Bad Gamer Arguments
For every woman in a chainmail bikini, there’s a super-buff barbarian dude in a loincloth. Why is it okay to portray the barbarian as a sex object, but not treat a woman the same way?
Why do you think Superman is so buff?
I’ll give you a hint: it’s not because women demanded it. If Superman were created as a sexual fantasy for women, he wouldn’t be punching out villains in comic books: he’d be making out with Wolverine in a Harlequin romance novel.
Instead, Superman is buff because men demanded it. Superman represents a male fantasy: the fantasy of being strong and dominant and muscly and virile; of beating up bad guys and getting the girl and saving the day; and so on.
In a similar way, your half-naked barbarian dude isn’t a female fantasy, or a sop to women; he’s a manifestation of a male fantasy. Chainmail bikini lady (mostly-naked sorceress, etc.) is a fantasy of possession, and barbarian dude is a fantasy of being, but they’re still written and designed and crafted with male players and readers in mind.
Are you saying that women don’t find barbarians sexy? (Are you saying that all men find naked ladies sexy?)
No. I’m sure some women are turned on by barbarians, and some men are turned off by chainmail bikinis.
But this isn’t a customized product: these products are created with millions of people in mind, and it treats those people as members of a demographic, rather than individuals.
As a result, while individuals with outlying preferences may not have those preferences reflected in the product, the product was still designed with them in mind — and it therefore remains accurate to talk about “male sexual fantasy”, even if not every man is party to it.
It’s unfair to expect content creators to be inclusive. We should be telling good stories, not trying to check “diversity boxes”. And, anyway, making a big deal out of a character’s gender or sexuality or race would be really, really boring.
If he can coax forth the creativity and energy and artistic effort to slide intelligent, worthwhile, significant female characters into his works, you can find space in your RPG for at least one half-decent female NPC.
And if you expect women to suck it up and play along in a game which excludes them, why is it unfair of us to expect you to suck it up and write a decent woman?
Well, how about we just insert some female fantasies? You know, turn some male characters into sex objects? Won’t that fix the problem?
The presence of sex objects in a non-pornographic context is the problem. You don’t fix the sexualization of women by sexualizing men, too; you fix the sexualization of women by desexualizing them.
It’s important to note that “desexualized” doesn’t mean “unfeminine”. Nobody’s saying that you have to stomp out all outward signs of gender and put everyone in head-to-toe potato sacks and treat them all exactly the same.
But it does mean that the chainmail bikinis need to go. (And that adding chainmail speedos won’t fix the problem.)
What’s wrong with sexy characters? Are you saying that sexualized characters can’t be interesting?
No. Plenty of sexy characters are interesting, and quite often the sexiness is inherent to that interest.
The issue is that, in comic books and video games in particular, when women get featured at all, their defining attribute is often sexiness. (Not femininity or femaleness; out-and-out sexiness.) Put in other terms, male characters get personalities; female characters get DD-cups and seductive glints in their eyes.
By limiting female characters to this role, they’re effectively reduced to token status, which both limits storytelling possibilities and limits the extent to which women can see themselves portrayed within games. That’s bad.
How do you know that Anonymous City Guard No. 4412b isn’t a lesbian, or that Anonymous Blacksmith isn’t gay, or whatever?
A queer character who is indistinguishable from every other character — and indistinguishable from a straight, cisgendered character — is not a queer character. Heteronormativity, look it up.
Don’t you want queerfolk to be indistinguishable from straightfolk?
We want queerness to not limit someone’s horizons. We don’t want queerness smushed into a teeny tiny wee box right next to “blue eyes” and “left testicle hangs lower than the right”.
Why can’t you just let me enjoy my game in peace?
Complaining on the internet in no way impedes your ability to enjoy your game. Have fun!
If, however, you’re finding that our arguments are making you uncomfortable, perhaps you might care to examine why?
a sack of potatoes looks just like a real big potato and if that doesn’t prove how harmonious the world is then i don’t know what will
Now what does that say about a milk carton?
On Dyke Marches
"Why can’t I walk in the Dyke March?” asked the cisman. “Isn’t that a little sexist? Isn’t that what this whole parade is about? Discrimination, acceptance, inclusion? Why are you on this crusade to exclude me?!”
The answer is simple: if you are a cisman, the Dyke March is not about you.
The Dyke March is, among other things, an opportunity for queer women to assert their independence from men. It’s organized entirely by queer women, entirely for queer women, as a show of solidarity, as an opportunity to exist as a community, and as a reminder that male approval and endorsement and involvement is not at all required in order for their community to function.
Queer women are a distinct group within the LGBT community, and should not be erased or ignored or written off as a subset of queer cismen, as often happens. (This is by no means the only reason Dyke Marches happen, but it’s a prominent one.)
If, as a cisman, you support that goal, fantastic! But stay on the sidewalk where—for the next few hours—you belong. The Dyke March is not your space, so leave it to the people who have worked for it.
And that’s the trouble with inclusiveness, especially when we bring gender and sexuality into the equation.
On the one hand, yes: Pride should be a welcoming, safe space for as many people as possible. If you want to come and watch, I don’t care who you are. See the Parade, buy the t-shirt, drink the overpriced beer, listen to the mandatory Cyndi Lauper concert, turn down the twink who propositioned you, have a grand old time.
But in terms of actual equal participation? Yes, some people simply do not belong at certain events, and—in general—we’re talking about heterosexual cisgendered people.
Pride is not an opportunity for straight people to tell us, at considerable length, about how tolerant they are, how deeply they care, how moved they are by our plight, how important we are, how much they accept us: Pride is an opportunity for us to do our own thing. Save the plaudits and backslapping for another day: this isn’t about you.
So this is relevant again. Goddammit.
Could I please respectfully ask that you all TAG YOUR MOTHERFUCKING GAME OF THRONES SPOILERS
NED STARK KILLS DUMBLEDORE
If all the world’s a stage does that mean you can’t say ‘Macbeth’ anywhere?
My hobby when stage managing: working “Macbeth” into ordinary conversations, just to make the actors turn funny colours.