Fri
Jun 12 2009 5:37pm

They are not welcome: IGN and District 9’s sexist contest

I picked up a Game Informer the other day, and one of the first full pages is the “Who’s Who?” on the staff. I scanned the page and something popped out at me: there were ten staff writers, and they were all men.1

But that’s just the beginning. If you’re a gamer or a comics nerd you may have heard of IGN.com’s contest/promotion for the upcoming SF flick District 9. The winner will get flown out to San Diego Comic Con and be sent on “assignment” to do some reporting and promotion of the film. I hadn’t thought anything of it until I saw Johanna Draper’s post looking at the actual contest rules. Let’s have a look:

This sweepstakes is open only to males who are both legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and Washington D.C. and who are at least between 18-24 years of age as of July 23, 2009…

I’m sorry? Did that actually say it was only open to MALES? Congratulations, IGN.com and District 9: you have the dubious honor of being the first group I’ve ever seen bleed their sexism into a friggin’ contest.

Let’s put aside the initial problems with this, namely that it’s almost certainly illegal to discriminate based on age or sex. District 9 takes place in Johannesburg, South Africa. Aliens land and are forced to work in camps because they are deemed “non-human.” Though I suspect there’s a lot more action than the latest trailer reveals, it looks to be an interesting, thoughtful, and very serious film whose real-world parallels on the issues of racism and apartheid are hard to miss. Are women not capable of thoughtfully addressing these issues? Or are they scared of what women would have to say about them, especially in a community like this?

Someone in Johanna’s comment thread pointed out that IGN responded to accusations of sexism made in the Feministing community:

The eligibility requirements for this contest were determined by Columbia TriStar Marketing, the marketing team behind the District 9 film, and were passed on as a directive to IGN as Sponsor of this particular Sweepstakes running on the IGN.com site. While IGN supports gamers of all ages, genders, shapes and sizes, these guidelines were created to foster a buzz for the film among a very narrow target group that the film’s promoters felt would be extremely passionate about the film’s subject matter.

IGN is just passing the buck here, trying to wipe their hands clean of this shameful contest. I don’t buy it. They should take responsibility for the choice they made—a choice that involves, on its face, a blatantly sexist set of contest rules. Whether they came up with the rule or not they supported and promoted it. They put their name on it. (I should note that contests like this are usually just excuses to get free labor rather than pay a writer/reporter/publicist, but that’s a side issue.)

Now I’m going to be generous here and assume that this is an attempt to make the “face” of the film their target demographic (rather than assume they think women are stupid, incompetent, or otherwise less capable). I’m deeply troubled by the assumptions that this kind of stunt makes about fans of comics, gaming, and science fiction. Even beyond the I-can’t-believe-we-still-have-to-tell-people-women-like-this-stuff-angle, there’s a more insidious implication here: that women wouldn’t generate buzz for this film. Or more precisely: that they don’t want the kind of buzz women would generate for this kind of film.

The tagline is:

They are not welcome
They are not accepted
They are not human

That sounds painfully familiar. Women in the gaming and comics community have been hearing this for too long.

EDITED SUNDAY, JUNE 14th, 12:40pm: It looks like they’ve amended their rules to add a new contest for women, with a later deadline (presumably to allow women to make up for the time). It’s a step in the right direction—they seem to be listening and have responded, so good on them.


1 The online version of the magazine does have one female editor.

76 comments
Richard Fife
1. R.Fife
Wow, this seems to be double-poorly thought out. First, there is the blatant exclusion of females in a genre that has historically scrambled for them, then there is the fact that one would think, even being sexist, they would want a female winner. After all, what grabs a nerdy guy's attention faster than a cute nerdy girl?. Its like thet were trying to be sexist, and even failed on that scope, and instead of being savvy modern sexists, they are stuck in the 40s. Blarg.
Elizabeth Adams
2. ehadams
I was excited to see this, and I was going to attend their panel at Comic-Con. Now I'm not sure I will.
Luke M
3. lmelior
Another commenter submitted this:
This is not a contest. It’s thinly veiled as one, but what they’re really looking for is someone to do con coverage for them on the cheap.
...
And since they’re looking for an on-camera personality, they’re within their rights to specify gender.
...
The problem here, legally, is that they’ve made this casting call into a contest. And as a contest, making it eligible to only one sex is very likely legally dubious.
Hugh Arai
4. HArai
Is District 9 itself sexist? Could they be afraid of backlash from that? People can often be open and reasonable on some issues and bigoted in others, perhaps this is the case here? I know nothing about the people involved, just trying to think of what would convince someone to approve such a crock.
etking
5. etking
Why so shocked? The world is full of sexism and lots of other ism's. If the leader of the project wants a male for the job then who cares! I'm sure there is a female only contest somewhere on another site as well!
les kaye
6. hapax
Erghh. Am I the only one who is also offended that this contest is so blatantly ageist?

After all, not only am I female, but I am OLD. That makes me disposable, ugly, and definitely UnKewl.

(Of course, I can be cheered by the memory of Local Comic Book Store Owner, who specifically asked me to in the store the day they were filming a television commercial, since "you do so much to dispel the stereotypes about our customers.")
Hugh Arai
7. HArai
etking@5: The world is full of murder and fatal diseases too. Be glad "who cares" isn't most people's response.
etking
8. etking
a job listing for a specific sexe of actor is HARDLY murder. Buck up tiger. If they get in trouble for this good riddance! But I don't see the huge fuss? Is there a great prize involved? Or is it just a role that needs to be filled. Maybe I care less because the job, to me, sounds about as appealing as skinning potatoes. Ruckus! it's all just RUCKUS I tellya
Paul Howard
9. DrakBibliophile
I wonder if there would be so much anger if the ad read as below?

This sweepstakes is open only to women who are both legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and Washington D.C. and who are at least between 18-24 years of age as of July 23, 2009…
etking
10. euphrosyne
Give me a break. If Seventeen magazine ran a contest only open to young women, would you have such a self-righteous cow? Sure there are a few men who read that magazine, but so what?

Sure there are some young women who (buy and) read comic books as a primary market (ie, not handoffs from boyfriends/brothers/etc)...but so what?

"They are not welcome...They are not accepted...They are not human...That sounds painfully familiar. Women in the gaming and comics community have been hearing this for too long."

Have they really? In every gaming/comics circle I've ever seen or been a part of, just about *any* female presence is considered a major boon, and true fangirls are divinity itself.

Don't point an easy finger at imagined oppressors when the real problem is that your fellow females, by and large, aren't interested in the contest in the first place.
etking
11. euphrosyne
You stole my thoughts, DrakBibliophile.

What a nicer world it might be if today's college students were taught that there's a difference--and an often justified one--between contextual sexual preferences and institutionalized sex-based oppression. This contest wanted a boy; get over it. Other contests want only girls; I don't scream oppression.

Torie: if you *really* care and would rather do something greater than just fulminate, enter the contest as a 'male'. If you win, surprise them in their offices and convince them why they should accept you anyway. That you don't just break rules, but that you can break expectations and stereotypes. That you aren't just a woman reflexively spouting off about sexism in comics, which frankly won't endear you to the demographic you seem so incensed about not being allowed to represent.
etking
12. marionvitus
Torie, thanks for posting this. As a gamer and a nerd, I was irked when I saw I couldn't make it to the starting gate according to their rules.
Pablo Defendini
13. pablodefendini
@euphrosyne #10
Give me a break. If Seventeen magazine ran a contest only open to young women, would you have such a self-righteous cow? Sure there are a few men who read that magazine, but so what?

The difference being precisely that: Seventeen is a publication highly targeted to teenage girls, and deals almost exclusively in material that's pretty much only appropriate for seventeen year old girls. IGN, as general gaming site, caters to gamers of all shapes, sizes, colours, plumbing, etc—or at least it should.

In restricting the contest to only males, it's sending out the message that it only caters to men, when we all know that gamers come from all walks of life. There's absolutely no practical reason why they should exclude women. To do so only adds fuel to the fire of the classic geek/gamer stereotype, a stereotype which many of us would like to see disappear.

The only possible explanation short of simple bigotry is the one which lmelior mentions in comment #3: the fact that this is a casting call, not a contest. Even so, it's disingenuous—a casting call would imply a paid gig at the end of the process, but calling this a contest is a sleazy way to get out of paying for more than just airfare, accommodations, and confare for an on-camera personality.
Pablo Defendini
14. pablodefendini
enter the contest as a 'male'. If you win, surprise them in their offices and convince them why they should accept you anyway

Wasn't that the plot to like fifty movies in the 1980s? Do it, Torie! For the LOLZ!
etking
15. euphrosyne
The only possible explanation short of simple bigotry is the one which lmelior mentions in comment #3: the fact that this is a casting call, not a contest.

Exactly my point in fewer words. This obviously isn't bigotry, it's a very low-bar audition for what has been specified as a male role.
Hugh Arai
16. HArai
@9,@10 - Actually Seventeen is an interesting example since the freebie contests on their webpage are in fact, female only. Which leads me to wonder if discrimination by age and sex in contests is in fact illegal or if like you, people just don't care.
etking
17. halleluajah
contests are designed with GOALS behind them. So as great as it would be to just let everyone apply to every contest I'm sure it'd ruin the whole plot! Contest HOSTERS will be bogged down with all these applicants that don't fit the description, honestly they are probably just saving (non-applicable) applicants and themselves both some TIME! THINK ABOUT IT FOLKS!
etking
18. Rick in stumptown
I was looking forward to seeing District 9. Now I will be sure to NOT give a single cent of my hard earned money to these morons. The only opinions folks like these are concerned with are those expressed with dollars and cents (not sense!).
etking
19. FFFFUUUUUUU
Fuck the people holding this contest and fuck every idiot on this list who tried to justify this sexist shit in any way or form.

Go. Fuck. Your. Self.


Not every girl reads Seventeen goddamn magazine and not every girl only responds to the pre-approved stereotypical bullshit known as the male ideal of what is normal for a woman to like.

Girl gamers exist. They want to be acknowledged and above all. Respected. Can't do that? You are an asshole. End of story.
etking
20. NatalieRae
At 10.

Kinda ironic how in attempting to defend the notion that the sci-fi/gaming community welcomes girls as equals, you prove the precise problem by othering them.

Divinities.....! I think you are had a picture of an attractive 'fangirl' in mind when you wrote this.

Let's face it - as a 'fangirl' myself, sexism in the fan community is pretty prevalent. Pretending you don't see it makes you either naive or an active participator.
- -
21. heresiarch
euphrosyne: "Sure there are some young women who (buy and) read comic books as a primary market (ie, not handoffs from boyfriends/brothers/etc)...but so what?"

*headdesk* Since we're already playing the "Let's restate it!" game:

"Sure there are some young Hispanics who (buy and) read comic books as a primary market (ie, not handoffs from their white friends)...but so what?"

Nothing bigoted about that at all!

"In every gaming/comics circle I've ever seen or been a part of, just about *any* female presence is considered a major boon, and true fangirls are divinity itself."

Right, and there's absolutely no way that being stared at like you're a unicorn with boobs might make women feel uncomfortable and out of place in gaming circles. Nothing like being hypersexualized and Othered to make people feel welcome!

pablodefendini: "In restricting the contest to only males, it's sending out the message that it only caters to men, when we all know that gamers come from all walks of life."

Yes, exactly. Thank you. I was starting to feel like I was taking crazy pills.
Arachne Jericho
22. arachnejericho
Wow. This contest wasn't well thought-out at all.

The gaming industry: still sexist as hell.
John Joseph Adams
23. johnjosephadams
WOW. I mean, WOW. I can hardly believe how utterly lame this is. It's as if they don't even understand the tagline of the film (assuming, of course, that the film is AGAINST extra-terrestrial bigotry, as it appears to be). But man, to have that tagline for a film and then to hold a contest with such sexist/ageist rules....

As to those saying they'll boycott the film--I hope you'll reconsider, as I'm sure the filmmakers themselves had nothing to do with this idiocy, and that it was just some goon at the studio (as IGN asserts) or some goon at IGN who didn't think things through. Which is not to excuse this action, but I think holding the film itself responsible is unjust. Of course, I'm not sure there's any other way to show your protest, unless you were to write letters to the studio.

But see, the thing is, thoughtful, intelligent SF is hard to come by, and this movie appears to be just that, and by boycotting a movie such as this, the only message the studios will hear is: People don't like science fiction, they just like the special effects extravaganzas and explosions science fiction offers, and thus studios will become less inclined to take a chance on thoughtful (rather than explosion-filled) SF films like this one.

If you're going to boycott anyone, it should be IGN, I'd think. Write letters of protest to them and to the studio, and think of other ways to show your anger, but don't boycott the film--I don't think it will have the desired effect, and I think the most likely effect is that it would hurt our chances of seeing good SF films in the future.
etking
24. stopthatgirl7
They just changed the rules--now there are two drawings, one for men 18-24 and one for women 18-24.
j p
25. sps49
Even a casting call can't be restricted before the fact to a specific gender (among other factors). One can, and I am sure some do, turn down applicants because of illegal factors, but they remain silent and state someone else is better for the role. Laws- and there are laws- greatly reduce this sort of stupidity, and changing overt behavior does, over time, change attitudes.

A recent illustration was a local person who advertised a property for rent- and specified "whites only". It made the news, of course; she stated that since it is her house she can rent to whoever she likes, and I was surprised anyone could be that stupid in both attitude and actions.
James Wu
26. kamikazewave
What's the big deal? This is obviously an advertisement call. The chosen person has to fit a certain demographic in order to advertise the movie to a chosen demographic. You can claim ageism as well with the contest.

Can a guy try out for the Steeler's cheerleader team? Can a guy play a role as a woman in a film? This is an advertisement call. There are contests that restrict entries to only females. What's the big deal with a contest that restricts entries to males?

You can argue whether it's a good advertising tactic, but there's nothing "sexist" about it. If a company wanted to advertise a product to females they may choose to hire a female to advertise the product for them, and it's in their right. Same thing with this movie. Yes, casting calls can be restricted. You're trying to pick a person who fits a preplanned role.
etking
27. dcole78
Its odd to me that being fawned over and seen as a boon would make women uncomfortable, but then perhaps I have only been around women who seek that out. Removing sex and attractiveness as tools in a woman's play book goes beyond feminism. What they are trying to do here is make sure the 19-24 year old market actually comes, they are afraid that they will be put off by the intellectual nature of the film.

Most IGN stuff is generally geared toward males, yes pcgamer has a female staff member but that is uncommon. Women and Men do have some GENERAL differences on AVERAGE. But that is what they are averages and general differences. Does that mean they apply to every person? No but marketers don't see people as individuals but as part of large groups.
Eugene Myers
28. ecmyers
Just echoing johnjosephadams @ 23: this is rarely the type of decision left to the producers, writers, directors, etc. of the film. This is total marketing BS that hopefully doesn't reflect on the quality of District 9 and I don't think it calls for a boycott of it. But making our displeasure known to the studio and IGN (and hell, Game Informer while we're at it) is definitely a start--and the fact that they've adjusted their contest rules shows that a) our voices were heard, and b) they realized they made a mistake.
Paolo Chikiamco
29. Pipe
Why I find it is correct to raise this issue:

* There is a difference between someone acting within his/her rights, and acting in a fair, equitable manner. It is a given that one who makes a contest has the right to lay down the rules, but speaking of that right and speaking of whether or not the rules are equitable are completely different things, and the existence of said "right" does not make moot a discussion on whether such rules are fair.

* Where I hail from, one can restrict the application of a rule or benefit as long as, amongst other things, the restriction is (a) based on a substantial distinction; (b) germane to the purpose of the rule/benefit.

* It is possible that the organizers had some purpose that would make the distinction between men and women germane - the examples cited of contests for, say, Seventeen magazine fall under this category. This District9 contest however, on its face, does not show any such purpose. There is no showing why a female winner or an older/younger winner, would not serve just as well; nor is the prize to be awarded one that would only benefit an 18-24 year old male.
j p
30. sps49
@26-

The Steelers do not have cheerleaders.

However, if a male wanted to apply for a spot with Football's Fabulous Females in Oakland, he probably could. I doubt he would win a spot.
- -
31. heresiarch
It's a little disingenuous to complain about men being unable to enter Seventeen magazine contests when there's exactly zero evidence that there are any men who want to. The instant such a group appears I'll gladly begin protesting on their behalf. Contrast that with sf/gamer women, who have a long history of being marginalized within their own sub-culture, and are actually suffering as a result. Mayhap we should focus a bit on their real, pressing problems instead of manufacturing apologetics for the status quo, hmm?
Daniel Salazar
32. DraekAlmasy
And so the cries for help of the old goes unanswered, drowned by the rallying calls of the feminists.

Now, younger people I accept, since as I understand it the legal situation concerning children is a bit iffy, but why an upper age limit at all?

Heck, I know far more "old" guys (if you can call a 25-years-old as such) interested in scifi and videogames than I know women of any age with those interests. But who cares? they're old, they deserve to be discriminated against.
René Walling
33. cybernetic_nomad
The video gaming industry right now is sexist. Period. One just has to see the amount of "booth babes" at E3 (yes, they were banned two(?) years ago in an attempt to change the industry's image, but they are back now -- "hard economic times gives us no choice" -- showing just how much the industry really changed). This contest just brings it to a new level.

People need to react to it and others need stop trying to justify this kind of stuff.

I, for one, will not go see District 9.
Stephen W
34. Xelgaex
I think Torie is exactly right on why this is offensive. It buys into the ongoing marginalization of women in fanish communities. And btw, being seen as primarily sex objects, whether it's booth babes or fawning over cosplayers, or whatever, is a form of marginalization.

Also complaining about another situation doesn't justify the current situation. And it is even more the case when the other situation is a theoretical one thought up just to change the subject.
etking
35. pixelvixen707
The ad has been updated, to invite men and women at least 18-24:

http://microsites.ign.com/d9/

Women also get more time to file, presumably to make up for lost time.

Not happy that this happened, but ultimately they did the right thing. Now I can go ahead and get Peter Jackson's "here's my Oscar" smile tattooed on my shoulder as planned.
Torie Atkinson
36. Torie
@ 6 hapax and @ 32 DraekAlmasy

I originally noted the ageism of the contest, but then I realized it reads "at least 18-24." So while it's exhibiting a preference, it's not flat-out rejecting older applicants. They can get in the front door; women can't. (It's still unfair and wrong, though.)

@ 10 and 11 euphrosyne

Thank you for exactly proving my point.

First of all, female fans are not a "boon" or "divinity." Like heresiarch @ 21 said, constantly being objectified, othered, and marginalized as not "true" fans is part of the sexism of the comics and gaming cultures. Female fans don't want to be your sexy icons or your "divinities." We just want to be fans, and we're tired of being utterly invisible despite the fact that millions of women play games and read comics. That climate is entirely unwelcoming to women, and it's a testament to women's persistent interest in gaming and comics that we continue to try to be part of the community despite the overwhelming myth that we don't exist.

Torie: if you *really* care and would rather do something greater than just fulminate, enter the contest as a 'male'. If you win, surprise them in their offices and convince them why they should accept you anyway. That you don't just break rules, but that you can break expectations and stereotypes. That you aren't just a woman reflexively spouting off about sexism in comics, which frankly won't endear you to the demographic you seem so incensed about not being allowed to represent.

Congratulations! You've just described the definition of the very worst kind of sexism. When I would have to work five times as hard to get the same job, to prove myself as capable of doing something that a man is assumed to be able to do without question, and to go above and beyond the requirements that someone with a penis wouldn't need to worry about, you've just described sexism.

It's pervasive, it's hurtful, and it's wrong. And it's worst in the gaming and comics communities.

@ 27 dcole78

Its odd to me that being fawned over and seen as a boon would make women uncomfortable, but then perhaps I have only been around women who seek that out. Removing sex and attractiveness as tools in a woman's play book goes beyond feminism.

You're right, it does go beyond feminism, that's clearly in the territory of "unrepentant sexism." It's reactionary thinking like this that has been hurting women for decades. We don't want to be "fawned over," we just want to be fans, like you.

And yes, it IS sexist to believe that a woman isn't qualified to discuss the intellectual aspects of the film, and it speaks very strongly to the belief that gaming and comics fans wouldn't accept a female voice on their behalf.

Again, it's hurtful, it's wrong, and it's damaging to both men and women in the community.
Kimberly Woods
37. Calli
Hinging off of DrakBibliophile's comment @9, if this had been a contest limited to female gamers age 18-24, there probably would have been very little outcry. Instead, there would be a deluge of idiot fanboys eager to declare their willingness to 'hit it.'

I don't have much to add to Torie's comment @36, except that for those men who take up hobbies perceived as traditionally feminine (say, quilting or romance novels), would they want to be fawned over just because they are men, or would they rather be appreciated for being part of the community, irrespective of gender?

(And honestly? "Fawning over," regardless of the genders involved, just seems tacky and immature.)
Paul Howard
38. DrakBibliophile
Calli, that's my point. Sexism against men appears to be 'OK' and we're only to get angry about sexism toward women. Not that this contest isn't sexist, but why is sexism against women any different than sexism against men?
Jeff Soules
39. DeepThought
why is sexism against women any different than sexism against men?

Because sexism against men is isolated and rare (and in this discussion, entirely hypothetical), while sexism against women is ubiquitous and pervasive in our culture.

That doesn't justify ANY bias without a good reason -- I think if IGN ran a contest that said "We're trying to promote female gamers, so this contest is women only" that would be one thing. But I know if IGN ran a general-interest contest and just made it arbitrarily women-only, many of the same people who are speaking up here would reject that as well.
Marc Houle
40. MightyMarc
I thought this was all part of their viral marketing campaign. The movie is about segregation and racism. This contest was sexist and ageist. That sounds way too coincidental. So was this a blunder or was this part of the marketing campaign?

Of course, now that they opened the contest to women, it makes it look more like a blunder. If they'd been smart, they'd have spun this as part of the movie marketing.
Kimberly Woods
41. Calli
DrakBibliophile @38:
Not that this contest isn't sexist, but why is sexism against women any different than sexism against men?

As far as I'm concerned, the only difference is a matter of prevalence. Also, on reflection, the 'little outcry' assessment isn't quite correct (and I'm still wondering which of my snapses had shorted out when I wrote that). There would be an outcry -- but it would be drowned out by the fanboys (who I am aware are not representative of all male gamers, they just tend to be highly visible).

Furthermore, I suspect many female gamers would shrug it off as "One of THOSE contests," roll their eyes, and not bother with it beyond that, let alone whether it's sexist against men. I don't think apathy is the correct answer, but I have a feeling it would be the most common one. And prior to this, I'm not sure it wouldn't have been my own response (shameful as it is to admit).
etking
42. jenc02134
Torie, are you going to update your piece since females are now allowed to enter? I want to enter but don't want to feel like I'm going against the feminism movement by doing so... haha
etking
43. C12VT
Sexism against women is different from sexism against men in that women are the historically marginalized group. Not that this justifies sexism of any sort, but that is a factor in how people react to it.

Because of the women's movement, people are more aware of sexism against women than sexism against men. This awareness is good, but incomplete. Comments that are derogatory to men, or exclude them, or stereotype them, may just pass right under the radar because we haven't been trained to look for them. We haven't been trained to stop saying them (or thinking them) either.

It's really two sides of the same coin, though. Sexist commentary of any sort divides the world into two opposed groups. Any stereotype about men implies one about women. Any insult to one gender implies that insults based on gender are acceptable.

I don't like the idea of women-only contests any more than men-only ones, unless there is a valid reason. One valid reason could be to address an historic gender imbalance. I can't really think of any others, and "we thought only men would be extremely passionate about this" definitely doesn't cut it.

Re: the beginning of the original blog post: I noticed the lack of women on Game Informer's staff too, and it bugs me. Not that gender should the basis of their hiring decisions, but there are a lot of women gamers and a lot of women writers, and ten spots on their staff. How did they end up with no women at all?
etking
44. Old_Gamer
I have been gaming since asteroids and to find such an evolved conversation as sexism in gaming is ironic. My favorite post is by the author who uses "fuck" as this is my favorite all purpose word. I live in NJ and would be happy to buy this group a couple of rounds of drinks just for the interaction. Clearly I am quite removed from the gaming intelligencia as I don't even know WTF District 9 is, but I am sure this interaction will create support. There is a formula that goes certain behaviors = buzz and buzz = $ and $ = repetion of the behaviors... Or in the words of proctor and gamble, lather, rinse, repeat. Can't we just enjoy the games and leave the bs to non-gamers.
- -
45. heresiarch
DrakBibliophile @ 38: "Not that this contest isn't sexist, but why is sexism against women any different than sexism against men?"

a) Sexism against men is bad, but often goes unquestioned because the men in question have bought into the steretypes, and b) sexism against women is so much more prevalent and so much more damaging that the comparison seems disingenuous. Women are paid less than men, more objectified than men, sexually assualted more often than men; fewer women are politicians and judges and presidents; the list goes on.

You're veering dangerously close to concern troll territory here. Why is it that in the face of this situation that you yourself admit is sexist, your first instinct is to bring up a hypothetical example of sexism targeting men? Do you always worry about sexism against men? Or just when people are discussing sexism against women?
etking
46. yourmother
Anyone want to politely remind this person that there was a woman on the Game Informer staff, she left to pursue her career in gaming even further (I think, it's been forever since I read the issue that explained why she left). The IGN contest, however, I would agree with you there, why they would make the rules as such is beyond me, and this is coming from a guy. lol.
etking
47. Julius Maximus
Women only protest sexism when it offends them, but never when it benefits them.
Paul Howard
48. DrakBibliophile
Heresiarch, I've heard statements like yours excusing hatred against whites, religious people, etc.

As for the troll comment, I've seen trolls supporting the Left's positions.

In any case, this may be getting into Politics and and I don't know tor.com position on Political discussions here. So I'm withdrawaling from this discussion.
- -
49. heresiarch
"Heresiarch, I've heard statements like yours excusing hatred against whites, religious people, etc. "

Who's excusing anything? I don't see how saying that something is bad is excusing it. Sexism, racism, and bigotry in any form is unacceptable, and I call it out where ever I see it. What I don't do is whip out a checklist every time someone points out bigotry and make sure that they are equally concerned about any and all forms of bigotry before I grant them the right to be offended about the present example.

"As for the troll comment, I've seen trolls supporting the Left's positions."

No doubt--concern trolling isn't a left/right phenomenon. It's a tactic used by people of all political stripes to belittle issues they don't think worthwhile.
Rene Sears
50. rene
@47 Julius Maximus

That's a remarkable statement to leave hanging there. First of all, blanket statements that posit a monolithic group "Women" or "Men" aren't very useful, since it comes down to individuals. Secondly, do you have an example of sexism that benefits women to hand? I'm trying to think of one, and I can't. Sexism is to everyone's detriment, regardless of gender.
etking
51. DBratman
On top of the more substantive point, the contest rules are also incredibly badly worded. Taken literally, it says that entrants have to be residents of all 51 jurisdictions at once. (Obviously that's not what was meant, and this awkwardness was fixed in the revised version.)

But what is really mysterious is: what does "at least 18-24" mean? Are people over 24 eligible or not? As written, it looks like it's trying to contradict itself.
etking
52. DBratman
Rene @50: William F. Buckley once ambushed some feminists on his show with the question of whether they thought women should be equally subject with men to the military draft. This was during the Vietnam War, and the guests were, obviously, opposed to the draft altogether, but the conditionals ("Well, if there is going to be a draft anyway ...") completely derailed the argument, which of course was Buckley's intent.
Rene Sears
53. rene
DBratman @ 52" Heh. I bet that was entertaining. I just read Christopher Buckley's Losing Mum and Pup, his memoir about the death of his parents. If have any interest in WFB, you might enjoy it.
Torie Atkinson
54. Torie
@ 42 genco

I've updated the post to reflect that. Thank you! Though I wonder if they did it due to criticism or simply for legal reasons.

@ 52 DBratman

Thank you for that example.
Jeff Soules
55. DeepThought
Folks, when someone tells you something is sexist (or racist, classist, demeaning to queer people or ethnic groups etc. etc.), the correct answer is not "No it's not, because x." Nor is it "Yes but it's okay, because y." Odds are, it is sexist -- you're just trained not to see it. And if you're not the one being discriminated against, then it's not for you to decide that discrimination is excusable. If someone complains about getting punched in the face, the response "Quit whining, my nose doesn't hurt!" is not the right one.

If you don't think something's sexist, make sure you've spent at least three days trying to understand how it could be, before you decide that it really isn't after all. And don't excuse away real discrimination because of hypothetical or generalized discrimination on the other side--if you want to object to something, make it something real. You'll be surprised how hard it is to think of real examples, and how readily people will agree with you when you use them.

On another note, being anti-sexist, anti-racist, and pro-equality is not a left/right thing. Surely no mainstream American political group defines itself as being pro-discrimination, right? So forget politics--this is a human issue, not a political one.
etking
56. Joe Klemmer
1) The requirements for a non-gender specific contest being limited to males only is, was and will forever be stupid. It's mind boggling that people even think of this kind of stuff. Unless the issue involves procreation gender is irrelevant.

2) People just get so tweaked about things any more. Since the late 60's/early 70's everyone gets offended so easily it's ridicules. In my 46 1/2 years I've experienced a few things from different parts of the world. Discrimination, whether for or against, is just dumb. It is to limiting. But we don't have to get incensed and irate when we come across it. The rational use of simple logic can dismantle the worst situations. For example...

Limiting the aforementioned contest to males leaves out at least 1/3 of the potential revenue source. That's just idiotic.
Torie Atkinson
57. Torie
@ 56 Joe Klemmer

But we don't have to get incensed and irate when we come across it.

It's tacit acceptance of this kind of institutionalized discrimination that allows it to persist.
etking
58. Julius Maximus
"Secondly, do you have an example of sexism that benefits women to hand?1

Here's one. I'd like to see you raid Seventeen Magazine's offices and raise the same kind of ruckus that you're raising here until their competitions are made accessible to males and females of all demographic and age groups -- as opposed to being accessible only to teenaged girls. But you won't do that, will you? Because females deserve their safe spaces, but men don't. And that's not sexism, right?
etking
59. Julius Maximus
"the correct answer is not"

Thank you for teaching us little people how to think, because we don't know how to think for ourselves, you patronizing little shit.

And you don't seem to realize how bigoted you're being with your patronizing attitude, that's definitely the crowning achievement of your post.
etking
60. legionseagle
Julius Maximus@58

Anyone who went over to Seventeen Magazine to cause such trouble would be barking up the wrong tree. I took 2 minutes to look them up and find the magazine website and a competition which they are currently running: Win $100,000 for college tuition rules here: full rules here .

The operative one reads as follows:
"3. ELIGIBILITY: Open to legal residents of the 50 United States and District of Columbia ages 13 years or older. Void in Puerto Rico and where prohibited by law. Employees of Sponsor, its parents, affiliates and subsidiaries, participating advertising and promotion agencies, and prize suppliers (and members of their immediate family and/or those living in the same of household of each such employee) are not eligible."
Jeff Soules
61. DeepThought
The difference is that men don't actually care about Seventeen, so protesting would be a waste of time. Give me a list of ten men who are dying to enter the Secret Prom Personality Contest, and I promise I'll sign your petition, or write a letter, or whatever. Until then, bringing it up is just a straw man; it's insisting that we protest everything before we're allowed to protest anything, with the goal of getting us to just shut up and accept the discriminatory status quo. But not every offense is equally worthy of attention.

Thank you for teaching us little people how to think, because we don't know how to think for ourselves

It's not that people don't know how to think, it's that they aren't thinking.

All I'm saying is, when someone's being hurt by something, it's up to that person (not the bystanders) to decide that it's all okay. That applies for men, too, of course; no one can rightly tell you that derogatory comments about men, or intentionally refusing to hire men, etc. is all okay, so you have no right to complain.
Now, for the sake of civility, I'll cop to being patronizing (since I am stating the obvious), but kindly do explain how I'm being bigoted.
etking
62. legionseagle
DeepThought@61: your link loops back into this article, I'm afraid.
Jeff Soules
63. DeepThought
@62 Legionseagle

Hmph. Wonder how that happened -- should be here:
http://www.seventeen.com/fun-stuff/special/secret-prom-personality-offical-rules
----
I wanted to clarify this:
It's not that people don't know how to think, it's that they aren't thinking.

What I mean is, suppose this contest said something like "no Irish need apply." It'd be perfectly obvious that that was wrong, no doubt about it. But it's harder to admit the sexism in these rules, because sexism is an active prejudice, and acknowledging sexism challenges male privilege (part of which consists in never having to worry about noticing sexism). That feels bad, so the perfectly natural reaction is to want to find ways to excuse it or make it go away, by not admitting that the problem exists. But doing so means that we aren't thinking about it from the perspective of the people who are hurt by the sexism. Not that we can't, just that it's an easy blind spot to fall into, because it's more comfortable, we can keep more of our world-view intact by not acknowledging sexism. It's a perfectly natural tendency that everyone in a privileged social position has to learn to recognize and be aware of and cautious of. Most especially everyone who doesn't always think about ways that he (or she) is in a socially privileged position--geeks, for instance, are used to being marginalized, so we may not always think about ways we could be marginalizing others.
C C
64. Hatgirl
I was furious when I read this news, but before posting I tried to narrow down exactly what it was that made me so angry.

As others have posted, eligibility rules are nothing new in competitions (whether they are legal or not I will leave to those more qualified than myself to decide). What makes me angry is the reasoning behind that decision - that Young American Males are the only ones interested in SciFi.

I am so, so sick of this. I am so sick of the attitudes of people like DrakBibliophile, euphrosyne and the entire marketing team of Columbia Tristar who believe the only women who should interact with SF are Booth Babes.


(Oh, for those of you looking for another example of sexism favouring women, is the attitude of the law towards fathers as awful in the USA as it is here in Ireland? Fathers have barely any legal rights here).
Pablo Defendini
65. pablodefendini
@ Julius Maximus #59

You can make your points but you don't have to call anyone a patronizing little shit to make them—maintain a civil tongue, and curb your attacks on your fellow commenters, or you will be deleted.
Bill Siegel
66. ubxs113
Good call on this one Torie, and don't let the haters get you down.
Patrick Garson
67. patrickg
Agreed with ubxs113. It's startling to see some of the discrimination here, when usually Tor.com is such a place of furious, constructive agreement.

Good on IGN or whomever, for taking this criticism on board and changing the terms.
etking
68. etherspirit
Just shut up, please. There are tonnes of sweepstakes that offered for women only. Please waste your time with things that matter instead of this BS.
Cassandra Phillips-Sears
69. cphillips-sears
Torie @ 36:
Congratulations! You've just described the definition of the very worst kind of sexism.

Right. Even if one were to pose as a man, work five times as hard, and win, you would then be disqualified anyway because you didn't follow the rules!

DeepThought @ 63:
Not that we can't, just that it's an easy blind spot to fall into, because it's more comfortable, we can keep more of our world-view intact by not acknowledging sexism.

Thanks for that comment, DeepThought, and also the note about geeks themselves having to remain aware of the ways in which we/they may marginalize others.
---
I think that this comment encapsulates how blind spots can be so hard to see, especially if you're not looking for them, and especially if you are trained not to see them:

That you aren't just a woman reflexively spouting off about sexism in comics, which frankly won't endear you to the demographic you seem so incensed about not being allowed to represent.

1.) "The demographic?" But there's not only one demographic. People of all ages, shapes, creeds, races, and genders can and do enjoy comics. So why did the promoters impose a demographic on the contest?
- Either they were unaware that women liked comics (implausible), or
- They knew that women liked comics, but deliberately chose to ignore women fans because they decided that only a man would be able to do the job (sadly, plausible).

Why would they assume that only a man would be able to do the job, or possibly even be interested in the job?

If we look at this from a marketing perspective, that decision doesn't make a lot of sense. Marketers probably wouldn't make a decision to forget about some of their customers--unless they forgot that their customers existed.
Marketers probably wouldn't make a decision to deliberately ignore some of their customers and cater to others--unless they didn't care.

With the decision to make the contest men-only, the marketers were saying, "women are comics fans too, but we've decided that women aren't the kind of people we want to be our fans, so women won't merit consideration for this contest. Please go away now."

In essence: "you're not the kind of person who we want to enjoy our work." To any kind of reader or fan of any genre, that statement should be anathema, no matter your gender.

Women comics fans don't necessarily want to be viewed as being valuable because they are women comics fans; they want to be viewed as valuable because they are women comics fans.
(NB: nor should people's genders should be discounted because of the commonalities of fandom.)

2.) ...just a woman...

And are the men who've been posting defenses of women in this thread "just" men? The phrase would read as well without that word, and would not carry such a pejorative charge.

3.) ...the demographic you seem so incensed about not being allowed to represent.

And here's the heart of the blind spot.

There was a demographic that it was--and is--totally valid for marketers to define for the purposes of this contest: 'people who like comics, District 9 in particular, and would be able to represent IGN.'

The fact that the marketers had that particular demographic they wanted to embody wasn't the problem; anyone could have embodied it.

People of all genders were, in fact, already embodying that demographic.

Then the marketers decided that one group of people wasn't allowed to embody that demographic, and the other group was assumed to be the only ones who could embody it (no pressure, guys). This determination was made by thinking about people's assumed genitalia, and by ignoring the genders of the people in the demographic which already existed. That is sexism.

That sexism made people pretty angry.

But IGN then clung to that, deliberately embracing sexism as both policy from their bosses (were passed on as a directive) and rationale (foster a buzz for the film among a very narrow target group that the film’s promoters felt would be extremely passionate about the film’s subject matter).
That made people extra-angry, especially since IGN claimed to support gamers of all ages, genders, shapes and sizes. Before they opened up the contest, that was just some words they were covering their tail with so no one could accuse them of implicitly endorsing sexism by omitting a disclaimer. (Irony warning: 'It's fine to hold a contest with deliberately sexist selection criteria because our bosses have told us that it's ok. We have to point out that we aren't sexist; we're just allowed to use sexism for marketing purposes. Not only would being sexist be uncool, but now that we've explicitly denied that we're sexist, no one can tell us that we are, because we have an official policy against it.')

I still think the contest has problems with ageism (the age rules appear to have been changed to "men and women 18-24" as of this morning). I'm under 30 and I still wouldn't qualify. Surely you don't have to be within a 6-year age bracket to like comics?
Risha Jorgensen
70. RishaBree
Wow, I am surprised (and disappointed) to find so many people here who are supporting this blatantly offensive contest.

For the record, I'll absolutely support your right to win contests aimed at girls, be prom queen, or attend a woman's college. Or contests aimed at retirees, for that matter, or any other arbitrary exclusion. I've never believed in two wrongs making a right.
etking
71. braaaaaaaaaad
This is most-definitely a casting call, which somewhat disproves the "sexist" tag. Although women can act just as good as men, they were probably just looking for a male role. I wouldn't be surprised if they just really didn't think that people would take it in such a way, although it is easy to see how it could be taking it that way. My point being: they most-likely didn't do it with the intent of being sexist.
John Massey
72. subwoofer
'K- thing number one, I am not condoning any actions as this contest seems schmuch-ish. Personally, I think the ageist tag should be whopped on as I am a geezer and cannot enter this myself. But it is not the end of the world and I have bigger fish to fry than some contest for a movie when there are more than I can count being released this summer.

I will say this, it is pretty interesting how vehement some people are about this topic. I remember applying for a job in a woman's clothing store back way back when. I was turned down because it was for women. No biggie, there are other stores. I remember a woman's gym, Spa-Lady being for woman only. No men allowed. No biggie, there are other gyms. My gym- a gym that allows geezers- has a females only section. No biggie, I have the rest of the gym to use.

Point is, along with the message about Seventeen magazine and IIRC a Clearasil contest- and don't tell me guys don't get pimples- When the pendulum swings one direction, it feels like the world is ending and everyone gets up in arms about sexism and being bigots etc.- And being a minority in my country, I am very familiar with bigots. When the pendulum swings the other way, it is a " The difference is that men don't actually care about Seventeen, so protesting would be a waste of time". So I have to care about a contest to make it ethically right or wrong? Seems like flawed logic to me. A contest is either sexist or it isn't, regardless of if I care about it. I haven't even heard about District 9. I don't care, but yes, it is sexist.

Of course, maybe the contest did what it is supposed to do and get people talking about the movie. I haven't heard about it but now I am interested. Maybe that is the point. I dunno. I'm just a geezer sharing his thoughts.
etking
73. That Guy
Subwoofer @72:

I feel the same way.

I am a 31 year old male. The last time I went to a con was DragonCon around 94 or 95.

I remember seeing girls there, but I would have to say that it seemed pretty largely male dominated. Maybe things have changed, but I wouldn't imagine that they have changed that much where it would be 50/50, please correct me if I am wrong.

The question here isn't really about whether or not girls like this material, it's about who they (the marketing department) wanted to target.

They determined, through whatever research they did in planning this, that the movie is geared more towards 18-24 year old males, and created a contest targeting them.

I have read some of the responses throwing out the 17 magazine argument, and even showing that they do in fact have a contest for both sexes. Good for them, but that is an exception to what they usually do. So it is actually still valid.

17 chooses to target a specific demographic, that is their choice, and they gear most of their contests toward that demographic, again, their choice.

IGN primarily targets everyone who games, good for them, and this particular time, sponsor a contest targeted toward a select group (apparently at the direction of the Tri-Star folks), not their usual general crowd, and guess what, that is their choice, just like it is for 17 to try and sponsor something for everyone instead of just their usual audience.

If you could show me where every single contest, or even half of the ones that IGN has sponsored are only for males, then I might believe it was a sexist motivation. Until then, the idea that it was motivated by sexism is ridiculous.
Torie Atkinson
74. Torie
@ 73 That Guy

Well, you're wrong. Women make up more than half of computer gamers, and around 40% of console gamers (there was a big study about two years ago on this). I don't know nearly as much about comics as I'm not a comics fan, but women are 75% of the demographic that reads manga. Superhero comics, can't say.

Who they market to makes a big difference. The fact that despite a nearly even split along the M/F lines in terms of actual consumers comics and gaming companies continue to reinforce this myth that women a) aren't fans b) don't buy their products c) aren't part of the community that supports their products and d) can't reasonably discuss or be the voice of their work is sexist. There's really no other way to put it.

I have read some of the responses throwing out the 17 magazine argument, and even showing that they do in fact have a contest for both sexes. Good for them, but that is an exception to what they usually do. So it is actually still valid.

17 chooses to target a specific demographic, that is their choice, and they gear most of their contests toward that demographic, again, their choice.


...so you're saying that even though Seventeen opens its contests to both men and women the argument that it's sexism against men is still valid? That makes absolutely no sense.

No one is saying that they sat in their little offices scheming up a way to be sexist assholes. I don't believe for a second that the motivation behind this was intended sexism. That doesn't mean it's not sexist, and that it's not wrong. It DOES however speak to how sublimated and unconscious these prejudices are. The REALITY shows that women are an enormous part of the gamer/comic community. The PERCEPTION is that they aren't, and contests like this continue to reinforce that perception.

And yes, it's "their choice" to do this. But it could've been their choice to recognize that women are fans and sponsors in equal or nearly equal numbers.

Every time something like this happens, people come up with hypothetical examples of sexism against men to derail the argument. Sexism against men is rare and isolated. Sexism against women is pervasive, subtle, and ubiquitous. As heresiarch says at 45, "Why is it that in the face of this situation that you yourself admit is sexist, your first instinct is to bring up a hypothetical example of sexism targeting men? Do you always worry about sexism against men? Or just when people are discussing sexism against women?"

Sexism hurts everyone, men and women alike. The perception that women aren't part of the comics and gaming community affects the kinds of games that get made, the kinds of games that get marketed, the kind of people who get hired to make and market those games, and the kinds of fans they attract.
John Massey
75. subwoofer
@Torie, it is unfortunate that the producers decided to ostracize your demographic. Back in the day, there were very few women who were into the "scene" and it was male dominated. The odd girl that would be into comics or gaming etc. were instantly the "hot" ones, or at the very least, popular- amongst the other guys who were into the same things. A dubious honor.

I stopped collecting when the price exceeded a $0.95 as more than a dollar was too rich for my blood. I have limited gaming experience as FPS et al don't agree with me. Suffice it to say, from what you describe, the numbers have changed significantly. Considering that women now outnumber men on this planet, it was foolish to cut out half your viewing audience.

I know that the common perception when you look at E3 or ComicCon or things of that nature is a bunch of guys that live in their parents basement, shelling out their life savings for the next big thing. The 18-24yr crowd, low expenses, and proportionally, lots of disposable income. But as you say, that is a flawed idea as females make up a large percentage of this demographic now.

I guess the bottom line is that the producers of District 9 miss out. Women will still be spending money on games and comics long after the movie has come and gone. All D9 did was put a black eye on themselves for not thinking things through. Best thing to do if you feel passionately about it is not see the movie and make sure none of your hard earned dollars goes to support it.
Jeff Soules
76. DeepThought
When the pendulum swings the other way, it is a " The difference is that men don't actually care about Seventeen, so protesting would be a waste of time". So I have to care about a contest to make it ethically right or wrong? Seems like flawed logic to me.

As the author of the line you quoted--what I was responding to was the claim that "You don't protest sexist Seventeen contests, so you're being biased." I was never saying those aren't sexist; just that it's not worthwhile to protest biases whose victims don't care.

There's a common trap used by reactionaries and others resisting change. It goes like this: If you don't protest every bias, then you're actually just prejudiced yourself, because you'd never protest discrimination against men. If you DO protest every bias, then you're just a malcontent who's always whining. Either way, we never need to listen to you, so no need to worry about changing prejudices in society.

Re: the point which many have made that marketing can choose to focus on whatever demographic they want. Obviously ad campaigns are dedicated to subsets of people. However, I think they were choosing these contest rules not because they think that girls wouldn't be interested in the movie, but because they automatically assumed that boys would not listen to a female spokesperson. They've just assumed that comics fans are not only young men, but that they're also clannish, sexist, and self-ghettoizing, ignoring anybody who isn't exactly them. Well, fine, "progressive marketing department" is not exactly a common phrase, but I find that personally insulting as a guy--I will be quite happy to listen to a female reviewer, and I don't like it when they assume I live in my mom's basement with a sign on the door that says "no gurlz."

Sexist marketing only reinforces the things that make gaming/comics communities unwelcoming to women, which in turn marginalizes the gaming and comics communities from society at large. Not to mention that a narrow focus on the 18-24 people-with-penii market discourages games from going beyond the FPS genre or comics from going beyond superhero stories. Sexism hurts me, too, even as a white male, and I'm sick of it.

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