MIT Media Lab Gets a Slap on the Wrist for Sexist Wristbands
Entrants to the MIT Media Lab hosted party at South By Southwest this week were surprised to find misogynistic slogans like: “That’s a nice dress, it would look great on my floor” and “Do you wash your clothes with Windex? Because I can see myself in your pants,” on the wristbands provided to get access to the bar. Wall Street Journal reporter Jeff Yang noticed the wristbands after some female colleagues complained about them, and tweeted a picture questioning why the university would condone such chauvinism:
— Jeff Yang (@originalspin) March 10, 2013
Was this an attack of the brogrammers? Not really, but the original response from the Media Lab Twitter feed didn’t help things very much:
Thanks for pointing out the awful wristbands (not supplied by us)! We prefer smart ones: ow.ly/iGWSv.
— MIT Media Lab (@medialab) March 10, 2013
Fortunately, after getting some heat from SXSW attendees (and fielding a few calls from the Boston Business Journal and the Herald), Media Lab director Joi Ito stepped forward and issued a statement condemning the bracelets, which hey says were provided by the venue:
We appreciate all of the feedback we’ve received about the party we hosted at The Parish Underground on Saturday night at SXSW. While we received a lot of positive responses, we want to address an issue with the wristbands that were given to people who came in the door. They were offensive and in no way reflect the sentiments of the MIT Media Lab. These wristbands were provided by the venue, and while we didn’t realize what was printed on them until after they’d been handed out, we should have prevented the situation from occurring in the first place.
The Media Lab is firmly committed to supporting women in the sciences, computing, arts, and engineering. We don’t like – and certainly don’t want to support or disseminate – offensive messaging. We appreciate those of you who noticed the wristbands and pointed them out to us; please accept our sincere apology.
The response was well played on Ito’s part, as he’s smart to not alienate women in the STEM fields who already find themselves outnumbered by men. Yang called the move “damage control done right—transparent/open/humble.” And speaking of wristbands, after issuing his statement, Ito then went on to visit the Livestrong headquarters in Austin. Perhaps he’s up for offering them a bit of advice for dealing with another sticky subject?