In the past, gaming was seen as a subculture predominantly geared towards, and participated in by young males in a demographic ranging from around 12-24. It was with this in mind that female characters within the games were portrayed as. Usually they fell into one of two types of characterisation, either the damsel in distress who required the assistance of the strong male lead to be able to even tie her shoes together, or as a main protagonist who’s physical features resembled something closer to a playboy model in tight apparel, even which such apparel made little to no sense.
As someone who has been gaming for close to three decades now, I cannot state enough just how frustrated I find myself at the continual sexist portrayal of women within games and indeed gaming subculture. It is inherently frustrating to have gamers themselves assuming that only a certain type of women play games, when in reality that is far from the case.
Sexism in gaming is something which seems to be continually accepted by the gaming populous. with often connotations of supposed humour masking what are clearly derogatory statements. For anyone to claim that such statements “get back in the kitchen” and statements of that ilk are only meant humorously and have no real meaning or consequence are frankly deluding themselves.
It is bad enough that Hollywood and fashion consistently portray women in an unrealistic manner, often over-sexualised and given little recognition beyond their appearance, but to have a subculture which for years has been decried itself is bordering on ludicrous.
Gaming has the potential to demonstrate that intellect, not beauty is the order of the day. When you consider the complexity of some games today, it is certainly viable to present and introduce a protagonist who’s ability is not marked by physical beauty.
Gaming in general has grown to be universal, to appeal to men and women, as well as young children. Is this really the example we wish to ingrain into young boys and girls today? That female protagonists are only worthwhile if they are aesthetically pleasing? In the last year or so there has been an outcry over the portrayal of women within the porn industry, and indeed quite understandably too. However, I believe that the misogynistic views that some men develop, are not forged during the viewing of porn, but far before that, and far younger.
When you consider how many games, even those for all ages, portray women purely as a damsel in distress (a simple example would be the original Super Mario games) and fail to portray a strong female character, you can see how these misogynistic views can begin to take shape even at a very young and impressionable age. When women are portrayed to be either weak or objects of sexual desire in games which will be played by a pre-teen male child for example, it is easy to see wherein these viewpoints can be formed.
The solution for me lies in gender equality in both gaming, and gaming characterisation. If characters in video games are portrayed as equally powerful, with no attention paid to the gender of the protagonists, then it is easier to provide an example, even in a virtual world, of the value of women within our society. Misogyny is not an issue exclusive to gaming alone, but the way to implement change into the male psyche and male culture, is to provide examples of strong, powerful, intelligent, independent women from an early age. Gaming has a chance to do this, to provide young boys and girls with the knowledge that they have equal ability and capability to fulfil any role they desire later on in life as adults, and that it is that they should be judged upon as adults, not their aesthetic value.
The end of misogyny and sexism is something that unfortunately still lies somewhat distant. Education is what will bring the end of misogyny and sexism, and if women are portrayed equally across all cultures, across all forms of entertainment, then the education will begin, and hopefully, misogyny and sexism will take its place in the past and remain there, here’s to the extinction of both misogyny and sexism in the near future.
Until next time,