Pop-Culture | Posted by Danielle B on 12/13/2010
The (Big-Breasted) Curse of Women in Video Games
Video games. Sweet, succulent video games. Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day . . .?
Um, sorry about that.
Though my gaming experience hardly compares to my brother’s (who I swear was playing Zelda: A Link to the Past in the womb), I still consider myself a full-fledged gamer, and a darn good one at that.
But what does it mean to be a gamer and a girl? “Teenage boy” and “video game fanatic” are often synonymous, but the same can’t be said for someone like myself. In fact, in her article What Women Want, Aleah Tierney suggests that to be a girl and a gamer is to be “a stranger in a strange land . . . a male-created virtual space.”
Unfortunately, I don’t think Tierney is that far off. According to We need more women in games, an article by blogger Jacob Aron, women represent nearly 38% of all gamers, but only 11% of game developers. But when you think about it, is it really shocking that more women aren’t lining up to work at places like Nintendo, Capcom, and Konami (just to name a few)? Childhood I-want-to-be-a-ballerina fantasies aside (hey, don’t look at me!), women are taught to be practical. *Puts on sarcastic tone* Why risk doing something so math- and science-oriented like developing video games when we should be flexing our natural abilities as helpers and nurturers?
Video game developing just doesn’t appeal to most women (sadly enough), and that’s probably why a majority of the game universe has been molded around puke-inducing male fantasies of macho, gun-totting heroes and exotic, large-breasted women.
Though they make up only 49% of the US population, research shows that 85% of all video game characters are male – and that figure rises to 90% for characters that players can actually control. Excluding race as a factor (which is another issue entirely), male characters in video games are as diverse as ever. They can be bulky-as-heck, gaunt, or average-looking. They can be triumphant heroes, shady villains, or your Average Joe off the street. They can be hunky, intelligent, sleazy, or badass – it doesn’t really matter. There’s no end to the possibilities of what male characters can be.
Expectations for female video game characters, however, are much more constricted. They’re often forced to play the “helpless princess” role, giving a male lead the chance to flex his muscles and “save the day.” Female characters are also constantly portrayed as meek, shy, submissive, innocent, naïve – the list goes on and on. I’ve even noticed that 4 times out of 5, fantasy-game-women are given roles as healers or sorceresses rather than sword-wielding warriors. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with having supernatural abilities (heck, I wouldn’t mind having a few myself), but it makes me think back to the whole “women are supposed to be helpers” theory.
Helpers. Sidekicks. Servants?
Now, for those of you who don’t play video games, I hope you don’t think they’re all sexist piles of crap! On the contrary, there are plenty of awesome, strong women who hold their own against male counterparts (Samus Aran from Metroid and Jill Valentine from Resident Evil both come to mind). But I do have one gripe . . .
Women in video games are always, always, always inhumanly “beautiful.”
Whereas male characters can place anywhere on the scale of attractiveness from “purposefully repulsive” to “god-like,” video game women always have to fall under the latter category. With physiques that make Barbie look average, these characters have impossibly long and slender legs; skinny waists (but wide hips); and breasts that mimic medium-sized watermelons. Just type in “women in video games” to Google Images and you’ll see what I mean!
What the heck? Do you think the people who created these – um – overly-endowed characters just sat down one day and said “so, how big do you think we can get these puppies”?
Because it seems pretty frivolous to me.
I’d say the body proportions of 90% of female video game characters are a huge insult to women in real-life. What is it, video-game-developer-who-lives-with-his-parents, we’re not good enough for you?
Aleah Tierney wrote about her own frustrations when playing Tomb Raider for the first time. The game’s lead (Lara Croft) is often seen as a beacon of female empowerment, but Tierney didn’t exactly see things that way:
“I couldn’t wait to load and play Tomb Raider when it first came out, but when I saw Lara, I just couldn’t take the game seriously. The giant twin pyramids mounted onto her chest look like something she could use to impale her enemies. In many ways her kick-butt presence is a triumph, but the designers’ decision to sexualize her to the point of deformity angered me. I couldn’t get past her proportions, so I put the game away. I’m waiting to see if Lara (or her designers) will evolve in future versions of the game.”
I don’t think Lara’s changing anytime soon, pal. In fact, video games are becoming more and more sexualized as time goes on – and as kids (people in general, actually) are becoming de-sensitized to staggering levels of violence and sexualization in all areas of the media, I don’t see conditions improving for video game gals anytime soon.
It’s kind of funny, actually. I can play the bloodiest, goriest games ever – the kind with chainsaws, zombies, and flesh-eating dogs – and they don’t bother me a bit. Why? Because killing zombies is hardly something I’m going to pick up as an actual hobby (and I don’t foresee a People for Zombie Rights group anywhere in the near future, so I’m not offending anybody by takin’ them out). But the gender stereotypes and hypersexualization in games? That affects us. And it sucks. It really, really sucks. Because no matter how kickass a female character is – like I said before – as soon as you type her name into Google Images you’re going to be bombarded with twenty pages of fan art of the woman flashing her (mutant) breasts. It’s degrading.
So I’ll be sticking to my survival horror games, thank you very much, because zombies don’t care if you’re male or female – or whether or not you have gargantuan jugs – they’ll try to eat your brains either way
Are you a female gamer? Check out this site for support.
Danielle B also writes for Experimentations of a Teenage Feminist
Read other posts about: beauty, beauty standards, female gamers, Feminism, gamers, sexualization of media, sexualization of video games, teenage feminism, unrealistic beauty standards, video games, violence in the media, violence in video games, women and video games, women gamers
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