Some expos like the recent CES and the summer video game trade show E3 continue to see companies employing scantily-clad female models, known as ‘booth babes’. The discussion was reignited by a trade show display at CES 2013 by a company called Hyper which sells computer electronics.
In Hyper’s HyperShop trade show display, the company employed models which were covered only in body paint standing on platforms. The display drew criticism from some journalists as well as the makers of a 2011 documentary about the portrayal of women in mainstream media called ‘Miss Representation’.
The makers of the documentary who have also established a website at missrepresentation.org, created a campaign against what they called exploitative behavior on the part of Hyper and other companies who engage in similar practices. They called on supporters to use the twitter tag #NotBuyingIt to shame these companies into changing their practices.
Many trade show displays at expos (especially in the tech sector) have used booth babes for many years, but this display was particularly egregious according to many critics. Whereas, previously these booth babes have had an active role in promoting products, answering questions and generally helping with marketing of the company’s brand, the Hyper exhibit featured lifeless models who were instructed not to talk or react to attendees browsing the trade show displays. They were nude from the waist up, except for body paint and trade show goers were instructed to photograph them and post the pictures on social media like Instagram. To make matters worse, a black model was (for some reason) painted white.
“It’s a conversation that comes up every six months or so,” Travis Stanton, editor of Exhibitor magazine, told CBC News. It looks like this time the conversation is heating up and there are even talks of banning these models from some expos. Others, like Karen Chupka, senior vice president of the Consumer Electronics Association, are calling the whole thing “oversensationalized.” Chupka even criticized media for using the term ‘babes’ saying that this was more degrading to women than the actual practice of displaying them in trade show booth design.