If you visit exhibitions you quite often see the exhibitors’ booths decorated not only with professional graphics but also attractive women often dressed provocatively. I choose my words carefully and deliberately there as the girls are often little more than decoration and add nothing to the products being promoted.
Unless there’s a good reason to put a woman in a bikini and stand her in front of your product then I can’t see why you would. If you’re selling fake tan, or underwear or bikinis for that matter I think there’s a reason to do so as just like a fashion show it displays your product as it’s intended to be used. At adult shows I can also see a justification for the scantily clad models but in any case even if there is a justification for showing naked flesh then it shouldn’t just be female naked flesh.
Even in the adult world the booth babes are disproportionately female. Even accounting for the plain truth that more sexy underwear is designed, manufactured and purchased by and for women than men you will find a huge number of very lovely, very eye-catching girls at adult shows … and a few guys in tight shorts.
Take away underwear from adult shows and you’re left with products, and when buying sex toys from a show a knowledgeable company representative is of far more use than a Lycra-clad booth babe. When we visited Venus Berlin a few years ago you could even watch a live demonstration of some products. Gratuitous and more of a (Neanderthal) crowd pleaser than in any way informative.
Does it insult the intelligence of the buyers to put a cute girl in front of your booth handing out product leaflets? Yes. Though full marks to her for using her looks to earn some money handing out publicity material to guys for whom female contact might only happen at such shows …
Is it degrading for the women? Kind of. Being just objects, ornamentation to help move boxes does devalue anyone involved. Though it does also say quite a lot about the desperation of the marketing staff at these companies. I suppose you could argue that they are in an arms race, or perhaps boobs ’n’ bums race with every other competitor at the exhibitions which would explain the constant efforts to make what should be a professional stand look like a Hooters Bar.
I think most telling was a comment made by Rachel Sklar, founder of Change The Ratio at this year’s CES in Las Vegas when she described the booth babe phenomenon as “Devoid of forward looking leadership”. It reinforces the stereotypes that women are pretty, men make stuff, feels like we’re back in the 1950s.
But whether booth babes help dissuade women from some careers, say becoming engineers by depicting women as window dressing or helps perpetuate a male mind set which regards women as inferior it has to be wrong, doesn’t it?
I’m in no way saying these things to be right-on and cool. I like ogling naked flesh as much as the next person, but in the right context, and more importantly in terms of this article I have to say that I find the blatant use of sex at a trade fair to sell products incongruous. Indeed it makes me suspicious that the products themselves are perhaps not as good as they could be – the sex being just smoke and mirrors to hide this from buyers.
If I go to an adult trade fair I want to see adult products and talk to knowledgeable people about them – as I say if there’s underwear there then maybe a nicely presented catwalk? If I go to an Erotic fair like say Erotica I want to see provocative performing, skin, naughty underwear etc. And if I’m looking to import 200,000 mobile phones I want to see the new features, not Lycra stretched over a young woman’s body.