Women navigate toxicity, other barriers in esports
By JAKE SEINER
AP Sports Writer
Thursday, January 3
NEW YORK (AP) — Susie Kim thinks the women gamers are out there. As general manager for a championship esports team, she would know.
She’s not surprised none of them are on her roster.
The Entertainment Software Association reported this year that 45 percent of U.S. gamers are female, yet women make up a scant portion of the professional esports player pool. Executives for games like “League of Legends” and “Overwatch” say they are eager to add women to pro rosters, where players can make hundreds of thousands of dollars. Yet LoL’s Championship Series hasn’t had a female gamer since 2016, and the Overwatch League’s inaugural season featured just one.
The industry has grappled with harassment and toxic behavior since the Gamergate scandal of 2014, when a group of male gamers organized to target women throughout the industry. Women say they feel marginalized within the community and are routinely subject to nasty comments about their ability or appearance. For elite gamers, much of it comes from fans, but opponents and teammates are sometimes just as challenging. At the lower levels, women are often bombarded by hyper masculinity in a space where most everyone is anonymous.
Kim’s London Spitfire won the first Overwatch League championship in June. Speaking to The Associated Press before the grand finals, she said there are “absolutely” women talented enough to be playing in the Overwatch League.
“But they’re just like, ‘It’s a headache. I don’t want to be part of this at all,’” Kim said. “I don’t blame them.”
AT THE TOP
Maria “Remilia” Creveling is the only woman — and only transgender woman — to compete in the LoL Championship Series (LCS), the top pro league for the world’s most popular esport. Her stay in the LCS was short-lived and not the inspiring breakthrough some fans had hoped.
Creveling was a standout support player and qualified for the LCS with team Renegades in 2015. She made her debut the next year under intense scrutiny. Many celebrated her, but the comment sections accompanying live streams of Renegades matches were flooded with sexist and transphobic harassment. Fans disputed her gender identity, wrote critically about her appearance and bashed her abilities.
A few weeks into the season, Creveling removed herself from the Renegades’ roster, citing anxiety and self-esteem issues. She hasn’t returned to the LCS since.
Creveling declined to be interviewed by the AP, but did say she has resumed competing and will be looking for a new team soon.
Other major esports have similarly thin histories of women at the highest levels. The NBA 2K League said it had one woman in a pool of 250 finalists for roster spots in its inaugural season. She did not land one of the 102 available slots. The Overwatch League had one woman for its inaugural season, Kim “Geguri” Se-Yeon with the Shanghai Dragons. Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn, a transgender woman, won a major “Starcraft II” tournament in February and is the only woman to win such an event in that game.
Se-Yeon and Hostyn have been reluctant to embrace the spotlight as female role models. Both have said they simply want to be seen as talented gamers.
“Being the icon or being looked up to because I’m female — I’m grateful,” Se-Yeon said via translator at a press conference in March. “But I don’t really have any thoughts about it. That’s not how I want to be known.”
AT THE LOWER LEVELS
Tiffany Chang is a fan of Se-Yeon’s. The amateur player doesn’t blame the “Overwatch” pro for shying away from attention as a woman. Chang sometimes gets the urge to do the same.
Chang hosts Twitch streams of herself playing “Overwatch” and other games to collect donations for charity, and routinely plays online against strangers. Women like Chang encounter a lot of toxic behavior, much of it the same sort of trolling women see elsewhere on the internet. They’ll get remarks about their appearance, the tone of their voice, and more than anything, a dismissal of their ability and knowledge in the game.
Even if Chang can tune out the harassment, it can still affect her performance. Esports like LoL and “Overwatch” are heavily teamwork and strategy dependent. Each player chooses a character, and those characters are designed for specific roles, like attacking, holding territory or healing. A good “Overwatch” team needs tanks and healers, just like a football team needs quarterbacks and left tackles.
Women are often pressured to play as female characters, and female healers in particular. In “Overwatch,” that character is usually Mercy, a fairy-like flying doctor who can heal and resurrect teammates. Chang has been harassed for playing as other characters, but also gets snide comments when she plays as Mercy. In certain games, it becomes impossible for her to assume any role, even if she’s simply trying to help the team.
“You want me to do this, and you’re going to harass me for it?” she said. “It’s definitely something that we face.”
Briah Luther gets the same treatment in LoL. Sometimes when the 35-year-old school teacher shouts out a key bit of information, like the location of an attacking opponent, men simply ignore her, leading to a huge tactical advantage for opponents. It’s a common complaint from female gamers, and that lack of trust can sink a team and affect players’ rankings in the competitive sphere.
“The second they realize I’m a woman, I no longer have power,” Luther said.
Ella Lasky has pro gaming aspirations, and the 12-year-old is on a promising path. She is one of the top players in the “Minecraft” City Champs circuit operated by Super League Gaming. Most importantly to her parents, video games have played a key role in her social development.
“It’s given her a sense of pride,” said Ella’s mother, Johanna.
Ella was featured on a Nickelodeon TV show about the league, and that exposed her to a different side of esports. Internet commenters did not respond well to a woman taking center stage on a video game broadcast.
“‘Why is the girl so loud? Why is the girl shouting? The girl needs to shut up. She’s annoying me with her voice,’” Johanna recalled reading. “I explained to her, ‘I think part of it is that because you’re a girl, you’re being targeted.’”
Ella wasn’t fazed and plans to keep gaming. But she’s already keenly aware of the assumptions made by many in the esports community based on her gender.
“I don’t think girl gamers get as much respect as boy gamers,” she said.
WHAT CAN BE DONE
Publishers have made progress responding to harassment complaints since the Gamergate scandal, but video games are still not a space known for gender equality. Riot Games, which publishes LoL and operates the LCS, was criticized just this summer for its treatment of female employees in a story by Kotaku . Riot apologized publicly to fans and employees, and it has outlined a plan of action to address the issues.
More in-person gaming might help. Women say men and boys tend to be better behaved without the anonymity of online play. The Laskys think that’s one benefit of the Super League competitions, where teams gather at movie theaters to compete face-to-face.
Some fans also are disappointed by the number of women promoted by the streaming service Twitch, as well as game publishers.
One issue at the pro level is the housing situations for elite teams. Esports athletes are often placed in swanky team housing, but sharing a living space with a group of college-aged men isn’t ideal for many women.
Then there’s the anxiety of the spotlight. Fans have eagerly dismissed barrier-breaking female gamers as mere PR stunts, and the weight is even greater on women when they find themselves alone on that platform.
“It ultimately comes down to the community and the fan base,” Kim said. “(Women) don’t want to deal with the toxicity. They don’t want to deal with the media going crazy over them. They don’t want to deal with living with the boys or getting preferential treatment. They don’t want to deal with all of that. They just kind of want to play.”
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Conley Resigns as Women’s Lacrosse Coach
Chelsea Conley has resigned as women’s lacrosse coach at Ohio Wesleyan University, it was announced by Ohio Wesleyan athletics director Doug Zipp. Conley’s resignation is effective immediately.
“It is with a heavy heart that I have decided to step away from coaching this year,” Conley said. “I was offered an opportunity outside of coaching that I can not pass up, and it is a better situation for my family.”
“I would like to thank Chelsea for her contributions to OWU athletics and her leadership in our women’s lacrosse program,” Zipp said.
Conley guided Ohio Wesleyan to an 8-9 record — an improvement of 5 wins over the previous season — in 2014, her first season as a collegiate head coach. In 5 years, she compiled an overall record of 29-51.
An interim head coach will be named in the near future and Ohio Wesleyan will conduct a search this summer, Zipp said.
Women who ran for Congress avoided women’s issues in their campaign ads
January 4, 2019
Authors: Shawn Parry-Giles is a Friend of The Conversation, Professor of Communication, University of Maryland. Aya Hussein Farhat, Ph.D. Student, University of Maryland. Matthew Salzano, Graduate Student, University of Maryland. Skye de Saint Felix, Doctoral Student, University of Maryland.
Disclosure statement: The authors do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
A record number of women were sworn into Congress on Jan. 3.
The influx of women candidates helped turn the midterm election into what many observers dubbed a “Year of the Woman.”
But despite a tide of voter sentiment favoring women, these winners got to Congress or a statehouse not by defining themselves as “women’s candidates,” but instead by sidestepping issues typically associated with their gender, from equal pay to reproductive freedom.
We are experts on women and politics, and in a recent study we conducted at the University of Maryland’s Rosenker Center for Political Communication & Civic Leadership, we examined 2018 political ads to understand how woman defined their candidacies and qualifications for office.
We found that, despite the momentum of the #MeToo movement, women were careful in playing the “gender card.” They avoided what are often construed as “women’s issues” that are associated with gender equality such as abortion, pay equity, sexual violence and harassment.
We studied general election ads produced by women challengers running for the U.S. Congress or for governor of their state. We used 52 ads from 25 candidates – nine Republicans and 16 Democrats. Although there were more Democratic women vying for office than Republicans, we made sure to balance the ads by party (29 ads by Republicans and 23 ads by Democrats). All of them were produced by candidates in what we defined as competitive races, meaning 10 points or less separated the candidate and their opponent on Sept. 30, 2018.
A dominant theme that crossed both Democratic and Republican ads is the candidate’s own power and achievements in careers that have historically excluded women. These ads showcase these women’s individual strengths that seemingly prepares them for the rough-and-tumble world of U.S. politics.
In her “Ring” ad, Democrat Sharice Davis, who was running for a U.S. House seat in Kansas, featured her hitting a punching bag – she used to be a mixed martial arts fighter. She identified herself as a “fighter” who will “never back down.”
Democrat Elaine Luria ran for a U.S. House seat in Virginia and chose to highlight her military career in the Navy. In her “Sea Change” ad, she is shown piloting a warship. The ad emphasizes that she was “deployed six times” during her military career.
Republican women similarly communicated their strength with words of power: “Proven,” “Fight” and “Fearless.”
Republican Martha McSally, who ran in Arizona’s U.S. Senate race, identified herself as the first woman to fly a fighter jet in active duty in her ad “Deployed.” Republican Young Kim, who ran for the U.S. House in California, defined herself as a “self-made” business leader who promised to never “give up” in an ad titled “My Community.”
One candidate in our study developed an ad exclusively focused on women’s reproductive rights (Dr. Kim Schrier’s “Door” ad – U.S. House candidate from Washington). The other ads, produced by Democrats and Republicans, glossed over the gender inequities women continue to face. Instead, they imply that gender equality has already been achieved because the candidates have single-handedly shattered gender barriers. As Merida L. Johns of the Monarch Center for Women’s Leadership Development makes clear, just because individual women are high achievers does not mean the structural barriers inhibiting women’s advancement have been removed.
Republican women’s dilemma
Republican women, more than Democrats, had to tread carefully around issues of women’s equality. After all, a majority of Republicans sided with Justice Kavanaugh and President Trump after they were charged with sexual misconduct.
We saw this play out in the fact that more Republican women candidates aligned themselves with powerful men more than the Democratic candidates did. One reason they may have done this is to lessen the perception of their candidacy as a threat to voters accustomed to male leadership.
For example, Republican Carol Miller, who ran for the U.S. House in West Virginia, ran an ad featuring male veterans attacking her Democratic opponent Richard Ojeda for challenging the country’s “greatness.” At the end of the ad, she is flanked by two muscular men – one a coal miner and the other a Marine.
Some explicitly ran on Donald Trump’s coattails. And Tennessee’s U.S. Senate candidate Marsha Blackburn featured an ad showing her hugging the president and boasting about his endorsement of her.
Other Republican candidates used gender stereotypes to demean their opponents. For example, in her “Walk” ad, Elizabeth Heng, running for the U.S. House in California, challenged the masculinity of her opponent, Representative Jim Costa, by depicting him walking the streets in red high heels as the voice over mocked: “Costa’s walking in Nancy Pelosi’s shoes.”
These ads reveal that using their gender as an advantage, trying to promote women’s issues, or calling out sexist behavior are still a challenge for women in politics. The ads in our study reflect the cautionary words that Democratic pollster Celinda Lake offers to women candidates: “Traditional gender roles remain powerful, influencing what we perceive to be acceptable and appropriate behavior for men and women.”
In 2018, as The Washington Post reports, some candidates charged their opponents with “sexist” behavior while others more likely used “surrogates” to issue such accusations. Candidates stayed away from such controversial accusations in the ads we studied.
In his published research, sociologist Robert D. Francis writes that because “modern sexism” presumes “discrimination against women has been overcome,” a sense of “resentment” follows those who allege “sexism.” Rather than tackle the inequalities that women confront in public and private, many candidates in this study showed they could make it in a man’s world – throwing punches, shooting guns, steering warships, piloting planes, running corporations, and aligning themselves with powerful men.
As these newly elected women step into their leadership role this week, the question remains as to whether they will sidestep or tackle the gender equity issues that will finally make the “Year of the Woman” a relic of our past.
Jenna Bachman, Darrian Carroll, Lauren Hunter, Naette Lee, Hazel Feigenblatt Rojas and Sarah Vick contributed to this story.
Reflections on Ethiopia’s stolen treasures on display in a London museum
June 5, 2018
Author: Yirga Gelaw Woldeyes, Lecturer of Human Rights, Curtin University
Disclosure statement: Yirga Gelaw Woldeyes does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: Curtin University provides funding as a member of The Conversation AU.
In early April an exhibition called “Maqdala 1868” opened at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. It’s comprised of treasures looted from Ethiopia, and so contributes to the ongoing controversy and debate about treasure ownership.
In the case of Ethiopia, what is important in this controversy is the fact that the question of ownership is linked to the question of memory: whose story should be remembered through these treasures?
As the name “Maqdala 1868” suggests, the stolen treasures are incorporated into the narrative of the British imperial war, to tell a story of how the British sent a large army to free their citizens from a savage king called Theodore in 1868. A century and a half after the battle Ethiopia’s stolen treasures are still used as war trophies, their meaning forever defined with the abandoned name of a short lived imperial fortress at Maqdala.
But for Ethiopia, there is no connection between the Maqdala war in 1868 and the stolen treasures at Maqdala. The war was imperial aggression against the King of Ethiopia. The stolen treasures amount to pure vandalism, a theft of knowledge and a crime against the current Ethiopian generation who are dispossessed of their intellectual heritage and history.
It’s this final meaning of “Maqdala 1868” that the British readily ignore.
Rewriting the Maqdala 1868 narrative
The Maqdala expedition is popularly known as a campaign for the release of British prisoners. But at the same time, a large army of “scientific” staff were sent to bring knowledge and treasures from the country.
The acting director of the British Museum, Richard Holmes, was already preparing to take manuscripts for his collections. Henry Stanley, the architect of Belgian King Leopold’s hellfire colony over the Congo, joined as a reporter. The Army under Captain Napier was “the biggest yet sent from Europe to Black Africa”.
Ethiopia began a new industrial revolution ten years before the battle. King Tewodros began manufacturing cannons and mortars, and constructing boats, roads and carriages. The National Library was established with an extensive collection of manuscripts from all over the country. As a sovereign Christian king, Tewodros endeavoured to build fraternity with Britain and wrote several letters to Queen Victoria.
The British were not prepared to accept a black king as a sovereign partner. They ignored him until he arrested British diplomats who conspired with foreign enemies and wrote accounts of the king as a black savage. By the time the British forces arrived with the help of internal defectors, Tewodros tried to solve the conflict peacefully. He released the British captives and sent gifts to Napier’s soldiers as a gesture of friendship.
The official stated purpose of the campaign was the release of the hostages. But Napier was not satisfied. The British demanded the surrender of the King, but he refused. Tewodros committed suicide and the British went on a looting spree. The entire treasury was looted; the cannons and mortars he manufactured were destroyed. 200 mules and 15 elephants were needed to carry all the looted bounty. What couldn’t be taken was set on fire. Maqdala burned for weeks with countless destroyed manuscripts left scattered over the abandoned citadel.
On the way back, soldiers held auctions to divide the loot. Richard Holmes alone acquired 350 manuscripts for the British Museum.
The only son of the dead King, Alemayehu, was also taken along with the treasures. His unhappy life ended in exile at the age of 18. His remains are still buried at St George’s Chapel of Windsor Castle, despite multiple requests for their repatriation.
Creating knowledge dependency in Africa
Before and after Maqdala, many Ethiopian manuscripts were taken through clandestine and diplomatic means. Germany acquired hundreds of manuscripts and scrolls through collectors such as Johannes Flemming and Enno Littmann. The French sponsored the Dakar-Djibouti Mission that collected enormous African materials, including 350 Ethiopian manuscripts.
The collection of African materials was used to produce knowledge that fit with the European view of the Dark Continent. Having numerous manuscripts at their disposal, European scholars translated them into their own languages. Hiob Ludolf wrote “the new history of Ethiopia” without needing to travel to the country. He is regarded as the father of modern Ethiopian history.
Centres of Ethiopian Studies emerged in Europe with acquisitions of various Ethiopian manuscripts. Carlo Conti-Rossini listed about 1200 Ethiopian manuscripts spread across Europe during the early 20th century. Like the British Library, the French National Library has a large collection of Ethiopian texts. Recently, manuscript collections from Ethiopia have gone digital.
The collection of Ethiopian manuscripts is carried out in the name of saving the humanity’s endangered heritage. The V&A exhibition itself is portrayed as a show of human history. But Ethiopian books and other materials are not endangered objects. They are in great demand in the traditional education system. Some European professors use them to produce books.
Volumes of catalogues in the British Library list a large collection of Ethiopian manuscripts not available in Ethiopian libraries. Author supplied
Ethiopians, however, who research about their past cannot access these manuscripts. We have to travel to European universities and museums for a brief glance at our own intellectual heritage. Even books that are digitised are not easily accessible. Those available online are hard to access from Ethiopia due to limited internet access. Texts written about Ethiopia are in European languages and are expensive to purchase. The British Museum’s proposal to loan the looted items to Ethiopia adds insult to injury.
The breaking of history
One of the consequences of knowledge dispossession is the breaking of history; the disintegration of the historical narratives that connect past and present generations of Ethiopians and other Africans. Like Egypt, Ethiopia provides the evidence that Africa is the mother of all civilisations.
Ethiopians wrote books before the British had an alphabet. They were the first to accept Christianity. Ancient Greek authors like Homer and Herodotus praised Ethiopia as a land of justice, wisdom and spirituality. Europeans’ legend eulogised Ethiopia as the land of a powerful Christian king called Prester John. Diasporic Africans sing of Ethiopia as the symbol of redemption, a holy land.
Many of the Ethiopian manuscripts which were looted from Maqdala provided evidence for this glorious image. Yet, the books and objects from Ethiopia are now stored in various European universities and museums with little hope for restitution. Scholarship produced by many Europeans professors and their Ethiopian followers often advance Eurocentric theories that delink Ethiopia from Africa by claiming, among other things, a non-African origin to Ethiopia’s civilisation.
This is a common practice of denying Africa of its own civilisational origin.
Ethiopians today are unable to produce their own knowledge, relying instead on imitating the content of western education. We study about the West more than our own country. English is used as a medium of higher education despite the fact that less than 1% of the population understands it. We are cut from our own history, and look to European historians like Ludolf to educate ourselves about our past.
So the legacy of Magdala 1868 is about much, much more than just the looting of Ethiopia’s cultural heritage.