Blog #1: “Cheerleaders/Booth Babes/ Halo Hoes: Pro-gaming, Gendder, and Jobs for the Boys”

Posted: July 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

In this blog I will be discussing the article titled Cheerleaders/Booth Babes/Halo Hoes: Pro-gaming, Gender, and Jobs for the Boys written by Nicholas Taylor, Jen Jenson, and Suzanne de Castell. This paper examines the ways in which women participate in the organization, promotion and performance of competitive gaming, which is formed as being a territory limited to males, leaving girl gamers as being viewed as invisible or nonexistent. It examines the different roles women whom participate in competitive gaming tournaments embody such as ‘cheerleaders,’ ‘booth babes,’ or ‘halo hoes’. The authors further explain that each of these ‘roles’ are maintained within a community whom perceive female participation in a sexualized manner, as mothers are described as ‘cheerleaders,’ promotional models as ‘booth babes,’ and female players who participate in competing tend to be at risk of being marked as ‘halo hoes’-all supportive, subordinated roles.

The authors follow a group of young, highly successful would-be pro-gamers across local, national and international LAN (Local Area Network) tournaments, analyzing the gendered character of evolving forms of digital game play. The gamers involved are carefully examined and interviewed; fixated analysis is focused on how ‘professional’ gamers are represented and discursively created through websites, journalistic accounts, promotional materials and secondary interviews, which in turn situate competitive gaming as the exclusive domain of young men who greatly embody a ‘hypermasculine’ subject position. The study focused on the ways emergent culture limits opportunities for female participation, this became increasingly apparent the more the authors had followed a group of players from local to international competitive tournaments. What I found to be rather interesting about this paper is how the authors explained that competitive gaming is now being related to or even considered as being an actual professional sport. As women are seen as ‘secondary’ in the domain of sports, this is also the case in digital games. Gender is not a fixed or concrete set of biologically determined characteristics that creates ‘gender-appropriate’ roles, it is a social construction formed by the media and technology which in turn position women as ‘naturally’ lacking the ability to ‘seriously’ play games- which is not the case. Using Connell’s notion of the ‘patriarchical dividend,’ competitive gaming is seen as a privilege given to males and is rewarded as ‘virtual’ athleticism. By constructing and reconstructing discourses that valorize aggression and competitiveness which are seen as ‘male’ traits and characteristics, this elevates game skill to athleticism and offers few opportunities for female participation.

The ways in which women do in fact participate in gaming as mentioned earlier are in marginal ways such as being labeled ‘Halo Hoes,’ ‘Cheerleaders,’ or ‘Booth Babes.’ A significant part of the paper talked about a successful female gamer named Fatal Fantasy who is the only regular at the NerdCorps and one of the few female players in competitions. She performs a ‘contradictory’ position as she is in a male-dominated arena, presenting herself as feminine as well as competitive and fully capable of ‘playing with the boys.’ The only problem that Fatal Fantasy and other female players have to deal with is being labeled a ‘halo ho.’ This is when the male players just see you as being in the competition simply to flirt with the male gamers. As there may be some ‘halo hoes’ present as Fatal Fantasy had mentioned, she was not one of them and had to put effort in maintaining her image of being there ‘just to game.’ ‘Cheerleaders’ on the other hand are usually viewed as mothers who are there in support of their sons who go to several events however have limited and ambivalent forms of participation as they would clap and shout things to cheer for their sons even though the boys were not able to play attention to them as they were wearing headphones and playing close attention to the screens. ‘Booth babes’ were more objectified and sexualized beings as they were there merely to ‘look at’ as they were attractive and perpetuated this idea of heterosexual masculinity as in some cases the male players were in cars playing their games while the females stood steady beside them and ‘looked pretty.’ The presence of attractive females would also help in reinforcing the idea that ‘despite the stereotype, gamers are not nerdy’ and are ‘cyber-athletes.’

I found the article to be quite interesting yet found it rather strange that despite the fact that video gaming is not necessarily active, it is starting to be considered a sport. Another ‘sport’ or domain that excludes women participation. It is also interesting that women are also used as aids in making gaming more popular through popular discourses or attracting an audience through mediums such as ‘booth babes.’ They are also important in supporting male gamers financially and emotionally as ‘cheerleaders’ such as mothers are the ones who make it possible for their sons to compete. In these ways women do play a prominent role in the success of males yet are still viewed as ‘invisible’ in a sense. This relates to a blog written on Ms. Blog Magazine titled Tell Facebook to Bring Women to the Table. Although this is about a totally different area, it relates to digital gaming in that as women support and can be seen as playing an important role in gaming, they play a prominent role on Facebook as well. This blog also addresses the gender inequalities that women face as it explains that fifty-eight percent of Facebook users-therefore supporters-are women and sixty-two percent of shares on Facebook are done by female users however, there are zero women on Facebook’s board of directors. Why? In both gaming and Facebook, females can be seen as the mold that holds everything together yet are not acknowledged for it or given the credit that they deserve. A question that came to mind for me when looking at these two readings was do women help perpetuate this dominant male culture and possibly enjoy the ‘supportive’ role? Another question that came to mind was if women were not present at all in gaming, would it survive? Would competitive gaming survive without ‘Cheerleaders, Booth babes, or Halo Hoes’?

-Mundeep Dhaliwal

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