[UPDATE: The event has been canceled. The reasons a long and numerous, but it was eventually decided that the risk for this event getting out of hand, losing direction, and inadvertently hurting people was too great to take. You can read Leigh Alexander's update on why she felt it was necessary to cancel the event and why she thinks it was still successful despite that here on her blog.
Below is my original post, unedited.]
When President Barack Obama was sworn in for his second term of office this week, his wife, Michelle Obama, was also given another four year job working out of her office in the White House. She has her own staff, her own teams of advisors bringing important issues to her attention, and her own set of goals for the next four years. Michelle has made massive strides for dealing with America’s childhood obesity and poverty problems, attended Princeton as well as Harvard, and worked in the Chicago mayor’s office before her husband claimed the Presidency in 2008. She’s an extremely accomplished person deserving of her status in American politics.
Most news outlets talked exclusively about her outfit during Barack’s inauguration.
Michelle Obama is a rather extreme example of how subtle sexism can infect our views of a woman’s work, but it happens at all levels and in all industries. Often times, a discussion about a woman’s work bookends with comments about her pretty face/body/clothes as though somehow mediate our interpretation of a person. A beautiful person is also intelligent? How amazing! Someone that doesn’t care about her looks? Must be pretty edgy and unique.
It’s bullcrap. Even complementary sexism is still sexism, like how saying ‘all Asians are good at math’ is still racist. It even happens with video games and technology, every day, and everyone has a piece of the blame. Most of us don’t even realize we’re doing it when we call someone ‘lovely’ or ‘cute’ when looking at their work.
Created by Leigh Alexander and Ben Abraham, the event wants everyone to flip the scenario around and start talking about male writers in the same light. Call them ‘adorable’ or focus on an ass that just won’t stop. Be silly, be lighthearted, be whatever, but make it a point to show just how weird this kind of subtle sexism really is.
Now, you might be thinking ‘But just doing the same thing to men isn’t going to solve anything. It’s just a cheap “how do you like it” attack.’ In that case, I’ll let Leigh explain since she’s so much more eloquent than I:
‘The purpose of #Objectify isn’t to genuinely belittle men or to “swap the genders” — of course it’s silly to think that one day of jokes could actually show men how it feels for women who experience sexism. We don’t want to punish or humiliate people, but to catalyze a dialogue and encourage self-reflection.’
So, Leigh, how should we participate in the event where I can talk about Chris Eades’s fabulous fashion sense (and maybe his writing)?
‘On February 1, any time you tweet an article, video, link or comment from a male commentator — whether that’s a reporter, a commentator or expert, or someone weighing in on Twitter — add an innocuous comment on his appearance, like “Fascinating blog post from the adorable Ben Abraham”; “Read Kirk Hamilton’s reviews — he’s as smart as he is handsome!” Add the #Objectify hashtag and you’re good to go.’
Leigh Alexander’s written up a whole FAQ on her blog which should dispel pretty much any questions you’ve got about the event. And there’s also another document you can check out which lists ways you can participate without trivializing the event.
Of course, some people think that women need to stop making a fuss over everything and just accept a compliment, to which I must counter that maybe gay people should stop making a fuss over people using ‘gay’ as slang for ‘stupid and learn to take a joke. But I’m sure you wouldn’t agree, would you?
They both work on the same principle. Linking a group with something that demeans them and their efforts, even if that’s not the original intent, still makes the psychological connection that the group is less. Other. Not equal.
If we want better representation and a geeky environment that supports us, then we have to support each other. We don’t get a special untouchable social throne. Equality is for everyone. And for women, it’s still an arduous uphill battle. Just look at how many sexism debacles happened between January 2012 and April 2012 alone in this industry.
Of course, this isn’t a perfect event. It won’t single-handedly change the way we talk about each other or make innocuous gestures. The participants will likely already understand how objectification affects people. It will probably offend people (and already has). But quietly asking for change doesn’t quite cut it, either. Let’s make a grand, ambitious, over-the-top show of this event so big that no one can keep a bind eye on the prevalent sexism in our industry anymore. This is just one of many steps.
With that in mind, on February 1st, I want all of you to start verbally objectifying men. For equality. I promise it’ll be entertaining AND educational.
[img via Game-Debate]