New research from Lenovo and Reach3 Insights has revealed what many gamers already know: that women face a disproportionate amount of harassment while gaming online. The survey, which analysed the experiences of more than 900 women across China, Germany and the United States (and 98 men in the U.S.), determined that the majority of abuse women cop stems from gendered stereotypes.
The survey showed that 70 per cent of participants reported facing judgement of skills based on their gender, 65 per cent reported gatekeeping, while 50 per cent reported experiencing patronising comments while gaming online.
A whopping 44 per cent also stated they received unsolicited relationship asks while gaming — a sad occurrence which happens far too often. (It should go without saying that women gamers aren’t there for the pleasure or entertainment of others.)
To avoid facing these aggressions online, around 59 per cent of respondents revealed they use non-gendered or distinctly male identities while gaming online. This is described as a defence mechanism to avoid conflict and harassment. Given that women are playing the same games as men (88 per cent of respondents were playing competition-style games, while 75 per cent were playing action/survival games) and men don’t report the same issues, it’s clear something needs to change.
While the survey calls on video games marketers to portray more women in gaming ads to create a greater sense of equilibrium, the solution isn’t an easy fix. In the past, video games have been actively sexist and aggressive towards women, and while this is slowly changing, an entire cultural shift is needed to make sure everybody feels safe while gaming.
As reported by Forbes, women gamers are on the rise. In the United States alone, women now represent 41 per cent of all gamers — and in Asian countries, this looks more like 40 to 45 per cent. That’s an incredibly significant number but despite this, women still face frequent, targeted harassment and sexism online.
With more women gaming than ever before, it’s time to address the systemic abuse they face while gaming online.
Game should be inclusive, and women should feel safe to be themselves online. That 59 per cent of women don’t feel they can identify their gender while playing online is a shocking statistic, and one that demands to be addressed.
There’s no easy fix, but it starts with understanding how comments made online can impact women. It starts by fostering more inclusive spaces. It starts by calling out the people who harass women online and holding them to account.
To be absolutely clear: if you gatekeep women playing online, if you abuse women playing online, if you ask women gaming online to start a relationship with you, you are the problem. If you turn a blind eye to behaviour like this, you are the problem.
Everybody deserves to feel safe online, and it starts with all of us.