Online Voice Chat Is Often A Sexist Nightmare (But It Doesn’t Have To Be)

Online voice chat is often a sexist nightmare (but it doesn’t have to be)

Your voice is telling – it can give away a constellation of personal details, including your age, where you’re from and how you feel. This is not always a problem and can even be an advantage. Your voice can help you bond with a stranger in your hometown, your friend’s voice gives you relief when you hear it on the phone after a tiring day. But on the instant messaging platform Discord, a voice can quickly be weaponized.

The miasma of Discord’s voice chat option, which is available for any of the 6.7 million active servers on the gamer-focused platform, regularly swaddles female and non-male users who enter. On online spaces for non-male gamers like r/GirlGamers, you see the fallout, people regularly share the abuse they experience on Discord voice chat or VC. Why? Their voice stands out from a chorus of cisgender men. A waiter’s reaction to hearing the difference can be sickening. “I was playing CS: Come on, and turned on my mic to talk with my teammates,” a Reddit user wrote to r/GirlGamers. “The next round, these two players blocked my path and wouldn’t let me play. ‘How much for your nudes? Come on, I know you got them, ‘I’m going to fuck you’, ‘What’s your chest measurement, your waist measurement, your hip measurement? I want to know everything.'”

If you’ve ever been on the internet, you know that this type of crude targeted harassment goes well beyond the confines of Discord.

“Marginalized users, especially women, non-binary people, and trans people, are more likely to experience harassment in voice and video chats,” said a gaming researcher. and doctoral student at the University of Central Florida PS Berge said. “The reason for this is what social media specialist Alice Marwick called ‘attack vectors.’ The idea is that when a person becomes the target of harassment, regardless of what triggered the initial confrontation, the target’s various marginalized identities become ‘vectors’ of additional attacks against them. »

But as the most popular messaging service for gamers, Discord and its voice chat feature, which is used during multiplayer games without their own voice chats, are major issues for marginalized gamers. They want to join the camaraderie of a game in a more material way, by talking to those they play with. But, in addition to facing blatant sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances, non-male gamers are terrified of being immediately mistreated or maligned for gameplay purely because of how they sound. To avoid this, some people use voice-changing software to sound more stereotypically “female”, pretend to be male, or simply refrain from voice chat altogether and dodge “female” usernames ( Kirby, a Reddit user cited in this article, was harassed for the seemingly “feminine” username “peachjelly”).

“I would like to spend a day without being threatened with violent rape and a lot of other weird stuff”, a Reddit user looking for voice changer recommendations says. “I will legitimately pay anything to be able to speak and be treated like a human.”

Verbal abuse in Discord voice chat keeps the game island and gamers scared. You can find the root of the problem in the abuser, his misogyny and his need to act heartless for no reason other than anonymity, which makes it easy. But until everyone is able to look inside (what a day it will be!), non-male gamers shouldn’t miss voice chat just because people want them to feel weird and small. . There’s absolutely a space for everyone in the game – read on for expert advice on how to claim yours in Discord’s voice chat.

Be picky with Discord’s many communities

“Because online games are male-dominated, when non-males are harassed they are much more likely to feel isolated,” Stephanie Fredrick, professor and associate director of the Alberti Center for Bullying Abuse Prevention at the University at Buffalo said. “Bystanders (often male) are more likely to keep quiet or even join in the harassment.”

When choosing a Discord server to join and participate in voice chat, you need to find one that you know will protect you from harassment. It might seem like a cosmic task, but when you look at Discord’s huge range of server options, it’s totally doable.

Discord Discovery Tab lists over 34,000 verified game servers and partners, and third-party site Disboard lists over 340,000. If you want to play games with people online but the communities you’re in are toxic and you’re stuck with players that make you feel uncomfortable, you don’t have don’t take that shit! It’s not Xbox Live. It’s not 2010,” Berge said.

They suggest looking for a few green flags when selecting a Discord community you might feel safe in. Like “is there a pronoun bot?” Does the server have any configuration to show pronouns in the user’s profile (or instructions on how to add them to your username on that server?),” Berge said. “It’s certainly not a litmus test, but at the very least clear guidelines for pronouns show that moderators and users are – at least on the surface – invested in seeing and respecting gender diversity in It can also be a useful tool to check if you are about to be the only woman or enby in a VC.

Berge also recommends looking for community rules and guidelines that specifically speak out against harassment, misogyny, transphobia, and homophobia. A community’s rules “can tell you a lot about what its moderators like,” says Berge. “It also means that in the event that something happens, you have recourse within this community’s guidelines for resolving issues with mods.”

Berge notes that a large community doesn’t necessarily mean more room for toxicity — some large servers run by game developers employ full-time moderators, a quality you might want to look for as well. But if a community is small and lacks that, Berge also says you can “check the vibe” by browsing existing text chats before deciding to join. Are insults part of the server? Can you already spot hostile language towards your identity group?

“While voice chats will always be a bit different, text chats are a useful guideline,” Berge said.

Discord’s many servers can mean a lot of content to browse, but if you want to make new friends or just find a group of people to play your game of choice with, know that a nice place exists.

“The [are] lots of nice people who aren’t bullies, and you’ll make lots of friends,” AngeIEevee, a Reddit user who tends to get worried about big video game servers, told me. “Guys generally consider being nice as flirting with them…even if you have a partner. [So] it’s kind of a difficult balance, but you’ll find some great people there.

Photo: Christopher Pike/Stringer, Getty Images

If you need it, lower the block hammer

There will be servers with voice chat channels that will make you feel welcome, but since harassment comes down to the actions of other people, not us, we can’t always prevent it.

If you are placed in a difficult situation, “it is important to have a precise plan on what [you] will do,” Fredrick said. “For example, users could ignore harassment, report, quit the game, or seek help” through Friends and Family, the confidential emotional support hotline Games and Online Harassment Helplineor online communities that make you feel elated.

Another option is to turn to established resources created to “help and support female-identifying and/or LGBTQ people in male-dominated online spaces,” Fredrick said. Take back the technology, feminist frequency, women in gamesand Take this, all offer mental health readings and resources that will help you stay protected and happy online.

But “in the event that something serious happens that endangers your actual safety (doxing, swatting, revenge porn),” Berge said, “it should be immediately addressed with Discord and the appropriate authorities.” Discord community guidelines include a way to report users, messages, and servers directly on the platform. If you need immediate action, you can disable entire channels and servers Where block direct messages and users.

In milder cases of harassment, muting might suffice, and the people interviewed for this article wholeheartedly approve of it. “If anyone seems rude, mute them ASAP,” Reddit user Kirby told me. “Don’t respond. These people don’t know how to get women’s attention, so they act rude and hope you respond. Muting them is the only solution!”

“The best thing is to enter [voice chat] agree that [harassment is] not your fault and has nothing to do with you, but rather the harasser,” AngeIEevee said. “Just turn them off, block them, and report them afterwards.”

And if you’re the problem…

“The question of how we can promote the safety of women and non-binary people on Discord and gaming culture in general should first be brought to the cultural level – how can we reinvent gaming culture so that it be expressly inclusive?” Berge said. “How do we untangle gaming culture from its roots in toxic masculinity? How can communities themselves welcome marginalized gamers while anticipating and mitigating harassment?

They said Discord did more public efforts to promote inclusiondiversity and well-being than other messaging services, such as distributing “more comprehensive bans and prevent offenders from easily creating new accounts.” Discord abusers need to know that they are being actively eliminated, and more than that, their behavior is dividing a diverse community that wants to be whole.

Patriarchal behavior doesn’t have to be overt to be harmful either – some non-male gamers intentionally single out or ostracize other non-male gamers in voice chat, a quieter method of keeping the community in shambles. For Discord bullies of all persuasions, their “tough baby” act (to quote game specialist Amanda Phillips) isn’t just a cliched way to be an internet jerk,” Berge said. “It’s terrible for their gaming communities.”

“It is never just the victim who is alienated,” they said.

I hope everyone can use some of the tips in this article and learn how to speak freely but with compassion – to improve the game and Discord, but more importantly, to set yourself free online.

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