September 1st, 2016

More about the Alamak! Awards

In response to questions received from the public, this page offers some further explanation on the goals and approach of the Alamak! award.

First, we acknowledge that – like all forms of public criticism, and especially with the particular tone involved in poking fun – the Alamak! awards can and do cause discomfort and some difficulty for those who are nominated.  We recognise that.

In our view, this negative impact on the nominees should be weighed against the harm that is done by the sexist/misogynist actions or activities in question, as well as the public interest that is served by raising awareness of and expressing social rejection of that sexism/misogyny.  

In our experience, the award has served its goals over the years.  The consistent nature of the awards and the fact that it groups actions during the year together helps to illustrate that each incident is not entirely isolated but rather part of a wider pattern of gender inequality.  Moreover, many people find it easier to approach the issues of sexism and misogyny when they are handled in a more tongue-in-cheek sort of way.  We have generally received positive feedback on the award and we have seen it spark useful discussion.  

Every year we give serious thought to which of the nominations we receive from the public should be put up for voting.  Bearing in mind the aims of the award, some factors we consider include:

– Does the nominee occupy a position of institutional power?

– Are public agencies and/or public monies involved?

– What was the degree of impact of the action on those affected by it?

– How powerful are the actions in question in setting the tone for an institution or society?

– What were the likely intentions guiding the action?

– Has the action in question been publicised before?  If relevant, how has the nominee responded to criticisms, either publicly or in private communication with us?

– Just how distasteful or egregious is the sexism or misogyny in question?

– Was there any plausible or persuasive justification for the action?

– Advertising campaigns have tended to feature prominently in Alamak! in part because we believe that they can contribute greatly to sexist/misogynist societal influences, but are typically carried out only for commercial purposes (so criticism of the nominees is less personal).

It will never be comfortable for someone to face criticism about their own problematic behaviour.  And public criticism undoubtedly carries particular discomfort.  But especially for actions with significant public effects, we believe that this is a productive and in some cases necessary discomfort.  

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