Thursday, May 16, 2013

Prosie, the Riveting

Hi folks!

You might have found this blog because you've read a write-up about the Brosie the Riveter joke that my buddy Sam Kirk and I played at our company, the write-up of which was originally hosted on The Hawkeye Initiative. To our surprise and pleasure, it went viral. :) It wound up on sites like Kotaku, PC Gamer, and Wired. There's an interview with me up on Wired, too, here.

This is a blog I've used from time to time in the past. It has been mostly for data science rants, sometimes for silly things. The Hawkeye Initiative blog post was my first posting about gender issues. You can follow me on twitter, where I also post rarely, here: @K2_said. If you want to contact Sam or myself, you can do so through Twitter, through Sam Kirk's site, or through the Hawkeye Initiative.

I might blog/tweet more now! But man it takes up hella time.*, ** So we shall see.


* Including troubleshooting why some of the older formatting on this blog is hosed.
** Oh, you heard me right. I said: "hella."

Artist/collaborator Sam Kirk on (ahem) Brosie the Riveter :)

Possibly the most positive thing about this Brosie experiment – right up there with Mark Long’s amazing response, and the internet’s equally positive response – has been working with Sam Kirk. For the first few months after I had the idea, I didn’t think I’d find an artist with the talent and the sense of humor to make it work. But when I asked around, there he was, right in my own company! And Sam’s involvement fundamentally changed the idea for the better. Beyond his raw talent, Sam had this marvelous instinct for making the satire warm and friendly. It was Sam who suggested the Meteor Entertainment cultural in-jokes that are hidden in the picture. (For example, Brosie’s face is from one of our beloved co-workers.)  And better yet, Sam is fucking hilarious. For about a month (late nights and weekends for Sam, which he did totally pro bono), we passed proofs back and forth, drunk on funny.

Sam and I share a lot of values, not only on gender politics (which is remarkable enough), but also on the importance of collaboration. As such, I’d like to hand Sam the microphone for a bit to respond to some of the same questions that WIRED asked me. Take it away, Sam:

I'd love to hear your thoughts about the reaction to the piece so far. Why do you think it's gotten such a positive and viral response? 

SK: I’m shocked by the scope and velocity of the reaction, but I’m not surprised by the tone. We’ve seen this topic bring out the worst in people, especially in venues that house cowardice the way comment streams can. Discussions break down quickly when people’s sensitivities are threatened. But in this case, we introduced a typically charged subject in an absurdly disarming way. When the discussion must pause for the chuckles, it’s a lot easier to take the parallelism of the two posters at face value and question how someone could be so caught off guard by one, and not by the nearly identical one.

Have you experienced any backlash because of the story (or the prank) online or in real life?

SK: Meteor is full of reasonable people; I’ve not experienced any backlash. Online you can see the occasional pseudonymous flame, but most of the exchange has been encouraging. Even stalwart opposition to the prank has been spoken with some stint of tact.

What I’m curious about is the conversation that isn’t documented. Throughout most of the online comments, preconceptions persist and there’s a dearth of flipped bits. But we don’t know what unfolds once readers turn from their screens and interact with people in person.  We’ll have to punk Mark again next year and compare the chatter to measure the change.

What would you say to other video game companies that want to do better with their approach to gender, both in terms of their games and their female employees/office environment?

SK: I think it comes down to individuals as much as the company.  In working with K2 I was reminded that it’s worth speaking up in the face of some heinous imbalance, even I don’t feel personally affected by it. It’s embarrassingly rudimentary in hindsight, but this process has been a welcome nudge. Coercion often comes in a trickle, not a downpour. By remaining active consumers of our environment and influences we can take a whole lot more from them, and dish a whole lot more back.

One thing Meteor does exceedingly well is foster a lively environment for healthy discourse. From top to bottom, idiosyncrasies are appreciated, if not nurtured.  For the most part, people don’t take themselves too seriously. I think that’s really important. We only accomplish anything together, so it pays to let your guard down and listen.

That said, I think my best advice would be to hire outspoken women. 

[K2] Sam and guys like him have changed my perspective on feminism. May they always join us behind the podium.