Sexism in Pinball: Practical Examples


Thanks for bringing this up on here.

I’m pretty sure you and I spoke about what happened to me at Pinburgh this year and I would like more people to understand this problem, not just with sexism but sexual harassment as well.


To be fair to the asshats who run the Stern FB page, they will block anyone who is critical, without bothering to consider the criticism, regardless of gender :wink:


Not always. In one of the discussions of that specific topic, a woman from my league posted a critical comment and was immediately blocked from the page and had her comment deleted. Less than an hour later, her boyfriend posted the same comment word for word. The difference in response was striking. He didn’t get blocked, his comment was allowed to stay, and he even got a polite response from Stern.


Eh, that situation was a bit different. I’m not saying your statement is wrong, but they seemed to be going after any woman who was upset about WN:BJM!. They had shared an article by a trans woman about inclusivity in pinball with the comment “Girls, girls, girls.” I couldn’t quite tell if they were referring to the Crue song, or saying it with a sigh. Either way, I commented that sharing that article in conjunction to the release of WN:BJM! was a slap in the face to every woman who was actively trying to make their scene more inclusive. Insta-ban!


Wow, that is absolutely ridiculous.


Ugh, I remember that. So awful.


I love this thread. My wife and I talk about this subject all the time during pinball events. The “mansplaining” of pinball is the worst to listen to.


Well that’s just bloody lovely. :dizzy_face:

I was insta-banned for suggesting that perhaps a third table themed after washed up rockers that haven’t had a quality album in the last 25 years was a questionable choice.


It seems like there’s an unfortunate disconnect between 1) non-sexist dudes in pinball that don’t have any/many female friends in pinball and 2) women pinball players. At least personally, I don’t think I’ve ever really witnessed anything out of line in person that I can think of, which unfortunately used to bring some level of skepticism when I would read stories about what women pinball players generally have to deal with. Clearly, the near universal nature of this experience as a woman in pinball and the stories shared by just about any woman in pinball has removed any doubt, though.

I suppose what’s at play here is that (just making up numbers to make a point), if 5% of dudes in pinball are total assholes towards women, and 10% of pinball players are women, it’s not hard to imagine how nearly all women in pinball will periodically have to endure pretty shitty behavior from some set of men, yet a sizable fraction of men pinball players will never/rarely see this kind of thing go on.

So, as one of the dudes who for some reason never sees this: thanks for sharing experiences like this. I doubt it will change any of the real assholes, but hopefully it makes more of us non-assholes aware of what’s going on, and mentally in a position to help out in the case of something shitty happening, instead of just being shocked and not doing something in the moment.

I’m sad to hear there was even shitty happenings at Pinburgh @ehobbs. Again, thanks for sharing.


She asks a subtle question about the order constraints for stacking multiballs on IM.
He makes a detailed explanation about how to bring up and bash Monger.
(Her scores reflect having collected Do Or Die in a prior game).


Thanks so much for saying all of this. I do totally understand the disconnect that you’re talking about. I seriously doubt that anyone saw what happened to me at Pinburgh, and the scary part about being female is the fact that some times we are not believed in these situations. Luckily, in mine, it was handled so well by Bowen and Mark, plus the other staff. This person is no longer allowed to come back to Pinburgh and I feel much safer going back next year.

I feel that many of my friends are male that play pinball and they, unfortunately, don’t recognize the blatant sexism that I see from time to time. I don’t blame the game, I blame that 5% of douche bags that can’t handle women possibly playing better than them. This is something that I feel is a personal problem that’s deeply rooted and hopefully they can change, but I have a hard time thinking they will.

All-in-all most of my experiences are great and I love playing, so that’s what matters to me.


I’m sorry to hear about the incident, but very glad to hear how it was handled by the staff!


Walk up behind Bowen while he’s playing a game, squeeze him by both shoulders, and say “hi”.
Walk up to Bowen and hug him without introduction because you are friends on Facebook even if you’ve only really met a handful of times.
Lean in to Bowen’s ear and tell him you have next game while he is in the middle of a ball.

Are these sexist examples, or just examples of flat out inappropriate behavior? Personal space, etc isn’t just about sexism. And BTW, I’ve been hugged by people I’ve just met so many times and I don’t think it has anything to do with my gender or their desire to sneak a grope in. For example, It seems to be a california thing to hug people you just meet and act like you are life long buds. My personal standard with women is to not offer a hug unless they do first. But that’s just me…

Tell Bowen that he should smile more.
Ask Bowen why he isn’t smiling.
Stand behind Bowen in line and loudly complain that he’s taking too long to play his game.
Tell Bowen that he’s being too competitive.

If these kinds of conversations didn’t happen between men as well, the ‘Hey, its only pinball’ quote would have had only a fraction of it’s uses over the decades.

Conversations happen all the time about being people too intense, or that they should drink more, or just enjoy it, whatever… pretty sure no one was creeping on each other when they said stop being so grumpy and drink another beer. My point being often its more the context and delivery than it is the statement itself.

I’ve seen cases where offering someone a beer to go drinking with the group was construed as trying to get them drunk and sexual harassment.

I get women being uncomfortable with people doing certain things – but your(used generically) discomfort doesn’t define their intention or bias… just if its appropriate or not to you.

I can tell a woman I think her outfit is incredible… and one woman could feel good about that, and another could feel like I was a creeper… all while my intention or any biases were the same.

Sure makes it hard to classify some behaviors when the receiver can interpret things in such a wide range.


Probably one of the most distressing things to me is how frequently women sharing experiences like this are completely dismissed by some men in the community.


Socializing with others is not one of my favorite things about pinball. Never has been. When I was a kid, I just wanted to play the game, maybe earn a replay, etc.

That said, I have the same expectations in public about personal space and not being a jerk as I do when I’m playing at home.

Intent doesn’t matter, people are made uncomfortable by those actions. I would feel extremely marginalized and unsafe if many of these things happened to me, and would also be quite unhappy if someone told me to smile more. That particular comment from dudes is cringe-worthy, and of course happens in more than just the pinball setting.

Competitive play doesn’t interest me in the least, and much less so when I hear that this kind of thing is going on (today? 2016?). Barf. The fact that it is not surprising is just sad.

I understand all of these examples, but the one I’m sure I’ve done myself is the ‘hey, you won a replay’ thing (mostly to folks that I suspect have never played pinball before). Winning free credits has always been a big deal (to me), so I want to make sure that it’s clear that a person is leaving money on the table if they’re walking away from a game with credits on it. This is especially true of match credits. I frequently would miss a match when I went off to go get more quarters as a kid. I do see that it can be patronizing. I’ll certainly stop doing that in the future. Winning during gameplay is another thing, and people typically know that, especially on modern games that scream, “replay” at the top of their lungs. Again, intent doesn’t matter - now that I know it makes people uncomfortable, I won’t do it any more.

I’ve also explained bingos to men and women, but in the context of a pinball show or at my house, when I see them walk up and look for flippers with a puzzled expression on their faces… and ask if they would like to know how to play. I’ve had one person say ‘no’ (at a show), and I left them alone. I only offer other info if asked on other games. Many many people know how to shoot the X to lock Y or get Z points. I can’t really stop offering to give an explanation at shows (for bingos) or people will not play the games. They plunge between 3 and 5 balls and walk away. Male, female, adult, child. Once they get a tutorial, many play several games. If this is something that would make you uncomfortable, please let me know and I’ll alter my behavior at shows. These are not ‘plunge and flip’ games, and require you to read what’s happening with each ball. Chess vs. checkers.

I’ve known too many women who have been hurt by dudes to be skeptical about anything they say about being uncomfortable/hurt/etc. Really, it only takes one.


Can’t we all just get along!


Apparently, no, we aren’t, and that’s why this discussion is useful and necessary.


In my opinion, these issues aren’t directly associated with competitive play. They become more visible in competitive play, compared to arcade play or a show, because there are more required interactions between people. The OP’s lead example is not from competitive play.

Thanks for posting and being part of the conversation.


I didn’t want to super elaborate on what happened but it was said more as a “Did you know you won a free game?” rather than “Yay you won a free game!” or a confirmation that I was indeed walking away from a free game. I wasn’t super offended or anything, just kind of an eye-roller. Barely a story worth mentioning, but only because OP asked for practical examples.

Overall the men that I play with on the regular have all been cool. I’m not gonna lie and say I haven’t heard things that are offensive, but I don’t think anyone has ever doubted or questioned my ability as a pinball player which is more important to me.


Also happened at Pinburgh to a woman player that I heard first hand:
Playing Skateball with a guy who blames his loss on being distracted by the huge boobs on the backglass art. Then expresses his discomfort with being ‘beat by a girl.’