing is far too common as Cindy Gallop points out with voracious regularity. Specifically, Gallop points to the gap in the number of women who are invited to be panelists at industry discussion groups.  
Using the hashtag #changetheratio, Gallop calls for equity in choosing the experts to discuss a topic. Bringing more women into the spotlight gives us a different perspective as well as raising the perceived importance within an industry.
Has the integration/pro AV industry made strides? Yes, of course, but how many women are on industry panels or are chosen to host them? How many earn equal pay, not just 75 cents on the dollar? It is time to change the ratio(s).
The need is not just in Audio Visual markets, none other than Owen Barder has asked us to make a pledge to refuse to participate in panels that do not include a woman. The pledge reads:

“At a public conference I won’t serve on a panel of two people or more unless there is at least one woman on the panel, not including the Chair.”

It is not that hard, really. I have pledged, will you?
owen pledge
Herrrrrrrre’s Johnnie: (Johnnie Sanchez, gives her take.)
While scrolling through Facebook one night, I came across Tucker’s post about leaving these groups. As a graduate of women’s college, Agnes Scott College, I see rants about sexism and politics all the time. To be honest, a lot of it is irritating. Some people will only focus on the negatives in this world and try to cause drama (if I hear “trigger” one more time…).
Tucker’s post was different, though. One, he’s a male. Two, he’s from a generation of men who never talk about women’s rights. It’s really quite rare to hear from anyone on this issue besides women, especially Millennial women, though that is changing. I was intrigued and impressed with his boldness.

It vaguely reminded me of that time when Amber Coffman broke the music world’s twitter when she named names on a assault that took place in public. Heathcliff Berru, the man in question, resigned from his firm after numerous well respected women came forward with similar stories on Twitter. It’s been one of the music business’s biggest stories of 2016, maybe the biggest.
I asked Tucker what the names of these specific groups were, but he felt that revealing names would just give these groups and people unwarranted publicity. I understand that point of view as much as I understand Coffman’s point of view. 
A Word About the Hashtag
Quite unintentionally, the hashtag has caused a minor stir.  What started out as a way to organize our thoughts during the discussion has been perceived by a few as something a bit more nefarious.
It has been expressed that #SexismAV could become a dumping ground for complaints and rants about acts of sexism in our industry. The concern is that by bringing attention to the pervasiveness it will sully us all and demean an industry. Personally, I reject any call to sweep the troubles under the rug.   
I do reject accusations that have little merit beyond the call out, especially when naming a specific person/company. This is no reason to refuse to be transparent about the issues that still weigh on the industry.
In the end no one really owns a hashtag. Once it is created and has a collective gathered around it, a self sense of purpose will evolve. Communal ownership provides a purpose and line of communication for us all.
Mansplaining…to Men
Am I actually mansplaining? Well, yes. To other men.
We are responsible for our own actions and in kind must be ‘man’ enough to take personal ownership when we allow bias to happen.
Get your act together lads, it is no longer a boys only club.  
We all have our personal proclivities, but part of being an adult is knowing when they are appropriate and when they weigh down others. By the same merit the attraction of humans is an inherent part of our evolutionary success, yet it is not appropriate in all venues.
I know, this is a shocking revelation for some and I now welcome you to the 21st century.

In the end it is up to men to tell each other to knock it off. It shouldn’t be up to women to tell men that they’re being knuckleheads.
Where do you think the line is? What is the next step?
You can leave a comment here or tweet us at @johnnieasanchez , @tuckertues or via the #SexismAV
Featured image use under Creative Commons License, Copyright Anders Sandberg 

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  1. Brock McGinnis on

    “A generation of men who never talk about women’s’ rights,” Johnnie? I don’t know you so I don’t know if that’s an ignorant statement or a stupid one. Assuming the former…you should know those of us coming of age in the ’70s were active, real-time participants in the enormous post-Don Draper era changes in society. We not only talked about it, we acted.
    My generation was the first to embrace spouses as partners, to evenly share parenting and ‘domestic management’, to encourage and enable careers outside the home, and set the table for the incredible (comparatively, at least) parity for women in business, government and education.
    George left those forums because he was (rightfully) disgusted by the inappropriately sexualized behaviour of individuals. This is not unique to AV or any other industry. It is ‘men behaving badly’…and surely you already know what type of men have this problem. It certainly wouldn’t be tolerated in our workplace, nor likely is it tolerated in theirs.
    I’m offended by #SexismAV. I do not believe it is either fair or valid to target and taint an entire industry and a great group of people (in my experience) with the bad behaviour of a small sample of poorly-raised, culturally-ignorant, low-class puerile morons. We sell to women, we buy from women, we employ women, we work for women, we train and promote women, we celebrate women and – as an industry – I believe both institutionally and personally we go out of our way to ensure women are included, valued and encouraged. If your personal experience is different, I apologize, but the overwhelming majority of “us” are part of the solution, not the problem.

  2. @Brock McGinnis
    Hi there! That was definitely a poorly worded sentence. What I should’ve said was *I* don’t know many men from George’s generation that talk about women’s rights. I completely agree that your generation really changed the game.
    My personal experience is no different from the wonderful one you described. I’ve enjoyed working in AV, exclusively with males. The hashtag was just a way to organize thoughts and keep track of tweets. I don’t think either of us were trying to say that the majority of the AV community has a problem. The hashtag could also say #SexismFoodIndustry #SexismNurses (remember “Meet the Parents”?) #SexismBanking. It could fit into many different industries.

  3. Brock McGinnis on

    Thanks Johnnie. Unfortunately hashtags are powerful tools for not just gathering conversation and opinions, but also for shaping those conversations. #SexismAV – or “women’s rights” for that matter really had nothing to do with why George resigned those forums.
    As I read it, he simply chose to no longer associate with idiots who don’t treat women like he knows his mother, wife, daughter(s) or, for that matter, any other women should or would want to be treated. Or the even bigger idiots moderating the forums that chose to actively condone such behaviour.
    Perhaps #AVForumIdiots (or, even better, the name of the offending forums) would have been not only more accurate and appropriate – but also more effective.
    (BTW: I’m very glad – after following your conversation that night on Twitter – that George wrote about this. Despite my disagreement with your semantics I don’t think there’s any question we could all use a whack on the head every once in a while to remind us the playing field is not yet equal, that women and others often -overtly or inadvertently- are treated differently, and that every successive generation will continue to face their own challenges dealing with all “them vs. us” issues.

  4. I agree with Brock – I’m offended by the hashtag and certain characterizations. I’m a person from the same generation who has been supporting women in the industry, this is known by people from the industry organization and more including very influential women in the industry (and there are many). Sexism is wrong in any way, shape or form – period, however it should not be designated as an AV hashtag, this industry has enough problems without laying this one on it. George had a problem with those Facebook groups – fine leave the groups, I commend that and even write a blog about it, maybe that sends a message to them.

  5. George Tucker on

    Brock –
    You make some salient points about a generation that grew up within the women rights movement, particularly the mid 1970’s. We are not our Father’s patriarchal flag bearer. I also agree that the Audio Visual industry has grown up a lot in the ensuing 15 years, but the well described “bad behaviour of a small sample of poorly-raised, culturally-ignorant, low-class puerile morons” are still a major problem.
    To me, stating that the hashtag will only drag the industry name in the mud is akin to the Mansplaining. Take for example when a group decries the actions of an individual for talking down to women.
    An apt example is the recent comment of Raymond Moore, the CEO of Indian Wells Tennis Garden – who said “If I was a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born, because they have carried this sport. They really have.”
    The response has been fairly universal condemnation, but when women call this out as just another example you get the torrent of men responding – ‘Well, not ALL men!’. The frustration and the coining of the term ‘Mansplaining ‘ is that women KNOW this, but in their day to day life it happens ALL THE TIME!, EVERY DAY.
    Every day in oh-so-subtle-ways and in the, (getting rarer, but not dead yet), shockingly direct the demeaning of women in the industry happens. I saw it in the field all the time, at conferences, as asides, and in ‘slips of the tongue’, and in these ‘professional forums’.
    The point is not to defend those that don’t, it is to condemn those that do.
    The hashtag, (admittedly created and used at a moments notice), speaks to this. If the private notes and messages I have personally received are any indication, the article has stuck a note with many people. I have had several stories related to me in the hours since we posted. Statements of how it demeans, stops individuals from seeking a promotion or growth in responsibility, how they would think twice if their daughters expressed an interest in the profession.
    Hell a good portion of advertising in the industry still shows seductively posted women ‘demonstrating the gear’. Let’s not even get started with “booth babes”.
    This is why I am speaking to my gender only in the article. When those men do not call it out when we witness it , then we acquiesce it. Just because the issue may be less of a problem in our little corner of the world does not mean we should dismiss it – it is still a problem.

  6. I’m sad to say that sexism in the workplace–not only in the AV industry–is still rampant. We need to talk about it. And it adds credibility when the conversation includes a cross section of genders, races, job descriptions. Thanks to my good friends George, Brock and Corey for participating in this conversation. Johnnie, pleased to meet you and I hope to connect!
    As the new chair of the WIN Women in InfoComm Networking Council, it is in my volunteer job description to work on this issue. Please send me your ideas. Contact me through Twitter @draperinc, through LinkedIn, or look up my email on the contact page at draperinc.com.

  7. There is so very much casual sexism in tech industries that it becomes part of the general background noise. I applaud George for posting on this as we men in the industry have a responsibility to call out and correct this problem as it occurs – whenever it occurs. Yes, this includes blatant double-entendres like “nice rack” on what is ostensibly a professional forum. It includes calling out blatantly sexist advertising and promotional material. It ALSO means questioning our assumptions, striving to use gender-neutral language, and correcting people when they fail to do so.
    I will, perhaps, tag examples with the hashtag. Not to name-and-shame, but to educate. I’ll be kind and believe that much of the low-level background sexism in the industry (and elsewhere) is subconscious. We speak as we do because we’ve always spoken that way, because it’s comfortable and familiar. Now we need to stop it, and look at the bigger – and perhaps unintended – messages we send.

  8. Thanks for posting this, Tucker. I’m disgusted that this is STILL an issue in the AV industry. Comments such as “I don’t think women belong in the maintenance shop” were commonly heard from many of the maintenance men and systems integrators in the music and post-production studios, broadcast networks and film studios, when I began my career as an assistant music engineer and later a systems installer in the mid-80’s. I was a contractor, loved my job, worked very hard, ignored it and pushed on, along with the (few) other women in the industry. There was no social media and no place for open discussion at that time. Now anti-discrimination/harassment seminars are a mandatory part of orientation sessions in most companies, and more women are working in the AV industry. While the comments may no longer be heard out loud, it’s a damn shame to learn that the attitude hasn’t changed. Why is this still a thing?

  9. Thanks for posting this, George — thoughtful, well-written pieces about societal issues as they reveal themselves in my chosen industry are always as welcome as sexist/racist/bigoted crap is not. Sometimes it’s hard to not hate haters….M

  10. Steven Brawner on

    i will also chime in about being offended by the term #SexismAV. I was raised part of my life by a single mother before she was married to my adopted father. She was the epitome of a strong woman. She was a high school dropout that went back to school and eventually earned her masters degree with honors in nursing. She and i have talked about sexism many times and it’s just stupid people being stupid. I know many strong women in our industry (a few have PM me when this was discussed before) who have never experienced what you would classify as harassment or sexism. i know a few who have actually admitted that being a woman has opened some doors for them. There are stupid people everywhere you go, but when a person of your exposure in our industry starts a conversation with the hashtag SexismAV it puts a label on me that i find offensive. I appreciate a beautiful woman, just like most women i know appreciate a handsome man, but appreciating this fact and even acknowledging it doesn’t make one sexist.
    I will contend just the opposite of what you are suggesting. i feel that stating you won’t be on a panel unless there is a woman present, especially in an industry that has a shortage of female talent, is more sexist than it is helpful. From this day forward every time i see you on a panel with a woman i will not know if she is there because she is best fitted or because of your affirmative action. I endured ridicule and even being ignored for years in our industry. The reason why was crazy to me but i didn’t let it stop me from working hard and learning at every turn. You see, i am a country boy, with the country accent and mannerisms that go along with that. I often get overlooked because for some ignorant reason people link country accents with being simple minded and even learning disabled. I have often had people say to me “wow, when i first heard you talk i didn’t expect much, but you really know your stuff”. I don’t whine, or complain, or demand someone pay me some attention. Instead i work my tail off and i strive to be the best. I bet you that a huge majority of women in our industry feel the same way. They don’t need or want some man to validate them by demanding they be involved in a conversation or a panel. They want to be recognized for their expertise and hard work.
    I will end this by stating two things. First, this is my opinion formed through a lifetime of being raised by a strong woman and being married to a strong woman. Neither of which have ever needed validation from anyone. Second, i think its about time that people get over themselves and stop assuming that everyone needs their approval. my guess is that most people in this world will live perfectly happy lives if left alone and allowed to shine in their own greatness.

  11. George Tucker on

    Firstly, hats off to your mother, from your telling a remarkable and driven person.
    I cannot speak for the individuals you have had conversations over this issue, what I can say is that I have and continue to see the acts and influence it has. The theme of the article is not to place all women into a single corner but to acknowledge that the underlying and continual undercurrent is affecting the lives of far too many in our industry.
    I stated this earlier and feel it need to be re-said: The hashtag is not about defending those who don’t ~ it is about condemning those that do. See my comment and discussion above about Mansplaining.
    My personal stand on not being a member of public industry discussions where a qualified woman is present is not about placing any female remotely related to the discussion on hand. It is placed firmly in the understanding that there ARE plenty of women who ARE qualified and willing to be part of the discussion.
    There are also plenty who are not even being asked to participate.
    There is a reason I specifically chose to use Cindy Gallop as an example of some one who fights this fight in the advertising world, and beyond. Ms Gallop’s unique facet of interests and businesses exemplifies a woman who worked her way to the top, outwardly ignored the rampant abuse but now speaks clearly on its continued damage. I urge you to review all of her CV, not quite the person most expect _See her TED talk.
    Success can happen despite the ‘stupid people’, agreed – Yet if we allow this bullying to percolate no one gets a fair chance.
    Apologies for the delay in getting back to you, I was grinding toward a deadline and put my focus there for the past few days.

  12. Victoria Ferrari on

    Wow. What a discussion. I tend to lean more towards the viewpoint of Steven. As a successful woman in the industry for 16 years I am qualified to comment on this. I’m not the greatest writer. I don’t have eloquent words, so I’ll just say, “SO WHAT?!” Really George I’m sorry that you are saddened by this “problem,” and I appreciate your concern; I really do, but so what?! Some dudes make inappropriate comments. Does that hinder me in anyway? If it does, that is my problem. Our world is messed up. Bad things happen all the time. I may be slowed down by some of them, but nothing can stop me. I bring solutions to my clients with the intention of making their businesses better, and I’m really good at it too. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Now, if people are doing things that are illegal, they will be dealt the wrath that they deserve. That’s a little bit different story. All injustices will be rectified in time. In the mean time, I’m going to continue being good at what I do, no matter what! If anyone would like more info on my take of this topic read my past blog post: avnation.tv/blog/mans_world/

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