It’s difficult enough to get girls interested in computer science. But the hurdles don’t end once women become technology professionals. In a number of fields—especially online gaming—harassment, sexual innuendo and sometimes open hostility from their male audience is commonplace.
What kind of trolling are we talking about? The online equivilent of a wolf whistle. Women in gaming often complain of the humiliation they feel when an article or blog post they author is responded to with a flurry of comments about their appearance. So Leigh Alexander, the news director of gaming site Gamasutra, has come up with a unique way to address it. Her new Twitter campaign, Objectify a Male Tech Writer Day, aims to expose the absudity (and sexism) in this kind of dialogue.
The idea is simple: On February 1, whenever you tweet an article, quote, comment or video from a man, add a comment about their appearance or attractiveness, along with the hashtag #Objectify.
“Another well-written article by the always ravishing, Mike Smith.” #Objectify
“You might know a thing or two about gaming, but more importantly, you have the most beautiful eyes, Ronald Brinks.” #Objectify
You get the picture...
As Alexander explains in the New Statesman, the idea is not to take revenge upon men, but to “help highlight by example what a gendered compliment looks like, and to get people talking in a funny and lighthearted way about how these kinds of comments...make writers online feel like their point of view is only as relevant as how attractive they are.”
While some sites like Jezebel and CNET are lauding it as a smart approach to an old problem, not everyone thinks it will have an impact. Ernest W. Adams is an author and game design consultant with over 40 years in the business. He’s also publicly denounced sexism in gaming and believes that perpetrators of sexual harassment should be punished, stripped of their anonymity and thrown offline. But he doesn’t believe Objectify a Male Tech Writer Day (OMTW) is going to be effective because the men who need its message the most won’t be able to hear it.
He explains to TakePart, “The problem is that [OMTW] tries to turn the tables on something that is fundamentally asymmetric between men and women. Men don’t find that references to their appearance diminish what they have to say otherwise. They are the culturally dominant sex; they have little to fear or to lose. Nor does anyone expect them to be attractive unless they’re movie stars.”
Instead, Adams says using force to suppress bad behavior is an effective way to curb it, and it includes “aggressive moderation in chat rooms and forums.”
Will you participate in Objectify a Male Tech Writer Day, or do you think there are more effective ways to fight sexual harrassment? Let us know in the Comments.