In recent weeks I’ve become a bit obsessed with Cate Hall. Firstly, she’s hot (sexist klaxon) secondly, she is ridiculously smart (genetic discrimination klaxon) and thirdly, she’s very well edumacated (privilege klaxon). In short, I think that I’m a little bit in love with her, which should quite rightly make her uncomfortable, although I’m far too lazy for any active stalking, so she shouldn’t worry too much.

For those of you who haven’t seen what’s she’s about, she’s kicking off about Sexism (against Women particularly) In Poker.
Here’s her recent blog; she’s very academic, and it’s not massively accessible, but give it a go. She does have a point to make, and I’ll get to that in a bit.

Cate is no wuss.
She’s been a lawyer and she is a bit scary; anyone who knows me will recognise that is an unusual thing for me to say. I’ve had stand up rows with massive men twice my size and been entirely unintimidated- I think I’d be forced to run for cover from Cate.
I have to accept she’s much cleverer than me, and I almost never think that about a man; even if their IQ is higher, their balls make them dumb.

Do I fear a backlash from the male poker community when I say that? Not really, men are used to getting abused, usually by other men, but it’s desensitised them a bit. I believe women are still on an upward curve here, meaning the feminine gender has taken a massive amount of shit in the past, but compare to 100 years ago, things are a lot better, and that’s the case because of women like Cate, standing up and saying “shh, play with your trains and be quiet” to men across the ages.

Dominant Pirate Woman
“Did you have something to say? I thought not.”

Does that mean it’s all good and equality prevails? No.
Does that mean misogyny should be okay at a poker table? No.
Does that mean that men should put up with sexist commentary? No.
Does it mean that Cate’s blog hits the nail on the head? Yes… and no.

I want to immediately and clearly separate “comments” from “physical assault”. There has been an uproar about a well-known male player being accused of rape, and multiple well-known female players have commented on cases where they have been grabbed, or followed to their car.
I have to make clear my opinion that saying anything at all, and physical intimidation/assault are not the same. A person who rapes/assaults someone is not, and should never be confused with, “a man”. Disgusting creatures who physically assault others are not humans, they are not even animals; they are revolting wastes of space that should be melted down for tallow. Reasonable men and women will agree with that, and so I am not going to include those stains on our species in this argument.

The argument that stimulated this blog post is: “Men making comments specifically relating to women are scaring recreational female players away from the table” and I want to work out how true that is.

Cate’s not whining, she’s not. Take off the filter that puts any comment a women makes about sexism into the colour of having a womb-fuelled-whinge. Her overriding point is that men making sleazy comments at poker tables is keeping A MAJORITY of women away from poker and that’s costing us all money.

First up, let’s deal with the women that aren’t scared away; we may only form 5% of the overall live poker community, but given how many live poker players there are, that’s still a good few humans.

Gender Queer
I’m Gender Queer and comfortable with it.

If “a woman” can be defined by a fixed set of “feminine” attributes, then I am not a very good “woman”. I look like one (I have quite spectacular breasts) and I dress like one (men’s clothes are very dull), but I act like a bloke, talk like a bloke, swear like a bloke, fart like a bloke and consistently make some men’s jaws drop open with shock at how rude and disgusting I am.

Saying that these attributes make me “like a man” is, in itself, sexist; it’s blatant misandry. I would like to quantify this by stating that I’m looking at the women’s side of the argument today- nobody reads a blog post over 2000 words, and the sexist issue is huge, so one problem at a time.

Because I don’t class myself as much of a “woman”, I asked a closed group of women players that I’m part of on FaceBook for a bit of help on this. I wanted to know if men making gender relevant comments pissed them off; it doesn’t bother me at all, in fact, I would go so far as to say I actively enjoy that sort of chat, it actually attracts me to the poker environment.

But we’re not talking about me, or women who are happy/surviving/tolerating the live poker environment, we’re talking about women who may be too intimidated to play.

The sexy bitches in this closed group got back to me quickly and the overriding opinion was that “we can give as good as we get, we make money out these type of idiots, if it gets too much, we tell them to shut the fuck up.”

I’m no longer a Feminist because modern Feminism has taken a turn that I cannot get on board with, but a Feminist would say that women who respond to misogynistic comments like that are suffering from “phallocentric oppression”. This means they think if comments aimed exclusively at women don’t make a woman uncomfortable, she’s just so beaten down that she can’t respond in any other way.

Hmm. This is not the image I have of myself, and it is not the image I have of the women who responded to my questions. These chicks are functional human beings with jobs, lives and opinions of their own, not just dribbly after –ejaculate of a man’s world; I believe to suggest otherwise is far greater misogyny than saying “nice tits love, let’s have a go”.
It’s cool to be an opinionated woman, as long as you agree with Feminism…

No Feminism
Feminists hate survivors who don’t toe the party line.

I ran a cardroom in Salford, UK. It was a rough little room, and the ‘banter’ level was high. There was a fair bit of shouting and swearing, but our £30 Friday night comp regularly had around 20% female attendance. I can’t fully explain why this was; maybe because a woman was in charge, maybe because for all their noise, the men in there were “good lads” and somehow knew the line, maybe Salford is just full of rock-hard women: who knows?

What I can’t say I noticed, either anecdotally or by looking at my actual records, is that women came in because they loved poker, got the raging fear and never came back.
More often, I saw women who got dragged in because they loved their boyfriends, watched a bit, and ended up joining in, and then started to like poker.

I can’t lie, I definitely bee-lined for these women, chatted to them, taught them hand rankings and pushed them to join in the game. I kept my eye on them, and if I felt like they were getting any grief (from a reg of either gender), I was on the perpetrator like a malnourished fly on a fat man’s shit.
I’d like to think I did that for either gender where they may not be so naturally suited to the rough poker environment due to a more gentle personality; I’m rough as fuck myself, and I’ve always stuck up for the quieter souls, in every environment I’ve ever been in.

That’s why some people love me and some people hate me, I’m happy with that, but I understand that some people are more comfortable being at neither end of that scale, they just want to get through their days with their heads-down. I don’t believe that personality trait can be exclusively assigned to either gender, although I do see it as more common in women, and I do recognise it as sometimes incompatible with the poker environment.

Some people are arseholes; gender isn’t a reliable indicator of this.

So… in truth, the way some people behave inside a poker room is probably scaring away prospective male and female fish. Perhaps the gentler male fish are just more accustomed to it, they’ve grown up with a homosocial environment that has punished them for any kind of offence, whereas women are more likely to have been cultured by a homosocial environment that comforts them for it.

If you think this is too big a statement, imagine that you are on a bus and a guy calls you “a fat slag” and it makes you cry. If you are a man and you tell your male friends how upset you are, what will the response from them be? If you are a woman and you tell your female friends the same story, what will their response be? I can guarantee it won’t be the same.

Problem is, no-one can be both at the same time, so, as with many gender issues, it’s impossible for one person to see both sides of the story simultaneously.
This doesn’t mean we can’t eventually reach an equilibrium, and it doesn’t mean we should give up on trying to encourage more women to play poker, for the exact reason Cate Hall mentions: we want their money on those tables.

I personally think that the reason that the number of live female players is so low is due to factors far more complicated than “women hate comments about their tits”.
I think it’s a combination of real world logistics (eg women are most often primary carers to infants) and the way women are cultured from a very young age away from competition and towards “softer” play. This will have to become the topic for another blog, and your thoughts are appreciated.

The way our society nurtures female infants is far more likely to create an adult personality type that is incompatible with the current poker environment, but if the live poker environment becomes too soft, it will probably drive away recreational players like me, whether they are male or female.BOYS-GIRLS-TOYS-900
Balance will always be the key to true gender equality, and I do agree with Cate that the live poker environment  is unbalanced towards favouring rough, aggressive, dominant personality types and this is not conducive to growing the poker economy.

I can’t level out gender inequality with one blog, and I think we’re unlikely to see total equality within any of our lifetimes, but I can suggest a few behaviour checks for all poker players, of either sex, including myself. If we all follow these rules, then maybe the poker environment will become more attractive to gentle personality types, and we all might make more money off a bigger pool of fish. Here’s hoping, eh?

Kat’s 10 Rules For More Peaceful Poker Rooms

  • Don’t make a comment that relates specifically to a part of a person that they cannot help. Ie sex, race, sexuality, disability are off limits but dress sense, religion, hairstyles and politics are not.
  • Don’t make comments towards someone you could physically dominate if you’re too much of a wuss to make the same comment to someone who could beat you up.
  • If something offends you, address it, even if it’s not directed at you.
  • If you think someone has gone too far, tell the TD or management.
  • Don’t let your mate say something that you’d pull a stranger up on.
  • Don’t hog the limelight. If there’s 10 of you at a table, you should only be getting 10% of the “airtime”, shut your hole the other 90% of the time.
  • Don’t touch anyone, ever, keep your sweaty paws to yourself at all times, no exceptions.
  • If you wouldn’t like to hear sexualised comments from someone you don’t fancy, don’t assume people fancy you and hand them out.
  • If you wouldn’t say it on the street/in bar/on the bus, don’t say it in a poker room.
  • Don’t be a total cunt all the time; with a bit of practice, it’s not that hard.