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How sexist is E3?

6 min read

Zoe rabbid

I had the opportunity to attend E3 for the first time this year. Before setting off, I was genuinely excited by all the cool stuff that I’d get to see. But I was also rather nervous – I’d heard so many negative things over the years about how sexist (and dangerous) these huge conventions could be. So, how much sexism did I actually experience?

If you’re to believe mainstream reporting, this E3 was just as sexist as any other year. I mean, women were barely represented during the press conferences. While I agree, there were very few female presenters on stage at the press conferences (except for the larger-than-life Aisha Tyler), I’d rather not have the big publishers add women to the show just for the sake of diversity – they should be related to the industry, or acting as MCs for the event, not just added as tokens.

I wasn’t too fazed by the press conferences – I was personally more focused on the games than the people presenting them. So, what did I experience on the ground?

Day Zero: Press Conference Day

Going to all four press conferences is a grueling experience. It starts at about 7 in the morning to get in the queue for Microsoft and ends at about 8-9pm when Sony wraps up. In the middle, there is a lot of getting shunted around from place to place, the occasional free drink, lots of wrist bands, plenty of standing in the sun, and a bit of hobnobbing with other journalists.

While waiting in the Ubisoft queue, I chatted to a bunch of other journalists. They were nice enough, and while one was obviously enamored with my cleavage, no one did anything to make me feel uncomfortable. I still had to carry all my own stuff and wait in queues like everyone else. Sure, one crew interviewed me on camera for internal marketing information. However, they also interviewed a variety of other people in the crowd, so it wasn’t just because I’m a woman.

If you’d like to see the diversity of people in attendance at the conferences, here’s the Ubisoft wrap up video. You can see me at about the two minute mark. I wish I hadn’t been so tired out by standing in the sun for so long – my clapping isn’t enthusiastic enough. As you can see in the sweeping shot, the attendees are predominantly male, but there are still plenty of women, too.

By the end of the day, I was exhausted, but hadn’t felt unsafe or discriminated against once. Grope count = 0

Day One – Three: The actual E3 show

E3 crowd

E3 is busy. There are a ton of people who queue up and push their way into the enormous halls. With so many people, I figured this would be the time that any inappropriate touching would happen – it’s hard to avoid touching in general, so this would be the time for the bad stuff to happen. In actual fact, there was nothing.

Alright, so I got into the actual hall, filled with all sorts of impressive stands, displays and even more queues. As part of my hunt, I went looking for booth babes. I was hoping for some human eye candy to compare with all the graphical beauty I was seeing in the games. I finally managed to find some at the Nyko stand that promised to keep your PC cool no matter how hot things were inside – yes, I totally just made up that marketing link to booth babes, but I think it works. These were the only booth babes I could find in all of E3, so enjoy them while you can.

Zoe booth babes

The outfit you see me wearing above did attract quite a bit of attention. From women. Yes, during the day I wore the polka dot dress, I was stopped by five different women on the showroom floor to tell me how much they liked the dress. Nothing lecherous, nothing creepy, just actual normal female fashion appreciation. They also commented on my nails while we were chatting.

In actual fact, my gender seemed to have absolutely no influence on my professional experience at E3. Yes, my greetings with PR reps were generally hugs instead of handshakes, but that’s also because I’m a hugger. No one called me patronizing names, questioned my ability during hands-on times with games, or made me feel uncomfortable in general. My intellect, questions and perceptions were appreciated by those I encountered. I continued to show cleavage which was occasionally viewed by those with whom I interacted, but no one made any lewd comments, inappropriate gestures or creepy innuendoes. It was actually all quite pleasant – I met a ton of new people, spoke to loads of men and women and had a generally awesome time playing and watching games. Grope count = 0


Zoe handsome jack

All in all, E3 was an incredible experience during which time I never felt sexually uncomfortable or harassed. It is important to note that I am generally quite comfortable in my own skin – I am fine revealing some cleavage or legs, if I notice someone looking I don’t take that as a sign of harassment or abuse; if I was offended by people looking, I wouldn’t dress the way that I do. However, beyond the occasional looks, I cannot cite a single instance where I was discriminated against, made to feel awkward or uncomfortable, or harassed/abused in any way because of my gender (or for any other reason).

It has led me to wonder about those articles that I read where women cited so many instances of harassment, abuse and other sexist situations. I have come to one of two conclusions. One, those women were the trailblazers, the ones who named and shamed men on their poor behaviour, prompting them to change their ways and improve the experience at these events for women. Hopefully, that is the case, and the situation has become better for women in the industry.  Or two, my experience was a wholly unique one – I give off that particular vibe that says I’m friendly and approachable but with clear boundaries.

Of course, these are my own experiences, and other women who attended might not have had my good fortune. From my perspective,  I would personally declare that the coast is clear for women to attend conventions and major events without fear of rampant sexual assault.

Last Updated: June 24, 2014

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