Sunday eSports: Sexism on the eSports scene – a straw man’s debate

eve2

By on January 13, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Emily Gera, a senior British reporter at Polygon, recently coded an interactive fiction game emulating the “mind of a Kotaku commenter” — shorthand for what she sees as some of the best lines from the internet’s most bigoted, misogynistic pigs.

There’s only one emotion at play here: disgust. And since the motivations of women-haters are about as reasonable as those of racists — that is, completely unreasonable — I’ve never really understood how anyone could feel anything else.

We’ve all been here before. And we all keep revisiting the same bloody topic, talking about the disgusting, abhorrent behaviour of lobotomised trolls. But what’s so confounding and infuriating about the entire affair is not so much that it keeps happening, but that it seems almost singularly impossible, almost as if the internet itself wills it so, to have a constructive discussion on the matter.

The world of eSports had its own distasteful exchange recently when Kim “Eve” Shee-Yoon — the first female player contracted to the Slayers professional gaming team in South Korea, announced she was closing down her Twitter account due to “sexual harassment”. It was quickly revealed that said harassment consisted of a guy showing off his — shall we say, wares, with a photo of Eve.

Sadly, this isn’t a new phenomenon. But I want to move away from the horrors of the act and focus around the events that took place afterward, because it’s important to understand just how difficult it is to engage in a mature debate even among level-head gamers.

As the various Australians I followed on Twitter began to discuss the fallout, one gamer made the unfortunate mishap of remarking that every bigoted act they’d seen inevitably traced back to the StarCraft 2 community. Stirring up the hornet’s nest, accidentally or otherwise, is never a wise move unless you have a rocket launcher or some other equally explosive device for online arguments.

The person in question was forced to walk it back and apologised for doing so. And by and large that’s how things turn out when one person makes a mistake. But in accidentally stirring up a group fervently trying to defend itself from an unreasonable allegation, the main game — getting rid of the boorish last-century behaviour that infests every nook and cranny of the online world — was completely forgotten.

People become so easily sidetracked that a great opportunity to actively debate codes of conducts, moderation policies and general standards of behaviour, was run over by a train of inconsequential bullshit that had as much relevance as a fart in the wind. And this isn’t unique to this particular situation: it happens every goddamned time.

Earlier in the week, a more important discussion kicked off surrounding the disadvantages and advantages faced by women in eSports, although the topic could have applied to gaming in general just as well. Most of the heat played out on Twitter, where Rachel Quirico, a reporter for the Cybersports Network, began arguing with Cadred editor Richard Lewis over the “leg-up” women receive in the industry. I won’t recap what was said; you can read a screenshot of the conversation here.

Some thoughtful replies did rise above the fray; Teamliquid.net administrator Hot_Bid gave the most neutral summation he possibly could, while Melbourne-based writer Sunset for pro-gamers Team ROOT penned a well-written reply of her own.

This is all well and good, but the problem was that none of it was connected to each other; it was broken apart by the tens and hundreds of posts filled with absolute rubbish, and that’s not even accounting for comments deemed too off-colour even for Reddit.

When you’re being debased as someone who “dresses like a slut for attention” or someone who is “so ignorant and feminist that it actually discomforts me” you have to respond. You’re not a human being if you don’t. And yet the mere act of defending yourself against such unqualified crap — because ignoring it will simply lead to arguments that the charges are indeed true, since you never denied them — moves the debate into a completely different arena.

It’s amazingly paradoxical that the internet’s unlimited capacity, with all its potential to facilitate discussion on any topic imaginable, is actually the worst possible place for dealing with serious issues. The constant, never-ending flow of information makes it a certainty that punters move on to another topic before coming to terms with the immediate issue.

Worthwhile points were raised in the last week. Women almost undoubtedly do receive an advantage over men when entering the industry — but almost all cases they also weather an exceedingly greater amount of flak simply for being there.

Part of it is really just supply and demand: fewer females means lesser competition for on-camera roles, hosting gigs and general opportunities, but that also means the spotlight and criticism is intensified for that smaller number.

And you could probably quantify that fairly accurately too: just think about the ratio of male to female gamers at any competitive LAN. If you were to say the anger and unwarranted rage received by women was about 1,000 times worse — take a look at the next major LAN tournament and see how many females there are.

But even this is diverting from the bottom line — that all of these points deserve thorough, intelligent discussion. But intelligent, reasoned people can’t have that discussion on the internet because they’re constantly having to dance from one extreme to another having to fan the flames from whatever controversial point was just raised.

Direct conversations like Twitter aren’t appropriate: this is something that’s really best suited for a panel, or at very least a face-to-face debate. That way, at least people are afforded the chance to slowly and properly address issues one at a time. You can’t solve the whole problem by tackling the entire beast head-on; it’s too large, too unwieldy.

Coming to a consensus is much easier to do after listening to an hour of structured reasoning: doing so after an hour of reading people pick apart and take every last line of an article out of context is not. And while reason is certainly not always a guaranteed method of combating the inherent savagery and unsubtle nature of sexism and bigotry, it’s a much better starting point than hoping for sense and sensibility to somehow stand out in the sea of the Internet.

Back in June, we spoke to some of Australia’s top female pro-gamers to get their thoughts on females in competitive gaming. Click here to see what they had to say.

45 comments (Leave your own)

Great Article, I especially love the whole “Last centuries attitude” bit.. its so damn true..

 

unfortunately there are certain issues that typically can’t be discussed in a civilised manner. as you note, this is one of them. it’s almost more useful to take a step back and discuss why that happens, because if you don’t address the issue that causes the crap-throwing, it’s going to continue to happen.

 

Thanks for writing this.

 

Inherently difficult trying to have a reasonable conversation with anyone on the internet, let alone this particular group – which includes ages below 15.

Tell us something we don’t know :)

 

There might be more women around if people would just grow up a bit. If people want esports to be big it needs to appeal to both.

 

At risk of sounding like a tool. What is the actual problem? i mean is it sexism as in women are being insulted and put down? or are they being targeted with sexual remarks? both?
sorry if i seem ignorant. i do not mean to be.

 

“Behavior of the internet” is irrelevant because it’s just an zero inhibitions facsimile of the way people really are. I honestly don’t think people are crazy sexist on the internet… I think it’s more that they’re just general dickheads and tall poppy syndrome makes the females bigger and easier targets.

Chicks crying that they’re underprivileged when it comes to this kind of thing need to just STFU and recognize that their advantages heavily outweigh the disadvantages… unless they’re ugly of course, but then again I don’t ever remember seeing a picture of a games/entertainment reporter/writer/commentator who was female and DIDN’T have a pretty face.

Of course that’s not to say that they all got where they are solely because of how they look… but that heavily influences it. You really think anyone would know who Olivia Munn was if she had a smashed face and A cup tits?

TLDR: general behavioral problems, there are dickheads everywhere, you CHOOSE to be offended.

 

cyrinno:
There might be more women around if people would just grow up a bit. If people want esports to be big it needs to appeal to both.

Here we arrive at one of the major problems of the Internet. The more civilised of us expect people to behave rationally and “grow up” yet we fail to realise that many of those who share their opinion are, in fact, minors. We can’t expect any better behaviour from them than if we’d get if we left them alone in a room unsupervised.

Without appropriate supervision and leading by example the issue is never, ever going to be resolved.

TLDR: general behavioral problems, there are dickheads everywhere, you CHOOSE to be offended.

No one chooses to be offended by racism, sexism or any other kind of insult. Accepting that the world is full of “dickheads” is just a way of sweeping the problem under the rug. If that was best way to deal with things the world would still be using slaves, denying women the right to vote and locking people up for being homosexual. This kind of attitude is almost as bad as this issue itself.

 

Why do they feel the need to prove themselves even if they are treated as if they have not earnt their place? Just win like a champion and let them suck on your replays.

Why does that seem too simple…

 

nekosan:
TLDR: general behavioral problems, there are dickheads everywhere, you CHOOSE to be offended.

You do not choose to be discriminated against.

You do not choose to be treated like a “gender” rather than (in this instance) a gamer of skill.

You do not choose to be segregated.

You do not choose.

 

nekosan: Chicks crying that they’re underprivileged when it comes to this kind of thing need to just STFU and recognize that their advantages heavily outweigh the disadvantages… unless they’re ugly of course, but then again I don’t ever remember seeing a picture of a games/entertainment reporter/writer/commentator who was female and DIDN’T have a pretty face.

I never get tired of hearing men tell women how easy they have it.

 

I can’t believe no one else has posted this yet. I guess it’s up to me to take one for the team.

Women belong in the kitchen, not playing video games.

 

Wyld: You do not choose to be discriminated against.
You do not choose to be treated like a “gender” rather than (in this instance) a gamer of skill.
You do not choose to be segregated.

Of course you don’t, but you DO choose to let that kind of BS get to you. Nobody can take your freedom from you, you can only give it away. That doesn’t excuse the behavior in any way, but there’s no reason to just curl up in a ball and let haters drive you away from something you love.

Not everyone has the strength or will to rally and fight the power, but letting people turn you into something you’re not isn’t the only option and it’s about time all the kids out there learned that… the solution to bullying isn’t to slit your wrists.

Alex Walker: I never get tired of hearing men tell women how easy they have it.

Where did I say they have some magical super easy path in life? All I said was that there are often just as many positives to being a female as they are negatives, the internet isn’t 1950′s corporate America but all you ever seem to hear about is “waaah discrimination”. I’d be interested to see how much those females get paid compared to the males at that level.

blaknite:
Without appropriate supervision and leading by example the issue is never, ever going to be resolved.

Most of those “kids” are on the internet BECAUSE their parents cant be bothered with them, 20 years ago it was television, today it’s the internet. I honestly don’t see shitty parenting changing because of this one issue.

It’s also worth nothing that every time there’s a “troll” or somesuch on the news for posting porn on a dead babies parents facebook or something like that, it always turns out to be some middle aged bogan rather than kids.

I think it’s a bit unfair to just blame it all on teenagers when a lot of the heavily publicized cases are at the other end of the spectrum. I know people are always on about “COD kiddies” but I always seem to have more problems with being abused by middle class, college age sounding Americans than I do with children.

 

Saying someone’s advantages “heavily” outweigh their disadvantages is tantamount to saying they have it easy, given that we’re talking about eSports where the gender disparity is so large.

I’m having trouble aligning your argument, saying on one hand that women should stop complaining about the abuse they receive, while saying on the other that the “solution to bullying isn’t to cut your wrists”.

Are you seriously suggesting that women who get harassed with fairly grotesque images and comments should just suck it up and pretend they have it better?

The problem isn’t people complaining, it’s the bigoted, misogynist, schoolboy keyboard warriors who don’t get punished for their comments. They’re not forced to wear or be tagged with what they say, like someone in the public spotlight might.

Do you not agree that the bigoted behaviour is a problem? Do you actually think telling those affected to stick their heads in the sand will improve things? That’s like telling the social outcast at school to keep a low-profile and hide from the schoolyard bully instead of standing up for himself or dealing with the bully in some other fashion. It doesn’t mesh with reality.

And you never said the balance between pros and cons for females was even; it was “heavily” outweighed in favour. If things were really that good, the advantages that beneficial, don’t you think we’d see more females taking on prominent roles in eSports and gaming?

 

nekosan: Most of those “kids” are on the internet BECAUSE their parents cant be bothered with them, 20 years ago it was television, today it’s the internet. I honestly don’t see shitty parenting changing because of this one issue.

Supervision does not only come from parents. Community and competition operators have a responsibility to supervise and moderate. There should be a zero tolerance policy on discrimination of any form.

nekosan: It’s also worth nothing that every time there’s a “troll” or somesuch on the news for posting porn on a dead babies parents facebook or something like that, it always turns out to be some middle aged bogan rather than kids.

Probably not all the same people. Being a masochist does not make you a complete moron just a bit of one.

nekosan: I think it’s a bit unfair to just blame it all on teenagers when a lot of the heavily publicized cases are at the other end of the spectrum. I know people are always on about “COD kiddies” but I always seem to have more problems with being abused by middle class, college age sounding Americans than I do with children.

I think you misunderstand the definition of minor. In fact in the case of the United States you can be a minor right up until the age of 21. This fits squarely in the college student age bracket. By no means do I blame children but you cannot expect anyone to be something they quite simply aren’t.

You cannot expect youth in general to understand the consequences of their actions and behave accordingly without some kind of guidance from mature role models within the community.

People tend to treat the Internet as it’s own beast and while yes it is easier to post offensive comments than it is to say them in person the ways in which we can influence people and plant the seeds of change are not that much different. If people stop tolerating bad behaviour because “the Internet is full of arseholes” and start forcing the “arseholes” to stick to their own communities we can at least start to make a difference.

The problem isn’t people complaining, it’s the bigoted, misogynist, schoolboy keyboard warriors who don’t get punished for their comments. They’re not forced to wear or be tagged with what they say, like someone in the public spotlight might.

Agreed.

 

Where’s the edit button? Masochist was meant to be misogynist… :/ not at all the same thing…

 

Alex Walker:
Are you seriously suggesting that women who get harassed with fairly grotesque images and comments should just suck it up and pretend they have it better?

No, I’m suggesting that ANYONE who gets harassed should act like a PROFESSIONAL and an ADULT and just ignore the idiots doing the harassing. Expecting people too backwards to know any better to change just because you tell them to is a bit of a naive expectation isn’t it?

Why is it so hard for people now to just turn the other cheek when someone has something negative to say about them? PinothyJ has the right idea, play the damn tournament, enjoy your free media coverage and act like the professional you want them to see you as and they HAVE to accept you.

You don’t change minds by sitting on the toilet crying, you do it by showing them that you’re every bit as capable as they are. What 22 year old has a cry about someone sending them a picture of their penis over the internet?

 

Because it’s not just one person doing the harassment, these aren’t just one-off events and people aren’t sitting at home, choked up in tears about it.

It’s not like they’ve come out and railed against the first sign of abuse. Eve, the lady in question, has been abused constantly since her recruitment was first announced. It’s non-stop. Of course people turn the cheek initially, but there comes a point for everyone when enough is enough.

Coming out and shining a light on the problem is how adult’s deal with a problem in today’s society. Ignoring them will never solve anything and suggesting it as a viable solution would only serve to push the issue into the dark where it can fester unchecked.

And I agree that results are always the best way to prove people wrong, and that will convert most people but it still isn’t a proper long-term solution towards bigoted behaviour. Standards need to be established that say you cannot treat female gamers this way; they deserve as much respect as the rest of us.

Yes, they are going to get abused. Male/teenage boys get abused constantly. There is nothing that will change that. But you cannot deny the severity of abuse levelled at women is far, far out of proportion with that given to men – and there is something seriously wrong with people who think that allowing that abuse to remain is a fair exchange just because their physical attractiveness or gender gave them some kind of “leg-up”.

Abusing someone for who they are is never OK. Professional criticism is not the same as calling someone a slut on a daily basis.

 

It’s unfortunate that it’s acceptable to act this way in almost any community, there’s always someone else who’ll find it funny/join in/jump onto a hate train at the first chance they get. There’s also a lot of people who just turn a blind eye, with the “It’s too big of an issue for me to solve” mentality.

The second of the two groups above is the one that I’d fit into, the issue on a whole is in many ways too big to to take on directly. In some ways there’s a need to segment it, so small parts can be worked on. Am I proud that I feel this way about the issue? Not especially, but I don’t really know what else I can do, aside from trying to be accepting of both women and men that share my love for interactive entertainment.

 

Alex Walker:
Abusing someone for who they are is never OK. Professional criticism is not the same as calling someone a slut on a daily basis.

So they call her a slut, she isn’t, it’s not nice but what’s the problem? She knows she isn’t what they’re saying so it can’t bother her, she’s in her mid 20′s ffs, she’s not a 10 year old.

I’m just sick of the collective internet romping around looking for something to be outraged about when they don’t really even give a crap about the cause itself.

 
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