Pundit’s Mailbag — United Fresh And Others Weigh In On Booth Babes
Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, November 26, 2012
When there is great interest in seemingly small matters, it is often a sign that something larger is at stake. So it may be with our discussion of “booth babes.”
We’ve run three pieces in this conversation so far:
1) Pundit’s Mailbag — Booth Babes And The Disconnect With PMA’s Position On Women’s Careers
2) Pundit’s Mailbag — Nothing Wrong With Booth Babes!
3) Pundit’s Mailbag — “Booth Babes”, Professionalism and Hypocrisy: What Should PMA’s Policy Be?
They continue to bring interesting responses. Some question the practicality of any “solution” and even whether the end result would be what those focused on the subject are looking for:
Though no less a luminary than the CEO of the United Fresh Produce Association points out that United already requires professional dress at the United event:
Of course, the very question is what is “good taste in attire that is suited to the professional occasion”? The issue was raised in the context of Daisy Duke-type lookalikes for Texas Town — call it the Texas version of aboriginal dances. Does that constitute clothing that is “scanty or excessively revealing”? Who knows?
Others question whether this isn’t all a kind of ethnocentrism emphasizing America’s puritanical history. They point out that other cultures are not as concerned about these issues:
Still others think the very question is a distraction from Job #1:
And our vituperative correspondent is back for more:
Mr. Thomas seems to think this is a free-speech matter, but he is incorrect. PMA is a private organization, and it can impose any dress standards it would like — requiring a suit and tie or banning bikinis.
Now if someone started saying that there “ought to be a law,” then censorship issues would come into play.
This discussion brings up many issues:
First — Why do they do it?
It is easy to say that sex sells and that people do these things to attract buyers. We have our doubts. The problem is that the downside is so great — one offended buyer at a big chain — that it is hard to make a case for this as a sales-driven strategy.
We suspect that in many cases, this is self-referential marketing. We used to visit a printer in rural Wisconsin and get up before dawn to go do press checks. When we would turn on the TV before dawn, we often saw commercials promoting dairy consumption.
Was this effective marketing to consumers? We doubt it. But the dairy farmers were up at that hour in rural Wisconsin and they probably liked seeing the commercials — although their interests should have led them to be outraged their money was being spent on such advertising.
The particular picture Dan’l Mackey Almy used to illustrate her post on this issue was taken at Texas Town at PMA.
What buyers will enjoy and value is difficult to assess. But it might be quite easy to see what the shippers will enjoy.
Maybe the whole issue is really about effective marketing and a misguided focus not on the buyer, but on oneself.
Second —You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
The industry has major outreach going on to college students. One wonders what a 20-year-old upcoming professional female thinks of the industry when she walks the floor and sees these types of displays. Maybe she thinks the industry isn’t for her. That is a high price for the industry to pay.
Third — What is the response of professional executives to the “booth babes”?
Female executives in the industry know very well how to mentor a younger colleague, and if they saw her wearing excessively revealing clothes they would counsel her to be professional, to sell her mind, her tenacity, not her physical attributes.
It is not so clear to us that the same female executives would have much to say to the “Daisy Duke” women in the photo. These women are trying to make a living; they may not be interested in the long-haul of professional development and reputation-building.
Somewhere in this contretemps is a societal struggle for how men and women get along and how different classes of women get along.
Although executive women clearly want a professional environment, it is not at all clear that they want men in their personal lives to be just as horrified at the unprofessional nature of sexually suggestive women on the floor. And, of course, most men on the floor are, or will be, in some woman’s personal life.
It is also clear that executive women want to mentor and further the careers of younger professional women, but how this professional class will get along with women who have different values and priorities is not very clear.
What is clear, as we reflected when we sat down to Thanksgiving dinner this past weekend, is that one of the most wonderful things about this country is that we are forever striving to create a more perfect union. There is no particular answer, but the process goes on.
Many thanks to Doug Stoiber, Tom Stenzel, John Pandol, Michael deRensis and Ward Thomas. We hope that everyone found something to be thankful for during Thanksgiving dinner.