I have always been “one of the guys”. As a kid, I used to have mostly male friends and I always felt at home with the banter and jokes of being around the boys. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve developed more and better female friendships with women who are truly brilliant, hilarious and awesome in every way. But I still always feel at home with my male friends and colleagues. At least, most of the time.
Over on Lazygamer.net, where I work, I often write about how I haven’t experienced the kind of sexism or abuse that is so often talked about in gaming and tech. It’s not to say that it never happens, of course it does, but not on the scale or frequency as often depicted. When it has happened, I’ve made a point of calling it out, highlighting what happened and why it wasn’t cool, so that hopefully people can improve or at least be more aware in the future. But this most recent experience probably had more to do with my being pregnant rather than female, although it was no less distressing.
I won’t name names, but I was invited to a press event for a game launch. The organizers were apparently keen on my being there, messaging me multiple times to check that I’d be joining and I was excited to see my usual buddies and support the PR with their event. Due to timing constraints, I would only be able to attend a bit late, but I was clear on that from the beginning and I rocked up a little over an hour late, excited to see what was going on.
When I arrived, some people were already taking part in the cool activity they had organized. Sure, most of the people at the event and those taking part were male, but that’s sort of to be expected – most events are male-dominated in the industry, and this title in particular is rather male-centric. After greeting my friends and getting settled in a bit, I went to find the organizers to find out how I could get involved. They literally laughed at me. To my face, they laughed that I wanted to take part. Feeling a bit dejected but determined to play, I was informed by friends that they didn’t really recommend that I do the physical activity – they were on the brink of falling down rather often and didn’t think it would be the best idea for me.
I get it, I’m pregnant and can’t do activities that include running, dodging and possibly falling. But the nature of the activity was known to the organizers way earlier on. In my head, I had pictured it a bit different, and the insistence that I attend made me think that there would be a suitable way for me to take part – they all know that I’m pregnant and it’s not rocket science to figure out a way to make it work or to simply tell me that I’m welcome at the event but might not be able to take part in the activity.
Instead, I ended up sitting around with the ladies, feeling ostracized from the group despite my best efforts to take part. I ended up going home early with a bit of a sore heart. When I was younger and the boys would say I couldn’t play their games, I’d push my way in and show that I was actually better then some of them. I demanded to be treated equally, and proved that I was at least their equal. This time, I simply couldn’t do that. More than that, I felt excluded in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever felt before.
I know these things will happen. I know that becoming a mom will change everything and I might not be able to do those things that I used to. But it still makes me sad to be so blatantly kicked out of the boy’s club.