This startup lingerie party is everything wrong with Silicon Valley’s culture of sexism

Yes. This is the actual event poster.
Image: Startup Mingles

Getting started in tech is a daunting propositionso 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 driving the organizers of Startup Mingle, a July 8 networking event at San Francisco’s W Hotel. The event’s full name, “Startup Mingle Party & ‘Summer Seduction’ Lingerie Fashion Show,” suggests that those same organizers may or may not be completely oblivious to the ongoing issues surrounding sexism and harassment rocking the broader tech industry.

One event co-host, Creative Startup Labs, is a San Francisco-based company that helps “talented entrepreneurs start and grow their business.” Basically, they provide business consulting. Whatever that entails, it definitely doesn’t come with irony-awareness consulting, to be sure.

But back to the party. “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.

Yes, really.

This 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. He declined to address that specific point, but did note that while he is “working to empower these women [his clients] and help integrate tech and the arts to better represent the local community,” CSL “does not represent big tech or even startups in the tech industry.”

He further noted that he’s “neither the show producer nor involved in organizing or selecting themes for the fashion show part.”

Carrick clarified via email that his role in the event is as “a volunteer host of the networking and ‘casual pitch’ segment of the evening.”

As for 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.”

And we should 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 (even if the specific sector is fashion-tech or wearables) where women are clearly the object of 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 attentionnot to the scores of women demanding an industry reform, to say nothing of a need for common sense.

UPDATE: July 6, 2017, 5:11 p.m. PDT This post has been updated to include additional comments from Brad Carrick, and to clarify the nature of CSL’s client base.

default-poup