I've been following this thread with interest all weekend and now that I'm in front of a computer I'm excited to chime in. One thing that I think is important to note when having this type of conversation is that the behaviors and situations we are describing are not unique to pinball, nor are they endemic to pinball. They are not caused by pinball. They are instances of larger societal forces that women experience throughout their lives; as women who play pinball, we're describing how this manifests in this particular hobby so that our community can be aware and respond appropriately.
To this end, an anecdote: a dude was interviewing me for a radio show last year, and I told him some stories about how, when I'm out alone playing pinball, men interrupt me regularly when I am obviously busy and have not indicated any interest in talking to them. The reporter asked, shocked, "What is it about pinball that makes them think that's ok? It's not like they're doing it randomly in other parts of your life!" and I was like.......uhhhhhh, they totally are! Men approach me when I'm on a run, taking out the trash, even stopped at a stop light with my car window rolled down. It is absolutely not pinball-specific, and it absolutely is freaking annoying no matter when it happens.
Then, the reporter interviewed a male pinball friend of mine and asked him about whether people approach him while he's out playing alone (not mentioning what I'd previously shared). My friend was aghast at the thought. He said something to the effect of, I mean, people definitely watch when I'm having a good game, but they wait til I'm done to talk to me. Women are navigating a world where many guys feel entitled to our time, our personal space, our attention, and it doesn't play out like that for men. It just doesn't.
I could go on and on. I basically do go on and on, on Tilt Thru or in discussions with other women. I could talk about the stranger with no mutual friends who Facebook messaged me after I won the women's world championship to comment on my "gorgeous smile." I could mention the men who tried to explain to me how a tournament was structured after I'd made it to the semi finals (beating high level opponents like KCB and REG to get there, I might add), not realizing that just because I don't travel to big tournaments doesn't mean I don't know how they work.
But that would be a monster-length post (and I feel like this already is), so I'm only going to include one more example: I have been organizing pinball tournaments in Portland for 6+ years. My co-organizers (both men, and rad feminist allies to boot) have been involved in pinball for a long time, but have not been involved in the Portland scene and our long-running tournaments nearly as long as I have. At Portland Pinbrawl 2015, two A-level players from out of town, both of whom knew me and had played against me in the past, approached the tournament official booth to get a ruling. I was the only TD in the booth at the time. They asked me if I could call one of my male co-organizers over so that they could make a ruling. They literally didn't realize that I was on the same level as the other TDs, even though I was the one who was most visible, making most of the announcements on the microphone, recording match results, etc. When I said, ".......or I could make the ruling..." both players were appropriately mortified, but the fact remains that they didn't read me as a full TD, and gender is the only thing that differentiated me from the others.
Okay, I'm done (for now). Thanks Elizabeth for starting this topic, and thanks to all the forum participants for being cool, respectful, open to learning, and receptive to new perspectives. This is the kind of conversation I envisioned when we started Tilt Forums and I'm glad to see we've cultivated a community where it can happen.