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August 31, 2010

True Blood: Pre-Finale Full Season 3 Refresher

So that was one crazy episode of True Blood on Sunday. Wow. We can't believe there's only one episode left! In preparation of the season finale, we thought we'd offer our readers a little Season 3 recap and guide in case you've fallen behind.

This was an awesome season, but it sure jumped around a lot... It sort of feels like there were some story lines that were just 'dropped' mid-season and some characters keep going back and forth between different mood swings... but we're gonna hang in there for the final episode and see if everything gets resolved.
SPOILER WARNING: I think this should go without saying but if you haven't caught up on the last few episodes of True Blood's third season and you want to watch them instead of read about them, then DON'T click on the link below. 
Those of you who do want a quick 'refresher' before the finale... here you go: ESCTVblog.com

True Blood

Cosmo Quickies: August 2010

I think this might be the most belated Cosmo Quickies post yet. Sorry everyone! Attending two conferences and launching a new blog kept us busy this month, but we did have time to read the August issue of Cosmo, and of course we have some thoughts.

-It's The Hot Issue, which, like The Sexy Issue, helps to differentiate this from all of the chaste, demure, and un-hot issues that Cosmo usually puts out.

-Cover model Britney Spears is the victim of some bizarre Photoshopping. Apparently her neck chose not to appear on the cover with her.

-One of the letters to the editor this month came from a woman named Jane, who is totally an honorary ESC member:
I found "Why So Many Men Are Suckers for Skanks (June 2010) offensive. The words skank and stripper were repeated throughout the article. How about empowering women by teaching them not to hate on other women?
We're glad that Cosmo actually printed this letter, but unfortunately we doubt that they're going to take Jane's comments very seriously. The regular "Sexy vs. Skanky" feature is still there in all its glory, and the Hot Sheet page is still home to its usual slut-shaming.

-Speaking of that, this month's "What's Not So Hot" victim is Tila Tequila.

12 May 2010 - Los Angeles, California - Tila Tequila. Tila Tequila Album Release party_Arrivals held At The Conga Room. Photo Credit: Kevan Brooks/AdMedia
Dear Tila Tequila,

We think the dead bird strapped to your impossible-to-compress chest is technically a cape, so we assume you're going for a goth superhero look. Sadly, mega skankiness is your only power.


[Note: This isn't the exact same photo that Cosmo used, but it's a similar one from the same event. Ms. Tequila wore this outfit at the release party for her album Welcome To The Darkside.]

Wow, they worked skank, tramp, and a slam on breast implants all in this short letter. They must be so proud. Now, is this the classiest, most understated outfit we've ever seen? No. I guess we just don't see the point of this monthly exercise in unoriginal and unnecessary cattiness.

-Later on in the Cosmo News section there's a list of "What's In and Out This Summer". Apparently Brazilians are out and vajazzling is in. We still can't believe that Cosmo is so late to the vattooing bandwagon.

-There's an article about the "growing trend" of women choosing to become single mothers, often via artificial insemination. The article itself isn't bad, but someone thought it would be a good idea to go with the title "Would You Have a Baster Baby?" Stay classy!

-"101 Things About Men" was very informative. Here are some of the things we learned:
  • The one thing that makes all men cry is the death of a loved one the birth of a child sports. Obviously.
  • Your lunch break is "the best hour for manhunting" because it's not the usual pickup scene so guys will "let their guard down". Recommended ways to take advantage of this include offering to share a fast food coupon, pretending you go to the same gym, and complimenting something he's wearing by acting like you want to buy the same thing for your cousin. We don't see how any of those could possibly fail.
  • According to a Men's Health poll, "1 in 5 men say they'd prefer to be treated by a sexy nurse rather than by a competent doctor." Because apparently it's impossible for a sexy nurse to be male, or for a nurse or doctor to be both sexy and competent.
  • Cosmo was nice enough to compile some of the latest terms that they claim they've heard from guys in a Dude Dictionary. They include gorilla salad (when a man or woman has way too much hair below the belt), taco night (a night when a man is guaranteed action, like on a birthday or anniversary), and Facebook hot (a girl who is significantly, and deceptively, sexier online than in real life). Wonder how many Cosmo interns it took to come up with those oh-so-charming terms.
  • Your guy will really "dig" it if you give him a "brewski facial", a manly beauty treatment that Cosmo assures us is "now popping up at select spas". The recipe, which includes beer and raw eggs, is suspiciously similar to the boob mask that they recommended several months ago. We doubt our boyfriends would enjoy this any more than our boobs would have.
  • Cosmo got Pandora.com to "reveal the most popular stations guys streamed over a recent 48-hour period." They then declared some of the results, including Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Sade, Celine Dion, and the Backstreet Boys, to be "way too goofy". Because all men are supposed to be the same age and sexual orientation and have the same backgrounds and identical manly tastes in music?

-We're up to the part of the post where we give Cosmo one point for doing something right. There's a page of "Straight-to-DVD Movies We'd Love to See", including Dear John Message in a Notebook to Remember in Rodanthe starring Ryan Gosling, and Vice Versa starring Justin Bieber and George Clooney. "When father and son switch bodies, it becomes slightly less creepy for grown women to sweat Justin Bieber." Okay, we laughed.

-This issue contains what Cosmo is calling "Our Naughtiest Sex Survey Ever!"
We wanted our latest sex poll to be like a quickie: short, to the point, and hot as hell. So we asked more than 2000 guys ages 18 to 34 to play an X-rated version of would-you-rather...The juicy results, based on our online survey, will give you the power to read your man's mind.
What they've actually done here is just publish the results of their online poll that we showed you a couple of months ago. This poll was available on their website and also posted to their twitter account, so even though it said "guys only" it really could have been anyone providing the answers. We could have taken the poll and sent it to all of our female friends just to mess with their results. (We didn't.) We're sure you're all shocked to learn that Cosmo's "research" on what men want is totally unscientific and easily manipulated.

-In the Love & Lust section, there's a "How to Tell If He'll Cheat" quiz. If he's into trendy fashion and social networking but not into going green, just assume he's going to cheat on you. This was probably the most annoying question:
You're dying to go see Eclipse this weekend. All your friends have seen it already, so you beg him to go. He...

a) Agrees and orders tickets for both of you online.
b) Grumbles a bit but says he'll go as long as he gets to choose the flick next time.
c) Rolls his eyes and tells you there's no way he's seeing that girlie crap.
Okay, option B is reasonable. But...if you like Twilight, and all of your friends like Twilight...just go see the movie with them! Why insist on dragging your boyfriend with you if he's not into it at all? Wouldn't it be more fun to see it with other people who actually care? Is it some sort of test to see if the guy is worthy of being your own personal Edward or Jacob? We don't get it.

-There's an article called "John Mayer's G-Spot Geometry (It's All About the Angles)", which makes this the second time in several months that they've built an entire article around some nonsense that Mayer has said. They really need to stop doing this before they create the mistaken impression that women actually care what he has to say and he ends up with a book deal or something.

-The Cosmo Health Report features an article called "Bounce Back Fast From A Bad Health Move". Like the "baster baby" article, this is a case where the content of the piece isn't horrible but the whole thing is ruined by the way it's presented. This is the accompanying photo for the article:

Yes, those are pigs, and the caption, which is about an inch away from the model's totally flat stomach, reads "Keep eating like that and no one will be calling you Babe." They should have called this The Classy Issue.

-In the Fun and Fearless section there's an article called "So...You Want to Star in a Sex Tape?" that has tips on how to make a tape while making sure that it never "comes back to haunt you". The suggestions include "wigs, masks, sunglasses, a Lady Gaga-style veil, even a blindfold", limiting the lighting, using sheer fabric as a filter over the camera lens, staying in a position that hides your faces from the camera, and using editing software to make it even darker or add blurring or animating effects. Because who isn't turned on by watching fuzzy costumed blobs get it on in blurry darkness, right?

-We took the What Kind of Hot Are You? quiz. In case anyone is curious, Lilith is Statement-Making Hot and Jezebel is Bombshell Hot.

-There's a piece called "Nail It!" about the latest trends in nail polish. One of the trends is "blazing hot" red polish with an orange cast. This is a little confusing because earlier in the magazine on the Beauty Showdown page, they mention "neon nails" and declare that "the ultrabright tips trend is now behind the curve". Accompanying this proclamation is picture of Adrienne Bailon wearing bright orange or orangey-red polish that looks really similar to the trendy polish in Nail It. So make sure that you use exactly the right mix of red and orange, or everyone will laugh at your behind the curve manicure.

One of the other nail trends that they mention is wearing a light shade of polish on one hand and a darker shade on the other.

We just want to state for the record that Jezebel has been rocking the 'one color on one hand and a different color on the other' look since high school, so at least ten years. (Lil' Lilith even does this look now too.) Way to be behind the curve, Cosmo.

-The "Shameless Cooking Tricks" page suggests that "they'll think you're a baking wizard" if you toast some store-bought pound cake and put some sliced strawberries and whipped cream on top. No, sorry, they won't unless "they" are 18 months old.

-The Cosmo Quiz on the last page is "Do You Give Off a Good-in-Bed Vibe?" Most annoying question:
Settling into your airplane seat, you notice the Taylor Lautner double next to you glancing your way. You:
The choices were all stupid so I'm not even going to bother with them, but lets talk about the question for a second. Earlier in this very magazine, they were making fun of how "creepy" it is "for grown women to sweat Justin Bieber". But it is okay to sweat Taylor Lautner, who is like six weeks older than Justin Bieber? Oh Cosmo, you're so confusing.

August 30, 2010

Eid al-Fitr and September 11: Please don't jump to conclusions

Those not familiar with Muslim holidays may not have realized that we are currently in the middle of Ramadan. Ramadan is the Islamic month of fasting:
Muslims refrain from eating, drinking and sexual relations from dawn until sunset. Fasting is intended to teach Muslims about patience, humility, and spirituality. It is a time for Muslims to fast for the sake of God and to offer more prayer than usual. During Ramadan, Muslims ask forgiveness for past sins, pray for guidance and help in refraining from everyday evils, and try to purify themselves through self-restraint and good deeds. [wikipedia]
The dates of Ramadan vary because it is based on a lunar calendar. This year Ramadan began on Wednesday, August 11 for most of the world (the exact dates are based on visibility of the hilal moon and therefore can vary by a day or so according to location). Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month and the breaking of the fasts, is a joyous holiday of celebration. In some countries the celebration can last for days and spread over the weekend.

This year celebrating may cause problems for some Muslim Americans. Why? Because many non-Muslims living in America are Islamophobic and ignorant. That is, this year Eid falls right around September 11 and there is a concern that those who don't know anything about Islam (and who think that Muslim = Terrorist) might mistake the festivities as a celebration of the terrorist attacks on 9/11.

Now, I'm not saying that it's necessarily bigotry if you're not informed about the details - and varying dates - of all major Muslim holidays. The truth is, while I had heard of Ramadan, I didn't really know much about Eid al-Fitr until two of my daughter's classmates explained it to me and I wasn't aware of the overlap this year until I saw this. Although, Eid al-Fitr is one of the biggest Muslim holidays and has been compared to Christmas in its significance. While not every non-Muslim is required to know about Ramadan and Eid, you can bet that they expect Muslim-Americans to know the dates of all the major Christian holidays.

But I'm not suggesting that it's the responsibility of every single non-Muslim to know about Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr. What I do think non-Muslims have a responsibility to do, is to not jump to conclusions.

If you see groups of Muslims praying and celebrating, don't assume it has anything to do with September 11. Sorry, but the holiday has been around way longer than the anniversary of the WTC attacks; not everything is about 9/11. If you were born on September 11th and celebrate your birthday, no one would assume that you were celebrating the attacks. If there was a terrorist attack around Christmas-time, no one would assume that anyone celebrating Christmas was a Christian terrorist.

It is straight up racism and ignorance to jump to the conclusion that anyone celebrating Eid on or near September 11 is a terrorist supporter.

This reminds me of an Islamophobic email forward I received a few times, the last time just a few months ago... It included a photograph from a store that was closed on September 11 of that year to "commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Ali". People immediately decided - based on no facts whatsoever - that "Imam Ali" was one of the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center. Um, no. Imam Ali was a 7th century religious leader who died on the 21st day of Ramadan in 661 AD. Unfortunately the date happened to fall on September 11 that year and the store owner, who put the same sign with a different date in the window every year, didn't even think of the fact that people might be confused until it was too late.

Now if I saw that sign, I might have wondered "what the heck is this about?" but instead of boycotting the store, sending hate mail, and forwarding an incorrect email forward to everyone I know, I would've looked it up. It takes only a few seconds to do a google search for "imam ali martyr" to realize that he was a historical figure, not a present day terrorist. (At the very least, when you receive an email like that, look it up on snopes before forwarding it on.)

People love so much to be outraged and offended, that they rarely take the time to find out if there's any reason.

Some people have suggested that Muslims just "move" Eid to another day. (Would you ever ask Christians to just move Christmas or Easter?) While I think that should be out of the question, there have been talks about how to handle the overlap appropriately and many plan to alter the way they would normally celebrate. New York Muslims - several of whom lost family in 9/11 - will likely alter their celebrations the most; mosques in New York have planned sermons on dealing with loss and grief.

It just goes to show that most Muslim Americans strive to be sensitive about September 11 and understanding about potential misunderstandings. I think it sucks that this is even something they have to think about. I can understand not wanting to celebrate fully because it's hard to be happy and festive on the anniversary of the attacks... but it pains me to think of Muslims breaking their long-held traditions out of "courtesy" to ignorant non-Muslims and/or out of fear from bias-motivated crimes.

Related: The War on Thanksgiving?

August 28, 2010

Introducing ESC TV!

We have a confession to make. Our TV watching has gotten out of control. But it's okay, we've come up with a solution. No, we're not cutting back or getting help. We're starting a new TV blog!

Okay, well, technically it's already started. We've been cross-posting some of our favorite TV-related posts - and a few movie-related posts too - from this blog over to the new one, and since the fall TV season is about to start we figured now would be a good time for our official series premiere. (Sorry. We'll try to keep the bad TV jokes to a minimum.)

There's also some exciting original exclusive content on ESC TV already. For example, it's the only place to study the Six Degrees of Vampire Separation. So come and check it out! And if you have a question or comment or just want to tell us what to watch, we'd love to hear it.

August 27, 2010

Muhammad Comes to Manhattan?

New York magazine is my favorite magazine... but lately I've been growing more annoyed with every new issue.

It's clear that they don't always research or fact check anymore (if the recent article about Johnny Weir is any evidence). But every once in a while I am still pleasantly surprised.

Take this article from the August 30-September 6, 2010 issue,"Muhammad Comes to Manhattan" about - what else - the "ground zero mosque" which is neither a mosque, nor at ground zero. (Yes, I'm writing about the "mosque" again!) Now 90% of this article is crap. It is poorly written and hard to follow as the author, Mark Jacobson, goes off on tangents and digressions. At one point he actually makes a reference to Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction... why? Even the title is stupid... Muhammad isn't coming to Manhattan, he has been here for quite some time.

It's not specifically listed as an editorial or opinion piece, but it's certainly not an objective piece of news reporting on the "mosque". And while the article does give both sides of the issue (he does spend a good chunk of time mocking Pamela Geller, which is nice) it's clear that the author has some level of denial and Islamophobia in him, even if he doesn't realize it. For example:
Perhaps there were some people in Sheepshead bay who preferred not to live near a Muslim mosque. Does that necessarily make them bigots?
Um, yes. Unless they have the exact same reaction to living near a Jewish synagogue or Christian church, then yes, that does make them bigots.
The Freedom Tower, a totemic 1,776 feet tall, is going up. The day I was there, a construction guy said they were working on the twentieth floor, which is already seven more storeis than Imam Feisal's supposed megamosque. When it is done it will be more than 100 stories; that seemed an acceptable ratio.
Huh? As long as the Freedom Tower is bigger than the community center, then it's okay? What?
So while the article as a whole sucked ass, there's one part that I was not only really liked, but was surprised to see included: An explanation, from Sharif El-Gamal, the owner of 45-51 Park Place, on why he chose that site for the Islamic cultural center. This is something that has so often been left out of the news coverage and articles on the subject; they tend to just focus on the protestors' points of view and the facts (or er, "facts"). However this was worth a read (if you ignore the obvious issues with the first two paragraphs below) and so I'm posting it for you all to read:
That said, when this proud son of Queens, someone who was there the day the towers crumbled, breathing in the dust of bodies that only hours before had been walking and talking, first heard of the plan to locate a thirteen-story Islamic center near the WTC site, my initial thought was: Now, that is one really stupid idea!

Why stir up all those ghosts, revisit the horror of those sad days? Was this the best way for the Muslim-American community to stitch itself into the grand mosaic of the city, to demonstrate that the followers of Islam were regulation Jills and Joes like the next caterwauling Yankee fan? I mean, how clueless, how tone-deaf could you be?

When I expressed this sentiment to Sharif El-Gamal, the owner of 45–51 Park Place, a nicely turned out, urbane 37-year-old real-estate man who has been buying and selling buildings in Manhattan for the past dozen years, he shook his head with a barely restrained impatience.

“Listen,” said El-Gamal, “do you have any clue how the Manhattan real-estate market works, what is involved? People seem to think that we picked that building to make some kind of point. But that is simply insane. This is New York; no matter who you are, you just don’t choose a building, move in, and take over. Do you know how many places I looked at? I looked at Chambers Street. I looked at Vesey Street, Broadway, Greenwich Street, Warren Street, Murray Street. Maybe half a dozen more, I can’t even remember now. It was only after all that that Park Place came up. Even then, it was the most grueling negotiation of my life. So many times I told myself, Wow, this just isn’t worth it. One minute the deal was on, eight months later it was off. The whole thing almost drove me nuts.”

But didn’t he think twice before buying a building so close to ground zero? Didn’t he suspect that he was putting himself at the center of a hornets’ nest?
“No,” said El-Gamal, who was born at Methodist Hospital in Brooklyn and, after some world travels in the company of his father, a Chemical Bank executive, attended New Hyde Park High School in Nassau County. “It never entered my mind,” he said. “Not for a second.”

The story of how he came to 45–51 Park Place began on 9/11, Sharif El-Gamal said. “I was eating in a diner at 61st and Second Avenue when I heard about the planes, and I just started going down there. Everyone was going the other way, but I kept walking. Someone had attacked my country, my city. All I wanted to do was to see if I could help. I was down there for two days. I saw things I couldn’t believe. I wound up in the hospital because the dust affected my eyes. It was after that, I just felt like praying. We weren’t a religious family; a couple of holy days, that was it. I worked downtown, so I started going to a mosque on Warren Street. After a while I stopped in at the Masjid al-Farah on West Broadway, where I met Imam Feisal for the first time. I knew he had been there for a long time, twenty years or more, but I never heard him speak. His sermons were what I was looking for, beautiful, sincere, but American. I thought, finally, an American Imam, someone who talks to me as an American. But the place was so small. It had a 70-person capacity. You could hardly get in. After the Jumu’ah, which is what we call Friday prayers, I went up to Imam Feisal and told him how much I enjoyed his sermon and that it was too bad only 70 people could hear it at a time. He just smiled and thanked me.
“That is when it hit me: We needed a building. There were a lot of Muslims downtown, and the places we did have were not pleasant; they were basements, holes-in-the-wall. The message was beautiful, but the surroundings were shabby. They were not places we could feel proud of. So I made up my mind. If this was a real-estate problem, that’s what I did, real estate. I am very good at real estate. Also, I’d undergone a change of life. My business has grown, I have two wonderful children. I signed my daughter up for swimming lessons at the Jewish Community Center at Amsterdam and 76th Street. It is an excellent facility, very welcoming, modern. Then I knew we didn’t need just a mosque, we needed a cultural center, something that took into account the entire aspect of life: our lives as Muslim-Americans in New York. So when you ask me why I would buy a place so close to ground zero, I say, I wasn’t thinking of that. I saw a building. A building that would fulfill a need. I spoke to Imam Feisal about it, and he agreed.”

Asked if, considering everything that has happened in the ongoing argument about the mosque, he would do it all over again, Sharif El-Gamal leaned back in his chair. “Yes,” he answered in low voice. “Even knowing everything, I would have done it again. Because there was a conversation that had to be had, and now we’re having it.” [New York, emphasis mine]
Yes. We are having it.

August 25, 2010

The One Million Moms Still Don't Understand TV Ratings

The latest action alert from the One Million Moms is about Family Guy. Now, I'm not going to spend a lot of time on the content of this alert, mostly because I can't stand Family Guy and don't want to waste any time defending it. (I think my hate for the show is magnified by a couple of people that I've known over the years who have forced me to watch it with them, apparently thinking that if I just watched their favorite episode while they explained the "genius" to me, I would suddenly see the light and start to find it funny. Spoiler alert: I didn't.) But there is one aspect of this alert that I want to address.

We used to criticize the Moms for not taking a show's rating into account in their alerts. Now they often mention the ratings (which we think is just one piece of evidence proving that they read our blog), but we still have an issue with the way they do it. This new alert is a perfect example:
"Family Guy" is the most disgusting show on television. Foul language, s*xual comments and the mockery of Christianity are the norm in this vile program. The August 15 episodes were cruel, bloody and crude. Fox aired two episodes back to back on Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. EDT/ 8:00 p.m. CDT.(* is used to bypass internet filters.)

"Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane has shown time and time again that he has no regard for morals or values. Dare we ask what he will do next? MacFarlane will do anything for a buck and ratings. He is known to go after shock value and has no respect for others with special needs. MacFarlane has shown numerous times he also doesn't mind making his viewers nauseous while watching.

WARNING: Graphic content description! You may prefer to skip to the TAKE ACTION portion of this alert. This episode was rated TV-14 DLSV which means it should be suitable for 14-year-olds.
A rating of TV-14 DLSV really does not mean "suitable for 14 year olds". It's not such a crazy stretch to interpret it that way, but I think the Moms know what they're doing by putting that slight spin on it, and it's disingenuous.

Here's the real description of a TV-14 DLSV rating from TVGuidelines.org:
Parents Strongly Cautioned
This program contains some material that many parents would find unsuitable for children under 14 years of age. Parents are strongly urged to exercise greater care in monitoring this program and are cautioned against letting children under the age of 14 watch unattended. This program may contain one or more of the following: intensely suggestive dialogue (D), strong coarse language (L), intense sexual situations (S), or intense violence (V).
Okay, so this rating does mean that most parents would find this type of program to be unsuitable for children under 14, or at the very least would not want to let children under 14 watch without a parent or other adult. It doesn't mean that the program is automatically suitable for all children 14 and over. The Moms are acting as if a TV-14 rating means a total green light for parents to let all of their teenagers watch a show without any parental involvement. I don't know about you, but that's not how I would interpret phrases like "parents are strongly urged to exercise greater care in monitoring this program".

They also totally gloss over the DSLV qualifiers. Those aren't attached to every show that's rated TV-14, and they're there to give more specific information about what kind of potentially objectionable or inappropriate content a show contains. If a show has all four letters attached to its rating, I would think the Moms would know by now that it's probably not going to be something they would want their kids to watch.

It would be a different story if the Moms were critiquing the rating system itself and arguing that it's inadequate or poorly enforced. But they're not. There is a page on TVGuidelines.org that provides contact information for people who want to give feedback to the TV Parental Guidelines Monitoring Board, which is something that I've never seen the Moms mention. Instead, they go after a show's sponsors and try to get shows they don't like taken off the air, even if they have to stretch the truth about certain shows being marketed to kids to do it. Because, as their FAQ states, as a division of the American Family Association their real goal is "to motivate and equip citizens to change the culture to reflect Biblical truth". If you don't accept their truth or support their goal...well, too bad.

It's almost enough to make me want to start watching Family Guy just to spite them. Almost.

August 24, 2010

TV Quickie: Vampire Terrorists

HBO's True Blood is known for being full of metaphors and subtext. Gay rights... Christian fundamentalism... sex... drugs... rock and roll... racism... and now Islamophobia?

Last week's episode featured a crazy Russell Edgington (Denis O'Hare) slaughtering a news anchor on live television, much to the dismay of the American Vampire League.

This week, AVL spokeswoman Nan Flanagan (Jessica Tuck) went on television to speak out against the "anti-vampire sentiment and hate crimes sweeping the nation":
"Look I do not deny that this was the heinous act of a mad man. Russell Edgington is an extremist and a terrorist but that's not because he is a vampire. It's because he is an extremist and a terrorist. He is one individual, just as Jefferey Dahlmer was an individual, and I certainly dont recall protests or a call to punish all human men after his --"
In the wake of all the madness about the  "Ground Zero Mosque" (which is neither a mosque, nor 'at Ground Zero'), I can't help but notice the familiarity.

I can't even count how many times in the past few weeks that I've had to say the words "not all Muslims are terrorists" (or something similar to that) and it feels like no matter how many times I say it, I still find just as much bigotry in the news, on the blogs, on the walls of my Facebook 'friends'. So I'll say it again: Not all Muslims are terrorists. Not even most Muslims are terrorists. Islam is not a religion of violence and hate (at least not anymore than Christianity is).

So when Nan Flanagan says that the heinous act of one crazy vampire terrorist isn't due to his being a vampire, but to his being a crazy extremist... I get it. But I'm not completely sure that the metaphor works in this case, because metaphors in a supernatural TV show don't always correlate exactly to the real world.

Why it works:

Just because violence is part of the "vampire way" that doesn't mean most vampires are going around ripping hearts out on live TV (or even off live TV). Just like there might be violence in the Koran, the Bible, etc. but that doesn't mean that every religious person is interested in being part of a religious war.

It also works because it doesn't necessarily have to just be about Muslims either. You could see the same kind of thing play out with gay rights or people who murder abortion doctors, etc...

Why it doesn't work:

The metaphor only goes so far because vampires aren't human.

True Blood is fiction and vampires aren't just another religion or race, they're a whole other species of the un-dead. Not all of the vampires on the show are evil or violent, but violence is in their nature... violence is part of the vampire way.

But violence isn't really part of the Muslim way (at least not anymore than it is part of the Christian way). I know that what a few radical terrorists did on September 11 has nothing to do with the millions of moderate Muslim-Americans living in the U.S. but too many non-Muslim Americans don't get this.

So that's where the metaphor loses me. When someone says on the news that most Muslims are moderate and peaceful, I know it's true, even if everyone around me doesn't. When Nan Flanagan says that most vampires are moderate and peaceful, are we - as viewers - supposed to believe her or not?

Of course, one part of the episode that rang so incredibly true to me was the response from Reverend Steve Newlin (Michael McMillian) of the anti-vampire church the Fellowship of the Sun:
"This heinous act of pure evil is a blessing actually, because it finally reveals the true nature of these beasts to us all and if I were less of a Christian I would say 'told ya' but of course I take no joy in this dark time."

August 23, 2010

BlogHer '10 vs. Affiliate Summit East '10

This month we attended two conferences: BlogHer and Affiliate Summit East. BlogHer is a conference for women who blog and Affiliate Summit is a conference for affiliate marketing.

We've already done a full recap of both events:
10 Things About BlogHer '10
10 Things About Affiliate Summit East '10
The two conferences are very different, but since we attended them basically back-to-back (and coincidentally, both events were held at the New York Hilton), we couldn't help but compare them and look at each event through the lens of the other. So, we thought we'd share some of our observations.

First, here's a quick rundown of some of the differences that we noticed between the two events:

BlogHer: Lots of women! There are a few male attendees every year, but obviously the event is almost all women.

ASE: Lots of men! Conference organizers estimate that women made up only about 25% of this year's attendees.

BlogHer: Attendees were encouraged to bring their children. On-site child care was provided and babies were allowed in the sessions.
ASE: No one under 21 (including infants and toddlers) was permitted. No suggested options for child care. The bar in the Expo Hall remained open all day, and Atomic Shops brought a keg.

: Breastfeeding moms in the Lactation Lounge.

ASE: A beer bong and daily beer runs in the Blogger's Lounge.

BlogHer: Cutesy session titles, like "Gen Y Passionistas" and "Social Media is Bringing Sexy Back to Branding"
ASE: Buzzwords and jargon, like "Affiliate Freakonomics", "verticals", and "outclicks"

BlogHer: "Mindful" Monetization

ASE: Nothing but monetization

BlogHer: Sponsors in the Expo Hall included brands like PepsiCo, P&G, Playskool, and Hallmark.

ASE: Sponsors in the Expo Hall included lots of affiliate programs and ad networks with names like AccuClickLinkNetShareBankBiz.

BlogHer: Bruce Jenner and the Pillsbury Dough Boy could be found in the Expo Hall

ASE: Bikini Babes could be found in the Expo Hall

BlogHer: Drink tickets were provided for official parties at night.

ASE: No official parties, but drink tickets were provided for drinking in the Expo Hall in the afternoon.

BlogHer: There was a Green Team and a Swag Recycling Suite to try to keep the conference as eco-friendly as possible.

ASE: There were some messy attendees who left trash everywhere, and no noticeable focus on recycling all of the paper given out in the Expo Hall. (The organizers do plan to work on ways to address the recycling issue in the future.)

: Sample titles from the conference bookstore:
ASE: Sample titles from the conference bookstore:

BlogHer: Keynote speakers were Alison Stewart (“Need to Know” PBS anchor), Marie Wilson (founder and president of The White House Project), Gloria Feldt (author and activist), P. Simran Sethi (journalist, environmentalist)
ASE: Keynote speakers were Frank Luntz (political consultant, pollster and author) and Jim Kukral (CEO of JimKukral.com)

The most significant difference that we noticed had to do with the attendees' attitudes towards monetization. At BlogHer, there were Professional and Job Lab tracks on the agenda, but monetization really wasn't a main focus. What many BlogHer attendees are interested in is working with brands, usually by reviewing products and doing giveaways for their readers. And many big brands are interested too, as the packed Expo Hall and long list of private branded parties indicates. But what we've noticed is that most of these women are doing this "brand ambassador" work just for the free products that they get, and usually they're not getting paid. In many cases, we've even noticed that women are hesitant to monetize their blogs or to ask for money for the work that they're doing for big companies.

Take this question from BlogHer's "Mindful Monetization" session, for example (Note: We didn't attend this session; the quote is taken from the official liveblog):
Question: My name is Sherry. I do a lot of give-aways and someone said, well do you get paid? And I never thought about that, that someone would pay me. So do you do that? Do you have experience with it?
So this is a woman who is giving away products on her site (and most likely doing product reviews as well), which means she's working with companies and promoting brands. And it never even occurred to her that she could or should be getting paid for all of that work. An attitude like that would be totally foreign to the attendees of the Affiliate Summit, who are all about maximizing the earning potential of their blogs and websites. We're not suggesting that this attitude is necessarily better, and there were definitely some ASE attendees doing things that cross our personal line - pop up ads for diet pills and penis enlargement email campaigns, anyone? But we did think it was interesting to sit in rooms full of women who are hesitant to monetize, followed by rooms full of (mostly) men who are anything but.

At both conferences the fact that women make 85% of consumer purchases was brought up. At ASE there was a whole session about how to market to women. And at BlogHer women were working with brands on giveaways, reviews, and other projects that were all about... marketing to other women. The companies at ASE recognize the significance of women as online consumers, while the sponsors of BlogHer get that women are also powerful online influencers. So why aren't there more women using their own power and taking this to the next level by becoming successful online sellers and advertisers? If the men working as affiliate marketers and the large companies on the Expo Hall floor at BlogHer can recognize the huge power of women and profit from it, we'd like to see more women doing the same.

On the flip side, the BlogHer community is all about great content, and at ASE that's secondary. While there were other bloggers at ASE, a lot of the time when we explained what we do people were totally confused:
Evil Sluts: "We're bloggers."
ASE: "So you have an online store?"
Evil Sluts: "Well, it's a blog."
ASE: "Oh, so you're... content creators?"
Evil Sluts: "Um, yeah, we're writers."
ASE: "So it's like, advertorials and stuff?"
Evil Sluts: [Sigh]
It seemed like a foreign concept that the quality of the content of our blog might come before the money-making aspect. On the other hand, for a lot of the women at BlogHer, content doesn't just come first - it is everything. That's pretty much a foreign concept at ASE. We understand that there are plenty of reasons to write a blog (for fun, for self expression, to connect with others, to spread information about a cause, to bring about social change, etc) that have nothing to do with making money and that's legitimate. However, we've seen too many talented women who are afraid of embracing monetization or who do not value their work enough to think they deserve to get paid.

We're not saying that either conference is better or worse, or that there's anything inherently wrong with either point of view. And we realize that we're doing some generalizing here. There were women at both conferences who do monetize, and there were women who don't because they choose not to and/or feel it's not right for their blog, not because they're hesitant or unaware of the opportunities. There were also people at ASE who did care about having good content and not just making as much money as possible. But based on our experiences, we think that we're looking at two seemingly very different communities that could actually learn from a lot from each other.

August 20, 2010

10 Things About Affiliate Summit East '10

We just had the opportunity to cover Affiliate Summit East, a three day conference focused on affiliate marketing. The conference was founded in 2003 by Missy Ward and Shawn Collins and now there is one East and one West event each year.

This was our first time attending an Affiliate Summit. We've been to a lot of conferences in the past, but never one quite like ASE '10, and we can definitely say that it was a unique experience for us. To try to give you a feel for what it was like, we're going to break down our recap using the 10 Things format that we love so much.

The Backstory

So, what were we doing at the Affiliate Summit East in the first place? Honestly, we're still not entirely sure, but we know that we have Connie Roberts to thank. We met Connie at BlogHer and when we told her that we were New Yorkers, she said that we should definitely check out the Affiliate Summit. After BlogHer she helped us make the right connections to apply for and secure some last minute press passes. Thanks, Connie!

We were familiar with the basics of affiliate marketing before we attended (although we admit that we didn't know there were whole conferences centered around it), so we pretty much attended ASE '10 with open minds and not entirely sure of what to expect.

The Hotel

The Affiliate Summit was held at the Hilton New York. Since we were just there for BlogHer '10, we felt right at home. We're going to start stopping by periodically just to hang out at the Bridges Bar. We did notice that the hotel was a lot less engaged with the ASE attendees than they were with the BlogHer attendees - no activity on twitter and no special events or contests for conference attendees - but we're not sure if that was the hotel's choice or the ASE organizers'. Either way, the ASE people totally missed out on free brownies, which sucks for them.

The Sessions

Here's a rundown of all of the sessions that we attended:

  • Innovate! New Exciting Applications of Affiliate Marketing
Presenter/Panelists: Joe Stepniewski, Skimlinks (@digijoe)
Best Tips: Apparently affiliate marketing is "a perfect storm for innovation". There's a lot of cool stuff going on right now with sites like Empora (a fashion search engine that can help you comparison shop for particular items, colors, brands, etc.) and PopShops (where you can basically build your own "store" with products from all over the internet). There's also a trend toward sites like Groupon where you can get some kind of deal or discount if you can get a big enough group to buy together.
Favorite Buzzwords: Affilination, Referratization
Other Observations: This was the first session that we attended, so we were wondering just how out of place we were going to feel. Then both cyber-erotica and AdultFriendFinder were mentioned within the first 15 minutes, and we relaxed. We also really dug Joe's half-Aussie, half-British accent (totally unrelated to the quality of the session, but it was nice to listen to).

  • More Money, Same Traffic, List Building and Paths
Presenter/Panelists: Jason Akatiff, Coleadium Inc. (@smaxor)

Okay, full disclosure: We left this session early because we had no clue what Jason was talking about. That's not really a criticism; it just wasn't for us. One thing we will say is that we weren't overly impressed that he introduced his presentation by saying, "I did this PowerPoint on the plane on the way here. I'm really busy." Then he was briefly confused by one of his own slides and asked a buddy in the audience, "Does this math look right to you?" He also insisted repeatedly that "affiliates are lazy". Um, okay. Moving on.
Also, this was listed as a Beginner level session, but it clearly wasn't geared toward actual beginners like us.

  • Using Social Media for SEO
Presenter/Panelists: Joshua Ziering, Full Speed SEO (@joshuaziering)

Best Tips: Focus on promoting your own site over driving traffic to social networking sites that may be irrelevant in a few years. (Myspace anyone?) Don't create "paralysis through analysis" by giving users 10,000 sites where they can connect with you. Do common sense stuff like making sure a link to your site is in your Twitter profile and making sure that profile isn't too vague or cutesy and actually explains who you are and what you do. (Ours describes us as evil, slutty, and cliquey, so we clearly pass that test.) Go around your site and make a list of "social opportunities", and create "artificial status" for your users.
Favorite Buzzwords: One of our favorite things about this session was the lack of jargon and buzzwords. But we did enjoy this typo in the session description: "If you thought Twitter was just for talking about great BBQ and Facebook was just for making old girlfriends jealous - thing again." We're still pointing at each other and shouting "thing again!" at random moments...because we're hilarious.

Other Observations: Joshua Ziering was by far the funniest speaker of all the sessions we attended. He made SEO fun and we were cracking up the whole time, but we were surprised by the lack of reaction from the rest of the audience. Not sure if they just didn't get the humor or they just held back their laughter because Search Engine Optimization is "serious business", but either way, we were surprised.

  • Avoiding the Google Slap
Presenter/Panelists: Dush Ramachandran, ClickBank (@DushR) and Frederick Vallaeys, Google AdWords Evangelist (@siliconvallaeys)
This is another one to file under "not for us". We knew that the focus of this session would be on people who create and run Google ad campaigns, but we thought it also might touch on issues for people who run Google ads on their blogs or websites, and it didn't. But we can say that there was a lot of helpful information for the people that it did apply to, and it was great that they actually had someone from Google who could really answer questions and also stayed after the session to have one-on-one conversations with people about specific problems that they were having.

  • Affiliate Marketing in a Digital World
Presenter/Panelist: Zahid Khan, Amazon.com (@AmazonAssociate)
Best Tips: Some people are still hesitant to purchase digital content or to try different categories like eBooks, but they'll be more willing to give it a shot if you can offer them something for free first. (Digital versions of a product are usually cheaper which is also a selling point.) There are some widgets out there right now that make it really easier to provide preview clips of music or sample chapters of books that you're talking about on your blog.

Favorite Buzzwords: It sounds a lot fancier to say "I was purchasing some digital content earlier today" when what you were really doing was buying that "I'm only gonna break break your break break your heart" song for your iPod.

Other Observations: Even though the presenter works for Amazon, he was very fair in mentioning other products like the Nook and the iPad rather than just the Kindle, and in answering questions about the pros and cons of Amazon's affiliate program versus similar ones like iTunes.

  • Affiliate Freakonomics: Market Quirks at Work
Presenter/Panelists: Oliver Roup, VigLink (@oroup)

Best Tips: Don't obsess over traffic. You don't need a huge site to make money, and sometimes smaller sites that do things better can make more than sites that are 10 times more popular. Trust matters. Being honest and using disclosures actually helps your site to perform better.

Favorite Buzzword: Outclicks!

  • Strategies for Marketing to Women
Kim Salvino, buy.at, (@Kim_Salvino)
Tricia Meyer, Sunshine Rewards, (@SunshineTricia)
Kristin Kinsey, MadHatter Consulting (@kc)
Laura Parvey-Connors, Vanns and Mamalode (@laurapconnors)

Best Tips: 85% of all brand purchases are made by women. American women control $7 billion in annual online spending. Women buy everything, so find a way to market things to them other than makeup and diet pills.

If you're marketing to moms as a subset of women, remember that it's not just about cribs and carseats. Babies do grow up eventually. Moms have tech/gadget wish lists (for their kids and for themselves) just like men do.

"Pink painting" of products is really stereotypical and limiting. Don't just "shrink it and pink it" for women. We don't want or need for products to be dumbed down for us. It's not about being pink or pretty, it's about being relevant. Show actual features and benefits of the product. And don't market to "women" as a monolith as if all women are the same.

Most social networking sites have more female users than male users. 50% of women say that they've purchased a product because of something they read on a social networking site. Women want to hear from real women who are like them and who have actually used the product. If you have a social networking presence for your product or brand, interact with female customers and address even negative comments. Make it clear that you're listening and responding.
Favorite Buzzwords: When it comes to moms, "nap time is the new prime time" for social networking.
Other Observations: Affiliate Summit is a male-dominated conference (more on that later), so when we first saw that there was going to be a session about marketing to women, we weren't sure what to expect. Was it going to be a bunch of men telling us that women love chocolate and anything pink? So we were definitely pleasantly surprised by the great panel, and this ended up being one of our favorite sessions of the conference.

The Expo Hall

This was... an experience. On Sunday there was the "Meet Market" which was basically the Expo Hall in half the space. Total chaos, lots of shoving, and really very little opportunity to engage with the sponsors face-to-face. We did get an opportunity to talk to a few representatives from various companies, but overall it was a stressful, uncomfortable effort just to get back and forth in the room.

Luckily, the next day the full Expo Hall was open - two whole floors of sponsoring companies with bigger booths and more room to walk around - which was much better. Although it didn't really seem as though too many of the sponsors wanted to talk to us. We started doing little 'tests' to see how the reps would react to us... we'd stand in front of their booth for a minute or so, looking at literature, to see if they would try to engage with us or not. Most of the time, they didn't.

One guy that we were talking to even suddenly turned his head and stepped away from us while one of us was in the middle of a sentence. Not like a "well, it was nice to meet you" brush off or even something like "sorry but I don't think our company would be a good fit for you", both of which would have been totally fine with us. He just straight up looked away and then walked away while we were talking, which was extra funny because he initially stopped us from just taking their information and walking away by saying, "Don't just take the information and leave! Don't you want to talk and network?" Ironically, he was from a company called Prospectiv that allegedly "helps consumer brands target and engage women online" and is a place "where brands and women click". Not so much in our experience.

We spoke to someone who said that many companies are just looking out for certain names that they recognize and/or for people that they think can drive a lot of traffic to their business. If that's the case, we feel like some of these companies should probably rethink their approach a little - just because someone has a name you don't recognize/is a woman/isn't wearing a power suit/whatever, that doesn't mean they have nothing to offer.

There were some companies that were happy to talk to us (or at least pretended to be, which is good enough). They included:

The New Friends and Contacts

- Heather In BC - Heather was in charge of the Blogger Lounge (where we spent a lot of time), and we hit it off immediately. We also learned from her that in Canada "clique" is pronounced like "cleek". The more you know...

- Wendy Limauge - We actually met Wendy briefly at BlogHer but didn't get a chance to really talk to her much until the Affiliate Summit. She was one of the few people who attended both conferences so had some interesting conversations about women bloggers, monetization, and other stuff. She also referred to us as fabulous and fun and said we would go far, so of course we like her even more for that.

-Rick Calvert - Rick is the CEO and Co-Founder of the BlogWorld and New Media Expo, which will be held in Las Vegas in October. We're attending BlogWorld for the first time this year so it was great for us to get a chance to meet Rick and get some "inside info" about the conference. We knew we were in good shape when he said he was friends with the Queen of Spain, and luckily he still liked us (or pretended to) even after we somehow ended up in a political debate that started off with him suggesting that Sarah Palin is a great feminist. Rick later introduced us to Patti Hosking, BlogWorld's Director of Business Development. (She is awesome.)

-Warren Whitlock - Wendy introduced us to Warren, who wrote the first book on Twitter and was one of the superstars of the conference. (Kinda like The Bloggess but without the confidence ponytail.) He later referred to our conversation as "a wild ride" and "odd", so you know he was really excited about meeting us. (Spoiler Alert: We're not twins, as most of you know. Long story.)

-Adam Gilad - He didn't flinch at all at our name (we think his actual reaction was "I love sluts"). When he let us know about his upcoming T-shirt website MrFlirtShirt.com we realized why. He said he's about to launch a version for women (MissFlirtShirt) too so we'll be sure to check that out when it's ready.

-James Thompson and his beautifully-bearded beer-bringing buddy Ben (love that alliteration!) from Hill Farmstead Brewery in Vermont. These are the guys who were responsible (with the help of John Chow) for this:

The 'Only the ESC' Moments

-When we first met Heather in the Blogger Suite, she decided to tweet about the fact that we were there.

As she was typing the tweet, she turned to us and said, "So what will you do for them when they get here?" Already a natural honorary ESC member.

-We mentioned that we really liked Josh Ziering's session and thought that he was really funny. What we haven't mentioned yet is that Josh is related to Ian Ziering from Beverly Hills, 90210. At the beginning of the session he mentioned having issues with doing Google searches for his name thanks to a relative who was on TV for about ten years and was married to a Playboy model. Of course we immediately turned to each other and went "Ian Ziering!", but nobody else seemed to get it and we even got shushed by some woman sitting in front of us. (Tough crowd.)

When we were chatting with Josh after the session he mentioned that he had a site called My Aunt Is Hot (sort of by way of saying that he wasn't offended to be talking to people whose website was called Evil Slutopia). We had misheard and thought he had said that Ian was his cousin, so we didn't put the obvious pieces together about the site until the next morning. [I woke up to this text message from Lilith: "Ian Ziering is his uncle! The hot aunt is the Playboy model. He was only 12. Read about his bar mitzvah. Hilarious. Good morning."] In hindsight, we should've realized it from the start but we just figured maybe the Zierings have tons of hot women in their family.

-We also mentioned that we somehow ended up getting into a political debate with Rick from BlogWorld that opened with the question, "So how do you feel about Sarah Palin?" We've been friends for long enough that we don't always need words to communicate, so the silent telepathic conversation that we had while we were looking from Rick to each other and back while trying to figure out how to answer went something like this: "Oh fuck, I can't believe he asked about Sarah Palin. Is he asking because he likes her or because he doesn't? He's the founder of BlogWorld, he's a good person to know and we don't want him to immediately hate us because we don't like Sarah Palin. Fuck! Why does this stuff always happen to us? Okay, be diplomatic. Say something neutral. She's very...active on Twitter? Ugh, fuck it, we can't even pretend." It turns out that he does like her but didn't dislike us for disliking her. Or something. We also covered sex ed, school choice, and whether feminists can be pro-life. Only us.

-While we were talking to Rick, at one point we realized that someone was standing behind us chanting "slut slut slut slut!" It was Adam Gilad joking around. The guy that he was standing with, who we hadn't met yet, looked a little confused, like he was witnessing some bizarre attempt at a pickup line that was about to go horribly wrong. Even funnier is that we didn't even notice him saying it at first and then when we did, we didn't realize he was talking to us right away... Apparently "slut slut slut slut!" doesn't even faze us anymore.

-I wanted to wear an Evil Slutopia t-shirt one day, but I didn't want to wear it for our commute to the Hilton, so I just brought it with me to change into later. We realized that this move was totally taking a cue from the men of Jersey Shore and doing "the shirt before the shirt". Oh Mike "The Situation" you've taught us so much.

The Compliments

-It seemed to us like registration ran really smoothly. We walked right up and were registered in about two minutes, and we've dealt with some long and/or disorganized registrations in the past so that was appreciated. (In fact, we didn't notice a single line at the registration/check-in the entire three days of the conference.)

-There are really no official parties at this conference, but we attended the ShareASale party at the Empire Hotel, which was open to anyone who picked up a ticket from their booth in the Expo Hall, and it was a great party. This was probably the best networking opportunity of the whole conference and this is where we met most of our "new friends".

-The Blogger Lounge was a great place to relax and get some quiet time, get some work done, play some Wii Sports, or find a party, depending on the time of the day and the mix of people in the room.

-The keynote on Tuesday morning was given by Jim Kukral, author of Attention! This Book Will Make You Money: How to Use Attention-Getting Online Marketing to Increase Your Revenue. It was a really good motivational talk about getting out of workaholic corporate cubicle drone hell and creating a business around the type of work that you want to do and the lifestyle that you want to lead. (You can watch the whole thing here.)

The Criticisms

-We tried to attend a session called "Seven Deadly Sins of Affiliate Marketing" (mostly because of the name), but apparently it was canceled and nobody informed any attendees of that until some of us tried to walk into the room. We would have scheduled our day a little differently if we had been told ahead of time that there was a change, so clearer communication would have helped there.

-Also, while the sessions were great and very informative, we obviously would be considered "beginners" on a lot of these subjects. Although there were plenty of sessions that were listed as being at Beginner Level, the conference as a whole wasn't really geared toward actual beginners. It would be beneficial to the organizers to have more options because it would potentially open the event up to more people who have yet to dive into Affiliate Marketing just yet and would be overwhelmed/intimidated by the conference at its current state.

-As we mentioned above, the Meet Market on Sunday was crazy cramped and crowded and not at all conducive to networking. Next year they should consider having this in a bigger room (or at least setting up the tables in a better way - as it was, the aisles were too narrow to accommodate the big crowds).

-We noticed a lot of garbage being left around, especially on Sunday when everyone decided to hang out in the closed hotel bar, which would have been fine except that they all left mountains of Starbucks cups and other trash behind on the tables. One night, we even noticed an empty glass from the bar left on the base of the statue in the center of the lobby. This has nothing to do with the conference itself, but rather the rudeness of some of the attendees. Listen guys, this isn't your house - it's a hotel. The hotel employees aren't your personal staff, so learn to pick up after yourselves.

-On a related note, it might help the ASE organizers to take a cue from BlogHer's Green Team and Swag Recycling Suite and think about some ways to reduce waste from the conference, particularly the massive amounts of paper handouts.

The Woman Thing

As we mentioned above, this is a male-dominated conference. (The organizers estimate that only about 25% of the attendees are women.) Since most of the conferences that we usually attend are for women or primarily attended by women, we definitely noticed the difference. Here are a few moments that stood out for us:

-In one session that we went to, there was a woman who raised her hand over and over during the audience Q&A. She was sitting near the center of the room, and we watched the moderator call on every man with a question from every part of the room in a circle around her. He didn't call on her until one of us finally pointed at her. (Not saying that's why he finally picked her, just that it took a long time.)

Also, when he finally did call on her he walked all the way over to her from the podium to bring her a microphone. We're not necessarily complaining about this and we're not going to claim that this definitely had something to do with her gender, but it was just a little interesting that he didn't do that for anyone else who had asked a question (even some of the men who were further back/harder to hear than she was).

-The Marketing to Women session was the only one that we attended that had women on the panel. There were some women speaking in other sessions that we didn't go to, but it was very possible to put together a schedule where you could go all three days without ever hearing a woman speaker.

-One day in the Blogger Lounge, we overheard a conversation among a group of guys about one of the books that was given out at that morning's keynote (Jim Kukral's book). One of the men in the group was loudly proclaiming that he didn't want to walk around holding the book. "I can't carry this book, it's pink!" Because walking around with a pink book obviously means you're girly and/or gay. The stupid book wasn't even really pink! It was more of an orangey salmon color. Silly boys.

-Two guys sat down behind us in the marketing to women session, and they were talking about how to maximize the one guy's website selling women's apparel. We listened as one of them very seriously explained, "You have to appeal to her EMOTIONS!"

-There was stuff like this in the Expo Hall:

-And then there were the Bikini Babes. Yes, they walked around the conference for three days in little bikinis to promote...you guessed it, the Bikini Babes Network. (You can get your invite at IWantMyBikini.com. So classy.) The business card they gave us has the image you see below with the tagline "Affiliate marketing ahead of the curve." Get it?

Someone told us that the Bikini Babes weren't just hired models but were actually employees of the company who worked as affiliate managers. (Which is worse? Hiring bikini babes to promote your company at events, or only hiring women who look like stereotypical bikini babes to work for your company and then forcing them to actually wear bikinis all the time?)

Steve Hall of AdRants interviewed the bikini babes themselves:

In fairness, the ASE organizers don't seem to be big proponents of the concept of "booth babes", with co-founder Missy Ward commenting on Twitter after the conference that it's not a great idea to "get noticed for the wrong reasons".

The Conclusions and Other Coverage

Overall, we definitely learned a lot and had a good time at the Affiliate Summit East. We would definitely recommend this conference, but we're not completely sure that we would recommend this conference to everyone. For someone who already has a bit of knowledge on the subject and is at the point where they're really ready to dive in, it's an excellent investment. However, if you're an individual who is just testing the waters of trying to monetize your blog, the cost of this conference may be too much and the content too advanced to be worth the money.

Here are some other post-ASE recaps and blog posts:

We received free admission to the conference as members of the press. This did not influence our opinion of the conference in any way and has no bearing on the content of our recap/review.