booth-babes 1

Although the Anita Sarkeesian produced ‘Gaming Tropes’ video series has taken great steps to label the previously male dominated sphere of gaming as being inherently sexist and misogynistic, her pop-cultural insight is merely the latest development in a protracted argument that has seen social justice warriors and feminists climb on board the bandwagon in order to argue for videogames to stop objectifying women and portraying females as the inferior sex.

This argument has also extended to gaming conventions in the past, with Eurogamer asking: “What does the concept of the Booth Babe say about women? It says that women’s place at any tech-related event can only be as an attractive decoration to sweeten the event for the men. It says that women aren’t truly welcome in that world, because the moment you objectify something it isn’t part of anything. It’s just there. It’s just something else to be consumed. Fundamentally, it depicts a woman as a product”.

The only problem is that many of these views emanate from males (like the journalist who wrote for Eurogamer – and who didn’t even attend Eurogamer’s gaming convention). By not taking into account the perspective of female booth babes, these beliefs could be deduced as being the product of social justice warriors who are on the outside looking in. And by not taking into account the perspective of female booth babes, these theories have the undesired consequence of perpetuating the notion that females are the weaker sex where they can’t argue for themselves, and also objectifying women where they are seen as a “product”.

One of the unintended consequences of the feminist rhetoric is the notion of free will and “Pro-Choice”. Whilst this argument has previously applied to the concept of marriage and abortion, its liberating principles can also be extended to women who work as “booth babes”. For if a woman chooses to work as a booth babe, then what right does anyone have in preventing her from doing so? In short, the model is acting on her own free will, and it is her own choice if she wants to work as a booth babe in a free market economy.

All of the booth babes I spoke to at Gamescom were adequately compensated for their time, and none of them seemed devoid of opportunities to gain meaningful employment in a more professional capacity. It can therefore be argued that unlike the prevailing dogma espoused by social justice warriors and feminists, booth babes aren’t in need of saving by white knights and aren’t being forced to work at gaming conventions as glorified sex slaves. They are paid models who travel the world earning more money for one weekend’s work than the majority of their slut-shaming critics earn in an entire month. In short, and unlike their detractors who most likely are forced to work in a soul destroying dead-end job that has few alternatives, models enjoy much more autonomy and willingly choose job roles where they get to work as booth babes. And unlike the typical keyboard jockeying social justice warrior who frequents internet forums during their spare time, booth babes don’t need to conform to the stultifying and mundane rigours of a purposeless lifestyle where they have nothing to look forward to apart from going home after work and arguing amongst themselves about the benefits of playing boring old Nintendo.

In order to ensure that one’s stipulations weren’t formed in isolation, I asked five booth babes (standardised questions) about their job and also got to ask as to why their profession was so openly despised, especially given that female cosplayers were often dressed just as inappropriately, yet got more “respect” and weren’t as heavily criticized by narrow-minded gaming puritans.

THQ were renowned for hiring booth babes and ensuring that they wore as little clothing as possible. This is what people think of when they imagine a typical booth babe.

THQ were renowned for hiring booth babes and ensuring that they wore as little clothing as possible. This is what people think of when they imagine a typical booth babe.

Booth Babe 1

Do you enjoy your job?
Yes, I really do.

Why do you enjoy your job?
Because it’s exciting to get to know many people… get to see many people… And this is a different world from doing my normal week.  It’s nice to get in touch with people in another subject.

Have you been forced into doing this job and wearing the clothes that you wear?
I’ve never been forced to do the job, but the clothes are not our choice.  They say “You should wear these clothes” and we have the choice if we want to or if we don’t want to.  I think its okay.

Why do you continue to do this job when some people have argued that what you do is exploitative and sexist towards women?
Why I’m continuing?  Because I’m working for a company who takes really good care of us and I am not thinking that I look like a bitch or something.  The dress is not too short and I have the choice to cover my breasts, and I have not shown anything that I wouldn’t like to show.  I’ll continue. Everyone who thinks that is on one hand right, because many of the girls who are working here are inappropriate, and I’m referring to their clothes.  But I figure its okay.

Ultimately you are not being forced into it and it’s your choice entirely?
It’s my choice how I wear the dress and it’s my choice to work here, so it’s okay.

How do you think people at gaming conventions perceive you and how do the gamers treat you?
Sometimes they treat us like animals, because they think that we are just sitting there and we are just there to look good.  And they can take photos and touch us like animals, but then it’s our turn to say, “okay… no. Step further you can take a photo, but no touching and we are just there smiling for you, but there’s not acting like animals in a circus or something”.  And this is how many people try to treat us here, so it’s on us to stop that and to be confident to say that we are women, we are dressed for your fun, but we are not animals in a circus.

Why do you think some people frown on what you do, which is basically you’re a ‘Booth Babe’, yet don’t mind female cosplayers who on many occasions show a lot more skin than you do?
I have actually no good answer for that.  I think they want to show themselves at such events like this, because they are not able to in the real world, you know. I’m doing this because I need to earn money in a short time.  But they are doing this to express themselves, because maybe sometimes they are not allowed to in their normal lives and here it is more possible for them to show more skin.

A lot of people within the industry are feminists and what not. They argue that booth babes are “bad”. What you do is portrayed negatively, whereas what cosplayers do… There must be one or two female cosplayers here who show a lot more skin than you do, but they don’t get anywhere near the kind of negative attention that your profession gets.  Why do you think that is?  Why do you think they’re accepted and you’re not?
I think they are accepted because they get no payment for this.  I think most of the people think that we are prostitutes.  Of course we get paid for this, but we are not looking worse than them.  And I think the money is the only reason why the people think that we are slutty or prostituting ourselves and the cosplayers are not.  Because they are doing it on their own and free for their fun.

Is it jealousy?  Do you think it’s jealousy that you’re getting money and they are not?
No, I don’t think its jealousy, I just think we are an easy target.

The dogma of booth babes looking and acting like sluts is a glorified myth. A lot of them dress in an extremely refined and elegant manner, and portray an extremely respectable image for the host company.

The dogma of booth babes looking and acting like sluts is a glorified myth. A lot of them dress in an extremely refined and elegant manner, and portray an extremely respectable image for the host company.

Booth Babe 2

Do you enjoy your job?
Yeah, it’s fun. It’s okay, yeah.

Why do you enjoy your job?
Because you have a nice team, and it’s actually quite fine wearing clothes of a game.

Have you been forced into doing this kind of job and wearing the kind of clothes that you wear?
No.  I wouldn’t do it if I’m not okay with the clothes.  I wouldn’t wear something that is really short, and if so I would say, “No, I don’t want to do that”.

So, it’s your choice?
It’s my choice, yes.

Why do you continue to do this kind of job when some people have argued that what you do is exploitative and sexist towards women?
Because as an independent woman I can do whatever I want to do, and I can choose what I want to do.  The money is good and it’s a job like everything else.  It’s not like I’m doing something that’s inappropriate.  If I wear a costume for a costume party, it’s about the same thing.  Here it’s to entertain people, and if it’s not too short it’s okay.

How do you think people at gaming conventions perceive and treat you?
They want to take pictures.  They think it’s nice of course.  Of course I’ve been chosen for this job because I might have these looks that are required, and people like it.

Why do you think some people frown at your job as a booth babe, yet don’t mind female cosplayers who show a lot more skin? Why do you think your job has that negative stigma whereas people are okay with cosplayers?
Because they do it because they want to, and maybe because they’re more into the scene, and they think that the girls that work at Gamescom have nothing to do with the gaming thing, and they just do it for money.  Also because some of the costumes might look a little cheap, and the cosplay costumes have more detail and everything.  So it has something to do with the games, and maybe if you wear something really short just for an energy drink or whatever it might have a kind of touch that’s cheap.

Not all booth babes are female, as there are male models too. Are males being exploited and objectified, and if so, in what is quite clearly a case of double-standards, why isn't the mainstream gaming media writing articles about their plight?

Not all booth babes are female, as there are male models too. Are males being exploited and objectified, and if so, in what is quite clearly a case of double-standards, why isn’t the mainstream gaming media writing articles about their plight?

Booth Babe 3

Do you enjoy your job?
Yes, I enjoy it.

Why do you enjoy your job?
Because the atmosphere is really great, and I like my colleagues.  My bosses are also friendly.

Have you been forced into doing this job and wearing the kind of clothes that you wear?
Well, I wasn’t forced.  Before I applied for the job, I knew what kind of clothes I would be wearing.  No, I wasn’t forced.

Why do you continue to do this job when some people have argued that what you do is exploitative, i.e. you’re taken advantage of, and sexist towards women?
Well, I don’t agree with that.  Maybe our clothes are sexy but every women wants to feel a bit sexy sometimes, but I don’t think that it’s too much.

How do you think people at gaming conventions perceive you, and how do gamers treat you?
Well it’s quite different.  Most of the gamers are very shy, and they always ask whether they are allowed to take a picture of us or even touch us.  Of course there are people that think, “Oh, I’m the best”, and they don’t care, but maybe I don’t want to touch him or anything.

Why do you think some people frown at your job as a booth babe, but don’t mind female cosplayers who show more skin than you?
I don’t know.  Maybe I frown a little bit about female cosplayers.  I don’t know.

What's the difference between the average booth-babe and cos-player? The booth babe gets paid!

What’s the difference between the average booth-babe and cos-player? The booth babe gets paid!

Booth Babe 4

Do you enjoy your job?
Yes, it’s very hard but nevertheless I meet a lot of people and I like to talk to the people and to animate the people.  So, it’s alright for me and I have a lot of fun, yes.

Have you been forced into doing this job and wearing the kind of clothes that you wear?
It was kind of described in the job

[description].  It was my decision if I wanted to do this job or not, it was not that I was booked for the job then they told me what I had to wear, I already saw in the description before the job what I have to wear.  So, it was alright with me and I think my clothes are a lot more appropriate than other clothes here, and I’m very happy about that because this event is very full of young boys and guys who are not always respectful.  They don’t always say nice things, and so I’m very glad my outfit allows me to not be as naked as other girls.

Why do you continue to do this job when some people have argued that what you do is exploitative and sexist towards women?
I do it because I love it.  I like to present myself.  I think it’s not sexist, it’s more like self-confidence as long as you don’t do it just to get some kind of… I don’t know the word.  Like, they all say, “You are sexy, you are sexy”, as if you need it.  When you need to hear that you’re sexy, I don’t think that’s a good thing.  I do it because I know I’m sexy, and I like to show it.  It’s not that I need to hear I’m sexy, and that’s why I like to do it.  That’s why I will continue to do this job.

How do you think people at gaming conventions perceive you?  How do gamers treat you?
It’s kind of black and white.  They are not only these people or those people.  Some people are very respectful and they have a lot of respect for our job and us because they can’t imagine that girls can be that self-confident, they don’t know those girls who could wear this and show themselves like that, so they have respect.  Other guys are more like: In those video games the girls don’t have a lot of clothes, the girls are mostly just for the eyes.  They have less clothes and so the guys don’t learn to respect women.  Many gamers didn’t learn to respect women because of these video games, because these girls are just there to be pretty.  So, there are guys who are respectful, and guys who don’t have as much respect.  It’s not just 100% good or bad.  Not all of them are without respect.

Why do you think some people frown at your job as a booth babe, but don’t mind female cosplayers who show more skin than you?
I don’t really know.  I don’t understand it.  I really think that those cosplayers are more sexy and more sexist than others because they don’t show their personality, they show the personality of other girls and video games who are not there because of their big personalities, but because of their outfit.  The outfits are very skimpy and they show a lot of skin.  I think those people don’t have a great mind, they are stereotyping.  They say they do their job, and they do their hobby.  Those who do this job get less respect, I don’t know why this is, I think it’s dumb.  Maybe because those cosplayers have a lot of creativity in their costumes, it takes a lot of time to do it.  Nevertheless, I think everyone who thinks that way is just looking at the image of a person and not what’s really inside.

It’s very surface value…
Yeah, totally.  Because I study and I think for myself.  I look in people’s hearts, it’s not just, “Oh, I see a hot guy, I like this guy.” No, I look at the heart.  Just because I do this job I’m not totally arrogant or something like that.  Those people are just stereotyping, and I don’t think that’s right.

With booth babes being in control of how they present their sexiness to the world, their freedom of sexual expression becomes a form of empowerment.

With booth babes being in control of how they present their sexiness to the world, their freedom of sexual expression becomes a form of empowerment.

Booth Babe 5

Do you enjoy your job?
Yes, I enjoy my job.  I want to be here actually, yeah.

Why do you enjoy your job, apart from wanting to be here?
Because I can play the games and I also do at my home, sometimes I play games.  It’s just fun to be here.  It’s a big game show and I’m from Hungary and maybe I couldn’t be here if I didn’t work here, so personally I like the opportunity to be here.  It’s just a lot of fun.

Have you been forced into doing this job and wearing the kind of clothes that you wear?
No.  We actually met for this game show two or three days with this company and we talked about the clothes, and about what we needed to do.  If we had an issue with something we didn’t like, we could change it.  So, there wasn’t any forcing.

Why do you continue to do this job when some people have argued that what you do is exploitative and sexist towards women?
If you go around you see women with short pants and so on, but I took this job because I saw the clothes and… okay it shows our forms, but it’s not that sexy I think.  It’s more like a cosplay costume and it’s kind of the same. It’s fun for me.  I also do modeling at home so it’s not a big problem if somebody asks me to take a picture, for example.  There are some questions, for example, if we could take a picture from behind, but if I don’t want to do it then I say “No”.

How do you think people at gaming conventions perceive you?  How do gamers treat you?
Some gamers are really direct.  If you take a picture they want to be too close to us, but if it’s a problem for me then I tell them it’s not okay and ask them to please to step back.  But some people ask me if they can put their hand on my back, and that’s fine if they ask.  It’s not a problem because, yeah why not?  There are nice people also that treat us very good.  Sometimes I notice they take funny pictures from behind, but if I see it then I warn my colleagues.

Why do you think some people frown at your job as a booth babe, but don’t mind female cosplayers who show more skin than you?
That’s a really good question.  It’s hard to answer.  People need to be attractive and if you see the people who are here, they are mostly males, and for them it’s obvious that the females are more attractive than the men in cosplay costumes.  It has a negative side as well, I know it.  We need to treat this problem, and if we do then it’s not about sexism.  If we would take pictures also from behind and we would act like sexy girls, then they would treat us as meat.  But if we not do it, then they will treat us really good.  That has been my experience here.

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