Objectify a male tech writer day

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During my time as a music critic, I was only occasionally described as a “bitch” or told I “needed a good root” for the crime of not particularly liking a certain single or album. In 11 years in the game, those unoriginal sledges were nothing compared to what women in tech and gaming journalism and criticism put up with on a daily basis.

It ranges from the infantilising to the truly infuriating, and from run-of-the-mill sexism to misogyny so virulent you have to take a timeout: remember what happened to writer Anita Sarkeesian when she dared to question sexist tropes in gaming? A bunch of dudes set up a “game” where you could beat her up. (That was after they called her a “hypocrite slut” and compared her to the KKK.)

Just this weekend, the top comment on the newly released cinematic trailer for The Elder Scrolls Online was initially that of a young man who wanted to “gorilla f-ck” the High Elf female in the trailer “into submission” (in a momentary victory for non-slime-based lifeforms everywhere, I briefly won top comment spot with my response to his comment).

If that’s an extreme example of misogyny that women in tech/gaming commentary face, then the day-to-day objectification and belittling they wade through is its more mundane (but certainly no less infuriating) flipside.

Female tech journos are referred to as “cute” or “beautiful” within the space of a Twitter link to their article in question (unless, woe betide them, the unwashed male masses don’t think them cute enough for the “honour”); female gaming journos regularly have their skills questioned (lest we forget the great Good Game uproar of 2009, when Stephanie “Hex” Bendixson’s hiring as co-host had fans up in arms that she was little more than “some chick who looks like she was picked at random from Suicide Girls”).

There are so many other examples; it goes on and on as interminably as that guy who walked across Minecraft

Well, in an effort to turn the tables, gaming and social media journalist Leigh Anderson planned the inaugural Objectify A Male Tech Writer Day for February 1st, the idea being to subject male tech and gaming writers to the same irrelevant gendered compliments that their female peers put up with.

In a piece for the New Statesman on the topic, she said: “Now wait a minute, you might say – what’s so awful about a well-intentioned compliment? Isn’t it better than a vulgar one? People love compliments! (And the ‘winking’ emoticon. Always that damn smarmy winking emoticon!!) Here’s the thing. Yes, the intention is usually harmless, even well-meaning. But superficial compliments have nothing to do with my writing, and coming from strangers, sometimes heaps of them at once, the net effect is creepy. This is the reality that many, even most women working and writing and speaking in tech fields face on a regular basis, and the reaction when we protest – please let’s focus on my work, not my face/body/hair – is telling.”

An example - if I may employ a fellow Fairfax writer as guineapig - would have been something like “Interesting piece about Facebook Graph Search from the always adorable Asher Moses ;) http://tinyurl.com/a3assvt #objectify” (As you can see, I’m not terribly good at objectifying people.)

However, in the planning and discussions surrounding the event, many people - including gay men, trans men, and men who don’t access “straight white guy” privilege - expressed concern that the event, however lighthearted, could create more problems than it solves.

In a post announcing #Objectify’s demise, Alexander writes: “[S]ome people feel that an environment of men tossing cute comments at each other ends up reducing women's sexual agency to a joke, since the compliments won't actually have the same effect on their intended recipients. But it's worse if the compliments do affect someone negatively --  is potentially triggering men who have body issues a victory for anyone? We also need to consider people who live outside of the specific gender binary our society enforces: There are trans women, genderqueer and non-conforming people struggling every day not to be misgendered, and people living quietly with gender issues they may not share in the open. If these people end up caught in the crossfire of our event it doesn't matter whatsoever how well-intentioned we are: We risk actually traumatizing them.”

That the event has been cancelled because Alexander has taken into account all of the above (and more, as her post details) illustrates the vast chasm that exists between simple human decency and the sexist, unthinking culture that exists in certain areas of the tech and gaming industry.

More simply put: the men who toss off “compliments” like “sexy” or “cute” or “always adorable” with regards to their female peers have not considered the consequences of their actions; the #Objectify team, on the other hand, considered the consequences to the point where the entire event was cancelled.

Despite the fact that the event won’t go ahead, perhaps more importantly, #Objectify has begun a conversation about the pointlessness of gendered compliments with men who hadn’t otherwise had pause to think about their actions, or the actions of their peers.

“This whole process and discussion has definitely increased my awareness of the issue itself. I will be watching for objectifications and likely call out male writers at times if I see them doing it,” offered Peter Fleck in the comments on Alexander’s post, noting that he is “white, male, 60”.

As the event’s official statement originally noted, “The insidiousness of gendered compliments in the online marketplace of ideas is A Thing. [...] The intention of this project is to help others see how insulting it is when the 'compliment' is irrelevant to someone's work. We need to change our language and call out problematic attitudes if women are going to feel welcome in tech and gaming!”

So, while you might have been excited to mark February 1st in your iCals and ask offended male tech writers why they couldn’t just take a compliment, perhaps it’s better that the #Objectify team - and the rest of us - have decided to take a more compassionate stance. Because god knows so many men continue to refuse to.

This copy was revised and updated after we were alerted by commenters below that the event has now been cancelled.

 

97 comments

  • Oh give us a break!

    Commenter
    Macca
    Date and time
    January 29, 2013, 6:24AM
    • No.

      Commenter
      Clem Bastow
      Location
      Los Angeles
      Date and time
      January 29, 2013, 7:29AM
    • Sensational.

      Do these people even read the articles and digest them, or do they just read the headline, get outraged and put fingers to keyboards without engaging brains?

      Hey Macca, women online (and IRL) NEVER get a break from this sort of sh*t. So no, you do not get a break.

      Commenter
      Georgina Sybella
      Date and time
      January 29, 2013, 9:14AM
    • You want to see men being objectified, insulted or worse? Go play any online game. Some of the worst (and strangest) insults directed at me have been through this channel. You haven't lived till somebody threatens to cut your throat and rip off your balls over a few pixels on an LCD screen.

      Men do objectify each other too - consider the utter humiliation of somebody accused of having a small penis! Or chicken legs. Heck, some guys just skip the insults and give a knee to the groin.

      Commenter
      Bob
      Date and time
      January 29, 2013, 10:07AM
    • I think she’s on to something. Last week I Google image searched men’s magazines and women’s magazines. The men’s magazines were covered in pictures of women. The women’s magazines were covered in pictures of women. Men have no problem telling women what they want them to be like and women have no problem telling women what they should be like. The poor woman growing up in society must feel like she in in a tug-of-war. I think this is a major failure of feminism. The analysis has been that women get treated poorly by men and society holds double standards for men and women. Men who sleep around are studs, and women sluts. A fair analysis, but the response has been to focus on women, empower women to stand up against men, reject gender roles, sexual liberation, equal pay. etc. This has a very distinct flavour of individualism. Marriage and family have taken a toll as divorce rates rise. Lacking has been any voice directed at men. No one is calling men who want to sleep around without commitment cowards for avoiding responsibility. No one is questioning a man’s character for being unacceptingly picky as a reflection of his own insecurities. This article has the air of irony, ‘objectify men’, It’s simply copying what men do that hurts women and trying to turn it around. I feel it fails to recognise the power of keeping men accountable. Why not sit back and think what do women want, and then take it to the men? My guess is that gender differences have been thrown under the bus in an attempt to build the case for equality. But equality doesn’t have to mean sameness. Speak up women!

      Commenter
      Aaran
      Location
      Townsville
      Date and time
      January 29, 2013, 11:39AM
    • "Why not sit back and think what do women want, and then take it to the men?"

      Probably because any idea of 'what women want' would be just as ridiculous as an idea of 'what men want'. Individualism is on the rise because we are all individuals. It's not a movement, it's an acceptance that all group labels are essentially arbitrary and circumstantial.

      Commenter
      DM
      Date and time
      January 29, 2013, 12:31PM
    • And here I thought all sexism and sexual objectifying was bad... Apparently this article is allowing us to objectify others in a harmful sexually degrading way because others do it!

      Commenter
      Carstendog
      Location
      Here
      Date and time
      January 29, 2013, 12:41PM
    • "No one is calling men who want to sleep around without commitment cowards for avoiding responsibility. "

      @Aaran You must be reading different media to others. There is a stream of articles about men's lack of commitment and calls for them to "man up".

      Commenter
      Bev
      Date and time
      January 29, 2013, 12:55PM
    • @Carstendog: Actually no, that's not what it's doing. Try reading the whole article next time, especially the last paragraph.

      Commenter
      JayJay
      Date and time
      January 29, 2013, 2:03PM
    • @Jayjay, you mean the "why they couldn’t just take a compliment" part."

      I was always taught all harassment and harmful and unwelcome objectification was wrong. Not matter who or why they are doing it......

      Commenter
      Carstendog
      Location
      Here
      Date and time
      January 29, 2013, 2:17PM

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