I work with an all-female team of data scientists, in the gaming industry. This makes me the professional equivalent of Amelia Earhart riding the Loch Ness Monster.
I love my job. Our company in particular is great. Firstly, our game (HAWKEN) is beautiful and people love it. Secondly, half of our executive branch is female. Half of them are punk rock, and all of them are badassed. Our gender awareness standards, compared to the industry at large, are top shelf. We are talking Amelia Earhart in Atlantis, at a five star resort, getting a mani-pedi from Jensen Ackles. I have it good.
For the last six months of my tenure at Meteor Entertainment, there has been only one thing I did not love about my job. This picture:
Our CEO loves this picture. It is to all appearances his favorite piece of comic art for the game. He had it blown up poster-sized, framed, and displayed on the out-facing wall of his office. There, it looms over the front room like a ship’s figurehead. It is the first thing workers and visitors see when they enter the building and the last thing they see when they leave. This little lady’s undermeats have been the open- and close- parens to my work world for the last six months.
I loathe this picture.
Why do I loathe it? How, you ask, can I stay mad at a sweet young belle who has so obviously taken a break from her important welding to offer me apiping hot cup of coffee and/or a vigorous hand job? (And probably, given her apparent safety consciousness, simultaneously?) If you don’t already know the answer, you might want to check out things like #1ReasonWhy, and the Bechdel Test, and also this, and this, and this and this, and all these other things. (And while we’re talking you should check out this other bullshit right here.)
So at our office holiday party, while our CEO was having everyone in the company sign it, I stand there grinding my teeth into tiny shards. Until, suddenly, it came to me: a vision.
And so it came to be that I approached Sam Kirk, a wickedly funny co-worker who shared my sentiment. Sam, turns out, is a very talented artist who can be bribed-slash-inspired using a medley of feminist indignation, hysterical giggling, and two $90 bottles of añejo tequila.
A month-and-a-half later, our vision was a reality. I give you:
Bro-sie The Riveter.
I want to make it completely clear that everything in this prank that required actual talent was done by Sam. Find this, and more of Sam’s art, at TheRealSamKirk.com.
We blew (ahem) Brosie up poster sized. We framed him. And then, at 7:30 on Monday, April 1st, we snuck into our CEO’s office and switched them.
I stood in the entryway, dizzy with joy. It was glorious. There Brosie stood, proud, nipples testing the air like young gophers in springtime, the post-apocalyptic breeze gently swaying his banana hammock. Brosie said, loud and proud: “Get ready, world! I am here to lubricate your joints and tighten your socket.”
I basically spend the next few hours having a joy-induced neurological episode.
As the morning progressed, Brosie (ahem) revealed himself to our co-workers. The air resounded with startled, suppressed gargles of mingled joy and horror. Some take pictures. Some instantly turn and flee. Several men blush and grin in vindicated solidarity. Several women ask us for prints. At this point I am in total rapture. This is the moment I have been dreaming about for six months.
Yet somehow everyone in the office manages to keep quiet about it. Until, finally, our CEO arrives.
We hear a loud: “What the hell is this?!” And then all goes quiet. Ten minutes pass. We panic.
We are both suddenly and painfully aware that we have, in fact, just punked the CEO of our company. He is by all accounts an awesome dude. He is also a late-50s ex-army guy who happens to determine our employment futures in an at-will state. Meep.
Twenty more minutes pass. And then our CEO comes up to my desk, taps me on the shoulder, and says this:
“That was a brilliant prank. You called me on exactly the bullshit I need to be called on. I put up pictures of half-naked girls around the office all the time and I never think about it. I’m taking you and Sam to lunch. And after that, we’re going to hang both prints, side by side.”
Ruby Underboob and Brosie the Riveter, together at last
Yeah. That happened.
This wonderful experience has taught me two things that I hope to carry with me for the rest of my career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and in gaming. It taught me this:
- Lots of men (like Sam) are already sympathetic to the stupid, constant crap women put up with in gaming/STEM, and they are ready and willing to call that crap onto the carpet.
- And, most importantly, many of the guys who are behind that stupid, constant crap are totally decent, open-minded human beings who just don’t realize they’re doing it. You know how sometimes you don’t realize how much you and your girlfriend are talking about shoes or menstruation until some dude walks into the room? Well sometimes guys don’t realize how much they’re talking about titties.
We just haven’t been around enough for them to notice.
There is only one solution to that, ladies. Bust out your baby-Gap tee and your protective welding goggles, and let’s turn this damn industry into the environment we want it to be. It’s hard work, and yes, there are a couple genuine assholes along the way. But if Ruby Underboob can brave the occasional droplet of molten metal, so can we.
Speaking from experience, it’s worth it.
About our CEO, Mark Long:
Mark has a long and storied history with, among other things, research, games and comic art. He’s a partner in the RoqlaRue gallery in Seattle, representing “chick art.” Mark considers himself a feminist activist. He is proud to have created a graphic novel trilogy with Nick Sagan (Carl’s son) that features a female hero so strong, Hillary Swank is attached to star as her.
Mark and I are now in an open dialogue about gender in comics and gaming.