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NSFW: Frequently Feminist... and The Witcher 3

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[Promoted from our Community Blogs!]

[Additional note from the author: This blog contains scenes of nudity from a game. If your religious values or moral values are offended by digital recreations of human nudity, please do not read this blog. If you are a minor and have never seen digital recreations of the human naked body on the Internet, please do not read this blog.  If you are a feminist who believes that all naked representations of women are solely created from the male gaze for the salacious entertainment of heterosexual men or homosexual women, then do not read this blog.  You've been warned! Now go outside and play, or go read another blog or something.]

I finally got around to playing The Witcher 3. Consistently throughout the game, there are varied circumstances where my manly man has the opportunity to assist a lady in apparent distress... and on many of these occasions, I'm told I'm wrong.  Triss actually got quite angry with me and was quite clear that when she needed my help she would ask for it.  In another random encounter, I came across a man trying quite persistently to pick up a woman on a street corner.  I intervened (because XP points!) and during the conversation I quickly had various options -  one being to ask the woman if she needed help.  Being a woman (playing a manly man), I did this, and quickly discovered that this was a couple role playing and that my manly man was destroying the mood.  I quickly apologized and walked away (and got my XP points).   In the expansion, I came across a woman in multiple circumstances.  In one situation she was being accosted by drunken men and on intervening she informed me (in no uncertain terms) that she was capable of looking after herself and said something to the effect that a knee to the bullocks or a jab to the throat would have easily dissuaded these drunken men.  Later I came across her wielding a sword and beating off some bandits.  She did thank me for my help in this instance but again stated she was capable of defending herself. 

This was not an unusual occurrence in the game.

The women in the game are capable women who don't need rescuing and I think this game got it right.  The over-riding message was to intervene, but if possible, ask the woman if she needs help first.  This was a bit jarring considering the number of men I rescued in the game and they all seemed quite thankful without any need for me to ask them if they wanted help, but I do think that the game still encourages rescuing the "damsel in distress" rather than simply walking away when someone sees a woman being harassed or assaulted.  Society should encourage the strong to protect the weak... regardless of genders, but I also think that the game had a strongly feminist message in asking women if they want to be rescued first if possible.

For me, The Witcher 3 was a very positive game for women.  There has been criticism from the likes of people like Anita Sarkeesian who felt it was misogynistic that Ciri gets called a "bitch" or other names by the enemies in the game, but it also seems apparent that Ms. Sarkeesian didn't play the entire game and likely just watched a few Let's Plays of the Ciri sections to find something to critique.  The other (previous) half of Feminist Frequency, Jonathan MacIntosh has also critiqued the stoic masculinity of Geralt as a poor example of manhood... but again, it seems obvious that he didn't play the game as he seemed not to understand that one of the worst parts of being a Witcher is the inability to cry and the inability to have children.  There's a scene where Geralts inability to cry is in itself... heartbreaking.

As a woman with strong feelings on feminism, my favorite scene in the game may surprise people.  It was the sauna scene.  I haven't read many women speaking about this scene but for me it was glorious.  There were naked and partially naked women, enjoying a sauna and a dip in a lake.  There was no sexual content, but it was just "casual nudity".  In another later scene, I come across two women enjoying the hot springs... just sitting around talking to each other while naked.  When I attempted to speak with them, they respond with everyday conversation.  They don't cover up, they don't get angry.  Sitting around naked enjoying the hot springs was just - normal. 

While the argument could be made that some men playing the game might find sexual titillation in these scenes and it was a needless addition of female nudity  to pander to heterosexual males or lesbians, the alternative argument could be made that different cultures have different attitudes toward nudity and this can reinforce that the naked female body is not just for male pleasure, but that nudity is simply a lack of clothing.  Women can be nude without desiring sex. The only thing that could have made the game better was lots of breast feeding women... all over the place.  Perhaps this might offset current media where women are usually only shown naked when having sex with men or other women.  Women can be just naked... without having sex.  Hell, we do it every day - when we change, when we shower, when we sleep... or sometimes just walking around the house when it's hot.  It does NOT mean we want sex, deserve to be sexually assaulted, or that a lack of clothing is synonymous with sexualization... it just shows that women do have naked bodies under our clothing, that it's natural, and not shameful.  This lack of shame is behind such feminist movements as #freethenipple, where women are trying to take back the power of our own bodies and not be shamed by them.  Young women should not be suicidal if a topless picture they send to a boyfriend gets circulated... the healthier response would be "so what, they're just breasts".  Sexual objectification of women has nothing to do with attire... or lack thereof. The rates of sexual assault are not much different (and possibly even worst) in Countries where women are covered from head to toe. Sexualization of women is an attitude, not attire.  Some feminists are even more guilty than men of equating any female nudity with "the male gaze" and sexualization.  

Again, there are varying forms of feminism... and many have differing philosophies on how women should be portrayed in media, and the naked sauna section of the game could be regarded as feminist or sexist, depending on the feminist philosophies.  Me, I saw it as feminist, and would love to see more casual nudity of both men and women in our media in order to desexualize our bodies.  As I've said before... after any time on a nudist beach, there is simply no sexualization of bodies... they are just... naked bodies.

 

In the Witcher I also had the interesting experience of being the "man" in the male/female dynamic.  To be honest, it was a bit of an eye opener for me.  My main romance options were Triss and Yen and both seemed to be self assured, sexually aware and rather controlling women.  Honestly, playing as Geralt, I began to feel a bit henpecked in never being able to initiate sex (it was always a response to their request for sexual intimacy) and the fact that I felt both women were far more concerned with their own feelings, futures, circumstances than my own... though this could easily be due to conversation choices I made. I finished the expansions before finishing the main quest and ended up with Yennifer... and I was actually a bit put off that she just arrived and moved into my Corvo Bianco home.  Even the writing around Ciri encourages a strong feminist response.  If you tell her to calm down in one particular scene (instead of just letting her be angry) then this can negatively affect the ending... though my natural inclination for anyone (male or female) who is angry is to tell them to calm down.  If you don't let Ciri speak to the Sorceresses on her own, as an independent adult, then you apparently also get a bad ending.  I let her go in anyway, simply because I'm not a fan of cutscenes and wanted to get back to the game, but these actions reinforce the independence of your "daughter" and that being a manly man protecting her constantly only serves to limit her own self confidence in dealing with life.  Not a bad lesson... though maybe a tad heavy handed given the impacts on the ending of the game.  

In Blood and Wine, the manipulative nature of the women was also interesting... and I initially got the ending where Syanna died and the Duchess sent me to prison.  When I got out and gave her proof that her sister intended to kill her, she didn't believe me.  I was actually rather pleased with this ending, though it's interesting that the lack of approval from both females somehow felt somewhat "wrong".  On doing some reading I decided to go back and see what some of the other endings were... and got what is commonly called the "happy" ending where the sisters forgive each other and reconcile.  I found this "happy" ending to be very unsatisfactory and I went back to my first gamesave.  Syanna murdered many people... using a man/vampire as simply a tool to commit these killings.  To my mind, she deserved to die.  We all overcome things in life, and she had the chance to start a new life... but instead chose vengeance.  The Duchess... while a strong leader not content to sit around in her palace - she valued the wrong done to her sister over the innumerable people her sister had killed by proxy.  The devs really couldn't win with the Duchess... she would either be a "man" valuing the oft quoted masculine traits of reason, a lack of empathy and violence begetting violence... or she could show  what are sometimes termed "female" qualities of forgiveness, empathy and emotion.  The devs chose to show a strong female ruler... with "female" qualities.  This was definitely a feminist choice, but was also, for me, a poor choice.  I guess I would rather have a Maggie Thatcher, than a Justin Trudeau for a leader (because those gendered traits, while often used by feminists, are not really all that gendered).  I valued reason, justice and consequences... over fuzzy warm hugs that negated the deaths of the many who died at the hands of a man who's love was used as a weapon of war by a woman (whew... that was quite the confusing sentence wasn't it!).  

All in all, the women in the game seemed quite overwhelming and I have to say that I rather wanted my Geralt to just end up on his own ... living in Corvo Bianco with maybe Zoltan dropping by to say "hi" now and again.  It was an interesting experience to see the world of strong women as equals through the eyes of a man... and it was an interesting reflection of today's equality in relationships.  In particular it was discombobulating (great word!) to see how confusing relationship are for men and women of my age - caught between men being the providers and protectors of women and the current status of men and women being equals in relationships with each providing to the family unit and each being responsible for their own protection.  (I have muddled thoughts and am still processing my feelings on this, but the male viewpoint was... interesting).

All in all, I am finding that The Witcher 3 is a frequently feminist game.  The women are well written, complex and they change during the course of the game (Ciri's growth in particular is tied to Geralt's actions and the various endings achievable).  The women are also allowed to be feminine, while still being equal to men.  Their attire is practical, but consistent with the lore, though most of the primary women in the game do have a similar idealized slender body shape.  There is also obviously some pandering to fans in that the female attire is well designed for cosplay and any search for Yennifer, Ciri or Triss will bring up a ton of women cosplaying as these characters... and personally speaking...the outfits are gorgeous!

In another quest line, the developers touched on the issue of women not being recognized for their value in the workplace.  A female blacksmith had to work under a male dwarf who took credit for her work because she didn't believe people valued her work... and this was of course rectified in a small quest. Unfortunately, women were not often found among the many armourers, blacksmiths or shop vendors... though they were well represented among the herbalist vendors.  While there are the usual night-time strumpets, there are also more complex female NPC characters in the background of the game.  There were also some minor LBGT references in the game (Ciri can state she prefers women, there is a gender fluid cross dresser and there are several gay male characters - the older couple at the boy's grave, the huntsman and Lord's son).   The game offered non-judgmental insights into various feminist issues including the trope of the damsel in distress (rescuing of damsels and dudes is fine, if the person wants to be rescued), casual nudity not tied to sexual objectification (except in the gamer's own mind), female self-determination and ability to make decisions, and of course... the Bloody Baron quest.  I won't even go into this quest except to say that it is a very emotional journey dealing with spousal abuse.  This quest alone is a triumph of how to integrate feminist issues into a game with complexity instead of the usual simplicity of right vs wrong.  

I'm really enjoying playing The Witcher 3, and it is deserving of all it's accolades and awards.  The game doesn't drill home any specific social messaging, though if one cares to look more closely, I do find the game to be "frequently feminist" and I would give the game an 8/10 Geralt's butts... because... well, just look at it!!!! (and yes, I fully realized than any tiny measure of feminist "cred" I might have earned, I just tossed away... and I'm ok with that).  

:)

... and just as an excuse to post this picture... it should be noted that while many of the women in the game do have rather idealized bodies of what is currently considered "beautiful" in our culture... the developers also seemed to apply those same standards to the men in the game.

Truly a work of art!  Purely from an aesthetic point of view of course and I am not sexualizing him... not at all!!! No, no, not me... I would never do that to another human... errr... digital recreation of a human by an artist.

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Elsa
ElsaContributor   gamer profile

I'm 55 years old. I'm female, a cancer survivor, happily married, and retired from the work force... and I spend way too much time gaming. I enjoy long walks on the beach, with a gun, sometimes ... more + disclosures


 


 


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