comScore
  1. Mediaite
  2. Gossip Cop
  3. Geekosystem
  4. Styleite
  5. SportsGrid
  6. The Mary Sue
  7. The Maude
  8. The Braiser

What's with the name?

Allow us to explain.

Essay

Looking For A Few Good Chells: Why Player Character Gender Matters


When I was about nine years old, my mom handed me a new computer game. She had read about it in a magazine, and since she had a geeky little daughter who loved puzzles, she thought I might like to give it a shot. At this point, I was well versed in taking a covered wagon to Oregon and in tracking down that pesky Carmen Sandiego. A few of my cooler friends had stuck a SNES controller in my hands from time to time. But though I enjoyed games, I tended to view them in the same vein as playing with Legos or my wealth of plastic dinosaurs and Happy Meal toys. I had a little person to play with. I could make them jump around and do things. Sometimes I’d make them follow rules. Sometimes the little person fell down and I had to start over. It was fun, but it wasn’t emotionally gripping.

The new game in question had no little person to move around. It had no rivers to ford or Goombas to smash. I found myself on a mysterious island, with no instructions, no obvious goal, no other people around to give me quests involving kidnapped princesses.

And, most importantly, the character I was playing as me.

The game was Myst, and it radically changed how I thought about gaming from there on out. Games were no longer just platform-jumping puppet shows. They were a way for me to be the explorer I’d always wanted to be.

After that, I became an increasingly voracious gamer, though I found that the grand majority of games gave me a character to play, rather than letting me be myself. I was fine with that. After all, books and movies were much the same way. However, the fact that most of the characters were boys did not escape my attention. This was sometimes frustrating, but not overly so. I was used to it by then. At the age of five, I spent my afternoons with two fellow kindergarteners named Matthew and Stephen, who were huge Ninja Turtle fans. I hated playing Ninja Turtles, as it always left me with an unpleasant choice. I could either stay a girl and be April, who was completely useless, or I could be a boy and play Michelangelo, who could actually do stuff.

As my mom said to me just this afternoon, “For fifty percent of the human population, the opportunity to play as ourselves isn’t that great.”

What I did not realize, as I gamed and grew, was that I was quietly being hardwired with a particular status quo. In first-person games, you play boys. This is because boys are heroes who can do stuff. In third-person games, you will probably play a boy, but you might play a girl. However, even if the girl is a hero who can do stuff, she is first and foremost there to be looked at.

I did not give the status quo much thought, even when I chose the Amazon in Diablo II, despite the fact that I’ve always hated playing archers; even when I stubbornly stuck with the Priestess of the Moon as my Warcraft III hero, though even my kid brother knew that the Keeper of the Grove was a far better choice. I was semi-consciously reaching for characters that I could more easily inhabit.

This was the first point that I discussed with my biologist mother in a phone call this afternoon, as I was wrestling with why I cared so damn much (bless her heart, she still listens to me ramble on about video games). Why should I care about whether or not the protagonist of a game is female? Shouldn’t I just be content with an awesome game, even if I am playing as a dude? Shouldn’t I be all gender-neutral and transcendent and just care about a good story?

“One billion years ago, ish, sexual reproduction evolved,” she said. “Suddenly you have organisms that are male, or female, or both. We still work that way. There is still a part of our brain that says, yes, you are male, or yes, you are female. Though people have different concepts of gender identity, I would say that it is incredibly rare to find someone who feels they have no gender identity whatsoever.”

Alright, okay. Be it Mother Nature or societal conditioning or some combination of the two, I identify as a woman, and therefore it’s easier to imagine myself as another woman. But aren’t I so much more than just my gender? I mean, my enjoyment of games hasn’t typically been hindered when a male protagonist was my only option. I wasn’t any less delightfully freaked out by BioShock while playing as Jack Ryan instead of, say, Jacqueline. I didn’t cackle any less maniacally when my uber-charged Heavy plowed through the sausage fest that is Team Fortress 2. So why, when presented with a choice of gender, have I historically jumped at the chance to play a female character, even if her abilities aren’t the most in sync with my preferred style of gameplay?

To answer that, I had to give my non-gamer mother (though she did go on quite the Pharaoh binge back in the day) a crash course in a few key concepts. After an explanation of the terms “first-person” and “third-person” in relation to gaming, she quickly grasped why first-person gaming is so immersive. “So,” she mused, “if I am playing a first-person game, it’s like I am becoming something.”

Oh my god, yes.

She continued on, addressing my tendency to go right for the female avatar: “It’s not so much about wanting to be female as it is about wanting to be you. And you are female.”

When I play a third-person game, I am controlling someone else. Like Athena stepping in to help out Hercules, I become emotionally invested in that helpless little bundle of pixels. Without me honing my skills, the character would fail. Without me to guide them, their story has no ending. But ultimately, it is still their story. That world belongs to them. But if I am seeing directly through someone else’s eyes, if their hands are my hands, then their story becomes my story. I am sharing their existence. I am, like my mother so eloquently put it, becoming something.

Which brings me, at last, to Chell.

A few months ago, before the release of Portal 2, a friend of mine commented that the revelation of Chell’s gender in the first game had been groundbreaking. At first, I didn’t understand what he was getting at. Chell doesn’t talk. Chell isn’t addressed by GLaDOS in any sort of gender-specific way. Chell isn’t even on any of the game packaging. The only way you can see Chell at all is if you stare at yourself through a well-placed portal. Why in the world would it matter in the slightest if a silent, first-person protagonist is female or not?

But then I thought back to my initial playthrough of Portal. I was geeking out on intricate puzzles and computerized insults, when suddenly something strange happened. I saw a woman there in the testing chamber with me. It took me a second to realize that I was looking at myself. And yes, I had been surprised. The status quo had been challenged. I thought something to the effect of, “Oh! I’m a girl! Cool!” But I did not get overly excited about this. I went right back to launching myself over platforms and shuffling around weighted storage cubes. But if I think back really hard, there was an added level of quiet – almost subconscious – contentment, as if the little five-year-old in me was glad that she didn’t have to pretend to be a boy anymore. She could be April and do stuff.

Though it has taken me this many years to realize it, yeah, Chell’s gender was kind of earth-shattering. But in a really lovely, sublime kind of way. The message was clear, but so gently executed that I barely gave it a second thought at the time. Chell is a hero. Not because she’s a girl. Not in spite of the fact that she’s a girl. Not because she’s more like a boy. She can just do stuff.

All this has made me wonder: why aren’t there more Chells? If the gender of the protagonist has no impact on the story, why not make them female? I can rattle off a mess of first-person dudes faster than I can name state capitals, but when asked to think of women in similar gameplay roles, the only name that comes to mind is Chell. There has to be another one, right?

…right?

After much brain-racking, the only other first-person ladies I can think of are from another Valve franchise, Left 4 Dead. Both incarnations of the first-person zombie shooter have a playable female character – Zoey and Rochelle, respectively. But the obvious difference here is that Zoey and Rochelle are viewed in third-person by the other three teammates, who are all notably playing male characters. It didn’t take long for a few fan-made naked Zoey mods to be released (the one I saw footage of featured gravity-defying ripped panties and a partial Brazilian). I am sure similar mods exist for L4D2, though I was too busy avoiding Witches in the Sugar Mill to care.

Okay, okay, there’s Lilith in Borderlands, too, but the same third-person viewing rule still applies. And considering that most promo images and cinematics feature her blowing kisses when the camera isn’t fixed squarely on her ass, we know pretty much why she’s there.

Let us shift gears for a moment and explore the opposite end of the inclusion-of-women spectrum. In worrying about the portrayal of female characters, some folks in the gaming community have swung over to another extreme (I have been guilty of this myself, as well). Rather than focusing first on the accomplishments of a female character, the character design itself is put under a high-powered lens in search of the cardinal sin of objectification. You don’t have to go far to find examples of this. When the new concept art for the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot came out, an overwhelming amount of buzz – both positive and negative – was about her, ah, décolletage.

My mother pointed out that, on some level, this was actually understandable. Lara Croft is possibly the most iconic female character in all of Gamingdom, and they had changed her look.

“Imagine,” Mom said, “if Gandalf was still Gandalf, but they had shaved him.”

Which is why there is now a Post-It note on my desk scrawled with the esoteric phrase “Gandalf’s beard = Lara’s boobs.”

But I digress.

While some discussion of Lara’s change in look is to be expected, I felt that all of the discussion of her altered cup size was overshadowing what is actually important about the game: raiding some freakin’ tombs. So, even in efforts to take her down off of the eye candy pedestal, in a way, fans were still objectifying her.

This kind of hand-wringing over female appearance can be easily found in real life as well. This past April, mechanical engineer Limor Fried was featured on the cover of Wired. But instead of singing the glories of the Minty Boost and her bold call-to-arms for a Kinect hack, the internet largely focused on whether or not Ms. Fried had been ‘shopped, or – heaven help us – was wearing makeup.

Because even if the girl is a hero and can do stuff, she is first and foremost there to be looked at.

We seem incapable of ceasing to focus on a woman’s appearance, even when we have the best of intentions at heart. So maybe, just maybe, part of the solution (as far as gaming goes) is to stop looking at female protagonists. Instead, we should start becoming them.

While we swing back and forth in search of the happy balance that will lead us to the Holy Grail of Strong Female Characters, perhaps a simpler path is to just look through their eyes and help them save the day. The more I think about it, the more I think it is somewhat vital that we give gamers – both male and female – more opportunities to be a formidable heroine in first-person. Create a new status quo, one in which heroes are people who do stuff and worry about gender later (and hopefully, eventually, not at all).

And if marketing departments are biting their nails over offering too many female-only FPSs to what is still, admittedly, a predominantly male market, then I see no reason why developers can’t give the Commander Shepard treatment to more than just RPGs. If the gender of the character doesn’t affect the story, let the player choose their hero. Let the player choose who they want to be.

Becky Chambers is a freelance writer and a full-time geek. She keeps a blog over at http://otherscribbles.com.

TAGS: | |


  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1545086866 Jennifer Horigan

    As much as I loved the fact that Chell is female, the game that was the turning point for me as far as women heroes are concerned was Beyond Good and Evil. Jade was the protagonist I always wanted. She’s smart, funny, and she’s not dolled up to appeal to male players. Like Portal, it was a game with a female lead that had no sexual overtones, instead the game play and story took center stage. I just wish the developers will one day see what a gem that game was and finally produce a sequel.

  • http://twitter.com/Riviare Kimberly

    I think that this all feeds back into itself. 

    1) People complain that x female character wears makeup/looks pretty, therefore they’re pandering to guys/are not feminist/are not a true action hero
    2) Debate begins to ensue about that character, and other girls that also happen to look similar
    3) If said character is changed, more debate ensues because apparently her appearance is all that really matters since it was deliberately changed for x reason
    4) People complain that x female character is being objectified

    I’m just waiting for people to realize that a female character can still wear makeup and act sexy while being just as much of a hero as any of the guys. She doesn’t have to look or act like a guy to be a valid character. She just has to have her own distinct personality, and her own role to play in the scope of the game. There are many types of people and thus there are many types of characters. The different types are what make roleplaying games interesting. For me anyway.

  • Anonymous

    Hmm, I now wonder how male players feel about “having” to “become” a female in first-person games. Would it be jarring? Would there come requests for different playable first-person characters?

  • http://twitter.com/acidragdoll Bel

    Great article, I had never really thought about Chell this way before. 

    My Female Protagonist Revelation came with a sugary little game called Rhapsody, which was like a Disneyfied, JRPG, intro-primer to feminist concepts.  It wasn’t the best game but it still means a lot to me, and I bought it on rerelease.  I think devs underestimate the extent to which something so simple as an identifiable protag can be so inviting.  It’s nice when games communicate that they were made for me, too.

  • Nick Simmonds

    My own little corollary to this is that, when I noticed the gender of the character in Portal, it was jarring.  Amusing, and something I approve of, but every time I would immerse myself in the game I would forget that I was playing a woman character, and then occasionally catch a glimpse of myself.  It would break my immersion and remind me that I was playing a game.

    Of course, for women gamers, this happens in *every other game* of this type.  Or for non-white gamers.  Or non-American ones. The fact that I tick off basically every possible category in the “privilege” checklist means that I never get jarred out of my experience because the character I’m playing is a different gender, color, creed, or nationality, has a different accent, is in any way differently abled, etc.

    I… don’t really have a conclusion to this, except to say, “Dear game developers, please jar me out of your games more often”.

  • Anonymous

    Dead Island is a first person shooter that will have four “main characters”, one of which is a female.  

  • Nick Simmonds

    Heh.  I should have read the other replies before I responded.

  • http://twitter.com/acidragdoll Bel

    As with all things, though, it’s a matter of balancing both interests.  Can a female character be a legitimate female character while being sexy and beautiful?  Of course.  Does that mean we should stop pointing out fanservice/objectification/whatever where we see it?  Of course not.  Can a person be capable and pretty?  Of course.  Should all female characters have to be?  Of course not.

    Basically, we haven’t reached the middle ground yet, so we need to keep working towards it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/allynas.alice Allyn As ‘Alice’

    A professor had his class play ‘Portal’ to discuss humanity, and that was one of the questions proposed to the class. Link here: http://www.giantbomb.com/news/intro-to-glados-101-a-professors-decision-to-teach-portal/3206/

  • A Baker

    I usually get jarred out of my immersive first person gaming experience when I catch a glimpse of my own character, notably because no game so far has ever made me the first person character model.

  • http://www.extremelydissatisfied.wordpress.com Adam R. Charpentier

    I’m not sure why it can’t work both ways. Well, no, I understand why…marketing, mostly, user base, and so on…but, for example, at the end of Metal Gear Solid, Solid and Liquid have a shirtless fight that’s mostly posturing. It didn’t particularly affect me to see them shirtless and I don’t have any real complaint with it. I’ve seen enough fan renderings to know that a certain sect is particularly fond of the, er, dueling Snakes. Which is fine. And there’s Lara Croft. She just received a reboot and yet, it seems, her gigantic rack has stuck around despite their claim of ultra-real, gritty Lara action. I’m perfectly fine with a dangerous, intelligent, sexy Lara Croft that has a modest or undersized bust. And, yanno, I’m sure there are women that are perfectly Indiana Jones-esque and have big boobs, I’m not knocking that (no pun intended) but it’s never been my thing and I don’t really understand the fascination with breasts the size of toddlers…

    I guess there was no point to any of that, seeing as how I reached no conclusion. Ah well. I agree with you, about Chell. 

  • http://remarkablogger.com Michael Martine

    All the guys playing female characters in WoW say hi.

    I actually have a problem with the entire idea of objectification itself. People accept it as truth but I would like someone to please explain how admiring a beautiful woman makes her into an object. Women are not objects, they’re people. If a woman is beautiful to me she is no less of a person or more of an object than any other person. What is this process by which she somehow becomes objectified? Simply because I find her attractive? Does anyone else find that absurd?

    I am starting to think that objectification is a complete lie, the result of early feminism’s attempts at gender equality during which they sacrificed (ironically) their femininity. It then became a propaganda tool used to push an agenda. And if you question it, well then you must be a chauvinist asshat. None of this is to deny any mistreatment of women, especially sexual abuse.

    Let’s not conflate sexual abuse with biological responses to potential mates (AKA lust) and an appreciation of beauty (which is a little more cerebral on top of all that raging biology). I may be way off-base here and if so, someone please correct me. But as far as I can tell, an abuse situation is one of the few times when the victim is an object. The victim is a proxy for the abuser to play out and project and relive his own abuse. If you want to say the “objectification of women” exists, there you have it. Right alongside any objectification of the “other” in order to bring oneself to commit crimes such as murder and genocide.

    But sex, love and lust are not crimes. Looking attractive and beautiful does not make a woman an object to a man any more than a handsome man becomes an object to a woman. And sexy women in video games are not objects any more than they are in real life. We may wrestle with notions of beauty like body shape, makeup and clothing, but these change over time.

    I’m not interested in being right, only what’s true, which is why I openly question the very notion of this sacred cow known as the “objectification of women.” It just seems completely false to me. Either it doesn’t exist in the way people think it does, or 99% of people have no idea what they’re talking about when they play that card in a discussion.

  • Anonymous

    Mirror’s Edge is another example of a game with a good female protagonist, it’s an interesting concept for a game, too …

  • http://www.facebook.com/liam2404 Liam Terry

    i would like to say they did introduce a female ninja turtle and i would like to say i agree with bels comment

  • http://www.extremelydissatisfied.wordpress.com Adam R. Charpentier

    No more or less jarring than playing through San Andreas as a black man or World of Warcraft as a troll. Often times, given the chance to completely customize a character, I end up creating a facsimile of my fiancee for her amusement, then end up completing the game with her avatar because I’m too lazy or too far into the game to bother going back. Once in a while, with RPGs for instance, I’ll commit myself to a persona and makes choices based on that persona. Gender doesn’t really come into play, but I will say that I almost always choose the female avatars in Besthesda games since the male avatars look like lunkheads without any hope of survival.

  • Ceili

    You know I was right up with you until you diverged into first person territory. For me, I can’t stand playing a male in -any- game, though the less beefy/stereotypical the more I can enjoy it–I thoroughly enjoy Uncharted, Assassin’s Creed, and the Prince of Persia games, though I won’t lie–I’d love them even more with female leads. xD

    Anyway, first person or third person, sidescroller or RPG, I want to be a girl. It doesn’t matter if it’s supposed to be “me” (which I don’t buy anyway, even in FP games), I just want to play a character I can relate to. My MMO characters, be they WoW or Aion or TERA are all female, my favored champions in League of Legends are all female, even if they aren’t the best, and I hate being saddled with characters like “Coach” in L4D2 because when playing with my girlfriend and some other friends, she always gets the girl.

    Brink in particular is one game I was looking forward to immensely when I’d first heard of it–I like shooters sometimes, and I loved the oceanic flavor and general style of the game. That is, until the developers pulled some utterly, total bullshit response as to why “Whoops, no female characters!” They lost a sale to me, my girlfriend, a few of our other friends, and even some guys I know for being so sexist and stuck in the idea that only guys play action games. Well, their loss.

    I’m certainly not complaining about not buying it anymore now that LulzSec hacked their database, that’s for sure, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue!

  • http://twitter.com/acidragdoll Bel

    Not to be rude, but how much time have you spent talking to people about this vs. just formulating your own theories in your head?  You ask a question at the start of the post, then elaborate on why your perspective is the correct one.  Are you really interested in an answer?

    If you are, well… To understand objectification, consider the way we look at and treat women’s bodies and the image of a woman’s body versus how we treat a man’s.  Lust isn’t only the purview of men, after all, but this is never reflected in our cultural images of women.

    Objectification is inherently different from just… you know, looking at something attractive. There’s a lot of smart, eloquent people out there who can explain that difference.  I urge you to google some of them – maybe start with some stuff about the gaze?  John Bergman had some interesting things to say.

  • Ceili

    Agreed! I really, really hate the notion that a girl has to act like “one of the guys” to be treated or seen as badass half the time, or she needs to be made completely plain or androgynous to avoid getting a lot of flak from people crying over her being a sex object instead of a legitimate character.

    Developers, it’s okay! Not all of us ladies are going to take offense at the idea of attractive women in your games! Go right ahead and make them! Some of us -prefer- it!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_R2FMHKH5PXMKNIJ5PDG37N4SVQ Erin

    Objectification occurs when the viewer does not consciously consider the inner humanity of the person they are looking at/interacting with.  To look at someone and appreciate their beauty while also appreciating who they are is quite different from considering the surface only.  This sort of thing is most evident in the way that women’s bodies (and in some cases mens bodies as well) are visually broken up into their component parts in the media.  (For example, a picture of only a person’s ass.)  If I look at a man and only see a pair of, say, walking abs, that’s objectification, just like if a guy looks at woman and sees nothing but a pair of walking boobs. 

    Objectification also occurs when a viewer looks at a person and only sees value in that person purely for sex, and very typically solely for personal gratification, without consideration as to the wants and desires of their partner.

    There is nothing wrong with lust or sex or love.  I imagine that women would be far more amenable to “objectification” were it applied equally with men.  However, it is not.  I have no problem being stared at every now and then; in fact, I do the same to men I see jogging in the park.  What I do mind is when people are obnoxious about it.  There’s nothing wrong with looking a little, but when you start yelling like an idiot, I’m going to flip you off.  And if you touch me, I’m going to hit you.  Part of the problem is that people confuse lust and abuse, and that goes both for perpetrators and for society in general.

    Another problem I find with your argument is that you never actually define “femininity.”  In the end, what is femininity, other than the ability to have babies?  And are women who no longer have that ability not feminine?  Or is femininity a set of specific personality traits and behaviors?  If so, why are those traits and behaviors considered the sole providence of the female sex?  Is it based on sex, in that the woman “receives” the man, and is therefore “passive” while the man is “active?”  What happens when you flip that and instead the woman “takes” the man?  Now the woman is “active.”  You see how complicated this is?  How can we possibly lose something that has yet to be properly defined?  And in this case, why bother defining it?  If you are as interested in a person’s humanity as you claim, you will realize that humanity is not gender or sex-dependent.  It’s personality dependent, integrity dependent, creativity dependent.  Gender is something that we have created as an aspect of our humanity, but it is not a necessary component; it is merely a facet, which some people express more than others.

    You say women have lost their femininity like it should be an insult.  I don’t think it is.  You can’t insult someone when you have undefinable parameters to your categorization.  And even if it were definable, I still don’t think it would be an insult.  It would be like trying to insult someone by calling them a happy person.  And speaking of happy, what on earth do you care if women have supposedly lost their “femininity” as long as they are happy?  They’re not hurting anyone, least of all you.

    And as for makeup, fashion, etc?  I wear makeup, but I don’t think that makes me “feminine.”  The ancient Egyptians wore makeup, male or female, as have individuals in many cultures over time.  I also wear skirts.  The Scottish (and plenty of other people) wear kilts, which, while not technically skirts, have the same visual effect of drawing the eye to the legs of the wearer.

    Anyway, I either find that the words “feminine” and “masculine” are either completely undefinable and therefore useless, or, depending on the user’s own definition of said words, obnoxiously constricting and stereotypical, and therefore, also completely useless.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_R2FMHKH5PXMKNIJ5PDG37N4SVQ Erin

    Objectification occurs when the viewer does not consciously consider the inner humanity of the person they are looking at/interacting with.  To look at someone and appreciate their beauty while also appreciating who they are is quite different from considering the surface only.  This sort of thing is most evident in the way that women’s bodies (and in some cases mens bodies as well) are visually broken up into their component parts in the media.  (For example, a picture of only a person’s ass.)  If I look at a man and only see a pair of, say, walking abs, that’s objectification, just like if a guy looks at woman and sees nothing but a pair of walking boobs. 

    Objectification also occurs when a viewer looks at a person and only sees value in that person purely for sex, and very typically solely for personal gratification, without consideration as to the wants and desires of their partner.

    There is nothing wrong with lust or sex or love.  I imagine that women would be far more amenable to “objectification” were it applied equally with men.  However, it is not.  I have no problem being stared at every now and then; in fact, I do the same to men I see jogging in the park.  What I do mind is when people are obnoxious about it.  There’s nothing wrong with looking a little, but when you start yelling like an idiot, I’m going to flip you off.  And if you touch me, I’m going to hit you.  Part of the problem is that people confuse lust and abuse, and that goes both for perpetrators and for society in general.

    Another problem I find with your argument is that you never actually define “femininity.”  In the end, what is femininity, other than the ability to have babies?  And are women who no longer have that ability not feminine?  Or is femininity a set of specific personality traits and behaviors?  If so, why are those traits and behaviors considered the sole providence of the female sex?  Is it based on sex, in that the woman “receives” the man, and is therefore “passive” while the man is “active?”  What happens when you flip that and instead the woman “takes” the man?  Now the woman is “active.”  You see how complicated this is?  How can we possibly lose something that has yet to be properly defined?  And in this case, why bother defining it?  If you are as interested in a person’s humanity as you claim, you will realize that humanity is not gender or sex-dependent.  It’s personality dependent, integrity dependent, creativity dependent.  Gender is something that we have created as an aspect of our humanity, but it is not a necessary component; it is merely a facet, which some people express more than others.

    You say women have lost their femininity like it should be an insult.  I don’t think it is.  You can’t insult someone when you have undefinable parameters to your categorization.  And even if it were definable, I still don’t think it would be an insult.  It would be like trying to insult someone by calling them a happy person.  And speaking of happy, what on earth do you care if women have supposedly lost their “femininity” as long as they are happy?  They’re not hurting anyone, least of all you.

    And as for makeup, fashion, etc?  I wear makeup, but I don’t think that makes me “feminine.”  The ancient Egyptians wore makeup, male or female, as have individuals in many cultures over time.  I also wear skirts.  The Scottish (and plenty of other people) wear kilts, which, while not technically skirts, have the same visual effect of drawing the eye to the legs of the wearer.

    Anyway, I either find that the words “feminine” and “masculine” are either completely undefinable and therefore useless, or, depending on the user’s own definition of said words, obnoxiously constricting and stereotypical, and therefore, also completely useless.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_R2FMHKH5PXMKNIJ5PDG37N4SVQ Erin

    Objectification occurs when the viewer does not consciously consider the inner humanity of the person they are looking at/interacting with.  To look at someone and appreciate their beauty while also appreciating who they are is quite different from considering the surface only.  This sort of thing is most evident in the way that women’s bodies (and in some cases mens bodies as well) are visually broken up into their component parts in the media.  (For example, a picture of only a person’s ass.)  If I look at a man and only see a pair of, say, walking abs, that’s objectification, just like if a guy looks at woman and sees nothing but a pair of walking boobs. 

    Objectification also occurs when a viewer looks at a person and only sees value in that person purely for sex, and very typically solely for personal gratification, without consideration as to the wants and desires of their partner.

    There is nothing wrong with lust or sex or love.  I imagine that women would be far more amenable to “objectification” were it applied equally with men.  However, it is not.  I have no problem being stared at every now and then; in fact, I do the same to men I see jogging in the park.  What I do mind is when people are obnoxious about it.  There’s nothing wrong with looking a little, but when you start yelling like an idiot, I’m going to flip you off.  And if you touch me, I’m going to hit you.  Part of the problem is that people confuse lust and abuse, and that goes both for perpetrators and for society in general.

    Another problem I find with your argument is that you never actually define “femininity.”  In the end, what is femininity, other than the ability to have babies?  And are women who no longer have that ability not feminine?  Or is femininity a set of specific personality traits and behaviors?  If so, why are those traits and behaviors considered the sole providence of the female sex?  Is it based on sex, in that the woman “receives” the man, and is therefore “passive” while the man is “active?”  What happens when you flip that and instead the woman “takes” the man?  Now the woman is “active.”  You see how complicated this is?  How can we possibly lose something that has yet to be properly defined?  And in this case, why bother defining it?  If you are as interested in a person’s humanity as you claim, you will realize that humanity is not gender or sex-dependent.  It’s personality dependent, integrity dependent, creativity dependent.  Gender is something that we have created as an aspect of our humanity, but it is not a necessary component; it is merely a facet, which some people express more than others.

    You say women have lost their femininity like it should be an insult.  I don’t think it is.  You can’t insult someone when you have undefinable parameters to your categorization.  And even if it were definable, I still don’t think it would be an insult.  It would be like trying to insult someone by calling them a happy person.  And speaking of happy, what on earth do you care if women have supposedly lost their “femininity” as long as they are happy?  They’re not hurting anyone, least of all you.

    And as for makeup, fashion, etc?  I wear makeup, but I don’t think that makes me “feminine.”  The ancient Egyptians wore makeup, male or female, as have individuals in many cultures over time.  I also wear skirts.  The Scottish (and plenty of other people) wear kilts, which, while not technically skirts, have the same visual effect of drawing the eye to the legs of the wearer.

    Anyway, I either find that the words “feminine” and “masculine” are either completely undefinable and therefore useless, or, depending on the user’s own definition of said words, obnoxiously constricting and stereotypical, and therefore, also completely useless.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_R2FMHKH5PXMKNIJ5PDG37N4SVQ Erin

    Objectification occurs when the viewer does not consciously consider the inner humanity of the person they are looking at/interacting with.  To look at someone and appreciate their beauty while also appreciating who they are is quite different from considering the surface only.  This sort of thing is most evident in the way that women’s bodies (and in some cases mens bodies as well) are visually broken up into their component parts in the media.  (For example, a picture of only a person’s ass.)  If I look at a man and only see a pair of, say, walking abs, that’s objectification, just like if a guy looks at woman and sees nothing but a pair of walking boobs. 

    Objectification also occurs when a viewer looks at a person and only sees value in that person purely for sex, and very typically solely for personal gratification, without consideration as to the wants and desires of their partner.

    There is nothing wrong with lust or sex or love.  I imagine that women would be far more amenable to “objectification” were it applied equally with men.  However, it is not.  I have no problem being stared at every now and then; in fact, I do the same to men I see jogging in the park.  What I do mind is when people are obnoxious about it.  There’s nothing wrong with looking a little, but when you start yelling like an idiot, I’m going to flip you off.  And if you touch me, I’m going to hit you.  Part of the problem is that people confuse lust and abuse, and that goes both for perpetrators and for society in general.

    Another problem I find with your argument is that you never actually define “femininity.”  In the end, what is femininity, other than the ability to have babies?  And are women who no longer have that ability not feminine?  Or is femininity a set of specific personality traits and behaviors?  If so, why are those traits and behaviors considered the sole providence of the female sex?  Is it based on sex, in that the woman “receives” the man, and is therefore “passive” while the man is “active?”  What happens when you flip that and instead the woman “takes” the man?  Now the woman is “active.”  You see how complicated this is?  How can we possibly lose something that has yet to be properly defined?  And in this case, why bother defining it?  If you are as interested in a person’s humanity as you claim, you will realize that humanity is not gender or sex-dependent.  It’s personality dependent, integrity dependent, creativity dependent.  Gender is something that we have created as an aspect of our humanity, but it is not a necessary component; it is merely a facet, which some people express more than others.

    You say women have lost their femininity like it should be an insult.  I don’t think it is.  You can’t insult someone when you have undefinable parameters to your categorization.  And even if it were definable, I still don’t think it would be an insult.  It would be like trying to insult someone by calling them a happy person.  And speaking of happy, what on earth do you care if women have supposedly lost their “femininity” as long as they are happy?  They’re not hurting anyone, least of all you.

    And as for makeup, fashion, etc?  I wear makeup, but I don’t think that makes me “feminine.”  The ancient Egyptians wore makeup, male or female, as have individuals in many cultures over time.  I also wear skirts.  The Scottish (and plenty of other people) wear kilts, which, while not technically skirts, have the same visual effect of drawing the eye to the legs of the wearer.

    Anyway, I either find that the words “feminine” and “masculine” are either completely undefinable and therefore useless, or, depending on the user’s own definition of said words, obnoxiously constricting and stereotypical, and therefore, also completely useless.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_R2FMHKH5PXMKNIJ5PDG37N4SVQ Erin

    Objectification occurs when the viewer does not consciously consider the inner humanity of the person they are looking at/interacting with.  To look at someone and appreciate their beauty while also appreciating who they are is quite different from considering the surface only.  This sort of thing is most evident in the way that women’s bodies (and in some cases mens bodies as well) are visually broken up into their component parts in the media.  (For example, a picture of only a person’s ass.)  If I look at a man and only see a pair of, say, walking abs, that’s objectification, just like if a guy looks at woman and sees nothing but a pair of walking boobs. 

    Objectification also occurs when a viewer looks at a person and only sees value in that person purely for sex, and very typically solely for personal gratification, without consideration as to the wants and desires of their partner.

    There is nothing wrong with lust or sex or love.  I imagine that women would be far more amenable to “objectification” were it applied equally with men.  However, it is not.  I have no problem being stared at every now and then; in fact, I do the same to men I see jogging in the park.  What I do mind is when people are obnoxious about it.  There’s nothing wrong with looking a little, but when you start yelling like an idiot, I’m going to flip you off.  And if you touch me, I’m going to hit you.  Part of the problem is that people confuse lust and abuse, and that goes both for perpetrators and for society in general.

    Another problem I find with your argument is that you never actually define “femininity.”  In the end, what is femininity, other than the ability to have babies?  And are women who no longer have that ability not feminine?  Or is femininity a set of specific personality traits and behaviors?  If so, why are those traits and behaviors considered the sole providence of the female sex?  Is it based on sex, in that the woman “receives” the man, and is therefore “passive” while the man is “active?”  What happens when you flip that and instead the woman “takes” the man?  Now the woman is “active.”  You see how complicated this is?  How can we possibly lose something that has yet to be properly defined?  And in this case, why bother defining it?  If you are as interested in a person’s humanity as you claim, you will realize that humanity is not gender or sex-dependent.  It’s personality dependent, integrity dependent, creativity dependent.  Gender is something that we have created as an aspect of our humanity, but it is not a necessary component; it is merely a facet, which some people express more than others.

    You say women have lost their femininity like it should be an insult.  I don’t think it is.  You can’t insult someone when you have undefinable parameters to your categorization.  And even if it were definable, I still don’t think it would be an insult.  It would be like trying to insult someone by calling them a happy person.  And speaking of happy, what on earth do you care if women have supposedly lost their “femininity” as long as they are happy?  They’re not hurting anyone, least of all you.

    And as for makeup, fashion, etc?  I wear makeup, but I don’t think that makes me “feminine.”  The ancient Egyptians wore makeup, male or female, as have individuals in many cultures over time.  I also wear skirts.  The Scottish (and plenty of other people) wear kilts, which, while not technically skirts, have the same visual effect of drawing the eye to the legs of the wearer.

    Anyway, I either find that the words “feminine” and “masculine” are either completely undefinable and therefore useless, or, depending on the user’s own definition of said words, obnoxiously constricting and stereotypical, and therefore, also completely useless.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_R2FMHKH5PXMKNIJ5PDG37N4SVQ Erin

    Objectification occurs when the viewer does not consciously consider the inner humanity of the person they are looking at/interacting with.  To look at someone and appreciate their beauty while also appreciating who they are is quite different from considering the surface only.  This sort of thing is most evident in the way that women’s bodies (and in some cases mens bodies as well) are visually broken up into their component parts in the media.  (For example, a picture of only a person’s ass.)  If I look at a man and only see a pair of, say, walking abs, that’s objectification, just like if a guy looks at woman and sees nothing but a pair of walking boobs. 

    Objectification also occurs when a viewer looks at a person and only sees value in that person purely for sex, and very typically solely for personal gratification, without consideration as to the wants and desires of their partner.

    There is nothing wrong with lust or sex or love.  I imagine that women would be far more amenable to “objectification” were it applied equally with men.  However, it is not.  I have no problem being stared at every now and then; in fact, I do the same to men I see jogging in the park.  What I do mind is when people are obnoxious about it.  There’s nothing wrong with looking a little, but when you start yelling like an idiot, I’m going to flip you off.  And if you touch me, I’m going to hit you.  Part of the problem is that people confuse lust and abuse, and that goes both for perpetrators and for society in general.

    Another problem I find with your argument is that you never actually define “femininity.”  In the end, what is femininity, other than the ability to have babies?  And are women who no longer have that ability not feminine?  Or is femininity a set of specific personality traits and behaviors?  If so, why are those traits and behaviors considered the sole providence of the female sex?  Is it based on sex, in that the woman “receives” the man, and is therefore “passive” while the man is “active?”  What happens when you flip that and instead the woman “takes” the man?  Now the woman is “active.”  You see how complicated this is?  How can we possibly lose something that has yet to be properly defined?  And in this case, why bother defining it?  If you are as interested in a person’s humanity as you claim, you will realize that humanity is not gender or sex-dependent.  It’s personality dependent, integrity dependent, creativity dependent.  Gender is something that we have created as an aspect of our humanity, but it is not a necessary component; it is merely a facet, which some people express more than others.

    You say women have lost their femininity like it should be an insult.  I don’t think it is.  You can’t insult someone when you have undefinable parameters to your categorization.  And even if it were definable, I still don’t think it would be an insult.  It would be like trying to insult someone by calling them a happy person.  And speaking of happy, what on earth do you care if women have supposedly lost their “femininity” as long as they are happy?  They’re not hurting anyone, least of all you.

    And as for makeup, fashion, etc?  I wear makeup, but I don’t think that makes me “feminine.”  The ancient Egyptians wore makeup, male or female, as have individuals in many cultures over time.  I also wear skirts.  The Scottish (and plenty of other people) wear kilts, which, while not technically skirts, have the same visual effect of drawing the eye to the legs of the wearer.

    Anyway, I either find that the words “feminine” and “masculine” are either completely undefinable and therefore useless, or, depending on the user’s own definition of said words, obnoxiously constricting and stereotypical, and therefore, also completely useless.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_R2FMHKH5PXMKNIJ5PDG37N4SVQ Erin

    Objectification occurs when the viewer does not consciously consider the inner humanity of the person they are looking at/interacting with.  To look at someone and appreciate their beauty while also appreciating who they are is quite different from considering the surface only.  This sort of thing is most evident in the way that women’s bodies (and in some cases mens bodies as well) are visually broken up into their component parts in the media.  (For example, a picture of only a person’s ass.)  If I look at a man and only see a pair of, say, walking abs, that’s objectification, just like if a guy looks at woman and sees nothing but a pair of walking boobs. 

    Objectification also occurs when a viewer looks at a person and only sees value in that person purely for sex, and very typically solely for personal gratification, without consideration as to the wants and desires of their partner.

    There is nothing wrong with lust or sex or love.  I imagine that women would be far more amenable to “objectification” were it applied equally with men.  However, it is not.  I have no problem being stared at every now and then; in fact, I do the same to men I see jogging in the park.  What I do mind is when people are obnoxious about it.  There’s nothing wrong with looking a little, but when you start yelling like an idiot, I’m going to flip you off.  And if you touch me, I’m going to hit you.  Part of the problem is that people confuse lust and abuse, and that goes both for perpetrators and for society in general.

    Another problem I find with your argument is that you never actually define “femininity.”  In the end, what is femininity, other than the ability to have babies?  And are women who no longer have that ability not feminine?  Or is femininity a set of specific personality traits and behaviors?  If so, why are those traits and behaviors considered the sole providence of the female sex?  Is it based on sex, in that the woman “receives” the man, and is therefore “passive” while the man is “active?”  What happens when you flip that and instead the woman “takes” the man?  Now the woman is “active.”  You see how complicated this is?  How can we possibly lose something that has yet to be properly defined?  And in this case, why bother defining it?  If you are as interested in a person’s humanity as you claim, you will realize that humanity is not gender or sex-dependent.  It’s personality dependent, integrity dependent, creativity dependent.  Gender is something that we have created as an aspect of our humanity, but it is not a necessary component; it is merely a facet, which some people express more than others.

    You say women have lost their femininity like it should be an insult.  I don’t think it is.  You can’t insult someone when you have undefinable parameters to your categorization.  And even if it were definable, I still don’t think it would be an insult.  It would be like trying to insult someone by calling them a happy person.  And speaking of happy, what on earth do you care if women have supposedly lost their “femininity” as long as they are happy?  They’re not hurting anyone, least of all you.

    And as for makeup, fashion, etc?  I wear makeup, but I don’t think that makes me “feminine.”  The ancient Egyptians wore makeup, male or female, as have individuals in many cultures over time.  I also wear skirts.  The Scottish (and plenty of other people) wear kilts, which, while not technically skirts, have the same visual effect of drawing the eye to the legs of the wearer.

    Anyway, I either find that the words “feminine” and “masculine” are either completely undefinable and therefore useless, or, depending on the user’s own definition of said words, obnoxiously constricting and stereotypical, and therefore, also completely useless.

  • http://remarkablogger.com Michael Martine

    You mean John Berger, not Bergman. And yes, I understand the notion of the male gaze. There have been some small inroads in women breaking away from that and creating art in which the “gazer” isn’t assumed to be a male or even heterosexual (visual artists like Hazel Dooney or feminist porn, for example). We’re beginning to see women’s lust reflected in images of women, but not pervasive in the culture. Culture can’t be reset, it can only continue and evolve. Long way to go. Thanks for your reply. :)

  • http://twitter.com/acidragdoll Bel

     Feminine and masculine are completely definable.  They’re just also completely arbitrary, in a constant state of flux, and often mismatched from culture to culture (though, less so in the days of mass media proliferation). 

    Recognizing that femininity and masculinity are cultural constructs is valuable, but saying that they don’t exist is sort of like saying that racism doesn’t exist because race is a cultural construct – you might be technically accurate but you’re plugging your ears to a real problem.  In this case, that problem is the relative value of feminine vs. masculine. 

    Maybe women have lost some of their femininity in an effort to be taken more seriously.  But maybe that’s not some kind of defect in modern women so much as it is a reflection on the kind of work we still need to do to have equality.  Men should be adopting femininity as much as we are masculinity, and just as shamelessly.

  • http://twitter.com/acidragdoll Bel

     Or.. just make all different kinds, in equal levels of visibility.  That way everybody is happy?

  • http://twitter.com/acidragdoll Bel

    Shoot, I always get the name wrong.  Thank you.

    I know there’s been some small breakthrough, but it’s just that… small.  We’ve been working our way up from being depicted as put through meat grinders.  I think it’s gonna take a while, and while I’ve got faith, I think this is still a pretty useful concept in the interim.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_IGRK4BKTKC5RGO56RXTUEVFJSM ainok

    The objectification issue has a lot to do with how women see and present themselves. It’s important not only as something external that is committed by some third party, but as something internalized and perpetuated by girls and women–the idea that a pretty girl, a more feminine girl, is necessarily more desirable and that desirability translates into ‘value.’ Much of our culture, and a lot of cultures, equate value with physical attractiveness. You are not a ‘human being,’ you are packaging for a set of reproductive organs.

    The problem derives from the fact that sexual desirability takes precedence over the willingness to value the other aspects of a person. Thus, a girl or woman’s intellect, ability and character are all regarded as significantly less important than this one factor which is wholly an accident of genetics. When a woman is then presented with characters who possess exaggerated sexually appealing qualities, it’s difficult not to internalize this idea that appearance and sexiness are the most important qualities to focus on in oneself.

    For those of us who see ourselves as human beings, it can be tough to take these characters seriously, because they have nothing to do with how we perceive ourselves. I have tits, but my tits are not the entirety of who I am. Some of us get a little tetchy at the implication that they should be.

    Additionally, it’s worth pointing out that all women are potential targets for sexual violence, at all times. Every single one of us can become a victim, day or night, wherever we happen to be. So the viewing of us as sexual objects, potential mates, whatever, always always carries an element of risk, from our point of view. Most guys aren’t going to date-rape us or attack us on a college campus–but most isn’t all. Violence against women happens. We’re targets. So the viewing of us as sacks of meat put here to be oggled carries that element of potential violence. It’s inherent in how we’re regarded. Don’t be too surprised when we don’t find it flattering.

  • http://remarkablogger.com Michael Martine

    Femininity and masculinity have a lot of basis in culture, which is different from place to place and changes over time. I could point to certain attributes that to me signify femininity, but they’d only have context in my own culture. But I never said anything about babies so I’ll thank you not to put words in my mouth.

    I love your point about the woman taking the man, and flipping things around. Our words fail us in so many ways. Is passive also powerless? Different kind of power entirely. The difference between a black hole and a supernova, if you want to scale things up, just a little bit. :) I think passive and active are poor words for this. I like to think in terms of positive/negative energy or yin/yang. Holes want to be filled. Sticks are for poking. The entire universe operates on sexual principles, because sex operates on universal principles. Biology matters, probably more than we think (but probably not as much as evolutionary psychologists would like it to).

    And I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t think kilts are sexy. :)

    What I would love to see disappear is the patriarchal sense of entitlement which is based at root on threat of violence. Which is maybe kind of a funny thing to say when we’re talking about blowing shit up and killing hordes of people in video games.

  • http://remarkablogger.com Michael Martine

    And when they do, they get laughed at and labeled as fags and metrosexuals. Good times for everyone! Nice corner we’ve painted ourselves into.

  • sanna ulfsparre

    Metroid?

  • http://remarkablogger.com Michael Martine

    My whole point was that I don’t view women as sacks of meat to be ogled, so I agree with you. Men also internalize cultural standards which are impossible to live up to and which are just as detrimental to emotional and mental health. And we only have ourselves to blame for it.

  • http://urchinmoppet.livejournal.com/ Remki

    If you want a really good example of objectification, look at advertising and gender. Just look through some magazines and start counting all the large/fat womens bodies you see versus all the smaller/skinny womens bodies, and compare them to context. It’s a 99% guarantee that the fat bodies are being used as cautionary tales or advertising horror stories to scare women into a number of products for weight loss or fashion or food. Skinny bodies are inevitably used as examples of beauty, love-and-lust worthy people, used to push ever product you can possibly imagine and present the image of a better life.

    Now do the same thing for men. Yes, large/fat men are occasionally used to push fat-phobic messages, but they are also frequently used to sell products completely unrelated to their size. 

    Do the same thing for magazine covers. Look at the captions surrounding the cover images. When it’s women, it is almost always related to her looks, her weight (or weight loss), her children, or sometimes her home. She is also almost always young, blond (or nearly), white (or nearly) and skinny, or trying to be. For men, it can range from their latest book release, music tour, comedy show, movie role, cooking TV show…you name it, but it almost always has nothing to do with their looks. And men on covers can range from “undersized” to “overweight” and it rarely comes under any kind of commentary. 

    What does this have to do with objectification? Think about the qualities we look for as a society in women (not, by the way, what you as an individual look for, because that’s extremely subjective). What we look for is both built and reflected by our advertising choices, movie role choices, commentary choices, ect. If you did a statistical analysis of the common features featured in women found in advertising, mainstream movie roles, magazine covers, TV roles, and the like, you’d come up with a vaguely generic-looking model: light-brown to blond hair, skinny, medium to large breasts, and almost always white or light skinned. If you tried to do the same with men, you’d still end up with a generic looking model, but the statistics behind it would be much more diverse, and if you decided not to include underwear or jean ads in the mix, you’d end up with a much larger diversity among the idea of “ideal” social man than you would for women. 

    Why? Because as a society we idealize womens bodies. We make value judgments about women based on their looks first and their qualities as people second. If we didn’t, then there would be more “unusual” (i.e. normal) women taking roles in the media that they are currently passed over for. You’d see larger women, or minority women, or less-socially-accepted-ideas-of-beauty women taking roles that they are currently passed over in favor of women like Jennifer Anniston or Kristen Stewart. And they’re almost always the sidekick or the romantic interest, or when featured in a leading role it’s usually a romantic comedy. Even in the more geek-centric media, women are still portrayed for the most part by skinny, mostly white, mostly or nearly blond women like Alison Pill or Anna Kendrick, though geek media tends to have more minority women which is a plus. But even in the mainstream geek media, women still take a back seat to their male counterparts, and there are decidedly less of them. And they usually have decidedly less clothes on too.

    Men are objectified too, don’t get me wrong. It’s the nature of media, a voyaristic medium, to objectify the people we essentially “spy” on through the fourth wall. But men are much less affected by the need to be “pretty” to be found worthy of our attention. A man can be fat or rather conventionally unattractive (from a visual standpoint) but because they’re funny or talented they’re found worthy of our attention (for example, Jack Black, Zach Galifianakis, David Cross, Brian Posehn, ect). The list of women who fit this is much shorter and harder to come by. And as in media, so in video games. 

    Is this 100% true all the time everywhere? Of course not. But it DOES exist, it’s not some fiction invented by feminists to “push an agenda”. Just because you’re not on the receiving end and therefore don’t experience or notice it daily does not invalidate it’s very real presence in our media and its very negative consequences on the minds and hearts of girls and women (and, might I add, as much on the minds and hearts of men as of women– I’ve had plenty of male friends who have admitted feeling pressured or embarrassed to admit that they found a woman attractive because she wasn’t what society (i.e. their male friends) would think is attractive). Before you dismiss objectification, you should probably learn to scrutinize our media and our social attitudes better. The evidence covers every field and form you can imagine, and is plentiful.

  • http://remarkablogger.com Michael Martine

    I think you’re completely confusing objectification with cultural beauty standards. However, great points on that. There will always be cultural standards, by the way. Which not everyone will live up to. Even if they were different than they are now, or different in the way you would want.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t forget us guys who like to play as girl characters simply because it feels more right. For me this is more important in RPGs than FPS, in FPS I can forget what “I” look like, ’cause it’s mostly just the arms anyway, and lets be honest, who can tell one genders digital arms, from another (totally put me off COD for a while, till I played it and realised that you never see your character anyway, so although it’s not exactly the image I want to put forward, it’s not jarring for me). Whereas in an RPG I can see what I’m doing, and that feels really weird if I’m some bulky super solider blokey bloke bloke, ’cause that ain’t me.

    Totally look forward to a wider selection of characters to play in games though. 

  • Anonymous

    Metroid Prime. Samus was a first-person shooter female with NO male alternatives.

    And even though the first Metroid game was third-person, it was undeniably a gender-bending shock when it was revealed that a woman was under that armor (and playable sans armor if you won the game enough times in a row)

  • Anonymous

    Wow, really? There are actually people who can’t become immersed in a medium simply because the protagonist doesn’t look like them? Boy, Tv and books must prove horribly dissapointing to you…..

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kristin-Frederickson/852880113 Kristin Frederickson

    Portal was good in that it had a female protagonist without saying “HEY LOOK, IT’S A FEMALE PROTAGONIST!”… however, they were so subtle about having a female player character that most people didn’t even know they were playing as a woman. While I applaud them for not exploiting Chell (if you look at the character model, she’s just a human being. They didn’t doll her up or make her tits ridiculous or anything), it sort of defeats the purpose of having female character if you don’t even know she’s there.

    For once I would like to see a game that makes it apparent that you’re playing as a female without exploiting her for T&A. Bioware came really close to this in Mass Effect and Dragon Age where you can play as a male or a female without any change to the animations, dialogue or story, but then certain privileged gamers had to go and ruin the all-inclusive fun by (falsely) asserting that only the male versions of Dragon Age or Mass Effect characters are the “true” characters, and that female characters are less valid deviations from male canons.

    Oh well. It’s a step closer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kristin-Frederickson/852880113 Kristin Frederickson

    …”Other M”? ಠ_ಠ

  • http://twitter.com/cksaul Chris Saul

    When you think about it, anyone who doesn’t fit into the Caucasian male mold can experience this type of disconnect in most games. Honestly, how often do you see protagonists who are ethnic minorities? Or physically disabled? For me personally, I rarely try to recreate myself as an avatar in a game. As an ethnic minority, while I can’t see myself as Duke Nukem, I can IMAGINE that I am him. Isn’t part of the fun of a video game becoming something you are not? I cannot fly, free-run, dunk a basketball, darkslide a 10-stair, do a Hadouken, or melee through Locusts with a Lancer in my everyday life. But I can in a video game. And that’s why they’re awesome.For the record, both my brother and I often play games as female characters, when available as option. I mean, why not?
    As Adkkszuvljc mentioned above: “There are actually people who can’t become immersed in a medium simply because the protagonist doesn’t look like them? Boy, Tv and books must prove horribly dissapointing to you…..

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kristin-Frederickson/852880113 Kristin Frederickson

    “If a woman is beautiful to me she is no less of a person or more of an object than any other person.”
    If that is your true thought process, then you are not objectifying women – actually, the fact that you find objectification such an absurd concept probably speaks very well for your character.

    But that isn’t to say that objectification doesn’t happen, particularly in games.

    I’m sure there’s some debate about the “official” definition of “objectification”, but in my opinion, it happens when one person finds another sexually attractive and feels they have the inherent right to act on those feelings. They fail to see the “object of their affections” (pardon the expression) as a fellow human being, particularly a human being with their own wants and needs and the ability to voice their desire or lack thereof. They feel entitled to look at and use that person sexually, regardless of the other person’s consent – in short, they see the other person as an object to be used at their discretion.

    This is most noticeable when magazine covers and ads reduce entire women to single body parts like legs and boobs (as body parts obviously aren’t conscious), or when video games make every single woman in a game sexually available or “usable”.  Although it seems silly to complain about the exploitation of pixelated women, it gets pretty obnoxious when you’re a female gamer just trying to enjoy a game where the characters you most identify with are presented as half-people.

    And for the record, simply finding someone attractive =/= objectification. If that were true, then it wouldn’t be worth complaining about objectification because we would ALL be guilty of it, male and female.

  • Jacob Plette

    “Other M” seconded. The rest of Metroid, though, is good stuff.

  • http://twitter.com/SwoodTX Sarah Wood

    The issue is the character has to be more than just an attractive shell. I’m fine playing as a traditionally attractive female character, I think a character that wasn’t afraid to be feminine while kicking butt, and was well written, would be awesome. Most ‘sexy’ characters however are never given any other traits, their only defining characteristic is their sex appeal. 

  • http://twitter.com/SwoodTX Sarah Wood

    I loved Chell in Portal, it was awesome to have a female protagonist who’s gender just didn’t matter. With that being said, not every protagonists  gender should be as inconsequential as Chell’s. Gender expectations plays a huge role in many peoples lives, why shouldn’t it play apart in the lives of video game characters? A Female character who’s gender actually meant something to the overall plot of the game could be interesting. I’ve been thinking about this since Extra Credits on the Escapist did a show about gender in video games (it is absolutely amazing). They brought up the possibility of centering a video game around motherhood, and how compelling that could be.

  • http://urchinmoppet.livejournal.com/ Remki

    There isn’t a difference between the two. Cultural beauty standards are an objectification of the body, embodying what we find “good” or morally superior into physical characteristics. Thus, women who fit the social standard of beauty are somehow superior than women who don’t. This is based purely on looks, and the more “beautiful” a woman is considered, the more worthy of our attention she’s claimed to be. The reason why it’s harder to find a cultural standard of beauty for men is because men are less objectified, and given more room to be admired for their talents, minds, and contributions than their bodies. Cultural standards aren’t a bad thing, nor something we can escape, I agree, but when a visual ideal is the way we, as a culture, conduct value judgments on a women, then we have a problem. 

  • http://remarkablogger.com Michael Martine

    Disagree. Cultural beauty exists (and must exist) in order to to have understood standards by which to choose a mate and while the details are culture-specific, the drive is biological and therefore has nothing to do with objectification. Biology is never wrong. However, we have to be careful about that too because the interpretation of what is or isn’t biology is subjective.

    Visual ideals absolutely must be a value judgment. There’s no other kind.

  • http://remarkablogger.com Michael Martine

    Yes it’s that patriarchal sense of entitlement that really bugs the shit out of me.

  • http://twitter.com/smoke_tetsu Smoke Tetsu

    I’m not sure I agree with the assertion that since there’s nude skins for Zoe in Left 4 Dead that makes her less valid or somehow reflects badly on her as a character. Or the same thing for Lillith in Borderlands (if there are any and I’m sure there are) or any other game where a character may be viewed by others and are not strictly the protagonist in first person view.

    It just for better or worse goes with the territory of female game characters ever since games started coming out with 3D character models with enough graphical fidelity to be recognizable as a gender especially ever since 3D models which can more easily be changed via one skin file versus hundreds of individual 2D sprites.

    There where nude skins for Tomb Raider 1. I’m sure there is a nude skin for Portal floating out there somewhere and there are tons of mods like that or worse for the game “Gary’s Mod” including most if not all the females featured in source engine games and more. Stuff that involves characters like Alyx Vance from Half-Life 2… a character who has never been stereotypical or sexed up in a way that has been vilified as objectified.

    It’s rule 34 in action… you can either let it get you down and turn you off to those characters or you can ignore it and enjoy them regardless. How others choose to modify their games shouldn’t be a factor to how much you like a character or a particular game because there’s always people doing stuff you might not approve of. I would go out on a limb and say most people don’t run with those kind of mods though. 

    Personally I mostly always play in single player because  I would rather play with friends and at times strangers can ruin the experience for one reason or another. Playing with strangers is so impersonal and often times not much better than playing AI. If there’s a female character choice I pick that one so in FPS games where it’s a choice it usually ends up being like Chell in Portal. You don’t see yourself but you know who you are in the game and that choice was all up to you. 

    When I play a game whether it’s first or third person I always in my mind take on the role of the character I’m playing so there’s not so much the distinction of controlling someone else versus “becoming” the character as described in this article with first person. 

    Personally I also like characters that are sexy in games because typically they aren’t victims. They are take charge and aren’t anyone’s door mat. If anything a critisism that can be leveled against them is that they are too perfect that no mortal female can live up to their standards. The same thing could be said for all those beefcake vanilla gorilla hero types that many if not all male game characters tend to be. But the thing with those types of characters is people like to play them precisely for the reason that they ARE NOT like them and they do things that they could never do.

    I understand the angst towards objectification though I enjoy looking at attractive people but then sometimes I feel bad for how they may get treated. I also don’t like rule 34 and sometimes I wish some of my favorite characters wouldn’t be touched by it (like Zoe in L4D who I like quite a bit) but like I said best thing you can do is ignore that stuff.

  • Anonymous

    “Let’s not conflate sexual abuse with biological responses to potential mates (AKA lust) and an appreciation of beauty” Yes, let’s not.

    If anyone is decrying the appreciation of the female form it’s because of where it fits into the bigger trend. There are so many instances of women being used as plot devices, background for male characters, and literal objects for game play that, even putting aside the differences in how male and female characters are physically portrayed, makes putting a woman on display a very different thing than putting a man on display.  The discrepancies between the frequencies and treatment of female and male characters is going to be different in an MMO, like World of Warcraft where players are free to choose and customize avatars, than in a FPS or an RPG where the main character is already decided, as was discussed in the article. However many of the same problems persist with female characters being designed to fit a narrow definition of “sexiness”.

    Here’s what I’m getting at, No one cares that you or anyone else likes to look at pretty ladies. The issue is limiting female characters to inactive roles and defining femininity as inherently on display. It’s not natural to deny autonomy to half the population, it’s not an expression of admiration or appreciation to make a female character a goal or an attractive female body a reward or a gimmick, it’s not even lustful.

  • Anonymous

    It’s a bit old now, but the 2000 spy-themed FPS No One Lives Forever had a female protagonist. She was kind of objectified in the box art, I guess, but not so much in the game itself.

    As a guy, I don’t mind playing as female characters, but then I don’t seem to identify myself with the player character as much as the writer of this article – in Half-Life, I thought of the player character as ‘Gordon Freeman’, not ‘me’, and likewise with Chell in Portal. I only feel I’m playing ‘myself’ in games where I get to design the player character.

    I do agree that there should be more female protagonists in games, though – or maybe more games that, like Mass Effect, simply allow you to choose the gender of the player character. After all, in most games, it really wouldn’t make much difference.

  • Anonymous

    tinyurl.com/24n4nqb

  • http://amidstdancers.blogspot.com/ Shard Aerliss

    Kilt’s draw the eye to the legs? You’ve clearly never been in Waverley Station, Edinburgh on a Saturday night after a big rugby match. Lots of short, sweaty, rotund men wondering about in kilts. This is NOT something to gaze at admiringly.

  • http://amidstdancers.blogspot.com/ Shard Aerliss

    “And I don’t know a single woman who doesn’t think kilts are sexy.”

    Yah just found one :P But then I don’t think that skirts (a very general term for a vast variety of clothing cuts and designs) are sexy… I don’t find legs all that sexy, now I come to think of it.

    I’ll just go sit this one out… in a corner…

  • http://amidstdancers.blogspot.com/ Shard Aerliss

    Snake has an eyepatch in MGS4… does that count as physically disabled? And Rayman doesn’t even have legs!

    Your physically disabled comment has made me think about Munch’s Oddysee. When in the water, Munch moves beautifully and with speed, but you get him on land and suddenly you can’t do anything. He can’t even keep up with the Mudokons if they run off… until he finds a handy wheel chair.

    Is Munch the first playable gaming character to use a wheel chair?

  • http://amidstdancers.blogspot.com/ Shard Aerliss

    Would there be a choice to be a dad?

  • Anonymous

    tinyurl.com/24n4nqb

  • http://twitter.com/SwoodTX Sarah Wood

    I don’t know but that could be cool too lol

  • http://amidstdancers.blogspot.com/ Shard Aerliss

    I’ve been thinking about this whole ‘being represented in media’ thing quite a bit recently (it’s quiet at work, okay). I’ve never felt under-represented, but then I’ve never felt represented. I very rarely, if EVER, fully identify with any fictional character. None of them are very much like me. They don’t make the decisions I would make. They don’t think in the same way I do, or believe the same things as me. They don’t have a remotely similar background to me. They don’t have the same hang-ups, wants or needs. The fact they don’t look like me never even makes it to the forefront of my mind with all these other, to me more important, differences getting in the way.

    The OP mentioned having to make the difficult decision as a child between playing a male turtle or a (somewhat lame) female human (do I have to point out; TURTLE!). I never encountered this dilemma. I was Raph or Donny when we played Turtles, Billy or Tommy when we played Power Rangers, Tygra or Cheetara for Thundercats. I happily played at being Indy or Robin Hood. It was never which character looked like me, but which character acted like me or which character I liked the best. None of the other kids ever said to me “you can’t play them, you’re a girl.”

    The same applies to computer games; if there’s a choice and the only basis of comparison is how they look I pick the one I like the look of the most. If we’ve had a good intro and there’s a noticeable difference in personality then I’ll pick the one with the personality I find most interesting (and if one character has better weapons and tools I’ll go with them first, obviously).

    When I noticed Chell was female my only reaction was “oh, interesting move, Valve.” The idea that I might be being represented didn’t occur because she is a non-character. Portal 2 is the most immersive gaming experience I have had because Chell has no personality, no lines, nothing to make her a character, a person. She doesn’t even make any grunts or pained noises like Jack Ryan does.

    Now just because she doesn’t have a personality to speak of, doesn’t mean that she might as well have been a droid. It’s not that she is a certain type of person that makes Chell such a great player character, it’s that she is a person, just a normal person. Any person. We are all represented by Chell because Chell has no outstanding features. She IS “human”. She is average (aside from the fact there are SLIGHTLY more men than women in the world 101:100). She is one big pile of best fit. If we needed to represent the whole of humanity in one single image of one of us to an alien race it would be Chell.

    This is all slightly thrown out when she starts getting a background in the tie-in comic, but it was never going to hold up for very long if they were going to extend the universe. We just don’t have the tech yet to make immersive but extended universes.

    My point is (yes, there is one to this ramble) that I think developer should stop focusing on the player character’s sex and simply build good player characters, with their sex being just an afterthought, a finishing touch. This, some might fear, would lead to only male player characters again. I don’t think it will. I think we’ve reached the point where developers are exploring new avenues enough that they won’t be sticking merely to male player characters.

  • Paul Blay

    I’m a bloke, but I play female characters when I can. I don’t have gender dysphoria – I’d rather be a pretty, young, woman than an average-looking middle-aged male, but I don’t what anyone going near any of my bits with a scalpel! I also don’t think I’m ‘somehow’ a female where it counts, inside (mentally, not internal organs). Anyway, I support the call for more strong female characters in games, even if not for quite the same reasons as the female gamers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1164481042 Mieko Gavia

    Not to mention that CHELL IS A POC!  Which is friggin awesome.  So not only can I be a girl when I play, I can be a girl whose skin color is close to mine (^_^)

  • http://remarkablogger.com Michael Martine

    Good point, thanks.

  • http://oddfellowstudios.com Shava Nerad

    I’m ok with female heroines with FFFF cup boobs bouncing around the moment they show male heroes trying to sprint at 5-8 MPH across the landscape with cantaloupe sized testicles.  It’s a game, why be realistic?

  • Anonymous

    This. When I played the third Metal Gear Solid, I wasn’t secretly bummed that Snake was a David rather than a Davine. It literally had no major impact on the gameplay experience. It’s just fun; why overthink it and angst because the main character isn’t exactly like me in every single way? As I’ve pointed out in other articles, I don’t WANT to play myself in a game; I play games to FORGET that I’m a fat chick with crappy eyesight.

  • Anonymous

    Only if he gripes about it constantly, some of the humor can derive from his fears about testicular torsion or infertility. That’ll give the feminists something to laugh at.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_HI4P2URTV7H7QM7WYTLRKHT6RU Century Lin

    hello,I heared that 7century.com have
    many cheap products. I always go there to buy, and tell my friend,they all said
    the http://www.7century.com is very very good shopping.lets go to shopping now.and
    i tell you that all of products is free shipping.

  • http://twitter.com/silentpunk Jennifer Doveton

    YES

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=563223409 Vic Horsham

    Now see, I’m very much down with the concept that women can be both sexy and strong.  What frustrates me, and what is the driving force behind my challenging of sexy characters, is that it seems a lot of the time we can ONLY be sexy and strong.  Or sexy and smart.  Or anything in between, but always with sexy tagged on in there.

    There is also a huge difference between being sexy and being sexual.  Ignoring the fan-made extra-sex mods, I think the L4D and L4D2 female characters fill out a pretty good sexy role.  They are modelled on a beautiful facial base, with fit, athletic but feminine figures, and are wearing practical but nice clothes for the setting.  Contrast that with every MMO that gives the female tank body armour featuring low cleavage, a bare midriff and naked thighs.

    I do like feeling sexy.  I don’t like feeling sexual.  One is me being a sexual creature on my own terms, one is me serving as eye candy for someone else’s fantasy.

    It comes down to immersion and enjoyment for me.  And in multiplayer games, the reaction of other players is very different.  In L4D and L4D2, I noticed people tended to treat the person playing the female character pretty much the same as anyone else.  And no one really bothered to ask whether players were female IRL or not.  In Guildwars, I chose to play a female character and was constantly being flirted with, asked for ASL and offered presents/payment for no reason whatsoever.  There was a HELL of a lot of white-knighting.  I was treated as being weaker and in need of help, and consequently I wasn’t allowed to feel like the strong, powerful arse-kicker I’d built my tank character for.

    Besides which, if there really is nothing wrong with a character being built for eye candy, where are all the male player-characters running around in tiny, tight shorts with sexily-shaped body hair?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=563223409 Vic Horsham

    Looking at someone beautiful isn’t objectification.  I am an… average-looking woman.  Not eye candy by anyone’s definition, but I get a hell of a lot of objectifying done.  When guys see me walking with a serious look on my face and physically stop me in the street to tell me to “smile”, and call me a bitch if I don’t respond with a sincere and appreciative smiley-gesture.  They assume, of course, that I have no genuine reason to not be grinning as I skip down the street.  When people shout across the street “boing boing” or some similarly asinine statement to let me know that OMG I have larger-than-average boobs. 

    Objectifying is when the act of appreciation of another human being becomes appreciation of a few key parts of that person, absent of the fact that they are attached to a human being.  I’ve had guys actually put their hands down my top in public, uninvited, and expect me to understand that it is “just a bit of fun”.

    Now, the truth is that whether these and other incidents are “abuse” will vary depending on who you ask.  But they are all objectification, and are all harmful to me, my sense of bodily security, personal privacy and self esteem.  And I’m not so vain as to think what happens to me is in any way unique in the female experience.

    Sexy women in games ARE objects more than in real life, because they don’t have an actual personality or a life in there.  The gamer can project any fantasy they want onto the character, make any assumptions they want about them, and in customiseable characters dress them however they want them to look for their own titillation and that is perfectly okay.  I may not like it myself, but there is nothing wrong with people who download mods to make in-game characters sexier.  Because the character isn’t real, and has no feelings to be hurt, no sense of security to be shattered and no ego to be damaged.  You can tell her to smile all you want.

    Challenging the objectification of women through their portrayal in popular culture is important because, at least as it seems from someone on the receiving end of this shit, using the female body as a marketing tool in games, ads, TV, magazines etc seems to make people more likely to see female people as commodities, rather than as people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=563223409 Vic Horsham

    Really?  I choose my mates based on who I like, regardless of cultural attitudes towards beauty.  As does my other half, and most people I know.  I like a lot of traits that are not culturally considered attractive; hairy bodies, long hair, beards, bellies, openess to genderplay, gentleness, a laugh that makes snorty pig noises.  I also ignore my preferences when I encounter someone I like in otherways, like my incredibly skinny, hairless ex.  My other half prefers unusually tall, small-breasted women with dark hair, and is currently in the 8th year of a relationship with a short, fat, blonde big-boobed me.  I don’t know anyone outside their teens who looks specifically for culturally-attractive people.  I know people whose preferences correlate in some areas with cuturally acceptable forms, but they also deviate from it as well.

    Your statement says more about you than it does about society in general.

    Also.  If cultural attitudes to beauty are variable and change over time, what on earth are you using to assert that this is biological?  Without me even getting into an argument over “biology is never wrong”. 

  • http://amidstdancers.blogspot.com/ Shard Aerliss

    “Besides which, if there really is nothing wrong with a character being built for eye candy, where are all the male player-characters running around in tiny, tight shorts with sexily-shaped body hair?”

    Perhaps because, rightly or wrongly, society thinks women look at more than just a man’s flesh? If I think of the big sex icons in fiction I think of well dressed men of action (James Bond being the main example)… or sometimes just men of action, but rarely are they scantily clad. I don’t think of many men that spend time running around in very little clothing.

    Whether this is what women actually want isn’t the issue, it is what creators of visual media THINK they want. The same applies to characters created for male pleasure. It might not be what men actually want, it’s what creators think they want.

  • http://amidstdancers.blogspot.com/ Shard Aerliss

    @facebook-563223409:disqus (as I can’t reply to your post directly)

    I think you’re ignoring a very large part of the population by only looking to your own friends as examples. People of a similar ilk have a tendency to flock together and sometimes don’t see the rest of society around them as it actually is.

    Get a group of average people together. Your people in the middle. Average pay, average IQ, average lives. White picket fence and all that. I guarantee you that they will ridicule each other on crushes that do not conform to the accepted idea of beauty.

    I’ve experienced this in the work place. I myself have odd tastes in men. The biggest influence is personality. I like enthusiastic, intelligent, independent minded and slightly loopy men. If they happen to be short, skinny and have mad hair then that’s all the better. Amongst my friends this isn’t an uncommon check list for fanciable men. However, at my previous work place most of the girls (who far more represent the vast majority of society than I do) would make fun of the men I found attractive and I always found the men they ALL found attractive utterly boring and undesirable.

    It’s that whole, peer pressure, going along with the herd thing.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7G4SWUX2MCWWXLMYNN347JMIZY Frodo Baggins

    What’s your point? Short, sweaty, rotund women can wear bikinis. The fact that you personally don’t like their bodies doesn’t discount that their clothes draw attention to their exposed bits. For that matter, plenty of people DO admire shortness or rotundness, so who made you arbiter of what to gaze at?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7G4SWUX2MCWWXLMYNN347JMIZY Frodo Baggins

    Well, it depends. You’re not likely to find many hot pants on action heroes. But do you count pecs as eye candy? In that case, for movies you got Terminator, Commando, Conan, Rambo, Rocky, the Scorpion King, Bloodsport, Crank, Transporter, Die Hard, Valhalla Rising, Spartacus, 300, Zardoz, Eastern Promises, Enter the Dragon, Game of Death, Predator, Universal Soldier, 12 Monkeys, Gamer, Titan AE, Top Gun, Planet of the Apes, Prince of Persia, The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, Starship Troopers, Avatar, Thor, and I think you’re misremembering James bond.

    For games you got God of War, Devil May Cry, Street Fighter, Tekken, Prince of Persia, Soul Calibur, Final Fantasy, and… well, I don’t know as many games.

    Of course, it’s a matter of degree, and treatment. A male character showing skin is perceived as emphasizing their strength; i.e. what they can do. A female character showing skin is perceived as emphasizing their sexual viability; i.e. what can be done to them. The male gaze doesn’t just mean ogling women, it means ignoring men’s sexual attributes.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7G4SWUX2MCWWXLMYNN347JMIZY Frodo Baggins

    A hypothetical: If fat chicks were featured more prominently in the media as heroes to be idolized and fantasized about, rather than losers to be laughed at and pitied, would you feel as desperate to not be a fat chick?

    As for the eyesight… maybe take it easy on the games?

  • Anonymous

    No, because even if they featured more prominantly, how fucking boring would it be to see your character trying to outrun enemies only to have to stop and gasp for breath? Realistic jiggle physics means every roll bounces independantly! The dualshock’s rumble feature can simulate her overtaxed heart struggling to keep up.

    Also, the only thing that can fix my sight is a vastly expensive surgery. It doesn’t fucking matter how many games I play or don’t play; I’m half-legally-blind and that shit isn’t getting any better.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7G4SWUX2MCWWXLMYNN347JMIZY Frodo Baggins

    Testicles and breasts are not really comparable in terms of objectification. How many girls jerk off to just straight up pics of a dude’s sac? Not many, just like not many dudes tug it to vagina closeups. Chests are an extremely prominent visual feature of a human. They’re right beneath the face, and when lit from above are the highest contrast plane-break on the front of the body (unless the subject has a big belly). Same goes for asses on the backside of the body. They indicate a lot about physical fitness and fertility. Genitals… really aren’t that visually prominent. The only reason dicks get looked at so much is because (theoretically, at least) their proportions are directly related to how much sexual pleasure they can provide.

    Anyway, my point being, you’re unlikely to see sexy dude characters with massive, pendulous baby baskets. On the other hand, check out the prevalence of inhumanly-proportioned pectorals.

  • Anonymous

    Feminist porn is a contradiction of terms, isn’t it? don’t they feel all porn is inherantly degrading to women? as are things like, y’know, wearing makeup, dressing nicely and fixing one’s hair? (Seriously, I have had feminists try to convince me that regularly showering was part of the ‘patriarchy’s plan to subjugate women’ by forcing them to arbitrarily do things to their bodies and not, you know, good hygeine.

  • http://remarkablogger.com Michael Martine

    No it’s very real. Plenty of women love porn, even the male gaze objectified stuff, but more and more they’re making it themselves.

  • Anonymous

    Either way, as long as the man’s in pain the feminists are happy.

  • Anonymous

    How can it be porn if there’s no sex?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7G4SWUX2MCWWXLMYNN347JMIZY Frodo Baggins

    Gee, someone’s got an ax to grind.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mdmagnusson Magnus David Magnusson

    I noticed a while back that in computer RPGs some of my male gamer friends always chose to play males and conversely some always chose to play as a female.

    After discussing it with them I realized that some gamers (like myself) who always prefer to play their own gender are all about the character immersion; the character is either a representation of themselves or someone they would like to be.

    For those of my male friends who play female characters they generally see her as a companion or a friend. Someone they’re going through an adventure with rather than as.

    I imagine the same holds true for female gamers. As such I have a great deal of sympathy for women who are so often robbed of this immersion.

    Zelda the warrior going to rescue prince Link or Peach the plumber going to rescue prince Mario would probably have made the Zelda and Mario games far more appealing to a great many female gamers.

  • Anonymous

    Not really, I just hate how feminists tend to treat men. I’m a woman myself, but when  I mentioned seeking a boyfriend to some femnists I know they literally hissed at me and called me a ‘gender traitor’.

  • Anonymous

    Not really, I just hate how feminists tend to treat men. I’m a woman myself, but when  I mentioned seeking a boyfriend to some femnists I know they literally hissed at me and called me a ‘gender traitor’.

  • http://twitter.com/acidragdoll Bel

    Like anything else, feminists come in all shapes and sizes.  The only common factor uniting all the different “schools” is the belief that men and women are equal and deserve to be treated as such.

  • http://amidstdancers.blogspot.com/ Shard Aerliss

    Ooookay, take a step back and come at my post again, from a “this is for comedic effect” angle.  I’ll grant it was not that funny, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was meant to have comedy value and not as a serious answer in anyway whatsoever.

    But if you’d like me to take the matter more seriously; the small or walking kilt was ‘designed’ (more of an organic evolution, really) to be simple, basic and practical. As opposed to the much older larger kilts that included a lot more cloth that could be swung over the shoulders as a cloak.

    My grandfather used to tell me that a proper kilt, made of wraps and wraps of cloth, was supposed to double as blanket and mattress. Though I can’t remember if this was a traditional thing or something they did way back when, in the army.

    Many old paintings and engravings we have of men wearing Scottish kilts, from when only the Highlanders and the army wore them, show men wearing long socks and/or high boots. Their legs are showing, true, but they are not exposed. Even now, if a man is wearing the full regalia the most you will be able to see should be his knees. Of course, modern kilts as worn by sports fans are a far cry from true kilts and they wear them not to attract women based on their legs, but to show national or team affiliation, support and pride.

  • Anonymous

    A lot of them seem to have lost sight of that though, in favor of ‘EWWWWWW MEN!!!!’

  • http://amidstdancers.blogspot.com/ Shard Aerliss

    @yahoo-7G4SWUX2MCWWXLMYNN347JMIZY:disqus A quick image search for James Bond throws up very little in the way of shirtless Bonds. A search for ‘shirtless James Bond’ (yes I risked that search) throws up an awful lot of Daniel Craig and the odd Connery. Even DevArt has little in the way of topless Bond, which surprises me.
    Zardoz? Really? And you’re claiming Moses as a sex icon? Well, he was powerful and a great leader so…

    Yes, all those have semi naked men running around at some point or another. How many spend the vast majority (this is the crux) of the movie topless FOR a female audience? Some, certainly, especially later editions such as Thor and PoP. My point wasn’t that there are not movies, games or TV shows out there with semi naked men (because by gods there are a lot of them) but that there are far more male characters designed to be attractive to women that don’t often take off their clothes.

    The fact that a male character takes his shirt off once in a movie/film could almost be equivalent to a female character taking her pants off. Most of the time a male character designed with a female audience (and again, this is changing, thank you the good people at HBO and Starz) as the major influencing factor is mostly clothed. He takes his shirt off now and then as an added extra, a bonus. Think, again, of James Bond (as compared with the Bond Girls), Han Solo (as compared with Leia), Indiana Jones, Rick O’Connell, Daniel Jackson (at least Carter rarely gets naked, but Sha’re went full frontal in episode 1 of SG1), Vincent Valentine (not sure he could take his clothes off if he tried), Spike Spiegel (as compared with Faye Valentine), Leon S. Kennedy and Albert Wesker (as compared to Jill Valentine and Ada Wong). Alucard (as opposed to Sera Victoria… even Integra gets down to her corset in the first anime).

    Now I could reel off some films, shows and games where there’s equal opportunities of gawkage at naked flesh that is put there for both male and female titillation. For example, in MGS Liquid spends the entire game without a shirt on… in the ARCTIC! Lethal Weapon introduces Riggs via his naked behind. A Knight’s Tale involves an awful lot flesh, again, introducing a character naked butt first. There’s no shortage of flesh of all sorts in Farscape or Spartacus Blood & Sand. Then there are some shows that create sexy characters that never take their clothes off; the Doctor, Amy, Rory and (grudgingly) River for example.

    I’m not saying that there aren’t pieces of fiction with semi naked men in them. I’m not saying that women don’t find said naked men attractive. I’m not saying that some creators don’t have greater knowledge of female audiences than others. I’m saying that those semi naked men are not there for women to want, they are there for men to want to be, or in some cases, that was the only way to go about it (Fist of the North Star, for example, Ken can’t show off his scars without losing his shirt). I’m saying that, again, rightly or wrongly, creators have often gone with the assumption that women want more in their sexy men than just abs, pecs and butts.

    This assumption is, of course, being kicked slowly but surely out of the window.

  • http://amidstdancers.blogspot.com/ Shard Aerliss

    @yahoo-7G4SWUX2MCWWXLMYNN347JMIZY:disqus A quick image search for James Bond throws up very little in the way of shirtless Bonds. A search for ‘shirtless James Bond’ (yes I risked that search) throws up an awful lot of Daniel Craig and the odd Connery. Even DevArt has little in the way of topless Bond, which surprises me.
    Zardoz? Really? And you’re claiming Moses as a sex icon? Well, he was powerful and a great leader so…

    Yes, all those have semi naked men running around at some point or another. How many spend the vast majority (this is the crux) of the movie topless FOR a female audience? Some, certainly, especially later editions such as Thor and PoP. My point wasn’t that there are not movies, games or TV shows out there with semi naked men (because by gods there are a lot of them) but that there are far more male characters designed to be attractive to women that don’t often take off their clothes.

    The fact that a male character takes his shirt off once in a movie/film could almost be equivalent to a female character taking her pants off. Most of the time a male character designed with a female audience (and again, this is changing, thank you the good people at HBO and Starz) as the major influencing factor is mostly clothed. He takes his shirt off now and then as an added extra, a bonus. Think, again, of James Bond (as compared with the Bond Girls), Han Solo (as compared with Leia), Indiana Jones, Rick O’Connell, Daniel Jackson (at least Carter rarely gets naked, but Sha’re went full frontal in episode 1 of SG1), Vincent Valentine (not sure he could take his clothes off if he tried), Spike Spiegel (as compared with Faye Valentine), Leon S. Kennedy and Albert Wesker (as compared to Jill Valentine and Ada Wong). Alucard (as opposed to Sera Victoria… even Integra gets down to her corset in the first anime).

    Now I could reel off some films, shows and games where there’s equal opportunities of gawkage at naked flesh that is put there for both male and female titillation. For example, in MGS Liquid spends the entire game without a shirt on… in the ARCTIC! Lethal Weapon introduces Riggs via his naked behind. A Knight’s Tale involves an awful lot flesh, again, introducing a character naked butt first. There’s no shortage of flesh of all sorts in Farscape or Spartacus Blood & Sand. Then there are some shows that create sexy characters that never take their clothes off; the Doctor, Amy, Rory and (grudgingly) River for example.

    I’m not saying that there aren’t pieces of fiction with semi naked men in them. I’m not saying that women don’t find said naked men attractive. I’m not saying that some creators don’t have greater knowledge of female audiences than others. I’m saying that those semi naked men are not there for women to want, they are there for men to want to be, or in some cases, that was the only way to go about it (Fist of the North Star, for example, Ken can’t show off his scars without losing his shirt). I’m saying that, again, rightly or wrongly, creators have often gone with the assumption that women want more in their sexy men than just abs, pecs and butts.

    This assumption is, of course, being kicked slowly but surely out of the window.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=741755026 Alexander Lorenzen

    Couldn’t agree more. For some reason, first or third person, I always prefer playing as a female. Probably because I just got tired of always having to play as my own gender. I’ve played both genders of Commander Shepard and I found everything about FemShep to be superior. Jennifer Hale’s voice was preferable as well as the romantic options. The best thing about it was that the dialog options and character animations were  nearly identical. No sexier walking or poses. I’ve always preferred to think of game characters as a separate identity than myself, but I really do think female gamers need more options for protagonists that are there for them to relate to (if they so choose) rather than serve as eye candy for the masses. I don’t understand why so many guys think being anti-objectification somehow equals “make all women ugly.” Chell isn’t ugly by any stretch of the imagination, she just isn’t there to serve the purpose of being the masturbatory fantasy of basement dwelling morlocks. Which is really all progressively minded gamers want.

    P.S. Anyone else still angry over the Catwoman trailer? 

  • http://twitter.com/glasscannonlj GlassCannon

    Great article, but I think the focus on first person games is misplaced.  As much as 70% of women who self-identify as gamers — that is, women who *already* play games frequently — can’t play first person games because of the motion sickness they induce.  Even several female professional gamers have commented on the difficulty in overcoming an interface that is biologically more accessible to male brains.  

    I’ve been gaming since age 4, and making games professionally since age 20, but the fact that Chell is female had absolutely zero effect on me, because I was limited to hearing about the game from my husband, father, and brother.  I can’t even watch them play without getting motion sick.  So it seemed like a wasted effort to me, creating such a great female protagonist in a game that maybe only a third of female gamers can play — perhaps even less, given that the portal gameplay mechanic has been reported to induce motion sickness even in female gamers who can usually play first person games.

    Personally, the only first person game I’ve ever been able to play for more than 20 minutes without losing my lunch is Borderlands, and then only if I play a sniper, because of the emphasis on steady, aimed, long-distance shooting.  But if I lean too far forward while playing, or even just use a machine gun, I’ll get too sick to continue playing.  I went with Lilith for my first character, like you, but Lilith really makes a terrible sniper, so since then I’ve been stuck with the Hunter (Mordecai?), with a male body to customize and male voice acting.  I usually play LAN with my husband, and have found myself to be most comfortable when he plays Lilith, because then I can still see a female and hear a female voice, even if I’m not the one controlling her.  It’s a weird trick of the mind.  

    So while I agree that we need more Chell-like characters in games in general, their inclusion in first person games really means very little to me, and to the ~70% of female gamers with FPS-induced motion sickness like me.  What I would like to see is more character customization options in games other than MMOs, so I could play a female Druid in Diablo 2, for instance, or a female at all in Terraria.  Or a female Hunter in Borderlands.  As a game designer I understand better than most the extra amount of development time needed to include female character choices, but I believe the increase in sales to female gamers — and to women who might be gamers, if only games weren’t so inane and male-focused — more than outweighs the extra time.

    Games have time and time again proven that male gamers are perfectly comfortable playing female characters, but the reverse is not true.  Male gamers are more likely than female gamers to rearrange key bindings and controls to suit their preferences, and yet most game UIs are designed to male preferences.  And as much as 2/3rds of female gamers physically cannot play first person games, and yet developers continue to wonder why those games are so much more male dominated than other games.  Why are we designing for men, who are comfortable either way, rather designing for women and appealing to everyone?

  • http://twitter.com/glasscannonlj GlassCannon

    Hey now, that’s G or H cup boobs.  It goes D, DD, DDD/E, F, FF, G, H, I, J, K, etc.  Some of us know from personal experience how uncomfortable it would be to try to run around like that with boobs that size. ;P

  • http://oddfellowstudios.com Shava Nerad

    actually I am a FF – just assumed they appended Fs from there. I know just what it feels like to run like that, and for those interested, I can leg press a decent multiplier of my weight, so I’m chunky but strong (an ex used to call me Pony for my short strong thick build)

    But yeah, no sports bra in creation is up to the fluid dynamics issues.

  • http://oddfellowstudios.com Shava Nerad

    Nearly all my friends are male actually. Very few of them are asshats much of the time though. It does hurt me when I run because of my big bust though. It was bad before my son was born; now, forget it. Big pecs on guys imply strength. Big tits, biologically, doesn’t even add “dairy quality.” Just fappability. IRL, it just hurts if you move and makes your clthes cost more, and studies show it lowers your perceived IQ and ups you perceived disagreeableness with both genders.

  • http://profiles.google.com/joanna.moylan Joanna Moylan

    When it comes to FPS’s my problem is not whether I’m male or female.  I love Half Life, but hate Kill Zone.  Games like Kill Zone often consist of dreary, grey, concrete aesthetics.  You play a bulky suited soldier with boring guns and shoot boring bulky suited soldiers.  
    Half Life is a whole different kettle of fish.  You play a nerd scientist soldier and shoot all sorts of mad creatures with a variety of different weapons (my fave being the crossbow XD).  There’s so much more bulk in Half Life between gameplay, mechanics, story and character development that any other run-of-the-mill wannabe triple A game just doesn’t cut it for me.  
        

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_OD35QQZNBPZJXWTCBY7N4EE7VY Sarah

    Just as not all women are alike, not all feminists are the same. I’m sorry they insulted you. I identify as a feminist, and there is no way I would ever say something like that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mdmagnusson Magnus David Magnusson

    I had no idea about this FPS issue for women gamers. Do you know where these numbers are from? I’d love to read up on this some more.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kristin-Frederickson/852880113 Kristin Frederickson

    I self-identify as a feminist. I find the idea of laughing at a man in pain (particularly pain caused by the exploitation of his sexual organs) to be incredibly disturbing.

    There’s a marked difference between feminism and misandry.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Kristin-Frederickson/852880113 Kristin Frederickson

    Where did you hear that female gamers can’t play FPS games without becoming motion sick? That’s the opposite of my experience – I’ve never become ill playing a game, but my boyfriend always loses his lunch after watching me play Fallout for 5 minutes, and my dad can’t even be in the same room as video games without having to sit down.

    Are you sure it’s a gendered thing, and not just that some people can’t play games for extended periods of time?

  • Lina

    There is no female game protagonist above April Ryan in my mind. But that’s an Adventure Game and far different from those discussed here. Still, I do futilely compare just about every female game protagonist to her. :/ 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sage-Phillips/100000154993319 Sage Phillips

    She forgot Samus, probably the first FPS female. In the NES version, when it first came out, not a soul besides the developers knew that the hero was actually a heroine. Then, at the end, the suit came off and voila! You, the unknowing gamer, had been playing as a girl the whole time. Samus isn’t there to be looked at. She’s there to kick alien ass and use an arm cannon. Sure, there’s stuff of her when she’s… less than armored… but that’s fan stuff. The whole point of the Metroid games is to be a bad-ass girl, shoot alien pirates from space and save creatures that look like they have three brains in them. Btw, I’m talking about Space Pirates and Metroids. Samus is intelligent, strong, fast, and has an arm cannon. She keeps careful records of things worth noting, and does things for the good of others at the risk of her life. But, I agree wholly: there should be more Samuses and Chells.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sage-Phillips/100000154993319 Sage Phillips

    She forgot Samus, probably the first FPS female. In the NES version, when it first came out, not a soul besides the developers knew that the hero was actually a heroine. Then, at the end, the suit came off and voila! You, the unknowing gamer, had been playing as a girl the whole time. Samus isn’t there to be looked at. She’s there to kick alien ass and use an arm cannon. Sure, there’s stuff of her when she’s… less than armored… but that’s fan stuff. The whole point of the Metroid games is to be a bad-ass girl, shoot alien pirates from space and save creatures that look like they have three brains in them. Btw, I’m talking about Space Pirates and Metroids. Samus is intelligent, strong, fast, and has an arm cannon. She keeps careful records of things worth noting, and does things for the good of others at the risk of her life. But, I agree wholly: there should be more Samuses and Chells.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1271696023 Adrian Burt

    Good points all around. Especially the last part. We’ve reached the technological level were we could easily switch the protagonists gender, especially if it bears no actual relevance to the plot. And speaking of Reach.
    So Halo: Reach basically allowed you to literally step into the armor of that game’s protagonist. Like the Master Chief before, Nobel Six has no real name, so you can just project yourself into the character. (Yes I know the Master Chief’s real name is John but shut up I’m making a point). You can customize his armor and color to anyway you want, basically making him your own character. But what I found strange is that at the end of the day, Nobel Six is male. Now you can be a female Spartan in multiplayer simply by choosing the female voice, and there’s a female Spartan in the actual story, so we know there’s precedent that female Spartans do in fact exist within that universe. But for some reason you can’t make Noble Six female, even though it would be no trouble at all redubbing all 12 of the lines he has.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_7I3JTP6GFFFSZGVIGZB33Q55ZU Chris

    Um. What about Dino Crisis. I loved that game! And the leading protagonist was a female.  She was also fully clothed and not as well endowed as today’s leading female characters, proving that looks aren’t everything.  I can’t think of a better character than Regina to prove that female protagonists can, and do work in any kind of game.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Nathan-Spencer/100001884310332 Nathan Spencer

    I am not really interested in discussing on an academic level about the need for female characters in video games. You missed a crucial FPS character from a crucial, revolutionary FPS game, Unreal. You play a female in that as well. It’s funny coming from a company that now poops out games full of steroid junkies running around spouting profanities.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=659272100 Alex Martines

    I love this article so much. You articulated a valuable and necessary point without pointing fingers or condemning anyone. Great job!
    My first video games I really loved were the Pokemon gameboy games (I was born in 1991, so right in the generation) and I remember getting Crystal and being asked if I was a boy or girl. My 10 year old self literally jumped for joy! Since then I’ve been so excited to be even offered the opportunity to be a girl (Fallout, Mass Effect, Portal) that I sometimes forget how problematic that option can be (i.e. the female characters in WoW…Male worgen are big and ugly but females are small and shapely?). Thanks for this!

  • http://www.biomancy.com Anthony

     that’s not even common as some feminists believe that women should be treated as greater than men either out of a belief that they inherently are or a belief that this is necessary to correct the past imbalance.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_H77264ANIMBKYRLGXMAO7CJPNE Nuraini

    yes, if the game is set appropriately for doing hair and makeup. but if the game character is supposed to be fighting through some desperate situations, in an abandoned spacecraft or in jungle tombs, seriously, where is the makeup coming from? why would a character be carrying makeup to do herself up when she’s on the run when she can use the space to carry bullets? it’s not the makeup that i care about, it’s the patently unrealistic notion that somehow she would be wearing makeup under such conditions. it’s a mark of stupidity, and i don’t like playing stupid characters. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_H77264ANIMBKYRLGXMAO7CJPNE Nuraini

    also i quite like games where i could pick skin tone, so that i can play a non-white but also non-african character. 

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_H77264ANIMBKYRLGXMAO7CJPNE Nuraini

    not quite true. i do get a bit dizzy watching my brother play, but when i play myself the feeling disappears. i reckon it’s because in the first instance, the quick visual changes is not connected with my own choices. just like i get carsick sometimes as a passenger, but never get carsick as a driver. 

  • Yamilah Kenny

    I guess it’s hard for people to understand the value in sex and gender identity if you’re 1. not a designer and learning about this importance and 2. not getting the shaft.

  • Yamilah Kenny

    I’m really sorry you’re misunderstanding feminism and confusing a desire to correct institutionalized sexism with misandry.

  • Yamilah Kenny

    I don’t know if there are any. I’m a female by sex and have never experienced this. Not even once.

  • Yamilah Kenny

    I love this piece! Always a pleasurable read. :) I agree on all accounts. What is produced in great frequency often speaks volumes to the society in question and its biases/interests. It can even say a lot about individuals! Fascinating stuff.

    One thing I want to comment on, though, is the lack of weight put on the differences between “sex” and “gender.” They’re not really interchangeable!–the context matters, of course. For example, I identify as female in SEX,–which is why on stuff like Facebook and job apps, you get the “SEX” section (not “GENDER”), in which they expect you to check what sex you were deemed in utero–but I’m not cis-gendered. Meaning, I’m not female in GENDER. The latter is something the individual has control over, whereas sex is something that is decided by a “roll of the dice” that is genetics.

    If anyone’s a little confused, Wiki has a very concise way of addressing this difference: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_and_gender_distinction

    Note that there are also many different genders, whereas there are fewer sexes (and none that an individual’s gender are necessarily dependent on).

  • Anonymous

    Hey, I just wish they’d stop putting that bullcrap forth as what feminism is all about—or at least not stepping forward to correct those who do. THAT is the reason people equate feminism with shrieking, sexless harpies; no one is willing to say otherwise.

  • Anonymous

    I wish there was. I hope someday there can be. But as the movement stands? Yeahhh, no.

  • Anonymous

    I’m a woman. Am I supposed to stop playing games and watching movies because not all the characters look exactly like me? I honestly don’t get why this is so important…..like, I’m playing this game to escape my day-to-day, not mirror it exactly! What the hell is that all about?

  • LyonessofAvalon

    I can’t find anything in google scholar about women being more prone to motion sickness during video games. Either this study has never been done or searching “women video games motion sickness” is not the way to find it.

    I don’t do well in FPS, but that’s because I’ve spent about 20 minutes playing them in my life. After practice, I get better.