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Default Careless talk, and consequences thereof…

September 3rd, 2009, 10:37
There's a bit of a flap ongoing in my neck of the woods related to sexist talk, feminism, political correctness — if that's what it is — and all kinds of other interesting hot-button issues, so I thought it might be interesting to share it here. Not because it's cosmically important, but because it illustrates public attitudes. I'd be specifically interested to hear (a) what you think of the sequence of events, and (b) how you think it would have played out wherever you're from.

Here's the story in brief; I'll try to keep a lid on my biases as far as I'm able, and just relate the facts.

Last week, Esko Kiesi, the director of sales of Audi Finland, gave an interview in a special issue of Anna, a women's magazine. Said issue was created specially for a fairly small forum of media and marketing movers and shakers.

In the course of the interview, Mr. Kiesi expounded at length on his views about women. He compared women to cars, explaining that there are several models useful for various purposes, the main ones of which include to please her man, look good, wear high heels, and iron his shirts. The proper age for a woman is the man's age divided by two, plus seven. It is also hard to forgive a woman for being overweight.

A woman should also be well educated to provide stimulating conversation for her man. However, due to their emotional nature, women do not do well in managerial positions; however, they are generally good at sticking to routines. Women are also meaner and nastier than men, prone to envy, and incapable of understanding large conceptual structures. Despite their failings, other than dealing with tasks of a technical nature, like assembling furniture or lifting things, they are generally capable of taking care of themselves.

These comments caused a bit of an uproar, and today the CEO of Audi Finland apologized on his behalf, and announced that he had resigned from his position at his own request. Mr. Kiesi himself has not been available for comment.

The Net forums associated with the Finnish evening rags appear to be split down the middle. About one third of the commentators think that he got what he deserved. Another third think that this only reflects badly on the humorless Feminazi prigs that Finnish women are. And another third feels that the whole thing was blown out of proportion.

So, what's your take? Political correctness running rampant and claiming another innocent victim? The free market of ideas in action, where a moron spouting moronic ideas gets what he deserves? Something else? And how do you think it would have played out where you're from?

(As an aside, the man's name is an aptonym — "kiesi" means "carriage," and is colloquially used for "car.")
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September 3rd, 2009, 10:50
I believe ideas should be free and the expressing your ideas is a right.
Not speaking your mind because someone will get hurt is stupid and being punished for all those you believe is idiotic .
Feminists fought for their right to have a voice , many people still think that their positions are laughable but none was forced to resign for expressing them as far as i know.
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September 3rd, 2009, 12:16
Talk about a hot button topic.

Do I think he's a bigot? Yes. Do I hope that one day people like him will die out and leave humanity for good? Hell yes.

Do I think he should of been fired for voicing his opinions? Definatly not. You can't have one side saying "We want to speak our minds and be treated as equals" without the other side being able to speak their minds and be treated equals as well. If one side has more weight than the other side then they aren't equal. Physics 101.

Here is where it gets a little tricky. He has a job that depends on people. People are fickle so you need to always keep them interested in your brand. If you piss off 1/3 of the population you are not keeping the public interested in your brand. You're associating your brand with pissing off a bunch of people. That's not good for the continued health of your company.

So while I don't think he should of been fired for having those opinions and voicing them. I do think he should get canned for being a moron. If he didn't know that saying those things would lower the company's image then he is an idiot who will damage the company.

I don't think it's fair, but what in life is fair?

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September 3rd, 2009, 12:45
I don't think you're allowed to discriminate like that in the work place Skaven. After you've got that kind of opinion printed it's going to very difficult to prove you aren't breaking a sex discrimination act (we've had one since 1975) unsure about Finland but I'm sure they must have something to protect employees. People have been fired for saying the company they work for is crap on Facebook and the stakes are higher if a person of real responsibility starts printing his opinions. I suspect the company didn't have much choice in getting rid of him after his comments because of the lawful implications regardless of the Feminazi thing.
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September 3rd, 2009, 12:45
Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
The proper age for a woman is the man's age divided by two, plus seven.
That's a tricky ratio to keep going for a long term relationship . . .

Originally Posted by skavenhorde View Post
So while I don't think he should of been fired for having those opinions and voicing them. I do think he should get canned for being a moron. If he didn't know that saying those things would lower the company's image then he is an idiot who will damage the company.

I don't think it's fair, but what in life is fair?
Seems pretty fair to me . . . director of sales angers a large part of his potential market and gets fired, can't see the problem.
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September 3rd, 2009, 12:45
That's pretty much my take, @skav. I believe very strongly in the right to offend, but I also believe very strongly in the right to get offended and act accordingly. I would not approve of governmental intervention here — e.g. the equal rights ombudsperson stepping in to demand his head on a plate — but I think Audi Finland was well within its rights to pressure him to leave, given the damage he did to the corporate image.

(One detail I intentionally omitted is that at least over here, especially the smaller Audis are rather popular with urban, professional, upper-middle-class women, and a lot of their marketing specifically targets that group of customers. IOW, the backlash caused by the guy's comments would damage the brand in a non-trivial way, and would certainly have resulted in at least some lost sales, at least in the short term.)
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September 3rd, 2009, 12:50
Originally Posted by Benedict View Post
That's a tricky ratio to keep going for a long term relationship . . .
That's the point, I think
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September 3rd, 2009, 12:51
Originally Posted by woges View Post
I don't think you're allowed to discriminate like that in the work place Skaven. After you've got that kind of opinion printed it's going to very difficult to prove you aren't breaking a sex discrimination act (we've had one since 1975) unsure about Finland but I'm sure they must have something to protect employees.
We do. Nevertheless, our corporate cultures are often surprisingly old-fashioned in that respect — it's quite common to come across overt expressions of racism or misogyny among corporate executives. IOW, I'm pretty sure that Mr. Kiesi's opinions were not all that far out of line with many of his peers; the difference is that the rest of them are smart enough to only air them among the boys, as it were. Women (and minorities, for that matter) do often face pret-ty significant prejudice and obstacles in Finnish companies. Things are better in this respect in Sweden, I believe.

People have been fired for saying the company they work for is crap on Facebook and the stakes are higher if a person of real responsibility starts printing his opinions. I suspect the company didn't have much choice in getting rid of him after his comments because of the lawful implications regardless of the Feminazi thing.
The equal-rights ombudsperson did weigh in on this and make threatening noises, but thus far at least no legal action was taken. I don't think there would have been grounds for such action — what s/he could have done is have the company's non-discrimination policy reviewed (which is a public document), but unless someone would actually come forward and complain about being discriminated against, there's not much the state can do. Good thing too IMO.
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September 3rd, 2009, 13:15
Yeah, what I meant was that the women within the company would now have grounds and evidence to take them to court - not the state. I think it's good that the ombuds'person' (they're really PC in Finland I guess) said something it is after-all their area of interest. I don't think it's an issue of pure monetary reasons either freedom (and freedom of speech) is limited to different degrees in different situations for a reason otherwise we'd still be working in industrial revolution conditions. I take it this guy was serious and not jesting about the corporate image? Even so you have to realise the higher your position the more you effect others so the more careful you have to be. Saying that Bernie Ecclestone has probably got away with worse but that doesn't mean he's right.
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September 3rd, 2009, 13:22
Freedom of speech is juridical, not cultural. It should be held as an absolute when it comes to authority's power to imprison or punish someone.

But it's not to be confused with freedom to not be judged from culture. Speak openly without consideration for how culture will react, and you will be burned. Your status might take a serious blow.

This also means that if you are going to take a controversial position, you need to find a stable ground to stand on. If your reputation is important to you, you need to engage in socratic method with yourself, before someone do it on you.

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An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind. - Mahatma Gandhi
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September 3rd, 2009, 13:29
Well Socrates got hanged for what he said so I'm sure he'd agree with you on that.
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September 3rd, 2009, 13:41
Isn't Audi Finland a daughter company for the Audi corporation? Are they both private? Private companies/corps have pretty free choice who they hire. Consecutively they are able to let go employees, especially the higher ups without much hesitation. In that case, I wouldn't be too worried if they fired one of their managers because he was slandering women and harming the corporation's brand.

I understand that he may have been just jesting, but is an interview for women's magazine really the best place for making degenerative jokes about women? And in these modern times when certain etiquette and/or political correctness is expected from people appearing in public? I guess he's a bit old of a manager, these days the younger ones must have had some education for these situations.

I wouldn't be surprised to find out Audi Finland has received money from the Finnish government one way or another. Or some of its stock share might belong to the goverment. In those cases, I find there's more room for demands from the taxpaying public.
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September 3rd, 2009, 13:42
The trouble with expressing these sort of views, particularly speaking in his role as Director of Sales, is what it implies about his attitudes towards his employees. Does he favour young, attractive women who are no good at their job above competent but unattractive women? Does he sit opposite a woman at work thinking about her tits, or about what she's actually saying? It implies an unprofessional attitude on his part. He also is obviously lacking in any kind of media-sense if he wasn't aware how his comments would be reported, which again questions his fitness for the job.

What you say in the privacy of your home, or think to yourself in your head, is one thing; what you say in an interview to a magazine is quite another and it is his lack of judgement which I think raises a big question mark over his position and his future employment.
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September 3rd, 2009, 13:55
The ombudsperson thing was an attempt at humor; I just thought it's amusing that the non-discrimination ombudsman's official (English) title is not gender-neutral. (The Finnish title is "tasa-arvoasiainvaltuutettu," which is, in fact, gender-neutral.)

Sometimes it is hard to tell when people are joking (see above), but I would have expected him to step up and say so if that had been the case.
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September 3rd, 2009, 13:56
Originally Posted by Surlent View Post
I wouldn't be surprised to find out Audi Finland has received money from the Finnish government one way or another. Or some of its stock share might belong to the goverment. In those cases, I find there's more room for demands from the taxpaying public.
Unlikely. AFAIK they only import and market Audi cars in Finland; I'd find it very unlikely that the government would get involved in something like that. If they had a manufacturing operation here, it might be a different matter.
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September 3rd, 2009, 14:00
"tasa-arvoasiainvaltuutettu" WHY ARE YOUR WORDS SO LONG!!!!

Well, it seems like Kiesi is a sexist. I assume he wasn't making a joke in really poor taste, PJ? I think if he gets fired, fine, he makes the company look bad. If this was in the US he probably wouldn't even have had the chance to 'resign', heh.
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September 3rd, 2009, 14:03
Originally Posted by Benedict View Post
Seems pretty fair to me . . . director of sales angers a large part of his potential market and gets fired, can't see the problem.
Fair as in, he doesn't have the right to voice his opinion without some kind of consequence. If everyone was truly equal then he should have a right to his opinion without consequence. Freedom of speech is easy if everyone says "nice" things or the same thing.

However, we aren't just talking about the right to voice your opinion. We're also talking about whether he should of been fired. His actions will have consequences for the company. Those consequences are the root of this issue and why he should most definitely be fired. I wouldn't want an imbecile running my company or directing sales as in this case.

Since there has not been any legal action then maybe it truly was fair. He was dealt with by the company and not the government. He can say those things legally, but the corporation doesn't have to put up with damage to their image. Action and reaction. Physics 101 again.

Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
(One detail I intentionally omitted is that at least over here, especially the smaller Audis are rather popular with urban, professional, upper-middle-class women, and a lot of their marketing specifically targets that group of customers. IOW, the backlash caused by the guy's comments would damage the brand in a non-trivial way, and would certainly have resulted in at least some lost sales, at least in the short term.)
That's a pretty big piece to the puzzle that you left out of the mix.

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September 3rd, 2009, 14:11
Originally Posted by Rithrandil View Post
"tasa-arvoasiainvaltuutettu" WHY ARE YOUR WORDS SO LONG!!!!
That's not long. Try this one on for size: "Suunnittelutarveratkaisumenettely."

It's from a consulting project I'm working on, and means "Decision procedure for planning needs." We can form compound words that are however long we want, and for some reason, Finnish bureaucrats seem to like 'em long. For example, the official in charge of the above procedure would be titled "Suunnittelutarveratkaisumenettelypäällikkö." His assistant would be "Apulaissuunnittelutarveratkaisumenettelypäällikkö ." If there was a special bureau set up for it, the assistant secretary of the bureau would be "Apulaissuunnittelutarveratkaisumenettelytoimistos ihteeri."

(For the record, I would LOVE a title like that. And it looks like something out there doesn't like words that long, and helpfully inserts a space somewhere in there.)
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September 3rd, 2009, 14:12
Originally Posted by skavenhorde View Post
Fair as in, he doesn't have the right to voice his opinion without some kind of consequence. If everyone was truly equal then he should have a right to his opinion without consequence. Freedom of speech is easy if everyone says "nice" things or the same thing.

However, we aren't just talking about the right to voice your opinion. We're also talking about whether he should of been fired. His actions will have consequences for the company. Those consequences are the root of this issue and why he should most definitely be fired. I wouldn't want an imbecile running my company or directing sales as in this case.
But that's the thing. Exercising your freedoms sometimes will have consequences - and when you work for someone else, and especially when you do something on their dime or time, you're not just representing yourself, you're representing your company. He has every right to say what he did, but Audi (as a private company) has every right to give him the bird and tell him to get lost. If those comments would not have incurred any potential wrath towards Audi, I doubt he would have been 'resigned'.

Originally Posted by skavenhorde View Post
Since there has not been any legal action then maybe it truly was fair. He was dealt with by the company and not the government. He can say those things legally, but the corporation doesn't have to put up with damage to their image. Action and reaction. Physics 101 again.
Yeah, if he had been attacked by the government that would be a huge issue. Any consequences for his actions should only come from private citizens and companies, not in the form of some sort of government legal action. I think (to use the American example) the KKK should be allowed to say whatever it wants. Now, if the owner of Bob's Delicatessen finds out that his employee, Joe, is a Klan member and is spouting off racist crap, he has every right to fire Joe. On the other hand, District Attorney Feargus McLawyerson should not be able to drag Joe into court and charge him with some crime.
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September 3rd, 2009, 14:14
Originally Posted by Prime Junta View Post
That's not long. Try this one on for size: "Suunnittelutarveratkaisumenettely."

It's from a consulting project I'm working on, and means "Decision procedure for planning needs." We can form compound words that are however long we want, and for some reason, Finnish bureaucrats seem to like 'em long. For example, the official in charge of the above procedure would be titled "Suunnittelutarveratkaisumenettelypäällikkö." His assistant would be "Apulaissuunnittelutarveratkaisumenettelypäällikkö ." If there was a special bureau set up for it, the assistant manager of the bureau would be "Apulaissuunnittelutarveratkaisumenettelytoimistop äällikkö."

(For the record, I would LOVE a title like that.)
I really don't know what to say to that other than I am really glad I will never have to learn Finnish. I'm pretty sure I'd just be laughed at when I tried to say anything other than 'I want steak'.
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