Male privilege vs. women in gaming

Harris O'Malley takes a run at male privilege in gaming, especially how it manifests as angry refusals to accept womens' complaints about the sexual objectification of female characters in mainstream games. "If a girl wants to see herself represented in video games, she better get used to the idea of being the prize at the bottom of the cereal box. ... It's hard to feel valued or fully included when a very vocal group insists that your input is irrelevant, misguided and ultimately unwelcome." [Kotaku]


  1. It’s funny how men have no identity crises or sexism induced rages after playing metroid… there must be something more going on here….

      1. Tomb Raider? Isn’t that the series that features a hot young woman of improbable proportions doing gymnastic feats in a low-cut top, bare midriff and cutoffs?

        1. Tomb Raider is a blatant and unforgiving reminder of ‘female-privilage’ in video-gaming.  

          Where is the Tomb Raider’s strong, muscular, masculine counterpart?  The closest thing to a counterpart is a snivelling, weak, emasculated butler…

          Critics of masculinity in video games believe that women need not be damsels in distress, that in fact they don’t need a man to load their guns for them… obviously these sexist anti-masculinists are just serving to reinforce the ‘female-privilage’… and their critique is just one way in which female-privilage reproduces itself in society. 

          What bothers me most is the lack of phallic symbolism in Tomb Raider, the protagonist explores caves alone… an obvious analogy, the tomb or cave itself represents the mystery of the vagina– Laura Croft, exploring the cave, is metaphorically exploring her nascent sexuality, experimenting with symbolic masturbation… forming the fallacious belief that she can gain pleasure without the need for a man… an obvious repercussion of the female-privilage.

          We need more phallic games, more muscle-bound men like batman, climbing up large, erect sky scrapers… showing that men in video games need not be relegated to the butler-role, as in Tomb Raider… but can straddle large phallic symbols of power without the help of a female…

          And remember, willful ignorance is the key to keeping female-privilage in place.

          1. Due to my past exposure to the comments on Gawker sites as well as Yahoo! Answers and YouTube comments I can’t tell if you’re trolling or just rationalizing your privilege.

    1. Funny you should mention Metroid of all franchises.  If you finish the game fast enough you get to see Samus in a bikini.

      1. Considering that never happens, that’s some interesting projecting you’re doing there. Hyperbole doesn’t help either side of the argument.

        The original Metroid featured Samus in, what effectively is, a fairly conservative one piece swimsuit (i.e. not low cut, not in a provocative pose). Good or bad, at least be honest. Later additions were a lot worse. 

        Edit: Actually, I was thinking of the Justin Bailey password, the completion time is a two piece.

  2. Yes, such as male privilege itself. That’s the point.

    On the other hand, where’s the resistance? As in the real, political strategy of resistance against male privilege? Talking about things and pointing fingers have a strange tendency to not lead anywhere.

    1. Male privilege exists in damn near every area of social, financial, and political interaction and while its presence in gaming is basically just as egregious as it is in, say, business its effects and the number of women affected are not quite as deleterious.

      The number of women gaming is only now coming in to parity with what has been, traditionally, a male-dominated subculture; on top of that quantifying the cause/effect relationship of the depiction of females in video games is difficult. Is it akin to the body-image issues most people are aware of in mainstream media (print advertising, film, etc) or is it more in line with cultural exclusion such as observed in athletics or social clubs?

      Many cultural and social critics are seeing it as a systematic bias against women which begins in the boardroom and is reflected on down the line to the final product through hiring choices (game design is a male dominated field) and then reflected by the gaming culture via exclusion of female gamers who are viewed as an intrusion  by the male players whose primary interaction with women has been shaped by how Duke Nukem relates to them or how Laura Croft was under their control.

      I could go on and on, but you either get that this is an issue (albeit maybe not as important as some others while being just as real) or you don’t. If you don’t I suggest trying to grow a little empathy and maybe taking some courses that would help expand your awareness of how social phenomenon have a causal and cascade effect.

  3. There have been a number of internet controversies over this “nerds versus women” battle (as the link has it). But keep fighting the good fight. All those bitter losers will come around eventually, I’m sure.

    When I went looking for the webcomic that spawned the last big dust-up, I noticed that Google apparently uses “chicks” as a replacement synonym for “women” in its search results. (Search was “webcomic nerds versus women”)

    1. It’s more likely  Google noticed that people type “chicks” and do not mean poultry.  They recognise it as a synonym, they don’t use it.

    2. Google uses machine learning algorithms to power its search.

      What this result tells you is that a lot of people use the word “chicks” when they mean “women” and Google’s algorithms have learned that association.  Which should come as no surprise to anyone.

  4. It’s an excellent article, only slightly undermined by being posted on Kotaku where every other article seems to be about scantily clad cosplayers. But I suppose if you’re going to change minds, you’d best start with the biggest challenge.

  5. There are a number of geek women I’ve known who will use their sexuality to get more attention or to other ends, even in cases where they’re treated more-or-less equally in their social circle. It’s actually made me uncomfortable by being the target of it on a few occasions.

    Overall, the issues the author discusses aren’t non-existent, but they’re nowhere near as clear-cut as he would have us believe. My experiences suggest that there is a similar amount of sexism in geek culture as there is in the rest of the world, though in certain circumstances it may be more obvious in geek culture (manifesting as blatant sexual desire, rather than quiet shunning).

    It’s just not an issue that can be summed up in such a short space. I also can’t find much about the author’s background, to say where he’s coming from — though the irony of clicking his name only to find “Paging Dr. Nerdlove: Helping nerds get the girl.” is palatable.

    1. I often wonder if guys are just being friendly or if they are coming on to me. I can’t help getting attention, and I would like some way to avoid sexual[ized] attention from men, preferably without driving off ordinary friendliness.

      1. Well, I am myself a gamer, and I am more than welcoming to female gamers joining our group. I try to be friendly and not be an a-hole in general. Some girls still see that as some form of discrimination, and some even thought that I was being sexist or trying to court them.
        I am not saying you, specifically, do that, but some really have that kind of barrier that makes regular friendship close to impossible.

        I am perfectly aware that some men are too sexually active for their own good, but those are obvious like a signal flare in the dark.

        Males, females…it’s all the same old human race, anyway.

        1. Thanks, and I do think it’s good to be welcoming, but sometimes it’s hard to for me to tell when someone is being welcoming and when someone is fawning or even coming on to me. I can’t read people’s intentions. One gamemaster invited me to a movie – no doubt innocent, but I’d have been more comfortable if he had invited the whole group. One player invited me to join a nudist club – but he was probably just as absurdly socially awkward as I am.

          1. Ow. The movie thing seems innocent enough (I can think of several legit reasons to go alone with someone as opposed to a group), but the nudist club…it’s a strange mixture of sad and hilarious.

          2. I think within nerd circles you have to assume that anything like asking you to a movie (alone) is more than just being friendly, unless you already have an established and comfortable friendship with that person. It’s not always the case – perhaps they just want to develop that established and comfortable friendship – but usually it is.

            Of course, I know from experience that it can be difficult for nerdy girls to develop that type of friendship with nerdy guys.

            Because they’re still relatively rare, geeky/nerdy girls are incredibly attractive to geeky/nerdy guys (exponentially so if the girl is even mildly attractive) and geeky/nerdy guys do not get much interaction with females elsewhere so it’s inevitable that the guys will be romantically attracted to the girls, which makes non-romantic friendship difficult.

            I realize I’m painting some broad stereotypes, but in my experience as a nerdy guy it’s exactly the truth.

      2. This is an apt demonstration of the issue at hand.  Simple platonic friendship is missed in the noise of sexual innuendo and expectation.
        I’d like to think that it could be as simple as treat it as platonic unless otherwise noted, but, that could land you in a world of pain, and mismatched expectations, and the really sad thing is, is that you are the one more likely to be hurt.
        The only answer I can give at this point, and I know it’s not a good one, is to find a social group that is primarily based on friendships, and is not filled with incestuous relationships.

    2. “There are a number of geek women I’ve known who will use their sexuality to get more attention or to other ends”

      The “I’M A GAMER GIRL LOOK AT ME” does not speak for all women, don’t be so myopic. That is, assuming you’re being sincere, which is likely a mistake.

    3. So when a male gamer threatens to rape you that’s not using his sex(uality) to command attention or to other ends?  That can also actually make you uncomfortable.   

      On the other hand, I’d agree with this statement: 

      My experiences suggest that there is a similar amount of sexism in geek culture as there is in the rest of the world, though in certain circumstances it may be more obvious in geek culture  

      Yep.  It’s a bitch. 

  6. You know, I’ve seen these arguments made a few times.  And they always, always fail to A) show any of the numerous counter-examples that exist (for example, powerful woman characters with plenty of clothing, like Final Fantasy’s Rosa or Lightning, X-Men’s Storm, or Matrix’ Trinity) or the examples of men wearing not-so-much (He-Man, anybody?  Or just any male hero, after getting blasted by the villain, who now has his clothes barely attached in a few places, while the woman comes through with costume intact?) B) mention that it’s exactly as likely for a man to live up to the style of male heroes as it is for a woman to live up to the style of female heroes (that is, about zero unless they dedicate their lives to it) C) mention that men, particularly white men, are a huge market force, and that their MONEY drives the media.

    I mean, look, it sucks being a woman in many ways.  Or a black.  Or a hispanic.  Or…  a white guy.  Everybody gets their pros and cons.  Does it balance out?  Probably not.  Do white guys get extra privileges?  In America, probably.  Not so much elsewhere.  What to do about it though?  Should white guys give up the heroes the enjoy looking at, and the villains, and the games they like playing, so that others won’t be offended?  Or should others maybe, just maybe, buy things they DO enjoy reading, and playing, and watching, and assume that more will get made to satisfy their willingness to spend?

    The entire thesis of the ‘male-privilege’ argument seems to be that white men should be grovelling around apologizing for how the world loves them more.  Oh, and that any argument to the counter, or to suggest that maybe the problem is overstated, or under-proven, is a straw-man, and doesn’t count.  After all, the author says it’s on a bingo card!  We can ignore anything like that, since it just doesn’t count, right?

    Sure, women, on average, view themselves AS the character, while men, on average, watch the character from the outside.  And sure, women should be able to enjoy media.  But does that mean men shouldn’t?  We seem to have a direct conflict here, and the solution posed by the author, and others in that crowd, seems to consistently be an ‘either-or’ type solution.  Why is that?  Why can’t the answer be to expand what’s available, rather than changing what’s already available into something else?  Especially when you’re going to suggest that half the argument doesn’t count, is it really justified to then suggest those whos opinions don’t count are no longer allowed to enjoy media, so that somebody else can?  Can’t you leave them a few scraps off the table?

      1. the vendor willing to publish media of interest to those demographics, and the demographics which wish to continue consuming media which exists now.  That’s who wins.

    1. White men need to be left a few “scraps” from the table after all the Brown people and Womenfolk gorge themselves on the feast?  Surely your analogy is backwards… right?  

      1. Every day, white men are told how lucky they are, and how they should get on their knees apologizing.  At the same time, women and minorities get special scholarships.  They get special clubs and professional societies, even while old-style lodges die out.  They get laws meant not only to equalize their roles but, upon occasion, to grant them superior rights to those enjoyed by the white male (though such laws are rather less common than many make them out to be).  And, in this case, the argument seems to be that the white male should have to give up his entertainment, the way he likes it, such that other groups won’t be insulted.  It’s very easy to enter a mindset where stuff like that is no longer an issue of equalizing, but becomes an issue of giving everyone who’s not white and male special benefits.  The truth is clearly something different, but it’s also not as benign as folks on the receiving end like to claim.

        The author seems to be arguing for a zero-sum game: that media ‘for white males’ cannot be allowed to exist, since it is unpleasing to others.  Is it so hard to imagine the white male wishing to fight back, and keep what he struggled so long to obtain (even if it is something as silly as unbelievable women wearing skin-tight costumes)?

        1. Every day, white men are told how lucky they are, and how they should get on their knees apologizing.  At the same time, women and minorities get […]

          No argument that begins this way has ever ended well. Please, as one white guy to another, just shut the f*ck up.

          1. …you’re willing to assume my gender and ethnicity…

            That’s because in my experience no one other than a white male has ever, ever tried to imply that we have it as bad or worse than everybody else. But point taken, maybe you’re the first. You gonna tell me my assumption was wrong?

          2. I think your judgment is too quick and are therefore missing his point. Though I agree in general male privilege is a given.  Should we stop being a “man” and apologize for being one?  For all the other assholes that give men a bad name?  Take a serious look at the images in Video games.  Both the men and woman are portrayed hyperbolically and according to ridiculous gender stereotypes.  Now, can anyone really live up to the standards proffered in these games?  Men are seen as barbarous brutes out for destruction and woman are seen a mysterious femme fatale’s.  Though you could argue this is a result of men taking up the majority of the gaming base,  these stereotypes stem much deeper into the society as a whole.  Until the gender debate stops focusing on the “either or”, progress in recognizing people as individuals with an unique perspective is lost.  Should men objectify woman? Of course not, unless they want some dim witted Barby that sucks them dry (multiple puns intended).  Should woman objectify men? Equally not, unless they want some brute who treats them as second class citizens to be rescued or mounted.  Game’s as a whole do an injustice to the range of the masculine and feminine, but remember they are just games, and their bread and butter is built into theses archetypes.  

            As the female gamer posted above, she can not have a conversation with a man without questioning his intentions.  To me, this just shows how fucked up male/female relationships have become.  Sex becomes the focus, skewing a more nuanced picture. 

            In the end games are just games, and people will view them in ways that make sense to them.  Both harmless and oppressive.  What matters most is how you treat people in the real world.  Remember a game is a fantasy and should be treated as such, as source of enjoyment not to be confused with real live morality.  My 2 cents. 

            A video for perspective:


          3. @boingboing-2c71a2a6fb7a825d6154dfc7988bf725:disqus :

            I think your judgment is too quick and are therefore missing his point. Though I agree in general male privilege is a given.  Should we stop being a “man” and apologize for being one?

            My judgment against kattw was based on a lifetime of discussions like this one and was subsequently confirmed by later posts (since deleted for offensive content). It was anything but “quick.”

            No one has suggested we should apologize for being men. A call for reflection on how women are usually portrayed in video games and how that can might them uncomfortable is not the same thing as asking an “apology” for owning a Y-chromosome.

            The author seems to be arguing for a zero-sum game: that media ‘for
            white males’ cannot be allowed to exist, since it is unpleasing to others.

            No one is arguing that either. What is being called for is a more balanced and inclusive range of female characters. That doesn’t mean that there can’t be a place for shallow/oversexed female characters too, just that they are overwhelmingly over-represented in the genre.

            Think of it this way: it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have a movie or sitcom which happens to include a black actor who does the “lazy but lovable dimwit” role. It was a HUGE problem that black actors were limited to such roles for generations. Being offended by a minstrel show is not the same as asking people to apologize for being white.

          4. I jumped into the debate last night without reading through all the comments, so I was the one being too quick.  Though I still stand by the general tone of my comment. 

        2. “Every day, white men are told how lucky they are, and how they should get on their knees apologizing”

          And every day, they don’t, because of warm, coddling privilege.

    2. …numerous counter-examples that exist (for example, powerful woman characters with plenty of clothing, like Final Fantasy’s Rosa or Lightning, X-Men’s Storm, or Matrix’ Trinity)

      Let me get this straight: a woman who wears a black skin-tight catsuit and heels into battle is your example of a non-sexualized female character?

        1. OK, now you’re just making it worse by opining on which kinds of female bodies are and are not supposed to be sexy.

          Fact is, Trinity had a highly toned ass and spent half her screen time parading it around in fetish wear. That’s not what “strong, non-sexualized female characters” do. If that’s what the Wachowski brothers were going for for they could have created a character more along the lines of Pvt. Vasquez from “Aliens” (attached). Or even just put Trinity in a less ass-huggy outfit like all her male counterparts.

          1. Still feels like a reach, I can’t help but imagine that if they were looking to sexy up Trinity they would have tossed a fist full of cutlet down her shirt and removed any fabric covering the region from her ribcage to underwear. Fetish wear seems to be the norm in the matrix, regardless of gender.

          2. Still feels like a reach […] Fetish wear seems to be the norm in the matrix, regardless of gender.

            Speaking of stretches, Trinity spent an awful lot of time showing off how limber she was. How many slow-motion kicks in tight latex pants did you count Morpheus doing? How often was Neo filmed from this angle?

          1. “Call me crazy, but if they were hoping that Trinity’s outfit would make her eyecandy, they missed the mark.”

            ha ha because she’s ugly, amirite? Mens’ Rights Activists missing the point, as always.

          2. It may not appeal to you, Mr Curran, but a whole lotta people enjoyed Trinity’s look as purest eye-candy.  There was certainly some element of glossy rubber-fetish involved, but the appeal of that is not so narrow as you assume.

      1. I notice that you ignore Rosa – the white mage, in the nice thick, concealing robes.  Similarly, Trinity wore a style similar to those of the other characters.  Tighter, yes, but also with a fairly loose overcoat.  Yes, she dressed in a way people found attractive.  So does almost everyone in Hollywood.  My point was that she was a powerful woman with lots of clothing (since in the linked article, each female shown was showing a ton of skin.  Trinity does not for most of those movies.)  Is the skin-tightness the issue?  Should Batman also wear a baggy costume, or Superman?  After all, theirs are skin-tight too, carefully defining those impossible muscles.  Or are they, by some unknown force, NOT being sexualized when they wear skin-tight tunics, but Trinity (or Storm, or Lara Croft, or a host of others) is?

        Consider it another way: many women ACTUALLY wear skin tight clothing all the time, regardless of their personal size and shape.  Many men ACTUALLY wear rather less tight clothing all the time, regardless of their size and shape.  Is it so absurd for a character in a movie to wear styles that are popular at the time?

        Or can a female character only count as strong if she isn’t attractive, by whatever definition society has in place at the time?  Or if she wears baggy clothing?

        1. Or can a female character only count as strong if she isn’t attractive, by whatever definition society has in place at the time?

          No, I never implied that. There is certainly room in fiction for the “sexy femme fatale” character so long as it isn’t to the exclusion of all other types of females. I just thought it was downright silly to include Trinity as an example of a character who WASN’T presented in a sexual way.

        2. Umm…. Are we talking about the same Rosa here?  Rosa from Final Fantasy 4?  It’s clear even from her SNES sprite that she’s wearing a bikini and little else. 

          SNES Sprites (Rosa is brown haired woman on second row:

          Concept art:

          Nintendo DS version (there is nothing “thick” or “concealing” about these robes, they’re totally see through and her boobs are hanging out the front.):

    3. Thanks for bringing up the clothing/sexualized forms of the male figures. I definitely agree that it’s a flimsy argument. And you’re right, we’re talking about fantasy here. Everything in there is idealized and exaggerated, from the plot and writing down!

      As the article pointed out, a privileged majority makes up the majority of nerd culture consumers. But they also continually reinforce that majority, and that’s where the problems lay. The ways in which we do that are hard to spot and that’s the issue. You nailed it when you suggested that changing the content (ie: covering up superheroines but ignoring the hot men and boy wonders) is a lazy solution. What we need to do is find ways to make the culture more accessible. The privileged majority needs to shift from being clueless oglers and Lord Regents of the nerd-dom canon, to being good hosts and curators of the wonderful things to date.

      It’s about how we behave, and how we self-regulate. Best of all, it’s actually pretty easy and painless. Don’t discriminate against new ideas and treat everyone like you’d want to be treated by their mother.

    4. The linked article is mostly about the type of response you wrote here, and how it dismisses complaints out of hand, rather than about the first-order problem of objectification.

      The post even led with a good illustration of why counterpoints such as “topless He-Man” don’t add up to objectification in quite the same way as sexy cartoon sluts.

      The fact that you led with just the equivocation the author’s talking about rather suggests that you didn’t even read the linked post! Which would be the point, in a nutshell, about how these complaints get treated.

      For example, you suggest that all this could deny men enjoyment of the media. But O’Malley isn’t asking for there to be nothing sexy or racy in game, or for those portrayals to disappear completely. The request is for something IN ADDITION: more strong, female characters who exist beyond those requirements.

      1. The other part that the article briefly touched on was the assumption that only women could possibly care about this (and only if they are fat or lesbians or some other attribute made needlessly derogatory) when it was written by a straight white man. Everything else you said was spot on though.

      2. It’s kind of hard to be surprised that a writer gets some hate when they basically lead off by saying that anyone that disagrees with them just proves their point. That’s the same line used by 9/11 conspiracy theorists, birthers, tax deniers and kooks of all stripes.

      3. To be fair, my argument was mostly that the author’s argument was rather lacking, and made the same host of mistakes that similar articles constantly make, not that it didn’t matter – I may not have made this point well.  However, the author very clearly made the point that arguments opposite his do not matter: consider the first major graf after the Asylum screenshots.  It essentially reads “yeah, people think this isn’t that big a deal, and as far as I’m concerned, their opinions just prove my point, no matter what they are”.  Again, he even goes on to suggest that a bingo card exists, and since arguments come up so often, they must obviously be ignorable.  That being said, I rather disagree with the power of his examples re: topless He-Man not mattering (or Panthro, or Thundarr, or Hulk Hogan, or the host of other men who wear nothing but a pair of briefs in the media).  His argument rather seems to me to be ‘objectification of women is wrong because I say so!  Objectification of men doesn’t matter so much because the women I’m talking about don’t mind it!”  Perhaps I missed something, it’s certainly possible.

        Even in talking about those screenshots, he shows a rather significant inability to be fair.  He looks at the three male characters, and decries them not only objects lacking in sexuality (again, Batman’s muscles aren’t a turnon?) but also clearly identified, deadly serious!  Just looking at the guy in the dark evil looking costume lets you know he’s a major hero!  The guy dressed as a clown is CLEARLY a psychopathic villain.  However, the women are all the same – just there for sex, with maybe a bit of villainy on their off hours.  He seems willing to let his knowledge of the characters help explain who the men are, but not who the women are.  And yes, all of the women in that game ARE rather more objectified than the men on average, but one could choose a different example (say, X-Men, the FOX 90’s cartoon) and come to a rather different conclusion.  He seems to have gone out of his way to ignore counter-examples, and then claim that they don’t matter, because only his examples count.

        Finally, I could be utterly wrong, certainly.  But when I read – “In this case, the threat is that – ultimately – fandom won’t cater to guys almost to exclusion… that gays, lesbians, racial and religious minorities and (gasp!) women might start having a say in the way that games, comics, etc. will be created in the future.”, it sure looks like he’s suggesting these other groups will get a say in how existing properties develop, as well as new properties.  And this isn’t bad!  But, for those quite happy with the existing properties, is it really so odd that they want to keep them the way they are?

        I don’t like what happened with Catwoman in the DC reboot, or Starfire, for example.  But presumably somebody else does.  If DC makes money off those somebody elses of the world, I hardly expect them to back down on their properties because I’d prefer it otherwise, unless I and a host of others can pay more.  Far easier to just make new titles, and hope that those that don’t like Catwoman today will like the new stuff.  And that happens all the time.  Folks just need to pick up the new stuff and read/watch/play it.

        1. I don’t think batman’s muscles are meant to be a turn-on though. I think it’s meant as a display of masculine power. YKANMK, but we can talk about how things are presented, and I don’t think batman is being presented as a sexual object, where as the women were. Occasionally you do see attractive women in various media who aren’t being presented as sexual objects. Attractive does not necessarily equal sexualized. Is it so much to ask that there be more women who are not depicted as sexual fetishes? That’s not saying that they shouldn’t be attractive, or should be dressed ultra modestly or anything like that. Just depicted in a way where the primary aim is something more than sexiness.

          1. No, it’s not asking too much.  But by the same token, are we complaining about sexualization, and according to whom, or are we complaining about stereotypes that one can’t hope to live up to?  How many little boys will ever look like Superman, or the Green Lantern?  Or even like Morpheus?  And, given how Bruce Wayne and Batman both have to drive women away with a stick, I’d argue they’re SUPPOSED to be sexy, even if not to the target audience.  Though I suppose you could argue that only happens because of the target audience, and the character is 100% crafted for sales, in which case we’re back to – then what’s wrong with selling it, if it sells?

            And how many women want to be sexy, and would prefer to idolize a female character made to look sexy rather than one not too?

            And, regardless of the answers to those questions, should we be altering Batman to suit the answers, or should we be directing people to Lucifer, or Last Man on Earth, or iZombie, or a host of other comics, or to games like Parasite Eve, or Metroid, or TV shows like, heck, I dunno, I hardly watch TV, but I bet they’re out there.  And if folks start consuming THAT sort of media, then mayhaps more will get made, yet those who enjoy the media of today will get to keep enjoying it.

            The ‘male privilege’ is really not the problem, IMO.  That’s just a sign that a demographic is getting the content that it wants.  This should not change.  The treatment of women (and minorities, and members of the privileged sect) by jerks?  That should change.  And other demographics should get what they want, too!  But these arguments almost always come across as very, very slanted, lacking in broad-spectrum analysis, and attempting to cast the entire fanbase as losers because of the actions of a few, and the way a select number of properties portray an interest group of choice.  And frankly, that’s not a great way to gain support, ESPECIALLY when you include lines along the gist of ‘I anticipate people will disagree with this, and that just proves my point!  They don’t matter, because they are just data points from my perspective, which is right because I say it is’.

        2. Men in games, comics etc. are idealized but not *sexualized*. Despite the jokes about He-Man being a gay bondage icon, his barrel chest and massive muscles aren’t for the female gaze, they’re about *power*. Kratos running around half-naked and built like a body builder, similarly isn’t to turn people on, it’s to emphasize the fact that he’s an unstoppable juggernaut who destroys anything that gets in his way. 

          The hypermuscular men in pop culture represent what the player/reader wishes he could *be* like.  

          Ivy, on the other hand, with the bits of string that make her costume and her FF breasts doesn’t represent power to women. She represents titillation to guys. 

          Kasumi and Ayane have the skin-tight kimonos that also reveal massive cleavage and the zettai ryoki (a Japanese term for the fetishized uncovered skin between the bottom of a woman’s skirt and the top of her stockings or socks) while Ryu Hyabusa is covered head to toe in armor.

          The idea that men are as equally objectified doesn’t matter; it’s false equivalence and the portrayal of the men has a completely different intent. 

          1. A Shortpacked comic has a pretty good illustration of this difference.

            Are gamers and nerds communities? Sometimes we act like we are, yet when problems are pointed out, people point to “market forces” as if demand is coming from somewhere else. Nobody said gamers are all jerks, but the problem is still among our members.

          2. Just as an anecdote, I have a gay male friend who is attracted to some of the Dead or Alive characters… :)

        3. No, we’re talking about sexualization. I just said it was about presenting people as sexual objects, not about them being portrayed as attractive, or even as impossible specimens of the physical ideal.

          It’s the sexual object thing.

          I don’t think anyone was casting the fanbase as losers. Just people who are being catered to, who can’t tell that they’re being catered to. Or, you know, the same as every privileged group ever.

          Your argument about demographics comes perilously close to “if these other groups don’t like it, they should find their OWN niche sandboxes.” Niche sandboxes are great! But why is it that the niche interests of those who are white/male/cisgendered etc are promoted as mainstream? Shouldn’t the mainstream, the communal playground, be, you know, open to a wider base?

      4. The argument that female characters are overly sexualized in videogames to an extent that male characters are not is an easy argument to make. There is no need to oversell it, though. The argument still holds if male characters sometimes get sexualized also.

        In his article, Harris uses the fact that the male characters in Arkham City are fully clothed to show that they are not sexualized. Kattw makes plenty of ridiculous and obviously wrong statements. Using a topless He-Man as a counter example is fair enough though.

        Coincidently I was watching a trailer for Amy just before reading this post. I was immediately struck by how unusual it is to have an unsexualized female main character.

    5. “Do white guys get extra privileges?  In America, probably.  Not so much elsewhere.”
      You must be fucking kidding me. Off-hand, can you think of a single modern society were women as a whole have more power than men ?

      “The entire thesis of the ‘male-privilege’ argument seems to be that white men should be grovelling around apologizing for how the world loves them more. ”

      No. It. Isn’t. “Male privilege” means that males, in this particular society, have more power than women, and that this is not fair and should change. And although it IS sometimes overstated, if you really think it’s under-proven, you need new glasses, STAT. (look up the rate of sexual agression for men vs women, for starters. Or the average pay. Or the rate of domestic violence).

      And, to finish : the author isn’t calling for cesorship. She is calling for self-examination. Quoting the end of the article : 
      “being willing to examine your own attitudes and behaviors and to be ruthlessly honest about the benefits you get from being a white male in fandom”

      That’s what she’s asking for. Is it really so much ?

      1. The reality behind “white male privilege” may be more nuanced than you think, especially within cultures where “white” is considered too broad to be a race.

        Linked is a field study carried out in Ireland which analysed employers’ responses to job applicants who differed only by name. Typically Irish, German, Asian and African names were used. There was a high level of discrimination in favour of hiring Irish applicants but “white” Germans had no advantage over “black” African applicants.

        The study does not address gender but from my own experience white, non-Irish male workers were paid noticeably less for the same work as Irish female workers. So even though it is not true that Irish female workers had an advantage over Irish male workers I believe that an Irish female worker would be “privileged” when compared to a white non-Irish male worker.

        1. Yeah, obviously it’s a lot more complicated than gender issues, and you have to factor in race, age, handicap, money and all these lovely things.

          That being said, the situation being complex doesn’t mean that nothing can or should be done about it. 

          1. Well I was trying to address the race aspect specifically as the phrase, “white male” was being used frequently and I don’t think it is sufficiently robust a description. That is why I tried to give an example of a culture where a white female could be considered privileged when compared to some white males.

            The complexity certainly doesnt mean that the issue should be ignored of course. It is obviously unfair, to take the example I used, for non-Irish nationalities living in Ireland to find it more difficult than the native Irish to find employment and to have to accept lower wages than their Irish colleagues when they do find a job.

            Anecdotally, the last time I was job hunting (in continental Europe) I was told by the white female recruiter that I was an unattractive candidate because she (mistakenly) believed I was an Anglo-Saxon. This felt unfair on a couple of levels.

    6. “Do white guys get extra privileges?  In America, probably.  Not so much elsewhere.”    
      “Not so much elsewhere.” Ha ha ha ha ha!  They sure as shit don’t in Australia.  South Africa has always sucked eggs for white guys.  Don’t even get me started on how hard it is for white guys who go to the Dominican Republic! White guys feel a hell of a lot of pressure in England and their life is hell in Germany and don’t even get me started on how bad white guys got treated in India.   Tijuana has always been a place where a white guy couldn’t find a damn friend for all the tea in China.  

  7. The article makes a good point, but I don’t like the execution. It seems to me to say, “Hey nerds, you’re doing this wrong!” which makes me as a nerd feel persecuted. The immediate reaction is to defend the tribe. What it needs to say is, “Hey, you guys are really smart so I’m starting with you on this. We aren’t up to date with how we treat women, and we’re going to start fixing it by modifying our behavior in the following ways…”

    From there they could take a troubling topic and made it really interesting. They could crowd-source replacement words for common gaming expletives with the aim of eliminating the language of sexual violence in multiplayer gaming. Going around saying I nuked that guy, or we nuked that base is less edgy but a lot friendlier to our peers and I bet the wide net that kotaku throws (or bb!) could come up with much better terms than “nuked” for a devastating win.

    Instigating action in like minds will change things. Doing something will always beat those guys who sit around whinging and talking and doing mostly nothing.

    1. You’re making a good point here by mentioning the importance of what sort of language is used. If people could interact with a bit more diplomatic aplomb, they might be surprised at the advances they could all make together.

      Opening a discussion by upbraiding your audience doesn’t encourage a positive resolution. If you want to make a change, you have to do it through a feeling of mutual compromise, not of subjugation.

    2. ” It seems to me to say, “Hey nerds, you’re doing this wrong!” which makes me as a nerd feel persecuted”

      Nerds are insecure, especially when privilege is mentioned. This discomfort is a good thing, if you move through it.

  8. I’m not fond of him using Batman as an example of male privilege.  The Batman character and universe was started in the 40’s, that’s 70 years ago.  That time period that BB points to on a semi-regular basis and shows how sexist and weird things where.  A time period where women WERE expected to be in the kitchen, and take care of the house, ect..  I’m not saying that it was right or wrong, but that is how it was.

    So in many ways it makes sense that a lot of the classic comic book characters were based on overly masculine males and sexy pinup females.  Considering the core demographic for sales in that time period was teenage males (and white being the majority) all those character decisions make sense.  That and you had men designing and drawing much of it…

    As for today?  I agree with a lot of other commenters, why does it have to be either/or?  Trying to get rid of the sexy female characters is going to be as productive as trying to get rid of porn on the internet.  It would be much easier to expand the selection to include things that women want to see, or at least portray women is a less sexualized roles.

    1. ….which is exactly what most non-crazy feminists are asking for. No one is calling for censorship. I personnaly find the way women are portrayed in some comics and game distasteful, which weighs on my purchase decisions (for instance, it pushed Batman: Arkham City from being a day-one purchase to my “buy-when-on-a-Steam-sale” list), but I absolutely don’t want these products to stop existing.
      What I want is for guys, in and out of the fandom, to acknowledge the existence of privilege. That’s all. After that, we can have a conversation about it, and maybe nurture a more accepting spirit in fandom. And frankly, it needs it bad.

      1. Thank you. Yes. Why can’t we just see an article that states this, without all of the extra hyperbole? It just feels so much like, “psst, Lowe’s is bad. Boycott all home improvement stores for being racist. Pass it on.” it’s interesting to me that this is exactly the type of thing that we get all up in arms about when it’s done by Fox News. A couple of protesters are asked hats and throw shit at the cops, and suddenly, “terrorists have taken over Zucotti Park”.

        1. But that’s what the article actually states. I didn’t see one call for a boycott. Just that hey, maybe we should think about this more.

      2. I appreciate your point, but the ‘non-crazy’ kind of did your point a disservice.

        It’s just kind of a sore point. Crazy (along with hysterical, overemotional, etc) is a word often used to dismiss and invalidate women’s opinions, especially their opinions on things affecting them. “Crazy feminist” is kind of a stereotype, one that fuels many, many, many strawmen. I know that what you were trying to say was that asking for women to be depicted in less sexualized ways is a reasonable request, but by framing it in opposition to all those other crazy women, well…it’s not really striking a blow for women-positive discussion.

        1. You’re right. It’s just too easy to use the classical blind-to-privilege rethoric “for the sake of not having an argument”. Shouldn’t have done that. Lazy on my part.

  9. Putting the characters aside, have you heard the grief women and men who sound stereotypically gay take when they use voice on public servers? Or seen the looks they get when they mention to other gamers that they play mostly FPS? My roommate plays a lot of battle games with the speaker on, and the ultimate insults on there are about  faggots, girls, pussies, and taking it in the ass. Why would any woman or LGBT who has a shred of self-respect want to play in that environment or hang with those gamers?

    1. To be fair, most of the voices you hear in multiplayer console FPS games are teenage boys, who are not known for their maturity.

      I sometimes play those games, and I typically have to mute specific players (which all games should let you do these days – the developers play the games too and know this can be a problem) several times per session simply to not be embarrassed in case anyone can hear the speakers.

  10. Damn, so many of these comments are exactly what the article predicted- and was talking about. They’re practically textbook.  I should have set a timer.

    1. That’s like saying that if an article in a Christian journal decried persecution, then outlined how the “intelligentsia” might respond in an attempt to debate it, the fact said responses were used makes them entirely invalid. Do I disagree with the article entirely? No. But it *is* full of uninformed, assumptive hyperbole with no balance, impartiality, or fact checking. I realize that blog entries aren’t meant to be lists of referenced facts, however, when presenting an argument in a debate, I’m simply not going to take it seriously if it is clearly not something that’s actually been validated.

      1. Dismissing a whole class of people’s experiences and opinions out of hand is wrong. That’s what all of these comments do.

        And when someone writes an article about why it’s not cool to dismiss experiences and opinions of others,  and then a whole horde of people pop out of the woodwork to dismiss the whole subject…yeah, that deserves to be called out, and isn’t simply a matter of predicting talking points.

        You know how you argue against being accused of dismissing an opinion? By listening to it. You know how you argue against privilege? By not acting offended by the fact the conversation happened.

         Not by arguing that you shouldn’t have to listen to it in the first place.  That’s why it’s fair game to predict the response /in an argument against it/.

        1. You’d be completely correct if, in fact, anyone was attempting to dismiss or invalidate the experiences or opinions of an entire class. Pointing out a handful of irritating logical fallacies in an article that one otherwise agrees with does not equal dismissing anyone. If I had just read a piece called “male privilege in African-American culture”, and within that piece, read something to the effect of, “there are few if any accurate representations of the equality or ability of female artists in hip-hop,” or, “if you want to see a female rapper perform on TV, you’d better get the youngin’s out of the room, or be prepared to explain why there’s a half naked woman gyrating on the screen,” and I reply with dozens of examples of strong female rap artists that don’t ascribe to that stereotype, is it really fair to say that I am attempting to “invalidate the feelings and experiences of an entire class”?

          I think it’s extremely counterproductive to treat every single instance of unfair representation of a class in a completely binary way. In picking out what is and isn’t true, and recompiling the verifiable results, an even stronger argument can be made for equality. However if any advocacy for the devil is shoved off with a cross and a handful of garlic, that’s not really discourse. That’s closed mindedness.

          The verifiable fact remains that, as more and more females enjoy gaming, greater strides are being made to reduce the objectification of women in the medium. Does that mean that “male privilege in geekdom” does not exist? Absolutely not! I mean, one only has to go to ComicCcon and watch as awkward zit factories ogle women who have been hired as display candy for this game or that show to see that male privilege in the geek universe is quite alive and well. That still does not make it fair to lump in every single aspect of the culture as having made absolutely no progress toward viewing females as capable equals, nor does it make it fair to pre-dismiss any responses that attempt to highlight the opposite as “predictable”.

          1. Actually, yes you are. When you trot out a handful of exceptions as “proof” that there isn’t a problem when someone describes a PROBLEM THEY ARE HAVING, you are dismissing their concerns right out of hand.

            Your hip hop example is case in point. We could discuss degrading portrayals of women in hip-hop culture! Just because a few artists exist *despite it* does not mean the culture does not exist. It’s the exact same thing as with geek culture.

             You’d never argue that the fact Frederick Douglass became an internationally acclaimed writer, orator, and activist that African-Americans weren’t all that oppressed under slavery.

            So why do you think that reasoning is valid elsewhere? It’s not the size of the evil (and it’s kind of absurd that I’ve got to take it to something so extreme to make the point clear) that makes the logic sound.

          2. True. There are indeed video game creators out there who are aware of male privilege and try to fix things (Valve springs to mind : HL²’s Alyx, while irritating, is a competent sidekick that doesn’t need rescuing, and Portal’s main character, as well as its main villain, are strong women). However, privilege still needs pointing out. I’ll grant you that the linked article isn’t particularly well-balanced, but complex shades-of-gray thinking doesn’t really have mass appeal. Which is a shame.

        2. Where did I “trot out a handful of exceptions as ‘proof’ that there isn’t a problem”? I think it’s quite the opposite: the article is “trotting out a handful of examples” and saying “THE PROBLEM IS OMNIPRESENT!!!111”

           I think you may be misunderstanding me. In no way do I believe that there isn’t a problem, nor am I “offended by the fact the conversation happened”. I’m not even sure where you got that idea. I’ll try to be as clear as I can (I admit that I’m not the greatest written articulator): The statement, “a one-sided (and one-dimensional) portrayal of women is the dominant paradigm in gaming; the vast majority of female characters are sexual objects” is hyperbolistic, and in my opinion, untrue, and doesn’t do anything to highlight the many situations in which this *isn’t* true. That’s it. That’s all I have a problem with. Does that mean you should “sit down and shut up” about it? That the conversation shouldn’t happen? For the last time, No! Most of that article jibes with my experience, but it’s an article about male privilege in Geek *Culture*, of which games are a *subset*.Again: There is a problem. I am *not* “offended by the fact that the conversation happened” (not even sure where you got that!). Don’t accuse me of something that the very thing you’re defending has done precisely, which is to cherrypick the worst examples of something, then lead the reader to believe with general statements that it represents a medium *on the whole*. Even if there were, in fact, only *one* games that were conceived progressively toward the ends of gender, racial, etc. equality, you *still* wouldn’t be able to claim that the latter didn’t exist.Say instead: “Look at this horribly sexist game.” What a problem. Here are a few examples of games that get it right. There needs to be more of *this*.” That is all I ask.

          1. You know, you can point out that each tree is unique in its own way, but that doesn’t change the fact that together, they add up to a forest.

            It’s kind of a bit much to suggest that we’re looking at a few isolated problems when the exceptions are rare.

            Culture is a big-picture thing. You can never address it by pretending that each example exists in a vacuum. It’s all about context.

  11. One need not be a woman or LGBT to get that kind of abuse. Sadly, calls to inflict gratuitous sexually assault with with various inappropriately shaped objects are more or less equal opportunity in some circles. Less beat on the woman/LBGT/minority than beat on the newbie.

    1. Of course, newbies can hope to pass through the hazing as they become oldbies, but bitches and faggots know it will never end.

      1. Not really, at least that I’ve seen. The abuse tends to taper off as a person demonstrates their skill. Calling someone ahead of you on the leaderboard foul names makes you look like a whiny loser and opens you up to the same kind of abuse.

        Admittedly, I wouldn’t want to sit through that abuse to prove myself, that’s why I don’t play FPSes anymore and don’t support the companies that propagate that junk.

        1. It’s not just what people call you, it’s also what you hear them call other people. It’s a toxic environment for gay men who don’t like hearing “little faggot” over and over.

          1. But that’s hardly a “geek culture” problem. If you want to adjust the name-calling vocabulary of 12-year olds, you’re going to want to set your sights a bit higher that video games.

          2. “But that’s hardly a “geek culture” problem”

            It’s a subculture that, like you, refuse to admit that there is a problem.

    2. “One need not be a woman or LGBT to get that kind of abuse.”

      People hate you because of your attitudes, not because of who you are.

  12. “A man isn’t going to have everything about him filtered through the prism of his gender first. […]. A man isn’t expected to be a representative of his sex in all things; if he fails at a job, it’s not going to be extrapolated that all men are unfit for that job.[…] And, critically, a man doesn’t have to continually view the world through the lens of potential violence and sexual assault.”

    That is the most concise explanation of male privilege I’ve read in a long time, regardless of context and subculture. Thumbs up. Still completely boggles me that some people (including women, ffs) don’t recognize it…I’ve lost count of the number of arguments I’ve had on the subject with my friends. Seriously, guys (esp. straight white guys) : WE have a responsibility here. WE need to stop letting this shit happen, because it so happens that WE are the ones who can say stuff like that and not get labelled as whiney, entitled or suffering from penis envy. I’m not saying we’re the only ones who should do it, but we definitely have a part to play. It’s your problem too. If you don’t stand up against that shit, you have no right to complain that girls don’t like your hobby/don’t understand you/are just mean and have cooties.

    1. “WE have the duty to trample on the first amendment rights of others”? in there somewhere?

      Considering the crush Boing Boing has on Anonymous, this “WE need to rein them in” talk is kinda silly. 

      1. …what ?
        Okay, I really don’t understand how you get from “We straight white males should be more vocal about our own privilege, because our voice gets heard a lot more” to “we need to stop people’s free speech”. In case that wasn’t obvious, I wasn’t asking for censorship. I’m just saying we should be more vocal about this.

        And I really have no idea why you’re dragging Anonymous into this. Plz explain.

        1. “WE need to stop letting this shit happen”, since the “shit” that “happen[s]” is chowdaheads spouting off and name calling, the only way to “stop” them is stuffing a (cyber) gag in their mouths.
          I mention Anonymous because while they have gotten a pretty make over by the PR fairies these days, the started out with the Mongler and TITS OR GTFO. BB has never had a problem helping them spread their more tasteful messages.

          1. For those late to the game, here’s how “free speech” works:

            You are free to express your opinion, regardless of how misogynistic it is.  The government will not jail you, and nobody will be allowed to threaten your safety.

            But you are not free from the natural consequences of misogynistic speech, which can include: experiencing vehement counter-arguments, loss of respect among your peers, having to deal with angry and/or hurt people, and possibly even being shunned by your community.

            I think what pKp is saying is that we need to make sure those consequences are felt very clearly by those who choose to exercise their right to misogynistic speech.

          2. You might note that I did NOT say “we need to stop this shit from happening”. That would be censorship, and it’s not what I was calling for. I said “we need to sop letting this shit happens. It means that we need to stop turning a blind eye to everyday sexism, and speak up when we come across this kind of speech whenever we encounter it.

            People who think women should be treated as objects should not be silenced. They, however, deserve being called out and publically ridiculed.

            The whole anonymous thing is a bit out of left field, but I, personnally, have a huge problem with the whole 4chan ethos precisely because of its casual misogyny/homophobia/racism. I obviously can’t speak for the BB editors, so I really don’t see what this has to do with my post.

      2. “WE have the duty to trample on the first amendment rights of others”? in there somewhere?”

        Good god, have you ever actually read the constitution?

        1. People have every right to be complete and utter jerks as long as the don’t cross certain boundaries. pKp later amends his point to the “drowning out the bad with the good” argument, but I don’t imagine that a mission to MW3 is likely to have the staying power to effect significant change.

          1. People have every right to be complete and utter jerks as long as the don’t cross certain boundaries.

            And being called out on being a complete and utter jerk does not mean your Constitutional rights have been violated. It means that someone else is exercising theirs.

    1. You do realize this point was mentioned in the article, right?  Most women don’t want to get “Fawned over” or treated differently just because they are women. JFC it’s not a hard concept, I promise.

    2. I hate that. I stopped playing female characters for that reason. A lot of us female identified people don’t want anyone fawning over us at all. We just want to play the game. 

  13. There’s an Icelandic film about role-playing gamers called Astropia that brings up the gender issue.  The main character is Hildur, a local celebrity and bombshell who finds herself without a job or a home after her boyfriend gets arrested for embezzlement. At first she’s presented as living a very shallow lifestyle, but she’s smart and eventually finds a job at a nerd store where she gets all the bookkeeping under control. She also gets put behind the RPG sales counter, a fish-0ut-of-water situation, and she’s understandably frustrated and wants to understand the systems she’s trying to sell, so she’s invited to a D&D session where immediately she complains about the sexism inherent in her character’s costume – unfortunately rebuffed by some of the other players.  By the end of the film she gains her sense of independence and dumps her overbearing (now ex) boyfriend who escapes from jail. The final scenes seem to have her as the damsel-in-distress, but she frees herself and rescues the guy who was trying to rescue her.  A nice change!

  14. A few things need to be remembered about this “aargh, women aren’t wearing enough CLOTHES! And their boobies are too BIG!” in games.

    [disclaimer]I might be wrong here, since I don’t have industrywide scope, and I just work for an MMO with slightly over 50% female playerbase, as far as we can tell. The avatars in that game are not massively sexualised, and the default avatars have no sexual dimorphism at all, apart from in their character portraits. So my view may be very heavily slanted by that. I’m also a programmer, not an artist, so I will have great areas of ignorance I’m unaware of.

    Also I’m writing about depictions, not reactions/interactions. There is a *definite* problem with inter-gender interactions online, but that’s a topic for a whole ‘nother dissertation, for another time: there’s a ton of interesting stuff in there about who plays what gender online and why, and the kinds of harassment that goes on, and so on, but this is already a massive comment.

    And I prefer less-heroic boobs, so nyah.[/disclaimer]

    1) Most of the people I’ve seen complaining about female depictions are male, or outsiders.

    [I’m dubious whether I should put forward this argument, as it feels like a “poisoning the well” fallacy. Read it carefully and with a dose of salt, as mostly-unfounded opinion.]

    Generally, as in the linked article, I see these complaints as thinly-veiled excuses to generate some controversy and discussion (the lifeblood of the internet) and to show some sexy women as “examples”.

    Where it’s women complaining about MMOs, I have never seen them complain about the character they selected [but then, I’m a coder, I don’t handle the complaints, so what do I know?]. They very occasionally complain about other people’s characters being sexier than their own. That is, they do not, themselves, feel objectified by their on-screen depictions, but they are defensive on behalf of other women. That’s understandable and admirable, but ignores that the on-screen depictions those other women chose for themselves were also their own choices, and they were unlikely to have selected a look that upset them.

    In my (limited) experience, complaints from women about sexism are almost solely about male *responses* to their onscreen depictions, rather than about their ability to look sexy on screen: “Why can’t I wander around in public wearing nothing but a ribbon, without having knuckle-draggers drooling over me?” – they don’t mind the reactions, but want to be able to select the people from whom they receive that reaction.

    The ability to change one’s look could be a defense against this: you’d think that only being scantily-displayed amongst friends you wanted to share that with, and appearing more soberly in public, would work. Very few do this, though: the whole point of spending so much on that sexy avatar/portrait is to flaunt it, but they just don’t like some of the responses – which is fair enough, I reckon, but off topic.

    2) Most of the artists are female.

    I’ve not checked the credits page, but all the artists I know who’ve worked for this game are women, and they come out with sexy stuff because it’s what they want to see, how they themselves want to look in-game.

    And no, it’s not because the person with final sign-off on the art is a guy and he’s somehow forcing them to do something they find tasteless: the producer and art director are both women, and many of the artists are unpaid volunteers, who wouldn’t draw art they didn’t love doing.

    3) Women (and men) will pay a premium to look sexy.

    Given the choice between a well-dressed female avatar and a scantily clad one, most people (also: most women) will choose the latter, even if they have to pay extra.

    Given the choice between a normally-proportioned female avatar and a heroically-proportioned one, most people (also: most women) will choose the latter, even if they have to pay extra.

    A wise game designer will ensure there are plenty of options, both sexy and regular, to fit all tastes. But the sexy ones can be marked up significantly and still be more popular.

    4) Men or women, doesn’t matter, same tastes.

    I need to emphasize here: the only variable that matters is the gender of the character being played or portrayed. There is negligible difference in taste depending on the identity of the player: between male and female players; between American, European, African, or Asian players; between the young and the old.

    In study after study, sales report after sales report: men and women both want to look heroically sexy if they play women. BoingBoing itself has reported on this. This isn’t just in the game I work in – it’s known across the industry, in test after test: the average woman wants their characters to look just as sexy and heroic as the average man, and the distribution about the average is about the same too.

    If they don’t play the game, then they might feel that the women who do are being sexualised – but when they’re buying their own look? The amazon look is their firm favorite, just as it is with men playing female characters.

    Same with people playing male characters: they want to look like heroes too. But for some reason (and I have tons of unfounded theories, but nothing solid to explain it), it seems that players of male characters (male and female equally!) are more willing to cover them up. But still, Mr SixPack will still outsell Mr Gutsy or Mr Nerdy, even in a community where everyone prides themselves in nerdiness.

    5) It’s not just fandom.

    Look at the quintessential “product for women”: women’s magazines. Are there well-dressed, normally proportioned women on the covers? Even on the covers of the magazines made entirely by women, for women?

    Very rarely, especially amongst the top-sellers. Not because they have an agenda to make women feel that they must be sexy, but because they would not survive in the market unless they sold what sold best: and given the choice between a magazine with a sexy women on the cover photoshopped to the point of grotesquerie, and one without, the first magazine will be gone off the shelves way before the second.

    And I cannot think of any other product for women that is not best marketed by showing a sexy woman on the packaging, even though women are the ones buying. But again, women in marketing is probably a whole ‘nother dissertation.

    So, industry is unlikely to be terribly sorry to the men who are faux upset that women are being sold the sexiness they want, because those upset men typically view women as some kind of alien to be protected, but not understood, and so have no idea what women actually want.

    But like men, women know exactly what they want, and they vote with their wallets: Ka-ching! Six-packs and Boobies!

    Question is: is it a problem that people want to look like that? As a body image thing, I think maybe it is. But it appears to affect both genders equally.

    1. My limited experience in the industry was somewhat different. At my first full-time design job I did some packaging work for the EverQuest MMO series, all of which prominently featured a female elf character of the cover.

      This is what the art directors decided was appropriate attire for exploring the frozen continent of Velious. It’s basically the same outfit she wore across the lava-strewn “Planes of Power” expansion pack but with fur-lined boots.

    2. How one reacts to how another is dressed is entirely on them. It’s not the responsibility of the one they’re responding to nor others who happen to have similar genitals.

      1. How one reacts to how another is dressed is entirely on them.

        That’s a handy way of rationalizing a male-dominated industry with a fixation on half-naked heroines in push-up bras. “Hey, all we did was create a series of characters with giant boobies and skimpy attire. It’s not our fault how people react to that.”

        1. Those aren’t people. They’re fictional characters.

          If an actual person wants to be Pantsless Ivy, that’s their call. You don’t have a right to make unwanted advances on them, or blame other people with circumstantial similarities to the harasser for the harassment.

          You can make whatever proposition you like to a fictional character, I guess. It’s kind of creepy, though.

          1. Those aren’t people. They’re fictional characters.

            Yes. Fictional characters that are by and large created by men, for the enjoyment of men, to the exclusion of women. I believe that’s what this whole discussion has been about.

          2. I think we’re talking past each other. I was responding to this:

            In my (limited) experience, complaints from women about sexism are almost solely about male *responses* to their onscreen depictions, rather than about their ability to look sexy on screen: “Why can’t I wander around in public wearing nothing but a ribbon, without having knuckle-draggers drooling over me?” – they don’t mind the reactions, but want to be able to select the people from whom they receive that reaction.

    3. You actually raise an interesting point here. Yes, women buy into the whole “I have to have huge boobs to exist as a person” mindset. It is perpetuated, as you noted, by the women’s magazines (and it is worth noting that, also the majority of the staff there are women, CEOs and other upper-management types are usually guys). It doesn’t make it any less fucked-up, though.

      That being said, this whole conversation is NOT about saying “looking sexy is bad”. It is, once again, about acknowledging that fictional representations of heroic females are based on being the sexiest (for guys) while fictional representations of heroic males are based on competence (being the strongest). There is a fundamental inbalance between the two, and it has to be examined.

      I want to underline that there is absolutely nothing wrong per se about wanting to look sexy and/or strong. The problem here is about context and culture, and the complete refusal of some people to see the imbalance between genders.

      1. Really, and I cannot stress this enough: by focusing on the looks, rather than the reactions, you are tilting at the wrong windmill, and being extremely derogatory and sexist while you’re at it.

        I was waiting for someone to try to frame it like that: “The poor women are too durpy to understand that they are being manipulated into wanting to look sexy – they need to be protected from looking good!” Just how sexist can you GET, to put forth such an argument?

        Women know what they want. Women buy what they want. Even when it is made, produced, bought by, and seen by, only women, women are no different to men: they want to look as sexy as hell!

        Men are not part of the equation there at all.

        Men, playing women, act the exact same. There is no difference. Any negative and oppressive connotations you want to put towards the Amazon look are entirely in your own head.

        And women, playing men, want to look fit, as do men. There is, again, no difference. Any negative and oppressive connotations you want to put towards the “superhumanly muscular” look are, once again, entirely in your own head.

        But you don’t have negative connotations to the “Mr Universe” look, do you? No, because that would mean you were equal-minded instead of sexist, and you can’t wrap your head around that idea. It’s only the poor, stupid women who need protecting from themselves, right? Except, it’s not the women. It’s anyone playing a female character.

        And it’s not a problem. People can choose to look great all they want, whatever gender they or their character are. As long as they will pay to do so, they will be able to do so, because it would be insane to create somewhere that they could *not* look great (though admittedly Furcadia is a noble effort in that regard, with its androgynous non-human avatars).

        The problem is reactions. And your reaction above shows that you are part of the problem.

        “Why can’t I wander around in public wearing nothing but a ribbon, without having knuckle-draggers drooling over me?”

        I had expected people to react to that phrase in two ways:

        1) “If she’s dressed like that, she deserved it” (the Senile British Judge argument).

        2) “You’re strawmanning: a ribbon is a silly extreme!” (implying, again, that it’s acceptable to react in a bad way to a ribbon, or a naked person, but there’s some line with greater clothing and below-a-certain-size breasts, where decent reactions should be expected: so really, this is “if people did dress like that, they’d deserve it, but they don’t!”)

        My own position is that even if someone’s character is entirely naked and half their body weight is in their breasts and most of the rest in their ass, they should still be treated like human beings.

        Someone with heroic *male* proportions is treated as a human, even if they are naked and with half their bodyweight in their penis. They might be laughed at (or with), for the amusing hyperproportions, but they will still, more often than the woman, be treated as a human being with free will and a personality.

        The woman will typically be treated as a sex object, or (in your case) a stupid woman too vacuous to understand that she shouldn’t choose to dress like that just because her patriarchs condition her so.

        THAT is the problem: Female avatars have human beings behind them too, but people forget that.

    1. Using Arkham City as an example of sexism in gaming seems like a slam dunk. It’s a shame though that you show an image of the Joker wearing a garish suit, clown makeup, dyed green hair and an ear-to-ear grin and then claim that he is being portrayed as deadly serious.

  15. So many dudes who think of themselves as heterosexual really seem to dislike women. Maybe if they dislike women so much they should just all fuck each other and leave women alone.

  16. I’m not sure that calling it male privilege is the most productive strategy. It’s necessarily going to invoke defensiveness rather than inviting men in to an inclusive solution. Further, as a man I’m just as harmed by the patronizing Pantsless Ivy, and the less said about what’s going on with the childhood icon that was Harley Quinn the better. If people could just stop doing that it I’d really appreciate it.

    Edit: Perhaps I should say differently harmed in a manner of subjective value instead.

  17. The irony of this article is that it addresses the audience as a bunch of naughty boys. It refers to “geek girls” and “geeks”, implying male as the norm. It perpetuates the idea that women are outsiders who the men have to let in. I just don’t think that’s a constructive way to think about it.

    The core games industry itself is like a hyper-concentrated microcosm at the intersection of several very male-dominated cultures: gaming, technology, and the wider “nerd culture” of comics, zombie movies, etc.. We talk about trying to get more women into gaming and into the industry all the time. And yet we appear to be completely blind to the ways the whole gaming culture actively pushes women away.

    We don’t need to make “games for girls”. We need to stop making “games for guys”. Even games like shooters and other action games can focus on their core 18-25 male demographic without pandering to them, without pushing people outside that group away.

    I want to see gaming culture become more accepting, more inclusive. It can start with the product itself.

  18. I’ve been following this discussion with interest this afternoon, and from what I have seen I think there is a misunderstanding on the part of some of the commenters on what “male privilege” is. It doesn’t mean that all the male geeks are getting together and actively deciding to oppress female geeks, not at all! Rather, it refers to one of the ways in which our (American) society is structured. In our society, it is often the case that men are seen as the default person, which can be difficult for women. This list talks about some of the ways in which male privilege can show itself.

    If you are a guy, there are likely a lot of ways that our society is set up to make things easy for you. That’s not your fault, in that you probably haven’t *ever* consciously done anything to disadvantage anybody who’s not a guy. But one thing you *can* do is make note of the ways in which things are set up to make life easier for you, and to point out when your games or hobbies or whatever are set up in a way that makes things tougher for women. That’s it. Nobody is saying you have to give up the things you love about gaming, but it would be good to be able to make room at the table for other people who want to game, too.

    1. I think that’s a fundamental problem with the terminology being used. I don’t have a good solution, but words like “male privilege” make it about all guys, not about the fact that some people are being douchey to other people.

      Being a douche hurts everyone, and it’s in everyone’s interest to get them to stop.

      1. …words like “male privilege” make it about all guys, not about the fact that some people are being douchey to other people.

        But the privilege benefits all males whether we’re being douchey or not. As a straight white male I have opportunities and advantages that others don’t regardless of my personal behavior. I can accept and acknowledge that fact without getting defensive about it.

        1. When you phrase it that way people will infer “and thus it’s your fault,” rightly or wrongly. It’s divisive, and that’s counterproductive.

          1. The phrase refers to the effect, not the perpetrators. Much like “white privilege” or “American exceptionalism.” What alternative wording would you suggest?

          2. That is a very good question to which I do not have a good answer.

            People who object to American exceptionalism often get painted as anti-American. Simply saying that those people are wrong does nothing to bring them on board.

          3. (replying to Brainspore, since it doesn’t seem to allow nested replies any further than this level…) 

            (Pedant) It doesn’t help that American exceptionalism doesn’t mean what most people think it means. It doesn’t mean that America is inherently superior. The idea of American exceptionalism is that America as a nation is unique (at the time the phrase was coined by Alexis DeTocqueville, anyway) because it sprang out of a revolution and was based around an ideal, unlike the European nations. (/Pedant)

      2. I happen to be white. There is such a thing as ‘white privilege’ in my corner of the world. It has been demonstrated that people who look ‘a bit too ethnic’ or who have ‘ethnic’ names have less chances of getting interviews for a job and have less opportunities than myself.

        The fact that I am not myself racist and that I have not directly or willingly contributed to this situation does not prevent me from acknowledging the fact that it exists and is very much an issue. I do not feel I am endorsing any guilt by acknowledging this reality. It’s just a fact.

        Why male privilege, an equally demonstrated phenomenon, is so difficult to grasp for otherwise intelligent, caring people is puzzling. And it is very much a big part of the problem.

      3. Being a douche hurts everyone, and it’s in everyone’s interest to get them to stop.

        You seem to have an inability to distinguish between victim and perp. Please don’t do jury duty.

        1. If you insist on separating people into a “Them” and an “Us” you shouldn’t be terribly shocked when They aren’t with Us.

  19. Look, if you take the same dorks who can’t accept any challenge to the image of their precious comics industry via any suggestion that there might be sexism involved, and attempt to tell them other truths like Batman is a fascist or Star Wars is not science fiction, they’ll push back just as hard and even harder. What we are talking about is a self-selected group of people who just care that much about an entertainment genre. Is it any surprise that they are defensive about sexism in comics? They’re defensive about everything in comics. If you walk into a comic shop and claim that Spider-Man’s new outfit is ugly, there will be a dude there who will lecture you at length as to why you are empirically wrong in your fashion sense, and this dude will enter this ‘debate’ with zero self-awareness. To expect this guy to notice that his behaviour is part of a larger societal push that is making female geeks uncomfortable is too much to ask; this guy can’t even detect when he is making other guys uncomfortable.

    I’m afraid there is only one solution to this problem, and at the risk of parrotting the sexist cliche, women just have to develop a thicker skin, and walk into these situations and assert themselves. The guys aren’t going to magically make themselves ready for female presence on their own: their tendency is to be too socially incompetent to change without constant guidance. I’m not saying that this is fair or right; it isn’t fair nor right for the corrective onus to be on the women to constantly push for the correction, but unfortunately that’s just the only way change is going to happen. You have to get in male geeks’ faces and debate these issue with them. You have to go in and buy the comics that do it right. You have to start your own comics if you can’t find any. If you run away, you are abdicating the fight, so things will remain unfair. Men certainly are not going change for women, sight unseen. You can’t just leave a note. ‘Please fix all the sexism and call me when it’s ready.’ If women want change, they have to show up for it and argue for it, in person. If you wait outside the shop, you’ll wait forever.

    P.S. I realise the article is about gaming, but the author uses a comic shop as a more tangible example: so did I. I believe the same thing goes for gaming. It is a sexist world. I’m trying to say, don’t let this article justify for you the act of opting out because of that.

    1. That’s true, but, as I said below, it’s not just women who need to do this. Some of us geek guys actually are conscious of all that, and we need to get in other male geek’s faces when we see these things happening.

      Other than that, I completely agree ; things aren’t going to change just like that. But it’s not only the women’s jobs ; it’s also ours.

      1. Why would *I* get in other male geeks’ faces. Typically I don’t even want to talk to them. This isn’t my crusade. Women can’t change by proxy, appointing ‘sensitive men’ to change the environment for them before they deign to enter it. They have to enter it first. Anyway, if women have abandoned or not entered an arena, I’m not going to spend my time making it favourable for somebody who is not even showing up — that is a waste of *my* time. If I see a woman showing up and standing up for herself, I’ll defend her, if I think she’s right. And when it comes to sexism in comics and games, how could she be wrong? It’s freakin’ blatant. However I am not trying to get laid — I don’t give a shit about that — so there is no way it’s my responsibility to get this ball rolling. I have my own issues to try to effect change in the world. Women have to take point on their own issues — and then the men who are convinced or already agreed with them, will follow. That’s just the way it is. Also, women looking to ‘the good men’ to lead the way into equality of sexes is silly — doesn’t that sound silly to you?

        Show up and put your hand out if you want something. Simple as that.

        1. Well I guess we don’t agree. I, personnally, think sexism sucks and that it makes the world a worst place to live for both men and women. I don’t oppose it because it’s my “duty” or anything like that ; for me, it’s part of trying to make the world (and, in this case, the particular subculture I happen to be a part of) a better place for me to exist in.

          1. A fair point. Sexism does suck. But how do I know that women *really* want into to all of these places they say they want into? The only way I know for sure is if I see them there. Then you will find me eager to help them remain comfortable there. If I don’t see them there, then I just assume that they don’t care that much, and truthfully, I don’t care either. I used to care when I was trying to get laid all the time. Now I just perceive it as Not My Problem. Sorry if that sounds bad or if it’s politically incorrect to be a guy who believes sexism is very real but isn’t willing to independently lift a finger about it. But that’s the truth, and I’m willing to bet I’m speaking for a lot of men who just don’t want to admit the truth about it. But in order to change the world, you have to see as it is; not the way you would wish it to be.

        2. This isn’t my crusade.

          When you show up to announce that, you’re effectively crusading against it.

          1. Another way of saying that would be “You’re either with us or against us.”

            No, it would be, “You’re either with us or against us when you make a public statement on the subject.”

  20. “She was in there for less than 4 minutes before one mouth-breathing troglodyte began alternately staring at her boobs […] She fled the premises, never to return.”

    It’s funny how suddenly it’s ok to call a possibly socially-inept guy a “mouth-breathing troglodyte” who is assumed to be staring at her boobs (how did she know that’s what he was looking at?).  Male privilege my ass – he can’t even respect a guy he doesn’t even know – how can he demand others to respect women?

    I hope games will become diverse enough that selling sexy images to kids will no longer dominate the gaming market. But I’m not sure if the word “male privilege” is the right term to describe the situation.

    1.  Not sure you read past that first sentence, but staring at her boobs was just the start of his offenses. Kind of hard to respect someone when you think they are checking out your girlfriend, no? It’s only natural to be protective of a person you’ve brought into a situation that a.) made them uncomfortable and b.) was made worse by an ignorant person who may have felt threatened by her presence. And socially inept or not, the guy was being rude by telling her how wrong she was about her own observations of comics.

      And diversity in gaming (or comics) doesn’t begin and end with “stop teh sexiness” nor does the article’s author call for that. It’s starts with the actual content and offering more positive, non 1-dimensional portrayals of women. These should be the norm and not the rarity. It’s about characterization and creating more female characters that are protagonists and not just sexual objects. And yes, it is “male privilege” that the majority of popular video games are designed to attract male consumers. What else would you call this situation? Coincidence?

      1. What the “troglodyte” said was probably rude.  But my BS alarm went off about the boob/x-ray vision part.  I just don’t buy it, that’s all. As someone who’s been on plenty of sharp end of the stick when it comes to stereotypes, it really irks me when I read something like this (“no, I was NOT looking at your boobs!”).  It doesn’t invalidate what he is saying later on, but I sure hate listening to someone who acts like an asshole.
        About the “stop teh sexiness” thing (that’s a pretty misleading phrase .  I’m not suggesting restriction on sexual themes in games if that’s what you are implying. It’s more like “dilute teh sexiness”.): it doesn’t begin and end in that but I think it’ll be a damn good start and probably near the crux of the problem that he is trying to address.  Maybe the industry that caters to male consumers with poor taste is part of the “male privilege” that the author is referring to, but all I can see at the end of games that has “audience diversity” in mind is a bunch of PC characters, which is pretty ineffective (not to mention condescending).  Companies don’t resist catering to different audiences as long as it makes profit.  It really IS a coincidence that the market is dominated by young male audience – are you suggesting that it’s not?

  21. Sort of off topic.  Out of curiosity, I think it would be interesting to look at the gender stereotypes in a female oriented fantasy market such as romance novels. I have always found it interesting how the distinction between a visual image and a written image gets played out.  And reading the comments here, my surmising is that a lot of the problem people “see” with the gaming industry is the over-the-top imagery.  Is a fantasy image more destructive and repressive if it’s a visual image versus imagined with words?  Why is there not the same kind of backlash against the depictions in the female fantasy market by men or women for that matter?

    1. I think it would be interesting to look at the gender stereotypes in a female oriented fantasy market such as romance novels…Why is there not the same kind of backlash against the depictions in the female fantasy market by men or women for that matter?

      When was the last time that you were verbally abused while reading by somebody who was reading the same book as you?

      1. Admittedly, I do not play online games, so I’m not a party to the immature trash-talking aspect, which is no doubt a problem.  And I’m not condoning or excusing that behavior. 

        There’s a lot wrong with video games – they reinforce violence and sexualization, which is harmful, and I’m a strong believer that children should not play them.  There are plenty of studies that conclude that children who are subjected to violent imagery are more likely to be aggressive adults, and I would guess the same would be true for the sexualization of women.  Most games should be played by adults who can realize the fantasy nature of the medium. 

        The point I was trying to get at was the issue of male privilege versus female privilege, and the forms of gender stereotyping in markets where males are the focal market versus where females are the focal market. Both men and women position each others genders.  And I believe just as games reinforce a poor description of the masculine and feminine, romance novels are also guilty of this.  (Twilight anyone?) 

        I brought this up because I have had this conversation with my female friends, but with respect to porn.  And the visual versus word imagery debate has always been interesting to me.  I don’t have the answers.  In my mind, the perfect world would be where people are seen as individuals first.  But we are also sexual creatures, and the sexualization of opposing genders is something we all take a part in, although it should be done in a manner that is respectful.

        1. First of all: you should read “Grand Theft Childhood” by Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olsen to help clear up some misconceptions about how video games affect children. But that’s really a distraction here. 

          The problem here is that you’re confusing the subgenre for the medium.Y’see, the example you bring up – romance novels – are a subgenre within a larger medium: printed fiction. They’re fulfilling a niche. If someone doesn’t care for the way that characters are presented in romance novels (which, I might add, you seem to have a very odd view of… too many brooding industrialists falling in love with plucky heroines? Too many Scottish lairds? Too much Laurel K Hamilton, full stop?) there is the entire rest of fiction to be had in all it’s wondrous variety and and portrayals of people and intended audiences. Video games are a *medium*, not a subgenre.  To put it simply, romance novels:fiction :: first-person shooters: video games. And to date almost all video games – with the exception of “casual” games such as those produced by PopCap – are intended for a male audience. Of those, the number where the portrayal of a woman as something other than a consumable sexual object is uncommon at best and vanishingly rare otherwise. 

          And really, choosing Twilight as your example was a poor idea, seeing as it has some very… traditional… ideas about gender roles. 

          (Amusingly, I wrote about this very subject a couple weeks ago: … here endeth the plug)

          1. I should have been more clear with my comment.  Just as you picked out that I used one specific genera within the medium of books (romance novels – I did this on purpose and likewise the choice of Twilight was an extreme case to prove the point of how female oriented books can portray crappy gender stereotypes and reinforce a bizarre double standard – twilight moms!), I didn’t mean to imply that all video games (the entire medium) are violent and sexualize woman, or are only oriented to men, as you do. Nintendo has plenty of games for kids. I grew up on them, but don’t play them anymore.  If you are interested look up Nintendo’s top grossing games, I’ll bet you’ll find they are pretty mild.  This conversation was in the context of male privilege and games with sexual content. My reply was a response to Antinous about trash talking which I placed in the category of FPS’s (i.e violence).  To be clear in the context of a genera of games that children should not be playing, a category of video games I feel should be for adults, but somehow children seem to get their hands on.

            The whole point was to get a conversation going about how men and woman position each others gender.  And to make a comparison I chose a medium and a genera of books where woman call the shots.  I left the value judgment open to be discussed.  But I see this was taken in the wrong way.

            And to your book, yes not all games are bad, as already stated.  And although the causal connection between children viewing violent imagery and becoming aggressive is still being debated (you’re right not all children) there is enough evidence to suggest that this trend should be tempered.  See: Anderson, C. A. (2004). An update on the effects of playing violent video games. Journal of Adolescence.  (For a start)

    2. I’ve read quite a few romance novels. While the men definitely tend to be portrayed as well muscled, with long flowing hair, the quality they have most is that they don’t treat women like shit.

    3. Why is there not the same kind of backlash against the depictions in the female fantasy market by men or women for that matter?

      Men are still pretty much running the world for one thing. And you’re focusing on one narrow genre of novel—there are bazillions of non-romance novels out there for men who like to read but don’t like paperbacks with Fabio lookalikes adorning the covers. Whereas in video games, sexism is prevalent throughout the entire medium.

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