Sexism, feminism, Twitch: that Sky Williams video

I don’t even really know where to start with this, but I wanted to quickly touch on the Sky Williams video.

If you haven’t heard of it yet, game comedian and player Sky Williams posted a video titled “Dear Female Streamers.” It’s a tirade against “bad” women streamers – you know, the ones who are too sexy to stream. He didn’t name specific names, but the video did include pictures of women streamers with ample cleavage. Most of Sky’s argument against these women are that they 1) make it too difficult for other women streamers who don’t show cleavage/aren’t sexy enough to get involved with streaming and that it intimidates them and 2) women who stream like this are manipulating young men into giving them money.

There are so many things wrong with these claims that I don’t even know where to begin, but I’ll touch on those in a moment. Sky has subsequently streamed twice since the video was released three days ago, once alone, in an effort to clarify his position, and once Thursday night, with guests Kaceytron and eventually Totalbiscuit. Also on Thursday a special episode of Dropped Frames also took place, with streamers lolRenaynay, ShannonZKiller, Kaceytron, and Dexbonus, all prominent streamers with thousands of Twitter followers each, most of them all strongly against Sky’s views.

All of this made for a really interesting day on Twitter, I’ll tell you that.

While I hesitate to give Sky Williams credit for opening this discussion, as this is a discussion that women have been having among themselves for sometime, it has certainly exploded in just a few days. Williams has claimed he’s receiving death threats now, and this is reprehensible. Nobody deserves that type of fear. What this evolving conversation has shown to me is that it’s now time to leave him out of the discussion and move on to the claims themselves, and to look hard at the root of these claims and possible solutions.

It’s no surprise that Twitch can be a toxic place for women to be in. Women are subjected to intense verbal harassment in chat. I’m a big advocate for safe spaces in Twitch chat, something that I think places like Stream Friends and Feminist Cabal cultivate with care. Unfortunately, not all chats are created equal and more often than not, you are subjected to this harassment for the simple fact of being a woman. This is the fundamental flaw in Sky Williams’ argument: it doesn’t matter if you’re covered up, it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing, if you are a woman on Twitch, at some point in your life you will most likely run into harassment.

The only people to blame in this situation are the harassers, not other women streamers.

Let me say that again: women streamers are not the enemy.

It’s an easy trap to fall into. We live in a society that values conventional beauty and relentlessly pits women against each other. When I was younger, this was something I struggled with. It’s easy to see a woman getting a job I wanted, a boy I wanted to like, anything and everything easier than me. It’s no secret that there is an unconscious bias against fat people, against unconventionally attractive people. It’s easy to look at all that and say, “hey, it’s not fair that they get that. They took that from me.” It’s easy to look at this evidence and to look at streamers who use their attractiveness to their advantage and to say, “hey, that isn’t fair.”

It’s not fair. It is the worst thing to see something that you want be taken away from you and feel that it was only taken away because you weren’t good enough.

But that isn’t other women’s faults. As I grew older, I came to know that. I came to meet amazing women, all struggling against the same thing, the sexist and patriarchal society that we live in. These women are not responsible for the harassment that men heap upon women. That responsibility is solely on the harasser.

One of the things that makes me saddest in the world is women who hate other women because they are trying to be seen as “cool” or liked by men. And this feels awfully like that.

Sky’s second point makes me less sad and much more enraged. Listen to me closely: women are not responsible for how men behave.

Listen again: women are not responsible for the actions that men take and the way that they behave when they are sexually frustrated.

One more time: women are not responsible for the gross, inappropriate, and sometimes terrible behavior men display, on Twitch, or in life.

I think that about covers my initial thoughts. I don’t think Sky thought he would get pushback, which is very telling of the type of community he’s engaged in. He’s had problematic behavior in the past with certain eSports videos concerning women, so I’m by no mines letting him off the hook, but this is a complicated issue that should have been handled by women in the industry. He frequently mentioned how he knew women who didn’t stream because they felt intimidated by women who used their attractiveness for clicks and I understand and sympathize with that. He has mentioned that he is working on a followup video and I’m interested to see if he’s learned anything in the past few days.

That being said, it’s time for him to be out of this discussion now. It’s time for men to stand aside and listen and learn. The last few days were fast and furious and have resulted in many conversations in the streaming community, and I’m so invested in seeing where it goes from here.