Flowers, candles and signs are displayed on March 17 at a makeshift memorial outside Gold Spa following a mass shooting in Atlanta. Photo: Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP
Alice Wu
Alice Wu

What links the Atlanta shootings and Intel’s Chinese ad controversy: the silencing of women

  • While Intel chose to pull a promotional video featuring a female stand-up comedian after a backlash from angry men, the murder of women in Atlanta shows the deadly consequences of misogyny
It’s not even a month since we celebrated women, and the gender wars have flared up again. Last week, they took the form of the over-the-top response to a female stand-up comedian promoting Intel’s Evo laptops.
The promotional video featured Yang Li, who is known for her jokes directed at men, most notably for saying, “they look so mediocre, yet they manage to be so confident” at a show in December. She was accused of being sexist and a man-hater after that.

And so, for Yang, who has courted controversy before, to say that “Intel’s standards [for laptops] are too high, even higher than mine for choosing a boyfriend” seems pretty tame. But it resulted in such a social media backlash that Intel has taken the video down.

Look, whether Yang and the Intel ad is funny doesn’t matter now that the grotesquely sexist backlash has taken the spotlight. Many male social media users felt Yang was not qualified to promote what they consider a “male user-oriented” product. “Intel is mainly for male users, and women don’t understand electronic products,” says one post.

Chinese comedian Yang Li’s social media pages have been flooded with insults from men upset about her jokes. Credit: YouTube / Tencent Video

Wow. Just wow. Apart from the clear misogyny in that statement, it’s impressive how these fragile egos manage to project such confidence. But here’s the thing: the fridge? Invented by a woman in 1914. Women also invented the electric water heater, and plenty more.

Let’s give a special shout-out to Hedy Lamarr, a movie star who created a frequency-hopping communication system that could guide torpedoes without being detected during World War II.

Lamarr’s work laid the groundwork for modern inventions such as Wi-Fi, GPS and Bluetooth. So it’s time to stop the sexist statements about women and their supposed lack of knowledge of electronics.

Actress Hedy Lamarr, along with composer George Antheil, designed and patented a communications system in 1942 that became the underlying technology for the cellphone. Photo: AP
Today, it looks like the joke’s on Intel. First, it launched a series of Mac-slamming ads that seem way too defensive and vindictive for a tech giant. And now it is appeasing people who are hanging onto the outdated stereotype of the technologically challenged woman, even as women are making huge strides in the digital era, especially in China

Are all Chinese women (who supposedly don’t understand electronic products), including entrepreneurs who have been thriving in the digital age and using technology to boost their careers and businesses in incredible ways, to conclude that Intel is not for them?

And for all women’s purchasing power, we now need to consider whether Intel pulling its ad after complaints pointed out that its products are “male user-oriented” should factor into our purchasing decisions.

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What is most annoying about nonsensical statements like “women don’t understand electronic products” is that, again, we are forgetting that in the old days, these products were not designed by women, did not have marketing to women in mind, and therefore couldn’t really sell in the female market. 

It’s more accurate to say that the makers of electronic products did not understand women. But they have been made aware of that and have, over the years, learned to create products that are designed to suit women as well as men. Good tech, like all good products, sells across gender boundaries.

I suppose this is a reminder for women and the majority of very sensible and respectable men, who are not sexist and can take a joke, that even if we spend a month every year honouring women and their extraordinary achievements, there is still a lot of work to be done.

Just last week, I was mansplained about the ineffectiveness of hate crime laws “since all those hate crime bills are in place and hate crime is rising” and, “I have seen stats to that effect”.

Obviously, the correlation is problematic. But this man was convinced his solution was more effective: “licensed concealed carry will empower women and short/weak men of any colour” since “life is not without risk”.

So, on top of being Asian and women, or being in the close vicinity of an Asian woman in Asian massage parlours in Atlanta on March 18, the eight people who were gunned down should have known better and carried their own concealed weapons?

Silencing women in this day and age is definitely no laughing matter. 

Alice Wu is a political consultant and a former associate director of the Asia Pacific Media Network at UCLA