Women Overcome Toxicity in the Male-Dominated E-Sport World

By JI Reporter Ceci Urbanski

You’ve seen it in the world of medicine, the jungle of politics, and the front lines of our nation’s military: whenever women try to step into a male dominated sphere, there is always a strong backlash in the culture and media. Not so surprisingly, this is also true of the newly evolving world of collegiate Esports, a heavily male dominated activity. 

Female gamer and member of the UNL Esports team, Z, is someone who experiences some degree of misogyny nearly every time she hops online. While Z said that the UNL team “is trying its best to support and advocate for the inclusion of female gamers” through different sorts of  outreach and representation, there is still a certain culture outside the teams that deters many women from wanting to join in the first place.

The Entertainment Software Association’s report on “2019 Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry” said that women make up 46% of video game players. Yet a study done by AP news in 2021 shows that men make up 90.4% of the roster spots and receive 85% of scholarship funds on Esports teams. Junior Reese Mueller, a member of the Esports team at Marian, said “I probably wouldn’t join the team if there were guys because I feel like they would keep telling me to get back in the kitchen or something.”

Freshman Ava Mueller said she gets harassed by men far from her own age when she plays at home. “Whenever I decide to play with a girl skin, I’ll have dudes asking my age and where I live.” 

An evidently not so uncommon experience, as Z said, “I’ve had a lot of uncomfortable comments from strangers online.” She said comments like “you’re just some e-thot”, “why are queuing up as a girl,” and even threats of rape aren’t out of the ordinary. This sort of misogyny and blatant harassment is what deters so many women from participating in the sport for fear they will be met with these same comments in person. 

Colleges, however, are doing what they can to fix this toxic culture from within. Z said on UNL’s team “they’ve added a female officer to their ranks.” Z’s team also appointed her as the outreach officer as a way to encourage inclusivity. This hasn’t totally freed Z from uncomfortable comments as one of the only girls on the team, of course. However, having good officers on your team makes all the difference. She said, “I go by Z instead of my real name but one of my team members learned my name and threatened to use it instead. The President of the club stepped in and told him to stop or else there would be consequences.”

Video game culture has a lot to do with why women don’t feel comfortable joining  Esports teams. There is a lot of fear surrounding the idea of meeting these online threats in person. Until colleges and universities start taking affirmative action like Z’s team has, the statistics won’t change.

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