The following responses to the questions I asked women are generally represented in descending order from the most common experience to the least common experience. For example, the most common sexist experience are demeaning comments about gender. Therefore, the first quote represents that experience. The least common experience is not witnessing any sexism whatsoever, and the last quote represents that experience.
1. What is your history as a Smasher? When did you start, what got you into it, what character do you play?
“I started going just as a spectator and I found myself so intrigued by the game. After a few months, I asked my friend to train me and then I started participating instead of just standing by the sidelines wishing I could […] I stuck with Fox but later started maining Jigglypuff” —Candy, SoCal
“Super Smash Bros. has been a huge influence on my life. It’s such an intricate game. I love learning about the depth of the game with all of the technical aspects that have been discovered over the years by different players. I’ve been playing video games of all sorts pretty much my entire life.” —Siren, GA
“I dated a guy who was in the scene up in AK and so I just kind of got into it with him. Part of it was just trying to do something with him, and part of it was just the fact that I enjoyed the game and the competitive scene. I main Peach, but dabble in Puff and Sheik. I don’t main Peach because that’s a “girl” character…I hate that!” —Anonymous, AK/WA
2. Do you think you have been treated differently because of your gender? In what ways?
“Definitely. When I first started coming around to events and making a presence online, I got TONS of sexual comments […] I’d never experienced anything like it before. After a while it started to be like “I’m here to try to learn and make friends, why do people only care about what I look like?”” —PPRN, NC
“People ask who I main and if it was Peach at the time, the response was “Oh all girls main Peach”. I started playing ICs and the new response was “Oh all girls main ICs”. I finally landed on Sheik and apparently, all women had spontaneously dropped Peach and ICs and Sheik was the new “main for girls”. People sandbag hardcore and compliment me no matter how much I suck […] Inversely, when I beat guys in close matches, they will get very, very angry. The anger is noticeably different from when they lose to other guys […] It does make getting in on friendlies easier though. People will let me cut lines or get in on games they normally wouldn’t let other guys in on.” —EmilyWaves, NY
“I haven’t even been in the community for more than a month, but I already feel unequal treatment. I’m repelled by the hostility to girls. I imagine that no matter what a girl does, she’s gonna get crap for it.” —JuicePouch, OH
“I’ve had guys waive venue fee in exchange for hanging out/dates. Explains why I don’t go to tournies.” —Sheri, NY
“Honestly I don’t feel like I get treated differently very often or at all, although this might be attribute to the fact that I don’t go to tournaments often.” —Leah, WA
3. What specific examples of sexism have you experienced? (Screenshots of experiences can be found here)
“Mainly comments, either “jokingly” or in the context of trash talk. The usual kitchen jokes, make me a sandwich, etc. Typically I brush it off, but when you hear it all the time, it gets old […] My most constant pet peeve though is feeling like my opinion means less than male gamers […] if I had a dime for every time I’ve thought “I told you so” on something Smash related, I guess I’d have a shitton of dimes” —KayLo, PA
“I also get a lot of comments of a sexual nature especially comments concerning my body (“your boobs are huge”). One of my favorites is when I get mad about something and I get to be accused of being on my period!” —Battleaxe, NC
“The only acts of sexism I’ve experienced during my career of Smash have all been to my benefit. I can’t even remember the last time I’ve had to pay a venue fee. I’m able to ask any pro player to help me learn a specific in-game technique and get detailed helpful advice right then and there. However, a male at my skill level would most likely get ignored or be given a very depthless response.” —Mimi, NV
“I ALWAYS– and I mean always get the “go easy on her”. It is probably my biggest pet peeve. I always have to make sure I win too– because if I don’t the only reason I would lose to them is because I’m a girl. If a guy loses– it’s just a lost nothing more.” —Daycia, OH
“I made a facebook status about how I disagreed with the term “rape” in the community. I received messages telling me to “go get raped and kill myself,” TONS of comments about how I should just leave the community, and some people I even considered close friends quit talking to me […] One time I was at a party with some smashers and someone I didn’t even know touched me completely inappropriately and no one helped me or stood up for me […] I felt pretty alone and discouraged about the scene for a while.” —PPRN, NC
“The smasher I dated recently who raped me has been trying to get me kicked out of the community by turning the new region I am in against me. He has told everyone that I am lying about the rape, has told the venue employees where we normally play smash to not allow me entry, and kicked me out of the smash Facebook groups of the region.” —Anonymous
“I feel like everyone has treated me equally for the most part.” —Kassandra, OH
4. What’s your view on words such as “rape” being used casually?
“Rape isn’t something that should be taken so lightly that the word is used in casual conversation as something positive […] Casual usage of “rape” desensitizes those who use it and those around them. Rape isn’t something we can afford to be numb to.” —Jerrica, WA
“There was a tournament not too long ago. It was getting late and dark outside and some people started leaving the tournament venue to go home. There was this one guy who needed a lift to the train station. Another smasher offered to take him there and I went to keep him company so that he wouldn’t fall asleep or anything on the way back. Anyway after dropping the guy off to the train station we started heading back to the venue. Suddenly, out of nowhere, in the middle of nowhere, in complete darkness he says to me “I want to drive this car to a roadside and rape you”. I told him that’s sick and not funny at all. He didn’t answer or anything, just changed subject after it had been quiet for a while. He didn’t do anything and we got to the tournament venue safely, but it felt pretty awful. I wouldn’t have had any chance if he had decided to actually do something. No one should say something like that to another person without realizing that there is something wrong. I don’t think it’s a good idea to encourage people to throw out words like rape and making it sound like it’s something awesome and nothing serious. There are always some people who are affected on the language we use, and I don’t want people forgetting the actual meaning of the words used. Rape is not funny.” —Jekku, Finland
“There are so many other alternatives like “dumpstered”, “destroyed”, “trashed”, and my favorite “lookin’ a lot like Krillin” ahaha.” —Anonymous, AK/WA
“For many people, Smash has therapeutic qualities; a chance to escape the struggles of real life […] These people who use Smash as a retreat are constantly reminded of the very “thing” they are trying to forget about.” —Mimi, NV
“I’ve heard it used so much at this point that I’m probably desensitized to it, but why say something like that when you could just say “wreck” instead […] It’s really unnecessary and potentially offensive in a casual setting.” —Feather, MA
“Something that I think is significant about the way the word ‘rape’ is used in the Smash community is the fact that I rarely hear it translated […] My impression is that in the context where it is used […] this word lost almost all its sexual meaning.” —Seya, Italy
“To me, its just a word. It doesn’t mean anything special and I use it as loosely as I use “gay,” “lame,” “retarded,” “bitch” and other potentially offensive words.” —Doll, CA
5. What is the general reaction if/when you discuss unequal treatment in smash to your friends/significant other?
“When I was first in the scene, my smash “friends” would just tell me to stop complaining. They would say “you’re a girl in the smash community, what do you expect?” I was so outnumbered that I would just shut down and not bring it up again […] I feel like the community has matured so I would feel more comfortable bringing it up […] As for my current boyfriend, he is very understanding and respectful when it comes to the issue.” —Anonymous, WA/AK
“It’s kind of sad, because I actually try to not even bring it up. It’s a discussion where we’re at that point in which we think “Yeah, guys are guys.” […] That has to turn around, pronto.” —Yink, IA
“I have found three types of people when discussing this topic: 1. Perpetuators (50% of people I’ve encountered are this) These people agree that there is unequal treatment but argue that it is women’s fault for giving ourselves the “gamer girl” stereotype. They argue that we are genetically predisposed to be bad at Smash because we “over think everything”, are “not aggressive enough”, and “have bad reflexes.” 2. Rejectors (20%) These people deny seeing a segregation and mistreatment of women who try to play Smash games. In my experience they do not believe they treat females differently, but they often do, and are in denial of their behavior. 3. Fighters (30%) These people (at very least) recognize the mistreatment and think it is wrong. Some even advocate for equal treatment, but these are few.” —Neku Namina, Canada
“I think all my friends, who are all males, are aware that there is an unequal treatment and because they are aware they can be more understanding. If I mentioned I’m not cool with them saying “rape”, they completely understand and apologize .” —Leah, WA
6. Have you ever thought about quitting smash? If yes, how seriously, and for what reasons?
“It’s very hard to completely quit Smash […] To entirely cut off all of the friends you’ve made through attending tournaments and to be able to honestly say you don’t still get that hyped feeling while watching your favorite Smasher or friend in a close set during Grand Finals is a feat accomplished by very few, if any. With Smash, you gain a feeling of belonging. The Smash community is almost like a fraternity or a sorority; once you are in, you are in for life.” —Mimi, NV
“I love it too much to quit. It’s too fun, the good times way out numbered the bad. Sadly I just haven’t had the time for it and I don’t live near anyone I know that plays anymore.”—Black Mamba, AZ
“I have seriously thought about not being involved with smash […] It was after the facebook showdown happened. I actually deleted my entire facebook for a period of time because so many people were harassing me about it. It was only a select few people, but I couldn’t take it. I had never experienced harassment like that in my entire life.”—PPRN, NC
“I quit around 2009 and have just started getting back into it all a few months ago. The reason I quit was because […] I was sexually assaulted by another player […] I was then threatened and told to not tell anyone because he’d hurt me if I did, he knew where I lived, it was my fault, I was asking for it, “this is why girls shouldn’t be playing. You’re just a slut” and so on. After that happened, it changed the perceptive [sic] of the community for me. I was so scared of any other male who would throw similar insults because, in my mind, I linked those comments to the sexual assault. If someone who I didn’t see as a threat was able to hurt me in that way, who’s to say someone else couldn’t? So with all those thoughts and fears running through my head, I decided to stop playing all together and remove myself from the community. The worst outcome from this situation, however, was that I was silent about it all.” —Candy, CA
7. What are your positive experiences? What keeps you engaged in the community?
“I love gamers. Period. I love the culture, I love the energy, I love the attitude. You meet ALL KINDS of people. Certainly, gaming has its ugliness — every scene does, but ours is also a beautiful scene — full of diversity, love, acceptance and a genuine fervor for being yourself without apology.” —Serrarist, NY
“You just can’t deny the HYPE that comes along with Smash. It’s what keeps me going to tourneys. There’s no other feeling like being immersed in Grand Finals, seeing some great sets, and being surrounded by people who love the game so much…It’s one of the only games that I get these random cravings to play. I never get tired of playing smash.” —Siren, GA
“I can honestly say that joining the smash community has changed my life. I’m no longer a timid, little girl who fears the thought of opening up to others. I got to travel and meet people from literally across the world.” —Vans, NorCal
“What I love most about the smash community is that it’s so tight knit. When we raised over 90,000 for breast cancer research, I was astonished. It made me realize that the players love this game more than just about anything and will do anything for the game.” —Anonymous, AK/WA
“I cannot stress that with these negative experiences, I still love the community […] The community has so much power and it’s amazing that they use it for the betterment and improvement of society. I always make it a point to tell people that I refuse to let a few bad apples ruin a community that has been nothing but a great experience to me […] It saddens me to think of a younger Candy who was scared away from a community that was as loving, educational, and stimulating as this. It saddens me even more to think of the other girls who are in the same position and decide to leave as well.” —Candy, Southern CA
“The Smash community is so diverse culturally and has really opened up my eyes to what’s outside of my little box […] It is an experience I would never trade for the world.” —Mimi, NV
“The hundreds of friends I have made through Smash are the physical embodiments of the positive experiences I’ve had in this community. On a more personal level, the community also instilled a lot of confidence in me.” —Milktea, NY
8. What are some changes you’d like to see happen with regards to sexism in the community?
“Stop saying indecent things about the girls who are on stream! Honestly, I get that you’re safe behind a computer screen but have some respect. Jeeze!” —Peachyhime, NY
“I really would just like gender to be a non-issue. Trash talk is whatever, but going for the easy back-to-the-kitchen joke is plain tired. Talk shit about someone’s gameplay, not the fact that they happen to have a vag.” —KayLo, PA
“I hope that more girls play! I want to see a top ranking girl gamer, go toe to toe with mango or the best or even just her state’s best. I think that’s what it really needs.” —BlackMamba, AZ
“I think it’s important for the girls to stick together. I know of a few women who ‘are one of the guys’ and will partake in sexist or mean behavior towards other women, and it’s just silly to me.” —PPRN, NC
“Honestly I think it would be great to be at a tournament and not once be looked through when I’m talking to someone because they’re assuming that I’m someone’s girlfriend or don’t really know anything about the game that I’ve loved for what, 10+ years?” —Feather, MA
“Some changes I think are crucial to improve the problem with sexism in the community is, firstly, raising awareness. The next step is to take action towards the perpetuators. It happens much too often that their horrible actions are dismissed as “trolling” […] Women have more worth than their bodies, so treat them as such.” —Candy, SoCal
“From the males, it would be nice to see them show respect to the females as equal human beings, no handicaps, no sandbagging, no special rules or honor codes, etc. From the females, it would be nice to see us give the community a reason to respect us. No, I don’t think we need to earn anybody’s respect, but we need to have respect for ourselves if we expect anyone to take us seriously and not LOSE respect for us.” —Doll, CA
“About 40% of video game players are women, why isn’t it like that on a competitive level? […] If we were more open to women joining the community, having outreach events, etc, then I really feel like we could get those numbers up. I really want the smash community to set an example for other competitive gaming groups in how they treat not only women, but other oppressed groups as well.” —Anonymous, AK/WA
“I would like to make the events more known and make sure we are quality controlling the comments some male players make about females more efficiently and seriously.” —Captain Waffles, NM
9. Any other thoughts you’d like to add, that these questions haven’t addressed?
“The guys of the Smash community shouldn’t read this and feel like they suck or anything. This is an issue in many gaming communities.” —Yink, IA
“I don’t deserve special treatment for being female. No one does.” —Nicole, MO
“Can anybody please convince the community to make Ganondorf dittos in Project M or Melee be a side event at tournaments?” —Feather, MA
“My final issue is less about sexism, and more about the (mis)treatment of transgendered individuals within the community […] Comments ranging from “Oh, you’re not a REAL girl.” to being outright called a Tranny, or purposefully being called male as an antagonizer […] The implication that a transgender is any less the gender they identify as is sickening and does nothing to help move forward as a community, and as a society.” —Vixen, AZ
“I also know that a lot of female players that have dated members of the community have been labeled whores when they break up or if they date more than one person from the community. I find this unfair as I never hear any ridicule of the men in these situation […] there was a countdown to our best females smasher’s 18th birthday and it sounds absolutely ridiculous and makes me not want to be a part of the community at all. I hope that we can move past this sort of behavior in the future and enjoy the game we all love.” —Frametrap, NY
“Women are people, simple as that, some of us really just want to be treated like everyone else. No one should be above anyone else for any reason. Women are not obligated to be any certain way, or conform to anything. If a girl wears make up or dresses nice, she isn’t always doing it to impress a male, maybe she just wants to look good?” —Kassandra, OH