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Post TEDYouth Empathy Talk Reflections

My TEDYouth talk was recently released online! To my surprise, I was blown away by how incredible and receptive everyone has been of my message. The feedback I have received thus far has been overwhelmingly positive. I spent most of the last two days thanking everybody who watched and reached out with their support.

With that said, I decided to select and respond to some feedback I somewhat consistently encountered. This post is by no means an accurate representation of all the types of feedback I received! :) Just a couple of quick thoughts I wanted to jot out. I mean quick when I say it, I spent a portion of writing this while trouble-shooting my site (as evidenced by my grammar). =D

Photo | Ryan Lash

Feedback A

This talk portrays the men of the Smash community as sexist weirdos.

Yikes! I spent at least a third of the talk covering just how global and dedicated our community is and another third defending gamers. No where did I implicate our entire community as sexist, nor did I imply that only men were capable of being sexist. Actually, I called myself out for once having perpetuated sexist behaviors, and even went as far as calling myself misogynystic!

Believe it or not, I am not trying to depict the competitive Smash Brothers community in a bad light. The following two comments on my talk from Sheridan “Hyuga” Zalewski and Daniel “TafoKints” Lee sum up the remainder of my thoughts on this subject quite nicely:

Young and younger designers graphic Young and younger designers graphic

Feedback B

I just wanted to tell you that the talk you gave was incredible / you are a huge inspiration to me c:

Feedback like this always catches me off-guard. I could have never imagined that anything I ever did in my life could motivate or inspire another human being. And I assure you, that’s not me being insecure. That’s me trying to inform you that regardless of whether or not it has ever occurred to you, your actions can potentially motivate others.

Eventually, you start to realize that you have to keep doing what you’re doing because it can and will encourage others to take action. One of the many things I hope to see more of in gaming the world is the act of women empowering other women. We gotta have each other’s backs.

@DrPiggyPHD hits the nail on the head with her final tweets on the matter. Despite the Smash community not being the most perfect environment for her, she intends on staying if it means helping another girl in the future.

Feedback C

I’ve never witnessed any of the women I know suffer from sexism, nor have I seen it happen myself. This is an isolated incident of the Internet just being mean.

If there are any parts of my rambling that you should pay close attention to, it’s this part.

If you’ll recall, I asked that not everyone assume the worst of male gamers/gamers in my talk. I pushed for open dialogues and communication rather than defaulting to shame. These type of conversations hinge on mutual understanding and empathy. They require an open-mind and willingness to listen from both ends of the spectrum.

So e-friends, when a woman comes forth to speak about sexism she has experienced, I need you to do me a big favor. Take a deep breath. Count to 30. Do you feel that itch of skepticism because you just don’t see the alleged sexism? Suppress it, for just a moment.

Instead of jumping to the frequent conclusion that these women are just crying wolf, ask questions. Asking questions shows an eagerness to listen that making statements usually does not. “Hey, I don’t really see how this is sexist. Can you please explain?” is at least a better conversation opener than “That isn’t sexist!

The women I know who come forward usually spend quite some time dwelling on these subjects before ever even considering going public about them. Whatever you see in their screenshotted evidence or initial few words is usually not the whole story. This is why I find it to be a major slap in the face when someone greets my well-thought-through experiences with:

  • This isn’t sexism, people are probably just being mean to you.
  • Stop making **** up for attention!
  • Did you do something to elicit these reactions?
  • Are you sure that’s even sexism?

Hearing comments like this usually sparks an uncontrollable anger inside of me, what I would imagine a gamer might feel like if they were to be instantaneously dismissed as a sexist jerk. Do you see where I’m going with this? Dismissive attitudes lead to larger misunderstandings and ultimately, make for one terrible, cyclical, feedback loop. We’ve got to listen to each other!

Feedback D

Sexism is definitely real, but that is not the only reason women don’t play video games.

I totally agree! What’s the problem here? Let’s be careful not to get defensive and instead, focus on how we gamers can be even more welcoming! Eyes on the goal (the Smash community taking over the world)!

Feedback E

…people ACTUALLY DON’T UNDERSTAND and we’re the ones who have to remember to be empathetic in order to be successful at change.

It’s a tiny annoyance compared to the end result, but the tiny annoyance still stings.

To all the gals out there who sighed just reading this: Yep. I am hesitant to describe this as “realistic” because that subtly implies that the current reality cannot be improved upon. Instead, I’ll go ahead and just say that this is just the status quo, for now. However unidealistic it is, I’ll cut corners if it means furthering progress!

Feedback F

So what can we actually do to fix this?

Throws arms up and clenches fists. Why, I never thought you’d ask! I’m so glad you did though, we’re finally asking the right questions!

Awareness was and is definitely just the first phase of this whole process. It may feel like we’ve been through the awareness phase repeatedly, but that’s because not everyone is on the same page yet. The last thing we want to do is preach to the choir, amirite?

As for the answer to this question: I don’t know. Hear that world? I. Don’t. Know. But here’s a great idea, let’s talk about it!

While I’ve got several ideas floating around in my mind, I am sick and tired of hearing hypotheses flying around about what we could do. There will definitely be mistakes in our approaches, but that’s the beauty of iteration. We need to start acting and worrying less about theory-crafting.

I’m aware of how vague that was but congrats, you just got a peek into my future blog post on this topic. Of course, that one will be far more thought through than this one ^_~.

And that’s it! My attention span is getting cut short (blame debugging). Sorry for the disjointed nature of this post! Just wanted to shed some rapid insight.


TEDYouth Video – How I responded to sexism in gaming with empathy
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