The International e-Sports Federation has seen an outpouring of backlash this morning over a bizarre policy that prohibits female competitors from entering its Hearthstone tournament. A Reddit post first drew attention to the restriction by noting that one of the tournament's qualifiers, hosted by Assembly in Finland, stated that it only allowed male players. Assembly has tried to push the blame back onto the IeSF, writing that, "since the IeSF World Championship Hearthstone tournament in Baku is male only, we can only accept male participants in the Finnish qualifier."
"We strive to promote female gaming on a global scale."
IeSF did not respond to a request for comment on why it's chosen to prohibit female players from the tournament. However, IeSF has written a few responses on Facebook elaborating the overall reasoning, including arguing that having female-only competitions promotes inclusion in gaming. "We know that e-sports is largely dominated by male players and females players [sic] are actually a portion of the overall player base," it writes. "By hosting a female-only competition, we strive to promote female gaming on a global scale." It's unclear, however, if there is also a female-only tournament for Hearthstone.
For some reason, IeSF also says that hosting separate tournaments will help e-sports become "recognized as a true sports." As an example, it notes that chess has a separate league for women (though it does not note that women are not prohibited from competing in the general championship). All in all, it's a strange and largely nonsensical explanation for why it would separate players in a game that has no relationship to physical ability. Though IeSF may actually have good intentions in promoting female players in gaming, its prohibition only serves to hurt that by drawing an unnecessary division and likely furthering the often-unwelcoming, male-dominated environment.