Okay ladies, let’s sit down and read what has to be the most facile, lazy and unexamined piece of thinking about a subject that faces us daily. I was literally jaw agape at how poorly this article was worked out and let’s face it, not surprised in the slightest. I love it when people who are not affected that much by sexism and haven’t even begun to unpack why that is try to poke at the subject of sexism in popular media. It’s like a jolly youth in summer, swinging off a rope into a lake full of contentious, murky depths and splashing around to his heart’s content without a care in the world. He has his fun then walks out and goes home to dry off.
It must be a joy to be able to take a particularly thorny idea and not actually think about it real hard.
It starts off with the notion that heterosexual men (you know, the only sexuality that exists, especially in the gaming world) are enchanted and besotted by women and all that fluffy stuff. They can’t help their natural urges and fixate on women in a sexual way. Just a function of instinct and genes! Men are nothing but their sexual desires! Aughh! Do you know what happens when you start off an article with such nonsense? I don’t feel compelled to read much farther. Not only does it center the world (and our popular media by default) in a hetero-normative fashion (gay men, anyone? NON-MALE SEXUALITY IN GENERAL?) but it presumes the fact that all our actions are largely the result of our inability to rise above base urges. Urges that we all have, right? Wrong. Not only are all humans different with their sexual desires but “urges” is a very soft way of saying “I want to not be held responsible or think about how I view people in a sexual manner.” This is a very easy road to go down and suddenly you’re well into the “I couldn’t help myself, she was wearing that article of clothing I like, and…” I’m pretty sure you all know where this is going. Sexuality and sexual proclivities are always, always the responsibility of the person, and men, you are not free from this. I know that society has trained you away from thinking you are responsible for yourselves, in favor of blaming women and your own shoddy caveman mechanics, but you are not. You are free to make choices and act in a responsible manner towards other people and yourself. Men are not obsessed with women. They want to believe that they are, because we’re this magical mysterious body of flesh that tempts them. It’s an unhinged notion that squarely puts the burden of keeping men sated, amused and “in check” on women, despite us never asking for it, wanting it or even being interested in you. It has been like this for centuries.
Because of this, the author supposes, it’s the whole reason we’ve had power over you, ladies! It’s because we’re driven mad by your sexiness! Rarr!
It’s our fault you’ve kept us chained down by power relationships, allowed years of religious doctrine and societal values keep us penned in? Because of our inherent sexiness? HA! It’s one of the greatest tricks of power, I’ve found, to blame it on the powerless, that it is needed to keep things in line. Men have dictated power over women because men have enjoyed it. This is the crux of it. Power is an intoxicating thing and it has been built so thoroughly into our culture that men do not even have to recognize that it is there. It wants to go unchallenged because that’s how it’s always been. Men have created laws and social structures because it’s good being on top. It isn’t because women are some superior gender (as the author claims) and men are protecting us from them, or keeping us safe. It’s that they cannot bear the idea of us being on equal footing. Men have put themselves in the power position because it’s what introduces the most control over their culture. Making a point that men have done this because of their desire for us misses the point entirely; power is far more seductive than any gender could be. Don’t mistake this. Accept your place in society, men, for what it is. It is that you are on top.
But hey, you feminists have done some good stuff with this, right? Of course you have! We’re SO acutely aware of sexism in video games now. Yay! Sexism is totally unearthed! We can dust it off and put it in a museum now that we know what it is! Right? Right?
No. Sexism is still so embedded in our popular media that every time a new gaming title comes out, I scan the box art and relevant articles in the blog community to see what’s wrong with it, because I’m never surprised when it features women in the ass-and-titties pose. Face it, sexism and how we portray women is still largely unquestioned. I know this because every time it gets brought up, a huge fight in comments usually breaks out.
It’s okay though, ladies, Gordon is here to explain WHY sexism occurs, too! Do go on, I’m all ears over here.
First off, the point is reiterated that it’s not about power, it’s that men are sex-obsessed apes. Now, this is stuff I don’t understand. Why are men usually okay with society constantly painting them in a negative light? I think it is because they don’t want the responsibility of their choices. This is all well and good, but as someone who hasn’t been allowed choices or responsibility herself, this is gross. Why don’t men want to be seen as human beings? It is because it makes it easier to not have to think about the shitty things they do. It exerts control over women and their sexuality, and it allows men an easy “out” for what they do. An alibi, if it were. Not criticizing this process is why we have a lot of problems in our culture. (But still, this is a function of power, make no mistake about that.)
Secondly, he says that sexism occurs because it is what they think women want. Ha ha! Are you kidding me? Gamer culture is always sold as an entirely straight, white male product. It is always ever seen as a commodity for and by straight white dudes. Don’t even come around here with this “we make this because it is what we think women want.” Look, Gordon. I’m sure you meant well. But video games are not made with women in mind or as a consideration. They always made with what men want. Male characters are male power fantasies and women characters are there with an implicitly straight male audience in mind. (This is also known as “male gaze“.) Historically the only people considered to be nerds or geeks in general were men, they still are largely considered the demographic unless something is especially demarcated “for women.” That is how othered we are by media; that everything is not created for us unless it’s distinctly shoved in our faces as such, usually involving horses, or pink, or some other thing that a male-dominated gaming industry believes we want. It is not, however, a scantily clad demon hunter from Diablo III, as hard as you want to make that argument. Granted, do I enjoy seeing women in a sexual way? Yes. I’m a queer woman, but I don’t even come close to pretending that most of the sexualized images of women I see in video games are for me or things I really want. (First off, despite liking women sexually, I do however have a sense of critical awareness and taste, unlike the men you describe in your article.)
Thirdly, apparently women are sexualized in video games or treated in a sexist way because –drumroll please– they need feminine traits to balance out all the masculine ones! That’s right, ladies, apparently fighting or wearing armor isn’t a womanly thing to do. Being sexual is! Femininity is sexiness, and shooting guns or serving in an army isn’t. Not to speak of that frequently we’ve not been allowed to because of men and their stupid rules, but because it’s just not what we do! So we need to sexify women characters in video games up because anything else isn’t THAT feminine and men need to believe we are still women (and therefore, still able to be lusted after) even with donning armor or using a weapon or doing anything other than pouting our lips or baking something.
The article ends on the thoughtful “of course equality isn’t about just wearing …sensible cloths [sic] but also, like, freedom and respect and social status and stuff.” (I might have paraphrased that a touch.) But since Gordon considers himself a sex-obsessed ape male, he doesn’t know honestly if this means big tits and sexy video game characters fit in with this intense paradigm shift. If you couldn’t manage it by virtue of your brain, then why did you even bother tackling sexism? Oh right, I forgot, it is because men always have the need and the right to express their opinions about things they haven’t really felt the sting of or haven’t sat down and properly thought about.
Sexism in video games is a problem, make no mistake about that. But it is due to the power that men have, or are believed to have in both the industry and the consumer market. It is a lily-white, blanketing idea that the only people buying video games are straight white men. It is who they are created for and they will cop the same problems we have with viewing women and creating women characters that are in every other creative industry. Until we rise up and recognize this across the board and do things to make the gaming world more comfortable for women to a) be employed b) participate in c) be catered to, then we will not see a death of sexism any time soon. If we don’t recognize why it happens, why it occurs and stop shitting up blog articles and comments and Reddit with this tripe about what uninformed men think about sexism, then it won’t be going away. Before you open your mouth to talk about things, men, why don’t you ask some women about sexism in video gaming?
You might find the answers surprising.
Hint: It definitely has something to do with not addressing us as “females.”