PHPness Gate – raising interesting issues

WPM_2012_Facebook_logoThis past weekend has seen this magazine, and its staff, embroiled in a situation described as everything from a ‘scandal’ to ‘shitstorm’ to ‘storm in a teacup’.  So what’s it all about?

We spent Friday and Saturday at a PHP industry conference in London, which BTW, rocked and showed just how vibrant the PHP space is.  Thanks to the organisers for doing such a great job and to all the devs who stopped by to say hello.

On Friday the following tweet was sent:


We were giving away the t-shirt at the event and 250 people wanted them, before we ran out.  Not a bad uptake for a show with 700 attendees, especially as we were inundated with requests once we had run out, people even asking us whether they could buy the garment in question.

Outrage ensued from some quarters, support from many more.  So what’s the deal?  Why has this created such a fuss?

It seems that some decided the t-shirt represented some form of overt sexism and decided to air their views on it.  Here’s what we have to say.

The Beginning

I’m going to take you back to the beginning before commenting on the here and now.

In late August 2012 the Web & PHP team were preparing to attend a PHP conference in California.  We decided we should produce some t-shirts to giveaway – after all, doesn’t every media or vendor at a tech conference do the same?  We wanted a catchy line to print on the t-shirts, one that is industry relevant and clever.  We’ve seen the ‘Kiss My App’, 10 types of people binary gags, ‘PHP = Pretty Hot Programmer’ type things, so surely we could improve on that.  A suggestion came up that we thought was funny, relevant and poked a little fun at the industry we work in at large.

The line: ‘Enhance Your PHPness’.

The rationale:

1) We are a magazine that every month delivers information that allows people to better their knowledge and understanding of topics in the PHP and web development sectors.  By simply reading the magazine, we think people enhance their knowledge (of PHP), so we can therefore say Enhance their PHPness.  Relevance? Check.

2) As a FREE magazine, we try to add value to the community, getting excellent authors to share their expertise.  Does reading their contributions enhance a person’s understanding?  Check.

3) But let’s not beat around the bush here.  It’s a double entendre, a tongue-in-cheek gag about a male sexual organ.  So humour (dependent on your outlook)?  Check.

4) Wait, is there anymore to it than that?  Of course there is.  We are a team comprising 75% women.  We’re not about to put out a dick joke just for the sake of it.  Give us credit.  If the internet industry had a resume, the list of positives would surely outweigh the negatives by some margin.  BUT, no-one can deny that one of the biggest negatives is that the internet breathed life into spam and enabled it to go global.  Spam continues to be part of parcel of the world we live in, enabled by botnets delivering irrelevance to millions of people every day.  And a high percentage of spam is related to penis enlargement – truth.

5) So is what we have with ‘Enhance your PHPness’ a line that has relevance to the PHP and Web space, humour and intelligence in a single phrase?  (in our opinion) Check.

After all, developers get jokes and are intelligent.  They tend to have a pretty good sense of humour that allows for self deprecation (Atlassian’s Angry Nerds anyone?) and they tend to be passionate about the industry without being stiff and corporate.

T-Shirts were distributed freely during a week in October at a major, well-known conference.  Problems? None.  Adverse commentary?  None.  Scandal?  None.  Did we ship all our T-Shirt stock? Yes.  Did we have people in attendance compliment us at the event?  Yes.

Fast-forward a few months and should we do the t-shirts again for another conference?  YES, YES, YES.

The Furore

What happened next was nothing short of remarkable.  We love the web.  We love it for creating an open communication channel, where we can all share comment and opinion.  Where each of us has an equal say.  What we do not like is that some people use the web to troll, bully, and broadcast ill-conceived, bias comment without first checking all the facts.

So these sexism accusations all started with the photo above.

Ensuing was a stream of comment, some of which we find abusive, from a limited number of people (primarily men), which was ridiculous. It seemed that no-one stopped to think of who the two “chicks” or “chippies” (direct quotes) in the photo were. It was assumed that they were hired models, “booth babes” (another direct quote) who could not possibly have a brain cell between them.  They were obviously puppets of a misogynist of a man who made them wear the t-shirts.

The reality is so far removed from the knee jerk reaction that ensued, with all the assumptions that went with it, that it’s hard to believe.  The ‘chicks’ in the picture were in fact yours truly, Editor of the magazine, and the Relationship Manager.  We not only came up with the slogan ourselves, but decided to wear it on our own accord. If anything, it was only with this reaction of a small-minded and misguided few when we become victims of sexism:  it was almost as if to say that two women in their mid-20s exhibiting at a PHP conference, wearing these t-shirts, couldn’t possibly be an intelligent part of the PHP community.

One industry commentator went so far as to say he would boycott Web & PHP Magazine.

You may have noticed that a feature of our response so far has been to not name-check these people – if you are interested in who they are, take a quick trawl through Twitter and make your own minds up.

Our Concerns:

The insinuation was that the two women exhibiting at a PHP conference should not be approached. They are all hired babes there to satisfy the sexual appetite of randy developers, and surely cannot have any technical knowledge or the ability to join in or enjoy a geeky conversation. Furthermore, the assumption was that we were incapable of making our own decisions, evidently being controlled by a man. As should be becoming apparent, this too is not true, yet we will return to this argument of control later.

Thankfully, the devs at PHP London rocked! Not one assumed the above. All who spoke to us were respectful, immediately started talking shop with us and were genuinely interested in hearing what we had to say and what we were about: “two awesome geeky girls” according to one tweet. Furthermore, everyone got the joke. Not one person said they found the T-shirt disrespectful. In fact they were so popular amongst devs (men and women) that we had run out of all but XL sizes by the end of Friday. Once gone, we had people asking if we were going to print more, where could they get them and that they would even like to buy them. The reception was amazing, and shows that this industry deserves more credit than it gets from certain quarters regarding their attitude towards women.

Another intimation underlying the responses received reveals something we find more worrying.  It’s one surrounding censorship, freedom of speech and how to tackle the problem of sexism in general.

Certainly anti-harassment codes and strict penalties for perpetrators are no bad things. However, rules that censor out parts of everyday existence are simply adding to the problem.  To blanket ban any reference to sex because it “encourages men” to behave in such a way has little respect for men, and worse provides an excuse for their behavior should they commit an offence. One thing that struck us almost immediately at these comments were parallels with the issues which brought about by “Slut Walk.” If you are not aware of the issues behind this, here’s a quick run down. It came about a Toronto policeman told a group of law students that in order to avoid being raped ‘women should avoid dressing like sluts’. Effectively the notion of women being the problem – being the victims because they chose to behave in a certain way which men can’t handle, therefore passing the blame back to the victim themselves.  Pandering to a mind-set that we should censor innuendo at conferences because it provides men an excuse to visualise women sexually, is not helping women at all. We need to work on the attitudes behind this, and hiding them from view is simply being unrealistic and naive.

Telling us to adapt our behavior or not speak about sex because it makes men uncomfortable is not the answer. It’s taking us back to mid-century attitudes that a woman must be demure, not show anything above the calf, stay in the home etc, or she deserves what’s coming to her. By exposing those who feel uncomfortable about it, we’re making them acknowledge and deal with attitudes that lead to harassment, rather than providing them with an easy way to brush the issues under the rug.

Another issue which arose here centered the around choices women make and what they should / shouldn’t be exposed to.  As we’re sure you’re all aware by this point, we’re pretty ballsy girls at Web & PHP Magazine. We make our own choices; we work early mornings, have late nights (and occasionally drink the bar dry), we’re comfortable hanging out in male dominated environment. There’s an intimation rolling around here that women can’t take sexual humour. That they should be bubble wrapped and kept away from it. How many of the men that believe this will make inappropriate jokes in their work places to other male colleagues? I’m betting there are a few. By setting aside risqué humour because women may be offended, you’re encouraging inequality even further. It smacks of a similar attitude which was held in the first half of the 20th century: that women are virginal wall flowers who shouldn’t hear about the facts of life till their wedding night, while it was okay for men to gallivant around bars having the time of their life. It’s like the notion then prevalent that men shouldn’t swear in front of women lest they be offended. In most of our lives now, the women who are offended by swearing are because of their lifestyle choices and not their gender. And that is fine, but please don’t reduce it to a gender issue.

Furthermore, another worrying Tweet we found said “would you want your wife or girlfriend to wear it.” We frankly don’t care. That any man thinks this is still an acceptable comment to throw out in an attempt to defend women’s rights just shows the contradiction and inconsistencies behind the thought process here.

And so, to the end…….

This whole incident has given rise to many issues that should be debated by and addressed by the industry.

Sparked by a play-on-words, the whole incident has brought to the fore many more interesting issues.

It is our right to produce and wear a t-shirt that was not designed with any sexist connotation, one that we were not instructed to wear in order to pick up our pay packets, one that we think has merit in the sector.

Does this magazine regret producing those T-Shirts?  No it does not.  If we offended anybody, that was not our intention.  We understand that not everyone will share our sense of humour and respect anyone’s right to disagree, after all wouldn’t it be a dull world to live in if everyone was the same.  However, please do not mistake humour with sexism, or escalate cheeky banter to questions of gender and equality.  This is not helping our cause.

Morally, we do not feel that we overstepped the mark.  However, we believe some people may have used the internet to be sexist toward two female colleagues.

We will rise above it and continue bringing you a FREE monthly publication for the PHP sector.  We appreciate your comments, and in particular any feedback you have regarding the excellent features and authors Web & PHP Magazine continues to bring you.

For now, regards……..

Anna & Ellen

53 thoughts on “PHPness Gate – raising interesting issues

  1. well said! it’s funny how you bring up ‘slut walk’ because what I described to my husband while we were discussing this whole thing was the picture of Ashley in the Chicago slutwalk protect (the girl without shirt and the text ‘still not asking for it’ written on her torso)

  2. Well said. I couldn’t believe the tweets and blog posts I was seeing the other night and find it hard to imagine being in your position, on the side of it. Kudos for handling it well and I hope you don’t suffer to much fallout from any of it.

    See you at a conference some time!

  3. Excellent response, Anna & Ellen. I’m with you, harmless joke (well received at this end), and would rather have you guys at a conference than Mr Evans if that’s how he want’s to draw the line! (His words, not mine)

  4. Well said .. there was a lot of assuming going on and that is as we all know a dangerous territory. That being said, “Kiss My App” is still ok-ish for me .. but imho penis jokes is taking it too far at a tech conference. And I am saying this here as a male from my personal taste. ie. I am not saying this because I feel the need to defend women from sexism here, I am saying this because I personally find this society over-sexed and so I would prefer my professional life from staying out of this as much as possible.

    A final comment on assuming. With everything that happens you rarely know all the details and yes our industry is unfortunately slanted severely in one direction gender-wise. I think this episode has taught a lot of people that with all the best intentions against sexism, its still all too easy to misstep and end up on the side of the argument you never in your wildest dreams you would ever end up. In this context I think it would be wise to tone down the use of adjectives a bit. Also consider in your marketing that assumptions by good intentioned people can happen and if possible try to pro-actively address such assumptions. I am sure there could have been a way to prevent some of this “shit storm” if your first reply to Cal wouldn’t have been along the lines of “get a grip” and instead would have more openly asked for what the root issue is, so that you could have cleared up some of the incorrect assumptions (“booth babes” etc.).

  5. I didn’t see much of the original ‘storm’ that blew up, but have seen the opinion pieces written after.

    I’m glad that no one was exploited, and that everyone is happy with their own opinions – just goes to show how diverse a world we live in.

    Personally I had to read it twice before I got the innuendo, then shrugged and wondered who did what to whom to cause all the tweets/blogs/etc. I’d heard about.

    I guess that some people are less comfortable than others in environments that are dominated by the opposite sex (male nurse, female mechanic, etc), and believe that the dominant gender in that industry could do more to balance things up. I think they are right, more could be done.

    I know women are not delicate little flowers who should know their limits, and leave the room when the men talk shop. I also know that men and women are different, equal yes, but different. Perhaps this is because of society and/or upbringing, but it is (for tbe most part) true. I know a few men who are more comfortable with a group of women than men, and vice versa, but they are a minority in my experience.

    So should we try to homogenise and avoid offending anyone , or learn to accept and embrace each others differences (and accept that sometimes we will be the offended, and others the offender). I choose the latter, and am prepared to take the risk.

    Experience, knowledge and concensus will tell us what is and isn’t acceptable in any given situation. Sometimes that line is wide grey and hard to see and it gets crossed, if not completely then into the grey area. But that is how communities evolve and grow.

    This time it wasn’t me that was offended, but I know some people were – I am sorry that they felt that way, I understand how it feels.

    I hope they now know that no offence was intended, and that everyone (those that were offended and those that weren’t) can move along – hopefully having learnt something about each other, and do something positive with that knowledge.

    As for me, I will continue to be intimidated by all women – more so if they are in a group, are intelligent, attractive (in my eyes), confident, funny, or all of the above and more. I will try to not let it show, but I am a middle aged geek who’s worked in primarily male offices and factories all of my life, so I may not be able to do so. Try to understand that I am not talking because I’m intimidated, not because I think women don’t belong. or are not worth talking to about tech.

    And if I do speak I’ll try not to say anything inappropriate, but if you want an innuendo, I’ll give you one!

  6. Humbled and very, very, very proud to see suck kick ass strong women.

    I did say you were both beautiful. Hope that counts for something??? It was an eye opener for me, the stereotypes I immediately assumed exposed my own sexism. I thought I knew better, turns out, 51 years of life, and I’m just as human as ever.

    I do believe there are things you might want to think about but I understand that no one shares exactly the same moral code, you are entitled to your own, from your post I can see you have the kind of strength and integrity that is admirable, I certainly back your right to make your choices.

    You earned my respect and I owe you my humble apologies.

    My post:

  7. So, yeah. That got a little out of hand, didn’t it?

    Firstly, sexism is bad. We get it. I don’t like sexism or discrimination of any kind. It makes me physically sick hearing racism, in particular, in the 21st Century.

    But, on the whole, it feels pretty good being part of a community that is open and non-discriminatory towards everyone. That’s what makes us such a decent group of people. We should be proud of this.

    I’m not going to beat around the bush here, though. I thought that the t-shirts were a stroke of genius.

    I, along with 99% of the attendees, thought they added a bit of spunk to the Web & PHP Mag team. That is, until some stiff people sucked all of the spunk right out of the subject. But then, I’m an easygoing guy. You were probably aiming at my demographic, right?

    But hold on! My female colleague agreed—she loved them too. And she’s a woman.

    Going deeper into the woman subject, it seems that both Anna and Ellen became victims of a more personal attack, being branded as “booth babes” by a few misguided individuals. It’s ironic that, by pointing something like this out, you instantly become disrespectful towards women. Pot, kettle?

    Anyway, the problem of discrimination against women does not lie with the women advertising a free magazine for people in the PHP community. There are far deeper issues in society as a whole which I’m not going to go into here. We live in a world where sex sells, and always will sell. It’s a fact of life.

    Finally, it’s rather telling that nobody complained at the event (please correct me if I’m wrong), but chose to do so on Twitter behind the security of their keyboard. Come on, people. Think long and hard about it; were you afraid that the women might have balls and argue back?

    I hope the furore around this subject has climaxed now and this story can have a happy ending, sooner rather than later. I, for one, would like to see them back next year with a new t-shirt—preferably one that’s even more risqué and has genuine reason to offend people.

    p.s. if you don’t like the innuendo in this post, I don’t care.

  8. Pingback: You And Your PHPNess | Paul M. Jones

      • My position in this lies in between Lukas and Paul Jones :). I think adjectives did not help your conversation with Cal Evans. And i want to go beyond what Lukas proposed in terms of what this has taught to all. I propose you both Cal and the two PHPWebMagazine persons which are part of the community sit down on a conversation and settle this by yielding first apologies to each other. One for overextending the marketing furour to a community which really wants to work and enhance PHP only and not certain private views, and Second to make haste assumptions even if the response was a bit rough at the beginning. This could propel the community even further and make life truly more acceptable. Now it is your choice and your grandeur to teach this back to the community you say you love. We are all expecting actions from you both sides, and not just writing and hiding into your places. Now if you don’t give this step, don’t blame the community for assuming things.

        This is a great opportunity.

  9. As in all things, coding being one of them, not everyone will like everything you do. And yes, there are some people out there (I joking call them “Internet Princess”) that will whine and cry every time you do something that they don’t like. But we are not all the same people and that is what makes us who we are. I know things like this can really shake a person up, but you girls just know that the majority of the community (even little ol hobbyist like myself) support you gals 100%. Keep up the great work!!

  10. I’ve heard multiple times from people running various tech events “Always remember to buy extra female t-shirts, because your logo will look good spread across a nice set of tits.”. That made me wince at the time, and if he wasn’t in a position of authority at the time I would have made it into a conversation.

    If you girls had these t-shirts made and wanted to wear them, then you have every right to do so and these insane over-reactions are just people misguidedly trying to do a good thing, but totally screwing it up. At least some folks have posted updates and redactions, but it’ll be interesting to see how many more will do the same.

    Fair play for standing your ground and I wish you the best of luck weathering the storm.

    • Phil – I appreciate you sharing that. That’s a discouraging comment to hear. It can be hard to know what to say, especially if someone is in charge of the event. No one wants to be preached at and it’s not fun to do, especially when it’s pretty obvious any response will be greeted with something like ‘I’m only kidding’ or the like. In situations like that, humor can help. The truth is it can be very difficult for women to be taken seriously in this industry and these kinds of comments you are describing don’t help, as you are pointing out.

      I agree – love how they stood their ground, very strong women. They have my respect.

  11. This response perfectly describes a lot of things that people didn’t realize when all the “storm” happened, and, in my opinion, the most important idea that comes to a light is: we are scratching the surface of something way deeper. This episode – and specially the “booth babes” assumption – reflects a hidden sexism. It’s like they (whoever made accusations) actually had good intentions, but at the end of the day, these attitudes only exposed their hidden and unconscious sexism.

    You girls rock, keep doing the great job you do at WebandPHP, and drop me a line whenever you have more t-shirts, because surely I want one of them! =D

  12. I once worked for a clinical research firm, and we put out some rather skimpy tank tops emblazoned with the text, ” Research Wants My Body”, then gave them out at the college campuses. We had a little bit of backlash for it, but you know, we didn’t really care because it was meant to be fun, and yet, it also had a serious message. So, those people who are upset about your shirts/ads? Tell them to have a Coke and a smile and shut the f up, you have nothing to be ashamed of.

    (side note: Anna & Ellen, how YOU doin’?)

  13. Good grief. Honestly what is wrong with people. It took me a few seconds to get the T-Shirt, but when I did it was amusing. People have such narrow minds, and it’s disgustingly annoying.

    The industry constantly complains that ‘there are not enough women in tech’, then they make fun of, ridicule and belittle those women who are. Bloody stupid. I was however suprised, and pleased to learn that 75% of your workforce is female. It’s a great statistic.

  14. I was immediately struck by the irony of sexism accusations being lobbed at your magazine by people who originally assumed you were hired models. I think it says more about them than your edgy promotions. Sexism cuts both ways, deeply. The aftermath also shows how important it is to have context in these situations. Gotta wait for input from both sides of the fence. Being on the outside looking in doesn’t tell us everything.

  15. Everything has a place and a time; I don’t believe tech conferences are the correct place for sexualized content, thus feel this was inappropriate. I consider myself a feminist and widely support feminist (and related) issues, but don’t agree that a tech conference is the correct place for sex jokes.

      • I didn’t say it was an incorrect place for *jokes*, I said it was an incorrect place for *sex* jokes. Tell me, why do you think a tech conference *is* the correct place for sexual references & sex jokes?

      • This website does not allow to answer deeper, so I answer here instead of below your feedback:

        That’s what I was asking you actually. I’m personally not such a moral person judging right or wrong just because the word “sex” is used as you highlight it. Indeed what I learned about sex is that you should stop thinking in right and wrong after all.

        Generally, everywhere where people meet and sex is literally in the air, it seems fair that communication contain cultural sex references, some often in nuances not even visible to everybody (like on the previous conference those t-shirts were handed out).

        I personally for example did not saw the word penis in there and even after knowing that it must be in there I still don’t read the phrase with the penis word. And that is even after those two ladies did admit in their blog-post they made (next to some other things) a sexist, male-degrading joke with the shirt.

        As sex-references are very common in our western culture (and not only here, I’d say this is a global phenomena with many facets), I would actually not introduce any quick rules based on somebodies opinion because it is useless and short-minded. The folks out there will continue to do what they do, you can’t put the sex aside, it’s just a too important thing like breathing or eating that you could ban it. So naturally a conference is as much the perfect place for that as is everywhere else.

        And also, you don’t fight sexism with a (often deeply sexist) sex morale. Just saying, this gets sometimes mixed in discussions. Until all are free!

    • You do realize your statement is contradictory right? You’re claiming(?) to be a feminist which would imply sexual jokes should be improper in any context. But then you claim that just tech conferences is are the wrong location and imply that there are right places to make crude sexual jokes.

      Then again this fits the mantra of most men who claim to be feminists. Appearance is everything, but you just let the cat out of the bag.

      • Surely it was less a sex joke and more a joke on an industry that spawned spam, a high proportion of which is about the enlargement of a male sexual organ, and is indiscriminate in its targeting or either male or female recipients? Therefore, surely a tech conference is exactly the right place for it. Damien, your argument should be that anywhere is an improper place for sexualized content, so (and I make a presumption that you work in the tech sector) your time would be better spent working out how to remove sexualized spam and pornography from the world of internet. So, what’s the plan?

      • Why would being a feminist imply that sexual-themed jokes are improper in *any* context? That’s a bit of a stretch. Note, I never said *sexist* jokes.

        I would expect sexual-themed jokes at an adult entertainment convention, I don’t expect them at a development conference.

      • But the web is full of sexualized content. So why not have a play on words that can pokes (sorry) fun of that at a web development conference?

        Agree with Huey that perhaps your time may be better spent looking at the point, rather than having an outraged standpoint that seems not to have understood the reasoning and relevance of the joke in the first place.

      • Ryan –

        With respect, if you cannot appreciate that a conference sponsor handing attendees a t-shirt that says “Enhance your penis” might be offensive to some women, might make some women feel uncomfortable, then there is really no reason to debate this with you. That’s a given. You need to accept that. No one needs to apologize for feeling offended, either.

        The debate is a higher level – the question is at what point do we say this is grievous enough of an offense that we ask one party to forgo their rights to protect the rights of the other?

        Those who engage in this debate need to understand there is no winner because there is no “right” answer.

  16. “Please do not mistake humour with sexism, or escalate cheeky banter to questions of gender and equality”.

    Unfortunately, this isn’t a helpful statement to make. Discourse theory would argue that you cannot make this disconnect; a discourse is a set of connected concepts, expressions and statements that constitute a way of talking/writing about an aspect of the world, which frames and influences the way people understand and act with regard to that aspect (Watson 2006). The IT industry is a male-dominated industry, and is considered to be a ‘masculine’ industry. This inevitably frames the discourse; for example, if the industry was female-dominated, would you have produced a shirt with that logo?

    Research on the STEM subjects shows that, from high school onwards, women are progressively dropping out of the science-based industries. One of the key factors that has been identified as causing this is the masculinised discourses surrounding the STEM subjects – science is for boys, men are logical and rational whilst women are emotional and irrational, women aren’t suited to STEM subjects, it isn’t consistent with feminine gender schemas (Bem 1993).

    As a result, the discourse becomes pervaded with subtle but consistent messages that reinforce this idea, that STEM is a masculine area. This then has the affect that women do feel alienated, do find it difficult to either join or stay within the industry. This isn’t to say that women can’t get involved in the industry, and even thrive – some research suggests that women who are in the industry tend to adopt non-traditional gender schemas which enables them to build a coherent work identity (Lemons and Parzinger 2007).

    I truly believe that you didn’t mean any harm with this t-shirt, and I do appreciate the “WTF, it was just a joke, chill out” argument. Discourses are open to contestation – participants aren’t controlled by dominant discourses as they can resist and undermine them, and may create counter-discourses. (Baxter 2012) However, every time something like this happens, it is another small, but cumulative, continuation of a gendered discourse, that ultimately has been shown to alienate women from the industry.

  17. Great question! This kind of thing is really hard to solve and I don’t know the answer. A few studies suggest that the answer lies in targeting the young’uns; girls tend to outperform boys in science subjects which shows that science isn’t a ‘masculine’ trait, so we need to look at drop-out levels from middle-school age up. How best to do that I’m not sure but there are a few interesting studies at the moment. I’m currently waiting to hear back on a PhD proposal I’ve submitted to study gender in IT. If I reach any earth-shattering conclusions, I’ll let you know 🙂

    • It is all interesting but if we cannot address the problem not in the future as an abstract bundles of generations and sexes it is not the solution. The problem is today and is happening now with the community today, not with people in the future. So that is why i mentioned that people should more learn to apologize and accept their faults and also offer more forgiveness. If people still want to protect each other and keep their guns up then we can have many scholars and never understood anything at all.

      • Well, I suggest you go some years back when the Sovjet Union still existed. A lot of female programmers. Also years after it broke down. It’s a problem with western culture and imperialism I have the strong feeling.

      • @hakre – I see you responding in opposition to what others say, how about just sharing what you think? Would love to hear your point of view. Learning from everyone and I can see you feel strongly – want to learn from you, too. Thanks for considering.

      • @Amy: What I think: For the text on the t-shirt some person must have explained it me first. And even now, I know the word Penis is in there – the two ladies admitted that so this is first source confirmation – I still don’t read it out there. If I would read Penis out there I would take it as it is meant: A sexist joke degrading males. I can take it with humor.

      • Thanks @hakre – yup, others feel that way, too. Where it starts to go over the line for me is this isn’t just a t-shirt, this is part of the conference in that sponsors shared these shirts with attendees. It easy to see how that might make those without penises feel like they don’t belong or that they their role is different than the real attendees. We definitely don’t all agree on agree if it was offensive, but I am certain we would all agree, we don’t want women to feel unwelcome. How we do that, is the debate! 😉 Thanks for sharing.

      • @Amy: I think we can all easily imagine and agree that even if a person would have felt not well because of the t-shirt, that person didn’t need to feel unwelcome on the conference at all.

        So far as we know nobody was offended by the t-shirt on the conference even. So nobody felt unwelcome after all.

        Also please don’t put women first, the sexist joke was targeting males specifically and firsthand, please don’t wish that away by writing now all the time that it was turned against women (which I think is not precise and hiding important things).

      • @Amy: Please share if you know that somebody felt offended by that t-shirt and because of that felt unwelcome on the conference. As far as I know that did not happen and if you know more it would be good you say so.

  18. I didn’t know about the mag before this. Great way to find out about it. Love your response, loved the t-shirt. I didn’t even catch the “insult” when I saw it. It took me a while. I showed my daughter, a non-techy, and asked her what she saw. Funny, for both of us the word that came to mind was “happiness”.

    So glad to read your response and the support of others! Glad to know I’m not the only “girl” who can take a joke. BTW, put me down for one of those shirts when you make them available for sale… And now that I know about the magazine, I’ll look forward to enhancing my own PHPness.

  19. As a guy I’m not offended by the slogan or the t-shirts, if I was offended then I’d be outraged at what lands in my spam mail inbox 24 hours a day. It’s amusing, however I can see why people would be offended; perhaps the only way around such outrage is to cover all bases by making a male based comment and similarly ‘funny’ female based quip such as ‘Avoid PHPms’

    Or is that now sexist?


  21. @Amy – The issues involved here can be quite sensitive for some people. People obviously have different boundaries as to what they find funny, “appropriate,” or even sexist. I came here via a comment on Curmudgeonly Ways’ “All This Over a Dongle?!” article, only knowing that a similar controversy had occurred in connection to the PHP conference in London. When I first saw the photo, with this information in mind, a couple things flashed into my mind: 1) The two women in the photo were probably PHP developers, who also happened to be attractive young women, and 2) The “problem” with the words on the shirt was the “sexualization” of them by implying “Enhance your HOTness” – Yeah, I TOTALLY missed the penis reference, which didn’t become clear to me until I read this well-written article. These are important conversations that we are having about issues relating to tech culture as it interfaces with the wider culture. I appreciate the fact that you have articulated your viewpoint so well in the article, were not “wishy washy” about the decisions you’ve made, and fostered a civil, respectful, yet candid discussion with the commenters here. All of this speaks very highly about you and Web & PHP Magazine, which will (hopefully) contribute to its greater relevancy and raise its profile. You’ve definitely got my attention, and I sincerely thank you for that. Cheers!

  22. Is there any particular reason as to why the comment I left on Friday March 22nd of comparing ‘Enhance your PHPness’ to ‘Avoid PHPms’ was removed? You didn’t consider it sexist or offensive did you?

  23. Pingback: Passing the Web & PHP torch | Web & PHP Magazine

  24. It’s largely a shame you’ve been forced to explain yourself for this ignorance. This is a product of the age-old trend of prejudice in society, making your mind up before knowing the facts is no more than a completely subjective assumption, and people who make these assumptions are not worth the time of anyone as intelligent as you lot.

    Ignorance in our race is hugely prevalent, however those who continue to act in such a way will only suffer the consequences of their actions and build faulty relationships with those around them, whereas the upper percent of us will come out on top and build upon facts rather than jumping to ridiculous conclusions and live in a deluded reality. That should be some consolation to us all in regards to this incident! 🙂

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