Friday, January 9, 2015

On the Subject of Boob-Plates

I do not want to hear one more word out of feminists about the night elf dance or the latest boobplate or the "objectification" of women in games. Seriously. Shut it, girlies. The man is about to speak. You ready for this?

Nobody but me gives a crap. Yeah... not exactly earthshaking. However, after twenty years of playing computer games, this is my conclusion. The only people who bitch and moan about the ridiculously sexualized characters in games are me, the feminists looking to score some "social justice" points by wailing about being oppressed because their avatars look better than they do, and possibly Dana Carvey. As far as the actual clientele of games goes, you know, the people to whom designers have to appeal, they're all for chainmail bikinis and tits you can't even see past.

First off, don't just jump at that statement as a chance to paint all gamers as pimplefaced hormonal stew-pots or forty-year-old virgins. Yes, Lara Croft and her ilk are an adolescent male's wet dream... and because of that, adolescent females want to play characters that look like Lara Croft. Amazing as it may sound, there are plenty of female gamers. Honest to dog. I didn't believe it myself until I heard them over voice chat a decade ago. And guess what: by and large they don't want to look like bag-ladies any more than male gamers want to look like weaklings in rags. I have, on occasion, created female characters in games. When I do, I tend to go for the least revealing outfits around - and when I do, I always find I'm the only one wearing a burqa to the party. The female players around me are running around dressed like pretty princesses in flowing evening-gowns slit up the side.

Yes, there is some difference between how male players with female characters dress as opposed to the real deal. If you see a female character running around in her underwear, that's a twelve-year-old boy. This is because men are not so quick as women to "get" that sex-appeal includes identifiers of social standing. No, female gamers do not dress in bikinis as a rule... but you'll pry their shimmering lacy gowns out of their cold dead fingers. Point one, ladies: you do not exculpate yourselves by simply being one iota classier than a teenage boy. You have to be willing not only to abandon blatant sexuality, but attractiveness as a whole. If the boob-plate has to go, so does wearing a tiara and fingerless satin elbow gloves into battle. We are not imposing this on you. Admit that you want to look pretty.

Second, you can't have it both ways. Either playing up your sexuality is "empowerment" or it's oppressive. There's a gendered term, by the way. When's the last time you heard of a male flouting his sexuality being described as "empowered?" Not a horn-dog or any other kind of animal, but a socially-sanctioned, glorified term making him sound as though he's ending the world's ills by shaking his groove-thing. However, empowerment is apt in describing the power dynamic here. Being sexy gives you power, some for men, much more so for women. Teenage girls play shimmying elves in World of Warcraft and dance on top of the mailbox in Ironforge (or wherever it is nowadays) because it gets them the attention they crave. They're not oppressing themselves (at least not to their limited understanding) but incorporating their sexuality into their virtual lives just as they incorporate cut-off jean shorts and belly shirts into their lives at the mall, and they do it for the same reason. It makes guys do stuff for you. It lets you act like a spoiled princess. It's been a common enough answer over the years from male gamers with female characters as well: other guys let you have more loot if your elf character has tits. Try it.
 Make sure to use voice chat too, slather those insecure brats' ear canals with the dulcid tones of your whining. Can't blame you for wiping the raid. You're just a little girl. Time and again, while I've heard men online rail against each other as "noobs" and "fags" and "omg troll" and "omg u suk uninstall pls!!!" for their mistakes, female gamers simply get a few quiet tells explaining to them what they did wrong. There is power in looking fuckable. Game avatars represent idealized selves and as it turns out, the idealized self of the vast majority of women is attractive enough to make men subconsciously identify her as a potential mate and do things for her.
Riddle me this: if sexualized female characters are a patriarchal oppression of women, why is your forum picture a top-down selfie consisting mostly of your cleavage? Point two: this is your problem, dames. It's your duty to address, your own necessary bit of housecleaning over in that half of the species. When you all get together and decide you no longer want to use your femininity as a tool and weapon in competition with each other and to control men, then we'll talk.

Third and most importantly, you can't have it just one way. You can't just cherry-pick the insults that affect you out of the mountain of insults game designers heap on their customers. It's not just female characters which conform to sexual archetypes, but males as well. You think male gamers aren't creating their characters to conform to societal norms of sex-appeal? How many male characters do you see in online games with a pot-belly or spindly arms? Are all these boys being oppressed by "the patriarchy" as well? Male sex appeal centers on social rank, on the ability to function as a provider. Male characters look powerful not as some sort of Machiavellian plan to make women feel weak and ornamental, but because that image of self-imposed slavery, of functioning for one's mate, of being a muscular bad-ass dressed in half a ton of gold plate, is how men want to see themselves as part of being fit "other-halves" for women. There is no difference. Giant glowing spaulders are our version of the boob-plate. Gotta look ready for the yoke. Chicks gots da milk-jugs, dudes gots that bovine strength, and you can bitch about your side of it 'til the cows come home, but that shit-stick's short on both ends.
Wanna talk body image? Let's talk body image. You think perfectly globular triple-F-cups are unfairly unrealistic, a painfully unattainable fabricated goal for female gamers? I'll go you one better. Let's talk about men creating seven-foot characters with six-pack abs and more muscles than bodybuilders, with bodies that, hell, admit it, no male gamer is ever going to have. Then look what they do next. They cover them up. Even that's not good enough. Even the best, most insanely idealized protector/provider male body is not good enough and must be covered in layers of precious metal and rich costumes, with gigantic weapons as props, laden with status symbols. That's the image with which all those scrawny, insecure, overcompensating teenage boys are bombarded. Even if you achieve the impossible, it will never be good enough, your body will always be shameful and ugly and must be covered from head to toe. You are your function. You are a human doing.
Point three. Objectification? A blunt instrument is more of an object than an alluring physique ever will be.

Ah, but remember what I said? Nobody gives a crap, at least not on the inside of this increasingly popular pastime. These archetypes exist because the mindless mass of customers, male and female, are stupid enough to want to see themselves in these ways. Oh, sure, the church-ladies who've never played a game get up in arms over it, and a few feminist charlatans have found they can make a lucrative business out of feeding the entitlement of female gamers as victims (who still dress their characters up in plunging necklines) but just as with romance novels and gold watches and expensive cars and every movie including at least one sex scene and Valentine's Day and everything else, sex sells. In everything they associate with themselves, humans demand sex appeal. There is nothing special about games. Boob-plates are no worse than rom-coms in which some sap dedicates his whole life to trying to impress the latest Hollywood starlet. Both are halves of the same despicable instinctive interpretation of reproductive fitness.

When I create a female character in a game, she's me, and me be honest. That female version of myself does not curry favor through subconscious cues of attractiveness or availability. I am not that underhanded. I am male, I play computer games and I'm always more outraged by boob-plates than the female gamers with whom I play, and I've given this more actual thought than you ever will with your self-serving damsel routine. So shut the hell up with your pretense of victimization. Let's both dress our characters in rags. I dare you. Let's make ourselves as ugly and deformed as can be. You'll say "uncle" long before I do, ladies.

edit: and yes, I went this entire rant without mentioning the utter idiocy of wearing something which channels and concentrates your enemy's blows  directly into your sternum. That, I will grant you, is nearly as impractical as superheroes' capes.

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