When it became public last month that “booth babes” would be banned from this week’s RSA Conference, most applauded. However, others warned that the subjectivity of such a dress code – language here and at bottom of this post -- would make the policy problematic.
Meet Marilyn Monroe impersonator Camille Larrea, pictured above. She was working the RSA booth of SIEM vendor AccelOps.
RSA says no.
But trust me when I tell you it depends on who you ask, because I put the question and picture out to a bunch of trade-show savvy colleagues and of the 11 who responded, six say we’re looking at a booth babe whose presence violates the new RSA policy … and five insist the first six are wrong.
Count me among that slim majority. Marilyn Monroe is perhaps the most iconic saleswoman of sex appeal ever. The impersonator was selling that image, not security products. She was dressed to sell sex appeal. She was in the booth. Booth babe.
Minor matter, certainly, but what I find interesting is the distinct differences of opinion, with men and women on both sides. A sampling of the viewpoints:
Sandra Toms, VP and curator for RSA Conference: “The updated Exhibitor Rules and Regulations ban attire that is overly revealing and we felt that the Marilyn Monroe impersonator was dressed in a way that was entertaining yet wouldn’t make our attendees uncomfortable.” Toms says they received no complaints.
The rest of these are from colleagues who I’m not naming because I didn’t tell them they might be quoted when I sent the email.
- “I’m at the show and I saw this (Monroe) impersonator. She’s at a booth and you can have your picture taken with her. She’s not pitching you anything or trying to get you to sit through a presentation, so I think it’s pretty innocuous. Last year, they had the Soup Nazi guy, this year it’s Marilyn Monroe. All in all, the 6-inch heels, fishnet stockings, spandex-type booth babes are gone, but vendors have women all dressed in the same garish vendor t-shirts, which is probably not technically business casual either.”
- “It’s clearly an attempt to skirt the rule and would create a slippery slope if officials allow it. I get that it’s a funny little costume, but if they want to be serious about outlawing booth babes then this falls in that category.”
- “Is she a booth babe — probably. Does the outfit violate the dress code — no. There might be a bit too much cleavage, but I don’t think it’s anything that would bother Justice Stewart. Rather, I think she’s a clever commentary on the stupidity of trying to provide a dress code that uses such subjective vocabulary as ‘excessive,’ ‘objectionable,’ and ‘offensive.’”
- “Booth babe. I don’t see it as clever commentary, though. Seems tacky and out of place – just like booth babes.”
- “I disagree with (McNamara) because it’s a famous figure in a well-known and recognized outfit.”
- “I would say booth babe. Plunging neckline.”
- “Not a violation of the booth babe rule. That dress hasn’t been provocative in 40 years.”
- “She’s not really dressed in business casual wear, is she? Just that pretty much violates the rule, right? The tougher issue becomes whether there were other impersonators there (male or female) that were dressed more appropriately. I’d say that Marilyn is probably considered a ‘booth babe’ as per those rules.” (Note: There was a Ron Burgandy impersonator. See our collection of booth pictures here.)
- “I’d classify it as a marketing stunt that skirts the booth babe code.”
Feel free to add your thoughts in comments.
And here’s the contract language RSA provided to conference exhibitors.
All Expo staff are expected to dress in business and/or business casual attire. Exhibitors should ensure that the attire of al staff they deploy at their booth (whether the exhibitor’s direct employees or their contractors) be considered appropriate in a professional environment. Attire of an overly revealing or suggestive nature is not permitted. Examples of such attire may include but are not restricted to:
- Tops displaying excessive cleavage;
- Tank tops, halter tops, camisole tops or tube tops;
- Miniskirts or minidresses;
- Lycra (or other Second-Skin) bodysuits;
- Objectionable or offensive costumes.
These guidelines are applicable to all booth staff, regardless of gender, and will be strictly enforced. We reserve the right to request that individual booth staff change their attire or leave the premises immediately if we feel their appearance might be offensive to other exhibitors or attendees.