Where is the invisible line drawn?

Meghan Murphy detects some incoherence in the libertarian feminist approach to “sex work.”

Surprise! Gaming is a sexist industry that pornifies women. Through a particularly hypocritical post, even for Jezebel, it has come to light that Microsoft hired women in sexualized Catholic schoolgirl outfits to dance at an afterparty hosted by Xbox in San Francisco during last week’s Game Developer Conference.

Photo published for Microsoft Actually Had "Erotic Schoolgirl" Dancers at its GDC Party - CraveOnline

Welcome to the industry, laydeez.

One woman who attended the party, named Kamina Vincent, a producer at an Australian games studio, told Jezebel that she spoke to one of the “dancers,” who told her “they had been hired to speak with attendees and encourage them to the dance floor.” Vincent correctly pointed out, “Decisions like these reinforce that women are decoration instead of a part of the industry.” You know, just like the video games themselves do, and just like pornography itself does: position women as decorative things for men to look at, use, and abuse, but never to view as full, equal human beings.

Brianna Wu, a video game developer who has been subjected to ongoing harassment by the man-children of Gamergate, told Jezebel:

“The problem is not the women. I am a sex-positive feminist and so are most women in the game industry… They are just trying to make a living. The issue is, this is wildly inappropriate at a professional networking event.”

Indeed. And so with that, we are left to wonder what, exactly, is an appropriate space for women to be paid to sexualize teen girls for the titillation of men? Both Wu and Jezebel, as a whole, are supporters of the sex industry — they advocate to legalize prostitution and treat pornography as something empowered women “choose.”

So they’re trying to have it both ways, are they? Saying it’s cool in general to position women as decorative things for men to look at and fuck but not cool to do that at a tech afterparty? If it’s cool in general why isn’t it cool at a tech afterparty?

Murphy shares some tweets by Brianna Wu saying how great sex work and Playboy are, and how sex-positive and pro-sex work and pro sexual empowerment she is.

The analysis doesn’t fly. As I wrote earlier this month, you can’t have both objectification and liberation. You can’t say that turning women into sexualized objects for male pleasure contributes to inequality and excludes women from participation in traditionally male-dominated spaces (i.e. life) but then say it’s totally acceptable in other spaces and, more generally, in society-at-large. Where is the invisible line drawn?

As Wu’s colleague, Anita Sarkeesian, points out, objectification dehumanizes women — not just some women, but all women. Treating women as things that exist for men normalizes male entitlement, which, in turn, creates rape culture and, more generally, a misogynist society.

How’s that worked out so far?


4 Responses to “Where is the invisible line drawn?”