Women Only Esport Tournaments: Where Do We Go From Here?


I think there comes a time when a topic of controversy requires someone to take some time, sit down, and weigh the pros and cons of both sides of the discussion to try to develop a non-biased response. The topic is women only esports tournaments, the time is now and the person is me.

Who am I?  Well, I’m a nobody, honestly.  Just a girl who’s been gaming since Bambino handheld football games were a thing.

Bambino_Football,_No._ET-0301,_Made_in_Japan,_Circa_Early_1980s_(LED_Handheld_Electronic_Game)Who remembers these?!

I’m a semi-silent female gaming bystander, watching the gaming community grow and expand into something I could have never dreamed of happening.

Gaming has always been a part of my life, from learning Minesweeper and Spider Solitaire, to watching my dad play Doom and RE1, to memorizing the login pattern of my brothers Xbox so I could sneak on to play Halo. Gaming is part of who I am, and I care about it so much.  I have to say something…

The fact that I happen to be a girl does not dictate my opinion on this piece.

Female Only Esports Tournaments

I honestly sat here trying my hardest to think of genuine reasons why female only tournaments are a good idea.  For me, there aren’t any coming to mind that I fully agree with, but they do exist.

From what I’ve gathered over the weeks I’ve spent reading posts and opinions about this topic, the general female consensus is that these tournaments are creating an environment where women feel more inclined to participate. I wouldn’t deny that for even a millisecond – yes, they absolutely are. The notion of creating this environment and growing a user base or professional female gamer community is undeniable. To garner momentum, you have to build your foundation.

Here is my biggest concern – there is no such thing as separate but equal. My apprehension with this method being the first step women are taking to join a predominately male oriented professional setting is that we are pigeonholing ourselves in the future.

I’ve read other opinions that say female only tournaments aren’t forever, but they are needed now.  Allow me to explain why I still believe this will not garner the intended response from the community.

I’m a big picture kind of person – always have been. The most immediate answer to the issue right now is to create these female only tournaments.  Before we are all in on this idea, we need to look at the potential repercussions of doing so first.

  • First Impressions

This is our bottom line up front.  The subject of our email. We will not get another chance to do this. Ever.  This is the statement that is supposed to draw people in.  (Like when I sat here for almost an hour trying to think of a title for this opinion piece that would get your attention to read further)

Our first statement, as a collective community, I feel needs to be stronger than this. The implied message that I see from segregating ourselves is that we just can’t hang with everyone else.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that is what the people we are trying to send the message to are already thinking and saying.  I feel that these tournaments are just confirming that mindset (even though that is not the intent).

If these tournaments are “confirming” these generalizations that others have of female competitors, how do we expect to break down those barriers later on?  We have to break them eventually, right?  So, how do we expect that others will change their opinions if we are basically showing them they are “right” when we remove ourselves from that environment by our own doing? (Notice the word right is in quotations…that is in no way me saying that mentality is correct)

I am all for joining forces for a cause bigger than one person can tackle, but I feel this is the wrong direction. I personally think we will be taking one step forward and four steps backwards if this follows through and becomes part of the status quo for esports.

  • Reactive

I also fear that starting with female only tournaments, is a reactive knee jerk. I work in system interfaces, and I cannot tell you the number of times a reactive fix was put into the software to address one problem, but wound up creating a half dozen more. The follow on fix addresses those half dozen, but in turn creates a half dozen more, and so on.  The cause is lack of foresight, which is what we need right now.  We need to understand the negative effects women only events might have on the opinions and mentality of others.  Effects that could potentially hold us back from advancing.  We need to keep in mind the ripple effects of this decision.

If women do not take a moment to pause and achieve an aerial view of what is happening and about to happen, we risk being absorbed with the current issue and remain purblind of those next half dozen.

We may jump into the first consolidated idea without taking into account any consequences of being too blind to look at any other resolutions.

What I’m trying to say is, okay we have female only tournaments. What happens next?

buffyOnce More, With Feeling!

  • Double Standards

Before anyone jumps off the deep end to say I’m not being supportive or that female only tournaments do not evoke a double standard, hang with me here. I originally thought that this wasn’t an appropriate rebuttal, and then I realized that it has already happened.

First of all, a vast majority of events do not have a gender ban. Some are open qualifiers for teams or individuals, others are by invitation.  Either way, neither of them say “no girls allowed”.

There was one, back in 2014 that did say that phrase, and the discussion of female gamers was back in the limelight.

For those who do not know or do not remember, the International e-Sports Federation’s 6th esports World Championship had a qualifier in Finland for Hearthstone that was exclusively for Finnish males. I’m sure you can guess what happened next – women were upset for being excluded.

The below statement was released by IeSF rationalizing their decision to exclude women from this qualifier in an effort to segregate competition by gender. Pay attention to the first point being made:

“Let me elaborate a bit on the decision to create both male and female competitions. This decision serves two main goals of the IeSF:

1 – Promoting female players. We know that e-Sports is largely dominated by male players and female players are actually a portion of the overall player base. By hosting a female-only competition, we strive to promote female gaming on a global scale.

2 – International standards. IeSF is very close to get e-Sports recognized as a true sport like it should be.

Part of that effort is to comply with the international sports regulations. For example, chess is also divided into male/female leagues.”

Anyone else notice that the first reason girls were not allowed is the first reason listed as a “pro” in this article? Coincidence?

I see two double standards here.

1 – Women were upset they were not included. I have a really hard time defending this stance. This very concept is one of the main reasons women are promoting female only tournaments.  It is also the first rationalization IeSF said women cannot participate with men.  So which is it?  Were we mad IeSF tried doing EXACTLY WHAT WE ARE DOING RIGHT NOW?  Or are we proud that we’re creating these supportive female gaming environments?

This is the kind of contradiction that keeps people questioning the sincerity women have towards professional gaming. In my eyes, the double standard is that it’s cool if women want to segregate to promote female players, but damn anyone else that says they’re not allowed to play because of it. I realize this is only one example, but the similarities are too great to be ignored.

To close the loop on what happened with this incident, the IeSF opened its qualifiers and tournaments to all genders.

2 – Women are now excluding men. How can we, as a community, come together if part of the solution is to be exclusive? We couldn’t be taking actions more counteractive than this.  We are isolating ourselves from the rest of the gaming populace and bringing attention to it.  How is this a solution?

By creating these double standards and the exclusivity of female only tournaments, it will exacerbate the hostility between both groups.

You’re probably saying to yourself, “well, if she has such a strong opinion about this, then what’s her solution?”  The answer is I don’t know.  There isn’t one simple solution to an issue that at its roots, is deeply seeded in a culture and mentality that needs to change.  One person cannot come up with a magical answer that changes it overnight.  A culture shift requires the masses uniting under a common ideology and pursuing.

You could argue that common ideology is to keep having female only tournaments, and generate sustainability and momentum with that.  I get it, and it seems like the most obvious choice.  However, that is not inclusive of the gaming community as a whole.  It is not encompassing of the genders of ALL gamers, which is where I believe the groundwork for the solution needs to start.


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