Maybelline New York has teamed up with mental health initiative Brave Together to launch a new campaign highlighting the abuse facing women and female-identifying gamers around the world. Known as Through Their Eyes, the campaign includes a social experiment wherein male-identifying gamers Joel ‘JoelBergs’ Bergs and Drew ‘DrewD0g’ Warne used voice alteration devices and unique player profiles to sound and look more feminine while playing online.
Unsurprisingly, this experiment led to both players receiving vicious harassment. As detailed in the Maybelline campaign, they’re told to ‘get back to the sink’ and to call other players ‘daddy’. Some competitors refuse to speak to them, or immediately drop out of gaming sessions when they talk on chat. Several comments are censored, but appear to be invitations for sex – consensual or otherwise.
‘Bitch, shut your mouth,’ one competitor instructs. ‘Oi, sweetbee, shut your [censored] up.’
‘Is that a female?’ another asks. ‘I want to [censored] [censored] [censored], baby.’
The comments detailed in the Maybelline New York campaign, while shocking, are likely to come as no surprise to female-identifying video game fans. Online multiplayer spaces remain dominated by abuse, and it’s for this reason that many non-male gamers choose not to enter these spaces, or not to use voice chat in games.
A 2023 Bastion Insights National Gamer Survey cited by Maybelline New York has revealed that 83% of female-identifying gamers have ‘directly experienced and/or observed offensive behaviour or language while online gaming’, with many believing this is harassment has created unsafe spaces for women who love video games. This is despite 45% of video game players worldwide identifying as women, per Forbes.
These statistics have been known for years now, and yet change never seems to be on the horizon.
It’s frustrating to see these experiments repeated, year-on-year, with similar results. In 2022, a Women in Argentina voice chat experiment invited three male Valorant pros to disguise their voices in a similar experiment, playing as women in a largely male-dominated game.
This study yielded the same results – some players refused to take part in matches with the ‘feminine voiced’ pros, others deliberately tanked matches, and loudly expressed sexist beliefs.
At this stage, we shouldn’t be surprised to hear of the abuse female-identifying gamers face online. Study after study finds the same results – video game spaces are not welcoming for everyone, and those who try to enter are often knocked back with abhorrent language, purposeful losses, and outright threats.
The Maybelline New York campaign only highlights this further. In calling for players, particularly male players, to speak out when abuse happens, the company aims to foster more inclusive gaming spaces. There is hope for the future, as more women adopt gaming as a hobby, but realistically this change will be difficult to achieve.
Through Their Eyes is a valiant attempt to highlight the gender-based discrimination facing female-identifying players in online spaces – and we hope it helps spark a much larger, concerted push to create not only awareness, but change, in the wider landscape. Highlighting this discrimination is a small, needed step in a much larger picture.