Pundit’s Mailbag — Booth Babes Issue Rolls On With Discourse About Beauty, PMA Exhibit Policy, Marketing Tactics And Proper Attire
Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, December 2, 2012
We’ve run four 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?
4) Pundit’s Mailbag – United Fresh And Others Weigh In On Booth Babes
And the perspectives proliferate:
In fairness, we don’t think the issue is whether to hire local people or not, and the question of hiring attractive people, though an issue in itself, is not the one we have been addressing.
Here the issue is what kind of dress is appropriate.
The photo Dan’l Mackey Almy used on her blog, The Core of women dressed in Daisy Duke type outfits was objectionable to many of our correspondents not because the women were attractive but because they were not dressed professionally. In other words, the same exact women in business suits or even Khakis and logoed golf shirts in the now common fashion would not have raised an objection.
The issue of whether people subjectively feel degraded is more complicated than it seems. We could go into Marxian theories of False Consciousness, which basically holds that people don’t realize how oppressed they actually are. We can also discuss social justice issues and note that some would question whether the fact that the world is so organized that some people have few options, makes it OK when they want to do desperate things.
The issues are complicated and, in fact, the women who started this conversation think it has gotten off track:
Lorri copied Dan’l on her letter, and Dan’l quickly concurred:
In the end, what this conversation is really about is brand-building, and Lorri and Dan’l are really providing some free consulting, directly to PMA and more broadly to the whole industry about consistency of presentation.
Of course, even acknowledging the importance of such matters, turning it into policy is more difficult.
Would the “Daisy Duke” characters be OK if they weren’t signing their centerfolds? Is the midriff the problem or the short shorts? What if they were wearing sequined gowns and pointing to the produce as if it were a Ferrari at the auto show.
Instituting policies, as many trade shows have, requiring professional attire is less helpful than it might seem. Policies are useful to give show management the opportunity to force someone to stop if there are too many complaints.
It seems beyond argument that PMA, and any other organization, has to decide what it represents and what it wishes to be known for. It also seems obvious that consistency in imaging is a wise idea and an effective branding strategy.
The problem on a trade show is that business is traditionally mixed with fun, and for many men, seeing a “Dukes of Hazard” showcase is fun.
It is, perhaps, an unprofessional distraction, but so are many things at trade shows.
But, in the end, today, most organizations wouldn’t allow the kind of fun things that offend people to go on. You wouldn’t let an exhibitor have an Al Jolson Blackface character at its booth, although that might have been perfectly acceptable at some point in time.
Perhaps what this is all about is just the changing mores of a society in flux. Things that used to be acceptable just are not acceptable any more. Equally, things in other areas that used to be unacceptable are acceptable now.
The most interesting part of these exchanges is why do so many care so much and, surely, it is a clash between two different visions.
But only one will own the future.
Many thanks to Mike Poindexter, Lorri Koster and Dan’l Mackay Almy for helping us think through this important issue.