The International e-Sports Federation, or IeSF, received a tremendous amount of backlash for their decision to segregate their world championship by gender (if you’ve ever been a regular Tumblr user at any time, then you’ll know it was actually divided by sex, but I digress). They have reversed the policy after being under immense public pressure, but they’re not quite off the hook yet.
If you don’t know who they are, IeSF is a global organization that attempts—albeit not that much—to promote e-sports as a true sport beyond barriers. They made the idiotic decision to exclusively split up their tournament in male and female categories. The male division could compete in DOTA 2, StarCraft II, Ultra Street Fighter 4 and Hearthstone. Meanwhile, the female division had just StarCraft II and Tekken Tag Tournament 2. Usually segregation is justified under the basis of separate but equal, except IeSF couldn’t even get that right.
To be straightforward, I don’t think IeSF is a sexist organization by any means. I do think they’re incredibly stupid with a complete lack of common sense. Their hearts were in the right place, but their minds were off in some other dimension. According to them, the reason for having a female-only division was to encourage more women in entering the competitive gaming world and to comply with international standards.
“The decision to divide male and female competitions was made in accordance with international sports authorities, as part of our effort to promote e-Sports as a legitimate sports”
– IeSF in response to a Facebook comment
It was after this comment that IeSF added the encouraging women reason—maybe they hit the enter key prematurely. This unnecessary obsession to make e-sports an official sports seriously clouded their decisions, since they’ve already grown immensely in popularity without the official “sport” label. Their priority became end rather than the means.
Unfortunately for IeSF’s public relations team, their original plan would alienate all the existing female competitors. Their actions contradicted with their objectives to produce a top-grade hypocrisy you’d see on The Daily Show. Their first objective talks about promoting the e-sports values by being humanitarian, educational, cultural, unifying and peace-generating. Article five of their general divisions is even titled “Non-discrimination and Promoting Female Participation.”
After their gender division policy hit the fan and IeSF absorbed feedback like the only punching bag at a boxing convention, they showed some signs of intelligent life and listened to the gaming community. They still have two divisions, but one is open for all genders with all five games and the second is exclusively female to attract more women to competitive gaming. It’s the exact same model as chess.
“Female gamers make up half of the world’s gaming population, but only a small percentage of e-Sports competitors are women,” said IeSF in the press release to address this issue. “The IeSF’s female-only competitions aim to bring more diversity to competitive play by improving the representation of women at these events.”
The only problem with this plan is the female-only division is basically a secondary division, since no professional gamer is going to limit herself by entering the female-only division. There is no advantage in entering it whatsoever. Granted, it’ll have fewer competitors, but if you have confidence in your abilities, which you should if you’re entering a gaming tournament, then signing up for an easier, watered-down division isn’t even an option. There is no significant difference in gaming ability between the sexes, so a division exclusive to one gender becomes pointless when coupled with another that’s open to all.
Excluding the useless extra division, IeSF’s response was the correct one, but I won’t commend them for it. Being grateful of IeSF for doing what should have been done in the first place would be like praising someone for leaving the Ku Klux Klan (he joined for fashion reasons since the theme is idiocy). The praise lies with the gaming community for directing their righteous fury and making IeSF reverse a brain-dead policy. I can say confidently that this segregation would have continued if such a large group of people didn’t create an outcry.
While their sexism wasn’t intentional, it was definitely beyond stupid. In the end, IeSF can best be compared with a sixth grader that finally stopped wetting the bed. It’s good that he finally learned, but he’ll have to sleep with that urine-soaked mattress for some time.