Yes, they are saying EXACTLY that. Every time this sort of thing comes up, we see EXACTLY the same thing. Any criticism of geekdom is brushed off as "well, not at my table." as if that somehow counters the experiences that women were having (and, unfortunately are STILL having) in the hobby.
No, the reason that virtually no women existed in the hobby for decades ISN'T because of other people making fun of them or bullying them. That might have been part of it. Maybe? I don't know. But, I do know that women have been on the receiving end of the very short end of a very stinky gamer stick for a LONG time. Between mechanics that directly sideline female characters, to cheesecake art, to virtually no marketing to women, to incredibly toxic behavior from people (and sometimes "respected" people) in the hobby, we don't have the right to point to anyone else for why our hobby has been pretty much a white boys club for decades. WE are the reason for it.
We shouldn't have to have this conversation every freaking time someone points to the gender disparity in the hobby.
Yeah, I can’t see how anyone can deny not only the history of not being female friendly, but the current attitude as well. There are three main issues that I saw and still see to an extent that we as gamers need to be honest with ourselves.
1. Outright harassment. This includes the sexist comments and the constant flirting with a female player, as well as the comments about how women are “such and such”
2. Using the mechanics and game to harass women. “Garogh (the male players PC) looks over at Eleah and gives her a big wink. As soon as I’m done having my way with these harlots, how about you and I hook up? What!? It’s just my character, not me!”
3. White knights. These are the guys who can’t get dates with women and think that if they swing way over the other way, and act like any hint of disagreement with someone who happens to be a woman means it’s sexism even if it has nothing to do with gender, the woman in question will like them. They feel all women need to be protected and quickly leap to their defense. It always ends the same. Said dude gets a sense of entitlement like he deserves her attention because he stood up for all wimmins! And when rejected, he starts the shaming campaign.
These problems might not be as bad as they were, and we’ve made leaps and bounds regarding art and marketing, but the attitudes at the table are still pretty bad. Ignoring it won’t help anyone.