An exploratory study of sexism in online gaming communities: Mapping contested digital terrain
An awareness is emerging of women’s participation in online games and it’s culture, however they may experience substantive challenges in laying claim to the ‘gamer identity’, within digital domains described as masculine, and sometimes hostile spaces by players, campaigners and activists. In public discourse, gaming is becoming increasingly synonymous with sexism; with media reporting harassment of female-identifying gamers as well as those who voice concern about these issues. The gendered dimension of these issues tends to be fiercely disputed and has competing understandings in online spaces. This study combined issue network analysis and grounded theory to produce a contextualised exploration of the ways in which sexism was understood in such communities. Analysis of multi-modal data revealed three categories which were strategic in framing this debate including; 1) potential (mis)recognition of such behaviours within these contexts, 2) mistaken emphasis upon the gendered dimension of identity within interactions, and 3) qualification to ‘count’ and be heard on these issues. Online spaces reproduce inequalities that exist offline and owing to the technological affordances and contextual nuances, are also sites of cultural production where relations of gendered power may be configured. The implications for transformation efforts to promote inclusive spaces are considered.
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