In Real Life

30 Days Of Sexism

My name is Alanah Pearce and I’m a videogame journalist. I write for various websites, and make regular videos for four separate YouTube channels. I present on one TV show and for Xbox Australia on the Xbox Dashboard. I make news videos, review videos, I host events, I interview developers and I really, really love what I do.

I also happen to be female.

Sexism picture from Shutterstock

From March 7 – April 7, I documented everything blatantly sexist anyone has said to me. None of these comments were provoked, none of them were replies to something I said, none of them were at all out of the ordinary and the vast majority of them (an original count of 77 images) have been taken out so that this post isn’t as long as it probably should be. This is a 10-picture indication of what it’s like to be a woman who endorses game culture, every single month.

Before I record the videos I create for various different companies I change my shirt from the loosely fitting singlet I usually wear during the day, to a high-collared t-shirt that will minimise my chances of being objectified. It’s less comfortable, it’s not what I would generally choose to wear, but I do it in attempt to avoid comments about my breasts, my chest, and my physique in general – I try to negate any harassment I possibly can.

I realise this attitude I’ve forced on myself is backward. Instead of presenting as I’d like to I cover up in defence. My presentation suffers for it. I fidget with the collars, I play with the sleeves, I adjust the generally over-sized t-shirts and they often make me uncomfortably sweaty. Alas, I’m willing to let my career suffer in that aspect – however small – in attempt to minimise objectification.

Obviously, it doesn’t work. Instead of having people disregard gender entirely as it really shouldn’t be relevant to a video about game news, there are streams of responses from men complaining that a woman hasn’t revealed herself to them, as though it’s expected or it’s their right to ask for that. Not only is this incredibly discouraging – these videos take hours and hours of effort to create – it’s easy to feel like you simply can’t win. You can only ignore the comments, but that would make responding to the pleasant viewers or the ones who ask genuine questions impossible.

When I first made videos, however, I didn’t change out of the singlets I’d wear every day. People would comment disrespectfully about my choice of clothing, but if I complained, they’d call me a bitch or ask if I was “on my period”. Women are told they deserve to have men make derogatory statements about their chest if it is at all visible, as though that’s an invitation or a fault. That’s downright wrong – no human being should ever have to cater the way they look, what they’re comfortable wearing or their presentation in any way to avoid being sexually harassed. Instead, people should stop sexually harassing.

Even if it isn’t a direct comment on the way a woman looks or a complaint that her breasts aren’t on display, it’s a comment that is disgusting or enough to make a reasonable person uncomfortable. I don’t want to know that ‘sephiroth4465’ is watching my videos and objectifying me in this way.

I’ve seriously reconsidered my career choices over comments like these because, honestly, if I was getting comments like this in any other workplace, I’d leave. It’s demoralising, it’s discouraging, it takes the work you’re proud of and tells you it’s worth absolutely nothing more than the sexual value that is tied to your gender.

And honestly, “it’s the internet” is not an excuse for someone to sexually harass someone by any means, let alone someone in a professional setting. These kind of extremely invasive and excessively vulgar comments are physically sickening.

Then, of course, there are comments that seem nice but are equally inherently sexist. In the picture above, ‘JackArtStudios’ has thanked me for wearing uncomfortable t-shirts and used some hugely negative stereotypes. Some women may exploit their sexuality for views but others do it for comfort, or because they didn’t want to change their clothing. Or because they didn’t consider anyone would be indecent enough to harass them because they’re physically female. There is no logical reason to assume that any woman has changed her apparel to appeal to you.

By ‘thanking’ a woman for catering her clothing to your ideals, you are telling her you’d respect her much less if she hadn’t worn what you consider to be decent. While I always, always appreciate positivity (and the comment on the content, hooray!) this just further reinforces the idea that women can’t wear whatever they like without compromising perceptions of their professionalism. There is no choice here, and the same kind of comments regularly apply to make-up. If you’re wearing obvious amounts of make-up or wearing a certain kind of clothing, it’ll likely be assumed you want attention and your content or integrity will be disregarded, even though you probably aren’t wearing either of those things to appeal to anyone but yourself.

The first line of this message suggests, once again, that I must be catering the way I look to appeal to male audiences when I actually just like the colour purple. What’s far more offensive than being told you can’t look a certain way is the inexplicable amount of people telling women they only got their job because they’re a female.

Saying something like this is almost as offensive as having yourself belittled to nothing more than a pair of boobs in a video – it discredits all of my work, which he likely knows nothing about (and hasn’t bothered to check) simply because of my gender. I could go on an rant about the hard work I’ve put into making myself a part of the games industry, yet I would still regularly have people tell me that the only way I’ve gotten anywhere is because my sexual organs are different to theirs.

It’s this kind of attitude that forces women to work unreasonably hard before they’re taken seriously or able to establish themselves professionally. The fact is, no woman is less deserving of any position than a man is. It’s also unreasonable and unrealistic to assume you know the motives of any producer or editor or their hiring processes. Presenting is, in some (definitely not all) cases, undoubtedly easier for women to get into, but this should never mean they be stripped of all credit. Work ethic should be judged equally upon both genders, instead of women naturally being assumed to lack skill or use their gender to cheat their way into success.

‘coywhitehartbboy’ left this comment on a photo I took of a statue of Connor Kenway, where I jokingly called him my fiancé. I’m fairly sure he took that literally, but either way this post is insinuating I avidly promote gamer or geek culture in attempt to appeal to men or “#Market” myself. Instead of simply accepting that hundreds of thousands of women very openly have genuine passion for these things, this man and many others like him try to suggest that women are falsely trying to lure them in.

Not only is this attitude hugely egocentric, it also promotes huge amounts of negativity and encourages the ‘testing’ of women who like these things. It creates an obscene and close-minded standard where, unless a woman proves she likes something, people will assume she’s doing it in attempt to market herself.

Women are laughably regularly proposed to for endorsing game culture, but that entire idea is horribly shallow and these comments are sexist in themselves. I would never want to establish a relationship with a man who “wants to make babies” with me solely because I’ve posted a picture my gaming merchandise, and all that’s really doing is completely disregarding my personality or my integrity. It’s an insult to be told you’re ‘perfect’ or ‘attractive’ for something as daft as a hobby, particularly if you take pride in the content you produce, or (god forbid) your actual personality. There is nothing desirable about that kind of attention whatsoever, it’s little more than an insult, and it’d be far preferable if there was absolutely no reaction to a woman openly endorsing games at all. That overreaction and uncomfortable, unfounded affection is sexism. It should be treated like any other hobby – how would you react if a woman said she liked shoes? You wouldn’t, and you shouldn’t.

If jerks on the internet are given a free-pass and allowed to hide behind anonymity when they’re being sexist to someone, then there’s absolutely no reason you can’t use that same anonymity to criticise or educate them. Honestly, just seeing one down-vote or having one person stick up for me is a part of the reason I’m still here and I’m not going to stop fighting. Every single person has the power to fight sexism.

You can follow Alanah Pearce on Twitter and on Facebook.

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