Monday, 10 June 2013

E3, or, Seventy-two hours of misogyny

After lunch most days, before returning to work, I typically take a few minutes’ break to catch up with Reddit and Twitter, to see if any of my friends have said anything funny or interesting today, or maybe there’s an programming-related article I can share with my colleagues. However, today, my Twitter feed had this waiting for me, courtesy of a retweet from @lindsaybieda:

My immediate reaction was not unlike Gollum’s, when Sméagol tells him in the film of The Two Towers, “Master looks after us now. We don’t need you any more.”… what?

Now, I knew going into this that E3 is a ridiculous three-day-long display of sexism, objectification, and misogyny (oh, and something about video games, too). Last year, Scott R Kurtz had a character deliver a webcast from “either E3, or the world’s largest Hooters.” I have privately, among my friends, and probably publicly, too, lamented every marketing department’s decision to hire booth babes for a conference—to use women as little more than decoration and furniture— and I’ve written before about the technology industry’s rampant misogyny. It's not as though I didn’t at least somewhat expect the result of what I did next.

I ran a Twitter search for “#E3 Bonnie Ross”—just that—and was promptly given a feed full of complaints about the new Halo, pleas for 343 Industries not to mess it up… and a litany of tweets about Bonnie Ross: how good she looks, how inept she (apparently) was as a presenter, and multiple people explaining in sometimes graphic details that they want to have sex with her. In particular, @Boogie2988’s gem (since, it seems, deleted):

I can’t believe that I have to ask this, but where the fuck do these guys get off, thinking that this shit is okay to suggest, let alone think?! Bonnie Ross is not the studio head of 343 Industries for you to cat-call, or to ask for sexual favours from. She is there to do a job, and judging by the Halo sales, she seems to be doing a pretty good one at that. If you think she’s a dull presenter, fine (during the BB10 launch, I described BlackBerry CEO Thorsten Hiens as having “all the personality of a wet dishrag”), but for God’s sake, can a woman, for once, show up at E3 and be treated with some basic human respect? Is that so hard, guys? Maybe, you know, not call her a MILF. Perhaps not suggest that “that bitch had to have skipped speech class.”

I went on a bit of a tear on Twitter, quote-tweeting and retweeting some of the more egregious offenders, because you know what? I am sick to death of the way that men in my industry talk about women, whether they’re presenting for their favourite console, or the speaker’s colleagues and peers. I would really like to think that, in this day and age, we were raised better than that, but, clearly, this isn’t the case:

I’m a little proud of eliciting “let’s care more than we should” as a hashtag; it really demonstrates the work that still needs to be done. And I have to say, I haven’t been challenged to a fight since Grade 9, so well done over there, too. However, one of the guys I quote-tweeted (the one who made the crack about speech class) got back to me and we had this conversation. It’s too long to embed without messing around with Storify, but I broke it down for this guy that, basically, what you say on Twitter is open for public critique (and I was just criticising his statement, not his character) but his closing statement, “I was in a casual context, speaking with kids just out of high school who couldn’t care less about semantics,” really reminded me, despite all the fucked-up things that have happened this year, that kids today still need to be taught this.

I’m sure he and his friends couldn’t care less about the semantics of what they’re saying, but the reality of the situation is that we need them to. Just as we, as adults and parents and nurturers and teachers, need to teach them to care. We need to carefully teach the younger generations about respect, and about the hidden messages they may not realise they’re delivering when they use certain words. We need to not only self-correct, and demonstrate the right behaviour; we need to call out the wrong behaviour in others. They may not realise what they’re doing, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be taken to task for it. After all, not knowing that, in this particular jurisdiction, you can’t turn right on a red light doesn’t mean the traffic police are going to let you off the hook.

To make this abundantly clear, if you were one of the guys who decided to judge Bonnie Ross’ ability or competence based on her appearance or gender, or you made—or laughed at—jokes about her, using language specifically reserved for insulting women, you are part of the problem. You are holding back the human race from evolving beyond prejudice, beyond hatred, and beyond unwarranted fear. And I refuse to stand idly by and watch you do it.


Cyndi said...

THANK YOU. Anne married a great man when she married you. THANK YOU for this post.

Damo Blamo said...

Yep. You're bad-ass. This E3 has really highlighted how badly out of hand sexism in gaming has gotten. I applaud you calling them out like that. I couldn't do that with any measure of civility.

Matthew Coe said...

Thanks, Damo. I don't know that I was entirely civil at the time... though I certainly could have been a whole lot worse than I was!

Between Ross' presentation, the terrible "trash talk" coming out of Microsoft, and the knee-jerk reaction to Anita Sarkeesian pointing out (correctly so) that the complete lack of female protagonists is something that studios should be embarrassed about... yeah. It almost feels like the game industry is starting to slide back a bit.

Jesse Dangerously said...

that's not what semantics are. dudes just heard the word "semantics" a bunch of times being used to dismiss criticism and think it's a magic talisman. it's very similar to "you're taking me out of context" while not having left that context.

Hillary Read said...

I want to wolf-whistle your morality right now. This is a really awesome, heartwarming post. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

"beyond unwarranted fear" to use my feminist husband's phrase: freakin' A. All around--right on. you get no props from me for being a decent "male". side note: I never get that when people say that. it's like saying to a white guy in the 1960's: how fortunate we are to have you in society since you do not belong to the KKK. Or like someone saying to me: how marvelous that you don't pay a disabled person to accompany you and your children to Disneyland in order to cut in line. Shouldn't we expect that from anyone regardless of gender? Which brings me to my point: you WILL and DO get props from me for speaking the truth and for choosing to be awake. we need to call this out, champion, and encourage this value system in everyone--and wherever we see it. because your life is my life--and vice versa. Rave on. People are listening--even when angry---they are listening.

Anonymous said...

Reblogged this on my blog--it's really impressive. Well done. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

awesome read! thank you for posting. the booth-babe garbage needs to end... and im single white male gamer... living in a basement but i concur with all of your post. tired of the crap! keep on keepin on mate!

Bryn Pegg said...

You're a fucking idiot.

Post a Comment