Kevin Kennedy

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Why is feminism in games such a touchy subject?

I find feminism really interesting, especially in the history of media. It’s interesting to look back over the last few decades of film for example, and see how the depictions of women have changed over time. The same can be said of many different sects, such as race, age and sexuality (I just finished writing my dissertation on elderly women in the media, which had me looking at such patterns).

But for some reason, when the issue of feminism is brought up in the gaming community, people cry foul, sometimes in extremely offensive ways, just see the treatment of Anita Sarkeesian as proof.
People seem fine slapping Twilight about for having a horrible representation of women and setting the image of women back 50 years, but when someone mentions the “Princess is in another castle” trope, armies are rallied. Why is that?

I’m not going to pretend to have all or any answers, I’m just swimming some depths here. I may even update it or write a Part 2 over time.

My main thought is that of Identity; I love games and consider them an extension of who I am and I’m sure there are many others that feel the same way. Growing up I would be picked on and teased by both friends and family for my fascination with them. Nothing too severe, but enough to make it stick.

The point I’m making is that whenever people waved games away as a silly pass-time, I couldn’t help but take it as a personal insult. There are always people, mainly politicians, that complain that video game violence is the cause of all of our problems. The truth of the matter is irrelevant, but the fact that people could be so dismissive of something I loved bothered me.

Fast-forward to 2007. Mass Effect, one of my all time favorite games, was featured in the pillar of “fair and balanced” news that is Fox News. They were citing that it’s depiction of sexual conduct and “hardcore nudity” was offensive to women and warps our children’s minds. I don’t remember ever getting so mad about something that didn’t directly affect me. It was as if they were calling ME out on their misinformed nonsense.

Is this why people get annoyed by the mere mention of feminism in games? Do gamers see it as some sort of attack? As if mentioning it is somehow calling the player them-self a misogynist. I have trouble understanding why there is so much passion and hatred on the matter otherwise.

It could also help explain the reasoning for hatred towards the person that brought it up. Sometimes the best way to ruin an argument is to discredit the source, in many cases, ridicule it.

The reason for writing these thoughts is fairly basic. To me, the idea that women are usually just damsels in distress while men go off on adventures, going through tortuous ordeals to win them back is a fairly obvious and simple one. Yet when feminists look at it in any great detail, the pitchforks come out. I hope it really is just a simple misunderstanding and not a more serious issue of misogyny.

I’d love to hear some thoughts!