RIP 'Booth Babes': Do We Need Auto Show Models Anyway?

January 12, 2015

From novelists to economists, many great thinkers believe that if you want to see the future, look to China. If that's the case, car fans may soon attend auto shows without scantily clad "booth babes".

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According to Bloomberg, organizers of the Shanghai Auto Show want the event to "return[] to its original spirit of showcasing auto technology and products". To make that happen, they may ban the models often found standing alongside prime rides.

That's not entirely surprising. Though China doesn't have the same draconian morality laws found elsewhere on Planet Earth, cultural norms there tend to favor modesty. But the skimpy outfits that many female auto professionals often wear on show floors (the men are typically more covered) are anything but modest.

The team in Shanghai hasn't made any further comments on the matter, so we don't know what they might be planning. We can't imagine that they'd eliminate attendants altogether, since they're an important source of auto information, but a dress code seems like a definite possibility.

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Many of us came of age during the second wave of feminism, when women began to say, "Being sexy is a valid, important part of the human experience." So, we would never argue that female hosts at auto shows are ipso facto demeaned and degraded by standing in a pair of heels beside a great-looking car. The ones we've met embrace their good looks just as they embrace the information they're asked to share with show attendees.

We also get that auto shows are marketing events. Even if dress codes change, automakers are still likely to hire nice-looking people as their booth reps. They want the booth to appear as attractive as possible, from the cars' shiny wheels to the models' perfect eyeliner.

That said, you can't walk into an auto show today and not find the situation a bit regressive. These women -- and yes, they're almost always women -- are super smart, super knowledgeable. On occasion, we've met booth professionals who know far more about the cars than the automaker reps on hand. Sure, if they want to show up in a minidress and a five-inch pair of pumps in Detroit in January (we've seen it today), that's their call, but to non-pros like us, it seems a little outdated. And chilly.  

What about you? Do you feel guilty or weird seeing these women at auto shows? Does it bother you? Or do you even notice? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


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