The problem with MMOs is that most of the female characters are actually played by men. So the gender interaction is completely warped and the female avatar becomes a sex object, and those attitudes get passed on to the rare female who plays one. Many women I know who play MMOs prefer male avatars because they get so much attitude. I've never played male avatars, because I'm just difficult like that ;) But another aspect to consider is that women who play want idealized bodies as much as the men do- I mean, we all have our inner fantasies as well, and the guys playing are not 6' night elves either.
The Female Body in Geek Culture
Wednesday, October 19, was Love Your Body Day. I wrote about it on my personal blog, but then I got to thinking about the female body in geek culture.
Geek culture is traditionally a boys’ club–some would even say, an adolescent boys’ club, in tone, if not in actual age of geeks. Over at Web Urbanist, they describe the mindset this way in their description of themes in retro SF book covers:Teenage boys were one of the main demographics that read pulp science fiction, and the cover art reflects that. A large majority of the covers showcase a gorgeous woman being saved from certain death. How thankful she’ll be when the alien is defeated!
Gaming draws from this same geeky subculture, and if anything, gamers are much more willing to voice the opinion that girls just aren’t capable of keeping up. Just this past summer, we covered the powersgaming.com LAN party that didn’t allow women, because they didn’t want to deal with tension or people who are made uncomfortable by their fellow gamers being immature, misogynistic jerks. Yeah, because nothing makes you look like you have a handle on a difficult situation like rewarding the people with the worst behavior.
In this culture, I am so grateful for all of the wonderful sites that celebrate geek culture in inclusive ways. Of course, that is why I am here at Gaming Angels. With stories about character wardrobes that make sense, 14 year old girls who write letters that change girls options in NHL games and gaming companies that push the limits of obscene objectification, I know that my colleagues here are looking out for women and helping female geeks to be seen and judged for more than just their bodies.
But there is a larger online culture that does this same work, too, and I love that we are a part of that! From geekfeminism.org to @TheNerdyBird‘s Has Boobs, Reads Comics to Stellar Four and on and on, there are women out there talking about their love for geeky things. I can’t talk about this without mentioning io9 as well, which is not a feminist site per se, but most of the senior staff is female, and their culture is definitely one that accepts geeks of any gender. Having these sorts of safe places to get my geek on online is important to me, and I am glad that all of them exist. I am glad that there is a large community of people, women and men alike, who think that women are more than their bodies, and who don’t judge women only for their decorative value (or lack thereof).
Science fiction and geeks have always been open to the idea that things could be different than what we experience every day, though. Even back in the pulp days, there were people who imagined a different order, as you can see in these retro covers:
Here, the women are the strong heroes, saving the men from a terrible fate. A culture that can include these alternative views even in the midst of some of the most sexist times is a culture in which I can be proud to belong. I love my geeky friends, who will passionately debate the merits of various Star Trek captains (even though, clearly, Janeway is the best one), keep up on the latest developments in science, read comics, and generally be good for a few hours of fun without worrying. Thank you to all of you!
@estarianne Yes, I agree! I just think we want idealized bodies that are not the entire focus of our character, right? Like the first costume on the bottome covers, the woman in black is entirely covered, and doing other cool things like saving the day and being strong, but she is still clearly hot. You can be idealized without being objectified.
@Quinn I like the idea of appearance and kick-assitude not being linked.