Sunday, January 3, 2010

Finally! Let's talk about scantily clad women

  One of the biggest complaints women make about games is that the women in them are all scantily clad, big breasted, cheap looking, unrealistic depictions. They ask "where are the strong, capable, and perhaps a tad more proportionately even women?" you know what? I can't argue that most women in games are scantily clad eye candy. Does that automatically discard them as strong capable characters?

  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.

  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.
Foot Binding.

  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.

Meet Taki, another Soul Calibur lady with deadly skills and built in airbags. Again, I know a lot of women would find the character design offensive. Personally, I just wonder how she doesn't knock herself out with those when she's doing her ninja flips. Yet another character who you can either dominate with or be destroyed if you don't know her moves well. Her weapons have short range, but she compensates for this failing by being extremely fast and acrobatic. Again, another woman who would kick your ass in a heartbeat. Her looks don't offend me, and her skills put her in the strong capable woman category.

  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!

See, that IS offensive. That is sexist and mysoginistic. Its insulting and only serves to support and strengthen the negative views about games and the people who play them. It does gamer's a great disservice because as they say, One bad apple spoils the barrel.

Now the following lady in this list is a newcomer but due to her looks and abilities has gotten a lot of attention.

Meet Bayonetta

And her perfectly sculpted rear.

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 shirt I mean catsuit into an assortment of creative attacks which leave her in a shocking state of mostly undressed.

  Though none of her naughty bits are shown, I'm sure there will be a few people (if there aren't already) who will not be pleased with the wily witch. Personally I find the idea of her clothes being her hair and her weapon particularly cool and different from the usual gaming fare. I also wish I could rock the librarian look as well as her.
  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.

Finally we have Yue Ying, wife of the great strategist of Shu, Zhuge Liang. She's my personal favorite because she can decimate a fort full of enemies easily with her bow. She's also one of the characters (along with Diao Chan) that is almost completely fabricated. Historically not very much was known about Zhuge Liang's wife except that he was impressed by her wisdom and that she wasn't very attractive. Glad they changed that for the game, seriously, I don't wanna be an ugly chick.

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.


James Henderson said...

Truth. Nobody wants to ideally play as a real version of themselves, because that's called real life, and in games you want to be able to do stuff that you can't do in real life, whether you physically can't do it, or whether it'd be against the law to.

It's why Grand Theft Auto has so much mass appeal. You're clearly someone you're not. You can drive around cities really really fast, you can kill people, you can blow stuff up, you can go bowling with your cousin (alright maybe not that last one) in the game but you can't do it in real life, because it's against the law, Although it doesn't stop some people but no prime example's without its exceptions.

I play beat'em ups because I'm a weedy nerd type that couldn't kick a sandbag's ass, never mind another person. Games let me be able to do that. I'm not agile. No problem, play Team Fortress 2 and bunny-hop to my heart's content as a Scout.

Have boobs. Pick any female character. Sorted.

It's been overcomplicated to so many different degrees that the argument itself is a tangent to the source problem, and the people fighting the cause are fighting for something way different than the original cause. And I'm arguing a completely different cause than the one being talked about. I've been reading too much Tim Rogers I think.

But yeah, I like me my videogame eye candy because I know I'm not going to see anything like it up close and personal on a human scale. Nothing more, nothing less. It makes snapping back to reality all that bit more better knowing that I'll have a hard time finding people that look that damn good after I turn off the power. It makes me less shallow in a sense, if you get what I mean. I've got a feeling that I could talk more about it but I'll take a raincheck on it, it's 3am now and since you say you have more to bring to the table, I'll ride it out and wait to see what's in store on the next episode.

Sihaya said...

See you just said what I said but in like 1/4 the time. I think I've been reading too much damn Tim Rogers. My post was Ramblerific!
I WAS supposed to do the part yesterday but my daughter invited her friend over and all hell broke loose and then they decided to have her spend the night. OY. so now I'm stuck with a fourth child for mostof the day today and my kisd fighting over her like she's the last slice of pizza.
But I've already got my notes in order and my visual aids so as soon as I'm able to get some peace I'll be writing that.
For now I'll probably post one of older reviews, like...Oblivion.

Josh said...

This was a good post. Keep up the good work.

Jim said...

I am sorry I missed this post it is fantastic and really well done.

my first fave was Heavy Metal F.A.K.K. and ever since playing Julie Strain in that game I've noticed that the girl leads wear a bikini into a fight while the mean are so overloaded with armor they can barely move

SihayatheFremen said...

Thanks. It took me a while to put together all that stuff. This was back in the days when I was trying to really make this a "real" blog with deep thoughts and important points.
Now its just a big muddle of rants and silly stuff.

I never did get around to the second part of this which was going to be on the pretty and burly males of the gaming world which are just as unrealistic as the women yet dont get a third the flack. be a procrastinator with high ambitions. lol

As to men in big ridiculous unwieldy armour I have 2 words....
Space Marine.