Shooshie has written an article about the tribulations of “nerd women” in reaction to an incident of harassment that occurred at a gaming conference this past week. Being a gamer chick, myself, I know that there is harassment of girls in the worlds of gaming, cos-play, and general super-hero dorkery.
This, of course, spills over into general life, too. I don’t dress to be sexual in public, but being a woman of rather curvy proportions, I have endured a lot of leering and rude comments in my lifetime. As Shooshie says: “We can’t even hide our cleavage in a turtleneck sweater.” The curse of Mediterranean heritage.
I started writing a reply to Shoosh’s article, and found it was getting a bit lengthy, so here are a few of my own thoughts on the matter of sexual harassment and the objectification of women in the media, entertainment, and in the minds of a lot of men.
It has been suggested to me, in light of this issue, that companies create female characters to induce men to buy and play their games/watch their films, basically by giving them the urge to “engage in self-abuse”. The thinking is sick, but unfortunately correct, I believe. Basically, it seems, we have a society that perpetuates and even encourages men to be pigs, to use the slang.
I went round and round with this guy I know last night until we had to agree that there was no resolution, nor could either of us agree on who was truly to blame as far as the guy or the girl. We both agreed, however, that the media using the tactics of objectifying and sexualising women for the purpose of profit is wrong and causing a lot of problems in the general attitude of men toward women.
Hello, people… it’s not 1432!
I wonder if we will ever see a day when women are not objectified in some way.
Is it appropriate for women dress provocatively in public? I’m no prude, but I see a lot of outfits that women wear in public that make me cringe. Does the way a woman dresses justify anyone to harass them? Easy answer: No.
Is it appropriate for women to “dress like sluts” in public? Playing the morality police, here, again, No.
So we end up back at the question of harassing these “women of poor dress choice”. Answer still, No.
Should all female cos-players be limited to playing female toons from games like Mass Effect? No. I don’t play that game. Why would I want to dress up as them? Why should I have to be limited in my cos-play choices?
Let’s look at Wonder Woman. Intelligent, sophisticated lady, upstanding citizen who wears a completely impractical costume when she becomes the superhero. But how many WW costumes appear at Halloween? Sure! She’s cool!
Is Lara Croft really so much about sex? I don’t know. I have never played the game, but I found the movies quite entertaining. I look at Lara Croft as a female Indiana Jones; as a girl who can be ladylike in a dress and picture hat one minute, and kick butt the next. I am told there is some pretty dark storyline to Croft, and while there may be, I see her as something other than that.
Could it be the individual perception of a character that influences to like, dislike, or want to cos-play that toon, or to harass someone who is cos-playing that toon? If a man looks at Lara Croft as the sexualised character she was allegedly made to be, then he is going to act toward that character or a person playing that character in a sexually aggressive manner. If he sees her as I do, he may be more apt to react to her with more respect.
I think most gaming companies are guilty of sexualising female characters. Even the Great And Almighty Blizzard. Aside from dwarves, the females in, for example, World of Warcraft are all big boobs and skimpy costumes. Ugly as they are, even the orcs are curvy (ewww).
The Barbie Doll Syndrome… A dear friend of mine subscribed to that idea and would not let her daughter play with Barbie dolls. I agree that Barbie is a bit “over the top” (pun intended), but the way you present a thing to a child or an adult will determine how they feel about it and react to it. If I had handed Shooshie a Barbie doll (she had 112 of them, by the way (/facepalm)) and told her THIS is how you should strive to look, then yes… I would have needed to be smacked in the head.
But Barbies in our house were simply innocent vehicles to play at grown up things like having a house, driving a car, and being a veterinarian while also having the fun of setting up entire towns (you have no idea how much Barbie stuff invaded our house) with everything a neighbourhood needs, and learning that stripes do not go with plaids, even doing Barbie’s hair does not always work out the way you pictured, and sometimes you just cannot squeeze into a pink fuzzy sweater. Honestly, with the grocery store, post office, bank, boutique, vet clinic, people clinic, and whatever all else we had, with roadways between them all, Shoosh could have become a city planner. Barbie was a business women in our house. If anything, it gave Shoosh the message that a woman can be anything she wants.
When we present female characters sexually, that is how people will see them. Present them, as Lara Croft came across to me, as people with skills and intellect, and the perception and attitude changes.
We live in a Victoria Secret society. Yes, I am laying some blame there, too. The media pushes this stuff at us, telling us THIS is what we want to see, that THIS is what makes us want to buy stuff, and that is all just psychological B.S. that some gullible people fall into. Like the day after Thanksgiving “Black Friday” sales. If the marketing teams didn’t hype it up, people wouldn’t be trampling others at these ridiculous events.
We need to say NO to the media and marketing people. We need to think for ourselves. We need to look at women and men as human beings, not as playthings to manipulated for the purposes of commerce.
How do we change it? CAN we change it? I do not know.