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Video Gaming Company Fires One Woman for Calling Other Women ‘Pretty’

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I literally cannot with these people. A group of well-intentioned yet totally-misguided video gamers, are hurting the very cause they purport to champion. This week, at a giant video game conference in Poland, the social media manager for the conference announced a panel discussion for female game developers with the following tweet:

And then she got fired for it.

Yes, seriously.

Twitter was quick to let the Game Industry Conference (GIC) know that gamers weren’t about to stand by and have their professional women fielding insults such as “pretty.”

Jakub Marszałkowski‏, the organizer of the event, was apparently so affected by the “pretty” tweet and the resulting backlash that he threw the zero-tolerance policy into overdrive. Marszalkowski fired Eve Poznan, who posted the original tweet, and issued a statement including the following:

“As the head of the Game Industry Conference (GIC) I am humbly asking you to accept my deepest apologies for what we all agree was unacceptable, disrespectful and sexist tweet and replies by our Twitter trainee. Her opinions are her own and are not representative of GIV or those of female developers, who attended the conference.”

Legally-speaking, GIC was probably well within its rights to fire Poznan; it is a private company and considering that Poznan’s faux pas related directly to her job as social-media director, the firing raises no red flags from a legal perspective. People generally, and social media directors specifically should be held accountable for what they say and how they say it. From the common-sense perspective, however, this incident should be promptly filed under “Give Me A Break.”

I am the first to acknowledge that too often, professional women are judged more for their looks than for their accomplishments. It’s shallow and obnoxious, and it goes on in every work environment from supermarkets to law firms, from hospitals to factories, and everywhere in between. In fact, I agree wholeheartedly with the twitter critics, calling attention to the tone-deaf nature of the use of the word “pretty” in what was clearly meant to be an enthusiastic introduction of successful women in the typically male-dominated field of gaming technology. But sometimes, it should just end there; gaffe, followed by commensurate criticism, the end. By escalating this to a “zero-tolerance policy,” and to a termination of employment, GIC is doing a disservice to the very women it is very loudly vowing to empower.

For starters, let’s be serious. Poznan’s tweet was hardly something warranting anyone’s “deepest apologies.” It was a bad choice of words, but it’s one far more reflective of our world’s obsession with physical appearance than it was of one person’s disrespect or sexism. If the goal is for people to pay attention to language and the power of their words, the wrong way to do it is to completely ignore context.

There are people out there saying truly awful things about women every day. In fact, today is the anniversary of the day our nation learned that our would-be president bragged about grabbing women, “by the pussy,” because when the grabber is a celebrity, “they just let you do it.” By attempting to equate a badly-drafted tweet clearly intending to compliment successful women (albeit in kind of a stupid way) with truly misogynistic language, GIC has done nothing more than embolden onlookers to whine that professional chicks are a bunch of whiny bitches who can’t even take a compliment, much less a joke. The story of professional woman as sour-faced battle-axe offended by everything is one that strikes at the heart of feminism; it grants permission to dismiss the many valid criticisms of gender inequality and insensitivity in the workplace. As always, if everything is offensive, then nothing is. If casually using the word “pretty” to call positive attention to a women’s technology event is an unforgivable offense, then where does sexual harassment fall on that same spectrum?

Sometimes, a simple statement saying, “sorry, we’ll do better next time,” is worth a thousand zero-tolerance policies.

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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