What Alinity’s Ban Says About Twitch Culture
Audiences are complicit in the many challenges women face on the platform.
It wouldn’t be the first time Twitch had to step in to reprimand a creator for violating their guidelines, but their latest in the series while unsurprising on its face, reveals a ton about the platform’s culture as it struggles to curb misogynistic attitudes within.
Alinity’s past hasn’t been devoid of controversy–it wasn’t that long ago that the creator aggressively threw her cat behind on camera, prompting many to question if there is a recurring pattern of animal abuse when the lights are off. With resentment against Alinity being at a constant high, it wasn’t a surprise then that a nip slip during a recent stream eventually got her a 24-hour suspension, much to the ire of many viewers–within streaming circles on social media, it was impossible to evade the clip, signaling perhaps that Alinity’s popularity has played a smaller part in publicizing her gaffe than most would like to think.
Twitch culture is a living paradox of itself– viewers like to claim that scantily-clad women have no place on the platform, all-the-while tuning in to their streams in large numbers. A blanket colloquialism recently-coined — but had been long been present in African American Vernacular English — for the latter category is “simp”, which is usually employed to decry transactionalism when expressing kindness towards a female streamer–while the term has come to also signify tamer manifestations of the same phenomenon, its origins are deeply rooted in a heavy disdain for popular female streamers, which are seen by a loud minority as uniquely greedy compared to the rest of Twitch.
This common accusation hit its peak when a plea for subscriptions by political streamer BadBunny went viral, leading to renewed discussion on the culture of financial predation on the platform– even though Nicole made sure to emphasize that aggressively asking for money was just part of her streaming personality, her reputation had already become forever tainted by the incident. InvaderVie recently faced similar criticism — albeit under more troubling circumstances — but it was yet another case where unique individuals are being punished for systemic platform issues, and it just so happens that women are on the receiving end more-often-than-not.
Part of the issue lies in Twitch’s business model–because the platform invests only in its most popular creators, and tries to evade potential PR liabilities in the process, they do force the fringe to tread on the limits of their guidelines. OnlyFans and Chaturabte do exist for more explicit content, but neither of them are owned by Amazon or look to woo advertiser money–because of Twitch’s hybrid setup, the upper class is afforded leniency, all-the-while acknowledging the inherent difficulty in recanting something as visually or aurally resonant as a nip slip or a racial slur. But while hate speech seems to enjoy the benefit of being judged based on context — with PewDiePie’s infamous uttering of the n-word dubbed as a “heated gamer moment” by some — it is clear that Alinity has not received that treatment in kind.
It is readily apparent from the moment that Alinity screwed up, that she was bracing for the worst–there is a reasonable chance that Alinity’s concurrent viewer count is a fraction of the lowest common denominator on live television, and yet, her gaffe received widespread publicity. If all the facts were isolated away from Twitch, you’d almost swear that Alinity was a TV anchor doing it under the most unlikely of circumstances, but it was just a case of apparel behaving the same way as it would if it were a man’s, only that it wouldn’t even be talked about because men’s nipples are commonly accepted as nothing to raise hell over.
While it is easy to attribute this dynamic to America’s peculiar rules on body censorship, it echoes a larger and more global culture of misogyny wherein women are ostracized for the slightest display of anything deemed explicit–on Twitch, that issue is driven by a general suspicion that this tends to occur only to amplify viewership, positing women as benefiting from a unique advantage that their male counterparts couldn’t otherwise attain.
But that latter assumption is a false dichotomy–major Twitch staples like Ninja and Shroud have already raked in millions of dollars in contracts to switch over platforms due to their popularity, and of those who chose to stay, Pokimane was one to nab a retention contract, playing out a live example of the platform’s pre-existing gender biases. In the rare case that a male streamer voices a substantively bad sentiment — like Ninja has done in long rejecting to have female co-hosts from fear of unfaithfulness–the criticism can barely be heard under the crushing thump of calls to better understand their positions and afford them leeway–something female streamers simply do not get to have.
While heads will split on whether it is at all acceptable to have that much human flesh visible on a stream accessed by an age-varied population — even if it appeared for a mere split-second — that does little to change the fact that streaming on Twitch if you’re female-presenting is a permanent blemish on your character waiting to happen, while the flat-chested can recover from much worse. Dr Disrespect streamed privacy-invading public bathroom footage from the E3 floor last year, and he’s managed to re-emerge stronger-than-ever in the aftermath–there’s a recurring pattern of impunity from male streamers that their female counterparts are simply unable to replicate, and it would be folly to otherwise claim that it is innate to their nature in any way.
What’s at play here is bigger than Twitch, Alinity, or her critics–it is a culture of sexism and misogyny whose displays are amplified under the cover of anonymity online. In the particular case of Alinity, this took on a racist tinge when many protested that — believe it or not — her nipples looked unlike that of a typical white person’s. This created the perfect storm for one giant sweeping block of Twitch culture to call for an indefinite ban. Though Alinity’s stay in Twitch prison was temporary, popular as she may be, being a woman, her many triumphs won’t be nearly enough to blunt her very few failures.