“It’s not my job to dress for the audience I don’t want”

Another week, another twitter thread about “titty streamers”. Occasionally I find myself tagged in a group response that describes me as part of a “virtuous” group of crew neck devotees; “but these respectable ladies stream in wimples! They’re not like all those other girls.”

“Exactly: nun clothes – it’s for the fetishists! Such thottery does not belong on Twitch!” hisses the reply. (There’s just no pleasing some people.)

“Women on Twitch?! But girls don’t like games! Except Candy Crush, but that doesn’t count as a real game. Actual games have guns, or mana. Man-a. They’re just exploiting teenage boys.”

Twitch streamers are entertainers. On television, in cinema, onstage and in our social media, entertainers the world over perform in outfits that range from casual to skimpy. They sometimes draw outrage – Little Mix will be criticised for wearing crystal or pleather leotards, because the finger pointer found their debut single Wings empowering several years ago and doesn’t think the girl band’s output should change with their age.

But, for the most part, we don’t bat an eyelid at a person in the public eye wearing a low cut number as they host the National Lottery draw, or enter the Big Brother House – because these people are on camera and, understandably, they want to look their best. Being conventionally attractive is an asset – and woe betide anyone who doesn’t appeal to at least a sub section of society.

But when it comes to Twitch – a platform where “creators”, as the company calls them – broadcast gameplay, creative ventures or conversation – a vocal group has strong views on the presentation of female streamers. These women, who feel comfortable in their bodies and may feel at their best in a tank top, have been lumped into a group they did not volunteer for; the “titty streamers”. Meanwhile, women who wear jumpers are routinely set up in opposition, whether we like it or not. And let me be clear – as flattering as it is to have my channel recommended, I do not agree with being weaponised to attack other women. (And yes, I bite back.)

As a host, I can literally make a joke about my tit tape on an awards show broadcast and not be grouped in this “shameful” society – but appear in leggings and a “modest” top playing for high scores in Just Dance, and I become part of the gang. Because this isn’t about tits. Not really. This is about the unhappy voices feeling unheard; lacking self-esteem so much that they think an attractive woman’s content is being held in higher regard than their own. It is jealously that has blindsided detractors to the point that they can’t see why they have a problem.

People will watch who they want – and maybe people do watch me because they find me attractive – but they won’t stay if I don’t entertain them and cultivate a community that focuses not only on me, but the familiar usernames in chat and the people behind them; the moderators who maintain a sense of humour as they ban offenders, the updates from our respective lives, the cries as I cry out at a surprise frag and I accidentally blow a load of ear drums.

It’s not my job to dress for the audience I don’t want.

For all the arguments people have against streamers wearing what they want, every one can be shut down with a link to the Twitch community guidelines. Although Twitch Partners have an agreement in place to make money from streaming, we are self-employed; our bedrooms are our offices and we set the dress code. If it doesn’t fit your standards, switch off.

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