For those of you wondering why I am talking about this when the President is telling the country about what he plans to do with ISIS/ISIL/the Middle East’s Maddest Dogs, the answer is that today is culture and/or religion day. Saturday is politics and/or religion day.
So, to wit. For those of you with actual lives, let me get you up to speed on some things that have been happening in the dark recesses of the overlapping worlds of sci-fi and video game fandom. Essentially, there’s been a hideous faction-fight conducted with the same level of decorum as two cheerleaders vying for the quarterback going on for awhile in both areas, although the sci-fi one is bigger. Essentially, the sides of the brawl boil down to “Our primary intent is to Make the World a Better Place” vs. “Our primary intent is to entertain.” The sides involved tend to be defined by who is yelling “misogyny” and who is being called a misogynist. Said faction fight has not been aided by the women who have been acting like what misogynists say women act like, or by the men who have been acting like misogynists.
Point is, there’s one of those things going on that causes me to think that the left/right political spectrum is not, in fact, a straight line, but a not-quite-circle, or perhaps a very narrow horseshoe–most of the accusations of misogyny generally have to do with women’s attire (or lack thereof) and treatment as sexual objects. Coincidentally, this has been a complaint of social conservatives for years, albeit with different motivations in mind.
So, that having been said, I’m going to take a crack at the matter of women in video games and science fiction, with the usual conclusion. If you want to know where I’m coming from, I already wrote a post about that.
So, into the fire.
To be blunt, the science-fiction thing can be dispensed with very quickly. It’s not more demeaning of women than any other genre, on average, with the caveat that sci-fi covers, due to a long legacy of the books housed inside being treated as literary garbage, can tend towards the “scantily/sexily-clad female,” when there is one. Of course, then again, romance novels tend towards this as well (or genderflip it), and most of these ranters don’t go on rants about how misogynistic romance novels are. Of course, the feminists are still ranting about it because…social justice and overthrowing the white heterosexual cismale patriarchy, I guess?
So, moving on to video games. Here’s where things start getting tetchy, mostly because there is, in my opinion, a portion of the hardcore gamer community that tends to view women as sexual objects more than actual people–witness the tendency of armor for females in MMORPGs to be…minimal. Seriously guys. A chainmail bikini is less than useless as protection. And the tendency for the unlockable costumes for female characters to generally also be more in the “less” category–and don’t even get me started on Cortana. And games like God of War that involved having sex with lots of women (if you wanted) who only seemed to exist so you could have sex with them…yeah. And the tendency of female characters to function as MacGuffins instead of functional characters.
That having been said, however, the reaction to this has been…over the top. Um. Exceedingly so. For example, I remember reading that the Lara Croft reboot that came out a couple years back, entitled Tomb Raider, was sexist because Lara cried numerous times and didn’t react, like, say, Master Chief or a Call of Duty protagonist.
So, let me get this straight. It is sexist to portray a person with zero combat experience, and probably very little experience with severe personal trauma, who has just been shipwrecked on an island with no clue as to whether anyone she was shipwrecked with is alive and is forced to kill people to survive, as being perhaps a mite traumatized. I would like to point out that she gets through the trauma and kicks copious amounts of tail, which in my book is as awesome, if not more so, than kicking copious amounts of tail while not freaking out.
Oh, and the accusation that if you don’t play the video games that they make and love that you’re also a misogynist. That one’s a little awkward, mostly because one can dislike said games for other reasons than sexism. Particularly, the word “fun” is rarely associated with said games. Yes, I said the dreaded word. Sorry, folks, but the only people who’re willing to pay money to be preached at while playing a game are the hardcore members of the choir, and I don’t blame the rest of them for going out and picking up Call of Duty or Command & Conquer instead. (Well, okay, maybe Call of Duty as opposed, to, say, Hearts of Iron. But still.)
The gaming industry has gotten better about treating women as people (at around the same time they started treating men as people rather than automatons) in the past decade or so, especially as more women have gotten into gaming (Could the two be related…naaaaaaah). This is part of the reason for the massive faction fight going on now–with more women came more feminists, who by now have devolved into an army of activists moving across the landscape in search of a cause. Sort of the same thing has happened in science fiction.
Look, the point of all this is that people tend to overcompensate for legitimate problems, even when those problems are being solved–perhaps especially when those problems are being solved, since this engenders whining “But it’s not fast enough!” Just–tread careful, and treat people like people–even in your writing.
‘Til next time,
Lowell Van Ness