In a promotional video interview that went live on February 6th, David Jaffe included a statement that I and others found objectionable. So I objected. After the piece ran, Jaffe reached out to me through Twitter and we agreed to schedule a call. Yesterday evening, we spoke about the issue by phone for roughly half an hour.
Although I took exception with his original statement and some of his Twitter-based defense, I didn't (and don't) feel that Jaffe was some himself some kind of villain, and tried to make a point of not calling him such. Even the absolute best, most socially-conscious and self-aware of us (which I do not claim to be) can still screw up and stick a foot firmly into mouth on occasion. It's human nature: we all have our innate points of view and learning to consider widely divergent perspectives as often as possible is really extraordinarily hard work.
The important thing is to do the hard work.
During our talk, Jaffe and I went back and forth for quite a while, unpacking the original statement, discussing how editing plays into perception in a video, and discussing the problems of intent vs. outcome.
Although in the end we mainly agreed to disagree, it was still a productive chat. He stressed repeatedly, and passionately, that his intent was not to harm and although it does not change my position, I believe him:
Well, let me tell you my position. The reason I even wanted to do the call — obviously, you know, it was hurtful, when I saw this — there's this line you wrote where you talk about, the issue is that to be a misogynist or a sexist you don't have to be so overt, it's the thoughtlessness.
That strikes home with me because I have a brother who's gay, and I grew up in the 80s, and it was very common for us to say, "that's gay." Never meant homosexual, never entered my mind, and it wasn't until probably ten years ago that I was like, "Oh my God! I didn't even realize what I'm doing." That if you're still using that term, even though, yes, you don't mean it, as a knock against people who are homosexuals, the very nature of you allowing this to be in the culture and you associating that word that also means homosexual with something that's crappy or bad or dumb or whatever, is perpetuating a really harmful and bad and frankly not even true stereotype.
And so I get that, and that's why I'm like... Even, the word — you know, I don't even like saying it, B-I-T-C-H, I won't let my kids say it... it means something. I've said it — look, I've said it in the press, I've said it accidentally, ‘cause it's so ingrained, just like, "guys, what up," you know, like that, and I felt terrible about it! So I totally see where you're coming from with that. And so I'm very aware of those things and I definitely don't want to be the person out there doing that.
We did ultimately agree on something, and that was this: that even if women are a minority demographic for a particular game title, they are still a demographic, and should be taken into account. "That wasn't coming from a place that ‘only men can game,'" Jaffe explained, "it was more, you know, that's who I was speaking to. But I can see how that's problematic, given that I really should have been thinking more about the entire realm of gamers."