Intel touts its diversity efforts. So why did it just bow down to a movement associated with misogyny?
[UPDATE: Intel has since published a statement on its site clarifying that the company does not support any organization or movement that discriminates against women. We apologize and we are deeply sorry if we offended anyone."]
Earlier this week, I wrote about a partnership between Intel and the IC3 IT Cloud Computing Conference that would offer free or discounted admission to women. Sarah Bryan, Research Assistant to Intel President Renee James, told me all about the company's emphasis on inclusion and diversity, touting partnerships with organizations like Girls Who Code, as well as the workshops Intel regularly hosts that connect young women with high-ranking female employees.
So why has a company that works so hard to empower female technologists just bow down to a movement that's trying to keep women out of technology?
According to Re/Code, Intel has removed an advertisement from the gaming site Gamasutra following an email campaign from the so-called Gamergate community.
“We take feedback from our customers very seriously especially as it relates to contextually relevant content and placements,” Intel spokesperson Bill Calder told Re/Code.
For those of you who aren't gamers (or don't hang out all day on Reddit or Twitter), Gamergate arose after the ex-boyfriend of indie game developer Zoe Quinn accused her of trading sex for positive reviews. Following an ethics investigation by the gaming site Kotaku, these allegations proved to be false. But that hasn't stopped Quinn and other prominent females in the gaming community from being subjected to rape threats and other horrifically misogynist rhetoric. Gamergate defenders say that the misogyny spewed by some of its supporters is not the focus of the movement, and that the real issue involves journalistic ethics and what some consider a troubling shift in games journalism from "talking about the actual games" to writing about the societal and political ramifications of the gaming community.
(Note: This is a massive oversimplification of an incredibly complex issue -- to learn more, I suggest reading Todd VanDerWerff's comprehensive and even-handed explainer at Vox).
Gamergate supporters were angry with Intel because Gamasutra's editor-at-large is Leigh Alexander, one of the most vocal opponents of the movement. In an August article subtitled "'Gamers' are over," she wrote,
‘Games culture’ is a petri dish of people who know so little about how human social interaction and professional life works that they can concoct online ‘wars’ about social justice or ‘game journalism ethics,’ straight-faced, and cause genuine human consequences. Because of video games.Not every Gamergater is a misogynist pig. And Alexander's post is perhaps unfair to gamers who don't engage in the kind of appalling, sexist rhetoric that's come to dominate the movement. With that in mind, maybe Intel had every right to distance itself from a writer who, while fighting the good fight, takes the argument farther than a mainstream company like Intel is comfortable with.
But there is so much overt and veiled sexism informing the Gamergate community that Intel's decision to kowtow to this movement runs counter to its corporate culture of inclusion. It also lends legitimacy to a group that, up until recently, has been limited to impotent outrage echoing around the padded walls of Reddit and Twitter. Why couldn't Intel have just offered Gamergaters some boilerplate PR line like, "We advertise on a variety of websites that cover a wide spectrum of viewpoints"? I reached out to Intel which had nothing more to say on the issue at this time. (See update above).
In an email to VanDerWerff, Guardian games editor Kevin Stuart offered perhaps the best description for how the Gamergate movement, despite valid complaints about journalistic ethics, has lost all hope of respectability:
The ‘official' line is that it's about a demand for more transparency and better ethics in games journalism. This in itself is absolutely fine — as I wrote in my own piece, we should all be skeptical of the media. But whatever the higher motivations of some of those involved, the debate has had such a toxic undercurrent of abuse and anti-feminism that it has poisoned the whole concept. If this is about ethics, it cannot also be about systematic harassment. Those two contradict each other completely.And you know what else contradict each other completely? Intel's devotion to female empowerment in technology and its alignment with a movement associated with misogyny.
[Image courtesy demandaj]