A Dancer’s Thoughts On Microsoft’s GDC Party

Imagine you’re at an after party at a night club full of young professionals.  You’re making conversation with some of the attendees.  One woman at the party is a full time caregiver.  She works double shifts assisting a man with muscular dystrophy.  Another woman is a part time instructor for a privately owned company that runs science clubs after school.  She talks about how excited she is at the rising amount of little girls who sign up each session.  One girl has just started her own small business.  She talks about how much different it is to file taxes when you’re your own boss.  You then cut your eyes to a raised platform.  Atop the platform is another woman.  She shakes and shimmies with a smile on her painted face the entire time.  Her boots are higher than your taxes, and she is wearing something kind of, sort of like a bathing suit except smaller.  She is a dancer at the club.  Which woman do you think has the better career goals?

Have you chosen one yet?  The caregiver, the teacher, the business owner, or the gogo dancer?  Keep her in your mind.  This will all make sense in a couple of paragraphs.

Like many people in the videogame and tech world, I have been following the Microsoft “dancer-gate” story.  If you’re unfamiliar, Microsoft hosted its “Women In Gaming Luncheon last Thursday in San Francisco at Game Developers Conference.  They had an after party at a club in which dancers were hired to perform in miniskirts and white tied crop tops (think Britney Spears in the “Baby One More Time” music video).   Many attendees allegedly took offense to this, including one in particular who threatened to file a complaint with Microsoft because she was made to feel “uncomfortable” by the dancers.  This is after she bombarded one dancer with questions about her “role” at the party.  This prompted Microsoft to issue an apology for the dancers being at the party in the first place.

Many articles covering the issue cite several reasons for how this display was sexist, or anti-feminist.  I want to touch on some of those points, and give my perspective on why I think this situation is unproductive for feminism, and it’s not the argument you think.

Remember when I asked you about the four women at the party and their career goals?  Which did you pick?  What if I told you they were all the same person?  Spoiler alert: they’re all me, and they’re all me currently.  As a woman who has been on both sides of the coin when it comes to this particular situation; I’d have to say that I am disappointed in Microsoft’s handling of this situation from start to finish.  I am also disappointed in the women who claim they are for the empowerment of women, yet are uncomfortable being around women who are providing a service for which they are being paid for.  You know, doing their jobs.

Don’t get me wrong; I think Microsoft could have definitely handled a number of things better.  First of; “sexy” school girl costumes are played out and just plain disgusting.  The sexualization of minors is never okay.  In a setting meant to celebrate and honor women, these costumes couldn’t have missed that mark any more if they tried.  Again; this was not on the dancers, this was on Microsoft.  As a gogo dancer or entertainer, you are given your call time, your performance time(s) and you are expected to wear what your contractor tells you.  If Microsoft wanted performers, there are several ways to provide costuming for the more professional setting that they were going for.

 

ChemicalX

(Left to Right) Myself (Maki Roll), Brookelle Bombshell, Cyraxx, Byndo Gehk and Nick Sektor performing in Baltimore, MD – Photo By: InMotion Photograpy

Next; the issue of the sex of the dancers.  Some articles suggest that if there were male performers to counterbalance the females, there wouldn’t have been as much of an issue.  Let me tell you why this is bullshit.  I’ve found in my experience working in the entertainment industry, people are going to complain no matter what.  I have a residency at a club in Washington, DC which features both male and female performers.  While we are praised for our diversity and overall acceptance of all talent, that doesn’t stop patrons from being assholes.  A lot of our clientele happen to be government workers, business owners and other professionals that are considered by society to be “high end” careers.  That means that when they get drunk, and don’t get their way, they resort to demeaning us performers whom they deem below them.    I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve had to tell a woman she cannot touch my $400 props, only for them to respond “calm down, it’s just a hula hoop” followed by “she probably used her stripper money to buy it” under their breath.  Guess what I have to do? Keep on smiling, even though it hurts.  The men are almost never harassed in such a manner.  They are often highly praised and applauded by these very same women.  Women who believe that empowerment is okay for women if they are aspiring to meet a certain standard within society.  So, when Kamina Vincent asked the gogo dancer what her “role” at the party was; I do not believe it was to gain clarification. I believe it was to belittle her, because clearly she was not dressed as others in the room were.  She was performing the job she was sent there to do.  Her job was to entertain, not be harassed about why she was there.  I guarantee if male performers were there, they would not have been asked that question.

I think so many people are focused on how the women within the gaming industry felt in this particular situation, that they don’t stop to think about how the performers felt.  Often times when we are hired for private events, we become the “other”.  We don’t know anyone there outside of the other performers.  We are expected to show up and do our best to entertain the crowd.  Sometimes, the people who hire us miss the mark completely and are a terrible judge of their audience and we end up entertaining for people who would rather us not be there.  It happens, and it happens often.  Imagine having to put on your best face and performance while staring into a sea of people who are heckling, judgmental or not even paying attention.  It’s a really awful feeling.  I’d imagine this was the case with the women performing at the Microsoft party.  I can only make assumptions, because no one even thought to get their side of the story, because it wasn’t important.  Not with the abundance of women in the gaming industry who felt slighted by other women performing a job that they didn’t think was needed at that moment.  They were just nameless dancers.  Microsoft didn’t feel the need to apologize to them for misjudging their audience and making them uncomfortable.  No; instead they apologized to the women they deemed worthy of an apology.  Where is the feminism in that?

In all of this, there is one lesson to be learned.  Women should be empowered no matter what profession they choose.  Some women do not aspire to be game developers or government workers.  Some women do not want careers in fields that traditionally male dominated.  Some women would rather have careers that rely on their physical and sexual appeal.  That’s okay.  That doesn’t make them any less of a feminist and that does not mean we don’t fight to empower them.  A woman who is an exotic dancer is not below a woman who is a computer programmer, and we need to stop trying to force these beliefs on others.  Not everyone can be a video game developer, and not everyone can be a dancer.  There are very specific skill sets that go into both, and one isn’t any easier or harder than the other.  It is important to realize that in a world that is still very much dominated by men, women need to stick together more than ever.  We don’t have to understand, or even necessarily agree on each other’s career paths, but we should do our best to uplift and push for equality for all women, no matter their profession.

109 responses to “A Dancer’s Thoughts On Microsoft’s GDC Party

  1. While I agree that Microsoft handled this whole thing poorly, yes it is demeaning to the industry women in attendance. The message sent was quite clear: no matter your intelligence, creativity or the enormous contribution you are making in this company, you’re still just a pair of tits and a nice ass.

    • I can see that, and again it was a poor choice in the costuming that was approved. Let me ask you this, do you honestly think that if they had male performers alongside the female performers and they dressed them different that there wouldn’t have been an issue? I’m saying there absolutely would have been because I’ve been in a similar situation before.

      • I think if this was more of a burlesque show it wouldn’t be talked about in the same way, yes. But I also liken it to being a salaryman forced to drink with the boss after hours. Or watching a porno with your parents. It just really isn’t appropriate entertainment for that setting. And we could be having that debate instead, but unfortunately a bunch of industry women were told “this is what I think of you.” As a cosplayer and an incredibly beautiful woman, doesn’t it bother you to spend months (or longer) working on a costume just to get a bunch of compliments of the “nice tits” variety? And of all the functions they could have done this after party for, it’s “women in gaming.” That’s either a really unfortunate bit of timing or a concerted effort to demean.

      • Sure it bothers me, but this happens because men are shitty, not because of my actions or what I chose to wear. The reason this is problematic is because the gaming industry is largely sexist. Yes, okay. By displaying women in attire that made them look as though they were dancing for a frat party, THAT was the problem in the entertainment, not the dancers themselves. Nowhere in any of these articles was there any concern for the mindset or care of these performers who were put in this uncomfortable environment and performed their job where they were unwanted. The focus is completely on how “anti-feminist” this is for the women in the gaming industry. THAT’S what I’m upset about. Microsoft apologized to those women, but not to the dancers.

      • Not that there wouldn’t be an issue– there is always an issue. Someone will always complain, but if Microsoft showed that they actually tried to be inclusive, then it wouldn’t be such a huge deal.

      • “As a cosplayer and an incredibly beautiful woman, doesn’t it bother you to spend months (or longer) working on a costume just to get a bunch of compliments of the “nice tits” variety?”

        I would think Maki Roll get’s more than just creepy shitty guys making comments. My ex was in the cosplay community and she got some shitty comments, but mostly she got some great feedback on her craftsmanship and her presentation of the character, which is what kept her involved in the community for a long time.

      • Would it have been different if there were male dancers? Given that the likely male version of this costume is a guy in a suit, probably not? I know you’ve already said that the costume choice was a huge issue — and it is the thing that really put all this over the top — but I think the costume choice is inescapable in trying to posit whether it would have been different with costumed men there. Had the whole *thing* been presented differently, maybe — but it’s so far under the bridge at this point…

      • I think no one would care about it if were men. Because…men don’t complain about this type of stuff. If I pitched a fit every-time I performed and my ass was grabbed( women and men) and my cock squeezed no one would flinch. Simply we care about these issues with women because of sheer amount of griping that comes with getting what you want when you want it, just right and then to the left; or it becomes a social justice issue.

        I don’t see sexy guys and think ,” golly this degrades me as a man”
        I think, ” Fuck I need to go the gym” But I wont.

        Some women see this and think, ” This degrades ME and ALL women and show hows the PATRIARCHY rules us all I must BITCH ABOUT THIS!”
        or
        ” I’m not as attractive as these women. I hate them and myself” then back to the above line.

      • I cannot speak for all anyone else, but for me as a female game dev it would definitely not have been an issue if there were male performers at the event who were dressed similarly to the women (that is, not more or less sexualized than the women). The reason I thought dancers at the party were inappropriate was specifically because there were female dancers only. The fact that they chose to hire only sexy women speaks loads to the target audience and who they were catering to. If there was a gender balance to the entertainment the message and tone would have been completely different.

      • I have been to many similar parties as a female dev. Never felt any ill-feeling at all against performers of any gender, they just did a job they were paid to do, and to be honest most of them looked like they were not having a great time (I don’t blame them either, I sympathize completely with your stories about harassment; unacceptable). However, the difference in how the organizers chose to costume male and female dancers was ludicrous (assuming they even had male dancers). Men were completely covered-up from neck to shoes, while women were in barely-there hotpants/skirts and bra tops.

        The issue for me and other colleagues was never about the amount of skin being shown, nor the performers themselves, but the extreme gender disparity. It says ‘this party is not for you’ and relegates many female devs and a fair number of male devs to standing around feeling rather awkward. When you are part of a 5% minority (that was lauded as a refreshingly-high percentage back in the day, too), things like this matter. Time and time again, I and my colleagues debated the simple fact that if there had been male and female dancers both at these parties clad in equivalent amounts of clothing, we would have felt far less excluded. I don’t think it would be any more appropriate to just have a bunch of almost-nude male-only performers performing either.

        Thanks for the perspective. It is good to see it from both sides.

    • Wrong. The women at the event weren’t being told by Microsoft that this is what they thought of them. They were being told by Microsoft that this is what the attendees would enjoy as entertainment. This isn’t about you or about women. This is about an executive who completely missed the mark on who the audience was and what they would enjoy. That’s it.

    • Only if you think all women are one entity and not separate individuals with different value and personality. You clearly think the former, that if one woman uses her body and her looks to entertain, that clearly means we think all women are her. No, that’s just you.

      I, and every healthy person, can appreciate what Roberta Williams did for the games industry and I can also appreciate Rosie Jones showing her tits for money.

      Furthermore, I assume if it were male dancers, you wouldn’t think that it would imply “men are only good for their abs”. Because in the west in particular, treating all women as one entity and treating all men as individuals is the way things are. You’re just propagating that. Nobody asked female programmers to get up and dance. They hired comletely separate individual women to dance, because the female programmers are not “just a pair of tits and a nice ass”. If they hired a band of men, would you say “see, all men are good for is playing the guitar and singing”? No. Of course not.

      All I can take from your comment is that you treat women as a collective, and not the individuals that every single one of them is.

    • I doubt any of those microsoft employees have a nice ass or a pair of tits worth talking about. Don’t get mad at paid performers because they’re more attractive than you. Just be psyched they’re making loot off of those jackasses.

    • Any costume would have been considered “poor”, there is never an end to the objections.
      School girl costumes are no more played out than any other sexually tinged costume, the idea that a costume is only acceptable if it becomes sexually aggressive in a way which is off putting for men is really the “played out” issue, we’ve seen enough of the extremely crass and tasteless displays of sexuality seen at events like slut walks.
      As far as I can tell it was an after party during some drunken weekend, this wasn’t at some microsoft business convention booth,
      The entire issue has been blown out of proportion by low skilled feminist activists who’s only involvement in tech is volunteer conference organizing and non technical duties like “proof reading”. Such people do everything they can to raise their own profile by grasping at straws to find an issue to raise some hysteria over. People need to stop taking these trouble makers seriously.

      • While I agree with most of what you said, I do believe personally there is something inherently strange about the sexualization of an outfit meant for prepubescent girls.

      • I disagree with your statement about how this was blown out of proportion by low-skilled feminist activists. That is untrue, some of the women commenting on this are people that I personally know, and can personally vouch for their high skills and leadership in the game industry. Not sure where you are getting your information, but it is wrong.

    • There is more needed than that to be a dancer. Don’t pretend to be informed of something you clearly know nothing about.

    • Exactly. It’s blatant sexual objectification of women. P E R I O D. Whether or not there were male dancers is a moot point because they’re weren’t. I get that sometimes people are uncool to you for doing what you do for a living, but having scantily clad women dancing for people as “entertainment” is, was, and always will be sexist and bad for Feminism. Especially at a “Women in Tech” luncheon. How tone deaf can people be?

  2. Yeah… I have 0 issue with the dancers. None. But the issue I have is the hiring of them in the first place- not that these women shouldn’t have jobs- but the entertainment chosen wasn’t really appropriate given the event. At the very least, sexy schoolgirl was NOT the way to go. Microsoft’s marketing team completely missed the mark.

    • I agree that a different choice in attire, or even performance style, would have been a better way to go. Again, knowing the audience. Microsoft shit the bed when they decided performers dressed as school girls was appropriate for an after party for a women’s luncheon. Instead of apologizing all around, they picked and chose who was worthy of an apology.

      • >Instead of apologizing all around, they picked and chose who was worthy of an apology.

        Did they? Or did they apologise to the women who demanded an apology? I agree that it’s tone-deaf to make the distinction in the first place (this was not the entertainment for this event, and MS should apologise to all affected), but you seem to blame people for not expressing outrage on behalf of the dancers. Unfortunately, we live in a world where women still have to demand apologies for inexcusable male behaviour, and afaik, none of the dancers took to twitter/the socials to demand said apology (I agree they should get one anyway).

      • It is unfortunate, but if we kinda just sit around and say “that’s the way it is” then it will always be that way. If I have a voice and an audience I will always advocate for those who maybe won’t or don’t want to speak up. Who knows; maybe they didn’t even WANT an apology. Even so, I believe they should get one.

      • Are those the ones which leave what looks like a glow trail? Saw one on FB, looks cool.

        On the topic of your post, I thought I’d take a moment to congratulate you on your efforts to increase STEM and business knowledge to girls. The choices made by MS were poor all around in this entire scenario.

      • Too bad Microsoft didn’t hire you to perform your AWESOME hoola hoop routine. That’s kick ass. The news story probably would have gone something more along the lines of “Microsoft Women in Gaming Luncheon Celebrates the Spectrum of Unique Talents”

      • That is a ridiculously cool piece of equipment, and it also definitely illustrates how people in general simply don’t give dancers the credit you all deserve as skilled professional artists.

      • That is awesome – I can understand why someone would want to see it up close, but also why you wouldn’t want to hand it to a drunken stranger.

      • Thanks! It’s extremely hard to explain to said drunken strangers why I don’t want to hand them the hoop lol. They either reply with “no way it’s $400” or “why would you spend $400 on a piece of light up plastic”.

        Same reason why you’d spend $400 on Fantasy Football.

  3. Honestly, considering it was after a women’s conference, it would have made the most sense to have predominantly male dancers. Especially if they’d introduced them with a little self mockery of the usual female eye candy to give the other side the lime light.

  4. I’m the kind of guy who appreciates the dancers more than the executives. My daughter is training to become a dancer and (imho) professional dancing takes a lot more dedication, talent and resolve than getting an MBA. But I’m really just posting here to say OMG THAT HOOP IS AMAZING!

  5. “First of; “sexy” school girl costumes are played out and just plain disgusting. The sexualization of minors is never okay. In a setting meant to celebrate and honor women, these costumes couldn’t have missed that mark any more if they tried. Again; this was not on the dancers, this was on Microsoft”

    You took the job and I’m sure you took the money. You don’t also get a high horse. Sorry, but you ARE part of the problem with this situation.

      • (In response to Maki in response SeriouslyNow. Sorry, my mobile browser’s not saying if this will post to the right place.)

        Okay, even if you were one of the dancers there, you basically covered this point already… It’s by no means a High-Horse to be uncomfortable with a job that you’re contracted to do. For all we know, maybe some of the dancers at this Microsoft thing WEREN’T pleased with the outfits or the choice of audience. But their discomfort was assumed a non-issue by MS. Isn’t that what you were getting at when SeriouslyNow came did the same thing?

        Shitty/skeevy event planning “comes with the territory”, sure, but that’s not the same as “having it coming”.

      • Actually did you not say you were “all of the girls” when asked career expectations?

    • Actually you are part of the problem b/c you’re saying the dancers in this scenario are part of the problem for doung what they’re paid to do. They didn’t choose the outfit–they showed up for work and honored a contractual agreement. By saying the dancers are part of the problem you’re proving the point the article is making.

    • The event was not created to honor and celebrate women. Women happened to be there because they also went to GDC. It was simply a party. That’s all the context you need to know. I’m not sure why anyone is offended by someone dancing for money in 2016.

      MS held a conference about Women in Gaming but that was a separate event.

    • I’m sure whatever fantasy world you live in in which all jobs grow on trees and you have absolute freedom as to which jobs you work and which you don’t is wonderful, but for the rest of us living in reality, you do the job you are tasked with doing or your arse is fired and then good luck paying rent that month. It is only the position of the monumentally privileged to believe that people get this level of choice and can choose their particular scruples over a regular paycheque, particularly when on “The Worlds big list of problems tier-list”, schoolgirl dancers are right near the bottom.

      This post comes off as the kind of body/sexy-shaming that outrage warriors love to bring to the table, while simultaneously claiming to be on the side of women. Nah, if you’re on the side of women, you pay attention to what they have to say, not what they have to wear.

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  9. I’m all for the empowerment of women, because even most women in power are still dragged down by society. With that said, I don’t like the generalization of “men are shitty” or “men suck”. Why can’t it be “most men” or similar. It’s all about treating people the way you wanna be treated. Best saying ever in my opinion. Does that mean you always have to be kind when someone is being a dick? No, cause it goes both ways. Obviously they want to be treated poorly, so they’re treating you poorly. Feminism is fine for women empowerment, but I feel like the other side of it is becoming “down with men”. It shouldn’t be like that. Rising up to equals should be the end goal Feminism. Anyways, that’s all I’ve got. Great article!

  10. This was awesome to read.
    I don’t know if it sounds phony to say this, but I’d really enjoy hanging out with you and your co-workers just to shoot the shit, y’know? I honestly enjoy hearing about other people’s experiences and any dreams for the future (having chased mine, I assume others get as giddy as I do when they’re asked about them).
    We’re all human and we all work. Perhaps someday everyone will accept that fact and we can all just get along as peers on Earth.
    Thanks for being you!

  11. It’s not the dancer’s fault and I actually agree, if they want/can make a career out of being beautiful and sexy, they have every right to. It doesn’t make them beneath me.
    But I work in an industry that treats women poorly. Women are underpaid, underrepresented and harassed on a regular basis. Women in the games industry are in a battle for fair and equal treatment. We want the world to see us as programmers and designers, not as sex objects. That’s literally not what I’m there for and not what I do.
    So when I attend a professional conference, yes I am extremely uncomfortable when women are hired to put on a sexual display. Again, I’m not upset at the dancers, they’re important people too. But to be blatantly reminded by industry people that women are more important for their body than for their skillset, that’s incredibly upsetting.

    You do you girl, maybe I’ll catch a show someday. But I’m still gonna bitch out any executive that thinks putting women on sexual display in a professional setting is appropriate.

    • No I definitely agree. The thing was, I believe it was very much an error even in the choosing of the venue. If it was meant to be a professional after party, maybe not hold it in a night club with blaring music? My issue is Microsoft taking one woman’s stance, which was a problematic stance in how she approached a dancer, and using it as the catalyst for their “apology”. I believe their apology was very one sided and insincere.

      • I agree with you. Microsoft should not have hired go-go dancers at all – the party should have been held in a more neutral venue (maybe a pub style bar instead of a dance club), and of course I don’t blame the dancers – who were just doing their jobs. However, apologizing to the people that they hired as entertainers seems a bit much to expect a company who prides themselves on being a faceless, soulless, mega-corporation.

      • Agreed. It’s a fleeting thought, I know. Still, if we just ignore it and expect it, it’s going to continue to happen. The least we can do is be advocates!

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  13. Thank you for writing this! (I follow your work on Facebook, by the way. Your cosplay is amazing!) You’re absolutely right; the dancers were put into a terrible position by Microsoft, and they deserve an apology just as much as the women who were made to feel as though their contributions as programmers weren’t valued. And you’re right in saying that the women who demeaned and humiliated the dancers deserve to apologize as well.

    I would say that’s still patriarchal thinking at work–the women who were there as part of the function felt like they needed to preserve their social status in a male-dominated event by differentiating themselves from the entertainers, and the only way they could find to do that was to verbally abuse them. That doesn’t make it right, of course, but I suspect that was the underlying thought process behind berating young women who were just doing the job they’d been hired to do.

    Um…sorry, not much to say beyond, “You’re right and thank you for sharing this with us.”

  14. The word “misogynist” I think would have been better to describe the would-be feminist in your article show people there is a difference in the vocabulary we use. Educate that feminism is not a bad word or a bad thing and that EVERYONE should be a feminist. I feel that this is an issue, if you use a word to describe both woman who have prejudices in regard to each other and those who truly believe in gender equality as a whole than you are not doing much to help the feminist movement. I am sorry if this come off critical, that is not my intention what-so-ever I feel your article was very well written and I appreciate the time you took to do it. If we all had a mind set like yours the world would be a better place keep doing what makes you happy!
    From one woman to another, I admire you!

    I am leaving these here so no one has to go look for the definition

    MISOGYNIST – the dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women.

    MISANDRIST – a person who dislikes, despises, or is strongly prejudiced against men.

  15. found a typo in this excellent article; you should find and replace and edit to replace ‘How much difficult” with “how difficult,” feel free to delete this comment

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  17. I read quite a few pieces and a LOT of comments that actually focused on the two points of 1. It is incredibly unprofessional – this was a business event and sexual events (even if it’s just guys and gals shaking their butts) is inappropriate in a business setting, and 2. That the dancers were doing their job and people commenting had zero issue with the fact there were female dancers making a living.
    It gave me hope and pleased me that so many were aware the presence of dancers is not an issue, but rather the circumstances surrounding the situation.

    Yes, the dancers were unfairly ignored, but unless they were there against their will, in this one instance, it is not as stark or illustrative compared to the wider issue of rank game industry hypocrisy. Of course there are issues pertaining to their situation and involvement, but I don’t feel that commenting on one specific aspect of this shit show negates those problems. More that by focusing on something that readily illustrates said hypocrisy of provides a more easily portrayed situation, and this situation in particular.

  18. First off nice hula hoop. Enjoyed watching your video. Second i completely agree withyou,but I also feel some people get a little to but hurt in this day and age.

  19. Clearly having dancing girls at the party was inconsistent with Microsoft’s branding and with its new attempts at being inclusive. And it is reasonable to feel offended at the branding choice, especially when all companies are trying to make women feel more safe and welcome in the industry. And yet, there was a time in my life when I made money by dancing shirtless in plether pants. (Surprise.) In my theatrical production career, I have personally worked with hundreds of dancers, male and female, and I know how smart they are. Inclusiveness is a good and noble goal. Most of the dancers are smart and multi-skilled people who are making a little money with a side job. I’ve made more than a few bucks dancing this way, and I have a computer science degree from Harvard. The notion of “inclusiveness” has many facets… While I absolutely recognize everyone’s right to not have to witness entertainment they find objectionable, I simultaneously hope everyone to understand that dancers and models shouldn’t be excluded, stereotyped, demonized or thought to be lesser or incapable people. There are more of them in the game industry than you might realize. Thank you for listening.

  20. I want to start by saying that I consider myself a sex-positive feminist, and I do agree that there’s nothing wrong (and everything right) with being an exotic dancer. I’m glad that you find empowerment in this industry, and I wish I could be as confident as you. I also want to mention that some of my close friends are sex workers, and while I’ve learnt a lot about things from them, I’m also still learning and I might get some things wrong here. Finally, I myself am a queer woman and an amateur game developer, and one who doesn’t necessarily feel safe in the games industry for a lot of reasons.

    However, like some other commenters have mentioned, the issue in my eyes isn’t so much that “exotic dancers are bad raaagghghh”, but more that it wasn’t a suitable form of entertainment for the event. With all due respect, the games industry has a serious image problem, where games are generally believed to be nothing but guns, fast cars, and sexually-objectified women. Women in gaming have been fighting hard to show that video games aren’t just a hobby for teenaged boys, but also a serious, mature and diverse art medium for people of all ages, genders, orientations, races, etc.

    So despite all that women in gaming have done to make the video games more diverse and inclusive, the fact that someone at Microsoft thought that it was perfectly acceptable to have exotic dancers dressed as schoolgirls at a professional event shows that the games industry still has a long way to go, because the assumption still seems to be that video games are exclusively for horny men and boys, and that women exclusively exist in video games to be eye candy for men, which I’m you and I can both agree is not true and shouldn’t be the case.

    Again, I agree with you that exotic dancing is great (after all what’s more feminist than owning your body, right?), I just don’t think it’s suitable for this event. For that reason my beef is with Microsoft, not with you or your peers. I believe that we need to fight the harmful stigma against exotic dancing (and sex work in general), but you can’t force other people to find the same empowerment in it that you do. If you wanna call that being prudish, that’s fine, I’m not looking to change your mind, but I figured as a woman in gaming myself I should at least weigh in on this.

  21. So I have to admit, this is the only article I’ve read on this subject, as my news intake is a bit intermittent some days.
    I found your article well thought out, and an enjoyable read. Personally, I feel that it’s your kind of thought process that our species is in seriously short supply of.

    People are so quick to judge everything by their own preconceived notions, that it often leads to them pushing their beliefs on others. I get that we can’t push our beliefs on them any more than the reverse is true, but it shouldn’t be pushy to expect them to have respect for others. Even if they disagree with that person’s choices.

    Thank you again Maki for an excellent read. 😀

  22. Miss Maki, the people want to be outraged. NOBODY WANTS YOUR “FACTS.”

    I think it’s fair for the women who attended these two events to be upset at the mixed messages Microsoft was sending. It has nothing to do with the lack of male dancers – it is a problem with stereotypes.

    It would be like if there were an event for stay-at-home dads, saying it is okay to take care of your children and let your wife have a successful career, and then the afterparty was a Die Hard marathon… at a NASCAR race… where each of the men has to sit in the backseat while a Fortune 500 (male) CEO drives.

    So yeah. Microsoft screwed up. It’s not the fault of the dancers, and it’s completely unjust to attack them, but at the same time I don’t really think the dancers are owed an apology (from Microsoft).

    That lady could be nicer, though.

    Any that’s a sweet hula hoop.

  23. She says, “Let me tell you why this is bullshit…” but she never does. She just infers “people are going to complain, no matter what”. I don’t think that follows. The stuff I have read is not attacking the dancers in any way. It’s about the company hiring dancers and putting them in schoolgirl uniforms but this writer blames the women at the conference. I think this writer is projecting and making this a “women attacking women” thing when it is not. If anything, this writer is attacking women. This seems pretty unfair to me. “So, when Kamina Vincent asked the gogo dancer what her “role” at the party was; I do not believe it was to gain clarification. I believe it was to belittle her,” Talk about projection. This writer spends a lot of time projecting ugly emotions onto the women at the is conference and not very much time at all trying to understand where they’re coming from. It’s pretty hypocritical complaining about women not supporting women while being so unsupportive of the women this conference was supposed to actually be for.

  24. If there were more people in the world like you
    It would be a less shit place.
    My friend is, amongst other things, a burlesque dancer. From what she has told me some of the worst comments she receives about body image and ‘career choice’ come from woman.
    Equality isn’t about woman being brain surgeons or managing directors and ONLY those ‘important ‘jobs. It’s about letting a person be the best at what they want to do, without judgement.

  25. I am trying to teach my daughters the difference between political correctness and true feminism. Being a father, I would be very proud if my daughters grow up to be as thoughtful, smart and feminist as you seem to be (I don’t know you; judgement instilled by reading this post; apologies if I am projecting).
    Congrats on posting this text. I could not agree more.
    I wish you a lot of success in all your endeavours.

  26. Okay, first off I like the writing on this piece. Still has the general ” its soooo much harder for women than men” slant but hey it’s an opinion piece.

    As a performer and as a man and as a guy who likes women and as a guy who is constantly bombarded by T&A and as a person trapped in a society that’s rapidly turning more self entitled and whiny everyday. Who really cares about these dancers or the people offended?

    We praise young starlets for “tiny bikini” photos. Love pop stars overt in your face sexuality. Applaud for reavling dresses and scream and shout when the man tells women to put on more clothes. I can go a week without a post of some half naked women with a high amount of body fat telling me that “large is beautiful”. So what the real complaint here?

    Out one side we promote sexuality and near nudity for our young girls and women ( see through yoga pants low low rise jeans torn tops with side boobs for tweens and teens) and call that sexual progress and empowerment, then we chastise the company for hiring a bunch of empowered women to dance at a function?

    So are we praising womans liberation or are we damning men for enjoying it? Or is the whole thing just a fucking mess of people bitching self righteously?

    It seems like Women need to have a meeting and YOU ALL need to agree what we should and shouldn’t do. Then you can come to the world and tell us. Because what I’m hearing is bunch of double standard mixed messages.

    Seems to me this whole issue with what’s feminist and whats not is so damn person to person that talking about it publicly is like arguing the finer points of religion…no one has the right answers. And I’ll be so sad when this world turns into a PC place of people afraid to express themselves outta of fear of repercussions from the offended and butt hurt. If you dont like school girls dancing…..dont go. If you feel like it’s degrading to women then YOU shouldn’t take the job. If you want to see male dancers at a party start your own company or book club and hire male dancers. ( but what about the trans community OMG I forgot to mention them I must be trans-phobic)

    In a world where young girls are being kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery and = of all the horrors we can be vocal about and draw attention to the fact that this has so much steam shows how fickle and shallow these ” social rights” advocates really are.

    this isnt about betterment or even an enlightened sexual era.

    it’s about pitching a hissy fit and having an issue that makes a tantrum seem like a valid argument.

  27. Maki Roll,

    I think I agree with about 90% of everything you said in your article.

    As a former worker in the adult industry, but as a manager and a man, I got to be privy to a lot of co-workers’ thoughts on the things you brought up.

    I didn’t quite get that all of the women in your hypothetical were you, but I couldn’t really answer which woman had the best career goals, because part of the nature of the beast of the adult industry is that most everyone on the performing side is on their way to something else. I mean, there are a few people that want to make a career performing, but you can only be on the performing side for so long, because not only is time the enemy, but familiarity is too; in short, everybody loves the new girl/boy.

    The best that a performer can hope to do is to be so famous that they make a ton of money and expertise and put them both into becoming their own mogul. Hell, maybe they even return like the McRibb every now and then for their diehard fans.

    Anyway, guess the only thing that I disagreed with you about was why Microsoft apologised. It wasn’t because they only felt that the opinions of the “professional” women mattered. Even if everyone at Microsoft felt no wrong-doing in this affair, I guaranty that there would be, and were, “experts” that said that the best way to handle it was to apologise to EVERY square out there. In fact, I would say that if you made a Top Ten of people that Microsoft did have in mind when they apologised, that “professional women” would be somewhere between 5 and 10…at best.

    As for the choice of attire for the dancers, I agree that it wasn’t the best choice. Things like that are best left for privacy. It’s all good fun when your woman gets to play the bad student, and you get to play the paperboy that really needs to earn a tip IN THE PRIVACY OF YOUR OWN HOMES.

    Anyway, ‘great article. As a writer for my own website, I know how I wish that folks would comment on MY SITE, rather than on the social media that was used to share it, so here’s my comment right here. 🙂

    Take care.

  28. “I am also disappointed in the women who claim they are for the empowerment of women, yet are uncomfortable being around women who are providing a service for which they are being paid for. You know, doing their jobs.”

    First – it wasn’t just women who were made uncomfortable by the dancers and the costumes. So your disappointment is only reserved for the women who complained?

    Second – check your sources. The woman at the center of this made it very clear over Twitter that there was no judgement, issue taken, or disrespect towards the dancers or their choice of job and this was echoed by others who were there. The people who made the complaint are feminists and champions of diversity in the industry and their frustration was solely pointed at Microsoft.

    Really disappointed by your fixed pie approach to feminism that led to all of your incorrect assumptions, and a lot of your energy spent being angered and indignant towards the women who are on your side.

    • My article was about women empowering women, so yes….I was addressing women. Why does feminism always have to be about pointing fingers at MEN for doing something wrong. I’ve checked my sources AND I’ve actually spoken with Ms. Vincent, and saying “I believe” means that yes it was my assumption. I wasn’t angered by anything, just giving my thoughts which is entirely in my right. I am a blogger, not a news source. Have a nice day 🙂

  29. Very well-written and an insightful look at the other side of the coin that the media seems to happily ignore. You’re an intelligent person and I hope you don’t catch too much flak from people who are hoping to feel superior by way of ‘looking out for your best interest’.

  30. Fantastic thoughts on the intersection of profession, feminism, sexuality, and shaming. I had no idea this situation even took place before a friend linked to your article. I clicked through and read Kamina Vincent’s initial response and was horrified to hear what she said to the dancer and can only imagine what her tone & tenor was like. Ugh.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  31. Read this as not directed personally at you, but at the fact that you’re saying the dancers are blameless in the situation. Agreeing to dress in a “sexy schoolgirl” outfit for your job clearly helps to promote the oversexualization of minors.

  32. Excellent article. Having people close to me that have been dancers, it’s incredibly aggravating when they are demeaned or considered “less than” because of other people’s morality or body choices. People need to learn the difference between sexism and someone choosing to do something you personally just don’t like. (IE. Women getting equal pay for equal work

  33. I don’t think this issue is about shaming the workers for “just doing their jobs”–it’s about shaming Microsoft for holding a company event that was so wildly inappropriate. I don’t want to attend any event that has sexual undertones or that involves the objectification of anybody, as part of my professional life. I also don’t think that the entertainment workers deserve sympathy for feeling scorn from uncomfortable audience members–these audience members were victims of a very bad plan on the part of Microsoft and have absolutely nothing to apologize for. (Beyond that, nobody who requires validation from a crowd should go into the performance business–audience appreciation is never a guarantee.)

    • …..So did you read my article before you commented or did you want to say something you thought was smart. Saying no one should go into the entertainment industry if they want validation from the audience is nonsense. As a performer, you feed off of crowd energy. Not every night is going to be lively or fun, but ultimately you DO want that validation for something awesome you did. Just like you’d want in any other job. The venue ITSELF was highly inappropriate, as there is nothing professional about a night club with blaring music. How was a woman being objectified because she was dancing? That could have only happened IF there were men there objectifying them, in which case it STILL isn’t them, it’s the men. What you said is baseless and classest and you’re exactly the woman I am talking about who comes into a club after work then gets drunk and calls dancers strippers.

  34. look im a female gamer gogo dancers never bothered me , im also a raver and was a club promoter years ago. While i think Microsoft was dumb for having dancers wearing school girl costumes, the night was Empowering women and honestly i have never met a gogo dance that wasnt exactly where she wanted to be. It is fun an freeing and honestly who are we to say that its demeaning, the woman at the event should have not said anything. Not comfortable? walk away. school girl outfits aside i would have been stoked to be there. To bad some people had sticks up their asses 😦

  35. awesome article – thank you for enlightening me to your perspective! I would never have thought to see it that way before reading your post. Must say I agree with your points. Also, that’s an dope hula hoop!!!

  36. Pingback: After-Effects: The “Problem” of Dancers at a GDC After-Party | Playing at Leadership: Games, Gaming, & Leadership Studies·

  37. Great Article! I am curious on what your thoughts are for women in the porn or exotic or even just the entertainment industry in general. While it is true that “A woman who is an exotic dancer is not below a woman who is a computer programmer…” Women are sometimes type casted into a submissive role that shown only to please men, and are often portrayed as a “Bitch” if they are acting like a typical man. It’s only typical if women are using their sex appeal for advantage. Should there be a consensual fine line that woman should say no to and help each other on or do you think it’s all subjective?

    • Thanks! I think it largely depends on the case. I’m not sure if you followed the whole James Deen debacle last Fall/Winter, but that really shed light on the porn industry and how safe it is for women. Deen is back to working, and while a few porn stars spoke up, there were many who either didn’t want to speak on it, or basically said since it didn’t happen to them that the industry was safe. Personally, I only follow queer, women’s advocacy porn. So nothing like Bang Bros, Brazzers or Evil Angel. I love when women have agency in the porn they’re doing and when it’s authentic. I think lots of the porn that’s out now is sadly catered to men, who love seeing women in submissive roles. Nothing WRONG with it, but it’s a disturbing trend that is still the majority in mainstream porn.

  38. You are also assuming that one woman’s questioning of the dancer represents what all women at Microsoft think. People do care about how the dancers were treated, maybe one woman asked those questions, but countless more asked what about those dancers. Most women don’t look down on each other please don’t assume that it is true across the board.

  39. This is an important perspective and a lot of important points are raised. I totally support women being able to make their own choices and do what they want. As is the case with many situations when it comes to gender, there is definitely a double standard for exotic dancers — men can do it and be celebrated (see Magic Mike) but if women do it they’re slutty. Most of the women complaining about the dancers being at the party were not angry at the dancers or looking down at them — they were angry at Microsoft for making a shitty choice that made all the women involved upset and marginalised. And, the worst comments about the dancers I saw actually came from men. The issue that is missed in this article is that women in the games industry for so many years have been sexualised and objectified, and treated as other. Both in the workforce and how they’re represented in video games. In many video games, you’ll see fully clothed male protagonists, and half naked women who are just there to be eye candy for male players. This is a critical context for understanding why seeing only sexualised women at a professional networking event is so upsetting to women in the industry. Really, the core issue here is women face double standards and shitty treatment in many industries — the games industry and exotic dancing just to name two. Women and those who support equality need to stick together. We are all arguing and fighting for the same thing. Equality, respect and fairness for everyone regardless of gender, career choice etc etc.

  40. While I appreciate your point, these men with “high end” careers belittle EVERYBODY around them – women AND men. The stereotype you depict are assholes by nature to both sexes – from the female dancer they disrespect to the male employees who slave for their company. They just happen to be 2 different jobs.
    BOTH sexes look up to them because they hold the money and the power.
    You could argue the same thing for popular women who shoo away the thousands of inferior fanboys who look up to them.
    While these few “high end” career assholes are derogatory to women, the mass majority of men are looking UP to women in awe. To men, women are amazing, and we want you – that’s why we approach you and act like idiots trying to impress you. Because we suck, and you are better. This is why feminism makes no sense to most of us. We are not that Wolf of Wall Street guy, or that Hunky-Herpes Douchebag at the dance club – we hate those assholes too!
    We are looking UP to you and admiring you in ways that feminists clearly don’t understand.

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