Monthly Archives: July 2007

An Open Letter to Intel

Debbie says:

It isn’t often that I feel that my skills at cutting sarcasm aren’t up to the job, but this is one such situation. This letter has been sent directly to Intel at their “ask a company question” site. I encourage you to send your own.

I’ve included the offending ad in this post, but way down. If you read the beginning of the letter and decide you don’t want to see the image, just scroll down slowly and stop at the end of the letter.


Dear Intel,

Perhaps you find it comforting and rewarding to portray the contemporary workplace as indistinguishable from the plantations in the American South before the Civil War.

Perhaps you find it gratifying to show us six muscular dark-skinned men, naked to the waist, bowing their heads to a white man in a business shirt. Images of the slave markets where humans were bought and sold with less consideration than cattle got in those times are distressingly rare in the 21st century. Perhaps you believe that you are demonstrating courage and nerve when you 1) impress upon every wage-earner how terrible their lives are, and 2) fulfill the fantasies of managers that someday they may get the obedience (and obeisance) of slaves from their staff. Perhaps you are proud of accomplishing both of these things while also heaping coals of fire on the heads of every descendant of slaves who might see your advertisement.

I spent some time this afternoon on your website, and very easily found the moral justification for your advertising theme:

At Intel, corporate responsibility means doing what is right. Respecting people and the world around us. It’s how we do business.

Again, perhaps it was your intent to respect the white man at the expense of the black men, the manager at the expense of the employees. What’s more, perhaps you are proud of giving a contemporary boost to the racist history and underpinnings of this nation.

The diversity of our employees is the ingredient for success that sets Intel apart. Our employees are located all over the world and represent a variety of different backgrounds, yet each person has one thing in common—a commitment to creating market-driving products and technology designed to make a difference.

The perspectives, abilities and experiences of our workforce are key to the success of our company and fundamental to our role as a technology leader. Through their innovative thoughts and actions, our employees, based in over 40 countries, have proven that it is possible to impact and change the way that people live and work around the world.

Perhaps the diversity of your employees is wider than the diversity of the slave-employees in your advertising, who appear to me as clones. While I confess I do not understand the value of the perspective of employees whose faces are all turned to the floor, I am confident that you were thinking of this corporate policy when you designed the advertisement.

Perhaps Intel is looking forward to a new era of chattel slavery, with white men owning the output and energy of black men. Or perhaps you just believe that the world is a better place when our microprocessors bow down to us as slaves.

In any event, I hope you are as proud of this advertisement and the message it sends about your products as you deserve.


Debbie Notkin*
*white, in a management position, and with some say in IT purchases

Intel slave market ad

Very very wry thanks to epi_lj for the pointer.

Intel, racism, advertising, slavery, corporate responsibility, Body Impolitic

Advertising the Battle of the Sexes

Debbie says:

We won’t discuss the long blog post that I wrote 90% of and then accidentally deleted on Thursday night. Fortunately, Peggy Elam has written a superb post on the subject I had in mind. Here’s a taste:

… the research was consistently reported as indicating that the body mass index of “friends” (no gender indicated) influences each other. (Yes, they confused correlation with causality. That seems to be standard in “obesity” research.) Every photo or video or audio clip purportedly illustrating that “obesity” is socially contagious among friends featured women. … But the original study found that the so-called “influence” of friends in regard to BMI only existed in male same-sex friendships. “Among friends of the same sex, a man had a 100%…increase in the chance of becoming obese if his male friend became obese, whereas the female-to-female spread of obesity was not significant…”

Yet not one of the media outlets reported this fact. Indeed, by illustrating their stories with female friends, they falsely implied that the friends-make-friends-obese “connection” was true of female-female friendships.

I would only add two things to this: first is that even though I hate this study and also how it’s being reported, I think the social networking method of examining issues is going to be very rich and valuable. This makes me especially sorry that this particular study is so badly flawed.

Second, major kudos to the Toronto fat activists for organizing a same-day protest of the study and its coverage!


So I thought I’d mine the blogroll for something else to write about. I randomly started with The F-Word, and I found this there:

I watched this four times to get these details. I did this for you. Honestly, you don’t need to watch it even once.

The scene is the “epic battle” of the sexes. Men and women are ranged against each other like humans and orcs outside the gates of Mordor. As Jess McCabe at The F-Word notes, men launch the attack by kicking balls across the no-persons-land. The women respond by throwing handbags, which the men divert with some sort of shields that might be laptop computers. The men then retaliate with radio-controlled cars, and the women’s response is a horde of yappy little dogs. Then the magic of the Daily Mail‘s divided Sunday magazine section (one for men and one for women) makes temporary peace. (For those not familiar, the Daily Mail is a United Kingdom newspaper known for its superficial and popularized reporting, mostly of what’s happening in the lives of movie stars.

Jess does a fine job of tearing this to shreds (not that it’s difficult). “So, no surprises if both magazines are full of the most banal tripe imaginable. Let’s see: fashion for the girls, sport for the boys?” Score another point for hypersimplification.

What she doesn’t mention, however, is some of the subtler signals. Almost all of the women we see are wearing dresses, or skirts and blouses. Most show a lot of shoulder and upper chest skin. The ones who are wearing more are wearing high-fashion outfits: stoles and matching hats (to match their tiny dogs). One fixes her lipstick before she catapults her pocketbook across the field. Every single woman is thin (not just average-sized or normal, thin). The men, on the other hand, are in very ordinary short-sleeved shirts. The man we see longest in close-up is fairly nerdy-looking, with mussed hair and a not especially neat beard.

Perhaps more important, though the men launch the first attack, the one-minute video is stuffed with close-ups of really angry women. Mostly, we don’t see men’s faces at all (the men are most often bent over, shielding themselves from an attack or preparing the next one). When we do see men’s expressions, they look … confused. Out of place.

So in this stereotyped war, rage belongs to women. Men, even if they cast the first volleyball, are the victims. And the solution is separatism. (Okay, a happy couple reading separate magazines and leaning against each other isn’t very successful separatism. Nonetheless, the point is still there.)

Oh, and the final note of the commercial? The war begins again at dawn on Monday.

So, gentlemen, get out your volleyballs and your radio cars. Don’t dress for the occasion. We’re standing over here in our sexy outfits, purses in hand and chihuahuas at the ready. Are you scared? The Daily Mail certainly wants you to be.

gender, feminism, advertising, media, gender stereotypes, fat, body image, size acceptance, social networking, Body Impolitic