Fighting Sexism, One Comment at a Time - News

by VGChartz Staff , posted on 14 February 2011 / 8,053 Views

We all know that the internet can be a pretty ugly place. Our Editor-in-Chief Chris M. Arnone has said that the "internet is the id unleashed," and nowhere is that more evident than in online gaming, especially in games of competition and skill.

If you've played any Call of Duty on Xbox LIVE for any significant amount of time, you've probably run into a few female players. You've also undoubted heard the prerequisite "Get back in the kitchen" phrase shouted out as soon as their gender is known.

Of course it doesn't stop there. Sexist comments in online communications can become incredibly virulent, and for any player new to the game those kinds of hurtful and hateful comments can be an immediate turnoff.

Enter "Fat, Ugly, or Slutty". A new blog that recently hit it big on reddit, "Fat, Ugly, or Slutty" is about documenting and displaying the kinds of sexist and ignorant comments that female gamers find themselves exposed to. For an issue that has always been silently ubiquitous in gaming, "Fat, Ugly, or Slutty" helps to memorialize the kinds of terrible things people are saying over an activity that should be fun for everyone involved. If nothing else, the blog presents socially adjusted gamers to shake their heads in disappointment at their fellow gamers.

Hopefully it will do a lot more than that.

I asked the women of "Fat, Ugly, or Slutty" to answer a few questions about their blog and their thoughts on sexism in the industry. As always, questions and answers are left unedited save for capitalization and punctuation. References of screen names were changed to the person's first name.

gamrFeed: So what are your names, ages, backgrounds? Where are you all from? How do you all know each other?

Jennifer:  My name is Jennifer, though in the gaming world it’s Feday, short for Fedaykin, which no one ever seems to be able to pronounce. I’m 23, a web designer and front-end developer. We’re all from different locations, but met in the Frag Doll community.

Ashlee: My name is Ashlee, but I go by Jaspir (pronounced like Jasper) online. I’ll be 21 at the end of the month. My gaming background comes from my sisters... they really got me into gaming when I was little. I was born and raised in New Mexico, which is as exciting as it sounds. And like Jennifer said, we all met in the Frag Doll community.

Grace: My name is Grace and I’m 28. I’ve been a part of the Frag Doll community for a few years now. 


gamrFeed: How long has Fat, Ugly, or Slutty been up? What prompted you to create it? What prompted the name?

Ashlee: The site has been up for about three weeks now. The story of it’s creation is pretty funny... I was in IRC and was laughing about some of the recent rage mail I had received on (Xbox) LIVE, so I shared them with everyone and Grace was pretty surprised by it. I told her, “It’s always the same. I’m either fat and ugly, or a slut.” And really it just went from there. After it was established, we knew Jennifer would love to help out, and we were right!

Grace: I don’t really play much with randoms, specifically to avoid any sort of negative comments, so I was floored by how bad and personal Ashlee’s were. We were all laughing pretty hard at the messages and as a joke, I suggested making a website. Then I realized it was actually a good idea and everyone agreed. Our friend Marcus helped pick the domain and I started setting up the blog right away.


gamrFeed: There has been a lot of evidence that misogyny is rampant in gaming culture. Since you started the website, have you found the issue to be as bad as you expected?

Jennifer: We pretty much knew it was an issue, it’s why we started the site. I must say, I’m seeing a few new insults I haven’t gotten before in the submissions inbox.

Ashlee: I didn’t need the site to show me it was bad....I’ve always known it was bad. But I have also always felt like trash talk was just part of gaming online, regardless of who’s getting it. And that just comes from the way I personally game. I have no qualms about playing with randoms, so of course I’m going to get used to it.

Grace: I’ve been saying for the past few weeks that the only reason this site didn’t exist before is because it required an outsider to be shocked enough to think of it. But the very nature of being an outsider is such that I didn’t really know how bad things were until Ashlee actually showed me. I continue to be surprised at the awful things people go out of their way to send other people, but at least we can all get a good laugh out of it.


gamrFeed: Aside from the site's namesake, what kind of trends to do you see when it comes to sexist remarks? What do you think men are trying to achieve by making these kinds of comments?

Jennifer: Kitchen jokes are obvious (hence the 1950’s/stepford theme of the site). My favorite are the menstrual jokes that come from the 13 under crowd and are somewhere along the lines of “haha, you have a period.” It’s like “Thanks? At least I was able to buy this game without my mommy.”

Ashlee: Another comment I get a lot “SUK MY (fill in the blank)” Spelled like that too. I guess people talk crap to make themselves feel better. I’m not going to pretend that I’m an angel and never make people mad, but the majority of the hate mail I get is pretty unwarranted. If you can’t take the heat, stay outta my kitchen! ;)

gamrFeed: What are the games that bring in the most hateful comments? Are there particular genres or titles that seem to draw a higher concentration of negativity?

 Jennifer: The FPS genre before, mostly due to the competitive nature I think. Also the more popular the game, the more ignoramus’ there are.

Ashlee: I pretty much only play shooters, so I can’t really compare a lot of genres. But I CAN tell you that the trash talk in shooters is plentiful.


gamrFeed: Do sexist remarks personally bother any of you? Is it easy to slough off insults, or does the aggregate hatred eventually crystallize and make the problem hard to deal with?

Jennifer: A few years ago they probably did, but I have a pretty sharp tongue and after hearing the same insults over and over you build up some good retorts. ie. “I’m making a sandwich and beating you at the same time” or “I’m sorry, I choke on small objects.”

Ashlee: I don’t let it bother me. The people talking crap don’t know me and probably never will. Plus, it’s easy to slough off the insults by hurling my own back at them.

Grace: The comments bother me. I know in my head that they’re not really about me, but I can’t help having that initial reaction. Ashlee and Jennifer are hardened veterans, but developing that thick skin is more effort than I’m willing to put in. I’d just rather not be insulted in the first place, so I play with my friends.


gamrFeed: With Duke Nukem Forever recently having a "Titty City" PR event, do you feel like gaming is on some level being not only condoning, but encouraging of sexism? Is DNF just stupid fun or does it have power to stand for the industry as a whole? How do you think that perspective changes from gamers to outsiders looking in?

 Ashlee: I have heard a lot of arguments about different aspects of gaming that are “encouraging sexism” from the build of female characters to game dialogue. I can see how people would think that, and I feel like the imprint is already there and it’s going to take a lot to change people’s perspectives. 


gamrFeed: Aside from the messages themselves, what kinds of actions do you either experience or hear about? How do the actions of other players change when women join the game?

Jennifer: The only thing that really ever bugs me is when I get TK’d after they find out I’m a girl because I’m competitive and don’t like losing.

Ashlee: It’s annoying when I’m on a team of kids that are all friends with each other and they decide to grief me the entire match. It’s like, this is pointless because now it’s impossible to get anything done. 


gamrFeed: What are some of your long-term goals with the site? Are you looking to raise awareness, change behavior, or something else?

Ashlee: I think it’s funny that we get asked questions like this because initially, I think we all started it for fun and to have some laughs. Now we’re seeing that a lot more is coming of it. We’re seeing that the site has already raised awareness, and that’s pretty cool. As far as changing behavior, I don’t think trash talk is ever going to go away, but maybe people will be a little more cautious about it.

Grace:  I can’t imagine our little website eliminating the harassment problem. However, I have been interested in seeing a lot of peoples’ reactions that are the same as mine when I first saw Ashlee’s messages. I, and others, just didn’t think things had gotten this bad. Female gamers have been talking about this problem for years, but for some reason the rest of us (who don’t see the really horrifying messages) just didn’t put it all together. Rhoulette of the Frag Dolls just wrote an excellent blog examining this question. I hope she’s not the only one taking the time to consider why we have all been very obviously talking past each other for such a long time.

gamrFeed:  Since many people argue that being anonymous helps to promote this kind of behavior through deindividuation, do you think publicly displaying the people acting out in these ways will eventually help to curb the problem of sexism in gaming?

 Jennifer: I really doubt any real changes will occur overall other than heightening awareness. We have had a few complaints about us listing perpetrators’ tags on the site as they might get flamed, but come on. Don’t dish it if you can’t take it.

Ashlee: As I said before, I don’t think trash talk will ever go away, or sexism for that matter. It’s great that we’re raising awareness, and I’m content with that.

Grace:  There’s a part of me that wishes that would happen, but I don’t really think we will see that kind of change anytime soon. One of the things that amazes me about these messages is that someone has to actually go out of their way to write them out and send them. If some jerk is absolutely determined to spend the effort to make someone else miserable, they will find a way to do so.


gamrFeed: What would you recommend to female gamers to deal with sexism when they encounter it? How should they react, what should they do?

 Jennifer: Everyone’s going to react differently, and need to find what works for them. I have a pretty thick skin (due to years on XBL), but for those who have trouble ignoring comments, there are so many great communities offering women safe zones to play in.

Ashlee: I have been pretty open about how I don’t let the harsh words get to me. I can laugh it off, and to me that’s the best thing anyone can do. Some people aren’t able to brush it off as easily, like Jennifer said, so they’ll have a different tactic to dealing I’m sure. You can also avoid a lot of it by just not playing with randoms.


gamrFeed: Would would you recommend to male gamers to squash this kind of behavior online? Do you think gender norms of domination and competition form a central function in the negative interactions between male and female gamers?

 Jennifer: I’ve had guys in my party stand up for me before, and I find it chivalrous, though by no means do I need any defending. Just as a caution though to the gentlemen out there, I know some girls definitely aren’t a fan of the “white knighting”.

Ashlee: Male gamers aren’t the only ones engaging in this kind of behavior, so it would be hypocritical of me to come right out and tell them to knock it off. It would be great if we could all get along and just have fun playing games. World peace would be nice, too. :)

Grace: I don’t think it’s up to male gamers to do anything special. I think it’s up to everyone to report and block any bad behaviour they see, whether it’s directed at them or not. Everyone needs to make it socially unacceptable. When acting like a jerk starts having some consequence, people might stop acting like jerks. In my opinion, this has nothing to do with some over-arching male-female interaction complexity -- it devalues everyone to just write this off as some sort of programmed behaviour. I think it’s more productive to just recognize it at its most basic level: These are the actions of jerks. Part of gender equality is recognizing our equal jerk capabilities.


gamrFeed: Have you seen an aggregate upswing or downswing in sexism, based on your experience? Is this a problem that's going away, getting worse, or simply staying put?

Jennifer: It has gotten better tenfold. I first joined Xlive in 2004 on Halo 2, and was a naive innocent girl at the time. That changed fast. But I really feel like I don’t get trash talked for being a girl even half as much as I did a few years ago, it used to be every game.

Ashlee: I’m finding that it’s pretty steady. Maybe I’m just playing the wrong games. :P

Grace:  I’ve watched the female gaming community grow quite rapidly in the past few years. It’s getting to the point where some people feel like there is no need for any community or clan that specifically touts itself as being welcoming to females. They think that “equality is accomplished,” I guess. FUoS is kind of a response to that. It’s great that more people are naturally treating women as gaming equals, but there are a lot of women who are too afraid or annoyed to play online. FUoS shows why that might be, and why some women may seek out more welcoming communities.

gamrFeed: What would you recommend to people administering policy enforcement in their dealings of these kinds of incidents? In what ways are they reacting well to this problem? In what ways are they failing? Is this a problem that can even be solved by enforcement?

Jennifer: With as many players as there are in online gaming, it’s next to impossible to police everything. I think they(policy enforcers) do fine, but game developers have really kicked it up a notch by making mute options so quick and easy in-game. Members of Xbox live enforcement have been very eager to work with us to help the issue, and we’re trying to get a quality control system in place so we can send the people behind these messages to them.

Grace:  I’ve seen a lot of people very quick to dismiss policy enforcement, especially on Xbox Live. It concerns me that people aren’t even trying to report. They think that nothing will happen. But there are real people investigating these claims. Check out to see some of the responses from XBL enforcers. It takes very little effort to report someone -- please do so.


gamrFeed: Is this a problem that can be solved, or even ameliorated? Is gaming simply too juvenile to evolve past this kind of behavior, or is this part of the growing process?

Jennifer: People are always going to be miscreants when they’re hiding in their anonymity.

Ashlee: Maybe in time I’ll be able to comfortably say things have changed. For now I’m just having fun.

Grace: I don’t think it’s really about gaming being juvenile. I think it’s about people who like being jerks finding a way to be jerks in their free time.


gamrFeed: Anything else you would like to add, things I have missed, anything on the matter at hand?

Jennifer: I’ve seen a lot of “this makes me sad/this makes me depressed” comments on Twitter and other places. I just want to say I freaking love gamers, and while there are awful jerks that send these messages there just as many awesome people to play with. Don’t EVER let the crap get you down or discourage you from gaming online, or then they win!

Grace:  We’ve read a lot of great comments, opinions, critiques and interpretations of our little website. I’m almost worried to say anything about the website because I don’t want to unintentionally discount or influence anyone else’s positive or negative experience of it. We might address some of these ideas in the future ourselves. For now, I hope that we’ve shown some people that there are some really intense jerks out there, and I hope that the massively supportive response we’ve received shows that it’s not an isolated problem.


With sexism remaining one of the main stigmas of gaming culture, we need to do better. Sexism should not be acceptable and it should definitely not be tolerated in silence. If you are playing a game and you hear this kind of language – report it. If you see figures in the games industry being sexist, call them out – and call their bosses out as well. Let people know there are consequences to being hateful and it will no longer be acceptable.

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pastro243 (on 15 February 2011)

I think that more than a "male wants to dominate women" situation its just that people, specially kids, like to piss off people in general

cory.ok (on 15 February 2011)

these girls are pretty far away from the kitchen... probably lost ... :)

Chairman-Mao (on 14 February 2011)

Any attempts to fight racism/sexism online are just a futile pathetic waste of effort. There's nothing you can do to stop people from using racial slurs or sexist jokes so just give up now and save yourself the effort.

Toastrules (on 14 February 2011)

@Killiana: Some of us really don't trashtalk and actually try to strategize and help others out, but unfortunately I do agree with you =. Most of the <17 year olds I know are trash talking frustrating- mm.. i don't even want to go there. Though if this was implemented, I'd have to wait 1.5 more years before I can play FPS again. I do support this idea though, unfortunately it'll never be implemented. And to be honest, there are some 18~22ish people that are also very immature, although it's a small percentage.

Killiana1a (on 14 February 2011)

The best thing we could do to cut down on sexism is to make sure no one under the age of 18 can play an FPS like Modern Warfare 2. I played 2 ingame days of Modern Warfare 2 and the only potty mouths I ran into sounded like they were a couple days removed from potty training, yet still pissed because their balls haven't dropped yet. The way I see it is, a person under 18 playing a popular FPS = Has bad parents.

IceHedge (on 14 February 2011)

@Grievous549 I don't know about you, but I'm not the type to take a seat back and let someone trash talk me. Just the same, if I hear someone either in person or over the internet unwarrantably lash out at someone else due to their gender or ethnicity or language, I outspokenly call them out on it in the most polite way possible. Normally this focuses the onslaught of the usually-unopposed harassment to me, but at least I was the one person to stand up against that kind of treatment. I normally find a game online and stay in it for awhile- I'm not a conversation starter, so unless someone else has an interesting topic of discussion, I only speak to strategize and congratulate a good kill for a teammate. I never quit out of games either- I'm not patting myself on the back, I'm simply stating this is one of the causes in attracting so much negative attention. This is also how I know if the person being harassed is being harassed for good reason, or if he or she is truly a victim of verbal abuse and harassment. There have been many more times than I can count that I've been personally harassed and threatened over the internet, primarily on Xbox Live during games of Halo: Reach, Halo 3, or CoD: MW2. I speak truthfully when I say I begin asking as politely as possible to the enraged or lighthearted harasser to stop- after that point I just let them waste their time dishing insults to me while I report them by filing a complaint and avoiding them in the Rate a Player if available. Muting does nothing, and I refuse to use it. They're still going to vent atrocities with no foundation and without punishment, so it seems pointless to ignore a problem that needs to be taken care of. I'm completely behind the satirical name of "Fat, Ugly, or Slutty," and the blogs that accompany it. I'm glad people are being vocal against sexism in particular- we want more women- and more people- in the industry.. just not their dollars all going to one franchise.

Grievous549 (on 14 February 2011)

This is just plain ridiculous. ALL gamers take trash talk, it just comes in different forms. I don't see why just because a woman takes some, it's suddenly something to bitch about. -_-

Rath (on 14 February 2011)

My problem with the trash talking in online games is that it's rubbish. Trash talking should be clever and distracting, kind of like sledging in cricket.

dsister (on 14 February 2011)

As a guy I have to say I've taken worse then some of the stuff on their site/ >___> Past the point of being funny, Just plain rude...

FreeTalkLive (on 14 February 2011)

I agree. People are too sensitive. Although, it is kinda rude to make fun of random people, I do see kids do it all of the time in real life. It is a lot less rude to tease your friends.

trashleg (on 14 February 2011)

long read, i'll bookmark it for later. but its good to read about other girls i guess :)

Alby_da_Wolf (on 14 February 2011)

Nice article. Just one remark: the Duke isn't sexist!!! :-P

hagelt18 (on 14 February 2011)

Don't get me wrong, I loathe people who randomly insult others on the internet just because they can. And I find it really pathetic when males try getting down the cyber-pants of real or supposed females (usually in the most crude ways imaginable). But the posts I read on the website really weren't what I was expecting. I thought I'd find sexist comments, regarding women's common lack of skill in video games. instead I just found ordinary insults you hear all the time on the internet. If you don't like hearing stupid shit people say on the internet, then mute them. It's relatively simple.

Freyt (on 14 February 2011)

I'm a man and I approve of this message.

LokeSTL (on 14 February 2011)

Got a problem with someone's comments? That's what the "mute" option is for. Any complaints about the comments of others are moot.

chocoloco (on 14 February 2011)

Sexism is one issue that will never be resolved, I have been called negative for saying this before. But really if people think sexism or any other kind of prejudice will go away compleatly are just to idealistic. Still it never makes the issue one not worthy of contemplation and conversation.

pearljammer (on 14 February 2011)

Really enjoyed the article. Good read.

tripleb2k (on 14 February 2011)

Good article. I remember playing Blur one time and hearing that crap. Some guy started talking shit to some girl. I don't know why, maybe because she beat him. It was pretty brutal. After she left, he never said another word. Clearly a bully that wouldn't pick on anyone else except for this 1 girl. The bullying and trash talking happens much less if a girl is playing with at least 1 guy friend. Other times on Blur I've heard 1 or 2 girls playing with guy friends and they never get picked on. They know if they did, they have a few guys to back them up. These girls in the article should find guy friends to play with and see if the trash talking continues or goes down.

Rainbird (on 14 February 2011)

Nice article, definitely a good read! :-)

mantlepiecek (on 14 February 2011)

People nowadays are just too sensitive. When I play with randoms I have got a LOT of hate messages no one would care about. On PSN rarely do people send messages, so that's not a problem on the PS3 at all. On xbox 360, its a problem but its rarely worth making a fuss about.