Sexism and Unconscious biases in E-sports

It should really come to no one’s surprise that sexism is a long standing tradition that has deep roots in early history. After all, humans are inherently tribal in nature, and while the days of hunting — gathering have long passed us, we hold on to our group — think mentality, and one of the most prominent struggles for centuries has been Male versus Female. It’s found its way in the workplace, it’s found its way in sports, in cooking, in emotional attachment, and, perhaps more recently, it’s a topic that has made itself onto the dazzling stage of E-sports.

For those out of the loop, recently there’s been allegations against major tournament organizer PGL for sexism after it was revealed that there was no female talent covering it. Articles were written, long twitter rants were posted and clowned on, you know the drill. It’s the classic procedure after someone or something is accused of misogyny .

So naturally, I’m back here again at the drawing board, pondering about women and E-sports for a game that I can’t help but come back to. And perhaps I’ve discovered quite a few answers along the way.

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We like to talk about “unconscious biases”: the autonomous functions in your mind that push your choices into a certain direction without you even knowing it. On days you just don’t feel like going to someone’s birthday party, it might have been unconsciously caused by a dramatic event during school, and on days you choose not to go to the gym might be caused by you remembering the soreness the last time you went.

The point is that there’s a lot of choices that may not fully be in your control due to past experiences. And choices based on gender, religion, or race are no exception. In an article written by Adam Conway (@AdamConwayIE) on Twitter, he pointed out the inherent unconscious biases that may have influenced the picking of the full male PGL talent lineup. While he does not accuse PGL of committing blatant sexism, he makes it clear that there is an inherent bias within the community that may prevent females from getting a fair chance. As Conway put it, “Generally speaking, this can be an example of an unconscious bias. Unconscious biases are often a major issue in hiring processes and diversity quotas exist in many industries in order to counteract it.”

As we progress more and more toward a brighter and more progressive era of our world, the need for sexist traditions and biases are fading rapidly. And yet, as time moves forward, it seems that our mind still tries to hold on to the age-old traditions that had defined us for such a long time. So, looking at the bigger picture, how can we defy those traditions and build a healthier and fairer system that everyone can accept?

Part 1:

Perhaps the trickiest part of this question is just that, the tradition. It’s something that is so deeply rooted that you can’t see the end of it, and it subsequently feels a lot more stronger than it actually is. So…how?

For Conway, the solution is to take it from the top. While he doesn’t downright exclaim this, he does imply that he believes the best solution is to set a rule to invite at least one female into each competition in order to prove to the doubters that women do, in fact, belong in Counter-Strike. He states: “The best way to fix the issue of sexism in video games is to make it clear to those who perpetrate it that women are capable of being just as knowledgeable, just as skilled, and just as interested in video games.”

The problem with this is that the people who view women as outsiders to their game have their beliefs validated with this. No matter how great of a job a woman can do, it’s going to be tainted by the belief that they wouldn’t be here if they weren’t given a free spot. Unconscious biases wouldn’t disappear that easily, and neither would sexism.

My proposed solution is for education to raise awareness of one’s sexist biases. Being aware of your flaws and your biases is definitely a large contributing factor into making fair decisions, and while you will never be one hundred percent free of bias, it’s a needed step forward. Maybe bring in some female executives to vote on decisions on which talent to contact. Maybe just bring in more people, or maybe even have a fan — vote. It’s not an ideal situation that still probably won’t get rid of a lot of those pesky unconscious biases, but in all fairness, nothing can.

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Sexism, and to a broader extent, even racist biases are things that are really hard to control. You make one extreme move, and it makes the situation worse. You don’t move at all, and it makes the situation worse. That’s why it’s essential, especially now, to be careful not to undermine the talented women of our scene.

For now, though, all we can do is be patient.

Ly, Tommy, et al. “Opinion: It’s Not about You — Sexism in Esports.” Rush B Media, 8 Oct. 2021, https://t.co/nGQmbcY8O5?amp=1.

Douglas, Anil Ananthaswamy and Kate. “The Origins of Sexism: How Men Came to Rule 12,000 Years Ago.” New Scientist, 18 Apr. 2018, https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23831740-400-the-origins-of-sexism-how-men-came-to-rule-12000-years-ago/.

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