MIT put in twist by naughty wristbands
March 12, 2013
MIT’s high-tech Media Lab is being blasted for tin-eared insensitivity after raunchy wristbands were handed out Saturday at the door of a party the lab hosted at the South by Southwest interactive art and technology conference.
Partygoers at the Parish Underground in Austin, Texas, were given wristbands with slogans such as: “That’s a nice dress. It would look great on my floor,” and, “Do you wash your clothes with Windex? ‘Cause I can see myself in your pants.”
After some people complained about the wristbands, the head of the MIT Media Lab, Joi Ito, who also serves on the New York Times Co. board of directors, apologized on the lab’s blog, saying they were provided by the venue.
“They were offensive and in no way reflect the sentiments of the MIT Media Lab,” Ito wrote. “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,” he added. “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.”
Blog readers identifying themselves as MIT alums weren’t ready to forgive:
“Just curious: How come no-one from the media lab at the party noticed the issue and rectified it immediately with a tweet, an action with the venue?, why did it have to be picked by the WSJ before a statement was made?” wrote “Mona S.M. ’11.”
“Carol S.M. ’89” wrote: “I believe the current and future generations of students deserve a much stronger statement about how offensive the wristbands are to female professionals.”
“The characterization of women as there for men’s sexual pleasure is abhorrent,” said Craig Norberg-Bohm, coordinator of the men’s initiative at Jane Doe Inc., a victims’ advocacy group. “It creates an atmosphere of predatory encouragement.”
“This kind of thing is so pervasive, and women have been pointing it out for years,” Norberg-Bohm said. “It’s denigrating, and women are right to be insulted by it.”
Neither Ito nor the Parish Underground could be reached for comment yesterday.