I’m Sunset. I’m an e-sports writer and editor. I work for Root Gaming, but I want to make it clear I’m speaking as an individual and my views do not necessarily reflect that of Root Gaming or its sponsors.
I am writing in response to the Reddit thread concerning this: http://imgur.com/DWPJV
I always swore that I would never, ever write about women in e-sports ever. It’s basically a landmine-filled canyon of bullshit and to put myself out there as a voice of the minority is somewhat daunting.
Yet here we sit. I feel like, at this point, someone needs to succinctly point out what’s glaringly being missed here. So let’s get straight into it.
First and foremost, I respect Richard Lewis as a writer and have for a long time. When I first saw his question to Seltzer, I wasn’t angry. I thought it was vaguely in poor taste, but I wasn’t angry. It was basically the follow-up conversation that made me frustrated, and here’s why.
The simple question “Do women get a leg up in esports?” requires a simple answer. The answer is, in most cases, yes.
Let me clarify my answer further - it is no more a leg up than being good-looking, funny, knowledgeable, well-connected, etc, as a male, and is, in fact, more a detriment than advantage.
Here’s why. We’ll break it down slowly. Not because I doubt anyone’s intelligence, but I think that maybe people haven’t thought about it from this perspective.
E-sports is a male dominated industry. It is predominantly male, advertisers and sponsors are pretty much all male-centric. Males, generally, like looking at females. Therefore, event organisers, sponsors, etc, think that having women featured predominantly will attract viewers. So they, sometimes, hire women. That’s the advantage. Boom.
However, let me point out something that women endure that I find males don’t seem to have as large of a problem with.
When you’re a woman, you have to work twice as hard to prove your relevance and work twice as hard to maintain it.
The community automatically assumes you are where you are because of your gender.
You have to prove twice as hard that you’re knowledgeable, that you care about the scene and have followed it for a long time.
You have to be funny, but not too funny.
You have to be well-connected, but not seen to have a hand in everything.
Not so friendly that you come across as “flirty”, but not so unfriendly that you come across as a bitch.
If you’re on a broadcast, you have to watch what you say, always.
One step out of line in any of these cases and you’re a whore, a groupie, a bitch, an attention-seeker. You don’t even need to be a “personality” for this to happen - just a female fan in the scene tweeting “darling” to a progamer can get this kind of treatment, as was demonstrated recently.
Men do not need to constantly justify themselves in this way. For example, on the last State of the Game last year, 2GD came on and listed women in e-sports he’d maybe date. Clearly joking, of course. However, if the gender roles were reversed, I can guarantee that woman would struggle to be taken seriously by a reputable organisation. 2GD suffered no fallout from his behavior, which is completely fine - he is who he is, he’s funny and we all like it - but the double standards are glaringly obvious, at least to me.
Richard Lewis says in the Twitter conversation, “Affirmative action suggests there’s some sort of prejudice hierarchy holding you back…I don’t think (that’s) true.” What makes this frustrating for females to read is because it is true. We begin our e-sports journeys at a disadvantage because not taking us seriously is the default position.
Now, female pro gamers. We can all agree that some female sponsored players are not at the level required for a male to be sponsored. However, that being said, they are not taking jobs that would’ve otherwise belonged to a male. They are marketing tools. Men are the majority of viewers and they’re marketing to you.
But it has a nifty side-effect - community outreach. I love following female gamers as much as I love following my favourite male pros, despite the skill gap. Know why? Because I’m also female. Just like Canadians follow Canadian gamers, like the French follow the French, etc. It’s exactly the same. It’s encouraging female participation in e-sports.
If you find them attractive or interesting or funny or whatever, that’s great too - again, male-dominated industry, boys tend to like looking at girls, etc - and more exposure for the team and sponsors. I don’t see how or why this is offensive to some people. You’re (mostly) men, and they’re (mostly) marketing to you.
Then there are women like, say, Lauren Elise. She’s gorgeous, does Playboy. Lauren had no prior e-sports experience before the NASL gig. They got her because they thought it’s what you wanted to see and she, in turn, but herself out there with her beauty and friendliness as her selling attributes so you could get to know her. That’s her choice, she’s allowed to make that choice. You can be annoyed by her role all you like, but if viewers go up when she’s on, or overall since she’s been on, that’s seen as a positive by the organisation, right? That’s a good hire. Leagues, teams and sponsors want your eyeballs. You can be mad about that, but that’s on you, as viewers. I’m not saying numbers are all organisations care about, of course it’s not, but it certainly carries a whole lot of weight.
I think that from an outsider’s perspective (and in this case, by “outsider”, I mean male), it’s easy and perhaps understandable to assume it’s all sunshine and rainbows to be female in this world and have opportunities. I think that’s because you don’t experience what we experience, and we’re reluctant to voice the negatives, because there’s a risk the perception of us by some will alter, as this situation demonstrates, and we just want to do our friggin’ work.
What frustrated me about the conversation on Twitter and the Reddit comments was the lack of a female voice. It’s a little strange and surreal to see a bunch of men on the internet discussing women’s roles in e-sports, and I hope at least some people can see the irony.
I am in no way suggesting that views expressed by Richard or Twitter or Reddit are the majority. I’m not trying to crucify Reddit or the community as a whole. I love this community and every woman in this community loves it too. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be here.
Seltzer saying years ago, in a casting video for a reality show that requires drama, that the “leg up” is real, doesn’t make her a liar or a hypocrite. Trumpeting that you’re some kind of hero for asking the question is sickening, quite frankly. For voicing the attitude the we females already know has existed for years? Yeah, OK.
It’s a complex issue that deserves more than the limited, ridiculous discussion around it recently. The responses and attitudes I’ve witnessed since the incident are heartbreaking.
There needed to be a female voice of reason. I don’t know if I’m it, and I kind of don’t want to be it. I hate talking about it at all and in a perfect world, I wouldn’t have to.
I’ve been accused of being a lot of negative things in my time and I don’t even see myself as relevant. And maybe there’ll be fallout from this, I don’t know, but there’s fallout every time I express any controversial opinion so I can deal with it. I’m done with not properly expressing my opinions out of fear the community will see me as a bitch, whore, attention-seeker, feminazi, or whatever.
I don’t even think this will change anyone’s mind.
I don’t know if all females would agree with me.
I don’t know what the solution is.
All I can do is just keep doing what I do, because I love e-sports.
Seltzer will keep doing what she’s doing, because she loves e-sports.
Megumi, Lani, Anna, LivinPink, Soe, Flo, Maddelisk, and so many, many others - we will keep doing what we’re doing. We’re not going anywhere.
I think the majority of you appreciate all of us - not as something special, but as an equal - at least I hope you do. But this constant questioning of how we got where we are at needs to stop. We all work damn hard to prove to you we deserve it, every day.
Now can we stop talking about it so we can just do our work?
tl;dr - Being a woman is a “leg up”, an advantage, but that advantage is outweighed by the numerous disadvantages. We love e-sports. You love e-sports. Why not love e-sports together?
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