Female discrimination online

A few days ago, Kotaku posted about an upcoming launch party for Battlefield 3. What makes this event somewhat striking though is that females are not able to attend. Instead of promoting the event as a “guys night out” or something similar, they claimed that this exclusion of females was an attempt to combat misogyny:

“We actively discourage gamers from being the kind of mysogynistic jackwagons seen in the Reddit post, and such behavior should not be tolerated. Frankly, we don’t like that kind of player either. So far as this event goes, it is an special event designed specifically for male gamers. Further, it is meant as a getaway designed to help said male contingent become better men both for themselves and for those who love us.”

At first, I didn’t think so much about it because it isn’t uncommon for a LAN to be male-only even without the explicit exclusion of females. I didn’t care that females were excluded for whatever reason. But when I read the comments they clearly highlight an issue which is far larger than a single sex LAN. One user commented with a video of ‘TheAmazingAthiest’ ranting about comments made by some women on TV who were laughing about a woman castrating her husband because he wanted a divorce:

It’s sad that Sharon Osborne was one of the ring leaders in making light of the situation as she has been viewed as an icon and role model for strong females. It is distasteful to laugh at the mutilation of any human being. This guy basically just points out the obvious that her remarks were disgusting, but it does remind us that sexism is still rife and comments like Sharon’s is like fighting fire with fire. Despite being from the same species, can males and females ever be truly equal? This hypersensitive topic is something which I’m confronted with more often than I’d like, mainly due to being part of a minority in normally boisterous FPS games.

Click here to see the original clip of the women talking about the castration.

Before I start, I would like to make it clear that it is impossible for me to withhold bias from this subject since I have experienced not only discrimination but also special treatment because of gender. Females have been seen as second-class citizens throughout human history, so feminist movements have gained momentum throughout the decades. Therefore it is understandable that many females feel very strongly about equal rights when encountering discrimination. I find myself in a constant conflict between my own ambitions and my view of the role of women in society. Sometimes I wonder “what’s the point” since it’s a constant uphill battle to gain impartial recognition for any achievement. [Most likely though, it’s the drivel from internet trolls that has vastly contributed to my jaded view].

But it isn’t inaccurate to say that men and women are unequal even in the most liberal societies. It is difficult to often hear “you don’t need to be good at anything except sucking dick”, “it’s bullshit you’ve got what you have had in life, it’s just because you’re a girl” and so on. Many say just not to listen, but that is far easier said than done. After all, repetition is one of the most effective ways to learn. So instead of burrowing into the myriad of studies on the debate of gender inequality, it is better for me to speak about my personal experiences with misogynists since it’s impossible for me to check my bias at the door. Perhaps insight into such experiences can help contribute to understanding the plight that women face in male-dominated areas, such as gaming.

    “Tits + Vag FTW”

I’ve been extremely lucky. With the gaming house, sponsorships and a spot on a CGS franchise; I’ve had a cushy career from gaming. While I may not agree with the segregation of gaming tournaments by gender, if the opportunity is presented of course I will take it. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt when I hear people who I consider my friends tell me that all the sponsorships I have received have been just because of gender, nothing else. Not only is that inaccurate, but one would expect their friends to be happy for their success. Recently a friend of mine said “You only got all that shit because you’re a fucking girl, you know” and seemed genuinely surprised when I tried to tell him how much work I actually had to do to get such things. He spent the next few minutes getting aggressive due to not being born a girl. Why so bitter? The time and effort that I’ve devoted to my passion seems to be irrelevant.

Almost every time I accomplish something I’m proud of, people immediately write it off that the only reason I was able to achieve anything is because of my gender. Mentioning looks is also often correlated with sexist comments. With the recent announcement of the 2011 Alienware Challenge, people remembered last years and these are some things that were said:

  • “The eventual winner was terrible […]”
  • “[…] community voting should not have been as influential in the outcome because obviously a bunch of nerds are going to pick a marginally cute girl over you […]”
  • “She won because she has tits who cares […]”
  • …And so on. Never mind that I actually came 3rd in the community voting and it was because I won the majority of the Alienware vote that I won overall. Never mind that I traveled the furthest, spanning two continents. Never mind that I spent painstaking hours editing all the videos for the challenges, trying to portray the trip and atmosphere as much as possible. Never mind that I barely have tits! Forget all of that – it is automatically negated by my gender. Something which I should feel proud of suddenly became bittersweet. I started to question myself: if people really thought I was so terrible, then maybe I am.

    I could sit and write all night about all the crap I get, but I think you pretty much get the picture.

    You don’t need to tell me to just ignore those folk, if I couldn’t do that I would have bowed out of the gaming scene long ago. I think the bigger issue is that this is being said in the first place. I don’t believe that forums should be censored, but the amount of people that freely and continually say things like this (and worse) shows that gender prejudices are still very much alive. Perhaps such comments only reinforce misogynistic attitudes. As online and offline worlds are no longer dichotomous, one has to wonder if these people behave the same way offline.

    Many guys I’ve spoken to believe that sexism is non-existent in most liberal societies. “Come on, it’s not like we’re in the Arab world” is a pretty common response when the topic is approached. Most also just pass it off as a joke. Sometimes it is, sometimes there’s a sharp grain of truth behind it. Either way, this is the kind of online community one needs to prepare herself for. Not all girls look like actresses and supermodels, and most guys on gaming forums do not want to accept this. I guess to the majority, girls are only present on the internet as decorations at the self-service station.

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    1. Timo says:

      Excellent article!
      I'll be sure to smack everyone who makes such claims.

    2. Female gaming and females in games is something seen for decades.
      The females in games often have little to none clothing and big breasts.
      Female gamers are often not seen that much and the male community takes the biggest space online and offline.

      From a Team Managers perspective, I almost never get a team application from a female team. Is this because there are no female gamers? No…
      Why then? No idea. The gaming market is hard and the percentage of female gamers are low.

      But now then when a female pro gamer makes it to the top, makes a career and is a well known face within the community, the comment that comes back is (as you said) "because ur a girl".

      This is a very sad truth about all people out there. When a female makes it to the top in a male dominated world, it is because she is female.
      When a male makes it to the top in the female world, that is just natural.

      I think that the whole male/female perspective is in our genes and it will take a generation or more (most probably more) to get this out of the system and get the acceptance up more that men and women are more to the equal in many ways.
      There will always be differences but in the end I think that men and women will be more alike each other in so many ways that we can not think about right now.

      I would love to see more women in competitive gaming and the casual scene also.

      An important side note: For women to be able to climb to be equals, they can't have idiots frakking it up for the whole community.
      As the female gaming is smaller, one person could destroy all so very quick.

    3. Kyra says:

      What has been said in this article, I would definately agree with it.
      I feel that no matter what gender you are, and no matter what you achieve, there is no reason to trash-talk it.
      I often get alot of crap for being a girl in the gaming community, just like many others.
      They judge purely because they know your a girl.
      I use to visit forums like tek-9.org, but ive stopped going there for a while. No matter what you post on there, or when you have a question or anything to do with gaming, they will just insult you in any possible way. They claim that girls should not be posting on gaming forums.
      I've expierenced alot of insults,flaming and what not, but the pathetic part is, when you meet those people ofline, they seem alll nice. Due to alot of the crap people had given me and just in general, I've stopped playing games competitive.
      I hope that other female gamers are stronger, and that they can ignore all of this, and that it won't get to you.

    4. Shae says:

      I don't understand why I continue to throw money at companies that feel like I have no right to play their video games. The hatred that many of them have against women (female gamers) is sometimes a clear message or one that is hidden. The online gaming communities as Kyra already mentioned will flame and troll girl gamers, no matter what they post. The only reason I can understand why this is happening is because of mother or girlfriend issues with some male gamers. They say that art imitates life, and why would this be any different with gaming? The reason behind the trolling, flaming, harassment, etc. is because it's believed to be acceptable behavior. Hell, the behavior is promoted in many many games. Stopping it at it's source isn't going to resolve this. One of the negative aspects of gaming is that is also can encourage antisocial behavior. (Example) So here you have someone that doesn't have many friends, hates his mom and is playing a game with lots of sexist themes against females. How would you imagine he would react if he suddenly saw a female player?

      Company: Releases sexist themes in a game, targets game to male audience.
      Timmy: Timmy picks up game, hates his mother, loves the game.
      Sara: Sara joins Timmy in a online portion of the game.
      Timmy: *head explodes*

    5. Har says:

      Hi Livia, Interesting article and also interesting to read this from your POV with firsthand experience. It is not always easy to get such insides, especially when it is being researched by someone looking at it from above without prior experience. I think however that the subject gaming is kind of irrelevant for the topic you want to address. Gaming is a good example for sure, but it should be used as a case study to address a general discrimination issues (being all university nerdy). This problem exists in all worlds were one is dominated over the other. Men and women, black and white, Islamic and Christian. There are a number of examples you offer we can turn around, like your Alienware event. There have been several occasions where winners of x-factor / idols, or whatever talents show you want to address (men), have been accused of winning over a girl because the majority of the viewers would be female. I’m sure there are several examples to be found online or in specific game types as well. It does however not change the fact that (core)games have a men dominated audience. The problem however is a social response you see everywhere, people been threatened by the success of someone that does not belong to the majority (like Hayley above already points out). This is the same reason why it is hard for women to reach to the top of companies, why black people have it harder in western society and why scared people in the Netherlands are voting for a ‘freedom’ party that is against everything that has to do with Islam. Anyway, long story short, I believe that this is something routed in societies and how they function. It’s very hard to get this out of societies and if you do, it will most of the time be replaced by something else.

    6. Hayley a.k.a NiKitA says:

      Really good article Livia. It's sad that opinions haven't changed at all since I was in the gaming scene, I would have hoped in time female gamers would be better received. But at the end of the day no male likes to admit that females can be better than them at their favourite game! I was often subjected to vulgar comments from males and if that didn't work to their advantage then they usually just assumed I had to be a male pretending to be a female. After all, females are no good at gaming right? /sarcasm. Fingers crossed attitudes will change in time, but it's been a good 3-4 years since I quit and still no change.

      I never used the fact that I was female to get where I wanted to be, I started off in division 4 ctf and moved my way up to division 1 by practicing. Sure people knew I was female, but obviously you're never gonna win matches by letting a crap female gamer play just because she has 'tits & vag'. When you get to top division games I think guys have the sense not to use this kind of logic (or lack of) when picking a team for a match.

      Have to say though, despite the verbal abuse and vulgar comments I received, it did make me laugh and I used to love nothing more than arguing with these silly men, who were clearly bent out of shape because they knew I was just as good as them if not better in some cases. Mostly the guys I encountered were really nice guys you just get a few idiots here and there that stick in your mind. Shame I never got to go to any LANs to meet these people, and also fellow female gamers. In my time of playing Q3 i'm pretty sure I could count on my 2 hands how many females there were in the scene (and a couple of them had a big question mark over their gender anyway).

    7. Me says:


      I really think its sad, that girls are still handled as 2nd grade humans.
      Its wrong that they get paid less for the same job, and they must overcome some very stupid comments and trolling before they can show they can frag too, or win games / tourneys whats so ever.
      BUT I think its not right to celebrate that penis cut thing.
      And he is right about, that if it where the other way around, that show would never be on air (which is good !). The rest he says about that trail when a women just needed to say he beat me and all is good, id Bullshit ofc !

      Never the less… there is sexism the other way around as well.
      If a women smacks my ass, its accepted… If I do so, its sexism ….
      Why not apply same rules ?

      I mean man and women are different, and thats good, I think the best results appear if man and women work togehter. But the things that are forbidden or not accepted should be the same for both.

      I really hope we will get all that on the road soon.

      So girls keep up that gaming / fraggin !
      Play more quake 😀

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