Feminism/Sexism and Gaming/Geek/Popular culture Catch All

Demyx wrote:

Man I am in a thread about this on another forum and seem to be the only one vigorously arguing that there is a problem with sexism in video games at all. It's depressing. Thanks for this thread.

The idea that anyone can look at the state of video games right now, and think that there is no problem with sexism/racism/homophobia at all is completely baffling to me, and yet is precisely the reaction that created the need for this thread in the first place. One could certainly argue the degree of the problem, but to outright deny it? How freaking dense are people?

Garden Ninja wrote:
Demyx wrote:

Man I am in a thread about this on another forum and seem to be the only one vigorously arguing that there is a problem with sexism in video games at all. It's depressing. Thanks for this thread.

The idea that anyone can look at the state of video games right now, and think that there is no problem with sexism/racism/homophobia at all is completely baffling to me, and yet is precisely the reaction that created the need for this thread in the first place. One could certainly argue the degree of the problem, but to outright deny it? How freaking dense are people?

I had a conversation just this week with someone who had never thought about it. Naïve, certainly, but not intentionally malicious.

The people who are spewing slurs on gaming servers are presumably doing it because they think it's acceptable behavior, and thus it doesn't cross their minds that it's a problem. Which is depressing, but there you go.

Gremlin wrote:

I had a conversation just this week with someone who had never thought about it. Naïve, certainly, but not intentionally malicious.

Well, that's certainly understandable. But I have a hard time imagining how someone could possibly have it pointed out to them and not think "This never occurred to me before, but you may be right!"

SpacePPoliceman wrote:
Gremlin wrote:

I had a conversation just this week with someone who had never thought about it. Naïve, certainly, but not intentionally malicious.

Well, that's certainly understandable. But I have a hard time imagining how someone could possibly have it pointed out to them and not think "This never occurred to me before, but you may be right!"

Exactly.

Garden Ninja wrote:

The idea that anyone can look at the state of video games right now, and think that there is no problem with sexism/racism/homophobia at all is completely baffling to me, and yet is precisely the reaction that created the need for this thread in the first place. One could certainly argue the degree of the problem, but to outright deny it? How freaking dense are people?

I think part of the problem is that people refuse to consider the BIG picture.

Princess Peach isn't the problem. Dead or Alive Volleyball is not the problem. Lollipop Chainsaw is not the problem. The problem is that there is no counterpart to these things. The problem is that when people talk about great female characters in video games, the conversation begins and ends with the same tired handful of decently-written examples.

But people get way too bogged down in the specific examples of games which are "bad" or "good" and whether or not a chainmail bikini is empowering. It's a systemic problem!

Demyx wrote:
Garden Ninja wrote:

The idea that anyone can look at the state of video games right now, and think that there is no problem with sexism/racism/homophobia at all is completely baffling to me, and yet is precisely the reaction that created the need for this thread in the first place. One could certainly argue the degree of the problem, but to outright deny it? How freaking dense are people?

I think part of the problem is that people refuse to consider the BIG picture.

Princess Peach isn't the problem. Dead or Alive Volleyball is not the problem. Lollipop Chainsaw is not the problem. The problem is that there is no counterpart to these things. The problem is that when people talk about great female characters in video games, the conversation begins and ends with the same tired handful of decently-written examples.

But people get way too bogged down in the specific examples of games which are "bad" or "good" and whether or not a chainmail bikini is empowering. It's a systemic problem!

The thing is, art reflects the social mores of the society that creates it. We live in a broadly sexist society so it's little wonder that we (as a society) create sexist art. We could definitely make better art with a wider variety of more realistic roles for women (and men) and that would be a great and wonderful step forward but it wouldn't stop Lara Croft and whichever other Chesty McBoob 2D characterisation from being a sexist portrayal of women.

I can't speak for all feminists, but my goal is not to stop all sexist portrayals of women. I think that female characters who exist purely for men to ogle have their place. After all, we've all got those primal lizard brains that like to look at sexy people.

If there were dozens of games with interesting, well-written female leads on the shelves, I would probably just ignore the sexist games and move on. The problem is that most games seem to be that way, including a lot of the AAA games that are considered the best.

Demyx:

I can't really imagine what it must be like for women, but it might be something like having every book and movie be Twilight or some version thereof, with varying quality. Then layer on sexist and sexual harassment on top. That'd suck big time.

Pretty much, yeah. The problem is that the sexist portrayals are so very very dominant. Seeing them everywhere, all the time, influences both the image women have of themselves and the images men have of women. And a lot of the time, it's not even conscious.

Take a look at Sarkeesian's commentary on Christmas songs, for example. I saw some youtube comments (yeah, I know: [em]never read the comments[/em]) complaining that "OMG she wants to destroy Christmas songs! They're not really a big deal! They were written ages ago!" But really, what Sarkeesian was trying to do was simply to make us [em]think[/em] about what the songs say, and suggest that maybe we should prefer new songs or remakes of older songs that don't express these things. Criticism in this vein isn't about saying that these cultural artifacts (the legos, or the video games, the movies, books, TV shows, etc.) must be destroyed. It's about saying that we as consumers of culture should be thoughtful about the things we feed to our brain, and that we as creators of culture can absolutely do [em]better[/em] than this.

(And also, she's right: I really love "It's Cold Outside", but when you listen to the lyrics that song is creepy as f*ck. Totally beats "I'll Be Watching You" on the stalker scale. Being conscious of that fact means that when I hear it, I'm going to remember that instead of simply letting it wash over my sub-conscious. Also, I'm not going to unthinkingly put it on to play when chatting with a friend who was date-raped when she was in high school.)

Hypatian wrote:

Pretty much, yeah. The problem is that the sexist portrayals are so very very dominant. Seeing them everywhere, all the time, influences both the image women have of themselves and the images men have of women. And a lot of the time, it's not even conscious.

Take a look at Sarkeesian's commentary on Christmas songs, for example. I saw some youtube comments (yeah, I know: [em]never read the comments[/em]) complaining that "OMG she wants to destroy Christmas songs! They're not really a big deal! They were written ages ago!" But really, what Sarkeesian was trying to do was simply to make us [em]think[/em] about what the songs say, and suggest that maybe we should prefer new songs or remakes of older songs that don't express these things. Criticism in this vein isn't about saying that these cultural artifacts (the legos, or the video games, the movies, books, TV shows, etc.) must be destroyed. It's about saying that we as consumers of culture should be thoughtful about the things we feed to our brain, and that we as creators of culture can absolutely do [em]better[/em] than this.

(And also, she's right: I really love "It's Cold Outside", but when you listen to the lyrics that song is creepy as f*ck. Totally beats "I'll Be Watching You" on the stalker scale. Being conscious of that fact means that when I hear it, I'm going to remember that instead of simply letting it wash over my sub-conscious. Also, I'm not going to unthinkingly put it on to play when chatting with a friend who was date-raped when she was in high school.)

The stalkery-ness is a bit more apparent to men if you listen to a gender-swapped version, like this:

LarryC wrote:

Demyx:

I can't really imagine what it must be like for women, but it might be something like having every book and movie be Twilight or some version thereof, with varying quality. Then layer on sexist and sexual harassment on top. That'd suck big time.

Well said.

Foreign perspective on "It's Cold Outside":

I never grew up with it, and it's not cold outside on Christmas. Where I live, it's pretty much summer all year long.

It was creepy the first time I heard it and it's still creepy now. I didn't need to hear the exact lyrics to realize it; the tone and overall gist of the song is unmistakable. A significant number of Dylan (?) songs are actually the same way. It's creepy to the point of raising the hairs on the back of my neck. I can only imagine the kind of damage these songs do to the cultural and personal mindsets of the women who have to live with them. I imagine it's pretty horrible.

It needs to change.

In my view, whatever cultural value these songs have is more than offset by their destructive and offensive messages. Their overall value is negative.

I've seen sketch groups perform It's Cold Outside as if it is a couple of people surviving the nuclear apocalypse, i.e. nuclear winter. That's how I envision that song now.

Tanglebones wrote:

The stalkery-ness is a bit more apparent to men if you listen to a gender-swapped version, like this:
youtube]_hEJQbEYjRg[/youtube

They did a fairly nice job with the acting and the mime. I don't get that from the original.

Though my first reaction was utter annoyance at the guy for not responding in a direct manner. Instead he comes up with flimsy excuses, each one overturned by mentioning the snow outside. If I were in a situation like this I would have expected something like this:

"Baby it is cold outside"
"It's okay, I don't care"
"Baby it is cold outside"
"I know, but its okay"
"Baby it is cold outside"
"I'm not going to repeat myself"
"Baby it is cold outside"
"Okay, you want something. I'm sorry, I had a great evening but I'm [married / seeing some one / not interested (tonight)]."

Because otherwise it's bloody hard to distinguish between that and me playing hard to get.

That's actually an illustration of why the song isn't just stalker-creepy but also sexist.

When it's gender-swapped, it's almost a joke. I mean, what guy would let himself be pressured that way, right? And if a woman tried to force the issue, its not like she could stop him leaving if he wanted to, right?

But it happens to women all the time, and frequently if it comes down to force, or even the question of force, the woman is probably going to be at a disadvantage.

You also have reinforcement of the idea that if a woman says no, she really means yes and you should just keep after her until she gives in. The idea that men should be the aggressor and that women really want to be pursued that way. And it's not just telling men that they should behave that way, it's telling women that as well.

Men should be aggressive and force the issue. Women should be submissive and give in to the man who knows what they really want.

Ugh.

Could I ask the ladies here a serious question?

How would you like us, men, to be a part of the solution instead of the problem?

dejanzie wrote:

Could I ask the ladies here a serious question?

How would you like us, men, to be a part of the solution instead of the problem?

Just being aware of of and thinking critically about this kind of stuff (and how pervasive it is), instead of blindly accepting it as part of the cultural landscape, is helpful. Discussing it rationally even more so.

Also, recognizing that your experience is not always, or even often, other people's experience. So many men are shocked by things women experience, even just in the context of gaming, because they've never been treated that way. Some guys get defensive, though, and decide since they've never encountered or noticed something that it doesn't exist. That's part of the problem; honest inquiry is part of the solution.

Demyx wrote:

I can't speak for all feminists, but my goal is not to stop all sexist portrayals of women. I think that female characters who exist purely for men to ogle have their place. After all, we've all got those primal lizard brains that like to look at sexy people.

Sure, but arousing, titillating portrayals of women (or men) aren't required to also be sexists portrayals.

Demyx wrote:

If there were dozens of games with interesting, well-written female leads on the shelves, I would probably just ignore the sexist games and move on. The problem is that most games seem to be that way, including a lot of the AAA games that are considered the best.

The idea that the best way forward is just to generate many, many more good portrayals is likely a sensible and pragmatic way forward.

dejanzie wrote:

Could I ask the ladies here a serious question?

How would you like us, men, to be a part of the solution instead of the problem?

I think that asking this question -- actually caring about what women think about women's problems -- is probably a big part of the solution.

Also, what Clover said.

Malor wrote:

Post a picture of the first Tomb Raider box. It offended me in my mid-20s.

Many pictures have been posted, including pictures of Tera! Of course since those women are carrying weapons and are "tough" then they're obviously not sexist, doesn't every woman want to be both tough and sexy, what's your problem!

I actually liked Tomb Raider when I was a teen because it was one of the few games that starred a woman at all >_>

seem to be the only one vigorously arguing that there is a problem with sexism in video games at all.

Post a picture of the first Tomb Raider box. It offended me in my mid-20s.

The problem is that when people talk about great female characters in video games, the conversation begins and ends with the same tired handful of decently-written examples.

Well, one good point there, though, is that at least the list is (slowly) getting longer. It IS improving.

edit: I'm having trouble finding a pic for you. The original box was a weird shape, not square, like a triangle with the top chopped off. (Wikipedia calls it an isoceles trapezoid.) Lara's chest took up the entire bottom of the box... I remember a coworker saying that giving that girl a hug could kill you.

Now I have to find it. It was ridiculous.

Hmm, this is close. The box shape is right, but I'm pretty sure the picture is different. I really thought the first edition was almost all tits at the bottom of the trapezoid, but maybe I'm misremembering:

IMAGE(http://www.malor.com/gamerswithjobs/tomb_raider_trapezoid.jpg)

I actually liked Tomb Raider when I was a teen because it was one of the few games that starred a woman at all >_>

It really bugged me at the time, watching a bunch of young teenage girls really get into the game. I was thinking to myself that it was such a bad, sexist portrayal, and it bothered me that they thought it was so great.

It WAS a step forward. Having a female protagonist at all was major. But, dear god, LOOK AT THAT BOX.

It got worse:

IMAGE(http://www.malor.com/gamerswithjobs/tomb_raider_ii.jpg)

and worse still:

IMAGE(http://www.malor.com/gamerswithjobs/tomb_raider_last_revelation.jpg)

How did she not just, you know, fall on her face?

As an aside, even though I was annoyed at the sexism in her presentation, that first game dominated my life for weeks. I was working in a computer shop, and we'd gotten in our first 3DFX card, which was an unbelievable advance, and I would stay late, playing Tomb Raider, because it was so much better than it was at home.

The female protagonist thing really worked for me, because I hated, hated, hated it when she died, especially when she fell, screamed, and then her bones snapped when she hit the rocks. It was way, way worse to watch that than it would have been for a male protagonist. Dunno why, but it got its hooks in me something fierce.

Malor wrote:
I actually liked Tomb Raider when I was a teen because it was one of the few games that starred a woman at all >_>

It really bugged me at the time, watching a bunch of young teenage girls really get into the game. I was thinking to myself that it was such a bad, sexist portrayal, and it bothered me that they thought it was so great.

It WAS a step forward. Having a female protagonist at all was major. But, dear god, LOOK AT THAT BOX.

I've always found that there is a fair disconnect between the marketing materials (models playing Lara, box art and advertising etc...) and the experience of actually playing the game. The marketing is almost all about titillation in the worst, most objectionable puerile sense but when you're playing that game you just stop thinking about the character. Character model aside, the games' stories seldom play on her sexiness (I may be misremembering that, it's been a long time)

Malor wrote:

The female protagonist thing really worked for me, because I hated, hated, hated it when she died, especially when she fell, screamed, and then her bones snapped when she hit the rocks. It was way, way worse to watch that than it would have been for a male protagonist. Dunno why, but it got its hooks in me something fierce.

Is this the effect they were trying to create in the new Tomb Raider? Protecting Lara?

I never actually felt anything different when playing Tomb Raider. She was the protagonist just like any other. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

I'd also like to add to the list of positive female characters:

IMAGE(http://admintell.napco.com/ee/images/uploads/gamertell/Alys.png)

Alys - Phantasy Star IV.

I find it interesting that Leigh Alexander considers Bayonetta an empowered female character. Sadly I haven't played it, but it seems like typical teen targeted wank material.

SixteenBlue wrote:
Malor wrote:

The female protagonist thing really worked for me, because I hated, hated, hated it when she died, especially when she fell, screamed, and then her bones snapped when she hit the rocks. It was way, way worse to watch that than it would have been for a male protagonist. Dunno why, but it got its hooks in me something fierce.

Is this the effect they were trying to create in the new Tomb Raider? Protecting Lara?

I never actually felt anything different when playing Tomb Raider. She was the protagonist just like any other. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

I'd also like to add to the list of positive female characters:

IMAGE(http://admintell.napco.com/ee/images/uploads/gamertell/Alys.png)

Alys - Phantasy Star IV.

JRPGs have always been ahead of that curve, look at Alys in Phantasy Star I. And all of the Final Fantasies.

Malor wrote:

The female protagonist thing really worked for me, because I hated, hated, hated it when she died, especially when she fell, screamed, and then her bones snapped when she hit the rocks. It was way, way worse to watch that than it would have been for a male protagonist. Dunno why, but it got its hooks in me something fierce.

Thinking about it, yeah. I was the same. I only really played Legend, but I don't like it when a female character I'm playing gets hurt. I always flinched in Mirror's Edge when I missed a jump and Faith would hit the deck with a crunchy splat noise. With a male character I either won't notice, or I'll laugh.

SixteenBlue wrote:
Malor wrote:

The female protagonist thing really worked for me, because I hated, hated, hated it when she died, especially when she fell, screamed, and then her bones snapped when she hit the rocks. It was way, way worse to watch that than it would have been for a male protagonist. Dunno why, but it got its hooks in me something fierce.

Is this the effect they were trying to create in the new Tomb Raider? Protecting Lara?

Possibly.

DanB wrote:
Malor wrote:
I actually liked Tomb Raider when I was a teen because it was one of the few games that starred a woman at all >_>

It really bugged me at the time, watching a bunch of young teenage girls really get into the game. I was thinking to myself that it was such a bad, sexist portrayal, and it bothered me that they thought it was so great.

It WAS a step forward. Having a female protagonist at all was major. But, dear god, LOOK AT THAT BOX.

I've always found that there is a fair disconnect between the marketing materials (models playing Lara, box art and advertising etc...) and the experience of actually playing the game. The marketing is almost all about titillation in the worst, most objectionable puerile sense but when you're playing that game you just stop thinking about the character. Character model aside, the games' stories seldom play on her sexiness (I may be misremembering that, it's been a long time)

Yes, this is true. It's kind of like playing with Barbie dolls. Sure, the Barbie dolls have ridiculous boobs and proportions, but there's nothing stopping an imaginative child from pretending they're tough adventurers or scientists or evil overlords or whatever else.

It also was not until years after that I realized that maybe the portrayal of women didn't have to be that way.

Demyx wrote:
DanB wrote:
Malor wrote:
I actually liked Tomb Raider when I was a teen because it was one of the few games that starred a woman at all >_>

It really bugged me at the time, watching a bunch of young teenage girls really get into the game. I was thinking to myself that it was such a bad, sexist portrayal, and it bothered me that they thought it was so great.

It WAS a step forward. Having a female protagonist at all was major. But, dear god, LOOK AT THAT BOX.

I've always found that there is a fair disconnect between the marketing materials (models playing Lara, box art and advertising etc...) and the experience of actually playing the game. The marketing is almost all about titillation in the worst, most objectionable puerile sense but when you're playing that game you just stop thinking about the character. Character model aside, the games' stories seldom play on her sexiness (I may be misremembering that, it's been a long time)

Yes, this is true. It's kind of like playing with Barbie dolls. Sure, the Barbie dolls have ridiculous boobs and proportions, but there's nothing stopping an imaginative child from pretending they're tough adventurers or scientists or evil overlords or whatever else.

It also was not until years after that I realized that maybe the portrayal of women didn't have to be that way.

Although I'm sure that making the character female is in no small part driven precisely because you can then indulge in all the worst most sexist marketing