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

    Just another example of how easy it is to act like like an ass when it's anonymous and I can't think of a better way to fight then this. It won't be as much fun to post comments like this when people start to recognize your name and call you on it. Is it just me or is there something wrong with the fact that it's easier to get a video taken of youtube for a copyright claim then it is to get people to act like adults?

    What is Alanah Pearce's demographic?

    Great article, to see all those comments catalogued like that is really quite appalling.

    It’s likely that these sexists posters would never dream of voicing their views in public, I guess it’s an unfortunate element of the anonymity of the internet. Though, as you say, that makes it no less inexcusable. No one would tolerate this in their workplace, why should you!?

    The issue certainly needs some attention, female sports journalists probably did (are still going) though a similar experience. As well as gay or transgender journalist in many fields. But I think articles like this one are part of the solution, getting people to talk about it and making would be sexist posters pause and think about what they’re really saying.

    I suspect that there is also likely to be sexism, gender or sexual stereotypes at the expense of men, made by men or women. Though it’s likely to be a lot less frequent and revolting.

    Keep going!

    lol, youtube comments are youtube comments.

    I just want to point out that if you look, a lot of comments are either flagged as spam or downvoted quite a bit.

    Also, I assumed at first this was sexist comments in real life, not on the Internet. Clearly being anonymous is no excuse, but all of these comments were made online and not to your face.

    Anyway, great post Matthew K.

    Let me start off with a nerdy quote from "Buffy" to get this thing rolling:

    Cordelia: Well, does looking at guns make you wanna have sex?
    Xander: I'm 17. Looking at linoleum makes me wanna have sex.

    To put it this way: You are female. 98% of your peers are male. And what is more, 90% of them are between 12 and 25. Totally hormonal overflow and no girlfriend around to help with that. It's like an animal tamer in the circus entering a cage of wild beasts that have been starved a tenday. But to give it a silver lining: girls in that age range are different but not better #Biebermania....

    You can do nothing, I repeat, NOTHING to quell those comments. Even if you would do your program wearing a full body Sponge Bob costume and using a voice scrambler. Just be glad, you are not getting those mean sexist comments reserved for women not fitting the profile of "hot", "sexy" or just "Whoaaa!!".

    And remember, that most of those revert to appropiate behaviour after hormonal levels are back to normal.

    Possibly you fell victim to the observer effect. If 1mio people watch your videos and you get 100 sexist postings, that means 99.9999% of your audience is quite civil. Just a few post a comment and a great number of those are, well...idiots.

    You can't change how males react towards females. Live with it.

      But we can deal with it. She does have valid points there. what really irks me is how we have managed to get 5 PAGES of comments thanks to people who simply dismiss her claims, such as you.

        Of course, ignoring every argument which speaks against her "valid" points is one way to "deal" with it. Though i thought a discussion is something different. But maybe posts like this are just made so people can come and applaud the author for whatever said.

    attention!

    thank you for speaking out about this Alanah! im really sorry you've been treated this way =( seems like so many guys can never see women as anything but sex objects, but to those of you men that treat women with respect ur awesome! is it wrong to say a girl is good looking? no. but all these demeaning sexual comments are gross and disturbing. all of you that say those things need to grow up and learn some common courtesy instead of hiding behind your computer making vulgar comments acting as though you were raised in a barn. you dont come off as smart or funny, you come off as a douchebag

    BOTH women and men are objectified, but for different qualities, as a result of different evolutionary and biological roles.

    While its true that women are more obectified for sex/looks/beauty, men are more objectified for 'alpha traits' such as height, penis size, status, dominance, popularity, wealth, etc. Women tend to worship alpha males, whereas they tend to belittle and/or ignore the beta males. This is what allows rock starts and male celebrities to have sex with hundreds and even thousands of women, while the average guy gets called a sexist and has to put up with so much from women just to get a little bit of sex.

    The same women who complain about being sexually objectified when regular (beta) males give them sexual attention are often the same type of women who have no problem when the popular, cool alpha type of guys give them sexual attention. Then its no longer considered 'objectification' but 'appreciation'.

    First of all I want to say I completely agree.

    But...

    As the Penny Arcade someone linked lovingly illustrates, even 'normal' people turn into complete douchebags when protected by the anonymity of the internet. I don't think it is right to expect anyone who holds a public position online to not be offended by comments made by posters, nor do I disagree that many of the comments female personalities receive are derogatory or offensive solely based on their gender alone. Sexism is wrong. Gender inequality is wrong. This is known.

    What I do question, is the point to this article. Is it an attempt to bring to light the trials of being a female in an industry that is (sadly) dominated by males? Is it an attempt to be rid of the sexist comments that such females receive on a (probably) day to day basis? If it is the former, I think you'd find that a grand total of 0% of the people that read this article found it to be something they had neither experienced or were at least aware of. If it is the latter, I'm afraid that, as unfortunate as it may be, those that are posting sexist remarks will continue to do so. It's no secret in society that sexism is wrong, that gender inequality is wrong, and the reason why they do it is because the anonymity of the internet allows them to.

      Well said Daemondai. Being a 30+ female gamer practically raised by the internet I definitely hear what the OP is saying, but seriously, if you care what some little twerp with a computer and intention to troll has to say then it's amazing she's lasted this long. IMHO the biggest lesson I've learned from the interwebs and its denizens is to figure out whose opinion you really care about and bugger the rest. Don't try and rationalise the behaviour and comments and reflect it on yourself - they just want to offend and will do it any way they can (for example, statement: "my dog died" reply: "i found it hard to masturbate to this"). Most people are just after a reaction and as the OP so aptly pointed out, most girls appear to have a bit of a complex about the way other people online view and objectify them.

      I know it's hard because you work in this industry, but you seem to love your job more than you hate the comments. Until people are held accountable IRL for their actions, this will never change. I know this is less than ideal, but all I can really suggest is be yourself and to hell with the comments.

      Oh and one other thing - working in certain industries involving the sick, elderly, poor, refugee and relatively uneducated of the world has taught me to have significant perspective. You have a job that you love and if the worst you have to deal with are comments on the internet you're doing pretty well. Once again, this is not ideal, but at the end of the day it might help you to brush them off if you appreciate how great your life really is, relatively speaking.

    One slightly bright side is how those comments about your appearance are treated, they are not encouraged, they are downvoted, flagged as spam etc. Still this is stupid, everyone on the internet keeps talking about modernity and freedom and everything on the internet and yet they(some people though, not everyone is like that and I'd hate to generalize) find the courage to insult any woman they see just because of their gender. How this happens in the industry of gaming(a lot newer and should be more modern and open minded) saddens me. This detoriates image of women in the work place and gives a bad rep for men and also screws up with Mens Rights, both sides get harmed.

    Would anyone mind explaining to me what's wrong with "MARRY ME!" ? I thought that was a joke way of saying "This is fantastic, and you are fantastic for doing it."

    Sexism all i have to if you over the age 16 you do whot you like if you if you whot i care for same alot if you happy talk sex with sameone you can tush then do it it take two if you now how you feel sex is a good thing i think woman are just as bad as man we all the same

    "Can I nut on ur forehead" is probably the funniest one. But the whole article is a laugh riot. Sounds like this little princess needs to toughen up. Maybe see how women suffer in the Middle East, it'll make her want to kiss the ground of this cruel, mean place when she finds out she has it super easy. Laughing all the way to the bank too - just don't read comments anymore, take your ad money, and quit complaining.

    Not all men objectify like this, but the ones who don't aren't in your comment section.

    A simple test:
    Walk into a bar, see how many men will comment on your appearance publicly. Now consider all the men who kept their mouths shut.

    You can stop feeling sad for yourself, if you accept that for every nasty comment, many men didn't feel the need to objectify you.

    Now, if being objectified is really such a giant problem, wouldn't it be easier to use other video material and only add your voice?

    Jim Sterling is a game reviewer who only shows himself for very short segments. Of course, he doesn't mind being "objectified". He wears the fat jokes like a badge of honour.

    Yahtzee Croshaw doesn't show himself at all in his reviews. And his intentionally boring to watch lets plays channel has 4.4 times your subscriptions.

    TotalBiscuit has nearly 2 million subscribers on youtube. He barely shows himself.

    Jesse Cox Over 700 000 subscribers, also, barely shows himself.

    Clearly no one has to see their face to value and respect their opinions. And in Jesse's case that's quite spectacular as the high-pitched screeching and howling in which he communicates are really annoying to listen to.

    I'll even step it up a notch:
    If you can't voice your opinion with just your voice, and you NEED your face on the video, you are objectifying yourself.

    I am truly sorry this happens to you Alanah. Your article is eyeopening. Thank you for sharing your experience. I hope the culture of online comments and sexism begins to right itself. I feel that in North America, women are closer to equality in the work force then ever before. However, there is a lot of behind the scenes suppression such as wage disparities, super-mom syndrome, and ingrained gender roles that still live on. The unfortunate reality of internet anonymity is disturbing. I applaud your commitment to your passion and gaming profession. Good luck and keep climbing. I hope you continue to expose behind-computer abusers and show the rest of us how hard it still is for women, especially in male saturated industries.

    It's really annoying, after ALL this time, to see women still use sexism as a way to promote themselves. Pointing out at the obvious primitivism that actually IS the internet, unbiased, shallow and quite expected from a "gamer community". Mostly idiots leave comments anyway, just like I am making a fool out of myself for commenting something over a medium that has no true value or worth since all is hidden, masked and impersonal. This is all worthless and making a case out of it is within the same category of primitive as the comments are. Should all people insulted over the internet write blogs about it? I mean come on, grow the fck up girls and boys. You don't want insults? Go play single player games. Hide in your house or behind your overprotective average payed boyfriends, moms and dads. Go play outside, in the park, where other kids will beat you up and nobody will help you. Go do ANYTHING and see if there is no opposition and conflict awaiting. What pathetic creatures have kids become that any form of discomfort is made a case of?
    It's not about your tits or hairstyle, it's not about your average presentation skills, it happens to everyone, male, female or inbetween alike. Stop raising AWARENESS and raise some INTEREST, DISCUSSION or otherwise stimulating material. This crap is so old and so overrated that you appear just as any other internet troll and furthermore you place your "genuine gaming interests" in second place. Stop using this crap as marketing and get better at reviews!

    Too bad that you took the work of writing the article and had to resize it by erasing a lot of the comments you were discussing, but I get the idea. Sorry for the attitude most males have towards women, and it must be more hard the more you shine on your career, and thus the more they blame you for being a women.

    I'm not trying to defend them, but it should be noted that there are three profiles of men that are by definition very offensive: childs, as it was noted in another article that recently came about how you talked to the mothers of some of them; trolls, who plague the internet and try their best to bash against everyone and then laugh when you "feed them" (respond)... but I think that the more or less ignorant men are the problem. Not only men, being that some of them even got part of their machismo from the education they received from their traditionalist mothers, but ignorant people in general. It is difficult to change the bad habits of a population when it is individualist and seeks work less and lurk more, living a carpe diem that rejects any form of discussion in favour of insulting jokes.

    But, even when they don't notice how aggressive may be their comment, I don't think that liking someone after discovering that he/she shares your most favourite passion (art, hobby, sport, etc). It is sexist to suppose that there are no female gamers, but for people who may be very expressive in the internet and very shy in the physical world, it may be normal for them to think that they have found a possible mate. It's not they disregard someone's personality, but normally the relationships start by sharing hobbies, and most people tend to idealize the people they find special in any way. Not everyone says that they would literally make kids with you, but even if they do, it's more of a maturity issue, and they should learn sooner or later that it's not like that.

    Sorry for bad english, I'm argentina.

    As a woman, I must that that she makes great and very valid points, however, some of her points simply clash. She says "it's the internet" isn't an excuse, but it really is. It sucks that the world is this way, but she knew before she got into this business that crude comments happen on a daily basis on YouTube and if she decided to make videos anyway, which is respectful, but still her own decisioN, and the world isn't going to change for her. She also mentions how saying things like "marry me" is sexist because she's female and plays video games, but I completely disagree. If someone shares the same interests as you, you can be attracted to them without being sexist. It also irritated me how she also said how the guy who commented thanking her for her modesty was also sexist. Like, damn, choose a side. Do you want to be respected for your modesty, and thanked for covering up in a world where sex is the number on thing on people's minds, or do you want to be asked to show your tits every day? You just simply can't compare the two because they are totally different and on isn't sexist at all. Quit complaining, and who the fuck cares who thinks what about your body, you have one and you can't change what other people are going to say about you.

    As a young biological 'female' I can't explain how happy it makes me that someone else is pointing all this out so clearly. If I walk into a comic shop I get asked if I need help and if I say yes I inevitably hear 'Okay... what's he into' and if if I say it's for me I get that knowing smile or 'that's hot' and it's like dude.

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