Gender Separation in eSports

The International e-Sports Federation (IeSF), based in Korea, is receiving a lot of heat online for their gender restrictions on the world championships. Some events are male only and others are female only but one is for both.

Male Competition: Dota 2, Starcraft 2, Hearthstone, Ultra Street Fighter IV

Female Competition: Starcraft 2, Tekken Tag Tournament 2

Originally sports were only played by men; later, women started to play too but were not allowed to compete and now we are at a point where women allowed to compete but in separate events to men. Some events are made easier for women (e.g. shorter distances in races) where others have equal events but split men and women into two separate competitions. For physical sports this makes sense – on a certain level (stick with me feminists) – but for sports that challenge mentally, like e-Sports, it doesn’t make any sense at all, it’s a completely level playing field. However, what baffles me beyond the separation is the different games that are available for each gender.


It feels very much like the IeSF are trying to create their own gender stereotypes whereby women should be playing Tekken Tag and men should play Street Fighter; but its okay for both to play Starcraft…in separate tournaments of course.

The official reasoning for this decision is as follows

“1 – promoting female players. We know that e-Sports is largely dominated by male players and females players are actually a portion of the overall player base. By hosting a female-only competition, we strive to promote female gaming on a global scale.

“2 – International standards. IeSF is very close to get e-Sports recognized as a true sports like it should be. Part of that efforts is to comply with the international sports regulations. For example, chess is also divided into male / female leagues.”


This is how big e-Sports is now. This is what we have achieved.

To cover (1), I have never understood the logic in how segregation helps promote equality, so that one is entirely lost on me.

(2) As I previously said, there’s no point in separation when the playing field is level. All you are doing is creating gender stereotypes for the sake of joining a system that is already flawed. To quote PCGamer magazine

“The Chess example is odd, because while there is a separate competition for women, women can enter the World Chess Championship and compete against men.”

If I were competing in the world championships I would want to know who is the best once and for all, not who the best man is and who the best woman is.



Following the criticism via social media, IeSF issued the following statement reversing their standpoint:

“Upon hearing these concerns, the IeSF convoked an emergency session of the IeSF Board to respond.

As a result, IeSF shall have two event categories: “Open for All” events and events that are reserved for women. The events which were initially set aside as the male division will now be open to all genders, and the events which were initially set as the female division will remain as they were.”

[Full statement here]

The ‘Open for All’ will include:

  • DOTA 2
  • Starcraft 2
  • Hearthstone
  • Ultimate Street Fighter 4
  • Tekken Tag Tournament 2

and the ‘Female Only’ section will include:

  • Starcraft 2
  • Tekken Tag Tournament 2

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