Sexism in Pinball: Practical Examples


I was worried that it could be interpreted that way, too. I asked out of interest. After all, if there is to be a women’s trophy or competition, it should be because of what the women want, not because of what the men think the women want.


Maybe it’s because I’m used to seeing outright and overt anti-feminism in those circles that by comparison, this attitude sounds downright progressive. Gamergate really changed discussion about the roles of women in society and in geek culture, compounded by the alt-right’s influence in those places. But I suppose that’s because in those circles, you get a lot of sexually frustrated teenage and college-age boys. (I mean, it’s not outright “stay in the kitchen and go make me a sammich!” attitude, but “feminist” is practically a derogatory term in those parts.)

What are the sort of things you hear anyway? I prefer playing when there aren’t a lot of people around, and there are very few events around here, so I almost never hear any sort of discussion among pinball enthusiasts. Most conversation I have about pinball at a pinball machine is teaching complete beginners the basics.

Ah, I think I get it now. The idea is that some of these men say that to try to remove women’s trophies because they are not comfortable with the thought of anything that might encourage more women to enter these competitions. Is this what was meant?

I don’t know why I didn’t pick up on that for so long.


I learned some things from this thread. Thanks for raising my awareness.

If I act inappropriately please tell me. I will thank you even if I don’t agree. (Law has done this and I’m glad he did.)

Some societies have many more restrictions on women than most US societies. I look forward to worldwide improvement and will do my best to support it.


Yep, she rocks.


My wife is way cooler than you are too.


I too am female and run a business in which men assume that I am not in charge. It is not just a pinball problem. I realize that I am selling items that mostly men collect, but when they are told to deal with me, I still get attitude. I have been doing this for 27 years, and it seems to be getting worse, not better. I get plenty too when competing, I purposefully dress like a guy to feel more comfortable in the pinball world. I don’t think most guys get it, we just want respect, not to be treated “special” . When trying to play in a finals last year, I had a guy come up to me and say Wow! I really think it’s great that you are in here playing. I was stunned, I was like, what? and he proceeded to tell me that it was great that I was a woman competing. Really? why . I seriously felt handicapped or something. This guy was a pest, I finally said, hey I am kind of busy right now. I don’t want to become too hardened, but this stuff starts to eat at you.


Or, for whatever other reason, they dislike it as a concept, but want to make it sound as though it’s not about them, it’s about their concern that women are harmed by it. It’s a sleight of hand, substituting the offense of some hypothetical woman for their own.


If the women want a women’s trophy, they should have one. If they don’t, then there shouldn’t be one.

But it’s probably naive to say “women”, as if they had some sort of collective hive mind. I know that I get annoyed when someone lumps me in with “the men”. After all, I’m me, first and foremost, and I’m certainly not the same as “the men” (whatever that means).

There was a thread on aussiearcade recently where one of the competitors in the 2017 Australian Women’s Pinball Championship asked whether the organisers could remove Whoa Nellie from the women’s comp because it is inappropriate. The women’s responses were mixed. They ranged from supportive to “I don’t mind, it’s only a pinball machine.”


A Guide For My Fellow Socially Awkward Pinball Nerds.

I wanted to post this a month or two ago when I read through this post but the topic had been dormant for awhile and I figured it had run its course. I will try to keep this pinball centric because that is why we’re all here but if anyone finds this helpful at all I hope it will be helpful in general.

There are certain situational behaviors (many have been pointed out above) when done at certain times with certain people are welcomed and enjoyed but when done at other times with other people can be irritating or even offensive, e.g.: giving someone a hug, commenting on sweet backglass art, complimenting someone’s appearance, explaining how a pinball machine works and so on. Whenever the topic of sexism arises good meaning people always ask “How am I supposed to know?” I.e. how are we supposed to figure out when something is ok to do and when it is going to offend someone if the same action can have both outcomes? I am here to tell you that I have no idea. And if you figure out how to tell at all times when situational behaviours are OK to do and when they are not please let me know. It is my belief that if you have to ask “How do I know” the answer is that you don’t and, like me, are unlikely to ever figure it out. I guess we are socially awkward pinball nerds for a reason. I have watched people who know, people who can breeze through a room, give hugs and high fives left and right, hey I really like your shoes, hey, have you ever notices this about Elvira…they always know when they can do what and with whom and everyone likes them for it. I have watched but how they do it remains a mystery.

The good news is that we don’t have to keep blundering through the pinball scene randomly offending people. I have a plan. It (mostly) works for me maybe it will for you. It is (nearly) foolproof. And the brilliance of the plan is that it requires us to do nothing at all.

The best way to share the plan is with examples. Let’s say we’re in a matchplay group and we have an appreciation for the backglass art depicting the human form. Should we share our appreciation for art with our fellow players? Since we’ve already determined that we don’t know if saying something will offend someone or not the answer is we should say nothing. There, we’ve done nothing, said nothing and no one was offended. Perfect. The matchplay game goes on unhindered.

Let’s say we’re at a tournament and someone walks into the room and we really like what the person is wearing. Should we pay them a compliment? Since, like above, we don’t know if they will be offended or not the answer is no. We’ve once again said nothing, done nothing and no one was offended.

Now, let’s say we’re in a head to head game and we don’t know if our opponent has ever played the game before. Should we explain the game? This is a tough one and one I most often ignore my own advice on, it is in some of our natures to be helpful, but again we say nothing, do nothing no one is offended the tournament goes on.
Because it is so simple I imagine the gist of the plan is now clear. Say nothing, do nothing, no one gets offended.

We are not perfect. The plan is not perfect and taking advice from someone who has no qualifications to give it [me] is far from perfect. We will eventually be on the wrong side of wanted/unwanted situational behavior and irk, irritate or offend someone. When someone points out our mess-up it is our natural and involuntary reaction to be defensive. Because of this the first thing out of our mouths should be nothing to allow for a moment of quiet contemplation. This is very difficult to do. But if we can pull it off it often works wonders. And if the next thing out of our mouths after nothing can’t be something along to lines of “I’m sorry, thank you for pointing it out, I will do better. Let’s move on with our match if we could.” then we should try to move on with whatever we’re in the middle of without saying anything.

The plan does have unintentional beneficial side effects however. Once we are not inadvertently and randomly bothering people we become much more approachable to our fellow pinball players. People will become comfortable asking us for our game knowledge. People will share their appreciation for sweet backglass art with us. People will sit down and share why they decided to get the Paragon backglass as a full back tattoo. People will ask us what we think of the shirt they are wearing they picked up at the last tournament. People will give us a friendly hug when they see us. In essence we get to do all the things we wanted to do, perhaps not when we wanted to do them, but at least with only the people who wanted to do them with us.

What happened at the end of the women's NW finals?

Thank you for this. Your plan works in all situations and for all genders. It’s a fantastic post.

I’m also really glad you necromanced this thread, because I told Priyanka earlier this month I would and then I didn’t for reasons that all eventually boil down to me being an asshole who can’t take 5 minutes out of her day. So:

It’s been about a year and I wanted to see how everyone was feeling. Better? Worse? No change? I definitely feel like this conversation had a small positive impact on our little community, but my survey of Me is a rather small sample size.


This is quite possibly my most favorite thing that has ever been posted here since we started.


To be honest as I saw you repeating this line over and over again I thought you were saying it ‘tongue in cheek’ and I was waiting for the ‘punchline’.

I’m all for being sensitive and mindful of our words and actions but if we are constantly ‘saying nothing and doing nothing’ for fear of offending someone, then you become the quiet person that no one talks to because you come off as unfriendly and cold. I’ve mistakenly offended people and when I found out I tried my best to make things right. In the future I will probably mistakenly offend people and will try my best to make things right.


This has worked for me, perhaps it may be helpful.

I have taken to asking the other players about their experiences with the game we’re about to play. If they say they’ve never played it before and don’t know what to do, I ask them if they’re interested in hearing a few bits of advice.

By giving an open-ended prompt (not a question) you get the other person talking, or you find out that they’re not interested in talking about it, and nothing irritating is offered without the other player’s clear, stated interest.


At PPO last year I was getting some early morning entries in. A guy in our league that I like a lot was score keeping, and he checked me in on Demo Man and wished me luck.

“I have absolutely no idea how to play this game,” I admitted. “I’ve played it maybe a dozen times, and all I do is flail. So, luck is about all the points I’m gonna get.”

And he stood there for a minute. And I think he thought it was a test. And there was a moment before the coffee caught up to my brain and I realized i hadn’t actually asked him a question.

“So… like, what’s the skill shot?”

This is an interaction that’s stuck with me all year. It took me a minute to realize he wasn’t just jumping to the explainy part of things because he was waiting for me to get to the asking part of things. That was so refreshing and new that at 9am on a Saturday my brain literally did not recognize it for a moment.

I placed third that day and now I can play Demo Man like a badass.


another thing ive noticed is that dudes frequently complain about animated female players being too “distracting”. a lot of people play with a very animated and eclectic style but it seems only women get called on it. twice at BCO two different players had to be told to just shut it out and if it bothered them that was their issue, and that a TD would step in if their behavior was determined to be interference.

a bunch of dudes shouting expletives, slapping glass and gettin all angry is just par for the course. but if a female is jumpin around goin “woo hoo” “jackpot” “yay” and celebrating during play its all “this woman is too distracting” “shes gettin way too excited” “calm down lady”.

its not their fault you feel compelled to pay more attention to them than other players.


well, i have a lot of other interests, hobbies, and social scenes i am a part of, so the “socially awkward pinball nerd” dynamic is not one i understand. i seem to be one of the people your opening paragraph is referring to, I think the majority of my league is as well.

I think keeping quiet out of fear of saying the wrong thing is the most unhealthy social advice you can give. better advice would be: if it sounds dumb or mean, it probably is, therefore just dont say it. We can all agree that there has to be a better way of solving this issue than just everyone becoming a social recluse. In my opinion, the image that pinball is full of reclusive awkward nerds with no social skills is a far greater barrier to our sports success than sexism is (not saying sexism isnt a problem, im just pointing out that no one has ever said to me that they think pinball is for sexists, but a lot have said that they think it is for nerds).


guess you’ve never been around while Colin Horner played… heheh

We basically needed a batters box around him… and the commentary came all the time, both about his style, and if it was appropriate, distracting, etc.


what a boring boring world… where everyone retreats further and further because of fear of offending people because no reasonable line is drawn.


haha good point. i dont know everyone and my experience is limited to the state of Texas. plenty of dudes get called on their behavior quite frequently, and i am not proud of the small number of outbursts ive had which warranted intervention. my point was about the weird double standard, for a guy to be called out for being too disruptive it usually takes some extreme outburst of aggression so outlandish it simply cannot be ignored. if a female is even remotely animated while she plays its labeled as too distracting. The unfortunate truth is that many pinball players are socially awkward and proud of it. They were distracted the moment a female walked in the door, and that females boisterous excitement is the excuse they need to avoid accepting their own inability to stay focused.


@tmontana, @bkerins, @gorgarsupperlip,

Indeed a multitude of efficacious possiblities exist and the more options we have to reach that desired outcome the better.

I like a “keep it simple, stupid!” approach because I can be a big idiot. If there were only one good answer here this would be a much shorter thread.