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The Yetizen Party
by Noah Falstein on 03/13/12 02:04:00 pm   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


The following is what I just posted on "The Fellowship of GDC Parties" group in Facebook, where a discussion has grown around the half-naked models at the Yetizen party at GDC last week.

I really actively dislike being in the midst of controversy, so I say this with reluctance.  But as I’ve been a Yetizen mentor and speaker, a supporter of what Sana and Japeth are doing, and also a man who has always pushed for the inclusion of more women in the game industry, an active contributor to various Women in Games movements/discussions, a father of a now 21-year-old daughter, and saw the Yetizen party first-hand, I find I am in the midst of a conflict and must speak up.

I am not a believer in black and white issues about body image and sexism.  I think it’s all a continuum, you’ll always find people more extreme than you in any direction, and context is very important.  That said, I think the women wearing only body paint from the waist up at a games industry party, literally on the arm of one of the founders of the company, sends a very destructive image. 

I find it all the more personally frustrating as when I met Sana at a GDC before Yetizen, two (or was it three?) years ago, I instantly recognized her as one of the new generation of women in game development, working on an equal basis with men, competent and smart.  When she co-founded Yetizen, and I met Japeth, who I instantly liked as well, I was happy to help them by mentoring new startups. 

But topless women as arm candy (I’m only addressing this as I didn’t see the other “entertainment”) sends the message that women are pretty sex objects, it’s the men who are in charge and don’t you forget it, sweetie.  Yes, objectifying women for the entertainment of men has been around for a long time and exists at many levels of society, including some of high finance.  You could say the same thing about racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia, that’s not a reason to perpetuate them.

I ran into one woman at the party who headed up a startup I mentored, and the expression on her face as the topless models walked by was painful.  I don’t think I’m being sexist here - if it had been Sana walking by with her arms around two men wearing jockstraps and blue paint I’d have been equally uncomfortable. 

I also ran into a friend, a respected speaker and president of a game company with 20 years industry experience, and she confirmed to me her active outrage. Tiny sample, yes - but they were in fact the only women at the party I knew.  Clearly from the statements here (FB) and on other mailing lists, there were MANY others who felt the same way.

Yetizen is a young company, and people make mistakes.  But denying that this IS a mistake, and publicly defending it with comments about how it’s the only way to get big investors, and the defenses I’m seeing here sounds to me a lot like what Rush Limbaugh recently did, and with similar consequences.  I’m reluctantly cancelling my upcoming Yetizen mentor talk on March 26th, and withdrawing my support from the company, pending a change of heart.  I urge my fellow mentors to do the same.

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Jonathan Ghazarian
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I appreciate your decision and hope that more people think about issues like this.

Mikael Saker
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Hats off to you!

Brian Robbins
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Well said Noah. This sort of overt sexuality doesn't have a place in our industry, and I think it's only been made worse by their defense of it. Trying to defend these choices by saying it was necessary to bring in the right kind of people to me, is almost worse than having it in the first place. Thanks for taking a stand.

David Navarro
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I fully agree with your decision, Noah. It's the right thing to do, and it sends the right message.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Romy Ilano
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1. Why weren't half the nude people there men?
2. I was considering speaking with yetizen but now I'm grossed out. I don't think any cool women worth talking to would want to deal with yetizen afte rthis.
3. as a woman working in games, having a smart woman on board doesn't really mean a lot. often companies do this as a token measure, so it's the same old same old. sana is really cool though. but her participating is invalidated with stuff like this.
4. yetizen is an incubator that probably wants to attract cool female entrepreneurs, many of whom are straight. i'm so confused. why wouldn't they want to appeal to this demographic? this move screams "Stay the hell away!"
5. i have no problem with nudity... just why weren't half the "entertainers" men to appeal to smart women?
6. Noah falstein rules. i've met him twice and he has a lot more cred than i do!

Anthony Boterf
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I just keep hearing Cartman saying "You gotta say you'll have punch and pie. No one will come if you don't have punch and pie!" This is certainly on the same immaturity level as South Park's resident bad seed!

Noah Falstein
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I'm very grateful to all the support I'm getting here and elsewhere - I'm just sorry that so far my action and the dozens of similar comments have if anything stiffened their resolve and convinced them they are underdogs. With Brian's support and Jen McLean's statements elsewhere, that's 1 current and 2 former IGDA board chairs, and Jen as a young female studio head (and pregnant to boot) can't be dismissed as knowing nothing about game industry attitudes towards women.