Harassment of the Female Gamer

Today I read a BBC article that reported on the sexual harassment of female gamers in the video game world. Articles like this one aren’t new. I’ve read other articles and discussions concerning the lack of respect for female gamers.

The idea of a female gamer is still relatively new even though it has been said the amount of gamers being female is growing. The BBC article says that 42% of gamers are made up of females in the U.S. Despite the growing trend of the female gamer, the article also cites that video games still remains to be a “macho environment.” Male gamers aren’t exactly welcoming female gamers with open arms.

The amount of vitriol aimed at female gamers is appalling, as reported by the BBC. Many of the comments cited in the article are sexist, misogynistic, and downright cruel. You would think it would be every guy’s dream to have a girl who is into video games like they are, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for some male gamers.

Now, I’m not going into a feminist tirade here. I’m also not classifying all male gamers as macho pigs who don’t respect women either. I know plenty of awesome male gamers who enjoy playing a game with female gamers. To be quite honest, it shouldn’t matter what your gender is as long as you are having fun. What I’m commenting on is why there are some male gamers out there who seem to want to attack a gamer simply because of her gender. Why call her a slut? Why tell her to go back to the kitchen? Or hope that their boyfriend beats them? Why can’t the comments simply be directed on how she plays the game rather than she is a girl who happens to like to play the same games guys do? Instead, the comments focuses squarely on the gamer being female and has nothing to do with her gaming skills in Halo or Call of Duty.

Maybe the reason for these insensitive comments has to do with females invading what was once considered “male turf.” Guys would be gaming for hours in their room or basement while the girls went to the mall, or went to get their hair and nails done. The idea of video games solely being the male’s arena is no longer the case. More and more girls are revealing themselves to be proud gamers too. And no, we aren’t talking about girls who only like cutesy games without any blood and swearing either. Female gamers can enjoy Halo, Assassin’s Creed, Skyrim, God of War, or any other non-cutesy, OMG I heart Kirby kind of games. The fact that us females can admit to liking games like these can either be incredibly attractive for some guys, or it can be seen as a weird phenomena. For the guys against girls liking video games, the view must be, “Video games aren’t for chicks. It’s made for men, by men.”

Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft––Kick ass female, but still pure, male fan service

This brings another possibility of why some male gamers seem to feel “threatened” by female gamers––games were made largely for a male audience, and to some degree, they still are. When you encounter female characters whose only real purpose in the game is to look cute and have bazookas for breasts, clearly these women aren’t meant to appeal to females but to men. These unrealistic looking female characters are fan service for men as they shoot or blast their way through a game. Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft can be seen as a character who can appeal to female gamers because she’s a strong, independent, adventurer type of girl, but she still caters to the fan service image for men with her breasts nearly bursting out of her tight shirt and wearing ultra short shorts as her go-to outfit for her outdoor adventures.

Games try to appeal to the female audience by now having a game option where you can play as a male or female. Sometimes choosing either one doesn’t have a big effect on the story. Other times it does, like in the case of the Bioware games, where a character would react based on the player’s choice of playing as a male or female character. I wonder if by trying to appeal to a wider audience, male gamers think games would somehow be less “cool” if a developer factors in what a female gamer might want to see from a game. Do these male gamers think we only want more “talk about feelings” in games and less killing stuff? Or maybe they think we want to somehow turn games into one big romantic comedy, video game style? I think by having inclusion, some male gamers think what they want will ultimately get neglected or ignored in an attempt to appeal to the new sets of gamers in the gaming world.

There is also this idea that female gamers just suck at gaming. It’s presumed a majority of us can’t hold our own in an online match. Or the female gamer can hold her own in a match, and ends up proving to be better than the rest of the male gamers who play the same game. A wounded ego can be terribly hard to accept, especially if it’s a girl who just handed your butt on a silver platter. Hurt male pride can cause someone to revert to such callous treatment of a fellow gamer when they don’t deserve it. All it proves is that you are just a sore loser.

It would be nice to think we live in a world where everyone is accepting and tolerant of everyone, but it isn’t always the case. There will still be a measure of inequality and unfair treatment going on. Rather than play nice, people prefer to play dirty. Luckily, the bad apples tend to make up a small percentage of people who want to try and ruin someone’s experience just by being a jerk. Again, there are awesome male gamers out there who think it’s awesome girls like to game just like them. A shared experience like that makes for just one other thing someone can bond over. It’s always better when two people can be geeks together.

What are your opinions on the topic? Do you agree with the article published by the BBC?

17 thoughts on “Harassment of the Female Gamer

  1. Nice article.

    it’s an interesting discussion to have. I actually feel like in the past, I saw this kind of harassment a lot, but nowadays, I haven’t seen it quite as much. Due to the anonymity that comes with online games, people are pretty abusive to each other in general unfortunately, and I think sexism is just one element to that. I have no idea why it’s fun for people to be stupid, but it just seems to be how it is.

    1. I don’t really play MMOs much unless it’s with friends who want to play, so luckily I haven’t encountered this kind of harassment being reported in the article. Still, it’s incredibly annoying to encounter morons who just can’t be respectful to others. At least these idiots are only a small percentage who want to talk crap because they can hide behind the anonymity.

    2. You know what bothers me the most out of this? That to insult another male player you call them female. You know the swears I am referring to and the general phrases. Why is it an insult to be called a woman? That said, it’s not just video games. There are places on the internet that seem to be breeding grounds for these sorts of people.

  2. I read this article yesterday and spent quite a bit of time on the site Not in the Kitchen Anymore! I was enjoying myself immensely!
    Personally, I don’t have very much experience with MMOs, which is where I assume much of the abuse gets made, but I didn’t really come across remarks based on my gender. If I did come across an asshole, which was rare, it was based off of me being a noob AND that they had just lost against me. I completely agree with you on the fact that some people just return to a childish mindset when they lose to someone they think is inferior.
    One thing I was surprised about was the repetition of the comments made, especially the one about going back to the kitchen and making a sandwich. >.> I just rolled my eyes whenever someone said that. It just felt like some random teenager was saying it because it was the “cool” thing to say. And the sexually themed ones were…I don’t even know if pathetic is a strong enough word for it. All in all, I am glad that this really seems to be dealing with a mentally deficient minority!
    Another thing I was surprised about was that 42%. Honestly, I don’t believe it. Out of my friends, the ones I know in real life, I am the only girl who plays a lot and with variety. If my friends play something, it is very nearly once in a blue moon. If this statistic is true, then where the hell are all these girls hiding?! Haha, I would love to have some female friends to play video games with!
    BTW, I don’t know if you went onto the site Not in the Kitchen Anymore, but if you did, did you also think that a lot of the offending voices sounded similar? I don’t know, maybe she just has the bad luck of meeting the SAME fools all the time or something.

    1. I visited the site, and it’s amazing how many idiots she did encounter when she played online. A lot of the comments made tend to just repeat themselves, as you pointed out. It really goes to show you that the amount of dimwits who exist in this world is mind blowing.

      I don’t play MMOs much either, and frankly, I prefer to play them when it’s with people I know. I really don’t like to play with random players at all. But to encounter the stuff some of these guys have said to the owner of Not in the Kitchen Anymore is not only annoying but hurtful. A lot of the voices who said the insults just sound like they want to feel like they are some all powerful “man” when they are just pathetic losers who don’t know how to interact with people in the “real world.”

      I’m surprised about the 42% too! I have at least two or three in real life female friends who love to play games. I do think I encounter more guys who love to play games than girls, though. I definitely wish I could meet more female players too. You are definitely cool, Yuuhi. Totally wish we were in the same country to play games together! 😉

    2. I haven personally been on the site you mentioned, but I have come across the phrase “get back in the kitchen and make me a sandwich” quite a bit. Mind you, not in games since I don’t play online, but in different forums, youtube, things like that. Sometimes it’s even used ironically and sarcastically, so it’s not all bad and it’s not just restricted to video games as I’ve seen it used in different places. But yeah, these guys clearly lack originality if they can’t come up with their own insults.

      42% – I known a few female friends who also play, but most of them tend to play less than me. Like I had a friend who played here and there, some Pokemon, some Mario. Then I had a friend who played Pokemon with me growing up but she stopped playing when she “grew up”. I did get her addicted on Phoenix Wright though. xD That said, I personally don’t know many gamers in real life, so to me it’s more like gamers exist?! xD I frequent a few gaming sites that have quite a number of female gamers though, so I don’t find it too far fetched, personally. :3 But perhaps the problem is also that female gamers tend to “hide” themselves because they know about this sort of crap? I personally don’t really advertise that I’m a gamer (er outside of wearing some gaming shirts and things some times xD ) but I don’t exactly hide it either. If the chance occurs, I will bring it up in a conversation. :3

  3. Nice post. 🙂 I had heard about this story myself as well, and I also remember listening to a podcast on AnimeNewsNetwork discussing sexism among the different fandoms. With online gamers, along with the hurtful comments you mentioned, there is sometimes also a tendency of a rotten few people to disbelieve a gamer when she says she’s female. This happens in other areas of the Internet as well because of the old myth that there are no women on the Internet (which makes no sense considering the overwhelming presence of females in social media). I’m also doubtful of the statistic that 42% of gamers are female, but in the opposite way of you and Yuuhi – I’ve actually heard that the majority of gamers are female, and I know just about as many female gamers as male ones. And even with other media this happens – just look at the outcry of male fans at San Diego Comic-Con a few years ago when Twilight hit, and their main attack against the fans of the film was that they were female. In many ways I’m glad I’m an anime fan because I feel anime fans are much more accepting of all types of people, and if you look at anime convention statistics, typically more females attend them than males do.

    1. Thanks! 🙂 And I have noticed that with the anime/manga fandom, there is more acceptance for all types of fans. When it comes to the video games fandom, there are people who would rather be intolerant of the new waves of fans, such as the female gamers as well as the LGBT gamers. Developers like Bioware have made sincere attempts to include the LGBT gamers by developing male/male, female/female, or bi-sexual romances (although there haven’t been any transsexual romances included in their games). Because developers want to include all types of fans, it has caused some backlash as well. There certainly has been some gamers against the inclusion of “gay romances” in the Bioware games. Again, I think it goes back to video games being thought of as “male domain” that we have those who want to keep it that way. Anime/manga on the otherhand, is not strictly for one “type” of fan. It’s really for everybody.

  4. So reading the article I notice a few things:
    -Reddit is mentioned. I am not surprised. That is like the worst site in existence. It’s so full of misogyny that it’s quite disgusting. And it’s not just on the video game boards, it’s pretty much overrun the whole site. Things like homophobia and racism are pretty normal there as well. I had a happy time browsing it at one point, well the “shit that reddit says” board at least.

    -The Aris Bakhtanians incident: Yeah I remember this. Quite off-putting on a number of levels. I think the thing that hurt me the most was that he was known in the Capcom community (hosted their events before) and Capcom were perfectly fine endorsing him. I can shake my head and sigh at one vile male gamer but when an actually gaming company is aware of his “views” and endorses him because he’s popular, that really bothers me. And they say sexism isn’t institutionalized. *rolls eyes*. Also another thing that bothered me about this incident and that isn’t mentioned in the article is the other female player on the other team (Team Street Fighter) was criticizing Pakozdi on a podcast for being “weak” and dropping out of the tournament and saying that if she told Aris to stop, dead seriously, he would have. I don’t buy that and I found that really disappointing. The good side of the story is that the other players on Team Tekken were more supportive of Pakozdi (or so I gathered from some tweets).

    -Microsoft doing nothing about harassment on Live. Another company. Disappointing.

    -Extra Credits is pretty awesome, albeit I don’t agree with them on their thoughts on RPGs in general, and JRPGs in particular. I still respect the team a lot because they are a group a very smart people that care about these problems and the perception of gaming in general. 🙂

    As to why this happens. I think it’s a whole interconnected bunch of reasons. Firstly, there are quite a few games that depict female characters in rather mean-spirited ways: from sex object to powerless weakless frail thing in need of help. These sorts of depictions obviously attract the wrong sort of people and when these sort of people hear that girls are starting to play their hobby, they think “PC Feminazis” are going to come patrol their games and they won’t be able to play what they want, namely these exploitative games. So out comes the hate. Thankfully, I personally, haven’t met any of these sorts of male gamers offline or online (well outside of seeing these sorts of posts from time to time), so I definitely agree that it’s just a smaller group and most gamers, male and female, are awesome people. 🙂

  5. Oh, I forgot to mention. Isn’t it funny how almost half the gamers are female, yet there are still so few games that cater to us specifically and aren’t horrible messes and sexist. But it seems like it’s slowly happening, so I’m happy at the progress at least. 🙂

    1. I didn’t know which comment of yours to click reply to, so I’ll go with this one. XD I’m not familiar with the Aris Bakhtanians incident, but it’s horrible when someone’s hurtful remarks forces someone to withdraw from the competition as a result. It really shouldn’t come to that, but unfortunately it does happen. Not everyone can brush off the harassment and keep going.

      I’ve heard some pretty bad things about Reddit too, which is why I don’t bother going on there at all. The amount of harassment you hear about online is usually directed at female and homosexual gamers. It’s sad when there are still people out there who can’t get past someone’s gender or sexual orientation and just play the game. We are all gamers and we all want to have fun. Issues like gender and sexual orientation shouldn’t be an issue. Microsoft not really doing anything to combat the harassment on Xbox Live is another disappointment I agree with. I don’t have any experience playing with random players on there since I only use Live to play with my friends who also have Live, but regardless, Microsoft should seriously have a zero tolerance policy for harassment of any kind. Players like those should be banned or have their account suspended for a certain amount of time so they will learn it’s unacceptable.

      I also believe the objectification of women in media is partly to blame for having some male gamers act the way they do. As I pointed out, characters like Lara Croft or any other random overly sexed female character will contribute to this idea of females only being good for their bodies and not much else. Still, as you said, there aren’t that many games catered to a female audience, but at least developers are trying to change it slowly. A gradual change is better than no change. I think back then, it’s unheard of to have developers try and create female playable characters as an alternative to the default male in RPGs and JRPGs. To have even an option shows that developers are acknowledging their female fans as well.

      1. I heard of the Aris Bakhtanians incident from gaming news sites. There were quite a few covering the incident and thankfully all of the ones I saw covering it were all in agreement that what Bakhtanians did was wrong. And I agree but to these guys, it’s like a rite of passage or something. *rolls eyes* And all the people backing Bakhtanians had one key argument in common: Pakozdi wasn’t new to the scene, so she knew what to expect. It was her choice. Funny how there is no choice for a respectful community though. >__>

        Yeah, I have this morbid curiosity, so from time to time I tend to check out some sites that don’t have the best reputation. Never bother to argue with the idiot though, because I know that is pointless.

        You mentioned something that reminds me of something else. There was this one comment thread where a female gamer was basically asking for equal fan service (so male characters walking around in speedos and in demure sexy poses) and there were some replies (from male gamers I presume) that were basically, “ewwww hell no”. That said, there were some replies that were positive. It should be noted that this was on a community that is mostly troll free so I’m guessing that’s why the replies were pretty subdued compared to the rest of the internet.

    1. Same for me too! I have male friends who think it’s natural to have girls who like gaming. Or at least know a girl who likes gaming. 😉

  6. I haven’t read the article, nor do I think I particularly want to (don’t like depressing stuff, don’t want to read the comments). There are a couple things I think I can still say though.

    1) I’ve seen a few posts about this topic by gamer girls, and I think one thing that’s important to remember is that the Internet is home to a lot of stupid people. Basically, the vast majority of people on the internet who comment (especially on news articles) are either uninformed, or trolling. Most are probably trolling, and I wouldn’t be surprised if many were not gamers at all. Not that that solves or excuses anything, I just think it’s something worth keeping in mind.

    2) “Maybe the reason for these insensitive comments has to do with females invading what was once considered ‘male turf.'”

    Honestly, I think that’s it right there, or at least the biggest reason. Video Games are (or rather, were) one of *the* “guy things.” Perhaps that’s why there seems to be so much rejection of the idea of girl gamers. Video Games are one of the only things nearly *all* guys do. I mean, obviously not every male plays video games, but pretty much every part of male “culture” is somewhat involved in them. Whether you’re a fashionable college frat house playboy, or a fat, sweaty, glasses wearing nerd living in your parent’s basement, or an athletic sports team captain, or even a middle-aged bachelor, chances are you’ve at least dabbled in video games. It’s one of the few areas which serves as a melting pot for men. That being the case, I think a lot of guys are reluctant to let women into it. For some, maybe because it reduces the significance of doing the same thing as someone more popular/attractive/old/young/whatever. For others, maybe because they see video games as a “bro culture” and don’t want that to change. For most though, I think, it’s because they’re used to men. They’re comfortable around them. Women suddenly coming into play, however, introduces an new element into their previously comfortable environment. And, as with most things, new, unfamiliar things are rejected outright.

    I hope this whole thing stops soon. It doesn’t really make any kind of logical sense to me, and it’s just depressing hearing people say harshly negative things about others, especially for such trivial reasons. Anyway, nice post.

    1. Thank you! The Internet does in fact make it easy for idiots to be trolls just because it’s easier to hide behind the curtain of “anonymity.” It really is terrible when you don’t have more accepting people in this world. It really should be as simple as we have the same interests, this person may be cool, and we should definitely come together and enjoy the things we both equally love. I also know people will always be resistant to change if they think it’ll somehow ruin what they once consider as there “thing” from the beginning. Like you said, I hope in time this kind of harassment against female gamers will stop. Thanks again for sharing your own thoughts on the topic.

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