Your Argument is Invalid: Harassment Against Female Gamers

A quick rebuttal to all of the angry words going around about female gamers.

There have been a rash lately of pieces on this site about harassment of female game developers and lady gamers. Some of these have been made as part of larger arguments of why the industry needs to "grow up." 

This acknowledgment of the existence of the harassment and the general devaluing of the female half of the gaming spectrum are often met with the same tired arguments; the harassment is being over blown (partly because female gamers are not as common as the media would have us believe), female gamers are new to the industry, women are being forced into the industry, that male gamers are immature and unsociable, women are also participating in the harassment, etc. 

In the interest of expediency, I'll respond to these posts and arguments here. If you follow me on this site, you'll know that I take feminism and gaming pretty seriously, and I've honestly been avoiding talking about this subject recently. I'm tired of giving these ridiculous arguments head space, I refuse to give them the benefits of my readership.

"Women Do It Too"

I'm not sure where this one comes from, but it pops up in other equality arguments. Rape is bad, but women do it too. Sexual harassment is bad, but women do it too. So we'll get this one of the way first. 

I've never seen or even heard of a woman sending anything like this: 

Or this: 

But these? I hear about these all the time. I'll give you that there are women out there that harass and are horrible people, etc. But I would also argue that when it comes to this level of harassment, the numbers are probably more 90% men, 10% women. 

If your argument is "Women do it too," or something similar, here is what you should just say instead: Your experience is invalidated because I believe that this is happening to male gamers as well. 

"This is My Sandbox"

A while ago, there was a controversy in sports journalism surrounding radio host Damon Bruce who said (among other things): 

I'm willing to share my sandbox, as long as you remember you're in my box.”

Now, Bruce was talking about women's involvement in sports, but it's a conversation that has struck a chord for me in terms of my own experiences as a female gamer and as a member of this industry, both as a developer and a writer. 


I game more than almost every single man I know. So if this is your sandbox, it's my sandbox too.

There's a misunderstanding among some male gamers that this has always been the realm of the male gamer, that the inclusion of women is a recent and unwanted thing. That female gamers are somehow new to this field. They've only come to this field because it is hip. 

I've been playing video games for as long as most men my age. In some cases longer. I game more than almost every single man I know. So if this is your sandbox, it's my sandbox too. 

And there have been plenty of women before me, women like thatgamecompany founder Kellee Santiago, Brenda Brathwaite, and my own mother. To claim that women are somehow a new introduction to the medium is both compoundly idiotic and bigoted. 

So if you're going to say, "women are a new addition to the field," maybe instead you should say: I don't understand this history of gaming and assume that this is my sandbox. 

It's not your sandbox. 

"Male Gamers Don't Know How to Socialize"

there are socially awkward people who love finance and gardening, and it's generally frowned upon when they walk up to a woman and tell her about the length of their penis

Well if you're sticking to outdated stereotypes, at least you don't care that you offend both genders. Because assuredly, the gamer has not progressed any further than the nerd depiction in '80s highschool movies. 

This characterization has always struck me as bizarre. Yes, there are socially awkward people who love games. But there are socially awkward people who love finance and gardening, and it's generally frowned upon when they walk up to a woman and tell her about the length of their penis.  

It's also highly inaccurate. I have been to midnight release parties for large games, games like GTA V. I'm a regular member of a game development group. I attend large conventions several times a year. Overwhelmingly, gamers are men that are just like other men, they just know that the green-garbed character in Zelda is named Link. 

When you say this, why don't you actually say "I have a low opinion of my gender as well as others." It seems to be what you actually mean. 

Please feel free to leave your comments in the space below, and I'll get back to you in a timely manner. 

Former Staff Editor

Former rugby player, social media person, and occasional writer.

Published Feb. 21st 2014
  • daifuku_8788
    Lately there seems to be an increase in 'woman bashing' on any site where users are allowed to remain anonymous . I have recently joined a property investor's forum. I am shocked at some of the threads and comments on that forum where men make it clear that it is their territory. The derogatory comments made about women and the woman bashing appalled me. I contacted the moderators, who told me not to go to the threads where women were being bashed. I reminded them it was a property investor's forum and that I shouldn't have to avoid certain threads. We need to shine a light on these issues. Don't know what's wrong with a lot of these men.
  • KonradGamez
    Featured Contributor
    My answer to this: look up KneeColeSlaw on

    She stream drawings and such of professional gamers and people of that sort mostly surrounding League of Legends. The thing is... she is making money from her stream simply because of the type of clothing she wears (very low V neck) and she has admitted to having implants.

    All this to take money from sex hungry gamers.

    A woman, taking advantage of the system.
  • Amanda Wallace
    Former Staff Editor
    Two things. 1) I hope you realize that saying that admitting she has implants and wearing low V neck t-shirts comes very close to slut shaming, if not straight up slut shaming and 2) There are women who game the system, yes. Are you saying that that means they deserve harassment?
  • Person_9103
    There have been a lot more articles about this topic recently. I hope people do realize that it is an issue. As for "women do it too". It's not an excuse and it's also equally retarded behavior, but I can understand why because I used to do it too. There's a lot of pressure to fit in and be "one of the guys" and that pressure can encourage people to act like giant asshats. They fear that if they don't act like a giant asshole, they'll lose "rep" and instead be inviting that bad behavior to swing back their way.

    At some point you have to really look at yourself and see that you are being a giant asshat and being a giant asshat towards other people really isn't okay. If your "friends" won't respect you for acting like a normal person, then they're not very good friends and you probably should find new ones.

    As for the person who commented that female gamers get more attention, they certainly do. But it's not good attention at all. There's a very huge reason why many and I imagine most female gamers choose to not disclose their gender, though I do feel that is starting to change. And the most hilarious thing is that for all the sexist logic in the world, people assume that you are in fact male unless you say something that goes against the grain. Hint- That means in the base behavior, there really is no difference between genders online. What they perceive as "obvious behaviors" is a large case of confirmation bias quite possibly combined with high levels of delusion and stupidity.

    Another issue is that for those who are shy or sensitive and don't want to deal with a lot of shit, they're forced to deal with a gimped gaming experience. You want to joke on the mic because it seems fun? Too bad. Your voice will invoke the stupid and you'll have shit flying at you from every angle. You want to introduce yourself to a group as yourself and not whatever pseudonym you've created? Nope. Be prepared on some level for some awkward but (usually) well meaning person to spill their spaghetti right in front of you while all you can really do is cringe inwardly, prepare rejection line #425 explaining that you really just want to nuke monsters and aren't looking to be someone's waifu, or hope that if you don't say anything they'll go away. Not to mention that every online interaction where you aren't being a terrible human being in the back of your mind you're wondering if you're sending "the signals" to invite bad behavior.

    It is a lot to deal with for people who are looking to gaming as a form of entertainment and not as practice at a social game of Frogger where the cars have been been replaced by spaghetti and giant pieces of poop. And even for those who do brave it, one gets tired of flying poop and spaghetti. So what ends up happening is they stay anonymous and people assume that they're dudes.
  • Amanda Wallace
    Former Staff Editor
    I'm gender-anonymous online for much of these reasons. The way people treat me is an instant 180 when they figure out that I'm female (a friend playing will refer to me as "she," or I'll have to speak on the mic)
  • David Tucker
    Well said!

    I agree with most of your post, however, you do seem to think females are targeted for harassment more than males, which simply isn't true. I can not tell you the number of times I have been told to "suck a dick," "go f*** myself," or had to hear someone talk about the things they do or would do to family members.

    Anytime you have a semi-anonymous community, harassment is going to happen. Just because the harassment you receive can be targeted on your gender doesn't mean females deserve special treatment or that the "gamer" community is out to get females. We need to confront the way gaming communities support harassers with anonymity in a large-scale way.
  • Amanda Wallace
    Former Staff Editor
    The difference between the shit talking that you're talking about and the harassment that I'm takling about is that the sexual harassment some gamers receive is because they are female. I tend to be gender-anonymous online, because of the reaction I sometimes receive when people find out I possess a vagina.

    Or, take this as an example: My ex was playing a game of Halo, and when a woman spoke up on a mic (not to say she was a lady, but simply to do regular game related stuff) she was mobbed by the men on the server, they surrounded her and yelled over their mics until she left. I've heard tons of stories like this, and the reverse, where men are harassed because they are men simply does not happen.
  • Coatedpolecat
    Featured Correspondent
    These assumptions, that it's a two way street, that "it happens both ways" is a load of poop. For every 3 comments a man gets a woman gets 1000 - that's a real statistic. Not just from a narrow point of view.

    Go educate yourself on the problem, it's real and is not something to be taken lightly -
  • Darrick Smith
    Kay, this depends on which genre of game you're in, and in some cases which system. (ie: xbox's community is probably the largest as far as sexually harassing people go. but i could be generalizing.). Either way, do women get sexually harassed andasked if they would like to see some dudes dick? Most definitely. Because there are way too many douchebags with access to a device they can hide behind that won't cause them to get their ass beat in real life.

    I don't know about the other articles on this site, as I just came across this post via twitter and as someone who browses a lot of tumblr (which is filled with a lot of opinionated people, a lot that are all about bashing of a gender, regardless of male or female,intersex, whatever other labels ). But it goes both ways.

    Sure, girl's will get this treatment more often than not by the same trolls who will shit talk and call guys fags and anything else their little minds can think of, it's not sexual harassment but its harassment nontheless. If you want to think about it in equal terms, harassment is harassment.

    Do girl's sexually harass guys? It happens but not on the same scale, because the method is not really effective to most guys. It may not be effective, but it doesn't mean we want to deal with it. (No mean's no ladies.)Most of them are used to people doing things, that invade their space, and have had things said to them to try and hurt their feelings in some personal way.

    When girl's want something in any game, more often than not they will take the method of flirting up a guy to get them to buy them something. Using their sex to their advantage, (i'm sure you've seen it, and even seen guys impersonating girls to abuse that sexual advantage.). The stronger your presence in a game, the more you attract these sort of girls, the girls who have no problem using their sex to try and get something, they may or may not be the vicious types who will shit talk a fellow gaming girl to alienate her from a group and try to be the "alpha" female. But these girls will want to use a guy's position in the game and get a free ride in dungeons, loot/gold or whatever to have you buy them something. Yes I have been asked to purchase them a gift (skin in league of legends, or even something off amazon.). But again that depends on the game type, it does exist, it does happen. And no, it does not always come with a price, because the type of guys that buy into these women are dense enough to fall for it, and believe they are establishing a relationship. So they're being taken advantage of because they're naive, maybe needy, and think that gift buying is the best way to show affection (but with how many things claim thats a way to get a girl, is it a surprise? not really.). Some of them are just happy to have a female partner to run with, the demanding guys can be cut out, since its a relationship where the female has all the power. much like sex, if she says no, and he fucks up, that's pretty much game over for him.

    It sucks that girls have to deal with that trash in an environment where they're trying to chillax. but yeah It happens on both side, and that's a fact, whether you or anyone wants to accept it or not is another story.
  • Darrick Smith
    Also no offense to the OP about my rant. I just see a lot of bashing on both sides, and it drives me nuts.
  • Ja33
    I wish I knew why some people do the things they do and act how they act. I actually think deeply about it the same way I think when I wonder about other planets with aliens on them or about unknown life deep in the sea and bigfoot etc lol.

    I often wonder why i'm different too. I mean I was always raised to think 2 genders were equal and to me they are. It's not like one had 8 arms and 4 heads and so different that we can't understand what it's like to be them or they speak a different language.

    Hmmm I think maybe it's hormones or misunderstandings or physical make up or maybe different parts of the brain that evolved over time. Whatever it is I think we can only understand if we had the ability to jump into someone elses shoes or body and feel their emotions and their thoughts. To one person something might mean a lot but to someone else it might not mean as much. Maybe because of beliefs, brain structure, hormones, or maybe many or unknown factors.

    I think that when I play I just note the person and their qualities, I don't put gender too much into it. If the person insults others, gets upset cause someone messed up their team or game, or if they are racist or make fun of others I avoid them.

    I'd rather die in a game a zillion times with a bunch of good, kind decent people then play a perfect game with someone who is nasty.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    Food for thought... my son's friend wanted to test claims by female gamers of harassment, so he conducted his own experiment by setting up an Xbox Live account with a "girly" gamertag and female selfie profile pic (that was in good taste). He appeared in games playing with NO mic. In one month, he revealed (with pictures to back it up) that out of 300 messages, 200 were of inappropriate sexual nature including 2 photos of a male's member. He couldn't believe that this really happens and apologized to all his female gamer friends who go through this.
    I thought this would be good to share.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    It really matters what game(s) he was playing during that experiment. I mean, if it was Call of Duty, I'm surprised all 300 weren't inappropriate. LOL

    If, on the other hand, he was playing more gender-neutral games, and games that required a bit more thought, he probably wouldn't have received many such messages at all.
  • Venisia Gonzalez
    Featured Columnist
    Amanda this is a wonderful article and very well written. I truly appreciate your take on the subject.
  • Ja33
    I can only relate my experiences with World of Warcraft. Other video games might be different of course. People in wow are not too nice. The majority (not all some are nice) are always belittling, insulting others, racism, mean, nasty, pick at you, make fun of you. I could go on but you get the idea.

    I also noticed something over time. Males and females were treated differnetly. I had male friends who were horrible but when they met a female they were like a different person. They were kind and nice to the girl. I'd see females with swarms of guys trying to get their attention. There are many more men on wow then females.

    If you would like to get a mental picture, imagine long ago and a queen on a throne and males trying to get the queens attention and trying their best to not offend the queen. Laughing when things are not funny, etc.

    I found out that many females not only got treated good, but got free gold, the men would also run them tough dungeons, and if the females made a mistake it was ok and laughed off but if you were a male you would be belittled and disgraced. The most disturbing thing I found out is that many of the females had multiple men paying for their real life bills and also their game subscription of 15 dollars a month. Many men on the game also started to make female characters to avoid being treated badly so half the males on there are pretending to be female.

    The queen on the throne thing is also why females sometimes don't like other females on their turf. They don't want their kingdom taken away. If you are ordinary in real life, and you go on a game where you are adored, given free game gold, paid real life bills and money, and have tons of men waiting on your every need, who wants to lose that? In our history if a king or queen wanted another kingdom that was called war.

    So I guess my findings in that video game were that men had it harder then women.

    Not all people are like that by the way some people in the game are truely nice and kind males and females. My hope is that everyone would be treated equal and fairly and appreciated for who they are and treated kindly and with respect and not judged on gender.
  • Amanda Wallace
    Former Staff Editor
    Imagine that that gold came with obligations. Imagine that that gold came with the expectation for boob pics and sexts and the like. Imagine if the gold came whether you asked for it or not, along with expectations, and you couldn't make it stop.

    There are always going to be people who abuse the system, but I find that they're in the minority.
  • Game Oracle
    Not sure what to say. I am single and I have never sent anybody, let alone a woman, any messages like this during my life. There are men that actually are this pathetic?
  • Amanda Wallace
    Former Staff Editor
    Apparently. Luckily I've never been on the receiving end of this ridiculousness. But I know other gamers that have, and it's unfortunate.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    I have no doubt females face more hostility and general garbage as opposed to men. I mean, that's obvious. The men know they're in a big boy's club, they feel protected - due to being in the majority and also being anonymous - and they act like dicks. That's easy.

    The psychology and chronology of the situation is important, however. I hate to tell you this, Amanda, but there's a much higher percentage of socially awkward individuals in gaming as opposed to finance or other hobbies such as movies and music. But let me clarify that statement-

    As gaming is basically mainstream now, it's not at all weird or nerdy for a 15-year-old to play video games. Hence, it's not the younger group of which I speak right now. It's the older group, the group that has been playing games for years and years. The fact of the matter is that a lot of them, if not most of them, started playing games because they weren't exactly the most popular kid in school. It was a solo activity, not a more social one like today; it was a form of escapism that many kids used because they quite frankly didn't have a lot of friends.

    Yes, these people did grow up. They're my age now. But they're still not great in social situations and probably never will be. It's just the way they are; their outcast period came during their development period, and that hinders social skills, which are supposed to grow in that time. You're talking about how sociable some of your friends are at parties, but they're also around people with similar likes and they have no reason to feel uncomfortable. Put them in a cocktail party of high-powered executives and people who communicate for a living, and I think you'll see a very large gap.

    Also, I'd like to add that the Internet is to blame for a lot of this crap. It kills manners and civility, and it brings out the absolute worst in people (especially those who are already immature). Those awful messages females see? I'd say there's zero chance the person who sent it would have the gumption to say such filth to a woman, if he was right in front of her. They're cowards. And many are cowards because they're not socially proficient.

    Take all those nasty, hostile people, put them in a room with a bunch of women, and I absolutely guarantee you'll see the biggest bunch of cowering individuals this side of France when Germany invaded. All the women in there could probably kick their ass, anyway. :)
  • Capt. Eliza Creststeel
    - France vs. Germany, eh? :)
  • Capt. Eliza Creststeel
    Well said! The stereotype of the gamer guy geek who can't interact socially, especially with woman becomes so glaring when seen through the filter of online interaction, and the anonymity of hiding in your Mom's basement while acting completely misogynistic.

    But, I think a good bit of these abusive types are likely 12-14 year old boys who can't behave properly in the light of day, let alone online.

    I do wonder though how many young men suffering from social stigmas turn that into anger towards women because of feelings of being ostracized or incapable of normal interaction.

    And forgive the leap of logic here, but how many abusers and predators are men who cannot interact normally with women? They are the extreme I know, but again - anxiety and social stigma turned inward and becoming rage.

    The times I've seen women harass online is much more subtle and underhanded. Usually, they attack someone through others or try to isolate someone. The devious female gamers I've encountered shore up alliances, use other parties and outright denial unless a situation truly gets personal. It's a very different psychology.
  • Stephanie Tang
    Featured Columnist
    This adds almost nothing to the conversation, but I'll be the first to admit that I don't always enjoy finding other girls in the games that I play. It:s unavoidable because no game is too small to avoid having its own core lady gamers, but years of gaming has made me jaded. Not because I have some sort of matriarchy fetish and wish to "protect my turf" or something stupid like that, but so many other girls are even more vicious than the guys.

    I was reading this post for example ( which made my blood boil, but which exactly depicted some of the stupid shit ladies will pull for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

    I often feel I'm a little half-step out of tune with other people in these kinds to discussions because I feel that sexual harassment, that I can deal with. I would rather not, of course. But I can be rather candid, sometimes downright uncomfortably so, when it comes to discussing sex anyway, so it does not bother me nearly as much as the catty, snarky, irrationality I often have to deal with while playing with other girls.

    "Women do it too" is a terrible argument to make, but the fact that they do do it too causes me no end of trouble in-game.
  • Amanda Wallace
    Former Staff Editor
    There are women that are horrible to other women and men in games. An example I've heard recounted is a woman being beat by another woman who then responded, "Well she's probably ugly anyway."

    That said, I would say the numbers of women who harass, especially sexually harass, are so low that they almost don't even deserve to be mentioned? At least as a way to devalue the experiences of sexual assault that other people have.

    And I could deal with sexual assault. I just don't want to have to. (I'm amused by the idea of a matriarchy fetish)
  • Destrolyn.Bechgeddig
    Featured Columnist
    An excellent weighing in. Unsurpsingly, more elloquent and articulate than I!
  • Amanda Wallace
    Former Staff Editor
    you were highly articulate.

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