If you’ve ever attended a gaming expo, you’ll know what I’m talking about when I use the term ‘booth babes.’ These are beautiful women who are hired to wear as little as is deemed decent in public while enticing male customers to their stands. It’s a smart move, really; sex sells, and in a sea of endless people, they really do stand out. They are being hired to sell an overtly sexualised image which, in turn, makes the brand appear ‘sexy’ by using the powers of suggestion. This marketing scheme is not a modern idea, but clearly the men in charge have failed to note that it is now 2012 and not 1975, and that women actually play games now!
Here is a quick fact for anyone who is interested: the Entertainment Software Association’s own data suggests that “Forty-seven percent of all players are women, and women over 18 years of age are one of the industry’s fastest growing demographics.” I love this fact, because it shows us that what is deemed a ‘masculine’ industry/hobby actually appeals to nearly as many women as men. So, when I go to an expo, I find it incredibly frustrating and demeaning that this statistic is being either overlooked or ignored in favour of titillation. Even the label ‘booth babe’ is, in my opinion, a loaded, suggestive label. I can’t think of any positive connotations linked to this label and instead imply that the women are there to be ogled at, and not a lot else.
Is it really such a huge demand to ask companies to just stop having booth babes at expos in favour of an intelligent, knowledgeable staff of both genders? I’m a proud geek, and when I go to expos I want to get enthusiastic about games with people who are equally as enthusiastic about these games. This simply doesn’t happen with booth babes, and as much as men try to justify the reasoning behind them being there, it’s just because they look nice in hotpants. That’s the simple, unfortunate truth. What the men in charge don’t quite get is that by marginalising nearly half of all gamers, they’re doing themselves a disservice as well. Gaming is a rapidly growing industry, but do we really want to have our self-esteems bruised whenever we go to play the latest release? Do I really want to pay to go somewhere where I’m going to see scores of men queuing to have their picture taken with women who probably have no actual involvement in the gaming industry? Where are the few women directly involved within the industry? I want to talk to those women, not because of their fantastic breasts, but because they’re part of a male-dominated industry and a lot of women who go to expos aspire to be directly involved in gaming as well. My aspirations don’t include being paid for some adolescent guy to admire my bum and my never-ending smile.
I’m not attacking these women for having a job or for wearing provocative clothing. I’m attacking an industry that I love for promoting anachronistic ideals of male sexuality. There are better ways to draw people to your booth: why not have amazing cosplayers that appeal to both genders? They always draw a crowd at the big expos and, generally, they avoid promoting the ideal that a woman’s body is something to be leered at. It IS possible to be pretty and knowledgeable about a product (they really aren’t mutually exclusive concepts!), and that’s really what I want to start seeing at my expos. I’m part of that 47%, and I’m fed up of having my voice ignored in favour of an adolescent’s wet dream.
If women continue to be both ignored and sexualised at expos, at least give me the chance to admire Chris Hemworth’s arms up close and personal because objectification is okay, right?!
What do you think of the use of booth babes at gaming or other expos? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.
Written by Becci Yare