Right now sexism is a hot button issue amongst games media and related gaming sites. This is in part because we are being told that females are playing games now more than ever and as such their combined voices are getting ever louder. While there is no inherent problem with this (everyone deserves to have their voice heard), there is a problem with what many of these people are choosing to speak about. While I will not excuse legitimate occurrences of sexism I will argue that the vast majority of things that people call sexist are in no way sexist. So let’s look at what I am talking about.
While Wikipedia may not be the best source of accurate information, some of the information found here will do for the sake of ease of access:
"Sexism, also known as gender discrimination or sex discrimination, is the belief that a characteristic inherent in one's sex necessarily adversely affects one's ability even though that characteristic does not necessarily have that effect."
So the below picture is not sexist:
What you are looking at are breasts. Every woman has them (medical conditions excluded), some women have large breasts, some women have small breasts. Saying that a picture of a woman’s breasts is sexist is akin to walking up to a woman on the street who happens to have large breasts and yelling at them for being sexist. That does not make sense. Being sexist would be to think that because a person has breasts that they are inherently less intelligent or otherwise less capable than a person who does not have breasts. That would be sexist.
Assumptions VS Fact
It is at this point that it is important to note that making assumptions about a person based upon certain known facts is not discrimination. Assuming a woman is not good at math because they are a woman is sexual discrimination. Assuming a woman will like pictures of cute baby animals because they are a woman is not sexual discrimination. What is the difference between these two assumptions? The mathematics assumption is sexist because (in most western countries at least) man and women have equal access to learning about mathematics. Who is better is determined by their individual abilities or how well they were taught the subject. Regarding cute animals however, women are more likely to find cute animals appealing than males. This could in part be attributed to “maternal instincts” however my girlfriend who has absolutely no “maternal instinct” as it were still breaks down every time a cute little lamb stares down the lenses of a camera.
This is of cause not saying that all women like cute animals and no men like cute animals, it is just talking percentage chances and making a safe bet. Making assumptions about people based upon known characteristics is one of the tools used by humans every day to help them get through the day. If you can’t make an assumption about someone, then you have to ask them every possible relevant question before you can get any work done with them. Lets use myself as an example. I am going to start describing myself and you are going to start picturing what sort of person I am. First off, I am male, wear glasses, play a lot of video games, work in IT and weigh about 120kg (264lbs). Right, so you have already made a few assumptions about my physical appearance, exercise routines, eating habits and probably my ability to socialize with others. You know what, there is nothing wrong with that and it would be ridiculous for me to be offended by those assumptions. That said, there are some things we can do to correct people’s assumptions. The easiest way to do this is to get more information about the individual themselves. Continuing with information about myself, I am about 187cm (6’ 2”) tall, I currently play and officiate ice hockey and have in the past have also played soccer and basketball and for some time I played all three at the same time. This perhaps alters you assumptions about my physical appearance. So in making assumptions, information is the key however you can not always get as much information as you need to accurately portray someone and you need to make assumptions to bridge these gaps.
Equal Opportunity VS Equal Treatment
As far as I see it, the feminist movement’s greatest statement is that it promotes equal opportunity. The important distinction here is that they do not promote being treated the same as males but rather being given equal opportunities. When it comes to voting, women deserve an equal opportunity to vote as men do but when it comes to opening doors men who open the door for a woman is considered chivalrous. If there is a generic desk job available, a woman should be given an equal opportunity as a man to get the job based upon their individual qualities. If however a woman rejects an advance from a man slapping them in the face, people might laugh or cheer on the woman but the scene would be very different if a man to slap the woman in the face given exactly the same scenario in reverse.
So what is the difference here? Women and men ARE different and people need to accept that. Men and women have a different biological make up from each other. Women can give birth and men can not. Men on average are stronger than women. These are just facts of our genetic makeup and there is nothing wrong with that. If on the other hand you make statements about the intelligence of a woman based purely on the fact that they are a woman and you cross the line into the territory of sexual discrimination. I need to clarify again here that I am strictly talking safe bets. I am not for example saying that all men are stronger than all women (I have living proof that this is not the case) but it is true that the majority of men I know are stronger than the majority of women I know. Speaking socially, men and women play distinct social roles. Many men consider it “bonding” to greet each other by punching each other usually in the shoulder, women on the other hand are more likely to hug. Though these roles are usually culturally dependent, for a good chunk of the western audience men hugging and women punching each other is not something we would expect to happen on a regular basis.
Female Aesthetics in Video Games
Enough about general comments on sexism, let us take a look at one of the issues plaguing the debate in video games: aesthetics. While I could jump straight back to the large breasts again, let’s look at the more general idea of clothing and body armor.
The logical argument in play here is that speaking practically, the woman in the picture is dramatically under armored with large exposed areas where as the man is covered almost completely in metal. The argument then flows that the game is sexist. Let’s compare this to real world clothing, more specifically, general business ware. The default male attire (again, culturally dependent) is a long sleeve shirt, pants and a tie. Generally covering themselves from head (well neck) to toe. Women on the other hand can wear short skirts, short sleeves and a low cut top showing off bother their legs and breasts simultaneously. Does this make women who dress like this sexist? No, this is just the attire as it has been accepted by the culture it exists in. If on the other hand we forced them to dress like this (like women’s beach volleyball), that would be sexist.
In truth, both men and women want the same things from the avatar that represent them. They both want to essentially look “good”. It just so happens that looking “good” has a different standard for men and women. Men tend to want to look like muscle bound tanks (like in Gears of War) and women tend to want to have a good figure and wear clothing that extenuates said figure. You know what, both are sexual representations. This flows from the idea that women find muscle bound men attractive and men find women with a good figure attractive. Both parties just want to look like what they consider to be their “best”. People want to look “cool” and “appealing” regardless of their gender. The practicality of the outfit itself (apart from the stats they provide) would almost never get a second look in.
So just to make sure my core point has gotten across, I want to reiterate that that appearance of large breasts alone in a video game are not sexist, they are an attempt at visual appeal. Save your anger for a game that makes every woman in the game a domestic engineer lacking the ability to think of anything beyond what to cook for dinner. As a final shocking point, the majority of people like breasts. Men like them for obvious reasons and women often appreciate another woman aesthetics for entirely different reasons. Case in point, the character that I have often heard several women pointing to as a “positive” influence is:
So yea. Breasts.