Women and gamers of color detail experiences with online harassment in games like ‘Call of Duty’

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Despite tools and best intentions to stop online harassment in video games, it’s still an ugly reality for many women and gamers of color.

Terrence Miller, a Black professional e-sports gamer, recalled the abuse he endured when competing during a major gaming tournament in 2016, noting that it overshadowed his big moment.

“There were a lot of racist and hateful messages posted throughout the chat. I never expected it to happen at the scale that it did,” he told “Good Morning America.”

Another gamer, Natasha Zinda, told “GMA” she has “gone through a very rigorous amount of online harassment” that has made her “afraid” to reveal she is a Black woman to her fellow gamers.

According to a 2017 report from the Pew Research Center, roughly four out of 10 adults say they’ve been harassed online.

“Things have definitely gotten better,” Miller said, “but I do still, like, see stories of similar things happening to other people as well.”

In fact, every gamer “GMA” spoke with said they have, at some point, hidden their identities while gaming online to avoid harassment.

“Sexism or racism in those spaces has been a constant since gaming went online,” Kishonna Gray, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told “GMA.”

PHOTO: Children play a video game in this stock photo.

Children play a video game in this stock photo.

Kayland Denson said he went as far as only chatting with his friends in private parties to avoid experiencing the “verbal violence” so many have grown accustomed to.

Denson and others Black gamers played “Call of Duty,” a popular multiplayer game in which people are placed randomly on teams online, to show “GMA” what the experience is like, and it didn’t take long for the verbal abuse to begin. In response to a hateful comment from a player, Denson said, “I’m trying to figure out why you’re so angry.”

Denson said the criticism is often “unbearable,” and fellow gamer Kahlief Adams said that, unfortunately, it happens “every other weekend” for many.

Zinda said what her male counterparts are exposed to is “definitely super tame” when compared to what she has experienced. When trying to guess what makes people act like this, Zinda said “anonymity of a keyboard” gives some people the permission to be “absolute and complete internet thugs.”

“When folks of color are there making themselves visible within the space, they are subject to a whole host of inequalities,” Gray said.

In response to reports by Reddit and the Washington Post, Infinity Ward, the company which first developed “Call of Duty,” tweeted an apology to users in June in which it claimed it was banning thousands per day for their racist and hate-oriented player names and were implementing tools to better monitor this type of treatment as well as make it easier to report such instances.

Despite this, “GMA” has found racial slurs are still being used as player names as of this month.

“We do not tolerate racism, hatred or


OP-ED: Beauty is your duty

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Looking good continues to be more important than brains in workplaces

Universities position themselves as places where brains matter. It seems strange then that students at a US university would rate attractive academics to be better teachers. This was the finding of a recent paper from the University of Memphis, which concluded that female academics suffered most from this.

It raises an uncomfortable proposition, that beauty trumps brains even in 21st century workplaces. It would certainly be supported by veteran female broadcasters such as radio presenter Libby Purves, who recently complained about the way the BBC dispenses with women of a certain age.

Another survey, this time in the UK, gave a deeper sense of the problem. It reported that employers were asking female employees to dress “sexier” and wear make-up during video meetings.

Published by law firm Slater and Gordon over the summer, and based on a poll of 2,000 office-based staff working from home during lockdown, the report found that 35% of women had experienced at least one sexist demand from their employer, usually relating to how they dressed for video meetings. Women also reported being asked to wear more makeup, do something to their hair, or dress more provocatively. Reasons offered by their bosses were that it would “help win business” and be “pleasing to a client.”

It seems as though the shift to more virtual working has not eradicated what Danielle Parsons, an employment lawyer at Slater and Gordon, described as “archaic behaviour” which “has no place in the modern working world.” 

When employees’ performance is judged on the basis of their physical appearance, potentially shaping their pay and prospects in work, it is known as lookism. It’s not illegal, but arguably, it should be.

Beauty and the boss

The Slater and Gordon survey findings affirm that many trends that we describe in our recent book, Aesthetic Labour, are widespread and continuing despite remote working. Our book reports over 20 years of research and thinking about this problem. 

Although our research started by focusing on frontline work in hospitality and retail, the same issue has expanded into a diverse range of roles including academics, traffic wardens, recruitment consultants, interpreters, TV news anchors and circus acrobats.

Companies think that paying greater attention to employees’ appearance will make them more competitive, while public sector organizations think it will make them more liked. As a result, they are all becoming ever more prescriptive in telling employees how they should look, dress, and talk.

It happens both to men and women, though more often to women, and is often tied in more broadly with sexualizing them at work. For example, while Slater and Gordon found that one-third of men and women had “put up with” comments about their appearance during video calls, women were much likelier to face degrading requests to appear sexier.

When we analyzed ten years of employees’ complaints about lookism to the Equal Opportunities Commission in Australia, we found that the proportion from men was rising across