January 23, 2013: There’s a reason I named this girl Indiana.
A little over a week from now, technology journalists around the world plan to stage a campaign they’re calling The 1st Annual ‘Objectify a Male Tech Writer’ Day, in which everyone will be encouraged to comment on the attractiveness, appearance and shag-ability of male journalists who write about technology. The intention of this campaign is to bring attention to the inappropriate comments directed towards female technology writers who are often described in objectified terms such as “sexy” or “lovely”; and to highlight “the absurdity of objectifying people you claim to agree with or support intellectually”.
I agree with the motivations and intentions of the movement: I count many female technology journalists among my friends and colleagues, and the sexist treatment they receive on a daily basis is something I’m all too aware of.
However, I cannot agree with the methodology: two wrongs don’t make a right, and they are becoming the very evil they behold. While I appreciate the irony of subjecting men to the same abuse that women are put through (and thus engage the offenders in their own language), they’ve overlooked the fact that the message will likely be too subtle for their intended audience to appreciate. On that basis, the campaign won’t amount to much more than an indulgent and inflammatory message that preaches to the converted.
It is a malicious campaign, too. Sarcasm, while funny when viewed through the right prism, is always couched in some level of malice. If I were to stand by what I believe in, and be the change I want to see in the world, I would absolutely refuse to be as malicious as they propose, even if it is just for a day.
Now, I don’t have any expectation that people will agree or disagree with the stance I’ve taken – I just wanted to qualify that my stance is taken rationally. There is a line I perceive that is being crossed, and I won’t cross it. What I was surprised by, however, was the responses of certain technology journalists who did not approve of my dissenting view. They weren’t content to simply agree to disagree – they wanted to silence me entirely through shame and embarrassment, intimating that I am a bigot, and then attempting to disqualify me from the discussion by virtue of my being male.
To whit, one journalist said “It isn’t your problem to find the right approach for”. I responded, “I think it is. My daughter’s welfare is everything to me”.
That’s pretty much where the discussion ended – the journalist responded “That is awesome. You are a great dad”. I imagine it was either that or a risky debate about my parenting style for the journalist I was talking with. Either way, I believe she realised that my position is not ill-intentioned.
What surprises me from this entire episode is that I had to pull the ‘I have a daughter’ card to give my argument any kind of legitimacy. Even more surprising is that this all somehow makes me a “great dad”, as though fathers normally don’t wish the best for their daughters.
My daughter is named Indiana. I named her after my childhood hero. In my own foolish way, it’s my way of telling her she can be whoever she wants to be. I’m teaching her that every person is absolutely equal; to appreciate the amazing differences between people in culture, gender, sexual orientation and religious beliefs; and that none of these things are relevant in how we treat each other. That’s the example I’m setting for her.
Would I have supported this campaign prior to becoming a father? I might have. Which makes me wonder when I became my father.
**Update: The organiser of The 1st Annual ‘Objectify a Male Tech Writer’ Day, Leigh Alexander, has cancelled the event. Her reasons for doing so are outlined in her blog. Amongst other things, she observes that:
“…the event as it stands currently ignores the fact that gay men, trans men, men of color and any other man outside the “straight white guy privilege” zone are already victims of objectification. “Objectify a man” risks using harmful language toward people who may be vulnerable.”
It’s not really my style to pull the race card in a debate, but it does apply to people such as myself, and I’m gratified that she saw it.