While the rest of us are enjoying the holiday spirit, it seems a small group of extreme, self-described “feminists” are out to kill the fun. A recent non-story has been making headlines lately, stemming from Microsoft’s fun, ad-lib styled letter aimed at convincing loved ones to buy you an Xbox One for the holidays. Earlier, Microsoft had released a fake doctor’s note to allow you take the day off work and play your Xbox One with your qt3.14 gf.
The controversy looms over how Microsoft originally released their letter. Among the default options, this was possible:
That’s right, you could place in the idea that your significant other would rather knit than watch you play Xbox. And maybe it is true, your SO finds watching you mindlessly play a video game extremely boring. It’s not like we have not seen women make fun of men (misandry) for spending too much time playing video games.
Hours after the new note’s release, two blogs run by Gawker Media, Kotaku and Jezebel, published posts attacking Microsoft of creating rife with sexism against women. How was Microsoft sexist? Jezebel blogs that in its default options, Microsoft came off as “sterotype-y” and seemed to assume its target audience is “dudes with wives/girlfriends who just don’t get it.”
It is unfortunate everyone read and noticed Gawker’s story, including the Wall Street Journal. And here I am being forced to respond to it too. In a saner world, we would not deal with this level of bullshit.
RELATED READING: Let’s not forget that Jezebel is run by these geniuses http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lizz-winstead/jezebelism_b_110903.html
Looking over all of the fill in the blank sections of Microsoft’s letter, it’s clear that it was not directed towards any specific gender. George Melika summed up my thoughts quite well:
“The funny thing is that [the Xbox letter is] gender neutral, aren’t people who are calling this sexist showing their own stereotypical views.”
The letter had a variety of people you could address it to, Mom, Dad, Grandma etc. Danielle Burger on twitter claimed that “knitting” in the letter was sexist. In fact, this only shows the closed mindedness of Danielle and others like her, showing that she thinks only women knit. It is purely sexist on her part to believe that only women can knit. ‘Honey’ is also a gender neutral terms and can refer to a man or woman.
Microsoft ended up changing knitting to ‘do your taxes early.’
This is a classic case of slacktivism, as defined by UrbanDictionary:
The search for the ultimate feel-good that derives from having come to society’s rescue without having had to actually get one’s hands dirty or open one’s wallet.
In my home country of India, I see real cases of sexism through the caste system, injustice in rape cases, and through cultural biases against women. Of course, these are often isolated cases in more rural parts of India and the situation is improving every year. Nevertheless, these ‘gamer girls’ are women with every right and opportunity in the world complaining about first world problems. It is completely disingenuous and I wish they would put some effort into helping those who could actually use it.
The vocal minority of the feminist ‘gamer girl’ community has been nothing but problematic for Microsoft. In an effort to broaden the base of the console, we now have a nightmare on our hands. This post is already significantly lengthier than I intended, but I will leave train of thought with a quick definition and video of a ‘feminist gamer girl.’ (To clarify, I think most gamer girls are no different than men that play video games, but I am deeply concerned about the toxic sub-culture that has formed from the vocal portion of their community.)
A girl who plays video games in order to get attention. They can often be seen playing Call of Duty talking about how much of a “nerd” they are, taking slutty pictures of themselves while holding a controller, and just generally being attention whores.
The ironic part about this whole incident? A source tells me a woman whose boss is also a woman wrote and approved the letter, respectively. Some of the Xbox PR is still controlled by Wagner Edstrom. Luckily the woman who wrote it is not being fired or reprimanded and will be able to enjoy her Thanksgiving holiday. I would say the majority of the Microsoft WagEd team is mostly women. In fact, there are four highly powerful women executives at Microsoft, lest we forget the ladies on the board too. Head of Devices Julie Larson-Green, Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood, Executive Vice President of Marketing Tami Reller, and HR head Lisa Brummel. Some of these women were even considered for the CEO position, although they did not make the short list. Microsoft is a company women should be proud of, but of course, this goes against the culture & narrative that Microsoft is a horrible sexist evil big corporation run by misogynist men. While in fact, Ballmer and Turner have been instrumental in being one of the only major technology companies to put so many women in high positions of power.
There are ways in which Microsoft can play the media game though. Primarily these low-information women are often drawn to celebrities that have high value in their culture. If Microsoft would have had “Vagina Fantasy” co-host Veronica Belmont or Felicia Day present the letter this would have indemnified the company from all criticism. Criticizing the letter would have also been an attack on Belmont or Day which would have been counterproductive.
One of the important lessons I have learned throughout life is you cannot please all people all the time. I think this is lesson most people learn at one point or another. Microsoft needs to learn this too. The whole history of the Xbox One is laced with caving and backtracking on innovations and marketing efforts. The team needs to grow a spine and stick to what it believes is right. I know being accused of racism and sexism is tough and I have been accused of both many times; however, you cannot act like a beta male.
A company that has a consumer base as large as Microsoft is always going to offend someone at one point or another. Every time the company caves, it shows everyone that a small vocal minority of morons can cause Microsoft to change its tactics for no reason. Over time, this effect will snowball and we will be left with a fearful company who is afraid to innovate. Like Apple, Microsoft needs to learn to stick to its core audience, and not unnecessarily try to broaden its base. The effects of base expansion are being seen in the National Football League, in what is now being called the era of ‘The Wussification of the NFL.”
As Niccolo Machiavelli wrote in The Prince, “It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.”
One of the qualities I hope the new CEO of Microsoft has is being fearless. I want to see the aggressive alpha male Microsoft I saw back in 90s. Right now it feels like we have a beta male Microsoft that has gone through a divorce and is in the middle of a mid-life crisis. I will end with this quote retweeted by Steven Sinofsky, the CEO that could have been:
While researching Stephen Elop’s time at McMcaster University, I bumped into an interesting study by the university that was analyzed by the New York Times: Women Are Responsible for Slut-shaming http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/19/science/a-cold-war-fought-by-women.html?ref=science?src=dayp&_r=2&
P.S. Yes, I am still working on the Kevin Turner story; I hope to have it up soon, stay tuned.