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Gaming and the Disposable Man

No matter how often many wish this topic would just die because of its misinformation, and its use as a platform for feminist theory, sexism (or as FRAs like Anita Sarkeesian would say, misogyny) in gaming is a topic that will never end. It extends to areas beyond actual games themselves to how women are treated in chats, gaming competitions/forums and what have you. Let me state categorically that sexism in all forms is wrong when it is ACTUALLY perpetrated. Let me also state that, on a personal level, I really don't care how any character of any race or gender is portrayed in a video game because video games aren't real, I don't use them as a guide in how to live my life and interact with people, and any person who does has some serious issues they need to deal with immediately.

It's now time to discuss the Disposable Man in video games. Women like Ms. Sarkeesian are quick to state that females in games are used as sex objects, background characters of no importance, or as a reward/objective for a typical male character in games. What ISN'T being discussed is how men are regarded as disposable and how the societal structure that places the value of women above men carries into gaming. Let's take the Damsel in Distress trope. This trope is viewed as sexist due to its implication that a woman couldn't get out of a troubling or dangerous situation without the help of a man. What isn't being discussed, besides the historical truth that a woman's life has always had more value placed upon it than a man's, is that the man is risking his own life to save this woman.

Men have been indoctrinated by centuries of societal expectations to put their bodies, their very lives, on the line to safeguard the lives of women. Women are seen as the necessary gender for the survival of the human race. When it comes to procreation, all women count but only one man is needed. Where it is seen that a woman is allegedly being portrayed as too weak to get out of the situation by herself, what isn't being seen is that history has stated that a man HAS to risk his life for that woman. A man's value is and always has been gauged by his actions. A woman's value is, by societal definitions, inherent and guaranteed because of what she represents to survival. Therefore, it isn't that a woman can't get herself out of the dangerous situations, it's that she isn't expected to because her life is more important than that.

We move on to Shooter games. In complete honesty, there are far more shooter games where the playable character is a male than there are shooter games with even the option to create a female character. Why is this? Simply because men have always been expected to be the one's to give up their lives in war situations. It has never been an expectation for a woman to risk her life in battle. In modern times, if a woman chooses to join any nation's armed forces (assuming she has that option), that's always her choice. Many groups argue that women aren't allowed in the actual combat situations where their lives are at risk, but that once again harkens back to the fact that a woman's life has, traditionally, always had more value than a man's life. Women can't be drafted into service against their will, men can, that's just the reality of the military. When men have been asked to go to war, it's always been to protect the country, the women, and the children. Men are asked to put women and children first and do whatever is necessary to safeguard their lives and their livelihood. This means that it's only natural for shooter games to star men and have them killing other men. It's not that women aren't capable of shooting a gun and being in the trenches with other men, it's that they aren't expected or asked to and no one wants to see them doing it.

You see it's easy to see women in games as being portrayed to be background or useless characters because women have never had to be placed in the kinds of situations men have had to face for the entirety of our existence. It has nothing to do with women's strength, intelligence, or ability. It has to do with the fact that women have never been expected to give up their lives for anyone.

If we look at the Fighting genre we can see some good examples of sexism against women. But once again it ignores a negative portrayal of men. Women can have the weightless cleavage, the skimpy outfits etc, but generally speaking a woman's appearance in a fighting game is for the most part possible in reality if any woman so chooses to look that way. What about the portrayal of men? When's the last time you saw any man that looked like, say, Hugo or Urien from Street Fighter 3? The portrayal of men as hulking masses of testosterone fuelled rage is prominent in several genres of games. In this instance it's wrong on both counts.

But what have we learned overall from this? What we've learned is that women aren't necessarily being objectified and exploited on a general basis. What's occurring is that when women are being portrayed in skimpy outfits designed to make them look "sexy" it's because of the idea that women are desirable. It isn't about them having their personal value being judged solely by their appearance, it's about the very real fact that men love the female form. Men being portrayed as masses of muscle is due to the idea that men HAVE to be big, strong, and emotionless so that they can protect everyone from everything. Men, whether straight or homosexual, don't place the same "value" on the male form as they do on the female form. Quite frankly, women simply look better than men and I doubt the female gamers of the world actually enjoy looking at someone like Kratos and going "damn, that's hot". Men aren't made to look like Olympians because that's what other men want to see, they're made that way because that's how men are supposed to view themselves.

For every supposed "trope" against women in games, there is an equal amount, yet hardly noticed or discussed, "trope" against men. Some examples of these are the aforementioned hulking mass of testosterone, the playboy type, the grizzled war veteran, cocky badass, etc.. All of them have basic categories that make a comment on the fact that men are either expected to do dangerous things, or prove their manhood on a near constant basis.

This blog wasn't intended to discredit women in any way, it was meant to show a side of the equation that is overshadowed thanks to feminist theory being used to judge the world. The expectations of men in the world have permeated gaming since the dawn of the medium and, through a different perspective, we could interpret gaming not as sexist towards women, but as a comment on how society views what men are called upon to do and how men who make games feel about it. Women are as capable as men to do or be anything they want, the difference is that they have never been asked to prove their value through the same kinds of actions men are brought up and expected to perform to prove their value to society.

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jessupj2039d ago

I agree.

The first rule of journalism is to get both sides. Academic feminists never seem to do that and they wonder why a lot of people don't take them seriously.

The very fact that they don't bother looking at the male side of sexism is sexist in it's self.

flyingmunky2039d ago

Thought provoking and well written; a nice change of pace from the bulk of articles on this site.

Still the reason why people are drawn to video games to begin with is to escape the ordinary. No one wants to play as a weak nerd boy or as an diabetic fat girl, those are highly unattractive. People want to be the cool guy that is so buff he can chop a car in half with his bare hand, or an attractive girl with gravity defying assets that can snipe a dime at 100 yards.

Also the reason ultimately why anything is the way it is in games is because of sales. Games developers live or die by their sales and so they must cater to the fan base or become jobless. While it is true that you can make popular games without the 'fantasy' male/female form, it is also very difficult. It is much easier to play into the popular stereotypes than to create a unique and defining art style for characters.

I don't blame game developers for trying to cater to the primary target audience (males) but I will always try to support releases that break the mold.

DragonKnight2039d ago

Completely agree with you. Games aren't meant to be social or political commentary, they are meant to be entertainment and escapism. The problem is that, as with the other forms of entertainment that had to endure these onslaughts, people with too much time on their hands and an unsatisfactory life will always find some reason to complain. This kind of thing has and still does happen to books, movies, television, music, paintings, etc..

I think humanity needs to mature a bit more and learn to pick our battles.

Deadpool6162039d ago

That was a good read. You proved your point as well. Good job.

ShaunCameron2039d ago

Good read. But what you forgot to mention is that more and more men are preferring video games over women, jobs and society is because of how they been denigrated and emasculated just because of their maleness from the womb on up. And video games happen to be one of the few remaining outlets for them to express themselves as men.

Ironically thanks to feminism, men no longer see much incentive to care about the well-being of women and society and are now wanting nothing to do with either. What's the point when all the thanks they're gonna get are high taxes, being overworked, being robbed of their wealth/children/everything else they worked for upon divorce, being accused and punished for a (phony) DV/rape/harassment crime if they stand up for themselves against female aggressor?

Has society learned anything from past civilizations that rose and fell? The minute they they throw men under the bus to put women on a pedestal in the name of "gender equality" is the minute they just asked for their downfall.

DragonKnight2039d ago

You make a good point about men turning to video games to express themselves as men. I didn't think about that when writing this. It's certainly true. Video games, as an escape from reality, is a place where you can be whatever you want free from real world problems preventing you from doing so.

SageHonor2038d ago

Nothing new to add. But, this is probably the best article I've read on this site. Great job.

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