Nerds and Male Privilege Part 2 – Deconstructing The Arguments

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A few months ago, I wrote an article on nerds and male privilege. Maybe you read it.

Believe me, nobody was more surprised than me when it proceeded to go viral and start rocketing around the Internet. It garnered a lot of attention and a metric ton of mixed reactions, some good, some bad, some downright puzzling. It made for a great lead-in as to just how some male behaviors can work against us when it comes to dating and I got to enjoy my five minutes of Internet fame. I sort of figured that this was the end of it and was ready to move on to the next series of articles. I mean, after all, I didn’t start this blog to be about gender relations; I’m just a guy trying to help geeks improve their love-lives and get better at dating.

Well, man plans and the gods laugh and all that. It seems as though I’m not quite done with the subject yet.

Y’see, there were certain recurring themes and arguments in the comments, both here, on Reddit and Kotaku, especially regarding my immediate dismissal of entire classes of arguments about whether male privilege – especially as it pertains to geek and gaming culture – exists. And since I’m the sort of person who can’t seem to leave well enough alone…

Well, let’s take another whack at the ol’ hornet’s nest again, shall we?

C'mon, you know you want to...

The 3 Ds of Arguing

Back when I wrote “Nerds and Male Privilege”, I included a link to the “Sexism In Games” bingo card as an example of the most common arguments and ones that, ultimately make my point for me. A number of people felt that this was my attempting some sort of rhetorical end-run around actually having a discussion about  how male privilege affects women or even whether or not male privilege exists, and thus cheapening or even disproving my argument. Amusingly, they then promptly proceeded to make just about every argument on there. So many, in fact, that one Redditor decided to play “/r/Gaming” sexism bingo with the comments in just one of the threads about the article.

Not even the one in the sub-forum for Men’s Rights.

I dismissed these arguments in part because that’s not what the article was about; it was about making people aware about how male privilege manifests itself in geek culture and that the attitudes that male privilege engenders1 directly affect women’s involvement and inclusion in geek culture. After all, there’s nothing quite like being told by a community that you want to be a part of that you’re only valued as a commodity or reward is there?

But, more importantly, these arguments pull the attention away from the subject at hand and lead the conversation down roads that it was never intended to go. As a result, the main thrust of the article – guys, you have advantages that lead you to act a certain way that is off-putting to women – gets lost while everybody is sucked into a neverending morass of goalpost moving and verbal gerrymandering.

These arguments tend to fall into what I call the 3 Ds of Internet Arguing: Dismiss, Deflect and Derail.

Dismissal entails denying that the issue exists at all in the first place, evidence be damned. This often involves long and tortured explanations about how something really isn’t sexist at all and is perfectly rational and egalitarian. Occasionally it involves explaining to someone how they’re completely misinterpreting things, they’re oversensitive or overemotional.

Deflection is all about verbal judo and flipping the accusations around on the accuser. In terms of arguing male privilege this usually appears as variations of  “No, women have all the power, they’re more manipulative than men” or “You’re discriminating against us!”

Derailing is the most common version of these arguments and serves to change the subject of the conversation, usually by the people in question. Suddenly, instead of discussing geek culture’s implied accepted roles for women, we’re discussing the hierarchy of oppression or why we’re talking about this instead of, say, female circumcision (which is, like, way worse). Or dealing with assertions that, by extension, anyone who agreed with the article wants to ban all “sexy” characters from video games forever.

No, you're sexist! You're trying to oppress men!

Now don’t get me wrong here: I’m not saying that there can be no disagreement on the subject or that by arguing with me at all you’re conceding the fight or automatically making my point for me. I am, however, saying that the arguments – as represented on the bingo card – fall in line with these types and ultimately do refer back to the point I was making.

But hey, let’s actually go through a few of these, shall we?

You’re Only Saying This Because You’re A White Knight/Trying to Get Laid/ Trying to Appease Your Girlfriend

This one showed up a number of times, and it’s the one that amuses me the most. I mean, honestly, if writing a post on a semi-obscure blog was all it took to get a guy laid… well, shit, I probably would never have actually started Paging Dr. NerdLove because there would be no need for it.

"My LiveJournal brings the chicks to the yard..."

For that matter, why exactly would writing an article make my girlfriend happier than, say, cleaning the litterbox more often? It’s a mystery.

Ultimately, this is a case of dismissal. This argument implies that the only reason why I would even pretend this exists is because I have ulterior motives. Otherwise, I would never bring it up/betray my gender.

Amusingly, I received a few variations of this from some feminist blogs as well; I paraphrase (because I can’t find the link and Google is failing me) but evidently my whole point of bringing this up was “just so that guys could pretend to have a whiff of a clue and trick women into fucking them.”

Comics/Gaming/RPGs/Etc. Are A Subculture That Appeals to Men! You Trying To Take That Away!/
But It’s Not FOR Women! If They Can’t Deal With It, They Shouldn’t Be Here!

These deflections tend to be variations on the same argument; that privilege is inherently a zero-sum game and by making concessions to women regarding the levels of sexism in geek culture requires taking something away from men.

Which is, to be perfectly honest, kinda nuts. But it does imply one thing: that at a certain level the one making the argument realizes that they are the de-facto privileged and they worry about not having that privilege.

Now to be fair: some elements of geek culture are male-dominated; comics and gaming are perfect examples of this. This does not, however mean that they’re inherently intended for guys exclusively, nor does it mean that they also have to be as exclusionary to women as they tend to be.

Realizing that drawing all of your female characters with 36DDD tits and posing them in physically impossible ways in order to show off their boobs and ass at the same time while wearing dental floss costumes might be a little offensive to women is hardly the same as saying that you’re not allowed to enjoy sexy art or that sexy art shouldn’t be allowed. Similarly, campaigning for female characters who are more than “Hero’s girlfriend” or “Fan-Service Station Attendant” doesn’t mean that there can’t be femme fatales or even characters who are there for titillation.

The problem isn’t that these characters or drawings exist. The problem is that these are the vast majority. When 99% of the female characters, whether it be comics, movies, or video games are designed to look like porn stars and the ones that aren’t can be counted on the fingers of one hand, it’s not terribly surprising that women might be oooged out by it… and the implied attitudes that come with it.  When your only choice for a gaming avatar are “Bustier and Thong” and “Battle Bikini”, it sends the message that “You are only welcome here as a sexual object. If you do not meet these criteria, we have no use for you.”

Nobody’s saying that there can’t be sex-kittens, voluptuous pin-ups or fetishized characters. But leavening them out with realistically proportioned females in practical costumes who aren’t there to be rescued, raped, murdered, tied to the train tracks or the prize for beating the main boss isn’t taking away your rights or preventing you from enjoying the games.

But they call her a ‘bitch’ because they’re the bad guys.

This qualifies as a derailment.

This one came up repeatedly in the context of criticism  of Arkham City, a game that I (and other bloggers and journalists) dinged for being an excellent game with some troubling aspects. In this case, the various henchmen running around Arkham City constantly refer to Catwoman as “bitch” and make repeated comments about beating and/or raping her and Harley Quinn.

Now I will give you this much: yes, the characters saying this are criminals locked up in a city-sized jail, presumably with very few female inmates.

However, let’s keep in mind that these are not real people. All of these characters are constructs without free will or animus. They aren’t making jokes about “Riding the Harley” because that’s just how they roll; someone had to decide that this is what they were going to say. Someone had to record those specific lines. This wasn’t a case of emergent gameplay that took the creators by surprise – it was decided that whenever the player controlled Catwoman, the henchmen would call her bitch and threaten her with sexual violence.

Worth noting: these characters are violent offenders in a prison and male-on-male rape is rampant in the prison system. Yet nobody is telling Batman that they’re going to make him their bitch or that they’re going to bust out his teeth so that it feels better when they force Bats to blow them. Nobody’s calling Batman a faggot or threatening to run a train on him after they beat him unconscious. Rape, after all, is a statement of power, domination and degradation… and who represents everything the criminals hate or resent more than Batman?

But they don’t. Because they weren’t designed to.

The writers and designers didn’t include these behaviors or lines for when the player controls Batman. They did for Catwoman. This makes all of the difference.

You’re the one who hates women – you’re saying they can’t be both sexy and tough

Another deflection, implying that by criticizing the portrayal of these characters the critic is, in fact, the sexist.

Of course, this requires that the definition of “sexy” mean “wears extremely revealing clothes” and “has massive breasts”, which is patently untrue. Sexiness doesn’t derive solely from the level of fan-service the character provides, and it’s absurd to try to limit to just how much skin we can or can’t see.

There are a number of female characters – sadly, a relatively small number – who manage to be strong, fully realized and sexy characters without wearing stripper-tastic costumes.

Just off the top of my head I could name:

Ashley Williams: Mass Effect
Elena Fisher and Chloe Frazer:  Uncharted 1, 2 and 3
Kate Kane: Batwoman
Matoko Kusanagi: Ghost In The Shell
Jade: Beyond Good and Evil
Agatha Heterodyne: Girl Genius
Nausicaa: Nausicaa and the Valley of the Wind

Uncharted: Doin' it right.

Interestingly enough, Lara Croft – once the poster child for absurd outfits and gag boobs – has undergone a redesign making her far more realistically proportioned and sensibly dressed. And speaking as someone who has gone climbing over and in ruined temples in the jungle… yeah, you’re not gonna wear shorts.

But Trash Talk is Normal on XBox Live. Women Are Just Too Sensitive to Rape Threats and Feigned Masturbation.

Another deflection, and one that relies rather specifically on XBL or Playstation Network multiplayer games, because it falls apart fairly quickly if you look at it with respect to, say, voice chat in World of Warcraft.

So again, I will give you this much: Yes, there’s a lot of shit-talking in online games. But ask any woman who plays a first-person shooter and you’ll quickly hear about the difference when guys realize there’s a woman in their midst. Suddenly it’s all about the rape or the fapping sounds. Guys may threaten to make other male player their bitches, but they’re not going to be asking those other guys how big their cocks are, if they’re cut or uncut and whether they’re a top or bottom. Women on the other hand will be told to show their tits and inundated with demands for cybersex. They’ll be called “cunt” and “whore”, but if they complain they’ll be told that they’re too “sensitive” or “emotional” to play.

And hey, if they’re especially lucky, the harassment doesn’t end just because you quit out of the game!

XBox Live Douchebags: Puttin' the "ass" in "Classy". Screenshot courtesy of fatuglyorslutty.com

But as I said, as soon as you step out of the world of first-person shooters and into MMOs, the argument that trash-talking is a normal part of online gaming starts to look thin. Many women will use male avatars, gender-neutral sounding names and refuse to use voice-chat systems such as Ventrilo. As soon as other players – guild members, pick-up groups or even PVP opponents realize that there’s a woman in their midst, the conversation now becomes about her gender… and more importantly, whether she has a boyfriend or will show her tits.

Everyone knows ‘sex sells’, and the developers are just making things they think will sell.

Another deflection. And one that might be news to EA; the Sims sold over 16 million copies. Activision might be astonished too: World of Warcraft has sold over 12 million copies.

But hey, what about console games? Well, the top-selling game on the Playstation 3 was Gran Turismo 5, followed by Modern Warfare 2 and Uncharted 3(there it is again!). On the Xbox 360, the top three sellers are Call of Duty: Black Ops, Kinect Adventures and Halo 3.

And let’s face it, every developer would give their left testicles to reach the level of sales of Super Mario Bros. with 40 million units sold.

Tits may get attention, but they’re hardly the dividing line between success and failure.

But men are all super-buff, they’re sexually objectified too! / Men Want to Watch Desirable Women, Women Want to Be Desirable Women

This is one of the most common deflections when the issue of how women are portrayed comes up. It’s known as a false equivalence – the idea that two things presented together as equal when in fact they aren’t. In this case, the idea that just because women have exaggerated physiques doesn’t mean they’re sexist because the men are just as exaggerated too. Of course, this doesn’t work for many reasons. To start with, it assumes – falsely – that the things that women find sexy are the same things that guys find sexy; that is, the exaggerated secondary sex characteristics. But we’ll get to that in a second.

The other issue is the reason for the exaggeration. Comics and games are fantasy true, but the fantasy aspect differs when it comes to male and female characters. Male characters are a power fantasy; the large muscles and massive torsos are visual signs that this character is an unstoppable powerhouse. Kratos doesn’t look the way he does because Sony Computer Entertainment did focus-market studies and found that women reacted best to that design; he looks the way he does because he represents the powerful alpha-male that gamers want to be.

The women, on the other hand, are sexual fantasies. These are the rewards for the player – the character’s love-interest, the motivation to complete the game. They’re designed as eye-candy; they’re intended as something to be consumed, not something to escape into. Women like to fantasize about being desirable yes, but they also like to be powerful, and their definition of what they would consider to be sexy and powerful doesn’t mean battle-bikinis and thongs of power.

But hey, I’m a guy. It’s easy for me to sit here and proclaim what women find sexy, but I could be talking out of my ass. So why not take it to the source? I put out a completely unscientific poll on Facebook and Twitter about characters that women find sexy – video games, comics, anime, whatever. And the results? Well, let’s compare.

Here we have the exaggerated figures that are supposedly sexy too:

Yeah baby, glower! Make sulky love to that camera!

And here are the characters my female readers find sexy:

Not shown here: Sephiroth, Goliath, The 10th Doctor, Roy Mustang and one vote for Optimus Prime (?!?)

Notice a trend here? These are not the massive beefcakes alpha-males that are supposedly as equally objectified as Kasumi, Ayane or Ivy. These men have longer torsos with much leaner builds; they’re built like swimmers rather than weight-lifters. They’re not men who scream “unstoppable physical power”. They’re lithe and dextrous, not barrel-chested juggernauts with treestumps for limbs.

And the other critical factor: it’s not just their builds that make them sexy. Gambit, for example is attractive because of his personality and his situation; he’s tortured because he can’t physically touch the woman he loves. Nightcrawler is the laughing swashbuckler, full of wit and flirty charm. Jareth is dark and mysterious and just a little dangerous and oozes sexuality.

Yes, the men are exaggerated as much as the women. But it’s the intent and the message that make all of the difference.

It’s just a comic/game/movie. No-one cares.

A dismissal that’s patently untrue.

The fact of the matter is, people do care. Women feel excluded from participating in the fandoms they enjoy because of these attitudes. They feel as though they can’t take part because of the way they’re treated just by virtue of being female. They’re told they have nothing to contribute because of their gender and that their value consists of their availability as a sex object.

And geek guys wonder why geeky girls are so thin on the ground.

I’ll have more to say soon specifically about how male privilege in geek culture directly affects women, why guys should care and what we – men and women – can do about it.

Until then, back to the dating advice.


Keep the discussion going. Let me know what you think in the comments.

  1. See what I did there? []

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Comments

  1. Whacking the hornet's nest = feeding the trolls?

  2. Ah, and my favorite dismissal that I got was that you were negatively stereotyping geeks as these panting mouth-breathers and how dare you say such patently untrue things! (True: I have indeed met many perfectly respectful male geeks of these fandoms, but that hardly discounts the institutionalized sexism (and racism, even) inherent in the system that they're defending. (It's not that bad, don't be so sensitive, I get called "fag" and worse on live-chat, it's tough being a man, you just don't understand.)

    Excellent follow-up to the first post, and I'm very glad to see the idea of male power fantasies vs. sex fantasies getting some airtime here where it might actually get some readership.

    • I'm not quite sure what you're getting at. When you said that it was untrue that all men were mouthbreathers, were you being sarcastic?

  3. You used Gambit! Yay, I helped! Though I kind of wish you had used a picture of Jareth from the "Dance Magic Dance" scene, because the grey pants are amazing.

    Also, you left out "I betcha the doc is a girl." I saw that one a couple of times and giggled.

    • Dr. NerdLove says:

      Gambit came up a lot, actually. He and Nightcrawler were two of the most common responses.

      • I am surprised there was no Nightwing

        • Long as Doc mentioned Arkham City, and Nightwing is getting some love, I'm going to throw my support behind Robin. Batman's nice and all, but my eye candy is totally the "realistic" Robin. Very nice.

      • Wrongulin says:

        I can totally get behind the Nightcrawler thing, maybe it's a sum total of looks, personality and actions that make male characters attractive to women, rather than *just* looks. I don't know; it's hard to articulate without making a sweeping generalisation about male nerds and a lack of depth.

        It's sad I've seen so many of these issues discussed or used in gaming forums over the years and people are still blind to it, I had to leave the first WoW guild I was in after finally joining chat and logging in the next day to an in-box of utter shite, most of it from blokes I'd been raiding/talking bollocks with happily for months. Never mind the attitude of many nerds I considered good friends when the whole RealID in WoW forums issue happened.

        Not all male nerds are like this and it is getting better, but as someone who's been to comic and gaming cons, yeah, there's still a lot going on out there that makes me feel uncomfortable and unwelcome.

        P.S. You never said we could pick film characters! :D

      • Couldn't even let me have my delusion for a single minute, could you? Party pooper.

        Seriously though, I'm not surprised that Gambit and Nightcrawler were mentioned frequently. Both characters have considerably more emotional depth than most other X-men characters, especially Mr. "I love my wife, whoops she's dead, whoops she's alive and kinda nutso, guess I'll go mentally bang Emma Frost."

      • To be honest, the x-men character I find sexiest doesn't even have upper-body muscles. At all. He has a big ol' gaping hole in his chest, shoulders, neck, and jaw.

      • I love Nightvrawler. Not exactly my idea of eye candy, but my favorite X-Men easily. Kudos for the girl brave enough to vote for Prime.

      • Nightcrawler is easily my favorite X-Men. Would have been nice to see Nightwing on that list. :p Kudos to the girl brave enough to say Prime.

  4. Thanks for the rebuttal on the "men are objectified too" argument. That's one I encounter a lot.

    And you also turned my thinking around on Arkham City, that's very true everything that you wrote, if there were being "true" to the criminal nature of these characters some would at least be saying they'd "make Batman their bitch". I wasn't 100% ok with the representations of women (same body shape, same animation, same walk, impractically low cut tops) in the game and tried to console myself with that argument. But alas.

    Also, I am so very grateful for Uncharted. That game is fantastic, and those ladies are brilliant, vibrant, intelligent and well rounded characters. Sexy but more through their actions than their attire. I also can't wait for the new Tomb Raider.

    • Dr. NerdLove says:

      The annoying thing is, I love Arkham City. It's tied with Portal 2 for my favorite game of 2011. But damn the constant bitch and rape jokes got tedious and more than a little uncomfortable after a while. It honestly felt like "Hey, how close can we get to an M rating without going over?"

      • I love it too, and it's predecessor is one of the games that finally tipped me over into playing video games. Yeah the comments did make me uncomfortable too. Even though there are only a few really in comparison, the sound bites are on a loop and triggered in certain parts of the city so they came up a lot.

        What I'd really loved to have seen was a couple of female bruiser inmates. Big tough as nails women. I think that would have been fun. But the female ninjas were a nice touch though they get kudos for that.

  5. Spot on. Thank you.

  6. Christian T. says:

    I learned to not bother nests or hives by watching "My Girl"

  7. Make Part 3!

    Also, Chell and GLaDOS totally belong on the sexy and tough list =P

    • Dr. NerdLove says:

      I didn't include Chell because, well, other than the knowledge that she never ever gives up (which is only found in a tie-in comic), she doesn't have a personality outside of whatever the player brings to the table. She's like Gordon Freeman that way.

      • Sannabell says:

        Zoey and Rochelle from Left 4 Dead series and Purna and Xian Mei from Dead Island also fits the "tough and sexy with plausible bodies and clothes"-list.

      • Thank god I thought I was the only one who actually thought the same about chell, I love Portal but she is not exactly a 3 dimensional character, she barely has any character at all, and she is worshiped between most gamers as a good female character

  8. I follow you BECAUSE of the initial post for this. Also, YES to Gambit! Nightcrawler, Gareth and Roy Mustang are pretty good, too.

    I was fortunate on WoW because when I joined, I was playing with my RL friends, in which our guild was pretty exclusively m/f couples playing together.

  9. Aurelia Verity says:

    Regarding the "But Trash Talk is Normal on XBox Live" argument.

    The logic of, if enough people do it, it becomes OK, is extremely dangerous to adopt.

    What if everyone on my street collectively decides to throw excrement out on the street instead of using indoor plumbing? What, just because they all do it, it's fine and I'm just being a hypersensitive girl about all the unsanitary diphtheria? Maybe i just don't want to live knee deep in s***.

    This kind of reasoning makes nerds, all nerds, look like immature jackasses.

    Adding "Bitch, get me a sandwich" or "Show me your tits" invalidates any argument you have, even if it's an amazing one. the medium is only as good as the people who surround that medium. you can't get preachy about parents being afraid that video games ruin their children and harass people on-line at the same time.

  10. I have to applaud this article and its predecessor. I am a proud nerdy girl who has spent a lot of time discussing this subject. In fact, in college I took a class on Gender, Sexuality and Representation the visual arts. Now the subject matter was mostly centered on the renaissance and up, however when it came time to write a final paper I chose a subject I love: comic books. I say love in the sense that a person loves a puppy that wets itself, it's cute but I recognize its faults. My paper was on the lack of range adapted to female villains as opposed to their male counterparts, how male villains run the gambit of physical representation, from handsome to hideous, but female villains are constantly represented with their sexuality at the forefront. I got an A :D.

    But aside from that, I can't tell you how often someone will be telling me about a great comic and I will go and check it out, but I can't bring myself to read it because the art is so unnerving and depressing. I'm an average looking girl, though I have a lot of other things going for me, but its hard to find a character you can identify with when they are all put there as extremely sexual objects. As women, we don't get to see that unattractive scientist turn into the hulk. EVERY female is above average looking, so much so that we barely ever get to see a fully developed personality.

    Now, I am not saying its all men, because there are a lot of female artists who draw their women as such, but falling into a troupe for either gender is an excuse. I just hope that more of my nerdy sisters can help to support this battle for equal representation, and even some of my brothers.

    • Congrats on your paper! I totally agree with your comment about the Hulk…especially since in Marvel vs Capcom 3 She-Hulk is portrayed as a sexy green woman…The first time I saw that in the game I was a little disappointed.

  11. Another great article on the subject!

    I personally think fetish characters are cool, but it would definitely be nice to see female characters with practical costumes and actual roles in video games.

  12. You missed out the most telling factor here – that these straight males assume automatically that their opinion is the valid one, despite having no experience of being anything other than in a position of privilege or considering the alternative viewpoints with any sincerity.

    The idea that you get to make decisions for groups you don't represent or even really understand? That's the height of privilege right there.

  13. Another great, insightful article! Great rebuttals for all those tired arguments. On a side note, I really need to play Uncharted…sounds like a great game.

    • Dr. NerdLove says:

      The Uncharted series is one of the best game series on the PS3, hands down. It's also punishingly difficult at times, so feel free to drop the difficulty setting as low as you'd like if you want to get through the game.

  14. You forgot the accusations of portraying all geeks as horrible, sexist, mouth breathing scum of the earth..

    At least that's what I saw on reddit a few times.

    • Personally, I know many friendly "geeks" who are not horrible, sexist, mouth breathing scum. There are very few scummy geeks that I meet in real life. DMs and guild leaders often turn out to be the most courteous people I will ever know.

      But does that mean they do not exist? Because I can clearly hear thousands on XBL.

      I think we clearly know that not all of our geeky friends are secretly rapists. But we can acknowledge there is a target audience that sops up "bikini mail" and TripleD jiggling fighter babes – despite whether or not that audience considers themselves sexist for thoroughly enjoying it and whining at the female audience when they are a) upset with it or b) do not fit that stereotype.

  15. no so silent e says:

    It figures the next time my facebook leads me back to this site it will be because of another male privilage post.

    Male femenist <3

    Anyway. You know what I've never been able to understand? Why more men aren't offended by this stuff. And no I don't mean on behalf of women, I mean as men. The media, especially advertisement/video games seems to believe the only way to get a males attention is with sex. Read anything on trageting the male demographic and it pretty much begins and ends with violence and sex. Its true most men love sex but that is far from the entirety of who they are.

    I'll clairfy my point with an example: while watching a boxing match I asked one of my male friends what the purpose of the half dressed women holding up the signs was…he told me that men used to get antsy between matches and all the testoerone they built up watching the fights would often make the audience fight eachother. So the eye candy was introduced to keep them passified.

    What?! How are men no offended by that? They think y'all are THAT stupid and simple minded.

    It sickens me that some of your commenters have claimed "women are to sensitive about rape". 1 in every 6 women has been sexually assulted in her lifetime so there is a very high chance that the chic to whom you are describing their sexual violation in graphic detail to has actually been raped before. So in the nicest way I can put it, way to be a massive jackass.

  16. The other thing is, if artists moved away from appealing to the baboon demographic (prominently displayed buttocks (in front too) to indicate mating readiness) there'd be more actually hot women in gaming, comics, etc.

    I have to wonder if some of the absurdly proportioned women from video games came about because the screen resolutions made normal women look like men. Doesn't excuse the comic book artists, and doesn't excuse people coding for modern displays, of course.

  17. Reading these articles has been a joy. I've always been the girl who plays video games, reads comics, collects figurines and has a whole slew of other nerdy hobbies. It's something I'm very passionate about and I talk about it to anyone who will listen.

    While every point you've made has struck home with me in some way, the real winner for me is when nerd girls are put on a pedestal. I've been fairly lucky so far regarding how I've been treated in comic/video game/etc shops, however I had a very eye opening experience over New Year's. A friend brought me along to a party with a group of people I had never met before. I happened to be the only single girl there. Some of the guys started talking about video games and I chimed in. Immediately afterwards, I started being the target for of sexual advances from at least six men, including one grabbing my butt and another trying to kiss me. It was an extremely uncomfortable situation. Contrary to popular belief, just because I'm a girl doesn't mean I'm looking to be hit on. I felt like a prize to be won. In a situation where I could have made some friends with common interests, they decided to disrespect me or immediately try to win my affections and I didn't appreciate it.

    Long story short, thank you for speaking out about this. This goes deeper than a hobby. Every female nerd should be treated with as much respect as their male counterpart.

    • There's a common opinion that if you see someone of your social/ethnic/religious/etc group doing something you and/or others look down on, you should apologize for his/her behavior or say you look down on it. In reality, you're a different person and only someone with a naive world view would equate you two beyond and pre-introductory setting.

      Basically, I am not offended because that "stuff" is all not for ME, but for someone else. I take offense that the good Doctor writes this accusatorily (sorry if that isn't a word) like all male readers are like this, or "of course all male guild members are going to jump on the new female member". It's pretty rude.

      Assuming a lack of intelligence or sensitivity to female gender issues ticks me off.

      • latebloomer says:

        I think you are missing the point of what the good doctor is trying to say. The original male privilege article, to me, seemed to be more about the fact that male privilege existed. He pointed out a few examples of where it reared its ugly head. The point of mentioning Catwoman and Poison Ivy seemed to be more about pointing out how lady geeks were not incorrect in pointing out that the women in comics were drawn like strippers and porn stars who have had work done. I don't remember him calling for the comic book industry to change how they did things. There are plenty of women who like comic books despite how women are portrayed in them. Do they need to change it? Is it necessary? No.

        The doctor is here for love advice. Most geek guys would probably prefer a girl that shares his interests so that she isn't continually nagging him to put that figurine down or stop freaking out over the plastic covering on a comic book that never got read or whatever. In order for these geek guys to get these girls they need to stop alienating the very people they want to be around.

        Also, I don't really recall Dr. Nerdlove telling anyone that all male guild members would hit on every female in their guild. Women are sharing their personal experiences. Experiences I have never actually had. I have always made it quite clear that I am a woman and married. I do, however, have girl gamer friends that have been treated to such behavior and had their skills questioned because of their gender. had they not proved they were good at what they did *before* they revealed their gender they would never have been given a shot. Is this blizzard or bioware or any other mmo developer's fault? No. It is the people who are playing. It is the decisions that they make.

        Maybe you don't behave this way, but there are *plenty* of people who do. And as a woman, I find it very unattractive behavior. I don't believe that Dr. Nerdlove is telling anyone to apologize for anyone else's actions. At least, I don't remember reading any such demand. It seems to me that the point of the articles in question are to encourage the people he is trying to help take into account their actions and how they affect the very people they are trying to attract.

    • hi cat, i will start by saying i enjoy you on spill and wonder if you will visit or have visited any supernatural conventions? Now to what you said, you referred to yourself as a girl but if i am correct you are clearly an adult woman? here is the skinny jack kirby, stan lee, steve diko, were called nerds and also ignored by most female. there were maybe a handful of female into videogames/ comic books/games in their time (now that these things are popular everyone call themselves a nerd/geek/gamer) so you can understand why some would be skeptical. the title of nerd queen is always open for a reason because in part cause a lot of females such as olivia munn might claim to be a nerd but from what i heard and seen she is just a hot asian/model/actress. 2) now that comic con is profitable every hot chick is a closet nerd/geek/gamer an is accepted by society even more opposed to males who did not get the same reception. obviously you are the 1-5 percent of female who were into dungeon an dragon, elder scroll, so on (i am guessing) an were honest about it an did not conform to popular culture to just fit in. which is great but does not make you special by todays standards. examples of females being catered to (the gamecube looked the way it so it be more appealing to japanese school girls, buffy the vampire slayer, sarah connor chronicles, battlestar galactica ie starbuck, charmed, xena, all which show women being superior, perfect, and better than men in everyway) all of which is accepted by the mainstream. there is such a thing as general respect which i give to everyone until otherwise, i also follow the saying if you cant take the heat get out of the kitchen. An no i dont think a women place is in the kitchen, it is clearly in the gym working out/being fit/being healthly ie being confident and outgoing.

      • First of all, Asian is not a career and I'm really not sure why you felt the need to bring Olivia Munn's race into the discussion. And saying a woman's place is in the gym and not the kitchen doesn't make you any better than the men who tell us to get back in the kitchen. Our place is where ever the fuck we want it to be, not "being fit" so we can meet your ideals. And since you're NOT a nerd girl/woman maybe you should check your privilege at the door and STFU about how we're "more accepted by the main stream" than nerd guys because that is just blatantly false. We get treated like shit from both sides – by the mainstream who don't deem us feminine enough to be "real women" and by the nerd boys/men who treat us like we aren't nerd enough or just there to be gawked at.

        And if you think being unable to take rape threats and creepy fapping noises means we can't "take the heat" maybe you should read THIS: http://kateharding.net/2009/10/08/guest-blogger-s… and try to understand why we take them so very seriously.

    • That's because you're regarded as a novelty. That will change when more women feel comfortable moving in comic book/gamer circles.

      • Hm… I wonder why they don't feel comfortable. Maybe it's because when women and girls admit to liking comic books or games they often have something similar to Cat's experience, but no, that's just crazy.

        I'm not saying all geeky guys (or guys period) are like this, but until geek culture stops being a men's club, girls and women won't really be welcome except in that horrible token "hot chick" way. Being objectified feels awful, and what's even worse than that is being accused of liking something like video games because you /want/ to be objectified.

  18. Optimus Prime IS sexy. Dat voice.

  19. The "White Knight" angle really gets me. It is, in it's own wonderful ironic way, sexist in and of itself to assume that men bringing attention to the issue of male privilege are only doing so so they can get laid.

    Regardless, thank you for bringing up the issues that we face in the industry. It's very important.

    • Dr. NerdLove says:

      The thing is, there are guys with serious White Knight syndrome out there, online and in the real world. It's a variation of "nice guy" behavior", although one that comes with it's own set of issues.

      I'll actually be writing an article on White Knight Syndrome within the next couple weeks.

      • I don't doubt for a second that there are such people in the world. The instant presumption that you are one is what gets me.

        Looking forward to your "White Knight Syndrome" article!

      • Fantastic. Fell into that in high school and I've been struggling against it ever since.

      • Oooh, yay! Can I offer one suggestion? It might be helpful, for all the fantasy-oriented nerds, if you looked at the historical 'chivalry' this logic springs from. For one thing, troubadours talked constantly about the virtue of unattainable love. After all, an attainable woman was your equal, and love could not sustain itself on equality, surely! :p The lady they were after was called princesse lointaine (faraway princess), and aspiring to her was supposed to make the man inherently better (think Jake Sully in the recent Avatar movie). And that aspiration was USUALLY adulterous, so that it was obvious that a reciprocal relationship would be severely punished (think Lancelot and Guinevere). It's really kind of sick, when you consider that this form of romance, originally used to glorify adulterous attractions, has come to be central to our understanding of how FUNCTIONAL relationships are supposed to work, between equal parters.

        • Also, the "femme lointaine" is a construct, a paragon of virtue that no woman can live up to. It's kinda insulting when a guy just tries to worship you because you're a girl, any girl, instead of actually respecting you and getting to know you…

          • Deliverator says:

            Yet that attitude is constantly fostered by society: Men are expected to be lapdogs, enforcers and protectors of women NO MATTER WHAT. We're nothing but disposable drones whose value is based on utility alone.

  20. Buzzkill Aldrin says:

    This is a nitpick, but I think you might want to leave Major Kusanagi (it's Motoko btw, not Matoko) off the "doesn't wear a stripper-tastic" oufit. Second season (and the manga and the original movies) kinda throw a wrench into that.

  21. I wonder if one of these could be written without 'nerd/geek' in it. This stuff happens not only in 'nerd/geek' atmospheres…heck who really made the list to say what is considered any of that anyways.

    Think a word that isn't used often enough is maturity. Not only with corresponding of creation, but as well as the mindset that happens through social interaction.

    It's easier to blame someone else, than it is to accept that someone is better.

    Girls are as equal to guys in video games. Both genders have some that are great, some that are annoying, and some that just don't learn.

    • Dr. NerdLove says:

      As I've said before, it's not exclusive to geek and nerd culture, but since that's my milieu in general, I prefer to keep my focus narrow.

    • afarensis says:

      My personality is largely dominant in my of my life. That said, I also have seemingly paradoxical submissive submissive leanings which serve as an effective counterbalance. As such, and with my identification as a sub within the BDSM community, I have encountered the types of patently misogynistic behavior detailed in the article. I am regularly demeaned, diminished and treated as less than. When I use my voice to politely express that some relatively common behaviors, such as generally acknowledged expectations that subs must immediately, mindlessly, submit to men they have known only a few days, or being told to strip naked on cam for an inspection as part of the evaluation, I tend to be met with unbridled derision, anger and further diminishment, usually chided for acting like a child.

      I expected this type of behavior from the types of men who have made this lifestyle into the type met universally with disgust and misunderstanding. My alarming discovery has been instead focused on the types of egregious behavior perpetrated by supposed good guys within the community. Imagine my shock to learn how these man actually treat women they would like to submit to them. As preface, these same men already express a clear desire for female subs serving in this role to be true equals,nwomen who are both powerful and aggressive and have embraced their submissive privately. So, to find myself in situations where their assumptions and demands so clearly undermine their assertions, and where they authoritatively direct me to behave in ways that demean me so undeniably, has been shocking, disturbing and demoralizing. These men are my peers in every other part of my life, as they have always been. All I can surmise after experiencing these patently disrespectful exchanges is that these men suppress their true personalities during interactions with women undeniably their equal.; they are bright enough, of course, to know that expressing their true feelings in mainstream society will only impugn them. So these men find their way to a fringe community such as BDSM that fails to employ any of the types of boundaries that serve to patrol distasteful behavior and are able to live openly an unabashedly misogynistic lifestyle

      So, to stumble across an article that details another fringe group with almost identical misogynistic tendencies, I was finally validated. I interact with male Doms, not female subs. Accordingly, I have felt impossibly alone, unable to feel the support from women equally castigated. I regularly struggle with my decision to embrace my needs when that decision requires that I live within the constructs of a community largely viewing women as inferiors, meriting the types of demeaning and degrading behaviors its majority love to freely dole.

  22. YES, thank you for the follow up! I came by your blog by the way of a feminist livejournal community that linked your original article through Kotaku. I read the comments. Then wished I hadn't read the comments as THE VERY FIRST COMMENT was a deflection of what you just wrote and then spiraled into a cesspit of troll.

    Write mooore, wrriiite moooree ^_^

  23. Although, perhaps a tad ironically, the creators of Girl Genius are also the unabashed former creators of a pornographic series, and it's the wife that likes to get the main character in her underwear all the time, not the husband. (There is, also, plenty of attractive male characters in that series, which is certainly not hurting its popularity with female readers.)

    • Dr. NerdLove says:

      The porn series that the Foglio's created – XXXenophile – is also widely acclaimed as some of the most fun and female friendly porn out there. In fact, several friends of mine served as inkers for some of the stories.

  24. Also, alot of the guys that talk the worst trash(and I mean truly crude, vulgar, nasty things )online will barely talk to girls in person. Why is it so much easier for them to be an asshole. There's something wrong with guys like that. And then they wonder why they don't have girlfriends. The online trash talk is a pet peeve of mine. Keep up the good advice.

    • Anonymity seems to bring out the worst in people.

    • ConspiracyTruth says:

      That has been around for ages. Been around since I played Halflife Deathmatch before Steam and XBox Live even existed (back when you played on the WON servers, if I remember right). It is the mask of anonymity that allows people to spew aggression at strangers. You have a hard day at work, your girlfriend dumps you, lost your job – come home and be an ass to people with no repercussions. I won't lie, I used to troll a bit in my more bitter days before I knew what was wrong with me and got treatment for the issues making life unbearable for me. Schadenfreude. It was actually quite relieving since I could lash out and feel like I got vengeance without actually hurting anybody for real. Still, ruins games so I stopped and empathize with those who hate it.

    • I have trouble with this, I find it incredibly easy to be an asshole to anybody and everybody in person no less, but I am terrified of a positive conversation that admits interest/risks rejection. At least I have a clue and I am working slfu, no luck on taking risks for far.

      • Hey, you know what? You've moved past denial. That's when there's hope : ) Hope the last 32 weeks have gone better!

  25. I have a question. I'm a writer, and I honestly don't think I have an oversexed female characters. Humorously, I'm gay, and I often worry if I'm oversexing my females or making into a Mary-Sue. Males? I tend not to worry too much, but I do have one major character that breaks the oversexing situation.

    What about situations in which character would logically be or honestly want to be sexy. A model, an actress, a succubus, or any female type who would honestly focus on making themselves be sexy. I don't aim for this character to have gargantuan breasts, but she would dress slutty on purpose as she does want to lead guys on.

    Yes, I do intend to give the character her own depth and flaws, and interesting enough, it's not a daddy complex (ugh…). She does have her own personality and importance to the story, but she would most likely be the sexual icon of the story. There are several other females who also hold important spotlight much like the character, but they are not sexually focused.

    Do you think that oversexed character would be seriously flawed in comparison? Do you think characters like that shouldn't be?

    • Dr. NerdLove says:

      Nobody's saying that sex and sexuality can't be part of a character, or that every female out there has to be a virgin who would never even look at a penis. It's an issue when the character is only there for titillation or sexual gratification or when all of the female characters are treated this way.

      To refer to the DC reboot, Starfire's sexuality and sexual expression has always been part of who she is; she came from a culture that believed in free and open love and for whom monogamy and body modesty didn't really exist as concepts. This was treated as a facet of her character – she was someone who honestly enjoyed sex and didn't necessarily agree with the dominant attitudes towards it, but it was hardly all of who she was.

      The rebooted Starfire literally can't remember who's she's slept with, nor does she care. She comes off like a teenager's version of a "strong, sexually empowered" character because she fucks anyone and anything and couldn't really care less who they are. She's a walking sex-toy who just happens to be good in a fight on occasion.

      Similarly, we have Catwoman who is a classic femme fatale and has often used her sexuality as both a weapon and as a means to an end. All well and good. But there's a difference between a femme fatale character and using her strictly for fan-service in the first issue when you don't see her face for six pages but you do get treated to multiple loving close-ups of her underwear-clad breasts and ass, then having her dive out a window still only half-dressed. It's one thing to emphasize a character's vulnerability in a situation by having them have to escape less than fully-clothed; it's another when, once again, it's being used as a cheap excuse to throw some sexy thrills the reader's way.

      • What I love about that issue is that after she narrowly escapes her apartment half dressed we are introduced to her homely female best friend (distaff Foggy Nelson) to show that not all the female characters are hyper sexual.

        Frankly, the new Catwoman comic does not turn me on; it unnerves me. Selina Kyle owns her sexuality and it is, as a guy, disturbing and fascinating to read.

    • No problem with characters for whom sex is a part of who they are. However, speaking as a fellow writer, it is worth exploring why you create such a character in the first place, and how many different characters you include around them.

      After all, with our own creations, their sexuality isn't an inherent part of this person, it's an invention of our own, as much as their height, race, gender, favourite food and economic status. Whatever personality a character has, it should make sense. Sex also shouldn't be the entirety of who they are, and more than any other facet of their personality should.

      TL;DR, half a dozen female characters including one who is very sexual in behaviour, whilst also being more than just a walking blow-up doll? No problemo. The only female, or one of a tiny number, being overtly sexual in behaviour, dress, appearance, the way she is described and whose sexuality overrides every interaction she has with others? Not just problematic but terrible, terrible writing.

  26. Father Time says:

    Your answer to males being sexually objectified is to deny that they're sexually objectified?

    Really? If they want to make a character powerful they make them have powerful actions. If they want them to be sexy they make them overly muscled and shirtless.

    Then you make a deflection that "women don't find them sexy". So? That doesn't mean they werne't designed to be sexy to females.

    Oh and never post bingo cards again. Since they don't actually respond to any of the arguments they feature they're only useful if you don't actually want to make a point.

    • Dr. NerdLove says:

      They're shirtless so that they can be show off their muscles. Their overly-developed, not-nearly-as-sexy-as-you-think muscles. The ones that scream incredible power.

      So, yes, if they're supposed to be equally sexually objectified for the female gaze, and the female gaze just isn't finding them attractive, that does rather prove the false equivalence that it's equal.

      If you want, I could always poll my gay readers as well, but you're gonna get similar answers.Most gay men are into leaner, slighter builds; just look at most clothing ads and underwear models. Gay men into bears aren't gonna be interested in these guys; feel free to take a stroll around Google and find out what the typical "bear" looks like. You might, might be able to make a case that they're intended for the leather-daddy/Tom of Finland audience, but that's such a niche audience that it's literally not worth catering to 'em.

      • Yeah. As a gay man, I don't like the "bear" look (mostly because I'm a half-cub myself and hate it). I like the leaner, swimmer look like what's going on for Nightcrawler. Hell, I'm a sucker for contemporary Bishonen because they often feature those lean and androgynous men. Rurouni Kenshin? Instant melt on my part.

        Turns out that's what is known as "Twinkies." The straight equivalent would be "Barely Legal."

      • As a straight man, I usually play female characters do the pure dumbness male characters look due to their oversize.

        • Completely agree with Rich. If I have a female character option I take it if I can't make the male character look "normal." WoW drove me insane with that. I play ranged and finesse type characters and even the Blood Elf males were almost to buff to consider correct for a caster type. The male body type in videogames tends to be geared toward an unrealistic image of what developers think their MALE audience expects from leading characters. I personally have a large frame, but I'll take whipcord lean over muscle bound any day. Easier to maintain, for one.

      • so your saying that the readers have to find them to be sexy and the intent of the artist doesnt matter?

        • Father Time says:

          Apparently so.

          I wonder though what happens when they weren't supposed to be sexy but some people find them sexy anyway? If there's one thing Rule 34 has taught us, is that that includes literally every character.

        • Maybe it is just my understanding of how things work, but if an artist intends a character to be physically appealing to masses of females, then they would probably do a little research into the subject. Or they would just assume they know what women want and it goes back to prove the point that the community doesn't fully understand what women find attractive and feel that we should fit our tastes to their ideas. Did you know that when designing Flynn Rider for the movie Tangled they got all the women in the room and had them describe what they find attractive until they narrowed down his look?

      • Pterygotus says:

        Why is it that people who are attracted to men always seem to be the most attracted to the ones that look the least like, well, actual men? It makes no sense whatsoever…

        • I don't know – why are people that are attracted to women so often attracted to one that look the least like, well, actual women? (You don't see 18" waists and DDDD, perfectly globular breasts much in nature.)

          I don't think women are attracted to men who look the "least like actual men". I think they/we are attracted to men who look like actual men…not stereotypes about what men "should" look like. Yes – there are big, burly men out there, but there are *also* a whole lot of actual men who aren't built that way, who don't have a lot of body hair, etc.

          IME, teen girls are generally attracted to men who don't look super masculine, in a stereotypical sense, because…well, guys that age often *don't* look that way. Very young men still tend to have somewhat stereotypically feminine features, which they'll outgrow at some point, and the girls are drawn to that kind of look. Grown women? Tastes vary – wildly. I like lots of body types. My sister likes large, hairy men, with a belly. A friend likes the bodybuilder physique, and not very hairy. Another friend likes very lean, slim men…but loves lots of body hair (a preference that many see as contradictory, but one of the hairiest guys I ever knew was both short and slight of build).

          So, yeah – I don't think your question is even valid, really. "Actual" men, like actual women, come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. The fact that women, by and large, aren't attracted to freakish caricatures of the male physique (eg. 99% of male videogame characters, comic superheroes, etc.) hardly equates to women being "most attracted to the ones who look the least like, well, actual mean". Quite the contrary.

      • Quietmarc says:

        I'm gay, and I totally love the over-muscled look, but to say that male comic characters look that way to up their sex appeal is ridiculous. If someone did a panel-by-panel comparison between male comic characters and gay porn that someone like me might look at, there's nowhere NEAR the overlap that one would get comparing female comic characters to female models in straight porn. It's a deflection plain and simple.

        And I completely support bingo cards. They're fun AND educational. When I catch myself feeling defensive from a bingo card it's usually me, not the card, that's doing something wrong.

    • I don't want to put words in anyone's mouth, but I don't think Dr. Nerdlove was trying to imply that men aren't sexually objectified in video games, just that there's a false equivalence between the sexual objectification of men and the sexual objectification of women. It's not a point that I necessarily agree with; I tend to be wary of unscientific Facebook polls, and, as you pointed out, there's no way of confirming that video game writers/developers aren't just horribly misguided about the preferences of gay male and straight female fanbases. That being said, none of that disproves Dr. Nerdlove's assertion either; they're just points to ponder.

      In any case, though, whether male and female sexual objectification are two sides of the same coin or two entirely separate issues doesn't detract from the main point of the article, which, as far as I can tell, is that male privilege and the associated female sexual objectification ARE issues in geek/nerd culture. Just because sexualization is happening to men too doesn't make the fact that it's happening to women any less of an issue.

      I don't deny that male sexualization is a pervasive phenomenon in both video games and other aspects of geek/nerd culture. In some ways, it might even be more insidious than female sexualization. At least female sexualization tends to be overt in ways that make it easy to identify and criticize (which to be clear, does NOT make it okay). Male sexualization in video games is an issue that SHOULD be discussed.

      But that doesn't make female sexualization any less of an issue. Masculism and feminism aren't a zero-sum game. It's alright to bring up male sexualization as a point of discussion – really, more people should be bringing it up – but it's not a counterargument to the existence of female sexual objectification. There's room to discuss both issues intelligently on the Internet, whether they're two entirely separate issues or just two sides of the same coin.

  27. Father Time says:

    "However, let’s keep in mind that these are not real people."
    No shit. It may also surprise you to learn that people aren't stupid and know what a video game is.

    These were characters designed to be criminals then. Happy now?

    "Rape, after all, is a statement of power, domination and degradation"
    Some people do rape for the sex.

    And maybe they needed a Teen rating which is why they don't threaten Batman with rape.

    But these aren't supposed to be perfect representation of prisoners. Some of them are evil clown thugs for fuck's sake. It'd still be realistic/slightly evil for them to call catwoman a bitch.

    • "Some people do rape for the sex."

      Rape is not sex. Sex is consensual. Rape is about one person fulfilling his desires (whether it's power, control, or simply the urge to get his dick wet) regardless of the opinion of the the other person. Guys who do not have a willing participant and are NOT rapists do the humane thing: They find an actual object (hand, doll, fleshlight, whatevs) and work it out on their own. They do NOT turn another human being into an object.

      (Feel free to whine to me about how women rape too. G'head.)

      • Father Time says:

        "Rape is about one person fulfilling his desires (whether it’s power, control, or simply the urge to get his dick wet) "

        How does that contradict what I said? If it's sometimes about getting your dick wet then it is about sex for those times.

    • Dr. NerdLove says:


      No shit. It may also surprise you to learn that people aren't stupid and know what a video game is.

      Seems a bit odd to make the argument that they just *happen* to be criminals, no?


      These were characters designed to be criminals then. Happy now?

      Life is beer and skittles!


      Some people do rape for the sex.

      Yes, because rape is so much easier than jerking off or hiring an escort.
      Please. People don’t commit rape because they’re overwhelmingly horny.
      Rape is about power. It’s about taking power away from another person without their consent.
      Pretending otherwise is being willfully obtuse.


      And maybe they needed a Teen rating which is why they don’t threaten Batman with rape.

      So you're saying gay rape is worse than straight rape. Got it.

      • Father Time says:

        "Yes, because rape is so much easier than jerking off or hiring an escort."

        And finding porn on the internet for free is easier than paying for it and yet tons of people still pay for it. If you desperately want to have sex with a specific person then those two wouldn't satisfy the urge. Seriously why wouldn't there exist rapes that were done purely for the sex?

        "So you’re saying gay rape is worse than straight rape. Got it."

        I'm saying gay rape might've been less acceptable by the ESRB, do not put words in my mouth.

        • Dr. NerdLove says:

          If a person desperately want to have sex with a specific person but she wouldn't want to have sex with him and he forces her, it is not about the sex – it's about power. He's asserting his power over her – her power to refuse versus his power to just take what he wants.

          • Paul Rivers says:

            This mantra that rape is always "not about the sex – it's about power" is….well it's a psychologist's meme that has always been fairly ridiculous.

            When you have a mugger, do you say that they don't mug for the money, they mug for the power? Of course not, that would be ridiculous.

            If you have a bank robber, do they rob banks for the power, but not the money?

            If you love driving fast cars fast for the power, do you get off at the end?

            If you love beating people up for the power of it, do you get off at the end of it?

            It's an emotional theme that doesn't make logical sense. Even the last sentence suggests this – "He's asserting his power over her – her power to refuse versus his power to just take what he wants." The "what he wants" part – is sex. I could even say "It's more about the power than sex". And I'm sure there's *someone* out there for whom it's more about power than sex, I mean it's generalization. But this idea that sex has *nothing* to do with rape is…pretty ridiculous.

        • Can I sort of split the difference here? "Rape is about power" is a horribly reductive mantra. I don't think it's necessarily accurate to distill the psychologies of thousands and thousands of rapists down to a single four-word phrase. But I'm not an expert in psychology, so maybe someone with more knowledge of the subject can explain the reasoning behind doing so.

          That being said, let's proceed from the assumption that the intent of a rapist is purely sexual, that he or she doesn't intend to degrade or dominate. Even so, the actual act of rape, where one party consents and the other does not, is an act of power. The rapist exerts power over the victim (or if we're being politically correct, the "survivor"), whether or not the rapist intended to. The end result is that the victim has been dominated and degraded, regardless of the rapist's intent.

          I don't think we can conclusively make any blanket statements about rapists' intent. But that doesn't change the fact that rape is an act of power. Whether or not it is solely ABOUT power is irrelevant to the fact that it is an act of power, and that fact, at least in my estimation, is what is germane the article and the discussion at hand.

        • @Father Time: "And finding porn on the internet for free is easier than paying for it and yet tons of people still pay for it. If you desperately want to have sex with a specific person then those two wouldn’t satisfy the urge. Seriously why wouldn’t there exist rapes that were done purely for the sex?"

          Okay – this whole quote creeps me out so badly that I have trouble even responding to it. But, if Person A wants sex with a Person B so badly that it doesn't matter to Person A whether Person B wants sex with *them*, then it's about seeing Person B as an *object* that Person A can use to satisfy his/her sexual urges. That's really not about sex. That's about objectification (this person is sooo sexy to me that he/she is utterly irrelevant as a *person*) and….power. When one reduces another human being to a thing (specifically, a sex toy, in this case), that's a power play, not sex.

          • Agreed. A rapist does not think of his victim as a person. He views them as a means toward his own sexual gratification. If he had any modicum of respect or dignity for the victim, that person would not be victimized. I can imagine he might think he is doing it for the sex. But his use of force, which is a CHOICE, is why it is judged to be an act of power dominance. The decision to have sex is sexually oriented. The decision to overrule the other person's decision is power oriented, i.e., 'I don't have to listen to this person'. The part that makes it RAPE is the display of force. Hence, the quiddity of rape is power play, not sex.

            Let me go on to say that sexually directed forms of violence of any kind qualifies as rape, whether or not it would normally qualify as 'sex'. Seizing a woman by her hair in some cultures is tantamount to rape. Her hair represents her womanhood, but it is not, in itself, a sexual object. The 'consenting' equivalent, though intimate, would not in itself be considered 'sexual'. Grabbing her hair is a sign of putting her under one's domain. There's nothing sexually gratifying about it.

  28. I've really enjoyed these two articles, this one particularly. In discussions on the first article I've found myself slamming my head against identical arguments in forums.

    It's refreshing to see this discussed openly and frankly. I've been a female gamer nerd pretty much my entire life and in order to be that way I had to at some point accept that it was going to take a long time for certain things about the culture and entertainment media to change. Effectively, I had to make a decision to deal with it or find a different hobby. My decision was deal with it, and while I don't regret it at 26 years old and think that many developers are now pushing the envelope of progression in gaming, some are still making stupid blindingly obvious mistakes.

    Like Borderlands' Siren, who is a good old fashioned token female. Lilith (obviously referencing the female demon of myth) has the codename ‘Siren’ (versus actual combat codenames of the more varied male characters like ‘Hunter’ and ‘Soldier’, because apparently a female can only be skilled in the art of seduction or some such?), and worse, she’s the psychic because GOD KNOWS women can’t be good at physical things evar. Her skill line includes the ‘controller’, obviously inspired by some of the developers’ wives I guess. This is a modern game, and yet a vapid-looking generically sultry seductress with a personality defined by her sex appeal is the only option for a female who wants to play a female character.

    When I was a kid, Lara Croft was my idol, but I had to deliberately ignore the way she was marketed as a sex symbol in order to get to the strong, female role model she could have represented. She was intelligent, independent, educated and tough, and she never once needed a love interest in any of the original games' plots to validate her existence. That her creators were increasingly more interested in making her visual design as appealing to men as possible and posing her in sexually-exploitative advertising campaigns was again, just something I had to deal with if I wanted to see the good in her at all. Like you, I don't think sex appeal needs to go away; sometimes it's enjoyable to play a powerful female sexbomb, but the trouble is there are still situations where that's the only focus and worse, the ONLY option for female gamers who want to play their own gender to pick.

    Things are getting better though. Kudos for helping to vocalise the issue a little more, as I think that can only help!

    • ConspiracyTruth says:

      On a plus side, at least Lilith is reasonably dressed. A baby step to be sure, but a step in the right direction. Could you imagine Borderlands in 1995 with a character whose class was called Siren? Dental floss bikini city.

      Also, as far as Controller goes I would play the Devil's Advocate and say that, while the name is unfortunate, it made me think of Dungeons and Dragons more than spiteful husbands. Controller is a class that can alter the battlefield through status and environmental effects to funnel enemies a certain way to benefit their allies, in D&D. In the game, her controller abilities had less to do with control and more to do with status effects and the like, if I recall. Still, the opening cinematic for her is eye rollingly typical.

  29. I hate the "it's just what happens" argument when it comes to justifying… really anything in the gaming world. Anonymity has made it a lot easier to rationalize any of the things said to women in lobbies or posted in message boards online.

    "It's just what happens" because there is an undercurrent of sexism (racism, homophobia) in our culture coupled with the fact that there are almost no repercussions for their actions… I guess it is a recipe for verbal assault… how convenient…

    • I hate that argument as well, not least because it is disingenuous. The same people who are quick to dismiss legitimate feminist complaints because "that's just the way it is," or "they are appealing to their demographic/customers" are the first to be screaming bloody murder on the game's forums if some aspect of the game doesn't appeal to THEM.

      They will act as if a character "nerf" or "buff," a PvP mechanic they don't like or the relative difficulty of content is the end of the world, even though every single one of those complaints could be dismissed as "that's just the way it is" or "that's just what happens," or "that's what most people want." But of course when it's something that affects them directly, it's suddenly a whole different story.

      • ConspiracyTruth says:

        I disagree in that it depends on the context. I have used the "That is just the way it is" but in the context of it being something that can't be fixed easily or by complaining about it. I have mentioned that I don't appreciate people using the word faggot as a pejorative on mic before and you know what I got in response? If you guessed they called me that word then you too have been on the internet before.

        What would you do to fix it? To me, it is a cultural thing that slowly changes with time and getting stressed out and losing years of your life over it is like losing years of your life over the fact that it rains. Maybe someday the rain will stop but for now you and I can't stop it. Likening the attitude to a buff or a nerf is a false equivalence because those can be fixed by a patch. You can't fix how immature man children and fifteen year olds from bad homes act with a patch.

        If you have some idea about fixing it then that is great – start talking about it or coming up with solutions instead of getting defensive about people telling you that complaining about the inevitable is a waste of time.

      • ConspiracyTruth says:

        Complaining about the "currently inevitable", rather. In lieu of the fact you can't hold a faceless, anonymous entity on the internet responsible for threats and what they say the only way I see to handle this is a generational change where, little by little, people change as they did with racism. And even racism didn't completely go away.

  30. A couple of years ago I would have taken all this with a grain of salt, I would have chuckled when reading about male-geek views of the opposite sex. "NO, treating women like queens IS the way to get you the girl!" I would have said. Looking back at it now I see the errors of my ways. I LOVE games, comics, drawing, zombies and collecting swords (Yeah, I know… who doesn't right?) proudly displaying them in my room, and couple of years ago I would have matched the exact stereotype to go along with THAT room. I had shaggy long hair, was over weight by like 90 lbs. and wore clothes that expressed my fandom for all the mentioned things. I even have ASTHMA for Christ sake! I pretty much was everything most of the articles here say NOT to be, and the mentality views to go along with them. But these days you wouldn't recognize from the pictures my mom loves to keep around her house, openly for the world to see… I no longer "givu-ratsass" about the world as long as I have my 2liter mountain dew and a warm hot-pocket next to me while I play Skyrim. And why is that? Because I was tired of "doing-everything-right" and NOT getting the girl! And all I had to do was 1 simple thing, It started with doing probably the most difficult thing imaginable for most of us to do… getting in shape witch took a couple of YEARS (not weeks) and from that everything else followed (slowly)… I went from a 240+ lbs man-child, who was unapproachable, and who wore over sized spider-man shirts, with baggy pants, customized converse (that expressed my love for games and rock music), with hair that said “F*off if you don’t like my style” to a 160 lbs man that still expresses his fandom to the world, (when adequate)… but now I don't make the women around me awkward when doing so, I actually lure them in into asking about them. I’m not saying that geeks and nerds alike should put up a facade to get the girl, but to know, when and how to properly express it so that the girl doesn’t see you as another stereotype. I guess what I want to say is that if I was able to pull through than so should anyone else. It’s is not something that happens over night, but it can happen.

  31. Goddamn right Tenth Doctor and Roy Mustang.

    For what it's worth, as a human-with-a-penis, I'm genuinely put off by the popularity of comically-buff protagonists and the overt underlying assumption that I /naturally/ daydream about being such a musclehead. It pales in comparison to the treatment women get, absolutely—but it's worth remembering that playing heavily to stereotypes doesn't help anyone. (America's standing in math/science education is slipping, you say? At the same time that muscles and sport and brute force are increasingly glorified? Hmm.) Props to Valve are due once again, for having an FPS where the protagonist is a theoretical physicist.

    Chell is great not just because she's a regular woman, but because she's a regular person. We need more of those all around.

    "Women like to fantasize about being desirable yes"—but is this inherent, or is it an artifact of a culture that assumes men are persuers and women are persued? If the latter, should media pander to it as something women legitimately feel, or avoid it because the ultimate cause is unfair?

    I don't have any good answers, but your quote reminded me of a paper I've read that sought to explain the disproportion of women involved in computer science. The most surprising section was about behavior differences that tend to correlate to gender, but aren't directly related to it; supposedly women "tend to be more sensitive than men to general obnoxiousness," use "speech forms that are excessively polite and deferential," and, when interviewed, "commented on [an] expectation of independence (whereas almost none of the men did); they did not like it".

    The paper makes no direct suggestions, and I don't know what to make of these observations myself. Hacker culture is rowdy and brash, but there's been recent noise about encouraging more participation from women. If the culture is somehow inherently more appealing to men, is that something that ought to be deliberately changed? It's only more appealing to men, though, due to wider cultural roles imposed on men and because it was formed by men. But it was formed by men because those men excluded women in the first place. Due to the same wider cultural roles, most likely. So… what along the line ought to change? Is it right to change an entrenched culture where it indirectly offends artificial gender roles (as opposed to offending gender itself)? Isn't it condescending and unproductive to make a culture more "delicate" so as to be more palatable to women? Does that matter more than whether women are ultimately driven away in practice?

    This is hard. :(

  32. I loves your original article (it's what got me reading your blog) and I love this one as well since it so nicely rebuts the common arguments I come across when trying to express why certain comic-book and videogame stereotypes make me uncomfortable. The original article also neatly expresses why I started avoiding nerdy guys as of a few years ago after one too many negative experiences.

  33. Thanks for the follow-up. Enjoy all your posts. And wanted to to be another voice from a straight male that you keep hitting the mark here. And you're teaching us about logical fallacies, as well. Excellent.

  34. Minor Ramblings says:

    LOVE these articles. I was tipped to your site by a line to the first in the series, and I've stayed because everything else is darn good too.

    I was wondering if you had any advice or thoughts on delineating between dismissal and disagreement. I think it might be some spillover from rules-lawyer arguments where one *can* win by citing page 15 out of the DMG and eight supplemental books and SO THERE YOU ARE WRONG TO HAVE QUESTIONED ME, but a lot of the more neckbeard-y members of my local geek circle will rattle off a massive dismissive statement on all the ways You Are Wrong About (Joss Whedon/Gender Politics/Politics-Politics/Who The Best Trek Captain Is), and say that they're not being dismissive, they're just disagreeing, and if you can't handle disagreement it wasn't a good argument anyways.

    While I can point out a few things, like 'you're just being oversensitive', as red flags, I'd rather offer them a better idea of where and how disagreement tips over into dismissal. Any thoughts?

    (Also, Picard. But I'd rather go drinking with Kirk.)

    • Dr. NerdLove says:

      Disagreement tips into dismissal when it turns from "I think you're wrong" into "This is so wrong that it doesn't even exist and is beneath me to pretend it does".

      In other words, disagreement is something that can be debated. Dismissal is to pretend no debate is possible.

      And I say Kirk, although after seeing the "documentary" The Captains, I may lean a bit more towards Kate Mulgrew. Not Janeway. Mulgrew. Watching her shut down Shatner's frequent attempts to derail the conversation is incredibly awesome.

      • Minor Ramblings says:

        Good definition, I'm going to steal it.

        Hadn't seen The Captains, but I did hear that the Shat was being a bit more, uh, full of shat than even his usual.

  35. Arec Barwin says:

    Now don’t get me wrong here: I’m not saying that there can be no disagreement on the subject or that by arguing with me at all you’re conceding the fight or automatically making my point for me. I am, however, saying that the arguments – as represented on the bingo card – fall in line with these types and ultimately do refer back to the point I was making.

    Those seem like the same thing to me. I keep rereading the paragraph and scratching my head.

    • Try it this way: "There are undoubtedly some rational and persuasive arguments that could be made. These ones ain't it."

  36. Black Frances says:

    You are fantastic. Continue being awesome.

  37. This article falls apart at the start of the second page. I'll go through the problems with your reasoning point by point.

    >But they call her a ‘bitch’ because they’re the bad guys.

    First you Dismiss this argument as derailment without explaining why it constitutes derailment. Being a bad guy is a fundamental reason for a character to say or do something horrible. I think you realized this, because you spend the next five paragraphs arguing that, yeah, it makes sense within the context of the game but its distasteful and insensitive from a creative standpoint.

    I agree the rape threats go too far. They are unnecessarily ugly and hurtful to players who may have been affected by sexual abuse. They leave the player with the disturbing implication of what happens to Catwoman after a Game Over. Totally unacceptable.

    However, your argument that not calling Batman a bitch or threatening him with rape is sexist is really weak and kind of ridiculous. Batman is 6'2 and 210 pounds according to the fluff. In the game he appears to be about 7 feet, 300 pounds of raw testosterone (I really hate the character design in Arkum), encased in a bullet-resistant suit bristling with weaponized gadgets. A cornerstone of your male privilege philosophy is that men are by their nature physically intimidating. Well, Batman is the most physically intimidating man in Arkum City; calling him a bitch before he shatters your collar bone would be ironic, not serious. Of course its also ironic when Catwoman does the same. Breaking some one's jaw for calling you a bitch seems pretty empowering to me.

    >But Trash Talk is Normal on XBox Live. Women Are Just Too Sensitive to Rape Threats and Feigned Masturbation.

    I'm going to chalk this one up as a straw-man since only the most sociopathic troll would make such an argument. Yes, there are men out there who believe this garbage, and there are men out there who behave this way. The anonymity of the internet–not male privilege–is what enables them. But there is a solution: the ToS, the Report button, and Customer Service. If a man asks if you have a boyfriend tell him its none of his business. If he asks to see your tits, have him banned. You talk as if women are helpless in the face of harassment, when it is really up to women to solve this problem.

    >But men are all super-buff, they’re sexually objectified too! Etc…

    Your response here really speaks to the heart of what is wrong with your articles and your whole approach to gender inequality in video games: far from being an inclusive, balanced attempt to get men to see how women are treated unfairly in nerd culture, this is really an article written for yourself and the kind of people who are friends with you on Facebook and follow your Twitter. Indeed, your poll is not scientific, as it does not account for women who buy trash romance novels with half-naked cowboys on the cover, or women who just like muscles.

    I agree that male characters in video games are not designed to appeal to women. What I take issue with is you projecting the sexual preferences of your friends onto women as a whole. The now internet-famous shortpacked comic made the same mistake: most women I know found the concept of a metrosexual Batman even more repulsive than Steroid Batman.

    I don't see the point of these articles other than to pander to a very specific audience: one that already agrees with you, and will laugh with you about these stupid cisgenders and their sexist bingo. That is not what persuasive articles are for. This is not how you win people over to your side.

    • Dr. NerdLove says:


      However, your argument that not calling Batman a bitch or threatening him with rape is sexist is really weak and kind of ridiculous. Batman is 6’2 and 210 pounds according to the fluff. In the game he appears to be about 7 feet, 300 pounds of raw testosterone (I really hate the character design in Arkum), encased in a bullet-resistant suit bristling with weaponized gadgets. A cornerstone of your male privilege philosophy is that men are by their nature physically intimidating. Well, Batman is the most physically intimidating man in Arkum City; calling him a bitch before he shatters your collar bone would be ironic, not serious.

      So when they're calling Batman a coward and saying how they're going to kill him they're being ironic? Because the same logic applies: calling him bitch or faggot before he breaks you isn't going to be that different from threatening to kill him instead.

      And, the fact that he's large and intimidating would be the point of the threats: "Not only are we not afraid of you, we're going to reduce you even further. We're going to degrade you and turn you into our personal sex toy just to prove that we're badder-ass than you are."

      Can't say this enough: rape is not about sex. Rape is about power. Who has power over whom.


      I’m going to chalk this one up as a straw-man since only the most sociopathic troll would make such an argument


      Conveniently enough, I can provide you with links where people said precisely this: http://www.reddit.com/r/gaming/comments/n3gjh/ner

      You can also read fatuglyorslutty.com, notinthekitchenanymore.com, the other threads on Reddit (which seems to be running slow today) or even the comments section on Kotaku for this and the previous article.


      Your response here really speaks to the heart of what is wrong with your articles and your whole approach to gender inequality in video games: far from being an inclusive, balanced attempt to get men to see how women are treated unfairly in nerd culture, this is really an article written for yourself and the kind of people who are friends with you on Facebook and follow your Twitter

      Interesting mind-reading technique, there. Have you considered a career as The Great Carnack?


      most women I know found the concept of a metrosexual Batman even more repulsive than Steroid Batman.

      So your attempt to refute me entails doing exactly what you complain of my doing? Ah sweet irony…

      • You are being intentionally obtuse as to the definition and use of words. IIRC the coward dialogue is triggered when Batman is keeping his distance, and implies fear and frustration on the part of the thug. Telling some one you are going to kill them is indeed a threat, but it is not a pejorative like the word bitch. Bitch has taken on more gender-neutral meanings in colloquial English, but the dictionary definition still has it as a malicious, spiteful woman; a perfect epithet coming from some one who's about to get his teeth kicked in by Catwoman. Within the context of the game it is sexist, but that isn't part of your deconstruction (in fact you called it a derailment).

        Again, I see the ability to utterly crush some one who threatens you or calls you a bitch as an empowering experience for anyone.

        Like I said, there are internet tough guys who shrug off threats of rape and sexual harassment as par for the course. It doesn't surprise me that you had to plumb the depths of Reddit to find these marginal shit stains. If the point of your article is that there are horrible people on the internet then you've convinced me. But your article is about male privilege, and how it pertains to games and the treatment of women. Perhaps the reason I don't like these particular articles is because I'm not part of the Men's Rights septic-pit this article has been dropped on. It seems like you've written these articles to troll assholes for sexist bingo.

      • Plus there's a whole subplot in Arkham City about hardened criminals roughing up non-violent "political" prisoners. The bullies demand food, they demand pills; they threaten physical violence ("I'll cut your eyes out") – but they don't demand sex or threaten rape.

        It has nothing to do with any in-game logic about how some characters are too tough to threaten. It has everything to do with an assumption that some kinds of threats aren't fun for players to hear.

    • You make some interesting points, but it's the end of a long day for me so I hope you won't mind if I skip to the bits I want to debate.

      "Being a bad guy is a fundamental reason for a character to say or do something horrible. …However, your argument that not calling Batman a bitch or threatening him with rape is sexist is really weak and kind of ridiculous. "

      It seems to me that what you're saying is that it's validly empowering to demean those weaker than you with sexual threats, but not validly empowering to demean those stronger than you with sexual threats. I don't understand that. Maybe I've got it wrong, and there's some other distinction you're making that makes it OK to make such threats to Catwoman but not Batman? Maybe you could explain more what you're asserting.

      "I’m going to chalk this one up as a straw-man since only the most sociopathic troll would make such an argument."

      I have never yet run across a nerd circle that didn't have at least one creepster, objectifier, smack-talker or man-handler in it, and I'm generally regarded as pretty forceful.

      "But there is a solution: the ToS, the Report button, and Customer Service….You talk as if women are helpless in the face of harassment, when it is really up to women to solve this problem."

      I think you might underestimate the volume of the problem here. If I'm in a roomful of people who are making me feel unwelcome – even if only half of them are making me feel unwelcome – I leave. Why fight the majority? I have heard a bunch of stories (anecdotal evidence, I know, but where's the line where a body of evidence becomes sufficient to say there might be something there?) about women leaving gaming circles because they feel uncomfortable.

      The original article (which I assume you have read) talks about the basic contradiction between nerds griping that girls don't want to play with them, and then points out that some of their behavior is not welcoming. To assert that this behavior doesn't exist is, I think, to dodge the point.

      "will laugh with you about these stupid cisgenders and their sexist bingo."

      I don't think anyone's laughing. Some of this stuff is deeply felt.

      • Thank you for your thoughtful response.

        I did not interpret the use of the word bitch in the game as the sexually demeaning type (as in "you're my bitch"). IIRC the thugs say things like "there's that bitch Catwoman" which to me is more along the lines of the "malicious, spiteful woman" definition I quoted earlier. To apply the word to Batman in the way Dr. NerdLove suggested, the thugs would have to use a completely different meaning for the word bitch. Therefore it isn't fair to say the developers are sexist because they didn't call Batman a bitch, because although the word is the same the meaning is completely different.

        But lets assume the developers intended the sexually demeaning use of the word for Catwoman, so the same meaning could also be applied to Batman. If you call some one a bitch in this way you are making the strong assertion that they are in every way your inferior and subservient to you. Bitch, in this context, is specifically intended for physically weaker than yourself.

        So it makes sense that a big dumb thug, seeing a 5 foot tall, 125 pound woman in latex, would make the erroneous assumption that she is his bitch (inferior and sexual subservient), and part of the fun of Arkum City is correcting this error by smashing the thug's face into the pavement. On the other hand, it would be silly for the thug to call Batman a bitch in this way; he is obviously inferior to Batman in every way that is associated with the word bitch. I really must stress that the use of the word bitch in this context is all about one's perceived dominance over the other as a means of intimidation. But Batman exudes dominance and intimidation; that's his shtick.

        >I have never yet run across a nerd circle that didn’t have at least one creepster, objectifier, smack-talker or man-handler in it, and I’m generally regarded as pretty forceful.

        Sadly that makes two of us, but in this case I was talking specifically about the sort of "sociopathic troll" that has the cognitive dissonance to say things like "yeah, people tell me to get raped and masturbate to the sound of my voice all the time just deal with it." I'm sure there are people out there like this, but they are marginal; there's no accounting for them because they do not view the world and their interactions with others like normal, well-adjusted members of our society.

        I have played my fair share of online games where a player revealed that she was a woman, and 99% of the time what you hear from the male players is either some clumsy attempt at breaking the ice (so, you're in college, or…?), or no reaction at all. I have never heard some one tell a woman to get raped, or masturbate over the microphone, and if such a thing were sent to a woman in a private message then that woman would have a golden ticket to get the fucker perma-banned.

        Being constantly flirted with when you're just trying to play a game sucks, but its not the same as being threatened with rape, which is why I called this argument a straw-man.

        >I think you might underestimate the volume of the problem here. If I’m in a roomful of people who are making me feel unwelcome – even if only half of them are making me feel unwelcome – I leave. Why fight the majority? I have heard a bunch of stories (anecdotal evidence, I know, but where’s the line where a body of evidence becomes sufficient to say there might be something there?) about women leaving gaming circles because they feel uncomfortable.

        That's really sad, and I'm sorry that you've been in situations where you've been made to feel unwelcome over a game because of your gender. Unfortunately the only way for things to get better is for women to assert themselves into the industry. My theory is that there is a point within any industry, community, or roomful of people where the number of women reaches an equalizing critical mass, at which point things rapidly get better. But to reach this point you need women to assert themselves in spite of ignorant remarks and sexist comments. Unless you feel unsafe, the worst thing you can do is quit in the face of harassment. This will only embolden the sexist, while a sympathetic man will find it hard to stand up for some one who will not stand up for herself.

        >The original article (which I assume you have read) talks about the basic contradiction between nerds griping that girls don’t want to play with them, and then points out that some of their behavior is not welcoming. To assert that this behavior doesn’t exist is, I think, to dodge the point.

        I really hope I don't give the impression that I think this behavior doesn't exist. That is not what I believe at all. My problem with this article is that I've been reading the exact same criticisms lodged against nerd culture since the early 90's and things haven't gotten much better since then.

        I have become impatient with what I believe is a flawed approach to solving gender inequality in games/comics. It is a flawed approach because it places the burden of change on those who have the least to gain from gender equality in the industry: men who are sexist, and men who are oblivious to the problem of the sexism in games. The men who are sexist will fire back at articles like this, while the oblivious men will deny there is a problem in the first place. You aren't going to break this cognitive dissonance by being a condescending, confrontational prick; that just tells me you're doing this for yourself, and not "the cause."

        • Ugh, I did not intend the "prick" remark for DrNerdLove (who's other articles I thoroughly enjoy), but rather as an admonishment for the progressive movement in games. I meant to clarify that but its 2AM and I rushed to submit the comment.

          So, to clarify: I am not calling DrNerdLove a prick, and I am grateful that his articles have sparked so much discussion on this issue.

        • Hm. I think between you and Toast I have come to the preliminary conclusion that if there is sexism in the differential way Catwoman and Batman are handled in Arkham Asylum, it has more to do with societal or institutional sexism than with tribal sexism.

          //Sadly that makes two of us, but in this case I was talking specifically about the sort of “sociopathic troll” that has the cognitive dissonance to say things like “yeah, people tell me to get raped and masturbate to the sound of my voice all the time just deal with it.” I’m sure there are people out there like this, but they are marginal; there’s no accounting for them because they do not view the world and their interactions with others like normal, well-adjusted members of our society.//

          I guess it depends on what precisely you mean by sociopathic troll? There are plenty of guys who say 'that's just trash talk, deal with it', from what I hear and (outside of gaming) experience, but they don't experience it themselves, so I think of it more as either obliviousness or some kind of defense of their own insecurities about worth, power or goodness or what-have-you. Assholes are assholes, yes?

          //Being constantly flirted with when you’re just trying to play a game sucks, but its not the same as being threatened with rape, which is why I called this argument a straw-man.//

          You're totally right that it's not. But if I'm uncomfortable I'm unlikely to stick around, regardless of the relative severity of the social crime.

          //My theory is that there is a point within any industry, community, or roomful of people where the number of women reaches an equalizing critical mass, at which point things rapidly get better. But to reach this point you need women to assert themselves in spite of ignorant remarks and sexist comments. Unless you feel unsafe, the worst thing you can do is quit in the face of harassment. This will only embolden the sexist, while a sympathetic man will find it hard to stand up for some one who will not stand up for herself.//

          Completely agreed. Still happens in normal culture. I recently ran across a blog entry where the female author shared her approach to catcalling, which is to put on her best teacher face and tell the catcaller that is not an appropriate way to talk to a woman you don't know. I loved it.

          //I have become impatient with what I believe is a flawed approach to solving gender inequality in games/comics. It is a flawed approach because it places the burden of change on those who have the least to gain from gender equality in the industry: men who are sexist, and men who are oblivious to the problem of the sexism in games.//

          Well, I was uninvested enough to not play, and male nerds gripe about the dearth of female nerds, so I'm not sure who has less invested. That said, yes, women should work on it too – I'd like to see more women calling out crap behavior anywhere and everywhere, no matter how hard society pushes us to not be the sort of person who would make trouble.

        • oh, and how would you break the dissonance?

  38. There is a major problem with the portion of your article that dismisses the objectification of men as male power fantasy. Large muscles and so forth are part of the male power fantasy, that goes without saying. The male warrior however has been sexually objectified in popular culture since the gladiator, and likely before. A huge, rippling, muscular chest is symbolic of masculine might. So is the hair on it. Despite that you will see the male warrior commonly depicted shaved neck to toe and covered with baby oil. This has nothing to do with making him appear more masculine. In fact, hairlessness below the chin is generally associated with femininity, or adolescences. Heck, pointing out that a man shaves his chest, arms, and legs is often used in American culture to cast doubt on a man's heterosexuality.

    It is done because men believe that women will find it more titillating. Perhaps men are incorrect in their estimation, but that is still the motivation behind the depiction.

    The root of the problem is not a difference in how men and women are displayed in popular culture. The difference lies in how men and women react differently to objectification. Across the animal kingdom, humans included, the male of the species puts themselves on display in order to attract a mate. Be it displays of colorful plumage or complex dances or making unwise investments in luxury sports cars and wearing four pounds of gold, it is all designed to scream out 'Hey, look at me! I am a desirable mate! Please bear my children!' In human culture however, any overt attempt made by a women to attract the attentions of the opposite sex is viewed negatively.

    As example, if a man can cause the head of every woman on a beach to turn their head and stare for a solid twenty seconds by stripping down to the waist, he is to be envied. If a woman strips down to the waist it is far more likely every man on the sand will turn his head, but she will be scorned as a harlot by most of the women, and any of the men who failed to obtain her phone number.

    The double standard here is not that women are objectified, while men are not. When Dwayne Johnson is slipping into his 'The Rock' persona he is carefully groomed before being sent out to roll around on some canvas with another man not because it will make him look more masculine, but because it will make him look more attractive. Same goes for the stars of the movie 300. Spartans did not really run into combat in nothing but red capes, leather undies, sprayed on abs, and a pound of dripping oil. There are also examples of women objectifying men in popular culture rather then just men doing it to themselves. If you want to see them you need only visit the romance or urban fantasy/romance sections of your local book store.

    The double standard lies in the acceptance of a male warrior as an overtly sexualized figure, and the lack of acceptance of the female warrior as an overtly sexualized figure. That double standard is society's fault, as it grants men license to display themselves, while scorning women who do the same. It however has nothing to do with how they are depicted in media.

    Personally I think the next step in recognizing women as full human beings rather then a sub-calcification is to eliminate the contempt held for a lady who displays herself in an overt attempt to attract sexual attention. Putting night elves in practical battle armor isn't going to help that anymore then taking away the Spartan's leather undies, and making them put on breastplates and leg armor.

    • Dr. NerdLove says:

      You seem to mistake American culture for universal culture; sub-Saharan African cultures have entirely different modesty taboos, sexual behavior standards and beauty standards than American or European culture. So, for that matter, do Hindu or Muslim cultures.

      Whether a woman stripping to the waist at the beach is scorned or not is entirely contextual. In many European beaches, topless sunbathing is common. Hell, there's plenty of that going on in Austin, Texas during the summer months; you only need to take a trip out to Barton Springs or parts of Lake Travis.

      Your example of the book covers for the urban fantasy or paranormal romance genres seems to be wildly off-base. In fact, the majority of the covers features women, usually with her back turned towards the reader, holding a weapon and usually one or more tattoos. Feel free to visit allthingsurbanfantsy.blogspot.com and browse through the Cover Contest. 99% of them? Women. Occasionally a dude… and those guys – especially in the "Male Cover" category are fully clothed. Occasionally you will see in the nominees one of the "stereotypes" you refer to… and while sleeveless or shirtless and cut, they're not the body-builder types that video game characters are designed to be, nor are they Gerald Butler in The 300. They're more likely to be Abercrombie and Fitch models than All Natural Body Building.

      There's been a slight change in some of the higher-profile books, such as the Anita Blake series as it moved from urban fantasy to romance and sex which feature artsy shots of body parts or underwear clad torsos with little context – most frequently women.

      Now romance novel covers? Yup, you're gonna find some half-naked dudes on there. And some of 'em are gonna be Fabio. But then again, you're also going to find a large number of clothed men as well. And many that feature women. So congratulations: you've proved that romance covers are more progressive in their portrayal of characters than video games are.

      Of course, if you were to read the books you might be surprised to find the difference between the cover and the characters, but hey, why go that far?

      • [quote]You seem to mistake American culture for universal culture; sub-Saharan African cultures have entirely different modesty taboos, sexual behavior standards and beauty standards than American or European culture. So, for that matter, do Hindu or Muslim cultures.

        Whether a woman stripping to the waist at the beach is scorned or not is entirely contextual. In many European beaches, topless sunbathing is common. Hell, there’s plenty of that going on in Austin, Texas during the summer months; you only need to take a trip out to Barton Springs or parts of Lake Travis.[/quote]

        Unless it is your claim that an example is only valid unless it is universally applicable, it seems to me like your reply opens and closes with a bit of needless posturing. Granted, there are places where a woman can walk around without a shirt and no one will look twice. There are also beaches however, likely within driving distance of Austin, where a woman would be arrested for stripping to the waist. That is without going in to all of the places you are going to drive by that would arrest a woman for walking around without a top on that trip.

        On those beaches, and all of the public places in between, a man can take off his shirt without challenge. A woman who does the very same thing is considered indecent on the level of criminality. Heck, she might have to end up registering as a sex offender in some places.

        This is an example of how a woman putting herself on display in the exact same way as a man will get her scorned. That trend is nearly universal in humanity, even if the standards are different in different parts of the world. Sure, in other places a woman may get arrested for leaving her house in a t-shirt and jeans, in others just the jeans, in others she can be nude. That doesn't diminish the value of the example.

        [quote]Whether a woman stripping to the waist at the beach is scorned or not is entirely contextual. In many European beaches, topless sunbathing is common. Hell, there’s plenty of that going on in Austin, Texas during the summer months; you only need to take a trip out to Barton Springs or parts of Lake Travis.

        Your example of the book covers for the urban fantasy or paranormal romance genres seems to be wildly off-base. In fact, the majority of the covers features women, usually with her back turned towards the reader, holding a weapon and usually one or more tattoos. Feel free to visit allthingsurbanfantsy.blogspot.com and browse through the Cover Contest. 99% of them? Women. Occasionally a dude… and those guys – especially in the “Male Cover” category are fully clothed. Occasionally you will see in the nominees one of the “stereotypes” you refer to… and while sleeveless or shirtless and cut, they’re not the body-builder types that video game characters are designed to be, nor are they Gerald Butler in The 300. They’re more likely to be Abercrombie and Fitch models than All Natural Body Building.

        There’s been a slight change in some of the higher-profile books, such as the Anita Blake series as it moved from urban fantasy to romance and sex which feature artsy shots of body parts or underwear clad torsos with little context – most frequently women.

        Of course, if you were to read the books you might be surprised to find the difference between the cover and the characters, but hey, why go that far? [/quote]

        First, I am not addressing the covers at all. I am talking about the books themselves. I am actually quite the fan. On topic: Pointing to Laurell K Hamilton as an example of women objectifying men would seem like cheating, because both of her most popular novels are all about a woman, her ever expanding harem, and how having sex with some or all of them averts disaster. Lets go with my second favorite writer, Ilona Andrews. The love interest in her best series is a huge, hyper aggressive alpha (literally, shape shifter) male who chases her despite her constant protests that often include striking him and threatening him with deadly weapons. He is also willing to rip people in half (again, literally) she 'goes on dates with' because he is just that jealous and so unable to control his impulses. He is also fantastic in bed, with a super human (once again literally, it goes into details about animal husbandry) ability to satisfy her.

        With the exception of the huge part, you can find this archetype all across the Urban fantasy/romance subgenre, In my experience it is the most common. Off the top of my head I can point to it in her works, Hamilton's works, Kelley Armstrong's works, and the works of Rachel Vincent. This however is all just a side topic. I only included it as an example in case you replied with something along the lines of: 'Well all those examples of male warriors sexually objectified are written and produced made by men.'

        Instead you seem to ignore the pervasive tenancy to objectify the male warrior as a non-issue, which is a bit ironic given the intent of this article.

        Lastly:

        [quote]Now romance novel covers? Yup, you’re gonna find some half-naked dudes on there. And some of ‘em are gonna be Fabio. But then again, you’re also going to find a large number of clothed men as well. And many that feature women. So congratulations: you’ve proved that romance covers are more progressive in their portrayal of characters than video games are.[/quote]

        I am not sure what the point of this is. You can find a lot of video game covers with fully dressed women on them. Some half dressed. Most even have men. I am not sure if you merely included it as an opportunity to talk down to a dissenter, like your incorrect assertion that I don't read the books I referenced, or if you think it actually proves a point. If it does, I invite you to check google image results for video game box art.

        When I did a search of video game box art most of the half naked pictures I got were men. The Hulk, Boarderlands, God of War 2, Conan and so forth. All of the women, save for two games made in the 80's, were all quite covered up. Metroid, Mass Effect 2, Battle Chess, Eternal Sonata, Homeworld 2, Max Payne 2, WoW, and Valkyria Chronicles had women on the covers with very little skin showing, if any. Actually had to hit show more results to come across my first 'half naked' woman on video game cover art, Catherine, and I am not really sure that counts. So if you actually think diversity in cover art means anything at all, and were not simply being sarcastic and dismissive, you may wish to reassess your position. Your assessment of romance novel art is true of video game art, if you reverse the gender perspective.

        I have little hope that this dissent will be anymore welcome then my last, so I will let you say your piece uncontested in the hope that you will consider it before posting your third article on male privilege, because I really do not think the problem is that men put women in reveling clothing. The problem is the reaction society has when it sees a male warrior dressed in nothing but a loin cloth and the blood of his enemies VS a female warrior similarly attired.

        Putting a shirt on both solves nothing. Putting a shirt on one of them to avoid criticism makes the problem worse. Viewing both as friggin' awesome, instead of one as friggin' awesome and the other as objectification, would however solve a lot.

        Sorry in advance for format errors

    • There is a major problem with the portion of your article that dismisses the objectification of men as male power fantasy. Large muscles and so forth are part of the male power fantasy, that goes without saying. The male warrior however has been sexually objectified in popular culture since the gladiator, and likely before. A huge, rippling, muscular chest is symbolic of masculine might. So is the hair on it.

      Or you can look at actual examples of idealized warriors from historical cultures, e.g. Cu Chulainn. Cu Chulainn was considered among the greatest of warriors, but was also described as "beautiful". Specifically slighter of build, no facial hair, thick long hair on his head, youthful and soft-faced–not considered very masculine traits at all. And yet many of his fellow warriors feared he would steal their wives because even Iron Age Irish Celts knew that what women find physically attractive in men was different from what men admired.

      Look at other stories from folklore and myth: many of the mightiest male warriors–especially those who catch the gaze of women and don't just win them as prizes–are also described as fair of face, not gruff, beefy, scowling man-mountains. Even those that are have something else going for them: Odysseus was cunning and intelligent, and you could picture Penelope loving him as much for his mind and wit as his muscles.

      • It is not my intent to claim that there is only one way to sexualize the male form, or even the male warrior form. That would be claiming a lithe naked women depicted in some form of media wasn't crafted to titillate because she lacked d-cups.

        Big in the chest is only one example of how it is done for both genders.

      • Begging your pardon, but Odysseus was not by any means considered a proper hero, in his own day. Great emphasis is placed on his initial avoidance of the war and his resorting to victory over an ideal society (Illium) by means of trickery. His role in the war was not considered a particularly respectable one. He is redeemed in the Odyssey by a series of trials, finally undergoing a combined kingship/wedding ritual which draws attention to his heroic aspects (the boar scar on his foot is reminiscent of the boar sandals a king would wear, and he receives sandals shortly thereafter) compared to the suitors (who are compared to pigs and are socially considered to be behaving like beggars).

        If there is an 'ideal' hero in the Illiad, it is most assuredly Hector. Masculine roles social and physical ideals were VERY clearly defined, in early Indo-European societies — far more so than femininity ever was. Physically, this ideal was long, immaculately kept hair, a clean face (remember that the gods protected Hector's face from the dust, even after his death and desecration), and strong, powerful arms and shoulders. But the emphasis has to go to the hair. Societies that marked themselves as warriors by their lasting emphasis on long hair included India, Ancient Greece, Classical Sparta, and Scandinavians, and Celto-Germanic peoples, especially the Franks and Gaels.

        The Vikings used to confuse people because they bathed meticulously on a regular basis, esp. before going into battle. But you will see that in the original story of the 300 Men, there are long passages devoted to their dressing their beautiful long hair, the night before battle. It was a way of showing that one was not afraid to face death and was putting forth his best, in battle.

        Oh, and did I mention that they were all FABULOUS musicians? Achilles was an accomplished harpist, and the poem harps on about it (pun intended), at length.

        When you cite the 'beauty' of Cúchulainn, you are drawing on a widely shared heroic model that entirely predates the development of our own. And I can assure you, as a philologist who has done considerable research in the Indo-European epic tradition, that there is NO mention, across these texts, of women finding men attractive who men do not equally value for their looks.* The heroic model, like our own modern model of masculinity, was made for men, by men. And men, I must add, of the warrior class, which (except in Sparta) was NOT a particularly inclusive class.

        In short, Grecian ideals predate modern interpretations. Unless you are entirely familiar with the context in which they are written, you should not make those sorts of juvenile assumptions. Simple back-projections ("Iron Age Irish Celts knew that what women find physically attractive in men was different from what men admired") are almost always flawed, and in this case, outright incredible.

        Unfortunately, modern folklore is taught through the heavily clouded lenses of Freud, Marx, and feminism, which — however valuable they actually might be — all face the same problem of taking a modern ideology and placing it in a time before the conditions existed upon which these several ideologies were founded. Far from impossible, but extremely problematic.

        Sorry for the rant. It's a pet peeve of mine.

        *The closest thing is Hercules, and he is considered bestial, with his association with the Nemean lion at the forefront of every visual depiction of him. He has no patience for music. In fact, he kills his harp instructor, as an adolescent, with one blow. Not ideal, by a long shot, but nonetheless 'attractive' to women. This is the exception, not the rule, and he spends the entirety of the story trying to prove himself a hero, through deeds, to make up for his own material shortcomings.

    • @Mark: "The male warrior however has been sexually objectified in popular culture since the gladiator, and likely before. A huge, rippling, muscular chest is symbolic of masculine might. So is the hair on it. Despite that you will see the male warrior commonly depicted shaved neck to toe and covered with baby oil. This has nothing to do with making him appear more masculine. In fact, hairlessness below the chin is generally associated with femininity, or adolescences. Heck, pointing out that a man shaves his chest, arms, and legs is often used in American culture to cast doubt on a man’s heterosexuality.

      It is done because men believe that women will find it more titillating. Perhaps men are incorrect in their estimation, but that is still the motivation behind the depiction. "

      If you believe that men depicting their *own* power fantasy (the over-muscled warrior) as being, in their own eyes, extremely sexually attractive to women in any way represents said power fantasy being *objectified*, then I think you need a primer on objectification and how it works.

      When a woman dresses (or undresses) *herself* to recieve male attention, she's not being objectified. When game designers or comic book artists make a female fighter so top-heavy that her boobs would actually get in her freaking way in a fight, so that said designers/artists and their male fans can ogle those boobs, and when that female character has limited, if any, character development, and is *solely* put in the game as eye candy, *that* is objectification.

      Whether or not a man in a comic or game has is depicted with a shaved chest in a misguided attempt to look sexy has nothing to do with whether or not said male character is an example of men being objectified. The attempt to be sexy is *part* of the power fantasy, not an exception to it.

      • "If you believe that men depicting their *own* power fantasy (the over-muscled warrior) as being, in their own eyes, extremely sexually attractive to women in any way represents said power fantasy being *objectified*, then I think you need a primer on objectification and how it works. "

        How is playing a video game depicting your own power fantasy? Or do you mean that a small number of game devs are able to depict the power fantasy of an entire gender?

        Might be a shocker, but not all men like hitting things with swords and busty harlots. Heck, not all men like women or violence. My power fantasy is depicted in Sins of a Solar Empire, not Conan.

        • I've never suggested that *all* men like women or violence. The point is that Conan (since you used him as your example) is a huge, heavily-muscled, near hairless – except for the mane on his head – man, because that's an idealized concept of manhood to a lot of men…many of the ones who play Conan, for instance. Starfire isn't drawn that way, because that's an idealized concept of womanhood to *women* – she's depicted that way, because that's an idealized concept of womanhood to *men* (before you drag out the "not all men" thing, please note that I never said, or implied, that I mean *all* mean – I don't).

          When big, muscular, hairless men are put into a comic, game, etc., they're put there, because the creative team believes that's what *men* want in their comics, games, etc. When big-breasted, wasp-waisted women with almost no personality beyond "let's do it" are put into comics, games, etc. they're put there, because the creative team believes that's what *men* want. Neither is ridiculous, but they're both put there in an attempt to cater to men, not women. The whole "men are sexualized in comics/games, too" thing is a complete red herring. Both sexes are presented as *male* fantasy objects. In the case of women, the creative teams apparently believe that men fantasize about women who are basically blow-up dolls, with no personality or reason for existence, except to have sex.

          I don't actually believe that *all* men, or even *most* men, are having these exact fantasies (and I don't believe that most men really want a blow-up doll, although I don't know a woman who hasn't met at least one who *does*), I also can't help but note that most of the people involved in these creations, historically and today, are male, not female. This isn't what all men are looking for, but these fantasy physiques are *not* created from a woman's perspective.

          • *sigh*

            I got distracted by the kids, and somehow ended up saying "Neither are ridiculous", when I meant to say that "Both are ridiculous". It's amazing how one word can *completely* change what one is saying.'

            Oh – and the end of the first paragraph should, obviously, read "that I mean *all* men – I don’t". I shouldn't try to comment when I haven't had enough sleep.

    • "Personally I think the next step in recognizing women as full human beings rather then a sub-calcification is to eliminate the contempt held for a lady who displays herself in an overt attempt to attract sexual attention. "

      While that would be nice, there's no way I'm doing that unless I'm already recognized as an equal. Which, until people stop grabbing my ass and telling me I only exist to power their fantasies, I'm not.

  39. I guess the question I am curious about is what is or what embodies the female power fantasy? Is there a way to physically distill a female power fantasy? (That is to say a power fantasy for a female audience)

    I noticed that the character types your unscientific survey found for women had some personalities as well–they were either roguish, charming, and socially strong; or stoic, effeminate, and socially quiet or romantically tortured.

    • Dr. NerdLove says:


      I guess the question I am curious about is what is or what embodies the female power fantasy? Is there a way to physically distill a female power fantasy? (That is to say a power fantasy for a female audience)

      That's one for the female readers, I think. Ladies, anyone want to weigh in here?


      I noticed that the character types your unscientific survey found for women had some personalities as well–they were either roguish, charming, and socially strong; or stoic, effeminate, and socially quiet or romantically tortured.

      And that's an important part of what women find sexy – it's often the personality as much as the physical looks. There's a reason why women react to the Byronic hero, after all. To reach back a bit, look at the responses to the Beauty and the Beast TV show. Ron Perlman's character looks weird, yet women in the audience responded to him because of his personality and his situation.

      • I'm late to this party, but I'd say Lisbeth Salander from the Millenium series by Stieg Larson is a great example to me of the female power fantasy. Men perceive her to be small and weak but she is smart, cunning and will beat you down with a golf club if necessary (and in the book, unlike the movie, she doesn't need to ask anyone's permission to do it). And her power doesn't necessarily come from her physical strength, though she DOES have it – she can *SPOILER ALERT* destroy a man just as easily by hacking his computer, stealing his money and exposing him for what he really is as she can by beating the crap out of him with a golf club. As others have said, it has less to do with what she looks like and more to do with how capable she is (that being said I would prefer a character I'm playing look like an actual woman and not a Barbie). That and she has to have an attitude. She KNOWS she's powerful.

    • latebloomer says:

      Wow, Dan, that is a bit hard to say. I suppose that a power fantasy to a woman is a woman that isn't weak compared to men. It is less in looks and more in ability. Women are typically more interested in what is underneath everything than what they see with their eyes. Granted, women tend to be more detail oriented. Little things catch our attention and we can tell the difference between leather and pleather by a look and a touch. There are plenty of scientific studies to back all that up.

      However, I can't speak for all women, just myself.

      Personally, I like to feel attractive and I don't mean in a sexual way. I will spend quite a long time customizing a character so that I see it as attractive. I do have to look at her for hours after all. I don't want some ugly chick with a massive scar and a mohawk. Granted, I hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate (you get the point) the outfits that are little more than underwear. The female power fantasy for me involves beauty, but not sex. However, beauty has nothing to do with the end of the power fantasy. I know that we're talking about a visual media, but I do not, at the end of the day, find power in the looks of a woman.

      For me, a power fantasy involves the mind, her ability to take care of herself, independence, kindness, and the ability to command the RESPECT of men and not lust. If anyone has read "The Green Rider" by Kristen Britain I would say that the main character, Karigan is my idea of a power fantasy for a woman. There are several men in love with her, but it isn't because she is a sex object. It is because she is smart, tenacious, and loyal.

      To be honest, I have never thought on terms of a power fantasy before, but then I doubt the men and boys that read comics have thought of looking at Batman as a power fantasy either. Power is most likely viewed differently by women than men. There is political power and social power that goes beyond the physical. Since women can't really wield physical strength at the same capacity as a man anything that a female character can do to best a man or woman is great for my "power" fantasy.

      So long as the good guys prevail.

    • Minor Ramblings says:

      Honestly a lot of my female power fantasy comes less out of looks and more out of action — specifically, the freedom to act, to move, to *do*. FemShep in the Mass Effect games is a rockin' example of this — Shepherd is a complete badass, first human Spectre, saving the galaxy, and for every honour and victory she accrues, she gets them by using her talents and skills and determination and not her boobs.

      That said, FemShep looks fit, she's dressed in form-fitting outfits that still, visibly, let her run around and shoot things, and I will admit that, for the more physical sorts of power fantasy, having a body that looks fit and strong and can do whatever you ask of it is a big thing, and I think that's one reason that so much of female armour/model design annoys me.

      Beyond just the 'your worth is in your vagina' factor, dressing a woman up in high heels and a costume being held on with duct tape and a permanent wedgie and then telling me this is supposed to be running around saving the day (or stealing it) is just… yeah. My credulity is strained, and I begin to think that explanations of 'Oh, well she's using magic!' 'It's alien technology!' or whatever are pretty much BS made to cover for the fact that the primary reason for the character design is to generate erections.

      tl;dr: Female power fantasy for me is about capability and agency.

    • I agree with both the responses you've had already – female power fantasies usually involve what I'd think of as aesthetic beauty of some sort rather than sexual attractiveness, and agency and competence are essential. I'd just like to add a type of uniquely female power fantasy that I bet you're familiar with – the Magical Girl. You know, Sailor Moon, Pretty Cure, Card Captor Sakura and the like. They're arguably _hyper-feminine_ in presentation, and tend to display typically 'feminine' skills and personality traits, but they use them to beat up bad guys instead of to support guys beating up bad guys. Granted, not all women like them, but then not all men like video game heroes. I think the Magical Girl is a direct female equivalent of the western superhero type – in the same way Superman and Batman are a very masculine power fantasy, Sailor Moon is the feminine equivalent. You'll even find the gender ratio is flipped – a Magical Girl manga will usually have only one or two token male characters, who are either love interests or sexy villains, much like a western superhero comic (in my experience) will usually have few women and cast them as love interests or sexy villains.

      I think they fit into both Latebloomer and Minor Rambling's points too – they tend to wield magical power rather than physical power, which ties into Latebloomer's idea that women don't just think of visible, physical power, and they tend to have structurally sound costumes which allow for freedom of movement (if not total practicality), which supports Minor Rambling's point about the sexy costumes being a turn-off due to straining our suspension of disbelief.

      I could write a whole essay on the details of this, but basically I think at least one type of truly female power fantasy is a heroine who turns all of the trappings of traditional femininity into badassery, without help from men or traditionally masculine skills or methods.

      • You bring up a pretty interesting pointing. The fact that your female power fantasy is something that is aesthetically pleasing but not necessarily sexy. I would say the same for the male power fantasy – it's a guy with rippling muscles, stands 6'4" and looks like a mountain. But if I wanted to be sexually attractive to a woman, I wouldn't look like that. I'd want to look like George Clooney or, apparently, Nightcrawler. So a problem with the portrayal of women in society as a whole is that it's based upon men's sexual fantasies, not women's power fantasies. And men are portrayed by a male perspective power fantasy, not a female sexual fantasy.

        • @Anthony: "But if I wanted to be sexually attractive to a woman, I wouldn’t look like that. I’d want to look like George Clooney or, apparently, Nightcrawler."

          I find that an interesting comment, as I don't think Nightcrawler's *looks* have anything to do with why he scored so well in the good doctor's poll. Looking like Nightcrawler, and having a personality that fit more closely with a stereotypical depiction of an entity that looks that way (ie. a demon) wouldn't be attractive at all. (Caveat: I'm speaking in generalities. There are people, of both genders, who are attracted to qualities, both physical and otherwise, that are WAY outside the norms. I'm sure *some* of them find pure evil intriguing, at the very least.) The women that are drawn to Nightcrawler are probably drawn to him because of his personality.

          "And men are portrayed by a male perspective power fantasy, not a female sexual fantasy." True. And, oddly, that power fantasy tries to incorporate a female sexual fantasy…but it does so based on what men *think* will turn a woman on, not based on what really *does* turn women on.

          And, this whole discussion is, of course, further complicated by the fact that we're all individuals, not just our genders. I've never understood the thing about Jareth. I don't find George Clooney particulary attractive (objectively, he's reasonably handsome, but he just doesn't do it for me.) Same with Brad Pitt. I'll never understand the Snape/Alan Rickman thing. Johnny Depp's okay…nothing special. It's not as if there's some man who's the epitome of sexual attractiveness for every single woman alive.

          • I've run into a vocal female contingent of X-Men fans who are very, very into the way Nightcrawler looks, but never any who said "I'm attracted to him, but not his appearance." When X-Men 2 came out, there were heated debates over whether the film Nightcrawler – furless, covered in self-inflicted scars, and without an acrobat's build – was a let-down compared with the comics. (While Dave Cockrum's original designs for Kurt looked more demonic, the character quickly became more like the Alan Davies picture above – with handsome facial features and a lithe body, plus dramatic coloring.)* Then the movie actually came out, and a new wave of fangirls started crushing on Alan Cumming's soulful expression and thick eyelashes.

            * And no, you don't have to read very much fangirl squee to run into speculation about the tail and the thick fingers.

        • I think that's true, female sexual fantasies have favoured more slender, boyish figures for centuries, and our own power fantasies tend to have nothing to do with being an object of desire (unless it be for the competence and skills that comprise the power fantasy, not appearance). In popular culture we see the exact reverse – women appreciated primarily as objects of desire – which tells us that whoever is making the media is either not thinking about what women want at all, or believes that what women want want to be is the same as what men want women to be.

          @lisa68

          I think Nightcrawler's attractiveness is based on the contradiction between his appearance and his personality. He looks like he'd be very dangerous, which is thrilling, but then he turns out to be a sweetheart, so he's inherently safe. I think all three examples are like that in some way – they're dangerous or mysterious enough to add a little risk or excitement, but women don't want to fantasize about men who are genuinely dangerous, so we like them to have a basically good personality as a safety net. That's my theory anyway.

          • That makes sense. I'd never thought of Nightcrawler that way at all, but he was always one of my favourite characters, just because he was so…unexpected. (Actually, I liked all the X-Men, male and female, of "my day", except Cyclops – he was kind of boring most of the time.)

            @Toast: Interesting stuff. When I was reading comics, I didn't know any other female comic fans, so I never talked to anyone about this stuff. Nightcrawler had nice facial features, but I always found the tail and fingers really offputting. (I didn't like the movie version, for a lot of reason…hadn't really thought about whether he was attractive or not, though.)

    • My power fantasy would be fast, fierce, and have lean muscle and deadly hands. I can take or leave the beauty. I would echo those who said 'competent'.

    • The reason I'm curious about what imagery would embody a female power fantasy is that games and most especially, comic books, are sold by their covers. I want to know if there is a cover image that could be designed to be inherently attractive to potential female readers or players in the hopes of growing an inclusive entertainment experience.

      While I am not a graphic designer or cover artist, I am in the game industry, and I am often embarrassed by covers featuring scantily clad females that are so obviously displayed to attract a male audience (the most ridiculous I can recall is an Everquest box where the breasts on the cover display were actually formed on the physical box to bump out, so that just handling the box was like touching her boobs)–and this sort of marketing has almost become ubiquitous of the MMORPG genre.

      I don't like it not because I'm some kind of sexual prude–on the contrary (details obviously are unnecessary)–no, rather the reason I don't like it is I feel like it's cheap. If they were marketing some game that was ABOUT boobs, like a Leisure Suit Larry kind of deal, it would feel appropriate, but when it's supposed to have some impressive story line and a dramatic immersion or whatever–I feel like they're stooping to really cheap marketing concepts in order to sell the game.

      As someone who creates content for games, I am embarrassed.

      As someone who buys games, I feel insulted–as though I need to be marketed to with pop-out breasts, give me some credit.

      Lastly, as someone who works in the industry, I feel that there are JUST NOT ENOUGH WOMEN IN GAMES DEVELOPMENT! I can not stress how much I wish more women were in my industry and I feel that s**t like that ridiculous Everquest box is both a symptom of and a reason why there aren't more women in games.

      We need more INCLUSION and not just with puzzle games, hidden-object adventures, and other casual games. We need more hard-core gamer women.

      And the reason, really, is because I am a hairy white male (with a beard!) and I can not answer the question "what is a female power model?" and I feel like the question needs to be answered.

      We have to understand what women want from this experience and we have to give it to them.

      • Minor Ramblings says:

        For cover art, I'd say what would strike me as a female power image would be a woman posed in an active fashion, wearing garb that's eye-catching but functional. I am down with a certain amount of form-fitting if it a) makes narrative sense to fit and b) isn't so wildly divergent from male armour that you're left wondering if there's a XX-chromosome activated deflection shield. ;-)

        Posing is also important. Look up the kerfuffle over the recent Avengers prerelease poster for a good idea, but to summarize you've got the guys all striking RAWR WE'RE COMIN' FOR YOU poses and then you've got Black Widow's… ass and sideboob coming for you. Now, even as a straight woman I can appreciate the aesthetic value of ScarJo's booty, but it pretty much flat out says the roll of a kick-ass woman character is fan service first, ass-kickery later. Don't do that. (Also: http://www.comicbookmovie.com/fansites/GraphicCit… drives the point home, entertainingly.)

        Instead, I'd say do what I imagine you do for male art — find out what someone looks like mid-sword-swing or rooftop-perch, and draw that so it looks realistic.

        Women don't need to look like those scary female bodybuilders — in fact, that's not realistic at all if you want an active hero — but a warrior queen swinging a sword, or a space marine running hell for leather across alien worlds should look like they're capable of doing it. Study the hell out of female athletes, female soldiers and female outdoor enthusiasts to get a sense of what an athletic woman's muscle mass and distribution actually looks like.

        Focus on the face, give her an expression of determination or other active emotion, rather than that vapid or come-hither eyed parted-lip, insert-penis-here expression that's way too popular. ArenaNet's done pretty well, more or less, with their box art for Guild Wars — the women are certainly hot, and would definitely catch the eye of a straight male gamer, but I don't feel like they exist to pander to the sexual interest of the target market. http://www.guildwars.com/products/guildwars/galle… I'm a big fan of the ranger's (middle row, far right) down-to-business expression, and the fact that the focus *is* on her expression first.

        I think, though, what I'd recommend overall is actively seeking out female gamers' groups to find design focus groups. They're dotted all over the internets, and there are some very vocal and articulate gamers within them who've been gaming all their lives.

  40. You are a delightful writer and I love the way you articulate your thoughts. I agree with everything you wrote in this and the original article on this topic. I especially appreciate it because I am a geek by marriage. I married a nerd (best choice I've ever made for so many reasons) and I am now getting into geek culture as a way to connect with my husband. In my efforts to embrace the culture, I experienced several situations similar to the one you described about your girlfriend in your original article regarding this topic. Despite the issues you examined, I am surprised at how much I enjoy geek culture. :) I would, however, greatly appreciate the "leavening" effort that you suggested. This article, along with a few others you have written, have been great conversation pieces for my husband and me. Thanks. I look forward to reading more from you.

  41. Oddwaffle says:

    I have read both articles and while I think the arguments and reasoning are sound, the author is missing the most crucial point: Demographics. Video games is an entertainment industry in its growing stage so you do not see a clear characteristic of games targeting a particular type of audience. The author fails to realize why many games targeting men as their main audience. There are games that appeal to men and there are games that appeal to other audience. There are more games appeal to men because of the roots of gaming and how the chicken and egg problem of the industry work.

    Only games appeal to men will bear the male privilege characteristics, where as games appeal to a different audience will usually not have those characteristics. Strong and tough male characters with unyielding spirits and a hidden power combine with the "damsel in distress", hot/cold (tsundere), sexy fox, sexy amazon/valkyrie stereotypes for the women characters then you will have the trademark of young men entertainment product (male from 14-34). It's fairly easy to pick out an example. Any product with a comics or action hero will usually have at least some of these traits. Mario from SNES/NES, Zelda series, Batman, Spiderman, Superman, X-men…etc all focus on a male audience. Products with a strong pen/paper RPG background usually contain some of these traits also since the pen/paper games originally appeal to male audience. On the other hand, games like "The Sims" or "Sonic Hedgehog" are missing a lot of the characteristics of male privileges. You can try to make a case for Sonic since it's for a Teen audience with a lot of boys so it may contain some characteristics of male privileges. Games like Sim City or Sid Meier's Civilization series are also missing those male privileges characteristics and these games appeal to a more general audience.

    This doesn't mean that the geek and gaming culture is not male centric but rather it was purely male centric but it is changing (slowly). Video games own its roots to pen/paper RPG, comics and a very large amount of physics and math male geeks. Most of the game developers in the early days of gaming were male. They made games they liked and, well, men like stuff that appeal to men. As time goes on, these geeks turn into CEO and developers and legends. These guys continue to make stuff that they like even when there are more women jumping into the industry. Then some guy from the sales department came and said that "almost all of our customers are men so if we make games for men then we can guarantee good sales results". So every game companies continue to make games for men with men tastes and appeals. As companies start to realize that they can actually make games that appeal to women and women do play games, they start to make games that appeal to women. However, this doesn't happen often because most game companies are risk-adverse. They don't want to risk trying a new market (women gamers) and fail. They'd rather invest on something that has been proven to work before. Sometimes you get a breakthrough game such as The Sims or Second Life. These games prove that there is market beyond the normal male gamers.

    • Brisinger says:

      What about all the females who really are interested in playing a first person shooter or reading a comic book like Batman without feeling like they are being made a sex symbol? As an avid gamer I've spent time in many different types of game stores. Everytime I've had to defend myself from some sexist remark. Sometimes this is as simple as, you can't possibly know what you're talking about, to as messed up as an acquaintance shaking my husband's hand & turning to me for a grope filled hug. My husband does a great job defending me, but he shouldn't have to be there every time I go browsing in a game store.

      I won't even tell you how many times I've heard a guy wish he could find a girl who would game with him like I do with my husband.

  42. Not a gamer, but still a nerd – and a girl.

    Although I've never been into the massive gaming community (despite lots and lots of peer pressure), this is still spot on to me. After several years of being on the academic side of engineering and some short stints on the professional side, I can definitively say that many of the same phenomena you describe happen in real life, all on their own, with no games, no publishers, and no sexist designers controlling what's going on. Admittedly, not anywhere near the extent that happens in games, but the atmosphere still exists. I've been repeatedly called a bitch by friends, both jokingly and more seriously if there was some sort of argument or conflict. I got the nickname "ice queen", I got to deal with "hey guys, I visited a liberal arts school over the weekend, and you wouldn't believe how many hot girls where there", and with "Ratio Induced Bitch Syndrome" plastered all over our campus on valentines/RIBS awareness day. I had my input ignored in team projects, had a professor tell me how nice it would be to add feminine perspective to the lab group, I had people tell me that women are more naturally skilled in careers other than the one I've chosen, I had a boss repeatedly verbally single me out for being female, and all the while being told either subtly or directly that there was something wrong with me if I didn't shut up and deal with it.

    Oh, and I should mention, I am a nice person, and I am more often faulted for being too shy and door-mat-y than for being too abrasive or aggressive. So don't f-ing call me a bitch or I will f u up.

    The fact of the matter that this is much better than what women in engineering had to deal with in past generations – I know of one female astronaut who was told as an undergraduate by the professor that she should sit in the back of the class so as not to distract the "real students". Not to mention the days when women weren't even hired for technical jobs. A group of women were trained along with the Mercury astronauts – but that training program was canceled. Reasons often cited for that include concerns about what would happen if they got their period in space.

    These days its much more often the implicit assumptions about what kind of contribution the woman in the room is going to make or not make – at least in professional situations. That's not so hard to deal with – just ignore it or assert yourself as the situation requires, get on with doing your job, and try to keep a sense of humor. But in casual conversations, outside of the workplace or classroom? Have fun ladies, if you want to make friends with your peers and hang out outside of work, you'd better be prepared to take it with a laugh when people start talking about how all women in engineering become bitches, are bad at their jobs, and have poor personal hygiene. The last generation of women in engineering took care of the unfair hiring practices, maybe this generation we can get rid of the assumption that you'll either be useless or a bitch.

    • God, how awful. I had hoped it wasn't as bad as all that. What do you think will help?

      • I forgot to mention in my rant that most of the time (in engineering) people act like reasonable human beings – and that there are enough of those that no one should take what I wrote above as a reason not to go into engineering – it's an awesome field, I really love what I'm doing, and I get to hang out with a great group of guys – now that I've found the groups of people who DON'T act like complete idiots, and ways to deal with the ones who do. The college I went to was particularly bad because it was a mostly engineering, and mostly male, college, and whether causally or not, it had something approaching the gamer's atmosphere. Places where people are forced to mingle with more equitably distributed groups tend to be a bit better, as far as I can tell. I should also note that that is not a reason to necessarily avoid largely male or engineering campuses – I still had lots of fun, and it was one of the better engineering schools in the nation (which by itself is worth it, to me), and as the ratio got better, so did the behavior.

        Protip for dealing with idiots who either don't realize that what they say/do makes you feel alienated or harassed, or just don't care: tell the people who ARE being reasonable to you that it makes you uncomfortable, and that you are completely willing to drop the whole group of people as friends if things don't change. And don't be bluffing. I stopped hanging out with a whole group once – even though it meant not hanging out with people I really enjoyed, and by bringing that up as proof I actually did see change in a different group of friends (both of these were student clubs in college). You can't really argue with the idiots directly, but if they start to feel peer pressure from the non-idiots among their own demographic, they will start to change.

        Protip summary because that was kind of long-winded: there is always another friend, or job, or activity that deserves your attention more than the one that isn't treating you right. And if you need to, you can let them know.

        Long way of saying, to Kira: time and peer pressure. The people who are in college or high school today will be the leaders in the next generation, and because they are now facing the consequences if they act inappropriately, they are learning a different way to behave than the people who went to college when it was rare to see even one girl in an engineering department.

        Oh, and also I should mention that I am in no way an expert or super-experienced, I really only have a couple of summer jobs and way too much academia experience to pull from.

  43. ok gambit and Bowie I can see, shit i'd go gay for Bowie but girls are attracted to nightcrawler and optimus prime? would never have guessed

    • Dr. NerdLove says:

      There were a couple of surprises in the votes, to be sure. Optimus Prime was one, as was Heimdall of all people.

      • Heimdall makes a lot more sense than Optimus Prime, imo.

        I'm actually wondering who I'd have voted for…

      • Please tell me the Optimus Prime vote came from this lady, who's made dozens of YouTube videos and countless drawings immortalizing her love for the big red truck.

        • OP Crush Lady says:

          Nope, that’s not me and as for why, well 1) I have a thing for voices and have you heard Peter Cullen and 2) The character is what’s attractive to me, not the giant robot body thing. My fandom crushes (especially the OP one which happened when I was about 11) have always been more about wanting to go on adventures with that character rather than have sexytimes.

  44. marsdemilo says:

    I am so happy that two out of my three geek loves were featured.

    And I'm glad that you identified so well why we are attracted to them.

    Yay!

  45. marsdemilo says:

    I'm so happy that two out of three nerd fantasies made it on there.

  46. Robert Squirrel says:

    We nerds love to think of ourselves as an inclusive gang of outcasts, *nothing* like the philistines who have ostracized us all our lives. But we also have a tendency to get AGGRESSIVELY defensive anytime anyone has even *reasonable* criticism about nerd culture as a whole — and then we have trouble understanding that that defensiveness is in itself alienating, both to outside people AND to people who already consider themselves nerds.

    This alienation is even more apparent when it comes to race. Why are there so few black characters in comics, fantasy and science fiction? According to my boss at the Local Game Store, it's because black people make up a very small percentage of the audience, and the companies are just serving their demographics. Really? Could part of it instead be that:

    –There was public outrage over the casting of Idris Elba as Heimdall and of Tadanobu Asano as Hogun in the recent Thor movie (they were both excellent, by the way, but underused).

    –Donald Glover received death threats (!!!) for DARING to want to play Spider Man in the movies.

    –When fans expressed disappointment at the (white) casting of Ursula LeGuin's specifically black characters in the Legend of Earthsea movie, they were roundly criticised online for being oversensitive.

    Which brings up the question: why is it okay to make Heimdall and Hogun black even though they're both technically Norse gods, when it's not okay to get white actors to play characters that were specifically intended by LeGuin to be black? Isn't it hypocritical?

    The answer is, of course, is that if you want to see a movie consisting of only buff white guys (with perhaps a token scantily clad woman), there are already a million movies and comic books and novels made JUST for you (and you just might be a tiny bit racist/sexist).

    The extreme defensiveness that keeps coming up every time someone has a legitimate complaint — about race, about sex, about sexual preference — makes me ashamed to call myself a nerd.

    • Pterygotus says:

      The answer is, of course, is that if you want to see a movie consisting of only buff white guys (with perhaps a token scantily clad woman), there are already a million movies and comic books and novels made JUST for you (and you just might be a tiny bit racist/sexist).

      No, the answer is "you're a giant hypocrite", actually. "Racebending" is either okay or it isn't, no exceptions.

      • Robert Squirrel says:

        I disagree on three counts:

        1. AUTHOR'S INTENT

        Ursula LeGuin was using race for specific literary purposes in her Earthsea books — and she has publically attacked the Legend of Earthsea movie on that front. But Stan Lee was credited as a producer on the Thor movie, and was clearly fine with the changes. Now, the "author" may very well be an automated scripting function (as Roland Barthes argued), but it's still in poor taste to cross creators while they're still alive.

        2. VARIETY

        "Race-bending" a couple of minor characters to add variety is very different from whitewashing an entire movie. My argument is completely internally consistent because it ultimately boils down to "Many people, including myself, are bored with all-white movies". How is that hypocritical?

        3. AVAILABILITY

        Many people would also like to see things in movies (and in other arts) that they haven't seen before. And I've seen white people beat up coloured people, and men rescue women, so many times that it's getting tedious. So if one type of change will result in something I've never seen before, and the other type will result in something that's so 1980s that its shoulder pads have shoulder pads? Yeah, I think it's still internally consistent to allow one and not the other. Sorry.

    • "Which brings up the question: why is it okay to make Heimdall and Hogun black even though they’re both technically Norse gods, when it’s not okay to get white actors to play characters that were specifically intended by LeGuin to be black? Isn’t it hypocritical?"

      In the case of Thor it may be because Kenneth Branagh has a history of what can be called 'colorblind casting,' he tends to cast the best people he can find for a role without looking at the color of their skin. I also didn't really see all that much outrage (much less than for instance back when they cast Michael Clarke Duncan as the Kingpin in Daredevil).

      That the actors were underused probably has more to do with the script and the fact that the characters they were playing are only a part of a much larger mythos, a part that you cannot devote too much time to in a 115-minute movie.

  47. Dr. NerdLove says:

    I'm just gonna leave this right here: http://www.themarysue.com/women-buy-technology-mo

  48. As to the rape thing upthread, I think what's happening is that people are getting hung up on the word 'about'. I think some participants mean it in the narrative sense, and others mean it in the sense of intending a thing.

    Definition: Rape is sex without one person's consent. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/rape

    It seems that rape is often best discussed in terms of the assertion of power by one and the loss of power by the other. I would argue that the exceptions (if any) don't matter, because it's so effective a lens.

    I sure as hell don't give a shit what a rapist intends. What matters to me is that something oogy is happening to someone who said no. My personal impression is that it's kind of oogy to treat that as potentially not a big deal.

  49. Really enjoyed the article. Will email you about a potential related Austin project I want to work on.

  50. Thank you so much for writing this series. I think you've really taken all the three Ds to task and debunked a lot of the arguments in a clear, concise manner. It's also great to hear this from a male geek. As a female geek, I have a lot of the same problems. Fortunately, I have managed to surround myself with other female geeks and male geeks who are better versed in dissecting gender than the general population, but the minute I get outside my bubble, it's intimidating.

    I did find your survey of what body types women liked very interesting, as I am of the same persuasion when it comes to men. Barrel-chested bulky Bane-esque types terrify me. I live in Japan and have noticed a trend in younger women preferring slender men who are sensitive while the media ridicules "herbivore men" as if they were not manly. What's worse is when the women do it, as if a woman can break the gender norms and a man can't–but it's because the men are perceived as feminine, and being feminine is bad because being associated with women (whether you are male or female) is bad.

    It's a long battle but I'm very glad to see someone else in it with us.

  51. Brisinger says:

    You're not the only one talking about this. Check out this article http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators… for a female journalists take on this. And thanks for speaking up for all us females who just want to enjoy a good game/comic.

  52. Were all the arguments you were given terrible or did you just omit the better ones?

    • Dr. NerdLove says:

      I picked the ones that came up the most frequently in my comments section, over at Reddit and in the comments section at Kotaku. The article was already 3000 words and change; if I were to address ALL of the arguments, it would have been closer to a novella.

      • latebloomer says:

        I am fairly certain they all centered around this anyway. many of the comments were of women sharing their experiences and being told they were too sensitive/wrong for feeling the way they do,

        • Robert Squirrel says:

          Yeah, that's the point I was trying to make above, but I got a bit sidetracked by race.

          Over 19 years online (BBSs then internet), 13 of which I worked at various game and comic stores, I've seen a million of these discussions develop; someone says that aspects of nerd culture make them uncomfortable — be it sexism, racism, homophobia, whatever — and there's an aggressive vocal response, both online and in real life, denying that there's a problem… People saying "you're wrong to feel uncomfortable at the rape threats in Arkham City, they're just being realistic! You're wrong to feel uncomfortable that they cast white people in Legend of Earthsea, they just picked the best people for the job! You're wrong to be uncomfortable that certain fans had a vitriolic response to the gay characters in the Young Avengers comics, they were just saying their opinion!"

          THAT's the issue more than anything else, THAT's why I'm so down on "nerd defensiveness" — because it frequently ends up telling people that they're WRONG to feel how they feel, which is horribly alienating.

          You know, I'm personally fine with the Grand Theft Auto games, cause they strike me as amusing, satirical caricatures of gangster mentality; and if someone were to tell me that I couldn't play them anymore or that my playing them meant I was sexist/racist/homophobic, I'd disagree pretty forcefully, and I'd probably be pretty offended. But if someone said that the games made them uncomfortable, or that maybe they would enjoy them more if they featured a strong female protagonist & removed the whole "hookers=health" mechanic? I might not want to play the game they describe (though if it's anything like Red Dead Redemption count me in!); but if I were to disagree with their DISCOMFORT, *that* would make me a chauvinist monster.

          So I defend my right to play the games; BUT, if I want my hobbies to be accessible to new people (which I do), it behooves me to listen to their concerns and respect their feelings — and does it REALLY make Arkham Asylum a worse game if you take out the rape talk & ridiculous outfits, or make Grand Theft Auto less fun if you take out the hookers?

  53. Thank you for this article.

    I did want to comment on the aspect that is closest to me, that of sexual assault. I was raped when I was 16 by someone who wanted power and dominance as well as sex. And every time I have someone threaten to rape me I am forced to relive that experience all over again no matter if they mean it or are "just kidding".

    Now that I've horrified half the people reading this because I was willing to say what 1/6 of the women you know (your mother, your sister, your girlfriend, your best friend, your cousin, your aunt . . . pick one) haven't been allowed to say, I would like to point something out.

    These are things we don't say in polite society:

    I'm a rape survivor.

    I was molested.

    I was pawed on the subway.

    Some guy masturbated on me when I took the train.

    I was scared to walk alone at night.

    Things that apparently are acceptable:

    I'm going to rape you.

    I totally got raped by that boss.

    I'm going to knock out your teeth so it feels better when I force you to suck me off.

    Show me your tits or I'm going to come over and make you.

    That's right bitch, I'm going to fuck you until you bleed.

    I'm just going to say this very clearly. Feminist or no, geek male culture at risk (oh the horror) or no, this is not acceptable. Think about this . . if you want your mom or your little sister to have to take rape threats "in good fun" . . . well you are more fucked up than any comment I write is going to help. In fact, turn in your penis as you no longer have a right to it.

    One of the women in your life has been raped. Trust me on this one. If you look around close enough with an eye to understanding and you will find her. Every time you use rape in jest she has to relive what happened to her. Please, please please think before you threaten to assault someone.

    In case that is not deterrent enough its actually illegal in most states to engage in online harassment and the police take threats of violence online very seriously. And god help you if the girl you've threatened to rape is a minor . . pedophiles are not treated well by cops.

    Cheers!

    • ConspiracyTruth says:

      That is a good point. My sister and I were both sexually assaulted as minors so I try to curb threats or use of that nomenclature when I can. It has become ubiquitous in the culture thought to use words like that in reference to getting stomped in a game. Whether gamer or not. Raped by the boss or the 49ers getting raped by the Packers, it is becoming alarmingly more in vogue to use it.

      1 in 6 women are sexually assaulted. 1 in 8 men are sexually assaulted.

      So even among guy friends, try to bear in mind that this isn't just a female problem (just mostly one). This isn't just some crap you don't joke about when a girl is within earshot – this is something you don't joke about, period, unless you want guys like me to see you in a lesser manner. It is the fastest way to ensure I never become a close friend of yours and I as a male survivor of abuse am not alone.

  54. Jareth! <3

    (And Kadaj! I think you forgot Kadaj! <3 <3)

    I am extremely impressed. You did a poll and then examined the results. You're right; leaner torsos, tragic figures, laughing swashbucklers with wit + charm, and oozing sexuality is what appeals to me (as a female) sexually. Seeing big, strong, buffed-up powerhouses does absolutely nothing for me. And while I LOVE FF games, I admit that I eventually quit one of them because I couldn't get over the absurdity of Fran's outfit. What female fights in a BUNNY SUIT?

    Humor aside, I'm going to start delving into the more serious aspect of the problem. When I was younger, I'd often try out my brother's games before buying myself. I was also naive enough to warn his teammates that I was not him, but instead his sister, and was trying the game out– so that they would know why his character was acting oddly.

    I thought it was a common courtesy, right? "Hey guys, this is ****'s sister, I'm just trying the game out." The responses I got were, to say the least, horrific. What kind of guy tells a fourteen year old to suck his dick? Scratch that– even without knowing she's underage, what kind of guy tells ANY random woman something like that? It's not even just "not polite"– it's along the lines of what gets assholes ARRESTED because they were online sexually harassing people. Just because it's the internet and you think you're on alone with your man-buddies in a 'private chat' doesn't mean you drop all decorum and start acting like wannabe rapists.

    Rape is not something you joke about. Sexual assault or some equivalent demand or threat of it isn't a joke. It's basically degrading and objectifying women down to a sex object and nothing else. Like she doesn't matter as a person. Like she doesn't belong there. Like she's not a "real" gamer, or like she shouldn't even BE a gamer.

    It's not that we're being "oversensitive". It's that we can't join a multiplayer game without dealing with sexual harassment, at least not without disguising our actual gender. Men, would you like it if every time you got online to play a game, do some monster farming, get a team together for a raid, you were the constant subject of dick and castration jokes? And if not only that, but you were the minority– if you were one of the few males playing, and everyone else was female, and if at least 90% of them were doing that constantly, non-stop? If they didn't give a damn about how GOOD of a gamer you were, so long as you had a penis that they could keep making fun of?

    Aside from the wincing you'd probably do at the imagined castration, or how defensive you'd feel about them suggesting that your balls are the size of marbles, you would probably range from feeling unwanted and annoyed to utterly disgusted and angry. Sure, you could handle a few pokes and jabs probably– but a constant stream of the stuff?

    Yeah? That's how I felt every time I logged on. That's how a lot of females feel when they log on.

    I honestly don't have a problem with some of the hypersexualized females. For some of them, it fits. Femme fatales and all. The problem is… that I can't think of a single female video game character who isn't somehow hypersexualized. That's the problem. It's not that they exist, but the fact that no other alternatives representing females fit at all. And most of the ones that are playable are downright ridiculous. Fran? Yup. Riku? Yup. Yuna? Yup. It's like the game designers can't make a single female character who is both tough, attractive looking, and not like a glorified walking prostitute.

    Not even the most sexually liberated of females are going to fight monsters half-naked.

    I'd like to be able to play without getting constant rape jokes or threats. I can understand that yes, assholes will play, and some of them will make rape jokes. But I don't ever see other guys online stop and say, "Dude, that's not cool" or "Would you say that to your mother?" They don't stop it, they don't stand up to it. At best, they ignore it. They don't draw attention to the fact that someone just told someone else, for no other reason than they are a girl gamer, to suck his dick. If you see someone being an asshole, then for Jenovah's sake, call them out on it! Be a man and have the balls to stand up and say "This is not okay" rather than laughing or lol'ing it off or staying quiet.

    Interestingly, I see a lot of remarks about how gamer guys wish there were more gamer girls. If there's a shortage, it's not because there's a lack of interest in gaming. It's because we don't feel welcome. I've stopped playing online multiplayer games for that reason. It's that simple. I haven't even had the heart to try out the online capabilities of my PS3, because I'm sick and tired. I don't think the PS3 allows that kind of stuff, can't imagine typing it out the way they do on PCs, but at this point, I don't even want to try anymore. I just stick to two-player against my brother if I need a rival, or a boyfriend if I have one.

    There aren't a lot of gamer girls because gamer guys keep on sending us the message that we must either be willing sex objects or GTFO. I put up a struggle for two years to try and play, even started using male or unisex usernames (until I was "outed"– outed, can you believe that?– because they one day took a "joke" too far and I snapped back at them and verbally tore them apart?) I finally quit after going on a rampage where I destroyed all of my team's tanks and planes (BOOM!), got booted by the mods, and never returned.

    (I admit, seeing them capsabusing at me impotently was somewhat satisfying.)

    In short… there you have it. I got sick and tired of the abuse, raised hell, and then quit. There goes another gamer girl.

    • latebloomer says:

      Great comment, and I am so with you 100%. I wasn't even playing a game once and my voice carried over my brother in laws mic. I got many unkind comments then as well.

      However, I just wanted to current you on Fran. she had bunny ears because of her ra.ce. No less tge fan service, but she was a bunny woman in underwear.

    • Yuki, what you're saying really hits home. I've got friends who deal with that every now and then. I know one at least who just mutes every single person on xbox live except for her friends. (then again, so does her boyfriend. People on xbox live are generally intolerable idiots) It's a general rule of the internet, most people when they get online are complete assholes with no filter. Combine that with the fact that they probably aren't getting laid… yeah. Not a pretty picture. People generally dont do anything about it because they think it's futile or they just expect you to mute him and be done with it or something. Sad but true. I bet probably when they weren't talking to you you noticed them finding various reasons to be complete assholes to each other, if not quite to that extent.

      Fortunately that kind of behavior seems more rare on the PC version of TF2… on the servers I play on at least. Can't even imagine what xbox live must be like. Typically when somebody goes nuts over somebody else being female they get made fun of. Only exception is when said woman herself makes a big deal over her gender or she's a friend and we're just messing around.

      (also I did give serious thought to your example. It would be… an interesting experience at first but I can see myself getting pretty tired of it if it kept going.)

  55. tarragon sage says:

    "Helping nerds get the girl." What. The. Fuck. I don't even know where to START with that one. But the implicit aggression and endorsement of the patriarchal order, when you're putting out posts on how ALL THAT IS A PROBLEM, is pretty self-contradictory.

    Actually, I think I hate your posts because it's so much more hand-wringing and blaming and shaming and bullshit. Hey, it's a problem; I know, let's go PISS EVERYONE OFF.

    I'm aware there will be a certain amount of pissery simply because the ego hates having assumptions questioned, when it's built a whole identity/life on them. But a long, passive-aggressive post about "not only do I say there's a problem, but I know what your reaction will be, and that's why it's a problem, for realz, and here's a chicky pic"? Yeah, every gender thread on HN (every 2-4 weeks, is it?) runs down these same tracks, of course you know what the vocal opposition is going to say. But bringing out the don't-talk-back-to-me shit? No. Just no. It's a recipe for alienation.

    And what's this talk of `fandom` being all sexist men? There's a whole OTHER (ahem) group out there using that term.

    And THIS is why I'm quitting HN and Reddit ASAP. I don't feel any more enlightened for having gone through all these posts.

    • Dr. NerdLove says:

      So you basically registered to say "Hello I must be going" ?

      (And for anyone else… HN? Wozzat?)

    • I guess the proper solution was to identify a problem in our beloved culture and say, "Oh well, that's just the way it is?" I think Dr. Nerdlove regarding male privilege in video game culture. I don't see how countering the more common arguments amounts to hypocrisy or "pissery" as you put it.

      I also think this page serves as a useful tool for helping nerds, who are generally outcast from other social groups, get over their social awkwardness and establish healthy relationships with their ideal partners. How that entrenches the patriarchal order is completely a mystery to me. I also don't get how that is some kind of endorsement for aggression.

  56. I'm not much of a gamer, but I *am* a comic artist, which is pretty similar. I used my comic artist skills to illustrate some of the sexist character designs in superhero comics by redrawing pictures of female superheroes as male, with the exact same costume and pose (the poses are just as bad as the costumes). People laugh at first, to see this unexpected gender swap. But these poses and costumes are ridiculous on a hero of any gender, but people have come to *expect* females to wear them. When men are put in those costumes and poses, *now* people really see that there's no way those pants would stay up, and this other part would give them a lethal wedgie, and their spine would break if they did this pose.

    Every couple of months, it gets picked up by a big website (most recently Boing Boing). The comments are usually terrible. Every single thing you described here happens with my stuff. It's incredibly frustrating. I can't even bring myself to read them anymore, they're too vitriolic and insulting. But a lot of other people *do* get it, thankfully, and send me nice messages. (I hope you got a lot of nice messages too!) Not sure how much I end up preaching to the choir, but at least the choir feels better. (The drawings are here if you care you check them out: http://rosalarian.tumblr.com/post/2325861377/dres

    • Dr. NerdLove says:

      I loved that image. In fact, I linked to it on the Dr. NerdLove Facebook page when I saw it on… I think it was either BoingBoing or The Mary Sue.

      Either way: very well done.

  57. I gotta say, one thing you said really had me laughing my ass off: "I mean, after all, I didn’t start this blog to be about gender relations; I’m just a guy trying to help geeks improve their love-lives and get better at dating."

    You do realize you basically just said: "I didn't start this blog to be about gender relations; I'm just a guy trying to improve gender relations in the geek culture sphere"? Relating to people of the opposite gender romantically is totally about gender relations.

  58. Ich bin der Gegner says:

    Dismissal entails denying that the issue exists at all in the first place, evidence be damned.

    The problem with evidence and feminism is that all of the evidence has to be politically correct.

    Take, for instance, the fact that psychoticism is more pronounced among men than among women. I would imagine that feminists would be willing to accept this because it means that men are more likely to be delinquent losers, or quite simply insane.

    But, on the same token, feminists would be unwilling to accept the fact that higher male psychoticism means most geniuses are men because of the well-replicated link between psychoticism and high creativity. (Hans Eysenck was a pioneer in this area and if you want, you can look into Genius: The Natural History of Creativity.)

    The evidence is only accepted or indeed acceptable when it upholds feminism.

    • Dr. NerdLove says:

      Mighty obliging of you to come up with a response from the imaginary feminists in your head that just happen to agree with the point you're trying to make. A point that has nothing to do with the subject at hand.

      (Also: pick an ID and stick to it. I've taken the liberty of deciding which of these you really intended to post for you, since you seem unable to decide.)

    • As a person who tends to want to poke the evidence, I would find both claims highly suspect without getting a chance to look at the studies behind them. The fact that I also happen to be a feminist has nothing to do with my willingness to accept any unsubstantiated claim that wanders through the internet.

      • Ich bin der Gegner says:

        Read Genius: A Natural History of Creativity

        Then go on Google Scholar and look for "creativity" along with (various combinations of) terms like: "latent inhibition", "schizotypy", and "psychoticism".

        Observe the many replications of Eysenck's findings.

  59. Two other somewhat-more-realistically-drawn female protagonists of note, from gaming:

    Faith Connors / Mirror's edge (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror's_Edge)
    Konoko / Oni (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oni_(video_game)

    Both are typically fully-dressed, though Konoko appears in bizarre midriff-exposing armor from time to time. Gaming, on the whole, seems to me to have a few more hits on average than comics. But I still say "somewhat-more-realistically-drawn" because even these and the ones you list (like the women from Uncharted) are invariably rail thin and at the feminine end of the appearance bellcurve – practitioners of "waif-fu" who are remarkably de-muscled given their portrayed physical prowess. We still have a ways to go.

    Thanks for a great article.

  60. One other reason comparing buffed up men in comics and whatnot to the women just doesn't work is I think a lot of heterosexual male nerds, at least from my own personal experience, probably actually like the idea of being sexually objectified by women.
    Note I said "the idea". I was thinking about this with Yuki's example. I've never dealt with anything like that and for a moment, god help me, I thought I would find it entertaining at first. But I'm betting if it went on for long enough, especially if it was filled with misandry, I would probably tire of it. If there was no hate I may be fine with it, but in a lot of these situations the men harassing the women aren't just hitting on them but have a lot of contempt for women in general.
    But it's hard to actually get people like that to comprehend it. It's highly unlikely for a man(or at least a gamer) to be put into that situation unless he's on the receiving end of an unusual prank or experiment to see how the response would be. (that would be a pretty awkward experiment)

  61. thank you for writing these. While I rarely meet abuse like this from other male gamers/comic enthusiasts, I have encountered it enough to frustrate me. It's annoying to be discounted from being a fan because of something beyond my control. But it's good to have something to combat the verbal abuse for once.

  62. I am somewhat confused as to what the point of all this is, to point out that games are made by men with a certain set of ideas in their heads?

    Who exactly has a problem with all of the things said here?

  63. You forgot one thing in your description, Gambit is French!

    • Dr. NerdLove says:

      No, he's Cajun. And trust me, tell a Cajun he's French and you're gonna have a fight on your hands.

  64. Dear reader,

    As a female I say, Keep the sex kittens. Just give a few normal gals and few sexy guys. Once and while just for giggle put the guys in the floss and bottle caps. We all need a giggles. Just not that dude named Wade from the x-men, there something wrong with his face, I'm not sure I would want to see the rest of him.

  65. Josephine says:

    Also worth noting: In Arkham City, much like in real life, one of very few instances where men would be actively afraid of male-on-male rape is in prison. Mine will be in two hours, when I walk to my car after dark. One man's prison is another woman's day-to-day.

  66. I just want to add–Faith, from Mirror's Edge, is another great example of a female protagonist in a video game done right.

  67. Halo Elijah says:

    Gambit DEFINITELY lifts weights! The difference is that Gambit uses wit and clever tactics with his strength, whereas that batman and fighter are on steroids and lack the natural look.

    Swimmers are lean and of medium build. Gambit on the other hand is built and ripped. Thats about what a man can achieve naturally. -good proportions too.

  68. Here is the fundamental thing I don’t understand about this point of view. If over 50 percent of the population is female, then why shouldn’t a significant portion of this population be funding, buying, and creating games themselves to meet this market demand, if it’s high enough to support profitably?

    Someone gave an example of Mirror’s Edge as doing ‘female characters right.’ It also wasn’t profitable enough to have a sequel, which may be correlated. Is not the idea inherently dis empowering of women to continually put themselves in a position where they are asking (or potentially nagging) others to fund, program, and design appealing characters for you if there is no proven market for them?

    From my perspective, asking males to take the financial, time, and effort hits in developing a game like Mirror’s Edge, because it ‘hurts your feelings’ or makes you uncomfortable when the breasts are larger or women are wearing less clothing is being unreasonable?

    Where as the reasonable thing would be to empower yourself, by training yourself either as a programmer, a character artist, game designer, or all of the above. Training the skills that are required to make these games, and then fund a development studio yourselves.

    Gaming has reached a point where every single person who has read this article has the tools available to make a video game. Indie developers are constantly breaking through with new concepts. Kickstarter could fund games like this if there is a market and skilled individuals willing to make the games and if feminists spent less time asking others to do things for them ‘for you’, you could probably all donate to such a project, all have enough similarly minded women trained in such skills, and get it off the ground. But you don’t. Because you’d rather, it’s someone else’s responsibility?

    Imagine if in another hypothetical situation, there was a shortage of books appealing to women’s sensibilities, and instead of writing those books, more often than not, they asked someone else to do it. There’s probably a good reason why Stephanie Meyer managed to succeed with Twilight. As much as it’s not high art, she at least made something that appealed to women. And in that way, she is a lot more of a purveyor of equality, of equal rights, and empowerment than those who would sit on the side lines.

    It’s very easy to try to pressure businesses into potentially losing money. It’s very easy to insult or criticize artists like happened to the Dragon Crown’s. It’s very hard to put your money where your mouth is, to fund a game like this. To make a game like this.

    And for as long as it’s someone else’s responsibility, then you will never be equal. You will never be empowered and you will always be inferior to those who took the responsibilities to make these games happen.

    In conclusion, there has never been a better time in the history of gaming to make games for independent developers. You have Unity, XNA, Game Maker, Photoshop, that could be used on smaller indie titles, Unreal Engine, Cryengine, and a near endless list of others, all of which could be used to make games with different portrayals of females.

    If you want people to spend millions of dollars on creating a product, then lead by example. Show there is a market for it. Show that people are passionate enough about the subject to do something about it, to buy the products. Until women are willing to put equal effort into doing this, I don’t see how it is anything other than damsel in distress syndrome.

  69. In other words, it is those who finance games and those who create games who have the 'privilege' of creative control over the product (E.G. Breast size, female portrayal). Such person can be male or female of any political affiliation, it doesn't have to be a man.

    Historically, more males have created and funded more video games. Currently the same situation exists. More also work in coal mines. It happens.

    If women want more relative privilege to men, they should make more games and earn that privilege. It's really that simple, and it has always been that simple since the very dawn of the personal computer having existed in the homes of both men and women, available for each gender to use as they wish.

    Rather than going to id software and asking for the next Doom to be more female friendly with positive portrayals of females, just make your own games. Coming to a genius like John Carmack, who has devoted his life to his craft, and asking his company to jeopardize everything they've worked for, their product, their reputation, entire lifetimes of hard work that resonates with a certain demographic, to make such a game for you is just sad.

    Wanda, Jenny, Melissa Carmack should have been there from the start to create an abundance of alternatives to Doom, and it's not too late people for people like that to do so, but it's not his responsibility or his fault that they weren't there right along side him when the modern video game industry was created. Nor is it his obligation to make sure these people are suddenly there.

    • I should say that after further and rereading, I am willing to retract one part of my last post as untrue. I will admit it's fair to 'ask' John Carmack and/or id software in completely neutral terms, without shaming or accusations of male privilege, or acting upon feelings of entitlement on account of your gender, if he or id software wants to make a different game in the style you'd prefer, because you enjoy that style of artwork and believe it is a good thing. That is not sad and I approve of a such a polite inquiry.

      It is however very sad and hypocritical to shame such men, claiming they did not earn creative privileges and the freedom to create a product in the way they desire, when they actually put the money, time, skills, and expertise to bring their products to life, simply by virtue of the creators being a member of 50 percent of the population that makes more games.

      I have to say, if anyone would care to attempt to see things from a different perspective, which I personally believe is considerably closer to the truth without the emotional baggage, victimizing of the female population vilifying of the male population, and shaming language of popular feminist thought, GirlWritesWhat does a very good job on this subject. If you look for a youtube video of 'The Tyranny of Female Hypo agency' she illustrates this concept rather clearly without personal attacks and using clear, well articulated logic, which could be perceived as empowering towards women taking action in their lives as artists, as industrialists, and so forth rather than relying on shaming men into trying to do such work for them.

      • Gentleman Johnny says:

        Historically, more males have created and funded more video games. Currently the same situation exists. More also work in coal mines. It happens.

        And more women would do all of the above, if they had the opportunity.

        Also, are you saying the new bar of media criticism is being a media producer? Because in that case, I must insist on a link to your blog and/or Youtube channel before you are allowed to criticize those who criticize male privilege in gaming in their own micro-media outlets on the Internet.

        And finally. . .I don't think anyone is saying men don't have the right to create the sort of games that draw criticism from women (or black men, or Christians, Muslims etc). They're (the women) using their own right to speech to express their opinions on them and to put forward the kind of things that would be more appealing to the women who are already a part of the paying audience and those who might join it if they felt like they had a place at the table. Most of them can point out the issues they have while still being positive about games and the gaming industry as a whole. The privilege under discussion here is not the privilege of creating games.

        They're entitled to dislike the way women are portrayed in games. You're entitled to dislike what they say and I'm entitled to dislike what you have to say. No one's freedom of expression is being trampled here.

        • Every woman with a computer has the opportunity to make a video game. Try Game Maker to get started and if you want to advance to more advanced programming languages you are freely available to. There have been numerous people (primarily men, but not because of privilege) who have made video games entirely by themselves, such as Pixel who made Cave Story. I'm an independent game designer myself.

          There is complete artistic control over how women are portrayed in this situation just as I have complete control in my project, any similarly minded woman (or feminist leaning man) would have equal control of their project. Beyond that there is a good option of finding like minded people and forming a smaller development team of skilled individuals who have a common goal, and budget the project based on realistic market place conditions.

          The issue of corporate art, however, is not about male privilege. It's simply about profits. All corporate art is the privilege of the share holders, founders, and project leads who need to place getting a return on their investment as a priority by default. The cost of involving corporations involves varying degrees of a loss of control of by the artists and engineers inevitably.

          While sometimes it is unfortunate that we don't always get the games we want to be made by these corporations, the process in which this occurs is very fair in that ultimately the corporations are acting in a way to return the money to the investors according to what is believed to be effective by leadership.

          I have no issue with women criticizing video games, but I do have issues with criticizing and vilifying male artists, engineers, as being inherently privileged. They are just as constrained as anyone under a corporate structure, and just as free outside one as women are.

          The point being, all of these large corporations making games all had to start somewhere. During the course of their existence they found market trends and properties like the above mentioned Doom that resonated with certain audiences, in spite of featuring no females whatsoever and including masculine men fighting demons rather graphically in a way that is far more logically non inclusive than the 'boob size' hysteria running the rounds of the gaming community.

          Should women and male feminists take over as project leads of the Doom franchise or have a large influence in redecorating it so as to be more 'empowering' and 'inclusive'? Maybe if enough women buy stock in the company, to where they are the leading investors and create pressure on the corporation, and create pressure on the current founders, artists, and try to make a corporate take over. But personally I think it's much better to just leave the game alone and make your own games.

          Otherwise, it's a privately owned corporate art studio, which doesn't deserve berating or accusations that it was founded upon male privilege anymore than any other studio.

          Consumers have much more ethically valid options than berating, insulting, and belittling artists and corporations, regardless of which side of the divide your project lies on. Vote with your skills. Vote with your money. Better yet, vote with your hands, your brain and create work of art or become involved in corporate art yourself. Sometimes it can be rather good, but admittedly often has to pander. And while people should feel free to voice what products they'd prefer, what I find excessive is the expression of hostility towards males, the idea that somehow females are entitled to being catered to by artists, that there is something wrong or illegitimate about artists or corporations that do not pander to female interest. Criticize the art, not the artist. The product, not the corporation if it has done no wrong.

          It borders on slander to imply that when males create something that doesn't pander to women they are oppressing women from creating art or corporate art. It's extremely passive aggressive and is far from the kind of genuinely empowering behavior that would ideally take place, which would involve women taking a greater role in the creation of art and corporate art respectively.

  70. But remember even if women take an equal role in corporate art, money will still rule the day, and muscular men with guns, and scantily clad women with large breasts may very well be more profitable than Beyond Good and Evil ever will be. Which is a good game, by the way. Small audience, good game, but I bought it and enjoyed playing as the female character, who seemed like a well portrayed female character to me, where as Mirror's Edge had little personality and seemed kind of generic.

    So basically you either get in the trenches and/or you finance the project, or buy out a multi million (or billion) dollar corporation just like any consumer who has a niche unproven concept they want. (My pet project if I could magically dictate what corporations decide to make would be a AAA minecraft or Terraria style game).

    The difference is when Ultima games stopped coming because of EA's corporation structure, people made Ultima fan games (surprisingly good ones like Lazarus), and ultimately Richard Garriot is making a spiritual successor rather than allowing his former corporation to control his creativity. When space simulators stopped coming the indies jumped into make those.

    As an artist, male or female, once you enter that corporate realm, you're going to lose a huge amount of creative control as the share holders have more power than you do anyway. And it's their money. It's not yours. So its only fair that the people who spend their money can demand a return investment. But when games like Beyond Good and Evil stop coming. Where are the fans? It's you. Who's working on that game after Ubisoft decided it was too risky?

    Trying to drag men through the mud and into some sort of male conspiracy and attacking any male artist or corporations that doesn't comply as abusing 'male' privileges when not promoting your world view seems hostile, manipulative, and downright unreasonable to me. I'm not a better person if I buy and play Beyond Good and Evil over Doom. The creators aren't necessarily better people. Art with strong women or no women or weak women or dumb women isn't necessarily superior and you can replace that with men and achieve the same conclusion.

    Ultimately, women can empower themselves, once they let go of blaming others and just do what they gotta do, I'd imagine it's a lot easier. They shouldn't need to be male artists whose social responsibility is to try to empower them like they are helpless children who can't make a video game if the breasts are big in a lot of the corporate ones. I honestly have more respect for women than that, and it would be a shame if I was proven wrong.

    • Let me leave this here: http://www.penny-arcade.com/report/article/games-

      As you yourself note, creators don't have all or even most of the control over how well a game is presented to the world, which has a huge impact on how well it sells. To prove that a game with non-objectified and sexualized female characters can do just as well as others, not only would more people need to be making those games, but there would need to be big companies with marketing departments and so on willing to put their full support behind those games. You seem to be saying that women shouldn't complain, they should just go and create a female-only Ubisoft or Bioware or something, as if that's an easy thing to do. As if there aren't–wait for it–differences in privilege that make it harder for women even just to be respected as business people and so get backers and start-up money. Do you really think it's just as easy for a woman making a female-lead video game to get financing for their project as it is for men? That the people who control that money aren't often biased to assume before they even look at a game that women can't make as good games as men, and/or that no female-led game could do as well as a male-led one? That's privilege right there.

      Not to mention that you are talking about objectified and sexualized female characters in video games as if they exist in a void and don't have any impact on anything or anyone except as visual entertainment while a person is playing the game. There are a ton of scientific studies that have demonstrated this is incorrect. The models of how people look and behave that we're presented with in both real life and various forms of media greatly influence how we expect other people to look and behave, what we expect to get from them, how we think about them, etc. Women don't just have issues with the way female characters are presented in the majority of video games because it makes them uncomfortable, but because having gamers constantly exposed to representations of women who primarily exist just to look sexy encourages those gamers to see the actual women around them as primarily existing just to look sexy. Whereas many of the actual women would prefer to be seen as multifaceted human beings. How is it not reasonable for people to stand up and say, "Hey, this pattern here has harmful effects on society"? We all live in society together. If something one group of people are doing is making things worse for another group, it's not just reasonable but should be expected that the second group will speak up and ask the first group to take note and hopefully adjust.

      I mean, based on your logic, people of color shouldn't have campaigned to be allowed equal access to education and admittance to stores and seating on public transportation and so on. If they didn't like how white people were doing things, instead of blaming others for it, they should have just gone and started their own schools and stores and bus companies! Hopefully you can see how ridiculous that argument is when put in those terms? Surely you wouldn't expect that people of color who find the portrayal of characters of color in video games to be racist to just let it happen and go off and make different video games rather than speaking up? Since when did we decide that it doesn't matter how offensive or damaging something might be as long as it's making someone money? I'm pretty sure there are plenty of standards already being met, things no one would even consider putting in a game or a movie or a book because they know there'd be a backlash, because societal standards dictate doing those things isn't okay. Things that maybe were accepted fifty or a hundred years ago before people started… speaking up. That's how societal awareness and change happens.

      I don't expect anyone else to empower me. I do expect other people to listen if I point out to them that they're doing something harmful to me, or a group I'm a part of, and that because of the power they have, they're in a better position to do something about that. That isn't "dragging [them] through the mud" or "attacking" them (and I would disagree with anyone who says male game creators are bad people or part of some conspiracy or some such–I don't think anyone here feels that way, though). It doesn't mean I won't also be trying to do something about it too. But if we all segregate off into our own little groups and make our own things for that group, then we're dividing up society and putting ourselves in opposition to each other, and actually encouraging each group to see other groups as The Other rather than just fellow human beings. I think it'd be much healthier, and totally possible, to find a balance that works for everyone together.

  71. Have you ever done a poll to find out what female characters lady gamers find to be alpha power models? Meaning, if guys want to be Batman or Kratos, who do gals want to be?

  72. ladymismagius says:

    Thanks for this series of articles, you're doing a wonderful job. I don't really know what else I could say…you explained the problem in a clear and detailed way, gave an in-depth analysis, provided negative examples and positive models, asked for girls' own view on the topic (by the way, the character I find sexy most is Malcolm Reynolds, from Joss Whedon's Firefly series and Serenity movie, if this matters)…an amazing work, really.

    I'm an 18-year-old feminist from Italy (and I apologise if I made any mistake, English is not my language) and I really admire what you're doing here, and the cleverness and sensitivity you show in each article. So, again, thanks!

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  1. [...] you has been following along with Dr. Nerdlove’s articles on Nerds and Male Privilege (or you happen to be a female gamer like me), you probably know generally how it [...]

  2. [...] Y’see, there were certain recurring themes and arguments in the comments, both here, on Reddit and Kotaku , especially regarding my immediate dismissal of entire classes of arguments about whether male privilege – especially as it pertains to geek and gaming culture – exists. And since I’m the sort of person who can’t seem to leave well enough alone… Nerds and Male Privilege Part 2 – Deconstructing The Arguments | Paging Dr. NerdLove – Page 3 [...]

  3. [...] O’Malley aka, Dr. Nerdlove, has written on geeks and male privilege. Meanwhile, Dr. Nerdlove takes another whack at the hornets’ nest on his own blog. Category: NotesTags: 2010s, comics, community, fandom, feminism, games, gender, [...]

  4. [...] and Male Privilege” Part 1 and Part 2 by Harris O’Malley on Paging Dr. [...]

  5. [...] ties between our own looks and how these races look (even for men.) As much as men feel the slights of a male power fantasy by not having a 6-pack, women tend to feel bowled over by the sexually-charged, often sexist [...]

  6. [...] with women in mind or as a consideration. They always made with what men want. Male characters are male power fantasies and women characters are there with an implicitly straight male audience in mind. (This is also [...]

  7. [...] to link to in order to 'educate' people on how badly women are treated in the media is this one: Nerds and Male Privilege Part 2 – Deconstructing The Arguments | Paging Dr. NerdLove – Page 3 Now, here's my first simple question: look at the pictures on that site. Which row of pictures do [...]

  8. [...] like 'Nerds and Male Privilege: Tropes, Trolls, Haters & Anita Sarkeesian', and parts one, two, and three of the Male Privilege series. Also if you're fascinated by women's roles in TV, [...]

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