This dress for ‘female gamers’ isn’t going over well
First, there was The Dress, the color-shifting frock that some are sure was white and gold, while others saw as blue and black. Now, there is The Gamer Dressunabashedly red and blackthats spawning controversy and memes in the gaming community.
Esports apparel company Cranium Apparel, which creates and sells jerseys for esports teams, revealed the dress on Twitter over the weekend in whats now a seriously ratioed tweet. Cranium Apparel posted a photo of the dress, which is essentially an elongated polyester jersey nipped in at the waist and without sleeves. (One of the more egregious features, a cleavage zipper, wont make it to the final version, Cranium Apparel said on the product listing.) The dress, advertised at $53, is described as never seen before in esports, designed to give a new identity to women in esports. The dress officially went up for sale on Tuesday.
GET READY FEMALE GAMING COMMUNITY, Cranium Apparel wrote on Twitter. ESPORTS DRESS NOW AVAILABLE. Its [sic] high time that we do something for the female gamers who receive so much backlash in the community. Stay Strong We Respect You. Proudly supporting #WOMENINESPORTS. Tag Every Female Gamer You Know.
GET READY FEMALE GAMING COMMUNITY! ?????
ESPORTS DRESS NOW AVAILABLE ?
Its high time that we do something for the female gamers who recieve so much backlash in the community!
Stay Strong…We Respect You ??
Proudly supporting #WOMENINESPORTS
Tag Every Female Gamer You Know?? pic.twitter.com/qSr3huP4MO
— Cranium Apparel ® (@CraniumApparel) March 2, 2019
The problem many are having with this idea isnt that its a dress. Dresses are great! As pointed out on Twitter by Whats Good Games co-founder Andrea Rene, its absolutely OK to love wearing dresses and playing video gamesand feminity is often used to discredit women, in games and elsewhere. At one point, I was told I couldnt wear dresses and be authentic talking about games, Rene wrote. I like to think I proved them wrong.
Its the messaging around the dress that many found issue withharassment of women in esports wont be fixed because of a dress. Nor will it create a new identity for women in gaming, especially in a landscape where women are already scrutinized for what they wear or how they look. (Many women who stream on Twitch are often called sexist names like booby streamers or Twitch thots, which Polygon reporter Julia Alexander defined as a term often used to insult a female streamer on a predominantly male platform.)
Media critic Nico Deyo noted that while the intention behind the dress was probably good-hearted, the message was an issue. The biggest problem, though, was the indication that this dress was to respect women and to make up for the harassment we suffer, which is just bonkers, Deyo told the Daily Dot. A dress is not going to make anyone be less harassed.
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Dawn Yohosie Hosie, a Dragon Ball FighterZ pro gamer, echoed that sentiment: It didnt recognize that womens esports dresses have been done before (and better), Hosie told the Daily Dot. The boob zipper and gaming chair colors masquerading as feminism and equal representation for both women and men in esports felt like the most consumerist solution to a very real problem in the esports arena.
Hosie added that she didnt find the dress offensive, just laughablea short dress is the last thing she wants to wear on stage while competing. Some people might feel comfortable competing in a dress, but Hosie does not. The idea of me crossing my legs while playing or having to be conscious of how Im sitting fills me with anxiety and the exact opposite of how I want to compete, she said.
Unsurprisingly, Cranium Apparel noted in a Twitter reply that no women were involved in the design or decision-making for the dress.
Which is unfortunte because its not like women just showed up recently on the esports scene. Women have always been interested in esports and gaming, and the fan base has grown exponentially in recent years. A 2018 Nielsen report found that the 29 percent of new esports fans skew less male than earlier esports fans. Twenty-five percent of esports fans, ages 13 to 40, are women, according to the report. In the U.K., analysts Kids Insights found that teenage girls and boys engage in esports at similar rates; in some instances, like attending live events, more girls were reported to have done so.
The sports industry might be moving away from marketing merchandise to women with a shrink it and pink it mentality, but esports merchandise is lagging behind. There just arent that many options designed specifically for anyone but men. Take Blizzard Entertainments Overwatch League, for example. The game itself is praised extensively for the diversity of its hero pool. (There are a bunch of female heroes, but Blizzard is consistently criticized for having no playable Black women.) On the Blizzard Gear Store, where the company sells its merchandise, there are tons of different shirt cuts, but most of it doesnt carry over to esports wear. Overwatch League merchandise, created and sold by Fanatics, does offer one womens cut T-shirt for each team. All jerseys, however, are in a mens cut. There are 647 items listed under the mens category compared to the 24 items for women. Of course, women can and do wear the mens cuts.
Blizzard Arena Los Angeles, where the Overwatch League is held each week, is often packed with women supporting their favorite Overwatch League teams. A lack of merchandise offerings for anyone but men is something they noticeand people have been tweeting about it over the years.
as much as it is an xd that no women were involved in the design process I will appreciate that there was a thought for apparel for women. @ owl wheres my womans jerseys or my dress ty in advance https://t.co/eFoeR4uxpT
— Deothelioma (@HiImDeoXD) March 4, 2019
Re: that esports dress from a smaller company; let’s remember that the *very extensive* team branded OWL merchandise only includes 1 T-shirt for women. No fitted jerseys, no dresses, nada. The rest of the Gear Store has them but the esports section is -severely- lacking ??
— Madeleine Rose (@zhiana) March 5, 2019
No womens' cuts on the jerseys makes me sad. I did, however, grab the jacket and orange OWL tee!
— Sabriel Mastin ? (@Sabriality) December 6, 2017
Hey friends: it’s OK to like wearing dresses and playing games. If it’s not your thing, that’s cool too! Folks quick to jump to: OMG A DRESS WUT?! But at one point I was told I couldn’t wear dresses and be authentic talking about games. I like to think I proved them wrong. ?? https://t.co/Fyg2NifvT3
— Andrea Rene (@andrearene) March 5, 2019
Deyo, who wrote a blog post outlining how esports companies can create merchandise to folks other than men, told the Daily Dot she would like to see well-made clothing that comes in a variety of colors and sizes.
I think keeping it simple with athleisure/sweats and jerseys is honestly going to be a crowd pleaser but something that is maybe a little more feminine in some ways with printsa good example would be [the Overwatch Leagues] Houston Outlaws hoodie with the floral print logois great for guys, gals, and every other gender that wants to look a little cuter.
Houston Outlaws floral hoodie, which was available in a limited quantity, is an example of how things are changing. The hoodie isnt explicitly marketed to men or women, but its cool, and appeals to a wide variety of people. Naturally, fans were thrilled. Champion Athleticwear, too, is making a concerted effort to create new esports gear for women, with a Team Dignitas-branded womens line in partnership with the organizations championship Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team. (The collection isnt available just yet, however.)
— Houston Outlaws (@Outlaws) September 28, 2018
The Gamer Dress was destined to fail because Cranium Apparel positioned itself as an advocate for women, without much input from women. Cranium Apparel founder Savar Sethi told the Daily Dot, though, that hes listening to feedback from the community. We have identified the flaws within our team and are continuously working to fix them, he said. We have seen many people come forward to help us with our future products and we highly appreciate them. We have also got a few women on board and we are turning to them before finalizing our next addition to the store.
Sethi added that Cranium Apparel overused emojis in the initial launch post, and also noted that the new identity tagline was a bit rogue. He continued: We have learnt a lot from this and will definitely take utmost care while announcing our future products.