Someone please tell me I’m having a nightmare. Please tell me I was thrown into a time machine and forced back to the 50's. Whatever you do, just don’t tell me that the invitation below for a local networking group's Halloween party – with its Sexy Little Devil costume contest – is anything but a crude and offensive joke.
MAXIM Halloween 2012
“Join the Chicago Interactive Social Club as we team up with MAXIM this Halloween to Unleash Your Inner Devil at an amazing VIP party at Untitled. This once in a lifetime experience will be like no other event you have seen in Chicago this year. Features include Jim Beam Devil's Cut Cocktails, Maxim Models, Giveaways and more! Costumes are encouraged and there will be a Sexy Little Devil costume contest for women for a $1,000 cash prize! So, don't get left out and RSVP for this FREE Event today at RSVP@ChicagoISC.com. Please include full names for you and your guests else you will not be added to the list. Thank You!”
A little background. Chicago Interactive Social Club is not a Gentlemen’s Club. It’s not a geisha training center, nor a Las Vegas club where five members of the Pussy Cat Dolls who can’t find better gigs continue to perform. It’s a networking group for professionals who work at the intersection of technology, marketing, sales, and creative services. Now why, may you ask, would a group like this organize a “Sexy Little Devil” costume contest for women?
Before we answer that burning question (get it, devil, burning), let’s start with why any argument defending the decision to organize a sexy little devil contest is bullshit. Don’t bother saying it’s fine because it’s only a networking group or that it’s catering to a certain demographic. And I don’t even want to hear it’s MAXIM's fault.
Because here’s the sad and honest truth: Encouraging women to attend a networking event dressed as sexy devils in order to potentially win a big cash prize is degrading and objectifying. This could have been a costume contest for all attendees. It could have been a costume contest for women who could come dressed as anything or anyone. But someone, and I’m sure it was a guy, decided it would be cool to have women come dressed as sex objects. And that, in my opinion, is just plain gross.
Here’s some advice, boys: if women need to bare their breasts in order for you to increase event attendance, perhaps you should rethink your group's direction. Or how about this: choose a better sponsor.
Now that we’ve stopped trying to rationalize blatant sexism, misogyny and stupidity, let’s look at the broader implications of this contest.
The organizers of this event probably don’t even realize how offensive a sexy little devil contest is. And this says a lot about them and about our industry in general. And there are also many women who will say, “it’s no big deal,” which worries me even more. What do you say to a woman who thinks it’s fine to encourage others to dress like sex trade workers for the possibility of a financial reward? “I don’t happen to enjoy the cool wind on my mostly bare tush while I talk about Facebook and Twitter engagement”?
Maybe it’s not an accident that this happening, considering what I observe while attending networking events in the technology and marketing industries. The guys are average. Average height, weight, and intelligence, and you can tell they don’t put a ton of energy into how they look. The women, on the other hand, are often gorgeous, not to mention thin, sophisticated, and brilliant. No, they’re not wearing breast-bearing, naughty Halloween costumes, but they are clearly putting a lot more effort into their appearance than the guys have to. Now we know why: a plain Jane will not do as well as a sexy little devil.
Well, someone has got to call a spade a spade, and I guess it’ll just have to be me. I’m offended and disappointed that an event like this would be offered and promoted. Someday, I hope to tell my daughter about the crazy old days, when women were objectified and asked to dress up as sexpots to win some money at a networking event. Sadly, it looks like that conversation will not be happening any time soon.
~By Wendy Widom, Families in the Loop (where women aren't asked to dress like "Sexy Little Devils")