Content Trigger Warning: mentions of sexual harassment and verbal abuse.
Words: Mio Farrenden
Preface: We would like to preface this article by stating that this is in no way meant to discount men’s experience with sexual harassment and verbal abuse both online and in-person. The current conversation is, however, about women’s and femme-fronting people’s experience so this is what this article will discuss.
As a female gamer, it is hard to ignore the current situation taking hold over the internet at the moment. A statistic was recently found out that 97% of female-presenting people aged between 18-24 in the UK have faced sexual harassment. Although many may not count it, female-presenting people also experience many forms of harassment and abuse online on either chat services or in voice calls. Today I would like to draw attention to this and what everyone can do about it.
This issue in particular runs directly in line with the movement. Female or femme-fronting Twitch streamers get sexually harassed every time they start streaming. This includes people in the comments section asking what colour their underwear is, asking for their bra size, making comments on their bodies, stating that the reason they have followers is because they’re attractive rather than a good streamer, the list goes on. Every single large femme streamer I have been in the viewer pool of has had to deal with this at some point; they often have to allocate moderators in the comment section to delete the comments and block the commenters. None of this behaviour is okay and it naturally deters women from getting into the community, I know that I’ve been putting off streaming partly for this reason and I won’t be the only one.
Girl gamers in general also have to suffer with this. Even if they are not on camera, the second harassers get a whiff of female presence they are predators. Anyone that consumes any kind of gaming material has probably seen videos of people joining a voice chat and immediately being questioned on how big their boobs are, what are they wearing, and sometimes comments on what they would do if they were there. It’s extremely inappropriate and hostile and there are countless stories ending in a girl avoiding voice calls.
“The second harassers get a whiff of female presence they are predators.”
The most common form of harassment for women in the gaming industry, however, is verbal abuse based on the fact that they are female or femme-fronting and they game. The indoctrinated thought process that girl gamers aren’t real gamers has become so accepted that no female gamer has come out unscathed. It is so far into the deep end that if you even look like a “Gamer Girl” then you will be harassed on this matter regardless of the topic. I have experienced this when defending an overweight girl on Instagram; my profile picture was me with pink headphones and a pink microphone (which could mean I am a radio host, a podcaster, a voice actor, I could have been anything really) and the hate very quickly turned graphic – “Shut the fuck up fat ugly gamer girl bitch”. Despite the conversation not relating to gaming at all, this man used the phrase “Gamer Girl” as an insult.
Here’s what you can do to help this situation. First of all, check with streamers about what they would prefer you to do; some people would prefer you to let the moderators get on with their job to avoid a stream of mutual hate comments. If you’re a cis man that sees another cis man making these comments then call them out, defend the women they are hating on with respect and try not to get into a virtual fight, once the comment has been noticed it will probably be taken down. If you know or hear that your friends and a part of the problem here, have a talk with them. It’s a long term solution that may take a while but broaching the subject to family and friends will always help. Try not to make jokes relating to this. When women or femme-fronting people make them it’s not so bad, but generally making jokes about girl gamers or sexual harassment is just normalising the behaviour in the long term.
If you would like to read more about this then I recommend these articles: