Objectify a Male Tech Writer Day is February 1 [UPDATED]

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.

8 thoughts on “Objectify a Male Tech Writer Day is February 1 [UPDATED]”

  1. I suspect that objectification becomes most bothersome with cumulative effect. A few such lines, said from the right people in the right way, probably wouldn’t register. However, it’s obviously inappropriate to pick a single writer to systematically objectify for the sake of a compelling example.

    I’d guess that a real benefit of the project might be that it would make it easier to recognize such objectification by showing it in a variety of contexts. With those skills in hand, it becomes easier to see the pervasiveness.

  2. I should make it clear that I don’t mean to say that folks with criticisms shouldn’t have voiced them. Actually, I think it’s important that these concerns are raised so that the organizers can be aware of them and prevent the project from hitting those pitfalls. I just think it’s something that’s still worth doing despite the risks.

  3. “Both projects are lighthearted turning of the tables to point out how gendered comic book poses and how we talk about female writers are.”

    I don’t know that I’d agree that this is a lighthearted project. If objectification does harm to women, it has the potential to do harm to men. Purposely doing something that can be harmful to a person cannot be lighthearted, in my opinion. Though it’s clear that the intent is not to hurt someone, good intentions don’t preclude that from happening.

    Most of my concerns are alluded to in the FAQ (specifically under “Are you worried about bullying or insulting people who might be at-risk?” and the “off

    The primary difference between this and the Hawkeye initiative, IMO, is that the latter targets fictional characters and this event targets real people. That’s not an insignificant detail.

    All that said, off-topic comments on a woman’s physical characteristics drives me up the damn wall. It’s awful and insidious. I could go on for ages about the specifics of why I hate it, but most people here are probably already aware of everything I could say on the topic, lol.

    This event could be a useful tool in the process of deconstructing the convention of these types comments, but I do not think it’s something that should be done without awareness (and perhaps acknowledgement) of the harm it might do.

    1. I was in the middle of editing this, sorry. Can this be deleted? (Instructions on how would be appreciated.)

    2. (as far as I know all you can do after hitting the post button is ask a mod if they’re willing to delete your post and let you start over, or post another comment with the corrections and/or ask (I’ve never asked) a mod to merge the two comments. A preview/save-in-cookie button would be nice for this sort of thing.)

      I think the “bothersome with cumulative effect” theory is critical here. It would strike me as completely inappropriate to do this with a male writer who, say, happens to be a model or on any other day may likely have someone blogging about his appearance for whatever reason, but do it to a guy most people don’t even know the race and hair colour of and I think (absent circumstances such as going out of your way to pry into someone’s private life to figure out what they look like) that should minimize any potential harm in getting the message across.

  4. I think this is a fantastic idea. I’m a massive fan of the Hawkeye Initiative, the obvious ridiculousness of it makes it so much easier to point out the problems.

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