MIT Media Lab SXSW Faux Pas

As the rest of us watch the snow fall, participants in the SXSW interactive festival in Austin are enjoying the technology, music, and general coolness of the event.

Festival mainstay MIT Media Labs surprised people with its promotional wristbands that many considered sexist. The bands were given to people who attended an MIT party.

MIT wristbands

In a blog post, the organization published this apology:

"We appreciate all of the feedback we've received about the party we hosted at The Parish Underground on Saturday night at SXSW. While we received a lot of positive responses, we want to address an issue with the wristbands that were given to people who came in the door. They were offensive and in no way reflect the sentiments of the MIT Media Lab. These wristbands were provided by the venue, and while we didn't realize what was printed on them until after they'd been handed out, we should have prevented the situation from occurring in the first place.

"The Media Lab is firmly committed to supporting women in the sciences, computing, arts, and engineering. We don't like – and certainly don't want to support or disseminate – offensive messaging. We appreciate those of you who noticed the wristbands and pointed them out to us; please accept our sincere apology."

Image source.

Discussion Starters:

  • What's your reaction to the wristbands: clever marketing, offensive, or something else? 
  • What's the significance, if any, of MIT Media Labs distributing the wristbands at SXSW?
  • How do you assess the organization's apology?