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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  • #169 Tuck359

    I understand this criticism, I've gotten it a few times. I commented earlier that I believe this is true. The way women are treated isn't their fault, and the community at large needs to get better at treating everyone better in general.

    My suggestions were things that women themselves could control. Women can't change how men react to them, the kinds of outrage that they will get, but they can do the things I tried to outline and several I haven't even thought of yet. I'm just glad it's starting a nice conversation that's long overdue.

  • #173 laureljan

    It's definitely a conversation that needs to be had! I've noticed that Korean eSports scenes tend to have more women (players, casters, etc) and I wonder if it's something that comes with the development of the scene as well as society. I don't speak Korean so I don't know how women in those roles are treated. My main gripe is that men do stupid/embarrassing things all the time (re: the Team Siren video), but they are not held as representatives of their gender that need to tone it down or face whole-gender discrimination.

  • #204 scarlettsarcasm

    Quote from laureljan »

    My main gripe is that men do stupid/embarrassing things all the time (re: the Team Siren video), but they are not held as representatives of their gender that need to tone it down or face whole-gender discrimination.

    This exactly. Even under the assumption that the video was rather presumptuous for a no-win team yet to make the slightest splash on the pro scene, they're probably the 923843th team to act in a similar manner. The only reason this particular video was picked up was because it was all women. And while criticizing them for being presumptive is totally valid, it would be much, much better for people to just recognize it's only a big deal because they're women, ignore it, and not even spend the time to critique them for an embarrassing video because even by doing that, you're validating treating this as a special thing, whether you want to or not, and unintentionally perpetuating one giant, sexist clusterfuck.

  • #180 miranda

    If you're treated differently for being a woman, you're doing something wrong.  Never once has my gender come up during, or between LoL matches.  And it's pretty obvious when I'm on skype with everyone...

  • #207 laureljan

    Well, I'm glad that's been your experience, but please do not speak for all women just because you play with people who aren't sexist. There is an over-arching problem of misogyny in video games, both by devs and players. Women have poor representation in games, and are treated differently and often negatively as players. It is not an issue of "doing something wrong", it is an issue of video games being considered a male domain, populated by males who don't know any better than to sexually harass or totally dismiss women, instead of treating them like any other teammate/competitor.

  • #209 miranda

    there's a mute button in every game.  if someone is sexist, stop interacting with them.  eventually the only people with the privilege of talking to you will be the ones who deserve it.  the men on my friends list know better than to engage in sexist comments/behavior, because I *demand* equality from them, and accept nothing less.

    Last edited by miranda: 6/7/2013 12:58:32 PM
  • #220 laureljan

    Holding your hands over your ears and muting sexist drivel doesn't erase the problem, unfortunately.

  • #222 miranda

    neither does getting butthurt about it.  on the internet, people can say whatever they want.  it's up to you whether you're going to let it get to you, or exercise the same power yourself.

  • #223 GentlemanGustaf

    Quote from miranda »

    on the internet, people can say whatever they want.

    Not really true.

    1. There are laws about internet speech; I'm not sure where this myth comes from that internet speech is entirely distinct from IRL speech but it has no legal grounding
    2. Social backlash is still a thing.
  • #165 Itachi

    There is a great article on the same issue in professional Magic the Gathering by (female) pro player Jackie Lee, for anyone who wishes to read it: http://www.starcitygames.com/magic/misc/23928_Women_In_Magic_The_2012_Edition.html

  • #210 GentlemanGustaf

    (linked in article, for reference; I think it's great, because it touches on a lot of good issues like the fact that she didn't start playing Magic to be 'a woman in Magic', but she understands that she needs to be recognized as 'a woman in Magic' for reasons of sociocultural exploration and development. Essentially, that her being female as a magic player isn't interesting or important to her, but it is interesting and important to others.

    I had the same sort of thoughts in college, as somebody who's mixed-race/black. It might not be important to me that I'm black and go to a prestigious college, but it matters because if I do something important, I'll be a role model to other people in m position. It was a little bit easier to see when Obama became president, something I'd considered impossible

  • #225 Itachi

    <3 :3

  • #161 Coykoi

    The video feels a little forced and the script is quite cringe worthy (Chinese All-Stars corny), but the idea of having a 5-woman LoL team is an interesting idea.

    It's something that seemed to bother me as to why there are no females in competitive gaming, when I'm sure there are many highly ranked females out there. I mean, that's definitely an assumption, but I always imagined it to be that way. 

    At least someone's trying to give them an opportunity. I'm not saying that we should pick females over males regardless of ability, because competitively, the best man/woman plays, but perhaps women have not been given the same opportunity as men. 

    Most of them have the rank prerequisite, with 2 of them being Diamond I and one Diamond III, (The other two being Diamond V and IV). I'm not 100% sure, but I think that's a little low for competitive? Playing as a team though could make up for that difference, who knows. 

    The LoL community is not a great community, so hopefully it'll bring some change in view of females and gender in gaming and normalize females in competitive gaming. 

    You're right in that there's no reason for there to be 2 leagues, one for guys and one for girls, because the physical differences don't apply, and there is nothing to say that a female can't play LoL as effectively as a male (sure there are certain physiological differences, but I wouldn't say they are disadvantageous/advantageous enough to warrant separation)

    Hopefully they do well, I wish them luck, but I hopefully they revise their videos to be a little less 'corny'. 

    Last edited by Coykoi: 6/5/2013 1:25:33 AM
  • #181 miranda

    Your "observation" that there are no females in competitive gaming, is an outright fallacy.  You must only be paying attention to a small pool of teams.

  • #182 JocularThePeasant

    You should've put the quotes around, "there are no females in competitive gaming."

    Just an observation.

  • #158 NGAF

    For some reason I think it would be easier for an all-girls team to break that barrier.

    Five girls in a LoL team, they will get attention. That means Youtube and streams, then sponsors. Enough money to get together in a gaming house and play. The Sirens could live off that money without even being pros, as long as they win enough to keep getting attention.

    Would one of the girls be judged good enough to be picked up in an established team, she could become the first pro female LoL player.

    I fear however that a pro team could pick up a girl to sub for them just to get more attention, let's hope this won't happen.

  • #163 Cronosmite

    I think the problem with this is the same reason you think would work; they wouldn't be getting this attention just because they're good players. Having an ALL female team limits the amount of people that will take them seriously because people will always say that they only got their sponsors or streams because they're an all female team and that it's their gimmick. However, a team of men and women legitimately cooperating and winning a team game, proving they're on the same level as the men on their team, in competitive gaming right now...I have a feeling this would go a long way.

  • #147 TehLlama42

    I think the Sirens do have  pretty legitimate shot.

    I just facepalmed a bit at the Danica Patrick reference.  That's like the one example that irks me to no end, she's basically the equivalent of somebody who made it to pro ranks by exclusively duo queing with Lemonation or ForellenLord; and has a combined KDA of roughly 1.

    Better examples would be Erica Enders, Angelle Sampey, or Shirley Muldowney, who went into a male dominated sport and were respected for being just awesome at such a highly competitive level of that sport.

  • #164 Itachi

    You must have some pretty significant insider knowledge to think that a Gold League ranked team has a legitimate shot against the region's LCS teams. It is a very cocky claim to make about any Gold team in any region, regardless of gender.

  • #138 meowmeowmoo

    Tuck359, I think it's really good that you have posted something about the obstacles and discrimination that female gamers face in male dominated online gaming. This kind of thing needs to be talked about a lot more, and people want to, if the activity under this article is anything to go by.

    However, I think you have gone down the wrong path when it comes to what can be done about this problem. When you say women should just "play the game" and not "highlight the fact that they are are female gamers", this indicates to me that you haven't really thought about what it might be like to be a female gamer.

    In your "self perpetuating misogyny" paragraph you literally lay the blame for the abuse that women receive at their feet, saying that it is up to them to change the way they present themselves on their streams and then people will respect them. This completely detracts attention from who is responsible for the low numbers of female LoL players - abusive men. It is US, the male gaming community, that has to improve OUR behaviour, not female gamers who have to change theirs - otherwise you are saying "we (men) can't change, only you (women) can, and if don't then our behaviour is your fault". This is the same type of argument directed at all sort of discriminated groups all over the world, and it is erroneous.

    Basically, the problem with your article is that it is all about how female gamers are doing it wrong, not about how male gamers are doing it wrong. And it is male gamers who are the ones for doing it wrong. 

    I personally think it was pretty brave for the Sirens to put themselves out like that and I commend them for it. They have to deal with the type of comments, mostly from male gamers, underneath their youtube video, and the even worse emails.


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