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Editor's Corner: Are Womens-Only Divisions Necessary?

Posted on Tuesday, July 8 @ 18:00:00 Eastern by


Last week, Daniel Bischoff reported on the strange decision by the International e-Sports Federation of South Korea to bar women from competing against men in DotA 2 and Ultra Street Fighter IV. Apparently, the central reasoning behind its decision is to have the IeSF recognized as a true sport for international sports regulations, with the federation citing that chess is divided into male and female leagues.

Or at least, that's how it was until the IeSF received enormous backlash by the gaming community, prompting a revision to its rules to change the male-exclusive events to "Open for All" events, while retaining the female-only divisions as well:
On 2nd of July, 2014, the IeSF’s policy about gender division, which separates the female division and the male division, has been brought into question. The IeSF has listened to the gaming community and has carefully considered their opinions. Upon hearing these concerns, the IeSF convoked an emergency session of the IeSF Board to respond.

As a result, IeSF shall have two event categories: “Open for All” events and events that are reserved for women. The events which were initially set aside as the male division will now be open to all genders, and the events which were initially set as the female division will remain as they were.
However, this brings attention to the entire concept of separate-but-equal status. Could an alternate solution be a male-exclusive event, a women-exclusive event, and one "Open for All" event? Perhaps it would be redundant, but if the point behind the revision is to have an equal playing field, then this alternate solution holds. Or maybe just have one "Open for All" event without having any gender-exclusive events at all. Are ladies-only divisions even necessary?

I can understand gender-specific division for some highly physical video games like Dance Dance Revolution, but I don't believe we're going to see a 50/50 split when it comes to men and women in eSports even though the gaming demographic is said to be a 50/50 split. Of course, it's not about equal number insomuch as equal opportunity and equal support. That line can become blurry, though.

Maybe it's just the inherent disconnect between video games which are theoretically gender-neutral but not when it comes to highly competitive events. Maybe it's about telling both men and women to enter whatever competition they feel like and not to feel discouraged by what society tells them. Maybe it's society that's damaged by capable women who are told to shy away from apparently male-centric technology-based, well, anything.

Now, this isn't a new issue when it comes to highly competitive fields. Even in games that are about mental acuity like poker, which in theory lends to a level playing field between the genders, the number of female competitors are usually a minority (for poker, it's reportedly 10%). The reasons for this are numerous: women in general not being encouraged to be competitive in the first place, market research caters toward the majority and maintains the status quo, and female rookie players feel intimidated playing live against men who believe that trash-talking them for being women is fair game.

Ladies events are meant to act as a gateway for female newbies, despite the accusation and underlying presumption that these events are designed because women can't compete with men. However, many stepping stones like these can feel like half-measures, but they lead to broadening the market and making women feel more comfortable. When it comes to dealing with chauvinistic language, professional poker player Danielle Moon-Andersen has a tough skin to a point:
...most of the time that a man at the poker table is giving me a hard time, it’s good natured and I just dish it back, which seems to earn their respect... [but if] they are crossing a line, I generally just completely ignore them and they usually lose interest quickly. It obviously depends upon the intent and context of the remark but, in general, at a poker table it takes a lot to get under my skin.
On the other side, though, it can be irksome for men who usually find themselves without a men's equivalent to a ladies event. Would that be treating the genders fairly? Of course, it takes some brainstorming to discover sports where men are excluded, but men's rhythmic gymnastics and men's synchronized swimming are two divisions that are not included in the Olympics. Both are rather athletic in nature, but there's "Open to All" solution here due to the level playing field.

If there are more visible women in eSports like Sascha Hostyn in StarCraft 2, would this lead to female-only divisions becoming obsolete or would they become institutionalized as well, a half-step that becomes permanent? Hmm... maybe not. But more importantly, do the benefits of ladies events outweigh the cons? I think so, but there comes a point where they don't.
Tags:   Editor's Corner
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