Women in e-Sports: Breaking the Glass Ceiling

Women have been struggling for equality in just about everything for as long as anyone can remember. They are objectified, discriminated against, and generally ridiculed when trying to do thing perceived to be a "man's" domain. Guys talk about how they love girl gamers, right up until the fact girls try to get taken seriously. A few days ago, Team Siren, an all girls LoL team, released a video that sent the scene into a frenzy about their legitimacy, and earned plenty of ridicule. Either way, it got an interesting conversation started.

This isn't an article crying out against the injustice women face, how they really are good as men at everything, and how God is really a woman. The goal here is to identify what holds women back from succeeding in competitive LoL, and what possible solutions are out there to change it from their end.

Self-perpetuating misogyny

The gaming community will never be known as the most mature, the most forgiving, or the most accepting community around. Twitch chat and Xbox live continue to make sure of that. If we're talking real, the majority of viewers of female streams are only there to watch the girls on webcam.

In order, for these same girls to get more viewers they are tempted to play to what their "viewers" want and dress a little more revealing and act a little ditsier, thus perpetuating this idea that girls aren't to be taken seriously. At some point, girls have to decide whether they want exposure by exposing themselves, or let their play give them exposure.

Not all girls do this, and let's get this out of the way right now some girls are very, very good at League of Legends. If girls want to be taken seriously in e-Sports though, it's going to be difficult at first because that blow-back will happen. The community won't take anyone seriously until a girl comes along so good and serious about the game that she forces you to take her seriously. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball in 1947 hitting .297 and stealing 29 bases. He made people realize color wasn't the reason he was getting a chance, it was that he was plain good.

The girl(s) involved in e-Sports don't need to minimize the fact that they are a female by any means, just maximize the fact that they are plain good. The more a girl makes it about her gender, the more it will be talked about and discussed and added layer of pressure will be created on top of everything else that happens when someone is playing competitively. Thick skin is necessary because one thing is certain, especially on the internet, the hate is coming. 

A girl shouldn't be punished for her gender, but we don't live in a vacuum. Things will be harder no matter how she handles herself than if she were a man in the scene. It's not fair it just what is, but the payoff for doing it right and making it big would be world's larger for the one's who do make it. Danica Patrick was able to embrace both being a woman and a racer, and turn it into a successful career, and give a niche sport an even wider viewer base. League of Legends could certainly benefit from the same thing, and hopefully that person isn't too far around the corner.

The problem with an all girl team/league

What do you see when you look around the world at sports. Men's leagues and women's leagues because genetically women can't compete with men on the same playing field in most of the "major" sports. That's science, but it doesn't apply to everything and absolutely doesn't apply to gaming. Having an all-girl team or league will be seen as a gimmick at best, and be used a punchline at worst until we see definitive proof that even one girl can consistently play at a high level in the scene.

In sports, you want the best talent available if your goal is to win. Millions of people play League of Legends, and most of them are bad (ask anyone who plays solo queue). Finding 5 people who can work together is extremely difficult, and when you narrow that field down to just females it's easy to see why the idea seems a bit misguided. When people watch sports, they want to see a game played at a high level, and compromising talent for a gimmick won't get anyone noticed for more than everyone's allotted "15 minutes."

All girls leagues suffer from this even more than just single teams. The goal in league, especially competitive league  is to get better. The wins will come as long as you get better. If girls limit themselves to playing against just other girl teams the talent pool will stagnate.

North America suffered for so long in the competitive scene because of a lack of viable scrim partners. The same would be true of all girls leagues. You force yourself into a niche and become the WNBA, the LPGA, or at best women's tennis. A following, but near the male scene because the level of play is noticeably lower. The whole point of gaming is that it evens the playing field for everyone, no matter your gender, athleticism or race.

Girls teams in league, or teams with girls on them should participate fully in the amateur circuit and win. Winning solves all sorts of problems, no matter how big or complicated they seem, and if Team Siren suddenly won a few Go4LoLs then placed highly in an amateur event people would have to sit up and take notice. It has to be about the game, and it has to be with winning in mind. If the goal for girls out there is just stream numbers an a quick cash grab, then all you are doing is making it harder for the next girl(s) to succeed.

As a community we need to embrace the idea of women in the scene because it only legitimizes us more and more, and shows that the stereotypical antisocial awkward gamer nerd isn't what dominates our demographic. We can be an inclusive bunch if we try, and women need to do their best to let their play force us to sit up and take notice. This isn't a problem with an easy answer, and it won't be easy for whoever finally does break through the glass ceiling, but until then we could all be a little nicer to those who try.

What do you think RoG'ers? What do girls need to do to truly make it into the scene? Are all girl's teams and leagues good or bad for them in the end? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below, and be sure to stay tuned to ReignofGaming for all your e-Sports related needs.


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