The only question is: What are you going to wear?
June 16, 2016 1:55 AM   Subscribe

Lingerie is not Armor - in the latest installment of Women vs Tropes in Video Games Anita Sarkeesian focuses on the sartorial choices made for female characters in video games. Link not safe for work as it contains virtual partial nudity.
posted by asok (37 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Feminist Frequency videos are always fantastic... but I wish that YouTube wouldn't suddenly clog my Video Suggestions with hideous anti-Sarkeesian/ GamerGate claptrap horseshit for a few days every time I watch one! There's some seriously toxic garbage out there. I will never understand all the frothing hatred she gets!!
posted by Philby at 2:37 AM on June 16, 2016 [44 favorites]


Counteract with HBomberguy!
posted by Scattercat at 2:43 AM on June 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


On the topic of the frothing hatred for Anita, I thought Ian Danskin’s series of videos were pretty insightful. Start with “Why Are You So Angry? Part 1: A Short History of Anita Sarkeesian”.
posted by pharm at 3:11 AM on June 16, 2016 [11 favorites]


To expand: no, because this isn’t just a question of the degree of sexualisation, even if you accept that wearing make-up & flattering clothing is intrinsically sexual in the first place.

Wearing (some) make-up and wearing appropriate clothing is regarded as the socially acceptable professional dress in western culture. Not doing so would undermine the message of the video. Now obviously this in and of itself is a form of sexism, in that women are expected to wear make-up but men aren’t, but it’s different from the sexism expressed through the overt sexualisation of video game characters purely to directly titillate the putative male viewer.

You can’t get away from questions of agency, power and control in something like this: who something is done for, why it is done & who gets to make those choices all matter. Anita’s choice to wear make-up is *hers* to make. The skimpy dress of a female video game character is chosen by a game developer who does it to appeal to a male audience, expressing a narrative that women exist for the entertainment of the male gaze & little else. That distinction is what makes this a difference of kind as well as degree: Agency matters.
posted by pharm at 4:18 AM on June 16, 2016 [13 favorites]


The disappointing thing about discussions of hypersexualization of female video game characters is that the counterpoint is often that the male characters are usually physically idealized, and it seems impossible for a certain segment of the gaming audience to intellectually grasp the difference between athletic idealization and objectification through sexualization. I wish that Sarkeesian had addressed that a bit more.

There are actually examples of non-sexualized female video game characters/female armor art that many people would agree are kickass. Samus Aran (AKA Metroid) is a classic example. Bioware does a fairly good job on female armor--some of the Dragon Age armor is brilliant. Femshep also looks ready to rock. Bethesda games have plenty of appropriately armored females. These are just a few examples, but I think it's important to give out kudos when they're due.
posted by xyzzy at 4:48 AM on June 16, 2016 [15 favorites]


This might be a good time to remember that boob plate armor would kill you.
posted by Slothrup at 4:52 AM on June 16, 2016 [12 favorites]


Wearing (some) make-up and wearing appropriate clothing is regarded as the socially acceptable professional dress in western culture. Not doing so would undermine the message of the video.
No it would not. I am a woman in a western country and I do not wear make-up, earrings and dresses. That does not undermine my messages or say anything about my professionalism. I agree with: Anita’s choice to wear make-up is *hers* to make, but it goes way too far to say that if she had made any other choice it would have undermined her message.
posted by blub at 5:04 AM on June 16, 2016 [15 favorites]


These videos are great!

But my god, the autoplaying "up next" video was a frothing gamer gate piece with a pissed off dude irritatingly explaining "the Mario world has multiple other female mushroom characters". He then goes on to say 'You have the OPTION of NOT killing the lingerie clad strippers and dragging their lifeless nearly nude bodies around the room' in hitman.

I would love to see him passionately listing the various female mushroom kingdom denizens to a group of women imploring them to abandon their feminist ways and see the reaction.
posted by sp160n at 5:07 AM on June 16, 2016


blub: I disagree: women wearing make-up in informational videos like this is the norm. Anything that’s outside the norm is a distraction for the viewer. It wouldn’t change the message or the professionalism of the presenter one jot if they weren’t wearing make-up, but it would affect how they were perceived.

I’m not saying this is the way things ought to be: Is does not imply ought. But I think it is the way things are if you want to reach the widest possible audience.
posted by pharm at 5:26 AM on June 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


This might be a good time to remember that boob plate armor would kill you.

That's certainly someone's theory. Meanwhile, I hang with women who dabble in boob plate armour (no, really) and no deaths in 50 years now.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:39 AM on June 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Bethesda games have plenty of appropriately armored females.

Arena, Daggerfall, Morrowind...Fallout 3/NV/4, certainly.

Oblivion had plate armors that took cues from Xena: Warrior Princess.

Skyrim continued plunging necklines and hiking up legs on most of their sets, leaving tavern brawlers as the only practical opponents for non elite-level thieves, etc. to fight.
posted by Smart Dalek at 6:19 AM on June 16, 2016


Oh Soul Calibur, you have such wonderful fighting mechanics. Why must you make me feel like I can only play when my wife's not home?
posted by charred husk at 6:30 AM on June 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Skyrim continued plunging necklines and hiking up legs
If you watch all 8 minutes of this video that showcases every armor set in default (as in, non-modded) Skyrim on females, I think you would find that the vast majority of the female armor in Skyrim is just rescaled versions of the male armor. And here's a page of Oblivion armor. The Dark Seducer armor is rather sketchy but much of the rest is reasonable. But, like Sarkeesian, I don't necessarily object to the showing of skin if it makes some kind of sense. It's the TERA level of sexualized insanity that I object to. Usually while laughing hysterically as my friend and I try to figure out how such an outfit even works.
posted by xyzzy at 6:44 AM on June 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Skyrim has a few sets of pretty sexualized armors. Orcish veers towards "hmm I'm not sure you really need to show off cleavage in this circumstance", and some of the Forsworn stuff too (though I'm not sure how much of that is the armor itself and how much is the game's modeling for characters. And then there are a bunch of clothing sets which, on men, look totally respectable, and then on women turn really appallingly nonexistent (and I'm pretty sure there's a minor dialogue in-game where one character leers at a woman wearing that). Tavern clothes are particularly notable there.

What's neat is that all clothing, in Skyrim, is gender-neutral, so you can see how clothes designed for a woman vary from clothes designed for a man. They're literally the same item, on two different people! Hmm.

I want all games to be more like Dark Souls, in which the thought of possibly revealing any personality (let alone sexuality) gets you scornfully laughed at. You're on your three hundredth reincarnation and slipping towards the point at which your actions become so repetitive and hopeless that you literally become a phantom haunting the others who survive (in other universes; nobody's left in yours). Who the fuck has time to ogle bodies? (And, erm, if it seems like perhaps there's an exception to that rule, then you might want to make doubly certain that you're not being played for a sucker.)
posted by rorgy at 7:08 AM on June 16, 2016


EVE Online gets this right. It used to be there weren't even skirts in the game. Women wore t-shirts, jackets, and pants just like the men. Now you can get knee-length skirts, heels, and some other stuff roughly in the category of feminine office clothes. There isn't anything in the game more revealing than a scoop neck tee or a tank top.
posted by ryanrs at 8:40 AM on June 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


Does using that ad for Perfect Dark as an introductory example seem like an odd choice to anyone else? I felt like the point of the ad was to subvert the narrative about women and clothing that Sarkeesian is discussing; the sting is when the narrator says "what is she going to wear?" and the back wall of the closet drops away to reveal an arsenal. It seems plausible that they were laying it on so thick in the first half of the ad in order to make the juxtaposition stronger.

It does demonstrate the trope is pretty widespread since Rare made an ad riffing on it the way they did, but I would have tried to find an example to introduce the topic of this video that didn't have that self-reflexivity muddying the waters. Her parody with a male protagonist falls a little flat since it looks like the ad itself is meta-commentary on the same topic.

Also, a little surreal to hear Gamergaters saying Sarkeesian is trying to silence them when for every Feminist Frequency video there are hundreds of Gamergater response videos, right there in the sidebar.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 8:46 AM on June 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


Also, a little surreal to hear Gamergaters saying Sarkeesian is trying to silence them when for every Feminist Frequency video there are hundreds of Gamergater response videos, right there in the sidebar

Well, clearly she's silencing them if they cannot physically force her to read/listen to and agree with every single one of their points!

Isn't that what the marketplace of ideas is all about? [j/k]
posted by suelac at 8:49 AM on June 16, 2016 [9 favorites]


Usually while laughing hysterically as my friend and I try to figure out how such an outfit even works.

I guess TERA's trash mobs must drop a lot of spirit gum.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:09 AM on June 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


EVE Online gets this right

EVE is a pretty poor comparison, you could replace the UI with a literal spreadsheet without really significantly changing the game mechanics.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:12 AM on June 16, 2016


I want all games to be more like Dark Souls, in which the thought of possibly revealing any personality (let alone sexuality) gets you scornfully laughed at.

Erm... methinks you are misunderstanding a large portion of DS Culture. Fashion Souls is 100% a thing - because aside from a few specific-resistance outfits, the stats of your clothing aren't nearly as important as just not being hit. Granted, the Fashion being Souls'd is much more on the 'badass/ludicrous' scale rather than being sexualized nearly as much as any other games... but personality is a HUGE part of dressing up in the Souls series.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:32 AM on June 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


I was glad to see her call out Assassin's Creed: Syndicate as a positive example. A big part of why I liked that game was the character Evie Frye. She's both feminine and strong, attractive and competent. And not sexualized other than a sweet flirty side plot where she clearly has agency. She's a believable female hero without just being a reskinned male character. I think it worked pretty well.

I say this in every discussion about Sarkeesian, but part of what I like about her work is that it's serious games criticism. It's feminist criticism, and I like that too, but factoring that out for a moment it's great to see someone look so closely at how games are constructed. Hypersexualized female characters in scant costumes are boringly reptitious. Games can be way more interesting and compelling if they do more than just show animated swimsuit models. I'm OK with having the occasional jerkoff fantasy character in a game, it's just that's almost all we get and it's tedious. In addition to being harmfully sexist, it's just not very good game design.
posted by Nelson at 9:47 AM on June 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


one of the things I like the most about playing Destiny, which is Bungie's latest venture into first person shooters (they produced Halo) is that they do not sexualize the character armor. Like, at all. You can run a lady Titan (heavy infantry) and her armor will look exactly identical to a dude, with the same pauldrons and chest plate - the only visual cues that she's a female come from the fact that she's shorter, slimmer and has a higher hip/waist ratio, there's no boobage visible at all. The Hunters and Warlocks are much less heavily armored but the females don't get any more scanty or low-cut. The fabric hugs the bodies of the characters (male and female both) in the same places, and billows out in the same places. Warlocks (both male and female) wear "dresses" (warlock robes). Hunters wear what looks like a shape hugging catsuit with a cloak. There's no skin visible on any characters except in social spaces if you choose the option that defaults to "helmet off in social spaces".

and it seems like accordingly the Destiny player community is a lot more friendly, welcoming and socially mature than other gaming communities I've had dealings with. Plus the game itself is fun and the music and visuals are astonishing.
posted by lonefrontranger at 9:50 AM on June 16, 2016 [5 favorites]


I loved that fake man commercial with him in the shower.

Oh my god, that naked attack hair thing? The TOTAL SHOT UP THE WOMAN'S COOTER? Ewwwwwww. "Winning intellectual points by walking around naked?" WHAAAT. The girl who refuses to wear clothes because she breathes through her skin? WHAAAT. Banging on a horse while her clothes magically come off? Ouch and dangerous.

I presume there's probably some game out there where women just run around naked and roll over and fuck any male player who approaches them and that is all there is to it. Except I'm sure Anita would have heard of it and commented on it by now, so maybe things aren't that bad. Yet. But wait five minutes.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:56 AM on June 16, 2016


Oh, don't worry, jenfullmoon. There are plenty of modern equivalents to Custer's Revenge. I assume that, if Sarkeesian hasn't mentioned them it's for one or more of these reasons:

1. It's simply too low-hanging of fruit
2. The games are pretty fringe and not really part of mainstream culture
3. In a weird way, they're actually less problematic than games like Bayonetta, in the same way that carelessly sexist movies are worse than actual pornography
posted by 256 at 10:16 AM on June 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


A game where "women just run around naked and roll over and fuck any male player who approaches them" probably exists, but at that point I think everyone would straight up acknowledge that it's a porno game. Where a lot of these games exist in this zone where a certain amount of titillation has been normalized enough that they'll put it in a game without that being the identity of the game.

Pharm said this above about make-up, but "Anything that’s outside the norm is a distraction for the viewer." I would say for this, anything outside the norm becomes the identity of the game. So they can do this in Street Fighter and Soul Caliber and they're still largely identified just as fighting games, because it's still seen as within the norm. But if you had the male characters sexualized with the same frequency and extent, you'd be the "scantily-clad-men fighting game" because you stepped out of the norm.
posted by RobotHero at 10:25 AM on June 16, 2016


So sometimes video games need things like this video to remind everyone that the norm in video games is ridiculous.
posted by RobotHero at 10:29 AM on June 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


I feel like another thing that makes most AAA titles feel like they come from the mind of an 11yr old boy, in addition to the hyper-sexualization of women, is homophobia -- the "male butt" video by the same presenter is particularly (un)revealing in that regard.
posted by smidgen at 10:37 AM on June 16, 2016


Bikini Armor Battle Damage is a really good tumblr that reviews female armor in various games using their Female Armor Bingo Card; they also have a bingo card for the rhetoric used to justify female armor tropes.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:48 PM on June 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


Samus Aran (AKA Metroid) is a classic example.

This really isn't true; beating the first game while meeting specific criteria gave you an image of Samus in a bikini. Yes, for most of the game she isn't sexualized, however players could - and did - do work in order to see her in varying states of nudity, turning that nudity (however pixilated) into a prize they could win.

I've really begun to find how often women are presented as something to be consumed extremely off-putting, which is troublesome since it's really common. I never started listening to a popular comedian's podcast because literally the first episode I listened to began with "she's a wonderful actress and really funny - and bonus you can jack off thinking about her!" and I was never able to care about his opinion or show again; even thinking about trying to listen to him now makes me feel nauseous. It's such a reminder that no matter how skilled, accomplished, intelligent, productive, creative, and motivated a woman is we cannot escape boner-notes from random men who will simultaneously claim to admire us.

Ironically, my favorite Final Fantasies are X and X-2; people who have seen the costumes know why that's ironic!!

Bayonetta is an interesting case (one of the more interesting discussions where multiple feminists disagree strongly). Maddy Myers (Bayonetta Done's Care if She's Not Your Kink) and Catherine Cross (Two concepts of nudity (NSFW text)) both have very thought provoking analyses of Bayonetta as a representation and embodiment for them of feminine power, dominance, and violence. I still tend toward Sarkeesian's pov, but I think Myers and Cross both have valuable perspectives on navigating being women in a patriarchial/kyriarchial world and I've really enjoyed their joy in being Bayonetta in particular.

I think there's a lot to interrogate in the idea of 'woman as sexual object has power', as the reality is usually 'woman as sexual object is indulged for a while then abandoned once she diverges from the fantasy too much' while the power remains solidly with the man in that heterosexual encounter. I tend to think this form of empowerment is another trap for women to give up chances at more direct money/independence/influence, but there is no denying that the sex industry in particular can (but doesn't necessarily) be a bridge from power-from-men to more direct power that is less easily taken away by the whims of another.

I see the issue of women as dress being a more direct representation of these two kinds of power. Is the woman powerful because she is skilled and equipped, or is she powerful because she is indulged by the men with the real power? I personally see power as the former, and empowerment as the latter, but this is a personal quirk.
posted by Deoridhe at 4:21 PM on June 16, 2016 [2 favorites]




1) If your womb is showing, you're doing it wrong.

2) Not all women have wombs (or an XX genetic code).

3) Yeah, I know it's supposed to be funny. Made me feel vaguely ill. The comments really didn't help; mansplaining and power behind the throne eugenics fantasies is not a good look. I'm way too witches for this shit.
posted by Deoridhe at 7:32 PM on June 16, 2016


4) I thought the comic was somewhat amusing but the ads at the bottom for "trending articles" showing boobs and which celebrities did porn was....defeating.
posted by amanda at 9:00 PM on June 16, 2016


Was that a typo or is "way too witches" an expression I'm not familiar with? (A brief attempt at googling did not explain the meaning to me.)
posted by RobotHero at 9:24 PM on June 16, 2016


I suppose the first episode of Bikini Warriors, "It's Not a Bikini if It's Armor" could be considered a relevant if completely stupid contribution to this comment thread. (NSFW, 99 44⁄100% pure fanservice, completely stupid)
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 9:29 PM on June 16, 2016


"too witches" is a Malloryism.
posted by Deoridhe at 11:46 PM on June 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Does using that ad for Perfect Dark as an introductory example seem like an odd choice to anyone else? I felt like the point of the ad was to subvert the narrative about women and clothing that Sarkeesian is discussing...

I think Sarkeesian is going to great lengths to point out the asymmetry - that this ad featuring a woman is sort of unremarkable but a similar ad featuring a man would be ludicrous and bizarre - because it's becoming clear that many of the people who watch her videos do not comprehend that there is an asymmetry, they do not understand that the ad might be subverting a stereotype. Hot babe chooses outfit in a lavish closet, outfit happens to be guns. A scene which might be torn from any of a zillion shitty interchangeable action flicks. Situation normal. The ad's subversion of the women-are-obsessed-with-clothes stereotype, insofar as there is any, is too subtle to register with much of the audience.

It seems to me that the FF videos have been descending in grade level a little bit as it has become clear that a lot of her audience/haters need something more basic. No statement of the obvious turns out to really be obvious to the YouTubiverse.
posted by Western Infidels at 10:25 AM on June 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Tomb Raider Cosplay (it's funny).
posted by Nelson at 9:12 AM on June 23, 2016


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