Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hitman: Absolution & Anita Sarkeesian

Simply put: others have already said it far better than me.

Read this, then this. You can find the Hitman: Absolution E3 trailer on your own. To reinforce Meadows' claims, I refer you to this and this.

If you need an explanation of why I have a problem with that last clip and not this one, let me remind you that there is sexy, and there is sexual. Sexy women make other women feel attractive themselves. Sexualised women make other women deeply uncomfortable in a place no one should be able to reach.

Try explaining to a man the deep-seated terror of the 2-minute walk from a dark bus stop to your front door, and you will be met with a skeptical stare. The worst part, for me, is that this fear is so completely ingrained that I don't even notice it most of the time. This apprehension of the world at large is exhausting. When you have to plan every aspect of your life around weighing up safety against either convenience or a desire to explore - as in foreign cities when travelling alone - you will quickly come to rely on the safest route, even if it is mightily inconvenient/far more expensive.

To put this in perspective: near where I used to work until 2am, on my own, at an arcade frequented by drunks, a woman was raped. Not late at night, not in a back alley - 20 metres from a main concourse, at 10am on a workday, she was raped, in plain sight, and no one helped her. There was a police station 50 metres away. She should have been safe. She was not.

Of course, this says nothing about games, or about gamers. This says a lot about our society. But what does it say about games that even they aren't safe spaces - places where people go to escape reality - for women to hide from the reality of their existence? That entering a world that is supposed to be a relief confronts women with the very thing they fear most, all the time?

Some will call me paranoid, and, indeed, I have wondered if a constant fear for my safety is paranoid. But no one can dictate how I feel, or tell me it's wrong - if I am uncomfortable, that is how I feel, and no amount of 'you're stupid and you shouldn't feel that way!' is going to change it. Telling me to stop getting upset about rape being used as a gender-specific bludgeon to keep women in a place of fear is like telling a burn victim that setting people on fire is a valid form of self-expression.

So I guess I did have more to say. But it falls far short from a drop in the ocean of the helpless rage years of online gaming have built into my resigned acceptance of such ridiculous and constant misogyny. So if you disagree with me, keep your comments to yourself. I've had a lifetime of them already.

And, if by some miracle, you'd like to do something to help create a safe online gaming space for the other half of the planet, please feel free to donate here (or here after the Kickstarter is closed). Your daughters and nieces will thank you.


Peddie said...

Leanne, my friend, I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with you on the notion that we should support "Tropes vs. Women".

From all the looks of it, it's not going to be a documentary series but propaganda. Nowhere on her Kickstarter page does she show any intent to interview industry insiders or other people actively involved with making these characters she hates so much. She should at least give them a chance to defend themselves on why they let such a terrible female character (design) into their game. A good documentary leaves room for the viewer to draw their own conclusions. She is just pushing her agenda. I can't help but feel that this will give us nothing that we can't find out by hitting up TV Tropes (ironically).

Problem #2 is that she is asking money for this to begin with. I've seen balanced documentaries on Youtube that were made for free, and had the creators sinking their own money into it. On her Kickstarter page she basically says she'll use the money for (even) better equipment and basically buy video games to play and judge.

And then there is the Youtube commment fiasco. Browsing through her video history reveals that most of her videos either have comments disabled or screened. EXCEPT the one that has received the torrent of vile and inexcusable insults. This to me indicates that she knew full well that this storm was coming and used it to her own advantage as the media exposure has clearly boosted her Kickstarter to unparalleled levels of success.

You should know me well enough by now that I fully agree with her sentiment that there still is a lot of room for improvement regarding the portrayal of women in games (not that things haven't improved since the start of games). But I don't feel this is the right way to go about doing that. Most importantly since this won't achieve much of anything as almost everyone supporting this, and by extension, most everyone who will be watching those videos will already know there is a problem with women in gaming. And it's already proven it won't change the mind of anyone who disagrees.
The best way to improve the issue is to speak with your wallet. Support games with balanced and fair portrayals of women, and refuse to play games that don't (so not buying the likes of DNF, TERA online or any old Magna Carta).

But simply rattling the cages of misogynists with one sided videos won't achieve anything.

Lea~ said...

I agree with you, but I do so enjoy rattling cages. I don't particularly care what she says in the videos she makes - as you say, it's all been said before - but for me it was a solidarity thing. Tropes about women in games are so pervasive that any attention that can be paid to them - to promote self-awareness, and, through that, change in oneself - is a cause I support, regardless of who champions it. I feel the same way about many other causes, it's just that they aren't related to games, so I don't blog about them. But I do still give them money. :)

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