The portrayal of women as sex symbols is nothing new. The depiction of unattainable beauty is one that still haunts women everyday. However, can we blame it all on men?
** Warning there will be a long ramble through history that is seemingly unconnected with gaming but bear with me, I have a point.**
Since the beginning of time women have jumped through (and at some point worn) hoops to idealize their form and figure. At different points in history (and some still around today) women have bound their feet, their necks and their waists. They've put on makeup and straightened their hair. They talked in a breathy whisper and looked demurely at the ground. I'm not denying this.
However, there are quite a few things that people do not know, or have chosen to forget about many of these practices.
Though 2 wrongs don't make a right I'd like to point out something women tend to forget, they are not alone. What I mean is men have subscribed to a lot of the same beautification tortures that women have.
Make-up!Both Egyptian men and women wore Kohl eyeliner and contrary to popular belief, it had nothing to do with beauty. The Egyptians believed that rimming the eyes with Kohl would ward off evil spirits and improve sight. I'd say that now women wear it for appeal but they aren't the only ones, men rock the guyliner every once in a while too. In ancient Rome female slaves called Cosmitae produced cosmetics, and in China around 3,000BC high born women stained their fingernails with a mixture of gum arabic, gelatin, beeswax and eggs.
Why am I talking about make-up? If you haven't noticed yet these trends, these standards of beauty have been perpetrated by women, not men.
Now on to Garments!I'd like to quickly mention as well that in Ancient Egypt most women went bare-breasted, their traditional garments being either a skirt or a tunic that could be worn just below or above the breasts. Obviously the Ancient Egyptians were a lot less repressed than us.
In both 7th century BCE in the Minoan era and in 1st Century Egypt there are depictions of women athletes wearing a bra/bikini type top. Interesting how far back these things go.
Personally I feel that the Middle Ages followed by the Renaissance had it right. In the middle ages women wore high necked, full skirted dresses with a straight bodice, functionality over form. The Renaissance of course favored the full figured woman.
All this wonderful practicality in clothing went out the window in the 16th century. Corsets. heck they are still around today.
In the 17th century the fashion was a tubular corset, straight up and down which flattened the breasts and made them swell over the top of the gown, this was paired with a Farthingale (a cage like undergarment) that gave women that wide flat look, Think Marie Antoinette and the like.
Moving on to around the 1820's-1830's the fashionable thing was a Wasp waist for...wait for it...
BOTH men and women.
our final Corset stop is the Victorian Era. This is the time that doctors started to realize that hey, corsets aren't good for you! They urged women to stop using them, but what did women do? They ignored the "unfashionable" advice.
Though this has nothing to do with garments I'd like to add one more torturous practice.
I, like a lot of people have at one point or another for some odd reason heard of the practice of foot binding. Like those other people I was quick to blame men for the barbaric practice of torturing girls for aesthetics, that is until I actually read a bit about it.
You see, the binding of the feet began with wealthy well-born women. It was a way to flaunt Status not appeal, though of course that came into play as well. The binding of the feet was a way of showing the world that these women didn't have to do manual labor. It also demonstrated the fact that their husband didn't need their wives to work. They could afford to take care of them, while the wives' only duties were to serve her husband and order the servants, never lifting a finger herself. I won't go into the gruesome particulars that go into the process of foot binding, but I would like to share the fact that the ideal foot size was 3 inches. Balancing on 3 inch feet made women take small steps and walk unsteadily on their heels, this necessary walk made them sway alluringly, however, men weren't stupid. Though they liked the effect most of them never let their wives remove their shoes and bindings in their presence.
As it happens with everything, once the wealthy or popular start a trend the masses will eventually follow. By the 17th century most women had their feet bound, even the poorest.
Ok, but what the hell does this have to do with anything?
If you haven't noticed by now, I ramble, a lot. I also go off on all sorts of tangents. Sorry, that's just my way. However, all that talk about make-up and corsets and feet ARE related to scantily clad women in video games and the people this offends.
First it shows that in many cases women themselves submit themselves to these tortures and also that men are not immune to the pressures of an idealized mate.
Still don't see where I'm going?
Lets start with some visual aids.
I know that there are a ton of games out there with scantily clad women and content that offends most people. However, I wanted to keep it more well known so I'll be using some common characters from games like Soul Calibur, Final Fantasy and Dynasty Warriors to name a few.
We shall begin with one of my personal favorites:
Are those flotation devices?
Meet Ivy Valentine from Soul Calibur. While Ivy has been rockin' a pretty big rack since the first Soul Calibur game she really caused an uproar when her character model was..uh...enhanced for Soul Calibur 4. Both men and women were offended by the bodacious brit and her top heavy look. Me? I said to myself "damn her back must really hurt" and went back to life as usual. Obviously Ms. Valentine's design is intended to titillate (no pun intended). On top of this fact is the fact that a sensible person might want to wear oh...I don't know...clothes, armor, something more than floss and thigh highs if they were going to battle. But, does her lack of practical clothing and insane body proportions make her just a character for men to ogle? well, if you are familiar with Soul Calibur you already know that Ivy is one of the hardest characters to master. Should you master her moves however, you'll be pwning a whole lotta noobs left and right. So....Ivy? Sexy, overly sexualized, unnecessarily over sexualized but also a good fighter an expert swords-woman and an alchemical genius if you follow her story (which is admittedly not that deep but come on, its a fighting game). As a woman, you can be offended by the character design or you can get over it, use her alternate costume and enjoy your game.
You see, its all in how you look at it. You can choose to be offended because men will be attracted to her character design, or you can see it as a plus. Nothing like distracting an enemy in order to stab them from behind.
Ivy and Taki are but 2 of a bevy of kick ass females in Soul Calibur. They come in every flavor and size, from the young cute Talim (who will destroy you with her elbow blades) to the the small breasted Seong Mi-Na and her Halberd. My personal favorites however are Tifa (the psychotic with the razor sharp ring blade and split personality) and Sophitia (as if that weren't obvious) the blonde Greek mother of 2 who fights with a short sword and shield and some bitchin' kicks.
To me these characters are a very strong female presence in the game world. Strong independent kick ass fighters. Its not the characters themselves that offensive its what people do with said characters, how they choose to exploit them. For example, when Soul Calibur 4 was released it didn't take long for someone to exploit and degrade them.
Where are your clothes? Where is your dignity!
Now the following lady in this list is a newcomer but due to her looks and abilities has gotten a lot of attention.
Bayonetta has been the talk of the town since the game was announced. A librarian-ish looking witch with a killer body, guns on her feet and clothing made out of her hair. Aside from the fact that her creator is most proud of the time and skill it took to render her derriere to his satisfaction there really isn't anything all that offensive about the character model, is there? Her outfit while tight is pretty conservative, her breasts are a normal size and her face is attractive yet nerdy. What's the drama?
Not only does Bayonetta duel wield pistols, she also duel feet's them. Her walk is sexy, her voice is sultry, her special attacks require her to undre- wait what?
Yes, aside from her impressive arsenal of weapons and abilities Bayonetta can use Torture Attacks. These are special moves that can summon Iron Maidens into which she flings her enemies, Guillotines to which she kicks her enemies repeatedly until she finally drops the blade on them, but wait, that's not all (I feel like an infomercial). Bayonetta can also magically turn her hair
I've only played the demo as the game won't be out until Tuesday but I can honestly say that far from being an exploitative, sexist take on a female character, she's an awesome asset to the game world females, hell, from the bit I've played she'd give quite a few male characters a run for their money in bad-assery.
Hot chicks, scant outfits, much ass kicking, lots of fun
(historically relevant..sort of)
Making a female character sexually alluring does not automatically invalidate them as positive female characters. To illustrate this point I'd like to show you a few characters from one of my favorite gaming series' Dynasty Warriors. If you aren't familiar with Dynasty Warriors, its a game based no the Three Kingdoms period of China. It takes the real life people who fought in the many wars between Wei, Shu and Wu, makes them super pretty and then pits them against wave after wave of nameless foes as you wade your way through the famous battles they fought, sort of, I mean its not really accurate, but it is fun.
This is Diao Chan, considered one of the 3 fabled beauties of China. A dancing girl who captures the heart of one very big, but not very bright and extremely scary man named Lu Bu.
She's beautiful, scantily clad and carries a whip. If I was a guy I'd probably need to take a break right now. (damn I'm a sexist pig.)
Meet Sun ShangXiang. The daughter of Sun Jian, the Tiger of Jiang Dong and ruler of Wu. Despite the fact that her game model looks like a young girl in a skimpy cutesy outfit, her skills with her bow are deadly. Historically she was a skilled fighter as were her 100 handmaidens. In an attempt at alliance she was married to Liu Bei, Ruler of Shu. Its said that Liu Bei was terrified of her servants.
Wait, that's just it. No one wants to play an ugly character. Games are escapism, games are role play, you can be pretty much anything in a game so why would you choose to be ugly in a world where you can be anyone? You can't judge in game characters with real world logic. Its just ridiculous.
I know, you might be saying "yeah but you contradict yourself when you posted the crotch shots from Soul Calibur and claimed to take offense".
Yeah, you're right, guess I'm a hypocrite, but its still my blog ;) I kid.
Ignoring my hypocrisy, you might say, "but wait! you've just made me read this never ending blog post about stuff that has nothing to do with gaming followed by pics of cute/hot/big breasted game characters that you claim don't offend you and that you enjoy playing as but..we're not talking about a woman playing games with these characters. We're talking about men drooling over pixelated women." (and if you did say that you better take adeep breath and get a glass of water, your mouth must be dry)
To this I say, yeah, you're right...what was my point again?
Oh, now I remember.
I've written this post assuming a few key points.
1. Women play video games
2. Men play video games
3. Game characters are made to appeal to the player.
4. There's a difference between a sexy character model and placing said character in degrading positions that serve no purpose but to strock a few messed up libidos. One is A-ok and the other is sexist and insulting.
5. Tomorrow is another day and I'll be putting the shoe on the other foot.
hmm....I guess I could have just written the last paragraph and called it a day huh?
well tomorrow I'll wrap it all up with a brief history of feminism, post feminism and flippin the whole damn game chick argument around.