Women often find themselves targeted and sexually harassed by bullies in the male dominated world of competitive online gaming.
In the male dominated world of competitive online gaming, women often find themselves being targeted and sexually harassed. Dr. Robert Hyatt, an Associate Professor of Computer science at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences, recently looked into the phenomenon of male bullies online who attack women in gaming groups, and says he found that “If somebody is different in the group and unfortunately, girls play these games, but there aren't very many of them. So, if you get a girl in the room, she's just about wearing a hat that says jump on me.”
In the pre-digital era, bullies had their way on the school yards and playgrounds across the U.S., and in those days both victim and bully went their separate ways at the end of the day, but now with the rapid rise of social media and mass interaction on the Internet, the bullies have followed their victims home, and unlike the bullies of old who eventually grew up or simply gave up, online bullies can now find their victims anywhere they happen to be and they don’t seem to out grow the disturbing behaviors either. Unfortunately for women gamers, they seem to be the favorite targets in the male dominated world of highly competitive online gaming.
Some females who are active gamers say they mostly enjoy their pastime, but when the insults start flying they become the victims of male gamers who all too often exhibit a pattern of negative behavior that involves sexist comments saying the women are either fat and ugly or sluts. So many women have noticed this disturbing trend that when they compare their experiences, they usually find that they are part of a larger group of females online who have all been subjected to sexist attacks.
One group of women gamers has even launched their own website to combat the bullying problem called fatuglyorslutty.com where the tag line is “You play video games? So are you... fat, ugly or slutty?” The website announces that “Some players like to send creepy, disturbing, insulting, degrading and/or just plain rude messages to other online players, usually women. We think this is funny. But instead of getting offended, we offer a method for people to share these messages and laugh together.” The method of combat at the website is reposting the negative messages and comments online, complete with the sender’s name, and the site’s staff proclaims “If having these messages posted online makes someone think twice about writing and sending a detailed description of their genitals, great!”
Dr. Hyatt says that grown men are behaving like this because "I think it's that anonymous aspect that makes the game servers so rowdy as they are now. Because people think they can say anything." This is evidenced by the many site moderators who say they have a hard time keeping any conversations on the Web civil these days. When the insults start flying in chat rooms, the moderators can usually just kick out the offending abusers, but with many game-related sites there is no one moderating the discussions. The situation has prompted some moderators to call for more user controls and they say there should be a system in place where the majority of people in an online group can flag and eject an abusive gamer. However, Dr. Hyatt warns that making those tools widely available could be tricky and the authority could easily be misused. Dr Hyatt concludes that parents need to educate their kids on what they're going to see and hear on the Web and not to take it personally. However, the doctor’s best advice might be when he said “Just don't get involved in it for heaven sake."