Fake Boyfriends, Stalking, and Abuse: Being a Woman on Twitch

Alinity is one of the most famous female streamers on Twitch — but a recent controversy about her cat has fueled the idea women streamers receive preferential treatment

Rossalyn Warren
Aug 16, 2019 · 8 min read
Image: Alinity/Twitch

I wanted to speak to Alinity about being a woman streamer, but she was a little busy, which was understandable. After all, when the cat incident blew up, she was in the middle of fielding online abuse and asking people to stop stalking her.

If you don’t follow Twitch drama, the cat incident is this. Popular Twitch streamer Alinity — real name Natalia Mogollon — is seen throwing her cat over her shoulder in a stream (Alinity herself describes it as ‘dropping’ the cat on the floor). In another video, she’s seen trying to kiss her cat with a mouth full of vodka. Mogollon apologized on Twitter, saying she understood the concern, and that she was sorry for her “lapse in judgment.”

Mogollon’s cat video sparked a firestorm within the Twitch community. While some didn’t view it as abuse, others felt the video showed neglect towards animals. Following public concern, Saskatoon SPCA, a local animal protection charity, investigated the claims. After reviewing the videos, assessing the welfare of the pets, and interviewing Mogollon, the charity cleared her of abuse, saying there was “no malicious intent”.

Then there was a third type of response, which claimed Mogollon wasn’t banned from Twitch for the cat incident because she’s a woman. From the outside, the comments — which were often hyperbolic and sexist — appeared to be weaponized in an effort to drive her off Twitch, and not a genuine concern for animals.

Meanwhile, in the midst of the cat controversy, three 17-year-old boys arrived in Mogollon’s hometown in the province of Saskatchewan, Canada.

The boys arrived on her street, knocking on her neighbors’ doors, asking questions about Mogollon. One concerned neighbor called Mogollon to tell her, after it became clear they were looking for her home.

The next thing Mogollon knew, the three teenagers were on her doorstep. They were persistent, hassling her housemate to get Mogollon to speak to them, and secretly filming.

“They wouldn’t leave until I showed my face,” Mogollon explains.

“Please stop coming to my house and asking my neighbors where I am,” she tweeted at the time. “It’s actually really scary.”

Her supporters say, ‘We can’t even send you nice tweets because we get harassed too.’

Mogollon, a 30-year old from Colombia, has a good relationship with most of her nearly 896,000 Twitch followers. She’s been streaming on Twitch for seven years and has been a gamer since she was a teenager. It’s her full-time work, and she loves her job.

But what happened with Mogollon and the cat incident serves as a microcosm of ongoing problems on Twitch: the ingrained idea women streamers receive preferential treatment, and who’s leading, and responsible for, the harassment towards streamers both on and offline.

Twitch is by no means the only platform where its popular stars have become targets for harassment or abuse. But because of the intimate nature of the platform, it has the potential to further exacerbate a feeling of possessiveness and entitlement from some viewers towards streamers. After all, many streamers (literally) let viewers into their home, and speak to their fans in a one-on-one manner, for six, seven, or eight hours a day, for five, six, or seven days a week.

The teenagers who turned up at Mogollon’s door told her they recognized her backyard from her photos and streams. They didn’t seem to see any problem with tracking down where she lived. And while Mogollon has accrued a level of fame within the Twitch community, she lives a relatively ordinary life. She doesn’t live in Tinseltown, and her home isn’t marked on any type of Hollywood house map — she lives in a residential town, in the middle of nowhere, in Canada.

While Mogollon was safe in this case, that hasn’t prevented other streamers from being put at risk. For example, last winter Twitch streamer Jenna spoke candidly about being stalked relentlessly for three months, in person and online. And earlier this year, Tanya DePass was harassed by a stalker on a daily basis, while another streamer, Giannie Lee, documented the racist and sexual harassment she was inundated with while visiting Germany.

As such, the possessiveness that’s felt by some Twitch viewers can sometimes shape how streamers portray themselves online. Some streamers feel the need to hide, or fabricate, a relationship. Romantic availability is expected of some women streamers, otherwise some viewers don’t want to invest their time.

Mogollon she has some viewers who regularly tell her they’re in love with her. “I guess they’re like, ‘Well I know her because I’ve watched all of her streams’… I don’t mind it too much, as long as it doesn’t get creepy,” she says.

Every once in awhile, Mogollon is doxxed, where her personal information is posted online. Sometimes she’s sent strange items in the mail, such as bricks. And while Mogollon has been embroiled in her own controversies, she’s also faced sexism and racism herself. “I’m outspoken…so I’ve dealt with a lot of people not liking how I give my opinion,” she says.

Much of the abuse encouraged towards Mogollon is spearheaded by other popular male and female online video personalities, like PewDiePie.

After Mogollon moved to Canada on a spousal visa, she says her husband cheated on her, and so ended their marriage. She mocked her failed marriage on a stream, but the comment was misconstrued as ‘faking’ the marriage for immigration purposes. This was latched onto by PewDiePie — who she has a former, ongoing feud with — who encouraged the authorities to deport her.

She says there have since been dozens of reports to immigration over the past year, and she’s now stopped and questioned by authorities every time she travels.

Often, when people are mad at a streamer, they don’t just stay mad at the streamer — the anger spills over onto their viewers and fans, too.

Mogollon explains: “They [supporters] say, We can’t even send you nice tweets because we get harassed too.’ And if people donate to me on streaming, or people subscribe, they get hate messages. I think they realize that that’s a way to hurt you right there. Like, if we get everyone that watches her to stop watching her, then she’ll be off Twitch.”

“I’m very lucky in some sense. But my livelihood can be threatened by the power of trolls.”

As content moderation is almost entirely down to the streamer themselves, viewers hold a lot of power.

When Mogollon is streaming, she says she will get some type of abusive, rule-breaking, or “shitty” comment in her chat every three to five seconds. As her livelihood is tied to the platform, she has to take moderating her channel seriously. She has two moderators who monitor her chat full-time — just in case one has to step away from the screen for the bathroom.

“There’s always this balance that I’m juggling between, with the hate in my channel and controlling how many people can talk,” she adds. “I’ve been streaming for seven years, so I have people who have got my back, who tell me every day to keep going. So I’m very lucky in that sense. But my livelihood can be threatened by the power of trolls.”

To be banned from Twitch for harassment doesn’t have much real consequence. Like other platforms, users can just create new anonymous accounts. Often, it ends up being the streamer who’s punished for failing to act quickly, and not the person posting the abuse or violating the rules.

That is to say, if you’re an up-and-coming streamer and you’re growing an audience, but you don’t have access to moderators (financially or otherwise) then you’re not left with many options if you happen to become a target of abuse.

“If I were a smaller streamer, and I’d been targeted in the way that I’ve been targeted, I would have given up on a long time ago,” Mogollon says. “Let’s say that I maybe wasn’t making a living from it yet — yeah, I would not continue.”

“What really upsets me is the invalidation of success — if I’m successful, it must be because I’m fucking someone at Twitch.”

An ongoing focal point — and one that has long existed in the gaming community — is the idea that women receive ‘special treatment’ from platforms. Mogollon has been inundated with accusations of special treatment, especially in light of the cat incident. Her and other women Twitch users are routinely targeted with sexist harassment, and called “thots” — a derogatory term meaning “that ho over there.” In an effort to combat online harassment against women, one streamer organized a “Slut Stream” to encourage women to wear what they want while streaming.

Mogollon strongly denies that she receives special treatment from Twitch staff. She’s also banned for things outside her control, just like her male peers. Earlier this year she clicked a link by a host by a channel to thank them, because it was a large host. She clicked it, and it had porn on it, and was banned for three days.

She has grown weary of the abuse. “What really upsets me is the invalidation of success — if I’m successful, it must be because I’m fucking someone at Twitch. And that is so stupid. I cannot tell you how much that upsets me. Because I mean, that’s all the merit I have in their eyes, you know what I mean? Like, maybe Twitch just understands me, maybe they just don’t think that there’s anything that I have done that is so horrible that I should be permanently banned.”

The teenagers who showed up at Mogollon’s door would have been aged around 11 and 12 when Gamergate first exploded in 2013. They, like many other young men, would have spent their formative years growing up in a digital space where harassment has been normalized and encouraged.

Post-Gamergate, Alinity believes the extent of the abuse and sexism in the gaming community was recognized for a brief time. Yet despite the rise of women gamers, the issues still remain as pertinent as ever — and won’t disappear as long as the bigger streamer names continue to uphold and normalize the abuse.

“I think it’s an issue with these younger audiences. I feel that if you’re a content creator, and you have a large following of people who are younger than you, I think they will believe almost anything thing that you tell them. So if somebody calls me a thot, which just means a whore, their viewers will repeat it and go, ‘She’s a thot!’ without really knowing why.”

FFWD

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