So Anita Sarkeesian has crawled out of the rock she was under and made another video she was paid to make. A few years late, but what’s punctuality to a famous internet commentator? I like to think it was prompted by the criticisms she got for asking for thousands of more dollars to start a new series when it’s not even clear what she’s done with the original KickStarter funds she got for Tropes vs Women in Video Games, a series she’s not even half way through yet even though it should have been finished years ago. But who am I kidding, you know she doesn’t respond constructively to criticism.
It’s about female character designs, titled Lingerie Is Not Armor. If you want to watch the video, go watch it. Here’s the transcript. I’m not going through it point-by-point like I usually do with these video game videos because I’m tired, guys. I’m tired of repeating myself. I’m tired of acting like anything this woman says is anything besides her pandering to a fan base that will always support her no matter how transparently manipulative and incompetent she is (looking at you, UN meeting, you spectacular failure we have yet to be given a legitimate report on that has actual citations). I’m tired of listening to someone who clearly gives no fucks about art set herself up as the moral authority of it like 1960s Christians who only ever listened to an Elvis song to talk about how they knew it was sinful.
I’m tired of this. And to be fair to the world, the declining views on her videos seem to indicate that other people are too. Hell, Anita herself is trying to jump ship from the video games framework. Much like what happened in the late 80s, it has stopped being cool to act like geeks are evil potential criminals. But this woman exhausts me. She makes me fucking angry. I know she shouldn’t. But she does.
I want to make art. For a while, I wanted to make video games specifically. I realized I hated the actual coding process and moved on to other artistic aspirations, but I still appreciate games as an art form. Anita clearly does not. To Anita, video games are just murder simulators . . . Sorry, wrong hack video game commentator who sought to become a moral authority over the medium by screaming “Think of the Xs!” To Anita, video games are just misogyny simulators. And she is never going to see them as anything else because her feminist goggles have been firmly welded to her face.
She goes on and on about how these games are morally in the wrong for what amounts to her subjective opinion. And if she acknowledged this as her opinion, I wouldn’t care. I’d disagree with her. But no one interpretation of art is the “right” one. She can think what she wants and is not wrong. It is her opinion. Anita doesn’t seem to realize that, as she is acting as though she is proclaiming the capital-T truth of the matter. “I’m right. If you see these games another way, you are objectively wrong. And since I’m right, I’m qualified to be a moral authority on the subject. End of story. No argument.”
You see that mentality run rampant in this video in particular. She actively scoffs at game makers who dare to *gasp* explain the reasoning behind character designs she personally doesn’t approve of. She downplays narrative reasons behind a character’s appearance (despite praising narrative reasons that lead to more conservative female garb in other videos), again with a scoff and a knowing smirk because she knows what the real reason is. She belittles people who have differing mentalities on the subject of scantily clad women. In short, she comes across as a born again Christian who is just so amused by all the poor, poor sinners who believe in other things that are so obviously wrong, when she so clearly knows the one true path to purity and enlightenment.
Because clothing can shape our first impressions of a character and has a tremendous influence on our sense of who they are every time they are on screen, sexualized outfits can contribute to what’s called the hyper-sexualization of female characters. Hyper-sexualization in the media occurs when a character is designed to be valued primarily for their sexual characteristics or behaviors. In hypersexualized characters, these attributes are highlighted above all else and made the center of attention, while everything else is secondary.
Citation needed. You can’t just say that something has lasting and tremendous effects on our collective psyches, Anita. Do you have anything to actually back up that assertion other than your opinion? Also, “primarily” is a quantifiable term. You can physically see when something is primarily focused on. But she is talking about value. Art is subjective. Each individual takes something different away from a piece of art. Value is subjective. What you place on the hierarchy of value is subjective. Even if a character was intended to just be a sexy character, that says nothing about what the audience takes away from it. A common phenomenon in fandoms – particularly female fandoms – is to sexualize characters who weren’t even intended to be sexy, often while simultaneously ignoring characters intended to be “the hot one.” Look at Death Note. I know that’s an anime, not a game, but it’s still a prime example of author intention meaning nothing when it comes to who the fans find attractive.
So being “primarily valued” for sexual characteristics isn’t a definitive trait you can assign to a character like it’s an objective fact. A sexual characteristic can be anything. What about foot fetishes? Are female characters without shoes now only valued for sexual traits because someone somewhere finds feet attractive? This is, once again, a matter of subjectivity. Just because you, Anita, see a sexual female character and think “well, that’s all there is to this character,” that doesn’t mean that’s what everyone else thinks too. You are saying “everything else about them becomes secondary” like it’s a bad thing, all while simultaneously making all their other traits secondary in your critique because you can’t get over them being attractive. Pot, meet kettle. You are doing the exact thing you demonize gamers for doing . . . Even though there’s no way to know that gamers do it.
She does this with Bayonetta, of all characters. Bayonetta, a character from a series of games meant to be over -the-top in every fashion. It’s hyper-sexual, hyper-violent, hyper-crass, hyper-everything because it is supposed to be ridiculously overblown. That’s what makes it fun. The only people not sexualized are the two kids. You know she hasn’t actually played these games because, if she had, she’d know that even the men in those games wear high heels and tight, ridiculously sexualized clothing. And to further prove my point about how what you take away from a character is subjective:
Anita says Bayonetta’s overly sexy nature makes it impossible to value her for anything but her sexualized traits and that everything else is pushed to the background. Do you want to know the two things I took away from those games, though, as someone who played them?
1.) High heels with guns in them are badass.
2.) Bayonetta is a snarky badass with awesome quips.
Notice how the main – you can even say primary – thing I value in Bayonetta as a character is how she is written, not how she looks. I’d actually say most players valued her for her fighting prowess over all else since she is majorly OP. She’s in Brawl now because people wanted her in a fighting game so much. You don’t beg developers to put a character in Smash Bros because you value how sexy they are and nothing else. This is Anita projecting her own feelings on to others – she sees these sexy female characters as nothing but sex objects, ignoring all other aspects of their character, and she thinks everyone else does too.
And, of course, she’s got to bring in the dreaded “straight male” audience, because appealing to straight men is sexist. For all her talk of how game companies need to acknowledge that people who aren’t straight men play video games, she relies very heavily on the idea that straight men are apparently the only ones being affected by video games. Are lesbians off the hook here? Are they allowed to oggle big video game breasts? I’m a mostly straight woman, and I think Bayonetta is very attractive and am perfectly okay with the game playing that up. Am I in the wrong here?
And yes, the majority of regular/frequent PC and console gamers are straight men, so I don’t see why appealing to them is a problem or “sexist.” Are you going to get mad that book covers are designed to appeal to women because they are the largest demographic for literature? Bodice-ripper romance novels with shirtless, glistening, muscular men on the cover are fine! All the YA books that put a description of how hot the main love interest is on the back as the excerpt to rope people in are good. But a visual medium doing the visual version of Stephanie Meyer describing how hot Edward Cullen is for the 80th time is taking it too far because it’s those filthy pig men we’re trying to appeal to and not the innocent women who just want a healthy way to indulge in their own sexuality.
Anita then goes on to talk about how you’re not really empowered if you’re a strong female character, but also sexy. Because, once again, physical attractiveness is all Anita cares about. You can be the most OP, badass character ever. But if you’re also hot, it doesn’t matter, you’re still a victim of this horrible patriarchal system that associates open sexuality with independence and strength. Because feminists never do that! *coughslutwalkcough*
So, essentially, if you are a woman who finds Bayonetta empowering, you’re wrong. And brainwashed. And a victim. Really encouraging there, Anita. She goes on to talk shit about Cortana from Halo, despite her (and the human she, as an AI is cloned from) being an awesome, “strong female character.” But she’s naked, so that doesn’t matter. Was I the only one who didn’t even realize she was naked? I thought her appearance was just smooth and shit because she was a projection.
She goes on to make fun of ridiculous, awful . . . story-justified reasons for character designs.
She laughs at game devs some more.
She re-emphasizes how being proudly sexual isn’t actually empowering because men like it, and anything a woman can do that appeals to men is inherently objectifying even if she doesn’t think so. Make sure to say the word “men” with the appropriate amount of disgust here. It should not even sound like a word anymore, more like a gutural growl.
I’m done here. Do you want to hear my honest opinion, Anita? Probably not. You’ll likely write me off as a sock puppet blog, an evil straight white male masquerading as a black woman specifically to target you. You’ll write me off as a misogynistic harrasser with no real points to make, no real counter arguments to level, just a harassing troll who hates women with strong opinions. But you’d be wrong, Anita. The truth is that I am a woman with a strong opinion too. Do you want to hear it?
I think that content creators shouldn’t be called immoral misogynists for creating a character design you don’t like.
I think the designs for Bayonetta and Cortana are beautiful, both from the perspective of an artist who realizes how much work goes into character design and as a casual gamer who can appreciate a pretty face.
I think some of the breast exposing, body hugging outfits in some games are stupid and obviously pandering to the male demographic. But you know what else is stupid and unashamedly pandery to the romantic/sexual interests of its female target demographic? K-Pop boy bands, and the Teen Wolf show on MTV, and Taylor Swift songs, and Days of Our Lives, and supernatural YA romance novels. Shit that I like.
I think there’s nothing inherently wrong with that even if I think it is stupid, because it’s entertainment, and what is its job but to appeal to someone?
I think sexuality is fine – male or female – and neither should be demonized as inherently objectifying/piggish or inherently objectified/submissive.
I think if you are going to oggle someone’s tits, it’s better to do it in a fictional, fantasy medium like Dead or Alive where no one gets hurt or offended by it, and the only ones saying it’s hurtful are people like you and Jack “video games encourage sociopathy” Thompson.
And, honestly, really and truly honestly – people like you are the reason I’ve almost given up on being an artist. I’ve been writing since I was in elementary school. I’ve got boxes and boxes full of spiral notebooks from a time before laptops, full of stories ripping off Narnia. I have a separate laptop that is ridiculously slow because I have so many scripts and screenplays and half-finished novels cluttering it to all hell. I’ve been conceptualizing a cartoon show – writing and art – for three fucking years.
And people like you make me want to throw in the towel. People like you do not appreciate art. You don’t appreciate story telling. You don’t appreciate the effort. You just want to complain, to morally arbitrate what other people can create, like an entitled jackass who thinks art only exists for you and no one else, all while almost never making anything that you want to see. Now, if I got a book published, I couldn’t be happy about it. If my cartoon pitch got picked up by Disney or Cartoon Network, I couldn’t be happy. Because people like you have made me perpetually horrified that the only value I have is in my skin tone and my genitals. If someone likes the art I make, it’s not because my art is good, but because someone “like me” looks good making it. I’m fucking worthless to people like you. You could replace me with any other person with tits and brown skin, and it wouldn’t matter, because you don’t care about ability or actual value or what I have to say or what my work can bring to people. You care about looks. So, congratulations, SJWs, you’ve run a black woman out of the market that is in such desperate need of your arbitrary, manufactured “diversity.” Don’t worry, you can blame white men. I’m sure you will.