Pretty faces, tight outfits and a permanent smile: Any visitor to Taiwan’s tech trade fairs like Computex cannot help but notice the show girls hired by exhibitors to promote their products. And for some visitors, they seem to actually be the main attraction.
If you have never been there, let my give you an impression of what we are talking about. (You might not want to watch this in the office with the boss or Gleichstellungsbeauftragte looking over your shoulder.)
Hot in here, isn’t it?
Before you file me firmly in the “male chauvinist” category along with my video, let me just say: I am aware that there are people who find the booth babe phenomenon problematic, and for good reasons, too. Some pieces worth checking out:
- BBC: ‘Booth babes’ stir controversy at 2012 CES (video report)
- IT World: The life of a ‘booth babe’: high heels, long hours and leering visitors (report from this year’s Computex)
- Lao Ren Cha (blog): Computer Xiaojie CTRL+ALT+DELETE
I’m not anti-enjoyment of looks. I’m not against men admiring beautiful women. Heck, I admire attractive men. It’s more that this sort of commodification of cute sends a message to the men in the industry: that women are objects, that their main asset is looks, and therefore that they aren’t to be taken seriously as colleagues and innovators.
So when I was recently filming some reports at Computex for German TV (check them out here), I decided to ask a show girl/booth babe/computer xiaojie about her own opinion and experiences. I met Jessica at the Acer booth:
Not to claim that she is representative for all show girls, but I do like her pragmatic attitude towards her job.
It should be noted that, because of her good English, Jessica is hosting the on-stage shows, which gives her lots of opportunities to actively communicate with the visitors, even command them to shout slogans and reward them with little gifts. A booth babe without this crowd control responsibility will probably more easily find herself in a position where she is truly objectified.
It’s kind of hard for me to take a side here. Yes, I do enjoy looking as much as the next guy (and filming and editing), and I think that’s legitimate. Don’t expect me to apologize for that first video I posted above. But I also see that there is a line between cute entertainment and sexism that is easily crossed (which results in sexist entertainment, I guess). Where exactly is this line?
It occurs to me that, being neither a woman nor Taiwanese, I am not the one directly concerned here. So I am especially interested in knowing my female readers’ opinions about Taiwan’s booth babe phenomenon!
Other posts you might want to have a look at:
- Taiwan’s new interior minister: Not your typical politician
- How the KMT is campaigning for Taiwan’s undecided voters
- How Taipei citizens do not get a second forest park, but just another shopping mall
- Cheap labor, no rights? Taiwan’s 2nd class foreigners
- Jingmei Prison shows how Taiwan does not deal with its past