Over the last few weeks, I have toyed with the idea of “gamer girl” stereotypes and why they bothered me.
Sure, I do not fit a lot of the ideas of what a gamer girl is, but it just never came to fruition. Then the IeSF (International eSports Federation) was found to be gender-biased against women by not allowing women to compete in their Hearthstone competition.
The issue was met by overnight outrage and an equally timely response from Blizzard Entertainment. It was a victory equality; Blizzard refused to allow their games to be used unless the situation was rectified.
Quickly, the IeSF changed their stance and fixed things; then The Mary Sue came out with an article about this. I have no problem with the article, but rather the fact that nobody cares about the harm separation causes and the support women actually give to separation.
The article reported that the IeSF feels that women only competitions are a more inviting entry point and it creates a community and they feel safer. Wait, what? Safer? I did not know that I was in danger of someone jumping across the desk. Separate does NOT mean equal. We have all seen how well segregation went for the race wars.
So why does this bother me so much? Why am I a proponent of inclusion? Simple: I was Title IX. If the IeSF wants to make gaming a legitimized sport, we have to treat it thusly. (Title IX is an American federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in schools that receive federal funding — including in their athletics programs. If your school has a sport, then a girl can play on the team if there is no female equivalent team.)
Nearly twenty years ago, I decided I want to play ice hockey. I had grown up on Mighty Ducks and the New Jersey Devils. At the time, I did not know about Cammi Granato and the Nagano Olympic Games – which would take place two years later. I just wanted to play ice hockey, and I was the first girl in my town to do so. The thing is, I never hit resistance. There were some skeptics, but nobody ever said no. My parents were supportive of me. They spent countless summer hours in ice rinks freezing their asses off while I was coached on how to skate and shoot. They woke up at all sorts of hours to go to practices and games.
My parents were also realistic. They prepared me for when I might face sexism because girls usually do not play ice hockey. But I was determined not to let it happen.
The more I included myself, the less I heard about being a girl and the more I heard about being part of the team. I did not shy away from situations that would be considered “boy-centric.” I went to ice hockey camp, surrounded by boys for eight hours a day. I went to clinics. I went to the gym. I even took an offer from a local coach to train (at five a.m.) with his high school team. Why? Because, I knew I was disadvantaged in size and shape naturally, but I would not let my sex play a part. I might not have been physically stronger than them, but I could outlast them.
It is funny. In the end, it was not the sexism or physical differences that made me turn to playing in a women’s travel league, but the segregation. We never knew about women’s travel teams until I met a coach from one of them. And I was given the harsh truth. Women’s college recruiters did not come to boys’ games.
You might think this is great. ‘Hey, you have your own recruiters and they have a special league all for you.’ But, it is not great. It means giving up the friends and teams you have played for. It meant hours of travel, because the nearest women’s team was an hour’s drive away. It meant lots of hours on the road traveling to different women-only teams. I was no longer just one of the team, now I was that girl who played in the women’s league.
So why does my story relate to the eSports’ separation? Because we are fighting for equality. We are not gamer girls, we are gamers. My sex does not define my play skill of League of Legends or Heartstone. It does not help or hinder me. For a long time when I played World of Warcraft, I kept my anonymity because I did not want to be judged as a “gamer girl.” (By the way, if you hop on urban dictionary you will find about half the definitions of “gamer girl” revolve around the stigma that we play to garner male attention. The phrase “attention whore” is in several of them.)
We should look to the WNBA (Women’s National Basketball Association) for what really will happen with women in separated groups. Yes, I realize there are genetic reasons that we have segregated sports, but I am looking at the facts. Even though the WNBA is women-centric and all about driving power for women, they do not get the support. They are women only. They do not get the news coverage, they do not get the funds, and they sure as heck do not get the fans. So how does this help women? Why should a woman want to join woman only group knowing that they will never get the same coverage or pay?
The article goes on to quote Matt Webber of eSports’ Team Liquid saying that women “don’t feel comfortable sharing that information because of the weird attention it grants them.” Weird attention? Yes. I mean just this weekend I was told to “twerk in gurrl. Twerk it hard,” by someone in World of Warcraft. Yeah, there is some weird attention, but are we that delicate of flowers that we cannot rise above it? The report button is a magical thing.
I think the most infuriating part was the comments both on the Facebook link and The Mary Sue’s website’s comments. People were actually supporting segregation! Why? The comments ranged from “my daughter was teased” to “women do not compete the same way men do” to “there are too many male players for women to compete with” to “women are socialized to be nice.” These women do NOT represent gamers. These are not our voices. This is segregation. This is NOT the equality Blizzard is offering us.
If I compete against men at the same level and the same game, it comes down to skill. Sure there are not enough women who are playing out there; we are a small market still. However, it is not because there are more men than women that women are not in the finals; that is skill. If we continue to hide behind gender segregation, women will always “be afraid” of men or “afraid” to compete with them. You have to face your fears to conquer them.
I do not want to be silenced into the corner of “girl gaming” where everyone gets a ribbon and we have cookies and milk afterwards. I want to compete. I will gladly play against any male player. If they want to treat me differently because I am a girl, that is their problem. I am here to play a game, not be your girlfriend nor fit into your gender roles. I do not want to hear that I am nicer or that I am programmed to compete differently. If you judge me by my sex and assume that, well you are in for a surprise. I refuse to be segregated by my sex, because that is not equality. I am a fiery redhead who will fight against any male at the same level. May the best GAMER win.