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THE LIFE OF A WOMAN ON TWITCH

By Lauren Dunmore

Twitch rose to prominence as an online video platform that allows users to watch others play games like League of Legends and Fortnight in real time. In just a few short years, it has amassed millions of users and generates around 15 million unique views a day.

With the rise of Twitch came the rise of the online streamer, a virtual celebrity of sorts, the best of whom have been able to generate large dedicated followings and enviable paychecks.

Although the bulk of these streaming celebrities are men and the platform primarily attracts men between the ages of 18-25, Twitch is also home to quite a few women streamers. We spoke to a number of them and discovered the difficult world they are expected to navigate, one that is rife with online trolls, persistent harassment, and sexual expectations.

THE SOMETIMES TOXIC TWITCH COMMUNITY

At its core, Twitch is a platform that encourages community. Streamer TwitchJenna tells us that she gravitated towards Twitch to find fellow Runescape enthusiasts, “the Runescape community has changed a lot and it was harder to make friends in-game. So I started streaming to make friends.” This sentiment was echoed by all of the women we spoke with, many who have been able to create supportive, enthusiastic communities around their gameplay. Streamer DonnaSpock shares that she’s met a lot of cool people and sees the video streaming site as a great outlet to share creative content and form connections.

But both women agree, Twitch has a dark side.

“There's a massive sexist mentality on Twitch. No matter what I'm doing or what I'm good at, how I dress defines me. The culture of Twitch... it doesn't always love women,” revelas Jenna. Few women on the platform are able to escape sexist trolls. Things like live rankings, where male users will rank a women’s appearance and make crass sexual remarks during her stream are common. Just last year, controversial streamer Trainwreck went on a misogynistic rant claiming, “Twitch is run by the same sluts that rejected us... the same sluts that are coming into our community, taking the money, taking the subs…”

Anger and resentment abound for women trying to make it on a platform that many see as a “boys only club.” Some feel that women aren’t talented gamers and gain views purely based on their looks. Others think that women who face harassment are somehow asking for it by even existing on the platform.

BUT SEX SELLS, RIGHT?

It doesn’t take long on Twitch to hear things like “bikini streamers” or “boobie streamers”, derogatory terms for women who stream in more revealing attire and are considered “fake gamers”. Twitch streamer IndieFoxx shared in a livestream that being a woman on the platform often means a tremendous amount of pressure to dress provocatively. “When I wear a t-shirt, I go down to 300 subs for no reason,” she admits. Because the reality of Twitch is that it is a platform that caters to 18-25 year old men, and for a women to get the same amount of attention as a male streamer, she is often expected to play up her sexuality. And because amassing an audience and getting attention from users on Twitch can be tied to life changing sums of money, many women feel immense pressure to express themselves in a certain way.

Unfortunately, Twitch is also home to droves of men who feel comfortable shaming and threatening these women. Harassment isn’t just reserved for the so called “bikini steamer”. Many women shared that they receive threats, sexual requests, and unwanted attention from men for simply being a woman.

But one thing is for sure, the women of Twitch seem pretty set on not letting men dictate how they should or should not dress, deciding instead to amass tons of loyal followers, sign lucrative brand deals, and give male steamers a run for their money.

THE PATH FORWARD

As more and more women join Twitch, there’s been an active conversation around how to combat the rampant sexism and harassment on the platform. Jenna shares that she’s actively working towards a solution and believes that creators need to be doing more to support women. She also points out that there is a pervasive culture of harassment that is supported by both steamers and users that needs to be confronted.

Twitch has made small efforts to ban sexism with varying degrees of success but for now, Jenna says, women on the platform need to have thick skin to deal with the toxicity.

As more and more women like DonnaSpock and Jenna join the platform, one thing is for sure. The sexist trolls who scour the underbelly of Twitch won’t stop the success of women steamers any time soon.

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