Dudebros Busted Being Dudebros: Boombotix Startup Edition

A company that makes outdoor speakers for cyclists released a fat-shaming ad yesterday, which unfortunately for them, targeted a man known for cycling as a way to become healthier, Ernest Gagnon. There was backlash and they apologized, but do they actually get it? Let's review. TW: fat shaming, con creeper

Meet Ernest Gagnon, a man with a dream and a bike. After being diagnosed with diabetes, he decided to try to become healthier doing an activity that seemed fun: cycling. He reached out to cyclists for help and found supportive friends. He's lost weight, become a spokesperson for cycling while large, advises on how to get started, and seems like a decent fellow. Do you want some HAES love? Check this out:

It's helped me deal with my depression, and thinking I'm worth the time. I used to feel like I didn't belong anywhere. Cycling helped me build a sense of value, by being able to call myself a cyclist. It gave me a sense of friendship and trust.

As far as a weight goal, I don't have any. The goal is to ride, and to be happy and healthy. Don't chase numbers, let the numbers chase you. What's the point of focusing on a number? As long as I'm healthy and racing, that's all I care about.

Dudebros Busted Being Dudebros: Boombotix Startup Edition

Seriously, that makes me tear up. But yesterday, a startup used his image without permission to promote their products by shaming him for riding while fat. Here's the ad, which has now been taken down, courtesy of theantijared.com.

'Round these parts, we discuss this sort of thing a lot, so let's just take as a premise that fat-shaming is bad and that this is fat-shaming. Because he's fat he's "putzing down the fire trail?" Jimminy, dudes. Not cool. The cycling community came down on them hard because "That's Ernest Gagnon! How dare you attack such an inspiration!" Sigh, ok, but let's move past that because Boombotix has a lot more to give.

Dudebros Busted Being Dudebros: Boombotix Startup Edition

Meet Boombotix, or at least the segment of Boombotix who was in SF that day who looks decent on camera. Boobmotix got a lot of backlash for the ad on Facebook. They removed the ad and then they apologized. Apparently, the apology was also offensive so they apologized for the apology, which was additionally offensive and... cue day 2. The current apology is what has been described to me as the "6th or 7th try." They have also deleted the previous tries so that we can't view the edit history. I'm saving the text of the apology in case they delete this one as well. The following are highlights:

If you have a minute, let's talk about what happened yesterday. It was without question the most disgraceful day in our company's history....

The bike community was tearing us a new one, and for good reason. With that ad we essentially said, "If you don't look a certain way, what are you doing riding a bike?" As many of you know, the person who we were mocking was Ernest Gagnon.

To make things even worse, as many of you noted, the apology that we wrote was terrible and added more fuel to the fire. The apology was rushed and didn't even own up to the larger issue: our brand was promoting fat-shaming.

Oddly enough my first year out of college I was part of an AmeriCorps program whose goal was to improve physical fitness at an underserved Bay Area elementary school....

We take full responsibility for this ad—to do otherwise would be shameful. To Ernest, we understand that we have caused you deep pain, and for that, we apologize.

To our friends and newcomers who have called us out, thank you. We deserve your scorn. We apologize to you as well for not only mocking someone, but for spreading a shameful message about body image.

There are a couple of things to note at this point: the current apology denotes that the previous apology was to Ernest Gagnon, which was deemed inadequate because of the larger issue of fat shaming. It also implies that people believed that the previous apologies were actually non-apologies— that they weren't taking responsibility for their actions. This apology seeks to address those issues, apologize to Gagnon again, accept responsibility, and then address how this happened so that people will know that they won't make the same mistake again:

In response to those who think there's no way this could have slipped past interval review, it did. We got caught up in this crazed tech startup mindset of build something fast and then ship it immediately. Multiple people have access to our Facebook page to encourage that, and there's little to no oversight on what gets posted. This is by no means an excuse for what happened, we're just explaining what happened. As a company we're all at blame regardless of who posted it and what review process was in place.

Now hold on just a darned minute.

to those who think there's no way this could have slipped past interval review, it did.... there's little to no oversight on what gets posted.

Wait, did that get past your internal review process or not? Because you just admitted that there isn't one.

We got caught up in this crazed tech startup mindset of build something fast and then ship it immediately.

What part of running a Facebook ad is involved in immediately shipping product? I mean, I've worked at startups. They are definitely a bit crazier in terms of release cycles and things going out the door without full testing, but this company has: a VP of marketing, a Content Curator, a Support & Community Manager, and two sales guys. All of these people appear under 30, male, skinny, and with one exception, white; the non-white one is the one who wrote this apology, acknowledging that he's not the one who did it. All of these people should be trained to make ads that don't alienate the customers and no one else should have access.

To paraphrase: "Now y'all, let's not get to pointing fingers at which one of the young, skinny white guys did it. We're a startup and we have some hubris problems, but we swear it's the last time, ok? Give us another chance."

As a woman in tech, let me just explain to Boombotix how this happened. You are staffed by a bunch of dudebros with enough privilege to convince 3 investors to throw money at you despite your CEO being a branding specialist; your VP of Technology being a Rails/node.js developer; your "Content Curator" attempting to take the hipsteriest photo in hipstory; a VP of Marketing who claims to write things that make me salivate; and International Sales Dude, this guy:

Dudebros Busted Being Dudebros: Boombotix Startup Edition

I shit you not. This is his company staff page photo, in a company branded t-shirt, with two random bikini girls, one of whom is kind of being felt up. This is what you consider hip, cool professionalism, I guess. This is your problem. I highly recommend viewing their staff page (which I will also be backing up for posterity), so you can see how bad it is.

To sum up, from top left to bottom right: The Guy Who Dresses Like the Stereotypical Stanford Grad; Sporty Athletic Man Undeserving of a Face; Backlit San Francisco Hipster with Ironic Hair, Glasses, and Incoming Beard; Scruffy Man in Branded Sunglasses Staring Interestedly at the Beach; The Token Older, Chubbier Dude to be Excluded from Group Photos; The Attempted Hipsteriest Hipster Who Ever Hipped; The Creeper Feeling up the Booth Babes; The Hipster Demoing the Cool-Looking Product at the Hipster Park; The Candid Shot from the School Sports Team Yearbook Page.

Your problem is culture fit. This got posted because you're a homologous group of privileged men, most of whom are in way over their heads but got investors anyway, sitting in an office somewhere telling each other how awesome you are. Do you know who alerted me to this story? A woman working for a different cycling startup (not your competitor). You got together a group of guys exactly like you and you ran straight to the bank with it. If you were hiring and I looked at your staff page (which is a thing that I do because I'm a woman and staff pages say a lot), I would not apply.

You need some diversity; one white guy that's almost a culture fit doesn't really cut it. You might want to consider hiring a woman, a black person, a fattie, or a member of some other group that is routinely harassed and discriminated against. My sympathies to Jim, who has excellent taste in decorations and LinkedIn contacts.


PS, Mustafa:

Oddly enough my first year out of college I was part of an AmeriCorps program whose goal was to improve physical fitness at an underserved Bay Area elementary school....

I know that what you intended was to say that you know better, but what came out sounded like "I'm not racist! I have a black friend!" Would you like to go for 8?