Ninja Should Stream With Women

Photo: Ninja

During a recent Samsung event, Twitch megastar Tyler “Ninja” Blevins said he purposely avoids streaming with “female gamers.” The site’s number-one streamer said that he believes if he invited women on his channel, the gossip mill would immediately begin cranking out videos suggesting that Ninja is in romantic relationships with them.

On the one hand, he’s probably right about that. On the other hand, when you’re the most popular streamer on earth, everything you do has consequences.

“If I have one conversation with one female streamer where we’re playing with one another, and even if there’s a hint of flirting, that is going to be taken and going to be put on every single video and be clickbait forever,” Ninja said to Polygon at the Samsung event.

Ninja is married, and told Polygon he didn’t want his wife to have to see those videos and hear those insinuations.

Today, after Ninja’s comments blew up over the weekend, he posted a statement on Twitter clarifying his position. “While I understand some people have implied my views mean I have something against playing with women, I want to make clear the issue I’m addressing is online harassment, and my attempt to minimise it from our life,” he wrote.

“It is something that affects all streamers, especially ones that make their relationships public. My wife and my family will always be the most important thing to me, and I am doing my best to protect them,” he wrote.

Illustration: Angelica Alzona

To an extent, Ninja has a point. Nothing gets clicks like gossip, and the sordid stuff flows like messy, sticky honey on Twitch and YouTube. For example, as wholesome as it was when Twitch’s second most-popular streamer, Myth, semi-frankly discussed losing his virginity earlier this year, nosy fans immediately started suggesting that a popular woman streamer with whom Myth sometimes plays was responsible.

And that’s a relatively tame example. Earlier this year, another woman streamer, Amouranth, ended up at the center of a roaring controversy after a YouTuber posted a video accusing her of hiding her marital status to help rake in views. Harassment followed. It’s a messed up system in which fans have an undue amount of influence on influencers’ personal lives.

Still, blowback to Ninja’s sweeping proclamation was immediate, with many streamers saying that, while they understand where Ninja is coming from, in steering clear of women streamers he’s squandering a huge opportunity to help change the perception of women on Twitch - where they’re often referred to as “thots” or “egirls” and accused of using sex to steal viewers from more deserving men.

"What Ninja said is reinforcing exclusion on a huge scale," a streamer who goes by the handle Bluejay said on Twitter.

"He said it because he wants to avoid drama in his family life, understandably, but it’s an extremely harmful and exclusionary method and his audience will follow his lead, plain and simple. We don’t need more segregation in the gaming space to prevent the rumour mill, we need less."

An ensuing back-and-forth with popular streamer Ellohime summed up the bulk of the discussion that took place over the weekend. “It’s easy for you to say stand up and fight cause you don’t have to be him,” Ellohime said in response to Bluejay’s explanation of why Ninja’s stance is so thorny.

"His reasons aren’t even anti-women. It’s anti-internet culture. It isn’t on Ninja to make sure women are successful. Furthermore, isn’t that placing too much power in a man’s hands to make sure women do well?"

Ellohime eventually said that Ninja’s decision to publicise the line he’s drawn in the sand was “dumb,” but also said that he hasn’t seen evidence of a coordinated effort to keep women out of games. He wrote that he’s very aware that sexism exists, but believes it’s usually perpetrated by “dumb kids” who are trolling. In response to that, streamer Annemunition jumped in to respond.

“I think writing it off as ‘dumb kids being dumb kids’ is really understating the issue. I get harassed by adult dudes all the time,” she said.

“And also, should we not be trying to set better examples and be better role models for kids, as the people in positions of power and influence?”

Photo: Ninja

Ellohime ultimately agreed with this, but added that he thinks it’s sometimes “smarter to choose your battles, and the only person who can do that is the person making the choice.”

Countless versions of this argument played out over the weekend, but that’s more or less what it comes down to: a disagreement over the degree of responsibility Ninja—the biggest streamer on Twitch by every known metric—has toward women on his platform of choice.

Is it on him to put his considerable resources behind normalising the idea of men and women playing together sans imagined underlying sexual friction? Or is his decision to pull a Mike Pence perfectly practical?

Nobody’s asking Ninja to do all the heavy lifting here, nor are they suggesting that his stance is indefensible. It’s when we start digging into the ramifications, though, that problems pile up. Ninja is a streamer who, more than most, takes his position as a role model and person of incalculable influence very seriously. He’s tapered off his cursing on stream because he doesn’t want those words worming their way into young ears.

He views his contributions to charity and other important causes—not his record-breaking numbers of Twitch subscribers and followers—as his crowning achievement. After a charity drive for the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention earlier this year, Ninja said that “if no one cared, and no one would donate for causes like this,” having so many viewers wouldn’t mean anything.

He also has a history of raiding—that is, sending his audience over to—the channels of small streamers to help them get more viewers. Some of those streamers were women.

It’s disappointing to see him draw the line at playing with women. From his actions, he’s clearly a kind, giving person who wants to make things better for others. But with fame comes a certain degree of responsibility. And Ninja is famous - not “internet famous” like Pizza Rat, but really famous. Twitch, and gaming in general, is an environment that can be majorly inhospitable to women. While coordinated efforts to keep women out of games absolutely do exist, much of it is not premeditated.

It’s a cultural issue, a systemic one that—in the absence of currents running counter to it—self-perpetuates. It’s death by a thousand slow, painful cuts. On Twitch, men are the default. As long as high-profile male streamers shy away from streaming with women, there’ll be gossip and the possibility of harassment every time it happens. Ninja could have a significant effect on the issue by boosting women on his streams the same way he boosts men.

Illustration: Jim Cooke

While Ninja has faced much criticism for his comments, he’s a dude streaming on a dude-dominated platform to an audience mostly made up of dudes, and folks within his echelon of popularity largely defended him.

He hasn’t even really tried putting his theory into practice, either. He decided from the get-go that things might get gnarly if he streamed with women, and that was that.

If Ninja played with women more and went to bat for them, yes, he’d probably have to shovel mounds of bullshit off his doorstep. Twitch and YouTube culture are a mess, and having mobs meddle in your personal life is a uniquely 2018 sort of hell.

But Ninja is one of the most influential influencers out there - an influencer by which all others are judged. His words and actions have very real power, and he could make a serious dent in this issue. If you’ve got so much influence, why not use it to change things for the better?


Comments

    Ninja is alive?
    I thought he died of Ligma?

    Nobody’s asking Ninja to do all the heavy lifting here
    Ninja Should Stream With Women

      The key word there is 'all', surely? It's not his sole responsibility, but he can certainly do stuff to improve the situation.

        It's not his responsibility at all. It's his choice.

          It's my view that everyone who participates in society, and especially those who benefit from it, have at least some responsibility to leave it better than the way they found it.

            It's your choice to take up such a responsibility. It isn't your choice to decide how someone else should do it. But I'm sure you'll be glad to know he has raised a lot of money for charity via his platform.

              Nahhh bro, it isn't enough. It is never going to be enough because politics right now is switch flip and if you aren't perfectly aligned with someone you are essentially the enemy. The best part is that there are proponents of such ridiculous dogma on both sides.

            I'm not a popular youtuber or a fan of his, so if he says streaming with women could have a negative effect on his wife and him I have to assume he knows best. He has a responsibility to help society, as I believe everyone has, but his first and foremost responsibility is to himself and his loved ones.

            That said, I still expect him to call out sexism from fans and try and encourage a positive view of women as much as possible because it's clearly a problem in the gaming (and non-gaming) world.

              I'm not opposed to his decision, for the record. If that's his choice, that's his choice. I just think his reason is a bit weak and there are definitely ways to get the best of both sides, it's not a dichotomy. I'm certainly not jumping on him for being a bad guy or anything.

    He is 100% correct. Every single little thing he says or does cna be wouldn’t taken out of context and misconstrued to make a headline.

    The same can be said about anything really. Maybe we should just all stay inside all day forever and never have any physical contact with anyone else.

      "The same can be said about anything really. Maybe we should just all stay inside all day forever and never have any physical contact with anyone else."
      Isn't that alot of gamers anyway especially the hardcore streamers who are on so many hours a day

    I actually think this "Ninja" guy is making a fair point.

    We live in a day and age, courtesy of the Internet, where anything someone with "fame" does/says, will be immediately scrutinized by people, whether it's fans, trolls, the media etc.

    I mean, technically the author of Kotaku is doing it right now.

    "I've made the decision to not stream with women because I don't want to give people ammunition to make dodgy assumptions against me."

    "Ninja said he doesn't want to stream with women. How dare he. He should."

    Anything you say can and will be used against you.

      Edit: Oops, replied to you by mistake, was supposed to be a new comment

      Last edited 14/08/18 1:24 pm

        Maybe you're right? That's not a bad way to think about it.

      All the more reason why using it as a reason not to do something seems flimsy. Everything he does gets dissected and false assumptions made anyway, so why should this be any different?

        It doesn't matter - it's his choice, and this has been blown up into some ridiculous screed because somebody doesn't like it. Not everyone has to be an agent for every social change.

    Better idea: nobody watch him, in case idiots start shipping you with wombats.

    As we all know, all decisions should revolve around what idiots might say in their spare time.

    dude has good intentions and i dont see the fuss.

    Wants to keep drama out of his personal life. Check.
    Stopped swearing so parents can let their kids watch and not be a bad influence. Check.

    ...why are ppl upset?

      People are not upset. Only the media is because they're losing out on a potential target and smear/hit piece.

      Last edited 16/08/18 5:52 am

    My respect for Ninja has actually gone up as a result of his stance on this issue.

    It's a bizaare thing to me that a man's desire to protect his marriage and the women he loves is regarded as an anti-feminist position. I'd absolutely make the same call.

    People with little experience, telling experienced people what they should or shouldn't do.

    Look at this: https://twitter.com/LazarBeamYT/status/1028630995673600000

    Who would actively do things to make this happen to them?

      Then... stop.

      Seriously, is it worth earning all that streamer/Youtube money if your audience is filled with such toxic people?

      Is it worth censoring what you what to do in order to avoid creepy/nasty comments?

        Is it worth earning all that streamer/Youtube money if your audience is filled with such toxic people?

        Given the amount of streamers who deal with it every day, I would think you can answer this question yourself champ. lol

        Uhhh... for millions of dollars a year from playing games? Yes it's worth it. 1000 times yes.

          But for the millions per year, it's not worth calling out and pushing back against toxic fandom?

            He does push against toxic fandom, and they push back because of it, are you saying it would be a good idea to push harder?

              Honestly, I'm done caring about this entire thing (after sleeping on it, nothing personally against you). It's all so toxic and pathetic and not worth my time to do more than dismiss Twitch as an embarrassing example of how bad "gamers" can be.

            Hell yes. You can do so much with millions. Help so many. Family, friends, strangers, charities.

    What a joke. If the celebrity side of Twitch is really that toxic, do something about it. If he's the post popular streamer on Twitch, then he'd have the most power to enact change.

    The more I read about this phenomenon of making celebrities out of streamers,the more I think it was a mistake.

      power to enact change

      Hah! What world are you living in? I think you're forgetting that celebrities aren't special beings bestowed with super powers. They're regular people, with regular families and loved ones. Imagine his wife, or wife's family stumbling across some dirty fanart or fanfic of their son in law with a female streamer. Think about how that person would feel. This is the kind of consideration that get's ignored on the surface, but Ninja and his family would be faced with. It's easy to say "Deal with it", when you're the one sitting in the spectators seats.

      Sure this kind of thing happens either way, and with male-on-male dynamics, but Ninja is taking what steps he can to minimise it, and that's his decision 100%.

        So that's it, then? This part of the internet is full of awful people, and either you modify your behavior to appease them or get chased away? Seems like a pretty defeatist attitude to me.

          Yeah pretty much. And if he doesn't want to piss in the wind, that's his right.

        That stuff happens because fringe elements started doing it and nobody objected, so it became more normalised. The only way to change that behaviour, which you seem to agree is shitty, is to take a firm stance on it. Because when the streamer does that, their more reasonable fans do that too, and when they do that, the ones on the fence lean more towards the reasonable side, and when they do that, the bad behaviour gets ostracised and pushed back to the fringe, instead of accepted and brought to the centre.

        Doing nothing is guaranteed to accomplish nothing. Doing something has a chance to fail, but it's also the only way to succeed.

          I agree, and he had made a ton of money and has a huge follower base. I'm guessing he can afford to take the risk, with the potential of making it a better place.

          People object, it happens anyway. I know from experience and it was with another male streamer. It's seen as a joke and there's no changing that mindset. You can't just erase images or information from the internet, it stays.

          Also, he did something. He told the world he's not ok with that behaviour, so much so that he doesn't want to risk it. That in itself has caused people to talk about the issue.

            I can't speak from a streamer's view of course, but I can speak as a long-time moderator for different communities. Right now I mod a Youtuber friend's Discord, about 2000 members, and we've been able to keep the quality of discourse high because we had our Youtuber set out from scratch what he wants, and then we stuck to it. The same works on Twitch, if the streamer sets out what he wants, the mod team makes sure it's followed and trolls tend to end up just flashes in the pan, instead of persistent problems.

            I'm not saying it works all the time every time, and I'm not saying anyone's obliged to do anything. I'm just saying that cleaning up his particular community can definitely be done if he wanted to actually try, but as long as he keeps it in the 'won't touch' basket then the stuff in the community just ends up fomenting of its own accord, getting worse instead of better.

            People talking about the issue is great. If his reason is genuine, I think it'd also be great if he did join up with women gamers and instead trusted his mod team and his more reasonable fans to help push the stuff he doesn't want to see out of the mainstream discourse. You can't eliminate it altogether obviously, but things on the fringe tend to die faster than things in the middle, if that makes sense.

              Discord and Twitch can be moderated (to some extent, have you seen Ninja's chat?), but they're a drop in the ocean compared to the content that ends up on Twitter, Reddit, 4chan, Tumblr, Facebook etc... that's a mighty big fringe. That's the greater internet, it has a much larger impact and one that media loves to get involved with I'll add.

                Reddit can be moderated too. The rest is going to do what it's going to do regardless of what you want, the best thing for people's sanity in my experience is to just let a community manager handle the social media stuff and stay away from it personally. TotalBiscuit had the same experience, handed his social media off to staff, closed comments on Youtube.

                Even the nicest entertainers get ripped to shreds online, have creepy and freaky things done to them in art and fanfiction and all that. And even those with the thickest skins get worn down by it over time. The best you can do is be true to yourself, don't let the greater internet dictate your behaviour, and stick to the parts of your community you do have control over. That's what I've learned over the last few decades of this, anyway.

    Politically correct trolls harassing this guy for making a considered judgement call. Yeh, good one SJW gestapo....

    Now, why don't you all scoot off to watch female twitch streamers raking in the coin for showing flesh...

      Just say you hate women, sweetie. It uses less words.

        That was never mentioned, but by all means, have a pencil, draw all the conclusions.

        Article - 'Twitch streamers can't do normal things because the internet is full of awful dudes who have issues with women'

        You - GOOD ON HIM FOR AVOIDING AWFUL DUDES. NOW WATCH ME BE AWFUL AND DISPLAY MY ISSUES WITH WOMEN

        I mean seriously, do you people not even try

        And the dudes with the downvotes.

        HOW DARE YOU POINT OUT WE ARE BEING AWFUL YOU'RE WORSE THAN THE NAZIS AT LEAST THEY ALLOWED MEN TO BE HORRID TO WOMEN

        Go clean your rooms, they stink.

      Its nothing to do with political correctness. But everything to do with breaking cycles of ridiculousness and (in some sense) rubbish woman STILL have to deal with on a daily basis. Especially in the toxic cesspool of masculinity that the game industry still is.

      This streamer is so worried how playing with girls will affect him. Not a single thought of how in his position he could break down some of the barriers still face in gaming. But nah the poor little streamer is worried how it will affect him, and lets face it, no matter what he does he will get rubbish. So the question because: why is THIS where he draws the line?!

      PS not all female streamers get their kit off. Just because that is the first connection you mind makes, that doesnt mean that is how all female streamers work. And even IF that stereotype was true, who really cares?

      Its almost like they are telling him what he should do with his body.

        Ha ha, yeah. Peer group pressure eat your heart out.

    It's such a non-issue, so of course it's overblown.

    He doesn't want to stream with another female. So what? Are there not plenty of other female streams one can go watch? One that doesn't need to go to the mans stream to do so?

    He made a choice, one that he could potentially overcome, but we all know how the internet works and how idiots out there will try and make something out of nothing... kinda like this debate.

    What's funny is if the other side was the start, people claiming that men should be allowed to stream with women, people would be complaining that women don't owe them anything and how it's wrong that these neck beards are trying to gatekeep women out of streaming and suggesting that they can only be considered gamers if they stream and prove it.

      You know how I know you didn't think that through very hard?

    Honestly, this whole situation is fucking ridiculous and it is the fault of the masses, not the individual. Could Ninja use his position to help women on Twitch? Yes. Does he HAVE to? No. Does not doing it make him a bad person? Not really, considering the solid evidence that the rancid community has and will make his life hell about it with harassment and even potentially real-world threats and violence. And the same risk would be there for any woman he features too. Any real woman (i.e. exists, not a fictional "SJW gestapo" dreamed up by some crusty misogyinst) understands that risk because it's part of the shitty reality we live in. Thanks to the way society works, there will always be an effort to blame an individual instead of the masses. Ninja is definitely going to get a lot of anger/disappointment by being vocal about the reality instead of just sweeping it under the rug like most people but honestly? Probably best to just stay the course. Not even Ninja could change the behaviour of the masses. The best he can do is try to be a decent human being while taking reasonable measures to protect his personal safety and the safety of those who are on his channel, which is what he already seems to be doing.

      I think the key points here are solid. He could do something about it, he doesn't have to do something about it, and he's not a bad person for not doing something about it. But the fact he gave a reason at all, and one I think is pretty flimsy myself, is just going to Streisand effect the whole thing. If his goal was to avoid a particular public response, telling everyone the public response he wants to avoid is like dangling a carrot in front of a horse and saying "this here is the carrot I don't want you to eat".

        is just going to Streisand effect the whole thing.
        Well apparently it isn't, because few in the comments section really seem to agree with the author or care what Ninja does. The only Streisand effect here will be from like-minded authors desperately attempting to read something negative out of it.

          I'm pretty sure that the people he doesn't want to do the things he doesn't want done will do the things he doesn't want done now that they know he doesn't want them to do it. It's not about us who don't watch him, or even the authors. It's about the parts of his fanbase or the trolls that want to fuck with him and now have a way to do it. That's the Streisand effect.

      The point is he doesn't want to expose himself and family to harassment...a point seemingly lost on you, apparently, as you are throwing insults over differing points of view. Go burn a bra...you've missed your decade.

        Thanks for the hot take, Mr. "I don't hate women" gunman.

          Anita you are an anal cyst

    "...I want to make clear the issue I’m addressing is online harassment, and my attempt to minimise it from our life,” he wrote.

    End. Of. Fucking. Story.

    Allies in any cause are unquestionably important, but the moment you start trying to fucking conscript people into fighting your battles, you've crossed a line.

      all streamers get all kinds of hate from all different directions. So why is this line any different or worse? It is a cop out, nothing more or less. He must really have no faith in the age and maturity of his viewers, if teaming up with women is a step too far for him.

      It's like those damned people in Koala outfits trying to make me put money in their buckets! I give to charity, but I do it on my terms :-)

    People sure love telling other people what they should do, and then carry on the rest of their day in moral superiority with no responsibility at all.

      I think you've just described most of the human race throughout history in a nutshell :-D

    Are female streamers required to stream with a quota of male players?

    The amount of entitlement is insane. Let the guy do what he wants and if you don't like him don't watch him. People are acting like he owes them something, when in reality he is just thinking about his relationship.

    We do this with sports stars too, like footy players we weirdly expect them to be paragons of virtue. Like we assume because they are good at a sport they must also be a hero and uphold these lofty societal values.
    ... When all they do is be really good at a 'thing'. Our expectations are ridiculous.
    Ninja is good at aiming and playing a video game. Do we also have to expect him to be some justice warrior? I think it's all silly.

    Ninja made a CHOICE... Last I checked, making a CHOICE wasn't illegal.... yet

    If he doesn't want to, he shouldn't have to. He has valid reasons not to want to, so be it.
    End of story, really.

    It's 2018 and you still haven't fixed this edit-moderation "feature"?

    Last edited 14/08/18 6:09 pm

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