Sexism in Pinball: Practical Examples


I think one of the most important steps is recognizing that it’s usually not a matter of “sexist creeps” vs. everyone else. When we frame it that way, disputes tend to escalate very quickly, people get extremely defensive, and we end up in situations where no progress has been made but everyone is angry.

The reality is that we all do boneheaded things from time to time, and a significant amount of the behavior that makes women feel marginalized in the pinball community is not overt and easy-to-identify sexism. In fact, it’s often well intentioned and just not thought all the way through. For example:

You clearly feel strongly about this subject and I don’t doubt for a second you have the best of intentions, but the assumption that this stuff is happening because women lack the confidence to speak up is rather insulting. That doesn’t make you a sexist who needs to be “bit[ten] back”, it just means there’s an opportunity for you to learn a little more about where many women are coming from.

Nobody’s ever accused me of being a shrinking violet, but I let probably 95% of cringeworthy stuff I see from dudes at pinball events pass without comment because I don’t want to 1) have to keep hearing about it for the next four, five, however many years, 2) permanently ruin my relationship with the player, 3) be blamed for his over the top response, 4) be told that I’ll be kicked out of the event if I keep causing trouble.

Those aren’t paranoid scenarios I made up in my head. They’ve all happened to me or friends of mine, most of them many times.

For my part, I’m not looking for perfection. I just want to be able to say “hey, could you stop doing x” without having to weigh beforehand whether whatever happened was bad enough to merit ruining the entire day (or week), because I know from experience that’s often what happens.


Played a tournament where they included Stern’s Playboy, which had been modded to be even more explicit.
(had 2nd highest score of the night, but still, come on)


I’d enjoy a mod of Playboy where the foldout reveals an article.


A female friend of mine said something like this the other day:

“I don’t really play pinball because it’s always in bars, and I don’t go to bars by myself because there is an expectation that women are only there when they want to be picked up by men.”

She seemed relieved to learn that she’d be “protected” by league - because it’s in a back room that fills up, keeping out random bar-goers for those 3 hours.

This isn’t something I had thought of previously as a barrier to entry for women in pinball.

I guess the point is that the welcomeness of the environment extends beyond just the people in the league/tournament.


In a way, they already ARE marginalized. This new wave of anti-feminism is something I have never seen exist outside of Internet and guerrilla campaigns in an attempt to shame and humiliate women in professional positions. In other words, their actions are always done in total anonymity. This leads me to believe they know this mentality and behavior is unacceptable in public.

Won’t stop them from venting their frustrations over their own insecurities though. If anything, I’d say they achieved this level of misogyny because they have been marginalized. I think it’s no coincidence that these people tend to believe wild conspiracy theories about feminists infiltrating the government and the media to enforce political correctness on the world. They kind of adopt an us-against-the-world mindset.

[quote=“kbmabq, post:161, topic:1800, full:true”]I’m a woman running a small company that regularly participates in pinball shows around the country. Some of the owners of other companies in the industry almost always default to talking to my husband about our company. Two very well known pinball company owners regularly come to our booth, shake my husbands hand and completely ignore me, like I’m invisible. I’ve heard that one of these men doesn’t ‘like to work with women business owners’. One owner stopped us and told my husband, ‘Hey, thanks for all the support you are giving us on Facebook. I really appreciate it.’ Never looked at me. Frankly, I run the damn company along with a trusted employee. My husband contributes but has another job. I don’t like the presumption about my role- whatever it is. I often go to that deep, dark place and assume they think I’m there to go get coffee, look good, do the books or be their secretary. But I know going to this dark place is doing the same thing they are doing to me.

I’ve never been in a position of power or management like that, but that definitely feels like it hurts. I don’t know, I thought that the idea of women business owners should be widely accepted by now, but perhaps it was not a common thing until recently and those people are part of an old guard…?

That is definitely an issue I’ve been thinking about ever since I played The Simpsons Pinball Party and heard Apu say, “Give this man an award!” or something to that extent.

I think I asked it right here some time ago, and I was answered that it was a “collective male,” though I thought that using masculine pronouns and the word “man” to refer to both sexes went out of style in the mid-20th century.

Which makes me wonder: Are there any machines where the player character is female, and the in-game voice clips unambiguously refer to the player character as “she” and “her”? Presumably, you’re playing as Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, but I can’t think of anything else at the moment.

[quote=“chuckwurt, post:190, topic:1800, full:true”]I think the only way they will stop is if literally everyone around them (men,women, dogs, cats, etc) call them out and they are left standing there looking like the idiots that they are. This is in reference only to the people that are blatantly sexist and think it’s totally acceptable. Not the ones that have made an honest mistake before and were apologetic and didn’t continue it.

I think if that happens those people will shape up, or better yet, ship out.

I hope that’s the more likely outcome. The cynic in me, however, argues that such a person, if they have the gall to behave as they do, will not think they’re idiots, but, as mentioned above, a paranoid us (well, me)-against-the-world kind of thinking, and consider themselves the one sane man in a world gone mad.

But either way, it’ll get them away from the place.

Better yet, a mod of Playboy with male models (and preferably with the audio changed accordingly). See how the dudebros react to that.


Who wants to play some Laser Cue?!?

I do! I do!


My canned response to “Ladies first?” is “Men second? No, let’s flip.”


Definitely just about spit my coffee out at that one. Well done. :clap:


While I think “ladies first” is pretty innocuous as far as sexist things go, I will say it does grind my gears because for the most part in competitive pinball, going last is an advantage. So it’s hard to tell when someone is being polite (while still treating me differently from dudes, so still not a fan) or trying to gain an advantage while looking polite. Even in non-gendered situations, just flip the damn coin (or whatever the TD-approved method for determining order is); like, if you like to go first, that’s great, but don’t just say “I’ll go first unless you want to,” because that makes people feel awkward or obligated to act a certain way. Let the coin flip happen and, if you win the toss, choose to go first! Not that hard. /rant


Went to a pinball event tonight and a bunch of women from the league went too, and in the end about 30% women in the tournament. A number of times we would flip for position, the guy would win choice, then choose player one when up against a woman.
They would never pick player one against a guy, so we were forced to crush their scores.

Adding: the tournament director said next time he wanted the software to choose player order, since flips were distracting. So that will solve that business

Advantages of playing last?

Our local match play tournaments use Brackelope which pairs people up and essentially chooses the order for us. So I’d be just as likely to be player 1/3 in a “me vs. X” as I would player 2/4 in a “X vs. me” scenario.


5 posts were split to a new topic: Advantages of playing last?

Advantages of playing last?

Did you ask them why? Or was this acedotal plus assumptions?

Advantages of playing last?

Totally anecdotal. They did not say “Ladies’ first” or anything like that to make a show of it, but I’ve never heard of someone choosing 1st position in a heads-up match before. :slight_smile:
but on that note, off to the “Advantages Of playing last?” thread!


Man I hope I don’t get painted with that brush by anyone. I often pick first if I’m playing a game with no strategical advantage to playing second just because I get in my head really badly if my opponent has a good ball 1. I bet it does happen though; it wouldn’t surprise me.


Probably only if you did it exclusively when playing women. :slight_smile:


Wouldn’t worry, I really don’t think you do. On the flip side, I like playing first against you to save time on the overall match. That way you can decimate me in two balls instead of three.


Some people do it for a change of pace… some try to ‘snap themselves out of the rut’ and get right to playing again vs waiting again… or just want to mix it up… some just prefer it. Point being, there is more than one possible justification behind an observed action.

Often when playing a lot with the same peeps… I’ll let the other person go last just as a ‘give and take’ even when we are playing for money.

People are complex and varied…


2 posts were merged into an existing topic: Advantages of playing last?


This is a good topic, thanks. I’m interested in some feedback on an issue that came up at a national open a couple years ago:

For some reason, in many of the larger tournaments in my country, there’s a separate set of women’s trophies, in addition to the main trophies. There isn’t a separate women’s tournament, there’s just the main event, but in the end the best female players get an extra trophy. At many of the bigger events, the software in use also highlights female players in some way on the ranking screens, so they can track their progress in their respective “subtournament”.

Now, at that specific tournament I’m talking about there was apparently some error in producing the trophies. I don’t know whose mistake it was, but it turned out that the main trophies said something like “Men #1” (mirroring the “Women #1” text on the women’s extra trophies).

Obviously, that doesn’t make any sense, but it didn’t seem like any of the participating women were much bothered by their preemptive exclusion from the top ranks.

I found that interesting, so I opened a discussion in our local forums about whether it makes sense to have those extra women’s trophies at all. There wasn’t any feedback from female players, so I talked to some of them directly, and those I talked to said they actually appreciated the extra recognition, and didn’t want that trophy system to change.

Personally, I find it weird to single out a group of players and give them extra recognition, but I can’t argue with setting up a tournament in a way that makes all the participants happy.

There’s a blatant selection bias, of course, so I’d be interested in some more opinions on the issue: Would you appreciate being recognized as the best female player in a tournament? Do you think it’s a good thing that there’s a higher number of female participants in a tournament because there’s some special recognition prize to be had?