Feminism and Overcoming Adversity in the Gaming Industry

feminism1

Feminism and its tie to video games and the video game industry has been vastly overlooked, misconstrued, and pushed aside by the gaming community. Feminism is still seen by many as a ploy for women to gain power over men, a way for women to “bitch” about problems that “men also go through”, and in general as a waste of a woman’s time since she should be in the kitchen or making babies – not complaining. To clear these issues up I must take to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of feminism:

  1. : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
  2. : organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests

So really, if you see a feminist saying that women should be regarded higher than men, she is not a true feminist. The problem is that the video game industry has previously been a male dominated society, and it seems as if some men do not want to share their place in the industry with a female. If you take a look at the FeministFrequency.com post in reference to Anita Sarkeesian’s YouTube video series “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games” showcasing the harassment she has received for bringing sexism in video games to light, you’ll see what I mean. She as called a “f***ing hypocrite slut”, “feminazi”, “bitch”, “lesbian”, and countless other racial, sexist, and discriminatory insults. She was also told “I hope you get cancer” and a comment directed at her Kickstarter backers states “I hope all them people who gave her money get raped and die of cancer”. These choice comments aren’t even the half of it, it get’s worse. All of this uproar over an intelligent woman sharing the realism of sexist tropes in video games with anyone who wishes to watch the videos.

“I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.” – Rebecca West [source]

What I think is the worst part of all of this is that it shows that it’s not only choice men that hate feminism, but women too. There are female commenters in that mess of hate saying things about Sarkeesian that are just as awful as what the men are saying. There are women out there who think that it’s a woman’s duty to keep their mouth shut and fall prey to these sexist stereotypes. It’s baffling, really, considering they seem to be the ones hurt the most by said stereotypes. Since gaming has always been seen a thing for boys to do, not girls, I think it’s hard for some people to view women as prominent figures in the gaming world. The fact of the matter is, according to the 2012 Entertainment Software Associations game player data, 47% of players are women and women over the age of 18 are one of the industries fastest growing demographics. That was last year, image where that percentage is now . That statistic is just women who play video games by the way, so imagine how many of that 47% wanted to make a career out of their love for video games. I’ll give you a hint, a lot of them.

One issue that comes about when feminism, sexism, and misogyny are brought up is the “why do females want to change the game industry” argument.  Some people would like to believe that the industry is just fine the way it is and that feminists are trying to ruin video games. The real problem seems to be the misunderstanding of what feminism is, as I said towards the beginning of this article. I’ve had a hard time talking to certain males about certain female video game characters and how they are sexist and offensive in nature. I may bring up a game like Lollipop chainsaw and how I think that it’s catered solely towards men with a “sex sells” state of mind and get attacked because “sex does sell, and that is just how it is, so get over it”. Ok, so now I just have to get over it. Sounds easy enough, except I don’t think that is the answer.

I suppose not wanting to be segregated, harassed looked down upon, overly sexualized, and given the “tits or GTFO” attitude is “ruining” the industry ladies.

There are plenty of games out there that don’t fall into the “sexist game” category, like one of my favorite game series’ for example – Mass Effect. Throughout the Mass Effect series women are portrayed as equal to men, some women (and men) are kickass fighters with positive morals and a heavy skill set to back it up, others are normal people who work at bars or shops and live their lives in a normal way. It’s very fair, from my point of view, and done in way that gives both men and women gamers what they are looking for: Solid story, great gameplay, and an overall fun experience. On top of all that, all three games in the Mass Effect series received wide critic and user praise, so they did relatively well as games without being misogynistic.

“(T)he feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” – Pat Robertson [source]

There is a flip side to all of this though, as everyone knows that all good things come with a price. Awhile back there was a movement on Twitter that brought attention to females in the video game industry, and it shed light on the situation through man and women who are in the industry themselves, and see sexism on a daily basis. The movement was called “1 Reason Why” (#1reasonwhy) and it featured both men and women in the video game industry tweeting about either the lack of female recognition and/or the trials and tribulations women in the industry have gone though or are going through to get to where there are or want to be. For me, it was enlightening to see female game designers, developers, writers, and other members of the video game industry tweeting things that I had no idea was still going on in today’s society.

The downside was that the movement, while much-needed and positive as a whole, sparked a darker side of feminism. The main example I’d like to bring up is the 2013 Sony Press Conference in which Sony announced the PlayStation 4. During and after the conference I noticed less tweets about the announcement itself, or the features and games offered, and more about how there were no women on stage. Now first of all, I didn’t even notice this while watching since I was so absorbed in the announcement itself and how cool it was to even notice the lack of females. Second, I don’t see how people can say Sony is sexist as a company because the developers who took the stage to announce games for the PS4 weren’t female. Now, I’m not saying it doesn’t matter, but to me this whole situation really felt like people were just grasping at straws and trying to cause a problem where there wasn’t one. If you want to be angry, be the right kind of angry and go after the developers. Ask the development teams why they put the men on stage instead of women. Immediately I saw tweets like “f*** Sony, I’m getting a Wii U and not supporting sexism” and it kept getting more and more outlandish and excessive. That one tweet was humorously ironic though, considering the Wii U and Nintendo in general are not free of sexist ideals. I don’t know about you, but I have never seen a woman take the stage to talk about the newest Nintendo game at one of their conferences.

“I see my body as an instrument, rather than an ornament.” – Alanis Morissette [source]

Either way, it’s nice to see feminism take the spotlight in the gaming industry, and not only for the professionals but for the everyday gamers as well. I myself am a feminist and a gamer and it kills me to still see so many games still perpetuating the sexist stereotypes of older times in today’s day and age. It’s 2013 for crying out loud, why are so few women portrayed as fully realized, substantial characters? I really loved the Tomb Raider series reboot and how they humanized Lara Croft while not making her as much of a sexual object as past games did. As a character, Lara Croft exceeds stereotypes by portraying strength and power along with femininity and grace. I also really loved Elizabeth as the prominent female character in Bioshock Infinite. She was helpful, intelligent, powerful, and surprisingly human. Both of these females also show that it’s ok to be pretty and still get your hands dirty, either figuratively or literally.

Good thing Irrational Games still knows how to make a positive female character who actually means more than a

Good thing Irrational Games still knows how to make a positive female character who actually means more than a “nice rack”

I wrote this article as a sort of follow-up to a previous article of mine in which I discuss  similar issues in gaming. It shouldn’t be such a problem to be a gender and want to do something. I mean, of all things to discriminate for, gender should not be one of the leading reasons for discrimination in the video game industry. Most of you know me as LadyCroft3, and that name has given a few issues over the years due to the fact that it brings attention to my gender. I have never minded it though, I’m not ashamed of being a female gamer, nor should any other woman be. I see gamers as people before I see them as a gender, there are no “girl gamers” or “boy gamers” in my eyes, just gamers. Plain  and simple. One day I hope to see less of a gap between the genders in gaming, but until that day I will remain a fighter for equality and rights among human beings, both male and female, since that is the only course of action I deem fair and necessary.

Food for though:

7 thoughts on “Feminism and Overcoming Adversity in the Gaming Industry

  1. Great article! I agree that there seems to be a lot of misconceptions about what being a feminist is. I’m actually quite shocked to see women attacking feminism too. You would think as women we’d all band together for the common goal of breaking down common stereotypes and the oversexualization of women.

    As you said with the character in Lollipop Chainsaw, sure sex sells, but why does that have to be an image of women that’s considered the “norm” or an “oh well” kind of attitude? These are things everyone should question and criticize. Images like those makes it harder for women to be taken seriously. What should matter is having female characters in games who are treated like equals without gender being an issue. I hope the trend of having awesome female characters like Lara Croft or female Shepard will continue to grow. It’s possible to have compelling female characters in games who aren’t blow up dolls with no personality.

    Like you, I do hope there will be a day when gender doesn’t even become an issue anymore. Because really, it shouldn’t. We all come together for the love of the game at the end of the day.

    Like

    • Thank you! I too find it disturbing when females attack feminism and I was blown away by some of the female comments directed towards Sarkeesian’s videos. I had no idea there were women out there (or humans in general, for that matter) who think it’s ok to wish “rape” on other people while saying they should die for being a feminist.

      I think the sex sells argument is so outdated, I mean like we both said, it’s been proven that having characters like Lara Croft and FemShep sells also. It’s also less demeaning. I saw someone respond to a comment about sexism and feminist awareness by saying that sex sells and only older women care about that stuff anyways. It’s surprising how many people still believe that it’s ok to degrade women ever (especially in games) and say it’s annoying when a female tries to defend herself and her gender by saying it’s wrong to do so.

      Maybe one day things will be better, like you said, we all love games so why the hate?

      Like

  2. This is well written article and I thank you for diligence and your obvious passion in the subject matter.

    However, I’m not sure we will ever be at a place where, say an average female with normal proportions would sell ANY product. That being a movie, a sweater, a glass of water and most likely not even a game.

    You mention Tomb Raider in your reply, but there are “hints” that perhaps Lara might be homosexual with her best friend, this is left “hazy” on purpose. It entices the mind more than any sex scene ever could. But one cannot deny that their is a sexual overtone to their friendship.
    Even the writer of Tomb Raider wished she could write her gay.
    http://killscreendaily.com/articles/interviews/tomb-raider-writer-rhianna-pratchett-why-every-kill-cant-be-first-and-why-she-wanted-make-lara-croft-gay/

    What does this mean? It means for men this is a sexually enticing situation.
    Plus girls and guns? Don’t they have a magazine like this?

    The same goes for men, the only time “average” ever applied to a male protagonist in games, is when they make fun of them or they purposefully make them skinny or pudgy to service the game. Take Larry Laffer from the Leisure Suit Larry games. We play him because we know he “will never get the girl” its funny to us to see him fail.

    Take Max Payne 3, a game that by all rights should have been a bigger hit than it was, but gamers don’t like overweight, bald headed, drunken heroes. Perhaps this strikes to close to home.

    The only time I see normal looking folks on TV or in movies is when you have the fat kid getting bullied but then becomes a stud and Hahaha “sweet revenge”. Or the middle aged, fat father taking the kids to Disneyland.

    Even wonderful actresses like Kathy Bates get little recognition nowadays.

    See a pattern here?

    I know hat you mean. At the end of the day one should be seen and judged by who you are not what you look like, but unfortunately human beings like to see beauty in everything.

    Its been documented, that even in matters of advancement in your career your looks play a big part.
    http://www.economist.com/node/21551535

    There is no simple solution to reconditioning the hearts and minds of the human being.

    Like

    • Thank you.

      I don’t see how a female character being *possibly* gay has anything to do with feminism and/or sexism. There is nothing wrong with being gay, and though I didn’t sense any of these “hints” that Lara may be gay, I wouldn’t mind it in the least if she was. Just because some guy (or girl) thinks it’s hot for Lara to be gay means nothing to the subject at hand. That could be said about any female ever (since the mind can make up whatever scenario it wants to) and is no excuse for poor representation or objectification of women in gaming or women in general. I’m sorry that some men apparently can’t keep their mind off of sex long enough to play a video game with a female character or to, but again it’s just not a good enough excuse for this subject matter. I also find the notion that people (both genders) can’t seem to separate sex from certain things like games offensive. Games are not about sex, nor are all women. We are people, not sexual objects that are meant to be fanatisized about. That goes for men too, they should be seen as more than a hot body by women and so on. These stereotypes are not ok to perpetuate, no matter how many people do so.

      I also don’t personally think that the look and weight of the hero in Max Payne 3 (or any game) is the reason why it (or others) didn’t do well. The Max Payne games have a small set of followers, it’s somewhat of a niche series, that is why it didn’t do spectacularly in sales. The thought that people don’t buy games based on appearances of the main characters is a speculation, and frankly if someone says “I don’t want to play that game because the lead character isn’t hot/perfect” needs to just stop playing games in general, since appearance has nothing to do with the quality of a game. I don’t really pay mind to the “that’s just how it is” mindset either, since I don’t think that is actually how it is with the majority of people, and even if it was it doesn’t mean it’s ok and should be accepted with no question.

      The point you are trying to make seems to be that society in general doesn’t care for older or less attractive males and females, which I know is a common thought process many people have, but my point is that regardless of how many people feel that way, it doesn’t mean it’s right and it’s never to late to take a stand and raise awareness. Since I have written this article I have received many of the “well that’s just the way the world is, I don’t think it will change” kind of responses, and it sickens me that people give up so quickly on serious issues like this. The solution is never simple, if people just gave up on abolishing slavery in America because it was too hard to change, then there would still be slavery today. We fought a war to defend the rights of people living in our country. What if women gave up on suffrage and the right to vote? People like me wouldn’t have a say in politics today. Everything major needs to be fought for, and it’s never easy, but it’s never ok to roll on your back and let other people demean you because they don’t want to be fair.

      Again, I thank you for reading and replying to my article. It’s always nice to spark some discussion.

      Like

      • This is an interesting topic and one that spurs much debate. i was just sharing this article and thread with my fiancee and after she read all everything she. very astutely pointed out that this is just as much a human nature issue as it is a moral one.

        She reminded me of the Greek statues and how they look like supermen and the women of the time where more homely due to the way they lived.

        Humans want and need beauty in their lives, regardless of the time.
        How does this translate to gaming, music, movies?

        No one wants to go pay money to see a average man or woman doing everyday things. We want the beautiful people, the good looking sports figure, the hot chick or male protagonist in our games.

        This is a form of escapism and just like they are portrayed in every other medium. She and I don’t think this will ever change.

        That being said. We do believe in equal pay for equal work, We believe that everyone should be treated politely and respectfully, We believe a person should be judged by their merits and actions not because they look “hot”

        But this is an age old dilemma that although many of us privately wish for something better, the masses seem to discredit our personal beliefs.

        Its a good topic, and I will be sure to share it with others and see what their take on it is.
        Good article.

        Like

  3. Pingback: Fighting the Good Fight: Misogyny and Video Games | linksaveszelda.com

  4. Pingback: There is no Feminist-Led “War on Games” | linksaveszelda.com

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