Getting started in tech is a daunting proposition—so clearly, having models and lingerie on hand when networking is a long overdue idea that could make everyone more comfortable and help ease the entire process. Right? Right?
That somehow appears to be the thinking of Creative Startup Labs, a San Francisco-based company providing business consulting to startups, and may or may not be completely oblivious to the ongoing issues surrounding sexism and harassment rocking the tech industry. Again, they provide business consulting. Whatever that entails, it definitely doesn’t come with irony-awarness consulting, to be sure.
In what would likely read as parody if this wasn’t, well, the tech industry, CSL is co-hosting a July 8 networking event at San Francisco’s W Hotel, calling it a “Startup Mingle Party & ‘Summer Seduction’ Lingerie Fashion Show.”
“Networking, mingling, casual introductions & pitches” from 9-10 p.m., reads the Eventbrite page, with a “VIP party, top Bay Area DJs, [and] Summer Seduction Lingerie fashion show” to follow.
To make sure nobody got, uh, the wrong impression, the poster advertising the event features some sort of femmebot, with prominently erect nipples.
The event has not gone unnoticed.
We contacted CSL founder Brad Carrick to determine how he believes this networking event fits into the context of an industry often rocked by charges of sexism, but he declined to comment on that specific matter—noting that he’s “neither the show producer nor involved in organizing or selecting themes for the fashion show part.”
Carrick did explain, however, his role in the event as “a volunteer host of the networking and ‘casual pitch’ segment of the evening,” he noted via email. “We invite guests to introduce themselves and say what they are working on and what they may need going forward in order to provide resources to the community.”
And as far as the lingerie fashion show?
“The fashion show, as I understand, is to highlight local startup designers trying to grow their own businesses, be they in menswear, fashion-tech, wearables, women’s wear, etc,” wrote Carrick. “The models and designs are organized by the local designer and certainly not hired promo/entertainment models by any tech company.”
To be clear, there’s nothing inherently wrong with lingerie parties! Far be it from anyone to judge or lingerie party-shame. Nor, of course, is there anything wrong with startup mixers. And designers should have the opportunity to grow their brand by showcasing their work.
That said: Attaching sexual overtones to a tech-sector networking event where women are clearly the object in the objectification at hand is, at best, wildly tone-deaf and unfortunate, given the recent barrage of sexual harassment allegations and sexism-related revelations in the tech sector over the last few weeks. Or years.
So who exactly thought this was a good idea? We attempted to get in touch with event co-host Angelica Janice, a model and brand ambassador at SOLZ Incubator, but have so far been unsuccessful.
The ticketed event, which costs $10 to $15 to attend as a guest, is being promoted by the marketing company WeNightlife. We reached out to that company to determine its exact involvement, but haven’t heard back as of the publication of this story (we’ll update here if we do).
Maybe everyone’s just too busy selling $500 “model hosted VIP table” tickets to the not-at-all-problematically themed party? Because if the marketing materials surrounding the event are any indication, those behind it clearly aren’t paying attention—not to the scores of women demanding an industry reform, to say nothing of a need for common sense.