Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Gamergate, SJWs, Sexist Comics, Blah Blah Blah...

Of course by the time I report on something in this blog, it's long past being old news.

Gamergate was a controversy that started in 2014.  You can read the Wikipedia article here, but here's my completely biased summary:  A bunch of male gamers got offended when women pointed out that a lot of video games were sexist.  In order to prove that the gaming community wasn't sexist, these guys threatened to rape and kill several famous female gamers.

This movement spawned (or at least popularized) a few new internet terms, such as Social Justice Warrior and White Knight.  For the uninitiated:

Social Justice Warrior (SJW):  Anyone who isn't a misogynistic, racist asshole.  Or from the Gamergater point of view, an SJW is someone who won't stop whining about sexism, racisim, and other social issues.  It's basically a more modern variation of "politically correct."  For some reason SJW is considered a pejorative, even though both sides believe SJWs want to wipe out sexism and racism.  I guess if you're proud to be sexist and racist, SJWs represent a challenge to your worldview.

White Knight:  A male who believes in equality.  Or from the Gamergater point of view, a male who rushes in to defend a female in an internet discussion, who doesn't really believe what he's saying, but pretends to be a feminist because he hopes to get laid.  A Gamergater doesn't believe that any male could ever actually be a feminist, so any time someone with a male avatar speaks against Gamergate he must be doing it to impress the ladies.

All I want to know is:
What happened to geeks?

Seriously, guys, what is wrong with you?  When I was in high school, we wanted there to be more female geeks.  We loved our geek media, and didn't want to give it up, but we wanted girls to share it with. Girlfriends or platonic female friends, it didn't matter, we just wanted more acceptance of our hobbies.  Geek didn't become mainstream until years after I graduated.

Young geeks today just don't appreciate how well they have it.  In my high school, liking Star Trek immediately put you in a special category of students, the lowest end of the social totem pole.  When I think about how things have changed, I want to believe that things have gotten better.   I want to picture kids walking around openly wearing their sci-fi shirts.  I know there's still bullies, but when that bully is also wearing a Game of Thrones shirt, he's probably not picking on them for enjoying fantasy.

Girls are finally openly into video games. Now to be fair, when I was in high school back in the early 90s, I did know several girls that liked video games.  But they weren't into them.  The played them as a pastime, but they didn't talk about them or read the magazines or wear the hobby on their sleeve the way boys did.  But now girls are proud to wave their geek flag high.

Guys, this is what we wanted.  This was our goal.  We all hoped to one day marry a woman who would play video games with us.  So why are you trying to scare them off?

Look, guys, if you ever want to have a relationship with an actual woman, here's a tip:  Be a feminist.  And by feminist, I don't mean your uninformed misogynistic definition of the word.  I mean the real definition of feminist:  Someone who believes in the equality of the sexes, and recognizes that society makes life easier on males.  And when I say be a feminist, I don't mean just saying the words.  Research it.  Believe it.  Recognize your own privilege.  Don't get offended when people point it out to you.

But don't expect your feminism to make you special.  That's like wanting special treatment for not murdering someone.  Feminist is what you're supposed to be.  Don't tell women you're "not like those other guys".  Those "other guys" are assholes, and not being like them isn't some grand accomplishment that should immediately get rewarded with sex.  Not being a jerk is just the start of the journey, not the end.

What are you so worried about?  What do you think you're going to lose if video games become a little bit more feminist?  Are games going to be that much less fun just because the women wear more realistic armor?  Do larger breasts and g-strings really enhance gameplay?  Does adding the option to play as a female character lessen the experience, even when you're still allowed to play as a male character?

Look, I've never been a fan of censorship.  But we're not talking about censoring games, so much as enlightening programmers.  They have to realize that half of their target audience is female.  Making games that appeal to a broader audience can only increase their sales.  There's no downside here.  It's just a simple matter of adding more options.

More games should allow you to select your character's sex and skin tone.  If they want to include skimpy outfits, fine, but make them optional.  Give players more choices in customizing their virtual avatars, even in single player games.  A good game will draw players regardless of character design, so there's no reason to alienate half your audience with hypersexualized avatars.

I'll let you in on a secret - while my gender may be questionable, my sexual attraction is not.  I like women.  I appreciate nudity.  I'm not offended by skimpy outfits or sexual themes or even full-blown pornography.  But I don't need to see it everywhere I look.  In fact, nudity is actually sexier if I haven't been looking at it all day. 

Disclaimer:  I don't claim to be an expert on feminism, and the following paragraph is based solely on my own experience, so feel free to take it with a grain of salt.  But most feminist women I've talked to still like feeling sexy.  They enjoy playing attractive characters in video games.  They still like reading comics with sexy superheroines.  Most of them aren't even offended by nudity.

For many, it's just the amount that's the problem.  Let's look at comic books for a minute.  I'd say about 90% of female superheroes wear ridiculous outfits that would never be comfortable in real life.  They stand in positions that aren't humanly possible, and have body shapes designed more for porn than athletics.  Does it have to be 90%?  What if we invert that?  We can still keep the sexy women in skimpy outfits, but let's make them 10%.  Let the other 90% be a variety of body types, in a range of clothing styles.  There, you still get to see a little skin, and female readers have more characters to whom they can relate.

It seems like most of these artists really only understand how to draw one female body type.  They can draw all kinds of men, but every female is just Superhero Barbie in a different tight outfit. If I were in charge, every comic book artist would be required to read "Escher Girls" regularly.  They would also have to print out these two Shortpacked strips, poster size, and hang them on the walls of their office.

Good: Batgirl's 2014 Redesign
But the main thing is I want to see more female programmers and comic book artists. I want women involved in all aspects of design.  I want new female heroes designed with more practicality in mind - not at the cost of pizzazz, mind you, they are still super heroes.  But their suits would be more befitting of the athletes they are, instead of everyone looking like supermodels.

A lot of existing female costumes would get redesigned, but the ones for whom "sexy" is part of their main theme would stay sexy.  Catwoman would keep wearing slinky outfits, as sex is her theme almost as much as cats.  Poison Ivy might still wear skimpy foliage, since she's more into nature than modesty.  Power Girl would still have the biggest breasts in the DC universe, as that's part of her character and all body types should be represented.

Bad: Harley's Cheerleader Lingerie
But Harley Quinn can bloody well go back to her much superior original costume, so she actually looks like a harlequin again. Batgirl can keep the practical outfit she started wearing in 2014, the one that got caused such an uproar among misogynists.  I'm a little torn on Black Canary's stockings - they're kind of a signature for that character, but they're also very silly.  And Wonder Woman... well, she's had a ton of different outfits over the years, both good and bad.  Just pick one of the ones that doesn't look like a swimsuit.

But that's just if I was in charge.  Someone more feminist than me might come up with even more conservative designs.  We'd all object at first, but only because we're hardwired to hate change.  In a couple of decades, we'd be so used to the new outfits that the old ones would look ridiculous.  Heck, I was raised on Superman comics in which he wore his underwear on the outside.  It's only been a few years since they updated it, and I'm already so used to it that I wince when I see the older costume.

The bottom line is, it's not all about you.  You're not the only one reading these comics or playing these video games.  Making a few small changes to a product can double its audience.  Personally, I'm twice as likely to buy a comic book or video game if the main character is female, and I know I can't be the only one.  If the creators of media would just pay more attention to the world around them, they'd know how to increase sales and make the world more inclusive at the same time.

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