Escapist Editorials

Escapist Editorials
Excluding Women From E-Sports Does Not Legitimize It

Carly Smith | 2 Jul 2014 16:30
Escapist Editorials - RSS 2.0

Women-only tournaments aren't the problem in e-sports. Ideally they exist in a safe space to promote women to compete and meet other women. It's one thing to willingly participate outside of predominately male tournaments, and it's another to not be allowed in. These tournaments can easily promote women, as IeSF intends, but nothing exists in a vaccuum, and if it creates a space where women are not allowed in, it's not doing all it can to promote women in e-sports.

The best thing IeSF and other organizations can do to legitimize e-sports for everyone is not to tolerate sexism in any space. Speak out against a culture that normalizes the harassment team players have to face from their team managers, like when coach Aris Bakhtanians punished his player, Miranda Pakodzi, by threatening to smell her "real close," saying he'd tell her boyfriend that she smells good despite Pakodzi repeatedly telling him not to say that. Bakhtanians also asked for her bra size and instructed she should take off her shirt. A culture that finds this acceptable but not the respectful competition between men, women, and people of all genders should never be seen as legitimate.

Maleness exists as a default in gaming. When you look at the wall of games in a brick-and-mortar store or a digital storefront, the protagonists staring back at you are overwhelmingly in that same male 18- to 34-year-old demographic. When the only chance for women to compete is in women-only competitions, it's the equivalent of forcing women to shop only in "the pink section" of entertainment.

In addition, there is no "men's section" and "women's section" in the World Championship Hearthstone tournament. In IeSF's list of this year's world championships, there is no Hearthstone competition for women. So, any Hearthstone player who identifies as a woman and wishes to compete on an international scale cannot do so through IeSF.


E-sports has grown tremendously, but seeking to legitimize the sport by keeping men and women separate does nothing to cure the already existing divides in gaming. Hearthstone developers sought to make the game as a safe space for everyone by minimizing its chat system. With pre-constructed dialogue options to choose from, there's no chance of "tits or GTFO" or "bring me a sandwich" kind of comments. Women spend their lives navigating unsafe spaces dominated by men; games should be a place for us to have fun -- not fear and judgment.

IeSF points to chess as a sport that is segregated into male and female leagues. However, the Women's World Chess Championship was established to encourage women to participate. The male league the IeSF refers to is not restricted only to men; women may compete as well, and many women choose only to participate in the World Chess Championship, forgoing the women's championship. The highest-rated woman in the World Chess Federation, Judit Polgár, has never competed in the women's league. Chess stands as one of the few sports where men and women can compete together, and the women's league is just as serious while providing a space for women to play away from the baggage that comes with being a woman in a male-dominated space, such as the sexual harassment in e-sports.

We need to change from the bottom-up because the top doesn't care. The top profits by the way things are, but the way things are keeps men and women separated. Are we really that different?

Check. Your move, IeSF.

Comments on