Objectify a Male Tech Writer Day: A Few Thoughts

This Friday, February 1 was supposed to be “Objectify a Male Tech Writer Day,” as declared by gaming and social media journalist Leigh Alexander. 

In an effort to raise awareness about the objectification that female tech writers experience, supporters were encouraged to add in “compliments” about male tech writers to tweets featuring links to their work in an effort to objectify them. Tweets should be tagged with #Objectify to be part of the conversation.

The event was generating quite a bit of buzz around the Internets after Alexander announced it on Janaury 23.

But then, she cancelled it.

Alexander thoroughly outlined her rationale for creating–and later, cancelling–the event in her various blog posts and press coverage.

I wrote a post about the event, and shared some thoughts on whether or not it would have been successful, for Information Space at the iSchool, which you can read here.

But I’d like to elaborate a bit more candidly here.

I’ll admit, when I first read about this event, I was appalled. Why did someone think that an appropriate response to the objectification of female tech writers was to fight fire with fire, and demonstrate the same treatment toward their male counterparts?

Upon further research, it became clear that Alexander and other event supporters simply wanted to “start a conversation” about sexism that would eventually lead to a decrease in objectification, and hoped that #Objectify would be a light-hearted approach to doing so.

After discussing the event with some male and female family members and friends, it seems that Alexander’s big vision got slightly misconstrued. When you strip away the good intentions, you’re left with an attention-seeking blogger that didn’t quite think this whole thing through.

Alexander openly admitted to some lack of forethought, which contributed to the event’s cancellation. To her credit, I thought she did an excellent job of articulating her views and fundamental beliefs behind #Objectify through a thorough Q & A posted on her personal blog. (The post has since been removed.) Supporters of the event even drew up a guide: “How to participate in #Objectify a Male Tech Writer Day without being part of the problem” to further clarify how participants could best convey the initiative’s core ideals.

In a way, Alexander was successful. She garnered press and attention for her efforts, and got even more when she cancelled the event. And there’s no denying that the buzz surrounding the event shed some light on the topic at hand.

To be fair, I can’t think of another method that would accomplish the goal of eradicating sexism toward women in male-dominated fields, and I’m not usually one to offer criticism without suggesting a possible alternative.  Of course, there’s certainly no overnight solution to the issue. I’d be interested to see a similar event to #Objectify re-emerge–perhaps with a different title–to bring the topic to light and spark a conversation that focuses more on the issue at hand and less on the logistics or attitude surrounding the event.

Is there a possible solution? How would you have approached this differently? (Do you think I’m being too harsh on Leigh Alexander?)  I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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