Yahoo Sorry About Lap Dancers at Hack Day in Taiwan–So What’s the Excuse for Last Year’s Go-Go Girls?

Yahoo has outdone itself for treating women as eye candy in its recent Open Hack Day in Taiwan, featuring lap dancers to entertain the attending developers. This story is from Boomtown at All Things Digital

Yahoo Sorry About Lap Dancers at Hack Day in Taiwan–So What’s the Excuse for Last Year’s Go-Go Girls?
by Kara Swisher
Posted on October 19, 2009 at 8:37 PM PT

One word: Shameful.

So, no surprise that Yahoo (YHOO), which is trying mightily to burnish its image worldwide, quickly apologized for the presence of women lap dancers onstage at its Open Hack Day in Taiwan last weekend.

In a post on its Yahoo Developer Network blog tonight, titled “Sorry,” YDN head Chris Yeh wrote:


I wanted to acknowledge the public reaction generated by the images of female dancers at our Taiwan Open Hack Day this past weekend. Our hack events are designed to give developers an opportunity to learn about our APIs and technologies. As many folks have rightly pointed out, the “Hack Girls” aspect of our Taiwan Hack Day is not reflective of that spirit or purpose. And it’s certainly not the message we want to send about our values here at Yahoo!. Hack Days are about making everyone feel welcome, including women coders and technologists.

This incident is regrettable and we apologize to anyone that we have offended. Rest assured, it won’t happen again.

Ironically, in a post listing the winners and details of of the Open Hack event, at which Yahoo invited outside developers to brainstorm, Yahoo’s Erik Eldridge noted earlier today (italics are mine):

“This was our second visit to Taiwan, and we were really looking forward to coming back to see the passionate Taiwanese developers.”

Ouch. Worse still, top Yahoo execs–such as Taiwan CTO Joy Chan, Asia head Rose Tsou and Chief Technologist Sam Pullara, all pictured here with another Yahoo exec, Peter Lin–were in attendance at the event, although it is not clear if any of them attended the lap dance performance.

And, rut-roh, here is a link to some more, even shorter-skirted photos on Flickr.

But, perhaps worst of all, this kind of thing is not new for Yahoo’s hack events in Taiwan, at least, where there seems to be some history of this sort of Pussycat-Dolls-meets-geeks tone.

It is not clear why all the thumpa-thumpa music and dancing gals did not engender complaints last year, although I am guessing the nerd lap action sent over the top.

Ms. Swisher posted four You-Tube videos of similar action at the event last year, but those were suddenly made private. Yahoo must think this is a good way to burnish its image, at least as far as male software developers are concerned. Lap dancing went too far, evidently, so Yahoo felt compelled to issue a sham apology. Like criminals, Yahoo was only sorry because the stunt backfired.

Perhaps it is too much to expect from a company like Yahoo to respect women. Yahoo earned great notoriety for assisting the Chinese government to crack down on dissidents, prompting Reporters Without Borders to say this about Yahoo four years ago, after China arrested dissident journalist Shi Tao after tracking him down with information supplied by Yahoo:

“We already knew that Yahoo! collaborates enthusiastically with the Chinese regime in questions of censorship, and now we know it is a Chinese police informant as well,” Reporters Without Borders said in a statement.

It may not be obvious to the average Joe, but when a company displays such blatant disrespect for women, it should not be surprising that it is willing to participate in other forms of human rights abuses, especially when as much money as its business in China is at stake. I am only surprised that Yahoo did not defend the Hack Girls exhibition as abiding by the norms of Taiwanese society. As the author notes, the lap dance action presumably went over the top. It appears Yahoo does have some limit on using women as sex objects, though if this gross exhibition had not engendered protests this year, I imagine Yahoo would have stretched the envelope even further at the next Open Hack Day event.

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