A Cut Below
Tonight marks Ignite Boulder V, an event so enormously popular that they’ve moved to the Boulder Theater and begun charging for tickets. Despite purchasing my ticket well in advance, I’m not attending in protest to the way in which my presentation was treated.
Several weeks ago, when submission and voting began, I was confident I would end up having enough of the popular vote to present. I began growing a thick beard and Jew fro to coincide with my presentation and even ordered a Hasidim-style wide-brimmed hat. My excitement was palpable.
Countdown, Ignition, Failure…
Not two weeks ago, as I crawled into bed after getting a speeding ticket, exhausted from an early morning, a long day, and unfortunate turn of events, I received a text from Andrew Hyde, the primary organizer of Ignite Boulder. Voting had closed and, despite finishing somewhere in the top 10 (I had been 5th or 6th when I had checked earlier in the day), I was disqualified. Andrew cited 3 reasons:
- 50% of my votes came from the same IP address.
- I had 19 votes for inappropriate content.
- I was the only presentation to be marked inappropriate.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the idea of circumcision makes some people uncomfortable. Despite having researched circumcision on multiple occasions, even I’m not exactly sure of its value. Those people for or opposed are as vehement about the topic as the pro-life and pro-choice camps with regards to abortion. The fact that the topic deals directly with male genitalia, a visual image still considered profane in many camps,
With this in mind, I knew there would likely be controversy. I simple never imagined how much.
In general, Andrew seems like a stand-up guy. In the aftermath which followed, he seemed generally sympathetic and kind despite being avoidant of any of my attempts to parlay. Still, the statistics he quoted didn’t seem to make sense to me, and given how quickly my presentation was deleted after voting, I never had the chance to contest. If there were 19 inappropriate votes from 19 separate individuals, I could certainly understand the hesitation.
A Modest Proposal
Though my first instinct is to argue hard any time censorship rears its ugly head, there were too many points of contention with regards to this topic.
That night, I DMed Andrew Hyde and proposed completing a rough draft of my presentation for vetting by the end of the weekend. While he didn’t express support for this option, he didn’t deter me. Rather than spend intervals of 140 characters arguing in futility, I spent the next three days slapping together a rag tag first draft.
Overall I was pleased with how it came out. There were no explicit images or language. It was reasonably well cited and designed despite the utter wealth of information.
On Friday, Mr. Hyde responded, once again denying me entry. His email was showed sympathy to my plight, but I couldn’t help but have doubts that everything was above board.
There are plenty of factors in why a presentation might not make it: lack of popularity, withdrawal by the presenter, and inappropriate content or topic are the big three. The third is the reason I was under such scrutiny and I was well-aware that my denial was a possibility. All I wanted was the semblance of a fair trial, especially given the length to which I had gone to allay fears and worries.
At Ignite Boulder III, Jo Seymour (@mediamum) did an excellent presentation on breast feeding under the guise of a presentation on boobs. Pandering to a mostly male tech crowd certainly helps in that regard, but the fact remains that her presentation was the best of the night and remains perhaps the best Ignite Boulder presentation so far.
So why is circumcision such a taboo topic if breast feeding isn’t considered inappropriate? After all, they’re both medical discussions. They both have heavily perpetrated myths and opinions muddying them. And they’re both centered on the treatment of genitalia.
It’s hard for me not to feel as though elements of sexism weren’t at the root of this decision.
When I pointed these arguments out to Andrew, he said, “I ran it by the planning group, which thought a ‘above the waist’ rule should be in effect for presentations.” In another email, he explained in simple mathematics: “Boobs = legal to show in boulder. Below the waist of both sexes = sex offender list.”
That last statement utterly confuses me, as my presentation contained no imagery of genitalia. When I reminded him of that, he told me it was irrelevant to the argument, a point which has left me fuming for the last week.
I can’t help but feel disheartened and dejected to miss out on this Ignite. I can’t, however, in good conscience, participate given my current state of mind. I’ve given away my ticket to go along with my hope and respect, and though I know many of my friends will be in attendance, I simply don’t feel I belong there.
I had originally planned to post my presentation along with this retelling, but upon hearing of my plight, a friend suggested I might submit it to Ignite Denver. It’s possible I’ll try that, but for now, it’ll sit on the back burner.
I can only hope that the presentation at Ignite Boulder V go well and that the cabal behind such a fascinating event can learn from this ordeal. Hopefully, they’ll never need to censor a presentation, and perhaps even more, never needlessly censor one as well.