Female participation in e-sports

I want to talk about the recent decision that the IeSF made to remove the ‘male only’ qualifier from their ‘world championship’ type tournaments. And hey look, I’m going to be good and I’m not even going to discuss the fact I’m faced with Jaina’s great big sexy almost-bare tits every time I log on to play my Mage in Hearthstone! Although on an unrelated note, I just tweeted this:


Anyway, back to the topic at hand.

Apparently some guys have got pissy that there is still a female-only competition, while there is no longer a male-only competition. Basically it’s unisex for the big prize and a secondary female tournament without quite as much status. Women can compete either with the men on equal terms or with just their own gender.

I’ve said before that I find much positive discrimination uncomfortable, I don’t agree with it being the best way to sort out that whole┬áinconvenient patriarchy thing. However sometimes you just have to make a temporary exception – where temporary is at least a few years.

The IeSF aren’t holding a separate female tournament because they’re misandrist, no matter what a load of these whingy geeks might think. I was going to quote some of the bile from the comments of the article I linked above, but to be honest I think you get the idea. Generally it sounds like ‘waaa waaa waaaaaaa, I don’t want to be forced to play with girls’. Or they’re playing the ‘reverse sexism’ line, and saying that it’s sexist towards men to exclude them from the female-only tournament.

Here’s why it’s not sexist.

The IeSF aren’t doing this because female gamers are in a minority. In fact, a massive 48% of gamers are female. Didn’t expect that, huh? There’s lots of people saying that female gamers are in the minority and they’re simply not. However female gamers are underrepresented in the ‘top tier’ of gaming – even down to the leading raid groups on my warcraft server which appear to be male dominated.

I’ll say now, I’m a Warcraft player. I love raiding with my Paladin. I love doing pickup raids from OpenRaid, but the raids with voice communication are out of the question to me. Why? Because there’s always the chance that you’re going to get a group of guys who feel that women shouldn’t be there. Unfortunately this isn’t an unusual occurrence, it happens more often than not.

The comments range from sexist comments (usually something clever about getting back in the kitchen) to something that basically amounts of sexual harassment (the guys seem to enjoy telling you about how they’re rubbing their massive cock over the thought of you). All this happens in front of everyone else in the room and no one ever stops it. Homophobic comments are common place too (“Why did you wipe us? You fucking gay fag…”).

So by having a tournament that only women can enter it encourages a safe place for women. Hopefully this will also encourage women-safe places to play too. Perhaps women’s only guilds. Or even guilds that women run, where men have to be vetted in. But this is all just a short term (and slightly uncomfortable) solution.

The longer term solution is to educate male gamers that sexist (and homophobic) abuse is wrong and that even if they’re not the ones doing the abusing, everyone has to speak out when they hear it to get it to stop. But that’s the longer term solution in wider society and we’re not doing so well there either. But in the short term we need to get more women comfortable playing in this kind of environment, and creating their own spaces where they have the confidence to speak up to abuse.

At the same time the women-only tournament will create role-models for other female gamers. Someone to look up to and to aspire to be like. And eventually the standard of female gaming will raise because women are allowed an environment that is both safe and also full of great role-models.

Then, and not before then, we can start to encourage more cross-over. To migrate the women over to the mainstream tournament. This has to be a multi-sided attack and it has to be done in conjunction with stamping out sexism and homophobia in gaming. And guys, you need to be a part of this as much as the women. We need you on our side, not whinging about the fact that women get their own tournament.