IeSF revises its policy on gendered esports divisions
On June 1st, it came to light that a Hearthstone tournament qualifier hosted by the Finnish eSports Federation would be “open only to Finnish male players.” Further investigation revealed that this was not a policy established by the Assembly, but rather by the International e-Sports Federation (IeSF), which divided competition into male and female divisions and limited the games available to each.
Questioned on the logic behind the decision, an IeSF representative stated that:
This is to avoid possible conflicts (e.g. a female player eliminating a male player during RO8) among other things.
And followed up on the official Facebook page:
This decision serves two main goals of the IeSF:
1 - promoting female players. We know that eSports is largely dominated by male players and females players are actually a portion of the overall player base. By hosting a female-only competition, we strive to promote female gaming on a global scale.
2 - International standards. IeSF is very close to get eSports recognised as a true sports like it should be. Part of that efforts is to comply with the international sports regulations. For example, chess is also divided into male / female leagues.
The community responded to these edicts with a mix of outrage and incredulity. Separating divisions by gender doesn’t promote female players; it does more to protect the ego of male competitors. The gender divide in sports is not something to be emulated; it’s something that’s being actively challenged for perpetuating stereotypes and raising barriers to equal representation.
Following extensive critique (both from the community, and from companies like Blizzard) the IeSF has revised its policy. DOTA 2, StarCraft II, Ultra Street Fighter 4, Hearthstone, and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 are now available in the “Open for All” stream for competition; female-only events for StarCraft II and Tekken Tag Tournament 2 are run in parallel, to highlight and celebrate the involvement of women in esports. This does more to accomplish the IeSF’s stated goals, which were partially informed by a membership application to SportAccord - an international recognition body that mandates active promotion of female participants. The IeSF initially based its promotion model on international sports divisions, but following community feedback, they have proven themselves open to change. This is a step in the right direction, and it shows that a willingness to speak up can make a difference.
“E-sports league that prohibited women Hearthstone players reverses policy after talking with Blizzard.” (Jeffrey Grubb, VentureBeat) 2 July 2014.
“Hearthstone tournament explains why women aren’t allowed to play [updated].” (Phil Savage, PC Gamer) 2 July 2014.
“IeSF Board has made decision to make their event ‘Open for All’.” (International e-Sports Federation) 3 July 2014.
“IeSF removes male-only restriction from its e-sports tournaments.” (Phil Savage, PC Gamer) 3 July 2014.
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