Sony Interactive Entertainment CEO Jim Ryan has apparently weighed in on the possible impending legal reversal of Roe v. Wade in an e-mail sent to employees. Said e-mail did not take a stance on the impending decision, but did allegedly ask employees to "respect differences of opinion" on the subject.
The e-mail was obtained by Bloomberg games reporter Jason Schreier, who also spoke to Sony employees angry about its contents. After making a plea for respect, Ryan apparently attempted to lighten the mood by sharing "something to help inspire everyone to be mindful of having balance that can help ease the stress of uncertain world events."
That "something" was an anecdote about celebrating his two cats' birthdays and his desire one day to get a dog. "Dogs really are man's best friend, they know their place, and perform useful functions like biting burglars and chasing balls that you throw for them," he wrote.
One Sony employee told Schreier that they had "never been so mad about a cat birthday before." Other women at the company expressed frustration over the message's "tone-deafness."
This direction from Ryan will probably be news to the team at Bungie, which Sony is in the process of acquiring. Last week Bungie released a statement opposing the impending Supreme Court reversal, declaring that the fall of Roe v. Wade would be "a direct attack on human rights."
"Tone-deaf" is definitely the most tame way to describe this message. Game developers worrying about the likely reversal of Roe v. Wade may find cause to describe it as offensive or outrageous (developers reacting to Schreier's tweet certainly did). For one, Ryan's plea to employees to "respect differences of opinion" asks employees to "respect" the opinion that people who might require abortions are not constitutionally entitled to bodily autonomy, which is the fundamental legal principle that Roe v. Wade protects.
That's a tough pill to swallow. It's especially tough to shift from that topic to one of pet ownership, and how "man's best friend" is a creature that "knows its place" and "performs useful functions." As abortion activists have noted, efforts to overturn abortion access in the United States have deeply overlapped with efforts to control how those who can become pregnant participate in society.
Already in states like Texas, which have attempted to ban abortion but have been rebuffed by Roe v. Wade, access to abortion has become more limited thanks to local efforts to push out abortion clinics. Meanwhile maternal deaths for some populations in the state has been on the rise.
This topic has been of relevance to game developers, especially those who are employed in Texas or whose employers are opening Texas offices. Many have worried that the expansion of abortion bans could impact gender diversity in the game industry.
The reversal of Roe v. Wade has other implication for legal precedent in the United States. As NPR noted, this includes access to contraception, the legality of gay marriage, and even the legality of gay sex. Other legal experts have expressed the opinion that this could impact rights for transgender individuals in America as well.
Sony Interactive Entertainment employees of multiple backgrounds stand to suffer if Roe v. Wade is appealed. It is strange that Ryan seems dismissive of that fact, especially when PlayStation is dealing with a lawsuit against sexual discrimination in the workplace (said lawsuit has been partially dismissed by a judge, we should note).
We've reached out to Sony for comment on this story and will update it when the company responds.