Sexism in Ham Radio

I started this blog posting pretty late one evening, but I decided my comments are strong enough that I would like the HAM community to read them as a main post instead of having them buried, and am tipsy enough to say what I really think.

Well hi there, Ham Radio opers, apparently we haven't met because you see no difference between me and a hired actress who doesn't know the first thing she's talking about. I'm the woman on that cover. I have also been a proud Ham radio operator going on 14 years now, and credit my love for this hobby for why I'm now getting a PhD in radio astronomy. I am also a good operator- a few years ago I single handedly set the record for my category/division in Sweepstakes, for example, and have the plaque and mug to prove it. I would say that's a helluva good street cred to be on the cover of a Ham radio book, and you would have posted a picture if you were on it because you'd be proud of it too. It's a natural reaction. And if your first thought is "yeah, but she's a girl so
that's why she commented" well screw you, I don't show up in the shack thinking once about how I look and I'm not in this to look pretty for you. I'm here because I like to contest and to see what good DX I can pull in on the bands, not keep deflecting creepy comments from OMs like you who don't really believe I have a deserved place here.

Guys, Ham radio has a gender problem, with the OM and boys club feel that is worse than any other geeky thing I have ever been involved with (and this comes from a woman who filed sexual harassment paperwork during her undergrad as the sole woman physics major of her department). This video and thread is going to do absolutely nothing to assist that. I utterly hate to think what 15 year old me would have thought today if her casual interest in the topic brought her here and she clicked on the de-facto-endorsed-by-the-community post on top and saw this. She would run for the hills because she would conclude that this hobby is filled with creepers and there's no room in it for her, and I would not blame her for that decision.

And because perhaps some of you probably don't get it, let me explain why I find it offensive that this video is now being touted as the ad for our blog: it objectifies women and relies on gender stereotypes that would make no woman feel welcome here. We are currently dealing with a hobby that is only 15% women that keeps fretting about getting more people involved in it, so why do we allow things that would drive half the population away? I don't pretend to have all the answers on a complex issue, but I do know this stickied post is far from what we should want to represent the community. And it goes to show that if we ever have a crack at attracting more women into this hobby we have a long way to go.


  1. Anonymous21:39

    Hi there, I edited the video and all that jazz (the video was "made" by most of FBOM, not just one person, including a female club member who sat in on the edit process). I am fully cognizant of the gender gap in this hobby and how off putting and intimidating it is for females looking to get into it. I can't turn my HT on in my car when the GF is present without it creeping her out in 30 seconds or less. It's an issue and I think the people in here saying it's not are delusional.

    That said, we did try to make this video as neutral as possible and had no intention of it being sexist, using sex appeal, using gendered terminology, or anything of that nature. We simply needed someone on fiverr to read the script we wrote and film it as we didn't have the time etc to do that bit ourselves. The "twins" in the video were the most recommended on Fiverr for such a service and had by far the highest production value for how little we paid. We certainly didn't seek out eye candy or anything like that, we just went with what looked like would give us the most professional looking final product. We did try to find ham ops on fiverr, but as you can imagine, there were none, so we went with a general professional presenter.

    In fact, we tried to do everything we can to make it not "sexy" or dependent on the presenters appearance. The fiverr package included choosing from 7 or 8 outfits the presenters wore, and we chose the least revealing outfit choice possible for this very reason. Their stock "look" was basically a fitness swimsuit and we weren't comfortable with that.

    I am genuinely interested in your feedback as to what about the video is sexist so if there is a next time we could try to do better, or at least be aware of how it comes across, as it was certainly not our intent to offend anybody or ride on the coattails of someones sex appeal. Would choosing male presenters instead appeased everyone? there weren't many professional male presenters on fiverr that would do greenscreen, and even then I'm sure we'd get comments saying the video is not inclusive of females and was trying to use muscle-ripped men for sex appeal. And regardless of the gender, they would still not be real ham ops with knowledge of the hobby, that's just the nature of fiverr.

    I wholeheartedly agree a lot of the comments on the video were disgusting and totally uncalled for. That kind of response is not at all what we wanted, we just wanted a tongue in cheek video that didn't take itself so seriously like all the other sites. Looking forward to your thoughts!

    While I have you here, may I ask why when you do nothing but post your face here on a magazine cover fishing for upvotes (more than half your submissions to this subreddit are your face, with you directing attention to the fact you're a female), it's "promoting the hobby" and not tied to gender at all, but when a videographer and actress from arkansas does the same thing talking about the hobby in full business casual clothing it's considered so sexist that you think it's driving women away? Is it because they're more attractive than you? Did you ever think maybe part of the reason they're being pushed away is because of how petty and attention seeking you are? Just a thought, no offense meant. We polled a lot of female hams, none had any issue with the video other than the bad humor (I admit it was bad). In fact, all the female hams in the IRC think this fiasco is quite hilarious. Oh well, can't make everyone happy!

  2. Anonymous21:40

    This needs to be the top comment. I did advertising for the previous company I worked for and got accused of every -ism under the sun during that time, based entirely on the collection of stock photos and line drawings my boss had purchased in 1995 and was too cheap to update. I once offended a large number of people with a stock photo of a cowboy saying You lookin' at this ad, punk? - I still don't understand what was offensive about that, but I got a dozen or so indignant phone calls informing me that "I WILL NEVER SET FOOT IN YOUR ESTABLISHMENT AND YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF" and a few people cancelled their newspaper subscriptions over it... all over a tagline that was just meant to catch someone's attention.

    edit: should mention those people may have had a good reason to be offended, the point is that if you're a creative person you're inevitably going to piss people off now and then for reasons you will never fully understand.

  3. Anonymous21:40

    It's nice to hear your perspective and your intent, but despite your efforts to de-sexify it, it still came across as sexualized (if not sexist) to at least some people who are sensitive to that kind of stuff, including this straight white male nerdy engineer redditor Technician. Maybe not quite sexist in and of itself, but the reaction comments were so bad.

    The jargon might have been fun, the but chan-speak really didn't help. AIDS? Really?! Or am I too new to know that HAM radio likes to call things AIDS?

    I respect your decisions to do whatever you want with your time, but I don't understand the

    we didn't have the time etc to do that bit ourselves.

    part. If this video is worth doing, and worth doing well, and worth paying for, wouldn't it be worth the time to recruit people from FBOM or this subreddit to do it, instead of giving up the control by paying for it through fiverr?

  4. Anonymous21:42

    First off: I found the video amusing, actually laughed at some parts. I found nothing sexist or sexual about it, and those who fail to see the humor that was intended maybe need to dust off their sense of humor.

    That said: My job involves attracting young women to STEM fields of study (specifically computer science). I actually get paid (well) to do this. There are a couple schools of thought about how to go about this. One group believes that nothing should be done to modify the culture of what is truly a male-dominated field, and that women who are uncomfortable in such an environment either need to grow a backbone or find some other field of study to engage in.

    Another group (I belong to this one) believes that it's not only OK to acknowledge and poke fun at the geekiness/maleness of computer science, but to also promote a change of culture that would make the field more attractive to women. Limor Fried (of Adafruit fame) has done a lot in this area by promoting technology as a fashion statement. In fact, I will be attending a STEM conference for high school girls in October where they will be introduced to the wonderful world of embedded programming by making a piece of jewelry from a tiny Atmel-based microprocessor and a PWM-controlled LED ring that can display multiple colors and brightnesses based upon the timing signal injected into the ring. Yeah, and I'm even going to give them pins so they can pin them on their backpacks or whatever.

    If this is "sexist" because I'm catering to a typical female's sense of fashion, then I offer no apologies. Ignoring the feminine side of women engaged in STEM fields is one of the reasons why certain STEM fields still can't attract females.

    At any rate, it's the approach I choose, and it's been successful. Surely it doesn't appeal to every female, but there is no harm in acknowledging the feminine side of being female and using that to draw more women into computer science.

    My suggestion to the OP is to lighten up and acknowledge that humor and recognition of feminine qualities does have its place in STEM (and amateur radio).

    As a sidenote, I'm upvoting this not because I agree with the OP but because it's something that needs to be discussed.

  5. Anonymous21:42

    I'm a horny male, but the video reminded me more of late night phone sex line commercials than anything.

    To the guy that paid for it: thank you for your money and time.

    to the people that made it: thank you for your time and effort.

    BUT. That was my honest reaction. Pretty girls don't sell things to me. Especially when they have nothing to do with the subject.

    No condemnation, just a data point. It made me uncomfortable. I grew up with the internet; pre-4chan for fuck's sake. No censorship. Saying it made me uncomfortable isn't the reaction of some puritan.


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