Sexism in Pinball: Practical Examples


@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]


the word not was supposed to be there. editing now. thanks


What makes your personal experience more objective than the experiences shared by the women in this thread?


It doesn’t. Never said it did. FYI Begging the question is a logical fallacy.


Hey man- you’re getting super defensive. In my experience, that’s a pretty normal reaction to having your worldview challenged. I’m glad you had a good experience, but when a woman is telling you that an environment is sexist, she has information and awareness you don’t have, and is noticing things that you don’t notice. That is how bias works. Getting defensive in these situations is usually the first clue that you’re learning something- so maybe sit with your defensiveness a bit, and think about where it’s coming from, before you dig in further.

Sorry this sounds condescending- if I had more time, I’d write a shorter letter, etc.


If anyone wants to learn about themselves, try and then realise that even with good intentions and no malace, you may be part of the problem.


you’ve misinterpreted what i’ve written. I have not dismissed anything, I have not said it doesn’t happen. I’ve clearly stated what’s been shared is not okay. I have also not changed the subject.

I’ve merely tried to point out that one of the points made might not always be sexist because there are some generally nice people involved that want to help everyone. I followed up with some examples that illustrate said point.


I would like to see this thread move back to a point where we are directing our conversation to the issues brought up in the original post, rather than to each other. Thanks!


So that right there? That’s a conversation. That’s not at all the same as standing at the machine, turning to Bowen and having the first words out of your mouth be “Let me tell you how to play this game.” I’m sorry if you have an issue with the way I worded it, but every woman and most of the men in this thread understood exactly what I was saying.

They understood immediately because it happens all the freaking time.


I think everyone understands the point you’re making, but what they’re trying to say is that it doesn’t need to be made. Everyone can easily tell the difference between someone genuinely offering to share knowledge with other players and someone who is being condescending and assuming a woman doesn’t know how to play. One of those things is a problem relevant to this thread, and the other is a nice thing about the pinball community that people generally already know


That’s easy to say but in reality it’s not always quite so clear. I was recently called out on “mansplaining” something to another player when they had said something that seemed to indicate that they had a false understanding of the situation at hand. Of course I was just trying to be helpful like I do to anyone but it wasn’t a point I was going to try and argue. I’ve been a little less forthcoming with offering advice recently as a result because I can understand how it can be seen as condescending to bombard people with unsolicited advice even if it is in good spirit. I probably shouldn’t have taken it as badly as I did but I just love talking about pinball rules / strategy so I kind of jump on any chance I get to talk about it.

On another note recently I had an experience that really made me feel for female players regarding unwanted contact from other players. A local player at a tournament I frequent is very aggressively slappy / touchy / physical, and it’s really REALLY annoying to me. I once basically snapped at him and told him to “stop fucking touching me”. Of course nothing has changed and he still does it. Obviously that was something that was pretty easy for me to do as a hobo-looking 5-11 dude but I can imagine that it would be a lot tougher for a female player to react the same way.