Sexism and Super Smash at Press Start LAN

Why is this still commonplace?

Neha Chhetri, better known as LiloNStitchface or Lilo for short, is a pro Super Smash Bros. Melee player that you may recognize from the Super Smash Bros. Invitational hosted by Nintendo at E3 last year. Lilo is no stranger to harassment in the Smash Bros community, having written a very informative piece that chronicles the experiences of 53 female players. Many of the women reported jokes at their expense, to even being threatened, stalked and sexually assaulted by fellow players. 

Even knowing this Lilo went into this weekend’s Press Start LAN tournaments with a positive outlook stating “Off to SoCal for Press Start! I think I’ve earned a bit of a reward ;). This weekend is going to rule!” Clearly she didn’t expect the kind of treatment she and other Smash players would receive because of their gender the following day from Press Start staff members. 

Neha took to reddit to recap the happenings at the event, because her tweets became popular and were posted on the Smash Bros subreddit

Hey there, this is Lilo!

I’m going to talk more about my experience at Press Start since a lot of people are brushing it off as a “misunderstanding”, “isolated event”, etc. This was originally just a comment but I decided it should be its own post since everything blew up so unexpectedly.

I’m here to chill and play games. I have a pretty thick skin–you have to when you’re a competitive gamer. But everything just piled on top of each other and it’s left a bad taste in my mouth.

Before we even walked in the venue we experienced blatant sexism. I was in a group with mostly guys and another girl waiting to register. A security guard asked us if we were spectators. We said “players”, and he looked right at her and asked “You’re not a spectator?” And she said no. We were both really annoyed but…”isolated incident” it’s “just a security guard”. Then we try and register. I’m in a group of just guys, and one volunteer asked me and NO ONE else, “You’re a spectator?” I said, “no. I’m a player. Seriously?”. He avoided eye contact after that and didn’t say a word. Whatever, it’s just two ignorant dudes, right?

I’ve been in competitive gaming long enough that this kind of thing is sadly pretty routine. It sucks because I’ve NEVER heard of this happening with a guy. It doesn’t seem to matter how hard I work to improve both my tech skill and the community I love, I always seem to get singled out and marginalized.

I’m determined to shake off these gross encounters and focus on my pool. Literally in the middle of a match I hear the announcer crow, “Luckily this team knows what its doing and brought some BEAUTIFUL women for you all to look at!” Then he made some lecherous noises and both me and my opponent went “WOOOOWW” in the middle of our stocks. He said similar things throughout the day, booming over the crowd so you couldn’t possibly miss it. At one point he did a raffle and when a female winner came up he asked for her number. She started to give her raffle number but he said “no baby I’m talking about your DIGITS!”

I felt absolutely disgusted and so did the other girls I talked to. I pay money and travel to tournies to compete and have fun. Not to be singled out and made to feel like nothing but a guy’s future conquest. The announcer continued this way literally all day, from 12 pm until my tweets about it blew up and the directors tried to do damage control.

The director of the event pulled me aside to apologize. He apologized for the way the volunteer behaved. He said he “talked” to the announcer to make sure he was being less sexist. He said the announcer wouldn’t come back the next day. I asked why it took an entire day of lewd, extremely loud and sexist comments before ANYONE did ANYTHING. He made excuses like he was tired, they were all really busy…etc etc. Basically something was only done last minute to cover their asses because my tweets blew up.

This is supposed to be an “Esports event” but the only reason a sexist announcer was asked to not come back the next day was because they got called out on it publicly. He wasn’t even dismissed on the spot! And was allowed to continue announcing for the day.

Esports means professional. It does not mean male volunteers can discriminate against women and get a slap on the wrist only because of a tweet that happened to get attention.

Needless to say I’m pretty upset about the whole situation. I appreciate the director apologizing to me but it all seemed too little too late.

Here’s to hoping that at least from this controversy people will learn to be more respectful and that we can avoid this kind of thing in the future.

Lilo received multiple messages and tweets harassing her for speaking out, one going as far to say “go die please >.< hope you get raped.” 

“Feminism seems to be the only topic I tweet about that garners massive rage and wishes of rape and death upon my person.” she noted while offering up an alternativeI mean, for a change of pace can someone harass me over my Taylor Swift love or shark obsession?”

When asked for response Press Start’s director Caleb Finn responded that he would like to make a statement, but would leave it to his co-director Kathy Chiang to make as he had been up for 38 hours straight. Kathy responded with the following statement:

The Press Start team and I are extremely sorry for any feelings that were hurt and any people that were offended due to the actions of our staff, volunteers, or affiliated parties. We definitely value females in gaming. I am one myself, and a large portion of our staff are female gamers, and any discriminating actions are definitely unacceptable.

Once we heard about what happened with Lilo, we immediately sought her out to apologize personally for the offense. None of the unfair treatment represent what we stand for at Press Start. We held a staff and volunteer meeting right after to emphasize guidelines and are working continually to improve volunteer training to avoid any repeats of similar behavior for the rest of this event and at our future events. We also hope that gamers everywhere understand the importance of respecting all gamers, and that Press Start will continue to do our best to support diversity in gaming.

Press Start concludes today starting at 10AM Pacific.

Jed Whitaker