I confess, I’m not 100 percent sure why I got banned from Twitch. Ok, ok, excuse my melodrama. It was only a 24-hour ban, and I’m almost certain I could dive back on the streaming service right now without any problems. I’m still gathering subscribers, despite having limited activity on the site, I’m still getting the emails and referring people to my account when they ask (with the polite request they keep their expectations low. A gamer I am, a ridiculously talented gamer, I am not). To be fair though, I’d anticipated that I would one day fall foul of Twitch’s community standards somehow. For a while now, Twitch has been shifting its goal posts – going from a simple service for live streaming games to now swaggering into YouTube’s territory, with streamers using the ‘IRL’ʼ section of the site to share… well, just about anything. The ability for users to monetise their feeds has meant that these budding new online celebrities are learning quickly from their YT counterparts. Clickbait is king and, unsurprisingly for anyone – except maybe Twitch HQ – sex sells.
There’s a certain level of hostility that goes hand in hand with being a woman who streams. You’re either showing too much, not enough or you fall under the banner of ‘fake geek girl’ regardless of how good you are or how often you play. I could link that back to the gaming “community’s overall treatment of women – but that could take hours and most of the pages in this issue. So when savvy female streamers started using the IRL section in ‘creative’ ways in order to increase subscribers, donations and views – it didn’t take long for tensions to rise.
As a result, in February 2018, Twitch decided to roll out its new ‘standards’. The intention was to explain what the moderation guidelines for identifying inappropriate content and streamer conduct on the site would entail. “We’ll be looking at contextual elements such as the stream title, camera angles, emotes, panels, attire, overlays and chat moderation.” On the surface this makes a lot of sense, however instead of going into more detail regarding, for instance, “attire”, the service was pretty vague. “Attire in gaming streams, most at-home streams and all profile/channel imagery should be appropriate for a public street, mall or restaurant.”
Twitch pointed out that its standards applied to all genders, but it’s clear that the action was being taken to limit the rise of ‘bikini streamers’. This could be any female streamer wearing anything that could be considered remotely sexual – no, not just bikinis – like, gasp, a low-cut top or a tight t-shirt. I want to point out that I think there’s a place for explicit content and while I don’t think Twitch is that place, I do think these guidelines, rather than being used for good, are being used to discriminate against and place undue expectations on female streamers. Twitch was forced to elaborate after several of its users called the service out for the sheer flakiness of the initial announcement. For gaming streams, the “mallʼ standard” still applied. For IRL streams, the expectation was now that “attire appropriate to those public contexts is recommended”. Its examples? Fitness wear for a fitness stream or, a swimsuit (dare we say a bikini) for a stream from a public beach. Provided the camera angles are right, of course.
In the early days of its service and even to now, Twitch benefits from the community of women who stream there. The proof is in the numbers, with follower counts into the hundreds of thousands. I don’t use Twitch regularly, but when I do I’m not thinking about camera angles or what to wear. I’m thinking about games. Let’s hope that doesn’t get me another ban.