>To dudes who think gaming is "sexist against men": YOU’RE WRONG.

>[Edit: There have been some... interesting comments about this post both here and other places, mostly arguing that this post is heavily biased. To that, I can only say - go read my article. It's that link in the first sentence, and it has actual numbers. And if you still don't believe me, go examine some of my sources yourself.]

Response to my article about sexism in game imagery continues to trickle in over on See Page XX. Some of it has been really great, like a response by Morgue – the guy whose original study of Dragon Magazine covers I based my methods on. There’s been a fair amount of backlash too – not as much as I expected, but certainly enough to prove a point. A fair amount of the backlash I’ve gotten has been along the lines of “but game art is sexist against men too!”

In fact, just yesterday I got a comment that managed to cram “I’m not a sexist gamer”, “sex sells, get used to it”, “gaming is sexist against men”, and “your numbers/methods are flawed” all into one comment:

If I were a male gamer (which I am) and I would pretend demonstrating my theory that the gaming imagery is sexist AGAINST men, I could have done it with exactly the same set of data you are using. The basic male depiction is a Gym instructor Alpha male with a bare chest.

/headdesk

Despite my policy of trying not to feed trolls, I couldn’t let that stand and started off my response with the following:

Clearly your knowledge of how statistics works is flawed if you think that these same numbers could be used to argue that gaming is sexist against men. Go back and read the section on how I engineered the criteria again. I engineered the criteria so that this study intentionally made it hard for women to qualify as suggestive and EASY for men to qualify as suggestive. I mean, come on. I counted a COW as suggestive, despite the fact that any sane person would not call a picture of a cow suggestive. And DESPITE ALL THAT, the numbers still clearly show that across all areas of gaming, suggestive figures are OVERWHELMINGLY women. So please explain to me in what universe this can be used to support your premise of “sexism against men”.

But after I posted, I really thought that this bullshit line of reasoning deserved a more in depth response. Because, really – there are two things going on here. First of all, the idealization of men is not, IS NOT, IS NOT AND NEVER WILL BE the same as the sexualization of women. There is absolutely nothing about the design of idealized male characters that says “fuckable” like the hordes of female characters designed for male viewers and players. So do not EVER try to tell me that men are treated with equal sexism as women in games.

(If you seriously believe this to be true, then you need to check your privilege and actually re-examine my sources if you don’t believe me. If you actually bother to keep count instead of ignoring all of the images that don’t support your bias, you’ll find that I’m right.)

Secondly, as to “all men in games are idealized”, I call bullshit on that too. The diversity of depictions of men in gaming is staggering. You can find male characters of all body types and ages in video games. Sure there’s a fair number of muscled meat-heads:

But for every Amarant that’s out there, there are many more non-idealized depictions of men. I mean, hell – look at Team Fortress:

Check it out – every silhouette is different. You’ve got huge guys, short guys, fat guys, and skinny guys, and some just average guys. And that’s just one game! Look at what happens when you look at existing video game characters! You’ve got gangly, half-developed teenagers:

LEFT: Hope from FFXIII, RIGHT: Sora from Kingdom Hearts 2

There’s a fair amount of differences just between Hope and Sora even. Hope is a more passive, less fighty type of character while Sora is more aggressive and hits things with large keys a lot – even if both of them do fit certain JRPG design tropes.

You’ve also got older characters:

LEFT TO RIGHT: Ansem the Wise from KH2, Leisure Suit Larry from ?, Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid (not sure which game)

Sure, Ansem looks pretty good for an old guy. But Snake looks pretty haggard here, and Larry is pretty tubby as well as balding. And again, you have a diversity of character concepts as well – from scientist to aging playboy to grizzled veteran, each of these characters is unique.

Most characters, of course, fall somewhere in between these two extremes in terms of age. You can find male characters in this set that represent every body type imagineable.You’ve got your super-skinny/gangly characters:


LEFT TO RIGHT: Guybrush Threepwood from the Monkey Island series, Luigi from many Super Mario games, Kiros from FFVIII, and Zidane from FFIX.

There’s also a whole host of average dudes, like these guys:

LEFT TO RIGHT: Nathan Drake from Uncharted, Max Payne, Gordon Freeman from Half-Life 2, Link from the Zelda series, and Leon from Resident Evil

Say what you want about Link being sort of androgynous, but dude is definitely not a body builder. He looks like a pretty average guy who just happens to bash people with swords. Same goes for Gordon Freeman.

But really, I think the real nail in the coffin is the mind-boggling number of fat male characters out there:


TOP, LEFT TO RIGHT: King Hippo from Punch Out, Ward from FFVIII, Rufus from Street Fighter, Bowser from Super Mario games
BOTTOM, LEFT TO RIGHT: E. Honda from Street Fighter, Steiner from FFIX, Karnov from Karnov’s Revenge, Mario, and Rodrigo Borgia from Assassin’s Creed 2
So, yes, while there is some truth to the fact that mainstream game designers are not the most creative people out there, the fact still remains that the diversity of body types seen in male characters in gaming is enormous. Mario alone should be proof of that – he’s one of the most beloved characters of all time and he’s basically the cartoon version of Ron Jeremy! The fact is that female characters in video games just can’t compete in terms of diversity.

Look at Faith from Mirror’s Edge – the fact that a slim, flat-chested woman was the lead in her own game is a matter of controversy! And check out the response so far to the new design of Lara Croft that isn’t ridiculously sexualized. The fact that these are both controversial says a lot about how women are depicted in video games. As for overweight women, the only characters I can think of off the top of my head are Queen Brahne from FFIX – not counting those awful princesses in Fat Princess.

Now, I will at the end, here, say that – yes. Male characters are disproportionately idealized. Is it ridiculous that Ryu’s arms are as big as his thighs? Yes. Are the Gears of War men ridiculous? Yes. But let me tell you, having to look at enlarged biceps just won’t ever compare with what women face when looking at ridiculous video game women like Taki.

About wundergeek
In addition to being a cranky feminist blogger, I am an artist, photographer, and somewhat half-assed writer living in the wilds of Canada with a wonderful spouse and two slightly broken cats.

52 Responses to >To dudes who think gaming is "sexist against men": YOU’RE WRONG.

  1. Trodamus says:

    >Just stumbled upon your blog and I like the cut of your jib.As a male gamer, let me just say that while both sexes are usually beautiful, idealized people, you're absolutely right in that women are always as such, while males do have alot of range in what's presented.What's more, when a man is presented as idyllic or "sexualized" (aside: how would most of these outraged male gamers know what male sexualization is when they'd turn purple at the prospect of evaluating another man's sexual appeal?), their idealization always leans towards ability. Large muscles equals greater ability bash skulls and save the day and all that. The "sexy little outfits" guys like Marcus Fenix wear are also more or less appropriate for the tasks at hand and actually cover their vitals.Women have their bodies and clothes sculpted not towards making their physical appearance appropriate for their situation, but to pander to the male gaze, complete with holes in their armor perfect for piercing the heart, lungs, guts et al.So yeah. Objectified men are built for kicking ass, objectified women are built for taking names and phone numbers.

  2. nekoewen says:

    >I have on occasion stumbled across artwork that sexualizes male characters in the same way that we see all the time with female characters. It's VERY rare, and I suspect very few guys would be comfortable around it.

  3. Chaltab says:

    >Wait, there's controversy over Faith, and Lara Croft's new design? Over what?

  4. Ikkin says:

    >I have on occasion stumbled across artwork that sexualizes male characters in the same way that we see all the time with female characters. It's VERY rare, and I suspect very few guys would be comfortable around it.I have, too, and I've always wanted to use it as ammunition whenever someone says overly muscular characters are sexist against men. I mean, the difference between exaggerated sexual dimorphism and even, say, this image/outfit (which is convenient as it was used in magazine coverage of an E-10-rated Kingdom Hearts game) is pretty staggering in terms of how objectifying it is, to the point where it really ought to be self-evident.I kind of doubt they'd get the point no matter how awkward a truly sexualized male character makes them feel, though. They'd probably say anything they're not comfortable with is more blatant than a chainmail bikini. =/

  5. Maverynthia says:

    >I agree with the comment that men's bodies are idealized.. FOR MEN. They are made to appeal to men. While the women are also made to appeal to men. Honestly in that list of male characters, only the Japanese ones would I count as "fuckable" (let me use that word that is SO often thrown at women). The only game that even slightly catered to women that I've played is the MMO Granado Espada.Also, the men that are thrown in front of me for my interest are STILL idealized men for men. I like the androgynous pretty boys, and I HATE HATE HATE when whiny fanboys complain about it, yet tell us to "tits or GTFO" when we complain about the women.

  6. wundergeek says:

    >Chaltab: Um. The controversy pretty much boils down to "tits or GTFO". *eyeroll*Everyone else: Fist bumps all around.

  7. Ikkin says:

    >The only game that even slightly catered to women that I've played is the MMO Granado Espada.Do you mean "the only game in general" here, or "the only non-Japanese game?"Because I think that — despite all of the other kinds of sexism displayed in Japanese games — they're much more likely to cater to women in the way the male characters are presented, or at least notice we're part of their audience and act accordingly.Which, of course, is probably the reason why that kind of character is so widely despised by fanboys, even if they refuse to see that this is the same exact thing we don't like about sexualized female characters.

  8. LilithXIV says:

    >Yeah, I saw that 'fanart' that gave alterations to Faith. It was more than a little disturbing to say the least. x.x

  9. Chaltab says:

    >Chaltab: Um. The controversy pretty much boils down to "tits or GTFO". *eyeroll*What the hell is wrong with us male nerds? Faith and New Lara are already incredibly beautiful and sexy in their own right. What kind of f**ked up entitlement complex says that developers should make them even more 'sexy' for the male gaze?

  10. markster3000 says:

    >That picture of Liesure Suit Larry is from "Liesure Suit Larry 7"Solid Snake is from "Metal Gear Solid 4"

  11. >Another difference I'd suggest – let's just allow that the "typical fantasy male image" is that which you'd see on a randomly-selected Frazetta, Vallejo, or "Gor" novel. Well … how many guys would really mind looking like that? In contrast, I know plenty of women who'd rather not have the gravity-defying hydraulic breasts that are so common in fantasy literature.

  12. NostrilSoup says:

    >Until 70% of male characters are drawn with enormous bulges in their trousers, I don't think men have a right to complain about sexualisation of male characters.

  13. Ikkin says:

    >@NostrilSoup:Is that really how a male character would be sexualized, though? From the fanart I've seen in female-dominated fandoms, the sexualization of male characters seems rather more complicated than expansion of body parts.

  14. Michael says:

    >If someone makes an action game with a main character actually realistically modelled on Awesome Kong, with her official backing, then I will play it.I have stopped playing games in the past because the sheer quantity of male buttock on screen was irritating me, but those were in the minority.

  15. tomdohm says:

    >Wait, there's controversy over Faith, and Lara Croft's new design? Over what?Chaltab, for Mirror's Edge, a Korean artist basically photoshopped Faith into having larger breasts, a smaller waist, no tattoo and a younger overall countenance. One of the developers commented that they were sorely disappointed and had their feelings bruised by this, since it ran counter to the precise intent through which they created Faith.Lara's redesign just brings idiotic comments that Lara's curves are "vital to her character." Bear in mind that this was the franchise where fans thought Angelina Jolie was only just an acceptable alternative to the mythically-endowed actress that should have played Lara.On a side note, I would actually like to see what an over-sexualized male character would look like. I honestly have no idea. I mean, I can find certain aspects of their sexualization disappointing, like if they act like a boor, but beyond that I have no idea what type of eye/mind candy would titillate women and offend men at the same time.(Reminds me of a funny article where a woman wrote in to complain about a humorous photo spread for "women's porn" that featured men doing laundry and other household chores. She wrote in sarcastically thanking the editors for assuming all aspects of a woman's interest will involve domesticity, but next time they offer some porn she'd really appreciate some penis, thanks.)

  16. trollsmyth says:

    >First link is broken.I mean, I can find certain aspects of their sexualization disappointing, like if they act like a boor, but beyond that I have no idea what type of eye/mind candy would titillate women and offend men at the same time.But that's just the thing, isn't it? Men simply are not offended by being considered an object of lust. That's kinda the unspoken point of this whole post.

  17. Michael says:

    >Being considered an object of lust doesn't really cover the issue though. I never want to see another man's penis. Just don't. I have done in the past and have remained mostly unscathed but if you have a penis then I would like for it to stay places that I can't ever see it, please and thankyou.I suspect the same is often true of women and other body parts.

  18. trollsmyth says:

    >Oops! And there you go. I keep forgetting that some folks have that reaction to seeing a penis. Though I think that's more a parallel issue, but could possibly be used for metaphorical examples.Except that I'm not sure how many guys (most? half? a tiny minority?) have that reaction.

  19. Chaltab says:

    >I think the reaction a guy has to seeing another man's penis is largely dependent on socialization. There's nothing inherent in even the most completely heterosexual men that should make it offensive. I'm guessing it's a reaction based on feelings of inadequacy, a sort of homophobia that fears what thoughts the image of a penis might bring up, or just a deeply ingrained sense of impropriety at seeing a part of the body we're expected to keep covered.None of this to say I think penises flopping around would make video games in general better.The thing is, sexualization itself isn't necessarily a problem. The problem is that women are disproportionately sexualized and often outright objectified, to the point where it sends the message that women are only allowed to appear in games if they're objects of lust for men (or lesbians). For this reason, even if you successfully disturb certain men with certain sexualized portrayals of male video game characters (ie Raiden), it's difficult to drive the point home, as there are hundreds of other non-sexist depictions of men they can turn to.

  20. wundergeek says:

    >Trollsmyth: Shit, fixed. Also, yes. It kind of is the point.Michael: Speaking as a woman here, I honestly don't care about seeing other women's ladybits, despite the fact that a female friend of mine once lamented that I was the straightest person she knew. (She was really drunk.) Though I don't know if I'm a good data point after having been through art school. I've drawn so many naked people that I'm pretty desensitized to seeing anybody's bits.Chaltab: Totally. I don't want sex in games to go away. Sex is part of what makes us human, and when it's treated WELL it makes for good story. The thing is, it's almost never treated well and it certainly never treats women equally.

  21. Zzarchov says:

    >This strikes me as a bit of a double standard.An idealized man is not sexualized, but an idealized woman IS sexualized. If an idealized woman is either skinny or curvy she is sexualized, but a man with a six pack is just idealized. An idealized person is by definition a sexualized person because any ideal inevitably involves ideal sexual characteristics.Having a woman explain how a man isn't sexualized and we are just whining is about as patronizing and insulting as a man explaining to a woman how female depictions aren't sexualized.A man may not feel a busty woman in tight leather is sexualized, but that isn't the point. Its really how a female would feel about that same depiction.Likewise no matter how many times a female tells a male that a depiction of an "idealized male" isn't sexualized, it isn't her call to make. She will never truly understand, just as a male would never truly understand what is and is not sexualized to a female gamer.For instance: Is conan "idealized" or "sexualized". He is an idealized man, but only so far as the ideal man is sexualized. He must be what men are told women want. He must seek danger, he must be a protector, he must be powerful and brave.How many non alpha males do you see in gaming art? Where the main character doesn't have to be some stoic warmonger out to be the most dangerous and exhude power with rippling muscles/arcane power, a look of grim defiance and lack of concept of how to be anything other than prince charming and/or teenage bad-boy heartthrob.You have your team edward/team jacob no "team normal guy who isn't an idealized sexual stereotype". Show me a male protagonist in any piece of gamer artwork who isn't a sexualized ideal of what a man should be and I'll show you a hundred more where he is.

  22. wundergeek says:

    >How many non alpha males do you see in gaming art? Where the main character doesn't have to be some stoic warmonger out to be the most dangerous and exhude power with rippling muscles/arcane power, a look of grim defiance and lack of concept of how to be anything other than prince charming and/or teenage bad-boy heartthrob.Um. Did you even read the above post? I count 33 there, 24 if you don't count the Team Fortress guys, and I wasn't even TRYING. I pulled all of these out of my brain (and out of my friends' brains via facebook) in, like, forty minutes. There were plenty I missed – like Sazh from FFXIII – a middle-aged black guy. Or Arl Eamon from Dragon Age, who was very much old and not overly muscled and still very powerful? Or Jolee from KOTOR, perhaps one of my favorite characters EVER, who was a delightfully cranky old black guy? Shit, I could go on in this vein for ages – and that's just RPGs!And I'm sorry, but idealized male characters Just. Aren't. The. Same. Idealized male characters are portrayed as strong and competent and able to take care of their own damn problems, thanks. Sexualized female characters are portrayed as "sassy", but mostly still dependent on the big strong mens to come save them and bang them if they want. There is a world of difference between these two. The exaggerated model of masculinity that men are presented with is a model that declares them to be hyper-competent and hyper-virile, while the model of femininity that is presented is one in which we are hyper-sexual, passive, and dependent on men.And for the record, I'm Team Bella. She should dump both their asses and go live for herself. Sparkles or mystical abs of hotness aren't a foundation for a relationship.

  23. tomdohm says:

    >I think you're missing the issue Zzarch. It's not that the hetero-normative alpha male holds the majority in male depiction or how that might emasculate men who separate themselves from their avatar and feel emasculated by the comparison. No one is telling you how you should feel about the depiction of males in games, they're saying that it's nothing like how women are depicted and how that feels to them.It's that these sorts of characters are active actors and in possession of their own agency, while female characters are passive objects that almost universally conform to the same tits-waist-ass ratio with a panoply of characteristics designed to pique male interest.Women are the healers or archers while wearing impractical armor and kowtow to male protagonists. Men, however sexist in their depiction, act from a position of privilege.We're talking about an industry that continues to choose to be male oriented, and when a female character is offered up that doesn't acknowledge that bent (which is such a rare occasion to begin with) it causes a shitstorm of controversy. It is literally a white-knuckle fight to portray women as something less than a centerfold in games.

  24. Zzarchov says:

    >A position of privelage strikes me as a bit odd, and part of a "not been on that part of the fence". I've served in the infantry, being a "front and center take charge guy" is sexist pandering that no one actually holds when it comes time to get shot/stabbed/burned. Saying that such is a position of privelage strikes me as no different than telling a woman "but you get to be a mother and sit around the house watching soap opera's all day! What a great privelage!". And such may seem like a position of privelage and power to the man who works in a grinding 9-5 or gets shot at, but only because he hasn't lived it.I am in now way stating it isn't a sexist and sexualized portrayal of women, quite frankly I have no ability to judge. I am merely stating the sexist and sexualized male characters are so staple and ingrained that people have a hard time even realizing that that isn't normal.In your example, the women are healers and archers while the men trudge forward and slug it out toe to toe with an axe like a caveman trying to prove his virility. I can tell you, the archer and the healer are in the positions of power, the warrior with his ridiculously bulky and manly armour showing off his ripped muscles is the servant. The first male healer protagonist I've seen in an RPG in ages was in the recent Fallout New Vegas, the catch? They stress over and over again that he is gay (which is also another issue that you can't be gay and still consider yourself a man as well)At least this is how it appears to me, because I've been there as a grunt, and it sucks. Goes back to an saying in the military: Everyone fights for the option to serve, no one fights for the option to be drafted.

  25. Chaltab says:

    >The point is that we, as men, have plenty of options open to us. Even if we don't identify with some big-armed muscle man like Marcus Fenix, we have plenty of other depictions of men where we're competent and heroic–Mario, perhaps the most popular video game character in existence, is short, dumpy, and visually looks like he's in his forties.Most video game heroines, regardless of how they're characterized, are extremely pretty. Many are outright sexpots. And an alarming number are characterized in a way that perpetuates stereotypes.And apparently, when developers intentionally create a female character like Faith that breaks from this tendency, some nerds whine about it because they feel they're ENTITLED to have sexy big-breasted women in their games.There's a clear difference in how women and men are depicted in gaming, and it's not the men who get the shorter end of the stick.

  26. Zzarchov says:

    >Woah woah woah,Most male characters ARE NOT frumpy. Mario is a freak oddity and a holdover from 8 bit games, and is akin to playing Nanny McPhee or Minnie Mouse in a video game and saying "see, there are non-sexualized women". If you include Luigi you may as well include princess peach. All of the "Average Dudes" above could be Calvin Klein underwear models and is akin to saying "See, not all women are volumptious sexpots, some are slender supermodels!".And Fat characters tend to be either villains or bumbling useless supporting characters. Fat men play the same media part as elderly women. Mario being a grandfathered and unique exception.It kind of just cements my point that almost any example of a protaganist male is a harlequin romance stereotype.

  27. LilithXIV says:

    >@ ZzarchovYou do not know what privilege is. The whole 'well men get drafted' defense doesn't work here, women can serve in the army too. Besides, women were not the ones sending men off to war, other men were, and men are the ones usually pushing that homophobic tripe about how being a healer/caregiver obviously means you're not a 'real man'. So don't start slinging that blame around here. What you refer to is not female privilege, it is benevolent sexism. Plenty of women wanted to serve alongside men in wars, but men were the ones who stopped them from doing so, with constant narratives about how women were weaker and fragile than men and that they were better as 'nurturers' who stayed home where they 'belonged' so they could have kids and take care of the kids. Women were infantilized that way then and they still are now. Again, benevolent sexism. You should go look it up. A large number of men still part in oppression of women and you saying that men have it 'just as bad' is incredibly insulting and ignorant.You obviously didn't read the comments above your first post so allow me to reiterate again. Men are idealized to for the sake of men, the 'idealized' version of women are there.. for the sake of men too. The male characters are power fantasies for men to indulge in, the female characters are sexual fantasies for the men to wank to. I'm not seeing the equality there, buddy. Sounds like women don't get their actual 'idealized' versions, only sex objects who are there to satisfy the needs of men as their primary goal while everything else (like, say, who they are as a character) is treated as secondary. Oh wait, or perhaps they can be your damsels in distress or be killed off so men can have Manly Feelings and go on a journey and do Manly Things and have Character Development and personalities. Yay, women get the options of being sex objects or plot devices. I'm pretty sure the archer and healer are still the servants here, I don't think I ever asked for you to be the one in the front of the party or to always be the hero of the story. So stop implying I should be grateful or that you have it's just as hard. At least you're treated as a human being.Stop comparing your 'manly armor' to 'barely any armor', to chainmail bikinis and metal thongs. Stop comparing bulging biceps to cameltoe and ass/crotch shots and floppy, gargantuan breasts and impossible figures. Your biceps are there to make you look strong, that female character's figure is there to turn guys in the audience on give them something to fap to. The woman is there to be fuckable, the guy is there to take action. Stop comparing them. And, as this article shows, guys don't even /need/ to have biceps most of the time and get to just be average guys and still save the damn world. Women still have to be sex bombs, as if it's the price of admission they have to pay to even be allowed into your damn game or have a right to exist.Sorry, dood, I think women /might/ have it a bit worse.

  28. LilithXIV says:

    >And I'm sorry but I just /have/ to double post, because that post you just left needs to be torn down right away."Mario is a freak oddity and a holdover from 8 bit games." – And apparently so is Luigi. And Wario. And Toad. And Solid Snake (he's pretty damn old, got his own game. He's not even muscular, that's a suit he's wearing. Also, when you think of the wise old mentor, tell me you don't think of a man. There are about a million Dumbledores and Gandalfs.). And sorry, Princess Peach is still /ten times/ more attractive than Mario.Um, fat guy = average too, so I'm pretty sure they're not gonna be models. And out of the ones Wundergeek showed, I'd say Sora and Hope and Link probably have the best chance of being 'models'. And they're still not really as attractive as the female characters around them. By a long shot. Also, fat guy tends to be a supporting character? Uh, try watching /any sitcom ever/, or even just a few and you'll see how wrong you really are. Y'know, the ones with the average every-dude (and yes, fat plenty of times too) guy who has the ridiculously hot wife? Yeah, dime a dozen.Steiner himself even hooks up with Beatrix in Final Fantasy 9 and he's one of your strongest characters in the party. Elderly women hardly even get to exist in comparison to fat guys (and how many fat women do we even see in games? As many as the guys? No.), and especially not in the important roles they get. I'm not buying this at all.My point: You never had a point or a leg to stand on. Especially since that romance stereotype is the huge muscley fabio-esque guy and plenty of the characters Wundergeek has shown above are far from that guy. It can't be almost any if she can show you legions that are so far from it. Again, did you even read the post or only the parts you wanted to?

  29. Chaltab says:

    >Most male characters ARE NOT frumpy. Mario is a freak oddity and a holdover from 8 bit gamesI didn't say they were. But there are clearly far more varied portrayals of men than there are of women. I can think of one game with a chubby woman even among a group of protagonists: Paper Mario 2. Can you name others? Hell, in Donkey Kong Country even the female APE is a hypersexualized supermodel.

  30. wundergeek says:

    >Hey, folks! Chaltab and Lilith especially have pretty much said everything that needs saying. I just want to point out that ONCE AGAIN we are arguing about sexism affects men – despite the fact that this is a space EXPLICITLY DEVOTED to discussing sexist depictions of women. I mean, come on – the word women is in the goddamn title of the blog.Zzarch, I hope you take the time to recognize that your views are being informed by privilege. Are male characters idealized? Sure. Is it in any way as bad as what female characters face? No. Have you co-opted a space that was SUPPOSED to be about the marginalization of a minority? Yep. Are you in the privileged majority? Absolutely.None of this makes you a bad person. But if you can't accept that what I or anyone else here is saying, please take your trolling somewhere else. I, frankly, am not going to waste any more time trying to educate you since you seem to be pretty resistant to such attempts.

  31. velaran says:

    >@wundergeek: OMG, you Just Did Not Say Mario is the video game equivalent of Ron Jeremy. That breaks my brain.(And requires a whole new paradigm to process.) Things Said Not Unsaid and all that.On Idealized Male Bodies Comic Book/Video Game style: Not looking like say, Ryu/Ken/Palette swap of same IS annoying to some guys, but apparently not enough to the mass of us, or we'd diet, got to the gym, take human growth hormone, right?(I mean, I 'm sure some do; some guys are anorexic/bulimic for example…)This doesn't compare to the societal pressure brought to bear on females to look like their Physical Ideal(Or at least Mass Culture's). There's been some talk of males unreasonable standard of beauty, but it's not something that most of the society seems to be pushing. I. E. you can be older, or heavier, or not say, blonde haired, blue-eyed and be desirable. Also, even if you're not good looking, you can still be the focal point of a story, kick ass, and generally be free of much criticism about your pulchritude. What with all the male -oriented mags/sites, fashion, targeted marketing towards 18-36 Middle Class White Guys, some men may start feeling a little inadequate, possibly. But it still won't match the crap flung at women, unless it increases about a 1000 times, that is. And besides, we'll still be the ass-kickers and moneymakers, right?Oh, and that's Old Snake from Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of The Patriots. Interestingly, his comrade, Meryl Silverburg is an older character from the other games who is both competent and considered sexy(She's like 70) by the fanbase! Not to mention of all male game characters, Solid Snake seems to be the most sexualized, even by women. I. E. the EVERYONE'S gay for Solid Snake Meme.Great Blog!

  32. velaran says:

    >@Wundergeek: blogger ate previous post. Crap. The mario=Video Game's Ron Jeremy thing: Once Heard Can Never Be Unheard. This is true, and the implications scare me. :-)Sexualization of men: Nowhere near as developed as for women. Societal pressure would have to increase, like what, a thousandfold? Admittedly, there seems to be marketing pushes over the last 20 years to get guys to look and dress a certain way, but it doesn't seem to have that great a pull on the average guy. If it did more of us'd hit the gym, diet, have plastic surgery, etc…(Of course, there are that small percentage of male anorexics/bulemics…) But at the end of the day, we'd still be the asskickers, name takers and money makers right?On Solid Snake: His pic(where he's now referred to as Old Snake) is from Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of The Patriots. Oddly enough, he appears to be one of the few sexualized men (even by females)most people even know about. Hence, the meme: Everyone's Gay For Solid Snake. Mentioning this game brought up another thought: in this sequel, his compatriot from earlier installments, Meryl Silverberg is a competent commander and warrior who is considered sexy by the fanbase though she's like 70!(Which brings up other issues, but…)Graet Blog!

  33. Zzarchov says:

    >I think you kind of made my own point here lilith: "Plenty of women wanted to serve alongside men in wars"Ya, I covered that. Women do serve in wars, front line and center with me in the Infantry (not everywhere is America). And you know what else? Women can't be drafted here, only men. That is exactly my point. Everyone wants the privelage to serve, being forced to serve against your will is still a male "privelage". Though some countries are A LOT more eglitarian in that regard (Israel comes to mind).In regards to princess peach:Princess Peach being attractive isn't the issue though(if you consider her that way), its sexualized. A brooding slim guy all dolled up and shown as a shallow stereotype (often shown as a vampire is sexualized. A man with highlighted 6 pack abs is sexualized, a man with big muscles may not be. This is no different than how a woman is not automatically sexualized by being busty, but when she shows up in a battle-corset and combat thong she probably is. Princess Peach (being a cartoon character) isn't really any more out there than Luigi, neither are sexualized.Many women have trouble understanding how gender roles oppress men as much as women, this is from their own position of privelage. Women are far more likely to be given custody of children in a divorce (and if you pull out the crap where women are inherintly better parents that just shows my point, afterall if one gender is inherintly better at something, then so much the other gender be inherintly better at some things: ie, its crap).And for the love of god, if you honestly try to tell me that the right to see and raise your own children is not a privelage on par or above even voiting I will puke. People will live in countries without the right to vote (illegal immigrants, non-democratic countries), but taking peoples children from them is a crime against nature. Ask anyone you meet if they would right have the right to vote or never see their kids again and you'll always get the same answer (unless you ask mid-tantrum).Now again, women were also forced with the responsiblity to raise the children, which is something few men's rights group will fight for. In fact that is almost identical to women's rights groups stance on the military: Fight for the right to volunteer, whistle and look the other way for forced obligations.But as more and more divorces occur please don't try and pawn off that men don't suffer due to gender stereotypes, talk to anyone who hasn't seen their kids in 4 years since the other parent left the country, or talk to any child who grew up in such a manner.

  34. Wise Owl says:

    >@Zzarchov; Your missing some of the clearer points in this discussion; the central one being that 'games' are quite clearly marketed towards men, and that sexualization of male characters in Video games is relatively rare. How many male characters can you point to and say 'Yup, your suppose to want to FUCK him'. Conversely how many female characters can you do that for? The proportions are amazingly supportive of women being in sexualized positions, men not being. Another simple metric would be to just look at characters who are not 'steroetypically pretty' in terms of their portrayel. The list is vanishingly small. To put it in a simpler way; where are all the fat chicks? Hell where are the husky women? The women with thighs and hips and… well again, the point is made. The Present gaming industry is run by men, and largely 'for' men. That's pretty undeniable. I can entirely imagine what an industry run by and for women would look like, though I imaigne most would find it bizarre, because the context of such a situation is so alien to most expectations in media markets these days.Lastly; No one wants to debate whether there CAN be examples of sexism negatively impacting men. What they are trying to disucss is how Sexism negatively impacts Women in the Gaming industry, without being derailed by some discussion about custody rights.

  35. Anonymous says:

    >@Zzarchov – While you are missing the point of this post entirely, and have introduced irrelevant topics in your discussion, I would like to ask you a question in regards to this particular statement: "And you know what else? Women can't be drafted here, only men. That is exactly my point. Everyone wants the privelage to serve, being forced to serve against your will is still a male 'privelage'."You do realize that the people who are prohibiting women from 1)combat positions and 2)being drafted are men. In the political world, men far outnumber women(which I'm sure you won't argue against), and this is why time and time again legislation calling for gender equality within the military gets shot down. Men are the cause of the unfairness of the military draft, not women. Please, next time you feel like introducing a non-sequitur, at least get your facts straight.

  36. Ikkin says:

    >The more I think about troll arguments like this and what a sexualized man would look like, the more I'm inclined to suspect that sexualization is only indirectly related to characters' anatomy and attire.It's easier to see in male portrayals, because there aren't very many convenient shortcuts to use to fake the effect, but it affects female characters in a very similar way. The characters who seem the most sexualized are the ones who offer their own bodies up without reservation, demonstrating compliance towards the audience's base desires as an invitation to the fulfillment of the same. In less blatant examples, all that is necessary is the characters' relinquishment of their defenses and traits that could be used to resist.And the vast majority of "shortcuts" that are used to sexualize female characters symbolize that kind of openness. The parted lips of the model pout and the "take me now" posing are presented as invitations that the audience can take advantage of, and the impractical footwear and clothing with limited protective ability demonstrates the sacrifice that she's made in her ability to resist advances.(And this, I think, is what would tip the portrayal of videogame women from a potentially-irritating stereotype like "men must be macho" to something that would be truly offensive even if it wasn't so pervasive — the feeling that the characters have to compromise themselves in order to even be there)

  37. wundergeek says:

    >Sorry, guys, if your comment disappeared for a little while. Still having problems with things being flagged as spam. >:|

  38. LilithXIV says:

    >And I'm definitely sorry for double posting that rant (it didn't seem to go through the first time so I posted it again and yeah..), because apparently mine was flagged too and didn't show up until now. My bad! x.x

  39. Rhi says:

    >Just wanted to say that I read this initially on Border House, then had to come and read more of your blog. This post is brilliant, this blog is brilliant. Cheers.

  40. sasuga says:

    >@Zzarchov — I am a woman who is indeed attracted to large, rugged, muscular men (among other types). I can assure you that while those type of men in video games are appealing to me, that's not why they're designed that way. In fact, since a lot of other women and men have made sure to tell me that they think my liking beefy guys is gross, weird, and an invitation for men to abuse me. So, its pretty obvious to me that these buff heroes aren't intended to appeal to women, since there's clear pressure to NOT find them sexy. Of all the groups of body types listed above, only the ones listed as "average guys" are considered normal for women to like.

  41. john p says:

    >There's a lot of bias in this. Don't take that as me disagreeing, but when you use gordon freeman as an example yet ignore alyx who is infinitely more of a character, it's obvious what your agenda is. And Hope is the least important character in a game where half the characters are female including the 2 most prominent ones.We have a hard time accepting female villains, or female protagonists in a violent game. Of course it's sexist, but it's culturally and biologically conditioned. It wouldn't feel right if Niko Bellic was female, if it's sexist don't blame the game makers, blame society and evolution. It's the same in all entertainment media, young attractive females only but white males of mixed appearance and age are ok. News presenters, actors, musicians. We'd have a hard time accepting a 5 year old as a villain too.I actually feel like game makers are trying too hard to over-represent females and minority groups at the expense of anything else. Mirror's edge is a good example, there was no significance at all to the character but because it was an asian female people gave the developers false credit. It was like they thought it was enough to make an original character in appearance and there was no need to develop any further. Even japanese games rarely have asian characters for some reason, I wonder why? The Yakuza series is the only one I can think of where the characters are noticeably asian. It also includes females and children in significant roles, I highly recommend it if you can look past the combat gameplay.When I control a female character it feels incongruous. That image you posted of uncreative character designers is unfair. All that the characters share in common is hair style and skin colour, and that's simply because the hardware struggles to render hair and it instantly makes a game look less photorealistic. Cartoon game graphics do not favour bald characters. And it wasn't a problem 10 years ago when photorealistic graphics were impossible. Look at FFXIII, the hair looks horrible, fake, dithered and out of place. None of the creatures have fur anymore either, they're all lizards and robots.

  42. wundergeek says:

    >John: You have show me the error of my ways. Clearly, wanting women to be depicted as human beings is an unreasonable bias that caused me to not consider how men would feel about being forced to play female characters. I don't know what came over me! I mean, society at large deems sexualized depictions of women acceptable, so why should I complain? Democratic societies have never been guilty of social and economically unjust prejudices before, right? I guess I just got so fired up that I forgot my proper place in society. So, that's it – from here on out I'm going to blog about acceptable topics for female bloggers. Since I don't have any children yet, I suppose I'll just have to blog about celebrity gossip, or maybe cute pictures of kittens.

  43. LilithXIV says:

    >@John: O.O…Okay, sorry, I needed a minute to process that post entirely. I honestly do not know where to start or where to go from here. I mean.. geez. Let me see if I can translate these, hold on."There's a lot of bias in this."- Translation: Unlike whatever I say, which is Objective and Rational and Truth and not at all biased. Now sit on down and let me mansplain this all to you."We have a hard time accepting female villains, or female protagonists in a violent game. Of course it's sexist, but it's culturally and biologically conditioned."- Translation: Yes, I'm sexist, but I don't want to change or start respecting women /so there/! It's so much easier to just say I was born that way and make excuses for myself and the game creators and keep discriminating against women. It's /okay/ to reduce women's worth to their sexual parts because of Biology you see! That way I can pretend it's out of my hands and 'just the way it is'! Yay for rationalizations!"It's the same in all entertainment media, young attractive females only but white males of mixed appearance and age are ok."- Translation: A lot of other people discriminate so that /must/ make it okay. No need to think for myself or question or challenge these things or treat people with basic human decency and respect. No, the status quo has never let me down before so let's just stick with that! Mindless conforming is Totally Awesome Fun Times! Don't Rock The Boat!"I actually feel like game makers are trying too hard to over-represent females and minority groups at the expense of anything else."- Translation: Yeah! At the expense of whitehetcisguys! Those poor, underrepresented whitehetcisguys! Don't they see that even putting those minorities in those roles instantly diminishes that role, unlike whitehetcisguys who just happen to have Innate Superiority and make it better!"Even japanese games rarely have asian characters for some reason, I wonder why? The Yakuza series is the only one I can think of where the characters are noticeably asian."- Translation: Since I believe 'asians' only look one (stereotypical) way then that's the way they always have to look or they shall not be approved as Official Asians by me! Obviously they're not /really/ asian unless they conform to my stereotype of them amirite? Different art styles? What're those?"When I control a female character it feels incongruous."- Translation: Cooties!There we go, translated for the audience at home! You sure get some.. interesting comments on here, Wundergeek.

  44. wundergeek says:

    >Lilith: Virtual fist bump. That rocked.

  45. LilithXIV says:

    >WG: And a fist bump right back at you, your response was all kinds of awesome XD

  46. Anonymous says:

    >What do you guys think of the characters of Street Fighter IV? Certainly, the females are very much sexualized.. But at the same time, they are also shown with a great deal of muscle mass: I feel this muscular tone sort of evens the portrayal of the sexes just a little bit (obviously not fully). You have characters exhibiting power in an obvious physical way.

  47. wundergeek says:

    >Anon: Street Fighter isn't in the same league as Soul Calibur, but it's still pretty awful. Yes, all of their women have muscular legs, but they also have waifish arms with absolutely no muscle tone – which makes me think that perhaps their muscular legs are more to emphasize certain attributes.

  48. Pingback: Dead Island’s “Feminist Whore”: The Tip of the Iceberg | VG247

  49. Tesseract says:

    To turn to another medium of entertainment, I think I’d like to point out what’s viewed as sexy for each gender. Daniel Radcliffe has a rather small amount of gratuitous skin through all of the Harry Potter movies, yet there are a disproportionate amount of female fans that profess their love from afar, having never met the man compared to male fans proposing to Emma Watson. I think Harry Potter is the most.. sex neutral series I’ve read or seen in a while, yet this and many other celebrities seen as sexy proves a bit of a point that scientists have been telling us about for years.. men lust with their eyes and women lust with their minds. I’ve been told often by female friends that trashy romance novels are the equivalent of a porn magazine for men, so by that logic, is it really fair that you classify sexualization as something that’s only done visually? The typical male lead in games walks a very fine line regarding the personalities they have. Taking your own examples from these posts, the ones that aren’t purely designed to be absurd like Leisure Suit Larry, King Koopa, the entire cast of Team Fortress 2 (There’s a controversy whether the Pyro is actually a girl, which is pretty much the ultimate solution to the problem at hand.) and even King Hippo who is pretty obviously designed to not be attractive.. something like Fat Princess? The others fall into pretty narrow catagories especially if they’re JRPG in origin. Male leads tend to be between 15-21, sport a spiky haircut, almost universally put themselves through insane amounts of danger to save the girl they’ve fallen in love with… and I don’t hear any girls complaining. Should you be as disgusted by Sephiroth? How about Kuja? Let’s try something a little more 16-bit. Is Alucard just a little too sexualized? Tell me Roxas didn’t get the treatment now that Sora had grown up a bit. It wasn’t just Kairi who was altered. I’m not saying your points are invalid. I’m just saying you’ve got too narrow of a scope. Is the problem systemic? Most likely. Are both genders painted with an equally unrealistic brush, though? Well, I suppose that’s fiction for you. When was the last time you saw a comic book hero that didn’t have a completely unrealistic muscle suit? Who’s that really there to impress? Men? Do guys like seeing Superman’s skin tight outfit or Wolverine’s bare biceps and bulging package? Just a thought. Broaden your scope. You’ll find it everywhere, in every medium.

  50. While I’m on your side, I can’t help noting that men are usually depicted with ‘subtle’ penis allegories, such as swords and guns. It is true that women are often (nearly always) presented as sexual objects in videogames, but it is no lesser truth that men take the role of sexual subjects (even molesters, if you want), which is, of course, sexist and offensive (at least for me, I’m not usually pointing my ‘sword’ everywhere I go).

    On the other hand, saying that armour-plated knights aren’t sexualizad is a big fail, in my opinion. Maybe they don’t show the flesh, but they represent sexual archetypes anyway. I understand that the depiction of sexualized women is more offensive because these characters seem not to have any control of their sexuality, while male characters do, but the sexualization is there for both women and men. I think it’s the meaning, the consequences of this sexualization what represent the real problem.

    Plus, I can not take as valid your Team Fortress example, as Valve’s women are hardly shown as sexual objects, I would even say that some are ugly. Sure, there’s a bigger amount of males in the lines of Valve’s characters, and I understand this could be seen as sexist, but I dont think that could be applied to the characters only by their looks or attitudes.

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