Sexism in Pinball: Practical Examples

This 100%. We need to force a societal shift, and we need to be active in to do it. I am saddened and happy with the state of media coverage of womens events in Rio. There is still a bunch traditional media writing really inappropriate things, but via social media, blogs and some traditional reporters as well, they are calling them out.

It is important that for many of these micro aggressions given as examples above they are happening due to an unconscious bias. Your suggestion to people asking if they would say that to Bowen is a great way to help break. I would suggest when calling people out, it might be worth giving them the benefit of the doubt that they were not coming from a bad place. If you ask about their intention in saying what they said, you help surface their unconscious bias and gives them a chance to save face. But I agree, getting called out by a third party is more effective.

This is something that we spend a lot of effort talking about, training people and trying to force a shift in people at work. The examples you give resonate with examples from STEM situations.

I was expecting much more extreme and blatant examples (yours lead to a better conversation), which i have seen and called BS on in the past. Overtly sexist and homophobic language is sadly still quite common place and it needs to stop. Generally, I see it via trash talking and yelling at the machine.


Which one is it? And why?

don’t want to derail it but this was one example that was all over the internet :frowning:^tfw


I am happy that articles like exist. I am saddened by the articles and incidents that trigger it. The conversation is more public this time around.

The point is social norms are changing, but it is slow, and progress is regional and cultural. I want STEM to change because that is important for my perfessional life. I want the Pinball community to change because I am personally invested in it.


Super great post- and thanks for the reminder that as an ally, I need to step up my game. I see things like what you’ve described and worse in my league night, but am often too conflict-averse to say something- that only makes this situation worse, as every time sexist behavior goes unchallenged it reinforces the assumption that it’s acceptable.


Thanks for sharing. Are there any suggestions for how men can help women feel more welcome in the pinball world, beyond not doing these sorts of things, and calling out others who do?

1 Like

Really happy to see this kind of discussion happening here. I agree on the responsibility to challenge this sort of thing, especially as dudes in a male-dominated space.

One thing that I think is very tricky, and not often discussed, is how to challenge something effectively. Knowing you should call someone out, and doing so in a constructive way are miles apart. I don’t know anyone who does this well who a) didn’t suck at it for a long time and b) didn’t deliberately work to get better at it. Something that I (as a hetero white dude) have found really valuable is this document on how to be an ally as a person of privilege.

There’s another great thread going here on this subject, and I’d really love to hear more from anyone with experience who’d be willing to share.


Something I notice all the time from men who “don’t realize they’re being sexist” is mansplaining in a variety of contexts. I see it most commonly when men are breaking down their instructions to a woman on how to play a game in terms and tone that you’d use with a child who didn’t know the first thing about pinball. It’s really painful to witness and I’m usually just left shaking my head when I hear it. I’ve called out a few repeat offenders in my local scene, and they’ve mostly been embarrassed and felt that they were doing it completely unknowingly.

Great to see this discussion on here and hopefully it will continue to make men more aware of what’s going on and how to help prevent some of this stuff.


I’m guilty of the opposite pretty often. Just last week I met a couple who was really into pinball and barely realized till the end of the interaction that I was only talking to the woman. Whoops!


It really, really depends on the situation and the person doing this. A lot of time, if you don’t know the competitor, or if they’re just not being overly friendly, it often feels like a micro aggression. Though offering that information to the entire group does help, there are plenty of times that this “helpful” behavior is reserved for women only, and done in a condescending way. I try to check myself on it all the time. I start out with “Do you know this game very well?” - regardless of gender. Because I’ve found out that there are so many ways to ask that question which make you look like a pompous dick instead of just wanting to share information.

I’d also just like to point out that the argument of “has nothing to do with gender” is more than often made by men who don’t have to deal with the same kind of behavior that women do. Just try and put yourself in the other gender’s shoes for a moment.


@chesh @heyrocker @kayluh

I agree that it depends on the situation and that context is everything… which was kind of my point. I also agree on the point about the group being different than individual. My second example with Sanjay was 1 on 1. I sat down next to him in the waiting area, and made a comment on how hard the slings on BSD were to deal with. I’m guessing he took that as a signal that I was new and might need some help. I didn’t ask, but he gave me a tip and then stated that I could ask him anything I wanted, and he would answer. Definitely not the same as “let me tell you,” but that was not how the original point was worded.

I totally agree with the rest of them, and am shocked that #1 has actually happened at all. I can certainly relate, as I am one of those “respect my space” kind of people. The rest are also pretty cut and dry. Just this one seems like there should be a benefit of the doubt given if there are no other obvious signals like condescending tone and/or body language.

Obviously I cannot put myself in women’s shoes, but point taken.

However, I just can’t believe this is the norm and not an exception. Not saying that makes it okay, I just feel this is one of the more female friendly activities that I’ve participated in in respect to other competitive things like the local dodgeball league, etc. At least from my experience.

One example would be that Nationals week in Vegas. I was at Flipperspiel and they put on the Women’s tournament stream on the TV. Most of the guys stopped and came in to watch. The TV room was actually quite crowded because people wanted to see skilled players compete. Their gender did not matter.

Sunshine lives in my area, so we’re often at the same tournaments. She commands great respect from everyone here locally. I know one of the rare occasions when I beat her to win the tournament, I bragged pretty hard about it because it was a big deal to me. I beat a player that was more skilled than I. Her gender was irrelevant. I beat Sunshine Bon!

Again, I’m not trying to discredit the original post. I just think that from my POV, that gender equality in the pinball scene is far above the norm compared to other coed competitive activities. And that the original point that I commented on should not be an automatic “That’s sexist.”


A man said “You won a free game!” after I walked away from a replay I got on a 180mil game of FT. I get that’s not the biggest score in the universe but you’d figure anyone who would get that score knows what they’re doing.


I appreciate what you are trying to say, but you must realize that not every scene and not every guy acts the same as you. If you’re conducting yourself respectfully player to player as you’re describing, you’re right, gender doesn’t matter. When the opposite is happening, and much more often it is to women and probably children, then there is a problem and gender absolutely matters. I’d love to live in a world where everyone is treated equally and people are polite to each other. That’s just not the reality of the world though.

As someone who has to share my local league with two men who have sexually harassed me in the past (ass grabbing, neck kissing, inappropriate suggestive “flirting”), I can attest that it’s not at all the same for women in this hobby / sport. I’ve made it well known about the offenders I’ve had to deal with and explained what happened to many people in our league. But they’re allowed to keep attending. The only reason it works for me is that I stood up for myself and made it clear as day that the groper is to never talk to me or come near me ever again. Think that any of the guys are getting pawed at or kissed on? It happens and it’s totally gross.

Also, to your point about #1, yes, this happens quite often. I know of at least one Canadian who I constantly see doing it. I try not to say hi to anyone when they’re playing a game - practice or not. But there are the types who will do so without thinking about it, and sometimes use physical conduct to do so.


At Pinburgh there was an A finalist who at some point during qualifying kicked a pinball game after a drain resulting in a tilt thru for the next player, which caused her to be (rightfully, in my opinion) upset at his behavior. TDs got involved but not before the player who kicked the game condescendingly explained “look sweetie, here’s what’s gonna happen. I’m going to get a zero and you’re going to get a compensation ball, Hon.”

That’s one example. Plenty more goes on though, and I doubt I even get to see 5% of it.

Men in pinball “helping” “teach” newer women in the league how to play pinball, despite the men not being any better at pinball or having any skills other than flailing. Despite the men not being asked to help in any way. Despite the men being just as new to pinball themselves.

Men making sexual jokes and innuendos about the women who are playing because they can’t say balls without it being a huge deal. Women being considered “cool” only if they laugh at the same “handle those balls” joke for the 8,000th time and “b****es” otherwise.

Years of ongoing backlash about women’s leagues and womens-only tournaments on the internet.

A Stern marketing director telling women who criticized the woah nellie! theme to “get off the internet and play pinball” and blocking them from the official Stern Pinball fb page instead of making any sort of attempt to engage constructively at all.

From what i’ve seen in the past few years, the womens-only leagues have been some of the best changes for pinball. They are getting tons more women involved than most “open” leagues have and it blows my mind that there are men who are somehow opposed to these leagues like it’s somehow unnecessary or an offensive political statement.

If anything, the women i’ve met in the pinball scene do nothing but downplay the amount of sexism they face in pinball, because so much of it happens that it’s just not even worth discussing.

I guess it could be worse, we could be playing League of Legends :smiley:


This is a good convo b/c it really highlights how easy and reflexive it can be to dismiss another group’s experiences because you’ve never felt that way yourself.

It’s rad that you’ve felt real positivity and inclusiveness in this community, but there are also people who are saying it’s not all roses for them. I don’t mean this as a personal slam at all — just that it’s a really great illustration of what this thread is about. I am constantly guilty of this, and when I started to realize how often I did it, I had to really work to check myself and just. listen. instead. Responding with “that’s not my experience” may feel constructive, but really it derails and delegitimizes the actual experiences of others.

It makes sense that dudes wouldn’t be as tuned into this as women are — we’re the majority, so we’re generally not dealing with an everpresent hum during pinball events that reminds us of our gender.


Another tip - when women initiate a conversation about behavior that makes them feel marginalized, listen to them.

Don’t dismiss their experiences by trying to explain away incidents you weren’t present for. If multiple women then respond saying no, believe us, this happens, don’t double down and do the same thing again, then attempt to derail the conversation by changing the subject.

Not trying to pick on you in particular, but seriously this entire post is like a textbook example of how not to be helpful.


wow, that’s just crazy. Did you not press charges?

I disagree that I’m dismissing anyone. I’m not saying it’s not happening. And while yes, I did share a personal experience. I also shared a more objective one in my opinion. That was how a group behaved in a place I had never been before and was on the opposite side of the country from where I live. I also explicitly stated that it was my POV which everyone is entitled to. I did not say it’s how it definitely is.

Well, when you’re trapped in a room by yourself and the sexual offender who has their arms around you and hands on you, your first thought is not “wait till the cops hear about this one.” No, I was too scared to do anything the first time and instead just shuddered and felt like vomiting after the guy walked away. After that I was extremely vocal to our pinball community at large as well as made sure to tell the guy’s wife what happened. Nothing ever came about it. So when he did it again I was very blunt about my boundaries and what I would do if he ever violated them again.

[deleting; post was based on a typo in earlier post]

1 Like