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Author Topic: Character designs: sexism and objectification  (Read 5150 times)

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Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Character designs: sexism and objectification
« Reply #100 on: May 08, 2013, 07:49:16 AM »
The statue where his junk is carved to suggest fear-induced shrinkage?

Well, I don't think old Mick was into the idea that courage is always enshrined in the size of the dick.  ;) Even if he was personally gay.

Offline Sasquatch421

Re: Character designs: sexism and objectification
« Reply #101 on: May 08, 2013, 08:12:56 AM »


Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Character designs: sexism and objectification
« Reply #102 on: May 08, 2013, 09:46:48 AM »
The point is not in that the women are attractive or even sexy.  Truth be told there are few if any heroic characters, male or female, that are actually ugly.  With rare exception the majority of all heroic characters are attractive.  Even with roleplay the majority of characters played are extremely attractive individuals and those that are not the lack of attractiveness tends to be a sort of niche or background item.  The point many feminists are trying to make is that women become sexual items to grab the attention of a male audience and their actual storylines and character are secondary to that purpose.  Female characters are lost to become male plot devices, to become sexual objects to gain teenage boy fantasy and in general are simply throw away characters. 

Attractive women is not the problem.  Women treated as objects rather than subjects is the problem.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Character designs: sexism and objectification
« Reply #103 on: May 08, 2013, 10:10:26 AM »
In comics?  Beefcake on display.

Basically the thing to remember is that the audience for these images was originally, and largely remains, adolescent boys. (Even if the actual demographics of the readership have moved on, this remains the basic ideal viewer of the superhero comic that most artists, consciously or not, are drawing for, and much of the adult fanboisie still relates to the material at this mental level.) The women almost always represent what adolescent boys fantasize about -- hence the frequency with which they're absurdly sexualized and reduced to refrigerated plot points in male storylines -- and the men almost always represent what they would like to be, sexually and otherwise. Hence when Frank Miller moved the Spartans into comics, they had to be bare-chested and wearing absurd little loincloths: you couldn't have armour getting in the way of manliness.

Offline Healergirl

Re: Character designs: sexism and objectification
« Reply #104 on: May 08, 2013, 03:38:18 PM »
Cyrano,

Adult fanboise... such a delightful turn of phrase, I will have to remember that.

 
Frank Miller didn't have the, well, balls to show True Spartan Manliness of back and chest armor, greaves, and raw manliness on display waving in the breeze, which would have been historically accurate. 

That may not be entirely fair, he might have, but his publishers certainly did nt.

Beefcake Conan, Beefcake Spartans...   And Superman?  Batman?  Their costumes?    Briefs outside of their tights?   I have to wonder about the perhaps not so repressed homoerotic yearnings of many comic artists - and the adolescent male target readership.

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Character designs: sexism and objectification
« Reply #105 on: May 08, 2013, 05:05:12 PM »

Offline SethalaTopic starter

Re: Character designs: sexism and objectification
« Reply #106 on: May 08, 2013, 09:22:42 PM »
Some interesting thoughts from everyone in here, so first off, thank you all for commenting.

I've thought about it a bit, and I'm also not sure what should be done about it.  We do have some good examples of strong female characters in media, but I think the issue is that the ratio is completely off.  There's not enough strong females, and too many victimized ones in stories.  The problem isn't what happens to a female character in an individual story, however; it's what happens to them in the majority of stories.

So, what can we do?  Well, to be honest, all I can think of is raising awareness and refusing to buy something that offends you.  Part of the issue is that there's nothing wrong with a specific bit of media doing something objectionable - it's all part of free speech and expression of art.  So, trying to go on a campaign to say that item X is horrible and demeaning to women?  Yeah, that's reasonable, it gets everyone aware of the problem.  But trying to go on a campaign to prevent item X from being published/sold/etc?  That's where it crosses a line into censorship.

An example: there's a Japanese card game called Tanto Cuore, where the objective is each player tries to hire (anime-styled) maids to work for them.  The company that's localizing the games put up a fundraiser for one of the expansions on Indiegogo late last year.  A group of people tried to petition Indiegogo to take it down because it was objectifying the women in the game as just subservient housekeepers.

Now, if Indiegogo had decided to pull the campaign because it violated their rules, I'd question the decision, but I wouldn't be upset - it's their website, and they get final say on whether they want a certain project on it.  (Kickstarter actually denied the game for this very reason.)  However, if this group had succeeded in pressuring them into pulling it, I'd be very upset, as it would be a case of the group actively trying to prevent the product from being sold - it's not their reputation that's being affected by the game in any way; they can simply ignore it, and there's also the idea that if they tried to run a fundraiser anywhere else, it would get the same reaction.

Offline Tairis

Re: Character designs: sexism and objectification
« Reply #107 on: May 08, 2013, 11:00:52 PM »
Healergirl, I wasn't referring to any of your comments specifically and everything I've seen from you is completely reasonable. I meant the more extreme reactions...

So... don't point out blatant sexism when it's happening because someone might not like it? Fuck that noise. You can claim it's not there all you want, but there aren't any artists continually getting work by tracing male characters out of porn, for example.

Like this.

I never said not to point out sexism. What I did say was that the shrill cry of outrage about it is far less effective than simply critiquing bad writing, plot holes, and general logical inconsistencies that you can usually find in such works. Because one comes off as someone looking to 'clean up' or 'fix' something that thousands of people love but that you're effectively accusing of being sexist pigs for doing so.

Here's an example, using one of my favorite games/universes in in recent history. Mass Effect. I love the characters, the setting, all sorts of stuff about it. Within the Mass Effect universe you have a species called the asari. Mono-gendered all female blue space aliens with a culture that encourages their 'maidens' (basically their equivalent of teenagers and 20 somethings) to go out in the world and get freaky. Quite a few different asari specifically mention being strippers and the like.

Sexist? Of course they are. They're quite literally an adolescent fantasy. It's an entire race of hot blue women that have tons of lesbian sex, are strippers, wear tight clothing, and will literally sleep with anything.

Now what do you think happened when some of the expected 'This is so horribly sexist! You're all man-children that objectify women!!!' threads popped up? People rushed to defend the game and universe they enjoyed. Some of their points were valid, some weren't. But really the only thing the screeching outrage caused was alot of arguments, a slight increase in awareness, and a lot of hurt feelings.

But more objective critiques of the work as a whole? Oh there was still plenty of arguing (see the entire 'Ending/Extending Cut' fiasco for example) but rarely did it reach the fevered pitch of rhetoric and flame baiting that the simple cry of 'Sexism!' did. Some of those discussions even mentioned the flaws in the background of the asari (the problem of parthenogenesis as a reproductive method for such an advanced life form, etc) but without turning into two sides that are never going to agree screaming at each other.

The 'I'm mad and I'm not going to take it' and getting worked up into a self-righteous froth by pointing out the most extreme examples you can think of? Works when you're dealing with issues of actual abuse. Or child hunger. Or any issue that actually involves people being harmed. Comic book characters drawn by guys that fail at anatomy sometimes and definitely don't get out enough? Not so much.

In the meantime, vote with your wallet. Call out bad writing and bad artwork. But don't get yourself worked up over what is, in reality, a minor problem that's a minor problem in the grand scheme of things and one that's been steadily improving as time as gone on anyways.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2013, 11:05:57 PM by Tairis »

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Character designs: sexism and objectification
« Reply #108 on: May 09, 2013, 12:20:56 AM »
Tairis, part of objectively critiquing a work also includes objectively pointing out when it is being sexist or racist or otherwise generally shitty. Demanding that all critiques carefully tip-toe around such dangerous things to focus on subjects that won't raise hackles is demanding that critiques not be objective; real objectivity faces up to facts whether they raise hackles or not. Now of course this kind of thing will provoke defensiveness, rank-closing, diversionary tactics -- like attempting to pretend this is all "frothing" or "outraged screeching" or various other versions of "you're just being hysterical" or "you're the real sexist / racist / whatever" -- but that's to be expected. Any calling-out of sexism or racism or other form of hatefulness or bigotry, at any time and in any place, provokes that kind of childishness.

But it also provokes thought -- even in people who won't outwardly admit it -- and more importantly it establishes that there are points beyond which you cannot go and still be considered a decent, upstanding chap by other people. The sad fact of it is that racism and sexism haven't been beaten back over the last decades of the twentieth century by reasoned argument; there's been plenty of it, but by far the more powerful and necessary weapon to actually change behaviours is shaming. Even the most sexist and racist dickhead in the world still wants to be thought of as a good person. He will celebrate his sexism and racism in any setting that allows him to think those are good, or at any rate neutral qualities; of course he (or she) will scream and yell "help help I'm being repressed" in any setting that doesn't... for a while. But eventually he will have to face the choice between ostracism or changing; he can only stay the same if his local circumstances still allow him to think that sexism or racism are okay things that his circle of friends and family will either celebrate or at least tolerate.

It's a shame that it has to come down to that, but that's what it comes down to. That above all else is why there aren't anti-miscegenation laws any more. Or to take up a different example, it's what shifted the social balance against homophobia: gays were able to turn the tables on those who portrayed them as deviant, evil predatory monstrosities and establish that they were people's sons and daughters, friends and neighbours. The method of shaming that was used against them has been turned against the people who would demand that parents disown their own children to live up to the dictates of two-thousand or twenty-five-hundred year-old religious documents... and now find that they really can't explain why. It's all part of the same phenomenon.

You don't have to like it, of course. Personally I'd rather that people be simply able to engage in a rational argument and change their beliefs when they find their arguments don't hold up. But it doesn't work that way. It's easier to shrill "you're being shrill!" than it is to accept that your argument is flawed. That's just how humans work.

I think it's fair to ask what more can be done, though. Expecting to engage people in a rational conversation -- which is what the "Women in Refrigerators" thing was originally about -- is noble as far as it goes but will only get you so far. Really the main thing to be done is for people who don't accept these shitty standards to create their own comics and prove there's a market for them. We're at the beginning of that process now (google "Project Rooftop" if you want to see a lot of good examples of emerging new aesthetics), and so much the better.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2013, 12:33:17 AM by Cyrano Johnson »

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Character designs: sexism and objectification
« Reply #109 on: May 09, 2013, 12:48:16 AM »
Frank Miller didn't have the, well, balls to show True Spartan Manliness of back and chest armor, greaves, and raw manliness on display waving in the breeze, which would have been historically accurate.

There's a lot Frank Miller didn't have the balls for (like facing up to the actual sexual politics of Sparta). I don't think it's unfair to say so. The guy has pretty much dug his own hole at this point.

Quote
Beefcake Conan, Beefcake Spartans...   And Superman?  Batman?  Their costumes?    Briefs outside of their tights?   I have to wonder about the perhaps not so repressed homoerotic yearnings of many comic artists - and the adolescent male target readership.

Certainly a case of repression in the early comics -- cf. a lot of the boy sidekicks, there are really a lot of old frames that involve Batman spanking Robin -- but the old comics artists lived in a pretty repressed society that way. In the latter generations it gets harder to distinguish between that and hetero fantasy-mongering, but it's all the Kinsey scale anyway...

[Incidentally, a really great book involving a (fictionalized but historically perceptive) account of the early days of comics and their creators? Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. If you haven't read it, it's a really great -- sympathetic, interesting, well-rounded and well-written -- examination of the whole phenomenon from the inside out. I highly recommend it.]
« Last Edit: May 09, 2013, 12:53:08 AM by Cyrano Johnson »

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Character designs: sexism and objectification
« Reply #110 on: May 09, 2013, 01:13:30 AM »
Also, you know what'd be pretty great? A supervillain with the Male Gaze as a superpower. He looks at women and their bustlines grow, their costumes shrink, they feel the sudden urge to be Sexier... (Hey, I never said my fantasies weren't sexist... :P)

Complemented of course by a heroine with the Female Gaze superpower, which transforms any male she looks at into a long-haired, doe-eyed, pouty-lipped coverboy secretly yearning to be tamed by the right woman. In a meeting with Captain Malegaze, they immediately transform each other into stereotypes completely uninterested in one another who promptly wander off in search of other partners. ;)

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Character designs: sexism and objectification
« Reply #111 on: May 09, 2013, 03:47:19 AM »
Also, you know what'd be pretty great? A supervillain with the Male Gaze as a superpower. He looks at women and their bustlines grow, their costumes shrink, they feel the sudden urge to be Sexier... (Hey, I never said my fantasies weren't sexist... :P)

Complemented of course by a heroine with the Female Gaze superpower, which transforms any male she looks at into a long-haired, doe-eyed, pouty-lipped coverboy secretly yearning to be tamed by the right woman. In a meeting with Captain Malegaze, they immediately transform each other into stereotypes completely uninterested in one another who promptly wander off in search of other partners. ;)


I remember this detective/glamorous crime comic, called The Aristocrats, where the main characters - a band of English noble gentlemen and their wives/girlfriends actually, hanging out at horse races, country parties and so on when not catching the crooks, or actually they were moving on both sides of the law a bit -.had a neat gadget in their car, a hidden see-through scanner which could present an undressed vision, in true colours, of anyone its sights were aimed at, for the use of those in the front seats (normally, the guys). It was used at some points just for the enjoyment, and yes that was pointed out with a scoff by one of the ladies in the...strip.

The other thing I remember that comic adventure for is the mid-level gang boss they chased over lots of scaffolding at a construction site, and his taunt "You'll never catch me, you Polypuses!" (one of the amateur spooks, in tie and bowler hat, replied "What an inelegant expression!")  ;D
« Last Edit: May 09, 2013, 04:06:54 AM by gaggedLouise »

Offline meikle

Re: Character designs: sexism and objectification
« Reply #112 on: May 09, 2013, 07:33:20 AM »
Quote
I never said not to point out sexism. What I did say was that the shrill cry of outrage about it is far less effective than simply critiquing bad writing, plot holes, and general logical inconsistencies that you can usually find in such works. Because one comes off as someone looking to 'clean up' or 'fix' something that thousands of people love but that you're effectively accusing of being sexist pigs for doing so.

Maybe if people don't want to be called sexist pigs, they should stop defending all the sexist crap they like?

Maybe?

Just because lots of people are sexists doesn't make the sexist crap they like less sexist, btw.

Also, I think you're totally missing the fucking point, but that's okay, a lot of the people on your side of the issue do: the goal is not to get everyone together to say, "Mass Effect is evil."  I don't even think the Mass Effect issue is really much of an issue, because while the asari are universally pretty, they're also universally badass; they're not just eye-candy.  We don't see them brutalized solely for the sake of eliciting a reaction from male characters.  We do see them blowing stuff up and committing atrocities and being heroes on their own terms, though.

The goal, though, is not to make people think that something sucks in general, the goal is to make people see that certain popular elements are actually pretty fucked up, so can we stop using them?  The issue is not any particular individual work (though there are some egregious offenders, like Scarlet Blade (aka: Male Gaze: the RPG)), but the cultural pervasiveness of the ideas.  We can point out asari strippers, and we can point out the wizard from Dragon Saga or whatever it's called, and we can point out the old Lara Croft, and yeah, in any individual case, you can just shrug and go, "Yeah, but that's just the tone they wanted for that game" or whatever.  The issue is when it's the tone they want for every game, the issue is when "women suck!" is the assumption rather than the exception in media, the issue is when women are considered inferior protagonists but excellent murder victims for engaging male protagonists and readers, etc etc; it's a pervasive, cultural issue, and yeah, it extends beyond the games; video games don't turn normal people into violent killers, but just like any media, they still influence their audience.

Also, seriously, the idea that perpetuating a cultural norm of sexism doesn't hurt anybody -- wow, that's fucked up.  That is incredibly fucked up.  And the problem is improving, but it's only improving because we're no longer allowing it to go unchallenged.  This kind of thing doesn't just happen without people making it happen.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2013, 07:54:33 AM by meikle »

Offline Healergirl

Re: Character designs: sexism and objectification
« Reply #113 on: May 09, 2013, 07:36:25 AM »
tairis,

Thank you!  This entire subject is a mine field for explosive feelings, I was worried abut how i might be coming across.

Cyrano Johnson,

Miller... I'm trying to be charitable to Miller.  After Sin City... that's pretty hard to do.  And thank you for the book recommendation!

gaggedLouise,

The aristocrats... yet another for me to add to the list, thank you.

Offline consortium11

Re: Character designs: sexism and objectification
« Reply #114 on: May 09, 2013, 08:41:42 AM »
I never said not to point out sexism. What I did say was that the shrill cry of outrage about it is far less effective than simply critiquing bad writing, plot holes, and general logical inconsistencies that you can usually find in such works. Because one comes off as someone looking to 'clean up' or 'fix' something that thousands of people love but that you're effectively accusing of being sexist pigs for doing so.

But the "shrill cry of outrage" wasn't (generally) coming from some malicious feminist monstrosity surveying the cultural landscape, honing in on some niche area they had little understanding or enjoyment of and declaring it sexist and all those who liked it sexist. It was... and is... coming from people who enjoyed, loved and were deeply engaged with the area in question. Gail Simone, the lady who picked up on the "fridging" cliché became one of the most respected comic book writers in the industry, regularly handling important titles for the Big Two. Much of the "feminist critique" or whatever people want to call it of video games comes from people (of both sexes) who enjoy and play video games. It's one of the reasons people do end up issuing "shrill cries of outrage" (and I have to say I'm somewhat uncomfortable with that wording)... it's because they love the medium in question.

Moreover, when has "simply critiquing bad writing, plot holes, and general logical inconsistencies" ever worked? Even in general as opposed to specifically sexist issues? In danger of dragging us off-topic people did all of that for the original Mass Effect... and were rewarded with a Mass Effect 2 (and DLCs) with even more bad writing, plot holes, and general logical inconsistencies. When it was pointed out again we got Mass Effect 3. And throughout it all the series continued to get plaudits for its "epic" story and brilliant writing. The same can be said about Fallout 3, a game with so many plot holes it's surprising that anything qualifies as a plot at all... and yet it is regularly lauded for its writing. To steal an argument from an earlier thread, the civil rights movement didn't find success by getting black people to quietly take aside those who racially abused them and explain in polite terms why it was wrong...

Offline Skynet

Re: Character designs: sexism and objectification
« Reply #115 on: May 09, 2013, 02:19:15 PM »


Moreover, when has "simply critiquing bad writing, plot holes, and general logical inconsistencies" ever worked? Even in general as opposed to specifically sexist issues? In danger of dragging us off-topic people did all of that for the original Mass Effect... and were rewarded with a Mass Effect 2 (and DLCs) with even more bad writing, plot holes, and general logical inconsistencies. When it was pointed out again we got Mass Effect 3. And throughout it all the series continued to get plaudits for its "epic" story and brilliant writing. The same can be said about Fallout 3, a game with so many plot holes it's surprising that anything qualifies as a plot at all... and yet it is regularly lauded for its writing.

A big part of that is because video game journalism is riddled with graft and corruption.  Jeff Gerstmann, a reviewer, was fired for giving Kane & Lynch a 6/10 score.  Turned out the company who makes the game was paying for advertising on the site Gerstmann worked for, and were expecting a good review.

And I can't remember it, but I saw an Angry Joe Show episode where an employee for a company making a sci-fi game was paid to do a review of said game.  Talk about conflict of interest!

Not really related to sexism, but if the so-called journalists and reviewers are on the take, genuine issues with plot and characterization can get swept under the rug by the gaming media.

Offline consortium11

Re: Character designs: sexism and objectification
« Reply #116 on: May 09, 2013, 03:50:13 PM »
A big part of that is because video game journalism is riddled with graft and corruption.  Jeff Gerstmann, a reviewer, was fired for giving Kane & Lynch a 6/10 score.  Turned out the company who makes the game was paying for advertising on the site Gerstmann worked for, and were expecting a good review.

And I can't remember it, but I saw an Angry Joe Show episode where an employee for a company making a sci-fi game was paid to do a review of said game.  Talk about conflict of interest!

Not really related to sexism, but if the so-called journalists and reviewers are on the take, genuine issues with plot and characterization can get swept under the rug by the gaming media.

The issues with mainstream video game 'journalism' (and I use that term very loosely) are a thread or more in and of themselves. One only have to look at the tragically named "doritto-gate" to see the basically endemic corruption (or at the very best complete lack of journalistic ethics) in the industry. More one only has to look at the number of 'journalists' (all too often PR representatives in all but game) who quickly end up as PR representatives to see what the career goal for many journalists is.

Offline Tairis

Re: Character designs: sexism and objectification
« Reply #117 on: May 09, 2013, 10:11:17 PM »
Tairis, part of objectively critiquing a work also includes objectively pointing out when it is being sexist or racist or otherwise generally shitty. Demanding that all critiques carefully tip-toe around such dangerous things to focus on subjects that won't raise hackles is demanding that critiques not be objective; real objectivity faces up to facts whether they raise hackles or not. Now of course this kind of thing will provoke defensiveness, rank-closing, diversionary tactics -- like attempting to pretend this is all "frothing" or "outraged screeching" or various other versions of "you're just being hysterical" or "you're the real sexist / racist / whatever" -- but that's to be expected. Any calling-out of sexism or racism or other form of hatefulness or bigotry, at any time and in any place, provokes that kind of childishness.

No argument there. It does need to be pointed out (which is where we do get things like the 'Women in Refrigerators' trope and similar things. I don't want to give anyone the impression that these things should be ignored. But at the same time I find them to be drastically blown out of proportion. And yes, 'shrill' is something of a loaded word but it's also just my opinion. I've had far too many encounters where I'm not 'allowed' to have an opinion because I'm a white male, so clearly I'm 'oppressing' women (or insert other minority/special interest group here) just by existing.

A somewhat tangential example but it can easily be applied to comic-cons:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-20957848

The article is regarding protests about 'Booth Babes'. And I don't mean 'some people commented that it was sexist and a debate began'. I mean people showed up at CES holding protest signs. Really? Forty years ago (or even now) people go out and hold protests against war. Against corporate corruption. This is... about employing attractive women to garner attention to their product in an industry full of men. Is it sexist? Maybe abit. But it's certainly not the greatest tragedy on Earth worthy of picketing.

Another example? The 'Dickwolf' controversy from Penny Arcade back in the day.

You should never tip toe around any part of a critique. But if the only thing that you're bothering to critique is how sexist the game is? You're quickly going to go further and further down the path of opinion.

Some examples are going to be pretty damn easy. Dead or Alive Beach Volley Ball? Yep, sexist. Asari? See below. I'm not even generally ON the 'this is sexist' side of things but apparently I actually find them MORE sexist than the person that's on the other side of the debate from me!

Where is the line drawn, for example? How much fleshing out does a female character need before she's no longer 'Fridge bait'? I might say 'well, she needs to have been established as having a life outside the main character'. Someone else might think that's not enough. She needs to have had her own story arc. Or that she needs to have had X amount of screen/book time.

This isn't just about sexism or female objectification either. Racism and most the other 'isms' can fall into the same trap.

My bottom line opinion: never curtail your critique of any work. But if you find that every critique you're issuing is on the exact same problem? It might not JUST be the work in question that has the issue.

Maybe if people don't want to be called sexist pigs, they should stop defending all the sexist crap they like?

Maybe?

Just because lots of people are sexists doesn't make the sexist crap they like less sexist, btw.

Also, I think you're totally missing the fucking point, but that's okay, a lot of the people on your side of the issue do: the goal is not to get everyone together to say, "Mass Effect is evil."  I don't even think the Mass Effect issue is really much of an issue, because while the asari are universally pretty, they're also universally badass; they're not just eye-candy.  We don't see them brutalized solely for the sake of eliciting a reaction from male characters.  We do see them blowing stuff up and committing atrocities and being heroes on their own terms, though.

And this is pretty much sums up my entire point about WHY these arguments fail. Someone gets incensed and any actual dialogue tends to get lost in the wash. Clearly since I don't agree with you I'm a sexist pig that doesn't see the truth.

Quote
Also, seriously, the idea that perpetuating a cultural norm of sexism doesn't hurt anybody -- wow, that's fucked up.  That is incredibly fucked up.  And the problem is improving, but it's only improving because we're no longer allowing it to go unchallenged.  This kind of thing doesn't just happen without people making it happen.

You're right, nothing changes if someone doesn't say something. So say something. But I'm not going to get behind the idea that there is some sort of male conspiracy to perpetuate a 'cultural norm of sexism' by drawing anatomically incorrect women (and men). If something is bad, point out that it's bad and support the things that are good. Not crusade to fix 'insert industry here'.

Edit: Forgot this one, oops.

But the "shrill cry of outrage" wasn't (generally) coming from some malicious feminist monstrosity surveying the cultural landscape, honing in on some niche area they had little understanding or enjoyment of and declaring it sexist and all those who liked it sexist. It was... and is... coming from people who enjoyed, loved and were deeply engaged with the area in question. Gail Simone, the lady who picked up on the "fridging" cliché became one of the most respected comic book writers in the industry, regularly handling important titles for the Big Two. Much of the "feminist critique" or whatever people want to call it of video games comes from people (of both sexes) who enjoy and play video games. It's one of the reasons people do end up issuing "shrill cries of outrage" (and I have to say I'm somewhat uncomfortable with that wording)... it's because they love the medium in question.

And as I pointed out above, I have no issue pointing out flaws. But when 'hey this character is poorly written and just here for T&A' turns into 'you're perpetuating horrible sexism/rape culture/etc' as I usually see these things do? I find it hard to take them seriously.

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Moreover, when has "simply critiquing bad writing, plot holes, and general logical inconsistencies" ever worked? Even in general as opposed to specifically sexist issues? In danger of dragging us off-topic people did all of that for the original Mass Effect... and were rewarded with a Mass Effect 2 (and DLCs) with even more bad writing, plot holes, and general logical inconsistencies. When it was pointed out again we got Mass Effect 3. And throughout it all the series continued to get plaudits for its "epic" story and brilliant writing. The same can be said about Fallout 3, a game with so many plot holes it's surprising that anything qualifies as a plot at all... and yet it is regularly lauded for its writing. To steal an argument from an earlier thread, the civil rights movement didn't find success by getting black people to quietly take aside those who racially abused them and explain in polite terms why it was wrong...

Well, it's both lauded and hated for its writing. Which isn't helped by the fact that it had quite a few writers, some better than others. By going by that logic if people deciding the work as a WHOLE was bad, how exactly is yelling about how sexist character A is going to accomplish anything more?

(And in my personal opinion Bioware is always a mixed writing bag. Their characters tend to be excellent and compelling, their plots much less so.)

Edit again: Also quoting again for emphasis:

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the civil rights movement didn't find success by getting black people to quietly take aside those who racially abused them and explain in polite terms why it was wrong...

This. THIS. This is what drives me crazy. This isn't the bloody civil rights movement. Nobody is making women sit at the back or the bus or become sex slaves to comic book writers or whatever. It's a freaking character in a comic book! To me comparing the level of sexism today to what women or black people actually had to deal with 40-50 years ago is the sexism equivalent of Godwin's law.
« Last Edit: May 09, 2013, 10:26:44 PM by Tairis »

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Character designs: sexism and objectification
« Reply #118 on: May 10, 2013, 12:25:46 AM »
I don't want to give anyone the impression that these things should be ignored. But at the same time I find them to be drastically blown out of proportion. And yes, 'shrill' is something of a loaded word but it's also just my opinion. I've had far too many encounters where I'm not 'allowed' to have an opinion because I'm a white male, so clearly I'm 'oppressing' women (or insert other minority/special interest group here) just by existing.

I find it very hard to believe you've had encounters where you're not allowed to have an opinion just because you're a white male and oppress people just by existing*. On the other hand, I find it very easy to believe you've had encounters where you've pissed people off with aggressive cluelessness to the point where they've told you to just leave off. Attempting in a lordly manner to dictate the "proportion" in which things should be happening will do that.

(Protip: people feeling strongly about something is absolutely not an excuse for you to say that it's "being blown wildly out of proportion." It's a cue for you to listen, because maybe they've had experiences you haven't. "Blown wildly out of proportion" is the kind of language -- shrill language -- you reserve for when people are being criminally accused or tossed from the walls into the Pit of Despair. It's really, really not the card you play when people are merely annoyed or aggravated by a thing.)

[* Not that it's impossible for that to happen. It's just that it happens way less often than defensive (usually white male) geeks like to pretend it happens.]

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This is... about employing attractive women to garner attention to their product in an industry full of men. Is it sexist? Maybe abit. But it's certainly not the greatest tragedy on Earth worthy of picketing.

So, it's not worth picketing a sleazy environment in which women feel frequently unsafe, humiliated, harrassed and assaulted because Rosa Parks had it worse? I doubt the good Sister would agree with you. Using the civil rights movement as an excuse to defend the sexist geek culture misses the very point of the civil rights movement so profoundly that I have to think Martin Luther King himself would take you to woodshed. Jesus.

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Another example? The 'Dickwolf' controversy from Penny Arcade back in the day.

Probably not something you want to bring up. Yes, the original controversy was silly to an extent: on the other hand, Penny Arcade's would-be "supporters" scored something of an own-goal when they responded to it with an outpouring of rape jokes, rape threats and generally juvenile, stupid and embarrassing behaviour. The behaviour of their so-called "allies" probably gave Gabe and Tycho more pause than anything, which hardly makes the case that the complaint was ultimately out of line.

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Where is the line drawn, for example? How much fleshing out does a female character need before she's no longer 'Fridge bait'?

It's a worthwhile debate to have. What's not worthwhile is saying there's no debate to have and it's all just being "shrill."

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Racism and most the other 'isms' can fall into the same trap.

And by the same token there are fuck-ton of open racists out there who think they can get away with it by just claiming that anyone who calls them out is being "shrill" or hysterical or otherwise irrational. Luckily, it doesn't work that way.

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And this is pretty much sums up my entire point about WHY these arguments fail. Someone gets incensed and any actual dialogue tends to get lost in the wash

Or maybe someone gets incensed because certain people try to undermine or outright kibosh actual dialogue while hypocritically claiming they're doing the reverse. That's an understandable reason to get incensed, and it happens all the time, and "someone getting incensed" is not in fact an excuse to claim all dialogue has ceased. That claim is bullshit. What we need is less bullshit.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2013, 01:36:03 AM by Cyrano Johnson »

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Character designs: sexism and objectification
« Reply #119 on: May 10, 2013, 12:55:51 AM »
Also:

This. THIS. This is what drives me crazy. This isn't the bloody civil rights movement.

Someone who draws lessons from the civil rights movement is claiming that they have tactical lessons to learn from the CRM; they're not necessarily claiming their circumstances are identical to disenfranchised blacks in the Sixties. So, that's a stupid and insulting thing to try to imply. You'll find that people are more charitable to you when you extend to them the simple charity of not trying to make stupid and insulting implications like that.

Offline Cyrano Johnson

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Re: Character designs: sexism and objectification
« Reply #120 on: May 10, 2013, 01:11:58 AM »
The other thing I remember that comic adventure for is the mid-level gang boss they chased over lots of scaffolding at a construction site, and his taunt "You'll never catch me, you Polypuses!" (one of the amateur spooks, in tie and bowler hat, replied "What an inelegant expression!")  ;D

So awesome....  :D

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Re: Character designs: sexism and objectification
« Reply #121 on: May 10, 2013, 02:51:37 AM »
Please lower the temperature of the thread to avoid a Staff intervention and lock/cool down period.

Thank you.

Offline gaggedLouise

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Re: Character designs: sexism and objectification
« Reply #122 on: May 10, 2013, 03:14:40 AM »
Clipping this bit from a (slightly edited) pm reply from me last night to somebody who had gotten in touch after following this thread - in an off-the-cuff way I believe this caught something:

I think part of the trouble is that many people, especially many women, get off on being objectified sometimes or once in a while, (also on getting appreciation, nice gazes, freebies and gifts linked to such objectifying playfulness) and as long as they feel they don't lose control or standing personally from it. But saying "I like being seen to be a good-looking, enticing doll, I like being put on a pedestal - at least by persons whom I trust" without having it read as implying something wider about how other women should be seen, and should accept to be seen, is difficult when the discussion is a public one. Either it's instantly read as "she thinks other women should accept to be dollified and looked at that way too, because she gets off on it" or you are urged to explain that "I do NOT condone other women getting objectified, though I like to be objectified and glammed up myself" but that's a difficult position to hold, it just doesn't sound good. It can come out awkward or weak even though it's perfectly legit to say: what I'm saying about myself is not translatable to other women everywhere.

In Bogart's day, I think women were more willing to sort of accept with a smile that okay, being a woman I can't reject objectification outright and on principle, we women have to live with it to a degree. You could grudge it personally, you could show that it was not *always* okay, maybe not permitted by you here and now, but most of the time it was basically perceived as part of the female condition. Anyone can see that in movies and books from let's say the forties into the sixties. Today that's not nearly as granted, and of course this ties in with many more women having a career, making solid money or living as singles: many women expect that they can have total control over how they are seen, treated and looked at, all times - and expect other women to *support* their personal/political ideas on this. From there, it translates to how women are pictured in ads, in comics, in movies etc. And that creates more tensions on these things: "why are you not on my side, on our side?"
« Last Edit: May 10, 2013, 08:24:45 AM by gaggedLouise »

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

Re: Character designs: sexism and objectification
« Reply #123 on: May 10, 2013, 09:00:43 AM »
Being admired is not the same as being objectified.  Having someone compliment an article of clothing, a hair style, recent weight loss or simply being attractive is not the same as being an object.  Men enjoy the same admiration and quite openly.  Telling a man that he smells good or that he is handsome is something that many men instantly respond to and are more than willing to accept.  Women are the same in that regard.  Being happy with a compliment does not strip a woman of their personality, their intellect and their purpose.  That, once again, is objectification.  To simply make someone an object. 

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Re: Character designs: sexism and objectification
« Reply #124 on: May 10, 2013, 09:16:27 AM »
Okay, but I don't think the line is a razor sharp one. Some people do enjoy it a good deal when they're showed off, or get to play off against other people's gazes - past, present or anticipated round the corner - even though they are aware on some level that those gazes pass by (deny) some of their more human, live and ordinary sides. Or that you, the attractive person, are acting under more or less strict directions from behind the scenes: walk the carpet like this, talk in this vein, smile like this etc. And at the same time, this incites envy in other people - "that person is stealing the spotlight on all of us" - and that's part of the reason why discussing it can get so heated.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2013, 09:22:55 AM by gaggedLouise »