Have you ever been called sexist?
Sexism in the gaming industry: "I thought that was part of it"
Abuse, sexual assault and sexism - a wave is raging through the gaming industry. More and more cases are emerging that paint a bleak picture of the industry. “Juicy Gnu”, one of the largest German gaming YouTubers, explained MeinMMO editor Leya Jankowski how these attacks in gaming come about.
June 2020: The Destiny 2 streamer "SayNoToRage" is banned from Twitch and leaves its 168,463 followers behind. The reason is allegations of sexual harassment. He is said to have harassed and touched young women at events. Bungie, the development studio behind Destiny 2, distances itself from the streamer and ended the collaboration.
This incident sparked a wave that is now hard to hit the gaming industry. For weeks, more and more alleged victims have been reporting on social media and sharing experiences of abuse in the industry. An excerpt:
Jasmin is one of the YouTubers and streamers who has now commented on the grievances in the industry. The young woman is known to her fans as the "juicy gnu". Jasmin has 670,000 subscribers on her YouTube channel and over 132,000 followers on her Twitch. This makes her one of Germany's greatest personalities in gaming. In an interview with SPIEGEL, Jasmin told how she was harassed at the beginning of her career in a game editorial office, which even led to the loss of this job.
As I read the interview, I had more questions on the subject. I asked Jasmin for a one-on-one interview for MeinMMO.
MeinMMO: In our preliminary talk we talked about the fact that you wanted to start your career in the industry in a gaming editorial office and were harassed by a manager at the time. However, your complaints about it were not taken seriously.
I immediately asked myself what actually triggered that in you? What does that do to a person?
Jasmine: Of course, that really annoyed me. I was just helpless in the situation. I kept saying that I don't want that. For example, he kept calling me to his office and wanted to test some Kung Fu techniques on me. I have always made it clear that I don't want that. When I confided in the second boss and talked about the grievances, he seemed understanding at the time. He said that he found it totally crazy and would understand that it annoys me. I then immediately felt safe and understood and believed that he would help me. At that time I set up an email [to the boss] with the second boss in the CC, in which I addressed the problems again directly. That was agreed with the second boss.
But then nothing came back to that. The two of them had spoken together without me at the time. I guess, as is often the case, everything was somehow played down. It was said that I completely misunderstood all of this anyway and that the harassment was not at all true. In the end, he'd rather believe his best buddy than any hysterical woman.
"You are paralyzed yourself"
MeinMMO: I think you were a little bit younger when you might be unsure how to deal with that?
Jasmine: I was then 20 to 21 years old and now, of course, I would take a completely different approach. But I have also spoken to many other colleagues about it. At such moments you often tell yourself that none of this really can be true. I've heard things from other colleagues that are so blatant that I thought they should actually have intervened.
But then you are paralyzed and you think to yourself that you are exaggerating and that he certainly couldn't have meant it seriously. But these are exactly the moments when you have to question yourself again. You have to consider whether to confide in someone and not sweep everything under the rug.
"I think that a lot of women have come to terms with it"
MyMMO:That’s very interesting what you’re saying right now. We're talking about the subject now because a lot of cases have been reported on Twitter. Many women and some young men have spoken out here. I have often read in the comments that some people wonder why someone does not get in touch until many years after the alleged abuse case. Is that where it comes from?
Jasmine: I've only just started telling these stories because I've been asked. As a woman, I gave up at some point and thought that this was just part of it. I think a lot of women have come to terms with it. That's why I find this movement very interesting and good that people talk about it.
Sure, you also have to be careful which stories are true and which are not. Sometimes I had the feeling that some had reached deep into the box in order to somehow have a say and to make themselves interesting. But I think that there are also a lot of women who only now dare to say something. Because, in the end, you think, like me, that nothing will change anyway. One then thinks: "If I say something, I will have to go because I am not believed."
That is this helplessness and you think to yourself: "It doesn't do anything anyway."
MeinMMO: I would like to come back to the interview with SPIEGEL. You mentioned the so-called buddy culture there. How do you think this buddy culture expresses itself and why is it apparently so strongly represented in the gaming industry?
Jasmine: I can only speak of the companies I worked for. These were often entrepreneurs who were good friends even before they were founded. Or there is the boss and the second boss who get along well anyway. Then apparently there are often situations where men stick together and women are accused of just exaggerating.
There are of course women who claim things to harm men. You shouldn't ignore that. The genders just stick together, I think.
Especially when you then set up a company together and have a great business partner with whom things are going well, of course you don't want to warn them or throw them out because they don't have a grip on themselves. You might get a warning that your colleague should keep a grip on himself, but in my experience that has never helped in the long term.
In the end, it was also the case for me that I finally wanted to be offensive and achieve something and in the end I was the one who was kicked out.
"At that time I didn't say anything because I was scared"
MeinMMO: My heart bleeds a little when I hear that. Fortunately, you weren't put off by this experience and went your own way. You found your home on Twitch and YouTube.
You implied that it wasn't the only case back then that someone was disrespectful or suggestive of you. How did you deal with it in the course of your career?
Jasmine: In fact, it was problematic when I didn't have that wide range. More creators came up to me who made immoral offers. So when I was younger, they had no concerns that this could be their undoing because nobody would have believed me anyway.
The change came when I had more reach. Then there were only stupid offers from the Internet, but no longer from the creators. On the contrary, I had the impression that people suddenly had a lot more respect and were more awesome according to the motto: "Oh God, now she has grown up, hopefully she doesn't say anything."
I didn't say anything then because I was scared. I was sometimes threatened by creators with greater reach that I should just be careful. Today I would open my mouth faster.
People today are legitimately wondering why I am only now talking about it. This often has to do with being afraid and not wanting to face the consequences of others sending you hate messages. It is often assumed that you only want attention and fame and that you should then name names after all. Yes, why not mention the names? Because you are afraid of the consequences.
"Many women also do this voluntarily"
MeinMMO: I didn't even know that there was such a culture of threatening smaller and young streamers. I hear that for the first time in this form.
Jasmine: I always say everyone can do what they want. You have to say that these content creators often get a “yes” to be heard. Many women also do this voluntarily. The content creators give the smaller streamers a push and vice versa, the women give their performance, whatever it looks like. So I always have to say that it seems to work well. Otherwise, as a woman with a short reach, you would probably not get as many offers.
If these women want to do that, that's perfectly fine. But I think you shouldn't project that onto every woman and then say that you can kill her if she doesn't accept these offers.
MeinMMO: So you mean that someone has to be able to differentiate between whether a woman likes to do this as a voluntary service or whether she does not want it?
Jasmine: Yes, I think it's stupid now when you demonize all men and say: “How can they?” Of course, it is not at all possible for someone to threaten me, but it must have worked often enough. Otherwise they wouldn't try it again and again so obviously and now everyone is talking about it because some may have said “no”, but in comparison they seem to have said enough “yes”.
"But don't take your ugly girlfriend with you"
MeinMMO: I would now like to come to one point and that is the industry events. What I noticed with all these reports on social media was that many reports started with: "I was at the event and something happened there."
Now I know that you are traveling to many events through your job, similar to me. I've been to a lot of press events that also included YouTubers and streamers. It struck me that these events are often just big parties, with lots of young people, where people drink a lot of alcohol. Do you think the culture of these industry events is problematic?
Jasmine: Yeah, just when I was younger. Then more and more guys came up to me who brag about their reach and say that you could record something together. The girls then might think that this is pretty cool to push their own reach. Then they may not dare to say "no" either because they put themselves into an addiction. I've often seen that at events. When these women get a push, they somehow feel indebted to the man.
I still remember an event when I was very, very little. A creator came up to me and stood with me at the bar and told me how great he is. He then wanted my number so that you could meet up afterwards and said: "But don't take your ugly girlfriend with you." Then I just thought: "You pig."
"The younger and more inexperienced, the greater the dependency can become"
MeinMMO: We already talked about the fact that you yourself were intimidated even faster than you were younger. Do you think it's a problem that so many people here start so young? Most of them are teenagers or just in their early 20s when they start on YouTube or Twitch and then suddenly some of them come to these big events.
Jasmine: I think so, yes. I even think of something fittingly right now. About four years ago when I was very young, I went to an event for a big company. There was a business lounge and there was an employee of the company with influence who said like this: “Hey, can't the pretty girl come over to us in the business lounge?”. He just talked about me because he knew that I was young and inexperienced and she also does YouTube, so you can certainly create a relationship of dependency.
But I wasn't in the mood for him and he kept saying that he was earning so much money and made a big impression on him. I knew straight away that I just had to get out of there quickly. But of course, if someone picks it up, that's the jackpot and you just give it a try. The younger and more inexperienced, the greater the dependency can become - but here again the emphasis on the fact that it seems to work often enough.
Throughout the debate, men are often portrayed as bogeymen and of course it sucks when women are abused and molested. I only know from enough conversations that it works very often.
Update 09/29/2020: After the interview, Jasmin published a statement on her YouTube channel in which she puts the topic in even more context. The statement states that women are not “to blame” if they are harassed. You will also learn more about the sometimes toxic and insulting Internet comment culture towards women in gaming. Since the video goes well with the interview, we decided to include it afterwards.
Jasmin's Statement on Harassment of Women in Gaming:
"It is really worth a lot when you, as a woman, can say that you also have a reach"
MeinMMO: Do you think that there is a problem with these young women that they are sometimes still too naive out of inexperience to understand the consequences of such actions?
Jasmine: I do think that sometimes they are still too naive to check that some men are not just being nice to them. They still don't understand what these men really want. It used to happen to me that I thought: "Wow, they are all nice to me." And my mother just said to me: "Wow, you are stupid."
I must have kept some contacts longer than necessary because I had no ulterior motives. I was too stupid and naive to understand that all of this could have put me in very uncomfortable situations. Now that I'm older myself and have my reach, I've never been turned on at events again. But now people know you too and they know that it could quickly become very embarrassing for them if they sound stupid to me.
It's really worth a lot when you, as a woman, can say that you also have a reach and something to say. Maybe that's why the desire for this reach is so great among young women that they sometimes do things that they later regret.
It is better to give a warning to young people rather than just condemn all men
MeinMMO: I'm a bit ambivalent myself here, to be honest. You have a certain amount of personal responsibility and you can say that you were stupid and inexperienced. But when a young girl, maybe at the age of 18, who has volunteered and even given some kind of sexual consideration. Then all of a sudden it arrives 5 - 10 years later and says it was only manipulated back then and now the other person is to blame. What do you think about that?
Jasmine: I think so often, though. I recently saw a great movie, Bombshell (link leads to IMDb) on Netflix. It was basically the same there. A moderator only got her job because she did something 15 years ago and didn't dare to talk about it.In the end, however, she dealt with it in such a way that she opened up at some point. But she said that she is partly responsible for it and is ashamed today because she was stupid and naive.
I think it is then also important to admit to yourself that you may have acted stupid in the past and would not do it again today. It is better to issue a warning to young people instead of just condemning all men.
MeinMMO: We have now talked a lot about how such grievances can come about and how young women and young men are confronted with abuse. What would have to change in the industry to combat this?
Jasmine: This is really a difficult question because it basically applies to everything. No matter where I was, there were always problems with sexual harassment. Whether it was with teachers at school, with my jobs, right up to YouTube or on the street. I think every woman knows that one has points of contact with it again and again.
I don't have a solution right now, I can only cite one great example. In general, when there is insult or harassment on the Internet, moderators from Twitch on Discord build such a network, there are around 70 people in it. If, for example, I am sexually harassed or insulted in my chat and this person is banned, the other 70 streamers will also automatically be banned so that they can no longer get through to us at all.
What I always find important is someone I trust. For example, I had a really great teacher at school, with whom I always felt safe, which I missed later in my job. The teacher in particular was of course very good friends with the rector and the teacher helped me a lot because she herself had the experience of being harassed by him.
It would be great if there was a neutral contact person in every company, also for men, who is committed to preventing this from happening.
"You mustn't make yourself dependent on the platforms or the people"
MeinMMO: Finally, I have one more question. We know that we are not on the pony farm and that we are far from ideal. What would you advise a young person who wants to get started as a content creator, whether male, female or non-binary, to protect himself from abuse?
Jasmine: Finish your training.
It is very important that you graduate from school or university. Social media can be eliminated quickly. It is so important that you are not at the point where you have the feeling that you have given up your education and now really have to do everything for your gaming career. The thought disappears if it doesn't work with YouTube or Twitch and you can get back to everyday life. You mustn't make yourself dependent on the platforms or the people. I have a buddy who dropped out of school and at some point was forced to accept campaigns that he didn't want to do. He just needed the money and was scared because he didn't graduate from school.
It is also important for you as men to know: As a woman, I can send a heart to my community when they write to me, if they are little girls or little boys. If I were a boy or a man it would look strange. That said, you have to be careful how you respond to people in the community. It's something my manager taught me. If you're a man, you shouldn't necessarily send a heart to a 13-year-old fan or write cute letters to them because that can always be interpreted differently as a man. As a woman, I have an advantage there.
Above all, however, you should remain true to yourself. Viewers and clicks aren't everything. Do not be afraid to go public if someone threatens you and do not let yourself be offered everything. Make it public when someone makes you an immoral offer and don't listen when someone tells you not to act like this. Most will listen and believe you when you have evidence.
Never be intimidated.
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