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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Comments

    I think Alanah's article highlights perfectly just how rampant sexism is within the gaming community. Unfortunately it is not just contained to the internet. I myself am a female gamer and I've experienced sexism from male gamers in many forms, from being told to 'go back to the kitchen' while playing online games to over hearing a man tell his friend 'shouldn't she be shopping at some bimbo clothes store' while in EB Games (I was the only female in the store at the time). I even felt alienated when I studied a Video Games subject at university last year, simply because I chose to dress in a feminine way (i.e dresses, makeup, heels, etc.), and this isn't counting the obscene sexual comments I've had thrown at me while playing games. It's disgusting and it needs to stop. I think it all starts with teaching children that it isn't ok to belittle or insult someone based on their gender.

    A lot of teenagers (young teenagers or adult teenagers) are unrespectful with everyone, men and women. And I think the sexism is just a sublevel of disrespect. They're going to bully you anyway, telling you gay, whore, asshole or whatever fits in your person from their point of view. It would be great to go and try to ask them some respect, but this is a cruel world, so we can also be a little bit strong and bite the bullet, trying to understand that we can't control what others say or think. If we do so, we'll fell a little bit better.

    So, you found some useless arseholes on the internet. Usually when I encounter someone who isn't worth my time, I don't spare them so much as a second thought. As is evident above, all these articles tend to do is provoke tedious arguments/cockfights between people with various levels of understanding (or misunderstanding for some?).

    Whether it's the internet or real life, responses like this serve more to escalate a situation and give attention (negative/positive, all the same) to those that don't deserve it, than to actually make any progress. I suppose it serves its purpose as a 'hot topic' for a news site, and I have no qualms with the idea of sending criticism back, but all we get from these articles is an unresolvable shitstorm between all kinds of people with their own mindsets, meanwhile the useless swines that first drove you to writing this article are hardly affected.

    For what it's worth it sounds like you have a pretty awesome job... But anonymity works for all, regardless of gender; I was surprised to hear you considered a career change over public comments from users who will never have to speak their mind so thoughtlessly in person. I would much rather you focused on your more genuine viewers rather than allowing yourself to feel threatened by the words of people not worth your time.

    Unfortunately the internet can be a pretty shoddy place to have a balanced, mature debate, especially in a free-to-all comments section (with guest profiles included); so I really don't think this article is going to serve you - or any of us, for that matter - in a positive manner. Not to mention you're kind of just stating a well-known fact: youtube comments are often vulgar/abusive; the fact that a number of these comments are sexist is kind of situational more than anything - I'm sure the creative youtube community could find a way to insult you regardless of your gender. A great many of them (a great, GREAT many...) are also incredibly misinformed and/or thoughtless, so... Again, you're just telling us something we're already quite aware of.

    At any rate, after reading all of the comments you've quoted in your article, it's a bit of a wonder why you allocated your time to some anonymous wankers, when - all things considered - it sounds like you're in a pretty good position with plenty more genuine viewers. That pretty much gives you a ticket not to give two shits about the opinions of those with their heads up their arse.

    Last edited 01/05/13 2:08 am

    Unfortunately I doubt many men got past the title - simply because they do not care that they are sexist - and the minute any woman opens their mouth other than for them to imagine that the woman is saying she wants them - they will only read this as blah blah blah blah blah blah blah - maybe more mothers need to teach their boys not to say things to women - that they wouldn't want their friends to say to their own mother......

      That's not sexist at all is it? "Not many men got past the title....."

      /slowclap.... Bravo on the misandry angle there!

      But then again I'm a bit confused.... It's now mothers fault? Surely it must have been the pig headed and misogynistic father!

      A mother automatically receives great respect because of who she is. It has little to do with being a female, and more so the role she played the entire persons life.

      You expect the same from all men, 'just' for being a woman. You try create a coloration between a mother and a female like yourself because you don't understand what a mother is in a mans life.

      If you want worship from all men go out and earn it, stop hiding behind sexism so you can throw your arms in the air and make excuses for your failed god-complex.

    The amount of sexism against women on the internet is ridiculous, especially against women in the gaming industry.

    Where as comments such as these are totally uncalled for, unfortunately for quite a while whenever a woman was seen endorsing a video game, she was placed their by a company to entice male gamers (see so-called "booth babes", and some women that have been obviously placed in videos solely for their looks and clearly have no idea what they are talking about). Although, this is in no way an excuse for the way they women are treated.

    It is only fairly recently in the history of video gaming that women have started to be accepted as gamers, but even then a lot of people think they are doing it for the attention of guys. While this is true in some cases, it is not in the majority of them.

    One of my female friends loves games more than most guys I know, on Xbox Live, she has a picture of herself as her gamerpic. She receives constant insults about her gender, her ability, sexual "invitations", and so on.
    This makes it even more satisfying when she kicks their collective asses so easily. Especially when it's on her favourite game, Battlefield 3.

    It's been my experience that female gamers like a lot more genres of games than most male gamers. Having worked in a high street retailer that sold a lot of games, most guys just buy the action games like CoD or sports games like FIFA, the women buying games bought a lot more different types, from casual to "hardcore" games. I love to see anyone passionate about a lot of different games and talking to them about it, especially women. Women tend to appreciate the more subtle aspects of a game than most men.

    Unfortunately I did come across some women (well, more teenage girls) that were buying games purely because they knew it would get a boy's attention (heard quite a few talking specifically about that on several occasions).

    I think the best way for women in gaming to become equal to men in gaming is not by ignoring comments like these, it's by challenging the people making these remarks. Show them that you are as good, if not better, at gaming than them.
    Women of gaming, come out fighting! Don't cower or be afraid of this small portion of men.
    A lot more guys than you think would be on the side of the female gamers, fighting as one against these sexist pigs (no offence to actual pigs, I quite like them).

    I may I say, that most of these "men" are more likely to be 11-15 year old boys who cannot learn not to be dicks to other people. They should just be banned from the internet. Even if they are adults, they don't deserve to be considered one for these kinds of comments to anyone, male or female.
    No under-18s and no one that can't not be a dick to others.

      I totally agree with your comment. Also those girls that are just playing games to get guys attention or booth babes should be judged for what they are, like there aren't men out there pretending to be interested in things women like to get girls? Judge that person if you feel you must (I am not recommending this) but don't say all women are like that just because some are.

      Also I shouldn't have to pick a gender neutral (or even masculine) name or use some random pic instead of a pic of myself and not use the mic for fear of being abused but I do have to do that when I play multiplayer games. Whether its negative or positive judgement I don't wanna deal with it while I'm trying to relax after work/study, unfortunately I don't have the skill in battlefield or cod to prove I can be better than them but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy those games.

    I understand why you chose to select just 10 of the comments for this article. These are very effective examples and analysis of each comment is very well-reasoned. It might also be effective to post a second article just showing all 77 comments in one big list. The visual impact of the sheer quantity can be an effective response to those who mistakenly claim that women are making a big deal about very little.

    I'm with you on everything except the last bit. The part about the "Marry me" comments when you shows he geeky collections or gaming cred, etc. You say that that is insulting that men would be attracted to you for your hobby. "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."

    Mkay, first of all, when a guy posts "Marry me" in the comments, he's not actually proposing, is he? It's just an exaggerated way of saying they find you attractive, or more specifically, they find your hobby an attractive quality, so categorizing that as an "overreaction" is just ignoring that obvious fact. But also the reason they find you attractive, even if they do not know your personality is because you already share an interest, a connection. One that is not very common among women. Shoes are not likely to be a shared interest and, even if they are, women with a particular interest in shoes are more common than men who share that interest. Gamers often like other gamers (plutonically and romantically) because it is something they can do together and talk about with each other without the stigma that is often attached to them. It's not an illogical, unfounded, OR sexist reaction to find shared interests attractive.

    Now, if you find it uncomfortable to be the subject of affection simply for you hobbies, I can understand that. I don't know how to help with that except to suggest telling your viewers/readers that it makes you feel that way so maybe some will stop. But finding someone attractive is not sexism, nor is expressing attraction. I'd worry more about people leaving comments about your breasts, being a fake geek or only having your career for being a woman. People that express such interest in you because of your hobbies are probably not focused on your boobs, but your interests, do not believe you are a fake geek, and are impressed that you managed to succeed in a career where women face daily obstacles like this. Even if I thought it was sexist, I'd advise you to pick your battles.

      Add to that her problem with the person thanking her for being modest. Sounds like a "can't win" scenario. It was most likely a person of an older demographic that appreciates it when they see a young person differentiate themselves from the masses by showing a bit of class. To turn around and accuse this person of being sexist is both insulting and dilutes the real issues wouldn't you agree?

    I'm so sorry all of this crap has happened to you (and to many other women involved in the gaming industry). Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I can only hope that the more women share their experiences of sexism in the industry, the more it will change. Keep fighting, and don't let awful, immature dickheads get you down. We don't all think like they do! ~Cheers~

    "I unnecessarily stated my sex on the Internet and people were sexist and/or rude to me."

    Well aren't you a fucking special little snowflake.
    You get insulted, and you decide to cry about it on an Internet forum.
    Real respectable move there‽

      That's the whole problem--women shouldn't have to hide. And it's a bit hard to hide your sex when you make videos for a living.

    People write what they want online without fear (or care) of persecution. Whether they'd do it to your face depends on whether they are an immature coward, or an egotistical dickwad asshole (wither way, they're shit people).

    It has always been this way, and unfortunately if we want to retain a free internet, will always be this way.

    It really is disgusting, and should not happen. ever.

    I would hope that the majority of them aren't men at all but crude young boys, trying to act like they are big and tough by belittling those around them with their crass statements design to simply offend. This kind of trollish, attention seeking behaviour has always been around in some form, such as bullying in schools etc, but it's so much more prevalent nowadays due mostly to the anonymity of the internet, and the lack of consequences related to negative actions. Which really is shit for anyone who wants to actually use the internet on a daily basis, especially for their profession.

    Oh, and someone stating that they find you attractive enough to have children with you isn't sexist. I mean, of course only women can have children with men, but other than that... nnno. Nice try, though.

    And how dare you claim that they have no good reason to comment on the things you do.
    YOU FUCKING POST THEM FOR THAT EXACT REASON.
    You put your content out there to the public, for all to see, and should damn well expect them to comment on it however they like. If you don't like what they say, toughen up and ignore it, but don't go whining about it like you're the first.
    When people say things like "I want to have your babies", or "marry me", they are almost absolutely joking, and implying that they like girls that enjoy videogames like they do. But that's sexist! Right? Wrong. They're attracted to women, possibly only women, because hormones.
    Damn, nature's starting to seem pretty darned sexist right about now, huh?

    Good article, it is a big problem in this community I wish I was more articulate to convey how hurtful this industry/community is. You do have to work twice if not more times as much as a man doing the exact same thing does. I hope that articles like this at least shine a light on this problem so that even if it makes one person stop and think that maybe they were wrong making judgement's like this, it makes the internet a better place. It's hard for the opposite sex to understand what it feels like but just try to understand what its like to never be seen as a person to always just be seen as your sex. To be constantly reminded that you're a woman. To have your opinions always overshadowed by the fact that you're a woman. Of course I'm not saying everyone thinks this way but there are enough people that do because it's constantly happening almost everyday, and more and more of us are feeling we have to hide the fact that we're a woman in our online presence. I also want to clarify its not just men but in fact women can sometimes be the cruelest at judging based on what sexual organs you posses.

    As a male, part of me wants to apologise for the behaviour of what I shudder to call my "peers", but then that would be acknowledging this sort of behaviour as innate to males as a social group, a notion I want to protest. These sorts of males are the scum of society and I have sympathy for anyone who has to interact with them on any level.

    I can't remember where I read this but
    comments about feminism justify feminism
    and this article totally brings that phrase to life
    the fact that people are arguing about this at all (as if she is wrong about her own experiences!) instead of sympathizing is evidence enough that this shit is real and needs to stop

    "how would you react if a woman said she liked shoes? You wouldn’t, and you shouldn’t."

    How would you react if a man said he liked shoes... you shouldn’t but it has an inherently homosexual undertone and unfortunately jibing happens, and not just on the net.

    Not trying to promote derogatory behaviour but just saying it's a bigger problem then that of one that only affects one gender. It affects all people everywhere, affecting their views/opinions, affecting behaviour, and just those things could contribute to other major lifestyle factors such as employment, hell even the sanity of individuals.

    Minorities of those with aspirations have always been persecuted throughout the history of modern society. Only in recent times has the world become diverse enough and open minded enough to accept change. The only wide spread exception being religion, it takes the fear of death to make people want to conform as "whomsoever holds the key to heaven rules the world".

    WARNING: the following statements can be interpreted as offensive, religious followers skip the next paragraph if you know this is you.

    And on this subject let me just say while fear of death is real (cancer survivor, been there done that) ultimately promising that there is something after death no matter where the your faith lies is akin to 'making a deal your ass can't cash'. Instead of doing this why couldnt people make a faith that promotes the life we a living rather then our 2nd eternal one?

    Another point would be that the way society is developing as a whole is just exacerbated and accelerated on the net. i.e. in recent times skirts are getting smaller and smaller, the age range for wearing such garments would typically be between 16-26. Guys have one thing on the brain consistently, being a guy myself i know it takes at bit of control to behave yourself. I missed said short skirt 'seatbelt revolution' by a few years (being in my 20's now) but to have to face that day after day in my teens... lets consider it.

    So you're a teenage guy, you want 'it' every day but rather then be honest with a girl you 'grin and bear it' as those with aspirations and are in a minority (in this case it's just yourself) are persecuted, even more so if you fail. add to this childish bullying in the schoolyard and fear of rejection and you have a nice reason for hesitating to ask girls out. You get home, the net is there, (lets assume you dont dive face first into porn), you enjoy playing games online, there are actually some cute girls on the net, "hey im not known on here am i... i wonder if she would... hell im not known so i may aswell ask..."

    I'm not denying that those comments you received are sexist in nature, the guys didnt know you personally, or for any great period of time, you weren't seeking to find a guy, you're not in the adult entertainment industry, and by all rights social convention would otherwise dictate and preclude them from being so 'forward'.

    To sum up rather then stating sexism happens to females on the net, delve deeper, there are two sides to every story, ask why discrimination happens at all? anywhere? What is the root cause of such behaviour? is it because we will all be forgiven in our 'second life'? (no pun intended). Is it because repercussions of acting out of self interest are too great? Is it just irrational fear?

    Even if you find a place to assign the blame (squarely on the male populace in this case), it doesnt make the problem go away. I believe this is a philosophical and fundamental change to society that must be made if we are to advance.

    Last edited 01/05/13 7:20 pm

    As a female gamer, I'm mostly commenting to say thanks for posting this. I didn't know it gets this bad.

    How did you find the world's smallest violin and manage to play it so well without breaking a single string.

    Mind = Blown

    Read the article (and comments) loved it. First thing i see after reading is a tweet from another gal in the game industry, a selfie of her wearing sexy tomb raider bikini - not sure how to feel. How do we celebrate our sexy Star Wars lovin, game playing geeks, without accidentally crossing a line. Perhaps best just not to comment... Oops.

    Alanah ,

    Hopefully if you encountered such sexism in the work place you would not leave but you would raise hell and sue.

    Is there some equivalent comment a man has equal justification to feel dehumanized by? I just can't think of one.

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