Sexism is ever present in the world and interactive video games are no exception. But why are are some male players hostile to women and others perfectly nice? Other studies base the existence of sexism to social environments, such as social constructivist theory, or individual biology. A new study has explained sexism from an evolutionary perspective. Not all males are hostile to women as they enter a male-dominated environment — only the losers.
Research by Michael Kasumovic and Jeffrey Kuznekoff at the University of New South Wales and Miami University respectively backs up this theory. In their study, Insights into Sexism, male participants played Halo 3, a multiplayer first person shooter game, and either interacted with a female or male-voiced teammate. The underperforming males were generally negative to the female teammate and submissive to the male teammate. In contrast, high-performing males were more supportive to female players.
From these results, the researchers conclude that males are sexist in order to assert their own dominance. A great male Halo player doesn’t need to disparage women. He isn’t threatened by them. Yet, a bad male Halo player may feel his status is in jeopardy.
“Low-status males that have the most to lose due to a hierarchical reconfiguration are responding to the threat female competitors pose,” explains the Insights into Sexism study.
While these results are only based in a videogame setting, sexist behavior online may carry over to real-life interactions and may explain sexism in the workplace and everyday life.