Sexism Prevents Female Gamers from Achieving the Same Level of Popularity as Their Male Peers
Ever notice how the vast majority of top streamers on twitch are male?
It's probably not surprising to hear that since video game personalities and competitors are generally male, and there is nothing wrong with that. At least there's nothing wrong with it if everyone was competing on a level playing field.
Female personalities trying to get to similar levels of popularity face very different challenges compared to male streamers.
Female personalities are generally reduced to being a girl, and being very attractive rather than having actual merit in their respective games. Quite often the attention that certain female gamers get is only attributed to their gender, which can often be a very harmful thing to hear when they know that they deserve more recognition for their accomplishments.
Take for instance popular streamer itsHafu.
Her gaming career started over a decade ago when professional gaming was not viable as a career choice. She won tournaments in World of Warcraft, Bloodline Champions, and spent most of her streaming career playing Hearthstone arena (which she has recently quit). Hafu was well known as a top arena player consistently placing within the top 100, with several showings in the top 30.
Over the last several years she has steadily grown her following. At the time of her retirement from playing Hearthstone, she would average at around 2000 viewers. Recently she has been playing the new auto-battler from Riot Games, Teamfight Tactics, which has exploded in popularity. Since her switch over to the new game, she has been averaging in the area of 10,000 viewers every stream.
To further her claims as being a very talented eSports professional, she was recognized by Riot Games as being the number one player during the game's beta period. With all these accomplishments, pretty much anyone would be able to say that her popularity is driven by her talent at her chosen games, and her otherwise very well run stream.
Unfortunately, not everyone would agree with her success.
Many of her accomplishments have been dismissed as her getting carried, the games not counting, or her getting lucky. Many people would say that there are dozens if not hundreds of men that are better than her. This is a problem that she would speak very candidly about after Riot Games' recognition of her Teamfight Tactics ranking.
The sad part is that this is relatively common. Hafu clearly deserves to have her achievements recognized, but people seem reluctant to do so because she is a woman.
It's not just about accomplishments being reduced to nothing, but rather their entire online persona can be called into question depending on how they present themselves.
A large number of female streamers end up having their conventional beauty be both a boon to career and their biggest setback.
Streamers such as Pink Sparkles and Amouranth both market themselves as sexy women who use said sexuality to attract people. This is perfectly fine. People are allowed to use whatever they have to their advantage and if that means being sexual, then more power to them.
Pink Sparkles and Amouranth are more akin to pin-up models playing video games than outright sex icons. They are very aware of the fact that they are using their sexuality to their advantage and it is 100% within their control, which is why they do not care that maybe their streams are more risque.
However, it results in a lose-lose situation for them and other streamers.
A popular term to describe female streamers like this is "Twitch thot". This term helps to ruin female streamers' ability to exist on the platform. Any woman, whether she uses her sexuality or avoids it completely, can be called this for basically no reason. It removes any amount of quality from their stream or their popularity and boils it down to, "You're hot, so creepy guys follow you".
It's an insult to what they do because it takes their agency away. When they or anyone else is being called a "Twitch thot", it robs them of that agency, and the viewer is trying to take control of the streamer's sexuality by telling them that they should cover up more or that they are popular just because of their body.
Even when it's not about their body, female streamers may have their viewers focus on other aspects of them.
The most popular female Twitch streamer, Pokimane, deals with people worrying about her personal life. Frequent topics of debate include: does she have a boyfriend, why is she hiding her boyfriend, and is she hiding her boyfriend to get more donations from her fans. This is a continuous problem that has plagued her for several years.
This unhealthy obsession with her life stems from people not understanding that the relationship they have with a streamer is almost 100% one-sided. The viewers do not know a streamer, nor do they hang out. Rather the streamer lets the public in on their lives akin to how celebrities have their lives followed. Viewers often do not understand that and believe that they are entitled to know more about the streamer than they deserve.
The streamer is allowed to set whatever boundary they want with their audience.
All of these are unhealthy topics for people to obsess over about a person that they only have a parasocial relationship with. In some of Pokimane's IRL videos, she actually ends up talking about some of these topics to dissuade the rumors.
Fortunately, everything listed above can be seen as female gaming personalities challenging the problems they face and coming out on top. There are several less fortunate people that have gone through much worse.
Bocchi is a 15-year-old trans-female competitive Super Smash Bros. Ultimate player who recently gained a lot of notoriety for beating long-time player Ally. Bocchi mained the low-tier character Isabelle and managed to barely eke out a win against Ally's Snake. The match was absolutely insane and she took the win in a very stylish fashion.
Fast forward a day or two and Bocchi starts to get harassed for the amount of notoriety that she gained. Many people on Twitter were claiming that she did not deserve the boost in popularity, that her win was a fluke, and that she was actually bad at the game.
Sound familiar yet?
Bocchi, being 15, could not reasonably expect this to happen, nor really handle the backlash that she received. At the time of writing, she was disabled her twitter account and turned down a deal for Gravity Gaming to become both a competitor and a content creator.
One of the worst parts is that at a similar time, 17-year-old newcomer Puppeh placed 5th at CEO 2019 beating top Smash players Samsora, Abadango, and Nairo, all while playing mid-tier Pokemon Trainer.
Was this particular accomplishment more noteworthy than Bocchi's? Maybe, but the more important thing to note is that Puppeh did not receive backlash for beating top smashers with a mid-tier character, nor did he get harassed by people saying his victories did not count.
Puppeh and Bocchi both deserve a lot of credit for the accomplishments that they have, but Bocchi managed to be the right gender for people could not accept her accomplishments. No one knows if or when Bocchi will return despite the outpouring of support that she has gotten in the wake of people putting her down.
These are just a few examples of the wide variety of problems that female gaming personalities go through just for trying to do what they enjoy. Hafu just wants her accomplishments to be recognized, Amouranth and Pink Sparkles do not want their sexuality to be the only thing that defines them even if it is their main selling point, Pokimane does not want people to creepily obsess over her personal life, and Bocchi just wanted to improve and be a good Smash Bros. player.
The vast majority of people in every gaming community are male, and that is for the most part, fine. In fact, it wouldn't be much of a stretch to say that most of the men are not the problem, but a vocal minority of guys that decry female Twitch streamers and competitors as bad at games or as "Twitch thots" need to either change or stop their harassment.
Remember, if you don't like a stream, or you don't think someone is good at a game they are popular for playing, you can always just not watch them, and support other people rather than harassing them.
It's that simple, but a lot of people need to change to make that dream a reality.