Fuck Your Swag, Vice 

Yesterday, marchers from New York and Los Angeles reported that
Vice Media was dispensing VICELAND-branded bandanas and pins
bearing slogans like “I VOTE HUMANITY,” “I VOTE DIVERSITY,” and
“WOMEN DON’T FORGET.” Slapping a VICELAND logo on feminism is
particularly tone-deaf (or more cynically, just bad business)
at a time when Vice
is investigating
internal sexual harassment as well as sex
discrimination allegations. While Vice seems to have
prioritized manufacturing and distributing lady-friendly swag
just in time for Women’s March, the company has just started to
address its own endemic sexism by placing two top executives

on leave
and firing at least
three employees
; adding more women to executive and HR
positions; instating a “Diversity & Inclusion Advisory
board”; and implementing mandatory harassment training.

As has been widely reported, recent investigations by the Daily
Beast and New York Times uncovered what former head of
branded production Sandra Miller called “an overall a toxic
environment where women are treated far inferior than men.”
Speaking to the Daily Beast,
women reported
a grab-assey culture where employees were
encouraged to sleep their way to the top. The Times
found that over a hundred thousand dollars
had been paid
out in sexual harassment settlements since
2003.

After Jezebel reported on a Broadly freelance columnist who was
charged with
several counts of assault
last year, a spokesperson told
Jezebel that “Vice does not tolerate assault of any kind, or
behavior that is disrespectful or offensive to any group or
demonstrates bias or bigotry…” Recent history suggests
otherwise. The company’s since-removed “nontraditional
workplace agreement”–which contractually obligated employees
not to find the “workplace environment” “offensive, indecent,
violent or disturbing”–suggested that top level management was
not only aware of inappropriate behavior, but took great pains
to protect it. Vice
has said
that the agreement meant to address only
“content,” not “conduct,” but the fact that many women remain
quiet when approached by media outlets attests to the continued
effectiveness of Vice’s silencing infrastructure. The
Times also
reviewed
a confidentiality agreement which barred employees
from publicly disparaging the company.

Former Vice reporter Billie JD Porter–who joined Vice as a
minor
with the job title
“Lolita Life Ruiner” on her business
cards–claims that she has yet feared legal repercussions. But
after seeing a VICELAND-branded pin reading “WOMEN DON’T
FORGET,”
she tweeted
early this morning that she could no longer
stay silent:

Yeah, women don’t forget. I haven’t forgotten being given
drugs and alcohol by my boss in the office as a sixteen year
old, then being asked to perform sex acts on him. I haven’t
forgotten being seriously told by my producers to get drunk
before filming because they thought it made me a ‘funnier’
host. I haven’t forgotten the company firing me after what
they called ‘inappropriate behaviour’ at a company party
where I was given a cocktail of drugs by senior management
who knew I was being treated for depression.

“Know this,” she adds: “while Vice are spending money on
tone-deaf marketing gimmicks like this and trying to improve
their public image, they are neglecting to support and inform
their own employees who were abused on their watch.”

A VICELAND bandana handed out at the NYC Women’s March.
Image via Koa Beck.

This egregious reduction of a women’s movement explicitly
demonstrates how Vice operates: maneuvers the resistance by the
marginalized and poor as a marketing tool, to great commercial
success.

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