19 Mar

I feel like if I were a boy I would be less worried about my performance in a game than if I were a girl.

Let me explain.

I feel like when a woman puts herself out there, wherever it may be in the gaming world, she is automatically expected to either be completely bad at what she does, or is viewed with hesitation or apprehension.  So when I do poorly at something, whether I didn’t show as high on the meters as I would have liked, or I didn’t win as many rounds in a tourney that I should have, I feel like I am living up to that expectation of me.  I feel that I am proving that person right.  I am just another terrible female gamer.

I feel like you not only have more wiggle room, in terms of your performance, but you are also given more leeway to try new things, or to be innovative.  If I were to show up to Friday Night Magic and tell someone that I was playing a self mill Vampire deck, people would immediately look at me and think I had lost my mind.  Nobody would give me the benefit of the doubt, or the chance to show them that maybe this deck idea might not be so bad, and maybe it would turn out to be something great.

But if I were a man and I showed up with that same deck idea, I think people would still be a little apprehensive of my idea, but they would at least let me see the idea through, and then poke fun at me if the whole thing crashed and burned.  And if the deck did end up being a glorious failure, I think the focus would be more on how terrible the deck was, versus how terrible I was.  More often than not, when a woman does perform poorly at something, more of an effort is made to establish that she is in fact a woman.  The focus isn’t placed on how badly the strategy was, or the idea behind it, but the fact that a woman implemented it.

At the same time, you can’t just be a woman and be good at what you do.  Someone let you win.  You cheated.  You got lucky.  A man can take a defeat from another man much more easily.  It involves swallowing so much more pride to say that you won, and that you did so without gaming the system, or using your feminine wiles, or anything of the sort.  Even if they don’t make any initial snide comments, they will still wrap things up by saying “I lost to a girl.”  You would never hear someone say “I lost to a guy.”  It would be “I lost to this comp,” or “I lost to this type of deck.”  Again, the focus is immediately placed on losing to someone who happened to be better than you, and who happened to be a woman.  It isn’t enough to say that you were a better player, or that you had more skill.  It has to be reiterated that you are a woman.  Everything else will come a distant second to that.

At the end of the day, it’s not my perfectionist nature that makes me stay up an hour after the raid is over with to pore over the logs, and to see how I did, or what I can do better.  It’s not the competitive side of me that gets angry when I lose badly in a Friday Night Magic tourney.  These things tap directly into the side of me that feels like I have to do my gender proud, like I have to represent for all women, and that if I don’t that I have let any number of women like me down.  It taps into the feeling that I have proven every short sighted, misogynistic asshole right by being bad at what I do.  They must think women are bad because I was bad.  I’m not helping.  That’s how my mind interprets it.

I’m not really sure what can be done about this, or even where I’m going with this.  These are things that I feel, and I can’t necessarily say that someone has directly made me feel this way.  This is how I choose to interpret things that are said or things that I have experienced in the time that I have spent gaming.  I feel like we have come a long way, but the pressure is still there.  I know I’m not the only one who feels this way, so maybe I felt like it would be a good idea to get this all off my chest, and to see if I’m not the only one who feels like I owe it to my gender to be good at what I do.

If you have felt this way, let me know how you cope with it, or how you deal with those feelings of inadequacy when you are feeling not good enough.  If you haven’t, feel free to leave a comment about that, too.

Thanks for reading.


15 Responses to “Pressure”

  1. Poneria March 19, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

    Remind yourself that the people who are there because they enjoy playing, or even better, because they enjoy playing *with you*, really don’t give a shit about what gender/orientation you are, because they know it has nothing to do with your deck or healing selection.

    The people who want to use something like gender to explain skill in a video or card game are trying desperately to explain things to themselves to make themselves feel better. I know because I’ve even done it a few times.

    I feel pity towards players who need to use my gender as crutch to explain how I do something. I have my own insecurities regarding whether I receive compliments to make me feel good or whether the compliments are genuine and I should listen, but it’s the same advice for the both of us.

    The jerks who don’t matter will tell you more often and more loudly than the friends who like you for you because the jerks are afraid you’re not listening anyway. So let them run tight circles trying to convince you; it’s great comic relief watching people go through every logical fallacy in the book trying to convince you of failing when you haven’t.

    Relax. Believe in yourself. And then you will either kick ass, or fail so brilliantly it’s a happily funny story later.

  2. Kioxi March 19, 2012 at 7:24 pm #

    Hey, O! Long time reader, first time commenting.

    I am not a good player *despite* my gender. I am a good player because I am willing to go through logs, find my mistakes, fix them, research my class, and so on. I, too, often feel the pressure to “prove myself” regardless, and that any mistake I made gets blamed on my gender rather than the real, controllable reason. Often, at least in my case, it seems to be an excuse. “It’s ok you messed up because you’re a girl.” Like it was expected.

    I’m right with you, on every point. I don’t really think there’s anything that can be done about it, except to continue being the awesome, empowered females that we all are.

    • Oestrus March 21, 2012 at 7:35 am #

      Hello there!

      I often times feel the pressure not only to prove myself, but to prove it for other women, too. Almost as if I were to do poorly at something and I would hear this cacophony of women in my head saying “Thanks for screwing it up for the rest of us” or something.

      Your comment is very inspiring to me and I’m glad that you took the time to leave one.

      Thank you!

  3. Azuriel March 19, 2012 at 8:46 pm #

    Come to accept that you are not responsible for other peoples’ feelings.

    If someone is misogynistic, or racist, or bigoted, or whatever else, by definition they are such IN SPITE OF evidence to the contrary. Right? Otherwise you are implicitly agreeing with them that blacks are X, gays are Y, women are Z, etc. What makes you think they won’t dismiss your counter-example like they have dismissed the hundreds before you?

    It is a “solution” that probably doesn’t work for many people, but I outline the people whose opinions I care about, and write off the rest. Pour over those logs because YOU want to be the best, because that is something that is important to you. Try out your crazy Magic decks because that is fun for YOU.

    All those other random people? F**k’em.

    • Oestrus March 21, 2012 at 7:37 am #

      I remember reading a book called “B As In Beauty,” and one of the main lines in it was “What other people think of you is none of your business.” That’s very true.

      Life really does get easier once you sort of determine who or what matters or doesn’t matter to you and then you aim yourself in that direction.

      It isn’t something I’m perfect at doing, but I would like to think I’m getting better at it.

  4. Grendalsh March 19, 2012 at 9:38 pm #

    Half my guild is female. My GF is our maintank, and regularly outscores me at StarCraft2. Her ability to tank and play ‘flavor of the month’ville at the same time is unreal. I heal. Of our DPS, it’s an even mix between slackers and performers, male/female. When we wipe, it’s not cause we have ‘girls’.. it’s cause collectively we’re scrubs and learning new stuff. Gender never enters the equation.
    Now, that being said, the attitudes you express do exist. I’ve played, briefly, with groups that had gender bias. I’ve experienced the patronizing of female gamers because ‘girls are noobs’.

    Personally, I think part of this is the fallout from generations of ‘girls don’t game’ – when we see one, we expect they’re really someone’s bored gf, or they’re just dabbling. We don’t expect them to be serious about what they’re doing because we haven’t seen it. So yeah, we might give off negative vibes, which is our loss. I’d give my left eye to be growing up as a gamer today – in my day the only girl gamers were the GM’s mom or kid sister.

    In my other hobby, I used to fence – historical rapier combat. At least 1/3 of the fencers were female, and kicked ass. The Red Skirt Squad is a force to be reckoned with. I bring this up because I think what you’re getting at is a matter of personal attitude. And on the rapier field, the number one thing ladies are told is “It’s not about strength, it’s about finesse. In Rapier, girls actually have the advantage.”

    TLDR: Play like no-one’s watching, and Eff the naysayers.

    • Oestrus March 21, 2012 at 7:42 am #

      Hi Grendalsh,

      I agree with so much of what you said in your comment, specifically the part about growing up as a gamer today. I think that was one thing I was so pleased to see and so proud of, once I started playing Magic again. In 2011, a woman cracked the top 8 of a Grand Prix tournament for the first time ever, and three women have entered the top 8 in the first few months of 2012. That’s amazing!

      I would say about a third of our Friday Night Magic group is comprised of women – some who play with their boyfriends, some who play better than them. Some of them come by themselves or with friends. It really warms my heart to see that, because when I first started playing it was never like that. It was really kind of cold and unfriendly.

      I love the fact that your girlfriend tanks and that she is such an awesome player. That fills me with the same warm, happy feeling as what I have described above. And the Red Skirt Squad – I should start up a rated BG team and call ourselves that. That would be awesome.


  5. Erinys March 20, 2012 at 2:18 am #

    I definitely approach it completely differently. As far as I’m concerned gender is irrelevant, people are either good at the game or not.

    I’ve had a couple of people imply (when I raided hardcore) that I only got a raid spot because I was sleeping with the MT or because the GM fancied me. Now as it happens 2 out of 3 of those statements happen to be true. I was sleeping with the MT and the GM did fancy me, but that’s not why I got to raid and they soon realised that, when they got schooled on the meter time after time.

    However I recently had a fight on the EU PvP forums with a guy who believed that one of the reasons the Alliance suck is because we happen to have more females than the Horde. I tried pointing out that women can be aggressive, objective focused and all the rest, but the best I could do was to convince him that I was the exception that proved the rule.

    “It taps into the feeling that I have proven every short sighted, misogynistic asshole right by being bad at what I do. They must think women are bad because I was bad. I’m not helping. That’s how my mind interprets it.”

    Cynical as it may seem, even when you prove them wrong, they don’t extrapolate that into all women, you’re just the exception. I’ve heard it throughout my five years hardcore raiding, after every duel I’ve ever won and after most PvP encounters with people who know I’m female. Sure, if I lost, I’m sure it would be every woman sucks rather than 99 percent of women suck but if that’s what they think, then their opinion is worthless.

    Take pride in what you do because it’s important to you, not because you care what others think. I have a couple of people in-game whose opinions I care about, but the rest….

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m a perfectionist and I hate being low on the meters but it’s not because I feel I’m letting my gender down, it’s because I feel I’m letting myself down. If people judge me as being a woman first and foremost, especially in a game like WoW well then, there is probably no hope for them.

    • Imakulata March 23, 2012 at 4:31 pm #

      I believe that’s because they have decided in advance and if you happen not to conform to their opinion, they pull this “exception proves the rule” stuff. Keep in mind that it actually means “I have no comeback to your well thought, reasonable and truthful argument”.

      I’m sorry you have to deal with such people though 😦

  6. Tomaj March 20, 2012 at 7:42 am #

    I think it really depends on the situation.

    In WoW, for example, men are given these high expectations in every role, and expected to live up to them flawlessly, and generally get less slack from it than women do. This is especially true of DPS roles, and the backlash is extremely harsh (well, depending on your viewpoint), especially when it comes to people you don’t know (to correlate, a Magic tourney versus a random dungeon). That doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable on either end, however. In my experience, women are viewed as “less capable,” which is far from the truth, but also they are not given as much criticism as male players are given. It’s a weird situation, honestly, and it varies based upon what you’re doing. Like I said, it doesn’t make it okay, but there’s two sides to the coin.

  7. Töki March 21, 2012 at 8:25 am #

    I never talk about my gender openly – which is a deliberate move – and from the way I react, type and the things I talk about, people usually assume I’m a guy; until they get to know me somewhat better and I let some things slip (use of too many emotes in /W seems to be a giveaway)

    I act and type the way I do, because I’ve also noticed that the way people treat you changes when they realize you’re not a guy – sometimes for the better too, though.
    (However, I dislike when guys suddenly let me win in duels. :P)

    I’m always anxious to pug raids or RBG’s because of the voicechat, afraid of being insta-kicked, or when the team loses/wipes they have an easy scapegoat.

    I guess I hide my gender even more in LFD pugs, since the things people say in these groups easily get to me (so many jerks on the net, it has no bounds), especially if they are directed to my gender – for some reason those really hurt me – so I have completely changed my attitude during dungeons runs – up to a point where I can be one of those grumpy tanks (be mad cause no one is doing anything right, but then feel bad after all when they turn out to be such fruitcakes); so no one can even remotely tell I’m not a guy.

    What I truly dislike are the “it’s that time of the month again”-remarks, you never know who they’ll come from.. Luckily, I’ve not been confronted with thàt much sexism online, you could say I’ve learned my lesson and hide the more feminine sides of me when talking to people I don’t really know well.

    Though I recently found a guild where the genders are equally divided so I can go full out and be myself, up to a point where “you’re such a girl” gets thrown around as a compliment!

    • Oestrus March 23, 2012 at 7:41 am #

      Hi Toki,

      It’s always refreshing to find a guild that is full of women who genuinely get along and can bring out the best in one another. While the examples you have mentioned do happen, there are of course other examples of women being nasty to other women. I think they call that “reverse sexism.” I tend to be more put off by that than when guys are sexist.

      Maybe it’s because I expect it from men and not so much from other women. I’m not really sure. But if I’m surrounded by women who “get it” and support one another, I feel like I can take anything on – even the occasional sexist douchebag in LFR.

  8. Del March 25, 2012 at 11:42 pm #

    I definately hear what you’re saying, and have found the attitudes in WoW towards me equally frustrating and amusing.
    I’ve been spending more and more of my time joining pug rbg groups on our server. The fact that I’m the only girl in any of the RBG groups has strangely never been a factor to those that I reguarly run with and know what I can do. I keep getting an invite back to the next group so must be doing something right! Those that have a problem with me being there, are generally those that are more interested in trolling a girl, and less focused on doing their job, and so ultimately fail and don’t get an invite next time round.
    The main problem seems to be that as they are pug groups, half the server now seems to know that there’s a chick behind my toon. It’s opened myself to many a sexist troll asking me to have his babies in trade etc, many a comment that I must be getting carried, declarations of love, and mostly a lot of requests for advice from 14 year old boys who want to know how to talk to a girl.

    I’ve decided to just ignore these trolls, rise above it all, be the ‘bigger man’ and all that.
    And I find in turn, many of my regular rbg mates end up jumping to my defense and counter trolling in turn.
    That tends to either silence them, or re-direct their attention.
    I do find tho, that being a girl, opens yourself up to a lot of negative unwanted attention, but after years of playing this game, I try and ignore it with varying degrees of success.

  9. Kiedra March 29, 2012 at 10:27 pm #

    I do feel that pressure, but only in PuGs so I usually just stick to typing to communicate. The reaction I’ve gotten if I do speak up (only to convey some important thing like I’m out of Healing CDs before an intensive healing phase for example) has been either:
    1) Some people’s attention snap right away to my voice and they ask “Who’s the chick?” (Ugh)
    2) I get comments saying I sound like a (male)druggie. :\ Probably my accent. :S

    Half the time no body really cares though, mostly because they’ve a couple of female healers/DPS so they’ve gotten used to it. 🙂

    Fortunately I don’t have that problem with my guild, seeing as half of us are female and the guys are either attached or married themselves too!

    So, we can jokingly yell at each other “You’re such a beech!” and everyone laughs or makes jokes on v-power haha.


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