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Essay

“But Alas, She Is A Woman”: How Dishonored Uses Gender Roles To Tell A Story


I beat Dishonored on Tuesday. I began my second playthrough on Wednesday. Suffice it to say, I like this game. A lot. Stealth games make me go weak in the knees, and this is one of the finest of such I’ve ever played. I could write pages on all the things that make this game such a treat, but rather than sing the praises of spell combinations and clever means of murder, I’m here to focus on one of the game’s less noticeable elements: female characters. There aren’t many of them, and they are not treated well. But Dishonored is a rare example of a game that is self-aware about such things, and it addresses the volatile issue of gender discrimination in a way that is both subtle and — dare I say — justifiable.

Spoiler warning: I’ll be talking about basic plot threads and a few of the secrets you can find in the game, some of which reveal interesting twists. None of it will spoil the main story, but if you don’t want to ruin any surprises, save this article for later.

Let’s set the scene: The backdrop of Dishonored is the fictional city of Dunwall, a place that could’ve been pulled right out of the Industrial Revolution, were it not for the Lovecraftian magic and steampunkish technology. Despite the fantastical elements, Dunwall feels like a real place. You can practically smell the stink of the docks, full of refuse and whale blood. This is a city riddled with plague and crippled by greed. Even when the sun shines, Dunwall feels bleak. Our protagonist, Corvo Attano, is the former bodyguard of the Empress, a just ruler assassinated within the first moments of the game. He is framed and imprisoned for her murder, and what follows is a bloody tale of revenge and redemption.

Dishonored is an exceptional example of environmental storytelling, and though the women within it are not the main focus, they are nonetheless a key component. At first glance, the women here are unimportant people, relegated to sweeping floors and serving drinks. The exceptions are the Empress, who is dead, and her young heir, Emily, who becomes the pawn of powerful men grappling for supremacy. In the upper echelons of society, we see shallow, bored socialites who serve no purpose other than to be courted and danced with. And there’s a brothel, too, because every game made for adults has a brothel. This stuff is old hat in terms of gender portrayal, and at the start, I felt like I’d seen it all before. But Dishonored, in every respect, is a game about what happens out of plain sight. The story presents itself in much the same way the gameplay does. When finding your way into a building, you can take the well-lit path, which is obvious and brash. Or, you can prowl around, discovering shadowy passageways and valuable secrets that are far more satisfying. The story unfolds in a similar fashion. No one can be trusted at face value, and the real meat and potatoes of what’s going on happens not in dialogue, but in diaries and stolen letters and graffiti scrawled in alleyways.

This is where the Heart comes in — a gruesome item that can be used to direct you toward hidden trinkets or to reveal things about the people and places you encounter (and yes, it is literally a circulatory organ sewn up with cogs). For example, during the masquerade ball, I spoke to a guest named Miss White, a charming (though somewhat vapid) noblewoman. I brought her a drink. She gushed over my “scandalous” costume and eagerly shared some helpful gossip. As she walked away, off to mingle, I equipped the Heart and pointed it at her back. “She beats her servants,” the Heart told me.

The Heart has become an obsession of mine. I point it everywhere and click and click and click until it begins to repeat itself. In doing this, I discovered something interesting about the female characters I’d encountered. Not that they weren’t interesting to begin with. Even marginalized as they were, I quickly noticed that there was a praiseworthy variety of characters at hand. Among your allies, there’s Callista (voiced by Lena Headey), an aloof, educated gentlewoman, and Cecelia, a shy servant who seems to believe she’s not good for much. There’s Emily (Chloë Grace Moretz), who pesters people for stories about pirates and spies, even though she’s constantly told that such topics aren’t appropriate for little girls. On the more ambiguous side, there’s Granny Rags (Susan Sarandon), a crazy old woman living behind the plague line, far more powerful than she seems. Already, Dishonored offers a less cookie-cutter selection of female characters than many games do.

But then the Heart comes into play, and new layers appear. When I used the Heart on Callista, it told me this:

She dreams of freedom, and the decks of whaling ships fast after the beasts of sea. But alas, she is a woman.

Consider that the Heart speaks with a woman’s voice. Consider that as the Heart told me about Callista, the lady in question was patiently conducting Emily’s daily lessons, teaching her the things that are appropriate for little girls. Consider that later in the game, it is strongly implied that the Heart is that of the Empress, and that the voice speaking is her imprisoned spirit.

After that line, the game had my undivided attention. I ran off in search of Cecelia, a woman with overworked hands and a meek voice, someone who has internalized the way the world sees her. And the Heart said:

The fabric of the city is made of stuff such as she.

There are many other examples, but those were the two that made me realize that Dishonored is fully aware of how the women within it are treated. It knows how unfair that treatment is. It knows how unhappy these women are. When I played this game, I did not get the sense that gender discrimination was included simply because it’s habitual or historically accurate (more on that in a moment). Dishonored is, first and foremost, a story about corruption. Everywhere you turn, you see how broken Dunwall is. You climb through stained rooms stacked with insect-ridden corpses and disgusting cans of jellied meat while the nobility throws a lavish party on the other end of town. Religious leaders lecture about piety, then poison their rivals’ drinks. Police officers laugh as they kill people breaking curfew. Wagons full of dead plague victims are dumped into the river, and the men at the controls joke about how if any of the bodies were still moving, “they’re not anymore.” There is nothing good about this city.

So, yes, the way this game treated women made me uncomfortable — which, I think, is exactly what it intended to do. At one point, I discovered some graffiti reading “Long Live The Empress!” Someone else had crossed it out and written “SHE WAS A WENCH!” below. This wasn’t done for laughs or a cheap dig. Keep in mind that this is a first-person game. You’re seeing everything through Corvo’s eyes. The Empress was a good person who Corvo cared deeply about. He spends the entire game trying to avenge her death and protect her daughter. How does he feel, seeing those words? And by the same turn, how is the player supposed to feel? To me, that graffiti and the things the Heart exposes in female characters are some of the game’s many ways of illustrating that something is very wrong in Dunwall. Could they have made those same points without showing oppressive gender roles? Yes. Does that make it wrong to include them at all? I’d argue no.

But that doesn’t mean that using gender discrimination as a plot element — in any medium — is a good idea by base. There have been many attempts at this that have gone horribly wrong, resulting in instances that do nothing but insult women in the audience without adding anything to the narrative. What did Dishonored do right? Simple — it told a good story. In the end, the success of a story such as this depends on skill. Dishonored’s writers knew what they were doing, and they pulled it off. Of course, not all women will see Dishonored the way I did, just as not all women think of Game of Thrones in a favorable light. Much of it, too, lies in the eye of the beholder.

In my recent article about female protagonists, I wrote that when seeking out a power fantasy (one of my primary desires in a game), I dislike it when NPCs make negative comments about a character’s gender, especially if we’re talking about the player character. There was a lively conversation in the comment thread concerning historical accuracy, and whether or not it was regressive to depict women as they were treated in eras gone by (to those of you who were kicking around the idea of a WWII game with a female codebreaker/resistance member as the protagonist — oh my god, yes, please). In general, if we’re talking about a game that depicts a real, historical place, then yes, accurate portrayals of social stratification can belong there. I’m curious to see how Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation turns out for that very reason. But I will also say that such portrayals are really only interesting if the story explores them, or at least acknowledges the conflict within them, as we see with Callista secretly dreaming of a life at sea (and no, Dishonored is not a historically accurate game — I’m getting there).

Fictional worlds are an entirely different can of worms. They obviously borrow from real historical periods — high fantasy in particular — but they make up their own rules. Generally speaking, I’m opposed to the argument that since women have been largely suppressed and oppressed in our own history, they don’t belong in our fantasy worlds, either. That feels like a cop-out to me. And yet, I’m totally okay with the imaginary city of Dunwall being a terrible place for women. Here’s the distinction:

If I play a game in which women have been pushed to the sidelines, and I were to ask the developers why that choice was made, the rationale of “that’s just how it is in that world” is not good enough. That’s not a reason. That’s defaulting to the status quo, and it’s lazy. And boring. And unnecessary. If a game sells itself as an escapist experience that will make the player feel like a hero, the developers should remind themselves that sometimes the player is a woman.

However, if the developers gave female characters lesser roles because they consciously wanted to say something specific about them, that’s a valid storytelling decision (even though I may not like the reasons for it or the way that it’s executed). I’ve used this example before, but Sten in Dragon Age: Origins does this masterfully well. Sten doesn’t have issues with women being warriors because he’s a misogynist — or because the writers were misogynists — but rather because Sten comes from a culture with strict social castes. What begins as a typical jab against women in combat becomes a rather sophisticated discussion about gender roles. Conversations with Sten reveal something about the world we’re playing in, and the game is richer for it.

Dishonored does the same thing. The fact that the game points out inequality shows that it’s not complicit in it. It wants you to think about it. It wants you to know that such things aren’t right. In this particular case, I felt that it served the story well.

When we talk about the role of women in video games, the conversation is often about large-scale gaming trends — which is fine. We do need more female protagonists, and we do need more stories that portray women in a fair and equal light. The existence of a game like Dishonored doesn’t run counter to that. While I would love to see a similar game with a heroine at the helm (I admit to having a detailed headcanon version along those lines), Dishonored has its place as it is. On the surface, it’s a game that would be easy to write off as not being woman-friendly. But as the Heart knows, sometimes the most interesting truths are the ones you have to search for.

Becky Chambers is a freelance writer and a full-time geek. She blogs over at Other Scribbles and can always be found on Twitter.

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  • http://twitter.com/acidragdoll Bel

    Thanks Becky – this is the review of Dishonoured that I’ve been waiting for.

  • http://twitter.com/seriouslyyouguy you guys

    Just for the record, the second Medal of Honor game’s protaganist was a female French resistance fighter (previously an NPC in the original game.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medal_of_Honor:_Underground

  • http://profiles.google.com/mcolleen206 Monica Norton

    I’m not familiar with the game past this review. What system is it on? I was intrigued quickly and made myself stop reading so I don’t get all the secrets, in case it’s something I can play myself :-)

  • http://otherscribbles.com Becky Chambers

    Oh, awesome. I must find a copy of this.

  • Canisa

    I have to say that I totally disagree. The intent of the writers is completely meaningless. If you depict marginalisation of a form that exists in reality, for example misogyny, you are complicit in it. It’s as simple as that. This is especially true when you are using a fictional world, because what you are then saying is that “Misogyny is just a true fact of the universe that will always exist because that’s the way things must be.” If you are aware that what you are showing is wrong, then you are just being actively malicious rather than incidentally malicious.

    Take a look at the wording of the phrase you used as the title of this article “But alas she is a woman”; the problem is not that she is a woman, the problem is that the males around her who are in control of Dunwall’s society are disgusting animals. If they were to be put down, she would be able to ride a whaling ship to her heart’s content.

    If the protagonist of Dishonoured had been a woman, and she had been fighting against the misogyny of Dunwall and was ultimately successful, that would have been okay. That would have said “Misogyny is total crap and will be destroyed wherever it is found, no matter what”, which would have been an acceptable message. Arguably that would’ve made Dishonoured a different game, but it’d certainly be better than one about a male trying to cover his own arse after the Empress is shoved into a refrigerator.

  • Lehliana

    I really really like this article. It is both well written and offers an elevated perspective on the matter at hand. GJ

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1204160833 Madison Brown

    I’m interested in playing this game, but I’m wondering if like GoT – because it was mentioned in the article – if it goes beyond having misogynist story lines? You know, where also women are doing things they wouldn’t realistically be doing just because it pleases men?

    I hope this comment doesn’t offend any one, it’s just how I feel.

  • http://the-nerdmuffin.tumblr.com/ Sara Goodwin

    I think it is important that our fantasy worlds reflect some issues that are real in our own world. Never using forms of oppression found in reality in literature and world building would leave a false ring in the air in our fantasy worlds. Simply never writing anything containing misogyny, racism, etc. would just make the story seem too remote and removed. You want your protagonists to wrestle with issues of substance. Portraying characters in various stages of change and acceptance is vital. Showing a character who started out a misogynist learning to change his views through contact with a female protagonist is important storytelling. Showing a character change her preconceptions about race in a story challenges the reader to do the same in his/her own world. Complexity is important, and sanitizing storytelling of all of the “isms” would rob the narrative of important opportunities to grow their characters emotionally and impact readers’ own internal moral codes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/TheMCat Maddy Thaler

    This is a really interesting article. I have not played the game, and now really want to. While I do believe there can be power in telling “realistic” stories in world’s fashioned after our own and that ttruths may be revealed by exploring the dark parts of humanity, I can’t help but question the validity of showing the so called “reality” of misogyny in a fantasy world without the balance of women who break the trend. There have always been women who not only dreamed of proving the status quo wrong but did so. (Female pirates just to name one). If the story implies that the treatment of women is wrong but also offers no version of reality where women make their own change and fight their own fight doesn’t that lean towards infantilization? The entire world might be broken but if it is one where the male vehicle is the only one given to enact change or reveal truths then it seems to me we are once again seeing the world through the eyes of the male who might mean well yet somehow only manages to apologetically acknowledge the wrongs without forming a real understanding of women or their humanity, especially if that male is only seeing the truth of those females through the aid of a secret magic device, veureristically instead of experientialy through connection and communication. Though it does sound like this game has empathy for oppressed women in mind, this article does not convince me that it steps beyond that at all towards suggesting that the oppression is ultimately arbitrary or that women are more than helpless victims of their “unfortunate” gender class.

  • http://twitter.com/EmberDione Kim Pittman

    The PC version is excellent. (Better load times, better aiming, etc etc.)

  • http://twitter.com/EmberDione Kim Pittman

    If I understand what you are asking, is are there women in the story doing things that women realistically wouldn’t be doing because it pleases the male target audience of the game?

    Not a bit as far as I have gotten in the game. The creators did a very good job of keeping their game grounded in the reality they created. Nothing was created to be “fan service” to the males wanting power fantasy towards females.

    The ancestry of the game can be traced directly back to Bioshock, System Shock, Deus Ex, and Thief. So all of the fan service went to referencing those games and the game play tropes of the immersive sim genre.

  • http://twitter.com/EmberDione Kim Pittman

    You really should play the game before applying the labels to it. Or at the very least watch videos on youtube of people playing the game.

    If anything Dunwall is better than most video games in it’s treatment of women. One of the first things I noticed was that most of the females in the game wear the same clothing as men. Despite the fact that in any other game set in a similar world they would all be wearing pirate wench costumes with cleavage galore.

    You also seem to have glossed over that before the game begins, the males are not in charge of their society, a woman is. It is only in the 6 months after the death of the Empress that the power vacuum has filled with all of the males. I know the author reads it as a male dominance thing, but as I played it seemed much more like a cultural issue. Which still sucks, but then they never say that she tried. There isn’t anything that says she was refused, or tried, but rather that she wishes she could. It’s entirely possible that she simply accepted the cultural more that said women don’t serve on whaling ships.

    Could they have removed it? Sure. But then, I really get the impression they wanted their society to be as dark a grey as possible. They wanted every bit of grime they could dig up.

    Finally, you are 100% wrong in your statement about “a male trying to cover his own arse”. At no point is Corvo attempting to gain power, regain his position, or even save his own life. He is completely focused on revenge against those who destroyed the woman he was sworn to protect and saving her daughter, to return her to her proper place in power. Corvo could care less about his arse, and what happens to it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/zeonchar Amanda M. Ramsey

    At what point is the Empress shoved into a refrigerator? I’m confused.

  • http://twitter.com/EmberDione Kim Pittman

    In my opinion the devs created this society that was imperfect. Then put it through a very destructive event (the plague), and let it crumble. The player is coming along at more than 6 months PAST the Empress’ death. They also really wanted the world to be exceptionally dark, and all moral choices a deep grey area. It’s very much a “there is no good here, just less bad and evil.”

  • http://twitter.com/EmberDione Kim Pittman

    It fits the trope of her death being the impetus of the male “protagonist”. Though protagonist doesn’t quite fit because it implies he is a good guy and it is designed so that Corvo is only as good as the player makes him (though still quite evil regardless).

    While it may be true, it does create a deeper effect on the entire world that has been created. The power vacuum, the loss of heart and hope felt by the people of the city, the danger that is then focused on her daughter Emily… It’s very necessary for the creation of the setting and story, as opposed to being a single plot device to move the male character forward. (One could also make the arguement, depending on how you play, that it doesn’t move the male character forward, but rather is the beginning of his destruction as well.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1204160833 Madison Brown

    Thank you! I have not played the game myself, but your comment is what I’ve been looking for.

  • http://twitter.com/EmberDione Kim Pittman

    Glad it helps! I am a game dev myself, so I know plenty of the guys who worked on this game. They are all top notch people. I have been looking forward to this game for months and as I have been playing it, I have been really happy with the fact that they aren’t even close to the normal “treating women poorly” crap I fight against in the industry.

  • Sarah

    This article’s really cool, and I’m really glad I read it. I’ve only played a few levels of the game thus far (it can be hard for me to “get into” stealth games at first), and I see a lot of where the author’s coming from. However, my question is this – are we saying that, just because there’s a strong overall theme of corruption/decay, we can deduce that the gender system of the fantasy world *has* to be corrupt as well? I totally see what the author talks about with the divide between rich and poor, the actual physical disease and contagion, the decay of the city and of its institutions. But isn’t it possible that the gender system element is just a component of the society that isn’t supposed to be portrayed as “good” or “bad,” like the steampunky influences or the centering of the economy and lifestyle around the whaling industry or the mere existence of magic? To me, it seemed like the graffiti that was changed to “The Empress was a wench” could just as easily have been a reflection of the way that citizens of troubled societies often blame their leaders for their predicaments after the fact, and it seemed like the Heart’s message about Callista wanting a life on the sea could, from a writer’s point of view, just as easily have been attributed to a servant-boy who dreamed to live his life as a horse-groomer or innkeep, but, alas, he was poor/disadvantaged/etc. I’m all for women getting more accurate portrayal in video games in ways that don’t enforce negative stereotypes, but this idea, while skillfully articulated, just didn’t convince me. Maybe there are more conversations or messages in the game I haven’t seen (and which weren’t mentioned here) which would support the idea of a more profound commentary on gender roles in society, but, just given my admittedly limited experience with the game and the information given in this article, I’m not sure I think the conclusion is sound.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000327677376 Suzanne Larsen

    and that’s part of why Underground is still my favorite MoH game. Also- Panzerknacker and the Panzerdogs!

  • Anonymous

    I have enough of SHE WAS A WENCH in real life. I don’t need videogames to inform me that corrupt societies often hate women. Maybe people who aren’t aware of that could benefit from it. Let them buy this game. But for the most part I think this is a “feel good” move the same way Avatar was: an injustice is presented so we can look at it, feel bad about the victims, and feel good about ourselves for feeling bad. If the game wants to go anywhere with that, it has to offer a way to rebel, to do something about it beyond allowing you to wallow in self-complacency about how nice you are for caring about the victims, the way Avatar did.

    Sten is oblivious about how the world works outside his own people, but the world of dragon age is not affected by that plus you can contest his opinions and make him change his mind as you play. That’s important.

  • Taste_is_Sweet

    Writing a game where misogyny is actually explored as opposed to just accepted (like showing a woman’s thwarted dreams rather than a woman’s cleavage) is all well and good, but it seems to me that it’s also part of the problem.

    I am a firm believer that if our media never shows how things *could* be (as in, actually equal), then all that’s perpetuated is the tacit approval of the way things are. Sure, you can say that by allowing the protagonist to see the secret hearts of the marginalized female characters that they can see how bad patriarchy is, but so what? Lots of men and women agree that patriarchy sucks already, and the ones who don’t aren’t going to be convinced it exists because of a video game.

    Being aware of a wrong won’t change it. What changes attitudes is people being shown that their attitudes can change. This game, from how you describe it, doesn’t expose the evils of patriarchy, it just uses them. Lots of women have had their dreams thwarted because of their gender; you can’t move forward if you just keep going over the same ground.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002045791893 Krystal Henderson

    I wish my PC could handle this game so I could play it. I’ve heard great things about it!

  • This fellow right here

    One of the interesting things about Corvo is that the dev team specifically said they meant to have his personality defined by the player instead of stated or implied by purely in-game material.

    So how Corvo feels about the Empress, Dunwall or Emily, or even what his motivation is, depends more on how the player plays and how the player reacts.

    Me? My Corvo, I imagined as an introverted, rational, prudent, temperant, mildly self-absorbed and somewhat cynical man, used to fighting and being alone. He loved the Empress and Emily, in a low key way, seeing them as moral and reasonable leaders, although often worrying that the way of the world would crush them at any moment. Maybe he took the job because it was just a paycheck, one that didn’t waste his talents on “dirty business”, and he grew to respect, then admire, then love the Empress. He’s not out to get revenge, nor justice. He’s doing this because rescuing Emily and restoring her to power is the only moral and rational course of action in these troubled times (although he secretly cares way more intimately for Emily than he lets on). I imagine he strongly dislikes the current Dunwall, as it infested with people who let the Plague get out of control because they valued their own petty lusts over their moral duties, at every strata of society.

    What about your Corvo?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Josh-Harrison/100000541007999 Josh Harrison

    this is a fantastic article. loved it

  • http://www.youtube.com/cherubicwindigo Laura

    I have a hard time finding any media that lets me completely escape bigotry. I agree with Becky’s point, but I wish there were more options available. It would be refreshing to not once hear a exclusionary slur while enjoying engaging, story-based, made for adults, entertainment. For instance, I ended up turning off the dialog audio in Borderlands 2, after being called the B-word over 300 times. Really took the fun out of fighting particular enemies. Even then, I still wanted to change the name of the “midgets” and fix the unbalanced population of white men outnumbering women and POC. Bla, bla, bla. Everyone’s a critic, I know, but that’s just what I want out of a game because I game to escape. I can only think of a handful of games that never once offended me. I guess some people will call me out for being “easily offended”. Maybe “offended” is the wrong word for it? Stressed is actually how I feel. It makes me stressed to be called a B-word when my character(s) is literally the strongest person on the planet but still subject to gendered slurs. Make sense!

    “Do you know what’s better than a working shield? NOT being a woman!”
    – Handsome Jack, Borderlands 2

    I get that the above quote goes towards Jack’s character as a huge mega jerk. So what? He’d still be a jerk if he wasn’t sexist and I wouldn’t have to deal with sexism. Real life is lame, that’s why I play video games. I can’t believe this is so hard for devs to understand. I’ve made do with Borderlands 2 and I’ve enjoyed it for the most part but I wish I had waited a few weeks and bought a used version for the cheaps. I don’t want to ever pay $60 to be belittled for being a woman. I can get that for free in almost any internet forum.

    Food for thought:

    “Do you know what’s better than a working shield? NOT being black!”
    – Handsome Jack, Borderlands 2

    Oh no, Handsome Jack would never have said that to Roland. What is it about race that is so taboo but devs are comfortable with sexist slurs in their games? Do devs assume more POC males play their games than females? Are there more POC devs and still not enough females? Am I wrong? Am I missing some obvious racism in AAA games (aside from the lack of POC characters)?

  • renshai

    Thank you. I was trying to articulate why Dishonored’s portrayal of women didn’t rub me the wrong way as badly as most games, and I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.

    (I think it would have been even better if either Lord Pendleton or Daud had been women – given the Ladys Boyle and the Empress, we know it’s acceptable for noble women to hold political power, and Daud operates outside the influence of the Church of Everyman anyways. But really, I’ll take what I can get in videogames.)

  • http://twitter.com/PersonofCon Person of Con

    “The intent of the writers is completely meaningless. If you depict
    marginalisation of a form that exists in reality, for example misogyny,
    you are complicit in it. It’s as simple as that.”
    I can’t agree with that. If you extend that logic, then a game like Christine Love’s Analog: A Hate Story would be a misogynistic game, rather than a game about misogyny. Granted, that’s not a perfect example, because the

  • Gina

    This is the only feminist critique of the game that I’ve read that’s made any sense.

  • http://www.facebook.com/christian.theodore.12 Christian Theodore

    I’m curious what you thought of the nonviolent solution to the “Lady Boyle’s Last Party” mission. The fact that the game would potentially reward the player (assuming he or she prefers a more upbeat ending) for delivering Lady Boyle into a life of confinement and, conceivably, sexual exploitation is disheartening to say the least. Perhaps it serves to demonstrate that Corvo is just as much a product of his time as his peers, and doesn’t necessarily hold the moral high ground surrounding matters of gender, but of all the alternatives to assassination throughout the plot, this felt the least fulfilling and least justified of all the actions of “poetic justice”. That said, I’d very much like to hear your take on the matter.

  • Jenn

    Just some food for thought. This is a response from a very smart woman in discussion about gender:

    From my experiences – those I have observed in pop culture as well as my own
    interpersonal relations, what XXXXXX is describing about “male bashing” is spot on. Jokes that are made at the expense of males are “supposed” to be totally acceptable, and our society is encouraged to join in the mockery. Yet, if the same sort of joke is made about a woman, there are sharp gasps and offended looks all around.
    If a man loses in a TV “battle of the sexes” episode, it is because the male gender is incompetent – a bunch of bumbling morons. If the woman loses (rare, from what I’ve seen), it is because she had some sort of “out of her control” set-back, and/or got *really* unlucky.
    In movies / TV shows, women are *very* often portrayed as strong, clever, sexy, powerful, able to hold their own and put passions aside, etc. Men, on the other hand, are *very* often portrayed as dumb saps who don’t quite get what is going on – mindless puppies that follow the much smarter girl around and are repeatedly bested by her superior intellect.
    If a man becomes offended by a joke made at his gender’s expense, then he is weak / overly sensitive. If a woman becomes offended by a joke made at her gender’s expense, then she is fully justified and entitled to an immediate apology from that sexist swine.
    All of that said, I can’t recall *any* instances wherein a man has seriously implied that I was “less than him” because of my gender. I *can* however, list off a number of instances wherein I have witnessed girls openly degrading guys on the mere basis of their gender (“well, of course, *you* wouldn’t get it – you’re a guy”, “oh my god, are you really that blind? Oh, wait, you’re a guy”, “my ‘boy toy’”, “he just needs training”, “men only think with their penises”). I could go on for pages with such quotes, but I doubt that is necessary.
    My point is: the mere fact that men have been declared the “oppressors” puts them into a very vulnerable position for being oppressed. After all, an oppressor can’t *be* oppressed / discriminated against, right?
    It is my *strong* opinion, that any time we set aside a particular group as a “victimized” group, or an “oppressive” group, we perpetuate the problem. By singling groups out:
    1) we deepen the segregation, creating an “us vs them” mentality
    2) we cultivate the “victim mentality”, wherein people feel less empowered because they view themselves as victims of circumstance. This tends to lead to dependent, needy behavior in the “victim” group
    3) we create resentment in the “oppressor” group, which can lead to them *actually* banding together against the other groups, since they feel like they are being singled out for attack (which, arguably, they are)
    I am not saying that girls and boys are the same. We aren’t. Not being the same does not mean not being just as good as one another – we just offer different things. AND THAT’S OKAY. Are there exceptions? Girls who have “boy” traits/skills and boys who have “girl” traits/skills? SURE! Do those exceptions mean that the trend of girl vs boy traits/skills does not exist? Heck no! There are some things that boys tend to be better with, *overall* – such as throwing, spatial relations, etc. just as there are some things – reading facial expressions/emotional undertones, language, etc. – that girls tend to be better with.
    I’m not being sexist here, just blunt. There is experimental, objective data to support this – I can get you citations, if you like. These are just facts. Nothing sexist, nothing atrocious – it’s just the way it is. We are different. Big deal.
    ———————-

    I post this because I’m really really really tired of only ever hearing about one side of the coin while the other is happily being smeared through the dirt.

    And to relate it to this article: Well no one ever gives a shit about all those murdered men, those frightened into submission, those whose protector instinct is abused by threatening their wives and children. Those sacrificing their last elixir for their wife so she wouldn’t get the plague. It’s uninteresting. Men are disposable.
    And before you say “oh the PATRIARCHY” – if the “patriarchy” is so bad for 99% of men and 1% control everything, or be those 1% only women, or men AND women, it doesn’t matter: 99% of the population will have it BAD, that is what matters, and by that definition, men do NOT have it better than women. Both are being oppressed by the 1% of the power hungry elite. Patriarchy? No. OLIGARCHY. It’s always been nothing else throughout history.

  • Ben Kohanski

    By this massively broken logic, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Yellow Wallpaper, and basically anything by Virginia Woolf are evil propogators of misogyny. Confronting people with a problem in a light that makes them think about it is frequently much more effective at actually engendering critical thought than just creating utopian fiction.

  • http://www.facebook.com/brenna.l.dougherty Brenna Lee Dougherty

    But this game shows that “the way things are,” ie, the oppresion of women in a patrriarchal society– IS wrong. It’s not shown in a favorable way, and helps to show that the oppression of women is wrong in reality, as well.

  • http://twitter.com/iantomasik jan tomášik

    yeah, without Empresses ruling the Island, all goes to hell and you’re being kept reminded of that fact all the time. It’s also worth mention, that the most powerful protagonist in game are all women (granny rags, delilah and billie literally, empresses and emily in social hierarchy )