‘Where does the idea that “women have impossible standards for violence” come from?’

Human 1:

I’m watching Angel and women get brutalized exactly like men do all the time.

It’s the same with Buffy, and, going back in time a little bit, same with Battlestar Galactica, Kill Bill, Spartacus.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone claim “no violence should befall fictional women”, and yet redhats and gamergaters routinely claim that women want all the benefits and none of the disadvantages.

How did this claim come to be?

Human 1 cont.

Is it really just a low IQ misunderstanding of the statement that titillating sexual violence (eg. realism violence against sex workers) is bad?

Anita Sarkeesian has a bunch of videos where she points out how fucked it is that in Hitman you can go on this stripclub level and beat the shit out of cartoonishly stereotyped prostitutes, and on Grand Theft Auto you can also beat prostitutes up and get your money back, and she makes a point that it’s absurd that these games try to call this “realism” when you can’t even call an ambulance or whatever.

I just realized that some people have been reading that as “women everywhere should be like the fallout children as untouchable”. If so, that’s insanely dumb.

Basically it just hit me that gamergaters didn’t even consider the possibility of presenting strong women characters that just got beat up like male heros do, without also making them strippers or sexualized

I used to have trouble understanding how they misunderstood her discussions of violence so badly, and just now I realize that maybe they themselves aren’t used to media portraying a woman getting punched in the face, exactly like a man, and the plot not making a huge deal out of it.

Human 2

You can beat up prostitutes in Hitman, just like any other NPC good or bad. The game Hitman actually penalizes you if you attack them, because they’re not your targets.

Sarkeesian takes this and claims the game is enticing the player to attack these specific NPCs and that the developers want the player to brutalize them.

That’s where the calls of bullshit come from: her claims that the game is forcing you to single out these strippers NPCs, beat them to death, and stuff them in a trunk when that is something not encouraged to do at all.

Human 1

Saying that Hitman doesn’t encourage you to play around with dead half naked bodies is like saying GTA discourages you from speeding by sending the cops after you, or from shooting innocents by giving you wanted stars.

You know what she was getting at. The game has a sandbox with only a limited subset of toys, and half-naked strippers were some of them.

Human 3

I don’t even know how much of a child you’d have to be to be titillated by what’s on offer in Hitman. Once you kill a person, they ragdoll and all you can do is gently drag their corpse around.

Literally 0 percent of the game caters to sexualized play with corpses, the only reason you can even interact with them is to hide them away.

Hitman literally discourages killing random people.

Unless a female character is a target, it’s an enormous headache to kill them. That only challenges the player further. Do you get that?

In Chrono Trigger, chests give you loot. In GTA, you have to use cars to get around.

In Hitman, killing strippers only makes you fail more.

I’ve only played a little bit of Hitman, and never played the Vixen Club mission from Hitman Absolution, so most of my experience is with Let’s Plays of people like Robbaz. That may not be universal, but it’s not absurd to say that a lot of gamers choose to play the games for fun in the immediate by running around and killing everyone without concern for points or scores in the abstract.

The above episode from Blood Money is a good illustration of how I imagine a casual gamer enjoys going through the game for shits and grins, rather than trying to achieve challenges like mastering the highest difficulty level or doing a speed run. Some gamers are looking to achieve that, but not all of them, and not all the time, every time they play.

Now, from that same Blood Money episode, one of the issues is that all of the women are made to look absolutely stacked and sexually attractive while the dudes are just dudes, and some of them have guns and actually are threats. The women are all passive objects that can be shot or blown up, and the most important thing is that they be vaguely erotic passive objects.

For the Vixen Club specifically, it has all of the same problems plus a lot of game mechanics that went into ogling the bartender, or paying for dances, or looking at erotic pictures in the scenery, or brutally killing a lot of people, including scantily-clad women.

I’m especially interested in Human 3’s reaction to this Let’s Play vid because the average gamer is much more likely to bother to watch a lap dance than they are to try to do a perfect run with no unneeded casualties. Listen to that guy narrating and tell me that’s not the sort of shit a typical gamer says as they play, in their head if not out loud for a stream.

The analogy I’ve given before is for JFK Reloaded where supposedly, the point of the game is to perfectly recreate the assassination of John F. Kennedy from the perspective of Lee Harvey Oswald in the sixth floor of the Texas book depository building. You get scored on points for how well you are able to match the historical documentation for the assassination. Yet I bet more people played the game the way I did when I was 17, trying to cause car accidents and panic.

Human 1’s analogy earlier about Grand Theft Auto was a good one: no, you aren’t supposed to speed through red lights, but playing is a much more dynamic, exciting experience when you drive like a crazy person. You may say that some missions require that, but you also aren’t supposed to beat up a hooker to get your money back after she heals you. Yet you can, and it’s fun, and there’s no real penalty other than cops coming after you and it becoming a more fun game. I haven’t played the newer GTA games, but I assume you can still go into strip clubs and sit down to pay for lap dances.

Fundamentally, the issue is not violence toward women but the circumstances for that violence.

From what I’ve read and watched of Anita Sarkeesian, that’s her argument, too. Video games can pass off the blame on the player to avoid responsibility, but you don’t need to set anything in a strip club. It’s just a lazy way of getting off part of the audience that largely reflects the demographics of the creative team. The Sopranos and The Wire did the same thing to be able to topless women dancing in the background, Game of Thrones became famous for sexposition, too. On the subject of laziness, misogyny, and Game of Thrones, the point is not that rape is an invalid subject of serious fiction or that a medieval-ish society wouldn’t be awful by our standards. But, it is the case that Jon Snow doesn’t have to be brutally raped multiple times in order to further his character growth, and it’s the case that the specter of sodomy for a pretty young boy like Jojen isn’t going to be included in the name of ‘realism’ the way it will be for his sister Meera. Like American Psycho (the book by Bret Easton Ellis specifically), it isn’t a valid defense that horrible things are happening to everyone when the narrative relishes sexual violence toward women while also killing men without any equivalent eroticism.

Now, if you’re looking for a good example of video games with violence toward women, the N64’s Perfect Dark would be a fine one. It’s still predominantly men everywhere, but the elite guards of Cassandra De Vries, one of the early antagonists, are women. They can be shot, bloodied, blown up, etc. This is all fine, and to my knowledge, no one ever had any problem with it.

But that also has to do with someone named Joanna Dark being the main character, and it tends to be the case that good representation in protagonist covers a multitude of sins.

In Metroid games, a lot of violent things happen to Samus Aran. That’s totally fine because she is an active, powerful character able to shape her own environment. A lot of the enemies are female, but those don’t tend to be sexualized females or often humanoids at all. And while in Super Metroid, for example, her death scream is not something that you could imagine an equivalent for if you swapped in Master Chief (moaning in boxer briefs?), overall no one is complaining that giant monsters are trying to crush and destroy her.

Other than the hair, this image used to be one of my favorite fan creations. Nobody hair gon’ look that good after being in a helmet & running around a hostile base for hours. But! if that were just some side character who did absolutely nothing, and her armor didn’t cover her upper chest, midriff, or thighs, that violence is in a difference context, and the main point is once again to sexualize a passive object.

I don’t have a tl;dr summary because my main point is that this is complex and contextual, and the criticism of violence against women in art is not something that’s simple or can be understood without also looking at how it’s happening, who it’s happening to, and the emphasis placed on it. Violence, and sexual violence, obviously happen in the real world. But people really do buy groceries, have to shit, and usually lead extremely uneventful lives. Fiction involves choosing what to include and exclude, and criticism involves holding creators accountable for those choices of what gets magnified and what’s hidden in ellipses.

As an example, in a world of dragons, the undead, incredible coincidences and other magic, George R.R. Martin chooses to include lots of detailed descriptions of what exactly makes female characters as young as 12 or 13 attractive (but never the males) and talks often about their sexual assault or the threat of it for character development and building dramatic tension (Ramsay Bolton’s sexual depravity includes many things but not fucking Theon Greyjoy in the ass). It doesn’t mean his stories don’t have value or aren’t, on the balance, worthwhile reading. But it does mean it’s an area of valid criticism, in the same way his inability to grasp realistic geography, building scale, or keep consistent travel times is valid criticism.

Also, you criticize stuff you care about and think is worth criticizing, so caring enough to want something to be better, more intentional, and less needlessly offensive shouldn’t be a threat to anyone.

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