It’s a topic that’s been bugging me for quite some time. Not because I’m not willing to make the blog (what do you call this?), but because there has been quite a lot of heat about this subject, and I feel like I’ve been quite the victim of one side of a multi-layered discussion, and it’s usually the side that thinks it’s all black and white.
Just to not keep you in suspense, this is to try to get this out before a certain feminist “gamer” (quotes intentional) brings out the next part of her series that will leave me old and gray by the time she’s done with it. Yes, you know who she is, and you might know what she’s releasing next: something about “Mrs. Dude Character” with a preview picture that suggests she’s going to invoke a very popular franchise for the umpteenth time. Why? Because, like the rest of her series so far, she's probably looking to give us the visual definition of what a "hit piece" is (if so, keep up the good work, Anita; you're doing a HELL of a job)! We all know the drill by now, and we shouldn't be that surprised or shocked by it. Maybe shocked that she's somehow still relevant (no clue why I bothered looking myself, though this blog has more to do with what people thought of Quiet than with Sarkeesian's latest feminist clown misadventure).
But what I’m concerned with, before Miss Sarkeesian comes out with her latest rant, is how people react to criticism of her thoughts. I know I’ve talked about it before, but it seems to have since snowballed into another form of criticism in the game industry that isn’t so black and white. Let me give you a few pointers of what I’ve experienced on NeoGAF anymore. First off, whenever her name comes up, it sparks the worst out of people. As in, if I even so much as to try to say this is not the person that should be representing female gamers in this topic because of how she goes about presenting her “facts” and then forms baseless opinions around them, I get called out as being a concern troll, and in at least two cases, banned for about a month’s time. Really? Here’s the deal: she’s a smart person. I get that. I also get that this is a sensitive topic to a lot of people and you can get in trouble if you even say a letter about your opinion wrong.
But, to me, that’s a big problem we have right now. When has it become okay to make people to, in order to call themselves for more pure female protagonists that don’t look like they were a stripper before taking on their current job, you had to agree, word for word, with who they’ve christened as a savior to the cause? When has one person become so championed, that any mistake, error, or misstep she’s made has been either ignored, forgiven, or taken as a plus because “hey, she’s bringing it up, so that makes it okay”? When did she become a person that we are never allowed to challenge the credibility on, especially when there are several pieces of evidence that you can make a reasonable case against her knowledge of the topics she talks about, even in the most civil of ways? What has Anita done that’s so great that any and all criticisms against her are met with the same terms, and accusations that they really don’t care, or that they are for the “male patriarchy”? When, and how, did it get this bad that we can’t even be a feminist gamer without agreeing one hundred and ten percent with a particular person? Of course, not all people have said this, so it’s not directed at those people, but in reality, those that are ”crazy for Anita”, for lack of a better phrase, kind of want you to think that they, as well as Anita, speak for all feminist gamers with their words. Those that disagree with any of it risk being called any bit of hysteria in the book.
But along with my questions of why does she keep bringing up the hate campaign she got put through several months ago as the go-to point as if it happened yesterday, or how people keep thinking that it’s a fair representation of how all male gamers that disagree with anything Anita says act, there is something about the recent issues about this topic that goes beyond anything that Anita has done or said. Aside from many people that think that she’s an utter clown that shouldn’t be talking on behalf of every feminist gamer in the world, there is another problem that some other gamers, who might’ve never even heard of Anita, or have never tuned their frequency to any feminist, have brought up that we have trouble trying to explain.
This came about, in my mind, to when Hideo Kojima revealed a female character for Metal Gear Solid 5 called Quiet. I’m sure you’ve heard of her by now, and we all know the intentions that Hideo has for the character.
Or do we? This goes to my biggest concern at the moment about this subject. How conservative have we become to this matter? Here’s what I mean by that, and please spare me the melodrama when I go to explain this, because it, too, has become so transparent that you might as well make the argument out of thin air.
Yes, I do get tired of seeing over proportioned females (who, as I said, probably was a pole dancer prior) in games, and the same tired clichés when game makers are uninspired (yes, sadly, Anita is correct in the Damsel cliché getting overdone at times) to create new stories at all, much less with female leads or females in prominent roles (I’m convinced that you don’t necessarily have to have the female be playable for her to have a lot of significance in a game’s story as a strong willed character). I’m fine with some sort of change happening to where we have believable characters for both genders (c’mon, guys, not all males are as “macho” or “manly” as you see in games like Call of Duty).
However, I see a huge problem when we go too far the other way and disallow any woman to dress or act the way they want to. I say that because I believe a female is also an individual, and there are different types of females out there, and each deserve to be explored. I’ve known females to actually want to dress in sexy attire and show off. I’ve seen females who want to be conservative. I’ve seen females who do get over their head, as many males do. I’ve seen females be dumb, smart, caring, physically strong or weak, etc.
The problem here is that we have found a solution to the over-sexualized female character in games: do what some third world countries want to do to their females. Let’s cover up every single part of their body except for their eyes so they can see what they are doing when they are doing the housework. Because those females don’t deserve the right to even be seen as a person, let alone an individual. We don’t even look anymore to if the sexiness adds anything to the character we’re talking about. And the worst thing is that we’ve become so closed minded that we can’t even listen to any other maturely made points of view (not talking about the craziness I describe about the “crazy for Anita” or the “psychotic against Anita” blowhards).
Take Quiet, for example. Hideo wanted to create a sexy character. That sexy character got your attention, did it? But what about her personality? Maybe she likes to be sexy because she’s strong willed, and not a single person is going to tell her that she has to dress a certain way. Maybe she dresses a certain way because it makes it better for her to move when she has to. Did we ever stop to think that it’s just within a character’s personality to want to let their hair down and just be themselves, even if that means not wanting to wear a lot of clothes. Of course, I’d be tired if every female character in games did that. That would be not only misogynistic, but also unrealistic. But when it’s within the context of a character to act or be a certain way because they choose to do that, and not because someone, whether it be a man towards a woman, or a boss to an employee, or whatever else, told them that’s how it had to be or else, then it should be acceptable. The reason why the sexiness of someone like Rikku from Final Fantasy X-2 works is because, from what we see out of the character, you would expect her to want to be sexy and glamorous. And she’s not one to be taken lightly, either. If you’re a female that can kick ass like Rikku or Lara Croft or Lightning can do in a game, then hell, you can dress as skimpy or as conservatively as you want.
Of course, that could get a lot of cat calls from some men as we saw in a stream of a Street Fighter 4 playing recently, with condemnation that it even happened. To some degree, condemnation makes sense, but like all issues, there is the other side. When did it not become okay for a male to be attracted to a female, whether it be made from pixels on a screen or a canvas or made out of flesh and bone, and to not show some form of vocal or visual appreciation for it? Of course, some people can get very carried away with it, but look at it this way: those very same people might be cat calling also because they respect females. They respect what they can do, and why they feel comfortable showing off. They respect “the better half” as some people like to call them. This is because, at the end of the day, they are very much like any other person. If a particular woman doesn’t want them, then a male who has heard that will still probably admire them, but won’t overdo it as much, assuming they overdid it at all. I adore the looks of a character like Chun-Li, for instance. She has very sexy legs, and I love how they designed her looks. However, at the same time, I usually pick her when playing Street Fighter because I love how lightning quick she is with her attacks. It’s hard to kill what you cannot catch, and I’ve always gravitated towards speed more than anything in fighting games. Simply put, I would respect that woman’s looks, but also her ability, and it’s the ability that makes the individual.
There’s also the point of where strength comes from, and what kind of strength one has, and how they get it. Take the new Tomb Raider, for example. Lara is scared to death at some of the things she sees. And she could’ve let the fear overcome her ability to push on. However, her strength comes because she’s faced with fear, and she’s not going to let her fear stop her. She is shown to be able to overcome her fear. That, to me, shows real strength through character and determination. Not necessarily physical, but the will to overcome and survive in the face of adversity, and if you’re willing to do what you have to do to protect yourself or those you care for, or you’re fighting for. This is what is instilled in a lot of military soldiers. It’s not the macho “I’m not scared of anything” BS that everyone thinks it is. It’s the will to push on despite you being scared out of your wits, and overcoming what bothers you (you don’t think the US Armed Forces, some of the bravest men and women on the effing PLANET, aren’t moved by what they see at places like Iraq and Afghanistan?).
Hell, if you want a clear cut example of this type of female that doesn’t back down despite her fears, just read a Sailor Moon manga, or watch the Anime (those manga moreso…or wait for the new series to present itself this winter). And not just view it, but really watch throughout the series as Usagi/Serena develops from a scared human being to a brave warrior who shows her bravery through what she ends up doing and how she doesn’t let her fear stop her, either (I should know: I have been writing SM fanfiction for years and love to further the inner strength of the female characters even more; one of my stories makes a battle between Moon and one of her arch enemies very personal, and she has to fight her own rage and temper to not do something out of character for her…but enough shameless plugging *cough*SiverProjectSaga*cough*).
I’ve talked about how people got it all wrong with the criticisms of Samus’ characterization in Metroid: Other M for years, but I think the desire to want individualism in female characters instead of just the opposite extreme fits the game like a glove. All the complaining about her emotions over Sector Zero and the Ridley encounter, and no talk about one particular aspect: what do you think she does after said outbursts? Do you think she just goes and runs like a coward? In the words of Dean Ambrose, NOPE! Right after she sees Anthony, a friend of hers, nearly get killed by Ridley’s hands, she stands up and fights because she has something worth fighting for, and she can overcome her fear. She regains her composure after seeing who she considered a friend sacrifice himself because she’s not going to let that man’s sacrifice be in vain. In short, the critics of Other M were all wrong because we don’t understand why people fight. Again, many of the brave men and women fighting for our freedoms are far from impenetrable, and they can get just as moved at things that you would never think they would be. In short, we saw Samus be a brave woman against countless alien monsters and pirates. Other M just showed us WHY she’s so brave: she’s got something to fight for, and she isn’t afraid to show her fear or her heart, but isn’t going to let it stop her from fighting because she has that big heart.
Isn’t that what we should ask for in a female protagonist, or a female character? Someone who has that much free will and be comfortable in their own skin. Hell, isn’t that what we’ve been asking for out of some characters in games like COD! We get it out of an iconic character, and we see that she is an identifiable character, and we instead shun that aspect because she was, GASP, an individual who was comfortable enough to tell us she’s scared and yet overcome it and find the strength to fight what she fears. So much for even getting into individualism in game characters if we can’t even follow our desires to have it.
Of course, there is going to be the idea that we must always consider the gender of the game designers, and if it’s a male making a “sexy” female character, even a well-respected game designer like Hideo Kojima (someone who’s made conservatively dressed female characters in the past) will get shunned because “that’s his fantasy”. Ignore the calls for those game designers to make different types of females in their games to cover the types of females (and males, for that matter) that we see in real life! No, can’t have that at all. We can’t even concern ourselves with perhaps that female in Crysis just didn’t feel comfortable in that armor, and decided to shed it despite the danger it might present her. Men can’t create individuals with different types of emotions, traits, personalities, and skins, apparently (hell, knowing Kojima, there could be some fourth wall breaking intentions with Quiet’s sexualization).
And isn’t that what is missing from this discussion about patriarchies and misogyny? The freedoms that people have as being individuals to be who they choose to be, and to accept and adapt to the consequences that come with such choices? Tell me in any of Anita’s videos so far has she brought up individuality, or the morals that some females have, or how some females don’t mind being sexy (or looking the part). Of course, you probably cannot. Even in the trope I said she was correct to some degree in, she overdoes her condemnation of that, and she only brought up where such over usage doesn’t count when she got called out on it by responders (all without bringing up that she was called out). When used right, a plot device like that can be used to further character development because it shows the player that a person has something that they care about or is willing to fight for, and the person who got abducted might’ve not been a slouch, either (there’s a such thing as being blindsided or overwhelmed as I’ve stated in previous blogs). Proof that she really didn’t think of those aspects out of the box in her first video: check out her Tumblr page, where some examples are actually scenarios she brings up where the trope’s usage isn’t a problem (Aerith’s capture by Shinra is listed on her Tumblr, yet she brings up a “getting her back into the action” rescue that Beyond Good And Evil did in her third DiD video which wasn’t on the Tumblr page…which is a scenario that the Aerith capture would certainly apply given what role in the story she plays, even in…well, you know).
We right now are not even concerned about that aspect of the discussion? We’re only concerned about, “not the right armor? Game maker is misogynistic!” or, “showing a bit of skin (let alone a lot)? Throw that sexist male who made her into the street!” I’m sorry, but that’s the way I’ve been seeing this entire argument going down to right now. Those that are like me that would love a more realistic debate about individualism among females in games are being drowned out by the extremism on either side, and those that just want us to agree with who I see as a clown…that I’m still, for some odd reason still finding out and wanting to discuss her videos for some reason. Maybe because I’m still hopeful that she will actually make an argument that’s based on absolute facts about a game, regardless of how valid said point is. And maybe I’m still hopeful that a serious argument for individualism in game characters finally surfaces instead of this desire to have either one extreme or the other.
I’m fine with a sexy female if it adds to the experience and immersion in a game, just as much as I like the more conservative females in games. The problem is that, until we can move on from the extremism and “agree with our sacred leader or else” mentality that we seem to have right now, we’ll never have what we should have: a discussion about females in games being truly equal. The other extreme is just as misogynistic as the one people are arguing against. When have we become so blind that we don’t see that point?
Maybe it because we’re too worried about angering the “crazy for what’s-her-face” crowd and getting banned from forums for having an individual opinion (yes, individualism can exist in feminism, too…if you let it) to let the debate about individualism happen!