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A sexist invitation results in a strange and very public apology

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One online company fared poorly in the court of public opinion Tuesday. The charges? Sexism, and to make matters worse, bad damage control.

In a recent ad for a convention called API Jam, Sqoot, developers that monetize apps, according to CrunchBase, listed “women” among their perks, adding “Need another beer? Let one of our friendly (female) event staff get that for you.”

When they received, predictably, a string of complaints on Twitter, Sqoot switched to damage control mode, writing an apology some found insincere.

Someone at Sqoot then wrote a hasty apology in a Google Document. The site’s Twitter account then began spamming an apology to everyone who mentioned Sqoot on Twitter, referring people to the Google Doc.

“While we thought this was a fun, harmless comment poking fun at the fact that hack-a-thons are typically male-dominated, others were offended. That was not our intention and thus we changed it.”

At first, this was in response to people who seemed legitimately outraged, like @temiri, who tweeted that “calling women a ‘perk’ of a hackathon isn't funny, it's degrading and tasteless.”

But the site quickly tweeted the same apology to over a hundred other users who had mentioned Sqoot—including people who seemed to have not heard about the SNAFU and were merely excited about the conference, like @garrettwilkin, who tweeted “Let's build something amazing together at the @sqoot #apijam” in the middle of the hoopla.

Other people got the same auto response, like users who thought Sqoot was getting more than its fair share of harassment, and journalists asking the company for an interview.

At least some people know how to do damage control. Cloudmine is one of several companies to pull its sponsorship from Sqoot. In a blog post titled “About Sexism In Tech,” Cloudmine Engineer Derek Mansen wrote “We never would have posted something like that, and do not endorse anyone who does.”

In the meantime, the doc is getting considerable traffic, although it appears that the random visitors dropping in don’t have permission to edit it.

Photo by p373