The Role of Masculinity in Male Gamers' Exclusionary Treatment of Women

Open Access
Weaver, Kevin Scott
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
September 08, 2016
Committee Members:
  • Theresa K. Vescio, Dissertation Advisor
  • Theresa K Vescio, Committee Chair
  • Janet Swim, Committee Member
  • Melvin Michael Mark, Committee Member
  • Lee Ann Banaszak, Outside Member
  • masculinity
  • gender
  • stereotypes
  • video games
  • harassment
  • discrimination
Women are frequently harassed and excluded by men in video gaming communities, implying that many men who play video games believe women do not belong in gaming. Interestingly, while gaming as a domain has historically been male-dominated, being a “gamer” is associated with stereotypes that do not match traditional conceptions of masculinity. I hypothesized that this conflict with masculinity presents the opportunity for gamer identity to act either as a replacement for masculinity, with potentially positive outcomes, or a stigmatized identity that men conceal, with potentially negative outcomes. Across six studies, I examined how masculinity is implicated in how men embrace gamer identity, conceal gamer identity, and negatively treat women in gaming. In a correlational pilot study, gamer identity correlated with less gender role conflict and less acceptance of men’s harassment of a female gamer, whereas concealment correlated with greater sexism and more acceptance of harassment. In Studies 1a and 1b, higher gamer identity prevented men from reacting to masculinity threats with increased acceptance of the harassment of a female gamer, and higher concealment again predicted more acceptance of harassment. In Studies 2 and 3, male gamers generally showed more positive treatment of female game developers, critics, and gamers, whereas concealment predicted mixed reactions and more gender stereotyping. In Study 4, gamer identity correlated with more positive views of gamers regardless of gender, whereas concealment correlated with more negative views of gamers and in particular a diminishment of female gamers’ competence. Overall, consistent with hypotheses, gamer identity predicted more positive and accepting treatment of women, whereas concealment predicted more negative and excluding treatment of women. Some results also indicate that gamers may behave in a patronizing way towards women in gaming such that women are treated positively, but not equally.