Friday, January 21, 2005

.:Digital Degeneracy:.

Disclaimer: I will play Devil's Advocate in this essay half of the time to stress a point. The last thing I need is to be called “judgmental” about someone's looks. For a background on the reason for this post, check this site out for your convenience.

Look at her for a few moments, then read on.

This girl in the picture, for all we know, could be the most brilliant computer scientist ever. For all we know, she could've won every single Programming competition she joined. For all we know, she could be God's gift to the Philippine I.T. Industry. For all we know, she could be bringing glory to our country in the realm of computers, and she would be representative of exactly what women in I.T. are: progressive, and as good as, at times even better, than men can be in that industry.

But you know what? If the Philippine Computer Society would have their way, everything about this girl's potential renown and skills would account for only 40% of her worth. The girl in this picture, simply put, cannot be “Digital Pinay 2005” because she's not popular, she's not sophisticated, and she is not beautiful. PCS is essentially saying “You may be good with computers, but if you don't have charm, then bully for you.”

I am not involved in the I.T. industry. I come from a background of Communication Arts and Philosophy, which pretty much means I have nothing against beauty pageants, per se. Communication Arts people live for beauty pageants, particularly those who handle events. Aesthetics is part of Philosophy. Besides, beauty pageants make no bones about being Beauty pageants and consider charity and other functions secondary to being beautiful. Vain as it might be to place looks over anything else, it is still being honest. That's why it's a beauty pageant, not a charity contest, or a friendship contest.

I know everyone who's lambasted “Digital Pinay” has said this already, but it bears repeating: Digital Pinay is a beauty pageant. To make any pretenses that it is a search for the best girl to “represent” women in the Philippine I.T. Industry is a travesty, because its criteria insinuates that beauty, poise, and popularity combined are more important than actual skill. Theoretically, the most beautiful, sophisticated, and popular girl could represent Philippine I.T. even if she doesn't even know how to run a typewriter.

“But Marcelle,” some people might say. “Research shows that looks do count in work! Even DJ's, who were originally assumed to be 'better heard than seen' are now seen sashaying around all over the place like models!”

It's true. Research does show that aesthetic appeal tips the balance in the favor of those who have it. That's precisely why in the United States, resume's are submitted without photographs, in order to avoid this potential source of bias. Research has shown that there are just some people whose looks really prevents them from being trusted. Ask any Arab-American who is unfairly thought of as a terrorist while walking to his local 7-11 store. It happens all the time.

Despite that, just because something happens all the time does not mean it's right.

One of the things that turns me off about most network marketing companies, no matter how good the product may be, is that the hook to get into you it is, for the most part, based on a lie. Almost every single person who recruits you to their network would never tell you until you're in their “Business Opportunity Seminar” that it's a network marketing company. In fact, if you ask them outright if it's networking company, they'd either blatantly deny it, or simply make up some acronym and say that it's a multi-national company that's starting in the Philippines. Hogwash and codswallop.

That being said, Digital Pinay's hook is based on a lie: that whoever becomes Digital Pinay is not a beauty queen, but the “future of women leaders in the Philippine I.T. Industry”. Right. And vital statistics, looks, poise, and text votes are all part of being the future of women leaders in the Philippine I.T. Industry. Of course they are, research would tell us. But that doesn't mean that they should be.

To go an a tangent to professional wrestling, one of the most heavily criticized characters (For being politically incorrect and downright tasteless in the face of 9/11.) in the WWE right now is someone named Muhammad Hassan, an Arab-American who says exactly what’s wrong with America’s paranoia over Arab-Americans, yet whose onscreen character is extremist in his approach to “educating” the “rednecks” of America. Instead of being cheered for saying the right thing, he gets booed for proving himself wrong through his actions. Like Hassan, Digital Pinay’s attempt to find the next I.T. Industry leaders is simply self-defeating, because they perpetuate the very myths they supposedly want to dissolve.

In the midst of changing courses mid-stream, Mr. Querubim has decided to throw the barb that he would rather “work for a boss who was less intelligent but more personable”. I honestly don’t think that the criterion of “popularity”, i.e., text votes, covers being “personable”. Being popular is rather different from being personable. Ask any reporter for the Manila Times before it closed down in 2000 or 2001. They know how popular former president Joseph Estrada was, but they also know that his being personable is certainly up for debate. If popularity doesn’t cover it, much less would poise, which is a beauty contest standard, to begin with, and not a standard in the workforce. Clearly, their argument for personality flies out the window, because their current criteria cannot represent this notion. Hades, even a simple Miss Congeniality is more telling of personality than “poise” or “popularity”.

You are reading the words of a person who is not part of the I.T. Industry. You are reading the words of a person who wanted to get a friend into the pages of FHM just for kicks. Despite these facts, he is still vehemently disagreeing with this cockamamie idea, and it's clear why: this whole travesty is clearly an insult to the intelligence of all who become aware of it.

Considering how the I.T. industry is generally regarded as progressive, for the who's who of this so-called forward-moving industry to regress like this is such a disappointment. The finger of shame is pointed on you for even thinking for one moment that this was a good idea, regardless of your intentions. The road to Hades, after all, is paved with good intentions.

If the PCS wants to push through with this mockery of a pageant, then I am in no position to stop them, but I will be one of their harshest critics. I abstained from mentioning their organization on the air when I spoke against the idea, but I just may not refrain from doing so anymore if they would insist on this.

If they really want to push through with this, they will only prove how far they are regressing from all the so-called progress they have made over the years. The mainstream may welcome the I.T. Industry more with this move, but at what cost? Digital Pinay 2005, whoever she may turn out to be, will simply be pimped out to the mainstream and to the international I.T. community. Even if you disagree with my choice of words, you cannot disagree that it is still going to happen.

So to the PCS, look at that picture up there again for one moment, and tell yourself: if she were the most brilliant computer scientist on Earth, would the fact that she won't look so good in business attire, or heaven forbid, a bathing suit, be enough reason for you to deny that she ought to be your “Digital Pinay”?

Mr. Querubim is pretty much trying to turn the tables around his newfound critics in disclaiming that what they are establishing is “not” a beauty pageant. After having said all this, I have to reconsider my stand and agree with him. How true. It’s not a beauty pageant. Whatever it is, it’s far more devious, far more subtle, and is not even good enough to be regarded as a beauty pageant. Beauty pageants, at least, are organized with more thought, with better public relations, and in the vernacular, with more delicadeza.

Whatever Digital Pinay is trying to be, it is clearly doing one thing among others: perpetuating lies that all of us in the past have fallen for hook, line and sinker. The lie that looks and popularity, and not skills and personality, are precisely what make women leaders. The lie that women are so emotional that poise has to be imposed upon them, lest they prove the so-called strong, silent men right. They may twist the truth all they want, but until they realize that the very foundation of whatever they’re trying to do is built on the back of lies, PCS will infamously stand for “Philippine Computer Sexists”.

And that, my friends, is true.

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