“Are We Breaking Gender Rule?”

By Annemieke Drost

If you’re referring to the average quidditch livestream crew, probably. Over the past 1.5 years, I have worked behind the scenes at six quidditch livestreams, including World Cup Florence, and for a lot of it I’ve been frustrated at the lack of non-male voices around. Don’t get me wrong, I love my stream buddies, but part of me wondered if we were doing something wrong that was driving the female and non-binary commentators away. I was raised by scientists, so when I wonder, I research. If you value your free time, you’re not going to read all 17 pages (which you can find here), so this article will give you a neat tl;dr.

Exploring the lack of non-male voices in quidditch live streaming

This adventure started in September 2018, when I made a couple of Facebook posts asking why non-binary and female pals decide not to volunteer for a livestream. A lot of people shared their stories and perspectives. A lack on confidence, for a variety of reasons, was the common denominator in all these stories. As a natural scientist, I’m a sucker for quantitative data, so I decided to set up a survey to test this belief. After some aggressive posting in a variety of Facebook groups across the globe, I collected 155 responses.  

In line with the comments on Facebook, respondents of all genders mentioned confidence as a barrier to signing up. However, this self-doubt seems to be hit female commentators disproportionally. Female, non-binary, and male respondents reported an average confidence of 4.2, 5.1, and 6.0 out of 10 respectively in their in (hypothetical) commentary skills. As women got more experienced, their confidence gap decreased, but shockingly the average inexperienced male respondent was about as confident as the average female starting commentator.

To also assess the audience’s attitudes towards commentators and gender, I asked them to name three good commentators and what gender they perceived them to be. Of the 82 commentators mentioned, the overwhelming majority was (perceived to be) male. Though this is saddening, it is no surprise as there are little experienced non-male commentators around.

Annemieke Drost, a livestreaming legend | Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

Improving gender representation

Since commentary quality is in no way related to gender and confidence (believe me, I’ve seen a lot of commentators, both good and bad), we are missing out on great commentary right now. Luckily, the gender imbalance can be remedied with easy and concrete steps that will improve overall commentary quality as well. There are many facets to this, but here I will stick to the main steps for audiences and organisers.

Both audiences and organisers alike can open up the conversation, which this article is a part of. Calling out a male-dominated stream goes a long way and can can be as simple as a “Hey, isn’t that the fourth game in a row with just dudes?”

Then, for y’all organisers out there. Firstly, slight tweaks in signup procedures can do wonders. Non-male commentators will be more likely to sign up when there are open, clear sign ups that explain what will be expected of them. Moreover, creating cheat sheets will improve the confidence (and quality of commentary) of all of your commentators. A cheat sheet is a basic info sheet about a team and its roster sent out to teams to be filled out. With this added knowledge, commentators can be more knowledgeable and fill gaps in play easily, which is highly appreciated by viewers. Moreover, scheduling with care (e.g. doing a first game with a friend or on a low-stakes match) can ease nervous commentators into the job.

All in all, this project has been quite the personal journey. Despite having been involved in six streams in the past year and a half, I hadn’t realised until halfway through World Cup that commentating a game is something I could do too. Had anyone ever told me I could not? No, of course not, but unconsciously I had decided that game commentary was only something for other people (spoiler: male people). Surprising? Not really, if you look at the results I found. I hope I have inspired some of you to shut down that voice in the back of your head, so you’ll believe in yourself the next time you see a sign up form. To commentate at least one quidditch game has made it to my 2019 new year’s resolutions, and I hope some of you will join me.