Back in May, when the streaming platform Twitch announced the release of more than 350 new “identity tags” that could be used to sort streams into distinctive categories, Jess Bolden was excited.
The 25-year-old FACEIT Games Esports analyst, who lives between France and Italy with her female partner, streams the game Rainbow Six Siege, a largely male-dominated pursuit. Bolden was once Samsung team head coach for the game, which she streams under the name JessGOAT.
She figured she could use the new “lesbian” tag to show other lesbian gamers that her stream was a safe space for them. But, Bolden says, she felt conflicted. “I would look at the tag for that extra second, to question myself, and I’m usually confident in everything that I do,” Bolden says. “So there’s obviously a problem.”
Bolden’s hesitancy was justifiable. Twitch has been widely criticized for an ongoing scandal involving “hate raids” aimed mostly at its BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ users. These attacks are carried out by bots programmed to spam streamers’ chats with offensive messages. The conditions became so bad that Twitch users started a campaign — #TwitchDoBetter — to push for change, and at one point arranged a digital “protest” where streamers boycotted the platform in solidarity with hate raid victims.
In response, Twitch last month filed a lawsuit against two users allegedly behind many hate raids and, more recently, introduced chat verification.
While hate against streamers is common, lesbians feel they are the subject of both sexism and a specific kind of sexualization. “We get multiple DMs, like ‘I could turn you straight’ or ‘You haven’t found the right guy,’” says Baeu, an 18-year-old lesbian streamer from Florida who broadcasts to followers under the name Spoink. Baeu is a member of Lilac Lesbians, a Minecraft Championship team hoping to increase lesbian representation in gaming. (Input is withholding the last names of most of the streamers in this piece out of concern for their safety.)
“Even when I was underage, they’d still message me inappropriate stuff,” Baeu adds. “Twitch’s solution was pretty much: ‘Oh, well you have your messages open.’” She adds that multiple reports she’s submitted to the company about harassment have not resulted in any action against offending users.
The “lesbian” tag has only increased harassment, according to Bolden. “‘I hate gays’ is probably the most common [comment],” she says. “Or people complaining that I’m a lesbian.” All of the streamers interviewed agreed that they had seen abuse aimed specifically at lesbians, ranging from statements like “of course you’re a lesbian — you’re fat” to assertions that the lesbian streamers were “going to hell” because of their sexuality.
Continue reading: https://www.inputmag.com/gaming/lesbian-gamers-twitch-harassment-hate-raids (source)