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Sexism is More Than Skin-Deep

The Master Chief

REBUTTAL TO: Give the Lady Some Armor!

I recently read Mr. Eller's editorial on the depiction of women in video games. While it was certainly interesting, it barely shed any new ground, and indeed was lacking in several key facets that I feel are a must when discussing the issue.

Before I start, let me say that this sort of thing has been happening long before Sony came along. Mai Shiranui (Fatal Fury), Chun-Li (Street Fighter), Celes (Final Fantasy), and Katt (Breath of Fire) were all female characters in the 16-bit era designed for the purpose of alluring adolescent males. Furthermore, Leisure Suit Larry is a franchise that didn't just start recently, but were among the first PC adventure titles during that genre's golden age. So while things have gotten somewhat worse with the advent of realistic polygonal graphics, let us not kid ourselves into thinking this is a problem started by the PlayStation.

Furthermore, to simply look at the way women are dressed is a failure to look at the whole picture. Take a look at how their personalities are usually, especially in RPGs. The main female is always shy and hesitant, almost immediately attracted to the main male lead. She's always completely innocent, doe-eyed, giggling and going doe-eyed at any chance they get. And why are they always depicted in this manner? Because that's what males 14-24 apparently like to see; perfect women staying behind their men, never talking back, never getting angry at her glorified Master, all but at his beck and call. In many ways, I find Rinoa (Final Fantasy) much more offensive than Rayne (Bloodrayne) ever could be. At least the latter has her own personality and isn't the perfect little love interest.

Another problem is the lack of legitimate female leads, particularly in RPGs. Quick, name me an RPG other than FFX-2 and Rhapsody released domestically that had a female leads (Games like Knights of the Old Republic with user-created lead characters don't count). You can't, can you? That's because men in the age group I mentioned don't want to see strong, independent women taking the lead. Look back at FFX-2. One of the things it was most heavily panned for was the all female party it sported. I've more than once seen the game referred to as “girly.” Would people have felt better were Yuna, Paine and Rikku going to war with each other over a man's affection throughout the game, fighting over the right to treat him like he was king of the world? I'm sure that after that reaction, Square's learned its lesson about female leads.

However, why are we at this point? Why is it that women are made to be less than men, and why is it that any attempt to reverse that trend is seen as unacceptable? The answer is simple: the demographic game companies seek is males 14-24. It's quick and easy to get their attention with beautiful women, either walking around in scantily outfits or acting like slaves to men. And, to be honest, that demographic isn't going to stop liking these things any time soon. What does need to happen is for women to get involved. Women need to start developing and publishing games, games that reflect women as they really are – Their attire, their personality, the whole bit – and having those games sell. In other words, women need to stop bitching about it and start doing something to change it, because the current developers and publishers aren't going to cut their own arm off to please a few screaming, indignant feminists. Personally, I for one hope women gain a presence in the industry. This industry could use a balancing in demographic, if nothing else than for originality. And if the results are more deep, strong-willed women like Bastilla and Kreia (Both from the Knights of the Old Republic series) and less wet blankets like Rinoa, then it'll be all the more worthwhile.

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