In case you missed it, back in 2018, Tyler ‘Ninja’ Blevins, 29, told Polygon that “I don’t play with female gamers.”
The reason behind that decision, he claimed, was because some fans would ship him and female streamers together or even send abuse to them.
Instead of educating his audience about how that kind of behaviour is misogynistic and offensive, Ninja opted for an easier solution: omitting female gamers from joining him on-camera on his Twitch streams entirely. Now when he plays with women, it’s only in a group setting.
“If I have one conversation with one female streamer where we’re playing with one another, and even if there’s a hint of flirting, that is going to be taken and going to be put on every single video and be clickbait forever.”
Cut to this week when, in a new interview with The New York Times, Ninja has doubled down on his tone-deaf comments, continuing to perpetuate a false narrative that boys and girls can’t be friends—Leslie Knope and Ron Swanson, Toph and Sokka, and Lizzo and Harry Styles say 🙋♀️.
“Of course a guy and a girl can be friends without getting intimate,” Ninja began to say, before derailing, “but it’s like, temptation, man. Actually, I don’t like that word, because I have control of myself and 100 percent respect for my relationship, but—I don’t know how to word it.”
“I know people are going to potentially take this now like, ‘Oh, he can’t trust himself, blah blah blah.’ Dude, no. But when you’re not “Joe” anymore, who can have a drink with his co-worker and no one gives a s**t—I don’t have that luxury.”
“I still stand by not having a lot of alone time with a woman, in general, if you are a married man. I mean, they could be your best friend, that’s totally cool. But if I randomly start playing with a woman no one knows, people are going to start talking. So if I am going to play with female gamers, I do it with a big group so it’s not that one-on-one interaction.”
In a sense, we get it. When you’re someone with a 16 million following, it can be hard to live a normal life. But, when your audience literally attacks female streamers for merely existing on the same screen as you and laughing at a joke, it might be time to educate your audience. And sure, it might not be your “job,” but it’s an opportunity and for someone with that big of an influence, the right thing to do.
Then, when asked about being accountable for his fans’ actions, Ninja added, “If [a kid is] gaming and their first interaction with racism is one of their friends saying the N-word and they have no idea what it is—what if it was on my stream?
“Is it my job to have this conversation with this kid? No, because the first thing that’s going on in my head is, ‘this kid is doing this on purpose to troll me. If someone says a racial slur on someone else’s stream, it can potentially get that streamer banned. It’s awful, but that’s the first thing I think of.”
And, fittingly, Twitter is already calling him out for this view.
“No, it's not his job to do it,” added one Twitter user, “but if you have a huge following and you stay in the public eye long enough, there is an unspoken expectation to use your platform for a bit of good and adopt some "noble causes" to support. You can choose not to but the public won't stop bringing it up.”
As one Twitter user puts it best, “His job description is literally called "influencer.” As such of course it's your job to cultivate a community without bigotry and hate speech. The bigger your platform, the bigger your responsibility too.”