Competitive women, Smash Sisters and women’s conversations in France

As originally posted in 2019 on the now-defunct blog SmashAdvice.

Disclaimer: I’ve written this analysis as part of my sociology degree, then translated it to English in a less academic writing style. At the end of the post, you’ll find more personal opinions on Smash Sisters and the initiatives by the French Women of Smash.

In the 2016 census of the French Super Smash Bros. Melee community, we had 400 active players, including nine women. In Super Smash Bros. for Wii U, which has since been replaced by Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, there is no census of that kind — the community is larger and more scattered, as events can happen online as well as in person. However, observation during in-person tournaments leads us to find two or three women at most 128-player tournaments.

In order to “bring new and veteran Smash gals together in order to boost overall competitive participation”, US women have created the Smash Sisters initiative, which then expanded into a French branch. The idea is to have crew battles, parallel to the mixed-gender main tournament which is closed to men (which makes it open to non-binary people as well as cis and trans women). The players taking part in the female crew battle also enter the main competition. There is no cash prize and no individual ranking.

Aside from Smash Sisters events, discussion spaces have started popping up. In France, we have the Les Smasheuses Facebook group. In Europe, there is the European Women of Smash Discord server (contact @SmashAdviceEU on Twitter or Exile#0940 on Discord for more information). For my research, I’ve interviewed French female players favourable to these discussion spaces and to Smash Sisters-type events. These women have recently created the non-profit organisation Valkyries to attract and retain women in the Super Smash Bros. communities.

Note from October 2023: all of these contact methods are now dead, as far as I know. Please reach out to your local Melee community to find the new ones!

The Interviewees

During this first research phase, I’ve interviewed six French women who are involved in the Smash scene (not necessarily as players). All but one of them, have been anonymized with names of the characters from Super Smash Bros. Out of these six women, five are founding members of Valkyries, the other is too young to join as of now.

  • Boobs was the first one to start playing seriously in the French Melee community. She now mostly plays at local tournaments, but is active in the Valkyries community and in the French women’s scene in general. She’s not anonymized in this report, as her gamertag is inherent to her place in the community; a humanist rather than a feminist, she believes that her gendered tag has protected her from sexism.
  • Samus is the youngest of the group. At age fifteen, she’s still technically the one who has known competitive Smash for the longest time, as her ten years older brother has played since she was five years old and is now ranked nationally. She has mostly met the Smash community online, through Discord and social media, as she cannot travel alone yet.
  • Lucina is an Ultimate player, as well as a graphic designer in a Smash organisation. She says she’s not educated enough to consider herself a feminist, but outside of that word, she is an activist for women in gaming.
  • Sheik started playing in France. She now lives abroad, where she organises tournaments and plays Melee.
  • Zelda is often considered the “original feminist” of the Smash communities, and considered so by every person I’ve interviewed. A bisexual, radical feminist, she focuses a lot of her talk on women’s place in the community.
  • Palutena discovered the game through her boyfriend at the time, who is now a ranked player. She is considered as the best female Melee player in France, with the possible exception of Boobs, who is retired. Just like Lucina, she believes that she is not educated enough to call herself a feminist.

The Three Steps of the Competitive Player

There are three main phases in a female player’s competitive career. The first one is playing with friends as a beginner. In the second phase, the player engages with the game and improves, sometimes playing in tournaments, sometimes staying in higher-level friendly games. In the third and final phase, she leaves the community, often but not always because of sexism or harassment (Kim, 2017). I’ve asked my six interviewees to talk about their history with the Smash community, then divided their testimonials into these three phases.

Playing With Friends

This is the exact same first step as for men: players usually discover the game through family or friends (Kim, 2017). Attitudes towards someone who discovered the game through an older brother, most notably, are very different based on the gender of the player: it’s considered “normal” for a man, but a woman will be relegated to “X’s sister” and her legitimacy may suffer from it.

The six people I’ve interviewed discovered the game through their boyfriend of the time (Lucina and Palutena), their older brother (Sheik, although she entered competitive Smash with her own group of friends independently from him, and Samus, who took the tag of her older brother with the suffix — ette). However, they have different motivations.

Lucina first wanted to help her Smash organisation, and never went through a playing phase. Palutena has two different explanations: “Since he was playing pretty much all time, at least a few hours each day, it gives you something to do together. And since the game was pretty fun, and I had to play, I became his living sandbag for practice.” She mentions looking for a shared activity with her companion, as well as “having to” play, but she also talks about being a training partner and the game being fun.

The “sisters” have very different dynamics. Samus talks about her older brother: “I often saw him playing and I thought it must be really great if he was spending so much time on it.” Today, she appreciates “the fact that our whole family can have this in common”. As for Sheik, she says she barely ever played with her brother, preferring her own friends. This hasn’t stopped people in her region from referring to her as his sister.

Zelda and Boobs discovered Smash through their schoolmates.

Becoming a competitive player

After gaining confidence and experience, some female players start competing (Kim, 2017). All of the women I’ve talked to play Super Smash Bros., but only three take part in tournaments regularly: Boobs and Palutena, who both have a solid regional level, and Samus, who can’t travel but plays at local tournaments.

Boobs and Palutena have started competing in different settings. Boobs says: “schoolmates offered that I play with them and it went smoothly”. Once day, students “organised a Super Smash Bros. Melee tournament and they said I should register.”

On Palutena’s side, the entry into the competitive scene was very smooth: “with time, I learned to play, I started being invited to events and tournaments, because people were always coming home to play”.

Leaving the community

Kim suggests that women usually stop esports because of general sexism and targeted harassment. This is not the case of the women I’ve talked to, for a very simple reason: I only interviewed people who were engaged in an organisation and part of the scene. Each of us can easily recall women who left the community because of the reasons identified by Kim, but it’s not the case of my interviewees.

However, none of them are very active in the French Smash scene. Lucina didn’t get a chance to quit: while she’s very active in her support role, she never played competitively. Boobs retired as a player because of her time-consuming job.

Palutena used to play a lot, but two factors have distanced her from the community. First of all, she broke up with her Melee-playing boyfriend, an influencer in the community, and one year later she started a time-consuming university degree. The first factor is the one that made her stop playing, the second one comforting her absence rather than causing it. After a year and a half away from the scene, she does still qualify her absence as “a break, that just isn’t over yet”. After stepping back, she expresses a will to rejoin the community when she gets more free time — she hasn’t left for good. She’s also interested in taking part in a tournament during her summer holidays, even though she doesn’t have time to train anymore.

During our interview, Sheik mentioned friction with her original local community. She underlines that the main tournament organiser in her region kept turning down her offers to help, and that better players didn’t want to play with beginners to help them improve, wanting to train only with other strong players. She says the situation is different abroad: “I’ve been very well accepted [here]. When I wanted to help organise tournaments, I didn’t have that problem, when I asked top players for freeplay and advice, no problems either. the opposite to my experience in France.” Naturally, she invested herself much more in this new community that appreciated her. There’s a lot to say about regional and national differences — I won’t go there in this blog post as this is the only person I’ve interviewed who isn’t living in France.

An incident has distanced Samus from the Smash community, as her father won’t let her travel to a tournament without her brother. Her competitive activity is therefore compromised.

Due to social anxiety, Zelda won’t play in public. However, she organises tournaments all across France. If she’s distanced herself from the Smash scene, it’s because of her health, not because of players — although with clear aggravation in her voice, she does state that “Smash players are a nuisance to female players”. This distance has been increased further by the fact that her partner has an important and profitable occupation within the Smash scene, which is very rare in Europe, and that he doesn’t want to “mix family life and business.” During her interview, she mentioned this several times to highlight her frustration at being away from her passion because she shares it with her boyfriend: “it’s absurd, because I also organise tournaments and hire him to work there.”

Legitimacy of the Female Voice

Women stop playing after a shorter time than men. A fact we’ve also observed in our interviews. According to most studies across video games as a whole, the reason women stop playing is the stereotype that  “women don’t play as well as men” (Kim, 2017). Because of this stereotype, they feel there’s more pressure for them to perform and they end up improving slower: it’s a vicious circle (Chan, 2008).

At a similar level, women are much less confident than men about their level of play (Shen, Ratan, Cai & Leavitt, 2016). I was able to confirm this theory in my interviews.

Lucina and Zelda both say they don’t play the game competitively at all, and they indeed stay at amateur level. “You’ve got issues because [people] criticise you for your low level, they generalise as ‘girls can’t play Melee’’, remarks Palutena. This is something I’ve also understood in the way Lucina and Zelda almost apologised for not playing competitively. Zelda adds: “If I don’t play, it’s because I’m a woman. But because I play, if I don’t play well, they see it as normal because I’m a woman and it has consequences on all other women. I become proof that no woman knows how to play Smash.”

Boobs and Palutena have a very different perception of their competitive level than what I’ve heard from the men who know them. Boobs barely talks about her player career, adding, “I’m not aiming to become the best player on Earth.” Palutena says: “People give me a role… It’s legitimate because I’m a girl and I can double laser, but that’s nothing to feel legitimate about. Playing better than someone who’s top 1000 … well, top 1000, top 200 in France, that’s not legitimate at all.” Men I’ve talked to rank Palutena around 50th in France, while she cites the ranks 200 and 1000 to prove her point — and mine!

Palutena explains this discrepancy with a theory: up to a certain level, women are heavily underestimated in the community. “We see them as an illustration of ‘girls can’t play,’ they’re not ‘real players,’ even when they’re better than a beginner man — and that guy only has to say he wants to improve to get advice and find training partners. After a certain level, the player suddenly is wildly overrated by players, because they see her as ‘a very good woman’ instead of an okay player in general, so they put her on a pedestal.” Lucina supports a similar theory as a non-player: “I feel like talking, as a woman, is a double-edged sword. Either everyone will listen, As if we’re on  a pedestal, or they’ll ignore us and nobody cares.”

When I asked for her opinion on this theory, Zelda answered: “Of course, there are very few of us so we’re princesses as long as we don’t behave like one of the guys. But when we talk the same way, our legitimacy disappears.”

Palutena concludes: “It’s a bit like meeting a group of, I don’t know, either they’re hostile, or they’re *switches to an overly enthusiastic tone* ‘Hey, what’s your name, how’s it going?’’.

Sexism in Smash: a four-step reflection

When I asked questions about sexism in Smash, the process is usually followed four steps. First, the women offered general observations on women in gaming, or suggested hypothetical situations.

Then, they mentioned anecdotes on sexism that other women had gone through. Because of the small number of women in the community, testimonials are similar: three out of six women mentioned a paedophilia scandal from 2016–2017, for example. scenarios like these encourage them to keep their distance: the third step follows saying, “I haven’t been a victim of sexism, but I’ve seen other women suffer.”

The fourth and last step, however, is personal anecdotes in direct contradiction with their previous negations of sexism. More research would be necessary to identify whether they were in denial, whether they minimised their own experiences because they weren’t “as bad” as others,’ or because they didn’t consider these stories like sexism. This last hypothesis is however unlikely, given that the interview centres specifically around misogyny in Smash.

General Assertions About Women in Video Games

The women I’ve interviewed have usually started with general observation or knowledge on women in gaming, rather than sharing specific anecdotes, until I specifically asked for examples. Four of them first talked about women in gaming, with two exceptions: Zelda talking about women in society — she mentioned that outside of video games, patriarchy remains the norm in our whole lives — and Boobs about women in Smash.

  • Lucina: “I was aware that in gaming and esports, well, most of all in gaming in general, women are… *she pauses* let’s say women don’t have the best image”
  • Boobs: “Nobody has been a problematic flirter or anything, because I’ve always had a boyfriend, but I know it happened to other people and I understand that one may want a secure space”
  • Palutena: “This happened in the Melee community and in video games in general because in these communities, ‘girls can’t play,’ etc.”
  • Sheik: “I didn’t believe it at first, that gaming communities were so problematic. (…) When talking with Zelda, I realised that there were big issues for girls in a gaming community.”
  • Samus: “People can say that girls shouldn’t play video games, or that girls should do something creative, or read, or something”
  • Zelda: “It’s not just video games. Society is patriarchal, nobody listens to women and they get harassed everywhere. But in gaming, it’s even worse, because there aren’t enough women for good organisation. As often in a male-dominated field, we’re unconsciously competing to be accepted, because there isn’t enough legitimacy for everyone. Sorority takes a while to appear.”

Anecdotes About Other People

When I ask for examples, these women almost never talk about their own experience first. If players didn’t mention their own experiences, I let it go — with such a small group, they were telling each other’s stories anyway.

  • Lucina : « A friend of mine used to be with a relatively well-known player. People insulted her because she was ‘the girlfriend’. Nobody called her by her gamertag, nobody called her by her name, she was always referred to as ‘that guy’s girlfriend’. »
  • Boobs: “Stories of harassment, well, harassment, rape, sexual assault like we’ve had recently in Smash”/“You also have Zelda, who’s doing her thing. It’s really stupid, but because of her really famous boyfriend, it’s sad for her, but she lacks legitimacy because of his presence.”
  • Palutena: “I haven’t seen too many [men] leave the community because it was too toxic. Which happens a lot more for us than for them.”
  • Sheik: “When I hear what kinds of things were said about Zelda … when I saw [the paedophilia scandal], it killed me, I couldn’t comprehend it.”
  • Samus: “Well I heard things… Things that happened at tournaments, little things like this, the drama going on in that moment.”
  • Zelda: “Obviously there was [the paedophilia scandal], but I guess everyone already mentioned that so I’m not going to go into detail.”

Because of my own history with the French Melee community, some of the girls also mentioned me:

  • Palutena: “I know that you, and other girls, you’ve had issues because people criticised you for not being good players.”
  • Sheik: “I’ve seen that in what happened to you too, the things I heard about you. And when you found out that guys were betting money on your sex life.”

“I wasn’t a victim of sexism.”

When I asked, “have you been affected by sexism in your Smash community?” several of my interviewees started out by stating they hadn’t.

  • Boobs: “With the stories we’ve had in Smash, I never had that problem. I’d say my gamertag protected me. Because when men talk to me, they feel awkward calling me Boobs, sexualising me.”
  • Palutena: “I didn’t take it seriously at all [when I heard that other players were victims of harassment] because I know that when there was a problem, my reaction was ‘okay but I’m fine’’.
  • Samus: “No, I’ve never been told myself that I shouldn’t play because I’m a girl.”

Personal stories

After one or two more specific questions, they started sharing anecdotes that, at least to me, seem to be pure sexism. I don’t know if the memories came back during the interview or whether their appreciation of misogyny was different from mine. Another hypothesis I had was that the interviewees minimised their own issues to give more weight to others. Research shows that this is a classic scenario in the case of domestic abuse (Dunham & Senn, 2000), but I haven’t found similar research on harassment and sexism in general.

  • Lucina : « When the organisation announced that they had recruited me, a Twitter reply was, if I remember correctly, it was ‘Smash? Girl?’ or, I think, maybe, ‘Video games? Girl? I’m not buying it!” »
  • Boobs: “So he suggested ‘The Other’ (girl), then ‘Whore’ (in English). And at one point… I’m an Asian woman with large breasts. At one point he looked at my breasts and he said… He pointed at them and he said: ‘Boobs!’ And everyone in the class started laughing so I didn’t really have a choice anymore.”
  • Palutena: “Behind me, someone said, ‘wow, she can double laser.’ A lot of people can double laser. For me, that was… It means that just because I’m a ‘she,’ it’s incredible that I can double laser. I felt like a circus animal.”
  • Sheik: “One guy always made a point of saying ‘you’re his sister,’ you know. Every time, every time, every time. At any opportunity he had. Really. Everytime he got a chance to say it, every time he saw me, it was ‘oh, that guy’s little sister.’”
  • Samus: “Maybe they thought I wasn’t serious about it, I was going to stop playing eventually.”

Recognising administrative work

This is a competitive scene. Whether we’re talking about video games or sports, players aren’t enough to keep the scene running. While women are still underrepresented in administrative roles, out of the 6 women I’ve interviewed, 4 had organised tournaments and 2 were otherwise engaged in their local community. The only exception was young Samus. These support roles are often glazed upon, while essential to running a community.

Boobs says: “It’s a shame that we don’t have a woman streamer, a woman TO.” She then corrects herself: there are many women tournament organisers, but “they’re not always recognised for their work.” She cited the example of a TO couple, in which the man was sponsored by a professional team. “And yes, he’s the most public figure, he has a more general vision (…) But why doesn’t she get recognition? Because I think… They’re together, you know. (…) She works at least as much as him [on the more practical side], even though they don’t carry out the same tasks.” Her conclusion: “We need more women involved in Smash, but women who aren’t girlfriends. Or who had true legitimacy before becoming girlfriends.”

Same goes for Sheik, who takes my own example to prove her point. “I see some French players, I ask them “do you know ShieldBreakFast, do you use the player map, do you remember the subtitles on all the Melee videos,” etc., and I ask, “do you know who Lexane is,” and they say yes. And then I ask, “did you know she’s the one who did that?” and they say, “oh, I thought it was LeFrenchMelee.” They don’t realise that you put in personal work, you know? (…) It would be a powerful image to be able to show, “wow, girls have had a real influence on the French Smash community.”

There’s a real issue here, that I’d love to do more research on in the months to come, on the value that we assign to the “housework” that women of our Smash communities do. They are here, they are active, but they don’t get recognition.

Ways of fighting sexism in the Smash community

Punishing bad behaviours

In Kim’s thesis, a main topic for fighting harassment is to heavily punish all sexist talk and harassment. On the morning of my last meeting, I found out about the Melee Code of Conduct, designed by an American panel. All tournament organisers can sign the code of conduct; it takes “offences,” from a sexist remark to full on rape, and punishes them with variable-length tournament suspensions or, in the most benign cases, written warnings. The panel who made this Code doesn’t replace the law, but allows for tournament-specific protection.

Zelda says it’s “a great first step,” but “there is no use in having a Code of Conduct with only Americans. We’ll file a complaint for something that happened in France, the people who will judge will be mostly men, who may not understand what this means to us, who don’t have the context that the French scene may provide, and the council may send a decision that will never be implemented, because they don’t track what’s going on in other countries. The idea is good, but the execution isn’t fully there.”

I would have loved to broach the topic with my other interviewees; however, the timing didn’t work.

Having been in the French Melee scene longer than us, Boobs talks about the lifetime ban of a man who sent sexual messages to a 13-year-old child. “It used to be hidden. Some people knew, but you had to sweep it under the rug. You couldn’t confront people, the girl was even accused of being as, if not more guilty than the man”. She is referencing a very similar story two years earlier, with a 14-year-old child and a 22-year-old man. She sees positive changes in the scene and is very optimistic about what our scene could look like in a few years.

Zelda sees the situation differently. “For someone who isn’t that active in the community, you only notice things bigger than the scene, such as the paedophilia scandal. But the insults, the daily harassment, the MRAs (Men’s rights activists) who say we’re all sluts, you don’t see that and I feel like that part got worse. The girls who fought for more respect gave up, you, me, the others, we all left the French Discord server, the space became hostile to women because only the toxic men are left. And nobody noticed or made the connection, because men don’t have the same vision of what’s sexist, or they aren’t affected by this atmosphere that doesn’t aim at them.” She then admits: “It’s true that on the worst aspects, things did get better.” (As of June 2019, the LeFrenchMelee Discord server has stronger moderation and several women who had previously left are back.)

Making the game more accessible

Boobs mentioned one thing that made me think: she believes that Smash Ultimate could lead to more female engagement through its user experience.

“Game modes are friendlier, nicer and more intuitive,” she says. It has been proven that games being intuitive helps women start to play, while men are less bothered by games that throw them in action without proper training (Kim, 2017).

Boobs adds: “game modes that you create for competition, they imply that you need to go to tournaments. If you’re not good, if you’re not a regular player, if people don’t know you well, well … you can’t play.” The fact that you need to compete to learn how competition works is a real problem for beginners. Boobs suggests that having competitive modes as default in Ultimate is part of how the game can be more appealing to new audiences, including women. We’ll have to wait a few years before being able to make conclusions on this topic.

The French Valkyries

The origins: Smash Sisters in the United States

The Québécoise player Stephanie Harvey said, in 2016, that with more representation, discrimination would disappear on its own (“Girl gamers challenge e-sports sexism,” 2016). To improve this representation in Smash, Lilian Chen and Emily Sun created Smash Sisters in January 2016. This meant organising crew battles as a side event to classic tournaments. Registration is free, open to all levels, and open to non-binary and female-aligned people.

The idea arrived in France a few months later, as a French player who had been at Genesis came back to Europe and was looking for women willing to start a French Smash Sisters movement. Boobs talks about the creation: “[He] came to see me one day and said there were 2 or 3 girls in Paris who could do it in France. So did I want to do it with them, because I had more experience. I said yes!”

At the core, the idea was simple: organising the exact same events at French tournaments.

The failure of Smash Sisters crew battles

We started one month later, at a Nantes tournament. Six women were at the event, including three who had registered for the tournament. Four women entered Smash Sisters, which turned out as a round robin, as a 2v2 crew battle held little interest. While we expected the negative feedback and demeaning comments from male players at the event, we did not see the women’s cold reception coming.

Sheik was at that tournament, but chose not to play Smash Sisters. “I wanted to be part of the community because of my gameplay, my play style, my performances. And I thought, Smash Sisters is an event where you take girls and make them play together, it doesn’t bring equality. Guys wouldn’t do men-only events, we’d complain. (…) Because I thought it would segregate the community, create conflict, and that it wouldn’t bring anything to women in the community.”

Boobs is a co-founder of the French Smash Sisters. And yet: “My problem with Smash Sisters is the women’s crew battles. I don’t understand why we have women’s crew battles (…) it doesn’t bring something to the community, it doesn’t bring much. It would be better to have mixed-gender crew battles, with one woman in each team for example.” This would not be Smash Sisters, but another side event. As far as we know, it hasn’t been implemented yet.

Palutena also actively criticised Smash Sisters when it arrived to France. “I really didn’t want it at the beginning, and I saw more of the men’s comments, they didn’t take this seriously at all but they saw it as a group of women who wanted to get attention, you know? Exhibitionism, in a sense.”

Everyone I’ve interviewed mentioned at some point that it would be better to have “everyone play together” in an integrated way, thereby confirming that a crew battle next to the tournament is still better than a separate women’s league.

Starting a conversation

Because of the cold response and of the low number of event participants, we gave up on Smash Sisters crew battles after two tournaments and created a discussion space instead. That space was made to talk about games and train together, talk about the community as well — but it also allowed for more personal conversations through sharing our art, our favourite makeup brands or our work and life news. That’s when the French women started to find some cohesion.

It took a few months for Boobs to see value in this conversation. “Sometimes, we feel lonely in our community, we’re the only woman in a male-dominated community. Sometimes, we want to talk with other girls, to talk about things that aren’t just about men.”

Sheik thought the same thing: “It came with being part of this Smash Sisters community (…) I thought the intentions were 100% better than I had guessed, and it made me want to go and see girls everywhere. And tell them, ‘look, we have great girls, we have safe spaces if you want more solidarity, if seeing guys everywhere makes you feel awkward…’ And I think it’s really important that my perception changed so much.”

Boobs quotes one specific example: “Solidarity when travelling, you know, ‘can I go to sleep at a female Smasher’s place instead of a male Smasher’s?’, which makes women more comfortable in the scene. Palutena adds: ‘It took me a long, a very, very long time to find it legitimate.’

By talking together, we’ve managed to build a cohesive community and to manage issues together — starting with this housing example.

Palutena insists on the fact that this is not just about recruiting women, but retaining them in a community that can sometimes be downright hostile. ‘And once again, even when you’re in the community, there are so many obstacles inside, which are repellant. Because even when you’re in the scene, the rumours, the social status … all the sexism in there, it doesn’t make you want to stay. Well… You know, you left (Note: this was addressed to me personally as at one point I had left the scene), other people had to leave the community at other times because it was too toxic, everyone … well … mostly women, because it doesn’t happen too much to men.’

This way, talking amongst women in a gender-specific safe space allows us to wind down and have fun thinking about the game, without the added pressure brought by a bad performance or by degrading talk.

This ‘conversation’ side became our main activity. Samus, who has never been able to attend a Smash Sisters event, defines Smash Sisters this way: ‘For me, it’s a place where girls can talk with each other and there’s no problem. (…) Here, girls can talk about how they feel, what’s going on, how to play, anything they like without the drama or without being judged.’ Her opinion of ‘Smash Sisters’ is much more positive than the ones of the women who saw the crew battles arrive to France. The problem is, Smash Sisters is a series of crew battles.

Samus doesn’t have a definitive solution to sexism in the gaming community, women’s representation in Smash or how relevant discussion spaces are. And why would she? Nobody’s had one before. About Smash Sisters, the event, she says: ‘I think it depends on our personality, on our strength. If we’re strong enough to accept that people criticise us, but that we’re allowing other people to have fun, then good, that’s how we get more women to join the scene. If we’d rather protect ourselves, it’s important, but it also means that we won’t grow.’ Palutena concludes: ‘If you go to a tournament (…) and you’re not with friends say neither your female friends or people who feel comfortable with are there, you’re going to have a very, very, very hard time joining the community.’

By organising Smash Sisters events, we became ‘the French Smash Sisters,’ and people started using the brand to talk about things that had nothing to do with crew battles. Our conversation spaces are thriving — there’s the Les Smasheuses Facebook group for France, the European Women of Smash Discord server for Europe as a whole. As you can see, they’re not called Smash Sisters. We’ve created a not-for-profit organisation (association subject to the 1901 French law) called Valkyries, where we’ll be conducting initiatives without using Smash Sisters for what it’s not. Things have been changing for girls and women in the French Smash communities for the first half of 2019, and we’re hoping to keep changing them one thing as a time — including Smash Sisters, the amazing series of crew battles, in our programme.


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