Sexism in Pinball: Practical Examples


I think the challenge is… do you see that and say ‘that upsets me’ or do you say ‘that isn’t for me…’. Do you look to have games/products change to be more universal, or if it doesn’t align with what you seek, do you decide to look for entertainment elsewhere?

It’s the classic ‘find what you like’ or ‘ask others to change to accomodate what I like’.

In the classic sense, if a market is left underserved, that’s a business opportunity for someone to go address. Or should we instead expect every business/person/space should have to appeal to all audiences? We don’t ask creatives to address all potential viewers, why should we expect products to?

I don’t like illustrations that try to highlight lack of equal representation… because it infers equal representation is the utopia. I don’t think that allows for rightful swings in other ways… like aspiring or accurate representations.

I would much rather focus energies on stopping things that promote ideas, traits, behaviors, or images that convey hurtful or insulting imagery or ideas… instead of trying to enforce all to embrace all. I’m more of the ‘live and let live’ camp… if I don’t like someone’s idea of humor, I remove myself from it. Only when there is no freedom of choice or selection do I feel stronger that things should be more universal or welcoming. Example: I think a public park or bus station should do its best to be culturly aware as possible. But if a bar wants to operate with bras on the wall and anti-midden eastern ‘humor’ on the walls… then I think that’s up to the bar and its patrons to decide if thats the environment they want to maintain.

If people want to be idiots in their bubble… that’s fine by me… I just try to keep it out of my bubble and where my bubble has to be (public, work/employment, etc).

I believe you can give the opportunity to educate… but you can’t force people to accept the knowledge.


As far as hugging goes, isn’t there a basic social etiquette that should be known by people? This isn’t pinball stuff, but life stuff in general. If I haven’t known you for a long period of time and we are not friends that see and speak to each other on a regular basis, and haven’t determined over the course of our friendship that a hug is acceptable, then NO HUG FOR YOU… You will get a firm handshake and a “Nice to meet you” or “Good to see you again” greeting. If a hug is initiated by the other person (male or female) you will get a polite loose hug with a couple light pats on the back with the above greetings, and also (if female) making sure that chests do not touch. Really? No chests touching? Yes! It’s rude, uncalled for, not necessary, respectful to the newly met female, and respectful to my wife weather she is present or not… You don’t want your breasts pressed up against me anymore than I do or my wife would appreciate. It’s not appropriate behavior. That’s just me.

And that whole “I’m a touchy feely type person” is bullshit when it comes to first meetings, occasional encounters or where boundaries haven’t been previously set. Are you gonna give your new female boss a close tight hug on your first day at the new job or any other day for that matter?.. Didn’t think so… Show some tact and respect. Either practice what your father taught you or fucking learn it because otherwise you just look like and are perceived as an asshole.

Regarding the guy that made the tampon comment (don’t remember if I read it in this thread or the FB thread)?.. One of these days he’s going to mouth off to the wrong person and end up swallowing teeth. Karma has his # !!



I mentioned it in the Skill Shot Pincast topic, but I think a major part of the male dominance of pinball is that, at least currently, it is closely associated with club-type bars. You know, the kinds like Moe’s Tavern on The Simpsons, which is meant to be kind of a social gathering for locals and groups of friends to hang out. This type of environment naturally creates cliques, and traditionally, it has been all-male. A woman joining in is seen as an outsider, someone who makes them feel uncomfortable, especially if this woman is able to show the men up in a competition. Even men who don’t realize they’re being sexist may be doing so because of their environment, as it’s one where they naturally relax and feel less inhibited.

But the way I see it, it doesn’t even have to be a bar. At least, growing up, even the arcades around where I lived had their own cliques (though, because they were cliques of pre-teen and teenage boys, they blocked off everyone not part of their group).

That we’re even having this discussion is hopeful not only in giving everyone ideas on how men should best conduct themselves and how women should deal with sexist men, but that this has historically been a growing pain for any entertainment medium that’s only starting to bring women in. The first thing to come to mind is organized sports (probably because the Olympics are going on right now). The male athletes detested these women coming in and doing their own thing. I don’t know of a single case where the next thing to happen is more women joining in and eventually becoming an accepted part of the people involved in it, which is why I think it’s just a matter of time before this condescending behavior ends, or at least rendered mostly unacceptable at all times.

As for what to do in the present? I do not know. I do know that there will always be people who insist they’re the greatest person in the room, or at least who don’t want to feel like they’re the dumbest.

Something I want to point out is that competition can bring out the worst in some people. Some people can be rather sore losers, some people become really paranoid, and some people will be willing to do some underhanded stuff in order to win. For some reason, I tend to blend in in crowds and not get noticed or remembered, and as a result, I am perpetually subjected to the “rookie crushers” of every competition I’ve been to that wasn’t pinball. (The idea is that if it turns out I’m doing better than they anticipated, they will attempt to collectively remove me or at least make me feel as uncomfortable as possible).

For the record, if I’m getting a lot of spinner shots and seeing my score go up, my go-to words are “destroying” or “killing” the spinner. Or any other noun. We Americans and our much greater acceptance of terms relating to violence, you see.

If you mean video game culture, I can say with absolute certainty that that is exactly where it’s coming from. Video game culture is full of teenagers and young adults who want to feel rebellious, edgy, or at least trollish, so you will see words like that used all the time. The more offensive it feels, the more appealing it is for them.

Remember that this is the culture that popularized “teabagging.” (For those of you not big on video game terminology, this is the practice in online multiplayer games where, if it’s possible to do so, you defeat an opponent, then go up to the character’s corpse and rapidly crouch and un-crouch as to simulate dry-humping. There are some people who feel insulted if their character dies but the killer does not teabag their corpse. I kid you not. I’ve encountered some myself.)

This is also the culture that popularized the initials “SJW.” (“Social justice warrior,” a phrase that’s now banned on sites like Anime News Network.) Over the year and a half or so since it got started, it’s become increasingly popular among young geek communities. It’s also incredibly vague but seems to currently mean “a person I disagree with politically, especially if it’s left-leaning and/or feminist.” A result of the latter has been a (highly uncomfortable) wave of anti-feminism through video game culture, anime culture, comic book culture, and YouTube culture. These are people who believe women in the industrialized world have completely equal rights, equal opportunities, and equal pay (very false, but try arguing with a conspiracy theorist who doesn’t trust any sources they disagree with–it’s common to hear them say the SJWs have taken over the government and the media, for instance, and thus create whatever sources they want) and that any present-day action in the name of feminism is because they want to take rights away from men and thus must be stopped.

Personally, I think the whole “SJW” thing currently going on is twofold. The first is a backlash against the current political climate, which is currently edging leftwards and thus they want to go rightwards in rebellion. The second, more importantly, is that these are probably young boys who are confused and somewhat frightened by girls and women, and it’s a natural animal instinct to lash out at whatever one fears. I think it’s no coincidence that the people unironically using this phrase are all college-age at the oldest and that I almost never see these people at public gatherings for video games, anime, or whatnot, indicating they are afraid of socialization in general.

I’m glad this group hasn’t made it into pinball, or at least in quantity. But I think a big part is because pinball, by nature, needs to have an offline portion, when you’re in a location and at a machine. Hence, it’s a hobby that pretty much requires offline socialization.


No. You have successfully described a social norm that fits your experiences. Other cultures do things differently. Some areas or subcultures hug people they’ve just met, others don’t. Some places do the euro air-kissing thing habitually, others don’t (and the number varies strongly by place). If you try to shake the hand of most east asians, you’re being offensive. Etc. Etc.

You don’t even have to travel to encounter this, just switch subcultures. Because pinball cuts across subcultures somewhat, this means that there is mixing going on, and not all people expect the same things.

That said, there’s certainly a widespread assumption that girls like hugs more than (cishet) guys; this can lead to problematic behaviour. That said, it’s also true enough to perpetuate the assumption; I certainly have equally close (older) family members of opposite genders where the female one would be offended if I didn’t hug her and the male one would be offended if I did. I assume this is still true in some subcultures (of younger folks) still, and not true in others.

Informed consent solves the problem. Coming up with a universal, non-awkward method to come to a mutually acceptable outcome is… complicated. Pay attention to people’s reactions, folks.


I think it’s been pointed out several times in this thread, that this is NOT a specific pinball problem… It’s a cultural problem.

Fortunately, Pinball is still a small enough community that we have the ability to really shape what’s acceptable within the pinball subculture.

Us Dudes need to step up when something inappropriate or insensitive is said or done. I have probably been guilty of being unknowingly insensitive to somebody (or many people?!) at some point, but this discussion is a great opportunity to think through the kinds of interactions we have, and what our offhanded remarks might be conveying to others.

More women is pinball is a great thing. I would like to do everything in my power to encourage, and support that growth. I don’t play a lot competitively, but I attend a lot of events, and play a bunch on location.

Thanks for speaking up here awesome pinball ladies, I look forward to being a part of the solution


Just came across a great Twitter thread this morning that touches on a bunch of the themes that have popped up throughout this discussion.

It starts by confronting the classic “not all men…” argument, where (often well-meaning) men will dissociate themselves from (and sometimes outright deny) a culture of sexism by arguing “not all men are {{ boorish sexists/rapists/harrassers/whatever }}”, and thus the whole premise is invalid.

The author also illuminates some of the deep cultural forces that make it possible for well-meaning men to be complicit in environments that prioritize their needs and diminish women’s, even when their actions seem harmless.

Highly recommend checking it out if you’ve got a few minutes:

(Oh, and Jeff Hoover is the dude who compiled this — @jaythenerdkid is the author).


I’m a few days late, but just wanted to chime in with the others in thanking Elizabeth for raising the issues in this thread.

As a man, it’s sometimes hard to see the sexism for what it is. Although some of it is quite open and apparent (the Twitch chat in the Women’s Championship was awful at times), raising sensitivity on the subtler points is helpful to me becoming more attuned to the problem.

Thank you.


I agree with you that if something doesn’t align with what you see, you look elsewhere for fun. However, that can be a very passive solution to a bigger problem.

The kind of pinball I think we’re talking about is playing in a group and social environment, with friends, strangers, etc. What you buy and put in your home is one thing and yes, to each their own.

I ran a tournament in Chicago once and had a female player reach out in advance because I was going to include Whoa Nellie. It was an eye opener for me and I was ashamed to not even have considered the potential issue with the lineup. It’s not that the game, art, or artists are bad. The issue is that we’re imposing these historically sexist “norms” on women and men who may not be comfortable with them and shouldn’t have to be just to play in a tournament.

There were plenty of depictions of blatant racism in old pins. At some point it was decided that it wasn’t acceptable anymore. If any manufacturer were to come out with “Hitler’s Mein Pinball” today and it was to be used in A finals at ReplayFX I have a feeling people wouldn’t just sit back and say, “well, it’s not for me but if there’s a market for it so be it.”

My hope is that the pinball community can break this norm we see across so many other gaming communities and, in turn, be a better example.

Regarding the post topic. My wife read this thread the other night and thought I should share how odd it is that when we’re together at tournaments and people swear in front of us they’ll apologize to her. “What the fuck is up with that?” :laughing:


Yes, but If I walk into a bar… and the bar owner has set a tone and atmosphere that THEY want for their business… Its not my place to try to ‘correct’ them. I can tell them what I don’t like, I can even decide to not patronize the place because of principle or because something bothers me enough… but IMO that’s where the line is drawn between my world and theirs.

I look at it the same way as with other people… I can tell them I don’t agree, or it bothers me, or whatever… but I believe they have the freedom to be an idiot, and I have the freedom to associate with that or not. If their behavior is seem as the ‘acceptable’ in that circle and it bothers me… then that’s not the circle for me. I don’t want their behavior and I don’t think they should have to listen to or someone else try to force change on them.

I don’t agree with the principle that ‘nothing should be offensive’ and we should strive to remove it all. I think its possible for things to be offensive while not being hateful. Not striving to be offensive, but trying to draw the distinction that it’s not just Good/bad and nothing else inbetween. I despise that terminology is abused to lump behaviors together (*-shaming for instance, or misogynomy) because I feel it fails to address real issues and instead floats towards the ‘snowflake’ model. Ironically… often fanned by a social media whirlwind that fuels more hate than anything, and yet its the biggest echo-chamber for highlighting supposedly bad behavior. (see the recent ‘racist’ claims with Ellen’s tweet)

(FlameSuit On) I don’t see someone calling a girl a ‘cow’ as sexist - I see it as a insult intended to hurt and cause anger. It’s not misogynomy - it’s an insult or attack on someone. Using another insult like ‘fat pig’ would be extremely hurtful and just as wrong. Everything about it is wrong… and wrong because the aim is to harm IMO.

I always try to be cognizant of the sensitivities of my friends or even strangers around me… and I will try to be as neutral as possible with people I do not know their boundaries… but I see that as a mutual respect thing.

I get the idea of shaping what the ‘accepted norm’ is when it comes to society - its always an evolving thing, and you would not have evolution without discussion or dialog, so thats why I feel open discussion around things is healthy as long as people can be objective and take in all perspectives… but I also don’t want to end up in a world where:

  • people are afraid to talk to each other because they don’t know how they’ll be received
  • where everyone is forced to be generic and not acknowledge the uniquenesses of an individual
  • where people are afraid to complement someone for fear of how its recieved
  • where we are walking on eggshells because even the most extremes are embraced equally as all others
  • where people are allowed to make standards on a whim and expect the world to bend around them – because frankly, some people are just crazy :smiley: We have to be able to ID crazy :smiley:

Concerning to me for example, the level of revolt I see at times where a stranger had the gaul to try to introduce themselves or start a conversation with someone, and it is received as harassment simply because the connection wasn’t desired or initiated by the receiver… to me that is downright scary for our society. I feel like some people need red light/green light lamps when making eye contact so they can properly project to the rest of the world what they want. Innocence is often ignored because they only consider themselves.

I fear a world where there is no humor or individual interaction because we have swung so far to the defensive.


we were raised to be respectful around women… to hold a higher standard. But some people take that as insulting in itself… At times I think it’s the over-swing from ‘equality’ arguments.

One person can see opening the door open for a woman as nice… another can see it as condesending as if they couldn’t do it for themselves. Yet, that distinction is usually made by the observer, not the do’er… how accurate do we think that is? :slight_smile:


I think where this becomes misogyny is where it appears, for one reason or another, that this type of insult or anger is only being directed at women. I’ve seen many situations where it appeared someone was treating women differently from men, and creating a hostile environment in doing so. I could be reading those situations incorrectly, but that is my impression.


I feel some of the situations others have described (squeezing shoulders without consent! free hugs for girls! explaining super basic things when you wouldn’t otherwise!) are aggressive and when it’s clear the person is taking different actions with women than with men, then it’s a problem. Introducing yourself is not harassment, but the situations others have described go far beyond that.


If people were capable of doing this successfully this thread wouldn’t exist.


That part I can very much agree with… so to take it back to the earlier cite if the guy was upset because he had to wait for GIRLS to play… I’m onboard with calling the behavior boorish and sexist because of the unequal treatment and the inferences of not belonging, less worthy, etc. Re-reading elizabeth’s opening post does portray that angle better than I was giving it credit for originally. I am far more off-put by that kind of behavior than terms people may find offensive because of other connotations.


I think the conversation around Whoa Nellie is a more complicated one, and to be honest I don’t purport to have a wrong or right answer, or even a terribly poignant point - but perhaps it’s worth having the conversation.

Removing elements from the public due to what can be perceived as offensive is difficult, because the lines are incredibly blurry. My completely made up example could be to have Whoa Nellie removed from a bank in a tournament due to sensitivities, and then that same location (let’s say it’s a bar) is happy to play Kanye singing about sluts and whores while people are playing their so called ‘gender and culturally sensitive and aware tournament’. I think these issues are much larger than pinball, and purvey throughout popular culture. Having said that, one person or one small change can move a mountain, so it’s not to say people shouldn’t make their voices heard on such matters. I do wish that people would view the world with a stronger critique of what’s around them in the larger context though.


But it is often observed to be interpreted that way. And that is one of the dangerous slopes IMO

The hugs and contact stuff I already addressed (and I don’t see that in the same vein as the quoted text regarding introductions). I don’t think that is appropriate contact between strangers… but as also cited, cultural norms come into play there as well. I felt awkward when some california dudes I just met tried to hug me… but as they were doing it with everyone I didn’t feel it was any sort of harassment/individual thing… just a very different expectation of personal space and what I reserve hugs for. Call it ‘cultural differences’. I didn’t hold it against them, I just tried to plan appropriately for the next encounter :smile:

Now the other stuff about coming up behind, grabing shoulders, etc… I just think that is inappropriate period. Just like I would say picking up a stranger’s child w/o prior consent would be inappropriate, or just grabbing someone’s drink and drinking it, etc. Lots of crossing the line uninvited. But is it sexist because it’s a female? Or is it just stupidity or lack of tact? A guy failing to acknowledge someone’s boundaries in itself I don’t find sexist… but if made clear it was offlimits, and then they failed to respect that BECAUSE they are women… and for some justification think they should welcome it because they are women… then yeah, now it’s not just the behavior that is the issue, but the intent/expectation.

Maybe that’s a long way to say… I focus more on judging the justification and intent… then trying to call out certain actions as universally sexist or not… (if that rambling makes any sense…)


I don’t expect everyone to agree with every example. I will say that each example in my list was related to me by more than one woman, and in each instance the woman in the situation felt that she was only getting these actions or remarks because of her gender.

A lot of it is perception, absolutely. I’m asking people take a moment to think about how their actions are being perceived by the female pinball community. The fact that people want to engage in this conversation, and are doing so with calm and civility, is heartening.


Like with the other behavior, to me it becomes sexist when it’s clear the person is treating women differently from men, and creating a hostile environment in doing so. There are definitely players taking these actions with women who never seem to take those same actions with me or any other men.

I agree with you that someone going around being a jackass to everyone is just being a jackass. :slight_smile:


A friend just directed me to this Pinside thread and it made me so angry that I want to cry. My heart is still racing. Think there’s no sexism in pinball? Just take a look at what the cats say when the mice are away. I was on Coast 2 Coast exactly one year ago today talking to Nate about these very same issues. I’ve been running a women’s league for nearly 3 years now. I’ve written so so many articles on this subject. I AM this subject and it hurts me greatly to see comments like this. It’s a LOT of screen caps, but please take a moment to see how and why this conversation is so important. Let’s just all do our own part to make safe spaces for people, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, body type, and so on to play pinball and enjoy themselves.

talking to


Honestly, stuff like that is pretty darn responsible for the existence of Tilt Forums.

Also, cheers to @gammagoat (@imharrow on there) and @MapleSyrup for attempting to guide the Pinside conversation in a positive direction.

Here’s my screenshot.