Author: Jay-Rey (@jay_rey)
If you have ever been to a convention or a trade show, you know the term “Booth Babe”: Pretty women, often scantly clad, trying to lure you into their booth. I say this with no offense intended for these women, but they are the sirens of the showroom floor. They are close to the equivalent of a sales person at a shopping mall kiosk trying to put lotion on your hand, or straighten your hair. And as much as I dislike them, I have to imagine they don’t care for me as well.
Tech Crunch posted a great article earlier this week about the ineffectiveness of the booth babe. In a much more technical way than I could put it, they just don’t work. According to Spencer Chen, head of marketing and growth at Frontback, they not only bring in less traffic than booths without the pretty sales reps, they make prospective customers uncomfortable. Not to mention, the only leads they do bring in tend to be pretty useless ones.
Let me paint you a picture: You’re at a comic convention and you’re walking the showroom floor. A pretty woman in a loosely-based-on Wonder Woman costume asks you if you like digital comic books. She gestures with her hands toward the booth behind her. A team member with a shirt adorning the logo of the company stands by a desk with a tablet connected to it. He/She is twiddling their thumbs waiting for potential customers to walk by.
“Sure, what about them?” you ask. You’re standing at arms length, and then some from the woman.
“Well you should check out [INSERT COMPANY NAME HERE]!” She says, giving you a big ol’ smile while she stands as if someone could be taking a picture of her at any moment.
“Oh yea? Why? What do you guys do?” you manage to ask. You’re not being a jerk, and there is no tone of belittlement. You’re genuinely curious, but don’t want to get trapped too close to the booth. The end game here is to sell you something after all.
Now lets stop. The scenario can go a couple ways here. I have found, more often than not, that these girls don’t know much about what they are selling. Whether its at a car show, a tech trade show, a comic convention, or whatever. They are hired for the day, speaking briefly with the team leader, and only know as much as whatever script they were giving has told them. This isn’t to say they are dumb. And it isn’t to say that some may actually know what the hell is going on around them. But they are guns for hire! They get paid regardless of the days outcome.
Another scenario is that you are skeevy. You’re a bit excited to be at a convention, and a little too excited to see a hot chick in a Wonder Woman costume. Not to mention, you think she is flirting with you. And what happens next is cringe worthy. You ask for a picture after she speaks with you. You give her the old hover hand. Or worse yet, your arm around her is a little too tight and a little too low. You’ve touched side boob. You’ve violated a total stranger. Then you disappear into the crowd like a perverted Batman.
There are a bunch of scenarios. But you get what I’m saying. The employee who was twiddling thumbs might have been a full time staffer. Maybe they know what they are selling way better than the costumed girl on the floor. Maybe most of that conversation never happened! Maybe she tried talking to you and you got nervous and ran off!
And what about the girl? She is there 8 or more hours a day, wearing something skimpy, and definitely getting oogled at. And honestly, that can’t be a good feeling. Sure, they were hired for a job they applied for. But that doesn’t mean they should be disrespected. Some of these girls want to be a pretty face. This is their way to be a model or an actress. But I think there is a lot of discomfort when working as a booth babe and we are all to blame for that. Maybe you didn’t make a suggestive remark, or take a photo of her without permission while hiding in a booth across the isle, or maybe you didn’t accidentally bump into her to get a little feel. But it happens. And we know it happens, and it will continue to happen unless we try to change things up.
Tina over at Kotaku wrote this great piece I read over the summer. She goes into some really upsetting experiences women faced while attending the last E3 event. From security guards getting too close to game developers at post-event parties getting overly friendly. And it brings up an entire culture of unfair behavior toward women, particularly those we should consider peers in our fandom.
The female cosplayer, who spends days, maybe even weeks putting together their costume to look like her favorite video game character is the same as the guy who worked really hard to be tricked out in his Mandalorian armor. But because he is fully suited up, and she has some leg showing, we think that the girl wants our creepy attention. Buzzfeed posted this article back in October, right after NYCC. They took dozens of photos of female cosplayers with the creepiest phrases spoken to them while at the show. It is a dynamic that has existed for a long time. And its something that definitely needs to change.
I really wanted to write this article because I’m a dude. I am the same gender that is constantly blamed for the oppression of geek women. And as the saying goes, its a few bad apples that spoil the bunch. But its more than that. Its the businesses that think booth babes help, its the men who attend cons who don’t respect the girls there as our equals, and its the fandom demographic as a whole who sweeps the whole messy thing under the rug.