Riot Games will be hosting sessions during PAX West on several topics in the industry in order to support women and non-binary people. The goal is noble but execution is wrong, as they apparently decided to fight sexism with more sexism.
Riot Games' PR blunders are on a roll it seems, as toxic workplace mentality has been previously exposed by several male and female employees interviewed by Kotaku's Cecilia D'Anastasio, which resulted in the company's big apology with a promise to change the workplace behaviour so the women wouldn't be treated unfairly in the future.
Just days after the apology, however, Riot Games announced that the PAX West sessions held in Room 613 will be exclusive to women and non-binary people until 14:30, actively banning those who identify as men from entering that particular room. It seems they have taken "fight fire with fire" approach, which is definitely not helping anyone.
The sessions include interesting topics such as art and champion design, production careers, game design and advanced cosplay. Needless to say many of these topics are appealing to a wide spectrum of people, but men will be denied the opportunity to attend. This quickly sparked an outrage when fans started protesting on Reddit.
To say that some of Riot employees' response was inadequate would be an understatement. Systems designer, Daniel Z. Klein claims that "sexism against men" doesn't make sense as a concept because men are privileged. Sexism is a form of discrimination. When a person is not allowed to enter a room simply because they identify as a man, it's discrimination.
Anyway, Klein continued to justify his statements by saying that "when one group has too much and one has too little, some must be taken from the group that has too much". This would indeed be the case if Riot Games were presented with a situation with Pareto efficiency, but there is no indication that the room would be so crowded someone would have to leave in order to make place for a woman or a non-binary person.
He then proceeded to call the fans who thought this exclusion was unjustified "manbabies" that he hopes will grow up some day. The tweet chain continued with Klein's wish to reject perceived manbabies in a rather odd message, as he apparently attempted to expunge them from gaming.
UPDATE: Klein dragged the controversy further on by attacking a Twitter follower who voiced a different opinion.
Not all of Riot's responses were as hostile though, as Riot Froskurinn, one of the LPL casters, raised an often overlooked point that some women and non-binary people sometimes need dedicated space to "find their voice and feel comfortable using it". She also added that the session is not meant to be a personal attack for those who identify as men.
Mel Capperino-Garcia attempted to defuse the situation as well, but her message seems to have come out wrong due to the volatile nature of this situation. She stated that they are not trying to ban men, but they still can't enter the room before 14:30, after which came a response drawing a comparison with other forms of segregation.
While Riot's intentions with these sessions are noble, the execution is lacking since they could just name the session in order to reflect its nature, as opposed to just presenting it as a regular talk about careers and guidance. Or they could have a similar panel in a different room so male audience wouldn't be denied potential knowledge that could help their careers.
It doesn't seem like it's only men complaining about it either, as a trans person replied to Capperino-Garcia by stating that the way Riot handled this event is doing a disservice to trans and non-binary people.