Being a single mom and raising two children on my own I’ve had to go through both ends of the spectrum when it comes to peer pressure, how society views each gender, and making sure my children have a strong self-esteem. I can honestly say that raising a girl is a far harder task than raising a boy. When it comes to raising a girl, a parent is at a constant battle against movies, TV, models, advertisements for clothing, the music industry, and countless others that force the issue that beauty sells, and the more looks you have, the better figure you have, the farther you’ll go in life. Yes, there are all sorts of outside influences that are harmful to our daughters, and sometimes even ourselves.
Recently an article was brought to attention that pointed out the character of Elizabeth from Bioshock: Infinite. Words such as sexist, bigot, and misogyny were thrown around. Suddenly Elizabeth was tossed into a whirlwind of protest against the way females are portrayed in video games, let alone the suggestion that she was constructed showing a hatred towards women. Now do not be mistaken - I will be right there at the front with the rest of the group in agreeing that the media is indeed very harmful to our gender, young and old. I can not however, point out Elizabeth and agree that she portrays an image of hatred towards women, nor would I pick Elizabeth as a prime example of how women are overly sexualized in video games.
What started Elizabeth down this spiral of outcries from both male and female gamers? Her outfit. Yes, Elizabeth’s corset is the spark that started a fire. We don’t know about Elizabeth yet. We’ve been given a small glimpse of her character in which to draw conclusions, and it seems the conclusions drawn have been that of a weak, hated, and over sexualized female. Now we do know that Elizabeth has been imprisoned on Columbia for her entire life. Could the corset possibly represent imprisonment? What about control over her? Hate? Hatred towards women?
Now the fact that Elizabeth shows some cleavage does fit into the common image of how women are portrayed in video games - big busted with tiny waists in order to appeal to men. But let’s be honest here. Elizabeth is no Lara Croft. Or Ivy, for that matter. In fact, I can think of a least a dozen female game characters that are drawn more voluptuous than poor Elizabeth. When I look at her character I simply see a female character dressed in appropriate clothing for the time period being represented. Yes, the corset led to serious health problems as a lot of women laced them tighter than needed, not to mention the idea that women were suppose to be a certain size and shape. But aren’t we forgetting one little detail? The majority of women choose to wear corsets because that was the appropriate fashion for the time. The only forcing done was often by a girls own mother who would train her into the corset by having her wear it to bed. Let’s not forget that it was common back then for men to wear corsets. Yes, men used them too.
Go online today to Victoria’s Secret and you can find any number of corsets for sale. If the corset represents imprisonment, control and a hatred towards women, then why are they still being sold? Because women want to look and feel attractive, to be the image of beauty that the media tells us we should be. Or maybe they’re just self-confident enough that they’re not afraid to flaunt their sexuality. So how does drawing a female character in a corset represent hatred towards women? If anything it just strengthens the argument that female game characters are created to be appealing to men. Do we even need to get into the whole BDSM outlook? Aren’t we getting a little ahead of ourselves then?
Perhaps the biggest problem I have with the whole Elizabeth controversy is the fact that we don’t know because we haven‘t played the game. We don’t know her entire story or how she’ll turn out to be. We don’t know how her relationship with Booker will transpire. We are walking a thin line and acting like those that accuse our games of being something they’re not when we react without knowing the complete story.
So does Elizabeth deserve to be included with all the other female characters that poorly represent the female gender? Personally, I think not. And although I get tired of seeing overly sexualized female characters in my video games, I understand that they are the result of how other media throughout the years has influenced the image of women. Video games are guilty of following suit, but it’s the fashion industry, movie industry, and other outside sources that I feel we need to worry about more. Our sons and daughters are constantly bombarded with images of beautiful people, even more so since the majority of teenagers spend most of the time on the net. There are real idols that our children look up to. Real people in real jobs they dream of having. Although we can’t control all the outside influences our children are faced with, we can try our best to raise them with enough self-esteem not to give into it, or alter their appearance to fit in. If we’ve done our job then all the Elizabeth’s in the world aren’t going to matter.
Misogyny? BDSM? Or just a bad advertisement?
It's not only breast implants. Girls are starving themselves to look like this.
Do we need to keep on the gaming industry to change the way they portray female characters? Yes, we do. But not by grabbing up the torches and going after something we’ve yet to learn about. And what about praising them when they do it right? Why must we take something in our favor and tear it apart even more like we did with FemShep? Why are we complaining when we’re given a female character to play in one game instead of asking for say a female character in a popular game like MW? Change will come, but we need to approach it in a sensible manner. I don’t feel we did that with Elizabeth.