EA, Objectification, and Culture

I thought that there had been enough big incidents of public sexism surrounding this year’s San Diego Comic Con, but apparently it needed more. EA has a contest running to promote their upcoming game Dante’s Inferno that requires “acts of lust” against their own booth babes. Participants are asked to photograph their “acts of lust” and submit the images to EA. The prize is a “chest of booty” and “dinner and a sinful night with two hot girls”.

So, the first thing I noticed about this contest is that even though it doesn’t say women can’t enter, it’s really only designed for men (and I’ll bet all the winners are guys, even if some women do enter). So… women wouldn’t want to win their games? That’s patently untrue. And supposedly there are more women at Comic Con this year than ever before, so by not including them in this contest they are excluding a pretty big potential customer base.

Worse than making it a contest only designed for men, though, is the fact that it’s such a frightening example of misogyny gone awry. We still live in an inherently patriarchal society and women every day are forced to deal with the ramifications of the male gaze. I know that the male gaze is something that gets disputed a lot, but it really is a real thing. If you want to learn more about what it is, I recommend this great post from Gender Across Borders that explains it. To see how prevalent and scary it can be, I recommend the many, many, Holla Back blogs based in various cities around the world.

EA is not only condoning behavior that dehumanizes women, but they are encouraging and rewarding it. This is socially irresponsible and morally repugnant. I don’t bring up morals a whole lot because I think it’s kind of a dicey subject, but this one kind of pushes me over the edge. We live in a rape culture and this kind of a contest reinforces that. I know that these models likely went into this job knowing about this contest, but I also know that some of the women to take booth babe jobs really need the jobs, regardless of how degrading they are (it’s better than stripping or worse, right?) and that women are told that being objectified is good for them (when we know, scientifically, that it’s not). Saying that it’s ok because they went into it with their eyes open doesn’t make it better.

I’m disgusted by this whole thing. It’s horrifying that in 2009 this kind of thing is still happening. And with things like this going on and girls of gaming issues of Playboy and of gaming magazines and ads where the women are almost naked and posed like pin-up girls we still have the gaming industry wondering why women aren’t playing their games more. Gee… I wonder…

Seriously, the industry can do better. We deserve better. It’s hurting men as well as women and it’s things like this that make me want to stop gaming altogether (or maybe stick to just casual games with no human characters at all). If it really seems like women friendly marketing is so damn hard, try consulting with companies like Womenk!nd who specialize in not only helping marketers reach out to women, but also in tailoring their campaigns not to alienate women. The resources are out there and I’d love to see some more gaming companies using them!

Edit: Michelle from A Midwife in Training also wrote about this and she pointed out that the language on the contest includes any booth babe, not just the ones at EA’s booth. This means that even if the EA models went into this Con knowing about this contest, there are other models who did not that are still being directly affected by this. That makes this even more horrible.

EA has also issued a really pathetic response to the outcry about this contest that basically amounts to “it’s all in good fun, so why the big fuss?”

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