So, feminism is heavily critical of video games and movies etc where women are portrayed as being scantily clad and overly sexualized because that objectifies them to the male gaze and perpetuates stereotypes about women and whatnot.
When the counterargument that this is…
Mkay, thank you for giving me a response. I’m going to try to go point by point without getting too convoluted, your responses are in bold. First let me say that your overall point is that this isn’t slut-shaming, and I’d like to clarify that I don’t think it is necessarily either, but that I think it’s a *separate* issue of its own, which is lack of normalization of certain ideas. Anyway, since you still mention some things that are worth discussing, let’s continue.
Before I get into what the actual problem is, though, I am literally going to say not ALL feminists feel this way (yes, I used that line).
You seem to realize there’s an issue with that line, it’s probably the one about how ‘not ALL men’ is invalid and ‘not ALL feminists’ is valid, but you aren’t a feminist and I don’t know that you’ve ever admonished ‘not ALL men’ so I won’t hold that against you. Personally, I find both statements valid and I’m aware not ALL feminists think that nor are all responsible for the ones that do, I’m just addressing people like Anita Sarkeesian who not only DO think that, but get far more media coverage for it.
My understanding of feminism, though, is that there are two camps when it comes sexualizing women: One that is vehemently anti-sex, and one that is vehemently “It’s your sex life, do what you want.” I feel like this is an important distinction to make because, from what I can tell, it is a point where a lot of feminists have issues with other feminists, and because generalizing it like you do doesn’t take into regard peoples’ personal beliefs on the matter and simply assumes that they all feel the same about something that is a major issue to and very important to a lot of people.
There definitely are those two camps, but there ARE definitely a lot of feminists who fall into both depending on which is most convenient at the time. Again, Anita Sarkeesian. Normally she falls into sex-negative feminism for SURE, but there have been times she’s mentioned slut-shaming and ‘asking for it’ as well. I’m not making any attempt to generalize all of feminism because frankly the fact that it means so many things is part of the reason I don’t label myself that way. It’s like when someone tells me they’re a Christian and I have to explain that I still have no idea what they believe based on that alone.
1) The amount of them.
Video games are known for sexualized, scantily clad women. They’re more common in some areas of gaming than others (I’ll get into this in the next point), but regardless of what the current count is, they have been so common in the past that scantily clad women are inherently connected to video games.
Video games might be known for it, but I don’t think that’s accurate even in the past. As a person who’s grown up with games their entire lives, there has actually always been a good number of non-sexualized female characters in games, but the triple A games have often portrayed them sexually because as you say further down, sex sells. These games don’t make up the majority. You can consider them the ‘visible minority’, which is much like generalizing all feminists as being misandristic psychos because the vocal minority is, incidentally.
And this makes it feels like there’s a very small amount of female characters who aren’t sexualized. Who are just average janes, portrayed the way women actually are in real life (I’ll bring this up in the next point too). It feels like there’s a shortage of women who female gamers can relate to on a visual level, and it’s frustrating as a female gamer to feel like your gender is solely represented by either hypersexualized female characters who can take charge and kick ass, or by virginal damsels in distress who need saving.
Just to be clear, I’m not failing to acknowledge there’s been badly-written female characters in games, which I feel is an issue with creativity and not social justice, but like above, there have always been a lot of strongly-written female characters as well, in lesser-known titles. When the demographic shifts into purchasing those games in greater numbers, triple A titles will likely adapt that style as well. It’s marketing and they follow the money, and if there really were as many women in gaming as women think, we would already be there.
Protip, those statistics on the percentage of female gamers are misleading, and they don’t represent the number of console gamers that are female, and if they did I PROMISE more triple A games would pander to women because again, follow the money. Granted, it may finally be shifting in that direction, and I sincerely hope it is.
2) How unrealistic they are.
On a physical level, this comes down to proportions a lot, and clothes as well. There are some boob sizes that just aren’t attainable in real life, and some clothes where tits should be popping out when they aren’t in the game. It DOESN’T. MAKE. SENSE. That’s not the way proportions and clothes work in real life.
Yes that is true, and I won’t disagree that those games are pandering to men. I don’t necessarily consider it a bad thing (nor a good thing, I just lack an opinion) but I’m not talking about those games specifically. Okay, Dead or Alive Beach Volleyball is not an accurate portrayal of women’s bodies. However, other games that are admonished include female characters who look realistic but show a bit of skin, THAT is what I’m specifically referring to. And I find this more prevalent; just look at the world of Cosplay and the amount of costumes women are able to accurately make.
But more importantly, the biggest area where people have issues with scantily clad women is body armor, typically on MMOs like World of Warcraft aimed toward older audiences. This armor typically covers the bare minimum that it needs to in order to be considered appropriate for the game. This basically means the nipples and crotch are the only things that actually get protected. The armor is typically designed in such a way that the female character is enticing to the male gaze (and this one will come up in the NEXT point). Again. IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. There are women in armor where they should be getting run through by a sword a lot more often than they actually are.
Again, in some games, yes, but many games with armor have had reasonable armor for females too. And have for a long while. Baldur’s Gate, for example, has always covered their women realistically. And yes, I am going to pull out the ‘it isn’t meant to be realistic’ argument for these fantasy games with sexy armor.
Fantasy games have things like magical protection. Mage Armor is a thing, for instance. If you’ve ever played Dungeons and Dragons, you’d know exactly how far a fantasy character can get without armor, and that’s a setting where there IS no visual representation of how sexy you look (most of the time). And indeed, many male characters ALSO have revealing armor, take Kratos for example.
Now, I already know the next part of this argument, which is that those men are ‘male power fantasies’ and those women are still ‘male power fantasies’ so it isn’t a valid comparison. Look, I get that they are still aimed at what men like. Frankly, I would LOVE to see more male characters that are sexualized to be attractive, because I’m gay. But fortunately games let you create characters these days and I’ve been able to make tons of male hotties. And conservative women, for that matter. One thing a lot of people don’t realize is that most games with sexy female armor also include conservative female armor and the choice is YOURS if you want bikini chain mail or full-body plate mail.
Lastly, this issue really only applies in western games, because Japanese games often have sultry male characters, and many of them are definitely NOT ‘male power fantasies’, I would need evidence to believe otherwise. On the other side, there’s already tons of men complaining about these pansy-ass men from JRPGs so evidence for the opposing side is easy to acquire.
3) They aren’t made for women.
Your counterargument would hold up a lot more if these women were actually being consciously designed to combat slutshaming and empower women to embrace their sexual freedom.
But they aren’t.
These designs are typically done because they’re deemed to be aesthetically pleasing to the stereotypical video game demographic: Men.
Again, I am aware that is true, but I have a secret for you. Many women DO like these character designs. Just because something was made to appeal to one gender doesn’t mean others aren’t able to enjoy it for their own reasons. See ‘My Little Pony.’ And the characters may not be consciously designed to combat slut-shaming, but that doesn’t mean they CAN’T as a side-effect. They also were not consciously designed to anger women, yet apparently that’s a problem. Women have options in games. When I hear a woman complain about all female characters looking this way or that, I tend to wonder how many games she’s actually played, or if she only plays triple A titles.
In reality, these women are being designed in ways that accentuate the features stereoptypically believed to be the most desirable by men. And this doesn’t mean that developers are thinking, “I want these male gamers to want to fuck this chick,” and it doesn’t mean gamers are consciously thinking, “I want to fuck this chick,” (although some are, see: Rule 34).
It means sex sells. It’s a common advertisement practice to associate images like hot people or patriotic symbols with products because they generally encourage positive feelings in people, which are then associated with the product itself and that makes it more likely that people will buy the product. Think: the hot women currently eating Burger King burgers on their commercials.
The problem with “sex sells” in video games is that sex is being sold to mostly men. There are very few examples of men being designed for the female gaze (with my favorite example being the male assassins in Assassin’s Creed, and they’re even designing their female assassin’s for females, it seems to me, as well. 10/10 good job AC on character design). Hot men are rarely ever designed and used to attract women to play games. More often than not, females are designed to entice male gamers, and male characters are designed as power fantasies for the male gamers (to make them feel like the big strong hero and stroke their egos).
To reiterate previous points in my response, when games with hot women stop selling as well, they will stop being in the spotlight. To be honest, this leads me to the assumption that most women who complain about sexualized female characters don’t actually spend money on games, because if they did, and there really were 52% of gamers who were these women, the games they liked would become Triple A games. But because Triple A games are still outselling games with conservative and genuine female characters, I have to assume the main demographic is still straight men.
Perhaps it is because these games get advertised more and alienate women, but it’s a catch 22, and these big companies don’t want to take the risk of appealing to a potentially new demographic and failing at it. But again, many big games now allow character creation and aren’t so sexual when portraying females, either because they want to avoid bad press or because they’re genuinely maturing, so isn’t the issue already being solved? Why admonish all games for what happened in the past? And does that mean that now NO game can pander toward men ever? And why not? What’s the ratio for an acceptable amount of male-gaze games?
It doesn’t matter that gamers aren’t always consciously acknowledging this. It’s someting that happens on a subconscious to make gamers enjoy the video game more. Hell, they’re probably even being DESIGNED on a subconscious level.
And no, they’re not being designed for homosexual female gamers, either. The homosexual female gaze is not necessarily the same as the heterosexual male gaze, from my very limited knowledge on the subjects.
Yeah no I’m not totally convinced of that lesbian gaze claim you just made so I’m going to disregard that as a fallacious point for now. I mean, yes they aren’t designed for lesbians, but lesbians can and DO still enjoy them.
But scantily clad are females are NEVER created to encourage women to embrace their sexualities and let them know, “It’s okay to be a sexual being.”
Subconsciously, yes they’re probably being designed for male gamers, but again, that doesn’t mean women can’t enjoy it too or benefit from it, so the intention being different does NOT disprove my earlier point about how it could affect society if indeed video games DID affect society on that level which I don’t think they DO.
Furthermore, I would not go so far as to say they are NEVER created to encourage that. To prove that, you’d need to paw through every single game ever made and interview the creators to find out if they intended to create a female to encourage positive female sexuality. Can we avoid hyperbole?
And none of that is to say sexualized female characters SHOULDN’T exist in video games. You’re right, they should exist to send the message to women who DO relate them that it’s okay to be sexual and express your sexuality IF YOU WANT TO. But: 1) They need to start being designed to send that message, and 2) We need enough non-sexualized characters that it’s clear ALL types of women are being represented in video games. There would be a lot less complaints about such women if there were an equal amount of non-sexual women portrayed in games as well.
1) How exactly would you design one to send that message, out of curiosity? I don’t disagree with that statement, mind you.
2) As stated above, that is already the case, whether you realize it or not. The fact that so many women are unaware of any video game title that isn’t triple-A is exactly why they often get accused of being fake gamers. I know that was kind of a bombshell statement, but eh, come at me bro.
Wow this was long, but I hope someone else out there enjoyed it and I hope you, the person I’m discussing this with, finds this discussion as interesting as I do. Thank you.