Frequently Asked Questions and Complaints
While this is not a comprehensive list of the terrible comments I get here on this blog, these are definitely the worst offenders. You’ll note that there are a lot of links in my answers to these questions. That’s because Go Make Me a Sandwich is not and never has been a 101-level feminist blog. I do not have the time, interest, or obligation to educate you if you have not done the basics of self-education with regards to feminism as it applies to geekdom.
1) BUT ALL THE MENZ GET OBJECTIFIED TOO
[sigh] No. Just… no.
First, attempting to dispute that game art is sexist by saying that men get objectified too completely misses the point. I have written extensively on how game art in every segment of gaming consistently under-represents and over-sexualizes women as compared to their male counterparts. This is not speculation – this is based on careful analysis and data collection of a wide variety of sources.
My original article written for Pelgrane covering video game art is here. Additionally, you can find many other posts using the same methodology if you search the “numbers” category here on my blog.
Second, saying that all men are idealized in games and game art is demonstrably factually incorrect. Male characters in games have always enjoyed a diversity of depiction of body size and shape that does not exist for female characters.
Third, male power fantasies are absolutely, categorically not the same as sexualized depictions of women. See my takedown of people who claimed that male characters in TERA were “as bad” as female characters. Or you can read either one of these great posts tackling why that’s just not the case.
2) THAT CHARACTER IS STRONG AND EMPOWERED AND WANTS TO SHOW HER TITS, YOU ARE SLUT SHAMING
For this, I am going to straight up quote myself from this post I wrote about the first Bayonetta game, since Bayonetta is a pretty classic example of a character that is frequently cited as “strong”, “liberated”, and “sexually empowered”:
If Bayonetta were an actual person, then it would make sense to proclaim that her sexuality is a choice and that she’s an empowering female figure. But she’s not a real woman. Everything about her was designed to be sexually appealing by a man who in his own words thinks that all women should strive to be as sexual as Bayonetta. …
It all comes back to the male gaze. (Seriously, please visit that link if the male gaze is a concept you’re not familiar with.) When looking at fictional characters like Bayonetta, you can’t disregard the creator. It’s not enough to say that she embraces her sexuality, because at no point did Bayonetta ever get to make a choice. Her creators made the choices for her. So I totally agree with Jonathan Holmes in his assessment of Bayonetta:
she’s an empty shell of a character; a shell made from here creators’ sexual fantasies, negative stereotypes, and misconceived notions of the female gender.
As for the people who claim you are somehow sexist or slut-shaming when you hate on Bayonetta, the same point applies. Bayonetta is not a person with agency, she’s a fictional creation devoid of any free will or choice. It is not slut-shaming to decry Bayonetta as a hollow stereotype whose sexuality is nothing more than a harmful perpetuation of the stereotypes surrounding female sexuality. It is a judgement on the designers and writers who created her to be what she is. Bayonetta is not for women, plain and simple. She is designed by men for men. As such, I feel no need to pretend that she’s a positive role model.
3) WHAT’S WRONG WITH CATERING TO MEN’S SEXY DESIRES
Nothing! Nowhere have I ever said that I think that there should be no games ever that include sexy women, for cishet-normative values of sexy. What I object to is the idea that every woman in every game must be designed to appeal to the cishet male gaze, because that makes no goddamn sense.
Women have represented juuuust under 50% of the video gamer market for quite a while now, not to mention that 85% of all consumer purchases (which includes video games) are made by women. And yet nearly the entire games industry is focused on designing characters that exist solely for the sexual pleasure and titillation of a presumed male player.
And that sucks! It would be like going to a restaurant that purports to serve people of any gender, but any cisman who walks through the door gets punched in the face. And if you try to complain, the restaurant staff deny punching you, and the other patrons form a lynch mob and run you out of the restaurant.
Further, this kind of thinking assumes that all men are a monolith, which they are not (of course). As shocking as this may be, not all men who play video games are straight. So the hyperfocus on the hetero-normative view of game development also does a disservice to men who don’t really care about sexy women, thanks.
4) GAMES ARE MADE FOR MEN
See the above response.
5) WHY DO YOU WANT TO CENSOR ART AND STOP ARTISTS!
Criticism of a thing is not the same as wanting to censor a thing or otherwise prevent people from accessing the thing. Saying that I dislike a thing, that I think it was ill-considered, or even that I think it’s gross and shouldn’t have been part of the game is not the same as calling for a boycott of a game. It’s me expressing an opinion through the lens of my training as an artist and game publisher as well as someone versed in feminist theory in the hopes that game makers and other people affiliated with the games industry will be influenced to do better in the future.
If that doesn’t make sense, then please read this fantabulous piece by Caroline Siede about how if you like Return of the Jedi but hate ewoks, you already understand feminist criticism.
6) IT’S THE ART DIRECTORS YOU SHOULD TARGET
Art direction is definitely a huge piece of the puzzle; I’ve written about the inconsistent art direction coming out of WotC, how internally inconsistent Magic: The Gathering’s art direction is within their own product line.
However, the ingrained sexist attitudes of the artists doing the work is also a huge problem. To quote Erik Mona of Paizo from a comment that he left on my old post about Pathfinder and racial diversity:
“The number of times over my 10-year career in this industry that I’ve had to send back an image with a note like “um, thanks, but can I get this without hard nipples showing through the leather armor, please?” would shock just about everyone.”
So does art direction need to get better? Absolutely. But the artists are just as culpable.
7) WHY DO YOU HATE WOMENZ WITH BIG BOOBZ?
I don’t hate women with big boobs. I am a woman with big boobs. What I hate is that there is a complete lack of body diversity of women depicted in games, despite that male characters come in every shape and size imaginable. It’s the bullshit double-standard that pisses me off, not the boobs or the women they’re attached to.
Further, me calling for a wider diversity of body types in games and game art is not the same as me attacking people who have the sort of body that is widely depicted in games. Wanting to see more women of underrepresented sizes and shapes isn’t an attack on any one body type, just as wanting to see more racially diverse games and game art isn’t an attack on white people or any particular white person.
8) YOU ARE A MASSIVE PRUDE
Quoting myself again:
One of the charges that routinely gets hurled at me is that I’m a sex-hating prude that hates sex in games and thinks that people who put sex in games are just the worst. Which is pretty ludicrous, but it’s the lowest-hanging fruit of dismissive criticism aside from “she’s crazy”, which means it’s something I hear a lot. For a lot of people, it’s easier to attack the messenger than it is to engage with the message, especially when the message is openly critical of something that you like.
For more details on why I actually quite enjoy sex in games when it’s done well, go read the rest of the post that’s taken from.
Or if you’re too lazy, the TL;DR is: I’m not against all sex ever in games. I’m not against all sex ever in art. I’m not against all people ever who like sexy art, or who like sex, or who like sex and games. The end.
9) WHY ARE YOU WRITING ABOUT THIS INSTEAD OF [X]?
First, asking this question somehow implies that I can’t care about more than one thing about the same time. Frex, if I care about Cause Y, then why would I devote time to writing about Cause X? Which is silly, because the vast majority of humans are capable of being passionate about more than one thing. Odds are, you don’t spend all of your free time pursuing ONE activity. So assuming that me taking time to write about something that I feel passionately about – feminism in games – completely precludes the possibility of me engaging in other sorts of activism is… odd. (For more on this, see Derailing for Dummies)
Second, in application this question is almost always racist. Every time I have seen it used, people are asking things like “why are you writing about feminism in video games when you should be writing about female genital mutilation”. Or the violence against Afghan women and girls attempting to access education? Or poverty of women in the Asian subcontinent? Which becomes really awful when you think about the context.
I am a white, middle class, cishet, able-bodied Christian-ish woman living in Canada. I am privileged as fuck, and I acknowledge that. So for me to devote myself to some crusade to save “foreign” brown women from the evils of their own culture would be the height of White Feminism. And while I am a feminist who is white, I do my damndest not to be a White Feminist. (I’m not saying I’m perfect, but I really do try.) And not attempting to save brown women from their own culture is the low-hanging fruit of not being a goddamn White Feminist.
Third, asking this question is really just trivializing my passion. I write about feminism in games because I am passionate about games, and sexism in games is something that impacts me personally. So for you to say “well actually, this thing you’re passionate about isn’t really all that important” makes you the asshole.
10) IT’S JUST A GAME
Refer to point number three of the previous response.
11) WHY DON’T YOU PLAY SOMETHING ELSE OR MAKE YOUR OWN GAMES?
Usually, my game selection process involves finding the games that are the least sexist and still appeal to my play preferences. It’s a lot like the Monty Python spam sketch – “how about the spam eggs sausage and spam, that’s not got much spam in it” – in that one my primary criteria is always “is this game at least only minimally sexist?”.
As for “why don’t I make my own games”? Uh. I do.
12) FREEDOM OF SPEECH!!1!1!eleventy! RAARGH!
most of all, I want this to be MY PLACE …
It’s not my place when I feel constantly challenged to assert my expertise on the matters I’m discussing, when I feel that I must always re-affirm my credentials.
It’s not my place when people come here to tell me that I’m crazy, ugly, irrational, stupid, ignorant, or a fascist.
It’s not my place when they tell me that harassment against women doesn’t matter.
It’s not my place when they tell me to lie down in front of a train rather than continue to speak out.
I can’t handle the volume of negative comments that I get anymore – it drains my energy, wastes my time, and sucks air out of the conversation. This was never intended to be a forum for other people to vent their hatred, and I’m tired letting toxic comments stifle real conversation in the name of welcoming free speech. Fuck free speech. This is not a democracy, and I am not obligated to give you a soapbox.
If you want a forum to tell me that I am wrong, or stupid, or even to just vent your hatred of women, that’s called THE REST OF THE GODDAMN INTERNET.
13) YOU’RE AFRAID OF REAL DISCUSSION
A lot of the time when I replace a comment with a meme, said commenter whines that I’m not “interested in real discussion”. Which, uh. Yeah. You’re right!
The reason I haven’t entirely closed down comments is that sometimes commenters are able to provide valuable and interesting perspective about a related topic or angle that I didn’t have knowledge of. Take, for example, my post on Lightning Returns and cultural appropriation. There were some really interesting things in the comments said about the history of oppressive violence in Japan against Christians. Similarly, in my post about MMOs and the lack of diversity of female body types, where a commenter provided personal perspective as a female employee who had worked on one of the MMOs I wrote about. That’s the sort of thing that I want to allow for!
The sort of thing that I have zero interest in, however? Shit like sea lioning, insults, cred-checking, or mansplaining. Especially since a lot of what people (men) attempt to mansplain is my own goddamn feelings.
So, you know. Not interested in real discussion? Yes! Way to hit the nail on the head! Where you go astray is thinking that I somehow actually give a shit or think that’s a bad thing.
Policy: Removing and Replacing Comments
If you violate rule #1 (no insults), your comment will be trashed. Period.
If you violate rule #2 (derailing), your comment will be replaced with an appropriate meme of my choosing.
If you complain about rule #3 (my house, my rules), your comment will be replaced with a meme on the first offense, with summary deletion thereafter. You don’t get to come into my house, trash my shit, and whine when I tell you to get the fuck out.
NEW RULE #4
WRT #2, any comment that resembles one of the above questions will be removed and the commenter will be instructed to see the FAQ for reasons why their comment is a waste of everyone’s time. Further, comments on the FAQ itself will not be allowed. This is not a democracy, it is a dictatorship.