A few weeks ago, video game streaming service Twitch suspended a popular personality because a group of boys don’t want to share their toys with her, proving that – even after years of media coverage – women still don’t have a lot of options for defending themselves online.
Lea May, a 27-year-old who has streamed on Twitch under the name LegendaryLea for about three years, received a one-month suspension on April 25, allegedly for showing her vagina during a public broadcast.
May told me in an email that she was wearing boy shorts/booty shorts – what cheerleaders wear under their skirts – under her clothes when she accidentally took an awkward step, showing her inner thigh. She was wearing a walking boot due to a recent injury and did not want to fall into her computer setup.
Twitch refused an interview request, saying the company does not comment on terms of service violations. The terms include a clause entitled “Inappropriate Broadcaster Behavior and Attire,” which is defined as “nudity and conduct involving overtly sexual behavior and/or attire.”
I’ve seen the video. It’s clear to me that the misstep was an accident. I’ve seen male streamers broadcast without their shirts on while sitting in their boxers, and I doubt they’ve been suspended for it.
May often plays popular PC games “Hearthstone,” “Counter Strike: Global Offensive” and “H1Z1.”
So why was she?
Because a group of boys who didn’t want any girls getting cooties on their action figures never grew up.
The company wouldn’t talk to me, so I don’t know exactly why Twitch ordered the suspension. Maybe her clothing crossed the line. Her shorts are quite short, but I’d say they’re typical for a 20-something walking around her home. Ultimately, I think we all understand that Twitch decides who can play and who can’t.
However, I highly doubt Twitch would have dropped the hammer or even known about the two-second slip in a broadcast that lasted several hours had it not been for group of mostly men who wanted May off of the service for some time. They flooded Twitter and probably Twitch’s report mailbox with angry messages calling for May’s banishment.
And it seems their efforts directly led to May being deprived of a major source of income.
They seem to think May’s broadcasts are too sexual or that she isn’t a real gamer, which is about as antiquated as saying someone throws like a girl. She posed (clothed) in Playboy, they say, so she must be a slut bent on damaging the credibility of our beloved games and streaming service.
I will never know why these people watch someone they claim to hate. They have infinite possibilities. You think she “isn’t a real gamer?” Watch someone else. Are you mad because she’s pretty and we can see her cleavage? Again, watch something else. Sexually frustrated because she reminds you of the girl who turned you down at your high school prom 15 years ago? The Internet has plenty of sites for that, too.
It went even further a few days later, when I came across a tweet that told May “if you go to DreamHack (a popular gaming convention in Austin) you’ll most likely get attacked (hopefully).”
These essentially anonymous, rapid-fire attacks are still an online epidemic – and not just in gaming.
The sort-of sports blog Just Not Sports posted a powerful video in which male strangers were asked to read the rape and death threats female sports journalists receive daily. The Guardian recently published an even more harrowing report on just how many of the 70 million comments left on its website in the last decade were attacks on women writers. (Hint: It was a lot.)
I write about a lot of different subjects. I report news, but I also share my opinions, which I know aren’t always popular. I get angry emails and comments, but virtually all of them are related to the content or telling me I am a bad writer or stupid. Not one has been a threat of physical or sexual violence. Only a few have mentioned my appearance.
Most of my male colleagues would tell a similar story, but I definitely know that women writing here would not.
I hate writing about this stuff. I hate explaining how “Law and Order” got this wrong, but “Degrassi” got it right. I hate that I am still, 17 months later, writing columns about misogny in gaming. I hate that the last time I interviewed a female streamer, a Clovis woman, she had a story about a stalker, but her more-established and out-in-the-open male counterpart did not.
I much prefer reviewing games or writing about happy stuff, but I’m compelled to remind people that we are not making the progress we should be. Women can still be attacked or apparently lose their jobs just for existing online, and I’ve yet to see anything making a significant impact in combating this.
We need something. Who knows what that is?