This past weekend we reported on a song and dance routine staged by Microsoft Norway at the Norwegian Developers Conference, with lines including “The words MICRO and SOFT don’t apply to my penis” … “or vagina,” as the on-stage slide added, strangely.

Microsoft has issued multiple apologies for the incident. Now, a post by the conference’s opening keynote speaker, Aral Balkan, explains what happened.

As he explains in the post, Balkan is particularly attuned to issues of sexism in the tech industry. When he was given a preview of the song during preparations for the conference, he wasn’t listening closely to the lyrics, but vaguely heard a reference to “blah blah my penis.” He pointed out that the reference was sexist, something that the representative from Microsoft Norway apparently hadn’t thought about.

Not grasping the context, Balkan suggested they at least add the words “or vagina” to make it more inclusive.

He writes, “Of course, what Microsoft Norway should have done when they realised that the lyrics were sexist was to axe the opening entirely. Instead, they made the decision to go ahead with it and perform the song, complete with dancing girls dressed in tiny shorts (a fact they somehow forgot to mention to me when they played me the song after my rehearsal).”

Balkan adds that Microsoft should go beyond the apology and take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

He notes, “You have to remember that in the age of Twitter and YouTube, nothing is a local event anymore. Every event is global, or can be global, within seconds. And the sooner people and companies understand this, the less shocked they’ll be when something that happens in Oslo comes back to bite them in Redmond.”

Read his full post here, including reflections on other incidents of sexism that he has encountered in the tech industry.

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  • Brett Nordquist

    When he first heard the lyrics included the word, penis, he should have said, “We need to find alternative entertainment.”

    Asking them to include the word, vagina, as to not appear sexist takes a bad situation and makes it worse! 

    • Guest

      He’s a keynote speaker, not the conference organizer. Plus he apparently has no respect for Ballmer and little for MS. So why would you expect him to intervene?

      • Tom_ruff

        Because he did intervene?

  • Guest

    Any man who gets offended by the very mention of penes and vaginata doesn’t get to talk about sex, let alone sexism or sexuality.

    • Tom Willis

      SING: vagina, vaginam, vaginae, vaginae, vagina
      PLUR: vaginae, vaginas, vaginarum, vaginis, vaginis

      Vaginae for regular plural. Alternatively, you could have said:
      “offended by the very mention penum vaginarumque”.

      Best of luck with your studies,

  • Guest

    Balkan comes across as an idiot as well.

  • Joe d’Coder

    Huh???  This isn’t the story behind Penisgate, it’s just an anecdote from a related party. Balkan isn’t a Microsoft employee so why does what he has to say mean anything?  The real back story is from the clown that managed this conference.  Probably an ex-employee.  C’mon guys, dig deeper. 

  • Peter H

    Are these protestors nuts? 

    It was a party.  It looked fun.  Microsoft used to be a fun comapny.  They should tell these complainers to go get a life.

    Corportate promotional events shouldn’t have to please every complainer out there – it’s ok to have some fun.

  • Séamus

    I found the video really funny, but it’s OK if others don’t. I think it’s fairly clear that few software developers in the room are fans of that kind of cheesy music. Playing on this, acting like big, dry, boring Microsoft has no idea what people like; adding hilariously out-of-place drug references; adding the in-joke of Ballmer’s “developers!” and of course, the unspoken, parenthesised “vagina” … it was brilliant. But you don’t have to find it funny.

    However, I do question people’s right to be offended by it. Listen to me: it’s a joke.
    Microsoft have had their fair share of embarrassing lameness, but they’re not THAT out of touch. The joke simply wouldn’t have worked without the dancing girls and the flashing words. And if you think that mentioning illegal drugs in the context of dance music is offensive, maybe you should reflect on this: If you go into a big city nightclub, in general 5-30% of the people (depending on the place) in there are on ecstasy. Ask around.

    • Holbrook Bunting

      There’s a time and place for everything. You want to hear music? Go to a nightclub or concert. You want to view a demonstration of new new products, apis, etc? Go to a conference. Penis, Vagina and drugs have nothing to do with the Windows 8, Office, SDKs, etc.

      People pay money to go to these conferences and saying they can’t be offended by being subjected to something they don’t like is silly. I for one wouldn’t want to see this at a conference if I were in attendance.

      • Brian

        I heard plenty of people laughing…

  • Ted Hu

    what kinda of excuse is this guy proffering – suggesting that vagina be added? wtf. he should have done a double-turn when he heard the word penis uttered at any technical event. we’re not talking about entertainment industry and SNL, this is no-brainer stuff, and for him to feign equality is too smart by half ludicrous.

  • Tara Gowland

    This is hilarious! But of course I am sure the powers that be were not impressed!

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