Tuesday, January 29, 2013

#Objectify, #1ReasonWhy, #SexismBothGenders

Last week Leigh Alexander, blogger for Sexy Videogameland, Gamasutra editor, and occasional Kotaku contributor, wanted to try a social experiment to help open up discussion regarding sexism in the video game industry. #Objectify: A day where men would be the ones pointed out and, for lack of a better word, objectified. A number of people understood the intent of the day, original slated as February 1st. After the overwhelming response, Leigh decided to call it off

My goal was that humor and empathy could help people open constructive dialog about sexism. And for a while it seemed like it could work! But there were also a lot of problems with my approach that came to light thanks to the feedback of some trusted friends and colleagues, and I take their concerns extremely seriously.

#Objectify is not about celebrating objectification or about making people feel uncomfortable, but I'm increasingly worried that point will be lost and that harm can be done.

I don’t blame her for wanting to call off the event. The message could very quickly be lost amongst the naysayers and people intentionally trying to verbally and/or physically harm others because “oh, well they made a day of it today, so it’s fine!” The idea was to use humor and empathy to get a dialogue going. Not just for video games but for the entire tech industry. Women are seriously lacking presence in these businesses and become targeted, directly or indirectly, by their male counterparts. Sexism is a big reason why (not the only reason, but a huge part of it. Sorry EA. Your argument is invalid.) 

And Twitter blew it up. Too many people are now coming after Leigh without reading the intent behind the #Objectify day.

Honestly? I think the concept could have been fleshed out a little better. While I understand the humor/empathy mode of reasoning, by objectifying men we are bringing ourselves down to their level; we are no better than the men that harass us. Important to note: I know that NOT ALL MEN are like this. Unfortunately it’s a majority, not a minority, and it’s pervasive in our society. This isn’t just a tech business issue. It’s an issue everywhere. Women are verbally, physically, mentally objectified on a daily basis. And you know what? So are men.

Just this morning on Good Morning America they were discussing with the actor of the new Diet Coke commercials. Why? Well he’s apparently a handsome man who works out, and Coke is trying to reminiscent on a similar commercial of the same premise from 20 years ago. Apparently this is fine because it’s women objectifying a man. Just a week ago everyone was up in arms about a super bowl ad from Mercedes Benz with a female model that is nearly naked, but still within the standards and practices of what’s appropriate on U.S. television. 

Double standard! It’s ok to objectify a man because they might like it, but it’s not cool to do it to a woman.

Visually demeaning a person regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation…all people is an issue. No one gender should get a pass while the other gets vilified. And vice versa! We can start this discussion on women in the technology industry by coming to terms that it happens on both sides of the gender pool. Women and men are objectified, directly and indirectly. Women more than men, but it does happen to both. That’s where we should begin and we can encourage thoughtful discussion from there.


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