This is my first blog post so I hope that you guys will be kind.
This whole post comes after reading an article by Destructoid's Jonathan Holmes on the issue of Sex vs. Sexism in the world of gaming--it was very good, by the way. Here it is if you haven't read it yet.
Also note that this is a bit of a rant.
The post got me to thinking about an experience that I had last year. I currently go to an art college (that recently became a university, but well, that's another thing entirely) and in the year prior I took a course called "Introduction to Gaming Studies". One of the many topics was this issue about the view of women in gaming and in games themselves. What actually started the entire conversation was watching a few class members play Heavenly Sword and the fact that they noticed that she was half naked in a snowy area fighting guys twice her size with a ridiculously huge sword strapped to her back.
When the class was prompted to express how they felt about her as a character and her state of dress, many were offended. They compared her to Lara Croft or a multitude of those women that appear in fighting games with clothes that show a lot of skin, yet are able to hold their own with any of the men in the game. They were right to find this strange, but during the whole discussion I thought: "What of Nariko's character?" By that I mean, who was she and what was her story, and if in any way does that redeem her even though she's showing so much skin?
To me, Nariko was one of the few strong characters that I could relate to (whether female or male). I looked past the fact that she was half naked and enjoyed what the game and the narrative had to offer. I wanted to get to know
Nariko. So I played and watched and tried to understand who this character was and found out about her fight and drive. The fact that she knew she was dying, but still decided to fight for the future of her people. To me, she was a woman with a purpose and that impressed me and made me think that maybe she could be someone to look up to. When I brought this up to the class as a reason for why Nariko could be considered a strong female figure it was shot down almost immediately with phrases of, "She could've done the same thing with more clothes on."
They're absolutely right, but that brought on the question of what defined a strong woman? Was it about the clothes or was it about the character? It's something still to this day that I find confusing.
It wasn't so long ago that women fought hard and strong for their rights to get a vote or be recognized as people that have more value than what they can do in the kitchen or what they can do with the laundry. But somewhere along the way the idea of a strong woman seemed to get into this gray area. I usually equate it to a wasteland of conflicting ideas. A few people think that a strong woman is made by what she can do for a community. A few others think that a strong woman is one who has no fear in being who she wants to be; that includes if she wants to dress half naked. Others think that a strong woman is one who cares for their significant other because she wishes to do so without prompting. All of these things sound good to me, but it really does seem that people like to argue about positives, turning them into negatives. For example, if a woman is working for a community some can think that she isn't trying to rise above her position, thus she is content to stay as something akin to a slave to an entire group. A woman wearing skanky clothes is considered just that: a skank. A woman who enjoys catering to her love is a woman who has chosen to go back to the old days where women had no say and really could do nothing more than "make a sandwich".
Where does this end?
So truthfully, what can
a woman do? If we're taking time to argue about whether or not a girl from Playboy is insulting to the community of women gamers, what about trying to figure out what isn't
insulting? What is it to us that we need to figure out where women should be? Can't women on their own figure out what is right for them? Say if a true gamer girl (one that has actually taken time to play a multitude of video games) decided that she wanted to play a game in some sexy lingerie on camera, is it our right to say that she's wrong or that what she is doing is wrong? Especially when the idea of a strong woman is so cloudy. Or say if a woman was shown to be covered from head to toe, had on oven mitts and was waggling a Wii-mote to play Zelda while baking a casserole in the background--is it our job to be offended for her? Do we have the right? And by being offended are we furthering anything for the rights of women? But I also think, if that image was shown would anyone really be offended at all?
I want to make clear that I did find the Playboy video offensive. It was completely and totally unnecessary. But that isn't what I'm questioning here. My question is to a problem that people keep bring up, but, as of yet, have found no answers to. I, myself, have found none, and, if anything, my pursuit of a possible answer has led me to more confusion instead of more clarity.
So I pose my question to the rest of you who cared to take time to read this. What is a strong woman? Is it right for us to decide what that is for someone else?
LOOK WHO CAME: