I told you there was a lot of good stuff recently!
First, a post at Pax Valkyrie called (Trigger warning for sexual harassment) “No Flat Girls: How Allies Are Born,” which is the personal story of one woman in the game industry whose allies failed her when it came to dealing with sexual harassment at a group for game students.
I consoled myself that we would rant about it later, maybe over a beer or two. With every additional comment about big tits and their jiggle physics, though, I found it harder and harder to reassure myself. Instead of feeling like I was sharing a bad experience with the two guys in front of me, I began to feel truly attacked.
“Yeah, so he tells me her boobs have to be bigger! There are STANDARDS in videogames!” There were cries of assent, hoots and yelps not totally unlike hyenas.
I found it hard to swallow. I had never felt so casually humiliated in what was meant to be a welcoming, safe space. How could someone sit there and spew this kind of stuff? How could he joke and laugh about how horribly women are represented in games? Apathy would be bad enough, but this kid was lauding the fact that women’s bodies are engorged and contorted and exposed, that degradation is made synonymous with “sexy.” He was being cheered like a champion.
Silence might have been protecting my friends, but suddenly it was choking me.
The author goes on to describe confronting her friends about remaining silent and allowing this sort of behavior to go on in a space they created, reflecting on how her sacrifice was perhaps necessary to show just how sexism affects women and why it should be challenged.
Next, friend of the blog Latoya Peterson has a great piece at Racialicious titled “The Tits Have It: Sexism, Character Design, and the Role of Women in Created Worlds.” Peterson attended a panel at NYCC 2011 headed by Isamu Kamikokuryo, art director for FFXIII-2, and Jonathan Jacques-Bellêtete, art director for Deus Ex: Human Revolution, talking about art direction “for a worldwide audience.” It seemed super interesting until Jacques-Bellêtete admitted that the most important thing about female characters, to him, is whether he would fuck them or not:
In describing his influences, Jacques-Bellêtete mentioned he was heavily influenced by Metal Gear and Final Fantasy. Then he went into a two minute riff about “always trying to have very beautiful female characters,” noting that these were characters he would want to sleep with. After making a semi-disparaging remark about female characters drawn in a North American style, he concludes “I’d rather have female characters from Final Fantasy or Soul Caliber to sleep with.” This draws chuckles from the crowd.
And there it was, the truth about character design that so many players know but most designers wouldn’t usually articulate: most of the egregiously sexist character designs are based on fuckability, rather than playability.
His comments are infuriating, even more so when you take into account the fact that he felt this was an acceptable thing to say in front of a room full of people. To top it all off, moderator N’Gai Croal had each artist interpret one of the other’s characters; Jacques-Bellêtete decided to depict Lightning from chin to chest, wearing a lacy top with a plunging neckline. Slow clap for Jonathan. Really well done.
Definitely read the whole thing, which has typically fantastic analysis from Peterson as well as Jacques-Bellêtete’s response to her question during the Q&A. (There’s also video of the panel available here; Peterson asks her question starting at about 3:30 in the third video.)
Thirdly, commenter Medicine Melancholy linked this in my link post last week: Film Crit Hulk posted a follow-up to his original Batman: Arkham City that is more thorough and responds to many of the common defenses of the sexism in the game (seventeen of them!). My favorite is Argument #1, debunking the idea that throwing around the word “bitch” constantly is just how the enemies in the game would act:
NOW, AS TO CRUX THIS ARGUMENT, YES, WITHIN THE SINGULAR LOGIC OF CHARACTER IT WOULD MAKE TOTAL SENSE FOR A FELON TO CALL SOMEONE A BITCH. OF COURSE IT WOULD! IN NO WAY IS HULK EVER SAYING THAT IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. BUT JUST BECAUSE IT MAKES SENSE DOESN’T MEAN IT IS THEREFORE A GOOD CHOICE. WHAT HULK IS SPEAKING TO IS THE FACT THAT TOSSING ARE AROUND THE WORD BITCH IS ALL THEY SEEM TO BE ABLE TO DO. CONSTANTLY. AND WITH CAVALIER QUALITY THAT IS UNBECOMING. IT DOESN’T COME OFF AS SCARY. OR INDICATIVE OF PERSONALITY. IN SOME CASES IT’S CLEARLY MEANT TO BE FUNNY. HULK HAPPY TO LOOK OVER A CASE HERE OR THERE, BUT WHEN IT IS AS RAMPANT AS IT IS IN THE FIRST FEW HOURS OF THIS GAME, THEN YES, IT COMES OFF WEIRD AND SEXIST. NO DOUBT ABOUT IT.
Hulk goes through sixteen more arguments, including some of our favorite derails that we’ve all seen before on any number of topics, as well as things like “GIRLS FIGHTING BAD THINGS = FEMINISM!” and “IT’S NOT SEXIST, IT’S LAZY!”. The post ends with a rousing speech about discussion and understanding that made me applaud my computer screen. Count me as a new fan. Read it.
BONUS: Have you been reading Denis’s PokeDrag series over at Gamers With Jobs? If not, Denis has posted the first five entries in one convenient spot for you. Denis is role-playing through Pokemon FireRed as a drag queen, with a drag army of monsters. It’s really cute and funny; check it out!