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Twitch’s New “Dress Appropriately” Policy is Founded on Obliviousness

Because sexist dress codes do no one any good.


The following piece originally appeared on Fireside and is reposted with permission.

The 970 million dollar game-streaming service, Twitch, just updated their Rules of Conduct to disallow “sexually suggestive” clothing, including outright toplessness (gasp!):


Nerds are sexy, and you’re all magnificent, beautiful creatures, but let’s try and keep this about the games, shall we?

Wearing no clothing or sexually suggestive clothing – including lingerie, swimsuits, pasties, and undergarments – will most likely get you suspended, as well as any full nude torsos, which applies to both male and female broadcasters. You may have a great six-pack, but that’s better shared on the beach during a 2-on-2 volleyball game blasting “Playing with the Boys.”

If it’s unbearably hot where you are, and you happen to have your shirt off (gents) or a bikini top (ladies), then just crop the webcam to your face. If your lighting is hot, get fluorescent bulbs to reduce the heat. Xbox One >Kinect doesn’t zoom? Move it closer to you, or turn it off. There is always a workaround.

We sell t-shirts, and those are always acceptable. #Kappa

But make no mistake, the cheeky reference to the iconic Top Gun volleyball scene and the sarcastic mention of their branded tees are a frivolous smokescreen covering up the true motivation behind this policy change: some men are outraged that allegedly repressed women are able to barter their sexuality for more viewers than their male-bodied counterparts.

It’s worth noting that in the U.S., salaries for women are 2/3 of their male counterparts, and this is due to 10 thousand years of patriarchal oppression in which women have been both psychologically and forcibly conditioned to barter their sexuality and offspring in order to gain equal access to resources that are disproportiantely controlled by men. Though the gap is slowly narrowing as feminists are unravelling these patriarchal systems that give men competitive advantages in all areas of life, sexual agency for women continues to be a difficult nut to crack, as opponents of equality cling to slut-shaming rhetoric and the idea that men have ownership of women’s bodies.

top gun

So, when a woman barters her sexuality for a competitive viewership advantage with no promise of actual sexual favors or bearing of offspring, those who are oblivious to the patriarchal systems that even lead to this sexual bartering system to begin with raise up their pitchforks and cry foul. They are convinced that a woman’s value (and, indeed, her power), is entirely centered on her sexual desirability rather than any other merits, and that this sexuality is never hers to control.

Disturbingly, there are many anti-feminists who firmly believe that women, with their sexual bartering power “advantage,” have not only never been victims of a patriarchal system designed specifically to keep resources away from them, but also believe that they are actually more overall advantaged than men who supposedly have no such bargaining power. Again, this shows complete obliviousness to the myriad reinforcing tropes in our culture that have conditioned women from an early age to change their diet, their hair, their skin, their breasts, their wardrobe, their every-possible-facet specifically for the purpose of being sexually desirable objects, where such messages targeted at men are slim to none.

Top Gun Volleyball

In major video game releases, this cultural reinforcement makes for women characters who are objectified and treated as less than human as the default, a common trope that Anita Sarkeesian highlighted in a recent Feminist Frequency video. To be very clear, this new indecency policy doesn’t disallow a Twitch streamer from, say, basing their entire channel around having a nonstop adventure in the strip club at Grand Theft Auto 5. No, this policy change only addresses actual women controlling their own sexuality, the most egregious possible infraction from an oblivious anti-feminist observer.

“But this policy applies equally to men” would be a fine point of rebuttal if we ignored the indisputable fact of the wage gap and the many anti-feminist reasons behind it—and if we didn’t take comments on this news into account to explore the true impetus behind the changes (and, indeed, behind those who were submitting complaints to begin with). People aren’t complaining about shirtless men:

Twitter picTwitter picTwitter picTwitter picTwitter picTwitter picTwitter picTwitter pic

To summarize, women who have been conditioned to do exactly what has been trained of them in order to gain any sort of advantage (especially in a space that is traditionally extremely hostile towards them) are “attention whores,” and unwelcome in situations in which their sexuality ultimately belongs to them.

Never mind the implied criticism that these women streamers might all be those dreaded “fake gamer girls;” the truth is that women merely having female bodies, regardless of how conservatively they dress, will be perceived as sexually inviting and exploitative. Merely owning boobs is considered enough provocation for conservative critics and for harassers to feel justified. For women, there is never a sweet spot for their sexuality.

This policy change was founded on the oblivious belief that men and women have equal earning potential in gaming spaces and that nipples (which are also possessed by men) are giving women a competitive advantage in this supposedly equal setting. But men and women are not treated equally, and achieving real equality means recognizing when women are being targeted unfairly by conservative policy changes steeped in patriarchal idealogies, something that Twitch absolutely failed to recognize.

Matt Albrecht is a games culture critic, advocate for inclusivity, and local multiplayer fanatic living in Brooklyn. His web show, Fourplay, is founded on inclusiveness, accessibility, and camaraderie, featuring guests from all walks of gaming in a celebration of creativity and play. Flirt with him on Twitter at BookishMatt.

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