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  1. #1
    Network Hub Ninjafoodstuff's Avatar
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    Skullgirls sexism free pass

    I don't get why RPS' stance on sexism doesn't seem to apply to Skullgirls. Perhaps someone can enlighten me, but the last time I checked, most of the characters were overtly sexualised portrayals of women.

    The arguments for this seem to have been:
    • They were drawn by a woman
    • The females in question are all "strong"
    • It's "sexy", not "sexist"


    Unless we are limiting our definition of "sexism" to "portrayal of women by men as being weak", I don't think this should stand. Skullgirls is very clearly setting impossible ideals for women to look up to, and I don't think you can take one stance and not the other.

    Edit: I should probably point out, I'm not trying to start a flame war here, I'm just asking the question. Reasonable discourse please, and I'm more than open to being convinced I'm wrong on this, I'm no expert on the subject by any stretch of the imagination.
    Last edited by Ninjafoodstuff; 06-08-2013 at 01:20 PM.
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  2. #2
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus thegooseking's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ninjafoodstuff View Post
    Skullgirls is very clearly setting impossible ideals for women to look up to, and I don't think you can take one stance and not the other.
    Care to back up that assertion? I'm pretty sure women who attempt to emulate the heavily stylised anime look are laughed at, not praised. I'm not really sure how this is considered an 'ideal' in any socially significant way... Maybe for a certain niche, but I think there's a limit to how niche you can really care about with this stuff.

    Edit: Actually, on reflection, that's a fairly ethnocentric view, so it might not be universally valid...
    Last edited by thegooseking; 06-08-2013 at 12:58 PM.
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  3. #3
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    The character style seems fine but once they add so much boob jiggle and panty shots...that seems a bit excessive and unneeded.

    I see more real impossible ideals for woman to look up to in RPS's "MORE FROM THE WEB" section than in Skullgirls.

  4. #4
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus sonson's Avatar
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    I'm not sure whether I'm going to articulate this correctly but I think there is a difference between something which is overtly or knowingly presenting something as sexualised with context to match as opposed to something which is presenting a woman as just a component who is sexualsied or presented in an idealised form even though it's irrelevant to the context, on the grounds that "that's how you show women in this type of media." It's the unthinking portrayal which is insidious.

  5. #5
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Jesus_Phish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sonson View Post
    I'm not sure whether I'm going to articulate this correctly but I think there is a difference between something which is overtly or knowingly presenting something as sexualised with context to match as opposed to something which is presenting a woman as just a component who is sexualsied or presented in an idealised form even though it's irrelevant to the context, on the grounds that "that's how you show women in this type of media." It's the unthinking portrayal which is insidious.
    By that description, that gives something like Killer is Dead and Dead or Alive Volleyball gets a free pass because they're both knowingly presenting something sexual in context.
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  6. #6
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus LTK's Avatar
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    I think the portrayal of women in games becomes problematic when A) it makes the play experience specifically unfriendly to women, who feel as though they're playing something not meant for them or B) the game treats its female characters in such a way as to encourage misogynistic attitudes or reinforce negative stereotypes. This is not limited to inter-character interaction, but also includes the situations the developers put female characters in. As far as I can tell, Skullgirls fulfills neither of these criteria.

    And regarding 'setting impossible standards' - come on now. These are cartoon characters, obviously so, not fashion magazine ads. I highly doubt there are many women who develop a negative self-image because of how a cartoon character in a fighting game is drawn.

  7. #7
    Network Hub Ninjafoodstuff's Avatar
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    I'm going to throw this quote into the mix:

    Fighting fuck toys are hyper-sexualized women protagonists who are able to “kick ass” (and kill) with the best of them–and look good doing it. The FFT appears empowered, but her very existence serves the pleasure of the heterosexual male viewer. In short, the FFT takes female agency and appropriates it for the male gaze.
    From an ethical standpoint, Hollywood executives should be concerned about the damage girls and women sustain growing up in a society with ubiquitous images of sex objects. But it appears they are not. From a business standpoint, then, they should be concerned about the money they could be making with better women action heroes. But so far, they seem pretty clueless.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by LTK View Post
    I think the portrayal of women in games becomes problematic when A) it makes the play experience specifically unfriendly to women, who feel as though they're playing something not meant for them or B) the game treats its female characters in such a way as to encourage misogynistic attitudes or reinforce negative stereotypes.
    I agree with B - not with A at all. To agree with A we'd have to assume that everything is designed to appeal to everyone - which would make a depressingly boring world - and if you have B, you don't need A anyway.

    I'm now open to people telling me how Skullgirls breaks B - and the creator's sex is irrelevant to our argument because it's not obvious from the result and so most people would never even consider it.

  9. #9
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    I feel a little ambivalent about Skullgirls. There's some stuff I like and some stuff that makes me uncomfortable.

    The first obvious question is whether this is a bad example of objectification. Are the characters just FFTs, as in the quote above? (although, one notes that they are specifically also for the lesbian gaze, at least for the artist). Can we tackle this as a question of intent? It looks to me like this is as much for the queer and/or kinky gaze as for the male one. Does this matter? I haven't settled on an answer yet.

    Look, ideally, we should all be OK with presentation of sexy people (of all stripes). This isn't a question of being a prude, or not being sex-positive, or whatever else feminist-inclined types like me get accused of. It's just really, really tricky to avoid objectification in the cultural context we find this stuff in. I think Skullgirls walks the line a bit, and I think it's up to the individual to decide how they feel in this individual case.

    We can also look at the context of the rest of the game. I've browsed the material on the official website- it seems for the most part the female characters have a strong presence in the game world as independent actors and authorities. That's pretty cool. Painwheel makes me pretty uncomfortable- child abuse, non-consensual BDSM/mind control stuff, dominant male at the head of it all. Nasty. Cerebella outsources her morality to a dominant male figure, but I reckon that's balanced up by plenty of powerful females- the Queen, Parasoul, and the Skullgirl herself.

    I share the concern about the perpetuation of unrealistic body ideals. There isn't a whole lot of body shape diversity. I am not comforted by statements like "oh, it's just a cartoon" or "anime style is always like this". Ubiquitousness of a harmful trope is a cause for more concern, not less.

  10. #10
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus sonson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jesus_Phish View Post
    By that description, that gives something like Killer is Dead and Dead or Alive Volleyball gets a free pass because they're both knowingly presenting something sexual in context.
    I don't know what they are so I'm not going to argue or agree with you.

    As a feminist I have a major problem with much of gaming culture's approach to women, but most of it comes down to what's behind the sex stuff, the assumptions and the unthinking nature of it, and the fact that the male element tends to be absolutely void of parallel logic, rather than the sex itself. There is nothing wrong with sex, or women presenting themselves as sexual beings, it is the fact that often when they do in culture it is the result of male dominance and preference in said culture, and the type of sexual being they present is usually catered around that rather than being a holistic expression of their sexual and personal identity.

    I do however think this game looks pretty tawdry and juvenile. I don't think it's getting a free pass per se but I'm yet to see an actual expression as to why it is exempt from the same analysis from RPS that considerably less sexualised games would get. Even though I think I understand why that is, there is the danger of double standard if you took about the evils of sexualised females on the majority of occasions and then fail to note them even in passing in a game very much populated by said figures. It's not a game which seems to feature the most heinous elements of the patriarchy and misogyny often encountered in video games, but I don't see it as being empowering or progressive either.

    I know nothing about the narrative background or personality of the characters, so I'm not discounting that could be really strong and impressive or the like, it could be! But it's still strong female characters who feel the need to express their sexually aggressive fashion which is very much in keeping with mainstream male sexual fantasy. I don't know, it feels like it's reactive to the ugly trends towards women in gaming, knowingly so, but it's still chosen to fight that very much within the parameters of patriarchy. To reduce a girl to a visual stereotype of even a female authored and accepted vision of hyper sexuality still seems like it's repeating the main problem of a girl being primarily about one thing, even if they are using it a fashion which is not prescribed from a male point of view. I wouldn't want to show this to my wife as suggest it's Vidoegamings answer to Alice Walker, put it that way. Personally I always believe you inspire change and promote new thinking through a different approach rather than reacting though. I know it's written by a woman, and that's great! But feminism is the battle for gender equality, not the sacrilisation of woman kind. I think to give it a pass on that basis is a weak and uncritical argument.

    I don't have strong feelings nor have I given it much consideration though so could be easily missing something. The one thing that really struck me was just the fact that RPS posted about it without mentioning their (skull girls) incredibly overt sexual identity at all.
    Last edited by sonson; 06-08-2013 at 05:14 PM.

  11. #11
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Jesus_Phish's Avatar
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    That's shot taken from Dead or Alive: Extreme Beach Volley ball. Dead or Alive normally is a fighting series, but they are so well known for being so OTT when it comes to female characters that they went ahead and made a game based entirely around women from around the world playing volleyball at a beach resort, sunbathing and playing games with each other, bending over a lot and not wearing very much. The girl in the picture is probably one of the only characters with what looks like a realistic chest size and swimsuit (though not for volleyball).

    Anyway, the entire series is very self aware of what it is, virtual eye candy for boys who think jiggle physics are the best thing ever.

    Quote Originally Posted by LTK View Post
    And regarding 'setting impossible standards' - come on now. These are cartoon characters, obviously so, not fashion magazine ads. I highly doubt there are many women who develop a negative self-image because of how a cartoon character in a fighting game is drawn.
    The characters of Dragons Crown are all obviously cartoon characters, yet many have said they've issues with the over sexualization style of them, in particularly the sorceress and amazon. Looked at a video of Skullgirls there and I don't think there's a single frame where tits aren't jiggling and almost popping out of shirts and skirts don't lift up to show panty shots.

    I can see the OPs point. For all the rage against the Sorc having massive backbreaking boobs, it seems like some sort of double standard that this image below is ok but the Sorc is totally not ok at all.



    Interesting note, the website for skullgirls lists her measurements as 36E-25-40.
    Last edited by Jesus_Phish; 06-08-2013 at 05:30 PM.
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  12. #12
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus LTK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by trjp View Post
    I agree with B - not with A at all. To agree with A we'd have to assume that everything is designed to appeal to everyone - which would make a depressingly boring world - and if you have B, you don't need A anyway.
    Which is why I'm not saying that everything should appeal to everyone. It's simply worth recognising when A is true and consider whether it needs to be. If a game is unfriendly to female players, that alone doesn't make it worth burning at the stake, it's just something we should think about, because gaming culture is already generally unfriendly to women and we should make an effort to make it less so. Just not at all costs, as you're implying.

  13. #13
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus SirKicksalot's Avatar
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    "If a character is a side-line character and their sole purpose is to be a sex object, then it is sexist. If the character is a competent contributor to the story, then it is not sexist, even if they look sexy. Looking at a screenshot by itself, or judging by the artwork alone is extremely short-sighted. People who make knee-jerk reactionary judgements should have never been acknowledged."

    - Alex Ahab, Skullgirls artist

  14. #14
    Network Hub Ninjafoodstuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SirKicksalot View Post
    "If a character is a side-line character and their sole purpose is to be a sex object, then it is sexist. If the character is a competent contributor to the story, then it is not sexist, even if they look sexy. Looking at a screenshot by itself, or judging by the artwork alone is extremely short-sighted. People who make knee-jerk reactionary judgements should have never been acknowledged."

    - Alex Ahab, Skullgirls artist
    I think that's a sentiment the entire porn industry can get behind.
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  15. #15
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus LTK's Avatar
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    Is there a point you wanted to make with that, or are you just trying to be clever?

    Quote Originally Posted by arathain View Post
    I share the concern about the perpetuation of unrealistic body ideals. There isn't a whole lot of body shape diversity. I am not comforted by statements like "oh, it's just a cartoon" or "anime style is always like this". Ubiquitousness of a harmful trope is a cause for more concern, not less.
    I was of the opinion "it's just a cartoon" but that's actually a good point. However, it's not really relevant to sexism so much as it pertains to body image problems of people in general.

  16. #16
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    I get where the artist quoted above is coming from. I just don't think that "If the character is a competent contributor to the story, then it is not sexist, even if they look sexy" holds as a blanket statement.

    I do, however, accept that one should look at the game as a whole piece. If the characters are portrayed as interesting and rich, with a full sense of agency then that colours how we should feel about the art. It just doesn't absolve one of all responsibilities as to the look.

    I agree that culturally caused body issues are a concern for all genders, but I think women are put under far greater pressure in that regard. I think bringing gender in is relevant to that particular issue.

  17. #17
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Jesus_Phish's Avatar
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    So getting back to the ops question, why has Skullgirls seemingly gotten such a free pass and Dragons Crown has been at the forefront of the debate on depicting women in games for the last few months? Keep in mind that the characters of DC where an issue long before review copies got out and we found out that there's apparently women spread eagle in every background.

    Both games have women who are draw out of proportion, sexualized to the extreme and have jiggle physics. Both games are clearly cartoon and anime inspired.
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  18. #18
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Sparkasaurusmex's Avatar
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    Is it perhaps due to the quality of the game?

  19. #19
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus LTK's Avatar
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    Because the characters in Skullgirls are "Hmm okay those characters certainly have a lot of emphasis on sexiness" and the characters in Dragon's Crown are "Hmm okay those characters look absolutely fucking ridiculous, are you kidding me".

    Also, Dragon's Crown has a massive amount of publicity in its own right.

  20. #20
    Secondary Hivemind Nexus Jesus_Phish's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sparkasaurusmex View Post
    Is it perhaps due to the quality of the game?
    In what manner? Both games are apparently very good in their respective genres.
    "Halo is designed to make the player think "I look like that, I am macho sitting in my undies with my xbox""

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