Only Boys Can Win Trip to Comic Con

The video game site IGN is running a sweepstakes to win a trip to Comic Con in San Diego for two in conjunction with the August science fiction movie District 9. Nothing wrong with that — it’s becoming a common promotion technique.

However, I was flummoxed by the rules:

This sweepstakes is open only to males who are both legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and Washington D.C. and who are at least between 18-24 years of age as of July 23, 2009

It goes on to say that you have to be available to travel to San Diego during convention dates and participate in an “assignment”.

… granting to the winner of an opportunity to participate in a DISTRICT 9-themed journalistic assignment trailing Sponsor’s editorial team covering portions of the Event related to DISTRICT 9 (the “Assignment”). … During the Assignment, the winner will work closely with an IGN Editor to attend select events, as determined at the sole discretion of Sponsor. The winner MUST be willing to conduct interviews, appear on-camera, write a blog and/or participate in other on-site activities as determined by Sponsor.

Why does any of this require only a boy under 25 years old? Is that even still legal these days? Even more strangely, if you visit the official rules page, they refer to the winner as “his/her”.

Update: (June 13) The contest is now open to both genders. Men can apply until June 22; women until July 3 (probably to compensate for the period they were ineligible). Looks like someone finally talked to the lawyers.


58 Responses to “Only Boys Can Win Trip to Comic Con”

  1. Mark S. Says:

    Did you send them an email asking the same questions?

  2. Jeff Trexler Says:

    If I were a lawyer for IGN, I’d think about changing these requirements, stat. There have been literally dozens of class-action lawsuits in California alone for promotions that violate state law prohibiting businesses from discriminating on the basis of age or sex. Multiply that times 51 and add federal anti-discrimination law–the result is an open invitation for a paint-by-numbers lawsuit.

    As you note, there does not appear to be a reasonable basis for claiming that the restriction is consistent with public policy.

  3. Hsifeng Says:

    Meanwhile, I wonder if this has anything to do with the sexual harassment at SDCC in 2008

  4. Jamie Coville Says:

    They should consider hiring somebody, or sending one of their current employees down. I imagine it would be cheaper than conducting a screwy “contest” to get a free employee for a few days.

  5. Johanna Says:

    Mark, you find me an email address and I’ll be happy to. Looking for one without accepting cookies got me blank ever-reloading pages; turning on cookies, their site crashed my browser.

    Jeff, glad to hear I wasn’t off base on that.

  6. Journalista - the news weblog of The Comics Journal » Blog Archive » June 11, 2009: Shorter Journalista 22 Says:

    […] Johanna Draper Carlson notices IGN’s boys-only Comic-Con contest. […]

  7. Ed Sizemore Says:

    I looked around the website and the best I could do was come up with the name of the IGN media relations person, Alison Kurtz.

    They apparently don’t publish email addresses. Instead, you fill out a contact form with your message. I’ve had very little success with those forms so I don’t use them.

  8. Thom Says:

    I think I will enter. If I win, I will go in drag.

  9. Johanna Says:

    Oh, THAT would be something to see.

    Upon further thought, one possible explanation is that they’re going to ask the winner to share accommodations with someone … but that’s kind of chintzy. Alternately, they’ve come up with a really special kind of recording and reporting rig that involves a dick-operated camera.

  10. Blog@Newsarama » Blog Archive » We STILL have this boys-only BS? Says:

    […] Comics Worth Reading, apparently IGN is running a contest to win a trip to San Diego Comic Con to participate in an […]

  11. JP Says:

    IGN is owned by Rupert Murdoch, and here’s a press release with an Alison Kurtz’s emails address at Fox. http://corp.ign.com/articles/813/813247p1.html Since it’s an IGN press release, I’m betting this is the same person mentioned above.

  12. Laurie Says:

    So I entered as a 29 year old female (which I am) and got NO warning telling me I wasn’t eligible. They’re trying to avoid people noticing the requirement, I think.

  13. Michelle Says:

    As a 23 year old female, maybe I’ll just accidentally click the MALE gender, which they’ve conveniently filled out for you automatically.

  14. Daniela Says:

    I’m with Laurie on this, the “male” box is prechecked, but if they really had a legitimate stance against women entering, why make it possible to check “female”, or have that option at all?

    If I win, I’ll ditch my boyfriend and take Laurie or Johanna. That’ll show ‘em! :)

    Also, I couldn’t help but notice the words “YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE” beneath the official rules button… Even the website is rejecting me lol!

  15. Johanna Says:

    OK, email sent to Alison Kurtz — we’ll see if I get any kind of response.

  16. Pat Curley Says:

    And what does “at least between 18-24 years of age” mean? Seems like a very poorly thought-out promotion.

  17. sidne Says:

    There are a few exceptions in employment law for age/gender discrimination. For example, casting an actor in a movie. Even if someone is really, really good, you don’t need to hire a 50 year old female to play a 20 year old male.

    Maybe the winner’s going to play some part in a movie or TV show or something while fulfilling the assignment?

  18. Rob Says:

    IGN as a site has a bit of a frat-boy attitude. I suspect that the “Assignment” they’ll be requiring the contest winner to do will involve promotional interviews with the starlet du jour, photo ops with sponsors’ booth babes, and the like. A woman (unless she’s, like super-hot) or a balding 36-year-old wouldn’t hit the target deomgraphic.

  19. Liria Says:

    The official rules have an ‘as of’ date listed, so it’s clear by which point you must be between those ages.

    I’m guessing that they want guys due to demographics of their network. The guest can be female, just not the winner.

    Still, you would think they would want to say why it has to be a guy, because they’re likely to tick off a lot of women this way. Then again, if they don’t currently have much of a female demographic, maybe they don’t care.

    As for if it’s legal, I like to believe that people do their homework before doing something as public as this, but I’m realist enough to know better. So, there’s no telling.

  20. Johanna Says:

    Sidne, someone pointed out that these were the same criteria for being drafted in the U.S., so there might be some kind of connection or something to the casting idea. However, I agree with Liria — more information on why they put up these restrictions would have avoided a lot of speculation that’s not very favorable to them.

  21. James Van Hise Says:

    So that means that Olivia Munn (of G4’s ATTACK OF THE SHOW) would not be eligible. If they find out about this contest, they’ll have a lot of fun at IGN’s expense.

  22. janet Says:

    Maybe the big reveal is that the aliens are all female:
    http://www.apple.com/trailers/sony_pictures/district9/small.html

  23. Jeff Trexler Says:

    Speaking of gender discrimination class action lawsuits for promotional offers . . .
    http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/columns/story?columnist=reilly_rick&id=4247723

  24. Brigid Says:

    Well, an IGN rep just posted to another message board with an explanation, sort of: The marketers made us do it. “While IGN supports gamers of all ages, genders, shapes and sizes, these guidelines were created to foster a buzz for the film among a very narrow target group that the film’s promoters felt would be extremely passionate about the film’s subject matter.”

    You know what? I’m more offended now than I was before.

  25. Augie De Blieck Jr. Says:

    This is not a contest. It’s thinly veiled as one, but what they’re really looking for is someone to do con coverage for them on the cheap. The “winner” of this contest is someone who will work a lot over the weekend without getting paid for it, aside from airfare and a hotel.

    And since they’re looking for an on-camera personality, they’re within their rights to specify gender. When Mahalo Daily lost Veronica Belmont, for example, they specifically stated that the new host of the show needed to be a woman.

    The problem here, legally, is that they’ve made this casting call into a contest. And as a contest, making it eligible to only one sex is very likely legally dubious.

  26. Rob Spencer Says:

    Considering the site, the winner will probably be someone who has no sex at all.

    ba-dum.

  27. Johanna Says:

    Augie, if they’d said that up front, that there was a reason for the restrictions, then there would have been a lot less concern. Also, that doesn’t jibe with the IGN response.

  28. Brigid Says:

    Yeah, I would have given them a pass if it was a casting call, but this is simply “We’re only marketing to BOYS.”

  29. IGN and District 9 Don’t Need Women in the Audience » PixelVixen707 Says:

    […] of some kind, and maybe there was a legit reason to restrict this to boys. But IGN has replied (via Johanna Draper and Torie Atkinson): The eligibility requirements for this contest were determined by Columbia […]

  30. Chaobell Says:

    They’re now begrudgingly letting girls enter their contest, but if you’re 25 and have either set of plumbing, you’re still SOL. Nice.

  31. Augie De Blieck Jr. Says:

    Johanna – You’re absolutely right. I think there’s one equitable solution to this one, though: Let Chaz Bono enter the contest! They won’t know what to do!

  32. Jeff Trexler Says:

    Kudos to Johanna for calling attention to this contest & for succeeding to bring about a change.

    I gotta say, IGN’s message board response is a textbook example of why PR should coordinate with legal:

    “While IGN supports gamers of all ages, genders, shapes and sizes, these guidelines were created to foster a buzz for the film among a very narrow target group that the film’s promoters felt would be extremely passionate about the film’s subject matter.”

    In other words, the company deliberately chose to exclude women because its business isn’t woman-friendly–not a helpful thing to have out there if you’re trying to construct a viable defense in a lawsuit.

    This is a topic we discuss in my entrepreneurship classes. Target marketing is a standard part of business planning, yet by its vary nature targeting gender, race, age, ability, income, geography (e.g., redlining) or lifestyle can run a company into some rather serious–and expensive–legal problems.

  33. Jeff Trexler Says:

    Or as an aggressive plaintiff’s lawyer might put it, “So the contest excluded women because they weren’t worth including?”

  34. Julius Says:

    > “So the contest excluded women because they weren’t worth including?”

    That can be answered quite matter-of-factly by presenting some revenue figures.

    No, women aren’t worth much in revenue when it comes to comics, sci-fi, or videogames.

  35. Johanna Says:

    And by continuing to exclude them and assume they’re not interested, that’s certainly going to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    But it so happens that you’re wrong. Females fueled the biggest comic sales success story of the past decade: manga bought in bookstores.

  36. Julius Says:

    > But it so happens that you’re wrong. Females fueled the biggest comic sales success story of the past decade: manga bought in bookstores.

    Uh, what biggest story? Nobody’s heard of it, and it certainly hasn’t brought in any significant amount of revenue.

    Also, thanks for deleting my messages. Censorship of opinions you don’t like isn’t discriminatory at all.

  37. Maria Says:

    Julius, everyone except you knows about it.

    You probably missed the recent decade.

  38. Johanna Says:

    I deleted one comment because you called people names and used profanity I don’t allow on this site. You play nice here or you don’t play.

  39. Scot Says:

    Honestly, how many of you REALLY want to go. I think your making a big deal out of this because the IGN people said “No Girls Allowed”. Now you all want to cry sexism.
    Unless you want to go the Comic Con leave IGN alone.

  40. Alan Coil Says:

    Scot, I don’t want to marry a man, but I will speak up for the right of men to marry men and women to marry women. Discrimination in any form is harmful to our society. We have a responsibility to speak up.

  41. Jen02134 Says:

    They opened it up to females now.

  42. Johanna Says:

    Plenty of women, including me, would love a free trip to Comic Con, Scot. You may not have noticed them, but lots of women enjoy comics, movies, and other pop culture events.

  43. Scot Says:

    Are these the women that are spray painted blue and dressed in silver bikini’s,
    or the ones that are locking lips with James T. Kirk on a “distant planet”.
    Don’t get me wrong, there are women who legitimately like comics, but what I’m saying is that 75% of the women who are mad about the whole IGN thing… don’t.

  44. Julia Says:

    Don’t get me wrong, there are women who legitimately like comics, but what I’m saying is that 75% of the women who are mad about the whole IGN thing… don’t.

    And welcome to another episode of “Random Assertions Scot Pulled Out of his Posterior”! Tell the contestant what fabulous prizes he’s won.

    Um, which part of this discussion taking place on a comics blog written by a woman did you miss, Scot? Clearly everyone here is interested in comics, because we’re here.

  45. David Wynne Says:

    Scot, I went to a comic con earlier this year- The London MCM Expo- where male attendees were SERIOUSLY outnumbered by females. This is admittedly because the MCM Expo has a much bigger focus on manga than most cons, but still, it demonstrates that you don’t know what you’re talking about, just spouting opinions based on your own prejudices.

  46. FAIR Blog » Blog Archive » The L.A. Times' Guide to Sexism and 'Nerds' Says:

    […] about a male-only film promotion contest at San Diego's Comic-Con, Charlie Jane Anders (io9.com, 6/15/09) also notices the "L.A. Times […]

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    […] CAN’T BE GEEKS? Johanna Drap Carlson at Comics Worth Reading noticed a most curious qualifier for a contest connected to the upcoming science fiction flick District 9: This sweepstakes is open […]

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  55. EW Praises Sexist Marketing as “Clever” » Comics Worth Reading Says:

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  57. Jared Spurbeck Says:

    I would submit that it’s also ageist to set an age limit like that.

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