Sexism. It’s a heavy topic in today’s culture. Most people know it from terms such as “the glass ceiling” or “wage gap,” but I would like to point it out in a different place: video games.
Many people view video games as a male hobby, but that’s not true. Approximately 46% of gamers are female (Newzoo). The distribution is so even, you’d think that sexism wouldn’t be an issue. However, women frequently experience sexism when playing online video games (Wiley).
Olivia Freeny, Publisher for The Delta Statement, attests to this fact. She says that while playing “Overwatch,” men harass her over voice chat once they realize she is a girl. They have said, “Make me a sandwich,” “Go kill yourself” and have asked her to date them.
These comments all happened in the first and only interaction Freeny had with these people. She now describes herself as “uncomfortable” with using voice chat in games.
DSU senior Sarai Cork expresses the same opinion. She says that men’s attitudes in games change once they realize she is a woman.
Cork says, “They felt like I couldn’t play because I was a girl, and that was really frustrating.”
Not all experiences with men in voice chats are negative. Senior Victoria Jankowski, an avid gamer, says that some men have dropped out of games because she was a girl. Despite this, she says, “Most of the time [the reaction] is highly supportive.”
Most women have experienced some form of sexism while playing games (Marie Claire). This could be because of several issues.
The way that women are depicted in video games is one such issue: “Women are often displayed with revealing clothing or at least partially nude” (Frontiers in Psychology). Psychologists believe that men may start to view women differently as a result of the representation they receive in video games.
Benjamin Strobel, a psychologist with Grimme Institute, says, “the breeding ground for [sexism] may be even stronger than in other areas, because for a long time, games were mainly marketed to guys and gaming was a male-dominated hobby.”
This fact can lead to the attitude that women shouldn’t play video games, something Twitter and Reddit attest to.
The anonymity behind expressing these views may also contribute to perpetuating this mindset. If gamers can sit behind a screen and have no consequences for their sexism, they have no reason to stop.
In situations such as Freeny’s and Cork’s, sexism makes it harder for women to use voice chat. This can create the impression that men are the only ones playing games, as they are the only ones talking. Repeat this over a period of time and you have almost no women in voice chat, perpetuating the idea that women do not play games.
The issue lies in the relatively vocal minority of sexist male gamers. Women should not experience harassment, and we can all help to end this. If you see this, come to their defense. Change will take time, but it is doable.