Sunday, October 19, 2014

There were were "Gamers" and then there were "Gamer Girls"

It must have been a boon to have grown up studying in an all-girl school. Being a girl felt normal. I wasn't aware of things like Feminism until my last year in high school. I wasn't aware of things like Objectification, Male Gaze and the Glass Ceiling, until these things were given a name.

In ads, a female body would be dismembered, showing only the prized parts--breasts, smooth white underarms or hairless legs. As a kid I never thought much of them, until the teacher explained that dismemberment is one such technique used to reduce a person to her individual parts. The psychological effect of singling out an area of flaw is similar to calling someone pimple-face when she has a pimple--that person could acquire a sense of insecurity, knowing that she isn't up to par with beauty standards.

Meanwhile, I became aware of Male Gaze by studying the scifi and fantasy books I read. Women in many of these books are described to be unbelievably beautiful, with long flowing locks, slender bodies and a veil of mystery. Male Gaze focuses on how men determine how a woman should look.

As for the role of the women in said scifi and fantasy stories? Their roles are tropes--witches, healers, and damsels in distress and of course, princesses. They become the wife of the male hero, or the undying supporter, or the object to be saved.

So a certain Sarkeesian thought about applying feminist critique to games. When I watched her videos, I gotta admit, the portrayal of women in games is very similar to those in the books I've read. They're tropes. They're too often the healer and the nurturer, when they're not the damsel in distress. I have always wished for a different characterization because it was tiring for me, a girl who likes to play games. I don't mind playing the hot macho men I usually crush on, but I would love to have a well rounded female character as well. Lightning from FF XIII doesn't count because she's like a girl version of FFVII's Cloud. And she just sucks. T_T

This isn't to say that women are ALWAYS playing those roles in games. But they often are. Even if there's a female warrior / fighter, she has to be dressed like these:


You'd think a woman would be smart enough to cover up when facing enemies right? But of course, Male Gaze won out and marketed women to be this way because these women probably sell better.

In any case, I still did enjoy playing those games. Despite the weirdly-dressed women, the games are still good. I just wish that critiquing the games won't be taken against "Gamer Girls". The job of feminist critique is to poke holes and look for areas of improvement in gender portrayals. Its shortcoming is that the roles of men are nowhere within its framework. An improvement in the framework might be an inclusion of male tropes as well. But that feels too intellectual for a blog post.


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