My, a whole month without a single shred of new content. That’s got to be a new record for me. I’m going to try to start posting more regularly this month, I swear it.
Anyway, those few of you who remain are probably looking forward to (finally) seeing the conclusion to the Women in Gaming trilogy. Those of you who just got here should probably take a look at part one and part two of the series before going any farther. I’ll warn you, they do drag on slightly- I tend to be a touch verbose, after all.
As for the rest of you…let’s get this show on the road, shall we?
This article will be much shorter in length, and much more conclusive. We’re reaching the end of the road, after all, and there’s not a great deal left to talk about. In the previous works, I detailed how women are objectified in the gaming industry and how this might have come to pass. I touched briefly on how prevailing societal attitudes contributed to the whole deal, and examined the question of false equivalency.
It’s pretty obvious by now that there’s a problem here- the question is, how do we fix it?
Well, the first step is to change our own attitude- and that’s not going to be an easy feat. The negative portrayal of women- this rampant sexism- has been an industry-wide phenomenon almost since gaming’s inception. And the trouble is, it’s not only limited to the gaming industry. “Damage related to media based sexism isn’t age-blind,” writes Patrick Garrett of VG247, “children are bombarded with images of sexual stereotypes from year zero.”
Not a Simple Solution
This is a complicated issue, as the problem isn’t simply related to dress and appearance. Certainly, unrealistic representations of women in compromising positions are, as a general rule, unacceptable, but at the same time, its’ the portrayal of these same women- their actions and attitudes- where the problem really becomes clear.
“I hate the idea that in order for a female character to be admirable or to be included they have to have turtlenecks and sneakers,” said keynote speaker Leigh Alexander at a recent conference on Women in the media, “I don’t like it when conversations get sidetracked into how sexy images of women or how sexy women themselves are or aren’t allowed to be. To me, that’s still more of those forces controlling how I’m allowed to represent and express myself.”
I’d still argue that unrealistically proportioned, overly-sexualized imagery isn’t a good thing, but at the same time, a lot of the trouble seems to lie not with how women in games and new media look, but in how they act. And in how they’re treated- but that’s a whole different can of worms. We’ll address that one later.
We see it in on television. We see it in movies. We read about it in books. What’s the last film you saw that starred a female protagonist- one who wasn’t intentionally made to be ‘sexy’- in a starring role? A strong, independent female character who wasn’t at all reliant on her male counterparts? I’m sure most of you can come up with one or two examples, but those are the exceptions- not the rule.
The rule is, women are made for sex. They’re objects to be won, trophies to be admired, door prizes. They sell products, they support the hero, and they stand around and look pretty. Sounds pretty brutal when it’s just stated outright, doesn’t it? The thing is, given the denigrating fashion in which ladies are represented…it’s actually rather accurate.
The fact that many women still pretend to be men when it comes to online games is another problem with the male-dominated culture surrounding games- they don’t want to have to deal with the harassment almost guaranteed to come with the admission of being a woman, so they just don’t bother.
This attitude is only compounded by elements of Internet culture. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen self-professed “nice guys” complaining about how ‘all women are bitches’ or assuming that they deserve to get laid simply by being nice to a women, then complain when she merely comes to rely on them as a caring friend, to say nothing of all the guys who view the opposite sex as objects for their entertainment.
Women are people, kiddies- they don’t function like a computer that you can simply switch on whenever you desire. Too much porn, it seems, can warp one’s perspective.
You’ve gotta admit, even though none of it’s technically meant to be taken seriously (this is the Internet, after all), some of the attitudes you see towards women in places like 4Chan and certain corners of Reddit are…disturbing, to say the least. Reading the comments posted by some guys, one almost has to wonder if we’ve even progressed from the days when we lived as hunter-gatherers, or the age when women couldn’t vote.
You’re probably wondering where I’m going with all this babble, correct? As always, I do have a point in mind.
What can we do?
See, if we’re going to change how women are portrayed in gaming…we actually have to get up and do something. We have to call developers out when they use the female form as marketing material. We need to change our attitude towards those of the opposite gender; we need to stop marginalizing and degrading them.
Tall order, isn’t it?
A lot of you probably assume that the power rests with the content creators; the developers and publishers. After all, they’re the ones responsible for this negative portrayal, right? Isn’t the ball in their court, as far as getting out of the 50s and into the new millennium?
Not exactly. Do you know the reason so many publishers and devs still insist on such portrayals?
They think it’ll sell games. That’s right, on at least some level, they think that male gamers are sex-crazed enough and have a skewed enough perspective of women that it’ll actually drive up sales. I’m not sure what’s more insulting- the fact that this is their belief, or the fact that, in many cases…they’re right. Oh, and as for all you ladies…
Yeah, you don’t really factor into it.
So, long story short…guys, change your own attitudes first. If you don’t like how a game portrays the opposite sex, don’t buy it. If you feel it’s necessary, contact the developer and tell them exactly why you didn’t purchase their game. Those of you with children, raise them so they don’t buy in to the common stereotypes. This isn’t going to be a problem that goes away overnight- the film industry’s been around a lot longer, and it still hasn’t quite shed the stereotypes.
But we’ve got to start somewhere- and the best way to do that is for everyone to look inward, first. We’ve already made progress- but there’s still a long, hard road ahead of us if we truly want things to change.