Why There Are No Female LoL Pros: How to Change That

If you haven't heard the news, there's a new aspiring team in town. What makes this team different? Every member of the team is female. They recently put this video out. And as you can imagine, the video basically went ignored. There weren't any major threads popping up, nobody responded to it, and the generally mature League of Legends community went back to their business. As such, there's nothing after this break, and you might as well not even click through to read the rest of this article.

I wish.

Their video found itself on the #1 spot of Reddit's 'cringe' subreddit, with comments such as:

bigp3rm: synchronized menstruation

wildabeast20: CLG B-cup team*

One need tune into their stream for only a minute or two to see comments in twitch.tv chat such as:

  •  xanbotThis First Blood is sponsored by Tampax

  •  folkytomYou want to go pro as a top laner, but you never practise top...

  •  br0nanIf I was the manager I'd end up sleeping with Hafus team instead.

  •  rem1xzrfolkytom

  •  godlif3ACCEPT MY FRIEND REQUEST

  •  avdepazlol these tampax comments

  •  gromgarI have man boobs, can i join siren?

 Or the forums:

They're Sirens because they're using all of this attention to get their paycheck rather than actually playing the game. The more everyone hates on them, the more video views they get, the more viewers they get on streams, and the more media attention they get. They don't need to be good at League.

 

I thought they called themselves Sirens because they're loud and annoying?

Now, I'm not saying that it's impossible to make jokes about gender or race or whatever. I found this particularly funny comment on their Reddit thread:

"I play Sona." "I play Caitlyn" "I play Lux." "I play Irelia." "I play Jarvan."

"GODDAMN IT KATIE. HOW DO WE GIRLPOWER NOW?! FUCK."

What makes it funny as opposed to the other comments? The punchline isn't 'hahahah, they're women'.

Now, context is also important.

Among my close group of friends, I make a LOT of jokes that could be construed as race/gender/sex insensitive  (I personally avoid jokes that are insensitive to the gay/trans community because the struggles they face in society are still too present and all-encompassing). I often joke that I'm only friends with my friends (white college students) because I'm secretly planning on mugging them, we all refer to any black actor as 'Don Cheadle' due to a misidentification by a close friend; these jokes are essentially part of a massive inside joke that our culture shares.

 

But inside jokes are only funny when they are kept inside; they can be very offensive in the wrong contexts, where people may not realize that they are jokes, and may not know the opinions of the speakers. What makes them funny in my friend group is that we all know each other, and we all know how massively out-of-sync the comments are with our personalities. Essentially, it's a massive form of irony, and irony is only funny when you know the context.

Before I go on, I want to clarify something. I don't think the Sirens are yet a competitive team. This article isn't about Team Siren, but about the reaction people had to them, and why it's indicative of a culture that inhibits the ability of female players to rise in competitive LoL.

The reason I think that all-female teams aren't a horrible idea is the following: I don't think that managers would think that current pro teams would be mature enough to live in a gaming house with a female player (at this point in time). They could be right, they could be wrong, but why pick up a female player when that chance exists, and you could pick up an equally skilled male player?

As such, I think that the all-female gaming house is a good idea, not as a way to start an LCS team, but as a way to create a healthy training environment, so that they could ever reach that level.

What's the Big Deal?

In a number of sports (I'm going to go with Starcraft 2, Chess, and LoL, but e-sports in generally would also suffice), women and men compete in the same league. However, women are VASTLY underrepresented at the highest levels of play. For example, the top ranked female chess player, Judit Polgár, is the only woman in the top 100 players, and is currently 52nd (with a top ranking of 8). In Starcraft, the only major female player is Scarlett, who is best known for sweeping the 2012 Starcraft 2 World Championship Series Canada and 2012 Battle.net North American Championship, although she has remained relevant since, recently beating MVP in the GSTL. There are 0 pro LoL players.

Why is that?

There are a lot of reasons one could give.

Women are inherently worse at LoL.

Can we agree to just reject this one and move on?

So what external factors can we expect to decrease the number of women in high-level play? Just searching through the comments on Tuck's article, quite a few were given (in order of when I saw them):

Fewer Women

Ultimately, I think the answer is very simple. The reason there are fewer LCS-level female LoL players (publicly 0 at the moment) is simple. There are fewer competitive female players. Let's say your skill at LoL is based on 6 different skills, each of which you can rate from 1-10. You calculate those skills by rolling a d10. You have a 1 in a million chance of rolling all 10s. However, let's say your pool is 1 million players. You have a 62.3% chance of having 1 player with all 10s. On the other hand, if you only have 100 thousand players, you have a 9.6% chance of having 1 player with all 10s. And what about players with 9 10s? With a 100 thousand player pool, you have a 62.3% chance of having one. With a million player pool, you have a 99.9955% chance of having one (in other words, you have tons of them). Statistical studies on Chess have shown that the gulf between men and women comes almost entirely from the much smaller pool of female players, not an inherent skill gap.

As such, we should focus on the reasons why fewer women are drawn to computer games, and why fewer female players might play LoL competitively.

Women are less competitive

This may be a valid point, depending on the way it's framed. It's not that women are just born incapable of being competitive, it's that society criticizes them for being competitive. Socially, people's upbringing can affect the sorts of things they practice and get better at. As a kid, I got Legos and Kumon books, so is it any surprise that I have good spatial and mathematical reasoning? This is sort of a hard point to address, but it starts with the gaming community at large. A lot of this is a framing issue. A guy who wants to win at all costs is competitive; a woman who wants to win at all costs is 'a bitch'. But don't take my word for it; here's what one of the best female Magic players, Jackie Lee, had to say just one year ago. I'm not going to try to summarize her post -- it's so well written that I'd only mangle it in attempting to paraphrase it in such a short space -- but I am going to re-list 3 of her best suggestions:

1. Stop making hilarious jokes about women's gender.
6. Stop using gendered insults.
7. Call each other out on poor behavior.

Seriously, read the article; it's great, and it leads directly into my next point

Existing pro teams (and the gaming community at large) may be uncomfortable environments for women

I think the community in general is a very uncomfortable environment for women (or minorities of all kinds). Go ahead and look through tribunal and tell me how many reports you see where the reported player called somebody a c**t/f****t/n****r. Are there even analog insults for male/straight/white? As Louis CK put it:

"what can you really call a white man that really digs deep?"
"Hey, cracker!"
"Oh, ruined my day. Shouldn't have called me a cracker. It's bringing me back to owning land and people. What a drag."

Now imagine the people you play with are constantly using words that could be used to target you, about the people you play against. It may not bother you the first time, or the first day, but after 500 games, how are you going to feel about it?

And this isn't anecdotal! According to a University of Maryland study, female-name chat users get 25 times more malicious messages!

Lack of opportunities available for women

This creates a lack of opportunity, because a lot of moving up is in who you know. I'm not saying that the best people don't get the pro spots, I'm saying that if you don't know anybody else who's good/pro, you can't practice with them, and the gulf only grows. So if a high number of high-Elo players talk in ways that are potentially offensive/would make female gamers not want to play with them, that makes it harder for female gamers to practice at a high caliber level. The pro teams will be made up of all male players because those players will be the best players. But the best players will all be male because there is no way for female players to practice in a non-toxic, competitive environment. Here's a pretty good reddit comment -- in the context of Starcraft -- on why it benefits gaming teams to pick up minorities (in this case, women) who show promise, despite not CURRENTLY being as good as existing pros.

The Bigger Picture - Misogyny in LoL (and gaming)

But this brings bigger issues to the forefront. Women simply aren't taken seriously in much of gaming culture. And there's very much a Catch-22 that makes this hard to change. Essentially, the problem is this. In gaming, our 'default' gender is male. We assume that the people we're playing with, typically, are male (or maybe the gender of their characters). So female gamers have two options:

  1. Openly express gender
  2. Hide gender entirely

If they do the former, they face increased harassment. Now, I don't mean to say that only women are harassed. But when men are harassed in LoL, it's typically because of their play or their comments. Women are often harassed in LoL, simply for being women. That is, the harassment that is oriented at them is oriented not at anything they've done, but at the fact that they are women.

On the other hand, if they hide gender entirely, no problem is solved. Why? Because in the absence of any evidence, they will be perceived of as male. This is why the gaming community has this idea that the all 'girl gamers' emphasize their genders. There are plenty of female gamers. If they express their gender, they will be cognitively sorted into the 'girl gamer' group, because they're expressing their gender. On the other hand, if they don't, they simply won't be considered female, and so they won't be considered a counter-example to these gender ideas.

This is even worse for streamers. After all, streaming is not just about gameplay, but personal connection. People watch Guardsman Bob because he's chill and has a penguin. People watched many early S1 streamers for their antics. Female streamers simply don't have access to this. Any female streamer typically faces criticism of attention-seeking, and those who aren't attention-seeking will naturally shy away from all of that negative attention. So once again, yes, there are female streamers who seek attention, it's just that they're the only ones GETTING attention (by virtue of seeking it). Their being more notable makes them the examples everybody thinks of and builds stereotypes around.

I experienced a similar thing when I first started publicizing my videos; a lot of people hadn't expected that I'd be black, and since then, I've gotten the occasional negative message.

Before my videos, I wasn't a black LoL player, I was a LoL player. Women face the same problem, except the main criticism leveled against female players is attention-seeking behavior, which of course, is verified by picture/video evidence of their being female. So the very nature of being identifiable as female is the very evidence people use to label female gamers as attention-seeking; this makes a female gamer almost by definition attention seeking, so how are these gamers supposed to support the game they love?

How to Behave

I hate to offer any advice when I've already linked this article (written by a woman, no less), but if I had to propose a solution, it would be this:

  1. There won't be pro female players until there are more competitive female players in general.
  2. Women are driven away from gaming because they feel like outsiders for a few reasons:
    • Misogynistic jokes/comments
    • Nobody acting 'normally' around them (either being nervous or hitting on them)
    • Et Al.
  3. Women can't solve that problem on their own, not because they're powerless, but because the problem is in the community's behavior. We can't expect that women simply be thicker-skinned; this culture IS offensive.
    Edit: When I say 'we can't expect that women simply be thicker-skinned', I'm not saying that they are incapable of it, I'm saying that it's unfair to force them to. This applies to the toxic community in general, and is why we should solve toxicity. But it applies much more strongly to minorities in the game, especially women.
  4. Men who are aware of this problem need to make sure that they aren't enforcing it. We can do this by not making offensive comments or jokes that are either about women or denigrate women, and by treating female gamers like normal people.
  5. Men (and women) who are aware of this problem need to also make sure that they don't stand for other people enacting it.

Again, I don't mean to say that there's nothing women can do to mitigate these problems. But the behavioral problems largely stem from men, and it is simply irresponsible to put the onus on women to avoid being in any situation in which a man might be TEMPTED to behave poorly; this is simply victim-blaming.

What do you think, RoG? What can the community do to be more inclusive? Would this cause there to me more high-level female players? Is gender the only issue? I'd be curious to hear Aphromoo's thoughts on being a black pro player; I have received a small amount of blowback, but he's much more prominent than I am.

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668

Comments

  • #670 savyna278

    Thanks for your post. I had been wondering for the past couple of days if there were any pro or semi-pro female LoL players. I usually end up in the not revealing my gender when I play, mainly because one no one asked, and because it doesn't seem necessary to know. If I ever get to the challenger tier (dream haha) it would come out eventually haha.

  • #659 MiaTheFierce

    I appreciated this article although I agree that it is an issue that could have a solutionI as female gamer I also feel that girl gamers will continue to be stariotyped until they decide as a group not to be adding to the issue by "acting" girlie for the attentention. Don't get me wrong I add to the stariotype myself because I also enjoy the attention. I at times act more girly than I would normally, but I don't complain or lash out because of the way I am treated either. In fact when people are yelling at me in game I just ignore it. I don't respond and usually I find that the one yelling the most is the one that is the worse player.

    Last edited by MiaTheFierce: 9/2/2013 8:38:08 PM
  • #660 JocularThePeasant

    If more women were as sensible as you, this wouldn't be a problem.

    Or at least no worse than what everyone else gets; people still have a tendency to verbally abuse those around them because of the online anonymity. 

  • #661 sushimkr

  • #662 B3hr7

    A necromancy of this level, and to revive such a powerful thread that once had potency in life....

    The Shadow Isles would gladly seek such a promising necromancer to their ranks, keheheheheheheheheh....

  • #663 MiaTheFierce

    :D I didn't care how long it had been dead I just came across it so it was new to me and thought it deserved a rational reply :) I started playing LOL recently (but have been playing other games for years) so I was trying to find more tips on how to play a good game without feeding. 

    Last edited by MiaTheFierce: 9/2/2013 10:33:21 PM
  • #664 B3hr7

    Keheheheheh....no worries, and welcome to RoG. Glad to have you among us. :)

  • #665 MiaTheFierce

    Thanks!

  • #666 Lorewise

    Well here's the problem with that, if you're ignoring everyone, including your teammates even on an infrequent basis, you're never going to be competitive. Communication is one of the most important parts of team play, removing that axes any chance you have of becoming a better player.

    If you're okay with letting people bully you into being a poor player that's on you, don't expect other women to be okay with that.

    I think what you're over looking here is the fact that you're blaming the victim. Most women don't do anything to warrant this kind of harassment, and excusing this behavior because some women "act girlie" as though that's some kind of justification just means you've internalized all of the bullshit our society says about women.

  • #667 MiaTheFierce

    I never said I "ignore my teammates" I meant I ignore people are being babies about the game, for example the other day I was playing and one of my"teammates" said "I would be happy if she would just get a kill", but what HE ignored was that I was almost killing all of my enemies and he was jumping in and stealing at the last second so I ended the game with 18 assists and no kills. And every time I tried to play a differet area he followed. Never mind the fact he was a level 24 and I was level 9 he couldn't get his own kills so he took mine. But we won so I didn't say anything about it.

    And when I say "acting girly" I'm not talking about how they play I'm talking about the pink frilly that says "look at me please". I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that either I do it myself to a point. But a lot if guys see it as vulnerability and will either exploit it or baby you.

    I don't expect women to be okay with being bullied, I hate it! But you also have to look at the fact that it is a free online game and there are a lot of immature people out there and you can't change that.You just need to make the best of the situation and move on. No amount of trying to make them see their mistake will fix it. 

    In the end I just wish everyone would just play their best and use helpful criticism instead of belittling everyone else. But I don't think that is a realistic expectation in this generation. (Maybe in the year 2364 we'll finally get along without degrading the opposite sex.)

    Last edited by MiaTheFierce: 9/3/2013 1:38:06 AM
  • #668 Lorewise

    "I don't expect women to be okay with being bullied, I hate it! But you also have to look at the fact that it is a free online game and there are a lot of immature people out there and you can't change that you just need to make the best of the situation."

    It's true, it's a free game and that means that people will use the lack of repercussions as an excuse to be awful but that doesn't mean we should just throw our hands up in the air and say, "I give up." I'm guessing since you're new to the game you may not be aware of this but Riot has been actively fighting toxicity in LoL for a while now. They don't want it in their game and many of us don't want people acting like that in general.

    In any case this article is mostly about the competitive scene, and why there aren't women competing at that level. A lot of people assume it's because women aren't good enough in general, Gentleman Gustaf and people like myself disagree with that. There's a problem with misogyny and sexism in gaming culture that isn't particularly reflective of our culture as a whole, and LoL is no different.

    I'd rather change that than just ignore it.

  • #669 MiaTheFierce

    I completely agree with you. Women can be competitive and great at games and should in some cases be considered pro. I was in no way disagreeing. I simply am a person that feels the more something is pointed out the more it will be picked on. Women took women's rights by force they can also take being pro gamers but simply by playing at their best. Gaming is not the same as women's rights. We have the freedom to play games. We just have to step over the little people trying to make themselves into a big obstacle, not make it a bigger matter than it is. No amount of complaining is going to help. Just play your best and be a visibly great player. If you are great you will be recognized as great. 

    I am aware that Riot is trying to control abusive speech and I am glad of that. It is awesome that they are trying to get a reign on it. But it will continue as long as there are no solid repercussions for that kind of behavior.    

    Make no mistake I was not trying to excuse or brush under the rug the problem of sexism and stereotyping. I was simply trying to say that it is not going to end any time soon and that women still should continue to enjoy gaming and not to let bullies push them out of the game.

    Last edited by MiaTheFierce: 9/3/2013 2:53:19 AM
  • #656 sprakles

    To summarise the comments on this article: Yes, harassment of women is bad. But I am defending my right to insult women online because of X reason. No I don't see why that's a problem.

  • #657 qucangel

    The primary reason I've opted out of this game is how immature the player-base is. One single insult and people cry report, and these aren't even big-deal insults? Fuck, even telling them they should stun X instead of Y sometimes garners the fuck you im reporting you response.

  • #658 JocularThePeasant

    Insulting others online has just become the norm, apparently. And I don't think the equal rights movements are helping; wanna be treated like a man? Then take it like a man! Muahaha... oh. Hrmm.

    Insulting women is a problem. I agree.

  • #654 ShadowKnight647

    I'm all for encouraging female players. What I think people need to know is just chill out and accept the fact that women can play too. And I mean in the sense of removing any directly sexist comments from their mindsets - and all other minority discriminatory comments. Should sexism exist? Yes, I think it should, it's natural and sometimes hilarious but only when used in good spirit. Direct insults with sexist comments or being flat out sexist in nature by treating women differently is wrong and shouldn't be happening.

    However, this goes both ways. And if a girl is asking for it, she's gonna get it, just like any male would. If a girl is pissing a guy off then naturally the guy will respond in a sexist way for the sole purpose of lashing back, it has nothing to do with being sexist in nature, but instead just being sexist in anger. Women - and other minorities - have to realize that in this scenario they aren't being mistreated as women but rather mistreated as a human being in general. Naturally if you want to lash out at someone, most likely you are gonna try your best to hit em where it hurts. It just so happens that women love to overreact to sexist insults, making the instigator win and at the same time creating some big unneeded "sexism" problem that DOESN'T exist. It is simply just your average rager raging at someone and using the most offensive insults he/she can muster. And I'm sure guys aren't the only ones. I know without a doubt that women do this to men too.

    But then there are some overuse cases of sexism when people are trying too hard to be funny. Now I can almost say for sure that there are hardly ANY sexist people in the sea of sexist commenters in their media. Just as you would make fun of someone's bad hair day to try and get a laugh out of people, people will try and poke fun at women for general women stuff. You have to realize they aren't sexist in nature, but sexist because they are trying to get a laugh out of people. Now this goes both ways too, those commentators have to realize the amount of abuse they are dishing out and should lay off a bit. Now this is where Jackie Lee's post comes in. There has to be more people who have the intestinal fortitude and moral courage to take a step in the right direction and call these people out. Step on their feet if you have to (call them out directly). It's better for the community and their own reputation as non-sexists. They will most likely be feeling down or angry about it, even if it is slightly, but if they have any insight in them they will realize what they were doing was wrong and that you are in the right for correcting them.

    The worst thing to do though is get butthurt over it. If you get upset by their comments and show it to them, it makes them feel successful, just like any other rager or troll out there. Don't feed the trolls and you shouldn't have too much trouble coming out on top. Just keep having faith in humanity, one day it'll pay off.

  • #655 GentlemanGustaf

    Quote from ShadowKnight647 »

    Should sexism exist? Yes, I think it should, it's natural and sometimes hilarious but only when used in good spirit.

    :O

    /thread

  • #652 Andeval

    Mr. Gustaff, this is one of my favorite articles ever. I love it for various reasons, but I think it's relevant to this discussion.

     http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/lego-is-for-girls-12142011.html

    I actually remember reading it when it came out, but I've ended up using it for various marketing classes and psychology classes too. I am perfectly aware of things like society shaping/encouraging men and women towards certain things too and maybe even certain stereotypes that you are aware of but didn't address (Warning, STEREOTYPE: Girls suck at LoL except for Asian girls).

    I love that article, but a big thing I thought about while reading your post is the part on young girls and boys where the boys want to show mastery while the girls want to roleplay. And extrapolating this out too, I think it's pretty well known there are fewer girls who are willing to play male characters in video games as opposed to males. In short, males for the most part don't care, but girls do genuinely care (at least a noticeable segment). 

    Thoughts?

  • #650 ThatLexxyFellow

    I get that there is an inherent issue with women online and on multiplayer games, stemming from a combination of a vast male majority and GIFT (Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory: "Anonymity + Audience = Asshole), but the issue with Team Siren is more complex than just "Oh, men are being sexist again."

    The issue with Team Siren:

    They abuse 'thirst'- i.e, exploit the fact that they are women to beguile hapless nerds for money
    (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnYE_Osj_zk)

    They are just as toxic in game: watch some of their games on youtube (one that springs to mind is where HotshotGG and friends hunt them down in the queue and curbstomp them; their attitude is atrocious) and pay attention to the chat. I'm a bronze ranked player, and it's the same kind of shit that I see there.

    Their entire schtick is "Omg, we're wymmins"; that's all you get from the "I am a Siren" video. Not about tactics, not about legitimately earning their place alongside the greats by being *better*, or even *as good*, but by having two X chromosomes.
    The way it comes off is: "We're better than you, and we deserve to beat all of you because we're gurlz and you're just stupid men" which, in a male-dominated game, is not going to do you any favours.

    As far as I see it, nobody (except for a few toxic trolls who will complain at literally everything, because this is the internet and they can) is against the idea of female players, or even a female team. But if there's going to be a female team, they should have to work at it, just like all the male teams. Nobody should be given a free pass.

  • #651 GentlemanGustaf

    good to see you read the article and understood the thesis so well you made an article to comment on it.

    Last edited by GentlemanGustaf: 7/14/2013 7:50:54 PM
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