UPDATE: Leigh has called off the event. She writes about why here.
Leigh Alexander and Ben Abraham have started an event called “Objectify a Male Tech Writer Day.” Leigh and Ben ask participants to use compliments on a male writer’s physical appearance when linking to their articles on February 1st. For example: “Check out the always-lovely Phil Kollar’s Ni No Kuni review.” The purpose of this exercise is to draw attention to the way female writers are objectified by focusing on their looks instead of their ideas. Leigh writes in the New Statesman about how these compliments are essentially microagresssions that wear her down when well-meaning people compliment her hair or other physical features when she’s writing about the video game industry. And the compliments are not always well-intended but can be meant to be demeaning or dismissive.
There have been a number of well-considered criticisms of this event, namely that simply turning the tables won’t help men understand what the problem is really like–guys might just find this awesome since most male tech writers don’t get any sort of comment on their appearance (unless it is attacks for being fat). But the way I look at it, it is similar to The Hawkeye Initiative, a blog that posts art that replaces female characters in comics in ridiculous poses with male Avenger Hawkeye. Both projects are lighthearted turning of the tables to point out how gendered comic book poses and how we talk about female writers are. Neither will make privileged men really feel what oppression is like, and both run the risk of being taken the wrong way or devolving into homophobic humor. But I don’t think concern about the lowest common denominator is a valid reason not to do either of these projects–there are people out there who will take the wrong message away from literally anything. But there are also people out there for whom this will be the amusing internet activity that will make them see what the problem is, and maybe they’ll think twice about complimenting a female writer’s body rather than her brain next time they link an article. And that’s the entire point.
You can read more about #Objectify at this FAQ.