After reading a series of disgusting tweets aimed at Bonnie Ross, head of the studio that developed Halo, Matthew G P Coe commits to battling sexism in the tech industry.
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):
£429 do we get a complimentary blow job off Bonnie Ross with that?”
— Boogie2988 (@Boogie2988) June 10, 2013
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 hisstatement, 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.
Originally appeared on Matthew G P Coe’s blog, Quoth the Runtime, “Segmentation Fault”
Lead Photo: AP