Damsel in Distress: Part 2 – Tropes vs Women in Video Games

Anita Sarkeesian has uploaded her second video in the series “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games”, and it’s even better than her first. And this despite the hundreds of dickheads who had her video banned from youtube at first, because they flagged it as “offensive”. That, and all of the comments I read on memebase or below the great IGN article, really made me lose faith in the internet community once more.

The weird thing about this: at university, talking about gender issues and stereotyping has become normal for me. I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t apply my critical thinking to something I love, like games. I can relate to Sarkeesian, because she has done exactly that: she is combining cultural criticism with popular culture. But the “gaming community”, or at least the most vocal members of it, simply refuse to see that “their” medium doesn’t belong to them alone, and isn’t exempt from criticism from everyone who uses it.

Sure, some people think that gender issues are controversial and need to be discussed. But the blank hatred that Sarkeesian received on her project is way way beyond normal, rational discussion. Honestly, no matter what I could say on this topic, it all ends up with sheer incredulity: How can people get SO worked up over this?

At any rate, it is extremely impressive that Sarkeesian hasn’t given up and stands strong despite the hate. If anything, all the abuse has given her project more attention and support. I hope that this series keeps gamers thinking, and people on their toes when it comes to online abuse.

PS: Sarkeesian has co-authored an interesting article on Women in Vampire Fiction – go read it!

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5 thoughts on “Damsel in Distress: Part 2 – Tropes vs Women in Video Games

  1. At first, when I stumbled across your blog earlier I thought it was charming. But then i saw this.

    I’m sorry but I find it natural to get a lot of hate for spreading so much feministic crap.
    First off there is a lot more games that do not use the damsel in distress, than there are games that use it.

    Second I do not see whats wrong with the damsel in distress – if it was the gay in distress the gay community could (they probably wouldn’t) complain about the same crap. If it was the sir in distress the males could complain about the same crap and if it was the fish or the tree in distress the greenpeace could complain about the same crap.

    But third and most important it is the womens own fault that gaming (and nerdy/geeky stuff in general) is a male domain. It was them who decided that geeks and nerds are boring and pitiful creatures.
    Geeks and nerds had to go a long and painful way for what they enjoyed most. They suffered through being the outcasts and now their only domain is made casual by capitalism, torn apart by video gaming critics and overrun by annoying, clueless morons…

    Feminism must be the worst and most self-righteous movement I’ve ever seen or heard about.

    • Okay, well, thanks for the first line, I hope you understand that no blog can ever completely please every reader, so thanks for having a look around. However, I am a woman who identifies with the feminist movement, and I don’t think my opinions will change on that quarter. This is why I’d like to respond to your comment:

      1. If you think so, feel free to make a list. I don’t have numbers, but I firmly believe that it is quite valid to critizise something even if it does not represent the majority of games. That doesn’t make the criticism less valid.

      2. Well, I think it’s a fair enough opinion to see nothing wrong with the damsel trope. If you see it as a natural storytelling idiom that a woman has to be saved by a man, sure, why not. I believe that it is a trope that projects a negative image of women (“weak and useless”), but you’re welcome to disagree. And yes, I think it’s just as bad if the man is the damsel. I suggest Anita’s latest video where she discusses the male damsel trope. Storytelling should be a little more creative than that is all I’m saying – a critique which actually has nothing to do with feminism, when you think about it, but with storytelling in general. 😉

      3. Okay, this one I find unfair. I am a woman and identify as a nerd/geek: I never decided that nerds are “pitiful” or “boring”, and I don’t see where or when “women” in general “decided” that!! I was always a little put off by the male-dominated nerd circles as a teenager and didn’t dare to stand for my hobbies in public because I didn’t want people to think I was weird. So what you’re describing (so melodramatically) applied to geek girls everywhere just as much as to geek boys. I wish the gamer community would finally see that women aren’t naturally predisposed to hate gamers or nerds – I think the cliche “jocks” are just as horrible in that respect, wouldn’t you agree? We’re all in the same boat, dude. And there are a lot of female nerds. Most of my female friends are gamers or roleplaying fans or comic readers etc etc…

      Video game criticism is a valid form of clutural response. There are literature critics, film critics, and now the media is fianlly treating video games with the cultural attention they deserve. I think that’s a bonus – but again, you can just ignore the gaming press and move on with your life. Just as people will always go and watch random blockbusters no matter how many critics despise them, I don’t think the video game industry will suffer from the criticism. I think it will benefit from it.

      Finally, what you described here – the outcast thing or criticism in general – has nothing to do with feminism. The movement aims to work towards the equal treatment of women, which in many aspects of life, is not a reality. Forgive me, but I suppose if haven’t grown up a woman and haven’t been confronted with this every day of your life, you cannot really understand that. Just as I, as a heterosexual, can theoretically support a gay pride movement, I can never really, 100%, relate to them. If you don’t like feminism, you’re totally welcome to your opinion, but I hope you will maybe keep an open mind: We’re not crazy bitches or man-haters 😉 In the end, I’m just another gamer on the Internet, writing about what I care about. Thanks for checking out my blog.

  2. 1) I don’t know how I could possibly make a pleasing list since I don’t know all the games of all time. But I am sure that if you take all the games into account that are not about one superhero protagonist saving the damsel you have to admit theres a hell lot more – sports games, sims, superheroes saving the world/the land or whatever else , strategy games, puzzles etc.etc.

    2) I think that one is just some kind of cover-up. First it’s all about how women are treated bad even in videogames and suddenly its not, but about the storytelling. Honestly? I think theres only one decent story plot per year, if not less. So whats the point in complaining about the damsel in distress (from the storytelling point of view)?

    3) Being a nerd yourself it is kind of self speaking that you didn’t decide that. I would agree that we are in the same boat with that, but in my life I can’t recall a single gamer girl I have met in person. It started out as a teenage-male-domain in school where the girls stuck to the cool guys and just opened up a bit more to the public and female community when casual access had spread widely and emogirls started playing jrpgs. At least that is my experience, idk where you come from.

    I am no enemy of women, but from the first time I read something feministic or related to feminism I always thought one of two things: 1. Wtf is this shit? Don’t they have bigger problems than waste money on THAT? or 2. This is totally not aimed for equality…
    I think you cannot compare gay-pride with feminism. I have read several articles that diassemble the delusion “feminism” much better than I could do it myself, thats why I won’t try it here. But maybe you should look more into your beloved movement and see what kind of lies and tricks they use on the public. Heres a fine example: http://www.angryharry.com/Dr-Lewis-Wolpert-The-Differences-Between-Men-And-Women.htm

  3. Phew, I feel sorry for you never having met any gamer girls. But maybe rethink dissing people for liking certain games, for example more casual ones, instead of hating everyone who doesn’t conform to your idea of a “gamer”.

    And to that idea about feminism, I can honestly just say that you must really have misunderstood the general idea about it. What is said in that link you posted is some of the most bigotted, horrible mess I’ve ever read, and I’m only saying this here so that I don’t have to leave that link standing on my website uncommented. Feminism is no delusion, and I regret that people try to use “biological” explanations (I don’t see how the vaguely phrased “someone needs to care for the children” is any kind of rational, logical or biological explanation at all) as an excuse to discredit its ideas and achievements.

    Once again, you’re entitled to your opinion. I’m not gonna share it though.

    [Edit] I deleted the following comments. I’m sorry, but this is my personal blog and I don’t want people spouting figures and quotes from obviously anti-women websites, edited just right to make them fit their doctrine. Yep, that might seem like a bad idea since it’s basically censorship, but this isn’t a newspaper, it’s a private blog, so I won’t have it. I’m generally all for a decent discussion, but I gotta draw the line somewhere. This exchange already kept me up at night, wondering how to deal with people who are hate-filled towards a group of humans who have never done them any harm. I didn’t find a solution, and I’m not willing to sacrifice my time any more on a fight that is as misplaced as it is pointless here on this blog. [/Edit]

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