I have decided to revisit my previous article about sexism in video games, and rewrite it. I felt like it wasn’t my best work, and since this is an issue that is important I wanted to make it stand out more than it did due to a poor collection of thoughts and bad writing. The article was previously titled “Sexism In Video Games – How Much Is Too Much?” and I decided to rename it since I want to discuss more about the foundations of women in gaming and what is to be considered truly sexist, and what people think is sexist but actually isn’t. Sexism, as defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary, is simply “prejudice or discrimination based on sex” and it goes on to say especially against women, but we all know it goes both ways. Sexism does not only affect women, it affects men too and although my article will mainly highlight sexism against women in games it should not be forgotten that men are hurt by it too.
So prejudice or discrimination based on sex. What does that mean in the video game world? Well let’s find an example, an easy one, Grand Theft Auto. Now most everyone knows what the premise of these games are, but there is a lot of sexism involved in the subplots and around the world of the game. Women are treated differently by pretty much every man in the series, referred to as “bitches” for being a woman or being treated like second class citizens who are only good for sex, and that is truly sexist. The women are being discriminated against simply based on gender. Another good example is most fighting games of today. Most all games in the fighter genre have at least one, but usually multiple women, whose breasts bounce around as if independent from their bodies and are all the while wearing hardly anything. It’s sexist because it’s again using women as an object to simply look at for sex appeal, which is discriminatory and offensive.
Now, to clear one thing up, sexism doesn’t necessarily ruin a game for me, especially when that isn’t really even the main point of the game. It’s really games like the newly released Lollipop Chainsaw that make me wonder “what are they thinking?”. The game is marketed towards men due to the fact that the main character is a high school cheerleader, complete with sexy uniform, who enjoys eating lollipops in a sexual way while sticking her barely cover behind out for the camera. Regardless of what the game is truly about, people will always remember the sexy young girl toting a huge chainsaw on the front cover. It’s sexist because the female gender is being discriminated against by being used as a sexual object when she could have looked like a 300 pound weight lifter and the game’s story would have been the same. She may be a smart, well educated female who just happens to be stuck in that costume, but what makes it truly sexist is that none of that would matter because of how she is portrayed to the basic public – as a sex symbol. That is the real issue of today: Sex sells. People all over the world will buy games like this based on what the woman on the cover looks like, and while there is nothing wrong with “eye candy”, we can’t ignore the fact that it is sexism.
As of late, people have been forgetting about what sexism really is. There is a large amount of outcry from men and women alike against the upcoming Tomb Raider game, for instance. From what I can gather, people think that the game is overtly sexist and demeaning to women based on Lara Croft’s looks and the noises she makes throughout the game. That’s understandable… Not. So I suppose most of these people haven’t played games like Bayonetta, Lollipop Chainsaw, or any fighting game made in the last 10 years. The problem here, and the reason why it is not sexist, is that those problems are what people are making them out to be. To me, Lara crying in agony while pulling a metal screw out of her side is not sexual at all, it’s uncomfortably painful to watch maybe, but not sexual. If an individual finds it sexual then so be it, but it’s not intended that way nor is it a sexual situation. She is not being demeaned or discriminated against at all. As far as her looks go in the new game, she looks 10 times less sexualized that in the previous games in the series. Plus, sexism is not only about what a character looks like, especially in games, it’s more about how the character is portrayed and how they are treated. Lara Croft has always been a strong, empowered woman regardless of her large assets or “skimpy” clothes (I say that in quotations because I’ve seen what passes as normal for young girl’s attire these days which makes Lara look like a nun). So someone finds her attractive, and that makes the game sexist apparently. I guess most men and women of the world are being treated with sexism these days then.
Another game that was dubbed “the most sexist video game ever” by some people was Batman: Arkham City. I was in awe when I found out that people found this game to be sexist. When I read the articles and saw the discussions, I was dumbfounded. The issue was that people thought the way Catwoman was treated by the criminals and thugs around the prison city was disrespectful and extremely sexist. I couldn’t believe that people expected someone like Catwoman, who tends to be on most main criminals’ bad side, to be treated with the utmost respect in a city full of murderers, rapists, and psychopaths. So some inmate calls her a “bitch” and everyone cries sexist when he probably called the last woman he tortured and murdered something worse. My point is, given the setting, the way she was treated by in-game NPC’s was believable. I wouldn’t expect them to say “Wow, that Catwoman is such a stand up gal, I really appreciated how strong she is as a person. I truly envy her” so why did other people? Now the point about her style of dress and demeanor is more serious. It brings up a whole other venue of sexism – comic books. The way she acts and is portrayed in the video game is sexist, she is shown as a sexual object who spends her time seducing bad boys and Batman alike, but that is not the game’s fault as they were trying to stay true to the source material. They depicted her as she was portrayed in comic books, which happen to be one of the most sexist media venues out there. So saying that the game is extremely sexist is like killing the messenger, when the real culprit is the comic book industry.
The problem of today is any video game who creates a female character who acts, is portrayed, and is treating in a sexist (being discriminated against or being treated with prejudice based on gender) manner. Women have always been giving the sexed-up treatment in video games, since until not too long ago, it was a male dominated culture and that’s what some males like to see in games. The last statistic I read was that 40% of the gaming community is made up of women, and that was awhile back so I presume it may be a higher percentage now. While males still technically are the majority, females are driving their way up there to the ranks of men and proving that they too can be hardcore gamers. Because of that, I think that video game companies should start making the industry more fair and stop creating overtly sexist games and game characters. In my opinion, characters like Lara Croft and Anya Stroud (Gears of War) are what is right with the gaming industry, they are females who are believable and can kick ass just the same as any man without having to sleep with the man first or looking like a prostitute while doing so. Instead of wasting time making arguments against games like Tomb Raider and Arkham City, let’s bring up the games that actually disrespect women and hope for a change from the companies making them. Picking on games that are not actually offensive will get us nowhere, and right now I believe it’s time for a change.
I want to address the issue of a large amount of people reading this article and misunderstanding my meaning and why it was written, I apologize as it is my fault for not being more clear in my writings. I want to clarify that I myself am not proposing that videos games be regulated or censored to cut out sexism or any other offensive nature involved in them. I wrote this article to define what sexism is, and what it isn’t. I wanted to bring up a few games that have been talked about as being overly sexist when they really aren’t, and show what games are to be considered truly sexist. I view video games as art, and thus believe that they can have whatever the developers, or artists, feel is necessary in them. At the same time, I don’t think that just because it’s art that I or anyone else should sit idly and let them (or any other media form) demean an entire gender. I don’t personally have the power to stop sexism, but I think knowledge is power and spreading knowledge on this issue is helpful to anyone who supports the cause. Again, this article was not written with the intent of making readers believe I am trying to start a movement or push my beliefs on others. As I said, for me sexism doesn’t necessarily make a game terrible or unplayable, I just simply wished to point it out as it is a growing issue, whether or not everyone agrees. Again, my apologies and I truly am sorry for any misunderstandings, I hope this clears those issues up. Thank you again for reading my article and formulating your own opinions. I truly appreciate it.