I frequently have people envious of my female status in esports. Whether they directly tell me they’re jealous, or that I have it easy, or they are silently thinking something along those lines, I deal with that sentiment with most people I interact with. Esports is predominantly male, or at least the vocal part is. There are few women, and it often seems like we have a shorter road to the top.
So what are my perks? Well, I have a massive amount of information at my disposal because I am dating a professional player. Since we don’t have female pros, women do have a better shot at dating a pro and accessing that level of information and connections. Sorry guys, I guess my love life is really getting me ahead, must be a massively unfair advantage. The girlfriend gets much more respect than the friend, right? The girlfriend is never viewed as a distraction, or a sign a player isn’t focussed, correct? Think about the cultural ideals you have about girlfriends. If I was a guy getting VIP access at TI because I was a player’s friend, would any of those stigmas apply to me? Even better, imagine if I was me, but single, and I was just a friend. What would be said about me and that player? Would people think, wow, she must be super cool and smart to be friends with someone who has such a unique and busy life? Or would they perhaps be more focussed on the “friend” status and take bets about how long until my pants get invaded?
Let’s talk about the clearest perceived perk. You have boobs, your life is easy.
Ok so yes, women can use their attractiveness to their advantage. Most people know me for my cosplays, something that gives me easy attention! Just put on a bra and some black eyeliner and I can be Queen of Pain and become internet famous! Well, first of all, cosplaying takes an immense amount of time and money, so easy is definitely the wrong word. The biggest issue with this thought lies in the belief that female cosplays are equal to positive attention. When I make a cosplay, I stare at the in game model with crazy exaggerated features and adjust my neck and hemlines as much as possible to stay true to the character, but avoid the negative stigmas. Every decision I make is carefully calculated to avoid being called an “attention whore” while still bringing a character I love to life.
I just went and re-scanned the reddit comments from my Mirana and Beastmaster cosplays. A large amount of comments are directed towards congratulating me on NOT baring everything. People don’t see the craft, all they see is me deviating from the female stereotype. When people come to check out cosplay streams, they are surprised I have a personality and actually want to play the game. I face so many stereotypes and preconceived notions when I put on a cosplay, and I have to fight constantly to demonstrate that I do it out of passion, and that I do indeed have a brain.
Imagine if a guy did as many cosplays as I did. Quality male cosplays face much less cynicism , and are almost universally applauded for doing something unique. People do not focus on body type or request “more battlefury” for the cleavage boost. There is no discussion of the amount of skin shown or how desperate he must be for attention. Remember this the next time you see a cosplay on the front page of reddit and you think of how easy that girl must have it.
Outside of cosplay, in general female streamers are assumed to only be successful because they are women. When you are a new streamer it is easier to get viewers if you are a woman. Once you have a solid cohort of viewers? It is immensely challenging to grow. People see a female stream and make assumptions about the stream. They expect cleavage, white knights and neckbeards in chat, and a streamer who has no idea how to play the game. No matter how hard I work to improve, interact, and have a fun and focussed channel, new people to the stream will generally assume I have gotten my partnership and viewer numbers by flaunting my femininity. I personally feel like I had a faster trip to mediocrity, but growth beyond that is much more challenging as a woman, and I struggle with stereotypes and negative expectations every day.
What this all comes down to is respect. I can easily get attention, but only as a superficial blow up doll. Any intellectual contribution I have is viewed through the lense of me as a cosplayer or streamer, not as a person. My article seeking a better feedback mechanism for casters was deemed an attention whoring mechanism to seize drama and promote myself, rather than me recognizing a lack of a service in the community and attempting to help. People may envy my partnership, my “insider knowledge”, and my front page reddit accessibility with cosplays, but they don’t realize that it means nothing, because I am regarded as nothing. Everyone has to work hard. I am not saying men have it easy or that other people work less. Men have a harder time being noticed and I am sure they put in just as much time as me. However, they don’t have to face the stigmas and negative stereotypes. I would like people to really think about what it is they are envious of the next time they accuse me of having it easy. I didn’t struggle as much with being noticed, but every day is a battle to prove again and again that I am a person with passion, goals, and a desire to contribute in a way that extends beyond emptying your tissue box.